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goat and the Chupacabra are on a new, slightly shorter, fat-tired bike adventure. Riding the coast of Baja California (avoiding roads of course) carrying an inflatable surf mat, a surf board, and a lot of drinking water.

In company of Mat Whitehead — Australian born inveterate traveler, surfer, bike enthusiast, and former fat-long-tail bike tourist (the only other one l know of). When we met (other than on the internet) in santa cruz last year we dreamed of joining forces – he and his friend were on an extended surf/bike tour (sandystretch.com)– 3 fattire longtails together would have been something to behold…. Alas it wasn’t ment to be, but our paths crossed again in Canada a year or so later, and we decided the time had come. His bike, Hillbilly, was in Australia and he wanted to try a lighter sportier ride so he downsized to a Surly Pugsly.
We crossed the border into Tijuana today, with lots of detours wrong turns and general strangeness. Hoping to get some waves tomorrow and out into the great unknown (and off the paved track) ASAP. You can follow our adventures in the sand and sea (as goat learns to surf) on bicyclerust.com and afewsketchymoments.tumblr.com.

On December 7th at 6:00 pm california time
goat will be on the air. For an interview/story telling session on biketouringbliss.com. It’s internet radio, and that means anyone can listen in or even participate, so please do.  Lookign forward to talking to you, so head to biketouringbliss.com and sign up. It’s free.

Sometimes it seems like there is not much to say. After three years on this bike tour, we´re short on superlatives and there are only so many times we can write about the food we eat or offer details about the kilometers covered. We´ve already seen the steepest hills, the longest downhills, the muddiest trails, and yet we will be daily battling one last extreme obstacle on our way to Ushuaia.

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The wind here in Pataogina- possibly a cyclist`s greatest nemesis, makes the daily ride, more of a daily grind. It is one of nature`s more violent features, pushing us from one side of the road to the other, sometimes into oncoming traffic. Other times, it feels like it actually grabs ahold of me and just shakes me while it screeches and howls in my ears. Under rain and sleet and heat, there always seems to be some solution. But wind is relentless, like a battlefield. To rest, or eat snacks we have to find some kind of windshield. Somtimes an abandoned building, other times we are crawling into culverts underneath the road, anything to escape the wind for a moment.

Sometimes invisible, other times so very tangible. Whether it takes form in a dust cloud, with stinging bits of rocks blowing against our faces and arms or renders the low brush and grass as fluid as abody of water, rippling with the gusts. Sometimes it feels like we are almost swimming in the wind, subjected to such powerful currents. When riding close together we simultaneously get blown into another lane, or when spread out further there can be a delay of a few moments, but inevitably the gust finds you. Somehow, we have rarely encountered much wind, until Argentina that is, and apparently, we are making up for lost time.

Lately, it has become more difficult to offer updates on our blog. Maybe it is inevitable for every bike tourist, or maybe it takes a few years, but there are some days when you really have no desire to ride your bike, and less desire to spend your day camped out in the middle of nowhere. Riding the bike starts to feel like work. Anything worthwhile to converse with your fellow riders has most likely been said, and the result is conversations of nonsensensical banter or like people stranded on a deserted island discussing dreams of hamburgers, dark beer, and other luxuries are shared.

Something feels wrong sharing an update with low morale. How could we not enjoy this; we are living our dreams, and yet some days, I just want to get on a bus lift my feet up, close my eyes as, and drool on myself as we blast across the countryside. Sean and I joke about taking a bus, sometimes seriously. It seems lately, I don´t understand why I continue to pedal to Ushuaia, we have gone plenty far, had plenty of adventures. But lately there have been many days I just have not enjoyed another day on the bike.

It is partially the timing and partially the countryside. In these flat sections we can see beyond the horizon and the pampas seem to tilt towards the end of the world, offering the illusion that in another 50 kilometers or so, South America runs out of land. From Mexico on, we have always faced a wall of mountains and jungle, and progress wasn´t so visible; it never seemed to matter how far you went in a day, and dragging the bike through mudslides and jungle vines oddly enough, seemed to make sense. Now we are haunted by the open skies and kilometer markers, which update us each and every kilometer we have left. At the border of Argentina the first one marked five thousand and some odd kilometers, and we are now reaching two thousand kilometers to go. Just about every kilometer is marked, apart from the signs whose numbers appeare to have been blown off by the wind. Just 2,349 to go, 2,348, 2,347 and when the wind stretches the distance between the signs, you can easily see how it could get to you.

