Departure and the Television interview
June 12, 2014
On Sunday, together with my mother and two sisters we opened my fathers ashes. His remains were not pulverized meaning so there were many bones inside, and the ashes needed to be scooped up from the bottom of the bag. I was very surprised at the amount of emotion that I still carried and I now understand why it is so common to grind the remains after cremation. It was fascinating to see so many of his bones and joints were still intact. Here was his hip joint and there was his shoulder which was part of him for the 27 years that I knew him. I put much of the ash together in a plastic bag, and put it in a pearl powder box. He loved the stuff, and would often times go as far as trying to bath himself in it. Actually, now that I think of it one of my earliest memories is opening up countless containers of the powder and putting in a large bowl which could be used for bulk. I hope that the dainty container coupled with the lack of bones will deter the eyes of customs. If not… my back up plan is to tell them that its really pearl powder, he probably used enough of it.
The journey is getting much press, and it is exciting to see things unfold. About ten days ago Brooks England, the legendary leather saddle maker, featured my blog on their website. I purchased their B17 model three years ago and have used it on every tour. To date the saddle has provided solid bum support for over 7,000 miles, and seems to show no sign of fatigue.
The local news paper, the Murrieta Patch also was interested in writing a story. What are you to say when asked if you are scared? If you ever get lonely on the road? Do these questions even need to be asked? Well I guess the thought of being alone on a bike in a foreign country that does not speak your language isn’t enough. She came to the house took a few photos, interviewed my two sisters and wished me luck with the journey.
I got a bit obsessed with publicizing the story, but I figured that any coverage is good coverage. So I contacting the Union tribune in San Diego. The receptionist was not in that day and instead one of the producers picked up the phone and loved my story. She then asked me if I would come in and do an interview on TV. I made the band on my hat a little larger and accepted, having no idea what to expect. I took gaby, and the ashes on a car field trip to San Diego and went in to the Union Tribune building. I had to wait a while so I ate a few bananas in the cafe to calm the nerves. Fifteen minutes later I am greeted in the lobby and told that I am going on live San Diego TV. Sure why not? During a 20 second commercial break I am rushed to the set where I lean Gaby against the wall and am given a chair very similar to those used at a hair dresser. In the last five seconds before commercial break ends, I notice the following; the chair squeaks and is slowly sinking, I am also told to only look in one direction and that the interview is all about me. So here goes!! Well I told my story or at least started too when she asked about “how my father died”, response “well it was congestive heart failure” followed by “what does your mom think about this” my response “well she is going to worry (of course that is what moms do) “her response “you are going to give your mom a heart attack”… Future headline “Boy leaves home with ashes of father (who died of heart failure) only to give his mother a heart attack”. Well it was my ten minutes of fame, the anchor asked me how long the journey was from Orlando to China and I told her is was a “18 hour flight”. All things considered I think it went OK the squeaking chair may have drowned out my voice at a few parts but at least gaby looked good and never showed a sign of weakness. I will keep you posted on the whereabouts of the interview.
Gaby is ridding like a champ, thanks to Paul Components who sent me new brakes, levers, hangars, clothes and more. I sent them over a request for sponsorship and was asked what I needed, I produced a rather long list with a few (hmm) extraneous items. It took them a while to respond so I figured that I went too far, at the end of the month I received two boxes from them containing everything that was on the list. Thanks Paul!! I also got a beautiful new pannier, which I gave to my sister Evan, but is nonetheless a great bag, check out the bugbite from Arkel panniers.
Locally I have received great support and would like to thank both Greg Hann and Andy Weigel for their contributions. Thanks guys!! The ashes are in my bags, my scorching southern route has been decided and everything is ready to go. I had a farewell party with my sisters and got to eat lots of Mexican food!!
Sorry for the delay but sometimes its hard to live your life. I am departing on Monday, June 17th and will be heading to Anza Borrego (day one) and on to Brawley. Temperatures in these areas are probably in the triple digits and rising, and I have been warned by several people not to attempt riding this route during the summer. But whats the other option? Remember in-climate weather when you were a kid in grade school? It was either raining or too hot so teachers wouldn’t let you go outside and play. Remember what you ended up doing, sitting around watching movies, and scratching mosquito bites. I can’t think of anything that I want to watch and I haven’t even been bitten by a mosquito yet. Here we go…..
