Monday, October 31, 2016

Be the change


I've had a hankerin' for bloggin' lately. Thats the inner Texan in me. That's where I sit, Texas. Van Horn, to be specific. I think I left off somewhere in Silver City. Ah yes, I now recall,  it was in the living room of the Bike Haus.
I'm now in a truck stop, sitting in a booth next to the only two functional electronic slot machines, among four others. Luckily, the trucker pulling the levers has left Steve and I to ourselves for now.

I'll begin with the ride from Silver City to my introduction to Texas. Excuse me if the timeline gets funky. Sometimes I feel like I'm in an episode of the "Twilight Zone," as the days and towns are starting to run together. Thoughts come and go so freely when you're on the bike, it's easy to pedal away from reality.

So, back to Texas. We had a long ride, 70+ miles, to get to the outskirts of the city of El Paso, which is right across the Rio Grande. We took an alternative route to get us there, as we decided it was in both our interests to make better time after our Gila detour. The route took us along the Mexican border for most of the way. The only problem with coming into a city at the end of your ride is everything. Fatigue, frustration, navigation,and anxiety about where you might rest your head that night.

We hit the bridge that would take us over the river and into Texas, and it was under construction. This was only the beginning of our direction changing setbacks and detours. See, the problem with navigating a city on a bike is this: If you go the wrong way, you can't just hit the pedal and turn around. Wait, yes, you can, but with a lot more effort. Making a mistake can cause you a lot of stress in getting across multiple lanes of traffic, miles, minutes, or hours of back-tracking.

We both had errands to attend to in the city, so Steve and I split up. I had to pick up fuel for my stove, and he had a package at a post office. Both fatigued with the whole day of riding, we braved the traffic and the hills of El Paso, which are not part of route. Towards the end of the day, it was getting dark, and we were miles apart. It was at this point when I realized we weren't getting out of the city. I was closer to the end of town, but still far from peace and safety. Steve was at the North end. I found myself at a city park-- Ascata, I think? I was riding around, looking for a guerrilla site to camp at without getting knifed by a meth addict.

I've learned, never take one persons advice to heart and believe it truth. Talk to multiple people and formulate your own opinion. So, as I was riding around, I saw a guy in an sandy colored, mid 90's ford pickup with a bike in the back. Another thing I've come to realize, is that people on bikes are usually friendly, and share some sort of personal investment in their recreational choice. So I pulled up and started some conversation.

I asked how familiar he was with the area, and if he thought it was safe out there. Before long, we had introduced ourselves, and I was sharing my story. Moses, was a kind-hearted guy from the start. He offered me a place to stay at his house 8 miles away, and a ride there. I immediately accepted the offer, not knowing exactly how special that decision would be. I felt a little guilty though, not knowing if Steve was going to find shelter that night.

When we arrived at Moses' place, he had to go in and pitch my story to his family, Carolynne his wife, and Lilly his daughter. They greeted me with open arms and asked if I liked zucchini. After getting settled, Moses gave me a tour of his paintings. He's an amazing painter. With a style like that of Ashcan, but softer, much like his demeanor and voice, he conveys messages of "People doing what they do."

We then were eating the delicious feast Carolynne and Lilly had prepared, I got a txt from Steve, who was finished with his Post Office-tour. He knocked at the door a few minutes later and reunited with a look of amazement in our lucky fate. After some more food and some beers, some poetry reading, and some excellent conversation, we hit the sack. The next morning consisted of much the same. Food and conversation. We didn't want to leave. Their hospitality was flattering. Before this experience, El Paso was to me, only a brand of salsa.

We then set out for the edge of town, and made it. We set up camp in a Pecan grove. Boy, was that a mistake. During the day, the railroad tracks we followed were empty. I guess they run the night trains in Texas. The peaceful grove, symmetrical and constant with it's cool shade and abundant pecans, became a train lovers dream. Every 15 minutes, we would later find out from a Dollar General employee, a train would vibrate by, wailing its cries from miles down the tracks. Needless to say, neither of us got much sleep. We pressed on.

