Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Final Epic Blog Entry: the Pacific Northwest and Escaping It.

We left the Elkton River Inn and rode about 60 miles to Eugene through misty and mossy forests.
Reaching Eugene was the milestone we had been waiting for. It meant we had finally reached the cluster of cities that represented the Pacific Northwest. It had taken 600 miles to reach our first real milestone and we were short on cash and especially short on energy.

Within 30 miles of Eugene, I got my first flat. We fixed it quickly and got on our way.

Luckily, after messaging every Warmshowers host in Eugene, one reached out to us: Dennis.

We arrived at his home in the evening. A red arch reminiscent of early Japanese architecture framed the entrance to the front porch. Sparkling lights ran along the rain gutters. We waited on the porch for Dennis to meet us. In the house, we could hear a woman speaking. He came riding up the driveway in full cycle gear and then led us inside.

The inside of the house was covered in photos of children and brightly lit. The main focal point was a huge dining table surrounded by around twenty tiny pastel colored chairs. Greeting us were Dennis' partner, Susan, and their foreign exchange student whose name escapes me at the moment. It was such a simple name that it has just floated right out of my head. Their home was also a childcare business and in the morning we were told to expect the sounds of about twenty toddlers.

Initially, there were complications with Bambi staying at the home, but we were put into a guest room in the back of the home. We took showers, ate (Susan gave of some of her delicious rice), had a great conversation about dumpster-diving, and then promptly passed out.

We expected to have a few quick slurps of coffee and then head out to Portland in the morning. However, as I wobbled into the kitchen surrounded by children, Susan let me know of a few changes. We could stay another night so that we could spend the day in Eugene.
And she asked me if I wanted scrambled tofu or eggs for breakfast. And that made my morning.

Susan gave us a tour of Eugene and  bought us icecream at apparently one of the best places in Eugene. She was very proud that Obama had gotten icecream there. His favorite is mint chocolate chip in case you were wondering.
Also, Eugene is where Nike was invented.
And Eugene is named after this guy named Eugene.

Despite first impressions, Eugene is very yuppie-oriented. Which is a little nauseating.

Later, in the middle of the night, I ordered pizza.

Sidenote: For some crazy reason, the West Coast is obsessed with New Orleans' cuisine and know nothing else about what southern food means. And they're pizza is NOT pizza. Sorry, but not. I've found one real pizza place and that was in Oakland. It actually tasted right. Thin, cheesy, and greasy. It's making my mouth water right now. And then Yelpers complain about the good pizza. They complain about the southern food. WHY. That being said, I tried to find theplace on Yelp with the most negative reviews in order to get good pizza.

This guy came to the side gate where I sneaked out in case our hosts were sleeping; if they were even home. We hadn't seen them since 4 pm. The delivery boy proceeds to ask me if I was squatting due to my suspicious behavior.
"Like, do you need a place to stay?"
"Oh, no no, I'm allowed to be here."
Then he stared at me for a minute which prompted me to ask if he had gotten the tip through the online order.
"Oh yeah, I did."
Okay. So what do you want, I thought.
"You're just really attractive."
"Oh," I said awkwardly as I quickly swung the gate closed in his face.

The pizza was still not right, but it was a close I was gonna get.
It was at this point in time that I realized I may very well be an East Coast kid and there was nothing I could do about it.

The next morning the house was empty as we packed our things to go. At this point we had already planned to head home. We didn't have enough resources to continue. We planned on taking the train to Oakland the following afternoon. That is until we got a phone call from Hunter's mom regarding a girl named Haley who needed her car driven from Portland to Texas. It was perfect. We changed our plans to taking a bus to Portland instead, but we still needed a place to stay for the night.

Another Warmshowers host named Sherman let us stay at her place. It was much more relaxed than Dennis' house. She made dinner for all of us: a stir-fry with an egg.

The next morning we rushed to catch the bus. After a four hour drive, we arrived in Portland, Oregon. (Four hours versus two days on bike.)
We were in Portland's business district waiting for Haley to pick us up. She arrived, we broke down our bikes, stuffed 'em in her tiny car, and headed towards her home in Southeast Portland (the hipper part of the city).
We met her roommates and we were given a small bed in the upstairs art studio.

Hunter and I knew that our mutual friend, Gio, was also in Portland. Naturally, we wanted to go find him and hang out with him. Haley let us borrow her car, saying, "I might as well get used to it. You're taking my car anyway".

We found Gio busking outside of Voodoo Donuts. The line of tourists wrapped around the building. Whenever someone left, the carried at least two giant pink boxes of pastries covered in black skeleton design. Gio vigorously strummed an auburn guitar singing his folk punk/dark lyrics. The crowd was just staring at him possibly wondering what kind of music this even was.

