When was the last time you walked instead of ran or biked instead of drove? When was the last time you decided to take the scenic (and longer) route? When was the last time you stopped to truly be present and to appreciate the environment surrounding you? If you can’t remember, I have a feeling that this week’s Shoestring Warrior will inspire you to slow down and enjoy the journey. Meet Shoestring Warrior and Statistician David Miser. David hasn’t own a car for the last 12 years and uses his bicycle to commute to work and to explore the gorgeous state of California! He has made a conscious decision to travel intentionally and slowly and truly enjoys the journey more than the destination.
A route that can be covered by car in 2 hours can become 3 days of camping by lakes, swimming in creeks, taking in views, etc. The more experienced I get, the more I’m comfortable slowing trips down to enjoy the experience.
What does one call such an adventure? David and his friends recently decided to label their adventures as “bike vacations”. Keep reading to learn more about what a “bike vacation” entails and to get a better sense of David’s philosophy on life! Check out photos from David’s adventures on his flickr page.
Shoestring Warrior: David Miser
I was born in Columbus OH, but I’ve lived in California for 23 years, so I consider myself a California brat
San Francisco, CA
Analytics / Statistics
What are your passions outside of work?
I have a lot of hobbies that stem from my interest in living a life more connected to the world that sustains us. Things like gardening, cycling, botanizing, mushroom hunting, playing music, home fermenting. I recently got back into surfing (which feels somewhat indulgent) but it is so amazing to spend time in the ocean in Northern California.
Tell us about yourself!
I think my answer to #1 is a decent overview! I’d also add I’ve been a committed cyclist for a long time and I have not owned a car for 12 years. Including 4 years car-free in Los Angeles, which was an amazing time in my life. I also try to support local businesses and the local economy as much as possible.
How would you describe your level of camping experience?
Right where I want it to be.
I don’t aspire for exotic or extreme experiences, just immersing myself in unspoiled natural environments when the opportunities present themselves.
I feel ready to dive into most experiences that I would want to do in the first place. For example a friend of mine started doing outdoor work in Nevada, and I didn’t have to put much thought into accepting her invitations to backpack into the Ruby mountains or Jarbidge Wilderness with sub-freezing overnight temps, etc.
When did you first discover your love for the outdoors?
I spent part of my childhood in Minnesota, and I was naturally drawn to spending lots of time exploring the local woods.
You often set out on multi-day bike adventures. How much planning goes into your adventures?
Quite a bit for new territory. I have been exploring forest roads in various parts of California, and it’s important to plan manageable routes, not get lost, and build in time for fun, etc.
Elevation maps are pretty important when you’re leg-powered.
What do you enjoy most about exploring an area by bike?
When I travel by bicycle, the journey is often more important than the destination. A route that can be covered by car in 2 hours can become 3 days of camping by lakes, swimming in creeks, taking in views, etc. The more experienced I get, the more I’m comfortable slowing trips down to enjoy the experience.
My riding partners and I are capable of cranking out 100+ mile days or whatever, but in my view, the biggest accomplishments of our most recent trips were hitting the brakes and doing sub-15 mile days in gorgeous country.
Days where you have time to stop and try to ID the wildflowers, swim in rivers, and basically do whatever presents itself. On our last trip, my friends and I came up with the term “bike vacation” to describe our trips, to dispense with the notion of a competitive element. “Touring” implies long road days in the saddle, and “bike packing” has sort of turned into racing. Nobody can make vacation into competition.
What is your most memorable bike adventure and why has it left such an impact on you?
My first time over the Sierra Nevada was a pretty righteous experience. A good friend and I started in Auburn, CA, and ended in Reno. It wasn’t the smoothest trip: the route wasn’t that great, it was one I might not repeat as I’ve found way better routes since. And I was still on the learning curve for both planning and gear… we bit off way too much elevation and mileage the second day, and ended up pushing glorified road bikes up extended rocky hike-a-bikes.
But the accomplishment of traversing the Sierra Nevada self supported opened up all kinds of possibilities: after that trip, terrain doesn’t feel intimidating to me, it’s just a matter of adequate planning.
Funniest outdoor experience/mishap?
For me a good bike trip has a steady stream of yuks… I’m drawing a blank on a good one. One source of comedy fodder is when you get deep into the hills you often encounter sovereign citizen types. My friends and I refer to them as “freedom goblins”. One time near the Nevada border we ran into an exceptional specimen who had gated off what according to 3 different maps was a public road. I was pretty P.O.’d at the time as we had to re-route along Hwy 395, but we still laugh about his tirade refusing us access.
What are the three most essential pieces of gear that you take on every bike adventure?
Decent maps, water carrying capacity, and knowing your water sources (i.e. water filter if necessary).
How do you train for a long bike trip?
I honestly don’t train any more. I start every trip with a light day or two to ease into it, usually ~30 miles on the first day. Cycling is my primary form of transport, so I have a base level of 13 miles round trip commuting and that’s enough.
What’s your next adventure?
Nothing on the books. I did 3 bike camping trips this summer, so probably just local overnighters on the coast.
The perfect s’more? (If you don’t like s’mores, what’s your favorite campfire dessert?)
I seldom do campfires. Sharing sips off a flask in twilight is pretty nice.