Monday, October 8, 2007


This last posting on Space Leeches is sort of like David Lee Roth reuniting with Van Halen: both took a long time and probably no one is paying attention anymore. Or maybe I'm wrong and am going to receive pages of hate comments from Van Halen fans who are certain an older, balder, fatter Diamond Dave will be even better than before. Panama!

Okay down to the business at hand. This is the very last posting on Space Leeches which is sort of sad for me because I enjoyed this blogsite, or the name at least. It's funny because space leeches are imaginary, yet for some reason, this is supposed to be a practical guide to them, and yet no where in the blog does it ever delve into explaining anything about space leeches. Isn't that so funny?

Since this blog felt married to the bicycle trip my friends and I took this summer, I feel i need a clean break from it, so enter the rebound blog at All i can hope is that I don't have to suffer that awkward moment when I'm out in public with the new blog and the old blog just happens to be there too, so we smile and make small talk, and i just know the ex-blog is saying shit about me behind my back.

The new blog, All the Knots Undone, will be updated once a week and will be a mixture of anecdotes, musings, and inappropriate jokes. Example:

What did the deaf, dumb, and blind kid get for Christmas? Cancer.

I didn't make that joke up; i heard it somewhere and stole it, so next time you tell it at the Jimmy Fund's Charitable Ball, don't credit me with it.


Q and A

Q: What was the highlight of your journey and your lowest point?

A: Its funny how low points and highlights have a cause and effect relationship and, therefore, are usually the same moment or mere minutes apart. It's hard to find one single high and low pair that was superior to the rest but here are the top ones.

1. In the North Dakota Badlands the cable to my back gears snapped and I had to get over a sizable hill at the end of an already long day without being able to drop my bike into lower gears. This would be the low point. I could only rotate my peddles about five times consecutively before I'd have to stop, head down on the handlebars, until I could breath again. I had to repeat this process (1. mount bike, 2. peddle three to five times, 3. dismount bike and rest head on handle bars) about a hundred times to make it up the hill.

About a quarter way up this hill, i started to question whether it would even be possible for me to make it all the way to the top with my bike and body in this condition. But that particular day I was upset because of some private issues--needless to say, they were girl-related--and i would not let myself quit at that point, so i continued the extremely slow trip uphill, all the while disparaging myself with horrible insults that no respectable gentleman such as myself would repeat in a public forum, but suffice it to say, dealt primarily with bringing to question whether i really was in possession of male genitalia, or if indeed, i had female sex parts.

The story isn't all that dramatic because you obviously know I made it to the top or else I wouldn't be blogging about it here in Panera Bread with their wonderful free WiFi and refillable coffee (i bought a small cup last week and have been reusing it every day since). But, at the time, this was very dramatic for me, and oddly enough, I actually thought that the hill might actually be infinite and i'd never, ever reach the top (See the myth of Sisyphus). So afterwards...get ready for a high point... I felt this unbelievable sense of accomplishment at the top and did indeed prove to the disparaging side of me that not only was I in possession of male genitalia, it was well above average in size.

2. I was just about to write another anecdote illustrating a low point turned high point and realized it's essentially the same as that last one. You really can distill all low points to going up a hill or mountain and all high points to getting to the top of that hill or mountain. But, here's another example. Biking along the Pacific Coast Highway in California was tough because the shoulders were narrow or non existent; the choice was either bike in the street amongst cars that didn't seem concerned about making a wide berth for cyclists or plummet down the side of a cliff. One time I was sweating trying to get up a particularly steep portion, but once I got to the top, I realized I was so high up, I could actually look down on the backs of hawks that were circling for prey in the valley to my right. For someone who's lived his whole life in the densely populated cities and suburbs of the northeast, it's shocking to see such a large and predatory bird up close. I can guarantee you they look nothing like pigeons of which I've had more experience. There were times when hawks (or some other bird of prey, i'm not an ornithologist) would fly so low--or i'd be so high--that i'd reflexively duck for fear that they'd fly into me. That's pretty neat for a city mouse such as myself.

Q: How about even kissing a sunset pig?

A: Since this sentence ends with a question mark, I feel obligated to respond. But honestly, I have no idea what this means. Further explanation is required.

Q: I'm curious to know how the trailer performed for you.

A: Since this is not phrased in the form of a question, I will no respond. Just kiddings, all. I picked up a Bob Trailer in Montana and it made it to Portland, OR then down to SF in a sort of L-shaped, chess knight travel pattern across the northwest. Though it didn't solve my back tire issues (i still popped plenty of spokes hobbling to portland) i have no complaints. I didn't have to do any maintenance on it except for a couple flats on the tire which are to be expected. It can hold a lot of stuff, is easy to attach and detach, and is fairly maneuverable considering the size, though I don't recommend trying to get it onto the BART subway system in San Francisco. They always tell me how laid back californians are, but they aren't all that laid back when you are blocking three rows of seats on a train. I don't know what model I have, but it's a 2004 limited anniversary edition which means it has a sort of splatter guard over the wheel and a sticker proclaiming it a limited edition, possibly bumping the price up a bit.

Q: Have you thought about where you're going to live yet? You might get the been there, done that feeling when thinking about returning to Maryland but I would love to be able to drive out to where ever and chill with you for a bit and I can't really do that if you decide to stay on the west coast.

A: For now, I have no comment on where I will be moving next. I'm certain there will be an official press release in the new blog. As for Maryland, that state will always be near and dear to my heart. From its state flag that looks better suited as the paint job on a Nascar vehicle than hanging in a government building to the streets of Baltimore paved with chicken wing bones, I only have fond memories of that most northern of southern states. Yes, i consider maryland a southern state. Case in point: when i ask for grits there, they do not look at me like I'm fresh off the boat.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

hanging up my spandex

So here I am in San Francisco, a day earlier than I had planned.  Don't know how long I'll stay, but certainly long enough to wear flowers in my hair, leave my heart here, sit on the dock of the bay, and drive in my taxi, getting tips and getting stoned (feel free to add any other SF song references you can think of).  

I had planned to blog at least once more before it was all over, some pompous essay in which i'd compare myself to Moses after 40 years of desert walking finally at the foot of the city of Jericho, only to die before he sees what's within the gates.  But it seems the california coast encourages illiteracy because I could not find a single library along the way, and it would be 
silly to write that post now, seeing as I have gotten to set my eyes on the city of SF afterall, without having to dig a single ditch or blow a trumpet.  

The final numbers: 9 days of biking, 794.83 miles.  It seems appropriate that I came to SF on a cross country trip 50 years after Jack Kerouac wrote "On the Road" which chronicled his own cross country trip to SF.  But instead of granola bars and gas station tap water, he had hard
alcohol and sex.  But otherwise, the similarities are uncanny.  

let me see what is worth sharing since last we spoke...


