Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fiber and Lava Rock: A Case for Metamucil or A Bicycler's Journey Towards Yellowstone?

This biking thing drives an appetite.  It’s all about balance, though.  Today, I have been trying to balance the fiber intake from the day before.  Let me tell you what I ate yesterday: 1 small tin of honey roasted peanuts, 2 bananas, 1 tin of sardines, 1 package of salami, 1 can of chili and beans, and 1 pound of strawberries.
I’m sitting at McDonald’s, waiting for the rain to subside.  Actually, I’m waiting for this guy in the bench behind me to leave so that I can crop dust it without harming any innocent bystanders. 

Now, I’ll give you a recap of what brought me to this point.

Thursday, Marissa gave me a ride to Twin Falls, ID.  I found her on Craigslist.  I had to meet her at her house at 5:30 AM.  She was kind of excitable, real into yoga, and kind of excitable.

I biked about twenty miles that day, just enough to get outside of civilization.  I found a nice nature reserve to camp in.  Then, Friday, I biked about 65 miles to Craters of the Moon National Monument.  That place was real fly—mountains on one side and fields of lava rock on the other side.  The lava formations had names like Devil’s Spit, Southern Butte, Grandma’s Spittoon, Johnny Unitas’s Belly Fat, Polly Pocket’s Exercise Room, Canine Quesadilla Peak, Stuart Chipman’s Belly Button Lint, and Ozzy Osborne’s Eyebrow Trimmer.

Saturday, I biked about fifty miles.  It was pretty chill until I had to bike through Idaho National Laboratories (the place where the government does nuclear research.)  That place had a lot to look at, but, sadly, everything to look at consisted of small bushes that all looked the same.  The mountains were nice to look at for about an hour, but, for the next three hours, I just wished that they’d do something cool.  So with boring scenery, batteries dead in my IPod, and a belly full of salami, I biked on.  It was getting late, and I worried that I wouldn’t make it out of that government noise by dusk.  Camping on government property is no good: trespassing is a federal offense.  I made it, though, and set up camp off the side of the road.

This morning, Sunday, I woke up to snow on my tent.  Breaking camp wasn’t terribly enjoyable.  It would have been better had there been no snow and more pancakes.  There wasn’t even one pancake.  I biked the twenty miles into Idaho Falls, stopping every five miles or so to warm up my feet, laundered my clothes at the mat, and, now, I’m at McD’s.  

I figure that I’ll figure something warm out tonight.  But, tomorrow night, I’ll have to get a hotel room because it’ll be too cold.  The day after that, I’ll be in Stuie’s friend Rachel’s cabin thing at Yellowstone.

Poems: North Stars

Sometimes, as we rode
the beaches, palm trees, and green hills
of California
turned into a black abyss
as uncertainty and unfamiliarity made us unsure
which way to go.
Then, like a rope dangled down to a tired swimmer,
like a cup of coffee to a weary studier,
like a wind-blown dollar bill to a hungry hobo,
like a chunk of Kryptonite to Lex Luthor,
like salt to a bland bowl of chile,
A guiding light would flash us by
decorated in brilliant neon spandex
and expensive sunglasses, shielding the rider from its own brightness:
all the signs of somebody who knows whats up.
And we would follow the light,
Our North Star,
onward through the busy thoroughfares of California.

The lost Videos: Bridges and Hovercrafts

One of the perils of uploading videos to Youtube and then posting them on the blog is that, for about 24 hours after I post them on Youtube, they are unavailable to post on the blog. So here are two videos from our journey that got lost in the shuffle. Interesting little tidbits of travel. 
Robbie is careening past Idaho Falls as we speak, barreling down on Yellowstone National Park. I look forward to updates from his trip. He texts me each night with his location and the weather report. The last text I sent to him read: "Mojito. That's the mint drink I was trying to think of last week. Not a damn grasshopper."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hakuna Matata

I figure that I won’t spend much time on this post.  I’m in Carey, ID right now.  It’s almost four o’clock, and I’d like to bike for another hour north before I set up for the night.  So I’ll bounce in a few minutes.  

