Month: March 2014

An Interview with Mr. Fox


-Mr. Fox, it’s a pleasure to have you here.

Believe me, the pleasure is all mine.

-You’ve been writing a book and I understand the manuscript is complete. Will you share the title and overall concept please?

The River Song: Following the Mississippi on a Bicycle Dream Ride…Frustrated with my work environment and struggling to stay afloat, I quit my job and gave everything away, riding a bicycle and camping along the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to New Orleans on a quest for a more meaningful life and the dream to write a book. This memoir is a page turning glimpse into the history of the river and its people, as well as a modern day comparison in observation with our county’s current paradigm. You’ll see me evolve and attune with nature as I confront my demons, pushing every button you have and inspiring you simultaneously. This is a real life adventure story about conquering fears, being present and dreams coming true.

-I feel as if I’m right there with you on the trip in reading the excerpts you’ve shared. I love how each chapter is a day from the trip. Tell the truth, did you fabricate some of the events and characters?

From morning until night and from page one until the very last word -I reported each event that happened to the best of my ability as a writer. Every character is a real person and many will remain lifelong friends to me. These people are reflections of myself and the story wouldn’t have been possible without them so I represent them in full disclosure -real names and all. On the road, I wrote the day’s events in my travel journal every night and the body of the book is composed of thirty-one action packed chapters. The River’s song is convincing enough in the absence of fiction and the story that unfolded could not have been dreamed into existence by anyone other than us.

-What are your plans for publishing?

Great question -I’m not sure yet. I just began the process of sending query letters to agents but I could also see the benefit of self-publishing. Going the major publisher route with an agent is appealing because my voice will be heard by a larger audience and more time can be focused on travel and writing. I believe this story has the potential to reach a huge market and possibly even the silver screen. However, I also see the benefit in doing it small and selling copies personally, using social media to market on-line. Money doesn’t really matter to me -I prefer the simple life of travel and self-expression. To have control and a final say over every aspect of the project is tempting but it also takes a greater dedication of energy invested in the business behind the writing. It’s up in the air right now. I could vibe with either or both but most importantly, I’d like my story to be heard. It isn’t a rush one way or the other though.

-What are you currently doing for work?

I live at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School in Three Lakes, Wisconsin under the mentoring of the author and founder  –  . My day’s are divided between learning wilderness skills, playing music, reading, writing, studying, working on securing a publisher for ‘The River Song’ as well as helping Tamarack’s work reach full potential in readership. I treat each new Sun like a day for schooling and dedicate attention to a number of different focuses. When I decide to be finished with my studies at the Drum; I’ll leave my seat as a student, taking what I’ve learned on the road as a teacher with the next adventure, wiser and stronger, ready to play the river’s song with a new understanding as I walk in balance with nature and all that lives.

-What are the plans for the next book, other future projects and moving into my final question, do you have any trips or destinations you’ve been dreaming of?

Sure, I’ve been visualizing myself biking through the Pacific Northwest, down through the redwoods and into SoCal. I’d love to do the Lewis and Clark Trail. I picture myself in Amsterdam or Germany biking the Rhine River. I also dream of entering the world of music journalism, snapping pictures with my words and following friends on random adventures as they tour the world. I’d like to write that book on internet dating I was imaging before I followed the Mississippi all the way to the delta. Also on the back burner, I’ve been cooking up a way to share the story of the time I served in my early twenties behind bars and how that changed my life. Right now though, I have a list of magazines and periodicals that I’ll be submitting articles to for publication. ‘The River Song’ and its publication is of course the main priority above everything I’d like to do on the list before shifting gears into any other major endeavors.

-I have to admit, I wish this interview could continue a little longer but it’s been great to share this space and ask you a few questions Mr. Fox. I look forward to speaking with you again soon. Thank you.

Like I said, the pleasure has been all mine. I wish every interview I end up doing will be as enjoyable as this one! You selected the perfect questions to ask me and for that I’d let you interview me again whenever you like. Until next time.



Chapter 11




September 22, – There were visitors in the night. I have the vague recall of a guard on the dam doing rounds and the conversations of three people above me. It’s early cold. I pack away the blankets and pillow, grabbing my gloves because it’s foggy and freezing. Leaving the lock and dam with the moon, I near the Expressway as a parking lot attendant gives me a wave good morning. Cars are starting. From looking at the map last night, I know if I continue south I’ll make it to the bridge into Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood home of Samuel L. Clemons, better known as Mark Twain.

I’ve passed by Hannibal on a family road trip once but didn’t have the chance to stop and explore. Crossing the river once again on one of her many bridges, I pull parallel with another biker joining the path.
He asks, “Where are you coming from?”

I say, “Minneapolis! I was hoping to explore the home of Mark Twain before heading south.” We keep pedaling and as we chat.

He says, “Minneapolis? Where are you trying to go to?

I say, “New Orleans. After Hannibal, I was thinking to head south to Louisiana. Louisiana, MO that is. I can see a funny photo opportunity there.”

“Don’t head south through Missouri! You’re about to hit four thousand feet in elevation gains. If you’re going south then you’ll be better off heading back into Illinois,” he says to me adamantly as three other bikers join us. These four guys get together and ride into Hannibal for coffee at the Java Jive every so often. I just barely met them coming over the bridge but now they insist in showing me Hannibal as we glide down an awesome hill. These guys are in their late fifties wearing spandex touring suites and  they’re quite serious about riding.
“What do you wanna do while you’re in Hannibal?” they ask as we continue our descent.

“I’d like to have breakfast and a coffee somewhere with Hi-Fi. Do some writing, send a few emails and then explore the cave from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and whatever else you might recommend.” We come to the bottom of the hill as I say these words. They direct my attention toward the childhood house of Mark Twain; as well as pointing out the local breakfast joints, they also show me where I’ll have to go to see the caves. I thank them for the help as I turn off toward ‘breakfast.’

