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What Do You Do on a Bike Friday
20 years with a Pocket Llama

I’ve enjoyed “What do you do on a Friday?” stories for years and have often thought about sending one in . . . never got around to it until now.

I’ve had my Pocket Llama for almost 20 years, and have probably ridden it more than 25,000 miles.

This will be a very brief summary . . .

In 2006-2008, after retirement, I rode it over 12,000 miles -– all over the Western US, a good bit of Mexico and Guatemala, and a couple of months in Florida one winter.

I love the versatility of the Pocket Llama! I started one of the Mexico trips with 120psi 1 1/8 inch Schwalbe Stelvio tires -- which, while great fun to ride, really aren’t adequate for the sort of trip I was doing. After 1000 miles or so they were coming apart.

I wanted to head into the Copper Canyon from the west (very rugged country, no routes shown on any maps I could find). On the ride from El Fuerte to Choix a little boy pointed out odd bulges in one tire, and I saw a side wall cut in the other, then I had a blow-out. After replacing one tire with the spare I carried, I reinforced the other with pieces of the replaced tire.

I thought about having Bike Friday send me new tires, but the man at the post office in Choix said it would take 2 weeks for them to arrive. In this small town I found 2 hardware stores. Both had 2 inch knobbies and one had a pair of 2.1 inch heavy road tread tires –- which I bought along with 4 tubes, all for $15, re-shod my steed, and headed into the mountains on a route suggested by a fellow I’d talked with as I came into Choix.

This route wasn’t on my maps, nor was all of it on the maps he showed me. But his directions, followed by asking many people I met along the way, found me several days later in Batopilas, after riding the gnarliest jeep trails I’ve ever seen.

It’s incredibly beautiful and rugged country! And the fat, soft tires worked great! After several days recuperating in Batopilas (from a flu bug and from the strenuous climb over a high pass to get there) and enjoying the picturesque town with its excellent and inexpensive lodging and food, I moved very slowly, often walking my bike so that I could better take in the magnificent scenery and abundant wildlife.

On a later trip I flew into Zihuatanejo, Mexico and rode along the coast into Guatemala and then inland to Quetzaltenango, where I studied Spanish for 4 weeks, climbed Volcan Santa Maria, visited a fascinating glass factory, and enjoyed Las Fuentes Georginas (a wonderful hot springs and small resort in the cloud forest).

On that trip I also did a 3 day trek to San Pedro La Laguna on Lago Atitlan with Quetzaltrekkers, rode my bike on to Antigua and around southern Guatemala, and climbed an active volcano where we stood very close to flowing lava.

For that trip I’d made a case for my Llama from cardboard with small pieces of plastic pipe and thin plywood to make it crush-proof, and a custom-sewn nylon cover. When I landed in Zihuatanejo I threw away all except the nylon cover which rolls into a small one-pound package that fits in the bottom of a small pannier.

Months later I scrounged/bought cardboard, plywood, plastic pipe and packing tape, re-created the case, and checked my protected Bike Friday in for the flight home from Guatemala City.

I normally travel very light, with only 2 small front panniers weighing a total of 25 lbs loaded. It’s all I need for a few days or a few months. I don’t really like pulling a trailer when I travel, so the 1 pound nylon case is great. When I toured in Florida I sent my FeatherCraft folding kayak ahead to a friend -– I was able to haul it around in/on the suitcase-trailer and paddle rivers, gulf coast and inland waterways.

At one point I left the kayak with friends, took a ferry from Fort Meyers to Key West, and then rode the coast (mostly) to St. Augustine and then back through the center of the state to the Tampa area.

When I travel in the US, I normally wild/stealth camp and occasionally enjoy a visit with CouchSurfing or Warm Showers hosts. In less developed countries I’m more likely to stay in small hotels.

When I went to Thailand to help out after the Tsunami I brought my Pocket Llama to use as local transportation. After 3 months I rode it 800 km back to Bangkok for my flight home.

It was Thai New Year, and traditionally people throw water on each-other. I was given a big water pistol and exchanged fire with others on the road. Those were the only afternoons cycling in Thailand when overheating wasn’t a problem -– I was constantly water-cooled.

This simple mode of travel is interesting to people, and human interactions are incredibly rich. It is such a wonderful way to travel and to experience this beautiful world of ours!

I’ve been car free since 2006 and have used my Pocket Llama as primary transportation. With a heavy duty trailer from BikeRevolution I’ve hauled construction materials and moved my possessions between different dwellings. I also created a system for hauling my 18-foot sailing/rowing/cruising boat using the BF trailer kit parts (picture).

Thanks to all of the great people at Green Gear for creating these wonderful machines and for the excellent service! Scot