If you didn’t read our first blog with Frances, check it out here – https://www.hiplok.com/frances-grier-bikepacking/
It’s been two months since we last spoke to Frances, so we thought we should find out where she was on the journey, and specifics, like which continent she was in. Luckily, Frances had been keeping us updated with her Find Frances section on her blog whenever she’s had stable internet and through her excellent Beeline data shares.
“I’m in Georgia just now, country number twelve, and taking a few days’ rest before meeting up with another cyclist and heading into Azerbaijan and the ‘Stans” I’m at about 5000km in 80 days which is an achievement I never really thought I would manage – so things are going well! Good days and bad days, of course, but I’m having a very interesting time and seeing some wonderful places and meeting all sorts of people along the way, so it’s very worthwhile.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED SO FAR?
Unfortunately I feel that all my biggest challenges have been because I’m a) a woman and b) alone. I am struck by how much tougher my journey is because of my vulnerability compared with a man travelling alone or any of the pairs and couples I have met out here, whether in finding a safe and secluded camp spot or needing some encouragement to get up a hill.
CONVERSELY, WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST HIGHLIGHTS?
I think this vulnerability (perceived or real) is also the reason I have experienced some incredible hospitality and generosity from local people which in some ways has been one of the most amazing things about this trip so far. It has really changed my perspective on how humans interact with each other and how much kindness there is in the world, and I will be sure to extend this kindness onwards when I am in a position to do so. I am also really enjoying seeing all the old Silk Road sites, the fortresses and bazaars and caravan hideouts, and there will be many more in the days ahead!
WE ORIGINALLY GOT IN TOUCH WHEN WE SAW THE FLIMSY LOCK YOU WERE PLANNING ON TAKING, SO HOW HAS THE HIPLOK LITE BEEN?
I want to believe that the world is a happy place where touring bicycles are considered more special than mere material possessions and don’t get stolen, but having had a couple of bikes stolen in the past it’s not really worth taking the chance. If Penelope disappears then my trip is over. I was a bit resistant to taking a large lock such as this but there have been numerous occasions in cities where a chunkier lock has given me huge peace of mind overnight, so I’m very glad that I did. As a bonus it is reflective which, with some of the driving I have seen out here, is no bad thing! It too has had a couple of unexpected uses, namely as another layer of insulation on those chilly days crossing Europe, and also in more recent days as a belt with my decreasing waistline.
HAVE YOU FOUND A USE FOR THE Z LOKS?
It provides just enough discouragement when leaving Penelope outside somewhere for a little while. With all her bags on she is pretty unwieldy for the uninitiated – and quite a head turner, if I say so myself – so if I’m leaving her fully loaded then this lock is enough to stop anyone trying to get her moving without causing a commotion. Back home it would be perfect for stops at a cafe or in the park where you’re never far away, and I use it to secure my saddle to my bike when I’m in cities as I don’t want to have it pinched and have the posterior/saddle stand off again as I break in another one.
WHERE DOES THE ROAD LEAD TO NEXT?
Next up is Azerbaijan, then the Caspian Ferry to Kazakhstan and up towards to Pamir Highway which I’m really looking forward to, though it’s going to be mighty tough.
We’re excited to follow Frances on the next part of her journey – especially the route through the Pamir Mountains in ‘The Stans’ (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan). It is the only continuous route through the difficult terrain of the mountains and has been in use for thousands of years, as there are a limited number of viable routes through the high Pamir Mountains. The road formed one link of the ancient Silk Road trade route.