Sitting on a bench outside of a storefront not yet ready for business, I open a can of pineapple. One taste and I commend the first person to hack into a prickly pineapple, finding this sweet golden deliciousness waiting inside. I eat two granola bars in addition to the fruit before heading to the Java Jive. Walking in, I’m already a legend as the barista gives me a once over. The bikers are here. “Hey it’s Michael! This is the guy that’s riding his bike from Minneapolis all the way to New Orleans!” they say this amongst themselves and at the same time announce it to everyone in the coffee shop. I’ve missed baristas. This one’s name is Janelle and she’s the finest I’ve seen since Spy House in uptown Minneapolis. Mmm…good coffee.

“I heard these guys talking about you. You’re riding down the Mississippi dressed like that? What’s going on with those boots?” Janelle digs in as she hands me change for the coffee.

“Yeah! I’ve never been much for spandex and these boots are the most comfortable shoes I have. I’d like to plug my phone in and send a few emails. Is there an outlet?” I ask.

She says, “Sure,” pointing behind me, “you can plug-in there.” She’s pondering something. I sit down and plug my computer in as well, checking my email and looking at the river maps for the area. There’s another woman from my past and she’s on my mind even though we haven’t spoke in months. Writing her an email this morning from Hannibal, we’ll see if she answers. I would postpone the end of this trip to see her, if even for an hour. She is Becky Thatcher but there’s already a Tom Sawyer. Will Tom’s courtship finally win her over? Is the potential for treasure’s possibility worth her forgiveness? Would my pedaling this bike across the country to be with her, finally trump this tomfoolery? It’s lonely when we love like this.

Finishing my coffee, I have the urge to speak with Janelle before leaving. Getting up, I walk to the counter and a fancy young lady beats me to the punch. She’s on a pink phone with a jewel encrusted case, half talking loudly with someone and half ordering her coffee. I wait patiently behind her, making eye contact with Janelle; we smile a mutual frustration with Paris Hilton’s cousin between us. This lady speaks on her phone during the entire transaction! How rude is that? I walk up and Janelle says, “I just got a new phone, an iPhone and I’m not too sure what to think about it yet.”

“I know how that feels.” I say. “I have one too. They’re not evil, the phones themselves. We have this amazing technology to share truth instantly around the world and yet instead we choose to post pictures of the food we’re eating and photo shopped representations of a moment, all to put our best face forward. Just be conscious of how you use it. It’s been interesting for me to turn mine off during this tour.”

“I used to bike everywhere. I just got a car though. Be careful out there, especially on the shoulders. You’ll see the shredded rubber from blown truck tires and debris all over the road. Those tires have steel radial in them and they’ll instantly pop an inner tube. It’s happened to me, twice,” she says.

“You’re lovely, Janelle. I like you,” I say, smiling sincerely.

“That’s probably because I’m not from here,” she says, laughing.

“If I had more time in Hannibal I’d recommend we hangout but I’ll have to be leaving now. Thank you for the coffee. It was a pleasure to meet you.” She’s a spark plug of girl. Fire is burning around me and I wish I could take her with me but she’s on her way back to Samsara and I’m on my way out the door.

The admission for a tour of the Mark Twain Cave is almost $20. I pay it even though my instinct says this place has been tainted with the tart taste of tourism. The guide leads us into the cavern where electric lighting was installed for tour purposes. The cave seems drier than others I’ve been in. Apparently the limestone walls are lithographic and only found within a thirty-five square mile radius from here down to Louisiana, MO. The cave remains a constant fifty-two degrees. Our tour guide shuts the lights off and demonstrates what it would have been like to have explored these caverns by candle light long ago. Mark Twain played in this very cave. So did Jackie Robinson. During the time Mark was a boy, the cave was owned by a local physician. He used the cavern to do experiments on cadavers. His fourteen-year-old daughter died and the doctor put her corpse inside of a copper framed glass tube filled with alcohol in an attempt to petrify the body. The body hung, suspended in this cavern for almost two years before authorities ordered its removal. These rooms twist and turn for miles with multiple exits and entrances. Our guide directs us to the signature of Jesse James. Apparently the outlaw used the cave to hide out for a few days after a train robbery. They won’t let us sign the walls but they’re covered with signatures. Treasure hunting and run-ins with Injun Joe come to mind as I remember the adventures of Tom Sawyer. Strange thoughts of funerals and ghost hunters come and go. My mind wanders off to an imaginary Busch Brother’s Cemetery and the thought of an angry drunk hunter apparition is frighteningly funny to me. Laughing out loud in a cave is something I highly encourage you to experience. I’m happy I did this but it’s a little touristy and it bothers me to see people making money off the memory of Mark Twain. I was tempted to just sneak in and explore the caves with my youthful exuberance but I have a feeling that chance will come elsewhere.

The tour lasted less than an hour and I’m back on the road. According to the map’s legend, I’ll have to backtrack nearly twenty miles into Illinois before I can head south. It was all in the name of Mark Twain. Passing over his memorial bridge I get off the busy 72 and onto the 106. There’s a rest area on the right so I pull off and 106 and park it. I take some cardboard from my trailer and picture myself break dancing on it for a second. Today I make the sign! With a permanent marker I write: “MPLS to New Orleans. The Great River Adventure,” signing it –Michael Fox. I take the time to draw an intricate bicycle on one side and a book on the other. The book is more of a mustache really but that can be in honor of Mark Twain. It looks legit on the back of my trailer, folded over a bungee strap, secure and simple. I like it. We’ll see if it brings me any encounters I may have missed otherwise. Chicken and green beans for lunch and then I’m back on the road heading straight east. The first car to pass gives me a honk and I can tell the sign is drawing attention already. I go through the small towns of Aladdin, Spencer, Hull, Shin and finally make it to Kinderhook where the road becomes the 96. Heading south again, I’m essentially traveling down a long finger-like strip of land between the Mississippi and the Illinois River. The tip of the finger points directly at St. Louis. The meeting of the Great Rivers happens in Grafton and I’ll see that tomorrow in the light of day.

There’s still plenty of sun now and I’m smiling as I pedal a comfortable pace. This guy passes and flips me the bird. I just keep smiling and wave but he actually slows down to reach his arm out the window making sure I see his angry middle finger. Friendly people pass as well and the sign has contributed to far more honks of acknowledgment. I like the idea of that driver in her car thinking about how far it is from MPLS to New Orleans. I like to see her inspired. A truck with a boat on a trailer passes by me slowly preparing to turn left but fails to signal. An emergency vehicle comes up behind me and must have been trying to read my sign. The ambulance skids to a stop and almost rear ends the boat trailer. Maybe having this sign isn’t such a smart idea. The roads around here are distracting enough for most drivers; add in a cell phone call, a mansion on the hill, an apple orchard, an angry angler arguing over an accident with an ambulance driver and a biker with a sign…that spells danger to me.

