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One Year On The Road

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Dreams May 14, 2016

My blog has been stalled since California but I cannot say the same for my life. This has been the most difficult post to write and I can’t count the number of times I’ve begun and subsequently given up on trying to describe the most important event of my life. I’ve made all kinds of excuses to myself but I believe the greatest challenges I’ve had to overcome in writing this post can be summed up by the following ramble of internal thoughts: Do I have the courage to express my feelings honestly and also transcend my own vanity? I say I’m not a writer but at the same time I seem to be plagued by the fear of not expressing myself in a way that is “just so.” Of course anything I say is going to fall short of the reality of something so intense so I should just spit it out … right? In the end it will be up to the reader to determine if my courage succeeds in settling the ongoing struggle between self doubt and blind narcissism.

When I began my journey about nine months ago I really had no idea what the road would bring and that engendered an exhilarating feeling of the unknown. I couldn’t see any dead ends in my life, only possibilities. Nothing much has changed in that respect and the road has brought me all kinds of joy, adversity, new friends, old friends and the prospect of an exciting and fruitful future that is paralleled only by the actual happiness that continues to fill the pages of the record that is my life.

A Box of Chocolates

I’m often not surprised at all by the amazing phenomena that God has thrown in my path but there is one gift that I could have never expected. Sharing the last seven years of my mother’s life was the gift of the first part of my life for which I will be eternally grateful. The second blessing has been the love and respect of my dearest Stephanie, my beautiful wildflower of North Dakota. Stephanie was my host in Bottineau, ND whom I’d met via the hospitality network couchsurfing.com. I had intended to stop just for the night, grab a shower, and be back on the road in the morning like usual. It was not long at all after meeting Steph that I realized the Universe had other plans for me…

A side note about cojones and the problem with “carpe diem”:

When somebody gives you cliché-like, pedestrian advice to say what you feel and deal with the consequences- you should listen to them because that shit’s real. When you quote Horace don’t leave out the rest of the sentence- “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero” – “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow.”

…back to it

… so a single evening stopover turned into a week long stay because I took my own advice and simply opened my mouth and told Stephanie I didn’t want to leave because I just wanted to continue being in her presence. I frickin’ carpayed that dee-em without hesitating due to some internal monologue like, “dude, you can’t just say that. You’re insane. She’s gonna think you’re a freakin’ psycho.” Things worked out so I guess her thoughts on the subject didn’t confirm my apprehension. Either that or she’s just totally into psychos. Either way I win!

The Painted Desert

Crossing Arizona diagonally from Yuma to Fort Defiance proved to be an intense leg of my adventure both physically and spiritually. Crossing 80 miles of Apache country with no fresh water source and about 18,000 feet of climbing was just one of the challenges I faced but what I felt was far from loneliness or isolation. My mother adored the desert, especially in spring when the wild flowers and ocatillos were in full bloom. She’s with me always on the road but by this time I’d become acutely aware of another presence at my side. The presence of my sweet girl, my Stephanie, the other part of me I’d always known was out there but was never sure I would ever actually meet. At this point in my trip Steph and I had known one another for about seven months but I knew as well as I know anything that the sense of belonging and trust I’d come to know with her was to provide the foundation for a journey of a lifetime together. When I thought about how much I’d wished that she and Betty could have shared time I was left with feelings of regret. The serenity of quiet, cool desert nights cleared my mind at last and made room for thoughts born of greater mettle, one in particular being my acknowledgement of gratitude for having the love and affection of these two remarkable women. My sleeping dreams began to take the shape of something more harmonious with the waking dreams I share with the woman I love.

