Guest Post: There and back again — a former Iditarod sled dog racer takes the long way home

It wasn’t that long ago that my oldest brother was chasing his childhood dreams through the frozen tundra.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Eric Rogers dreamed of one day moving to Alaska and driving his own dog team through the wilderness.

Then made it come true, leaving behind a successful career as a particle physicist to compete four times in the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

But that was before Eric discovered bicycling. And his dreams shifted from sled dogs to RAAM.

After moving down to the lower 48 a few years ago, he started bikepacking along local trails and backroads, before moving on to short bike touring trips.

This past fall, he set out on an epic solo bike tour from the Pacific Northwest back to his western Colorado home.

And took the scenic route.

Here’s his story, followed by photos from his tour.

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Why would anyone want to ride their bicycle 2,500 miles?  The answer is I didn’t.  

What I did do was get up in the morning, ride for 50 to 60 miles, stop to set up camp, have dinner and relax before going to bed.  The next morning I repeated the process.  Add some rest days, lather, rinse, and repeat until you get back home and then look at your odometer and by golly I guess maybe I did do it after all.  

So why this route?  I like the Oregon Coast, North Cascades, Glacier, and Yellowstone National Parks, have family in Portland and Idaho Falls and have always wanted to explore the Olympic Peninsula.  Connect the dots and there you have it.  

From Grand Junction you can take the train to Sacramento and change trains to Portland.  Large comfortable seats, friendly staff, no TSA, and for $20 / train you can get roll on / roll off service for your bike.  The staff are not cyclists and don’t know drive side from non-drive side so they ask you to take the bike to the baggage car where they put it in a rack, and pick it up there at the end of the ride (or to change trains) but it is a simple process.  Much easier than boxing your bike to fly or take the bus.  The fires in Northern California did complicate things some, but it all worked out.

So why do it by bicycle?  Besides the fact that I enjoy riding, on a bicycle you are an interesting, and non-threating, person.  People come up to say “hi” and ask what you are doing.  You can meet some of the best folks this way.  

Ready to ride, with kitty litter panniers

In the Olympic National Forest I put a 3 inch nail through the rear tire.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, but riding up Rainy Pass in North Cascades National Park several days later, the bike just didn’t feel right.  I could see ripples in the shoulder pavement and convinced myself that was what I was feeling.  I finally stopped to check the bike, and the rear tire was worn completely through an area the size of a quarter and riding on the Rhino Liner and the nearest bike shop was over 30 miles away.

Luckily Rainy Pass is where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses WA Hwy 20 and a gentleman was doing trail magic there.  Another gentleman going west who had stopped there took me 37 miles east to Winthrop to get a new tire and then 37 miles back to Rainy Pass so I didn’t miss riding through any of the scenery.  Those are the kind of folks I met on the whole trip.

Then how many time have you been driving and seen some incredible sight, but there is nowhere to stop and enjoy it?  On a bicycle you can move to the side, put your foot down and stay as long as you would like.

And there are the hiker / biker campsites.  Oregon State Parks are $8 / person, Washington State Parks are $10 / campsite, Glacier and Yellowstone are $5 (and an Old Fart Pass makes that $2.50!) with no turn away policies.  What a deal!

It was an incredible trip, but if I did it again I’d like to go 2 weeks earlier.  I was leaving Bozeman and intending to ride Hwy 191 through Big Sky to West Yellowstone when I checked the Weather Forecast just for grins – Big Sky (the night’s destination) was supposed to hit 6 degrees for a low. OOPS! Changed plans and took MT 84 to HWY 287. Good Choice. I fought headwinds to the point I really wanted relief. I found a three sided shelter with its back to the wind in the only campground enroute and spent the whole next day waiting out a snowstorm :-).  Luckily the second morning dawned clear and a little warmer and the trip continued.

