Archive for a real trip

Security in the Internet

I recently created a couchsurfing account.  The concept of having a network of strangers to share housing is quite foreign to American culture (this land is my land!).  I think it’s a great use of the internet, leveraging its strength in networking.

Probably the first thought of using is for having a place to stay when you travel.  I’ve now done this once.  However, I really enjoy hosting people in my apartment.  Hosting is a sort of way of traveling vicariously for me.

Hosting strangers also transitions my normal (boring) week night into a more interesting social scene.  I can’t say I’ve learned anything profound through couchsurfing, but it seems to bring about adventurous, down to earth people.

Here are two pictures from my couchsurfing stay in Palm Springs.  The room we stayed in is a casita: literally meaning a little house in Spanish.  Without a question, I would rather couchsurf at this location than stay in an isolated hotel room.

In our host's backyard, overlooking the San Jacinto Peak during a fall sunset.

Our bed for the night in the casita.


In addition to the location, we had great conversations with our hosts.  One was yoga instructor really into the law of attraction and positive thinking.  The other is an economist for a Spanish speaking television station in Palm Springs, where he puts “everything in terms of how many tacos one can buy.”

I concede that up until now I have presented a convincing story advocating couchsurfing.  What lacks is the backstory that my contact is a Palm Spring’s all male, clothing optional, yoga instructor.  Sometimes you need to take a risk though.

I think it’s a low risk to take because of the accountability on the site.  You can rate your past experiences . . . one bad rating and I don’t know how much longer you would be able to use the medium.

For anyone looking to surf, it’s generally expected that you bring something in exchange for the place to stay.  I cooked dinner for our hosts in Palm Springs.  People will often bring a bottle of wine, beer, or something as a token of exchange.


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Slab City

On the few bike tours I’ve ridden, my elevator speech to the question regarding “the best part of the trip” includes a favorite natural scenic landscape and a fun cultural experience.

On the Turkey Tour, my favorite cultural experience was visiting Slab City.

I like the summary of Slab City is Krakauer’s Into the Wild.

The Slabs functions as the seasonal capital of a teeming itinerant society — a tolerant, rubber-tired culture comprising the retired, the exiled, the destitute, the perpetually unemployed.  Its constituents are men and women and children of all ages, folks on the dodge of from collection agencies, relationships gone sour, the law or the IRS, Ohio winters, the middle-class grind.

And, my favorite visual summary is the school bus converted into a sailboat trailer.

I imagine the resident(s) live in the yacht year-round, roughly half the time on water and the other half on a school bus in the desert.

Here is dre’s map of our Turkey Tour.  Slab City, or the Slabs, is near the far east point, Point F.  From this view, I think the Salton Sea looks phallic.

The Slabs are three miles east of Niland, CA.  Niland is a small town located within a few miles of the Salton Sea with a couple of restaurants, a gas station, a grocery store, and a laundry mat.

I find the amount craftsmanship very interesting in the Slabs.  Not just a sailboat on a school bus, but the way so many people are able to live not only independently, but also communally.

Most people reside in RVs.  Actually, if you look around the internet, it is frowned upon to camp in a tent.  The reason for the frowning is not the more common American housing value but in disposing human waste.  Like other biodegradable wastes, human wastes take much longer to biodegrade in harsh climates like the desert.  Junk waste is actually the biggest problem in Slab City.  There’s a lot of trash from transients, broken down cars, tires, regular trash trash, and dumping from Niland townees.

A part that I found interesting was the amount of solar cells there.  Virtually all of the RVs have renewable solar power.  Around a campfire, I learned the buzzwords in solar power: inverters, modified sine waves, and true sine waves took the cake in addition to the other more traditional electrical words.

I think it’s neat how independent these people are.  They don’t pay “rent” or pay for utilities like electricity and water.  Water is free behind the gas station, bee tee dubs.  In addition to that, the campfire we found included retirees making fun of home-buyers.  I don’t express the thought much because it’s tireless to someone with closed ears, but in society I am apart of the minority that thinks taking a large bank loan, in hopes of “my” housing value increasing is a bad investment.

Note that I don’t say it’s bad to have a house; there are pro’s.  But, I think a loan is a bad investment so much that I view it is as a liability and a speculative gamble which I’m not interested in even if you rent out a room or whatever. (In my opinion, an apartment building is more of an investment than a house.)

Anyways. . . it’s always nice to find your other birds of the same feather to flock together.  It was just a passing comment around a campfire, but it put a little smile on my desert chapped lips.

