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42 Blog Entries
4 Trips
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The Great Pan-American Synchronistic Cycle Extravaganza Unlimited
Two-Wheel Heart Attack Fuck the World West Coast Bicycle Ride-A-Thon of the Millenium
The CaliforniaX 9000 Autumnal Bicycle Bonanza
Odds and Ends

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Camaraderie on the Coastline

Astoria, United States

The eerie specter of Humptulips rapidly transmutes to renewed cheer as we wheel into a blink of town called Copalis Crossing.

A sandwich board advertising broccoli draws us to Voss Acres Produce Market (www.vossacres.com), a homespun operation run out of a garage.

Sharon Voss comes out to greet us and, though the store is closed, offers us a “sidedoor shop” as she slides open the glass door and pulls the till out of the safe.

Z and I browse the fresh produce, much of which came from the Voss’ 6,000 square-foot garden just out the window, as Sharon relates the history of the place.

The house that she shares with her husband, Steve, was originally built in Tumwater, Washington – 60 some miles to the east – as a bunk unit for rail workers building lines to accommodate timber harvest in the late 1800s.

As the rail was built, the house traveled along behind it, eventually settling right here in nothing-doin Copalis Crossing. It served as a train depot and then a post office before falling into disrepair many years later.

Steve has since done an amazing job of refurbishing the place.

Sharon takes joy in sharing regional artifacts with us – ceramic model T spark plugs dug up in the yard, an antique olive pitter, old photos of the nearby Aloha Lumber Company mill owned by the Dole (of pineapple fame) brothers, who were raised in Hawaii and crafted primitive finless surfboards from pungent Washington cedar wood starting around 1902.

We enjoy Sharon’s stories and simple cheer, and roll into Copalis Beach at sunset feeling careless and enchanted and ready for drink.

There’s only one place to drink in Copalis Beach. The river winds through a short slough to the ocean and, just south, as just south as it could be, sits Green Lantern Tavern.

(View from the tavern next morning at breakfast.)

The nondescript bar is empty but for two patrons.

“San Diego!” exclaims Bob, a rounded country man perched with his apologetic but not surprised blonde wife or girlfriend at the end of the bar. “Well, all I got to say is that it’s nice to meet some folks from San Diego who ain’t queer.”

It becomes Bob’s mantra for the evening: “You San Diego folks are welcome here as long as you ain’t queer,” cheerily, even long after the bartender suggests that perhaps it's San Francisco he's thinking of, the queers and all.

Bob orders us two shots of a rather Yuletidely liqueur and, drunk now, says, “yall throw your bikes in the back of my truck now and you can camp out on my property.”

He offers it several times throughout the night, and when we eventually decline, he erupts, saying, “you turn down old Billy Bob’s hospitality? Weeeeelll! That’s on YOU now! That’s YOUR karma now. And that’s BAD karma!”

“Are you doing hoojoo on us?” Z asks with her adorably amused grin.

“Yes I am!” he declares, beaming with self-satisfaction. “That’s YOUR bad karma now!”

We entertain the validity of ole Billy Bob’s voodoo, briefly, but soon take up Pebbles’ offer to stay in her trailer just a block away at a campground.

Pebbles is a beautiful, nervous, open-hearted woman who dearly wants to take us out of the rain for the night. So we sip wine in her RV listening to a Luke Redfield album as she tells us about the abusive alcoholic man she is on the run from. He’s hit her for the last time. If she sees him, she’ll kill him. If he comes tonight, we’ll help.

Next morning we ride a few miles south to Ocean Shores and spend a few days waiting out rain and concocting some articles for work. The beaches are surreal and everything feels like a simulation.

The feeling is amplified as we bus into Westport, a fisherman’s foggy painted-by-memory town on a peninsula across the water from Aberdeen.

We park our bikes at the Knotty Pine Tavern, the surliest dive on the West Coast, and meet a vacationing young couple from Puyallup who teach us how to gamble on the state-issue punch boards.

“It’s like this,” Anna says as she jabs away heedlessly at the bacon board like a blind dowser probing for groundwater.

She wins two pounds of bacon in about ten minutes, and we hope it isn’t just drunken camaraderie when she and Jordan invite us over to their hotel tomorrow for oysters and crab and beer all day as they lurch out of the bar in a lusty embrace.

Z and I spend the night in the bow of this crab boat, owned by a fisherman named Mike who we met at the Pine earlier.

We spend the next day sipping Rainiers and barbecuing ribs and seafood.

Here are a couple shots of Z modeling with some oysters in Bay Center, WA.

A few days later we roll into Ilwaco, a former fishing mecca on the mouth of the Columbia River that died off with the salmon and now retains the haunting infrastructure of what-once-was – vacant seafood restaurants, under-priced houses, barnacled boats moaning in the harbor, nautical waste, and the dive bar at the end of the universe, the Sea Hag, spewing drafts to the echoes of near-extinct commerce collapsing all around.

Everyone is confused as to why we are even here in the first place, but it feels right and we end up crashing with some local kids who work as occasional dockhands and, far more lucratively, clerks at the waterfront indoor gardening shop.

Next day, we bike over the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which is supposed to be terrifying, except it’s been undergoing a four-year painting process since March, so we breeze over with no cars in sight for much of the 4 mile stretch, feeling immense gratitude for the fates and a warm ambivalence to the natural laws of physics, the rules of reality, and even ole Billy Bob’s well-meaning, cross-eyed, dumbass back-country hoodoo.

permalink written by  chaddeal on June 17, 2012 from Astoria, United States
from the travel blog: Two-Wheel Heart Attack Fuck the World West Coast Bicycle Ride-A-Thon of the Millenium
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Fortune Is a Stranger

Humptulips, United States

Forks has always been a strange place.

At least, as long as I’ve known it.

Six or seven years ago, when I romped with some locals on days off from a summer job at Sol Duc Hot Springs, the exhausted lumber town stank of cedar dust, whiskey breath, and the rogue meth wisp.

Nothing ever happened, and the solitary natural invigoration came from rumors of hauntings on the A Road, a retired lumber trail that only served as a refuge for drunks and high school students looking to evade the sheriff, who was said to strap a giant fan to his back and soar over the town with a parachute, eagle-eyeing keggers and speed-trapping stray tourists who never would agree upon why they came here in the first place.

