It's been over a year since I sat down and spoke with the boys about their fantastic bike ride from Alaska to Argentina, but I don't think it matters. It's just as important today as it was then, maybe even more so. There's the intial, "Oh my God, you did what??" And then life happens and it fades, just like the mundane. But their story has been lingering in my head, and therefore staying a formidable image of my everyday. True, I think about them because I have had this interview on my conscious, but because of it, I think the idea of it will always be a bit more a part of me then it would have if I hadn't been a flake and gotten this out in a more timely manner. I've had more time to think about it. There's the pure phyiscal part of the trip, but there is so much more to it than that. All three of them - Nateon and the brothers, Mike and John - had lost their mothers to brain tumors and this ride was in honor of their memory. And a fundraiser to help raise awareness for the work of the National Brain Tumor Foundation.

For this interview to make the best sense it's important to watch the 7 epidodes that Nateon put together as the beginnings of the documentary film he is working on about the ride first - See Spinning Southward Videos at Mello Ajello Media. The interview took place in San Francisco at the Welcome Home reception the Foundation had for the boys. We sat down before the event officially started and talked about what it was like to be on the road for over a year, peddleing away over 16,000 miles.

Kim-What did you think of or, what did you miss from your trip?

Mike-I think I can say that the strangest sort of culture shock was coming home.  More than being blown away with that confusing "where are we?" bit, was a big cozy bed, hanging out and a hot shower and a kitchen down below.












Kim-How long were you guys out?

Mike-Thirteen and a half months.
John-I didn’t miss anything, I had a bed, a shower, my girlfriend, and there was no missing at that point.  Now a couple months down the road when I kind of got settled, then it starts to creep back into your mind and kind of permeates a lot of your thoughts about things you get kind of nostalgic.  But that first night I didn’t miss anything. 

Nate-I had just traveled for 4 days straight from the bottom of Argentina in a bus to Buenos Aries, then a 14 hour flight to LAX.  So I got to LAX and  it was total culture shock.  I was tripping out the whole time.   My brother came to pick me up and I actually slept on his couch that night in his living room. It kind of felt like I was still on the road a little bit, it really didn’t feel like the trip was over because I didn’t have a home to go back to.  It was kind of a weird feeling..

Kim-I saw the 6th episode first, and then I thought I should start from the beginning. I thought it was interesting that on the 6th episode you kept getting flat tires (Points at Mike.). But in the first episode Nate had the flat tires.

John-It all comes full circle; no one escaped from major calamity, injury, and sickness. 

Mike-I thought I was.

Nate-You were talking a lot of smack too, the whole time all the way down to Peru then he just got smashed! 








Kim-I found it interesting because I didn’t watch it all the way from the beginning, I thought hum there is something going on here, then when I watched from the beginning it all made sense.

John-Mike paid karmic dept in full.

Kim- Who had the puppy? 

Mike- I did.

Kim-I like the way you said “puppies and sunsets.”

John-I don’t know how to describe Mike’s relationship with animals, but it was intense.

Nate-He was like Dr. Doolittle, like the road surgeon for all deprived dogs and such.

Kim-And there were a lot of deprived dogs?

Nate-Yes, a lot.

John- Too many.

Mike-Its ruff.

Kim- I love the story that you went there and you didn’t have the bike-bob and you met some guys, and they sold you one.  (A bike-bob is a trailer.)

Nate-Yeah that was crazy.












John-Yeah, there were a lot of serendipitous moments on this trip, that being one of them, but also just meeting Nate was one of those things.  Here's a guy  we didn’t know anything about before the trip or even as we were starting it. We were thinking, "wouldn’t it be great to have someone here to capture this on film?"

Mike- Also to keep us from hitting each other.

John- Then for him, as someone who had always wanted to do a travel documentary via bike, and someone who had also lost his mom due to a brain tumor.  Everything just weaved seamlessly together. One conversation and a plane ride later there he was.

Kim-You missed your plane too.


Mike-That was kind of a dip in the water for the trip.  You meet people along the way and things happen and it all just kind of works out.

Kim- Back to the dog.  I love the dog.  I remember you were at this river and you meet this Mexican man in a towel all because of the dog.

Mike-We found this dog that was basically tied by a piece of wire on the side of the highway. We said we can’t take it along with us, as much as we would like to.  We tried to put it in a mango field but it chased after us.  So I just picked it up and shoved it in my backpack and away we go.  We would figure it out later.







Kim-But you met this man in a towel, why was he in a towel?

Mike-Well I don’t know why he was in a towel.

John-I think it was because he had just woken up and he was out on the island and we were yelling across.

