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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 29 - November 4, 2003


Cyclists on trek from Alaska to Argentina

Express Staff Writer

"I was interested in doing something a bit different," said 29-year-old London resident Beth Cheesebrough about planning her current vacation. So, she and partner Jeremy Evershed decided to ride mountain bikes from Fairbanks to Buenos Aires.

The couple stopped for breakfast at Perry’s restaurant in Ketchum last week on their year-long, 12,000-mile journey south. (In case you’ve ever wondered how far Perry’s is from Fairbanks, it’s 3,128.2 miles, counting a few scenic detours.)

Cheesebrough got the idea from a Canadian cyclist named Karl whom she had met years earlier while trekking in Tibet.

"He was catching up to me on his bike, peddling over the big rocks at 5,000 meters," she said.

Cheesebrough and Evershed are, comparatively, wimps. When Karl got to Argentina from Alaska, he turned around and rode back.

The British couple are going only one way. It’s not that they’re so into long-distance cycling, they explained, but that they wanted to see this hemisphere, and figured that biking would be a nice way to do it. In fact, neither had done much biking at all until they hopped on their new Specialized bikes in Fairbanks. Evershed learned a bit about bike repair just before they left England, and got some advice on what accessories to buy.

They started out on July 28, riding through Alaska in the rain.

"Initially, the big enjoyment was just not working," Evershed said. Back in Britain, both he and Cheesebrough had put in long overtime hours to pay for their upcoming trip. He works as a land-use planner and she as a pediatrician.

Their route has taken them to Dawson and Whitehorse in the Yukon; Watson Lake and Prince George, B.C.; then Banff, Alberta, down to Missoula, Mont. From there they rode to Challis. At that point, it was decision time. Which should it be—Arco or Sun Valley? Fortunately, they chose Sun Valley.

"I wanted to see the Sawtooth Mountains," Cheesebrough said. "I think all mountains are beautiful, and they don’t have to be very big."

After a night at the North Fork campground, they stopped in town for a hearty breakfast before heading toward Twin Falls, Las Vegas, Baja California, Central America, Venezuela, Brazil and, finally, the Argentine pampas.

The one break they will get from their bikes will be the Darien Gap in southern Panama, where there is no road. They will take a boat or plane from there to Caracas, Venezuela, a move that will also allow them to bypass northern Colombia, where eight foreign tourists were kidnapped by leftist guerillas in September.

On their trip so far, the couple have exalted at dramatic scenery, been touched by people’s hospitality and met other adventure travelers. In fact, talking to the two, one gets the impression that the highways are practically jammed with border-busting cyclists. Bikers they have met on this trip include:

  • A couple heading north through the Yukon from Tierra del Fuego. They had been out a year and a half.

  • A guy riding solo down the Alaska Highway. Nothing too special about that, except that this guy had one arm and one leg.

  • A man in Missoula who had started on his recumbent bike in Alabama and whose itinerary was to ride through all 50 states on a budget of $1 a day. He had been out two and a half years, and was eating in homeless shelters whenever possible.

Mechanical problems have been few—limited, really, to some snapped spokes on Evershed’s rear wheel. That was probably due to the weight he’s carrying—120 pounds for bike and gear, determined at a truck weigh station in B.C. He’s also had about 15 flats—most since they rode into the United States. As soon as they crossed the border, he said, they noticed a lot more broken glass along the highways than they had in Canada.

The bikes carry small, handlebar-mounted computers that tell speed, daily distance and total distance. They’re using tires that are slick in the middle for highway riding, but have knobs along the edges that add traction on dirt and gravel.

Their pedals have a cleat on one side and a basic pedal grip on the other. That way their knees can get a bit of a break without the pull stroke.

The niftiest gizmo is probably Evershed’s air horn, which is on his handlebars and connected to a plastic bottle with a pump, but detachable when needed.

"It scares off dogs and bears and whatnot," he said. "Just as they get close you send off a big blast and it really sends them running."

They had one encounter with a grizzly bear. As they were riding through Kootenay National Park in B.C., they spotted the bear moseying along the far side of a river that ran parallel to the highway.

"We had a false sense of safety, and then it just crossed the river in a moment," Evershed said. "It started to get a little bit huffy because it wanted to cross the road and there were cars around."

A man in a pickup truck offered to let them follow close behind as they carefully rode around the bear.

It’s probably not the dangers that would cause most people to forego such a trip as much as the relentless pedaling, pedaling, pedaling. The couple are averaging 50 miles a day, five days a week. Hasn’t there been at least one day when they wished they had never started?

No, they said, not one.

Are they aware of how horribly barren and bleak and long and boring it is between Bellevue and Las Vegas?

"That was part of the appeal," Cheesebrough said.

"It adds to the variety," Evershed said.

Who knows—with an attitude like that, by next July they just might be dancing the tango.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.