!!!NEW!!!

PARTS 1-4 OF THE WRITING SERIES

Florida to Alaska and Back Via Bicycle

"THE RISE OF A DREAM"

Throughout the Spring of 2013 I wrote more on my Alaska Trip. I compiled a series starting in High-School, leading up 3 weeks into the Alaska trip.

The Parts go as follows:

Part 1: High School, Individuality, Finding Myself, No Holding Back (June 2007-June 2009)

Part 2: The Journey Begins (June 2009)

Part 3: Into the Heart of Canada (July 2009)

Part 4(not new): The Alaskan Highway (July 2009)

Part 1: High School. Finding Myself, Individuality, and No Holding Back

The Summer of 2007: 10th-11th Grade

The summer of 2007 marked turning 16 years old and the beginning of more long and hard training with running 10-15 miles per day along with weight training. Unlike the transition most teenagers my age made when turning 16, I chose to opt out of driving a car and had no plans to buy one. My transition would be from having my mom drive me to high school to riding my bicycle to school, about 5 miles each way. At first my parents worried about safety and practicality but slowly realized that with my stubborn mindset, there would be no stopping me.

The summer of 2006, I received the “Golden Shoes” award on my cross-country team for running the most summer mileage with 700 miles run in 70 days. The plaque had a running shoe spray painted gold and read the quote "If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, and my desires. Most of all you would see my joy" 

I was the fastest long distance runner in my high school in 10th grade and returned expecting to be even faster. Coach Corkins loved me and often told me I was the hardest working athlete he ever coached. I loved to run and see how far I could go, never with any big goals in mind other than the satisfying feeling of exhaustion and the ability to free my mind. I always ran on my own and while I had few friends, it didn’t bother me as I always believed having a few honest and loyal buddies outweighed a dozen superficial friends. After a routine summer trip up to Pittsburgh to visit my Uncle and grandparents, I continued running but this time conquered my first 100 mile bicycle ride with my Uncle.

Upon the conclusion to the summer Pittsburgh Trip, I watched a movie called The Hitcher which was about a young couple getting terrorized by a hitch hiker with the woman coming out alive in the end. Throughout the movie I heard a rock song that caught my ear. I initially classified the song as a pop-rock, which I did not really like, but something about it really moved me and at times sent shivers down my spine. The song went like this “When all you got to keep is strong move along, move along like I know you do!” I immediately found the name of the song on the internet called “Move Along” by the All-American Rejects. For the rest of the summer I began thinking about “Move Along” whenever I was struggling. From running 15 miles in hot humid 100 degree weather on the streets of Seminole county to biking 75 miles to the Ocala National Forest and back. Move Along played throughout my mind almost like some god-like figure telling me “move along, move along like I know you do”. The “like I know you do” part was like some internal god-like coach that knows I will make it through the workout no matter how bad  I am feeling.

11th Grade (2007-2008)

11th grade started back up at Lake Mary High School, so did bicycling to school, my first job working as a dish washer at Boston Market, and another season of cross-country. Towards the end of the summer I began to develop a pain in my groin area. A school trainer said it was just a muscle spasm due to overtraining. My cross country coach agreed and was angry that I did not follow his plan and told me to take it easy. My coach grew frustrated when I told him all the extra training I did over the summer on top of the high mileage running. He wanted the “Golden Shoes” back. Damn it coach, I worked my guts out for this award! “Sorry but I am discontinuing the award until you get better.” Our loyal coach-athlete relationship slowly began to deteriorate as I let my obsession and drive for exercise take over his advice.

I was one of the only students that bicycled to school, riding my mom’s old brick red Fregus road bike. I would lock it up at the one bike rack area near the football stadium and then head into the school bathroom where I would change clothes. As I watched the gigantic line of cars roll into the school I felt rebellious and somewhat disconnected. The disconnection arose from more than just from biking but also in clothing. I would often wear an earth-green shirt I got from a 6th grade environmental fundraising event that read “Foreverwild” representing the Florida Panther, something I was very passionate about.  I got sick and tired of seeing kids wear clothes with store names on them like Aeropostale or American Eagle because it was considered the “In-thing” to do. I never wore a pair of jeans to school nor did I own a single shirt with a store name. For much of the first half of high school I would simply wear a pair of athletic/ basketball shorts and a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt.

Why must everybody blindly accept having to drive a car to get around? I always told myself that I wouldn’t care if I was the last person on the planet to ride a bike. Some people would ask me why I bicycled to school, while others showed respect and admiration. Regardless, I began to love more and more of what I was doing and began to care less what people thought. The benefits of cycling far outweighed car driving. I save money and never have to pay for gas nor pollute the air. I have the freedom to ride on the road, the side walk, grass medians, mountain bike trails, and bike trails. I save space on the road. I don’t have to wait for traffic jams or pay for a school parking pass. I love exercising. Most of all I felt a huge liberating and free feeling.

Shortly into 11th grade I ran into a problem dealing with my class schedule. My guidance counselor was not allowing me to sign up for a weight training class that I had already taken. I met with the school counselor to discuss the issue and she said I could not take the class because I had already taken it. I told her that I loved exercising and lifting weights during the school day and it was an essential part of the day for me to relieve stress.

 I begged her to let me in the class again but she kept saying:

“It’s against our policies to let students retake classes they’ve already taken”.

Bullshit I thought, with 7 periods in the day, one of them should be for weightlifting, and I’m not about to sign up for no team sports class! I do not want to play around with balls and be in control of my working out. I had always had a good workout in the middle of my school day to help me think better and break up the monotonous class schedule. I asked her if I could take the class called comprehensive fitness.

“NO, this class is only offered for football players.”

What the Fuck!! Football players only?

“But miss, it says right here the class offers an elaborate weight training opportunity for those looking to increase fitness and learn enhanced weight training techniques.”

“Yes, but we only offer it for football players.”

“Can’t I sign up for it?

“NO!

“Why not? I know the football coach, he likes me.”

 “NO! And I don’t want you talking to him and trying to persuade me to let you in!”  

“Listen miss, I am a runner and wrestler, why don’t you offer a class for me to take?”

“I am sorry, but at the time we only offer classes for football.”

 What a bitch I thought as I stormed out of the counselor office. I will find a way around this I thought, I will not be held back like this!

I began to go into the weight room during my lunch period to work out. If the weight room doors were locked (trying to keep students out) then I would try a few other doors then revert to a second plan. I snuck into the newly built basketball gym and into the locker room/rest room where I did a push-up, pull-up, and crunch routine.

As I would walk to my class after the lunch period I would often think: To stop me from exercising is like taping these lunch buyers mouths shut so they could not eat.  I had German Class after lunch and my teacher was nice and let me eat in her class. I would often have vegetable juice and a protein shake. I have been a vegetarian since 13 stemming from my love for animals. The guys on the wrestling team would often poke fun at or question my reasons behind not eating meat. Slowly however, most of my fellow teammates began to accept me as a vegetarian and often it made them feel embarrassed when I beat them in running, wrestling, and conditioning.

I not only had to stand up for my vegetarianism in my athletics but in my part time dish washing job at Boston Market as well. One night I was invited to serve food at the front line and asked a lady “would you like a different animal with your meal?” I said this because we were out of turkey. I was pulled aside after the lady complained about my comment.

“Why would you say that?” my manger asked.

“What do you mean, I asked her if she wanted a different animal, that’s what we serve here isn’t it? Animals?”

“Ya, but you don’t refer to them as animals!”

I just said yes, yes, yes, but in my mind I wanted to tell her of how disgusted I am with people who eat meat and totally forget about the suffering animals go through in slaughter houses. Animals have to die a painful death and are treated in horrible conditions to be turned into meat. I would want to survive and live a happy life if I were an animal. Animals are living beings just like us humans don’t they see?!

Throughout my cross country, track, and wrestling seasons, fellow athletes around me began noticing my appealingly obsessive workout routine. My hard work paid off as I was the most conditioned and fit when it came to wrestling drills and long runs in track and cross country. Often I would bicycle or run home from wrestling practice and disobey the running coach when he told me not to do extra exercise, running, or cycling. I always told myself: you keep doing your thing baby; the hard work will pay off.

“Steven what did you do on Sunday for active rest?” The coach said.

“I rode 40 miles and explored some new roads over near Lake Jessup”. I said.

“Damn it Steven, I told you to keep it down to around 5-10 easy miles”

“I can run 5-10 miles, being on the bike allows me to go further and see more”

“You’re not going to recover and hurt yourself. Besides, your focus is on running not bicycling”.

A few weeks later, I jumped over a chain fence in the football stadium, a task I had done successfully many times before, although this time I happened to cut my hand and blood started gushing out. Shortly before jumping over the fence my coach told me not to jump over it, putting me on the spot. The cut was bad enough I needed stitches and my coach would dub this moment as the “I told you so” event for the rest of the season. I would then wear a white glove over my hand to keep the bandages dry as I walked around school and used the restroom to wash my hands. Some people gave funny looks and asked me if I was imitating Michael Jackson by wearing the white glove.

After the cross-country season ended and the middle of 11th grade rolled around, teachers began putting stress on applying to colleges. Some people haven’t even hit puberty yet and they want us to make lifetime commitments at age 16 already? What the hell is wrong with this system? I thought to myself, these are the years to explore and find out what we really love, not pre-destine ourselves to some college plan already. I got so sick and tired of all the pressure, strive for balance and conventionality the teachers and coaches pressed on me combined with the mob of followers that blindly did what others did. What happened to unique individuals? From the way I see it, if we all listened to exactly what teachers, coaches, and counselors said; we would all end up the same and have similar qualities. I did a lot of soul searching and went through many obsessions with different kinds of exercise before I finally found the love of bicycling. When I was eleven and playing tackle football I dreamed of becoming a Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker. That obsession turned from fan fanatic to individual desire in my own athletic career after turning 13.

Next there were SATs, ACTS, FCATS, and various other exams. While I did keep a consistent 4.10 grade point average throughout high school, I never did real well on these standardized tests. The way I earned my A’s was not from being some born genius, it was from hard work, discipline, extra credit, and keeping organized. I was always good on the math side of the brain and did well with numbers.

Into The Wild

As the spring of 2008 arrived, I began to do some work in English Class and heard of a book called Into The Wild. Since my class was not going to read it, I rented the movie. Into The Wild is based on a true story about Christopher McCandless hitchhiking across the U.S.A. and to Alaska and finding his wild soul and wisdom through embracing the land and simplistic living. Wow, I finally found something that I can relate to!  This movie provided a huge outlet for me and took my mind off all this nonsense society tried imposing on me. Into The Wild was the most inspirational and motivating movie I had ever seen. I could feel the disconnection McCandless felt with society and understood his wanderlust for exploring the country. I became more and more fascinated with Alaska and began to feel my own liberating and footloose feeling of exploring Central Florida via bicycle.  

Some people I talked to thought McCandless was a crazy nut for leaving his privileged life behind to tramp across the country to Alaska. I saw him as a brave individual who had a dream of living a simplistic life freed of irksome obligations society expected him to live up to. I also admired his appreciation for the simple things in life people take for granted and waste in life like food, natural resources, and time. One thing I could not stand about most high school students was their ability to waste. I saw this when they were shooting plastic water bottles into trash cans like basketball hoops, throwing away half eaten hamburgers and piles of French fries, laughing about shooting animals, running armadillos over in their cars, throwing out half-filled bags of popcorn in movie theaters, and in wasting gas and time by sitting in traffic in their cars.

Being offended with outrageously high prices for popcorn and the blind waste of money and food from the movie goers, I found a way to outsmart the movie theaters silly system by getting free popcorn and soda. To begin, my two good friends, Josh and Dejan would head up to the movie theater, sneak through the exit door, grab empty bags of pop-corn out of the trash can knowing the largest popcorn bag and paper cup had a free refill policy. Next we would take the bag up to the concession area and ask for a refill. They would hand us a brand new bag of popcorn and soda. It was a twelve dollar value each time which could buy about 50 pounds of potatoes at their best price of 24 cents a pound.  I would be no fool to the movie theaters price gouging and would laugh hysterically on the way home thinking about how stupid their system was. We would eat as much popcorn as we could and then I would feed the rest to birds. Feeding birds made me happy just watching how much they appreciate food. If only more people would feed animals instead waste food.

The Fallout Arises

Track season started as did the transition from my mom’s road bike to mountain bike. As track season unfolded I found myself in confrontations right from the beginning with my running coach and track team. During one of the first meets I walked over next to a chain fence and urinated. My coach yelled at me and said I was too close to public eye. O bullshit, I thought, it’s not that big of a deal. After a good argument with him, he said I could not race in the meet. I told him before I left that I may not come back. My parents were there and I told them what happened. We drove home from Kissimmee back to Longwood. I told my parents to drop me off about 7 miles from my Longwood home so I could run home. I ran full of mixed emotions and shed a few tears. Is this the end? Is this the end of years of commitment and long hours of running over the summer? Will my efforts still be worth it even if I do not participate on a cross-country or track team? I never quit anything I started but this time I seriously thought about leaving my track team behind.

