Category Archives: travel

Bike Packing: Seattle to Minneapolis, 2064 miles, 15 days

[I’m breaking this trip into 3 different posts: 1) the story, 2) my bike packing gear, 3) nutrition for bike packing]

Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, Montana- I made it to the top before the road is closed to cyclists. All down hill from here!

 

I had arrived at the campground late- probably close to 1am. I had taken a few hours off earlier in the day to hangout at a farmers market and it was now super dark. I wasn’t even positive that I was in the hiker/biker camp. But it was still somewhat familiar.  I was in Glacier National Park and had just ridden 151 miles on the 6th day of my Seattle to Minneapolis bike tour on the Adventure Cycling Association Northern Tier Bike Route.  The Lake McDonald campground is the same one I had stayed at 5 years earlier, the night before Steevo and I started the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route at the Canadian border. Five years already? Earlier in the day, in Whitefish, Montana, I took my time eating snacks, drinking coffee, people watching… I knew it’d get me to camp late, but I didn’t care. That’s the wonder of bike touring. Sure, I missed the beauty of approaching the park in the daylight, but riding along the nearly empty road, under the trees, with a chilling wind coming off the lake has its own merit.  The only issue? The next day was the only morning on my entire trip where I had to wake up early. In Glacier National Park they limit the times you can ride Going to the Sun Road and I had to be over Logan Pass in the morning if I was going to get in 125+ miles.

But I was too elated to be bike touring to care. When I rode from California to Pennsylvania in 2001 it triggered something in me about self-reliance, exploration and physical effort that has greatly impacted my path in life. All of these double centuries, brevets, 24-hour mountain bike races, probably wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for bike touring. And here I was years after my last big tour, crossing Montana again, this time East-West, instead of North-South. I’m positive that I fell asleep smiling that night.

 

 

This trip materialized after some changes in my personal life freed up a few weeks of my summer.  I had  ‘rack-free’ touring bags from my attempt at the Arizona Trail Race that fit my road bike, so why not? I had friends in both the Northwest and Midwest I was dying to see and there are still a few states I have never ridden in that I could hit by riding between the two regions: North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota.

First I had to link up to the Northern Tier Route from Seattle so I contacted the Seattle Randonneurs who were insanely helpful. A few days later and I had a turn-by-turn 137-mile route to Newhaven, Washington, which sits on the route at the base of the Northern Cascades.  Here I’d have my first night of camping. Finding tofu and veggies at the tiny store in Marblemount only added to the excitement. Bike touring again, finally! There’s something special about riding all day, watching the light change as the sun sets behind you and topping it off with a quiet dinner in the woods. Really, is there anything better in the world?

 

Looking east from Logan Pass- all downhill from here.

 

I knew from the elevation on the maps I had that there was going to be some serious climbing over the next few days. I was extra stoked to have my race bike and to be traveling super light- my bags and gear were down to about 15 pounds. This includes stuff for cooking, sleeping and even rain gear. What I wasn’t expecting was the heat! It was nearly 100 degrees and super sunny on Rainy Pass!  Even though I averaged 138 miles a day, I wasn’t pushing super hard or riding all night, but I did have to limit my breaks and keep a healthy pace. This was tough through the mountains but became increasingly easier as I headed East.

By the time I hit Montana the weather was less hot, all but one of the big climbs was behind me and my legs were getting used to my daily effort. I was in a routine and had gotten my re-supplies timed so that I only had to carry, at most, one full day of meals. Often I’d time a store so I could pick up food for dinner and breakfast just a few hours before dinner time. And did you know that tiny towns all over NW Washington and Montana have co-ops? I scored seriously great vegan food almost every day.

In Montana I crossed Logan Pass and then cut through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation to cut out the Northern Tier section through Canada. From here: flat and open plains. Tiny, dirt-road towns situated around train stops, not the highway. One could see the next town from 20 miles away. I’d count the number of cars on the trains to pass the time. So few vehicles would pass me on the road that when they did, I’d be startled. It was joyous. And the people of Montana! I took a half day in Shelby to do email/internet and grab my box at the Post Office and it took way longer than expected because so many friendly folks wanted to chat. Love it.

