Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Hokkaido Bike Ride: Part Three

It was with a final dash of 100 miles that I rolled, with the setting sun casting glows upon the Universal Studios in the distance, into my final port of call: Osaka. I had been biking for two months, covering 3,000 miles, crisscrossing three out of the four main Japanese islands.

I went from coast to coast, inland over mountains, along streams and rivers, around lakes, and up and over the Alps. And so, my first thought when I stopped in the water side park that I would camp in that night in Osaka was, “ Thanks god I don’t have to pack up my tent one more time”. The routine, the rout aspects of touring, and I suppose of any long endeavor, were wearing me a little thin. Striking the tent each morning only to pitch it later that night, over and over again. Taking everything off my bike only to reload it the next morning. These daily occurrences, while part of the overall touring experience, had lost their excitement after doing it for two months.

What hadn’t lost its charm however, was pedaling for hours upon hours upon hours each day. From before even coming to Japan, I had been biking for nearly a month in parts of Europe and Ireland. I had been sitting on a saddle, churning my legs, finding the hand position that kept my pinky fingers from going numb, non-stop. And it never once wore thin. Sitting at this computer, there are daily things I do that aren’t exciting, but are part and parcel of my life. What keeps me going, what keeps those routines from taking over and dulling me, is that each and every day I get on my bike. It might not be for many miles, but not a day goes by that I don’t crank it out a little.

Every time I hit the jagged coastlines of Japan, I was overwhelmed by their beauty, by their cutting grace. Every river I pedaled alongside gurgled and flowed within me. Every mountain pass I struggled to overtake, every downhill that I swore I was going to crash, pulsed through my veins. Every cookie cutter clogged city I sped to get through, every small fishing village I slowed to enjoy were roadside attractions enticing my along my way.

Throughout my time in Japan, I was being spoken to by more than one language I didn’t understand. Each pedal stroke though helped me decipher what was being said, and as I appreciated each day and each offering that was given, I slowly became more fluent (my Japanese remained shitty). Getting bummed early on in Hokkaido, getting soaked and distressed in Kamikochi, being nearly blown off the map by a typhoon; were all just not-so-gentle conversations. They, along with all that I saw and experienced, were really saying the same thing over and over: Smile.

So I smile. I get on my bike and I smile because I love to bike. I close my eyes and dream of Japan, and I smile. I plan future bike tours, and I smile. I brush my teeth, cook my food, go to work and do all the other things needed to be done, and I smile. I see others on bikes and I smile. Its hard work to be grumpy on a bike, and for that I smile too.

            The final part of my three part series of my Japan bike ride featured on Fietspad

Monday, December 13, 2010

Stupid school girls believe in civilization

In times, as ruffled skirt floating in the shimmering pond, blank pages as days and avalanches of letters, the Divine Erato stares out, her stool of wood, her corner barren and void, she breathes the filtered air through the bare limbs and fallen leaves, her dance scatters carefully laid dust and debris, and havoc visits once again upon our eyes that she had once so gently laid to sleep, and if she were to fall from above, she floats as a feather, the Divine Erato is the setting and rising sun over the river bend, failing to see her there, fear not, the veil of dreams and impossible thought will lead your way...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why I keep napkins by my bedside

Do you ever dream and wake with the juice of a peach running down your chin, your fingers sticky sweet and fuzzy bits left on your lips?  Do you ever close your eyes and let them sink down under their own luscious weight, to let kisses blanket them?  Do you candidly eye someone's long hair as you twist your own locks and curls?

Do you dream asleep or while awake?
Do you dream?
Do you live?
What do you do?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Mermont Tour

In times of yore, the land of middle Vermont, known locally as Mermont, was a place of tepid weather, flowing waters and green vegetation.  With these mystically images in mind, I set out in the dogs days of August to see if I could find for myself the magic of Mermont, known locally in Burlington as the belly button of Vermont, or as the locals like to say, Mermont, hells bells thats where the city folk live except there ain't no city and the folk are really rabbits with large beaks and such stuff.  Ah, Mermont.

It started out with the idea of a lazy 3 to 4 day bike trip.  Naturally, that didn't happen.  My first day lead my south through the idyllic rolling hills from Burlington, the metropolis of Vermont, to Middlebury where i stopped for my first break to stretch my legs and take full use of my food stamps at the co-op.  With a full stomach I pedaled forth towards the nether regions of Rutland, a place many fear and many don't fear.  Either way, it was hotter than a boiling cup of water so I biked along the roaring route 4 as I mentally prepare for my summit of Killington Mountain.  Few have dared, less have succeeded and even more have driven it without a thought, and even more have skied it, and maybe a few less have hiked it and then somewhere in between that some never heard of it and then ONE bike it (that's me).  With the full force of the sun beating on me, I scaled, summited and conquered the largest mountain east of Rutland along route 4.  I freewheeled it into Woodstock to camp behind the firehouse in a bed of pine needles.  I love pine needles.

