There are hundreds of countries that we could have chosen to pair with our cycling adventure across the United States. Pondering where to go was a fun exercise in and of itself. I’ve always enjoyed pouring over road maps, reading articles from other travelers, and chatting through the night discussing what it’s be like to go different places. This enjoyment was amplified in knowing that our choice would define a large part of our trip.
Together, Suzie and I are pretty well traveled in Europe and Asia, so after a few intense conversations, we decided to head south for the winter and cycle across South America.
Knowing that we wanted to begin the trip across the US in the spring, the Southern Hemisphere was appealing since it’d enable us to get a jump start on our excursion. Being summer down there during our winter, we’d essentially be able to skip the season altogether and avoid cycle skiing (that’s not a thing… but an interesting visual) or needing to delay our plans for another few months.
It's a cool thing to be able to say “we are cycling across the Americas.” It adds a whole other element to the expedition from one ocean to the other. Plus, setting it up this way means that we would do it twice!
If I’m being honest, we are slightly annoying country counters (basically… we tally up all the countries we’ve been to and try as best as we can to keep the ticker moving up), so we needed to be sure that the international portion would score us a few points in this category. Suzie’s pretty well traveled on the continent, while I have only been to Columbia. Still, we made sure to design it in a way that both of us were chalking up new turf on our ever-growing list.
There are many cycle tourists that ride the “spine” of the Rockies and Andes; an epic roadway from Canada to the end of the world at Ushuaia--the southernmost tip of South America. I first heard about this planning our Balkan tour in 2012. In looking through planning guides and packing lists, I came across several cycle tourists that had made this journey. While the idea sounds incredible, the constant pushing up mountain ranges would a bit too intense, and we honestly didn’t feel 100% comfortable cycling across Mexico. Therefore, we opted for the latitudinal option.
I’ve yet to see the monstrous range that spans the length of the continent. I saw the movie “Alive” when I was a kid though. It scared the sh&* out of me. Not exactly a source of inspiration, though it absolutely induced a sense of wonder for this region.
I’ve always been drawn to the mountains, especially in planning cycling trips. Touring without hills to conquer ultimately leads to boredom, and there’s definitely something to be said of the accomplishment that you feel after cresting the top an intense climb. The Andes promises to afford such an accomplishment: our most difficult climb has us pushing from sea level to 8,365 feet over 100 miles. I feel like I burned a meals worth of calories just typing that. Wowza.
The views from the summits we reach and the ridge lines we ride will no doubt inspire awe in us both. In all honesty, it would have been nice to build up to these mountains over a few weeks, but since we have to make it to Mendoza for the wine festival, this was our only option. Trial by fire, so they say. Will there be tears, yes. Will high pitched shouting be directed at the road ahead, for sure. And I’m sure Suzie will have a few reactions, as well :)
Cultural experiences almost always take a front seat for Suzie and I when planning a long trip. In all my years of travelling, I have found that no matter how boring or electric a place might be, if you do not have some level of engagement with the people who live there, it fades from memory over time. Based on the people I know who are from Argentina and Brazil, and all that I’ve heard about Paraguay, Chile, and Uruguay… I anticipate an unforgettable experience on the road ahead.
It’s hard to draw generalizations for an entire continent, but from the conversations I have had, I anticipate we’ll find welcoming people who may be willing to sit down and learn a little about what we are up to in exchange for us learning more about their lives. I hope to have the opportunity to write a ton about these experience as we pedal forward.
While last on the list, this could be argued the number one reason for our choice to cycle across South America. From all accounts I have read and the pictures I have seen, this natural phenomenon in the jungle bordering Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, promises to be breathtaking.
We planned it so that the visit to Iguazu Falls happens about ⅔ of the way into the South American portion, leaving us plenty of time to converse about the experience before returning to city life in Uruguay.
Once we made the final call, we got to work planning the route and getting a feel for places to visit along the way. You can find these plans here: Cycling In South America. If you have visited these places or have feedback on any of the reasons we listed out here, please comment below!