We are now about 250 miles from Del Rio. The next big place of interest on our list is the McDonald Observatory, which we will hit tomorrow night. As Jamie from the Bike Haus explained to me, "You have to break Texas down into Counties and points of interest." After visiting the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, I've become fascinated with astronomy. It's at 6200 feet, so let's hope the climb won't hurt us too bad. After Gila, I think I'll make it.

As far as the Go Fund Me is concerned, It's still going. I had some big donations since the last update. The news coverage is steady, but I'm stepping it up a notch. I contacted Mark Smith from Bikes for Goodness Sake. I've set up an event for when I get into Austin. They have selected a child to help me build a bike in their shop. After helping me build it, I'm going to donate it. I want to get all this on film and post it to my page for the people who have already invested. I think this will also show people how much of a change they are making by contributing. The smile on that kid's face will be so real and tangible, and I can't wait.

Physically, I'm getting strong, aside from my butt hurting. Mentally, I'm feeling the fatigue of the daily grind. Yes, this is fun; I love doing it. I love seeing the gradual change in the plant life, the rock formations, the people. I enjoy the challenge the trip brings into my life. I learn a little bit more about myself every day. This trip is bringing me so many more ideas and creative themes. It's introducing me to all kinds of art, and the artists that make it. People, themselves have made this journey worth while. Stepping into someone's home and learning who they are randomly, and understanding their views, desires, and reasons, has been invigorating.

I think most of all, I've learned to make the best of what you've got in this world. Be happy with your life, and if your not, do whatever it takes to change it to make it better. You're in charge of your world. As my friend Steve, the guy I'm riding with always says (quoting Ghandi), "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Well, it's getting dark, and I want to put some more miles in.

Till next time,


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Come what may

Hey all,

I'm sitting at a table in the "Bike Haus" in Silver City NM. It's crazy what can happen when you're open to change and willing to put a little faith in humanity. I was headed to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, about 50 miles north of my intended route, when I met Steve. Well, I met a lot of people that day, including a guy named Kim who was cycling the Continental Divide trail. Hardcore! It just so happened that when I returned from the monument, Steve and another guy named Bo were chatting on the front porch of the only small store in the area.

We all got along well. I really wanted to check out the hot springs I had heard about in Gila, and Bo was a local. He showed Steve and I the location of the hot springs, which was next door to his place. After taking a soak and setting up camp, Bo picked us up at the end of his driveway in his 4x4 campervan. He invited us in for a Santa Fe pale ale, football, and conversation.

The next morning Bo had us over for Breakfast. 5 star! He then gave us a tour of his place, which was beautifully tucked into the woods of the Gila wilderness. Bo shared stories of his involvement in the bike races that are conducted in Gila, and showed us pictures of him manning the motorcycle beside Lance Armstrong. I have to emphasize, Bo is a cyclist and motorcyclist because of an event that I'll talk about a little later.

After leaving Bo's, Steve and I set out to ride the 42 miles out of the valley. There was about 8-9 miles of climbing. It was about 4,000 vertical feet of elevation gain. It was nice having some company from Steve for the push up those hills. He also, being a long time cyclist, helped me out with some pointers relative to biking. It's really fun to zip down the big hills, but you end up missing a lot of the scenery. When you're going 2-4 mph, you can actually catch the views as you go. In our case, the Gila Wilderness and Sappio Valley were exquisite.

About 4:30, and 4 miles away from Pinos Altos, I hear Steve say, "Car Back!," and I heard a motorcycle approaching. The bike passed us, but this wasn't a normal pass. As the red MotoGussi zoomed by, we noticed the driver was standing up on the pegs, hands in the air. A delicate and calculated dance commenced to ensue as the by sped away, progressing to a "feet on the seat, but shaking" move. Watch out Red-Bull athletes.

