my first spring

today i reached for my bike to find it covered in more pine pollen than dirt and dust. spring has truly set in here in this little mountain town. in fact, the other day as i looked out a window while working, trying to watch a storm roll through, i saw a huge swarm of pollen blow out of a tree and across the hillside. first, i smiled so big, then i sneezed so hard i missed the crash of thunder.

this has all given me pause to once again reflect on a shifting seasonal experience. in portland, i marked the changing seasons by food. first was the arrival of nettles and other bitter greens, strawberries, then the explosion of all the fruits and veggies i adore from berries, ripe tomatoes, stone fruits, and all the greens all the time. not here. here the farmers market doesn’t even start until sometime in june.

here spring has been more subtle. for me, it started with the sun hitting my balcony (that faces east) earlier and earlier. until i could be out there at 7:30 am, it being 40 degrees and with the sun shining, i could have my morning tea and reading session in shorts and a hoodie. here is where i noticed that winter was moving, giving into a new season. the animals started moving through: moose, fox, cranes, the chipmunks came out, and so many birds.

and the sounds. oh how i have loved to hear the changes of the sounds. from the constant drip of snow changing shape and molecular structure to the bird songs, the sound of thunderstorms moving in and hearing the rain on the leaves, and the leaves. oh the shimmering of aspen leaves is like no other sound. the roar of the river as it rises and the quiet as mud season slows the town down.

20180518_150058.jpg

then i noticed that the snow was receding from the mountain. and there was a lime green taking over from the brown-the aspens were leafing out. there were mornings that i swear that i literally saw the tree right next to my place fill out minute by minute. then all the other trees followed with buds of pink and white and fresh branches on the willows and spruce trees. and the cottonwoods started blowing their white cluster making it look like fluffy cotton like snow covering everything.

then there was the river and the snowmelt. first, it was noticing that there wasn’t any snow or ice left in the yampa river. then the river started rising and flowing faster and faster. the waterfowl changed. more ducks and more cranes, and more kayakers. not so many anglers. the smell of sulphur decreased maybe from the increase of snow melt? its’ still there, just not as strong. maybe i’m getting more used to it?

20180515_153200.jpg

a couple weeks ago it was announced that the river had reached it’s peak already for the season. when i rode by a couple days ago i noticed that the water line on the banks of the river had shifted dramatically already.

it all left me feeling like this was really and truly the first spring that i actually witnessed; took notice of in so many ways on such a constant basis. the colors, the temperature, precipitation, animals, water, and more relaxed people (but i think the relaxed people might be more due to mud season and lack of tourists).

i have some theories about noticing spring more.

i have so many fewer distractions. sure in other places i still biked and walked most everywhere i went, but there was so much more traffic, cop cars, sirens, noises, lights, noises…so many noises and bright lights. people in a hurry.  so much stimulus. i use to walk around with buds in my ears to drown out the sound of traffic and nonsense. here i only earbud when i am at work and listen to podcasts. the cluster of podcasts i listen to have become a strange kind of community, but that is a different story.

how much goes unnoticed by us in cities as we pay attention to other changes, like the closing of our favorite restaurant or the tearing down of a house for condos?

sure cities can be a great place for all kinds of reasons, but i wonder what we might miss in these places of over stimulation and isolation. i don’t know that i can go back to that kind of existence. i have a different kind of isolation here for sure, but its not the same as being surrounded by a huge population and feeling like fewer and fewer people, outwardly, gives a fuck about what is happening in their neighborhood. i know it varies city by city, but only by degrees.

i’ve been thinking about this and e.o. wilson’s half earth. i don’t think that is a world i would want to live in, but i need to think about it some more. more people in cities, i don’t think is a very good answer. half of the earth as wild spaces, now that is something i can support, but not in that segregated kind of way….but i digress get again.

each day i wake up and look forward to the shifting that will take places as we continue to move through the seasonal cycles. i can’t imagine just how much more of my little mountain, out my back door, will be even more green. what trees are going to pop out next with color and leaves? what are the next animals to move through the valley? how much quieter can i make my mind in order to pay even more attention? when can i roll into town and jump in a tube and float the day away?

by the way, i call it my little mountain not because i seek some kind of ownership over it, but because it has claimed me in some way. as has the river and all the creeks and streams i meet.

20180527_183206.jpg

i love this pace of life that as adopted me. is it location? is it age? is it removing myself from the race that capitalism forces on us? or am i simply content? its all rolled up together i am sure.

i am having to quail my excitement for fall and the aspens changing colors. i am already thinking about it in anticipation. in good time for first there is more spring.

and

summer!

a year ago

wow! has it really been a year since i, literally, walked away from my life in portland? it seems like i’ve lived a couple lives since then. i’m going to try and summarize what i’ve gone through and where i think i have set my compass bearings…but who am i kidding, i carry a compass, but use the direction the wind takes me more than my compass.

20170214_232808

so a year ago i was getting soaked through and through on the oregon coast trail. a trail i don’t really recommend doing in its entirety. sure it has some of the most amazing views on the pacific coast. however…there is so much road walking, which sure shuttles can take you around, so it’s not too bad. if you are wanting to do it, do it for sure, but do it in the full-on summer time. let the spring storms pass. have a way to know the tides. be prepared for sandblasting your skin (and tent in the middle of the night), and being amazed at every moment you remember to look up and pay attention.

when i got to the oregon/cali border, i ran out of walking ideas. well, i had ideas, but water levels and snow levels were beyond my skill set. years and years of low winter snow levels meant that a “normal” year felt high. maybe this is why so many people the past several years have taken on the pct. if one was willing to push beyond some levels of pain and discomfort, mostly mental, one could persevere without a huge skill set, but not this year.

