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Highway One Diaries: Risk Beyond Borders

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Bound_South is about the Americas in their purest form.  We proudly call America, the United States, our home; yet this journey forces us to see the long American road between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego without the tinge of nationalism.  This is especially true as we move to foreign soil and experience new cultures and communities.  There are technicalities such as border crossings and language barriers and entry visas; yet in my mind’s eye I see the Americas and all of its roads and mountains and oceans and people, stripped of political complications.  Give me a long road with empty spaces to fill our vision and kind people to fill our hearts.  That’s it.

Our last glimpse at the US-Mexico Border

These invisible borders have consequences that cannot be ignored.  The American media profiles the drug wars that rage across the US-Mexico borderlands.  We’ve lately received quite a bit of media attention ourselves, culminating in a Los Angeles interview with the Agence France Presse, one of the world’s biggest news wire services along with Reuters and the Associated Press.  Our story was picked up everywhere from Canada and the States to Brazil and Indonesia.

A great deal of the interview was concerned with Latin America and the perceived and real dangers that would greet us there.  This mirrored the questions of countless people we had met since leaving Alaska.  Our willingness to bicycle through Mexico, Central America, and the western countries of South America earns us a reputation for craziness; though riding a bicycle as far as we have is probably enough to earn the badge as well.

Riding through Camp Pendleton in southern California, we came upon a roadside memorial to a cyclist who had been struck and killed.  A jersey, dozens of water bottles, and various cycling objects were affixed to a chain link fence in memory of the tragedy.  I shudder when I think about the thousands of vehicles that have passed by us since we left Alaska.  Any one of them could end our lives with a mistake.  All cyclists are aware of this; you control the risks when you can, but ultimately it is but for the grace of God that we do not go where too many do.  David and I will never forget the most hair-raising part of our riding on this trip; it was on the Alaska Highway in the middle of the Yukon.  An RV rolled by us at 70mph while we hugged the right shoulder.  What terrified us was that the owner had forgotten to retract his step ladder that hung out the right side of his motor home like a crude scythe.

Never before have we seen so many waves, peace signs, and cheers from truck drivers.

Memories like that attune you to the constant risks that face us on the road.  We are not necessarily more endangered in Mexico or safer on a rural Oregon highway.  We don’t leave our brains behind at border crossings.  And we recognize in the pure image of the Americas without borders, there will be danger and beauty and goodness wherever we go.  Riding out of San Diego and into Tijuana, we were on edge because of all we had heard since leaving Alaska.  Yet we found that truckers were more friendly than any we had seen on the trip thus far.  Strangers cheered us from the side of the road.  Roadside litter and a more “interpretive” approach to traffic laws marked a clear departure from the rest of North America; not worse, simply different.  We have begun a long road, bound south through this splendidly different Latin America.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jim and Elizabeth Berg #

    Boys, So good to read one of your posts again. We are thankful for the journey thus far and look forward to the day we see you again.

    Was there any trouble getting across the border?? Vaccination records needed??

    Let us know more of the stories of the people who have crossed your paths… Thanks to everyone who has prayed, offered a meal, a bed, a shower or a shelter to stay, We suggest working up a couple more songs to sing to your hosts…perhaps some Christmas carols?? We want to hear about your Christmas!

    love you,

    Mom, Dad, Marta and Grandpa

    December 14, 2011
  2. Dawn #

    Enjoy reading your blog!

    Dawn

    December 14, 2011
  3. Rob #

    “Give me a long road with empty spaces to fill our vision and kind people to fill our hearts. That’s it.”

    This is a beautiful sentiment, I would like to quote you on this.

    Found your website the other day and it has been giving me ideas for my own journeys for the future.

    Peace and love be with you, and good luck on you epic trip.

    December 15, 2011
  4. Alex #

    Another milestone reached! Congrats on making it this far! I hope you’re finding some things to keep your mind sharp. I would feel a bit lost if I didn’t set time aside every day for digging deeper into topics that interest me, or learning about new things.

    December 15, 2011
    • You make a good point; sometimes the exhaustion from riding sets in as soon as we finish our dinner and falling asleep early in the evening is too much of a temptation! But we all try to spend time reading, practicing Spanish, and talking in the hours before bedtime. It is important to take that time.

      We frequently lose communication with the outside world and the internet for days at a time. Yet with some good literature at our fingertips via our Nook e-readers, and good conversation from my brothers, this journey is far more intellectually stimulating than I ever anticipated.

      December 15, 2011
  5. Janene & Joe Spratt #

    So glad things are going well south of the border. Hope all the publicity is helping with your H4H donations. Wishing you lots of sunny weather and tailwinds.

    December 15, 2011
  6. Treasure Omdahl #

    As I wrote once, we vacation in Puerto Vallarta and have been for years with no problems. We lived in Everett WA for 18 years and our house was broken into twice. People’s eyes cross when we say we love going to Mexico and we love the people. Every place has their bad folks and every place has more good folks. We always pay attention to our surroundings wherever we are. Yes, we tell people, something could happen to us but think of the roads we wouldn’t have seen if we stayed locked up in our house in Minnesota.

    Still our prayers are with you. You have undertaken quite the trip. Watch out for those RVs with ladders sticking out.

    We’ll miss you if you go through PV, though, as you seem to be making very good progress. We won’t be there until January 16th.

    Hugs – Buzz & Treasure.

    December 15, 2011

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