Then riding home from Idaho Falls at about 7,000 feet elevation in late October got more than a little cold sometimes.  I was riding south 20 miles north of Vernal Utah looking for a place to camp on public land when I spotted a roadside rest area on a ridge in the National Forest overlooking private land in the valley below.  Pretty much exposed to traffic, but having an outhouse is a plus.  I set up camp and called my wife to check in.  Sunset comes early in late October and as the sun went down the temperature dropped dramatically.  The breeze picked up and I sat beside my tent shivering while trying to eat.  Dang!  Right beside me sat a windproof brick outhouse, still a little warm from the setting sun.  Culture be danged, into the outhouse, out of the wind, and ignore any odors!  Luckily it had recently been cleaned and wasn’t near as bad as it could have been – it was supposed to be an adventure, right?  The next morning it was still cold and windy and breakfast was in my unique shelter too.

Then there was Wyoming.  I was going to resupply in Sage WY, but Sage only exists on the map ☺.  There was a train siding there, but nothing else was left.  Not a problem, I always have a day’s food with me.  I wild camped in Fossil Butte National Monument and intended to resupply (now only lunch left) in Kemmerer, but it was 3 miles out of the way and downhill – not a problem I would go right through Carter WY – except Carter was another town that was not there.  The railroad doesn’t stop anymore and there are only 3 house and a couple abandoned buildings left.  OK I’ll resupply in Urie just after I cross I-80.  Urie had a restaurant, but no store.  Luckily Mountain View had a Family Dollar, but I was getting a little concerned.  I learned that in Wyoming, just because the town is on the map doesn’t mean it exists! ☺

There is much more to tell, but space is limited.  Great people, fabulous scenery, doing things I never thought I would do, and burning enough calories to eat anything I wanted.  Life just doesn’t get much better than that!

Eric O Rogers

Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Oregon Coast
Rain Forest
Rain Forest
Rain Forest
North Cascades
Coming into Winthrop WA
Eastern WA
Western Montana
Whitefish MT
Whitefish MT
Hiker Biker Site Glacier NP
Swan River Valley MT
Coming into Helena MT
Coming into Helena MT
Before snow – after Bozeman
Before snow – after Bozeman
Madison River – Yellowstone
Madison River – Yellowstone.
Yellowstone
Yellowstone
Lewis River Yellowstone
Grand Teton NP
Grand Teton NP
Grand Teton NP
Western WY
Western WY
Western WY – the town that was not there
Western WY
Flaming Gorge
Local Politicians (Turkeys)
Almost Home
Classy Colorado Motel – the Best Western it is not
Classy Colorado Motel – the Best Western it is not
The Last Camp outside Rangely CO

Guest post: Looking for a Bike? Shop Local and Shop Small. You’ll Be Glad You Did.

As you may have noticed by now, I’m a firm believer in supporting your local bike shop.

So in honor of today’s Small Business Saturday, I’m reposting a couple of guest columns from two years ago, by bike shop owners explaining why that matters.

And you can support this site by donating to the Fourth Annual BikinginLA Holiday Fund Drive.

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Last week, I asked if any bike shop owners or employees wanted to explain why you should do business with your local bike shop this holiday season.

First to respond was Linda Coburn of Pedego 101 in Westlake Village, who explained the importance of buying your ebike locally.

Today we hear from David Kooi, owner of Santa Monica Mountains Cyclery in Woodland Hills, one of the city’s most popular shops for road and off-road riders alike.

Not to mention the shop that created one of the bike world’s most brilliant marketing efforts by partnering with the car dealership across the street to allow people to trade in their car for a new bicycle a few years ago.

………

By David Kooi

Are you looking for a bike? Here are some reasons why you should visit your local bike shop.