The enxt day which was supposed to not be my last day turned out to be my last day.  I hit White River Junction and just as quickly left it to get to the Connecticut river.  Don't let the name fool you, it's actually a lake.  Anywho, I meandered along the banks for many enjoyable miles considerign follwing the gentle lake into Canada when I remembered that I almost froze to death last time I went to Canada, so instead I cut due west into the hip town of Barre where I sat on some concrete.  It was early and Burlington was a scant 60 miles away so I said, ehhh, and with 50 lbs of weight in my trailer chugged off a second day of 120 miles. 

Some call me a god.  Some call me other things.  I like the god one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

More news from the middle of the Atlantic

Some of you, and by that i mean none, might remember one of my neighbors in Cachaco, Arlinda.  She is a cooker, baker, alcohol maker extrodinarre, and thankfully has the luck of having not only I, but another amazing Peace Corps volunteer living next door.  Below is the project the PCV is working on to make her place more official and welcoming to tourist and locals alike.  I can honestly say that while this project is focusing on one lady, the benefits will be felt by many.  She has and will need help, and that means she will have other women or girls helping her, which means they will make some money, have a small job and maybe be able to partner or go off on their own.  Studies show that helping women helps everybody.  

Cafe Business Startup

The summary below was provided by the Peace Corps Volunteer and the community administering this project.
The objective of this project is to provide the means necessary to enable a single local woman, to create and run a small home-style restaurant and catering business. In doing so, the ultimate goal is to create a much-needed source of sustainable monthly income for this woman and her three children. The village is a remote and impoverished rural community of about 400 people on an island of Cape Verde. The village is located at the entrance to a national park – “Parque Natural de Monte Gordo” (PNMG). It is the islands primary tourist attraction. Such opportunities are scarce in these small rural towns, where unemployment can run from 40-50% and the vast majority of the island population depends on subsistence agriculture and or foreign remittances from family members living and working abroad. Overcoming this challenge through creating sustainable opportunities, locally, is one of the primary goals of the government and people of Cape Verde.

More specifically, the goal is to increase the monthly personal income of the project beneficiaries by 75% after the first three months of business operation. In order to do this, the business will need to turn a minimum monthly operating profit of 11.250$00 CVE (approx. $137 USD) per month. Of this amount, a minimum of 25% (2.813$00 CVE/ $34 USD- approx./rounded) will be designated to be set aside into a personal savings account. The remaining money will be available for household/family expenses and or for reinvestment into the business. As a community leader and President of the local women’s association, she will serve as a powerful example for empowering other women to pursue similar entrepreneurial endeavors. The required resources will be obtained through a combination of the donated funds received, local funds and locally donated material and labor: • Construction of a bathroom with functioning toilet and sink (restaurant) • Structural improvements made to the outside patio “dining area” (restaurant) • Miscellaneous business supplies and marketing costs such as printing business cards and other relevant promotional materials targeted towards the tourist market
If you have questions about this or other projects, email our office

Go directly to the peace corps website to donate to this project:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What is the Totality?

