Garryck Hampton, Part
Time Peace Pedaler and Technical Team Leader
This journey will be for me an accumulation
of all the things that bring joy and happiness to my life:
cycling, traveling, cycling, meeting people and making them
smile, cycling, freedom, cycling, adventure, cycling, and
experiencing new places, new cultures, and new food - did
I mention cycling?
I received my first bicycle when I was very
young and immediately started venturing out into the surrounding
neighborhoods. My new wheels enabled me to go beyond the common
areas that I was accustomed to playing in.
As my friends and I got older, and grew
into BMX bikes we began venturing off the pavement and into
the woods - a future mountain biker was born.
Then, when I was a freshman in high school
at Sehome High School in Bellingham, Washington my uncle Robert,
who was living in Los Angeles, California, saw a mountain
bike in a store and had it shipped up to Washington. I had
to have my mother drive me an hour away to Everett, Washington
to pick it up; it was the closest Schwinn dealer near my house.
My first mountain bike was a Schwinn High Sierra. When I started
to ride it around Bellingham many people looked at in wonder
because they had no idea what a mountain bike was. Actually,
neither did I. All I knew was that I was able ride around
in the woods a lot easier than I had been able to back in
my BMX days. My uncle cringed the next time he came to visit
and saw me riding through streams, mud, and down stairs; he
was cringing, but I was smiling ear to ear!
During my first two years at the University
of Southern California, cycling gave way to all the distractions
a university campus has to offer.
The summer after my sophomore year, I got
bit once again by the mountain bike bug. My Schwinn had wandered
off somewhere, but I had managed to get myself a Cannondale
with one of the new Manitou suspension forks. It was about
the time that I met my soon to be mentor Andrew "Obi-Wan"
Meigs. He was my teaching assistant for one of my geology
classes (my major - chosen because of my love of nature and
being outdoors). He was a mountain biker and offered to take
me out riding. He took me to the Strawberry Loop trail in
Angeles Crest National Forrest outside of Los Angeles, which
is, even to this day, one of Jamie's and my favorite trails.
It starts off with about a two-mile super steep fire road
climb. I was completely blown away by his climbing prowess.
I had never seen anyone climb so quickly. It was at that point
that I vowed to become like him, and to one day beat him.
He also later got me hooked on road riding. It took me about
four years until I finally beat him on a climb. After that,
it got scary out on rides. Every climb became a chance to
crush the other into submission. There were a few times, the
days that were really hot and where we'd already been riding
for a few hours, that we'd look at each other and call a truce;
we knew that if we didn't, one of us was going to pass out
due to heat exhaustion and extreme physical exertion.
During my senior year I joined the USC cycling
team. There were some great riders on the team, and it furthered
my love of cycling. After I graduated I read about teaching
mountain biking at a summer camp in the back of some mountain
bike magazine. I landed the job, and after I graduated, my
girlfriend at the time, Amy Kentner, and I jumped in my truck
with my bikes on the roof rack and started out from Los Angeles
to Casco, Maine. My truck had a camper shell on the back and
was carpeted inside, so we spent most nights back there. About
every four days she'd want to check into a hotel to freshen-up.
Amy was a trooper and would let me take off and ride whenever
we came across a killer trail.
As it turned out, I got put in charge of
the "Adventure Staff" and spent most of my time
teaching the ropes course, and taking the campers out camping
and hiking. However, I did get in a lot of mountain biking
in my freetime.
After the summer, I drove back to Los Angeles.
I didn't know what direction to take with my life at that
time so I started to work at Recreational Equipment Incorporated
in Northridge, California as a bicycle assembler - the bottom
rung in the shop. After a few months the Mater Technician
- the top dog in the shop - decided that he was going to be
moving on. The managerial staff decided to give me a chance
and offered me his position. I was more than elated; I was
shocked! The best part about the promotion was the chance
to attend Barnett's Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs,
Colorado. There, about 15 other REI Master Tech's and I learned
everything you could ever want to know about bicycles - and
then some. It was like a dream come true! I came back to REI
and honed my skills for the following three years.
Working at REI allowed me to pursue my love
of cycling, camping, climbing, hiking, and skiing to higher
levels, and also allowed me to develop new interests such
as telemark skiing, snow shoeing and mountaineering. By talking
to my coworkers and customers, attending clinics offered by
the companies to explain how their products worked, being
an official product tester, being in charge of the shop and
having to deal with all the repairs of the rental equipment
and customer's equipment, and by just getting outside and
using gear as much as possible, I acquired a vast knowledge
about the variety of outdoor products available and how to
While working at REI, in the winter of 1995,
I made a successful solo thee-day grueling ascent of Mount
Whitney, becoming the first person to reach the summit that
year. I was once again one of the first people on the summit
in 1998. Jamie Binachini, two other friends and I spent the
night on the summit to usher in the New Year. I also participated
in, and completed, the 8,000 meter Challenge, a 24-hour endurance
race up and down the three highest peaks in Southern California.
I completed it once more in 1997 when I was lucky enough to
be, by chance, in L.A. at the time of the event and got to
join the REI team once again.
After about two and a half years the call
of the road began whispering in my ear. About that time, my
good buddy from USC, Chris "Cutty" Cutler, and his
girlfriend were taking off to S. Korea to teach English for
three months and then travel around S.E. Asia. I had dinner
with them the night before they left, and told them to drop
me a line if they had a good time. Sure enough, a couple of
months later I got a postcard in the mail telling me to come
on over. I decided to take the plunge, and gave REI about
two months notice. During that time, I got my things in order
and made one last bike tour in America before I headed off
into the unknown. I did a four-day, 562-mile, fully loaded,
sprint from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
In January of 1997, Richard Nason, Jamie's
and my other best friend, and I took off to Korea. My primary
job has been teaching English; I've taught doctors at various
hospitals, executives at Samsung Fire and Marine Insurance
Co., and officers and petty officers for both the Korean Navy
and Korean Army. I've also been the distributor for Seven
Cycles since 1997 and Ellsworth Cycles since 2000 - even though
I was living in a foreign country I had to do something that
related to bicycles!
While living in Korea, I've had the opportunity
to tour throughout Korea, and in Thailand, China, Taiwan,
Cambodia, and E. Malaysia (Borneo).
Over the years, all of these experiences,
and the knowledge gained from them, has enabled me to develop
my body into what my friends call "a machine" -
I seem to possess the unusual ability to pull of the physically
My main duties on this tour will be choosing,
organizing, and maintaining the gear and the bikes so that
we have minimal technical difficulties along the way, route
planning (but if you join us, please don't blame me if we
make a wrong turn J), nutrition - making sure that our bodies
get the proper nourishment for the amount of cycling we'll
be doing, and overall heath - making sure we get the proper
vaccines and take all the preventative measures along the
way to keep us health, happy and smiling.
My hope for this journey will be to introduce
people to, and bring attention to the wonderful world of cycling,
and more specifically, bicycle touring. The bicycle is by
far the best means to travel. It is environmentally friendly;
it's quiet so it's non-threatening to animals; it's fast enough
so that you can cover ground, but slow enough so that you
get to really interact with your surroundings; It keeps you
healthy and increases strength; and most of all it's just