Riding the Spine

Check these guys out. Amazing. They're riding from the Arctic Circle up in Alaska, down to Tierra del Fuego, at the southern point of South America.



Ashland, Oregon

I moved to the town of Ashland, Oregon in the beginning of July. It's about 20 miles north of the California border. Located between two mountain ranges - the Cascades and the Siskiyous. They call the area in between the mountains the Rogue Valley - that's where I am.
The wild and scenic Rogue River is nearby.

It's different being surrounded by mountains - you feel protected. Plus, watching a sunset over mountains is highly underrated.
Not to mention -- skiing! Ashland's elevation is around 2,000ft above sea level, while the ski mountain - Mount Ashland - is over 7,500ft! That's pretty high. Apparently they get dump trucks of fluffy snow up there.

The weather is starting to change. It has topped out over 100 degrees a number of days this summer, but autumn is decidedly in the air. A cold front is rolling through tomorrow, bringing rain and highs only in the 60s. I don't remember the last time it rained. There was one thunderstorm about a month ago, but that's about it.
I want to wake up with the rain... falling on a tinroof.
Ohh the life of a water molecule! Wouldn't it be fun?
Evaporation, condensation, precipitation... such a magical little cycle.
Up, down and all around!

It is exciting to anticipate winter. I've lived in San Francisco for so long that I've forgotten what it's like to anticipate winter, and to experience fall -- what I like to call football weather. Sweaters and scarves and the friendly cup of hot apple cider as leaves fall all around and you think about carving a pumpkin and perhaps getting lost in a maze of corn.

Ashland is a progressive town. They have co-ops and Granges. They love Barack Obama for the most part, although some people think he's the antichrist? I haven't been following that all that closely.
But you gotta love Sarah Palin, right?! You can see Russia from here!
Keep the quotes coming Sarah, you are breaking the unintentional comedy scales.
Following in the great Dubya's footsteps full of the Googles and the Internets.

Part of the town reminds me of a movie set. Quintessential main street. They have 4th of July parades, and a Shakespeare festival that runs all summer long.
Over 250,000 tourists cycle through the town each summer.

One woman moved here because apparently there is no law against being topless in this town. She applied for a permit to march topless in the 4th of July parade, creating quite the stink!
The town council or whatever they're called wasn't sure a topless woman would be such a good idea for the family event, so they denied her request - yada yada yada.
She was going to take the town to court - you're denying me my rights! Please.
Eventually she relented and decided just to march topless on the sidelines. So we had this woman marching up and down the sidewalks in a G-string. Talking about free-love and being one with nature and really she's just annoying. Put your clothes on dumb woman. She is just starved for attention, and I don't want to feed her mine. Most of the townspeople were unimpressed as well. Yawn.
She also rides her bike around topless -- I must admit it is a little distracting to be driving and to suddenly see someone without any clothes on -- it's just not something you're used to seeing.

There are a fair share of what I would call hippies. Pretty standard. You have to be careful in stores - or walking past people in general - because many of these fun-seeking free-loving people are quite pungent! They prefer to be one with nature instead of one with showers.
Many of the women seem to have misplaced their armpit trimmers.

I don't mind 'going green' or 'eating organic' - but there are people here who take it to the extreme. But there are always a few in every crowd. As an example, one of the yogi's email addresses talks about being 'earthlings' -- yes. Earthlings. I suppose that is better than being Aliens, right?!

I work in a yoga studio, about 15 miles north of Ashland. As I didn't have a car upon initially arriving here, I would ride my bike to work. My roommate was also very cool about supplementing my bike rides with occasional car rides. There is a bike path down the road from our apartment that meanders along a creek, following the Bear Creek, all the way to work. It passes baseball fields and parks, over railroad tracks and past llama farms. I cannot help but say 'lllllllamas' every time I ride by them. They seem unimpressed.

It also passes fields with grazing cows. I of course moo at the cows -- and they stare at me intently. I love cows because they are one of the few animals to actually acknowledge you! Horses just keep chomping on grass. Pigs continue oinking in the mud. Llamas just keep looking generally pissed off. But cows? They seem interested. I can see why they receive a holy designation in India.
Of course I then ask myself - 'Self? If you like cows so much, then why do you keep eating them?!' My answer to myself is, of course, 'because they are so tasty!!!'

I pedal as sunlight zig-zags through trees and leaves, shimmering off the stream hitting me in the knees. And eyeballs. The fastest I've made it to work was 49 minutes. Averaging about 18 miles an hour. Some mornings are brisk - requiring long sleeves and gloves if you got 'em.
Being back on my bike reminds me of last summer -- in fact it was almost exactly one year ago today that I arrived in Bar Harbor and jumped in the ocean. It's good to have that freeing bike feeling back.

Work in a yoga studio as probably as you can imagine it -- hardly work. As I know it anyway.
I don't wear shoes at work. Now, I know you people that work at home probably say 'yeah, so what, I work in my PJs' -- but for someone coming from 9 years of business casual, not wearing shoes at work is a big deal! Part of my job requires me to take yoga classes, so that I can knowledgeably inform customers of the differences between all the classes.

I took an 80% pay cut for this new life. At times I wonder how I was possibly able to justify that. Especially with what's going on in the world these days. But then I feel this new peace and relaxation that is so refreshing -- and I cannot possibly put a price-tag on it.

I practice golf almost daily. I got an annual range card at this very nice new golf course, meaning for the next year I can hit as many balls as I possibly can. The golf range faces the Cascade mountain range. It reminds me of how Colorado might look, even though I've only been there once.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of a well struck golf ball. Watching it rocket up into the sky, then watching gravity pull it back down against a backdrop of blue skies and mountain highs.

I do miss being near the ocean. There is something about water, and the expansiveness of the ocean -- that draws me to it. Makes me want to be near. But - we have rivers and lakes up here. Two of the rivers, the Rogue and the Klamath - have very good white-water rafting!
I have been a few times. One of the guys that practices yoga at the studio has been a rafting guide for 15 years. He has his own raft and has taken people out a few times. Rolling down a river. Passing blue herons and jumping salmons and twirling happy birds and flowing crystal clear water with the occasional floating leaf under crisp skies that are countless shades of blue -- it's hard to beat.

What role does money play, or the lack of money? I'm still figuring that out. I may need to get a second job. But then again there is less of a need for money. Rent is half of what I paid in San Francisco. I buy food once a week or so. Clothes once every year or so. I've been cooking more often, eating out less.

I try to play the guitar when I can. I've finally framed some of the pictures I've taken over the years and hung them all around my room.

I've decided that life can be whatever you want it to be. It can be stressful if you want - some people feed off of stress and thrive under it. You can race with the rats, or roll down the rivers. I feel like there is a happy medium, and it's different for each person.
In the end I think it just comes down to what makes you happy.

Which reminds me of that silly little song that says:

Happiness runs in a circular motion
Thought is like a little boat upon the sea
You can have everything if you let yourself Be


Pictures from Peru

I haven't had time to add captions, it took me hours just to sort through the thousands and narrow it down to 372. Goodness. Too many pictures! Oh well.

Here's the link--


Final Thoughts - Back in the USSA

On the plane from Panama City to Houston, the passenger next to me said 'gracias' as the stewardess handed him his drink -- and it occurred to me that that would be one of the last times I heard Spanish for awhile.

Odd. I was so used to being a stranger in a strange land. I was starting to get used to living in my own little world where nobody understood me, and vice versa. I can only imagine what Helen Keller must've felt like. I still had eyes to see with, ears to hear with (even if they weren't hearing sounds they understood), and a voice to attempt communication with.

My last week in Peru was filled with overnight bus rides and a wicked case of Montezuma's revenge, thanks to an ill-advised beef patty (for lack of a more descriptive or knowedgeable term - it could've been an anything-patty) on a bus from Mancora to Trujillo. I suppose I should've been a little wary when I saw her pull the containers from an overhead bin, instead of a REFRIGERATOR or OVEN. I don't think meat does that well between 40 and 160 degrees. Tends to Fester. Create stomach aches.

I had this very amusing story created in my head about my experience riding overnight buses while trying to keep your pants clean -- but now it just seems gross instead of funny. Let's just say.... it was a struggle to keep the pants clean! And leave it at that.

So many things happened each day -- new and interesting things -- that it would've taken an hour or so each day to fully capture everything that was running through my mind. It was a frenetic pace, and I think I just gave up after awhile. Just sat back and let the experience run its course. Without feeling obligated to capture it, describe it, pin it down. So apologies to this blog for what I feel was a pretty half ass and incomplete job of doing the experience justice. There were just too many experiences.

I was thinking about some of them. The afternoon with Jorge the surf instructor. I vividly remember leaning back against a window sill, sipping a cold beer (cold beer - what a luxury!), looking out at the sunny shimmering water, watching waves roll in on a picture perfect absolutely gorgeous day -- thinking to myself 'this is paradise'. What more could you want?

So I ask Jorge 'is this what you do every day?' Hang out here, give a few surf lessons which you love doing anyway? Eat a little something when you get hungry, then head home and relax, come back and do it again the next day? This is paradise!
He smiles and says yes, then goes back to lazily looking out at the horizon.

I spent more time with Jorge, we went out to a bar, and he quite meekly asks if I could pay for everything since he didn't have any money. He didn't have any money because he hadn't given a lesson that day. There is no such thing as a bank account, or savings, for most Peruvians. 50% of all Peruvians live in poverty. It's a day to day existence. A subsistence existence.

Jorge was very interested in my camera. In fact, he had it most of the time. I wasn't worried about it, but I had to keep asking for it back when I wanted to take a picture.
He also helped me find a hostel, and so knew where I was staying, and came knocking on my door early the next morning. He invited himself in, then saw my ipod charging on the bed and grabbed that, started using it, declared that he was going to borrow it for the day until we went surfing.

I said absolutely not, and he left in a huff. But not before pleading for 5 Soles for food since he was hungry. At that point I had had enough of Jorge. He did make off with one of my shirts, but of the two -- ipod or shirt -- I'm glad it ended up being the latter.

