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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Las Vegas & Death Valley

12/25/11-

Both beautiful, both deadly. Yeap, I liked Las Vegas, mainly due to the fact that it's surrounded by mountains on all sides, has incredibly well designed bike lanes & nicely paved streets, and the fact that I got to ride like a maniac on the strip at night just like back on Broadway in NYC. I knew the energy consumption, alcohol, & partying would make me miserable so I decided to block them out before I even got into Las Vegas and it seemed to work. Coming from NYC Vegas felt like a "small" big city, since as soon as you go two blocks off the strip the lights fade and the residential areas begin. Nevertheless it's a place I'm glad I saw.

I stayed with Mike from warmshowers who plans to bike to South America while fixing bikes along the way. His trailer is four times the size of mine & he is bringing all of his Park tools... He made me some awesome cliff bars & altered chex mix and was a very generous host. I will be hitching back to Vegas in a few weeks to help him with some carpentry.

Death Valley was torture on my knees. By the time I'm 50 I won't be able to walk & I presume I'll have to get those artificial robotic knee replacements. (Im doing this whole trip on a 2x10 drivetrain, 34/50 front & 12-32 back, mainly because my racing ego won't let me get anything grannier) After Pahrump you climb up to 3k only to descend to -200' into death valley. The little towns there are way overpriced & so I decided to see how many days I can go without my wallet. I slept at -200' that night beside the road and got a nice view of the Milky Way. The next day the fun part of getting out started- it's a 20 mile 5k climb that mentally took me all day to barely conquer. After that you descend (shocker). Since my front tire has 6500 miles (Continetal Gatorskin, 25mm) I tend to take it easy now since having it blow out at 40mph would not be very good for my bones. The constant breaking caused my rims to over heat to the point of melting the rubber where the valve stem and tube meet. Luckily I wasn't going too fast and it happened to my rear. The rest of the way down I had to stop every few minutes & let my rims cool off (I even sprayed them with water).

Once you finish the descend (and stop at the gas station to buy gas for 5.67$/ gallon... Or not.) you get to climb again. Some 3k on a really curvy road.

When I got to the first flat road after my 4 days in death valley I couldn't control my enjoyment. I could actually pedal normally... And the bike moved at a speed that agreed with my expectations. Incredible.

The temperature that week ranged from the lower teens to the upper 70's, glad it wasn't any colder nor hotter. On Christmas Eve I was walking around in shorts and a tank top, so it sort of killed any holiday spirit that I had. I made pancakes and fell asleep by 7. In the morning I was disappointed when I didn't see any presents by my tent. It's one thing to be told Santa doesn't exist but still get presents and another thing to actually not get anything; not that I minded, I'm not much of a holiday person anyway and believe the holidays are way too commercialized.

Getting out of DV the next day I realized something. In order to live in CA, you have to own one of the following cars, anything else will make you an outsider:

-Ford Mustang. Black or Red.
-Any SUV, higher-end preferred. HAS to have a roof rack with either:
A) a snowboard attached. (No skis)
B) a huge Thule black storage case.
-A pickup that you either have a camper attachment for or a cab to make it look like a giant oversized SUV.

8 out of 10 cars that I saw fit into this description. Maybe I haven't been paying attention to cars in other states but seeing all these gas guzzlers made me sad ): Car free for life!

Currently headed for the coast!

Happy New Year (:
-W

Monday, December 19, 2011

Little Europe

Once I left Bloomfield, NM I made my way through the 4 corners (comparable to NY's Battery Park ticket office just bigger and more desolate) and then towards the Grand Canyon by way of Kayente and Tuba City.

The temps stayed well below freezing most of the time but the terrain wasn't all too bad. Most of my camping was done road side, several people stopped and asked me if I needed a ride.

The Grand Canyon was... a grand canyon. It was massive, intense and incredible, however I wasn't blown away by it like most people told me they were. The reason? I experience nature on a daily basis. I'm amazed by everything I see. The natural world makes sense to me & is equal in my eyes, hence I appreciate all parts of it (weather, mountains, canyons, beaches, animals) equally. That's not to say the Grand Canyon wasn't awesome, it was; it just felt a bit "untouchable" to me. Park here, walk here, see this. Move on. I like to experience things my way, alone and on a path that I found. If I can't it kind of takes away from the experienced. Nevertheless I saw it & I'm glad.

Actually, when I got to the Grand Canyon entrance It was around 4:30 PM and I still had 20 miles to go to get to the village. I bought about 100g worth of protein via ham (the climbing that day was intense and I realized it wont end all that easily), snapped a couple of pictures of the Canyon at Desert View and continued on my way. From there the Sun abandoned me and I was left to view the GC as a black slab of nothingness. I managed to avoid ice patches and got to the GC Village where I stayed with a British gentleman who got word of my trip via someone I met in North Carolina. The next day I went out and then actually saw the GC.

Leaving GC Village I encountered a snow storm and managed to slip twice on covered ice before I got a ride out of the park where the roads were clear due to salting. The ride down to Williams was "annoying". In my head I told myself "oh it'll just be 60 miles and mostly flat" (the biggest mistake you can make, always exaggerate the conditions in your head so you're better prepared mentally), and I ended up climbing more then descending. Add to the fact that most of that time I rode with snow freezing to my face and my spoke breaking I was sure glad when I got to Williams and stayed with another kind person who offered to take me in.

From Williams it was all down hill on Route 66 which I'm glad I took as opposed to just staying on I-40. A day or so was spent on a dirt road where I saw one or two cars. I really enjoyed the isolation (and my tires digging into the sand, I'd get stuck and stand there laughing to myself) and truly realized out there not only how much I love seeing desolate places like that but how unfit I will be for life in the big city now.

