Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Anyone who claims to be glad they are glad they didn't grow up with a television must be lying - we have been waiting for mail and watching tv for three days straight in Puerto Montt and it has been GLORIOUS. We also saw Rocky Six the first night and shadowboxed the whole way back to the apartment. Total elation.

Tonite we will take a bus up to Santiago to gameplan the next stage of the trip and try to replace some broken parts. Everybody is probably 85% happy, especially Matt who shaved a very handsome goatee. Puerto Montt is a compelling mix of dirty and commercial - the mall has three stories of glass and you'd swear you were in Maryland if everyone wasn't speaking spanish. They have Pizza Hut in the Food Court; very exciting. Not sure how to feel about giving in to comfort food. Probably the same way Italians feel when they go to the Olive Garden while travelling in the states. They have Olive Garden in Italy, right? Maybe not.

Last night Harris made some of the most delicious fish I have ever eaten. We also managed to stop kicking each other in the queen bed we have been sharing. The first night he boxed me out while we were both asleep but I had my retribution last night in stealing the comforter.

Right now a bunch of long-hairs are covering Pink Floyd with pan flutes in the main square and the happiness factor might be jumping up to 90%. Pretty soon we will be in the desert getting our gums sunburned but for now it is all cable tv, comfortable bus seats, and chocolate milk. Moby Dick is waaaaaaaaaay longer than I thought it would be but I still love it. Big hellos and many thanks to Molly Petri and Matt Farrell for all the advice along the way, both aesthetic and practical.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bumpy Rides

Hopefully the roads will be better from here on out. There is no telling what´s going to happen in Bolivia but the thinking is it can´t get any worse. Only higher. Like 12000 feet higher. We just finished up the Carretera Austral, about 600 miles of gravel that was stunningly beautiful but pretty hard on contact points between (wo)man and machine...they are actually in the process of paving the whole thing, occasionally throwing backhoes and earth movers into the mix of things to avoid. Check out Thea and Harris carrying a bike up a horse track at the Argentinean border as we rushed for a ferry, Harris pushing it out through the mud after a big rain, and a CP team rider taking a digger as a Guns N Roses obsessed tractor driver blows past.


We´re down to zero tires and zero tubes. Ben has a hole the size of a ping pong ball in his rear tire (currently patched by a piece of leather) and if we pop another tube we might be thumbing. The issue is wheel size. Ben and Thea are taller than average and have larger, road bike sized wheels. Nobody rides road bike wheels in South America. We knew finding replacement tires for the big wheels would be a problem but we brought them anyway. This is because we are Americans and it is our right, some might even say our duty, to do whatever we want wherever we want at all times. This begs the question; is it possible to ride a culturally insensitive bicycle? Or is it possible for an entire nation to be mechanically biased against tallies? Should we feel guilty, or slighted, or both?

Not Quite the Golden Gate....

Party Time

This party was moving. It began waking up on the floor of a house full of evangelical posters and bible verses, an exchange of fake addresses, a short ride down a chilly river valley, a nice campsite by the river. In the middle fishing line, bait, a beach ball, and some documents changed hands. It ended with a large glass bottle labeled ¨Breeder´s Choice.¨ The balloons only last a day but the memories just keep on coming back.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lost But Not Forgotten

once again it is time to update the blog and once again we feel outmatched by the tour de force that is excellent use of the term "bangarang" in a recent post, although we would have liked a nuanced discussion of serifs in the font-themed update. some of us have very strong opinions as to whether or not there should be little marks coming off letters. we'll save that discussion for another blog update.