As I thought about it more, I put myself in Jorge's shoes. He was clearly envious of me, of my lifestyle, of my things. He made more than one comment about it. It was interesting -- me so very impressed and envious of his simple life in paradise, and him so envious of my more material life of cameras and ipods and money to do things with.
I think it came down to the money. He didn't have any. He was stuck in Huacachina whether he liked it or not. There was hardly money to buy food, let alone a bus ticket to another city. I guess you end becoming jaded when CHOICE is taken away from you. When you're continuously subjected to people passing through that DO have a choice. I suppose I would be envious too. Maybe even jaded.
I felt for Jorge. And I ran into that a lot -- I gave up asking people if they had been to such and such a place. They hadn't. They hadn't even been to the next town over. I was in Arequipa and asked the woman at the hostel if she had been to Cusco, which was relatively nearby and a pretty famous large city. She sheepishly said no, as if she was embarrassed to admit it.

I guess my point is -- most Peruvians don't have a choice. They do what they do, what they can, to get by -- and that's it. There is no innovation, no continuing education (except for a very select few), no 'career'. You are a taxi driver, or a roadside seller of water and cookies, or a restaurant worker, or a tour guide, or...
I couldn't figure out what the best jobs were.
I suppose it's relative.

Even my Inca Jungle tour guide -- I was thinking 'wow, this is a pretty cool job. You get to ride bikes and hike around in the wilderness for a living.' But then he hikes the exact same loop every 4 days. The exact same! While trying to make it interesting for the new group who is eager and excited at the newness.
And here we have the Inca Trail -- exciting! Even though he's walked it 167 times before.

Anyway, my experience in Peru was an unforgettable one. It taught me a lot, and I continue to reflect on it as I ease my way back into this very comfortable and convenient existence we lead in the USA. Roads, bridges, buses, clean water, clean air, nice streets, grass instead of sand, healthy dogs that are actually owned and taken care of by someone, a varied landscape, a plethora of jobs and opportunity, movies in our own language (I found this fascinating -- can you imagine going to the movies and having every single movie be in subtitles? Because that's exactly what happens. Most movies are created by Hollywood and Hollywood speaks English), refrigerated drinks, AIR CONDITIONING!, hot water for showers (I don't care how hot it is outside, it is still shocking to step into a stream of 40 degree water), and the list goes on.

The cars in Peru... I think they must have the opposite of emissions controls. There's is a free-for-all of carbon monoxide and soot and whatever else creates exhaust so pungent it makes you physically react. You know how when a woman walks by with so much perfume on your head physically moves back a little in response to it? That's every city in Peru. Every woman (car) has too much perfume on. It leaves you gasping for clean air.

And money... it's peculiar. Without fail, every single ATM in the country only offers you multiples of 100, and then dispenses 100 Sole bills to whatever multiple you choose. The only problem here, is that no one accepts 100 Sole bills! I mean NO ONE. People avoid them like the plague. They even avoid 50s and 20s, most vendors will only accept 10s at the most.

I was at an internet cafe and went to pay using a 10 -- and the woman had to run next door to get change. Change for a 10!
It makes absolutely no sense. Why have 100 Sole bills if nobody accepts them? And why not have ATMs dispense bills that people can actually use, instead of creating this game of 'how do I break this large unusable bill' each time you take money out?
Maybe there is a secret that everyone else knows and I don't. Maybe everyone else has a way to get small bills somehow.

And, the 2 Sole coin looks EXACTLY like the 5 Sole coin, only it's 2 micromillimeters smaller, hardly detectable to the naked eye. So you need to look at the number.

Also, Peruvians are fiercely skeptical of their money supply! They think every single bill and coin is a counterfeit. They must've had problems with this in the past. They hold every bill up to the light, wave it around a little bit, run it through their fingers, lick it to make sure it tastes right -- just kidding. But man, it's exhausting.

What else... a few other tidbits I had written down.

When people ask what my name is - como te llamas - I used to say Andy. But when I say Andy they say Eddie, so now I say Ahndeee, and they say oooooh Ahndeeee -- and understand. I don't think Andy exists to Spanish speakers. It's either Ahndeee or Eddie.

There's so much more, but I have to pack. I'm flying back to Rochester today for a few weeks before moving up to Oregon. I'll have to continue later...


Puerto Chicama

Well, I´m in Puerto Chicama. They are supposed to have one of the longest waves in the world here, but the ocean has been calm the past two days -- so I´ve just been taking it easy, recovering from some moderate food poisoning obtained on a bus ride back from Mancora.

I slept a solid 18 hours yesterday, listening to gentle ocean waves crash onto the beach outside the hostel on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

I need to catch a bus back to Trujillo today, to catch another bus back to Lima tonight, to catch a 5:33am flight on Thursday.

I am ready for home. As amazing as this trip has been, I think I´ve seen one too many lonely mangy hungry beat up dogs curled up on the side of the road after a day of digging through trash piles. And I´ve had one too many ´conversations´where people just look at me funny.
And, before I sound too much like I haven´t loved this trip, I will stop typing.

It´s just been a rough past few days.

Anyway, I am off for buses to buses!

I hope everyone is well.


The North Coast

Well, I´m back in Trujillo (your standard noisy, honky, dirty city) after two days in Huanchaco.

Huanchaco is a small fishing village on the coast, where the fisherman use reedboats to do their fishing. It´s a great town.

I surfed on Thursday, trying unsuccessfully to catch a wave. The waves were small, and I was content just to float around, smiling at the sunshine and enjoying the water.
After that I had my first taste of Ceviche while watching an incredible sunset unfold before me - I cannot tell you how delicious it was! It is raw fish, flavored with lime. Amazing.

Earlier that day I met a guy Jorge, or Omar, or... well, I´m not sure. He says Jorge but then he said Omar and then I asked someone where he was today and they said they´ve never heard of Jorge or Omar. It was a bit confusing.
But Jorge was a character. He said he´s lived in the town his whole life. Surfing since a little boy. He rents boards and gives surf lessons. We were supposed to head up to Chicama today, where they have the longest ´left´ in the world, but he was nowhere to be found this morning.

So, I´m back in Trujillo. Contemplating either waiting for the night bus to Mancora, which is supposed to be a warm surfing town in the far north of Peru, near Equador (much closer to the equator so it´s warmer and there is no morning fog or clouds or whatever they have in the south - probably smog) or, trying to figure out how to get to Chicama. It involves more than one bus, and a colectivo - which is basically just a neighborhood minivan that cruises around town while they try to set the Guinness Book of World Records for most people in a 30 cubic foot vehicle.

Only 5 more days until I head back to the States. Crazy. As the old saying goes - time flies when you´re having fun!


Snow Capped Mountains

I´ll start at the end, since it´s fresh in my mind.

We awoke at the standard crack of dawn, to crunchy grass sparkling in the morning sun - frosted over by Jack Frost.

We walked down the canyon, all downhill, following a gushing rushing raging torrent of a stream teeming with freshly melted mountain water.

We arrive at a house. Again, house is a rectangular enclosure made of adobe clay bricks, fastened together by mud, topped with a grass roof. There were two cars in the yard, presumably to take us back to Huarez. The end! We made it. It was a long 4 days, hiking over breathless beautiful mountain passes. We all took our packs off and crashed to the grass. Me, in the warm sun. Others on benches. We ate our packed lunches (bread, candy bar, orange, cookies) and relaxed.

Shortly thereafter a large group of Israelis joined us. We had been leapfrogging them the whole way. There is something about Israelis... that I don´t like. They travel in swarms, they are loud, and for the most part they act as though they are the only people present on this earth. Most of them speak English, although they would never speak it to you. They keep to themselves, speaking in Hebrew only. It has nothing to do with religion, and only to do with the way they carry themselves and the way they treat others. And it´s not just me, many other travelers feel the same way.

Anyway, that´s besides the point. So, in this random yard, we have a cat begging for food - a dog laying beside me in the sun - disinterested in food. Someone gave the dog a piece of bread, since they´d already fed the cat, and the cat came over and tried to steal the bread from the dog! The dog didn´t appreciate his personal space being invaded, so he snapped at the cat. I think the cat was duly spooked and left him alone.

There were random piglets in the yard as well. At least 5 of them, grunting around like a dog, presumably looking for food. There were sheep passing by, being herded by their woman shepards. There was even a goat mixed in with the sheep!
Then two horses arrived, and a pack of donkeys. The donkeys carried all of our camping equipment.

Needless to say, it was quite a scene in this finish line yard.

Then, I noticed a woman leaning against a rock. A frail frazzled woman. And two police officers. Something didn´t look right with this woman. She looked like an emaciated Mick Jagger -- if that is possible. I kept looking at her. Her arms had innumerable veins protruding from them. It was as if the veins had nowhere else to go - inward - due to lack of arm! ANd were being forced to the surface like worms after a summer evening rain.

Then someone mentions that two people died on the mountains. Then the story changes, that a person broke some ribs after a fall.

Finally, the taxis are loaded and we pile in. The Mick Jagger woman ends up in our cab, in the front seat. Her face.... her skin... it looked like it belonged in a wax museum. I don´t know how to describe it. It looked like she had seen a ghost.

So, as we drive along sandy cliff roads, where one false jerk of the steering wheel or step on the gas pedal (more on that later) would send you hurtling over a cliff so steep and high that you may never hit ground -- (picture Road Runner cliffs) -- Lily - one of the trekkers - asks the woman in the front seat if she was with the climber who was injured.

The woman proceeds to tell us the story. Something about base camp at 5400 meters, and an experienced Austrian climber, a Peruvian climber, and herself. With two American climbers on their way to base camp. The American climbers were taking it easy in an effort to acclimitize. The altitude can really wreak havoc on your body. Sam, a very cool guy in our group from New Hampshire, said that -- well, according to his EMT girlfriend -- that your body loses 6 liters of water a day at altitude. So water is important.

Anyway, the Austrian climber decides that the weather conditions are perfect to summit the mountain. Apparently he had already summited 5 peaks, and was comfortable going alone. The Peruvian decided to go home, and this woman - the woman in the front seat - was going to stay at base camp to wait for the Americans.

So, the Austrian went alone. Without a net. From what I understand of ice climbing, you drill a screw into the ice every 10 or 20 meters, so that if you fall, you only fall 10 or 20 meters, then the screw and the rope catch you. In theory anyway.
I don´t know why, but the Austrian did not do this. So the woman in the front seat was hanging at base camp, occasionally glancing up to monitor the Austrian´s progress to the peak - when suddenly she hears the screams.

