13 December 2009

Changing Tides.

Our Santa Cruz crew. These people are some of the most generous and friendly people we have ever met. Keep doing it my peeps!

The Beautiful and awe inspiring sunset in Santa Cruz.

The Boardwalk at Santa Cruz.

We met this guy at the top of of a pretty good hill climb in the middle of the Big Sur Coast. He proceeded to give us everything he had to eat in his car and tell us stories from the time he road his bike from Vancouver Island to Key West. This guy seriously made our day. Notice there is another new guy in this picture, that is Dale, he is a badass.

Tyler, Dale and I pose on just one of the many majestic cliff-sides in Big Sur. The other rider with us is Malcolm. Malcolm is from Mt. Vernon, WA, and has been on the road for three months. He said he's never going home. None of us could blame him.

Strawberry fields began showing up in the Salinas valley and have been present along the way ever since. Dale took this picture just before Monterrey, the day he met us.

The smell was so powerful that our hungry stomachs could no longer resist. We picked more berries than we should have, eating both ripe and sour. Our bodies did not thank us the next day.

Tyler rests and gazes into the agricultural abyss.

The Beautiful Big Sur Coast inspired and empowered us just about every time we looked up. There is a God after all.

Bicycle cemetery. I know it's bad for the environment, but there needed to be a memorial for that tire and tube. They treated me well.

Big Sur. Yeah.

It was impossible not to stop every three or four miles to gather ourselves. Tyler humbles himself in the sight of the world.

A Condor hangs out next to the highway. This bird is absolutely humongous. Notice the tag on its wing. It reads "68". We don't know what that number means, but we do know that these birds are highly endangered. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see this bird up close. The pictures don't really show how big the bird really was, or how incredibly ugly it was, either.

Not the type of fellow you would want to bring home to mom.

After a long day of riding, there's nothing like lounging on a tractor.

Cold weather in Lompoc made for an interesting and quite delectable breakfast. Macaroni, Top Ramen, and Mushrooms.

We miss Stephen.

Damn that's good!

This is our one candid photo of Tony O. You'll read about him in the story below. He wasn't very friendly to the camera.

As Dale and I entered a busy Los Angeles, A beautiful rainbow shown overhead. It was about the only beautiful thing we saw there. We stayed with Dale's cousin Monty. He was a mega cool dude in the midst of probably the worst place I have ever been.

Here I show a bus driver the beautiful sky above his bus. He was cool. I'm going to take this time to plug the Watson family. The Watsons took us in several different times, once during Thanksgiving, and then a second time when we rode back through Santa Barbara. They opened up their home and even took us sailing! Sean and Mary, you people are good people. Your incredible hospitality and kindred spirits truly inspired and encouraged us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.


He lives along the beaches of the North Santa Barbara coast, no house to speak of, no job to complain of. If you ever find yourself meandering these parts, look for him. His name is Tony O and he would love to chat with you. He is a small man, no more than five feet and seven inches tall, and frail as a branch that blows wildly in the wind. He has stringy, long, white hair that is so pigment-less that it is impossible to tell whether it is pure blonde or white from fade. His skin is worn, the battles in his life evident at first glance.

We first came across Tony O at a rest area just north of the City of Santa Barbara. He and his dog were sitting in his car listening to top 40 radio and staring at the ocean. I was the first to roll into the vantage point and for some odd reason, without even thinking about it, I set my bike down next his car. It was finally warm outside, the hot Southern-California sun poured through the thickening clouds as we rode out of the hills and into coastal territory. It’s always sunny in Santa Barbara. We sat and relaxed and felt the warm sun pierce our clothes and heat our tired bodies. Sun bath. We sat silently, reflecting on all our travels the days before ultimately leading to this point.

We re-road the whole trail in our minds as we gazed into the most beautiful blue eyes this planet has ever known; the mighty Pacific Ocean. My mind went straight back to Monterrey. The night Stephen left, we were all afraid. I laid in my tent, sleepless and scared, hoping that my friend would be OK. I went back to the conversation Tyler and I had the next day when we decided that we had to keep going. I saw the moment we met Dale, our new riding companion and fast friend. I looked over, he was still there, glowing for the same reason I was. I fixed my eyes back on the ocean. In the rays of sun bursting off the water, I swear I saw the Big Sur Coast, the power and beauty of it all. I saw our night ride by moonlight, fast down the hills of a deserted coastal highway, the wind, the air, the life, and finally, the view. Miles and miles of wild coastal ocean, glowing brilliantly from a combination of phosphorescents in the water and the impossibly bright full moon above. We yipped and yelled as we felt pure life. Pure life.

A whistle. I stopped. Another whistle. I looked. Behind me in a green Ford Taurus was a man and his dog. It was Tony O and he had a smile on his face. He knew why we were there, he had been there for the same reason since before he could remember. These waters were magical. These waters saved lives the same way they took them, in an instant and without any hesitation or remorse.

“You guys speak English?” he asked in a tiny voice.

“Yeah,” I replied, and from there we started to talk.

He started telling us the best of the best places to camp and hike and fish and drink beer and start campfires and see shells and sea creatures and ride bikes and sleep peacefully and get away from people and meet good people and meet bad people and get free shit and see burnt mountain sides and everything else he or we could possibly think of. We liked Tony O. He was a good soul and wanted the best for everything he cared about. He was real.

