Jim Dodson: Would you like to do bike travel but don't have the money or don't want to spend the money for an expensive touring bike? I want you to meet Christy Foust who answered that problem by building her own touring bike at the St. Pete Bike Co-op. How are you Christy?
Christy Foust: Doing very well, thank you.
Jim Dodson: Yeah it's good to talk to you today.
Christy Foust: And thank you for having me.
Jim Dodson: So, you had a little bit of a turning 40 moment and you wanted to make a change in your life, why don't you tell us about that?
Christy Foust: Yeah, about six months or so before I turned 40 I realized it was coming up and was wondering what I should do, something I wanted to do something big for my 40th birthday and all the kind of normal sorts of ideas like cruises and things like that just didn't quite fit what I was looking for. So a friend finally mentioned the Route Verte in Canada which is a series of bicycle trails and what not and my response was let's go ride bikes in Canada. So that kind of started everything.
Jim Dodson: A worthy endeavor, I know. But the problem was you were just a very casual recreational cyclist, right? And you didn't have a bike to make such a trip?
Christy Foust: I didn't I thought I did I had a 1980 Schwinn Traveler that I was so sure that I was going to take on this trip. So in the process of getting that bike ready I kinda realized it wasn't gonna cut the trip that I had in mind so I ended up switching over and ultimately building my own bike.
Jim Dodson: Tell us about that. So where did you go and how did you build your bike?
Christy Foust: So I live in downtown St. Pete so the St. Pete Bike Co-op has a shop right by the shuffle board courts and for a very low nightly fee or a membership fee you pay and they have all the tools they have volunteers that help you so and they're open Monday nights and Thursday nights from 6:30 to 9:30 so for two nights a week and probably more than that for about three or four months I was in there getting help with building this bike. I started off with a Nashbar lugged steel frame and we built it up from there. 26 inch wheels and, I don't know, all kinds of goodies to help to make the trip a little more smooth.
Jim Dodson: You sound like you know more about bikes than you did before you started this project.
Christy Foust: Probably just a little bit. Just a little bit.
Jim Dodson: Could you have changed a tire on your own before you started really getting serious about taking this trip?
Christy Foust: I was literally that unknowledgeable about bikes before I started building the bike. I couldn't have changed a tire. I might have figured it out by luck but like I couldn't have done it with any amount of skill. So certainly they taught me everything, how to change a tire to changing out the bottom bracket and tweaking the hubs, the axles and everything. So, I still don't consider myself an expert but definitely I know much more than I did back in August of 2017.
Jim Dodson: So, what did you want to have in your bike, in other words, what were you looking for to have before you took the trip? How do you feel you did with that?
Christy Foust: My biggest fear was just the hills. Cause even with my Schwinn Traveler when I was, in San Antonio, Florida kinda practicing hills, I had to stop. Like my gearing was not, I didn't have enough low gears to get up those hills.
Jim Dodson: Right.
Christy Foust: So, I wanted that I would say as far as that goes, I didn't do such a good job at planning that cause I still had to stop a lot on those hills in Canada. But I definitely, the way the layout of the bike and the way I could carry my panniers and that sort of thing was definitely better on the bike I built than it ever would have been on the, on the Schwinn. So, yeah so the gearing, at least between my leg power and the bike was, I had to stop a lot on the mountains basically in the Quebec Province where I was. So bigger, lower gears next time.
Jim Dodson: Yeah, you need a three chain rings maybe.
Christy Foust: I need a bigger cassette I figured out. My chain rings are actually pretty decent. But yeah I need a bigger cassette I think, so.
Jim Dodson: Okay. So what did your bike end up having that really helped you get equipped to take this ride?
Christy Foust: The bike itself, I don't know, I still consider myself somewhat of a novice about, like, what it needs I will say, every time I choose to ride that bike over the road bike I bought, it just rides really smoothly. Everything, you know, just everything, everything feels smooth on that bike every time I get it, it feel like a Cadillac versus you know, and old Pinto, or something like that.
