An Interview with Jedidiah Jenkins
Thursday 5th January 2017
Jedidiah Jenkins features in the San Miguel Rich List, a list of 19 men and women who have devoted their lives to pursuing life rich experiences.
What was the reason behind the decision to do this particular route?
There is a natural romance in the way North and South America connect, and I wanted to discover it by travelling from the top to bottom. I was interested in the way those two continents connect in one tiny spot and witness first-hand the places where humans moved by foot and boat more than 15,000 years ago to reach Patagonia from Alaska. I wanted to see all that land for myself, and a bicycle seemed like the right pace to achieve it.
Were there any other destinations you considered?
Not really, Patagonia was my first choice, but I did worry it would be too far or too dangerous so considered biking across Canada, the US or Europe.
Obviously, this whole trip must have taken a lot of logistics to get it off the ground. What was the main stumbling block you had to deal with?
The primary concern was timing; you don't want to bike through Central America during the rainy season, and you can't bike through Patagonia in winter. I had to make sure I was in the right place at the right time. This approach did increase the pressure on me as I travelled - it gave me a sense of urgency that helped keep the trip exciting.
What range of bikes or models to complete this journey on?
I used a Surly Long Haul Trucker, which was recommended by an old guy at a bike shop who had cycled across the US several times. I trusted him, and the bike was perfect. It was steel and could be welded if broken but truth be told, it never broke!
On that first pedal stroke, can you describe that feeling knowing the challenge had begun?
I was terrified as I hadn't trained and I had never clipped into my pedals, not even once. I had been so busy finishing up with my job and life; I hadn't practised or prepared! I fell right over when I clipped in as my bike was terribly heavy, much worse than I had considered. The first few minutes were dismal, but then within an hour I realised I was on the adventure of a lifetime and I was singing and celebrating.
Did you ever deviate from your planned route or experience an issue which delayed you?
I didn't have much of a planned route, but I knew I needed to get south. Each day I would figure where I should go that night and head there. If something happened, I would change course. My biggest deviation was from Peru to Bolivia. I thought I would go from Peru to Chile all the way down, but I discovered that the top half of Chile is miserable desert, and I couldn't do that again. So I diverted to Bolivia and Argentina and had some of my greatest memories there. It ended up being the best decision of my whole trip.
Where did you experience the most welcoming people and how were you perceived when entering new countries?
My favourite people were the Mexicans and the Argentinians. They are proud people, proud of their culture, heritage, land and excited to show it off. Almost everyone was thrilled to see me, if only because of the oddity of seeing a white man on a bike and clearly living on it. That strangeness superseded any stereotypes they had about America or Americans. They immediately assumed I was crazy and therefore, I made friends easily, even when I hardly understood what they were saying.
The final pedal stroke, how did that compare to the first one?
It was very different. By the final stretch, the bicycle had become part of my body and an extension of myself. In the beginning, the bike was a heavy monster I had to drag, but in Patagonia, it was simply me.
If you were to ride the same route again, what would you change?
I would love to ride it again and revisit the beautiful landscape. I wouldn't change much, but only now, with a bit more knowledge I'd revel in the food more, spend a bit longer in the magical cities and towns, and take some side roads I missed.
Jedidiah Jenkins was discovered as part of the San Miguel Rich List, a list of ‘life-rich’ individuals from across the globe who have unique, compelling, aspirational human stories. To find out more about the campaign, and watch videos like marine life photographer Goran Ehlme’s below, visit www.sanmiguel.co.uk/richlist