When I first got that little portable radio, I was so enthralled to hear human voices that it didn't even matter to me what I was listening to: telethons, experimental electronica, the local news in spanish.. with the exception of Dr. Laura, she's too much of a bitch.  But, as expected, I started channel surfing within two days, only to find that in Northern California, country stations have the strongest radio waves.  How quickly i went from saying "I hate country" to yee-hawing out loud, pretending my Trek was a buckin bronco, and yes, even getting a little choked up when Kelly Pickler sang about how she wished her mom was still around to see her wedding.  What can I say?  Country goes great with redwoods.  

When I was a kid, my family would go on these two week vacations every summer, usually involving hundreds of miles driving.  My dad at some point started really liking an AM radio station that played really mellow oldies and American standards, so much so that he started recording the station so we could hear it on these mammoth road trips.  Hours upon hours
listening to America, Bread, Air Supply, England Dan and John Ford Coley, Neil Diamond (not "Kentucky Woman" neil diamond, but "heartlight" neil diamond, which i did hear while biking 
and began imagining I had ET on my Bob trailer floating me over the hills.  this probably makes no sense if you don't know the song, but damn do I love it), Anne Murray, the Carpenters... a 
veritable army of passive, unoffensive soft rock and adult contemporary superstars. 
And i hated it at the time, but you know what?  I can't get enough of that tepid soft rock 
soup now.  I can now understand why abusive parents raise abusive kids.  Thank god my 
dad wasn't an alcoholic.  


In CA, they don't have adorable accents like they do in MN, the kind of accent that always reminds me of Mrs. Poole, the next door neighbor on Hogan's Family.  But I do love their adjectives.  At a rest stop, I met a guy who said he'd seen me riding for a while on Highway 101.  

"you biked from NJ?"
"I've driven cross country, but that's pretty gangsta do to it on bike."
"Yes, well, often times my actions are best described as "gangsta."  Good day, sir."

My west coast friends, is it syntactically correct to use "hella" and "gangsta" together to suggest the penultimate or the superlative?  For example, is it grammitcally correct to say the new neil diamond single is "hella gangsta?"


Ross had suggested I ride down from SF to Houston, TX to see a dear friend, but I think my touring days are over for a while.  i'm perfectly happy on a couch instead of a wet sleeping bag.  After yesterday, I just feel spent.  Nothing left in me.  But that's a good thing, I think.  You can't fill a cup that's already full, right?  I think i'm ready to return to my life, whatever that may be.  


I may continue blogging on this site, albeit without ever using the word "bicycle" again.  Or I may make a new blog and retire this one along with my spandex shorts.  But thanks for all the support and comments... as always, it's good to hear from you.  


Q and A

Q: Is the car driver hitting you from the passenger side? Did this driver aim at you?
A: Mrs. Shu, I do not think the guy driving the Hummer was actively trying to hit me.  I think, as many drivers do, he was just trying to go as fast as possible despite any obstacles, ie, my body.  

Q: Any trouble with fog during the early morning hours?
A: When i left portland, it was a hot day, something in the 90's.  The next day, I made it to the coast and within ten miles of the ocean it suddenly was chilly and difficult to see.  The mornings were the worst for fog; I'd keep my back light on even with the sun out because visibility couldn't have been much better than 20 feet at times.  Also, I didn't bring a tent this time thinking that a reduced load would save me another couple trips to a bike shop.  It worked; i had no bike issues at all, but, unfortunately, instead of being in a nice, dry tent, I slept in my sleeping bag wrapped in a plastic tarp, the type you use to collect leaves.  With the morning fog, I woke up every morning to a wet sleeping bag.  Not pleasant.  

Q: Did you get the H2 owner's information?
A: When i asked the guy for a business card or contact information, he said he didn't have any, like he didn't understand why I wanted it.  Well sir, you hit me with your automobile.  I think it would be wise for me to be able to contact you in case, say, it turns out that the medical community does a study and finds out it's not healthy to get hit by SUVs.  I didn't get the impression that he was trying to weasel out of his responsibility; he was an older gentleman and it just seemed like he had no idea what was going on.  The car was brand new, no license plate, but he did give me his home number which i called a few minutes later to confirm it was real.  For a few miles i was playing with the idea of calling the cops, sueing him for some ridiculous amount of money (he has a H2, he can afford it), and living off the lawsuit money for the rest of my life.  But it seemed less than ethical considering i have absolutely no pain of which to speak.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Without Ross, I have to bear the responsibility of relaying some facts and figures.

Day 1: Portland to somewhere near Grand Ronde - ~85 miles
Day 2: Somewhere near Grand Ronde to Washburne State Memorial Park - ~75 miles
Day 3: Washburne to Bullards Beach State Park - ~95 miles

Let me know if there's anything else Ross or Julie would have usually provided on their blogs. I feel like a single parent now, having to carry the weight shouldered by my riding partners before so you all don't feel like you're missing out now. Maybe instead i will just buy you all puppies.

Ride to San Fran has been good so far. The highlight has been purchasing a $10 AM/FM radio. Imagine all this time I've been wasting praying to God when instead I could have been listening to Justin Timberlake, whose voice is like heaven. You haven't lived until you've cruised the Pacific listening to "It's Raining Men." And, as if Jesus himself were a DJ, at one of the steepest uphills I had to climb, the radio started playing the perennial metal anthem, "Walk" by Pantera to get me through my hardest times (it's such a moving personal anecdote, i'm thinking of publishing it on bookmarks like that poem "Footprints").

Having a radio made me realize how detached from the world I've been. Why didn't anyone tell me that Kanye West's new single is incredible? Or that something happened to Brittany Spears at the VMA (i'm still sketchy on the details)? Or that Tori Amos has a song in which she proudly proclaims her MILFdom? That song may be old; I really have no idea. Anyway, it's like I've been an astronaut away for years only to come back to a planet overrun by apes.

As for lodging, I've been using actual camp sites sponsored by the state. It's a bit more challenging to find free places around here for a couple of reasons. 1.) If you ask someone about places to camp, they'll probably direct you to a real camping site because there are dozens of them here. 2.) There don't seem to be towns at the distance I want to go. Paying hasn't been a problem; the state run camps cost $4 a night and it's worth it for some peace of mind (not to mention my mother's peace of mind).

Last night, i was sharing a picnic table at a camp site with a couple from Montreal who kept to themselves mostly, but were kind enough to offer me their spices.