Sometime after 2008, when the Twilight vampire film and book series became the new teen-and-then-some sensation, the clear-cut coven found new blood in tourism, which I once described in the San Diego Reader around June of 2010 thusly:

Not long ago, Forks, Washington, was among the dreariest and most unremarkable expired lumber towns in the country.

Teenagers would kill time getting twisted on the “A” road, a desolate lumber route rumored to be haunted on the outskirts of town.

Others would drive a couple hours east to Port Angeles in search of nightlife or west to La Push or Second Beach on the Quileute Reservation.

Discarded lumberjacks would submit job applications with resignation at Clallam Bay Correctional Center and take long drives alone to contemplate the clear-cuts, wondering where it all went wrong.

As if to accentuate the abject tedium surrounding the small town just west of Olympic National Park, the rain never stopped and the clouds never parted.

Which is exactly why author Stephanie Meyers chose Forks as the setting for her bestselling vampire love novel Twilight, the premise of which came to her in a dream. Having Goggled the rainiest place in the U.S. (121 inches a year), Phoenix native Meyers wrote the book without ever visiting the town of just over 3,000 residents.

Forks saw a 600% increase in tourism almost overnight after the book’s publication in 2005. Corner store profits doubled, shop windows posted signs reading “We love Edward and Bella,” and cafés renamed their menu items to include characters’ names as fanatics swarmed to Forks from all over the world.

The mania was bolstered by the 2008 release of Twilight the movie, which was never actually filmed in Forks. Regardless, buildings were designated as sites from the story for the Twilight tour.

The Miller Tree Inn became the Cullen House. Owning one of the few two-story residences in town, locals Kim and David McIrvin volunteered their home to be Bella’s house. Shop workers dressed up like characters from the movie. Forks fully embraced Meyers’ imagination of itself, and the money it brought with it. In a surreal way, Forks became the Forks of Twilight – a town modeled after a book inspired by a dream.

Now you can spot Bella’s red ’56 Chevy truck parked in front of the Visitors Center on the south side of town. You can contend with droves of predominantly female fans for memorabilia at the Dazzled by Twilight store. You can track down the police chief who happily plays the role of Bella’s father and stay at the Miller Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast. You’ll probably need to make reservations.

But once the madness blows over, when the adolescent masses tire of chasing the vampire daydream, when Jacob’s blackberry cobbler is once again just a slice of blackberry cobbler in the middle of nowhere, and all that remains are the damp sidewalks and a few straggling tourists on their way to Sol Duc Hot Springs and the San Juans, what will become of eerie Forks, Washington?

Just how long does it take to clear-cut a dream?

As it turns out, not a lot has changed.

Every aspect of Forks is still sucking off the dream:

Some 40 miles on bike from Sol Duc, Z and I poke into the Mill Creek Bar and Grill. We drink cheap beer and whisky in a recently remodeled bar whose menu reads in Twilight font.

A bald and bearded local makes conversation.

“I used to work in the cedar mills as a boy. Then that all went under. Now, this Twilight thing? Yeah, it’s working this year. The people are still here. They come for Twilight. Then they come back for the area. For Forks, the area. They see what’s here. The falls, the trails, the beaches, the forests…”

Certainly, the Olympic Peninsula is one of the last remaining wonders of the wild, lesser-bastardized tracts of Good America. Much of it protected National Park, the place is set, for now.

Later, many drinks later, our bartender, a woman in her mid-thirties maybe, reiterates a similar idea.

“Everyone comes for Twilight. But they come back for this place. I’ve seen people from Sweden, Iceland, Portugal, everywhere. They all come back just to see what else is out here.”

The new metaphor is obvious.

When once Forks thrived on the gratuitous clear-cut of timber, the town now celebrates a return of vibrancy via the voyeuristic suckling of the area’s remaining natural virtues.

What remains.

Vampires glimmer in sunlight.

These woods glow in Arizona eyes.

Ebb and flow.




(By the way - Don't you dare judge Forks for theme-parking this notion. You would do the same, and your dream would still have its own sanctity. Your daughter is an embryonic Dolly Parton. America dreams for you, etcetera.)

We catch a ride with two Wisco kids down to Kalaloch Resort on the coast – their summertime Aramark gig - and nearly drive up the asshole of a deer as it bounds off the highway at the last minute while our driver changes the Ziggy Marley CD to something more Dead.

Next morning – the waitress says the 101 highway ahead is more “clear-cuts and trees” – a contradiction we’ve encountered plenty already. So we hop a bus to Quinault, then Humptulips.

We quickly discover Humptulips to be a profoundly creepy nexus of humanity – the stuff of Dean Koontz coffee beans breakfast and R.L. Stine’s to-be-continued ellipses.

“I moved here twelve years ago,” says the storekeeper in a clinical tone, like he’s diagnosing an exotic cancer. “It’s quiet here. Unfortunately, since the lumber work went, probably because of the Spotted Owl, the industry has died. It’s mostly Hispanics now. Many people turned to the crank. I try not to judge. I see these people every day. Out of simple compassion, I can only see that some have chosen to take this path. It isn’t my path. But I see it every day. And it’s sad. These are capable men. Good men. You know, out here, I don’t worry about things. Not like in Seattle. I moved my family out here for a more simple life. I don’t worry about your regular city crime. That isn’t it. But we have our things like anybody else. Just last year, there was a murder across the street. One block from here. A man was shot in the back with a crossbow. Then they killed his wife with a hatchet. Well, I shouldn’t say ‘they.’ It was one man. He killed her with a hatchet.”

A slow silence as we check out our landjeagers and fire paste and sundries.

“Drugs?” I offer.

“He just lost it,” the man says, still both entirely involved and removed like a dentist.

"He just lost it."

These words follow us to the campsite down the street, as marked by our bike guide book from 2005.

The site, evidently, is entirely abandoned – the bathrooms overgrown and the cabins full of garbage and the only sound a horror movie sine-wave moan from the overhead metal-halide lamp buzzing into the surreal Humpulips clouded sunset night.

