A video!

18 Oct

A video of us jamming in Sells, AZ on the Tohono O’Ohdam nation with the Silver City, NM based Bayou Seco.  They were playing a concert nearby – and they specialize in old-time Tohono O’Ohdam tunes!

Final days, final thoughts

15 Mar

We woke up in the morning in Baton Rouge, and it was warm, overcast and humid.  On our way out of town, Mark rode with us to the University of Louisiana, where we became acquainted with the living mascot of the school, a gigantic Bengal tiger.  He was constantly pacing in his enclosure.  He looked to me like he could so easily rip my body open with his claws.  It was a fascinating sensation to stand in his presence.  I could feel my viscera quivering with the knowledge of their own fragility, vulnerability, their soft-tissue quality, and I felt my human smallness and it was good, and new.

 

We rode south from there, with a consistent and rather strong headwind on the warm and humid morning.  Ben had about 3 flats in a row and so Free and I stopped at a gas station to wait for him and feast on cinnamon buns, coffee, potato wedges and freshly battered and fried chicken.  We ended up waiting there for Ben, and after a remarkably unhealthy brunch, proceeded south into the wind.  It was pretty brutal.  We stopped at a little restaurant on the side of the road that had a lovely garden with fountains and I drank an immensely satisfying orange juice.  And onward we went, eventually meeting the Mississippi and following its winding route along the embankment.  We stopped for lunch at around a halfway point at 4 pm…Ben and I ate greasy chinese food while Free ate hummus and raw veggies from the supermarket.

 

During lunch, we finally got in touch with someone we could stay with in New Orleans, a friend of my sister’s friend Ariella named so we knew for sure where we were going!  Having a new, fully functional cell phone was an incredible boon at this point.  The rest of the ride was along the Mississippi, but fortunately, the wind shifted slightly and we no longer were biking directly into it, so we sailed through tiny town after tiny town.  There was a fair amount of poverty in that area.  Many towns were completely surrounded by heavy industrial plants and oil refineries, which clearly did not positively affect the health of the populace.  Signs were posted everywhere around the towns how to industry and locals were “working and living together” but the reality was pretty transparent to us as outsiders.  Once we got to New Orleans we had some discussions where people confirmed that the health of people in these places was ghastly.

 

 

As night descended, we crossed into a floodway with crazy industrial lights in the distance.  There was an eerie humidity to the air, and we could hear the sound of water trickling down toward Lake Ponchartrain from the Great Winding Mississippi, which flowed, ominous and muddy, over our heads.

 

Winding our way through massive industrial complexes mixed with residential neighborhoods, we found ourselves in Norco, a town name which is actually an acronym, “New Orleans Refinery Company.”  It is in this town that Mississippi Levee Bike Path began, carrying us the final 20 mile stretch into New Orleans.  It was a misty, silent, beautiful and exhausting ride.  We sat above a serene suburban neighborhood at one point, stuffing ourselves with cookies, crackers and candy bars.  All semblance of healthful eating had disappeared towards the end of the trip.  The general feeling: Give us sugar when we need it, and give it to us NOW!

 

It was the strangest and most exhilarating feeling to descend from a seemingly endless, misty and silent ride along the canal down into the cosmopolitan neighborhood of Carrollton, a place most undoubtedly within the city of New Orleans.  We made it.  we made it!  we made it.  woah.  Woah.  Starbucks, banks, supermarkets, universities, streetcars, canals, traffic, downtown, the superdome.  It was incredible.

 

We arrived, finally, at Matt (our host’s) house in New Orleans.  It was a bit under construction, but considering the places where we had slept, just about anything was fine with us.

 

It was so simple to physically arrive.  As easy as arriving in Las Cruces, or Austin, or Houston, or some campsite in the woods in the dark.  We unpacked the bikes as usual, piled up the bikes as usual, locked them up as usual, figured out sleeping arrangements as usual.  But to arrive energetically, to truly realize that we were at the end of our trip, was a mammoth realization that for me, could never really sink in.  We sat on the porch that night, humid and mild, sticky and windblown, talking about everything, nothing, What in the world comes after something like this?

 

In short, we spent those next few days in New Orleans biking around, going to the overpriced health food co-op, couch surfing from house to house.  We were joined by Kat, and friend of mine and Free’s from Portland, and our trio became a vivacious quartet!  We busked on the street, ate coffee and beignets, went to Ariella’s birthday party, drank alcohol and boiled shrimp on the street just because we could, got mistaken (or not) for homeless, and generally started to adjust to a less-kinetic lifestyle.

 

The night I left, we were somewhat stuck out on the street, as our host (at the time) couldn’t have us in his house for a number of hours.  Fortunately, we found a new host, Eric, who was more able to have our posse in his house, so Free, Kat and Ben ended up staying with him (and his community) for several weeks (or months?)!  I however, got into an airport-bound taxi at 4:30 in the morning and flew home, incomprehensibly fast, to my parent’s house in New York City.

 

Here’s what I know of what’s happening in our lives since:

My life has since taken me on a number of awkward dates with women, into a raucous old-time band, and onto a commune/artistic retreat center into the berkshire hills of western Massachusetts.  And here I shall remain for several more weeks.  Who knows where to go from here?  Perhaps on another bike tour?  Or maybe to a more settled life.

 

Ben continued, eventually, from New Orleans onward to the Atlantic ocean, via Atlanta and then to Charleston, SC, before heading back to his new home in Baltimore.  Kat stayed in New Orleans for a month and a half before heading off to Asheville, NC to go to Chinese medicine school.  Free remains in New Orleans, making food, friends and merriment wherever she goes.

 

There is always so much more to say…it’s hard to end this blog.  But life has moved on for all of us, in its own way.  I certainly hope to tour again.  Seeing new places and meeting new faces every day has an incredibly renewing effect on my psyche.  I found I could wake up each day with great excitement, knowing of the literal adventure that lay before me.  And to be in such a small, tightly knit society felt incredibly nourishing for me.  Even though it was hard at times, those connections go deep beyond words.  Thank you to my fellow adventurers!  I will see your smiling faces soon, I hope.

 

 

 

It’s been a great journey and I’ve had a wonderful time sharing these thoughts with you all!  And hopefully we’ll get those pictures uploaded someday in the near future for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

Till next time, everybody!

 

Your Cap’n Cloudhopper, The Cook,

Alex

 

A finished trip?

13 Jan

First things first,

WE MADE IT!

 

Probably most people reading this have a feeling of that already.  Sorry things went quiet – we spent the last month experiencing, and biking, a lot.  And not writing so much.  So Monsieur Captain Volkenheüpfen is here to set things straight, to catch you up and to fill you, writing to you from the center of the Great Machine – that’s right folks, New York City, Manhattan, tall shiny buildings and all.  But cast thought that from your mind, if you can, and instead send yourself to the opposite end of the known-universe, where we last left our heroes, West Texas.