Nate-When we actually got to the river it was like 8 or 9am.

John-We don’t ask questions, you may not want to know the answers.

Nate- Especially a man that big in a towel.

Mike-I was just glad that he kept the towel on.

Kim-Then Applebee’s, I can’t believe there was Applebee’s.

John-That is the kind of the tension between the old and new there in Mexico. You see a kind of  transformation of the cultural landscape, the culinary landscape, everything. 

Nate-They are everywhere too, Burger King, Applebee’s, popping up everywhere.

John-You try not to but, you pass judgment, just because I think we are all so enamored with what traditional Mexico is.  Maybe not politically speaking but in terms of the culinary traditions and the emphasis on family, a lot of those things and you kind of look at it, and they are - I don’t know - jealous?











Kim-Ok, I am not being very linear but in Mazatlan you met Martin, James, and Anthony and to me they felt like the British version of you guys.

Nate-That is really funny because they were, they have footage of their whole trip too, and they are going to send it to me.   We started getting in contact with them because they were about three weeks to a month ahead of us.

John-They were our scouting team.

Nate-They were our British scouts in the field, they would tell us what the terrain was like, when things were happening.  Later Mike and I stayed with one of them [James] in Buenos Aries and he told us about the trip and the interactions that they had and the problems they had and it was almost exactly identical to the problems we had.

Kim-What was the package you were waiting for?

John-Bike parts, tires.

Kim-But you guys were not happy?

Mike-It was an overnight package and it took a month.

Kim-A month??!!

Mike-A month, we stayed figuring oh we can wait a couple of days and everyday we were told oh, it is coming, it'll be here tomorrow and we spent a month waiting for it.

John-You get a little stir crazy











Kim-You were well rested and you watched baseball?

John- We did, we did it all in a month.

Kim- Oh and you met that really cool lady and she said you had to communicate, so how did that go?  Did you listen?

Nate-Yeah, the reason I put that in there was because that was kind of a prophetic statement.  That was a very important part of the trip.  

John- That was probably the one diversional element between our trip and the three English guys. Only one of them spoke Spanish and from my understanding the other two that didn’t, weren’t interested in learning.  I think it really limited them in terms of their experience.  We were invited into homes all the time, people feeding us; we had all these great interactions.  That was one of the major elements of the trip.

Mike-It enriched our trip so much to be able to communicate with people. 

Nate- Each one of us were able to communicate or at least we spoke enough to be able to get by.

Mike-Whether we were staying in some palace in Acapulco or staying with a small chili farmer out in the middle of the countryside we were able to make connections with these people and it really made a difference.











Kim- Then Pat? I couldn’t understand his story about the  machine gun. (Another man had come over to watch the interview, and it just happened to be Pat.)

Pat-Just an ordinary day, crazy people.  In the middle of the night these guys were driving around with guys in the back of a pick up with blazing machine guns.

Kim-What about the guy who kept following you around saying, “What are you doing in this Country?”

Pat- That is the same guy.

John-I don’t know if you saw in the episodes that we met Pat and then were able to reconnect with him and his girlfriend, we just had a stellar time. 

Kim-I love how you met a Japanese guy in Alaska and then you met him again.

John-Yeah we are still talking to him via email.

Kim-Then there was Ryan? He was from Pittsburgh, right?

John-There were all kinds of characters there.

Kim-You were talking about how there was a connection among the riding groups.

Mike-At a certain level, everyone understands the experience of being out there on the road, and the difficulties that it presents, it was awesome.   I think at one point we were riding with about 6 or 7 riders, it was a blast.

John-We had a biking gang basically, no tattoos but….









Kim- No tattoos well, the fact that you actually went.  I was trying to explain to a child how far 16,000 miles was and all I could say was “It is so far!”  The fact that you were riding so many miles, it is unbelievable.

John-It is hard to wrap your arms around it.

Mike-That is one of the great things about traveling by bike, we weren’t going from tourist destination to tourist destination.  We were out there in the middle of no mans' land.  No one who didn’t live there was actively trying to go to some of these places.  A lot of the times that was when we found some of the coolest spots.  People would say, 'what are you doing out here?'  Then they would say, “Well, all right, come on in, sit down and tell me.”

Kim-Well yeah, kids don’t even ride their bikes to school anymore...

John-We are advocating that...

Mike- Years down the line when we all have grandkids and I can tell them that I got on a bike and road from Alaska to Argentina.  What have you done?  Go chop some wood, go take out the trash…

Nate-They didn’t have flying scooters back then.









Todd (Cameraman)- At what point, if any, where you ready to quit? 