We bike away, west.

  • Note - Shit gets way better, but I don’t have time to write about it now. We are safe and sound in cosmopolitan Ocean Shores, Washington – the kite flying and razor claming capitol of the state – and we’ve some fine tales to tell. Stand by for the next installment.

  • permalink written by  chaddeal on June 8, 2012 from Humptulips, United States
    from the travel blog: Two-Wheel Heart Attack Fuck the World West Coast Bicycle Ride-A-Thon of the Millenium
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    Sleep to Dream on the San Juans

    Friday Harbor, United States

    A hot sun overhead, now, we roll into Coupeville in the early afternoon and stop in at Toby’s Taven on the town’s historic port waterfront.

    The bartender, a raspy woman in a Harley Davidson vest, lists off the day’s specials – fresh cod caught this morning, chowder, mussels.

    “The mussels are from Sequim,” she says almost apologetically, “ever since the boat thing...”

    The boat thing turns out to be a 140-foot fishing vessel that caught fire and sank two weeks ago in the area’s famous Penn Cove mussel beds, which are now contaminated by over 1,400 gallons of leaked oil.

    “We have to wait for the environment people to survey the wreckage before pulling the boat out of the bay,” the bartender explains, “and nobody knows what will happen to all the diesel on board once the boat moves. They’ve said the boat could split in half when they go to pull it up.”

    The prospects are dismal for the small bayside town, their crown industry on hold, but the mood is festive in Toby’s as a local middle-aged couple posts up next to us and, seeing our bikes loaded with gear in the corner, remark “that sure looks tough!”

    The half-drunk newlyweds are impressed and paternal when we explain our intentions, saying, “Deception Pass! There’s no way you can bike there today! It’s gotta be twenty miles! Just pitch your tent in the woods somewhere. Did you bring a flashlight? Do you have food? You need meat. Do you have any jerky? You goofballs are crazy!”

    We tell them about our chat with the local at China City last night and the couple agrees.

    “Oh yeah, there’s not much real crime on the island. The Barefoot Bandit was probably the biggest thing to happen here. That guy was a genius!”

    The so-called Barefoot Bandit was a teenager from Camano Island, directly east of Whidbey, who is believed to be responsible for around 100 thefts in Washington, Idaho, and Canada, including bicycles, automobiles, personal planes, and speedboats.

    It’s said that he flew the Cessna 400 he stole from Indiana in July, 2010 and then crash landed in the Bahamans with skills he developed from watching instructional DVDs and playing flight simulators.

    The Bandit was captured a few days later on the islands and, just this January, sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison.

    During his sentencing, bandit Colton Harris-Moore addressed the court, saying that it’s "no stretch of the imagination to say that I'm lucky to be alive."

    We take off down Madrona Road, a scenic detour recommended by the bartender at China City. Between the red, glossy branches of the namesake madrone trees we see the floating wood flats of the mussel farm and, behind them, a large area quarantined with orange buoys where the sunken vessel rests on the Penn Cove floor.

    At a crossroads, the Sheriff rolls up and my thoughts flash to Easy Rider – “I still say they’re not going to make the parish line” – but it turns out that, a cyclist himself, he just wants to recommend an alternative coastal route to get us away from the evening Highway 20 traffic.

    “Look up to the trees on the right once you top the hill into the farmland,” he says. “There’s an eagle’s nest up there about the size of a VW Bug.”

    The next morning we head north from Deception Pass State Park and romp around the towering bridge feeling goofy and elated.

    The ten mile stretch to Anacortes is steep and the road is gravely, and we’re beat when we hit the ferry to the San Juan Islands.

    In Friday Harbor we grab some supplies – salami, tortillas, a rotisserie chicken – and cut through the middle of the island rolling onto the bluffs of San Juan County Park as the orange sun is halfway set between Vancouver Island mountains six miles across the Haro Strait, where hulking cargo ships churn north to port in Canada. We are calm and hungry and everything looks like a screen saver.

    In the morning we hitch into town for supplies. It’s Z’s half-birthday and we’re going to celebrate with beer and campfire quesadillas. An older gentleman picks us up outside the campground and takes us a few miles down the road to Lime Kiln State Park, where he works at the historic lighthouse – a popular whale-watching spot.

    He points out the rideshare sign – a recycle symbol with a thumbs-up in the middle – and we catch a ride in no time with a couple from Sacramento and then a housing contractor listening to Philip Glass.

    After a few hours in town we hit the road, catching a ride the moment we approach a rideshare sign. The man is enthusiastic about our bike trip and goes out of his way to drive us all the way back to the campground.

    “I spend my winters in San Diego,” he says, “at Campland by the Bay. My cardiologist down there just bought our house here and we’re moving to Anacortes. It’s just getting too expensive on the island and when you get older,” he chuckles, “you need to be close to the hospital.”

    We pass the evening chatting with our Canadian campmates and drinking the bottle of wine we bought, which is a bad batch, carbonated and acrid, but uplifting nevertheless.

    We're the last to pack up and leave camp the following afternoon. Z and I have a sleepy synergy, and our pace tends towards the languorous. Slow, spontaneous, flexible, unassuming – it’s simply how we roll.

    As such, we arrive at Roche Harbor some time later and eat bananas dipped in cacao nibs from Theo chocolate factory in Fremont - Jesse's new place of employment as a shop clerk and tour guide.

    The harbor is a former lime production town gone high end resort where tourists go to eat ice cream and donuts. We have a donut and absorb not without a sense of humor the melancholie Native American flute music piped from a stereo by the copper jewelry vendors.

    In the evening we ferry to Lopez Island. A sign by the terminal advises that “All at large dogs will be detained” – curious wordage in reference to canines.

    We post camp at the Odlin County Park a short distance down the road, right on the water.

    The landscape is flatter on Lopez, so we peddle the 4 or so miles into town to catch last call at the Galley around 11 p.m.

    A few locals sit around out front talking about Banksy and Shepard Fairey as a boxer growls at our bike lights suspiciously.

    Her owner puts her in the truck, saying: “I just got her about two weeks ago and I’m not about to coddle her and let her think it’s ok to act like this.”

