Up a flight of stairs. Not in pitch darkness, as they are lit, dimly. Gangrik’s apparently is fair sized, with a hallway kitchen, a balcony, a single bedroom and living room. The living room at first glance seems like any normal apartment living room furnished in the 90s, complete with low central table, a couch, a few chairs and a desk, with papers stacked around a desk top computer, as if the misshapen piles created privacy. But then we look down and suddenly we are in a house of an occult, where sacrifices are surely made. The carpet, stained brown, has drawings on it, in crayon. Drawings of circles, shapes, crosses and a large Angel in the middle, hands reaching out, as if asking to be dragged from the drawing itself.Gangrik asks if we’d like some tea and knowing it is impolite and potentially life threatening to not accept such a generous offer..we accept. Tonight, no more cliff hangers.
The sun blinds us as we pedal towards the main square of the city. My jacket is dark blue from sweat, but mostly rain. All that stops me from sailing off in the wrong direction, is the dark lines of the cobbled stone in front of me that don’t catch the glaring setting light.
Ill preparation is part of my existence. I seem to feed off it, like as if the time constraint, the lack of supplies is a challenge to be faced, rather than a careless burden that could have been avoided. Everything is purchased last minute, bikes, locks, cellphone, GoPro gear. I don’t even consider proper shoes, clips, tubes or even a fully packed practice ride around the city. My route planning is also off, delusional that we could bike 50 km, even though Rachel has never biked long distance in her life. Plus, I hated doing things for endurance. I get no thrill in pushing my body, without allowing my mind to indulge in the culture and history that whizzes by without me giving it a second glance. And yet, with all that said, this week was all about Rachel’s endurance.
The first destination outside of Amsterdam was the old university city of Utrecht. We prepped for several days prior, getting bikes at second hand stores and markets, getting film equipment, etc. People who go to Amsterdam for that one immature purpose, miss the heart of why this city is so magnificent and how effortless it seems to be as awesome as it is, from it’s bakeries, to it’s architecture, to it’s wonderful herring and stroopwaffels. Besides the bike and camera stuff, we also had a chance to taste wonderful fresh stroopwaffels at a local market, all thanks to our fearless leader and host Dennis. If you don’t know what a stroopwaffel is, I will not bother explaining it, because I feel if I do, I will not do it justice and undersell it, even though it will sound as if I was 14 year old prepubescent girl talking about Justin Bieber. Just look it up. We also had a chance to look at a few museums, including Anne Frank’s house, the Rijks Museum and the Church in the Attic and the wonderful Rembrant’s House. We also saw the dark tryptic work of Frances Bacon, which was on display at the New Church and had a good chuckle at the Sex Museum. After all said and done, it was nice to see Amsterdam again and knew that we would be back at the end of our trip to see a bit more before heading home (so many museums!!).
The journey started out in a tangle of bungie cord and confusion. Putting on the panniers and gear for the first time made me come to the realization, when under the gun, it really looks better if during the actual event you had the entire procedure written into memory, rather than ad-libbing as you go. Many questions arose that morning:
What are all these straps for?
What snaps to what?
Where is this going to fit?
How does this even go on?
Lucky our couch surfer Dennis came to the rescue and explained everything in laymen’s terms, which is a nice way of saying, he had no other choice but to talk down to us. So after some trial and error we were off. Or were we?
Now, Rachel is amazing at many things. The one responsibility I have is to route plan. Now, when you route plan you have to take into account various factors, such as weather, terrain, wind etc. I did most of that, except for one essential piece of the puzzle, that without this one piece, the entire picture reads as unartistic nonsense, derelict of any rhyme or reason for it’s creation. When route planning you have to take into account as to who is cycling. Now, I thought, well 60 KM, no problem. Rachel, on the other hand, has never cycled a distance longer than 25 to 30 KM, so double that length, is quite a big deal. Needless to say, my acute blunderbuss led to many yelling fits at the elements, at the hills, at a innocent tree, whoever or whatever was around to receive a verbal lashing got it. But I shall cut out such details from our trip, because the first week’s scenery and adventure much overshadow such inane parts.
The bike paths in the Netherlands are wonderful and we easily exited Amsterdam without much issue. Along the river, we say a regatta race taking place, sponsored by the drink of champions and people who piss in public areas with no shame, Henieken. Over several lovely bridges, passed the Hermitage Museum, the Dutch extension of the Russian Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Then south, along another river, passed section off plots of land by green painted chain fences, where small gardens were just starting to show their bulbs and stalks through the wet earth. The weather was cloudy and it looked always on the cusp of raining, but thankfully, day one, we didn’t see a drop of precipitation.