It is the high residues of hazardous and potentially lethal chemicals inside your fat cells. It is you sitting inside and turning on the television or computer on a beautiful day. It is you shopping when you are depressed. It is the feeling you get that something is missing. It is your worries that a fire may destroy all of your possessions and your plans to try and take them with you. It is the thought that tells you to go on a diet. It is the excess fat on your body. It is the headache that won’t go away. It is the bleeding in your intestines from years of pain alleviating drug use. It is the birth defects of your children. It is your killer when you die from a car accident. It is your savior when it attempts to fill your void for you. It is your carpal tunnel syndrome. It is your tumor. It is your expensive coffin and burial clothing. It is the drugs you take when you need an escape. It is the bulldozer that destroyed the woods you might have known so well. It is the towering skyscraper that makes you feel forever tiny and powerless. It is your boss. It is minimum wage, it is maximum wage.
It is your prison, sometimes with bars, sometimes without. It is all your fears. It is what is keeping you up at night. It is the lock on your door. It is the bullet in your gun. It is your noose and your tie. It is that thing that you don’t want to do, but you feel that you have to. It is the turned cheek. It is the cold shoulder. It is the ad that tells you the internet will provide affection for you. It is the new appliance that you never knew existed, but you can’t live without. It is poverty. It is inequality. It is the sink or swim economy. It is the thing that has categorized you. It has stopped you from doing the things you want. It is what makes you jealous. It is your hate. It is your love. It is your purgatives that you feel might be somewhat strange. It is your clenched fist. It is your mace spray.
It is the police. It is the nightstick. It is the protestor and the media which tells you not to listen to them. It is the corporation which creates a new truth for you daily, one which provides you with the knowledge to buy what they make with confidence. It is the gold star you earned in kindergarten. It is the A you got in high school. It is your college degree. It is your paycheck. It is your therapist. It is your bill from the medicine you bought to ‘fix your brain’.
It is the ache in your back. It is your swollen knees. It is your worsening eyesight from the incandescent glow of our institutions. It is your hearing loss. It is the ‘white noise’ that drives you crazy. It is your adrenaline. It is the tears that pour down your face after a sad movie. It is your longing for a dramatic romance with a happy ending. It is your lust for sex. It is the objectified woman, and the powerless man. It is the rapist. It is the murderer. It is the thief. It is the profiteer. It is the worker. It is the dead union organizer.
It is the solider that is willing to kill and die for cheaper oil. It is the victims of a government enflamed over unwillingness to follow their way of life. It is the activist hung for saying they don’t want to be killed for profits. It is the rubber bullet. It is pepper spray.
It is the extinct species. It is the dying world. It is polluted air. It is tainted water. It is the accident at the nuclear power plant. It is the oil spill. It is the break in the pipeline. It is the brakes that failed. It is the dwindling biodiversity. It is the patented seed. It is the farmer killing her/himself with the pesticides that were going to make life better. It is the seat belt that mangled you, but didn’t kill you entirely. It is the blood dripping from the cut you got at work, but can’t afford to let it heal. It is the concrete beneath your feet. It is the stairs you fall down. It is the train that went off the tracks. It is the plane that blew up. It is the boat that sank. It is the drink you take to just forget it all. It is your misery. It is your world.
It is everything to you. It is civilized existence and the mindset which maintains it.
It is what makes devastation seem not so shocking. It takes you through the day. It dulls you out at night. It gives you nightmares, it gives you dreams. It is your feeling of not having of not having accomplished enough. It is your desire to have a child to complete yourself. It is the physical and mental barriers of civilized life. It is civilization and it has become you. It is a mindset. It is power. It is physically reinforced to block off the reality of it’s powerlessness by mediating human existence from the natural world. It is the feeling of superiority, which supplies the reason to destroy all else. It is unnatural. It will fall, but will you fall with it? It is personal and it is individual. It is defeatable and it’s defeat is needed for our liberation, as well as for that of all else that human kind has set out to conquer and overpower. Freedom is only a thought away. Liberate the mind and the body will follow.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We forget...

We’re all pretty much the same.
Packed tightly in our skintight skin is a bumpy clump of slippery organs and brittle bones. Yes, you’re a pile of bones, I’m a bucket of blood, you’re a slab of muscle, I’m a chunk of chub. And no matter what we got squeezing through our veins, zooming through our brains, and dripping out our drains, one big thing just always remains.
We’re all pretty much the same.
We’re all pretty much the same.
We’re all pretty much the same.
Baby brains buzz and little eardrums pop, baby lungs breathe deep and little eyelids flop, but as we grow up and grow older maybe we start letting differences be our guide, start choosing our own adventures, start carving paths and curving wide. We settle into ourselves, settle into our skin, settle into our lives, and find the comforts within…
We grow up, we grow older, some grow hotter, some grow colder. We focus on our tastes, on our preferences and our choices, we find our kinds of friends, we read our kinds of voices. We might cut deep paths, we may turn others away, we may deepen our divides, we may have nothing nice to say.
But way down deep in our stomachs, way down deep in our hearts, we can always remember that no matter which way we turn, which lessons we learn, which bridges we burn…
We’re all pretty much the same.
We’re all pretty much the same.
No matter what money we earn, what chances we churn, what choices we spurn…
We’re all pretty much the same.
We’re all pretty much the same.
Because we’ve all got cracks and chips, we’ve all got sores and scratches, we’ve all got doubts and dreams, we’ve all got hearts with patches. We laugh and cry, we soar and sink, we go up and down, we stop and think. Behind your favorite things, behind your bestest friends, behind your fears and doubts… we’re all waiting here again.
We’re all in this big show together.
We’re all singing the same song.
We’re all walking into the future.
As we all keep hanging on.

