Thursday, January 31, 2013

One Year After

A little over a year ago I finished a cross-country bike ride with my good buddy Drover. I never did finish my blog about the trip so a year later I figured it would be a good time to finish up the blog and maybe share a few things I've thought about in the year after. So after leaving Pensacola we made a stop in Tallahassee where we had another couch-surfing host set up. While waiting for our host to get off work we toured some of the capital buildings and eventually made it over to the public library. Public libraries have been some of my favorite places we stopped along the way and I vowed to make better use of the public library in my community (still haven't gone to one). We met up with our host and went to a fair and got to pet some camels and other crazy animals. In the morning we grabbed breakfast and continued on our way. I guess Denny's has this all you can eat pancakes deal for 4 bucks or something now, we could have really used that back then. So we rode for a couple days and I think we went through Ray Charles' hometown. One of the benefits of not having any sort of pretense of a plan are the surprises when you run into things like this. Eventually we found ourselves within a days ride of St. Augustine and the conclusion of the trip was becoming more and more real. The spot in St. Augustine that we wanted to visit most of all was The Castillo de San Marcos, the only real castle in the United States. Being medieval history nerd for much of my adolescent life I was in heaven seeing the architecture and way of life that would have existed in this sort of building. My other favorite part of the castle was the cannons set up around the walls. The castle passed hands between French and Spanish and Americans and there were cannons from each occupation. The French cannons were beautifully crafted and had scriptures passages embossed all along the cannon where as the American cannons were all black with a small indentation: U.S. 1860 and that was it. Explains a lot about both cultures. So as night was setting we crossed a bridge over to the island that the hotel we had reserved was on. We got lost trying to find the Castillo de San Marcos and also got lost looking for our hotel. We eventually found it and enjoyed a night free from worry of being caught trespassing. The next morning before dawn we rode our bikes to the ocean parked them and ran into the ocean completing our cross country trek from ocean to ocean. We left the beach after several pictures and got an in depth description of the Sandusky trial from a stranger we met on the beach. After that we rode to a relative of Drover's in Daytona beach and made our final plans to return home. We packed our bikes in shipping boxes and shipped them off and caught our plane back to Arizona. Then it was back to life as normal except now we had really nice calves. So a year later as I think about the trip one of the things that I find most interesting is that throughout our whole trip we only locked our bikes a handful of times and usually, even in the roughest neighborhoods, left our bikes completely unsecured and unguarded. Both Drover and I decided that if our bikes got stolen that would be the end of the trip and we would hitchhike to the nearest airport and fly home with what ever possessions we had left. As far as theft go we didn't really see a threat of it. We never felt like we were going to be brutally murdered and as far as people went the only negative experiences we had were almost being run off the road by cars in Texas. So did I learn anything on the trip? I don't know, but I think I realized that people aren't as bad as we sometimes make them out to be and that the horrible things people do are generally the outliers. But what do I know, I barely passed statistics.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Almost There...