In the past week I met a Belgian guy bicycling from CA, a French couple on their way to Florida, heard of a German couple & Swiss couple, met a Swiss couple (all on bikes). Then I also met a couple of guys from Spain and a couple from Portugal, traveling the us. Arizona really out to be the little Europe of the US as far as bicycling/ long term travel goes. Who knew!

I made it to Las Vegas, some thoughts on it later ( I did enjoy it though as far as cities are concerned) and am now headed into Death Valley. Should cross into CA (the last state until March probably) today and start heading for the coast. My goal to be in SF by Christmas was never really a set goal and instead of rushing now I will take my time.

Happy Holidays!
-W

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Worries& Concern.

I've had this nagging though the past few weeks now. The kind that no matter how hard you try to get rid stays in the back of your mind. You loose sleep, you can't concentrate. The world looses meaning. You're a wreck. You keep thinking "what if"? It has been my greatest problem thus far on this trip but I am glad it is resolved. It truly feels like "a weight is lifted off of my shoulders"

The problem you ask? Finding Utahs' license plate. I'm big on getting a license plate from every state I go through and since I was in Utah for only a little bit at 4 corners I though I'd never find it's license plate.

Lo and behold I was cruising on old route 66 and there it was, laying in the dirt like a gem sent from the heavens to ease my worries.




My collection has become pretty large, time to send another batch back home! Mom, if you're reading this, you'll be receiving some old dirty license plates in the mail soon. (:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Life, Risk & Reality.


Why did I decide to spend the next few years just living out on the road? Mainly due to the fact that I took a risk. I know what makes me happy, and I gambled on the idea that doing what I love, all the time, would make me even happier. Not a single regret yet.

Society today tries to eliminate any and all risk from our lives. Everyone is obsessed with a "secure" future; the idea that without a constant job, family, & house you won't be "comfortable" in life. What is comfort anyway? Why do we connect comfort with all things physical as opposed to being comfortable with your self, with the life that you're leading and with the experiences you have; with your spiritual self.

"So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future."

-Jon Krakauer

Eliminating risk has only created more risk. People stop thinking when they assume things have been programmed to keep them safe. It has been proved time and time again; antilock breaks causing more accidents on the road, gps navigation in the sky and out on the sea, fire alarms leading to more people letting fires start in the house. Over fifty percent of fatal accidents occur within a few miles of our homes. Why? Because, of course, nothing can happen when you're within your safe comfort zone, right? It's sort of like the idea of not putting all your eggs in one basket. If you do, however, you pay a whole lot more attention to that one basket then, let say, if you were to have several baskets with only a couple of eggs in each one. You'd think "oh if I drop one it won't be a big deal", but it still will be. Overall you'll be less careful.

When we are younger, science (and nature) is explained to us as being simple & predictable. Science projects involve a shit load of "controls" and only one "variable". We are also made to believe that life works this way as well when nothing could be further from the truth. Things happen, and you have to be able to think (a lost art) to get through them.

On the road there is no comfort zone, no predictability and no "knowns". Things take 5 times as long as you'd expect them too. Its all new, everyday. You can't rely on your knowledge nor experience at this point. Every condition (the bike, the road, the drivers, the weather, etc;) changes, the risk increases and you also have to be constantly adapting (something most people are hesitant to do nowadays) and just be in that moment, thinking. If you're not then things can go south real fast.

This brings me to another point, Reality. Who is actually living in reality? The people who believe spending forty percent of their time working will bring everlasting security, who believe that high fences and security systems will shield them from all the bad in the world, who believe unrestricted travel is unsafe and that the news is always right; or the people like me, in the fact that we live in the realism of the moment every minute of every day with a clear path ahead that is just as connected with nature as the forces around us.

I believe that most people live in some made up fantasy (no different then in a video game) where they think that they are somehow unattached from nature and the physical world, and where their biggest problems involve paper and how much they have of it.

Much of this applies to people's normal lives as well. During our teenage years we are all pressured to figure out what we want to do. I don't see any problem with having goals and plans, but it's that pressure that people put on themselves (and that gets put on them) for things to go exactly as planned that causes failure. One set back and some can't recover from it. They can't overcome it and continue on their path toward their goal because they were never taught to. From that point on they live day by day but lacking any direction or plan.

I'm still learning & thinking, having hundreds of hours of solitude definitely helps. A portion of these thoughts were invoked by a book, "Deep Survival", by Laurence Gonzales. It talks about how accidents aren't really accident and how the key to survival is not years of survival training or even having the right equipment but rather using your brain and adapting to the situation at hand.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dehydration, Mountains & Rest

I've made it to Farmington! I'm just 60 miles from Arizona & the 4 corners. It's been raining/ snowing the past few days so I'm spending the weekend with a couple from warmshowers.org who have been very kind & inviting.

First off, New Mexico has kicked my ass. With that it has also become my favorite state. There is just something about struggling up a 10k' pass while being tossed around by the wind and barely being able to see anything that I just love. The scenery here is grand, the weather bipolar, and the people are awesome.

Once I left Raton things took a turn for the better, the temps warmed up and I got a tail wind all the way to Cimarron. I checked out their main street which was pretty nice, bought some bananas & greek yogurt (2x protein) and headed for the cliffs. The fencing on 64 just outside of town was in total disrepair, making me believe the land was no longer used/ abandoned & served to be the perfect camp spot. The temperature at night got to the low teens and my bananas turned black & started to freeze so I spent some time at 2 am finishing those off along with a cup of tea.

