Torino Nice Rally 3 - Kit List, What Worked, What Didn't

I cycled the Torino Nice Rally in September 2022.  

I took ten days to complete my ride, which was deliberately slow, as no one ever returned from such an amazing adventure saying "I wish I'd gone faster", it was always the reverse.

I made a series of videos in preparation for my ride, each night of the ride, and then after the ride, all of which you'll find on my YouTube channel.

This is the third blog post outlining stuff I wish I'd known before heading off to ride this thing; about the route, about travelling to the start and from the finish, and the kit I used along the way.  

If you find the videos helpful, please subscribe and check out the other adventure cycling videos on the channel.

Bike - Sonder Camino Ti V1

‘Ride what you brung’, is the attitude of the TNR.  The bike must be comfortable, and ideally, it would have clearances to allow tyres greater than 45mm in width.  The new Camino does have such clearances, but the first generation maxed out at 43mm in the front forks.  Wider tyres would be more comfortable and faster.  But don’t go with heavy tread or they’ll drag on the frequent road sections.


Wheels: Hunt 4 Season Gravel Disc.  Good but I could never get the rear wheel to stay up tubeless.


Tyres: Panracer Gravel King SK TLC Folding 27.5” / 1.75” Black/Black.  I find Gravel Kings to be the best all-around tyre I’ve used, rolling well on road and off in everything except the deepest mud.  I switched from tan side walls to rubber (black/black) which are heavier but gave better protection against tyre cuts on the flinty rock.


Tubes: Most TNR riders run tubeless, but I didn’t for three reasons.  Firstly, I had issues keeping the rear wheel inflated regardless of the tyre.  Secondly, I felt flying with latex sealant in tyres risked splashing that gunk all over the extra kit in my bike box.  Thirdly, the blogs and stories I read indicated even tubeless riders suffered punctures which necessitated the use of a tube.  


I started with a butyl tube front and a Tubolito MTB tube rear - and ended the same way too with no punctures, having inflated both to just under 40psi.  Anticipating a host of punctures, I carried 2 spare butyl and 4 spare Tubolito (given to me for the TNR) which are superb because they’re so much lighter and take up less space.  Where I carried the butyl tubes was a mistake because on the one occasion I removed a tube to help another rider, I found the valve had torn from the rubber (see video).  In future, I’d take only Tubolito which are excellent.


Pump: anticipating lots of punctures I wanted a good pump and the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive track pump with gauge was the best, although mounted on the bottle cages it occasionally slipped down and caught the crank.  In hindsight, having had no punctures, I didn’t need such a weighty pump and feel a Pocket Rocket would have done the job.


Gearing: My Camino is set-up 1by and I dropped from a 42T to 34T chainring, then boosted the cassette from 11-42 to 11-46.  I hoped to get 11-50 but the gears didn’t shift smoothly.  I had been warned that, on the TNR, you’re either cranking slowly uphill or freewheeling down, so you can’t gear low enough.  This is correct, and in hindsight, a 30T chainring would have been better.


Handlebars: Redshift Sports have sent me a lot of their products to review on my channel, but that doesn’t influence my opinion.  Their Kitchen Sink bars are excellent, especially with the cruise control drops.  Those drops are not as low as normal bars and I often used them for climbing and descending to give a different hand position.  Paired with their Shock-stop stem Pro, which does an amazing job at cutting trail buzz (I have something like arthritis in my thumbs), it was the perfect combination for the Torino Nice Rally.  Now Redshift has released a small bag (Kitchen Sink Handlebar Bag) that sits inside the front loop of the bars (see video) with a computer mount, the ‘cockpit’ is pretty much the ultimate bikepacking rig.  Storing my snacks in this bag meant I could, in hindsight, have done away with both stem bags. 


Pedals: Sonder Jekyll by AlpKit.  SPD on one side, flat but with some grip points on the other, these are great touring pedals.  Flip to the non-SPD side when the trail gets a bit dodgy to avoid a prat-fall.


Lights: Much as I like Exposure Lights at home, I went with Cateye for this because, unlike Exposure, they charge with a simple USB 2 lead that I used for other items.  One front light, helmet mounted so I could direct the beam where I needed to see, and two rear lights, one rechargeable one using regular AAA batteries as a spare.  Rear lights are a legal requirement in tunnels and a safety aid on road climbs where bright sun and deep shade from trees can make it hard for drivers to see us.  Almost every local cyclist in the mountains had a flashing rear taillight.


