Friday, February 25, 2011

America the Homely, the Champion of Peanut Butter Cookies, the Bicycler, the Beautiful

First, I need to refute Stuie’s slanderous comment in the “Planning Part I” post.  Let it be known that my driver’s license photo is not ugly…

…but that reminds me of something…

…a dream that I’ve had.  It was a homely dream, but it was fond of good peanut butter cookies, so stay with me.

Three years ago, I spent my summer working at the little deli-café Penny’s Kitchen in my hometown.  I was a waitress that year.  One sunny, skybluepink afternoon, a slow day, I stood, daydreaming at the cash register behind the counter drinking a blueberry, chai smoothie and staring through the huge, storefront windows out into the street. 

Three bicyclers rolled up in front of the restaurant, two guys and a female.  They looked hardcore with their flashy, neon spandex and bike wagons and shiny helmets.  I wanted a shiny helmet, then, too.  They came in and took off their Oakleys.  It became apparent that the trio had received much sun.  They appeared to be in their mid-thirties.  They looked young.

They carried small bags and headed for the bathrooms.  They finished in the potty then found a table near an outlet and plugged in various chargers and pulled out computers.  Once settled, they approached the cash register.

The two guys ordered first.  They spoke in southern accents.  The one guy that maybe looked like Jack London (I’m only guessing, as I don’t know what Jack London looks like) ordered coffee, a turkey club, and a peanut butter cookie.  The other guy, perhaps Jack London’s scruffy, stocky side kick, bought a water, a turkey pesto, and a peanut butter cookie.  They returned to their table.  The female lingered, rigorously investigating the pastry case, cocking her dirty-haired ginger head.

I asked, “You guys bike a long way?”

“Oh, about fifty miles today,” she replied gruffly.

“Whoa.  Long distance trip, eh?  Where you guys start from?”

“Nashville.” And she said that very prettily.  She was very pretty in a way.  “How do your peanut butter cookies compare to your Danishes?  I’d rather have a Danish than an average peanut butter cookie.”
I said that the peanut butter cookies were very good.  That was the truth.

“I’ll have two , then, and I’ll have a pastrami sandwich.”  I stared into her eyes, or, rather, the mono-brow above her eyes—a mono-brow that, not only functioned to eliminate the glare in her eyes, it seemed to dampen sound and improve the surrounding air quality.  “With a side of ranch.”

“That’ll be nine dollars and seven cents.  So you guys just decided to bike from Nashville to northern Michigan?  That’s awesome.”

She smiled a sweet smile.  Her mouth looked like a rusty, mangled saw blade.  She nodded and paid, and I thanked her.  While I put in the order for the food, she took another, quick glance at the pastry case.  She bent to get a better view of the pies on the bottom shelf.  It was likely that she and Babar had similar trouble finding pants that fit.  Maybe, this was a product of her biking.  

She went to her table.  I wondered why the Beach Boys didn’t sing about Redwood-legged, barrel-shaped bicyclers from Nashville in “California Girls.”

I brought the biker gang their food.  They ate, and each bought another peanut butter cookie for the road.  And they rode on.

I was daydreaming again.  I wondered what had attracted me to a girl that may not have had the looks to solicit the fare to cross the Halfpenny Bridge.  It wasn’t a physical attraction, I decided, as I munched on a peanut butter cookie.  She had swag.  And it wasn’t just the troglodyte, Jack London and his side kick had swag, too.  Hell, biker Jack London probably looked like a Klingon.  Just looks, though.  They were all ragged and foreign and beautiful.   They were a part of an unknown America brought to me by bicycle, a wild-haggard America, a noble-vagabond America.  And, then, I realized the dream.


That story may or may not have been based on a true story.  That is how dreams go, but, I hope it reoccurs.  I hope that home-ly American beauty dream returns.  It probably won’t come to me when I walk around in my cap and gown on May 8th, when I watch the season finale of House, when I down California rolls in San Diego.  It’ll come back, though, when I’m struggling over the purple mountains of the west, when I’m riding past tired miles of fields of grain.  I will have it, again, when our spacious, highway sky is darkened by rainfall.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Translation of Pablo Neruda's Explanation of Why We are Taking This Trip

Pablo Neruda
Muere lentamente quien no viaja,
quien no lee,
quien no oye música
quien no encuentra gracia en sí mismo
Muere lentamente
quien destruye su amor propio,
quien no se deja ayudar.
Muere lentamente
quien se transforma en esclavo del hábito
repitiendo todos los días los mismos
quien no cambia de marca,
no se atreve a cambiar el color de su vestimenta
o bien no conversa con quien no conoce.
Muere lentamente
quien evita una pasión y su remolino de
justamente éstas que regresanel brillo a los ojos
y restauran los corazones destrozados.
Muere lentamente
quien no gira el volante cuando está infeliz con
su trabajo, o su amor,
quien no arriesga lo cierto ni lo incierto para ir
atrás de un sueño
quien no se permite, ni siquiera una vez en su vida,
huir de los consejos sensatos......
¡ Vive hoy !
¡ Arriesga hoy !
¡Hazlo hoy !
¡ No te dejes morir lentamente !
¡ No te impidas ser feliz !

