Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There’s something wrong with a society that drives a car to workout in a gym. ~ Bill Nye the Science Guy
In honor of Bike Month, I’ll be sharing a bicycle related quote like the one above -everyday in May. I hope you can get out there and enjoy life on two wheels. Ride to work, ride to school, just ride.
For more information on Bike Month…http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth
I’ll see you out there!
Attention Ms. Agent,
…When a busy life in the big city has Michael Fox feeling suffocated and unfulfilled, he leaves everything behind to follow his dreams. Crossing the country guided by the Mighty Mississippi, he puts his faith in the current and rides a bicycle along the River’s edge on a life or death journey of spiritual discovery…
Working in downtown Minneapolis and barely staying afloat financially, a young Mr. Fox becomes disgusted with society’s consumerism and the never-ending temptations of the fast life. At thirty-two, he quits his dead-end job and gives away his possessions; leaving the Twin Cities on a hand-me-down bicycle with nothing but $120.00, a guitar, and limited gear. His plan is to follow the river and camp along her banks while communing with nature and playing the people joyful music. He yearns to feel a deeper connection with the earth and dreams to write a book. This journey is his naked swan dive into the unknown.
Traveling down the backbone of America with a modern-day look at the Mississippi, he shares an intimate glimpse into the history of the river and our changing population. Trust the current and follow along on this daring ride as he finds love and the kindness of strangers within the synchronicity of life’s flow. The odds are against him as he pedals around pitfalls in the path and battles with ego, hunger, poverty, inexperience, addiction, relentless weather, malfunctioning gear, malicious drivers, and vicious wild animals! However, Mr. Fox will not return home with his tail between his legs. It’s either finish the journey and discover a way to walk in harmony with all that lives…or die trying.
This memoir is 110,000 words with pages full of child-like explorations resembling a Huck Finn mixed with the spiritual undertones of a Siddhartha. Fans of Jon Krakaur’s Into the Wild will resonate with the melody of The River Song and people from every walk of life will sing along to the tune of a universal message in this lyrical read. Narrated in a unique voice that speaks up for those who feel stuck or unable to have such a life-changing journey of the soul; the first-person present-tense perspective will put you right in the middle of it all. On this guided tour through America’s heartland, readers will live vicariously through poetic words of wisdom, finding excitement and inspiring ideas, accompanied by thought-provoking observations in a timeless, true-life adventure story.
It would be my honor to send you the manuscript. The River Song awaits you. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Michael Jason Fox
Celebrating the life of the man who biked around the world. Thomas Stevens -a wonderful story of inspiration
The Devils of Bagley
“Rivers are the primal highways of life. From the crack of time, they had borne men’s dreams, and in their lovely rush to elsewhere, fed our wanderlust, mimicked our arteries, and charmed our imaginations in a way the static pond or vast and savage ocean never could.” — (Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids from Hot Climates)
September 16, – There’s a tourist information center at the foot of the bridge leading to Iowa. I was late to wake today but not late enough for the rest area to be open for questions. Outside, there’s a big map of Wisconsin and its bordering neighbor. I take a look trying to decide which side of the river would be a more enjoyable ride. I’ve heard that Southwestern WI and Northeastern IA are both demons when it comes to hills and I hope to choose the lesser of the two evils. Unfortunately, most maps don’t provide topographical information. Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Mo… Well, this bike hasn’t seen Iowa yet and we’re off to the third state in five days.
I roll onto the massive bridge before me and begin to cross it. Coming up to the sign marking the Iowa state line, I stop and think for a moment. On the map, you’ll the see the river as the border between many states but how do these cartographers know where that line really is? The state line for Iowa isn’t even close to the middle of the river here. I picture those old politicians arguing and negotiating over such imaginary lines. Is the river not enough?When it comes to land a man can drag his foot in the sand and stand in command of what he claims as his. In this; there’s glory, defending that border from those who might intrude upon his territory. People kill over such trespasses.
There was a day in Minneapolis while staying at my friend Nelson’s house that I was mowing the lawn at the line of the property. I thought how silly it all is, this green, green grass and these imaginary lines. I made an extra pass into the neighbor’s lawn and he walked over to point out what’s his and what’s mine. It was the first time we spoke in the two months I’d been living there. All of this makes me ask myself, why do we draw these lines? Ego is the answer that comes to mind. We’ve put up fences all over the world, real and make believe. They separate us from our neighbors; more accurately speaking, they create the illusion of separation. As long as we continue to divide ourselves in the name of greed and the ownership of that which belongs to the ego, we will never work together as one. I see this to be our greatest downfall as a people.