And then we were lost. The scent of the trail had gone missing and we are in a random residential area in Amsterdam Zuid. Asking around, after several wrong turns, through a university campus, dead end, turn around, we were off to Utrecht. Everything was on our side, the weather and the wind. Through some city and then WOOMP, into the countryside, with windmills and cows on all sides. Picturesque scenery overload. Small towns with people going about the daily routines gave life to the colourful backdrop, ancient structures with beings sitting inside of them reading books at a kitchen table, playing with their children or sitting outside at tables drinking cold beer and laughing, either at stories told or at the two strange figures, one with some sort of attena coming out of his head, pacing swiftly by on four wheels (two bikes, four wheels, yay math). The antenna, being the go pro camera, that while it looks a bit silly, is way better than the filming system I had on my last cycling trip in 2010, which involved me holding a handy cam in one hand and steering the bicycle with the other. The danger factor isn’t the concern, but the effort to do both things at once, film and steer and the shaky result, was like forcing people to watch one of those terribly amateur bootlegs of Lord of the Rings, lot’s of action is going on on the screen and you as the audience really want to enjoy it, but you are not sure what exactly is happening and the cameraman seems to have been sitting on a mechanical bull while filming it.
Around 3pm, we stopped at a lone restaurant in the middle of small town. I had a club sandwich and Rachel had an egg salad sandwich. Both hit the spot, giving us that burst of energy we needed to make it to our final destination for the day. Passing some house boats where people were out on their deck drinking red whine and people watching, we turned right into the city. Utrecht at around 6pm is full of students, biking in all directions, home or to the library or to an eatery, actually these are simply assumptions, who knows, they could be off to a cuddle party, I can’t be the judge.
We pushed on through the hordes, along the river, through the old buildings of red brick, that looked as if they we covered in flowing blood that was darkening in hue, as the sun dipped farther down behind them. A right turn and we were at Louis’s house. He was our host for the evening, a wonderfully jovial man, with a silent laugh and amazing electric viola skills. He greeted us with a banana, which seems perverse, but he actually presented us with the fruit, a very edible and peel-a-ble banana, intuitively knowing that the first day of cycling is hard. After locking up our bikes, we dragged our blue Ortlieb panniers up 3 flights of stairs, that I would consider to be more ladders than stairs, as you are forced, due to their verticality, to climb up them on all fours. I could imagine a night of drinking and being faced with this challenge. I can imagine a five minute climb, turning into an Everest ordeal, involving a lot of awkward body positions and several steps backwards and by steps I mean brutal falls.
That night, Rachel made a wonderful pasta and we drank wonderful local microbrewed beer and watched video of Louis at last year’s pride parade in Amsterdam, which involves 80 floats going down one of the larger canals. Louis’s float, which I don’t remember exactly who it was sponsored by, had a large Teddy Bear on it and a bar. Before reaching a bridge that stretched across the canal, the large inflated bear had to be deflated at a rapid pace and then inflated again once the bridge was cleared. Quite a process that involved some training prior to the actual parade day. It reminded of a Buster Keaton film called The Boat, which involved a similar gimmick. Behind their float, was a small boat, where a two woman, both in wedding dresses, celebrated their 16 years of marriage together. The magnitude of this event was impressive and the 700,000 people that attended just added to the epic proportions of it.
It was a wonderful evening, which again reminded me why I love couch surfing over hosteling. You can visit the museums, you can eat the food, you can even share some words with some locals, but actually being in a local’s house, eating with them, conversing with them, that’s where cultural exchange actually occurs, where you are no longer seeing a country as a tourist attraction, but as a visceral experience, with a unique soul and stories to be told in singular identifiable voices of people you have had the pleasure to be in the company of.
We awoke to a cat in our face. Chip, 16 years of age and grumpy looking, sits on my chest, starring at me expectantly. Louis has gone off to work, trusting us to lock up and be on our way. And we were, quite rapidly, out the door, down the three flights of ladders, out the door, bags on the bikes, sun peaking behind clouds, a slight ting of rain in the air and off we go, over bridges and cobbles and bike paths of painted red.
Now just to explain everything, Nk’mip is the name of the band of aboriginal people who lived and owned much of this land. I’ll get into a bit of the history later and will warn those who have no taste for the past to skip over that section. Then again, people who aren’t into history are probably not interested in this account of what was my history, so maybe that warning was not needed.