After a week of letting my mind clear I walked back to the track. My coach and other runners were concerned that I would never show back up. I kept quiet for a little while and then started talking more. Things were about back to normal again until I began to notice my teammates killing love bugs. I had seen this before and told them to stop but sometimes overlooked it if they only killed a few. I agreed with them that they may be annoying but told them to imagine if they were that love bug and had their life ended. We did not see eye to eye on this as well as meat eating which I also told them why I don’t eat meat.

One day after practice the love bug killing really hit me. I say probably over a 100 dead love bugs smashed on the ground and walls of the concession stand area after they had been smacking them with sandals and other objects. That’s it I said, that’s enough, I took the water hose they used to drink with and sprayed all of their back-packs and also them. They started to shriek and said stop and I told them:

“STOP? THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO HUH? YOU FUCKERS DIDN’T STOP KILLING THE LOVE BUGS WHEN I ASKED DID YOU?”

 I let up from soaking their book bags and stormed off to my bike and then home. One guy came up to me and said:

 “You got my text book wet”.

“Too fucking bad, you killed one to many love bugs you fuck!”

I rode home in a fury. I told myself: STEVEN. THIS WILL NOT BE THE END; IT WILL BE A NEW BEGINNING. RIGHT BACK WHAT IS WRONG, WE MOVE ALONG.

            Moving Along

After some time past and I watched Into The Wild again and began bicycling more and more, I finally became at peace with moving on from the track team and my running coach. I would no longer be controlled or held back, I would no longer deal with the clowns on the team that killed love bugs, and I would now unleash my desires on my bicycle that have been building up throughout the 11th grade year.

I began to open up my ears to Tom Petty’s music and started exploring Rock Springs Run, Seminole State Forest, Econ Forest, and many other off-road areas around Seminole, Orange, and Lake Counties. As the days continued to pass from my break up with the track team and my running coach, my passion for bicycling began to grow as well as my attachment to Tom Petty’s music, and Into The Wild. “Learning to Fly”, “Into the Great Wide Open”, “Running Down a Dream”, and “I Won’t Back Down” grew to be some of my favorite songs.  

The Summer of 2008: 11th-12th grade. The Dream Is Established

As the 11th grade wrapped up, my 17th birthday arrived on June 9th, 2008. It’s Time! Today I would ride to the Atlantic Ocean on my mountain bike and over 100 miles for the first time since I rode 100 miles with my Uncle last July. A couple weeks later I rode 160 miles over to the Gulf of Mexico and my love for my bike began to grow insurmountably. I explored the Ocala National Forest, rode to Cocoa Beach and back, explored the hills Clermont, and the list goes on and on. At the time I felt unstoppable, footloose, and free!

But was I really free? I still had one more year of high school to complete, I was still working as a dish washer at Boston Market, I still had summer homework I had to complete, and I still planned on wrestling for one more season. So another trip to Pittsburgh unfolded and this time I stepped it up a notch, My Uncle and I would ride over 200 miles in one day this time and over 1,000 miles in 2 weeks. I insisted that we watch Into The Wild. Like the song “Move Along” that stuck with me from the movie The Hitcher, It was Into The Wild that deeply motivated me and often sent shivers down my spine.

My Uncle Danny isn’t any ordinary 47 year old. He lives at home with his mom, keeps a journal dating back to age 15 in the 1970’s, and his biggest goal in life is to bicycle over 1 million miles. I had always thought he was crazy and when I was younger I often listened in to the conversations my parents would have with him about finding a job with regular income and starting a more conventional lifestyle. I respected my Uncle’s extremist cycling lifestyle.

While sitting down for a meal with Danny we were talking about Into The Wild and I came up with my own idea.

I told Danny “How about we ride our bicycles to Alaska after I graduate high school?”  

Danny liked the idea. My parents and grandma however, were cautious. “OO NOOOOO. How will you do that? How will you carry all your stuff? What about grizzly bears?”

My grandma seemed to be the most nervous of the idea until my mom chimed in that she rode her bicycle across the country back in the 1970’s. Her trip was only around 2,000 miles while our Alaska trip was estimated to be somewhere around 6,000 miles. Danny and I then talked about how we would get back from Alaska. My mom suggested perhaps we fly back to Pittsburgh.

Danny said “how about we ride back”.

I said “how bout we ride back to my home in Florida?”

Danny’s got the experience my mom said reassuring the worried grandma. Later that evening, I went upstairs to Danny’s room and laid down on his bed while he was writing in his journal. I told Danny “Hey we can really do this; it would be the adventure of a lifetime and your biggest trip ever!”

12th Grade: With time and patience, good things will come

And so there it was, my dream and high school graduation odyssey was established. For the start of 12th grade there would be no cross-country, for the first time in my four years of high school, I was now going to determine for myself how far I will ride and not have anyone to stop me. Each weekend I would plan out a long ride usually on Saturday. I began to explore more and the Ocala National Forest became one of my favorite routes. One day around 4am in October I decided to ride my new longest day of 207 miles, taking me up to state road 46, 46A, 44, 439, 42 to Altoona. There I would stop at a Kangaroo gas station to top off my water bottles then continue on to Palatka on state road 19 through the Ocala National Forest. Next I headed south on U.S. 17 through Crescent City, Deland, Sanford, then to my Longwood home. During that ride I felt many different emotions, from feeling on top of the world and in control, to feeling like I could fall asleep while watching the endless forest go by on each side of the road as I awaited the next town. Concluding the ride was an amazing feeling of triumph, knowing I now accomplished my longest ride ever by myself. I loved being out on the open road in the Ocala National Forest with the big hard sun beating down on me.

During the fall of 2008 I got a concerning phone call from my Uncle. He said he was having back pain so bad that he hasn’t been riding for a few weeks and was going in for back surgery. Shit, here we go with problems already. When my parents got the news they immediately said:
“hey you can’t bike to Alaska after high school without Danny”. I stubbornly said I would go no matter what, with or without Danny.

“I would be safer than McCandless from Into The Wild because I would not be trying to survive off hunting for my own food. I would never kill an animal anyway” I said.

“I don’t care! You can’t go without Danny It wouldn’t be safe” My dad said.

“Tell him Carol!”

“Your dad’s right, it won’t be safe without your Uncle, Steven”.

The arguments between my parents continued to grow further. While they were screaming and cursing, I ran into my room, slammed the door, put on some Tom Petty and “Move Along” and studied my big Red Florida DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer to determine where my next ride would take me.

When the weekends finally arrived, it was my time to put school work and all the stress and bullshit that happened during the week aside whether it be from School, work, or in the household. I was in control and could ride wherever I wanted and for how long I wanted. No one could stop my legs from pedaling away as I freed my mind in the Ocala National Forest.

My parents gave me a tracking device to use on my long rides and said “listen we just want you to be safe”. I wanted to be safe too and would carry with me on rides: my tracking device, my cell phone (turned off), papers maps, hand sanitizer, paper towels, snacks, bike repair equipment including tube, patch kit, and tire levers. I would never listen to music on my rides but before my rides which sometimes started with a 4am wake-up along with a few sets of push-ups and crunches. A new song I started listening to was called “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga. Like I thought of “Move Along” as a stereotypical pop-rock song, I thought of “Just Dance” as a stereotypical pop-dance song which I generally did not like. Similar to the refusal to drive in cars, go to school proms, parties, drink alcohol, take drugs, and eat meat; I thought of listening to songs that played often on the radio like that of a stereotypical conformist-following society. While I usually like to separate myself from most followings, I reminded myself to keep an open mind and give stuff a try every now and then.  Uncle Danny’s brother Tom called this “keeping one foot in society”.

There was something about “Just Dance” that caught my ear kind of like how “Move Along “did. The song went something like this “it’s alright it’s aright Just dance, gonna be ok, da da doo-doo-mmm Just Dance, spin that record babe, da da doo-doo-mmm Just dance!” I would often compare this song to my riding and changed the lyrics around so the song would say “Just Ride”. I would think about various things I might forget to take on a ride like money, cell phone, tracking device and tell myself “Just Ride!” Forget about everything else because it’s gonna be ok! Whenever I was worried or over anticipating the planning for a ride or trip, I told myself that the most important thing is to have myself and be both physically and mentally strong.

While I had freed myself from my track and cross-country team and running coach, I still had committed myself to my wrestling team. In wrestling, my coach never held me back from my extra training. The wrestlers had a diverse group of individuals and my quirks somewhat meshed in. This was until I overheard some wrestlers planning a cock-fighting match between chickens at some party. Angry with the nonsense, I had to get ahold of myself before reaching a breaking point. STEVEN, HAVE SELF CONTROL. I concluded the wrestling season advancing onto the regional wrestling meet and bleaching my hair blonde along with the others. After peacefully ending my high school wrestling career, the wait to dedicate all of my efforts into cycling slowly unfolded. I still had on last big task to complete which was in my honors English class.

Senior Research Project!

When I first heard about having to do a Senior Research project, I thought "O great, another time-consuming and tedious high school assignment." Here we go again with another task to get in the way of my Alaska trip. But then I thought, hey it doesn’t have to be that way. NO! I will not settle for some easy fix and try to get this done as quickly as possible. As the days rolled on towards the topic deadline for the project, I began to deeply think about my life, my future, and where I am heading after high school.  I told myself: How about this time you do this for yourself? Not for anybody else. Not for a grade and not for obligation. Personalize this project with passion to gain something bigger that will stay with you for life; more powerful than anything that’s come out of other high school assignments. I immediately looked through the list of books on the list and thought O great; I really have to choose just from this list? I had not fully read Into The Wild and told Mrs. Jackson that I really wanted to dedicated my project to this book. I told her of my goal after to high school to bike to Alaska and my passions. At first she said no, but I later persuaded her to change her mind.  She said I also had to incorporate Into Thin Air into the project, a novel with a similar theme and also by Jon Krakauer.

So the final task begins. In doing my senior research project throughout remaining 3 months of high school I finally felt like my time spent on schoolwork was well spent and meaningful. During the week it was school, after school riding, working out, studying and senior research project, then bed. Having very little time for friends or anything else I sometimes felt as if I was missing out on something; I never went to high-school parties, drank alcohol, smoked a cigarette or a joint, or attended any proms or other high school festivities throughout all of high school. During the spring of 2009 my Uncle started cycling normally and healed his back. As the weeks began to tick away, I continued to use my Alaska trip to motivate me to the glorious graduation day.

 Whenever it crossed my mind of taking on some kind of college life after graduation or the fear of enduring another summer in Florida, I began having deep mental thoughts:

STEVEN LISTEN: College, parties, girls, part time jobs, and those other superficial and tedious activities can wait for they will always be there. You do not want to look back years or even 10 years down the road and think back of a dream you let slip away by choosing a path of balance and conventionality. You keep doing your thing baby; you know what you’re doing after high school. You’re not missing out on anything. before you know it you will be into the great wide open and under them skies of blue out in THE prairies of Canada heading to Alaska!

 One day I ran into my old running coach in the hall and he said he had something to give to me and to come to his classroom. He pulled out the “Golden Shoes award” from his closet and said “hey this is yours”. Thanks Corkins. Hey you sure you don’t want to finish the year running track? No Thanks I am only focused on one thing right now: bicycling to Alaska, I can’t let anything stand if my way. Alright well, good luck. Thanks coach.

The topic for my project was “Attaining Human Potential”.  I began talking about Into Thin Air and the brave mountain climbers to summit Mount Everest and the unfortunate souls that died trying. I then talked about Into The Wild and the breaking free from society and unleashing the individual from within. Lastly with one smooth transition, I talked about my goals to Bicycle to Alaska and back. Some stared up at me with bewilderment, while others said “That’s Awesome!” or “You’re Crazy!” I was then bombarded with various questions about how I am planning of the trip, how I am training for the trip, and how I will survive the trip. I answered all of the questions and held nothing back. I talked about looking at fields of cows I passed on rides and how I imagined their pain of being slaves of humans. I talked about how when I see a dead animal on the road I envisioned a dead human and knew immediate action would be taken from drivers while an animal is treated like trash. I talked about building my relationship with my uncle, our eccentric lifestyle, and our obsession and freedom we get from bicycling.

The final Saturday’s of high school slowly counted down arriving with long rides, “Move Along”, and a look in the mirror to tell myself “PATIENCE STEVEN. YOU’VE GOT THIS! THIS IS ME AND YOU! FINISH HIGH SCHOOL STRONG AND YOUR TIME WILL COME! THE SKY WILL BE THE LIMIT.