The community of the Slabs felt comforting.  In our short 24 hour visit, people constantly introduced themselves to us and our claimed patch of dirt in the range of young seniors, middle aged, young adults, and even a boy of about 10 years of age.  We were fortunate enough to make a connection earlier in the bike tour which catalyzed our ability to eat a great traditional Thanksgiving dinner which later led into the campfire.

Even without that catalyzed close knit experience, I think it is place worth spending some time to either winter over, stay a night, or even check out Salvation Mountain during an afternoon of your Southwest road trip.  It may pull you out of your consumerist and isolated housing comfort zone; it may give you renewable energy ideas; you may find cool trash or all the books you want to take home in the library; but, it will help your craving for a shower.

If you are interested in more pictures from the Slabs as well as the rest of the Turkey Tour, check out dre’s picture journal on the ‘book.

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Reliving the Mental Barrier

It’s hard to tell someone less experienced that a future event is “challenging but very possible,” when you are nearing onto the decade mark in the arena of said events.  Specifically, I am referring to my experience in slightly stoopid endurance events, and in particular a 400ish mile bike trip.  No matter how many days that are on the agenda, 400 is big number.

The trick is to divide the miles into days.  I remember reading something like this when I was embarking on my first marathon.  “Yeah, it is ‘just one mile at a time,’ but it’s 26 of those!”  It didn’t sound quite right to me.

In marathons, the experience that I go through involves a few major stages: the initial start of finding a good pace, the majority miles where I’m in some kind of groove, the decision point to keep the pace or speed up, and the final push to the end.

So, a marathon isn’t quite one mile at a time, for me.  Yet, it’s no longer a daunting big mileage to me, either.  It’s now roughly four stages I pass through.

I enjoy life moments that let you relive personal learning experiences.

Even though I heard her perfectly, I asked dre what she said when she told me, “That was a fun [up-] hill [climb].”

She thought a climb was fun??

I was shocked.  Days before, the same person that gave me an earful of concerns and reasons of how our 400 mile bike ride was nearing impossible to hear that she just enjoyed climbing a hill!

The previous day was a tortuous 33 miles in a mix of rain and freezing rain.  We broke up the frigid day making hot chocolate in a state park handicap bathroom.

. . . and after a day like that, I could see why an 8% grade incline in a snow covered mountain range with a big tail-wind and a warm sunshine on your shoulders which also marked the halfway point for the day, really could be a fun uphill climb.

Kudos to dre, for turning another leaf and my ability to live vicariously.

On our 2009 Turkey Tour in Awesomerica.

It turns out there aren’t always food drops and water bottle hand-offs in real life; who knew?  If you’re some roadie thinking that 40+ miles per day isn’t that accomplished, put some gear, food, and water on your bike so that you can cook and camp along the way.

Or, just remain calmer than I am.

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No Plans for Cut Bank

I requested earlier that you transport stuff to us on our trans- tour.  I changed my mind:

  • Carrying more stuff doesn’t make sense.
  • We can transport in other ways! [outbound . . . and lighten our load]
  • Plans could inhibit funtential (fun+potential).

If you were thinking or planning on it, sorry.  To make up for it: this is an IOU.  Just print this out; it’s as good as gold.

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Trans- Tour: Planning

Bender and I like ridin’ bikes.

We like ridin’ bikes so much that we are going to ride for a whole week during our summer vacation!  From July 19 to July 25, we are going to cross Glacier National Park on the famous and historical Going-to-the-Sun Road that cuts across the park, as well as circumnavigate the park.  We are following an Adventure Cycling route, from the North Tier section starting and ending in Whitefish, Montana by taking the train from/to Portland, Oregon.

We are covering about 50 miles per day.  That’s nice.  The fun part is that going trans-Rockies, trans-borders (USA/Canada,eh?), trans-rail . . . that’s when Bender figured out we have a lot of trans-!  Hence, we titled the tour and set our main objective: attain as many trans- endeavors as possible.

Here are a few on the list:

  • trans-saturated fat
  • translation
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • Trans-Am, Pontiac
  • trans-water

My current list is 21 trans-‘s long.  Three trans-‘s require prior preparation.  One of the items, transport, includes a social experiment that could fail from diffusion of responsibility.

