For the last three years, Matt W. Dawson of Logan, Utah, has been living in China, working as a high school principal. At the end of the school year, he began feeling up for a challenge. Why not ride the coast line of South America, and he’s passing through Durango to get there.
“What I’m trying to do is visit every country in the world,” he said. “That’s about 200, depending on your political belief system.”
Dawson is well on his way. He’s already been to 80 nations. A natural born wanderer, he began thinking of how to slow down his travels. To see more, he considered hiking. “Insane,” he said. Then he thought of bicycling.
“I’m not a hardcore biker,” he said. “I’m a pretty average guy. This is something new for me.”
And that’s the magic word. Dawson is always looking for something new. He’s taught school in Asia. Built houses in Costa Rica, worked in Tijuana, and now, this.
“The plan is to follow the Pacific Coast all the way to the southern tip of Argentina and then come back along the Atlantic Coast.”
His steel-frame bike teeters around 100 pounds, loaded with gear, special double-thickness tires and panniers – sort of like saddle bags for bikes – an all sides. He’s even packed a button-down shirt – his “fancy clothes.”
Dawson’s bumped into a bit of trouble, but nothing he couldn’t handle. Eight days of rain around the Utah-Colorado desert border, then some mechanical issues, slowed him. At one point, he forgot to pack anything to eat.
“That was a bit of a problem,” he said. “I had to pedal two days without food.”
But there’s one thing he couldn’t help noticing: kindness.
“I’m amazed at how kind people are,” he said. “I’m traveling roads, I’m stopping in towns. People are generally interested. They ask me a lot of questions and complete strangers offer me help.”
With his cellphone and a low-cost computer, and a few friends following him for updates on social media, Dawson is heading for the sea of Cortez next.
“I find a lot of enjoyment in the challenge of trying new things and pushing myself to new limits,” he said. “I’m looking for new experiences and to meet new people. You can’t do something like this and not have that happen.”