It’s a real kick in the pants that Stuie’s knee went on the IR.  The trip will be different.  I’ll have to eat a dozen eggs at a time instead of six.  I’ll have to rub sunscreen on my back with a plastic stirring spoon.  I’ll have no one to play Nightcrawlers with.  But I’m still excited.  There will be more quiet time, more talking to myself, and more eggs.  

I chilled in the tent last night and felt relaxed.  The Californian megalopolis is behind me, and I’m closer to nature and closer to Michigan.  I need less than 50 miles a day to make it back before Bliss.  I have few worries, now, except for those mountains that will handled next week.  I’ll either bike straight through them quick-like or bike up to Yellowstone and chill amongst them for a bit.  I’ll probably chat with them later tonight about it. 

Okay, I have campground somewhere north calling my name, and I have a date with a peanut butter muffin for dinner.  It doesn’t care that I haven’t showered in two days.  (That’s still shorter than Stuie’s no-shower trip record.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Come what may

A decorated automobile from Sausalito

We are in Portland. This morning, Robbie got a ride to Boulder, CO or Salt Lake City. He wasn't sure where he was going to stop. Tomorrow at 3pm, I will be on a plane to Detroit. I just ate wings under a mural of Willie Nelson, and there were balls painted on his face. Here is how all this came to be...
See the ball sac?

After our stay in America's Best Value Inn with the complimentary spiders, we took a bus back into Sausalito to get to a Couchsurfing house that Robbie miraculously had found the night before. We had so much fun at that house and met such interesting people that it is hard to believe that Robbie smashing into that car in a way that only Bruce Willis and Ben Afleck could have prevented was not an act of God. Our host was also named Rob, and his house was gorgeous and comfortable. He was simultaneously hosting 5 couchsurfers: Nelson, a paramedic student from Ohio traveling by motorcycle, Josephine and Chelsea, and artsy hippie duo from Washington state, and the G unit and myself. Host Rob had three lovely dogs (one of them, a female, humped at the others in a sort of domineering way) and a stadium-seating home theater with a massive movie collection. We watched Patch Adams one night (Robin Williams grew up not far from where we stayed). The last night we were there, Rob had a hot tub installed. We chilled out in the hot tub, telling jokes and drinking milkshakes with Carolan's in them. It was an amazing time. When we all left on Wednesday morning, we all hugged good bye in the way that people who have gotten to know each other in a very short time hug goodbye.
Hot Rob and Big Rob at Host Rob's house

During our stay with Rob, we were able to sort out some other issues, and we were unable to sort out some other issues. At a local bike shop, Robbie found a replacement fork for his bike at a very reasonable price and had it installed on his bike. It's lucky that Robbie has twice found replacement parts in stock, because Robbie is an outlier on the bell-curve of people's body sizes, and it's unusual that a bike shop would stock for such a small population of humungous people. But he found a replacement, and they installed the fork on the bike that day. The Mango Sentinel was fully operational, and even looked thinner with its black fork. I am told that dark jeans make legs look thinner. The same is apparently true of bike forks and bikes. 

Sausalito Houseboat
My knee had worsened. The initial diagnosis did not hold, and it became painful to bend or unbend my right leg whether I was bearing weight or not. Biking was no longer an option for me. We had left Micaiah's house in San Francisco optimistically, locking the keys inside never to return. We had no free place to stay for an extended period of time. Part of the reason a bike trip was exciting for me was the prospect of it improving my physical health. The opposite was happening.

Robbie and I considered travel options for almost a full day. Rail passes, bus passes, or buying individual tickets would be too expensive. I considered accompanying Robbie to the east side of the mountains via ride-shares found on craigslist, but the price of traveling from Boise to Detroit was much more than the price of flying for Portland to Detroit (I found a ticket on Student Universe for $170).  After I bought the plane ticket, I cried with frustration.  If only we had not biked 90 miles in one day. If only that piece of shit would not have given us bad directions in Camp Pendellton. If only I had trained more before we left. If only, if only.

