When The Argonauts first come online in 1999, our vision our vision was to give adventurers a forum to share their hopes and dreams. However, we were a bit over-ambitious and ahead of our time. We were an online adventure magazine, before the notion of “webzine”. Blogs didn’t even exist.
Pictured above: Bob and Frosty stop at Tenaya Lake for a lunch break on their coast to coast ride across America. The lake offered crystal clear waters, jumping fish, Canada geese, woodpeckers and blue birds. It also offered a majestic view of enormous beauty. Sitting down for lunch, they sat marveling at their good fortune. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich never tasted so good. They washed it down with clear mountain water.
The following was contributed by Frosty Wooldridge. It is one of his “Spirit of Adventure” bicycle greeting cards.
Pedaling up into the high Sierra Mountains out of Yosemite, you travel light, lean and clean. You carry your house on your bicycle with kitchen, stove, food, water, tent, sleeping bag and mattress. You travel at the perfect speed whether climbing a mountain pass, summiting it or coasting down the other side. You live simply, spiritually and physically. You travel inside the adventure rather than looking at it through the glass. While pedaling upward through a winding canyon, you break through a grove of towering ponderosa pines to see magical still waters reflecting the mountains above. It’s noon. You stop for lunch on the shoreline of Lake Tenaya. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches never tasted so good. Somehow, as you sit there gazing across the crystal-clear waters—your eyes behold the universe working before you. An armada of Canada geese fly low over the waters and splash down. Speckled trout swim past your picnic spot. A squirrel chatters in the trees above. A woodpecker knocks at the tree trunk. You settle back with your friend, “Hey Bob, did we pick the perfect restaurant for lunch or what?”
This is an excerpt from Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World by Nancy Sathre-Vogel. Together with her husband and children, Nancy rode her bicycle from Alaska to Argentina. Changing Gears is her travel memoir from her time on the road.
“This looks like home,” I thought as I pedaled through the altiplano. The desert of southern Idaho looked very similar with its wide open spaces lined with grasses gently swaying in the breeze. The only thing missing was sagebrush.
I found a beauty and tranquility in the desert; there was something about it that drew me in. I knew some felt it was ugly with the scrub brush being the tallest thing around, but I loved it. It was home.
“This reminds me of the tundra,” Davy interrupted my reveries. “Remember when we first started our trip and it was just flat tundra forever? This is almost the same, but we’re a lot higher now.”
I didn’t relish the idea of frigid temperatures, high altitudes, or unrelenting sun of the altiplano, but the wide open plateaus with sweeping vistas of the snow-capped Andes captivated me. Having the freedom to explore the land and discover hidden treasures that could only be found while riding a bicycle made it all worth it. Whether it was an alpaca herder who was honored that we spent a night with him or bright green cactus growing in intricately fine sand with 21,000-foot peaks in the background, each day brought new and unexpected adventures.
“Where are you headed from here?” Ami, the hotel receptionist in a small hotel in Oruro, asked as we checked in for the night.
“Tomorrow morning we’ll head out for Potosi!” I told her. We were excited to be continuing south through the altiplano and couldn’t wait.
“You can’t go to Potosi,” she replied.
That made no sense to my American way of thinking. Potosi was the fourth largest city in Bolivia; of course we could go to Potosi.
“Potosi is completely blocked off. You can’t get in. There is a strike going on and the entire city has been sealed off – nobody in, nobody out,” Ami continued. “The big news around here is that a group of tourists finally managed to escape the city yesterday after being trapped for thirteen days.” Ami handed me a newspaper with the story on the front page. A group of 37 tourists had finally been allowed to leave after being held in the city for two weeks.
“That’s perfect,” John said when I told him the news. “They’ll block the road for cars, but we’ll get through on the bikes. The road block will mean no traffic so it’ll be perfect for us.”
The more we learned, however, the less we thought it was wise to continue on. We could most likely get through, but everything would be closed – all stores, all restaurants, all hotels. Once we got into the city three days away, then what?
We decided to hang out in Oruro until the strike was resolved.
“It’s getting worse,” Ami told me when I walked downstairs for breakfast the next morning. “The news says they’ve taken control of the hydroelectric plant and are threatening to shut off power to the city. That would also affect the water supply. The news reports are saying there are already serious food shortages in the city. It’s a good thing you didn’t go.”
It was Day 15 of a strike designed to pressure the president of the country into providing certain development projects in the city. Local officials had shut down the city and vowed they wouldn’t relent until they got the promises they wanted. We sat tight, watching the news and hoping they could resolve their differences.
“You guys need to leave,” Ami said as we descended into the lobby on Day 17 of the strike. “Word on the street is that they will close Oruro if the president doesn’t meet their demands.”
We scrambled into action getting the bikes out of the storeroom, packing everything, hauling it all downstairs, and loading the bikes. I ran over to the ATM to get more money out, just in case. Within two hours of hearing the rumor, we were off. Off for a scenic tour of Bolivia.
