G- family bike trip
June 8, 2013 ·
From Carlos: In August of 2012 I found myself in the hospital with unexplainable ailments. Well, unexplainable is my way of saying I have not taken care of myself for 25 years. Parts of me were numb. My face, legs, and my right arm had lost sensation . Meg, a woman I had loved and lost 20 years ago had recently come back into my life and was pissed I had let myself slowly die. She sensed I was courting death. I did not know it, but everything I was doing in my life was leading me to the grave. My stress level was off the charts with work, children, and love. I was focused on trying to make everyone else happy at my expense. And to be real with myself, because I am far from a saint, I did not care what happened to me. So there I was with IV’s hanging out of my arm, getting my brain, heart, kidneys, and everything else under the sun checked. MRIs. Dyes going through my veins. CT scans. Spinal tap. I spent 3 days in a stroke ward. And nothing. Nothing was determined to be causing the numbness. I was told maybe migraines and to take heed of the life I was living because it was not going to last too long if I continued to ignore myself. So I went home, confused, sad, and angry. And all that got me were tremors in my right leg. What the hell? I had to do something different. I knew I was battling high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Still am. I thought to myself, I am going to die. Every doctor told me diet, exercise, and medication. I hate medication. I started to research how I could get rid of the things that are killing me without medication and everything pointed to eating a whole grain/plant based diet. And lots of exercise. Exercise…that was a tough one for me — not because I did not like to exercise — but because now in my mid forties I am paying for all of the sins of my sports youth. I played a lot of basketball and volleyball and it took a toll on my body. There is extensive damage to my knees, back and ankles. Not to mention that I am about 80 pounds over weight. What was I going to do? I started to lift weights, but I needed more. Meg told me, “get on your bike.” When we dated 20 years ago I was an avid bike rider. I biked everywhere and I loved it. So I started riding. I fell in love with it all over again. It is the closest thing I can do to flying. I feel free when I am on my bike. It became addicting and I started riding more and more. My enthusiasm was so contagious that Meg started to ride with me. Then my kids started to ride and we were all in this blissful world of health and family. We rode to school, we rode to Nana’s, we rode to the local farm, we rode to dinner. I went back to my doctors and told them everything that I had changed and they told me it was wonderful. I was eager to get my blood test done and when it came back, nothing had changed. I still had high blood sugar and cholesterol. My pressure was still high. I had exchanged some fat for muscle, but for the most part, I was still dying. What I have failed to tell you is that I am addicted to deadly habits. Within the days of biking there were many days that I could find an excuse not to bike. I was too busy. I did not feel like it. I could just do some sets of sit-ups and it would be enough. Within the days of eating healthy I found excuses to not eat healthy. Let’s celebrate some good fortune with chicken wings and pitchers of beer. Or I just biked so a couple of doughnuts will not affect me. I also did not change my negative mindset. We never have enough money, the kids were out of control, and my wife and I fight. All cause me enormous stress. I picked up a book on Taoism that was given to me many years ago but I’d never read. The message I got from it was let everything go and let it be. So my wife and I took this advice and started to let things go. Literally.
We have sold our house, all of our cars, and all of our belongings. We are getting ready to take a bike ride across the country. It is the only thing that makes sense to us. If the life we are living is killing us, then we should change it. Why a bike ride across America? Because it is everything we want. Simplicity. We will exercise, eat, sleep, and have the world as our front yard. We will have no excuse to entertain the deadly habits because the whole trip is predicated on getting rid of them and too many people are counting on me. I can feel it in my bone marrow that this it the right thing for me and my family. Meg and I should have done this in our 20s but we didn’t and we refuse to let age dictate our lives. My brother, a doctor, asks me if I think I can do this trip mentally and physically, I tell him yes. He asks again and I tell him HELL YES! What is funny is nobody has asked us how we feel about this trip. They are very eager to tell us how they feel, positive or negative. We have friends and family who feel that we are crazy. I say to them that they are crazy for not wanting to come. So here we go, I can hear my Meg taping boxes together as I am writing this. We are way past the point of no return. I welcome everyone to join us physically or mentally. We will be constantly posting in writing and in pictures. In my writings I will be revealing my mental, physical, and spiritual state.
June 9, 2013 ·
From Meg — Day 2.
8 am, Discount Tire. I drove the big rig for the first time. In the last year and a half, after resuming my driving career after a 16 years hiatus in New York, I have killed more than my fair share of curbs. Really murdered them. In a regular car. Crunched back tires, wounded cement, needed to be towed. More than once. Embarrassing. Funny, I always thought I was a good driver. Now I’m behind this monstrous SUV that is so high off the ground I have to use grappling hooks to climb in. We bought brand new tires for everything that would take one.
Stress. There is so much stress on this trip. We got back on the road, climbed the hills outside San Diego, the suv nearly redlines. Turning a corner dragging Thor’s ass behind us is stressful. Trying to identify roads that are quiet and compelling enough to bike is stressful. Trying to figure out where we are going to be each night is stressful. Seeing the tire pressure sensor light up after we’ve bought 2k worth of new tires is stressful. Learning how to hitch the trailer, how the lights work, how to make the décor less hideous, border collie-ing the kids into being civilized human beings, it’s all stressful. We take a few paths that lead us no where good (roads not suited for biking, too traveled, too hilly, not long enough) and finally wind up in an Albertson’s parking lot to get some chow and wonder about what the hell we’re doing. I am so frustrated I want to weep. We’ve been driving way too much. Carlos is irritable behind the wheel. I am faithless — I have no idea where we should go and no idea how long it will take us to get to get there and I just want to cry for my mommy.
Bird needed to go to the restroom, so we walk inside the grocery store and she says to me, Mama, let’s walk only on the blue tiles. I’m freaked out, worried that we’re going to have to spend a night in a Walmart parking lot, so desperate am I in my exhaustion and fears, and here is Miss Bird, light as a feather, showing me the way to walk, the way to be. When we get to the bathroom, we encounter Mica and Mila and when Mica sees our path, she says, Mila was just doing the same thing. How good is life? These kids, about whom I am so worried (have we kept them in the car too long, is this trip totally pointless?) are making magic out of linoleum flooring.
