21 December 2009
Within a week we will be flipping over to the final page of our map. We have had hundreds of maps leading us to this point, from military topographical maps to cartoon-like tourist maps and often enough rough sketches scribbled on a loose sheet of paper with arrows and obscure pictographs. These maps have all been traded, gifted or reduced to a pulpy mash at the bottom of our bags. And now, having the rest of our journey so neatly displayed on a foldout just 11×15 inches, seems impossible.
I won´t lie; more than once I have peeked at this page, tracing my finger along the few roads crossing Tierra del Fuego, counting off the final kilometers to Ushuaia. A wild patch of land sliced off South America by the Strait of Magellan – this Land of Fire, where early explorers saw the indigenous clothed merely in decorative paint and women breast feeding under sleet. This is where the Americas run out of land, and where a southern compass bearing no longer offers us the simple navigational wisdom it has for the past 30 thousand odd kilometers.
Reflecting on the journey, I am tempted to expect some clarity as we near the end. If somebody in Ushuaia asks me why I pedaled all that way to arrive in their city, could I say anything that will help them understand? Or rather anything that can even help me understand?
Our trip has been about making a lifestyle out of something you love. It has been about taking that tiny dirt road you may pass by everyday and wonder where it goes. Sometimes it is about ridding yourself of a routine, and discovering where chance may take you – into the lives of new friends and hospitality or into dangerous and challenging circumstances. And yet, every time I think I grasp the purpose of our journey, as if it materializes in the reflection of still water, when I reach down to grab ahold, the object suddenly vanishes.
The key has been to appreciate the moment, whether it is enduring physical/mental challenges, enjoying the company of new friends, or becoming immersed in other cultures. Whenever we have tried to constrain the experience: to cover a certain amount of kilometers per day, or to stay only x amount of days in a city, the beauty of our experience starts fading away.
I can´t say that it feels like just yesterday we began our trip at the northernmost reaches of Alaska. After three and a half years, I sometimes find it difficult to imagine, let alone remember what it was like in the beginning. However, getting into Patagonia proper has been one of the most exciting sections of our trip, because it DOES feel like we have traveled from the ends of the earth. Much like our time in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, we can ride until 11 at night because the days are so long. The temperate climate reminds us of home, a world away from the sticky tropics that reach from Mexico until just after Bolivia. The winding stretches of dirt roads through Patagonia offer flashes of deja-vu, reminding us of sections in Montana, Canada and Alaska, and ultimately, just how far we have come.
Starting the trip seemed so simple, as if we were just going on another bike ride, only without having to make a loop or turn around to finish where we started. At the end of each day, there are no cars waiting for us, apartments to come back to, jobs to prepare for – only what is revealed by the curve in the dirt road at the end of a long day. The result has been an epic era in our lives, defined by freedom, adventure, and friendship. Thanks to the support and encouragement of our family and friends, we have had the privilege to chase this dream from the top of Alaska down the continental divide until this Spine along the Earth disappears into the sea.
We wanted to take the opportunity to thank everybody for your support over the years and hope that your holidays are filled with friends, family, warmth and festivities.