It seems like this trio has been together for a lifetime. While we are used to seeing them climbing, running, alpineering, sup-ing across open waters and generally having “fun” together, their adventures as a trio only date back to 2013. The thing is this, they have managed to have a lifetime of adventures in each and every trip. This is how it all started.
Part 1: International Travel on Standby
SLC, Utah to Santiago, Chile
Jan 30th 2013
For WEEKS, we have been preparing for the Patagonian Expedition Race- getting all our gear together. Shipments from our sponsors have been arriving steadily. Boxes and boxes of gear and food arrive daily. Sorting food, and making bike boxes have been taking most of our time.
We are three of the four members of Team Four Continents: Sam Salwei, Tom Grundy and me (Luz Raquel Hernández). We are getting ready to meet our team Captain: Taz Lawrie. This is the first Patagonian Expedition Race (PER) for me and for Tom. It’s Sam’s 2nd and Taz’s 3rd.
A LOT of questions have been directed to Sam, he being the only one of us with previous experience. A former member of the team has allowed us to stay at his house and we have taken over his basement and converted it into a production and sorting facility! We are all amazed by the quantity of gear required for three people and the vast amount of packaging it comes in.
The biggest of our projects is making bike boxes. Bike boxes are how we’ll transport our bikes for international air travel and how they will get to the race checkpoint where we need them. We have decided to save big bucks by re-creating a design for road bikes that we found on the internet. Our improved design will allow us to transport a fully assembled mountain bike, saving us a bunch of time in race transitions. Brilliant idea! Even more brilliant than that: realizing that by placing two bikes in one box and creating the second box big enough to nest outside of it, we are able to ship two bikes and two bike boxes for the price of one. Flying with our custom designed boxes will now cost us half the amount of money originally projected if we fall within the right weight and dimension requirements.
We are racing the clock to make our SLC departure at midnight. The last of our gear boxes arrived at 5:45 pm. Our ‘workshop’ is still a sea of gear and we are moving as fast as we can. Our mission is to keep all bags at the required 50 lbs limit. The last packing hours are spent compiling each bag with different assortments of gear, food and clothing. The heaviest items have been put aside to be taken as carry-ons. This allows us to cheat the airline weight limit just a little. By cheat, i mean, negotiate the limits of “rules.”
It is 11:00 pm and we are just leaving the house. We are sure we will miss our flight. On the way to the airport we verify our departure time and to our surprise it is a 12:50 am departure instead of a 12:00 am departure! We have almost an hour to spare! We might make that flight after all!!!
At the airport we shuffle our luggage and bike box to the check-in counter. The moment of truth has come: Will the bike box be in the allowed dimensions? Will the bags be past the weight limit?
It turns out that flying stand-by had saved us! We were allowed 2 checked bags each, including the bike box. That’s all we had! We only had to pay the bike box fare. All our bags were 1 or 2 lbs over. The bike box was 1 inch and 2 lbs over but we were allowed to go on. (So much for” rules!”)
A heavy weight was lifted off our shoulders (literally 550 lbs!) when we checked our entire collection of luggage. Each of us had a large carry-on and a small personal bag. Our carry-ons were probably 50 lbs each! We went past airport security wondering if all our gels would make it by. We had no problems at all and headed to our flight.
This was my first time flying stand-by. I was expecting to miss a few flights, to be sent on separate flights, or to arrive in Santiago two or three days after we were expected. But luck was on our side! We all made our first flight to Atlanta, had a relaxing 16 hr layover where we manage to sleep for the first time in days, and made our flight to Santiago with no further difficulties. Tom even got to fly first class; lucky him!
Once in Santiago we gathered all our belongings and headed to customs. We had ‘something to declare’: food, expensive equipment, slacklines for sale… a lot! We were not sure what was going to be impounded… but we didn’t know we were about to lose ALL OUR beef jerky. Imagine, me – a vegetarian – adamantly yet faithlessly defending the necessity of pounds and pounds of Krave and Sweet Water Beef Jerky. Fate was not on our side this time and we watched with sad eyes as they were all destroyed. Much later, upon retrospection, we thought that we could have eaten them instead of letting them get destroyed. “We” meaning Tom and Sam – but our travel brains didn’t think this through at the time.
We all thought the hardest part of the travel to PER had happened.
Little did we know destiny’s plan.