Mudguards: Many TNR riders didn’t have them but I used these.  In my video/podcast with TNR creator James Olsen he stressed their importance when riding in cold, Alpine rain.  We were very lucky with the weather, which is a point to which I’ll keep returning.


Bottle cages: Zefal Pulse Z2 side entry cages allowed me to carry two 750ml bottles tucked under the Apidura frame bag.  These were a great find.


Rear pack - Apidura Expedition 17L

Probably the most popular rear pack on the TNR, I reinforced mine with gaffe tape and plastic (from a milk bottle) to stop the saddle blots wearing a hole.  Here’s what was inside:


Foil emergency bivi bag: I took this in case temperatures were lower than expected. After my two nights camped I planned to ditch it, but gave it to Laurens (he’s in the video) who forgot his sleeping mat, on the basis he could ly on the foil and it might reflect body heat away from the ground.


Sleeping mat: AlpKit Cloudbase.  Few inflatable sleeping pads are comfortable unless you can sleep flat on your back, spreading the weight.  Side-sleepers like me will find their hips dig into the ground.  The Cloudbase was a good compromise of weight, size and price although the R rating is poor.


Tent: Terra-Nova Laser Compact 1.  A superb mountain tent for one person, the ‘compact’ element reflects the shorter pole length which makes it perfect for bikepacking.  I’ve used Terra Nova kit for decades and know I can trust their tents.  I was highly impressed with the vents on either end which allowed air flow and cut internal condensation to almost zero.  It takes a few tries to pitch tightly, but it’s a fantastic modern tent.  I was a little sad when I had to send it back.  In hindsight, I could have managed with a simple bivi bag.  AlpKit Hunka bags were popular, as were OR Helium hooped bivi.  I had a Terra Nova Jupiter Light Bivi.  But as I’ve said, we were exceptionally lucky with the weather.  Had we experienced any torrential afternoon storms, camping high would have been a cold, soggy experience.


Sleeping Bag: Rab Neutrino 200.  Loaned to me for the TNR, I initially asked for the 400 because I expected valley temperatures to be freezing, so much colder at altitude.  Watching the forecasts in advance, it was clear we’d have much warmer nights, so I switched to the Rab 200 and it was ideal.  I slept out with no tent at 1000m, while at 2500m I just added my down jacket and hat.  The bag compressed much more than its stuff-sack suggests.


Warm Clothes: My dry bag of warm clothes contained the following items; warm running tights, a Torm merino long sleeve cycling jersey, a hat and some sealskin socks.


Waterproof jacket: The OMM Aether won a host of awards and was then discontinued.  Not specifically for cycling, but with a long enough tail, the hood, cut and weight of this jacket felt tough enough for bad Alpine weather.  I added an extra reflective patch on the back.


Spare bibs: I made the mistake of taking only one pair of cycling bibs which I planned to wash and dry each night I wasn’t camped.  This proved too difficult in (or outside) refuges so I bought a second pair en route.


Reflector: A few riders had ‘safety pizzas’ - high viz triangles that looked (a bit) like pizzas, dangling from their rear packs.  I couldn’t find one so I made a rear, flappy reflector from some fabric, tape and elastic.

Frame pack - Apidura Expedition 5.3L

A good compromise which gave plenty of space and still allowed me to carry two large water bottles in the side-entry cages.


The left side had the tent poles and pegs plus electrolyte tabs, extra straps in case stuff snapped, and a Personal Locator Beacon for emergencies.


The right side had all I’d need while riding, including; GoLite waterproof trousers; Decathlon shell over-mitts; a tiny packable rucksack (not really needed); a Monkeysee high-vis harness; windproof Gillet; snood; knee and arm warmers plus thin gloves and track-mitts for descending.  I tucked in there anti-bacterial wipes (for cleaning myself) hand sanitiser, a face mask (still required in some places) and skin-repair cream I bought en route.


