The Beginnings...Three Part Series.
How I returned to North America on a long-distance bicycle tour from Korea
The original plan to start exploring...About five years ago (2009), I started hatching a plan to cycle the length of the Americas (Alaska, USA/Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada, America, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina), I created a website to support the foundations of that earlier dream - Arctic 2 Argentina, and alas, some things dreamed are not possible when you have other things on your plate with the cup half full. I came into new realities with parenting, working in EFL university education (long vacations but low pay), but there was still a bright spark of light inside this dream and others...so I put those dreams into motion. I created several alternative expeditions in the deserts of northwest East Turkestan, the Himalayas of western China, through the Steppes of Outer Mongolia and to the Rockies across North America this summer.
Rebuilding myself through Zen traveling...with a bicycle.I've been fortunate in many ways, I walked away from a potential career start in nursing about 7 years ago. It was tough, the end of a dream, the end of my financial situation, a time of hurt and demise. I burned for wanting something outside my borders (Canada) and sacrificed everything to make that dream a reality. When I left the United States 7 years ago, I had my tail between my legs and had to start over, all over again. I wanted to start to repay school loans, thought about starting a family remotely, and followed love and not the money initially - that plan worked, I stuck to it till today. I returned this summer to North America to reconnect with my friends and family and community across the continent, that was the third tour I have completed, Totherocktour2013, it was a good one!
First destination following my course of Cycling in Korea (2007-2010)...Back in 2011, I wanted to be successful, I prepared in the gym for 10 weeks doing cross-training, loads and hours of treadmill, and after the 36-hour standing-only-train-ride across 2000 miles of China, I was ready to ride to shredded ripples of flesh, bone, muscle and tendons (I transformed physically from 96kg to 85kg (10 weeks cross fit) and further losing mass from 85kg to 70kg in 60 days (38 days on the pedals), crossing Taklamakan desert and southern Silk Road of East Turkestan down to the Aksai Chin on the borders of Pakistan while shedding fluids with explosive diarrhea and taking on the advice and tonics from local Chinese migrant workers to complete the first stage of that ride. And continuing that first expedition, I completing a second stage across the Himalaya ranges through Sichuan and into Yunnan Province through Lugu Lake and north to Baima - Snow Mountain, I gave my bike a rest after 45 days and spent a week traveling overland back to Kunming, Beijing and finally Incheon, South Korea. Mission completed.
What is Zen traveling?Zen traveling is something that occurs when you have overcome odds against you. You overcome work challenges, financial challenges, educational hurdles, cycling walls ahead of you on nothing but faith in yourself and support with a strong will, strong family you built, strong legs and strong bikes with enough sweat, grit, and walls gone through (bonk!) -
YOU fine tuned your body to adjust to a focused endurance ride across countries. Once the practice of bush camping, stealth camping and baby wiping is honed days on days of touring from one place to the next, you can stack weeks and accomplish some big adventures, in chapters of your new life on the road. Zen traveling happens when you melt off the miles on maps, start meeting incredible people and share good conversations. For starters, you have a bicycle with equipment strapped on, so when people see you - they will be amazed or filled with wonderful questions which are easy to answer. It's also a great opportunity to photo shoot, a memento for you and those you have met on the road. I also like to keep a paper journal for signatures, since the travels need a record book of thoughts, feelings, places in description and the fabric of your human journey created in a collection of words and addresses left by those kind souls you have met.
To the Start...Within 3 months of planning, writing, reading, purchases and preparations, I had gathered all the equipment (all I needed was 5 Ortlieb panniers - Rollerback Classic rear panniers, Frontroller Classic front panniers and the Ultimate 5L handlebar bag with Map case), a modified mountain bike with front and rear carrier racks and some physical changes to prepare myself. I began training in a gym (loved the treadmill at 8-13% grade for an hour or two - dropped 10kg body mass in 10 weeks).
I also found the interest and support through the owner/operator of a local bicycle shop in Gangneung City, South Korea (AN DAE GI @ Gangnueng Bike Mart "THANKS BROTHER!"). So, remember to rely on your LBS (local bike shop) for mechanical service support and by buying parts there -you support your LBS, it's that simple, THEIR FRIENDSHIP AND HELP is priceless!
When it finally came time to launch - I didn't regret getting started, bicycle touring and endurance treks are highly addictive, they made me feel younger outside and older/more experienced a person inside.
Zen traveling is special, when you throw yourself into a journey with no way out (except to quit!) carrying that bike or riding it wherever you go, the bicycle carries you across international borders and countries - this is the amazing part of your life journey - getting started and going for the dream!