She wasn´t sure how, but somehow he fell. 300 meters, she says. He landed close to base camp. He somehow survived, which she said was improbable. She had to help him back to the camp, where she loaded sleeping bags and clothes onto him, to counteract the shock.

This happened on Monday. It was now Wednesday. She left him on Tuesday to go for help, assuming the American climbers would reach him and care for him in the meantime. It took her 2 days to get down. Which is where we found her.

As we left, an SUV marked High Altitude Search and Rescue team arrived, and a team in uniforms marched up the hill - to search and rescue the Austrian.

It was pretty sobering.

In talking to Sam and Paul - from NH - who were in Huarez to climb a few peaks - they said that you don´t just break ribs with a 300 meter fall, that the feeling of broken ribs was probably internal bleeding. You could tell that they were affected by the news, as they were preparing to set off on climbs of their own.

So on we went, zig-zagging around mountain corners. We get to the bottom of the mountain, and suddenly the car we´re riding in makes this loud clicking sound and lurches to a halt! The car turned itself off.

The Peruvian woman who was driving the car thinks the car overheated. I say ´well, normally overheating involves steam, and does not involve loud clicking in the front left portion of the car´ but she doesn´t speak English. After a few minutes, she turns the car back on, and we continue, a bit rattled.
Well, it happens again! This time the steering freezed up, and it seemed the brakes did too. WE made it to the side of the road, with the woman driver clearly rattled.
A few minutes pass, and again she turns the car back on. Something is obviously and seriously wrong with the car. She tests the brakes and they seem to work. Spooky.
Luckily, we make it into town, and get into another larger taxi. This poor woman hopefully made it to a mechanic. I have no idea what the problem was, I´m just glad we made it back safely.

We all pile into a van and over an hour later arrive back in Huarez. The woman (formerly known as the woman in the front seat - no longer in the front seat) heads off to find out about insurance. She planned on heading back up the mountain the next day, to retrieve her equipment and to hopefully hear good news about her friend.

These mountains are breathtaking. Both because of the altitude, but also because of their stark natural beauty. They are so still. Jagged. Pristine, untouched. Covered in snow, when the sun strikes them they become so dazzlingly bright it´s almost hard to look at.

There are so many stories from the hike, such an amazing time, I just don´t have time now. I am in Huanchaco, on the northern coast, after an overnight bus ride.
As I left Huarez on the bus, I couldn´t help but think of the woman in the front seat.
And the Austrian.
I hope he´s alive, I said a prayer for him.

I´ll write more later. I´m going to try and surf this afternoon. It is overcast and cool, the water here is cold enough that it requires a wetsuit. I may head farther north tonight, closer to the equator. For warm, relaxing beaches and ceviche.


Andy in the Andes

I´m in Huarez, Peru. It´s 10 hours north of Lima, about an hour inland from the coast. Pretty much in the middle of the country. And in the middle of the Andes mountains, at an altitude of 3400m or so. High. I flew to Lima from Cusco, then took an overnight bus here - arriving at the standard 5:30am.
As I walked up to the bus station in Lima, in a dark shady part of town, I almost physically bumped into my volunteer friends from Pisco - Conor and Cat! Crazy. That was after randomly bumping into my friends Jack and Kate in line for Wayna Picchu at Machu Picchu, and after randomly bumping into my French trekking friend Jonathon (who kindly gave me his cold that SOB, my nose is running and I can´t catch it) on the streets of Cusco as I was hailing a cab to the airport, and after randomly bumping into my friend Ellen in Aquas Calientes, who was sitting in a restaurant, saw me walk by and shouted my name. I tell ya - I know they call it the gringo trail, but still.

I went mountain biking and rock climbing today. It was great. I was looking around, asking myself - Self? Are you having a good time? It´s hard to tell sometimes, sometimes when you travel you feel lonely, wondering what you´re doing there, yearning for the comforts of home.

And just as a sidenote, comforts include: toilet paper in the bathroom, drinking water that isn´t yellow, drinks sold in stores (including beer) that are actually refrigerated instead of being just dusty, showers that shower you with water at a temperature higher than 42 degrees - you know, the usual.

But as I looked around at the snow capped mountains, breathing in fresh mountain air, in a different hemisphere -- the answer was an undeniable ýes´.

There are things that take getting used to, the pollution, the poverty - but that´s just the way it is.

Anyway, I signed up for a 4 day trek through the Andes mountains, leaving tomorrow at 5:45am. They sure do like to start things early around here. The hike goes up to a height of 4800m, which -- is high.

The highest mountain in the Andes (Huascaran) is very near here, at an absurd height of 6700 meters. Or 20 something thousand feet. Yards, meters, centimeters, feet. You do the math.

The temperature at night reaches lows of -6 or -7 Celsius, which -- is cold. I don´t have my handy Celsius-Fahrenheit convertor handy, but I do know that 0 Celsius is 32 Fahrenheit. So.... -7 is cold.
I booked it through a shop in town. A very nice man, and a nice wife who speaks English. They recommended a restaurant in town, for the fish.
They said if I wasn´t ready for Ceviche just yet (I told them I was saving my Ceviche self for the coast) that I could try the fish nuggets. Great!
In my haste I forgot to ask them what the Spanish name for the fish nuggets was. That would´ve been handy information.

I get to the restaurant, and as usual it´s a free-for-all. Monkeys throwing darts at a darkboard.
Who knows what anything is. I ordered Chita-Frita or something like that, assuming that Frita means fried and that the fish nuggets should be fried. It was just a guess.

Well, what actually appeared 20 minutes later was a poor fish that appeared to have been dunked in a fryer for 20 minutes. Head and all. Poor fish.

How am I supposed to eat something with a face still on it? Dammit. I felt like Jack Kerouac in Big Sur. It really bothered me actually. Made me want to be a vegetarian. I think if I actually saw what happened in slaughterhouses I would be a vegetarian.

Walking around town yesterday, they had black mesh bags full of something furry. I looked closer and realized it was a bunch of guinea pigs, huddled together in fear, in a small black mesh bag, waiting to be sold, killed, and eaten. Nice.

Anyway, I´m out of time! I´ll be back Wednesday. I still need to report on Machu Picchu, but the short report is that it is amazing. A marvel. A work of art. Indescribable.


Machu Picchu - Inca Jungle Tour

This may be a long one...

I awoke Sunday morning, got a quick breakfast --- eggs! An absolute luxury down here. ´Breakfast´ normally consists of these small circular bread rolls, some butter, jam if you´re lucky, and tea. Lots and lots of tea. So much tea that you almost forget to dot your I´s.

I came back to my hostel and met a guy who claimed to have been waiting for me for 30 minutes. Whatever. They told me 8 so I was there at 8.

I board a bus, groggly eyed, mumble hello to the other tour passengers. Upon quick glance, it appeared there were some Asians, a very affectionate and snuggly couple, a random man with a cowboy hat, and a peculiar looking woman. More on that later.

We bounce our way through Cusco in this small tour bus, with mountain bikes on top, until we pull up to another larger bus with Peruvians hanging their heads out the window in some combination of curiosity and boredom. Perhaps in search of a cool breeze.
And tons of things strapped to the top of the bus. I wouldn´t have been surprised to see a random cow on top of the bus, that´s how many things they had up there.

So, with people running all over the place - lots of action! Random people begin climbing on top of the buses and begin transferring the bikes from our small tour bus to this larger bus of chaos! I´m sitting there thinking... hmmm.... what would they be doing that? We already have a nice and tidy mini tour bus, packed with eager participants ready to ride bikes and tour jungles!

Well - turns out we end up traveling on the big bus with the locals! As a cost-cutting measure I´m sure. Great. So we board the bus with 50 something locals, begin bouncing our way across the Peruvian countryside. The bus ride was scheduled for two hours (ended up being a smooth 5), and they were playing some Spanish guitar music which actually matched our lackadaisical roll through farms and countryside. I thought ´wow, this is pretty cool.´

Bags were tucked into overhead compartments, many many bags! Only they had no way of securing these bags there, no net or anything, so as the bus bumbled over bumps -- bags would just fall on unsuspecting passengers! It was a fun little game for me to pass the time actually -- betting to myself on which bag was next to fall. Will it be the yellow one, or the brown box that looks like it could do some damage! Yippy!

We stopped in random towns, with random children boarding the bus to sell you things -- fruit, toys, eggs, vegetables, clothes -- the usual. I am used to this by now.

Then -- the fun began. Well, before we get to the fun -- they have these people -- there were two of them, on two separate occasions -- the first one stood at the front of the bus, shouting an impassioned speech about lord knows what.

He was speaking in fast forward spanish, so - obviously unintelligible to me. The speech went on and on. And on and on. I caught the random ´Senor and Senorita!´ occasionally, but other than that it was just a man standing and shouting.
After a good 20 minutes of so of this impassioned speech -- he began to walk down the aisle, distributing items out of a bag to people. For some reason he bypassed me and the other members of our tour -- apparently we didn´t qualify. Then he heads back to the front of bus and begins talking like an auctioneer! Uno, duos, tres, quatro, cinqo, seise! o23ijno2nf 2n3lfnn lnaslk n f !ª

He goes through the aisles again, this time collecting money from people! Finally, with my interest peeked to a fervishness I could not contain, I asked one of the random tour peeps that spoke Spanish what in sam hell was going on. They didn´t necessarily know, but thought that it was a fund-raiser for some family. We were not sure what role the candy played in this.

Anyway, after another one of the random stops in a random town, another speaker stood up in the front of the bus -- this man had a headphone, microphone -- amplifier! He meant business.
Turns out this man was selling some type of fortified powdered milk, or something. He also spoke for a good 20 minutes. How can you speak so passionately, and for so long, about MILK?!?

I have no idea.

But he did.

So he distributed the packets, then made the 2nd round of money collections, for everyone who couldn`t resist this amazing product! Then there was silence.


And just when I settled into a nice glazed-over stare out the window -- it began.