It isn’t long down the Mississippi River Road before I reach the village of Hamburg as the sun starts to set. I ride right along the river here and the houses are something else. The road turns up and through a hill when I see a woman walking a dog. Approaching slowly, I notice he’s bright white with piercing blue eyes. She fights him on the leash as I ask about a river access in the area. I’m hoping she knows of a place I can camp and have a fire for the night but she just looks at me like I’m crazy and tells me there isn’t anything like that around here. I say thanks anyways and keep going. Up on the right I see a church. There’s a man power washing a semi-trailer. I notice the congregation’s sign reads: The Church of Christ. I have to think this is a Mormon Church. As I pedal into the driveway and make eye contact with this man, it’s clear that I’m not welcome here. He points the power washer at my feet and says, “What do you want?”

“Well I’d like to introduce myself first of all. I’m Michael Fox; I’ve been pedaling this bike along the river from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have the goal of reaching New Orleans but I find myself here now. I’m tired and I’m looking for a place to set my tent for the evening,” I say this to him and he seems annoyed.

“What do you want from me?” he says again.

“I don’t want anything from you. This is a church here and I assume you’re a member since you’re in the front yard. Wouldn’t it be a Godly thing to help a stranger out -whether that be by letting me camp here or pointing me down the road to a place that might be safe for the evening? Either would’ve been suitable. I don’t want anything from you, sir. I may have actually had something to give to you but now you’ll only get this to think about on my farewell.”

As I’m pulling out of his driveway he yells, “Hey, down the road about seven or eight miles you’ll see a sign on the right hand side for Red’s Landing. That would be a safe place for you to camp.”

“Thank you,” I say, “thank you very much.” I’m pleased that he became willing to share, not willing enough to let me camp on his property though. They don’t get many travelers coming through these parts I suppose.
It’s dark by the time my headlamp shines on the sign for Red’s Landing. I pass a truck on the way in and imagine I look quite suspicious. Down by the river I find myself alone again. I set up the tent about five feet from the water’s edge. There’s a spot nearby where someone had a fire recently. I find some birch logs and plenty of wood for the night and I have a fire going within minutes. Right on the river, stars above me, I play guitar and sing by the flames, song after song until I break a string and I lay her down for the night. I’m a little hungry and put a can of pork and beans on the coals forgetting to vent the lid. Opening the zipper on the tent, I climb in and get situated. Lying down to read for a moment, I pass out resting peacefully…Boom! I’m shaken from sleep by a gunshot outside! Springing up and out of the tent, there isn’t anyone around but I smell burnt food and realize that the can of beans I put on the fire just exploded. It was quite the bang! Pork and bean rain fell on my house and that’s funny to me. The can still sits in the fire and it looks like the metal got so hot that pressure blew the lid off like a mortar shell and shot food fireworks high into the night sky. I’ll have to try that in the daylight to see what it looks like. What a way to end the day! That old trucker probably thinks I shot myself down here. ‘I knew he looked like trouble. You won’t be killing yourself on my property, you heard me?’ That man was a trip, in my mind his voice still echoes, ‘What do you want?’ Climbing back in the tent, my heart slows and I think about that question before sleep soon returns.

A Timeless Secret

Michael J. Fox and I share a number of things in common, including our name.  I can act like “Back to the Future” didn’t have a huge impact on my life but that would only be an act and a shaky one at best.  Hover boards are finally real and thanks to Nike (and slave labor), you’ll even be able to buy sneakers with power laces next year, alleviating the bothersome need to bend over and deal with shoestrings.  Yes, the times are a changin’.  A wise man once said, “The future is now.” Oh yeah, that was me and you can totally trust everything I say because after all,  I did graduate from Sandstone Federal University where I obtained a master’s degree in Time and the Moment of Now.

An old tree was chopped down in our forest for unknown reasons.  Her stump rises up to my heart and I was barely able to vault my body on top of her many rings this morning.  After succeeding on the second attempt, I remained there and sat alone in the woods for quite some time before the sunrise.  This will be a pedestal of morning meditation for the great spirit and a place where the circuit of Life’s Cycle can be plugged in and powerfully completed ~ within and without-above and below.  Much is yet to be learned on this connection but the Wilderness is a humble teacher.  The following is a list containing the categories and areas of knowledge I wish to deepen along with the educational goals I seek to accomplish during my studies at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School:

  • Writing and Publishing  -publish my book, study writing and improve technique, refine editing skills, learn marketing strategies, create and maintain an author website, outline the next book, expand platform and gain income through writing.
  • Wilderness Skills  -learn about wild foraging / natural cooking and food preservation, participate in the ricing season, experiment with tapping maple trees, fabricate clothing from wild materials, improve camping and canoeing knowledge, skinning animals and utilizing their hides and meat, expanding fire skills and earthen shelter building as well as primitive fishing practices.
  • People Skills and Personal Studies  -the circle way, the gifting economy, truth speaking, dream works, co-parenting, nonviolent communication, psychology patterns, enneagram research, music and my relationship with money.

My book has become quite refined and I’ve been enjoying the editing process thoroughly.  Progress has reached the point of the manuscript being ready for proof readers and I’ll be asking for some official critiques, as bloody as possible, before my final changes are made.  I’ll be opening up the opportunity for a number of trusted people to read the memoir very soon so let me know if you’re interested.  Also, I’d like to hire a talented artist to design the book’s cover with an original drawing.  The tentative title page looks like this:

The River Song

Following the Mississippi on a Bicycle Dream Ride


Michael Jason Fox

I’m not sure how long I’ll be at the school or even here on earth for that matter but I am extremely optimistic about what the future holds.  To back it up to the beginning momentarily, the point of all of this is living in the present -that is the key to freedom and experiencing your dreams coming true.  This eternal moment of being; it’s the door you’ve knocked upon for answers, it’s the gift you’ve already been given and you can open it right now.  The greatest challenge with my work has been walking the fine line between philosophy and preaching, teaching and learning.  After this book is published and even after I die; people will chop it down and use it for what they will. However, I do picture a curious youth finding it on the path and sitting upon it thinking, peacefully.  I hope she feels Life in the roots and stays still long enough to see the present within -a timeless secret.





