Any great Adventure starts with an idea… this idea has been brewing for some time now, and you can read about how it was first conceived here. What is next after the idea? A solid strategy of course… working on plans without a clear strategy is a recipe for confusion at best and catastrophe at worst.
Default / Traditional Colorado Trip Strategy
Pikes Peak is just outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Since I live in Southern Indiana, this is normally 1040 miles and 16 hours away from my front door. The few times that I have made this trek have all been approached the same way – hit the 4-lane-interstate-superhighway set the cruise control as much over the legal limit as you dare and stop only when absolutely necessary. After all, it is just Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas we’re talking about. This is “fly-over-country”. Meant to be overlooked and passed by as mindlessly as possible.
The “Pikes Peak 1440-168” is completely different. You see, we started off this plan with the intention to make the trip on mini bikes. This changes all the math.
Strategy through Constraints – the Mini-Bike numbers:
Constraints are not always a negative – in fact understanding how to work within and around constraints is the birthplace of ingenuity and creativity. Without barriers, challenges don’t exist, and challenges are what cause us to excel and overcome… so central to the strategy for the Pikes Peak adventure is the constraint of the “mini-bike”.
Sometimes it takes a shift in our base level plans to adjust our trajectory and gain an entirely new appreciation for something new, and while some of us have moved away from the “purist” mini-bike origins of the plan, the constraint on the route and the type of trip it makes is still very much the core part of the strategy for this adventure:
- Max Speed: 45-50MPH – takes major highways and interstates out of the plan completely
- Average speed 30-40MPH (in fact on all our adventures using similar routes (albeit shorter) we average a very consistent 35-37MPH)
- Average Daily Riding Time: 6 Hours
- Average Daily Milage Daily Miles: 180 – 240 miles
So what traditionally would be a 15 hour straight through drive on interstate highways, is now going to be a seven day trek on small farm roads through countless small towns and wide open country.
- Seven days to travel to Pikes Peak (Saturday to Friday)
- Two days to travel home (Saturday & Sunday)
Now, this should become obvious at some point, but to drive it home right up front – the Pikes Peak 1440 – 168 is not about the mountains of Colorado… yes, Pike’s Peak is the destination, and we will spend the final hours of the trip riding through the mountains to reach our goal of the summit… (A quick trip up the summit pass on Saturday Morning) but in fact the mountains will be only about 6% of the ride.
This adventure is about taking the time to enjoy the vastness, and wide open beauty of the Central American plains. To get to the heart of it, we are slowing down, and taking small wilderness paths… not looking for the fastest most direct path the the end of the line… but deliberately looking out for the most beautiful and scenic path to enjoy – at a slower pace – (that is also surprisingly fast at the same time… more on that later).
Strategy of the Challenge – Embrace Difficulty
There is also the challenge of it… mini-bike or full size adventure bike… riding 6 hours a day on small back roads is a real test. There is the mechanics of keeping the bike together, as well as the endurance of the rider, the execution of the navigation, and logistics of gear and fuel… and since this is a group adventure – there is also the challenge of relationships and keeping folks happy and having fun – in the midst of all the challenges.
Strategy of Maximum Wild-Ness – Camping
The mini-bike constraints may have been the genesis of the back road approach, but our desire to embrace the wild side extends to the core of the adventure.
Camp site selection is certainly the most difficult part of the planning phase of the adventure… so taking time to discuss the strategy used to find our overnight stops is critical. First, understand that it is a bit like the chicken and the egg… camp site selection is constrained largely by the route, and the route is constrained by camping locations. All this is tied into the range of miles we can cover each day and the complexity of the road selection constraints discussed above imposed by the mini-bike numbers.
The campsite selection strategy:
- Remoteness – located well out of town and off the main road
- Scenic Views & Natural Beauty
- Primitive – as non-rv-park as possible
- Limited facilities and conveniences
- Group size appropriate
The camp function strategy:
Camping certainly is going to be a critical component in the adventure and challenge of the trip. However, it is also worth recognizing the strategic relevance of the camping experience in the larger adventure… this is a road trip adventure that includes camping, not a camping trip that includes a road trip – and our strategy necessarily will focus on the successful completion, and maximum enjoyment of the riding portion of the day… maximizing the camping experience will be a secondary goal and cannot interfere with the effective completion of the riding adventure. This is particularly tricky because at the core these activities (camping and road tripping) tend to be focused on exactly opposite functions. Road trips must adhered to strict time tables and regimented plans… camping usually is all about relaxing and removing time tables… it is easy to see how if left to be equally prioritized, this could be a receipt for disaster.
So for this reason, all decisions for camping activities, fires, meals, hikes, fishing, swimming, yard darts, volleyball, sing-along-times, etc… will be subject to the need to adhere to the strict road trip schedule and timely arrival, departures. Furthermore, recognizing the level of effort the daily riding will require, it is easy to see how our time at camp will most likely need to be focused on rest and preparation for the next day’s ride over further “recreation”.
So with all this in mind, the overriding strategy for camping each night is two words: simple and efficient. Think simple set-up, quick teardown, easy food prep, limited clean-up, and fast turnaround to maximize rest and preparedness for the next day’s ride. A focus on keeping the camping experience as simple and efficient as possible, also most-likely tends to translate into more self-reliance and less group reliance – planing and executing group meals, lodging and set-up / teardown will probably lead to more complication and less time for resting.
