RAISED WITH WOLVES


Chapter 10

I stayed up reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, tending the fireplace in the 8×10 common room, and drinking Patagonia Pale Ales until the sun finally went down completely, leaving no trace of pink clinging to the mountains or the lake out the window.

I had decided long ago that I’d never read “Zen and…” because my ex was reading it at the recommendation of her secretly lesbian room mate with whom I assumed she was having a secret tryst.

The room mate had a boyfriend who was a motorcycle mechanic, so like every girl with few hobbies and a feminised liberal boyfriend who is too scared to erect some kind of relationship boundaries, she went out and bought a motorcycle too, and they were a perfect hipster austin motorcycle riding couple, I suppose. The room mate then convinced my ex-girlfriend to buy one as well, as she was entering her “anything a man can do, I can do” feminist jean jacket wearing stage, thus signaling the eventual death of our relationship. The ex rode that yamaha all of four times, wrecked it in a parking lot, lied about her scraped up knee, and then sold it for less than what she paid.

So for some reason I said “No, absolutely not” when she tried to lend me her tattered copy of Pirsig’s classic philosophical travelogue. But I suppose I’d grown up since then. I was taking my own cross country motorcycle trip, trying to write my own motorcycle trip story, and thought it would pair well with Chatwin’s “In Patagonia” at any rate.

10991061_774530159282885_8575503137900333795_n

_________________________________________________________________

The sun took eight or nine hours to traverse the globe, and rise and bleed over the mountains behind my cabana: the same amount of time it would take for me to ride the 240 Kilometers to Perito Moreno, Argentina.

Ulf and I packed up, fueled up, and had a few coffees while using the Cafe’s rare wifi connection. The two coffees, plus the energy drink I’d chugged the moment I’d woke up, had me primed and ready to leave the lakeside village behind and head further, ever further, south.

We may have left Puerto Tranquillo behind, but the lake stuck with us for hours, its electric blue shimmering and flickering in the sun. We rode up mountain passes, back down to the lake side, back up and down, circling around the west side of the lake for about four hours before finally trudging up a rough gravel ascent and parting ways with Lago General Carerra for a while.

The road to Perito Moreno was gravel of varying quality from solid smooth packed clay, to unmanageable shifting gravel, that finally deteriorated into an absolute nightmare of slipping, then giving, then sinking  soft gravel.

There was a thirty minute stretch, sometimes at a 25-30 degree slope, that I had to put the bike in first, and almost walk it up and down the winding “road”, as my front end shifted constantly and tried to betray me. The weight of the bike plus all of my gear plus the grade of the road plus the thick shifting gravel was an equation I was trying to solve minute by minute as the variables changed, attempting to solve for “X” which was not tipping over.

In some spots, the road was one lane between a sheer tan, dusty cliff face rising to my right, and a 300-500 foot fall down to the lake to my left. Keep in mind that this isn’t the scenic route into Argentina from Rio Tranquillo: It was the only route. Ulf and I were sharing this “road” with tour buses, freight trucks, and family cars, all throwing dust into the air and leaving behind giant ruts in the malleable gravel.

All of this while trying to solve for “X” and trying to soak in some of the most undeniably beautiful sights in creation. It was almost unfair. It took a constant concentration just to stay on two wheels. One glance out into Patagonia beyond and below, and the bike would falter and slip.

Despite the sometimes terrifying Ruta 265, we were making pretty good time. Ulf was ahead of me, but not too far ahead, which was saying something since he had ridden from Germany to China on a similar bike, and all things considered, I felt pretty good. The road straightened out for a while, and even smoothed out a bit as we came into view of Lago General Carerra again, looking vast as the ocean. The lake, the far off mountains, and the sky were all blending together into a subtle three-hue striation of reality.

The road turned away from the massive patagonian lake, and away from those great snow capped Andean monoliths. We were in the high country now. I felt like I’d accomplished something, like I’d defeated that stretch of road with transcendental math and pure concentration and will power and maybe even a little skill.

The scenery slowly changed little by little from grand patagonian postcard welcome center panoramas to Arizonan tans and New Mexico browns. It looked like an old western movie, complete with barbed wire and flat-top mesas rising solitary from the landscape.