 

Northern Cascades in Washington State

 

In North Dakota apparently I missed a re-route because I was, for the first time, on a busy highway with trucks and no shoulder. In Minot I picked up another package, hung out at a friendly bike shop and enjoyed the big city. I pushed on to Fargo, camping in small town parks along the way, where I sat down to eat a meal out that wasn’t just breakfast potatoes. Fargo felt like Los Angeles compared to where I had been for the past week!

Fargo is also where I veered off of the Northern Tier for the sole reason of riding through a new state- South Dakota. And let me tell you, having great maps to read with a plethora of information really is comforting when you are traveling in unfamiliar territory, alone. Once I was off those maps I was reliant on my notes and getting reception on my phone. I think it was just getting dark when a county road I was assured was paved turned to gravel…I needed to detour. That made for a long day toward the end of a long-ish trip where I was getting tired. Funny what expectations will do- as I neared the end I wanted to be at the end. My limits of traveling or just something that happens when you reach the near end of any endeavor? My guess is the latter…

 

One of the huge passes in the Cascades.

 

But South Dakota came and went and before long I was in the final state of the trip- Minnesota. Still ‘off-route’ I was guessing my way across and searching for a 60-mile rail-to-trail a bike mechanic back in Minot had told me about. A bike shop (yet again!) set me on the right path, despite their apprehension due to its perceived banality.  I was excited t not have to navigate for 60 miles! That path came and went and before too long it was dark and I had to accept the fact that Minneapolis would have to wait till morning.  I camped behind some trees on a farmer’s driveway and thought, ‘it’s late, no one will come down here’ and for the second night in a row I was caught sleeping somewhere I wasn’t suppose to be! The night before someone had called the police on me, which is a first, as I was setting up camp next to a barn on what I thought was public property (the police kindly directed me to a park ‘with picnic tables and a better place to sleep’).

 

I slept under this half pipe one night- some things never change. Somewhere in Eastern Washington.

 

And the next morning, I woke up just like the previous 14 mornings, packed up my stuff, made some coffee and breakfast and pedaled toward my next destination. But this day would be the last of my trip and would end very special- with vegan pizza! I rolled into Minneapolis in the late morning and quickly found the bar with the great vegan food I had heard so much about. I ordered, changed out of my kit and suddenly I was just another guy with a bike eating an entire large pizza. I did like most people would do- I posted to twitter and sat back and thought about the previous 15 days. How quickly they passed! I already missed them. Sure bike touring can be physically difficult and things can go wrong, but there’s something so peaceful about it. You wake up, you eat, you ride, you look around and you think. It’s easy, in a lot of ways.  I’ve come to so many life conclusions while bike touring. I’ve come to peace with many internal conflicts. I’ve ridden myself to tears even! And I love it so.

This story is very late and my photos are out of order, but I hope you get a feeling for what it is like to travel by bike for a few weeks over a couple thousand miles. When I look back on my life over the previous ten years I often smile biggest when I think about the times I’ve spent on one of these trips.  But don’t take it from me, start planning your next bike tour whether it is your first, or your hundredth!

Lastly, too many people to thank! You know who you are. And I can’t thank you enough.  Especially the local bike shops. Remember next time you want to order online to save some money- Amazon won’t give you directions when you’re lost on a bike tour.

More photos below, enjoy!

 

Control panel

 

River at campground in northwest Montana. This photo does no justice....

 

Glacier National Park

 

This was my view for a number of days in Eastern Montana

 

 

The Baker Massacre. Props to Montana for educating people about history and not trying to hide this.

 

Eastern Montana clouds

 

It's a privilege to be outside for the sunset every night.

 

Minot North Dakota road out from flooding! Had to find a new way out of town.

 

North Dakota lake

 

I cut the tiniest route through South Dakota ever- and at night. Still counts, right?

 

60 mile rail to trail in Minnesota

 

End point. The last city sign sprint of the trip!

