In September 2009, Kelly and I completed a month-long bike tour around Ireland that I chronicled in this article for New Mobility Magazine. That trip got us hooked on cycle-touring as a means of travel and we’ve been thinking about where we could go next ever since. In the fall of 2013, Kelly and I will be heading on The Long Road South, a yearlong bicycle and handcycle expedition from our home in Portland, Oregon to Patagonia, Argentina. It will be a self-supported expedition, no crew, no support vehicle, just a handcycle, a bicycle and a trailer, and all the gear needed to ride, camp, and live for a year.
I’ve been lucky to have the continual support of family, friends, and community since my accident, which has allowed me to travel and compete at a level I never dreamed of in my able-bodied life. We’d like this trip to generate some publicity for what disabled athletes can accomplish when they have the right infrastructure behind them. We’ll be partnering with Oregon Disability Sports, based out of Portland, and throughout the trip we’ll be meeting up with disability sports and disability rights organizations to share our story and contribute to the mission of increasing independence and access to sport for people with disabilities across the Americas.
Because there’s a great big world out there and we’d like to see as much of it as we can. Because engaging with the world in a physical way is the most satisfying way I know how to live.
The Long Road South will depart from our home in Portland, OR. Cutting immediately to the ocean, we’ll follow the Pacific Coast Highway south along the rugged Oregon coast, through the California Redwoods and along the Lost Coast to San Francisco. From there we’ll stick with Highway 1 through LA to San Diego. Right now, our plan is to continue south on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula before ferrying to the mainland and keeping the sea breezes as we remain on the Pacific coast for the length of Mexico.
We’ll join the Pan-American Highway in Guatemala, following it through the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. In Panama we’ll have to load our bikes on a boat to bypass the roadless jungle of the Darian Gap. Landing on the Colombian coast we’ll immediately begin the long climb into the Andes. Traversing the spine of South America we’ll keep following the Pan-American Highway through Peru’s high plateau, south through the brutal Atacama desert of northern Chile before crossing back over the Andes into the Argentina’s pampas. Surprise, surprise, from here we’ll keep heading south, crossing the length of Argentina to reach Patagonia.
Much of this trip is an expedition into the unknown. No one on a handcycle has ever rode many of these roads, and to keep our pace even, Kelly will be hauling much more weight than the normal touring cyclist. Not many people have experience with self-supported handcycle touring, much less on this scale. That’s why other than the region we don’t have an exact destination. We’re confident we can make it Patagonia within a year, but how far south will depend on a host of variables that will remain unknown until we actually start pedaling these far off lands. Which is exactly why we do crazy things like this, no? To see what happens.
How You Can Stay Connected and Get Involved
We’ll be active on social media – Facebook and Twitter – and blogging our progress in the run up to this trip. We’ll be going live with an expedition website within the next week that will be updated as we solidify plans, connect with sponsors, raise funds, and generally get ready to hit the road.
Know of a place we need to visit, an organization that we should connect with as we ride south, or a company that might be interested in sponsoring our trip? We want to hear about it! This is a big project and we can use all the ideas and help that you can give.