Will Adams traveled more than 700 miles to reach southern Louisiana, but has nearly 10,000 more miles to go before he reaches his destination.
Adams, a 29-year-old resident of Augusta, Ga., is riding a motorized bicycle to “the southernmost city in the world” — Ushuaia, Argentina — to raise awareness about a lack of clean water in developing nations. He left Augusta Jan. 10, but the project began much earlier.
“It really all started with an article in Popular Mechanics four years ago about a motorized bicycle,” Adams said. “From there it was a pretty quick transition to wanting to go to South America. It has always been a goal of mine to set foot on every continent.”
Adams’ journey has taken many forms. It was scheduled to start in 2011 in Alaska, hugging the Pacific Coast, before joining the Pan-American Highway. But in 2011, he was hit by a car while riding his bike.
“If it wasn’t for my full-faced helmet, I might not have a jaw,” he explained.
After the accident, he still planned to begin in Alaska.
“I had some logistical problems as I was about to ship my stuff up to Alaska,” he said. “So I decided just to start in Augusta.”
Adams left Georgia with Matt Riley, a close friend, on Jan. 10.
“My bike had a different drive system than Will’s,” Riley said. “It couldn’t handle the weight I was carrying, so I had to turn back … Now, I handle some of the logistics. I’ll send him packages if something breaks and keep in touch as much as possible.”
Adams arrived in Baton Rouge on Feb. 10 and left for Lafayette on Feb. 16. He left Lafayette on Feb. 21 with plans to camp on the roadside until he reaches Texas. His current route will join the Pan-American Highway in Texas before continuing into Mexico and Central America. He estimated it will take eight months to complete the trip.
Despite good intentions, Adams anticipates difficulty along the way. One potential problem includes the Darién Gap — a large swath of undeveloped swampland and forest in southern Panama. The swampy landscape means he cannot cross the Panama-Colombia Border on his bicycle. As a result, he plans to take a ferry from Panama to Colombia.
The Amazon Rainforest also presents a problem, causing Adams to take a circular route through South America. After entering Colombia, he will bike through central Ecuador and Peru before cutting through the center of the continent and into southern Brazil.
From there, Adams will travel through Argentina to reach Ushuaia, Argentina — a city that’s more than 10,000 miles from Augusta, Ga.
During his trip, Adams will avoid interstates or any roads with speed limits 65 mph or greater for safety reasons. His bike tops out at 35 mph and gets 200 miles to the gallon.
“If I were on an interstate, a cop would probably just pull me over and tell me to quit being an idiot,” Adams said.
More than navigational hazards, personal safety is also a concern. Adams is carrying a machete and several other knives to combat thieves along the route.
“The knives are tools first,” he said. “But if it comes down to it, I am willing to use them as weapons. Carrying a gun would be a bad idea crossing so many international borders.”
The language barrier could also be a problem. Adams said his Spanish is limited. He plans to learn the language by immersing himself in local culture.
While traveling, Adams will sleep in the wilderness or find hosts in cities along the route by using the social networking site Couchsurfing.org. The website connects travelers with residents of foreign cities to provide lodging.
“It’s a good way to stay in a city when you don’t know anyone there,” he said. “Most people are really nice. They cook for you and let you sleep in their house. For the most part, it has worked out well.”
He stayed in the Spanish Town neighborhood while in Baton Rouge, but has slept behind churches and on the roadside.
Adams is also recording the trip and keeping a blog. He will edit the photos and videos into a documentary upon completion.
His journey, he insists, is more than a humanitarian trip.
“It’s a life experience,” he said. “I might be a totally different person after traveling through all these different countries and living in strange places.”