Ushuaia, Argentina 1 Mar 06
Odometer 25,002 m 40,237 km

I awoke to blood on my pillow--again. That made three nights in a row. Scarier yet, I couldn't tell where it was coming from.

Before I could think about it further, I was distracted by another gust that nearly tore the tin off my room’s aged roof. I dragged my shaky, aching body out of the swayback bed and into the frosty morning air to draw the makeshift curtain. In front of me--seething with white caps--the Strait of Magellan.

For two days I'd been holed up in this fleabag in a small fishing village on the north side of the island of Tierra del Fuego. I was coughing up blood, had a splitting headache, a sinus infection and inflamed throat, and felt like someone stuck an ice pick in my right eardrum. In spite of my being only one day out from my journey's final destination on the island's southern tip--I could not ride.
I hadn't planned on stopping here, so I was running short of funds. With my illness, the room was priority--lest I be forced to camp out in the cold. I had to conserve. The first to go was food. Then bottled water. And by the last morning I was reduced to conning a seven-year old out of a piece of bread.

I had stumbled downstairs to inquire about the weather. The little girl, daughter of the proprietor, was propped up on a stool watching cartoons on their black-and-white, static-laced TV. Seeing an opportunity, I volunteered that
Tom had always been my favorite.

She took the bait, winced and retorted: “
Jerry’s my favorite.”

It didn’t take her long to connect the dots. “I know: you be Tom and I’ll be Jerry!”

“OK,” I replied, “but Tom is sick and very hungry and would have much more energy to play if he only had a
pancito to eat.”

Jerry ran off to the kitchen to fetch it.

Ten minutes later her mother reappeared. Pursuing that weather report, I asked, “is it always this cloudy and windy here?”

Seemingly oblivious to the black-bottomed monsters hanging above the frothy seas and bent over trees just outside her window, she replied matter-of-factly: “today really isn't that cloudy--or windy.”
Well, if this is a good day, I don't want to be here when it's bad. I'm sick as a dog. I haven't enough money to buy a ferry ticket back to the mainland to find a doctor. I'm out of food and water. And with the Antarctic winter blowing in--I'm out of time.

I donned everything I owned and saddled up.
chilean pesos
A dirt road led 100 miles east towards the Argentine border where I arrived with less than two U.S. dollars worth of Chilean pesos to my name. Good thing there were no tolls.

Those vicious-looking clouds gave me a bit of a break, though rain pelted me intermittently and the wind honked as I skirted the South Atlantic Ocean. As the Darwin Mountains rose up, the temperature dropped. Add to all of that the “sick-chill” factor, and I was F-F-F-FREEZING!

Dusk settled over Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, as I rounded the final bend to my long-awaited destination. It was beautiful, serene and altogether a fitting end to a journey that began eight months and 21,549 miles (34,680 km) earlier--on the north shore of Alaska.

For more than 30 years I had dreamed of being right here, right now.

A mixture of strong emotions overcame my ailing body. I was as excited about achieving my goal as I was sad to have it behind me. I wanted to cheer--and I wanted cry. Instead, I did neither.

I simply pulled El Viento off the road overlooking the harbor, slowly removed my right glove and carefully turned off the key. I closed my eyes in the silence, took a deep breath--and exhaled.

From this point on, I'm homeward bound.

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