My time in Palestine ended with a ride from the Golan Heights in occupied Syria at the headwaters to the Jordan river down to the Red Sea at Eilat--400 km away. I cycled from the mountains to the Dead Sea and continued south through the Negev desert.
After Eilat, I crossed the border into Aqaba. I hopped a bus to Wadi Rum and traded some time for free lodging & food at a Bedouin camp. After 2 weeks, I hopped back on the saddle and rode up to Petra. I spent 2 days wandering Petra's remains before continuing North. I felt that my legs were finally strong enough, so I decided to stick to the King's highway in the mountains for the rest of my ride to Amman.
As-salamu alaykum from Al-Khalil (Hebron)! A few days ago I took a bus from Tel Aviv, Israel to Ramallah, Palestine. And today I arrived to Al-Khalil from Ramallah.
As-salāmu ʿalaykum Arabic: Peace be upon you
Shortly after I arrived to Ramallah (after escaping the taxi cabs' persistent attempts to get me to go somewhere, anywhere with them), I sat down in the sun to eat before meeting a friend. As a white man with dreadlocks and a tiny pink bicycle, I'm always something of a spectacle, but I was immediately amazed at how friendly & hospitable people were to me--more so than in Israel.
As I was eating my lunch, a man young came up to me. He only knew a handful of english words. I offered him some food, but he refused. Instead, he just sat next to me, smiling. Ramallah is in the mountains, and it can get quite cold on an overcast day in Winter. The man took off his gloves and tried to give them to me. My hands were visibly cold, but I had to profusely refuse as I already had a pair of gloves buried in my backpack. He continued to sit by me for 20 minutes, offering me wifi or whatever he could. Eventually he said "money, money, money" over-and-over. My first thought was that he was begging for money, but--after another friendly Palestinian said hello to me, he informed me that the man was asking if I needed money. What kindness of strangers!
We passed Palestinian homes...the soldiers had welded shut the front doors and settler's graffiti tagged them with stars of David--ironically & ashamedly reminiscent of swastikas.
Today I took a long, windy road from Ramallah to Al-Khalil. I was very motion sick, and the cab was full of the driver's tobacco smoke. We wandered through the old city passing heavily-armed military and riot police. Many people told me that, if I wanted to understand life under the Occupation, Al-Khalil was the place to see it.
We saw a procession of settlers on a tour through the old city--an area that's designated as H1, controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and where settlers & Israeli military shouldn't be--but that's life under Occupation..
The markets in the old city have the now-commonplace wire mesh protection above--placed there to protect the shops from the trash thrown by the Israeli settlers living above. Still, the settlers throw bleach & urine down on the Palestinians below.
As we walked around, we passed Palestinian homes juxtaposed to Israeli ones. Many of the Palestinian homes were vandalized. On the infamous Shuhada street, the soldiers had welded shut the front doors of their shops & homes. And settler's graffiti tagged them with stars of David--ironically & ashamedly reminiscent of swastikas.
Shalom from Tel Aviv! It's hard to believe that--just last month--I was driving across the US. I sold my car in Wisconson, hopped a greyhound back to NYC, flew to Israel (layover in Germany), took a 10-day tour from the Golan Heights (along the Syrian boarder) to the Dead Sea (along the Jordan boarder), and now I find myself in a backpackers hostel just a short walk from Jaffa in Florientine, Tel Aviv.
When I'm not washing sheets...I'm contributing to open source projects and wandering the streets of Jaffa or schmoozing with Germans, Aussies, and Dutch 20-something-ers at the cheapest hostel in Tel Aviv.
While my previous international travels as a hobo were well-funded by my salary as an software engineer, my new vagrant lifestyle lacks any source of income. As such, I'm subsidizing my travel by worktrading my time for free lodging. In exchange for 27.5 hours of "volunteering" each week, I'm staying at this hostel for free.
When I'm not washing sheets or feeding ~100 backpackers vegan dishes (from 2 shitty hot plates!) with a 70 shekel/night (<$20 USD) budget, I'm still contributing to open source projects and wandering the streets of Jaffa or schmoozing with Germans, Aussies, and Dutch 20-something-ers at the cheapest hostel in Tel Aviv.
Though Tel Aviv does have the highest concentration of vegans per capita than any city in the world, it's a very hedonistic city, and I'm looking forward to cycling the open road. But it's been nice to get travel tips from fellow travelers in this hostel. Indeed, the logistics of traveling between at-war countries (ie: Israel & Lebanon) is a non-trivial act. Their knowledge & tips have proven invaluable in my planning.
After my 1-month commitment to volunteering at this hostel has finished, I'll have 2 months left on my Israel/Palestine visa. After that, my plan is to cross into Jordan and then fly from Amman to Berut, Lebanon.
After that, I head West to Africa or East to India. I'm still undecided..