Hunter and I ran up to Gio and hugged him, quickly catching up, with a live audience. Hunter grabbed the banjo lying at Gio's feet and without hesitation they both jammed together. This captured the people's attention. Hunter, Bambi, and I had a seat next to Gio's open guitar case.
"Okay guys, I wanna show you this new song," Gio rang before bursting into a rhythmic and bouncy chord progression.
Eventually, individuals started leaving the line, tossing bills into the case.
Gio would interrupt his playing just for a moment in order to thank them.
"Oh my god, thank you! You are bad ass!"
And with the compliments came more handouts.
We finally got up to leave, trying to coerce Gio to come with us to the Red and Black Cafe. A cafe that recently kicked a police officer from its property causing some controversy. Guess what side I'm on.

Literally pissing on Portland

Unfortunately, Gio couldn't come with us. We went alone and had local beer and vegan cookies. We then went behind the vegan mall around the corner to check the dumpster for bread from the vegan bakery. Alas, we must've gotten there too late for all the goods were gone. (Thank you Ronel for the tip, by the way.)

We returned to Haley's house. Her roommates:
Lily: A redheaded artist with an interest in cooking and feminism.
McKenna: Haley's longtime best friend from Texas.
Kylie: Laid-back/smart conversationalist from LA.
Molly: Haley's sweet black lab mix.
Name forgotten, let's call him J: An aggressive/friendly kitten that scared Bambi more than once.

And the live-in visitor:
Name forgotten, let's call him M: A dreadlocked casual/nice friend of the girls.

They partied late into the morning listening to rap. Lily was supposed to be giving Haley a stick and poke that night.
Hunter and I tried to sleep upstairs against the loud bass-filled music. This would be when I realized I'm getting older. My future grumpy elderly self came to fruition that night as I damned the youths downstairs.

We were waiting for Haley to fork over the car keys so we could get the hell out of Portland, but she was nowhere to be found. When she did return to the house, Hunter asked her about it.
It turns out we had run a fool's errand. She had changed her mind about the car and now we yet again had to find another way to get back to Oakland.

Later that day we tried to find the Portland Food Not Bombs sharing. We were starving with no cash. We arrived at the park full of young people trying to rehash the sixties. Some of them were dressed for a festival, others were travelers, and others dressed in hippy garb. This actually grossed me out. A lot.

The Pacific Northwest so far had been this over-gentrified yuppie pretentious ego fest. Where were the real people? Was the entire population just young white people smoking pot and feeling like they were better than everyone else because they lived here? I thought back to what Susan had told us about the four quadrants of Eugene. About the one poorer quadrant. How they wouldn't get with the picture. Why was the Pacific Northwest so congratulated? It was heaven to only one small culture of people and it pushed anyone who couldn't afford it away.
I suppose I could be talking about any region of the United States, but it was these people's blatant disregard/ridiculously high self-importance that made me angry about the entire scene.

That park made me dislike Portland.

We asked Haley to drive us to the train station so we could catch the Amtrak at 2:30. She dropped us off at a Greyhound station with dismantled bikes and all of our bags in the hot sun about three blocks or so from station's entrance. I can tell you that I don't care much for her at all.

It took us an entire two hours to get our bikes into bike boxes and drag them to the luggage check-in. We made it onto the train with only four minutes to spare. Between the heat, anxiety, and heavy lifting, I had an anxiety attack that quickly transitioned into an asthma attack. No one in the station would help us.
While Hunter checked the bikes, I asked a girl sitting in the grass outside to help me bring in my bags and she did. I wish I could thank her again.

Once aboard, we would spend the next 18 hours listening to crazies on the train. There's a romanticized view on people who ride the train. Looking out the window, watching the landscape roll by, and listening to the steady chug of the train's engine. The people writing and reading and sharing stories with one another. Sharing meals with one another.
In reality, these people are some of the grossest people I've encountered.
At 10 pm we tried to sleep. A grandmother and her grandson behind us kept kicking our seats. They rustled through a bag of candy behind my head every ten minutes.
"Do you want one?"
"Oh, yeah, sure"
[Loud obnoxious whispering]
[Straight-up loud obnoxious conversation]

We eventually asked them to shut the fuck up in the most polite way possible. They didn't.

We escaped the train at 9:45 am, an hour later than expected, due to a delay after the station right before ours. Meaning, we could have gotten off and walked and beat the train. Too bad we were stuck in a train yard and locked inside the train.
Nothing like feeling claustrophobic and having flashbacks of time spent in jail. Whoopee!

We got our bikes from the baggage cart and tried to assemble them. All of our luck must have been spent on the trip, because when we got my bike standing, my pedals were missing. With Hunter's flat back tire and my immobile bike, we called on Ali to help us out.