Personal Attention and Friendly Expert Advice

Choosing the right bike isn’t always easy. These days, there is a different bike for just about every type of riding and terrain. A good local bike shop is staffed with friendly, helpful experts. Go in and talk to them about the kind of riding you would like to do. They will help you make the right decision. Choosing the right bike will ensure that you’ll get the most from your purchase. If you pick the right bike, you’ll enjoy riding it. And, if you enjoy riding it, you’ll ride it more often. If you pick the wrong bike, it might languish, covered in dust, in your garage. And nobody wants that.

cute-kid-on-a-bike

Quality Products

The bikes you’ll find at your local specialty shop are usually better quality bikes than you’ll find online, at department stores, or at big box retailers. Why? Most of the best bike manufacturers only sell their bikes through local, independent shops. Why would they do that when they might be able to sell so many more bikes online or at Wal-Mart and Costco? It’s because they recognize the importance of dedicated specialty shops. They count on these shops to educate their customers on the value and features of their bikes. And they trust these shops to build, fit, and service those bikes properly and professionally.

A Professional Bike Build

When a bike arrives at a shop or at your local Target, it’s in a box full of parts. Some of it is partially assembled in a far-away factory, but it needs a good amount of work and fine-tuning to get it ready to ride. Whom do you trust to build your bike? At a good local bike shop, your bike will be assembled by an experienced professional mechanic and test-ridden for safety. When you go out for your first ride, you can be confident that the bike is safe.

Fitting

Bikes come in difference sizes. Then, within each size, the bike needs to be adjusted to the individual rider. If you buy the wrong size or don’t get a proper fit, you probably won’t be happy with your bike. When the bike is set up perfectly for you, you’ll be comfortable and happy – and you’ll ride it a lot more. And, if you’re a rider for whom speed matters, a properly fit bike will make you faster. When you buy your bike from a local shop, the bike fit is often included with the purchase of your bike. Further, if you need additional guidance on how to use the bike, most shops are happy to teach you about how to use the shifting, the brakes, and other essential features.

group-cruiser-ride

Maintenance

Bikes, much like cars, need maintenance. Some maintenance can be performed at home, like keeping the right amount of air in the tires, cleaning the bike, and lubing the chain. Your neighborhood shop can teach you how to do those things. More complex repairs and maintenance should be performed by experienced mechanics. A good local bike shop is home to such people. Furthermore, some amount of maintenance is typically included with your purchase when you buy from a local shop.

Accessories

When you get a new bike, you’ll likely need some other items to maximize your enjoyment of that bike. The friendly, knowledgeable experts at your local bike shop can help. The right pair of gloves can help with numb fingers. The right pair of shorts can literally save your butt. A good set of lights and a properly fitting helmet could save your life. A well-stocked flat/repair kit could save you from an Uber ride home. Or maybe you just want some flashy, fancy socks to match your new ride? Whatever you need, a good local bike shop will have the expertise and the selection to help you.

david-with-local-school-kids

Community

Your neighborhood shop is often a hub for the local cycling community. They can tell you about where to ride, about local events, and about local clubs and teams. They also might host clinics and classes about bike safety, bike handling, bike repair, and bike maintenance.

A good local bike shop also gives back to your community. At my shop, we work with local elementary schools to help get more kids on bikes. We teach local Boy Scout troops about bike safety. We donate bikes to the local Boys & Girls Club for kids in need. We sponsor a mountain bike team at a local high school. And we’re always looking for opportunities to do more. That’s how communities work.

boys-and-girls-club

You can also get to know the people who work at your local shop. Most employees are passionate about cycling and excited to talk about it with anyone. Employees don’t turn over at the same high rate as the big box retailers. You can get to you know them. They’ll recognize you when you come in the door. In these days of the Internet and Big Box domination, you might find it nice to have a small, welcoming place to go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came. At most shops, you are welcome to stop by and say hello and check out the newest gear – even when you don’t have any plans to buy anything new. Or, imagine you find yourself out riding and want to refill a water bottle. Someday, a drone sent by Amazon.com will fly up to you to refill it for you, but in the meantime, feel free to stop by a shop along your route.

SMMC staff Michael B., David Kooi, Mike P., and Patrick O.

SMMC staff Michael B., David Kooi, Mike P., and Patrick O.

