Routine. It seems like everyone I know tries so hard to establish a routine. They want their days to be comfortable and predictable. They want to wake up in the morning and know what time they need to leave for work, who they will meet during the day, and exactly where they’ll lay their head at night. Routine. Predictable, Comfortable.
And so the thought of any vacation longer than a couple of weeks is daunting – it’s too far out there, too unknown, too un-routine. The idea of taking off and living life on the road is, well… unthinkable. To wake up in the morning and have no idea where you might sleep that night is frightening and unpredictable and unnerving. It’s simply too far from the routine.
At first glance, it seems as though our lives as we pedal from Alaska to Argentina are the epitome of un-routine. Unpredictability extraordinaire. In many ways that glance is accurate. We travel every day through unknown territory, we meet strangers who quickly become friends, and our heads rest in some unique places on occasion. We never know what or where we’ll eat lunch. Unknown treasures await each and every day for us to stumble upon them.
But in the midst of the chaos, there is routine – perhaps even more of a routine than we had back home. Our lives have been reduced to simplest terms and there is a very comfortable, predictable nature hidden in there. Now that was unexpected!
Our lives begin with the standard ritual of packing our bikes every morning. Each and every item we carry has its place, and we know exactly where that place is. Our cooking pot is strapped on my front rack, shampoo gets stashed in the outside pocket of my rear left pannier. Winter clothes are lashed on my rear rack, sandals on my son’s. Our tent is rolled up and packed away, then strapped on to the tandem’s rack behind my other son. Packing is now – after thousands of miles and many months on the road – automatic and easy. No thought required, simply stash, pack, and squirrel away our stuff.
Then comes the riding. We ride. We eat. We take breaks on the side of the road. The kids climb trees or use guard rails as balance beams or start a pinecone war. We talk to people we meet.
Every once in a while we stumble upon an unexpected treasure, so we stop to enjoy it. It might be an old horse-powered sugar cane press or a gorgeous hidden beach or a lovely little church in a tiny pueblo.
By early afternoon, we’re looking for a place to sleep. Depending on where we are, that may be a campsite in the woods, an established campground, or a cheap motel. In the early stages of my touring career, I used to start to panic if night was falling and we still hadn’t found a spot to sleep. But now, after we’ve managed to find a safe place every single night for nearly a thousand nights, I can relax and know something will turn up. It may not be perfect, but I know we’ll be safe.
During our time on the road, we’ve slept in a wide variety of places.
- A dead gold miner’s house
- By the side of the interstate with traffic whizzing past 20 feet from our heads
- Under the awning of a restaurant
- Next to the Alaska pipeline
- Beneath the towering cliffs of mesas
- In an abandoned rock quarry
- Cheapo hotels in scruffy border towns
- And in the houses of many kind, wonderful people who’ve invited us in
Our routine continues as we settle into a hotel or set up camp. We know exactly what items we need and which can stay on the bikes. We know what order to get them out. Each person has their jobs, and we know exactly what the drill is.
John and the boys set up the tent; I get out the stove and get dinner started. We write in our journals. We read. We climb into bed.