AND we have been on paved roads more than we would prefer through Argentina, something we have patently avoided since the beginning. Being so close to the end, and so low on funds, we don´t have the luxury to veer onto those tiny dirt roads and find out where they go. For the first time in the trip, it hasn´t felt like we were just headed south as much as headed to Tierra del Fuego. Yes. Now it feels like we have a destination and that has been a challenge for morale. It is complicated. Why would we ever wish to finish this trip, it has been such a wild adventure. Why not delay it as much as possible?

Bike tourists sacrifice a tremendous amount to make their trip a reality…the dream come true. They have to leave behind friends and family, and live off of very little money, with little opportunity to gain any kind of income. It can become a stressful lifestyle, when you get up and it´s cold and raining or sleeting and you have to put on wet clothes ride all day, wake up and repeat, or when you check your email and your bank says you have insufficient funds, or when you see videos of your brothers new child saying their ABC`s, or be unable to return for a funeral when a family member dies. Have I really been gone that long, you think yourself?

We have taken a break here in San Martin de Los Andes, a moment to forget about finishing the trip, about our finances and the challenges we have ahead. Maxi, who owns the Bike Hostel here has put us up for free for as long as we want, and although hospitality has been common and generous en route, it is easy for three guys on huge bikes to wear out their welcome, rather quickly. Maxi has also been on bike tours and understands the level of hospitality that is needed. He doesn´t ask us when we plan to leave each day, and encourages us to stay longer; doesn´t force us to entertain him with stories about our travels, but freely shares stories of his own. Within the community there are an impressive amount of cyclists. Each day new bike tourists arrive, and for the first time in a long time we have been part of a community, gone to ‘Asados’, drank wine and beer and enjoyed socializing with like minded folks. We have had the opportunity to check out the epic singeltrack in the area with the locals. We have ultimately, thanks to Maxi, had a place to simply BE for a while.

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You can never underestimate the importance of rest days on a lengthy bike tour, when you are constantly moving. There has to be periods where you can feel like you have a home other than the bike, where you can spend time with new friends for more than a night or two. Or mabye not, but in my experience, there comes a point when I don`t want to feel like a wandering gypsy, with no clear destination, without ever having a place to rest, to come back to at night.

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Thanks in part to a lengthy rest at the bike hostel and the location, our path ahead is once again new and exciting – novel. Severe snowy mountains surround us on all sides, and a dirt road that traverses seven lakes awaits us. We have already seen new types of trees and exotic looking birds. A rider from Spain traveling from Bolivia is going to be joining us and hopefully another pair also traveling from Alaska. Traveling with other riders is going to be exciting, as there will be more strength, and greater morale with a larger group. After traveling so long with out encountering any other bike tourists, the opportunity to share the experience with others seems priceless, really and we´re looking forward to it.

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Check out a feature article, “Riding the Crooked Spine” about our trip in Adventure Sports Journal, Northern California´s number one resource for outdoor enthusiasts. (Not in NorCal? Subscribe HERE.)

 

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Getting back on my bike was more difficult than I expected. The month long hiatus had taken its toll, and I had acclimatized to sea level.

We reorganized in Ayacocha, a small colonial town where the Shining Path, a Maoist guerilla organization got its start in 1980 with a philosophy professor at the university.

Out of town, we quickly escaped the traffic and noise and found ourselves cruising up and down the contours of small tributary valleys. Giant agave plants curled over the road periodically giving it a tunnel like effect, and the Nopales cactus crammed in with scrub brush and thorny trees. The landscape seemed to open up, a noticeable change from the wall of jungle in Central America and the steep climbs throughout the Andes. Still, it was not flat, we were climbing and dropping 100 meters a pop, but it doesn´t take long in the Andes to get the feeling that every mountain requires a 3,000 meter climb to cross over.

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As we passed by small village huts, children with dirt and snot smeared across their face would yell, “Gringo Gringo.� with great delight. A phrase we hear hundreds of times a day, sometimes laced with venom, but for the most part, good natured. Goat was riding by and heard the mom tell them, “Hey that´s not nice, say hello.� And then the kids started chanting, “Hola Gringo, Hola Gringo.� Further up the road a farmer waved him over excitedly, holding a bag of coca leaves with a green oozy smile so full of leaves he couldn´t manage to say anything comprehensible. He wanted Goat to be as happy as he was and encouraged him to take a chew.
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By the end of the day, I was beat and ready to camp. Goat had found a spot tucked behind some fields where nobody except for a few wandering dogs would come upon us. We set up camp before dark and enjoyed the clear skies and beautiful weather, refreshing, like California in early spring. A thick layer of clouds were creeping over an adjacent mountain range, displaying red and orange hues as the sun set.
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We steadily climbed up a smooth valley, hey fields and crop covers all covered the hillsides in a golden hue. A large gathering was happening at a tiny one chapel church and I stopped to take some photos and enjoy the revelry. A huge 20 something piece band from Ayacucho was drinking outside the church, and everybody in the town seemed to have a drink in hand or were already too drunk to keep hold of one.

