Friday, September 30, 2005


mexican desert, brain baking heat, an empty stomach, and not a hint of vegetation higher than my knee. so when the mirage of some sort of inverted structure wobbly in the heat waves radiating off the asphalt was confirmed as reality, i set up shop in the shade for a feast. it was a ramshackle restaurant, mi ranchero, at one time, i´m sure, somebody´s dream, now, however, just slowly succumbing to the desert, which eventually brings everything, living or not, back to dust. it was only after my feast of old cheese and dumpster bread had commenced that i realized that, unless the wind blew just a certain way, my olfactory sensation was supersaturated with smells of human excrement. but hey, shop was set, i was starved, and my bread and cheese, though just this side of becoming blue, looked quite appetizing. so i ate. and then i learned something. it´s all in english, though in reality was a bit of everything.

(guy drives up)
how´s it going?
i is nice, and are you?
uh, good.
is it hot very.
yes, excuse me, i need to go peepee (that´s a direct quote)
many thanks.

and so, that´s why it stunk.

crossing the border amounted to nothing, not even an id check. going the other way, i saw people getting fingerprinted, photographed digitally, and inserted into various and scary databases. all while possibly the goofiest photo ever of george w bush watched from above. the roads in mexico, which i had been dreadfully warned about countless times, amounted to be as good as if not better than some of the roads i´ve traveled in canada and the states. the traffic has been extremely friendly and respectful, and on my first evening in this scary, bandit-ridden country, i had to turn down a 150 mile truck ride by a nice man who was worried about my ability to ride that far.

of course, this is all after my worst cycling day ever in the states, so perhaps it´s a bit biased. i´d been riding for the past four days with a solid friend of mine. it was great to have a cycling partner and be able to share expierences with something more than my camera and journal and head. we´d ridden from albuquerque to las cruces and had a feast of pizza before parting ways. the inevitable goodbyes were said with him getting warp zoned at 85mph back to albuquerque and me continuing doing what i´ve been doing and will be doing for quite some time. i had a great call with my parents and hit the long road with no one following and no one to follow once again. and it starts getting dark, and i can´t find anywhere to camp. now it´s pitch black and i´m walking my bike. i wake up a herd of hounds and during the cacophony of barks a search light comes out. not good.

sorry to disturb you, is there anywhere that i could camp?
not here.

so i move on. and on. and it´s a cluster of barbed wire and irrigation ditches and deliberately flooded chestnut tree farms. and nowhere for me. lights in the distance call. it´s a school. sealed up tight with fence and locks. but i spy an open gate. in i go and throw it down only to find that the school has two resident skunks. but maybe i outstunk their potential delivery and they respected that becaue, after initial investigations, they left me alone.

playgrounds make me sad, especially slides. so do school buses and kids running for no reason other than to run. children´s laughter. thier natural innocence. it´s the one thing we can never have again and with each day gets further away until our bodies our violated with plastic tubes in unthinkable places and we sit and wait for death while being bombarded with fluorescence and cradled with stiff crumpled white sheets. and our memories, if we still have them, go back to that day when you were eight and the girl next door was the love of your life and the trickle of that creek was a mightily raging river and you could come home to a mom-cooked meal and eat with your family and have some cookies for desert and not worry about a thing. but instead you are hearing a hopefully rhythmic beep to remind you that you are alive and it´s when that beep stops that

