Out Of The Wild: An Alaskan's Adventure To Find America

My name is John. I was born and raised in Alaska. I have been hearing how the American Dream is no longer possible for my generation; how the pursuit of a college education will leave my peers and me in crippling debt; and America is no longer the beacon of hope it once was. Too many of my generation believe what they are hearing. I am not going to surrender to such news.

I believe what made America great in the past can make it great again. I know many small business owners that are living their American Dream right now. I have heard these people talk about their dreams. They work harder than anyone I know every minute of every day. These are dreamers that act on their dreams. I want to chase my dream in the same way. My personal motto is, “Risk much, forgive much, and gain much”. I want to pursue a career in film. I want to chase my dream too.

I need to see more of this country to better understand my homeland. I want to meet the people who make this country work. Upon graduation from high school I am riding my bicycle 6,000 miles from Kodiak, Alaska to Key West, Florida to find my America. I am not going on this tour just to ride my bike. My plan is to document the people I meet that have put their dreams to work. I will interview them in their environment and interview the people they serve.

Using my bicycle, a tent, and a camera I will tell this story in a documentary I call “Finding My America”. I will begin in my hometown of Kodiak, Alaska on May 22, 2012. I am partnering with small businesses that will sponsor this trip. I am working with many Subway restaurant owners who are sponsoring me in exchange for a commercial I will make and post on the Internet.

When my trip is complete, I want to share what I learn with everyone. Look for the finished documentary in the late fall of 2012. The blog will serve as a behind the scenes update to chronicle my grand adventure. I am accepting financial support from anyone interested in inspiring my generation to embrace the hard work of bringing America back to a new era of greatness. I hope to tell the stories of the real American dream. I hope to raise enough money to pay for college without student loans. Help me tell this American story. Together we can be the difference.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adventure Cycling Association In Missoula, MT 6-26-12

These are the people that helped me plan my bicycle tour across America.  I dropped by to say thank you and get some advice about my travels.  I was rewarded by free ice cream.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sunburn, Potatoes and Montana

This is like Alaska only different. I am leaving Idaho and entering Montana.

GoPro Helmet Cam

A different view.  Faye and I are going to chase Tim and Tom down Sherman Pass.

The Start of the Descent Down Sherman Pass

Faye and I are going to catch Tom and Tim who started without us.

Subway in Idaho

I just stopped by to say hello.  The sandwich artists at Subway were expecting me to drop by the store.  I love America.  Next stop is Montana.

Welcome to Idaho 6-20-12

I am passing through the panhandle of Idaho.  It is a beautiful day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Colville, WA to Priest River, ID

This route was over 90 miles, but it was a good day. The campground had a shower and I slept well. on to Montana next!

Tom, Faye and Tim

From left to right is Tom, Faye and Tim.  They rode with me for a day. It was nice to have such good company.  I hope I have the chance to ride with many more people along the way.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sherman Pass 5575 FT

I met up with Tim, Tom and Faye. They are retired educators,  They're on a tour to Maine.  I made the summit and I am waiting on them to ride in a group through the descent.  I may get some GoPro film out of this ride.  I am on my way to Colville, WA.

FYI Faye and Tim are married to each other.  I said this in correctly in the posting.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Commercial for Subway of Tonasket, WA

The commercial I made for the awesome Tonasket, WA Subway!

Tonasket is a great town! June 15-18, 2012

This is a long blog from Tonasket. After a couple of minutes my audio and video don't match. I must be getting lonely because I'm starting to ramble!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

GoPro through Tonasket 6-17-12

Uploading GoPro footage is harder from a mobile site than it is at home, but I finally achieved success. I have enjoyed Tonasket so much. I thought it would be fun to give you all a glimpse of it from one end to the other.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Subway owner Tammy Smith

Subway owner Tammy Smith in Tonasket, WA was G-R-E-A-T! You will see more of my visit here soon, as well as some action footage. Thanks for being patient while I work out the kinks of posting on the road, especially the GoPro footage. Ugh, it is harder to download than I thought. In the mean time, a big THANK YOU to the kind people of Tonasket!

Spot map in WA 6-14-12

My ride from Winthrop to Okanogan, Omak and Riverside was great! Early Friday morning June 15, I rode into Tonasket, WA. What a town! The people are awesome. Stay tuned for more on Tonasket, and don't forget to share all of this with as many others as you can. This IS my America!

Friday, June 15, 2012

KOA in Winthrop, WA June 12-13, 2012

I broke my bike again.  It is fixed again.  My next stop will be Riverside and then Tonasket to film my next Subway commercial.

Washington Pass

I made it to the top of Washington Pass! I am at 5,477 feet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Climbing The Cascades

Ten hours into the ride I face some of the steepest climbs so far.