Steve and I looked at each other and just started laughing in amazement and both thought, "That's gotta be Bo." Sure enough, about 300 feet later, we find Bo with his helmet off, leaning against his precious Italian motorcycle. After some conversation, Bo said, " I'll save us a table at the Buckhorn."

The Buckhorn Saloon, in the town of Pinos Altos, was super cool. There's hardly anything in this town except for a few extremely old buildings. The saloon on the outside was just what you would expect from the early settling days. Stone with white mortar made up the walls, with rough cut, hand hewn lumber making up the deck, hitching post/ handrail, and second story support logs sticking out. Beside the Saloon is the old Opera House.

When you walk in to the Saloon, it's dimly lit. You immediately get an old, burlesque-style, outlaw vibe as your shoes cobble across the worn oiled oak floors. The first thing we looked at was a plaque that was on the wall, between a risque nude painting and a mounted elk, just above the fireplace. It said something along the lines of " for my father, you good for nothin' son of a bitch." I'm not really sure what that was all about, but the petina in the plaques finish told me that this grudge remained from a time long ago.

After some great food and conversation we headed back to Silver City in the dark, lights flashing. We made it the 7.5 miles in record time; 20 minutes. After finding that Steve's warm shower host wasn't home, I rode back another 2 miles to town and approached a small house in town that had bicycles strewn among the yard and fence. It looked a little run down in the dark, but I had heard good things from everyone I talked to about this place, so I muscled up the courage to knock on the door. When I entered, an odd fellow greeted me with a pink trucker hat with a feather sticking straight up on both sides, like that of a great horned owl. He also sported gold-glittered suspenders and continued playing solitaire on the computer with glazed eyes as he welcomed me in.

I was given the tour of the place and shown my simple room. The house has a definite hostel-type vibe. Upstairs, I was shown the puppets. Yes, puppets. Huge ones. Jamie, a resident of the house works with local theater and makes them himself. Interesting. I got to stash my gear in their greenhouse/ bike garage in the back.

I slept great. After having coffee and chillaxing in the morning sunshine, I'm about to go get a shower and get prepped to meet Steve at the local bike Co-op. I think we'll leave for El Paso around noon. Ok I need to get off here and make it happen. Hope you enjoyed reading about my  adventures!


Friday, October 21, 2016

My Life :) Southern Tier Blog--Ep.3

Setting in for the Long Haul

Hey Guys,

I know it’s been a while since my last entry. It’s hard to keep up with all this stuff when you’re putting in the miles. Right now, I bet you can’t guess where I am…Yep, McDonalds! Oh, what a monster I’m becoming. I hate investing in such a monopoly, but hey, what can I say, It’s open 24/7 and it’s got free Wi-Fi.

I actually spent almost all day at the Starbucks in Safeway editing the latest episode of the Vlog. I took a short, one-hour, break to  be interviewed by a guy named David from the Safford newspaper. It went well I think. I stayed sedentary for pretty much the whole day, eating everything in the store. I needed the time to get my mind right anyways.

It’s now about 8:30 and the town is bustling with Friday night commotion. I’m out on the sidewalk. This McDonalds doesn’t believe in providing outlets, or allowing people to access the patio from outside… I came here because the Safeway Wi-Fi wasn’t working. I have about a week before I can commit to downloading the blog, so I figured I’d just get it done.

I don’t’ really like the idea of riding at night, but I’ll do it if it’s necessary. Fortunately, this town is pretty small outside the main drag; so finding a spot to pitch my tent shouldn’t be too hard. It’s past my bedtime. I’m usually asleep by now. I can hear all the old high school fight songs that the band is playing down the street. There must be a football game in progress. It makes me wonder where those high school days went! It seems like just yesterday I, myself, was rolling up to McDonalds with my posse after a game, being cool.

We were at “Steak and Shake” once, and a kid from our rival school flipped us off from inside, and we parried his sign with our own tough-guy motions. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, he was coming outside to finish the job. Luckily, I was already in full motion in my Honda Accord. As he proceeded to exit the building puffed up like a rooster, I screeched around the corner with my friend hanging out of the window, slingshot in hand.  This was surely an attempted drive-by shooting from the prospective of said puffed-up rooster. He tripped and scurried and crawled for his life. I will never forget that night.