so the roads do get a little more rough now that i´m further into mexico. and i´m sticking to the two-laner backroads and these lack any sort of shoulder to ride in. the roads are nothing horrible, but defintely some rocking and rolling and tight passes. anyway, my bike lock that was cinched down under the bungees on my trailer comes loose and gets bounced off. so i pull my bike down into the ditch of a shoulder and walk back to pick up the lock. it´s at this moment that i notice a train of humungous trucks coming towards me in both lanes passing one another and exchanging positions and leaving no room on the road for anything but them. though i am down in the ditch and off the road, i duck out of the way just so i´m not blasted with their vortex of created winds. and so the question. did my lock get jarred off for a ¨reason¨? if i had still been cycling during this fiasco, i have a feeling that at the very least i would have been forced unwantonly down into the ditch, probably landing a sweet face-plant. but i wasn´t. i was off the bike. and i was safe. was it fate? was it physics? was it god looking out for a fool who likes to tell the entire world what´s wrong and offers no viable solutions? and the thing is, i could believe any one of these possibilities. because a belief is nothing more than a choice. it´s like deciding which way to turn on a street. either choice will lead you somewhere, one may be wrong, or it may be right, or it may not really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. all i know is that you just never know. point being, i would like, it would comfort and make me feel good to believe that my lock fell off for a reason. that some greater force, god, supreme being (pick your poison) saw me and said, uh-oh, this joker´s in trouble. boom, the lock falls off, the too many wheeled trucks travel on, and i´m left standing in the dusty ditch thinking, son of a...i´m not ready to die. that´s what i´d like to believe. it´s easy to believe, and if i think about it and repeat it a sufficient number of times, it sort of becomes a truth, albeit a personal one. but a truth is a truth is a truth and every truth is of course personal, because we all, whether we admit it or not, use our persons as the fulcrum by which we judge and base everything. what else do we ultimately have but ourselves? what else could we use? and by so doing, though we may be influenced by others, it´s all fundamentally up to us. or me. or you. ifitistobeitisuptome. so maybe the vibrational frequency of my bike lock exceeded the tension-capacity of my bungee cord. believable. or maybe it was just a random event and i got lucky. believable. or maybe god has taken a liking towards me, anticipated my position relative to the oncoming trucks, realized the numbers didn´t add up well, and knocked the lock off knowing i´d pull off to retrieve it. again, believable. but the question is: which scenario is ´´right´´? and i guess the real question is: is there ´´right´´? the ultimate question, however, is: how does one know for certain? the caudal conversation:

do you believe in god?
because it is simply impossible to prove god. you believe in love?
yes, of course.
prove love.
(still waiting)

so it happens again. even my ferociously frugal self can´t pass up a night´s lodging and an all you can eat breakfast and supper for $7 near copper canyon, the world´s largest. apparently, though they´ve never actually tried, four grand canyons can be fit inside of it. good stuff. get off the bike for a bit. feast. you know. and then i meet these german girls. quite attractive. they say we can meet at dinner. in the meantime, i scrub the accumulation of many days of sunscreen and mexican dust (spf=infinity) off my body and realize i´m not nearly as tan as i was just filth. dinner. we meet. talk. it´s nice. really nice. too nice. and the one girl. she just happens to mention her bicycle tour in spain, france, and norway. the dams open on my salivary glands. the beard conveniently conceals and contains any chin drops. gotta play this cool hIrSch. and then, but of course, they´re leaving tomorrow. but we´ll meet for breakfast, which we do. and afterwards, we walk to the road together to part ways. she: beautiful, north, back to study for a semester in monterrey. me: not, south, my destinational direction. it: which never even began, over. and so on i ride. with my bike. and my shadow....when there are no clouds.

i am married to metal. i am married to this bike. where i go, it goes. when i leave it, i suffer separation anxiety, like those cute little college couples that can´t keep their hands off each other. i like to be able to see it when i sleep. to be able to reach out and touch it. being apart, i am constantly concerned. i don´t want it to be sad. i don´t want to be sad. it is a part of me, i am a part of it. i am in love with an inanimate object.