The buildup to the last day of high school seemed interminable at times but it finally arrived, bringing one of the finest feelings of my life. I am glad I pushed it out by being patient. While making rounds to say my goodbyes to all those teachers that helped motivated me, I looked back to my high school experiences with my coaches and teams and felt like I left something behind. I had never fully dedicated 100% of my training efforts into just one sport. I always wanted to see how far I could go, how many miles I could conquer, and what I could make out of life if I put all of my efforts into just one thing. NOW IS MY CHANCE! Bicycling to Alaska will be my chance to prove to myself that with enough hard work, dedication, and patience that I can accomplish anything my heart desires. NO LOOKING BACK STEVEN, IT’S TIME TO “MOVE ALONG, MOVE ALONG LIKE I KNOW YOU DO!”

I began preparing for the Alaska trip by talking to my Uncle about planning various things to get and take up to Pittsburgh where our journey would begin together.  

Two not 100% mandatory but seemingly irksome obligations left to do were: Graduation at the Orlando Amway Center and the all-night Wet N’ Wild fiasco. Both of these took place on June 5th, 2009-June 6th 2009. This would be one of the only and most memorable high school activities I would attend. With my two best friends Josh and Dejan at my side, we caused brouhaha by flipping over the group raft going down the water slides. It was a hell of a night, for one last time.

Concluding these two events meant only one thing left: bicycling from Florida to Alaska and back via bicycle. Come June 8th, 2009 at 6am from my Longwood, Florida home, my journey began with my S.M. Woodrup steel frame bicycle and my specialized jersey my Uncle gave me. 7 days and 1,259 miles later I would arrive in Pittsburgh. This summer there would be no returning home on rides, no family, no friends, no coach, no job, no guidance counselor, to teachers, no school to return to, and no holding back. With ultimate freedom the only obligation upon me was now THE ROAD. My journey north by northwest to Alaska with my uncle was now underway.

 

Part 2: The Journey Begins

      June, 2009

        The fresh smell of spring filled the West Virginia hills with cow fields to the right and a sun setting peacefully to the left. The welcoming aroma of new plant pollen and fresh plants sprouting to life filled my nose. I was one day and 200+ miles away from Pittsburgh heading north on U.S. 219. While the scenery was glorious, the saddle sores on my crotch area had started to become red and raw and burned every time I would get up and down from the seat. I would meet up with my Uncle later and used that as motivation along with my favorite song “Move Along” when I woke at 4:30am. My crotch area had become raw from the high mileage and long time in the saddle and perhaps the usage of petroleum jelly, Uncle Danny’s cheap alternative to chamois cream. I continued to think back to a middle-aged cyclist I met in the orange groves of Lake County while riding who warned me that petroleum jelly blocks the pores and causes saddle sores. Now being stubbornly cheap came back to bite me.

        After a good 60 miles into the day and many 12% grade climbs that stretched for 3-4 miles, I finally got off U.S. 219 as instructed by my Uncle when mapping out the final day of the trip. The closer I got to Pittsburgh, the more familiar the quite back-country river roads became along with the inviting the smells of fresh Appalachian plant life. I finally saw my Uncle in the distance and joy took over my face. YESS!! My dad, who had been following me from my home in Longwood, FL, stopped the Buick Rendezvous on the side of the road while Danny and I ate some snacks and drinks. My dad would now drive on to Pittsburgh while Danny and I would ride, ticking away the mileage to conquering the first part of my trip. First we crossed into Pennsylvania; next we hit the familiar brownish-blue Monongahela River, the same river that goes all the way to Downtown Pittsburgh. The same river I used as a checkpoint representing the final miles of my first century and double century rides of my life done with Uncle Danny.

        My crotch, back, and legs all hurt but slowly confidence and power took over which alleviated the physical pain as I got closer to the end.  Danny announced “The Final Hour is here”. Danny had a way of conquering mental feelings of struggle by breaking the ride up into checkpoints, like hours, while I used towns, counties, and state signs. The final miles brought about feelings of euphoria. Victoriously concluding today’s ride will mean not having to wake up another day before sunrise and lubricate my sore crotch area before putting on my cycling shorts. We made it to Danny’s home where my dad took pictures of Danny putting my hand in the air. Danny announced that I had conquered my new biggest mileage week of 1,259 miles in 7 days.

        After a few days of recovery in Pittsburgh, I was anxious and anticipating the road ahead to Alaska. Danny and I still needed to map out a route, decide what we were going to take, go over some sort of routine for camping, learn to use the gas-stove, test the water-filter device, make sure the tracking devices worked, and much more. When organizing what we were going to take one evening in Danny’s room, Danny pulled out a pair of big rectangular glasses which I joked and called “Rapist Glasses”, inspired by comedian Jon Lajoie on Youtube. Danny also pulled out some short shorts he said he wore back in the 1980’s as a late teen and planned to take them for swimming because they were light. He had an extra pair and gave it to me.

        Next, Danny and I organized the music selection as I told him that he could add all of his favorite songs to my PSP so we each had what we liked for pre-ride music. Danny picked out about 150 songs and I created him a playlist. We then mapped out a route to Alaska using a collaboration of free state-level AAA maps that I had gotten back in Florida. We highlighted a tentative route from Pittsburgh to Anchorage, Alaska. I quickly found out that Danny did not like the idea of going on un-paved roads which I wanted to do.

 “The route looks so boring!” I told Danny.

  “Yeah well we got to stick to the paved roads; I don’t want to get sand or dirt in my drive-train”, Danny said.

 “wa wa wa, come on, look at the amazing possibilities the un-paved roads can bring, we can totally avoid big towns and see some amazing things”

         There weren’t too many options if we excluded unpaved roads and by looking at the map, the line through the white space looked pretty boring. I began to find out however, that the way a road looks on a map can be very misleading. Like the road down to Flamingo, Florida in the Everglades I once explored. On a map, it appeared to be just a dismal line through space. When I actually got here, it was breath-taking and peaceful everglades for miles with birds, alligators and Florida panthers that stretched straight into the Atlantic Ocean.

        After mapping out the route, we laid out all of our stuff to ensure we had everything we needed to take. Danny’s friend who let us borrow the Bob-Trailers gave Danny a water-proof Bob-Trailer bag for storage space. All I had was a giant duffle bag and to solve the problem of water-proofing, I took a giant roll of Gorilla Tape and taped the entire 3 foot by 2 foot bag, using all of the tape. “Ha now my bag is waterproof too!”

 Danny shaved his legs, facial hair, head hair, and eyebrows off the day before leaving.

 “Danny why the hell did you take off your eyebrows?” I asked.

 “Oh because it’s just too tempting, I have the razor out and since I’m already doing my beard and head, I figure the eyebrows might as well come off with them,” Danny said.

 “Geez, now when you wear the rapist glasses, you’ll look like a serial-killer and a rapist,” I joked. “All you need now is the ‘serial-killer van’ and the ‘public-masturbator trench coat’ as advertised in Lajoie’s ‘Pedophile Beards’ YouTube video.”

         The night before leaving, I ended up getting to bed around midnight while Danny was still up. We woke around 4am and got off to sharing a 12 egg-omelet breakfast with bagels and Gatorade. We began to panic at the idea of forgetting things like Danny’s hemorrhoid cream. Danny’s friend Mark Bailey came down from Erie, Pennsylvania to ride with us for the first day. We started out loading our Bob-Trailers with the bulkier items first like the tent, sleeping bag, and air mattress. We then packed in heavier items like food, drink mixes, tools, cook-ware, and bike equipment. This all went inside the large Bob-bag for Danny and the Duffle-bag for me. Next we packed in clothing and on the outside strapped bungee cords along with sandals, snacks, and extra water bottles.   As we stacked our trailers up and loaded everything in, we quickly found that they could easily fall over and take the bike down if we weren’t careful. Mark suggested some sort of kick-stand and Danny fired back “I’ve never used a quick-stand in all my 47 years of cycling”.

        I began to laugh as Danny needed Mark’s help to stand his bike and trailer up. We rode up and down the street and almost toppled over on the black asphalt instantly. “You guys got a long way to go if this crap keeps up,” Mark said.

        Upon leaving the streets of Pittsburgh, I gave my mom and dad one last hug, and thanked them for their support. The Asian neighbor Simon looked on upon seeing us depart while my Dad reminded me to keep the tracking devices turned on.

        We were off with the goal to make it 150 miles to Erie, Pennsylvania where we would stay with Mark in his home. Almost instantaneously, we ran into our first problem. Danny’s rear wheel moving was over which made him stop to adjust it. Next, neither of us could get out of the saddle for more than a few seconds without the fear of almost toppling over. The third problem was that I did not have enough gears to ride in comfortably. I struggled to maneuver in my 39x23 gear and Danny told me I should get some lower gears. Initially we were talking to each other and saying that we would get used to it but as the frustration grew, we knew something had to be done. So on our route north out of Pittsburgh, Danny and I decided to go to his best friend, Jonathan Pratt’s home. Jonathan lived about 45 miles north of Pittsburgh where we dropped off our trailers and came back later after riding 100 miles. Meanwhile, Mark decided to ride on 100 miles north back home to Erie, PA. We told him we would ride to his home tomorrow after we lightened our load up and start fresh again.

        Later in the evening Danny and I dumped out everything we had and narrowed down items we thought we could do without. This included:  giant Alaska Map book, extra batteries, extra clothing, and more.

        The bob-trailer had a suggested weight limit of 70 pounds and according to Jon’s basement floor scale, my trailer weighed in at over 150 pounds. WHAT TO UNLOAD WE THOUGHT? We meticulously packed everything we thought was essential. We called Danny’s brother Tom for advice. Tom has had successfully mountain-hiking and climbing excursions and pin-pointed down for us what he thought we could leave behind. Uncle Tom went through each item he thought we could ditch and finally my PSP/music player was on the list.

“Steven, you really need to think of this as a survival trip. Do you really need music?” Tom said.

“It’s not that much weight,” I said.

“You need to think of every possible way you can cut down weight.” Tom said sternly.

“Yeah, but won’t the extra weight just make me stronger?” I continued.

“Steven, listen to me, you do not need the music player!” Tom said in a voice of authority.

        Danny and I began to surrender more and more stuff almost like drug addicts giving back drugs in some drug rehabilitation program. After being very reluctant to leave my music behind, I came to conclusion that I would do without it. The thought of going almost 2 months without “Move Along” or Tom Petty haunted me. No music meant more embracement of the land. But what about those times when I will be struggling and need an extra spark? STEVEN. FOCUS. YOU DON’T NEED THE MUSIC. THIS WILL MAKE YOU APPRECIATE THE MUSIC MORE WHEN YOU GET BACK.

        We unpacked about 20-25 pounds each and were on our way north towards Erie through the rolling farmland and forest terrain of western Pennsylvania. The next day we rode along the quiet shore of Lake Erie with corn fields to the right and Lake Erie’s breeze to the left. The drinking routine Danny proposed for us was bending down and sucking out of a straw that extended down into a big re-usable plastic jug that his friend Dara gave him. These jugs would be strapped down to the back of the trailer and filled up with what Danny called “Sticky Drink.” Sticky Drink was simply any drink other than water, primarily sugary drinks made from drink mixes such as iced tea, lemonade, and Gatorade mixes.

        I was not a big fan of Danny’s proposed drinking technique and told him we needed to devise a new plan. Later that day we entered into Canada through Buffalo, New York. Our first task was to exchange some of our U.S. dollars into Canadian dollars. We each exchanged $500, figuring that would get take us to Alaska on $10 for the next 50 days. We did this to avoid absurd exchange rates in the small towns of Canada. One U.S. dollar was worth about 1.25 in Canadian dollars.

            Into Canada

         We headed west by northwest paralleling the coast of Lake Erie on country-farm roads. In the evening we found a campground area on the coast of Lake Erie. We didn’t bother going through the main entrance and found a rear un-paved exit door and slid through to find a set of picnic tables. Our plans for dinner would be to fire up our gas stove and cook pasta. Danny tried pumping the gas into the stove but it wouldn’t work.

 “Fuck! Danny I thought we went over this like five times before we left?”

         Danny and I had agreed that he would be in charge of preparing the gas stove for cooking and I would be in charge of cleaning our cook-ware. After a frustrating fifteen minutes of messing around with the stove, we decided to abandon it and ate chips, fig-bars, and Gatorade mix for dinner.

 “Danny, we must get this stove working.” “I’m not going to continue eating our ride-food for dinner.”

 

        I called Danny the “Human Garbage Disposal” as he would eat just about anything at any time. Danny preferred quantity over quality, and therefore would pay for the cheapest possible food product regardless of how processed and unhealthy it was. The next morning we woke to find our fig bars had been broken into despite wrapping them in many grocery bags. We examined the bear maps and were not concerned about them until we got further north and west into Canada. We figured this was simply a smaller animal like a raccoon.

        The next day at a Safeway grocery store bathroom, I filled up Danny’s gallon jugs with water and mixed up fruit punch. On the way back to the front of the store, I slipped on the slick floor and the gallon jug splattered all over the floor with the sticky red fruit punch all around me. I briefly laid on the floor looking as if I laid in my own pool of blood and someone had beat the fruit punch out of me. Danny brought our groceries up to the checkout and saw me. His first concern was the splattered plastic jug, which pissed me off by not acknowledging my safety.