My hands were tired. Really all of me was tired. It had basically been three straight days of rough gravel, pot holes, and rattling and gripping and tensing and bouncing.

There was a cliff off to the left that overlooked a pastoral, almost Keatsian meadow, and a farmhouse sitting on the shore of lapping, pristine, Laguna Verde.  I slammed on my breakes, skidded to a stop in the gravel, pulled off the road and dismounted my bike. I went and sat with my motorcycle boots dangling over the cliff. Down below were ten or twelve horses grazing in the meadow. A few of them looked like foals, lying on their sides in the lush grass. The last Andes I’d see for some time stood gargantuan and opaque in the distance, and I prayed to God., thanking him for a moment before consuming the scene below me. I added the rocky overhang to my running list of possible ashes-spreading-sites as I mounted the Kawasaki again, looking over my shoulder one last time, heart heavy.

_________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

Advertisements


Chapter 9

After getting the fire going , which heated our little hovel within minutes, I sat down on a tiny twin mattress on a hand-made wooden bed frame and drifted off to sleep staring at southern hemisphere stars out the window. I woke up to the bright morning seeping through cracks in snowcapped peaks, and spreading out over the astoundingly beautiful  glacial lake.

I rolled out of bed, feeling sore and a little decrepit from being banged around so badly on the road the day before, and went out on my bike in search of coffee, not intending to start day six the way I started day five. The little town was still asleep so early in the morning, only dogs scuttled from porch to porch. I  rode to everything that looked like it could be a store or cafe but all said they weren’t open until nine. Maybe Puerto Tranquilo was too tranquil for my liking.

I walked across the street to get some information on boat tours of the Lago Carerra. On the western shoreline was an island that boasts one of the most beautiful, sought after scenes in all of Patagonia: Las Cuervas de Marmol. The Marble caves are a group of caverns, tunnels, and columns that were etched out over thousands of years by the lake’s waves. As the romantic William C. Bryant put it, “A sculptor wields The chisel, and the stricken marble grows To beauty.”

I considered kayaking out to the caves, but I thought that on my “rest day”  as it was designated in my itinerary, I should do as little physical activity as possible. So I inquired at one of the many tour providers set up in little stands, and they put me down for a boat at 9:15.10501631_774528552616379_6608434018623710805_n

So after standing outside the only cafe in town until they opened, and slamming two coffees, I took off on a little motorboat with a family of brazilian tourists. The boat skipped along the waves, floating over the crest and slamming abruptly into the trough. The water was electric blue–like the color you usually only see in sports drinks.

We arrived at the caves in just under fifteen somewhat seasick minutes. The kayak probably would have taken me two hours or so of paddling. I was happy to let someone else take the wheel for once. The caves were as promised by the tourist companies: surreal marble formations crafted over thousands of years of sports-drink blue ebb and flow. The driver of the little boat began to slow down as they came into view, and we floated towards them.

10974454_774529582616276_1358993706810212132_o

It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever encountered. The boat drifted into some of the caves, carved straight into the mountain, and as the sun came out from behind the clouds, the cave walls came to life, sparkling blue like crinkled colored tin foil under a flash light. 10830902_774529455949622_8016662271245683202_o

We floated in and out of the caves that the boat would fit in for a good thirty minutes before trolling over to a marble monolith climbing independently out of the water with dozens of winding, arching legs supporting it. The huge chunk of marble was dubbed the cathedral, and it wasn’t hard to tell why as it glistened swirling blue beneath the sun.10856684_774529482616286_980133781659547876_o

The captain of the boat told us to say a small prayer if were religious, which I think its a great practice. It’s kind of like saying grace before you eat. It isn’t so much lip service to a God who probably doesn’t care what you are having for dinner, but a chance to slow down and really acknowledge the here and now.

10974535_774529672616267_5659330243478326028_o

_________________________________________________________________

After the boat trip I sat down in a ramshackle streetside cafe the size of my parents kitchen. I ate a carne y queso sandwich and had a cup of coffee as the television in the corner of the room reported news from thousands of miles away in Santiago. The rickety screen door was propped open to let in some breeze, and every so often a squinting dog would saunter by, stick his nose in, and trot off again unimpressed.

