My lease ended May 1st and instead of renewing, we decided to move out and spend the summer travelling. There was quite a bit of preparation needed to give up the apartment and live in the car for the summer. This post describes some of the prep and the first trip we took to Arkansas and the Dakotas.
We’ve slept in the Prius before, and even took a multi-week trip in it, so we knew how it worked to sleep in the car. The Prius is surprisingly roomy: with the seats folded down I can lay flat without a problem. The issue is that all the luggage then needs to be moved each night. We’d slide the front seats forward, put the back seat down, fill the gap between the back and front seat with cloths and move everything else to the front seats. For this trip, we decided to build a wooden bed after we visited a friend in Grand Junction who had taken out his back seat and built a foldable bed.
As with all construction projects I attempt, this was harder than expected. But with a lot of time and help we replaced the back seats with a piece of plywood that folds up during the day and down at night. It added more storage and a more stable sleeping surface. This video gives the basic idea.
The conversion is an improvement. The extra storage is very nice and it takes less time to switch from driving to sleeping because we don’t have to fill in the space between the seats. We also setup the bed with lots of pads and foam and it is quite comfortable.
Both of us needed a new bike for touring. The bike packing trips that we wanted to do were going to be a combination of pavement, gravel and single track. Having a pure mountain bike would be great on the single track, but would be heavy and slow on the pavement. A gravel bike would be worse on the single track and they also typically don’t have as much luggage capacity. We need to be able to carry quite a bit of weight with the food and camping gear for a week long trip.
Another complication is that COVID caused a big increase in demand for bikes while also messing up supply chains. So it was difficult to find a bike in stock.
We ended up with the Priority 600X. It is an aluminum hardtail mountain bike with a pinion drivetrain and 2.25″ tires. The pinion drive is an internal hub that replaces the cassette, chain, and derailer on a standard bike. It is more reliable and has a bigger gear range – which is what we need to be able to climb steep hills with lots of luggage and also be able to get decent speed on pavement.
Our first destination was Arkansas. Part of the reasoning was temperature. It was early May and lots of mountain destinations would still be cold and snowy. The other draw was the Arkansas High Country bike loop. This is a path created by Adventure Cycling and has a quality map that we could follow. Since this was my first bike tour, I wanted to have more assurance that our planned roads would be good.
Before going on the bike tour, we spent a few days hiking near the Buffalo river and we did one day Kayaking on the Buffalo. After the bike tour we did more hikes in the Buffalo area, the Ozarks, and the Ouachita national forest
Oklahoma and Iowa
We were headed to North Dakota next, but on the way we stopped in Tulsa to see the Art Deco architecture and the Philbrook museum. Tulsa was better than we expected and was quite nice for biking with very little traffic.
Then we did a small part of the Wabash trace bike route in Iowa and tried to find White Pelicans at the Chase lake wildlife reserve in North Dakota. We did find pelicans, but not as many as we’d expected.
In North Dakota we went to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park which is kind of like the Badlands and has a petrified forest. We also biked a bit of the Maah Daah Hey trail which was very nice but a bit difficult because of the mud and cows.
Finally we went to South Dakota. We did two days of the Mickelson tail, made a brief stop at Mt Rushmore and then the Badlands.
The trip was great in a lot of ways. The waterfalls and flowers in Arkansas were spectacular. The Theodore Roosevelt NP and the Badlands were both great. We saw bison up close and an armadillo. We met some nice people on the bike rides and both the Crystal Bridges and Philbrook museums were very nice.
The bike tour was both fun and very challenging. The single track sections were difficult for me and my butt hurt a lot the last few days. But the worst part was the heat, humidity, and the mosquitos. The worst part of the trip was pushing the bike up steep hills in the heat, and not being able to stop to rest without getting attacked by mosquitos.
I was working part time during this trip and we would stop for a couple days a week at a motel so that I could work and Kira could plan the next week of hikes.
By the end of the trip I was more comfortable with living out of the car, and with not knowing exactly where we were going to sleep each night. I was also stronger and could hike and bike further each day. I was ready for a break, but I was also ready to head out again for the next couple months.