Stem bags - Alpkit

I didn’t use them well and they probably weren’t needed.  The left one contained a 500ml bottle (my third bottle) into which I decanted Coke or Orangina for a cold sugar-hit on long climbs.  Curled around the bottom were two Hip-lok locks.  The right stem back was packed with energy bars, many of which I brought back home having carried through the Alps!  There’s almost always somewhere to buy food.  The Redshift Kitchen Sink Handlebar Bag was a much better snack solution, albeit smaller.


Front bag - Alpkit

I can’t remember the name of this bag but it’s discontinued, replaced (I think) by the Deluge.  It’s flatter than many front bags and, once lightly stuffed and covered with a jersey, makes a decent pillow.


Warm jacket: PHD Vertex down.  PHD made a limited run of these a few years ago and I treated myself.  The size of an orange and less than the weight of a plum, it lofts amazingly and keeps me very warm.  I know down isn’t useful when wet, but that’s why I have a larger rain jacket to fit over the top.  This boosts a sleeping bag by at least 5 degrees.


Hotel clothes bag: a dHb merino t-shirt and incredibly light tracksuit bottoms, plus a pair of socks.  Toiletries and dietary supplements (iron complex, glucosamine/chondroitin, marine collagen).


First aid bag: plasters, dressings, Compeed, electrical tape, painkillers.  I carried toilet paper and toothbrush/paste in here because it was handy.


Electronics bag: batteries and micro SD cards, charging cables, USB wall plug.


Top tube bag: AlpKit, again discontinued.  Powerbanks, phone and Garmin cables, second USB wall plug, all in a plastic bag.  Chamois cream.


Rear top-tube bag: Apidura expedition top tube pack 1L.  Multi-tool, small Leatherman, tyre boots, tyre patches, Tubolito inner tubes (1 MTB, 3x CX), brake pads (I changed one set), spare SPD cleats, tiny lube bottle   


Worn/carried on the person most days

Rapha lightweight Brevet jersey

Craft lightweight base layer

Passport and wallet in big rear zipped pocket (which is why I like this jersey)

Sony Z1 stills/backup video camera plus mini tripod

iPhone 13 Pro plus compact for filming

Headphones (not used)

GoPro Hero 10 Black with Windslayer and Joby tripod

Pactimo cap

Giro Aether helmet

Darn Tough lightweight merino socks

Giro Rumble MTB Touring shoes (given to me for the TNR and utterly superb)





Torino Nice Rally 2 - Getting to the Start and from the Finish

Organisers of cycling events, an environmentally aware bunch, increasingly insist their competitors reach the start without using aircraft.  

The Torino Nice Rally might go this way, although the organiser James Olsen tells me he wants to keep it rideable in 5-days (just!) so people can tackle it with only a week off work.  

During my ride, I met people from around Europe and the UK who had travelled to the start by train and bike bus.  The challenge of travelling that way from Scotland proved too great for me.  Some groups of friends drive.  At least one cyclist rode all the way there from the UK, and presumably, home again.  


Hardy souls do this ride.  


Assuming you are going to fly with your bike you immediately face the question of ‘open-jaw’ (ie into Turin, out of Nice) or in and out of just one of those airports.  If you’re flying from a London airport you have the luxury of choice.  Elsewhere it’s limited, with flights to Turin from Scotland and the North of England requiring a plane change in Gatwick with the associated potential for bikes to go astray, not to mention additional CO2 emissions with the extra take-offs and landings of four flights in total rather than two.  


Fortunately, there are direct Edinburgh-Nice flights, so the choice was made for me.


Then the question is hard-shell bike box or cardboard?  You have no choice if you’re flying into Turin and out from Nice, it has to be cardboard (unless you're brave enough to ship your empty box between the two cities).  Be warned, bike shops experience high demand for their cardboard boxes in mid-September when the TNR riders hit town.  Nice airport sells cardboard bike boxes but, by all accounts, these are very flimsy and need reinforcing with tape to survive the journey.  Quite what protection they offer your bike is unclear, but small bags have reportedly dropped out of holes torn in the cardboard.


If you take a laid-back approach to all this and you’re happy to arrive with no real plan, then you’re much cooler than me.  I like things nailed down in advance; bookings made, hotels sorted, and transport agreed upon.  


Having made a few mistakes, I’m fairly sure I now know the best way I'd want to travel to and from the TNR.

