Month: September 2014

San Francisco

Hello Friends,

Greetings from San Francisco! I’m sad to announce that my bicycle tour has come to an unexpected ending in the Golden City 😦   I barely made it here and just scraped by the finish line last evening with fairly empty pockets, a heavy heart and a broken bike…

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Last time we spoke, I was just arriving in Fort Bragg and what a stay that was! I set up a stealthy camp in the woods right near the ocean and took four days off to rest and look for work. I got a job down on the harbor with a fishing company specializing in sea urchins (which they process and export to Japan).

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The employees (all Hispanic) arrived at 4 a.m. and set the fiesta music on party volume and we got to it. Some were cracking open the pokey urchins, some pulled out the insides and some cleaned the intestines and others preformed the final checks. What a weird assembly line. I knew the job wasn’t for me fifteen minutes into it but I stayed on and worked, donating a day of labor for the kindness that I’ve received on the road. Definitely a strange glimpse of freedom in America..

After work, I met a woman praying in the park, immersed in the celebration of silence and although she didn’t speak to me, we had a deep exchange. She cried as I shared my philosophy on speech. Words can be confusing and often times the labels that we put on things are unnecessary and inaccurate but the languages of the world have such a rich history and what a way to share complex ideas and emotions. She inspired me though and for two days I fasted and spoke not. It rained for 24 hours straight and I stayed in the tent and read three books and wrote tenaciously.

Back on the road, the route took me over some serious climbs and gorgeous views of California’s rugged coast.

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50 miles north of San Francisco, I began a long climb and switched into granny gear but my chain locked up and the shear force bent the steel on my frame and snapped off my rear derailleur.

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What now? Hitchhike? I was able to shorten my chain and MacGyver a single speed ride which I pedaled 20 miles to the next bike shop just to find out it was irreparable. What a bummer! Wanting to finish in San Francisco, I decided to complete the last 30 miles of the adventure with my one gear, stuck in 2-3. Not an easy task and a huge test of patience but I made it, barely.

My old Raleigh will find her resting place here in the bay area. Maybe I’ll ghost ride it off the Golden Gate? One way or another, we’ve had some wonderful adventures together (almost 4,000 miles this summer alone) and she deserves a proper burial. On our journey into the west, I personally replaced 11 tubes, two tires, one rear rack, two sets of brake pads, one pedal, one crank arm, and even a seat that broke in half. I rode her hard and we did it like no one before. And so the sun sets upon The Fox Trails…

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I have very little money left and I’ll be here in Frisco, riding around on my crippled lady while I work and put together the cash for my return. It was a helluva ride. A dream ride…and now I have two books to write!

Happy Trails,

-MJ

Craving California

Hello Friends,

I write to you from Fort Bragg, humbly yours and slightly older here in California after celebrating another birthday.

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A sunny day on the Eleventh of September, I met some lovelies on the beach in Yuchats and a tailwind blew me right over Cape Perpetua.

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3 soon-to-be nurses. Thank you for the birthday love. You inspired the climb.

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I drank a gallon in Old Town with a guy who made 2 million dollars last year playing World of Warcraft. I confronted him about a tip he left, Larry David-style..probably jumped the gun. I’ve still been out here drinking and smoking, making mistakes and rubbing elbows with the craziest characters I can find -jotting down dialogues, conducting interviews and social experiments. The journal overfloweth.

Birthday =’d Overindulgence.

With the Dunes in the dust, the remainder of Oregon’s Coast was promised to be the most scenic. However, I found it to be draped in a curtain of fog, the ocean blue, her immensity concealed within a misty veil.

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Not a drop of rain for all of Oregon.

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Over 80 state parks and recreations areas can be found on the Oregon Coast. I explored them extensively, slowing my days down to 50 or 60 miles in order to see the sites. Bittersweet farewells usually lead to new hellos.

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This trip, exploring freedom, has also been about refinement and evolution. What are the chains that bind me? To quit smoking and drinking has been an illusive goal. Now I find myself in California, the mysterious trees and Humboldt County. It permeates the air.

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Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox make another appearance, far larger than the ones I saw in Bemidji. Do you see my bicycle by his ax handle?

My first time in the Coastal Redwoods and I ride the Avenue of the Giants.

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It feels prehistoric here among the ferns and the 300 foot kings.

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A challenge to photograph, much like a beautiful nude woman might pose a problem to paint. Too eager to make love.

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Shallow, earthquake-proof root structures.. Redwoods can live for over 2,000 years, surviving floods, fires, bugs.. even the force of man.