 

Let’s try and do a day by day:

 

From Alpine to Marathon; we rode our bicycles the 30 miles with relative ease, except of course that Free’s flat-resistant ooze-filled tire exploded a few miles out of town.  I rolled up to the hostel/ecovillage, La Loma Del Chivo, ahead of our team, and spoke with a man with butterflies in his beard.  He offered to pick up Free, who was walking the last couple miles to town, and I think she appreciated it.  There were the most quirky architectural structures at this ecovillage.  A way to nowhere built out of papercrete and glass bottles.  The whole place was a permaculturist architect’s playground.  People begin projects and leave, projects finished or not, and other people come, and make projects out of the existing structures.  Chaotic, perhaps, but a great place to learn.  We played music that night for our hosts and they were pretty grateful to have us around.  The farm functioned as part WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) farm, part eco-village, part hostel, part crash-pad for traveler kids.  It was beautiful, kale and sunlight were plentiful, beer was plentiful, the only things not plentiful were apparently females.  Oh, West Texas.

 

The next day we rode to Sanderson, with a headwind the whole way…sigh.  This headwind became par for the course for almost the entire rest of the trip.  Desolate and beautiful was West Texas.  On the way, we met a couple of engineers from the Philadelphia area – really friendly folk.  We chatted for a bit and then headed down the road, as that wind was really slowing us down. In Sanderson we had a nice chat with a woman in a grocery store, who dreamed of turning it into a bar, so the people of Sanderson could have a place to booze and shmooze.  She spoke of her 2500 acre piece of land, out of town, and how wonderful it was to walk around on it and look at the stars – but she stopped short of offering it to us as a place to camp,  so down the road we went, where we got a discount at the Comfort Inn from an Indian man named Danny.

 

From Sanderson to Langtry was another headwindy day of desolate and beautiful West Texas.  In the bustling town of Dryden (population:  8) we stopped and talked to man with 6 teeth and 1 leg.  He would take his fake leg off and throw it at things, occasionally.  At this point in the trip, there really wasn’t too much to eat, so we feasted on saltines, PB and J, and canned tuna.  Langtry, population 12, we rolled around dusk.  It was interesting to be there – we felt genuine humidity for the first time since California.  We watched TV in a trailer and ate delicious food like Ramen noodles, and in the morning, Oatmeal and BBQ Brisket sandwiches from the gas station.  It was beautiful there, and quiet.  There was a little museum on the Hangin’ Judge of Langtry, known as the “Law West of the Pecos.”  Heading east from Langtry, all the roadsigns talked of outlaws robbing trains, and then dying horrible deaths at the end of their sinful lives.  And we crossed the Pecos river, beautiful and shining, and slowly but surely the landscape began to change.

At first there was just more grass.  Then there started to be trees.  And then, there was a town – Comstock.  No bigger than Sanderson, probably a population of 200, but there was something curious about it.  Sanderson had made a big deal of itself, being the only town (or technically, Census-Designated-Place) for a many miles around.  Comstock had a hotel, a couple of gas stations, and plenty of houses, but didn’t seem to be a place that anybody stopped.  The reason:  Del Rio, a genuine city, had stolen all of its customers.   We sat in a gas station/mini mart, eating Candy bars and bantering with the lady who ran the store.  She smoked cigarettes the whole time we were there, and told us “you can drink whatever you want in here, just don’t expect me to open it for you.”  She was a real pisser, but I think she liked me.

 

This was the day that we had hoped to get to Mexico, and my phone had no service to contact our Couchsurfing host there, so we biked the next 30 miles to get to Del Rio where (we hoped) there would be some kind of cell phone reception.  We were rewarded with a beautiful sunset view over Lake Amistad, a vast reservoir on the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico.  We ate some remarkably delicious BBQ ribs on the way, and as we got closer to Del Rio, I managed to get in touch with our Mexican host, who promised to meet us at the border crossing.  We raced through Del Rio (the bike shop that I had contacted about my frame was closed, as it was nearly 8:00) and passed right by the traffic congestion going into Acuña, Mexico, and were essentially waved through customs by a remarkably cute Mexican customs agent.  Our host, Reynaldo, a tall, smiling dentist, was waiting on his bicycle.  We stopped by his practice for a moment on the way to his house, where he lived with his mother.  Upon arrival, we were still somehow energized to go out!  And so off we went, in his open-air jeep, cruising around town, heading to bars, taco stands, drinking worm-mezcal, and generally having good times.

The next day, I ran off to Del Rio to pick up my rim, and then took it to Mexico to have it built up for $6 (in hindsight, not a particularly good idea), while Ben and Free wandered around Acuña, buying shoes and experiencing all kinds of border-town delights.  That night Free made dinner for us all at Reynaldo’s house, which was delicious, and we chatted for a while.  Reynaldo has dual citizenship, and is a world-traveler – a week after our visit, he went to Minsk.  Apparently his family owns the property that his dental practice is in, so he pays no rent and simply opens it when he feels like it, and travels when he feels like it.  Unfortunately, the town of Acuña has hit some hard times, as Americans are no longer crossing the border to party and spend money, because they are afraid of the cartels.  But there really isn’t much to worry about, especially in a place like Acuña.  But the vast majority of bars and restaurants have closed, and Reynaldo no longer does dental work for Americans for $40, but gives it to Mexicans at the more common Mexican rate of $10.  Another thing that happened in Mexico:  My phone got cracked, and began its slow terminal illness.

 

The next morning, we rode out of Acuña, went grocery shopping in Del Rio, and started riding east on highway 90.  Numerous people had suggested to us that we not stay on Highway 90 all the way into San Antonio, but to take an extra day to go north, into the Texas Hill Country.  We started to see more trees and tall bushes, fewer cactus, and the song on my breath, “I’m SO HAPPY TO BE LEAVING THE DESERT!!!”  It had been a few months and I was ready to be in more fertile landscapes.

In the town of Bracketsville, Free’s back rack broke.  We ate lunch while she fashioned a way to fix it with some zip-ties.  We all pitched in engineering ideas and she ended up with a rack that lasted for a hundred more miles or so.  From Bracketsville, we turned north, and rode through beautiful (privately owned…sigh…Texas…) country that became more and more wooded.  I had my heart set on reaching Campwood that night, as there was a restaurant that I simply HAD to go to called “Two Fat Boys BBQ – Never Trust a Skinny Cook.”  As we biked into the night, surrounded by trees and moisture, seeing more typical “southern” architecture, it started to hit us that we were entering Dixie.  And when we rolled into Campwood, I booked it to the restaurant and begged the restauranteurs to stay open to let us eat some food.  And they did!  That delicious smoked meat lasted for a few days, and ohhh man.  It felt good.  The owner of the restaurant let us camp in his derelict campground property, which suited us just fine, on the shore of the Nueces river.  The next morning, we had breakfast at a cheap diner and I needed to do an emergency wheel truing on my new wheel…curious.  It seems that the man who built it up in Mexico didn’t do a very good job.  Once it was rideable, we biked into the east, directly into the wind and into the hills.  It started raining.