Clouds of smoke, a 70th birthday party and a riding companion
June 17, 2014
Well the weekend came and went and as I write this Gaby is patiently waiting in the shade for me to begin the journey. Today will be one of the hardest days, saying good bye to my dear mother has already taxed my emotions let alone my sleepless night. It will be a familiar 70 mile ride to the town of Borrego Springs where I hope to find a comfortable place to rest my head. Temperatures east of here are already in the triple digits I guess summer has already begun.
Saturday was Dharma Dan’s 70th birthday party, in Idylwild, CA. Dan has been a friend to my father since the early 1970’s when they met in Kathmandu. Dan and his friend Leroy Miracle gave my father a place to stay in Idylwild when he first came to America. When seeing Leroy again at the party he gave me a huge hug and had a very memorable story to tell me about my father.
In 1973 Leroy had just returned to America after being a “Coder” in the Vietnam war. He was experimenting with drugs and spirituality and decided to make a trip to the Stupa in Boudha Kathmandu. While staying in Boudha he befriended the infamous “mad monk” Tenzin. Tenzin was an American draft dodger who first fled to Canada followed by Nepal to avoid the war. While in Nepal Tenzin was introduced to Buddhism and became the wandering, adventurous, and many times crazy “mad monk”. Tenzin approached Leroy one day and said ” a good friend of mine really wants to try L.S.D”, Leroy had obviously had some bad experiences with Tenzin while using the drug and quickly told Tenzin that “He didn’t want to be anywhere near him or any of his acquaintances while they were using the drug”. Tenzin told Leroy that his friend (my father) was different and that he should come and meet him before deciding against it.
It was the day of the Luna eclipse and all of Boudha was getting ready for a big ceremony. In Nepal, at the time, it is was thought that a dragon was swallowing the moon and that the dragon must be scared off with loud music and noise to keep the moon from being devoured.
Leroy went with Tenzin to a local lassi shop where he was to meet my father. Upon arrival Leroy glanced in the shop to see my father in his Buddhist robe sitting perfectly straight in lotus, slowly sipping his lassi with a spoon. Leroy described him as “totally present and mindful of each sip form the lassi”. Before meeting him Leroy had already made up his mind that there was something special about my father and decided that he would enjoy a good experience with my father on LSD.
Later that evening while on the drug Leroy was on the balcony over looking the Stupa. The moon was slowing being swallowed by the dragon all on Bouda was shouting and banging on pots and pans trying to scare it away. Leroy had lost my father hours ago and figured that he had retreated to some calm environment to surpass the effects of the drug. Then in the midst of commotion, Leroy saw my father circumambulating the Stupa. Around the Stupa in Boudha there are 108 deity’s in cased in small shrines, each shrine having a small candle and a censer. Leroy watched as my father, not distracted by the ceremony, walked by each shrine, relighting the candle and saying a small prayer.
I am leaving now, it is already 12pm and I hope that I can make the 70 mile ride before it gets dark. A friend of mine has made me a travel companion that fits in my saddle bag. His name is “misquit” and he is fluent in many languages and loves “Annies Mac and Cheese”.
Here is my last photo in Murrieta, will write again when I get to Brawley
Cycling to the warmest place on earth
June 18, 2013
It was so hard to leave, and for a while I really had to keep myself from looking back. I cycled past my high school, elementary school even the corner grocery store that my father used to take me to after school for pop sickles. I thought that the sign strapped to the back of Gaby garner attention and help brighten my spirits but no one noticed. The road out of town was windy and very busy, the shoulder was none existent and I often had to pull over to let cars pass.
There were minimal rest stops and one gas station which doubled as a bar where if filled up my bottles. People inside were pounding beers and drinking whiskey, that seems like fun, not now though because I still have another 40 miles to ride. Leaving Temecula the temperature was a nice 92, once I started climbing the hills to Warner Springs the temperature probably rose to about 100, and the sun really started to cook. How much longer to I have to do this? Your almost there I told myself, almost where? China? I finally climbed the last big hill into Warner, when I passed a very sullen lady “Are you from around here” I asked, ” yeah” she responded taking her eyes off the ground for a moment then returning her gaze to the earth. “Is there a grocery store near by”? “Yes but I just want to keep walking” Ok, well I don’t want to keep cycling I just want to go back to bed. It turns out that everything in Warner has closed for the summer and the nearest store is 13 miles up a step hill.
