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 Match.com 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.