I read a few pamphlets that were left on the table, next to a framed photo of Pope Francis ( the first pope from South America) and decided that since it was only noon, I had time to ride the sixty four miles there and back to the Leones Glacier, the father of Lago Carerra, and I guess the grandfather of the marble caves.

The road up to the Glacier was a dusty one-laner that snaked around two smaller lakes, beside a tumbling waterfall (where I stepped off my bike and said another prayer) and over
the rushing, ice cold, Leones River. before cutting into the side of the mountain and looping behind the glacier that can be seen from town on a clear day.

10960064_774529819282919_4285852239952884227_o

On the approach I looked up at the deep, icy blue of the glacier as it peaked over the mountain, glacial fog reaching up like smoky tendrils. That dense ice was older than religion, older than man, older than Chatwin’s Mylodon, and its blue was a piercing hue that seemed a declaration of its nearly primordial nature.

As the gravel road led me to the back side of the glacier, I found myself hypnotized by the serpentine road, thinking of nothing ,coming to no conclusion, just astounding emptiness that carried me to the Leones Park Glacier Center.

I parked my bike and walked, in my hiking shoes, not my motocross boots, up to the information center. the only person there was a young man with thick black hair and dark, bored eyes. He told me that during the summer he lived in a cabin just off the road and managed the store with meager provisions and guide books.

I asked about hiking into the glacier, and he said it wouldn’t be allowed without a guided group, which had to be scheduled well in advance, but if I really wanted to, I could hike the hour and a half up into the woods to the glacier viewing station. Disappointed, I conceded, and began my trek.

The dark trail to the viewing station cris-crossed through a thick canopy of massive ferns, moss covered branches, and enormous trees vying for sunlight. In fact, the only bigger trees I’d ever seen were California redwoods. The humid air reminded me of home, and as my little path broke the treeline and I found the sunlight I had to take off my scarf and jacket.

Navigating over a cascade of impressive lunar gray stones in my hiking shoes like a mountain goat, I made it to the top of the viewing station and rested against a splintery wooden handrail while my breath caught up with me. After all, it was my rest day.

Just beyond a boggy marsh was the glacier’s toe, spilling out from between two craggy mountains like a tsunami frozen in time. The wind was clean and cold and crisp and had another element to it that my language skills fail to describe. Alien? Isolated? Holy? Something else?

It  was a sight to be seen, for sure, but I was so far from the Glacier itself that I was a little disappointed. I wanted to be inside of the thing, to hear it creak and moan like I had in Alaska less than a year before. I wanted to taste the water rolling off the ice.

Ah well, there are more Glaciers in more countries and I’ll be fine.

On the ride back down to Puerto Tranquilo, I stopped at a flower-laden cliff that hung above one of the lakes. I put the kickstand down, took off my steamy helmet, and sat there on the cliff side, looking out past the lake at the blue fog covered Leones Glacier. I just sat there, exactly there, among the flowers, just existing, which is important for someone so constantly in motion on a horse or a train or a motorbike or a boat.

10974732_774530045949563_6801667607614857586_o

_________________________________________________________________

Back at our little humble cabana on the lake, Ulf offered me a Cerveza Escudo, a chilean pale lager that he’d bought at the mini-mercado along with a lighter and some electrical tape. Ulf had actually taken a rest day, as it was in his itinerary as well, instead of taking a boat ride, riding 64 miles on a winding gravel road, and hiking three hours, he took a nap.  He said his back was sore from the crash the day before, and he’d suffered some kind of torn ligament. I forget that he a retired man in his sixties sometimes.

I drank the beer in my hand made bed and looked out the window that faced the lake, listening to the wind, and watching the waves break not far from the cabana. I drifted off to sleep with the empty bottle in my hand.

I awoke an hour later, hungry, and thirsty for more beer. I got up to get ready for supper to see Ulf standing in the bathroom in only his tighty whiteys, repairing his busted motorcycle helmet with the electrical tape.

Damn germans.

I put myself together without looking at the old wrinkly man and headed out the door with him calling out behind me that he’d meet me at the cerveceria.

As I hoisted my leg over the tall KZ-650, two dirty, pink and spotted pigs trotted up haphazardly to me. I bent down to pet one on the nose and the second pig bit my knee. It felt like two rocks smashing together on my knee cap and I jumped back in surprise.

