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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Monday, December 7, 2009

I Can't See Peru

As a kid I was always intrigued by that curve in the road you can't
see around. Creeks and rivers were mysterious; I would look upstream
and could not imagine where the water flowed from. While hiking I
followed the trail that seemed darker, more obscure. Driven by simple
curiosity I would always want to press on after everyone else had seen
enough. Only rarely would I ever reach the end of a trail or road, and
it always left me with the same satisfaction one gets when reaching
the top of a hill.
When I started this trip the entire world was concealed behind the
curves of the road. I could only vaguely imagine what it would be like
in Canada to watch the road cut between mountains that look
impassible, what it would be like to come across a town, a building or
a person in the forest. I had no feeling of it, and no real
understanding. The same was true of the pacific northwest: 'How is it
that the coast transforms into the city of Seattle? How will the city
fall away?' I would look at a map and see a massive empty chunk of
land and wonder what was really there: 'Is there really nothing? What
is that like? Who is there in that nothing?' California I knew
already, but have now studied and tasted it, watched it slowly bend
and change with reluctant miles.
Mexico I had only fragments of stereotypes and photos flitting
through my head. Looking at maps it seemed impossible to traverse the
distance. Looking at the mad jumble of countries beneath it, my
imagination was virtually useless. 'What is the road like? How is it
to cross a border? Are there towns? People? Food? How much danger will
I be in? Will my Spanish work?' It looked just impossible at a
distance, but that is a common feature to all interesting problems.
There is something I find profoundly beautiful and satisfying in
rock climbing. It is a pure exercise in problem solving. There is
something wonderful about a face of rock that catches the sun and
looks smooth and featureless. From a distance it looks impossible to
climb. There is nothing to grab, nowhere to stand. But once you get
right next to the rock, once you feel it with your fingers and look
carefully at its surface, features appear. It comes in waves, and even
once you see the weaknesses in the rock, it still doesn't seem
possible to climb. But begin anyways, just start. Put your hand on
that crack and try your toe in that hole and press here with your palm
and move your heel out and slowly you'll see that you can hold on. It
still looks impossible higher up, but don't worry about that now,
because when you get there you'll see and feel the curves and cracks
and edges that make climbing it possible. There is always a point or
two where your weighting gets off, where you lose confidence or tire,
and you can't see a way to get through a tough time. Stop. Just stop.
Stare at the rock, let your mind simply work. Let your body recover.
Now slowly change your weight, try a new angle, be creative and
patient and suddenly everything springs into place. Suddenly
everything feels right and natural and you can move through the
difficulty with confidence.
I came closer to the problem, to Baja, borders, roads, cities,
mountains, weather and so on, and now I understand it. I know where
the cracks are, how to leverage my weight and where to put my hands. I
know what the tough spots look like and what to do with them. I have
been around enough curves in the road that I can see beyond them now
before getting there. I can look at the horizon and just know where
the road will go, and what will be there. It took a while to reach
that point here in Central America, but I certainly have. Tomorrow is
my last day riding here and I am ready to leave.
I still cannot see the road in Colombia. I can't imagine the
mountains there, or the roads, the rivers or the people. 'How is it
that a village is set into the Andes? How does the road move from heat
to snow?' Ecuador seems even more distant to my imagination, and Peru,
Chile and Argentina and pure black boxes. I can still go in my mind
quite clearly to any place I have already been, and I can't wait to be
able to do that for South America as well.