Biking across the Americas: two Coloradans complete year-long trip

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 Biking near Mendoza, Argentina. Photo: The Spoken TourBiking near Mendoza, Argentina. Photo: The Spoken Tour

 
By Zoe Baillargeon
 
Ditch the fear. That was one of the stand-out pieces of advice given to Tommy Crosby and Tyler Michael when they set out from Denver, Colorado, last year to embark on a year-long, 15,000 mile (24,140 km) cycling trip that would culminate at the “end of the world” in Punta Arenas, Chile. Facing a long journey full of unknowns and unfamiliar lands, they did not fret, but to fully enjoy the adventure they threw caution to the wind.

“We just went into it with an open mind,” recalls Crosby.
 
 The result was a year’s worth of incredible memories, much of which can be enjoyed via their highly entertaining podcast, “The Spoken Tour,” on which the duo shared their stories and experiences from the road.
 
“The idea of doing a trip like this, two best friends who are both willing to hop out of the rat race, the real world...there were no questions asked, we were doing it,” says Crosby, speaking with Patagon Journal in a cafe in Valparaiso a few weeks after finishing their epic trip as they prepared to go back home in July. “We were also really drawn to the idea of doing something ‘human-powered.”
 
Like so many Denverites, Crosby and Michael on weekends were constantly heading out of the city into the mountains to go hiking or cycling to escape the city. But even the magnificent Rocky Mountains couldn’t fully scratch the travel-related itch they both had.
 
 
The beginning of the trip. Photo: The Spoken TourThe beginning of the trip. Photo: The Spoken Tour
 
 
“The idea of traveling to these places, getting there under our own power and being there with the freedom of a bicycle and everything you need right there with you, all of that played a big role in us deciding to do this,” explains Michael, who had some previous long-distance cycling experience before the endeavor (Crosby had virtually none outside of cycling around town).
 
As the idea began to solidify, the next question was where to go. For both, the answer was clear: Patagonia. After first visiting the region in 2013 for an ecology exchange program but not having enough time to explore much outside of the Puerto Varas area, the duo were eager to go back and do Patagonia properly.
 
“There’s literally no other place like this on the planet,” Crosby enthuses, adding that collectively, their favorite part of the entire trip was biking along the Carretera Austral in Chile’s Aysen region. “That was a stretch of riding where everything was magical.”
 
 
Biking along the Carretera Austral. Photo: The Spoken TourBiking along the Carretera Austral. Photo: The Spoken Tour
 
 
“If we were going to spend a year of our lives grinding it out to get somewhere, that was where we wanted to get to,” Michael agrees. “Being on a bicycle, almost by definition, forces you to slow down and really get to know the place you’re traveling through.”
 
And so it was that on May 8, 2017, the pair set out from Colorado, following a preplanned route that was laid out for all to see on their website. Almost immediately, the enormity of what they were doing began to hit them with every laborious, gravity-defying uphill pedal.
 
“We were just thinking ‘this is terrible, what are we doing?!’”, they both laugh.
 
But within a few weeks, their bodies and energies began to adapt to the rigors of cycling every day through all manner of weather and landscapes. By the time they hit the Mexican border, they were getting into the groove. They made their way through Central and South America, following their route but allowing for some deviations when something caught their eye. Along the way, though, they also started to encounter some unforeseen human relationship issues.
 
 
Taking a rest near Lago Yelcho, Chile. Photo: The Spoken TourTaking a rest near Lago Yelcho, Chile. Photo: The Spoken Tour
 
 
“Being around one person 24/7, there’s no time in our lives where we have or will ever spend this much time with one person and that messes with you,” says Crosby. “As a human being, we need alone time. Just learning how to deal with our relationship and how to support each other, I’d say that was the most challenging thing for me.”
 
But where there are lows there are highs. The visceral, physical thrill of summiting mountains under their own steam. Looking at their map to see where they’d been and savoring the memories of those rides. Feeling their newfound strength and confidence. But one of the greatest joys they took away from the trip - and which was a major talking point of their podcast - was the kindness of strangers.
 
“The help we received from complete, utter strangers, so many people along the way have been willing to drop everything they are doing to help out us two goofy-looking gringos in Spandex and neon find a place to stay, or to cook us a meal. I just love that,” says Crosby.
 
The podcast was both a technical and creative challenge for them. Recorded on their phones while huddled in their tent, shacking up in a hostel, or sleeping over in a local’s house, it was their first adventure in the en vogue trend of podcasting. Michael says that one of the most rewarding aspects of the podcast was the response from listeners telling them that their experiences on the road were helping them learn new things or open up to other people and new adventures.
 
 
Enjoying the view in Ecuador. Photo: The Spoken TourEnjoying the view in Ecuador. Photo: The Spoken Tour
 
 
“At times, the podcast was frustrating, at other times humiliating, feeling like ‘we are such amateurs, but most of the time, it was very, very fun,” says Michael. “It was usually just us sitting on the floor with the cell phone between us and some sort of sheet or sound barrier draped over us, like little kids in a fort.” They both chuckle at the memories.
 
Is Latin America bike friendly? Ask any hardcore cyclist, and they can tell you without hesitation which city or country they feel the most welcome or has the best infrastructure. Crosby and Michael both said that while there were many places throughout their travels that were bike-friendly (Lima, especially, with Mexico City and Santiago runners-up), Colombia was the winner.
 
“Pretty much the only country where I felt cool,” quips Crosby. “The bike awareness and advocacy there were the best.”
 
As for what’s next, Crosby and Michael are now back in the States for some wind-down time, but also plans to go cycling around the States over the summer. Will they ever undertake another big, long-term trip like this ever again? Crosby and Michael look at each other, a twinkle in their eye.
 
“Oh, yeah,” they agree, thinking of Europe or the States.
 
And for any eager cyclists considering embarking on their own long cycling trip, the duo offers some sage advice: “Don’t plan too much. Be open to where the road is going to take you.”
 
As Crosby and Michael can attest to, so much awaits the willing adventurer: making new friends, gazing upon surprising vistas, and perhaps most of all, rising to meet fresh challenges, growing as a person, and feeling the wind on your face.
 
To listen to their podcast or to learn more about their travels, go to thespokentour.com
 
  
 

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