As I sit here against the wall of McDonalds, appearing to be a bum in the eyes of many that pass me by, I think about all the different routes my life could taken.  I’ve always been a dreamer. I’ve always admired original ideas and romanticized a simpler life.

The older I get, the more the question seems to get brought up, both from others and myself: “Are you ever going to settle down?” That’s a tough question. But the more it gets asked, the more I tend to question my motives and goals. Would I like to have a family one-day? Yes. Do I think I need to quit reaching for my goals to have that? No. My path is one that yearns for new experiences, challenges. I can’t help it. If I’m not in the middle of an adventure, I’m scheming up a new one. It’s just the way I am.

I interviewed my grandpa some years back, not long before he passed away. There’s always been this one thing that he said that’s never left me. He said, “If I hadn’t made a commitment to you grandma, I would have stayed in Germany,  just to experience it.” I feel it more and more, now that I’m older; that idea that if something feels right, go for it. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and give something a shot. Don’t let societal norms persuade you to conform. Do your thing, be genuine, and finish your whole plate of food before you decide you don’t like something.

I’ve been on the road now for three weeks. It’s been a crazy journey so far. I can’t believe that I still have so much longer to go.  I’ve carried my bike into the Pacific ocean, tumbled down sand dunes in the desert, climbed upon the eroded mesas of the arid Arizona mountains, and been humbled by tens of thousands of gigantic semi trucks flying by at 80 miles an hour. 

I’ll be in New Mexico soon, and from there, Texas. As I continue this long haul, I continue to think about the kids I’ll be helping. I’ve seen poverty in the reservations I’ve traveled through. It’s sad to think that most of those kids don’t have a whole lot of chances or privileges. It’s nice to think that I might be able to make a positive change in at least a few kids’ lives. I’m excited.

Well, the blog is almost done uploading. I’m going to wrap this up. I’m headed to Solomon, AZ tomorrow, then on to Silver City NM. It’s about 100 miles way. After I hit Silver City, I’ll have about 100 miles to El Paso. Texas is going to be on LONG HAUL. Bring it on…

Till next time,


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Making time

Hey folks,

I'm here in Mac Donalds, waiting on Episode two of the blog to upload to youtube. It's been a while since my last entry, and I apologize to those who anxiously check my site for updates (Haha yeah right!) 

I'm out here doing a lot. I'm shooting the film, riding the bike, seeing the sights, and constantly looking for something, always looking for something; campsites, water, food, easier routes, you name it. It's always a search. 

Right now I'm thankful that there is a guy sitting next to me, acting as a buffer. Some guy, probably on meth, is preaching about the New World Order. It's kind of hilarious. I dare not look up from my computer. Give me a break, man. I buy into some conspiracies, but people like this guy are all the same. They never have any new ideas. It's just a recycling of propaganda they've been fed through the media. It's currently POURING out of this guy. Anyway...

I’m currently in Quartzsite, AZ. I crossed the Colorado River this morning. It took a little longer than I thought it would, but its still a milestone nonetheless. If I had to quit today, I could still say “I rode a bike across the state of California.”  That feels pretty good. The landscape is changing as well. I’m in the mountains now and gained some altitude. The Cacti are getting to be the dominant features in the barren landscape now, although the sagebrush and tumbleweeds are still quite prevalent.

The temperature adjustment was extreme the first week. The transition was difficult, coming from Alaska, where it was only in the 50’s, to a place where the highs are in the triple digits. The sun here is intense. I got burned on the first day, despite using sunscreen. I apply sunscreen about every 2 hours. I’m starting to get a nice farmer’s tan!

