America 1; Riding Home

Day 1. Bernie and Sue ride along with me to the edge of town.  With an already delayed start  my now-mind had left me and the slow family pace killed me. Exchanged hugs and took off like a shot. Perfect day. Vail is the destination. Sun is bright. Spinning the pedals is easy. Colorado and the next chapter lay only a few short days away.

Make a few stops in south eastern Minnesota for eats and another time to tighten the spokes. The last bike shop for 1000 miles. Crazy dude. Kept talking about selling high end Trek bikes over the phone. Shop was a real hole in the wall so he claimed that no one could beat his prices on the account of no overhead.  Intense dude. Let me borrow his tools without a question so I wasn’t complaining.  He actually had the same exact bike I was currently riding, out front of his shop.

A 1987 Trek Elance 400d. Lanny. I picked up one of the nicest road bikes trek produced in that year for $50. Gunnar Berg sold me the bike for peanuts fully aware of the care, love, and punishment I would undoubtedly show it. Metallic blue paint covered the old lugged steel frame which all laid under a thick layer of tar. Tar that was no match for gasoline. Scott down at Martins made it rain on me a little bit providing me with new cables and housing and a set of new-old tires. Lanny was looking hot.

Keeping a high cadence I dipped out of Fairmont, MN and found some very lonely country roads a hair north of the Iowa border.  Stole a shower from a county run campground. The hot day was the start of a string of hot days that produced an unruly thick layer of salt over my body. The free.99 shower was key.  Ended up putting on ~130 miles despite the late start and family send off.

Camped that night nearing sundown on the corner of a farmer’s mowed property, just out of sight from the farm house.  The stresses of homelessness showed themselves again but are gradually becoming more and more discernable, witnessable and therefore more manageable. The worst that would happen is a few rounds from the barrel of some angry farmers shotgun…bah.

It wasn’t stress that made sleeping that night difficult…it was a fucking deer.  Some pompous buck kept stamping and snorting around my tent. I would wake up and clap my hands scaring it away only to have it come back shortly after.  That fucking deer must have made 5 visits to my tent that night.  If only I had that farmer’s shotgun.  The sun couldn’t have come early enough. Was packed up and underway before sunrise.

Day 2. Another hot day. Bank clocks showed 97 with later reported heat indexes around 110. Sweated my little nutties off.  Crossed into Iowa and skirted small rural towns on even more rural county roads.  Kept a steady pace crossing over into South Dakota. So hot. Dried the tent out and filled water bottles in rural now south Dakota towns. Winds were light which allowed for considerable progress.  I ended the day in Yankton, South Dakota, around 170 miles from where I had started. Completely exhausted and spent. I couldn’t eat enough salt or drink enough water to keep up with demand.  Broke down like a bitch, on day 2 no less, and got a room.  Sweet guilt accompanied the cool cool AC, felt like a kid watching porn on the internet for the first time.  I was that kid.

Day 3. Crossed the devastatingly flooded Missouri river into Nebraska. If I had done it the day before it would have been 4 states in one day but I will settle for just seeing 4 states in a day. A friend once told me he refrained from doing something because it sounded too much like an accomplishment. I could learn a lot from that friend. Who cares how many states you see in a day.  Bah. Riding makes me a headcase.

Rode with a south Dakotan principal out for his daily ride. An exercise nut minus all the spandex. The candidness and honesty with which he spoke was truly remarkable. He would speak about his kids on a first name basis as if I, a total stranger (with long hair mind you), had met them before. “Well, John, who’s 18 already has a baseball game today. He’s been battling pneumonia for a while now….” This guy’s Midwestern spirit was stee-rong.  Was a welcome change to the fast pace and solo biking that I had been doing up til then. Maybe knocked off 20 miles with the kind stranger.

Rode past portions of the Missouri River that had flooded entire neighborhoods. The dam holding back the giant Louis and Clark reservoir was releasing 160,000 cfs (cubic feet per second?) which my biking partner explain was up from 70,000 cfs, the most the damn had ever previously released in the history of the dam…ever. Over double. The flooding had actually closed a section of the highway down where I was planning on biking. Instead of staying far north in Nebraska, making my way across the mighty width of the state I rerouted towards the south snaking my way down diagonally across the center.

Towards the end of the day landscape changed from farmland to sand hills. Rolling Nebraska grasslands for days. Stopped in the most divey of ranch bars where the bar-man and another man were well into a heated game of cribbage.  Tried to order a chocolate milk and a Budweiser.  Barman told me “this is a fucking bar, we ain’t got no chocolate milk.” Fair play barman. Warmed up do the 2 gentleman over my beer and told them I would be back in a year for a “fucking glass of chocolate milk.”

Camped in the sandhills that night.  Real estate doesn’t seem to be a limited resource in Nebraska. Went without a shower dealing with the thick layer of salt a dirt as I had no other options.

Day 4.

Waking up still feeling like a salt lick. Slept well, no hastles where there’s no people and no pesky bucks. Pedaled the few miles into town. Felt so soft when I mentally commited to treated myself to a cooked breakfast.  The breakfast stop turned into absurd high value when the sweet lady running the place offered me a shower while they cooked my breakfast.  So clutch.

Another day of silly high temperatures turned me very quickly back into a hot salty mess.  90 miles was all I had in the tank. Stopped a few times for naps.  Head winds were expected traveling in the westerly direction but are never easy to deal with. A strong incessant force that forever impedes progress, robbing energy and morale that can never be recovered. Dark questions about why I was doing this, or do I really enjoy riding bike creeped into my head.

