The Bike Touring Pages of
On the first of April 1997, I, Chris X Edwards, and April S. Darenkamp began to experience the manifestation of a very interesting personality anomaly. What was that anomaly? Was it the fact that we both enjoy seeing stars more than computer screens (it's true!)? Was it the fact that we actually like being outside? Was it the fact that we were curious about our planet and interested in its mysteries? Was it the fact that we both despised the sickenly predictable lifestyles of the general population? Was it the fact that we would have considered being a rat in a maze to be an upgrade from the typical American life? No. I feel that there are plenty of souls out there who feel the same way we do. Our anomaly - we did something about it.
On that day, we embarked on a great adventure designed to be an excercise in freedom. We didn't really have a specific master plan, but we did prepare very carefully so that we would be able to answer any opportunity that knocked. This meant that we quit our jobs. I sold my house. We sold or gave away a sizable portion of our belongings - the rest was carefully packed into storage. This complete deconstruction of our ordinary lives left us with some money and greatly reduced liabilities. Our intent (the original idea was April's) was to live simply while exploring the world by bicycle.
We had envisioned an extensive journey of unspecified but flexible dimensions. We spent a lot of time and energy preparing for this trip. Our first two weeks were a sensible extension of that preparation as well as the first two weeks of our adventure. During those two weeks, we made a looping tour of southwest Ohio. This is an area we both knew and the only surprises would be how we handled things. These two weeks were very educational and when we returned to Cincinnati, we were able to make a large number of excellent improvements during our rest days there.
Once underway again, we were smarter, stronger, more confident, and heading straight for the point of no return. We headed due north through Ohio and into Michigan. Traversing the two sections of Michigan gave us our first taste of what a really long trip was like; it seemed like we were in Michigan forever. By the time we had reached Minnesota and North Dakota, we were getting stronger and quite efficient. By this time, we also started to get a clear idea of the feasibility of one of our tenative goals - making it to Alaska.
We crossed into Canada and despite very nasty business with mosquitos, we were completely delighted by the Canadians of the plains. By this time, travelling by bike was our job and our lifestyle. We were starting to get comfortable. Canada is a very big place and after riding across much of it, we arrived at the beginning of the Alaska Highway, the Alcan.
At the beginning of the Alcan, some unexpected things began to happen. The fact that the upper realms of Canada were hot and thick with mosquitos was not entirely unexpected, but to what extent was. But the really interesting thing to us was that it turns out that the Alaska Highway is like the Wimbleton of bike touring. Of course, we found it interesting that there actually were other people who had this same crazy idea as us, but the fact that the most serious ones congregated on the Alcan was quite interesting and unexpected.
The practical effect of this was that we traveled our entire journey on the Alcan riding in parallel with an amazing bike touring couple from Switzerland, Susan and Hanspeter, with whom we became very good friends. By the time we got to the Alcan, we were pretty good at our jobs, but Susan and Hanspeter were in a totally different league. They had at least four times as much experience as we did. Their equipment was shockingly excellent. They were extremely versatile (they were speaking their third foreign language of their trip). I was very impressed with their bravery and the fact that although their adventure was clearly outrageous, it was carefully planned and well thought out without a shred of recklessness. But the thing that both April and I found so astonishing was simply their attitude. When it came to the stress of high adventure, these two were as cool as astronauts.
Their relaxed, comfortable attitude was something that we had been badly
lacking. April and I had actually done extremely well as a team, but there
were stressful situations that contributed very slowly to a gereral malaise
of decreasing morale. With the Swiss as our mentors, we really began to
learn some of the finer points of attitude management. By the time we were
ready to raise the white flag on the Alcan, I think that we had ironically
reached a point where we could have kept going. But during some rough times
of heavy mosquitos and physically demanding rides, we had consoled
ourselves with the thought of turning south and looking for someplace a bit
more hospitable. And so upon reaching Whitehorse, we said good-bye to Susan
and Hanspeter and ended the opening act of our great adventure.
The photos are organized onto index pages for easy reference. You can use one of the photo index pages to find a specific photo or you can start at the beginning and work your way through all of the photos in chronological order.
|Photo Index One - 14 February 1997 to 3 April 1997
|Photo Index Two - 5 April 1997 to 11 April 1997
|Photo Index Three - 12 April 1997 to 19 April 1997
|Photo Index Four - 21 April 1997 to 29 April 1997
|Photo Index Five - 29 April 1997 to 9 May 1997
|Photo Index Six - 9 May 1997 to 13 May 1997
|Photo Index Seven - 13 May 1997 to 18 May 1997
|Photo Index Eight - 18 May 1997 to 25 May 1997
|Photo Index Nine - 26 May 1997 to 31 May 1997
|Photo Index Ten - 31 May 1997 to 6 June 1997
|Photo Index Eleven - 6 June (6!) 1997 to 13 June 1997
|Photo Index Twelve - 14 June 1997 to 22 June 1997
|Photo Index Thirteen - 22 June 1997 to 27 June 1997
|Photo Index Fourteen - 27 June 1997 to 1 July 1997
|Photo Index Fifteen - 1 July 1997 to 10 July 1997
|Photo Index Sixteen - 11 July 1997
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|Chris X. Edwards ~ October 2000