Bikepacking in Costa Rica, A trip to Central America in search of getting our bikes off the beaten path

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Catching a Taxi at the Liberia Airport

 

Winter in North America is a great time to head south for those of us that like riding bikes. Both Chase (my girlfriend) and I were able to take a few weeks off work so we headed south, way south, to Costa Rica. This is more meant to be a photo essay of our trip.

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The line in red is our route, starting from Liberia CR. The dead end lines are backroads we explored but unable to make in through on.

 

Our main goals were to explore some remote sections of cost in the northwest area of Costa Rica and to then ride our bikes south down the Nicoya Peninsula.

As always things sometimes don’t go quite as planned. Although we accomplished must of what we set out to do, we had some setbacks and unanticipated challenges that ended up shortening our route to some degree.

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Attempted to stitch up my tire side wall

On day one I realized my fork was unable to hold air, and getting it rebuilt in Costa Rica was not an option. And on Day two I cut my tire side wall open and ultimately had to put a tube in, which then started to leak as well. This all meant that we had to return to Liberia to find a bike shop to get and new tire and a shock pump, which cost us a day of riding.

 

 

 

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The wide open beaches of Bahia Salinas, are most northern point, Nicaragua is at the other end of the beach

The northern area where we started our trip, around Santa Rosa NP and Bahia Salinas had some exciting possibilities for long backcountry/ back road routes that would take us far from the main highway. The Park personnel turned out not to seem to want us camping or exploring outside of the main entrance on our bikes, but we found a pretty cool route that skirted the park boundary and ultimately brought us back to the ocean, without riding on any pavement.

 

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Jungle riding

It was a bit unnerving being in a totally foreign environment like that and being kinda lost in the endless twist and turns of the jungle, not knowing if we would have to turn back, or if we would be able to get though. Camping in the jungle is not my idea of a good time, unless you can find a nice place by a river, which we did.

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We never saw any crocodiles… but it certainly crossed my mind on the river crossings 

 

 

 

 

Once we sorted out the bikes and made into the Nicoya Peninsula we were rewarded with some of the most enjoyable bike riding I’ve ever experienced. Stunning beaches all to our selfs and miles of dirt back roads paralleling the ocean ideal for bike touring.

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Much of the sand we encountered was hard and flat, making it ideal for riding bikes on.

 

 

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Hopping between Beaches on back roads

 

 

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Hot, humid, and way too sunny. But boy that’s a good view

 

 

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Although there are many beach towns in Costa Rica built up with resorts, we also rode through many small fishing villages that seldom see outside visitors. 

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Fruit market for our daily Papaya, eat it with lime, breakfast the champions
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Hot and sweaty, but damn does that 2 liter bottle of artificial apple juice taste good!!  Chase bought water… she is majorly missing out.

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Everything in Costa Rica is so colorful and bright. Be it the natural world of neon flowers and birds, or the paint people use to brighten up their homes, or in this case a bridge.

 

 

 

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We spent a morning hanging out with these little guys. There were thousands of sea turtles hatching in Ostional, they just pop out of the sand and make for the waves… which is like a 2hr endeavor for their little hopeless selfs. Very cool to watch, a trip high light for sure. We stayed at the Turtle Lodge in Ostional which was a great as well.

 

 

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Beer on beach, almost as cheap as water, end of day shenanigans 

 

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Chase looking for good coconuts on a beach that had miles of coconut trees and perfect sand and no other people that we could see.
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Nearing the end of the Nicoya, so may cool places to check out. Santa Teresa so our final stop

Some much-needed R n R and some surfing in Santa Teresa, a bit of a crazy place with all the people but the waves were good. In Santa Teresa we rented a car one way to the airport and flew out the following day. Better to spend our time riding on the beach than tangling with hot stinky traffic on the busy road back to Liberia. I did find the driving a little nerve racking… right of way? not a thing in Costa Rica, ha

 

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They end

 

25 Hours In Frog Hollow, The Longest One Day Race

 

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Bacon-Egg rice balls and Tailwind 24hr of endurance fuel!

And there we were in Hurricane, Utah with a van packed to the brim with bikes, coolers, cases of Honey Stinger waffles, an easy-up, 20+ water bottles, 4lbs of Tailwind, bacon rice balls, and enough lights and batteries to illuminate the trails all night long. We had arrived at 25 hours In Frog Hollow, the last race of the season for both Chase and myself, and the final race in the N24 Series (National 24 Hour Mountain Bike Solo Championship). This was the n24blue-e1460657914333first year for the N24 Series which in its own words was created because “We at the N24 think 24 hour Solo riders deserve more recognition regionally and nationally.”

