Sunday, September 03, 2006

Things do not always work out or tripus interuptus

So I was standing on the side of the road outside Bay City, MI. The day before had been over 100 miles and I said to myself, now I am really in to this trip. It had been a beautiful day except the wind was directly out of the east and I was heading directly east. The weather forecast was great, other than the wind, for the next several days and I was confident that the wind would be manageable. Not. It blew all that night and that day along the side of the road I had the prospect of many more days of predicted 10 - 15 mph east winds and now Ernesto had entered the fray and rain was predicted for the next several days right over the area I was riding into. I was near a relatively easy location to be able to stop and was heading into a long stretch where the ability to get home would be very limited. So I had a decision to make whether to press on slowly toward certain difficuly conditions with limited options or turn around, ride with the wind for a change and find a way home. I opted for the later.

I had ridden 1000 miles, crossed Wisconsin and Upper and Lower Michigan, almost to Ontario so it still was a reasonable trip. It was a difficult and not a satisfying decision to make but it has to be one or the other and I chose the other.

After my last entry at Interlochen the riding had been mostly very good with good roads, lovely scenery, beautiful towns along Lake Michigan. I did stay in a nasty motel in Leroy, MI because I decided that trying to go another 23 miles on top of 72, most of which involved climbing, was not what I wanted to do. The next morning's riding validated that decision. There was quite a bit of climbing up on to the Pere Marquette plateau and the wind, old reliable, was out of the east. It would have been a very tough slog at the end of the day. Further down the road I got on to the Pere Marquette Rail Trail which was 30 miles of straight, flat off highway trail. Sweet, except for the east wind. Got to Midland, MI, home of Dow Chemical, a very spiffy little town. Found a really good bike shop and had them check why my brake was sticking and the creaking as I climbed while I got some food. Finished off the day on another straight, flat road and now the east wind was really blowing. Finally got to Bay City to the state park camp ground and had a great evening. The guy at the convenience store confirmed the good weather forecast and I was feeling good. I would be in Ontario the next day.

But the wind continued to blow throughout the night. The weather prediction by morning was for rain to be starting the next day and all weekend and by mid-morning I had made a decision that I could not keep fighting this battle. Just not enough at stake to go on and so, I am writing this from home. I rode with the wind at my back to Midland, got my gear boxed up and shipped via UPS, took the bike back to Ray's Bike Shop to have them ship it home to Now Bikes and got on a non-stop from MBS to MSP on good old reliable NWA.

That is the end of that story. I am disappointed that I did not get to ride across Ontario, New York and New England but perhaps next time.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Interlochen, MI

Onward I grind. It has been a bit of a grind in a sense. The ride across the UP was not too eventful until the last day there when I rode along the shore of Lake Michigan for much of the day and had head winds the whole way. The lake was beautiful to see and the dunes and rocky, wooded shoreline were kind on the eyes. Saw some more cranes in two different locations but no other wildlife to speak of. Today I stopped in a bike shop in Traverse City and one of the guys there was chatting about the trip and asked if I was riding on Hwy 2 on Friday. I couldn't figure out which day it was so I said yes and he described seeing me or someone just like me fighting the wind. He also said he saw a wolf in the highway.

So after fighting the wind I pulled into St. Ignace the city of the UP across from Mackinac Island. It was a nice day, despite the wind and I got a great campsite in the state park. I walked about 5 feet down a path from my tent and I had a spectacular panoramic view of the Mackinac Bridge. It is an amazing structure and at night it is lit up and quite beautiful.

Rain moved in over night and it was not letting up. During a brief lull I packed up and headed to the ferry dock to get across to the island. If it had been the least bit hospitable I would have stayed on the island and looked around the place where Kelli and I had our so-called honeymoon. But hospitable is not a term one could use that day. Very windy and constant rain. So I went from one side of the pier to the other and got on the ferry to Mackinaw City. Got there got a room and waited for the rain to end. Took two days. Saturday there was a big Corvette show in the park across from my hotel so I got to see about 500 'vettes and a bunch of really obsesive people dressed in 'vette garb. Amazing. The amount of money invested sitting in that park was staggering. Later I saw a show- The British Invasion. Three guys doing pretty good imitations of Elton John, David Bowie and Rod Stewart. It helped to pass the time. Then I watched the Twins blow a 4 or 5 run lead, got to tired to watch the end but they won in 11 innings I heard.