A Vibrant Local Economy

Do you want to make a difference in the local economy and in the lives of your neighbors? When you spend $500 at a small local business, you change their day. You get noticed. You get remembered. When you shop local and shop small, your money matters. The money you spend helps to pay the rent. Your money keeps the lights on. Your money pays the salaries of people working there. Those people, in turn, use that money to shop locally and the cycle continues. They pay for tuition. They buy stuff for their kids. They go out to eat at local restaurants. Your money keeps storefronts occupied, keeps your streets and sidewalks clean, and helps sustain a vibrant community. When you shop local, you make a difference.

When you spend $500 at Target, Wal-Mart, or Amazon, you won’t move their quarterly earnings per share one tenth of one penny. You’re just a tiny part of a larger demographic.

Price

Don’t assume that you’ll get the better deal online. Give your local shop a chance. You might be surprised to discover that your local shop is competitive with online prices, especially when you factor in the value of the products they are selling and other services provided. And, in the end, maybe you’ll find yourself willing to spend a few extra bucks for the friendly, expert service, the quality products, and to contribute to your community and local economy.

storefront

About the Author

David Kooi is the owner of Santa Monica Mountains Cyclery in Woodland Hills, California.

Santa Monica Mountains Cyclery, 21526 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91364

david@smmcyclery.com

818-456-4105

www.smmcyclery.com

www.yelp.com/biz/santa-monica-mountains-cyclery-woodland-hills

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If any other bike shop owners or employees want to weigh in on the subject, just email me at the address on the About page.

 

 

Guest post: Support your local ebike dealer or local bike shop on Small Business Saturday

As you may have noticed by now, I’m a firm believer in supporting your local bike shop.

So in honor of today’s Small Business Saturday, I’m reposting a couple of guest columns from two years ago, by bike shop owners explaining why that matters.

And you can support this site by donating to the Fourth Annual BikinginLA Holiday Fund Drive.

………

These days, a lot of people are considering ebikes, for obvious reasons. They’re a great way for beginners to get into bicycling, to ride without fear of hills or going too far, or commute to work without breaking a sweat.

Not to mention they’re a lot of fun.

But where you buy your bike matters, as Linda Coburn of Pedego 101 in Westlake Village explains.

………

At least once a week we receive a call from someone asking if we can help fix the e-bike they bought online. “It was a really good deal,” they say. “Their website has excellent reviews,” they continue. “But they don’t respond to phone calls or emails now that I have the bike.”

This is exactly why you buy a technologically-advanced machine from a local bike shop, preferably one that specializes in e-bikes. You certainly can’t test-ride a bike online. Many times a customer comes in after doing a lot of Internet research thinking they know exactly what they want but after trying a variety of styles, sizes and power options they often fall in love with something very different.

The staff of your local e-bike shop have likely ridden in the neighborhood. They know how each bike will perform on that monster hill and in the riding conditions that you will encounter. Most local bike shops host group rides and will be happy to give you directions to great ride locations. You may even end up making some new friends!

And of course, when you buy local you meet the actual people who will be there for you in case a problem should arise. Most local shops handle warranty repairs and will get your e-bike set-up just right. They will make sure the accessories you choose will fit and even install them for you.

So support your small and local business owner on Saturday, and every day. It’s good for you and it’s great for the community.

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I’m a firm believer in supporting your local bike shop, because they’re the ones who will take the time to ensure you buy the right bike or gear for the way you ride, and be there to support you long after they take your credit card.

I’m told some shops even accept cash.

So take a few minutes out of your frenzied Black Friday, or tomorrow’s Small Business Saturday, to stop by your favorite LBS and buy something. Anything.

They’ll appreciate the business.

And if you’re new there, take the time to introduce yourself and get to know them, so you won’t be a stranger the next time you come in.

Another open letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council of Los Angeles #CrashCityHall

There wasn’t time to get all the #CrashCityHall letters online last week.

So we’re going to post the remaining letters over the next few days — starting with this powerful post from registered dietician and endurance cyclist Matt Ruscigno, founder of LA’s iconic Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer hillclimb. 