    I mention the “at large dogs” sign and one of the others says, “dogs can actually be shot on sight if they get on your land here. There are so many sheep on the island that it isn’t tolerated at all.”

    Conversation continues about Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary (or mockumentary, depending on who you ask) about the British artivist Banksy in which a knock-off artist named Mr. Brainwash gains a degree of notoriety in Los Angeles by selling works that clearly rip off styles generally associated with Banksy and Andy Warhol.

    “There are plenty of conspiracies that suggest Banksy was actually working with Mr. Brainwash and the whole thing was a ploy,” one dude says.

    “It would be awesome reality hacking,” I suggest.

    “It points out the death of the American Dream,” he continues. “The American Dream says that if you have an original and relevant idea, you can go and work hard and make that idea into a business that will support you and your family to a reasonable degree. But that’s not how it works. Now, if you have an idea and you do anything about it – anything at all – pretty soon one of three things will happen.

    “One – someone will say they thought of it first and sue you for everything you’ve got, or at least run you broke with lawyer fees.

    “Two – a lawyer will exploit a loophole in the way you run your business and run you into the ground with a class action lawsuit or an ADA violation or some damn thing.

    “Three – a corporation with a competing product and more resources will buy you out. Best case scenario. Sell out your dream.”

    The notion is especially poignant in the microcosm of Lopez Island, where the grocery stores brim with local goods – pickled garlic, goat cheeses, chipotle-goji-cacao hot sauce, greens – that, while more expensive, take precedence over outside competition.

    The Dream, at least within the Puget boundaries of “the rock,” may just have a chance, for now.

    Once the Galley closes, Z and I head to karaoke at the Islander - an overpriced resort joint full of wasted vacationers.

    The $8 cocktails don’t matter, however, because a drunk man from Burlington continuously buys us shots of Bulleit bourbon as he expounds on the enduring depths of the love he has for his wife, who is talking with her girlfriends at a nearby table while a gaggle of girls twirl and toss around a roll of toilet paper on the dance floor.

    It’s sad and classic and beautiful all at once.

    I sing a terrible rendition of “Suffragette City” and the jockey cuts me off right before I get to “wham bam thank you ma'am!”

    A light rain falls on our tent as we dream.

    permalink written by  chaddeal on May 30, 2012 from Friday Harbor, United States
    from the travel blog: Two-Wheel Heart Attack Fuck the World West Coast Bicycle Ride-A-Thon of the Millenium
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    Just Add Water - The Instant Mystique of the PacNW

    Freeland, United States

    34 hours on the rails and – Seattle! – Z and I go to a pinball bar in Belltown with old friends Jesse Plack and Dave Wilkins. Everything is magical. The city a post-utopian retro-future metropolis. Mist, street dogs, the Space Needle towering over Jesse’s apartment.

    Late whiskey-fueled jams, a wedding, this giant squid bike rack.

    The ride north out of Seattle is 30 miles of smooth bike trail in light rain. We are blissful singing impromptu songs and laughing for no reason. All wet as we roll into small town Mukilteo on the Sound.

    Diamond Knot Brewery – possibly the best chowder in the multiverse, some pizza, a beer devised by Michael "Whip" Wilton of Queensryche.

    The next morning we ferry to Whidbey Island and shortly after Z’s rear tire pops, the rains come thick.

    A woman pulls over and offers a ride. Thanks, but we’ll just patch it and head on to town. Just as we realize the innertube and gorilla tape patch isn’t going to stick to the brittle and broken tire, she comes back and offers us a ride again.

    Z takes off with her for half an hour and I stand on the roadside in the rain, smelling the trees and singing songs. When they come back, the woman gives us chocolate chip cookies, says something about how the island isn’t what it used to be, but helping people out is what you do on the island, and then dots away down the highway through sheets of rain.

    We posts up at a motel in Freeland for the night, accruing just 10 waterlogged miles for the day. At the nearby China City, an ornate refurbished Victorian mansion gone Chinese restaurant and sports bar, we have noodles and cocktails talking to the bartender and a local who brings up conversation as we laugh out loud at the Whidbey paper’s police reports showcasing the mundane trespasses of the island: a twelve-year-old isn’t obeying his mother. Some teenagers are talking very loudly about how “high” they are. A man looks suspicious as he crosses the street. Someone almost drove over the speed limit.

    “It’s a safe island,” our barmate says. “Every once in a while you’ll get a murder. Every few years.”

    He goes on to tell us about a man who was found shot dead in his car one day on his way to pick up the kids from school. Found by a jogger on the roadside. No leads. Nothing. The wife moves away and the case sits for years until one day someone slips a few words and the story gets around and the scope of things comes together all at once. His wife is arrested in Nevada on a boat bought with the life insurance money called, no kidding, “Off the Hook.” The hitman was apprehended in Ensenada.

    Then our barmate tells us about how his dog just dug up a mountain of jewels buried in the back yard of a house he was sitting for a neighbor.

    “The jewelry belonged to my neighbor’s grandmother, who buried them three decades ago and forgot about it due to dementia,” he said. “Sometimes she'll look for them in her drawers for hours. So I figure we give her the old pearl necklaces and gold bracelets she buried thirty years ago and see if it rings a bell.”

    And as an afterthought, “People are pretty honest around here.”

    permalink written by  chaddeal on May 26, 2012 from Freeland, United States
    from the travel blog: Two-Wheel Heart Attack Fuck the World West Coast Bicycle Ride-A-Thon of the Millenium
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    Leggett to Fort Bragg

    Fort Bragg, United States

    There had been whispers from all departments about the Leggett hill. It's an ass kicker, they say. A real doozy. I had become weak sitting around Arcata for the past month, out of shape and soft around the edges. I feared the great mount would humble me.

    But no. It was a large hill, yes. Steep at times, seemingly endless. But so what? The great metaphor of bicycle touring vs life itself was already dawning upon me. Once you come to terms with the fact the there will be hellish hills and there will be blissful rides down, everything else is just spinning peddles. I could go forever. I saw the chorizo burrito I had for breakfast burning in my stomach like a candle. Keep breathing, some water, yell something for effect, and keep on spinning peddles. There is no arrival. Only this moment, both suffering and ecstatic. Keep on spinning peddles.