So to recap, a random local named George drove us to our final destination at the Nk’mip Campgrounds. We checked in at the entrance and George drove us right to our campsite, spot 157, right along the water, with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and town. Shaking his hand I thanked him for his kindness, as this type of event would never happen back home, either out of fear, warranted or not, or simply out of generations of implanted thought processes that humans do not give to each other out of the simple goodness of their hearts without recuperating financial or otherwise. Show me the money, they say, and we’ll pour out our souls, become religious, or marry old, dying people.
And later on I wrote: Well….I am behind to let’s just do a quick update. Osoyoos was great. While the Nk’mip campsite offered nothing beyond a place on rocky patch where RVs usually sit upon to place our tent and a 5 dollar WiFi fee, the pluses were a lakeside view of the beautiful surrounding mountains and rock formations, as well as being near to some amazing trails and pretty damn good restaurant that served it’s sandwiches and burgers on bannock (a terrible slogan to the end of “don’t panic, we use bannock”). The first day we arrived and explored downtown Osoyoos. Not much there, really. One street, a town hall, an arrow pointing in the direction of Subway (I found that sign interesting, I mean, usually the effort and cost to make those prominent displays of importance are usually set aside for historic sites, accommodations…not a chain sandwich store to makes overweight people they are taking a stand against they’re love handles by eating veggies…like a smoker switching to cigars). Ate at Smitty’s, which gave me a heck of a lot of unwanted ammunition that I would later unwillingly unleash within the confines of our small orange tent, much to the “delight” of it’s other occupant.
The next day it was off to the Nk’mip Desert Culture Centre to learn about the original inhabitants on this land and the nature itself that still resided here. A well produced drama about Coyote, the Trickster and a lights and special effects recreated fireside stories to explain some of the myth and history of this tribe that use to roam north and south of the American Canadian boarder. An interesting fact that the Nk’Mip, a tribe of the Okanogan People were not all dragged off to residential schools, as they had their own school on the reserve.
Outside we followed one of the many trails that can be accessed from the centre. Seems quite ironic, come to think of it, that if you do not pay the 8 dollar fee to see the centre you are not allowed to walk among the nature that is described throughout all the exhibits and films as an untamable, unmanageable force that at a better time was free to roam, without lines and boarders restricting the natural ebb and flow of people.
So we hiked. We sweat. We touched a gopher snake. We marched around a faux native village. I know I was suppose to learn something while marching around tee pees and hanging fur pelts, but I’m sorry, when you create a life sized theme park, complete with buildings you can ENTER, you lost the educational part for me.
We read about the flora and fauna and how they were used as medicine, clothing and food. Then hunger set in like an axe into a Californian sequoia. Our first thought was see what the restaurant facilites were like near the centre. Silly us, as the wealthy apartment community near the centre, complete with swimming pools and a winery, had never heard of value for dollar. The saying up here was, a cheque for at least 350,000 dollars for your thoughts.
So down the hill we frolicked, upon the dusty and sun laden trail, passing by vineyards on the left and a iron laser cut Native in full stereotypical feathered regalia on the right. It was time for something I wanted to relive. Something one may not consider a fond memory, let alone something that should occupy even a thin space on the highest, unreachable shelf in the memory library. A Chinese buffet that I had once ate at before was now the object of our crusade into town. Oh wait, first there was locally made ice cream of the peanut brittle variety, as well as nanaimo bar flavored scoopage served in a building set out to look like a windmill, within a theme park set out to attract parents of children that would like to strap them into a ride that spins them ridiculously fast a zillion times and occupies their attention a zillion times more as they slip off on a wine tour or to have marital coutus in the grey scaled and itchy blanketed motel room bed, complete with a bed bug mariachi band playing la bamba.
The sign loomed before us, off colored and titled at a Hitchcock’ian angle. Golden Chopsticks. Chinese restaurant. Buffet. Not a very happy girlfriend. Her expression alone was worth the visit along with the Jello Pudding as an authentic mainland desert. The only reason we went was to relive an old memory of a trip I took through Osoyoos, 5 years earlier, in my love of life car, a putt putt Geo Metro.
And the next day, with the sun, we were off. Slowly. Through the back door of the campsite, following a pack of awkard running quails in the morning light. Even more awkard running was the red suitcase whose wheels were at 45 degree angles of where they are suppose to be to properly be spinning and with a dragging, torn bottom, fighting mercilessly with the puller to take a break, like a heavy packed donkey. So after some swear words rising with the dust from the desert floor and some unnecessary sweating, I finally screeched to halt in defeat, gave into Rachel’s I told you sos and called a cab. The man in the turban who sat beside me, the first Sikh Hippy I had ever met said to my ear’s and soul’s amusement:
“Man, you’re going to Nelson? All you need to do is stand out in the streets and you’ll get high”
Scarfed down some McDix, took photos of this particular member of the yellow arched branch for spelling smokey with an “e”, which makes SO much more sense than smoky, which I had seen at all the Vancouver restaurants advertising their new burger. To me, smoky reads like trying create an adjective out smock, which has no place describing a burger, let alone anything else asides from an actual smock.