 

It started raining….!!!

 

First rain riding of the trip yahooo!!!!!!!!  Okay, it was a little bit miserable, but it also felt so refreshing to have tiny drops of water landing on my face for a few hours.  It was also exceptionally hilly, up and down, up and down, and incredibly beautiful.  The mist was rising over the mountains and it really was remarkable.  We descended into Leakey, where a bar owner smiled at us, gave us free baked beans, tried to persuade us to stay with him, but no, 20 miles was simply not far enough for us to go in a day.  So after warming up for a couple hours, we headed out, to Vanderpool, over a few more remarkably steep hills.  We camped in a gas station/grocery store, highly decorated with anti-Obama conservative stickers, but hey, the promise of milk and cereal in the morning was just more than we could take.  And an awning, to protect us from the freezing rain that would fall in the night.

 

We woke up early, at 6, intending to be all packed up before the store owner arrived.  Ben got up, and I almost out of my bag, but then Free had a brilliant idea.  She said, “I’m going to get out of my bag once I count to 100.”  I passed out in the middle of the counting, and she definitely trailed off and counted a lot numbers twice.  But, at 6:45, a car rolled up and Ben woke us up with a start –  “Hey guys, we’ve got company!!”

 

Considering the ornery decorations of his business establishment, the owner of the joint was very friendly, didn’t have a problem with us camping there, hanging out and eating breakfast, or anything.  He even gave me job-search advice – “South Texas.  Biggest oil boom in history.  Starting salary at 75k.  Not bad, huh?  But you should hear what garbage collectors make in New York.  I’m thinking of moving to New York to collect garbage, I tell ya…”

 

That day, we planned a relatively long day to get to San Antonio.  We stopped in Medina for lunch, having crossed Love Creek (which is dry, btw)  where we socialized with a bunch of retirees on a tour from Houston.  We salvaged a lot of french fries.  Free’s rack had more problems, and they were fixed, somewhat.  I took some of her stuff.  And on we rode, to San Antonio!  Through Bandera, cowboy capital of the world, and onto an unpleasantly large and fast road.  But as we got closer into the San Antonio metro area, we got on some very lovely bike paths which took us through some lovely (though dark) natural areas and into the city. However, San Antonio is a huge, huge, place, with 1.3 million people in classic Texas sprawl.  So it took a long time to get from the northwest (where we entered) to southeast of downtown, where we were staying.  But we mostly biked through small neighborhood, so it was quiet and pleasant.  Once we got close, our host even came out to meet us on the road.

 

Our host, Jack, was a very kind older man who had worked as a border activist and a teacher.  He was a friend of Katy and Eric, whom we met in Rodeo.  Eric had lived with Jack and had found work in the community as a carpenter.  There was another 20-something man living at the house in a similar situation – it seems that Jack likes to help young people find their way.  His house was cozy but almost completely unheated, so long underwear was critical.  San Antonio was also having a cold spell while we were there, which added to the chill.

 

However, the next day, although still cold, it was brilliantly sunny, and San Antonio is a very beautiful city.  Our host decided to give us a tour of town, and so off we went to see the sights and to visit a bike shop.  Free got a replacement rear rack and I paid a bike shop to correctly tension and true my wheel, because it had gone mysteriously far out of alignment yet again.  It still wasn’t perfect when he gave it back to me, which I should have taken as a sign that yet another person didn’t know what they were doing.  We rode from the the shop a few miles down the beautiful San Antonio River Walk to old Spanish missions,  where there was a museum with a pleasant movie about the history of the region.  We rode home that night, Free made some dinner, and we went to bed fairly early so we could leave early the next day to go to Austin.

 

Successfully leave early we did!  And through San Antonio we rode, taking the scary-barking-dog tour on our way out.  And we rode, only to have to stop about 15 miles in, when my rear wheel became so out of alignment that I couldn’t ride my bike.  I tuned it about every half mile until I limped to the nearest bike shop, in Universal City, Texas.  And there I met the nicest bike shop owner I have ever met.  He gave us all a lesson in how to put on and take off a tire without overusing tire levers, which is something that can cause flats.  He also taught Ben how to vertically true a wheel, and he essentially put my wheel together correctly, totally for free, out of the kindness of his heart.  It was pretty amazing.  By the time we left his shop, it was about 2:30, and so we were definitely running short on time.  We rolled into San Marcos, which was about 30 miles from Austin, at around 6 o’clock, and ate a snack, and on we rode, 30 miles to go, in the dark, through flat, beautiful, mysterious, chilly Texas.

 

Free was delirious by the time we got to Austin, but she was cracking herself up, so nobody seemed too worried.  We took a not-so-scenic route through the city, because at some point, the journey ceases to be the destination and the destination becomes the destination.  And in this case, the destination was a vegan co-op near the University of Texas.  We crossed the river, biked through downtown and past countless sororities and fraternities, and then we arrived, welcomed by the symbol of two pine trees and some garden beds full of kale.  It was a good time.  Everyone was young and attractive and kind of out of their minds.  Our host said,  “it should be pretty quiet around here tonight, most people still have some finals.  Well, except for the people who just took acid.”  And, he forgot to mention, the people smoking weed at the dinner table.  Maybe that counts as a quiet activity in that place?  That place existed as a bubble, truly its own universe, full of relationships as intense as family, passionate politics, and drugged-up philosophy majors.  Free and I took a break one afternoon and evening, biking around Austin and playing music and (me) eating delicious and ridiculous food from food trucks.

The morning we decided to leave, I was due to meet my friend Corinna at a cafe where we were all going to get coffee on the way out.  I was anxious to leave and so I left Free and Ben, and who should I bump into at the cafe but Heather Jones!

For those of you who don’t know, which should be close to everyone, Heather is a friend of mine from the first self-organized bike trip I took, from Oberlin to New York City.  She also knew Free from Oberlin and we ended up having breakfast with her.

 

She says:  “Oh, I wish you guys were staying in Austin.  You could stay with me!”

“You guys should really stay in Austin.”

“I really wish you guys were staying…”

 

As everyone knows, 3 is a magical number, and so we decided to stay in Austin and hang out with Heather Jones!  It was great fun.  We watched movies, slept, talked to people who weren’t stoned, went out, ate more delicious food, ate tacos, hung out with Corinna and friends at a campfire, and generally had a swell time.