The music. It was constructed using synthesizers, fake drums, and that same familiar beat that is recognizable in a lot of spanish music. I would describe it as Marc Antony mixed with UB40.
Because those are two of my favorite artists that I listen to ALL THE TIME.

Every single song sounded the same. I think the songs were theoretically supposed to be different, but they were not. And inevitably, in each song, they would shout ´bilah chicas! bilah!´ over and over, then, a little later -- actually at the beginning and the end of each song -- would shout ´Los... Putos!!!´ over and over -- super loud.

So, ok. A few songs is cool. But this went on for HOURS. I am not kidding.
And it was LOUD. So loud. I looked around the bus, thinking ´what does everyone think of this? Is this normal? It can´t be. It´s too loud. Too obnoxious.´ But it kept going.
My initial anger and impatience eventually turned to laughter. It was too much. Like my good friend Tom always says -- you can either laugh or cry.

Finally, finally! The bus stops. Oh, and the bus at this point is traversing switchbacks up the impossibly imposing and gigantic Andes mountains.
I´ve never seen anything so steep and neverendingly tall.
It was quite a sight. Andy in the Andes!

How these mountains came to be I cannot imagine. I cannot imagine techtonic plates meeting in oceans and pushing each other skyward. Out of the ocean. Subversion?
Whatever it is, it is very hard to imagine.

Ok - moving on! I will have to fast forward this story because i have to get to the airport to catch a flight.

Long story short - we get the mountain bikes down. These bikes... are barely bikes. They barely had wheels and brakes, but nonetheless the group -- which had never even been introduced to each other! (nice guiding mister tour guide!) begin rolling down the mountain. It was all downhill from here. We rarely had to pedal. At first I was hesitant, because we were biking down steep bouncy mountain roads (the term road is used very loosely here, it is more a ´path´where trees and various impediments have been cleared), but eventually I became more comfortable with the bike, and the speed, and the fact that at least we had helmets.

Ahhh, biking. It brought back a lot of memories. Both of my cross country trip, and of Hawaii. These mountainsides looked very much like the Oahu countryside.
Misty, foggy tropical beauty. Streams and waterfalls and greenery. Fast-flowing water rushing down the mountainside.

Later that night, after we got to the hostel (picture four walls, a ceiling, and a bunch of beds piled into a hot room, with a bathroom whose shower´s water actually landed on the toilet! -- amazing. You had to sort of straddle the toilet to get the water to hit you -- and mind you there are precious few hot showers down here. Most are bone chillingly cold. Shockingly cold, where the water hits you and you unconsciously utter a startled sound! You can´t help it).

Anyway, we (the group who had yet to be introduced -- and, turns out, never was) were rehashing the events of the day, and this English dude Russ says, of the Los Putos music -- ´Death would not take me soon enough!´-- ha.
Apparently I wasn´t the only one who noticed the music. Good times.

The bike ride went through random towns, as did a lot of this jungle tour. They weren´t really towns, I would call them more settlements. Most settlements consisted of houses that you can´t really call houses in the way that we think of houses, they are more walls with leaves, branches and boards resting on the top of the walls.
And a general store that had shelves of water and cola and bread.

And children. The children! Peruvian children are the most happy and beautiful people on this earth. I am convinced of it. Every town I passed through a town there were endless smiling children waving and saying ´hola´. They all said hola. It was so great. They had nothing, not even shoes, but they were so happy and friendly. It was neat.

Anyway, the people on this tour. There was one English couple -- Ross and Rosa-- whose main concern seemed to be how many bottles of water they had. They were endlessly concerned about their water levels. They would race ahead of the group as if it were indeed a race, then wait for us to catch up. Then they´d talk about water.

Then we had 3 girls from South Korea. I still have no idea what their names were. Only one of them spoke English, she was our translator for the other two. They were giggly and fun.

An interesting thing about these South Koreans is that they brushed their teeth after every single meal! I was very impressed by this. Their oral hygeine was world class. And -- they never ate all of their rice at any meal. Ever. I also found this very interesting. I thought Asians enjoyed rice.

Well, I´ll have to continue this later on, or tomorrow. So much more to tell, including Machu Picchu! And 80´s music, and wandering chickens, and being scolded for picture taking that steals souls, and... lots of stuff.

My flight is either at 2pm or 4pm, I need to get to the airport to confirm. I´m flying to Lima and then hopping on a bus to Huarez. Huarez is in the Andes, full of snow-capped mountains, gleaming glaciers and pristine lakes.

More later!


No Gracias

Thanks but no thanks.

Do you want to buy a finger puppet? Maybe a belt?
Perhaps a painting... or a sweater? How about some peanuts? Tangerines?
I know -- you need some gloves! Actually, what you need is a nice dinner at this fantastic place, see, here is the menu -- isn´t it lovely?
Or maybe you need a massage. That´s it. Full body! Or cocaine. That´s what you need. I can tell. With a little marijuana for dessert.
I know the Inca Trail is sold out through September, but we have these amazing hikes that are even better!
Of course they are.
I got it - you need a plastic sun-looking object on a string ---- a perfect souviner!
I know you´ve just seen the Inca ruins and are just looking to walk back home, but here is my cute little child holding a baby llama. And, what it seems you want is to hold this baby llama and we´ll take your picture. Yes?!?

Actually, why don´t you just buy my child?

Ok, ok. No child buying. But I tell ya. It wears on a person. No gracias. I need some horse blinders that extend 5 feet ahead of me on either side, so that I may not be approached. Or, I may be approached, but I cannot see or hear them.

This one woman yesterday, with her baby on her back, starts walking with me. Pushing different sweaters at me. ´100% baby alpaca senior. Si?´
No, gracias.
`Oh but it´s for my baby. See my baby?` she says, whirling around as she shakes him around on her back.
Yes, I see your baby. But I don´t need a sweater.

On and on we go. I became stern - I don´t even know how to be stern! But I was.
Listen lady, no. No sweater.
Block after block we go. Her pleading.
PLease - I have two more kids at home.
Ummm, how about instead of me buying your sweater, I buy you some condoms?!

So what do I do? Yep, I buy a sweater.

Anyway, I hiked up to some ruins today. Overlooking Cusco.
If they´re ruined then why do we want to look at them? Curioso.

It was interesting, they fit a lot of differently shaped rocks together. Big rocks.

And I finally booked a trip! The Inca Trail is booked into September, so that´s not possible. It was either a 5 day, 4 night 55km hike to 4800 meters (and, just walking up steps gets me light-headed. This altitude is no joke. Headaches for everyone!) or a 4 day, 3 night trip that includes 1 day of cycling, 2 days of hiking, and 1 day at Machu Picchu.

I took the easy way out. Plus I like the variety of hiking and biking. I´ll be hiking in the snowy glacial covered mountains of Huarez soon enough.

So that´s it. I leave tomorrow morning, return Wednesday evening.

Can´t wait. Should be a grand time.


The Condors of Colca Canyon

Somewhere on the way back from the rafting trip, I decided not to go to Bolivia.

I just decided it was going to be too many buses, too many border crossings, and trying to cram too much into too little time.

Instead, I will just enjoy 3 general areas with the time I have left. I think they are diverse enough areas (Cusco - Machu Picchu, hiking, cool city, day trips --- Huarez - mountains, glaciers, hiking, biking --- and the North Coast - surfing, beaches, hammocks, ceviche) that I´ll be glad I have the extra time to explore and relax. Isn´t that what vacation is supposed to be anyway?

I rolled into Cusco all bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5:30am this morning, after an 11 hour ride from Arequipa. My neck is absolutely killing me, moreso at night. I got some Excedrin yesterday - which promises to be an `Extra Strength Pain Reliever´ according to its advertisement, but... nope. Nothing.
You know when you turn your head too fast, and you pinch a nerve, and it burns like crazy and you just wish it´d stop? That´s me. All day long.

Cry me a river, right?

I´m just saying, these marathon bus rides are rough. You drift in and out of sleep, trying to sleep on your armrest, the bus is swerving all over, you´re falling out of your seat, drooling on your sleeve, banging your head on the window -- I´m pretty sure we took a dirt road the entire way to Cusco! It was nuts. Bouncing all over the place. I woke up one time to the bus slamming on its breaks - I look out the window and see all this debris on the side of the road - then the bus reverses and continues on its way. It was strange. Windy windy roads. The long and windy road. To Cusco.

After the rafting trip, I was deciding between a bus to Bolivia, or just hanging around Arequipa and doing the Colca Canyon tour, which came recommended.

I decided on the Canyon tour, because I like canyons, and I´ve always wanted to see a Condor fly.

I booked the tour through the hostel, since they are very nice people and every single tour company is basically selling the exact same thing. We left at 3:30am, because of the impending transportation strike (which did end up happening, I found out last night from a guy I´d met at the hostel, he ended up getting stuck in Arequipa 2 days because of the strike). We kept bouncing along these roads, dirt roads, windy roads, finally stopping at a market of some sort.

The kind of tourist market where they want you to buy hats, shirts, socks, pants, postcards, pencils, suckers, snacks, sweaters, lampposts, rugs -- anything! You want to buy the chair you´re sitting on? No problemo!
I got some Coca tea and a breakfast sandwich and abandoned ship ASAP. That form of tourism makes me shudder. Gives me the heebie-jeebies, if the heebie-jeebies still exist.
Along with the Boogie man.
Or is it Boogity... could never figure that one out.

Anyway, I will bypass the fact that I boarded and disembarked the tour bus approximately 58 times over the course of two days. We´ll just ignore that part.

Moving onto the canyon. The Canyon is huge, don´t get me wrong. But they have no business comparing it to the Grand Canyon. No way Jose. Two different leagues.

So we park our tour bus, get out, and walk over to the ledge. And suddenly I see two of them - two giant soaring Condors, easing gracefully past the overlook. It gave me the chills. Such amazing creatures. And huge! And there were tons of them! They´d all just soar back and forth, sometimes over our heads, sometimes just below the overlook. I couldn´t stop watching.

It was a neat experience, to be that close to such an amazing bird.

Afterward, I walked back up the path toward the bus, and I hear music. I find its source, a man dressed in traditional Peruvian garb, complete with hat. He was playing the guitar, a sweet simple melody. With a capo over the 7th or 8th fret, picking two or three different chords.