 

 

13 Comments

Filed under tour, travel

Colorado!

I often express how fortunate I am. I’ve good health and the time and energy to make use of it. But sometimes I feel extra fortunate. Like ‘I can’t believe I get to do the things I do!’ fortunate.  Sasha Perry, my partner for the Day in the Life project, Megan Dean, close friend and builder of Moth Attack! Bikes and I recently went to Colorado to film for Day in the Life and it ruled beyond belief.

Sasha takes some well-earned time off from behind the camera to ride the Dizzy Drome

I knew we’d meet phenomenal vegan athletes. I also knew it would be beautiful, as I’ve been there before. But for this trip Colorado really pulled out all of the stops!  Every where we turned were people stoked to meet us and hang out. We worked full days most days, and then hung out hard with the people we had worked with. Could not have asked for anything better. A few people need to be thanked:

Handlebar Mustache for putting us up and letting us cuddle their five dogs

Ritual Chocolate for giving us a tour of their vegan chocolate factory

Girl Bike Love for the hangouts

Boulder Indoor Velodrome for letting us film and ride every where

Nederland Mountain People’s Co-op for having the biggest AND best vegan blueberry muffins ever

Chris for filming (who also just had a Kickstarter reach full funding!)

Eric at Ground Up Custom Bicycles for building a pump track, a dizzy drome, rad bikes to play on AND being so stoked on me riding them.

And finally we need to thank all of the individual athletes who let us invade their life for a day, or sometimes longer. I promised Sasha I wouldn’t give too much away so I can’t actually thank the athletes by name! You’ll see before too long, I promise.

Meanwhile, enjoy a few videos of me riding during our down time!

Comments Off on Colorado!

Filed under bike, bmx, off-road, travel

Fall is here, can you believe it?

I cannot!

First off, in case you didn’t see it on @TrueLoveHealth or in my last update, our Kickstarter for Day in the Life got fully funded! Eighty-five wonderful people kicked down money to the tune of $3,880 ($3546,58 after fees).  Check the update for the details and thank you to everyone who helped! More on our project coming soon…

Also, the Furnace Creek 508 came and went and I was not a participant for the first time in 4 years. Last year’s race wrecked me and I needed a break from ultra-cycling so I went out as an official. Chris also gave me access to @AdventureCORPS, which I used mostly responsibly. Was a pleasure to be out there watching all of those amazing cyclists make their way through the 508-mile route. Rookie solo fixed gear entrant and friend Shaun Stegosaurus Arora has a fantastic recap that gives a great perspective of the race adventure.

I'm rocking staff weight, not race weight.

Last month was the American Dietetic Association conference, FNCE, in San Diego. I am the Chair of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietary Practice Group and a lot of my ‘free’ time is spent working with other amazing vegetarian/vegan Registered Dietitians. This year I was in charge of our Member Reception and we took a big risk and held it off-site from the conference at a bar. Would anyone show up? Well, we secured a sponsor and lured RD’s there with free drinks and vegan food from the absolutely delightful Ocean Beach People’s Co-op, and it worked! Over 100 dietitians came, ate, drank and learned about what we do for vegetarian nutrition. Next year the conference is in Philadelphia and our Practice Group will be celebrating our 20-year anniversary. If you are an RD or Dietetics student you should be there!

And last week I had the honor of speaking at Loma Linda University, where I did my masters degree, about vegan nutrition. I love working with students; they are so engaged and hungry for knowledge. And even at a school that actively promotes vegetarianism, there is a lot to discuss. My presentation has changed over the years from the tenets of vegan nutrition to more along the lines of ‘look at all the awesome stuff I get to do as a vegan dietitian!’ I’m not interested in just convincing students that you can get enough zinc or whatever from plants, but that veganism is not about restriction, but new, bigger opportunities. And also, that is about the animals! Sometimes people forget this and I never want to fail at reminding people that this is why veganism is so important.

This Fall I am not teaching college and have more time than usual. It’s both a treat and a curse! Expect more posts and stories here. I’m also looking for more speaking opportunities at schools and other places. If you have ideas please get in touch. My current locale is Southern California, but I do travel. A lot. Ha!