Ali and her beau showed up in Jack London Square with Hunter's car and theirs. It was nice to see Ali and nice to meet her partner. We caught up a bit and headed to Bicycle Coffee for some cheap, but great brews. Hunter and I were going to need it after not getting a wink of sleep on the train. We expected to drive at least half-way to Colorado.

Before leaving, we grabbed some grub at an Indian buffet with the last bit of cash I had. As we ate, we realized how much we really cared for Oakland. We felt like we were back home. The diversity of people. The realness of the city. The honesty of the city. Everyone was who they were. No one pretended. And we were all okay with this.
I'm really going to miss Oakland.

We hit the road, driving into Nevada and stopping for the night in the middle of the desert at a rest stop. We tried to sleep under a tree in our sleeping bags. Our tent was still wet from the rain in the last state park we slept at. As soon as I began to see visions and hear the faint sounds of my dreams, I was shot in the face by a sprinkler.
Hunter and I jumped up in our sleeping bags, sack-racing out of the range of the sprinklers.

We were exhausted. We wondered where we could safely get some sleep. I finally suggested we go closer towards the desert and farther from the rest area. We used the car to block ourselves from getting run over and slept in our sleeping bags in the rocks and sand. When we laid our heads down, the entire night sky was a symphony of stars. I remembered why I missed Taos. Within ten minutes, we saw two shooting stars and a meteor float across the infinite black ceiling.
"Wow, this is better than Colorado!" Hunter said.

The twinkling sky reminded me of the night Haylee, Ricky, Vinny, and I slept outside of Keith McHenry's van in the desert of New Mexico during a meteor shower. Vinny Kat had kept me awake all night screaming at me about how unsafe the desert was and why we weren't in the van. Above him the sky was on fire; bright streaks painting the night sky.

The desert the next morning

The next day we drove through Utah hitting Salt Lake City and Dinosaur. We got into Vail, Colorado around 11 pm and reunited with Hunter's family sans Lexi. I wish Lexi was here though.

This is the last blog entry for a while. My bike trip is over for now until the next one. I'm thinking Vancouver Island to Seatlle. Then, a tour of Europe where I can traverse glaciers. Then, a tour through South America. Then, India. But my plans are never set in stone.

Goodbye for now,

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dark Skies and Shining People

I'm aware I update this blog sporadically, but when on the road, life itself is hardly routine.

We've traveled 700 miles. We're two days from Portland, OR. We've been on the road for about two weeks, although I can hardly remember what the day is let alone how many days it's been. My glutes are sore. My coccyx hurts whenever I get back onto my saddle. My hunger is never satiated. I can't stop drinking coffee.
And yet, every day is spent in magic despite any troubles that come our way.

When I first saw an Oregon beach, my breath was literally taken away. This happens almost every single day in the Pacific Northwest. The rivers are clear and the mountains are decorated in spruces. In some areas, it feels like I'm riding through a rainforest. The moss on the tree branches. The misting on my face and the fog on the ground like someone is hiding in the ferns somewhere pouring water on dry ice. The roads endlessly wind and the hills here are much easier to traverse than in California. We have gone from 40 miles per day to 60.

Rain is so commonplace here. In Florida, rain comes in like a typhoon, but usually only for twenty minutes. In the Pacific NW, it rains for a week; lightly misting and sprinkling. Life goes on. It's not something I'm fond of in all honesty.

On our ride up here, the skies had been clear. Within two days of Eugene, the weather took a turn.
We camped out in a remote state park with no other hikers or bikers. In the morning, we found that it had rained and was still doing so. Luckily, our cheap tent wasn't as cheap as I had thought and kept us dry throughout the night.
I turned over to Hunter and told him, "Happy birthday". With the onset of rain, Hunter just blew air through his teeth.
Let me tell you, biking through the rain isn't fun. It's especially frustrating after the 20th mile with your socks and shoes full of water. The softest rain becomes unbearable as I zoom downhill. It pelts me in the face. It whips my eyes and makes me half blind upon dangerous descents.
We were still 100 or so miles from Eugene and would need to stay the night somewhere. However, there is nothing between Coos Bay and Eugene except for tiny towns, most without a grocery store. There are no state parks. There are hardly any inns. Except one.

We rode about 40 miles into a super tiny town named Elkton. No grocery store. Just a general store and a gas station. Oh, and a bed and breakfast called Rivers Inn Elkton. The rain was pouring on us when we arrived. My entire bike, gear, and clothing were sopping. Bambi hid beneath a makeshift tarp in her basket. Everything but her head remained dry due to her endless curiosity.