 He dies slowly, he who doesn't travel
who doesn't read
who doesn't listen to music
who doesn't find grace within themselves
He dies slowly
he who destroys his own love
who doesn't allow himself to be helped
He dies slowly
who transforms into a slave of habit
repeating every day the same tasks
who doesn't change his opinions
who doesn't venture to change the color of his wardrobe 
or who doesn't converse with new people
He dies slowly
who avoids passion and its flood of emotions, 
only these that return the brightness to one's eyes, 
and mend broken hearts
He dies slowly
who doesn't turn the steering wheel when he is unhappy
with his work, or his love,
who risks neither the certain nor the uncertain 
to chase a dream
who doesn't allow themselves, not even once in their lives, 
to stray from the wise advice...
Live today!
Take risks today!
Do it today!
Do not allow yourself to die slowly!
Don't keep yourself from being happy!

This is only a partial explanation. It says nothing of our love for camping, exercise, dancing, yoga, or other aspects of the trip.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"The Game"

Riding bikes is more fun than reading blogs. There's not a damn thing we can do to change that, but we can certainly try to narrow the joy-gap between the two. Thus is born, "The Game." At a later date, "The Game" might have a more enticing name, but for now, es lo que es.  Here are the rules:
Each of the following Essential Trip Datum is assigned a point value (listed below). That is, the total value of that category will be multiplied by the number that is its point value for "The Game." Dig it. As the trip progresses, we will update the Essential Trip Data, which is displayed on the homepage of this blog on the left-hand side. Dig it.
Any person may comment on this post the total number of points that she or he believes we will end with when we roll into Blissfest. One may post that comment at any time, and update it as many times as they see fit until May 11th. On May 11th, all the guesses will be recorded, and no changes will be accepted. Dig it.
Whoever is closest gets "The Prize." If two people guess the same total, they have to split, "The Prize." It is a desirable prize.
Sunrises: 2 pts
Miles Traveled: 0.25 points
State Lines Crossed: 25 points
County Lines Cross: 8 points
City Limits Crossed: 3pts
Festivals Attended: 15 pts
Books Read: 10 pts
Eggs Eaten: 2 pts
Oranges Eaten: 4 pts
Ounces of Fluid Drank: 0.10 pts
Items of Clothing Worn-Out: 30pts
People Met (whose names appear in blog): 10pts
Poems Written: 10 pts
Songs Written: 10pts
$ Earned Performing Music: 2 pts
Tires Changed: 15 pts
Animal Encounters: 20 pts
Appearances on Radio/TV Shows: 150 pts
ThrowdownsWithBobbyFlay:150 pts

Dig it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

City by City, Date by Date: The Plan

The following is a skeleton of the entire trip plan broken down into roughly 500-mile increments. These increments may be called legs, jaunts, crawls, dashes, shoots, ladders, hops, shimmies, or anything that captures or fails to capture the essence of moving from one place to another.

The Proper Name of each section will be given by the individual who plans it. We would much rather award names that represent the full complexity of that portion of the trip than to adopt a superficial nomenclature based only on things visible on a national map. So over the next few weeks, as we plan the whole trip, all the increments will receive heart-felt and deserved names.

The Major Tom Jaunt: Michigan to San Diego: May 7th to  May 11th.
  The Major Tom Jaunt is named for its nature: it is the departure from this familiar place to one that lacks the same gravity. It begins with two of those glorious, robed bildungsroman ceremonies: graduations. I will be graduating from SVSU on May 7th with a Bachelors' in Sociology and Spanish with a Political Science minor, with the plan of heading to the University of Michigan Law School in August (unless I get accepted someplace with a better offer, which hasn't happened yet). That Friday, the family will be grilling out in Clairemont Village, bonding over Stuball's success. Then Stuie drives to Holland.
Robbie will be graduating from Hope College on May 8th with his Bachelors' in Business and English Literature. I imagine that there will be a shin-dig in the Grand Rapids area to afford the Guimond family the opportunity to toast Robbie's four years of success at Hope.
Whether we fly out of Grand Rapids after a stint with Robbie's family or fly out of Detroit after a night of R&R at Grandpa Patty's in Jackson, MI (the birthplace of the Republican Party), we will have assembled our bags and important documents by the night of May 10th so that we can watch what may be the last movie we watch for a few months and eat what will likely be the largest meal we eat for a few months. On May 11th, we will take our protein pills and put our helmets on, board a plane to San Diego, and drink some free soda on the plane.

