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.
I've been in Seattle for nearly 3 weeks. On Saturday, I'll pack my bicycle in a box and fly the furthest north I've ever been--to Alaska.
After I left Dexter, I took a 4 hour train north to it's big sister city: Portland. From San Francisco to Eugene, Portland to Seattle, and--soon--Vancouver, there's pretty much one dominating theme: homelessness & gentrification.
In Portland there's a joke that you don't meet anyone actually from Portland anymore. And it's true. I met folks born in Portland only in Eugene & Seattle, and they had a wealth of knowledge to share.
From the half-dozen cranes stacking gross luxury apartment complexes in Portland's Pearl District to a new-age/city-integrated sprawl of Amazon's office towers that blight Capitol Hill in Seattle, big tech companies have drastically changed these cities. And if you pack a bowl at the ever-growing tent cities that form in clusters under nearly every bridge in these Pacific Northwest cities, you'll learn how these "developments" aren't helping its people.
I never saw someone sitting in a public space tied-off, needle-in-arm, searching for their vein on the metro in Santiago (as I did in San Franciso's Civic Center BART station).
I just spent 2 weeks living in an intentional community in the forest ~20 miles outside Eugene, OR. This is my first time in Oregon. My-oh-my, is it beautiful! Just a bit cold & wet for my tastes (welcome to the Pacific Northwest!). I give massive cred to the crusties living on the streets here. How do they ever dry their clothes?
I spent a wonderful week with a new friend in Sacramento. I was surprised how much I enjoyed Sacramento. The weather was great, the dumpsters were full of gifts (two unopened 4-packs of Pilsner Urquell?!?), and the streets were easy to navigate by bicycle. Coworking offices were pretty ridiculous ($192/day are you mad?!?), but fortunately I was able to work from home.
I was just finishing dinner, planning to see a friend play a folk punk show in Sac when my friend in Eugene asked what time I'd arrive tomorrow. Looks like my calendar was off-by-one day; my train leaves in a few hours. Whoops! I made a call to a friend, packed my stuff, rode-off to amtrak, and quickly boxed my bicycle. When I awoke on the train the next morning, I was crossing a gorgeous lake via causeway with snow-capped mountains in the distance. Everything was green, and--as we climbed in elevation through the cascades--there was snow on the ground.
I've been living with my friend in the SF Bay Area for the past month. I'm writing this from a cozy, finished room in the corner of a large, leaky warehouse hosting a datacenter and massive library of books in Richmond, CA. The building is owned by a nonprofit library that digitizes books and makes them available online, and my friend has become something of its caretaker while in school.
Last weekend, on my friend's Spring Break, I went on my first bicycle tour in over a year. From the Bay Area, we took a train down to San Luis Obispo, and started riding ~300 miles along highway 1, through Big Sur, back to San Francisco. It was a trying journey--both physically & emotionally, but also really really really beautiful. And I needed the Vitamin D. But I could have been spared the Poison Oak and sunburn...
The SF Bay Area is always a great place to be. It was great to spend time with Friends & Family I hadn't seen since I moved from Berkeley to travel the world over a year ago. I'd like to stay longer, but there's still so much of the world to see. The weather is getting warmer, and Canada is calling!
Saturday morning I plan to wake up at the crack of dawn, load up my bicycle, and ride ~80 miles to Sacramento before Sunday evening. I'll spend a week staying with a new friend in Sacramento, then I'll be going up to Eugene, where I'll be staying with a friend at the Lost Valley Eco Village.
My 46-hour train ride from New Orleans (through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, & California) finally arrives at Union Station LAX at 06:00.
I paid my respects to Mahatma Gandhi whoose ashes...are located in a sarcophagus in Santa Monica.
After spending an hour wandering through the massive station, I finally find my bicycle behind an Amtrak employees-only locked door. I present my luggage claim ticket, slide my bicycle out of the box, reassemble it, and load my panniers on. By 07:00, the February sun is high & warm in LA, and I'm happily rolling through the streets. I don't bother to check a map. I'm headed to Santa Monica; a compass indicating "west" is all I need.
After passing through chinatown, I wheel into the first grocery store I find for breakfast, which turns out to be in Echo Park. This is home to PETA's headquarters, where one of my college friends lives & works. We meet for tea, catch up, hit up a couple thrift stores, and I head back down hill.
I biked through Hollywood. This reminds me of Times Square, but it was interesting to see. Then I rode through Beverly Hills. And finally, Santa Monica.
LA is a massive city. Even though it was down-hill, it took me far longer than expected. It was a fun ride, and my friends were relieved when I showed up (mostly) unscathed. I took a long-needed shower, and enjoyed a bowl of their delicious vegan curry 😀
The following weekend I paid my respects to Mahatma Gandhi whoose ashes--little known fact--are located in a sarcophagus in Santa Monic
I've crossed the US by bicycle. I've crossed by plane. And now--I'm taking a train from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
I’ve crossed the US by bicycle. I’ve crossed by plane. And now–I’m taking a train
I just bought an Amtrak ticket from Atlanta -> New Orleans (for Mardi Gras!) -> Los Angles. It's ironic to realize that I've never done the good-ol cross-US road trip; I've never driven across the US (or taken a bus), but I suppose I shall one day (update: I did !). For now, I look forward to seeing the South via rail.
In any case, an update is due: After 4 magical months in in India, I came back to NYC just before the winter cold set in. After visiting friends & family, I traveled down the US East Coast.
I left a big duffel bag of possessions with a friend in NYC, and--due to price gouged bus fares ($700 flight from NYC to Atlanta? I don't think so) over Christmas--I tried my luck at hitching from DC to Asheville with a backpack and 2 oversized duffel bags. I could hardly walk 0.1 km without needing to rest my back hauling that much shit.
Within 10 minutes of holding up my cardboard sign indicating highway 81, a couple of southern boys (welcome back to Virginia) in an unmarked van stopped, started clearing junk out of the way in the back behind a full-size US flag strewn between the back and the cab, and told they could take me as far as highway 81, but wouldn't be able to drive me South. I declined their offer. In the next 6 hours, another 4 people offered to take me part-way.
Having too many bags to be able to walk my way out of a bad spot, I left for the DC greyhound, slept the night in Union Station on Christmas Eve, and took the next Greyhound to Atlanta.
After a week exploring downtown Atlanta (read: where Martin Luther King Jr was born), I took a bus down to Florida--where I currently sit, a true NY snow bird.
After I hit LA, I'll head north to Vancouver for Spring--traveling by train & bicycle along the majestic US-Pacific coastline. I've never spent much time in Canada; I'm sure looking forward to Vancouver!
After I graduated college, I sold or gave away most of my possessions. As a young US American following the footsteps of many before me, I headed west to California.
ho·bo / ˈhō-(ˌ)bō / (n.) a migratory worker
With just a few duffel bags of cargo, my 21-st century move from Florida to California lasted only a few hours on an airplane. My destination: San Francisco -- where, in a few weeks, I'd begin a new job as a software engineer.
During my time living in California, I visited Yosemite National Park and went on my first-ever overnight trekking trip. This experience taught me much about self-sufficiency and packing light--something that I later refined to an art.
I was in San Francisco for just over a year, but I never spread my roots too deep. Before my second year, my feet were itching for something new, and I found myself on a plane again -- this time destined for New York. With Guthy's voice singing through my earphones, I flew from the Redwood forests to the New York islands.
After some time, I was off again, heading down the US east coast back to Florida, and I hopped a plane to the furthest city in America that had an international airport -- Santiago de Chile.