The Great North Wester

June  -  September July 2022


UPDATE August 2022: Daily workouts---bicycling, walking, muscle work and knee strengthening---have eliminated the knee pain. Now I'm working on making my knees bullet-proof. So the latest plan is to rent a truck in June of 2023, load-up the bike and gear and head to Idaho. There I will leave the truck and bikepack from Idaho back to Oklahoma---around 2000 miles. This way I will avoid the soul-crushing heat and humidity of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico and Oklahoma. But first I will be bikepacking to Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana in December of 2022. More later...

Well, my knees are acting up---as I feared---and the pain is getting worse. I have to pull the plug on this adventure and get professional care for them back in Oklahoma City. Colorado and Idaho will have to wait, alas. So I will be riding for the next week or so getting back home. Not at all what I had planned for, but it is what it is. I am leaving this page up to remind me of Murphy's Law.

To sum up this bikepacking journey: Those 560 miles I spent were the most physically demanding and mentally difficult thing I have ever accomplished. The heat was never below 100 degrees; the humidity was oppressive; the winds were usually against me, sometimes topping 30 mph; the hills seemed to go on forever; the scenery was tedious, never much more than endless vistas of scorched grass; shade and water were non-existent. From the time I got on my bike in the morning to the time I got off it in the afternoon was as near to torture as I have ever experienced---even more so than backpacking 11 days across the Darien Gap. I am glad I did it, but I am more glad that it is over. I lost ten pounds.

My first bikepacking trip was a 1600 mile journey through Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. That was way back in 2015. Since then I have bikepacked again in Oklahoma and Colorado, and in Utah, Arkansas and Mississippi as well.  But these were short, 3-week affairs. Now that I am retired I have all the time in the world---and I intend to use it. I am leaving in June of 2022 from Oklahoma City to parts north and west. In order of importance and probability my goals are:

1. Ride farther than the 1600 miles of my last long bikepacking trip.

2. Ride the Colorado portion of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

3. Make it to Moab, Utah.

4. Make it to Idaho.

5. Return via Nevada.

So if everything goes well I will be riding through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and---I hope---back. This should take 3 - 4 months and several thousand miles. This will be no race. I have nothing to prove. My only competition is myself.

There is one risk factor, and that is my knees. At 68 years of age I have put them through Hell and high water for 14 years of solo backpacking the jungles, mountains and grasslands of Central and South America. I have been working daily to strengthen them and to ride one hunded miles weekly on one of my Surly bicycles. I believe they are ready for this journey, but the only real way to tell is to ride. If the knees fail, then my trip will be embarrasingly short. If not, then Deus vult.

I will be camping out most of the way when I can find a stream or a lake. State parks will do, as will KOA Campgrounds, but wild, stealth camping is always the best for my tastes. It is quite possible to bicycle across the US to every state without using pavement. Pavement is for cars anyway. I do not yet have a real route, but I will figure that out as I ride. Jeep tracks, old pavement, forest roads, dirt and gravel are what I will ride on. This is what separates "bike tourers"---who ride only on pavement---from "bikepackers". A bikepacker is self-supported, sleeps in a tent, cleans himself and his clothing in rivers and lakes, cooks his own food and tries to avoid motels---especially those that rent by the hour.  

All navigation will be using paper maps and a Silva compass. I detest electronic navigation and apps. If you need electronic devices to tell you where you are and where to go, you should stay home. Don't copy some other guy's route. Make your own. Call me "old school", because that is what I am.

I plan on 30 miles per day at first. Within a few weeks that should raise to 40 miles per day. The handy-dandy chart below will monitor my daily progress. I will load photos on Instagram as my ride progresses. UPDATE: Instagram has "permanently disabled" my account because it "violated communty standards", whatever those might be. Who knows why? Odd because I never loaded any photos there, I never used it at all. Ok then.

BICYCLE: 2018 Surly Pugsley Ops with 29 x 3 wheels and new Bontrager Team Issue XR2 tires. Jones handlebar. Brooks Saddle.

BIKEPACKING BAGS: Revelate Frame bags and Harness. Ortlieb Panniers. Surly racks front and rear.

