EMMANUEL'S 100% REPORT
Friday, April 7, 2000
Miles completed: 15,233.98
100% Reached on March 9, 2000
Which was: Day 261, 211 ridden.
Ridden-day average: 72.20
Routes Covered (arrival dates in trip days):
Bike from: Sierra Grande, Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina.
To: Bahía Lapataia, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Argentina. (261)
END OF PAN-AMERICAN HIGHWAY
Then fly to: Base Marambio, Antarctica, via Hercules C-130. (263)
3.6 MILES RIDDEN IN ANTARCTICA
To go back to: Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Argentina, via plane. (265)
And drive to: Lomas de Zamora, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (273)
To catch a bus to: San Martin de Los Andes, Neuquen, Patagonia, Argentina. (287)
Well Fellow Waldo, I mean Emmanuel, Travelers,
It looks to me as if I could build a very nice five-paragraph essay from the above mentioned. I don’t think that would quite cover it, so get ready to travel along on this last stretch. Here we go…
Dad and I kept making progress through Patagonia. This is the deserted part of Patagonia, although compared to the Atacama Desert in Chile, it seems quite abundant. Armadillos cross the road by day, along with fox and guanacos. Double rainbows appear with the beautiful sunsets and amazing cloud colors. The larger-than-average patagonic hare dashes by the roadside at night.
The wind began to strengthen, yet thanks to many prayers, the days of tail wind or no wind outnumbered those of head wind. I was assured I would get very little tail wind, but God has control of all things, small or large. I want to thank all of you who prayed for the divine intervention in the last leg of my trip.
Everything was on track to arrive to my destination on March 5th. Many maps showed different distances, road signs did the same, and people’s details of distances ahead revealed a difference of up to 600 miles. How far was I from Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego? A biker from California, Thane, confirmed the distance. He has traveled from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, picked up a fiancée in Peru, and is now headed to Brazil. He informed me of the distance. It agreed with the one I was working with. Great. If all goes well I will arrive on the 5th. Two days later we were sure the distance was wrong. People began to tell us the real distances, and a difference of 495 km, some 320 miles, revealed itself. I was already scheduled to ride max days, and this addition made March 5th impossible.
My mom, Elsie, was flying to Ushuaia with my 11year old sister Clarissa, and my 9-year-old brother Francesco. After the increase in mileage left, Dad decided it would be wiser for them to fly to Rio Gallegos, still on mainland Argentina. I would ride through there in two days. Tierra del Fuego is an island, with the eastern half being Argentine territory and the occidental Chilean. To get to the Argentine side you must first cross into mainland Chile, then cross by ferry across the straight of Magellan into the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego, and finally drive into, or ride into, the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego.
With Dad we went to the airport to meet my mom and siblings, leaving my bike some 220 miles behind. How great to see them again. The next day we reorganized all my equipment, leaving some in Rio Gallegos to make room for the three new arrivals in the car. We drove back to Puerto San Julian, 220 miles north, where I had left my bike. So the change in plans had claimed 1.5 days for restructuring and an automatic 2 ½ day addition to my trip due to the last-minute added distance. March 9 turned into my new target date.
My flight to Antarctica was scheduled by the Argentine Air Force for March 7. I was so close to getting there on time; now I had to leave the idea of arriving to the world’s least visited continent behind. I wanted to go to Antarctica. I told Dad the record didn’t matter. I’ll go to Antarctica, then come back and finish the last stretch. Lose the record, but visit Antarctica.” Dad convinced me that the record was important. “There will be other ways to get to Antarctica, but the record is now, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Where had the extra distance come from? Border disputes between Chile and Argentina in Southern Patagonia have taken place for quite some time. Some Argentines don’t like the fact that to go to Tierra del Fuego, they must cross into Chile. So they don’t count the mileage on the Chilean side. The fierceness of the sea makes a ferry from mainland Argentina to Argentine Tierra del Fuego very costly, while only having little over 100,000 population on the island. The ferry on the Chilean side is a 25-minute ride, crossing in the narrowest section of the Straight of Magellan.
Bike it, bike it, bike it. Solo. Dad, Mom, Clarissa, and Francesco were at close support. Something like “The Adventures of the Gentinetta Family” could be the name of this last stretch.
The day I rode into Chilean Tierra del Fuego I encountered the strongest wind of my trip. Side wind, from the west. The Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego is unpaved, and loose gravel is not uncommon. Many sheep watched me ride by. I clocked them at 17 mph, while catching a great race with three guanacos running between my bike and a fence at 22 mph. I also managed to race a slow truck for some 20 minutes, keeping me at a steady 18 mph. I was riding in Tierra del Fuego. Incredible. So much time, so many miles, and this was Tierra del Fuego. The wind got stronger in the afternoon, knocking me off my bike some five times. I was sporting the flags of all the countries I’ve ridden, distributed on two, well, flagpoles I guess, on the back of my bike. The wind played with my bike as if it was a kite, and I was forced to remove the flags.
