Planes, Trains, and All-Packas
By Willie Hatfield (Bike Friday All-Packa designer)
I laughed as I rode through the Oregon rain toward the Eugene Airport, with an empty suitcase on my back, and my latest All-Packa prototype under me. I’d packed all my winter gear in bikepacking bags on the bike in preparation for Christmas home with my family in Wisconsin, and had almost forgotten my rain gear, but the Oregon skies reminded me that when traveling by bike, you have to consider the weather at both ends of a trip.
It took about 10 minutes to pack the bike, but another 10 to fill the suitcase with random stuff so my carry-on would fit. I’d originally planned on 44hours on an Amtrak train as a more climate-friendly option, but all trains were cancelled for 4 days and a flight was faster and cheaper. Someday environmental costs will be priced into our transportation network, but not yet.
My mom’s cats watched in bored amazement as my bikepacking rig arose from its bed of recycled felt. My sister stopped by with my brand new niece Harriet “Hattie” to see me off. Bikepacking.com has created a wonderful tradition with sending off the old year with a bikepacking trip between Christmas and the New Year. Goodnight 2022 felt like I was bringing my current life back to the family and friends I’d grown up with.
The weather had shifted and temps had soared into the 40s, making for a warmer, wetter ride than I’d expected. The climate here has changed so much in 20 years. The crushed limestone of the rail trail that passes through my old hometown was a tire-sucking slurry that forced a “contemplative” pace as I headed north.
I’d planned on using these 24 hours alone for a bit of reflection, but with the frequent dismounts to hike-a-bike over windblown drifts of snow, my attention was repeatedly pulled back into the present moment. And really, that was what I most needed. Vacation can create valuable distance with your every-day life, but I actually rather like my life now. Designing and releasing the All-Packa has been a dream of mine for 12 years. But my life does feel very full, maybe uncomfortably so, like my stomach after the Holiday feasts that my family was putting on almost every day.
Being out on the rail trail was so simple in comparison. Ride until my wheel buried itself into a snowdrift, tromp across, shake snow out of shoes, repeat. Just as the best meditation can be a frustrating process of refocusing on the breath, so too was this ride a constant reminder of how busy and distracted I often was, and how sometimes the act of paying attention is actually a process of refocusing on what’s in front of you. Oh look…another snow drift!
I grew up riding the trails of the glacial terrain of the Kettle Moraine – up drumlin, down kettle, along esker – and was excited to see what had changed in 20 years. My wheels were now 20 x 2.8 inch as compared to 26 x 2.1 inch, and I was 30lbs heavier, but the roads and trails were remarkably unchanged. I passed one backpacking shelter but there was still a bit more light left in the sky so I pressed on for a more remote one. Everything is so much closer together here than in Oregon. I had over 15 hours of darkness ahead of me so I wanted to say Good Day 2022 for a little longer.
I’d like to say I reveled through the night, but really I slept for a solid 12 hours. Goodnight 2022!
After a warm late December night in the woods of Wisconsin, I awoke and repacked my gear. This was my first time winter basketpacking so I got my load a bit smaller on the return trip. I had a headwind so I used the Packalope bar extensions a fair bit. Most of the snow banks on the trail had melted so I was less focused and my thoughts bounced around “I miss the Wisconsin winters of my youth – slush season doesn’t measure up” “Between the ice, snow, slush, mud, and roads, I’m so happy I brought my All-Packa” “Cream City Brick is a wonderful vernacular architecture” “Woah, one other person being active outdoors!” “If I pay attention, I might notice that 2023 is going to be a great year”.
Below are a couple other Bike Friday All-Packa riders (Joe Cruz & “Fixie” Dave Nice) who did their own “Good night 2022” trip in Colorado.
“Good Night 2022” is an overnighter challenge originated by bikepacking.com. Good Night 2022 invites everyone to sleep under the stars, have a good night outdoors, and blissfully send off the year between December 25th and 31st. This is an open invitation event aimed to inspire the community to get out on a local, self-supported overnighter in the last week of the year to toast one another in spirit, sleep in open air, have a good night outdoors, and bid farewell to the year.