hitchhiking in mexico with a guy named carlos who asks me if i´ve killed anyone in iraq, because, after all, i´m an american and that´s what we do, was an experience. we scored a ride in a 196something beater ford truck busting at the seams with folks in the front cab including an incredibly large man in a scooby doo surfing t’shirt that proclaimed, ´´hang eight.´´ we were on the backroads amidst a whole lot of nothing, an area of the country that i wanted to see but that was off my route with no way to connect it up. so when the truck pulls off in the middle of a void and stops and one guy gets out and goes to the front and another gets out and goes to the back, both with looks of urgency, i think, hey, this might not be so good. they both just kind of stand there. i look at carlos, hoping for serenity, yet seeing only anxiety. and then, audible trickles and smiles of relief on both of the men, who proceed back to the cab. nothing more than a pee stop.

the ride down into and upupupup out of copper canyon was one of the most stunning thus far. the descents were so steep and crooked that they required all my intentness and finger strength for the brakes. the climbs were of such intensity that i was huffing and puffing along at a measely 4 mph, while the sun beat down with unrelenting paroxysm and all the precious and limited moisture i had stored in my body seemed to seek exodus. but it was the surroundings. and not just the sheer canyon walls and all that travel brochure stuff. the people. the little kids running to catch up with me (and doing so quite easily). the families somehow scratching out a living from this parched, arid land. donkies on the side of the road scratching with their hooves at the dust and somehow finding something edible. and these old men. just walking along. with homemade sandals and skin as wrinkled as all shirts and pants should be. incredilby fit and sinewy. and seemingly so content. just walking along. to who knows where, maybe not even they. just walking. and i, on my high-horse of supposedly living the unornamented and so-called simple life. but as i pass these men, i am put to shame. because they are carrying maybe a couple of pieces of fruit. not an ounce of water. just the clothes on their back. and the thoughts, which i so sincerely wish i could know, in their head. the ´´progressed´´ vs the ´´primitive´´? the question is: who´s better off?

if i ever needed incentive to do a full-on sprint, it came in the form of three very large canines. man vs beasts. very tired man vs very energetic beasts. i had the lead as they negotiated their non-containing barbed wire containement. they started gaining. i dropped the hammer and stood up and started pounding the pedals. i reached a dynamic equilibrium with the triumvirate just within nipping distance of wAylAy (my trailer, formerly known as lil´ billy). the four of us, fatigued. the battle was on. who would relent? i tapped my last stores of atp, hydrolyzed it, and left those mangy mutts with their tongues hanging. no rabies for me, at least not today.

the terrain in mexico has, by far, been the most challenging of the trip. it´s a roller coaster of mountains and canyons, and it is so wide open. one afternoon, after climbing all day, i finally reached the crest of the continental divide. time to let the bike do the work. flying down these hills, i notice a white car pull off. he stops and waves. gets ahead of me. stops and takes a picture. this keeps going on and on. finally, i am ahead of him and pull off. he pulls off. super excited, he insists on shooting a movie of me with his cell phone and then gives me bubble gum and a can of fish which i respectfully decline with my often used phrase: soy vegetariano. we also had a conversation that was all in spanish, but is here in english:

what is you name?
where do you sleep?
on the ground. where do you sleep?
tonight i will sleep in parral (a town).
i will be in parral tomorrow.
ok, bye.

the next day i´m in parral. as i´m rding thru town, i hear a ´´church! church!´´ and there´s the bubble gum-fish dude frantically waving and smiling, incredibly excited..

sometimes it´s the synchronicity of the setting sun and the rising moon. sometimes it´s the bird who lands in the tree i am camped under and just kind of looks. sometimes it´s the slow passing of a vehicle with joyous, stacatto rhythmic horn blasts and a pumped fist out the window. sometimes it´s walking into a cafe and having the owner put in an unrequested but much appreciated beatles´ cd. sometimes it´s the virgin mary standing peacefully over a place on the road where someone was killed. sometimes it´s a guy who´s only two english words are ´´f-ing´´ and ´´okey-dokey.´´ sometimes it´s eating lunch under a tree and having two pounds of tortillas presented as a gift to the ´´´loco americano.´´ sometimes it´s not needing those tortillas and being able to pass them on to a hitch-hiker. sometimes it´s beating the sun so that i am on the road for the fiery explosion of morning....