I stood there watching, and then I noticed the sign - each line was in a different color. It said:

Mr. Tourist
Help Me
I Am Blind
Thank You

And then I saw his eyes. It is an image that is indeliably etched in my mind. I know it sounds cliche, but it was a glimpse into God, or my soul, or some combination of the two. I can´t properly describe it.

But between his eyes, the notes he was playing and the wailing lonesome hopeful words he was singing -- I got a little overwhelmed. Tear. And - of course - at that very moment, Sylvia the kind tour guide woman asks if I want to join them on a walk down into the canyon. ´Umm, yeah sure Sylvia, just let me clear this dust out of my eyes.´

What must this man think when he gets dressed in the morning (which I´m sure is a task unto itself)? `Oh please Lord let those tourists drop many coins in my humble bowl today` -- or -- `Lord if at all possible I would love to experience the joy of seeing all of your amazing creations again`.

He dresses himself up in a costume, because he knows he has to. To play the part. For Mister Tourist. People laugh and stand next to him and take pictures, and he obliges. He has to.

I don´t know.

It just struck me. He could be my dad, my brother, my friend - or maybe he is all of them. Maybe we are all one. In being alive. The human condition. It´s beautiful and it´s heartbreaking. It´s happy and it´s downright despair. Just hold on.

Notes. Dancing in the wind. Words that I don´t understand but understand perfectly.

These people... Peruvians... they don´t have much. They sit alongside the road and they sell us tourists fruit from the cactus. Squeezing blood from a rock. Our tour bus flies by them as they walk back to their homes with their donkeys and cows and satchels of cactus fruit -- and they wince as a cloud of dust and hot exhaust flies into their face. I kept seeing this... and it bothered me.

Later in the tour we hiked up the hill to their burial ground. Bones. I saw bones, and skulls.
It didn´t feel right. People smiling and taking pictures of their ancenstors bones.

Who are we to invade their communities and blow dust in their face while walking over their burial grounds and taking fun pictures of their ancestors bones to show our friends?

Who is entitled to what?

Is it not just a game of chance and happenstance and circumstance? We have a name on our passports that by default bestows OPPORTUNITY upon us.

There is little opportunity here, just farming and surviving.

What if we had no schools, no education, what if our soil was arid dusty sand, what if there were no jobs, what if we had no infrastructure to advance business and technology, to make products - to make a living?

Things to be thankful for.

Although, these people are happy. So maybe in the end, they have us fooled.

Ok phew. Sorry. I´ll step off the high horse and back into my dusty shoes.

So - my roommate on this trip - Humberto! Humberto was great, he was from Lima, just enjoying a little time off. He took pictures of EVERYTHING.
At one point he asked ´Do you want a nice Peruvian bride?´ with a smile.
Humberto had some type of coughing problem. And snoring - I didn´t know it was possible to breathe in forcefully enough to make the kinds of noises he was making! He was coughing and snoring all night long. At one point I woke up and heard the water running in the bathroom, and an occasional moan. I am hoping for the best, that Humberto was just freshening up, or bemoaning his mucus filled sinuses. One can hope.

And that´s that. I´m in Cusco, it´s a fantastic city I can tell already. I got here, was walking across the main Plaza de something or other, and this kid approaches me, looking for a lighter. He talks... and talks.. and talks. He was still out from the night before. Spoke broken english. I had nothing better to do so I sat on a bench in the Plaza and talked to him, watching the sun come up.
Eventually we head into one of the cathedrals and look around. Then he takes me on this wild goose chase around the city, looking for the perfect hotel for me. He had one in mind, but couldn´t find it. It was hilarious. He kept saying ´hold on, let me remember´
Kids were running off to school, dogs were running down the street, morning sun was just beginning to break over the tops of the buildings -- it was quite a moment.
Carlos - I finally ask him his name - leaves me at a hostel he feels satisfied with, and walks off into the sunset. Err, I mean sunrise. Time for bed Carlos! I love it.

I´ll be here for 5-7 days, depending on which tour I end up doing. Machu Picchu! More ruins. Hopefully, for my sake, they keep us away from the bones. Or maybe all we are is dust in the wind and bones are just bones.


Not Chagas

Ok, just a quick update -- it´s Chinche, not Chagas.

I went back to Doctor Drop Your Drawers, and he kindly corrected me.

Phew. Just wanted to clarify that, since anyone reading about Chagas disease may get a little concerned. I definitely had a sigh of relief there.

And, apparently they are threatening a transporation strike in Arequipa tomorrow, so my tour to Colca Canyon is leaving at 3:30am instead of 8am. Just in case. This city sounds like San Francisco in a way, they strike about everything.

Alright, to the cama! Buenas noches.

Hopefully not Chagas!

I reread what I wrote the other day, and realized that I was all over the place! Misspellings, wrong tenses, missing words, the works. Very unlike me. I think I´m just a bit flustered by the language, and the keyboard. Ohhhh the keyboard. It took me days before I could log onto this Blogger site, because I couldn´t figure out how to make the @ symbol! If you hold Shift and number 2 here, you get a " mark.

Well, turns out - after asking around - that you either can hold down Cntl, Alt, and the numbers 6 and 4....... or you can use the Alt Grande key - yes, who knew! - and hit number 2. Rrrrrrright. Insider spanish keyboard secrets! And this varies from keyboard to keyboard. Some keyboards it´s Cntl-Alt-6-4, some keyboards it´s Cntl-Alt-2, some keyboards it doesn´t work at all. And apparently the Shift key is worthless aside from making capital letters.

Anyway, yesterday was chore day. I went to the camera store -- como se dice -- sand in the camera lens?!? No worko? Need fixo! Si?

Dammit this language barrier is killing me.

Finally, between fragmented words and grunts and points and ummms and hand signals - the woman summoned another man from the back. I showed him - no worko - lens error, restart camera - and he agreed to take it apart (or, most likely unscrew it, take the cover off, blow a few times and reattach) for the low low price of 120 Soles. If you look up Gringo in the dictionary, there is a picture of me - with various Peruvians pointing and giggling at me while emptying my pockets! Oh well, 40 or 50 bucks is better than a new camera.

Moving on - to el medico! He is an english speaking medico - thank the good lord. I finally met up with him after being told to come back later in the day. We go into his office, he asks what seems to be the problem. I show him my mangled legs, full of bites and blotches, swollen like telephone poles. He shines a light on them, then on my bitten arms, then back on my legs.

He decides the bites on the arm are fleas or sand flies. The bites on my legs he diagnoses as bites from the Chagas bug. He shows me pictures of the bug on his computer, along with pictures of the Chagas bug bites on another person, which looked very similar to mine. Mine started out looking like mosquito bites, but have since flattened out and expanded in diameter, and changed color. They´re currently starring as ugly red splotches.

So, he recommends some anti-inflammatory pills, and a shot - to accelerate the decrease in swelling. Apparently the shot works faster than the pills.

So he gets the needle out, loads it up, comes over -- I roll up my sleeve and tense up -- and he smiles and says ´oh, no. not arm. the butt.´
Great! So I drop my drawers and off we go. Man that does not feel good.

Anyway, I´ve been reading more about the CHagas bug, it´s actually a disease the bug gives you - and there doesn´t seem to be a cure. So, I´m going to back to him this afternoon to make sure he said Chagas bug. Because if he did, I think that´s a problem. Long term effects.

Chagas bugs aside, everything else is pretty good. I´m staying in a very nice hostel, reminds me of Europe. Actually Arequipa reminds me of a European town. Lotsa noise and traffico, but also lots of interesting buildings and cathedrals and sunlit alleyways. Fun to walk around and take in the sights. People watch, sit in the plaza and soak it all in.

There aren´t many other people at my hostel, so it´s nice and quiet. I had a nice sunlit breakfast this morning of bread and jam and coca tea. Not sure if you´re supposed to feel high from coca tea (since it´s made from coca leaves, which they use to make cocaine) but it tastes good.

I went white-water-rafting today. It was amazing, although we got stuck on about 14 different rocks. I think they may have pulled our guide from the local farmer´s field.
No, he was nice. And somewhat knowledgeable. It was just a difficult river with lots of rocks and obstacles. But very fun. There were snow-capped mountains in the background (where the melted water flows from to make el rapids), I kept looking back up the river rapids and admiring the cascading water with the mountains towering in the background. It was mesmerizing.

Anyway, I gotta run and book a two day trip to colca canyon for tomorrow. Apparently it´s deeper than the grand canyon, and there´s also a place you stop where condors swoop over your head, while you - being the tourist that you are - stand there and snap 87 pictures of them, while almost forgetting to soak in the moment. Ah, the life of a tourist.


The Lone Traveler

So I´m in Ariquipa now, after a 12 hour overnight busride last night.

I´ve been traveling the past few days, so the internets have been elusive.

On Saturday, I left Pisco for good. I was ready to leave -- while it was a unique experience that I´ll remember forever -- it was also hard being exposed to such poverty. On Friday night we took a cab to a soccer match between the locals and the gringos. It was a good 3 or 4 miles, and it cost... 4 Sole! Total. For 7 people. One US dollar will get you 2.70 Sole, so 4 Sole is about $1.50. Rrrrright. A gallon of gas here costs 12 Sole. So how does that work? Say you give 3 rides to people, each lasting 15 minutes, using up one gallon of gas. So you make 12 Sole and buy a gallon of gas for 12 Sole? You do the math. Seems like a breakeven analysis. I must be missing something.

Even the dogs are poor. So many dogs. Just wandering around eating through the piles of trash strewn about the streets. Part of the problem is that all the boy dogs have balls intact! Boy dogs plus balls still intact equals more and more dogs!

I remember buying a popsicle one hot afternoon after digging ditches all day - and walking past a hut (probably 12x10 - one room for a family of 4, made out of thatched reeds) -- thinking, man, here I am buying popsicles when these people can´t even buy food.
But what can I do, right? Besides be compassionate towards their plight, maybe dig a few ditches for their new school, offer them a smile. It´s rough.

