What I’ve Been Up To Lately – 2013 Roundup

After finishing my most recent 14-month-long bicycle tour across 24 different countries in Europe and Africa… I was tired. I had had a wonderful time slowly making my way by bike through some of the most interesting places on the planet, but I was ready to stay in one place for a while and walk around my home barefoot. Those were the two thing I was looking forward to most after more than 400 days of consecutive travel – being able to go barefoot… and simply not moving for at least a few months.

My bicycle tour in Europe and Africa ended when I flew from beautiful Poznan, Poland to sunny Southern California and my mom picked me and my bicycle up at the airport. We loaded up the car with my few belongings and then drove north for an hour or more along Highway 1 to my parents’ home in Ventura County.

On the drive back home I spotted a young bicycle tourist making his way South on a route that I myself have cycled dozens of times before. I stuck my camera out the rear window of my mother’s car and the young cyclist struck a pose when he saw my camera lens emerge. I remember feeling this way myself when I cycled down the California coastline in 2001 on my very first bicycle tour. It felt like everyone was looking at me.

radical cyclists

When we reached Ventura county, it was nice to see the green farm fields I remember so well from my youth. Much of the farmland in my childhood home has been converted over the years into shopping malls and restaurant blocks. But when I think of where I grew up, it is these fields (and the mountains in the distance) that I remember most.


The first thing I did when making it back to my parents’ home was that I went about restarting my motorcycle. A year-and-a-half prior I had driven the motorcycle from Utah to California and had been storing the motorcycle in my parents’ garage while I was away and traveling in Europe and Africa. But the motorcycle was going to be my way home, so I needed to get it up and running again… and that’s exactly what I did during my first day back in the United States.


Another thing I was looking forward to about returning home was all the food that I was unable to find during my travels. I went out to eat with my parents at a restaurant that was a childhood favorite of mine – Eggs N Things. And I ate at least five bean, cheese and rice burritos during my first three days back in California.



I also bought myself a new camera lens just as soon as I returned home. I had been carrying two different lenses during my European and African bicycle tours, but I had wanted a wide angle lens so many different times during my travels. In the narrow streets of Istanbul and the crowded shack-lined alleys of Africa, I wished to myself hundred of times that I had had a wide-angle lens so I could better capture the world that I was experiencing.


I spent the first 20 years of my life in Southern California, so the place is definitely my home. But coming back to California after having spent 14 months overseas took some getting used to. Everything in California is so spread apart and the choices that are available are so incredibly vast compared to what most people in the world have access to. My trips to Whole Foods and REI were a little mind-boggling at first. There was so much stuff! And it was so clean and organized.



REI Oxnard

Inside REI

While at home with my parents, I spent some time chasing down a few of my closest friends that still live in the area.

Many of my friends are now married and have one or more children. While I was away, my friend Travis and his wife Kelli had a new baby girl, and so I went to visit them for a day while we caught up on everything we had been doing over the last two years or so.


Before driving my motorcycle back to Utah, I wanted to make sure the bike was running properly, so I spent a fair amount of time riding around on my motorbike. The battery was low after sitting in my parents’ garage for so long, so riding the bike long and hard really helped to bring the bike back to life. It felt strange riding a 450+ pound bicycle after having ridden a 90 lbs bicycle for so long before that. My friend Kim took these pictures of me on my motorcycle.




I also spent a day in Southern California with my old high school and college friends, Wes and Sharon, and their two children – one of whom I had never met before (she had been born while I was away on my bicycle tour in Europe). We went to the local firework show at the high school on the Fourth of July and watched an incredible firework show with a small group of friends. I have seen hundreds of firework shows in my life and during my travels, but watching fireworks is certainly more memorable when you have a group of friends to share the experience with.






During another day in So Cal, my parents and I took a boat out to nearby Catalina island and participated in a kayak tour where they guided us through several small sea caves and we were able to see sea lions and a variety of different fish from atop our small boats. My mother, especially, enjoyed the sea kayak tour. I had a lot of fun too!



Another day I went with my parents to a local street fair. This fair has been going on for years in the city where I’m from, so it was strange to go back to the fair now and see just how small and old it has become. I remember coming to the fair as a child and thinking it was the biggest, most magical place on earth. Now, as I walked through the stalls of games, rides and food vendors, I found it all a bit depressing.