"Please use these spices if you would like," said the woman in her lovely French Canadian accent.
"Oh, thank you, but I'm getting used to bland food," I said as i boiled my mac and cheese and watched them pepper the sides of sirloin steak and wrap potatoes in foil.
"SPices make everything better," she said.
"Will it turn my Mac and Cheese into steak and potatoes with rolls dipped into gravy? While I'm at it, will it turn my stale Oreos into some orange slices heated on an open fire and doused in some sort of sweet liqueor sauce?" I didn't actually say that but watched them eat all those aforementioned foods. Julie once told me about food envy. I didn't understand until last night.

Don't read this last paragraph if you are a worrier. On my second day in Lincoln City, I got hit by a car. Don't worry, i'm fine. An old fucker in a hummer caught me with his passenger side mirror, but they make those things to collapse. I just felt a thud. When I talked to the guy he seemed out of it. But, again, I'm fine and the shoulder feels fine. And if it's any consolation, it was an H2, which is Barbie-mobile of the SUV world.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Victory Lap

On Sunday, Sept 9th, I'm shimmying into the spandex once again and riding down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco to see a very good, old friend who I miss quite a bit. This time, I will not have the support of Ross and Julie who were just amazing people with whom to travel. Before we left NJ, I never thought we'd be able to get along so well considering the mental and physical strain we'd all endure, but I couldn't have been more wrong. They were fantastic riding partners.

And the most important thing to remember between riding partners is honesty. So here are some things I meant to confess to both of them about this ride.

1. I was breaking all my spokes purposely because I wanted attention from the bike shop repairmen.
2. Once Julie and Ross got ahead of me, I stopped peddling and started hitchhiking. Then I'd ask to be let off a quarter mile from where we were supposed to meet (not unlike a seventh grader asking his parents to drop him off a block before the school) then I'd pour my water bottle over my head so it looked like I was actually riding.
3. This one's actually true: I like tomatoes. For a while now, tomatoes headlined a very short list of foods I didn't like. I didn't want to look like a food whore (oh, armin, yeah, he'll eat ANYTHING. There's nothing he won't put in his mouth), so I could always say, "Ewww. Tomatoes. No thank you!" But, Ross started buying grape tomatoes which were a nice, fresh change of pace from Oreos and jerky. And then I moved onto the slightly larger cherry tomatoes, until finally I was hooked and ate a normal sized tomato just like an apple. So now the only thing I guess I don't like is ketchup and any dish that has human placenta in the recipe.


Q and A

Q: I think that your "rock like a light socket" is a good one, but I may choose to use "rock like a light sucket"? Will it be okay with you I mean if I use that as an encouragement to you, not to me?

A: Mrs, Shu, EVERYTHING you write to me encourages me to continues blogging, so thank you for your support. I certainly have no problem if you change the saying to what you feel is appropriate, especially because it didn't mean anything to begin with. My only apprehension is that "sucket" is not a word, but teeters dangerously close to "suck it" which, where I come from (north JERZ) is a somewhat offensive thing to say. But I'm not the FCC, nor do I care to be, so to borrow from the Isley Brothers, "It's your thing, do what you want to do. I can't tell you who to suck it to."

Q: If you were a viking, would you have taken a boat instead of a bike?
A: actually, if I were a viking, I'd take scandanavian airlines to the chicago, IL to enjoy the Viking breakfast at Sven. As an aside, once I asked my Swedish roommate if she had ever had swedish style pancakes, and she said, "Yes, but i just call them pancakes."

Q and A

Please forgive me. I'm new to the whole blogging scene and I think I've committed some blogging faux pas: when people have been posting questions in their comments, I've totally ignored them. I've just been thinking about new entries, but this isn't like writing a book that you read without an exchange of ideas. This is more a dialog, a beautiful ballet of questions and answers performed on the electric stage of DSL.

So though I've truly appreciated seeing everyone's comments, it never really occurred to me to answer them until now. So here I go if anyone is still reading this thing...

1. Count Chocula, I did not hear very odd accents in western PA, but I did notice that there was not a single Japanese or European car for almost the length of that state. It was chevy, ford, ram, or John Deere.
2. Pam, I did not get to eat any Czech food in Chicago. But I did just have a czech pork sandwich and potato salad here in Portland out of a little food cart. I've enjoyed the food carts here so much that I refuse to eat food now unless it was cooked in the back of a trailer. These indoor, stationary restaurants are so yesterday.
3. Mrs. Shu, yes, all the bike issues I cataloged in the last blog are mine alone. Bike repairs and I were on an ongoing theme this whole summer. Riding my bike was like living with a family member that has a terminal illness: you'd have these good days here and there that gave you a glimmer of hope that maybe everything would be okay, but really, it was just a matter of time before you were back at the hospital. Oh, and a light socket is the opening into which you screw a lightbulb. I'm from New Jersey and no one actually says "rock it like a light socket" there. I just made that up in response to the very creative sayings and idioms you peppered into your comments. Feel free to start using that one if you'd like.
4. Ate, according to the scale at ross's brother's home, I was 25 lbs lighter when I first came to Portland a week ago, dropping from 180 in NJ to 155. I just weighed myself twenty min ago and it seems in this week I've gained 5 lbs. You can blame that on a free BBQ at Reed College, free beer at a gallery opening, and of course, public enemy number one, OLD COUNTRY BUFFET. Oh, and all the dates I imagine in my head go splendidly. The girl laughs at all my jokes and for some reason, I'm wearing really trendy clothes which I do not, nor ever plan to, own. Miraculously, there are no food stains on me and this imaginary girl is really into the smell of rotting milk that has permeated the upholstery of my Ford Escort. How's that been by the way?

If anyone has any questions, please comment again and I will be much more diligent about answering them.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

ding ding

that's the end of round twelve and it'll go to the score cards. The judges score it... a draw.

Forty five days of biking, over 3400 miles, and I didn't beat the road. But it sure as hell didn't beat me either.

In Portland, OR with Ross' brother and sister-in-law enjoying HD television and beer. We made it.

Now let's assess the damage, shall we?

1. At least 2 dozen flat tires.
2. About three dozen broken spokes between four different back tires. Today was the worst with eight broken spokes at once.
3. Four broken tire irons (the tool necessary to change a flat tire). At one point I just cut my tire off with my leatherman because my tire irons were too broken to take the the tire off.
4. Broken odometer stand.
5. Snapped BOB trailer flag which happened when I tried to wheel the damn thing down a steep embarkment where i was sleeping for the night, but lost control and it rolled over and on top of me.
6. Snapped rear deraiuller (sp?) cable (the cable necessary to switch gears in the back, thus making it less horrible to climb hills).
7. Stuck front derailleur (sp?) cable.
8. Broken hook on panier (sp?), or saddleback, which caused the entire bag to fall off and get lodged in the spokes of the back tire (see number 1).
9. Screws for rack falling out spontaneously, causing the rack and all the belongings on top of it to fall off into the road. casualties included my poor ukulele which could not stay in tune after the fall, and a delicious new orleans style trail mix that hopefully became squirrel bait, drawing the furry bastards into the very busy road.

