I’ve been craving a grand adventure and escape ever since I returned from a three month hitch hiking tour of New Zealand in early 2008. I’d tasted the freedoms and adventures that come with travelling outside the ‘ordinary’ structured transport modes. Hitch hiking is essentially a pragmatic pursuit that inevitably leads you down countless unexpected avenues. In the summer of 2008 I thought I could hitchhike the length of the Americas; taking a motorcycle down the east coast from Canada and then hitch hiking up the west coast from Argentina to Alaska (the holy grail). I hadn’t really thought that idea through, the first stumbling block being the fact I’d never even been on a motorcycle and the second being that it would cost a great deal in money and time. So this idea didn’t get off of the drawing board.
In November 2008 I went up the Kendal mountain festival (in the England’s Lake District for you foreign types) where I went to lectures with my heroes and undoubted legends. I saw the likes of Reinhold Messner, David Breashears, Chris Bonnington, Doug Scott (my favourite and absolute legend) and many more. But what I took away from the festival was thoughts of a young Scottish fella I’d watched cycle around the world earlier that year on the BBC. Mark Beaumont cycled 18,000 miles around the globe in 194 days and 17 hours, breaking the existing World Record by a margin of 81 days. His lecture got me thinking and in the knowledge that he was planning an assault on a rowing record I started thinking about how possible it would be to cycle Prudhoe bay to Tierra Del Fuego and climb some big mountains on the way.
Mark Beaumont’s boat sunk so he decided to cycle the Americas, climbing Denali and Aconcagua on the way down… what a great idea! Anyhow, I’d already decided that the central tenant of my journey would be freedom and that adding climbing expeditions into the mix would add too much time pressure as well as expense.
I started looking into the serious possibilities in 2009, expecting to start the journey later that year. Luckily for me I was suffering with knee problems and thus spared the humiliation of taking a hopelessly unprepared expedition out on the road. I had taken delivery of my bike from Thorn in May but it just sat in the garage, I wasn’t fit enough to ride it. Knee problems once again prevented a still embarrassingly unprepared trip heading down to Tierra Del Fuego in November of that year. However, my planning had gathered pace and I spent the next months obsessively scouring other peoples websites and blogs and sending emails to ensure I got the best and most suitable equipment for the trip.
By May 14th I was ready to fly. My bike was serviced and packed, I’d nearly 2,000 miles of training in my legs and nothing could stop me… apart from a volcano in Iceland. Still it only put me back a day which was surprising considering I was travelling with Iceland Air via Iceland!