When I was home with my parents I received a copy of a book titled, Weird Zone: Sports. Two photos that I had taken at a pogo stick competition were used in the book. It was pretty cool to see my work featured in such a goofy product!


At the end of my California stay, my parents and sister and I drove up to the city of Big Bear, where we rented a small condo and spent a few days exploring the area. The best thing about our stay in Big Bear was that from the balcony on the back of our condo we could see a small birds nest with three baby birds inside of it. The mother bird would fly away from the nest on occasion and return a few minutes later… and this would go on all day long. Sadly, on our last day in Big Bear, all the birds disappeared. All three babies were suddenly gone and the mother was nowhere to be found. We imagine that some other bird or predator in the area came along and ate the babies.


We went bowling in Big Bear too, which was a lot of fun. I used to play on a bowling league when I was in high school, so I love to bowl, but I don’t do it very often now that I am grown. I’d like to say I won the bowling match against my parents, but I really don’t remember, nor do I really care. I do remember, however, how much I enjoyed bowling with my family.



We spent another day in Big Bear just driving around the city and going inside the many antique stores and restaurants. I like to look at all the stuff in these sorts of stores, but rarely ever think of buying anything.



My favorite day in Big Bear was when my dad and I went on a long walk up in the mountains. It was such a beautiful day and I feel at home in the wilderness most of the time. Cities are great for some things, but the outdoors is where I really like to be.



Finally, during our last day at Big Bear Lake, my mom and I went stand-up paddling while my sister rode in a kayak and my dad stayed on shore. This was my second time stand-up padding… and I had a lot of fun circling around the bay while the sun set over the mountains behind me. I tried to race my sister in her kayak, but she kicked my butt.


When it came time to leave Big Bear, my parents drove back home and I rode my motorcycle in the opposite direction. It was now time for me to drive back to my home in Park City, Utah.

But I didn’t make it very far! After only about an hour of driving, I came around a sharp turn in the road while I was going about 60 miles per hour when all of a sudden I saw a bunch of dirt and mud that had been washed across the roadway. I slowed down as quickly as I could before hitting the mud patch, but it wasn’t slow enough. After just a second in the mud, my front tire slid out from underneath me and the bike fell onto it’s left side. I crashed down into the pavement in an instant and then slid across the roadway and into the other lane. Luckily, there weren’t any cars coming from the other direction.


When I fell down, I was sure I was going to get hurt. After all, I was going about 45+ miles per hour and was about to have a 450+ lbs motorcycle crash on top of me. That’s why I was surprised when after the bike came to a stop, I was able to easily stand up and push the motorcycle off of me. Except for a small scratch of my left leg and the fact that my entire left side was now covered in mud, I was perfectly fine. My motorcycle, however, was not.

The left-rear case of my motorcycle was all scratched up and covered in mud; I had broken the front left sheet of plastic/metal that covers my motorcycle engine; and I had crashed my left mirror into a hundred pieces. Worst of all, the motorcycle would not start.


I’m not a motorcycle mechanic. I have no idea how these things work. So when the motorcycle wouldn’t start and I realized I was out in the middle of the desert all by myself, I began to worry. Plus, I was still in shock after having crashed my bike in such an extreme way.

Then, another motorcyclist came around the corner while I was trying to fix my bike and he too crashed in the mud. I ran over to help him. Like me, he was perfectly fine, but just as shocked as I was. We lifted up his heavy motorcycle and then he was on his way.

I eventually got my motorcycle running again after simply taking out the battery and then putting it back in a few minutes later. My bike was running, I was okay, and I still had a two-day drive ahead of me before I arrived back home in Park City, Utah. So, I just kept driving.


I drove past Las Vegas, Nevada and then spent the night at this campground near a lake along the roadway. I didn’t pay a single cent to spent the night there and I woke the following day to complete my drive home.

It felt so strange to come back home after more than a year-and-a-half away. Some things had changed (new roads had been build, businesses had changed, etc), but the place was all too familiar. I settled in and began to do all the things I had been dreaming of doing for the past several months when I was out on the road and missing home.


