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Tuesday, June 6, 2023
June 6, 2023

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Ore. woman recounts epic bike ride

Author writes of Alaska to Argentina journey in ‘Joy Ride’


BEND, Ore. — In the last seven years, Bend’s Kristen and Ville Jokinen have biked from Alaska to Argentina, from Finland to Croatia, through Spain and, most recently, across both islands of New Zealand.

Throughout their travels and adventures, one theme has emerged — the kindness of people.

It’s a major part of Kristen’s book “Joy Ride: A Bike Odyssey from Alaska to Argentina,” which is set to be released on May 2.

“I basically wrote a story about the people and about the adventure,” Kristen Jokinen said recently. “It’s about compassion and empathy and everything we believe in. It encompasses everything. We believe that practicing kindness and empathy connects us to our shared humanity. I wrote the book about all the people that we met and the kindness that was shared and all the experiences.”

The book is mostly about the couple’s 20-month, 18,215-mile cycling journey from the northernmost location in Alaska that is accessible by road (Prudhoe Bay) to the southernmost tip of South America (Ushuaia, Argentina) from June 2016 to February 2018.

They endured grueling climbs while crossing the Andes six times, relentless rain and wind, endless desert, vicious dog attacks, scary crashes and an agonizing bout with dengue fever.

They only planned their starting and ending points, and locals in Mexico, Central America and South America allowed them to camp in their fields and farms, invited them into their homes and acted as tour guides.

The Jokinens, both now 42, admittedly were not accomplished cyclists before their trip. They had never even completed a bike tour of any distance.

“Anything is possible, really,” Kristen said. “The deal is, you’re learning as you go, and that’s life. We’re all learning as we go.”

The trip spawned many speaking engagements at schools in Central Oregon and throughout the country, which spawned the book, as did her blog posts of their trip on the Jokinens’ website welostthemap.com.

“All these students would say how inspired they were and tell us we should write a book,” Kristen said. “They wanted to hear more. You can only tell so much in an hour-and-a-half. When COVID happened and we couldn’t travel, the silver lining was I had the time to write. I powered through.”

Jokinen secured a publisher, Portland-based Hawthorne Books, and Cheryl Strayed, author of the New York Times Bestseller “Wild,” wrote the introduction, which Jokinen said helped get her book into bookstores across the country. “Joy Ride” can be pre-ordered at any bookstore or at amazon.com. A launch party at Powell’s Books in Portland is set for May 12, and Kristen will start her national book tour at the Barnes & Noble in Bend on May 20.

Ville Jokinen is creating a documentary about the ride from Alaska to Argentina, and his video shorts have appeared in the Bend Bike Film Festival twice.

Kristen and Ville met while scuba diving in Vietnam. She was a real estate agent in Bend and he was a financial analyst for Toyota in his native Finland. After hiking the Pacific Crest Trail together from California to Canada in 2011 they came up with the plan for the ride across North and South America.

“We got the bikes a week before leaving and did 10 miles at my parents’ house in east Bend,” Kristen recalled.

Now, at speaking engagements — including a five-day conference at MIT with leaders of the business world — attendees are astounded at the Jokinens’ lack of planning.

“They were so mind-blown that we didn’t have any experience and didn’t really plan anything,” Kristen said. “You can only plan so much in life. The best laid plans, they always change. That’s also the message we try to relay.”

While Kristen found time to write the book during the pandemic, the couple also managed to complete three other major cycling trips in the past four years.

From July to October 2019 they rode 1,815 miles from Helsinki, Finland, to Split, Croatia.

After Ville’s bike was stolen, the Jokinens had new bikes built that are more of an off-road, bike-packing setup. They rode them on their 726-mile trip from Valencia, Spain, to Madrid from November 2021 to January 2022. They just returned a couple of weeks ago from New Zealand, where they biked from the top of the north island at Cape Reinga then rode down to the bottom of the South Island at Bluff. The trip from mid-November 2022 to March 1 of this year was 1,983 miles.