Writing

Vulnerability

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Dear Friends,

I was laying in bed the other morning -manic- and I couldn’t get up. Crippled with a stream of negative thoughts that clouded my usually positive outlook, I just kept laying there, miserable. The Fox Trails just turned 1 and after promoting the book for an entire year, I’m finally realizing that it has a bunch of mistakes in it. And I’m not just talking about the many questionable choices I made during the course of the adventure, I’m also referring to missing words, a few grammatical mishaps, and a horrible font. I just sold a ton of books too so these errors are on my mind now.

I imagine the reader’s judgements; they terrify me. However, not one person has come to me after reading the book to give me a harsh review.  Still though, I was laying there in my bed, stressed out and worried that these errors might prevent people from seeing the beauty behind the imperfections. I was scared that the mistakes might stand out more than the truth within.

I wanted to share this vulnerability with you; I think there’s a parallel here and a metaphor for relationships. When I judge someone on their issues or their imperfections, I build a wall between us. I’ve found that when I have the courage to push passed my fears and to knock that wall down (or at least see through it), something beautiful waits for me on the other side. It’s like me looking for the perfect woman (perfect woman you say?)…if I don’t have compassion and understanding to see through what I perceive to be flaws, I won’t have relationship; I’ll be constantly searching for what’s ‘out there’ rather than engaging with what’s right here.

This doesn’t mean that we have to settle for something subpar or squint our eyes to see the potential of a situation -we can engage fully with what is, right now. To get beyond our egoic mind and our judgements, to break down the walls we build, to see through the scariness, without this approach, how many enjoyable books and beautiful people will we dismiss prematurely?

I have the gift (and the curse) of being able to share deeply without much preparation, whether that be a public presentation or some improvised music for an audience, even publishing a book. I’m honored to share that with you as a part of my process and I hope it’s encouraging… throw it out there, make some mistakes, take a chance and be real, be vulnerable, be adventurous. In the next post, I’ll be discussing the idea of Animal Guides (spirit animals) and the gifts they bring us. Until then…

Happy Trails,

-MJ

P.S. I’m currently revising The Fox Trails book 1 and I’ll be releasing an updated version with a fresh font and a thorough polish. I have a number of speaking engagements on the calendar this summer at local libraries and such. I’ll be giving readings and book signings with live music and a photographic tour of my bicycle trips.

What Happened to Kerouac? The Beat Goes On…

Dear Friends,

Beats, Beatniks, Hippies, Yippies, and yup…yuppies. Maybe the yup, yes-sir mentality of conformity led to that name..

The Beat Generation rose up and questioned everything. They questioned the postwar consumerism of the 50’s and they opposed the conventional structures of a materialistic society. They brought the freshness of postmodern art to the masses and they pushed the limits of censorship. I admire the Beats for that, especially Kerouac. His love for nature and travel was spiritual and pure. His strange patriotism, his wish for recognition, his love for his mother, his awkwardness around women, his drunkenness, his sensitivity, his loneliness, his dedication, and his poetry…I can relate.

Some friends undoubtedly read On the Road, some didn’t. Some of the people that I consider to be the best of friends, have yet to read The Fox Trails –maybe never will and I understand. But who out there really understands Kerouac, or the Beats for that matter? The Beat Generation inspired the Hippie Movement of the 60’s and the wonderful leaps that we made in social equality and civil rights. Those who protested for peace and justice, they made it possible for people like me to wear long hair and speak freely like I do today. Yet even now, we still struggle with the same issues. We’re very separated, violent people ruthlessly competing, and I yearn for a compassionate community, conscious and intellectual. I feel so alone.

Not that you’re not. There is a wonderfully hip community of musicians in Minneapolis that I totally dig. I love them, and I will return one day. But I had to go moan for man. I had to go moan, go groan, go roll my bones, alone.

What Happened to Kerouac? The Beat Goes On, tells the story of Jack and the Beat Generation. In the deluxe edition, you’ll see a conference with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Paul Krassner, and Abbie Hoffman. They debate the question: Was the Beat Generation a cultural movement of the social kind, or the political?

We live in amazing times. I was born in 1981, the year when MTV started broadcasting on television and IBM released the first personal computer. Technology really changed everything. It’s hard to separate the social and the political nowadays. I believe that race and sex will no longer divide the living, if I evolve my ego and see you all as family, plants and animals alike. I believe that competition and greed will no longer dominate the economy, if I slow my consumption and focus my consciousness on refining the worldview. Can you dig that? Will you do that with me? Can we do it together?