Leg 1: The Mayim Bialik Leg.San Diego to LA (May 16-18) 137 Miles
Leg 2: Los Angeles to San Francisco (May 18-26) 480 Miles
Leg 3: San Fran to Crescent City (May 27-June 1) 379 Miles
Leg 4: Crescent City-Portland (June 1-7) 377 Miles
          Stay in Portland for 2 nights, because we hear it is the Mecca of Cycling
Stretch 5: Portland to Yellowstone (June 9-15)  500 Miles
Stretch 6: Yellowstone to Casper (June 16-23) 675 Miles
Stretch 7: Casper to Sioux Falls(June 24-28) 580 Miles
Stretch8: Sioux Falls to Manitwoc (June 29-July 5) 540 Miles
Stretch 8.5: Manitwoc to Ludington (July 5-Later on the 5)
           Ride the Badger Across Lake Michigan
Leg 9: Ludington to Bliss (July 6-8) 200 Miles

That's the bones of the trip. Do it up.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Planning Part II: Route, San Diego to Los Angeles

San Diego to Los Angeles.  This leg of the journey will be called "The Mayim Bialik Leg."  The runner up names were "The Kendra Wilkinson Leg"  and "The Ted Danson Leg."  They're all from San Diego, but I watched Blossom way more than I watched The Girls Next Door or Cheers.

We'll be staying at Stuie's family's home (I think) in San Diego.  So that's nice.   Our first full day in San Diego will be May 11th.  We'll stay there about three days, while we warm up, eat sushi, look for panda bears, and watch Ron Burgundy on the Channel 4 Evening News. 

Departing on the morning of the 14th, we'll head 65 miles up the coast to Doheny State Beach.  Here's how we'll get there (this part will be boring for those that aren't Stuie):

-Go north on Morena Blvd. / Santa Fe St. / The Rose Canyon Bicycle Path (about 8 miles)
-Go north on Gilman Dr. (1.5 miles)
-Left on Scholars Drive (0.6 miles)
-Right on N. Torrey Pines Rd. that turns in to County Highway S21 then Camino Del Mar then Highway 101 (28 miles)
-This will take us through Carlsbad, the highway stays the same but it may start changing names every few feet after this, we'll be looking for it to change to Vandegrift Blvd.  (2 miles)
-Continue about 5 miles past Carlsbad turn left on Stuart Mesa Rd. (7 miles)
-Left on Las Pulgas Rd. (0.8 miles)
-Right on Old Pacific Highway (10 miles)
-We'll be leaving Camp Pendleton and passing San Onofre State Beach when we'll need to get on a less busy road, a left on Christianitos Rd. (1 mile)
-Left at Avenida California (0.5 miles)
-Right at San Clemente Beach Trail (2.5 miles)
-Merge onto the North Coast Highway / El Camino Real (3 miles)
-Doheny State Beach

Doheny and the other coastal state parks in the area are $35 a night.  So I say, if we see a smaller, more inexpensive place to stay like a tiny Dirty Dancing-type resort or a particularly comfy-looking place on the side of the road, we should stay there.  But those places don't show up on Google.  

On the way there we'll pass through Carlsbad.  They'll be having a Wild West Fest in Leo Carrillo Park that day.  Two of the towns we pass through are having farmers' markets, too.  WE'LL EAT SO MANY AVOCADOS.

On May 15th, we head for LA:

-Up the Pacific Coast Highway (27.5 miles)
-We'll pass the Santa Ana River, and, then, right onto the Santa Ana River Trail which turns in to Pacific Ave. (10.8 miles)
-Back on the Pacific Coast Highway.  (3.5 miles)
-Left on 2nd St. (1 miles)
-Left on Bay Shore then right on Ocean Blvd.  (2.5 miles)
-Right on Golden Shore which will lead to Somerset Blvd (17 miles)

62.3 miles.  That will lead us to the south of the LA area, well within range to enjoy its crisp, ozone abundant air and about ten miles from downtown LA.  We'll find somebody to stay with in LA, eh?