Jim Dodson: Right.
Christy Foust: So, so I will admit I a lot of help in making the bike, so obviously the volunteers there, they're very knowledgeable people who work in bike shops and things like that. So, they helped to council me and "hey put this on your bike" and I'm like, sometimes I didn't ask a whole lot of questions. So I can't fully answer about why it feels so good, and I definitely had a lot of help with the Bike Co-op to help with, help with those things that do, even if I can't explain them.
Jim Dodson: So, you, I mean, so you chose not to go down to a bike shop and buy a new bike, and you ended up creating your own bike using parts and access to the St. Pete Bike Co-op. So, you wanna share with us what you ended up putting into the bike in order to get ready for the trip?
Christy Foust: The bike itself I ended up buying some components new, and I put good tires on it. So those were a little pricey. So I'd say max cost on just the components, not panniers, cause I did buy new panniers as well, which were a bit pricey, but about $500, and then throw in the panniers and then it would round it out at about $1000. So, I did end up spending a decent amount of money on it, but compared to a brand new touring bike, its still probably 50% off at least. So, it's still a pretty good deal.
Jim Dodson: So how long did it take you...
Christy Foust: And I... Oh sorry.
Jim Dodson: Go ahead.
Christy Foust: Oh, I was just gonna say it can be done less expensively as well, like there are people that will go out on just a, a mountain bike right and throw their bags on it, you don't have to spend a lot.
Jim Dodson: I've interviewed them before, you know? I've interviewed people that did cross country rides on very inexpensive equipment. So what did you do, how long was it between like the germination of the idea and when you took off to go to Canada to do the ride?
Christy Foust: It was approximately nine months all total from that first seed to actually flying up there and, you know, starting the ride.
Jim Dodson: How many times did you take the bike you built up to San Antonio to try to get some hill exposure?
Christy Foust: Once if I'm gonna be honest. I went once and then I got really scared that's when I started building the other bike and then since I was building the other bike, I never went back, like it was never ready to go back until the very end. So, yeah, it never, the new bike really didn't get trained on hills too much, distance I did some camping trips up to Hillsborough State Park and Starkey Park which are about a 50 mile one way ride each. So I did length and tested out my panniers and things like that, but as far as hills they were kind of an unknown to me.
Jim Dodson: Right.
Christy Foust: Its probably better I didn't know anyway so its probably better I found in Canada otherwise I would have been too scared or something.
Jim Dodson: Alright, we're gonna talk about that. So, did you make this trip alone? Or did you go with someone?
Christy Foust: I did have a traveling partner, a friend, who now lives in California, so he, he's a bit of an adventurer. This was his first tour as well, although he was a bit more into cycling, commuting and things like that. Long distance road rides and things.
Jim Dodson: So, where were you headed? Where was your, trip gonna be? Where were you going?
Christy Foust: So we were up in the Gaspe Peninsula of, the Quebec Province of Canada which is basically due north of the most eastern portion of Maine.
Jim Dodson: Okay. And what was the lure up there that attracted you to it? Why did you pick that area of all the places in the world?
Christy Foust: So when I was bouncing ideas around of where I wanted to go for my trip, my ideal location would have been France. I'm a bit of a Francophile and I do speak some French and I just, I love Paris and I've been to a number of different places in France and I just love it. Plane tickets are very expensive there, so I was like, kinda what's the cheap mans France? So, you know, Quebec in general came to mind. So being able to speak French up there that was definitely and allure and having still a bit of something that felt different enough. So not, you know, something that felt like a true change and not just, I don't know, same thing in a different location. So that was part of it. That was the main draw to Quebec. Also, knowing the Route Verte was there I had a little different idea about it going into it thinking it was a more protected route than it really was but, just knowing those bike trails were there and the infrastructure was there, made me feel a little safer doing a big bike thing like this.
Jim Dodson: Okay.
