Buff3y the Hard Core Adventure Cycling rolled into Ushuaia yesterday, thus completing the bicycle trip through the Americas.
Now as I stand by the water of the Strait of Magellan and turn my gaze to the north, there is not one latitude between this point (54 degrees 48′ 47″ South) and Dead Horse Alaska (70 degrees 12′ 20″ North) that has not been troubled by the pedaling fury that is Buff3y atop his trusty bicycle.
Every ocean to ocean, every sea to sea has been 100% Buff3y-Powered; no dotted lines; no motorized land transport: Pure Buff3y.
It has (just today) become something of a truism that there are essentially only two types of people in this world; those who have bicycled the Pan-American Highway, and the rest.
I’m elated to finish. This is a destination that I have earned! By the Great Lord Harry I have! In coming days it might sink in that it’s actually all over and there is no more pedaling to be done but am not quite there yet. People say you have mixed feelings when you finish a big trip and its true. I’ve been scared to think too much about the last days of riding for fear that ‘the last mile could be the hardest mile’. Right now I don’t want to jump up and down and say things like ‘Woo!’ or ‘Yeah!’ or even ‘Right On’. I’m just completely chuffed (dare I say, to the very core).
There is, however, a certain troubling feeling that this body may never again be the lean, mile-devouring, buffaldium-infused strike weapon that it is this day. I certainly intend to work on reinstating the flab over Christmas in Australia, preferably to the accompaniment of the gentle tonk of willow on leather that signals the time-honoured Australian tradition of the Boxing-Day test match (that’s cricket for the heathens out there).
I’ll miss the rhythm of riding eight, ten sometimes twelve hours a day just chuggin’ down the road. I’ll miss imbibing (and exuding) X litres of water every day, all of the body operating at a level that is difficult if not impossible to replicate elsewhere. In time I might even miss my own pasta concoctions but that’s a way off yet. Perhaps most of all I’ll miss the purity of the task of riding down the road, experiencing this wondrous planet and seeing what comes next over the horizon. Harry ‘The Breaker’ Morant put it best over a hundred years ago:
Oh those rides across the river,
but a shallow stream runs wide,
and a sunset’s beams were glossing
strips of sand on either side
We would cross that sparkling river,
on a brown horse and a bay;
watch the willows sway and shiver
and the trembling shadows play.
These are memories to be hoarded
of a foolish tale and fond,
‘Til another creek be forded,
and we reach the Great Beyond.
How utterly great the beyond of these Americas has been.
Am loath to take the bike apart and pack it up for the plane but sadly it must be done tomorrow.
OK, admittedly the solo cyclist can go a little bit nuts out there on the long road but I think I’ve managed to bring myself back from the brink a few times and stay at least partially sane.
So what have we learned out there kids? These Americas are amazingly beautiful and biking is a beautiful way to see them.
The world is also a far safer place than many would have you believe (unless you pass through Colon in Panama [refer song]).
Biking is hard, some days so hard but ultimately a hugely rewarding way to see the world and even learn something of yourself along the way.
On bike traveling methodology, I had one of those significant ‘moments’ in Mexico when I turned left off the main highway and headed up the ‘Devil’s Spine’, a road that zig-zagged up into the hills towards Durango. In doing so, I (re)learned the importance of an oft-quoted cliché about traveling; that it’s not about the destination but the getting there. At that point I stopped just trying to pedal south to get to Ushuaia and started to take more interesting options, spending time to enjoy a more circuitous road. Without this turn I don’t think I would have then taken another left turn and taken the mountain route through Peru, never ridden down into the Valley of Instant Death near Celendin or conquered the River of Instant Death with Eric and Lydie in Peru. I would definitely never have done the ride from Sajama to San Pedro de Atacama in South West Bolivia, a biking experience that will stay with me till I shuffle off this particular mortal coil.
To all of the bikers I’ve shared the road with, my heartfelt thanks. Touring cyclists are a great bunch of people and those I met on the road south have repeatedly bolstered my sometimes wavering faith in humanity. I have huge respect for those who have the fortitude and imagination to ride out onto the long road and endure all of the hardships to see what the world has to offer from this unique perspective. Special thanks to Rob the Mystical Spider Whisperer and Ian The-Scruffy who both showed me that it is possible to tour on a bike when at least a few cards have slipped between the cushions of the couch.
There are some awards to give out:
‘Nicest People’ award is shared by the Colombians and Argentinians. It was a pleasure to bike through these countries and be greeted with nothing but kindness and respect.
‘Coolest People’ Award goes to the bicycle and craft-beer loving people of North West USA, especially the bike loving people of Oregon. Thanks for showing me a truly groovy part of the USA.
‘Greatest Natural Beauty’ award goes to Bolivia (salt lakes and volcanoes) and special mention to Peru for the high Andes. All must see these places before they die.
‘Best Road Users’ award goes to all of the truck drivers of North and South America. They get a big thank you for being so considerate when passing by almost always leaving loads of space. The drivers of cars, RVs and the bus drivers of Canada get the raspberry here. (Oh, that truck driver who knocked me off into a ditch and the bus driver who got gobbed on in Mexico for side swiping me is excluded from this group – bastidos!)
‘Best Song’ goes to Bag-Stuffin’ Woman (Buff3aldo Records)
‘Most Beautiful Athletic Achievement’ goes to Buff3y for his non-synchronised swimming in Sajama, Bolivia.
‘Worst Pun’ goes to “We don’t need no stinkin’ bad cheese” (Mexico post)
“Most popular blog entry’ award goes to ‘In defense of the Pant‘ (Vancouver, Canada)
My sincere thanks go to the guys at Co-Motion bikes in Eugene Oregon who put together a truly fantastic bike for me. I also thank http://www.ribbonofroad.com; two guys whose Americas trip blog that I came across in 2011 inspired me to head for Dead Horse Alaska with a bike.
Today I do feel a certain sense of responsibility to my army of readers who, in the absence of regular tales of daring-do from Buff3ysbicyclingblog will not have anything to liven up their drab wretched lives. Stay strong during the withdrawal period folks and talk out any issues you might have with friends and family. Don’t contact me unless it is to praise me as brilliant.
It’s been a lot of fun writing this blog over the last year and a half. I hope that you have enjoyed it. It’s been very therapeutic. Not sure who all of the 50 to 100 clickers per day have been but there is quite obviously something wrong with you all, so seek help, now.
After the obligatory book, DVD and movie discussions, I’m off to the UK next year to study Shakespeare and early modern literature. It just came to me as I pedaled through Ecuador that this was something important and would be enjoyable in my post-pedaling period. [Buff3y went on to graduate with Master of Shakespeare from the Shakespeare Institute University of Birmingham in 2013]
If there are any bikers or prospective bikers out there who need the wise counsel or mentoring from Buff3y then please do email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s been a challenge, a joy, but perhaps over and above anything else it has been … well…..….hardcore.
Buff3y The Hard Core Solo Adventure Cyclist
[Buff3y will return in ‘Buff3y and the Rockies of Instant Death’]