IMG_1876

so i did what i do when i don’t know what else to do, i got a job. i went inland to explore a town and area i had never been to. i sat at the chetco brewery and booked a shuttle to ashland, lived at a hostel while i looked both for a place to live and a place to work. (p.s. this is actually pretty common. when i i stayed in any hostel from slo (san luise obispo) to tijuana, there were people living at the hostel looking for housing.) i quickly found both and settled in. my pals would come into town and take me out for swimming adventures at rivers and lakes. we went to experience the eclipse. i had a wonderful summer.

my mom came out to visit. and then we visited my grandpa’s sister and i loaded up a bike and headed south once again. i have to say, this lady, ellen, is a spark. her and my grandfather were best pals. i can remember her and her husband carl visiting when i was a kid. in my child’s memory i don’t remember what muscular disease he had, i just remember her pushing him around in a big wheelchair. i remember whatever was happening, she pushed him, she smiled, she laughed like there was no issue, no problem, no inconvenience. it was just what was. she still lives in the house that she raised her kids in. she lives alone. she knows her neighbors and they assist her with whatever she asks for. she….she…well she amazes me. not with the grand and great actions, but like my grandparents, the simple enjoyments of everyday life.

at some point in the evening, she turned to me and said,

i remember once when i was visiting your grandfather, we went to your work and you made me a fantastic margarita.

yes, i remember too. it was fun.

would you make us a round?

i’d love to.

so we had “happy hour”

then she told us stories of dancing at the hall, of being a dance instructor, of love, of family….93 years of living (i think it’s 93 maybe it’s 87 it doesn’t matter really). we had moved to the enclosed patio so that i could sort and separate gear for my transition from walking to biking, but at some point, i stopped so that i could sit and listen to her. it just seemed so important to listen. to capture this moment somewhere in my body and mind. to absorb her words. i don’t remember them, but i can feel them, and it is a feeling i continue to move with. maybe in a selfish way, it was like having my grandparents with me in space and time again for a moment, and i wasn’t going to sort packages of ramen and t-shirts and forgo this moment.

that first day i didn’t get far. maybe 15, 20 miles. i needed some time to switch gears.

when my mom dropped me off at some empty parking lot that i pick as fine, and i was loaded up and she pulled out and i pulled out, i road to the beach and just kind of what the fucked for a moment. really, what am i doing? i could have stayed at that job, probably found a place i could afford to live. i could have gone back to portland or kansas… eventually, i calmed down, got my bearings and pointed the bike south and started cranking on the pedals.

i got through santa cruz and found a campground with a hiker-biker site, set up camp and watched the sunset. in the morning i chatted with some fellow bike tour folks, and the pace was set. this is what i wanted. to travel by my own power. to see…what? everything, whatever came my way. to stop and chat with people. to see the world outside of the bubble i had been living in for the past 10 years. i would say i have been successful so far.

i have met people from all over: from homeless to the very wealthy and lots of people who gave up the grind for the love of life (especially the “homeless” living in the parks). i met the owner of a brewery (who opened his doors for me to have a cold one on a hot day) who told me about the ridiculous codes he had to deal with. the couple who worked in l.a. in various projects for alternative transportation. my friends who opened their doors to me so many times as i passed through the big cities. and the wonderful folks i met in mexico. and so many people looking for something besides the prescribes socially acceptable life choices.

IMG_2223

the ocean as a companion just cannot be underestimated. she is wonderful. and all those who call her home: the sea otters, lions, gulls, crustaceans, birds of all kinds. the trees and plants of the shorelines that changed the scents and quality of the air i was breathing.

the landslides and wildfires that affected where and how i passed through. these are the events that shifted and changed the way i see climate change. it was a year where i not just knew climate change through numbers, statistics, lectures, and subtle shifts. this year i felt it even more than ever. and not in just that yes, the climate is changing as a part of natural evolutional shifts and changes, but as a force humans are changing faster than nature can keep up with.

and not just that we are unbalancing the balance of nature, but that nature will restore her balance even if it means the demise of the human species. this planet is not as fragile as people seem to poetically like to consider her. maybe it is because we view nature as feminine and we like females to be fragile. however, any being who brings forth life, cannot be fragile. she is strong and she will fight for life, the life she has created. if we don’t drastically shift and change our individual lives, we are the ones who will die…currently, it is something like 600,000 people a year die from climate-related deaths-at least i believe that is close to the number i read recently.

this journey so far has opened up my life in ways i could never imagine. it has helped me realize the vision of my life as a kind of loner and rebel that i have always felt that i am. i’m so thankful for my pals and family in all its shapes and sizes so that i don’t have to be a true loner and who celebrate and inspire my kind of rebellion…so far. i couldn’t be me without them.

so i sit here in a small moutain town in colorado setting a foundation for this vision. a vision that doesn’t see me really attatched to any specific place except for this planet and where i am resting my head for the time being, but more attatched to the people who’s path i cross in the process. i am also taking more of an interest in the health of this big blue rock that, no matter that science fiction finds other planets for us to inhabit, is our only home.

20180410_134817.jpg

so yup, this year has pushed and stretched me. it has afirmed that i made the right choice. it has caused me to question my life choices and ethics that have only reaffirmed them and made them stronger. i’ve listened to so many people’s stories that only makes me want to hear more.

i have renewed respect for humanity and disgust for capitalism. i truly believe that capitalism is the root of so much disharmony and disease in the northern hemisphere. the root cause for increasing use of opiates and anti-depression drugs in n. america.

i have renewed faith in local communities. in fact, i believe that it is the direct actions and how local communities respond to the various crisis where we will find solutions. i don’t mean in large city councils and such, but eventually maybe. i mean in our neighborhoods. in conversation with our neighbors…who were once strangers. getting to know that person who picks up the bottles we leave out for others to take for their deposits…their income. going for walks with people. know the trees and birds who come through the alleyways. do you have birds and bees in the gardens? what do your neighbors grow? cook? have tea on the front porch.

so what is my vision?

well. i plan on staying in this little mountain town for a year to save money and work on that foundation i was talking about. i want to find my voice as a writer and figure out how to use it for good. to face my fears that keep me from stretching and pushing myself and risk failure on all levels. and then i want to point the bike in a direction and see where it takes me. to visit my friends, some of which i haven’t met yet, but deeply looking forward to meeting.