Still on the bridge, daydreaming these thoughts; I snap back to action and proceed into Iowa, coming into the town of Marquette. I pass through the city in route to my southern path as gigantic hills wait in the distance on a road with a tiny shoulder and a rumble strip. Every fiber of my instinct tells me to turn around and head back to Wisconsin. Three miles of backtracking and I return to the tourist information center in Prairie Du Chien once again. This time it’s open and I approach the information desk.
The friendly lady at the counter says, “Good morning! What can I do for you?”
“Top of the morning to you as well,” I say with a smile. “I’m on a bike tour and not familiar with the area and I was hoping that you might have some advise on the best route to take heading south in regards to the hills and the scenery along the river.”
She’s says, “Okey-dokey. I think I can be of service.” Reaching under her desk she comes up with a map and turns it to me saying, “This should help you. There’s a four hundred mile bike loop that wraps around the southwest corner of the state here following the river roads. Now you won’t be able to avoid the hills but it should be a lovely ride.”
Folding the map, I ask, “May I have this?” She nods a silent yes and I put it in my back pocket thanking her for the help. Outside I sit down and eat my breakfast as I look at the map and plan my day’s travel. The sun is already powerful in the eastern sky and I can tell it’s to be a hot September day.
Following the bike loop from the map I pass through small farming communities but the road takes me away from the river as I enter the heart of Wisconsin’s cropland. The lady back at the rest area wasn’t lying about the hills. They come one after another in this endless sea of corn and soy beans. The climbs are painful to my muscles as I crank the pedals with everything I have; only going two or three miles per hour at times. Gripping the handle bars tightly I breathe deep and growl as I push to the top of yet another hill. On the down slopes I register speeds of up to twenty-five miles per hour so I guess it evens out in the long run with my overall average.
The sun beats down relentlessly on my already bronzed skin. Cotton candy clouds come and provide me relief from the heat ever so briefly. I packed away the boots and cargo shorts in favor of something lighter today as I ride this bike, practically naked. The thin silky athletic shorts I have on were formally worn as boxers at times in the past. They rise up on my ivory thighs as I pedal, exposing skin that’s never seen a sun like this. Sandals on me feet, a sweatband on my wrist and a binder in my hair completes the get up as I blaze this trail.
Every time I defeat a hill I see two more waiting on the horizon and morale is waning. Six and seven degree grades on these slopes force an occasional dismount. I walk the bike, heavy trailer in tow. The sting of sweat drips into my eyes as I bite my salty bottom lip, struggling to keep going. I feel like quitting! I’m too far from home to turn back now though as I wonder how long I can continue like this. I didn’t know Wisconsin had mountains. This hill is ridiculous! Cars pass by and must think I’m insane to have scaled toward this peak as far as I have. The only thing keeping me motivated at this point is my belief that the top is near. With the road winding around there’s no way to know that’s true for sure but I do have faith that this is almost over. Finally, reaching the summit, I relax and enjoy the view.
Jumping back on the saddle I pedal down the slope until the bike gears out and I coast, tucking low and reaching maximum velocity. I’m flying down this hill without braking, my trailer follows behind me. I know the dangers tearing around these corners as fast as my wheels can possibly turn. With no helmet and most of my skin exposed, one slip up and I’m dead. I didn’t come here to die though. I have a destiny to fulfill; and plus, I refuse to let fear slow this speed I’ve earned. The descent is nothing short of exhilarating and makes the climb behind seem almost worth it. Almost. Rolling to the bottom, I cruise into the town of Bagley, stopping to refill my water.
In the filling station I mention the war I just fought back there and the cashier says, “It’s not over yet. That was the smaller of the two hills. Bagley sits in the valley between them and down the road leaving the city you’ll find your next enemy waiting.”
In disbelief I ask, “Is there a way around? I’m not sure I can make it up another climb like that with this heavy load.”
He says, “Your only way out is up that next hill I’m afraid.”
I walk out shaking my head angry as I hop back on the bike. At the foot of the hill I stop for some sustenance and self talk. Beckoning the strength inside, I know this will be a case of mind over matter. I need to pump myself up though. Let’s do it! It’s a slow crawl and every rotation of my pedals sends a burn through my muscles as I claw my way up the hill. Having to walk the bike for a stretch; I feel demoralized, shedding tears and struggling to continue.
Digging deep I find the animal within, the beast I discovered during my years as a high school wrestler. As an athlete, I dominated the competition because I worked harder than anyone else was willing to work. Wiping my forehead, I summon that old beast from his resting place and as he rises from his hibernation. I let loose with a primal battle call. The call of the wild.
