Bike Writing

Words are all that is left. Over the course of my trip I wrote all over my bike. I usually do and it was a source of amusement for those that could read English, as well as giving me something to think about . . . here is a selection.

"devotion frees"
"the production of too many useful things results in too many useless people" - Marx
"normality is death" - Adorno - a simple phrase with a multiplicity of meaning
"is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves" - Nietzsche
"life is too short for soft porn" - New Yorker cartoon - it is not really about porn children
"go on get out last words are for fools you have not said enough" - Marx - good advice
"abandon hope" - Buddhist saying that is not meant to be depressing . . . think about it
"anything too stupid to be said is often sung" - Voltaire - witty guy
"the rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs" - Marx - I thought of this after meeting many rich kids volunteering to help the poor while on vacation . . . maybe they should just write a check to the poor?
"you don't know you are having fun until you fall down" - I always say this and I fall a lot.
"we must have a pessimism of the mind and optimism of the will" - Gramsci - thought of this while doing things hard
"gracious one, play. The universe is an empty shell werein your mind frolics infinitely." - a tantra and good attitude to cultivate
"Pierce some part of your nectar-filled form with a pin, and gently enter the piercing." - tantra that I contemplated while crossing the Atacama because it seemed like a good escape. I thought of you, Dave Y, because I know you really like this one . . .
"Put attention neither on pleasure or pain but between these." - while climbing 1000's of meters yet again
"Roam about until exhausted and then dropping to the ground, in this dropping be whole." - that is just what I was doing, usually dropping fast asleep before I even ate dinner


Elvis the Sheep

Once again I am in a major tourist destination running errands this time searching out bike and auto body shops to dismantle my ride. While everyone rides around in boats to walk with penguins I grab my tools and begin the dismantling process. I am not generally overly attached to my bicycles. Bicycles are tools for doing something I love they are not what I love. Bikes come and go but I always go riding. Frames always break given enough use and get replaced by new frames - usually under warranty (thank you Salsa). I knew this bike was not coming home the day I broke the frame clear through a weld on the rear drop out while climbing into the highlands above Huanuco, Peru. While wrenching and discarding tired/broken parts, I had a bitter sweet recollection of growing up on the farm. Elvis was a yearling ram that I showed at agricultural fairs for a season. Elvis was a sweet tempered sheep which can be rare in rams - he enjoyed having his neck scratched and willingly walked on a lead. But he was a ram, you only need so many rams on a sheep farm, and we could not sell him . . . So one crisp fall day I led him for the last time out into the front yard to go under the knife and into the freezer. I remember dad asking if I was ok . . . but this is reality - things come, things go, and we ate him. But like most of our animals we put his name on the package giving meals a reverence for their memory. I enjoyed this bike. I enjoyed imagining the bike. I enjoyed building the bike. I enjoyed long days in the saddle in my journey across the mountains, deserts, and jungles of two continents.

"Feel an object before you. Feel the absence of all other objects but this one. Then, leaving aside the object-feeling and the absence-feeling, realize."

more to come . . .

I finished up this post while I watch the brothel across the street empty out of its last customers, girls go home, and the red light went out. I will be continuing to post the last of my travels.