With a few hours to kill we marched down to the Main Street Market, where little girls danced to Britney Spears bursting out of an ancient boombox in matching leatards and locals sold pickled veggies, arts and crafts and Graznya, a holistic nutritionist and biochemist, born in Poland, living in Greenwood, gave out samples of her gluten free baking. She invited us to stay and bake with her. A later adventure was set into action and we promised we’d come. As fast as forest fire, we were ablaze along the treeline, our eyes catching everything their sight darted upon.
Woosh, as I write this I sit on a what looks like a custom made bed draped with the finest in Ikea pillows and duvets that money can buy. Woosh back to where we were in this timeline accurate, non-Kafka-esque (or trying not to be, pardon the floral descriptions) blog. Odd thing is, it was only as I wrote part of this was I sitting on such a nice cushioned surface. Most of it was written at 5am, avoiding rain, hiding under an undercover area, unshowered at the Nelson City Campground. What a contrast!
Day 2 in Kelowna is an early one. Our wine tour is booked for 9:30, but we still want to indulge in the all expected Hojo’s (Howard Johnson for cool people) complimentary (cool word for free and a way to make free breakfasts sound as distasteful as they look) breakfast. Rachel didn’t believe me that the owner of this particular motel in the chain makes waffles to order. To our pleasant surprise I was right, and we scarfed down plate size waffles drizzled in manufactured sugary syrup.
9:30 on the nose, a blue minivan with the Wine To Go (I think that was the name…I am terrible with names so throughout this blog I could be completely bullshitting to your amusement) logo on the side windows. Shalyn was our sommelier extrodinaire, who would guide us through our tastings, pushing our palettes to seek out the fermented flavors of golden Gewurtzerminers and full bodied Chardonnays. Nah, she was quite laid back and focused on taking out the snobbery sometimes associated with the art of wine, which as the tour winded on (a pun and a truth all in one a the wineries seemingly were always located on the most treacherously steep inclines) Rachel and I both realized that wine was just that, a supremely crafted art of great skill and a lot of hours put in to palette pilates.
We hit up some of the big guy wineries like Quail’s Gate, with their large oak walled tasting room and multiple staffed exorbentley priced gift shops and restaurants. The cool thing about Quail’s Gate was that the original owners’ of the property and the winery’s cabin was still located on the premises, and though closed at the time, with the magic touch, the doors were opened for us and a treat of a peak inside was had into their one roomed home that housed 8 children and themselves. The small wineries were great as well, with one of them seeemingly located in an old airplane hangar. All and all, everyone was down to earth and the wine was always swallowed, with not a thought of spitooning a single droplet of aromatic alcohol laced elixirs. By the way…was totally bullshitting, it’s called Wine Your Way Tours. Check em out on the nets and do it up when your in that part of the world. Or I’ll hunt you down and eat your soul. Kidding a bit.
After a few more stops, we said adieu to Shalyn and roamed around a farmer’s market. Picking up some wine on the tour, we made a great pairing of local artisan bread and some Chardonnay jalapeno wine jelly and cheese lunch along the water. Shalyn tipped us off on a good hike up Knox Hill, so heeding her words of local wisdom, we stormed the mountain at a horse’s gallop.
A good portion of the hill was conquered in no time flat. But then the weight of our ridiculously sized backpacks and handbags anchored our ascent to a screeching halt, as the sun beat us up like we had lunch money it wanted. Bodies sinking on the arid terrain, we called it a truce, even though, in all actuality nature had prevailed. The view alone of the entire city was victory enough, as we made our way back down from whence we came.
We wandered for a bit, looking for an outdoors store. With our budget for this trip being confined to mere pennies (lies, tres lies), we looked for a tent to conquer the outdoors with. After a quick run in with a homeless guy who tried to pick a fight with me after he thought I was trying to take a picture of him, WHICH I WAS, which is beside the point by the way! Could of totally taken him too. Would of felt a bit bad since it took him the good part of our five minute run it to stand, drool a bit, and wield him mouth with much concentration to make something sensible slur out of his slopping sinuse. Well, after that occurance and a look at some heritage homes, we followed our fine honed noses to where all good woodsmen go to get quality gear. Why the aisles of Walmart of course. And there it was, beaming orange and on sale for 14 buckeroos, our home in Osoyoos and beyond, the junior scout tent. Sleeping bags scoff scoff. Ground sheets….tutt tutt. We were above such cozy comforts. We are true pioneers, but of course!