My recommended plan

  • E-mail airport hotels and ask whether they will store your bike box in exchange for you booking two nights, one outward and one return.  Ibis Budget Nice Airport Hotel was happy to do this free of charge.  The photo shows my box behind reception waiting to go into their luggage storage.  I also did this when I flew to Bordeaux in March.


  • Nice Airport T2 International is at one end of a tram line that runs through the city.  This is a good way to transport a bike box provided you’re not travelling at rush hour.  The first two stops (T1 and Grand Arenas) are free, and the tram drivers are used to people with hefty luggage, but get into the back carriage just to be sure.  


I only discovered this on the return, having trundled the box for +30mins to the hotel on my way out.  The most significant distance is between the two airport terminals, T2-T1, whereas T1 to the Ibis Budget Hotel is a relatively short hop.  


  • Most of the airport hotels are in Arenas, but the closest stop for the Ibis Budget is Airport Terminal 1 from where it’s an easy 10min trundle, assuming your bike box has wheels. 

  • The easiest way I found to transport a bike and rider to Turin is FlixBus.  Bikes either hang on the back or go inside the luggage compartment, and you book the bike place when you book your ticket, although you don’t know how it’ll be carried.  You’ll need all the bags off the bike if it’s going to hang off the back, so a big, disposable carrier bag is practical into which you stuff that luggage.   

  • There were no bike spaces from Nice when I booked, so I took the train from Nice to Ventimiglia, stayed one night, and then took the early bus from there to Turin.  Direct would obviously be preferable because the Nice-Ventimiglia train gets very busy with tourists heading to Monaco.  There was no chance to use the bike hangers with people sitting directly underneath and I couldn't even get onto the train I had booked with SNCF, despite having than bike pace. 

  People tell me trains are an easy option but I found otherwise.  I was told Italian National trains take bikes as they are, while regional trains require them to be disassembled - or was that the other way around?  Either way, I found the websites impenetrable.  By contrast, the FlixBus website and App were a paragon of simplicity and clarity. 


That’s it.  The rest is down to you.  My analysis of the kit I used, what worked and what didn't, is next.





Torino Nice Rally 1 - What You Need To Know

At home in Scotland, I found it hard to get my head around the nature of the Torino Nice Rally.  

Now I think of it as four, high-level Italian military gravel roads (Strada Assietta, Strada Cannoni, Altiplano della Gardetta and Via del Sale) linked together by a series of road cols, most of which either have an off-road element or alternative.  

There… I squeezed it into one sentence.  I could not have done that a month ago. 
   
Obviously, the maps help, and you’ll find both my route and the 2022 Official Route on Komoot, but they don’t tell anywhere near the full story.  Of course, that’s the point.  



You should write your own story, ride your own ride, and live your own adventure.  Of course, you could always watch my videos too.
 
But since a little help doesn’t go amiss, I thought I’d set out some throughs regarding transport and equipment, the things you might stress about during the planning stage.  Once you get there, it’ll be down to you.

If you’d like to see how I coped, check out my preparation videos and the videos of my ride including the after-thoughts about equipment choice.  The first is below and you'll find everything else here.

In the coming posts, I'll publish my thoughts on the best way to travel to and from the TNR plus I'll give a detailed kit list and analyse what worked well, and what didn't.



Loch Ness 360 Bikepacking

 

It has become one of Scotland’s great off-road cycling trails. Yet planning a ride can be tricky, partly due to the fickle weather, but mainly due to the mix of surfaces, from tarmac to mud, made trail to loose stones. 
 
Most cyclists wonder, ‘what bike should I use’? We tried to answer this question in our videos, so I’d recommend watching all three. Based on the terrain you see, choose the bike to suit your ability and whether you’re carrying luggage.

Most of the trail was made for walkers, something you’ll quickly appreciate while trying to climb out of any of the towns and villages along the north coast of the loch where the route follows the Great Glen Way, one of Scotland’s long distance routes running from Fort William to Inverness. 

 Incidentally, the trail is best done clockwise if you plan to use a luggage-moving service, as most hikers travel in this direction.

Until a few years ago there was no way to connect the Great Glen Way to the South Loch Ness Trail, another walker’s route, which started at Loch Tarff and ran to Inverness. The so called ‘missing link’ to Fort Augustus was partly funded by SSE’s Stronelairg wind farm (which offers some excellent gravel biking if you have energy to spare). Joining-up the two trails created this new one which circumnavigates one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks. 