In the morning I headed through Cimarron Canyon which was totally rad. I made my way through Eagles Nest & Angel Fire and climbed through Carsons National Forest crossing a pass at some 9600'. I camped in Carsons after dragging my bike through some damned snow and up a 200' hill. (If you ever saw Into The Wild picture the scene where Chris drags his canoe up the side of the Grand Canyon in order to get away from river patrol) I had little water left so I boiled some snow up; it wasn't enough though and this is where the trouble began.

On Monday I made my way into Taos passing by old Pueblo homes and a ton of art studios. I went into the local bike shop, Gearing Up, and the owner allowed me to clean my bike using their tools. It's a good thing I did as my rear hub was loose and derailleur hanger was off by an inch. I stayed with a warmshowers host that night, Elisabeth, who cooked me up a great pasta dinner. In the morning I decided on a major goal, 200 miles in the next two days, which on flat land would seem like nothing but in the mountains turned out to be almost impossible. I had to make it to Farmington by Thursday though as a major snow storm was moving in and getting stuck out in the elements would not have been good. I crossed the Rio Grande river at the John Dunn Bridge and continued west feeling pretty sluggish. I entered Carsons Nat. Forest for the third time and went from zero snow on the ground to about a foot some 3 thousand feet higher. (the roads were clear though) Once I got to 9000' I started feeling horrible. It was hard to see, I was sleepy as could be & a throbbing headache moved in. Elevation sickness I though. I maxed out at 10,500 feet and started descending. It was getting dark and I was cold, I had no idea where I would camp and the nausea remained. Before I descended to the bottom I saw a gentleman going into his driveway and yelled frantically in hopes of him hearing me. He told me the next town was some 10 miles down and the next motel some 20. Luckily he allowed me to stay at his guest house and I was more thankful for that then I can describe.

That night I finally realized I was really dehydrated (up until now I thought it was just elevation sickness). Turns out you breathe out twice as much water vapor above 6 thousand feet as you do at sea level, and the past few days at high elevation and little water caught up to me. I was angry that it took me that long to realize what was happening but glad I realized it before it got more serious.

A night of "heavy drinking" let me complete the 120 or so miles I had to get to Bloomfield/ Farmington but not easily. I had a few occurrences where I believe I was hallucinating ( turning my head & seeing a car, waiting a couple of seconds, not hearing anything & looking back to see no car in sight, things running across the road, weird lights in the evening). My Eminem discography helped to keep me peddling but daylight was running out. I still had some 20 miles to go when night came and was riding with just some cheap blinkers on a road that had no shoulder. I had no phone service either so I tried flagging a down a car to either get a lift or to use their phone. After 2 hours of riding in the night a guy finally pulled over and let me use his cellphone, I got a lift into town and was so tired that I didn't feel tired at all.

I've spent the beginning of December just laying around, drinking lots and resting a ton. I'm hoping to head out Monday and make it to the Grand Canyon by midweek, after that it's off to Las Vegas. I'm pretty sure that from there I will head west onto the coastal highway and North into San Francisco as opposed to going North through Nevada and then somehow trying to make it across Yosemite Park into SF. There is a good chance most of those mountain passed could be closed this time of year anyway.

I seem to have stopped thinking while being off the bike. I've focused all of my attention to being safe on the road that when I get off I end up doing some silly things. This past week I've hit my head on several doors, fell down stairs, walked into things and even burnt myself twice. I wonder if I stayed on the bike for 10 hours a day and then just slept the rest of the time if it would be possible to forget how to walk after a month or two; or at least become really clumsy at it. Sort of like the people who live with animals in the wild and forget how to socialize with people after a while.

That's all I've got for now, look for another post soon dealing with my thoughts on reality and survival that this trip has evoked!

Peace (:




Saturday, November 26, 2011

Adaptation.

As opposed to doing a write up of the past few days I'm just going to post some simple observations/ thought I've had in the past few days in New Mexico.

Thu Nov 24, 2011. Crossed into NM! Met by strong winds not in my favor. Slept near a ghost town on abandoned cattle grazing grounds. Eerie feel to the whole place, weird sounds at night.

Fri Nov 25, 2011 2:39 AM- Awoken by 50 mph wind gusts. Tent survived. 5500' lower 30's.

9:30 AM- On the road, averaging 5 mph. Very strong head/ side wind. 40°

11:30 AM- Wind ended in an instant. Cruising at 15-20 mph. Minimal climbing. 6500' 52°

1:20 PM- Calm; tail wind. Passing a dormant but not yet extinct volcano. Some clouds ahead.

1:29 PM- Hail is falling, 1/8th inch diameter max. Winds at 40mph+. Temperature dropped. Found shelter just in time in an abandoned building. 7000' 38°

1:58 PM- Hail ended, freezing rain started.

2:43 PM- In a gift shop writing out postcards. Cold.

3:12- Western skies look clear. Decided to move on. Wet roads on highway translate to wet shoes. 35°

4:28- Fencing everywhere, can't find a camp spot. Cold. Frostbite risk if I don't warm up/ dry out soon. 6500' 32°

5:42 PM - Freezing. At a cattle farm. Owners said I could camp by the main road, people complained & I ended up by the slaughter house. Shit. 30°

5:57 PM- eating a pb&j sandwich. Can't think straight. Calm outside, 28°

6:54 PM- Can't fall asleep. Frustrated & angry at myself that I'm riding through such beautiful country yet can't find spots to camp at. How could someone just fence these mountains off? It doesn't make sense.


Sat Nov 26, 2011 1:54 AM- Snow coating on the ground. Incredibly strong winds, tent stakes became undone and I am literally being moved by the wind. For the first time ever, I am scared for my life.

4:32 AM- Woke up to a ton of snow inside my tent. The shit hit the fan fast. Got inside one of the barns, complete blizzard conditions outside. Dragged my tent through a foot of snow in some spots.

