One month has now passed since we cycled into Mexico City at the end of the North American Epic 2014! Seems a good time for a review of the overall trip now I have had time to think about what we saw and where we went.
The very northern section through Alaska & Canada was interesting in the sense that you were constantly left wondering what the people who lived there did because there was so much empty space and some quite large distances between towns. Certainly not the sort of place that you went shopping, got back home and remembered you had forgotten something – sometimes the thought of just nipping back to the shop was just too big to consider.
The weather would also be a big part of their lives. Before we arrived in Anchorage it had been enjoying temperatures up in the mid to high twenties celcius, when we were there it was noticeably cooler and in the mornings and evenings it could be very cool indeed. Somehow though the mosquitoes managed to be on top form at quite a lot of our camp sites!!
On of the things that really made an impact on me was the sad sight of so many motels, restaurants, stores and garages that had closed down in this area especially. The advent of the big RV’s (Recreational Vehicles) had meant that the Alaskan Highway was being used by lots of people who owned one of these and therefore they no longer needed to stop off at motels or stores as they were carrying most of what they needed and could just pull in at an RV park, or not, and live in their home on wheels. This may be progress to some but it was also the end of many peoples working lives when they just did not have the customers to stop off at their establishments anymore.
The scenery was very diverse and there were places where it was just stunning with snow capped mountains, lakes and forests that took your breath away. Other times it was like so many places in the world where it stayed the same for many days on end and became rather monotonous. I think I suffer from the fact that at home we can have a complete change of scenery in just a matter of hours but because of the vast scale of the areas on this trip the timescale can be quite a lot bigger!
One other area that was a bit disappointing was the wildlife, or lack of it! Some of the riders and crew had great stories to tell of what they had spotted during the day, but in general the amount of wildlife was quite small. This is just one of those things that you have to take potluck with, you may be lucky or you may not. We did see some bears, bison, lynx, moose, beavers and foxes, which sounds quite good, but the number of them was surprisingly small and that surprised me a bit. One of my biggest highlights, which you may remember, was when we stayed next to a river with beavers in it, they were amazing!! They were only feet away from us at times and to see them going about their daily routine while we looked on was a real treat and one I will remember for a long time.
America was in many ways the same with the scenery being a mixture of the monotonous right up to the totally stunning with the canyons and buttes that we saw on some very special days. Even though my saddle sore problem was getting worse, the day riding into Moab was just amazing!! Riding along at the bottom of a canyon with the walls rising up hundreds of feet above you on either side was just incredible. You felt so small and when you thought that all of this large hole that you were riding along had been created by nature over thousands of years it really did take your breath away.
The temperatures in America also changed compared to a lot of the northern part of our journey, most days being in the mid twenties upwards towards the high thirties celcius. Thankfully it is a dry heat and therefore not as bad as we have back home where the humidity is a big factor on our “hot” days!! Sadly I was off my bike for the trip through Arizona which I had been looking forward to, but that did give us the opportunity to take a few days longer in some places and to look over some places that we would have just bypassed or spent just one night in if I had been riding. So there were some days which we saw and the others didn’t, and equally the same was true in reverse – we missed some places that the others saw.
This only leaves Mexico and this was somewhere that I had never been to and had no real expectations of what it would be like. It was again similar to all the places we had travelled through already, a mixture of scenery but in my own opinion there were very few really stunning parts. It is more southerly than everywhere else and therefore it tends to be more dry and desert like. The coastal towns we stayed at were quite nice and I suppose they could have been much better in many ways but the country is not as affluent as America and Canada. It also suffers from the bad publicity it gets with things like the drug gangs which make people very nervous about going there. I have to say that the people in Mexico were generally speaking very friendly and pleased to see tourists especially as a lot of the areas we went to were not actually on the tourist trails!
The Baja California is the longest peninsula in the world, I didn’t know that, but it is not very well catered for with regards to infrastructure like roads, and therefore it takes quite a long time to get from the top where we entered to almost the bottom where we left from the port of La Paz. This, along with a sparsely populated interior, meant that it took quite a long time to get to La Paz and again in my opinion this part of the journey somewhat lacked in the WOW factor. Not sure how you can do much about this as the distance to be covered, and the possibilities of where to stay being limited, does give the organisation some problems. There is also the additional problem of getting to the mainland from La Paz on a ferry system that could so easily let you down and cause big problems with scheduling, we were lucky this time.
Mainland Mexico had some nice coastal areas and as we moved inland there were some scenic mountains, but again the WOW factor was not very evident, again in my opinion! Along the coast it was very hot and humid, but when we started inland the temperature started to drop, especially at the start and end of the day, as we began to climb towards Mexico City which is over 2,000 metres above sea level. There were many small towns where we stayed which very pleasant but they were very similar to each other and it just made the journey seem to take a long time. I am not a great lover of cities but Mexico City was really nice and I am pleased that we stayed for some extra days there before coming home. The pyramids near there are in the top 5 in the world and were truly amazing and well worth the visit.
So what are my thoughts overall? Well maybe I would think again about going on a trip of 4 months, it does begin to seem a long time and there are so many things that can cause a problem which may make it seem even longer. Would I go back again? Well we very, very rarely go back anywhere so that answers that question. We have friends in Jasper, Alberta so we do often go back there, but there is not really anything that makes us say we must go back there again – there are too many other places in the world to see. The route was generally speaking good but I just feel that Mexico was just a bit too long.
The crew were great and we enjoyed their company very much, they were dedicated and tried as hard as they could to make everyone’s trip as memorable as possible. It was also a great pleasure to meet Henry, the founder of the company, and some of his family when they joined us for a few weeks. He has set up a very good business that tries to cater for all types of cyclists and to give them an insight into many different parts of the world. So will I go on another trip? All things being equal and providing I have my health the answer is most definitely YES! Avril has also threatened to ride next time as well, so there is something else to look forward to.
All the photos are now complete too!