Where to begin? Should I start in the Sequoias--my time wandering through the largest trees in the world? Or stumbling into what felt like an unofficial rainbow gathering in Mendocino? Or Yellowstone, where I spent a week amongst the bears and elk--getting snowed-on and walking though basins where the earth's crumbling crust gave way to pools of scalding-hot water?
I spent a week amongst the bears and elk -- getting snowed-on and walking though basins where the earth’s crumbling crust gave way to pools of scalding-hot water
Alas, I'll start with the present. At the time of writing, I find myself in Madison, Wisconsin. My preoccupation as of late is no longer my next backpacking trip through some US national park.
In less than a month, I'll be boarding a plane one-way to the Middle East, and I don't plan to come back to the US for over a year (closer to two).
Indeed, my current preoccupation is selling my car, getting back to NY, and finding some clever way to fit my folding bicycle into a checked bag that'll go under the bike-fee radar for the German airline on my flight to Israel.
My last major stop was Yellowstone, and my what an adventure that was! For the record, if you visit Yellowstone in September, all the backpacking permit fees are waved. And there's at least 3 campsites that are entirely accessible by bicycle. But, even if you just visit Yellowstone by car, it's quite an experience. There's fewer awe-inspiring vistas than other national parks, but looking across a low-lying basin with huge plumes of water vapor rising from patches of pools stretching out to the horizon offers a unique sort of inspiration in it's own wright.
When I arrived to the San Francisco Bay Area, my friend thrust his copy of Kerouac's Dharma Bums in my hand. "Read this" he said, "you'll like it."
Like Japhy did for Smith, I outfitted my friend, and we headed off into the smokey Sierras towards Matterhorn--to follow in Jack Kerouac's footsteps.
After living out of a car and bumming around the States for the better part of a year, I soon found myself back in Berkeley--working in libraries by day and sleeping in my Prius micro-home at night--pouring through Kerouac's description of SF and Berkeley from the 40s and 50s -- 60 years before my present bumming around the same city.
In Dharma Bums, Kerouac (Smith) describes his ascent of Mount Matterhorn (in the California Sierras), guided by their enlightened, outdoorsy friend Japhy.
My friend and I later made plans to go trekking together. It was his first overnight trek, and what better place to go than Yosemite? After all, that was where I'd gone on my first overnight trek a few years ago.
In the past few months, I cycled ~1,500 km through FL & GA, built a couple 3d printers in Missouri, summited the highest mountain in New Mexico, backpacked through Zion, saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, and became a humble guest of East Jesus in Slab City.
In the past few months, I cycled ~1,500 km through Florida, built a couple 3d printers in Missouri, summited the highest mountain in New Mexico, backpacked through Zion, saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, and became a humble guest of East Jesus in Slab City.
It's been a while since I last wrote, but I finally have some downtime as I try to survive the 46 degree heat of Slab City in late June. When I crowdsourced info on the Slabs before I came, everyone's response was pretty terse: "don't go" they said, "you'll be miserable"
It's not often that I'm in the SW, and visiting Slab City has long been a dream of mine (coupled with the fact that the police have been harassing me in the past few weeks--I was quite ready for anarchy).
As for the desert's summer heat: I've cycled through the entire width of Nevada in July, so I'm familiar with my body's limits on heat. I figured I would be OK so long as I had sufficient water & shade.
Before I left Prescott Valley, AZ en-route to California, I spent a few hours dumpster diving for water containers. I was quick to find a bunch of ~1L plastic soda bottles, but I wanted something bigger. Behind an ihop & a taco bell I found what I was looking for: used 20L vegetable oil carboys. I got two of them anticipating a ~1 week stay in the Slabs. I washed them out very well with soap & water, and I filled them (and a dozen or so other 0.5-4L bottles) to the brim with clean, potable water.
As for shade: I didn't have much in the way of providing decent shade. I could have bought a tarp, but I decided to go the interdependent route; there's plenty of full-time Slabbers who have plenty semi-permanent structures for shade. I learned that there was an Internet Cafe in the Slabs, and figured--if nothing else--I could probably bring gifts to the Slabbers in exchange for their shade and internet. But what would a Slabber value?
I drove to Taos. Unfortunately, I was unable to find anyone to let me ram their tires full of earth without me paying them...so I ended up leaving town--climbing to the top of the highest mountain peak in New Mexico on my way out.
I came across the East Jesus website (a nonprofit artist community that actually owns their land in the Slabs). The website literally had a section listing their needs. After some consideration, I went to the hardware store to buy peat moss and duct tape. And then I took a trip to the liquor store to buy their cheapest 1.75 L bottle of whiskey ($14!).
When I arrived to East Jesus the next day, my peat moss, duct tape, and whiskey were very well received. As I chatted with the resident summer artist over (cold!) water & whiskey, I got a ton of useful information about life in Slab City. And--as the sun was setting while I was looking for a space in the Slabs to call my own, my friend at East Jesus intercepted me and offered to let me set up in Kaos camp at East Jesus 😀
I'm full of gratitude as I sit on this old couch under shade by big box fan, sipping my refrigerated water surrounded by a dense display of artwork, much of which is heavily accented by empty bullet casings and nitros canisters.