before we get to the heart of this post, we'd like to address the clamoring of our rather large fan base (by 'rather large' we really mean the six of you who read this...). many of you have requested that we put a map up on the blog so that our friends back home can chart our progress through south america. we believe this is an excellent idea and would love to have a finely detailed map of the continent with some sort of line charting our progress. you would be able to see the cities we go through, the distance we are making, the sites we are seeing; in short, it would be revolutionary. nevertheless, this is going to be one of those things that just won't pan out. we have no clue how to do such a thing. our high tech blog with beautiful, digital pictures actually belies an utter incompetence with most things technological. putting a map up would probably mean something with a pdf file (or would it be a jpeg file) and we wouldn't even know where to begin to even start drawing the line on this hypothetical map. we apologize.

to compensate for the lack of a map, we'll give a few good search words for those of you who would really like to track our progess. we are currently in coyhaique, a bustling metropolis compared to some of the "towns" that we've been passing through lately. it's been pretty bleak the past 800ish kilometers. you know that you've been going through some pretty remote country when you see the hostel owner from villa o'higgins (a town about 600km south of coyhaique) here in town with his truck stocking up on supplies before he makes the 10 hour journey back to the middle of nowhere. we're on the carretera austral in chile and if you google image search those words you'll get a pretty good sense of the scenery we've been blowing through. it's "highly recommendable" (as one of our many road friends likes to say) to check out some pictures. another great search would be for caleta tortel, this amazing little city that was mentioned briefly in the last post.

it's now time for the real meat of this post. the heart of this update is our final homage to albert, stage name ice-t (friends call him Cop Killa though), the beloved dog who literally ran behind us for 130 kilometers from caleta tortel to cochrane and emerged without the slightest limp. he's a lot tougher than us, that's for sure. as you can tell from the picture, ice is a beautiful specimen and, had he not been born to the mean streets of patagonia, we're fairly certain that this divine, purebred creature would be kicking butt at the westminster right now. instead, ice t is wandering the lonely streets of cochrane, hopefully making stray dog friends in his new home. as tempted as we were to buy/build some sort of contraption to carry ice all the way to venezuela and forge "papers" for him so that he could cross borders, we ultimately decided that having a fifth member of the trip (let alone a fifth member who couldn't carry panniers) was something that just wasn't going to prove sustainable. unfortunately, we had to ditch ice-t in cochrane by splitting up in different directions and biking like madmen the moment ice got distracted. it was quite sad but we could not dwell on the loss for we had to get the hell out of town before ice got a hold of our scent (and believe you me, we definitely have a scent going). as hard as it was to say goodbye, ice will forever live in our memories and we wish him the best of luck foraging for scraps of food and rummaging through garbage with his new friends in cochrane.

Ice-T, thank you and good luck.

finally, this blog update would not be complete without a HUGE, patagonian shout out to grandma mary jane who is hopefully reading this post on her new dell laptop. grandma, everybody (mostly me and ben too) misses you and hopes that you're holding down the fort in napa. everyone says hi and hopes that you are enjoying your new toy.

that's it. more updates to come. we're almost out of patagonia so hopefully future updates will deal with potentially hazardous cultural misunderstandings and bouts of food poisoning instead of monotonous scenes of pastoral beauty. we miss everyone and hope this note finds you well.

team cp

(We have a ton of pictures of Ice-t but right now the internet is outsmarting us. We'll put them up later, have no fear)

Reader Responses

Dear blog readers,

I know that this whole blog thing can sometimes feel like a pretty one-sided relationship, with us posting to the blog and you all reading it. "Where´s the give and take?" you ask, "Where´s the interactivity for which the webternet is so prized?" Well, here it is, friends. Out of the hundreds of questions that have been sent to I wanted to take a minute to answer a couple of them.

Uncle Stanley of Toronto, Canada writes: "You have mentioned a number of alcoholic beverages in your blog entries, but you have not mentioned the world renowned Chilean wines. Have you enjoyed any wine on your trip?"