I attended several of the summer concerts in the park – usually riding over on my bicycle and sitting by myself while watching the families and friends interact with one another.


I rode my bike on all my favorite bicycle trails… and a few new ones that had been built while I was away. A new trail had been made near my home, so I was able to ride straight from my house up to the nearby Utah Olympic Park and into the mountains behind it.



One weekend I went with my friend Jason out to the Uinta National Forest. We hiked back a short ways into the woods, set up camp and then spent the evening talking with one another around a massive campfire.



My first major project after returning home was to revamp my recently launched website at www.gobicycletouring.com. I had started the website when I was in Turkey and had launched it several months later after having cycled to Krakow, Poland. Now, about 6 months later, I had a plan for making the website even better, so it took me a good month or more to make alterations to the website. If you are interested in guided or self-guided bicycle tours, please check out the website. I’ve put a lot of work into this project and I think you will like it.

Go Bicycle Touring website

I spent a lot of time mountain biking this summer. Where I live in Park City, Utah, there are hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails, so it is a fantastic place to mountain bike… and I took full advantage of that. Sometimes I would ride my mountain bike on the trails directly behind my home and other times I would catch the bus to the far side of town and go on a mountain bike ride in that area.



I also attended a number of the outdoor movies that take place in Park City during the summer months. In the photo below I am watching a screening of the film Senna at the Canyons ski resort.


In an attempt to meet more locals (it can be difficult to meet people in a tourist town like Park City), I went on a guided hike with the people from Snyderville Basic Recreation. It was a short, easy hike, and it was nice to meet a few people who live in and around the Park City area.



Several days this summer I went mountain biking with my friend Jason. We would drive over to a nearby downhill mountain bike track and then spend a couple hours cycling up to the top of the track and then racing down to the bottom as fast as we possibly could. That’s Jason going off a jump in the photo below. He is such a better mountain biker than I am. I wish I could do that!


Another one of my major projects this summer was getting my Dr. Homebrew book printed up in paperback format. I had released the Dr. Homebrew ebook sometime during my bicycle tour in Africa (I think), but it wasn’t until I got home that I was able to finish the Dr. Homebrew website and get both the ebooks and the paperback books for sale on Amazon.com.

In case you don’t know, Dr. Homebrew is a project/story about a beer brewing psychiatrist that I initially thought up while I was walking around the city of Lviv, Ukraine in November of 2012. The people, architecture and overall vibe of the story is based largely on that place.


Another fun thing to do in Park City, Utah during the summer months is to attend the Silly Sunday market on Main Street. I only went to the market once or twice this year, but it’s always fun to just walk around, look at the booths of food and items for sale, and watch the people out with their friends and family.




I also played some disc golf this summer with Jason at the Canyons. I would walk or ride my bicycle up the mountain to the disc golf course, play a round of golf, and then ride the gondola back down the mountain when I was good and tired.




The day after one of my disc golf matches with Jason, I began to have some stomach pain… and that pain has stuck with me for more than three months now. The pain I was experiencing felt similar to the pain I had when I got sick in Malalane, South Africa earlier this year, and I feared that I may have picked up a bacteria or some kind of parasite when I was in Africa. I got tested for tapeworms, Giardia and all sorts of stuff, but all my tests came back negative. Now that the stomach pain is still with me three months later (but has lessened considerably), I think that when I got sick in Africa it may have done some damage to my gallbladder and that this is the cause of the pain I have been experiencing. But I’m not really sure and I’m still trying to figure out the problem. I’m hoping I’ll just wake up one day and the pain and symptoms will be gone. Eek!

Despite the stomach pain I’ve been suffering with, I’ve continued to get outdoors and be active. Below, for example, I spent two days hiking in the Uinta National Forest by myself. I rode my motorcycle for about two hours out into one of the most remote regions of the park, hiked for an entire day into a quiet valley filled with small ponds and lakes, and then spent the evening there, made a fire, and camped out under the stars.







At some point in the fall I became obsessed with table tennis. I had taken table tennis lessons during my time in Poznan, Poland and had had a blast playing there, so I wanted to continue my ping-pong dreams now that I was in Park City. But finding a table to play on and someone to play against proved challenging.

