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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Sunday, March 14, 2010

First, Do No Harm

There is nothing impressive in taking and hurting. That is the main thing I have noticed in encountering situations where someone is trying to steal or cause harm. It really just looks pathetic. Sometimes the people look ashamed, and sometimes unaware of themselves as though they were beings without consciousness, soley focused on what they want and entirely unaware that there is a world out there observing and judging them. Despite myself I know that I always look at them in the way that you look at someone who should be ashamed.
When I was in Central America, somewhere in central America, I don't recall where though I have it written down, one of the guards at a check point tried to take my Leatherman. This may sound frightening or dangerous, and I'm sure the situation could have been tweaked to make it so, but in truth it was just, well, pathetic.
The man was short, middle aged and round. I was talking to another guard when his short fat hands slowly drifted towards a pocket on my bag. With tender, timid care he unzipped the pocket and slid his fat fingers inside. I was watching all this and he knew it, and his expression and gesture was that of feigning innocent curiosity, but I knew he was going to try and take something. He rummaged around delicately for a moment in the pocket he had opened and then extracted the black leather case holding the tool. He took out the tool and opened it. I stared at him, caught his eye to be sure that he knew that I knew, and that he was examining the tool with my permission, and continued talking with the other guards.
'Give me this.' The man with the tool interrupted a second later.
He had opened the knife and was trying to figure out how to close it again. I turned back to face him. My face, beaten with sun and fatigue, behind sun glasses and smeared with diesel. My shirt open, face, arms and chest running with sweat. His face, round, timid, embarrassed.
'Why?' I asked laughing lightly.
He paused, still unable to close the blade. I reached out to show him how to do it but he pulled pulled back and wouldn't let the tool go.
'Give me this he repeated again,' mainly because he couldn't answer my question: why?
'No.' I answered him.
A list of the facts of situation might make it sound dangerous and impressive: I was in the rain-forest in some third world country surrounded by three men wearing camouflage and carrying machine guns. The man trying to steal from me was holding my knife between the two of us.
Those are the facts, but the reality is that they wore their rifles over their shoulders with the casual sling of a woman's purse, the men were short and yes a bit unsavory, but shy: normal men in boots. The man with the knife held it not like a knife but more like a new cell phone he didn't know how to use. There was no danger. There was no danger provided I could somehow establish that we were friends but that I was not going to indulge their begging.
You can fight with anyone if that is what you are looking to do. I did not want to fight and the situation passed. The knife was returned to me and I smiled at the man to let him know it was okay, as though to pretend that he had never tried anything so rude and embarrassing.
It was the same for me in every instance I encountered this type of behavior. It was never impressive. From street fights to petty theft to pimping and dealing to when four men on motorcycles tried to rob me one night in Colombia, the instances sound far different in one line descriptions than they are in reality, and the best I can do to describe the reality is to say that it is really nothing at all impressive.