Mike- Never. Well, I will say this, there were definitely times when we wanted to be finished, but at least from my perspective there was never a time when I said, "you know what? I can’t go through with this."

John-I think Mike is right.  We had too much invested in this trip, there were too many people who were counting on us in some way, inspired by what we were doing,  Brain tumor survivors who we were communicating with via email along the way.  Given that cause, there was no turning back.  But there were certainly some trying times. What sticks out in my mind were the deserts of Peru and Chile.  There was just this sort of unbroken monotony in the landscape.  It sounds a little harsh. I love the desert, but you try to ride in the head wind for a month...

Nate-Chile is almost all dessert and that is almost the length of the United States. 

John-You get broken emotionally, it stirs up a lot of resentment. 

Mike- I had it a little easier than these guys because I sat in a hospital with dysentery, which I thought was horrible but…

John-I probably would have taken the dysentery.

Kim-So you flew and met them?

Mike-I had a knee problem and I was stuck in Lima, and then I finally met up with them and said ok I am ready to get back on the bike and get going and then I got dysentery and had to tell them good bye and spend another five days in a hospital hooked up to stuff.  It turns out in retrospect that it was with luck that I got the knee injury and dysentery.









Kim-How long did that take, Peru to northern Chile?

John-Honestly I can’t remember.

Nate-Seemed like forever, at least 6 months.

John- Who knows,  you lose perspective in these situations.  It was a long time,  and a lot of miles.  But there is a counter balance to that, and there were a lot of good experiences that were really inspirational and really motivated us and made us want to go on and see what was around the next corner.

Nate-Definitely.  When we got to Argentina and started eating the Argentinean food, it was really nice.

John-Just like butter.

Kim-Did you eat goats?

John-Yeah maybe in Mexico.

Kim- I remember you saying I feel so bad, because there were these cute little goats.

Nate-It was deer, kind of crazy they were raising deer in the desert. 










Todd-What was the craziest meal you had on the trip?

Mike-Guinea pig.

Nate-It tasted horrible!

John-We tried a lot of different stuff and most of it was quite enjoyable. I won’t recommend guinea pig, but everyone should try it once.

Nate-Iguana wasn’t too bad.

Kim-People would just offer you food; would you just eat it anyway?

John-You don’t want to disrespect people and they would offer something up to you, you don’t want to refuse it.

Kim-So you would eat it?

John-You eat it and don’t give a look of revoltion.

Nate- You see it as a new experience. 

Mike-You can try to say, “I am a little full, would you like a little extra.”

Todd-Would any of the three of you classify the experience as a spiritual experience?

Nate-I think so, for me.









Mike-I would say yes.  I am not sure how different people define "spiritual."  It was an intense experience, emotionally. There was a lot of soul searching. We were out there most of the time by ourselves, on the bike, separated, not talking and we had a lot of time to do some serious thinking about life and figuring out what was important to us.  Thinking about our mothers.  There are so many different aspects, I am not sure if that fits spiritual.

Todd-Do you feel that you got to know yourself better?


John-For me it raised a lot more questions, then answers. I think I went into it thinking, "my god, I was going to have this huge trip. I was going to be in this meditative state on the bike; the answers, the sky will open, there was going to be this epiphany at some point."  It never really came. But questions are good - it keeps you evolving.  It was a very informative experience.

Mike-I would say it was the single best decision of my life.

Kim-(Pointing to Nate)  How long were you gone?

Nate-Ten months

Kim-What are you going to do next?  Are you going to stay off the bike a little bit?

Mike-I want to get back on the bike, but only to ride around town. It will be a while before I am ready to jump back on the bike and do a long tour.

John-I planned to get right back on it and not interrupt that fitness, but my bike is still deconstructed sitting in the corner and just staring at me in judgement.







Kim-How old are you, now?


Kim-What did you do before you left?

Mike-I was a bartender

John-I was a waiter

Nate-I did motion capture animation.

Todd-How do you think the trip has affected your career plans for the future?

Mike-It made it a little brighter.

John-Prior to that I worked with non profits, and I think this reconnected more of that - working with the National Brain Tumor Foundation.  It was a lot of run of the show, organizing a lot of the different elements, in terms of the fundraising, the awareness.  It was a pretty broad based education in non-profit work.

Mike-At the end of the day, I envisioned a potential employer asking, “Well you are not particularly experienced in this, what qualifies you?” It makes me think about -literally, the millions - of unknowns that we had going into this trip, and starting off in Alaska.   Every single day, from there to the end of Argentina, was pretty much an unknown.  Where are we going? what are we doing? how are we going to continue our work for the charity?  We had to take it one step at a time and we overcame all of it. So what could an employer possibly present, that we couldn’t take on?








