We caught up with Lani and Jordan, IMBA’s Trail Crew to see what life is like living out of a Subaru Outback! We have to admit, we are a little jealous of their amazing life and adventures.
Lani and Jordan, tell us about your job with IMBA.
We signed on as the “Subaru/ IMBA Trail Care Crew” with IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) agreeing to travel the country spreading the good word about sustainable trail development. Each weekend, we work with a different community to help with local trail development and educate the local volunteer bases on sustainable trail building techniques. We also work with land managers to help them better understand mountain biking, and inform local leaders on the benefits of trails. The beauty of our job is having the opportunity to visit bike clubs, trails and communities throughout the country, allowing us to absorb many of the great things we see in certain communities and pass them along through future visits. To make this happen, we live out of a Subaru Outback, equipped with two Trek bikes, Yakima racks, presentation materials, and all of the gear we need to explore and ride the places we visit.
That sounds awesome, what’s it like to live out of a Subaru?
It is great having everything we need everywhere we go. We’ve spent a couple of weeks over the past 20 months away from the Subaru, and we feel lost without it. There is nothing better than pulling into Squaw Valley, CA in late April planning to ride dry trails, but waking up to 10” of new snow. Luckily, we were prepared on that occasion. With our skis and backcountry gear tucked away in our Yakima box, we were able to fit a couple of days of backcountry skiing in. However, the endless game of Subaru Tetris involving packing, unpacking, loading and unloading is a huge time suck for us.
What is the most challenging part of life on the road?
Decisions… To our detriment we are both very indecisive people. Combining two indecisive people in unfamiliar places can be disastrous. As we work to squeeze the best experience out of every place we visit, we are slaves to the iPhone and Yelp. The most tiresome aspect of our job are the daily decisions. Where to eat? Where to sleep? Where to find Internet? Where to do laundry? Is there a place to shower later? And of course, where to ride? Obviously, there are worse decisions to deal with, but waking up in a different bed almost every morning, yearning to discover a new trail or experience requires a fine balance of spontaneity, planning, a desire to constantly be on the go, and of course, making decisions.
What about your favorite part?
Exposure… We get to see our large, and extremely diverse country! We can barely keep track of all the places we eat at, ride, and visit. It is so fun meeting people, asking where they are from, and being able to talk about that place. There is nothing better than finding great trails and access to outdoor recreation, but we also enjoy discovering little treasures that unassuming places have to offer, whether it’s the tight-knit community, a certain person, or a great restaurant.
How do you keep organized in such a small place?
When dealing with cubic inches rather than cubic feet for a living space, spatial awareness, organization, and minimalism are critical to staying sane on the road. Everything must have it’s place. It is not unusual to see me digging for something inside of a bag that is inside of another bag. We use Sea to Summit Garment Mesh Bags to compartmentalize all of our belongings. The mesh bags are our drawers, allowing us to live out of one big duffle, and find whatever piece of gear we need for the day or the moment. We also love our Sea to Summit X-Products, they pack nicely into the Subaru.
What are some of the most amazing places you have visited?
We have been to many amazing places. The top three places that come to mind right away are Telluride, CO, Stanley, ID, and Stokesville, VA. We are very drawn to high alpine mountains, which Telluride and Stanley are full of. Stokesville, VA offers some of the best riding in the country, and we hit it during peak foliage, so the memories are phenomenal. The most unassuming place for mountain biking would be Maui, HI. Places in the mid-west, such as Duluth, Cable, and Marquette feature some of our favorite trails too.
Can you give us any insight on the future of mountain biking and trail systems around the US?
It is a great time to be a mountain biker. Phenomenal trail systems and tight-knit riding communities are growing across the country. Mountain biking is accessible to the masses and communities are realizing it’s a great way to develop healthier, more engaged residents and help people appreciate the local natural world, wherever that may be.
You must have some favorite breweries that you have found along the way?
Of course! The list went on forever, so we narrowed it down to our top 10. Don’t even ask about coffee or ice cream.
- Elevation Brewery- Poncha Springs, CO
- Ale Asylum- Madison, WI
- Russian River- Santa Rosa, CA
- Bell’s Brewery- Kalamazoo, MI
- Pfriem- Hood River, OR
- Ballast Point – San Diego, CA
- Black Rocks- Marquette, MI
- Maui Brewing- Maui, HI
- Surly Brewing- Minneapolis, MN
- Carlyle- Rockford, IL
Any tips or advice you would give to someone considering life on the road?
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – Things don’t always go as planned, so it’s important to try not to let the little things get you down. For example, when you take advantage of the hotel laundry machines to wash a load of clothes before you hit the road, only to find that the dryer is broken. Or when you’ve driven 11 hours and arrive at a questionable motel at 12am with someone vomiting in the parking lot, shady cars pulling in and out, and realize you may not get the best night’s sleep here or wake up with all of your belongings still in the car. So you deal with canceling your room, arguing for a refund, and then having to get back in the car for an hour to find a better part of town. It’s all a matter of keeping things in perspective, dealing with the minor bumps in the road, and adapting.
- Embrace what you have going on. Some places are great for getting out in the woods and exploring, others, not so much. We have spent many days wandering malls and sprawl because it was the most accessible activity. When in the south, eat fried chicken and all the soul food you can get your hands on. Sometimes it’s as simple as interacting with an incredibly nice ice cream scooper, who feeds off of our stoke level (we get really excited when we eat good food).
- Talk to the locals. Finally, we always try to talk to locals. Even if we don’t follow their advice, it’s always fun to engage with locals, especially those from completely different walks of life.