The day on Sunday was predicted sunny but it was still cloudy. Took off any way and it turned out fine. Had three choices for places to end the day. The first one was East Jordan. I rolled into town, there was music in the park, a pub across the street, and a very nice city campground. I stayed. Got invited to have dinner with a couple who had been camping for a month while they did some siding jobs in town. They were from Detroit and real salt of the earth types and very generous. Menu was ribs, corn and squash. After an 80 mile day it was grand.

Woke the next morning in pea soup. No rain, just a thick cloud on the ground. Had to wait to start. Went Mac and Don's for breakfast. Never did that on last years trip and this will be the last time on this year's trip. When I did head out it looked like the sun was burning off the fog but as I got up the road it got worse and worse. The road was narrow and there was a fair amount of traffic. My glasses would fog up and if I took them off I could not read the map. I stopped ofter because of oncoming or following traffic coming on hills. Visibility was down to about 200 hundred feet in places. Finally, after a very slow go it lightened and I could make some progress. Got down the road, through Traverse City on a well marked bike path and ended here in Interlochen. I guess there is a famous art school here.

The riding has been a little rough in spots with some very good roads and some very rough ones and traffic levels that seem surprisingly heavy. The terrain has been mostly rolling hills with a few long ones but nothing like mountains. I am now turned definitely east and will be in Ontario in a couple days if all goes well. Then it will be through Niagra Falls, across N.Y. and into New England.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Yooper country

I am in the library in Crystal Falls, MI. First computer access on the trip, although, I did not really look until today. Today is a day off. Left my campsite this morning thinking I would ride 80+ miles to Escanaba but my legs had a different idea so I am stopped here and resting.

I got into MI yesterday. The ride across WI was idyllic, bucolic, verdant, refreshing and anything but a straight line. My thought is that the counties across northern WI have wager on who can design the road with the most curves in the least amount of space. There are some hills too but they are not anything like what I will see in New England, or maybe even the UP. The towns I have passed through so far includeOsceola, Dresser, Amery, Birchwood, Mercer, Glidden, Boulder Junction, WI and Caspian and Crystal Falls, MI.

My encounters with people are similar to what I experienced last year on the cross country trip. Friendly and a little incredulous at my endeavor. Wonderful store keeper in Haugen WI is keeping a log of riders who come through. That day he got two as I met a gent, Tom, about my age travelling from Maine west to, he hopes, Washington. At this time of the year he may have some trouble with the mountain passes. Tom told me of a paving project down the road. He had ridden 7 miles of loose gravel and it was terrible. When I got to Mercer where the gravel was reputed to be it was two days later and I hoped it might be paved by now. I enquired of a county sheriff who was investigating a garden vandalism crime at the local Subway. He was not much help. He was still there half an hour later when I went by again. Reminded me of Alice's Restaurant. (If you don't get the reference your not in my generation). Anyway, as I turned with trepidation on to County Rd. J a nice man turned his car in front of me, jumped out and shouted to get my attention. He said that the gravel was really nasty and gave me a great alternate route through Manitowish Waters. Avoided the gravel and got to see M.W. Another angel on the road.

The garden vandalism at Subway was apparently the work of one of the motorcycle rally participants who were swarming everywhere around Mercer on that Saturday. I saw dozens of them on the road and rode through the site where the rally was being held. It reminded me of the bike race Paul and I participated in years ago in Sayner which is very near Mercer. Lots of folks hanging out in the woods having a good time. The other connection to Mercer is that Kelli's childhood camp, Whispering Pines was there.

I have been averaging 75+ miles per day and my average pace varies from 12.3 to 12.8 mph. So I am in the saddle about 6 hours a day. It is not bad if you get an early start. I have camped 3 times and stayed in motels three times, including today. The most surprising thing is paying $18-20 to camp and then having to pay $0.25 for a shower. Never encountered that the whole trip last year.

The intrigue and uniqueness of this trip is not quite the same as last year but so far I am riding in familiar country. It should get more interesting as I get further east.