Funny you should ask, Uncle Stanley, we actually have enjoyed quite a bit of fine Chilean wine in the last month. Although I wouldn´t call us connosieurs, we are certainly hoping to aquire that title by the time we leave Chile. The wine culture in Chile is much humbler and more down to earth then its American counterpart. Although Chile exports much of its wine to markets around the world, the very best wine is kept here and is served in a simple container, which preserves its fundamental essence much better then the bottles that are used in America and Europe. The name for this vessel has no direct English equivalent, but in rough approximation it resmebles what we know of as a box. Unlike in America with the plethora of varietals that no one can quite sort out, there are only two types of wine in Chile, Vino Tinto and Vino Blanco. Vino Tinto is something like a cabernet sauvignon, merlot, shiraz, or even a pinot noir, depending on the "box," whereas Vino Blanco is more similar to a chardonnay, pinot grigio, or sauterne, once again depending on the vintage and the batch. We have spent many nights enjoying the subtle, complex flavours and aromas of this "boxed wine" and have had no excess of early mornings as a result. Thanks for the question, Uncle Stantley!

A common thread that has run through many readers comments in varied forms is the question, "How has our time spent in South America changed us?"

Although I can not do justice to the varied personal transformations of each member of the group, I can safely say that our time down here has served as a thigh-expanding experience. In just a month down here we´ve gained so much, and not just in our thighs. Our calves and gluts have grown too. Every day there´s a novel experience pushing us outside the bounds of our traditional "comfort-zone," whether that experience is a gravel road with a 15% grade, or a 10km ascent on pavement, I feel that each is an equally important, valid thigh-expanding experience. At the same time as we are gaining so much, we are also being constnantly lightened. Matt has been lightened so much, it seems that he may return to the US as a totally different person. And as we move into Bolivia sometime during the next several weeks, I can only imagine that the diverse cultural and sanitary practices of that part of the world will continue to lighten us. Keep the questions coming!

Team CP

Eating Right

Is more important than we realized. Matt demonstrates the proper technique for protein aquisition here - one part Cocoa Crispies, two parts powdered milk.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hello Internet Friends,

It has been a while. New things have come to light. Our legs and shoulders are a lot bigger and we all showered for the first time in a week this morning. Not bathing regularly isn´t really a big deal if everybody else you are with stinks too, right? Maybe?

We are now in Cochrane taking a rest morning and tuning up our bikes. The roads here from El Calafate were pretty hairy but everything except our bags and a tire made it through in fine form. Our first few days out of El Calafate were almost idyllic, the last stretch of big open mountain vistas much like the American West. Our next stop after two days of riding was El Chalten, a tenuous little mountain community the serves as the launching point for many serious mountaineers who climb the Fitz Roy…Most of them were French and had bigger scars, beards, and gear than the four of us combined. It was probably our favorite town so far…dusty roads, cheap food, and tons of stray dogs.

On Tuesday we raced against a ridiculous headwind to make the first of two ferries…we barely made it the 40 km in time only to discover that the boat was delayed until the next morning because of big winds, leaving us only four hours the next day to make it to the next ferry which only ran twice a week. Disembarking the next morning we found ourselves sometimes pushing, sometimes physically carrying our bikes up a washed out horsetrack of five kilometres followed by a rocky descent that we often had to walk as well. For a while it was two people per bike trying to get through the rutted trail. Tensions ran high when the video camera came out. Expletives were used frequently. Two bags were torn and there was blood and mud and all over our legs. Know this; we felt incredibly tough. That is until we realized the Spanish bikers in front of us had done the trail in half the time with no problems. Then we felt like rodeo clowns at a real cowboys´ convention; awkward, and only a little emasculated.

Anyway, the second ferry was delayed as well so we camped out on a big bluff right next to slaughtering yard and ate fresh raspberries and had a mild crisis when we tried to buy bread from a nice old farm lady who claimed not to remember that we had already paid for the bread we bought from her. Harris was confused and Bull refused to get involved and Ben thought about taking the photo of her father that hung above their fireplace and selling it on Ebay as retribution but then was overcome with wracking guilt that he would ever think about stealing a senile old woman´s only memento of her dead father out of some petty sense of moral outrage at being conned out of three dollars. Thea just talked to the woman and cleared it all up – she really had forgotten. Things were very exciting. Then we got on the ferry to Villa O´Higgins and everybody got sunburned.

