Interview with a world traveller: Jocelyn Rice, part I.

Jocelyn and Mike have cycled literally around the world since 2011. Mike is a retired electrical engineer after working almost 30 years on the Space Shuttle Program. He then decided to travel and find adventure work while he awaits his wife’s retirement. Jocelyn is an athlete, cyclist, and adventurer. She has spent the last two summers as a camp counselor and lifeguard in Washington State. Her career goal is to lead cycling expeditions around the world. They have been in 36 countries until now, and cycled more than 20,000 miles (32,000 km). At this moment they are heading towards the city of Santiago in Chile, while passing through the Atacama desert.

András: First of all, let me give you guys a huge compliment for these breathtaking achievements! As I understood while reading your blog, adventure has been always part of your life. But how did cyclotouring and your first joint tour, the Southern Tier, came up in the first place? Did you have any cyclotouring experiences from earlier? Did some one help you with the preparation?

Jocelyn: I first learned about cycle touring when I was in 5th grade with my teacher Mr. Smouse. We read an article of a man who cycled all the way across the United States. I was fascinated from the beginning because I never knew you could do such a thing. My family drove across to California once, but we usually flew, as both my parents are from there. So I started planning my first tour that very summer.

I recruited my two sporty boyfriends and we trained every weekend for our 15 mile summer bike tour. My dad chaperoned us because the boys and I would get into fights. He was mostly there to protect the boys from me. That is when my dad, Mike, took a fancy to cycling. He wasn't in good shape and figured this would be a better way to work out in Florida. He always loved to run, but his knees had been giving him problems. At that point, he would bike ride every Saturday 50 miles and Sundays sometimes up to 100 miles! I would join him when I could, but during these times I was very busy participating in high school sports and teenage drama.
Our neighbor Chris had done his fair share of cycle touring around the US and shared photos, maps, and stories of his wonderful adventures. Mike chose to retire from the Space Shuttle program in 2011 when it was terminated, and decided to bike the southern tier to his sister’s home in San Diego. Mike had actually announced to our family during Christmas 2010 that he was preparing for this retirement plan, and I quickly told him I was joining him. At that time, I didn't know what I was doing at University, so he let me join in for the ride, and then the planning began for two.

András: I am sure it made quite an impact on you, because not even a year later you were already busy with the preparation for your next trip in New-Zeland. Why did you choose your next destination on the other side of the globe? Why New-Zealand?

Jocelyn: Our first tour was indeed a memorable, challenging, and emotional ride. But once we finally made it to San Diego and dipped our tires into the Pacific Ocean we were ready for the next adventure. After returning home, my father landed a job in Antarctica! So he was stationed at McMurdo for their winter and quickly found out about New Zealand and how beautiful it is to bicycle around their islands. We discussed his plans by email and he asked if I wanted to join him. Meanwhile that summer, I was working at a Girl Scout camp in Washington State. I had never been out of the country so I said of course, but I didn't know much about that island. So I Google researched and fell in love with the diversity. New-Zealand is a place filled with the beauty of our earth, the ever-changing topical scenery, and many challenging climbs!

András: What was the most significant experience in New-Zealand (can be good and bad also)?

Jocelyn: I guess we want to talk about the bad, which could be misunderstood by some. New Zealand is beautiful and a wonderful country to cycle around, but... the winds on the South Island are ferocious, which can be an understatment. On this memorable day the winds had been reported over 120 kph. I remember it well on account it was the day after my 22nd birthday, October 18th, 2012. We had tried to make it around this bend but the wind kept pushing us back, we were rather upset and tried to hitchhike around and up past the windy ’tunnel.’ No one even stopped to ask if we needed help or tried to help us. So we walked our bikes for a few kilometers, kicking stones as we went. We came up to a road block with a ’wide loaded truck’ on its side in the middle of the road! It had passed us before and we were shocked.
The wind was in fact that strong. After we made it around the bend, the wind calmed down...we enjoyed a nice lobster lunch from a food truck and was told of a hidden waterfall where Fur Pup seals go while their parents are out hunting. So we hid the bikes, hiked to the waterfall and looked upon the playful seals. One even came up to me and smelled my stinky feet. Though a lot of the days were memorable around this island this day stuck out more so than others.

András: In January 2014 you began your big tour from Morocco to Thailand, which was almost a year of cycling. How did you figure out the route and how much time was the preparation for such a big project? Was there a point when you said that this might be too much for us and just leave it, better not to begin at all?

Jocelyn: Firstly, this was our third tour together as a ”Father Daughter team” but this was in fact my 6th tour. I had ridden two solo tours and one ’Trans American’ tour with my good friend Rachel. And in October, 2013 I rode solo to Missoula, Montana to take the ’Tour Leadership’ Class with Adventure Cycling Association. I have learned many life-skills to be self-sustainable in the world while cycling and also have become fond of planning routes. I find it most enjoyable to plan the routes, and be able to adjust due to various situations. Anyways, we did plan a thorough route from Morocco, into Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, China and South East Asia .It was considered a ’safety route’ to keep our family semi-content in knowing our whereabouts. My dad did indeed purchase way too many tools, too much camping gear and so on. I tried telling him it was too much, but the engeener that he is, he insisted on carrying it all. We never felt like quiting from the start, even though the process of preparing is daunting!  It was a thrill I still feel every time we set out on a different road.
So once we landed in Marrakesh, Morocco we were culture shocked, trying to put our bikes together on top of a hostel terrace while also trying to fit this fancy gear inside. Needless to say, we spent a few days getting ready. Oddly enough, we met a man named Abraham that offered to be our guide around Morocco. He told us that our previous route wasn’t very exciting and that he would take us to see the ’Real Morocco.’ Well, we couldn’t help feeling intrigued and safe with a local by our side. In reality, Abraham helped guide us in the process of cycling around the world. What a wonderful place to begin our adventure around the world.

András: I consider myself as a European citizen, since I was living in different countries in Europe, from my perspective I would think that cycling from Morocco to Georgia through South Europe shouldn't be a problem. Do you confirm this or deny this fact? What did you like the most in this first section of the tour? What was the most challenging in the first half year?

Jocelyn: We didn’t have many problems through Europe. We didn’t get a stamp when we crossed the Gibraltar Strait into Spain so when we crossed from Slovenia into Croatia we did have some trouble with the guards. But when we played dumb, they just gave us another three month stamp...So In reality we could have stayed even longer! While we did travel through Europe we seemed to be one month ahead of the tourism summer, luckily we found off season prices everywhere. My dad enjoys having a bed, a shower, being warm at night, so we didn’t camp as much as I would have liked. I enjoy camping, smelling like flowers and earth, and being cold at night. We had our problems surface as a result of this difference. The difficulty in keeping us both happy while traveling wasn’t possible. Esepcially with my father holding the wallet and I lashed out quite a few times. But once entering more remote areas, we camped more. Which brought us both a sense of security and happiness. I guess that was the most challenging time for me in the beginning of our world tour.


You can read the second part of the interview with Jocelyn Rice about her world touring adventures, tomorrow at 20:30 GMT here on our blog.

Thank you, greetings!

András Herczog