A year on the road | Un año en el camino

[español mas abajo]

Dear family, friends and fellow cyclists,

A year ago this evening I boarded a plane in Seattle, spent the night in the Fairbanks airport, then flew to Deadhorse, located on the Arctic Ocean in Prudhoe Bay. Here I put my bike together and departed on the first day of this journey. That makes today my 365th day on the road, where I am currently in Colombia, a few days north of the Ecuador border.

A few numbers. My odometer is at about 10,300 miles, though the actual distance travelled while making forward progress (which doesn’t include backtracking or biking done around cities on rest days) is about 10,000 miles. As the crow flies, I’m 5,650 miles from where I started. I’ve covered 68 degrees of latitude. Out of the past year, I’ve been on the bike making progress down the road 205 days, giving an average of 49 miles for my typical day on the bike. The furthest I biked in one day was 85 miles, from the end of the Dalton Hwy into Fairbanks. The most pedaled in one month was July of 2009, over 1,400 miles. October 2009 was the last month I biked over 1,000 miles, since then my pace has slowed significantly as I have not been racing against winter.

I spent a week or more off the bike in the following places: a train trip in the Copper Canyons; Mexico City and Guadalajara over Christmas and New Year’s; Morelia getting over food poisoning and waiting for rain to stop; San Cristobal de las Casas indulging in French pastries; Antigua during Holy Week; and boat travel between Granada, Nicaragua and Los Chiles, Costa Rica.

Depending on when you last saw me, I could be up to 45 pounds lighter (I currently weigh in at 175 lbs). I’ve replaced my drive train (chain and rear cassette) twice, in British Columbia and Guadalajara. I started off the trip with two new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, have replaced one of them with a Marathon XR. I stopped counting flat tires; although this is a handy number to evaluate tire quality, it is something I try not to think about.

My route has gone through 10 countries: USA (Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho for 3 miles, Utah, Arizona), Canada (Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta), Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia. I’ve crossed the Continental Divide (the imaginary line between the watersheds of the Pacific and the Arctic/Antlantic/Carribean) over a dozen times, although these haven’t always been the most difficult passes nor the highest in elevation. The highest elevation I have reached is about 10,000 feet, in Utah, again in Michoacan, Mexico, and once again in Guatemala (this number will soon be broken as I head further into the Andes in the coming days). The coldest night was about 10 F, just south of the Grand Canyon (needless to say, the water bottle in my tent was frozen in the morning).

I have been assisted for short rides in vehicles when the situation dictated (road construction or through a highway tunnel), but the only real break in the route was 40 miles in the Tehuantepec isthmus where the winds blew me off the road and I decided it was too unsafe to cycle through. Boat travel has included short ferry rides across rivers, and longer trips across Lake Atitlan, Lake Nicaragua and from Portobelo, Panama to Turbo, Colombia (to get around the Darien Gap).

Beyond these numbers though, summarizing the experience of the past year in a few paragraphs is an impossible task. For me the thought of miles covered in more than a few days down the road ahead can often be overwhelming. As I tell people, “Just one day at a time”. It is just as difficult to look back on a year of cycling and make sense of the distance covered.

Without a doubt the people I have met along the way comes to mind as an explanation for getting this far. At some point in the last couple years you’ve offered encouragement and advice as I planned the trip; given me shelter and fed me; left a comment on my blog; or accompanied me on the road. For all this, a hearfelt thank you! I truly would not have made it past the first week without the support I have received.

So what lies ahead? I expect to travel through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina over the next 6 or 7 months, and get to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Tierra del Fuego. There are plenty of questions and challenges ahead. Will my knees survive several hundred thousand more feet of climbing up hills? Will my will to keep going succumb to another bout of homesickness or bad weather? Will my bike put up with the inevitable wear and tear to come? Where will I find gainful employment when the trip is done? For now I’ll try not to worry about this and just keep on, one day at a time.

All the best,


PS Keep up with the latest updates of my trip at http://pedalpanam.com


Querida familia, amigos y ciclistas;

Hace un año esta tarde aborde un avion en Seattle, pase la noche en el aeropuerto de Fairbanks, y despues vole a Deadhorse, ubicado en el Oceano Artico en la Bahia de Prudhoe. Aqui arme mi bicicleta y empeze el primer dia de mi viaje. Hoy es el dia 365 en ruta, actualmente me encuentro en Colombia, a unos dias al norte de la frontera con Ecuador.

Algunos numeros. Mi odometro esta en mas o menos 16,580 km, pero la distancia recorrido es mas bien de 16,100 km (lo que no incluye distancias que no contribuyeron mi avance en el camino). En linea directa estoy a unos 9,100 km de donde empece. He viajado 68 grados de latitud. En el ultimo año he estado avanzando en el camino 205 dias, dando un promedio de 79 km por dia en bici. La distancia mas larga en un dia fue 136 km, entrando a Fairbanks. Lo mas pedaleado en un mes fue julio, mas de 2,250 km. Despues de octubre no he pedaleado mas de 1,600km en un mes, desde entonces no he tenido que estar huyendo de la clima de invierno.