“Welcome to Paradise,” says the sign in the background.  In the foreground is everything I own.  I can carry it all on my bicycle without the help of panniers or a trailer.  I got here with the power of my legs alone and that’s a great freedom to experience. 

Over the river and through the woods, to Tamarack’s house I go…

CouchSurfing in the city was a pleasant surprise and really couldn’t have gone any smoother.  I am truly humbled by the generosity of strangers and their willingness to help travelers like myself.  Both of my hosts were intelligent and courteous, welcoming me into their homes with open arms and treating me with trust and respect as if I were a family member –and essentially I am.  The city; although quaint, was fast and far different from what I’ve become accustomed with over the last month at the wilderness school.  I couldn’t help but to feel a little like Henry David Thoreau, leaving Walden and going into the village to observe the lifestyles of the people, much like they might venture into the wilderness to observe the animals.  Overall, it was an enriching experience, full of insights and the chance to focus my energy without distraction, into projects that were demanding my attention.

The Teaching Drum Outdoor School offered me an extension on my stay and welcomed my return after the week-long vacation and reflection in the city.  Happily accepting this invitation, I began the journey back to Three Lakes from Rhinelander on my bicycle yesterday.  Being that it was the nicest day of the year so far; temperature wise, I decided to MapQuest a scenic bike route with the hopes of avoiding traffic and soaking up some of the beauty on the way home.  Carrying everything I own, my guitar and stuff sack balanced on either side of the bike’s handle bar and a pack on my back, I started what was only to be a twenty-six mile ride through the countryside among the many lakes of northern Wisconsin.  Everything was lovely until my directions took me to a road less traveled, unplowed and impossible to navigate.  I attempted to cut across the snowmobile tracks on Stella Lake with the hopes of reaching a plowed road on the other side.  Pushing my bike through the snow with a heavy load, I spent two full hours on the lake alone, exploring.  In the end, I was forced to suck it up and turn around, backtracking all the way to County Road C on melting roads with a sloppy preview of the spring to come.  Cars shot water eight feet high in passing and brand new rivers ran downhill as I broke trail through the muddy slush.  Expecting the trip would only total two hours, I left ill prepared and brought no food or water.  Eating snow got me through my thirst until I was able to take alms from a man working outside.  An Elder from the school just happened to be driving by as I pedaled down the road.  She stopped and lightened my load, taking the guitar and stuff sack off my hands in exchange for an apple she had.  What a trade off that was.  The rest of the trip was into a gusting north wind, mostly uphill.  I stopped and took a short nap in a snow bank but eventually made it back to Teaching Drum, exhausted.

Trusting MapQuest as the authority seemed to be a mistake in this venture.  It’s most likely a gorgeous way to pedal in the summer time but whoever wrote that route must’ve never attempted it in the winter months.  Although it was surely one of the ways to get to where I was going, it wasn’t the only path and definitely not the best route for me at this particular time.  Remember that when dealing with others opinions on the right way to go.  When I say ‘the right way to go,’ I’m referring to everything from simple choices to travel directions, to spiritual paths and beyond.  We all find our truths a little differently and no one has ever reached enlightenment through another person’s doctrine.  There are many paths and no one right way to get to where you’re going; so try them, try all the paths if you will.  Find your own truth and live by your own doctrine.

The most important thing I learned from this trip deals in my relationship with creative expression.  Being back on my bicycle was amazing because I was reminded that the greater majority of creative ideas come to me through movement and physical activity outdoors.  That’s where the brainstorming happens and the seeds for intelligent sharing are planted and nurtured.  Having a quiet place to be still is where my creative expressions take fruition and to have that balance between motion and a stable place to work is essential in my creative process.  It’s interesting how we forget our truths sometimes and rediscover them through our struggles.  I am at the school again and getting settled, back at my Walden, ready to put this knowledge into action with new projects and I’m excited to explore the trails around here with the green season, finding new paths and old truths, awaiting discovery and remembrance.  Thoreauly ready for spring’s blossoming.     


Chapter 17



September 28, – A special energy comes with the mind state of being open completely, it’s the prelude to falling in love and it comes with the raising of the blinds and truth’s light shining into the darkness.  A true love won’t sustain without this.  In that light, first comes an acceptance of self or settling one’s score so to say.  It can come second; through the inspiration of another but then you’ll find yourself with a weight of debt and it’s hard to fly like that.  The true second, is your communication of the acceptance of self, the sharing with the world your comfortable idea.  It’s an attractive state of being.  I feel that energy today and I am falling or rather, flying in love with this bike trip along the Mississippi.

Trucks arrive and depart with the day’s first light.  Semi’s growl to life and I Roar with a yawning stretch.  The sky is soft and mellow with an effeminate ‘hello’ from the pink and yellow’s sunny reflection. The wind woke up on the wrong side of the channel apparently, blowing around this way and that.  There’s a well with a pump on the backside of the restroom at this wayside so I water up and use the facilities.  Breakfast at the picnic table facing the rising sun is delicious as I read the ending of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.”  Last night I read until the second to last page without knowing and now I finish it quickly, wishing there was more.  I look at the map and plan the day’s story.  I think it ends in Arkansas.  All packed up I head northbound on the 55 with the mean wind blowing at my back; teasing me with the assistance of his power for a short swift mile.  Finding a pass through on the interstate, I wait my turn and cross over four lanes of freeway and ride southbound again into the wind.  You just get used to it.  Acceptance helps.  The wind is a force that won’t be stopped, much like me and I respect his power.  The day will come when we work together.

