Press play: Israel, Alaska, and Mexico

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Lael stands in one place long enough to answer a few questions for KTVA correspondant Jake Edmonds.  Click the images below to external links for words, images, and videos.

Home for less than two weeks, our worlds have shifted and drifted, greatly.

Our final days in Israel were consumed with visiting our closest friends and preparing a presentation about bikepacking and our unique seven year odyssey by bike, including a printed photo exposition entitled “Three Months on the HLC”.  I will have some photos for sale via the blog in the next few weeks.  Following the program we joined a group of riders to camp in a local forest.  We rode into Tel Aviv the next morning, packed our bikes by evening, and were at the airport sleeping on a bench by 1AM, to awake within three hours to check-in for our flight.  By the following morning– including the 11 hour reversal of westward travel– I was building a new bike for Lael.

Lael has chosen to connect a few more dots before the year is done.  Traversing South Africa on high-quality dirt roads, with tailwinds at our back, we talked about the annual escapade of the Tour Divide.  I talked years ago about how my abilities as a cyclist are well matched to that event, but my knees and my personal outlook no longer support such missions.  Lael is on an upswing, honing skills and discovering abilities which build upon her lifelong foundation of fitness.  The HLC proved some previously unknown abilities.  Her road rides last summer broke the ice.  The Fireweed 400 in 2014 was the racing spark.  There is something out there for her and she’s gone to find it.

Moreover, Lael has never ridden from Alaska to the lower 48, she has only ridden about 500 miles of the Great Divide, and she is not yet ready to commit the summer to working in Anchorage.  She departed Thursday on a new bicycle for Banff, Alberta where she will intercept the Tour Divide on June 12.  She’ll continue along the Great Divide route to New Mexico, touching the border of Mexico before focusing herself back towards Anchorage via plane.

At one point, I suggested that we might embark on a period of travel lasting as much as a year.  Even after all of this, Lael will likely return to Alaska within twelve months of leaving last July.  Oh, the things that happen in less than a year.

An exciting round of media follows us out of Israel and back into the USA, hopefully acting as tailwinds along Lael’s ride from Alaska to New Mexico.

KTVA Daybreak

Local CBS affiliate KTVA, Channel 11, invited us onto the Daybreak morning program to discuss out pattern of travel, the last ten months of pedaling, and Lael’s plans to leave the state by bike.  We awoke at 4:30AM to caffeinate and ride to the studio by 6AM.  It was a positive experience considering neither of us have ever embraced public speaking.  It is always great to share positively about the bicycle lifestyle, especially in Anchorage.  Thanks to meteorologist Brett Shepherd for connecting the dots.  Brett is a cycling enthusiast who has worked hard to help promote cycling at the station whenever possible.  The day we were in the studio, his 7-day forecast included a small bicycle icon on the day of the popular Clean Air Challenge ride.  Thanks Brett!

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KTVA Evening News

In the same day, Lael was asked to participate in a segment for the evening news for the same station.  News correspondent Jake Edmonds arrived by himself with a series of cameras and microphones.  He captured some footage as we fit aero bars to Lael’s bike, attached a Go Pro for the sidewalk test rides along Northern Lights Boulevard, and interviewed Lael in the parking lot.  Jake took great care to capture reality, and the 3 minute segment is really fun to watch.  “Lael Wilcox likes to ride bikes.”  Thanks Jake!

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 weRide

Lael’s first two and a half days on the HLC almost broke the internet in Israel.  People were excited to watch her pink balloon tracking across the screen, in spite of the fact that she didn’t look serious, didn’t wear cycling kit, and didn’t carry much equipment.  Moreover, it helped break stereotypes and pressures faced by female athletes in that country, and back home.  There are relatively few women riding mountain bikes in Israel, which is an otherwise socially progressive society.  Check out this article about Israeli-American mountain bike racer and journalist Laurie Copans.

Noa Luria interviewed Lael one evening in the north of Israel, when we visited HLC competitor and friend Niv Amos, who finished first in the southern portion of the event.  Noa provides an exact representation of Lael’s words, coaxed through thoughtful questioning, and presents them among a series of my images.  The title of the article translates approximately to “An Incidental Heroine”, an expression which Noa says is a literal translation of a Hebrew expression.  The article is presented in the new Israeli cycling e-magazine weRide, Issue #11 (page 138, “flip” the digital pages to the right) .  Thanks to editor Arik Feldman for stitching the story together.  An English translation of the text is now available.

Also, check out Ilan Tevet’s account from the HLC immediately following this article.

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Lael’s Globe of Adventure

Finally, Lael has published a series of posts on her blog from the HLC.  Check out Rain in Arad, Sandwiches, Take No Prisoners, and Arwa.  One story remains and will be published from the road.

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Lael left town on Thursday and is en route to Banff, Alberta via the Alaska, Cassiar, and Yellowhead Highways, finishing on the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff.

As of this morning, she was on her way to the Alaska/Canada border.  She camped beyond Tok and Tetlin Junctions last night.  Press play, to Mexico.

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Event: Bikepacking Night in Israel, May 2nd

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Update: A Facebook event has been created.  RSVP and keep up with updates on the Bikepacking Inspiration event page.

Join the Israeli bikepacking community for an evening centered around your bikes and our stories of travel and adventure by bicycle.

Lael Wilcox is a finisher of the HLC2015 and will share secrets about eating on the trail, jumping rope while on tour, and why reading books late into the night is good practice for the HLC.  She will also explain why a snowboarding helmet is such a good idea when riding in Alaska in the winter.

Nicholas Carman is the mechanic and spokesperson for this mad traveling contraption.  He will talk about bikes, routes, and why it isn’t a big deal that he uses platform pedals.

