Bariloche, Argentina

A quick update from a hostel on the 10th floor of an apartment building (I tried to remember the last time I rode an elevator…). Having been mostly camping for free by the sides of rivers lately, once in a while I’ll decide I deserve to sleep indoors. But not because I like beds, in fact, I find my Thermarest superior to most anything else. Just once in a while a shower and Internet is nice. I heard about this hostel from some other cyclists, and it is quite the place with amazing views.

While I walked around town looking for pastries, I enjoyed the nippy weather. I don’t think I’ve been this cold since sometime in Bolivia (or in Chile when hiking with Hawk). Just yesterday I picked up a 16 pound (7kg) duffel bag that I sent ahead from Mendoza. Among other things, I sent my down jacket and a couple wool layers which will be good to have. However, upon strapping it to my bike I asked myself why I have so much junk in the first place. I think I’ll try to ship as much stuff as I can to Buenos Aires and pick it up there. Or maybe I should just throw it out.

Recently, I’ve been noticing some bulges on my rear rim, which mean I can’t brake smoothly, as the bulges lock up the wheel. On gravel or wet pavement this means I skid around and wear out the tire faster than usual. (For cyclists out there reading this, the blue protective layer on the Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB is now showing through, but I’ve read in places that this shouldn’t be a problem… we’ll see.) I took it to a mechanic and was told what I thought would be the case: the rim has opened up, and even if you could bend it back, it is already weakened and not a good idea. So I had to get a new rim, but the mechanic is closed today, so I’ll bike to El Bolson on the old rim and get it replaced tomorrow morning. When I asked what may have caused it, I was told either inflating the tire too much (unlikely), or overloading the bike (You don’t say!). Having gotten it in Trujillo, Peru only (“only”?) 4,000 miles ago, I had hoped it would last until the end, but it did see some of the rougher dirt roads of Peru and Bolivia.

Dear spokes, rims, bottom bracket, pedals, derailleurs, bar end shifters, Ortlieb buckles, mind and body, we got this, we can do it! Don’t fail me now, just 1,600 miles to go.

Well, it is almost noon here, but I still have 8 hours of sunlight (and hopefully not rain) to try and do the 75 mile ride to El Bolson.

San Martin de los Andes, Argentina

Wow! January is over. I must say, I wasn’t looking forward to it too much. After 5 weeks off the bike, the last 2 of which I was recovering from being pretty sick, I knew getting back on the saddle wouldn’t be easy. I did get back into the swing of things eventually, and feel pretty good now.

I’m glad to have finished the 2,000 miles of northwestern Argentina. It wasn’t horrible, it was more of a mental hurdle than anything. When I took off from Salta at the beginning of January, I knew I had over 3,000 miles left, which was a little overwhelming. I was in the upper corner of the map, and Argentina just looked so big. I had many days of long stretches of mostly flat roads that seemed pretty monotonous. I encountered some pretty bad wind (though I know it gets much worse further south!) that made for some pretty miserable days.

Just in the past few days the scenery has changed significantly. No longer are there wide open plains of scrubby plants and sand, but I’m now in Patagonia, in a region known for mountains and forests. I’ve been camping by crystal clear rivers a lot lately which has been very enjoyable. It is the summer vacation season in Argentina so that means this area is really jam packed and roads pretty busy, but I’m not letting it get to me.

From here I head to Bariloche and El Bolson, where I’ll meet up with Greg. We biked big chunks of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru together, and after several months without a regular cycling companion, it will be good to share some more miles on the road. We’ll cross over to Chile and bike a good portion of the Careterra Austral, supposedly a rugged and remote road, which attracts many cyclists.

I’ve done a quick count, and it looks like I have around 1,700 miles left. I’ve traveled about 110 degrees of latitude and have 14 left. For the first time during the last week, I finally caught a taste of the finish line. No longer does it feel that I’m in the middle of a trip, but rather, that the finish line will come around closer than I know it.

If I didn’t update much in January, it was probably because I wasn’t feeling terribly inspired by the trip. I think the next month will be different, but I’ll be on the road a lot and in remote areas, and may be so caught up with enjoying the last few weeks. But I’ll do my best to keep you in the loop, after all, you deserve to experience this portion as much as I do, for having stuck with me along the ride so far.

14,500, 15,000 & 15,500

14500 from Matt Kelly on Vimeo.

15000 from Matt Kelly on Vimeo.

15500 from Matt Kelly on Vimeo.

The videos above were taken near Cafayate, Jachal and Malargüe, respectively.  I’ve still got a week of riding through the desert, then I look forward to being in the wetter, cooler region of Argentina.  The miles are flying by even though some days it really doesn’t seem like it.  I’ll cross into what is considered Patagonia sometime this week.

I’ve run into several Argentine touring cyclists lately.  It seems that aside from the US, more than any other country on this trip, Argentina has the most cyclists travelling within their own country, and especially right now, which is when most people have vacation time.  Heading south is Juan Alberto “Superman” (possibly got this nickname by, among other feats, having completed 49 marathons), who just started a year long trip around Argentina on his 49th birthday.   Emiliano from Mar de Plata is also heading along the same route for the next few weeks.  We rode together a couple of days ago, and though our speeds and schedules differ, I’ll look forward to running in to them again as we all head south.

After four days straight and about 260 miles from Mendoza, I took a day off in Malargüe, a tidy little city with a big tourism industry.  Nearby is a ski resort, but it is the summer here, so all the ski rental stores are shuttered.  The city has a brand new planetarium, last night there was a documentary and then a tutorial on finding different constellations, which is helpful as I don’t know much about the southern stars (or the northern ones for that matter).  So if I get lost and am cycling at night, I can now find the Southern Cross.

Chicago is…

I was looking through some old pictures and I realized that I’m pretty confident that I will be back in Chicago in less than 100 days. That seems so soon!

Chicago is (among many other things)…

Continue reading Chicago is…

Shave and haircut

Shave and a haircut from Matt Kelly on Vimeo.

Exactly one year since I trimmed down my beard to the smallest setting using an electric buzzer (so it wasn’t quite starting from scratch). This time I got it done using an old-fashioned razor.

Photo Competition Entries

Adventure Cycling Association, an organization dedicated to promoting travel by bicycle, is holding their 2nd annual photography competition. When I passed through Missoula, Montana over a year ago I got to drop in on their offices and spent a little while talking to one of the founders, Greg Siple, which was great.  He biked from Alaska to Argentina almost 40 years ago, his must have been one hundred times the adventure my trip has been.

I’d like your help picking out 5 entries to submit to the contest. The guidelines for their competition state: “We are looking for striking digital images that capture the spirit, wonder and adventure of bicycle touring and travel.”  While I’ve come across some amazing scenery and settings, most of my pictures don’t include anything cycling related (I just happened to get there by bike), but after a year and a half on the road I have a few pictures that might be worth entering, mostly of other cyclists I’ve biked with at some point.  Last year’s winners can be seen in here [PDF].

Here they are, in no particular order (actually, they are in reverse chronological order).

[UPDATE Jan 2nd:  I ended up submitting pictures 1, 3, 5, 11, 14, though in slightly different versions because of the resolution that was required in the competition (ie I had to zoom out of some of them so the resolution would be high enough).  I'll update you guys as soon as I know the results of the competition.  Thanks all for your input]

Continue reading Photo Competition Entries