Lost on the way to the End of the World

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by El Explorador, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    I’m falling into a rhythm in my strange new home.

    My mornings are beauty and stillness. Wake up; watch the sunrise over the lake, diluted by city haze.
    Climb down, let Lost out of the electrical room I store her in for the night. Simple boiled rice and vegetables for breakfast; roam the deserted grounds. It’s hard to break the dreamlike trance and start the bike, the day. Find a pool, a café, move incognito.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You all but have to be on fire to get people’s attention in this city, where colourful characters have so saturated the streets. I’m not habituated; I’m delighting in it.

    Eris has talked me into staying just a little longer despite radios crackling with dire warnings of hurricane Isaac's inexorable approach – Midsummer Mardi Gras is this weekend. What is a visit to New Orleans without a phantasmagoric mobile block party? Besides, there is something about this place.

    People ask me why I do this, I glibly shoot back a Why Not, or joke about the job market, the snow, whatever. The truth is, after sixteen years, I just knew that as beautiful as Ottawa is, my beloved hometown had not changed with me and – for now – I need new surroundings. I need to see what else there is, perhaps even find somewhere that stimulates & challenges me in new ways, the sort of place I could stop wandering from – if only for a while.

    New Orleans has an atmosphere charged with energy and potential. The people are proud, and their hardships have made them prouder. The city wells with art, it bleeds into the streets and feeds the souls of a people who can’t simply walk on by unseeing – this place is just too jarring. They want to see their home improve, and they want to be a part of it. Was it like this before the hurricane, or did they just start rebuilding and never stop?

    Whatever the root, it’s intoxicating. I’m filled with the question: Could I stay here? The hedonism seems over the top, but that’s just the surface. Beneath the veneer of tourist traps, hackneyed stereotypes, novelty clothing, and stiff drinks, there is a vibrant culture and rich community. I feel the city draped around me like an old coat, familiar and patchwork, secret pockets, hidden treasures.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    Inertia looms like the hurricane clouds on the horizon, and both make me anxious to leave. This was supposed to be just a taste. I don’t regret extending my stay, but the time has come.



    [​IMG]



    Before I leave, a few things. The dinner at Oswaldo’s finally happens – delicious BBQ during the day, I hang out with his family and help out around the house. It’s good to get some sweaty work done, and I even find a couple of desiccated geckos for the road.

    [​IMG]



    I take Eris to explore my kingdom, and she gives me an intimate tour of hers: we meet the crust-punks with their homemade junkstruments, fortune tellers whose cards call me to stay; voodoo-mamas and shysters who draw me in to their mythologies. The jazz band can’t play St. James infirmary blues, but I get a better selection from Eris’ guitar anyway.



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And then the grand finale to my New Orleans adventure – Midsummer Mardi Gras.

    The debacle is as weird and wonderful as I had hoped. In the sweltering New Orleans heat, I can’t imagine how people manage to find so much energy but it sweeps you away and next thing you know you’re dancing in the streets with a crew that looks like something out of “a midsummer night’s dream” meets “fear and loathing in las vegas”.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Like all good stories mine ends with a hangover of bewildered recollections, and lingering doubts about what actually happened in the end. Fortunately, I have the photos to prove it. I leave Eris with a spare helmet that made its way into my possession for the next time we meet, and ride out through evacuation traffic, past emptied gas stations and boarded windows.

    The city is hunkering down, and I am riding out into the sunset,the bayou following alongside the highway glows with warm twilight. When darkness falls, nothing but hours of endless tail lights – my fellow escapees from the coming storm.

    But they are coming right back. I don’t know when I will return. What I do know now, is what it is to miss New Orleans
    #61
  2. woodly1069

    woodly1069 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,154
    Location:
    Louisville, KY...really too far from the hills!
    WOW! More please! :clap

    ...and more Eris too!
    #62
  3. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,295
    Location:
    Okie near Muskogee
    This is going to be a wild ride!

    btw 5months to Guatemala is perfect:freaky

    Looking forward to reading and seeing more:lurk
    #63
  4. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    haha, thanks Woodly but those pics are for the members only section ;)

    And I concur throttlemeister, if you're going to let it all just blur past you're missing the best parts.
    #64
  5. backdrifter

    backdrifter Wannabe rider

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,369
    Location:
    Belleville, IL
    Excellent, please keep it up! And yes, I can definitely see why you would be tempted to stay in New Orleans. You can always go back though, and trips like these become harder and harder with time. I think you made the right choice moving on, but I'd be sure to keep in touch with Eris! :wink:

    OK, question - after going out for a night on the town and having a few drinks at Midsummer Mardi Gras, do you go back to the abandoned amusement park and climb up to your bed on the ferris wheel?!?!? :huh

    I'd surely be dead after my first attempt! :lol3
    #65
  6. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    hehe, who says I went home that night?

