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New Year, New World

We_awoke_in_our tent to the gentle rocking of a cargo ferry with mainland Mexico and the port city of Mazatlan on the horizon.  Impossibly thick ropes soon flew from the ship to secure it to the numerous huge pylons anchored on shore.  Following dozens of big rigs and their sleepless drivers, many of whom had slept on the cold hallway floors of the ship the night before, we rode our bicycles off the ferry and into the gateway to mainland Mexico.  We stopped at an auto garage to ask for directions to the Malecon, the shorefront main street of many Mexican port cities where we were meeting a North Dakota connection.  After receiving directions and some words of caution, we were assured by the mechanic that Mazatlan was a “satanic jungle” and that he would pray for our safety as we traveled through.  Someone should put that on a billboard or something.

Mild confirmation bias is our saving grace.  It is certainly possible that Mazatlan was the most dangerous city we’ve seen yet in Mexico.  We’re not so sure.  Our hosts in the city did drive me by a restaurant that had been shot up by the local mob after it didn’t pay its protection money.  The traffic and people were far from menacing, though they may have been in more of a rush than those on the Baja.  We’ve received dire warnings from other Mexicans about Mazatlan, and when we got to Mazatlan we received dire warnings about the places we passed through to get there.  Were it not for a careful optimism on our parts, we would have never braved the border at Tijuana.  We continue to absorb as much information as we can, even if it does little to alter our route or our conscious optimism about the road ahead.  If Mom and Dad are reading this, don’t worry, we’ll totally consider hitch hiking or something if a Latin American civil war breaks out in 2012.

I miss home and our family a great deal, accustomed as I was to spending this season with them.  The New Year has us all reflecting on the past year, especially the way that countless families have taken us in and made us feel like one of their own.  The Catholic Diocese of Whitehorse, the Coopers of Coeur d’Alene, the Pfeiffers of Portland, the Samuels of Santa Monica, the Taylors of San Diego, and the Salazars of Guadalajara are just a few of these.  Thank you all for what you’ve done for us.

December has foreshadowed the rest of our journey in 2012.  We’ve climbed some tremendous mountains in Mexico’s western highlands, and we respect the toll that it takes on our bodies.  The Andes will only be bigger, more challenging, and more spectacular.  I’ve dealt with illness for the first time since leaving Anchorage.  A dreadful headache became a cold and ear infection; sadly, I’m still recovering and the illness has cost us some time and miles.  Rest and health can’t be compromised, and once I’m healthy we’ll be riding strong once again.

The human and geographical diversity of the mainland is incredible.  Megacities and rural farming villages and beautiful lakes and mountains rise up at every turn.  Most of North America, even the Baja, has been defined by the vast, empty natural landscapes between places.  This New World brims with life and a constant human presence.  Riding a few mornings ago beside Lake Chapala, we struggled up an impossibly steep cobblestone climb for seven kilometers.  Every turn had us greeting another farmer or laughing child or family with a breathless “Buenos Dias” and a smile through gritted teeth.  It’s almost as if we’ve been practicing piano in the family room since leaving Alaska, and finally we’ve reached our recital and constant audience in the new world of mainland Mexico.  Sometimes we’re self-conscious, but most of the time we’re smiling, inspired, and excited for our next opportunity to inspire a stranger’s day with our story.

Hemingway once recounted in a conversation with a friend, A.E. Hotchner, that “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”  If there ever was a moveable feast, it is this bicycle expedition.  The sights and smells and sensations will linger and move with me long after we reach Ushuaia in Argentine winter.  In the meantime, I hope that you all find richness and love and a moveable feast of your own in 2012.

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

    Happy New Year to you as well! It’s exciting to think that you’re about halfway through the trip already! Our pride still trumps any fears as you experience “satanic jungles” or challenging mountain climbs. We know God has a few angels going before you to ‘clear the way’ and you have good heads on your shoulders to choose your routes wisely.
    We pray that this ear infection will cease, Isaiah, and that you will be back to good health soon.
    Love and hugs from your home on the prairie.
    Mom and Dad and Marta

    January 1, 2012
  2. Derek Petersen #

    Excellent, yet again. I thought of you guys while in The Motorcycle Diaries, and this seemed fitting:

    “This is not the tale of impressive deeds. It is a piece of two lives taken in a moment when they were cruising together along a given path, with identity of aspirations and a conjunction of dreams. Was our vision too narrow, too partial, too rushed? Were our conclusions too rigid? Maybe…but that aimless roaming through our enormous Americas changed me more than I thought. I…am not myself anymore. At least, I’m not the same inside.”

    Continued prayer for each of you, three unique journeys from within, as well as the one shared.