Visualizing myself on top, I feel that triumph as if it’s already happened and in so doing I find my second wind. I get back on the bicycle and push. I push myself further than I think is even possible and that drive inside finally takes me to the top. This type of self motivation is an art form that few practice and even fewer learn to develop. The fear that holds you back will chain you in stagnation. Now I stand upon the head of my opposition and look back at the hill and I look back at myself. To conquer the mind is our spirit’s hill; the conquest of faith, I lust for this victory as all champions must. The wind blows through my hair as I coast down the devil’s back. I see my magnificent shadow and feel exalted, gliding to flatter land.
The water bottles are empty again and thirst steps up as the new challenger. Dehydration weakens my stamina to its breaking point. An apple tree filled with fruit appears like a dessert oasis. I sit with my back to her trunk enjoying a moment of rest under the shade of her canopy. Eating four of her apples, I savor each to its core. Their juice becomes my breath as I thank this tree for the gift. With the four cardinal directions in my sights, I throw the cores as far as I can in the hopes that one day, the seeds will grow other trees on this land beneath my feet and that those trees will grow plentiful, bearing the sweetest fruit.
Satisfied and rejuvenated, I hit the road with a new energy. The appreciation of nature’s beauty always raises my life force and brings me to that special garden of gratitude where the seeds of dreams are manifested into my reality. The road finally brings me back within sight of the river and I enter the parish of Cassville. I find another river park with a shelter and pull my bike under the shade of the roof, leaning it on the table. Plugging my phone in, I sit down and poke a few one hitters. The granulated salt of my dried sweat has accumulated on my skin so I run to the river and dive in. It feels amazing to rub my body with some soap and rinse off. Swimming around, I float effortless on the water. A tug boat pushing a barge passes by sending a wake my way and I let the waves carry me toward shore. Feeling cool and refreshed, spreading a blanket out, I lie down and dry off in the sun while I read a few passages from my book. I fall asleep for a spell and wake up with a breeze that sends goose bumps over my sun burnt skin. This was a pleasant place to rest but the day is still young and I’m inspired to see where this path will take me next.
Two blocks down the way I see a group of female high school athletes getting ready to run. I spot the coach and for whatever reason, there’s one boy in the group and he’s pointing at me laughing as I pedal near.
I heard him say, “Ha-ha, look at this guy on the bike!” He has a big hole in his smile where he’s missing a tooth or two. The girls stare.
I haven’t seen many ladies on this trip so I’m staring too as I glide through without a word; but in my head I say, “You shouldn’t point. You might lose another tooth.” Looking that young man in the eyes I see his smile vanish and it’s obvious that he received my telepathic warning. I think the ladies got my message too. Until next time, Cassville -stay classy.
As I get back into the ring with the road, I take note of the Sun’s fading strength as the day begins to concede. I figure I have about three hours left to bike this evening. Those girls are still on my mind. It’s a weakness of mine and I’m definitely missing my connection to the energy of my lady friends. Women are my favorite inspiration and at the same time, my greatest distraction.
Twenty miles down the road and I’m surrounded by farmer’s fields as far as the eye can see. Up and down I go like the slowest roller coaster ever. At the top of a hill there’s a bar ahead on my right with a sign advertising happy hour deals and what do you know? The hour of happiness is upon us and I stop for a cold one. Right when I get off my bike I notice a huge grasshopper on my trailer. I’m curious as to how long he’s been there. He’s most likely hitched a ride with me for many miles. I hope he likes his new home. Retrieving my cargo shorts from my backpack, I pull them up and over what I’m wearing and put a shirt on before walking into the bar. It’s a little place but there might be twenty people in here. Even though it’s supposed to be illegal, everybody seems to have a cigarette and the room is filled with smoke. These country bars do what they want. Some of these folks have been coming here for years to socialize while they smoke and drink and there isn’t a law the state can pass that would change that routine.
It’s all eyes on me as I walk to the bar and it feels like the Wild, Wild West for some reason. The bartender is at my service immediately as I take a seat. I like that about her. She’s flirty too.
She says, “Hey there, what can I do for you?” as she twirls her hair around a finger, doing a little dance.
“I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” is playing on the jukebox and I can’t help but to smile at this woman, saying, “I’d love a shot of whiskey and a PBR.”
She pours me a shot and drops the beer in front of me. “I bought the shot for ya darling. It’s a dollar for the beer,” she says with a wink.