Friday, August 27, 2010


It's not often, and in fact, you have to get up so early that you never even went to sleep, but it has happened.  I have been bested.  And i couldn't be happier.  On a small volcanic island, 500 miles off the mainland of the African continent, a bike race was held.  26km, over mountains, through valleys, blind turns, searing sun, chickens, and fierce competition all were in order for the second annual Sao Nicolau Island Bike Race.  This year, the race reversed the course, starting in Tarrafal meaning a beginning few kilometers of straight climbing.  The racers, while already equipped with helmets from last years race, were decked out from head to toe in amazingly flashy cycling apparel graciously donated by cycling teams from Seattle.  With a band, prizes actually handed out the day of the race, and a first place prize of a brand new Trek road bike donated by a wonderful Minnesotian, this race showed that once you light a spark, amazing things can happen.  Thanks to the great Peace Corps Volunteers who made this happen, Chase and Brendan, along with Floriano (Flor, aka Chocks:), only great things will come.

Check it out:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tour da Daks

It began auspiciously.  The ferry boat captain, gauging the state of his vessel one moment, being pooped on by a bird the next.  I knew right away this tour would be unlike any I had ever done before.  Mostly this was because i was going into the Adirondacks where i had never been before, but besides the point that is.  The ferry took off and dropped me off on the ragged coastline of New York, at Port Kent.  And so i began at the foothills of the some of the most daunting mountains the world has ever seen, the slow and continuous climb into the belly of the beast, the Tour da Daks.

A quick 10 miles took me to Au sable forks, a quaint little town.  It was also the last quaint little town i would hit for another 60 miles, little did i know.  I left the main bicycle route to start immediately on a climb that many have called "insane", "death inducing" , and "really really hard".  These all fit the bill.  This was a straight, tough, sweaty climb.  And it was followed more or less by 60 more miles of rolling, steep climbs where the idea of switchback roads hasn't come into popularity just yet.  I also went on a water reduction plan as I had no idea when or where i would ever be able to fill my water tanks up again.  Finally, after passing rainbow lake, clear lake, lake lake, and several lesser known lakes and ponds, i hit the upper part of Saranac lake and was blessed with a gas station/ice cream place/general store/campground/bait shop/church/pool hall/bottle redemption center/NASA training facility/lakeside rest stop.  With my water bottles overflowing, i started checking out the going rate for a state park campground.  however, seeing that I never attended the school of common sense and yet rather operate on a more complex system of irrationality and thick headness, i knew i would never pay to camp and so shoved off to the lower Saranac Lake and ultimately Lake Placid, a 100 miles after starting.  I had it in my head to keep going all night, to finish the tour in blazing glory, of cycling the full 170 miles in a breath taking single day, returning home a hero, a celebrated discoverer back from the wilds. 

instead i sneakfully pitched my tent behind the Center for the Arts and conked out at 9pm.  The next day i woke fresh as a pickle at 5:30am and started off, only to stop at the coffee place in town that magically opens its doors at 5:55am.  Sweet.  With some coffee and a bowl of granola in me, i headed off what would be an amazing donwhill into the town of Keene, along some river that ran along the foot of the mountains.  However,  being at the bottom at Keene meant i had to go up and over a few more passes to get back to the coast of New York at Essex, at which point i hopped back on my trusted New York Bike Route #9 all the way back to Port Kent in time for the early afternoon ferry. 

As the ferry approached the Burlington docks, i noticed a lack of tinker tape parade, of Town Officials and media awaiting my return.  No worries, i do it all for you people.  not for cheers and the fame, glory, riches.  I do it for the trees, the rivers, the sweat, the hours of pedaling, the peaking of a hill climb and the momentary pause before gripping tight for the downhill, i do it because i love to do it.

Check out all the photos at

Friday, August 6, 2010

You can come to me in pieces, in fragments, in dust balls and miniature cartoons written on rice,
You can come to me in mathematical formality, in hidden torah messages, in spurts and starts and stutters,
You can come to me in daisy prints, in symmetrical beauty, in faded jeans and yellow tee,
You can come to me in tears, in bloody rage, in torpid depression and shallow ego,
You can come to me in letters, in signals sent on a breeze, in wisps of a falling feather,
You can come to me in hours, in long sunny days, in swimming through clear running water,
You can come to me in riddles and rhymes, you can come to me in backtrap contraptions and obtuse designs, you can come to me in hast, you can come to me doing handstands,
But come to me in ways unknown, in dune dancing rhythms, in speckles and spots of closed eyes,
But come to me in transgression, come to me with valor and chivalry, come to me in shinning armor, come to me in sunset scenes,
But come to me in midnight's caress, in crescent embrace, in swings and merry-go-rounds,
But come to me in along the shore, in skittering stones of breaking waves, in tip toeing fashion,
But come to me in character, come to me ready to dance, come to me ready to run, come to me ready to flee, come to me ready to fight, come to me ready to kill come to me ready to die, come to me ready, come to me ready to jump over fences, come to me ready to bolt, come to me ready to scream and laugh and shake and cry and fear and grin and come to me ready to do it again and again and again, but come to me, come to me, come to me, come to me, come to me… 

Image by Catherine Dentino

Monday, July 19, 2010

We two...

