Riding the Spine in Adventure World Magazine

Check out the latest Adventure World Magazine to read up on the Riding the Spine Crew. I submitted a piece for their department, “It Happened to Me,” sharing one of our many crazy adventures.
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Helmets Off – RIP Ian Hibell

A hit-and-run driver in Greece sadly took the life of an extraordinary cyclist who has inspired many to pedal their way into a bit of adventure (including Riding the Spine). A true loss to the cycling community.

He took a two year sabbatical from his job in 1963, and didn’t return for ten years. Through a 40 year stint of cycling touring, he covered an average of about 6,000 miles each year, the distance from the earth to the moon. He was the very first to ride the Americas – a journey from Cape Horn to Alaska. He died at the age of 74.

A few years ago, I encountered the Youtube video of his trek across the Darien Gap and wanted to learn more. I read about a book he authored, “Into the Remote Places,” describing some of his legendary travels, but found that very few copies existed, and the ones that do run at about 100 dollars.

He innovated cycling gear like front racks to accommodate his travels off the beaten path. Crossing mangrove swamps, the Sahara Desert, and mountain ranges, he showed the world what bicycles are truly capable of.

You will be missed.

Pedal power

— A cyclist can travel 1,037km (644 miles) on the energy equivalent of one litre of petrol Continue reading

Riding the Spine to Ride On

The trip is going to resume September 16th. We have been doing our best to earn money to get back on the trip. Though we are all far from any kind of reasonable sum to embark on an adventure spanning all of South America, it is still time get back on our bikes.

Although it was a difficult decision to take a hiatus from the trip, the empty bank accounts helped convince us. Our vision certainly did not include having to travel through time and space via airplanes during the middle of our journey to find employment. However, without commercial sponsorship or parents with deep pockets, we have had to alter our vision to include reality, which sometimes means working. I taught a summer school class and did freelance work on websites, Sean drove a tour bus in San Francisco and Sonoma, and Goat worked as a handyman of sorts.

Overall, It’s been great reconnecting with all the people I had not seen since I started in Alaska. I got to spend time with family and friends, including my niece Aubrey who I got to see for the first time. And now, with a renewed sense of spirit and adventure, I am looking forward to completing this epic journey with the others.

Rumors have it that there might be a total of five beginning this next stretch, more to come on that later.

“They’re EVERYWHERE!!”

“No…seriously man.. you don´t understand.. there are THOUSANDS of them. �

And that was actually an understatement. The constant itch on my legs had gone unaccounted for throughout the night. That is, until, I clicked on my headlamp and took a closer look.

The moles on my ankle seemed to be crawling around, and the dirt on my leg was migrating up towards my groin and waist. Armies of ticks were marching in droves up my body and every time I brushed them off, reinforcements arrived within minutes.

I was not content with my companions mundane reaction, so I further emphasized the situation, “You guys. This is not all right. I have never seen anything like this. Are ya´ll not getting attacked? How are you NOT freaking out?�
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A Big Dummy Abroad

Some of Sean´s thoughts on the Big Dummy posted on Surly´s Blog.


It is not always easy having Surly’s Big Dummy for a touring companion. While touring through Guatemala I became afflicted. It was nearly impossible for me not to show off this cargo bike that can carry more than your standard pack animal, doesn’t whine and beg for hay, and has more sexy curves in its frame then your most food deprived lingerie model. Take for example the daily routine of hauling leña (firewood) several miles from the timberline back down to the village. All along dirt roads, highways, or narrow footpaths, strut old men, women, and children hauling burdens that would crush a gringo’s spine like elote into corn meal. Somehow they keep their backs straight and stiff as ramrods, and their burly calf muscles (like knotted tree roots) would put even the most accomplished recreational mountaineer to shame. Without a hint of pain or exhaustion, they handle their business. And yet as I coast along on my extra-long bike, I can’t help but think, ‘hey, I’ve got plenty of room to accommodate those heavy loads, maybe the locals could use a break’.

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The Island of Ometepe

“Look what the wind’s brought in!� joked one of the oil-stained dockworkers as we approached the ferry to Ometepe. Motor purring idle, ropes disentangled from its moors, our boat seemed to have been anxiously awaiting our arrival to venture out upon a turbulent Lake Nicaragua. Such was the volatile temperament of the lake that I felt that I was facing a storm stirred ocean rather than the land locked body of fresh water.

As the boat began to pull away from land, the few tourists remaining on the observation deck rushed into the passenger saloon. Water gushed in after them threatening to flood the cabin, but the deck hands followed close behind to brace the doors against the stormy waves.