10983475_774530075949560_1619616356080957844_o

Two german bicyclists who had taken up residence in the cabana next door to us laughed from a wooden bench.

“In germany we have a saying, “Man so stupid he was bit by a pig!”

I stared at the man as he laughed with his dumpy, obviously bra-less female companion.

“That’s not a real saying” I said as I started up the motorcycle.

I passed a police officer who made an motion inquiring where my helmet was. I shrugged and pulled into the cerveceria. The helmet laws are very serious in Chile, and you can be fined a substantial amount from what I’m told. The last thing I wasnt is to be stuck in some south american police station having to bargain with a police officer.

The cerverceria was a black and blue bordered wooden building at the center of the small lakeside town, and as I walked up to the front door, I slowed down to listen to a group of women speaking english to one another on the porch. I thought of saying hello, but they were speaking with such thick Chilean accents I didn’t bother. I hadn’t spoken to an American since the day I left Pucon, and it was bothering me to a surprising extent.

The bar was empty except for the bartender, a shapely but tall, brunette with light skin.Her hair was long and not well maintained, not like a feral girl or anything, but natural and familiar.

She asked me what I wanted to drink, in Spanish.

I ordered a pint in English and a smile broke out between her full, un-lipsticked lips.

We exchanged pleasantries in English as I sipped a coffee-tasting, earthy porter that had been brewed in a back room.

She looked like a girl with whom I’d known at college but taller and a bit fuller. For all I know that girl in Missouri has put on a little weight and looks exactly like her Chilean doppleganger. I’d loved that girl in Missouri. For years. And I honestly thought I was over it. As recently as that afternoon stretched out among flowers and turquoise waters and glaciers I’d thought I was over it, but now looking at her, well not her, but her, I thought, could you ever be over it? I sighed in a way that betrayed myself as I sipped the porter from the glass as she skittered away to help incoming patrons.

I was on my third heavy chilean backroom beer when Ulf sat down next to me and ordered fried eggs over french fries. I got a lamb sandwich and slumped in my chair as Toto’s Africa came on over the radio behind the bar. I was a little cut and a little lost in the goofy smile belonging to the girl who wasn’t the girl I’d known in college, and at that moment I suddenly remembered the wandering dirty pig that had bit me.

_________________________________________________________________

I sat on a bench beside the lake, my feet hurting, as the sun set, casting a subtle pink haze on the snowy andes mountains. The lake glugged and the wind blew softly, coldly, and I drank a Cerveza Austral from a sixer I’d bought from the mini-market and brought back to the cabanas between my legs on the bike. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance was face down on my lap, the battered pink cover imitating the sunset, wondering if that girl from Missouri’s fiance had ever ridden a motorcycle down to Ushuaia.

 

10981051_774529185949649_657573573857781712_o

 



Caminos De Patagonia: Chapter Three

Woke up in Esquel after my first true night’s sleep, with the window cracked and cool morning air blowing in off the roof. I methodically repacked my things and met Ulf upstairs for breakfast in a large open room, that likely used to be a ballroom. The red curtains were pulled back from the windows like hair tucked behind a woman’s ear, and refreshing morning sunlight flooded the room.

Breakfast was as meager as the day before: breads and jams, cold cut ham and turkey, slices of cheese, yogurt, and cereal. I laid out my maps on the table in front of me, trying not to spill anything on the white tablecloth. Ulf sat down in front of me with a big cup of coffee.

“Careful with the coffee,” he said as he settled into his seat, “The handle is for a garden hose or something, it is very hot”.

Outside on the sidewalk, we loaded our bikes back down. I realised I had packed too much. My thoughts were that I could overpack my ruck because, unlike previous trips I’d made, I wouldn’t be lugging it around from Plane to Train to Cab and walking miles upon miles with it. It would just be from bike to hotel to bike. But I’d taken that thought too far and I could tell when I took hard turns that the weight differential of the motorcycle was seriously off.

Besides my hulking rucksack, I now had to figure out what to do with everything that was packed into the left plastic sidebag, and the tank bag, both of which I’d broken in the spill. We’d tried, and failed, to reattach the bags; there was no use. I wound up strapping the olive green duffel bag my grandpa had given me straight to the luggage frame.

“I kinda like this better,” I told Ulf, admiring my work. “It looks much more Mad Max.”

