Monday, September 09, 2013

'You cycled up from Argentina then?' 'Yep' 'Why you wanna do that?'

We met Steve Fabes because he was having dinner with a friend at the Thai Kitchen Saturday night.  Nothing too remarkable about him until I asked him what brought him to Anchorage.

Cyclist Stephen Fabes in Anchorage after 33,000 miles
His bike.  He started out in England, rode south to Cape Town, took a three month break, then flew to Argentina and rode his way up to Alaska.  He's been on the road three years.  He's in Anchorage AFTER riding the Haul Road to Deadhorse.  He's taking a month in Anchorage - which includes a local presentation at the World Affairs Council tentatively scheduled for September 20, 2013.  Then he'll fly to Australia to continue his bike journey of across  six continents. 

He's a medical doctor back home in England and he's made stops at medical clinics along the way.  But biking 54,339 km (33,000 miles) thus far isn't too lucrative, so he has a crowd-funding campaign planned for this month to help  cover the rest of the way.  I don't imagine his expenses are high.  As I understand it, he's got housing in Anchorage through someone who contacted him through his website.

One could argue that there are more compelling causes than paying for a relatively well off guy's five year bike trip around the world, but you could also argue that it's no different from putting down money for a  movie or book or any other sort of entertainment.  His blog offers a great adventure most will only dream of, allowing us to ride along and see the world from the seat of his bike.  And after spending some time talking to him, I have no doubt that he will eventually give back far to the world far more than people contribute.

As you'll see from the excerpts below, he's a damn good writer with a serious vocabulary. 

These excerpts from his blog "Cycling The 6" are from the loooong Yukon/Alaska post which is full of great description and photos:

Day three on the Haul Road began with the sound of rain drilling onto my tent and the words of Paul and Duncan echoing through my mind. 'It's not so bad' they told me 'unless it rains'. The unpaved parts of the road are coated with calcium carbonate for the benefit of the truckers but the bane of cyclists. When it rains the surface transforms into a brown goo, the consistency of toothpaste, which sticks to everything. That day was a mud bath as the road continued to get churned up by the downpour. I camped by a river and lugged my bike down to the bank, submerged it and scrubbed her clean, the next day was dry and I grew optimistic that the worst was over, the worst of course, was still to come. .  .

I arrived finally to the Arctic Circle to get my obligatory shot by the signpost. The Arctic Circle is the southernmost latitude in the Northern Hemisphere at which the sun can remain continuously above or below the horizon for 24 hours. A tribe of tourists shambled past me with a tour guide who was pointing out notable arctic vegetation whilst giving a nature documentary-like narration, but the camera lenses of the crowd became focused on me instead of the flora. I half expected the tour guide to continue...

'And here we have a cycle tourist. It's a solitary male, you can tell from the brown crust of peanut butter in the facial hair. They migrate to Alaska in the summer and are scavengers by nature and will eat vast quantities of anything available, often picking up morcels from the ground, sniffing them, shrugging and devouring the find. This one's been on the road a while, notice the veneer of filth, the wild stare and the pungent odor. We like to keep the cycle tourers wild, so try not to feed them. Look, there, he's scratching his arse, we believe that's a courtship ritual.'  . . .

As I cycled over the north slope which was a vast, even expanse of tussocks and pools, up sprang my old compadre - the Shadow Cyclist. 21 months ago in the southern Argentinean city of Ushuaia I watched the same shadow cyclist, sinewy and sinister, stretched out to my right into the wind-blasted Patagonian scrub. As I rode north through the Americas the setting sun to my left would bring to life the Shadow Cyclist and he traveled with me. As my shadow glided over the tundra my mind was a whirlpool of memories, full of the weird places I'd been and the people that coloured them. In the distance the dark blots of roaming muskox could be seen on the plains, and up above snow geese honked as they flew in their malformed Vs and Ws, heading to warmer climes, as I continued to the top of the continent.
Arriving in Deadhorse:  
There were no dancing girls to welcome me in and put a wreath around my neck, instead an oil worker came over to me -
'You cycled up from Argentina then?'
'Why you wanna do that?'

You can read the whole post here - and see posts from across Europe, Africa, and up through South America.  

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