5:01 AM- Got everything mostly dry. Hope they don't kick me out of here. Not sure what I'll do tomorrow. NOAA weather is stating "clear, lows in the 20's, heavy wind" for the Raton area, which I am about 10 miles & 500' ele. higher from. This tells you (and myself) how sporadic & uncertain the weather can be out here.

6:53 AM- Hit my head on the low farm door trying to go outside to take care of business. Headlamp took the hit & cracked.

7:12 AM- Farm foreman was glad to find me inside as opposed to frozen to death outside. Skies have cleared, some snow on the ground. Calisthenics routine of 50 sit ups & pushups to warm up before getting out of my sleeping bag.

9:14 AM- On the road, 21°, wind chill of 8°. Wearing 4 layers, 2 pairs of gloves, socks & hats.

10:35 AM- Made it to Raton, NM. 7000' up, warming up.

11:20 AM- On my way to Cimarron Canyon.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving!

Just want to thank the staff at Allsups for giving me a full thanksgiving feast, complete with all the trimmings.

About 3 miles from New Mexico currently, some 4600' up. Relatively warm, in the high 50's.

Whoever put this sign up never rode on the GWB or west side during a storm VVVVV

(:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Into the unknown...

It's decided, I will be venturing into the high peaks of the Rockies to make it west. I contemplated going south through the middle of New Mexico, but with that I miss the opportunity to visit the 4 corners, Grand Canyon, and some 13,000+ foot peaks. I feel confident in my decision and I'm sure that I will make it across just fine.

It will get cold ( down to the negatives), it will be windy ( making the wind chill temperature even lower) and it will be a challenge. There is a chance that I might get stuck somewhere for a while waiting out a snow storm. Ice on the roads is also a hazard that I have to be cautious of, as well as constantly changing weather conditions.

I'll be carrying enough food to last me a week and will have enough water at all times for at least 2 days. There is, however, a very minute chance that I might not make it out. On that note I want to thank everyone who has helped me along the way, everyone who has been following my journey, and everyone who supported what I'm doing. I hope you all get to one day experience the freedom, adventure and solitude that I've got to. To end I'll paraphrase Christopher McCandles: "I now bike... Into the wild."

Check back in a week or so for another update & to read about the Sangre de Cristo Mountains!

Peace, -W

The open Texan road.

Another week has passed, making it 8 weeks on the road. Somewhere east of Wichita Falls also marked the halfway point between NY & San Francisco. Currently ( in Amarillo, TX) I'm some 1200 miles from CA & 1500 miles from New York. The halfway point of this whole trip should be west of Las Vegas, meaning I will have traveled well over 5 thousand miles and climbed some 150,000 vertical feet.

Texas turned out to be awesome. The folks out here are truly amazing, the scenery is grand, the roads are in great shape and the temperature is just right. Texas is currently in the longest 1- year drought ever, so I sure hope that as soon as I'm out of here you guys get all the rain you can handle.

The beginning of the week was spent on highway 82. Temperatures were in the 80's and I was flying north-west thanks to a tail wind. Wednesday night a cold front came through and that night the temperature dropped to the low 20's. I figured this would be my first cold test as I've never camped out in cold weather before. I stayed on what I believe was an oil field; it was unimproved land for the most part and I was able to get far from the road, didn't hear a car all night. In the morning the temperature was 30° outside, some 40° in my tent, and a toasty 75° inside my sleeping bag. With a liner and some warmer clothes I'm positive I can handle a low of 0° when I'm traversing the Rockies next week. Frost covered everything that morning so I slept in and let the sun do it's job.

The next day I picked up my first package from home in Greenville, TX. Got a ton of chocolate from my mom, some warmer clothes and a new tire for my bob trailer. I also go my sunglasses from a friend and some welcomed extras. After some 2 months on the road it was definitely nice to receive those things.

I camped out at a city park that night after getting permission from the local police station, and then continued north until I hit Hgw 82 and then 287, which I've been on for the past few days.

My animal encounters this week have been few, the only memorable occurrence was finding my stove pouch half inside a tree all torn up after I left it outside at night. I've been warned to watch out for rattlesnakes, but I doubt many are still out this time of year.

As I'm headed into western America I'm seeing a big change in not only the scenery, but people and their lifestyle. They lead good, honest lives. They're thankful for what they have and are satisfied with the life they're leading. Simply put, their content. (At least that's the impression I'm getting.) Even the radio stations here are simple. They advertise local businesses, don't go out of their way with gimmicks to entice you, and play good 'ol country songs.

Heading on 285 I saw the landscape gradually change from green & lush to yellow & dry. Elevation wise everything was gradual as well. Greenville was at about 500' above sea level and Amarillo is at around 3000'. All the climbing was done in the big ring and most of it was via false flats.

Going to spend another night in Amarillo while I make my decision whether to head North-west into the high Rockies (mostly via highway 64 through Raton, Taos, Farmington, etc.) or go south west on the desolate highway 60. Each route presents it's challenges but folks are definitely urging me to go south to avoid the unpredictable weather up north and cold temperatures.

In the meantime I uploaded some new photos to my flickr account which is on the side >, feel free to check them out!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sickness

Oct. 31- Nov. 6th

This past week has been pretty tough, I lost my cell phone (not that I'm a big fan of them) and got sick. The highlight was staying with a couple from warmshowers.org in Pensacola who treated me to some amazing home- baked bread and soup & let me stay with them for 2 nights. Thanks Ray & Donna!

Biking with a bad cold is a ton of fun. You can't see much because you are constantly tearing, you can't pedal because you're achy, and it's hard to breath since you're nose is stuffy and you're coughing. Recovery is slowed due to the constant stress on your body, and you're worried about getting sicker. I haven't really wanted to write about any of this as I hate complaining about such menial problems but I guess it's all a part of this trek. It was probably my fault that I got sick ( swimming in cold Gulf water on a relatively cold day is never a good idea) but I'm getting through it while still keeping a positive outlook and enjoying every second as I wheeze and puff down the road.

