On March 3rd, 2010 I arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina and ended my journey to the southernmost city in the world.

On July 25th, I left for Prudhoe Bay on the north shore of Alaska to begin a solo bicycle journey 15,000 miles south along the Pan-American Highway to Tierra Del Fuego, the bottom of South America. I traveled through the vast Alaskan wilderness, into Canada and crossed into the forests of northern Washington. From there I followed the coast down, all the way through the deserts of southern Baja, where I took a ferry to the mainland. I continued to follow the coast south through the rainforests of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Then came South America: Colombia, Ecuador, the endless deserts of Peru, Northern Chile and then finally Argentina. I will ended in Ushuaia and the bottom of the Americas.

This ride is a reminder of what can be accomplished through perseverance and a little hard work. It’s a reminder of what we as people are capable of, of what the human mind, body and spirit can achieve. I hope that I can help people realize that while it may take time, and it may be harsh and lonely at times, we can make our lives how we dream them to be. I do not want to be guilty of owning a life devoid of any living. Comfort and convenience are not synonymous with happiness!

For some reason I am under the impression that I will find both myself and God somewhere along this road. Maybe I won’t find either, but I must look! I want to allow the light of introspection a pure and undiluted chance to examine my soul. I have found greater value in thoughts born in solitude than those that spring from the fray of ordinary life. I hope this trip will be the beginning to a life full of experience, beauty and understanding. I don’t ever want to forget the way the world felt when I was a child: magical and huge, full of possibility and hope. I won’t let go of that. I am an artist at heart, and this, I hope, will be my first great work.

I am riding to raise awareness for 'Acirfa,’ a non-profit organization which provides quality bikes to the people of Zambia, giving them the means to help themselves, rather than depend on charity. A bicycle changes the life of a Zambian in ways that are difficult for Americans to imagine, allowing doctors to see more patients, parents to make a living and teachers to get to school.

To clear the air and clear your head, ride a bike once a week!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Push and Pull

Cycling through northern Baja California was not an enjoyable
experience for me. I found the scenery incredibly depressing. It was
vast and boring desert, hot, sunny and full of garbage. There was no
water. The towns were small dirty strips, the food was bad, the
culture was foreign and the terrain was steep and tough. I also
remember discovering that Baja Califirnia, Mexico in fact, is much
larger than I had ever realized.
One of these days, I don't remember exactly where but I do remember
I was standing on my pedals driving hard. I could hear the cranks and
chain creaking under heavy tension. I was completely covered in sweat
as I worked my way up over some massive hill. I was thinking over the
physical transformation my body has gone trough, how my legs are all
endurance muscle, and how the tendons in my ankles and knees must be
as strong as steel cables by now. It was then that I profoundly
realized on my own the truth of a common cliche, about the strength of
the human spirit. The phrase that flashed through my mind was 'The
human spirit is the strongest stuff in the world.' The evidence for
that statement in that instant seemed incontrivertible. There I was,
doing what I was doing which was incredibly difficult. It involved a
tearing strugle between competing desires for rest, completion,
comfort, experience, hope and joy that I was barely able to keep
tilted in favor of continuing. And what I was doing was nothing
compared to what people are capable of, compared to what other people
have done and are doing all over the world every day. It seemed
obvious and I marveled at the strength of our spirit, imagining it
like a massive tendon holding us to our purpose. I don't want to get
distracted exploring what exactly I mean when I say 'the human
spirit,' so let me just do an inadequate job by saying that it is the
part of us that hopes, that wants, dreams and holds on.
I hung on the idea for a few minutes and then nearly laughed out
loud. In a flash I realized how wrong and absurd the idea was. 'The
human spirit is not strong!' I thought, 'that's ridiculous! The human
spirit is the problem. It's not the thing driving me forward, but
what's holding me back! Take away the human spirit and suddenly
there's no problem at all. A machine such as a car or airplane
wouldn't have the trouble I am having! In fact neither of those things
ever struggles at all.' I continued up the hill, alternately pulling
on my pedal with one leg and pushing with the other. The monologue
unfurled through my mind like a banner being let down. 'If you think
about someone who goes through a trully trying experience, far worse
than what I am doing, they seem to have tucked away, to have hidden
their spirit. We call it having a broken spirit or a crushed spirit,
but it's really just in remission, stepping back and allowing the
mechanical body to do what it needs to do to survive. Sure it will
string you along on a thread of hope, but when demands are truly made
of us, the spirit all but subsides. That's because it's not a source
of strength, but a source of distraction, it's the source of our pain
and weakness. Imagine if it were gone, how much easier it would be to
do the most difficult things in life if we were purely mechanical.'
I wasn't dismayed by the thought, but was surprised at how
obviously wrong my sensation of the moment was from what was actually
happening. It's almos paradoxical, the above reasoning seemed clearly
true to me, but at the same time I knew that strength of spirit
describes something very real and necessary. I suppose it's not a
simple thing. It's not a fabric which need not tear or an engine that
need not fail. It's a swirling and confused push and pull of competing
emotions. It's the place where a wave of reason goes rogue with one of
feeling, and neither are diminished but rebound within us like waves
trapped in a bowl of water.