    Eventually a sliver of ocean became visible through the trees and then there is was, the ocean, churning foam and the sand making sizzling sounds as water retreated back to the sea. Everything felt surreal, the epitome of itself, a simulation.

    MacKerricher state park lies a few miles north of Fort Bragg on the coastal highway 1. I ate a can of beans for dinner and we had a few beers talking to Brad, who had been camped in the Hike and Bike for a few days. He was old, missing most his teeth, surly, and bizarre, but with an unlikely humanitarian edge. Brad looked like an absolute bum. His shirt said "Best Wrestler in Arizona" but claimed to live in Catalina for three seasons of the year. In the winter he takes the ferry into LA and starts walking north. Sometime he ends up in Canada, other times settles down right here in Mendocino County. He knew every camp spot, legal or not, on the Pacific.

    Brad has had five wives in his lifetime, all of them crazy, some of them with papers, paid one penny in alimony one time because thats how much he told the judge she was worth to him, hates his daughter, doesn't speak to his son, yet is the founder of a homeless program in Fort Bragg which feeds and shelters transients in churches over the cold winter months. The program has a strict no drinking or drugs policy which Brad summarized thusly:

    "Hell, I'd turn my own wife away if she'd been drinking. And you can bet she has!"

    A craggy grin and a hoarse laugh.

    permalink written by  chaddeal on October 22, 2009 from Fort Bragg, United States
    from the travel blog: The CaliforniaX 9000 Autumnal Bicycle Bonanza
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    So Hum

    Redway, United States

    The ride from Burlington campground back to the 101 was mellow route down the Avenue of the Giants through the rural towns of Miranda and Redcrest. A short while on the 101 brought me to Garberville, where I stopped at a deli which makes an awesome reuben Sandwich. A fellow out front struck up conversation. I thought he was a transient but it turned out he owned the art gallery across the street. Only in Humboldt.

    I stopped down the way at a park in Benbow and stretched for a while feeling unhurried and open to anything. Eventually I found myself at the Standish-Hickey state park, where James was almost finished with a six pack. The atmosphere was less festive than Burlington. We were the only bikers there. The sun set and we sat around over a few beers. James explained the problem of Canuck John thusly:

    "The guy looks like a potato and he's full of shit."

    Which was probably mostly true. So we laughed like baboons doing Canuck John impressions late into the night.

    "So I woke up the other morning on top of this fine brunette thing and..."

    "Did I tell you about the time when I...."

    What more can be said? The guy is a classic specter of the Hike and Bike subrealms, and one may take Comfort in the fact that even now Canuck John is out there somewhere emitting strange odors and high-velocity plot lines to anything in ear shot before hopping back on his bike and cracking a warm can of cheap brew saying, "Slowly but surely, thats me!"

    permalink written by  chaddeal on October 21, 2009 from Redway, United States
    from the travel blog: The CaliforniaX 9000 Autumnal Bicycle Bonanza
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    A Cursory Look at Hike and Bike Culture

    Rio Dell, United States

    I got a late start in Arcata and decided to take the Redwood Transit bus as far as $2.50 allowed. I must have looked like a jerk, first throwing my bike up on the rack on the front end of the bus, then plowing into the disabled and elderly seats with arms full of bags, sleep mat, and some hats. I wasn't prepared, really, but the best way to elucidate the necessities of any mode of travel is to dive into the sauce and see what surfaces to the attention first. For example, I soon discovered that I had brought a fedora but neglected both a bath towel and soap. But so what? I had a slick new pair of Vibram Five Fingers (www.vibramfivefingers.com), the shoes of the future, Huxley's future, a utopia of sorts. I was ready for anything.

    The bus spit me out in the small lumber town of Rio Dell. It was nearly 3pm, but the weather was fair and my demeanor expansive. I called my mom and ate a few tacos. Then off, down that road, the mighty 101, still getting used to the weight of the bags, maybe 50 pounds making the bike a more sluggish, deliberate vehicle which resisted going uphill and then refused to stop going down. The route, which I have taken by car countless times, took on a whole new character at cycle's pace. In no time I was on the Avenue of the Giants winding around ancient redwood groves and minivans full of Arizonans on the last legs of tourist season.

    Just before dark I floundered into Burlington camp ground and chatted with the host. I paid the man $5 and set up camp in the Hike and Bike section. Camping next to me were a couple from Switzerland, of course, half through a trip bicycling around the world. No matter where you go, if you see someone on a bike loaded up with gear zooming through the middle of nowhere, the odds would favor you to assume that they are Swiss, and their destination is the tip of some distant continent several months away. The Swiss simply have shit figured out.

    At the next site over I met Malcom and James, both of whom had started their ride about a month earlier in northern Washington. I had seen James a few days before standing on a corner with his bike in uptown Arcata. He is biking all the way to Argentina. He'd better like the Swiss.

    I took a walk in the woods. When I returned it was dark and I went to my tent to sleep. But then, a great noise aroused me from slumber - a voice, loud, assertive, incessant, engaging the couple camped next to me.

    "I'm John! I'm the strange one! I'm going north! That's right, north! Straight back to Canada! Slowly but surely! What kinda bike is that anyways, hey? An old GT knockoff, hey? Well, I will be damned, I will be god damned! Ya know, I got a friend over there at the GT factory in New Mexico! Oh yeah, they all know me there! Crazy old Canadian John! Just another wacky Canuck, thats me!"

    Canuck John went on for about half an hour, requiring only the vaguest grunts of feedback from his audience to continue.

    "Ya know there was this one time I was at a campsite a lot like this one! I lit up a doobie, a huge old thing, must have been about a foot long, and just about as wide! And this woman comes over, real hag, she says 'I don't like that!' but I just look at her and smile and say, 'hey lady, look around you. You're in the woods!'"

    Eventually, when John's Grand Combustion had finally expired, the campground was silent. The next morning he spotted me on the way to the bathroom.

    "San Diego, hey? Let me tell you about this one time in San Diego..."