--Gary Fifield 1893 Berkeley Av. St. Paul, MN 55105 651-695-1065

Monday, April 10, 2006

Fin del Mundo. Argentina 2006

Of vineyards, gracious people, friendly dogs, painted badlands, lush forests, epic climbs, really epic downhills, and great new friends.

(Sit back, this is a little long.)
The trip to Argentina is over now. We are all back in our assigned spots in the ‘real world’. For a time we lived in a fantasy which was all too enjoyable and comfortable in a crazy sort of way. It was not comfortable in the sense of creature comforts. It was comfortable in the sense that it was invigorating, suspenseful, surprising and indulgent. We pretty much did only as we really wanted to for a brief time. We rode bicycles through the countryside of a mystical and exciting land. It was like riding through the Lord of the Rings. There were giant vistas of rivers and mountains; the throat of the devil and an amphitheater in a mountain-side; endless vineyards around fairytale estates; dogs everywhere and hardly one of them aggressive in any way; giant rocks shaped like frogs; goats; llamas; burros and ruins of civilizations wiped out by our European ancestors. And, finally, we got to see how the Argentineans really have a good time.

The last night in Cafayate we had an Argentine barbeque, which means lots of beef. Rick had made the acquaintance, from the campsite next to us, of a couple from Belgium, Petr and Saundra, and their toddler daughter that afternoon and they joined us for the feast. It was a great time with great Argentine wine, local beer and lots of conversation and laughter into the night. We had kilos of meat and luckily Saundra supplied a wonderful salad. The next day we took the morning to pack up and go into town to resupply for the next two day’s lunches. We got some small tasks done, like mailing postcards. Shockingly, this was the relatively most expensive thing we had yet seen in Argentina, four pesos, or about $1.25 per postcard. I have been home over a week now and they still have not arrived. We regrouped about 11:00 on the town square. We had our daily circle where we each check in with our self assessment of how we are feeling on a 1 – 10 scale, answer the question of the day, which might have been “What have you learned in Cafayate that you will remember?”, and got the plan for the day: where we will be riding to, when we should plan to stop for a rest and snack.

We rode out of Cafayate, I think all of us regretting that we had to leave, but realizing that some great sites and experiences lay ahead. We rolled along mostly flat roads with vineyards all around and down a slope to a rest stop in the sleepy pueblo of Tolombon. It seemed to be built around the wine industry and had national historic buildings and a quaint central park. The curious thing was how quiet and abandoned everything seemed and how ill kempt the central square seemed. The quiet could be explained by siesta time. The trashy square was unique in my observations as we meandered through the north of Argentina. I do not know why this little town seemed different that way. Our snack breaks had some consistency to them in that the energy source of choice was the bags of ‘Diversion’ cookies we would devour. They got us through the days.

Rolling on we made our way down long stretches of fairly flat roads and soon could see in the distance the foot hill ranges of the Andes with two snow capped peaks on these first days of autumn in the southern hemisphere. Two obviously fully loaded bike tourists approached and we learned they were Betsy and Katy from Minneapolis! They were on there way from the south of Argentina to Ecuador. Some of us had rolled by them wanting to stop but too surprised by their approach and apparently they did not stop because we looked too “hard core”. No, not really.

That afternoon we arrived at our destination, Quilmes Ruins. This is a restored indigenous settlement from centuries ago. They have built a hotel among the ruins in a manner to make the modern buildings blend with the ruins around them. This was our first direct exposure to the indigenous cultures but would prove to not be our last. To get to the hotel and ruins required a very tough gradual climb up a wash board, loose gravel, rocky 5 km road. It was a hot afternoon and getting to the destination was a welcome relief. We enjoyed a cold beverage and then found our way to first class rooms in the hotel and a welcome shower (ducha). The hotel was built among the ruins so immediately outside our room, there they were. The main area of the old structures was up the mountainside. After we cleaned up some hiked into the ruins. I stood and watched some llamas stroll down out of the bush and down to within 10 feet of where I stood. They are quite interesting creatures. Dinner in the hotel was forgettable but the wine was not.