I went and ate some bacon and began to feel better. How stupid of me to allow myself to become so depressed. A bike trip was only a medium for accomplishing many things with this summer, like dirt is a medium for growing plants. Without dirt, one builds a hydroponic system. Without a bike trip, Stu will return to Michigan, rehab his knee, rehab his neck, learn to play the piano, visit his wonderful family/friends/lady, convince the town of Ludington to throw a parade for Robbie as he arrives on the Badger, and rally a large possey of cyclists to ride the last 50 miles of the bike trip behind Robbie, rolling into Blissfest in a love caravan. Robbie will end his vacation spent, rejuvenated, and satiated, ready to start his working life having done what he no longer would be able to do.  I will finish my summer having rested and regained my health and peace of mind, ready to take on my legal education with sound body and spirit and relationships. Victory.

angelic *ahhhhhh*
Robbie attempting to climb to the back of the van for conversation time
On Wednesday, we rode north to Portland in a van with Nick, a musician traveling back to Portland to play a show that night. It was a massive van. I slept for the first portion of the trip while Robbie and Nick chatted in the front. Then Robbie and I chatted in the front while Nick slept in the back. Then Robbie and I chatted in the back while Nick drove in the front.  We talked about something that I did not know about Rob Guimond, which is incredible in itself. Robbie has always been very liberal and progressive with regards to trivial social propriety. He is liberated from senseless traditional convention, although he can adhere quickly to it when pleasing those who value it is to his advantage (eg job interviews, meeting girlfriend's parents, etc). But apparently, Robbie has a beef with chewing with an open mouth. The man loves to cook, and loves to prepare a meal and eat it with others. He appreciates this the way a film director appreciates the watching of a film, and the sacredness of the whole thing to Robbie is affronted and made obscene by a person chewing with his mouth open. The worse, he said, was when people did so with either chips or bananas.
I sense an Oscar

I was eating banana chips in the seat next to him. MUAHAHAHAHA!

Portland over G's shoulder
We arrived in Portland after a long drive. The scenery was amazing. The weather was crap. We were safe and warm inside the van. Cortland could have easily run and camped in the sleet that beat against our comfy container. In Portland we ate a burrito and enchiladas from a street vendor. Robbie had to pee, and walked for a while downtown looking for a bathroom before finally walking into a strip club to urinate. He says it was a long walk, at least. He was gone a while whilst I ate my burrito on the park bench. Portland apparently has more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the U.S. Sorry, Las Vegas.

And the fallen petals parted for the lone rider
The house where we were going to stay, Chad and Amanda's, was 3.5 miles away. We were going to hop on a bus, but instead just walked. It was a better way to see Portland. Robbie carried everything but the backpack. I limped behind him and took pictures like this one on my phone.

People should not be disappointed about the changes we made to the trip. I spent a day disappointed, and it is a foolish thing to do. We are young idiots, Robbie and I, who set out to do something that was subject to many possible scenarios under which we would not be able to do that thing. It wasn't because we were confident in our biking skills that we thought we'd be able to do it; it wasn't because we were particularly used to success or that we were used to being amazingly lucky. No, it was because we were young, time had less opportunity to come in and destroy our plans in our short lives.

But broken plans should not breed disappointment. The plan was just one way to accomplish what was  important to us. There are many others. Broken plans produce wonderful stories. New plans create new excitement The sturdiest buildings would break without some flexibility. Stretchy underpants last longer.

This is not the end of the blog or the journey. I just got a text from Robbie. He will be starting the rest of the ride from Twin Falls, Idaho. Join me in joining him from a long way off.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

International Conflict, Vandalism, and Emergency Rooms

We entered Sausalito. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. Each push of the pedal made my right knee send telegraphs to my brain that read something like, "You are a piece of shit, Stu Chipman," or "I had hoped it wouldn't come to this, but I am going to secede from the rest of your body parts," or "You seem to be interpreting this screaming as singing, as you continue to pedal despite my best efforts to inform you of the problems we are facing in this department."  Robbie was pedaling just a little way ahead, frequently checking behind him to make sure I was still there. A few seconds of relief came when the horsepower of gravity and geography combined took over the propelling duty. As I swooshed down the hill, I was taken by the sight of the sunlit hills of Sausalito sprouting up around some of the bluest water I have ever seen. Lovely houses hung on the vibrantly green hills like giant ornaments on a Christmas tree. The hill brought me down turning left onto the main street of the cute little town. I looked ahead at the fudge shops, the restaurants on the docks, and the colorful awnings hanging over the people strolling on the sidewalk. I thought to myself, "This is one of the most lovely places I have ever seen."