And the tent. I would not be detoured by the picture of the child playing in front of tent that was plastered to the front of the box, nor would allow the 5 feet in size height measurement either. No, we would make this work! Kerchinged, purchased and back to Hojos!
The next day, at the UPS Store, we shipped some more items of crap we wondered why we had brought along with us in the first place. Correction, I simply was astounded by the amount of dreck (a yiddish word, a good question to ask your yiddish speaking friend) I owned. A Homer Simpson figureature? Really Cooper? But I couldn’t part with it. So in a box and off to Edmonton with several other items that only delight toddlers and trained animals.
On the bus again and heading to Osoyoos. Four hours of half naps, a few stops and some more half naps. Oh wait, there was also that wee hour and a bit break in the middle in Penticton, which allowed us to stretch our legs, walk down the main drag, take some snaps of some interesting people and pretty cool graffiti and force Rachel to sit in a lazy-e-boy situated in an alleyway. Her expression alone describes how comforting this lay back and relax photo op really was. Even the locals chimed in about our going ons, stating that the chair belonged to some old man possibly, living in that house that the chair was situated behind. The words “lice”, “insemenated” and “incontinent” made me regret making Rachel do as she did.
Ice cream heals all wounds and with a monstrous two scooper balancing on a pin sized cone in hand, we were heading back to the bus depot, passed the aromas of a burger shack I almost stopped in, if it weren’t for the fact that I was not at all hungry. It was a burger shack that looked like it was part of a boat! With all those cool thick ropes and a life saver and everything!
Before you know it, but not before we knew it, we were in Osoyoos, BC’s only desert, confounded by the distance that we would need to travel to get to our campground. I assured Rachel that my people were very well trained and adjusted to life in the desert and though it may take a while, that I would lead her and her sheep to the promise land, give or take forty or so years. The joke didn’t fly, especially as I wrapped my jacket around my head a mock kafia and blurted out the ten commandments in my best Charleton Heston in the Visitors’ Centre.
Luckily luck was on our side and a guy named George, a random local who was hanging out at the visitor’s centre (sort of like Happy Days Fonzi, but just completely at the wrong spot to be considered cool…nix this reference as he was not at all like Fonzi….more like…the dad from Beverly Hillbillies). George offered to take us up to the Nk’mip Campgrounds, which, unbenounced to us at the time, were possibly the farthest situated campgrounds from town (a fact that I would later take much flack for on several, much deserving situations). George showed us all the sights in town, including the beach where he said all the “young people” hang out, the local bar, The Sage, where bikers and baby boomers alike lap up ales beside fancy Manhattans and the Nk’mip Desert Cultural Centre, Resort and Winery that we would explore the next day.
Good place to stop. Don’t worry I have written 40 more blogs to follow up and will release them each day. Too much of a good thing is bad for you. Except for video games and don’t you dare say otherwise, you lying, lying, unhappy person.
Running around felt normal for me, as I drove my mom’s black SUV through the light, but moody night rain. It was weird to think that this epic scrimmage would be over in a matter of hours. I went to my usual drop off spot for shit I didn’t want. Right behind the Marpole Sally Anne. I quickly disembarked from the vehicle, which was still very much on and unlocked, chucked a bag of my years of hoarding against a brick wall. Smash, plates, speed off home to finish packing.
We were off to Edmonton that night, me and my best galfriend Rachel. To start new, start fresh, try something different. I had been in Vancouver for 28 years and didn’t appreciate it anymore. My uncle invited us to try Edmonton. His warm and encouraging invitation were convincing enough. And so on Monday the 28th, at around 9:30pm, I said goodbye to my mom, dad and sister. Everyone seemed to continue on with their day as if nothing special was happening and to be honest I was a bit hurt by this. But as I got into the cab, looked at my mother for the last time, I could see this would be hard for her too. In the silence of a rolled up window, my mom stood out on the street, still quietly talking to me, giving me pointers, saying I am going to make it big. And as the taxi’s engine revved up, she touched her heart and I touched mine and for a brief moment, we thought about the same thing in our very opposite way of thinking brains, that we loved each other above anything else and that this was going to feeling like shattering organs.