After a good night’s sleep we had a simple breakfast in the hotel and then rolled back down that rocky road and on to a day of nearly constant climbing up to our next destination, the Observatorio at Ampimpa. Along the way we stopped for lunch at Amaicha del Valle and the Pachamama (Mother Earth) Museum. They had the most beautiful artisan gift shop that I saw on the trip and the museum looked quite interesting although we did not go through it. Much of it was in a courtyard outdoors next to the gift shop building and we could see large statues and icons and stonework through the fence and gates.

We rolled a short distance to some shops and someone said we should get some wine for the evening meal at the observatory. This resulted in two teams of eager group members headed in different directions to seek out such a commodity and so it happened that we hauled a total of 9 liters of local red wine up the mountain. The 5 liter box of Malbec that Rick and I found was certainly the more convenient packaging however.

The ride up was a good steady climb. Not steep but relentless. But a steady slow pace and soon you find you are at the destination and feeling good about what you just accomplished. Christian, the keeper of the observatory was at the gate to greet us. He is a professor and a student working for his doctorate at the University in Tucuman. He knows the flora and fauna and skies as well as the history of this area in some great detail and he was an enthusiastic teacher. All of his teaching was in Spanish and so we learned much by listening to him but even more by the translation of Koa, Kim, Nick and Rick. After we pushed the bikes up the 1 km climb to the observatory compound, complete with a cook shed, dining hall and bunk houses for us, we gathered with Christian to share some mate, the local tea which is drunk thru a metal or bamboo straw and to learn about some local herbs. Then it was off on a hike into the mountains to explore some real ruins which are not rebuilt for tourists. These are a true archeological site and we saw the original walls, burial sites, homes, market areas, grinding stones and pieces of ceramic pottery which the indigenous people had made and lived in many hundreds of years ago. There were even small pieces of bones and remnants of jewelry as we looked through the sand and gravel of the village area. To say it was exciting and awe-inspiring is not quite adequate. It is hard to put the sense of standing on hallowed, even sacred, ground into words. We got so caught up in that and admiring the giant cacti around us that we started back a little late and hiked the last half mile or so in the dark over fairly rough terrain. Luckily, there were no twisted ankles to complicate the next day’s biking.

A typically late Argentine dinner of rice soup, chicken, salad, bread and fruit, prepared by Christian, was enjoyed by a hungry crew. Some of us were too tired to do dishes so got our turn after breakfast in the morning. I think we might have had the harder job since the night crew left a few and we had to finish them all so we could depart without leaving an impact on the facility.

The area of the observatory is home to some plants which produce prodigious amounts of thorny burrs. Not too big but big enough to flatten a tire if not promptly removed. This resulted in some more flat repair practice and in some of us carrying our bikes down to the main road. So there were several trips up and down to get bikes and packs all in position to leave and start the day’s climbing to the top of the mountains, over the pass and down into the lush valley, leaving the arid desert climate behind. Halfway there we stopped for lunch at a Catholic shrine. This one, unlike most of the roadside shrines, which are numerous, was a building with a shelter to get out of the sun. It was a sunny day but as we were now around 9,000 feet elevation, cool. The vistas on this climb were awesome with sweeping views of the valleys and mountains all around. The roads were good and the traffic very light. There were occasional homes with a few goats and chickens around. My sense was that these were true subsistence farmers. Probably having enough to feed the family and perhaps making some local crafts to sell in the valley communities of Amaicha or Tafi.

We got to the summit of the pass, about 10,000 feet. On the way we continued to see llamas, burros and goats wandering. At the pass was a small stand with local crafts manned by a mother and her four children and a llama tied to a post. We bought a few things, gave the kids some cookies and a hacky sack ball and then, when the llama decided to empty it’s bladder near our bikes, ended our nice respite, checked our brakes and started the 12 mile descent to Tafi del Valle which we could see in the distance next to a large reservoir lake. The ride down was long and spectacular with several spots where the brakes were tested so we could stop to capture an image on film or memory card.

In Tafi we stopped to acquire the food for that night and next breakfast. We basked in the warm sun of this dusty but inviting farming and tourism/artisans’ community. The homes around and some of the facilities in town belied a community with some wealth, at least of a middle class, and not overwhelming poverty. Argentina’s economy has been down for some time but seems to be making a good comeback.