Carlos and I get in a fight about what to do next (I want to curl up and die, he wants to drive route 1 in big traffic pulling the moose behind us and have a heart attack), but we decide on heading toward a state beach in San Diego. It seems impossible that they have a space for us (it’s Saturday, it’s June) and it seems impossible to drive Thor through San Diego, but life, she is for living. The ride is, indeed, stressful. But the temperature drops, the ocean breeze fills the car, we pull up to the campsite and cross our fingers. Do they have any sites left? Why, yes, they do. One. And here we are, on Silver Strand State beach. I can hear the roar of the waves. We’re about to have breakfast. And then there is some biking to do.
June 12, 2013 ·
Day two: We woke up at a Comfort Inn. I hated it because I want to wake up in nature, not the Comfort Inn. In this case it was necessary. Too many obstacles in day one to try to rough it that night. We had a tire blow out, set up and broke down camp in an hour because of Hell heat. Yes all my northern friends, it can even be too hot for me. and we got on our merry way to San Diego. Or somewhere near there, we did not care. We had been driving for about an hour, talking to the kids about different presidents, topic they chose after I told them they could not talk about killing Zombies, shooting each other, or being vampires. Yes, kids will be kids, but an hour is enough. My blood pressure was starting to rise because right outside of San Diego there are some fairly ominous mountains that one has to climb. We started to ascend the mountains when I started to see the temperature gauge in the Yukon rise close to redlining. I turned off the air conditioning to try to keep the truck temp from rising, but all that got us was now our temps were rising to redline. We have not had this truck for too long, so we did not know what it could do and how it would do. Well, I would not say that I am the most tolerant or patient man in a situation that might leave me stranded with 6 kids. And it always happens that when I need to hear what is going on with the engine, the kids get louder. After a couple of…how do I say this…redirections, it was as quiet as church. In the end, the truck was amazing and we made it though the mountains. Now what? Meg suggested that we find a rural road to bike so the kids and adults could burn some energy. Good idea. We got off the highway and started to drive some beautiful back roads. We never found that road we felt was good to ride, but we did find a farmers market and eat some delicious peaches, nectarines, and bison jerky. We finally made it to San Diego and found a campsite on Silver Strand State beach right off of the ocean. Not without much discussion that went something like this, “I would rather drive all night then stay at a Walmart” and “You are acting like a baby.” I have to say, Meg did find the incredible beach, but I drove there without knowing if there were sites available. Wait…
Day three: Waking up to the sounds of the Pacific Ocean waves hitting the shore. In a matter of a day we went from temperatures of 118 to 68 degrees. Meg and I wake up and have coffee as the sun rises over the water. We start to write about our lives and cannot help but laugh at our good fortune. We look at each other and say we have been given another day. That saying has become as essential as breathing. “Tomorrow is promised to nobody” is the saying that we live by. The kids start to clean their bedding and Mica makes the most delicious breakfast of eggs and meat for flavoring. We have a bag of granola out and all the kids are munching on it. After we eat, we decide to take the boys on a bike ride. Stamina. This a word that I believe has been lost in the youth. In the communities that I taught in, it was evident that the kids would quit before finishing the task. My kids showed that same today on the ride. I know it will be different at the end of this odyssey, but I have to teach them how to persevere through adverse conditions physically or mentally. They biked for about 3 miles and we had to turn. Through whining and complaints about sore butts and thighs, we made it back. One of the things I love about my kids is that they were on their last legs coming back on the ride, but when they saw the ocean, they sprinted faster than Carl Lewis to get in. Mica had gone with me on the boys ride and wants to ride more, so she asked Meg if she was going to ride. Meg had already put on half her biking outfit when she was asked. They took off and I chose to take the kids to the beach. I was glorious. Seeing Issaiah, Eli, and Zane playing in the waves, working together, and laughing without a fight made me happy. Bird was collecting sea shells and fascinated by the seaweed. And Mila was wearing her movie-star heart-shaped glasses and telling everyone what to do. That tells me Mila is perfect. After a while, Meg and Mica returned with a very satisfied look on their faces from their ride. I asked them how far they rode and they said about 20 miles. Meg asked me if I wanted to ride. I was not sure if I wanted to cook the salmon or ride. I told her I was not sure. I said when you come back if I am cooking then I did not ride. She smiled and said ok. As I was walking to the trailer, I realized that I am just scared of riding. I am afraid I will push it too hard and not be able to ride. I am not sure what has caused this anxiety, but if I am asking my family to push though adversity, I had too. I put on my gear and took off. It was hard getting though pushing through the first 5 miles but I got into after that. My body started to get loose and I felt that I could ride for a while. The route took me along a bay where I saw many different types of birds and a salt refinery. I pushed hard. If felt good. And I am sore. In total I rode about 25 miles. We are slowly working our way to what we hope will be 50 mile rides. I rode to the trailer, had to fix a broken window, ate a delicious meal of salmon, and listen to Meg put the kids asleep to a story of Sherlock Holmes. Who the hell are we?
I do have to say that the kids were extraordinary. Speaking of the kids, this trip is also for them. We feel that they need to experience what it is like to rely on your own abilities. Before we left on this trip, we gave each kid an old back pack. We told them to pick one plate from the house, one fork, spoon, butter knives, a napkin, a towel, and a book. We also whittled their clothes down to 7 outfits, coat, swim suit, flip flops, and shoes. This is what we all did and how we will live for a little while. See, Meg and I got tired of washing endless amounts of dishes and clothes without it being appreciated. The kids would say they have nothing to wear and when we would look in their closets, they had clean clothes thrown all over the room. We would walk into the kitchen and they would ask for a cup, when I had seen that they were using a cup in the family room. We want them to learn to appreciate what they have. Issaiah asked me why we were getting rid of so many clothes and was kind of whining about it. I looked at him and said “You will have nothing and want nothing. “ He is starting to understand it already on this trip. We also want them to taste a meal. Meals have been traditionally eaten with one of the kids feeling that the food was sub-par. We had salmon with brown rice and sautéed onions with peppers. The kids were licking their fingers and wanting more. The food will taste better on this trip than it ever has tasted in their lives. Meg and I like what we are seeing.
