One Man. One Bike. One Tent.
June 20, 2012 — August 9, 2012 — Alaska to Mexico — 3634 miles — 50 days
“Are you bringing a gun?”
“What in the world would compel you to do this?”
“Are you insane?”
“You’re going alone?”
“My husband and I have talked about this ….we think you’re too over-confident!”
“My buddies and I think you’re nuts …you have bigger ‘stones’ than any of us!”
These are some of the comments I was getting in the days leading up to me climbing on
On Tuesday, June 19, 2012, the Delta Airlines morning flight was nonstop from Minneapolis, MN to Anchorage, AK. In the hold of the jet was my brand new bicycle ….a ‘Surly — Long Haul Trucker’ ….I liked the name because it described what I was about to do. I was fortunate to have a window seat and the weather was crystal clear …for the last 3 hours of the flight, I was looking down at heavily glaciated mountain wilderness. Do the math …3+ hours at 500+ mph is greater than 1500 miles just in this segment of the trip alone …and from 35,000 feet, there was no sign of civilization. I had a subtle laugh looking out into the remote distance as the visual became so real …’I have to ride through this …and it’s only a portion of the trip …what in the world am I thinking … what did I sign up for’? It was a strange, yet exhilarating feeling as I rode out of Anchorage …and into complete wilderness the next morning.
For the last several years, I would look out my office window ….and dream ….dream of being outside …dream of the natural world …dream of big, hairy, audacious adventures. My upbringing instilled in me a sense of wonder of what is over the horizon. So …I have always loved travel and adventure …and I would read the stories of others who escaped to pursue those dreams …they dared to do the unusual …and they had the guts to quit talking about it and just do it. I’d feel a great sense of jealousy.
Professionally, I felt completely stale as an institutional stockbroker …the office felt lifedraining …and I was determined to feel ALIVE again. Like a rocket needs critical thrust to break the bonds of gravity, I needed to escape this constraining environment and break the bonds of my professional career. I knew that I just didn’t need to change professions …I needed adventure. And, the adventure couldn’t just be a ‘week off’ type of vacation. I needed to do something so strikingly different, and a huge stretch …one that required constant perseverance even when I might not want to continue. I wanted the adventure to be remote, gruelingly physical, have breathtaking beauty, and I wanted to do it completely alone.
I have strong confidence in my abilities, but I wanted to know what the struggles against my limitations might be. Through this type of journey, I instinctively knew that I couldn’t help but grow, have great experiences, and I knew it would be life changing. If not now …when? At 57, I knew I wasn’t getting younger and my friends were starting to encounter medical problems. My family was completely supportive, so in May 2012, I resigned and determined this was the time for the test. I hadn’t contemplated or planned what my adventure might be …but I went into high gear and quickly decided that I would ride a bicycle from Alaska to Mexico …one man, one bike, one tent. I’ve never been a big cyclist. Prior to this trip, I hadn’t biked beyond 20 – 30 miles in a day …and had never ridden a bike loaded with gear until the very morning I peddled out of Anchorage. I didn’t train specifically for this type of adventure …but had always maintained decent conditioning. I just simply felt that if I wasn’t in shape for the trip …I would ride myself into shape along the way.
Adventures like these are rife with uncertainty. You better be comfortable with your decision making in the face of the unknown …each day I would wake up not knowing what the day might bring. You are totally living in the present. The numerous variables you constantly weigh throughout each day include; your physical condition, mental condition, wild animals (I encountered 19 bears, 2 moose), weather, headwinds / tailwinds, mountainous terrain, mechanical breakdowns, bike-shop locations, food and supply locations, campsites or lack of, traffic, road conditions (shoulders or not), and time of day …whether to proceed or stop. The decision points …and decision making was tremendously interesting. This journey greatly reinforced and furthered my desire to actively live life …to not just bumble along and let it randomly happen. The numerous lessons I experienced are now even more acutely clear …and on many levels. People along the way were nothing but great …they were conscious of my exposure, and would do anything to try to help …and they loved that I was actually doing what most people just preach or dream …their enthusiasm fueled my soul.
I returned to Alaska in early November, 2012 and went back to the F Street Station Bar and Grill. The bartender, Tiffany Pulver, was on duty the night of June 19, 2012 when she overheard my conversation at that time with locals explaining what I was about to do. On November 9, 2012, I returned to the bar and she looked at me and said “I remember you, I just didn’t believe you.”
Please join me on the ride and read my day to day stories, decisions faced, and people encounters at www.goingcommandoblog.wordpress.com
A two minute YouTube video of this story was put together by a University of Minnesota
journalism student named Andrew Christina …here’s the link:
Jerry Holl Bio:
Jerry Holl lives in Tonka Bay, Minnesota with his wife Suzanne. They have 3 grown children. He worked in the corporate world for 33 years for several companies in sales, marketing and executive management roles. He likes to travel and be active in the outdoor world and likes a variety of activities including; scuba, downhill and cross country skiing, has climbed Mt. Rainier, Mt Baker and several 14ers in Colorado, likes a variety of water sports, canoe trips, whitewater rafting, backpacking, has skydived, has hitchhiked across North America, has motorcycled much of America and Canada, has run with the bulls in Spain …and most recently has bicycled solo from Alaska to Mexico.
He went to the University of Minnesota and graduated in 1976 from the Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Geological Engineering and also received an MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Business School in 1978.
Jerry Holl is on Twitter @jerry_holl and you can e-mail him here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sonia Marsh Says: This is really a true example of a “My Gutsy Story,” Jerry. You did what so many men long to do: quit their corporate job, or “cubicle job” as my hero, Chris Guillebeau talks about to his tribe of non-conformists. Of course there are many women as well who seek adventure in their lives. I can’t wait to read your book when you’re ready, and hear about your future adventures.
Please leave your comments for Jerry below. He will be over to respond. Thank you to all who follow the series.
NEWS ABOUT DECEMBER
I shall be in Paris at a book signing on December 13th, 5-7 pm, at WH Smith (scroll down on their website) as well as visiting family and friends in Paris and London. (ANY SUGGESTIONS? WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED IN? LET ME KNOW IN YOUR COMMENTS BELOW OR E-MAIL ME AT Sonia@soniamarsh.com)
Since we are all busy during the holidays, I shall post stories and photos from Europe during the month of December, and hope you take some time to write and submit your “My Gutsy Story.” Be the first one on January 7th 2013. Thank you.
Do you have a “My Gutsy Story” you’d like to share?
NOW is the time to submit your “My Gutsy Story” and get published in our Anthology. Please contact email@example.com for details.