Biking from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Lima, Peru has exposed University of Minnesota students to severe climate conditions, extreme elevations and most importantly, agriculture.
Four students and their professor, Paul Porter, have been biking through South America since Sept. 25. They’ve reached central Chile.
Meanwhile, students back in Minnesota are studying food and agriculture as it relates to the communities they’re visiting — from farming to government policy in “Food & Agriculture from Buenos Aires to Lima at 10 mph,” which is partially based off of the travelers’ audio blogs.
Now halfway through the trip, the group has traveled through rainforests, mountains and ghost towns.
Wes Brunson, a senior studying science, technology, culture and sustainability who is biking in the group, said in an audio blog at the beginning of the trip that the idea of biking for four hours seemed difficult.
But now that he’s getting used to riding six to eight hours each day on challenging terrain, the rides seem normal.
“It really feels like an eight-hour work day … Some days you’re tired, some days you’re energetic, hungover, bored … whatever, but you just wake up and get on your bike every day,” he said.
The trek has led the riders through Argentina and the Andes Mountains. Now the group is preparing to ride through the desert.
Recently, the group has been focusing on the types of irrigation being used as they travel closer to arid tundra, Porter said in an audio blog.
He said as the ride takes them closer to the desert and the ocean, the climate is harder to decipher. Cold and wet mornings along the coast are often foggy and misty, making it difficult to dress for the day. By the afternoon it is usually dry and hot.
“I thought leaving Minnesota that I would be warm this entire trip, but then I woke up to buckets of frozen water,” said Grace Ramsey, a senior studying political science.
The group is biking on gravel, sand, rock and paved paths. Porter said the path structure makes for a lot of tire changes and occasionally forces riders to walk, particularly through sandy trails.
Back in Minnesota, students enrolled in the class review and discuss audio blogs posted by riders for each day of the trip.
Bryan Runck, research assistant for the class, said the collaboration between students and instructors is working well to keep students engaged.
The online component of the course — found on the class’ own website, eatbikegrow.com — has brought outside perspectives from observers who aren’t in the class to the discussion topics. It’s made for greater class discourse, Runck said.
Mary Brakke, co-instructor for the class, said students are responding positively to the class structure and seem to want to get a lot out of the course.
But both said they have run into some challenges with the experimental course.
Runck said the technology for the class, like the website, photos and audio blogs, could be improved.
High quality videos online for each lecture were not feasible with time and audio constraints, so each lecture was posted solely as an audio file, he said.
He added that some of the online components, at this point, aren’t being used to the full extent.
Both Runck and Brakke said students have struggled to make connections between lecture topics because the course covers agriculture as it relates to many different fields.
After the class began, Runck said they realized the importance of learning the economic framework of agriculture, so they added it into the curriculum with the help of the Department of Applied Economics.
The remainder of the trip will lead the riders north through Chile to Peru. Still ahead is another cross over the Andes Mountains, as well as coping with the arid desert. The group will return Dec. 21.
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
When UMN students plan for a vacation, having trip cancellation travel insurance is a worthwhile commodity to check out.
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