Though this is the end of the ride, I may continue blogging on this site; after all, the URL "dirt eaters anonymous" is broad enough to encompass non-cycling entries as well, I think. Thanks to everyone who's followed this blog and especially to those of you who posted comments, even the cryptic ones I don't get at all. To Mrs. Shu, as they say where I come from, go on and rock it like a light socket.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

the end is near

Not apocalyptically speaking... I don't think at least. But we are less than 200 miles away from Portland, OR now; three days of moderate biking which is good because my body is starting to take the toll (though oddly enough, the worst abuse came on our day off in Missoula when I went to a metal show and gave myself whiplash from headbanging).

When we were in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, the three of us stayed with Ross' cousin who is married with three kids. A lovely family and fantastic hosts. The oldest daughter, eleven I think, and her friend had dinner with us adults and they excused themselves as the rest of us sat around drinking beer and talking.

I guess they went outside for a bit, because when they came back in, the daughter said to her friend, "They're STILL sitting around the table talking?" To which her friend replied, "Let's go downstairs and try on funny hats."

And I wanted to stop them, "Wait! No! I'm still cool! I don't normally sit around and drink beer and talk about financial risks and how companies can save upwards of one million dollars by re-evaluating their phone plans. I'm still young and fun! I like trying on funny hats!"

But why would they believe me? I guess I had an inkling for a while, but it's becoming undeniable that I am, in fact, an adult. But worse than that, I'm an adult with very little direction and the desires of a child. All I want to do after this trip is over is to watch Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers.

Part of the impetus for this trip was to clear the head, find my inner compass, and start pointing my life in a direction. But it's been a sort of purgatory biking all this time. I'm literally spinning my wheels while the rest of the world continues with whatever the non cycling world does day to day. Lately, it's actually felt more like hell than purgatory since I've had the song "The Name Game" stuck in my head throughout most of western Montana and Washington. Hours upon hours of

Come on everybody!
Let's play a game!
I betcha I can make a rhyme
Out of anybody's name!*

Lincoln, lincoln, bo bincoln
fa na na na na fo fincoln
me my mo mincoln

But I feel confident once I crawl out of this purgatory, stepping on the heads of unbaptized infants on my way to heaven, a new and better armin will be the end result, able to talk about financial planning at a dinner table AND wear a silly hat at the same time.

*Disclaimer: The Name Game is only applicable to one and two syllable names with the exception of Chuck, Art, and Rich.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


A friend of mine hiked the Appalacian trail after college, and when he recently went hiking in the woods with his mom, he said she stopped at every tree to gaze in awe. "Look at this one! This one is pretty!" That kind of thing, I imagine. And he said he couldn't get into it the same way, not that he thought the tree was ugly or that it was overweight and couldn't compete with those impossibly high standards the anorexic looking trees in Better Homes and Gardens set.

It was a tree like the thousands of others he'd seen during the however many months he spent walking that trail. Even beautiful things get old. So too with biking these last few weeks. Everyone talks about how amazing it must be, what an experience it is, all the things I get to see firsthand. It's true; the country is beautiful and there is no way I could absorb it all.

But because we do it every day for hours, I guess I just don't appreciate it as much as I think people expect me to. Same thing when my family vacationed in Yellowstone. We were so excited to see our first buffalo, but by the twentieth one or so, they all sort of look the same: brown lumps of bovine.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I'm not enjoying it more. That maybe I have the wrong attitude and that's why each moment on the bike isn't a communion with God. But then again, I don't think anyone in the normal world starts his car and takes a moment to marvel at the brilliant engineering and physics occurring under the hood. Or gapes in wonder at the sheer number of humans populating the streets, as people might with a herd of buffalo.

There's wonder in everything, but conversely, I guess that means everything wonderful can become pedestrian, common, and forgettable as well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

north dakota: no where near as shitty as some would lead you to believe

I would have liked to write this blog entry our last day in ND, but I've spent a considerable amount of time--and money--at bike shops recently. But, it's important to say that despite any rumors you hear about ND being flat and boring, the state turns out to be a lot prettier and interesting than people give it credit for.

For the sake of the North Dakota Tourism Bureau, so the operator no longer has to answer the phone, "No, we don't have Mt. Rushmore. You're thinking of South Dakota," here are some of my favorite parts of the state.

1. The Badlands-Hills and canyons composed of alternating layers of sedimentary rocks and red clay. Quite beautiful. It's very hard to bike through the region without singing "Badlands"by Bruce Springsteen even though I hate him. But since I hate him, i don't really remember how the song goes and end up singing it to the tune of Downtown. "When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go... BADLANDS!"

2. Fowl- Many varieties of interesting birds that fly out at us as we bike on less populated roads. I don't know anything about ornithology so I can't tell you what type of birds we see, but I can tell you they aren't penguins, ostriches, or dodos.

3. BAGA-the acronym stands for Bismarck art Gallery association. They had a lovely gallery opening one night that we stayed in town and the women were so pleasant, they took much of the left over food--fresh fruit, brownies, cheese, cold cuts, sausages--and packed it up into tupperware for us to eat during our entire stay.

4. The Missouri River- granted I did not swim in it, but I don't really swim much anyway. It was just pleasant to walk along it, watching families load up boats with food and coolers to enjoy a sunday afternoon on the water.

5. Clamdigger-at a bar called the Broken Oar on the Missouri, they serve this drink made of vodka, tomato juice (i think), worcester sauce, olives, a dill pickle, banana pepper rings, and a whole mess of other ingredients. Actually, I didn't like it much myself, but Ross hated it and watching him suffer trying to finish it was mildly amusing.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

how do you eat an elephant?

In September of the new school year, I'd go to each of the freshmen social studies class as one of the special ed teachers in the high school to give the kids a little song and dance about disabilities, make a few jokes, pass out candy... Generally, my only goal was that one of the popular girls would think it sweet to sit with my disabled students at lunch, thus followed by her popular girl friends, thus followed by the popular boys who want a piece of the popular girls, thus followed by anyone else in the school because they are all sheep with their popped collars and "Now That's What I Call Music" CD compilations.

Wait, that's needlessly harsh. Actually, all the kids I visited were great fun and receptive, and many, for no other reason than their own friendliness and acceptance of others, sat with my students at lunch blocks and even endured the less than discrete breast gazing of some of my male students.

But during these disability awareness talks, I'd open the floor to questions and the most clever question, the one that took the most deliberate stucturing of words for an appropriate response was the question, "What CAN'T your students do?"