For the past seven years we have traveled through North America, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East.  Our approach to bicycle travel has evolved, and we now seek unpaved roads and trails as much as possible, including routes such as the HLC and IBT in Israel; the Great Divide and the Arizona Trail in the USA; the GR5, 1000 Miles Adventure, the red hiking trails in Poland, the Greek Bicycle Odyssey in Europe; and the Dragon’s Spine Route across South Africa and Lesotho.  Sometimes, we call Alaska our home.  Together, we share our story, as well as some technical discussion about routes and equipment.  A short Q&A will follow.  We fly back to Alaska on May 4th.

Ride to meet us at Kfar Sirkin at 6:30PM on May 2nd.  Pack your bike for a ride across town, across Israel, or around the world.  If at all possible, ride your bike!  Join us on a ride to the Nachshonim Forest to camp for the night.  It’s really close, so don’t sweat it.  First time bikepackers welcome!  It is rumored that HLC singlespeed champion Nir Almog will be present.

Meet: HaDkalim St. 3, Kfar Sirkin at 6:30PM for conversation, the program begins at 7:00.  Bring food and drinks to share, especially if you are driving.

Ride: Nachshonim Forest, after the event.  Simple camping gear, a small light should be fine, pack a beer and a topic of conversation.  We’ll probably ride to coffee in the morning.

Tell your friends!

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In other words, from AK to ZA

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Dundee is a gorgeous town in the Battlefields region of the KwaZulu-Natal province.  The air is humid, the land green; trees are a growing resource for shade after weeks in the veld.  The city is an unusually un-segregated mix of black and white, bustling with small town commerce, equal parts derelict and shiny new.  A lack of abandoned storefronts is a feature in a rural town in South Africa, as in America.  The Dragon’s Spine route has ushered us through the open roads of the karoo and over the mountain highlands of Lesotho, and back into South Africa.  Leaving the country for two weeks and arriving in another province and another climate is startling and exciting.  The South Africa we left behind is different than the South Africa we discover in the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, but not altogether different.  We rode about 30km of gravel railroad service roads yesterday from Elandslaagte to Dundee.  In Dundee we’ve just been interviewed by the local newspaper, the Northern KwaZulu-Natal Courier.  The woman at the local tourist office phoned a correspondent from the paper.  We stand in front of our bikes outside the office for a photo.

In spite of the recent drought on the blog, several outlets have published materials originating from our mad traveling contraption.  Soon, we return to your regularly scheduled program.  Enjoy!

The Salsa Cycles Blog has published “Riding to a Glacier” about an impromptu ride from our front door in Anchorage, AK to the Knik Glacier.  While the events have been documented on the blog, this is an original adaptation, featuring Lael, Christina, and the inimitable Carp, who can ride through waist-deep water.  Thanks to Mike Riemer for sharing our home-brew adventures with the Salsa community!

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The Revelate Designs Blog features “A Letter from South Africa”, in which I complain about white people who complain about being white in a country where being white is still a great privilege.  But we meet some of the loveliest people in the karoo, “these people have hearts the size of Africa.  It is money and politics which lack heart, I suppose.”  There are details about broken carbon, a failed $90 tire, more dead zippers, and a USB charging device that quit after a month–  a must read for curious gear heads.  There are details about the groundbreaking luggage designs in use on our bikes.  Thanks to Eric Parsons for epically creative luggage and the chance to speak candidly about life on the road.

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The new Routes page on Pedaling Nowhere is a growing resource of established routes and creative additions to our community.  It brings detailed and visual route information to one place, including inspiring images, essential stats, and route descriptions.  There are many ways to find and design routes, but this resource has a lot of potential to connect more people with more riding.  I’ve shared three routes from our European adventures alongside classic rides from Cass Gilbert, Joe Cruz, Logan Watts, Tom Walwyn, and more.  Thanks to Logan Watts for the visual and technical expertise to create such a powerful site.  Just don’t follow any of his bikepacking tips— as always, drink real beer!

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Another great place to discover routes is Bikepacking.net, one of the oldest resources of its kind.  There is a growing list of bikepacking routes, an active forum, and an user-supported database of gear reviews, trip reports, and tech.  I recently added the Bike Odyssey race route in Greece to the page.  Sign up to become a member of the forums or to add content to the page.  If you haven’t yet heard of Scott and the mammoth bikepacking scavenger hunt he and Eszter completed this past summer on the Continental Divide Trail (not the Great Divide Route!), you should also write to thank him for the concept of a bikeable Arizona Trail (AZT), and for the Coconino Loop, the Gila River Ramble, and other SW-area routes.  He’s also the guy behind Trackleaders.com and Topofusion mapping software, and has inspired riders to carry their bikes for over ten years.  A veteran bike adventurer and computer programer, I crown him “The Wizard” of bikepacking.  Thanks Scott!

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Bikepackers Magazine, in collaboration with Bikepacking.net, has compiled a resource called the 2014 Bikepacking Year in Review.  Lael and I are featured among a list of accomplished racers and riders, including Mike Hall, Kurt Refsnider and Jay Petervary; Scott Morris, Eszter Horanyi, Cass Gilbert, Kurt Sandiforth, Bjorn Olson and Kim McNett.  Bikepackers Magazine is a top resource for bikepacking news.

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Lastly, the Anchorage Dispatch News published an article about us just before we left town in July, entitled “Bike-work routine allows couple to take long cycling treks”.  Lael and I lived in Anchorage for the winter and organized an event called “The Art of Bikepacking”.  Held at The Bicycle Shop on Dimond, I shared a series of photographic prints from our travels in Europe; Eric Parsons of Revelate Designs spoke about the history of his company; and Dan Bailey shared professional tips for amateur adventure photographers like us.  Thanks to Erik Hill for the exposure in the ADN.

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