Robbie, cruising in his white under-armor atop the Mango Sentinel, from about 25 yards ahead of me, turned to make sure I was alright. I smiled, waved, and gave a thumbs up. He smiled back. We shared the happiness for a moment, and then two red lights light up, one on each side of Robert Allen Guimond. They were break lights. I pointed and yelled. He turned back around, it was too late. He swerved back and forth like a fish that had just left from the water, suspended in the air, hoping to plunge back to safety. Robbie landed on the dry land of a white Hyundai, plunging into the back windshield, which burst like a firework.

My whole body was hot, and I left from the LO Ryder forgetting the pain in my leg entirely. My terror was quickly relieved as Robbie pulled himself from the wreckage in a matter of seconds, seeming to be fully aware, if startled. Small droplets of blood formed on his throat and his ample sniffer: not enough to cause too much concern.

A small, bald man came stumbling in amazement from the driver's side of the car. He began mumbling in a french accent, "Wha, wha, wuszhy, whuu, whatd hoppauned!?" Robbie and I both began making apologetic remarks, trying to calm the man as his wife and two children climbed out of what turned out to be a rental car they had picked up for their visit.

I called 911, as a nurse driving by told me that Robbie was in shock, and needed medical assistance immediately. I thanked the good Samaritan and complied with her request. In short order, a fire engine and 3 police cars arrived at the scene. Police officers started marking around the tires of the car with chalk. I hauled the bikes off the sidewalk as paramedics asked Rob questions about how jacked up he felt. They made Robbie spit out all the glass in his mouth, and took him in the ambulance to the hospital 6 miles away.

After the police took Rob's bike to the station, and I rode mine down, we locked them in the police garage. One officer pointed out the damage to Robbie's bike: the fork (thing that holds the front tire to the handlebars and frame) was bent beyond repair, and the shifters were compromised as well. I replied to a text from Robbie that said, "The hospital is six miles away. How's the frenchman?" I informed him of the damage to his bike, and that I would be taking a cab to the hospital straight away. That cost me $30. In the ER, I found a happy Rob Guimond. After the nurse cleaned his small wounds, we decided it would be best to video document our experiences. I had decided against taping the scene at all, thinking that me whipping out a camera would have scared the Frenchman far too much.   One can see that we looked haggard as shit in these videos. It has been a short, but intense trip. It shows.
Robbie's bike was no longer rideable. We picked them up from the police garage. The police gave us their card, and said we could email them to get a copy of their report and of the pictures of the smitten Japanese automobile. (I have submitted those requests, and will post the pictures upon their arrival in my inbox). We locked our bikes in front of the Bank of America, which appeared to be the busiest place in town, and started walking toward the cheap hotels that a cab driver pointed out to me on the ride to the hospital. It was late at night. My knee was beginning to ache unbearably. We were both carrying 50 pounds of equipment. The hotel turned out to be 4 miles away.
We eventually arrived at America's Best Value Inn, the only hotel cheaper than $300 per night. It was $110 per night. The only other time I stayed at a hotel of this chain was in Saginaw, also with Robbie, 4 years earlier. Robbie had accompanied me down to Saginaw so that I could apply to oodles of jobs. I picked up 30 job applications, and we checked into a $27 hotel room where I stayed up all night filling them out. There was a slash in the chair at that hotel room. There was a mirror on the ceiling above the bed. The bathroom was not clean. This hotel room by Sausalito was much nicer. The air-conditioner and bathroom door were broken, and there were very large spiders. That was it. Complimentary spiders. Ritzy. 
We were hungry as hell. Nothing was open. We called pizza places at 10:30 on a Saturday night. We had walked far enough that all the pizza places we passed leaving town would not deliver to us. Bastards. I told them our sob story, and they said if I ordered $200 or more of pizza, they would deliver it to us. I thought about it, but decided against it. 

So instead, we boiled our leftover Chinese egg noodles in Styrofoam cups in the microwave, and we ate a jar of mixed peanut butter and jelly with a spoon. It was a low point for nutrition and nourishment on this trip. In the morning, we stole all the packaged muffins from the continental breakfast, and ate a bowl of cereal each. 