"Well," says a sweating Mr. Tolentino, looking like a politician at a press conference fumbling for a response when he's presented with explicit photos of him and an underage male intern, " I actually don't know what my students can't do because I don't set limits on them. I never underestimate their potential."

And each time this question has been asked and I give that wholly unsatisfying and unhelpful answer, I wait for that one punk ass kid to raise his hand and say, "But you just told us some of the disabled students don't have the ability to speak or use sign language. So isn't that something they can't do? Could they drive cars? Could they go to college? Could they own a house, get married, raise kids, submit their taxes by April 15th without the aide of H & R Block?"

But no one ever raises his hand to challenge me. Why should they? This is the end of the class period. I've already eaten enough of their teacher's time and it's too late to open their text books to the chapter on the Fertile Crescent. I've done my job, no reason for the kids to drag it on anymore.

But if, perchance, one of them was inquisitive enough to mention this complete contradiction in my disability awareness talk, this is what I would have said:

"When all of you were growing up, hopefully your parents, elementary school teachers, coaches, clergy, everyone really, told you that you could be whatever you wanted to be when you grew up. 'Jimmy, if you want to, you could be President of the United States if you just follow your dreams.' So you were all probably told you could be Presidents of the United States because you are all precious little bodies and minds that only have to BELIEVE in your dreams to have them come true... as long as that's what you really want.
"How many of you still believe this? What are the chances that every single kid in this fresman year social studies classroom will become the President of the U.S. at some point in his or her life? What are the chances that anyone from this high school will ever become President?
"You could say, 'I don't want to be President. That's not my dream.' Sure. Fine. Let's take all the people who actually wanted to be President and were told when they were kids (and even adults) that if you try hard enough, you can be president. Michael Dukakis. Bob Dole. AL Gore. John Kerry. My knowledge of politics is admittedly poor, but I can bet you the list is even longer than that.
"So what's the point? If someone on the street asked me, 'Do you think any of those kids in Mrs. Cooper's 4th period freshmen World Civilizations class will ever become President?' I would, in the most logical parts of my mind, say, 'Nope.' Now does that mean that none of you can be President? Of course not. You were all born in the states, right? As long as you make it to 40 years old, I'm pretty sure those are the only two actual requirements. Is it likely you will be President? Hell no. Possible though? I guess.
"And so when you ask me what CAN'T my students do, I have to tell you 'I don't know because I've never set limits on them.' Same with you guys. Your teachers wouldn't dare say that you couldn't graduate high school or get into a college of your choice or work in any profession your little hearts desire. If a teacher did say that, he should be fired. We HAVE to live our lives in a constant and willful suspension of disbelief. We NEED to tell ourselves we can be things, do things, accomplish things that might seem impossible for us. That doesn't mean we are omnipotent and can do it all. But if you confuse 'a very small, insignificant, limit-approaching-zero chance' with 'impossible,' then you are doing everyone the grave disservice of never even trying.
"One more example before the bell rings. The survival rate for salmon fry from the time they hatch is preposterously low... something like the cliched 'one in a million.' Does that mean it's impossible for baby salmon to survive? Yeah, pretty damn close to it. But then again, if a few didn't make it past the herons, pesticides, frogs, and whatever else, then I wouldn't be enjoying the delicious baked salmon your wonderful high school cafeteria serves every Friday, which goes great with a side of seafood chowder and a dash of get me the hell out of here already. Class dismissed. Westwood High School Football Rules!"

Then they would clap for me or possibly raise me on their shoulders and carry me out to the field. But this never happened.

Why did I mention this? Oh, because biking cross country is sort of like that. Don't confuse it with running for president or trying to learn to talk if you have no verbal communication whatsoever. But it is a large and, at times, daunting project and anything that involves time and multiple steps--writing a novel, sewing a quilt, making a marriage work--has that aura of impossibility to it. So, as my karate sensei used to ask, how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

if i have ever lived in the same town as you...

I have a couple questions.

1. Have you ever seen a cracker called "Chicken in a Biskit" in your local supermarket?
2. If yes, why have you never offered them to me when I've come to your house/office/place of worship?

For those of you unfamiliar, a Chicken in a Bisket is a cracker with the buttery consistency of a Ritz and the salty, bullion cube and MSG laden flavor of Ramen soup noodles. It's like eating astronaut food: an entire meal in one, compact rectangle.

And you vegetarians don't have to feel left out. I'm pretty sure Nabisco boils the flavor out of a chicken without actually hurting it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

daed si luap

If you've been following all three of our blogs during this bike trip, you'll notice that Ross, Julie, and I don't usually write about the same things, despite being on the same roads, seeing the same things. Consider them each like gospels, different versions of the same story, and I guess mine is most similar to the Gospel of John: very little concrete information, confusing and unnecessary symbolism, subtle clues hinting to the exact date of Armageddon and/or Beatles' conspiracies...

Not very helpful, I know, if you want to hear about biking or podunk towns or unique characters from Indiana. It's time consuming to write that all down in a public library knowing you still more hours of biking ahead of you and don't want to offend the other library patrons with your odor.

But now that I'm showered and biding my time in Chicago, here goes...


The days usually start around 6 or 6:30. No alarm clock needed; we all wake up on our own around that time. Different species of birds sing at different hours of the morning, and I wish I had some bird calling familiarity so I could tell time without using a watch, but my ability to differentiate anything about birds is generally limited to "fried" of "baked." So I check the time using my bike odometer and as long as it's something near 6:00, I prep myself to get up.

The hardest part of this ride: putting on the bike shorts each morning. It takes a lot of resolve for me to slide out of a warm sleeping bag, pick up a pair of bike shorts that are usually cold and damp from dew, and shimmy into them. But once that's over, the rest of the day is much easier.

There's little to no conversation between us in the morning. We each pack up our equipment, break down tents, pack away sleeping clothes, fill up water if there's an outside faucet. We make breakfast, lately cereal and powdered milk. The only meaningful thing we say in the morning is, "So where are we going today?" We all look at the maps, pick a final destination that's somewhere around 60 miles away usually, and plan a first stopping point, a small town or intersection about 10-20 miles away.

Inflate the tires, check for loose screws, reset the odometer, stretch a bit, and off we go.


Once we get going, it feels good. The morning, though sometimes cold, is so quiet and peaceful. Less cars on the road. No overbearing sun blistering the exposed skin. Just cool, crisp cycling with fresh legs and the optimism only a new day can bring.

As I've said before, Ross and Julie are much faster cyclists than me, so soon after we start, I'm alone on the road, and prefer it that way. It's a quiet time on the road and being with other people would be like talking on a cell phone in a monastary. It feels offensive to the morning.