On Saturday a bunch of us boarded buses for Huacachina. About 3-4 hours SE (inland) from Pisco. Huacachina is surrounded by sand dunes. Humongous Huacachinan sand dunes. We spent the night at a hostel there, arriving in the evening. It was a very nice hostel with a pool. I remember standing outside alone, next to the pool, looking around in all directions, moon, stars -- and dunes! The dunes are so high, they seem like mountains, dark mountains, but they are dunes.
Anyway, the next day we went 'sandboarding'. In America, these dunes would be protected and off-limits to even walkers and hikers. But - in Peru? They get a bunch of dune buggies and take the gringos out for a joy ride! Then they strap wooden boards on their feet and send them flyingn down the dunes - some with better success than others. I have to admit, the dune buggy ride was incredible. It was similar to riding a roller coaster, only you´re surrounded by gigantic cliffs of sand. I wouldn´t have been surprised to see the Sphrinx or Great Pyramid -- that´s what the surroundings reminded me of. We stopped at 3 different slopes, for sandboarding, each steeper and higher than the last. My first attempt was grand, I flew straight down with no problems. It´s easy right? Most people lay down on their stomach, since they don´t feel comfortable standing up. Long story short - on the 2nd to last dune - I try on my feet again. I had done a few on my stomach and wanted to try standing once more. So I start out - begin flying down the hill, so I turn sideways a bit to slow down (I snowboard after all, so I should have some idea how this works).
Well, the back edge catches - and off I go. I flew probably 10-20 feet in the air, landed on my butt, followed quickly by the back of my head, somersaulting down the hill. I went hand over feet twice, finally coming to rest towards the bottom of the hill. I had so much sand in my eyes, hair, mouth, face, shirt - everywhere - I could hardly see. I was coughing up sand. Spitting sand. Swallowing sand. Sand in my ears. I fell so hard that I did the usual survey for broken things -- starting first with my teeth and face since I´ve had trouble in the past with that! Teeth felt intact. Good. Face feels intact. Neck hurts. Body hurts. I seem to know where I am, that´s good. The crowd of people watching were making ooohs and aahhhs and weren´t sure what to do - I told them I was ok and most of them just had big frightened eyes saying ´'wow'.

So, the last dune! Was so high the people at the bottom looked like little dots. It must´ve been a few hundred foot drop in elevation. One of the guys in our group - David - had done it before and suggesting hiking to the top of another peak - he said it was a better ride. We head up - he goes first, on his stomach, goes flying down! He disappears (due to the steepness of the slope you couldn´t see him until the dune flattened back out). Then finally reappears in the flat part, flying! He stops, falls off his board, and doesn´t move for a good couple of minutes.
Long story short, I eventually go, on my stomach. I was going so fast that I had to dig my feet into the ground, as brakes, to at least maintain some control. I come flying into the flat part, almost hiting a few people, then bouncing to a stop and falling off my board. Wild - and wildly unsafe! I stand up, taking inventory, everything seems fine. But then something was missing from my pocket. My camera! I looked all around the bottom. Nothing. I had to find it. I start walking back up the impossibly steep dune. At that point our friend Naomi was heading down, but she was going slow and away from where I was walking. I was just thinking 'must...find...camera...too many...amazing....pictures...to lose´. So then I see our friend Richie come flying down too - heading straight for Naomi! Someone says 'he´s heading straight for her!' It seemed like Richie saw the impending doom and tried to alter his course, which he luckily did, narrowly flying fast Naomi on the right, probably coming within inches of her. It was a near disaster.
Anyway, back to the camera. I am walking back up the hill, along with my kind friend Jeremy. I don´t think anyone else had the energy to do so. I don´t know if you´ve ever tried walking up a steep sandy slope - but it´s not easy. And it was so far up! It must´ve been at least a half mile, probably more. We keep walking... and nothing. Such a horrible feeling. I wanted to get all the way to the top, just to be sure. Even though I was huffing and puffing so much I could hardly stand. My heart was ready to explode out of my chest. Then all of a sudden I hear Jeremy (who was slightly ahead of me) say 'you´re a lucky man Andy!' -- and with a humongous sigh of relief -- I watch as he triumphantly hoists the gleaming camera in the air! I tell him he´s the coolest man alive and we trotting down the mountain, leaping in victory.
One wild dune buggy ride back where we caught air flying over dunes -- and that was enough for me.
I said goodbye to all of my Pisco friends. It was sad. Even Richie, who I was maybe going to travel with to Bolivia, decided to head back to Pisco as well, for more volunteering. That left me with my English friends Jack and Kate -- who are great funny people, and who also know Spanish, which is invaluable. They were heading into Ica, to catch a bus to Arequipa. They had already bought tickets and were going to shop for a bit before heading to the bus station. I thought it best that I head straight to Ica and the bus station to get my ticket too, since the Peru bus system is a little, ummmm, chaotic. I get to the bus station, dodging endless Peruvians in line. Madness! So many people. I find a man, blurt out 'uhh, Ariquipa?' and am returned with a rapid fire succession of words and head shaking -- with me of course understanding none of it. So, I say again -- 'Ariquipa?' -- what the hell else do I say right? And again, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Lots of head shakes no. So I try the bus station next to Soyuz, the woman there says Arequipa manana. Great. So, I go back to Soyuz, assuming Jack and Kate should´ve shown up by then. Nope. I ask another person about Ariquipa -- he talks and talks and talks, I look at him, and look at him, and look at him. And then Smile - no comprendo! He points that way, and then that way. Indicating, go straigh, then take a right. So out into the mad streets I go, honking, pedaling madness. Take my first right, and am greeted by the back of the Soyuz bus station. Dejected, and aware of my presence in a dark back alley, I walk back to the main street. There I see an empty room with a sign, I walk closer and it says buses! But the waiting room was totally empty, which didn´t make sense in contrast to the madness of the Soyuz waiting room.
So I walk up, saying oh boy here we go again. 'Ariquipa?´' --- blah, blah, blah, si, blah, blah, blah. Hmmmm, this seems a little more promising. At least there was less side to side head shaking - indicating no. He points to the screen and then writes down 10:30pm. Perfecto! Sold! I give him 75 Soles and wait in the waiting room.
This was really my first time alone, with nobody else that knew Spanish. It was humbling. I was hot, sweaty, sand still all over. I was prying it out of my ears, eyes, nose, mouth, shirt, pants, pants pockets, shoes. The bus came, I got on, hoped it really was going to Ariquipa, and boarded, sitting next to a pungest Peruvian who continually fell on me throughout the night. I had to keep nudging him back over to his seat, since he was obviously asleep and unaware that he was on me. I finally slept a little. And awoke to mountains and desert. Arriving in Ariquipa around 10am this morning. I took a cab to the hostel, and then a nap.
I just got some food - another exciting experience! They didn´t have a menu -which made for interesting conversation. Calle de alfjlashr432lu4? Si? Um, no habla espanol. Staring. Silence. ladfaldnflasnflsafnf-fn2l3h4l23n4nsdnflsdkf? Um, Smiling. Staring. No habla espanol. Pollo? Si si! Pollo por favor!
And on it goes. A bowl of tasty soup appeared, then a chicken patty with rice and lettuce. And then I ordered coke. And it all costed 4 Soles. About $1.25.

Ok, I gotta run! I´m feeling a little lonely now that all my friends are gone, but I´m sure I´ll meet new ones. My neck is stiff, my legs and feet are swollen from the 1,793 different insects that have bitten me thus far. I´ve had various people diagnose my wounds - I´ve heard sand flies, fleas, bed bugs, mosquitos. Probably all of the above. I'm hoping they fix themselves, because I´m not very comfortable having swollen legs and feet. If it doesn´t get better soon I´ll have to go to el medicino.
And my neck... well, hopefully it´s a slight case of whiplash. I don´t think it´s a concussion, but man oh man did I go down hard!

And with that, I am off to try and fix my camera. In the sandy melee, it got injured. It now says 'lens error, restart camera' -- whatever that means. Bottom line - it doesn´t work.

So, I will go and explain this to the local camera repair man - should be a fun conversation!

Ok, hope everyone is well. I think I´m white-water-rafting tomorrow and then headed to Cusco and Machu Picchu after that.


Pisco, Peru

Soooo, I can´t do this justice at all.

I´ve had 8 hours sleep in the last 48 hours, mainly because I met these people while waiting in line at the SFO airport, suggesting that I go with them to a place where people have been devastated by an 8 magnitude earthquake back in August of last year.

I figured why not? I had no other plan and nothing better to do.

So after leaving SFO at 7am, arriving at Panama City around 6pm, and arriving at Lima just after midnight.... we waited for a 3am bus to Pisco, and arrived in Pisco a little after 7am.
From there, I put my stuff down (sleep??? no???) and hopped on the back of a pickup truck - to assist with the rebuilding of this town devastated by this earthquake. 9 hot sweaty hours later, I took a shower and ate dinner. 36 hours after having woken up for the initial flight -- I went to bed. ahhh.

Needless to say, it´s been an experience of a lifetime. Even after 1.5 days.

And... needless to say, the spanish keyboards are not the same as american keyboards!
Definitely takes some getting used to.

Anyway, I can´t possibly convey the incredible experiences I´ve had. I am taking notes and will try later.

Until then, can someone please teach me spanish?!



Ok! It's good to be back. I have a voice. I was beginning to feel as if I may be a mute.

It's Sunday morning, sunny in San Francisco.
I leave for Lima, Peru in 9 days.

That's about all I know these days. Not sure how we got from point A to point B -- I think I was thrown clear -- but we gotta start with the facts.

My last day of work is this Friday. I leave for Peru on May 6th, coming back June 5th. I'll then spend a week or two back home in New York catching up with my family, and after that will move to Ashland, Oregon - to work in a yoga studio.

The plan is to work at the yoga studio in the afternoons, and practice golf in the mornings. When working at a corporate job, it is so hard to clear space for yourself - free time. By the time you get home, the energy is gone. Mornings are filled with alarm clocks and showers, evenings with wondering what's for dinner. Time is not on your side.

What I want to do, is give golf a shot. I never have given it a shot, it's been more of a passing hobby and a good excuse to spend time in nature.
But I don't want to be 84 years old in my rocking chair, wondering what-if.
Everyone has always said I have a talent with golf - and isn't that what you're supposed to do? Utilize your talents? Follow your dreams? What color is your parachute?