    I try to really limit my alcohol intake when riding, the power of the machine drives you to recklessness enough as it is...
    #66
  7. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves/> <w:TrackFormatting/> <w:punctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF/> <w:LidThemeOther>EN-CA</w:LidThemeOther> <w:LidThemeAsian>X-NONE</w:LidThemeAsian> <w:LidThemeComplexScript>X-NONE</w:LidThemeComplexScript> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> <w:SplitPgBreakAndParaMark/> <w:DontVertAlignCellWithSp/> <w:DontBreakConstrainedForcedTables/> <w:DontVertAlignInTxbx/> <w:Word11KerningPairs/> <w:CachedColBalance/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> <m:mathPr> <m:mathFont m:val="Cambria Math"/> <m:brkBin m:val="before"/> <m:brkBinSub m:val="&#45;-"/> <m:smallFrac m:val="off"/> <m:dispDef/> <m:lMargin m:val="0"/> <m:rMargin m:val="0"/> <m:defJc m:val="centerGroup"/> <m:wrapIndent m:val="1440"/> <m:intLim m:val="subSup"/> <m:naryLim m:val="undOvr"/> </m:mathPr></w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--> The endless highway drudges on, hypnotic, soporific.
    I catch myself struggling for consciousness, but I’m too stubborn to pull over. I’ve been on the road for hours and gotten nowhere – evacuation traffic just never ends.

    Lessons in riding tired are almost learned the hard way as I make my slow advance towards Houston.
    I try to catch some shuteye under a bridge and on the roof of a waffle house with my keffiyeh wrapped around my face to ward off mosquitoes. They still get to me.

    McDonalds for coffee – everyone inside is from New Orleans and it feels like a house party. I smile to myself but no time to soak it in. Back on the bike with a scalded tongue; my coffee-sharpened awareness quickly peaks and declines.

    At a Taco Bell, somewhere East of Houston, I finally give in. At 4:00 A.M. I set up my hammock between two trees by the drive-thru. Two hours of sleep, real sleep, later: Back on the bike, determined to make it in time.

    The sun has been up at least an hour when I get in, and apologize – I had told my aunt Bitty I might make it by midnight last night; she fell asleep on the sofa waiting for me. They have a plush bed ready for me, and I sink into blissful oblivion.

    I wake up to a strange new world.
    There’s a shower I can use at will. Coffee machine and fully stocked fridge downstairs. Laundry. Wireless. Chocolates. Oh, and they are taking me and the cousins to SeaWorld.

    After the adventure, it’s strange to find myself in an amusement park that’s actually operational. I’ve gotta say, riding a rollercoaster just isn’t the same after climbing it. You can’t package and sterilize danger, and even the stomach-dropping loops fail to recall the feeling of sweaty hands on slick metal, worn sneakers sliding on greasy tracks from vertiginous heights. As an aside, why are there rollercoasters at Seaworld? The animals are cool, but I don’t blame those orcas for eating one of their trainers. Seems a pretty shitty lot for a titan of the sea to be stuck in a pool in Texas.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Anyway. It is great catching up, and a nice break from life on the road back in Houston where everything is clean and easy.

    The dancing is how you can tell this is the latino side of the family (yes, the dog dances too).


    [​IMG]

    All too soon though, it’s time to hit the road again. I’ve got an appointment with a very busy man on the West Coast who is going to help me out with an oil leaking problem and give Lost a heart transplant.

    I make my goodbyes replenished. Time with family is always nourishing. But enough of the comfort zone - concerts and golf and theme parks make for great ways to pass time, but I’ve no time to waste on soft living. Hell, aunt Bitty almost made me get a manicure. I leave with hugs and my family praying for me, wondering what I did to deserve such love from people I’ve only seen a handful of times in my life.
    [​IMG]

    My destination is Rhome, Texas. Stopping in Austin for coffee, a bird smacks against the window of the coffee shop. Nobody moves. For some reason I go outside, and find a dove lying motionless on the ground, on its back with wings fanned out. Unsure of what to do, I slip my hand underneath and lift it. It’s impossibly light; I support its limp neck and wonder what I think I’m doing. Then, weakly, an eye opens and holds me captive. The dove reaches out a delicate leg and softly clutches my finger.
    The approach of other people startles the dove, and with a start it awkwardly flaps away, one wing hanging limp. It’s time for me to move on as well.

    After a quick dip in the water off the idyllic rosebud island, ignoring the “no swimming” signs as I float downriver with a damselfly perched on my nose (it even flew away and came back a couple of times!), I hit the road again. As the sun gets low and I try to squeeze in some final miles before calling it a day, I’m glad for the 17 tooth sprocket keeping the bike’s RPMs down and somewhat abating Lost’s insatiable lust for 10w-40.

    Texas is big. I am pretty far from Rhome when darkness falls. I’m pretty far from anywhere, really. In a small, unfriendly looking town I spot some grain silos and decide to stash the bike between them for the night, and choose a perch on top of their sloped roofs for myself. In full riding gear with the sound of passing freight trucks I fall asleep, thinking of birds and insects and fatal gravity.