The plans for the trip needed to be adjusted to accommodate the circumstances. We will bring everybody up to speed on how exactly we are going to proceed in the next entry, probably later tonight. For now, we are safe at the coolest couchsurfing home ever.More on all this later. Thank you for your patience.

The Apple Pie of Cycling: Across the Golden Gate

We stayed in San Francisco for rest. That was the point. So after 4 days of being with the people with flowers in their hair, I called healthcare professionals Jim Stark (my physical therapist) and John Ockenfels (physician). They gave me the best over-the-phone diagnosis that they could, and it was an optimistic one. The verdict: my knee would hurt, but if I did only 30-40 miles a day and iced it alot, it would probably heal and I would be on my way.
Micaiah left for Thailand Friday night, so on Saturday, we left his keys on the table, and with all out things packed and our gear strapped down to the bikes, we let the door lock behind us and headed for the Golden Gate Bridge and all that lies beyond it. The leaving of the keys reflects the youthful optimism with which I ventured forward.
Whoops. Not our video.

Here is ours.

It was magnificent. There are also 2 more videos that I just uploaded, so Youtube won't let me put them on the blog yet. But Check those out. GG Bridge 2 and Rob Post-GG Bridge.

The plan from there was to cruise north 40 miles to Point Reyes. Me fighting through the pain, and Robbie fighting through the boredom of going as slow as I was, we continued forward, descending into Sausalito.

A tidbit: Sausalito has more cyclist-to-motorist accidents than any other city in the world. Maybe that's per capita, but I don't think so.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The San Francisco Giant Ship Museum

I took Robbie to his first ever Ship Museum. Check it out.
haHAAAA!! Gotcha.
It was a wonderful first baseball game for Robbie. Alot of cool stuff happened.

Like this...
And this....
And this was cool....
Robbie's first ever Baseball Musicals (including our class song)...
Robbie gets a wonderful, extra innings grand finale....
And on the way out, there was a bouncer at the top of the escalator, with a big long beard and a friendly voice. He said, "No pushing, people. If I see you pushing, I'll stomp your ass."

During the game, we enjoyed a giant hot dog, a beer, and some sunflower seeds donated by the guy next to us. It was a perfect American experience, and I'm glad. I have now treated to of my favorite people, my grandfather and my best friend, to their first major league baseball game. Both magical experiences. Although I will say, my grandpa saw a Padres game in which a in-the-park homerun, suicide squeeze, 5 homeruns, pick off, and a hit by pitch occurred, and he wasn't very impressed. Robbie really enjoyed his Giants game.

So did I.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Celebrity Sighting 1

We are in San Francisco. Don't be alarmed by the LA slip of the tongue.

HIdden Valley Ranch

At first, it seemed as though the California gods had beef with us.  Cloudy, cold weather.  Directional woes in Camp Pendleton and LA.  Stuie's knee injury.  Fogged Hearst Castle.  And we had to miss the last third of the Pacific Coast Highway between LA and San Fran, the third that includes Big Sur (the top location on my list of things to see on the west coast), because of that mudslide. But good thing all that noise happened because, if it didn't, I would never have been able to see Hidden Valley Ranch.

In an effort to go around the mudslide, we drove the connecting highway between the PCH and the freeway.  On that highway we passed a little sign to our right that read "Hidden Valley Ranch."  That's the truth. 

The ranch was just as you would have expected.  The clouds parted, and the sun happily beamed down.  Farmers were walking the fields, tending their crops, chewing straw, smiling, and waving at the cars that passed.  The fields of salad dressing crops were ripe and ready for harvest.  Expansive and serene raspberry vinaigrette orchards filled our view to the left of the highway.  In the distance, we saw free range cows grazing and laughing in the distance, making jokes at the expense of Wisconsin cows.  Kids were running around and shouting, having fun, throwing water balloons filled with thousand island dressing.  Some little gaffers were on the beach, burying each other in cherry tomatoes.  A few children were chasing after the vegetable truck.  The vegetable truck man was having a special that day on Russian dressing-covered radishes on stick.  People were walking down to the creek to wash their clothing in the Caesar dressing river.  The fork-spoon grabber stand was on the side of the road displaying it's salad removal wares.  Charlie Sheen was snorting ranch flavoring packets.  Alfalfa sprouts were blowing in the wind. 