“Shit there goes our plastic jugs that were supposed to last the whole trip,” Danny said.

“Fuck those stupid plastic jugs. I’m sick and tired of bending over and drinking out of a fucking straw every time we want to have a food-drink stop. We’ve got to come up with a new routine. How about we get some 2-liter bottles?” I said.

        To Danny’s surprise, the 2-liter bottles were much more durable than the “re-usable” plastic gallon jugs. We got a couple 2-liter bottles and were moving on north in Ontario. We camped out at a small church in the prairie fields of Wellesley, Ontario. The primary goal of each camping spot was to find the following items: A water source, a flat dry spot to put the tent, a picnic table, an overhead shelter, and electrical outlets. A church was a good spot because it often included all of these items and was free. The next morning a mid-sized elderly guy came by who said he was “in charge” of the church. He was impressed when we told him we were cycling to Alaska and said “you’re welcomed back anytime.”

        Shortly into the ride some dark clouds appeared in the distance which put a face that suggested CONCERN on Danny’s face. Danny was terrified of his old 1980’s Cat-Eye cycling computer shorting out after getting wet. I often laughed at Danny because he seemed to be more afraid of overnight dew hurting his odometer than a grizzly bear attacking him.

“Wa wa wa, I gotta put a plastic bag over my computer. You sound worse than a woman concerned about getting pregnant by not using a condom,” I joked.

While stopping, I noticed my seat was loose and pulled out my 5mm Alan-key to tighten it. Danny warned me not to over-tighten it and shortly after giving it a few more tightens, I snapped the bolt right off and down my seat went into the frame.

“Oh shit”, I said.

“I told you not to over-tighten it,” Danny said.

“Well, it’s too late now…What the fuck are we going to do?”

“I guess we gotta go to the closest bike shop.”

        Luckily, I was still able to ride just not too comfortably. We rode about 15 miles into the town of Kitchener, Ontario and stopped at “Ziggy’s Bike Shop” to get a new seat post bolt, a new cassette, and two inner-tubes. We got moving and were hoping no more problems would arise. About 30 minutes later, I crashed when my chain started skipping.

“Why the hell is the chain skipping, it took me down!” I said.

“It’s because the new cassette needs to break in with the chain,” Danny responded.

        In the evening we ended with 75 miles for the day and were frustrated the bike problems ate up almost three hours in the day which cost us our 100 mile quota. We were hoping we would not be held back by more bike problems, the next day was only worse. After a good 50 miles we got onto a super high traffic volume road called highway 26. With no shoulder on the road, farm trucks were passing so close that if I extended my arm to the left it would probably be whacked off. I could smell the fumes of cars blast into my face and saw mirrors within inches. We got the hell off that highway 26 and had some relief until I felt a clunk feeling in my pedaling, followed by a grinding noise. I then could barely even turn the pedals. Danny rode ahead not knowing what happened and then turned back to see I was stuck.

“What happened?” Danny asked.

“I can’t even pedal!” I yelled.

“Shit. It must be the bottom bracket that locked up, it probably needs replacement”

“You gotta be kidding me! This bike your friend sold me last Christmas is a piece of shit!”

“Yeah, well I forgot to ask him how worn out the parts were, plus you put on quite a bit of mileage on it between then and the start of the trip.”

“Well I guess we gotta head to the closest bike shop”.

So I checked on my Garmin… “It says here it’s about 10 miles away.”

        We talked about our options and decided to go to the closest home nearby to see if we could hitch a ride. We rolled in to the rocky driveway of an elderly man’s home. He seemed like a jolly good fella with a big gut, big smile, and short white-gray hair.

“How do you do?” the old man asked.

“Well, not so good right now, my bike has a major problem and we need to go to a bike shop,” I said.

“Well I could take you there if you want ehh?” The old man said.

“Definitely,” I said. “Thanks a lot!”

“Where is yawl riding to by the way?” The old man said.

“For him, Florida to Alaska, and for the both of us, Pittsburgh to Alaska,” Danny said.

“Wow, that’s some journey right there. Let me finish up raking these leaves and I’ll give you guys a lift to the closest bike shop”

        He took us to the shop where I had to get a new crank set installed, changing my gearing from 39-53 to 34-50. This would give me an easier gear to make climbing hills less stressful on my knees. The bill racked up to $160.

 “Damn, that’s a big bill,” I said.  

         Danny and I were trying to keep our expenses to around $10 a day. Danny’s expenses for the first 6 days were only about $50, while mine were now over $200. The bike shop guy recommended mailing back my old crank set so I wouldn’t have to carry it to Alaska. I refused and stubbornly planned to carry it all the way to Alaska. Somehow I thought I could put it to use.  I imagined using it as a self-defense weapon since the teeth were sharp and rugged. I thought perhaps with a hard enough swing, it could potentially decapitate someone or bloody whatever human body part it smacks against. We ended up spending the night at the old man’s home who introduced himself as Jon Lusher. He asked us what we wanted for dinner and we said “anything”. So he took us to Pizza Hut where we were hoping for a buffet, but settled with cheese pizza and calzones. We also knew this was the perfect opportunity to utilize a laundry machine as we knew the next 1,000 miles looked pretty remote and we could potentially be left with dirty, slimy, petroleum jelly stained clothes. We had only been on the road 6 days, but knew we had to take advantage of the opportunity to get real showers and do laundry. The next morning Jon cooked us up a big egg omelet breakfast then we were heading north in hopes for some nicer roads with less traffic and minimal bike problems.

        Jon gave us a heavy-duty roll of blue paper towels which made my eyes light up as I knew how long I could make one of those rolls last. Danny and I agreed that certain things we would refuse to pay for because we knew we could find a way to get it for free by being either creative or patient. This included: Water, paper towels, gasoline for our stove, soap, laundry machine, lodging, home-cooked meals, camp-grounds, and much more. We told ourselves that by being patient and resisting the urge to pay for these things would make us appreciate them more once the time came where we could get them for free. As we left the home of John Lusher’s,  I thought about how welcoming he made us feel and the positive impact the kindness of a stranger brought into our journey that just started a week ago. Had it not been for him, Danny and I would have been in a scramble trying to lug our way to the bike shop. While I always lean on the side of caution with meeting strangers, I certainly felt a warm welcome with John and reminded myself that there are good people that exist out there. Danny and I figure there is a mutual trust between two strangers when an house-opening encounter occurs.

        Day 7 started out a little bit smoother with sunny conditions and lightly traveled roads. Just as we thought we were free from farm trucks and finding some peaceful riding, we found that one of our biggest foes had just been introduced. It wasn’t a big burly five hundred pound grizzly bear, it wasn’t a raccoon, and it wasn’t an asshole truck driver. It was swarms of flesh-eating bull-dog flies and mosquitoes. When traveling at speeds of less than 20mph (most of the time on flats and up-hills), these bugs would hound us and try to land on and bite us. Sometimes we would laugh at each other when we would try to whack one off or avoid riding into them. We tried to make humor out of the idea of something so small causing such a nuisance. The riding turned very frustrating to say the least.

        The Cemetery

         Later that evening, we found a quiet and somewhat un-inhabited town called Carling, which was only a few miles from Georgian Bay which connected to Lake Huron. After failed attempts to find flat open spaces to pitch a tent, we settled with the Carling Cemetery. We noticed that the cemetery had a sprinkler system which was both beneficial and detrimental. We wanted to use the sprinklers to get clean and bathe under, but did not want them soaking our tent, bikes-trailers, or ourselves wet. I quickly found the hose that connected to the sprinkler heads. I followed it to find the main on/off knob. I turned it on and it squirted to life. Danny and I then took turns spraying ourselves naked and scrubbing our bodies with bar soap. I couldn’t stop laughing and felt a liberating feeling of running around naked in a field while bathing. After bathing we quickly changed into clean dry clothes and sprayed insect-repellent all over our exposed skin. If not done immediately, we could have had over ten mosquito bites within a minute.

        We went to sleep inside our tent as usual and woke doing our usual routine of writing in our journals, disassembling the tent, wiping down and packing the tent, eating a huge breakfast, reviewing the route for the day, tending to any bike mechanicals necessary, applying sunscreen if necessary, and a few other things. This whole routine took 3-4 hours. The way things were going lately meant waking around 7 and leaving around 11am. We would then take advantage of every second of daylight after that and ride until after sunset which lately was between 9-10pm. Today during our 3-4 hour routine we had an unexpected and angry visit by an old man who complained that we were camping in the cemetery. We explained to him that we were riding our bicycles to Alaska and that we needed to keep the costs down by camping in places like this.

 “I don’t give a damn where you’re riding to,” the old man said.

 “We’re not hurting anything or anybody by being here. We’re not leaving anything behind and will leave this place the way we found it,” I said.

 “Why didn’t you camp somewhere else?”

 “We need a flat and dry place, and got here after dark and didn’t have time to search elsewhere.”

 “Damn it there’s a campground down the road 5 miles from here!”

 “We didn’t know it existed and wouldn’t pay for it if we did know it existed,” Danny said.

 “Why don’t you just leave us alone and let us do our thing, we’ll be outta here after we get packed up,” I said, as I started to get pissed that this old man is throwing yet another wrench in our trip.

 “You better hurry up and get the hell out of here. I’ll be back,” the grumpy old man said.

 “Fuck you too”. I thought but held back from saying.

 “Fuck that guy Danny. Let’s do our normal routine and we’ll leave when were ready.”

         So we finished eating, wrote in our journals, and packed up. About 30 minutes later, while Danny was busy examining the Ontario State Map with his magnifying glass and big rectangular glasses, I noticed the old man walking towards us with a guy from the fire-department.

 “What are you guys doing here?” The fire-man said.

 “On a cross-country bicycling trip from Florida to Alaska,” I said.

 “Wow, so y’all just packing up and leaving?” He said.

 “Yeah, we’ll be out of here shortly.”

 “Ok, it’s just this guy is mad because he had a family member buried here last month”

 “I’m sorry; we only used this place to catch some rest is all.”

 “I understand, just don’t let it happen again.”

 “That’s it! Your just gonna let them do this?” The angry old man interjected.

 “They’re leaving Roger!” “Calm Down!” The fire-man said.

 “That’s not the end of this.” The angry old man retorted. “I’m calling the police”.

         Danny and I continued packing up and finally got on the road about twenty minutes later. Just as we thought we were free and about a mile away from the Carling Cemetery, we glanced back and saw flashing police lights.

 “You gotta be fucking kidding me!” I said. “Dan, just remain calm. I’ll do the talking.”

         Two fine looking women police officers got out of the car and came up to us. They asked us what we were doing, which was about the hundredth time I heard that question in the last week. They then told us to get our I.D.’s out. Shit, I thought to myself; I have that packed in my luggage along with my passport.

 “Alright, just one minute,” I said.

         Danny got to talking about the weather, bugs, and grizzly bears to the police officers and almost forgot completely about the fact that we camped at a cemetery. Danny and I gave the woman our licenses. While one of the officers went back to her car, I became emotional at the remote possibility of this incident putting our trip to a permanent halt. I thought about how badly I despised the idea of authority holding me back, and began to shed a few tears as I told the woman officer how this was my high-school dream. I told her how my Uncle and I were like best friends and how this was everything I wanted and how it got me through the final year of high school. The woman officer listened with complete open ears unlike the angry old man who refused to listen to our pleas of innocence. The other woman officer came back and said, “You guys are clear, just don’t camp at any more cemeteries and you’ll be fine.”

 “Thank you so much,” I said with a smile.

      The scene then took a more mellow approach and Danny asked how long the women have been police officers and what the other men think of them. The conversation went on for about 5 minutes and then I said, “Danny let’s get a move on shall we?”                                                                                                

        As we rode, frustrated and relieved feelings ran through me as we got further away from the Carling Cemetery. I began to think of the angry man’s point of view and how he didn’t know Danny and I personally and probably would have thought that way if anybody was camped there. I told myself not to let it get to me and that the angry old man did have a reason to be angry. I try not to let first impressions get the best of me and allow second chances. That man could have been perfectly friendly to use had he not lost a love one at the cemetery. Whatever the case, we were both moving on and ready for new adventure and people to meet. I told myself to remain positive and do not let the negative try to take over. Good things lie down the road!

 Danny said, “Good job talking our way out of that one.”

 “No problem, Dan. Ha ha, what name are we gonna create for that guy…How about Rapist Roger?”

 “Ha ha ha. Yeah, Rapist Roger.”

 “Funny how you were wearing your rapist glasses the whole time while that was going on.”