Under the cover of a porch, an older woman, Margaret, and an older fellow, Jim, smiled. Immediately they wanted to help; pulling our bikes in from the rain and asking if there was anything they could carry upstairs for us. We weren't prompted to pay and instead were led up to our room.
A very small box television with a VCR sat in the corner of the room. The walls were painted faux wood. Paintings you'd find in your grandparents' home refreshed the walls and contributed to the overall vibe of homey.
Margaret took us on a short tour of the upstairs of her home. The inn half was the second story and below was her and her husband's living quarters. She pointed immediately to the shower.
"You'll want to take a shower first I'm sure."
She showed us the kitchenette full of tea and coffee.
"Oh, and here is the Jacuzzi."
"Jesus Christ," I uttered followed by, "Sorry, I'm just..." and then trailed off into nothing.
Hunter left with Margaret to accompany her to the local dump and hitch a ride to the corner store.

I immediately walked into the Jacuzzi room and turned it on. The lights automatically dimmed. As I stripped down, Hunter opened the door behind me. My startle was soon calmed by the mention of food. Margaret was going to make us sandwiches.
I eased myself into the tub. The hot water flowed over my body. My tailbone cried out in relief and pain and then relief again. I sank to the bottom, held my nose, and submerged my head.
This was something I hadn't been able to do in so long. Since I was a child, really. With my new sweater from the dollar store and the bath, I felt rejuvenated far beyond my present complications. I returned to some of my glory days. I was seven years old, diving into my grandmothers' swimming pool, not brushing my hair, jumping on my pogo stick, and causing trouble.
When I left the bath dressed in the robe I found, I sat to have some tea and watch the rain continue to fall. Margaret came upstairs with grilled cheese sandwiches and heated edamame. A yellow plum adorned both of our plates. We quickly devoured the food as we talked to her.
She reminded me of my grandmother and I was put more at ease.

She left and returned with two bowls of chocolate icecream. In a upbeat version of the song, she sang to Hunter.
"Happy birthday to you..."
I joined in, Hunter smiled.
"Having a better birthday now?" I asked.
"Yes, this is so much better than sleeping outside in the rain in wet clothes."
Margaret offered to do our laundry and of course we obliged.

I looked through their VHS library and found Back to the Future.I swiped in from the shelf and for the next two hours, Hunter and I watched Marty McFly change history on a television from the 80's.
"It's so weird watching this movie in this time period about a time period before another one. We're so far removed," Hunter thought aloud.

In the morning, there was coffee and biscuits. There were porkchops and Bambi had half of one. We sat on the porch for most of the morning chatting about our trip. Hunter played one of his songs with a borrowed guitar.

The Rivers Inn was such an amazing experience. It was an oasis in the middle of rural Oregon. The owners were genuinely hospitable. Unlike the southern hospitality you hear so much of which tends to be flat and faked, Margaret and Jim really cared about us. I'm sure I'll visit them again someday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Getting Lost, Asthma Attacks, & Demons

Once again, I'm not sure where to start.
We've gotten lost in the woods, met the worst type of bros, started hallucinating, caught a bus, and I just had an asthma attack halfway up the side of a mountain. 
Did I mention we're in Oregon? I still can't believe we made it to a different state. 

Have you ever had to push a loaded bicycle up a seventy degree angle mountainside through creeks and mud all while the sun is about to go down leaving you victim to the dark forest's wildlife?
We had biked 50 miles that day to the Elk's state park in NorCal. On the side of the road, wild elk grazed and we were warned about the female elk in heat and how dangerous they could be. Hunter had lost his phone. We stopped at the park's welcome center and after he found it we left. We wanted to go another ten miles for the day and we knew of another Hike N Bike camp just a little ways down the road.
The main park was too touristy for our tastes.
As we climbed a hill for at least three miles, several cyclists going south were a bit confused on why we would have passed the main camp.
We reached the trail that would lead us to the alternate campsite and proceeded to push our bikes into the woods. We hadn't eaten in a while. If we were cars, the empty fuel light would be on. Sweating and eager to rest, we pushed our bikes downhill unable to ride them on the trail. We reached the beach trail. Scat was everywhere. Driftwood peaking from the long grass looked just like elks' antlers.
When we saw the that the coastal trail was not a road, but a sandy glimmer of what used to be a hiking trail, we were filled with anxiety. There was no campsite in this area despite what the maps had told us.
Later, a ranger would confirm the absence of the site.

