Across North America by pedal and paddle

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A Connecticut man has completed his 4,300-mile journey from near Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, by canoe and bicycle.

Alexander Martin paddled ashore from the Presumpscot River on Friday, marking the end of a self-propelled adventure that started in April 2009 and continued over three 2-month-long segments.

He accomplished most of the trip in his canoe, paddling some 3,500 miles. Martin added the bicycle to his gear after encountering repeated obstacles in his attempted voyage up the Snake River through Hell's Canyon along the Idaho-Oregon border.

Portage bike

He used that bike, “Taj”, or its replacement, “Taj II”, on portages between waterways as he made his way across the US.

While most might consider his canoe adventure the most amazing, I was just as interested in his bicycle. Although getting only a scant mention in most wire service stories, the story of the bicycles gets more attention in Martin's blog, America's Rivers Expedition.

He had discovered how Hell's Canyon got its name, steep walls, lack of camping along the river, and lots of snakes. At Weizer, Idaho, we stopped in the library and did an online search on Craigslist for bicycles. He found, and bought, a Scott bike for $30. Next, he needed a trailer to hold the 16-foot-long, 30-pound Kevlar canoe. He wrote:

“I spent the afternoon fixing and tinkering, then talking my way into a machine shop to fabricate a trailer. I had grand designs, all beautiful and well-engineered, but I realized I couldn't fix most of the parts if they broke, so I kept it simple so I could easily repair the trailer in the field. $1.20 at the hardward store and access to the dumpster behind the shop gave me what I needed, and I pedaled out of Weiser smiling like an idiot at my good fortune.”

Getting attention

The Kensington, Connecticut, adventurer told the AP (“Cross-country paddler completes 4,300-mile trip”)that he was fairly isolated in his pursuit of a canoe-bike adventure. In the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota, for instance, he didn't see another person for 16 days.

Martin got plenty of attention out on the roads, however. In the closing days of his journey, he said that he was portaging his canoe by bicycle through Amish Country in upstate New York. Many of the folks passing in buggies smiled and waved, although one buggy driver pointed and laughed.

Martin next goes to New Zealand where he'll lead whitewater adventures.

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