I gave away my possessions and a successful life in the city, to live the way I do.

I march to my own drum, and I bet you think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am, but the Beat goes on,,,

-MJ

Book Two

Dear friends,

Reporting live from Georgia, writing from my grandfather’s house.

A wonderful house it is, filled with a lifetime’s worth of accumulations and character, only seen behind the doors of America’s retired citizens. The gas fireplace burns a clean flame contained below a mantle adorned with steins of every kind, lined up next to hand-carved figurines of Cowboys and Indians and different dogs and what-nots arranged in no particular order alongside Mayan spacemen and Aztec warriors in feathered-bird headdresses accompanied by stone pyramids and random statues of Elvis. This bathroom has a seashell/ocean theme in baby blues with creamy pinks and I wander on to see shelves with old tube radios and antique record players with hundreds of 33’s and dust-covered vinyl just waiting to be explored. I see knickknacks galore and paintings with intricate-wood frames on every wall in every room with abundant fake plants in huge vases and a collection of tarnished-silver spoons, one from each state and some from countries that I’ve yet to travel to. Reporters babble the horrible news on multiple televisions and I’ve never seen so many lamps under one roof. A variety of ceiling fans spin around, at least two for each dog and I open a closet filled with vintage dresses, ballroom gowns, and old clothes protected in plastic. The mysterious guest room has the masks of the Mardi Gras Parade hanging on the walls, and the vanity mirror and the headboard on the bed are both draped in beads. Strange joker-like dolls with painted faces stare at me with their porcelain-Chinese eyes and they taunt me and haunt me like the ghost of New Orleans. I see ancient furniture with skeleton-key locks on drawers with gargoyle-brass handles, candles never burned and old chairs not meant to be sat upon. A fancy dining room table sits there, lonely in the main room and hungry for attention. The kitchen has empty wine bottle decorations and odd-shaped glass jugs stuffed with garlic and peppers in a fall cornucopia of colors, filled with oils and spices, vinegars not meant to be tasted. I open a cupboard door and a coffee cup falls out and shatters on the marble counter top and grandpa says, “Easy does it.” More mugs are stacked inside though, next to the never-ending rows of glasses, a dozen-dozen maybe and I figure, why not put these to use. So I fix a drink and clean the mess, but I do wonder about these things.

I have one mug. It traveled with me all the way from Minnesota and it functions as a bowl to eat from and a cup to drink from. I have one spoon, and it cuts just as well as it scoops. When I’m done with these things, I wash them and they serve me well. I have one pair of pants -my old trusty black jeans. There’s a pair of shorts and two or three shirts in my collection with socks and underwear of course. Likewise, I wash these items and use them without a want or a need for more. I haven’t had the room for more and now that I do have a room, I still see no need to fill that space because I’m happy with what I have.  

I complain about Walmart and not wanting to work a job that I don’t believe in and I moan and groan about our country’s over-consumption and the greediness of a capitalistic society -never satisfied and always wanting bigger-better-more-more-more. I’m now better acquainted with my grandparent’s home and the “stuff” that they’ve collected over the years and I do wonder about these things but I see this and all of the above to be totally normal. This is the American Dream, to have what you wish for. What I want and what I value happens to be different. To live simply is what I wish for and I’m fine with not being normal.

I feel like a curious child in this house with so much to explore. Not many people in their 30’s have the chance to spend quality time with their grandparents and there is much to learn here. I’ll earn my keep and lend a hand around the house. My needs for food and shelter are taken care of and I’m grateful to be in a safe place where I can be creative.

*an unedited excerpt, copy/pasted from the recent writing*

**I need a hyphen expert**

Some days I sit down and type 5,000 words and the manuscript for Book 2 should be ready for editing in about a month. I’m excited about the content that I’m creating and it’s the perfect prelude for the finale. When I wake up in the morning, I’m immediately thinking about writing. During the afternoon when I’m not at the keyboard, I’m either napping or reading. I fall asleep at night and dream about writing. I had a dream last night actually. I saw The Fox Trails trilogy on a bookshelf. Three books -one red, one white, and one blue, but in the opposite order. The American Dream, a little backwards and upside down but if you do a headstand…

I’m going back in. Where ever you are and where ever you’re going..