Our plan had been to stay on the altiplano, a high, flat plain sandwiched between the two arms of the Andes, and we had planned our route impeccably. We knew where the water and food sources were and knew exactly what to expect. Now, that plan had come to a screeching halt and we had changed gears. The only other route we could take involved going up and over the eastern arm of the mountains, then dropping down into the Amazon basin before turning right and heading south to Argentina. It would be a 400-mile detour, but we had little choice.
We knew nothing about our new route. Our map showed a line on the map, but we had no idea where we might find anything. I was nervous as we pulled out of town, knowing we were sorely unprepared for what lay ahead.
Thirty miles later we pulled up to a small restaurant and started talking with a bunch of truck drivers. “Where are you going?” they asked.
“Cochabamba,” I replied. “How’s the road?”
“You’ll climb for another 45 miles,” came the reply. “The top is at around 5000 meters.”
5000 meters? That was 16,400 feet! We pedaled away hoping beyond hope they were wrong.
High-altitude climbing was hard. Climbing was tough enough at sea level, but at fourteen thousand feet, it was insanity. We gasped for air as we pounded the pedals and slowly made our way up.
Fortunately, the truckers were wrong and we topped out at 4496 meters (14,744 feet). Even so, that was higher than the highest peaks in Colorado.
It took us an extra three weeks of pedaling to reach Argentina, but in the big picture, what’s three weeks and an extra 400 miles?
With winter weather the current reality it is a natural time to reflect on the past summer and it’s warmth. My past summer was spent walking across the US on the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2660-mile footpath from Mexico to Canada. I seriously soaked up the Sun in the Southern California desert, and more of it in the High Sierras, where above tree line the UV is as intense as the vistas. My legs grew strong and my appetite insatiable. The forests of Northern California provided shade, where they had not been logged, from the heat of mid summer. By the 102nd day I reached the Oregon/California border feeling I had accomplished something significant.
With my home state behind I raced on to avoid the chasing forest fires and the eventual winter in the North Cascades. Walking from one volcano to another the forests protected me where it had not been burned or logged and the sun was losing power at my new latitude. The rugged trail through Washington brought intense beauty, fall colors, and bliss that I was afraid to lose by completing my quest.
I reached the Canada border after five months of walking through the stunning wilderness of the Western United States. I experienced first hand the powers of geology, fire, water, ice, solar radiation, preservation and my human legs. Much of this walk I was very hot and exposed to the Sun, now in the cold winter of California (ha), I dream of the next Summer when I can once again toil in the heat and experience the natural world under the power of my body.
This recent guest post arrived just days ahead of a news story full of controversy, upset and inspiration.
by Jimmy Crose
My love affair with cycling began more than a decade ago, when the shocking news of testicular cancer having spread to his brain and lungs was made public by cycling’s infamous Lance Armstrong in October of 1996. I was not much impressed nor overly fond then of Lance Armstrong then as I was fixated on working long hours at the office to be able to send my four children to the best universities.
A year after he was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, I was surprised to read in the newspapers that after undergoing surgery and aggressive chemotherapy, Lance Armstrong had been declared by his doctors cancer-free. By George! Here I was, an overweight man in his middle age, with no regular fitness regimen and unhealthy eating habits, someone highly at risk of either suffering a stroke or a heart attack who if he didn’t change his current lifestyle would never get the chance to see and play with his grandchildren.
I challenged myself- I’d lose my beer belly and excess weight, eat healthy and exercise regularly, a complete turnaround from what I was normally accustomed to be doing. I thought, ‘why not try cycling?”. Searched online for mountain bikes and accessories from Tesco and bought my very first bike.
If Lance fought so hard against his cancer and won, I, who did not have a debilitating disease and had as much to lose would try to change my life for the better in my own small way. I quit smoking (cold-turkey), cut down on alcohol and biked around the city every morning and late at night when I got home from work. The first few weeks were pure hell and often I ended up questioning myself, ‘is this truly worth it?’.
Now I am 20lbs. lighter, nicotine-free and a proud grandfather to two toddlers. Yes, I can say that all my pain and sacrifice to become a healthier person has truly has been worth it. Lance Armstrong got it right when he said…
Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. ~ Lance Armstrong
The following was contributed by Frosty Wooldridge. It is one of his “Spirit of Adventure” bicycle greeting cards.
Emerson said, “God laughs in flowers.” On a bicycle journey across America, you pedal through, along and past billions of flowers of every color, shape and description. God’s laughter speaks to your visual senses. If you hop off your bike, you may enjoy glorious fragrances given off by flowers. Poets say that flowers gave flight to butterflies. Both delight your life. As you grow older, giving a rose to your loved one means, “I love you.” Just for a moment, on your journey, you pedal through Milford, Ohio when you ride up on a bicycle at the edge of town exploding with flowers. A plaque reads, “Bikes in Bloom.” You take a shot. You remount your bike to travel down Main Street, and to your delight, you instantly fall in love with dozens of bicycles blooming with flowers in front of every storefront. You smile, you laugh, you delight in the glorious beauty of bikes blooming with all the colors of the rainbow. You mutter to yourself, “Gosh, life doesn’t get any better than this.” Yes, you laugh with the flowers.
