These Two Friends Left The NYC Finance Rat Race To Bike 1900 Miles Down The Pacific Coast From Vancouver To Mexico
Two years ago, Matt and Mitch were trudging away in an exhausting career grind. Friends since middle school, they both graduated from college and moved to New York a few years earlier, separately landing lucrative-yet-grueling jobs in the finance industry. After a couple of years of work hard, play harder post-grad life in NYC, neither saw their 9-to-5 careers in the finance industry as a life sentence. So when the opportunity for a big adventure presented itself during separate life transitions, both jumped on bicycles and, with a little bit of planning, started the ride of their lives down the Pacific Coast.
This past winter, Matt and Mitch logged around 1900 miles on their Craigslist-bought bicycles, lugging around 55-pounds of gear while pedaling the breathtakingly-beautiful coastal route from Vancouver to Tijuana, Mexico. All things considered, the trek down the West Coast took 48 days. A solid 30 of days were spent on the bike, with the other 18 dedicated to reconnecting with old friends, sightseeing, and generally having as much fun as possible.
Full disclosure: Matt’s a buddy, albeit a buddy I haven’t seen in a while. Back when he lived in New York, we’d frequently hang over delicious Lagunitas at the bar under his apartment in the East Village. After following his trip closely on Facebook this past winter, I knew he’d be a prime candidate for our “Living The Dream” series about Bros who embark on life-changing journeys.
In their own words, here’s how Matt and Mitch made it happen…
How did you guys dream this trip up? Can you explain what set everything in motion?
Matt: This is something I’ve always had in the back of my mind since one of my best childhood friends biked from Oregon to Virginia in 2011 with two of his college buddies. The way he described the trip, it sounded like an amazing combination of therapy, exercise, humbling encounters and challenges, and just an amazing way to experience the country.
I had recently withdrawn from my engineering graduate program because it wasn’t a good fit, and was trying to figure out my next step. I was living in Virginia and was doing a combination of hanging out, job searching and interviewing, soul-searching, traveling, and working odd jobs while I figured shit out. Mitch, my cycling companion, reached out to me in December and proposed the trip, knowing that I was in this transitional period, and I immediately jumped at the chance as I was pretty much waiting for someone to do something like this with me.
Mitch: Yeah, I have always had an undefined urge to go on some sort of adventure like this. When I was in college, I remember reading about this guy that spent six months hiking from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It planted a seed in my head about doing something similar, but nothing came of it at the time. I was also in something of a transitional period; I had been living in New York for a couple years and had recently moved back home to Baltimore and was in the process of putting together law school applications for the following fall. I had sent in all my apps and was looking at a period of about six months where I’d be waiting to hear back from schools and working at a family business while waiting for the next phase of my life to begin. I realized that if I ever wanted to do anything like this, I might not get another chance. So knowing Matt had some free time and is the most receptive person I know to crazy ideas and proposals, I gave him a call and asked him to join me.
Can you elaborate on your friendship?
Matt: The trip was me and my buddy Mitchell. Mitch and I knew each other through middle school and high school and we both ended up living in New York City after graduation working in finance. Each of us had a large contingent of college friends in the city, but we were each other’s only high school connection. We are both fairly big foodies, beer, and movie buffs, and clearly New York had plenty of all of those, so we spent a good amount of time hanging out during our time there. Mitch left his job and moved back to Baltimore to apply to law school and work in his family’s business and I left a few months later to attend graduate school in DC.
Were you even into long-distance biking before plotting this?
Matt: Short answer, no. I had done a decent amount of spinning classes in New York and I like to think I was one of the biggest users and proponents of the CitiBike when it was instituted in New York, so I was no stranger to cycling, but I probably had never covered more than 15 miles on the road in one sitting and that was years ago.
Why did you decide to do the Pacific? What made you want to do Vancouver to Tijuana as a long-distance bike trek vs. other routes?
Mitch: When I first called up Matt in December, I had asked him about doing a coast-to-coast trip. Once we started sussing out the details though, it got a little complicated. Matt had to be back in Baltimore by May 1st, so we couldn’t leave too late. And the winter weather kept us from leaving too early. Our understanding was a cross-country trip required about three months. I was also considering going to Coachella in Southern California in late April and wanted to plan to leave that open as a possibility. So given time and weather constraints, we realized that coast to coast wouldn’t fit. Neither of us have seen much of the West Coast and heard it’s a beautiful ride, so after a lot of back and forth, we settled on the Pacific Coast route. The weather in early March in the Pacific Northwest isn’t nice, but it’s at least above freezing, so it was doable.
What did you do to prepare?
Matt: I first had a long series of conversations with my friend John about his experience across the country to wrap my head around what to expect. I then did extensive research online about equipment, gear and packing, and things kind of evolved from there. The crucial step of course was finding a bike.
From what I saw, you aren’t going to find a proper new touring bike from the store for less than a grand, so I resorted to combing Craigslist in the TriState area to find good deals on bikes. This meant understanding enough about what I was looking for and what value bikes had, which was a ton of research in itself. I was looking for was 24 gears of more, steel frame, attachment holes (..or eyelets) for mounting racks to the front and back of the bike, and drop-bar handlebars… I ended up snagging a good value road bike, not a touring bike, which caused some problems, but it ultimately got the job done. I also read a number of blogs about bicycle touring, reviewed a lot of published gear checklists for long distance tours, and made an excessive number of trips to the local REI.
Mitch: I took a bike maintenance course for free at REI, and watched a shit-ton of Youtube videos about fixing flats, fixing broken chains, oiling and cleaning chains, and replacing brakes and shifter cable. In parallel I did the repairs and fixes on my bike to solidify the knowledge.