    And off he went on some story about booze, buds, babes, and bikes. I liked the guy. It was 8:30 in the morning and he was already puffing a joint and working on a silo of Busch Light. He struck me as a sort of archetype, something out of a JRR Tolkien novel or an old Druidic folk tale, the hapless fool who comes plowing through the woods at just the right time, spilling beer and stories and a laugh that makes your spleen contract.

    We talked for a while. Well, I listened for a while. A truck full of convicts in orange jumpsuits arrived and began hacking down tree limbs and sweeping things up. The campground was closing for the season. Everybody packed up and took off.

    The last thing I heard was Canuck John hucking it up with the camp host saying, "Slowly but surely, thats me!"

    permalink written by  chaddeal on October 20, 2009 from Rio Dell, United States
    from the travel blog: The CaliforniaX 9000 Autumnal Bicycle Bonanza
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    Rainy Day Special

    Eureka, United States

    Bicycle - Check
    Camping gear - Check
    Toe Shoes - Check
    $10 craigslist panniers converted waterproof with blue tarpaulin - Check
    Route - Check...ish

    Just in the nick of time for the first good rain of fall, my steed is nearly complete and my vestments ready. The road to San Diego lies wide open, evoking smoky visions of rooftops at midnight, forgotten alleyways, silver Shoreline, space battles, un-flat tires that turn the peddles for you, too-late romance, coastal dinosaurs, and that perverted Paul Bunyan statue leering from the redwoods to the north. I have no definite time schedule and an appropriately liquid concept of the intended route. Furthermore, I have already surmounted unspeakable personal barriers by at least half-braking a solemn promise I once made to myself on the top of an erupting volcano in Micronesia on Eck New Year to never wear spandex or clip-ons.

    I'm buying biking shorts.

    (case of rotten tomatoes launched individually from tiny homemade catapults)

    permalink written by  chaddeal on October 13, 2009 from Eureka, United States
    from the travel blog: The CaliforniaX 9000 Autumnal Bicycle Bonanza
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    Take the Long Way Home

    San Jose, Costa Rica

    Santa was having trouble with Colombian customs.

    "Where's the snow, Saint Nick?" the agents asked as they gutted his big red suitcase like a dead animal. Santa smiled and gave a shrug. They found nothing and eventually stamped his North Pole passport, sending him on his way.

    It was my turn next. I approached the window and yeilded my passport. The bored agent behind the counter flipped through the visa pages for a very long time. In Spanish, he told me to wait as he disappeared behind a door. When he came back he informed me that my visa had been overstayed by nearly a month. I would have to miss my flight to Panama City and produce large sums of money. I protested.

    He took me to a dim back room which seemed to serve this purpose alone - bantering about overstayed visas and exchanging half-assed threats. The agent got on a computer and clicked on random icons, desiring the appearance of looking busy, somehow trying to help.

    "Two hundred and fifty dollars," he said finally, as if he we reading it from the screen. He was halfway through a game of minesweeper.

    "Listen, I don't have two hundred and fifty dollars, thats why I'm going home. I'm broke."

    "Hmm, well. Two hundred and fifty is the minimum. I'm trying to make this easy on you."


    "What were you doing for nearly three months in Colombia, anyways?"

    I was teaching English without a work visa, dancing salsa with wild girls, and eating lots of fried food - but sometimes the truth only complicates things. I had a better idea.

    "Well, if you must know, I'm a writer. A professional. For a very popular travel magazine in the United States. I've been working on an article about how wonderful and welcoming your country is for tourists. After all, the only risk is wanting to stay, am I wrong? Well, I've had nothing but good experiences...so far..."

    He caught my gist.

    "Just give me whatever you have and get outta here. And hurry, your flight's about to leave."

    I sat next to Santa and we struck up conversation. Panama would be his 80th country. He held the unofficial world record for hitchhiking, an estimated million and a half miles. He was as kind-hearted and jolly as you'd expect Santa to be.

    When we arrived in Panama City Santa and Pete from New Jersey came with me to David's house, who I had gotten in touch with a few days earlier on couchsurfing.com. David lived in a elegant highrise on the waterfront. The causeway gleamed across the water and the city made city sounds. We shared stories and beers late into the night.

    I woke up to Santa looming over me in his big red shirt and his Peruvian lama fur hat.

    "Man," he said, "you one ugly motherfucker in the morning."

    "Thanks Santa."

    Pete had awoken with his eyes bloodshot and itching. I later learned that he was detained at the Panama City airport under suspicion of having swine flu. You can read the full story here:

    We headed off across town to Mama Llena hostel, where I was going to meet up with Katie, old Humboldt friend, and Santa was going to find a room. Santa drew a lot of attention from the locals, who HoHoHo-ed from delivery trucks and snuck pictures from across the street. He seemed accustomed to the popularity and returned the salutations joyfully.

    We found Katie at a hostel in Casco Viejo and hung out for a while drinking coffee. Then off we went, Katie and I, to retrieve a car which some folks from Alabama had left with her to return to northern Pamana. The car was an old brown diesel Toyota 4-runner. At first we couldn't even get the thing started, so we wandered around barefoot in the rain for a while before finding a taxi who was willing to come over and jump the battery. The car came to life and we took off.

    Katie had driven a stick one time before in her life, when someone in Humboldt had taken a vial of LSD to prove a point and quickly lost the ability to operate a motor vehicle. Now she was learning all over again, on the wet roads of rush hour Panama City. The first thing we did was got lost following some bogus directions. We asked the locals and some policemen, but every single answer contradicted the others. We took life into our own hands. We read a map. In no time we were zooming through the insane traffic of the city towards the canal. By the time we breezed over the Bridge of the Americas, Katie was driving the beast like a champ and we both shared a profound sense of relief and accomplishment.

    The plan, we decided, was to drive until it got boring and figure out what to do and where to stay as we went. Of course.

    When evening hit we were both ready for a beer. We pulled off the road and went into a bar which shared an architectual heritage with the public restrooms you find on So Cal beaches. Shitty porn played from a TV.

    Katie spotted him first.

    "That one, with the baseball cap. He's the one that's going to give us a place to stay tonight."

    "You're right," I said. "Let's go talk to him."

    He turned out to be friendly enough. We all talked about mundane things for a while. Katie and I decided somehow to masquerade as German tourists for the hell of it, so we occasionally broke into side conversations of exasperated faux-German before resuming small talk with our unknowing benefactor.