         Rapist glasses was a product used in a gag advertisement video created by Youtube comedian Jon Lajoie stereotyping big rectangle clear glasses. My Uncle happened to have a pair of big rectangle glasses he had from back in the 1980's used for reading and seeing better. We found immense humor in creating fake characters like Danny’s infamous Long-Arm-Larry and also creating names for people we meet. Later that evening we made it to the edge of the town of Sudbury where we went to a drug mart in a  to get a can-opener as ours had broken last night. While in the drug-mart I heard Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” playing throughout the store. Later that evening our new can opener broke when trying to open the pasta sauce.

 “You gotta be fucking kidding me!” I screamed.

 “Oooh. You gotta be kidding me,” Danny mocked.

 “Ha, ha, I see how it is. Now we have no pasta sauce for dinner"

 “He’s CONCCERRRNED,” Danny said this word for about the fiftieth time on the trip and uses it when referring either to me or himself.

 “It’s gonna be a long way to Alaska. I could really use some ‘Move Along’ or Tom Petty right now.”

         After eating plain pasta and fig bars for dinner, we got bit by about twenty mosquitoes (with insect repellent), and then were off to sleep. I told myself that tomorrow would be a new day and good things that may lie ahead. Frustrated and longing for sunshine after more than half of the trip so far had been humid, sticky and 50-55 degrees, I told myself: BE PATIENT STEVEN, THE WAIT WILL BE WORTH IT. The first seven days brought about problems and some bad times. I told myself that the misfortunes will just add to the memories and at the end of the day the good will outweigh the bad. I fell asleep thinking “Well I know what’s right, I got just one life. In a world that keeps on pushing me around, I’ll stand my ground, and I won’t back down."

PART 2 MAP

 

 

                                            Part 3: Into The Heart Of Canada                                                                                                                     

       July, 2009

            The Trans-Canada highway, also known as highway 17 was a ruthless road. We feared for our lives as massive 60 foot long logging trucks passed within inches from our ears. With each pass, we smelled a woof of pine forest and truck diesel. The walls of pine forest and the occasional opening of scrub trees continued on, along with the rock-gravel shoulder taunting us to our right. We planned to be on this major highway for the next one thousand miles but began considering an alternate route. After 75 miles into day 9, starting near Sudbury, Ontario, we exited 17 for a break on Ontario route 108 and headed to Elliot Lake. In Elliot Lake, we each consumed a 32-ounce container of blueberry yogurt and also stocked up on some of our usual supplies: pasta, tomato sauce, oatmeal, brown sugar, cookies, fig bars, fruit punch and iced tea mixes. We brought our bikes into the cart area and found the nearest electrical outlet to charge cell phones and my Garmin GPS. We were there for over an hour before heading north and camping out near a creek. The mosquitoes were worse than ever, but we were starting to get used to them.

        The next day brought about one of the most scenic parts of the trip thus far on ON-546/ Endikai River Road. To our left was the Endikai River, a crystal clear light blue creek with logs and rocks scattered throughout causing rapids and splashes. To our right was a rocky slope with pine trees. An occasional rabbit or black would pop out every so often. I had been dreaming of a road like this from the start of the trip and imagined stopping to take a dip in the river on a warm sunny day. Today, however, was not a warm sunny day. Just as we thought we had reached a highlight of our trip, the weather took a turn for the worse and dropped from 65°F to 52 ° F. Rain started. It almost seemed like Mother Nature, after automobiles, was our biggest threat.

        We pushed on through the rain and did our stay warm by pedaling harder. There would be no sun to dry us off later that day and we would just have to accept that we would be stuck in wet and sticky clothes, just to do it all over again the next day. I told myself that this would only make me stronger and appreciate the sun that much more once it came out and shined on me. Later that evening, we had to stop at an old log-cabin convenience store-trading post off ON-129 to eat our cookies and drink iced tea. Just as we attempted to depart and head north on ON-129, I noticed two slightly broken spokes in my rear wheel. Danny and I then fixed the spokes and just as we thought we were free to pedal on northward, the valve broke off the tube when I tried to pump it up. In a fury, we came to the conclusion that we would be here for a while. At this point Danny and I only had one idea left. Ask the owner of the log-cabin convenience store if we could camp there.

        We quickly found common ground with the convenience store owner as he was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Danny and I began talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers and then about our trip to Alaska, quickly locking in our camping spot for the night. We then bathed under the hose on the side of the building and cooked up pasta. The mosquitoes attempted to eat us as we ate our pasta. I got furious at the mosquitoes and was tempted to buy a mosquito-zapping tennis racket I saw inside the trading post. I can’t believe I let myself get so angry at a “living being”. I started to view mosquitoes along with weather and automobiles as potential road blocks in my trip and I told myself to rise above and conquer them like an opponent.

        With no cell phone coverage in the bushy countryside of Ontario, I attempted to use a pay phone to call my mom and give her an update on my trip. I picked up the phone and heard a solid dial tone. I hung the phone up and tried to insert a quarter in. The quarter went straight through and out the change output. I went inside the trading post and asked if I could use the phone and he said he could only make local calls. I gave up and together Danny and I were heading north again. ON-129 was much nicer than the Trans-Canada highway and had smooth road surface, little traffic, no human civilization, an abundance of wildlife, and lusciously green trees. Rain continued to pour down in the afternoon and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. After a hundred miles of riding for the day, we turned off on a dirt road which led to a tree-construction area. With not a human soul around, we pitched our tent that we called “home” for the night. A cold, annoying drizzle and a swarm of mosquitoes hounded us and, after we set the tent up, Danny said he didn’t want to cook pasta.

 “Danny are you kidding me?” I said.

 “What, I’m too tired to deal with this”, Danny said.

 “We’re gonna let these little fucking mosquitoes tell us if we can eat or not?”

 “No, I’m just going to eat cold oatmeal and soup for dinner inside the tent.”

 “Come on, we can’t just eat that shit for dinner, we need something more filling!”

 “Nope, I’m getting inside the tent for the night. See ya!”

 “Wow, whatever, I guess I’m coming in too.”

 While inside the tent we tried to make light of the very frustrating situation.

“Danny, remember, you think bigger is better, how could you let something so tiny be so dominating?”

 “Ha ha, you’re right; the mosquito is so much smaller than us.”

 “Just tell him, you little tiny fuck, I am bigger than you are!”

 “How many mosquito bites do you think it would take to kill a human?”

 “I don’t know, but let’s not let them get to us. Fuck em’, we got one goal, Alaska, something a million times bigger than them”

           Wawa, Ontario

         Two days later we were back on the Trans-Canada highway and stopped in the town of Wawa for more food supplies. I attempted to make another call off my cell phone and was unsuccessful. While packing our food on top of our trailers, we saw a tall Swedish guy with a heavy accent.

 Danny was like holy shit that guys big lets go talk to him.

 Danny and I modified the following dialogue to make the scene more memorable:  

“Holy shit how tall are you?” Danny said?

 “I’m 6 foot 8 how tall are you, you tiny fuck? The Swedish guy responded.

 “6 feet tall. The mosquitoes are pretty bad huh?”

 “Ya, the bugs were bad, they ate us alive.” “Yeah, since I’m so big I get more bites than you. Ha ha ha.”

 “Why the hell is that funny?” I chimed in.

 “Who is this little kid, your son?” The Swedish guy retorted.

 “I’m his nephew you gigantic clown. Can you do something useful and let us use your cell phone?”

 “No you cannot use my cell phone, no tiny fucks allowed!”

 “Ha, ok, see you later!”       

 “Ha ha ha, I am bigggga than you!!!” The Swedish guy said as he rode off in the distance.

         The Trans-Canada highway slowly got better, and at last we felt like we were on a classic Canadian super-highway. The sun came out later than day and we finally had our first epic sunset finish. The big red-orange sun set down right on the black highway off into the great wide open scrub plains of Ontario. The traffic died down and we rode peacefully to our finish near White Lake Provincial Park. After some smooth talk with the park official lady, I encouraged her to let me call my parents as it had been 8 full days since talking to them. I called and left a message. We then tried to let the park-ranger lady let us camp inside the park for free and she denied us. We rolled a mile down the road and made our own camp spot off a dirt road near White River.

 Selfish Steven, you’ve gotta be selfish. You can’t let people stand in your way. You must take care of your body and train to your maximum potential. You must move along when a relationship gets sour. To be the best possible athlete, you must be selfish with your body. This was Uncle Danny’s advice to me on becoming a stronger cyclist.

        So the day finally came when I decided I was going to be selfish. Today I would ride away from Danny and show him what I got. Today was my day. Shortly into our I saw a sign that said Marathon: 20 km. Danny was riding behind me and I could feel the competitive edge building as we pounded our way along the rocky coast of Lake Superior. For the past two years of riding, I had accepted that Danny was the stronger and faster cyclist. Today, I would be brave and not hold back. Rain started to pick up and trucks began passing as usual. Next, in a smooth yet aggressive acceleration, I slowly rode off down the highway. A one kilometer uphill came and I could see Danny trying hard to chase me down. I rode until my whole body felt numb and after a mile from the downhill, I was out of sight. I continued riding hard until I reached the town of Marathon. I raised my hands in the air triumphantly and finally felt myself succeeding in a sport that I have longed for since the beginning of time. I rode back for my Uncle and told him that I had just ridden 15 miles in the time he had ridden 10. He initially had a look of horror and disgust on his face, but later congratulated me.

        Day by day I could feel the competition between Danny and me growing. I started creating timed efforts by riding 5 or 10 miles and also an hour as hard as I could. The competition later grew to the point where it was no longer me against Danny, but me against me. Unleashing myself and proving to myself that I could beat Uncle Danny was a big breakthrough, but I told myself not to let it get to me. I knew that we were a team and that we had to rely on each other for motivation to make it to Alaska.

        A couple days later we rode into Thunder Bay, the biggest town of the trip. There we had to go to two different bike shops for a front bike bag, some gear adjustments, and a seat pad at Wal-mart. While searching through the already messy bike section for seat-pads, one of the bars fell down, throwing seat pads all over the floor. A guy next to Danny and I seemed offended as I continued to search for the seat pad I wanted and said to my Uncle:

 “Is he going to put that back!”

 “What are you looking at me for?” Danny said.

 “Aren’t you his dad?”

 “No, I’m his Uncle”

 “Come on Dan, let’s get outta here”, I said.

 “Unbelievable, you’re just going to let him do that?”  The guy snorted as he stood in the isle with seat-pads scattered around him.

         The guy then picked a few seat pads up and while putting them back onto the shelf, more came crashing down on the floor. A Wal-mart employee than walked around the corner and said “Sir are you Ok?” Danny and I fled the scene in hilarious laughter and headed for the checkout. I loved the fact that while Danny was 47 years old and I was 18, we were more like brothers and best friends. Danny did not possess authority over me we let each other each have space and allowed each other to be ourselves: eccentric and passionate. I began to think how different the trip would be if it were my Dad on the trip with me. I would have probably gotten ranted and screamed at about 20 times by now and had the trip called off. Throughout high school, I never ever found someone who was like me. When I first met Uncle Danny, we were just casual friends and the only thing we had in common was the fact that we were both athletes. Now after two weeks on the road with him, I’m begun to find him more and more like me. I had finally found a loyal friend and companion. We both hated conformity, authority, control, jobs, and cars. We both loved cycling, the open road, freedom, individuality, and the open road. Not to mention I enjoyed watching Danny act silly in public. In the first two minutes of conversation with a woman, Danny would ask about marriage, height and shoe size, and tell her she’s pretty.

        Moving on from Thunder Bay we entered the Central Time Zone which meant from 10pm to 9pm with the sun peaking in the distance. Sunsets brought about an amazing feeling of triumph and euphoria when heading west in Canada. No matter how much suffering the day could throw at us, we knew the sunset meant the day would soon be coming to a close. Whether it was cold and wet weather, a few assholes, or a plethora of bike problems, the sunset represented resolution and we knew a sunrise brought about a new day. I told myself to take the trip day by day and not worry about the future or the sometimes intimidating map. Not every night did we get to see the sun set. In fact, more often than not we only saw dark clouds and a gloomy horizon. On these nights, we continued to tell ourselves that there were better days to come.

        From Thunder Bay, we headed west on ON-11 then north on ON-622 to Turtle Creek. ON-622 had very little traffic and small scrubby trees spread out in the distance. On a map we could see hundreds of small lakes around us, explaining the breeding grounds for blood-thirsty mosquitoes. We camped out near a large lake called Clearwater West Lake. The next morning was a little bit warmer than usual and finally we got to enjoy a sunrise. As the sun-rose we felt a liberating feeling of walking around our camp area naked. Every now and then a mosquito bite but we ignored it. Danny and I started up a new competition of who good produce the largest shit mound in the morning. The winner would scream out “Biggaaaaa” in a triumphant voice. When Danny would win, I would joke and say “so producing the biggest shit mound is the only thing left you can beat me in.”

       Sheldon Bag                                                               

        50 miles into our ride on day 19, we stopped to filter water at a small lake and ate peanut butter and jelly right out of the containers. We met a guy named Sheldon and his girlfriend and their kids and asked if we could stay at his place. He gladly accepted and we told him we would ride to his home later that day.  At his home later that evening, we got a real shower for the first time in 10 days. He then cooked us up a macaroni and cheese dinner and fed us huge quantities. We got to clean our clothes in his laundry machine and charged up all our electronic devices.

        The waiting for things taken for granted in life was well worth it and we began gain much patience. Depriving our bodies from a home and self-inflicting discomfort upon our bodies made us appreciate this stay so much more. We budgeted ourselves to around $10 a day which was mainly spent on food. Meeting new people on the road was one of the best parts of being on the road. Sheldon listened to some of our trip stories with amazement and we all laughed up a storm when telling him about the cemetery incident 10 days ago. The next morning Sheldon fed us a big breakfast consisting of eggs, cheese, potatoes, juice, bread, jam, and chocolate milk. It was the tastiest thing I had eaten the entire trip. As we finished certain food items, we continued to ask for more which he gladly brought out as if it were a buffet. Upon leaving we reloaded some of our supplies like duct tape, gasoline (for our cooking stove), plastic bags, chips, cookies, and petroleum jelly. Instead of being offended, Sheldon got incredible amusement every time we asked for something else. Hence concluding my theory of you never know what you can get unless you ask. Similar to our trip motto of: you never know what you can accomplish unless you try. The biggest thing Sheldon gave us was a giant homemade water-proof storage bag made out of old boogie boards. We would forever call this, the “Sheldon Bag”.

        Meeting Sheldon was by far one of the most memorable experiences yet of the trip. While he gave us a lot of supplies for our trip, the biggest thing we walked away with was friendship and memories. For the memories remain after the stuff he gave us is used up.  Upon leaving we got pictures of his entire family with us. We exchanged phone numbers and he wished us the best on our journey to Alaska. Sheldon’s sister Tennille rode for 5 miles with us and then turned around.  

           Manitoba                       

         The next day, we entered Manitoba after being in Ontario for over 1,700 miles. Entering Manitoba also marked exiting the Trans-Canadian highway 17. We entered the bush country filled with wild and fearless deer. Some of the deer would stand right in the middle of the roads as we rode within feet of them. That night we camped next to a swamp and like always, we got eaten alive by mosquitoes.

        Day 21 of the trip started out in the forest, scrub, and bush country and opened up into gigantic farm-fields mainly consisting of corn and sunflowers. We could see green crops and yellow sunflowers spurting to life for a good 5-10 miles in each direction. As we exited the forest, we felt the wind begin to pick up. Once we were in the open plains, the wind was blowing in our faces at around 35 miles per hour. “Headwind Harry” became the name for the strong headwind. On a flat open farm road like this we would normally average around 13-18mph. Here we rode 7.5 miles in the first hour. The wind was a ruthless howling monster, showing no mercy and trying to hold us back from heading north and west. There was no way around it. Every now and then a giant farm truck carrying crops would pass, giving our faces a splash of straw and vinegar smell.

        Little do those who drive cars know how much of a dominate force the wind is for a cyclist having to go head on into it. So far we have not had a favorable tailwind section for more than a mile or so. We continued to dream of catching a super strong tailwind and cruising at 25-35mph without much effort. Instead we were being held hostage at the mercy of Mother Nature. There was no skipping over this and we had to push through it to continue on. So hour two went on, this time we managed to squeeze out 8.5 miles. Frustration growing, we finally exited the headwind section as we headed south and west only to have the headwind turn into a crosswind (crosswind Carla or side wind Sammy) were we had to worry about flipping over on our sides. Later that day we took a quick jog back into civilization and stopped in Selkirk at a McDonalds where we ate our ride food (cookies, chips, fig bars), filled up water and ketchup in a plastic bottle. Here we would use the ketchup pump dispenser and fill up our own container.

        We moved on out of and into wide open stretches of farmland to search of a camping spot. With fences dominating the large and inviting green farmland acreage, we stopped at a country cottage home where a lady came to the door and said she was “babysitting” and could not give us permission to camp on the land. We went on to the next home with a long dirt driveway and knocked with no response. Intent on finding a free place to camp, we made it to a small town called Teulon, Manitoba. According to the city limit sign Teulon had about 1,100 people in it which meant a high probability of finding someone to let us put up camp for the night. We rolled into a gravel driveway and ran into an old guy named Rod who was playing ball with his kids. We got straight to the point and asked him if we could camp out in his yard. The next morning we got moving along and headed north out of civilization again and stopped at small country corner store for some pizza and ride cookies. We finished our ride this time before sunset and didn’t bother getting permission from anyone to camp out on the small patch of farmland off the main highway. In the morning a guy on a tractor came by and asked us what we were doing. He told him we were camping out and riding bicycles to Alaska.

 “Are ya’ll riding across the country for some charity or something”, the tractor guy asked.

 “No, were just doing it because we love the liberating feeling of riding and seeing the country”, I said.

 “Ya’ll are crazy not doing that for something”.

 “We’re not crazy, we’re on a mission”.

 “Yeah well stay safe, there’s a lot of nuts out there”.

 “Thanks”

         I got sick and tired of people thinking that they must dedicate their cycling to some kind of charity. If one is passionate and loves what they’re doing enough, there shouldn’t be any need for doing it for any other reason other than just that: love and passion. I would always tell myself that the reason I was riding was not to prove something to someone, rather to prove only to myself that I can do it. At the end of the day, I want to look back knowing that I conquered the goals I created, not being persuaded by others or holding back what I really want.  

           Mother Nature

        After we got moving north, we continued to get further and further into deep Canadian countryside and would be on Manitoba route 6 for the entire day. At a stop for water in a rinky-dink dilapidated ice cream store with on the side of the road, we saw a screen with sticky glue on it and probably about 500-1,000 dead bugs stuck to it. Bugs were on the ground, smashed on grills of cars, and even smashed on the broken wooden floor inside the shop. Inside the store sat an obese native-American girl sitting on a toilet in the middle of the floor licking a lollipop.

 What the fuck is this shit, I thought to myself.

 “What’s with all the dead bugs?” I blurted out.

“Those are the bulldog flies of Manitoba”, another fat Native American lady said.

 “Do they bite?”

 “Oh yeah, they’ll suck the blood right out of you. One guy lost a whole liter of blood one time and almost died”.

 “Well we’re here for water, you got any?”

 “Yeah, gimme your bottles”.

 “Hold on!” I said. “Can I just fill them up myself?”

 “Yeah, sinks around back” she smirked.

         We filled up all of our jugs and mixed up some more iced tea and Gatorade mix while we were there. We continued on route 6 and slowly found big beastly looking bugs following us. The large bugs were the size of 2 peanuts and buzzed loudly all around us. When they would land, they would bite, and hurt. We tried riding faster to shake them away but they continued after us. I began to scream out and tried smacking them. Occasionally I would whack a few but the efforts started to become useless. We continued on for another 100 miles having to deal with them for 8 full hours. It was one of the worst riding days of my entire life. We had welts beginning to build and our skin itched all over. It was a nightmare. I’d never though the bugs we be so irritating. I was determined to buy a bug zapper at the next place I could. We stopped and sprayed bug spray all over which had little effect. Later that evening, the bugs finally died down and we headed off road and down a decline to a big light blue-brown looking lake called Lake Kitamik. We had no water supply and would rely on this lake for our water that we would filter. As we walked into the water to bathe, our feet sunk down in the mud and the water tasted milky. We tried to walk out deeper into a clearer part and gave up as rocks continued to pick up.

        Danny and I began to get pissed off at each other over the bugs and the filtered water tasting like dirty milk. As we cooked dinner the anger continued to build. We each had our routine; Danny would pump the gas stove, cook the pasta, then wipe the pasta sauce container lid with a paper towel and pour the sauce into the pasta. Danny had very precise way of doing this and would do the same thing in the same order every night. I was not too amazed about how he wiped down the pasta sauce can and tonight I decided to clean the lid my way. I poured the pasta water right onto the pasta sauce container figuring the hot water would sterilize the lid. Right after doing this Danny exploded with anger and shrieked out “You fucking idiot why are you pouring the sticky pasta water onto the pasta sauce container!”

 “You better calm the fuck down Danny, relax!”

 “I told you not to do that, I don’t like the sticky water nor do I like the pasta sauce water near our campsite in case a bear smells it”

 “Calm down! It’s not a big deal!”

 “I’m tired of you doing things your way!” Danny retorted.

 “We both do things our way you moron!” I fired back.

         We proceeded with eating our pasta dinner and calmed down as we departed to sleep. I began to think of splitting apart from Danny and continuing on towards Alaska on my own. But then I thought of McCandless from Into the Wild and how in his final days of life he managed to scribble down HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED, into his journal. As angry as Danny and I were with each other, I really think that it was everything else our bodies were dealing with that was agitating us. The bugs, the crotch sores, the weather. We had to just work through it and not give up on each other. I told myself, that by working through this, we would come out of this trip with an unbreakable relationship.

So a new sunrise came the next day, and we were moving on, the bugs were behind us, a stranger bought us sandwiches at a convenience store, and were moving on west on Manitoba route 60. Shortly into the ride I fell asleep and began drifting into the ditch. I came to a slow speed crash and fell before Danny realized it.

Danny asked what happened and I said “I don’t know I just dozed off”.

The temperature was around 48 degrees and my head was snuggly covered and just fell asleep.

        Later into the ride, we ran across a mini-van that pulled up next to us. The driver told us to stop and we did. A hippie-looking couple was in the car and asked us where we were heading, we told them Alaska. They said they had a place about 200 miles away that we could stay. We told them we would try to make it there by tomorrow night and pushed on. Later that evening we camped out in a rock bed on the side of the road. As we slept that night, the temperature slowly dropped. On a routine urination break in the middle of the night, I noticed it had started raining. A few puddles of rain had formed in the rock area and the tent began to leak a little water. I woke Danny and told him and we both hoped to hell it would stop. A couple hours, unaware of what time it was, we woke to dark gray skies, bitterly cold rain and a tent started to flood. There was no sight of any sunrise. Once our sleeping bags began to get wet, we panicked and began putting our journals and electronics in plastic bags. We put all of our warmest clothing on and barely managed to get the bungee cord straps on our trailers as our hands froze while packing up. We knew that in these conditions, with wet clothing and wet everything that we had to ride to get warm.

        The day only got worse from the beginning. Each body part we had tried to keep warm began to get drenched and the water slowly trickled down the pant legs and into the shoes, freezing our feet. The pain began to take over my hands and feet and I could not feel much anymore. I could not even shift gears. There were very few cars on the road and the ones that did pass usually did so around 70 miles per hour. We felt hopeless. We felt like we were slaves to the weather. There was nothing we could do but pedal. The temperature dropped more and the headwind picked up, the rain began to freeze and pellets of ice began to smack down on our bodies. I started crying out and screaming profanities but realized that I must keep moving along. Danny was also in pain. We were in this together. We would make it through this together. I kept hoping the freezing rain would stop but it kept persisting. About 60 miles into the day and 5 hours of pain and almost feeling like we were going to die, the rain finally lightened up although the sky was still dominated by gray clouds.  About 90 miles into the day, the rain subsided and we made a phone call from a pay phone telling Greg East (the hippie from yesterday) that we were on our way, but not sure when we would make it.

        To push through this intense suffering and struggle, two things crossed my mind. I kept thinking back to sunshine Florida. I thought of the beautiful and welcoming orange groves, warm rain showers, the sun shiny beach, the peaceful lakes, the Ocala National Forest. I began to have flashbacks of all the things I loved. I began to wonder why I was riding to Alaska and questioned the self-inflicting pain I endure. These were some of the most peaceful images that came to mind during this very painful time. Back when I was in Florida, I had dreamed of bicycling to Alaska. This was definitely not what I envisioned but I had to stop and switch my mindset again to further appreciate this situation. Through the painfully bitter cold and soaking wet conditions, I kept telling myself that there were better days to come.

        The second thought was the most effective. Instead of thinking of the bright sun shine times, I began to dig deep and imagine conditions that were worse than these and thought about how much better off I am than some people. I began to think of the brave souls that attempt to summit Mount Everest and get trapped in the death zone above 25,000 feet. I think of how they have absolutely no one to help them up there and how their lungs are about to explode and the painfully bone-chilling negative temperatures are much colder than this 30-35 degree freezing rain. I tell myself that this could be much worse. I tell myself that I am not actually going to die. I tell myself, think of the worst imaginable conditions and compare that to what I am dealing with. I then switch focus to McCandless from Into the Wild and think of the starvation and struggle of being trapped in the wild until his death. I told myself that if worse comes to worse, at least if I pass out or freeze to unconsciousness and fall in the road, one of the cars that passes once every hour will hopefully stop and pick me up.

I continue to tell myself: I could be better, but I also could be much worse.