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Dear Mayor Garcetti and City Council of Los Angeles,

I’m writing to you today as a long-time resident of our wonderful city, a public health expert, and a recent victim of an inattentive automobile driver. That collision left me with 16 broken bones requiring 6 nights in the hospital, a chest tube, and a surgery to install metal plates in my shoulder and collarbone. If I weren’t a skilled cyclist, I would probably be dead.

It’s easy to dismiss this as an ‘accident,’ but the statistics on the number of people injured and killed by automobile drivers in Los Angeles paint a different picture. This is a public health crisis. Yet we know how to fix it:

  • Reduce automobile speed limits
  • Invest in infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians
  • Reimagine public space to focus on people, not automobiles

Los Angeles and California are leading the way in reducing automobile emissions but are falling behind (see London, Bogota, New York, Copenhagen for examples) when it comes to the public health issue of people dying in the streets because automobile speed and convenience is prioritized over human safety.

Los Angeles is a beautiful city with near perfect weather for cycling and walking year round. And we are simply running out of space to store and transport personal automobiles. The benefits of building infrastructure that makes human-powered transportation more accessible are well established:

  • Improved air quality and lower rates of asthma, especially among children
  • Increased physical activity that lowers risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic diseases
  • Fewer automobile collisions that result in injury or death of our most vulnerable road users

The potential to transform our city is awesome, in the true sense of the word, but it won’t be easy. Copenhagen didn’t become a place where 24% of city trips are taken by bike overnight. It took strong leadership and knowledge to re-imagine how city space is used. This isn’t about cyclists versus drivers; it’s about making it easier for more people to walk and bike more often.

The statistics are there: something needs to be done, and soon. We can build on what other cities have done and apply it uniquely in our wonderful city. There are thousands of us here to help, but we need leadership from our elected leaders. There simply isn’t enough space in the city to keep prioritizing automobiles, so the question is, how many more people have to be injured or killed before we start taking concrete steps? I hope we can do this soon as I’d hate to see a single person go through the pain I’ve experienced over the last 5 weeks.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD

 

Guest Post: The fourth open letter to the Los Angeles City Council #CrashCityHall

Dear Mayor Garcetti and City Council of LA,

In an effort to “be the change you want to see in the world,” I sold my car ten years ago and have since used my own feet, a bicycle, or the transit system to get around.  While the results of this have brought the most rewarding experiences of my life, it has also been a struggle to live without a car in a car’s world.

Drivers are becoming increasingly more distracted, careless, unsympathetic and enraged.  These behaviors cause not only car accidents but the deaths of cyclists and pedestrians, who travel without the protection of metal armor.  Why do drivers feel so entitled to the roads?  Why is this set of traits common in the majority of car owners?  It’s easy to see the answer on the streets – they’re designed specifically for cars.  With lanes designated for driving, turning and parking, there’s often no space left for a bicycle to squeeze through.  And pedestrians must be defensive even when walking through a crosswalk with a walk signal.  Drivers are impatient to share the road when they believe it belongs to them.

Every time you see a cyclist in the streets of LA, please understand the fear we’ve overcome to be there.  Please know that we have been spit at, screamed at, sworn at, had objects thrown at us, been told to “get off the road,”  have had way too many “close calls,” or have lost a fellow cyclist to careless driving or road rage.  And yet we’re still out there.  As pedestrians and cyclists we’ll continue to defend our space on the streets, but we would truly appreciate some help from our representatives.  Please take some steps to create streets that belong to everyone.   A city’s priorities are evident in it’s infrastructure and use of public space.  If you, dear City Council Members, were to add more bike lanes, create some road diets, invest in green spaces instead of parking lots – think of the message you’d send.

Sincerely,

Amanda Gohl

Pico-Union, Los Angeles, CA 90015

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Join us tomorrow as we #CrashCityHall to demand safer streets, and urge city leaders to have the courage to do the right thing. 

  • Los Angeles City Council
  • Los Angeles City Hall
  • 200 N. Spring Street
  • 10 am