....but all the time, it is me on my bike, watching the world go by, feeling the time go by, and being grateful for how fortunate i am.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Wednesday, September 14, 2005


as he wrapped the blackened bananas with red tape so i could get them at half the cost, i asked the produce man what he was up to this weekend, as the weather looked to be perfect. me in mauve, others in orange, other others in green, grocery store scanner in purple.

i'm rearranging some furniture in my house.
(pause) i don't know...

the bananas were tasty.

rocky mountain national park was quite the ride. 12,100 feet on a bike is sweet. 12,100 feet on a bike in the snow, then hail, then rain capped with consistent 40mph winds is sweeter. racing downhill for 15 miles in such conditions and almost hydroplaning is sour. a photographer friend of mine (, met me just outside of the rockies to snap some photos of me and gIrgIb (the bike) and lil' billy (the trailer). he does stuff for patagonia and all sorts of outdoor magazines. we had great light playing off the mountains and even snagged some pics of me cycling thru a herd of elk. i'd never been the subject of a photo shoot before, so when he told me it was standard procedure to do a couple of nude shots, i, albeit reluctantly, obliged. but then he mentioned something about having difficulty focusing on diminuitive entities, which was a lot of photography mumbo jumbo if you ask me...

i sleep. i do not camp. i do not need a campfire. i don't even carry a stove. i need a 7 foot by 3 foot piece of relatively level ground. can you tell me why i should be expected to pay $15 for this? so i don't. and so the challenge is finding a nightly home. but when a teepee presents itself, you just don't pass that up.

what do you carry for protection?
surely you have at least a knife?
but how will you protect yourself from people?
i try not to look at things that way.
but don't you need a knife to cut a steak?
i'm a vegetarian.
so what will you do if someone tries to harm you? i don't believe that anyone will do that. a motivation for attack would most likely be to acquire one of my possessions, in which case, i'll hand it all over without a second thought and with a smile. if such an event evolves into an effort to physically harm me, i hope that the damage will be minimal, and the least resistance that i offer will foster that...
you're a fool.

it was early morning and i contemplated what, if anything, in this earthly life, one can count on...unequivocably depend on, to have no doubts about. will anything always be there? and then i looked to my right and surveyed my shadow and was delighted for an answer. and then a cloud rolled over the sun.

mommy, mommy, i want an ice cream bar!!
absolutely not honey, i told you, i’m not buying you anything!!
but i want one really bad!!! i want one i want one i want one!
no! now stop making a scene!
but mommy, i’m hungry and i want one now! (she puts the ice cream bar on the conveyor belt with her mother’s groceries...)
uhhh, so what do you want me to do with this?
oh, just go ahead...
(successful sinister smile)

i'm decent at math. i always liked factorials. a blend of numbers and punctuation. and though i remember little about combinations and permutations, i do remember that there are ways to calculate different ways to arrange objects. and that those arrangements are finite. so with a defined number of words in our language, when will that finite limit be reached? when will it all have been said? perhaps already?

i hope you have all stopped worrying about my license plate collection, because i have good
news. actually, i was very concerned as i distanced myself from utah and was still coming up empty for that state. it was odd, too, because i saw about 30 colorado plates. i was even getting picky with those rocky license plates, choosing rare versions and all. i had already found a vintage 1972 new mexico and even a maine license plate before utah. but as i was cycling one evening, i once again stopped, dove into a ditch and, admittedly anxious, slowly turned over the upside-down piece of metal. and when i saw utah on the other side, i held it up as if i had just won wimbledon. i even gave it a kiss. and some guy gave me both a honk and a singular extension of his middle finger. but, at that very moment, i was a champion, and nothing, i mean nothing, could bring me down.

is it sufficient to simply think about someone with a smile for countless miles and wish them well, or must some action, in addition to these intangibles, be taken? must a phone call be made, flowers delivered, email sent? does it require recognition on the receiving end? why?

