The Final Ride

Five thousand kilometers, three months and nine days – we made it to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. And we´re just in time. Not surprisingly I was a little too optimistic about late fall weather in Tierra del Fuego. Given my strong preference for snowy Canadian winters though, I have a strong affinity for cold –  a preference  no one else seems to share. Earlier in the trip we saw plenty of cyclists heading south, but  a few weeks ago we realized that we’re probably the last ones on the road and the last in ones to arrive in Ushuaia before winter sets in (if it hasn’t already). While waiting out a snowstorm in Tolhuin, only a hundred kilometers from our destination, I wondered if we might not make it; if perhaps, we were too late. But the clouds parted and on our last day of the trip, we left under clear skies in warm (er) temperatures. The final mountains of the trip looked more impressive covered in snow.

Tolhuin, a little village in a mountain valley 100 km from Ushuaia, was almost better than the end itself. We stayed in the Panaderia La Union, a legendary place among people biking through the Americas. We first heard about the bakery about a month ago, but word has spread as far north as Alaska about the endless supply of pastries and free bed bed next to the sacks of flour. I guess cyclists biking the length of the Americas (a surprisingly not un-common phenomenon) have something to look forward to two years down the road. Emilio, the owner, arrived in Tolhuin years ago on a bike and decided to start this gigantic bakery and offer a place for passing cyclists to stay as they made their way north or south.

After biking through another snowstorm on the way from Rio Grande to Tolhuin, we decided to wait a day before starting over the now very snowy mountains to Ushuaia. Taking any form of motorized transport was obviously out of the question, even if it meant riding on potentially dangerous snow and ice covered roads. We were on a bike trip. No excuses. This delay meant we could spend the day eating as many pastries and empanadas as possible, which we did. After one too many dulce de leche filled treats, I bought a mate gourd and  sipped brewed herbs for the rest of the afternoon.

the guestbook entry

The next day we were back to eating pastries on the side of the road…

We rode towards the mountains and our final crossing of the Andes over Garibaldi Pass, where the fall colors gradually disappeared under more and more snow.

At the top it was the middle of winter…

but we rode into blue sky as we coasted down the final hill, remembering once again why biking up mountains is not insane.

(A few hours later as we gingerly pedaled along sections of road covered in black ice, our opinion may have changed) After 40 km with some of the most stunning views of the trip, we  rounded a corner and saw the Beagle Channel before us, where the Andes took their final plunge into the southern ocean. Ushuaia, the “southernmost city in the world” sat between mountains and sea and somewhere not too far south lay Cape Horn. And then Antarctica, just a thousand kilometers away.

the end of the world

But the road ends here, so we’re packing up the bikes and getting on a plane to Buenos Aires. Right now warm temperatures might be the best part about going to BA.  The nightlife, however, seems like it might be a tougher adaptation. In this city people start dinner at 12pm and they don´t go out until 2 am. We go to sleep at 8:30 and my only clothes are bike shorts, baggy hiking pants, and some very unwashed merino wool shirts. Alex has some really stylish zip-off pants and gore-tex shoes. Needless to say, we both look good.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The Final Ride

  1. momjean

    What an amazing adventure you guys have had–so much fun, and difficulty–but you always had the drive and courage (and physicality) to persevere! Can’t tell you how much we have all enjoyed the “S.Torys” of your trip. May BA be a fun, safe final chapter of your adventure. Love, Momjean

  2. Michael

    Congrats! Have a safe “descent” back stateside.

  3. Congrats Sarah and Alex :o) Can’t wait to see you soon!!

  4. Caroline

    Congratulations!!!!!!

  5. richardthedad

    Re-reading the blog like a book is extraordinary. What an adventure you have had. You have demonstrated courage, physical and emotional endurance, humor, intelligence in choices you have made and daring in others. I am certain others, just as I am, are awed by what you accomplished. Thank you for the blog and keeping us in touch. It has been amazing having been along for the ride even a little bit.

  6. I was introduced to your trip blog by the link in the latest digital edition of EphNotes. I’m an old Eph (Class of ’75) and a relatively new blogger/writer, but I’ve had wanderlust since forever so I found your trip report very engaging. I anxiously await the book.

    My husband (also Williams ’75 and Penn Med ’79) and I live in Philly. I remember that one of you was planning to enter the pre-med post-bac program at Bryn Mawr. If there’s anything we can do to help with the transition from biking in Patagonia to dissecting in the Philadelphia suburbs, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

    Suzanne Fluhr
    sfluhresq@gmail.com

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