From a hostel room in the city of Kearney (state of Nebraska), Henry From Wartenberg converse with us before going out to pedal the route. According to his calculations, between 120 and 150 kilometers await him. He will do them, far out of his calculations, under the rain.
“The weather has been a big surprise”, The 54-year-old photographer slides. “Here they are entering spring and spring refuses to appear. It’s very cold and it rains a lot. I come from temperatures of six degrees below zero, doing sections where it is snowing all the time”, says Henry and that will be one of his first learnings from this trip: that things don’t always happen as one plans. The important thing is the attitude that is assumed in front of it.
“With rain, unless it’s torrential, I start anyway. I’m not going to pretend that in two months of travel every day it will be 25 degrees and the wind hits me on the back. Sometimes he plays head-on and you have to make more effort. But that’s the fun of these challenges, “he says.
Henry arrived in the United States on April 21. Then he took an internal flight with his bicycle to California where, three days later, he started his journey. “What I am doing is highly demanding. For that I was preparing a lot. I don’t come from the world of bicycles: my sport is running ”, he says.
Like many runners, last year, the pandemic forced him to interrupt his routine. “I live in Tigre And, in the middle of quarantine, they got pretty rough with the controls. They wouldn’t even let you go out for a walk on the sidewalk. But if you did it by bike, they wouldn’t tell you anything. I started going out three or four times a week and pedaled to La Boca, which is 80 kilometers, and that’s how it occurred to me to face this project”, he says about his trip and the two books he’s working on: one with the record of your journey from San Francisco to New York; and another in black and white, which will have an artistic curation.
A fan of adventure, where he can feed his curiosity and be inspired to take photos, this is not the first time Henry has taken a bike trip. The previous one, he says, was in 2017, when he toured Iceland with a friend. The rest of his crossings, which were more than 25 and involved, for example, traveling from Alaska to Ushuaia or crossing the Chilean coast, he did by motorcycle.
“Something that I ask all the time is: ‘Travel light, travel happy’. Namely: ‘Travel light, travel happy’. That if you want is the motto of all my trips. Especially in this one, which is by bike. It is incredible how throughout these four weeks I lightened even more. Many things that I had in my backpack I sent to a friend of mine who lives in Miami, ”says Henry.
Although it sounds like a cliché, the reality is that Von Wartenberg moves from coast to coast with some strategically chosen changes of clothes, a helmet, a canteen, a sleeping bag (“To use in an emergency”) and his photography equipment (cameras, a drone, chargers and a computer) which, according to him, represents 80% of his luggage.
For the latter, above all, it was that decided not to sleep in a tent but in hotels, hostels and / or hostels. “Beyond what I share on my Instagram account, I’m not here on vacation, but working on my books and I need to download the photos in a safe place. On the other hand, I decided to make this trip in two months and, in a tent, it would have taken me twice as long. Not to mention having to move items to cook and a lot of other things, ”he explains.
NEVER SAY NEVER
From his motorcycle trips, Henry remembers that cyclists always attracted a lot of attention to him. The fact of seeing them pedaling, under the sun, in the fog or in the rain, seemed, in a way, an epic feat. “Someday I’m going to be on that side,” he thought. “Well, the day has come. Here I am, “he says now with a laugh.
“People feel a mixture of sadness and curiosity about the trip. Logically, the guy who is in a truck and sees me pedaling in the snow thinks: ‘He’s crazy’. Many come up to you, they ask you: they don’t understand why you get into this quilombo of crossing the country from coast to coast. It impresses them a lot, especially when you tell them the number of kilometers you do per day. They open your eyes like this.” Says Henry, joining the thumbs and forefingers in a round.
-Is there an enjoyment in challenging the body?
-To make this trip, I trained seven months. The last four going out to pedal every day between 80 and 90 kilometers. So I more or less know what my limit is. I even stretched it a bit, following an invitation that some friends made me one day, and I pedaled 280 kilometers without stopping. That’s how far I go. Of course I can’t do that distance every day. Now I do between 120 and 150. Yes it is a great effort, but I am having a spectacular time. Even though it’s snowing and it’s six degrees below zero. I always say: “There are no bad climates, there are bad teams”. I came super equipped. I did not bring a jacket because it is cute and I have a coat. I brought it because it weighs nothing and because not a drop of water enters it.
-With so many trips made, what advice would you give to someone who wants to make a similar journey?
-Fundamental: travel by day. When the sun begins to fall, the flow of cars is much lower and, in case of having a problem, it is more difficult to get help. Another key: know the way. All my trips begin at home long before I hit the road.. To this, punctually, I dedicated a whole month. I know what happens in every kilometer because I studied the route by heart. If you are going to bring water, you have to know if you are going to be loading it with pleasure because you have a service station every five kilometers or if you really need it because there is nothing in 160 kilometers and you have to go with four or five liters of water to hydrate you.
-In addition to the unforeseen weather, what other unplanned things appeared?
-To get started, I punctured tires more times than I would have imagined. In the end it turned out to be a problem with the tubes, inside the rim, and I was able to fix it. But in the meantime it was a nuisance because it came with a rhythm and had to brake, disassemble the bike … Another thing I did not tell you: If I had come at the time I had planned the trip, at the end of March, I would not have been able to cross some places due to the amount of snow there was. Do you know why I did not travel on that date? Why did I get COVID-19.
-A lucky misfortune …
-I would tell you that no misfortune because it was completely asymptomatic, so it even suited me because I traveled with antibodies. Now i’m vaccinated. But it was by chance. When I arrived in Fallon, in the state of Nevada, I spent the night in a motel and there was a CVS in front of it, which are pharmacies where they administer the vaccine. Question, I went to buy water and asked if they had any doses available. “Yes. Do you want to be vaccinated? ”, They answered me. That’s how easy it was, they applied it to me in five minutes.
-What’s the plan for when you get to New York?
–The plan is to arrive. I still see it as somewhat distant because I am in the middle. But if I manage to arrive in time and form it will be a great reward. Although my travel project ends there, I will continue to Washington. So another week of pedaling awaits me.