    He did indeed have a place for us, as it turned out. Just across the street. He introduced me to his friend, who looked like a toad from an old Chinese story. The toad appeared to be retarded. Or very, very drunk.

    "Forty dollars," said the toad.

    "Five," I countered.

    "Twenty," he challenged.

    "Look," I continued, "The lady and I are simple people. In fact, we're German. We don't require much. We're probably better off sleeping on the beach."

    "Ten," the Toad belched irritably.


    The place was a three bedroom guesthouse behind a large, semi-luxurious estate which was clearly inhabited by old folks. It was unclear why the Toad had the keys to the house, but it seemed to involve a boss who was on vacation elsewhere. We rigged up the stereo and laid down our things and proceeded to drink late into the night with our two Panamanian entrepeneurs.

    The next morning we woke around noon to find the Toad on the porch sucking on a bottle of vodka, still with that challenged look in his eye. We took our time leaving - went swimming, ate some mangoes, showered.

    We weren't on the road more than a few hours before pulling over at a roadside beerhut to get leisurely. Some locals waved as we sat down. They appeared to be in the depths of a methamphetamine binge. Their faces were skinny and too wrinkled for their age, their eyes hollow and frantic. They signaled the waitress to give us some beer. So we drank them. But before we were even halfway through, two more showed up. We waved a "gracias" and the dudes smiled proudly. Suckers for gringa girls, all of them.

    In no time we were halfway to drunk and again somehow mysteriously German as we talked away with some people sitting next to us. They were from Santiago, nearby. The older man told me that the other was his son in law.

    "A ha, and she must be your lovely daugter," I said, indicating the woman sitting near to the other man.

    "No," he responded. "My daughter is at home with the kids. This is the mistress of my son in law."

    "Oh, hmm. This sort of thing is not so common in Germany. You don't mind it here though?"

    "Why should I?" The man asked, smiling. "Everyone has a mistress in Panama."

    Katie and I exchanged some German remarks.

    More beers appeared.

    "Those guys," said the father in law, pointing to the meth fiends. "Gays."


    "Yes," he said gravely. "Gays. And robbers."

    "Holy shit. What should I do?"

    "Avoid the urinal. They want to steal your penis."

    "Good lord!"

    We realized that we would have to cut off the drinks pretty soon if we intended to drive any further, so we left the bar and clambered around on a half-built watertower, sang strange songs, and painted each others faces with the ash from a burnt tree.

    The sun had long since set when we rolled into Santiago. We found a cheap hotel room and bought a bottle of rum. Election day was the day after tomorrow and all booze sales would be halted the next day at noon so as to prevent drunk voting. We wandered around town, then, seeking a taste of Friday night Santiago. We ended up at a bus station where somehow we had decided to distribute rum to everybody.

    "Would you like a shot of rum?" One of us would ask a bored looking stranger.

    "A shot of rum?"

    "Yes, a shot of rum."

    "How much does it cost?"


    The idea alone of free rum was enough to frighten away a few, but the tenacious understood and eagerly accepted. I produced the bottle from beneath my Colombian poncho and filled up a tall shot in my wooden shot glass necklace from carnaval. The takers were pleased and grateful. Its a long ride to David by bus, but this night the ride was certain to be a shade merrier.

    What an odd notion, we realized. How simple it is to get the vast majority of an entire bus grinning stupidly for no good reason at all. We felt like sorcorers.

    The bus took off but we wanted more, so we waved down a taxi.

    "Listen, we're on a promocional campaign for Abuelo rum and we absolutely must distribute this entire bottle to thirsty locals before the night is through. What we need is for you to drive us down every street in town while we hand out shots. We can't pay you, but we can get you drunk. What do you say?"

    The first cabbie said he didn't drink and therefore couldn't help us. A Panamanian man who doesn't drink? Lies!

    But the next driver was intrigued. At first he laughed, but when I showed him the bottle the tone became conspiritorial. He had to make a run, he said, but he'd be back.

    So Katie and I clambered up a watertower to get a more complete yen of late night Santiago. For me, Katie has been one of those friends that just flow into your life naturally and seem to be there for a reason. Our conversations quickly turn esoteric and seem to carry an air of secrecy. Like we're on the same vibe. We both generally suspect that there is a lot of unseen and unknown going on behind this thin film of consensual reality, and that seemingly ordinary people are in fact divine superheroes - the hot dog lady on the street corner, a flight attendant, hazy eyed old men smoking pipes in a cow field, all of us - mysterious and magickal somethings that for some large and blocky purpose have been imprisoned in life as we know - passing time, learning lessons, hammering out the edges just waiting to fly again.

    So it was these sorts of things which we discussed loudly like giddy children atop the watertower as we waited for and then forgot about our taxi accomplice, who never did come.

    The next day we hit the road late again and plowed through the rain for hours before reaching Bambu hostel in David around sunset. We passed several days there - swimming, hammocking, singing bizzare songs to the dogs on the porch, Katie working on her mural on the wall, me taking my old bicycle out for long rides, sometimes lurking around the city at night.

    Finally Katie said she couldn't stand it anymore, David is hell. I didn't know just what she meant until we made it up to Lost and Found eco hostel in the rainforest about an hour inland. She had spent the past two months there doing a work exchange, giving the place some flair with her wild art, and generally causing trouble.

    She took me on a hike through the appropriately titled "death trail", where the path crumbles beneath your feet and disappears down a cliffside like something out of Indiana Jones. I was positive I would step on an exotic serpent and die peacefully right there in the jungle like a shaman. Instead we swam in the river and jumped around on some rocks.

    A few days later I got on a bus and found myself at the end of a long and hazy day in San Jose, Costa Rica. I met up with my old roommate Michelle from the TEFL school in Samara and we went out on the town. Scenic San Jose. We ended up at a bar that played eighties music all night and danced like fools while everyone else stood around looking cool.

    The next day we met up with Layne, another classmate from the TEFL school, who was celebrating her birthday with her cousin in a hotel room by the airport in Alajuela. Both her cousin and I had flights at 6 the next morning, so we stayed up most the night talking and hanging around.

