"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Friday, September 29, 2006

9/29/06: Bike Tour-Prep Update #1

Decided to give at least weekly updates on the final preparations after pondering an email from my CS buddy Jack. I realized that I may tour again, and prepare again, but this is the only time I'll do it for the FIRST time!

The job at the stadium ended for the season yesterday, and after it was done, HUGE sense of relief! I love that job, but 9/28 was a date I'd mentally circled somewhere back in the Spring. Like driving I-40 across new Mexico and FINALLY getting to Tucumcari or Gallup! I'm sure a few of you know what I mean. It occurs to me that the job is the only 'deadline' I really have for this trip; returning to it in April. I'd love to figure out a way to work/make money on the road as a way to stay out indefinitely! Anyone have any thoughts on this?

A couple of weeks ago, I applied for and received a position at a radio station here in town, just running the board for football games and Sunday 'talkers'. I figured I'd do it for a few weeks to make some extra cash and just quit. Sounds a bit crass so I suppose my bitterness toward that industry is showing. I justified it by recalling all of the decent people I've worked with who were fired due to 'cost- cutting', or 'format changes', or even just a change in Program Directors! I've never seen the station giving the employees fair notice before the ax flies. In fact, I remember one in particular who was 're- assigned', with a significant pay- cut, weeks after he closed on a house. People in the station knew of his purchase AND of the 're- assignment' yet said or did nothing; where's the 'honor' in that??

Anyhow, I declined the job today, before I really even started. My income will be fine working with my friend (the 'other job'), and the hassle of trying to commute to Aurora for $9/hr just seemed stupid. (Yes... major market radio job that pays $9/ hr!!!) I did train one morning with Ryan, the PD and had an unexpected result: I liked the guy! He's young enough to still have some idealism, yet smart enough to understand his business and what it is. I couldn't just quit and not give him a chance to get someone in place. It would have been easier if her were an egotistical prick! I didn't tell him about the bike tour...

Decided to change fenders... again. Got some Bontrager 45's. So, now I have 3 sets of fenders and am only using 1!!! Yes, I'm the efficient shopper!! Let me know if you need/ want any SKS Chromoplast 700x35 or 26x 1.95's! Also ordered and am waiting on the SKS double kickstand. That thing better sing Pavarotti to me for $54! The Tubus Logo came in also this week, so once the Schwalbe Marathon XR's get here next week, that SHOULD be everything for the bike, outside of spare spokes and cables. Any thoughts on spokes?

I've yet to get a helmet and a mirror, probably get that when I have all this stuff installed... one final drawn- out trip to Campus Cycles! Who am I kidding?

I'm wavering on the trunk- rack and a new handlebar bag. I found an Ortleib waterproof trunk bag that I like, but of course am afraid to commit to it. My panniers aren't waterproof, so I'm thinking it may be a good idea to have the trunk and handlebar bags to keep papers/ electronics dry. That's compounded by the fact that I'm considering taking my SLR digital camera; which of course gives me one more thing to worry about on the road.

I'll have a tent tomorrow, one way or another. REI's garage sale. Hoping to find a 2-3 man 4- season tent. It'll get use outside of the tour as well. One thought from Bruno: the extra weight is worth the extra room! Will not skimp on the tent. Also considering Pocketmail. My friend Gary "Walkingman" Hause loved his. Any experience/ advice you can offer with this? I love the fact it runs off batteries. No word from Bruno since Monday, but figure to hear from him this weekend from Winnipeg. Chatted with Jack via email a bit and hopefully he'll be back in the states in time to get together when we hit California. Jack just finished TWO YEARS on the bike through Asia and Europe! Great guy to talk to about 'stuff', and he always helps me remember not to stress about stuff I can't control. It's part of the adventure, right?

9/29/06: The Greatest Challenge-Myself

All-in-all, I'm rather surprised at how smoothly the preparation has gone. I decided to do this sometime back in April, and from the outset it's been a matter of forcing myself to step outside of all the comfort zones I'd created over time. Some people believe that as we get older, we become prisoners of our own environment, and while I don't consider 36 'old', I can definitely see the tendency in myself.

Believe it or not, the first challenge was even getting on the bike! I hadn't ridden in probably 20 years until I bought my little Peugeot 'touring' bike this Spring. I was actually afraid of trying to ride it in the city because, although I enjoyed biking immensely as a child, I was scared that the skills would have left me, or that the urban traffic would be overwhelming. I remember the first trip up Clayton St. that night, and the sense of accomplishment over riding 2 blocks!

