Nancy Vogel Sathre is not only cycling from Alaska – Ushuaia as well, she is doing it with her husband and two kids, homeschooling them all the way! They can be followed on http://familyonbikes.org
She also writes for Examiner.com and recently asked us for an interview. I might as well post it here, not just to help out other biketravellers, but also so you know some things we are doing when we are not writing updates or cycling
(The original interview was published here)
———– start of interview ———
Ø Would you please explain a tad bit about where you’ve been and where you’re going.
We are Ivana (33, Argentina) and Harry (39, Netherlands) and we are currently cycling the Americas from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina, visiting all the countries on the mainland on our way.
Ø How long have you been on the road?
We started in July 2008, so now about 15 months. We think we are almost halfway. But both of us have been travelling the previous years as well, on other cycling and climbing trips.
Ø Why the bike? What is it about the bike that made you choose it over buses and trains and planes?
Cycling is the only way to go. Not just for obvious ecological reasons, but it the only way of transportation that:
- Keeps you fit and healthy, physically as well as mentally
- Is fast enough to travel to a new place every day
- Is slow enough that you can enjoy the journey and scenery while travelling
- Is flexible and small enough that you can stop and park everywhere to take a picture, talk with a local or eat a berry on the roadside (and can be taken up to the safety of a 4th floor of a house if needed).
- Can carry more luggage than us! We can take extra stuff that would never fit in a backpack alone.
- Is fun
– Ivana: Buses make me sick and most of cars afraid and I basically I only like to travell by bike
Ø What prompted such an extended journey? Had you done a lot of touring before?
Ivana had done a long previous trip: Around New Zealand, then from Malaysia to India, hopping over to Turkey for a tour there. I (Harry) had mostly been climbing the past decade and had only done a few small trips (around the English channel, around the Irish Sea, from Amsterdam – Zermatt on a Tandem), all about 2-3 weeks. Of course in the Netherlands you basically bike before you walk, so I am used to cycling, it’s my way of life. I never owned a car in my life as it is not needed with the great cycling and public transport infrastructure we have.
We met in Tibet when I was climbing Everest and she was on her long cycing- trip. We met again after my climb, in India and I basically made her cut her bike trip short as she had planned to cycle through Europe as well.
We did do a short tour from Rome to Germany, but I promised Ivana that I would make it up with a long trip together. She wanted to see more of her home continent (South America), I wanted to show her the wonderful nature and good people of Alaska, Canada, The USA and my friends in Guatemala. So we decided to just go all the way
Ø I know there are plenty of wonderful days when the sun is shining and you’ve got the wind at your back. But there are also days when it’s raining or you face a headwind or you’re climbing a hill that just won’t end. How do you get through those days? What keeps you going?
Frankly, mostly there is not much choice. There have been few days of tailwind so far, but also few days of really horrible weather, though we had some decent hills. You just have to face the facts and be pragmatic: stopping will not do much good on the middle of the hill and as long as the luggage inside the Ortlieb bags is dry, it does not matter so much if you get wet as long as you are warm enough.
People who are just complaining about life or are afraid or getting out of their comfort zone or are afraid of other cultures will have trouble adapting to this. But once they do, they are lost forever, as once bitten by the BikeTravelling bug there is no turning back from a more open and receptive lifestyle!
Ø As hard as it is to pick out one or two highlights – would you, could you? Tell us about a couple of those incredibly wow-ing, drop-your-jaw experiences you’ve had.
The overall experience is much stronger than separate positive incidences, even if we had many. It is interesting to see that many times an experience only turned out very special in hindsight. Often we struggled up a hill or through a forest or desert while cursing the environment and life we were in while the sections turned out to be very special looking back.
The Dalton Highway in Northern Alaska is very tough, but also wonderful for its nature and remoteness. We really enjoyed the Redwoods in Northern California, getting invited on an Indian Potlatch and playing with a fox on the Cassiar Highway in Canada, seeing the coastline in the USA, enjoying the Baja California desert and the Mexican Highlands. Personally I also enjoyed off-bike activities such camping in Yosemite in winter, climbing Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, snorkelling with stingrays in Belize and seeing the independence parades in Guatemala.
But most of all, it is the people we met, all the way. Our many CouchSurfing and WarmShowers hosts and the dozens of strangers that have become good friends, from all types and backgrounds. The tens of thousands that have waived, smiles or even applauded from the side of the road. There is a good in the heart of all people that you can only discover by going out and finding them. See the ‘1000 Americans’ section on our blog for some photographic impressions (http://harry.biketravellers.com/1000-americans/) .
Ø What about those days you wish you could forget (but you know you never will)? Those days when everything goes wrong and then even more goes wrong? Tell us about a couple of those.
