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Cycle Oregon vs Alaska to Argentina

(September 7 – written by Dave)

Back when we were both working full-time, most years we usually had only one week during the summer for a bicycle tour – if we were lucky, we’d get two weeks. We generally alternated from self-supported trips to the sagged or supported style. For the record, Cycle Oregon is sagged/supported and Alaska to Argentina was self-supported.

Whatever style trip we chose for our weekly breaks, we’d almost always have flight/bus/train reservations booked for the last Sunday of the adventure. Rides were always too short and we almost never had the luxury of calling a rain day. Days were mapped out to reach the endpoint just in time to turn around, shuttle home and then back to work on Monday morning. We rode in the rain, wind or whatever – the schedule was king.

Now that were not working full-time jobs, we’ve had the luxury of much longer trips.  Our Alaska to Argentina trip had no end date when we started. Heck, we didn’t really have an end month.  Mostly we had an end season – reach the bottom of South America sometime during the summer 1.5ish years after starting – easy.

The schedule, of course, is not the only difference between big trips and week-long supported rides – here are a few more observations.  For folks having trouble sleeping, many of our past trips are documented on our blog at past trips:

Bikes

Long tour bikes – when we left Alaska, our bikes weighted a lot – Dave 150 lbs, Nancy 130 lbs.  I’m not sure that we needed solar panels and folding chairs – which were sent home at some point – but we started in Fairbanks with them.

Short tour bikes – our Cycle Oregon road bikes weight less than 20 lbs each. There is no place to strap folding chairs and besides, the sag van is there for a reason after all.

Borders

Long tour – more than 15 countries, international borders, passports, yellow fever vaccines, money changers, new phone SIMS, fear of the unknown, travel advisories, new languages, strange food, etc, etc, etc.

Short bike tour – do county lines count?

Who doesn’t like a good travel food photo collage? Yes, we ate everything below.

Border 1

Colombia – Ecuador border – 10 hours, 10,000 refugees and us – easy

Clothes

Long tour – everything you might wear for 20 months on the road, cold, hot, wet, dry, windy, bugs, bears, bandits, everything – and you’ll carry laundry detergent as well, hoping to find a place to wash now and again.

Short tour –  7 days riding, take 7 pairs of shorts (if you have that many) – wash when you get home.  Leave the snow mitts at home, you’re riding 7 days in the summer after all.

Daily distance

Long tour – You haul 150 pounds of bike, plus 150 pounds of body over an Andes pass and you’ll probably call 50k (31 miles) a darn good day!

Short tour – on light road bikes, you can push out as much as 160k (100 miles) per day.  If you let your good friend Chris set the schedule while riding to San Francisco, you can do this 7 days in a row, probably.

Chris and his not-so-lite bag

Who would trust this guy to make ride schedule? Crazy!

Hills

Long tour – see above comment about 300+ pound of bike and body – you get the idea, hills are hard, slow and mean shorter days.

Short tour – Cycle Oregon this year averages one big hill every day – see profiles below.  There is close to 5,000 feet of climbing every day. We like hills, especially on our light bikes, but that’s a lot of climbing in a week. Ah heck, it’s only a week. (Senior editor’s note – that’s a week of getting up by 4:30am…)

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Day 1, a taste of what’s coming

Camp gear and spare bike parts

Long tour – tent, stove, cutlery, pans, electric kettle (yes, you read that right), 4 spare tires, enough spare parts to rebuild 2 bikes from scratch. It’s life in a pannier – fill it up, it’ll slow you down but you’ve got no schedule.

Short tour – whatever, the sag carries it. But you’re not cooking your own food – leave the kitchen home. And there’s a bike store repair van following you – leave the parts home. With all that extra room, pack your earplugs and sleeping eye pads – you may need them with all the other campers who want to have a bit of a party while you sleep. (Senior editor’s note – especially when you have to be up by 4:30 every morning…)

Other random things to worry about

Long tour

Mail forward or hold – check
Credit card expiry dates – make sure that they are two years out
Passport expiry date – same
Rent apartment – check
Mobile phone – make sure it is unlocked
Meds – enough for two years, nah, just be sure you’ve got a scrip and hope you can fill it in Bolivia
Travel warnings – sign up for government update mail
Travel insurance – sign-up and pay – make sure policy can last as long as your trip
Road signs – get used to not being able to read them
Mow grass – no wait, didn’t we hire someone to do that?
Buy spare bike parts – everything should be double
Route – plan days, weeks and rough route, re-do every couple weeks in great detail
Pets – find nice home to adopt them out to – you can’t put them in a kennel for 2 years
Water – bring filter, back-up iodine tablets – plus Imodium because everything won’t always work

Short tour

Mail forward or hold – pay neighbour kid
Credit card expiry dates – for a week?
Passport expiry date – passport for county lines?
Rent apartment – nope, just hope that neighbour kid doesn’t have parties
Mobile phone – did you pay your bill?
Meds – enough for a week, but maybe some extra ibuprofen for the hills
Travel warnings – county travel warnings? Don’t be so paranoid!
Travel insurance – doesn’t my home owner’s policy cover everything?
Road signs – relax, you’re in America/Australia, easy
Mow grass – do night before departure, while you should be packing, get in trouble with wife
Buy spare bike parts – nope, count on on-ride mechanics, live dangerously
Route – nope – just get a ride log at the start and follow the guy in front of you
Pets – can you leave food out for a week? Nah, pay the neighbour kid “live cat on return” bonus
Water – get it from sag, drink without fear

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Gratuitous photo of Sylvester – our lovely adopted out cat

Blogging

Long tour – I like writing and taking photos (thanks for reading). You need a light laptop, local country SIM – or find WiFi, a good senior editor that is not sleeping and some perseverance.

Short tour – We’ll see… 4:30 starts may make Cycle Oregon blogs a wee bit shorter. For sure my senior editor will be sleeping by the time I need a proofread.

So tomorrow, we’re up at 4:30AM to serve coffee and then riding later over our first mountain. I hope that we can share updates daily but we’ll see. Who knows, you might get Nossa coffee cart updates, first reviews of serious rides in new Kitsbow gear, dramatic Oregon cascades backroad photos or possibly even radio silence because we’re just too tired…

A couple easy to read road signs in closing…

6 responses to “Cycle Oregon vs Alaska to Argentina

  1. Have a fabulous time! Hopefully some sleep also!

  2. Now I want to be there! You guys have fun and say hi to Craig and Mary for Cindi and me.

  3. Tine and Philipp

    Hey Dave, in your packing list you forgot quite a few items which you probably also forgot about on the road, such as
    – bear spray (okay Alaska I get, but all the way to ushuaia?)
    – dried mashed potatoes with garlic bought in the US and eaten in Peru
    – new tires so you don’t fly home with those old ones
    – how many spare tubes was that?
    – And Nancy could always surprise with a new evening dress

    But seriously, your kettle and Aeropress made our mornings in Peru so much nicer.

    Greetings from Hamburg

    • Hahaha
      For the record we gave away our bear spray in Chile, once we finally found a rider heading that far north.
      Mashed potatoes were purchased in the USA, but Delivered in Ecuador and consumed in Chile – well travelled.
      And yes, too many spare tubes and tires…

      Nice to hear from you.

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