IMG_2186

 

 

 

 

 

Celebration aka how the f#@k did I turn 50

Not only how the fuck did I turn 50? Seems odd that I made it through some situations that maybe I shouldn’t have.

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about this since I decided to leave portland last spring. I hoped to be out on the trail or at least in a tent in Mexico somewhere when this time was marked. But things shifted and changed. And then I was looking forward to being with friends and family on this occasion, but that plan also took a different turn. So here I was in a little mountain town.

I actually worked the day of my birth. No big deal really. Work a bit (that is why I am here) then off the next couple of days to celebrate and go a little nutty in planning and reflection. My co-workers welcomed me to work with a rousing mixed language version of happy birthday and a bottle of whiskey…these are some great folks. I was doing great.

Then I got off work

I decided to treat myself to dinner and a beverage and was going to head home. At a beverage station, I sat down to write and it hit me, when I wake up in the morning, I will be 50 fucking years old. Not that old to some, really old to others, just another day to most. I’ve never freaked out over a birthday before and didn’t really know how to do it so I just rode it out. My decision was to not go to sleep…then I won’t wake up and then I won’t be 50. I was very rational about the whole thing.

I wasn’t ready

Not yet

But

I’m not really open to the alternative

Not yet

I was headed to one of my usual hop-water spots, but at the last minute I went up the stairs instead of down and found a new place where I wouldn’t know someone…yet

The bartender asked what I was having.

When I wake up I turn 50 what should I have tonight

A local whiskey its on me. Happy birthday

Soon I was chatting it up with the band that was about to play: guitar, bass, banjo (mountain music)

And I headed home

I did sleep

I did wake

Everything was a o k

Mostly

I had things I needed to get done that day before I could get into celebration mode, but first, breakfast….remember those vegan rancheros I had a few weeks ago? Yup, I went back for more.

Soon I was caffeinated and fed and the day just took off. And I was into the swing of things.

Then I would get a text

Or a call

Or an email

All fantastic and loving and amazing

Meanwhile, I just kept trying to work out what this all means.

Nothing really. It all means nothing

Not in that nihilistic way of nothing, but really

I have been fortunate enough to “hike my own hike”

I have danced to my own songs in my head/feet in my own way. (I like to think emma would be proud)

Every day since I drove the hell out of that town I grew up in. Each day since has been a lesson in how to do that. And how have I been inspired to do that? People. Strangers. Friends….

ART. Art has inspired me.

Music

Photography

Writers: journalism, fiction, non-fiction, the uncategorizable

This song helped me understand myself (thank goodness it came out while i was still in my 20s)

Anyway, back to the celebration, celebration

It took me to the next day to go out and actually celebrate.

I made a great breakfast and started the day slow and easy

I went to the hot springs that  bubble up in the middle of town and had a nice soak and some good chats

Went to get a snack and some beverages

And the people I’ve gotten to casually know at my favorite spots bought my drinks as I told them I was celebrating my day. I had so many lovely conversations with so many great people

So here is what I have learned about myself in the last year…last year I spent my day with my great pals…pals who are like brothers to me

I was having a tough time trying to deal with so much from the co-op I worked at and making plans to take off to the unknown

Trying to make sense of it all. I really couldn’t have done it without them and all the pals that inspire and instigated with me (p.s. if I know you, you are one of them)

I actually did it

I took off

I set myself free from all of it

Well actually I traded one kind of stress for another

Stressors I couldn’t and can’t understand for ones I can

Makes one hell of a difference

It’s a journey that I hope does not end anytime soon

I don’t know what is ahead, but I relish the mystery

I yearn for the mystery

What and who is around the corner? I look forward to finding out

I am 50 years old

If my genes tell me anything, I am likely to live much longer depending on speeding trucks and texting drivers and rising seas and burning lands and toxic air and nuclear button pushing nut heads

I don’t want to settle down

But I do like going slower and looking and listening and smelling and tasting and touching and feeling

A reminder that home, for me, is a verb: a place in motion and I am just trying to not fall off

 

simple happiness

it was an unassuming setup of a day with a slow but steady start. a day that i thought was going leave me feeling like i was just chasing my tail. i had been trying to get a copy of my lease so that i could get a po box…life in employee housing. the hr person sent it to one place and when i went to pick it up, it had gone to another place, but it was fine. i had stopped in at the office where i report to for work, thinking it would be there, but it wasn’t. so my boss said he had to go up to the main housekeeping office and offered me a ride. we rode around together and chatted. i enjoy his conversations and musings. when i go to the other office, the lease had been moved once again, so i just went back to the main hr person and she got me a copy, whew.

from there the day just rocketed….

but maybe i should start with the day before….

i have mentioned that i am the only white woman, not a manager…only white person at all that is not a manager. so this day i came in on my day off and was just going to go around and prep rooms and make beds for the other housekeepers, but my manager, who was driving me to different properties, would leave me and not come back for awhile. so i would stay and work with whoever was at that condo. eventually, it was just me and the jamaicans. i really like working with the jamaicans, but i am cautious. they are all steeped deep into the island’s religious beliefs which to say are homophobic is not true. the laws in jimaca are not phobic at all, they are down right hateful and violent, so i am cautious, but open with those i work with. (by the way, i think we need a different word for homophobia and i’ll bring this up on a different post just like ethical vegan needs to be readdressed).

i am constantly asked where my husband is and about kids. i tell them i do not want a husband nor kids. they look confused. on this day the questions came again (every time i work with them) and one asked if i was stragiht, and i said i am not straight…i think they were using straight in a different way than i was. however, a few minutes later, the music cranked, they asked if i dance.

well, yes, yes i love to dance! i use to go to the 4 day reggae fest in kansas city.

then come in here and dance.