I met a fire chief in Seattle who told me, “If you are ever in a jam just go to the fire department” Well I still had a little rice left from breakfast but decided to see if they could help me out. A cute blonde greeted me and offered me food, a place to camp and a warm shower, I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be for the night but I couldn’t refuse. The rest of the department seemed very annoyed, and even locked the bathroom over night, oh well. I rested my sore muscles and slept under the pine trees and moon light.
I awoke this morning with a very sore right knee, something seems to be a bit inflamed, maybe I should have done a bit more training. I pack my bags and leave before the sun comes up. The mountains were surprisingly cold and I hid my head in my sleeping bag all night, now as the sun comes up the heat becomes very familiar. These are ghost towns everyone has left for the Summer and there is little if any inhabitants. I finally cycle down to Borrego springs where I can load up on supplies and inquire about water along the road. It seems that everything is broken up into 25 mile increments including the nearest tree! I asked where I could find shade on the road and a guy at the information booth pointed to his map and told me that I could find a tamarisk is that area to rest under.
The sun peaked and the temperatures rose above 100, it is so dry that after soaking myself with water my clothes are dry in a few minutes. Sweating does not occur until after you stop pedaling, and breaks are best when coasting due to the breeze. Appetite is almost not existent and I constantly had to force myself to eat warm melted gummy bears. For hours today I watched cars pass me and disappear into the far horizon as my tires crumbled scorched asphalt. The hottest time of the day here is between 1-4, try to find shade at this time! Today I caught in what felt like an additional heat wave and had to rest behind a “Do Not Enter” sign beside the freeway, while red ants crawled up my clothes.
The locals have nicknamed this place the warmest place on earth being that death valley is not inhabited during the summer, warmest or not its 7 pm now and its still over 100. Next month the temperatures will remain over 100 till after 1 am, so it could get worse. Most of the inhabitants of this 20,000 plus community either work in one of the two prisons or are migrant workers on the farms. Alfalfa, cantaloupe, water melon, and asparagus are all in season now, and i rode past acres and acres as I entered the city.
My knee not good and hurts while I write this. I am in an air conditioned living room in a very typical American house with 5 tropical parrots. I am optimistic for tomorrow, look forward to rest.
Sand dunes, scrapers and a heavy metal massage
June 25, 2013
On Wednesday morning I awoke to a frozen egg wrap and a fruit smoothie
with more heavy whipping cream than fruit. With the sun on the city of
Brawley I could quickly see a city of composed of mostly migrant
workers and prison guards. I struck up a conversation with a lady at
the coffee shop and she said she was a stretching teacher, I asked her
if that meant a form of yoga and she said that technically yoga is not
allowed at school so she has to tell everyone that she is a
stretching teacher. I finished my breakfast and was blessed by the
local Pasteur before I set out for the day, “that will be for the
heat” I said to myself as I left.
Leaving the city, I cycled passed the surrounding by farms. Date
palms, alfalfa, and cotton are grown all over the Imperial Valley and
are irrigated by canals branching off of the Colorado River. The farm
country was a color change from the desert but soon the lush
countryside gave way to rolling hills and sparse creosote trees. The
desert is a strange place, water vapor and reflected sunlight give way
to “mirages” and at times it can look like the road ahead is flat a
free of obstacles, when really there steep climbs and mountains to
cross. The road ahead took me through the sand dunes of Glamis, during
the winter time it is not uncommon to find tens of thousands of
“Duners” off-roading and racing in the sand. The air hot and dry and
the sand blew strong off of the dunes, in some areas the road was
completely covered by sand. It was hard to imagine that the winter
time could be so busy because there wasn’t a soul out there during the
I stopped for some refreshing brews at the store and continued the
journey on to Blithe. My knee pain (now identified as an I.T Band
issue) continued to cause me pain and there were several occasions
where I had push Gaby up steep hills. Walking is harder than pedaling
in the heat, there is no breeze to cool you down. I finally arrived in
Blithe and rode to the “B and B” bait and tackle shop where I had
organized a place to stay. The bait shop had been converted to a
business in the mid ‘40’s and sold live gold-fish and crawdads to the
local fisher man. When I arrived a birthday party was underway and
half the town was hanging around on the grounds drinking beer, and
barbecuing meat. The town mayor was there and we had an argument over
trash burning regulations.
