The Daily

First Person


September 10, 2015 | by

Bicycling from Oregon to Patagonia. 


A view along the route through Argentina.

I was fourteen months into my bicycle trip to the bottom of the world. I’d started in Oregon, traveled through Mexico and Central America, through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and was now, in October of 2014, in Argentina. Mostly I went by bicycle. I won’t bullshit you, though: Sometimes a tire would blow and I’d hitchhike with poor farmers in fifty-year-old trucks held together by twine. Other times I’d hop a local bus to pass through an urban center like Mexico City, where the only available roads were freeways. I just want you to picture it correctly.

It was a filthy, patchwork travel plan, biking the back roads of the world, slowly making my way south. Often I’d sleep in thickets by the road; I’d push my bicycle through vines and disappear into jungle pockets and hide for the night. Some nights I’d ask a local shepherd if she minded a tent in her field; she’d nod and shuffle away with a shrug, as if I’d wasted her time by asking. I slept under bridges, in hammocks, and, once I reached the Andes, in tents. I slept in hostels when I could find them. I slept in the houses of people I met on the street, people I met on Instagram, friends of friends from back home. 

But when I crossed into Argentina, finding a place to sleep suddenly wasn’t as easy—and neither was the riding. Two friends had joined me from Mendoza to Bariloche, a roughly thousand-mile stretch, and the terrain we encountered was mostly treeless desert. The winds blew so strong they often brought our bicycles to a halt. The small towns that crouched in the fields were wind-beaten and raw—and very far apart. Every ten or twenty miles, a tree would stand solitary by the road, and we’d stop in the shade to drink water, eat an orange, complain about the wind. The goal was sixty miles a day. This was doable on flat roads when there wasn’t much of a headwind, but it was hard in the hills and impossible in the mountains, when we were gaining elevation.

We left Malargüe early one morning and knew we’d be camping in the wild that night; the next town was too far to reach. We loaded up on water and cookies and fruit and salami and crackers. I bought a few boxes of the cheapest wine. Malargüe was walled in by poplar trees, which grew tall and thin, in a straight line like feathers stuck in the ground. They shield the town from wind, or so I was told. We passed through the poplars, reentered the treeless plains, and soon began a descent that lasted thirty miles. This was the longest continuous downhill of my entire trip—and it was an absolute delight. The slope was just right to allow for the perfect speed, one that lets you comfortably ride while sitting straight up, with no hands, threading your fingers through the air like water snakes. In moments like these, I couldn’t help but sing.

But then the hill ended, and so did the pavement. Ahead of us was a stretch of soft gravel; the state was repaving the only road through the area. We rode for as long as we could—hardly making any progress at all—until the sun started pulling the Andes up over itself, turning the sky purple. This was a reliable sign that we had about an hour to find a spot to camp, to set up our tents and settle in.

I’d become a camp-spotting expert over the past year. Bridges were ideal in the open desert. Thickets of trees were, too—when you could find them. The idea was to be invisible: no one should see you leave the road; no one should see you from a distance. Only light a fire in the most remote places. Use dry wood for minimal smoke. I almost always slept on private property, and I didn’t want to rouse any suspicions.

This particular night we found ourselves in a valley without trees, only shoulder-high bushes. In place of leaves were thorns as long as your pinky. It was an entire river valley of Jesus crowns. Any fallen thorn could puncture a tire, a lesson I’d learned in the deserts of Mexico and Bolivia.

We rounded the last hill and saw no trees all the way to the southern horizon. Our late-afternoon light was fading. To our right was the eastern edge of the mountains; the thorns in that direction were thick enough to preclude our passing through them. To our left was the river valley, perhaps two miles across. Halfway to the river, the thorn bushes seemed their highest, and a cross-stitch of cow paths offered up a trail. In the center of the valley, another two miles down, was a row of poplar trees; in all likelihood there was a house there. A farmer. The only house for fifty miles.

Not wanting to be seen, we dipped off the road into the soft dirt of the desert. Winding through the labyrinth of thorns was difficult. Even the slightest brush would rip my shirt or bike shorts. The bushes were so tall that to anyone else only the tops of our heads would have been visible. We walked halfway to the river and found a clearing in the bushes that was big enough for our tents. We gingerly laid our bicycles down, careful to avoid any thorns that might puncture our bags.

Despite our exhaustion, we decided to make use of the dwindling light and walk down to the river. About thirty yards from the water, the thorn bushes cleared and short grass and snow-white tiny thorn shrubs lined the marshy ground. From here we could see the house clearly in the distance. We saw no movement. Cows were all around us. The river was cold and flowing. We breathed the clear air mixed with the smell of cow patties. We talked about the day and the legendary downhill stretch. We reveled in the low light and headed back to the thorns, back to our camp.