so i did. i came sliding into the kitchen and danced with one of the women. i followed her moves and my hips swung side to side and around and around to cheers all around.

then i was told to watch out, i just may end up with a jimacan husband….uuugh.

however, lets note that my dancing was cheered on by a group of jamaicans! yes!

now, where was i? yes. slow moving to my day off chores list!

with my lease in hand i headed off to the post office and aquired my po box! yes! but first….i want to go out for breakfast! i almost didn’t because it was lunch time, but as all good folks who have lived in pdx know, brunch is a whole different food group and i haven’t heard many people talk about brunch around here. so i took the risk and swung by this place i heard was vegan friendly, and i have to tell ya. the vegan rancheros were the best f*#@ing rancheros i have ever had! and i have gotten around when it comes to rancheros!

so now i am fed, and po box aquired… i got to thinking…with my lease, i can get my library card! so i headed to the library 9 blocks down the road. amazing little walk! i told the librarians that i never really felt at home anywhere until i got a library card, and it is true. my reading life has been subsisting on the ebook library of multnomah county; a most excellent of libraries, and i perhaps the reason i have managed through some struggles…access to books is worth so much to me. yet, i have missed the pysicality of a bunch of paper full of words bound togher. maybe i am vain just a bit. when i use an ereader, i don’t feel as connected to the book. also, i like to see what others are reading and for them to see what i am reading. it is a great way to start a conversation with a stranger. (side note, my dad passed along one of he and his partner’s ereaders to make my reading life easier, and it was totally kept me sane. i really don’t know what i would do without access to reading!)

 

20180116_164857.jpg
for real, this is my library card

 

anyway, i got my library card, wondered around, collected a stack of books and found a place to sit….and what a view!

 

20180116_133924.jpg
view from my library perch

 

i didn’t want to leave, but the day was so blue and clear that eventually i had to leave my perch and walk along the river to my next place to explore….a bike shop.

20180116_150813.jpg

i miss my bike. i miss riding my bike. i know i can’t ride here yet. there is too much ice under the snow for my little tires. so i went into this amazing bike shop. so great and funky. the guys there that day were only a little brotastic. i got my fix and kept walking along the river.

oh on this walk earlier, i found black sulpher hot springs.

it was an accident. i was walking along the river…it is freaking cold by the way this day, like less than 10 degrees with the sun beaming down, but the sun felt so very good. so as i am walking along and i see steam entering the river! everything else is ice and snow, but here is steaming hot water flowing into the river. sure enough, right after i figure it out, i follow a trail on the other side of the river to a sign that tells me i indeed did find black sulpher hot springs! sweet!

floating a little higher, i head over to the bookstore for their happy hour. that is right. the bookstore has a happy hour, and a statue that discribes by day perfectly!

 

20180116_152255.jpg
exactly how i felt this day

 

i get a glass of a local beer and sit down with my stack of library books and just soak in the feelings and emotions. then i walk around the little store and scan a few new books into my goodreads account. they have a whole section on local writers and i look forward to exploring them.

then it was off to this little brewery for a pint before going home to make dinner. tuesday is token tuesday. with every pint you order, they give you a token to donate to a local organization. so i sit there and have a pint, chat with a few people, and look over the vegan cookbook i picked up at the library. see i have missed cooking. i have missed mixing up the sauces and spices that sets the aromas of my imagination running.

i made a list and headed off to the grocery store.

i smiled the whole way home on the bus. i was thinking about how i would fix the veggies in my back pack, what i would read while eating, and then prepare some oats for breakfast for the week.

the whole day was so simple, so easy going, so beautiful, so…so….so spectacular that it seems redicuous to remember how simple it was and how happy that made me, but it was and it did.

it reminded me of days biking or hiking with the simplicity of a great view and movement. of totally acceptance of where i am and what i am doing…so simple. so full. so complete.

i had also stopped at a couple thrift stores and such as i wondered around that day, but as little as i have in my little room, i still don’t need much, and the less i realized i need, the happier i become. it is truly amazing and gratifying. i have appropriate enough clothes and gear for the season. i have a way to read books of my choosing. i have access to healthy food concidering i am surrounded by snow in a small mountain town….thank goodness wealthy people like to come here. i have free transportation around town. and i have a job to pay for it all. i have good friends and family that i can regularly share stories with. i have my health. i have my sence of humor. and i have my sense of adventure. so simple…what else do i need?

where are they now-an update

i totally and completely fell in love with baja: the place, the people, the ocean, and even the heat. however, the one thing that i thought i could work around was kind of my downfall. and by downfall, i don’t mean physical or health or any of those things that tend to end adventures. it was language.

you may be asking yourself, language? how could that be? you have talked at length about many of the conversations you have had.

yes, but you may notice that, with the exception of some american women, these have all been conversations with men. so my whole perspective thus has been by men. there were women present in the area of these conversations. many of them looking at me, smiling, nodding their heads, smiling some more. if i learned anything at all from all the strong-minded latinx folks i’ve met and have actually talked to throughout my life, those smiles and nods are not necessarily about agreement or consent or even a friendly acknowledgment of one’s acceptance in the social situation. in fact it could mean the exact opposite.

it was after i left the cool bike cafe south of rosarito that it hit me, and my desire and need to return to kansas via texas, emerged to give a slight glimpse in helping me make sense of it all…p.s. i’m still sorting that all out.

i’ve hinted that as i approached, crossed, and descended into mexico i got the sense that i should return to kansas. as this became more and more of an internal drive, i knew that i should go via texas and get my dad and his partner involved. all this time i still felt the pull to keep going south, just a little bit more. go at least to k58.

for a while, i thought that this was just because i needed to camp at least one night on the baja beach. and this was somewhat true. i needed a couple more nights in my tent and on the ground. and i am glad i did. but there is a moment i cannot get out of my mind.

at that super cool bike shop cafe with all those great conversations going on around me in spanish, there were two women there. one the girlfriend/wife maybe co-owner who was also definitely a biker too. the other the girlfriend/wife’s mother. the one who closes up when he goes to work in san diego for his night job.