GEAR: North Face Stormbreak 2 tent. Outdoor Vitals 15 degree down sleeping bag. MSR XGK EX stove with 2 fuel bottles. Therm-A-Rest sleeping pad. REI camp chair. 30-liter Ursack Allmitey Kodiak Bear and Critter sack. Smith & Wesson .40 M & P with 50 rounds of 180 grain FMJ---the best bear load for this pistol. Rosary.

FOOD: Ramen, Mac and Cheese, oatmeal, instant coffee, tortillas, frijoles, tuna, instant potatoes, Pringles, cinnamon rolls, Canadian Mist whiskey, and the occasional restaurant cuisine. I can carry 10 days worth of food and fuel without re-supply.

MAPS: DeLorme maps of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico.

BOOKS: RSV Catholic Bible. Kurt Schlicter's SHTF novels.

ELECTRONICS: Sony 20.1 MP digital camera. Android Smart Phone. Microsoft Surface Go 2 tablet with keyboard. Bluetooth mouse and speakers. Portable chargers. Phone and tablet are kept in Faraday cages.


Day Date Cummulative Mileage Riding Time Cummulative
Location Comments
1 Wednesday June 15 29 4 $5 Crescent, OK Pleasent ride with the wind at my back. Very hot.
2 - 4 Thursday June 16 - Sunday June 19 56 5 $5 Enid Got heat exhaustion! Took one full day to recover. Stayed 3 days with Dustin and family.
5 - 7 Sunday June 19 - Wednesday June 22 108 6 $50  Great Salt Plains State Park Rode 52 miles---the longest I have ridden in 6 years. Park is almost empty and very quiet. Astoundingly hot and humid.
8 Thursday June 23 148 6 $161 Kiowa Motel Great little motel. Made it here just before a storm. Heading out for the Gypsum Hills tomorrow.
9 Friday June 24 185 6 $261 Copa Motel, Medicine Lodge Stayed in an ok trucker motel. Very hot! Leaving today for Coldwater.
10 Saturday June 25 226 8 $340 Foxtrot Inn, Coldwater Hardest day I have ever ridden on a bicycle. Heat, hills and headwinds. Staying the next 3 days at Coldwater Lake.
11 - 14 Sunday June 26 - Wednesday June 29 231 5 $340 Coldwater Lake Camping here for a few days before heading West later this week. Good water, lots of trees and solitude. Alas, I have no whiskey.
15 Wednesday June 29 236 1 $520 Foxtrot Inn, Coldwater Back in Coldwater, cleaning everything, resupplying and charging my electronics. Leaving tomorrow for 2 days in Ashland.
16 - 17 Thursday and Friday June 30 - July 2 266 5 $565 Red Rock Inn, Buffalo, Oklahoma Cool little place. Huge rooms and privacy. Heading tomorrow for 2 nights of camping at Boiling Springs State Park.
17 -20 Saturday July 2 - Tuesday July 6 319 8 $625 Boiling Springs State Park The 49 miles I rode between Buffalo, Oklahoma, and Boiling Springs State Park were physically and mentally the most demanding day I have had in my 68 years. Camping here for 3 days.
21 - 23 Wednesday July 7 - Friday July 9 354 7 $685 Alabaster Caverns State Park Spent 3 pleasant days camping.
24 Saturday July 10 386 6 $747 Waynoka Rested a day at the Trails Inn. Rather unkempt and run-down, but ok.
25 Sunday July 11 420 5 $813 Seiling Spent one night in the Motel Seiling. I bicycled here 6 years ago.
26 - 28 Monday July 12 - Wednesday July 14 450 5 $867 Canton Lake 3 days in a marvelous camp site.
29 Thursday July 15 485 5 $925 Watonga One night in the Watonga Motel
30 Friday July 16 520 5 $1000 Kingfisher One night in the Cattleman Motel
31 Sunday July 17 560 6 $1170 Home Arrived back home at 5 PM.

Total Riding Time: 93 hours in 19 Days

Average Daily Distance: 30 Miles

Average Speed: 7 MPH

Average Daily Expenditure: $37

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