He went on to tell us about his tattered and interesting past. He was absolutely fascinating. He had lived in Santa Barbara since he was three years old, and when he was 16 he dropped out of high school to start living. He started shaping shells and making jewelry to sell at the local markets. When he was 18, he joined the military where he was in the Special Forces, and manned a tank with the biggest gun. He never saw combat but he said he was trained to endure pretty much anything. He equated his training to Rambo, saying he could do all sorts of crazy shit. He went on to tell us about how he was a firefighter for a while and retired from that to start living. His attitude reminded me of a guy we rode with for a couple of days in the Big Sur Coast named Malcolm. Malcolm was an absolute gem of a person, who reminded us constantly to slow down and see the beauty of the world. He was from Mt. Vernon, WA, just 13 miles from where we reside in Anacortes. He had been riding since early September, and he had maps to go all the way to Florida. He said he was never going home. He was looking for a new one. Right now, his home was Big Sur, and we were his brothers. It was Malcolm who said to us, “I just keep reminding myself of what I’m doing; I’m LIVING for a living.” I don’t know if I’ll ever see Malcolm again, or if he’ll ever read this blog, but the kid truly changed me and the way I go about every single mile that I pedal. I think we can all agree that we think about him often.

Tony O went on to tell us about his battle with cancer and his close encounter with death. The doctors gave him six months to live. That was two years ago and he’s getting stronger every single day.

He told us how to best get to where we were going, to Sean and Mary’s house on the hill in Santa Barbara where we were going to stay for yet another night and he sent us on our way. It wasn’t but an hour and a half later when we saw him again and he invited us to hang out around his Volkswagen bus that was parked just a mile down the road on a side street. Almost all of his worldly belongings were in there, although he said that a lot of his stuff was scattered around the area at friends’ houses. He showed us pictures of the Santa Barbara fires, and offered us just about everything he had, and enlightened us with his odd ball wisdom. We hung out and talked with him for about three hours. He gave us all sorts of nuggets of advice. I wish I could remember all of them, but there was so much gold there and I could only take as much as I could carry in one load.

He said that relationships are circles. The circle only stays round if everyone involved gives what they can. The second one person keeps things for themselves selfishly, the circle is destroyed, and once you are a destroyer, there is no looking back. He said the problem with a lot of street people these days is that they are destroyers and they don’t even realize it. Tony O wanted to give everything he possessed, but the wisdom that he offered was by far the most valuable thing he gave us. As we parted ways, he raised his hands to the sky and yelled, “Fish tacos, every day!” None of us will ever forget that guy.

In the past week, almost everything has changed; the lineup of our crew, the scenery of our ride, and the goals of this trip. We no longer plan to make it to Peru. It would be impossible with the amount of money we have in our pockets and the time we would have to spend to get there. But we have realized that it is not about the distance that we end up going in miles on a road, but instead what we learn along the way. I can say that in this past month alone, I have learned more valuable and meaningful lessons than in the previous 5 years combined. This place is real, these people are true, these stories are lessons, and this ride has sparked hope. I will never, ever forget any of the words that have been spoken by the world to me on this trip, and I see that as an epic success!

The Costa Rican people have a saying that they use whenever they see somebody is down or they are generally excited about life. I sort of compare it to our sayings like “Chill out” or “Rad” except I think of it as one, all inclusive statement that sums up a general way to see life. “Pura Vida,” they say. It means “Pure Life.” I find myself saying this under my breath at least a few times a day. It helps me to forget about all the bad things that may happen, and focus on the good. I am now a believer that there is unfathomable amounts of good in this world, we just need to pedal out and find it. So next time you feel stressed out about whatever hardships are going on in your life or you just want to get away, I would suggest focusing on one beautiful thing, anything at all, taking a deep breath, and saying “Pura Vida.” Pure life.

11 December 2009

Stand By, Old Sport!!

Everyone! It's been eight days since my "farewell" post, and I, possibly like you, have gotten a little tired of periodically checking this blog and reading the first sentence of my last post over and over. Plus, I'd like to pop in one more time to say this:

If you've been faithfully checking the blog each day, a.) thank you for your support, you are awesome!, and b.) sorry it's been awhile! Without giving too much away, I just want everybody to know that Mike and Tyler have still been having a great time on their journey. It's just the not-having-the(my)-computer-anymore thing that has prevented them from relaying their specific experiences to you thus far.

So of course, I feel quite responsible for the lack of exciting news that could be gushing forth right now... but isn't. I'm sorry, really!

So please, consider the following:
  • Mike and Tyler = warm/safe/still livin' the dream
  • I have detected unconfirmed rumors of pending news for all you faithfuls out there, straight from the horses' mouths
And since this blog isn't exactly mine to post on anymore, I will thank you for reading this much. I just thought you might want a bit of an update, or reassurance, or whatever it is you may be looking for in this humble little publication.

Peace be with you, friends, and happy beginning-of-the holidays!

03 December 2009

New News

Hi everyone. This is Stephen. Don't be sad when you read this, but I've come home, back to the Northwest.

It's okay though! I know we talked about all making it to Peru together, but I have things to worry about at home that I decided needed my attention, plus I was dangerously close to running out of money.

Please don't misunderstand me - it would make me very sad for anyone to see this trip as anything less than a triumph. The last month has been the best of my life! And Tyler and Mike have proven themselves to be without a doubt the best, most adventurous and supportive friends I could ever ask for.

Good luck guys, I love you both. I'm sorry you don't have a computer anymore.

I'll leave you with a good old-fashioned list of bottom lines, then a short video.
  • I am fine! Don't worry about me.
  • After one month, I am already addicted to blogging. I'll likely start my own soon, and you will be invited to read it
  • To everyone who has given us anything on this trip, be it couches, floor space, meals, an audience, hugs, money, directions, coffee, bike parts, advice, friendship, time, or anything else - you've all changed my life.
  • This is not my last adventure.
  • This video is not serious:

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