    [​IMG]
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" DefUnhideWhenUsed="true" DefSemiHidden="true" DefQFormat="false" DefPriority="99" LatentStyleCount="267"> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="0" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Normal"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="heading 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 7"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 8"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 9"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 7"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 8"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 9"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="35" QFormat="true" Name="caption"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="10" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" Name="Default Paragraph Font"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="11" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtitle"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="22" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Strong"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="20" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="59" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Table Grid"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Placeholder Text"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="No Spacing"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Revision"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="34" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="List Paragraph"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="29" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Quote"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="30" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Quote"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="19" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="21" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="31" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="32" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="33" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" Name="Bibliography"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading"/> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0cm; mso-para-margin-right:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0cm; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} </style> <![endif]-->
    #67
  8. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Another early, golden morning. It feels good to rise with the sun.
    An unexpected guest joins me as I cook rice on a stove made from a beer can.
    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8494/8341924267_cbe9951e35_b.jpg" width="683" height="1024" class="alignnone" />

    I pick up a pair of shades against the sun from a Family Dollar. Some queer chromatic aberration makes rainbow hues show up all over when I put my visor down now. This is what the sky must look like when you’re tripping on acid. Cool.

    I eventually make it to Rhome, Texas. I am greeted by Curtis, a stranger from the internet; something my mom is still quite uncomfortable with. That's what makes telling her so much fun, really. Anyway, he turns out to be one of the more interesting individuals I’d meet on my trip.

    We talk (as in discuss, not bulldozing our polarized opinions at each other) about guns, communism, mass graves being dug throughout the U.S., and the need to be ready to defend yourself from a hostile government. It's really interesting because at the base of it all, everything he wants in life mirrors the exact wishes of the anarcho-feminist I had stayed with in New Orleans, just he wants it framed differently and under a different president. I tell him as much, and he admits that the differences between the Left and Right are not quite so clear cut in the States in some matters.

    After inviting him to lunch in a weak show of reciprocity for his hospitality, I get to play with the laser sighted pistol it turns out he’s had on him the whole time I’ve been around “just in case”. Not exclusively for me, mind you, just that in Texas that’s how they roll. A strangely hostile mentality from my Canadian(ish) perspective. I definitely had Texas marked as the place I was most likely to get shot in (I figured a stabbing was more likely in Detroit or New Orleans). Sneak preview – I didn’t get shot in Texas. Everyone was really nice, and some lady gave me a piece of pie.

    An interesting quote from Curtis: “I once walked into a restaurant, and everyone in there had a gun on their hip. I’ve never felt safer in my life”. Anyway I still don’t know, I think controlling your environment with explosives is crazy, but then again I don’t think I’m the guy to call others out for their wacky proclivities. And unlike my gun toting host, I’ve never been stabbed and robbed before (though I have been robbed on occasion).

    Apart from the really interesting conversation on the difference between the moose-riding maple syrup drinkers and the gun totin’ American Dreamers, I got to hear a hell of a story. This guy with a (literally and figuratively) abnormally large heart made his fortune and lost it and remade it, and seems to have made the best of it the whole time – airplanes, stewardesses, waterskiing, bodybuilding, motorcycles. Hope this guy writes a book someday. Most inspiring was his story of the triumph of will over medicine – he breaks his back and leg, and blows away the doctor’s grim prognostications by going on to train his way from the impressive feat of just walking again to marathons and cross country cycling before heatstroke finally convinced him to slow down. A good thing too, give the young guys a chance, eh?

    Oh, also he’s an ace mech and builds badass adventure rides, like his KLR complete with custom machete case and end-of-the-world-ready four wheeled tanks. His company is aptly named Ridiculous Equipment LLC. I recommend his work if you like machines, ridiculously awesome machines, or ridiculous machines with machetes. If my plan to retire at 30 pans out I’ll see about getting him to add a gun-turret sidecar to the KLR, just because.

    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8086/8468889441_9037d1d367_b.jpg" width="1024" height="683" class="alignnone" />

    Here he is fabbing up some new parts for me:
    <img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-z1xoaLUrxsQ/UNaKeiJodgI/AAAAAAAABNM/SQZb6RbFoak/s509/IMG_9473.jpg" width="339" height="509" class="alignnone" />

    Bare necessities to dismantle the bike (not pictured – the rum)
    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8230/8468901661_4684d66ffb_b.jpg" width="1024" height="683" class="alignnone" />

    This is what a sprocket looks like when it needs to be changed. Okay, long after it needs to be changed...
    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8089/8468908661_152d645cfc_b.jpg" width="1024" height="683" class="alignnone" />

    So yeah, I was pretty happy that he offered to pimp out Lost. He added tons of awesome stuff, including a little storage bay he straight up yanked off his own bike to fit into mine and a Texas shaped footprint that would save my bike from falling over for tens of thousands of kilometres to come. After talking to him I feel like the Texan mentality is far more nuanced than we Canucks give credit for – I’m cool with leaving little Texas-prints all the way to Argentina.
    Here it is again, courtesy of another rider who helped me later in the journey:
    <img src="http://i190.photobucket.com/albums/z75/aprilia063/KLR650/IMG_20120923_110058_zps52a65836.jpg" width="768" height="1024" class="alignnone" />

    The shop is a maker’s dream.
    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8242/8468892493_250cb411b5_b.jpg" width="1024" height="683" class="alignnone" />

    I could have stayed for days prepping the bike, getting this that and the other thing ironed out. But the most precious force in any adventure is momentum. Gravity has a way of releasing you when you start rolling that makes its weight all the more burdensome when you stop and allow it to collect on your shoulders.