I did eventually find a table at the MARC in Park City and I was able to drag my friend Mark to go and play with me on occasion.

One day while driving my motorcycle to the MARC to play some table tennis I spotted this group of young bicycle tourists on the corner of a large intersection in the middle of downtown Park City. I stopped to talk to the group for a moment and then took this picture.

hipster cyclists

Here are some photos of me and Mark playing table tennis and climbing on the small climbing wall inside the MARC building.




Another thing I did this summer was that I got a new 52-page passport. My old passport was nearly filled to the brim after almost 10 years of bicycle touring all around the world, so I had to get a new one – especially since I have plans to go bicycle touring in 14 or more new countries in 2014. So I got a totally new passport and am excited about filling it up over the years to come.

USA passport book

One day I went on a hike with my friend Caroline Gleich in the Uinta Mountains. My stomach was killing me on this particular hike, but I had a good time catching up with Caroline, as I hadn’t seen her in more than two years.



I also spent a fair amount of time this summer/fall riding my motorcycle. I wish I had done more motorcycle riding, but I did get a few good rides in while the weather was still warm.




One of my biggest accomplishments this fall was finally getting my most popular book, “The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles” printed up in paperback format. For the last three years or so, “The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles” has only been available in eBook format, so it felt great to finally hold a real book in my hand.

The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles” is a short book written for people who are new to bicycle touring and are looking for the perfect type of touring bicycle for the type of bicycle tour(s) in which they hope to participate. As you may or may not know, there are different types of touring bicycles made for different types of bicycle touring, so this book helps you figure out what type of touring bicycle to look for, what characteristics to look for in a good touring bicycle, and a whole lot more.

The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles 2

I went on a couple hikes with Caroline Gleich this summer. One day she and I hiked up to the top of a big old mountain in the Big Cottonwood Canyon area and took photos and shot video the entire time. It was a fantastic 10-hour hike with beautiful views at the top and incredible scenery the whole day. On the way down the mountain it started to rain and we nearly got killed by a charging moose when we stumbled across it while walking down the trail in the dark.



A few days after my hike with Caroline, my mother flew out to Utah from California and we drove together through a snow storm out to Denver, Colorado to visit with my sister. The snow storm that we drove through was incredibly scary. Because of the snow, it took us two days to get to Denver (instead of one – like we had planned)… and there were cars and trucks crashed all over the roadside because they were sliding out in the snow. I have never seen so many crashed cars and semi-trucks in my entire life.


Once we got to Denver, Colorado, my sister took my mom and I to show us where she works. My sister works for an interior design company called Watson and Co. Here are some photos from inside the building. Pretty cool, right!?



On our second day in Colorado, my sister and I went on a hike in the nearby city of Boulder.



Then we spent the evening walking around downtown Boulder and ate dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. I also bought myself a new two-string sport kite at a store in Boulder, which you will see in a few of my upcoming photos.


After a few days in Boulder, Colorado with my sister, my mom and I flew back to California on an airplane together. Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway back to my parents’ house in Ventura county, I snapped the photo below.


Back at home with my parents again, I visited once more with my friends Travis and Kelli and their two kids. Travis and his son Mac and I went on a bike ride and at ice cream together.




Then I took my parents to the park and let them fly my new two-string sport kite, which I had purchased just a few days prior in Boulder, Colorado. Flying a two-string kite is so much more fun that a one-string kite because you can control it, make it do flips and make it hover just above the ground. It’s a lot of fun and I think my parents were surprised at just how much fun it was to fly that small kite. I’m thinking of taking the kite on my next bicycle tour – if I can make room for it.



My parents and I also went out to this great little restaurant in Southern California where they serve only fresh, organic food. I can’t remember the name of the place, but when I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and then got this colorful treat, I was over the moon. It tasted so good!


Part of the reason I was at home in Southern California again because I was about to celebrate my 30th birthday and my parents didn’t want me to be in Park City and all alone on my birthday. So I was in California with my parents to celebrate! I told my parents I didn’t want anything special for my birthday, but that I would love to go to a firing range and shoot a couple guns. I had shot pistols for the very first time a few months prior when I was in Krakow, Poland with my friend Kasia. But since that time I’ve wanted to shoot something bigger, so I used my 30th birthday as an opportunity to go and shoot a rifle. It was fun, but there’s no way I would get into shooting guns as a regular activity. However, I do think it is a good skill to possess – knowing how to load and shoot a gun if need be.


