Swiss cyclists pedal through Ridgecrest on grand continental journey

Just passing through

Swiss cyclists pedal  through Ridgecrest on  grand continental journeyAmong the untold visitors during this weekend’s Petroglyph Festival were a couple from Switzerland who happened on the Maturango Museum while crowds were out en force. Our photographer, Laura Austin, encountered the pair as they were paused on their epic journey that has already taken them

thousands of miles as they travel toward South America.

By ANITA and ALEX SCHWERZMANN

Special to the News Review

Traveling south was the idea — the exact path then only little outlined and still fuzzy in our minds, which made us start pedaling in Fairbanks, Alaska, in early July.

After more than a year of preparation, we finally sat on our bicycles and headed out in our preferred heavenly direction. After a few weather-capricious days in Alaska, we got bored by the too-straight and too-flat profile of the Alaska Highway and wanted to dive into some other landscapes.

So we turned left at Tok Junction onto the so-called Top-of-the-World Highway up to Chicken, Alaska. This mostly gravel, rough road took us higher and higher and so we passed the northernmost border between the U.S.A. and Canada. There were around another 100 kilometers of pure, pristine wilderness which separated us from the brisk and frisky town, Dawson City — where you get the feeling, the Klondike gold rush just happened yesterday.

We then made our way down the Klondike Highway — and our naive European imagination got taught for the first time what wild, unspoilt wide country really means. We found untouched land stripes where there might be at maximum a huntsman cabin — that’s it. This challenged also our travel style. Instead of shopping all 40-60 kilometers in the next bigger town, we were obligated to carry food and supplies for at least a week with us. Grace to our water filter and the many creeks streaming through this country, we never ran out of drinkable water.

After crossing a friendly, sunny and beautiful Yukon Territory, we turned into Stewart-Cassiar Highway, where we expected even more sun (as we got told that British Columbia is sunny most of the time).

We got heavily disappointed by St. Peter and caught two-and-a-half weeks of rain all the way down the 720 kilometers of highway to Kitwanga. That was a main reason why we wanted to escape into the sun via the Inside Passage to Vancouver Island.

The plan (nearly) worked, and after another few days cloudy and rainy weather, we got welcomed by a warming sun which accompanied us to Nanaimo. We there jumped on another ferry crossing the sea to the mainland, where we entered the states again.

Washington state surprised us with some really nice attitudes as the fact that our dog Lia now was welcome instead of an unwished-for animal. Also, Washington was the friendliest place for cyclists so far on our journey, topped only by bicycle-crazy Oregon.

By making our way down along the coast, we took a small detour via Whidbey Island and finally came into Seattle.

From there we struggled in finding longer bike paths and sticked to some alternate roads off the busy highways to arrive at the delta of Columbia River and followed from Astoria on the Oregon-Coastline. Oregon State does a great job in terms of hiker- and biker-friendly state parks, and so we were a big crowd of muscle-operated fellows making our way down by hopping from one state park to the next.

Travelers entering California on that route soon get welcomed by the huge and majestic giant redwoods. We enjoyed some days under these revered trees, which have seen many things on earth come and go.

When we approached San Francisco, we heard about the immense fires burning north of the city. As we received many warnings from locals, we decided to wait and see how things developed and not to drive into and through the smoke and ashes as many other cyclists did. We finally were lucky to share a ride with friends, and so we saw a part of the coast from a car driver’s perspective.

At that point, we were already a few weeks cycling along the sea and our desire to see something else of the U.S.A. became bigger. We had great hosts in the San Francisco area, and they helped us to find an adventurous alternative route. That’s why we turned inland, crossed the Central Valley and started climbing up the 9000-plus feet through Yosemite over Tioga Pass. It was just breathtaking beautiful, and we enjoyed every pedal stroke.

After some relaxing downhills, we arrived in the Eastern Sierra region and discovered again a complete new landscape of desert and prairie. A stopover in Ridgecrest allowed us to fill up supplies and have a short day off to start cycling again and follow our path down South to Bolivia…

We are happy to say that our adventure so far was a great experience and with only three flat tires, one broken axle and being hit by a car without bigger human injury, we are looking forward to the next thousands of kilometer waiting for us.

Pictured: Alex and Anita Schwerzmann grip a flagpost adorning one of their bicycle trailers. So far they have added Canadian and American flags, and they plan to add others as they cross into additional countries. The Swiss couple planned a 15-month trip that began in Fairbanks, Alaska, and is planned to end in Bolivia, South America. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-11-10