This post is long overdue, and comes after months of planning, preparation and house packing. As I write this we’re in the air – en route to Deadhorse (permanent population 42) on the edge of the Beaufort Sea; a remote base and service town for the Alaska oil industry and the northern terminus of the Alaska oil pipeline.

It’s well inside the Arctic Circle and is the furthest point north reachable by road. This remote location is going to be the starting point for a self powered adventure bigger than anything we have attempted before: a cycling tour the full length of the Americas. Deadhorse, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. Over 30,000 km and probably two years on the road.

It’s a journey that is started by a handful of people a year, and we’ll be joining the dots of previous cyclists, and doing our own research, to try and stitch together a route that stays off sealed highways as much as possible. Keep an eye on the blog for upcoming posts.

We’re really stoked to have a couple of great sponsors on board for our Tour of the Americas journey: Revelate Designs (based in Anchorage) and Biomaxa (New Zealand) are supporting us. Revelate design the best suite of bike packing bags in the world and we’re proud to be pedalling south with their gear. Keeping the bikes operating sweetly are Biomaxa, a small NZ company producing environmentally friendly lanolin-based (yes – from sheep) cycle lubricants. Their chamois cream will be keeping us happy during long days in the saddle too.

Earlier this year we sold our house, invested the funds, quit jobs (well, Hana did) purged belongings and stored the remainder in a shipping container (thanks and Andrew and Coral!). We landed in North America in late April with more prep to do and some climbing in mind, that said, I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story…

Our arrival in North America kicked off with a week in Kamloops, BC, catching up with Hana's brother Ben and his wife Maribel. With a ton still to prepare for our upcoming bike tour we spent most of our time on the Internet - sorting travel arrangements, ordering equipment that had been unavailable in New Zealand and making apparently endless final decisions about gear selection. I'd only brought my full-suspension bike from NZ to use for a few weeks, so was on the hunt for a Surly Ogre frame to build up as my touring machine for the next (hopefully) 30,000km, as well as a shop to build it for me once we got to Bend, Oregon. We did manage to fit in a few local mountain bikes rides in that time. Spring was in full swing at Mount Harper - one of our favourite places to ride in Kamloops. Thanks Ben, Jeff (x2) and Louise (pictured) for a great ride.

Our arrival in North America kicked off with a week in Kamloops, BC, catching up with Hana’s brother Ben and his wife Maribel. With a ton still to prepare for our upcoming bike tour we spent most of our time on the Internet – sorting travel arrangements, ordering equipment that had been unavailable in New Zealand and making apparently endless final decisions about gear selection. I’d only brought my full-suspension bike from NZ to use for a few weeks, so was on the hunt for a Surly Ogre frame to build up as my touring machine for the next (hopefully) 30,000km, as well as a shop to build it for me once we got to Bend, Oregon.
We did manage to fit in a few local mountain bikes rides in that time. Spring was in full swing at Mount Harper – one of our favourite places to ride in Kamloops. Thanks Ben, Jeff (x2) and Louise (pictured) for a great ride.


Holiday on the Holiday (already)! As much as the road was calling, the thought of up to two years on the bikes without a decent climbing fix was a bit much to bear, so we'd factored in a three week trip to Smith Rock (near Bend) Oregon.

Holiday on the Holiday (already)! As much as the road was calling, the thought of up to two years on the bikes without a decent climbing fix was a bit much to bear, so we’d factored in a three week trip to Smith Rock (near Bend) Oregon.


The Smith Rock Pinnacles formation at sunset – just a five minute walk from camp to this location.

The Smith Rock Pinnacles formation at sunset – just a five minute walk from camp to this location.


Mount Hood, through Aterisk Pass – a rock scramble that provides convenient access to Monkey Face and climbs on the back of the main Smith formations.

Mount Hood, through Aterisk Pass – a rock scramble that provides convenient access to Monkey Face and climbs on the back of the main Smith formations.

 

One of the most well known routes at Smith, thanks to cover appearances on Mountain and Newsweek back in the day, is Chain Reaction (12c), here at the hands of a jetlagged John Palmer fresh off the flight from NZ. John joined us for two weeks of Smith climbing.

One of the most well known routes at Smith, thanks to cover appearances on Mountain and Newsweek back in the day, is Chain Reaction (12c), here at the hands of a jetlagged John Palmer fresh off the flight from NZ. John joined us for two weeks of Smith climbing.

 

Sky Ridge (5.8R) on the Pinnacles is a popular outing.

Sky Ridge (5.8R) on the Pinnacles is a popular outing.

 

The Smith Rock 'tuff' is formed from ancient ash deposits that were five miles thick in places, but the geological span that the fomations here cover is mind boggling: the ash came from eruptions xxx millions years ago, whle the basalt for which the area is also renowned for is only xxx million years old.

The Smith Rock ‘tuff’ is formed from ancient ash deposits that were five miles thick in places, but the geological span that the formations here cover is mind boggling: the ash coming from eruptions millions of years earlier than the basalt for which the area is also renowned.