These questions all quickly dissapreared when I reached that nights camping.

First thing; found a shower.  Can’t explian how key it is after around 10 hours of straight sweating. It was a state rec area in the fucking middle of nowhere, Nebraska. Not even a large river around.  There were a few campers about. One lent me some soap…so key.

Set up my tent in the vasinity of a few others tenters. A little chatter yeilded an invite to a campfire. It turned out to be quite the sizable family outing. Made an offer to trade a $1000 IOU and an old grenola bar for a beer and was rewarded with many-a-beer and a couple burgers, chips, tater salad, apple pie, etc. Such remarkable kindness that seems to be a theme in the Middlewest.

Day 5.

Breakfast was served from my new friends. Just doesn’t get any better. Hit the road at a decent hour.  The 90 miles into north platte was broken up by only 1 town and a lot of grass.  Headwinds continued to decay my spirit but the good fortune that I received the night before was a great weapon in the mental battle of a full day of pedaling against a swiftly moving atmosphere. Had a close call where I was certain I had sharted on the way into town…didn’t…shocker, pleasantly surprised.  Destroyed a Wendy’s in N. Platte. Rode out of town west on a now familiar highway with skies growing darker.

I rode hard as the inclement weather was accompanied by freak winds from the east. Make hay while the sun shines?…or whenever it doesn’t?

Almost buckled for a room again but paying more that $40 is a steep price for being a giant pussy, so I decided to make more hay.

Pedaled a few more hard miles to the next town of Paxton as the sun set and rain started falling. Made it to a park and an overhang before I got nailed. Rain let up, decided to grab a beer in one of the two dining establishments in Paxton, NE.

Ended up dining with a dude from Vail and his brother who seemed to be oddly connected with the scene in Paxton. He called the barman by name and even the butcher who cut the steak sitting in front of him stopped over to say hello.

Turns out the dude runs a restaurant in the rockies and makes a run to Paxton once every three weeks to buy his beef. “Some of the most tender in the world.” The butcher turned out to be quite a special man as well. Mr. Henke ran the oldest family run grocery store in the state and had quite a reputation for his steaks. After 1 beer turned into 3 Henke told me to stop by the gorcery store the next morning. What a night.

Day 6.

Woke up in the city park. Killed an hour waiting for the oldest grocer in the state to open for bussiness. Not really sure what to expect I was pretty certain it wasn’t going to be bad.  Mr. Henke came out from behind the deli with a bloody apron and proceeded to make it rain harder than one can imagine after only some smart words were exchanged in the bar from last night. Fruit, suasage, cheese, chips, gatorade. I made him stop when I was certain I had exceeded carrying capacity on the bike. After our super market sweep he sent me out the door and wished me luck.  A seriously beautiful and wonderful man.  Nebraska is now known to me not only for there amazing beef but people as well.

I had big goals for day 6. I rode in to colorado before in the AM which renewed my energy. The headwinds remained at a breeze and I passed the old haunts of Ovid, sedgewich, Julesburg. My third time through this area.

I weirded out another couple I encountered touring on their bikes. Crossed the road and inniciated conversation. This was the second encounter with touring cyclists in almost three thousand miles of riding. The first will never be forgotten as the homeless man on a walmart schwinn was all too epic three years ago.

These two seemed quite dry, riding from salt lake to chicago. They kept mentioning how they were either ahead or behind their schedule. I felt bad for them. Not that bad because they were getting it done on bikes and headed with the day’s wind but trying to keep a schedule is a terrible place to be. After we parted ways I sprinted back after them and requested a couple patches as I had run out and had no way to repair a flat tire.

100 miles in for the day, Sterling, Colorado’s dollar store and taco bell were raped as dark clouds moved in.  The westerly gales that kicked up where too much to resist so I set out into the most desolate portion of the ride, the Pawnee Grasslands that stretched over much or north eastern colorado. A lot of wheat and then just nothing.

I made it 20 miles before the ominous skies condensed and released rain. Heavy rain.  Day turned to night with the super heavy dark clouds blotting out the sun and blue skies. Spotted a ranch in the distance and pedaled my ass off.

Made it to the ranch without getting struck down by lightning. Rested underneath the overhang of a machine shed. Made my way over to the farm house to make my presence known to the proprietors.  Figured it would be the least awkward move at that point.  Wasn’t really expecting to be invited in but gladly accepted when I was. I refused dinner as taco bell still sat heavy in my stomach and felt I was really the definition of imposition at this point.

The storm didn’t let up until dark and the elderly man and women that had taken me in insisted that I take a shower and sleep there for the night. Didn’t decline that offer.

Ended up repairing two flat tires that evening that I had picked up in the driveway of their place. Had just enough patches to get it done!

Day 7

For the third day in a row I was treated to a royal breakfast and sent on my way. Luckiest kid alive? Maybe.

Kept a decent pace across the grasslands until the Rockies finally came into view. Cha-ching. Feels like home, looks like home…

Eastern Colorado was long  yet amazing, just the way I left it. Made it to Ft. Collins early in the day which was nice. Any time that 100 miles goes by and the sun is still high it gets me all jacked up. My string of inexplicable good fortune continued in Fort Collins. Met with a bike builder there and was presented with a most unbelievable opportunity.