    Well, then, before I knew it, here is was. Back in mama America. Everything looking so clean. So orderly.

    People stop at red lights and follow the lines on the road.

    And maybe you know how it is - for all the homesickness along the way, for all the times I found comfort in the memories of right here, well, suddenly that feeling was very far away, and the bittersweet of people and places never to be seen again surged my heart with the impossibility of it all, the beauty and the strange miracle of existence in the first place,

    and I was made full
    with gratitude.

    permalink written by  chaddeal on May 14, 2009 from San Jose, Costa Rica
    from the travel blog: The Great Pan-American Synchronistic Cycle Extravaganza Unlimited
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    La Alma de la Ciudad

    Medellin, Colombia

    Only one question matters to anybody who is travelling correctly:
    Where do I find the soul of the city - the main nerve?

    I´ve spent over two months in Medellin now, hounding this very inquiry.

    Its probably not in the top-rated Lonely Planet hostels - surrogate frat-houses dotting the globe. Its probably not in the key tourist destinations linked by a bus which, for some unknown reason, is modeled after a San Franciso trolley car. Its definitely not is the posh disco ghetto of Zona Rosa, where drunk bipolar bachelorettes spill tears and drinks with names like ¨Russian Cocaine¨ on their over-priced breasts, waiting for someone to come along and just love them.

    It might be somewhere in the hole-in-the-wall cafe down a dark alley, where a plate of bandeja paisa can be had at any hour while unimpressive hookers and half-wit pimps mill around looking bored casting neon shadows on the asphalt. It might be in the stairwell on the top floor of an apartment building sharing boxed wine with friends and feeling immortal as the city lights sleep far below. Its definitely in the people themselves, the way they reflect their surroundings through humor, song, dance, quirks, cliches, and even violence.

    I met Felipe about a month ago. I literally ran into him while exiting an internet cafe. He told me about his music studio next door, which explained the mysterious muffled punk drumming I´d been hearing for weeks. Felipe refined my use of explicatives and comical derrogatives in Spanish and I occasionally corrected his English. In no time we were having jam sessions with Steve of pure improv sweetness which lasted for hours and left us all feeling high.

    Felipe's studio is a definite social hub. Everyday on the concrete third floor balcony you can meet adolescent punk wanna-bes slugging aguardiente and bearded chain-smoking metal heads who don´t realize that they are too old to be wearing leather pants and Slayer t-shirts, pretending to have some sort of unholy arrangment with Satan. It was in this way that I met another Felipe, who falls into neither category.

    Felipe (part deux) is a mathematician who studies algeabraic geometry at the National University. We went to his spot, Niez Bar, and talked of fractals, the golden ration, the idea of a grand unified theory, and the fourth dimension. Felipe knows his shit.

    He also taught me how to stay out all night in a city which, from the outside, appears to be fast asleep by 11pm most everynight. It was a relevant bit of knowledge considering I´d just come down with a mean bout of insomnia which kept me awake until well past dawn following and endless chain of links into esoteric reading material on the internet. The internet gets a weird as you want it to. The night life in Medellin, as it turns out, does too.

    Negotiating a nocturnal Medellin involves, first, avoiding very specific streets which become hostile when the sun sets and, second, meeting with the gang at Niez Bar. Niez is the ultimate dive bar. It doesn´t even have a sign. The same crowd of five or ten regulars are there everynight laughing loudly on the porch as 1990´s ¨alternative¨ music videos gush from the TV. The doors close between midnight and two, at which point the festivities continue inside or everyone walks a few blocks to a taxi carwash which sells pastries and beer.

    Around two, Livido gets going. Livido is the polar opposite of Zona Rosa. You go with someone who knows what their doing to a non-descript door in a residential block on the farside of Jardin Botanico. You knock. Someone peeps out and you feel like you´re on the threshold of a 1920s speakeasy. The guy decides you´re alright and in you go, into the concrete belly of what looks like a squatted mortuary. The hep latenight crowd of Medellin is there, dancing strangely to music which is gritty, beat-heavy, and seems to have originated somewhere in Eastern Europe. A cloud of ganja smoke looms in the air as couples engage in every phase of copulation in a dark room, away from the flashing lights. You think for a moment...maybe this is it. The Nexus.

    A few nights later Deisy, Felipe (squared), and I met up at Niez for a rock show. The band played covers from the ´90s, including both ¨100%¨ and ¨Diamond Sea¨ by Sonic Youth. It was blissful. Grisly, one of the regulars, gave me a bracelet as we talked on the stairs so I would never forget her. Her name, she told me, came from Grisly Adams. Her mother had watched the movie and, thinking Grisly was the name of the female protagonist, named her daughter accordingly. Only years later did she realize that Grisly was the name of the bear, a fact which Grisly laughs about to this day.

    Strangely enough, I´ve also found ample evidence of the soul of the city in the house of a a fellow foreigner - Amu from Germany. Amu lives ten floors above me with two Colombian roommates, Julian and Santiago. Good ole once-cuarenta-y-tres, walls painted the vibrant red-yellow-blue of the Colombian flag and always a crowd of travelers talking, strumming guitars, playing poker in the living room. Every aspect of the house is oriented towards hosting guests from couchsurfing.com - a gaggle of girls from Peru, bearded men from Belgium, bright-eyed Italian women, gringos, euros, whoever. Everynight there is someone visiting and staying for a while. The atmosphere is always festive and a meal is always cooking. Amu enjoys a pure, uncomplicated appreciation for life and other people which is selfless, infectious, and inspiring.

    Today I said goodbye to all of them, the people who have in so little time impressed so much upon the way I consider the world. My quixotic love affair with Medellin and all of Colombia is over, as I fly out tomorrow just after noon. Like Vonnegut once wrote: ¨Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.¨

    Because the great thing about this life is that our experiences will always be with us.

    For just a moment,
    I was a part
    of the soul
    of the city.

    Now the soul
    of the city,

    its a part of me, too.

    permalink written by  chaddeal on April 28, 2009 from Medellin, Colombia
    from the travel blog: The Great Pan-American Synchronistic Cycle Extravaganza Unlimited
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