 

So after two more splendid days in Austin, we left, satisfied that we had seen the city (I liked it!) and started biking towards Houston.  We spent that night with an 82 year old woman (a warm showers host) named Carol who lived down a dirt road in a giant house with a giant barn that she built herself.  It was a beautiful and pastoral acreage and she was a remarkably young 82 year-old.  She still went out for grow bike rides, volunteered on an organic farm, and made knives in a blacksmithing shop.  Pretty impressive…

 

The next day was long and arduous, overcast and loud, being on a progressively busier and wider highway for almost the whole time.  What was initially thought to be an 80 mile ride turned into a 100 mile ride, and I got sick in the middle.  We took a dinner break at Ihop on the far west side of Houston, and then biked across town on Little York Rd, which took us through a surprisingly diverse group of neighborhoods.  After an exhausting hour and a half, we rolled into Free’s uncle Sandy’s house in the northeast corner of Houston around midnight.  He was up and energetic, so that relieved my guilt a bit about arriving so late.  Sandy was a gracious host and we relaxed for a day in the warm Houston sunshine.  He took us out to eat at the Golden Corral, which was an all-you-can-eat buffet with some pretty tasty options.

 

The next day, we left Houston, passing derelict villages, stray dogs, and swampy landscapes.  The humidity hung in the air, thick and like the summer, confusing to our bodies which had grown used to the cold, dry wind of the high desert.  The sky opened for 20 minutes as I changed a flat tire under a highway overpass, drenching everything not sealed in my Ortlieb bags, which mostly hardware and some dirty clothes.  Next bike trip, I want everything waterproof…

 

There was some splendid weather for the rest of that day, warm, and sunny and without a headwind.  To avoid paralleling I-10, we took a northern route which took us into “The Big Thicket,” a region of Texas known for its remarkably thick forest.  The Google Maps route insisted on taking us through a nature preserve, which sounded pretty nice to me.  However, we had to bike on a winding dirt road for 8 miles, which, as it happens, dead ended at a beautiful clearing.  After much humming and hawing, and looking for a possible turnoff that we missed, we decided to hike into the woods on a trail marked with brightly colored flags.  The trail narrowed and were essentially bushwhacking on our bicycles, when, amazingly, we came to a clear path through the forest.  It appeared to be a natural gas pipeline, so we started walking in the direction that we hoped would lead us out.  And it did lead us out!  We got to a fence, unpacked our bicycles, lifted them over the fence, packed them up, and biked through some more swamps and bayous, and somehow ended up where Google maps intended for us to be.  Unfortunately, at one point, we got chased by a pack of dogs.  That was not so fun.  Dogs can run really, really fast.

 

At this point, it was totally dark, and I was pretty much done, and pretty uncomfortable.  We had hoped to get to a state park with a campground, but we stopped and noticed a clearing in the woods without a fence, so we checked it out and it looked adequate to our needs.  And so we camped in the woods, for the first time in a while.  It actually was quite lovely.  Except that waking up in the morning, it was pouring rain, and then a tree branch fell on my head while I was in my tent.  That was a bummer.  I was slow that morning and I decided to meet Ben and Free at the best breakfast spot around in town.  However, I made a left turn at the first strip mall I saw and biked 12 miles out of the way before I found them at the Waffle House – my phone was almost completely broken at this point.  Note to self: stopping to ask for directions is a good idea.

 

We met an interesting family at the Waffle House.  They were LARPers, which stands for Live Action Role Playing (think Dungeons and Dragons) and the father had some unusual political views.  But who am I to call him paranoid?  The federal government is out to control us.  All of us.

 

That day, there was a headwind, and we got a late start, but we decided that we were done with Texas, so Louisiana it was!  And we made it there, just around dark, to Starks, Louisiana.  And it was amazing to be out of Texas.  You have no idea.

 

We stopped off at a bar to see if they wanted some music, but they were already having some music that night of a genre I’d never heard of – “Swamp Pop.”  The bartender, a wrinkled, older lady with a touch of evil in her grin, said “What?  You don’t know what swamp-pop sounds like?  Ya’ll oughta stay and find out…”

 

We spent the night under a pavilion owned by a local church, letting our things dry out.  The next day, I was hoping to get to Eunice, Louisiana (80 miles) before 3 o’clock, so I could hear a Cajun music concert.  And so I left a little bit early, and biked pretty hard, stopping a couple times for badly needed food.  I would have gotten there by 3 but I stopped for some boudin (delicious) and had some trouble finding the venue, which was the Acadian cultural heritage center.  I did here some music, though!  And met some friendly folk, saw some dancing, and got even more boudin for free.  I waited for Ben and Free for a while in a coffee shop, drinking a coffee beverage made with melted ice cream.  When they arrived, Ben got a sandwich, “the best sandwich of the trip,” according to him, and we the last 20 miles to Oppelousas, where we stayed with a warmshowers host named Sarah.

 

The next day was fairly uneventful, as we biked to Baton Rouge, although there was some delicious Gumbo broth.  It was fascinating to bike through all the swamps and floodways of south Louisiana.  When the Mississippi floods, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers floods certain parts of the state to take the pressure off of the levees.  These wetlands have very cool trees with roots thats come out of the ground so that the trunks looks like it is floating on top of a wooden, gnarled set of fingers.

 

We biked into Baton Rouge, over the Mississippi River (!!!) and a cop car came up behind us with his hazard lights blinking so that the cars would see us more easily.  We stayed with another host in Baton Rouge named Mark, who was a pretty righteous dude.  He worked for the University of Louisiana, was a bicycle advocate, and gave us le grande tour du Baton Rouge the next day.  (Baton Rouge, despite its French name,  has not been a French speaking place since the 1700s, but the name stuck)  We toured the historic Spanish neighborhoods, checked out the military fort along the river, and went to the capitol building, which is an impressively tall work of Modern architecture.  We stood in the spot where Huey Long, one of the most powerful politicians in Louisiana history, was assassinated, while Mark told us the story, down to every grim detail.  A populist leader with socialist leanings, Long made a number of enemies with other people in power.  After all, he did start a “Share Our Wealth” program with the motto “Every Man a King.”  How politics have changed in the past 80 years!

 

Later that day, after a classy lunch, I got a new (functional) phone while Ben and Free rambled around Whole Foods Market.  The next day we would get to our final destination, New Orleans!  It seemed unreal after being on the road for so long.  We returned to Mark’s house for the evening and had a quiet final night on the road…

 

I’ll write about our final day of biking and our time in New Orleans in the next post.  Thanks to everyone for your dedicated readership!

over in West Texas

28 Nov

Texas – does it hex us or bless us?

bless us, so far.