Facts, not Truth. Acceptance and Gratitude, not Regret:

The facts of my life are these: Betty Jo Antonio, my mother, my hero, my inspiration left this world on July 11, 2014. I lived as a shell of myself for nearly a year before embarking upon this journey to honor her and reconnect with the world. Had those events not transpired it is unlikely I would have ever been biking across North Dakota on the northernmost highway in the whole state. My life on the road has been blessed with breathtaking sunsets painted by inspired, angelic hands and visits by Betty in my dreams where she experiences the joy of seeing me happy with Steph; it is clear to me that my mother is not quite through being my mother. She didn’t die so I could meet the love of my life – she lived so I could meet the love of my life. Things are changing and I’m ready to take my place in the world again and it looks like a big part of that role is standing at Stephanie’s side. Now I’m lucky enough sometimes to get a surprise visit in my dreams- with both of my favorite women, like family, and I’m able to say to them both, “thank you for being the miracle of my life.”

Stephanie & I in SF

Stephanie & I in SF

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Once upon a time (or yet another post out of place) October 23, 2015

IMG_20151010_162245OK, so yeah, as far as my blog goes I’m just now entering North Dakota but in real life here I am in Saratoga, California at the time of this writing. Don’t worry… my readers will get a chance to hear about hanging with the organic grain farmers and the herd of buffaloes (or was it buffalo herders on the organic grain farm?), about the mini high school reunion in Calgary, and how my life course changed for the better in North Dakota. This is, however, another one of those things like my Snake River rescue that I just have to share in the moment.

Before my mother passed away she made it clear to my sister, Catarina, and me that her wish was to make her final resting place in North Adams, Massachusetts and it was our honor to see that through. The idea of “home” and what that concept encompasses were a part of a value system that I shared with my mother and this particular element is as uncomplicated and true as the age old adage of “home is where the heart is.” Her heart was in the Berkshires and that’s where she shared the joy of her life with her friends and family that had the privilege of enjoying her proximity. It was neither implicit birthright nor the inherent beauty of Berkshire County, but my mother’s love and the love and respect of my close friends that made me call North Adams my home. The people that know me best know that “home” has always been kind of a tough concept for me to pin down in a geographical sense. What I’m learning on the road is that my home is where it has always been- in that part of me that I share with all of you whom I love.

The west coast phase of my ride has been something I’ve been looking forward to for some time. With the exception of my current host, Bill, it has been about 14 years since I left my close circle of friends in Northern California but I have held my dearest compadres close to my heart throughout our separation, always trusting that our reunion would prove the bonds of true friendship are endowed with longevity. I was right place my trust in those relationships and I can’t say that I have renewed faith in my friendships because I never lost faith in the first place.

There has been more than one occasion in my life when someone, upon learning a bit of my personal history, has actually felt a little sorry for me “never really having a place to call home.” The only thing sad about my story is that in my weaker moments I have actually bought into that line of reasoning and felt a little sorry for myself. The truth is that I have been blessed with many homes over the course of my life because I have been blessed with so many caring people with whom I share mutual admiration. I have many people to thank for making my journey the best of my life but at this moment I want to express my gratitude to my west coast posse of Bill, Susan, CJ, Ian, and Eleanor for welcoming me back into their lives and providing me with the kind of hospitality that seriously recharges my spiritual and muscular batteries. A sense of belonging is the gift my friends bestow that can’t be measured by measures of hospitality and my personal gratitude is too personal for general consumption. I would, however, just like to mention a few mentionables about my core cadre of companions.

Bill and Jenn:

Home cooked gai ka prow and chicken rendang in the same meal- I mean really, Jenn? What the eff? Are you trying to set the bar so high that any future meal I may have will fall miserably short of my expectations? Bill, I’d say she’s way out of your league but I’d risk losing my only friend who verily understands (and appreciates) my predilection for obsessive vacation planning. It was one of the greatest honors of mine to share your wedding celebration in Italy and your taking the time to visit me in North Adams was a gesture my mother never forgot. You’ve been my friend through thick and thin and I promise never to take for granted the generosity with which you consistently treat the world.

Susan and Colleen:

To Susan, my friend of over 30 years and a person with whom I’ve shared a lifetime of friendship from afar: My visit with you and Colleen in Portland is what started my whole west coast reunion. We began our journey together as teenage friends on the opposite side of the globe and it fills my heart and blows my mind simultaneously to observe and feel the reality of a connection that continues to grow like an unseen force between thriving plants with leaves gently brushing one another at irregular intervals.


