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  • Posted Oct 1, 2008

Ward and Jacky Budweg of Decorah began their trip around the world by bicycle last summer. Above, they’re pictured in Porto Natales, Chile.

Decorah Editor's Note: Ward and Jacky Budweg of Decorah sold their business, their home and most of their possessions to finance their trip around the world on bicycles which began last summer. The Budwegs previously owned Decorah Bicycles and Jacky had been working as a registered dietician at Winneshiek Medical Center. The trip was part of a prenuptial agreement they made to each other before they were married eight years ago. After traveling through South America, they flew back to the U.S. to spend the month of September visiting family and traveling to Rotary Clubs and schools to share their stories. Ward is a member of the Decorah Rotary Club and he and his wife will be speaking at the Decorah club's Tuesday, Sept. 30 meeting. They also will be speaking at Decorah Lutheran Church's adult forum Sunday, Sept. 28 at 9:40 a.m. They plan to continue their trip, biking through New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea, then China and Japan. The Budwegs will to fly to Alaska in June of 2009 and will finish their last year biking in the U.S. ending in Decorah in July of 2010. By Ward Budweg It has been one year of adventure and every corner has offered us a new challenge. We have learned countless things of the world and its cultures. The single most important thing that we have learned is that "people are people" and faith in humanity is still the best. Our fears of entering certain countries, not knowing that particular language and the uncertainties of safety have been surprisingly squelched by the generosity and friendliness of the people of that country. To recap a year that encompasses 37 countries, 24 languages and over 15,000 km, I will try to do it in different categories. These categories are based on the many questions we receive when we tell our cycling adventure story. Three categories "What is your favorite country so far?" With this question that is asked most often, we have come up with different ways to classify our favorite. We have categorized them by scenery, hospitality of the people and by how bike friendly the countries are. Norway, the Mediterranean Coast of Italy, Costa Rica and the southern part of Chile rank at the top for scenery. Norway, with its lakes and rolling hills, is simply fantastic. The Mediterranean Sea provides an aqua blue backdrop to the cities that are at the sea's edges, which are carved out of the white rock mountains. Its beauty is hard to put into words. Costa Rica is very stunning with all the flowers and lush green mountains. The snow-capped Andes Mountains of southern Chile were breathtaking and mysterious. Their grand size and unpredictable forces gave the impression of a ferocious tiger unleashing its energy through gale force winds and steep rocky roads. Argentina ranks at the top for overall hospitality and outward friendliness. We were invited by total strangers to share in countless barbecues and we received more friendly waves out on the road than any other country. Brazil and Slovenia were also very friendly as we were invited on a fishing trip in Brazil and to partake in a cricket game in Slovenia. Bicycle friendliness has to go to Europe, particularly Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The roads were smooth and well signed and usually had a very nice shoulder to ride on. Also, the drivers were extremely considerate when passing. This is a sharp contrast to the roads of southern Chile, which had deep gravel with washboards, and the winds were never ending. In Brazil, all I can say is "the drivers are just plain crazy." The speed limit signs are a waste of money as are the no passing lines. We have seen countless times when two semi trucks with two trailers each are passing with double yellow lines and oncoming traffic...very, very close.. Challenges We have had many challenging moments. Those moments that come to mind right away are the winds of Patagonia and the distance between the towns, the cold temperatures in France, having to bathe in glacier waters, no ATMs available and very poor maps. Patagonia was our biggest challenge. The headwinds were 20 to 30 miles per hour (mpr) all day and everyday. Some days we only made 25 miles after six hours of pedaling. One day we must have looked down right pathetic. After six hours of pedaling at 4 mph into a 30 mph headwind a huge dump truck stopped and asked us if we needed a ride to the next city. We were forever grateful for his kindness. We were 50 kilometers from the next city and we were out in the open pampas of Terra Del Fuego with no trees in site to provide a windbreak. The distance between towns can be as great as 500 km and requires a lot of preplanning. When we reached Ushuai, Argentina we purchased a map. After looking at the map Jacky said, "This is not a very good map. There aren't any towns shown." I told her we were in Patagonia and there are no towns. She said, "Oh!" The cold temperatures of France were also challenging. We were camping in 24 degrees and riding all day with a high of only 40 degrees. We were cold and never had a chance to warm up. Even stopping at a restaurant or grocery store would not warm us up. In southern Chile we were challenged to bathe in a Glacier river after four days without a shower. The ice cold water gave you an ice cream headache but at least Jacky and I could