We are here in Marfa, a town that has significantly shaped our route, dragging it south of the straight-line, adding a deep curve to our route.  When it comes to West Texas, I think the journey is the destination more than any other part of this trip – that is to say, the journey has been incredible, and we’ll see if the Chinati Foundation can hold anything as profound as that.  And, seeing that no posts have been written since Bisbee (which honestly feels like worlds ago) I’ll give the low-down as best I can.

We rolled out of Bisbee, after playing 4 concerts (The Coffeeshop, Sully’s, Santiago’s, and POCO) with a joke book on Texas and newly burned CDs in our panniers, powered by a 23 mile stretch of downhill-with-a-tailwind, and got to Douglas, Arizona in scarcely more than an hour.  There, we ate Mexican food and rolled northeast, heading around the “back” side of the Chiricahua mountains, somehow still with a bit of a tailwind.  The landscape was vast and colorful, and we had an incredible sunset, with snow beginning to coat the top of the mountains to our left.  I thought it was exciting.  We stopped briefly in Apache, a two-house settlement near Skeleton Canyon, at a roadside monument commemorating the final official battle against the Chiricahua Apaches was fought, “ending Indian Warfare in the United States.”  We almost camped there, but the wind was howling, and we decided to put on our lights and bike the final 10 miles into Rodeo, New Mexico, which at least had a bar where we could share some music, according to Mr. Android.
We rolled into Rodeo, and nothing, I mean nothing, was open.  It was Sunday night, and the bar, the grocery store, everything had closed at 6 PM and we could not see a soul around.  However, I espied a sign that set “Bingo Night” with an arrow in the darkness, and turned in with the hope of finding somewhere warm to exist that night.

Needless to say, Bingo night was a huge success.  We drank hot chocolate, entertained folks with a few sets of music, sold a bunch of CDs, made friends with Katy and Eric, two other bicycle tourists and border activists to boot, and found a place to stay, under a carport.  Ben and I decided to sleep under a tarp, which was a ridiculous decision, as it was 25 degrees and we awoke with frost on our sleeping bags.  I should have learned in that moment – if Ben suggests not pitching a tent, pitch a tent.  The trickster lives well, in that one.

We woke up in the morning, freezing, and I danced around to keep warm until the cafe opened.  Older folks talked to us about their lives and interests all morning, captivating us and slowing our departure.  Rodeo is a beautiful place.  One man told me he had driven around the country in an RV for 7 years with his wife, and they both had heart problems, and they decided to come to Rodeo to die.  Woah.  Junior Gomez, a man in his late sixties, remembered the glory days of Rodeo, when there were brothels and the train still ran through it.  He gave us his book.  A country musician also gave us his music.

That day, we biked all day with a headwind.  Katy and Eric were staying south in Mexico, headed straight to El Paso, where they had a community.  We had decided to go to Silver City, after hearing that it was a cool place.  And besides, there was a warm showers host there.  The plan was to bike past Lordsburg and camp on BLM land.  However, we rolled into Lordsburg around sunset, and it was getting COLD again.  So, after eating in a Mexican restaurant/bar, I had a flat tire, it was dark, and Free went a booked a hotel room.

The next day, we woke up, ate at a friendlier joint, and started biking up to Silver City.  Uphill with a headwind, the whole way.  We were hoping to run errands and go shopping and meet our warm showers host there, and so after 20 miles, climbing up to the top, we hitched a ride,  twenty miles into town.  A HALF MILE FROM THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE MARKER I WAS SO DISAPPOINTED THAT I DIDN’T GET THAT MOMENT OF POURING WATER ON BOTH SIDES OF IT.

oh well.  I guess I’ll have to ride across the country again.

So, we rolled into Silver City, bought some bike supplies (I finally got gloves…) and headed up to our host’s place.  It turned out that she owned a B&B, and was putting us up in an apartment with a kitchenette.  sweet!  She told us we could stay as long as we wanted.  We decided to stay for a couple days.  We didn’t end up playing music in Silver City, but there were certainly plenty of interesting people around.

When we finally left Silver City, we left in the afternoon and biked downhill with a tailwind to City of Rocks State Park.  That place was really cool!  It consists of a volcanic rock formation that has been weathered by wind and water into a city of house-sized boulders that are perfect for clambering on.  We paid, but, for future reference, if you bicycle into a New Mexico State Park, it’s free.  Even to camp.  We ran around on the rocks, collecting firewood, until night fell.  It was a bit overcast, and that was probably the darkest night we’ve had.  You literally couldn’t see anything, at least not until the moon rose, which was sometime in the early morning hours.

The next day, we had decided to go to Las Cruces, to the house of Lee, another Warm Showers host.  This was a 95 mile ride, so we tried to leave early.  However, Ben had a flat tire, and we didn’t end up leaving until 9.  Then Free had a double flat on the way down towards I-10, so we got even more delayed.  We ended staying at this outdoor Mexican market just outside of the Deming, New Mexico for something around 3 hours.  Brunch became lunch became flat-fixing.  We did meet someone who knew Katy and Eric, which was neat – a retiree who decided to spend his retirement on a non-profit organization making things nicer in border towns on the Mexican side of the border.

Fortunately, the wind was whipping at our tails that afternoon, and we covered the last 65 miles of the day in 4 and a half hours or so.  It was beautiful riding – mostly flat, and mostly on a side road that paralleled I-10.  We spent about 14 miles heading towards Las Cruces on I-10, but with that wind, it wasn’t so bad.  A wide shoulder does wonders.

We got to Lee’s house, and he had prepared us a delicious dinner of salmon, and then whisked us off to a house concert of some country/folk musicians.  They were very good!  Lee spends a lot of time setting up living room concerts.  I thought it was a fascinating model of supporting musicians.  The musicians get all the money from the door, get to sell CDs, and perform in an intimate, friendly environment.  The audience gets to have a more intimate experience of the musicians.  So simple, and yet revolutionary.  Who needs clubs?

The next day, we got a slow enough start that it didn’t seem like we would make it to White Sands National Monument in time to camp there.  So we stayed the day at Lee’s beautiful (and large) house and then had dinner with said musicians.  There names were Andi and Ren Renfree.  It was a good dinner -we played music for each other in addition.  However, they kept insisting that we not “break up the band” when we were done with the bike trip.  They also kept insisting that we change the name of the band.  It was a tiresome conversation.

The next day, we got another late start, but biked up a long uphill out of Las Cruces, from the Rio Grande (which is completely dry – I had no idea it was seasonal) over the pass through the Organ Pipe Mountains.  They are an amazing formation of mountains. From there, the road turned northeast again, and we zoomed to White Sands National Monument.  I called ahead and BEGGED them to let us camp, that we were experienced, etc.  I went ahead, and got in just in time for them to let us camp.  I think it helped that I shamelessly flirted and charmed everyone I could in the visitor center.