But how did I get here?
After completing my bicycle ride to Atlanta, I spent about a month visiting family and improving the livability of my Prius.
After a 20-odd hour greyhound down to Key West, FL, I unfolded my Brompton, strapped on my gear (a 50L backpack & big ortlieb front pannier), and began my next cycling journey: a mildly-circuitous, ~1,500 km from Key West, FL to Atlanta, GA.
last month I was squinting to see the road through the flurries of snow as I drove my salt-covered Prius down the east coast...Now I'm dipping my toes in the warm ocean in Key West
Just last month I was squinting to see the road through the flurries of snow as I drove my salt-covered Prius down the east coast of the US. I planned to take my time, but I was eager to get out of the snow.
Now I found myself basked in sunshine--dipping my toes in the warm, gorgeous salt waters of Smathers Beach.
My one-night host in Florida worked at a sea kayak joint, and they graciously gifted me time on a kayak to wander the calm, shallow waters of Key West. After a few hours of getting lost in the mangroves on my way out of town, I hit the road and took my time over the next few days cycling from Key to Key until I finally crossed the last bridge into mainland Florida.
I've spent the past couple weeks with family in South Florida, but tomorrow I'll be back on the saddle. Tomorrow I'll be cycling through Parkland and along State Road 827 (locally known as Browns Farm Road) through the Everglades up to Lake Okeechobee. Google Street View doesn't cover 20km of the road (it ends abruptly at a barrier in the Loxahatchee Road Boat Ramp parking lot), but it does appear to be intact and available to non-motorized vehicles. Here's to hoping all the bridges visible in the grainy satellite imagery are still intact!
I temporarily gave up my vagrancy for an opportunity to work with some of the best journalists in NYC.
Now that my job is finished and the ground here is covered in snow, the long road to Sunny South Florida is calling. This time, I'll be the vagrant picking up hitchhikers.
6 months ago, I signed a short-term contract and saved up enough to buy a micro-home-with-an-engine (a Prius) and a folding bicycle. Now that my job is finished and the ground here is covered in snow, the long road to Sunny South Florida is calling. This time, I'll be the vagrant picking up hitchhikers.
My short-term plan is to find long-term parking for my car in Atlanta, then hop on a one-way bus to Key West, FL with my new Brompton folding bicycle and a 50L backpack This ~1,500 km trip will be a gentle test of bicycle touring with the Brompton.
If all goes well, my long-term plan is to use this setup for a bike-packing trip from the southern tip of India up to China, then down to Vietnam. Or Ethiopia to Botswana. Or zig-zagging Europe. But probably Asia.
After 6 days, I finished hitch hiking 1,500 km from Ft Lauderdale, Florida to Asheville, North Carolina. It took me another 10 days to go the last 1,000 km to Philidelphia, where I paid $10 for the Chinatown bus into Manhattan.
The sad reality of my hitch hiking experience on the East US is that it was slower than riding a bicycle.
Most of this trip was spent in the blistering sunshine, ~8 hours per day sitting on an on-ramp, smiling & holding a cardboard sign inscribed with my next relative destination. It would have been more productive had my headphones been working, as I had a tall stack of audiobooks & podcasts awaiting my ears.
The sad reality of my hitch hiking experience on the East US is that it was slower than riding a bicycle.
Of the time I spent in cars, everyone I met was quite benevolent. It was a mix of the coolest truck drivers imaginable, old hippies that have done lots of hitching themselves, religious folk living by the word of Jesus trying to help someone out, and friends who just wanted someone to talk to on their arduous, long-distance drive.
Contrary to what I've read, the only offers I got from the uniformed gangsters that patrol the streets was threats to take me to jail--specifically from the dumbest Men in Blue who couldn't differentiate a pan handler from a hitch hiker..
My last ride dropped me off in Philadelphia by the airport. I walked from there to Chinatown (gorging on a crate of mangoes scored from a wholesale produce market I passed en-route), and met a Chinese-American woman by a plastic sign tied to a post that said "NYC one-way $10". I boarded the bus, and found myself emerging from the Tunnel connecting New Jersey (one of 5 States where hitch hiking is illegal) to Manhattan a couple hours later. I bought a subway pass, and headed to Brooklyn to meet an old friend.
Tomorrow I'm going to the I-75 on-ramp, sticking out my thumb, and hitchhitching 2,500 km from Florida to New York City. I've never hitchhiked more than a few hundred km, so this multi-day adventure is a long-awaited trip. Tomorrow I'm picking up a cardboard box, ripping it to size, and painting "I 75 N" with my magnum permanent marker--the hitchiking essential.
It's my second week living unemployed, and I'm wasting no time jumping head-first into my first adventure as an American Vagrant. I have some paperwork to file in the Big City, then I plan to stick out my thumb again--hitching WB from New York to San Francisco. My hope is to make it in a week, but yahoo answers says 4 days to 1 year 😉