Taking a breath of fresh ocean air, I looked passed my panic and saw the painting that is the Pacific Ocean. The huge rock formation jutting into the sky. The cliffs. The dark royal blue color of the ocean. The pale yellow sand of the shore. This was the beach of Dali's famous piece, Persistence of Memory. At this inflection, a humpback whale flew out of the sea and fell back into it, creating an enormous splash. I stood in awe until Hunter brought me back.
"We have to get back to the main road. The sun's going to set."
He was right. The sun would disappear in an hour's time and it was going to take at least an hour to get out of the forest. The panic returned and we began to drudge our bikes through the sand  and onward up the steepest hill we've yet encountered.
Leaning all the way over my bike and parallel to the ground, I used every ounce of upper body strength I had (which isn't much) struggling to get myself, Bambi, and my bike out of the forest before nightfall. The mixture of panic and vigorous exercise caused an asthma attack that I just pushed through. I was sweaty and dizzy. I felt like I was going to faint.
"C'mon babe, we're not out of the woods just yet!" Hunter egged me on. "Literally."
A small chuckle escaped between my heaving breaths.
There were points where I was screaming up the incline just to push my body upwards.
"We gotta get out of here. I don't want to get eaten. If you faint, then we're all gonna die," Hunter warned, perhaps overdramatically. Perhaps not. 
After an hour of pain, I saw a car shoot up beyond the trees. Elated, I yelped, "Oh my god! I never thought I'd be so happy to see a car! A fucking car!"
We coasted downhill on our return to the Elk camp where we met some of the biggest douchebags I've ever encountered. (Bambi liked 'em though. She likes everybody.)

After such a long day, I just wanted to pass out, but oh no, these guys weren't about to let that happen. We talked to them a bit. Ex-military. Superbros. Budweiser for breakfast bros. They not only collected wood illegally to burn, but proceeded to loudly vocalize their ignorance throughout the night, until 2 in the morning. Unable to sleep, I listened to them make homophobic, sexist, and anti-immigration remarks. They then woke up at 7 am and blasted their radio, still drinking. How rude can you be?

The next day was hard. So difficult that midday resulted in my hallucinating. Riding through our last day of Redwoods, children's faces looked back at me from the trunks of the trees. If you've seen the Haunting, you could understand how unnervingly creepy this was. Paranoia set in. I kept seeing shadow figures run in my peripheral vision. I decided to only look at the road. 
Upon reaching Crescent City, we found that it was in fact not a city, but an abandoned small town full of hitchhikers. We stayed at a motel for the night, unable to locate any campgrounds. When I finally got into bed to sleep, the figures and paranoia returned. I pulled a blanket to the floor and literally wrestled my demons until the middle of the night.

Time to head out once more if I want to get to a campsite tonight,

Friday, June 20, 2014

Avenue of the Giants

It's truly incredible how much a bit of exercise and nature can clear not only one's mind, but also their body; their soul.
It's been, what? Just a few days since my last entry and I'm rapidly becoming stronger physically, mentally, spiritually. The answers to questions I've been asking myself for months are shaking away the dust that settled upon them when I devoted my energy to working a nine-to-fiver.
I can transcend what used to be steep hills as if I were zooming over the flats of Florida.
I can pitch my tent in a matter of minutes.
This entry is actually incredibly difficult to write. It's 9:31 pm in Arcata (which is actually way passed my usual bedtime on this trip) and I'm struggling to remember what's occurred in the last week. The thoughts I thought. The sights I saw. It feels like I've been on the road for a month, if not more.
And so perhaps it's best to rewind the days. Starting with today.

I'm sitting inside a Super 8 motel room. We both needed a shower and a break for the day. We washed our clothing. We did nothing. All day. My left leg is covered in bruises and my left knee wants to give up even if I'm only walking.
Arcata feels like the kind of small town one might watch in a Spielberg film.
Hunter's tire was flat this morning. We walked to Arcata from Eureka. The coast is visible from the highway again. And there are tons of tsunami warning signs. The sky is getting grayer and the clouds are moving more quickly. The people are changing too. Suddenly, I've traveled back in time to the 90's.

Eureka looks like an old western town that grew too quickly. Everything is on one main road (the 101) and the houses are on either side. It's actually a bit depressing, the way the town looks. The people aren't too different. I'm amazed that Eureka and Arcata are so close to each other because they're nothing alike. Like these twin sisters I knew in my fifth grade class.

We woke up this morning in Billy's backyard. It was covered in weeds and garden snails climbed the fences and our bikes, perhaps looking for something more exciting. The sky was completely gray and it misted down on me as I sat in a lawn chair, next to Billy's old pile of hair from a month-old haircut. My entire body was aching as if I fell out of a seventy story building and hit the concrete, but survived. I awoke throughout the night due to cramps in my knees and thighs.
Billy was especially helpful. Letting us crash in his backyard and making us homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast. They were delicious.

We have been biking on average 40 miles a day, uphill, against the headwinds. Every Hike N Bike we stop at for the night tells us we're one of the crazies for going north. But I've never seen it and that's enough to push myself forward.