The short- lived Peugeot.

That theme of facing fear and cemented notions has become the pervasive one over the past few months, and continue today; that's what this section will probably entail the most.

The next hurdle I faced, after I got comfortable riding around the neighborhood, was commuting to work at the ballpark. I remember that day clearly, because it taught me something valuable. The first day I rode the 3 miles to the stadium and back, it happened to be raining and I was contemplating walking. I got so disgusted with myself for looking for the easy and 'safe' way out, that I told myself "How the **** can you ever expect to do any kind of tour, if you can't even ride three miles in the bleeping rain?!"

Obvious, eh?

From that point on, I began to vigorously fight these urges to seek out the familiar and the 'safe'. The mind can be a funny thing, and it makes me laugh to think how such a trivial accomplishment can be so important!

We moved at the beginning of July, and I also purchased the 520 at that time. The next challenge?? Ready for another laugh? Getting on the 520! I'd grown used to my Trek Navigator, and was concerned about riding a bike with the clipless pedals wearing regular shoes! Brilliant! Once I got on that bike though, and remembering the 'lessons' from earlier in the Summer, I began to really start exploring the bike paths around Denver. Some of the best times I've had in this city have been the little day trips on the bike, taking pictures and seeing Denver from new perspectives.

Clipless pedals! That was another one! I fought the realization that I really should use them, because... say it with me now; you know the theme... I 'wasn't comfortable' trying them. I forced myself to by a pair of Cannondale shoes, and it took me at least 3 weeks to get them on my feet and on the bike. I was sure I'd be falling in the street somewhere! Guess what. No problem. Another theme! I love them now, and missed them when I commuted to work.

There are still hurdles to overcome, but they're minor and fear- based. I'm unsure how the stealth camping will work out, but I'll figure that out. I'm rather intimidated by the idea of riding on busy roads, but I'll suck it up. And there are times when I'll step out on the porch when it's cold and ask "What in the hell are you thinking!" The voice of self- doubt is gradually becoming quieter & eventually he'll be replaced by something else.

Even now, before the trip has even begun, this process has worked wonders for me personally. It's helped me to bust out of the mental prison of habit, and re- introduced me to the wonders of discovery; part of my psyche that's been a bit ignored. Youth is indeed sometimes wasted on the young!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

9/27/06: Bike Tour-Gear & Training

Since this is my first tour, I had to start from scratch! I didn't even know what a 'pannier' was in March!

No kidding. Quit laughing.

The first decision, obviously, was a bike. After asking alot of questions, doing much reading, and buying my first 'touring bike' off of Craigslist, a mid 80's Peugeot for $100, I decided that since I lack expertise I should get something that's reliable and has a good record of satisfaction. Since I couldn't afford the Koga World Traveler, I decided on the Trek 520. I got it from Wheat Ridge Cyclery, and wish I hadn't. Had I bothered to ask around a bit more I would have found other places that were willing to swap components, such as the stem for instance. Lesson #1. The bike itself has been excellent however!

Since the purchase, I added a Brooks B-17 Standard and SKS fenders that I purchased from Wallingford Bike, simply because of the SIX MONTH return policy on the saddle! The Brooks however will NOT be going back. The fenders have again been replaced by Bonrager '45's' to accommodate the wider tires/tread. I've also added a Jandd Mountaineering full front rack and a Tubus Logo on the rear. I've replaced the Bontrager 700c x 32's with Michelin TransWorld 35's and may replace those with the Schwalbe Marathon XR's before I leave. At the very least there will be a pair of folding XRs in the panniers.

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The panniers are the most agonizing for me, simply because of my reluctance to spend money! In the end however, I decided on the Arkel GT-54's. Big mothers! I found them in stock at Campus Cycles, and in addition to the panniers felt fortunate to find a dealer I can trust. More on that later...I'm probably going to roll with some Performance panniers up front. Simply because I already have them! I'll rely on my ingenuity to keep things dry up there (read: garbage bags).

I'm going to carry both a tent and Hennessey Hammock at the outset, and probably ship one home. The Hennessey is light and takes up little space, so we'll see. I'll also be taking my 2-man three-season tent that I picked up at the Coleman Outlet store. Checked the REI garage sale; it was a big waste of time.

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Out in the woods...
-Kryptonite 'New York' lock and will carry a cable for tires/trees.