The climb from Fort Collins was formidable but barely noticeable under the circumstances. My high brought me all the way to Estes Park.  Sitting at the base of Rocky Mtn. National Park, Estes park is a full blown shit show, crawling with midwestern gaper tourists, tooling around in Ford tauruses and mini van’s galore. Keep your eyes out for bicycles dad.

Killed the last little bit of daylight in front of a safeway feeling very homeless.  Camped on what seemed to be the tallest hill in town setting up my tent in the dark as a serious lightning storm hit.  The hill had only a few short trees on it.  My mind went wild with thoughts of being struck as the inside of my tent became illuminated many times a minute.  Was taken away with a rush of insanity and got out of my tent in the pouring rain and ran for lower ground.  Talked myself out of the foolish antics halfway to the grocery store and returned to the tent. No lightning strikes.  A week alone on the bike makes me a real headcase.

Day 8

160 miles lay between camp and Vail.  A huge day in the Rockies but home may be an even huger motivator.  Started the long climb into the national park early.

The park is known for the most gnarly of highway that climbs from 7500 ft at estes park to over 12000’.  It’s not a normal highway in the fact that it climbs up into the mountains for no real purpose other than to expose tourists to the highcountry.  As a result, the road climbs like crazy and stays at a high elevation for some time before descending.

Stopped and had a couple tourists snap a photo of me.  My camera had gone temporarily defunct so these would be the only photos of the trip. But if you’re gonna have just one picture this one would do.

poop

On one of the longest decents I have ever ridden I passed a few bikes and a few cars.  One lady on a bike yelled at me, “You’re mad!.”  After spending the entire morning pushing around the tall gears of an old steel bike, fully loaded, up the county’s tallest highway there was no way I was hitting the brakes. No speedometer but I would venture a guess that I rarely dipped under 40 mph, probably better than 45 for many many miles back down to sane elevations.

Willed the pedals around with thoughts of being home by nightfall.  Saw more cyclists on those Colorado highways than I would have ever thought possible. There was a yuppie group out of Boulder that were doing some ultra long 5 day ride. All I noticed was there lack of gear and poorly tuned shiny bikes.  In the 40 desolate miles from Kremmling to Dillon I encountered triple the number of touring cyclists (not counting the yuppies) than I had seen in the last 3000 miles of riding this route. Moved over to the opposite shoulder to converse with all of them. Turns out I had found my way onto an Adventure Cycling Association (authority on touring in the USA) official trans-america route.  The most memorable of these were three gorgeous ladies who had riden from seattle.  I can’t be certain but these were real live knockouts, wasn’t just seeing them through my tired bike goggles.

Once I made it to Dillon I knew there would be no way I would be denied Vail by dusk. Was actually going to arrive well before dark.  In Frisco I called a few friends and invited them to the top of Vail Pass to join me in drinking down some celebratory champagne.  Bought a bottle and started climbing the last pass of the day.

Was met at the top by the Liberty Skis Van/bus blasting some dubstep from it’s stupid soundsystem.  My best buds hadn’t forgotten me in the last year.  A perfect reception.

Miles: 1025

Avg: ~130/day

Max: 170

Min:90

Max Temp: Balls

Min: Cold as shit at 12000’

Most wonderful man: Mr. Henke

Flat Tires: 2 (same time)

Largest Cities Visited: Albert Lea, Yankton, Ft Collins, North Platte

Good trip. Glad to be home.

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Asia 13, Deuces

This note comes to you direct from New York City. I last updated just before I arrived in Sumatra, the largest island of Indonesia. Asia 13  will be my best attempt to fill in the gaps there-in.

The 45 minute flight from Kuala Lumpur to Medan, Indonesia’s 4rd largest city felt more like 35 minutes.  Hanging around the check in counter before take off was as creepy as it was fruitful.  Found the most incredible Egyptian man to mule a few files and grinding stone for me from Malaysia to Indonesia. (I have a thing against checking a bag, so either I throw the large metal files of pay a price greater than their worth to check them below or..) I find a mule to carry them for me.  A small miracle led me to asking a younger dreadlocked  north african straight from the Oreville commune in the of india.  His rastafarian appearance was 1/10 as interesting as his stories. From the extreme worldview that only a true functioning commune can cultivate to the stories of traversing the far reaching untouched lands of the Himalaya in Kashmir and Jammu, everything about this kid peeked my fascination and ultimately my adoration.  When we arrived in Medan I was more than obliged to spot him the $25 USD required for purchasing a visa on arrival. I got to hear more of his stories as we left the airport in search of a money changer that would accept indian rupee.  Medan was certainly a number of rungs beneath Malaysia (or thailand) on the development ladder.  Dirtier, noisier, way way more honking. “Hey Mister!” seemed to be the first and possibly only english words taught in the country.

Finally found someone to take Rupees and my new friend and I parted company.  Final destination was a certain Nias Island off of the opposite coast from Medan. On the surf guidebook’s suggestion I made haste to the center of Sumatra to a place called Danau Toba.  Would encourage fact checking here but Lake Toba joins only Yellowstone on the list of world’s super volcanoes. Absolutely magical collapsed volcanic lake the has a big mountain tip island surrounded by it’s unfathomably deep waters (near-pun acknowledged).

No sooner than had I arrived in Medan I was gone on a bus bound for the lake. Distinct memory: staring from the bus window and at an attractive young indonesian women breast feeding, wasn’t totally turned on but took far more than a passing glance…acceptable?

