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The Daily Grind
A Cyc-o-path Loose in South America
A Motivational Book About Cycle Touring Through South America

A Book by Ranger Bob Bob Lutsky

Who Is "Ranger Bob?"


Who Is This Ranger Bob?
"It is only going into the caverns of doubt that we can find truth and light"

We all have a daily grind. The homeless up through the independently wealthy. By the daily grind I mean what we do every day. It's what makes up our very life. More simply put, if you don't like what you do every day, you won't enjoy your life.

After University, I worked as a headhunter (executive recruiter). I found the job challenging, rewarding and lucrative but... There's always a but. It was not providing the sense of purpose that I was looking for. Sitting inside behind a desk just isn't me. It takes a long time to find who you are and an even longer time to be that person. Usually it means going against what everyone (family friends society etc.) expects of you. I think the best way to describe who I am is to quote part of a Robert W. Service poem.

   " There is a race of men that won't fit in, a race that can't sit still.
    So they break the hearts of kith and kin, and roam the world at will.
    They rage the flood, and roam the field and climb the mountains crest.
    Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood and they don't know how to rest.
    If they just went straight they might go far, for they are strong and brave and true.
    But they are always tired of the things that are, they want the strange and new. "

It took me a long time to build up the courage to quit my job and set out on a new life style. I knew the only way to discover who I was and what was important to me, was to make a major change, and take a big risk. So disregarding all the advice I received from everyone up this point, and just did it. I quit my job, got a passport and bought a one-way ticket to Europe, landed in Amsterdam, hung out for a few days to recover from the end result of 8 hours of free Heineken (on the plane) not to mention the loss of a night's sleep - and mostly just to figure out what I was going to do now. I knew I didn't want to just tour all the great train stations of Europe, and certainly traveling by car is right out - so I thought... BICYCLE?!?!

Shopped around for a few minutes, thought a bit and bought a five speed standard basic "ride to work and back in Holland" bicycle. Bought a steel dish rack, bent it 90 degrees, bolted it on above the back wheel, bought a few bungy cords, strapped on my regulation back pack (beats carrying it any day) and a road map, water bottle, 2$ plastic rain jacket and was off to tour Europe.

Despite 52 days straight of cold raw rain, and many many mistakes, some miserable camping experiences, I really really liked it. I got physically fit, saved lots of money and managed to cycle all throughout Belgian, Holland, Luxembourg, E & W Germany and all 4 of the Scandinavian countries. Not being a total egoist, I took some rides, some trains and walked up many hills. I did not yet realize yet, but I discovered not just a new way to travel or another sport that I liked, but that cycle touring for me was to become a way of life. After eight months in Europe with winter coming I returned home, changed clothes and drove to Vermont. Bought a second-hand pair of skis, got a job waiting tables to earn and save money for the next adventure. taught myself to ski and became a ski instructor.

When the snow melted in April, I contacted a friend who I met in Europe but lived in San Francisco - with the bizarre idea of cycling to Alaska. Being as crazy I am, he was up for it. So together we cycled up through Oregon, Washington state, Olympic peninsula - took the ferry to Vancouver Island - cycled all the way up to port Hardy, and then hiked on foot for six days to cape Scott. In order to visit all the small communities along the Alaska and British Columbia coast, we took the ferry up the ' inside passage, and got off at each stop and cycled around the towns, all of which had no connecting roads.

For this trip, I bought an 18 speed Panasonic mountain bike - a proper front and rear rack, two front bags, two rear bags (panniers) a PROPER rain suit a good light-weight down sleeping bag with the ever so important thermarest (well worth the extra weight and expense) Tent, stove, pot, cutlery - all the necessities of life. My friend Al, who I called Ranger Al, taught me a lot. I was still an immature neophyte of the out door world but he put up with all my idiosyncrasies and stupidness for which I'll always be indebted to him. Yet he reassured me that I was HIS mentor and that it was he who learned a lot from me. But I think I taught him what NOT to do more than anything else - but I guess that's still learning.

Throughout the trip I became known as Ranger Bob - a name that has stuck with me through the years. And through his own insistence, Ranger Al became known as "Assistant Ranger Al". Of course, the higher your rank, the more stupid mistakes you make. For example, on one particular day, I cycled for almost an hour without a rain jacket - now if it hadn't been for the light drizzle, this probably wouldn't have been a problem. When I finally put on my rain jacket, I realized that although I was not SOAKING wet, I was still very very damp. Ranger Al's way of letting me know that I had done something stupid was to say "Ranger Bob says... when cycling in a predominantly cold and wet environment with the intention of camping, always wait until you are good and wet before putting on any protective rain gear. This exponentially increases the chance of hypothermia in places with a damp climate. This is a very helpful cold weather camping tip from ... Ranger Bob.