We two, how long we were fool'd,
Now transmuted, we swiftly escape as Nature escapes,
We are Nature, long have we been absent, but now we return,
We become plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark,
We are bedded in the ground, we are rocks,
We are oaks, we grow in the openings side by side,
We browse, we are two among the wild herds spontaneous as any,
We are two fishes swimming in the sea together,
We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent around lanes mornings
and evenings,
We are also the coarse smut of beasts, vegetables, minerals,
We are two predatory hawks, we soar above and look down,
We are two resplendent suns, we it is who balance ourselves orbic
and stellar, we are as two comets,
We prowl fang'd and four-footed in the woods, we spring on prey,
We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons driving overhead,
We are seas mingling, we are two of those cheerful waves rolling
over each other and interwetting each other,
We are what the atmosphere is, transparent, receptive, pervious,
We are snow, rain, cold, darkness, we are each product and influence
of the globe,
We have circled and circled till we have arrived home again, we
We have voided all but freedom and all but our own joy

- Image by Catherine Dentino

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What's at Stake

Everyday, every moment, we have the choice to take actions that foster or destroy, that build community or tear them apart, that conserve beauty or spread ugliness.  Every moment of our lives we are faced with the choice to participate in killing this Planet and all that calls it home, or to stand up and fight against those that do.

“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings ... Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change ... There was a strange stillness ... The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of scores of bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.” 
- Rachel Carson  (1907-1964)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Crucial Kingdom Tour

It is not often that I can truly say that i have recently undertaken something of such epic proportions, of mind bending beauty, of humanity shifting consequences as I can today.  Along with my first ever touring buddy, we ventured into the wilds of the wild Vermont.  A place where many have been forgotten, a place of hidden spots that speak of days of yore, of prehistoric times.  A few still staggering dinosaurs and land walking whales roam these parts.  We toured the Northeast Kingdom.

Leaving from the hamlet of Burlington, we headed north to St. Albans where they announce your right to cross the street by blowing an air horn and scaring you into running for your life, hence crossing the street.  Being that small town Vermont is small town Vermont, there isn't much more to say.  From here, we followed the Missaquoia Valley rail trail by not following it to Enosburg where we got coffee and heard the tale of a bank being robbed over 4 times in 4 years.  Nice.  Finishing up the rail trail (over 26 miles) we got to Richmond.  Richmond has a sunny side and then a not as  nice sunny side.  Stopping at the 2nd best bakery in town we were told of a farm where we could camp (never found it) and also told that we will be encountering a mountain climb as unbeknown to us, we had to circumvent Jay mountain, a huge skiing resort.  We decided to tackle the impossible climb of impossibility.  Nearly an hour and a half later we hit the pass, and freewheeled what may be one of the best downhills to grace this wonderful world.  Nearly 10 minutes of eye tearing amazement as we bombed down the
side of this mountain to our resting place for the day, Paddie's Snack Shack in North Troy.

We camped next to the train tracks which anywhere else would never have produced a train, but for us did.  A rumbling freight train.  Twice.  Early the next morning, awaking to fresh blue skies, twittering birds of all sounds and sizes, we packed camp and headed off for a day full of mountain lakes and true Kingdom beauty.  We cruised by nearly 6 lakes of various sizes and shapes of blue, but all numbed us from their crucial beauty.  As we wound out way around the Kingdom we decided to make a path towards Glover where the infamous Bread & Puppet farm/theater/museum/etc is located.  After finding our way to their uphill aboded, we spent the late afternoon and evening in the farm and woods, and enjoyed a shared dinner and saw some blighty potatoes getting burned before calling it a night and hitting the hay in our wooded campsite.  A wonderful night of uninterrupted sleep followed and we woke up warm and refreshed the next morning.  Yay!!!

Day 3 saw us cover over 40 miles barely even pedaling as we cruised south from Glover, through the greentown of Hardwick and into the grand Capital of the republic, Montpelier.  We spent sometime wandering the gold lined streets and slowly falling asleep.  And so, after another 40 miles with a bewildering amount of stupid car traffic and some light drizzle we pulled back into Burlington with sugar coated visions of the Kingdom still dancing in our heads.