Got a considerable rush when the bus made the final turn revealing an amazing view of the volcanic lake. I imagined in my head a helicopter shooting film for some crazy Imax production.  After flying at great speed from the tight confines of the jungle road the copter-cam passes fast and tight over the slow moving bus (me) and the super-blue mammoth lake explodes into view as the all foreground imagery like the bus and mountain side vanish behind it. Even minus the dramatic chopper camera work the panorama was breathtaking.

Side note; all photos from this note were taken from Google Earth. Fucking lost my memory card approximately 2 days before returning to the US.

 

Toba ended up being an interesting place. At one point it time it was obvious that the lake experienced much more tourism than it currently does.  There seem to be approximately 1000X as many rooms in the area as available guests.  The situation creates a lot of aggressive behavior and general demeanor from many of the local people there.  Still a intensely beautiful place.

One day took a moped trip to a couple mountain side hot springs. Hot pools from sweet vistas, check.

The next day I sampled some of the local psychedelic fare.  Mind blown. Moon visited.  Sat down to gather myself in the meditative position and didn’t move for 3 hours.  Mountains moved.  Palm trees floated.  Every exotic sight and color, flora and fauna reintroduced itself to me only now with emphasis on the weirdness of color shape and texture. Tropical jungle brilliant greens contrasted the super deep blues from the lake.  I could have written and essay on blood flowing in my body, I swear I could see it happening.  Anywho…good time.

Shipped out after a couple days. Was hell bent on getting to the ocean and finding surf and since all three branches of my personal government are me, me and me, I did just that. On the quite short yet impossibly long journey to Nias Island off of the SW coast of Sumatera I ran into another fellow that was making the same journey I was.  I was a little surprised to find out that he was traveling to the same small island, but when I came to find out that he was a fellow Minnesotan I was a lot surprised.

Journey probably covered less than a couple hundred miles but exceeded the 24 hour mark. Was visited by a rare case of car sickness as the bus (minivan really) weaved through the pathetic jungle road. A 13 hour overnight ferry followed by around 5+ hours on inter-island transit made for a long day.

End up sharing a double room with Minnesotan for the next week as we both did our best Midwestern impressions of surfers.

Place was around $3 per person. Had a good view of the wave from the hammock outside my door. Fell easily back into the surf-and-recover lifestyle.  Surf until I am no longer physically capable, lay in the hammock, eat and repeat.  It is absolutly a wonder that I remain quite a terrible surfer.

Wave was amazing. These are the words of the largest surf forecast website…”It’s been called many things including Nias, Lagundri, Sorake and most often just The Point, but whatever name is used, it always ends up in the world’s top 10 waves.” Not my words but seemingly accurate.  Nasty barrels in some of the worlds warmest turquoise water.

Besides the wave, the island was a tropical paradise. Ended up losing my memory card with only a couple days remaining on my entire trip. Sheeeeit. Again, photos stolen off of google earth.

Sheeeeit

Ended up setting up a deal with the family from the village that took care of me.  Paid around $12 for my bed and 3 meals a day. Pretty sweet little setup. Read a lot. Am getting pretty nasty in the hammock. Decent way to spend a 30 days.

After a month of hanging around the tiny surfing village with surfers (some of the driest individuals to walk the planet) and locals (some of the most forceful salespeople i’ve encountered) I was ready to leave. Not only ready to leave the island, but ready to leave the area, the country, the hemisphere. I was ready to go home.  Ready to surround myself with people that love me.  Felt like a good time to go, so I did.

Checked a few flights back home…expensive. Over 10 million Indonesian Rupiah. Ended up scoring a buddy pass off of a friend in one of the most benevolent maneuvers I can remember.  If Karma is real then I should def run out and give a monk a handjob cause I am running a huge deficit.

Kicked it an Bangkok for a few days before completing the journey. Bought a whole bunch of shit. I am now the owner of pants (2 pair) shoes (3 pair), a shirt with sleeves on it and even a computer. Not too sure how I feel about the last one but here I am…sitting on my new Thai keyboarded laptop, typing away, checking my facebook, staring at porn, like any responsible god fearing american should.

Digging myself further into Karmanic dept, my standby flights from Bangkok to Tokyo and Tokyo to New York turned themselves into first class tickets.  Full reclining bed, sipping on wine, eating a surprisingly palatable tenderloin…made the journey a treat more than a chore.

Excited for the next chapter.  Visiting the closest thing I have to a brother here in New York. Still glad I don’t live here but it’s still a pretty nifty place.  Family-and-friend stop on MN to catch up with those who really count and then back to Colorado.

Asia, deuces.

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India (+Nepal) 4

Treats:

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys-B576_JSU

2. Taking this entry analog. Hit me with your address either here or FB and I’ll get you on the limited edition Cjell Monee post card list. To be fair i’m not putting anyone who is not old, female, and a long time member of calvary baptist church on the “A” list but you are gaurenteed at least one.

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India 3. Himalayas


MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCES….