He looked at me with a blank stare.

“Nevermind”.

I ditched the busted luggage there on the sidewalk.

“Fuck it,” I said with my hands on my hips. “They can just bill me for it.”

There was a sign there in front of the hotel pointing North and South. To the south it read 1,937 Kilometers to Ushuaia, Argentina and to the north it read 16.363 Kilometers to Anchorage, Alaska. I thought about sea kayaking last spring with the otters in Homer, Alaska and just how crazy it was that now I was in Argentina, hopped up on coffee, about to head forever south.

We hit the pavement hard, quickly cruising at 75 mph with a prevalent tail wind. The 650, all loaded down with my gear, was just about at its top end, the engine whining loud, but smoothly. The pavement didn’t last long. After Trevelin, it was back to gravel, and from the look of the map, it would be more of the same the rest of the day.

As we neared the border, to cross back into Chile, the wind came howling across the valley, slowing us down to about 20-25 mph at the most. The dust was kicked up so high in the air it blocked the sun, and the wind hit us so hard that it was pulling my helmet off my head, the chin strap choking me intermittently. The wind would die down for a moment, letting the dust settle, and then come again with a gust that threatened to knock us off our bikes. One gust was so strong it pulled the visor completely off my helmet, a second gust came and pulled my face shield out of the bindings. That’s what I get for buying a cheap moto-x helmet. But it had looked so cool. We pulled into the Aduana building, a wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere, and dismounted our bikes in the wind, a threadbare Argentinian flag whipping high above our heads.

1

I pulled my helmet off and looked down. My clothes were completely covered in dust. I pulled off my gloves and noticed that my hands were beet red. I shrugged it off and walked inside.

From the customs line, I looked out the window at our bikes, cloaked by the dust storm. Ulf’s bike was suddenly on the ground, all 500 pounds of it blown over in the wind.

The rest of the day I was fighting with my helmet. The binding for the left side of the face shield was now completely gone, and wind was coming up through the bottom popping the shield out of what was left of the bolt into the helmet. Thankfully, after we entered Chile, we had some mountains around us blocking the wind. We also immediately hit a narrow two lane paved road that snaked through a river canyon, bobbing up and down hills, around smooth but sharp turns. For the first time the scenery took a back seat to the riding, which was perfect, for about ten kilometers.

We stopped at a bridge in the Futafelu canyon and listened to the rapids rush loudly beneath us. The canyon rose high above, striations in the rock revealing a violent geologic past. I pointed out how the trees were growing off the side of vertical canyon walls, looking like moss clinging to a rock.

“It is the struggle of nature,” said Ulf stoicly.

After a much needed breather on the bridge, it was back to god damned gravel.

3

The gravel conditions vary widely on the route to the bottom of the world. I can’t find a rhyme or reason for why solid packed gravel suddenly gives way to loose murderous rock. You learn to judge the conditions of the gravel, and therefore your appropriate speed, by color and, to some extent, texture. For it to make any difference, and keep you rubber down, you have to be constantly looking ahead 12 to 15 seconds just to make sure your clay/gravel solid ground isn’t going to turn to a pile of river rocks and force you down. According to the billboards put up by the Ministerio del Interior, Chile is undertaking a massive public works campaign to pave all of their main roads, so I apologise for cursing them so much.

2

As we neared our destination, I took advantage of a few kilometers of solid gravel, to think about the scenic grandeur of Patagonia. It was like all of the beauty from every place I’d ever been– Switzerland, Alaska, Ireland, California– dropped under the same southern sky, and here I was completely immersed in it.

4

I watched Ulf in front of me, dipping down with the gravelly road, stop to chat with a cyclist. We’ve seen quite a few of these guys on the route. Ulf calls them the “real heroes”. They always look exhausted, like zombies pedaling with blank expressions, eyes fixed on the horizon. I feel bad for them when I pass at 50 miles an hour, dusting them as I penetrate their panoramic view.