I pitched my tent on a manmade island in the back yard about ten feet
from the canal, and slept in the warm summer night.
I spent the next day swimming in the canal, helping with the store and
advising my host on how to rewire a few things on the property. I
struck up an interesting conversation with “Dan the guitar man” and
learned about “scrapers”. The city of Blithe is surrounded by
government land used specifically for military training, “scrapers”
drive out to these locations in camouflage vehicles and retrieve the
following; scrape metal, abandoned equipment, and other forgotten
items. Many times these “scrapers” are chased off by motorized
military vehicles, arrested or shoot at by personal, but several have
survived to tell their story including “Dan the guitar man” of Blithe.
The next day I hitched a ride with some new friends who were on their
way to a scatter a friends ashes in Yarnell, AZ. There was a cooler of
beer in the back seat of the pickup and by the time we got into the
city of Congress, AZ (about 60 miles away) all of the passengers had
finished off a 12 pk of beer. From the city of Congress I went on my
own and my new friends bid me farewell from the local bar where we
toasted Jack Daniels Honey whiskey at 2 pm. A family friend lived
close by in the city of Wickenburg, so I forced myself to cycle a few
miles in my torpor to the North End of town where we met up.
While resting in Wickenburg, AZ I made a trip to the day spa, and got a message from a physical therapist. He asked me before going in if I wanted a “soothing” or “therapeutic” treatment, and I told him that I wanted the treatment that would get me healed the fastest…. bad idea. I get undressed and under the sheets, and he asks me if he can change the music to something that helps him focus, “what do you think about metal” he asks, “hmm, sure I can do that”. The phony bamboo garden soundtrack is interrupted by a double bass drum, and growling vocals, here we go I thought. About an hour later, and after almost flying off the table a few times I lie on the table and wonder how to put the pieces back together.
Tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of my fathers passing. I will be heading to the small town of Superior where I hope to find a tree to sleep under. Weather forecasts are predicting a spike in temperature beginning tomorrow and Saturday is supposed to be 117+. It seems that while I have been resting the desert has been having a cool spell. I feel the happiness that comes with travel, and have been witness to the rut life can get you in. Wherever I go, I carry a sense of gratitude and compassion. We all need a break, or just a sincere laugh to get us away from the pull of this world. I have seen it so much in the last few days, and I haven’t felt the same way many times in my life. My dad always found money on the streets, and for a while I wondered how he did it. I soon realized that his mind was in the present moment, and that there are fruits no matter where you are.
Apache country, New Mexico, and triple IPAs
July 2, 2013
I arrived in the small town of Superior, AZ in the early evening, and napped on the porch of some friends. The city is surrounded by mountains, and boasts one of the largest silver mines in the area. This is Apache country, with the infamous Superstition mountain range about 50 miles to the west. Alone again. I enjoyed staying with my friends in Wickenburg, and it was great to have company for a few days. I always find it so hard to say good-bye that I sometimes wonder if it is worth it. I find myself creating relationships with people I meet around me, and bonding with people each evening when I camp or come into town, only to awaken the next day alone and on the road again.
The road out of Superior was fantastic, a step climb to the “top of the world” (where miners go to get their kicks, legal prostitution and booze) and then a long decent into the valley. I rode through the Apache reservation of Bylas and was sad to see the current state of our Native people. Most were drunk and wandering about asking for money, many were almost toothless due to extensive drug use. One lady asked me if I wanted to take a shower underneath her leaking swamp cooler, I thanked her and continued down the road. The temperature began to soar and I cowboy’d up with a straw hat and long sleeve shirt, I think I beat my record and can thankfully say that I cycled safely in 114 degree heat.
I stopped at a local bike shop in Safford (where I would stay the night) and inquired about getting a better bicycle fit. Instead of offering any help the owner and my “host” ridiculed me about my sandals and cycling attire. What can I expect in this part of Arizona stretching on a yoga mat is something very foreign, and is greeted with stares and strange comments. I think that the closest thing to a yoga class around here would be a dance aerobics class.
