A former Alaskan is one of five finalists for the 2012 Outside Magazine Outdoor Adventure grant.
Quinn Langbauer is a 2007 Sitka High graduate. If he wins, he and his brother and a friend from college will spend most of next year bicycling over 7,000 miles across Siberia.
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Video: So what do Mike and Quinn really want to do? The plan is to retrace Mark’s two-wheeled expedition through Siberia, and contrast their experiences with Mark’s twenty-three years before. They’re guessing things have probably changed…
To enter the $10,000-contest, you have to submit a short video to Outside Magazine. Langbauer works as a chemical engineer in Midland, Texas, but it’s clear by watching his two-minute movie that he may have missed his true calling.
Video: Mark Jenkins literally wrote the book on adventure. While Mike and Quinn haven’t written any books yet, they do have over 44 years of combined life experience. 45-and-a-half if you include time in the womb.
Langbauer and his former roommate from the University of Wyoming, Mike Richard, drew inspiration for their idea from Mark Jenkins, the author of The Hard Way, who lectured at their school. Jenkins rode a bike in 1989, east to west, from Vladivostok to Leningrad, just as the Soviet Union was transitioning to democracy.
Examining social change over the past twenty-three years is a chance to make this trip appear less “selfish,” Langbauer says. But there’s also an underlying philosophy that runs deep for someone who’s been out of college for a just over a year.
“I think for both of us this is a pretty good excuse in the sense that you get a lot of chances, and it’s easy to know them, but the hardest part is taking them a lot of times.”
Langbauer brought out this idea in a 500-word essay that accompanied his entry. The ideas here are as serious as his movie is fun.
“You get opportunities, and passing them up is easy. You can always say, I’ve got school next semester, I’ve got work on Monday. You do that enough and it becomes habitual. So I really just talked about how we understood that this was an amazing opportunity, and if we were lucky enough, this was a good point in our lives to not pass something like this up, and go ahead and take it.”
The trip as planned is about 7,500 miles. Langbauer and Richard, and Langbauer’s younger brother, Seth, will be on the road – mostly camping — for between 6 and 8 months starting in the spring of next year. They haven’t decided on equipment, yet, but they’re looking into a kind of bike called a 29er – a mountain bike with larger-diameter wheels.
6 to 8 months is a long time to share a tent, a camp, even a desolate Siberian road. Langbauer says he and Richard have been through a lot together, and should get through this.
“We’ve done some trips that are only a couple of days, but you don’t sleep the whole time. And when you’re on edge, and you’re tired it’s always easy to bicker. And Mike and I never really seem to have that problem. There are a handful of people I could see myself doing this with, and Mike is pretty high up on that list.”
Langbauer says he’s not concerned about physically training for the ride; it’s the mental stamina that worries him. Ideally, there will be enough human interaction in retracing the journey to relieve some of the strain. Mark Jenkins did his famous ride with four Russians, and a Soviet escort for part of the way.
Neither Langbauer, his brother Seth, or Richard speak Russian – or any of the languages — they may encounter along the way. Langbauer is well-traveled, however; he believes we have a common form of expression that will serve the riders well.
“It’s always difficult initially, and then you always remember, I’m talking to just another person, even though we don’t speak the same language. You can’t communicate in words, but I find that people are always so eager to help. Obviously, it will be a challenge, but the kind of challenge that’s fun to take on.”
Langbauer says he was surprised when he got the call from Outside Magazine that his Siberian bike ride had been selected as one of five finalists for this year’s Outdoor Adventure grant. The winner will be decided by the number of “likes” each candidate receives on Facebook. Langbauer says many of his co-workers in Texas have been supportive, and have been “liking” his entry every day. But he hasn’t really gotten around to asking management for time off, yet. It would be premature, anyway.
“I’ve kind of left some of the bosses out of the loop a little more.”
You can find Langbauer’s entry by going to Facebook and searching for Outside Magazine. Voting will end on June 17. As of this writing, Biking Across Siberia was in second place