Taking It On The Road: Bike
To Eat; Eat To Bike!
by Ed Noonan
When you travel by bicycle in remote areas, weight is a major limitation, but you don't often have the luxury in such places of prepackaged lightweight backpacker food. You are stuck with what is offered at the grocery stores along your way. The good news is that some relatively weightless items are showing up in normal grocery stores.
On my 1996 Alaska to Florida bicycle trip, food was my weakest link. I didn`t have a clue what to eat on a bicycle tour. I couldn`t seem to come up with simple meals that were weightless enough to carry on my bike. On canoe trips, weight never meant much to me. When backpacking I often used freeze-dried food for short trips, but you bought that stuff from outfitters. I didn`t find freeze-dried food in the food stores that I was able to shop at from my bicycle, and that stuff isn't very inspiring anyway.
Riding in remote Big Berland, Alberta, Canada, for dinner I had purchased a package of macaroni and cheese and a can of tuna to add to it, but because I use reading glasses and had left them in my handlebar bag, I didn`t read the directions. If I had, I would have realized that I needed butter and milk, which I didn`t have. I made macaroni and cheese without milk or butter and it was no surprise that it tasted awful. Lesson learned: whatever interesting prepackaged dry food you purchase, you really need to read the directions in the store. Don't wait until you get to your campsite.
Without carrying cans or having refrigeration, it takes some careful shopping to produce a decent meal. Several folks suggested "meals in a bag." I looked carefully at the grocery stores in Grande Prairie and Grande Cache, Alberta but didn`t see any such items. I looked into powdered milk, but the smallest package I saw weighed several pounds, so I would have had to throw most of it away. I couldn't justify carrying a month's supply of powdered milk on my bicycle.
Since then, I've been experimenting with other options and have seen some really interesting new products showing up At Meijer, for instance, I recently found Casbah Teapot Soups from Sahara Natural Foods, Inc. of Irwindale, California. These are like cup-a-soups without the cup or chemicals. You supply the cup. You don't need the preservatives. The ingredients in these tasty low fat soups are nothing but dehydrated vegetables. Offerings include a tasty Vegetarian Minestrone, Garden Couscous, Lentil, Vegetarian Chicken Noodle, Potato Leek, Santa Fe Rice'n Beans, Split Pea Soup with Carrots, Black Bean, Vegetarian Chili, and Corn Chowder. Preparation is simple; just add one cup of boiling water. It would be easy to supplement these 1.2-2.1 oz. packages with more water and ramen noodles, instant rice or just about any canned or dry meat you might want to add. I found a place on the Web, where they offer 140 assorted packages of these soups for only $88.70 <>. That's enough for a transcontinental journey.
A couple of months ago I also found Instant Refried Black Beans from a company called Mexicali Rose of El Paso, Texas <mexicalirose.com>. Just bringing their 6 oz. package of dried black beans and water to a boil and simmering for 5 minutes produces 24 oz. of really goodblack beans, which you could eat separately or on a taco shell or burrito with tomato and grated cheese. I've had no trouble cooking up just a portion of these beans at a time.
Be creative. There are all sorts of instant rices, to which you can add fish or meat. Adding one of the new 3 oz. Foil packages of tuna to Ramen noodles, would be excellent. You can even add jerky to Ramen. And, you can stir-fry Ramen with all sorts of veggies or meats.
For dessert, instant pudding isn't too hard to deal with (as long as it doesn't need milk). Though fig bars are heavy, they seem to fill me up, so I buy small packages of them.
For small packages of snack food, the best bet is a truck stop.
Of course, I've never found a good lightweight substitute for French toast or hot fudge sundaes, so an occasional restaurant stop is necessary whenever they're available.
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© Ed Noonan 2002