Two Years Later

Two years ago today I woke up in the very southern city of Ushuaia. For the first time in nearly 21 months, I wouldn’t be making progress towards the goal I had set out to reach. I was underwhelmed upon completing the trip, if not somewhat despondent. Everything my life had revolved around the previous 17,500 miles – the comforting routines, the solitude, the company of other cyclists, the open sky – was all of a sudden over.

And so the past two years has been a new adventure in continuing down the path life. I’m grateful for the friends and family who have been supportive while I re-enter back into ‘real life’ (and I still feel I’m re-entering!). I am doing my best to approach and enjoy things one day at a time, something that was much easier to do on my bike trip.

A novel little bit of photographic evidence of my journey can be found on Google Streetview. While leaving Dawson City, Yukon with fellow cyclist Baptiste, passing defunct mining equipment and mounds of tailings, I saw the Google car with cameras mounted on top drive by. Of course I was surprised to see them in a rather remote part of the world, and wondered if they had recorded me. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I remembered to check and inch through the Streetview to find myself (due to the timing, I don’t think Baptiste was recorded, he was always a ways up the road). Though memories fade, pictures like this vividly bring back moments:


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REI Blog

It is now January 12th and we are finally getting some real snow here in Chicago. The forecast says 4-8″, which is more than I’ve seen in the last 30 months combined, so I’m excited.

Steve, an editor at the REI Blog, interviewed me and the blog post just went up yesterday. Check it out! We’ll be doing a live Q&A later this afternoon at 3PM Pacific on REI’s Facebook page, hope to see you there!

Final Observations

Final Observations from Matt Kelly on Vimeo.

Anyone visit here anymore? I’ve titled this video Final Observations in keeping with the names I gave the other videos I started putting together in Central America. The scenes are all from Peru and Bolivia, which to me was the high point of the trip, both because of the mountains and the great cycling to be had. After Bolivia came Argentina and Chile, but I don’t know if I’ll be making a video from there.  However, I have spent a while sorting though and editing a bunch of pictures from the last few months of my trip, I’ll be adding those here soon.

Since I last updated about 5 months ago, needless to say, I’ve been living a life much less transient than the previous two years.  I live on the north side of Chicago and work part-time at REI in Northbrook and more often than not commute the 28 miles round trip on bike, though sometimes I take the Metra for part of the way. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about life of touring the bike. I often remind myself how much I missed Chicago, but I also am still getting used to being here after being gone so long. Bike travel is still on my mind, but it will be a while before I can save up and go on another extended trip.  For now I content myself with long rides in the Chicago area and Wisconsin. But I miss the mountains very, very much!

A few days after my interview on WTTW, a political science professor from DePaul University here in Chicago got in touch with me.  Dr. Harry Wray has taught a class called Biking and Politics for the last 10 years, and asked if I would talk to his class this fall. His class focuses on the place of biking in a city like Chicago, and he takes students on trips every week to experience different aspects the city. I’ll be joining his class this Friday at 3pm to tell his students about my trip.  It is open to the public, so folks in Chicago are welcome to come.

[EDIT Oct. 5]

I’d like to share this video that has had over 2 million views online, coincidentally, it was uploaded to YouTube the same time I posted my video a week ago. A song with verses that speak of the people and places of Latin America, and a chorus that reminds us that the most important things in life cannot be bought. And an opening scene set in some very Peruvian mountains.

My 15 minutes?

In case you missed it the other night, here is a link to my interview with Phil Ponce on Chicago Tonight. I was contacted by them and was asked if I wanted to come in for a segment.  This being WTTW and a great show, I thought it too good an opportunity to turn down.

So there you are!  Many thanks to Chicago Tonight for having me!

Estado de Mexico, Mexico

Hola! A week ago I flew in to Mexico City and have spent my time here hanging out with my parents and friends. I also had the chance to bring my map and pictures in to my old grade school and talk to a 6th grade English class and a 7th grade geography class.
During the next week or two I’ll be making my way back to Chicago… you’re guess is as good as mine as to when I’ll show up in the Windy City!
See you soon!

Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina

A little bit of an update from the capital of Argentina about what I’ve been up to the past week.

Last week, about 30 miles from Ushuaia, I ran into some cyclists, but not just any cyclists!  Over three years ago I had been reading a handful of blogs of folks biking or going to bike from Alaska to Argentina, including the Vogel family.  They set off in the summer of 2008, and I had been in touch with them a few times, and let them know I’d be leaving a year later in 2009, and wouldn’t it be cool if I caught up with them, since they were planning on taking a year longer than I was.  (I actually met them in Mendoza when I took a bus to meet Hawk, but since that was on a bike I don’t think it really counted.)  But sure enough, on the last day of our trips, I caught up to them and rode with them for a while.  Their two sons, Davy and Daryl, both 13, are now the youngest to cycle the length of the Americas, so congrats to them.

As I rolled past the ‘finish line’, the entrance into Ushuaia, and I had an unexpected welcome committee of sorts.  Susana and her husband Antonio, who head the local cycling club had heard about the Vogel family and wanted to be there to greet them.  But since I got there first, they kindly offered to bike with me to the campsite, and gave me a quick tour of the city.  They invited me over to their house for mate the next day, and so I came over.  I came back the day after, and they helped me find a bike box.  By the third day they offered to make a big lunch, and I certainly didn’t want to miss that (Antonio works at a gourmet restaurant!).  So all in all we spent hours around the table, chatting about life in Ushuaia and Chicago, and a lot about bikes.  On Friday they even took me to the airport.  So, I had arrived in Ushuaia only thinking of it as the end point, and that my trip was over, but in reality I met yet even more wonderful people and was truly sad to say goodbye.

I’ve been in Buenos Aires for a few days now, and have spent most of my time walking around town and riding the Subte metro system.  I used to be a pretty good city walker, but I think I’ve lost my touch, having run into a few pedestrians and even a cyclist.  After months in wide open spaces, I’m having to get used to the feeling of being trapped in the streets with highrises all over, unable to see the horizon.

Tomorrow I fly back to Mexico and will get to see my parents.   They bid me farewell in June of 2009 somewhere outside of Portland, when Luke and I set off on out bike trip to Seattle (we didn’t make it anywhere near Seattle but that is a different story).  I am eagerly anticipating being back, and of course, enjoying some home baked treats.  After some time with them, I’ll be making my way back to Chicago, but the exact details are being kept a surprise!

Hope to see you all soon!