Just being in the space of good Ju-Ju that you’ve created in your home was what I needed most when I arrived in Sonoma County. Being around you again after all these years simply just felt right to my body and soul. The serenity of your home and your naturally nurturing spirit made it impossible to maintain the state of denial I had reached with my physical condition but made it easy for me to listen to my body and enter a healing and rejuvenation phase. The truth is that I needed to slow down a little, rebuild some tissue, and prepare myself to reconnect with the good things and people of my life in the Bay Area. Thank you for helping me ease into this transition.


I dunno much about art but I do know what I like so whatever it is you do that makes me believe that you love me to death- please- don’t stop doing it. Even if you don’t love me as much as you make feel like you do, just let me go on believing that you do. I mean, if it’s not too much trouble, just allow me to drop your name at every opportunity and say, “yeah, she really does care a great deal for me” and promise never to burst my bubble by revealing to me your actual feelings if in fact you merely tolerate my presence.


Blah blah … best friends … bullshit, bullshit … always been there … more bullshit, etc, etc. Most importantly- if there is anything bad about me that you’ve never told CJ then please keep it to yourself.

What’s next?

Today I am heading south to Carmel Valley to visit my lifelong friend, Randy, and to be reunited with a very special someone who is making a long journey of her own just to be with me. The anticipation and excitement is driving me nuts, I’ve got a tire puncture to fix, I’m still digesting the two pounds of Thai food I consumed on Wednesday, El Niño is on a rampage, worlds are about to collide in the best way possible, I’m jobless, homeless and homefull, and it’s a good day to be Robear.

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Fat guy on a wooden bike (or You’re my boy, Hans) October 8, 2015

IMG_20150730_171327So there I was- in “downtown” Greenbush, Minnesota, population 717, out of the saddle, walking around with my cell phone doodlebugging for a free WiFi signal. “Ridesperate” is what I call this particular state of being in which I often find myself these days; ridiculous and desperate- like those times when I’m racing the setting sun while bobbing in and out of the bushes looking for a concealed patch of dirt to set up camp for the night or catching a glimpse of that metallic blue wrapper on the side of the road and wondering if maybe it actually does contain a yummy, unblemished Rice Crispy treat- now that’s truly ridesperate.

It’s about 7:30 pm, the streets of Greenbush are deserted, and I’m moving deliberately in a serpentine search pattern with my gaze locked on my stupid smartphone like Mr. Spock divining dilithium deposits with a tricorder. You ever just get that feeling that you’re not alone? Sure enough, when I get my head out of my phone long enough, I realize there is a friendly looking guy with a bike standing nearby, patiently waiting to greet me.

A word about patience when bike touring, what the Universe has in store for you, and meeting people in general:

You meet a lot of people on the road. And, yes, you do have the same conversation a lot- basically, “where ya headed, where d’ya come from, etc?” Sometimes after a long day in the saddle you may find your patience running thin and it is all too easy to be a little dismissive when it comes to meeting people and making polite conversation. You must, I repeat “must,” not give in to that sort of laziness. The simple truth is that by choosing this mode of travel you are doing something kind of cool and folks are naturally going to be interested. The other thing is… you never know whom you are going to meet.

…back to Minnesota

So this was one of those long days, it was getting dark, I was tired and I had just spent hours earlier getting my chops busted by customs officers. It is times like these when one is thankful for taking their own advice and putting things in perspective enough to notice, “here’s a cool dude named Hans who wants to help you find the campsite a mile out of town and hook you up with a spare inner tube.” “Follow me,” says he, and off we go.

The first thing you notice about Hans is that he’s a big guy. The second thing you notice is that the man can ride a bike. As we’re heading to the campground I have to tap into my reserves just to stay on his rear wheel even though he’s riding a single-speed cruiser bike. I checked out the camp but in the end decided just to accept the hospitality of a couch at Hans’ place. I think the overriding factor was that I just needed to hang out with this guy and figure out why he’s such a badass in the saddle.