The 40 mile bike trips are becoming increasingly intoxicating. Our trip to Eureka was mostly on the Avenue of the Giants, surrounded in shady redwoods and small ferns. Occasionally, a town with a population less than 150 would appear in the giant forest offering a small market or tourist attraction. I was especially fond of the Bigfoot themed gift shop, although we didn't stop. Everything is carved from wood and it feels as if you're biking through a time capsule that will never get older. The towns on the Avenue feel forever stuck in the forties. But the forest itself.
The trees are ancient. They're majestic. And you're reminded of how infantismal the human species is compared to other species of the Earth. You're among gods on the Avenue of the Giants.

The night before Billy's backyard, we stopped in the Burlington campground on Avenue of the Giants. We got to pitch our tent right in the middle of them, albeit right in the middle of a ton of other folks as well. We might as well have been a small suburban neighborhood with the amount of people camping.
In the Hike N Bike, an 37 year old man and a 25 year old woman sat at a picnic bench greeting us.
"How are ya?"
"Oh, good. Tired," I chuckled.
Looking around, I noticed there wasn't much space left.
"Is there another section where we should camp? Don't want to take too much space."
The man replied, "Oh no, don't worry about that. Besides, the guy in the other site talks to himself in a little girl's voice at night."
"Oh," I frowned and pulled my tent off my bike.

While I can't remember the man's name, I remember his cat's. He and Funtime had been on the road for 16 months after quitting his job with 20,000 dollars saved up as part of a plan from his employer. He was carrying more than I would ever think about towing. His bike looked like it had been on the road for years.
"I came to California to meet other crazy people. Well, crazy enough to bike 1000 miles for fun. Seriously, no one in the right mind thinks that's a fun thing to do."
He had been in Arizona for a while, eating rattlesnakes. He showed Colleen and I the video of him capturing it.
"Look, he's comin' right at me!"
"Well, of course. You're poking him with a stick and trying to cook him," Colleen retorted.
I only remember her name because she repeated it on purpose numerous times after I told her I had forgotten it. She was extremely scientific and well organized.
The two of them were both Aquarians. Both wonderful talkers. The four of us laughed and joked until the rest of the camping sites had gone to sleep. We replaced the lyrics of songs with new lyrics about biking.
Colleen sang, "They see me biking/They hatin/They gonna catch me bikin dirty".
We talked about caloric intake and how much we smell.

I told them what had happened to me on the way from Cloverdale. I had just ingested the biggest burrito knowing I was going to be heading up some of the biggest hills I had yet encountered. After stuffing it down my gullet, I tried to push myself up a mountain. The entire climb I had to puke. I kept stopping and starting holding my my head down into my knees. At one point, I began to vomit into my mouth and had to swallow it. I needed the calories.

They both laughed having similar stories. We also all joked about Gatorade. A drink we never really cared for or needed until we started touring. Colleen rolled her eyes, "Ha, we're athletes".

I wish I could take my time to share every detail of this trip. But I can't.
I thought I'd make it to the previous day, but unfortunately, I'm exhausted.
All I can say is Leggett was beautiful. The bikers there were just as unique. And the graffiti inside of the food lockers is always inspiring.
Oh, and the nature/scenery/mountains/rivers/trees/birds are literally breathtaking. I actually had to stop just to watch the wind blow the long grass. It looks like it's being painted in real time.
Everything looks like a painting here.

Good night,

Sunday, June 15, 2014

No Pain, No Gain: Overcoming Some Serious Hills

"It's not a matter of ambition, babe. That's definitely... not... the problem," I huffed slamming my pedals down as we ascended yet another hill.

I remember sitting halfway up a hill as Hunter waited at the top, hearing my phone tell me it's battery was low and all I could think was, Me too, Phone.

We had our bikes in full gall-up as we rode up and down the rollercoaster that is California's coast. We were playing on expert when we should've been using easy. But,the human body can do incredible things. Somehow, after a harrowing previous day, I managed to push myself even harder on Day Two. With Hunter constantly reminding me that we were almost at the top of every hill we came across, I was surprisingly more motivated than annoyed. There were times when I asked him to stop but for the most part I really needed the encouragement.
"I can see cars going down" became the best phrase you could hear during the day. This meant if you just pushed yourself a little harder. If you just used a little more of yourself. If you could get to the top no matter what it took. You'd have an extremely rewarding descent coasting past some of the most beautiful scenery you've ever seen. 
As much I regret not being able to film the ride, I'm glad my GoPro was dead. The faces I made going up some of those mountains looked like I was evacuating my intestines. (And that's exactly how it felt.) Seriously, my ass still feels like it got stabbed repeatedly.

