Are You Nuts!?

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A brief memoir about an inspiring bike journey that helped push me to the edge.

Most of us in the good ole US of A were raised under something of a work hard, play later dogma. Do your homework before you watch TV; get above average grades and receive an allowance; attend a good university and you’ll land a good job; work 50 hours a week for 40+ years and then you can reap the benefits. It all seems to funnel to an ultimate goal: work hard now, then live out a perfect golden twilight marinating somewhere in a temperate climate, if you are lucky. For some, that formula is not an option. For others, a midlife kick in the ass derails it. For Craig Bierly, the cards were slightly different, but timed just right.

For as long as I can remember, I had a big ‘freakout’ in the hopper. I wanted to do it while I was still relatively young, because you just never know. I’d ditch the 9-5, live off bean sandwiches, see the world, do what I want, and make the most of my time. A stint of post-college international travel helped light the flame, and it was stoked by the knowledge that my grandfather dropped dead at 40 from a bad pumper. Then there are always those blood-and-thunder fears that ferment in the mind’s crannies, worries that I may miss my chance due to some tragic cosmic dice roll… an 18-wheeler on I-40, a rogue comet, ebola, the apocalypse, or some other cloaked menace crouching on the roadside. I didn’t want to be that unlucky sap who chokes to death on his last bite of a mediocre entree just before the cheesecake is served. I often get asked, “How did you get the nerve to just quit your job and take off?”. If I gave the long answer, it would take the format of an Academy Awards speech; there would be a lot of people to thank and the music would fade in well before I finished. I’ve been plagued by dirtbag wanderlust since my 20s, but I owe the over-the-cliff push to inspiration from authors, songwriters, and a few peers who took the plunge before me. I met one such gentleman the other day.

Craig Bierly, Sprinter Van

  • Craig Bierly, Sprinter Van
  • Craig Bierly, Sprinter Van, Turner Bikes

After rubbing the sleep out of my eyes on a spit of national forest land outside of Sedona, the go-to local spot where van dwellers and dirty mountain biking freeloaders can camp without a fee, I squinted across the morning desert to see his bumper-sticker blanketed Sprinter parked about 200 yards away. It’s well-decorated with assorted bike shop stickers, photos, a painted sign with the word ‘Jingoism’, and all kinds of mountain bike brand logos, but Craig Bierly doesn’t have any official sponsors. He isn’t employed, albeit he has a business card with a tagline, ‘Doing what I want since 2008.’ That’s the year Craig first set out in his van with the intention of mountain biking in each of the lower 48 states over the course of a year. It took him 11 months to complete that goal, and, since then, that single year has turned into seven. He’s still going strong. I initially read about Craig’s adventure in an 2009 issue of Bike Mag. Since then I’ve caught a glimpse of his van parked at The Hub in Pisgah, NC, one of his favorite haunts, and one of mine. On that occasion, we didn’t meet. He must have been on the trails.

Later that day in Sedona, I had the pleasure of meeting Craig outside the Bike ’n Bean, the area’s favorite bike shop. This brief introduction, which included a little Sprinter show-and-tell, led to several nights of existing as temporary neighbors in the Coconino National Forest. Craig’s not shy to tell stories, or pry them out of you. A few nips of his prized Tennessee moonshine wrung out conversations about hero trails across the US, our common acquaintances in Pisgah, crusty mobile living tricks, and how we each discovered life on the road.

  • Craig Bierly, Sprinter Van
  • craig-bierly-07
  • Craig Bierly, Sprinter Van

Craig Bierly, Sprinter Van

In 1978 Craig had his first freakout. He sold his house, stubbed out a career in a non-ferrous foundry, and drove west to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. He recalls folks questioning, “Are you nuts?” That became his mantra. In the early 80s he returned to a somewhat regular life in Spokane, squeezed out 22 years of work for the Boeing corporation, and rode out two layoffs. All the while he was backpacking, skiing, mountain biking, and clipping articles of where he wanted to ride one day when he had more time. The second layoff led to 14 months of unemployment which stoked a forgotten truth… that time was much more valuable than money. He was like a rocket waiting for someone to push the red button.

