10,000 Miles: Episode 1
Mile 0: Prologue
Hello, my name is Dante. I am sitting in a freshman dorm of my alma mater, Kenyon College, located in Gambier, Ohio. Since graduating in May, I have been teaching high school students enrolled in a college prep program on campus, which ended yesterday. I am 5'10, ~160 pounds, 22 years old, a virgo, a Mets fan, and as of 5 o’clock in the afternoon on July 2nd, 2016, a bit hungover.
Tomorrow morning I will set out on the greatest adventure of my life.
I am traveling 10,000 miles from central Ohio to Ushuaia on a bicycle. Pictured above is a map marking the beginning and end of my journey. As you can see, it’s a bit far with a whole bunch of stuff in between.
When I tell people about my trip, I usually generate a similar reaction:
Person: “So, what’s the plan after you graduate?”
Me: “I’m cycling from here (Kenyon) to Ushuaia.”
Person: “Because I am an American, I believe Africa is a country and Europe is a ‘life-style-choice’. Isn’t Ushuaia a type of tropical fruit?”
Me: “No. It’s the southern most town in world, in Patagonia, Argentina.”
Person: Gives me a look as if I just confessed that my fetish is sniffing the underarms of consenting homeless people. “Woah… why?”
Me: “Because I want to do something incredible with my life.”
This trip is an opportunity to see the world, while proving to myself I can accomplish something truly exceptional. I see so many people — mostly white men like myself — mired in feelings of inadequacy. I fear this fate of being condemned to mediocrity. I hope to unburden myself from these fears with a true, unequivocal, accomplishment.
The idea for this trip started back in August, 2015. I knew after graduation I wanted to do something exceptional and I wanted to see the world. Backpacking was immediately out; far too much sitting around: always waiting for a plane, waiting for a train, waiting for a bus, waiting for a ferry, waiting for the other members of your tour group, etc.
I knew I either wanted to walk or bicycle a very long way. I had gone on some great hikes before, but biking topped the list. I could see more of the world on a bicycle. One of my favorite childhood memories is going on a 300-mile bike trip through rural Vermont. I remember liking the speed at which I saw the world; just fast enough I can really move through a place and just slow enough so I can take it all in.
Then it came down to the route. My original plan was to bike across the Eurasian landmass, from London to Ho Chi Minh City. But it seemed like a visa nightmare. I was worried I would be at a border in some distant Stan, stuck there for months because I had not coordinated my visas correctly. And I was worried about weather. There was a good chance of getting stuck in the vast Eurasian Steppe when winter set in. But my biggest worry were the desperate actions of destitute people. This compromised most of the interesting routes because of the Syrian Civil War, Isis, and the subsequent refugee crisis. I concluded that the safest route over the greatest distance would be bicycling the Americas, a journey of roughly 10,000 miles from start to finish. And just like that, my dream began to take hold in reality.
I have donated every spare moment of 2016 to prepare for my trip: assembling my bicycle and its gear, planning my route, volunteering at my local bike shop to learn how to fix a bicycle, and getting in the proper shape.
To get in shape for my trip I ran a half-marathon. Here is a link to a terrible article, in which I am woefully misquoted by a local newspaper: http://mountvernonnews.com/story/2016/04/18/first-timer-seizes-half-marathon-title/
After running the half-marathon, I thought to myself, “Woah, that was a pretty crazy thing I just did. If I can do that, I can cycle to Ushuaia.” It was at that moment that I felt truly prepared to journey forth.
My first leg of my trip is from Ohio to Austin, Texas: 1300+ miles through the American Heartland.
I will be posting videos, photos, and bits of writing here on Medium in biweekly installments throughout my trip. So if you’d like to see how I’m getting along, please feel free to follow me on twitter or instagram under the inventive handle dantepilkington. I will be posting updates about my trip and links to my weekly blog.
Till next time,
P.S. It is now a quarter past 7 and I am no longer hungover.