And, now, we're here in San Francisco.  I'm in to it.  Beautiful people are every where.  Everyone has flowers in their hair.  (That was for Coop.)  It's sunny.  We are about to go to City Lights Bookstore for some beatness.  Stuie's knee is feeling saucy and vigorous.  We went to a Tequilla Bar last night with Stuie's brother's friends Macaiah and Re.  The people were good and the food was good and the tequilla was good.  We're feeling optimistic. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Warp Speed our of So Cal: From Jammed Knees to Jam Sessions

Today, I awoke to bright rays of sun streaming in through the kitchen window of Micaiah's 13th-floor apartment. I haven't eaten breakfast yet. Robbie's in the shower. Micaiah went to work. Brandon is asleep on the floor. Sam is asleep on the futon. Our two empty sleeping bags and two empty bottles of wine decorate the apartment. Robbie's big, neon hoodie hangs from a chair and has chain grease and chile stains on it. Here is how Robbie and I came to be here, overlooking downtown San Francisco from our proverbial Cloud 9.

On Sunday, as we left LA, my legs and knees were tired from the 90 miles biked the day prior. That wasn't a problem: standard procedure. After 10 miles or so, I began to feel a sharp pain on the back of my right knee each time I pedaled very hard. Ten miles later, on the south side of Malibu, after traveling half the speed of smell for two hours, we called it quits.

We sat at a gas station, trying to find a ride either forward to Oxnard, or back to Los Angeles. It had to be a truck, to accommodate our bikes, with space in the cab to accommodate us. There are lots of little sports cars in Malibu. Robbie asked 4 people, but they were duds, stingy old folk.  I asked two and was accepted by both, though the first (a van full of hippies) didn't seem ideal, so we held out. Cory, a firefighter in a white truck, a prince and a noble steed as far as we could tell, drove us all the way back to the northeast side of La. We stayed with Sault Ste. Marie natives Brandon Carr and Sam Pavlat for two nights. The best way to proceed, letting my knee heal and continuing the trip, we agreed was to drive to San Francisco, where we had a free place to stay for a while to do some R&R.  We were going to rent a car, but Sam and Brandon wanted to take a road trip, so we bought a bike rack for their car, strapped the Mango Sentinel and the LO Ryder to the dodge charger, and headed north on the Pacific Coast Highway.

It was rainy and cold, and traffic sucked as we left LA at 8am. Robbie and I were ready to be done with the place, glad for having experienced it, and gladder for being on our way. We stopped to get gas....4.67 a gallon.

We could have taken the 5 right up to San Fran, and it would have been a 380-mile trip on an expressway, but we wanted to see the coast, even if we weren't biking it. The PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), was a 480 mile trip to San Fran, and a slower one, too.

First stop of note: Hearst Castle. William R. Hearst was a railroad tycoon who made millions back in the day, and built himself a castle that is now a museum. We stopped to see it. Be sure to look at the video so you can share that experience with us.

Still in the grasps of emotion from our castle stop, and me with a sugar rush from a berry and cheese croissant, we headed down the road only a few miles before stumbling on to a seal beach. We looked at seals for a while. They smelled quite bad.
As we left the seals, the beach turned into ocean cliffs, and we found ourselves scurrying along the windy cliffsides on the narrow PCH in the Dodge Charger, agile like a goat. For those people who don't enjoy heights or thoughts of falling to their rocky death, the drive caused a little anxiety. Every few hundred yards, basketball-sized debris littered the road before us: threats from the cliffs above.At one point, one of the two lanes were closed, and road workers with stop-signs and walkie-talkies were managing the few cars trying to navigate the bend without crashing into each other. They let us pass without bothering to tell us what was further down the road.

About 8 miles later, driving 25-30 mph around the climbing and diving bends of the Pacific Coast, we came to a sign:

The cliff had collapsed and covered part of the road. No se puede pasar. 

