Please help me plan an awesome hardcore state crossin' bicycle trip! Now in 3D!
July 20, 2010 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Me and my girlfriend are planning to embark upon a long adventure. We have never done it before and have some questions.

Dearest hive mind,

My girlfriend and myself plan to go on a bicycle trip without a particular destination. The first direction will be somewhere in south Florida in order to escape the cold. After (and if) we'll arrive we will decide on our next course of action.
Our plan to cover 30-60 miles a day. Carrying the bare essentials in order to curb our weight.


- Winter. We plan to leave after our lease is up in the end of October. Meaning that we are going to be out there in the midst of the cold. Florida hopefully will provide some warmth but till we get there its going to be chilly.

- Money. We think we might save about 750$ each, and we assume our biggest cost is going to be food. The money will drain fairly quickly and we are looking for some creative on-the-road-money-making ideas.

*** Some ideas we bounced around are:

-Posting/Looking for gigs on Craigslist. As general labor, landscape services, whatever we can get. It might work but I think that the smaller towns don't have their own Craigslist section, or have insufficient interest and demand.

-Day labor centers. Could also work but again, a lot of the smaller towns lack any type of day labor centers.
Standing with a sign with something like "Strong back, hard labor, no handouts". The police might harass us. Anyone tried that?

-Places to stay. We will try to reduce any shelter costs to minimum. We do not plan using motels frequently.

- Camping in random forests, camping sites, state parks and such.

- Wwoofing. We are both very interested in organic farming and would love to check out and work in some farms.

- Couch surfing. On a limited capacity. We don't really want to exploit this system for free lodging but want to hand select a few interesting folks to host us.

So, dear folks,

Any comments or nuggets of wisdom regarding the issues above?

What kind of gear would you take with you? Sleeping bags, small tent, versatile stove, warm clothes, bicycle fixing tools, food. What else?

Any words of caution? Did you try it and gave up after a week? Things you would do differently? Success and failure stories?

Any forums, books about the subject, online resources?

Thank you in advance and have a fantastic day!
posted by Sentus to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I got a few great answers in my own question about this. The question wasn't about bicycling, per se, but I think you might find something worthwhile. Here.
posted by makethemost at 7:16 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I once did a near-penniless bike trip from London to Cardiff after all my cash was stole the day before I left. I had no stove, and subsisted on 9p tins of Tescos spaghetti and 50p loaves of bread with 'mixed fruit' (rhubarb, vegetable gum) jam. You can always stretch your food dollar further, depending on how flexible you're willing to be.
posted by twirlypen at 7:21 PM on July 20, 2010

Response by poster: "The World Famous",

I'm in Texas.
posted by Sentus at 7:29 PM on July 20, 2010

What is your starting point? One route to consider somewhere along the way is the Natchez Trace Parkway, an excellent limited access, non-commercial two lane road from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS. There are 7 or 8 free camp areas along the way (4-5 specifically for bicyclists, 3 general primitive campgrounds, pick up a brochure at one of the visitor centers at either end or on the way).

We meet a lot of bicyclists there, and most take one or two changes of clothing, hammocks instead of a tent or bag, and minimal food (enough for one or two days). I will leave most of the supply help with those who have done/do bicycling.

SHould be a great adventure, enjoy it!
posted by batikrose at 7:32 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You should visit the Touring forum over on A lot of your specific questions will be answered there, or you can post a question and get a lot of answers from people who've been there and done that. Also, there may be journals on crazyguyonabike that will give you some inspiration about route. And similar to couchsurfing but catering to traveling bike tourists, there is the warmshowers network.

I'll give you one broad piece of advice. Touring is a full-time activity. 30-60 miles a day is reasonable, if the terrain is not too hilly, but it will take your whole day; you will be ravenous and eat easily twice as much as you normally do; and you'll be pretty exhausted at the end of it. (This depends a lot on your route and how much gear you're hauling, though.) It's really not realistic to expect to generate income while touring at the same time. If you're going into this with low resources, I think you should plan for more of a one month touring, one month working kind of trip.