We rode in between the dunes at sunset – which was beautiful, but not as beautiful as what was to come.  We left our bikes in the “backcountry campground” parking lot.  I was changing as a ranger rolled up.  He was closing the park, and he seemed pretty cool, so we talked to him for a while.  It eventually became clear that he had lost his mind from being a Park Ranger.  He started going of on people stealing sand…in bags, in bottles, in their shoes, in their pockets, and was talking about how satisfying it was to search people’s cars for sand…it was pretty weird.

So, we hiked with our bags over the dunes, attempting (a bit in vain) to follow the posts that indicated the trail to the campsite.  Eventually, we were in the middle of the dunes, tired of hauling our stuff and it was clear that any place in the “backcountry” was going to be the same – in the white sand, surrounded by white sand.  So we plopped down, made some dinner, watched the stars and read Dune aloud as the moon rose over the dunes.

The moon.

Nearly  full, it illuminated the white gypsum sand with a silver color that I had never seen before in my life.  Free lay down to sleep, and Ben and I walked off.  I climbed up onto a dune, and fell to my knees, overcome by the beauty in what I saw.  It felt like life in a painting, in a picture book.  The contours so smooth, everything was fairy-tale like in the moonlight.  I saw Alamogordo glittering on the hillside, and the seemingly endless bright white sand dunes that surrounded me.  And I ran.  As fast as I could, I ran, in my wool socks and sandals and big down jacket, up and over the dunes that stretched forever, until I was exhausted, and I collapsed on the side of one becoming part of it as my thoughts kept running up and up, pulling the white sand up with them toward the glittering sky.

Every time I see the night sky like that, I harken back to the sensory-deprivation float tank I was in back in Portland.  It’s a lot of the same feeling.

After some time, I floated back to where we were sleeping, and everyone was asleep.  It was almost 10 o’clock.  Funny how time changes when you live by the sun.  Again, Ben suggested a night on a tarp.  Totally freezing.  I got up in the middle of the night for my Thermarest and another tarp.  This was the moment when I realized that our ideas of when to sleep in a tarp differed.

The next day, the sun, the harshest, brightest sun arose, and began to roast us in the morning.  It took us a while to leave, and we biked a total for 16 miles into Alamogordo.  Not exactly a hopping town, but with a health food store and a warm showers host.  We were unsure of whether we could stay with him, but I had his number, and we eventually found ourselves on his land.  He was a fascinating guy – we’d never had a “job,” had only worked for himself, and also was an endurance athlete.  Full of interesting advice, he told us about how he was building the place where we were into a intentional community for retirees.  It seemed a little bit like a fantastical business scheme, but the point was that he started with no money and was living in this place, fixing it up on his own pace, and not worrying about it.

Free got sick the next morning, so we waited to leave until later in the day.  We biked the first 7 miles or so from town up into the Lincoln National Forest, and camped up on a beautiful hillside.  We chased the setting sun and had a generally good time.  The next day, we started biking to Cloudcroft, the highest point on our trip, at 9000 feet.  Within a mile, we bumped into other bike tourists, from New York City, so we stopped to talk to them for an hour.  They told us of Diana, a woman we needed to stay with Hope, New Mexico, which was 60 miles from Cloudcroft.  This was farther than I thought we would be able to get, but we figured we’d give it a shot.  4000 feet of climbing later, eating the sweetest pastries in the world.  Picture this:  Pain Au Chocolat and raised donuts have a love child.  The resulting delicacy is warm, buttery, filled with chocolate, glazed, with melted chocolate on top.  Consume with coffee on top of a sky island, a lush pine forest surrounded by desert on all sides.  Context makes the sweetest sensory experience even sweeter.

 

Freezing on the mountain in mid-afternoon, we opted to start bicycling the 60 more miles it was to get to Diana’s place.  And a beautiful ride it was!  We watched the landscape change gradually as we followed the meandering course of a river through the mountains (downhill the whole way, of course).  We exited the mountains suddenly, and were on a vast, dry grass covered plain with a wind at our backs.  The sun had set, and a school bus driver stopped on the side of the road to tell me that Diana was worried about us, and that I should call her.  I called her, and it turned out she was on her way to us, only a couple miles down the road.  We didn’t want to take a car for the final 16 miles, but when she arrived, she offered to take our baggage.  She was adamant that we stay on the shoulder (which was exceptionally wide), warning us, “the Texans are out, and it’s hunting season!”

 

We rolled up to her house, which was down a gravel road (I went head over the handlebars, but landed a beautiful Judo roll unscathed), and she fed us well.  They were an interesting family – she is Chiricahua Apache, and her husband is Mescalero Apache.  She grew up in California and lived as a bodybuilder and personal trainer, and he grew up on the Mescalero reservation in New Mexico.  Perhaps out of Christian goodwill, she made it a point to take in all the wanderers she could – hitchhikers, bike tourists, vagrants…She said she dreamed of going on bicycle tour herself, but a pinched nerve prevented her from going this year.  We nearly stayed there for an additional day, feeling so comfortable in the morning, but it was very much time to go.  And so we headed, wind at our backs, downhill/wind to Artesia, and then to Carlsbad (wind in our face).  Diana hooked us up in Carlsbad with a boy scout leader, who let us stay at the aquatic camp there.  It was a little weird to be surrounded by Boy Scout culture.  It’s very militaristic and patriotic and patriarchal, which are things I’ve felt opposed a lot in my life.  But Ben is an Eagle Scout, and I could see the value of learning many of the skills the teach.  All this in the full knowledge that I probably would have had some kind of allergic reaction to being in that sort of environment as a child.

 

The next day, I woke up feeling dusty with a need to do my own thing, so I found a really spot called Blue House Bakery and Cafe, which as far as I could tell is one of the only nice things in Carlsbad, NM.  We eventually left and started biking, again into the wind, towards Carlsbad Caverns.  All that time biking into a fierce wind, I was thinking, Texas is warning us.  GO BACK.  GO TO OKLAHOMA.  DO NOT ENTER.  But we made it to White’s City, at the base of the National Park and ate a little food, when we suddenly realized we weren’t going to make it up to the caverns before they stopped letting people in for the evening.  Fortunately, we  hitched a ride with a German man who took us to the top, where the entrance to the caves in.  We took a walk through the “Big Room,” staring in wonder at these incredible formations underground.  It was definitely a magical space.  We got a ride down from a couple of retirees who liked guns a lot.  Again, a funny interaction.

 

We ate dinner at a low-end restaurant, mostly because it was cold out and we didn’t feel like cooking.  Then we biked 16 more miles and camped on BLM land just on the New Mexico side of the Texas border.  Because in Texas, almost all the land is private.  And you don’t want to wake up to the sound of some uppity Texan cocking a shotgun.