 

Usually, when I show up at a race, I’m generally not too worried about whether I do well. Because it’s about having fun and riding bikes right? But this time there was a different feeling in the back of my brain, I wanted to win the N24 Series, and not only did I want it but I knew I had a good shot at pulling it off. Assuming nothing went wrong, and there is a lot that can go wrong in a 24hr race. I was ahead on points in the series, after winning 24hrs In The Enchanted Forest earlier in the year.

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Pre-race sunset on Friday night, Chase relaxen before the big day.

To make sure that we would get a good spot Chase and I arrived at the race course a day early, where we met my parents. They had graciously offered to drive out from Californa to be our support crew. It was their first time at a 24hr race. Both Chase and I were going to be racing solo.

The weather on Race Day was clear with perfect temps in the upper 60s. After eating a big breakfast and attending to the last details I headed over to the ever classic Le Mans start where everybody runs down a rocky dirt road in their cycling cleats and tries not to sprain an ankle. I have always felt that starting a 24hr race with running a sprint is a bad idea, but I did it anyway. (Last year at the Old Pueblo I became infamous for walking the Le Mans start and still winning the co-ed duo).But there is something to be said about getting in front of the slower riders early so you don’t have to pass them later on the singletrack.

 

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Credit: Crawling Spider

The first few laps went very fast, the course was in great shape, and thanks to water bottle hand-ups from Mon and Dad I didn’t have to get off the bike. My main competition (Mike W) for the N24 Series got ahead of me on the first lap when I lost him on the decent. I tried not to worry about Mike being out front, and instead focus on pacing myself for the long haul, but I pushed a little harder knowing he was up there. In a 24-hour race, it’s usually not worth looking at the standings till you hit the half way mark. And sure enough, on the start of the 5th lap, I caught Mike. After that, I started to slow my pace down for the long haul.

 

The shadows grew long and the November dusk settled in early, by 5pm I had picked up my lights. I had just bought a new Light and Motion Seca, which I mounted to my helmet in addition to an older bar mounted Seca. The bar mounted light is more for a backup. The 2200 lumens on the helmet is more than enough to light the trails for high-speed descents and is better than a bar mounted light because it illuminates where you are looking. Batteries were perhaps our biggest logistical issue of the race, between the two of us Chase and I were running 4 Seca lights. At a race with over 12hr of darkness that equals a lot of batteries. Fortunately Light and Motion was supporting the event with charging as well as extra batteries to those who reserved them, which I had, we ended up haveing just enough to make it work.

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The New Light and Motion Seca 2200, Supper bright, and light-weight, makes for a great helmet mounted light.

The hardest part of the race for me was the 3am to 5am the “witching hour”. I kept dosing off on the long road climbs at the start of each lap. I was literally falling asleep in my seat while peddling! On numerous occasions, I would find myself riding into bushes because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. This was a first for me, I’d never fallen asleep on a bike before. Next race I’m going to add more caffeine to my 3am race regime to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Continue reading “25 Hours In Frog Hollow, The Longest One Day Race”

Coconino 250 mile Thru-Ride bikepack

This fall marked my third year in a row of bikepacking the Coco 250, a self-supported 250-mile loop starting in Flagstaff. The route goes down to Sedona via the Arizona trail, then across the desert low lands to Cottonwood, then up and over Mingus Mt to the Verde River and then up to Willams, and finally back to Flagstaff. The first year I did the stage race, organized by Arizona Endurance Series which breaks the route into 4 stages. The year after that  Chase and I made an attempt at thru-riding the route but ended up bailing and getting a Hotel room in Willams.

This year I decided to give it another go and try to do all 250 miles in one push. I had just bikepacked the Colorado Trail the month before so I was feeling strong. I set a goal of 42hr but really I was just going to get out there and give it my best. I decided to bring a sleeping bag, but other than that I was packing light, warm layers, a repair kit, and a 2.5L MSR bladder in the frame bag.

I started at 730am on Saturday from my house in Flagstaff and rode to The Place Restaurant, which is the official start/finish of the race. The first segment down to Sedona went well and I was treated to a great view from Schnebly Hill vista of freshly rained on red rock.

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Rain storm over Sedona from Schnebly Hill. Turned out to be a great day of bike riding, cool and firm tacky trails.

The riding in Sedona was great after having just gotten some moisture, and I enjoyed the killer single track over broken arrow and out lama trail. Red Rock Park was just closing when I arrived, but I had enough water to get to Cottonwood so I didn’t need to fill up there. The Lime Kiln section was also wet and that made the sandy sections firm which was nice for sure.