Strategy for rest & provisions – stops:
More than where we spend the night, the strategy to embrace “wild-ness” involves avoiding big cities in favor of small towns, skipping big box stores in favor of local markets, even choosing local gas stations whenever possible over convenience store chains…
The strategy for each day’s ride will include fuel stops every 60 to 80 miles, starting with the first fuel stop within the first 10 to 20 miles. This first stop will provide a convince store option to pick up snacks / beverages for the morning ride as well as a chance to check over equipment for the day’s ride after leaving camp.
Each day the route includes stops at autoparts stores in the AM and PM to pick up needed items.
Every afternoon, as close to the end of the day’s ride as possible, a stop will be made at a supermarket to pick up provisions for diner and the next day’s breakfast. By re-supplying each day, there is little need to pack resources for more than a few hours at a time…
We will stop each day at a restaurant for lunch. This avoids the need to pack food for the day (other than snacks and drinks) and provides opportunities to enjoy local diners, cafe’s and drive-in eateries… the stuff true adventure is made of.
In general, we will find a place to stop, get off the seat, and stretch our legs around every 45minutes to an hour. Some of these stops will be for fuel, provisions etc… others will be just to enjoy the sights. With the average stop time and frequency, combined with the rate and distance, our totally daily travel time is about 8 hours of which 5 to 6 is on the bike.
Strategy for roads – gravel is un-avoidable:
Originally, we had intentions of staying on asphalt the entire route. Being on two wheels and traveling over small stones, rocks and dirt can obviously translate into traction related issues that ideally we would like to avoid… however, with the constraints of the trip in place, it is simply not possible to traverse the flatlands of Kansas and eastern Colorado (actually even souther Illinois is problematic) and avoid high speed roads without finding yourself on some unpaved surfaces.
So, we have embraced the gravel and dirt paths of the wilderness, but in as much moderation as possible. Each day’s ride will include at least a few miles of gravel or dirt roads… and as we cover ground in the grasslands of western Kansas and eastern Colorado we will see the majority of the day spent on unpaved surfaces – some of which might get fairly gnarly and rutted.
Strategy for pacing – the paradox of slow roads:
So as mentioned above, we have made several trips on roads of similar specs we intend to ride to Colorado. The choice of routes was originally dictated by the need to go slow (because-mini-bike) but the paradoxical relationship to choose slow roads, is that you actually find yourself riding fast for the condition of the road. Our average pace of 37MPH may seem like a snail’s pace until you realize that much of that ride was on a road with a 20MPH speed limit… switch backs, hills, twist and turns, rough patches and pot holes are the norm on such routes… and riding at a comfortable safe pace can become a real challenge… particularly in a group riding situation. Throw in the large amount of gravel and unpaved roads on this adventure and the “slow” pace is actaully quite challenging and formidable… certainly worth considering your riding gear, equipment, and experience.
Strategy for Support & Gear Sherpa-ing
At this stage of planning, we don’t know exactly who will be making the trip, but we know that not all the participants will be taking two wheel vehicles. At least one of these vehicles is going to be a truck with space for gear and enough room to carry a wounded bike to at least suitable repair or if needed to the end of the line and back. The availability of packing our camping gear and nightly provisions in 4 wheeled vehicles can dramatically effect the efficiency of the camp site setup and teardown and even provide significant safety improvements for riders who choose to not carry gear on their bike and choose to offload their gear in the support vehicles. It is highly recommended to think efficiently and safety in mind when choosing how to load your bike for the trip.
Strategy to stay cool!
Of course you can get the coolest bike, and hippest gear to look like James Dean or Fonzy… but that isn’t part of this strategy. Our adventure is scheduled for July – and it will be hot – REALLY HOT! Start planning now to optimize your riding gear and camping equipment to maximize your cooling ability. Hydration will be critical and water bladders and drink holders will be a necessity.
Strategy for expenses
Overall the trip should be inexpensive, with fuel, food, camping space, and return rental vehicles driving most of the expense. When we finalize the participating adventurers, and the support vehicles, we will create a detailed budget for fuel and lodging expenses. To maximize our efficiency at fuel stops we will be collecting fuel money ahead of time and using a single card to purchase all the fuel. Based on previous experience all the bikes get such similar MPG it will average out about the same for everyone and not having to pay for multiple fill-ups at each stop can dramatically increase our time to “relax” at the fuel stop. Bases on the number of participants, and the limited expenses lack of funds should not be a reason for someone to not join the adventure – we can all chip in and make it work.
No Trip Home Strategy – yet
When asked if we’ll be riding the bikes home, we answer “Of course not! We’re not crazy!” We’ll be loading the bikes on trailers and heading home the quickest route possible to be back by Sunday night. However, at this writing, this part of the strategy has yet to be flushed out. We will develop the plans based on participation and needs when they arise.
Strategy – One for All and All for One!
If we can adequately prepared and posses equal understanding of all the plans, then functioning as a group gets much simpler. And to be crystal clear – this is a group function. We are not undertaking a solo trip or a conglomeration of shared plans when it suits us individually, this is a plan to experience adventure together as a group and we will succeed and fail as a group.
The strategy will be to focus on successful adventure for the group not for the individual, we are all in it for each other and need to commit to see each other’s experience as positive as possible. We will attempt to clearly plan and minimize decisions needed to made during the adventure by planning as thoroughly as possible and creating detailed daily agendas and routes well in advance of riding the first mile. Everyone needs to know what we’re signing up for and there shouldn’t be any surprises or changes once we are underway.
However, no matter how much we plan, reality will give us a bridge outage, road construction or closed camp site… who knows. How we navigate these unknown variables will be the critical test of our group’s adventure success. Understanding the strategy behind the plans, will be key to altering plans when the need arises. The best time to discuss these strategies is now so we can all be united when the need to make decisions arises on the road ahead.