SALT LAKE CITY — He’s a successful consultant in the energy conservation industry; she’s a behavioral neuroscientist. They’re in their 30s, gainfully employed, out of debt, as squared away as squared away gets. Feet placed firmly on the grid.
So they’re getting off.
But only for two years and 20,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Some dream of hanging a hammock in the Bahamas. Some of taking a walkabout in the Outback. Some of trekking the Himalayas.
For Chris Haag and Sophie George, it’s hopping on their bicycles in Alaska and riding them south to Argentina.
Why? Well, let’s let Haag take a stab at it.
“For the last 15 years I’ve had it sitting there, to do something like this — take a few years off to just travel and see what the world is like,” he said. “And I don’t think there’s a better way to do that than on a bike.”
As for George, here’s how she put it in her blog:
“I am a psychologist with a PhD in behavioral neuroscience. I’ve spent 15 years in academia conducting research on PTSD, publishing papers, and recently teaching psychology and neuroscience. I’m a passionate scientist, but after nearly two decades of thinking, writing and teaching, I’m ready for something else. Chris has been tapping his foot for the last seven years, waiting for me to take the plunge on an adventure. So early this year I decided to resign my job. As well as documenting our adventure, I’ll continue to write scientific papers, so it seems entirely possible I’ll be the first female bike-packing, travel-blogging, neuroscientist to have traversed North and South America.”
In other words, Haag finally talked her into it.
The couple has been living the past three years in St. George, where George was on the faculty at Dixie State University. When she turned in her notice at the end of the school year, her students, to say the least, were surprised.
“They saw me as this really dedicated teacher and couldn’t imagine I would quit my job to do something completely different,” she said. “But the really nice bit about it is they seemed to see that you can be passionate about the work you do but also have other things in your life, too.”
George is from England. She came to America 10 years to do postdoctoratal work at the University of Michigan. She and Haag, a Michigan native, met at a climbing gym in Ann Arbor.
Haag remembers his opening line: “I said, ‘Nice accent. You must be from Texas.’
“Brits have this way of rolling their eyes when an American does something they think is stupid,” he continues. “I got that eye roll.”
But the ice was broken. They were married in 2013 and moved to St. George in 2015 for George’s new job.
Exploring the surrounding national parks and the red rocks only heightened their desire to take the path less traveled.
About three weeks ago, they left their cat and dog in the care of friends in St. George, shipped their bikes to Alaska, and made their way to Alaska by way of Michigan. Their plan is to pedal out of Homer, a town in southeast Alaska, on July 2. They’ll bike to Anchorage, turn right, and make their way through Canada and back to the U.S.
If all goes reasonably smooth, by November they will have pedaled about 3,500 miles and will be back in St. George — to check on the dog and cat. Then they will set out for the Mexican border so they can start using the Spanish they’ve been boning up on the past several years.17 comments on this story
Two continents, nine countries and 8.8 million calories later (based on 6,000 calories a day, each) they hope to end their odyssey in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina. They’re giving themselves two years to get there. At 20,000 miles, that works out to an average of 27 miles a day.
They have very few strictures and rules. Staying at a motel every now and then is not out of the question. And if there’s some place they want to see that’s a ways off the beaten path, they’ll lock up the bikes and take a bus to get there and back.
“The point is not to cover the ground but to enjoy what we see along the route,” George said.
You can follow their journey on their blog at theplacesipee.com.