I meet them at the designated stops (hopefully), and we share funny anecdotes about dogs chasing us* or fascinating road kill. We share snacks of plum tomatoes, green beans, cheese in a can, various chocolate or Little Debbie items. We pick the next stop and it's off again.

On the bike, when I'm not thinking about the distance or the soreness, I think about people I miss (yes, that's you!) or people I hate (yep, that's you, asshole). My mind replays embarrassing moments in my life, and I curse myself outloud for thinking about them. I have fake conversations with people so I have a whole script planned out the next time I see you all, and you better stick to your lines, the ones I imagine you'll say, or else none of my punchlines will be funny. I sing songs I haven't heard in years or theme songs to 80's TV shows (the new boy in my neighborhood lives downstairs and it's understood, he's there just to take good care of me, like he's one of the family). The set list also includes elton john, billy joel, beatles, system of a down, clutch, and any doo wop songs I can remember. I save "American Pie," "rocky racoon," and "scenes from an Italian restaurant" for hills because those songs last longer. Sometimes, if I'm in a particularly hard stretch--there was one point where they had closed off one direction traffic on a pretty busy road and I was trying to get past this construction stretch uphill with no shoulder and speeding semis, so I could find a safe spot to replace my quickly deflating back tire-- I say, "Powerboost! Powerboost, kid!" and that makes me go slightly faster, but for short stretches because the invocation doesn't actually decrease the lactic acid build up in my muscles; it's just a stupid thing I say to hopefully make me bike a little faster.

I picture what my life will be like when I finish this ride. Not unlike a major motion picture, there are plenty of alternate endings and deleted scenes. I also try to replay entire scenes from Bloodsport and the Rocky movies in my head to see if I can remember all the dialogue. Sometimes I'll remember episodes of the Simpsons and I won't be able to stop laughing.

And that's the whole day until anywhere from 4:00-6:00 when we meet again to find a place to stay the night.


We pick a town that's the right distance from where we started and that looks the right size for soliciting a place to sleep. Too small and it'll just be cornfields. Too big and there will be no open space for tents, or people will be less trusting. Has to be in the middle. Then, we usually start by finding local churches and see if the rectory is nearby to ask the pastor if we can set up tents on the church grounds. If we can't find a reverend, we've usually been directed to other people, the mayor of a small town that let us camp on the river, a police officer that let us set up shop in the town park. Julie has become quite adept at asking and, as she puts it, "gets a high," when we find a place.

We say thank you over and over, then start setting up for the night. Put the stove together and start boiling water as we pitch tents, change into non-spandex clothing, pee behind trees, relax.

WE usually cook mac and cheese which we fatten up with canned chicken and some sort of vegetable: green peppers, left over plum tomatoes, canned corn or veggie medley. The dinner is consistently hot and delicious and nothing feels better than having a safe place to stay and warm dinner to enjoy leisurely. We take turns doing dishes. Then, we might do some bike repair, sing the same songs over and over with the ukulele, or, at the really cool places, build a fire. There really isn't that much down time; once we've found a place, cooked, and set up for the evening, it's usually about 8 pm. And we're all in bed by 9 most nights.

I take my wallet, bike odometer (for the time), digital camera, knife, bike clothes, lantern, and journal into the tent with me. Essentially, anything expensive or valuable to me that I would not want to get wet or stolen. I do have waterproof bags on my bike, but they are a pain to pack up until the morning. I usually jot a few notes into the journal; nothing creative, just mileage, location, perhaps some interesting tidbit from the day. Then I might read for a few minutes and fall asleep.

I have a sleeping bag and use my raincoat as a sleeping pad if the ground if particularly hard. I use my sneakers as pillows. They smell horrendous after a rainy day, but you get used to anything.

That's it. That's been my life for the last 2 weeks. Not particularly exciting, which is why I avoided writing this blog entry; i've dozed off twice just trying to type it up. Again, if you want up to date info on actual riding, check ross or julie. If you want the first draft of a straight to video romantic action comedy I've been imagining starring Jean Claude Van Damme and Ralph Macchio in a no holds barred tournament that contenders can only enter by flying a Delorian at 88 miles per hour and going back in time, then check my blog again in a few days.

*I have not read Ross' blog, but I think it might describe one encounter we had with a couple dogs. I don't know what he wrote, but let me just clarify what happened. I, as usual, was the last one to bike past a house in Ohio that had two unfriendly dogs. Past experience on this ride showed that the dogs who barked wouldn't leave their lawns, no matter how much they disliked me. But as I cruised by, these dogs kept following me off of their property, so I veered into the road and crossed it hoping they would follow me and get hit by a car, truck, or SUV. Unfortunately, there were no cars travelling the road at the time. I finally stopped on the other side of the road to assess the situation with them yapping behind. I keep a knife in a pouch under my bike seat, but truth be told, I have not been practicing dog drills, and in this state of emergency, was not ready to whip out my shiv quickly enough to maim or blind these pets. So I just stopped to see what they would do, and, true to the cliche, the bark was worse than the bite, which never came, thankfully. They just stood there barking at me, and upon closer inspection, they were not the rabid pitbull/hyena mix I thought they were at first, but instead, just fluffy, black things that came no higher than my knees. So i flipped them the bird and continued on my way.

I don't know what Ross said about the experience, but there was no point in me telling my side because I don't think, now that I've written it all down, I've improved my image at all with this testimony.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Don't call PETA, but I've been thinking about killing and eating a frog one of these nights camping. I saw it on some Discovery Channel show where some wilderness guy lives in horribly inhospitable biomes (tundra; desert; Gary, IN) and has to find food and shelter to survive. Well, he caught a frog and roasted it on a stick not unlike an amphibious marshmallow, and I just think I'd be so awfully badass if I could do that. But as I bike, I try to think of what it would be like to hold down a squirming, wet frog and place the tip of my knife on its skull, between its eyes, try to imagine leaning forward and letting my weight spike the blade past the bones and into the gushy, important stuff that keeps it alive.

Nope, I can't do it. Something about frogs, the adorable way they hop and sing "Rainbow Connection" makes it difficult for me to slaughter them. But crayfish, on the other hand... those I'd be fine cooking because you don't have to actively kill them. It's more like a magic trick: boil water, place crayfish in water, cover, abracadabra, food! We found a bunch of them flopping under rocks in the Susquehanna River when we camped out in Laceyville, PA, but I didn't think of it at the time. But, then again, is it worth risking red tide disease, when actually we have plenty of food and don't need to be foraging?