Met a few friendly dudes at a hot spring. Hemant and Vikram. Mountain boy and a Delhi boy. An odd couple to say the least. Hemant, a more reserved guy coming from a small village nestled high in the mighty Himalayan mountain range. Small in stature, of Tibetan decent. Vikram – a loud and loveable dude.  always smiling. More sizable than hemant with dark indian skin. He thinks in his next life he will be born an american with fare skin and blond hair.  Hemant quickly invited me to stay in his home where his well-to-do family took very special care of me. Always a special breakfast and dinner served to us on the floor of the bhuddest decorated, two story home. Hemants precious mother insisted on pouring Ghee all over everthing I ate. Ghee = fat extracted from milk through some long, labor intensive process  of sieving and fuck-knows-what. It’s supposed to be a very precious commodity. Admittedly and expectedly the pure fat drizzled over their local Tibetan mountain cusine, tasted like sin on toast. Delicious.

After a few days kickin it with their homeboys in another mountain city Hemant and I said goodbye to Vikram and hitchhiked to the hills for some walking. A couple days hiking, brought us to a hindu mountain temple for the lord shiva. smoked some hash with a friendly man who lives in a tent nearby. Supernice dude. Test my long untested J rolling abilities and i was fairly proud of my work.

Descended in the spectacular Parvati valley. A deep dramatic gorge cut deep into the mountain terrain capped by classic Himalayan snow covered peaks. Villages with foot access only dotted the valley walls where a glacial river tore through the center. A few travelers had described their euphoric feelings as rolled hash from the abundant marijuana plants, sitting smoking and just being in that valley. Fucking cool spot.

Almost tried to buy this kid's shirt but thought it looked too good on him

A few days later I strapped all belongings to rudy and hit the road back to Delhi to meet up with Austin. Was resolute in taking as much time as need to fully enjoy the ride home. The roads selected cut through valleys even more remote than those I had selected on the journey up to the mountains.

Night one was spent in a very small mountain town. I was a little cheesed that I had to pay $5 for the room but i calmed down. Walked around the one town road. People stared at my cracker ass but fine enough, I was a bit of an anomaly.  I sat down in one sweet shop for a treat and some chai. I was quickly invited to the back room where a few cabbies chilled smoking spliffs. One spoke a bit of english and the others less. I enjoyed just hanging and smoking. they offered me some to take with..of corse no charge for their new fare skinned friend. Genuine dudes.

The following morning I was out searching for some superglue to patch my down coat. A shop owner invited me in. Sat me behind the counter on the dim shop.  He rolled a few spliffs then gifted me a large chunk of hash. super nice dude. his son was over the fucking moon when i gave him a USD.

That day I crossed Jarorirote Pass. A climb that lasted over 10 miles the last 3 or 4 of which was mud. I spent a few hours standing up on the bike in first gear. I made it was rewarded with a small village at the top. Chai with some dudes. One of the cabbies was up there and i returned the favor and used my supply of hash up. such a beautiful place with genuine people. a good spot to spend an hour or 2 while rudy chilled out.

Later that day I can across 2 guys on a bike. big smiles. We pulled over and one of them rolled a spliffle. We smoked and talked. The one offered me some of his hash but I declined. Extremely nice guys that were really happy to meet me and me likwise. I gave my camera to the one riding in the rear and he took some footage and photos. They later stopped and paid for my dinner. Super nice.

I arrived in Narcanda, a small mountain town at the juction of a few mountain routes. I asked a man that looked like he knew what was up if there were guest houses in town. I instructed me to wait in town for his help. The man arranged for me to stay in a friend of his place. My bed at in the corner of a large empty room shared with another old old man that painted signs. the man explained to me he had been painting signs for over 40 years. His work was meticuous and immaculate. Very high quality gibberish hindi script was tranfered from his delicate brush to the bright sign. I cat and watched with work as the sun rose from behind the mighty snowcapped mountains that were the skyline. He rolled spiffs and gave me and gifted me a large chunk of charas. Amazing.

Bad ass dude

The man that helped me the day invited me to his mountaineering school for dinner and breakfast. His young indian students poured over me. Part embarrassing but kinda flattering? I spent over a half and hour posing for photos. a few of the girls where gorgeous but alas my time here in India remains celibate.

The next night I stopped at a mororcycle shop in another moutain town. This, Solan, the larges i had been through the entire time. I help the one man working there polishing a motor while his friends sat around, smoked, laughed, drank chai, watched the whiteboy working as they do. I was happy to offer the small supply of charas I had. They inquired as to where I got it stating that it was very high quality. thanks sign man.

One of the dudes went a long way out of his way to find me a room in town. paid 2 bucks for a bed in a truckers dorm. Good shit.

The last day I hustled back to Delhi covering mileage equal to that of the last 3 days combined. Big roads, plains and more of a sense of urgency brought me quickly back to the chaos that is delhi. A few more days here and then Gav and $ attack the north and maybe nepal, tearing ass on out trusty enfieild motor chariots.

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India 2, Motorbike

Sheer. The word I kept coming back to describe the past 3 days. Sheer drops. Sheer rocks. Sheer insanity.  Sheer lawlessness. Sheer terror. Sheer beauty.

I left Delhi after a few days spent chasing around trying to find a motorcycle. Maybe a couple miles from where I was staying there was a large motorcycle market with shitty Indian motorcycles lining the street.  There were a few shops that were very organized. They rebuilt Royal Enfields for export to the west. Designed in the 1950’s, the Royal Enfield Bullet, still built new in India, remains virtually unchanged to this day, much like the Volkswagen Beetle is to Mexico. They are relatively cheap ranging from 900 to 1500 USD. A new one can be had for 95000 Rupee ~ $2000.  Not too bad. It’s a very neat bike in a place that seems to specialize in shitty ones.