I also want to learn to play the guitar, or a musical instrument. I dream of a sunny room filled with a guitar, a microphone, a keyboard, a computer for recording and mixing music, and an African conga drum.
I saw a movie called the Visitors recently, and I'd like to get a Conga drum and learn to play it. Or maybe not even learn, just play it.
I..... don't wanna work.... I just want to bang on the drum all day.

And yoga... it's 11:11 right now. Pixies. Yoga for me is an amazing outlet, something that grounds me, makes me feel whole and void of want.
We always want the next thing, the next meal, the next job, the next snazzy outfit or pair of shoes, the next song, the next thing that makes us laugh, the next movie, the next show, the next drink, the next cup of coffee -- but... in being so forward looking I think we often miss the present moment. And the future is really just an interconnected string of Nows.
I highly recommend a book called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.
Yoga keeps you in the now. And grateful. Gratitude is an underrated tool in life.

So I will work at a yoga studio and try to become the next Tiger Woods. It's improbable, but all you need is a dollar and a dream, right? Without dreams and goals then life is just what happens to you.

Thoughts become things. The power of intention.

And as if my flux capacitor wasn't teetering on the brink as it is with all of this change -- my heart is freshly broken. A million little pieces.
What do you do with the pieces of a broken heart?
And how can a man like me remain in the light...
And if life is really as short as they say, then why is the night so long.
These are questions that M. Ward has, as do I.

What do you do, when your stomach is in your throat, when your heart physically aches, when you feel like you may throw up -- and not because you have the flu.

I was in REI yesterday, wondering what I need for this Peru trip while trying not to cry. A few times I actually felt a gagging reflex. As if I may throw up.

Love exposes you, leaving you wholly vulnerable. They say that it's better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved before -- but I'll have to think about that one.

Does the beauty of love outweigh the pain of loss?

It feels so right, as if the universe has conspired to bring us together and have us be one.
It seems so obvious. And yet here I am. Trying not to cry in REI. The pain is impossible.

But I will forever believe in the pixies.

And with that -- I head to Peru. The funny thing is that I barely know where Peru is. I have no plan, no itinerary, I know nothing about the country, I don't speak the language, I hold no currency. I am a foreign man, surrounded by sound. Sound. Cattle in the marketplace. Scatterlings and orphanages. I look around and around. I see angels in the architecture. Spinning in infinity I say Amen! Hallelujah!

Paul pretty much sums it up. I will look for angels in the architecture spinning in infinity and say amen - Hallelujah!

God's Coffee

A group of alumni, highly established in their
careers, got together to visit their old university
professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints
about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the
kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an
assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass,
crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some
exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the
professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking
expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain
and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want
only the best for yourselves, that is the source of
your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup
itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it
is just more expensive and in some cases even
hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was
coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the
best cups...And then you began eyeing each other's

"Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs,
money and position in society are the cups. They are
just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of
cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of
Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the
cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us."

God brews the coffee, not the cups...Enjoy your

The happiest people don't have the best of
everything. They just make
the best of everything.

Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.
Leave the rest to God.


Happy Thanksgiving

Warm sunshine shining through the window as people walk by going about their business on a day that feels like Monday, only it's Saturday. I am thankful for that.
I am thankful for life, for trees and sun, eyes that move and see, ears that hear, legs that walk, lips that talk, wind, air, arms that sway, a heart that beats, lungs that breathe, kidneys that clean, a soul that gently reminds me of peace and temporary time, water, grass, green, flow, water that flows, life that flows, being OK with life's flow, music, sleep, stretching, movement, motion, for this summer's trip and all the people I met, all the people I've ever met and all the people I will ever meet, as we are all one anyway. For my family, for my parents and brothers and sweet smiling little nephew and cousins and family in Ohio. For a place to lay my head, for the ability to buy food and water, for smiles. For the sky and stars and the moon. Sister Moon. For this odd thing called life.

I've been thinking about it a lot recently, it's such a gift to be alive. It doesn't last forever, so please enjoy it while you can.

I was running in the park Thanksgiving morning, to my favorite spot called Prayerbook Cross. It's up a hill and around a bend and there is a stream of rushing water that turns into a waterfall down below. There is a humongous cross that was built by some of the earliest settlers. I like to stand and look up, to imagine all the others that must've stood and looked up.
I go there to think, or in yesterday's case to be thankful. I sat and spoke words of thanks, naming things by name. It was a long list. It helped me to realize how fortunate I am. I ought to do that more often.
On the way back I decided that running was too strenuous (ha, I need to write about the marathon! I've been meaning to, I will soon. Let's just say... I finished, and my legs are still attached to my body. So we'll call it a success.) so I walked. A walk in the park.
My favorite moment was watching a father teaching his two little ones to ride their bikes. There was a little boy and a little girl. The little girl was riding around, and the guy was holding onto the seat of the little boy's bike, trying to get him going.
It's the 'getting going' that's the hardest part. Trusting that you don't need the training wheels anymore, trusting that even when your dad lets go, that you'll still be ok on your own. That you're still held in the palm of someone's hand, no matter what.
It's impossible to believe and the scariest thing in the world. Like a baby bird's first flight.
It's so hard to trust, to take that leap of faith.
The little boy began riding on his own, the dad looking on with nervous excitement when suddenly the girl came flying towards him, towards the grass, clearly unable to stop before the grass. Look out! So the dad quickly ran alongside her and grabbed the seat, slowing her and balancing her into the grass. He glanced over at me and smiled, and I smiled back. I think the girl was smiling too, blissfully unaware of her imminent crash. Ahh, the joys of learning to ride a bike. But they say, once you learn to ride a bike, you don't forget. If only all of life was like that...

I'm off to inhale and exhale enlivened oxygen and will write more later.

Happy Thanksgiving! Be thankful.



I was thinking of this saying by Marianne Williamson this morning as I did yoga for 2 hours with about 100 other people. All inhaling and exhaling enlivened oxygen while poring out a great dripping cleansing sweat in the name of health and hope. You end up losing thoughts of yourself and concerns of your world in favor of thoughts of everyone and everything. The common good. The greater good. It's wonderfully distracting and leaves you feeling empowered. Grateful, conscious, and full of hope.

Our Deepest Fear - by Marianne Williamson
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."


In California, with NYC Marathon Entry # 11132

Well, it's been over a month since the end of my trip. I spent a week in Boston, a week in New York City, two weeks in Rochester, and now I'm in California.

While home, I got to spend time with my favorite little man Jason - almost a year old now and quite illuminating - my brother, my friends, my mom, my dad.

I drove a 3 wheeler and cut firewood in my brother's backwoods. I rode a chairlift with my mom - scenic fall rides under crisp autumn cotton ball skies.
Walking in the woods with colorful crunchy leaves underfoot. Smiling.
I went wine tasting in the Finger Lakes vineyards.
I played golf with my dad, mowed the front lawn at dusk. I realized that I dearly miss the smell of freshly cut grass, especially in cool temperatures.

I ran. Until it hurt. Then I hopped in the hot tub.

My good friend and boss called a week or two ago, to catch up, and towards the end of our conversation I half-jokingly asked if there were any temporary consulting jobs for me, and she said 'why as a matter of fact there are!'.
Next thing you know my bags are packed and off I go. Leaving on a jetplane. Back back to Cali Cali.
Goodbye family, fall, leaves, freshly cut grass and apple cider. Hello California cubicles.

I'm on familiar streets sitting in familiar seats.

It all happened so fast I barely had time to blink. But it felt right. So here I am.

I haven't written anything since the trip ended because honestly I didn't know what to say. I still don't.

I wrote my friend the other day and this is what I said:

i do still feel like a fish out of water after that
bike trip. it was such an amazing experience, i can't
even put it into words. it makes me want to stare out
the window.
it taught me many things... mostly that you don't need
much to be happy. the things of value - interactions
with people - are free. smiles are free. sunlight in
trees is free. moving your feet in a circle - which
makes other circles go in circles and propel you - is
free. sleeping on the ground? it's free. looking at
the stars and not comprehending the overwhelming
vastness. that is free.

it opened up the world to me in a way that i probably
won't understand for awhile. our society tries to rule
us with the fear of not having enough money, but i'm
tired of living in that shadow. why don't we bask in
the bright sunshiny glory of each other instead?
existing and basking does not cost.
your heart beats whether you pay it or not.
heartbeats, by jose gonzalez. mmmm.

The thing is -- is that as much as I like to decry the evil shadows cast by money and the fact that love don't cost a thing -- I also realize that your heart doesn't beat if you don't eat.

This temporary opportunity provides me a chance to store a few acorns away for winter.

If you're going to live in modern society -- do we have a choice??? -- then you have to play by the rules. There are rules, man! To a certain extent.

To be honest with you, I can't write more. Nothing comes to mind. Well, lots of things do, but nothing that I can put my finger on.
I'm flying back to NYC on Friday, to run 26.2 miles on Sunday. I haven't run in almost 2 weeks. The back of my left knee has been sore - feels sort of like a pulled muscle or hyperextended knee. I thought it best to rest and allow it time to heal, especially because trying to cram training into the last 2 weeks before a marathon is not advised. Advised by the people who actually do this marathon running business.

So I've trained for less than a month. Probably a total of 9 or 10 training runs.
Should be interesting! Being in cycling shape didn't translate to running shape as much as I'd hoped. But when I received my marathon entry # in the mail - # 11132 - I knew I had to run. 11 is my favorite number, plus a bunch of 3s and 2s?! How can you go wrong with that?

Anyway, that's my update. Hope everyone is well. I am discombobulated, but will be with you shortly. This is a test of the emergency broadcast system. This is only a test. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.


Into The Wild

The movie Into The Wild should be required viewing for all human beings with a beating heart.


I saw it in NYC, I think it is released nationwide on October 19th.


Bar Harbor, Maine -- The End. of Phase 1

I camped in the front yard of Amelia's parents house Thursday night. It was the last time I'd camp for some time.

I was going to camp in a nice state park I found, overlooking a shiny new bridge they had just built - but I knew it was heavily patrolled and I knew they'd find me and I knew they would not be pleased about my camping there. So then I found this rest area, also owned by the state.
I was considering that, when I saw two people outside in their yard, near a green pickup truck.

