15,000 miles of self-discovery

After riding his bicycle for more than seven months — and overcoming stomach sickness, knee pain and robbery attempts — Cal Poly graduate David Sacher has conquered the Pan-American highway.

Sacher began his journey from Alaska to Argentina in July 2009, a month after his graduation with a degree in business.

The 22-year-old from Encinitas finished his journey in March, a month ahead of schedule.

He has written extensively about the adventure and posted photos on his website www.earningthehorizon.com.

“I’m immensely satisfied,” Sacher told The Tribune. “I did want to test myself to see if I could do it.”

Now back home and working to open a rock-climbing gym in Carlsbad, Sacher has a newfound appreciation for life in the United States.

“I think a lot of people have a romantic view of places that are less civilized,” Sacher said. “But what we have here enables us to have long, enjoyable lives. We’re surrounded by beauty here, and a lot of places in the world don’t have what we have.”

During the last stretch of his journey, Sacher rode 29 consecutive hours to get to his final destination in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

Sacher pushed to an extreme because he so badly wanted to escape isolation and reach a hostel with a hot shower and a decent meal, he said.

Sacher said his journey was part of a soul-searching adventure to better understand his place in the world, as well as to raise money for poor Africans in the country of Zambia.

He brought in more than $15,000 for the non-profit organization Akerfa.

The money will go toward helping provide bicycles for children to use to get to school and trailer attachments to the bikes that carry sick people to medics.

Sacher said one of the scariest moments on his transcontinental journey came on a jungle road in Colombia, where he was riding at night. Spanish-speaking men on motorcycles demanded money.

Sacher said he pretended not to understand and was resolved not to give in. Finally, Sacher said, a truck came by and he tried to flag the driver; the men were spooked and rode off.

The heat and humidity of Central America, scarce water and “terrible food” in the Andes mountain range made that part of the trip difficult. He battled stomach sickness and ate very little in Ecuador.

Among the encounters he had along the road were marriage proposals from parents wanting to give their daughters away to an “American rock star.” Sacher said he’d laugh away the offers.