Have you been wondering about the mileage, the money, the nominal details of my six-month bike trip? In this post, I outline what I did and how I did it, for the detail-seekers considering their own bike trips.
I flew to San Diego on April 20th. I started biking on April 23rd. My last full-day ride was on October 21st, when I arrived in Montreal. These numbers are counted from April 20th.
Of the 184 days it took for me to get from San Diego to Montreal, I biked 126 of them. I rode approximately two and a half months with other cyclists or friends, and spent about 3 months riding solo. I spent one week in NJ and one week in South Dakota
The Mileage and the Map
I biked 6579 miles, give or take a couple hundred, from San Diego to Vancouver to Montreal. I took LOTS of detours along the way. Below is the map of where I went, and you can further explore which towns I stopped at here.
I budgeted $10,000 for the trip, expecting that it would take six months, that I would stay at motels twice a week, and that I would be eating out frequently. Using the Warmshowers site allowed me to cut motel costs; in reality, I only paid for a motel once. The kindness of hosts meant that I was often fed and sometimes even sent on my way with an extra lunch. There were unexpected costs, of course–most notably, volunteering in South Dakota for 1 week was expensive, and I didn’t budget for the transportation costs within cities, like bus fare and ferries. I also had many “treat yo’self” days: museums, yoga classes, a massage. These were important to keep me from burning out and maintain my love for bike touring.
Here’s what I actually spent over the course of six months:
Bike and Bike Repair: $1880. This includes the Trek 520 that I bought new for the trip, as well as everything I needed to repair my bike along the way: tubes, tires, patches brake pads, and a new bottom bracket. Nothing catastrophic happened while I was riding. Not even a single broken spoke!!
Equipment: $670. This includes the tent I bought new (Kelty Salida 2), my stove and all the gas canisters I went through, Ortlieb panniers, my fancy portable bike pump, the bear bag that I would discourage anyone from buying (Ursack–it’s a rip off), bike shorts, a backpack for day trips…Anything I spent at REI or MEC is included in this category.
Groceries: $1685. When I was riding with other people, I would often pay for groceries on credit and have them pay me in cash, so this number is somewhat artificially high. It’s only barely higher, though, than the amount I spend for groceries when I’m not biking.
Dining Out: $1400. Once you get off the coast, the middle of North America is not very populated. Between the West Coast and Canada, there weren’t many opportunities to eat out, and when I did ‘eat out’, it was often McDonalds (aka, a biker’s best friend).
Maps: $28. I usually did not ride on the Adventure Cycling Association routes. For a long trip, the maps are cost-prohibitive. When sections precisely overlapped my planned route, though, I caved in and bought them–or loaned them from Alan!
Motels/Campgrounds: $80. I often stayed at campgrounds and did not pay for them. So, if you’re on a budget, there’s that option. I paid for one motel.
Volunteering: $455. It was important to me to be able to experience the places I went to, beyond the eyes of a casual tourist. I no longer think of the states in the middle of the country as “flyover states” because I was able to engage with people along the way. For South Dakota, I was able to volunteer on the Pine Ridge Reservation for a week, where I paid to be a voluntourist. If I had been spending this big every week of the trip, I never would have left California!!
USPS: $45.50. Yes, this is its own category. I sent a lot of postcards, shipped some things home, and…sent a lot of postcards.
Transportation/Ferries: $76.68. This includes bus fare, subways, metros, and ferries.
Parks Pass/Tours: $104. I went on a couple of cave tours, and also bought the “Parks Pass” for the National Parks in the US. It cost $80, and with it I was allowed entry into every National Park. I could even bring three other bicyclists into a park, so I used my parks pass to make friends.
The Treats: $223. This included laundry, museums, new walking shoes, and used books that I acquired and then got rid of.
The Cash: $1017. I never kept more than $100 on me at one time, and I didn’t find reasons to need cash often. This money was spent mostly on coffee shops, campgrounds that I did pay for, and tips.
Total: $7674.18. Living expenses, food, and fun stuff for six months on a bike tour. It can be done for SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper, as well–if you avoid the treats, the tours, and the volunteering, and if you are more frugal with dining out. In the end, I came out significantly under budget due to the immense kindness from strangers.
National Parks, Monuments, Memorials
I visited 11 National Parks, if you include a monument and a memorial. These were: Joshua Tree National Park, Yosemite National Park, Olympic National Park, Northern Cascades National Park, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Badlands National Park, and the Thousand Islands National Park of Canada. I visited countless National Forests, State Parks, and State Forests, and often didn’t know that I was in a National Forest until I saw the Welcome sign in Comic Sans. (Yes, all National Forests in the US have welcome signs in Comic Sans.)
If you’re curious about some other objective measure from my trip–or anything from my trip–ask away!