Jokinens to speak at Crow’s Feet Commons

Bend’s Ville and Kristen Jokinen will give a presentation on their cycling trip across the Americas on May 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Crow’s Feet Commons in Bend.

For more information, visit their blog at www.welostthemap.com. They can also be reached via email at welostthemap@gmail.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/welostthemap2, or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/welostthemap.

Through their blog and website, the Jokinens are seeking to help raise funds for Carly’s Kids (www.carlyskids.org,) a local nonprofit organization that helps provide underprivileged children access to outdoor education school.

On the road biking for nearly a year, a Bend couple has discovered freedom in the simplicity of living in the moment, benefited from countless acts of kindness from complete strangers, and whipped themselves into serious riding shape.

But now they need a break.

About halfway through a planned 20,000-mile, two-year cycling trip down the west coasts of North America and South America, Ville and Kristen Jokinen have now biked all the way from Prudhoe Bay — the northernmost location in Alaska accessible by road — to Puntarenas, Costa Rica, some 9,000 miles. Their goal is to reach the southernmost tip of South America, at Ushuaia, Argentina, by February or March 2018. They are currently averaging about 65 miles per day.

The Jokinens, both 36, boarded a flight from Costa Rica to Portland on Wednesday and plan to be back home in Bend by this weekend. They are scheduled to give a presentation on their journey thus far at Bend’s Crow’s Feet Commons on May 11.

“We want to give back to all the people out there in the Bend community who have been watching, reading and supporting our ride,” Kristen Jokinen says. “Our goal is to inspire others to travel, to take the first step in conquering your fears and living your dreams.”

The Jokinens plan to board a flight back to Costa Rica on May 19 to resume their long-distance cycling trip.

The journey has come with numerous and immense challenges, but the rewards have been ever-present.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re down on your knees because of the obstacles, but then at the end of the day, some random act of kindness from a total stranger lifts you back on your feet,” Ville says.

Kristen says she loves the simple lifestyle of just hitting the road each day, of “living our lives so simply that we have the option to change our path or road at any intersection.”

“Life is pretty uncomplicated and stress-free,” she adds. “We live in the moment and something as simple as a smile or a hello makes our day.”

While the ride from Alaska to Southern California was more about the scenery and the places, riding in Mexico and Central America has been all about the people, according to Kristen. Their trip down the U.S. Pacific coast was mostly through remote areas, but they have found the roads of Latin America filled with locals going about their everyday lives.

“Mexicans and Central Americans live on the roads,” Kristen says. “Walking, biking, in horse-drawn carts, waiting for buses, sitting on porches, lying in hammocks, pushing carts, pedaling rickshaws, motoring moto-taxis, sitting in snack stands, selling fruit, soda, water, gas, you name it. Our entire days are filled with passing people’s smiling faces and those that welcomed us into their homes like family — those are what I will remember the most.”

Ville adds that the people who have less seem to be the ones who give the most. He recalls the time in Mexico when, as night was falling, the Jokinens were desperately searching for a yard where they could set up camp before dark. They were turned away by several families in the city, but on the outskirts of town, a poor family did not hesitate to provide them a space.

“A very common occurrence for us and was not something I expected,” Ville says.

Kristen, a former teacher and former real estate agent in Bend, says she and Ville worked hard the last couple of years to save for their epic cycling trip. They bought a house in west Bend, gutted and remodeled it, and are now renting it out to supplement their income.

The Jokinens began their trip on June 24 of last year, and they mostly camped at nights on their way from Prudhoe Bay to Portland. Along the coasts of Oregon and California, they continued to camp but also stayed with friends or family and used the website www.warmshowers.org, a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists.

On their Surly Disc Trucker steel-framed bikes, Kristen and Ville have been carrying most of their gear on bike racks and panniers (saddlebags). They crossed the border into Mexico around Christmastime and biked through Baja California, then boarded a ferry across the Gulf of California to Mazatlan, Mexico. From there, they ventured farther south through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

One of the most difficult aspects of the trip through Central America, Kristen says, has been sticking to their budget. During the journey from Alaska through Mexico it was relatively easy for the cyclists to find camping spots. That changed once they crossed into Central America, which is more densely populated, making it harder to camp safely. The Warmshowers website is also less well-known in Central America.

“People seem to be a lot more wary of allowing us to camp in their yards,” Kristen says of their Central America experience. “Add the over-100-degree heat and it’s almost necessary for a fan, air conditioning, or breeze to sleep, and we have had to motel and hostel it a lot lately.”

The physical challenges of cycling an average of 65 miles per day were heightened at the beginning of the trip, as the Jokinens rode themselves into tremendous biking shape while touring through Alaska, the Yukon Territory and British Columbia.

“Everything after, I am really amazed at what I can do with a 100-pound bike,” Ville says. “Some days are harder than others, but I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t enjoying the journey.”

Kristen adds that the break-in period was quick for her, and that the riding is now pretty easy. But she says she has struggled some with food allergies and bladder infections in the Central American heat.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and those are all hurdles to overcome and are all part of the adventure,” she says.

So far, the couple’s bikes have been holding up soundly, according to Ville. They get new chains every 1,500 miles to prolong the life of the cassettes.

The Jokinens found that the roads in Mexico were decent with either a shoulder or courteous drivers, according to Ville. In Guatemala and Honduras the roads were in poor condition and made for pretty slow going, he adds, while in El Salvador and Nicaragua the roads were more suitable for cycling.

After resuming their trip in Costa Rica, the Jokinens will continue south to Panama. From Panama City, they plan to board a flight to Cartagena, Colombia, to bypass a roadless section through Colombia and avoid the drug-cartel-infested border of Central America and South America. They will ride through Peru and Bolivia and then follow the Andes Mountains through Chile and Argentina.

Ville and Kristen are both looking forward to biking through South America, which is generally less populated with more opportunities for camping than Central America.

“I am excited to get to ride in the Andes,” Ville says. “We have heard great things from other cyclists about countries like Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. And we are both ready for the thermostat to be turned down!”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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