And it did and we were off. We met with my best friend, Allana and her lovely fiance Nicole at the train station. Again, another tearful goodbye, several pictures, a scary official telling us we couldn’t take pictures inside, a regrouping outside the station and more pictures and my best friend of close to 7 years vanished out the double glass doors onto Main Street.
Oversized and tearing floral suitcase had us repacking shit left and right in a frantic matter. It wasn’t 5 pounds over, but it was twenty. “I need to get rid of some stuff” Rachel exclaimed. Shelling out the $28 for oversized luggage and almost throwing out our expensive bike helmets that are not permitted as your carry on bags just in case you may use them to saw off someone’s head (not funny, but COMMON PEOPLE!), we sat in the cramped seats as announcements were made and we drifted off into lala land, bodies twisted in uncomforting slumber.
A stop in Princeton…Penticton….and viola! at 7:10 AM we arrived at the back end of the Greyhound Express Station. After breakfasting on some BLTs, we got on the wrong bus and were whizzed out of town to the Okanogan UBC Campus. Beautiful campus, so not really a disappointment or a waste of time, but a pleasant detour. Checking into our rooms at the local Hojos, we stared at each other until cross eyed and passed out fully clothed in each of the Queen sized beds like a 1950s appropriate for society film that depicts a healthy marriage.
After a two hour nap, we awoke a roamed. First stop was a beautiful church, that was locked, but we stared in the windows and sat in their beautiful backyard and stared at the garden. So many brilliant colored flowers. The air is so fresh out here, a repeated theme we kept noting and I am sure we will keep noting as this journey progresses.
Next stop was a farmer’s market, for some look at some handcrafted jams, jellies, cookies and pies. There was also a small museum upstairs dedicated to a big farming family in the region. I was more interested in taking creepy pictures of dolls.
Rachel could NOT get enough of petting horses and ponies along the way. Until one snorted loudly while she tried to feed it hay. She jumped about ten feet and relinquished her friendship with all farm animals.
Next, we stopped at Father Pandosy’s Historic Park and Mission, which is like a very mini-Burnaby village owned by the Catholic church about an order that lived on this land in the late 19th century. Lots of farm equipment, log cabins, and beds without mattresses. Supposedly that discomfort is humbling? It would make me an atheist, more so, for sure, no questions asked. No sleep and you want me to worship the dude who okayed this treatment? No thanks!
After a quick stop at Okanogan lake, we headed downtown for some din din at an Irish pub. Rachel had the blackened beef sandwich and I had a steak open face. I didn’t realized it was an open face sandwich, as I hunted all around my plate for the other layer missing in action. Seemed silly to me, as I tried to eat the steak, the onion rings and the garlic bread it sat atop by cutting it into edible chunks, which fell apart before they could get a millimeter off the plate.
Right now, we are in the hotel, drinking great wine, relaxing on the bed dubbed “the relaxing bed”, as the other is the “sleeping bed”. Tomorrow we have a WINE TOUR, early in the morning so what better way to prepare than drinking wine the night before, n’est pas?
I miss everyone oodles, but am enjoying myself and relaxing for the first time in what feels like an entire intellectual period (ie the enlightenment).
A little bit behind the journal entries. These shall be my “Photo for the Day” for a wee bit:
I pull the covers over my tarnished black legs. At my feet it reads “God Bless America”. Lady Liberty’s flames rub my ballsack. How appropriately you act, my dear femme fatale. Unlike last night, the room is heated and in the same quarters as the couch surfer host. There are no dead flies on this bed and I feel safe to use the various pieces of the bed as what shall keep me warm through the night, rather than a bunch of misrepresented bedding I will try to avoid. When did I last write? Who knows. I am certain I wrote in Townsend…yes…as I stole Quimper’s signal. Good times. Never did go into any shops in Port Townsend. This trip is prepping me for my inability to see it all on the second bike trip. I have no time. I did, for your Global AFCers, have time to do quite a bit of work finding accommodations. More to follow on that front.
Port Townsend was gorgeous. The rest of the day I wandered by bike, following the historic map up Washington Street and Lawrence Street, passed the old warning bell for the fire bragade, passed the unimpressive Rothchild’s house and the unpink Pink House. Try to fit that court house in a shot is a ridiculous task that I absolved myself of by clickity clacking it in portions. Bumped into a lady who invited for internet and spoke about the marvels of wifi. I mistook their movie theatre for a theatre theatre. A man going uphill stopped to explain how great this town in and how when he broke up with his girlfriend he lived at the homeless shelter. I believe just because through break up your house broken, doesn’t you don’t have a pot to piss in. Quite the opposite if you think deep.