Face Time And A Climb

My sister Anna asked me to sign off by saying, "I love my sister, Anna".  So I did.  Actually I miss my family right about now.  Marblemount was a nice community.  I think I'll be riding alongside a river and over a mountain today.  It will be about 10 hours of riding.  My next film event is two to three days away. I am making my way to the Subway in Tonasket, WA.  I will be working with Tammy Smith, at the local Subway.  I'll ask her about her American dream and how she is making it come true. I have about 80 miles to climb 5,000 feet and then enjoy the ride back down. I'll go to Winthrop and then Riverside the day after that. I hope to spend a little time in Tonasket as I film my next commercial. :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Headed into the Cascades! 6-11-12

I'm in Sedrow Woolley as of now and will be heading to Marblemount tonight. Then tomorrow I begin the climb from 200 ft to 5,000 some odd ft. Oh boy :)

Service will be limited so don't fret if I am behind by a few posts.

I was expecting WA to be filled with brand name stores and big buildings.

To my surprise WA is filled with locally owned stores and big open plains filled with farmland!

Most of the small towns I have gone through are filled with interesting and kind people determined on fulfilling their own American dream!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

457 Bike Miles Logged

John's america Bike tour began by logging about 40 miles riding my bike on Kodiak Island.  The miles logged in Homer, Homer-Soldotna, Soldotna-Kenai-Soldotna, Soldotna-Sterling, Sterling-Cooper Landing, Summit Lake, Girdwood, Birdcreek, Anchorage, Exploring Anchorage, Bellingham exploration, Bellingham to Maple Falls, and finally Maple Fall to Sedro-Wooley total 457 so far.  I have many more to go.  Now that I look at it that way the miles are going by too fast.

How Can I Be Riding 5,700 Miles?

I have had some people ask questions about how I get 5,700 miles out of what appears to be a 3,500-mile trip. Good Question! My family would say it is because I am too curious about exploring communities that are new to me. Just yesterday I found myself a little turned around, near the Canadian Border, watching kids play, avoiding dogs, and taking in the differences from my own hometown. Note the breadcrumbs clustered together in the upper left corner of the map. So the first answer may seem obvious: I am not flying in an airplane. My route is anything but straight. The purpose of this trip is not to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. The second answer is similar; I am not in a car driving on major highways. This is not a trip planned for efficiency, but for discovery. My route is a meandering zig-zag on country roads.  Also note the center breadcrumbs of the map where I rode into the mountainside to explore for the night and then doubled back the next day before heading south.  This type of riding puts on extra miles.  It is all part of the journey.

A lot of people have asked me to post my exact route on the blog, but I tell you that would be difficult. I tried highlighting my route on a road atlas for family members to follow. Some of the roads aren’t even on the map! So sorry, my posted route looks vague.

What I will share is that I am using some awesome maps from Adventure Cycling. If you are planning a trip like this I highly recommend them. They have a network of maps that cover our nation. I had to buy 17 different maps to do what I wanted to do, but it allowed me to customize my trip. When it came to budgeting my time and money I had to tally up the miles. These maps have the mileage covered listed right on the front. All I had to do was total them all up, make adjustments for side trips and miles covered in Alaska, and that is how I got my total. The Alaska Marine Highway miles were never a part of the calculation.  I also subtracted the miles I did not ride after my flat outside of Soldotna, the lift I had through the Whittier tunnel, and the missed miles riding in Juneau and Ketchikan.  I guess the short answer to the question of how I figured my miles would be a calculator!

Thank you to all the people that are interested in this, and I hope my experience is helping you plan your own trip. Don’t be afraid of a long distance trek on curvy back roads that takes twice as long as you imagined. I have said before that I am not just riding a bike across America.  That has been done before.  I am making a documentary.  I am filming.  It is going to be more like the path of a butterfly than a bullet. Enjoy the process! 

Look What I Found

OK, I know this might not be that impressive-- BUT LOOK-- cows! And they are right by the road.  In Kodiak we have buffalo and long shaggy haired cows.  These look so happy. If you are laughing at me just remember that if you are in Kodiak we laugh when you make a big deal about seeing a bunch of bald eagles or stellar sea lions.

Bellingham, WA

This is crazy.  Look at the green grass.  And I just saw a big bus like you see in the movies.  Bellingham, WA had many great places for me to capture a video.  I chose this place because it was the most different to me.  I think maybe it will be different to you.  I shot enough film in Bellingham to make a good commercial for a local Subway store that invited me to stop by.

How I Post From The Road

It is Sunday evening and I am riding down 542 headed for State Road 9.  The Sun is too my right and I am headed south.  I have my Spot Connect on and I just relayed this message to my home in Kodiak.  From there the text and bread crumb map are sent and uploaded to my Blog, Facebook page, Personal Facebook, and Twitter.  I have a couple of people in Kodiak that connect the right picture or video to the text and magic happens.

This photo was taken on Saturday

Leaving Bellingham, WA 6-9-12

After being late and missing two great opportunities in Juneau and Ketchikan I was I little bummed.  The ferry arrived earlier than expected in Bellingham.  I was actually able to do everything I needed to do there in a day.  As the evening fell I realized I could get a head start and ride the back roads to the mountains and find a place to stay in Maple Falls, Washington.  I still have a 5,700 mile trip.  I'll zig zag the continental divide.  I am taking small back roads from Colorado through the flat lands and rolling hills to the end of the Appalachian Mountains.  Then I'll inefficiently hug the eastern coast to Key West, Florida. I have already captured amazing film.  I am still working on how this story will be told.  This blog is just the travel log of finding my America.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Gate To The Lower 48

This is it.  I am finally on my bike the rest of the way.  I will establish a base to connect to the web and then I will go to the Subway store in Bellis Fair Mall in Bellingham.  The Subway is inside.  I hope I can get my bike in there.  Please, if you are un Bellingham and can go there this afternoon and be in my documentary.  Thanks!