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Lime Kiln Trail, or what’s left of it is a historic trail that at times seems to have all but disappeared.

The sun set on me mid way on the Line Kiln and I adjusted to the change of pace that night riding tends to bring. There were many hours of darkness and night riding ahead of me and it was with no small amount of dread that I watched that last light fade from the sky. Continue reading “Coconino 250 mile Thru-Ride bikepack”

Bikepacking the Colorado Trail

It had been on my dream list for awhile, to bikepack the Colorado Trail in one long thruColorado_ref_2001_with_trail.jpg ride start to finish. On the 18th of August, I loaded the bike on top of my little Corolla and drove to Durango to start what was going to be a fantastic and truly challenging adventure. The 18th also happened to be my 31st birthday and what better way to celebrate than embark on a 2-week solo trip through the mountains.

The plan was to drive to Durango and leave the Corolla at my friend Richard’s house and then take a rental car from there to Denver. This way I would be riding back to my car in Durango, which would make logistics easier once I finished, and more or less force me to finish the route. I had to be back at work on September 1st, which only gave me 11 full days of riding.

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Getting to the trailhead started early with riding around Downtown Durango with Richard delivering his kiddos, by extra-cycle, to there respective day camps. Then picking up a work truck and dropping me off at Enterprise rental. After filling out paper work and loading the bike I then drove 6 hours to Denver in a new 2017 Toyota Rav 4 (Oh boy did it go fast!).

After dropping the rental car off in Littleton Co, a suburb of Denver, I got on my bike and rode for about 20 minutes before a massive downpour forced me to take cover in a little league dugout. After downing rain gear and waiting for the worst to pass I continued on via a somewhat confusing network of urban trails and back roads. Ultimately I made it to the Waterton Canyon trailhead, the start of the Colorado Trail, just as it got dark. First camp of the trip, under a picnic table cover about a mile up Waterton Canyon.

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End of Day 1, Lost Creek Wilderness bypass

Day 1, as I’m calling it, started with being woken up by these nutty Denver joggers that like to go up Waterton Canyon in droves before the sun even comes up. I decided that the bast plan was to go big and get as far away from Denver as I could in a hard days ride. The trails once up and out of Waterton were quite good and I enjoyed many fast flowing descents, although overall there was a lot of elevation gain–8,000 feet on the first day–coming up out the front range into the high country. I made it part way around the Lost Creek wilderness bypass and camped at dusk after a full 12 hours of riding.

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Tarryall

Day 2: Lost Creek/Tarryall to Kenosha Pass with a  nice leisurely lunch break at the Jefferson town store. The 75-mile detour on roads was an ass kicker (another 8,000ft of climbing), the Kona Hei Hei was not ideal for all those road miles, especially the pavement (though she made up for it later). Also, my shammies proved under-prepared for the trip as they started to wear through by the end of the day, a theme that would plague me for the rest of the trip. There are no resupply points between Denver and Jefferson so by the time I got there I was pretty hungry. Turns out I had underestimated how quickly my metabolism was going to explode into a nuclear furnace of calorie consumption.

There are no resupply points between Denver and Jefferson so by the time I got to the Jefferson store I was pretty hungry. Turns out I had underestimated how quickly my metabolism was going to explode into a nuclear furnace of calorie consumption.

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The Jefferson valley, 9,500ft. Hungry Hungry

After gorging myself on sandwiches and soda pop I was about to leave when the owner offered me a cheese burger so, of course, I had to eat that as well. I barely made the 4mi peddle up to Kenosha Pass, I was so bloated, a good feeling though.

Day 3: Kenosha Pass to Gold Hill outside of Breckenridge. Georgia Pass was the days highlight, it was the first taste of alpine on the route, a good preview for what was to come. The trails leading into Brek were fantastic as well and made me glad I was on a trail bike and kept my dropper post.

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Georga Pass, My rig the Kona Hei Hei looking so sexy!

Day 4: Gold Hill to Leadville. This was a fantastic day, starting with the “10mile” climb over to Copper Mountain Resort, and after that, the Kokomo Pass section was a truly spectacular section. Perhaps the steepest climb and descent of the trip was going up and over 10mile (called that because it’s a ten-mile climb).

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Nearing the Top of Ten Mile climb

There were sections gong up that I was grabbing onto trees to pull myself up. It was more like “drag-a-bike”, not “hike-a-bike”. Coming down the back side, into Copper Mt, was exhilarating and a little terrifying. A white-knuckle brake burner for sure! Without the dropper post, I wouldn’t have been able to ride the whole thing.

