Gary Wietgrefe (pronounced wit’grif) is an inventor with six patents, internationally published researcher, military intelligence veteran, economist, agriculturalist, systems developer, societal explorer, cyclist, hiker, outdoorsman, and author of seven books. Three books have been released in the last three years including two in his Relating to Ancients series: Culture and the mysterious agent changing it, and Learning as it influences the 21st century. After forty days bicycling to North Pole, Alaska, Wietgrefe released his first travel adventure entitled Destination North Pole—5,000 km by bicycle. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about this book.
Please give us a short introduction to what Destination North Pole is about.
Destination North Pole is a fun armchair adventure. For years I wanted to bike to Alaska. At age 65, six years after retiring, I decided…why wait? Although I had not been on my ten-year-old bicycle in eight months, the Arctic Circle lay ahead. After three thousand miles, forty days of biking and one Tylenol, I arrived in North Pole, Alaska. Vast prairies, eight mountain ranges, hundreds of black bears, grizzlies, wood bison, moose, wolves, porcupines, sounds, smells, feel of nature, and happenstances were incentives to average 75 miles-per-day. Join the escapade—read, or start pedaling.
What inspired you to write this book?
Holes in daily blogs, colorful characters, stops at historical markers, nincompoop tourists feeding bears, and my wife’s experiences needed sharing. Three months of thin air last spring isolated in a mountain cabin at 6,500 feet with no Wi-Fi helped.
Your wife traveled with you—in which way has this trip enhanced your relationship?
We have been married for decades. For others in the same situation, try taking an international trip to the same destination at the same time both going at your own pace. She drove. I rode. Normally losers arrive last. I arrived a few minutes later cheered in by my wife at the North Pole finish line. We both won! How could we ask for more?
Which of the stops that you made was your personal favorite and why?
Liard River Hot Springs Lodge—my last stop in British Columbia was the most relaxing. In 1942, tuckered out from day-and-night wartime construction of the Alaska Highway, U.S. Army soldiers upgraded Liard’s natural hot springs for personal use. After a 73-mile day, we relaxed into the evening. The next morning, the 29th day of biking, I left at 4:15 a.m., biked 130 miles of AAA rated Scenic Highway into the Yukon Territory—and not one grizzly bit me.
What was the toughest part of this journey?
It wasn’t. I could not wait to get up every morning to see what was next.
Besides writing and cycling, which other secret skills do you have?
A: I like to invent and have six patents. Normally, on 25-50 mile bike rides my wrists got sore. So the afternoon before heading to North Pole, I stopped at our local hardware store and made what I call a wrist support bar. Not once in the 3,000 miles did I get sore wrists. It is not patented. Anyone can make one from instructions in book.
The descriptions in this book are often humorous. Why did you write it this way?
Who wants to read the struggles of an old guy bicycling? This is a fun book. Biking and writing about it was enjoyable. Sometimes thinking about incidences, I just smile at some of the stupid things.
Was your age ever a factor in your decision to go on this trip?
Yes. Six years earlier, my original plan was to take off work, leave-without-pay, and bike to Alaska. My bosses thought work was more important; besides, I liked the paycheck. A couple of years ago, after a book tour from releasing two books, my wife and I went to Mexico for mental relaxation and to hike the Sierra Madres. Mid-May we returned to South Dakota and a week later I was biking north.
Compared to a car, a bicycle is quite a slow mode of transport. How do you overcome boredom on long stretches of road?
Even at one/sixth the speed of a car, I never once was bored, nor wore headsets, nor earbuds, nor listened to a radio or music. Just wearing soft earplugs to block out wind noise, it was absolutely amazing to hear, see, smell, and feel nature.
Which landscape on this journey did you enjoy the most?
Morning mirages in the Plains allowed me to see what wasn’t there. Yukon’s vastness, mountains, wildlife, flowers, glaciated streams, bakery smells in isolated settlements, and no people between them was euphoric.
Did you meet any interesting people along the way?
Absolutely. Most of Destination North Pole’s humor was provided daily by unusual characters. Isn’t the Yukon, by definition, unusual? It is so isolated, one day I was drafted by a good-looking five-foot crane. When I looked into her eyes, arms-length away, she landed in the bush and squawked for me to join her. I stopped. Ate a peanut butter sandwich, then another. Bushes and bears in the boreal forest gave me pause—besides, she probably didn’t know I was married.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I’m retired. For eight years my wife and I traveled the world until the world canceled our tickets. Our goal is to keep mentally and physically active. We do not have a television. We hike, we bike, and I write when I want—and not always to get out of doing dinner dishes. No pressure allows my mind to explore caveats of systems, people and nature.
What are you working on right now?
I am a curious guy. An ancient Viking halberd (ax head) presumably dated by a university to the 1300s was discovered by a South Dakota farmer in 1946 while in his field shocking fodder. It remained a local novelty until a 1960 public display and remains in private hands only a couple miles from where it was discovered. Can an innocent farmer’s find be separated from Viking adventures into interior America and pseudoarcheology?
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Anyone can contact me through my website www.RelatingtoAncients.com or investigate my patents and research through www.ResearchGate.net. Search “Wietgrefe” on YouTube for videos. My New York distributor supplies worldwide distribution of my books. See www.bookch.com. Copies of my last four books are still available worldwide as hardcovers, paperbacks, and e-books.