    January 1, 2012
  3. Dawn Robson #

    From Matthew 10: (AMP)
    11And into whatever town or village you go, inquire who in it is deserving, and stay there [at his house] until you leave [that vicinity].
        12As you go into the house, give your greetings and wish it well.
        13Then if indeed that house is deserving, let come upon it your peace [that is, freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin]. But if it is not deserving, let your peace return to you.
        14And whoever will not receive and accept and welcome you nor listen to your message, as you leave that house or town, shake the dust [of it] from your feet.
        15Truly I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
        16Behold, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves; be wary and wise as serpents, and be innocent (harmless, guileless, and without falsity) as doves.
        17Be on guard against men [whose way or nature is to act in opposition to God]…
        26So have no fear of them; for nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, or kept secret that will not become known.
        27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered in the ear, proclaim upon the housetops.
        28And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna).
        29Are not two little sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s leave (consent) and notice.
        30But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
        31Fear not, then; you are of more value than many sparrows.
        32Therefore, everyone who acknowledges Me before men and confesses Me [out of a state of oneness with Me], I will also acknowledge him before My Father Who is in heaven and confess [that I am abiding in] him.
        33But whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.

    January 2, 2012
  4. Danielle Erickstad-Skaar #

    Hello Boys! I’ve been following your journey but have yet to leave a post but felt compelled to wish you all a Happy New Year and send blessings for a safe and healthy remainder of your adventure. Your photography is amazing and your posts are inspiring. How fun to say, “I know those boys!…and knew them way back when…”
    So prayers are being said for your safety, your health, and your strength as you take on the challenges ahead. God bless and God speed!
    Danielle Erickstad-Skaar

    January 2, 2012
  5. I’ve enjoyed following “The 3 Amigos” as they treck southword on their worthy cause. Good luck!!! Dan Stenvold Park River, ND

    January 3, 2012
  6. I’ve been enjoying reading the tales of your journey. Take care of yourselves. Godspeed!

    January 3, 2012
  7. Janet Dobosh #

    Happy New Year!!!
    We’re enjoying all the sights, sounds, flavors and colors of the road vicariously. What a great ride! Stay happy and safe. We love your enthusiasm and spirit!
    Happy Pedaling!
    Barry and Janet Dobosh

    January 3, 2012
  8. Bette Berg #

    Hi guys, Happy New Year, Hope you’r feeling better Isaiah. We have been having a really nice winter. The temp today and tomorrow is forcast to be in the 40’s We have almost no snow.How great is that for N.D. I really enjoy the pictures you take.They are outstanding. We love and miss you .You’re in our thoand prayers ughts every day. Take care and God bless.

    Love Bette

    January 4, 2012
  9. John Robbins #

    Hello from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory! I work in the RC Rectory here and met you while you were updating on the computer. We have about 2′ of snow now and temperatures at night hovering between 5F–10F. Daylight is limited(10am-4pm), but now increasing by approx 1 minute each day! Its been great to follow you on your journey. Stay well, stay positive and look the joy and adventure in each day!

    God Bless for now…. John

    January 7, 2012
    • Great to hear from you John. We were just talking about Whitehorse and the happy memories we have there. It was only a few months ago, it seems worlds away. I hope we can return some day.

      January 14, 2012
  10. Great pictures! This reminds me of home, I miss my family!G

    January 11, 2012
  11. Rae #

    I went to Mazatlan about nine years ago. I remember being struck by the beauty and poverty that seemed to live side by side.

    January 11, 2012
  12. Thanks for sharing these wonderful and colorful photos. Connie

    January 11, 2012
  13. Feliz Ano Nuevo!
    I think that’s how you say it, right?
    I apologize if my Spanglish is flawed.

    Those pictures are beautiful, epic, and sometimes hilarious. I like the grinch a lot.
    I loved reading about your adventures into the new year and look forward to future posts!


    January 11, 2012
  14. When someone said it’s a small world, seems like you guys took it seriously. I can’t contemplate cross county cycling & you guys are on a cross continent tour. Bravo!
    And yes you are famous now. Congratulations on being freshly pressed.

    January 11, 2012
  15. Hey… I want to do that trip. Alaska to Ushaiua on a bicycle is my dream journey. I’ve been thinking about it for years. Probably won’t get to it until 2015 though. But now I can follow your blog and see how it goes. Good luck and be careful when you reach the Darian Gap.

    January 11, 2012
  16. I admire that you’re getting to see and experience new things; despite your illness. Great pictures. Good luck and be well.


    January 11, 2012
  17. Reading your post reminds me of a little trip I did back before kids and college debt. And whether you’re in Mazatlan or Medellin, everyone always tell you wherever it you’re going is “muy peligroso” and then you get there and it’s not nearly as bad as the people made it out to be.

