Why I Ride #19: To Live as Nomads
(Russ Roca is a bike advocate, traveler and co-founder of Path Less Pedaled)
I think every cyclist has that moment in their life when they are riding, feeling great and a little voice inside asks, “What if you just kept going?” For Laura and I, that voice got louder and louder until we couldn’t ignore it anymore, and we decided to embark on an open-ended bicycle tour.
In short order, we sold everything we owned and loaded our bikes and set off across the country. We ended up traveling continuously for 15 months in the U.S. — and have been living as nomads for the last three years.
As we traveled, we always looked at things through a bike advocate’s lens. We would meet and do presentations with local bike groups and talk about the growing nationwide bicycle movement (especially bicycle travel). When we first started PathLessPedaled.com, it was meant to document our personal experience,s but over the years it has changed to advocate and inspire others to travel by bike.
Our goal has been less about our own personal feats and exploits as it is about democratizing bicycle travel and making it accessible. Too often it is seen as the sport of young, adventurous, college-aged young men with stubble who sleep under bridges. We want to change that image and show that bike travel can just be another travel choice.
We’ve also recently been more interested in how bicycle tourism can revitalize rural communities. We traveled to New Zealand and rode the Otago Central Rail Trail and saw first-hand how a simple gravel rail trail conversion brought back a string of dying communities. We want to share that vision to others in the U.S. and work with communities to attract and promote bicycle travel.
We’ve already seen some people that get it in the U.S. Oregon is rolling out a series of Scenic Bikeways that go through some stunning rural areas, and we hope to ride those this summer and document, not only the riding, but the communities around the bikeways.
The last three years have been a strange journey where we’ve switched hats from being tourists to advocates of bike travel. I don’t think three years ago — when we listened to that voice that told us to keep going — we would have imagined doing what we’re doing now, but that’s just one of the joys of pedaling and wondering what’s around the next bend.
May is National Bike Month and this year’s theme is One Ride, Many Reasons. To highlight and celebrate the many benefits of bicycling, throughout May we’ll bring you the personal reflections and inspirations of a diverse collection of bicyclists from coast to coast with our daily 31 Days, 31 Reasons blog feature.