I think the decision to switch to a beefier tire was the best one I’ve made yet. Sure, the road tires were faster, but when you’re traveling on a wide variety  of road conditions, it makes sense to go with something more rugged. I can definitely tell the difference in efficiency. Today, going up a hill, I stopped twice to see if I had something caught in my wheel. It felt like I was on one of those old stationary bikes with the little wheel you tighten to make the resistance increase. I was like, “ Why the hell is this so hard? Are my panniers pushing my brakes?”
After checking twice, I concluded that it was neither my brakes nor something caught in my tire. It was a combination of an uphill grade of about 4%, FAT mountain bike tires, and a 3-8mph headwind. Yep, that’ll do it. It took me almost two and a half hours to go 20 miles.

Riding the shoulder of the interstate is a truely unique experience. You have semi trucks whooshing by at 70 or 80 miles an hour. You have debris in the path that you MUST avoid. There’s no room for error. Go too far left and, boom, you just became road kill; fail to avoid a disintegrated car tire and, shhhhhhh, you just popped yours. The struggle is real. Here’s my suggestion: Put in some earplugs, or pop in your headphones and turn on the classical music and get in the zone.

I’m just now starting to get a routine going. My efficiency at mobilizing and demobilizing camp is getting better. I can be set up or mobbed out in about 15 minutes now, in the dark (stealthy!). I usually wake up about a half hour before dawn, which is about 6AM. I don’t usually eat breakfast right away, but sometimes boil some water and have a tea. I’m on the road at sunrise, which is about 6:45.

The first three hours of riding are cool and beautiful. Sometimes if the road is quiet, it’s almost like I can continue my dream that I was having before I woke up. It takes me about 30 minutes to really get warmed up and pedaling hard. I think about my destination and kick in the power. I’ve usually ridden 30 miles, or about three hours, by the time I’m ready for a break. I stop and make some food and proceed to stretch, chill, read, play music, or edit some video. That 3-hour break really helps break up the day.

About three or four O’clock, I pack my stuff up and hit the road. I like to ride about 20-30 more miles before I start looking for a camp site, or it starts getting dark, either one. This method can either be really good, or really bad. The impulsive setup has an exciting appeal. I haven’t been rousted from my tent by anyone yet, but I know it’s bound to happen. In urban areas, I ride through, get a hotel, or find a warmshowers host. 

I try and plan ahead 2-4 days at a time. There are too many variables to schedule out any farther than that. It’s not a race. I like having the ability to stop and smell the roses if there’s something that strikes my fancy.

I’m really excited to see what Arizona has in store for me. I almost saw an immediate change in scenery when I crossed state lines this morning. It’s like someone flipped a switch. I’ve always found it amusing, the sprouting of mountains out of nowhere, or the appearance of an oasis in the middle of a desert.

When you live in one place for so long, you start to get “acclimatized” to you surroundings. You forget that the earth isn’t just sycamores and grey clay creeks, or black spruce and decomposing granite faces, buried in in the morning’s termination dust. Your connection to you’re territory becomes synced. You become a part of the seasons; as much as the trees or the rocks, or the creatures that roam your vicinity.

Put in a new, unfamiliar place, you’re senses get put into overdrive. Everything comes in at full power. The smells, the lighting, the colors, the feeling of the dust on your skin, the presence or lack of humidity in the air, and the cultural nuances that come with every small town or area, seem like data that your brain scrambles to gather in an attempt to “acclimatize” you. It tries to prepare you, to strengthen you to succeed in a new environment.

When you don’t stop, when you keep on pedaling, you are under a constant bombardment of inputs and data. Things change and keep you on your toes, hyper-alert, but in a good way. I like it. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Stuck in Jacumba

Hey Everyone,

I'm still in Jacumba! As I rode out of town last night, I hit a HUGE rock that completely shredded my front tire. After trying to repair the tire, it was getting dark. I set up camp, just off the road in a trailhead parking lot, frequented by the local border patrol. I know that it is frequented by them because they came through about 10 times in the middle of the night. Each time, I wondered, is this a Mexican drug cartel on the run? Am I about to get knifed by a muchacho for witnessing his escape?