 

The Loch Ness Challenge is a series of competitive events on the trail; hikes, cycling and running. Check the website for details. Lochness360.com

The races all go anti-clockwise and that’s how we rode the trail - we think that’s best. However, Ticket To Ride Highlands’ self-guided route goes clockwise because it gives an easier start (and links with baggage moving services). Tickettoridehighlands.co.uk/

If you’d like a guide on your journey, we rode with Kev from 42 Cycling (he’s in the second video). The former soldier knows everyone around here and regularly eases the visits of cyclists from Europe and beyond. 42cycling.com

Some cyclists set themselves the challenge of blasting around the trail in under 24 hours. A relaxed trip would take four days with overnight stops in Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus and Whitebridge. We rode it in three days in short days of mid-January, breaking the trip in Invermoriston and Whitebridge.

 Where to stay

When looking for accommodation, VisitInvernessLochNess.com/ is the best starting point. This local tourist association help to run the Loch Ness 360 trail and hosted our accommodation and meals while we cycled. They found us three excellent places to stay.

Inverness: The Glen Mhor Hotel is central, comfortable, and allowed us to take bikes into our rooms. www.glen-mhor.com/

Fort Augustus: Sam and Glenn run the the cycle friendly Beaufort House Cafe and B&B. www.beauforthouselochness.com/ They have a bike shed for secure storage.

Whitebridge Hotel: An historic building, all wood panels and creaking stairs, the rooms have been refurbished by Bella and Lesley and the meals are superb. whitebridgehotel.co.uk

Events

A series of competitive running, ultra-running and cycling events is organised around the Loch Ness 360 route. Check for latest details: Lochness360.com

Website

Lochness360.com

Our mapping

Komoot Route: https://www.komoot.com/tour/649613784  

Ride with GPS: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/82313895

Direct download: https://www.dropbox.com/s/52z003dvx8im2hl/LochNess360.gpx?dl=1

Thanks to Visit Inverness Loch Ness and Loch Ness 360 for their support

Giveaway - Kitchen Sink Handlebars

These are the Rules for the giveaway running on the Always Another Adventure YouTube channel from 12th December 2021.

The prize is a used set of Kitchen Sink bikepacking handlebars with front loop by Redsfity sports. 

 They are 44mm and you can find full specifications on the Redshift Sports website.

Entry is only open to people with a UK postal address.  I'm very sorry about this, but since Brexit, sending stuff overseas is a nightmare.  Here's what to do if you'd like to enter.

* On Instagram: follow @redshiftsports and @always_another_adventure

* Find and like the giveaway post on @always_another_adventure

* Comment on that post, and tag a friend in that comment

The giveaway starts Monday 13th December and ends on Christmas Day 25th December 2021 with the winner drawn randomly and announced on the Always Another Adventure YouTube channel on 31st December, New Year's Eve.

The giveaway is run in accordance with YouTube and Instagram rules.  This promotion is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with YouTube, Facebook or Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm that they are 13+ years of age, release YouTube, Facebook and Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.

To see all of YouTube's competition rules check here.  Entries must comply with YouTube community guidelines (I have to include that link). 



 

 

 


The Moray Gravel Triangle - information for bikepackers

It was Sean who devised this route.  I’m not shifting blame you understand, I’m giving him the credit, because we ended up with one of the best four-day Autumn rides I’ve done in Scotland.

We’re fortunate enough to have some epic bikepacking routes in this country - An Turas Mor, the Highland Trail 550 and Badger Divide to name but three.  They take cyclists deep into Scotland’s wild heart, far from villages, roads or… help.  If the weather isn’t right, or you or your bike are not quite up to the challenge, then you can have serious problems.  The Moray Gravel Triangle is different.  While the cycling is excellent it’s not so committing.  The route passes through towns and villages where you can find hot food and a bed each night.

Our initial plan was to ride only the intersecting sections of three long-distance walking trails - The Speyside Way, the Moray Coastal Trail and the Dava Way.  From the beginning we called it The Moray Gravel Triangle, because we had a feeling this would be a top gravel ride.  It’s close to what walkers and runners call The Moray Way but with a few tweaks to accommodate cyclists’ needs.