 

This crennelated ridge is a classic Smith landmark.

This crennelated ridge is a classic Smith landmark.

Blackened (11d) at Llama Wall.

Blackened (11d) at Llama Wall.

John warning up on one of Smith's many classic 11s –

John warming up on one of Smith’s many classic 11s.

Hana crossed up on the classic 5.8 Hissing Llamas on Phoenix Buttress.

Hana crossed up on the classic 5.8 Hissing Llamas on Phoenix Buttress.

Under the Stars … Smith Rock has an ideal camping situation for the travelling climber: $5/night gets you a parking lot, picnic tables, hot showers, a scenic tent site among the junipers and park access – with the crag in walking distance. A fine minute drive into Terrebonne provides the excellent Redpoint climber's store, cafe and bar (with an amazing range of beer), supermarket, gas stations and dining options.

Under the Stars … Smith Rock has an ideal camping situation for the travelling climber: $5/night gets you a parking lot, picnic tables, hot showers, a scenic tent site among the junipers and park access – with the crag in walking distance.
A five minute drive into Terrebonne provides the excellent Redpoint climber’s store, cafe and bar (with an amazing range of beer), supermarket, gas stations and dining options.


Snake spotting was a novelty for us Kiwis, with a sighting most days. This rattler was spotted tucked under rocks just as I was setting my bag down at the base of the crag. Otters, yellow bellied marmots and abundant birdlife make the park popular for wildlife spotters and American bald eagles were seen often.

Snake spotting was a novelty for us Kiwis, with a sighting most days. This rattler was spotted tucked under rocks just as I was setting my bag down at the base of the crag. Otters, yellow bellied marmots and abundant birdlife make the park popular for wildlife spotters and American bald eagles were seen often.


A nexus for the roadtripping climber, the parking lot was full most nights – with car registration plates from far flung states. Smith might have had its heyday in the 90s, but it's still super popular. With the city of Bend only 35 minutes away the popular sectors of the crag get crowded at weekends.

A nexus for the roadtripping climber, the parking lot was full most nights – with car registration plates from far flung states. Smith might have had its heyday in the 90s, but it’s still super popular. With the city of Bend only 35 minutes away the popular sectors of the crag get crowded at weekends.

Ian on the ultra classic Magic Light 11a (Churning Buttress).

Ian on the ultra classic Magic Light 11a (Churning Buttress).

I should also mention the Smith Rock Library.

I should also mention the Smith Rock Library.

The quality of the basalt climbing (also walking distance from the campground) would be enough to put Smith Rock on the map without the tuff climbing. An awesome mix of meaty sport and trad lines follow cracks, pillars and groves along the columns. The tempting line of bolts makes Pure Palm (11c) popular but the techy line results in many a leaver 'biner left by suitors.

The quality of the basalt climbing (also walking distance from the campground) would be enough to put Smith Rock on the map without the tuff climbing. An awesome mix of meaty sport and trad lines follow cracks, pillars and groves along the columns.

And again on the beasty entry moves of XXX 13b.

Ian again on the beasty entry moves of a 13b.

Eric (Florida) and Brian (New Jersey) were great company in camp and at the crag. These super enthusiastic guys are on a long roady – mixing up their climbing with sport, trad, alpine rock and mountaineering, and doing some upskilling along the way. After we left they were next spotted on Facebook on the summit of Mount Hood.

Ian (Florida) and Brian (New Jersey) were great company in camp and at the crag. These super enthusiastic guys are on a long roady – mixing up their climbing with sport, trad, alpine rock and mountaineering, and doing some upskilling along the way. After we left they were next spotted on Facebook on the summit of Mount Hood.


Rest day breakfast - some habits never die.

Rest day breakfast – some habits never die.


along with lots of guidebook pondering...

along with lots of guidebook pondering…


Heinrich the cycle tourist arrived (by Kombi) and shared a few stories of his cycling and climbing adventures in Patagonia.

Heinrich the cycle tourist arrived (by Kombi) and shared a few stories of his cycling and climbing adventures in Patagonia.


Rainy afternoon activities.

Rainy afternoon activities.


There are some convenient mountain bike rides in and around Smith Rock (as well as loads more closer to Bend) providing a good chance to take the bike for a test ride. Hana spent more time on the trails than I did and rode the Skull Hollow - Gray Butte - Summit Ridge - River Trail ride a couple of times, taking in some classic American West scenery.

There are some convenient mountain bike rides in and around Smith Rock (as well as loads more closer to Bend) providing a good chance to take the bike for a test ride. Hana spent more time on the trails than I did and rode the Skull Hollow – Gray Butte – Summit Ridge – River Trail ride a few times, taking in some classic American West scenery.


An alternative to Smith Rock camping area (it's free), but it's 7 miles away and without amenities. For the Gray Butte ride it's the start of the off-road.