June 13, 2013 · Golden Hills, CA ·
Day 3. Silver Strand St. Beach, Coronado.
There was biking, there was napping, there was beaching. Elijah was hip deep in a hole in the sand which he’d dug himself. Mila had found a seagull feather and was drawing with it. Bird was building an elaborate set of dams. Issaiah and Zane were body surfing. Mica, the ethereal goddess, floats benevolently through the scene with her camera in hand. I made a dinner they normally would have hated (it involved salmon and brown rice, among other things) and they wolfed it. Then I read some of Sherlock Holmes, a book I gave to Carlos 20 years ago, a book I used to read to him when he drove us through California. They all passed out. The Pacific Ocean as lullaby.
June 13, 2013 · Golden Hills, CA ·
We pack up, decide a parking lot on the Beach in Coronado is no longer for us.
Where will we go? I discover a state park, a mountain in which there is an observatory. There will be trees and stars. It isn’t too far. But it is cumulous high, up a windy road, to 5500 feet. Details I neglected to note. Carlos is a dad in the classic tradition, brave and furious (Jesus Christ! Be quiet back there! I want to hear the engine!) The kids go silent.
Let us pause for a minute to admire the constitution one must have to drive an SUV and a trailer up a mountain. Neither Mica nor I have braved the wheel at these moments. We are girls, we are weenies. The engine is making angry sounds. Is that the smell of smoke? Here comes a hairpin turn, here comes an even more narrow road. If we break down now, no one else is going to be able to ascend or descend the mountain. Unless of course we just slide all the way down to the bottom, which doesn’t seem impossible. We make it to the summit. Carlos takes a hit of his high blood pressure medication. I suggest we stop at the Palomar Mt Top Store for provisions and some local reassurance, but we encounter a grumpy queen surrounded by comedy and tragedy masks who finally, guiltily softens after we buy 30 dollars worth of cold cuts and chips. We descend into a gorgeous valley, trees, pond, dappled sunlight trickling through,, all the while smelling, hearing, feeling, suspecting that the transmission, the brakes were failing. Carlos backs the fucker into a tight wooded spot and we make some skewers of veggies and grill some steaks. We are exhausted. I entertain the idea that we are going to spend the rest of our lives on Palomar Mountain.
June 13, 2013 ·
From Carlos —
It was incredibly difficult to leave the ocean after only two days. It had to be done. We need to stay true to the course. We packed up and realized we had a dilemma to solve. We had to dispose of our black water. I had never heard of different hues of water until we got this RV. Black water, Grey water, and Fresh Clear water are different measures of the water one carries. Well, without getting into too much detail, black water had to be emptied. We rolled up to the park attendant and asked where we could do such a thing. She was already walking up with the directions of where the nearest emptying site was located. I have to say that RV people have been very kind so far. So again, I have to navigate the waters of the San Diego freeways and roads. We get to our final destination, learn how to empty tanks by the teachings of a very kind young man, and we were off to find our new front yard.
Stress. Stress is something that has yet to diminish on this trip. I knew we would be stressed, but the level of stress has been much higher than I anticipated. Semi trucks going by me so fast the trailer starts to fishtail. Ascents up mountains that take the engine to the redline and descents down mountains that leave the brakes visibly smoking. Stress that makes me feel like I need to take my high blood pressure medicine. The total opposite of what this trip was about.
Meg finds a destination that has a pond to fish in, roads to bike on, and, what ends up being very good rock to wash our clothes on. Yes, we used biodegradable soap. (Tune in to Day 5 for more details about the washing of clothes on a rock.) For dinner we had delicious steaks cooked slowly over a fire. Confession: they were cooked slowly because I could not make the fire hot enough to cook them faster, but it all worked out in the end. Put the kids to bed early this night without a reading of Sherlock Holmes. They were being punks so they did not earn it tonight. Maybe tomorrow. On a health note, my blood sugar counts have been decreasing. I have been in the normal range. For people who do not know, 80–110 mg/dL are normal blood glucose level readings. I was always in the ranges of 140–170 before the trip. Some people may think that those readings are not too bad, but any extra sugar in the blood can be harmful. Since the trip started a week ago, I have had readings of 98, 109, 102. Here is to hoping to stay off meds.
We woke up to a magnificent choir of birds singing to us. Issaiah swears he hears mockingbirds. He whistles and a bird whistles the same tune. He is so impressed that he repeats his whistle again only to hear Zane and Eli nowwhistling back at him. Meg and I start cracking up. We love it here. Our phones and internet do not work. All we have is nature and each other. Breakfast consisted of granola, raisins, and yogurt out of a big tupperware bowl. Yeah plastic, we hate it, but we have it so we use it. All of us pass the breakfast around and eat. Nobody cares that we are sharing the spoon. Nobody says anything about our filthy hands. We just eat like it is our last meal. We finish breakfast and Meg organizes our first clothes washing.
Now understand I have only seen clothes washed on a rock on TV. This is an idea we have in hopes our kids will appreciate what it takes to keep their clothes clean. Meg sets up a bucket of clean water by a rock. She sets up another beside it with more water for rinsing. Meanwhile, I set up clotheslines with ratchet straps and electrical extension cords. I stop and look at my adaptation and can’t help but smile. We get to it. Meg pours some soap on the rock, gets a shirt, dips it in water, scrubs on the rock, rinses it, and I hang it. We get through the young girls’ and our clothes.
“Ok boys, who is first?”
They look at us with the expression of WHAT?
“Get your clothes and get going.” Well, the next hour was some of the greatest schooling they could have received with learning to persevere though something they are not familiar with. Learning to cooperate, learning to share resources. And learning the satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult task.
Mica went next and she was extraordinary. I have to say something about my daughter Mica,. She has been so supportive and excited about this trip from its conception. She is 19, beautiful, has a very active social life, a wonderful boyfriend, and college. But without hesitation she said LET’S DO THIS! Thank you, Mica.