I stayed the night with a Mormon family in Safford, but I quickly realized that I would have been better off alone. I brought some broccoli as a house-warming gift which didn’t go very well, and slept with two stinky cats on the couch. (I still don’t know why I need companionship). A local forest fire threatened my route to the mountains but the only alternative would be a 80 mile ride into the sun. A mountainous climb was much-needed after the depressed city life, and my spirits brightened when I got to a forest at 6,000 feet. What a climb! If I ever try to tell you that I don’t use my granny gear, pinch me on my dimple, there is no way I could have made it to the top without it. I drank over a gallon of water on a 3,500 feet accent. At the summit I camped with the campground host who cooked me steak and made me coffee. I slept in a summer wonderland as ash dusted the forest and open meadows.
It is surprising the amount of people who I have met that are carrying human ashes. It’s not a normal subject of conversation but on this trip I find myself meeting people who can relate to my trip. The camp host who cooked me dinner is carrying his uncles ashes in his RV and plans to find a final place for them soon. I also met a lady who is on an American road trip dispersing her husbands ashes. The back roads are nice and quiet, and all the nice people are away from the cities. I still have not yet encountered another cyclist.
I found a quiet place to sleep behind a tractor near a wind farm, and before I could sleep a summer storm blew in. For three hours I held down the tent as sand, rain and strong winds battered from all directions. I had to use my bike and panniers to help hold down the tent. When the storm passed I found myself soaked by the humidity and sweating under the tent fly.
The next day I rode into the city of Las Cruces, NM and found my way to the local brewery. The bicycle is a great conversation starter, while at the brewery I met many new friends and had a problem saying no to free beers, after 5 pints (3 of which are a triple IPA) I found my way to my hosts house and ate an all American buffet dinner (bad idea). I returned to his house and quickly found my way to the bathroom floor where I proceeded to “puke my guts out”. Of all the foods to eat before vomiting an all American buffet has to be the worst, noodles, rice, potatoes, fries, peas and gravy, yum! My reflexes are still really good though and the nausea never caught me off guard, I usually have a good 30 second warning before it comes up.
I feel into a dizzy sleep and woke up thinking of the open country. I am heading off for El Paso tomorrow, and hope to find a nice place to spend the 4th. I am almost halfway through the United States. Hello Texas
50 pleas for a ride, population 2121, Balmorhea and 60% humidity
July 15, 2013
I made the long trip to El Paso in the hope that I would be able to hitch a ride on the interstate 10 to Van Horn (my connecting point to Marfa). I pedaled about 20 mile on the frontage road all the way to the outskirts of the city, constantly asking for a ride at each gas station I passed. The ride from El Paso to Van Horn is about 110 miles on the interstate and was not something that I looked forward to. I asked at truck stops, gas stations and even got desperate enough to hitch on the last on ramp going out of town. No luck! I accepted my situation, and realized that I needed to pedal over 30 miles in the dark to get back to downtown.
The next day I boarded a greyhound bus. I had 20 minutes to break down my bike and get it to fit inside of a box made for a kids bike! I barely made it on the bus, and spent 3 cold hours sitting in 4th of July traffic. I was shaken awake at the immigration check point and was confronted with 3 officers and a team of drug dogs searching the cabin and luggage bin. We were at the Sierra Blanca check point, which caught both Willy Nelson and Snoop dog in the same year! Each were carrying over a pound of reefer and the officers were hoping to find something on the bus.
Marfa Texas was a great place to spend the 4th! After arriving I took a outdoor bath under a mulberry tree, and enjoy the company of about half the town at the bbq. Artists, dancers, and film makers make up most of the town, which started booming when Boston artist Donald Judd moved to the town in the 1970’s. I stayed for 3 days in which time I toured the local museums, schmoosed with artists and photographers at openings, mixed Thai basil cocktails and ate a grill cheese sandwiches in a school bus.
I took a slight detour a rode to the top of the McDonald observatory, there I met with an cyclist turned mad scientist and toured the telescopes at the top of the mountain. From McDonald I pedaled to the refreshing waters of Balmorhea, where I camped with a van full of Koreans and Europeans. After 4 hours of Beatles, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan guitar covers I slept under the stars in the warm summer evening.
Austin, TX! What a city! The first thing on my agenda was to determine if “everyone from Austin is cool”, obviously a statement like this can never be true but it actually took me a little time to prove it false. I swam with friends in the humid afternoon at Barton Springs, and enjoyed the cool evenings in downtown.
