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NNSL photo

Stanley Brodaric, right, shakes hands with the mayor of Inuvik, Peter Clarkson. It was a moment Broderic had long dreamed of. - Lynn Lau/NNSL photo

Pedal-pusher pushing 70

Lynn Lau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 12/02) - This high on the North American road map, you never know who will come breezing up the highway.

Last Monday, it was an old man on a muddy bike.

He had pedalled 30,000 kilometres to get here from the southernmost tip of South America.

Arriving, Stanley Brodaric, 69, went to the liquor store for a bottle of champagne, but the store was closed. He celebrated quietly at the Happy Valley Campground, with only a few campers to congratulate him.

On Feb. 26, 2001, the semi-retired interior decorator from New York, set out from Argentina on a modest mountain bike, the same one he's still riding. He began riding north, over mountain ranges, into valleys, across plains. Except for the Darien Gap between Columbia and Panama, where there is no road, he stayed on the ground -- no shortcuts.

Twice, he took two-month breaks, while he was waiting out the winters. Otherwise, he covered about 150 kilometres a day, with a break every 10 days. He's been rained on, snowed on, attacked by bandits in Peru, and welcomed by villagers in remote highlands.

"Ever since I was a small kid, I read about the discovery of America, all these great explorers, faraway lands, Eskimos in igloos -- all this was sticking to me as a young person, like magic," Brodaric says.

Slovenian by birth, Broderic immigrated to the United States 45 years ago. "I started to work, and once you start to work, you're so busy, the next thing you know, you're 68, and if you're going to do something big, there's not much time left."

Although he has always led an active life, Brodaric only recently began distance cycling, making trips of 1,000 kilometres or more in New Zealand or Patagonia. Still, he underestimated how long his journey would be when he set out a year and a half ago.

"The biggest thing is not physical, it's mental," he says. "That you don't give up when you have little problems. Everyday, I'm thankful I'm on the road, pushing that bike, through the mud, uphill. I still had the energy to go on."

"All those dreams of my boyhood, I'm actually there," he says.

"It was very emotional for me to come here. I connected myself with the geographical points. This feeling is indescribable. It belongs to yourself only."