My muscles are warmed up after the twelve miles to Portageville.  Stopping for coffee and plugging my computer in, I log into Facebook, reactivating my account.  It’s been about eighteen days since my sign out.  Surprisingly, I had a number of thoughtful posts on my wall from friends despite having my page inactive on my birthday.  Social networking has become so prevalent in our society and it’s bothersome to me and seems misused in my opinion.  It isn’t just the competition for ‘likes’ that bugs me.  It’s more the liking of the superficial lack of intelligent sharing and the golden idol of ego; that’s what bothers me most.  I have missed my connections though and from now on I vow to use this social networking platform to inspire and to share positivity.

Typing, “Belated thank you’s on the Birthday wishes.  I’m sorry I haven’t been in contact with anyone.  I needed the solitude.  After the eleventh, I left the Twin Cities on a great adventure.  I’ve been pedaling my bicycle along the Mississippi River, camping along its banks and trying to leave each city brighter and inspired through song and story.  I’m in Southern Missouri now and about to cross over into Arkansas.  I’ll be in Memphis tomorrow and by the time I reach the Ocean I’ll have wrote a book about this experience and the people I’ve met during my travels.  I’ll try to be better about staying in touch.  I miss you my friends.  Do what you love and love what you do.” I press enter and almost instantly people are interested in what I’ve been up to.  Is it selfish that I ignore the newsfeed, having little interest in what others have been up to?  All the bright colors and cries for attention would probably be too much right now.  I’ll ease my way back into Facebook but today’s reaching out to friends is beautiful.  They send me chat messages and my phone comes alive as comments and likes roll in.  This approval and attention is not what I seek though.  In posting what I did, I look to inspire people to wake their dreams into reality.  To be an open book is what I seek.  The reader’s impression is theirs to deal with how they will.  My phone vibrates with new messages and comments on the thread but I pay them little mind.  Even if they say I’m crazy or stupid for doing this; I wouldn’t take that to heart.  People think different things for different reasons and for this reason, I remain wary of both critique and flattery.  Even if they say they love me, I won’t judge their opinion much, for the praise of the people is not my desire.  I seek the integrity of sharing myself comfortably in the face of the opinionated; yes, but the opinion of the people is much like a horn on a semi-truck honking in passing.  Was it a honk of anger?  It was a long honk.  Or was it a honk of approval?  People have different intentions with their honking, just as the tooting of one’s own horn often comes from a place of anger rather than self approval.  The sounding of horns does not motivate me.    ­­­

I sit here sipping coffee, making some free calls on the Wi-Fi network; even having a video conference with my dear friend.  It’s a joy to chat with people so far away.  The telephone has intrigued me since the beginning of boyhood.  I can recall my very first memory of a telephone conversation.  It was at my grandparent’s house and my mother handed me grandpa’s old rotary phone.  My dad was on the other end in a different city and to be able to speak with him seemed magical to me.  I remember being completely fascinated with that.  It was way too early to fathom the cell phone on an affordable national network and the public had no computers or internet yet.   My generation would experience the evolution of each of these technologies and eventually the combination of the telephone, the computer and the internet on one device:  the smart phone.  I hold one now as I skim through dozens of notifications on the Facebook post from this morning.

We used to memorize phone numbers by heart and when you called a girl on her land line you might have to speak with her father.  I remember our first cordless phone and how awesome it was to have a conversation in the privacy of another room as an adolescent.  In 1987 there were only one million cell phones in America.  I had a pager before I owned a cell phone.  I remember the construction of the very first computer lab in our elementary school.  We played a game called Oregon Trail on the black and green screens.  We had computers in our school finally but now you can go to school on the computer.

The internet wasn’t nationwide until about 1994 and I didn’t have Facebook until 2009, nine years after graduating high school!  Before the World Wide Web, my parents bought an expensive set of encyclopedias.  I used them as a reference to write papers and satisfy my strange curiosities.  Heavy dusty old things they soon became.  My parents were moving to Wisconsin in 2003 and decided they would give the Britannica’s to Aunt Bee’s.  The thrift store wouldn’t even accept them as a donation.  “That information is all online now and the books would only take up space,” they said.  My parents had quite the Foxfire, burning the whole collection if you can picture that.  Consumed by the flames!  You can look anything up instantly now.  How hard is that wind blowing today?  I wonder this and look up the local weather in Portageville.  Today’s wind blows from the south at fifteen miles per hour.  This is an amazing piece of technology in my hand.  The computer in front of me weighs at least ten pounds and does little more than my handheld companion.  Although my writing has been strictly done with pen and paper, I brought the laptop with for a time down the road when I’ll be typing the story that’s unfolding.  The burden of carrying this extra weight is what gives the device its true power.  I wouldn’t feel right to type such a saga on a keyboard that hasn’t earned the power of the road we travel.  With it, I have the right to write these truths and the ability to stand on my head where few dare walk.

One would think these advancements in our ability to share information would lead to better education, stronger democracy, economic efficiency, healthier lifestyles, happier people and a more conscious human race, right?  You’d think being able to access knowledge and to send and receive the truth at lightening fast speeds would allow humanity to be more connected and improve communication on a global level, right?  Then why are we so misunderstood and why are we so divided?  Why do we suppress knowledge and information and how have we become so selfish?  Why has our economy faltered and our debt soared?  And what could possibly be our justification to continue the destruction of our environment?  Why are people so weak, so sick and so miseducated?  Has technology exceeded our intelligence?  Is it this stupid phone?  It doesn’t have anything to do with electronics.  It’s the people.  It’s us.  It’s our illusory sense of self.  It’s our ego and it dictates the way we use technology.  The problem isn’t the technology.  The problem lies in the way we communicate!  Lies in the way we communicate

Leaving Portageville on the 55, progress is slow as I ride directly into the strongest southerly wind I’ve encountered.  The challenge and rewards seem unbalance as loud trucks pass me and honk.  Honestly, I’m not enjoying the ride so I stand the truth on its head; pedaling with my hands, turning everything upside down to see differently.  Closing my ears, I see sounds and sight speaks.  The eyes are the evolution of the Creator’s greatest vision balanced with the equilibrium of a drum to see life’s music heard.  To look at the world differently, through each others eyes, that would be evolution created –and this would please the Creator of Evolution, if she has the sense of opinion to Judge like I’ve judged.  We will never solve our dilemmas from the same views that created them.  Tuning in is a tuning out of sorts when viewed upside down.