Which brings me to the main topic of this blog: diet. I took a "before" picture of myself in bike shorts before we left and, to be honest, I don't think the "after" picture is going to look remarkably more fit. My mother has mentioned on numerous occassions over the past month how fat i've been getting. A few days into this ride, she left a message on my cell in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, that roughly translated as: "Don't eat the foods that make your tummy big." At first, I assumed that biking 60-80 miles a day would be enough to burn off whatever we eat, which has included pork rinds and a pickled egg from a gas station that, for some reason, was pink, including the yolk, so I didn't take her warnings to heart.

But, I've realized that while I enjoy biking, I don't actually enjoy the peddling part, and whenver possible, I stop peddling. When I do get around to peddling, I exert the least effort necessary to keep me upright on the bike, which may be why Ross and Julie have to spend extended breaks lounging on convenience store parking lots waiting for me. So while I am biking cross country, I'm doing the bare minimum necessary to even consider it exercise. I'm rarely even breaking a sweat.

So, after realizing this, I have taken my mother's advice and started buying fruits and vegetables and cheese from an aerosol can, which may not be Jenny Craig aprroved, but gives my body the necessary calcium and bacon flavoring it so desperately craves. I'm just warning you all, don't try to surprise me after this trip with Speedos or low rise jeans. I probably won't look any different except for a viscious farmer's tan and chaffing in areas that you hopefully won't be seeing anyway.

Friday, July 20, 2007

round 1, done

If you've watched as much ESPN Classic Boxing as I have, you know that Muhammed Ali, past his prime after a three and a half year lay off from the sport for his refusal to join the army, after having chalked up two losses to Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, was supposed to have no chance against the monstrous George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle. After all, Foreman had man handled both the fighters that had beaten Ali and his knockout percentage was unheard of.

In interviews now with a much jollier, tubbier Foreman, he recalls that Ali, in round 1 of that fight, after withstanding a barage a punches in the ropes, said to him at the bell, "I made it." Fast forward to the eighth round and foreman, all the lean, powerful muscle, is crumpled on the canvas, winded from heat, wasted punches, and the psychological beating from the great Ali.

Well Pennsylvania, round 1 is over. I made it. Who climbed whose hills, bitch?

In Cleveland, OH now, a state that was supposed to be flat (that's all anyone in PA would say, "all down hill from here"), but certainly didn't feel that flat when my gears stopped switching. Climbing hills in the highest gear, I tried distracting myself, praying the Our Father as many times in a row as it took to get up the hill, then tried reciting the names of all the girls I've kissed, but unfortunately, that did not take very long, then wondering how the Little Mermaid, if she lives underwater, could have such bouncy, luxurious hair? Shouldn't it be a mat of seaweed covering her face?

Hope to make Chicago by next week. I know I'm not very good about blogging regularly; considering I spend about 12 hours a day biking, it's not a priority. But if you'd like more up to date info on how we are doing, check Ross' blog ( or Julie's blog (

To wrap up the Ali story for those unfamiliar, he didn't choose to retire after gaining the belt back from Foreman and instead fought for another five years or so and eventually develop Parkinsons Disease as a result of the repeated head trauma. So, after I cross the Rockies and I have uncontrollable body twitches, you can tell me I should have quit in the midwest. Champions like us don't stop till we see ocean.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

PA: Green with Envy

I actually tried posting this entry a few days ago while we were travelling through Potter County, PA, which is advertised as "God's Country." But apparently, God does not like my writing because the library in Galeton blocked my blog under the category of Adult/Mature. What's odd is that Potter County, PA is also the home of the "Woolly Willy" and though I have no idea what that is, it sounds like it too deserves to be in the Adult/Mature category.

Take a look at a tourism map of the state and you'll see Pennsylvania suffers from poor self esteem. None of their attractions are good enough on their own. There's Bushkill Falls, the Niagara of PA. And there's the Grand Canyon of PA. Hell, there's even a town here called Jersey Shore. Pennsylvania, just be yourself. Take pride in your unruly Eagles fans and churned butter, your Hershey kisses and potato chip making industry. You don't seem me going around calling myself, Armin, the Matthew McConaughey of New Jersey, do you?

Friday, July 13, 2007

no yellow jersey for me

Averaging a whopping 6 miles per hour the last three days, it is doubtful I'll be wearing the Tour de France yellow jersey. But imagine all I would have missed flying around at 20 miles per hour? A dead warthog being hollowed out by flies as if it were a jack 'o lantern. A dollar bill dropped on the side of the road, perhaps lost by a kid who had a lemonade stand, but was soon hit by the same truck that got the warthog. An old man, John Rawlings of Dalton, PA who met the Duke, John Wayne, three times in his life and proceeded to tell me about each encounter in his best John Wayne impression while I stood, nodding politely in the sweltering noon heat. Can't enjoy that at 20 miles per hour. Or even 10 miles per hour. No, for the slice of Americana I'm savoring, your average speed should top out at about 5 or 6 miles per hour. I've gone so slowly uphill, that at times, my odometer reads 0 miles per hour because it thinks I've stopped peddling.

In Towanda, PA, one time home of Stephen Foster. You can't help but whistle "Camptown Races" down these roads. This area of PA is known as the Endless Mountains. Not very encouraging to see when you're biking. They should have more encouraging welcome signs that say something like

"Welcome to the Endless Mountains (mountains end a few feet from here)"


"Welcome to the Endless Mountains (But you're already at the top, so it's all down hill from here, baby!)

Write to PA Tourism Department with your suggestions of Endless Mountain slogans and maybe it'll increase the cycling around here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

pepper spray, spf 50

My guess is that with the radiocative waste supposedly buried in New Jersey, all those heavy metals, plutonium, neptunium, uranium, must have increased the overall mass of the state, therefore making its gravitational pull much stronger than anywhere else in the world.

I could feel that gravity pulling me down, making my wheels sluggish, impossible to get any forward momentum. Day 1, Lincoln Park, NJ to Milford, PA was brutal. The sun that popped as a tiny bud in the east at around 5:30 AM, bloomed and exploded overhead around noon, spreading heat and ultraviolet radiation everywhere, like burning milkweed seeds.

Don't know what the warning signs for fainting are, but once I started feeling nauseous and dizzy, I pulled off the road. Having seen the crumpled and smashed in bodies of birds, frogs, unidentifiable furry things along route 206 N, I knew the motorists wouldn't have much mercy on me if I passed out into the traffic.

Continued on after lying in a cement shelter used as a bus stop for kids (but during the summer becomes a playground for every kind of crawling, winged thing native to North Jersey), Still exhausted, still picking spider webs out of my teeth, made it to the glorious Delaware River. Walked over the bridge and, delerious with the heat, imagined all the clumsy moths that were bumping into my face and chest were actually trying to get me to fall off the bridge into the brown water fifty feet below. Made it across no thanks to them.

