Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.
I can’t imagine it.
Do you realize how FAR that is?
How many hours a day you’d ride? What type of terrain you’d be in for during some of it?
It seems… crazy.
But for four friends out in California, it’s a reality starting next week!
We met Josh Orem on the road tour for the documentary. He was working for People Assisting The Homeless (P.A.T.H.) and gave a fun interview about his experience that makes a small, but hilarious part of the movie.
Now, I’ve known Josh for years and years, but even I was surprised when I got the call after we filmed with him.
“I’m going to ride my bicycle to Brazil with some friends. It’ll take us 6 months or so. I leave in a couple months from now.”
That’s CRAZY, I thought to myself. What about this… what about that… how can you…
And then I realized that I was thinking along the exact lines that others had thought of when I told people of our own plans to sell our stuff and travel to Australia. When I told them we’d be living in an RV. When I told them I was making a movie.
After a few seconds, I found the proper response…
“That’s awesome, man. Sounds challenging, but fun! Tell me more!”
Not only are Josh and his buddies going to do the trip, they are going to film and document their journey, too. Eventually, they want to piece together their own documentary of the journey, the cultures, and the experience of the road. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!
The group leaves next week, but had time to answer several dozen questions we sent over.
The Crazy Cyclists
Dominic Smith will be traveling with his British passport. Originally from England, he attended University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he met roommate Andy Robinson. Dom and Andy took off on a trans-continental bike ride in 2006 and rode from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Dom lives in LA, works in post-production, and enjoys ultimate frisbee. He’s hoping to produce a documentary from the trip that will propel him into other opportunities and out of office life.
Andy Robinson is from Virginia and also moved to LA after the cross-country bike tour. He works in post-production and is excited to create a documentary from this experience. On the side, he runs an event-planning business where he organizes themed parties. He loves hiking and adventure races. His long term girlfriend, Chelsea, will be coordinating several details of the trip from the LA HQ.
Josh Orem has bounced all over the world since leaving his home in Indiana. He backpacked in Australia, spent a year abroad in Kenya, joined a community-building non-profit in LA, and then committed to the non-profit PATH which reaches out to LA’s homeless. He loves attending music festivals, conferences, and meetups of all kinds. He met Dom through their local ultimate frisbee meet-up.
Miguel Ortiz is Guatemalan, but primarily grew up in Indiana. He met Josh in middle school, and they have been close since. Miguel left Indiana to practice veterinary medicine in Seattle. He loves backpacking, hiking, and most things outdoors. He’s leaving an old life behind in Seattle and is excited for some quiet bike time and self-discovery.
All right, so who even came up with the idea to ride a bicycle from Los Angeles all the way to Rio De Janeiro?
Andy: When I was 14 years old, my best friend Steve and I outlined a plan to drive from our hometown of Yorktown, VA, to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. It was mostly an exercise in fantasy: Our plan centered around building the ultimate jungle-jeep and neglected details like food.
I put the idea back down in my subconscious and focused on more immediate goals such as getting my driver’s license and kissing a girl before I turned 16. (Barely made it.)
The trouble is dreams like that one never really die, and now 12 years later, here it is interrupting my life and career and everything else because Brazil is still down there, just waiting for anyone who leaves their house and heads South.
I don’t know if it was me or Dom, but we were hanging out at a party, drinking beer, and talking about a trip we took across the United States when one of us turned to the other and said, “You know, South America would be cool…”
OK, an idea is one thing. Tell me about the moment you actually decided to do this. Was the decision hard?
Dom: It was sometime around spring in 2011; at the time I was in a miserable relationship and we just kept on talking about the idea until at some point there was no turning back. We aren’t the kind of guys who have pipe dreams like this and not follow up on it, or at least, we try our best to!
I think the timing was just right, I’ve been working for a few years now doing jobs that are good enough but really don’t fulfill me. The main thing I’ve discovered is that I absolutely cannot work full time in an office anymore, I don’t think it’s a healthy way of using a life.
How can you take 6 months off your life to do this? Are you leaving behind jobs, money, etc?
Andy: How can I afford not to? Where there is a will there is a way, it’s simply a matter of priorities.
Josh: I really don’t see it as taking 6 months off of my life. I feel like I am adding 6 amazing months too my life. I left my job, but I’m confident that I can find a job when I get back. The experience to me is worth way more than the money leaving my bank account. The hardest part is being away from loved ones, but I have been away for longer time before and I will be able to communicate back home at least.
Dom: I’ve been saving as best I can. It’s definitely going to be a strain but I should be able to make it out on the other side.
Miguel: I am blessed to not have bills besides student loans which I don’t have to pay due to unemployment deferment. I quit a job I did not like and ended a relationship… How could I NOT do this now? I have been consumed by money and finances and work. They have made me very unhappy. I hope to find a better mental state to deal with them in the next 6 months.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do to get ready?
Andy: Leaving my girlfriend Chelsea and getting her into a new apartment.
Josh: The hardest part for me has been seeing the fear in everyone’s eyes when talking to me about the journey. That is one of the reasons that we are filming all the way down. We want to show Americans the goodness and beauty in Central and South America.