Side wind doesn’t push you over like you would think; it actually knocks out your wheels from under you, causing you to fall into the wind. Your hands hurt from gripping the handle bar so tight, you lean into the wind just to find a momentary decrease in force that causes you to rapidly recover. Then, maybe, just then, another strong gust takes advantage of your position to knock you over one more time. And it is fun. I’m glad I had at least this one very windy day. Unforgettable. Low speed. Sore arms. It was a very technical day. Try to go faster and the wind will say, “No, no, no; you slow down, or I will show you who is in charge.” So I rode slow, and made it.
We crossed into Argentine Tierra del Fuego and stayed in an inexpensive hotel at the border. The next day, March 8, I solo rode. Dad, Mom, Clarissa, and Francesco went ahead to Ushuaia to meet Florencia, my 20-year-old sister. Aldana, my oldest sister who lives in Florida, wasn’t able to come down now, but I will see her before going back to California. So I solo rode. 121 miles. The day was calm. I even stopped for one last email check before the end of my trip. Those emails really helped to get me through the hard days. Even the short ones, like one from my cousin Adolfo in Argentina: “Come on Emmanuel, we can already hear the pedaling.” A police officer told me the day was so calm, that I had to take advantage of it. “Leave those pedals red.” And I picked up the pace. I rode on asphalt until the end of the day, when I reached gravel and the town of Tolhuim. My parents left a room reserved for me at the Hosteria Kaiken, by the shore of Lake Fagnano, the largest lake on the island.
The morning of March 9 was rainy and foggy. If everything goes well, I will finish the trip today. Some 75 miles to go. Gravel for some 30 miles and over the Andes one last time. Garibaldi Pass. A low, almost unnoticed pass for me. Last day, low pass, few miles to go, I went over it no problem. My family met up with me almost at the pass itself. Ushuaia, the only Trans Andean City of Argentina, is near. I hit asphalt again, put my tires back up to road pressure and rode fast. This is amazing.
Welcome to Ushuaia. A car was going at my pace, ahead of me, with flashers on, the last few miles before Ushuaia. It was a radio broadcaster. At the entrance to Ushuaia I had a couple of radio interviews via cell phone. One was for LV-3, a radio that covers the entire country. Ushuaia´s Channel 11 was also there. The local paper has been announcing my arrival since early March.
Family followed, TV followed, radio followed, strangers followed, people waved, little kids stared and waved. They knew I was coming. Now I had 20 more miles to the end of the road, in National Park Tierra del Fuego, at Bahia Lapataia. Gravel road once I entered the park. My family was waving a BIKE IT SOLO and a SOLO EN BICI flag. Dad honked and honked, until smoke came out of the circuits and the horn honked no more. I rode super fast. Since I entered Argentina I have stayed on my big chain ring, and only used my five hardest gears. I had some short, steep climbs now, and it was a fight against the end of this road to stay with those five hardest gears, but I did. This was the last stretch, the road will end. Lapataia 16 km. I rode fast. O Globo, the largest TV station from Brazil, showed up. They were shooting a documentary on “The End of the World”, and were thrilled to run into me. They followed and filmed until the end.
Lapataia 4 km. I hit those brakes. And more. The road will end. I rode slow, and slower. What will happen now? Day 261 and I’m at the end of the road. A beautiful road. The longest road in the world. The Pan-American Highway. And what did I think? Nolan would have loved it. I felt bad that he missed out. We had made a deal not to let the other quit. However, love is stronger than a cycling friend, and if you are not mentally set to reach a goal, or have more than one in mind at a time, only one can be chosen. I chose to ride the Pan-American Highway, he didn’t.
The sign indicating the end of the road could be around any corner now. And there it was, 400 feet ahead. I cried. I cried and did not peddle. I rode slowly. I have made it to the end. I am happy that I’ve made it, but sad that the trip is over. I was about to finish what I’ve done for the past 261 days; it’s like loosing a job. I cried. I’d thought of this moment before. Lift my bike? Ride in a circle? Skid by the sign? I just cried, rode slowly up to the wooden sign, leaned up against it without getting off the bike and turned off my bike computer. This is it. This is how you Ride the Pan-American Highway. So many places, so many friends. So many times that I missed friends and family. So much time alone, with the company of God by my side. And such good company He is. He allowed me to make it.
My family came near and hugged me. Dad prayed thanking God for His care. Even occasional tourists neared by. My head was still down, since the moment I got to that sign. I looked up and saw the people. Many new faces, like everyday on the trip. I breathed deep. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” Since I left 261 days ago, I’ve had moments of weakness. Emotional, human, physical. And the Lord showed me those moments. As if He set up a sign that read “Careful, wet floor”. Many times I ignored the sign, and fell. It was then that the Lord strengthened me to get up and continue. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We enjoy good moments because of the strength He gives us. And in difficult moments, that is when we look to Him and know He gives us the strength to continue.”
We took pictures by the bay. I even put my bike in the water of the Beagle Canal. It had been a 76-mile day, the minimum I had decided on November 8 in El Salvador, when I decided to go after the record. It was now day 261, the record was at 264. 15,233.98 miles in 211 ridden days. I also became the youngest person to see that sign after cycling the length of the Americas. Everyone who supported me was part of this trip.
There was one last thing to do now. A little extra thing for the trip. Antarctica. The flight had been delayed due to weather conditions. God had His plan for me to be able to make both the time record and the trip farther down south.
