By Robert Downes
How do you combine romance with the spirit of adventure? For Casey
Stanton, 23, and Kristen Clauder, 22, it involved taking the trip of a
lifetime, having just finished a four-month bicycle tour of southern
A resident of Suttons Bay, Casey is an Internet marketer who used his
skills to create an extensive blog of their travels, while Kristen hails
from White Lake and is a college grad new on the job market. Heres a
rundown of their trip:
NE: How many miles did you ride?
Casey Stanton: We just got back from our four-month bike trip from
September 17 to January 17 across Spain, France and Italy. Spains weather
was beautiful and we biked the entire Mediterranean coast, from a small
town north of Alicante all the way into the Pyrenees and into France.
The weather got cold and wet as we tried to climb up to Albi, France. Our
bikes clocked just over 1,000 miles during the trip. After Albi, we biked
to St. Affrique, trained to Montpillier, then on to Grenoble for
Thanksgiving with Kristens friend. We hopped trains to get to a 10-day
silent Vipassana meditation retreat between Florence and Bologna. Then we
trained down to our final host between Florence and Rome.
NE: Was this a honeymoon trip?
Stanton: Ha-hah. Nope. Were just dating.
NE: How did you two meet?
Stanton: Kristen and I met in a Native American Religion class at Michigan
State University in Spring of 2008.
NE: How did you prepare for the trip?
Stanton: We prepared by studying the blogs of some tourers, like
downtheroad.org, CrazyGuyOnABike, and asking everyone we could find.
Kristen and I canvassed the local bike shops in Lansing, Ann Arbor,
Traverse City and the Detroit Metro area in order to find all the right
stuff for our trip.
I purchased my bike two years before I met Kristen, with the hope to go
touring one day. I planned a tour from Istanbul to Ireland with some guys
from England, but that turned out to be too expensive for a college
student. I slowly amassed my gear, getting my Ortleib panniers in 2008,
and getting as many miles under my Spandex as I could.
When I met Kristen, we biked a lot! I had a tandem on campus and we used
to ride quite a bit. During the early part of 2009, Kristen got herself a
Trek 1.2 in the perfect shade of blue. We had decided that we wanted to go
on an adventure after she graduated and thought that going by bike would
be the most fun and least expensive.
Kristen searched for all the right gear: Brooks B-17 saddles, Lone Peak
handlebar bags, clipless shoes, water bottle cages, lights, and 3 liter
CamelBaks for hydration. All that was left were sleeping arrangements.
During a late-night eBay search, I found the perfect tent, the MSR Hubba
Hubba... Easy to set up, strong, and roomy. We had originally thought of
going with Hennessey Hammocks, but in retrospect, that would have been
really hard -- its difficult to find two-to-four trees close enough
together to set up the hammock!
Kristen moved back to her parents after graduation. We wanted to go for a
short tour before our big European bike ride, so we met in the Thumb of
Michigan and played around for five days. We tested our gear, honed our
ninja camping skills, and made some delicious oatmeal on the stove. Five
days flew by, and we felt like we were really ready!
NE: Why did you decide to bike through southern Europe?
Stanton: When Kristen and I chatted, we said Lets go for awhile. A
couple months. Then we decided that four months sounded good. No real
reason; maybe because it was more than 100 days, or because we thought it
would be crazy to be gone that long.
Our next stop was to look at a map and see where to go. I studied Spanish
in high school and in college for a semester, so I was comfortable with
it. Spain looked good. But four months in Spain was too much. We looked at
a map and said Rome looks good. Lets go from Spain to Rome. Madrid.
Yeah, lets go there. Next, we talked to Patty at Passageways about
tickets. To our luck, British Airways flies all bicycles for free. We
grabbed tickets for $650 each, including a few cocktails on the trips
NE: Was it tough biking through the mountains or through Europe?
Stanton: The mountains between Spain and France were actually really easy
-- we took a pass from Figueres (Salvidor Dalis hometown) to Perpignan
France, which was all downhill! Id hate to do it the other way. We must
have coasted at 45km/hour for 30 minutes. A beautiful sight heading into
NE: Did you camp much or mostly stay at inns?
Stanton: We camped in Spain all the time. Sleeping in fields, public
gardens (in Girona), train stations, campgrounds, or even inside peoples
homes who invited us in.
We had four long-stay hosts; one near Alicante, Spain, one near Barcelona,
another in Albi, France, and our final host between Florence and Rome. We
stayed at these peoples homes and were provided food and a bed for
four-five hours of work a day, five days a week. The work ranged from
picking kiwi to turning out a horse bed. We had afternoons to ourselves
and traveled and explored the countryside and cities whenever we could.
The bikes were great to get us to the train stations, down to the local
watering hole, or out to the middle of nowhere.
NE: Was it expensive?
Stanton: When we were cycling in Spain, it wasnt too expensive. Wed
spend on average, $50-60 a day total, unless we had to pay to sleep. Wed
shower in the oceans, eat at the supermarket, and relax on the beaches.
When we got into Italy, we spent a lot of time in hostels due to the nasty
weather and lack of safety in the big town for all of our gear. When we
were at the hosts, wed spend less than $50 a week, unless we wanted to
leave and have dinner together.
NE: Funniest moment?
Stanton: Weve had a ton of funny moments. Being together for four months
straight and not having anyone to openly talk with in our native tongue,
we had a million inside jokes. One constantly funny thing was the way
people looked at us when we were hauling around our gear. Kristen and I
would catch their eyes and theyd always give the same daaaaaaaaaaamn
facial expression, then do this hand motion that looked like they were
packing a Skoal can.
NE: Did you run into any bad situations?
Stanton: Nothing bad, just some serious challenges.
Check out Casey & Kristens blog at http://www.rawandfit.com/biketour/