Christy Foust: Yeah, so.
Jim Dodson: So when did you start and when did you finish?
Christy Foust: So our start date was June fourth of 2018.
Jim Dodson: Okay.
Christy Foust: When we first started out, it was about 35 degrees fahrenheit. So that was fun and it was a 13 day ride so we ended whenever 13 days after that is.
Jim Dodson: Okay, so what was your mileage? How many miles did you go in 13 days?
Christy Foust: A little shy of 500 miles.
Jim Dodson: Okay so, the biggest ride you had before you left was about 50 miles?
Christy Foust: 100 miles round trip I guess.
Jim Dodson: Okay.
Christy Foust: So 50 miles one way.
Jim Dodson: What was your goal in terms of what you intended to do each day in terms of covering mileage?
Christy Foust: Overall, since we, you know, had to get back to work and real life and things like that, we were probably averaging about 40-45 miles everyday. There were some days, our longest day that we had was 57 miles. So in the whole trip, that was the longest.
Jim Dodson: What were you doing for accommodations? Where were you staying?
Christy Foust: We did a nice mix of things. So, we did camping some nights, some nights we used the service Warm Showers, which is kind of like a couch surfing, but specifically for cyclists. So we had hosts to put us up for the night, let us get a warm shower, also fed us. Maybe gave us a tasty brew at the end of the night as well. And then there were nights too that we did hotels. So, a little mix of everything.
Jim Dodson: How much gear did you wind up taking on you bike when you took off?
Christy Foust: By weight, I probably had 45 lbs of gear. So I mean I had my tent, I had sleeping bags, I took cooking gear, a gas canister, to keep the you know, to use my stove and that sort of thing, it also warmed, it was fairly cold, certainly at the beginning of the trip so having clothing that would help to survive that--
Jim Dodson: First few days
Christy Foust: No, the first week it was rainy and cold. It was kinda yeah, it was kinda, it wasn't the funnest thing ever. When you were riding it wasn't bad, but once you stopped man, and it was windy too, so in the first few days we had a head wind too so all of the fun things at the beginning.
Jim Dodson: Yeah, all of the things people talk about. So, what's your, like. Somebody listening to your conversation and wondering about doing this, you had a couple of recommendations in terms of what you would tell anybody to get to make that if you're going to do this, you're going to follow in taste. I'm talking about your saddle and things.
Christy Foust: Yeah, a comfortable, definitely a comfortable saddle. I ended up going with a Selle Anatomica, which is a leather saddle that has a shorter break in time than the Berk saddles that a lot of people like. 'Cause I didn't wanna spend 500 miles getting use to my saddle. So I like the Selle Anatomica for that. I like, the panniers I was using was Arkel Panniers. They're tough, there's a lot of space in them, so they were super helpful in storing all my gear and I even had room to spare if I happen to need it for souvenirs or whatever. So those were definitely important things. Getting a good sleeping pad. I loved to camp, but I'm not the, I don't do it all the time so that's always an adjustment of sleeping on the hard ground. So having a good sleeping pad, 'cause for me sleeping was a huge challenge. I was not getting enough and it hurt. I could feel it from day to day, you know from riding for two full weeks nearly.
Jim Dodson: Tell us what you encountered that was most surprising that was difficult for you.
Christy Foust: It probably wasn't a surprise, but the hills. So if you go to the Gaspe Peninsula anyone who might go follow the same route, coming from Florida, the hills are still, you know they're there, but you you just don't know how steep they are in some cases until you get there. So, yeah, surprised but not surprised regarding that because we were riding the steepest grade that there was a sign for at least was 17% grade. Going down the hill on the other side was pretty interesting but going up, again I had to stop a lot. Just my legs couldn't keep peddling, so I would stop, take a breather, and then go 10, 15, 20 more meters, and then start up again. Just, that's how I got up the hills.
Jim Dodson: Hard to start up again at 17 degrees. You had to go lateral in the road and then come back again.