He tomado aventones cortos en vehiculos solo cuando era necesario, pero el lapso mas grande en la ruta fue 65 km en el istmo de Tehuantepec, donde decidi que el viento que me estaba arrojando fuera del camino era demasiado peligroso. Viajes por agua han incluido el cruce de rios en lancha, y distancias mas largas en el Lago de Atitlan, el Lago de Nicaragua, y desde Portobelo, Panama hasta Turbo, Colombia.

He estado una semana o mas sin andar en bici: un viaje en tren a las Barrancas del Cobre; la Ciudad de Mexico y Guadalajara durante las fiestas decembrinas; Morelia recuperando de enfermedad; Antigua, Guatemala durante Semana Santa, y el tiempo entre Granada, Nicaragua y Los Chiles, Costa Rica.

Dependiendo de la ultima vez que me viste, puede ser que peso hasta 20 kgs menos. He reemplazado my cadena y estrellas traseras dos veces, en Canada y Guadalajara. Empeze el viaje con dos llantas Schwalbe Marathon Plus, y he reemplazado uno de ellos. Deje de contar cuantos pinchazos me han tocado.

Mi ruta ha ido por 10 paises: Estados Unidos, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama y Colombia. La elevacion mas alta ha sido de aproximadamente 3,000 m, en Utah, Michoacan y en Guatemala (ire mucho mas alto en los proximos dias continuado por los Andes). La noche mas fria fue en Arizona, de -12 C.

Mas alla de estos numeros, tratar de resumir el ultimo año seria difícil. Simplemente pensar mas de unos dias en el camino puede ser demasiado. Por eso le digo a la gente “Solo un día a la vez”.

Sin duda la gente que he conocido en el camino es la razon de como he llegado tan lejos. En los ultimos 2 años, tu haz dado consejos y apoyo cuando planeaba mi viaje, me has dado comida y posada, has escrito un comentario en mi blog, o me has acompaniado en el camino. Por todo esto, muchas, muchas gracias. De verdad no podría haber ido mas que una semana sin todo el animo que me han dado.

¿Que queda por delante? Espero viajar por Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile y Argentina en los 6 o 7 meses que siguen, hasta llegar a Ushuaia, la ciudad mas al sur en la Tierra del Fuego. Quedan muchas preguntas y retos. ¿Pueden mis rodillas sobrevivir miles de metros mas de subidas? ¿Podrá mi deseo de seguir sobrevivir el mal tiempo y ganas de regresar con amigos y familia? ¿ Podrá mi bicicleta sobrevivir el desgaste? ¿Podre encontrar empleo cuando el viaje termine? Por ahora trato de no preocuparme de esto, al contrario, solo seguir adelante, un día a la vez.

Les deseo todo lo mejor,


PD Sigan las ultimas noticias de mi viaje en http://pedalpanam.com

12 comments to A year on the road | Un año en el camino

  • Michelle Nicolet

    Fantastic, Matt! Keep going! Your persistence and your good spirit are an inspiration and remind me to follow my own dreams. Thanks for the update.

  • Matt! Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment! Keep it up man! God will provide when you get home, just keep taking it one day at a time like you said. You’re truly and inspiration! God Bless!

  • Matt,

    You rock AND roll.

    Heaven on Seven is on me when you return to Chicago. Stay strong and safe.

    Mike Baron

  • Darin


    Happy first anniversary on the road!

    I second the comment that your journey IS inspiring. You remind me to step out, take risks, and try new “stuff” in my own (hemis)sphere. May you know by experience that God continues with you on your journey south.

  • FELICIDADES!!! que padre haberte conocido eh!! ya sabes, si pasas por navojoa de nuevo eres bien recibido en mi humilde hogar!! sigue asi y ten Fé. me saludas a nico nico nicolas! hahaha :D

  • When in Ecuador give me a call my friend, I would like to help you.

    Best regards,

    Luis González-Mena.
    MOVI 092 988918

    elmono enbici.

    "La vida es como la bicicleta, hay que pedalear hacia adelante para no perder el equilibrio”. Albert Einstein

    "Life is like a bicycle," Albert Einstein once said. "To keep your balance you have to keep moving."

  • Tom Schaller

    Wow, I can’t believe you’ve been out there 12 months already man. Really makes me realise how lazy I’ve been this past year! I read through the English part taking the time to convert all the measurements into metric without it occurring to me that you would have already done it for the translation!

    Anyway, all the best for the rest of South America!

  • Laura

    Congratulations on the one year mark Matt!! You are a real inspiration. You are wondering if your knees, determination and bike will hold out. What about your $ ?

    Keep on keeping on!

  • Ruth

    SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Congrats, my friend! Keep on pedaling!

  • Tim King

    When I grow up I don’t want to be President… I want to be Matt Kelly.

  • Juan Francisco


    Thanks for sharing stories of your epic journey to through the Americas. Your stories are fantastic.

    Be safe and godspeed….

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>