After our break we progressed down the road to El Mollar, on the other side of the lake and under the cloud bank which extended into the valley from the mountains on the other side, where the lush forests grow. We left the sun for a misty cool fog. Christian had suggested a location to stay which was a new one for Rick. He is still looking for the ideal destination for this leg of the trip. We ended up in a campground with a soft grassy tenting area and shelters for cooking and eating and it worked out great. Koa and I rode into town to get some beverages and he had this long conversation with the store owner which covered everything from poverty in Bolivia, where Koa was in the Peace Corps, to hurricanes in New Orleans. I just tried to pick up a few words and the thread of the conversation. Fun. One more evening of great food and great company with group. Late night shower in the funky facility in the motel next to the campground: shower, stool, bidet all in one stall. Tomorrow would be our last day of riding.

This was the day of the awesome downhill. Yesterday was just a warm up. This one followed a rushing white water river through lush forests and around numerous switchbacks and ran out on to the humid sugar cane growing valley where we would spend the next two nights in Yerba Buena, suburb of Tucuman, capitol of the namesake province. On the way down was a great little artisans’ outlet where most of us made some purchases to strap on to the back of the bikes. We also passed ‘Fin del Mundo’ (the End of the World) where the road appears to drop of into nowhere. We rode on past the lunch hour looking for a good place to stop because, in contrast to other days we had not supplied ourselves with food to make our own lunch. We ended up in Famailla where the 9 of us overwhelmed a little café but got our food eventually and meanwhile got to watch the midday community activity which included countless trips around the town square on motor scooters or bicycles each with a rider and a passenger.

After lunch we endured a stretch on a busy highway until we could turn on to quieter roads and then rolled into Yerba Buena, where after ice cream we followed our host Santiago Aragon through the streets of this city of contrasts in poverty and wealth, quiet and noise to our home for the next two days in a wonderful private home hostel on a quiet street. It was a couple blocks off the main drag and we were able to make good use of the cities shopping and eating attractions. Santiago, our host in Yerba Buena, had ridden his bike from there to Alaska, taking four years to do it. He left town with the equivalent of $20 in his pocket. The owner of the hostel, Fernando, had taken five years to ride his bike around the world. We felt we were among friends.

The first night we went to dinner, an art opening of an artist friend of Santiago’s and then experienced a vintage Argentine all-night session of talk and sharing the fruits of the local wine industry. I usually do not stay out very late, except on the night shift at work, but this night was energizing and it was so fascinating to see the animation in the personalities around me. Even though I understood only an occasional word or two, or struggled to communicate in some strange hybrid of the languages, it was great fun. Curt and I left, got a ride from Santiago’s brother back to the house, about 3:30am. Others in the group we left behind had to be at work later that morning. I am thinking there were a couple of ill calls that day.

Our last day before the travel day the morning was spent packing up the bikes and everything else in the mirror image of the day two weeks before when we did not know each other and were unsure what lay ahead. This day we were buzzing around and joking and got it all done pretty efficiently. Some of us despite ourselves. The afternoon started with some lunch down the street and then some naps and shopping and wandering. Before packing Koa and Phil had actually gone for a ride into the mountains just outside of town. They said it was great riding. As we walked the main street there were frequent riders obviously dressed for serious riding headed out in that direction.

Our last night in Argentina was the time for a great celebration. A barbeque had been planned by Santiago at a charming facility just down the main street from our hostel. It was a grassy compound which had a small house which contained an artisan’s gift shop and a kitchen with a barbeque cooker and a fire pit in the back. We made use of all of the facilities and had a great evening of interacting with hosts, making purchases and receiving some local promotional gifts, eating great food, drinking great wine, singing and generally basking in the hospitality and graciousness of our Argentine hosts. They were great, open, friendly people.

In the morning we loaded all the bikes and bags into Santiago’s truck and took three cabs to the airport to leave. The travel back included a few hours layover in Cordoba so we took advantage to go see the center of the city where we experienced the wailing blind woman and some young tricksters who are no doubt budding entrepreneurs. Maria taught them the disappearing and reappearing coin trick and that pretty much disarmed them. The larger cities we saw were pretty consistent: busy, lots of diesel fuel in use, bustling, reasonably clean and safe feeling, with signs of economic improvement and definitely trying to attract more tourism. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful except for one close call on the connection in Miami. Twenty-five hours from the start, we were home.