    It's too bad but somehow I find myself on a schedule again and need to get rolling. Time to make my way West, the Rockies are calling.
    #68
  9. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    The massive state of Texas shrinks in time and memory as I make my way forward through New Mexico towards the Rocky Mountains.

    Just entering the state I notice an interesting change. Despite the occasional relief or geometric pattern appearing on the overpasses in Texas, there are few obvious signs that it was ever anything but The Lone Star State. In contrast, as soon as I enter New Mexico the native influences are evident everywhere, down to the Pueblo sun symbol on the license plate of every car. The landscape remains much the same, but its occupants have clearly come to a much less culturally imperialistic understanding.

    This is made especially evident when I make it to Santa Fe, with no idea of whether to expect a city or a town. What I get is a Tattooine-like conceptual city unlike any I've seen in North America. Simple adobe constructions are improbably contrasted against the the gentrified city atmosphere - Starbucks & art galleries by behind plate glass. This place is clean, expensive, and even the vagrants are classier than any I've run into yet. Well, maybe with the exception of the fellow wearing a coat made almost entirely of patches at the outer limits. It’s definitely got character and characters.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There is no denying it - Santa Fe is a beautiful looking place. I'm excited to have found this architectural outlier unexpectedly hidden on my path through the drylands. A wander through the city streets confirms that this is definitely an upper class joint. Art seems to be everywhere, with strong native influences, but I have trouble finding the pulse of the streets – graffiti and stickers are almost nonexistent. Is it respect for their iconoclastic city image that keeps the walls clean, or just zealous custodians erasing every “I was here” before it has a chance to echo?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I meet with Mr. B, another rider wired on insomnia and plans for adventure. The guy is straight up dying for adventure, and feeds off my journey happily. To give an idea of how crazy this guy is – “I can’t wait to crash my motorcycle so I can buy an adventure bike”. We go into town to do some shooting together, talk about life and adventures, and he introduces me to some of the best beer in New Mexico. Despite offering to show me his axe when we met, he doesn’t chop me into cubes whilst I slumber. Sometimes couchsurfing is weird. Sometimes it’s also wonderful though – I leave replenished with gifts, the most beautiful of which is a 77mm circular polarizer I couldn’t find on the used market before leaving. And of course a new friend, another mad vagabond lost on this sphere.

    [​IMG]

    After a last sunrise tour of the colony I make my way back on the road, magnetically drawn to mountain peaks.

    [​IMG]

    My GPS clearly thought I was having too easy a time of it, as it decided to mark a sandy dirt track as the “best” route towards Durango. Always game for a challenge, I discover to my chagrin that riding in sand is not like riding in dirt – but on the upside it hurts less when you fall. This is especially convenient for me when one of my panniers bounces off, the ensuing imbalance leading me to wrestle the bike a good twenty meters before being flung off into the scrub. I’m fine, and the pannier itself is in decent condition – seems the mounting bolts aren’t gripping the pannier racks after all the dents I’ve been adding. With my usual sophistication and panache, I grab a lump of rock and bash the buggered thing back into roughly cubelike form and bolt it back on. Success! I continue down the deserted tract of what the GPS insists is “highway”, the deepening sand making me glad I’ve got extra water strapped to the bike. Scratch that, had extra water, looks like it rattled off too. Finally I meet my match, a left turn into sand so deep it takes me fifteen minutes to go roughly 500 meters. Taking stock of my deserted surroundings and water reserves, I admit defeat - but promise the road to return and settle things. I find my water bottle on the way back to the freeway, but see no people, and decide bushwhacking it to Durango probably wouldn't have been a very good idea.

    I arrive just as the sun is setting. I meet Garrett, a kid who looks like he’s seen better days, looking for a meal. Fortune has smiled on me lately, and I’ve managed to stay well under budget, so I invite him to grab some Denny’s with me. Poor bastard got outta Chicago after seeing some tweaker blow her boyfriend’s brains out in his apartment, now he’s hiding from the law after having rolled his van - drunk driving charges; him and his best friend in stitches; his girlfriend’s back broken. He’s banned from the soup kitchen here after getting a skateboard to the face and having his weed stolen. He’s shy about accepting but I insist he order as much as he wants to eat – I learn from him that biscuits and gravy here is one of the cheapest ways to fill your belly – this will come in handy. I hope his luck has changed for the better, he seemed more a lost soul than a lost cause.

    He tells me to go to McD’s for wireless, so I do. A cute girl is trying to break into this truck in the parking lot, so I bust out the tools and in no time she’s in. Hopefully it was hers.

    Anyway next thing I know I’m at Durango’s sole Western themed bar – it’s karaoke night and I have some great talks with strangers while avoiding the stage (for everyone’s benefit). The slip of a girl I helped with the truck is talking about beating on this burly dude with a mace and on inquiry I discover these people regularly dress up in armour and bash each other violently with homemade weapons. They’re part of the Society for Creative Anachronism; I personally think they’ve taken nerdiness to an awesome next level. I crash at my new friend’s place that night and enjoy oatmeal with her family the next day, rising with the sun as usual for an early departure.