wet cold windy wet cold windy then Ushuaia

wet cold windy wet cold windy wet cold windy wet cold windy . . . my new mantra - Punta Arenas was my first real city since January in Mendoza. I needed a little rest before the final push down Tierra del Fuego to Ushuaia. Matt and I stayed in a cheap but comfortable hostel with the only downside being the cats, I am allergic, but hard to begrudge kittens. The hostel was essentially empty. Tourists are dissipating with the approaching winter but one other cyclist we had met on the road outside of Calafate, Bert from Belgium, did show up - he was ending his trip.
Matt needed a new camera so we spent some time in the zona franca (tax free zone) camera shopping - which actually required three trips for Matt but he ended up with a nice camera (Canon s90). The prices were good for Latin America but on average about 20% higher than list price in the United States.
Matt and I went for a little stroll around the city to give his new camera a spin but after walking the beach to the port we looped through the city and made it to about here . . . Men sat singly and in pairs at formica tables sunlight streaming through the plate glass windows illuminating half liter Australs and wafting cigarette smoke. A nice Saturday afternoon. Initially, they wondered how the foreigners wandered in here but soon we were chatting and invited over to a table . . . however we were catching a ferry in the morning and still had errands to complete - so no extended drinking session with locals. I needed to repair my rear rack . . . again. The first top rail broke in Peru, the second on the Austral Highway but now the main vertical support was bowed and a weld splitting - a show stopper. I went to a hard ware store for more hose clamps, tubing, and found a metal bar in the hostel courtyard to use as a splint - ta da frankenbike - just needs to hold for 450km. But first we stopped and got some curanto, a mix of seafood and sausages . . .
We rose early Sunday morning to ride in the rain to the port to catch the ferry to Porvenir, Tierra del Fuego, Chile. Thankfully, the ferry had a large heated cabin with seats and coffee - both Matt and I napped our way across the Straight of Magellan. Tierra del Fuego was looking cold wet and windy dolphins escorted the ship towards the harbor.
We disembarked in a light drizzle and pedaled the short distance into Porvenir to grab a couple supplies and use the free municipal WIFI to check some directions. We headed out on dirt road - my final 140km of ripio for this trip. The landscape was a rolling treeless brown along the coast of the Straight of Magellan with abundant wildlife - Guanacos heralded our passing with a strange call between the whinny of a horse and high pitched bray of a donkey. yet more flamingos.
The rain never really stopped but varied in intensity - Matt decided to buy fenders when he returned to Santiago, Chile . . .
good idea.
After 100km of dirt road in the rain we stopped at a bus shelter we knew was there from a previous cyclist - however the windows were busted, the door missing, and some asshole had taken a shit in it . . . but it was raining, dark, the ground was soaked, the temperature dropping fast . . . so in we went huddled in our bags and made dinner of green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and chorizo over rice .
In the morning I woke damp looked outside and it was snowing - not flurries but piling up and had blown into the bus shelter in the night. A good thing we had the shelter but Matt had left his ride clothes outside and they were buried in snow . . . at least we had snow to melt for coffee and polenta. I guess we looked a little dejected in our busted up bus stop looking out at the snow - a car passed honked waved then flipped back around to offer us hot coffee from their thermos - nice people, very nice people.
After coffee and breakfast it was time to move - wet ride clothes are never fun but snowy wet ride clothes really do suck. I put plastic bags over my feet and hands to cut the wind. We had 40km to the Chilean border at San Sebastian and hoped to find some shelter and warmth . . . maybe an abandoned building to light on fire.
We lucked out and the only business in the whole of San Sebastian was a hosteria with restaurant - it was expensive relative to our usual digs but everything costs more than a bus stop. However, we needed to dry out before we continued and our feet were blocks of wood - the kind of needling pain when circulation returns. We made good use of the room, every available heater in the hall way, and shower - that is about an inch of mud on the bottom of the shower stall after Matt rinsed his clothes. After taking care of business I slept for hours warm. We were not the only travelers stranded by the weather, three motorcycles were parked there as well - one from Austin, Texas, a German, a Russian, and two Spaniards. The next morning dawned clear and cold - fine riding weather if you have dry clothes.
The Spaniard was traveling around the world and had his gas tank decorated in Pakistan.
Crossing back into Argentina we ran into Lucie and Torrie - they had been to Ushuaia and were hitching back to Buenos Aires to return home on April 18th. Argentina was welcoming as usual and everyone knew where we were headed, wished us the best of luck and said we were likely the last cyclists of the season.
We headed out across the pampas of Tierra del Fuego making good time on pavement passing estancias and sheep to reach the city of Rio Grande by nightfall - a city about industry and sheep with some of the highest wages in Argentina - braced against the winds on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.Two days from Ushuaia we continued towards the still distant mountains of the south and trees begin to reappear. The famous winds that were supposed to blow us south never materialized and we battled cross and head winds all day.
I am getting tired after all this peddling. Recovery is not happening fast now my legs are lacking spunk but I can always push pedals down. In the afternoon I bonk while climbing the plateau to Tolhuin in the passing rain showers, snow, stinging hail. . . it is depressing to realize that while only 30+km to go you may take close to three hours. Nightfall and freezing temperatures are good motivators. I make a little withdrawal from the "pain bank," stand up and push hard into the dusk then night for the final 20km into Tolhuin to arrive at Panaderia La Union. The bakery has become an institution for touring cyclist going south. The owner, Emilio, is an avid cyclists and opens his doors to all cyclists providing a free warm room and shower in the back storehouse with several tons of flour.
Matt and I ate 28 empanadas, 12 facturas (pasteries), 4 churros, and drank six beers so I think the open door policy works well for everyone in the end. Matt and I read through the guest book recognizing the names that came before us in the past several months.After coffee, pastries, and a brief stroll around town (cannot be anything but brief really) we put on dry warm ride clothes for the final 100+km to the end of the world.
Once again we are cycling in Patagonian trees, mountains, lakes and Matt and I are pleasantly surprised. We expected a continuation of the flat muted brown features of the pampas.Fall colors are in full riot . . . strange to think I will be seeing the reds of a budding spring in less than a week on the other side of the world.We finish out a pass through snowline and begin the descent through the valleys of the Martial Mountains to Ushuaia on the Beagle Channel.
The ride could have been fast if not for the head winds that became a crazy buffeting swirl until . . .
Ushuaia the southern most city on Earth, fin del mundo, the end of my ride after 17 months 1 week and somewhere around 24,000km. The finality starts to dawn as I remove my panniers, for what I realize, is my last time . . . on this journey.


