How we chose our route from Alaska to Argentina?

I’ve been asked repeatedly to explain how we chose the route we followed from Alaska to Argentina. For the details, we followed the steps listed in this post. For the big picture, we had an overall idea of where we wanted to go.

Our route from Alaska to Argentina

Our route from Alaska to Argentina

  1. Prudhoe Bay had to be our starting point because of the world record. There is only one road south from there.
  2. We had planned to break off the Alaska Highway onto the Cassiar Highway when we got to the turnoff in Canada – John cycled the Cassiar years ago and loved it. However, we talked with plenty of cyclists coming up and those that had ridden the Cassiar said they saw lots and lots of bears. Those on the Alaska Highway had seen bears and bison and bighorn sheep and caribou and moose – we like animals so changed our plan and cycled the Alaska Highway.
  3. I’d heard of the Icefields Parkway for years and wanted to cycle it. This was our chance – even though it was pouring rain the whole week we were there.
  4. Before we left on our journey we asked the boys where they wanted to go – if they could go anywhere and see anything, what did they want to do? Daryl wanted to go to Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore. Mt. Rushmore was a bit too far east, but Yellowstone was doable. We planned our route through the USA to go through Yellowstone. (I should add that we went inland through the USA for two reasons – we cycled the Pacific coast and Baja in 2006 and wanted to see another part of our country. And we couldn’t take ferries because of the world record attempt so we needed to avoid Baja.)
  5. We had planned to go more or less through the middle of Mexico, but public concern about the country (we felt it would have been fine to take the route we planned) led us to change plans and continue south along the USA/Mexico border until nearly at the very tip of Texas. That meant we pedaled the eastern edge of Mexico.
  6. Before we left, both boys had wanted to visit Chitzen Itza in the Yucatan so we planned our route to take a big loop around the Yucatan. By the time we got down there, however, we were all so “ruined out” after seeing so many Mayan ruins that we had no desire to go there. We cut across the southern edge of the Yucatan directly to Belize.
  7. From there to Panama through Central America, there weren’t many choices. There were some small detours here and there that we could take, but mostly we just followed the main road.
  8. There are basically two main pathways through Colombia – through Medellin or through Bogota. A friend had offered us the use of their vacation home in Manizales which was close to Medellin, so we went that way.
  9. We took a long, convoluted route through Ecuador – I’m not sure why. John wanted to go through the Amazon basin so we went up and over to get there. Then we came back up and over. By then, our visas were nearly expired so we took the fastest route out of the country – by dropping down to the coast – rather than heading through the mountains like we had wanted to do.
  10. Peru was a challenge. There are two basic routes through the country – the mountain route where you climb up pass after pass after pass, dropping down ten- or twelve-thousand feet after each one, or the coastal route which was relatively flat but we would face stiff headwinds every day. We agonized over the choice, but finally opted for the coast.
  11. The logical route leaving Peru would have been the Atacama desert through Chile – but we had had enough desert and headwinds for a while. We climbed back up into the Andes and headed to Bolivia. We had wanted to go straight through Bolivia on the altiplano, but a major strike had closed down Potosi – a city we would have had to pass through. We rerouted over the Andes and dropped down into the Amazon basin before turning south toward Argentina – a 400-mile detour.Bolivia map
  12. In Argentina we wanted to visit Mendoza, so headed west rather than east. From there we could have crossed over the mountains into Chile, but that would have meant riding south on the major highway – which we didn’t want to do. We stayed in Argentina and followed the eastern edge of the Andes south.
  13. Our plan had been to continue south on Ruta 40 through Patagonia, but recent heavy rains had made a mess of the road and we didn’t think we would make it through. We turned left, went over to the Atlantic coast, and then turned south again.

The important thing to remember when planning a route is to not overplan. Have a general idea of where you want to go and then plan the details when you get there. That way you’ll be flexible enough to deal with unexpected detours.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

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About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

4 thoughts on “How we chose our route from Alaska to Argentina?

  1. Really amazing stuff guys. Not only the journey, but the article. If we follow the route do we now say we followed the “Family on Bikes Trail”?

    I have an idea for a post or for just information I would like to know. Maybe you have done it already. Your best of list from the 4 of you.

    Best biking stretch. Best overnight stay. Best food. Best experience. Etc…

    Thanks for the great post. We will be using this for sure!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    That would be a great post – I’ll think about it for the future. It’s so hard to choose just one “best of” – every place we went had its highs and lows. We do kind of have one of those in our FAQ page, but we should go back and update that. (http://familyonbikes.org/resources/faq.htm)

    [Reply]

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