I stopped in La Junta, named after the famous Chilean coup d’etat of ’73, and waited for Ulf to catch up. The scenery had gone from the wide open golden plains of Trevelin to the tapering Futafelu canyon, and now to the green foggy mountains of La Junta.  The road coming into town was so bad it was almost impassable. I keep thinking about access roads to well heads out in West Texas, and how the big semis left pot holes and craters and how miserable they were in a truck and how now I’m on a motorcycle dealing with worse, and how when the wind picks up I just have to sing something in my helmet and white knuckle the grips and hope I don’t take a spill.

5


Songs stuck in my head:

Survivor Blues- Cory Branan
Matt Aragon- Dogwood



Los Caminos de Patagonia: Chapter 1
February 17, 2015, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Adventures, Travel | Tags: , , , , ,

06-01-2015

When I was young, and even on into my college years, flying was a thrill and a novelty. Now I have twenty eight years on my belt, and a beer gut above it. Nothing about sitting in a commercial airplane is exciting to me anymore. When I was a kid I always requested the window seat. I didn’t think it was possible to lose that child-like wonder of staring down at the earth and watching the landscape change, but I definitely have.

Like when I was thirteen, sitting on my bedroom floor, trying to squeeze another ounce of fun out of my micro-machines. Trying and failing to hold onto a relic of my youth, but the feeling was gone.

These days I try to sit in an aisle seat because my bladder seems to have mutinied against me.

I blame it on my summer in Laredo, surveying million acre ranches for the new wind farms. Way out there in the huisache, we would just hop out of the truck and piss as soon as the urge presented itself. There was no one around for miles but buzzards and jack rabbits.

Now every pee is an emergency– conditioning, I suppose.

I pissed myself last winter looking for my car in the allegheny courthouse parking garage. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that I had to walk through the snow, back into the courthouse with pissed jeans.

I don’t know why opening with this story. Or telling it at all. Those weren’t Chekov’s pissed jeans. Those jeans are completely gratuitious and I suppose that makes me a bad writer. Or maybe I’m trying to humanise myself. Do I need to do that? The reader assumes I’m flawed and human, right?

God, I’m rambling because i’m nervous. I’m flying down, on a whim really, to ride a motorcycle through the Andes, through Patagonia, down to Tierra Del Fuego. My Final destination is Ushuaia (which I have no idea how to pronounce), otherwise known as Fin Del Mundo.

I’m going down there alone, which is probably a mistake. But I’ve learned that if you always wait until your friends and family are ready to leave, you’re likely to  never arrive– so it’s three weeks alone in rural Chile and Argentina.

A woman at a bar asked me a few nights ago if I was going there to “find myself”, which I really hadn’t considered. I leaned in closely, so she could here me over the music and replied, “If i didn’t know who I was, do you think I’d be doing something like this?”


07.01.2015

Pucon, Chile sits nested between a lake to the north, a spine of squat Andean mountains to the east, and an active volcano to the south. It is a South American tourist destination, but for me, it was just the kickoff point of my trip.

After sleepless flights from Houston, to Miami, to Santiago, Chile, to Temuco, then an hour and a half shuttle ride into Pucon, I was ready to go to bed. My overstuffed rucksack collapsed onto one of the sixteen beds in my no frills hostel. I was tempted to flop down on top of it, but I still had to get some Chillean currency (the ATMS at both airports were out of order, and there was no currency exchange open at either), and attend to the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day.

It was nearly five pm by the time I sat down for a beer and an empanada. Girls with jet black hair and pumps walked up and down the streets in pairs. Teenage boys skateboarded down the sidewalk. Tourists bought sunglasses and wine. Stray dogs sauntered carelessly across busy streets– all beneath the silent, snowcapped Villarica Volcano.

I finished the last of my beer, a refreshing golden ale, and gazed out onto the active sidewalk. This must have been what Pompeii was like up until the end.

Villarica Volcano

Villarica Volcano

After supper, I walked down to the beach to relax. The scene there was no different than Madrid’s beaches, or any beach side town along the med: girls sunbathed, staring into books; families splashed in the tide; teenagers played volleyball in sandals; and merchants sold juice and fruit, navigating the jungle of multicolored umbrellas.

IMG_20150107_154943134

The stark difference here was the sand, which was black as onyx. Sand like this is created when a lava flow meets the water, and is slightly magnetic. The black sand created a beautiful contrast to the bright blue sky, and the bronzing South American bodies laid out beneath it.