That was about three days ago. From O´Higgins we started the Carretera Austral, a 1100 km gravel rode that connects up to Puerto Montt. Because it basically dead ends in Villa O´Higgins (there is no car ferry or other outlet for vehicle traffic) it is popular with cyclists and we have been meeting about as many people on bikes as in cars. The road is very lush, green, some might even say resplendent with big forests and snow capped mountains. Sometimes packs of horses run alongside us through the trees as we trundle along on our silly little mechanical contraptions. There are waterfalls. It is pretty much eye candy for arborists and lifestyle junkies.

And it has been raining a lot, and kind of cold. One day after a rain shower we were riding along this lake and suddenly there were thousands of dragonflies all over the road, swarming up as we passed and hitting us in the face and arms. Have you ever been to the park in San Francisco on a Sunday and seen all the people and their dogs running around and conversing and wondered whose birthday it is, for surely for all these dogs to be in one place they must be having a dog birthday party? Well, this was a dragonfly birthday party and we were invited. Some of them had been killed by passing trucks or other natural causes and so it might have been a dragonfly funeral, but really these things are much easier to think about in terms of birthdays.

And we have a dog. He followed us 110 km from this tiny logging town called Tortel. He only ate three hardboiled eggs and a can of tuna the whole way and is a complete hard-ass in every sense of the term, except of course the way he affectionately sleeps next to our bicycles at night and follows us all around town and even licks your fingers if you have jelly or tuna water on them. His name is Albert but his stage name is Ice-T. We will leave him in town here because even though it was an amazing thing (is it feet? or feat?) for him to run 60 miles his paws would wear out on the roads and besides, stray dogs are meant to sleep in parks and play with other dogs and trade parasites and what not. But he is our friend and we love him for being so sweet and tough. Tonite we will ride in a big group and he will follow us and when we get to an intersection we will each go a different direction and hopefully he will be confused and sad as to why we abandoned him but will soon resign himself to the noble matter of chasing as many cars each day as he possibly can. If he continues to follow one of us we will tie him to a tree with a note on his rope asking a kind passerby to release him in approximately one hour. No just kidding that would be incredibly risky and cruel. We´ll figure something out. Maybe he will come to Caracas with us.

Tortel, as a side note to the awesomeness of Ice-T, is this crazy little logging town built right onto the a rocky sea cliff that has no roads, only this intricate string of cypress-wood walkways by which everybody gets around. It was pretty amazing to see and we had this ridiculous campsite on a big sort of wood veranda. But it rained a lot so spirits were a little low, though luckily camping on a wood deck is sort of like sleeping on a slotted spoon – all the water drains off and the thing you want to keep (our tents, bikes, and mortal vessels) stay on top, ready to be served up for yet another day of riding bicycles.

Everybody check out for a laugh. Many thanks to Albert for taking the time out of his busy work schedule (from which he has a steady income, health, and maybe even dental) to parody our travels. Feel free to contribute your own comic…most of them have actually been incredibly true to life. Everybody who has taken the time to make fun of us so far...THANK YOU. You are awesome. We miss all of you a ton.

Bull topping out on a big pass

The Muse taking a dip in El Chalten

1000 km party

Things were a little crazy at the 1000 km party...hard rolls with cucumber and chamois butter were served alongside mustard sandwiches and piscolas. Thea pulled some balloons out of her panniers and everyone lost their minds. Matt missed out...he was hitchhiking to town with rumbly insides and a serious case of the chills. We poured some out for him and did a couple balloon punches in his honor. Harris demonstrates here.

Throwing up six shooters at Perito Mereno

We payed ten bucks for a boatride when what we really wanted was a couple of six shooters to pot-shot the ice...

Our Best Campsite Yet