The Keys to Freeze group has been on the road for around a month traveling though the Southeast. On a tour they expect to last nearly 6 months, they have already made connections that will last a lifetime. The group started in the Florida Keys last month and plan on making their way up to Alaska by September. For more information see the original article. Here is our interview with one of the six riders, George Eklund.
How old are you?
28 years old
Where are you from?
What was your first cycling memory?
My first cycling memory is riding my first bike, a Huffy White Lighting, in the parking lots of my small eastern Kentucky community. I remember vividly when my Dad took the training wheels off and helping me take my first spin down our street. Air in my face, as I rolled down the avenue and he ran behind me in pursuit. Freedom was found.
How has cycling affected your life?
Cycling has been a constant in my life. It has served as the connective tissue to my friends and community. I spent summer breaks riding bikes around my hometown to visit my friends. I’ve used a bike to commute to a jobs, visit friends, and explore cities and communities. I find it to be a much more intimate mode of transportation. Unlike a car, you are able to fully experience a community: Sounds, smells, and the entire streetscape. When biking through a town you are able to take every part of it in compared to whizzing by a town on an expressway.
Tell us about your first long adventure on a bike?
When I was in middle school, my family went on a three day bike tour along the Greenbriar river in West Virginia. The five of us spent three days biking on a rails to trail, exploring the river and small communities. It was a great time. It was the first time that I realized a bike could be used to travel between towns and a new way to see the country.
Any other particular adventures and experiences, bike or non bike related, that will help you for this expedition?
All of my past experiences are meeting at the confluence that is Keys to Freeze. I feel like I have been preparing for this for the past 10 years. I think that the biggest thing that I have learned in these experiences is to be flexible. During this expedition, we will have to deviate from the plan at some point. Being able to adjust on the fly will be critical to make sure that Keys to Freeze is a success.
What about the Keys to Freeze trip are you most excited about?
To me Keys to Freeze is about a lot of things. It is about advocating for the preservation of public lands. It is about listening to and learning from americans about their community. It is about connecting people to the NCPA. It is about learning and sharing and connecting with our countrymen.
The first time I rode across the country was a profound experience. I remember feeling free and at ease. I was able to let go of the constructs and the pressures that the humdrum of life places upon us. I was able to open myself up and become raw, honest and real. It was a moment in my life where each day was the best day of my life filled adventure and appreciation for the present.
I am most excited to find this state of clarity again. That special space, where we strip back all of the modern day pressures that are placed upon us and completely devoting myself to this project and cause.
I have participated countless times in the American ritual of seeing America. I remember being packed up in a mini-van and being dragged across the country to see national monuments and parks. I can’t think of a more American experience than taking the time to appreciate the world that the millenia presented to use. Wendell Berry wrote that “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places”
The National Parks Conservation Association and Climate ride are two of the many organizations that are fighting to protect these sacred spaces for the next generation. It means everything to join the thousands of other dedicated individuals that are working for a better tomorrow.
Each town you go through will create a different impression, what are you most looking forward to about visiting these towns along the way?
Each small town in America has their own personality and flavor. Each town offers new opportunities to discover something new about people and the country. I am most excited about finding the institutions that make communities who they are. I want to meet people and learn about their communities and learn from them about what the national parks mean to them.
What region are you most excited to ride through?
Its hard for me to pick out a specific region. Each part of the nation that we will transverse provides sights and wonders that are all equal to me. The Bayous, the Everglades, the Sierra Nevadas, the deserts of the southwest are all wonders that I look forward to bike through. I am excited to discover and appreciate each regions unique flavor.
What do you expect it will be like traveling everyday with the same group of 5?
It’s going to take some adjusting to spend so much time with the same group of five people. We will have to get on the same page about our expectations for the trip. Once we find that routine and have an understanding of everyone then I think it will go smoothly. Sure there will be conflicts and storms for our group, but as long as we hold each other in high regard, show each other respect, and communicate, we can weather anything. By the time we reach Alaska, we all will have a bond that will be unique and special to us all.
What is one thing that the others don’t know about you, but will by the time the trip is over?
Ich weis nicht. Ich spreche Deutsch.
What do you envision your sleeping situations to be like throughout the trip?
Dry is all I can ask for. I am trying to have no expectations about where we will be staying. I am expecting the full range of arrangements from staying with friends along the way to sleeping on the side of the road in a tent.
Are you using racks, bikepacking bags or both? Why?
My ultimate goal on this trip to have all of my weight on my bike. To do this, I am using a set of Ortlieb Panniers and a DIY framebag on my Surly Straggler. I have used the set up previously on a couple of short tours and it has proven to work for me. It lets me have a decent amount of space for 6 months of self supported touring.
There will be a film about your journey. Watching the experience will be fun for your followers. Do you anticipate this will take away from the experience, or benefit it?
I am excited to be contributing to this film about our journey. It will be great to document and share our journey and will be a vehicle to talk about the importance of protecting our wild places. Keys to Freeze is a compelling story about the trip that we can share with our followers but I do not want it to become the driving force of the trip. The last thing I want is it to become some narcissistic endeavor that focuses on how great we are. We are doing Keys to Freeze for the National Parks Association not for likes, views, shares or fame. I think that it is important to keep the cause in the forefront during our journey.
Any shoutouts you would like to give?
A huge thanks goes to my friends and family back in Kentucky for helping me along the way.
Source: Keys to Freeze: George Eklund