honey, i'd like some cashews.
ok, well, these cashew pieces are on sale...
really? but i don't like cashew pieces, i like cashew halves.
but, they're they same thing.
no they're not.
cashew pieces are what cashew halves are once they're in your mouth for a few seconds.
honey, quit being difficult, i want the cashew halves.
(sigh) ok.

i got up longs peak, the highest in the rockies, via foot, and it was good to get back to the means of transportation that has taken me north to south across this country twice before. however, i did suffer some separation anxiety being away from gIrgIb that long, and when i saw my kona sutra again, i apologized and promised it would never happen again.

as i cycle through cities, i see how, in the midst of concrete, steel, glass, plastic, and cement, we leave little patches of green grass and a couple of token trees as a testament to the world the way it was before yet will never be again. i also notice how incredibly dense with people these places are. so if everybody is leaving the urban jungle for a little peace in a patch of green, why don’t we level the cities and try to restore this planet to the way it was, or at least to some degree. and i’m talking about not only leveling the wal-mart’s and mcdonald’s, but also the ma and pa stores. we keep going higher up the mountains and closer to the rivers and pumping water to places it shouldn’t be (did you know there is a tunnel running the entire length of rocky mountain national park to transport water from a lake that shouldn’t be dammed to another lake that shouldn’t be dammed?). and then we shoot the bear that eats a rich woman’s cat. but where else does the bear have to go?

and so i’m pedaling up a huge climb, sun beating down, every pore pouring sweat, and i’m huffing it and puffing it and loving it. but then, as i consider my exhalations, i consider my inconsiderate donation to carbon dioxide concentration. my personal contribution to global calamity. i might as well be adding a window pane to the greenhouse that is slowly being erected around the earth. sure, i’m not driving a ford expedition, but i’m also not one for shades of gray.

do we need peanut butter?
yeah, we ran out the other day.
well, let’s look here at what they have...
here, this stuff’s the cheapest per ounce, let’s get it.
but that’s a generic brand.
well, yeah, but it’s quite cheaper than the others.
but i don’t trust that brand, i trust this (proudly holds up a jar of jif)
but honey, look at the ingredients, they’re identical.
but i don’t trust that brand.
honey, you’re basing your decision on pigments and a recognizable font. it’s not like you know anyone that works at jif or anything.
we are never going grocery shopping together again!

i met a really cool girl. i knew i was on this bike trip. she knew i was on this bike trip. it was a nice conversation. until it was over. i will never see her again. unless, of course, i’s things like this that are like trying to hold on to water. or believing in fate. it all gets you nothing and nowhere. and the rest just evaporates.

the next time you go to a store, don’t circulate, just park and enjoy the walk. even if it’s raining. you’ll dry out. and you might even feel more alive.

i’m in albuquerque, taking some time off from my time off. and i went mountain biking with the friend i am staying with here. a friend from high school, a good kind of friend to have, because there is a history there that can never be escaped regardless of whether such an exodus is wanted. he knows and is fully aware of my perfectionism and my unable to be deterred dedication to things i choose to devote myself to. how a 98% on a test back in the day was not an “a” but rather a disappointment in regards to the missing 2%. very little has changed. it’s just where i focus that perfectionism and dedication now. this is another story. this story is that he is a mountain biker. i am not. and as i entered the two mile technical downhill section, i was once again reminded that, for me, this is not for me. this is not to say i didn’t enjoy it, even when i came off my bike and hid my sore neck for the next day, because i did enjoy it, but these things just aren't my bag. like bungee jumping is not for me. and double black diamond slopes are not for me. and all these sorts of things that get that overused label of ‘extreme’ slapped on them. it’s not my game. my game is much easier. the appalachian trail and pacific crest trails; it was just walking. that’s it. i learned how to walk when i was 2. this bike ride; it’s just riding my bike, i learned how to ride a bike when i was 5. i’m not trying to get to southern argentina by a certain date. i’m just riding. i like to establish a comfortable cadence and fly my mind like a kite. but i am careful to never let the string run out or, even worse, cut it myself.