I like this place! These are my kind of prices. I put a few dollars on the bar and roll up a cowboy smoke. Taking the shot, my belly warms and I light up, surveying the room. I’m craving the touch of woman. Unfortunately, it looks like the ladies are slim pickings around here. It feels strange to be indoors and smoke at this bar. That doesn’t fly anywhere in Minnesota. Well you know what they say, when in Rome… I have another beer and roll one more cigarette and even though PBR’s are only a dollar and I can smoke where I sit, I still feel like I could be doing something more enjoyable. The truth is, this really isn’t my scene. It was nice to stop but I finish the beer and thank my bartender as I get up to go.
Outside I take the shirt off my back and let my hair down. My grasshopper hitchhiker friend disappeared while I was in the bar. Pulling out onto the road, I’m immediately happy with my choice to leave the low price temptations of that drinking hole behind me. I’m compelled to continue this journey. It isn’t but a mile down the road and I see legs and blonde hair on the opposite shoulder in the distance. She’s far away still but I can already tell she’s fine. Must be a local girl out for a walk. A truck zips by me heading towards her and slows down to investigate. They give a honk as they pass by her and she waves back. As I get closer, I start to feel a strong magnetic pull. Her curly blonde hair flows down to the middle of her back. She has on a pair of volleyball shorts and her tan body is perfect. Damn. I slowly pulled up parallel with her, catching a glimpse of her face for the first time and she’s far more lovely than I can begin to explain. We make eye contact, smiling at each other.
Sitting up tall on my seat, I bow my head slightly in respect and say, “I’m riding this bike all the way to New Orleans. I started in Minneapolis four days ago and you are the most beautiful thing I’ve seen on my trip so far. My name is Michael. May I walk with you?”
She blushes a little and says, “I’m Charlotte. It’s nice to meet you Michael. Come over here and walk with me. You really came all the way from Minneapolis on that bike?!”
I say, “Yeah, I have a long way to go too!” laughing as I cross the road, pushing my rig next to her as we begin to walk south along the shoulder. “I feel like I’m dreaming. I’ve been craving the company of woman and this is a pleasure for me to speak with you.”
“Awe, you’re too kind. You came all this way to be here now, so I have to think we met for a reason,” she tells me as we walk.
I see a small gravel road to the left that runs along a corn field. There’s a gorgeous oak tree down the way and I direct her attention toward it. “Would you sit with me below that tree? I have a blanket in my trailer and a guitar. I can think of nothing I’d rather do right now than sing you the sweetest songs I know.”
Her eyes light up and she nods in agreement. There’s something in those eyes. Passion and enthusiasm. An excitement and appreciation for the moment. It’s contagious and inspires me to give her my best in this time we share. I spread the blanket out beneath the tree and we sit as I take my guitar out. Those blue eyes are wide and fixated on me. A breeze blows through the leaves above us and I can smell the coming of fall on the air.
I tune my guitar and begin to play. She watches, curious and encouraging. I feel so comfortable in her presence. My voice finds wings and my fingers do things they’ve never tried. The tune I sing is about the infatuation of a man with a woman he just met and whether he should run or fall. When I finish the song I notice a tear run down her cheek. Reaching up to her face I wipe it away and kiss her gently below her eye. She leans in with no hesitation and I find her lips with mine. True Divine. There’s energy between us that arks and our kiss is the spark that ignites the love flame eternal. No past. No future. Only now. We both have a magical present. I open her gift and she unwraps mine.
Looking at me in bewilderment, Charlotte says, “What really made you leave home? You’re such a talented handsome man. What would drive you to leave your family and friends behind to ride your bicycle across the country? Was it a woman? You have a broken heart don’t you?”
I think about that for a moment before answering, “No Charlotte, my heart isn’t broken. I’ve only loved three times and those women are each amazing in their own ways. I always wished for more though. I desired a mutual acceptance and appreciation that I never completely found. The balance was always off . My leaving wasn’t due to a broken heart; quite the opposite, it came from my love for life! I wasn’t enjoying my work or my living situation any longer and things got too complicated. Too fast. I wished for simplicity and the solitude I was missing. I love my bike and the river has been a great muse of mine, but more than anything I dream of being an author! Riding my bicycle along the river, camping and playing music while writing a novel: that became an idea that I couldn’t shake from my mind. Why suffer? Why not have what I really want? Tomorrow is no guarantee Charlotte. Experience what you wish for right now!”
She leans in to kiss me again and with a breathy whisper, she says, “I wish for you to make love to me, right now.”
“Your wish is my command,” I say this last truth as we begin to speak the language of no words.
