High Plains Drifter
This page is dedicated to Gary Mercer, Dustin Damery, and all the guys at Bike One here in Oklahoma City. Without their advice, help, support and sense of humor, I could have never done this.
I spent the summer of 2015 on a bicycle, pedaling alone for 1600 miles through Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas, camping most of the way. It was a time well spent. I lost 25 pounds while averaging around 40 miles per day.
Planning for this journey began almost one year ago. After several years of ignoring my old mountain bike, I decided to take up something I had heard about called “bike commuting.” It sounded like a good idea, just riding the bike to work a few days a week when the weather was good. The ride itself was only a paltry 10 mile round trip, but at the time it seemed heroic.
But then something changed. I simply wanted more, and so decided to ride the bike every day in any weather. Since it would be too easy to chicken out during rain or snow or ice---and recalling Cortez and his ships---I sold my truck. Now I would have to ride the bike come Hell or high water. My colleagues thought me insane, and on mornings when the weather was extremely unpleasant I would always get this question: “Did you ride today?” My answer was always the same: “Of course.”
My ancient mountain bike was replaced with a Giant AnyRoad 1, a fine machine indeed and an immense improvement over my old bicycle. As I progressed in my cycling acumen, I experienced an epiphany: Why not use the upcoming summer to go on an extensive ride across hills and dales and into wild, weird climes? Why indeed. I discovered a new word, “bikepacking”. This sport combines bike touring with backpacking. So that’s what I wanted to do, to go bikepacking for the entire summer.
But rather than succumb to the ordinary, I hungered for the different, the offbeat, the uncommon. As I had no idea what riding a bicycle and camping out alone for two months in the summer would entail, I pored over maps, perused bike forums and talked to pros. Results: I would head out right after the end of school with a bicycle loaded to the gills with camping gear, clothes, tools, books and assorted stuff to get me through sixty days of bikepacking. I would avoid the usual routes and instead ride on out-of-the-way dirt and gravel roads. I would camp as much as possible.
I acquired another bicycle specially made for journeys such as I had planned, a Surly Ogre. I was off and riding every day, training for the summer of 2015. It was time well spent. When summer arrived I had already put in 2500 miles on both bikes, and many hours with running shoes, dumbbells and flexibility work. Never during my journey was I sore, and neither did I suffer any injury. All that preparation had paid off handsomely.
On the very last day of May I loaded up the Surly, stuffed the panniers with enough gear to hold me for two months, and headed for the Oklahoma Panhandle 12 days away. My route took me on old pavement, dirt, Jeep tracks, forest roads and gravel. From there I continued on to New Mexico, Colorado and Texas.
MSR XGK-II Stove
One liter fuel cannister
MSR Hubba Hubba tent
Marmot Pinnacle down sleeping bag
Smith & Wesson .40 M&P with 2 spare mags
Nikon Coolpix P6
Brooks B-17 flyer saddle
Mayfly camp chair
MSR 3 liter water bladder
Four 1 liter water bottles
Cotton sleeping sheet
RidgeRest sleeping mat
Ortlieb and Axiom panniers
Revelate frame bag, Gastank, Jerrycan, Sweetroll, Saltyroll and Mountain Feedbags
Two pairs of long pants
Two pairs bicycle undershorts
Bike shoes---no cleats
Three long sleeved shirts
Three pairs socks
Merino wool sweater
Two pairs underwear
One long sleeved dress shirt
Full coverage bike gloves
Mac and cheese
Hershey chocolate with almonds
Catholic Bible, RSV
Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad
Two spare tubes
Axiom bicycle pump
Water purification tablets
Backpacking medical kit
Oklahoma: Oklahoma City - Crescent - Hennesey - Canton Lake - Seiling - Boiling Springs - Lake Fort Supply - Laverne - Beaver Dunes - abandoned shack near Adams - Guymon - Boise City - Black Mesa
New Mexico: Wild camped near Long Canyon Road
Colorado: Branson - Trinidad - Purgatoire River - La Veta - Fort Garland - Alamosa - Mogote Campground - Aspen Glade Campground - Spectacle Lake - Lake Fork - Mix Lake - Stunner Campground - La Jara - Antonito
New Mexico: Esquibido Canyon - Taos - Capulin Campground - Comales Campground - Mora - Camped in forest near Wagon Mound - Camped in field 67 miles from Wagon Mound - Clayton
Texas: Dalhart - Bolger - Pampa - Wheeler - Salt Creek Lake
Oklahoma: Foss State Park - Thomas - Oklahoma City
Most of these are of the roads I took and the places I camped. They are in the order I took them, from Oklahoma to New Mexico to Colorado, then back to New Mexico, on to Texas and back to Oklahoma.
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