On reflection, it is hard to imagine how the trip could have gone much better. For Koa, maybe having a current passport may have made it better, but maybe not. As a group it seemed we could hardly have been more compatible. We rode well together, helped each other out and socialized well. It was immensely enjoyable. A large part of this can be chalked up to Rick’s management of the whole process. From the day of preparation and packing, to the trouble shooting during travel, to the group process which kept us all in touch and communicating, to the guidance and direction to keep us moving and not least of all, to the on the fly bike mechanics, it is hard to find where he missed a beat. It is hard to substitute for experience and judgment and he has them both in quantity.

Thanks to everyone involved, including the board of Two Wheel View for supporting the idea of this trip. I know it will have an impact on the lives of all the participants and no doubt on Two Wheel View as well. Ciao.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cafayate, Argentina

Sunday March 26. It has been a week since we left and quite an eventful one of course. The travel to Argentina was complicated by late flights, weather delays, expired passports (not mine), overnight layovers due to labor disputes, 5am arrival times with 7am departures, 8.5 hour flights, buses through rush hour traffic in Buenos Aires, midnight arrival, 1am camp arrival and 2:30am bedtime. It was a 22.5 hour day with a nap. That is not to mention the bag of bike tools which went missing during travel.
So far so good. Except for Koa who was scrabling in Miami to get his new passport and catch up to us. In the end he did at our campsite the second day out, after dark, after arriving in Salta at 2:30 in the afternoon and riding 45 km to find us on a bicycle that required major overhaul the next morning before it could be ridden further. It was quite a scene when he pulled up, helmet light on, as we were fixing dinner at the camp site and a light rain was falling. Frankly, it was shocking that he had caught us on his bike. We expected he might arrive by bus.
Our first day after the two travel days was spent in Salta, the capitol of the same-named province in the north of Argentina. It is a city of about 650.000 so it is quite busy and dirty with a lot of auto and truck traffic and diesel is clearly (so to speak) the fuel of choice. We had a good day wandering and riding a tram to the top of the big hill for a spectacular view of the beautiful valley in which it lies, with mountains on all sides. We are in the foot hills of the Andes and later days would take us into the real mountains.
Our first day of riding went to Coronel Moldes and we arrived in the late afternoon just in time for happy hour. We rode through country in which much tobacco is grown. Also, there are signs on all the little country stores for coca for sale. Now this could mean more than one thing because Coca Cola is everywhere here but this coca is the leaf which is chewed traditionally by the locals here and is a sore point with the US and our war on drugs. The way it is used in Argentina and Bolivia it is very harmless and many depend on it for their existence economically.
Coronel Moldes is a dusty but charming pueblo with several shops and haciendas and seems to be thriving. We spent some time on the main street watching and greeting school children leaving at the end of the day and again the next morning. We bought dinner and lunches and more dinners as we were headed into country where food and water were in short supply.
The riding was great. Good roads, some traffic near the towns and less as we progressed. We would stop after 1-2 hours of riding for a lunch spread we brought of fruit, cheese, sausage, cookies, crackers, avacados and some other selections. Our second day out, on the road to Alemania we stopped at a goat farm where we found some souvenir maps which show our whole route and some wonderful goat cheese. This was the highlight of the trip for Lee as he has an affinity for goats and has been called the goat man. It was quite an experience.
Alemania has an artesans center in the old RR station and we stopped the next morning to make some purcases. The night before we had bathed in the river, there was no running water. We had a terrific time that night around a fire sharing stories and truly enjoying each others company. When I have a little more time I will probably say more about individuals and some other details or how the trip is organized and run by Rick McFerrin. For now, suffice to say, he really knows what he is doing and those of you who have contributed to Two Wheel View have invested well.
Our next day out was hot and windy and we stopped at ``the devils throat´` natural feature. We filled our water bag and went to a remote campsite beside a river where the wind howled all night long and tried to blow a tent away the next morning.
Yesterday we rode to Cafayate and arrived around lunch time. We explored the town square and went out to dinner at a great wine bar/pizzeria. Wine is a very big thing in this valley and it is everywhere. There many vinyards and artesans as well. It is a very family oriented town, as is the case in Latin cultures. It was quite a scene this morning to see the families with happy, energetic children pouring out of the cathedral on the main square after mass. The sidewalks were filled with bicycles which is a very common means of transportation here, and they crossed the street to vendors of candy and cotton candy and other treats and spilled on to the streets and into the video game stores.
Today is an off day to wander in Cafayate and enjoy the warm weather, buy some local items and prepare for tonights barbeque back at the camp ground.
This has been a trip filled with great experiences already. Challenges and learning from someone as experienced as Rick at this type of travel. It is exhilirating and challenging and really worthwhile.
More later. Ciao.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Packing for Argentina