Well, everyone’s reward for washing their clothes is getting to bike up a mountain with a grade of about 30 degrees for about 3 miles. I grabbed my portable bike stand and started tuning up the bikes. I am getting better at working on the bikes with the help of trial and error and Lennard Zinn’s book, “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance.” What is cool is that this is the same guy that is building my titanium bike that I should be receiving within a week. I tune up the boys’ bikes. Meg and Mica tune up theirs. I volunteer to stay at the site to watch Mila and Bird and pick up the site a little bit. The biking crew take off and in a matter of a short time they are back. The mountains were too much for the boys. We decide to go fishing instead. Bird, my little 5 year-old girl, was the most excited to fish. We all gather our gear and head over to the pond. It is breath taking. Nature trails everywhere. Lush green landscape and a peaceful silence. Zane, Eli, and Bird fish for a little while, then head back to the campsite. So it is just Issaiah and myself fishing.
I love moments of one on one time with my children. They are rare. Issaiah has an old soul. At home he would fall asleep to NPR and is always full of facts to share. We started talking about how family is the most important thing in life and about his formal and informal education. And we also talked about him fishing with his grandfather in Montana and what he learned from him: stinky bait works best on catfish. Issaiah walks back to the campsite to see if anyone wants to fish and I take a disco nap on the shore of the pond. Mica and Issaiah arrive and wake me up and I walk back to camp. Meg has made a fantastic whole wheat pasta in a red sauce with chicken, beans, and incredible spices. Everyone is very satisfied with the day and falls asleep. The lack of biking has been on our minds. Meg and I talk about how it has to be more important. The challenge is to find a location suitable to biking (low traffic, low grade, high safety), that is our quest.
Quixote, our Aussie Shepherd, wakes me up with his barks. I get my biking gear on, grab his leash and take off. We have had Quixote for 4 months. When he was younger, we could keep him on his leash and ride with him, no problem. Now, he is too strong. And yes, he was named after Don. I took off with him and at one point he stopped so quickly he almost flipped me off my bike. The moment of truth has come. Will Quixote stay with me if I let him go? To my surprise, he did. He is so beautiful and powerful. He ran right up the mountain and turned with me to go down when I felt that my heart was going to explode. He stayed with me as I rode all the way up back to the site.
We arrived and Meg was almost done putting on her biking gear.
“You ready to go?” she asked me.
“Ok.” I replied.
“Let’s take Quixote with us, he will not run away.”
We begin the ride back up the mountain. Meg is in shape and a machine going up the grade. I am the opposite and am sucking wind. We don’t get too far when I tell Meg to go on without me. I couldn’t ride more. She did not even acknowledge me and kept riding. Basically, telling me to shut the F up and ride. So I did. I surprised the hell out of myself. It was amazing. The further I went up the better I felt. I cannot tell you how far we rode, but it was more than I imagined I would . Meg could have rode all day, but she turned with me and headed back to the site.
The down hill was so much fun. I was slaloming down the grade when I noticed that Quixote was trying to get in front of me. I guess his herding instincts were kicking in. But my instinct to lead was kicking in for me. Every time Quixote was getting in front of me, I cut him off. I felt like a boy — I was having so much fun. Well, to brag, I beat my 6 month-old puppy. I’m such an ass.
We packed up the site and took off. Our campsite was about 5,500 feet. We emptied as much water as we could. It made it much easier to go down the mountain. It was a long way down. We needed to find open, less populated road. We are in constant search of desolate roads to ride with our children and feel safe. We drove through the Mohave desert and no luck. We found a campsite: Brite Lake in Tehachapi, CA. Driving to the site we saw a couple of places where we can pick cherries. The night was calm. We got the site ready, ate, and fell into wonderful slumber. I can’t wait to ride with the kids tomorrow.
June 14, 2013 · Golden Hills, CA ·
Carlos and I get up at sunrise to bike up the mountain with Quixote. Did I mention we are at 5500 feet? It is a huge grade. We go up and up and up. Quixote tries to herd us. On the way down, Carlos herds Quixote. We get back, pack up camp (Zane tries futilely to sweep the trailer, Elijah washes dishes, Issaiah puts up clothes, Bird uses a crank to lift the stabilizing jacks (very butch), Mila accumulates more snot on her nose than seems possible, Mica wraps up bikes and stacks them on our bed, Carlos attaches the truck to the trailer, I fill in the gaps) and here we go, Escape from Palomar Mountain.
I don’t know why I’m so intimidated by all of these machines. Perhaps because I don’t understand a single one. Hypocrite: a girl who quotes Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but doesn’t know how to back up her own recreational vehicle. We start driving and it is apparent something is wrong: the truck is barely moving and it’s downhill to begin. We stop in a lot by the pond and grow anxious. Why? Why won’t the trailer move? What I see as an act of God, that only a call to triple A will solve, Carlos fixes by resetting the emergency brake on the trailer which was triggered when we had Quixote tied to the hitch the previous day. Omg. Here we go, up the hill, down the hill, brakes fuming slightly. I have never longed for flat Kansas so much in my life.
Carlos says today is the day to break free of LA, to drive as far as we have to in order to clear the traffic and the mountains. He doesn’t care if it takes all day. I wonder if we have enough blood pressure meds or if I can score some medical marijuana to get us through. It is California, no?
We stop at a grocery store to stock up: tomato basil wheat thins for Mica, hot chocolate for the smalls, (my rare concession to comfort food), sandwich fixins, Louisiana hot sauce (the only kind we could find without guar gum), cherries, grapes, pretzels. We aim for farmland north of LA. The odyssey begins again. Beep beep beep. Rear left door is ajar. Bird’s door. And indeed it is. You can see pavement next to her. The Goddess Mica reaches over Eli and Bird and yanks the door shut with such authority that it rips the armrest from the door. Including power window control. OMFG. What is going to happen next? The car splits in half lengthwise?