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In 1850, there were 2 million acres of Coastal Redwoods in California. Due to logging, 100,000 or so remain. I see enough logging trucks and bark scattered along the roadside to make me believe it hasn’t ended in the least and I pass another huge log mill…

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It rains hard while I roll through this old growth forest and the ancients drink greedily. It hasn’t rained in northern California since March. Wet, yes, but thankful I was able to smell this place after the storm. I camp at Elk Prairie and catch a few photos in the morning light.

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I’ve been staying at the hiker/biker campsites along the coast but ended up in Weott with a rainy flat tire #10, right at a bar filled with cannabis workers. They put me up for the night on the property and it seemed as if my fantasy to trim weed would come true. I slept on it though and left with the morning light, passing up the potential opportunity to work as a trimmer. I even manage to pass on the grass all together lately -a step in my evolution long overdue and what a better place to have this triumph than in Hippieville with the S.A.T’S of testing before me. If you’re scared to sing, go to open mic.

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100’s of traveling kids flock to Garberville and I have no desire to stay and seek employment here. I see the medicine in Marijuana for what it is and I realize that like all strong medicines, there will be side effects. I’ve smoked ganja on and off (mostly on) for 20 years.  Finally, I say with clarity, it isn’t worth it to me. When I smoke, I become tired and hungry, shy and lazy… states not in harmony with my travels and current lifestyle. Hunger should sharpen the senses like a tracker on the trail. The time has come to leave the green behind and move forward with this step that I’m ever-happy to take in this place where it matters the most -very important for character development. I do believe I’ve found a great secret in these Redwoods, a mystical, magical place.

It’s been 2 months on the road now, living simple if you could call it that. Cravings and thoughts of consumption abound. The endless ocean cries to wet my unquenchable thirst. I do see a more beautiful ending to the story now and what I’m beginning to crave the most is stillness and the chance to bring to life a fragment of the beauty I’ve seen. I think Peter Pan just grew up. The California coast is over 1,000 miles long and I’m back on the ocean again. I’ll be stopping to work a humble job somewhere small and quiet, where I might write my storybook ending with a pending return on the horizon. I’ve been craving this moment…until next time.

Happy Trails,

-MJ

A Birthday Kiss

Dear Friends,

Reporting live from the Oregon Coast in Lincoln City. I’ve always loved Oregon and this coast is truly a bicycle dream ride. My legs are sore (but not from biking) from climbing a mountain and I’m taking a break in the city to recover. Much has happened since Anacortes, WA. Widbey Island was extremely challenging to cycle. I rode it during the busy time of the year and the road was filled with sight-seeing tourists driving rented camper trailers for the first time. Narrow roads and salt water bridges like Deception Pass provided me with a heart-wrenching afternoon.

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 With cannabis legal in Washington, I thought I would see it being used more liberally but that wasn’t the case, although I did spot this headline from the local newspaper…

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I met a medical card holder who held the opinion that the young kids that voted in the recreational law are the same kids that will most likely mess it up for the people who really need the medicine. That’s an interesting standpoint and one that I’d like to hear more opinions on. I’m sure I’ll have the chance as I progress south. Many ferries depart from Whidbey Island in different places, some carrying 150 cars and leaving every 15 minutes. I took the ferry from Clinton to Mukilteo and bikers are considered pedestrians so the ride was free of charge.

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In Mukilteo, I connected with a great woman named Marci who lives in Edmonds via Warmshowers which is a website like Couchsuring but only for touring cyclists. Marci was a wonderful host and a total nurturer. She has a traveling daughter and it was intriguing to hear a parent’s pride and concerns. Marci sewed my ripped guitar case and added two bicycle patches and even gave me a tour of the city, riding down into Seattle with me the next morning..Thank you, Marci. You are wonderful!

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My brake pads needed changing after the hills but I arrived downtown on the day of the Seattle Seahawk’s home opener vs. the Green Bay Packers. I know they won the super bowl and whatnot but seriously, these people are nuts. Maybe being on the road for this long has changed me but I just couldn’t take the noise and the commotion. The city was chaos and rather than playing my guitar and trying to make some money like I’d planned, I paid $9.00 to take the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton to escape the madness as quickly as possible.