The post office was an amazing stone building that seemed a bit to large for this town. Imposing and physically astounding, the former customs house occupied my last 15 before returning to the bus depot to return to Discovery Bay. The millions of numbered cash boxes, the wood liquered panelling, the augmented glass windows, the natural light created skinny half oval pillars of brightness on the ground. I explored, but felt that odd feeling you get when you go into closed door rooms of other people’s houses. Fascinating and overwhelming.
I came home. Shot the shit with Andrew. He showed me the Llamas, a baby goat…
Longest day of my life. Worried that people think I am dead. I am NOT dead. Internet tomorrow to insure that death has not occured. No pictures. Nothing. Biked 100 miles to insanity. Never again…I think the stupid Google Earth sucks teste. Saw lots through Joyce and Sekiu and…..need to rethink trip as I cannot ever do this again. Going to bus at least to Forks tomorrow. Its not cheating…most people do not come out this way. Makah Tribe. Night night.
A day was lost due to scarcity of life left in my loins. Yesterday took my body to a wonderful new place I have never been before. Apologize for my summation of the events that occurred…this past night I have slept in the Forks visitor centre. And much to my own choosing, since I refuse to give a cent to a motel that I will only occupy for 5 or so hours. First daylight and I am gone…gone…gone. I have no real idea as to the next stop, I am trying to hit Taholah. Oh…I slept outside for a bit….damn shoes suck and the water pants froze me even more…the sweat from two days ago’s epics still seeps in its pores. I chose to reside here due to helpful tip from the lovely server at Fork’s Pacific Pizza. I ate a personal pan for no reason. I wasn’t hungry. I am spending cash like a rabid dog…10 bux a day…10 bux a day…I keep trying to convince myself that such frugality is possible with how I want to do this trip. Again, I feel, no avail will come to it at all. I am finally heading down down down after a treacherous day up up up.
Two days ago I did 100 miles in a day. From Sequim, I rode the Discovery Trail to Port Angeles…where it failed…I took it all the way to a split in the ocean that lead to a dead ender at the Nippon Paper Mill. Span around, up a hill, left on 18th, and onto 12 to take my chances with that callus road. That be a road I shall never forget as long as I live. No shoulder, up hills and down hills, twirling and twirling, truckers honking, tempting beaches, warning go 25mi, walking when my knees eroded. Finally, at 7:30, I pulled into Neah Bay…..made it to the Tyee Motel, pulled myself under the awning, near the sign that says “if you need a room, call Cary” and placed my 50 cents in a pay phone and called Vicki, a couch surfer who lived this way. After several attempts….tada…Vicki pulled up in her car and I followed her to Hemlock Road, to Nursery Road, to Hemlock Road, last house on your right.
She gave up her own bed so I could pass out. She fed me Elk Soup and wouldn’t have it any other way.
The next day I awoke. I discussed Makah History with Vicki. She explained how the language was being kept alive and about how her different parts of her family looked at religion, the advent of Catholism, the different parts of where the Makah would roam, the mudslides at Ozette that covered the town for 500 years, the goats that mysteriously appeared on the small Wadah Island and their eventual escape over a rock jetty built to protect the bay. She spoke about the Coast Guard that use to live on Tatoosh Island, a girl named Vicki who she looked up to in elementary school, her grandfather that would teach her to live off the land and her sons who fought and put holes in the walls. She went on about drugs, a Native Art, and her laugh sang to me its own tales. I went to the Makah Museum and learned about the covered Ozette site, where over 50,000 Makah artifacts were found, preserved for 500 years by a mudslide. A whale from the 1999 whaling incident hangs from the ceiling, long canoes sit below it. A long house in its entirety sits in the centre of the museum, built to perfection. I walked the town, bought a note book, listened to people interact…tried to get smoked salmon, but the guy only had tuna. Albert, one of Vicki’s 5 children, showed me how to put up a tent. Simple enough. At 7 I left on a bus to Forks and here I am. Today is a new day at 6am. Gonna try to sleep for 2 hours. Tata.
Do and Do Not List seem to be popular these days, as reading has become somewhat of a lost art. Kidding. There are just not enough hours in the day to read elaborated written paragraphs, so I thought I’d try at least one point form list of travel via velo:
DO – updated your passport. If it looks like mine aka waterlogged, an over-read novel, a coffee coaster, you may have issues at the border of certain countries and they may try to deny you access. Not to name any names, Croatia.
DO NOT – Pet the wild life. This isn’t a zoo and certain animals that seem cute and cuddly, are most definitely not. Specifically DOGS. To you it may look as if some kind owner trusted his best friend to run around off the leash with a bunch of his pals. No. These are wild dogs. They want to eat you. Don’t let them eat you by using cutesy voices and trying to lure them to you with food. They will eat the food and then you are desert.