are you out of napkins?
no mam, they’re on aisle 7.
but those aren’t the napkins i like.
i’m sorry mam, that’s all we have.
but i like the texture of the other napkins you used to carry. when will you get more of those?
i’m not sure what napkins you mean.
you know, those ones you used to carry.
uh...we might be getting some soon...
oh! good!

ask me where i’ll be in two months and i’ll tell you that i’ll definitely either be in mexico or guatemala or honduras or nicaraugua or costa rica or maybe even panama, or perhaps in new york city trying out for the opera. but these things that i do, i really don’t look at them as pushing the envelope or anything. i just like to wake up and do the same thing over and over and over again and then sleep and then do it again the next day, with very little change in result. and that, incidentally, is also the definition of insanity.

the bike has been overhauled, one of the sweet features of the kona sutra. i'm basically on a mountain bike now. with more flexibility to just go regardless of road conditions.

it's time for mexico.

in albuquerque, early morning, running, endorphin fix being attained, passing some yuppie shopping areas, and so i can't help myself, i've got to dumpster dive. if you've never done it, you think it's filthy, unhygenic, and that one will surface from such depths with ungodly diseases. if you have done it, you realize it's not only a goldmine but also an art form. i won't bore you with all the things i've found over the miles. it's sickening what we throw away as we force no eye contact with the starving fellow that smells like a human and not like our powder fresh soap enriched with vitamins and odor fighting power crystals. nevermind. as i dove, the treasure chest angered me more than any other. fifty, that's 5-0, and that's minimum, loaves of dadgum freaking organic bread. rye, sourdough, walnut, nativo, cinnamon raisin, rye, blah blah. all of this bread, still hermetically sealed in their plastic sheaths, was dated to expire on 15 sept. i found it on 14 sept. i grabbed four loaves and continued the 4 miles home in disgust.
this sort of thing blows my mind. i know i know, maybe some of the things i think and do are not the most normal. i'll give you that. it's like when i say that i don't think dropping bombs on countries is the most effective way to achieve peace and people click their tongues and shake their heads and say i'm too simplistic and naive. so maybe i'm the fool here. but what goes through the guy's head as he tosses all this perfectly fantastic unexpired bread into a dumpster?!? should this bread's resting place be adjsacent to those disposeable diapers? shouldn't it rest in someone's stomach? couldn't the store sell it for a quarter rather than toss it, at least that way making it available to people rather than only maggots? i don't know.
and so you say that there are policies. that maybe mr. wild oats' bylaws state that a day before something expired it should be chunked. and i’m sure that is the case. why? because we live in a country where people could sue and take mr. wild oats’ money. for selling non-expired bread. what have we progressed to? doesn’t matter because we’re already there and probably way beyond. regardless. couldn’t mr. wild oats give this bread to a food shelter and, as we all like to do, remove himself from any accountability. is this too much of a hassle? too much trouble? takes too much time, the equivalent of money? if this whole thing doesn’t outrage you, if only slightly, i can’t help but say you’re not paying attention!

and it’s more than just this. it’s turning on the news to see what’s happening in the world but instead learning how to identify my body type and choose the clothes that are most flattering to my figure, or how to cook some food that won’t be finished that will be shoved to the back of the fridge and ultimately sent to a dumpster, or how to best advertise myself for on-line dating, or to learn about new ziploc bags for your pets’ food to keep it extra fresh........

if you know me, you know i’m not an angry person. but it is hard these days. i just see too many things that make no sense. too many things that are done just because “that’s the way it is.” and yes, i agree, that is the way it is. but just because something is, doesn’t mean it has to be. it’s these spirals of habits that we dizzy ourselves in, failing to see that if we escape the outer circumference, things might just make a little more sense.