Craig Bierly, Sprinter Van, R U Nuts Adventures

In 2006 Craig received a lump sum from a union contract violation settlement and paid cash for a new Dodge Sprinter. That was the finger on the button. Inspired by memories of his father’s sailboat, Craig took a human engineering approach to designing his escape vehicle, likening the design to the vessel that had carried his family of six on multi week seafaring trips during his childhood. “To date I haven’t cleaned a bathroom or mowed a yard,” he mentioned as he showed me his eclectic collection of skulls and talismans that adorn the dashboard. Somewhere amidst sharing travel stories he told me that his adventure wasn’t as ballsy as living on a bike, but it’s comfortable. It works for him. The van has allowed him to camp in fantastic places, such as the Daisy BB gun factory in Bentonville, AR, a front-row spot in the shadow of Mt. Hood, a clearing in the forest where he once awakened to the sound of propane jets inflating hot air balloons, and the woods near Downieville where a bobcat pounced on his roof.

Craig Beirly Sprinter Van Bike n Bean, Sedona

Sedona is somewhat of a home base to Craig. On the wall next to a ratty couch in the Bike ’n Bean there’s a map with pins identifying all the places where Craig has ridden. Craig is 65 years old now, and he’s had several shoulder surgeries and a knee nip. When asked how long he’ll keep going, he answered:

“As long as my body lets me. At that point, I will have beaten it beyond repair, then I’ll find a piece of land, perhaps on the dry side of the Oregon Cascades, and design and build a small house… get a dog and a cat and grow a square foot garden. That’s my dream.”

My bet is that wherever he ends up, it will be in the right place at the right time.

  • Craig Bierly, Sprinter Van
  • Craig Bierly, Sprinter Van

Craig Beirly Sprinter Van Bike n Bean, Sedona

P.S. Thanks go out to Virginia, Craig Beirly, Alan Watts, Alastair Humphries, Cass Gilbert, Joe Cruz, Nicholas and Lael, The Pikes, The Dirtbag Diaries, Chris McCandless, Isaac Brock, Merriwether Lewis, Willie Weir, Ryszard Kapuslcinlki, Aldo Landwehr, Jim Toab, Chris Watts ………… etc, etc, etc.


  • Brad

    What a cool dude. Great post Logan. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nomadic Justin

    Inspiring as hell, Logan. Thanks for sharing Craig’s story. I’ll be adding him right after you on my list of people to thank.

  • Michael James Hermann

    We are always stoked when Craig rolls in for a few days of riding single track in Rothrock and Bald Eagle in Central PA. He inspires many people to find their own trail in life!

  • mikehowarth

    Awesome tale. Thanks for sharing it Logan!

  • j p nuts

    It’s me. Logan you told my story well. My mantra is get something for yourself, I believe Springsteen said those words. As Logan said he didn’t want to die b4 the cheesecake was served, cheesecake being dessert of your life doing what you want. To do it it means making money and resource decisions. Hi Herm, I do like riding in the Appalachians. Presently I am waiting for a rerepair of my damaged right shoulder, the surgeon’s skill and my damaged tissue will determine my future. Get some for yourself.

  • Logan

    Thanks Mike!

  • Logan

    Thanks Brad!

  • Logan

    Awesome, LOL, thanks Justin!

  • Logan

    Thanks Michael. .. I need to get up to that neck of the east cast!

  • Alan J – Dirty Teeth

    Fan. Frickin. Tastic. Get some for yourself. Love it.

  • Logan

    Thanks ! Get some!

  • Logan

    Thanks Craig… glad you like it. Look forward to catching up again soon… Enjoy the cheesecake!

  • Amy

    great story Logan, makes you stop and think. hope you two are well. we are missing the hell out of y’all.

  • nin

    Amazing story.
    Sorry to be repetitive but thanks for sharing this.

    Makes you think what life us really all about.

  • Wandering by Bicycle

    Thanks for sharing this story and also cluing me into The Dirtbag Diaries, another podcast I’m sure I’ll be hooked on.

  • Logan

    Thanks Amy! Missing you guys as well!

  • Logan

    Thanks nin!!

  • Logan

    Dirtbag Diaries is definitely a good one to get hooked on!

  • Michael Viglianco

    Get a job.

  • Logan

    A what?

  • Arthur Silva

    Get a life.

  • YKnot

    Very we’ll written and most entertaining. The theme strikes a cord with many of us. Greetings from South Africa.

  • Logan


  • Kyle

    Passed Craig a couple weeks ago on the Lunch Loops. I thought I recognized him, then I saw his van pulling out as I got back to the lot. Would have enjoyed some moonshine and stories. Inspiring human!

  • bushtrucker

    Rad post mate!