Welcome to the very first blog for the new Breaking the Cycle Education site. I am drafting this somewhere over the mid Pacific Ocean, half way between Melbourne and San Diego (via Los Angeles).
I am both excited and petty exhausted because, after months of hectic planning, collating all sorts of gear from some very generous sponsors, coordinating the development of this new website and education programme and with very little time to train, we are on the cusp of getting started on the first expedition for 2018; a bike-packing adventure down the Baja Divide in Mexico.
Setting off from San Diego on Wednesday 7th February, the plan is to ride the length of Baja California, crossing the ‘Great Wall’ into Mexico and finishing up in La Paz near the southern tip of the peninsula some 2,500km later.
Together with my co-cyclist, Chris Pennington, we will use GPS to navigate an often rugged and sandy route along a series of recommended backroads and trails, winding our way between the Pacific and Sea of Cortez coastlines, through the spectacular mountains, desert landscapes and beaches.
This will be an unsupported bike-packing expedition where we will be travelling with only the bare essentials – a few clothes, camping gear, communications equipment, bike tools and spares, food and water – stored in only the bags we can strap to our bikes. We aim to resupply in towns and villages mostly located on the main highway that bisects the peninsula from north to south.
The route is going to be a real challenge. Ninety five percent will be off road with some serious climbs to do, so getting it done in the allotted 24 days will be tight. The time recommendation for this particular bike-packing journey is 35-40 days.
But there is a good reason to try to push ourselves. The Baja Divide is the first of a series of six expeditions I’ve planned to prepare for my Breaking the Cycle South Pole expedition, scheduled to begin in late November. The 2-4 week rides – Mexico, Iceland, Australia, Namibia, Bolivia and India – are generally either polar, sand or altitude expeditions in order to prepare myself physically and mentally for traversing Antarctica.
These journeys will be more than just training; they will be a canvas to create inspiring adventure stories with great learning opportunities for students participating in the Breaking the Cycle Education programme.
There is still quite a lot to do in San Diego in the five days before we set off. As well as last minute preparations and sorting out our communications, I will be presenting to 4th Graders in Chula Vista Elementary (south San Diego) in person and giving a virtual presentation to students in North America via the organisation Exploring By the Seat of Your Pants. We also want to connect students from these presentations with others around the world, particularly Ivanhoe Grammar, the lead school in Melbourne. And, of course, we’d like to see something of San Diego.
My sister Robin, who lives in Sacramento (north California) is flying down to spend the weekend with me, so I’m super excited to catch up with her. Last year, when I did my polar training journey in Arctic Canada she travelled up to Whitehorse post-expedition so we could spend three days together. Living on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, we don’t have many opportunities to see each other.
My vision for this whole project is to complete a challenging expedition on every continent, culminating with making the first bicycle crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole, the expeditions being integral with the Breaking the Cycle Education curriculum. The Baja Divide is the first of this series.
With its mix of steep climbs, sand and rough surfaces, the Baja we are not underestimating the challenge. There will be a bit of everything to hone technical skills, build strength and endurance and rediscover my expedition mindset.
Chris is a professional-level photographer and an aspiring adventure filmmaker, so we hope to share some great images, video and stories with our audience. Stay tuned!