After reading the first one, “The Road That Has No End,” I'm relieved to report that, indeed, their bicycling travels may never end. That's good, because their first travelogue is a great read and I'm looking forward to more.
Tim and Cindie embarked on their around-the-world bicycle travels from Arizona in 2002. Essentially, Tim got Cindie interested in bicycle touring, they lived frugally and saved up their money for five years, quit their jobs and headed out to tour by bicycle for seven years.
If you check out their website, Down the Road, you'll see that the seven-year plan has been scrapped and they're on the road for the long term.
The first book, “The Road That Has No End,” is basically a travelogue of Tim and Cindie's first year of traveling from Arizona through Central America to Panama on their loaded-down touring bicycles.
It's written for readers who want to learn about the couple's experiences and impressions gained from bicycling through different cultures. It's not about the best bicycle for touring, the best tent, or the best panniers. It is about the best mindset one needs to have a full and rewarding bicycle adventure.
It's also not a bicycle touring how-to manual, except that in the telling of many anecdotes from the road, careful readers can glean a lot of useful information.
Take it easy
For instance, Tim writes that bicycle touring shouldn't mean riding day in and day out and stopping for a rest day once a week.
Tim and Cindie take a slow pace and stop for days at a time. At one point in Mexico, they're off their bikes for six weeks just to acclimate to the heat and humidity. Another time they spend weeks in a city to learn Spanish at an immersion school, which they say is necessary to enable them to communicate with people they meet. On staying to study some Mayan ruins:
“This has become our regular habit: don't go to the next place until tired of the current place. This way we never felt as if we missed something or rushed through.”
Of course with a no-end bike tour, there's no need to rush off. Too many of us have only a few days or weeks for bicycle tours. Maybe the better idea is to take it slow and spend more time poking around on the bike tour route rather than trying to get in as many miles as possible within the vacation time.
Some other ideas from the book:
Don't lose sight of your bicycle;
Don't put all your money in one pannier pocket;
Avoid tourist towns;
Get out of border towns as quickly as possible;
Sometimes a little bribe is necessary to take care of “paperwork”;
Stick around for small town festivals;
Print a flyer in the local language to introduce yourself.
Tim and Cindie stayed off the beaten path and avoided tourist havens. This enabled them to partake of the local culture. It also made them celebrities in some small villages where few Americans are ever seen. They tell many tales about invitations to meals or spending the night at the homes of total strangers.
Even though they traveled with everything they owned, they often felt like they had so much more than the impoverished people they met. Tim and Cindie took to keeping their gas stove out of sight, for instance, after seeing the reaction of people whose livelihood was based on collecting firewood that they delivered to towns for fuel.
They also learned that at times they couldn't be totally honest with people. In rural Honduras, they told people they met that they had children back in the US so mothers wouldn't worry about them stealing their babies. In parts of Nicaragua, they actually told people they were Canadian because of the lingering hatred of the US in parts of the country for the CIA's support of the Contras during the Reagan Administration.
Need to travel
Something Tim notes is that the couple regularly met more Canadians and Dutch than US citizens in their travels. He tells why this dearth of US citizens abroad is a problem:
“Politically, the world would be a much different place if Americans traveled internationally or at least paid more attention to world politics. American generally don't know much about other countries, and the people from around the world don't usually understand Americans because they never meet them.”
He suggests US workers get the four to eight weeks annual vacation time as citizens in some other countries to give us a chance to become more aware of international politics.
Where to find the book
I thoroughly enjoyed “The Road That Has No End” and I'm looking forward to delving into their second book, “Down the Road in South America.” Both books are on sale at the DownTheRoad website. They're also available in mp3 audio download and a .pdf ebook formats at reduced rates.