After my short stay in California, I drove my sisters old car back to Park City. Now I would have a car (instead of just my motorcycle), which would come in handy when my friends Fee and Johanna came to visit me during the month of November.


Back in Park City I went on a number of short hikes, flew my new sport kite on occasion, and started playing table tennis at a ping-pong club down in Salt Lake City.

My first day at the ping-pong club was a nightmare, because I got absolutely slaughtered. But after buying a new, more professional paddle, and practicing when I could in Park City, I quickly got better and was soon able to hold me own against some of the club’s lower-level players.

At the end of October I played in a table tennis tournament and even though I came in second to last, I still had a lot of fun. I’ve been playing table tennis at least once a week for the last three months. It’s a whole lot of fun!


I’ve also been playing on a curling team every Monday night for the last three months or so. I’ve never done curling before this year, but I thought it would be a good way to spend the autumn/winter, so I signed up for a team and have been trying my best ever since.

Curling is a strange game, but once you start to get into it and learn the strategy, etc, it becomes a whole lot of fun. I liked the people on my team and they were patient and kind as I went about learning how to curl.

My team only won a single match the entire season, but I don’t really care. I learned a lot, met some nice people and had a lot of fun.


On the days when I wasn’t playing ping-pong or curling at the local ice rink, I would go skateboarding, hiking, mountain bike riding. Even as the weather began to change and the snow began to fall, I would continue to get outdoors in between all the computer work I was doing.





At the end of October I attended the Park City Howl-o-week event on Main Street in which all the locals dress up in costumes and bring their dogs dressed up in costumes as well. This is one of my favorite Park City events, so I try and attend every year when I am at home. My favorite costume from this year was of the dog with the “Poop Factory” built around his midsection (See fourth photo below).





In early November I continued working and got out occasionally for some hikes and bikes rides in the Park City, Utah area. I went on a long hike through the snow with my friend Mark at Park City Mountain Resort…


… and just a few days later did another hike with Mark along a 5-mile trail that runs from the Park City area down to the Salt Lake City valley. I brought my kite along on this hike and showed Mark how to fly it. I think he liked it!



In mid November my friends Fee and Johanna flew from Germany to Salt Lake City and stayed with me in my condo for two full weeks. It was a blast! During our first few days together we drove down to Southern Utah and spent a day hiking around Zion National Park.



The next day we drove to the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon, but it was snowing and there were so many clouds in the air that you could hardly see the Canyon below us. Then, when we were driving out of the Canyon, there was so much snow on the road that the car was sliding all over the place and it was difficult to stay in control of the vehicle. It was a little scary, but it eventually it stopped snowing and we made it out alive!


On the same day of our Grand Canyon visit, we passed a young bicycle traveler named Andre from www.planetapedal.com.br. He’s said that he was in the middle of riding his bicycle from Alaska to his home country of Brazil. He was cycling north from the Grand Canyon toward Bryce Canyon and said he would turn around after that and head south toward warmer weather in California and Mexico. Really nice guy! It seemed like he was having a great time out there on his bike and I wished I could have joined him for a day or two of cycling.


Later that day we went on a short hike in the hills above Kanab, Utah. Once it got dark, the girls and I went to Pizza Hut and Johanna had a root beer for the very first time in her life. She didn’t like it and said it tasted like bubble gum. Fee doesn’t like root beer either, which I found funny because as an American, I grew up drinking root beer all the time.


The next day our plan was to drive to Bryce Canyon and explore the park for a little while, but it started to snow quite heavily during our drive to the park, so we abandoned that plan and went hiking in a rocky area just off the roadside, about 15 miles before the official entrance to Bryce Canyon.


Then we drove back to Park City. It was a long drive, but we eventually made it. It was snowing on us almost the entire time.

Back in Park City, I took the girls on some of my favorite hikes in the area. This one (below) is in the Summit Park area of Park City and it was the girls’ favorite.