The heat was difficult in the west, now its the humidity! Cycling out here feels like you are pedaling in a Jacuzzi! These are the proper conditions to remove meat from bones. I have asked several people in vehicles for directions and they barely crack their window to speak to me, rolling it up and closing it between sentences!
I will be in New Orleans on Friday, but it is going to be a hard week of pedaling. Roads out here a very busy and rarely have a bike lane. Welcome to the swamps! Sorry for the delay and will write again when I get to Louisiana!
July 18, 2013
Two hard days of riding to Louisiana. Leaving Conroe, TX I hitched a 30 mile ride on the interstate with a moving truck. The hold was empty except for 3 passengers who were found found lounging on rugs drinking beer and smoking. I lifted my bike to the hold and joined them in their celebration. These guys had just finished moving furniture from Conroe to Seattle and could now rest for a few days in their home state. I pedaled 75 miles from Cleveland to Beaumont. East Texas is a whole different country. Culture, climate and landscape, welcome to the swamp, and say hello to your friendly African-American neighbors. Except for the police force the whole city of Beaumont and Port Arthur were black, and super friendly. As smelly and as homeless as I look, women in grocery stores asked me about what I am cooking for dinner, tough looking guys in lowered cars blasting music stopped and ask me about where I am from.
In Beaumont I slept in the park next to the police station and was devoured by mosquitos every time I left my tent. Mosquitos are so localized in the grassy areas out here that I ate a can of cold beans in my tent to escape the wrath. For the second night in a row, it poured all night, I slept in bouts in a 80 degree steam bath under the tent fly.
High hopes! I will be officially out of Texas today! All I have to do is ride to the coast, and take the side roads to Louisiana. Easier said then done. I rode 30 miles on the interstate with a constant Mantra about cars abd trucks ” That was close, its ok, keep pedaling, you are almost there”. I struggled at times to keep my bike going in a straight direction,and was thankful when I got to Port Arthur. When asking for directions I made the mistake of saying that I was going to “Louisiana”. “Oh you’re going to Louisiana, I have been there, this is what roads I take to get there” local after local told me. After crossing the suicidal “rainbow bridge” I pedaled 15 miles in the direction of the interstate. “FuCK”!!! “You have to turn around and ride that brige back out of town”!!
After cycling back over the “rainbow bridge” I got back on the correct road and headed south out of Port Arthur. During my first 30 miles of Louisiana I encountered a 40 mph head wind and constant showers. I passed through Holy Beach which was leveled by hurricane Rita, and boarded the ferry to the city of Cameron, LA.
After perusing dollar general and buying a 2 dollar snickers ice cream bar I pitched my tent behind the local church. Rain soaked the rest of my dry clothes and I slept like a spider between the pools of water in my tent.
92% percent humidity! Once sweating your clothes don’t dry. When you get off your bike to ask for water people think that you fell into a pool! I am sweating so much that my saddle and handle bar tape are bleeding into my clothes and it looks like I poo’ed in my pants!
I am in Pecan Island, LA! The whole area is surrounded by swamps and marshes. Several years ago some of the locals broke a levee so that their houses would have an ocean front. I am heading New Orleans tomorrow, a few days in the French Quarter, and a stroll on Bourbon street will be my last resting point before heading off to Norway.
New Orleans, Baton Rouge and a pair of swollen ankles
July 21, 2013
The trip to New Orleans was rather interesting. To avoid the interstate, I rented a Mazda 3 sports car to carry my me safely through Baton Rouge and into the city on a Friday night. Gaby barely fit in the back seat, and even though I am a specialist at fitting bikes into Mazda 3’s (old girl friend used to have one) Gaby just didn’t want to get into the back seat. Lots of repositioning the seats and getting grease on the interior, with a final push I got her to fit with the front wheel taken off. What a fun trip, bicycles, buses, moving vans and now rental cars! The lady at the rental office told me the local Cajun creole music station 101.1 I blasted the radio and I was off for New Orleans. My first encounter other than the small size of the driver’s seat was a 30 mile bridge that travels over swamps and marshes leading into Baton Rouge. There are gas stations and small towns that were essentially built-in the air above the marsh to accommodate the traffic.