Chasing Rainbows . . .

of course that means rain. The rain rarely lingers clouds race across the sky on the wind the landscape raked by shadows and sun. Trees leave little doubt as to the direction of the prevailing winds - thankfully they point in our direction.Pto. Natales was a pleasant rest stop at the Erratic Rock hostel full of folks doing/done one of two trekking loops in the Torres del Paine, the W or the O. Matt considered it, I never did but we heard enough discussion of the trek to feel like we did it thrice. I have plenty of exercise and cold dampness in my life at the moment - besides I heard it is in the 70's in Buenos Aires and I have a plane to catch. The afternoon started wet leaving in a steady cold rain, Mat and I were braced for a little misery but when we dropped down onto the Llanuras de Diana the clouds started to break up.Llanura means flat plain which connotes 'boring' to my mind and everyone said it was going to be a dull monotonous ride. The ride was beautiful passing a succession of estancias with essentially one climb, other than rollers, up the Cordon Arauca over looking the Llanura de Diana.
The winds drove the rain clouds before us producing a continuous series of retreating rainbows for the 250km into Punta Arenas.
With the approaching darkness we started looking for a place to spend the night out of the inevitable wind and rain. Thankfully the paradas (bus stops) have shelters with doors and appeared every 20km - we just needed to find one with windows, a solid floor, and not used as a bathroom.
Home sweet home for the night out of the raging wind and driving rain - stylish architecture too. Truckers honk to us roaring north and south as we sat on the bench in our sleeping bags cooking dinner and drinking box wine by headlamp.
Accommodations were a little tight but we could stretch out - just barely.
The morning dawned promising with rain blowing ahead, we had a big day of 160+km into Punta Arenas - hopefully the winds would stay to our backs . . . but we knew that was not to be. Initially we motored down the road at 40-50kmph then the road angled west and we were blasted from the side. Pushing down the road leaned over into the wind shoved around by gusts that made standing hard. A woman tending a small store told us the day was relatively calm . . . The riding was hard but occasionally relented when we turned easterly, however I was finally able to get close enough to Rheas, or Nandus, to take their photo crossing the road. We also saw thousands of sheep along with the usual assortment of birds and Guanacos.
The day was long. Matt and I got separated. I rode into Punta Arenas on a US style four lane highway in the dark . . . with two lanes closed for construction - not much fun weaving back and forth across the unlit highway over barriers on dirt frontage roads to arrive in an unfamiliar downtown chilled, hungry, and wind burned. I ducked into an internet cabina located a hostel, got my bearings, then tracked down Matt after a shower, beer, and food. Matt and I met up at 11pm for second dinner. Here we are at 54 degrees latitude in the largest southern most city in the world . . .
Tomorrow we cross the Straight of Magellan by ferry to Tierra del Fuego.