It all becomes clear…

Upon entering Hans’ home I immediately notice several bikes, some rideable, others in various stages of buildout / repair. Now I get it. Not only is he a bike guy- he’s pretty much the bike guy of this neck of Minnesota. Had some dinner, talked a bit, and it was only then that I learned that Hans is a former international road racer (ok, now I understand how he rides so darn fast). I guess it was only after I proved myself worthy that he showed me his most prized bicycle, an all wooden frame, custom built Renovo, one of only two of its kind on the planet.

The Renovo

The Renovo

I ended up staying another day in Greenbush and also had the honor of meeting Hans’ son on the second evening. He and I have stayed in contact over my ride and it was through his cycling world connections that angels came to my rescue in Idaho. I look foward to our lasting association and wish him all the best on his upcoming cycle tour from the southern tip of South America to Colombia.

Parting comment:

When I arrived in Greenbush I hadn’t shaved since Thunder Bay and my last haircut had been in the month of May. At this point had already arranged to stay in North Dakota with my next host, Stephanie. Having a weird bicycle guy sleeping on your couch can be scary enough at times so out of respect for my future host I thought it better that I look more human than mini-sasquatch. Hans consented to breaking out the clippers and doing his best to shear the mop off my head and make me look somewhat presentable. It wasn’t until later that I would realize what hidden talent he possessed as a hair stylist.

All aboard… Next stop… Bottineau, North Dakota … and the beauty of the prairies I had never known.

Heading west in North Dakota

Heading west in North Dakota

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Back in the USA (for a little while, at least) September 16, 2015

Lakeside living in the summer- who doesn't love that?

Lakeside living in the summer- who doesn’t love that?

OK, back to the adventure in its proper order.
Contrary to what the name might suggest to those of you with the sense of humor of a thirteen year old (including me), warmshowers.org is not an “organ”-ization dedicated to casual acquaintances sharing bathing experiences in the wee hours of the night but is, in fact, an international hospitality network exclusively for people like myself who prefer to travel the globe by bicycle. Although the network is extensive, there are geographical gaps in coverage so I decided to broaden my horizons a little and try out couchsurfing.com, another network open to all kinds of travelers.

Having left the comfort of Thunder Bay I found myself pedaling west through what I thought would be the last stretch of Canadian wilderness on highway 11. My first couchsurfing host turned out to be a cool cat named Matt in Fort Frances, Ontario bordering the US just across the Rainy River. I couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador to welcome me to the couchsurfing network. Completely out of character, I arrived earlier than our prearranged time and found that Matt was still out fishing on the lake. The wait was well worth it as there is nothing like being greeted with a meal of fresh pickerel and bourbon nips (there may have been some gin involved also). Matt’s place is less than a hundred meters from Rainy Lake so the next day we took a paddle out to explore a few inlets and cast the line out a bit. Go to Canada- catch a fish, that’s rule, right? My pathetic catch was no trophy to write home about but it was a rite of passage, nonetheless, landing my first pickerel in the Great White North.

View from the dock at Matt's

View from the dock at Matt’s

It turns out that Matt and I have chewed a lot of the same dirt in our travels through Southeast Asia so I was more than happy to share the last of my road spices cooking up a batch of Malaysian style curry for dinner on my last evening by the lake. Upon hitting the road the following day I took Matt’s advice to “pop over and back” to the US side to resupply my groceries at a discount food market and I now believe that’s when the first day of the rest of my life began…or maybe the first day of the best of my life- that story is still unfolding and I ask the patience of my readers to allow me to relate it in good time.

The US border town just opposite Fort Frances is International Falls, Minnesota. I will apologize in advance to the good people of the county seat of Koochiching County for what I am about to say. I freely confess that warmshowers is a terrible name for a hospitality network but at least a warm shower is actually something one can look forward to when utilizing its resources; however, International Falls is, by no stretch of imagination, the nexus of cultural diversity one might expect from a township of that moniker.