Before we left the state park, we met a few other cyclists heading in all different directions. There was an odd sense of community between the other bicycle tourists. We were all instant friends, sharing our breakfasts at the camp's picnic table and sharing stories of our trips. 

Halfway through the day, I ditched the trailer and put Bambi in my basket. We were both much happier. The trailer was broken, hitting the spokes on my back wheel and much too heavy to attempt carrying it up mountains. 

We made it to Bodega Bay at 7 pm. It was a small fishing town apparently a common place for weddings and romantic getaways. We checked ourselves into an inn for the night in order to reward ourselves for the night prior and the insane biking we had been doing.
I put Hook on and took a shower.
The dirty water circling the drain reminded me of the movie Psycho. I used an entire bar of motel soap.
In the morning, as I wrote my previous entry I pulled a tick out of the back of my head that apparently got a free ride for the day. 

Day Three:  

I kept saying I wanted an easy day the night before to recover. It turned out heading towards the 101 (towards civilization aka phone signal and grocery stores) was all downhill and flat. We made it to Santa Rosa mid-day and kept riding to Healdsburg with energy to spare.
The only problem we found was where we were going to sleep for the night.
We opted for a public park along the Russian River.
We didn't sleep too well due to paranoia of getting kicked out, but it turns out Healdsburg is super lax.
At one point, a couple of drunk guys stumbled into the park talking loudly.
"Dude, shut up, there's people trying to sleep."
"Oh, sorry."
They slunk away.

And here we go again.

Thank the universe for coffee,

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sweat,Tears, and...

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to regularly update the blog, Twitter, or even text anyone. My phone has had no signal since we left Sausalito. My GoPro died halfway through the first day. But finally, I am able to update my whereabouts and what's happened leading up until now.

And I promise you, it's a whole lot.

Day One:

We were buzzing through San Francisco's traffic heading towards the Golden Gate Bridge. It was cold and foggy like the city usually is. It felt like triumph enough making it to the bridge (which looks like a painting) and basking in the glow of the other bike tourists who took pictures alongside us. Crossing the bridge was another story. There are true tourists stumbling along the bridge, not paying any mind to the bike lanes, so it was a little difficult getting across. After that, we were in a stupor on how to get to where we needed to go.
We followed other cyclists through Sausalito (a cookie cutter fish town of which we would see more), got directions from random cyclists who suggested all sorts of ways to get to Canada.

I started running out of energy in Corte Madera, where I was sure we were lost, and by the time we got to Fairfax I wasn't sure if we could go any further. We had only gone maybe 30 miles by this point. But it was 30 miles of steep hills that, as a Floridian, I am not even used to walking on.

In order to get to our final destination for the night, we had to overcome a giant hill that took over an hour to reach the top. We walked our bikes of course. Upon reaching the summit, we cried and breathed heavily, "It's the top! We made it! We're here!"
We stood for a minute so that we could catch our breath. It was about 5 pm and we still had to make it to Samuel P. State Park before dark.
Another cyclist was etching up the hill behind us. Upon his meeting us, we talked for a bit. Hunter congratulated him on making it to the top still elated to have made it himself.
The man traveling from Rio, Brazil only said, "Oh, it's just a small hill," before quickly descending.

It was close to nightfall, but we knew we were just a few miles from the campgrounds. We stopped at the only restaurant/grocery for miles, an Indian restaurant called Arti's. I devoured my curry and we got ready to set up camp and rest.
With the promise that we would be able to sleep soon, my energy kicked into overdrive. But it faded quickly when we got lost. And then we got lost again.
It was night when we made it back to the Indian restaurant.
With no energy and no certainty of making it to our destination, my body broke down.
I started crying excessively. I couldn't hold the tears back. I had reached a breaking point.
Hunter tried to console me but it wasn't in my control. It was like my body was crying not me. I wasn't emotionally upset. My body just couldn't take the demands I was making.

A woman named Linda came to our rescue. She picked Hunter up from Arti's and brought him to the entrance of the campgrounds. Upon his return he was contagiously joyous. We thanked Linda and made our way, in complete darkness, to the camp.
There was relief, but I was so tired it barely showed.

As we entered, a stag crossed our path. My faint headlight made the stag glow. He must have been about ten feet in front of us. He was strong and beautiful.

We set up camp. I taught Hunter how to raise a tent. We brought our food into the tent and had Bambi snuggle into my sleeping bag at my feet.

At about two in the morning, we heard the zippers on our panniers being pulled open. Fearing that someone was stealing our things we quickly opened our tent flaps and shone our light on the perpetrator.  

Our thieves were a pair of raccoons. It was picturesque. Their little grabby hands holding onto a couple of our things looking at us like, "What? Just close your tent and don't mind us".