It was 56 miles back to a road that would take us to a detour. As we drove back up and down the cliffs and past the sinister road workers, we thought aloud that it would have been much worse on a bike.

Until we had to buy gas.
They had us by the short and curlies, 60 miles from anywhere. We had no choice. But we didn't buy their $6 bag of Doritos. Hell no, we didn't. We were hungry, too. When we did make it back to a town, we stopped at the general store for eats. Slim pickins. Brandon used the outhouse next to the store while the three of us pillaged the store for reasonable nutrition. I walked out with a blueberry muffin, a blueberry and cheese danish, and an iced latte for $5. Sam got a blueberry muffin, too. Robbie made it out cheap, buying a big disk of sweet bread and a pint of chocolate milk and an apple cinnamon muffin for $3.88. Ask him how the bread was.

After we had gone around the mountains on the detour,  we wanted to get back to the coast to see the sights. We stopped and asked a 40-year-old gas station attendant how to get back to the PCH. Stupid idea. The directions she gave us were to go south 40 miles to the PCH and then drive north. ETA at San Fran: 3+ hours. Thankfully, we learned from our mistakes, and I looked at the map before we left. We drove 18 miles northeast to the PCH and were to San Francisco in under two hours. If somebody is still a gas station clerk at 40, there is probably a reason why.

Words can't describe how pleasant our reception into San Francisco was. It was raining, but it felt like warm sunshine to me. Immediately, the vibe on the street was different from Southern Cali. As I pushed my bike, loaded up with all my supplies, through the rain from the parking garage to our hosts' apartment building, I had the feeling that things were looking up. Not in a way that would give us fewer or lesser tales to tell, but still looking up. Please click the link to our San Francisco Debut above to see how the night ended.

Cheesy Superheroes: A Conversation

When traveling, it is important to maintain balance in one’s relationship with traveling companions: a healthy balance between conversation and peaceful silence, and a balance between serious and recreational conversation. The G-Unit and I have plenty of heavy conversations, but we have just as many chats just for shits and giggles. Here is one from a coffee shop with Tiffany and Stephanie:

Tiffany: Have you guys seen Thor yet? 

Stuie and Robbie consult each other with a glance and then shake their heads. 

Tiffany: Because we went to see it last Friday, and it got us thinking about Superpowers. 

Stuie: Okay. 

Tiffany: And we started thinking, what would our Superpowers be? What do you guys think yours would be?

Stuie: Wait a second, are you asking for a power that would correspond to our personality, or for the power that we would want the most?

Stephanie: That’s what I asked, too, because those would be way different, right? 

Stuie: Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t want the superpower that corresponded to my personality. I think I’d like to fly. What did you guys pick? 

Stephanie:  That’s what I said, too. Fly or teleport. I guess it wouldn’t matter. 

Stuie: How would you want to leave the scene if you could teleport? Like, do you want to just vanish with no special effects, like I dream of genie, or do you want a puff of purple smoke to be left in your wake? 

Stephanie: I dream of Genie. The smoke would be annoying, I think, and you couldn’t leave discretely. 

Stuie: Yeah, but it could be useful for purple-smoking people at will. Like, you could be in an elevator jammed full of people,  and just purple smoke the whole group. I would just teleport from the elevator to the next floor stop, so I could see the doors open and watch everybody poor out with the purple smoke. They’d be like, “Why did you even get on the elevator, asshole?”

Tiffany: I said I’d like to be invisible at first, but then realized that I could still get hit if I were invisible, so I’d like to be invisible and intangible. Which could get complicated, I guess. 

Stephanie: Yeah, could you sit in chairs and stuff?

Robbie: Or hit anybody back? 

Stuie: Would you get sucked to the center of the Earth’s gravity, or would you have no mass at all, being intangible, and just sort of float through space, kind of useless? 

Tiffany: I guess it doesn’t make much sense, but none of this does. We are talking about super powers. So Robbie, what would yours be? 

Robbie smiles and leans forward, putting his hands out on either side of the topic he was about to discuss.
Robbie: I’d like to be able to turn things into smoked Gouda cheese Anything. Just look at it and make it Gouda at my will.

The other three sit, perplexed and impressed.