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I stayed that night at the Twanoh State Park and hit it hard the next day, riding along the Hood Canal and then all the way to the ocean at Bruceport Park. I met some interesting characters along the way, spending time with a young lady who just signed a record deal and is moving to Miami and I helped out a rubber tramp and gave him some food in exchange for a few of his stories from the road. The ocean was waiting though and I’ve come a long way to see her. There’s a number of advantages to biking the country from east to west like I did…number one: in the early mornings, the sun’s glare is at your back as well as the back’s of any vehicles that might be attempting to pass…number 2: one has to cross some desolate land before a mountain is in view and of course to climb a mountain is necessary to see the ocean so there’s always something to look forward to. I’ve been waiting to see the Pacific and my first night camping near the water was lovely..

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My time in Washington was coming to a close but not before the Lewis and Clark grand finale. I followed some of the trail on the way west and here where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, so too have I met my end with the Corps of Discovery’s mission. I have mixed emotions on the whole Lewis and Clark thing but they did something amazing and I’m happy to have studied it so deeply. I say farewell to Washington and cross the 4.3 mile bridge, taking me into Astoria, Oregon.

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I meet another hitch hiker not too far from Seaside. He’s bleeding and I stop to help him, giving him food and water. These guys always seem to have a dog. I roll into Cannon Beach and the tourism is at its peak. This is one of the most photographed parts of the Oregon Coast and everybody wants a picture of Haystack Rock.

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I played music in town for a bit and made a little coin. I was almost ready to head out and then I met some real characters. Tony came up with the sax and his entourage behind him. This guy is a real performer and a pleasure to listen to.

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Tony and Andre

They’re from Portland and they drove out to the ocean for the day to hang out. Along for the ride was also Ashlin, Arrow and Sam. I decided to stay in Cannon Beach for the night to camp with these kids. We had a wild one: drinks and music, stories and stories and very little sleep.

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I really learned from Tony, watching him play for the people. It’s one thing to sound good but to captivate an audience is a whole different talent and he is amazing at it. I hung out a little longer than I imagined I would and found it hard to say goodbye when it was time to roll out. Up the road, I encountered the first of two tunnels in my path along this route. Riding through a tunnel is dangerous, especially when it’s uphill and missing a shoulder like this one…

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Thankfully, there was a lighting system to notify drivers when a cyclist is inside. The sun was beginning to set but I decided to take a side trip as I entered Oswald State Park. I stashed my bike in the bushes and began to climb Neahkanie Mountain. I carried my bedroll and guitar along for the trek. My plan was to camp near the summit so that I could see the ocean more clearly, like a vision quest. Not a huge mountain by any means, I’ve climbed far larger, but a challenging trail nonetheless. Darkness came and the wind off the ocean was really kicking up the mist. I must have hiked at least two or three miles up a steep route and eventually found a flat place to sleep behind a tree. I woke up two hours before the sunrise and mounted the summit where I sat in silence. I brought no food or water as I intended to fast and think about my time with the kids in Cannon Beach. When the sun finally came up, all I could see was a mountainside covered in a misty fog. I waited and waited but it seemed to thicken and for a moment I was disappointed that I couldn’t see the unsurpassed views of the ocean from the summit… but then I realized that the ocean came all the way up here to kiss my cheek. It was a profound thing to learn and definitely well worth the climb.

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I found other mountains shrouded in the ocean mist that day as the clouds dispersed and the sun broke through. My legs are extremely sore from the climb as I strained muscles differently than I’ve been used to, but I find myself in Lincoln City now. My 125 mile marathon days are over and I’m taking it easy as I coast along this gorgeous scenery. I used to say I’d like to live here. I’m not so sure of that anymore. My birthday is on the 11th and it’s bittersweet to be away from family and friends. This is the deep spiritual part of my journey where I focus and grow the most -sober and humbling. It is true that I’m surrounded by beauty and I’m doing what I love but I also miss home and I wish that I could kiss your face…but wait a moment…maybe I can???

I’ll check in soon. Newport Beach is just down the way…

Happy Trails,

-MJ

The Most Scenic Road in America?

Hello Friends,

I made it to Anacortes last night!

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My arrival may have come much sooner if I wasn’t such a greedy bear in the blackberry bramble.

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I last wrote to you from Brewster where I pushed north through the fire and flood damaged Methow River Valley. I could still smell the scorched conifers of Washington’s largest forest fire ever. This map shows how the fire spread…http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/28/map-record-washington-wildfire/13286505/ The 153 was closed at Carlton for road work but I went around the barriers and enjoyed a traffic-free route until I reached a construction zone where half of the road collapsed and became a waterfall.