When crossing state lines you definitely feel a sense of accomplishment, especially after 2 weeks and some 900 miles in the same state ( Florida). Georgia had some nice bike lanes and friendly people, & while road condition deteriorated much in Mississippi the people stayed nice. I enjoyed being out on the 4 lane divided state highways, they pose no distraction to my peddling, offer a nice wide shoulder and usually have plenty of spots to camp out at along side them. Traffic is usually light and I don't have to think about turning left or right, I just go.

Nov. 7 on

Tuesday turned out to be a very interesting day. The plan was to make it over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg and continue west into Louisiana. Both google maps and my gps showed me two bridges; the I-20 interstate bridge and the old highway 80 bridge, and both routed me to take the highway 80 bridge. It turned out the old route 80 bridge has been closed for some time, and that it's only used for special events. I talked with the visitors center and they arranged for someone to take me over the bridge. After waiting a good hour it turned out they couldn't take me across after all. I was told I should "take my chances on the I-20 bridge". "And possibly die?" I asked. "nah, we had people do it before". How this state worker knew that people had crossed it before or why he was suggesting I break the law (bicycles/ pedestrians are prohibited on interstates) is beyond me. Since the next crossing was 60 miles south or 30 miles north via a ferry I decided to "take my chances". I took the onramp and was riding on a foot-wide shoulder that had metal water drains with cut outs parallel to my wheels. After successfully making it over about 30 of them my rear tire sunk in and immediately flatted. A couple of feet later I came to the bridge connection, two hair-comb ending interlocking plates that don't really come together all that well and leave a 3" wide by by 2' long gap. Surly my front tire fell in and I was stuck. Thankfully my fender didn't brake and my wheel stayed true, but a flat was a given. Trying to figure out what to do on the interstate shoulder I noticed my trailer tire flatted at some point to. The next exit of this damn interstate (it was elevated) was 4 miles west and all my wheels were flat. I walked for about 2 miles until I found a spot where the ground was low enough below me (some 12 feet), took out my paracord, tied it to a lamp post, and repelled my bike, trailer, & then myself down. My cord snapped and I fell, trapping my arm under a rock. I spent 126 hours trying to cut it off... Just kidding, but I did repel down the side of an interstate.

I had no spare tubes; just 2 patches and some glue left. I couldn't see any houses nor cars, just a dirt road and some railroad tracks. I was at least 15 miles from the nearest town and at least 80 from the nearest bike shop. It was starting to rain. I was screwed. I spent 3 hours using electrical tape, crazy glue and some old patches to fix the 10 or so punctures that I had acquired going over metal grates. It worked, and I made it some 15 miles west. I stopped at a gas station to ask where I could camp and was told the area I was in wasn't very nice, and that I will probably get robbed. The owner said I could stay behind the gas station, but as I was about to do that I heard I was currently in a tornado/ severe thunderstorm zone. I ended up getting a motel and stayed there trough the next day hoping to cure my cold a bit as it had moved down into my chest. I watched Hgtv all day and realized that I miss my tools and working.

Currently in Louisiana, can't understand a word the people say. Instead of rudely asking "what" 100 times I just end up nodding nowadays.
It should be another day before I make it to Texas. Hopefully the weather stays nice, my cold goes away, and I don't flat anymore; but even if it all goes to shit who cares, It'll still be a good ride.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

No Sleep til Brooklyn

40 days of travel, 40 more to go before California.

My week started off in southern Florida on a pretty bad note. Getting out of Miami turned out to be a hassle, but after 2 flats and some negativity from people I made it into (and out of) alligator valley. South-western Florida was such a bad experience that I got angry at the whole state and decided to bike through the night in hopes of getting north quicker. I took a 2 hour nap in a parking lot and made a couple of rest stops but other then that I biked straight for 30 hours and covered well over 200 miles. I was angry. Really angry at the fact that I spent most of that time passing shopping malls and stores. It wasn't the route I took, no, highways to the east & west turned out to be the same; hundreds of stores selling bullshit items that we don't really need, repeating themselves over and over again. I lost count of how many fast food places I passed and how many food stores were within a few feet of each other. 50 miles of store after store after store. Rationally and logically it made no sense, what kind of a society would want this? Main street always made sense to me; a couple of stores serving a small community, friendly staff & proud small business owners that knew what they were selling. These malls that we all flocked to for the sake of saving a few dollars are the complete opposite.

I was also angry at the people. People who would stare me down and not even ask what I was doing or where I was going. People who would flip me off when I waved to them or nodded. People who ignored me even after I said hi to them trying to end the staring contest they were trying to win with me. Whats up with this animosity and hatred I'm experiencing? In NY people are "cold" but keep to themselves, in southern Florida people made it a point to show their detest towards me.

As I rode north this started to fade, yet the unwelcomeness was still felt. "Hi I'm biking to blah blah blah, looking for a place for the night.. Know where I can find a spot to pitch my tent?" I asked one couple. "nope, you won't find any place like that around here."

I stayed at a state park for two nights, taking a rest day to get away from people and to reflect on a lot of things. Much of that day was spent just laying on a picnic table thinking. I got sad, and then miserable. I would have days like this back home, but haven't experienced any on the road so I guess everything caught up to me. I knew it was only temporary. I gave myself that time though, and let my mind wander. In the morning it was overcast and raining, but I felt revived. People started being more pleasant as I went further north, and my ubiquitous joy came back. I stayed at two state parks the following nights and met some awesome people along the way.