Finding pickup work means staying in or near heavily populated areas and that's really not advisable on a bike, nor is it even possible in most parts of the country. You'll spend long stretches on the road where there is definitely no wifi and often no cell phone service. Any electronics you bring will always be running out of batteries. You might manage to sneak in an hour of internet in a public library, if you're lucky enough to make it to a town that's big enough to have one, and it's open that day, and you're there at the right time, but it'll probably be really slow dial-up anyway.

Also keep in mind that a lot of people are struggling right now. Small town America is just getting the shit kicked out of it. I would not plan on showing up anywhere and expecting to find work easily.

Don't let me stop you though. You should absolutely make this happen however you can.

One more suggestion? After your lease is up, couch-surf with friends in town and keep working. You'll never have an easier time finding work than in your home city. If you do this for a month and live cheaply, you could finance several months of touring this way.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:18 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A few opinions, based on doing a couple of tours, the longest of which was about three months.

First of all, related to your route, take a look at -- lots of resources there. Some people like riding established routes, some avoid them. Me, I like to follow established routes.

Second, gear. I've always brought a tent/sleeping bag combo and didn't regret the weight. You'll want to give some thought to your cycling clothes for a winter trip -- rain gear, gloves, hats -- as Florida can still be pretty miserable in the winter, at least in the panhandle (grew up there). Tools and cooking gear are nice, too, but see my next point about kindness of strangers. I always keep a journal and have gotten a lot of enjoyment looking back on my trips through that lens. Maps (I'm a planner so I'll always try to get maps in advance). Hygiene stuff -- both getting your clothes clean and keeping yourself clean and healthy.

Third. I've experienced a weird phenomena on all my cycling trips: everyone you meet wants to tell you their story and how they almost did what you are doing or perhaps did something similar when they were younger. I guess it is like an adventure vacation coming to you when someone rides up on a fully loaded touring bike and is talking with a straight face about riding hundreds/thousands of miles. The net result was that the "kindness of strangers" went off the charts. People were always trying to help me, feed me, give me a place to camp, etc., and I'm not exactly a cuddly person. I'd be curious if other touring MeFis have experienced this. Anyway, I used to stress about pre-planning places to camp and worry a lot about food, but consistently my experience has been that stuff all just works out because of the kindness-of-strangers-effect. Same with mechanical problems; I'm a good bike mechanic and tend to overpack on the tools, but someone will always give you a ride to a bike shop if needed and a bike shop will help you out.

Working along the way -- no experience there. I camp 100% of the time, so my main expense was always food, which can still be substantial. Good luck, this sounds like an awesome trip in the making.
posted by kovacs at 8:24 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

A couple of specific journals you might want to check out from crazyguy: here (couple with little money doing the south) and here (another couple with little money and no destination).
posted by BlooPen at 8:31 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've heard of quite a few people doing something like this either as a charity fundraiser (not really sure how that works) or to raise awareness for some social issue. If you framed the trip as something like that, and built up a little publicity about it, it might be really easy to get people to host and feed you.

What about a Sustainable Farming Tour where you cycled from farm to farm, blogging/podcasting/shooting documentary footage from each farm and raising awareness of both the state of farming and sustainable food issues in the south? This assumes, of course, that you have any of the relevant media skills. But it would probably be both easier and more feasible than standing on a corner with a Will Work For Food sign. And you might even profit from it in terms of connections built and marketable skills gained.
posted by Sara C. at 8:32 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

What about a Sustainable Farming Tour where you cycled from farm to farm, blogging/podcasting/shooting documentary footage from each farm and raising awareness of both the state of farming and sustainable food issues in the south?

Great idea. You could find out what crops are harvested when and come up with a tie-in to Thanksgiving.
posted by slidell at 11:32 PM on July 20, 2010

Sounds like a great time; I'm envious. On the other hand, as a denizen of South Florida, I wouldn't do it now, not here. It's devilishly hot and humid. I mean, it's too hot to go in the pool!
posted by fivesavagepalms at 5:34 AM on July 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you so much!

Going to check those websites asap.
posted by Sentus at 9:17 AM on July 22, 2010

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