DO – Talk to people. Anyone and everyone is worth getting to know, whether briefly or over a pint. If language fails, beer never does. Humans, in general, communicate beyond language barriers with hand gestures, charades and laughter. It doesn’t matter if you can’t ask him or her about the adverse effects of the rise of neo-facism in his or her country. I shared a wonderful moment in Romania drinking with some Serbian priests and laughing at who knows what. You can have that much fun too, if you just keep open, listen and respond a lot. The worse thing that could happen is that don’t respond or chase you with a weapon of some sort. The second option, from my experience, doesn’t happen to much, unless that weapon is ice cream.
DO NOT – Be culturally insensitive. World War One monuments are not jungle gyms and religious icons aren’t photo ops for getting your cleavage pic with Jesus. Some people will tend to ignore you, even though inside their head they are running at you with a pick axe. Some may actually run at you with a pick axe. Not only does cultural sensitivity rely on your common sense, but it also begs you to learn a thing or two about the place you are visiting, so that you don’t blurt out something that is rude, disrespectful or in some cases, could have you trying to learn the phrase “not guilty” in a foreign language.
DO – Learn the traffic rules and regulations. They aren’t the same all over the world. In some places, bicycles rule the roads, yet in others cyclists live parelous lives in a world of no signs, lights or lanes. Only bike in areas that fit your comfort zone. Exiting that point blank may add unwanted stress, panic attacks and a silly mistake that could prove not good at all. I am not saying to challenge your comfort level, because that is a very important thing if you want to get anywhere besides your back alley, but always have an experienced cyclist with you, to spot you, talk to you, and lead you in the ways of pedal wisdom.
DO NOT – Click click click photos like it is part of some part of automatic, necessary response system. People always look so desperate to capture moments and will do pretty much anything they can to get that right shot. There are a few problems with this. The first, being, that while you may have captured the image of a moment, and even color corrected later to the proper exposure and tone, a camera has no functional quality in capturing the feeling of a moment. Since you are taking the picture, you also reduce your chances of just being in the moment, taking in the smells, feeling the gentle breeze at the top of the Eiffel tower, really admiring a piece of art, nature or architecture. You then can only remember the moments in between the pictures and nothing beyond the pint size image your glued to in your view finder. And to be honest, the awful truth to some who think they are taking the most unique photograph the living earth has ever witnessed, will be distraught to realize that millions of pictures have been taken, from every angle you can think of, of all historic monuments, natural phenomena and other tourist interest points that you visit. I recommend being selective of what you shoot, because later, when you are sifting through your 8 billion photos, thanks to the digital age of mass proportions of knowledge, the images will quickly stream by with little care to what they were and are. Take photos of things that spark your interest, details, funny people, human moments, friends doing things, meals, a non-tourist destination. Those are the moments that you can use photos to jog memories, but again, they can never replace them.
DO – Explore. Seems simple, but most people are drawn to the big signs that say “YOU MUST SEE THIS THING BEFORE YOU DIE” and then tend to ignore everything else. For me, I think it is important and interesting the see and understand a place beyond what the tourist bureaus tell you to go to. Go inside buildings that look fascinating, find out from locals cool neighborhoods, follow odd signs that catch your fancy, go beyond the map of the city centre, with all it’s advertisements for rip off restaurants and silly guided tours (not all silly, but sometimes they are substitutes for a lazy type of 5 star tourism that does not appeal to me).
DO – Couch surf. I won’t get into the grand scheme of couch surfing philosophy, but to get an in depth, personal and cultural experience that is unique to the individual perspective of the person you are staying with, this is the best way to go. This is the only way to be part of the local scene, go to the best local haunts, try the best local cuisine, see a slice of everyday life among thousand year old church spires and plazas. Maybe play golf in Lyons? Irish dancing in the Czech Republic? Who knows!.
DO NOT – Wear bike gear or purchase bike “stuff”, that you aren’t comfortable wearing or using. Okay, tools may be excluded from this, but clothing and pedal type and panier placement, that is all a personal choice. If you are going for 16 hours a day and you hate the sound of rain pants to the point that the swishing sound gives you a headache, chances are you should not wear them. The travel portion should be as just as much fun and stress free as the places you visit.
BE SPONTANEOUS! EAT NEW FOODS! MAKE FRIENDS! TALK TALK TALK! HAVE FUN! LAUGH UNTIL YOU ACHE!