I'm now headed west, hoping to be out of Florida by Thursday, through Alabama on Friday, and out of Mississippi by the end of the weekend. That's the plan, not sure about anything else. Might end up picking crops somewhere along the way if I find the work just for the experience (:

Spending Halloween night on a beach near Carrabelle, FL. No rain fly; just the sound of the ocean and the view of thousands of stars above me.

Peace, W

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Alligator, Alligators"

Saw about three dozen of them today! They're big & fat & lazy. Also saw a panther crossing the road, also pretty lazily.

UPDATE: New photos up on flickr!


SAM_3385



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Boar me not!

Couldn't sleep all night. Why? Wild boars kept creeping around in the woods, coming near my tent and oinking obnoxiously. At first I didn't know what it was, then I finally spotted em walking past my tent. I jumped out and chased them away. It didn't help as soon they were back and I was back out of my tent chasing boars and getting bit by mosquitoes. In the morning I spotted a few larger ones, good thing I didn't run into them at night! Will update this post with photos of 'em when I get a chance.

While biking through Daytona beach, FL I looked back and saw what looked like my trailer rolling besides me. After a delayed reaction I look back again confused by what I just saw. It was a human powered tricycle, very aerodynamic, cruising past me. As I was catching his draft people on the street kept pointing and laughing. I'm not sure if they thought his vehicle was funny, my trailer, me dressed in spandex or the whole ordeal put together.

Will be in Miami after 3 consecutive 100 mile+ days, hoping to rest a bit tomorrow. (:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Laziness & The Wind

I hit a corner stone the other day- Florida, the 9th out of 40 or so states that I will visit on this trip. With Florida came two things: unexpected laziness and expected coastal winds. The wind make going more then 10 miles an hour hard, and the frustration of not being able to go any faster leaves me out laying on the beach for hours not really wanting to do much.

Before I hit Florida I made my way through South Carolina & Georgia. I passed through Columbia which was probably the cleanest city I've ever been to, and then through Savannah which was fleeing with tourists. Finding camp spots wasn't too difficult but not exactly easy either, the only memorable spot was at a Pine-tree forest of a state park. Since most of the lower vegetation was dead due to the lack of sunlight it was easy for me to get far from the road and not have to hear a single car all night.

The roads in Georgia were mostly flat and straight, seeming to go on forever. I'd get bored a bit and start dreaming about food and everything that I would like to eat then & there. I'd finally get to a gas station after what seemed like hundreds of miles, buy whatever I've been dreaming of (mostly soda, chocolate, donuts & ice-cream) and have it not taste as great as I imagined it would. I'd tell myself "That's it! No more of this artificial shit!" and hit the road angry that I stopped where I had only to stop again at the next store 10 miles down the road to buy more of the same crap.

NJ had wide shoulders, PA had very little traffic, VA drivers were pretty careful, NC had the Blue Ridge Pkwy; Georgia and Florida have bike lanes that are covered by rumble strips. It definitely made covering the miles fa-uh-uh-uh-un-nn! I got on A1A & was disappointed as all it turned out to be was a busy road going through populated areas and cities. The beaches definitely made up for it though; you just can't beat white sand & clear water. Everyone I met in Florida has been unbelievably nice. However insignificant that bottle of water or free snack you gave me might seem it meant a whole lot to me. The conversations I have with people and the help I receive makes me sure of what I always insisted was right; that most of the world is good, and that however divided we might seem we will still help one another.

I spent the past two days at St. Josephs Carmelite Monastery in Bunnell, FL. They people here have been more then accommodating, letting me take a shower, cooking me some food and getting me some work. I have some 250 miles left til Miami, then I'll be making my way through Alligator Valley and onto the gulf coast. Will try and update this once I'm over there! Thanks for reading & I hope you enjoyed my stories from the road thus far. (:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'm 19 years old and have been homeless for 21 days.

I've never been happier.

Last night I stayed at the best campsite to date, a lake side spot in a state park. I made a fire, took some awesome shots, swam, and then fell asleep to the sound of lake ripples and the smell of a camp fire. Honestly, there was nothing that could have made that evening better.

Today while riding and listening to some Simon & Garfunkle I got a flat in my rear - trailer tire. I pulled over to the side and started to change it but was soon attacked by hundreds of fire ants and ended up running in the street trying to get my shoes and socks off as quickly as possible. I patched my tire and tube and was on my way with just a few more bug bites.

I'm staying at a friends family house tonight, probably the last time I'll be sleeping indoors for quite a while. I've restocked my supplies thanks to the generosity of my teammate Norms' family and am ready for the long haul south into Miami. Some new photos below, more on my Flickr!

SAM_2964

but I'm not at a cemetery...?

The View

hayyyy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Guilty Happiness.

This is going to be more of a personal post, as I want you to see every part of this journey that I'm on and not just the outside, happy-go-lucky stuff.

I've passed many areas and small towns in which people have very little. They're struggling to make ends meet, lead simple lives, and don't have much opportunity to move up. I feel guilty in a way that I'm able to have the freedom, happiness, and carefree attitude that I do. It almost doesn't seem real, as if at any moment it will all end and I'll be in their place. I sometimes wonder if I'm just lucky to be able to do this and to have everything so "easy". Then again the concept of easy/hard is relative so to most what I've done probably seems like a struggle worth national fame. The end result from all this is the realization of how little all the shit you concern yourself with really matters.

I don't think this will make much sense to most people, you have to really experience it & then have it come from within as opposed to just reading about it.