…but I’m getting ahead of myself…

Back in the USA but oddly not as great as it usually is coming home

Back in the USA but oddly not as great as it usually is coming home

Tanya and I are still stuck at the border being detained, searched, and interrogated while the real threats to our nation’s security are freely crossing the border in their rented cars with Canadian plates; at this point the bounty of International Falls is but a dream just beyond my grasp.

Fast forward two and a half hours later with my soul (and my stomach) aching from the kind of malnutrition afforded by fast food and empty promises, night falling and no place to sleep, I decide to do what I always do- put one pedal in front of the other and move on to greener pastures. Now I’m so rattled from my border crossing experience that I decide to stay in my own country (at least I thought it was mine) for a while and see what great things Minnesota has in store for me. The sun had set and I was heading west along the river toward Baudette when I started singing a different, more upbeat tune and got back on track to thanking God, Matt, and even those douche bags at the border for detaining me and thereby altering my trajectory indirectly. The waxing gibbous moon in a gentle southern arc lit my ride from twilight ’til about 3:30 in the morning. As the moon set it got all huge and stirred a memory of my mother holding me as a child and pointing to that big-ass moon, my heart pounding and my little mind trying to wrap itself around the phenomenon. The skies cleared and filled with stars. I rode past innumerable white tailed deer and experienced seeing a head-on point meteor for the first time in my life.

That day the rising sun brought with it a vision of brighter days to come and continues to make good on its promise. The world didn’t stop growing for the last year; I just failed to notice it but I’m growing again and letting go is feeling less like saying goodbye and more like saying, “I hear you, Betty.”

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Snake River Rescue of Rescues September 6, 2015

This blog entry is totally out of sequence but the story needs telling now. When it rains, it pours. It has been a week of dealing with one mechanical issue after another. Replaced my front derailleur in Missoula. Suffered a bad tire rip and subsequent on-road repair fiasco on the Montana side of the Lolo Pass. After I successfully trashed my backup tube the sun was setting and I was ready to have a cider and just declare myself the clear loser in this battle. Enter stage left Heather and Jodee, two intrepid sisters of generous and understanding spirit who were riding their bikes to the west coast from Boston. I gladly accepted the invitation to crash in their cabin for the night so I got a good night’s rest in preparation to deal with the situation in the morning. In the end, that little clam bake cost me a return visit to Missoula for replacement tire and 2 more tubes. Thank you Kaleb, Emily, Ashley and Travis for your vehicle support in dealing with those issues; thanks Bob, Emily, and Locke at Free Cycles Missoula for all your assistance and thank you Brennan and Jordan for welcoming me into your new digs on short notice.

I got back on the road early Friday evening and then the fun really started. The icing on the cake turned out to be shearing off the machine bolt that attaches my right front pannier rack to the fork. Another night camped off the side of the road in grizzly bear country with no dinner in my best effort not to attract the company of uninvited, 600 pound, furry guests. On Saturday morning I found myself descending the Idaho side of the Lolo Pass riding in the rain, one-handed while carrying one of my front panniers in my lap at times and slung over my left shoulder at others. To my good fortune, a fire fighting pilot named Matt gave me and Tanya a ride to the next sizeable town, Lewiston, Idaho where I had planned to assess the situation.

I informed a couple of my facebook peeps of my situation and the friend of a friend network was activated. Within two hours I had assistance coming from two directions via North Dakota / Washington state connections (thanks, Stephanie and Stacy) and through my boy, Hans’ extensive bicycle network across the country. I’m hanging out in Burger King nursing off the WiFi udder, sheltered from the rain when Scott shows up with a truck to haul me and my gear off to warmer surroundings. We’re trying to figure out exactly what our connection is to one another and it turns out that I’m at the receiving end of some kind of four degrees of separation bike miracle. Scott has a bike shop and we pop in where he proceeds to drill and extract the metallic problem child from my fork and voila- Tanya is ship shape once again! Upon meeting Scott’s son, Everett, I told him how his father had helped with and he responds, “yeah, my dad is totally sweet.” You had to be there but the inflection in the word “sweet” was not the way one would describe that boy next door that all of the girls like but no one would actually date; it was “sweet” the way a bitchin’ Camaro turns heads at an auto show. Once again the Universe comes through with perfect timing and I’m back on the road heading for Portland with at least two new friends I need to see on the road to thank in person.