Dom: Saying goodbye to my fairly comfortable life out here and all the people I love is the hardest thing. I haven’t done that much training to be honest, on the last trip I didn’t do much either; I’m pretty comfortable bicycling.
Miguel: Make peace with my parents about the trip.
How far can you reasonably bike in one day?
Andy: Trip average will be something like 55 miles per day including days off. When we bike anywhere from 55 to 140 miles is possible depending on terrain/conditions.
Dom: When we biked across America we did anywhere from 20 miles to 180 miles in a day… generally over the trip we probably averaged about 55 miles each day. 100-mile days are pretty hard and you wouldn’t really want to do the consecutively, especially in certain conditions (hills, headwinds etc.) Our longest day we rode from 9am to 2am the following day, but it was mostly flat and we didn’t have any awful headwinds.
Are you worried about keeping up a 55-mile-a-day pace?
Andy: Nope. The human body is made for this sort of thing, with a couple of weeks on the road we’ll be ready to conquer continents.
Josh: It seems pretty intense to me. I have never pushed my body to the limit like I think that this trip will. I think that the first leg of the trip will be agonizing but I am hoping that by the end of the second month I will not even be notice that I am pedaling.
How did you pick your route?
Andy: We are more or less following the PanAm highway with revision based on the experience of past cyclists, interesting stops, and State Department travel advisories.
Josh: Only roads that go downhill!
Dom: Straight south and then crossing Bolivia. We decided early on that going straight through the rain forest was a terrible, terrible idea. We’ll be making a lot of it up as we go though, ferry from La Paz to mainland Mexico and from Colon to Categena.
What kinds of lodging do you have planned?
Dom: Some nice people on warmshowers.org, a few friends down the way, lots of camping. Apart from that, it’ll all be improvised!
Which stop excites you most?
Andy: I think maybe Bolivia. It is one of the least-populated places we will traverse and it’s also where Butch Cassidy died (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of my favorite films.)
Josh: I have wanted to see Guatemala ever since becoming friends with Miguel. It is incredible for me to be actually with Miguel in his homeland. I am also really looking forward to seeing volcanoes and Machu Picchu.
Dom: So many places! Volcanoes and Mayan Ruins in central america, amazing surf locations all the way down, Cartegena Columbia is meant to be an amazing time at night, the little hostels that cost a dollar a night along the peruvian coast, the amazing cultures and foods we’ll be exposed to that we’re so sheltered from here. All of it excites me so much!
Miguel: Guatemala City, Machu Picchu.
How are you going to record your trip?
Andy: Being one of the main forces behind the documentary, I will focus my efforts on recording with video and photos, though I will also have a journal for personal notes.
Dom: One of our biggest regrets about our trans-American trip was that we didn’t document it properly. This time we’re going all out and planning on making a feature length documentary out of the trip covering everything that happens.
We’ll also be updating real time www.ridetorio.com and www.facebook.com/ridetorio as well as posting videos, photos and all kinds of other goodies we come across along the way! I used to be a big photography hound and I’d like to get more involved with that side of my life again, and I can’t think of a better way to go and get some good photos than by bicycling 10,000 miles!
How much gear can you carry?
Andy: More than we need.
Dom: Quite a bit, we have two large rear bags and two smaller front ones. And then there’s handlebar bags and mounting stuff to the racks as well. In general we will be packing as light as we can though, but much heavier than a domestic journey.
What kinds of gear are you carrying? Anything that’s not a “necessity”?
Andy: A ukulele – also a lot of camera equipment so we can document the trip.
Miguel: I have a set of bike tools for repairs and changing flats (nothing super fancy). I have a set of camping things, basic stuff like tent, sleeping bag, cookware, etc. I am bringing along a harmonica; I hope to learn to play it.
How’d you choose what clothes to wear/take?
Andy: Based on my previous experience, you need far less clothing than you want to take. I have it pared down pretty well: 2 bicycle shorts, one pair of non-pants, 2 bike jerseys, 1 long-sleeve shirt, a light jacket, rain pants, 3 pairs underwear, 3 pairs socks. That’s it. If it gets cold in the Andes, we’ll acquire warmer stuff there, no need to carry it 6,000 miles.
Miguel: Mostly things that can be used to ride and to lounge. I have a few items of “technical” bike gear but mostly going to use button-down shirts and shorts. I did buy biking shoes which have a very firm sole to transfer more power to the bike and not bend.
How did you pick your bikes?
Andy: Touring reputation/avaiability of parts/cost in that order.
Josh: I knew very little about biking coming into this. I took Dom and Andy’s advice on looking at most gear. My bike was found on eBay by Dom, and I bought it on his recommendation.
Dom: It took a long time for all of us to get our bikes. Mine is a Surly Long Haul Trucker, it’s designed with trips like this in mind and there isn’t really a single bad review out there for it. I rode it around, fell in love and that was the bike for me! Incidentally, the day after I bought the bike, it got STOLEN. I was extremely depressed, someone just took it right off the front porch of the place where I work. We drove around the neighborhood for about 20 minutes and I’d given up all hope when we saw the bike sitting at a gas station! Wheeled in by some toothless homeless gentleman. I jumped out of my boss’s car and jumped the guy and amazingly got it back! I can’t describe how excited I was when this happened and I feel like I made a bond with my bike.