Anyway,
I made it to South Carolina yesterday and spend a day resting in Greenville. Sundays race took a lot out of me even though it was only a half hour. I lost my saddle and did most of it while standing; a slowly leaking front tire made me have to run through the final few turns as I couldn't corner with much efficiency. Finished 14th/ 60+ in the C race, had a blast in my first CX race and will definitely look for more along the way as I continue traveling. Tomorrow I'll be sleeping in Sumter National Forest, after that I'll head into Columbia; but for now I'm just thankful to have clean water & a warm sleeping bag. Goodnight!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences."

I've been on the road for two weeks now. Traveled probably around six to seven hundred miles, and climbed well over fifty thousand feet. I'm now sure that going through with this trip was the right decision.

I spent 3 days on the blue ridge parkway, and although it wasn't as flat as I expected it to be it was definitely beautiful. I passed by Mt.Mitchell but decided not to climb it, in hindsight I kinda wish I did. Biking is weird; when you're riding you exaggerate the pain you're in, and when you think about it later on you feel as though it was nothing.

I'm staying at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, NC for a couple of nights. The rest is welcomed but I'm getting itchy feet after just a day. While here I'll be competing in my first cyclocross race on Sunday at the Pigsah Brewery which should be a blast.

One negative aspect of this trip so far has been the dogs. They come running out of their yard & after me, some going after my foot and others after my rotating wheels. The other day I was riding on a county road when a dog ran out just as a car was passing me. The dog was hit, tumbled 30 feet and ended up in a ditch; it's hind legs were broken and road rash covered most of it's body. The owner just commented on how "stupid the damn dog is" and how he always runs out like this. I should have suggested installing a fence.

People ask me all the time whether I get lonely on the road and what I think about all day. The world is such a fascinating place with so much to explore and experience that it rarely "lets" me get lonely. Everything that surrounds me gives me comfort; I feel more alone when I'm surrounded by people then I do in nature. What I think about all day varies but is different from what most people think about. Most of the time I'm just in that moment, just thinking about what I'm seeing & hearing; just living. Other times I think about future trips I'll do, about building & architecture, about society & people & drivers. I try not to give much thought to things that don't mean anything; things that others think about just to pass their time on this planet in their constant brain fog. I'm living (and thinking) in the moment. All of the time, of course, my head is concentrated on the road ahead and staying safe... (:

I'm headed to Greenville, SC next, then to Columbia. After I'll be near the coast and should reach Florida by next Sunday. I've been checking climate patterns and temperatures for southern US in November & December, they look a bit intimidating but nothing I shouldn't be able to handle. Northern US will be a different story as I'll probably have to wait til early Spring to head out. In any case I will enjoy every day to it's fullest.

Thanks for reading and for all the support everyone has shown. All I'm looking for as far as "publicity" goes is to inspire others to travel as well. All the things that you think are holding you back are, in reality, just in your head.

Peace!

Photos are up...

Feel free to check 'em out..

http://www.flickr.com/photos/97457524@N00/


Snickers & a coke : D

Oh Mountains.

Power line crossing

Near a logging area/ farm

SO Awesome words cannot explain.

A warm welcome


Fri Sep 30, 2011- Yesterday marked my one week anniversary of being out on the road. I celebrated by dragging my bike up a 12% grade gravel road for 3 miles in the rain. I passed the Appalachian Trail on my way to the blue ridge mountain road, the white blazes made me smile and I made a mental note to remember this road crossing for next year when I'm Thru hiking. I got into Culpeper, VA, a town big enough to have picked up metropolitan silliness by having three of the same stores within a 2 mile spur of road, but was generally pleased with it. I stayed with an old friend from Middle school and got to feast on some really good muffins in the morning. Before leaving I cleaned by heavily soiled bike a bit and was on my way.

This morning the temperature forgot to get out of the 40's. I wore 4 layers & was still shivering the first few miles. After it warmed up a bit it was hard to keep cool while climbing and warm when descending. (It would stay like this for the next three days until I got on the Blue Ridge Pkwy)


Friday, September 30, 2011

The past few days...


Monday I camped at state game lands after going through King of Prussia, West Chester & Quarrysville. I passed lots of amish horse & buggies and everyone waved. Went into sasquehannock state park thinking it would be an open park, instead I found myself on a road with fencing on both sides and posted signs everywhere. Managed to find a spot at the southern part of this "park".

Tuesday- passed the susquehanna river & damn was it ugly. Construction on both sides of it with water somehow flowing in converging ways and meeting under the bridge. The fog & low cloud level didn't help with the awry feeling of this whole area either. Passed through Stewartstown after hitting a dirt road and having to walk my bike up it for a while. Got yelled in town on two separate occasions for rolling through stop signs- psh motorists should know that us cyclists are above the law! Went into shrewsbury after thinking about whether it was McDonalds or Burger King that gave you a cup & self serve- unlimited refills. Turns out McDonald does as I stopped there and had a greedy amount of 4 refills. Went into the UPS store where the nice ladies asked me if I was living "out of the back of my bike" as I had no return address to provide them with for my shipment. Happily I said yes, in awe of how free I really am. Codorus state park was really beautiful, stopped there for a swim & would have camped out if it would have been later in the day. Went through Hanover & Gettysburg, both equally pleasant towns. After that it all went to shit. Tried climbing cold springs road to get into Michaux state forest. The grade was getting really steep and I had to turn around as it was nearing 6 o clock with no camp spot in sight. Blazed through Fairfield with little luck. Finally found a spot on the low side of a dam on route 116 after trying to find one on a golf course. The weather called for thundershowers and heavy local flooding. Scared that the dam was going to burst or overflow up top and take me with it I got little sleep.