Christy Foust: Some of that, yeah, I mean, yeah, yeah I still, I don't know, that I managed somehow but I started making my own little switch backs, you know, riding in a little pattern. That was the only hill that had switch backs too.
Jim Dodson: This is also called The Green Way is that right? Or "The Green Route," the route you chose.
Christy Foust: Yes, well that would be the English translation.
Jim Dodson: Right, and it's not an off road paved path. It's a, it's mostly on the road riding on shoulders and paved roads, correct?
Christy Foust: Yeah, so yeah that was a little misleading when I was doing my research for the trip. When I saw pictures and things it looks like parts of it are, I was expecting something more like the Pinellas Trail, you know, that's away from cars. The scenery was gorgeous, so they weren't lying about that as far as the route, you know green green routes. But it's basically, it's a highway. When you're going, we went, started from a south west corner and went up and around. So all around that north, you know, every now and again there's somebody going by blowing us. But then right across the road, there's the Saint Lawrence River, you know the beautiful big river to accompany the semis going by.
Jim Dodson: Pretty cool. And, everybody who takes these rides typically uniformly talks about the goodness of people. You know, how people were warm and friendly and helpful pretty much where ever you go. Now, what was your experience?
Christy Foust: I would definitely agree with that. I mean Canadians, I feel like the stereotype is that they're already friendly anyway. But we had, apparently we were a little early for the normal bike tourist season. There was a campground that allowed us to camp at their site even though they weren't gonna open for a couple more days. And they didn't charge us or anything so that was super nice. Just people in general, when I was researching about the trip, a lot of people said don't go there if you don't speak English. Now I do speak some French so that does help, but they speak English enough, you know, you're gonna have to get through a pretty strong accent but everyone was super nice and really trying to communicate with you. And, probably the best example of it was when were getting very close to the end of our trip we had a head wind and my ankle was really sore and I was very concerned, me and my travel partner pulled off on the side of the road and we were talking about where we were gonna camp. There was kind of a closer site versus one that was longer. And as we're on the side, you know, on the shoulder talking about this, this truck starts to pull up, they're driving in the shoulder, and I'm like "what are they doing, they're gonna hit us." So I'm waving, he keeps coming but I think I made eye contact, so I'm like okay, what's going on? So he stops, got out of his car, or uh his truck, he had a canoe on it, and asked us if we knew about Warm Showers, we're like yeah. He asked us where we're staying, we told him. He's like "oh, my place is only a couple kilometers past that. You should just come," you know, "you can come camp in my backyard." He ended up putting us up for the night. He cooked us dinner, we had wine and talked. He had also picked up a tandem father and daughter who were also traveling the Gaspe Peninsula. They were also facing the same head wind and I know the daughter was a teenager. I don't think she was peddling so much, I think she was putting that on dad since he was up front. So dad was getting a little tired. Yeah so this guy, he picked up them already and then invited us to come join them. And yeah, so we ended up hanging out with him for that night. Cooked us dinner and cooked us breakfast the next day and saw us off. It was just a really cool experience. And well timed too, cause my ankle was definitely giving me problems and I was concerned we had one more day to go and I didn't wanna crap on the last day. So, that was probably my favorite experience from the whole thing, is having that happen.
Jim Dodson: So talk about the feeling the you have like having said about to build you bike, picked the route, accomplish your goal. What did this mean to you?