    My trajectory skirts the mountains to get me on the freeway. I know I’m rushing through some of the most beautiful parts of the world, but promise myself to slow down after reaching Boulder. If I don’t exercise some discipline I’ll find myself losing months exploring the peaks on the horizon.
    My heart beats faster with anticipation as I close the distance toward that jagged skyline.
    #69
  10. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Like Santa Fe, all I knew about Denver was that it was called Denver. In deference to its surroundings I always imagined a low-slung town, fields leading away to the jagged mountainscape. Wandering into an unexpected city in my path, I discover it is in fact <em>huge</em>. A Harley rider sets me on back course to Boulder as I wind my way through the massive concrete thoroughfares.

    Anyway, I get into Boulder and wander around footwise, eventually cruising along with a guy who’s using a makeshift fishing rod with a cup on the end to solicit change; he gives me the lowdown on this expensive but low key student town. We wander past a poet on demand, origami artist, fortune teller, masseuse, all doing way better than my friend, even if they share the same boardwalk. The other kids sitting with their sad looking dogs and ragged clothes don’t seem to have caught on to the lesson there yet.

    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8076/8342989806_a5709b47bf_b.jpg" width="683" height="1024" class="alignnone" />

    The original plan was to join my host for the Glow Bike Ride, but that would have involved avoiding detours. My modus operandi favours adapting plans than more than sticking to them, but even I’m surprised how well the red string of fate guides me: When I spot a couple of girls in bikinis covered in glitter and glow paint I chance asking if either of them know Sarah – “That’s me!” the one with the pink wig, bugeye 80’s shades, and giant smile answers. Who wouldn’t be smiling after riding through the bicycle-choked streets of Boulder with a hundred and fifty other glowing, laughing bon-vivants?

    After some drinks with the blindingly technicolour crew we crash for the night at her place. But first, a much-needed shower. There are so many shoes hanging from the bathroom door it doesn’t even close. The way complete strangers open up their doors to me with no reservations is a humbling display of generosity and trust.
    The next day I monkey around the nearby cliffs before returning Sarah’s key and moving onward. The Rocky Mountain National Park sounds like a fun route to Utah.

    First, massive elk out on the plains. Then, the tree line drops away and the clouds thicken around me as I climb higher and higher. Reminds me of riding in Vietnam – sharp switchbacks, squinting to try and discern any signs of incoming traffic, wiping moisture off the visor. At least this time I have rain gear.
    I’d planned on going right through the mountains in one day, but the quality of the ride compels me to slow down and savour the experience.

    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8076/8343024484_11c7499d6f_b.jpg" width="683" height="1024" class="alignnone" />

    Eventually the sun begins to set, and I find a spot by a river where I can set up my hammock. It’s cold as a witch’s tit out here; boiled rice serves as much to heat me as feed me. My eyes are teary from trying to eat a fire pepper some Natives gifted me on the way here, and I’m tired, so tired that I decide that all my moto gear plus rain clothes should keep me as warm as a sleeping pad.

    They don’t.

    It’s well over 2200 meters above sea level here. The temperature drops steadily, sapping my body heat until I have to get out of hammock, inflate the insulation pad, and put on layers just in case. Stripping to your skivvies to slip on long johns at 2A.M. in the mountain cold is not fun. I take another bite of the fire pepper in case it might help. No dice.

    I wake up cold and tired, making my way to a town called Leadville where a fruitless attempt at warming up with coffee at least leads to a meeting with fellow rider who maps out a suggested route.

    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8364/8341971199_10c866dda1_b.jpg" width="1024" height="1023" class="alignnone" />

    The road winds higher and higher, past fractured mountains, up to Independence Pass, the continental divide at 12,100 feet. Still, the sierra reaches higher, so I accept the challenge and peel off the moto gear. Optimistically, I start running up to the peak – making it maybe five hundred meters before my legs threaten to go on strike. The steep part hasn’t even started yet. At least I’m not cold anymore.
    Onward, each summit leads to another, tempting me farther, higher. I do make it, at least an hour later, panting and almost crawling from exhaustion. Somewhere above a raptor circles and pierces the blue skies with its shriek.

    My racing pulse is the only sound here apart from the wind. The barren peaks are spread out before me like waves stretching out as far as I can see. I rest and try to drink it all in, a view of the world like I’ve never seen before. A privilege that simply makes me thirst for more.

    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8214/8343049748_990650bee2_b.jpg" width="1024" height="683" class="alignnone" />

    It’s a feeling similar to ownership – now that I know them like this, intimately, I can think of these mountains as something like mine. That’s what I get to take away from this; when the memories fade the camaraderie with these places will remain, waiting to bring a knowing smile to my face the next time I see them in photos – or should my path lead me back here, in person.

    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8353/8341985083_34f7cb0e8c_b.jpg" width="1024" height="683" class="alignnone" />

    The wind is inescapable up here. Untiringly beating against the lichen-covered rocks, it whips around my intrusion and pursues me all the way back to my motorcycle and reality.