On wednesday I climbed route 16 to Blue Ridge Summit right on the border of PA/ MD border. The whole town had a northern us mountain town feel, not that I've ever been there but from what I heard and saw that they were like. Couldn't resist buying a 30g protein bar when I saw it in the store, ate it like there was no tomorrow. Continued south into Maryland and then west Virginia. Went into harpers ferry in hopes of buying a sleeping bag liner to sleep in (it's way too hot for my 20 degree down sleeping bag) but they didn't have one. Had to spend more time on the freeway climbing the hill that I just flew down. Took side roads south while staying on the western side of the Shenandoah river & blue ridge mountain range (and therefore effectively avoiding some major climbing) Ended up somewhere just south of the west Virginia / Virginia border & stayed in the backyard of a church. A really nice fellow from the house in front of the church came by asking me if I needed anything. The first sign of "road magic" (as opposed to trail magic on the AT) that I've come across. Thankyou! It got a bit cold at night & I had to rely on my sleeping bag to keep me toasty. It the morning I made tea. All is good in the world.

What's that smell?

Tue, Sep 27, 2011- Today, I decided to stop at state park and go for a cool, refreshing swim. It was great, except that after I got back on the bike I still kept smelling this unsettling odor. Was it my clothes? No because I was walking around in them after my swim with no stink. My socks? Shoes? Nope they're located too low for my nose to really pick 'em up. Finally I figured it out, it was my helmet. Yeap, the thin padding inside and the side straps really start to hold an odor after being on your head (and un-shampooed hair) for 8 hours a day. No worries, washed it out at the state park bathroom and now all it did was keep my head cool since it was soaking wet. Problem- solution. Simple & the way things should be.

Monday, September 26, 2011

From a barnes&noble hotspot..


It's day 5 of my trip! I've made it to Philadelphia & decided to stay the night. Going to pick up a rear rack and some water bottles today & then it should be smooth sailing down to NC through Virginia. Haven't decided if I'm going to go into DC yet.

The areas I've been passing through have been a bit too busy for my liking. I chose the route I did mainly due to the fact that I've always wanted to see Cape May, southern NJ shore & Philly, but now I can't wait to be out of here. The mosquitos have left a bad taste of Jersey in my mouth anyway, as my days have consisted of either riding or hiding in my tent from the hundreds of mosquitos buzzing around it. I've become quite good at setting up camp in under 2 minutes though.

My first "camp" spot was a beach side pavilion near Seaside Heights. A police cruiser came by late at night but I doubt he saw me. I was woken up at 6 in the morning by a lady walking her dog; asking me if I'm alright. I told her I was, turned around and slept for another hour.

Second night around I slept near a commercial for-sale building, and the third a power-line clearing. Camping has been one of those nagging worries that I had before leaving, but it turned out to be no problem at all. Every hour I pass dozens of suitable tenting areas that would kept me away from the public eye while providing a quiet nights rest. I did stop at one camp ground though just to ask what they were charging. Turns out 50 bucks doesn't go far these days; it'll get you a 10x10 section of dirt for one night.

While on the road my competitiveness keeps my speed up. I don't know who or what I'm racing against, but seeing anything below 15.5mph on my Garmin is unacceptable. Surely the road will beat me up over time and I will naturally slow down, but for now the fact that I'm dragging a 50 pound trailer behind me seems to have no impact on my mental stubbornness. The terrain in New Jersey has been all flat, with bridge crossings peaking in elevation.

When I first started my tour I had zero miles logged in with a handle-bar bag and a trailer. After 40 miles I finally got the hang of pedaling while standing (and not wobbling like a crazed drunk) and came to terms with my lack of available acceleration. I took both bags off for the first time today and couldn't keep my handlebars straight. All I could think was; "My handlebars can turn this fast? Damn." Soon enough I got adjusted to the feel and was pacing cars just like back in NYC.

The first part on my trip- integration, (ie. setting up a routine, planning my route, bag organization, gear testing) is complete. Now that I've got everything under wrap I'm ready to really start enjoying my new care- free adventure. Will try to get some more photos up soon! Thanks to everyone for your support. -W

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Toms river NJ, 30 mile day

Who knew random pavilions near the beach had public wifi? Much less electrical outlets! Who cares, this is awesome.

Started today around 6 pm and biked til 8 pm, found this pavilion after fearing I would have to bike all night. It's kind of close to the road but not too bad, I'm overjoyed that there are no Mosquitos.

Eatin' some almonds and chillin', life's good. Haha. No tent needed tonight as this lovely pavilion has a roof, just hoping it doesn't get windy & rainy at the same time.

Tomorrow Im planning on passing through atlantic city & end at Cape May. Always wanted to see cape may Victorian houses. Saturday I will probably head north a bit and go into Philly (yes, I want to run up Rocky's steps)

Great start so far!

& so it starts.

Today is September 22nd, 2011. I am about to embark on an journey that many only dream of. With my first pedal stroke and my handlebars pointed south, I will start a life of adventure and vagabonding. First trek- bicycle from New York City to Florida.

Prologue:
I finished cleaning everything out, made sure my gear was good to go, and took one final trip to my storage unit to unload some more junk. I took a ride around the place I've been living for the past 9 years- Staten Island. Everything was different. Drivers cutting me off and not using turn signals didn't bother me, pot holes didn't bother me, ugly cars and pollution didn't bother me. Instead old memories filled my head. Places that I had good times at just hanging out, places that I first went to when I came to Staten Island. I went by my old schools and I didn't think about the hours of torture I endured there doing absolutely nothing, wishing I could be outside. I thought about those few times that I actually enjoyed it. I thought about some of my past teachers whose classes taught me a great deal. I visited my old childhood friends houses and wondered what they would be doing now if they were still here.It was nice to call a truce with the place that I have been cursing for a while now. It also feels good to know that for the most part, I am leaving on a positive note.

With that said I'm ready to move on; to see new places, live through new experiences, and find what really matters in life.