New Orleans was a hoot! Public drinking and live music flooded the streets as I approached the town from the west side. What a distraction from the solitude of the road! A friend of mine flew in from San Fran, and we spent the weekend in the city. I found the French quarter a bit touristy for my taste, but was able to escape to the more local venues of Frenchman street. Walking throughout the quarter, I enjoyed the local fare from Po boys to Cajun catfish, and had plenty canned beers.
Bourbon street was surprisingly a lot like Halloween in Santa Barbara. SB really is the Mardi Gras of the west. The Mississippi is beautiful and I can finally say that I am on the East coast. I watched boats for more than an hour travel up and down the river and listened to live bands play on cruise liners in the sunset. My impression of the French Quarter was that it consists of about 80% tourists, 5% homeless and 15% locals(all the employees). The near by Frenchman street offers a great mix of local culture and great music, where Cajun bands can be found playing across the street from the local jazz venue. The city becomes a rather familiar town after a few drinks and a walk around the block, and it is nice to stumble back to a hotel room rather than pitching the tent for the night. The French Quarter itself is rather small and is only about ten square blocks.
After a blur of a weekend I said goodbye to my friend Alexis and sipped a beer on the banks of the Mississippi. I picked up my bicycle from storage and had an hour long conversation about Islam with a security guard. It is currently Ramadan and my friend Carlos told me about what his practice means to him. Born in Panama city, and raised Catholic he told me that he never had the opportunity to contemplate other religions. I told him about my experiences visiting the mosques of North Western China, and crawling into a holy Muslim cave in Kashgar. We shared very similar views regarding spirituality and I hope to have the opportunity to connect with him in the Middle east.
After retaining water for a few days in Louisiana my ankles are back to normal and I am ready for the road again. I blame the two cans of cold Campbell’s soup in my tent the night I camped outside of the church. Either way I was a bit stiff for a while and felt a few pounds heavier, after some rest, electrolytes and a lot of peeing my feet feel nimble again.
I cycled out-of-town and am now writing from the India Hostel on Canal street. The party rages on over here, and I can honestly say that I am one of the only Americans staying here this evening. French, German, and English accents echo through the courtyard and I prepare myself for a bunk bed near an air conditioner, oh boy. Tomorrow, after a gourmet bisquick pancake breakfast I will pedal to the state of Mississippi. Good night friends!
Mississippi, Alabama and flesh eating bacteria
July 23, 2013
The ride out of New Orleans on a Monday morning was extremely busy; tunnels, freeway over passes and exit lanes sprawled the first 30 miles. Once I got to the outskirts the freeway gave way to a narrow two lane road and I traveled over swamps and rivers. Getting to the Mississippi coast, a storm blew in and left me riding on the beach bike path. What a beautiful coast! White, sandy beaches and old wooden docks were illuminated by lightning as I pushed my self slowly east. I planned to ride to eastern Biloxi, MS but the weather forced me to reconsider. I saw a sign on the highway pointing to an RV park, where I cycled and looked for the first sign of inhabitants. An older gentleman was getting out of his truck and I asked him if I could somewhere in the shelter of his RV. We talked a little bit about traveling and the hardships of being on the road, then he asked me to join him for dinner with his wife. He told me about his business, and gave me pointers on how to play black jack. I watched “Unger Siege” with Steven Segal until then part when the Navy seals helicopter blows up and slept in my tent with a fan blowing. It is so hot! The humidity is in the 90’s and the temperature at night rarely falls below 85, with little breeze I slept without my sleeping bag half naked on a yoga mat, sweating all night long.
After being offered breakfast, and given clean clothes I headed out toward Biloxi, MS. The southern states near the Gulf are very tapered and I will quickly be in Florida. Within about 30 minutes of riding I had to stop to cool down. My clothes were completely soaked and with my new polyester reflective vest I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I feel that in the humidity sweating actually makes you hotter, keeping your clothes from breathing, making your body feel suffocated. To the Atlantic ocean I went, and waded in knee deep water for 20 to 30 feet. The ocean didn’t seem to get deep for a while and before I could think about trying to dive under a lady on the beach started calling me back to shore, shouting something. When I got a bit closer I made out the words “Flesh eating bacteria” and “a guy recently lost his leg in this area”. When I got to the beach she left, and I felt a bit concerned. I packed up and headed to the visitors center where they verified the story but told me that the incident happened a few years ago. Hmmm, ok, now I don’t have to worry about being hit by a car because after wading in the Atlantic I am going to lose my limbs to flesh eating bacteria.