Continue reading “Bikepacking the Colorado Trail”

Going Smartphone for $12

After holding out for many years, I got my first smartphone last month. The decision to make the switch was one I didn’t take lightly, but the plan I was on ended and I had to get a new phone. Up in till the switch I was still using my very first ever and only cell phone, a no name Samsung flip phone which I had gotten back in 2008. Prior to that I had no phone, but in 08′ I started going to college and working part time on an ambulance, and after a brief stint with a land line it became apparent that I needed to get a cell. So I joined my uncle’s family  cell phone plan and got a flip phone that was tough as nails and lasted me 8 years. The thing is still working, though now it’s turned off and put to rest in the bottom of my sock dower. 

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But seriously, how am I supposed to fit this thing in my pocket? (The first thing a flip phoner thinks when they get a smartphone)

The old flip phone was costing me 15$ a month with unlimited texting because it’s really important to have unlimited texting on a flip phone (joking). But here’s the deal, my new smartphone COST LESS THAN THE OLD FLIP PHONE!  Yes, you heard me right, last months bill for the smartphone was 12.77$ beating my old plan by a solid 2 bucks a month. I have a theory as to why this is. My smartphone bill is low because I used almost no data, except when on wifi. But smartphone plans are made to make money off of data usage, calling and texting is not where they make their money. Dumb phone plans like my old one can only make money off of calling and texting, so they really charge you for it. Of course, there is always the potential that I might decide to stream a movie with data on my smartphone and then it’s not so cheap anymore. But for someone like myself who has never had a smartphone before and doesn’t even know how to watch a movie on a phone, that’s hardly an issue. I turned all the apps data usage off under settings, with the exception of Google maps, and have not found any hardship in not using data. I even got an Instagram account with the new phone, but I wait to upload photos till there is wifi, so I use almost no data on it.

Continue reading “Going Smartphone for $12”

Chickens, Eggs, and Building your own Coop

After buying a house last winter, one of my first projects was getting chickens. Having grown up on a farm with chickens and fresh eggs, I always wanted to get my own flock. Having backyard chickens and producing your own eggs is great. I get a real sense of satisfaction when I eat something delicious right out of my own backyard, be it eggs or fresh veggies from the garden. The best thing about the chickens is that the eggs keep coming all winter, unlike the garden which is long dead and under snow. Not having to buy eggs, and selling a few extra dozen on the side, is a valuable step toward financial independence as well.

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Casa de Pollos

Continue reading “Chickens, Eggs, and Building your own Coop”

You should have a Mint.com account

What is Mint.com you ask? It’s a free service that, simply put, tracks your money. Mint links to your bank, credit cards, and other money related accounts and puts together a comprehensive overview of your finances. It shows you how much you spend, how much you make, total assets and debts and puts all the numbers in one place where you can see them. This is good information to have, even if you don’t know what to do with it right now, and the longer you have the account the better you can appreciate your financial trends in the long run.

There are Four main things that a Mint account will do for you.

Continue reading “You should have a Mint.com account”

My History of Traveling by Bike

Part One

My first trip on a bike, now ten years ago, was one of the best experiences of my life.  I was 20 years old and had never been bike touring before. In fact, I didn’t really know much about bikes, but I had recently bought a Bianchi Volpe that was on consignment at a small bike shop for 250$ (a fortune for me back then). I didn’t know that it was a touring bike at the time, but the Volpe had rack mounts. Once I figured out that I could put racks and panniers on the bike I looked over craigslist and found a cheap older set. This all lead to me, somewhat unintentionally, having a bike touring setup so I decided I should probably go on a trip. But it was winter in North America, so I decided on New Zealand; because it was their summer.

 

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My overloaded bike and me taking refuge from the rain in a barn, New Zealand. My 1st touring setup

I had friends that had been to New Zealand and it sounded like a cool place and one that was perhaps more tame and bite-sized for my first solo international bike touring trip. It seemed like two and a half months would be enough time to bike around both Islands, though, a long time considering I had never been on a bike tour before. There was plenty of time before trail crew started up again in the spring and I had no plans for the winter, so why not?