I named mine Rudy. I picked it up for 48000 Rupee which is a little over a G. Rudy is a ’97 in seemingly near perfect condition.  A giant pain in the nuts to buy the thing from a shop that was run by a Hindu man called Lalli Singh. The shop had a good rep, but frustrated the fuck out of me trying to buy the bike. I spend hours at the shop waiting to fill out some trivial paperwork while Lalli was counting money or lighting incents or discussing something with someone else who wasn’t me. I was tempted to scrap the deal will Lalli but I was really keen on Rudy so I stuck with it.  After 5 days faffing about in Delhi I escaped a top Rudy bound for the Himalayas. I could go into more detail about how Delhi kinda blows and buying a motorcycle should not have been so taxing but who wants to hear about that.


I strapped my pack to Rudy’s chrome back rack. The guys that sold me the bike were surprised that I didn’t require the heavy duty side racks. I felt they looked a bit cumbersome and I knew the small rucksack I am carrying would fit nicely on the small back rack. I also picked up a saddle bag for the tools and spare parts I purchased with the bike. With what I’ve got I am capable of repairing most things that can go wrong with the bike.

Leaving Delhi was a shit show. Sheer insanity. Sheer Lawlessness. People drive in a way that seems to maximize chaos. The only thing that you can somewhat bank on is the fact that no one else is too keen on getting into an accident. Driving on the left hand side seems like such a minor obstacle to get used to compared to all the other hullabaloo.  The round-a-bouts seem to be a place where all the driving chaos culminates in a swirl of horn honking, swerving, and red-light-running. The law in the traffic circle is who’s nose is ahead, goes. To exit or enter, one simply need get his own nose in the way of oncoming traffic. A bit unnerving at first, but somehow practical.  It comes back to the fact that no one wants to get into an accident. Adding to the chaos are the many different types of vehicles running around the streets. Big trucks, tuktuks (3 wheel taxi with motorcycle steering, shit ton of tuk tuks in india), cars, tiny vans, horse drawn wagons, bicycles and motorcycles.  An incredible number of motorcycles. For every car there must be 50 of them. Cheap and effective, just like India.

An 8 lane highway runs to the north out of Delhi but looking at the map I decided that India may keep her 8 laners, Cjell Money will roll the dice with the back roads. Straight away this seemed like a possible ill conceived strategy. The map of Delhi was small and didn’t cover the incredible sprawl. Without a single street sign in the entire city it was near impossible to find the road out of the city. I developed a strategy that I still employ which is to remember the name of the next town and ask as many people as I can if this is the way. A minimum of 5 collaborating Indians are required before I quit asking and continue on my way.

Umm

I finally make it to the road that leads out of Delhi and I find sheer chaos. At times it’s a divided road but the center division has little effect on where people choose to drive. An Indian will not be inconvenienced by a center divider, bah. If the direct route to his destination happens to be against traffic then against traffic it will be. Cars and tuk tuks and bike going whichever way. A general sense drive on the left, pass on the right is had, but general is the operative word.

At times the road surface turns to shit. Sometimes mud, sometimes sand, sometimes rocks, but dusty, always dusty. Before the day is over I purchased a long overdue bandanna and the following day some cheap eye ware. It almost looked like I was wearing eyeliner where the dust had combined with my eye juices and was deposited around the eyelid, I can only imagine the scene happening in my lungs.  The roads were marginal and I hadn’t even left Delhi. Fuck, maybe shoulda thought about the 8 laner.

On top to the sheer mayhem unfolding before my eyes, there were the horns. Everyone honks in India. More than anywhere I have ever encountered. The massive cargo trucks are the craziest. Their theatrical horns blare a some sort of tune over the military grade airhorns attached to their roofs. That combined with their religiously colorful inspired paint schemes and extremely large statures, make all traffic move around them.  The trucks are some of the biggest chaos adders of all.

Being on a motorcycle offers an advantage of maneuvering though traffic with some efficiency. As clogged as the lanes ahead got I rarely was totally robbed of forward progress. Things slowly got better the farther outside of Delhi I got, which was a theme that held true over the past 4 days of travel. The chaos was reduced somewhat and tuk tuks were replaced by tractors and more livestock as traffic thinned.

The road conditions remained awful but not quite as bad as the outskirts of Delhi. Any time the road opened up in front of me my speed was always limited by the life endangering pothole reaching deep into the shoddy pavement. I also quickly learned the way of driving on a two lane road here. Going three-wide? Game on. If a truck was passing another coming toward you, this was your signal to hit the shoulder, no self-respecting Indian would give way to a motorcycle.

Once I became accustomed to the ins and outs of county driving I was able to enjoy things a bit more. Water buffalo, camel drawn wagons, monkeys, and cows. Don’t get me started on the cows. There were so many things that drew my attention away from the task at hand which I quickly learned wasn’t a task that could be split with other tasks, like making faces at monkeys or checking out the camels.

I stopped at a small village outpost. My bike was quickly surrounded by 10 men. In broken English I procured a bottle of water. Every one of them were not the least bit bashful in demonstrating their lack of having anything better to do with their time. They looked over my bike and luggage. I could guess that not many a westerner frequented their village. I was equally as un-bashful of snapping a photo of them surrounding Rudy and then snapped a photo of their most interesting 3-wheel tractor/dune buggies. I was told later that many rural farmer types can’t afford cars so they make up something on their own. Many of the bodged together country vehicles were quite astounding.