Leg muscles protest the monotony of motion as the pedals revolve.  I picture the kinesiology involved and solve pain’s puzzle with new angles, changing alignment with the challenge.  Using my heels rather than toes, I dig in and focus the brunt of the workload on my hamstrings and change the aerodynamics.  I pedal with a different part of my foot’s sole, putting the strain almost entirely on my quadriceps.  After exhausting all angles, I pedal with the soles of my soul’s bare feet; they process energy from the ground, fuel from thin air –all burdens of work’s mechanics are left to the wind.

Meeting up with my old friend 61, I leave the Bootheal and pass beneath the stone arch state line, ‘Entering Arkansas’ says the inscription.  The Blues Highway runs all the way from Duluth, MN and the Great Lake Superior all the way down through the Twin Cities following the Mississippi River to Memphis, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and finally the Ocean.  “61 Revisited” plays in my head and with a Bob Dylan glance about, I decide the Old Highway 61 is far more scenic in Minnesota.  It passes through my hometown and all the cities I knew so well in my youth.  From the hillside port city and it’s ocean like view of Superior, down through lakes surrounded by forest greens seldom seen, sprinkled with the dust of a farmer’s dream and realized in the Twin Cities.  From the first lock and dam to St. Anthony Falls, the largest, most conscious metropolis at the top of the list for all things you want to exist on this hop, skip and jump of a journey along the Mighty Miss is St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The skyline from the Stone Arch Bridge and the view from Thomas Beach over Lake Calhoun on a hot summer day will make you swing from the branches of weeping willows with a Tarzan meets Jane smile while Judges play house in mansions on Lake of the Isles.  Women with the softest hair you’ve ever smelled walk the chain of lakes where bikers and joggers circle canoes, kayaks and dogs on paddle boards.  Hipsters in uptown would stylishly complain but the art scene in the Cities is hard to explain without a deep sense of awe.  I’ve come to love the most talented people of all.  My friends are starting to attain fame in the dark game as I play a modern day Mark Twain.  The Blues Highway has me missing home now.

The Old 61 takes me into Blytheville, Arkansas.  The sun sets behind me while the river waits for my arrival on the eastern horizon.  With intentions of camping along the water, I ride through this spread out town and find some back roads, pedaling directly east; and in so doing, I come across a wicked big pile of weird wood.  Someone’s been out here on this farm road having bonfires and I can’t resist putting my tent here for the night to do the same.  I’m in the middle of nowhere and I see no houses.  Before anything, I start the fire and add fuel until I have flames that are as tall as I am.  This is my camp and I’ll call it Zion.  If an angry farmer came to me even with a loaded shotgun I’d charm him with the communication of acceptance.  I set up shop with a tent and a spot to sit by the fire as my kitchen.  Water boils in the cast iron and I combine the cheddar and broccoli soup with chicken.  Crumbled crackers complete the concoction and dinner is awesome!  Not one car has driven by me as I sing, smiling and dancing around this enormous fire.  The flames light my page and I write the days thoughts.  Tomorrow I may reach Memphis!   It’s hard to believe I’ve biked this far.  I smell rain on the air and stash some firewood in the trailer as my insurance for breakfast, entering into Tent-town for my sleepy overnight investment.  The river sings her sweet song in the distance and the dying fire reflects the echo as I listen to my listening, thankful to have these ears to see her truth, reflecting on how to better share mine, dissolving into the mind of the Universe once again.

Chapter 28

Hello friends,

This is Chapter 28, (A Vision of Antoinette) from my upcoming book.  I hope you find this inspiring.  This was the day my guitar saved my life.  Happy Sunday.  Enjoy..


October 9 – I slept in this morning and missed the sunrise.  A nice pile of wood is left over from last night so I start a fire and boil water for coffee.  My stomach doesn’t feel good.  The toilet paper I had was ruined in the Greenville flood and I forgot to get more.  Being that the restrooms are locked, I can honestly say this is the first time the government shutdown has affected me in a noticeable way.  After my coffee, I extinguish the fire and cover it with earth.  I’ll have to wait until Natchez to use the bathroom.  With camp packed up I head down the Trace with the road to myself.

It’s twenty-two uncomfortable miles to the southern terminus of the trail.  I’ve been riding on an empty stomach and a full colon.  The sun isn’t high enough to shine on me over the trees yet and their shade is a chilly place to be.  The Parkway meets back up with the 61 as it ends in Natchez.  Right away I’m dealing with rumble strips and motorists.  They pass by without respect.  I’m rather distraught and ready for a break.

Down the road, I stop at a McDonald’s to use the restroom.  I think it might be nice to check in with the world today.  I sit outside on a bench within wifi range, updating my facebook status, saying, “While I was at the festival in Greenville a storm came through and some kind brothers took me to the Hampton Inn where I met Traci.  She was to bury her father that day.  I rode my bike over a hundred miles from the festival to a city called Vicksburg and stopped at the store to get some food.  I asked a stranger for directions, we got to talking and I found out it was Traci’s brother!  They put me up in the River Walk for the night and we all had lunch with their sweet mother today.  Wish these people your condolences please.  Appreciate the moment and pay thanks to your families.  This big world isn’t so huge and the things you do come back around.  I love you Dad.  I don’t say that enough…”  I attach the photo of us in front of The Tomato Place and tag Traci.  Looking at the map, I’d estimate that I’m about 40 miles from the Louisiana border.  Preparing to get back on the road, I make it my goal to camp in Louisiana this evening.

Back on the 61, the third tier of my gears won’t seem to connect with the chain.  It’s been shifty lately but now it won’t engage whatsoever.  While coasting down a hill, I place my right foot on top of the derailleur and manually move the chain.  With my left foot, I rotate the pedal and the gear shifts into the third tier once again, thankfully.  The hills here are challenging today and I ride on a very narrow piece of road between the rumble strip and the gravel shoulder.  I’ve faced some animosity from drivers because of this.  Some even hug the line rather than moving into the fast lane and it feels as if they’re doing this intentionally to mess with me.  A truck flies by me far too close and the extra wide trailer it pulls nearly clips my left arm.  Frustrated and shaken up, I pull over and take a rest beneath the shade of an old tree.  I take a moment to breathe deep and calm down before jumping back on the bike, continuing south.

