Bikers on two continent trek stop in Fremont
On the first day of their bike trek for charity, the Logsdon brothers had gone three miles when they noticed they were being hunted by a grizzly bear. It paralleled them beyond the road shoulder, and then it started angling in - closing the flank.
"I was riding along thinking, 'this can't be happening'," said older brother John. "At three miles, we're going to be eaten."
They got off their bikes and shouted at the bear before it was on them. The bear pulled up, sniffed, decided the smells might not lead to something edible, and stalked off.
Three miles down, about 14,997 to go before they get from Deadhorse, Alaska, the last American town south of the north pole, to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern most city in the world.
The brothers are riding half way across the world to honor their mother's life, which was taken by a fatal brain tumor. The whole ride should take a year, though they almost ended their trip on day one.
Deadhorse is at the end of a gravel road where the arctic plain meets the Beaufort Sea. Where they join, chunks of ice serve as buffer, some, floating, are topped with steel derricks, pinpricking Prudhoe Bay in search of oil. The oil is the only reason for this road - the haul road, the locals call it, where drivers with rig equipment from Texas barrel down off the Brooks Mountain Range, kicking up a gravel wake.
"These trucks would bomb by and even the wind they created could throw you off your bike," said John Logsdon. "The gravel would hit my helmet and make my ears ring."
He thought that by and large the truckers were pretty decent, and before the day was out, one would be giving him a lift to Fairbanks, because even though the trip took a year to plan, with three sponsors carefully lined up and at least $20,000 in personal savings, day one was not over.
The brothers were in their teens when their mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor after suffering unusual symptoms of partial paralysis. Doctors gave her two weeks to live, and their father sat them down and told them to tell her the important things.
Despite the diagnosis, their mother lived on for a year - at first with vitality, until the morphine and the paralysis shut her down.
"I spend a good amount of time thinking about her on the road," Mike Logsdon said about the random movie reel, playing in his head to soak up monotony on the two thousand miles of road he's covered.
Tumor is a fearful word, often described as an unseen killer, only revealing itself after any hope of a cure is lost. The havoc a brain tumor brings is fearful too - a kind of top down deconstruction of its victims. Treatments are often perceived as savage as the killer.
"And if you miss some [in surgery] it only takes a little seed and it sprouts again," John Logsdon said.
After their mother died, the brothers grew up living lives of adventure; traveling addicts who tried to out do one another in where they went and what they saw. The idea of doing something in their mothers' name for charity at first didn't appeal.
"To put our mom's name out there and then have it be half assed...that would be a bad thing." John Logsdon said.
But they found an organization that had a sense of legitimacy in the National Brain Tumor Foundation and its staff of brain tumor survivors. Through the organization, they found a way to honor their mother and raise money for brain tumor awareness.
If their mother's death gave her sons the name for their mission - Spinning Southward on Jean's Journey - her life gave them the desire to go. They went road tripping across the country as children in an old brown Ford van with tear drop windows and the back seats torn out to make space for mattresses.
"An awful 70s brown," John Logsdon recalled. Their mom and dad took turns driving to Yosemite, or Utah, or across the county, on a slow pace, soaking up more than photo ops and passport stamps. With this trip, the Logsdons like to think they are taking a page from their mother's book - education through the osmosis of slow travel, one crankshaft turn at a time at a glorious, glacial pace, peddling up an Alaskan mountain range in a headwind.
The first day of Jean's Journey was a fine July day in Prudhoe Bay; 20- degrees Fahrenheit, a thick fog and wind gusts to 40 miles per hour. When the winds stalled, the mosquitoes came in Alaska sized swarms.
"We had just come from our step brother's wedding - music, dancing, drinking, energy...and then we get on a plane and head to the arctic," said John Logsdon. " The silence was overwhelming. It was almost an aggressive silence."
But Mike thrived on the quiet. Which worked out well, when John hurt his knee at the end of the first day. He tried to get back on the bike on day two but couldn't, so he hitchhiked to Fairbanks, and slept in a horse barn for a night until he could rent a car and go back and join his brother. He drove while Mike peddled, and when they got back to Fairbanks, laid up for a couple of weeks until his knee healed.
By September they were in Canada, and crossed the Yukon and then into northern British Columbia on the Cassiar Highway. There would be more adventures along the way, run-ins with wasps, homeland security and a fistfight over tent space. But also people asking them about their loaded bike trailers and their mission and still others seeing their story on the news and giving them money for the cause.
It's a young man's adventure. One modified by media outreach and press releases, bunched up with Clif Bars and street maps.
Last week they ended their stopover in Seattle and headed south. They need to get some miles under them - Mexico before Christmas and then Central America.
Sometime next summer, if things go well, they'll be on the shores of the Southern Ocean. There are no grizzly bears in South America, but they're not out of the woods yet.
John and Mike Logsdon are trying to raise $50,000 dollars for brain tumor awareness. If you'd like to contribute or find out more information, visit their web site at www.spinningsouthward.com or contact the National Brain Tumor Foundation at 1-800-934-2873