The Things We Carry: a SPOT Tracker

As we mentioned before the trip, we carry a SPOT tracking device with us, both to generate a nice map of our route for family and friends at home to see, as well as for safety. If one of us gets hurt, we can use the SPOT tracker to call for help, allowing us to stay together instead of the uninjured person having to bike for help. Most racers who do the Tour Divide carry a SPOT.

The SPOT has a button that you can push that will send out a custom, pre-programmed message to pre-programmed individuals. Before we started riding, we logged into our SPOT account and added my dad and Chris’ mom as recipients, and we set our message to say something to the tune of, “We’re still alive and biking, and we reached a spot to set up camp for the night.”

Fast forward to day 1: we did not realize how remote the first week of our trip would be, and how soon the SPOT would cause issues rather than be an asset. We were also not aware of the fact that our location was not visible publicly. So, day 1, I pushed the button; the message sent successfully. Apparently, on day 2, I either forgot to push the button, or the message did not go through. Cue my hyper-vigilante father’s worry. As the night went on and he did not receive an email from us, he began expressing his concern to my mother, my brother, my sister-in-law: “I don’t think I gave them the talk about bears and making sure they hang their food up every night. What if they were attacked by a grizzly?”

Sidenote: I think it’s super sweet that he was so concerned about us, and I also sincerely hope that he would never blame himself if we were foolish enough to start a 3,000 mile bicycle trip in the rockies without being bear aware and consequently wound up as bear fodder.

Eventually, his concern escalated to the point that he called the Canadian Mounties. He did preface his conversation with the woman on the other end of the line with the fact that he very well could be an overreacting parent. He told her the lat, long of the email he received from us on day 1, and I think even sent her a picture of us on our bicycles. She told him the mounties would be on the lookout for us.

They apparently never found us (we’re not sure how hard they were actually looking), and as soon as my dad received Day 3’s email, he called her back to tell her we were OK. She good-naturedly told him that was great news, and that the mounties might still try to find us for fun.

We eventually figured out the problem with our SPOT settings and adjusted it so that our hourly location update was publicly visible, and we assured my dad that we were carefully hanging up our food every night. We are very sorry for the lost sleep and grey hairs we may have given him! Overall, we still think that carrying the SPOT is a smart idea in case of an emergency!

5 thoughts on “The Things We Carry: a SPOT Tracker”

  1. As a parent, I now have a better understanding of what I put my parents through in the seventies. I hitch-hiked into the January night from London and returned five months later. They received two aerogrammes (remember those, anyone?) during my travels, one from Afghanistan and one from India.

    We bought our children Spots so they could check in when they are backcountry skiing overnight. When they travel further afield, as they are wont to do, we get antsy when we haven’t heard from them for a week. The Spot messages let us parents sleep well at night.

    Heads up: they are not legal to use if travelling in India.

  2. One does wonder how our parents did it, dropping off a 10 year old boy scout at the fire station, to be whisked off into the woods for a 20 mile hike and 2 night stay with a bunch of other 10 year olds, only to pick us up Sunday night. I bet the parents didn’t worry a lick in those days. Martha, if he don’t come back, we will just have another baby, now, c’mon, we need to get down to the dance hall for the big party and some dancing.

  3. And technology was suppose to keep people from worrying about us! I bet the mounties have had their fair share of calls from concerned parents over the years. I’m guessing more now that we have cell phones and everyone is so use to being able to be connected. Hope you and family had a great Thanksgiving!

  4. So true Kate! I have MANY more gray hairs!!! The relief we felt when we knew you guys were okay was big. In retrospect, the bear thing is pretty funny, but such a sweet dad!

  5. Oh I love the visual of the Mounties our looking for you! Have to sympathize with your dad… being a parent sets your worry meter to astronomical heights!

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