At around 100 miles this seemed a little short for a multi-day ride, so we planned to ride the full length of the three trails rather than just their intersecting central triangle.  That’s when things started to get a little complicated.

 


Traditionally, The Speyside Way started in Aviemore.  In recent years it has been extended to Newtonmore, but somehow that didn’t feel right for us and anyway, we had a place to leave our vehicles at Badaguish Outdoor Centre just outside Aviemore, so we stuck to the traditional option.

 

When we started investigating the Moray Coastal Trail, two quite distinct routes emerged.  A walkers’ route clings to the coast but not all of it is rideable.  The cyclists’ route follows Sustrans NCR 1, and while easier to follow, we felt it might skip some of the best coastal scenery before it veered off inland.  Our solution was to cycle both.  We tackled the walkers’ route in one direction, then after an overnight in the town of Cullen, rode back along the cyclists’ route.  When we reached Lossiemouth, we enlisted the services of two local cyclists to keep us on track.  Mark and Martin are the founders of a cycling ‘club’ that’s not really a club, called The Moray Gravel Collective.  We had a bitter, brutal headwind that day and I’m not ashamed to admit I spent a mile or two drafting the pair as they led us on the best, rideable sections of the spectacular coastal trail.

 


The Dava Way, the third side of our triangle, came as the biggest surprise.  I secretly suspected this would be a boring, 25 mile flog down an old railway line, nothing more than the least worst off-road return route.  I was delighted to find a varied trail that took us into higher, more open moors than we’d seen since leaving Aviemore.  



So while the central section of our Moray Gravel Triangle remains a cracking 100 mile route, the whole tour is a fantastic way to spend a few days on a bike.  If it’s too early in the season (or too late) to tackle one of Scotland’s excellent long wilderness trails, or you just don’t fancy the exposure and risk which comes with being in such wild places, our longer tour is a great option.

Our accommodation and meals were paid for by Visit Moray and Speyside for which we’re grateful.  While there are obviously other accommodation providers, I’ve listed the ones for which we have first-hand experience.

We cycled the three trails in September / October 2021 and we are aware things change, so what was open and/or closed when we cycled might be different for you.  

Certainly the diversion for cyclists on the Speyside Way might have changed.  The section between Cromdale and Ballindalloch should be improved and open to cyclists by Spring 2022.


Guidebook: Walking the Speyside Way, the Cicerone guidebook, is useful background reading on the places through which you’ll pass and has the additional advantage of also covering the Moray Coastal Trail and the Dava Way.  Here’s a link to buy it on Amazon UK.    

Bike: A gravel bike is ideal for this route.  Technical off-road tyres are not needed - Panracer Gravel Kings proved ideal.  

Kit: Obviously be prepared for bad weather.  You can camp, but we used the following good hotels and consequently travelled much lighter.

MAPPING
We plan and share our routes on Komoot, and you’ll find all the options here.

Direct download of Zip files with all .GPX files




ACCOMMODATION

The Visit Moray and Speyside website is the best place to find accommodation and places to eat and drink.  They helped us with both when we cycled the route and we weren’t disappointed.



Craigellachie - The Highlander Inn.  Phenomenal whisky bar, good rooms and wholesome food although limited vegetarian options.  Website.
 

 
 
Cullen - The Royal Oak.  Lovely hotel with superb rooms and outstanding food.  Cullen Skink soup as it’s meant to be made and they organised an early breakfast for our long day.  Website.
 
 

Forres - The Carrisbrooke.  A motel-like feel to the rooms which were comfortable and warm.  Food was good although the kitchen closes at 8pm so don’t hang about or, like us, you’ll miss pudding.  Facebook.



One bike to rule them all?

Think of it as a mid-life crisis motorbike, but without the motor.

Actually, don't.  I've already had several of them and I'm probably past mid-life now.  Just think of it as a treat to myself.  

My excellent road bike is showing its age.  My gravel bike is great, but a little heavy.  

Could I find one of the new generation of carbon, lightweight gravel bikes that would be at home on virtually any surface, road or trail.  

Spoiler alert - I still don't know.  

I bought one but it'll be a while before I know whether it fulfils every criteria.  Still, it'll be fun finding out, and that's the thing which counts.  Unlike most of the videos on Always Another Adventure, this one is a personal blog involving a trip back to my roots.