To see the full range of crucial photos, check i say check them out by clicking here

Monday, June 7, 2010

We ride the waves and don't ask where they go...

Song of the Open Road

by Walt Whitman

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.

Here the profound lesson of reception, nor preference nor denial,
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas’d, the illiterate person, are not denied;
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar’s tramp, the drunkard’s stagger, the laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person’s carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,

The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back from the town,
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted,
None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me.

You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.

You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!

You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
From all that has touch’d you I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me,
From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me.

The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.

O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?

O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.

Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would not amaze me,
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear’d it would not astonish me.

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.

Here a great personal deed has room,
(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all authority and all argument against it.)

Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul.

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.

Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him,
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them.

Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for you and me?

Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashion’d, it is apropos;
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

Here is the efflux of the soul,
The efflux of the soul comes from within through embower’d gates, ever provoking questions,
These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the darkness why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side?
What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the shore as I walk by and pause?
What gives me to be free to a woman’s and man’s good-will? what gives them to be free to mine?

The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is happiness,
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times,
Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged.

Here rises the fluid and attaching character,
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of man and woman,
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter every day out of the roots of themselves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet continually out of itself.)

Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the love of young and old,
From it falls distill’d the charm that mocks beauty and attainments,
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.

Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.

The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

Allons! we must not stop here,
However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here,
However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here,
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while.

Allons! the inducements shall be greater,
We will sail pathless and wild seas,
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements,
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formules!
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic priests.

The stale cadaver blocks up the passage—the burial waits no longer.

Allons! yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance,
None may come to the trial till he or she bring courage and health,
Come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself,
Only those may come who come in sweet and determin’d bodies,
No diseas’d person, no rum-drinker or venereal taint is permitted here.

(I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhymes,
We convince by our presence.)

Listen! I will be honest with you,
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d, you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you,
What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.

Allons! after the great Companions, and to belong to them!
They too are on the road—they are the swift and majestic men—they are the greatest women,
Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land,
Habituès of many distant countries, habituès of far-distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary toilers,
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender helpers of children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers-down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years, the curious years each emerging from that which preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely their own diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gayly with their own youth, journeyers with their bearded and well-grain’d manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass’d, content,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood or womanhood,
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death.

Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys,
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you, however long but it stretches and waits for you,
To see no being, not God’s or any, but you also go thither,
To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all without labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it,
To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich man’s elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them, to gather the love out of their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.

All parts away for the progress of souls,
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments—all that was or is apparent upon this globe or any globe, falls into niches and corners before the procession of souls along the grand roads of the universe.

Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the universe, all other progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.

Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble, dissatisfied,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go,
But I know that they go toward the best—toward something great.

Whoever you are, come forth! or man or woman come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it, or though it has been built for you.

Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the screen!
It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it.

Behold through you as bad as the rest,
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of people,
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash’d and trimm’d faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.

No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the confession,
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities, polite and bland in the parlors,
In the cars of railroads, in steamboats, in the public assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in the bedroom, everywhere,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under the breast-bones, hell under the skull-bones,
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of itself,
Speaking of any thing else but never of itself.

Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.

Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? Nature?
Now understand me well—it is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.

My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion,
He going with me must go well arm’d,
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies, desertions.

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

More Japan on Fietspad

On my map, it looked like a quaint little road, meandering for a while alongside a rambling brook. What it actually turned out to be was a four lane super highway of death and destruction. Seemingly, it was the only way out of Niigata where I had just taken a ferry to from Hokkaido 20 hours earlier.

I was heading toward Matsumoto where I was going to make my fabled Japanese Alp crossing. I had started looking at my Honshu maps while on the ferry ride down and decided that a bike tour of Japan really isn’t a bike tour if you don’t cross the Alps. Plus, what could be more fun then trying to ride a 60 pound loaded touring bike up and over the Japanese Alps? Well, I discovered what could be more fun.

The day that I planned to tackle the first half of the alps it started raining, lightly. I was in Matsumoto, foot of the Alps, and decided to wait a bit to see if it let up. I gave myself an abort time of 10am. If I hadn’t left by then, I would have to camp the night in Matsumoto. However, by 10 it looked like the rain had stopped, so I decided to make my push for Kamikochi, the half way point and where I wanted to camp for a few nights and do some hiking. I had heard only marvelous things about Kamikochi in my travel book. And so, I began the ascent, after of course buying a few pounds of apples that I thought would come in handy.