         Later that evening, we rode into the darkness for over an hour and drizzling rain started up again. We were still soaked and freezing cold. Our hands could not operate properly to shift the bike nor eat. We were shooting to make it to Flin Flon and with the bitterly cold weather, we were set back and estimated arrival is now around 3am. We were a good 50 miles away. We did not want to go through another night of hell and continued to push on to Greg Easts’ home. We knew if we got stranded out in these freezing conditions we could potentially freeze to death. We continued on like zombies in the bitter night sky and while our bodies were in pain, we somehow found peace with being some of the only beings on the road. I continued tell myself “you’ve got this” and thought back to my favorite song “Move Along”.  Even when your hope is gone, move along, move along just to make it through.

 My goal for today and this trip thus far has seemingly been shattered, yet I will move along just to finish and make it through.

         I imagined a hot shower, a warm meal, and most of all, a new sun rise for tomorrow. I continue to push on and talked to Danny for motivation. We see a truck flashing its lights in the distance. We hear a few honks. Intense moments of struggle and adrenaline rushed through our bodies. The truck comes to a screeching halt in the middle of the dark highway. A familiar voice spurts out “Hey guys it’s me”. Greg East drives us back to his home which was one of the most welcoming and glorious doors I have ever entered.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Part 3 Map                                                                                                                                                                    

 

Part 4: The Great Alaskan Highway

         The mosquitoes and ugly weather throughout Ontario and  Manitoba  were followed by miles and miles of quiet and peaceful prairie land, pretty at first but then the miles and miles of sunflower fields and scrub-like vegetation started to feel interminable. For over 35 days I had envisioned beautiful  Rocky Mountains  and wilderness untouched by the human hand. My Uncle, Danny Chew, and I continued pounding out the mileage on our bicycles and before we knew it we went from  Pittsburgh Pennsylvania  to a gorgeously epic land known as  British Columbia .

 This majestic and sacred road would lead me to my destiny of bicycling from  Central Florida  to  Alaska We had carried our bodies, bicycles, and 100- 125 pound bob trailers 36 days from  Pittsburgh  and over 3,800 milesNot a thing in the world could stop us now as we set our sights on  Alaska It would end up being 5,130 miles and 43 days after I left my home in  Longwood, Florida. And so here we are one province away from one of the biggest highlights of my 140 day trip of a lifetime.

 I imagined what it would be like to be in  Alaska telling myself to be patient for it is still about 1,300 miles away. I have wisdom in my flesh reminding me that wherever I go in life that is really worth the while will take time and patience; and I knew that with time and patience good things will come. If it wasn’t for having to endure the seemingly never-ending flat farmland, then the beautiful  Rocky Mountains  wouldn’t have seemed quite as enjoyable. I know from my training experience that the more stresses I put on my body means the more euphoria I will feel when my long and strenuous goals have finally been reached. I kept telling myself that this would be the granddaddy of all euphoric feelings I have ever experienced in my entire life.

Closing in on the Alaskan Highway

“170-clicks a day, eh?” The local Albertan asked.

“Yah, that’s what we’ve been averaging and we plan on keeping it up all the way to  Alaska , my uncle and I told the local Albertan.

“We saw a guy pushing a cart roll through here one time, he kind of reminded me of you guys”.

“Ha, that’s cool; do you know where exactly he was traveling to?” I asked.

“Nah, he just said he was traveling across the country but he had this big cross in the cart and told us he had some kind of message he was trying to spread”.

“Oh, interesting”.

        The idea of my uncle and I being compared to some guy pushing a cart was quite amusing and belittling. We then thanked the guy for the fresh water he gave us and told him that we must be on our way; we had some ground to cover before we could sleep, and off we went. We a rolled into a small town just after the sun set in search of a water supply and a place to camp out.

        We scavenged up and down the somewhat dismal street when a pickup truck rolled up to us and a fresh Canadian voice spurted out and said

“Where ya’ll heading?”

 “ Alaska we responded. “ Alaska !” the old man replied in a daze.

“Yup”, we responded.

“From where?” He asked.

Florida ,” we told him.

“Holy shit ya’ll have come a long way.”

“Where ya’ll plan on staying tonight?” the old man asked.

“Well we were looking for some sort of shelter… do you know of any around here?” I asked.

“Well there is this one down the road but I’m not sure they’d wantcha’ camping out there, eh?”

“Do ya’ll wanna come stay at my place?” He asked.

“Sure,” we responded.

            We knew that being offered a place to stay usually meant it came with a shower, meal, and whatever else was offered. We hadn’t had a good shower in quite a while and many of our clothes hadn’t been washed in about two weeks.

We followed the man to his home where we unpacked our bob trailers and took showers. We then got our clothes washed in the laundry machine. We slept outside in a trailer of the home of Lynn and Alan Connell’s. In the morning we ate a huge oatmeal and fruit breakfast that  Lynn  prepared. We just so happened to be staying there and had the honor of seeing the final moments of the 2009 Tour De France. The epic music that played following the final stage of the 2009 Tour De France during the credits has continued to play through my mind ever since.

After leaving Lynn and Alan Connell’s home we forged on heading west towards  British Columbia and the Rocky Mountains The prairie land finally started to get hilly and I could finally see decent sized mountains off in the distance for the first time since the  Appalachian Mountains  back on the first week of my trip. With my sights on  British Columbia  I hammered a 1 hour time trial and for the first time rode over 20 miles and rode about 6 miles ahead of my Uncle. Shortly after this my eyes became dazed by the  British Columbia sign. I circled back and rode with my Uncle into  British Columbia  heading towards  Dawson Creek  .Riding off ahead of my Uncle and circling back became a daily routine as I continued to become a stronger cyclist while my Uncle stayed about the same strength.  

In Dawson Creek we stopped at a Wal-Mart to pick up the usual grocery supplies such as oatmeal, cookies, pasta, marinara sauce, chips, Gatorade drink mix, and a seat pad. That night we camped next to a community center off an unpaved road about 18 miles northwest of  Dawson Creek There wasn’t a good water supply there so we cleaned our bodies with a water bottle, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes. Not having a fresh water supply was not unusual for we had to deal with that kind of bathing situation many nights in the dry prairie land in the middle of  Canada The next day we were on our way heading north on the Alaskan highway.

The Alaskan Highway at Last

The first 40 miles of the Alaskan Highway heading north out of Dawson Creek had absolutely horrible traffic. What would you expect when your biggest highway is only  two to four  lanes and hundreds of miles away from large urban civilization? I became especially frustrated with the big trucks that would sometimes blow by us with only a couple feet of space. Luckily the traffic died down north of Charlie Lake. Near Charlie Lake we met a guy named Thomas Laussermair who was traveling via recumbent bicycle from the tip of  North America  to the bottom tip of  South America We stopped and chatted and got a few pictures and exchanged information.

We continued heading north and ended up camping out off a tiny dirt road about 50 miles from the nearest town. That night a strange car with a suspicious character pulled close to our campsite. We went about our unpacking procedure which consisted of unpacking our bob trailers, setting up the tent, cleaning our bodies, tending to our crotch areas, and switching clothes. I suggested to Danny that we go up to talk to the guy so we did and he turned out to be an ok character. He said he was heading south on the  Alaskan Highway  towards  Dawson Creek and spending the night here. So we continued on with our business and ate our pasta dinner and went to sleep in our tent.

 The next day we were off heading north again and the beautiful rocky mountain views started to pick up. After about 112 miles into the day we turned off the Alaskan highway to wander through some abandoned R.V. park. There we managed to find a guy who had 5 gallon jugs of fresh river water which we asked if we could have some. His name was Daryl and he gave us water and told us about a place we could camp 5 miles down the road. So we headed there.

“Hey what do you boys think you’re doing here?” The local redneck asked. We told him we were heading to  Alaska   and he was simply dumbfounded in amazement.

“O. Ok, well we own this area”, he said jokingly. The local redneck and his boys ended up leaving shortly after we set up our camp area.

 The next day, Day 39, led us through  Fort Nelson, British Columbia in which we had a big grocery store stop. We sat outside the supermarket and downed bologna and cheese sandwiches on white bread. To wash it down we split a gallon of chocolate milk. We left the supermarket bloated and continued heading north and west on the Alaskan Highway. Being bloated wasn’t too pleasant for the first hour then after we started to feel better again.

 The next day brought about breath-taking views and gorgeous scenery next to the epic  Summit   Lake That night we camped in what we initially thought was an abandoned campground. It ended up being not so abandoned after all, for some asshole came out and told us to stay away from his water hose. We told him the sign said Campground. “wah wah wah, stay away from my water hose”, I murmured as the asshole went back into his office dungeon. Something common for my Uncle and I to do throughout our trip was to make up fake names for people met as well as imaginary characters. We simply turned this guy into the “Muncho Lake Asshole” for we were near the breath-taking  Muncho Lake. We camped out there anyway and sped up our departure procedure the next morning.

            Liard Hot Springs

After 47 miles into day 40 we stopped at the historic Liard Hot Springs and headed for the hot sulphur springs inside the park. We didn’t bother checking if there was an entry fee to the park and rode our bikes right back on the boardwalk that had a sign that said “no bicycles”. Before heading back on the boardwalk to the  hot springs , Danny and I looked at each other and said “fuck that sign!” Were not about to leave our entire luggage back in some stupid parking lot area. While I was swimming and Danny was cleaning his bike because “O wah wah, I don’t like salt water”, some ass-hole tourist said “no bicycles back here”. He ended up complaining saying he was going to complain to his boss but nothing ever happened.

  That evening we stopped at a local diner that sold bottled drinks for about 6 times the price of those sold back home in  Florida We insisted not to pay 6 dollars for a bottle of water so we asked for tap water. “O it’s fresh glacier water, the best you can get”. O bullshit we thought. I could drink water that someone shit in and it would probably taste better than this. Yuck. Even with many packages of Gatorade mixed up in the water it still tasted nasty like sulphur-rotten eggs. We ended up deeming the  Alaskan Highway  tap water as “Shit-Water”.  The next morning I got diarrhea and stomach sickness due to the disgusting water. From that moment on we decided not to drink that nasty water anymore. So we started a new routine which meant we had to go up to R.V.’s and ask them to fill our bottles of water up. Most of the time the people in the R.V.’s gladly filled up our water bottles and often threw in extra snacks.

    Tickie Hayes

    The next day we stopped at a “Superfoods” supermarket in Watson    Lake  to stock up on groceries. Oatmeal, pasta, cookies, ketchup chips, fruit punch drink mix, cans of beans, cans of veggies, and other snacks. We got a price discount from the cashier which we had managed to do a handful of times on road through  Canada While we were packing up our food into our Bob-Trailers a lady named Tickie Hayes introduced herself to us and offered us a place to stay in Haines Junction. This was about 300 miles away in the direction we were heading. We gladly accepted and she said she would have good meals waiting for us. Free food meant we wouldn’t have to buy our own food at the supermarket leading up to her home. Whenever we could get anything for free we readily accepted it. We tried to limit our budget to around ten dollars a day each. We did not pay for lodging once in the 47 days from  Pittsburgh  to the Alaskan Border. The majority of our expenses were on food and bike equipment.

The next day we crossed the Continental Divide, the dividing line in which a river outlet flows east or west. Here on the  Alaskan Highway  it was a pathetic elevation of only 3,000 feetThe continental divide in  Colorado  on U.S. 40 is over 11,300 feet at  Berthoud   Pass.   Ten miles later six men from  Czech Republic  stopped their van and took pictures of us and gave us snacks. Most of them did not speak English and we thought some of them could have been homosexuals. Regardless of their sexual orientation they were certainly generous and friendly for they gave us chocolate bars and soda.

 Day 44 was nice until my front derailleur snapped off causing me to not be able to shift gears in the front chain ring. That night the temperature dipped into the upper 30’s and the next morning was also cold. The next day we went through  Whitehorse  which was the biggest town we’ve been through since  Prince Albert , some 3 weeks ago. I had insect-bite like appearance on my left arm and had been worried about it for quite some time. I decided that I wanted to get the wound checked out and went to a local walk-in-clinic to get it inspected. Not being a local to a doctor in  Whitehorse they wanted a $60 fee which I refused to pay.

 We left Whitehorse after picking up a few groceries and continued on towards Haines Junction and the home of Tickie Hayes. Before leaving we tried calling Tickie Hayes to let her know that we would be arriving at her home later that night. Around  8 pm  I had a flat tire which took us about 30 minutes to fix. At this point we knew we would arrive late at Tickie Hayes’s home. We were closing in on  Alaska  and knew we had to make it, for camping out somewhere means we would miss a free night of indoor lodging.