One of my favorite scenes from any movie is that classic scene in Star Wars IV where they are flying to destroy the Deathstar and that one guy keeps saying "almost there." I think he dies. Anyway we have around 100 miles till we are boarding a plane to return to "normal" life. Actually I hope my life is never normal but that is another topic from the one I would like to discuss right now. So I have a few things to catch you up on. Louisiana aside from New Orleans was pretty scary. For some reason they don't believe in shoulders on the highway or bike paths or bridges accessible to bikes. We had to hitch rides across two bridges. Also the mosquitoes were terrible. Mississippi was pretty boring except couch surfing with a guy named Brian. We discussed all of the things you are not supposed to talk about like politics and religion. Then we caught a ferry in Alabama which was the highlight of that state. That and leaving it. We missed Mobile by taking the ferry, I'm afraid of leprechauns. Then we finally made it in to Florida. Florida has a different feel from the other southern states. It feels more like the west. Or north. Right across the Alabama/Florida border was a rib place and I got some tasty ribs and we eventually pulled into Pensacola, FL. Turns out Pensacola is one of the oldest cities in the USA but shortly after it was founded it was annihilated by a hurricane so a lot of times oldest city goes to St. Augustine which actually is oldest continually inhabited city or something like that. I know I'm forgetting Vinland discovered by my ancestor Leif Ericcson. I've tried using my ancestors as a pick-up line... it doesn't work. Anyway we were set up to stay with another guy from couch surfing in Pensacola. He called and told us that because another vouch surfer was staying with him he didn't have room at his house but he did have a sailboat we could sleep on. Awesome*. So that night we went out and picked up tons of chicks and had a party on the boat. I also found a Ian Fleming James Bond novel on board, awesome*. Then we biked some more and hit up church while staying with Zach and Ashley, more couchsurfers, and watched "Walking Dead."Then while biking we ran into the biking portion of Iron Man Florida. We watched them race by while eating lunch. Lunch was steamed seasoned shrimp, potatoes and key lime pie. I love being on the bikers diet. Eventually we were in Tallahassee in time for the fair. We stayed with Liz who "works" for the government and she and another friend took us to the fair. I got to pet a camel. From Tallahassee the next big location is St. Augustine. Riding for long distances isn't really that hard I've decided. The only hard parts are sitting on a bike seat all day and wind. Oh and hills. But really the bike seat is the worse part. It feels like ripping off a band aid when I ever I get off it. A few hundred miles ago, actually in New Mexico I think, I stopped wearing my bike shorts with a padded seat. It made my riding experience much better. In fact I've only wore them once since I stopped. Now I think they are only for wimps and communists. Along with bike shirts. Actually I think they do have a place but are way overrated.

* must be said in sing songy voice.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


For the uninformed NOLA refers to New Orleans Louisiana and it is a common abbreviation used down there and yes I did go there and yes it was over Halloween weekend and YES it was the best Halloween weekend. Halloween is not as big as Mardi Gras but is pretty high on the list of New Orleans debauchery. And I loved every second of it. Like everything it depends on what your looking for. If you are looking to pick up a S.T.I., sexually transmitted infection, it is the pc way to refer to these things now, and spend a night in a gutter or puke out of a street car window, saw that and smelled it, you can find it. Or, if you want to have fun dancing to free music, looking at awesome costumes, and eating, all that is there as well. It is pretty hard to describe NOLA without experiencing it yourself, the craziness, smell, and history somehow don't put themselves into words. You have to be there and experience it yourself. But because I'm a man and more importantly an American, I'll describe the commencement of what I hope turns out to be a long and fruitful (I'm not sure if that was the right word to use) relationship. We got to the outskirts of town and were stuck because the only way in is over a bridge not friendly or safe for cyclists. So we ended up paying some drunks, at this period only partly drunk, to take us over in their truck. After a longer than necessary discussion of how dangerous New Orleans is, especially in the "darker" sides of town we were finally free of their help. We worked our way past beautiful old mansions to a church where we were just in time for the Halloween party and free dinner. There we met some people that were headed down to the French quarter, Bourbon St, etc... I told them I had a great smelly hippy costume and they asked if we wanted to join them. I ended up just taping a sign on my chest which read "nudist on strike." Not my idea but clever enough to make the checkout lady at walgreens very distraught and numerous other comments throughout the night as to when I could return to work. We rode the street car that goes straight to Bourbon St and were greeted by a hail of notes from a street corner band. From there our hosts escorted us through the crowded and noisy streets showing us places to eat, listen to jazz, interesting historical facts and, probably most important, reminding us to not step in the puddles. We eventually found a free jazz club to dance at, grabbed a late night meal complete with cops escorting a drunk patron out, to finally our street car ride back where we got to watch and smell the after affects of to much alcohol. We got back to our bikes which we had cleverly hidden right around 3:30. I can't remember exactly when we stepped into the French quarter but I thought it was around 9:30 or 10. Time doesn't really exist there. When we headed out of town I really wanted to stop at Cafe Beignet on Bourbon St to get some beignets, I'll explain them when you go there, and was worried they wouldn't be open in the morning because of the nightlife it has had the last 80 years. They were open and working on full steam when we got there and that is when something one of our hosts, Rianna, told me finally sank in. "Did you know," she inquired, "that bars in New Orleans are only required to shut down for one hour a year and that is the hour right after Mardi Gras?" I realized that nowhere over in that part of town ever closes. So I got my beignets and was just in time for the live music that goes from 10 AM to 3 AM, and we were entertained by a award winning 4 string banjo player who takes requests and played one of my favorite Fats Waller songs. Finally I realized I had to leave while I still could and with a heavy heart dragged myself away. Not long after that we had peddled out of Louisiana entirely and into Mississippi (I will never get tired of spelling that word).

