Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Biking Canada to San Francisco

1145 MILES. 18 DAYS. 3 STATES.


I climbed into the heavens to the point where the Earth was hidden by clouds and soared back like a rocket with gravity pulling me closer and closer while I carved the twisting roads on my half an inch wide tires. There were days where the rain on my face felt like being shot by pellets and there were days when I felt like I on was riding on a giant frying pan. There were days when the sun felt like it was being manipulated by a child in control of a light switch and days when I felt like I was riding in a unreleased Stephen King novel. The towns were perfect, most of them were ready to film.

I enjoy amtrak rides and I think you would too. The woman next to me tucked me in with her blanket while I slept and another man gave me his map. A few hours later I was siting in a different car of the train wine tasting by myself. It was my first ever wine tasting and I tried to the best of my abilities to copy what everyone else was doing. I enjoyed the fact I was by myself and red. I take that back. It wasn't particularly the aloneness I enjoyed or the wine tasting, it was the randomness. I went through a few beers after that and swapped magazines with this cute girl named Kate. My Paper for her Nylon. A few hours later I was in Vancouver. It was 2 or 3 in the morning, I was tired, and naively left my backpack on the ground in front of the train station to make a phone call to Logan since my phone did not work. Vancouver has a crack problem that is comparable to San Francisco. little did I know, I left my Canon 5d, Leica z2x, ipod, passport, Bernard Wilhelm x Linda Farrows x Topman sunglasses, apartment keys and most sacred journal in that backpack. I would never make that move in San Francisco, why Vancouver? I was blinded by my vision of a country with universal health care. The next few hours I frantically searched through alleys looking for that crackhead with my backpack. What I found were countless instances of crackheads like hyenas feasting off of crack. I saw some young teenagers. I saw a crackhead sleeping that reminded me of The Exorcists. Her screams and movements of suffering I don't think i'll ever forget. I spoke with so many crackheads between 3-9 in the morning. I thought I could get into his shoes and think of his next move. I googled pawn shops in that area and I was going to contact them if they saw my stuff. It turns out that there is a mile long sidewalk sale of stolen goods in Vancouver. My hope sank. I filed a report and left Vancouver only after a few hours. Day one was a funny day.

We took a few ferries and I found myself face to face with U.S. Customs. Despite the little assurance U.S. Customs gave me on the phone while I was at the Vancouver Police Department, I made it back into the United States. That was day two.

I ran into the same people on many occasions over the same 101 over the stretch of two states. The French-Canadian couple was my favorite. Logan and I would run into them at restaurants, campsites and lookout points. Isabelle had red hair and the guy whose name I regrettably have forgotten had one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen and would grab my shoulder and shake it when he would come to say hello. I don't really remember shaking hands with him but I know I did. I only remember him shaking my shoulder when he said hello. They were delightful. He wrote down our names so he can share stories with his family and friends of the people he met. There were others we met that were extraordinary and incredible as well. This old man named Ray told me his first bicycle tour was 18 months. He also told me he once rode from Canada to Mexico and back in 24 days. Another man I met on his day 50 was biking from Anchorage, Alaska, to Argentina. That made me feel like a Vagina with a capital V.

Another man casually spoke about his 5 dollar hooker in Washington Heights and the time he smoked crack with a hooker in Bakersfield. We both recalled the difficulty of crossing the George Washington Bridge in New York to go to New Jersey which was neat. We also both see people that don't exist (I think) when we get really tired/sleepy.

In washington I stopped at a place that advertised itself on the road by claiming "world's best oysters" which was a simple reason to pull over. 5 oyster shooters for 2.25 and they were taken from just 10 miles away. We also picked up smoke salmon from there and I had it for dinner with my pasta that night. I brought back souvenirs: two cans of sockeye smoked salmon. I swear that the pacific northwest has a clam chowder lake. Every restaurant served clam chowder and i never got sick of it. I became a judge of clam chowder. Our appetites increased as did our restaurant bills as the ride went further and more deep. We would order full breakfasts with a lunch meal like a turkey melt or something. I went through a few boxes of oatmeal. I think of oatmeal now as vomit (with food chunks) to a starving person. We desperately needed calories and each bite was immersed in thoughts of need for nutrients.

Hygiene was a hilarious situation. Some campgrounds did not have showers so we used baby wipes. I slept with layers of sunblock on me that reminds me of the layers in the Grand Canyon as you descend. I could scrape it off with my fingernails. mosquitos love me. I maneuvered about like I was on crack so they could not land on me. We slept on the lawn in the back of a police station in Washington one night. I recall one person walking above on the bridge saying "WTf? People sleep down there?"

There was a night when we were riding into the black on potholed roads . It was about 11-1130 at night and I tried my best to refrain from not letting my imagination take over. By the end of that night, I was walking about through the forest with a knife in my hands. Logan asked me if I was going to kill him.

There was another night when I was fending off invading raccoons. As I slept under the bright moon on the beach, I was awoken by the fuckers and saw its silhouette through the moon's light as it was on our picnic table digging into our shit. the silhouette was photogenic. I chucked my shoe at it. It did not flinch, instead it went over and smelled it. A few moments later I find myself hissing and shining my flashlight (ohhh scary) to keep them away. They are so mischievous. Imagine how much more shit we would be in if they had opposable thumbs. I don't know how long I was out there but I was defeated, but not largely, just in a humiliating manner. The next morning our tent bag was missing. They took it to their den despite there being no food in it. It laid there next to a spatula and a beer can. Logan used a stick with tape on the end to grab it. I was going to lay gorilla tape (like duct tape) all over so they wouldn't fuck with us ever again.

Logan's knee began to give out on him. We did a 90+ miles day with lots of climbing and that did it. I was carrying about 70 pounds of gear trailered to my bicycle and he was probably carrying around that amount as well. A lot of days we were booking it. We charged up these mountains as if we were sprinting and weren't carrying gear. Somehow it feels good... really good.

During the last day while standing up and climbing up Mt. Tam I realized that pain is one of the best teachers that life can give. It is our body's natural teacher for the physical and emotional. But u must realize that there is a lot to learn from pain.

Just as you learn your limits by learning not to do something again in a certain situation, you can also learn that pain is temporary and learn more about yourself by pushing your limits.

Once you become more comfortable with the fact that everything will be okay afterwards, you will learn how to push yourself, and to ultimately know yourself a little better.

You can do it too. how many times have I heard people tell me they wish they could do what I do? Do you want to know why I can and they can't? It's simple. I see things more clearly. It's the same mindset of people that believe traveling is unobtainable. It's the same belief that hinders most people from doing anything. Just a lack of ambition.

The advantage I have is mindset. It's easy for me to go to the gym or to ride a bike. On the other hand, it feels like being water-boarded when i have to complete an assignment for school. Like I said, mindset.

The truth is, I rarely saw people that look like athletes touring.

Click on any of the below images.

1 comment:

miss cellophane said...

i truly loved reading that. hope all is well <3