A bit of a back story, for folks who don't know, Jacumba is a border town. You can see the huge fence. This is a highly active zone for illegal trafficking, smuggling, etc. While I was basking in the hot springs earlier that day, a local told me about all the high tech stuff they have to catch the people trying to cross. He said that there's a guy on the mountain just north of the town with infrared binoculars, and a sound dish that can hear cows chewing grass from 5 miles away. Maybe exaggerated, but believable. I saw the jeep at the top of the hill.

So, no, I didn't get knifed. I ended up limping the bike 3 miles back to Jacumba. I had to stop every 3-5 minutes and re-inflate the tube. I made it though. Once in town I ordered a set of new tubes to be over-nighted to Jacumba. Now I'm just catching up on my Life stuff. Planning my route for a few days. Setting up interviews in El Centro.

Hopefully everything will even out after I get these new tubes. It seems like I haven't gone far at all for how long I've been on the road. Getting out of the city is slow. Climbing 4,000 vertical feet is slow. I was ALMOST to the downhill part before the blowout. I'm just glad I didn't crash or blow the tire going down that hill. It would have been bad. When you're going like 40mph on a loaded bike, things get squirrely.

I held true to my promise of submitting a short film for the Talkeetna Film Festival also. I wish I could have perfected it by getting some extra shots I wanted, but there just wasn't enough time before I left. I'll attach it here.



My Life :) Ep. 1 "Long Road Ahead"

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Adios AK!

Adios Alaska!

Wow. The past week has flown by. I’m sitting at the airport now; I got through TSA with no trouble. My bike was packaged in a box that I saved for over a year, for reasons I don’t know, but it worked out perfectly. It was hard to tear that thing apart and stuff it in a box. I packaged it as best I could, but geez, I won’t breathe easy until its assembled in San Diego.
            I ended up getting a ride from Jen and Dillon Hales, some friends from Talkeetna. They exchanged me for their grandma. What a deal! We made it in perfect time, as it started raining about 10 minutes before the airport. I’m really glad my box didn’t melt.
            Sitting here, the disbelief still hasn’t faded. I’m about to be on my own, in a new environment, and it’s going to be a really hot one. I would describe my feelings as: Anxious, excited, curious, and a bit rigid. I’m just preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best.
 I got a bit wrapped up in finishing a short film I produced last night, and slightly neglected a few chores that needed to be done before my departure. The result was a long day of rushing and some frantic packing. In my haste to make the appointment for my ride to Anchorage, I’m guessing that I forgot something. That’s usually how it goes, right? At this point there’s nothing I can do about it.
Good news on the Charity front! I had 3 cash donors in the past week. I haven’t looked at the Gofundme page today, but last time I checked, it was at $480.With the donations that came in this week, we’re now sitting at $910! Heck yes! That’s almost four bikes. The goal of $2500 is really in sight now, and that’s really exciting.
I’m probably going to scale down  the promoting  a bit this week. I really need to get my bearings, as well as get in the routine of life on the road. This trip is not just opportunity to raise money. It’s also a chance for me to relax. It’s been a busy summer, and now it’s time for me to get my own mind right, look inward, and reflect on who I’ve been and who I want to be.
I like to look back in my journals and see what goals I’ve accomplished. I also think it’s important to set new short term goals frequently, and re-evaluate the long-term ones. My life changes by the month, as does my attitude, so there’s no reason to reach for a goal I’m not passionate about anymore. Life’s too short to do things half-way, without heart.
            Well, I have about 1.5 hours before my flight leaves. I’m going to get off this thing and read a little bit of my new novel I just started, the classic sci-fi masterpiece, Dune! Stay tuned for my next update in a few days. Hopefully I can keep up with the Vlog. I’m predicting that I’ll be about three days to a week behind. I have to shoot the video, edit it, and find wifi to upload each video, so it’s going to be a logistic that I’m constantly dealing with. I’ll figure it out though.

Florida or Bust!