Fortunately both Steve and I roll well with a bit of chaos because that is exactly what ensued after we made our decision to experiment with living and working remotely from national park areas. We made the decision on 1/31/15 and the next day both of us informed our respective housemates that we were terminating our month-to-month leases. I needed to be out of my space in 2 weeks and Steve by the end of the month. So began the quick planning and scheming.
Planning. What are our goals? What do we need to make this happen? The first thing we did was to figure out our budget. Then we set goals of our project and began figuring how we were going to try to accomplish them. Then make a list of things to do and get (using Google Docs) and prioritized that list given shipping times and unknowns.
Goals. It’s important to me whenever I embark on a new project, I’m clear on what I am aiming to do and why. Steve and I derive enormous pleasure from adventures and the learning that comes from exploration. Yet we both want whatever we do to be not only interesting and fun but of some value to society.
To these ends, this launch was hoped to be:
- Practical (to reduce our costs while I seek faculty jobs). To this end, we created a budget.
- Fun and interesting (to explore of National Park areas in the US). We figure we’ll wing that part. Weather will dictate some of these decisions as it is cold and campgrounds are closed in much of the US now, except the Southwest. So our compass is pointed towards southern Arizona to begin.
- Useful (to others who enjoy and are cycling advocates and/or who are looking to work remotely). We will blog about our experiences throughout.
- Connected (to people in the communities we visit along the way and to our friends and family). We came up with the Sharrow popup bicycle idea (http://quest4zest.org/sharrow/) to experiment with along the way.
In terms of gear, we planned to take one car and camp. While we had a lot of the necessities from our previous bicycling experiences, there were still a few items that seemed optimal if not necessary to make it feasible to live and work remotely and comfortably.
Bicycle rack. We needed a bicycle rack and needed to get this purchased asap to make sure if fit our car and our bicycles. I have an older Honda CRV so we explored ones that hook to the rear tire as well as ones that go into my trailer hitch. We wanted a rack that could hold three bikes (my mountain/touring bike, Steve’s touring bike, and his anticipated new mountain bike). After quite an ordeal (we tried to get a used one that fit to our hitch first, but it did not fit), I am so pleased that with our purchase of a Surco OSI Spare Tire Mount 3 Bike Rack. This is why: it’s super easy to get bikes on and off (screws on – no ties), it locks (both the bikes to the rack, and the rack to the wheel mount), and you can easily open the back of the car because it is mounted to the spare tire mount on the back of the car (the hitch ones require more maneuvering).
Solar. From my experiences last year attempting to work from my bicycle, I knew that a big challenge would be keeping our technology charged and finding an adequate wifi connection. To this end, we wanted to experiment with more solar power. Sadly, US campgrounds only seem to have electrical outlets in the bathrooms (unless you pay for an RV site) and leaving a electronic device in a bathroom is high risk. I learned my lesson the hard way when I had my original solar setup ripped off. I learned a lot while I had it and I knew it had potential to add to our experience, so we planned to acquire a solar set up from Voltaic (http://www.voltaicsystems.com/).
Tent. My tent bit the dust last summer in Italy and Steve’s fifteen year old 2-person tent was starting to have “issues” not to mention it being a bit cramped. We researched tents and settled on a very large nifty Coleman Evanston 6 tent with a flipping screened porch (http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Evanston-6-Screened-Tent/dp/B004E4AW1K). At $130.00 on Amazon including shipping, it seemed like a good deal.
Phones. Both of us have smart phones that are more than three years old (closer to four). Need-less-to-say, they were dumbing down – that is slowing down. The battery life on mine (even with supposedly new batteries) was crap and loading things like Google maps was simply impossible. Given that Steve needs to connect and work remote, we needed to get at least one new phone. Tons of research went into this and here is the very simple end result. Only one phone met our needs…ready? An IPhone — which neither of us had ever had — but here’s why it proved to be the only option. Verizon simply has better cell service coverage now in the US and it proved to be the only service that worked at our first campground in Cottonwood, AZ (we tried ATT and T-Mobile, but neither worked). Verizon uses the CDMA network technology in the USA, but most of the rest of the world (at least Europe and Africa) use the GSM network technology. This is why my “open” Verizon Android Smart phone did not work last summer in Europe. I thought it just needed to be unlocked, but it turns out that the phone must also be able to work on a GSM network. To our knowledge, the IPhone is the only phone that has the capability to work on both networks. Given how long we keep phones, we want this ability to use our phone for future adventures abroad. We opted for a Verizon IPhone 5S.
Car Organization. I took charge of that detail which included what we were going to bring, what it was going to be put into, and where it would be stored in the car. The goal was to make it so we could easily access things that we used all the time, store away things we only needed sometimes, and ideally make the car not look like it was completely full of stuff (so as to not be a target of theft). I’m pretty pleased with our rear setup which includes to 3 drawer plastic containers (his and hers) to hold our clothes. Behind those are office supplies and other stuff that we don’t use as frequently. Our everyday camping gear gets put in the back next to the 3-drawer containers where it can be pulled out easily. Food storage and our cooler went in the back seat, and art supplies and tools under the front seats. Our technology is with us often but when not in use also goes into the back seat.
Roof Rack. A roof rack container came to me kindly from my friend Jim after he got a new one. I had never considered getting one of these but it has proved exceedingly valuable. It was useful not only for hauling stuff, but also it will be where we store our extra gear that we do not use all the time like cold weather gear, spare bicycle parts, accessories, etc.
Unloading stuff. I had a few items too many like a mountain bike and a mattress. One needs to plan time to unload stuff and take care of small tasks like forwarding mail and returning library books.
Storage. Where are we going to put our worldly belongings that don’t fit in the car? Fortunately Steve has some very nice relatives in L.A., one of whom it turned out has a storage unit and offered it for us to put our belongings.
The chaos intensified with the realization that it would take two trips to get all of our stuff to a storage place that was offered to us in LA, which is a 6.5 hour one way trip from SF. I already had a conference in LA scheduled during the month, so I used that opportunity to bring round one of our belongings. However, while I was in L.A., we learned that a surgery of Steve’s dad did not go as anticipated which prompted Steve’s departure to Texas for the week. Then Texas got hit with an ice and snowstorm and so the possibility of Steve not making back for our next move became a reality. Unfortunately, then I came down with some sort of flu. That sucked because that was my last week to get together with friends and pack (and still try to write and apply for jobs), and well, all I felt like doing was sleeping. In the end, Steve made it back on Saturday (2/28). I picked him up at the airport. We had a nice farewell dinner with friends that evening, and then loaded up the remains of our belongings and headed to LA the next day, March 1, 2015. Whew…and we’re off!