An alternative to Smith Rock camping area, but it’s 7 miles away and without amenities. For the Gray Butte ride it’s the start of the off-road.


Nice to see the wild flowers out.

Nice to see the wild flowers out.


Zipping down the Summit Ridge trail with one of Oregon's iconic volcanoes in the background.

Zipping down the Summit Ridge trail with one of Oregon’s iconic volcanoes in the background.


Rest days generally had us visiting Bend to review draft layouts for my upcoming book (Photographing Aoraki Mount Cook) which is curently with the publisher, and visiting the bike shop to check progress on the build for my Surly Ogre. I bought the frame from Universal Cycles in Portland and had Bend's Webcyclery order the parts and build it. It's a pretty standard 3x drivetrain and build with a mix of XT and SLX parts, though I picked TRP's Spyke mechanical brakes (which are a dual pull with a more hydraulic feel than the common Avid single pull mechanicals). We put a set on Hana's bike also and have both gone for 180mm rotors (front and rear) to cope with the extra load of touring gear and long descents. I'm guessing the pads might also last longer with a bigger rotor on board. We're both using Brooks saddles these days and are convinced they're the way forward for long days in the saddle due to they way they conform over time to shape of your sit bones. Another comfort mod for us both are Watson Cycles titanium handle bars which we hope will help dampen the road shock from gravel/trail riding on rigid forks. I'll post another photo once the racks and other accoutrements are on board.

Rest days generally had us visiting Bend to review draft layouts for my upcoming book (Photographing Aoraki Mount Cook) which is currently with the publisher, and visiting the bike shop to check progress on the build for my Surly Ogre.
I bought the frame from Universal Cycles in Portland and had Bend’s Webcyclery order the parts and build it. It’s a pretty standard 3x drivetrain and build with a mix of XT and SLX parts, though I picked TRP’s Spyke mechanical brakes (which are a dual pull with a more hydraulic feel than the common Avid single pull mechanicals). We put a set on Hana’s bike also and have both gone for 180mm rotors (front and rear) to cope with the extra load of touring gear and long descents. I’m guessing the pads might also last longer with a bigger rotor on board.
We’re both using Brooks saddles these days and are convinced they’re the way forward for long days in the saddle due to the way they conform over time to shape of your sit bones. Another comfort mod for us both are Watson Cycles titanium handle bars which we hope will help dampen the road shock from gravel/trail riding on rigid forks.
I’ll post another photo once the racks and other accoutrements are on board.

TRP's Spyke dual pull mechanical disc brake with 180mm rotor front and rear (thanks for the inspiration @aotearoapete).

TRP’s Spyke dual pull mechanical disc brake with 180mm rotor front and rear (thanks for the inspiration @aotearoapete).

I've gone for these larger MXXXX pedals for touring for the first time – figuring that greater foot support might help mitigate foot strain and any overuse issues that might arise from such a long time on the road.

I’ve gone for these larger Deore XT M8020 pedals for touring for the first time – figuring that greater foot support might help mitigate foot strain and any overuse issues that might arise from such a long time on the road.

Brooks B17 Narrow (broken in back in NZ).

Brooks B17 Narrow (broken in back in NZ).

A bar so good they put my name on it! Watson Cycles Revelation bar with a 23 degree sweep.

A bar so good they put my name on it! Watson Cycles Revelation bar with a 30 degree sweep.

After just under three weeks at Smith Rock we headed back west with a stop off to ride the classic McKenzie River Trail – an old hiking trail that makes a great 42km point to point ride. Much of Oregon has been ravaged by volcanoes and as the trail follows the ultra scenic river down valley it traverses many ancient lava flows. We'd previously ridden the trail back in 2010 and were keen to check out this special environment again.

After just under three weeks at Smith Rock we headed back west with a stop off to ride the classic McKenzie River Trail – an old hiking trail that makes a great 42km point to point ride. Much of Oregon has been ravaged by volcanoes and as the trail follows the ultra scenic river down valley it traverses many ancient lava flows. We’d previously ridden the trail back in 2010 and were keen to check out this special environment again.


It seems to rain constantly in this part of the world on the edge of the Cascades and consequently the forest is lush in a way that reminded us of NZ's west coast. Spring growth gave it an extra vibrance.

It seems to rain constantly in this part of the world on the edge of the Cascades and consequently the forest is lush in a way that reminded us of NZ’s west coast. Spring growth gave it an extra vibrance.


Consulting the map. 10km down - 32 to go. Slow going on the techy stuff.

Consulting the map. 10km down – 32 to go. Slow going on the techy stuff.


Nice flow on the second half of the trail.

Nice flow on the second half of the trail.


Crossing one of the many log bridges.

Crossing one of the many log bridges.


Need a bridge – fell a tree!

Need a bridge – fell a tree!

Hot lava (hot enough for snakes).

Hot lava (hot enough for snakes).

Afternoon light on the trail.

Afternoon light on the trail.

More NZ-like lushness.

More NZ-like lushness.

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