Despite the splashed and misty side windows it was impossible not to be fixated in awe at Volcan la Conception, whose tapering form towered towards the heavens. It was the earth’s mighty bosom that appeared to heave and swell as if undergoing dramatic transformation (an impression most likely caused by the erratic swaying of the boat, but which I romantically attributed to its inner volatility. La Conception, after all, had erupted in both 2005 and 2007). Growing in immensity by the minute, I was convinced that by the time the boat reached its destination the volcano would blot out the whole sky.
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Honduras Highway Hag

Choosing the route we do (mountain dirt roads in the middle of nowhere) we usually manage to stay away from cars, but sometimes roads are unavoidable. Starting at the Artic Sea, we have been constantly and consistently warned about the drivers with whom we will have to share the road further south.  First were the “extreme truckers� on the haul road, whose loads are double long and oversize, and who literally own the road.  Then the “crazy cannucks� whose country is so sparsely populated the mere idea of traffic paralyzes them, and therefore don’t worry about little things like lanes and turn signals.  Next, “those Americans� who drive too much and too fast, “and they all have guns….�  Followed by “the Mexicans� who “have no laws down there� and so on until we learned to tune it out, as we do a large percentage of the advice we receive: “don’t go that way – the road is terrible – you’ll never make it� etc.


            Sure, drunk driving is a national past time in Mexico, and first time RVers up in Alaska, tend to leave their steps down (blocking/sweeping the shoulder), but the vast majority of drivers we have encountered have been competent, and courteous.  “South of the border,� drivers, forced into awareness by the condition of the roads, and used to sharing them with non-cars, are in general good drivers. And thanks to the cost and relative novelty of cars, drivers are much more likely to be professionals.  People who drive for a living, tend to be good/safe behind the wheel. In general, our pavement experiences have been much mellower than the advice-givers would have us fear.  Safer that is, until we hit Honduras, and the Pan-American Highway.


            Forced onto the ‘carretera’ by a tropical storm that flooded us out of the Caribbean coast, we were initially optimistic; the main roads in Mexico (the last place we had ridden highways) were nicely paved and equipped with generous shoulders, a little boring perhaps, but at least safe…no reason to assume Honduras would be much different.  The Pan-Am was nicely paved and provided reasonable shoulders. Unfortunately however, these factors didn’t add up in our favor.  The smoothness and width of the road just seemed to encourage recklessness. Drivers clearly didn’t feel constrained by the two lanes the engineers and road painters had provided for – thanks to the shoulders, there was plenty of room for a center (shared) lane or two if you didn’t mind squeezing, which they clearly didn’t.

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Hurricane New Years

On New Years Eve we crossed into country number five of our bike tour: Honduras. In the week previous, Jacob had broken both front and rear derailers rendering his bike into single speed mode, and I, suffering from some stomach infection, couldn’t hold down anything more than plain tortillas. With the both of us enduring system failures, we desperately needed some R&R. Luckily the resort advertisement billboards lining the highway hinted that we were approaching an appropriate destination for a much needed break. Faded and discolored by countless tropical storms, they still managed to conjure the image of breathtaking white sand beaches, coral reef diving, rivers of rich rum, and a booming night life.

Upon arriving in Puerto Cortes we were disappointed to find a gloomy industrial port city; suspension cranes towering over warehouses, eighteen wheeled semi’s racing out of freight yards. An advertisement displaying a large hand gun offered directions to the largest arms store in Central America. The ambience made me daydream of shady underworld dealings which, perhaps wasn’t completely far fetched considering that this port was used as a sitting area by private foreign interests for soviet made firearms destined for Nicaraguan Contras in the 80’s (1). We changed our currency (stuffing large denominations under the soles of our shoes –Goat in the secret compartment of his top-hat) and walked around looking for a cheap hotel.

“Can you feel the Holiday cheer?� Jacob enquired, as we passed through a nearly deserted park dimly lit with Christmas lights.
“Festive.� I nodded. “Though, only a fool would stick around for the party without a flashy piece to shoot holes in the sky. We’ve got to visit the arms depot.�

Unfortunately the gun shop was already closed, and not wanting to make the mistake of screwing up the secret after-hour handshake I decide to find medicine for my stomach bug instead. At a Pharmacy, an old lady who claimed to be a medical practitioner diagnosed my symptoms as amoeba, and advised me to take an over the counter anti-diuretic.

“I’m already stopped up.� I pleaded with her in Spanish. “I haven’t been eating. I want to know what I can take to kill the Amoeba�.

She starred at me quizzically, hinting that this tiny pill was all I needed.
A man standing next to her, who I took to be her friend or co-worker, finally interrupted the stand-off, rephrasing what I had already said. She deliberated his words, heaved a sigh and fetched two different packages; one holding ten white tablets, the other holding four green tablets.

“These are more expensive…� She pointed to the one holding the green tablets (the package was marked Secnidazol). “but more effective.� Continue reading