the girlfriend/wife (sorry, he said one or the other but i can’t remember and maybe it doesn’t matter and i should just pick one because who cares, but i care and don’t want to just make something up. this woman seemed strong and independent and well i’m ashamed of missing this piece in my excitement of all the other things going on), and i had some friendly conversation. when everyone was shaking my hand and giving salutations, she joined in….she was certainly one-of-the-guys and wanted me to know it.

the mother….

she sat in the comfy chair in the corner. we made eye contact several times with smiles. i wanted to ask her so many questions…really i wanted to listen to whatever story she had to tell me, but i knew that english was not going to be the vehicle for that and if i wanted her story, it was going to have to be in spanish, and my spanish is just not that strong! curse words!

the final time i looked her in the eyes and smiled and thanked her for the hospitality, in spainsh, i knew that i would have to improve my skills and that i wouldn’t return until i did. could i continue on down the coast and make things happen? yes. i could have kept riding, gotten some side jobs to keep myself fed and nourished. most people spoke english where i went. even when i went to get coffee (instant with snagged sugar packets from the oxxo store it was in front of while closed) from the women setting up stands on the side of the road. we made it work, but i didn’t want to make it work. i was in their country and i wanted to know them better. i wanted to share stories and i’ve been able to do that, but i want to be better. i should and need to be better. i’m willing to fall back on english when i need to, but i need to be able to lead with spanish.

so as you know, i caught a ride back up to playas with that surfer, rode up to san diego. while there i stayed with my amazing friends again…. their hospitality goes way beyond anything i can imagine.

so while in san diego for the 2nd time i had an interesting experience….i’ll make a separate post for. but i had some fun and some insight on still being bothered by gay/lesbian mainstream culture.

so i stayed with my vegan/activist/writing friends then caught the train up to los angelas. hung out with the union station homeless folks until the train that would take me to ft. worth, tx arrived.

20171019_190806.jpg
train sunset view

the days and the people who traveled with me to texas were fascinating. i met so many people in so many different situations, traveling for a wide range of reason…all of which also deserves another post of their own. but i arrived in texas. my dad picked me up. we dropped off my bike and bags and picked up his partner and headed off to a vegan diner. that is right! ft. worth has a vegan diner, and not just any old vegan diner, but a well-known one. it is the spiral diner. oh it was soooo good! we all got the meatloaf special with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts!

20171028_141544.jpg

i stayed with them for two weeks. we caught up. worked on one of the hardest puzzles i’ve ever tried, and we got their house sold so that they could move to new mexico and start their for realz retirement. i’m so excited for them. i also got to really have some great one-on-one conversations with the person my dad has been with for 30 years now. i’ve always thought the world of her, but we’ve never really had the time to have some deeper conversations. gosh she is great! i can’t wait till my bike adventures take me to las cruces, nm to visit them.

20171115_163509.jpg
fall bike ride

my dad then drove me up to wichita so that i can winter, save money, and plan some more adventures. i’m staying with my mom, catching up with my sister, trying to catch up with my niece and nephews who are growing up so fast, and into such amazing humans that i can’t believe we are related.

so here i am. in kansas. i place i never thought i would return to for more than a week. i’m trying to write. i joined the national novel writing month hoping to get more of a story done, but trying to find a job and catching up has thwarted some of my momentum…also i have very little discipline.

however, i am outlining the next phase of an adventure that i hope helps me bring together the multiple ideas i have for connecting all the parts of me: vegan, queer, a person concerned about what we are doing to this planet, an adventurer, food lover, pro-craft/antigentrifracation /artisianalism /hipster bullshit person. wish me luck….

in the meantime, i will try to tell some good stories.

 

20171114_121138.jpg

chilin like a surfer

i left the super cute bike shop and did seriously consider camping close by. the views of the ocean where certainly worthy of good nights stay, but i really felt like i wanted to get down to this campground that i had heard so much about. i had already skipped a couple places that people had suggested i go to, like papas and beer. to be fair, i probably would have stopped if it were called papas y cervesa. i do love potatoes and i do love beer and i believe that they are fantastic when paired together. but it was just too much of a tourist place and not much of a visitors place.

IMG_2860

so i kept on peddling up hills and coasting down hills. i only had about 30 km to ride today, so i decided to take all the time that i wanted. there was a graciously wide shoulder to ride on and some damn fine nice people to return waves to. the road was hilly all the way.

hills were not the tricky part here. the tricky part was the way the highways merged traffic entering and exiting the highway. fortunately, there were signs for cyclists to watch for traffic before crossing the merging lanes. i was usually accompanied by a pedestrian or two, and i still don’t know why but i think it was to catch the bus/vans that would be packed with people going to and from the towns. this version of public transportation fascinates me! for real! it did in peru as well. there are these minivans that people can flag down, and if there is room or someone is getting off there, they stop and you get on. i have no idea how much they cost, nor where/how you get off. i wanted to test it out, but no room for a bike…also i think i need more language skills, well actually i know i need to up my spanish game.

i eventually rolled into the the little village that held the k58 campground…so many things in this area are named for their location down the coast. so k58 is at the 58-kilometer marker.  this little area also goes by the name alisitos.

alistitos holds around 4 hotels, pretty nice hotels, all of which have a restaurant and/or bar of some kind. there is also a couple convenience stores and one sells beer/wine/alcohol. somehow this little way stop has 2 thai restaurants! it also has a shit-ton of americans! more on that soon.