Here is an article by National Geographic News about the polar ice melting; and, I can’t stop thinking how I would love to go river rafting down this glacial melt. What beautiful colors! In the meantime, let’s treat Mother Earth with some love.
I’ve been posting stories about adventurers (argonauts or in this case an astronaut) for about 13 years, despite many people saying there is nothing left to explore.
The Austrian daredevil jumped out of his balloon at 39 kilometers (24 miles), and reaching an estimated speed of 1,342 KPH (834 mph), or Mach 1.24, becoming the first person to break the sound barrier without a vehicle. Wow!
Felix said: “There was a time I really thought I was in trouble. I had to decide to fight all the way down and I finally got stable. That spin became so violent it was hard to know how to get out of it. I was able to get it under control and break the speed of sound. I could feel myself break the speed of sound. I could feel the air building up and then I hit it.”
My husband Mark Schulze is the inventor of the video helmet camera. I was there to photograph him wearing his gargantuan invention when he donned it and adeptly rode his mountain bike up and down beautiful singletrack under its encumbrance, in order to share the experience with viewers of our mountain-bike videos (we produced the world’s first mountain-bike titles (“The Great Mountain Biking Video” came first, released in 1988). People wonder why we didn’t patent the idea back then but we were more interested in riding our bikes, and videotaping the joy of riding bikes. We’re just glad we could see the fruition of video cameras that can now fit in the palm of your hand, or that you can clamp onto your helmet and then ride without even noticing it’s there.
Also their Facebook Page.
An inspirational story from a fellow argonaut, John Warnick.
Months ago I ‘Discovered’ that I had a gift which would “Transform Lives with the Gift of Mobility.” That gift was cycling! After completing a 1000 mile bike trek for the Faith Based, non-profit freewheelchairmission.org which gifts lightweight wheelchairs to those impoverished,disabled people crawling on the ground in the 84 countries we serve, My life has been transformed as a spokesperson,and representative for those without hope. We have gifted 680,000 wheelchairs, and my part began on a bicycle and has continued in various mobility efforts and speaking to the masses in church’s and groups.Riding my bike has been a blessing God has used to change lives by “REACHING DOWN AND LIFTING OTHERS UP” Which is the best exercise for the human heart.
There is no better way to explore a country than by bicycle. And if you’re going to be cycling the length of a country, why not do it for charity? H2H is a group of expatriates based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam that is in its third year of existence. We will ride from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City – 2,000km, or 1,200 miles – from February 3-29 while raising money for three local charities that help poor children gain access to education and healthcare. We can’t wait to see what this adventure will bring!
Update: Pat is already nearing the end of his journey in the Antarctic.
It seems being an adventurer is getting more and more extreme. Pictured here is Pat Farmer. He has begun a ultra endurance run from the North Pole to the South Pole. He will run about two marathons every day for almost a year. And here is a point that baffles my mind: he’s going to do it without ever taking a day off! The reason that baffles my mind is that riding a bicycle around the world wore out my body, specifically the way my liver processes sugar and the chemical and hormonal balances of my brain and body — Oh! — and my poor knees. Pat Farmer is donating his knees to raise $100 million for the International Red Cross. Visit his website to follow the journey.
Here’s an incredible story. Two legally blind people will be riding a tandem bicycle unassisted from Ushuaia, Argentina to Deadhorse, Alaska. That’s an 18-month journey across roughly 16,000 miles and 15 countries. They’ll visit schools for the blind along the way to share experiences that have shaped their lives. To follow their journey click here. Here they are pictured at Thorong La Pass in Nepal at 5416 meters.
Social media has really helped promote cycle touring, push the envelope and has become a major vehicle for creating awareness. Here’s a noteworthy adventure and cause.
St Thomas’ Hospital forecourt, London, Tuesday the 5th of January 2010, Steve said cheerio to loved ones and then started pedaling – he will be pedaling for the next 1700 days. Steve’s lonely migration east began in Europe and then Africa but will eventually see him travel by bicycle the length of six of the earth’s continents in a mammoth five year expedition during which he will cycle a distance equivalent to twice the circumference of the earth.
Steve will trace a route through regions affected by the Neglected Tropical Diseases and will witness firsthand their effect on local populations. These are 14 largely ancient infectious diseases grouped together by the World Health Organization. Once widely dispersed, they now thrive in impoverished settings, especially in the heat and humidity of tropical climates.
To invest this hare-brained endeavour with some worthy purpose he’s also raising money for Merlin – a UK based medical aid charity.