IMG_20150107_155210690_HDR

I walked across town to meet the men I would be renting the Motorcycle from, who operated out of a German Biergarten and restaurant. The owners of the business were not present, so the new mechanic, a stocky boy from Connecticut, sat me down and did his best to ease my reservations. The co-owner’s wife, a buxom German woman in an octoberfest outfit, poured me a big, heady Pilsner and sat it in front of me with a thud and a toothy smile.

The kid had only been in country for three weeks, and had done some of the route that I would be taking. Public speaking was obviously not his forte, and he had very few tips or suggestions.

Another rider was there, getting the same ill-prepared speech I was, and just happened to be leaving the same day as me, with a similar itinerary. He was a tall, retired German in his sixties, who looked very spry and able for his age, but reserved and stoic, true to his north-German heritage. We decided it would make sense to ride together, at least for the first few days.

“Will you join me for supper, so we can talk over the details?” the German, named Ulf, asked me.

I was exhausted. My eyes bloodshot and heavy, but I accepted.

We sat at one of many sidewalk cafes and I tried to be engaging and attentive, despite my weariness. He was a vegetarian, which severely limited his options in Chile and South America, but he ate fish, which as we all know have no souls, so he ordered a salmon and a beer.

“I’m a vegetarian, but I do not preach,” he said as he sliced his salmon.

“Fish is an animal,” I responded, as I dug into my pork loin. I don’t mind preaching.

We discussed our route plans, which were similar enough to combine, and beautiful chilean women an the economic benefits of not having children early in life, and though there was a slight language barrier, it was thin enough that we could get by.

I walked him back to his hostel and we made plans to meet at the Biergarten in the morning to pick up our bikes. I was forcing myself along at this point. My entire body was already travel weary, but there was still daylight. Instead of going back to my hostel, I passed it up and found myself back on the beach.

The sun was finally setting, casting a subtle pink glow that was not bright enough to penetrate the black lake. Tinges of cobalt rolled in with the waves, as they sloshed on the coal-black shore. I didn’t take my shoes off as the volcanic sand wasn’t so easy on my tender feet.

IMG_20150107_192837219

A group of teenage boys rode up on their bicycles, rid themselves of their t-shirts, and began to splash in the quickly cooling lake. The rest of the tourists had cleared out, leaving only a few friends picnicking on the black shore. I stood alone, listening to to the glub-glub of the tide, for a while, before deciding it was time for bed.

As i left the shore, i felt the gravelly rocks in my shoes, and it reminded me of sliding down the municipal gravel dump on highway 2004 with my friends as kids. We’d found a car hood at the nearby park and ride, and would trudge up the gravel hill, just to slide back down on it. We’d come back home with tar and gravel in our pants and shoes and hair, smelling like a road crew.

As i Fished volcanic rock from my converse, a pack of stray dogs strolled behind some children. The brindle mutt in the back was limping slightly, and there was smoke rising from the volcano in the distance.



Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion

One of these days I’m going to compose a definitive list of things that severely depress me. Then I’m going to run all the text together and paste it over a picture from Donnie Darko or a picture of Ethan Embry looking very pensive.

Image

Here’s a preview (spoiler alert!)

The smell of dollar stores.
Cheap little knockoff brand toys that will disappoint the children who receive them, and have not yet come to understand the necessity of the impoverished faux-excitement to save  their parents pride.
Putting on a shirt that I bought a few years ago and haven’t worn much, only to take it off and leave it on the couch and say, “I still like you very much shirt, today just isn’t your day”, and feeling guilty for excluding him.
Wondering if I travel because I love being on the road or because If I chose a home I’d have to actually start making decisions about my life.

Just in case you’re writing a book about me, those are some damn good details to include. It will add a certain Miranda July flair to your book, you know, in case it isn’t already white and awkward enough.



Corpus Christi Bay



05.28.13 124
I spent today in Corpus Christi on a culinary adventure with my two friends, Matt and Matt. Their names are a confusion sometimes when relaying stories to other people (“Matt who said this?”) But we haven’t really thought of any distinguishing nicknames for them as of yet. Usually you can tell who did/said what in context. Kinda like when you hear a word that you don’t quite know, and are living in a time/universe without freakin’ google phones and you can’t look it up. It’s all about context.

