Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Portland, Oregon
1973 was quite a turning point for bicycles in America as the May issue of National Geographic carried not one, but two multi-paged spreads on the subject.
The second of the two articles is titled, Backpacking Across Alaska and Canada and featured 12 pages describing how a group of four individuals lived for months in toe clips, slowly making their way, by bicycle, from Anchorage, Alaska, to Missoula, Montana.
The 3,103-mile journey was part of Dan and Lys Burden, Greg and June Siple’s ultimate goal of a 20,000-mile trip beginning in Anchorage and terminating at the southern tip of Argentina, South America.
Sloppy, wheel clogging mud, pessimistic local advice, pothole riddled gravel roads and 50+ pounds of heavy camping supplies, now considered ancient, pulled down on heavily their steel framed bicycles. These were just some of the numerous challenges encountered by the crew as they bravely pioneered their way down the west coast. Unexpected events inevitably cropped up withing the article. Problems such as frame failure (which was welded back together in a small down) and a robbery in which bandits stole spare bike parts, specialized tools, film, cooking utensils, a week’s worth of food and even their dirty dishes. Supple pavement, that we have come to expect in this era, came at a premium during those early days of bicycle touring. Coarse gravel, loosely packed was found treacherous at first, “like negotiating a sand beach littered with golf balls.” Luckily, only one serious spill occurred causing painful scrapes and a black eye. However, “after several days we learned to pick a way through the fickle surface almost instinctively.”
Moose, bears, coyotes, foxes, deer and lynx were common site and humans were not, sometimes the group would ride for hours without sighting another human being.
What was gained was rambling coarse, which sought points of interest and intimate knowledge of the countryside from an open-air vantage point all through thousands of feet of lung crushing elevation gain and loss. But there was more gained during that 3,000+ mile stretch which took 84 days to complete. Something that, to this very day, is sought after and can not be found through a website or as an iPhone App. Physical exertion and some small discomforts found this crew something wonderful. They found freedom. “We felt the landscape belonged to us, just as the early trappers and mountain men must have felt it belonged to them.”
Did the crew ever make it to South America? What ever became of them? These questions and more about these fascinating couples are answered here on the Adventure Cycling Association website. The Adventure Cycling Association is a national cycling association, based in Missoula, Montana which provides services for cycle-tourists, publishes maps and campaigns for better cycling facilities.