IMG_2873.JPG

there weren’t too many people in the campgrounds when i arrived, it was friday afternoon, so i didn’t think much about it, but as i walked my bike up the coastline looking for a grassy area to pitch my tent, i met a few people living out of their vans or trucks that had set up camp….all with american accents. i eventually found the smallest of small patches of grass close to the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach (this whole area overlooks the ocean with paths down to the beach. so i set up camp and then took the unloaded bike for a ride “around town”.

first thing i did was grab a cold beverage! in those 30 km i drank 2 full liters of water and was still thirsty, so i grabbed a mexican version of powerade. i was still having a hard time with the idea of buying bottled water and so far had avoided it. i was able to fill up at the hostel with “purified” water out of a refilled jug type thing. and i knew that if i kept going south i was going to have to get a couple “gallon” jugs to refill at water stations as if found them. the other option was to buy liters of bottled water to fill my vessels.

eventually, i found my way over to a courtyard and grabbed a cold tecate and sat to do some writing. i had some feelings and emotions to get out, and at some point, my phone was in just the right place to get a couple text messages! in playas i got some because, i was close to the border, but here i wasn’t expecting to get anything. so i bounced some ideas off some people about what i was thinking of doing and going. it always feels good to get some reassurance.

IMG_2864

i then walked across the courtyard just to see what was there, and it was a cute place with about 6 people sitting up at the bar…all americans who have been living in the area for a great deal of time. they didn’t talk to me much, just kind of looked at me funny (i had leaned my bike against a big pole in the courtyard. i don’t know that they liked seeing people that they didn’t know. also, they were all fairly intoxicated. they were talking about property, businesses going in and who owned them and who was doing the work. then this other guy came in.

the first thing i noticed about this guy was not what he looked like, but the noises he made. his first stop was at the drum kit set up on the stage. he was a pretty good. come to find out, he would be playing in the band lined up for the night. they were playing in support of an organization that he ran in the area and with just a few questions i found out a little more information.

this guy was born in the area but went to university in the u.s. and worked there until retirement and then returned to the area and eventually started this organization to help keep kids with their parents. there were a great number of “orphans” in this region, not because of death but what they called economic orphans – kids abandoned or dropped off at orphanages because the parents couldn’t, or didn’t think that they could afford to raise the kids themselves.

so this organization has a center where the parents drop the kids off on their way to work super early in the morning. they feed the kids breakfast and takes them all on a bus to school, then pick them up and brings them back to the center where they can do homework, be fed again, and also get introduced to people who can teach them various trades in a type of mentor-type program. then the parents pick them up in the evening and take them home. i believe that the organization also takes them to church on the weekends when there isn’t school. it seems that it is pretty tied to the church and his connections with various people in the united states for funding. the church isn’t you know my kind of gig. historically, i believe that “the church” has been one of the major colonizers of the americas. that being said, this projects seems to have really been effective in keeping families together and for giving young people the belief that they can do more than just run around town causing un-necessary trouble and just stealing to get what they want/need. the things this guy seemed really excited about was: keeping families together, educating and feeding young people, and helping young folks find skills so that they could work in a field that was beneficial to their community.

the other thing this guy and i got to talk about was a number of american ex-pats that lived in the area (the other americans had left by this time). i had asked him how people felt about the type of potential hypocrisy of the border issues with so many americans living cheaply in mexico. especially considering the proximity to the border (60 km is only 37 miles). he took a deep breath first.

the local people actually like it, they don’t mind it. it is good for the local economy. the local mexican people are able to get jobs in the businesses started by americans, or in their houses as cleaning or construction/repair. americans spend money here which is also good for the economy. so the locals they don’t mind, they like it. but the government. that is a different story. they don’t like it at all.

the way he talked about the government’s feelings i knew that i shouldn’t push it, so i didn’t. but it made me think some about all these things. i genuinely believe this to be true. though he is the only person from mexico that i specifically talked to about this, others i talked to encouraged me to come back, to consider moving there, and at the very least spend much more time in the area.

he told me to come back for the band later, and really i did plan on it, but then the sun went down….

IMG_2856IMG_2881

i got back to my campsite with a full belly of thai food and a soul full of good conversation, that after a wonderful sunset, i passed out…well i wanted to pass out.

the sunset was spectacular, but soon i was ready to lay down and read until i fell asleep. it only took a couple of paragraphs for me to be ready for headlamps out. then all the warnings and fears for my safety rushed into my mind, plus the ocean’s roar kept me from being able to hear anything else. normally i know that i will be able to hear some creature sneaking up on my little world, which is really only squirrels. but what really hit me was all the stories about thieve, which was only about 2% of the stories i’d read or heard of this area of the world, just came rushing into my mind.

then i would find headlights coming for me, well it felt like it anyway, but it was just people coming in late to the campground and they were clear on the other side of the park. it was making me feel like i’d completely lost myself because i never ever feel like this. the fear and anger was rising up in me in a strange storm of confusion  and bewilderment. so i took a deep breath.

in this breath i asked myself, is this my fear or other peoples’?

do i really feel unsafe?

what is the worst that could happen and then what would i do about that?

and eventually, i asked if i truly felt fear or is this just me taking on other people’s shit?

and really? i felt completely safe. everything that was playing in my head was other people’s stuff and not based at all on my personal experience. i knew my surroundings. people knew who i was and i had made myself known, in a good way, to those around me. the lot was closed off to anyone not camping there. this fear is not my own.

then i drifted off into a sound sleep.

when i woke to a wonderfully sunny but slightly cool morning, i noticed new vehicles had shown up overnight, so i stretched and headed off to get a cup of coffee and meet my new neighbors

as i walked up to the shop, i passed a guy who was getting ready to go on an early morning surf run. we chatted a bit. he was so excited to have the weekend to just surf and rest and eat and surf some more. i said that was trying to decide if i wanted to hang out here for two days, or start my way back up the coast that day, or just haul ass to be up in playas by sunday night.

he said, well stay and i’ll drop you off on my way back up to orange county. well ok sounds like a plan! and he went surfing and i grabbed some coffee and my book and that is how we spent the day. his plan was to surf all day saturday and then sunday get up early, surf some more, and then we could head out.

saturday was fantastic. i just sat and read and watched the surfers show up and head out to the beach. now to watch surfers get excited is something to see. as they changed into their wetsuits they would watch other surfers catch some waves and they got excited about what they witnessed which made them want to get out there even faster. so the campground filled with people there just to surf and have a good time.