Just as we approached the edge of the thicket, we saw a rising plume of dust coming from the house. We squinted toward it—and made out six men on horseback racing toward us. The horses were running so fast the dust was funneling behind them like a tornado. In unison, as if in a choir, we all said, “Holy shit,” and ducked into the thorns.

“Maybe they didn’t see us,” I said optimistically. “Maybe it’s their routine for herding the cattle at sunset”—as if that were a thing. We raced through the maze back to our tents, which now felt much more exposed and visible than before.

We crawled in and sat, completely quiet. We could hear the hooves. We could hear barking—a lot of barking. There must have been twenty dogs running with the horses to smell us out, to track us. We could hear distant men shouting commands at one another. I knew they had seen us and were going to find us.

And then it hit me: we should never have gone for a walk. We’d been seen. I broke the first rule. At best, we’d be booted from our campsite and left with nowhere to sleep. At worst—

That’s when my thoughts turned to Harry Devert.


I first heard about him several months earlier, near the southern border of Mexico. “#PrayForHarry,” someone had commented on one of my Instagram posts. I clicked through the hashtag and started piecing it all together.

Harry Devert was thirty-two years old (just a year older than me), a former stock trader who’d given up his job to travel the world. He was posting photos from his motorcycle journey on Instagram. His last post was on January 25th, in Morelia, the capitol city of the Mexican state of Michoacán; it was a photo of a cathedral—one I had marveled at just a few months earlier. I Googled his name and found a news story: Harry had been missing for a week. His mother was terrified.

I checked his Instagram every day for months, hoping he’d surface from a remote ayahuasca ceremony or some digital-detox retreat. I added his name to my Google alerts. I saw from his writings that he was headed to Zihuatanejo, the beach from the final scene in Shawshank Redemption. He, like me, had always wanted to go there.

Months passed without any real leads. Then, in July, while I was passing through southern Bolivia, my Google alerts went off. Six months after Harry’s disappearance, an anonymous caller directed authorities to a body found on a dirt path just south of Michoacán—a path that leads to a beach near Zihuatanejo. A week later, DNA tests confirmed that the remains belonged to Harry. His body had been dismembered, the pieces placed in several plastic bags. The VIN number on the motorcycle found near his remains matched that of his green Kawasaki. Alongside the motorcycle and body, small bags of marijuana and cocaine had been discarded.


The dogs found us first. They rounded the last few bushes and surrounded our tent, screaming into the dusk.

The sound of hooves came next; the horses were slowing to a trot. We peered out and saw a massive brown stallion with blond hair and a blond tail, dust matted to its sweating skin. On its back was a dark-skinned man—deep wrinkles, a cowboy hat. He towered above us. In his arms was something bright, something ... pink.

He was holding his little girl. She was small, probably three or four years old, and was wearing a jumpsuit as bright as an Easter Peep. She looked so out of place that I almost couldn’t comprehend the sight of her.

The father said something I couldn’t understand and the dogs got quiet. The three of us stared out from the mesh of the tent. The daughter said something in her high, sweet voice. The father said something to her in reply. Then he turned to us and said, in Spanish, “It’s very cold here at night. I think you should come sleep in our house. Or camp in our barn. You’ll be more comfortable.”

I looked at him in silence for what felt like a very long time. My heart was pumping so hard I could hear the blood in my ears.

“Thank you, we are good,” I said in my broken Spanish. “Are we on your land? We are sorry. We are riding bicycles to Patagonia. We are good at camping outside. We are okay. We are sorry.”

He didn’t smile or show any emotion. “Okay. If you get cold, come to the house at any time. It’s okay—you’re welcome.” He turned his horse and called the dogs. The little girl in pink held up her hand and waved good-bye.


When I talk about my trip, people want to know—more than anything else—if I felt safe. And my answer is yes; for the vast majority of the trip, I felt incredibly safe—as safe as I feel on the Santa Monica Pier. But I struggle to make sense of my own safety, especially when I think of Harry.

Harry and I had a similar mission: to convince our friends and families and followers that the world isn’t half as scary as they think. By the time I finished my trip, in late December of 2014, I’d been on the road for sixteen months and had covered ten thousand miles—and I had felt safe the entire time. Even the strung-out cocaine pushers in Cartagena, Colombia, responded with a smile when I declined their offers. My theory, before I began, was that human beings are innately good and, more often than not, would help me if and when I needed help. For me, that theory held up.

But now and then, I think of Harry, and of the fear I felt when the men approached me on horseback, and of the fear Harry must have felt when he was run down on his motorcycle. I think of how my journey ended in a kind of communion with the world and left me only more confident in the kindness of strangers—and how Harry’s faith in humanity, in those final seconds of his life, must have floated away with his soul.

Jedidiah Jenkins (@jedidiahjenkins) lives in Los Angeles and is at work on a book (his first) about his trip from Oregon to Patagonia. His parents, who embarked on a five-year walking trip across the United States in the 1970s, are the authors of A Walk Across America and The Walk West.