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Although I've never seen a movie about the Alamo it is one of those epic pieces of American history that everyone has heard about but not very many know anything about. Similar in a way to Lewis and Clark. So history nerd that I am I walked into and immediately got lost in the Alamo. They have done a great job telling the story of a rather insignificant event that led to a pretty historic victory. What I gathered from the monument was that Santa Anna's vicious treatment of rebels so angered the Texans, or Texians that when Sam Houston met Santa Anna on the battlefield the battle lasted less than 18 minutes. Anyway,LOVED the Alamo and San Antonio. After that we set out to finish off Texas. East Texas is one of my favorite parts of the trip. It is so green despite the current drought, the people are friendly, and the air smells like roasting, smoking, or grilling beef. One of the main motivating factors for the ride was to eat some delicious BBQ and we decided to start trying some out. The first we tried was Bill Millers BBQ. It is kind of the fast food of BBQ. It wasn't very good. We biked into a town called Luling and met up with a guy named Mike at the grocery store who is also an avid cyclist and he showed us around town and told us one of the best BBQ places in Texas was just across the street. In fact there were two really well known BBQ places in this tiny little town, but only one was open on Tuesday and they happened to be open for breakfast. So I ate breakfast and then went to City Market. Inside there were two sections; the smokehouse where the meat is cooked and sold and then where you can buy sides. The guy selling the brisket was rude, always a good sign, and slopped my beef on some paper with a few slices of bread took my money and I went to find a place to sit. It was the best beef brisket I've ever tasted. thinking about it makes me hungry and sad. Then we got on our bikes to ride. I then realized that a breakfast like that is a perfect way to start your day if you're planning on sitting on the couch and trying to catch flys in the drool coming out of the side of your mouth. Despite our gastronomical setback we still made it where we needed to and ended up sleeping behind some semi trucks behind McDonalds.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Training Day

After breakfast we hung around town until evening time. We found a place to camp not far from the UTEP, university of Texas El Paso, where there was a little road construction. Fortunately for us the road construction lasted all night and we were serenaded by jack hammers and dump trucks all night long. They even provided us a night light that resembled the sun. Even though we were sleeping right in downtown no one bothered us except a couple guys that gave me a part of a hamburger. After I explained I was not a bum and what we were doing they were a little more impressed. So after a very restful night we woke up and rode the mile or two to the trainstation and loaded up. The trainride was great! Except nobody got robbed and the train didn't get hijacked. A couple people did die but that was over in Juarez. Just kidding everyone! But from what I'm told Juarez is a really dangerous town. I really think everyone should take a train ride at some point cause they are really cool. It is a lot more laid back than flying, more like driving except you don't have to drive and you can walk around and order food inside your car. We did head over to the dining car and justified the price of the meal for the sake of the experience. I was hoping it would be like the one scene in Casino Royale, but it wasn't. Not even close. Anyway after several hours of looking at the scenery and napping and half of the Jungle Book (book not movie) we pulled into San Antonio at 10:00 pm and since we were only a couple blocks away from the Alamo swung by to check it out and then got lost trying to find a hotel we got booked into. The first thing on tv in our room, Conan the Destroyer and we laughed ourselves to sleep.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Broken Roads

