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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Las Vegas & Death Valley


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 (:

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!

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 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 (: