vacationing! in patagonia

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When my friend Melinda asked me to take her bike-packing, and suggested Patagonia, one of my favorite parts of the world, l immediately said yes. And suggested the Carretera Austral. Which is the southernmost extension of Chilean highway 7. It is largely gravel, and dead-ends into a lake — meaning that the further south you ride, the less traveled it is. The road is well graded, the surroundings beyond spectacular, the water drinkable and the towns well spaced — pretty much a perfect route for bike touring. As such we had ridden while RidingTheSpine.

So l felt confident recommending this stretch of road as an ideal place to try out bike travel. When other cyclists we met along the way discovered Melinda had never even ridden a loaded bike before, the were uniformly shocked (and awed). But the truth is, as spectacular and remote as it is, the Carretera Austral is a highway. Which means it’s nearly impossible to get lost, and busses and other such emergency/bail-out help are readily available. In addition to the aforementioned perks, the climbs are not particularly steep, and this time of year there is 14 hours of daylight — so no need to hurry or ride fast. Hard find a better spot to tour most anywhere in the world. I’m happy to say she loved it, and is now a confirmed bike-tourist.


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internet dating on the great divide

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#dflthedivide

@crustbikes (matt) invited me to join him and @larkin80kv (darrin), @markreimer and possibly some other friends @ultraromance and @mr_shredward in Banff for a ~10 day ride on the great divide trail with the intention of making it to Missoula Montana for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Adventure Cycling Association. It seemed like the perfect real world test for sample ScapeGoat I had just built-up, not to mention lots of fun. Naturally l waited till the week before to commit — and flew to canada without the faintest idea what the ACA celebration would entail, nor any idea who else would be on the trip.


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merry Crustmas to me

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It’s the day I’d been waiting for — my ScapeGoat had arrived. Sure I’d been riding the (awesome) prototype Darrin made for me for a couple of years now. But theres nothing like opening the box. Especially after all the back and forth with Taiwan; design and redesign, drawing after drawing. And now l have a shiny (actually it’s matte) new, beautifully dark-red frame. Adorned with custom artwork and logo designed by my good friend ariel.

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Indeed it was so beautiful and exciting, that l was almost afraid to touch the frame; Fortunately, l also had a large pile of boxes – full of parts new and old – which need assembling and modifying. So I started there, separating the shiny bits from the enormous amount of packaging. Fondling all the beautiful, slightly esoteric and carefully chosen bits of metal that would soon come together to make my bike.

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australia beachcombing

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Taiwan seemed so ‘close’ to austrailia that it just made sense to head there with Matt after our business tour. So we flew to sydney for a bit – and couch surfed his moms house while gearing up for a little surf tour up the coast towards byron, and meeting up with two new friends who were joining us for the mish — Amanda and Lara. Amanda is a friend of matts (from austin) who happened to be visiting australia, who rather adventurously borrowed a bike to try her hand at rough road surf/bike touring (her first tour). And Lara, planned this trip with Matt through instagram — and this was her first surf/tour (though she wasn’t new to bike touring).

We spent a month or so winding our way north. On and off road. Wild camping on the beach, and surfing when ever possible. Lots of sand, lots of fun. My bike (ScapeGoat prototype) was the only rig fully equipped for sandriding — (fat-tired and trailer-less) so ditched the others to explore sandy single track (and no track) as well as just riding up the beach.

All in all a sweet intro to australia — far too short — I’ll be back…

more pics @crustbikes @afewsketchymoments @strayfox @larabuelow

mixing buisness with leisure

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I’m writing this from the current Crust Bikes world HQ — which happens to be a tarp-and-bamboo shack on a beach somewhere on the east coast of Tiawan. Matt is out surfing shitty waves on a broken board found in a trash pile, while I hide from the rain and try to poach wifi. We may still get some riding in today — but that remains to be seen. This time around the trip is short, and we are attempting to cram several seemingly incompatible endeavors into our allotted two weeks. The first and most unusual (for both of us) being business. We’re starting a bike company (or rather Matt is, and I’m doing what I can to help) and Tiawan is where bikes are made. This trip is ostensibly to tour factories and meet with ‘our’ people in Taiwan. But multitasking seemed like the way to go, and we decided to bike tour around the island, and it being a coastal ride, get as much surfing in as possible. Telecommuting while bike/surf touring is not a recipe for speed or distance — nor I suppose, particularly effective for coordinating our various business endeavors.

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it begins — again

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Here we go…
Matt and I are in Taiwan. To do some factory touring and assorted business for Crust Bikes. And since we’re here, a little tour round the island. I arrived on Monday (somehow lost Sunday somewhere during the flight) and spent the better part of the day in the baggage claim room at Tayouan International airport unboxing and building up my bike.

I had been so busy doing things for and with various friends in the days leading up to this trip, that l didn’t get around to packing or getting my bike ready till the day of the flight — which meant that it didn’t come out of the box quite ready to roll.
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philosophical road signs

signs of Nagaland

The road signs all over India l find quite amusing, but Nagaland takes it to a new level — not content to advocate save driving practices, they want to tell you how to live a good life too.  I only have photos of ones l liked, which means the really paternalistic or sappy messages are missing — there is no way l could capture all of them anyway: on the road from Kohima (the capital) headed west, there is a new sign every 500m or so. And one fo the villages along the way added their own signs with famous quotations — everyone from Ayn Rand to Karl Marx and everything you could think of inbetween.  If youre going to have billboards its a good way to go l guess…

in the hills again

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a brief sojourn in Nagaland

My some-time traveling companion Matt loves the ocean, lives for it in a way. And can’t bear to be away from it’s presence for too long.  But its’s the mountains which call to me. Too long in the flat lands and l start to get restless, grumpy — especially when bike touring. So grinding through hot, flat Assam l was continually teased by the hazy contours of the highlands to the north. The eastern extension of the Himalaya/Tibetan plateau in Anarchal Pradesh. A state which, due to its proximity to the contested border with China, was for all intents and purposes closed to me. It is possible to get a permit to travel there — but you’re expected to have a guide, and an itinerary, and a group. Some one more adept at hoop-jumping and subterfuge, could no doubt have arranged the paperwork — but l, who, find even the day to day bureaucracy of presenting my passport while checking in at hotels trying, didn’t even make an attempt.
Locked out of the Himalaya ( actually think its a different mountain range — but obviously the work of the same massive tectonic uplift) by meaningless power struggles over imaginary lines — l did the next best thing, and pushed east toward the hill country of Nagaland. It’s hard to describe how happy l was to find my self climbing again (and steeply!) after a month or so in the flatlands. The Hills began literally at the state line, and with them a new ecosystem, and culture. So l spent the next couple of days winding my way upwards, through a strange sort of mixed forest, palm and bamboo, and pine and rhododendron, with a few cactus thrown in. Arriving in a world where all towns and roads perched on misty ridge tops — taking advantage of the only semblance of flat ground.

 

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unknown celebrity

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flat lands and boundless hospitality in Assam

Littered across the landscape of northern India are literally thousands of photos of me.  With or without my ‘cycle’ as they call it here ( the pronunciation sounding something more like “sickle”), and often in poses of great familiarity with complete strangers.  The images are mostly blurry and pixilated camera-phone ‘snaps’ —  indifferently composed and poorly lit.  None the less, the photographers seem universally thrilled with their work — insisting on showing me the pics (expecting  interest/admiration).  Sometimes, when a crowd gathers and everyone gets excited, — people start taking pictures of people they don’t know posed with me. And other times, particularly in rural areas, large groups of people — presumably without cellphones — will line up to be photographed (one at a time) by a friend or acquaintance so equipped — though it is unclear how or when they will ever see the photos.

If properly curated, a collection of the work of this informal paparazzi would be a fascinating socio-cultural document.  I’ve traveled in other places where cell-phones were relatively new and high status. Places where my long hair, skin color, style of dress, or mode of transport stood out as much as they do here.  But never before has the mere fact of my being, been enough to elevate me to celebrity status.  For the record l have only been asked for my auto graph once, but the crowds that gather to watch with keen interest the banal trivialities of my day to day life surely put me in at least the same universe as brad and angelena and company (right?).  A relatively quiet and shy person,  l find the attention overwhelming at times ( especially when l am calorie deficient and accordingly ‘hangry’), but l have long since resigned myself to it, and do my best to receive it in the spirit with which it is given.

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