Land of extremes

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Small road house dinner, my first day in Qinghai

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Home Dog Wind, from Guangxi province. He was headed north.

I am now in Qinghai province in the city of Golmud. This morning it was snowing and I looked around to see that I am surrounded snow packed mountains. It is going to be a cold ride south from here, but I hope to find shelter with locals in small villages along the way. The desert was difficult, almost everyday there was a sand storm and temperatures at night dropped below freezing. Local truck stops however carry their own special “Baijiu” (Sake) recipe, and a few sips helped warm me through the cold nights.

golmud-to-lhasa-railmap

I am so close to Tibet, that could easily make a brief trip over there. That is… if I wanted to book a tour with a guide, confirm with hotel dates and give up my bike. It is currently impossible for anyone without a Chinese passport to enter Tibet independently. Too many protests and riots before and following the China Olympic games. In some ways it would be a sad sight to see, considering that the Dali Lhama has lived in exile since his departure in the late 1950’s.Old potala palace

Tibet’s Potala Palace before Chinese invasion

Modern Potala palace

After

I feel strong yet confined here in China. People, pollution, traffic, noise is sometimes overwhelming and in many ways I feel that I am better of in my cold tent out in the desert. All night and day I can hear the horns from the cars outside my hotel window honking at pedestrians. Mega phones seem to be the new craze, and everywhere I go, supermarkets, side walk corners and city centers they are blasting pre-recorded loops advertising cellphones and sales. Accommodation continues to be difficult, but there is not much I can do.

It is almost June but there is still plenty of snow, cherries are in season and throughout the town there are carts selling kilos for a few cents. Flowers are blooming.  I continue on.

 

Panniers of Holiday Jam

City lights across the Mediterranean

City lights across the Mediterranean

I find my mind drifting and wandering to the far corners of the globe, and feel the insuperable urge to continue down the vast road. Staying in one place, a small island of about 400 square km, has proven quite challenging. Spending my days wandering about, and cycling familiar roads does not conduct the same current in veins. I have acquired a few acquaintances, and have ridden long single track to remote villages. I continue to be greeted with praise, and am often offered cheese, bread, Rakija and dried figs from the island. am frequently told the same Croatia proverb, that in order to see and travel the world one must wait for “the wind to pick the vegetables from ones garden, and blow the olives from tree”… But if “one has no garden and no trees then there is no need to wait”.

Sunset beach lounging

Sunset beach lounging

“the only wait is for the sun to greet me each day”

Icy waters near forested shores

Icy waters near forested shores

I have become quite popular in the weekly community yoga classes and the attendance has grown to around 15. I have been asked repeatedly to teach and Monday will be my first Croatia yoga class. Many students think that because I am so flexible I have some sort of “secret” practice that if taught to them, will enable them too to grab their heels in a forward bend.

Lots of dirt roads waiting to be explored

Lots of quiet roads to be explored

Keeping strong in my days off the road, I have filled my panniers full of festive Croatia Jam, which is made all over the island. Each pannier can fit close to 5 litters of the sweet topping, and it makes for a good snack at the top of the steep hills.
Omisalj is decorated in Christmas lights, and the local church choir have started practicing in the evenings. I have started to learn Croatian baking and will soon be a master at making “burek” and apple strudel.

Old ruins, waiting to be excavated

Old ruins, waiting to be excavated

50 pleas for a ride, population 2121, Balmorhea and 60% humidity

D. Judd Marfa, TX

D. Judd Marfa, TX

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.

 

El Paso, scenes for downtown. Actually a really cool city

El Paso, scenes for downtown. Actually a really cool city

 

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.

R.I.P Playboys attempt a creating a mural in Marfa Texas is met with dislike

R.I.P Playboys attempt a creating a mural in Marfa Texas is met with dislike

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.

Cement boxes D. Judd

Cement boxes
D. Judd

Chinati foundation, Marfa, TX

Chinati foundation, Marfa, TX

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.

Telescope control panel McDonald observatory

Telescope control panel
McDonald observatory

Sunset from the telescope cat walk

Sunset from the telescope cat walk

Balmorhea springs

Balmorhea springs

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.

Local BBQ fare and friendship in the making

Local BBQ fare and friendship in the making

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 think I have developed a bit of the local accent, but I have lost the straw hat

I think I have developed a bit of the local accent, but I have lost the straw hat

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!

-Julian

Begin

The life of my father Kar Ming Wong

1942 Born Wong Kar Ming Oldest of 5
1945 Almost dies in village due to dental complications
1948 Kidnapping threat moves the Wong family to the city of Guang Zhou (then a relatively small city)
1955 Government takes away family business, and publicly humiliates Karming’s father. Family is forced to destroy ownership titles of land and other assets. Schools are officially closed and kids are transported to the countryside to work on farms. Family barely survives on government food rations.
1960 Karming escapes China and walks for 3 days to Hong Kong. He first finds work on a construction crew demolishing buildings, then works for the HSBC bank, and finally becomes a fire fighter on the island of Lantau.
1967-1972 Karming first travels to Thailand where he ordains as a Buddhist monk, then travels to Korea, Japan, India and Nepal studying Buddhism
1973 He Meets American Leroy Miracle at the Stupa in Boudha Kathmandu, this opens the door to a sponsored  America trip through the movie star Leigh Taylor Young
1973-1975 Lives in Beverly Hills, Idylwild, and Bay Area. Becomes chauffeur of Tibetain buddhist Lama and drives around the country,
1976 Meets my mother Alicen Diane Clark at a Buddhist teaching in Oakland, CA
1979 Karming and Alicen are married and move to southern CA
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1980-1989 They have four children Evan, Julian, Tai and Lucy
1992 Karming takes whole family on a 6 month pilgrimage of Nepal, India and Sikkim Evan, Tai and Lucy are hospitalized for 4 weeks in Hong Kong with Typhoid Fever and T.B
1993-2006 Karming continues to travel annually to Asia
2006-2008 My last trips with Kar Ming. I accompany him on four separate trips to Asia, we travel to Mongolia, XinJiang, and extensively throughout China.
2010 Lucy and Karming travel to Cambodia, I take a hiatus from work in Santa Monica to bring him back from a hospital in Guangzhou China
2011 Karming passes away