-MSR Whisperlite International stove and a cooking set as well, as I intend to spend as little on food as I can; lots of oatmeal!

-Added the SKS double kickstand.

I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting. Let me know if you have questions or suggestions!

As for bike shops. What is the matter with these people?? There are exactly two bike shops I trust. Campus Cycles and Denver Bike. That's it! Between the profiteering at the expense of inexperienced shoppers and borderline indignation, I've come to appreciate patience and honesty. Campus Cycles got just about all of my business until we got a look under the belly of the service department. Just like Turin, they seem to be annoyed to the brink of violence by someone with questions! On the positive side for Turin, Leslie is the most knowledgeable and helpful person as far as touring goes. She sold me the 520--even though I didn't buy it there.

I'll never set foot in Collins Bikes on Colfax again. Adventure Cycling was fine, but I was disappointed in their selection. I'm not sure there is anything more annoying than 'bike snobs', and that attitude really has no place in retail. I'm sure the folks at Campus were happy that many of you are asses, since I'll be buying products much longer than I'll be ignorant. However, after the experience with the service department (see 10/22 update), and considering how much money I've spent there, I may be back in the market for a bike shop.


Training. Yeah....

I've read alot of journals about people who profess to go on strict diets and riding regimens. That's great for them, but I still eat and wont lie and claim to ride 200 miles a week!

My training has consisted of commuting to and from work, and riding anywhere between 30 & 45 miles about twice a week. To my credit, I try to carry a decent load on the bike and seeks out the hills but I have a problem with destinations. I really don't like to set mileage goals because it takes the spontaneity out of the ride; and hate re-tracing my route. I could get 'mileage' on a stationary! I ride whenever and however long I feel like, and make sure I enjoy myself!

I'll update this page a week or two into the trip, and let you know how I feel then! Deal?

Some "training" terrain, on Mt. Motherfucker, as I affectionately call her.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

9/27/06: Bike Tour-A Mini-Manifesto?

From: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/T2

The What & How

This bike trip is in reality almost completely improvised, as the title suggests. At the outset, I'll be riding with my young friend Bruno, whom I met on Couchsurfing. He's riding right now from Montreal toward Vancouver. The tentative plan is for me to meet him somewhere west of Seattle, turn the bikes south and ride. That's pretty much it. I've added an update on Bruno's progress as well because the story of his journey west is sure to become interesting, especially about the time he approaches the Canadian Rockies in October! There's a possibility, likelihood even, that my trip will begin here in Denver.

I have another friend, Sarah, who's teaching English in Tampico, Mexico who has invited us to 'stop by'! I would love to! She's an adventurist at heart, and I suspect she's feeling a bit chained to her j-o-b! The Tampico decision will be made WAY down the road.

The duration of this trip will be up to 5 1/2 months. Depending, of course, on money. To conserve cash and to adhere to the philosophical foundation I've resolved to avoid hotels and campgrounds. My intention is to stealth camp and Couchsurf almost exclusively. Relearn self- reliance and sharpen my survival instincts to something more than a sprint to Motel 6 & McDonald's only to waste money in an effort to avoid adversity. I'm not so foolish as to believe that there will be NO hotels or McDonald's, but no more than are absolutely necessary!

I'd love to hear from anyone and everyone, and I'll do my best to update as much as possible. I intend to keep a written daily-journal, and will copy directly from that when the internet presents itself. Sign the damn guestbook too!

Why: Vitam Impendere Vero!

You know the look, don't you.

The one you're guaranteed whenever you tell someone you're going on an extended, self-sustained bike trip...especially LEAVING in October! They can't quite figure out WHY someone would WILLINGLY subject themselves to effort at the risk of ANYTHING resembling inconvenience! They cannot fathom any other way of life outside of the pursuit of comfort, and when they see or hear someone running directly against that current in pursuit of something, ANYTHING, greater than Consumerism, you can actually physically SEE their programming short circuit!

I love that look!

This is a bike trip that's been, in the grand scheme of things, more than two years in the making, without me realizing it until April! I've never been a person who's ever been satisfied with anything. No matter what goal I'd set for myself, what new toy I'd buy, or whatever new location I'd find myself living in, the results are always the same: dissatisfaction. I found myself, as Pink Floyd says "waiting for someone or something to show me the way". It never occurred to me that the 'way' is lurking inside. Actually...it doesn't lurk. It screams. I'm just learning to understand it.