IMG_2866

the surfers had some great setups. they had vans or trucks with all their cooking gear, camp chairs, food, beverages, hoodies for the cool evenings. i spent this time watching these folks and i came to understand surfers in a new way. and it wasn’t until waking sunday morning to a cold and foggy day that i really started putting it all together.

the months that i had been traveling down the pacific coast, i’d been watching surfers and the way they watched the waves. when the waves rose they ran out to catch them. when the ocean became smooth as glass, the surfers sat on their boards and chatted with one another until the swell returned.

but when i woke on sunday morning with a fog all around, i wondered what the day would hold for them, especially when i noticed that the fog was rolling down from the hills and out to the ocean, vs rolling inland from the sea, and it was beautiful. when the sun finally came up over the hills to burn off the fog, the surfers finally started stirring and walking around. what really shocked me was the fog rainbow. as the skies blued up and the fog was still hanging in the ocean, we witnessed a full rainbow from the coastline over into the ocean.

IMG_2897IMG_2885

then the fog returned and the surfers disappeared.

i walked around with a cup of tea watching the shifts and changes of the environment. and i caught up with my ride back up the coast. we set up a timeframe to leave our little paradise at a leisurely pace, but so that he wouldn’t be caught in a long line at the border.

as i walked around i noticed that there were people in the ocean surfing in the fog. which shouldn’t have suprised me. i watched people surf well into the end of the sunset the last couple nights, and what i way to watch the sunset…i can only imagine.

so why did i gain a new appreciation for surfers and surf culture? well there was no one out there maintaining the ocean wave so that they could have a perfect run. there wasn’t someone with an anti-fog machine to make it a perfect day, nor even a warming or cooling hut for when the water or weather was too cold or hot. you just take what you get and make the most of it. if the swell is rising, you run out and forget whatever else you had planned. if the waves disappear, you wait it out and enjoy the people around you.

IMG_2895

sure this is not unniversal. i’ve talked to some seriously type a people who ran people out of the way to get a specific wave, but down here, it ws so chill. they aslo sharred tips and ways that work for them, or wax that they perfered. if people gained trust, there might even be a sharing of special surf spots. and when someone else had a really nice ride, they were cheered them on.

so surfing is something that is going on the need to do list. this whole area had places to rent boards and wetsuits, and get some instruction. Next time i am sure to do this.

it didn’t take long to get back to playas (i was surprised at my ability to give directions that took us right to the hostel), but we managed to have some great conversations around mid-life and quarter-life crisis, and all the ways and reasons to step away from the race of capitalism. by the time he dropped me off, i felt like i had met a kindred spirit. who knows, maybe our waves will cross again.

 

so much kindness

i finally packed up and headed of playas de tijuana. my plan was to get down to rosarito, about 30 km south of playas. i knew for sure that there was this bike shop down there and i wanted to get my bent wheel fixed. i figured if i got it fixed early enough i could just keep going south and find a place to camp. however, coming out of playas was straight up! there was no easing into it. i had looked at the elavation profile before leaving, and figured it was just a few hundred meters, should be ok, but wow! within minutes i was sucking air and drenched in sweat and my legs were burning. and as for the long tunnel? it was frightening. not because of the traffic flying by. there was plenty of room. but because it was still going straight up and now curving and the just kept building. i jumped off the bike and started pushing. it gave me time to catch my breath, drink some water, and take inventory of my situation.

this wasn’t really anything new. i’ve been through this at some level almost every day. its called bike tour, and anyone who ever thought that the world is flat has never backpacked nor gone on a bike tour. something else was happening to me. i just wanted to go home, and not just home as in back to portland or oregon, but kansas. it was a little disturbing. i have never really wanted to go back to kansas except to see friends and family. so as i climbed hill after hill alongside traffic that was flying by me i was more than a little flustered.

one thing i count on when hiking or biking is the general rule of what goes up must come down. eventually, i was able to roll downhill and into rosarito. i couldn’t decide between getting a hotel room, not something i had planned on doing until i started to get so flustered, then head over to the bike shop. however, as i rolled into town, i started to feel better so i went bike shop first, figuring that if it got fixed quickly, i would head on down the road to a camp spot.

so i rolled into the bike shop…super small and in a residential area. well i rolled my loaded up bike into the shop and started to explain what was going on. turns out, he spoke less english than i spanish! eventually, we worked it out and he stopped what he was doing and fixed my wheel. we did use his computer for a little translating. when we put the wheel back on, i asked him what i owed him and he wouldn’t let me pay. he also wouldn’t except a tip. i left with a good wheel and a hotel suggestion, and yet one more story of kindness.

it didn’t take him long to fix the wheel, but i was emotionally exhausted, so i opted for a hotel and a swim and a shower. that evening i walked down to a taqueria recommended by “happy cow” app. however, the smell of all the cooking cow turned me to this cute little cafe with an outdoor patio. it was so delightful, that i went back for breakfast. that night, i turned on some movie and started making plans to turn towards the mid-west. this wasn’t an easy decision and one i will talk about more later. but with the pressure of how to make it further south with a record heat wave off my mind, i made some playful plans.

after breakfast, i started south again. i knew that i wanted to make it down to k58 campsite. it is a fairly well-known spot for surfers to come from all over baja and southern california, and well, the more time i’ve spent around surfers, the more i like them and their relaxed laidback attitude. yet, just a few kilometers down the road, i made a little stop.

i had seen that there was a bike cafe about 15 minutes south of rosarito, but it didn’t look like anything was there via google maps. still, i kept an eye out anyway. i’d been told about this amazing bike culture in this area and that there were a few organized big rides between rosarito and ensenada. so when i saw the signs for it, i jumped six lanes of traffic and rolled up to the back porch.