05.28.13 117

We were supposed to start work on a wind farm project today down in South Texas, and by the time we were in Corpus Christi (which happened to be lunch time) we got a call from our so called boss telling us that the project had been postponed another day. Not being the kind of people to waste a perfectly good three hour trip down the mind numbingly straight and narrow roads of the gulf coast, we decided to pull into the two story “Whataburger on the Bay” to eat one of Texas’ greatest treasures: The Whataburger with cheese and jalapenos.

We spent the rest of the day drinking beers on the seawall and eating fresh raw oysters and sushi downtown, justifying the entire trip by proclaiming (to each other) that we were such ballers that we could afford to drive 3 hours for a burger and oysters on a half-shell. Fuckin’ Ballers.

05.28.13 130

I’m not entirely sure how this new job is going to work out, but, I’ve been back in Brazoria county for two months now and I’ve gotta go back to work.

Whenever I go up to the store, or out to eat with my family, I’m always so worried that I’ll run into someone from High School and that they’ll think, “wow, what a loser, that guy’s still in Danbury.” Because that is exactly what I think about people I run into.

I’m only back because I got fired from my sweet job in Pennsylvania. Why did I get fired? Well mostly because I’m technically a felon now. Yeah, a felon. I’ve never been in trouble before in my life, well not really, i mean I’ve been handcuffed a few times and I’ve had a few close calls with the law, but I’ve made it to 26 in this crazy life without being thrown in jail and now here I am a god damn felon.

That sounds like a story I should probably tell at some point.

At any rate, I’m here in Texas again. I don’t want to be. This is not where I want to live. I love Texas. I have tremendous Texas pride. I’ve almost come to blows with people over my Texas nationalism, but just like the girls I’ve chosen to love over the years, I’m better at loving Texas from afar, where I can romanticise her good qualities and forget about all the negative shit that drove me away in the first place.

But here I am anyhow, making the best of it, eating a lot of Kolaches and Whataburger and drinking a ton of Saint Arnold’s beer.

I’m such a baller, I can travel across the country to get a fuckin’ burger and a beer. Look at me now.

05.28.13 131



Bus Trip ‘Oh Ten: Episode 44- Viva Las Vegas

July 27th

I woke up just before sunrise, completely miserable, sprawled out sweaty on the couch and scratching my skin like a maniac. I’d slept maybe two and a half hours, and that was all my degenerating body and mind was going to allow. I grabbed my itch cream and stepped out the door, eyes still heavy with sleep, and headed for the restrooms.

The pink sun was just starting to leak out over the distant mountains in the east, and in the dry desert twilight I could make out smooth rocky hills just on the other side of the highway, towering above the earth. Every state may look the same in the dark, but as the tender sunlight began to bleed across the desert, this definitely looked like Nevada.

A trucker stood outside the bathroom, admiring the same scene I was, but without acknowledging him I went inside and chose the only stall with a door, sat down, and began to apply my itch cream liberally. I had only been sitting there a few moments when I noticed a three inch hole in the stall divider at just about eye level, allowing a clear view into the next stall. I got the worst kind of chills, that reverberated from my spine into the pit of my stomach. This was some gay trucker gloryhole bullshit. I knew these things existed, but I’d never actually seen them before. What are the odds that out of all the rest stops and all the bathrooms I’d be alone at dawn in a stall with a gloryhole.

Before I could even begin to process what perversions took place in that stall I heard footsteps, and then there he was, the trucker who had been loitering outside, now standing on the other side of the divider, just hovering at the hole in his khaki shorts and long socks. Oh Christ, this was about to get ugly.

I pulled up my pants, flung the door open, and bolted out of the restroom as fast as I could, without looking back. Just the thought of what atrocities might have occurred was enough to turn my stomach. I instantly became physically ill. Whatever doubts I’d ever had about my sexuality were settled right then and there: case closed.

I walked back outside just as the raw desert sun crashed over the horizon like a pinkorange tsunami. A crow landed noisily on a lamp post in front of me. God was I tired. Tired beyond exhaustion. Everything seemed like a dream, hazy and muddled. I turned my back to the sun and saw that the moon was still hanging in the sky, clear as ever, a great full moon so big it looked fake; the third full moon I’ve seen on this trip. At that very moment, I was ready to go home.  Continue reading