Miguel: Craigslist. I have a 1991 Novara Randonee. It is a steel frame which will absorb the road and will hold up to having that much weight loaded on it. It also has very simple components that should be able to be repaired on the road.
I heard that you guys are recording your trip on cameras in your sunglasses. That sounds like a sci-fi experiment! Is is real?
Josh: I am really excited for people to see exactly what we are seeing on the trip.
Dom: It is kind of a sci-fi experiment as these glasses are brand spanking new! The guys at www.pivothead.com were kind enough to sponsor the trip and gave us all glasses to document the adventure! It’s going to be amazing using them because we’ll be able to capture moments we never normally would be able to with a big camera where people are far more aware they’re being filmed. They’re nifty little things and great quality.
Did you bring a good-luck charm?
Andy: My girlfriend gave me a yellow duck whistle after watching an episode of Louie where a duckling saves him in Afghanistan.
Josh: I have been given a few small items that I will keep close to me to think about people back home.
Dom: I am bringing Sharpie Paints, which will allow friends to write on my bike. My girlfriend most importantly is leaving a message on the top tube which I hold very dear to my heart and feel like it’ll bring me luck.
Miguel: I have several… my sister gave me a rosary to put on the bike, a good friend gave me a token of St. Christopher (patron saint of travelers), I have a rope that has gone to every country I have been to since I was 15.
What’s on your mp3 player?
Andy: Haven’t filled it up yet, but I anticipate a lot of Zeppelin, AC/DC, David Bowie, and Queen with a smattering of Top 40 which I find to be popular in foreign countries and some Pimsleur “Learn Spanish” recordings to practice while I ride. NOTE: We use little speakers on the bike because headphones interfere with your ability to hear approaching traffic.
Josh: Premo on loop forever (Adam Baker’s first band)
Dom: Everything from the Supremes to Skrillix.
Miguel: Don’t have one. I bought a small AM/FM radio I plan on listening to local music all the way!
Have you picked a theme song for the trip?
Andy: Over the Hills and Far Away – Zeppelin
Josh: I’m feeling the Chariots of Fire theme song
Dom: Queen – Bicycle Race!
Miguel: To be determined.
Do you have tickets home yet or are you leaving it open?
Andy: Leaving it open for flexibility.
Josh: I do not have a ticket home yet. We don’t know the exact dates we will arrive in Rio, and I want to see how I am feeling at that point. I may be ready to come home right away and never get on a bike again, but I also may love it down there and decide to stay in South America for a while longer.
Dom: Not yet, I’m going to get mine much closer to Brazil.
Miguel: I do not have a ticket home yet. This option is open.
Do you have insurance?
Josh: Yes, we each got an insurance policy. I think we all opted for the extra Adventure Sports rider that covers us if we want to do things including activities such as whitewater rafting, caving, heli-skiing, scuba diving and more.
What’s your biggest fear for the trip?
Andy: For me it is getting sick and not being able to finish. I think that’s probably the greatest real danger to our health. We’ve been immunized out the wazoo, and will carry malaria medicine, but there’s always a chance.
Josh: Loving it so much I won’t want to come back.
Dom: Not being able to finish it, honestly. I hope my body doesn’t fall apart and I hope most of all I don’t get sick or catch anything from those nasty little mosquitoes. Everything else excites me massively.
Miguel: I am afraid of injury. Dog bites would be terrible but it is a very real possibility to get killed doing this. I am not so much worried about “drug lords” as much as I am worried about a car hitting us. We will face the possibility of instant death nearly every day. Central and South American roads are not designed for this and tend to be very windy, which is dangerous of bikers.
What’s the plan after Rio?
Andy: Cut together the documentary of the trip and take it to festivals.
Josh: My plan is to have a plan by the time I get to Rio.
Dom: Most of all, I want to try and resist offices, even though they’re the easiest jobs to get for me and financially kind. I can’t deal with sitting in one place for 8-10 hours a day. Most of all we’ll be busy trying to piece together a story out of the trip and make the documentary!
Miguel: If I have enough money I hope to go visit some cousins that are going to universities in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. Then I will hopefully decided if I want to go back to Seattle or back to Indiana while I figure out where I want to go next.
Wow, guys, super impressive and I can’t wait to follow along. Maybe we can get an update from the road in a few months!
Hey, everyone – Baker here again. If you are interested in more information (and want to follow the journey like I will be), here’s how you can do just that:
- Like RideToRio on Facebook. It’s easy to get their updates from the road this way.
- Watch their trailer on Youtube. If you love movie trailers as much as I do!
Riding a bike this far scares me – maybe because I’m out of shape – maybe because I’m scared of being stuck in my own mind for long stretches.
Either way, I admire these guys. I’ll be living vicariously through them the next 6 months.
What’s your next big adventure?