We drive and drive and drive. The roads are no longer superhighways, just highways. Yucca trees stud the landscape. This is gorgeous, if severe. The mood is lightening, actually, as we make our way through the Mohave desert. Edwards Air Force Base is out here and I feel nostalgic for the Shuttle landings and the Right Stuff. Sam Shepard on a horse: She’s his wife, sweetheart. I do love a hero. We can feel the wind pushing the trailer and soon we see giant windmills. I hope Quixote is longing to tilt. I tell Mila to count them. Her number system is truly singular. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 14, 60! And repeat.
I find us an unlikely campsite in an unlikely place. Tehachapi, California. It’s farmland. We drive by a cherry orchard on the way to the camp, a windy lake. I find a rickety picnic table, call it my office and start to write. Some of the kids are counting the days until the bike trip is done. I find that disheartening, dispiriting, but it is exactly as Carlos has predicted. This ain’t no Sunday ride.
June 14, 2013 ·
Questioning your gods. The greatest spiritual leaders have all questioned their gods and either became stronger in their beliefs or left them. I needed to question my gods.
At the moment I am worshiping Family, Dogs, Nature, and Bikes. Day 7 was a trying day for me. I woke up feeling great. I wrote for a little while. Had a nice breakfast. Then the fighting began. The kids fought about the color of their plates and whose was whose. They fought about the ownership of their socks. A hum of constant bickering. So I thought, let’s get on our bikes and ride this shit out of them. Well, then of course they had to whine about finding their biking gear. I gave them all five minutes and told them they were going naked and I did not give a shit, we were leaving. So we jumped on our bikes and I wanted to make a quick stop a the restroom. I got off my bike and felt like someone had just spun the world on me. A dizzy spell hit me that almost made me fall. I told the boys I had to bike back to camp. I raced to check my glucose level. It was perfect, 105. I started to feel very weak and just wanted to lay down. While lying in bed, my beautiful Meg tells me that she will take the kids to go pick cherries and I thought that was a great idea. They left and I started to feel sorry for myself. My stomach was now aching and I started to question if this expedition was worth it. Is it worth selling a house and everything in it? Is it worth the endless fighting, bickering, and whining one has to endure? Is it worth the stubborn dog we have who will not sleep or listen? Is it worth the freezing cold or unbearable heat and always being filthy? At the moment I am riding a bike that is two sizes too small for me and my back is always aching when I get off it. Is it all worth it? I am questioning my gods. Do I believe in them? Do I have faith?
Joseph Campbell was an expert on world religions; he talked about their common threads. Miracles, he found, occur across the board. When Meg returned with the family, I was on the couch reading the Odyssey, trying to get my mind off of my stomach. The family walked in with armfuls of the most glorious fruit and vegetables: plums, pluots, peaches, Japanese eggplant, red peppers, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries. They had gone to a true farmers market and bought the freshest of food. Mica walked in with fresh basil and mint. Mint, the perfect cure for a bad stomach. I asked her if she would give me some leaves. I chewed and ate them. A miracle. The boys were outside quarreling about something. I looked at Meg and said, “They have to ride.” I had barely finished that sentence, and she had them on their bikes with Mica trailing. I was feeling a little better when I saw Bird sitting outside. I looked at her and said, “You need to learn how to ride your bike, too.” I told her to get on her bike and try. She would pedal once and put her foot down. Then pedal once again and put her foot down. I told her to bring her bike to me. The seat was too low for her. I raised it and told her to try again. This would be a little scarier for her because she would not have he ability to put her foot down as easily.
Bird has been practicing riding her bike for months now. We took off her pedals back in Scottsdale so she could just push her bike and learn how to balance and coast. Now, she is in the middle of nowhere, her seat is higher, and she is on a dirt driveway with a significant slope for a 5 year-old. She was so scared, but would not quit. And like a miracle, she pushed off and started pedaling. I jumped up and started cheering so loudly. She rode and rode and rode. It was so scary for her, but she just kept going. When she came back, I gave her the biggest hug. I have very rarely seen Bird smile the way she was smiling at that moment. She did not want to stop riding, so she went on.
About that time I saw the kids coming back with Meg. Mica and Issaiah had returned, so it was just Meg, Zane, and Eli. Meg was keeping them on this paved road next to the site, riding back and forth. I thought for sure that these guys needed to burn more energy so Meg was making them go a little farther. I walked closer to them to see what was going on. To my surprise, she had them doing time trials and they were loving it. When one was riding, the others were cheering them on to go faster. So I started cheering with them. When they finished up, they rode back to the trailer talking about how they wanted to do it again. A miracle.
We ate, laughed, and everyone went to bed. Today is like an emotional enema. It’s all been pent up, I’ve been so stressed out. You have to walk up the mountain to look into the eyes of god, but walking up that mountain has been excruciating for me. Watching Bird biking and the boys’ time trials was looking into the eyes of god. I was weeping while writing this. Life is so beautiful. I believe.
June 14, 2013 · Bakersfield, CA ·
Brite Lake Campground. Tehachapi.
This place is restorative in its quiet. There’s hardly anyone around, which suits us just fine. The handful of other trailers here don’t look particularly mobile. They have had time to erect flagpoles so I’m guessing this is more permanent housing. But the lake glitters, the kids are playing on a playground, a bike ride is imminent. I am going to stay and write, reorganize the house. I feel like each day is a giant bowling set. We need that clearing arm to come down from heaven and sweep the trailer, reset the pins of our lives every twenty-four hours: get all the shoes in order, re-fold the clothes, re-organize the bathroom (the latch on the medicine cabinet doesn’t have great pride in itself, so keeps letting all the bottles of medicine commit suicide into the sink every time we travel). This trip is making the maintenance daily life requires more plain. Which is not a bad thing. The washing, the sweeping, the cooking. There is no where to hide, no vacuum, no take-out Chinese, no movies to show the kids, no machines to do the work for us.
The boys go fishing. Carlos feels ill, shaky, which is rare, but I am not surprised. The wear and tear of being the front man for this band is significant. I unhook the SUV from the trailer all by myself, thank you very much, and round up the kids to go cherry picking. The cherry orchard, however, is closed on Thursday. But we can see the bright red jewels right there in front of us, dangling from the trees. We’ll have to come back tomorrow. I drive into town, to see what’s cooking. We stumble upon a very robust farmers’ market, complete with a band and bratwurst. Bratwurst is my boys’ favorite. I indulge them. I buy frozen pomegranate juice variations from a couple (blueberry, cherry, apple). We buy gorgeous eggs, pale blue, light tan, seafoam green, wrapped in a ribbon. A woman selling nuts makes me an iced tea complete with mint and spoonfuls of lemon juice. I am worried about Carlos, so I buy things I know will make him happy: Himalayan salt, dark plums, mint.
We head back and immediately the tribe starts bickering. At moments like this I want to clobber them. We are trying to teach them gratitude, teamwork, depth and they are bitching abound fishing poles, acting incapable of breathing unaided. Carlos suggests they need to ride, I strip off my clothes, gear up and tell them to meet me. At moments like this I am furious and feel like a failure as a parent. I do not want to raise a bunch of weenies who complain and can’t think and act for themselves or treat each other with some measure of grace. I take the boys on a ride.
When we leave the campsite we bike a road that is well traveled, cars, trucks, speed. It has me worried, but with Mica tailing me, and me shouting checks at the boys constantly, it feels worth it. This is what they need: to test their skills, to have to be aware of their own bodies, to feel a rush of adrenaline, to keep in a tight line to maintain their safety. This, as opposed to arguing who failed to roll up a sleeping bag. It does not last long. Issaiah, our mountain, is weeping. He barfs on the side of the road and I turn back to camp. I let him and Mica go ahead but keep my little guys with me. I know they are wondering how pissed I am and exactly what is next on the agenda. I have them follow me: a tiny course through an abandoned road, a circle in an abandoned parking lot by the lake, and back to the shadows of the trees where we started. We do it again. The shadows of the trees, I say, are the starting line. We are going to time ourselves on this little loop. Eli will go first. Zane cries, saying he will never be able to keep up with Eli’s time, but is reassured when I tell him he is only competing against himself. Each of us will do it once to get a base time, then we’ll see if we can better our personal record on each successive attempt. He grins. Mr. Zane has a fabulous smile — gorgeous gap-toothed smirk, chiseled chin. The mood changes. The boys are eager, ebullient, determined, generous. For me, this is the point. To elevate them. To motivate them to challenge themselves, to encourage each other, to howl, “Go Zany Z!” at the top of their little lungs.
Carlos appears from the trailer, shouting, “Meg, Bird is biking to you.” What? Bird is biking to me? Um, sweetheart. Bird can’t bike. And the path she would have to take to get to me is about a quarter mile. And then I can see: a tiny little figure, in a tiny apple green helmet, pedaling her way out of the campsite, onto the dirt road. Bird, it seems, has learned to bike. She smiles like crazy and joins the time trials and we yell, “Go Miss Bird!” and at moments like this, I feel like we’re doing everything just right.
The sun sets and it is time to buckle up camp. I go outside to lock up the bikes. Some guy and his friend next door are out, under the flapping American flag, drinking. I am working the Master lock, threading the cable through the bikes, feeling slightly conspicuous in a pair of tight leggings. Too vulnerable. “Heyyyyyyyy, neighbor,” croons one of the guys. “You need some more light?”
Ugh. Ick. My mind conjures Deliverance all too easily. I do not mind confessing that guys who act this way creep me out, nor do I mind confessing that I went immediately into the trailer and summoned Carlos, my personal Marvel superhero, to come outside to demonstrate an overwhelming show of strength. They give him the same, “Heyyyyy neighbor.” Eeek. He says hello, treats them with grace. They tell him they’re about to have a fire. He comes inside and we lock the doors, wondering about California ammunition laws.
The neighbors crank up the Johnny Cash.
“Well my name is Sam Hall, Sam Hall.
Yes, my name it is Sam Hall; it is Sam Hall.
My name it is Sam Hall an’ I hate you, one and all.
An’ I hate you, one and all:
Damn your eyes.
I killed a man, they said, so they said.
I killed a man, they said; so they said.
I killed a man, they said an’ I smashed in his head.
An’ I left him layin’ dead,
Damn his eyes.”
Oh, lovely. Lovely new neighborhood. Charming. I miss Palomar Mountain.
June 15, 2013 ·
The routine is starting to get set for my mornings. I wake up 5ish with Quixote, put a pot of water on the burner for coffee, pour some of that nectar of the gods into my special coffee cup, and start writing. We are still here at Brite Lake Campgrounds and the wind is so refreshing. There is a chill in the air and everyone is still sleeping in the RV. I can hear Issaiah snoring like his father and the girls, in their sleep, are seeking the perfect spot to lay. I love this time of the day. It’s an innocent time. A time where we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. A time where the world is rejuvenating. Everyone is waking up now and the stirs of children are evident. I open the RV door and see Eli trying to get his bearings of the morning. I get another cup of coffee and Meg comes out. We make tentative plans of what the day is going to look like. The morning is very status quo. Clean the RV, clean the children and clean ourselves. I have to confess, I have gone more than two days without showering on the trip. How many more than two days, I will not say. We hook up the truck, and I must say we are becoming experts, and plan to take off. Meg and I are sitting in the front seats wondering what path to take next. I have put on my biking shorts, socks, shirt, and glasses knowing that, come hell or highwater, I am riding. Again, we cannot find a road to bike on. I said, fuck it! I am riding from here. I looked at Mica and said, “do you want to go?” and like always, my girl is “Down.” We get out, Mica puts on her gear, and we take off. It has been two days since I last rode. I can feel it. The first 500 yards are rough. My ankles are hurting, my right knee is aching, and my back feels tighter that a drum. I keep thinking to myself “Think Strong.” “Think Strong” is something I started in Scottsdale with the kids. Bird was scootering from school on day and fell. She started to cry more than was needed. I looked at her at said “Think Strong!” we have to think strong when the going gets tough. She got up and moved on. Funny, days later I heard Eli saying it in the truck and Mila saying it in our back yard. So I am hurting and riding. I say to myself if I can make it up this hill, I can keep going. The ride was full of hills and valleys. Mica at one point was a good distance ahead of me. She stopped to wait for me and I screamed for her to go on. I told her I would catch up. She said she would stay with me and rode behind me. I thought about this incredible gesture and thought, “maybe someone will change my diapers when I get old.” I love her. I looked at her and said, “I always get stronger as the ride goes on.” and I did. There is always a point on the ride where I feel that my body has caught a second wind. I started to ride faster and faster. Mica started to smile at me and said I am proud of you. We rode through the rolling hills. We rode down busy highways. We rode down dirt roads that crossed fields full of growing plants. We rode all the way to the end of Tehachapi, turned, and rode back to meet Meg and the kids. I was on such a high. The exercise was wonderful, but riding with my daughter made it that much better. I love my life. Meg had turkey sandwiches with Swiss cheese waiting for us with Pomegranate juice to drink. We stored our bikes in the RV and took off to our next destination. We decided to stay in Bakersfield for the night. I think our city spirits needed a boost. After enjoying some modern amenities like washing machines and plug in internet, we ate avocado, hard boiled egg, havarti, and salami sandwiches for dinner. We put the kids to sleep and Meg and I laughed ourselves to sleep again. I love my life.