Another day we drove in the car out to the Uinta National Forest and hiked for quite a while out into a secluded snowmobile wilderness area. We threw snowballs at one another, played with my Frisbee, and generally just enjoyed the pure Utah wilderness. I wish I had had a snowmobile at the time. It would have been so much fun!



On the girls’ last day in Park City, we went on another short hike up to one of the entrances of the old Park City Silver Mine. We crawled through some of the old mining buildings that are still left up there in the mountains and then we ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Main Street.


Each night, Fee and Johanna and I would return to my condo and play this card game called IOTA and eat ice cream around my dining room table. We even took the card game with us one time and played it while sipping hot chocolate at Park City Mountain Resort.


After the girls left and flew back to Germany, I went back to work. I made a short video about my Co-Motion Pangea touring bicycle and another video that demonstrates how my special touring bicycle can be folded up and placed inside an airline friendly travel case, allowing you to fly with the bicycle and not have to pay extra fees for shipping and/or baggage costs.



Shortly thereafter I finished the paperback version of my new Winter Cycling book. I started writing this book when I was at home in Park City in the winter of 2011… and I finished writing the book more than a year later when I was in the snow-covered mountains of Slovakia. For the last year (most of 2013), the Winter Cycling book was only available as a PDF eBook, but now the book is available as an eBook, Kindle eBook, iBooks eBook, and as a physical paperback book! The book is also available in hundreds of different countries all around the world thanks to Amazon.com. Learn more at www.wintercyclingbook.com.


In December the snow began to fall quite heavily. I continued to go on long hikes and bike rides around the city. The photo below was taken on a freezing cold hike through the snow near the Canyons Ski Resort.


I also continued playing with my curling team each Monday night. When I first started curling, I thought it was pretty lame, but after several weeks passed, I began to get more and more into it. Curling this winter was actually a lot of fun and I enjoyed getting to know the other people on my team.



In the photo above is my curling team. That’s me on the left, Matt, Barb and Kim.

Below are a few photos from a bike ride I took on one of my favorite roads in Park City.




Recently I went on a short hike out in the Uintas – once again with my friend Mark. Mark got a new job in the state of Texas and is going to be moving away, so we wanted to do something fun and outdoorsy before he moved.


Then I published the paperback version of my popular eBook, Stretching For Cyclists. I wrote and put together this short stretching guide more than two years ago and it has been selling steadily ever since. That’s my friend Caroline Gleich on the cover! Because I’ve put so much focus over the last 6 months into getting my other books into paperback format, I decided to print up the stretching book as well. So it’s finished… and you can grab a copy now via Amazon.com. Just click here!

Stretching For Cyclists - Cover 2

Then, during the middle of December, something kinda strange happened.

My plan was to stay in Park City until the first of May, then rent out my condo and hit the road on a 6-month bicycle tour in Europe and Asia. But I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to spend another four months in Park City. As much as I enjoy it here, I am ready to hit the road again.

I’ve enjoyed hiking and curling and playing ping-pong with my new friends. But I am the Bicycle Touring Pro and for the last 6 months I haven’t done any bicycle touring. I want to get back out on the road again and ride my bike.

So just last week I found a renter for my condo in Park City. The woman I found is renting my place for an entire year, which frees me up to go where I want and travel how I please.

I’ve decided that for the first four months of the year I will go and visit with my parents, friends and family in Southern California. Then I’ll ride my bike down to Mexico for anywhere from 2-6 weeks. Then I’ll come back to California, prepare for my 6-month bicycle tour in Europe and Asia, and then leave for that trip in mid May, 2014.

So plans have quickly changed and I’ll be hitting the road soon. But there is still a lot to do while I am in Park City. I’ve got some skiing to do (I went skiing once already at Deer Valley Resort on their opening day), work to complete, and some major packing to undertake.


Darren Alff skiing in Park City, Utah - Deer Valley Resort

The last 6 months have been great, but the Bicycle Touring Pro is ready to go bicycle touring once again!

Stay tuned for my next blog post because I’ll be announcing my long and detailed plans for bike travel in 2014 and I’ll even be letting you know how you can join me on some of my bicycle tours next year.

So thanks for reading… and stay tuned to BicycleTouringPro.com over the next 12 months (and be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest). 2014 is going to be an incredible year for the Bicycle Touring Pro!

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