The first night was spent in a bustling town that seemed to be a huge hub for cargo trucks and busses. More chaos. After finding every man in the town that didn’t speak English, one who did happily hopped on the back of my bike and escorted me to a hotel. I was thankful and surprised that he wasn’t looking for anything in return. I wasn’t really in an area of tourism so it was just a genuine Indian kid looking to help out a someone new.

After consulting with a man that spoke perfect Indian inflected English from the hotel, I opted to head back to the main highway. He informed me that the road ahead was even more pathetic that the road behind. I made good time on the main highway to the base of the Himalayas. I stopped for a short break. I had no idea how close I was to the start of some mind blowing shit.

As I began to climb I noticed that the dry and hot planes were quickly disappearing for a more alpine environment. Cooler temps. Coniferous trees.  I stopped to take a photo, then I stopped for another. Then again, I stopped because I saw a place even more awe inspiring than the last. The road wrapped tightly around the sides of mountains. Busses, trucks, cars kept me very attentive. Oncoming vehicles combined with the winding road with a sheer drop to one side left little room for error. I was only entering the great Himalayas.

The first stretch of road to a mountain city called Shimla was busy with traffic but the road was in good repair. Many times the road opened in front of me and I let Rudy bark. On the plains and flat highway leading up to the hills, all you can do is listen to the bike and feel the changes that may or may not be happening. Is that a new click? Am I losing power? Is my rear tire low? One in 50 of these passing thoughts has any connection to reality but it’s the fact that the road remains unchanging and the lull allows the mind to concoct possible failures in the bike. In the mountains, the mind and bike are consumed with carving along the sides of mountains. I pull the throttle and Rudy’s 350cc single cylinder growls back. There are no new clicks or questions of tire pressure. Rudy just goes, and goes. I become accustomed to passing cars with little room for error and realize when danger is real and I need back off. I become more confident in corners leaning Rudy far over to one side as we climb higher into the mountains. The views become spectacular. I can see the terraces of farms all over the sheer valleys. The road becomes more and more dramatic. Cement barriers indicate large sheer stone walls that retain the road and the mountain that it clings to. Rudy just growls and grunts as I twist the throttle past another group of three cargo trucks. I never leave third gear and shift often down to second while Rudy snorts away, applying all available torque blasting in and out of tight corners. Driving a motor cycle here in the mountains of India is like few other things I have ever experienced.

I spend the night in Shimla. There is some sort of festival which means I am gouged for a hotel room. I pay almost $10.

As amazing as the 100 or so km has been driving up to Shimla the road ahead is even more so. I consult with a few people about the best way to proceed north and all two of them suggest that I take the road shown on my map as a very skinny white line as opposed the thicker more prominent yellow one that goes a bit out of the way. The line is skinnier than even the rural roads that I had navigated a few days before. Best decision ever.

The two lane road with considerable traffic was replaced by a one lane route with little to no traffic. The condition of the pavement remained, as a whole, good. I couldn’t believe my fortune. I was back to where I had been the day before stopping to snap photos around every new bend. The only thing that impeded progress was the intense curves that kept coming all day. Between this road and the PCH in California I have never encountered anything more spectacular. Rudy continued to growl as I became even more confident in my bike handling. The cliffs became more sheer and the road even more impossible.  The great valleys dotted with farms were amazing to witness, thousands of feet below where the one lane road had been chipped and chiseled on the face of a rock. The mountains had done away with the incessant honking (still honking myself around every blind corner), gone was the need for a bandanna covering my face and somehow, by sheer luck the road surfaces remained very good, allowing me to lean Rudy confidently into every twist and turn which there must have been hundreds if not thousands.

That night I found myself in a tiny tiny mountain village called Chinli. Miraculously there was a guesthouse, an upscale resort that had a dorm style bunk house. I paid $4 to stay the night. In the village I found a lady who made me dahl and chapatti, soup and bread, ordered through sign language. I still don’t know if it was a restaurant, I think I may have just been eating at her house.

Today, the road continued to be amazing. I passed to crews freshly paving the road. Good surface turned to great. Unreal. Sheer drops and rocks continued. The road seemed to be even more remote. At one point, where on the other roads may have been a bridge, I was forced to ford Rudy over a stream bed.  He handled it beautifully.  I was concerned about fuel at one point. I asked in a small village where the next stop would be and I was directed to a tiny shop with a couple 50 gallon drums inside filled with petrol. The man was only charging 5 rupees more than a large station would have. Fill-er-up.

Gas Station

Eventually I reconnected with the more prominent national highway and finished my trip to the north, deeper into the Himalaya. I missed the one laners gone by but alas, I had to arrive at some point.

Not sure what the next few weeks holds for me. I hope to do some hiking as long as I am here in the mountains.  Gorgeous mountain surroundings make a nice finish to a sick, sick ride.

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India 1. Touching your own asshole?

