Lakewood native Jason Lape is doing something few people have done: circumnavigating the globe by bicycle. Yes, traversing the entire latitude of the Earth
Circumnavigating the world by bicycle is nothing short of incredible, but Lape is no stranger to odysseys.
Lape spent much of his childhood in Lakewood, but left in 2010 to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT), a 2,200-mile trail from the spruce-fir forests of Georgia to the spruce-fir forests of Maine.
“Six months later after completing it, I was a changed man and didn't want to go back to ‘normal life,’” he says.
After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Lape and seven friends biked cross-country from Salida, Colorado, to Los Angeles, Seattle and Key West, Florida. Collectively they had no experience biking long distances before they left.
In 2014, Lape, a friend and two dogs paddled a single canoe from Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico—the length of the Mississippi. A quick reminder: The Mississippi River is the second or third longest river (depending on how it’s measured) in the world.
Name a place, and Lape has lived there— Salida, Colorado; Lake Tahoe, California; McCall, Idaho; and Key West, Florida. Name a classic American adventure and he has gone on it. He, however, remains a Clevelander at heart.
“Wherever I go, I represent Cleveland as my home.”
Ambitions have never stopped at national borders or shores, and they certainly haven’t stopped with Lape.
While working six to seven days a week on a fishing boat in Key West, Lape and Josh Sewell, a Florida native and kindred spirit, decided to bike around the world.
Sewell himself has had his share of adventures. In 2015, he sold all of his belongings to hike the Pacific Coast Trail — or PCT as it is known to hikers. He left the trail at Yosemite and hitchhiked to Oregon. Halfway up the Oregon Coast, Sewell bought a bicycle and continued up the coast using children’s backpacks as panniers.
“One day while drinking a couple bottles of wine, Josh and I filled my giant white board with math problems figuring out the cost of living, plane tickets, emergency costs and timeline. The board looked like the scene from Good Will Hunting
But why go by bike?
“It’s the perfect speed to see the world. Bicycle time slows down and you become a part of the small towns and people want to talk to you.”
On May 21, 2016, they landed in Lisbon, Portugal, with their touring bikes (for the bike nerds: Lape rides a steel-frame Novara outfitted with disk-brakes and Sewell a steel-frame Surly Long Haul Trucker. Both use front and rear mounted Ortlieb panniers) and supplies and not much else. They carry with them only the necessities and a solar-powered batter to power electronic devices like a Go-Pro.
Since leaving for Lisbon, they have biked 3,300 miles (5,500 km) to the northern coast of Spain, through the Pyrenees along France's southern coast, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania. (That’s about 60 miles per day if you’re counting.) They arrived in Greece in late July and plan to continue on through the Balkans before heading to Southeast Asia to avoid harsh northern winters. Before coming back to the western hemisphere, the two will bike Australia.
“From Australia we'll fill our tires with more air and skip across the ocean (or fly) to South America hugging the west coast on our way back home to the states.”
No exact timeline is in place, but they expect their journey to last another 18 months.
Lape will tell you navigating roads, traffic and bureaucracy while physically exhausted is difficult; the greatest challenge, however, happens before the rubber meets the road.
“The biggest challenge is the mental: waking up early and just biking all day.”
But their journey is not without reward and serendipity. “No matter where I go, but especially through smaller rural areas of the world, people are willing to give me the shirt off their back.”
And their journey is certainly not without lessons.
“A man in France biked next to us for 20 minutes talking about how much he loved his wife, how he had traveled everywhere and about how his friend had died recently but they used to bike this same spot. We took a break overlooking rocky cliffs falling into the sea and he handed me 100 euros.”
Lape’s dream ride: “I’m riding it.”
Visit Lape and Sewell’s blog, rollingtheearth.com
, to follow them on their incredible odyssey.