As I made my way up, what had appeared to be clearing skies turned out to be darkening skies, and the rain once again began. And this time, it didn’t seem like it would stop and it was too late for me to do anything about. I donned my rain jacket which meant that as I pushed hard up the hills I would sweat and basically get soaking wet regardless. From the light drizzle to a steady downpour, I toiled upwards as the cars and trucks splash, sprayed and generally caused me extra havoc as I couldn’t see with the water in my eyes and my tires slipped on every metal sewer cap or bridge joist I came across.

Somehow, I made it to the last tunnel I had to squeeze through to Kamikochi. This tunnel proved to be consistent with those I had previously encountered so far on my Honshu journey; that being a tunnel with no shoulder or sidewalk, four lanes of speeding angry cars that sound like trumped up spaceships hell bent on doing one thing: hitting me. And this one had an 11% incline and was slippery. I did the saddest, wettest, coldest thing: I walked my bike. The entire 2 miles of tunnel. Two Miles!!

At the other side of the tunnel is was still raining, and getting to be late afternoon. As I was freezing at this point, I jumped back on the bike and tried to go a bit faster so I could attempt to get warm, but the rain and slippery twisting road, sometimes uphill then strangely downhill wasn’t having any of it. I did arrive at Kamikochi, to the cheers of one group urging me onward to the campground (and by “campground” I actually mean swamp land). An hour of heartbreaking searching got me to a small tangle of tree knots that weren’t under half a foot of water, and so I began removing the largest of the stones in the area I could find and thought I might be able to scrap enough flat ground to pitch my tent.

It was still raining, so I thought what could be more clever then for me to try to pitch the tent with the rain-fly attached to the body to keep it from getting wet inside. Being in the initial stages of hypothermia, this didn’t work out as well as it did in my head. The stakes didn’t hold. The poles refused to go upright under the fly. And so, 15 minutes of agonizing, shivering, gut wrenching almost-giving up-ness, I had a pitched tent filled with water. A few mumbled (a few yelled) profanities and I threw all my gear in the tent and waded over to the one highlight of the campground: the bath house.

The Japanese Bath house is, after the first experience, one of the most pleasant, relaxing things. The basic principle is this: You enter the bath house to a locker/changing room where you remove all your clothes. You then enter the cleaning area where, sitting on a small stool, you wash your body very very well. There are little faucets and shower heads, and usually a thing of soap. All the men are sitting on little stools washing themselves as well, its a big room. After washing and rinsing, you are now ready to get into the bath. Traditionally fed with actual hot spring water, it can range from soothingly warm to blood boiling hot, sulfurously smelling to obviously just heated water. No matter what, once you are in, its 20 minutes or so of just relaxing and letting the hot water do its thing.

So I found myself at the end of this wonderful ritual, dreading getting out of the hot, anti-hypothermic water and back into my wet clothes and back to that sopping wet tent. So I sat for another 20 minutes. Eventually, I got out, dried off and put on the cold wet clothes. The rain was a little less, but still coming down. A row of sinks by my tent was roofed and I had left my bike there so I went over to it and saw the only other person camping cooking some food. He noticed me and thankfully asked me in better English than I speak Japanese if I wanted any of his soup. I said no, but he did heat up some water for me and gave me some sake and hot water. I gave him an apple. We talked for a bit, him giving me more and more sake, and eventually we headed to our tents.

Having the lulling effect of sake in me, I zipped open and zipped closed the tent quickly, grabbed anything with sponge like qualities and pushed the puddles of water to the edges of the tent and quickly sank into the wet cold earth under my tent hoping to never relive this day again.

I learned one of the hardest lessons I learned during my tour the next day. I awoke to clearing skies, birds chirping, and a musty wet tent. But getting out and seeing the sun, hanging up everything to dry and going for a hike, I felt elated. I realized that the day before was most likely the most miserable day I could go through, and while it certainly sucked, there was still the element of the experience, of living. It took the sunshine, the birds, and my stinky stuff to dry over the next few days for me to see that the miserable day was actually a test, a gentle way for the universe to make sure that I was paying attention and truly appreciated what I was doing. While I certainly didn’t pray for rain afterwords, I realized that when it rains, I get wet. But I keep biking. Of course, that is unless a typhoon comes along…

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Saving the Queen: A Canadian Bicycle Adventure

Often, when one thinks of May one thinks of warm lazy spring days, gentle breezes wafting with the scent of newly budded flowers.  The leaflets reaching out their tender tips to catch the seasons firsts rays of life giving sun. And so it was with this idyllic thoughts that i headed off into the hinter lands that we refer to as Canada.  In Canada (commonwealth of Britain) they speak French, English and Canadian, along with many indigenous languages that most people don't care about (ahh, just like home).  What i would learn on my trip is that Canada doesn't have the same beliefs regarding May as i do, and that the French were great at throwing up their hands even in Canada when the British came to invade Quebec, it was a whopping 15 minute battle.