Hunter couldn't sleep listening to the masked creatures and continuously opened the tent in an effort to scare them away. At one point, I awoke and tried to scare a raccoon away who thought he was hiding just beyond our bikes. When I shone the light at him, he took it as an invitation and tried to come into the tent. I quickly zipped it closed.

I woke up to Hunter trying to scare away another one. I looked over as Hunter flashed the light out the tent for what would be the final time.
A nose was a foot away from his face. He thought it was a raccoon.
Until it roared.
He flung the tent closed and laid down.
"Was that a freakin' bear?!" I whispered, my eyes so wide they could fall out.
The roar was the kind of roar you hear on television all the time. The kind of sound that you don't find threatening. The kind that many are desensitized to.
But the real thing. That's pee-in-your-pants terrifying.
Not that either of us did that.

With the bear sniffing around our tent, we looked up our options.
The very first direction: "This is Bear Country. Don't ever bring food into your tent."
Bambi slept soundly on my lap. I think she was pretending.

When it sounded like the bear had left, I cautiously opened the tent to check. The coast was clear. We through our food far away towards a tree and pulled our tent out of the ground, running it towards the middle of the campgrounds.

And then we slept.

Day Two:
In the morning, the light gleamed through the baby redwoods. Birds that I've never seen before were singing and swooping down in front of me.
I checked on the food. The raccoons had stolen two bananas, a slice of bread, and a Clif Bar. I moved the food back to our tent.
In the middle of the camp, there was a food lock box which we couldn't see at night. Oh well.

It seems I've run out of time to finish this blog entry. I will have to wait in order to update you on what happened the second day as it's time to get back on the road.

Beware the bears,

Friday, June 6, 2014

Free to Follow My Heart

I'll be on the road in seven days. Follow the countdown to the day we leave @NikRye.

I can't believe I'll be beginning my bike tour up to Vancouver Island, BC in as little as seven days. I've quit my job, packed my things, and have been making a mental gear checklist in my head up until now. While this process is exciting, it's very stressful and unlike my previous pre-adventure planning which usually consisted of little more than leaving everything behind on a whim.

I have to find a place to store my things, primarily my artwork and a few sentimental zines/nic-nacs, for cheap. Everything else is replaceable.
I have to make sure I have everything I need for this ride. (I still don't have an extra set of tubes, a patch kit, or a light-weight pump.)
I'm in the middle of painting three different pieces (two at request and one is a gift) before I leave the Bay Area.
And, I'm trying to make sure I have all of the songs I've learned on the uke written down in case I forget them.

Despite the stress of planning, the excitement and promise of freedom weighs much heavier in my mind.
I can't wait to forget about the anxiety caused by capitalistic endeavors. Between the preconceived notion that a human's value is based off of what one does for a living to the basic (and meaningless) importance placed on keeping track of time, I seriously cannot wait to just breathe, exercise, and think. (And write. And draw.)

I've always been a bit rebellious, but not for the sake of rebelling. My second grade teacher once asked me, "Nik, why aren't you doing your homework? You have a D for homework."
I replied, "I am doing my homework".
"Then why aren't you turning it in?"
I didn't understand why she needed to see what I had already concluded. I was okay with learning on my own. However, my teacher let me know that I can't do that. That I had to turn it in. I had to show other people my progress so they could confirm it for themselves. So that I could be a part of the system.
I turned in my homework from then on, but started skipping school in sixth grade until I graduated high school. I never had below a 3.0 average, but I did get reminded constantly that I couldn't just break the rules like that. What can I say, I was bored.

I can't tame that part of me. I can't magically make myself fall into the expectations of this society.
I like spontaneity far too much.
My achievements/measure of success feel alien and they really shouldn't.

I came to California as a last ditch effort to find out if I could be happy working 9 to 5 as long as it was a career path I enjoyed. As long as I was happy with where I was living.
But I began to supplement the growing void with greasy junk food and new clothing and alcohol.
Of course, these things just made me more depressed. Especially with myself. Who was I now?
Using the money I made to distract myself from the fact that my only meaning was to make money.
I'm glad I came out here though, because that final piece of the illusion has been destroyed for me.
My life is an adventure and I will live it.

Anywho, enough with the seriousness!
This week was eventful to say the least. I got to cross something off my bucket list:
I jumped out of a plane! And it was incredible!

I might just be addicted to thrill-seeking at this point. What makes you feel more alive than death?

Also, you should follow my twitter @NikRye if you're not already. I'll be posting pictures and such much more often than this blog will be updated, including a countdown until we are off.

Bambi gives Hunter all the best bicycle fixin' advice :3

Here's to what makes you happy,

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