Last Day On The Ferry

I am hours away from Bellingham!

Whittier Tunnel Tuesday, June 5

This was a week ago.  I just was able to upload some of my videos.  This is 12 minutes long.  I had to catch a ride through the tunnel.  No bikes are allowed.  Mike, Jill , and Mitchell Yrjana took me through.    This is what I did just before the ferry trip to the lower 48.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ketchikan Oh Man

I am arriving late in Ketchikan too.  I am going to set my eyes on Bellingham, Washington.  I'll keep looking for a way to capture this ferry chapter well.  Alaska is so big and yet so small.  I have classmates on this boat.  It is good to know someone everywhere I go in Alaska.  I wonder what it will be like to go where there is no one that I know?  I am tired.  I am ready to be back on my bike.

Juneau Oh No

I am definitely going to arrive late in Juneau and my plan to make a bike ride loop through town is a no go.  This is truly sad. I am looking for a way to make up for this missing episode in my journey.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Room WIthout A View

The best part of camping in a tent is how it makes a bed feel like a luxury.  This will be my luxurious realm to edit and work on the film clips I have collected for the next five days.  It is warm and dry:)

Prince William Sound

This is a beautiful state.   I was going to ride my bike down the Al-Can highway when I first planned this trip.  Then I had an opportunity to visit Subway stores in Juneau and Ketchikan.  I changed my plans to use the Alaska Marine Highway to get there.  Now the ferry is running too late to get to do much in Juneau or Ketchikan.  I just learned I may not be able to leave the ferry for more than 30 minutes.  Well at least the view is worth the ride.

Boarding The Ferry In Whittier, Alaska 6-5-12

It was a cold night.  I had to be at the ferry dock at 6:00 AM.  I will have very limited Internet and cell phone connection for the next five days.  I plan to send brief updates through my parents to be posted during this part of the journey.  Please be patient.  I will not be able to read email or keep up with posted comments until I reach Bellingham, Washington.

Tent Camping In The Snow: Whittier, Alaska 6-4-12

Snow in June, oh yes,  I am still very much in Alaska.  Whittier is... well... cold in June. This was a hard winter.  Alaska had record snow fall just about everywhere.   This will be an interesting night.  The trans-gulf ferry is about twelve hours late and I will miss my chance to visit a Subway in Juneau and Ketchikan while the stores are open.  Bummer.  I am now scheduled to arrive in Juneau about 9:00 PM.

Bag Repair 6-3-12

This is amazing.  Mrs. Jill Yrjana helped me repair the bags on my trailer.  She did a perfect job.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Anchorage Subway

This is the first commercial I made on the road! I hope you enjoy!  This is the first Subway in Alaska.

Early Morning Edit and Upload

It's about 8:00 o'clock in the morning and I've just finished my first commercial while on the road! The ferry has been delayed a day so I will be spending the night in Whittier then leaving bright and early Tuesday at 6:00.  This is a slight set back but that is to be expected.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A View From Flat Top

I am on Flat Top Mountain.  I rode my bike here to film up here.  I met up with the Yrjana's who are going to let me ride with them through the Whittier train tunnel.  No bikes are allowed through the tunnel. I am finishing some editing tonight and will be leaving tomorrow.

Balto And Me

I was in downtown Anchorage filming and a came across this memorial to Balto!  I loved his story.  Balto is a  genuine Alaska hero.  He was one of the sled dogs that raced to bring medicine to a remote village many years ago.  It is a great story.  Balto ran a long distance journey to save lives.  I am on a long journey to remind people of their life's dream.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The First Subway In Alaska

This is Bobbie and Steve Adams first Subway restaurant.  Bobbie Adams doesn't like to cook!  She was fun to interview.

I am in the last days I'll be in Anchorage.  I have a few more things to film and edit before I head down to Whittier, Alaska.  I still have to make a repair to my trailer bag.  The crash I had in Cooper Landing could have been worse.  I am going to fix it with zip ties.

The Wilson's, my hosts from 5-26-12 to 6-2-12

These are the Wilson's.  They let me stay with them for nearly an entire week! They were extremely nice. And I can safely say they are my friends. Leaving them will be somewhat sad.  I must move on.

Their house is gorgeous.  They gave me my own space and let me store my gear as I explored Anchorage.  I am spending the day filming final shots for the commercial for Alaska's first Subway store.  I hope to get to a good place to upload it later tonight.  This is the biggest thing I will upload from my mobile equipment.  If it does not work I will need to find a strong wifi connection to do it right.

After I leave Anchorage I will not stay in a place longer than a day or two.  This was my place to work out the last bugs in how I am going to sustain filming and blogging on this trip.