THANK YOU LETTER

26 05 2010

A thank you to everyone who helped me from all of these countries, and to those of you helping from beyond.

Paraguay-Brazil-Argentina-Bolivia-Peru-Ecuador-Colombia-Panama-Costa Rica-Nicaragua-Honduras-El Salvador-Guatemala-Mexico-USA

Home :)

Please know how deeply thankful I am to you. A huge number of special people have come into my life to help make this project a reality, from gear sponsors to host families along the way, from fellow cyclists to volunteers in Paraguay, from those who have sent me emails of encouragement to all of you donors out there. It has been truly inspiring to watch this collective effort take form and succeed.

Personally, this tour has deeply affected me. My interactions with people and nature were perfectly beautiful at times, horribly sad at others, and eye-opening in so many ways. I cannot count the number of times I found myself camping alone in the wilderness, overcome with emotion and exceedingly grateful for everybody’s generosity that has allowed me to have this experience.

As it comes to an end, I am happy to announce that our collective effort has raised approximately $23,000, enough to allow Paraguay’s Conservation Alliance to purchase and protect forever about 20 acres of lush jungle within the San Rafael Reserve, home to several Mbya Guarani communities and a wide variety of endangered species.

Sincere Appreciation,

Samuel Hagler

(environmental activism, news, and fundraising continue on http://www.RideForTheTrees.com)





Dreams and Arizona

21 05 2010

My father came down to join me for a few days' ride through Mexico. Here we are approaching the border, 3 days from Phoenix, Arizona.

One hundred miles from my home in Phoenix, Arizona, I found myself bicycling alongside an older gentleman, a naysayer. “You won’t make it today,” he said matter-of-factly. “It’s too far.” I had heard that before.

After more than a year of cycling through 15 countries, today was my last day, the day I would finally roll into my family’s driveway, walk through the front door, hug whoever happened to be home and fall backwards onto the couch with my hands on my head and a smile of disbelief on my face. Home.

I remember the first day of the tour, riding out of San Buenaventura, Paraguay, where I had been an environmental education volunteer for two years. My neighbors yelled in a mix of Spanish and Guarani from the roadside, “Dondepiko te vas en esa kavajupiru?” Where the heck are you going on that skinny horse?

I had mostly kept the tour a secret during the last year of planning in order to maintain credibility in my Peace Corps site, because certainly attempting to bicycle from South America to North America meant I was either insane or a liar. But now there was nothing to lose. I told them I was going to the United States.

“Pero bici ari,” they would always clarify, “I mean on the bike.” I just laughed and said “Yep, on this bike, jaha, vamos!”

Imposible,” they would say. “You’ll never make it, nde japu.”

In the beginning everybody’s doubts almost convinced me I was in over my head, especially when a level-headed Peace Corps friend sat me down and said, “Look, I know you really want to do this but I don’t think you realize all the dangers involved. I mean, how do you expect to get through Colombia without getting kidnapped? There isn’t even a road through the Darien Gap. And what if you get robbed?”

People are great worriers. If I had burned a pile of cash and said my plan was to go live in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness while foraging for wild potatoes, they might have had real reason to worry. But my plan was to bicycle from Paraguay to Arizona, immerse myself in every culture along the way, interview locals about environmental and social issues, write about it on a website, and raise as much money and awareness as possible to support conservation efforts in Paraguay’s endangered San Rafael Reserve. This was my dream.

In terms of risks vs. dreams, it’s your call. The naysayers don’t know how long the idea has been bouncing around in your head, or when dreaming began to transform into hoping, thinking, reading, planning, and discussing. Nobody knows how determined you are, possibly not even yourself, until you find yourself in a moment of sheer determination. They don’t know whether or not you are one of those people who is willing to risk, and even relish, the great unknown in order to live as much as possible before you die. To be fair, I think sometimes their biggest worry is that they do know how much you are willing to risk, and they fear it is too much.