By the time I rolled over, the truck had left and a woman was going back into the house.
I waved at the woman and said 'I know this may sound a little random, but would you mind if I camped in your front yard?'
I explained myself a little more.
She looked at me with a suspicious smile, said she should probably ask her dad first since it's his house. We talked, while waiting for her dad to return.

She was very nice, probably in her late 40s. She was up visiting her sick mother. Then she told me about her daughter, how her daughter had been in a serious motorcycle accident (and wasn't wearing a helmet), and not long after that was in a serious automobile accident.
She said her daughter wasn't right, wasn't the same, wasn't all there.

Bad news. When you hear things like that, you are reminded that health is something to be thankful for. Two eyes that work and two ears that work and two arms that work and two legs that work and one brain that works. Even if it's only at 10% capacity. Get to work brain!

The next morning I packed up. And I rode, one last time. I rode with music and happiness.
I rode with hundreds of different emotions, thousands of tangential thoughts, a mind of a million little pieces.

Taking it all in. Whether I wanted to or not. Whether I was ready for the end or not. Honestly it was all a bit surreal.

A good friend had asked what song I would listen to as I rode into Bar Harbor. To The End.

A good question, only because I'm a little obsessed with music.

I thought about it and I didn't know. What encompasses everything? How can you sum this trip up? I didn't know and wasn't sure it was possible.

Then the song Ocean came on, by the John Butler Trio.

And suddenly everything was summarized. My bike skipped lightly across the pavement. Bikey go lightly.

Of course it was Ocean. From one ocean to the other.

I remember telling a friend one time that I could only hope to feel as free as that song, one day. One sweet day.
At the time I said that, I didn't feel free. It was a far away concept, wishful thinking.

But then there I was on Route 230, heading into Bar Harbor, Maine -- feeling that free. The music matching my mood. The song summarizing my soul.

It was the culmination of every single thing that had happened along the way. It was the beginning and the end.
Encapsulating everything. Every thought, every feeling, every emotion, every experience.

Only two songs give me the chills, and this is one of them.
Here is a YouTube video of it, although this isn't quite as good as the version on the Live at Saint Gallen album.
I've seen this performed live twice, so I can confirm that this one character is making every single sweet sound that you hear.


Note especially time 1:21 and time 3:35, where my bike was officially skipping across the pavement in a joyously fine frenzy. A fantastic finale.

Here is a better sounding, more complete version of the song, only the video isn't as good.


And that was it. My Champs-Elysees, my ride under L'Arc de Triomphe. Only my Arc was the overhanging sunlit tree branches and my Triumph was a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. There were no Champs, no winners or losers. Only life lessons learned.

Last week, as I got closer to Bar Harbor, I realized that I needed a plan. Ignorance (of the inevitable end) had been bliss, but sooner or later I'd be there. And then what?
Up until that point it was one day at a time. One revolution after another. No plan needed, no purchase required - just pedal.
Wherever you ended up - you camped. It was simple.

But now I was slowly being welcomed back into the world of plans and requirements.
I had left all those questions behind, those questions of what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted to be when I grow up.
This trip had removed them for a time - for 84 days I was just a guy who woke up and pedaled.

I talked to my mom, and she thought someone should be there at the end. She didn't think I should lonelily dip my tire in the Atlantic by myself.

So my mom came. Initially it seemed silly, to ride a bicycle across an entire country - only to have my mom come and pick me up like I'd just finished up soccer practice. But then I thought about it and why wouldn't I want my mom there? She wanted to celebrate with me, congratulate me. She was proud of me. She was willing to take a day off work. She was willing to drive 12 hours each way from Rochester to Bar Harbor, by herself, to be there at the end. She's the coolest mom in the world.

Not to mention it solved a bunch of logistical problems. Problems like: how am I going to get my computer, and warmer clothes that I had shipped back to Rochester? And - how am I going to get somewhere other than Bar Harbor? Hitch-hike? OG Ride More?

This solved them all, and gave me a one person cheering section.

I arrived in Bar Harbor, but not before one last sneaky climb of almost 1,000 feet. I was so excited that I barely noticed.

My odometer stopped working about 30 miles shy of Bar Harbor... as if to say - 'You don't need me anymore. Enjoy.'

I turned right on Main Street, past all the quaint fishing village shops and restaurants. I stopped at the pier and looked. And smiled. Deep breath.
I was there. After a time, I got off my bike. I took a picture of the bike with the harbor as the background.

Ocean. From the Pacific to the Atlantic.

There was no sight of my mom yet and I couldn't call her. My phone had died the night before thanks to my good friend Morning Dew. No comment.

I asked a hostess outside of a restaurant if she had a cell phone I could borrow. She didn't.
Then a young man came out, another host, I asked him - no luck. But he mentioned something about happy hour, so in I went!

I ordered a martini. Looking out the window at the harbor. Still not believing this was it.

Then I saw my mom driving down the hill. I walked outside to let her know I was in the bar. I overheard her talking to a cop, saying she had to find her son on a bike. I said 'here I am'. She was so excited, I'll never forget it. She could barely contain herself.
She parked and came into the bar, still ready to burst with excitement. I think she was more excited than I was!

She said 'we need to dip the front tire in the ocean!' I had already scoped out the tire dipping situation but all I found were inaccessible rocky cliffs. With each sip of the martini, I was becoming less and less inclined to dip the tire, or even colder - to jump in the ocean. I hadn't jumped in the Pacific, so why jump in the Atlantic. Right?

As we left the bar, I said goodbye to the host. In talking with him before, I was telling him about some of the people I had started with - Thierry from France, Jim the 69 y/o guy, Alexander from Russia. He said that he was from Russia too. St. Petersburg - where Alexander was from.
Then as we're walking out, I'm telling my mom all of this, and the guy says his name is Alexander too! He says 'my name is Alexander too. So you start your trip with an Alexander from St. Petersburg, and you end your trip with an Alexander from St. Petersburg.'
Crazy huh? What are the odds...

As we're walking over to the car, I noticed a dog in the water. What was a dog doing in the water? How had he gotten down there?
Then I saw it - a ramp. A perfect little ramp, headed down to a small beach.

One thing I've learned along the way is to be open to things as they are presented to you. I don't know if it is God or the Universe or Chance or inter-connected sub-atomic particles - or whatever it is - but I feel that things work out as they should.
That if you're open and pay attention to your surroundings and subtle signs, that the Way will be illuminated for you.
So the decision was made for me. The ramp was quite obviously presented to me, saying 'ahhh, not so fast buddy - you have some unfinished business here!'

We walked down, got some pictures dipping the tire. Then I leaned my bike up against a wall one last time, took off my shoes, took a few deep breaths and in I went.

I walked in, and then dove. It wasn't frigid, but certainly wasn't warm either. It wasn't really about temperature, or it wasn't temperature that I noticed. It felt sort of like the waterfall in Glacier National Park - just pure exhilaration. I lingered briefly, feeling the moment. And then I felt the temperature - COLD.

Heading back up the ramp, shivering, some random guy came up and shook my hand. He knew. It was cool.

Then it began, the disassembling of my life. My life on a bike. Panniers off, front rack off. Fitting back into trunks, compartments. Needing to be contained... as our world so often requires. The bungees held the top of the trunk down.

And that was it. My life on a bike, Volume 1. The end.

My mom and I had a great great dinner, then stayed with my cyclist friend and his family. They are good people.

The next day my mom drove me down to my friend's house in Plymouth, MA. Then headed home Sunday morning. I am so glad she came and was able to share in that unique experience. I think it was neat for both of us. A lasting memory.

So now it begins. What to do, what to do.

The NYC marathon has a lottery system, because there are far more people that want to run each year than they have room for.
I think about 60,000 apply and only 30,000 get in. I had entered the lottery the past two years and been denied, but this year I got in.
The sub-atomic particles are trying to tell me something.
You'd better run!
The marathon is on November 4th, so I have about 5 weeks to prepare. I am obviously in decent shape after riding a bicycle 4,300 miles, but running is a different motion requiring different muscles, so I'll have to start training.

Initially I had thought I could hang around the NYC area, staying at different friend's places, sleeping on their couches and running on their roads -
but 5 weeks is a long time to impose your wandering self on people. People that have lives and routines. So I will probably have to head home to Rochester until the marathon.

I was in a Dunkin Donuts yesterday, ordering coffee, and as I was walking out I saw the bathroom... and realized I had no business in there!
It was bizarre. No water bottles to fill, no cycling clothes to change into, no faces to wash, no teeth to brush, nothing. I know that may sound strange, but to me it was.

I have a feeling I will be experiencing that a lot in the coming days. Adapting to life off a bike. I have to admit I am feeling like a fish out of water right now. Donnie you're out of your element!

But - if there's one thing that this trip taught me - one invaluable thing - it is to take it one day at a time. One pedal at a time.
Each day that I rode, I never really thought about tomorrow - mostly because I had no idea where I'd be tomorrow!
I didn't even know where I would be THAT night, let alone tomorrow. I didn't know what town I would be in, or even where I'd sleep.
But I was ok with that.
And that is how I need to be now. Ok with not knowing.

My friend Greg and I went to the ocean on Sunday. We took two kayaks and were paddling around in the Atlantic. It was a great day, warm and sunny, absolutely beeeautiful - although it was a little strange, paddling around in my goal.
I was trying to ride the waves for awhile, but because they either break to the left or the right - they were always almost tipping me over as I tried to ride them. I was trying to go straight and the breaking wave was trying to go left or right. And it was my first time on a kayak so I hadn't learned how to balance the two out with proper paddling.
Then I realized that I could just lay down in the kayak and let the waves and current take me where they may. As long as you weren't right where the waves were breaking, you could just float around. Even better! It didn't matter where they took me, as long as it wasn't out to sea.
Why try and fight it, or control it?
So that's my motto today, to sit back and allow the waves of life to take me where they may.

My computer isn't cooperating with the uploading of the pictures, but I should be able to post some pictures soon.

Thanks to all of you for having an interest in this trip. I am sorry to see it come to an end too.
But am excited for what the future holds.
Maybe it's not the end, maybe it's just the beginning. Phase 1. Either way - it was a great experience.