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    Life is good life is tough life is good life is sad life is lonesome life is good

    There’s a strange theme in the photos that I took in the first couple months of the ride. Each photo seems to hold a sense of longing, of vast separation, and many don’t even show a human face. And, to be honest, they parallel almost exactly how I was feeling during this time of transition.

    somewhere between Deadhorse and Coldfoot, Alaska

    somewhere between Deadhorse and Coldfoot, Alaska

    Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

    Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

    outside Wiseman, Alaska

    outside Wiseman, Alaska

    The Dalton Highway

    The Dalton Highway

    Rain and Flat Tires, outside Fairbanks, Alaska

    Rain and Flat Tires, outside Fairbanks, Alaska

    Thrown-Out-The-Window Trucker Burger, The Dalton Highway, We almost ate this

    Thrown-Out-The-Window Trucker Burger, The Dalton Highway, We almost ate this

    Getting on an airplane and flying away from everything I’ve known was the most surreal-feeling, gut-sinking, nervous excitement—plane rumbling and taking off. Your sense of space, family, home, relationships is shattered. Everything disappeared at once. Everything mentally and physically unnecessary was removed from my life. It was freeing, emptying, but because of the time frame, 18 months, it felt extremely daunting, uneasy. And there we were plopped at the tip top of Alaska. North of the Arctic Circle, surrounded by nothing but vast tundra on all sides, closed off by the Arctic Ocean, at the beginning of the longest stretch of service-less road in N. America. We had 15 days of food with us, camp stoves, water purifiers, some clothes, sleeping gear, and cameras. I also had, as gifts of protection, a bag of rocks and a glow in the dark alien necklace stuffed at the bottom of my panniers. What followed was the most excruciatingly mental, physical, and spiritual journey of my life thus far (and it’s only just begun).

    The Cassiar Highway, outside Nugget City, British Columbia.

    The Cassiar Highway, outside Nugget City, British Columbia.

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    In those beginnings, days were blurry and long. As I had almost entirely procrastinated training rides back in Austin, the Dalton Highway was my training camp. And damn, was it tough. Our bicycles weighed in at over 100 pounds, and physically I started wearing down. The days hold on to you and carry over. Most muscles were sore and tight, knees about to fall off. It’s impossible to describe unless you’re there living it. Even now, looking back, it seems almost easier because the time’s past, but this was the hardest thing I’d ever done.

    outside Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory

    outside Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory

    Climbing hills with a fully loaded bike through gravel and mud is insanely tolling. You’re going along at a snail’s pace, with a headwind, blood pumping, heart thumping banging in your chest, and you reach the top of the hill only to see five more hills immediately after, steeper and longer than before, mountains in the distance. It can really get to you. It did get to me. It crawls under your skin and through your head. On the bike you’re forced to face the darkest edges of your brain for ten-plus hours a day. You must accept that the hills will never end and learn to love them for their challenge, their gravitational opposition to you. You must overpower them, grow stronger, BECOME AN ATHLETE!, then race down the other side again. You have to reach another level mentally. At times I felt manic. Having visions of hell and eternal nothingness, not wanting to be there, wanting to fall instead into the tundra and die, just wanting to stop pedaling and fall over sideways. Who do we think we are? What’s the point in all this anyway?  Waste of time.

    Hyder, Alaska

    Hyder, Alaska

    The Dalton Highway

    The Dalton Highway

    But I learned to counteract those thoughts, learned to pull myself upwards, high, to moments of extreme freedom and bursting inspiration: good tears streaming cold down my face in the morning sun, and true love for everything. It’s these hills, the ups and downs, the damn dumb roller coaster of being alive. It’s how it has to be. And I realize now more than ever, and can stand tall and enjoy what’s tough rather than dwell on why ‘it has to be. Things get good get bad get everything in between and I love that.

    Turning that Indignation into Brotherhood. Boyz 2 men. Eating Yogurt with Fingers.

    Turning that Indignation into Brotherhood. Boyz 2 men. Eating Yogurt with Fingers.