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Freshly tuned up, my bike seemed to do fine through the river crossings that morning and even a section of mud that flooded down the mountain. “Heh. My bike feels great� I thought to myself as I shifted into a harder gear and sped over a few quick rolling hills.

Though as my chain began to skip, I was sure my two dollar “DINGL� brand derailleur was at fault. Even when finely tuned, it offered only 7 of the 8 gears, and now the teeth couldn´t catch any.

Every section graded more than 20 degrees forced me to step off, and first pretend that hammering on the derailleur with a rock would fix the problem, and then, push the bike to the next flat section. This miserable routine continued the next few hours until I arrived in Cochabamba, a city apparently celebrating Easter a week late (rain delayed the celebration, they explained).

A giant tree decorated with ornaments of fruit and cloth had fallen over in the central park and the townfolk were busy trying to right it, while two young girls elaborately costumed sat idly on horses, preparing to be paraded around. I found the others cowering under the presence of a giant mob (more than half the town) that had circled around them, as if the gringos were the second coming of Christ.

Goat looked over my bike, “Bad news. It´s not the derailleur. Your whole drive train is blown. The teeth are gone. We can try flipping each cog and filing the teeth, maybe get you a few extra days of riding, but… well…� and left me to consider our lack of options.

This was to be day one of a lengthy and serious bikepacking section on dirt roads, horse trails, and missing spots on the map. Not the place to be without a drivetrain.
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Only in Ecuador, I think to myself as the race director explains that we will be dealing with an active volcano during the competition. Tungurahua Volcano started spewing ash into the sky about a week ago, dumping it across the countryside and piling up in sections of our route.

We are less than 24 hours from the start of HuairaSinchi (Part of the AR World Series), which translates to “the wind´s strength� in Kichwa, but what really worries us about this race is not the wind or even the volcano, but the sustained high elevations throughout the majority of the race.

At the highest point of the 318 kilometer course unveiled last night, the route reaches 14,435 feet and drops to 108 feet in the last 100 kilometers, passing through a tremendous variety of ecosystems. A good 80 kilometers of the race doesn´t fall below 11,482 feet. They promised us that we will be cold and we will suffer. (more…)

If you enjoy visiting the RTS Website, be sure to check out Adventure World Magazine, featuring articles by Jacob about their journey.  You can sign up for a subscription and get instant access to this greenzine, covering a wide variety of adventure sports. 

 

We have arrived in Quito, Ecuador. Country number 10 of our travels. JJ is currently in Panama working on a kayak trip and Sean is relaxing on the coast of Ecuador with a friend of his. Simon arrived in Quito yesterday and put his Xtracycle together in his hotel room, much to the annoyance of the management.

Goat, Simon and I are leaving  in a few days to climb Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

Photos and updates are soon to come.


Cool bike statue in Ecuador.

Christmas gathering roasting up Cuyes, tasty roasted guinea pigs.

I’ve had a bit of time to make some updates. Got around to adding some more photos from the Cricamola River Exploratory to the Panama Photo Gallery. Click the photo above to see the updated gallery.

We think it must have been somewhere near the town of Quimbaya where JJ was bit by a mosquito that carried Dengue Fever. Cycles of fevers and chills swept in and out each day and he knew he had more than just an average flu. A clinic diagnosed him with Dengue and recommended a lot of water and rest while his platelets are restored . Here JJ is trying to get some rest (and raise his platelets) in a park while mobbed by the usual crowd of curious locals.

Waiting behind a sheet of rain draining off the roof of a small tienda were a group of stranded travelers.

“It is far too dangerous to cross right now, please wait for the bulldozer.� Somebody offered, even stepped aside to make room under the shelter.

It was true.  Rocks were continuously tumbling down, some encouraging smaller slides to pile up against the mass of earth slowly taking over the final piece of road.  We waited for about five increasingly uncomfortable minutes; our clothes of course dripping wet, our bike shorts like soggy diapers.  Rocks kept scrambling down the sloppy earth.

Against their wishes I decided to go for it.  I backed around to get some momentum, hoping to get through the slide as quickly as possible.  A path large enough for a motorcycle or bike remained, but was filled with boulders, larger than my head.  Smaller stones sunk below the huge flooded puddle that marked the path to follow.

I watched the rocks sliding down from the very top and started pedaling across, trying to time my entrance as cleanly as possible.  Once in the slide, I could no longer watch the falling rocks, as I had to pay attention to the technical riding in front of me.

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We got the Colombian photo gallery updated with photos from our most recent stretch of riding. Click on the photo below to check them out.

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