I had worked all summer before the New Zealand trip on a trail crew, and most of the fall building a barn for my folks. I had about 4000$ saved, just enough if I didn’t spend much on equipment and if I traveled cheaply. I needed bike shorts for the trip, I found a pair that seemed decent at a thrift store for 10$, they turned out to be women’s, but they had a padded shammy, which was what my bony dirtbag butt needed to survive the long days on a bike seat. I ended up spending about 400$ on the bike, racks, panniers, and other gear, like the bike shorts. That was pretty cheap, perhaps too cheap considering I ended up having to buy a new rear wheel halfway through the trip to replace the rusty one the Volpe came with. Having never done a bike touring trip before I made the classic mistake of over packing and having way too much weight on the bike. I had a stove, steel pot, bowl and spoon,  5lb two person tent, a change of clothes + running shoes + sandals + warm jacket + rain gear. Not to mention a book or two and a leather bound journal, and a compass. Like I said I didn’t know that much about bikes so I didn’t have any chain lube packed, only a set of alan wrenches to put the bike together at the airport. The loaded bike weighed in at over 70lbs! at least half my body weight.

I learned a lot on that trip, how to replace a spoke on the side of the road, that it’s ok to break down in the middle of nowhere, at least in new Zealand. I learned that the cheapest high carb meal I could make without cooking was a can of beans dumped on top of a plate of chips (french fries). I learned that 70lbs was far too much to peddle up a hill! (I did it but it was HARD) and ended up sending a box of stuff back to the states after the first week. I learned that you should wash your shammies from time to time. For a few day’s I road with a german cyclist who told me that if I didn’t get some lube for my bike chain we could not ride together anymore because the squeaking was driving him crazy, so I learn to do that too.  But mostly I learned that to travel by bike is the coolest most magical way to see the world and I was hooked from then on.

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Camping on the beach in New Zealand
Part Two

Continue reading “My History of Traveling by Bike”

About Lending Club (Updated)

There are lots of great reviews of Lending Club out there. To name a few, Mr. Money Mustash has a series, and Lend Academy has a great YouTub as well, see below. What I’d like to touch on is why peer to peer lending is cool, and how to buy notes that are in high demand.

According to Wikipedia “peer to peer lending is the practice of lending money to unrelated individuals, or “peers”, without going through a traditional financial intermediary such as a bank or other traditional financial institution. This lending takes place online on peer-to-peer lending companies websites using various different lending platforms.”

In short, instead of the banks giving you a loan and collecting the interest, you get a loan lenidng clbwhich is funded by other individuals who then get to collect your interest. This is more egalitarian and keeps your money in the hands of your “peers” instead of funneling it up into the big banks and the “1%”. There are several other peer-to-peer companies out there, but I prefer Lending club. They’ve been around for about a decade and have proved to be a valuable resource for both investors and bowers. Continue reading “About Lending Club (Updated)”

Small Car Adventuremobile

In addition to being small, cheap, fuel efficient, and utilitarian, my 1996 Corolla can carry Five, yes five, bikes. Five is also the number of seatbelts that it possesses. Winter in 7000ft Flagstaff is snowy, which is great for skiing, but not so good for mountain biking. This inevitably leads to the seasonal pilgrimages south to the lower elevations and higher temps. And what better way to do so then to load up the small car Adventuremobile with a few bikes and friends and hit the road in style.

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You know you’re doing something right when your bike is worth more than your car.

Sedona AZ has some of the best mountain biking in the country and is about a 45min drive down the hill from Flagstaff. As much as I dislike driving, and think that driving to bike is a particularly ridiculous, the desire to get on my mountain bike and ride those delicious Sedona red dirt trails is irresistible. Still driving the better part of an hour and a half round trip is pretty wasteful in both dollars and pollution, even at 30+ MPG.

Unlike most vehicles seen at mountain bike trailheads, the Corolla is not a 4×4, nor is it lifted or have any clearance at all to speak of. It stands out in size and stature due to the seeming overabundance of 4×4 trucks, SUVs, and Jeeps. There is obviously some perceived correlation between having a knobby tired full suspension mountain bike, capable to riding over most things, and thinking that one’s vehicle should have similar attributes.

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Your car is not a Toy, if you drive one that looks anything like this picture then you are very confused.

On the contrary, there is no real reason for this to be the case. The vast majority of driving to get to most trailheads is paved, and if the last bit of the road is to ruff for a little Corolla then you simply unpack the bikes and ride from there. I can’t count the times I’ve parked next to the guy with the big lifted V8 truck who has driven alone to meet his other buddies, who also drove there big trucks, all to park at a paved trailhead. I don’t mean be overly judgmental but we live in a world with finite resources, climate change is happening as we speak and I think it’s time we started acting like these things matter; because they do. Cycling is human powered transportation, it’s supposed to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.