We spent my B-day in the rain on a muddy and steep section of the Dalton dirt road (Alaska) called “The Rollercoaster”. ‘Nuff said. We had to buy a big bag of ice and stuff them in our waterbags and put them on our body to cool down enough to sleep in a hot Mexican night. We got blown off the road in Baja California with no water in sight and Ivana had some scary close encounters with wheels of a truck. And most of all, I hate Mosquitoes. I do not discriminate, I hate mosquitoes in Alaska, in Canada, In the USA, in Mexico and in Belize. There are few things more annoying than climbing uphill with 4 miles/hour on a muddy road in Alaska while overheating and being eaten through 2 layers of clothes by Mozzies at the same time.
As a climber I have learnt to focus simultaneously focus on the present for safety, and ahead for relief as you know the suffering will stop at some time.
Fortunately our Santos bikes have not had a single problem, other biketravellers have had frustrating experiences with their bikes which can really ruin your trip.
Ø You’ve toured through many countries and I know they each are unique and have their advantages and disadvantages. But, if you were to talk with someone relatively new to cycle touring, where would you recommend they go? Why?
It depends if you are an experienced cyclist and traveller to start with. For beginning cyclists it is best to start in ‘easy’ countries like The Netherlands and Denmark, where cycling is part of the culture (meaning that drivers respect you) and separate bike lines (and right of way!) make cycling easy, fun, flat (!) and safe, while there is a lot of culture and history and helpful people. And there is a bikeshop in every town and a pump in every house.
If you are already physically active you can head to some more hilly parts, basically the rest of the world J. Ivana loved Eastern Asia for the safety and people, I loved the remoteness of Alaska and Canada. You can also tour a few weeks in Europe and see a new country and culture every few days!
There are a lot of great routes in the US, see the Adventure Cyclists organization.
But cycling is only a small part of the travelling, so also try to get abroad and immerse yourself in new cultures, even if going just over the border into Mexico, which is a hidden gem.
Ø Any special tips or advice to wannabe tourers?
– Even though Ivana cycled over 8000 miles on a $400 bike without much problems, I would say: get good gear. Get good waterproof bags, get a good bike and good tires. You will enjoy it so much more if you do not need to stop every two days to fix a rack or a flat tire, leaving more time for nature and culture.
– Then again, do not get fooled by the expenses: biketravelling is usually cheaper than sitting at home doing nothing. And yes, that includes the accommodation, food, gear and all. You can travel anywhere in the world (maybe not Japan) for $10/day. We travelled in Italy, US, Canada for less than that.
– All trips and people are different. Don’t follow other people’s trips: nobody is forcing you to go 100 miles per day, every day because another cyclist did so; you can also do 25 miles, 2 days a week and still be in a different place every week. If you want to carry extra clothes or luxury items: just do it, not everybody enjoys travelling with only two, half-filled panniers, especially when on a longer trip. If you have the funds, do not want to ‘rough’ it and want to sleep in hotels and eat in restaurants? Go for it, you will help out the local economy.
– Take your time anyway, bike-travelling is not rushing. That is bike-racing which is a fun sport, but a different experience. Get off the bike and meet the people, eat the food and see the sights.
– Do not have the time for a long trip? Take short trip in your area or head out to a train station take a train and cycle back. There are no ‘laws’ for minimum distance (nor for maximum!).
– There is also no age limit as many young kids as well as BikeTravellers in their sixties and seventies have proven. Biketravelling and cycling is for all ages and backgrounds.
– Don’t plan everything ahead as the best things happen unexpectedly anyway.
Don’t get scared inside your house by false financial promises and xenophobic threats of the media: there is a whole world out there, waiting to be discovered and shared. You might as well get fit and healthy while doing it!
Finally, as Amelia Earhart said: “the only way to do it, is to do it.”
Harry & Ivana
– Photos from this and past travels on and up 7 continents can be found on http://ExposedPlanet.com
– Expeditions to the ‘7 summits’, the highest peaks on every continent: http://7summits.com
While we were watching the locals dance on Isla Cozumel I realized that exactly a year ago we had started out in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, more than 10,000km/6250mi North-West of here. One of the main paradoxes of time showed itself, as it seemed light-years away, while it also felt like we only started yesterday.
We saw glaciers, deserts, giant trees, volcanoes, canyons, ancient cities & pacific waves, cycled past bears, foxes, wolves, eagles, deer, elephant seals, snakes and lizards, while being eaten by mosquitoes and ants.
We met old friends again and made countless new ones. We have been inspired and inspired others in return. We have seen poverty and wealth and experienced the kindness of people, irrespective of nationality, income, colour, religious or sexual preference.
We switched from laughing to crying and back hundreds of times, screaming of happiness and cursing each other and our circumstances, often on the same day. We roughly planned our route before leaving, but all the best experiences were encountered without warning or preparation.