G Family in East Porterville, California.
June 16, 2013 ·
A blur. We get out of dodge (meaning the neutered Rv resort we find ourselves in — it has lovely amenities, big clean showers, a pool, many washing machines — but it makes me feel a little like I’m in a Kubrick film. I should note the one amazing transcendent moment was the kids finding snails and creating Snail City and Shell Country. Kids find revelation everywhere.) We are driving through farm land and I just want to get on my bike. I’m tired of sitting in the car, I’d rather take my chances against a semi. Carlos is so game — he pulls over. I pour on the Coppertone, ask Mica to fill my Camelbak and here we go. Adrenaline is high. This is an actual highway, with an actual number (CA 65) and though the rig is trailing me to begin with, I feel jumpy. We are headed uphill, Carlos soon abandons me for a safer berth on down the road and I find myself biking a California highway alone. I’m my own country song. I examine the asphalt, looking at any little stone as an enemy: is that the stone that causes a girl on a carbon bike to fall over, slide beneath a semi and fall into history as one of those heartrending little white crosses at the side of the road, perhaps customized with a bicycle wheel? Tragic, really. I always hoped for something more grand, something in marble. I also feel like, hmm, what if I can’t do this? What if it’s too hard? I don’t know how far they’ve driven ahead and it is uphill and it’s 90 degrees out and it’s only me and then I just get bored with my own weeniness and start riding. I take my first semi (Walmart, naturally) proudly — I am steady. The next one, however, is double length (filled with chickens or some caged animals) and the whoosh is tugging on me. I either need to gain a hundred pounds or stay further to the right. The scenery is amazing. Big rolling golden hills. Carlos suggests a more local route, so I head down a road and find myself rolling right by a vineyard. Grapevines extend for miles. I pull over and embrace the grapes and feel high. Grapes! Right here, in front of me. Grazillions of them.
I am a girl who has taken the local/seasonal thing so seriously that I have, as resident of New York and Arizona for the last so many years, have viewed California produce as something of an evil. It’s grown on a ginormous scale, faceless, corporate, generic. But riding through these fields, I can see each orange, each almond, each peach, each pecan. The trees are beautiful and grand. The rig pulls over onto the shoulder and I wonder what’s up. Carlos gets out, says something about biking, but I don’t quite hear him.
You’re biking? I ask.
He is. I’m so giddy. This is one of the moments we dreamed about. He told me, sometime in spring, he fantasized about biking next to me through farmland, looking over at me and smiling. And here we are, biking next to each other through vineyards, through orchards. Grinning like the fools we are. A dream come true.
We go get pizza and then stop at a grocery store. Mexican Las Vegas. I could spend hours at this place. Panaderia, Carniceria, Tortilleria. I want Andreas Gursky to do this joint. They have fresh corn tortillas, and fresh masa from which to make them. I buy a tortilla press. I buy a molinillo, one of those gorgeous variations on a wooden spoon used to make Mexican hot chocolate. There are wooden bracelets on the end and when you twist it between your palms it makes frothy heaven. This kind of stuff makes me wildly happy. Aisles and aisles of brightly colored products, every kind of meat and fish and veggie and fruit. A vat of dried hibiscus flowers. A huge basket of tamarind. When we return to the parking lot, I find Carlos working on the hitch to the trailer. One of the twenty-five pound stabilizing arms has broken free and apparently we’ve been dragging it. There is a tiny little bolt that is slightly loose (reminds me of the O-ring that causes the Challenger to firework over Cape Canaveral). My kingdom for a bolt. We jury rig a fix (bungee cord, miracle worker) and get on our way to a federal campsite in the foothills of the Sierra Madres, the Sierra Leones, what the hell are these mountains called again? My mind is tired. The sierra sierras. Today we are going to take Carlos to see the biggest tree on planet Earth. Not a bad father’s day gift.
Oh, by the way, we got Issaiah a twitter account. He has crafted a tweet that, in my humble opinion, is the best I’ve ever seen: “I found a snail.#awesome.”
His previous one was: “The dog ate my fig newtons. frown emoticon.”
He’s a genius. He gets that from me. You can follow his wit and wisdom at IGantchoff on Twitter.
June 17, 2013 · East Porterville, CA ·
Day 10: Father’s Day!
A day where the family says “Relax, Dad, We have it.” and they did. My breakfast consisted of homemade corn tortillas, a poppy egg (easy over for the rest of the world), one piece of bacon (one piece filled my need without killing me, but come on), and some tabasco on top. Meal for a king.
We chilled at the campsite for a while. Biking, writing, and exploring is where the morning flew.
I looked at Meg and said, “Shall we leave?”