Happy Trails,

-MJ

Flying South for the Winter

Dear friends,

Reporting from snowy Wisconsin, on a visit with family. My return to Minneapolis was ‘Minnesota Nice’ but it’s always a little strange to come back to the city after being away for a while. People are busy and the scene seems to have passed me by a bit -unanswered messages and missed connections. I imagine it being hard for most people to relate to the life choices I’ve been making over the last two years. My coming and going may even seem selfish to some. However, I truly believe my travel and writing will prove to be the most beneficial contribution I can give to my friends, family, and humanity in general.

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”

-A song from the Star Children-

My Twin Cities reunion was a little underwhelming to say the least and I do wish that I would’ve seen more of you. Although I did have some quality time with loved ones (you know who you are), I mostly decompressed and invested my days in reading and research for the next writing project. Recently my studies have been focused on the monetary system, addiction/recovery, capitalism/consumerism, Freud and the evolution of marketing, Buddhism, community living, ancient societies, bicycle advocacy, Taoist sexology, and our evolving DNA.

The decision has been made to winter in Georgia while I complete book 2 of The Fox Trails trilogy. I have a one-way ticket to Atlanta and I leave on Tuesday, the 18th.

-MJ

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

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 Great River Adventure Complete

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I reached Lake Itasca State Park on Friday, June 27th. It was a challenging ride to follow the Mississippi River north through Minnesota from Minneapolis.

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Bringing along 21 copies of The Fox Trails, I rode the same bike that took me from the Twin Cities to New Orleans last fall. As you can see from the picture below, I had quite the load to carry. I’d estimate that I have 150 lbs stuffed in that kid carrier. I may need to invest in a motor.

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Minnesota is gorgeous in the summer. So green and lush, beautiful skies and friendly people. The large amount of rain that we’ve already received has the river’s water high with a raging current. I took a few pictures along the way.

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Before reaching Lake Itasca, the river passes through Lake Bemijdi. I spent a couple of days in Bemidji and stayed in the State Park on the north side of the lake before making my way to Itasca. The river gets smaller and smaller as you approach the source.ImageImage

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30 rocks span the width of the Mississippi at its source and it was a special moment to walk across these stones. I’ve now seen the river in its entirety and that’s something that few can claim.

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A great storm came on the night that I camped in the State Park and water damaged the majority of the books I had left to sell. Oh well, I ended up giving them away to the campers around me. That felt right and I met some wonderful people along the way. However, after a week of facing storms and winds in excess of 20 mpr, I’ve decided to postpone the summer tour through the west. This wasn’t an easy choice and it took some serious meditation but this may be one of the most responsible decisions I’ve made in a long time. The west can wait.

I stopped in Brainerd today and I’ll be riding through Minnesota en route to spend the Fourth of July with my family. The path ahead will take me through a number of places that hold a personal significance to my past and I look forward to being home and and reflecting before the next endeavor. This has been a perfect closure for the Great River Adventure and I now have what I need to write The Fox Trails sequel. That starts now.

Happy Trails,

-MJ

 

 

The Paul Bunyan Trail

Reporting from Hackensack, Minnesota on the Paul Bunyan Trail. Biking was hard the first two days. It was either sun burn or rain and the bugs are Jurassic Park but my gear is dry and I’m moving on to see Bemidji before Lake Itasca State Park. After getting to know the Mississippi from Minneapolis to New Orleans, visiting the river at its source will be a special moment on this trip. Last night the rain had me delayed in Pequot Lakes but I had a great dinner with locals and sold 4 books at the bar. Thanks to Bill and Sara for the hospitality. Their boys were a riot. I found a nice place to sleep last evening and broke camp early this morning arriving in Hackensack where I stopped for coffee . I met a Korean War vet named Harley and his wife Aeva. They’ve been married for 66 years. Although I know they’ll be shocked in reading The Fox Trails, I sold them a copy. A young man named Nick overheard our conversation and he bought one as well. That’s 10 lbs of books that I got rid of in the last 12 hours. My load is lighter now and my muscles are adapting to the road again. The care packages received from friends before this ride have been awesome to have. Thanks for the kind support. I should get back to it but I’ll check in again soon.

Happy Trails,
-MJ