 

The next day, we biked ANOTHER 19 mies INTO a fierce wind.  It was also uphill.  Needless to say, it was a slow haul.  There are quirky rest stops in Texas with WiFi, where I stopped for a while.  I met Free there, who had a stubborn flat and wanted to fix it herself.  I gave her an extra patch and headed off the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, location of the highest point in Texas.  There, I met Ben, who was feasting on cheese crackers at the visitor’s center, and we played some music as we waited for our Freedom.  A couple other bicycle tourists pulled up, our age, and we ended up hanging out with them for our time at the park.  We all shared a campsite with some other randsom young people, made dinner together, and when New Time Country Kitchen took out our instruments and started to play, it was a straight up party at campsite number one.  Reindeer sausage and Bulleit Bourbon even showed up for a cameo.

 

The next morning, we woke up with Gina and Richard, our new bike tourist friends, and walked up the mountain to the highest point in Texas!  It was very beautiful.  We talked about life and love and spiritual fulfillment and all kinds of things.  We came down from the mountain, ate lunch (more reindeer sausage) and started getting ready to go.  We were out of food at this point, which made me a bit nervous.  I was going to go ahead to Van Horn to find a campsite and go shopping and whatnot, because I was ready to go and Free still needed to fix a flat. It’s a good thing I didn’t, though, because a few CRAZY storms came in and it was windy (45 mph) and POURING and HAILING and just generally being extreme.  I struck up a conversation with a beautiful and soft-spoken park ranger.  She held herself and spoke in a way that was so controlled, I knew she had to have some kind of dance or theatre training.  One thing led to another and all of a sudden we were talking about Contact Improv.  Praised be the Jah.  I knew her teacher, who teaches at Marlboro, from CI36, a dance festival I attended in 2008.

 

She offered to put us up for the night, and, as if we needed more incentives, stated, “I have beer!”  We ended up going into Carlsbad with her and going shopping, and then making a delicious dinner of roasted vegetables and other delicious things.  We spent the night and I had a great morning goofing off and dancing with her.  She was a fascinating person to all of us – full of intrigue even after talking extensively with her.  Full of intelligence but definitely someone who thinks differently than most people I’ve met.

 

We did make it to Van Horn the next day, and, not wanting to pay $20 to pitch a tent for 9 hours, we just camped between a church and the public library.  Hooray for vagrancy!  Life is free.

 

The next day, we went to a Travel Plaza to have breakfast.  We left at 9, and sailed down a road that paralleled I-10, but unfortunately, ended up losing 3 hours because Free had a flat and her tire levers broke.  But we headed into the Davis Mountains, determined to get to the next Warm Shower’s host’s place for Thanksgiving.  He lives at the McDonald Observatory, which at one point was a major observatory in the world, and still is an incredible place.  But it is up very high in the Davis Mountains, and it got COLD on our way up there.  And it was hilly.  Oh, and my bicycle broke.  My back rim is full of cracks (which Salsa has agreed to replace) and I had to disengage the rear brakes in order to keep riding.  But we made it, eventually, totally exhausted and cold, to the Kuehne’s house.  They were a whole family of characters, and I felt it was a great privilege to have Thanksgiving with them.  They are also musicians having played in Contradance bands, chamber music groups and orchestras, so we shared a lot of music with them.  We got a private tour of the Observatory, and learned all about the geology of the area (and talked a lot about the fate of the world – he’s of the belief that we will burn all the fossil fuels on Earth – EVERYTHING).

 

He took me into Alpine, Texas, to a bike shop to see if we could replace my wheel.  Unfortunately, the closest place to replace it is in Del Rio, about 200 miles away, so it will be awhile of riding with a less stable setup.  Hopefully it will work out – it’s been fine so far.

 

After spending some nice time with them at the Observatory, we zoomed into Marfa (37 miles in 2 hours!) where we were put up by a complete stranger and watched some movies.  We checked out the Chinati foundation the next day.  It was very…post-modern.  I felt it was a strange aesthetic to have as “permanent” installations.  Free’s rear rack broke, so we left Marfa earlier than planned to go to Alpine to replace or repair her rack.  On the way, Ben and I met two more bicycle tourists, who we spent the night with at another Warm Showers spot, named Kathy and Alex.  We played a fun show at a dive bar in town, all drinking a fair amount of beer which was served to us graciously by the Bavarian bar owner.

 

So, here we are, in Alpine!  I’m glad we’ve caught up to the present.  Ben and Free are talking to a writer who is figuring out how to live his life.  Tonight we are headed east, with a tailwind (hoorah!) to an ecovillage called La Loma del Chivo, in nearby Marathon, TX.  After that, we will start doing long days, heading to Del Rio, Ciudad Acuña (in Mexico), San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Lafayette and then NOLA!  We have 13 days of cycling left, and probably will take 6 days off in that time.

 

Catch you down the road!

 

 

 

 

something quick

7 Nov

Howdy Ya’ll! We’ve been in the magical neverland of Bisbee, Arizona, for a few days now, making much music, merriment, and many kind friends. It takes all the motivation we have to make ourselves leave this mysterious and mystical mountaintop village – having been housed and fed here for 4 days, we can only hope that our will to leave will remain tomorrow morning as we arise from warm, soft beds.

And if we leave, we are happy to report that we leave having successfully recorded and released an album with the help of our incredibly gracious hosts, Michael and Tamara Page! We’ll be traveling with hard copies of it!.

You can download it here:http://newtimecountrykitchen.bandcamp.com/

 

 

 

We’ll let you know when we make it to Silver City!  Or at least if and when we actually make it out of Bisbee.

 

love

grace and angels

1 Nov

we must have magnetized many lost angels when we peeled off from babylon.  the deeper we go into the thick of mesquite and rock the more we are warned against the darkness of man and the more consistently we are met by the great light that comprises the universe.  climbing into territory where none of us has been, what little there was to expect has melted into the stagnant desert heat and here and now hangs thick as smog around our shoulders and our small society has solidified into the road we must traverse.  we are ever increasingly ourselves and further yet together.  today we all agreed to reclaim independence in the city, to rejuvenate our bonds.

every day presents new gifts and blessings.  we been graced with such abundant generosity over and over daily since we have been in the desert.  to describe the gravity of these gifts with “gratitude” is as cursory an effort as taking a handkerchief a flood.  if i ever doubted the goodness of humanity, the perfection of the universe, let the desert and its people fertilize the knowledge that this life is indeed paradise

we were blessed in babylon by a family who gave us space in their home, the fabulous hellers.  we were blessed two nights in a row on the way out of the inland empire with a free place to sleep and great company. on our first day in the desert, drugged out on dry heat, sapped of almost all i had, i napped on the side of the highway in the shade of some blessed shrub and when i woke the fellowship agreed to seek refuge in the nearest town until the sun took mercy on the valley or at least went to sleep. we dove into the local dive, where the boys had burgers and beer and i napped briefly in the shade of the patio wall.  then, with time yet to live before the sun would relent his reign, we took out our instruments and the locals whooped and hollered and one man gave us a bill which bought our dinner that night.  we played again late at night in joshua tree for a group of climbers who graciously shared their campsite with us, as well as their food, their loving company, and their kind words.