    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8216/8343035760_8aed142cb6_b.jpg" width="1024" height="683" class="alignnone" />
    #70
  11. woodly1069

    woodly1069 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,154
    Location:
    Louisville, KY...really too far from the hills!
    freakin' fantastic writing man!
    #71
  12. iowarider123

    iowarider123 Wanderluster

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    15
    Location:
    Somewhere in Iowa
    Hey man:
    Nice ride report, pics and deep thoughts. I was a little curious.. is your family originally from Guatemala? Are you planning on staying there?:norton
    #72
  13. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Thanks a lot guys - yeah, my family is originally from Guate on my mom's side. I was born there but raised all over the Americas - I like to tell people I'm PanAmerican :)

    I had a great couple of months catching up with the family in Guate but had to keep moving - there's still so much to explore.
    #73
  14. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Road, onward, curves through more spectacular scenery.

    The trees Aspen is named for remind me I&#8217;m missing fall back home; golden leaves shimmering in the wind. I just keep passing places I feel I could hang up the hammock for a month in. The mountains and all their layers of beauty call to the very core of my being, a soothing sirensong promising fulfillment in a life of indolent reverence for nature&#8217;s glory. why not, a voice asks, isn't this what you came for?
    There are pressing factors that keep me moving, but ultimately I keep going due to inertia more than anything else.[​IMG]

    I make it into Aspen and stop at random, asking a friendly looking girl at a restaurant about cheap eats. She informs me I just so happen to have stopped in on the day of the world&#8217;s only Macaroni and Cheese Festival. Free Macaroni and cheese? Booyah! I circle the 20 stands from the village&#8217;s restaurants, sampling tiny cups of macaroni with everything from crab to truffle oil, and happily plenty of offerings with sweet, sweet bacon. I mean, the bacon is salty, but after my Spartan diet the only cherry that could top a day like today is free bacon.

    Or so I thought...

    I go back to talk to Jess, the friendly girl who offered me the heads up on the mac n&#8217; cheese, and next thing I know I have a contact with a guy who did my very same trip last year, a place to stay tonight, an invitation to go out and party, and most important of all: water to help placate the ornery food baby my gluttony has conceived. Naturally, shortly I wander into a street party and am offered free cake &#8211; clearly the universe is telling me today is my day, so I indulge.

    The night is New-Orleans-worthy, complete with swinger couples, a baby brown bear running amok through town, clogging stranger&#8217;s showers with my accumulated grime, and broken teeth (not mine, thankfully). Around 4:30 I finally get to sleep and allow the folkloric day to come to a close, new friends and strange memories warming my heart.

    I wake late and satisfied, getting on the road well after sunrise for once. Definitely something to be said for properly resting indoors, curtains confounding internal alarms, allowing me to miss sunrise and rise with clear eyes.

    On the road again: the spectacular aftermath of tectonic collisions and glacial scarring across the face of the earth continues to hinder my progress as the front wheel turns off road and on to adventure. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a wild place; a spire by the cliffside stands in defiant challenge to all comers. Will you simply sit in wonder, or will you conquer?

    [​IMG]

    Every time I meet a wall like this, my first reaction is no way. Can&#8217;t make it. My feet will carry me forward regardless, eyes scanning the crevices and holds, following potential pathways.

    ...Well, let&#8217;s just give it a shot. See how high is safely feasible, keep calculating risk and playing with acceptable parameters.

    And then there I am, on the wall, looking up, Yup, I knew this wasn&#8217;t going to be possible.
    Four fingers and the barest edge of a foothold support me, and somehow I find purchase to ascend. My body disagrees with my mind&#8217;s healthy pessimism, taking me higher and higher.

    I look down. At this height there&#8217;s no walking away from a fall.

    Before getting carried away imagining how long it would take me to drag myself through the scrub to the road using only my arms, I shift focus to my attachment points. Left foot, secure and strong. Left hand, secure and strong. Right foot, loose rock. And barely within reach, a fingerhold I can find just enough traction on to lift myself higher.

    You can&#8217;t debate long up here; the second the climb starts you&#8217;re burning down towards muscle fatigue. Gravity impassively waits for one wrong move; crumbling hold; sweaty slip to call you back to earth.

    With each new, &#8220;last&#8221; safe move, another one presents itself. No need to look down anymore, after a certain point it&#8217;s irrelevant &#8211; you&#8217;re committed to one end or another. Choose correctly, move efficiently, and success is glorious indeed.

    A minute success from the top, I look out on the canyon and my epic climb is put into perspective &#8211; a fraction of a fraction of the vastness conquered, the rest looming, undaunted by my tiny accomplishment.

    [​IMG]

    Discretion is the better part of valour here &#8211; the Gunnison is more than a match for me and I measure my ambitions so as to not be overwhelmed by them. No celebrating yet; I still have to make my way down.

    The geometry of down-climbing is a completely different obstacle. The route looks unfamiliar going down, it must be learned again, but this time by feel &#8211; I just have to remember what I can and improvise where I must. My leg dances when I put my weight on it now, uncontrollably twitching muscles strengthening my focus &#8211; each move is critical, final, and needs to happen as soon as possible once I release myself to the wall. The edge of the canyon is too close here, can&#8217;t skip moves &#8211; one slip and there won't be much time for regret.