Also:

-I’m working on an article about iron for vegans for No Meat Athlete, keep your eye out for that.

-I have an Instagram account now and I love sharing photos, so if you’d like to see more of what I shoot (mostly dogs, right now!), find me there. I’ve made a very special handle: MattRuscigno.

-I post to twitter with regularity and don’t forget my facebook page where I share nutrition articles and other fun stuff.

-My good friend and spectacular chef Joshua Plogue is in Southern California for the fall and is looking for cooking opportunities. He does unbelievable themed dinner parties that, with no exaggeration, I can say is the best food I have ever eaten. Hit him up and plan something awesome!

What is everyone else up to? Based on my facebook feed it seems cyclocross and cooking root vegetables, mostly.

Comments Off on Fall is here, can you believe it?

Filed under travel, vegan

3 Photos- Minneapolis

After diligently collecting photos from all the cities I visit for my 3 Photos project I have been very undiligent about posting them. After spending time in over a dozen cities this year I think it’s time to bring it back.

Each of us experiences space in a unique way. Everything we have done and seen leading up to our time in a new place sets up how we will interpret it.  I spent much of my teenage years visiting new places- but mostly BMX trails, skateparks and street-riding spots.  I could tell you where a great wallride or handrail is in Chicago, but have no idea about where to eat or what else to do. Then food became my obsession and each new city meant new places to eat! Even now when I visit a place like Pittsburgh, where I have been dozens of times, I see it in a new way depending on my most recent experiences.  I started this project to force myself to take a minute and evaluate my environment and the emotions they trigger.  Some are obvious, some are silly and some will only make sense to me, but I’m joyed to share them all with you.  Thanks for looking.

 

 

Double-decker, covered, bike parking in a city where the temperature dips below zero. Impressed.

 

 

Working my way west through Montana and North Dakota the buildings in towns gradually got bigger. But having the perspective of tiny towns in the West, Minneapolis felt like a big old town, not a city. But in a good way.

 

 

Pizza Luce. This photo may belong more in the Seattle-Minneapolis bike tour set because I had thought about this pizza so much while riding, but it was so crucial in my Minneapolis experience I have to include it here. Vegan pizza served by attractive women covered in tattoos: I was no longer in the rural US.

 

1 Comment

Filed under 3-photos, travel

Agreed.

Comments Off on Agreed.

Filed under travel

Following Le Tour and Why I Love the Norwegians

The view from a hill in Eidfjord, Norway when I was there in 2007.

Often I am indifferent about the Tour De France and road racing. I’m just not big on watching anything, really. But a giant tv with cable and free time has changed that this year. I wake up each morning and flip on the tv to catch the last hour or so. I’m actually learning racers names and teams! And watching the Norwegians kick ass has been a treat! I had the fantastic opportunity to visit Norway in 2007 when I went to Europe for the Norseman iron-distance race and Paris-Brest-Paris. 2011 is a ‘PBP Year’ as randos like to to say, and I gave serious consideration to getting out there again, but alas couldn’t make it.

Back to Norway and Norwegians. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the Norwegians are the nicest people I have ever met. I think this comes across in their post-race interviews; they are so stoked and happy without being arrogant (like that green jersey wearing guy). I went out a week early for Norseman and scoped out Oslo a few days on my own and then with my close friend Max who came out to crew the race.  Norwegians have this pride in being friendly that is apparent soon after your first conversation. For example at Norseman I missed the cut-off on the run to finish on the mountaintop and the organizer hugged me! Not like an ‘oh it’ll be okay’ hug, but a serious embrace! I’ll never forget that. They are like the Norwegian terrain, super rugged. But it’s as if that ruggedness has taught them what it is like to suffer so they balance it with softness. Their socialized medicine and anti-lawsuits government is pretty good proof, if you ask me.

As I sit here stoked on bike racing and Norway, I’d like to share some of my photos from that trip. Enjoy!