we decided after meeting the sun head on in morongo valley, that 29 palms highway with its 93 mile service-free-stretch, would be best handled when the desert’s despot was overseeing other lands, so we spent the day resting in town and set out that evening, the sunset pooling pinks behind us, deep blues of evening inking up into night.  you have never known night until you’ve known the near new moon in the mojave.  we covered eighty miles before going to sleep, saw stars fall and fly, and when we arrived in arizona the next day, we were offered a place to sleep by a kind couple, chuck and kate, (our first quonset hut experience), and the cool of the colorado gave sanctuary to our sizzling skin.

in salome, the next, we were blessed by a bakery in a tiny trailer on a dusty lot where a lovely woman, kathy mohrweiss, was serving gourmet confections cooked with genuine organic free range fair trade sweet gracious love.  we ordered lunch (sharing, as we generally do, the two available lunch items – chile relleno and polenta stuffed bell pepper), were gifted desert by two other patrons (bernie and russ), and since we were hanging out well beyond closing and she was a literal ball of goodness, she kept the confections coming; scones, cinnamon rolls, iced coffee – we played her some music, it is what we have to offer, consciously.  it was like wandering through the desert and happening upon your mom.  when we left she gave us a bag of bran muffins and so many kind words.  another of the many angels of the desert.

the next day in gila bend we met wally, the proprietor  (?) of neto’s bar (the only bar within 20 miles of that town), who offered us a gig, his quonset hut to sleep in, and yet another delicious home cooked meal.  the people enjoyed our music, or at least they liked the tip jar which wally must have put out.

two days later we were in sells on the tohono o’odham nation.  this experience itself merits a separate entry.  totally transformative.  i imagine usul has a lot to say about this experience.  we were given a delicious lunch, a space in which to play music, a place to sleep and so much interesting discussion about the mission and interests of the fascinating organization that the desert rain cafe benefits, toca – tohono o’odham community action.  they are doing amazing work to combat diabetes and obesity in the tohono o’odham nation, to bring an end to gang activity, and to provide opportunities for healthy sustainable living on the tohono o’odham nation.  they have two large farms, one for learning.  one of the tribal government  members, art wilson offered us his carport to sleep in, shared stories, jokes and info with us.  it was friday night and in a town of less than 3,000 people there were no less than 4 halloween parties happening.  we made it out to two, one of which had a small yet scary haunted house.  the people were so giving and so welcoming here.  it made me cry when i was expressing this to a tribal leader who gave us a tour of the governmental offices.

my greatest personal challenge of late has been to inhabit grace as selflessly as those whose gifts have touched me.  as deep as i believe and preach the dharma of the bottomless reach of karma i find my Self popping up like a know it all in a lecture hall demanding to be acknowledged within the scene in spite of the fact that the teacher does not need an answer from the class, did not ask a question, and is in fact blind and deaf.  this is the nature of Self, the conflict inherent in attachment to the stories we create for ourselves and each other in developing identity; our selves crave so strongly to prove themselves a part of the wonder and beauty of gifts and giving that they separate themselves from it by insisting on controlling their individual contribution.

 

or maybe i mean me.  and my Self

 

saturday afternoon we stopped into a greasy spoon 20 miles outside of tucson, to wait out the heat, grease our gullets.  we spoke to a lovely family, DJ and Jennifer, who paid our bill when they left.  of course they did so quietly.  by this point, my Self was reacting so strongly to the desire to be acknowledged for being able and willing to offer things of value that i insisted on leaving a gift for the family – a little something toward their next meal there (they are regulars).

since then, the good captain cloudhopper and i have talked it over quite a bit, and before that too, we all have talked about gratitude and grace and the nature of the gift.  i see how offering a gift of this nature was actually selfish, though my conscious desire was only to reciprocate, and could even be construed as offensive or a kind of rejection.

grace is a godly gesture.  to receive gracefully, to receive graciously, one must receive freely and selflessly and accept that one gives freely of one’s gifts and that it is the inescapable flow of events that brings all gifts forth.  there are no gifts that are of the self.  all gifts, all time, all events are part and parcel of the ever increasing ever expanding wonder that is the universe.  to view any gift as something to be repaid is to diminish the event and energy to matter, to suggest that the object is stolen borrowed or misplaced on the receiver and one will be haunted by debt until it is returned to it’s rightful owner.

truthfully if there is but one thing in this world, we are of it and cannot take from it as there is nothing else.  the choice to be mindful and aware of the blessings abound in every moment is the truest form of gratitude.

 

all the world is free.

 

keep on rockin in the free world

Tucson, Tuscan, Two Sun, Too Soon

31 Oct

Free (aka Bria) and I are about halfway to New Orleans!  Ben has passed his 1000th mile mark.  And today, the 7 billionth human was born.

Much has happened.  Too much to write in one coherent blog post, and I have neglected to communicate with the outside world (that is, the world beyond Ben, Bria and myself) with regularity.  It is hard to take a step out of my world and take a bird eye view on life when I rarely stop experiencing it so completely.  That said, it is relieving to let go of my mind except to think about survival and the accomplishment of more immediate goals.  Those being – eat – sleep – get to camp – sing – play – entertain – observe – absorb – survive.  And be unserious as often as possible in interpersonal communication.

Not to say that I am totally thoughtless!  I daydream, consider possibilities, try to analyze myself and my experiences.  Business Ventures, my Achingly Beautiful Crush, the World Beyond the Bike Tour, frequently cross my mind.  But nothing lingers.  Everything passes through my mind like the air blowing around my body, leaving me only with the moment and the comforting certainty of infinite possibility.  You never know for sure what is going to happen.

This morning, lost in thought, I remembered the New Yorker cover of “New Yorkistan,” in which my parent’s neighborhood was renamed “Psychobabylon.”  “Babylon” is the name we have taken to calling any urban area which we are heading towards.  It was an expression I’d heard at Rainbow Gatherings, from Portland Hippies, and most recently from the Messianic Jews in the Northern California Redwoods.  I enjoyed aspects of my time in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tucson.  But the urban environment consistently extracts the satisfaction from my soul.  Psychobabylon.  Your mind exiles you from your self, your homeland.  Wilderness, Babylon, the Promised Land, everything is in your mind.  And if I had as clear a mission in any of these Babylons as I do when I leave them on my bicycle, the Imprisoning Towers would crumble and the city would feel as free and wild as the thunderstorm over Saddle Mountain, and as infinite as the night sky over the Mojave.