Month: October 2014

Final Thoughts on the Summer Tour

Dear friends,

San Francisco was 3 weeks of madness: urban camping, music, trippin’, hoppin’ trains, rackin’, working above Mission, staying at the L Hotel (squat house), teaching Mycology 101, chasin’ guhs, studying addiction/compulsions and Capitalism…

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It isn’t cheap to live in the Bay area. Studio apartments run about $1,500 a month! 10,000 homeless people reside in San Francisco and yet 30,000 vacant housing units sit unused.. the math isn’t hard. Squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied area of land and/or buildings – usually residential – that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have lawful permission to use. The L Hotel has been operating for 2 years with electric and water, rent free and catering to travelers and those in need. Two interesting men occupied this house during my stay and I’ll keep them anonymous for confidentiality reasons but I can tell you that I found a job in the city and they paid me $30 an hour while I lived with a man who doesn’t even use money. There was also the contradiction of my smoking and drinking while I watched the other gentleman in the house get sober before my eyes. It was something else to end my explorations of freedom in America with this investigation into alternative ways of living. After saving the money for my return, I flew into Minneapolis for a wonderful reunion with family and friends and I’m ready to share my final thoughts on the summer and what’s next up for The Fox Trails.

Bicycle Dream Ride : The Summer Tour Overview

Purpose: to explore modern-day America on an old bicycle, examining freedom and collecting the characters and stories necessary to complete The Fox Trails trilogy.

June 20th – July 4thMinneapolis, Minnesota to Lake Itasca State Park and back to Grantsburg, Wisconsin. I rode north along the Mississippi River to pay homage to the source and from there I pedaled to my family’s home in Wisconsin, arriving to celebrate the 4th of July.

July 19th – September 28th: Grantsburg, Wisconsin to San Francisco, California.

Overall distance biked is estimated to be in excess of 3,000 miles

Equipment:

The bike: A Raleigh M-40 hand-me-down.

I wore no helmet and never locked the cycle. Without the use of panniers or trailer, I carried along all the gear needed to be self-sufficient on the road.

My touring set-up was placed on the scale at the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters and the total weight registered at 125 lbs. The average touring cyclist travels with 50-70 lbs. The photos below will give you a detailed description of my equipment and how it was carried…

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The foundation for the rear rack is Some of the Dharma by Jack Kerouac. A two-person tent and a bedroll are both secured to the rack with bungee cords.

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My backpack containing books, a computer and writing materials, toiletries, tools, etc.. is strapped to the seat post with bungee cords. A canteen was used as a spacer between the seat and the pack.

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A side view of the rear set-up. The pack on the back acts as a backrest and I could even push into it for leverage.

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The guitar case is simply hanging on the handlebar. The neck of the guitar extends back to the bedroll and leaves just enough space for my left leg to do its work on the pedal. A stuff sack containing my food/cooking equipment and clothes is dangling from the right side of the handlebar, secured with a bungee around the front fork. I kept the guitar in a leaf bag within the case and the stuff sack is lined with a trash bag for easy water proofing.

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The front view shows my handlebar bag where I kept the tools for bicycle repairs. Some of the tools I carried include: an extra chain, brake pads, oil, grease, wrenches, tubes, patches, air pump, tire…

Funding:

Leaving home with only $50, I knew that stopping to work along the way would be inevitable and so it was. Kind people showed me love everywhere I went and I received a number of generous and timely contributions throughout the journey into the west. The states that I biked through include: Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California. I’m pleased to report that America is still a land of opportunity and despite the unemployment rate, I was able to find work when needed and I also received a monthly direct deposit for royalties from book sales which helped greatly in funding my summer travel. Big thanks to everyone that purchased a book!

Observations:

Pristine and seemingly untouched country still exists in America. I fell in love with the Yellowstone River and the diversity of Montana’s sparsely populated land. The North Cascade Highway in Washington is the most beautiful place I’ve ever laid eyes upon, even surpassing the breathtaking views of the Oregon coast and California’s Redwoods. However, on the other end of the spectrum, I passed through oil country in North Dakota and the ugliness of what I saw was disturbing. Wages are higher here yes, but so are the price tags on everything. Cheaply constructed prefab houses (not meant to last) are poppin’ up all over and people pay top dollar to live in them. One day, the wells will be capped and the workers will no longer be needed. The oil men will take their fracking techniques to other places of exploitation and a ghost town will be left behind for the new boom. I see this model repeating itself on different levels throughout the country and the world for that matter. We take and take, working jobs we don’t believe in, for the purpose of funding purchases, only leaving the evidence of our insatiable desires through the torn packaging of products we don’t even need; the litter of America is the proof of our careless consumption and lack of foresight.

Highlights:

The history of the trail I chose is rich and the people…I had visits with old friends and family along the way, I met new friends and told my story to many. There was romance and the naked bike ride in Missoula. I had encounters with animals and the serenity of nature.  I passed through places where cannabis is now legal and saw the early effects of this new development. There was the mountains and of course the unexpected whitewater rafting adventure and ferry rides through the Puget Sound. The misty coast of Oregon and its beautiful state parks and nature reserves, the mystical Redwood Forest and the immensity of the Pacific Ocean…I may not agree with the government but I am a patriot to this land.

What’s Next?

I’ll be laying low for the winter, writing book 2 and 3 of The Fox Trails trilogy.

Book 2 will pick up in New Orleans and take me to Tennessee for the writing process and my reintegration into city life. From there I briefly returned to the Twin Cities before taking an opportunity at Teaching Drum Outdoor School http://www.teachingdrum.org/ where I learned Native Lifeways and mentored under the author, Tamarack Song. I spent months of sobriety here, putting the finishing touches on my memoir before coming back to Minneapolis for the publication and book release. Falling back into habits of consumption, I struggled in the city before riding my bicycle along the Mississippi to pay homage to the source. I intended to begin my journey into the west from Lake Itasca State Park but the river told me to go home and so I did, passing through landmarks from my past along the way and arriving in Wisconsin to spend the Fourth of July with my family -freedom on the mind…

Book 3 will take readers on a journey into the west, through oil country and along the Lewis and Clark Trail, over the mountains and down the coast to San Francisco as I explore ideas of freedom while riding a bicycle across the country. This trilogy will deliver a snapshot of modern-day America, with my personal struggles as a man evolving in our confused and rapidly changing country.

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Thank you all, for your support and love along the way. You’ll be the first to see this outline unfold in my writing and I look forward to sharing this process of creation with you as it happens. Until next time..

Happy Trails,

-MJ