    Last and separately, I apologize for being slow to post in the journal. I’ve been inspired—writing, and collecting thoughts, images and sounds—but feel somewhat nervous to share them. I’d prefer to share with you in person, but I’m coming to terms with this sharing of my soul online. This reluctance is due in part to my ego and to being scared of what people will think, and partially to my idea of the internet as a big invisible trash pit. I will, from now on, make a point to share more of my journey (life) with you all and would love to hear about your journey (life) as well.

    Sincerely,
    Riley

    (Photos by Riley Engemoen)

    15 Comments

    1. Ande

      Riley, thank all y’all for sharing your thoughts and images of this spectacular adventure. Looking forward to more from you. Stay safe.

    2. Katie

      Riley- I’m so impressed with how far you have made it and all that you have overcome. Keep it up..I look forward to hearing more of your stories! We will miss you next weekend in Austin!! ~Katie

    3. Boone

      Hear-hear! This entry is a true gem among the rubble of the “big invisible trash pit.” Our thoughts are with you; keep it up and buzz me when you get a chance.

    4. Vincent

      Yes my friend! Just what I needed to read, always caught up in my own hills and patterns, familiar, safe and icky. This is soooo inspirational, beautiful, and moving. To long days, pleasant nights, and to the heart wrenching path. May Mahalakshmi watch over you and your friends and keep yall safe.

    5. Kayla Willey

      keep on sharing riley! it’s a beautiful journey

    6. Grey Trentel

      I’d say the toughest part is behind you, but I can’t say I’ll be envying you when you get to the equator. Still, I know you. Once this is all over, you wouldn’t have had it any other way. Ride on, cousin.

    7. Sean

      Riley, I did a two week tour in March and experienced many similar thoughts and feelings. It’s a truly eye-opening experience, I loved it. Enjoy the ride.

    8. Adam H

      These photos are incredible Riley! Please do keep posting thoughts & images–very magical!

    9. Will M.

      Jeffro! You da man! These photos and thoughts are so cool. I couldn’t do what you are doing, but I know you and I know you have been looking for an adventure like this since I met you. Ever since the days of twelve year old boys building a race track so we could “drive hard” in the pasture… Ever since the time you convinced me to ride on top of the burban out there to see how long I could hold on while you tried to get me off.. Ever since we were joy-riding and you said, “Go 40! Go 50! Go 60!!!…” (good times..) It was you who convinced me to jump off that cliff in Capri.. It was you who talked me into watching a sunset from a water tower… Dood! Keep searching for what it is that feeds that hunger. Keep sharing your thoughts and struggles and accomplishments, ups and downs, your encounters and your loneliness. KEEP PEDALING!

    10. Pops

      Hey Bud. That was very insightful and profound! Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work. I’m proud of you.

    11. Caffeine

      I love you a million, Riley Engemoen!

    12. Liz M

      Hey Riley, just wanted to say I love everything about this post, words and images (the third photo from the top is amazing). I completely relate to your hesitations on wanting to share yourself on the Internetz, but I do hope you continue because what you’re creating is genuine, the real deal, and the medium through which you share it won’t change that one bit. Y’all have been churning out such bad ass work in general, looking forward to seeing what comes next!

    13. Taylor

      So thankful for such an honest post, Riley. And for such a beautiful perspective you’ve been able to find on the hard realities of long days. These are the stories that allow for deep and rich human connection. Be encouraged to know that your words are powerful and empowering.

    14. Matt R.

      Riley,
      I just had the opportunity to meet you… for one brief moment of your long, long journey. I’m the guy who handed you back your “forgotten” helmet left near the ditch where we all were captivated by the frolicking Elephant Seals.
      Since that chance meeting I have been thinking about your journey… jealous, fascinated, and wondering if I would ever be up for such a challenge. Thanks for your beautiful and honest post above. It is a risk putting your inner thoughts out there for all to see and judge. I applaud you for having the courage to do so. Your transparency allows all of us to relate better to the true meaning of adventure, the good and the bad. It is the accepting of all aspects of a challenge; good, bad, boring, tedious and exhilarating, that makes the whole. It is inspiring to me to see you doing that. I hope to have a similar experience one day.

    15. Mary Stancil

      The excerpt under the Dalton Highway pic really brought your emotions to the forefront–they were real, raw and really brought me into your struggle with your journey of life and thoughts, Bravo!

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