  1. ChachitoMeow | September 10, 2015 at 12:27 pm


  2. Patrick | September 10, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Beautifully woven story. I’d expect nothing less of you, Jed. I’ll speak for every kind and loving human on earth by saying we wait with bated breath, like a child in the window anticipating the annual return of Santa or the three kings or ____, for the first of many books.

    Keep on wandering, for the road is long and the end a mirage.

  3. Emily | September 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Ah, your timing here is incredible. I was just speaking with a friend the other day about Harry, as I’d started to follow him just before he went missing. I now follow his Mom (via the Help Find Harry FB page) and my heart still breaks with each post. But I’ve wondered the same thing regarding traveling and pushing the limits and how that’s lead me to only believe in the kindness of strangers more than I once did. It’s made me stronger, more confident and certainly more compassionate. But like you, I’ve also thought about Harry and how this theory didn’t hold up. And I think that’s what guts me the most — the fact that he was such a committed believer in this core concept of humans, and yet, that’s exactly what betrayed him.

    This is such an interesting subject, Jedidiah. Thank you for prompting a quality discussion. Once again, your words are perfect and thought-provoking.

  4. Jessica Chancy-Feldman | September 10, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I have absolutely fallen in love with your writing. I started following you on Instagram when you were starting your journey to Patagonia. I have been captivated by every word and story since then. Thank you for sharing your amazing, God given talent with the world. I am so excited to read more. Blessings. 💙

  5. female | September 10, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    I don’t think this works as well if you are female…

  6. Ruth Ann Harnisch | September 11, 2015 at 1:27 am

    As one of your crowdfunding backers, I believe you are proving to be a most excellent investment. I knew both of your parents back in the day; they must be bursting with pride and joy (and no small amount of relief).

  7. Coy | September 11, 2015 at 3:10 am

    So great. I wait with the kind of eager anticipation that only precedes the coming achievement of one’s own treasured milestones or those of a close friend.

  8. Charlotte Smith | September 11, 2015 at 6:19 am

    Thank you, Jed, for this great story! I am happy you made the journey and made it safely.

  9. Alec @ Sky Telephone Number | September 11, 2015 at 9:18 am

    What an adventure! I’m in awe of what you’ve done. I just hope its more than a story to you, let its lessons become a bigger part of you

  10. Charisma | September 11, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Beautifully narrated (as always), Jedidiah. Kindness is your stories’ genre.

    Some thoughts: Could developing the ability to differentiate between intuition and fear through careful observations help one make better decisions? Could we unlearn and learn, and sharpen our instincts without losing faith in humanity, by remembering Jedidiah’s words– “human beings are innately good..”?

    I think so.

  11. Lindsey Butler | September 19, 2015 at 2:58 am

    Goodness, I just love reading everything you have to write. Every time I see your posts on Instagram I get excited for what you have in store. The way you word things is so beautiful and encouraging, I can always find some inspiration in them. Like a little message left just for me to appreciate.

    If you’re ever in need of a backyard to camp in when passing through Arkansas I’ve got your back. And there are a lack of thorns

  12. Will Adair | September 23, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Your story is both compelling and satisfying in that my son is on a similar journey on his bicycle going from Calgary, Canada to Patagonia. The question you answered about feeling safe warmed my heart. It was that worry of his safety that made me wonder why he was doing this. I now see your and his Vision of Humanity & Travel & adventure as being the same. I am so Proud of my son (Jaryd Adairski) as I am sure your parents are of you.
    I wish you Good Luck and Safety in wherever your travels may take you. Keep on writing, as your stories tell of an incredible world full kind people.
    Thank You and God Bless

  13. JackHype | December 27, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Nope what, stupid? Nope what?

  14. Jesse Carrington | January 6, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Came to your page through your video posted on Backpackers Magazine’s website. Very thankful that I stumbled upon it. It’s they type of video that can change a persons life. Very much looking forward to your book.

7 Pingbacks

  1. […] also a friend of my favorite human that I don’t know, Sophia Bush). He wrote this piece (Sheltered – Jedidah Jenkins)  for The Paris Review today and I’m so glad that his words are being shared beyond the […]

  2. […] he’s in the middle of writing a book about riding his bike from Oregon to Patagonia. Based on this essay, I’m even more excited for his book to […]

  3. […] This Paris Review article about an epic bike journey from Oregon to Patagonia. […]

  4. […] Si vous voulez en lire plus sur son voyage, j’ai trouvé un article ici. […]

  5. […] Find out more about Jedediah Jenkins’ adventure, read this article in The Paris Review. […]

  6. […] Thousand Year Journey Video (<— you have to watch this) / Insta / Wilderness Collective  / The Paris Review […]

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