Entering the city of Natchez, I find a Walgreens and pull in to re-up on supplies, use the restroom again and see about a roll of toilet paper.  Coasting into the parking lot, I find a place between two cars near the entrance and leave my bike and bags unlocked as I walk in to make a few purchases.  After shopping and relieving myself, I sit outside on a bench not far from my bike and have a little lunch.  A truck peels into the parking lot at high speed and attempts to pull right into the spot I’ve parked.  The cars on both sides leave my bike invisible to the driver and he locks up his brakes, sliding to a stop centimeters from hitting my Raleigh.  I picture a mangled bicycle with bent rims and a guitar in splinters, crushed beneath the truck’s undercarriage.  What a nightmare that would’ve been!  I almost watched this trip end in an instant, right before my eyes.  The driver backs out quickly and finds parking elsewhere.  That’s the second close call I’ve had today and it seems like the universe is telling me to be more careful.  I’m full of care though and I silently wish these drivers would slow down and pay more attention.

It’s time to hit the road again so I mount up and proceed southbound.  The wind whips around this afternoon as I pass over the rolling hills of southern Mississippi.  It’s been a constant struggle to steer the neck of my guitar from blowing into the front tire.  Nylon frays from the case where it’s continually met the rubber of my wheel and the webbing between the fingers on my left hand has become raw from the battle of balancing my equipment on the handle bar.  Nearing the city of Woodville, I spot a church off the 61 and stop in with the hopes to fill my water bottles.  ‘Mt. Sinai Church’ reads the inscription on a marble plaque embedded in the foundation.  Beneath that the carver acknowledges the date of construction, the name of the founding Baptist minister, as well as the 33rd degree masons who erected the temple.  Upon closer examination, I notice some horrible patchwork where the carver spelt ‘Sinai’ incorrectly, most likely not realizing her error until it was finished.  This seems significant, as if there’s a lesson in this observation but I can’t quite decipher what it means to me and it leaves me feeling slightly confused.  My thoughts are cloudy.  Dehydration does that to me.  Around the corner I find a water pump and test the handle.  Clean cold water comes pouring out and I retrieve my empty bottles for refilling.  I bless this water’s crystal clear body and ask that it bring my mind some of it’s simple clarity.  Water is living.  It has memory and even reacts to positive and negative energies.  Bless the water you drink like I bless the river.  Then you’ll understand the mystery of time and the secret of water.

Sitting on the steps of the church, quite suddenly a vivid image of Antoinette appears in my mind’s eye and the memory of her beautiful generous spirit fills me with joy.  I feel rejuvenated and ready for the road.  In leaving, I have the impulse to turn my guitar around so that it’s balanced on the handlebar with the neck facing back and up.  I’ve rode bicycle with my guitar a million times, but never once have I had the inclination to carry it like this.  Heading south on the 61, I’m already pleasantly surprised by the difference this adjustment makes.  The wind still gusts from the east but at least my guitar case isn’t bumping into my tire anymore.  The rumble strip disappears and the shoulder narrows to nearly nothing besides the red rock gravel to the slow lane’s immediate right.  As I continue climbing hills, I look over my shoulder occasionally to make sure there isn’t traffic approaching.  I’m weary of that moment I disappear behind a hill and out of sight from the speeding vehicles behind me.  Yet again I coast down a giant slope and begin climbing another.  Breathing heavy, -Thrrraaap!  Plastic shatters and I feel a shock wave through my whole body accompanied by a 70 mile an hour bright black flash that rushes by within three inches of my life.  I felt the fabric of death in the cold dark cloak of the reaper’s passing.  The little black car speeds up the hill and disappears as I stop on the side of the road to make sense of what just happened.  Shattered plastic shrapnel is scattered on the shoulder and I realize that it’s the casing from that car’s passenger side mirror.  It struck the very crown of my guitar on the sharp point above my tuning knobs and exploded before me.  I’d like to think that the driver of the vehicle was distracted texting and didn’t see me until the last second.  However, my gut feeling tells me the driver had a malicious intent and wanted to see how close he could get to hitting me.  I have no anger somehow.  Only gratitude and awe.  Taking my girl from her case, I notice a dent where the impact took place but other than that, she’s fine.  I kiss the wood and hug her body tightly.  The voice of Antoinette’s God is silent but I heard something back there at Mt. Sinai Church.  If I hadn’t listened and my guitar would’ve been facing neck forward as usual, that mirror would have struck my left elbow and the consequences of that collision may have put me in the cemetery.  A moment of clarity comes from all of this and I remember the evening I spent in the graveyard so long ago and the nightmare I had.  My haunting premonition.  I’ll never forget this moment.  This is the day my guitar saved my life.

I tuck my sweet lady back in her case, breathing deep, calming and thankful I’m able to continue the journey.  A billboard catches my attention, advertising a café/deli in Woodville with free wifi and I make a mental note to stop there for dinner and a check-in with home.  More than anything at this moment, I’d like to call my family and tell them I’m safe and that I love them.  Louisiana is less than 10 miles away now as I enter the city of Woodville.  There isn’t much here and it doesn’t take long to find the deli.  An old man sits alone outside as I park my bike.  Our eyes connect and we nod in respect as I walk inside to investigate.  Without even having to ask I locate the password for the wifi and connect to the web on my phone and walk back outside.

“Hello, do you mind if I sit with you and relax for a bit?”  I ask.

The old man says, “Sit.  My name is Immanuel.  I saw you pedal in on that bike.  You don’t sound like you’re from around here.  Where are you coming from?”  he asks me with an inquisitive tone.  His skin is dark and weathered like it’s seen 80 Mississippi summers.  I tell him about my journey so far and my brush with death earlier.  He listens intently but shows no emotion.

“I need to call home and check in with my family, Immanuel.  Pardon me,” I say, dialing the numbers.  It rings and rings until the answering machine picks up.  I leave a message saying, “Hello mom, hi dad.  I’m in Woodville, Mississippi.  Louisiana is only about 10 miles away now!  I just wanted to call and let you know I’m alive and well and that I love you.  I’ll call again soon.  Goodnight.”