I would continue writing this blog entry, but my eyes are burning as if the Coppertone sweating into them were pepper spray.

Main point, day one, tough, but finished. Day 2 so far, much more pleasant. never been so happy to see an overcast sky.

Monday, July 9, 2007

T minus whenever it feels right

bonus points to anyone who can name the song from which the title of this blog is derived.

Tuesday, July 10th is blast off. Wheels will be inflated, chains will be lubed, calves and quads will be stretched and supple.

And, at some point, not unlike Andy Gibb when he declined to join his brothers with the Bee Gees (fellas, wouldn't "Night Diarrhea and Upset Stomach" be a better title for a song than "Night Fever?" No? Well, fuck you, Barry! I'm going solo!), I may decide to splinter off from the group and pursue the rest of the ride alone.

This has nothing to do with Ross or Julie.

Whenever I tell people I'm riding to Oregon, everyone says "Thank God you're going with people." Though I know none of you have bad intentions, what you are inadvertently telling me is that I'm incapable of doing this on my own. I know I give off the impression of being sort of a naive and bumbling goofball, whose ineptitude, while amusing, prevents me from being successful independently. This impression is self inflicted; I do poke fun at my failures quite a bit and usually defer to others in a group. So people assume that my lack of training or planning means I'll get murdered by the Amish in Lancaster after pulling a hammie. Possible, I guess.

I know you are all just looking out for me. But, what you're really doing is questioning my heart and assuming that my brute determination is NOT enough to make it to the end.

Well, you know what? That's what they said about Jesus. "Oh, Jesus," the Phillistines would say, "You can't rise from the dead. Have you been training? What route are you taking from Hell to Heaven? Is Peter going with you?" And Jesus gave all of mankind the ultimate middle finger in the form of a resurrection. So I think that proves my point, Q.E.D.

Also, I may split off because my reasons for this ride are probably different from Ross and Julie's and may, in fact, be incompatible with theirs. This is just a guess because, to be honest, I can't really explain why I want to do this ride. Maybe the hours of mindless peddling will give me time to express myself more eloquently.

But, as best as I can explain it for now, part of the reason I'm biking is to suffer. To feel actual, physical pain. To feel deep, horrible loneliness. To feel interminable boredom. That way, when I'm about to bitch to someone about a girl breaking my heart, I can remember what my legs felt like on the eighth hour of day peddling uphill, and remember that as real pain. And when I am with friends, I'll remember real loneliness and won't take their company for granted. And when there's nothing on TV, I'll remember flat, monotonous stretches of the country and remember what real boredom was like.

Life has been so cushy for me the last three years in Boston, as reflected by my waistline. See Figure 1.

Figure 1.
(this is where an awful picture of my sorry, fat ass in bike shorts would be if I was willing to take the time to figure out how to post pics. For now, visualize one hundred eighty pounds of kielbasa squeezed together with saran wrap)

As I was saying, life has been cushy for me and I haven't had to suffer, and yet, I still find things about which to complain. But, if I can face all that physical discomfort and solitude and boredom and still be OK, I think I'll be a more appreciative, less whiny Armin once I touch the Pacific.

But, you see how it might be hard to be lonely and bored and scared with Ross and Julie right by my side? Then again, both of them have been talking big about their cheesecake eating prowess and it would be ever so fun to referee for them at the Old Country Buffet to see who really is the better competative cheesecake eater. So for now, I guess this pokey puppy will stick with the pack.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Brief History on What I Can Remember

First there was Lewis and Clark in 1804. Then, for about 150 years, no one else was able to duplicate the feat of cross country travel until Ricky, Lucy, Fred, and Ethel did it in the "California, Here We Come!" episode of "I Love Lucy" circa 1955, if my memory serves me. And since then, many fool hardy adventurers, drunk on their own hubris and SPF 35, have tried to traverse this great land brought together by manifest destiny, small pox, Route 66, and WalMart, but NONE HAVE EVER MADE IT ALIVE.

I've been trying to Wikipedia the percentage of people who have attempted to cross the United States, but ended up a pile of bleached bones in the Sonoma, but I guess the survival rate for cross country travel is so low that even Wikipedia doesn't have information on it. But as a historical enthusiast and one time census taker (U.S. Census 2000 Jerz team, taking it to the streets!) I feel qualified to throw these facts and figures at you.

Fact 1: Notable explorers including Marco Polo, Ponce de Leon, and even Leif Ericson have never travelled across the entire United States. In one interview with Leif, when asked why he never tried to go from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Viking was reported to have said, "Are you fucking crazy? That's a really far distance! I'll stick to my fjords and Grendels, thank you very much." Marco Polo was not available for comment; every time the interviewer tried to get his attention, he'd scream "Polo!" then try to sneak out of the pool, which is an express violation of the rules.

Fact 2: More people have died from cross country biking than from cigarettes and tobacco-based products, according to the Phillip Morris website.

Fact 3: The Rocky Mountains are very tall and there is no tunnel under them. You just have to climb them.

When all this data is laid out in front of you, it's pretty staggering, I know. Which makes it even more remarkable that three plucky, young go-getters, Ross, Julie, and Armin will attempt the unthinkable on July 10th and bike from Lincoln Park, NJ to Portland, OR, with everything they need strapped to their backs.

There's usually an outcry of disbelief at this point, so here's the Q and A section of the blog.

* Have you been training, Armin?
* Have you mapped out the route?
* What will you eat?

All stupid, stupid questions, people. To answer the first, yes, I've been training in the form of the educational, but fun, computer game "Oregon Trail." I've gotten to the point where I can shoot so much buffalo, I can't even carry them all in my covered wagon. So yes, I've been training, and to answer the food question, I will be eating buffalo. Buffalo steaks, buffalo quesadillas, buffalo gazpacho, buffalo everything.

In response to the route question, let me ask you, what did humans do before Rand McNally was born? You know what they did? They got lost, they discovered those delicious out of the way diners you would never have found if you stayed on the main road where a server named Pearl gives you fresh bread and calls you "hun", they made new friends, they had a good laugh about it all. That's what people did before maps and so I think that answers the question sufficiently.

The most important thing, is learning from our predecessors. How do we increase the amount of zaniness exemplified in the I Love Lucy expedition, and decrease the amount of typhoid fever in the Oregon Trail simulation? Ideally, I'd like the ratio of zaniness to typhoid to be at about 3 to 1. Three parts zany, one part typhoid. Based on what I've learned from those episodes of I Love Lucy, and from my rudimentary knowledge of salmonella, we can easily accomplish this ratio by engaging in hilarious schemes--including, but not limited to, trying to steal citrus fruits from the homes of celebrities--at least three times more often than eating human fecal matter.

I think we're on the right track.