The first day was a glorious May day (as described above), cycling in shirt and shorts, i crossed over Lake Champlain islands, into New York State and hurriedly left it for the international border into Canada.  Where i crossed is where a lot of cyclist cross, though the border dude raised an eye (in hindsight this might have been because he understood what May means in Canada).  After my outright lies and half truths, they let me into their commonwealth.  Yippie!!!

And so I went north by north west through flat farm lands until i reached the island of Montreal, where i would lay my head for the night.  I stayed with a couchsurfer I stayed with once before, and before long i was snoozing away.  It was off early the next morning to follow the St. Laurent river towards Quebec.  I would follow various parts of the Route Verte bike route system.  This day it begin to dawn on me that perhaps the normally happy bicycle gods were not in favor of me biking at this time.  I narrowly diverted two torrential downpours proceed by lighting and thunder, all trying basically to hurt this little biker.  It was by mere seconds that I ducked under gas stations awnings that i am here today to write of my tales of woe.  After completing my first back to back century, I found myself in Trois Rivierais, another place the Birtish took from the French and where i camped near a huge cathedral.

The next morning was crisp.  Cold might be a good description but us campers like to say crisp because it makes us seem more rugged like the cold doesn't affect us, nay, we revel in it.  But it was cold.  It could be that it was 5am and the sun hadn't even rubbed it's eyes yet, but there i was striking camp and getting ready to head off.  The first three hours usually are the coldest as it takes a while for that wonderful black asphalt to heat up.  The day proved to be nice and the huge black clouds of death were on the other side of the river, so all was good.  I even dilly dallied knowing that i was only 85 miles out of Quebec and had more than 10 hours to bike there.  So i stopped every so often (and stopped and stopped.  My saddle was proving to not be the wonderful entity that the one i used in Japan proved to be)

Coming into Quebec i hit my first hills in three days.  The bike route takes you along the water whilst the village is actually up on the cliffs (Quebec is the oldest walled city in North America north of New Mexico or something like that)  The entire waterfront was a bustling park with great bike routes and benches and places for people and grass and pigeons.  Part of me was bummed i wouldn't get to crash camp there, it looked that nice.  I fiddled around the oldest part of Quebec, nearly 400 years before finding my way to my couchsurfer where i would spend two nights.

My host took my on a little walking/history tour that evening explaining the history of the village and some of the interesting facts about the area in general.  Like, why is there only one bridge across the river?  Because there isn't room for another.  Or, in Canada, why does the chicken cross the road?  To get closer to America.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Anywho, after a night in the biggest bed i have ever slept in, the spent the day in the chilly drizzle walking the city again, trying to get into city hall but it was locked.  Saw some art, some church and some fair trade market.  Quebec is a great place, much nicer in my opinion than Montreal as it's big but not really, has a European feel and despite the rumours, I never once felt my less than fluent French was a hindrance or secretly despised by the Quebecers.

After another night in the bed that God made, i was off in the chilly (aka COLD) overcast morning.  Rain loomed.  Winds winded.  After crossing the fabled bridge over the river, i put my camera away as for the rest of the day, for the entire day, ALL DAY, the winds blew at me and it held a steady rain.  As anyone knows, a rain coat keeps the rain out and the sweat in, so i was wet.  And as anyone knows, this makes you cold and shiver.  Around, when i thought my brain was finally succumbing to the elements, the snow began snowing.  It was snowing.  In May.  While I biked.  In shorts.  Not good.

At 4am the next morning, i felt a little stiff.  So did my tent.  A punch to the wall sent a crack and a cascade of ice off the tent.  My tent had been covered by ice.  For an hour, i dreaded leaving my sleeping bag, but by 5am I stood outside in my sandals (all i had) to witness the snow covered ground and ice covered tent.  Being rationale, i thought, " Hmmm.  This might not be good".  It was freezing.  And that's putting it nicely.

It took me awhile to strike as my fingers didn't like to move too much, and I biked 10 miles to the first gas station where i drank two cups of coffee over an hour period.  My left toe that entire time didn't thaw out.    I realized that i might have serious issues if i continue onward.  So i did something that i really, really, really, really didn't want to.  I called for help.

Another 10 miles and 3 hours later, i was sitting in my housemates car being driven back to Vermont.  As we crossed the border, the sun was shining and the air was warm (at least comparatively).  Sure, i had only biked 400 miles and been away for 6 days, but it felt glorious to be back in Vermont.  Seems they had snow too.  The mountains got two feet of snow.  Stupid May.