Scott, bike mechanic / heroic father

Scott, bike mechanic / heroic father

Read more…

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My own species (or I’m a rollin’ thunder, pouring bay) September 2, 2015

Sleeping Robear with "Sleeping Giant" in background

Sleeping Robear with “Sleeping Giant” in background

People who have toured with me understand that I prefer to sleep outdoors and as far away from humans as possible. “What about wild animals?” one might ask, to which I say that the only “wild” animals of which I’m generally afraid are the savages that dump sodas on my tent while I’m sleeping and throw Slurpees and Frosties at me from their speeding vehicles while passing me at dangerously close distances. Metamorphosis has been a recurring theme with this undertaking and it seems I may be undergoing a growth change in the direction of giving humans another chance. It all started in “Canada’s gateway to the west,” Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Allow me to back up a little to my northern crossing of Ontario and its accompanying isolation and albeit beautiful, but physically challenging terrain and environment. The whole time I’m riding “over the top” on highway 11 I’m thinking, “just a little farther to the first town on the other side (Longlac) and I’ll be back in civilization with clear drinking water and a place to replenish my dwindling grocery supply. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Here is a little advice to American travelers who intend on visiting northern Ontario (all three of you- ha ha). Your bank card won’t work. Canada uses a different system to process debit card transactions and in many remote areas the businesses have no means to process credit card purchases. It’s still about 180 miles to Thunder Bay when I’m figuring this out so a “real” city is starting to look more and more like an oasis to me. It actually is funny in retrospect but you can imagine that at the time I didn’t appreciate the irony of the fact that my bank is Toronto Dominion, my card has the word “DEBIT” printed across the front, and it still doesn’t work. My readers should also excuse me from not having agreed with the grocery store cashier’s assessment of the situation, which was, “hmmm…that’s funny.” Yeah, consternation and starvation at the same time- that’s hilarious! At my next camping stop, a little rest area outside Macleod, an ornery, 200-pound adolescent (and wicked retah-ded) black bear kept me up for two hours while he tried in vain to pry open a permanently mounted, bear-proof garbage recepticle. Maybe it was better after all that I was running low on food.

Three black bears and three days later I made it to the fabled bay of thunder and found myself comfortably settled in at my host Annie’s house and chit-chatting with another cyclist named Marie while dinner was being prepared. Annie cooked up an absolutely amazing and visually appealing meal of which I couldn’t partake (because it was a pasta dish) but I got some other food in me belly and had a great time hanging out that first evening… and the second… and the third. We even accosted a random Japanese cycling tourer at Tim Horton’s and convinced him he had to join us at Annie’s home for wayward travelers. I was having a blast in town and it seemed completely natural when I basically moved in next door with Annie’s neighbor, Gary, with whom I had already become friends.

Gary and Big George

Gary and Big George

I ended up spending a week in Thunder Bay, cooking, hanging with my new peeps, eating ice cream, partying with Ojibwe natives, and learning about everything from exploring Nepal to timber framing houses in the wilderness of Ontario. On one day I spoke French with a girl from the Francophone Association of Northwestern Ontario and the next day I spent an afternoon working on a mobile soup kitchen for the Salvation Army. I was having the time of my life but all that sleeping indoors and drinking beverages colder than ambient temperature was making me soft; I figured I had to either get back on the road or get a job and an apartment. It wasn’t a happy parting but I did ride away from the experience with renewed enthusiasm for commingling with my fellow homo sapiens while traveling.

…don’t get me wrong- I still love hanging with wild critters!

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Ontario, over the top (or “You’re doing it wrong”) August 22, 2015

IMG_20150711_200413I know I’m supposed to do the whole trans-continental thing west to east because of prevailing wind conditions blah blah blah… and I know there’s an easier way to cross Ontario besides taking the northernmost paved road that features a 130 mile stretch without food, water or services of any kind. What was really surprising to me is the number of actual Canadians who tried to discourage me, saying, “it’s boring… there’s nothing up there…just trees.” So, yeah, I’m doing it wrong- again.