    Enjoy and safe cycling!

    January 11, 2012
  18. I highly approve of what you guys are doing. My girlfriend and I have each gave our 1 month’s notice to our respectable careers and bought a 1-way ticket to Guadalajara and are going to explore Latin America for an undetermined amount of time. I would love to travel on my bike for a stretch. What a great way to see the world. Like Paris, your trip will remain with you wherever you go undoubtedly. I don’t think we will catch up to you three, but that would be awesome to bump into you. Good luck!

    January 11, 2012
  19. Reading your blog gave me wanderlust! Totally jealous of your adventure! Stay safe and healthy. Can’t wait to read another post!

    January 11, 2012
  20. Real culture!

    January 11, 2012
  21. Well crafted writing and striking photographs, I enjoyed your post immensely and felt like I was in Mexico traveling with you. Good luck on your journey. Sounds exciting.

    January 11, 2012
  22. Great post and photos. Buena suerte!

    January 11, 2012
  23. What an adventure! I would love to undertake such an endeavor but not on a bike. I would never complete the journey! Give me planes, trains automobiles and an occasional bike. I wish you all the best and congrats on becoming famous!

    January 11, 2012
  24. What an amazing vision to start the New Year. An image that brings a serene and joyous year…

    January 11, 2012
  25. Wonderful! Great pictures. I love and fear Mexico. Enjoy & be safe!

    January 11, 2012
  26. congratulations..
    This is very very colorful post.
    I loved all your photos.

    January 11, 2012
  27. wish u a very happy new year alll of you……Those pictures are beautiful and admirable 😀

    January 12, 2012
  28. I hope this new year comes with new hopes, energy 😀

    January 12, 2012
  29. pensivesolitude #

    these photos are gorgeous

    January 12, 2012
  30. Utterly gorgeous shots, especially the sunset.

    January 12, 2012
  31. Great photos.

    I love Mexico and have been many times…but not recently, as my (cautious) husband says, not right now. So enjoy it for me! I admire your willingness to traverse it these days. I doubt you’re in any trouble as you’re not logical narcoterrorism targets.

    Have a lovely trip!

    January 12, 2012
  32. Fia #

    The last picture is amazing! :O

    January 12, 2012
  33. Thank you for sharing your exciting adventure. I would like to know more about Mexico.

    Feel free to check out my blog at for virtual tours of New York.

    January 12, 2012
  34. Great pictures! Congrats on being freshly pressed

    January 12, 2012
  35. nice post and very good pictures.

    January 12, 2012
  36. ICA #

    Some very nice pics.

    January 12, 2012
  37. Very Exciting, Happy new year.

    January 12, 2012
  38. Great post! Thank you for sharing!

    January 12, 2012
  39. Beautiful photos. Especially love the colors on first and last.

    January 12, 2012
  40. if you ever come on over to western europe let this blogger know!

    January 12, 2012
  41. I love the last photo. The colours are amazing 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    January 12, 2012
  42. I’ve always wanted to go on an expedition like this. More around the world though. The photographer in me screams out for a trip like this, I will, someday, make the trip.

    Very inspiring thing you’re doing, chaps, don’t falter or stray until the trips been fully done!


    January 12, 2012
  43. What an adventure! You fellas are brave, and my mom instinct kicked right in there and made me want to tell you to get on a plane quickly and go right back home, but I envy this time you are having. Take care, be safe, and I will continue to follow your journey. 🙂

    January 12, 2012
  44. I love the simplicity of the little girl on the bike. She is loving life in pure innocense. Beautifully captured. Great pictures!

    January 12, 2012
  45. Beautiful photography. That last photograph with the sunset and the tree is especially stunning.

    I love Latin American culture. Buts and piece of this entry remind me of the 6 months I spent living in a tiny Colombian village last year. An experiences I’ll never forget for sure as I’m sure you will never ever forget this one – as you quoted at the end there, it sticks with you! x

    January 12, 2012
  46. You are a hardy, brave trio. Chances are, the Narcos will just look at you going on your way and chuckle, thinking someone else down the road will stop you in your path. You will hear variations of the dire warnings you got in Tijuana, all the way to Ecuador.
    Then, you’ll end up in Ushuaia, pretty much on schedule, and feel like going up to Brazil.

    January 12, 2012
  47. clayer #

    Wow !! Look at those photos. I would love if we could keep in touch with each other and follow each other in our journeys. I am chronicling the year by taking at least one photo a day!

    January 12, 2012
  48. Your pictures are great! They remind me a lot of Peru

    January 12, 2012
  49. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska! That first picture is absolutely amazing! 🙂

    January 13, 2012

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