Todd-Nate, how do you think the trip affected your career?

Nate-It was a very good thing for me, especially if I end up persuing documentary film making.  I have a lot of really good material, so I have the potential to make a great documentary out of this. 

Todd-Is that something that you would like to pursue?


Todd-And do again?

Nate- I think so, if not another bike tour, more documentaries. 

John-I think about it, like if you are a writer, the best way to become a good writer is to write everyday.  Nate was out there filming everyday, figuring out the whole trial and error process. 

Nate-There was a considerable difference between the footage that I shot at the beginning of the trip and the footage that I shot at the end. Jeff got on my case about being a good camera man, so I thought I would put a little more focus on that.

John-Someone has to keep you honest.

Nate-That is true.

Jeff (other camera man) - I do what I can...








Kim-How long is each episode?

Nate- Fifteen minutes, some are twenty.

Kim-You filmed everyday?

Nate-More or less a little bit everyday.

Kim-I just think about all the things we didn’t see.

Nate-A lot.

Mike-There were a lot of big things.

Nate-A lot of big things were missed because the camera broke.

John-It is tuff to edit because there were so many things?

Nate-I was going to have broader lengths of time for each episode but so much happened in very small parts.  

Mike-When you think about it,  all the hundreds of things that made it on tape, there were 10,000 or a million things that happened that didn’t make it on tape.  You can’t be running it twenty four hours a day.  











Nate-I had to carry all my tapes. Well, I made John carry most of them.

John-You carried more than your fair share.

Nate-We had to carry all of our equipment with us.  I wish that it could be a reality show with three cameras running all the time getting fifteen hours of footage everyday.

John-The physical reality is such that it just wouldn’t be possible, even if we had the finances. 

Todd-From a technical standpoint what would you do different?

Nate-I think the hardest thing about this documentary was always having the camera ready, and knowing that it was a moment that I should be filming but having to deal with my own tiredness or fears of bringing my camera out in a situation.  Those kinds of things were the hardest to deal with because you want to get the footage, you want to get the good moments and get a good shot in the process  But to get into that mode so quickly, from riding a bike to be in the frame.  Framing a shot and getting good lighting it is not that easy.  That was really challenging.  I think toward the end I had a much better sense of how to do that. 

Mike-If you think about some of the situations, for example people shooting at us with guns. 

Nate-Yeah, the next morning the first thing [the borthers] ask is,”Did you get it on film?” Every night I bring my camera into my tent with me, and that was the one night that I left it on my bike.









Kim-You got shot at? Why?

Mike-They thought we were trying to steal their horses.

Nate-We camped in a field.

John-We weren’t, we promise.

Jeff (cameraman #2)- If you could do it again, what would you bring with you?

Nate-A better laptop..  And have a sponsor who would send me parts and send me free tapes, and have replacement cameras.  The camera actually held up pretty well, especially the second camera. I bought it in Nicaragua and it made it all the way to the end.   My cousin is using it right now, it is still going.

Todd (cameraman #1) - What kind of camera was it?

Nate-It was the Panasonic GS, a great camera.

Jeff-Were you ever in a situation when you said, "oh, if I only had a _______"?

Mike-My biggest regret was not having a really nice camera. I had a great camera for taking small stills but we didn’t have different lenses; it was just a fixed lens deal.  We had Blake come down who was a friend and a photographer and the stuff that he was able to capture made me regret the fact that we didn’t invest in a good quality camera.










Todd-Do you feel that the technology would have impeded the trip? 

John-I guess it all balances out, but for me I think less is more. We started the trip with so much stuff, "crap" if you will,  and it quickly became apparent that we had to carry all this stuff so we had to figure out real quick 'what is truly essential' and 'what’s just something that would be nice to have'?

Mike-Think every pound, every ounce and multiply that by sixteen thousand miles up and down hills.

Todd-Is there anything else that you want to add?

Nate-Go do it. If you get a chance, go on a bike tour. 

John-It is the best way to see the world, you earn those views, those vistas, you earn those conversations, you earn everything and it makes it all the more sweet. You end up in a lot of places - between places - there is always something.

Mike- On a separate note, we have the tendency to think about all these different countries - whether it is first world, second world, or third world - whatever the case is, we think about the differences.  What is separating them from us or us from them,  but in reality I think what we found is the commonalities far exceed any differences we have.  When we opened ourselves up to the possibility of really connecting with these people, whether they were living the high life or whether they were waking up every morning at four am to pick chilies just to feed their family.  There was a connection on a basic level when you opened yourself up to it.  I think it really changed the way we see the world.  

Kim-Thank you so much.

All-Thank you.