We are Alex Tilson, Aaron Riggs and Rob Wishon -- three Americans living in California and Washington, with varied backgrounds and interests, and a shared love of riding bikes and bicycle touring. Over the years we’ve undertaken several big bike trips together, including an epic Arctic Expedition in 1992. Now in our mid-forties, grown up with real jobs and families, the bike touring miles haven’t been as many in recent years. But the itch has never gone away.
Old Friends, a New Trip
Along with a few other fellow bike trekkers from trips past, we still keep in touch, getting together almost annually to recount memories and miles. It was at one of these reunions a couple of years ago that the Cuba bike trip idea was born. Alex had been intrigued by Cuba for some time and began kicking around the idea of a Cuba bike tour for our friend (and veteran bike trekker) Josh’s 50th birthday in 2014. It had been more than a decade since any of us had done any serious bike trips and we were all beginning to get the bug again. Although Josh ultimately was unable to make it, the idea of biking Cuba sparked immediate interest from Aaron and Rob. By early 2014 plans to bike Cuba together in December were in full swing.
16,000 BICYCLE TOURING MILES
Aaron Riggs lives in Issaquah, WA near Seattle with his wife Sarah and their two sons.
Aaron started bicycle touring at age 17 after he met his friend Josh while working a high school restaurant job in Fresno, CA. Josh and his friend Alex (Tilson) were planning a trans US/Canada tour for the summer of 1988, and Josh invited Aaron to participate. With the go-ahead from his parents and money from stock certificates from his grandparents, Aaron bought a new Cannondale touring bike and used panniers from a coworker, skipped his high school graduation ceremony, and left with Josh for Portland, Oregon to meet Alex and begin his first of many “trip(s) of a lifetime.”
“On my first bike tour, pedaling out of a campground on the Columbia River in Oregon on a brilliant June day with my touring companions--and soon to be lifelong best friends--the days’ only agenda to ride, explore the open road, and meet the people along the way, I knew this is the way I wanted to travel and see different parts of the world. The simplicity, adventure, and mental & physical challenge of bicycle touring, plus the opportunity to share the experience with unique individuals and amazing friends is one I craved immediately.”
Aaron’s first bicycle tour in 1988 was from Lake Oswego, OR to Lake Sunapee, NH, via Canada. He spent the most of the next few years bicycle touring during summers between college semesters.
In 1989, Aaron and his friend Matt toured the Pacific Coast from Seattle, WA to Santa Cruz, CA.
In 1991, Aaron and his friends Paul D and Randy toured across the United States from Seattle, WA to Boston, MA.
1992 brought the epic “Arctic Expedition” tour—7 friends and riders who biked 6,500 miles from Oregon to Inuvik, NWT, Canada near the Arctic Ocean--and back again to Fresno, CA.
In 1996 Aaron and Alex T spent 6 weeks touring the Caucuses region—the Republic of Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan, all former soviet republics.
2014: Bike tour Cuba!
Aaron graduated from Cal State University, Fresno in 1994 and moved to Seattle in 1995. Aaron and his wife Sarah own an advertising and marketing business in the greater Seattle region. The Riggs enjoy road & mountain biking, snow skiing & touring, and water sports on Lake Sammamish near their home.
28,000 BICYCLE TOURING MILES
Since he was a child, Alex has used sports as a way to learn about himself and the world. Initially he was a competitive swimmer, then a competitive runner (he finished 58th in the US Olympic Marathon Trials (2 hrs, 21 mins PR) and is the former US 50k National Record holder (2 hrs, 51 mins)). All along, he has been a bicyclist. To Alex, bikes have always meant freedom and adventure. Some of his strongest friendships and some of his most cherished memories are from his nine different bike tours, seven of which he conceived, organized, and led.
Alex’s first tour was when he was sixteen, biking across the US. The joys of that trip initiated a whole series of trips – again across the country the next year (Seattle to NY, Bike Aid ‘87), across Canada self-guided (transCanada ‘88), and then the mega Arctic Expedition in 1992 – seven men, riding the continent vertically from Oregon to the Arctic Ocean and back to California - 65 biking days and 6500 miles. His biggest adventure was the Inner Asia Expedition of 1995 - (http://www.rutmans.org/Trek) - 7000 miles over six months across fourteen countries in Asia.
Today Alex is a Silicon Valley medical device entrepreneur (founder and former CEO of Loma Vista Medical) and proud father.
Alex graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was one of the co-founders of the Stanford Solar Car Project and was its leader for three years. Alex has an MBA from Harvard Business School.
10,000 BICYCLE TOURING MILES
Rob Wishon (born 1970), lives in Los Osos, Ca. with his wife Kim and their two kids (Pearl and Emory, born 2005). Rob grew up in Fresno, CA. and has been riding bikes his whole life.
After high school, in the early 1990’s Rob was living in Fresno and began riding and racing mountain bikes with a group of local riders. One of these guys, Josh Kampling, a veteran bike tourer with several big trips to his name, invited Rob to participate in a trip that was being planned for the following summer. That trip was the Arctic Expedition bike trek of 1992.
That year, along with six others (including Alex Tilson and Aaron Riggs), Rob bicycled 6500 miles on the Arctic Expedition ’92. Through eight US states and four Canadian provinces, the unsupported tour started in Oregon and rode to the top of Canada’s Northwest Territories, 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and then back down to California, hauling their own stuff and camping the whole way.
In 1994 Rob organized and rode the Mellow States ’94 tour, a 2500 mile unsupported bike tour from Fresno, Ca. through the southwestern US and across twelve states, to South Bend, Indiana.
Rob attended the University of Oregon in Eugene where his daily ride was a tricked-out custom full-suspension low rider bike with ape hanger handlebars and a banana seat. He spent a semester abroad in Queretaro, Mexico in 1996 studying Spanish and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies in 1997. While at Oregon he also met his future wife, Kim.
After college, Rob and Kim moved to Marin, Ca. where they were married in 1998. Rob worked in residential construction and continued to enjoy bike commuting whenever possible and mountain biking on Mt. Tam and the hills of Marin County.
In 2006 they moved to Los Osos, Ca to raise their kids and enjoy the mellower pace of California’s Central Coast. Rob plays bass guitar in a local band and works as a homebuilder and carpenter. He continues to enjoy mountain biking at nearby Montana de Oro state park and riding the roads around beautiful San Luis Obispo County.