Neil Diamond sings a song called "Brooklyn Roads." that has nothing to do with anything but when I wrote the title I thought of that. So back in Las Cruces talking with Dillon he mentioned his dad worked with Amtrak and that there is a train that goes from El Paso to east Texas. I mentioned the possibility of taking a train through the vacant space between east Texas and west Texas and Drover's eyes lit up. Apparently he has always wanted to take a long train ride. Actually I think he has always wanted to rob a long train ride, but since this is a close second he is willing to take it. And who knows, we might still be able to rob some people. Like how I was robbed when I saw the Rio Grande. The trickle of water called "big river" (I'm pretty sure that is the translation, but I don't speak Spanish) looks like something I could produce if given a few hours and a lot of water bottles. Also Pecos Bill loses all credibility. I could have dug that river and I ain't no "western superman." Also I have been able to pick up the local lingo quite well as I just demonstrated. I'm sure a bunch of you (if anyone even reads this) are saying that it is because they use the river for irrigation and it has been dammed, blah blah blah. So we went down to the train station that was built in 1903 and found out if we could get our bikes on there and we could only the train left that morning, Thursday, and the next one doesn't come until Saturday. So we bought tickets and set out to find someplace to spend two days. Not far from the station was a institute building and we asked the CES missionary if we could camp in his backyard. In addition to letting us stay in his backyard he gave us a tour of El Paso and showed us racetracks where he used to race and train horses. He had grown up in the area and had a ton of interesting stories of a time when the west was a little more wild. He even took us out to dinner. He walked into this little Mexican restaurant and told everyone to get to work grabbed us some menus and sat down. Drover leaned and asked "do you think he owns this place?" Turns out he did along with seventeen others throughout El Paso. He told us more stories of his youth and racing horses all over the west. We told him that our favorite town we have stopped on was Duncan. He got a wry smile and said "what did you boys find to like in Duncan?" He then went on to tell us that Duncan was one of his favorite towns and that everyone there for as long as he can remember has been very nice and the town was always pretty. So back to the title as we have ridden along the streets of El Paso we have concluded it is the least bike friendly town in which we have ever been. There is never a shoulder and if you ride along the side of the road people try to hit you. We thought the side walks would be better but it appears they have gone out of their way to make them worse. Trees were trimmed just to the right height to take our heads off, sidewalks were broken and jumbled, and the buttons for crosswalks were in the weirdest places. In one ten second section I nearly got run over by a bus and hit by two different women drivers. I'm not sure people here are familiar with bikes or if they even know what they are. I had to resort to yelling "BICYCLE BICYCLE BICYCLE!!!!"at every crosswalk and then eventual just dropped the crosswalk and yelled everywhere I went. One lady was going to hit me while she was backing up until I yelled at her to stop. It has been fun biking around here and I'm hoping the rest of the trip is not like this.
So anyway James, the guy who let us camp in his backyard, tool us back to his restaurant for breakfast where they have 2 eggs, 2 pancakes, and 2 bacon for $1.99. He told us they still make money on it and from how many people were in the store, I believe him. Anyone notice the pancakes? Still not sick of them.

NM and the west Texas town

The ride to Deming was mostly uneventful and we met up with the bishop who took who took us out for dinner and then let us spend the night at his house. Turns out he does a bit of wood working and metal working. He took us out to his shop and we had a look around and got a whole bunch of ideas for new projects. The next morning his lovely wife fixed us up a big breakfast of pancakes and they pointed us in the right direction out of town. I'll never be able to fully thank the people I've met on this trip. Everyone has been so awesome. Leaving Deming also meant leaving small towns for a little while and we are both sad to see them go. We pulled into Las Cruces and met up with our hosts for the night Zabeth and Dillon. They showed us around old Las Cruces and then took us back to watch Northern Exposure. I had totally forgot that show even existed. It was before the Seinfeld revolution of sit-coms but it still was enjoyable. We got up and peddled into El Paso and Texas. In Lordsburg we had met a guy who said to give him a call when we got into El Paso so we did and he told us to come over and get dinner. It turns out we were just in time for a bible study they were having and met a bunch of great people and had a bunch of fun. The next morning they fed us some pancakes they make on special occasions, has anyone been counting the number of pancakes I've eaten? And I don't think I'll ever get sick of them.