    [​IMG]

    Walking back to the motorcycle a group from Florida salutes me and offers me water, which I accept gratefully &#8211; I never seem to carry quite enough. Out here in the desert these small kindnesses mean so much more, underscored by the uncaring solitude of the desert surrounding.

    [​IMG]

    The dramatic landscape softens and levels out gradually until I&#8217;m surrounded by more flat terrain on all sides. Grand Junction seems pretty laid back. As I pull into a grocery store, a fellow in a threadbare shirt hails me and asks about my travels. For the second time in as many days, the first person I meet in town is a member of the couchsurfing community. I ride slowly behind his bicycle and gladly accept the offer for a place to shower and crash, once he&#8217;s convinced I&#8216;m not some sketchbag.

    Shortly my new friend Kenton and I are trading the traveler's most prized commodity: interesting company. I tell him of my adventures and we marvel at how sometimes you just can't seem to take a wrong step. Like me he is intrigued by the clash between our desire to rationally convince ourselves that we shape our own destiny and that feeling of being on a path that doesn't care whether you believe in it or not. He's fascinated by the concept of urban exploration, and I'm happy to introduce another acolyte to the strange subculture.

    From him I learn about guerrilla gardening, a fascinating facet of graffiti culture and taking ownership of your world. He sows desert plants wherever he can; excitedly he tells me about his latest success, a once-barren concrete underpass now covered in life he planted. He&#8217;s a plant hunter, and specializes in the hardy species that can survive in inhospitable, rocky environments &#8211; plant pioneers, the original explorers of the wastelands. We lament the foolishness of people insisting on growing grass in the desert and I wish him luck in propagating his idea of waterless gardens.

    I leave for Utah with a parting gift &#8211; a cactus, the only pet that might survive my vagabonding. Hopefully my new partner in crime will make it to Argentina. Hubert Minimus Fishberry the first rests fitfully in the storage shelf behind my fairing, silently cheering me on as I make my way into Utah and towards the legendary Moab, at last.

    [​IMG]

    Things I Saw
    #74
  15. RhinoVonHawkrider

    RhinoVonHawkrider Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,730
    Location:
    Eastern Pa
    Yo El

    Just as I was about to give up on the lack of posts by U, I see this latest and know why I stay subscribed.:ear


    Another hit out of the ballpark:clap

    Try & stay safe:freaky
    #75
  16. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Hey Thanks Rhino. I may be seven months behind, but I stand by quality over quantity, except when it comes to booze. Ain't gon be missin out on new adventures just to write about old ones.

    I may not stay safe, but at least I'll have fun!
    #76
  17. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    338
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Barren.

    The landscape before me is apocalyptically empty en route to Moab. A flash of colour from a hill lures me to trek and discover a crafted flower and a jellyfish fossil. The wasteland undulates lazily into the distance. I foresee a long, unremarkable ride ahead.

    [​IMG]

    I love it when I&#8217;m wrong.

    Adjectives begin to fail me as unimagined geographical features unfold before my eyes. The route to Moab turns into something as gorgeous as anything I&#8217;ve seen yet &#8211; massive sandstone canyons rise to flank me on either side, iron-red streaks streaming past, skyscraper sized patterns leading me to the land of adventure.

    I park at the Lazy Lizard, the cheapest game in town despite the ubiquity of free camping available &#8211; I&#8217;m feeling sociable, ten bucks is a cheap tax on good company. Not to mention the offroading Lost and I can test our skills against if we stash the panniers.

    I don&#8217;t waste daylight seeking company today, however &#8211; I get out riding sharplike down what I&#8217;ve been told is an alternative (free) path into Arches National Park. Definitely underestimated the difficulty. As I ride through increasingly deeper sand discernible tracks disappear and eventually I am alone, the alien landscape of this ancient seabed the only witness to my folly. I finally get to use my GPS for its intended purpose &#8211; I mark my position, and set off.

    [​IMG]


    Several paths branch out before me, and no indication of where they lead. Just my kind of adventure. I battle sand and steep rocky drops deeper and deeper into the desert, keeping a close eye on my water supply and stopping several times to debate whether I&#8217;d be able to make it back from some of the intense drops.
    Probably.
    Good enough, I go for it, acutely aware of balancing on the razor edge of recklessness.

    The path transforms into a rocky ledge and I notice an info sign revealing secrets in the landscape. Dinosaur tracks &#8211; millions of years ago Lost wasn&#8217;t the baddest and loudest thing in these wastes. Fossils in museums lose their impact, anything could be a mock-up, and even the genuine product is hard to conceptualize in context from its hermetically sealed glass case, dry info card giving the most digestible tidbits that have nothing to do with the story of the creature itself. I&#8217;m standing right here, looking at tracks left millions of years ago by a terrible lizard.

    The distance I travel feels epic, magnified by the difficulty and grandeur of the terrain. I pass a sign advising 4x4 only. I made it this far, I&#8217;m not being scared off by a sign.

    [​IMG]


    Okay, so the sign was right.
    After picking up the bike a few times and impressing myself by overcoming several stretches of what is certainly the gnarliest path I&#8217;ve ever ridden until now, I am finally defeated by a steep dune.