20171013_115248.jpg

i leaned my bike up against the patio’s fence and walked by these fancy pants road bikes. inside i found 3 guys of various ages in their fancy cycling gear, two women off to the side, and a young guy behind the counter. all heads turned towards me with full friendly smiles. i was asked where i was going/coming, and where was my bike? eventually they asked if they could get me anything. soon i was holding a huge cup of hot coffee and our conversations continued. it was lively and fun. eventually, the “older” guy sitting at the counter turned to me as he was going through his little seat/tool pouch and pulled out a pocket knife.

you have one of these?

yup, two. one for food and one for other things.

hmmm, you have a gun?

ha! no! i’d probably get shot.

hmmm well, your president thinks we are dangerous and bad people

fuck that guy (oh shit gotta watch that knee-jerk reaction). i mean he’s not my president. i can’t stand how he talks about or treats people. as for border imperialism…..

well. i bought your coffee.

no no no

already did.

i’m standing next to him now and reach out my hand to shake his as we continue with conversations about biking and such. when he is about 1/2 way to his bike he turns and comes back to me, now with his bike glove off.

that was a very friendly shake and i want to do it right.

so we shake again.

soon it is just me and the owner and my still very hot cup of coffee, and we continue to talk for about an hour. he was born in san diego, went to school and college in that area. moved to rosarito to be with family. his wife and her family (his wife and her mother were the two women at the shop) live in the area. he opens the shop at either 6 or 7 in the morning. leaves for san diego around 3 or 4 to work nights (the mother of his wife closes the shop). he has some kind of special pass to get back and forth quickly over the border. i actually talked with many people who do this. so if you think the people from mexico are lazy and such….come talk to me.

 

i didn’t want to leave this area. everyone i talked to was so kind and shared so much with me. the owner of the bike shop gave me a few suggestions of places to camp. he even said “hell, camp across the street. i open early tomorrow. come in for breakfast!”

i was so tempted.

IMG_2849

finally, i climbed back on my trusty stead (i should come up with a name for by wheeled friend). i had around 30 km to ride for the day before i could rest, and i was pretty sure it was going to be one rolly ride.

thanks scientology…i’m feeling much better about myself now!

in a psychology class i took in high school, my teacher (who was also my basketball coach) called me out in the middle of class one day as the one least likely to join a cult. the cool kids in class, who each thought they would be named, were trying to figure out who i was. i was the board one in the back doodling. i was actually surprised too. i didn’t know coach thought of me in that way. we had our battles, especially when i wouldn’t play his bribing games to get us to do certain things, and in fact, with me they had the opposite effect. my least favorite thing in the world  (probably) is to feel manipulated.

anyway, we had a couple of people from this odd little college come talk to our class about their background and beliefs. the school was mired with secrecy and myths. we were told it was a dangerous cult that posted guards to protect the snowmen in the winter. we were told it was some kind of strange religious cult. people had all kinds of ideas that guns and other odd objects were on their list of things all students had to get.

i often walked by this school for some reason. maybe going to and from my grandparents’ house? they had a pretty landscape with lots of trees and old buildings. i like walking across old campuses. the school had been a couple different colleges at different times. anyway, i never really believed the stories. mostly because i had actually talked to some of the students. at the least we smiled and waved to one another.

so anyway, after the two students left, some of the cool kids still wanted to laugh and make fun of them….they were always spoiled little assholes and probably still are. and that is when coach made the announcement. i don’t know why i remember it so strongly. i mean its been over 30 years, but it came rushing back to me a couple of days ago when i got ambushed by the scientology compound in L.A.

as i walk walking down the street to go to a bookstore i was told real life queer people go to, i noticed their giant building….i mean its huge and very blue! and i was like, right! hollywood and scientology. then i came to this intersection and a woman stopped me and said, hey want a free personality test. no, i like my personality just fine. and she pushed and said the magic words, aren’t you curious? well, yes, i am. so i went.

and she took me to that big blue building. it was sooo creepy. and everyone looked like they worked in a mid-nice hotel – black slacks, white shirts, black vest, and name tags.

she took me to this room where i met someone who told be there would be 3 tests (alarms went up), but i sat down to take the first test. i finished it quickly…by the way, standardized test where you only have 3 answers (yes, middle, no) is very manipulative. when i finished, the woman was right over with the next test before i could even stand up….more creepy. this one was going to be an i.q. test that was going to take 30 minutes. nonononono. i do not have the time for this. she said why not what do you have to do? i have to meet my friends. well when? what time? so i made some shit up.

then there was this, here hold these two silver things, and i got more nervous. a couple minutes later the original woman from the street corner came back to give me my results. naturally it showed that i am a mess. that i am depressed and unhappy and really fucked up, but scientology has all these classes that can help me find my purpose and direction. for every thing i said, she responded with i understand that, but….

finally, maybe 5 minutes of this, i had enough! i said i’m sorry, i’m not going to continue this line of questioning. i have to go now. she got defensive and asked what she said that upset me. i went into the failings of standardized tests and then just stopped. she didn’t care. she was trying to get me to stay, so i just stood up and walked out.

as i entered the lobby, without an escort, i saw all the eyes turn to me. this was the first time i kind of actually felt afraid on this trip. what if they locked the doors on me? what if they called security? what if i can’t get out?!

i didn’t stop until i was well down the street, and then i let myself get pissed! i was pissed off! first at myself for having wasted a half hour at this crack-pot place. then the longer i walked the anger turned to laughter. turns out the joke is on them.

as i reflected on what happened and why i answered the way i did and why they feel like my answers were causing me to have an unhappy life, i realized i am doing ok.

yes, i am having a mid-life/what the hell am i doing with my life crisis, but at least i am letting myself have it. in fact, i have given myself permission to go out into the world and figure it out. i don’t have to buy a fancy sports car. i don’t have to try to prove that i am still as young as i want the world to see me. i just want to find a way to live in this world with my values in tact and experience all the experiences that come my way.

so thanks scientology! thanks coach! thanks world of infinite possibilities!