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Published May 17 2012

North Dakota brothers finish 15,000-mile bike journey

FARGO – It’s funny how your perspective can change.

“Drinking water out of the tap,” 24-year-old Nathan Berg said, turning his face blissfully to the sky as if describing a steak from a fine restaurant.

Safe tap water was just one of the luxuries the Starkweather native and his brothers, David and Isaiah, sometimes went without on their grueling 15,000-mile bicycle journey that began Aug. 11 in Alaska and finished up in Argentina a week ago.

Isaiah, 22, described their adventure as an “adventure for a cause” during a news conference Thursday at Oak Grove School in Fargo.

They’ve raised more than $12,000 for Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity and have their eyes set on raising $60,000.

Isaiah got the idea for their trip in 2008 after he participated in the Bike and Build program in which he rode across the U.S., working on Habitat projects along the way.

“I fell in love with the rhythm of life on the road by bicycle and began dreaming of a longer, more rugged and more adventurous undertaking,” Isaiah said in a news release.

That dream became Bound South, which took the three brothers through Canada, into the United States, through Mexico and beyond. They rode in Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Patagonia, a region shared by Argentina and Chile.

Along the way, they camped out with firefighters in Colombia, saw the Straits of Magellan, danced swing in a Cuban bar in Peru, and met 80-year-old gauchos in Argentina.

The experiences affected the young men. And the difficult and demanding journey brought them closer together.

Being in a three-man tent teaches you “a lot about brotherhood,” Isaiah said. The brothers were close before, but he said, “You can’t know how something like this welds you together” until you do it.

That’s not all it changed in the young men.

“I think I’ll never look at (material) stuff the same way,” Isaiah said. You realize “you don’t need a lot.”

David said he’s now more “comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

The adventure was fraught with challenges. Tendonitis was an issue, especially for Nathan.

“It was incredibly frustrating,” Nathan said.

They took a break for several days and pulled back on their pacing until Nathan could heal up.

Then there was illness.

“Food poisoning was a big issue,” David said.

Tough roads, altitudes, the elements, thousands of miles and sore posteriors were all part of the equation.

As Isaiah said, “No great thing is without risk.”

The brothers plan to work on the family farm this summer. Isaiah will attend Marine Officer Candidates School in Virginia in the fall. Nathan is a music education grad and hopes to land work as a teacher. David will enter his first year at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire this fall.

Isaiah said a friend asked him to sum up the experience in one word.

“I guess the only word I could come up with was ‘profound.’

“It’s so much more than just nine months on a bicycle.”


For more photos and descriptions of the Bergs’ journey, visit http://boundsouth.org/

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734