    Lost may be stuck, but I&#8217;m not done yet. She guards my helmet for me whilst I trek off into the trackless wastes, another point on my GPS set to ensure that I might eventually return to her. I haven&#8217;t seen anyone in hours, no sign of life whatsoever. The junipers that somehow grow here look like driftwood, appropriate for this desiccated ocean. I marvel at how these splintered and dry pieces of apparent deadwood sprout green, the tenacity of desert life. Following the tracks of some unknown denizen of the desert, I wander over dunes and between low scrub, ancient shells shifting in sand underfoot.

    Eventually I feel that this is it &#8211; nowhere, the middle of.

    Down on the sand, I sit and observe life from the ground up. Tracks lead in all directions, no sign of their makers. The solitude is palpable. Desert wind blows by, soft and dry, shifting loose grains of sand and little else I can discern. In silent communion with the land I find a nourishing peace, nothing on my mind but the gentle breeze and the subtly living desertscape surrounding.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Off in the distance, monolithic forms beckon my eye; I regret not bringing my zoom lens. Fortunately, I have a motorized zoom at my disposal. I trek back, completely disoriented but somehow returning to Lost.
    The way back reveals a fork that leads to the main park, where I can come up close to the playfully arranged sandstone, marvel at the colours and contrasts so surreal I feel as if I&#8217;ve stepped into a Salvador Dali painting.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    Delirious with delight at the sensory overload, I soak in this visual splendour til sunset and ride back still mesmerised, barely able to rein my focus on the treacherously winding road. I just can&#8217;t drink my fill of these vistas.

    Persistent rain thwarts plans to explore goblin canyon the next day, I wander aimlessly instead and take shelter from the rain in small caves between attempts to capture the grim clouds against the breathtaking scenery. It ends up being a slow day; I spend most of it around the hostel poking around rocks and shrubbery looking for black widow spiders.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    According to the all-knowing Internet, black widow spiders produce a painful but non-fatal venom. A large number of people seem to suggest it is a deadly creature. I toy with the idea of performing a hands on experiment &#8211; I&#8217;m healthy, why not see what it&#8217;s like?

    [​IMG]

    I decide some things are best learned from textbooks and leave the hourglass bottomed beauties in peace to get some rest &#8211; it&#8217;s been brief, but it&#8217;s time to leave again.

    The morning sees me visit Arches one last time. This time I&#8217;m ready to pay, so of course there&#8217;s no-one at the toll booth.
    Sweet.
    I take the &#8220;primitive&#8221; trail, pumping past elderly tourists in uncustomarily brisk fashion &#8211; it almost feels like just checking tourist sites off.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The opportunities to climb around are too tempting and I end up losing the trail, sliding down into some canyon, looking down at all the adventure and realizing I either park myself here for a month and truly absorb it, or get going and make it to California on time.

    California wins, I get out of Moab through Monument Valley and more breathtaking panoramas than I can digest. I need to make distance, the ride is fast and the tiny figures in the distance grow into towering monoliths that never quite feel real.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The dreamscape of Utah&#8217;s magnificent sandstone monuments and valleys gives way to flatlands, and as much as I try to race the light I still find myself in empty scrublands at the end of the day. Riding on as the temperature drops, I finally spot what I&#8217;m looking for at dusk &#8211; an abandoned diner by the side of the road, no more than a shack really. I make sure the bike is well hidden from the highway as I set up for some shots of the stars.

    [​IMG]

    My rice boils with jerky and spices; cars pass by unaware of me and the stars shine impossibly bright. This simple lifestyle is not how I was raised, but it feels comfortable and right. The sky is full of stars instead of haze and I feel unalloyed serenity, an impossible feeling to describe of satisfaction simplified. There is too much artifice in Western lifestyle for my taste, and while I love the indulgent opportunities it provides, the purity of these moments makes me realize that all we&#8217;ve managed to do with our luxury and excess is create endless layers of abstraction from the satisfaction we are engineered to extract from surroundings.

    My nocturnal ruminations are underscored by a morning sign. A silver dragon hangs in the cobalt sky above the fiery hint of dawn.

    [​IMG]

    The most important facet of radical doubt is to doubt your doubts &#8211; who are we to presume such wisdom that we can absolutely claim a thing to be impossible? Everything is based on a foundation of one assumption or another. Clinging to certainty just seems like intellectual vanity, or desperate need to delineate logic by what our limited minds can conceive.

    I stand on the pegs and race down the highway, from this perspective I can&#8217;t even see the motorcycle &#8211; it just feels like I&#8217;m flying. The engine pumps like a fiery heart, its loud fury matched only by the wind roaring past. I ride my dragon, and laugh inside my helmet with inexplicable joy at the madness of the world bleeding into itself as I blur by.
    #77
  18. Knoen

    Knoen Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Oddometer:
    38
    Location:
    Tokyo
    Fantastic mate! :norton
    #78
  19. strom thingie

    strom thingie Lost and Proud!

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    494
    Location:
    Sumter, SC
    Phenomenal write up! Love the pics.
    #79
  20. Tripletrouble

    Tripletrouble Farkle addict

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2013
    Oddometer:
    100
    Location:
    Llantrisant, South Wales
    Awesome picures and write up. Thank you.
    #80