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.