In 2004, I decided, out of desperation, to take a very close look inside & ask some very raw questions of myself and to give even more brutal answers. While this project is far from complete, I've come to some very startling, by institutional standards, realizations. That the less I have, and the less I want, the happier I am. The less I feel the need to possess, the closer to absolute freedom I feel. I believe it's true that your 'stuff', even a house, car, job, end up owning you. To what end?

I've also come to realize that the deeper I try to explain these things the less they make sense!

Suffice it to say that I have some very definite ideas about my path to some sense of happiness and purpose and none of them involve new cars, mortgages, or climbing a 'ladder'! Each person has their own path and their own voice. Mine has brought me here. The bike trip is symbolic of a transition from philosophy & ideas to action & experience. For those of you who know the name and story of Heinze Stucke, you'll have a good chance to understand. Enough from the soapbox.


I've decided to add this at the outset, to give a better understanding of what it is I hope to accomplish with this trip, since these 'goals' are far from 'mileage', or 'destinations'.

First and foremost I want to reconcile philosophy and action. I've spent two years complaining about the state of affairs and expectations of the "American Dream". It's apparent that from the earliest days, Americans are indoctrinated into a system that puts a premium on conformity and finding a 'place' in the economic machine, with the promise that monetary and vocational 'success' will lead to fulfillment. The formula to be followed is beaten into our heads by the educational system, politicians, religions, and of course (and most insidious of all) the MEDIA. After spending roughly 10 years in radio, and observing how the media, and advertising in particular, operate I've become hyper-sensitive to the way the public is manipulated and kept 'stupid' as a means for these outlets to garner ratings and advertising revenue. Once I tuned into that, saw it operate from the inside, and asked myself if I have ANY sense of idealism...well, it's impossible to just "play along!"

Most Americans in my not-so-humble opinion, and to paraphrase John Lennon, are kept 'doped by religion, sex, and TV'. But yet, "are still fucking peasants" in the grand scheme. Blinded by consumerism and chasing the next financial trophy to gain some sense of status, purpose and self-worth, they have no concept of the fact that they are indeed individuals beyond becoming a reality TV star or creating a page on MySpace. People are not bound or beholden to any state or system, and while Americans are full of the "Freedom Jingoism", they forget that 'liberty' isn't defined by the ability to buy a new car, house, or TV (on credit), but to be the master of their own destiny. WHATEVER that destiny may be.

One of my favorite aspects of children is the most annoying to many parents. The tendency to ask "Why? Why? Why?"! Eventually the answer becomes "Because I said so!!" People should NEVER stop asking why, and never be content until the answers are found. One of my favorite examples of 'why' that is happened at work. A friend of mine was getting married, and said "Aren't you supposed to spend three month's salary on the ring?" I asked him "why?". His response was...and I'm not kidding...was that he heard that on a jewelery commercial!! Of course I protested, and asked why he should feel obligated to spend what a JEWELER said he should! "I don't know..that's what you're supposed to do!!" This is the time when 'the look' hits; he couldn't answer that because he'd been conditioned to accept it. "They" said so. People get so pissed off when you press them on this. It's that area of dirty truth, hidden under the floorboards of a musty house. The place no one wants to go for fear of what they may find. It's easier to close the eyes, accept it and avoid the fight.

I wont just 'accept' anything any longer.

That's all fine and great except for one thing: how do you put these ideals into practice??? That's the primary goal of this bike trip. More self-reliance, and less dependence on a system that, for me, corrupt. People in the 21st century cannot live completely independently, however, you can choose how you utilize the system. I've decided to try to figure out a way to work when & how I choose, but only to support myself and allow me to explore myself and my world. My initial idea was hiking; biking is much more efficient because I can cover much more ground.

That's the long term goal.

In the short term, I want to relearn, and embrace my survival instincts. I also want to learn to just 'let go' to a greater degree, with no itinerary or 'plan' other than riding. I want persevere. Eliminate fear and the resulting dependency. And, I want to come back to Denver at the end with a clearer idea of the next step, which will, hopefully, be of a much greater scale than this one. Or knowing that I was completely full of hot air!

I know that some of this tends to offend & annoy some people, if that's the case, I apologize. But bear in mind that I'm not trying to convince anyone of an ideology, simply to develop and practice my own. We all have a path and reasons; these are mine!

After the trip, I'll refer to this and see how well I did!

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Horrors!!! He SMOKES!!!