I thought about looking up things going on around LA that day but decided it would be excessive.  We'll just have a good time looking at stuff.  Hao (my roommate) recommends dinner in Chinatown.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Planning Part I: What to bring

Planning what to bring is a bit of a challenge. We want to have what we need to be safe and somewhat comfortable, but we need to move fast, so too much wait is bad juju.

The Mango Sentinel (Bike 1):
-Food bag (we'll have some supply at all times, though we'll buy as we go): muffins, cheese stuffed hotdogs
-Sleeping bag
-Cooking pot and wooden spoon
-Clothes: rain pancho, under armor, 2 shorts, skivvies (why?), 2 pair socks, wool socks, jeans, 2 t-shirts, sweatshirt, aviators
-Harmonica (Dulcinea)
-Bike Stuff: oil, tire tubes, playing cards for the spokes
-First Aid Bag: Blues Clues Band-Aids, tape, epinephrine pens, matches, cod liver oil, sun screen

Falco Sparvirius, El Mero Mero Viajero (Bike 2):
-Electronics Bag: Ipods, Inspiron Mini10v, camera, flashlight, Buck/Bowie knife, Kindle, smart phone, chargers
-Human REM Support Chamber  (sleeping bag)
-Nocturnal Condition Optimizer (2-person tent)
-Clothes: raincoat, underarmor, shorts, skivvies, socks, jeans, Jefferson's T-shirt, SVSU sweatshirt,
-Ukulele (Bobby McFarrencito)
-Literature Bag: Alyssa's Inspirational Drawings, stat's sheet, poem-pad, a few books purchased at used book stores along the way, which will be traded for other books from used bookstores further along the way, pencils.
-A small, secure container with our identification and stuff in it. We will carry hardly any cash, so all you highway robbers that scout your victims via blogs, understand that you will be disappointed to steal our identities, as you will only inherit Stuie's law-school debt and G-Unit's ugly driver's license photo and manly girlfriend.

Total Weight: To Be Determined

Detail will be added.

The Idea: Yearn We for a Journey

Being 22 years old means being in a transitional time. The G-Unit and I feared the implications of such a time, or more accurately, the implications of the attitudes towards such a time. It seems to us that people thought of their youth as cooling lava, and while they enjoyed the fluid, energetic, destruction of having just been shot from the volcano, hot and brilliant, they looked forward to the comfort of being a more stable chunk of cooled-off pumice. The thought of allowing the harsh processes of time and life to petrify us into an thing that only changes when it breaks or is ground down was an unsettling one. We vowed to take a quest to find ourselves and find a way to continue growing vibrantly for our whole life before the real world found us and laid its frigid fingers frios on our passion for existing with chutzpah.

This summer seemed like a perfect time. We will have graduated from our respective institutions, Hope for Robbie and Saginaw Valley State University for me, and we would have nearly a half-year until our professional obligations recommenced, throwing us back into the prison that exists for ambitious people. It's like we are retired, but with a considerably smaller savings account and all the health of our youth. The "pros" column was unchallenged.

The time was set. The decision to travel via bike was an easy one. We want to cover alot of ground without the direct assistance of petrol. And as Robbie pointed out the other day, one traveling on a bike is able to enjoy not just the sight of the scenery scrolling by, but also the smells, sounds, and feeling on the skin. And our thighs will get HUGE!

Below is a very rough indication of where we are going to travel. You can see that my command of technology when it comes to map-making and insertion into blogs is lacking.Our checkpoints, in order, will be San Diego-->Los Angeles-->San Francisco-->Something in Southern Orergon-->Portland-->Boise-->Des Moines-->Madison--> Milwaukee-->(cross lake Michigan on the ferry)-->Ludington, MI--Bliss, MI.

The trip will commence with a flight to San Diego a few days after we graduate at the beginning of May. We will spend 3 nights in San Diego tuning our bikes and preparing mentally for the journey (probably at the Zoo), then depart. Roughly 7 weeks later, we will arrive at Blissfest, the music festival of all music festivals. In Michigan, Blissfest is a holiday with its own greetings, apparel, songs, and special foods. It is the perfect celebration to end a life-defining journey. 

The Blog:

This blog is as important to the trip as actually rolling over the miles of pavement. We will be moving through more than space on this voyage, and the blog will allow us to share the many layers of this experience with as many people as there are that want to taste some of the flavor. There will be laughs, games, tear-jerkers, revelations of knew knowledge, epiphanies of new understanding, and really good stories. This blog will be like a side-car to our bikes, but with seating for a few thousand people.