We have been part of a Native potlatch, played with a fox, camped in the desert, hugged trees, won our dinner in las Vegas, climbed mountains and sailed between dolphins. Meanwhile, thanks to the wonder called Internet I worked in a hundred different rooms in this giant office called Earth.
Our trusty Santos bikes have taken us all the way without problems. Even though we have been rained and hailed upon, blown off the road by side winds, camped in the snow and the freezing cold and cycled in 45+ degrees Celsius/113F, overheating at night. We cycled 160km on one day while I could not walk from pain a few months before, ready to quit. We have climbed the equivalent height of Mount Everest 10 times, many times pushing the bikes while doing it.
We have been alive, a full year, which is more than many people have been in their life. Oh, and we probably burned less than 3 gallons of fuel and likely spent less than USD $5000 in the process.
This is a huge amount of money for most of the world’s less fortunate population, but often blown away in mere weeks, days or even minutes by others on short-term rewards.
Our experiences have been more luxurious than any car-upgrade, more rewarding than any grand bottle of wine, and definitely longer lasting than any ounce of substance sniffed up the nose that might have cost the same.
The only problem is that life is even more addictive than all of these…
Thanks for joining us on our journey. Thank you for supporting us, helping us out where needed in person and in mind, urging us to write more, asking where and how we are, commenting on the site and writing us your emails, letting us know how you are. Thank you for dusting off your bicycle and making a difference. Thank you for hosting us and other travellers, it means so much more than a place to sleep or eat.
You are special and we feel thankful for having had the opportunity to share a tiny part of your life and for the way you are now forever part of ours.
As said, it feels we only have just begun…
Sometimes we thing we know a lot about cycling and travelling and then we are humbled to meet somebody like Chuck.
He has cycled all over, has a nice collection of bikes, some decades old. He is more active than most people half his age.
He is 73
Dakota has been travelling step-by-step through the US for 25 years. He doesn’t say much, but enjoys the time on the road, with his 3-4 horses (he has to retire some of them), that pull his wooden cart.
Actually, not even all of the USA, but just ‘West of the Mississippi, I never crossed it!’ …
As he is the only one travelling slower than us, but he mostly takes up an entire lane, wile we stay on the shoulder where available. This has caused him to be expelled from the Highways many times by police, forcing him unto even smaller & steeper roads…
Terry and Lily did not only offer us a warm and dry shelter as well as a wonderful meal, they also taught us a lot about a new way of building houses more ecologically. He showed us examples of Straw bale or Mud houses, ‘green’ houses and all the benefits that come with it (energy efficient, ecological, cheaper, stronger, personalized).
It was very nice to see his passion for the subject and definitely had made us think about any future house we might build…
Joe Kurmaskie is a famous cyclist as he has written and published many stories about his travels, very recommended for cyclists as well as couch potatoes with a sense of humour and adventure.
He got the nickname “The Metal Cowboy” from a blind person he met on the way… He also met his wife Beth on one of his trips, and it is very nice to see them and their family (3 boys) together now!
Joe is trying to get 1000 1000 Americans to (re)start cycling again before August 9, 2009, see also the news announcement on BikeTravellers.com.
When I found out that Tom Hubbard and his wife Sandy were living on our path, I wanted to meet them.
As a photographer, it is a pleasure to talk to Tom, who has decades of experience as a photographer and has worked with all the other great photographers during his work as Director of the Time-Life Photo and Digital Image Lab. Most recently, he was the Pro Photo Business Development Manager for Hewlett Packard’s new line of professional photographic pigment printers in North America.
Currently he is looking for new challenges. I told him that he should either start writing (e-)books or teach as he is filled with valuable information for beginning as well as professional photographers.
He has a –slightly confusing mix of- very useful websites, which are useful for BikeTravellers and other photographers:
- http://www.hubbardcamera.com/ with great tips for starting photographers,
- http://hubsidarkroom.blogspot.com/ about digital processing,
- more general photography tips in http://hubsphotographytips.blogspot.com/ &
- inspirational interviews at http://www.visionaryphotographers.com/.
And he is not finished, having many more ideas to share the wonderful world of photography.
He also finally got me to start organizing thousands of photos and was kind enough to give me a legal copy of Adobe’s LightRoom, which after some learning curve already is making my photo life much easier and my images much more interesting
Thanks Tom & Sandy, for your hospitality and sharing your knowledge!
Dan & Nancy are a great couple who enjoy life. They live in the dark woods South of Olympia, but spend the coldest time of the year in Costa Rica. They both love cycling and almost have finished their trip across the USA, even though Nancy has lost a large part of her leg in a motorcycle accident several years ago.
They have prepared a special type of tandem, with one recumbent part and one regular part and have done 3 of the four parts so far, hoping to finish next summer!
In their spare time, they both play the ‘Irish Fiddle’, though they actually master a range of instruments. If you are ever in the Irish pubs in Olympia, check them out during one of the great ‘sessions’ they have there!