My mom was of the opinion that people who say, “you’re doing it wrong” tend to be people who don’t “do” much of anything. I am inclined to agree and here is what I actually observed to be true of my northern crossing.


Wind direction: it really doesn’t matter which way the wind is blowing when you must endure the extreme continental weather environment featured by northern Ontario; I’m talking about wet, cold conditions, oppressive humidity and heat, thunderstorms, and hale all within the same day. As I’m writing this I am actually crossing the Canadian prairie so, yeah, about 2 out of 3 days I am facing a headwind, but only on one occasion was it so bad I that I just threw in the towel and set up camp to wait it out.


“Just trees:” hmmm…this was almost the best part of the ride- more trees, more “nothing” all equals less traffic. Less traffic implies an order of magnitude of greater comfort in a province where the roads are so crappy and the drivers so homicidal that I believe the provincial border signs should read, “Welcome to Ontario- if you’re on a bike, go f^%?£¥ yourself!”

Pretty typical road conditions up here

Pretty typical road conditions up here

…and, yeah, what about this part? It’s frickin’ beautiful up here. The night riding on the Trans Canadian highway alone was enough to make the venture worthwhile. I don’t have to imagine what it’s like to ride in the middle of the highway at 2:00 a.m. with nothing but starlight and the aurora borealis to guide me because I did it two nights in a row.

Yeah, I'm doing it wrong. Totally boring and beautiful.

Yeah, I’m doing it wrong. Totally boring and beautiful.

What a drag...more awesome scenery

What a drag…more awesome scenery

In the end I have no regrets even though I was nearly eaten alive by voracious black flies and mosquitoes, I was forced to drink some pretty nasty tasting lake water with chewy particulates, and one July evening it got so cold that I actually had to utilize my sleeping bag. I took the road less traveled and emerged from the wilderness with a tougher exterior and even more sensitive, squishy interior.

...and more boring stuff

…and more boring stuff

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Categories: Travel Diary

Montréal, Marie-Noëlle, Meditation, Maple Syrup July 19, 2015

me_marieI knew from the start that this adventure would be a transformational experience for me and that the extended periods of social isolation would result in my taking a hard look at myself. If I am to continue my journey in earnest I must confess the truths I am faced with. It is now more clear than ever that I have been guilty of abandoning the pursuit of the things that bring me joy since my mother died. My current undertaking has provided me with opportunities to correct my life course.

For the past seven years Montréal has remained one of my favorite destinations both for cycling and road trips by car. Although I love the city for its diverse attractions and cosmopolitan effervescence, in great part, what keeps me coming back is the prospect of spending time with my Montréal native friend, Marie-Noëlle. Marie and I met when I did my first marathon cycling feat of 400 km in one day and although we have been “cycling friends” for some time now, until recently, we had never actually done any cycling together. My original plan was to make a brief visit to my favorite city in Québec and continue west but it turned out that Marie and her good friend Martine were planning a ride in my same direction a little later in the month. I was extended the generous offer to take a break in Montréal and join the two for the ride to Rivière Rouge along the 200 km bike path. I decided to stay on in anticipation of sharing the road for a spell.

Usually my visits to Montréal are highlighted by sightseeing, checking out the night life, going to a festival, or loafing around in coffee shops. On this particular occasion I barely left my host’s neighborhood of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. Getting this bicycle adventure off to a start involved so many moving parts and scheduling issues; for the first time I found myself able to relax and not worry about the next move. I spent my days walking the nearby boroughs, reading this and that, and looking forward to preparing and sharing a meal and glass of wine with Marie-Noëlle when she arrived home from work. My friend and I always seem to have the best conversations about travel, the oddities of language, cultural diversity, and the human side of geopolitical issues. Having the day-to-day domestic experience of conversing over a home cooked meal may not sound like much of a vacation to some but for me it represents the pillars of emotional stability and the repository of mental energy I use to fuel my life. After losing my mother I failed to actively seek the kind of domestic harmony that kept my life in balance and gave me an outlet to share the things I love on a daily basis. I shall ever be grateful to my dear friend Marie for giving me the chance to reconnect with a part of myself I’ve been missing for the last year.