We went to Las Hayas Resort Hotel, the finest resort in all of Patagonia, where my family and I were given complimentary rooms for five days. I am very thankful to Las Hayas for hosting me at the end of my journey.
Three people could go to Antarctica, but we negotiated for four. A reporter, a cameraman, both from Ushuaia, Florencia, and myself. And all my gear. The four of us flew to Rio Gallegos on March 10, stayed overnight at an Air Force building, and flew to Antarctica aboard a Hercules C-130 plane. I wonder if there is a picture of it at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. If there is, my friend Luc must have saluted it many times. He had to salute planes painted on walls for a certain number of weeks.
Three and a half-hours and we made it. Marambio Base is on an island. The temperature had gone up to 2 degrees Celsius yesterday and melted the snow. Now it was cold. –25 degrees Celsius wind chill factor and 80 km per hour constant winds. We were all wearing our Antarctic equipment. Large, warm, puffy jacket and pants, goggles, and snowboard-type boots. All orange so you are easily visible. It’s one large number of Summerville High fans. We were some 80 people at the base. The Hercules arrives, unloads, loads up, and leaves. One and a half to two hours. We had some time to do a few blocks of interviews with the reporter, Marcelo Murphy. My sister and he flew back right away. Florencia is flying back to California next week. The camera guy, Marcos Queno, and myself will fly back tomorrow. It was very special for me that Florencia came along. Together with her and Aldana, we used to play a lot when we were kids, and now we were playing with the Antarctic wind. Leaning so far forward and not falling, that it seemed like special effects. With Marcos we saw the Hercules fly away. The runway is compacted gravel and dirt. The Hercules brings supplies for all the bases, leaves them at Marambio, and then Twin Otters distribute them.
Marcos and I became good friends. I rode two sessions on March 11, he videotaped. Once in a while he had to go inside for the camera to warm up. Officers asked me why I was ridding through the mud and not on the runway. I assured them there was no other place on earth with mud of this type. Six inches deep, thick and dense. This was the most difficult ridding of the entire trip. I was ridding on the White Continent. It is an easily forgotten continent. Many maps even fail to include it. It was Saturday night, and it was special events night. Live music, mostly Argentine Folklore, was presented by some of the officials, including Vicecomodoro Klix, the one in charge of the base. I was given a certificate of my visit. The next morning I rode until it was time to get ready to leave. I rode a total of 3.6 miles in one hour 47 minutes. We flew back with a helicopter inside the Hercules. Only a maximum of 16 passengers is supposed to travel when transporting the helicopter. The chart had gotten mixed up with the next day’s, so 40 of us were aboard. I balanced on some luggage and rested my leg on the back part of the helicopter.
I flew back to Ushuaia with all my gear and stayed there for two more days with my family. We sent my equipment to Rio Gallegos, where we had left some other things. Aerolineas Argentinas transported it at no charge. We drove back to Rio Gallegos, met up with the equipment, reorganized everything properly, and sent enough to Buenos Aires to make room for the five of us in the car. Aerolineas Argentinas helped out again, and shipped everything to Buenos Aires absolutely free.
For the next six days we drove back, back along the road I had ridden. I remembered the curves, the road conditions, the signs. Then we split off that road and headed to Buenos Aires, where we visited some famous coastal towns, such as Necochea, Villa Gesel, Pinamar, Miramar, and Mar del Plata.
In Buenos Aires I had many interviews. Radio, TV, newspaper, magazines. And I don’t get tired of telling the story, the anecdotes, over and over again. And I want to share so much more with each of you. Every day’s detail. My dad did an excellent job at organizing a circuit through Buenos Aires. I went from Lomas de Zamora, where my family lives, to El Obelisco, the main monument in Capital Federal, the D.C. of Argentina. A reception followed that night, where I saw friends and family, many of which I hadn’t seen in years.
On Sunday the second of April, mom, dad, Clarissa and Francesco flew back to California. They took my bike back home. I assured them that if they didn’t take the bike, they wouldn’t see me for another 9 months, when I got back home ridding.
I am now in San Martin de los Andes, I got here by bus. To my surprise, I discovered that San Martin de los Andes is also a Trans Andean City, but I won’t tell anyone in Ushuaia yet. They feel special to be “the only” trans Andean city of Argentina. I am visiting family friends, the Miciu family, and will continue to travel a little of Argentina and then head back to the United States in early May. I think of the trip everyday. “The trip never ends,” my dad said. And as I continue on this never-ending trip, I will share more and more with each of you.
This is the end of my 100% report. Is it the last? In soccer we were asked to play at 110%. So no, it is not my last report…
I Biked It Solo,
I thought of something as I rode through the dessert in Peru. I would really appreciate it if everyone receiving my reports could send me a postcard. I will send mine out as well. Only if you can. It would make me glad.
Let other’s know about my trip by forwarding this report or making copies of it. All the others are at www.bikeitsolo.com.
Sorry for the delay in this report. I was ultra busy with friends and family and interviews and eating and sleeping and thinking.
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emmanuel.gentinetta at bikeitsolo.com
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