The ferry trip ended at Scagway, Alaska. After several weeks of cycling around and up through Alaska (most of the state contains no roads) we crossed into the Yukon and headed into Whitehorse, the capital city. We met some people there who insisted we must canoe down the Yukon River. So three of us, Assistant ranger Al, I and Stuart (a guy I met in Alaska who was from Quebec, Canada) embarked on a three week canoe trip north from Lake Labarge - Three of us in one seventeen foot canoe. We all took our turns sitting in the center playing the Moosekatoon (a tin coffee can with a whole in the bottom and a piece of string through it with a knot on the one end so it doesn't come out.) First wet the string, pinch it with your fingers and pull your fingers down along the string, and it emits a sound similar to a moose. It's supposed to attract moose, but since a moose can run 30 miles an hour and swim like a fish - and it's the height of the mating season and we're in a small canoe - it's probably not a very smart item to have along, but the guy in the middle has to have something to do, doesn't he?

After this journey, I knew the outdoor life, the unknown, the sense of adventure and spontaneity was where my inner peace was. Needless to say this met with great opposition from family and friends. I was however, fortunate enough to realize early in life that to follow their advice and wishes just to fit in and be accepted would ultimately result in unhappiness, frustration and eventually illness. The following winter I decided to live and work in New Orleans... Sugar bowl, new years, Mardi Gras, warm winters, and the best music event of any year, Jazz Fest - Seemed like a good way spend the next six months. Waiting tables and working in a mask shop with the original carnival mask maker. Sure these jobs don't pay a lot of money or build a "CAREER" or even allow for retirement but it does allow me to maintain my lifestyle and truly experience America's most interesting city. Your life is the sum total of all your experiences. Traveling invites new ideas for health healing and medicine, philosophies of life, new music, dances, keen insight into local history and geography and different points of view. People make up their mind on how different parts of the world are without taking time to visit or see them first hand and that's so sad. Why make your reality with certain boundaries? One is self-impoverished if they close their mind to new experiences.

I went back to cycle the rest of Europe - East and West - around the Mediterranean sea, north Africa, and then Central America. Then I took a break and moved to San Francisco to learn how to sail and work on boats. Variety is the spice of life. My love for the sea was not completely satisfied in cycle touring. I had the good fortune of spending three months going up through the inside passage along the intricate labyrinth of bays, coves and inlets along the coast of British Columbia up to Glacier Bay Alaska. Ice Bergs, bald eagles and leaping killer whales became as common place as pigeons in a city park. The inner calm and serenity created on this trip recharged all the batteries and I believe set in motion my desire for a life of peace, tranquillity and contentment. Away from the feeding frenzy of materialism. I went on to sail through the south pacific, returned to San Francisco, and sailed with a friend whom I used to race with on the bay in San Francisco. We spent about six months cruising up and down the Mexican coast successfully learning 8 words in Spanish. Returned to Ohio to stories from family on how I was wasting my life so I agreed and bought a ticket and visa for Australia. However, two weeks before I was to leave, I got a phone call asking me to crew on a sixty foot maxi racing yacht for a delivery from San Francisco to Grenada in the Caribbean via the Panama canal. Tough choice. After that - spent 7 months sailing up through the islands of the lesser Antilles on various boats. Even got to do a sail with Dennis Connor, competed in Race Week in Antigua and was paid more than I had spent over the last 8 months to deliver a 60 Ft. Swan to Newport Rhode Island. At this point, I knew my parents were right - I truly was wasting my life. I guess that meant it was time for me to get back on the bicycle.

Cycled throughout Eastern Canada, and the Maritimes; worked on a fishing boat in Labrador and worked as crew on a sailboat around Newfoundland. The more I think of it, the more I realize I should have stayed at my desk job, maybe even taken up smoking, learned to see a psychiatrist and get to work on that ulcer. I could be half way to retirement and in 35 more years, I could really travel in fine style. At least my parents would have been proud of me - I'll have to learn to live with my choices.

I always thought South America would be the last place I would visit because I believed all the stereotypes we have all come to accept as fact. Crime, drugs, police. America is all about paradox and contradiction. Our stereotypes of South America are really true of the states. In 9 months I saw no drugs, no police except at checkpoints and very little crime. In the states there are all of these everywhere in abundance. Throughout my trip, I felt safe at all times, even in the market in Lima and the jungles of Bolivia. I don't speak Spanish, I'm alone - one could find a million excuses not to go. I want to learn about the world I live in and I want to see unusual places like Tierra Del Fuego, I want to learn a new language, I want to get in shape' it's just as easy to find a million reasons to go. If you think about it, the only difference is where we focus our attention. What if I get tired or sick? What if my bike breaks down in the jungle? Well, all these things did happen. On a long trip, they're all something you can count on, but it's amazing how resourceful you can be when placed in situations where you have to make it so.

Get a bike box - stuff your stuff and your bike in the box, get ya' a round trip ticket to Quito Ecuador and don't worry that the flight lands in a strange South American city at midnight - and you without the language or a map, just trust in yourself and go!!

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