If Marina Andrea Gainza Lein’s father could see her now, he would only laugh.
The 23-year-old Chilean is riding solo on a touring bicycle from Vancouver, B.C., where she has been studying, to San Francisco, as she closes her year-long chapter in North America.
The journey spans more than 1,000 miles through the hustle and bustle of Seattle and Tacoma south along the coast following U.S. Highway 101 to California.
It’s the longest journey Gainza Lein has ever attempted, especially alone.
“I always did smaller day trips (with my dad),” Gainza Lein said, finishing a stack of blueberry cinnamon pancakes before heading out of Olympia to Aberdeen on Wednesday. “I always got so tired from just one-day trips.
“I would tell my dad it was really hard, so he was surprised that I was doing this now.”
Gainza Lein left Vancouver, B.C., on Friday. She has spent the past year researching epilepsy at BC Children’s Hospital. The medical student has a plane ticket home to Chile dated July 30, giving her just more than three weeks to continue her journey.
Once she returns, it’s back to school for three more years followed by an additional three years to reach her ultimate goal of becoming a pediatric neurologist.
Gainza Lein wasn’t able to afford her touring bike until she started working in Canada.
It was a dream that sparked during a family trip near her hometown of Valdivia, a city of 140,000 in southern Chile.
“I saw a group of three guys with bikes and one girl,” Gainza Lein said. “They looked so strong, and I thought it was so cool. I said I would do it at some point.”
After purchasing her touring bike in Vancouver, B.C., Gainza Lein stretched her riding legs by doing a trip around Victoria, then followed that with a ride in the Rocky Mountains.
Both trips were solo.
She decided to up the ante before she left the continent.
Gainza Lein said she hopes to finish between 50 and 65 miles per day, giving her enough time to enjoy some sights along the journey.
The touring bike is loaded up with two large bags on either side of the rear wheel, two more on the front and a smaller bag attached to the handle bars, carrying everything she needs to camp and cook.
To top it off, the bike has a Chilean flag waving from the back.
So far, the kindness of strangers has helped provide a bed and shower during the start of the journey.
“Especially when you are going by yourself, you meet so many people just riding around,” Gainza Lein said. “People are so nice, and that’s what I love about traveling.”
She admits the idea of being a woman traveling alone in a foreign country can get overwhelming at times.
“You have to be very careful,” Gainza Lein said. “I only bike during the day and make sure to find a place before dark.
“In general, I find many people just tell me I am crazy for doing this.”Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/thisjustin @chelseakrotzer