First Leg of trip

Beginning music theme: Life Is

I am always hesitant at the beginning, and in a way scared to leave what I have. There is not much. Since my fathers death I have been working with my mother selling his assets as well as preparing the family home in Southern California for rent. Things are almost complete and in the next month I won’t have much left except for a few bikes and my cello. Soon the house will be rented and there will be strangers sleeping in my room.
In a way I have been preparing for this trip since I started cycling. As a boy I would ride my hot wheels in circles around my parents house pretending I was on a long distance trip around the world, in my adolescent years, to get away I would ride my bmx bike to the top of the hill and gaze out at the undeveloped land. Not much has changed, and since I have conjured up the idea for this trip I have been hesitant to commit to any future plans.

This is definitely a big trip, but I have to do this so I can get along with the rest of my life, otherwise it will constantly be in the back of my mind and I will always think about what it would have been like doing it. I just hope that the work that I have done for my family will help them when I am gone, and if I don’t come back that the time spent with my mother will have been enough.

My work here is almost complete, and it is exciting to think that soon I will be departing my home town of Murrieta on 20,000 km journey to China with my fathers ashes.  Due to my delayed departure time. I have decided that I will fly from Florida to the Scandinavian city of Bergen in Norway. Spain and Portugal will be too hot, and after a 2,000 mile tour of the Southern of the United States in the early Summer Scandinavia will be a much needed break. My Alaskan trip was a great introduction to the land of the midnight sun. By the time I get there I should have close to 24 hours of sunshine. From Norway I hope to cycle east to Sweden, Finland and on to Russia. In Sweden I plan to take a small detour to the city of Orebro to look for my lost maternal ancestors.

In the last months I have been avidly practicing Ashtanga yoga and I plan to balance each days riding with an hour and half of practice. This is the theme for the first leg of the tour, “person practice and travel”. I have mapped out all 4 of the Ashtanga studios in the southern United States, as well as several Vipassna meditation centers. If I can’t find a studio or a mediation center I will keep up with my personal practice daily. My father had a very devoted practice that he maintained throughout his life, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to come home from a party and see him meditating in the shrine room late at night. When I was a kid he would make my siblings and I sit in lotus position for hours and study Tibetan mantras. I remember being a bit shocked when I learned that my friends in grade school didn’t have similar experiences.

I have not extensively ridden my bicycle since the Alaska trip, and I have lost a bit of weight while constructing my mothers new house. When I was a senior at UC Santa Cruz I weighed close to 200 pounds and would often ride my bike to and from parties in the early hours of the morning. At that time the only thing that I needed to buy at the grocery store was butter. The trailer park had a constant supply of dumpstered bread and as long as you had butter toast was always a great meal.

The beginning of this trip is going to be really difficult and I will need as much support as I can get. I will be in Los Angeles in early May and would love to see everyone before I depart.
With all of the obstacles and plan changes I am on my way to leaving on a Wednesday in mid May. As a marker of time I have noted a few of my current and past favorites/achievements.

Age: 29
Favorite food: Chips and guacamole, raw cheese and raisins, popcorn with yeast, Raw kale with peanut butter (try it)
Most I have ever eaten: Two PB J’s, a half pound of chips, a whole cereal box of granola, two bananas and a large can of soy milk, ( I didn’t say that I wasn’t sick afterward, Alaska tour)

Favorite place traveled (not by bike): Xinjiang, Karakoram Hwy
Favorite place traveled by bike: Tombstone mountains, Yukon Canada
Current Favorite band: Django Django
Current Favorite song: House

Weight: 155
Most miles cycled in a day: 160 Glennallen to Wasilla, AK (Sara Palin’s home town, the best thing there was the “Outlaw whiskey distillery)
Hottest temperature cycled in: 105 F (this is a normal summer day in So Cal)
Coldest: 15 F, (I actually think I accomplished this by setting up a stationary bike in a walk-in freezer)
Last dream I had: A game show host told me not to install engineered hardwood flooring at a 45 degree angle
Last job that I did: Pulled out 20 years of insulation filled with rat feces/urine, waste filled abs pipes and phone line from under my families mobile.
Cups of coffee a day: 3, two with ice (no milk)
If i had a million $ I would: Still go on this tour, but I would take a caravan of kittens to keep my company

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My last cycling trip with my father Northern India

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My first bath in my fathers home village of Shatou, a few hours outside of Guang Zhou

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Northern India Buddhist Pilgrimage 1992 

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Exploring Buddhist Caves boarder of Pakistan and China 2006

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Top of the World HWY Northern Yukon Territory, Canada 2012