You’re never homeless if you have a tent

To rest after miles
is to remember a day
stained in sweat and dreams.

The romantic visage of the bicycle tour usually ends with the vision of wind gently brushing past your ear as you click mile over mile. The reality aside of profuse sweat, bugs, and loud trucks rushing past dangerously close because their drivers want to give you a “message,” one needs to think about what they’re going to do when not actively pedaling. And the obvious thing that one will be doing when not pedaling is sleeping.

From the very beginning, I just assumed that I would be sleeping in a tent for most of my trip, mostly just because I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in hotels the whole way through. The fact that I didn’t have a tent was just another hurdle to overcome. But to say that the solution is just to go buy one is to understate the issue, especially when you’re working with a tight budget and a lack of space.

If you have $50 and a close proximity to a Wal-Mart, anyone can have a tent. But such a tent more than likely can’t fit nicely on a bike, and even if it did, the weight alone would keep your average bikepacker at bay. Fortunately, three-pound, compact tents exist… unfortunately, they come at a price.

As luck would have it, a solution more or less fell into my lap. My friend, Marit, had been telling me for awhile that she was looking for a used bicycle. When she first brought it up, I hadn’t exactly decided to sell any of my bikes, but it was never a crazy idea. After all, I did just buy a new bike, so what would be the harm of getting rid of one of my three road bikes? So I mentioned I might be willing to part with my Trek, after I cleaned it up following yet another winter of bike commuting with it. And in return, Marit, who had an REI account and access to better deals than I on camping gear, could buy me a tent after we decided on an acceptable value of the bicycle.

IMG_5705
Home away from home (well, in the backyard at least).

This seemed like a win-win all around. It really was a good idea to unload one of my bikes since I wasn’t likely to be riding it much anymore. And if I didn’t sell it to her, how easily or profitably could I really offload this bike anyway? And furthermore, I would have the comfort of knowing the bike would be going to a trusted friend; this was actually my first ever brand-new bicycle, the first one I ever had that wasn’t a hand-me-down from a sibling or cousin, and was also the bike that got me serious about cycling. For that sentimental reason, I didn’t really want to sell it. But it was the smart move. The Trek FX 7.2 had to go.

Funny thing, Marit ended up being far from the only one interested in this bike! After mentioning to one of the chef’s at the restaurant where I work that I had just bought a new bike, I was immediately interrupted by an anxious, “So what are you doing with your old bike then?” And a few days later, when I mentioned to my landlord that I was going to sell one of my bikes, she responded, “Well, be sure to tell me before you put it on the open market.”

It was too late for the chef and landlord though; I was abiding by the age-old adage of first-come-first-serve. Besides, would choosing either of the other interested parties directly put a tent in my hands? No! And that’s exactly why I was parting with a precious piece of memorabilia.

About a week after I wished my old bike farewell, my Sierra Designs Lightning two-person tent arrived, effectively a third the size of a Corgi when packed up (as compared to Marit’s dog) and weighing in at only three pounds.

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Russ, who is confused, models next to the tent.

The equipment was slowly arriving! I had the bike, fully equipped with racks and a round of panniers, and now a tent (which fit perfectly on the top of the rear rack). It was about time for a test ride with gear.

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