            We should have known by the name Tickie Hayes that something wouldn’t work out in our short experience with her. We did not get a clear address of her home 3 days ago when we met her at the “SuperFoods” store so we had to guess which house was hers. First we went to a guy that must have had about 20 different dogs in his yard. He also seemed like he had some kind of mental retardation for his directions he gave us were horrendous. “Ugh, go down the road that way, up over the hill, you’ll see a barn house, keep going turn right. Wait no I think it’s left. Hold on let me go check.” Ok. “Forget that advice” I told Danny. “Let’s keep heading west a few miles and ask somebody else.” Next we traveled up some long driveway to a small home. Some dog came chasing after us followed by a guy in underpants. This guy seemed quite alarmed with our presence. After we told him what we were doing he calmed down. The third house didn’t have any people in it which made us frustrated and insecure feeling like we’d never find Tickie Hayes’s real home. The fourth house however, was Tickie Hayes’s home. We rolled up a long driveway and went to the door of Tickie Hayes currently remodeled home. It was about  12:00a.m.  Pacific Time, about 2 hours after the sun had set. Her 15 year old daughter Morgan answered the door and seemed a bit shy. She then called for her father who came to the door. He almost seemed reluctant to let us in but we told him the story with the flat tires, no cell phone coverage, and going to multiple different homes so he let us in. We were hoping to get some dinner for we always usually eat dinner after were done riding for the day. We did not get any dinner even after trying to hint that we were hungry. Danny didn’t bother to eat any of our own food supplies but I had to eat something so I ate peanut butter and jelly, some of the only food I had. We slept in an empty room that was getting cleaned out. Tickie Hayes and her husband were staying in another home in their property right near by. We ended up getting to sleep around  2am .

The next morning we awoke around  9am  to find that we had the house to ourselves. I put the clothes in the dryer that had been cleaned in the washing machine the night before. Then Danny and I wandered around the home and property trying to find Tickie or her husband. After failed attempts to locate them, we decided to fill up our mini gasoline canister with gasoline. We searched around the open garage and found gasoline next to some tractor supplies. “Not feeding us dinner and abandoning us in the morning, what the Hell!” I told Danny. I was hungry for not only food, but to make it to Alaska, we had to get a move on and fuel up.  Next we headed for the kitchen.

 Her kitchen had tuna fish, boxes of macaroni and cheese, eggs, chocolate milk, bread, and much more. Our eyes lit up when we saw all this food. We were hungry. I started cooking up eggs while Danny picked out boxes of macaroni and cheese, tuna fish, and yogurt. I set the table and served Danny and me the eggs. We started digging into our huge delicious breakfast when we heard a car roll up from outside. Danny and I glanced at each other with “O shit” expressions on our faces. “Stay calm” I told him. Tickie Hayes came in and flared up at us. “This is my personal kitchen space, what the hell are you guy’s doing in it eating my food”. I explained to her that we eat thousands of calories a day and that she had promised us good meals. She didn’t seem to care over my pleas to let us keep eating. She told us to get out. As she was saying that I quickly shoveled a few more mouthfuls of eggs and got a few big gulps of chocolate milk in. As we were trying to shovel down our food she screamed at us and told us “Get out or I’ll call the police!” Danny and I got out and headed back to our luggage. “We gotta do the express pack up version, not no four hour routine” I said. “Yup” Danny responded. “Shit we don’t get to write in our journals before eating” I said. “Nope” Danny responded. “Damn, we’ll have to put sunscreen on down the road” Danny said. “Ya, whatever, lets just get a move on shall we?” So we packed and while doing so, Tickie got my sleeping bag out of the dryer and threw it on my luggage. Tickie Hayes turned from the nice lady at the supermarket to “Tickie the Prickie Bitch” overnight. I apologized to Tickie Hayes before leaving telling her about my cravings for home-cooked meals that I’ve been having. I told her about feeling homesick being 5,000 miles away from home. This lightened her mood a little bit and we finally got the hell out of there around  11:15am The last thing I wanted to have happen was to have some bitch we meet mess up or delay my arrival to  Alaska I had come over 6,000 miles from the time I left my home in Longwood  Florida  and was not going get it delayed now.

That day it felt better and better as we got further and further away from the home of Tickie Hayes. The beautiful  Rocky   Mountain  climbs eventually took our mind off the situation later in the day. Danny and I later laughed hilariously about the whole breakfast scene incident and began re-enacting the scene to each other. Quite fun times, my uncle and I can have when we re-enact scenes. Not to mention our moniker names we made up for the people we meet as well as ourselves for the trip. I was Bartholomew Fudgetrain and Danny was Winston Fudgetrain. Later that day we stopped at a rest area along side the road to ask a couple of hot sisters from  Alaska  for water. They gladly gave us water and they were super impressed with what we were doing. Along with water they gave us almonds, first aid materials, and some fruit. Rachel and Maryann were their names. We told them our fake names Bartholomew and Winston Fudgetrain which they found quite amusing and interesting. Meeting these two hot and nice sisters reminded Danny and me of one of the key life lessons we learned throughout our escapade to  Alaska This is the ideology that the good people will out weigh the bad ones. The goodness these two cool sisters put into our trip totally outweighed the negativity and corrupt existence of Tickie Hayes. We were moving on and finally only one day from  Alaska !

   One of the Best day’s of my entire life

    "Move along, move along like I know you do. And even when your hope is gone. Move along, move along just to make it through.” These words played through my mind over and over on the way from  Pittsburgh  to  Alaska I did not bring any music player on the trip to  Alaska  so all I had was a memory of these motivating lyrics by “The All-American Rejects”.

    Day 47 started off the same as always, packing up our tent, eating a huge breakfast, writing in our journals, and packing up our bob trailers. After 27 miles we stopped and got carrots, cheese sticks, and water from a couple from Wisconsin traveling in an R.V. 80 miles into the day we passed the Canadian Border Patrol Station which told me that the big beautiful sign that I’ve been dying to see is almost a reality.

    We had to deal with a 10 mile section of gravel before the road turned paved again closing in on the border. With a couple miles out I saw some signs in the distance. A mile out and I saw the signs turning from 100 kilometers per hour to 60 miles per hour. With a few hundred meters to go, the reality of the situation began to sink in. I read the big beautiful words “Welcome to  Alaska .

    Danny and I got off our bicycles and I demanded that we get pictures. I took one of him, he took one of me, and then we had some tourists get some of both of us. I wanted to hug my Uncle like he was the last person on the entire planet. I had done it, but more importantly we had done it. And throughout all the times I wish there was someone else instead of my Uncle on the trip, I was now here with him and wanted to make this moment last forever.

    All of the bad feelings in my life seemed to just fizzle away. This was a high feeling like none other I have ever experienced in my entire life. It felt like I didn’t want to be anywhere else on the planet. A feeling like absolutely nothing else in life mattered. Like any possibility of anything negative that ever happened in my life suddenly just disappeared. I thought about the 12th grade year that dragged on and on. I thought about the talk about the big  Alaska  trip after graduating High School; the dis-belief that other high school students gave me; the separation I felt from other high school students; the individuality and liberation I continued to practice throughout the 12th grade year; the inspiration of the book Into the Wild and Christopher McCandless.

    If things couldn’t get any better the next thing that happened simply put the icing on my euphoric moment. My parents rolled up in their rental van from  Anchorage , Alaska just as we had planned after talking to them on the phone 3 days ago. It was picture perfect, like a scene from a movie. It was so euphoric and enjoyable that I had a strange feeling like something was supposed to go wrong and darken my spirit and mood. Not this time though, everything worked out as planned. All the shit we went through to get myself from  Florida  to  Alaska  via bicycle now completely paid off. It was worth absolutely ever second of it.  I walked up to my parents and hugged each of them. 48 days ago they had watched as my Uncle and I set sail from  Pittsburgh , PA.   Like a mother bird watching her son flies off into the night sky. Now we had made it to  Alaska  and I began to shed tears, Real tears that came from deep inside the wisdom in my flesh; tears of joy, triumph, and absolute accomplishment. For the first time in almost 2 months I enjoyed a nice  United States  fast food meal from Taco-Bell. Danny and I sat inside the car as we ate our meals and felt absolutely amazing. It was the most tasty fast-food meal I have ever eaten in my entire life.

    After about 30 minutes of glory and euphoria we then crossed the official state border of  Alaska  .My parents followed in their mini-van as Danny and I rode together into the gorgeous red-orange Alaskan sunset. The feeling of joy continued to build like a stairway up an endless mountain of euphoria. I kept thinking to myself that my trip to  Alaska  was no longer a dream, a joke, or a thought. The reality of my  Alaska  dream slowly began to sink in as we rolled into  Alaska. Perhaps this meant more to me than to anybody else on the planet. Not one person in high school pressured me to make this trip and no one told me I had to do this. This triumph was for me and I finally unleashed the pride and individuality within. There was no big $1,000,000 prize waiting at the Alaskan border. This was my ultimate dream and my destiny. Today I accomplished my destiny and proved not a thing to anybody on the planet, but myself.

    What were my fellow high school graduates doing now? What were my old fake friends doing now? What were my high school teachers doing now? What were my high school coaches doing now? Where were they now? What have they done in the two months that I’ve been gone? Whatever was going on in anybody else’s life right now, well absolutely none of that seemed to matter. I didn’t seem care of the whereabouts of anybody else on the planet. All that seemed to matter in life was just being here in this moment of euphoria. Here in this beautiful tranquil wilderness of Alaska; The Great Frontier; The Last Frontier; the last hope for freedom and complete solitude for wild animals like bears and coyotes.

            I began to think about all the nights it took for Danny and me to reach this goal. I thought about the first time Danny raised my hand when I completed my 1st 100 miles; to the first time I completed my first 200 miles. Then to the great start of the trip to  Alaska including my new biggest cycling week of 1259 miles from Longwood , Florida  to Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania . Each one of those times Danny was with me holding my hand loudly and proudly in the air. Now he was with me in the greatest fulfillment of my entire life.

            I kept thinking about what drove me to this moment. Those words to my favorite song by the “All-American Rejects” continued to play through my mind. Move along, move along like I know you do. And even when your hope is gone. Move along, move along just to make it through.”  Those words played over and over in my mind throughout the entire trip. From the  Blue Ridge Parkway  in  North Carolina  to the peaceful mountain climbs of  West Virginia The Rolling hills around the mosquito infested  Ontario  and  Manitoba From the plain and simple prairie land throughout the central part of  Canada ; to the majestic and beautiful  Rocky Mountains For every good moment there was a bad one; but we always seemed to find a way to make the good ones outweigh the bad ones. There were times in which I never wanted to be separated from my Uncle and times when I wanted to strangle him. There was a time we woke up to 35 degree rain and still forged on through the horrendous weather to ride over 100 milesO how I wished I was back home riding around warm and sun shiny  Florida I remember every big ride I used to do each Saturday in my final months of high school. The waking up to Lady Gaga between  4am  and  6am  and riding out to the  Gulf of Mexico  and back.

            We met many different people and learned a little bit from each person. From the friendly people to the not so friendly people, each person had something to offer and I gained a little bit of insight and character from each person I met. Ultimately, no one person was really a bad person; deep down I am glad we met all the people we met. Our experience with Tickie Hayes did not turn out to be the greatest, but I know that underneath our bad experience with her lays a kind and helpful human being. One day I shall go back to meet the people that helped my Uncle and I on our journey to  Alaska Every person we met came in and out of our lives within a day or two and I took a little bit of knowledge and insight from each one. Still to this day, people will come and go, campsites will come and go, weather will be pleasant and horrific, but one thing will stay the same; that is the bond and companionship My Uncle and I have for each other. I had my goals dead set on  Alaska  and I knew I could count on my Uncle to get me there.

            All those moments, everything put all together to make this one moment possible. None of it could be skipped over. Hitch-hiking, driving, or taking a plane wouldn’t have made any of this quite as gratifying. It was 54 days on a bicycle to get from my home in  Longwood Florida  to  Alaska Each one of those 54 days was distinct and each one had a unique event that took place. Each one of those days will always remain in its place for eternity. Each day came with distinctive memories, roads, people, struggles, high times, fun times, good weather, and bad weather. Everything that happened during those 54 days allowed me to experience this one absolutely amazing day. And the memories will continue to build like climbing up and endless road on a mountain of euphoria. No short-cuts, no taxi rides, just riding a bicycle and becoming at one with the road. Not only at one with the road, but my uncle and I became at one with our life, with our experience, and with each other. We had made it together to  Alaska  and we shall remain true companions forever and ever.

                                             What happens next?

My Uncle and I rode around  Alaska  for two weeks getting spoiled with hotels, cabins, and good meals. We then were left on our own again and rode back to my home in Longwood ,  Florida Completion of my trip was 140 days and 13,769 milesStarting  June 5, 2009  and ending  October 31, 2009 All in all it was the absolute best time of my entire life with unforgettable moments. Transforming my discipline, sense of adventure, resourcefulness, and appreciation for things taken for granted in normal life. After the trip was over my Uncle said about me, “He started the trip a boy and ended the trip a man”.

 “If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all, you would see my joy.”  

                                                     ~To Be Continued~