One network, two wheels, 530 miles

St. Louis photographer and musician Corey Woodruff pedals his first-ever tech journey across the heartland

By on October 1, 2015

This is a guest blog post from Corey Woodruff, St. Louis-based photographer, cyclist and drummer for the 50s and 60s inspired band Lucky Old Sons and rock band Town Cars. When he’s not biking, you can learn about Corey’s “All of the Friends” project, in which he plans to travel over 15,000 miles on his bike to photograph each of his Facebook friends. You can also follow Corey online at CoreyWoodruff.com and on Twitter at @CoreyWoodruff.

Forget about the heat. Sore legs and a bruised behind? Not a concern, thanks. Never mind the lack of sleep due to the noisy campground neighbors last night. The real worry for me when it comes to bicycling 530 miles across Iowa in mid-July is how to stay connected. 

As a photographer, I take a lot of photos. I consider myself a visual storyteller so I need to share those photos, too. Normally when I travel, I schlep a heavy bag full of lenses and bulky cameras around and then share my images via laptop. Of course, normally I am not riding across the Midwest on a bicycle, so when every ounce of gear makes a difference, I rely on my iPhone 6 from Verizon to do the photographic heavy lifting. Bonus: it has some amazing voodoo called “Verizon 4G LTE” on it that keeps me connected.

Even in rural Iowa. 

RAGBRAI is a massive annual bike ride across Iowa, and since this was the first year I attempted it, I wanted to document the trip for my friends, family and followers on social media. As I said, I had to travel light, so I kept the hardware to a minimum and relied on some tried-and-true apps to share my adventure. My first essential item was the Apple iPhone 6. It's my first iPhone after switching from the DROID camp, and I am thrilled with it. I went for the big daddy 128GB version so that I could consolidate my phone and an old iPod classic that carries my entire music collection. I had heard about how great the camera system on the iPhone is compared to other phones and, frankly, I'm a little upset that I waited so long to switch. I mean, I make my living taking photos. You'd think I would make the camera a bigger priority. Well, I do now.

I also made sure to have my Poweradd Apollo2 Solar Panel Charger on me. This gizmo is basically a small solar panel attached to a battery pack with USB ports to charge your devices. Since Iowa is much like Tattooine in mid-July (that’s the Star Wars desert planet, for my non-nerd friends), there was no shortage of sunshine to keep the thing charged up as it rode along inside the clear map pocket of my handlebar bag. As a result, my phone could sip all the juice it needed as various apps tracked my progress, and uploaded pics and videos along the ride.

Speaking of apps, Strava is the free version of this widely used GPS-powered app and is a great way to track your cycling progress, as well as compare it to others around the world. Elite riders can claim King of the Mountain (KOM) status by being the fastest to complete known routes, but this is something I know very little about since I am “just in it for the miles, man.” The app also tracks something called “jogging,” which I know even less about.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Instagram - it’s become kind of popular. I use it daily to share photos of my commercial and editorial work, as well as behind-the-scenes shots from the studio and pics of ridiculously unhealthy foods that I have no business consuming.

IFTTT is an app and website combo that is, in a word, friggin’ awesome. Fine - that’s two words. It stands for “If This Then That,” and it's essentially a free service that lets you bend the Internet to your will. Ever wished that whenever you posted a pic to Instagram it would automatically upload the image (not just share it) to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr and 500px portfolio?  It does that for me - easily. If I use certain hashtags, it does different stuff. The number of websites, apps and services it can connect and react to is astonishing. If you've ever wanted to make your various pieces of tech communicate with each other and work for you instead of against you, check out this app.  It's the most useful thing since the Internet and it's as easy as falling off a bike - or something like that.

Thanks to Verizon and these pieces of tech, I was able to complete my cycling journey across Iowa in seven days without feeling disconnected or hauling a laptop around in search of Wi-Fi hotspots. It kept things lightweight and enjoyable, leaving me to concentrate on important RAGBRAI things like pie and pork tenderloin sandwiches the size of my face.