Others who came before me...Jumping ahead now, I followed Nicholai Bangsgaard on his RTW Round-The-World odyssey on a Koga-Miyata World Traveller (2006-2010), and donated to his cause, no charities, just a bike trip around the planet, and the donation I made went towards his rear wheel rebuild in Montreal, Canada.
After reading Nicholai's journal entries from his RTW, I wanted a Koga-Miyata World Traveller.
(Disclosure: All that is required for expedition touring is a reliable mountain bike with carrier racks for reliable panniers like Ortlieb, or bikepacks like REVELATE or PORCELIN ROCKET would do the job nicely, a tent, thermarest, warm sleeping bag and some reliable clothing...a water filter, that would be enough to get you touring - World famous touring bikes are a luxury not necessity! I do enjoy riding my Koga-Miyata because of the anatomy of the frame, strong wheels and BROOKS B17 saddle...you can always build your own touring mountain bike with these parts!)
GET LUCK!In 2009, I hit the "luck" button again after completing over 10,000 kilometers (6000 miles) around the Korean peninsula in my first few years touring with mountain bikes.
I made the local Korean media, they announced my plans to cycle the Americas, and I made a few partnerships with professional global explorers, Antony Jinman - British Polar Explorer and Robert Hill - Canadian Mountaineer, both whom run their own non-profit foundations, the former is ETE - Education Through Expeditions, connecting explorers with the classroom, and the latter is IDEAS - Intestinal Disease Education & Awareness Society, connecting community working together to overcome health problems through adventures. Foundation partnerships are helpful foundations for understanding exploring before you set out on your own.I have become an international Ambassador through my efforts supporting these organizations - and proud of it!
Downtheroad.org - information I collected to start touring myself...I knew another American cycle-touring guru named Tim Travis personally who had ridden one down the Americas, he rides generic touring bikes these days and continues to promote books on his world traveling experience while the website offers up technical tips of bicycle touring at DOWNTHEROAD.ORG which really helped me get started.
Who is willing to sponsor you?First off in 2009, I contacted Commuter Bicycles, Santa Barbara, California to see what was in stock.
Eric Schmidt at Santa Barbara, California based Commuter Bicycles had the Koga's in stock. We talked about bicycle touring, the A2A project and he made a pro deal with me - that support was the foundation (symbolic and monetary reward!) that I had done my leg work, the website existed for some time, and I had shared inspiration with others through the process of highlighting #microadventures I had been having with $200-400 dollar mountain bikes across South Korean territories (99,500 km square).
I have only broken-in the Brooks leather saddle and can appreciate the tough design of this triple-butted 7005-aluminum frameset. I have yet to test out the Shimano Deore XT rim brakes on Himalayas or Andes Mountain terrain, but I am relieved there is a disc brake mount on the rear of the frame! There are many more miles in these bikes, try it yourself!
MongoliaX2012...Riding with Nomads, horses, goats, yaks camels in Outer Mongolia.In 2012, I contacted Lynskey Performance in Tennessee, USA to see what they had in stock.
Don Erwin offered a pro deal on anything in stock in their American inventory. We settled on their M240 26er frame because I was running Mavic Crossland wheelsets with the factory Fox Racing RL32 fork from 2008 (Gary Fisher HiFi Deluxe donor bike), 1 1/8th headset, and Shimano 9-speed drivetrain setup with SLX Hollowcrank...I wanted to ride titanium for the first time, it was definitely worth the investmen.
I completed the MongoliaX2012 on a Lynskey frame with my parts build-up again by my friend./shop owner AN DAE GI of Gangneung Bike Mart, Korea. An Dae Gi managed the build of the M240 within 24 hours of my flight to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. 60 days later, I returned to Korea with a lot of rugged experience on the Steppe deserts.
I spent the summer of 2012 chasing tracks across Mongolia and learned about their culture, customs, language and amazing hospitality. A Nomadic nation that lives close to their environment and herds of animals to sustain life in a wild, undeveloped pasture and grassland with a long valley, and high mountain terrain.
45 Days in Mongolia, 2499 kilometers (1553 miles) cycling, walked and trekked for 38 days. This was my second non-motorized Solo expedition with intercultural connections with Mongolian Nomads, Herders, Khalk-Mongol, Kazakh-Mongol living on the great, wild steppe, mountains, deserts of Outer Mongolia. I will have some work to do writing up the expedition this year. Updates were posted to Facebook, but the details will be released in print/PDF in the future.
Who helped me in 2013?