At any rate, we are asking people to send us items, general delivery for us, to Cut Bank, Montana, so that we can get them in the middle of the trip.  We would really appreciate transporting such items such as, but not limited to, food, a tour mascot, postcard, or a social experiment idea. Huge volume items that would be hard to hold down on a bicycle tour would be hilarous, but only after the fact and not during.

We ask that you keep this in the back of your mind so you can join our cause!  And, you could become a part of our tour! A good time to send stuff will be in a couple of weeks, and I’ll remind people here.


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The Trans-Catalina Trail

on the Trans-Catalina Trail, just south of the airport

Just a few weeks ago, the Catalina Island Conservancy opened* the Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT).  I ventured over to Catalina Island to hike across the island, from Two Harbors traveling south to Avalon.  I hiked across Catalina once before on the “Don’t Meet the Girlfriend’s Parents During Thanksgiving” trip.  The TCT’s single-track provides a much nicer experience than the fireroads that cover Catalina, which have sporadic, relatively high-speed traffic between the two towns on Catalina.

*I think I was an Cherokee in my past life so I don’t get privitization of land.

The trail is well formed and well marked, for the most part.  There are a few spots with multiple turn-offs.  I think in a year or two, once the trail gets more worn the little confusion that is on the trail will cease.

single-track running atop a ridge.

I know of four trail races on Catalina: the Buffalo Run (13.1 mi),  the Eco-Marathon (26.2 mi), the Catalina Marathon (26.2 mi), and the Avalon 50 (50 mi).  The courses of the last two go between Avalon and Two Harbors.  The websites, at this time, do not include the TCT but instead use the roads.  For some reason, this troubles me.  I’ll get over it and/or run it self-supported.  Take that, race directors!

I like pictures.

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Mac 50k: The Oregon Trail!

In the beginning of May, Bender and I ran the McDonald Forest 50k, the “Mac 50.” This was my first time running on an Oregon Trail.   The trip to Oregon was two part: run the 50k (duh) and meet with Bender about our summer bike tour, The Trans Tour.  I flew into town Thursday and left Monday morning.

Thursday night we hit the town properly, for Portland.  We biked to three bars, and I saw my first Bike-Designated Left Turn Lane.  Portland has some awesome beers.  A bar tender yelled at Bender because he picked us up fries out of the garbage.  Haters.

On Friday, Bender made me a scavenger hunt around Portland, so I wouldn’t get into trouble.  It was a fun way to see the city: bus ride up the hill, tram ride down the hill, streetcar into downtown to the bus station.  To get to the next spots, I had to ask strangers questions to find my clues, such as: “Go to the living room of Portland,” and “Meet me outside the oldest strip club in Portland.” It made me realize how much I now use my cell phone, instead of interacting with strangers.  Something to think about. Props to Bender.

We then took a two hour bus ride from Portland to Albany.  Bender had his car at the bus station, and he gave a hitch to guitar-making teacher from Albany to Corvalis.  That day we checked out a cabin that Bender was interested in renting.  When I asked if I could whiz in that yard, the landlord gave me a pleasurable, “It’s your planet; piss on it!”  Good energy.

We checked in for the race, cooked a pasta dinner, and went to bed. I slept with the cats in the living room.

The race was gorgeous: ferns, moss, and water, oh my!  The race had a nice size: 150ish. The trail was spongey; it felt really nice.  I wasted a lot of energy avoiding puddles in a section called “the Maze,” only to go ankle deep in one of the last puddles I encountered.  SoCal Pansy.

My favorite part of the race was a Big Lebowski themed Aid Station (AS) supported by the Corvalis Search and Rescue group.  The AS was complete with character costumes, White Russians, and a rug which really tied the AS together.  The part of that AS that made me laugh for 5-miles though was a nicely timed sign.  There was a little boy telling us runners the normal such things you might hear right before an AS: “Looking good; water, food, and medical support ahead; over halfway done now!”  Then, as we turned a corner there was a sign: “8 Year Olds, Dude.” Hilarious.

And, some locals brewed an India Pale Ale, ready for us at the end of the race!

I was happy with my finishing time: 7hrs.  Neither elated nor bummed about it.  Another race to chalk up for the experience category.  Another victory!

Don’t you worry; we set aside some time to plan the Trans Tour, too.  Then it was off to eat a squirrel burger, and display that I am “the Ying to Tuna’s Yang,” for Bender’s friends.

All in all, a great trip: the Northwest is a great place even though they stereotypically wear dark clothes; ride fixed gear bikes; and, drink PBR.  Hipsters.

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