A local working at the V. center referred me to the “cheapest and best restaurant in town”, “how can it be cheap and the best” well “you will see” she said. I pedaled off to Rosilli’s and it quickly made sense. Most of the food that they served was already cooked, maybe left overs or just old food but it was “recooked”. For exampled I had a fried shrimp “Po boy” which had “twice fried shrimp”. The old fried shrimp was re battered and fried before making its way into my French roll. With Mayonnaise mustard and a lot of vinegar it was definitely worth the trip.
I don’t understand how locals can eat this kind of food on a daily basis. With the heat and humidity this fare of food makes you feel sick. I am surprised that there are aren’t more smoothie places or that pink berry hasn’t caught on yet.
I am camping out tonight on the deck of a raised house on the beach of Dauphin island. The bridge to the island was 4 miles long and close to 150 feet high in some sections, a strong headwind made my legs a bit shaking toward the end. Tomorrow I will take a ferry to a nearby peninsula and continue riding to Florida. I wish I could have shared the sunset with someone. Good night
Ft Walton Beach, Florida
July 26, 2014
It was at least a 100 mile ride from the western end of Dauphin island to Ft Walden beach. Departing the island a storm slowly brewed, and I was lucky to catch the last ferry out. I arrived in Ft Walden Beach, Florida late in the evening and was lucky to escape riding in the dark. I stayed with a new friend Dane, who could play Leonardo De Capprio’s double in “Blood Diamond”. With a southern accent and attitude, he made me a pan fried mango pizza and let me crash on his couch. I ended up spending the next day with him and we traveled to the Econfina springs north east of the beach. The bottled water company “Aquafina” bottles their water at one of the springs, and there are at least 20 different springs scattered across a 20 square miles of forest. The water was turquoise blue and crystal clear. Each spring had a deep crater where the spring flows keeping the temperature at a cool 60 degrees. I can’t image why anyone would want to be out at the beach with these springs being so close, however it was nice to have several springs just to ourselves.
We spent the late afternoon playing ukulele and harmonic on the docks of the city. When the sun goes down everyone goes out, and all the city lights turn on. I spent hours on the docks watching the city and enjoying my time on the water.
Last night in America
July 29, 2013
It is my last evening in America, and I am in downtown Orlando. The rain is falling quietly and can be heard on the streets as cars pass by. I am on the 4th floor of a large apartment building, across street is the legendary Amway center. Pedaling through town on a Sunday night, I was quick to notice the road changing from asphalt to brick, small restaurants and bars giving way to high rises and night clubs.
Tomorrow, July 30th I depart for Bergen, Norway at 12:45pm est. I have spent the day getting supplies from the local thrift stores and Army surplus store. Warmer clothes are going to be essential as I head through Sweden, Finland and Russia in the coming fall. I picked up a pair of shoes and plan to toss out my beloved rainbow sandals once the temperature drops. It’s going to take me at least 32 hours to get Norway. My flight has three layovers and the shortest one is 2 hours. Cheapest ticket. My bike is all packed up in a cardboard box with all my tools, tent, and cooking equipment. I had to invest in scotch tape in that the box will be loaded and unloaded 8 times before I reach my final destination! I really hope everything arrives in one piece. Accommodations in Bergen have not be solidified, but I hope to spend at least three days there resting and seeing the city.
On Sunday I went to a missionary Baptist church about 7 miles from Orlando. This is a Gospel church, where 95% of its members are African-American. While locking my bike outside I could hear the sound of the pastor preaching to the members and the walls shaking in response to his prose. There is much emotion in this church, many members speak up doing verse, and there is almost no direct reading from the bible. Instead the pastor mentions a verse and explores the theme with personal views and life experiences. He begins with a soft voice which grows to shout. It is almost as if he is exorcising spirits out of the crowd. Toward the end of the sermon he begins to “hoop”. Singing prose followed by an accompaniment of organ, drums and bass. Soon the whole band gets involved and the sermons turns into an accompanied song.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my travels through the southern states of America, and thank you all for your moral and physical support. Next post will be from Bergen, Norway!