We lose ourselves in each other and find ourselves with the joining of spirits, transcending time and space. The love we make is more than a physical ecstasy, it’s a joyous union of soul and consciousness, a harmony of being that reverberates through the ether. We create a melody that launches off into the cosmos and travels through skies of alien landscapes as a bright shooting star upon which wishes are made and dreams come true.
In our brief time together, I appreciate her presence completely and immerse myself in the very essence of her being, as she does mine. Collapsing in the arms of my lover, our heart beats syncopate and stay this way as we breathe a breath of life together, timeless. With love like this, the conception of genius becomes possible. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized the true message that I have to give to the people I’ll encounter on the road ahead. The past is but a memory and the future is only fantasy. All we have is now, so appreciate this moment, this moment is your life!
Her phone has been beeping with text messages and it rings as we get our things together. Someone is missing her. I kiss Charlotte once more and with all of my gratitude; I thank her for seeing me, seeing the real me and appreciating me fully with those angel eyes. What a vision. Packing my things away, we say farewell, wanting nothing more and nothing less. With this maturity and understanding, our moment together remains perfect, for now and forever.
Riding off into the sunset like a scene from a movie, my face hurts from smiling and I move like the wind without looking back. I could pedal all night with this energy running through me. My heart flutters as I think about the road I’m on and the way people’s path’s cross. We seem to have an ability to manifest our desires with a faith in life’s abundance and this is no great secret.
Darkness comes in and the night sky is crystal clear. Finding a wayside rest area after the town of Tennyson, I pull over and put up my tent. Before climbing in and attempting to sleep, coyotes howl as I look up at the diamonds in the sky and ponder this existence, thanking my lucky stars to be exactly where I am, right here, in this eternal moment.
Pursuing my dreams, dreaming of better days, my dream girl, a bad dream, the dream world…
We all dream. Some of us are far more in touch with that whole realm than others. Why is that? You also might ask yourself, who is this character I play in the dream world? What’s the purpose of my dreams and how can I benefit from them? I have some experience to share with you and the following post will concisely address these questions. Beginning a conversation on this topic would be dreamy for me, so please feel free to comment and leave your thoughts.
I’ve been fascinated with dreaming -ever since I was a child. Keeping journals and reading books; focusing on the practice and speaking with old school dreamers. The intentional community I live in- (http://www.teachingdrum.org/ ) has a focus on communing with nature and healing our patterns. The dream work is a big part of our culture. Each morning upon rising, I write down my dreams in a journal. Fleeting memories disappear so quickly. It helps to focus on the feeling of the dream. That feeling is the essence you’re looking for in expressing its message and reflecting on the meaning. How did it make you feel -so important. A good night’s rest, a regular sleep schedule and waking up in a gentle manner are essential for my personal dream retention. An alarm clock will often startle me awake too quickly and my fragile dream floats away like a feather in the wind. I’ve trained myself to wake up without the alarm the majority of mornings and it’s helped with the dream work immensely.
The dream self is you. That’s the character you portray in the dream world. This character has no ego and often times brings a message to the real-world-you about issues you’ve been struggling with in your waking life. Dream messages are a call for action. It’s your interpretation of what your dreams were telling you. I occasionally share my dream message on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/Michaeljasonfox ) -as inspiration to friends and as a reminder to self. For instance, today’s dream message was: Express yourself fearlessly. Be joyous and expect what you desire will manifest if you will, but also expect that anything can happen still -being free of attachment to an outcome. We have a number of huge projects happening at the school right now and there have been a few issues with communication and working together efficiently -speaking our truths. Yesterday I looked forward to making major progress on a marketing plan for the bulk mailing of a book I’m helping to promote. Needing the expertise of another to print address labels from my spreadsheets, I found myself waiting around for that help and feeling victimized. I finally spoke with this person and let them know what my needs were and I asked for an update on progress and how I could help. This is truth speaking. Much of the pain I chose vanished but the remnants still found themselves in my dreams last night. Over an over my dream self was telling me to have fun and to be free of silly expectations –express yourself fearlessly. During this Sun, I take that with me as I do my work with intentions of recognizing these opportunities in the moment and this is how dreaming is valuable for me.
I used to practice dreaming lucidly but even this is of the ego -control dramas and such. Your dream message can often times hold a key to the door of personal evolution -it does pay to listen. First though, we have to learn to hear and I hope this helps. Some would say the dream self really is you and that the waking life of ego is only but a dream. It’s a complex place filled with simple truths veiled in mystery -the dream world. I feel a nap coming on…
I have climbed to summits that cannot be fathomed in the minds of most ants; yet they work together as a tiny community in ways that cannot be conceived by many modern men.