stand to be by each other after that. Getting money in some of the larger cities also challenged us. The tourist city of Copacabana, Bolivia with a population of 15,000 had no ATMs and the one bank that they had opened on Tuesday at 2:30 pm. We were there Sunday afternoon with no Bolivian currency. We had no choice but to sit and wait. While we waited we had to entertain ourselves without spending any money so we hiked and explored the area. Our most constant challenge has been and still is the poor maps. Many times the roads are not listed. Cities are shown on the map but do not exist. Many times the campgrounds indicated are in the wrong towns and the labeled distances are incorrect. Fears "Are you ever afraid?" This is another commonly asked question. I can classify our fear into a couple of different areas: natural weather fear, the fear of different cultures, mechanical fears and fear of being victimized by a stranger. There have been three different times when we have been afraid because of the weather. The first time was when we were hit with the Bura winds in Slovenia. The 140 km winds tried to shred our tent for over three hours (with us in it) and blew away some of our camping supplies. The second time was in Torres de Paine, Chile when a storm brewed up while we were climbing to the 6,000 ft summit. During the descent, the winds picked up and were blowing at 140-to160 km along an exposed mountain ridge. Jacky was down on her hands and knees trying to crawl around the ridge when the wind picked her up and she started to float off the mountain. She grabbed a rock and I dove on top of her until the wind let up enough for us to make it around the ridge. We later found out that a climber was blown off the ridge and it took rescuers 2 1/2 days to get the injured man off the mountain. The third time was again wind related. We were in southern Chile on one of their infamous gravel roads. The road was very steep with at least a 25-degree slope. It had deep loose rock, was very narrow with no shoulder, and had 500-foot drop-offs. I did say it was windy, right? It was March 1 and for the first time on this trip I had to push my bike up a hill. But, at the top of the hill things got worse. The rock was deeper and looser and the winds were even stronger. I had to walk down the hill because the narrow road did not allow any room for error with the bike. Now, I hate to walk my bike up a hill but I REALLY hate to walk my bike DOWN a hill. Later that day a gust of wind literally blew Jacky over on her bike. That day ended when we had to camp in a farmyard because the town shown on the map did not exist. Good thing we had a lot of rice with us. Our plan had been to restock our food supply in the town that "did not exist". A rule for southern Chile is: if you see food, buy it! Two different times we were afraid because of mechanical failure. The first was in hilly Kigali, Rwanda. I was riding in a small pickup that was carrying the materials for the library shelves we were about to build. The small Toyota truck was grossly overloaded with 60 sheets of one-inch plywood. The front wheels barely touched the ground. When we were heading down a steep hill towards a busy intersection I noticed the driver frantically pumping the brakes. The brake pedal was going to the floor and we were not slowing down. God was with us. The green light allowed us to go through the very busy intersection unscathed. The second mechanical problem was also related to brakes, our bicycle brakes. We were crossing the Andes Mountains from Osorno, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina. We had been riding up the mountain, in rain, for three hours. It was when we started our one- hour, 20-mile descent that we noticed the effects the rain and steepness of the downgrade had on our bicycles. Our brakes were wearing out quickly and failing to slow us down. We made it down the mountain with our brakes wore down to the metal. Many times I saw the guardrail way too close and the 1,000 foot drop-off was scaring me to death. When it comes to people harming us, we have been relatively safe with a few exceptions. Our first exception was in Sweden when a man came to our tent during the night three different times and yelled at us. The yelling was not in English or Swedish and had negative American connotations. We kept very quiet and hoped he would leave which he eventually did. The second experience also occurred in Sweden. One night a group of young people almost ran over our tent (with us in it). The car sped up the hill and quickly swerved when they saw our tent, missing us by less than a meter. We believe the car they were driving was stolen because it was abandoned 300 meters from our tent and badly damaged. We were very lucky. Our third encounter was in Juli, Peru. We stopped at a small, out of the way restaurant. We were enjoying a beer when a gentleman from Cuzco joined us. As we were visiting with him a group of locals came over to our table to warn us. The gentleman we were talking with had a gun in his coat pocket. We could not see it because we were on the other side of the table. The locals told us that he would rob us because we were Americans. Jacky called a "Birkie" and we left immediately (Birkie is our code word for...don't ask any questions, just get up and leave.) This is the first time we have had to use it. We always try to make a connection with the locals where ever we are. It has proven to be our lifesaver many times.

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