Norway loves bicycles

Even in 2007 Oslo had a bike-sharing program. We rode them all over the city including to the sculpture museum

Even rode the public bike on a public halfpipe! Community!

Oslo street riding

An exhibit about gay animals at the Natural History Museum. How cool is that?

Action Speaks Louder Than Words! Listen up, California people.

In Oslo there were a few totally vegetarian places including this buffet.

The world is beautiful.

We got to Eidfjord a day before the community center was open for racers to sleep in so we slept in a shed behind a school. This is the view out the window when we woke up. One of my favorite photos ever.

My photos are public if you’d like to see more of the Norseman race or exploring Norway. I don’t think we’re going to see any Norwegians on the podium at the tour (personally I’m pulling for Cadel Evans because of his mountain bike background), but their impression on the 2011 Tour is undeniable.  If you’re watching, who are you pulling for and why?

6 Comments

Filed under travel

Back on the saddle: Boggs 8hr mountain bike race

I did a bike race! Was a little burned out on racing for awhile there, but we worked a race into a 10-day road trip, which is the best way to do it, in my opinion. Last Thursday I headed up to Boggs for the Global Biorhythm 8hr/24hr race for the third year in a row. Two years ago Max and I did this race on a trip that included the Alta Alpina double century and it was my first ever solo 24hr mountain bike race. Time flies! Last year I went up solo and also raced 24hrs solo, again on single-speed, this time placing second. Stoked! Was not stoked on having to drive back to LA for work on that Monday though…

This year Max was up for the adventure as, was Mike. Since none of us have been racing we all signed up for the 8hr. Timed mountain bike races have a loop course that usually takes about an hour, with the start/finish in a campground. Simply, who ever does the most laps wins! The courese are technical, diverse and fun enough that it never feels like you are riding in circles.

After a fun road ride and vegan donut tour in SF/Marin on Friday, we headed north and got ready to ‘race’. I say ‘race’ because we were all in chill mode. Mostly. I will admit though that at registration I was SUPER tempted to race the 24 hour. Why not, right? I’m already here…but I remembered my coach’s lecture: “You do too hard of events and burn out and then stop running/riding!’ so I stayed in the 8hr race. Oh and by coach I mean my friend Jeff who happens to be a coach who happened to tell me that on a ride once.

Back to the race! At 11am the gun went off and we started the 2-mile climb to space riders out. I was racing a geared mountain bike for the first time in 3 years and spun and chilled. We all rode together till the single track forced us apart. The single track is in great shape there: flow-y, fast and fun. Having gears gave me a rest on the big climbs and let me punch  it a little more on the descents….

After five laps I rolled through our camp and Mike was chillin on the blanket as was our friend Al who also came up from LA for this race for the third year in a row. Max was sleeping in the van! Chill race for sure. An hour later I came through and Mike was getting a massage!  My goal was 8 laps, but I just couldn’t get my lap times fast enough to have time for the 8th. Oh well, hanging out, right? I headed out for a 7th and pushed a bit to get a feeling for where my fitness is. Not as bad as I thought it would be! Definitely didn’t feel strong where I normally do, but not horribly so.

Not racing single-speed was quite different:
-I got fatigued in the same way I do from road riding
-My butt hurt because I wasn’t standing for every hill
-I didn’t get that dread I usually would before a big climb because I knew I could just shift down
-I’d pedal in places I probably should have applied my single-speed coasting skills…

In the end it was a great time. I feel much better about my 1×10 bike, the tubeless tires, etc after spending 8 hours with it. I felt exerted, but not crushed. I don’t know what place I got because I raced Pro/Expert and probably didn’t place in the top half…

We spent the night at the race and woke up early to cheer on the solo 24hr racers. And yes, after a solid 8 hour sleep I was positive I made the right decision to not race the 24hr. We spend the week mountain biking some select spots along the coast and then we’ll be at the Grand Tour double century on Saturday. Yay summer adventures! Hope you are getting your stoke on wherever you are.  Thanks for reading!

4 Comments

Filed under off-road, race, travel