It was a pleasure to spend some time with them, thanks Dan & Nancy!
We just made another loan to someone in the developing world using a revolutionary new website called Kiva (www.kiva.org). We support Kiva as we believe in their way of making the world a better place: not bound by religions or nations, non-profit. Kiva is about microfinance (small loans), not donations.
You can go to Kiva’s website and lend to someone in the developing world who needs a loan for their business – like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. We even found somebody selling bicycles!
Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent – and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is going.
The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back. Then you can withdraw your funds or lend them to someone else. These are not donations, but small loans. Kiva’s loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.
It’s finally easy to actually do something about poverty – using Kiva I know exactly who my money is loaned to and what they’re using it for. And most of all, I know that I’m helping them build a sustainable business that will provide income to feed, clothe, house and educate their family long after my loan is paid back.
Join me in changing the world – one loan at a time.
The Long Distance Cyclist (BikeTravellers) lending team!
We want to recruit you to my lending team, Long Distance Bicyclists. If you join our lending team, we can work together to alleviate poverty. Once you’re a part of the team, you can choose to have a future loan on Kiva “count” towards our team’s impact. The loan is still yours, and repayments still come to you – but you can also choose to have the loan show up in our team’s collective portfolio, so our team’s overall impact will grow!
Let’s show the world that Biketravellers care about the world 😀
What Is Kiva?
We Let You Loan to the Working Poor
Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.
Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.
The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding – not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.
Kiva partners with existing expert microfinance institutions. In doing so, we gain access to outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities world-wide. Our partners are experts in choosing qualified entrepreneurs. That said, they are usually short on funds. Through Kiva, our partners upload their entrepreneur profiles directly to the site so you can lend to them. When you do, not only do you get a unique experience connecting to a specific entrepreneur on the other side of the planet, but our microfinance partners can do more of what they do, more efficiently.
Kiva provides a data-rich, transparent lending platform. We are constantly working to make the system more transparent to show how money flows throughout the entire cycle, and what effect it has on the people and institutions lending it, borrowing it, and managing it along the way. To do this, we are using the power of the internet to facilitate one-to-one connections that were previously prohibitively expensive. Child sponsorship has always been a high overhead business. Kiva creates a similar interpersonal connection at much lower costs due to the instant, inexpensive nature of internet delivery. The individuals featured on our website are real people who need a loan and are waiting for socially-minded individuals like you to lend them money.
How Kiva Works
Choose an Entrepreneur, Lend, Get Repaid
The below diagram shows briefly how money gets from you to a developing-world entrepreneur, and back.
1) Lenders like you browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need, and choose someone to lend to. When they lend, using PayPal or their credit cards, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of our microfinance partners worldwide.
2) Kiva’s microfinance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur. Often, our partners also provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur’s chances of success.
3) Over time, the entrepreneur repays their loan. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and emailed to lenders who wish to receive them.
4) When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.
None of your loan gets used up by Kiva itself. They are paid by grants, donations of 3rd parties, including Lenovo, our laptop sponsor. 100% of your loan gets to the local microfinance partner.
- Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, by Muhammad Yunus
This is a great introduction to microfinance – an easy read which tells, in his own words, the story of how Muhammad Yunus started Grameen Bank (one of the first microfinance operations which is now an independent bank in Bangladesh).
- The Economics of Microfinance by Beatriz Armendariz deAghion and Jonathan Morduch
Not for the weak of heart – this is a very in-depth book focusing on the economics of microfinance, which is used often as a college text book.
- The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, by Jeffrey Sachs.
Jeffrey Sachs has a 9 step plan to eliminate extreme poverty by the year 2025. Not directly related to microfinance, but directly related to the reason Kiva facilitates it.
- A Billion Bootstraps by Philip Smith and Eric Thurman
A bold manifesto by two business leaders, A Billion Bootstraps shows why microcredit is the world’s most powerful poverty-fighting movement-and an unbeatable investment for your charitable donations. A Billion Bootstraps explains how ordinary people can accelerate the microcredit movement by investing charitable donations in specific programs and then leveraging those contributions so the net cost to lift one person out of poverty is remarkably low.
Richard has not only cycled a lot, he is known for having written numerous popular children’s books, some together with his wife Magee. He is a great storyteller and still goes everywhere to capture audiences, though they live in Prince George, the crossing of the Yellowhead Highway, Cariboo Highway and the Fraser River.
Maggee teaches and her kids (she brings them home every now and then) seem to love her, but not as much as Richard does, as he is absolutely crazy about her!
Together they are one of the few households in Prince George that does not own or use a car for transportation. They are incredibly hospitable and wonderful people, have introduced us to their friends and family, helped out with medical problems and took us into their family.
Oh, and take a look here at Romke’s blog to see how happy his kids Kira & Jelte were when they received two autographed books!