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I rode around to the other side and spoke with a disgruntled farmer who believes the fires could’ve easily been prevented and that the forest service and the DNR let this land smolder for three full days after the lightning strikes started the flames. I said, “Now why would they do such a thing?” He said, “Fire brings big money with labor and logging.” Conspiracy theory? I’ll let you be the judge.

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The land here is fertile and the valley thrives with orchards as well as the now legal cultivation of cannabis. Excited to reach the North Cascades Scenic Highway, I rode through Twisp and reached the town of Winthrop which was filled with old western shops and bustling with the business of tourists on a busy Labor Day weekend.

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Ready to leave town, I stopped in at the bike shop and learned about a hostel of sorts called Barn Bicycle Camping just up the road. You can read about it here..http://barnbicyclecamping.blogspot.com/

I was welcomed graciously by Jim and Jan who live here and give back 20% of all donations to the Adventure Cycling Association.

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I met two other cyclists as I approached the barn. Virginia and Leslie..They just graduated college and decided to bike across the country. I told them about the hostel but they had a warmshowers host for the evening..Unfortunately on the way in, I got my 8th flat tire of the tour but I quickly set up camp and changed out the tube. Two love birds from Ohio welcomed me to camp..Kate and Keaton. They’ve been on the road for 12 weeks!

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Kate and Keaton from Ohio

Another couple pulled in, Amanda and Rob. They live in Seattle and rolled up on a sweet tandem cycle. I have no idea how they do it with such balance and teamwork. Poor Amanda can’t see anything back there and yet they’ve had that machine spinning at 50 MPR.

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We all enjoyed a beautiful evening in preparation for the big climb in the morning over Washington Pass. I thought a lot about these couples and what they’re sharing. I’m envious in many ways and sometimes I do wish that I had a love that was wild enough to keep up with the fox trails but at the same time I’m also content with the solitude of going at my own pace. And true to that form, I let the couples ride up the mountain together while I waited behind at the cafe for an extra half an hour to ride alone. I really had no clue how beautifully challenging the road ahead would be…

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A truck passed by me in the opposite direction and lost its left rear trailer wheel. I watched it roll ahead of the vehicle and launch itself off the cliff as the trailer dropped to the rotor in a grinding halt. That white speck in the pictures below is him.. 129 132 130

I had to climb that gnarly switchback and then I took this photo of the truck from above. The driver must not have had a spare because he was actually climbing down into the canyon in an attempt to retrieve the wheel. Unbelievable…I eventually made it to the top and I’m fairly sure I’m the first adventure cyclist to do the Washington Pass with a guitar on the handlebar!

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The Pacific Crest Trail has many access points on this highway and the National Park was teaming with hikers. I flew down the hill and made the Rainy Pass surprisingly quick to find Kate and Keaton on the downhill speaking with another biker. We rode together for a spell but I left them in the dust at the Ross Dam. I can’t even begin to describe how gorgeous the descent is after Rainy Pass and these photos really won’t do it justice…

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Jack Kerouac spent two months in 1956 at Desolation Lookout and the reflection and inspiration he experienced up here would lead to stories like the Dharma Bums. These blog posts are merely a scratch on the surface of what I’ve been getting into on this trip; just quick updates when I have a moment. My true voice sings in the journal I write in religiously every night and it’s brimming over with the ideas that will become the The Fox Trails trilogy.

I made it all the way down to Newhalem that night around 6 and entered the National Park campground. To my surprise, I found Virginia and Leslie there as well so we camped together and shared some song and story. Sweet girls..I left in the morning right as they were waking up and made it to Anacortes by the evening..My plan is to ride down to Whidbey Island where I’ll take the ferry from Clinton to Mukileto and proceed through Seattle en route to Cape Disappointment and Astoria for the Lewis and Clark finish before cruising the 101 along the ocean through the harvest. That’s the plan for now..

I mapped my general route thus far with the help of Harley and this is what it looks like if you’re interested in that..http://bit.ly/Z5hm2d I made decent time considering I’ve spent about 15 days off of the saddle since July 20th.

Bright and early this morning, I wasted about three hours attempting to update the blog with these photos and lost it all due to a bad internet connection. That was a bummer! I know many of you have never experienced the North Cascades Scenic Highway and it’s my pleasure to share with you a glimpse of what I saw. It was a hard road to ride but it was totally worth it and I believe it to be one of the finest trails I’ve ever had the chance to fox around on. You should seek it out for yourself one day if you so choose. Until next time..

Happy Trails,

-MJ