My dad, George Perich - whom believed in expeditions when I cycled and walked across Mongolia in 2012. He became a stronger supporter once I became a father, teacher, explorer and international ambassador. My father made a special visit to the Republic of Korea in 2010.
My wife - Mi Sung. Because she cared enough to let me go explore, let me live the life I wanted to live.
Carl Bentley - Australian cyclist and supporter of my adventures. Thank you brother!
Cathy Gignac-Beffort and Dave Beffort - Canadians that rock! They provided a base in Calgary where I could complete the ride to the Rockies and provided a safe haven where I could rest and recover, they invited me to the Flood Relief Concert 2013 benefiting the victims of the Alberta flooding disaster. And Cathy helped arrange everything concerning my safe return to London, Ontario where I pedaled back to our hometown of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I should report the safe return of her suitcase thanks to Heather Staudt-Hibbert, another friend whom I haven't seen in 22 years, great reunion with you both!
Amy David Nadia Sonja Moehle - Turtle Lake, Grand Traverse County, Michigan - For sharing your wonderful home with me and making the tour all the more special. To your parents Aunt Kathy and Uncle John Daniels for extending that love and friendship we've shared over the many years on Earth. To Christopher Daniels and Lisa for sending me off from Detroit and sharing our friendships together. To Margaret Thresher for hearing and following my adventures across new frontiers, I will prepare that writing we spoke about this summer.
Friends in Bemidji, Minnesota - Carey, Levi, Ben, James...Once I was tailed by State Police around the Bemidji area, first signals and sirens ringing out on Highway 2, I knew the area had some problems ongoing. The State troopers followed me off the highway exit into town, driving parallel to the paved bicycle paths on a gravel road. I knew there would be no stealth camping here. Cycling into town, I asked locals about finding a Super 8 motel for the night, as I pedaled through the deserted streets, I met Carey and Ben out front of their community house that's shared with some amazing friends. They offered their sofa, tacos and in exchange I bought a couple cases of beer! What a great night being hosted with you guys, the campfire, the good conversations shared! Hope we can crossroads in North America again soon - on the next totherocktour! Thanks for your community and support.
Victor Gervais started his tour from Miami, Florida, United States in February 2013, and pedaling his way North along the eastern American coast he encountered thug life in a State Park near Charlotte, North Carolina.
Camping alone in the off season, he was assaulted by 5 youth, struck over the back of the head by an assailant, and left unconscious outside his tent overnight. Most of his belongings were stolen, so he replaced them using his Traveler's checks and rode north through America and into Canada's East Coast in Labrador and Newfoundland, continuing through Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and in Cadillac, Saskatchewan - we met and I befriended him.
When we reached Nick & Steph's house in Medicine Hat, he received the same amazing welcome - food, clean clothes washed, and hot showers!!! Heaven, and as I promised Victor, I made all the peanut butter sandwiches he could eat and went to the bank giving him part of my summer expedition budget to continue his journey across Canada, through the Okanagan Valley, where he planned to pick seasonal apples and then complete his ride down the coast from Vancouver, British Columbia through Hwy 1 in Los Angeles, California he planned to fly back to Switzerland. We keep in touch via email, but Victor doesn't maintain a website about his travels or connect using other social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
To all the new friends I made, to all those that contributed to the fabric of our experiences this summer, I appreciate all the good conversations that adventure did bring, hope we all meet again!
More technical support/friendship for this year's Totherocktour came from...
Brent Stoen at the "SKI HUT" Duluth Minnesota, thanks Brent for repacking my bottom bracket assembly well-greased and adjusted well. A great community bike guy who cares about service!
David Sears at the "The Ski and Bike Shop" in Grand Forks, North Dakota - With David's help, he adjusted the headset tension, changed the bicycles fit completely, allowing me to complete 100-mile days and bring this tour to a successful completion on schedule - 30 days, 3400 kilometers (2000 miles). Totherocktour 2013.
Dave is a bike guru with no less than 10 bikes in his stables. We enjoyed an All-Bike Rally in downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota which featured Harley Davidson, custom motorcycles, custom bicycles and great conversations and cold beverages too! had a great time visiting you David and hope to do it again!
Friendships and Exploring - finding support in the community where you live.
My objectives back then were to experience America at a community level in small towns and open landscapes of the northern tieron my first tour in 1994 (Highway 2, the first journey to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from Windsor, Ontario via Detroit, Michigan and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Seattle, Washington) lasted 7 days on the motorcycle (8000km). Of all my motorcycle tours, the last was one of my longest continuous (5900 miles, 15 days) from Detroit, Michigan to Phoenix, Arizona to San Francisco, California to Eugene, Oregon to Seattle, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia.