Vail CO, Colorado
In about three weeks, Leslie and Chris Kehmeier will be homeless and jobless ” and that’s just what they want.
Besides, Leslie and Chris, the Gypsum couple, have everything they need for the next two-and-a-half years packed on four wheels. The Kehmeier’s are traveling the
globe on their bikes, starting late this September when they fly to New Zealand.
“We have a love affair with cycling and we love to travel, and to bring those two things together, it made sense,” Chris, 32, said.
Already, the Kehmeier’s have sold their house and put in their work resignations. They are packing up all of their belongings and getting ready to store it away at Leslie’s parents’ house.
“I feel a certain sense of freedom I’ve never felt before,” Leslie, 34, said. “We’re totally deciding what we want to do.”
While riding their bikes in New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, Europe and North America, the Kehmeiers will spend time trekking, hiking and soaking in plenty of culture.
In addition to their personal desires to go on the trip, the Kehmeier’s hope to share geographic knowledge, inspire people to ride bikes and promote sustainable modes of transportation.
“We want people to learn about their world,” Leslie said. “You may live in a certain place your whole life, but you need to know about what’s going on in the rest of the world ” there may be someone just like you in China or Europe.”
Leslie, who earned a degree in geography and designs maps for Eagle County, has taken up the task of organizing the routes, finances and logistics of the trip. Chris, who works in irrigation design and sales for golf courses, has taken care of all the gear. Along with their hard-tail mountain bikes, some of the things the Kehmeiers will bring in packs that strap onto the front and back of their bikes include a tent, clothes, iPods, a stove, pictures and a computer with a solar-powered charger.
Throughout their trip, the Kehmeier’s will blog on their Web site, http://www.bicyclegeography.org.
While in the intial planning phases of the trip, the Kehmeier’s set tentative dates on their calendar.
“The contingency plan was, we weren’t going to tell our jobs until the house sold,” Chris said.
About twenty minutes after the Kehmeier’s house went on the market, someone put in a bid to buy.
“It was the super sign,” Chris said.
And soon enough, the reality of the quarter-decade journey began to set in.
“It’s kind of like being a kid again,” Leslie said. “You have these dreams and you talk to somebody else and they say, ‘You’re crazy,’ but you don’t tell kids they are crazy, you let them go with it. But you’re older and you can do some of this stuff.”
The longest trip the Kehmeier’s have taken before was three weeks through Ecuador. With all the excitement of their upcomming trip comes a little bit of nerves.
“I have a fear, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is,” Chris said
“I think it’s the fear of the unknown because we’ve never done this before,” Leslie added. “There’s some fear about being gone that long and not working. You wonder, are you employable when you come back, but I think we’re beyond that. This is a really good experience and a positive for our future employment.
“But do we want to have a traditional 40-hours a week job? We’ve read about a couple that’s been on the road for five years and they said they need to tour for the rest of their lives.”
The Kehmeiers have planned to stay on the road for two-and-a-half years, but know that they may change their minds and cut it short, or extend it. One thing that gives the Kehmeiers some confidence heading into the trip is communcations they’ve had with others who have done similar trips.
“I was talking to a friend of mine who quit his job and he and his wife drove around the U.S. for a few years,” Chris said. “And he said, ‘You know Chris, a month into it, you wake up and you realize, wow this is my new job now. You can call it a permanent vacation, but essentially it becomes your job.’ Our job every morning will be to break down camp and figure out where you’re going for that day, and figure out if we need to shop for food along the way.
Chris said some of the regular travel stresses, like hotel reservations won’t be there, but added, “there will be some others, like ‘Oh my God, we need to ride 200 miles to the next town. Can we carry enough food? Does the store have enough food for us?”
A limtiing factor of the Kehmeier’s trip could be finances, as they are not earning money and spending what they hope will be around $45 a day. The Kehmeiers don’t have to worry about variables like gasoline, however, and even if they have problems with their two wheels, can get some help.
“People ride bikes outs of necessity in the rest of the world,” Leslie said. “We get to ride for luxury and exercise.”
During their trip through four continents, the Kehmeier’s also don’t need to worry about getting in car traffic jams, either. But bike traffic jams?
“Maybe we’ll get caught in one,” Chris said, “That would be too cool.”
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.