March 18. We spent the day meeting each other, the eight of us (plus one more who will join us in Miami), who will be making this great biking trip to the northwest of Argentina. We picked our bikes and got them in riding order in the morning and took a break for lunch at Acadia, near the Two Wheel View offices in Minneapolis.
I am not taking Silver, my trusty touring bike which carried me across the U.S. last summer because a mountain bike configuration is better for this trip. I have some regrets about that because Silver and I became quite attached last summer. But he understands and this way he will not get all beat up travelling in several different airline baggage compartments to get to Salta, Argentina where we start the trip.
After lunch it was group activities for an hour to get to know each other better and then serious packing. Packing for a group expedition is much different than packing for a solo expedition. We need to coordinate everything and get everything into the packs we will be carrying on the bike for the trip because there is no leaving extra luggage to pick up on the return. On this trip we never see the same place twice until we are back in Miami.
After packing we all gathered along with spouses and some other supporters of Two Wheel View to feast on pizza and sip a few brews at Pizza Luce. P.L. has been a supporter of TWV and they donated everything to the cause. Needless to say, left a nice tip. Thanks Pizza Luce. Everybody, stop in for a pizza. It is great.
Tomorrow we are off. Yesterday Rick McFerrin, our peerless leader and founder of Two Wheel View, learned that our flight out of Miami had been change from 8pm to 5am the next day. So, we will spend a night in Miami and then miss our connection in Buenos Aires so we will spend a night there before we fly to Salta, Argentina. So the adventure begins and already some unforeseen circumstances to deal with. It should be interesting.
I will have occassional internet access on the trip and will update the blog periodically as we travel.
Thanks again to all who contributed to TWV for this fund raising trip. We made our goal and more kids will be able to make an international biking trip that will open their eyes and change their life. All who contributed are a part of that. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I am raising some money for kids to bike

January 10, 2006

Dear Friends, Family, Biking mates and other hangers-on,

I am off on another little biking adventure. And my goal this time is to raise some money so a lucky young person can make a trip just like it. I am raising funds for Two Wheel View, the local affiliate of Trips For Kids. Two Wheel View is an organization which provides cycling opportunities for kids who otherwise may not have the wherewithal to do it. They do local rides in the Twin Cities area and much more ambitious international and regional trips. They have taken groups to the Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota, Spain, Norway and Argentina. Check out the details at

It is the Argentina trip which I will have the good fortune to make as well. We leave March 19 and return April 2. We duplicate the route from Salta to Tucuman which a group of young people and leaders made last summer. You can also see the details of my trip at

Two Wheel View is headed up by Rick McFerrin who, along with his wife Tanya, made a round the world bike trip from 1998-2000. They then founded TWV so that they could share their love of cycling, discovery and the environment with others. Check out the mission and history of TWV at

TWV is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. All contributions are fully tax deductible.

Be sure to indicate that your contribution is on my behalf: Gary Fifield

Check: Mail contributions to: Two Wheel View, P.O. Box 40084, St. Paul, MN 55104. Make checks payable to 'Two Wheel View'

Credit card: (Please note, TWV is a small operation. Rick is the only one who answers the phone and he is out of the country until Feb. 7. You can do credit card contributions after that date.) Call 1-866-858-2453.

Cash: No can do.
For questions contact You will receive a receipt for your contribution.

I want thank you all for your support and interest. My experience crossing the country on a bicycle last summer has convinced me even more of the value of cycling for travel, enjoyment, fitness, and the environment. Giving young people the opportunity to enjoy such a magnificent experience is a great gift. Please help by sending a contribution whether small or large (do not be afraid of large). Thank you. Gary.