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Phantom Pain (or Amigas, Amigas, Amigas!) June 18, 2015


2015-06-15 00.36.51So I’m on the Metro the other day and I hop off at my destination but just as the subway doors close behind me I have a mini panic attack- oh no! Where’s Tanya? Again … riding in the bike lane approaching an intersection: crosswalk flashing red- 4, 3, 2 … OK, better slow down because we are both not going to make it across in time … oh, yeah, it’s just me.

Her voice was soft and cool, her eyes were clear and bright, but she’s not there”

It’s been three days since the other bear boarded a Boeing bound for Bergstrom and I’m still looking for her in my rear-view mirror.



I’ve been blessed in my life with the friendship and company of female traveling partners of the highest caliber. Shawn, Amanda, Jaclyn, Alisa, Lauren – are your ears burning? And of course, Tanya (the bear, not the bike, silly). I`m talking ’bout beautiful, tough, low-drag, aerodynamically optimized babes with fire in their bellies and the thirst to surf the wave of life. Women with the esprit de corps to accept generosity with geniality and face adversity with alacrity. Hmmm … sounds like another awesome gal I knew … my mother, Betty.

Tanya has proven no exception and although I’m sad to see her return to “normal” life, I am truly grateful for the time (and buckets of rice) we’ve shared over the past weeks. Our ride together featured 589 miles over terrain ranging from muddy snowmobile tracks in Maine to serious climbing on sketchy roads in Québec, most of it while enduring cold and damp weather conditions. It seemed like the tougher the going got the tougher Tanya became and I admire her natural proclivity ever to seek the intrinsic beauty and humor in every challenge. She is a joy to have in my life and I am proud to count her among my dearest friends. Her untamed enthusiasm and earnest curiosity keeps me young and her irreverent, unbridled sense of humor is my personal panacea. Thank you, Tanya, for being your awesome self and giving me a boost of encouragement at the commencement of my journey.

In front of Leonard Cohen's house

In front of Leonard Cohen’s house


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Québec City and a cat named Joselito (or A Tale of Two Showers) June 17, 2015

Rubbing skulls with Joselito

Rubbing skulls with Joselito

What a stroke of luck- our second crash pad in Québec ended up being about 100 meters from Maude’s apartment. We were able to get settled quickly with Noemie and Marc and our new friends took us on a quick walking tour so we could get our bearings and do a little exploring of our own.

Weather was crappy so I've included this photo of the boardwalk from a previous trip to Québec

Weather was crappy so I’ve included this photo of the boardwalk from a previous trip to Québec

Still a little fatigued from the road and adverse weather, Tanya and I were content with a stroll around the cobblestone streets and fortifications of Old Québec with a timely return to the flat for another eating session.

A word about our hosts

Marc and Noemie had recently returned from an epic year-and-a-half long bicycle journey through the Americas. Naturally we were intrigued to hear all about their adventure and also about the challenges of returning to “normal” life. Unfortunately for us, our hosts had a previous engagement to attend that evening so our visit was cut short.

Marc and Noemie at Salar de Uyuni

Marc and Noemie at Salar de Uyuni

It is not my intention to sound ungrateful for the time we were given with our new friends, but Tanya and I were a little sad about not having more time to enjoy the social dynamic we shared as a group as well as individually with our hosts. The invitation to stay was extended but the combination of impending weather and work schedules made it impractical to accept this generosity; we still had the ride to Montréal in the rain ahead of us, a bike to break down and pack, and a plane for Tanya to catch back to Austin. I will be sure to reserve more time and resources for my return to “La Vieille Capitale.”

Tanya with cellophane-wrapped Noemie

Tanya with cellophane-wrapped Noemie

Marc et moi

Marc et moi

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Categories: Travel Diary