Right as I hang up the phone a cheerful white man waltzes up and greets Immanuel and then looks at me and says, “Hello.  Welcome to Woodville!  I’m Gary.”

He shakes my hand warmly and I say, “Thank you.  I’m just passing through on a bike tour, heading to New Orleans and wanted to stop for a rest.  I’m Michael.  It’s nice to meet you Gary.”

“Are you hungry?” he asks.

“Yes!  I was just thinking about what I should eat.”

He says, “Come inside with me and I’ll buy you dinner.”

I can’t pass that up.  Flashing him a smile, I follow him into the deli and we walk to the counter together.  He orders a slice of sweet potato pie and tells me to order whatever I like.  I get myself a grilled chicken sandwich with pepper jack cheese, tomato, onion and lettuce.  Gary pays the cashier and turns to me, discretely handing me a 10 and his business card.  It turns out Mr. D’Aquilla here is Mayor of Woodville!

I put the money and card in my pocket saying, “Gary, it’s been a rough day.  I had a near death experience earlier on the road just before entering your city and I’m still shaken up.  Drivers have been in such a careless hurry.  I can’t thank you enough for taking your time to welcome me here so graciously.”  I go on to tell him a few stories and experiences I’ve had on the road.  It’s the most valuable thing I have to share and he seems genuinely inspired and grateful to meet me.

“That’s amazing, Michael!  I have some other errands to run.  I wish I could stay longer but I have to go.  It’s been a pleasure to speak with you.  I wish you luck with the rest of your journey.”  He shakes my hand after saying this and disappears out the door with a bounce in his step.  I fiddle with my phone a little and notice all the comments and love people are sending me online from the post earlier about Traci and Buddy.  It’s hard to believe that just a half an hour ago I was within inches of that post being my last words to the world.  ‘I love you dad.  I don’t say that enough.’  I try to call home one more time without an answer and then walk outside to join Immanuel once again.

“What a nice guy.  I’m in Woodville for 5 minutes and the Mayor buys me dinner.”  My food comes right as I finish this sentence and it looks delicious.

The server says, “Would you like anything else?”

“No, this is perfect.  Thank you kindly.”  I reply as he walks back in.

Immanuel watches me take my first bite and says, “Gary has been real friendly around here.  He’s new to office and still excited about his job.  We’ll see how he’s doing with that in a month or 2.  This town has changed a lot over the years.  I’ve lived here all my life.  I remember when this place next door was a hamburger shack.  You could get the best burger you ever had for under a dollar.  A dollar doesn’t buy you hardly anything today.  When I was young, gasoline was only 23 cents a gallon.”

I set my sandwich down and say, “I remember taking road trips with my family as a child.  One summer we drove all the way to southern Texas with my grandparents in a smoky station wagon.  I remember gas being 99 cents.  That was the cheapest I’ve ever seen it.  A bottle of coke was only a quarter back then.  I guess when you look at that ratio of inflation, the price of sugar water has rose at nearly twice the rate of petroleum.  It seems like our country is addicted to both though and we’ll pay whatever they say.”  He laughs at that and starts quoting the bible and talking about when Clinton was president how everything was so much better.  I normally wouldn’t entertain such conversations but I listen respectfully and finish my sandwich.  “I should be heading out now.  I’d like to make it to Louisiana yet before dark and set up camp.”  I say.

“You have about 7 or 8 miles to go then.  You’ll find a truck stop off to your right as you cross the state line.  I was going in for a piece of pie.  Can I treat you to a piece before you leave?”  He asks and gets up slowly from the table, using his cane.

I say, “That’s awfully kind but I should really hit the road.  Thank you, Immanuel.  I enjoyed our talk.”

“Alright then.  Be safe now, Michael.”  He says. With a painful hobble he walks into the deli as I get up to hop on my bike.

On the short ride back to the 61, a stray dog runs across the street right in front of a car and nearly gets hit.  That would’ve been gruesome to witness.  This has been an emotional afternoon.  I’m looking forward to a good rest this evening.  Down the road a few miles I come across a cow pasture and spot some mushrooms growing in the field.  From here, they appear to be the psychedelic variety and I pull into a farmer’s road that ends at a gate, locked with a chain.  Cattle stare and wonder.  I jump the fence with a single leap and walk through the grass, kicking cow pies.  I find a small mushroom patch growing from one and sure enough, these are Psilocybe Cubensis.  I don’t need to take a spore print or check for the bluing of the stem when injured.  I’ve cultivated this strain and know it well.  I can’t be seen in this field, so I quickly gather 7 shrooms and jump the fence again.  My first harvest as a mycologist yielded 13 fresh mushrooms quite similar to these.  If dried, I would estimate they weighed about half an ounce.  I ate all 13 fresh and blasted off into the outer realms of inner space.  You could say I’m rather experienced but today’s stress would most likely be too much to think about tonight on a trip of even half that caliber.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a paper bag to store these properly and stick the fungi in the outer pocket of my backpack.  Luckily it seems I’ve escaped without detection and I’m back on the road.

It isn’t long before I reach the state line marker.  I stop on the shoulder for a picture, lining up the shot with the historic south 61 sign framed between the posts of the ‘Welcome to Louisiana’ sign and the sunset in the background.  Up the hill I find the truck stop Immanuel mentioned and pull in to buy a beer.  My phone hooks up to a wifi connection and I post the picture to Instagram saying, “I made it to the 10th and final state of my tour tonight with the sunset.  40 miles to Baton Rouge!”  I post that to my facebook wall and walk in to buy my beer.  Looking at the map on my GPS, I see a body of water just south of here called Rosemound Lake.  Maybe I could camp there and have a little fire to end this wild day.  I throw the beer in my bag and head that way.  Sleep comes over me fast though and the darkness sets in.  I’m suddenly exhausted and spot a respectable place to put my tent in the cover of some thick trees.  I don’t have the energy to continue, so I put my tent up and crack open my beer, sitting inside, writing with the red light of my headlamp illuminating the page.  I take my lady from her case and play a version of my dear friend’s song, ‘My Guitar’s a Woman’ thanking this sweet instrument for having my back when I needed her most.  I finish up and lay her down next to me, passing out on top of my journal with half a beer in my belly.