Christy Foust: It was definitely eye opening. I don't think with anything I have ever done I have challenged myself physically in that sort of way. So there's that aspect, just knowing I can do it. Starting to do some bike touring, I don't, I'm not sure if ill ever do as big of a trip, like 500 miles again. Maybe I will, I don't know. But just knowing that I can put camping gear on a bicycle and go camping is incredibly empowering and freeing. I used to be this car camper person that I felt like I had to take an entire back of a car filled with stuff to go camping. And I often didn't want to go camping because it just felt like such a big, it felt like too much work. So being able to do that is just, it just does feel empowering that I can go do this thing and I know I can ride my bike 50 miles now. My limit used to be like 5 miles. Now when I tell people I do that they look at me like.. I road to Tampa to go to the Gasparilla Festival bars. Its like a 40 mile round trip ride, you know, it didn't feel bad, it didn't feel terrible, you know? It was good, it felt good to just be out and be outside and be doing this thing. So, it's empowered me to feel more comfortable and certainly having the skills to be able to wrench on my own bike you know, I don't have to worry about getting stuck either so much.
Jim Dodson: Yeah, I understand. But no, you're a great guest I want to just pause here for a second. I hope you're enjoying our program today and our conversation with Christy. I wanted to tell you a little story that sort of shows why you want to be dealing with a bike lawyer if you ever get involved in a bike crash. We had a conversation with an adjuster this week and it involved an issue of whether, in their view, they said they wasn't sure if the bike had made contact with the car or the car had made contact with the bike. And I said wait a minute, you're really off the mark here because remember in Florida we have a rule that requires a safe passing distance. The minimum is three feet, so whether our contact made contact with the bike our client made contact with the bike or you hit our client, you're well within three feet and liability is clearly on your driver so, kinda put them on their heels right a way and they abandoned that argument. You know, and in our practice we have a passion for representing cyclists. It doesn't matter whether you have been involved in a bike crash or someone you know has been in a car crash or accident or something else that involves a personal injury. Just go to our website, jimdodsonlaw.com. Tell us your story. Tell us what happened and we'll get back to you and I'll give you a straight answer about what we can or can't do to help you. So Christy, I know that you've, you're actually on the board of St. Pete Bike Co-op now, have you really become more involved?
Christy Foust: After I was done with my bike, I carved out all that time, then I started volunteering during the time the I normally would have been wrenching on my own bike. So yeah, so from there I just got more involved and just kept kinda volunteering for different activities. We're starting to do some outreach programs around St. Pete's area as well, so that's my primary involvement right now. But its just, yeah its great to offer, you know, I feel like the Bike Co-op empowers other people in the same sort of way. We don't just fix their bike for them, we put the tools in their hands to give them the skills that they'll at least be a little more, maybe they'll be able to fix it next time there selves or feel a little more comfortable doing that and as you keep coming back you just learn more and more all the time. It's a really great organization.
Jim Dodson: We weren't really that familiar with the St. Pete Bike Co-op, and I know that it is a huge help to the Saint Pete Bike Community, making all that information to help and to make some knowledgeable assistance available to the people in Saint Petersburg. So, we appreciate them and we appreciate your involvement.
Christy Foust: Certainly. We work with Saint Pete Critical Mass and you know we join in with them on their rides on the last Friday of the month and certainly anyone who is interested in fixing their own bikes or for whatever reasons a new bike either isn't in their point or they just like old bikes, like some people just like the old vintage bikes and they wanna go that way, right. So we can help them and help them create those cool spiffy bikes or keep them maintained at least.
Jim Dodson: You're a great inspiration to your students, you're a high school biology teacher and I'm sure you're an inspiration to them.
Christy Foust: I'd like to think so. I did tell them about the bike trip and they seemed interested for about five seconds. And now its like oh, maybe.
Jim Dodson: You probably make more of an input than you think you know? Its not cool to be focused on those type of things.
Christy Foust: True, true so yeah.
Jim Dodson: They're listening, they're learning.
Christy Foust: I think so. I made them watch a slide show. There was a day that we finished early with something and they wanted to see some pictures. I showed them some of that too so, they seemed kinda into it, so.
Jim Dodson: So we appreciate Christy joining us on our live stream today. If you want more information about The Saint Pete Bike Co-op, go to their website at stpetebikecoop.wordpress.com and Christy thank you so much, we'll look forward to seeing you. And everybody, that's it from the Florida Bike Guy.