As we gear up for the New Year and some backyard adventure stories (there’s still time to submit yours) we present a bicycle-loving couple whose adventure took them as far from their own backyard as possible. In the fall of 2007, Leslie Kehmeier and her husband Chris began a 14-month journey of a lifetime. Their goal was three-fold: travel around the world, share geographic knowledge and promote the bicycle as a sustainable form of transportation. They called their project Bicycle Geography. Leslie writes:
I can’t put it off any longer – I have to do laundry. The luggage has been emptied and the mail sorted – it’s been three days since my husband and I returned home from our ‘round the world bicycling adventure. I don’t know why I’ve been avoiding it. Maybe I don’t want the reflection of a special journey to start too soon; maybe it’s just the smell.
[Leslie with her husband Chris(right) and good friend Scott at the top of Cottonwood Pass. Colorado. Photo: Leslie Kehmeier Collection]
As I heap the pile of clothes on the floor, I am reminded of so many things. Each item has a connection with a certain landscape or an interaction with a local character. We didn’t just wear our clothes, we lived in them. The colors may be faded, but the memory of life between two wheels is now woven in the fabric.
As a self-professed Patagoniac I was giddy when it came to purchasingclothes for our expedition. My husband rolled his eyes when I gave my“style and function” monologue as we set out on the pre-trip shoppingextravaganza. “I can look good while I ride for 3-5 hours a day,” I saidin the most convincing fashion. Fourteen months later I can report thatstyle took a backseat to function, but each piece of Patagonia clothingmade it to the end.
Our journey extended across both sides of the equator, through ten timezones, and all four seasons (not necessarily in the right order). Myhusband figured that our clothes provided us a temperature range of75-80 degrees. From the 5th worst spring on record in New Zealand tothe pre-monsoon heat of Laos, we used every possible combination oflayers. Each item became synonymous with a certain locale. If it’s aWhite Sol Patrol Shirt, it must be Southeast Asia. First night in theAlps? Better grab the Down Sweater Pullover.
To some, riding a bicycle brings visions of black spandex, printedjerseys, and day-glo vests. What serves the after-work or weekend ridedoes not necessarily lend itself well to life on the road. Don’t expecta warm welcome at the guest house when you look like you’re in yourunderwear. Pedaling around the world with your life in panniersrequires clothes that can be worn on the saddle, in the tent, andaround town. I can confirm that Mystery Pants look just as classy abovethe top tube as they do standing on a train and the R1 Hoody can bedressed up with a colorful scarf.
While my clothes served me well, the real meaning in the journey camefrom the true nature of bicycle touring. I didn’t just see the world, Ifelt it. I saw the sunlight filtering through the trees while coastingdownhill; I tasted the sweetness of a glass of homemade wine; I heardthe waves of a blue ocean lapping on the beach; I smelled the smokefrom the harvest filtering into my nose. I was immersed in my worldlike never before. As a result I think I have a better understanding ofthe delicate balance between humans and their landscapes. It’s been agift and I will carry it with me from here forward.
And so, as the first load of laundry fills the machine, the reflectionbegins. We lived in and learned about our wonderful world for 422 days.We traveled through 15 countries, and pedaled 9,600+ kilometers. Andwhat about the “style and function” part? It was as much about our modeof transportation as it was the clothes on our backs.
[Soaking up five clear days at Mt Cook. Southern Alps, New Zealand. Photo: Leslie Kehmeier Collection]
Bio: Leslie Kehmeier was a GIS professional who traded her desk for twowheels and four panniers. After traveling the world by bicycle, she andher husband are already planning future human-powered adventures. Herfirst bicycle was a yellow Schwinn.