Have you ever touched your own asshole? I’m not sure the i can truthfully say I never have.  I can say, with certainty, that i don’t remember the last time. Until about 8 hours ago. No TP in India. I kinda knew that, but its not until the first time your sitting (squatting), completely alone, in one of the dingiest bathrooms I can remember, right after you’ve shat and are now prepared for the cleanup phase, that it hits you. It was right in that moment that I knew what I already knew. It’s not until, that very second, in the poorly lit, Requiem-for-a-dream-esk, surrounded by tiles stained with years of humid filth, that I realized what had to be done. I paused, not so eager to explore my own anus with my own fingers on my own left hand. I paused, looked around in the musty space again. Shower head, no help; faucet with bucket, nope…too small to accommodate my entire ass; smaller bucket within larger bucket, maybe? I contorted my squat stance to see if i could splash some water in there, heard this was an option. Soooo feeble, barely got myself wet. I was beginning to understand what I had previously known. Gonna have to left hand this shit. There’s no half-assing here. Either you have a clean ass or you don’t. My white undies would be the unwavering judge. They had no sympathy to the culture shock that was occurring. No recognition of the situation at hand. Either skid marked or not. Fuck the bed. Here goes nothing. Again, not sure if you’ve touched your own sphincter recently but its a strange strange place for your fingers to be. I was prepared with instant rinse and soap…a lot of soap. I rigorous cleanse that I performed gingerly in my own unusual lonely embarrassment. Still not totally sure if all actions were performed correctly, up with Indian standards. There’s not real way of telling. I’m fairly certain that it seemed to be the only option I had but right after realized what just took place in that filthy bathroom, I can never be too sure. I had conferred, reluctantly, with my new friend Yos, I met at the airport. He seemed to confirm my suspicions.  I suppose I will warm up to the practice with time but, fuck me, it’s a weird way of doing things.

Yos spotted me wondering about outside the Delhi airport, trying to avoid aggressive cabbies but still appearing generally lost. It had been quite a journey getting there.

New York proved to have its ups and downs. Ups; bike polo, bike messengering, experiencing one of the most diverse and tolerant places I have ever seen, bike polo. Being in the city is exciting and the landscape of Manhattan is unlike anywhere on earth. Biking down 7th ave, just down from times square, taking the time to look skyward and seeing skyscrapers parted by the famous Fashion Ave. Delivering packages from one famous landmark to the next. Pretty cool shit. Absolutely busting ass to bring a “red hot rush” from espn to ABC. A tape with something that will air today? Flying around manhattan without reverence to traffic laws of any kind. Don’t get hit and don’t hit anyone was the extent of it. Much like India, but it was just me and a few other messengers, not everyone, riding that way. It was a rush. Somewhat diminishing with time, but certainly challenging, dangerous and exciting. The last day of work was one long sigh of relief. Relief that I hadn’t found out how shitty my health insurance really was. New York had its moments but that’s kinda where the ups ended for me. Oh, and $1 for five dumplings in china town. A solid tasty meal for $3. love that.

The downs: being shit poor. Messengering pays peanuts. There were a few fabled companies that I was made aware of that seemed to pay their guys a decent wage, but the two I worked for weren’t one of them. I worked on a commission. On the busiest days I would make around 10, maybe $12/hour, at the max. $12/hour would be just keeping up with the incredible expense of not being a total recluse in that city. the reality was we were rarely busy. I would guess I averaged around $6/hour when I was working. Many times I would just turn my radio off and ride home after over an hour with no work coming my way.  That coupled with the expense stressed me out, constantly. Anytime I left the house I needed to be prepared to drop cash. Transport, food, undies and socks for my new homesteading lifestyle, shows, DRINKS. Fuck me sideways drinks are expensive there. It’s either you don’t go out or you get FUCKED with drinks. A round of 6 dollar beers could negate a days worth riding. Hard riding. 50+ miles of it on a few beers with friends. I made my bed, I know, but it was a pretty shitty bed. If I had a real job the scene would be more tolerable, but who wants that. If I wanted a real job by life would be look quite a bit differently.  NYC was just not a place set up for Cjell Money. Not a place where I thrived.

Enough of that. Hate people who bitch about their situation. Should have changed it sooner but that’s life.

The time came to take off and that I did. First stop was England for a quick stop. Met up with Alice’s family in their home outside of Birmingham.  Alice came down. So good to see her again and her legendary family. thought it may be weirder than it was. They are such welcoming people thriving in their own rich culture that I quickly resumed my friendship with the family. Saw Max from tahoe in London. Bit sketch as he was in between places staying with his folks but I managed. Played some bike polo with those from the huge scene that existing in london. So much more polite and gentlemanly than what I had experienced in New York. I was bashful after a few that I was playing against scoffed at my antics and habits that I picked up playing in the big apple. I quickly reformed the more outlandish ones, like swiping the mallat out from under an up-expecting goalie using it as a prop while sitting in the net, but a stayed true to the more agressive style that involved riding in angles that impede the progress of others, stopping or backpedaling in hopes to force the opposition to touch their feet to the ground. Anywho, good times in good company.

The flights to Delhi were interesting. Slept (the loosest use of the term) at Gatwick airport in london. Had a shitting time trying to get my tent stake through, both london and instanbul. (taped to a checked box in london, cried in istanbul.) Had to buy a visa in turkey just to change planes. Suck my dick turkish immigration. Tranfered again in dubai. Some the the most interesting flights i have ever been on. Turks love the call buttom. Women in dubai aren’t allowed to fly? Only white person on the plane to delhi. Made it. Crashed in the airport. tryed to sleep until sunrise. Delhi is fucking crazy. Met Yos. led me here. love this place. more to come. Peace

$

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I have a blog.

Deal with it.

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