In response to my friend’s concerns, I should have said, “If somebody steals my gear, I’ll just move to the Amazon and get a job translating environmental tours day after day, soaking up Takana wisdom like esponja vegetal and leaving me to feel more human than ever before.”

Or I could have said something a bit more predictable like, “A generous family in Argentina will take me into their home until I’m ready to continue the tour.”

But I didn’t know any of that yet.

—————————

For a lot of people, when confronted with the possibility of the unknown it is easier to avoid it, to keep the same job, continue eating the same foods and shopping at the same stores, or any of the myriad of other comfort routines. And if they’re content and not harming anybody, who am I to say they’re doing anything wrong?

As for me, for better or worse, I did not feel content with such a lifestyle. I had reason to believe I actually was harming others, a lot of others. Sure, I volunteered with some non-profits from time to time, but overall I was living a life that supported people who need support the least while exploiting those who need support the most. Plus, too much comfort makes me uncomfortable.

I didn’t have the answers to the questions about the unknown; I knew there were some dangers –though much less than my friends and family thought– but by now I knew I was willing to risk the unknown in order to try to live as fully as the authors of the inspirational stories I had been reading.





Coming Soon: Crossing the Border on Saturday, May 15th

10 05 2010

Sonoran Desert

————————————-

Friends and family, feel free to meet me at the border. Bicycle owners, this is your invitation to air up those tires and join me Forrest Gump style for a mile or two (or 400?).

Forrest Gump

DETAILS

I’ll be at the Nogales, Mex/Arizona, USA border Saturday May 15th at exactly 4pm. The general route will be Nogales, Tucson, Phoenix, Sedona, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon.

The rest is up in the air for now…





“It’s even starting to smell like Arizona”

10 05 2010

– That’s what my dad said upon catching the scent of Mesquite here in Sonora, Mexico.

Yessir, I’m so close to home that my father bussed down to join the ride for a few days! New photos posted in the Mexico album. Good to have some company in the 105 degree desert… thanks for coming down Dad!





RoadSide Update from Navojoa, Mexico

3 05 2010

Here’s tonight’s camp! Thanks to the firefighters of Navajoa for the amazing hospitality. They signed my bike, taught me that bikes are called “ranflas” and “baikas” in Mexican, and even dressed me up as a bombero for the classic jump photo. Fijense…





A few o’ the latest photos

28 04 2010




Update from Mazatlán, Mexico

26 04 2010

Que onda guey!

I have new photos to share with you but I’m afraid I got some sand in my camera and it is not working at the moment. Here, let me steal one from somebody so I can at least show you  this delicious beach town, Mazatlán.

Mazatlán, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Travelpod.

If any of you are considering opening a hostel somewhere, this is the place to do it! Not a single hostel in town, just hotels with private rooms. There are plenty of backpackers, and we’re all looking for a cheap hostel with a shared dorm room. Pero no hay. I found a $10/night room at Hotel Lerma. For anybody coming to Mazatlán, that’s the cheapest room in town, and the closest you’ll find to a hostel.

I went to the largest aquarium in Latin America yesterday, then saw Fury of Titans in Spanish. City life has been nice for a couple of days but I can’t stay long in places like this; I find myself yearning for a campsite next to a river, or a relaxing night singing La Bamba with a family that is letting me camp on their farm for the night.

Sinaloa, Mexico. Sinaloa is a state. The actual name of Mexico is "The United States of Mexico." The landscape here looks like this. (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

My camera should be fixed by tomorrow and then I’ll be back on the road! I’m not sure how many farms I’ll be passing though, because the landscape has changed from the lush jungle of southern Mexico to the desert beauty of Arizona. Looks like home! But I still have a few weeks left…

The plan is to cross the Mexico/Arizona border at Nogales on Saturday, May 15th. Hope to see you there! Bring your bike and we can go for a little ride…

Click here to support forest conservation in Paraguay or click the Firstgiving logo to the right. A big thanks to the anonymous donor for our most recent donation and thanks as always to everybody who has donated over the last 16 months!








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