Stuie: That would be awesome. Way more useful than flying. I feel lame. I think I just want to fly because my knee is jacked right now, and I wouldn’t need that to fly. 

Robbie: Yeah, and Gouda is delicious.  So tasty.

Stephanie: Don’t you think you’d get sick of it after a while?

Robbie’s lips purse; his eyebrows raise and his head tilts forward incredulously. 

Robbie: …no. That’s ridiculous.

Stuie: I think if I were going to be a cheese alchemist, I’d like to be able to convert things into a different cheese with each finger, so I had a choice of ten cheeses. 

Tiffany: Oh, that would be better. 

Robbie: That would be cool, for sure, but I don’t know about better. I mean, I just would want Gouda all the time, so I would really only use one finger. 

Stuie: It would be really cool, though, because you would never have to pay for extra cheese at a restaurant. You could just take a napkin, put it on your sandwich or burger, and make it cheese. A big ‘F you” to this McDouble, Double-Cheeseburger scam. 

Robbie: ‘Swat I’m sayin. 

All nod in agreement. 

Later, while touring LA in a Dodge Charger, the conversation came alive again. 

Stuie: Dude, I feel like such a lameass for picking flying as my superpower. The smoked Gouda thing really has a lot of benefits. I wasn’t thinking about the usefulness in a fight against evil until I was thinking about Tiffany saying that intangibility would suck because you can’t hit people, either. But man, if you could turn somebody into Gouda, that would pretty much be the end of the fight. 

Robbie: Yeah. I hadn’t really thought of that either. 

Stuie: The same would be true if you could turn people into money, though. And then you’d be rich.

Robbie: Gouda is expensive, though, so I could sell it for like seven bucks a pound. 

Stuie: OH MAN! Capitalist benefits, too, from the Gouda thing. But you could just buy Gouda with the money you turned people into.

Robbie: Smoked Gouda isn’t always available though, and the world has a pretty finite supply of it. I think if I had unlimited money, there wouldn’t be enough Gouda for me to buy to satisfy my Goudatite. 

Stuie: mmmm. Ok. Ok. And you could really make a lot of money selling the shit out of that. You’d be an artisan cheesest, too, because you could just go into a junkyard and grab an old bike to turn into Gouda, and people would be like, “How did you make a block of Gouda big enough to carve a full-sized bike?” 

Robbie: Oh, that’s money. 

Stuie: Rich people would pay for your Gouda sculptures for their parties. Like the cake boss, but it wouldn’t take you as long, and you would have virtually no overhead. 

Robbie: All good points. I’m sticking with this superpower.

Stuie: It could be dangerous though. Like, if you accidentally turned something important into Gouda, would you be able to un-Gouda-fie it? People would get pissed at you real quick. 

Robbie: That would suck. Especially if it were somebody’s baby or something. 

Stuie: Yeah, they’d be looking at you, all pissed, holding their car-seat full of cheese, and you’d be like, “Oh, man, sorry folks. This is kind of a one way, street.” 

Robbie: I’d need to make friends with a de-goudafier. Your power was stupid. You should change to that.

Stuie: When we got into fights, we would have epic super-hero battle , just turning things into smoked Gouda and changing them back. 

Robbie: Yeah, and if somebody took a bite out of something before you changed it back, I would be winning.

Stuie: Yeah, and if I managed to change originally Gouda cheese into fresh, unprocessed milk, then I’d be winning. 

And later, in the car to San Francisco, after Robbie reviewed the first draft of this blog, the conversation continued.
Stuie:  Dude, Robbie, I didn’t think of this, but you would win multiple Nobel Peace Prizes.  Navy Seals would just drop you into Pakistan, and you would turn their nukes into Gouda.  People in Africa would be hacking at each other with Gouda machetes. Instead of shooting each other with AK-47s, people would be feasting together in AK-Gouda-heaven. 

Robbie:  Yeah, dude.

Stuie:  You’d solve world hunger, except global warming might get worse once that cheese starts to rot.

Brandon:  Kraft would be out of business.

Stuie: Yeah, and shares of Ex-Lax would sky rocket.  Dude, if you ever get this power let me know, so I can invest my life savings in all laxative companies. 

Brandon: ...Wisconsin would be useless to the world.