So we got into the unhooked Yukon. It was bizarre driving it without the trailer. I was still taking wide turns and leaning to the side of the road for room. Then I just punched the accelerator and the Yukon took off. I love the truck. So again, I find myself winding up a mountain. California is full of mountains. Well, everywhere we want to go, there is a mountain. And today we were heading for the big trees. Sequoia National Park.
When we told everyone what we were doing, I heard Mica say, “YESSSSS. I have always wanted to go there.” We had to go now. So driving up the mountain was like being in a mixer. Mexico has a famous road called Mil Cumbres, which means a thousand curves. I think the road to the trees rivaled the that road. At one point, I looked in the rear view mirror and all the kids looked a green shade similar to avocado. I kept driving and tried to minimize the effect of the curves by staying close to the middle yellow line in the road. All of a sudden on a loud speaker I hear, “Driver, stay on your side of the yellow line. “ WTF? I look back and it is the Sheriff on my ass. I think, you put 6 kids in your truck and try to stay on your side of the yellow line, F#$ker! He would not let off. He was driving so close to me he could smell my cologne. So I pulled over to let him by and he waved at me like he was my high school buddy. F#$ker!!!!!!
We were in dire need of supplies. At the bottom of one of the paths, we found a nice little store which had a restaurant, convenience store, post office, car parts, and bowling alley. Ok, I made one up. We get there at pick up the healthiest of treats. ice cream, cheez-its, water, gatorade, and graham crackers. Did not make any of those up. We walk up to the counter to pay and the cashier says, “it that all?”
I say, “No.” “Can you direct me to the BIG trees?”
Wow, the whole restaurant started to tell us where to go, how to get there, and places we should go when the kids get older. I have to say, we have met very kind people on this trip. Do not believe all the media about traveling. We are still cautious. We get directed to a location called, The Trail of a Hundred Giants. So we take of again and start looking for this trail. We drive and drive and drive. We start to get nervous that we have passed it. We turn off on this off road camp site to see if someone is there we can ask, but nobody was. We drive out of the site and sit at the fork in the road. We can go back or keep going.
Meg says, “wouldn’t it be funny if it was a minute away?” We turned and it was. We unload the crew. Everyone gets a water bottle and I grab Quixote. We get on the path of the giants and are immediately awestruck. We see trees that are majestic. The volume of the trees are incomprehensible. I feel like I am walking among gods. I don’t have the words to tell you how breathtaking it is. We walk father down the path and see a tree that had just fallen two years ago. The root system is massive. Well, everything is massive. The kids find a way to get on top of it and walk the length of it. Mica cannot stop taking photos of the place. We sit down, humbled. I think, we are just a mist in the time of the world. We finish walking he path and get back into the car.
The kids all pass out on the drive back. I get a fire started for dinner. Meg produces chicken breasts marinated in a chipotle sauce. We roast red peppers and Chinese egg plant. And I heat up some blue corn tortillas to put it all in. Delicious. Meg and I retire to our room and Mica reads the Life Of Pi to the kids. She has been for the last couple of nights. We are doing this.
June 18, 2013 ·
We have unhitched the trailer, left it back at the Army Corp of Engineers Federal Campsite at Success Lake. It is just all of us in the enormous Envoy, climbing up a mountain, switchback after switchback, children begging us to find a bag for them to barf in. We pull over. This is as beautiful as beautiful gets. Ridges and ridges of trees, a stream running in the valley down below us. It’s a John Fucking Denver song. We don’t have much of a plan, other than to seek some really big sequoias. I expected we would have seen them at the entrance, that a big group of them would have greeted us. But we’re a half hour in and still, no dice. The kids are ill-ish and I wonder if we should turn back. What is this aspect of my personality? It never wins out, I always go on, but there is always this pause, this primary fear announced in me — jeez, maybe it’s too difficult, maybe we should seek safety, comfort, maybe it’s too much effort for too little reward. Carlos, however, is a man who forges on, a man who carries a psychic machete to cut through the psychic brush. We go another twenty minutes and happen upon a joint that is part café part grocery part oasis part what it calls resort. We go in and buy provisions because, very much against our nature, we didn’t pack particularly well this morning. We buy 8 ice cream sandwiches (an ode to John Giles — it is Father’s Day, after all, and he’s a man who appreciates his dessert), crackers, water, etc. To purchase these items, we head to the café and Carlos, who, we joke, is always running for office, always garnering votes, begins to work his magic on the locals, asking for advice on trees. Immediately we are swept up in the chatter — these people really want to tell us about their trees. The owner of the bed and breakfast and the guy who’s wife is the waitress start assessing our needs (we have small kids, we can’t hike Everest/we have an afternoon, not a week) and direct us to drive about 45 minutes up and down the road to a place called the Trail of a 100 Giants. We will find the redwoods there. And we do. They are every bit at breathtaking and stupefying as rumor has it. One giant has fallen and its Celtic knot of a root system is hanging in the air before us, it must be a hundred feet across. It is as beautiful as the rose window at any cathedral I have seen, St. John the Divine, Notre Dame, and really, more so. I kneel in front of it with Mila, point at it and say, “Baby, that’s art.”
She turns to me and says, “But Mama, who painted it?”
The elephant in the room: We have so little time. Our band is destined to be broken up by the end of the month. Zane must be returned to Phoenix, the boys must get to Montana. The girls are to get off this train in New York at the end of July. This is part of the deal.
Time is on our minds.
June 20, 2013 ·
A driving day. We gotta make some mileage. At my favorite market in the world, the Vallarta supermarket, we return and buy twenty tacos and aguas frescas (horchata, sandia, lima, y jamaica). Issaiah finds a washboard, Mica finds the right kind of pink soap (the kind Nana uses, naturally). We run errands (including buying some movies for the trip — god forgive us, but they work) and then drive. Except Mica wants to bike. Shit. I don’t really want to bike. I’m deeply involved in eating Mexican pastries. But if Mica’s getting out, she needs someone to ride with. Here we go. The boys tumble out, too, and Miss Bird has a crazy grin on her little toothless face and asks, “Mama, can I go biking, too?”
Why, yes, Bird, you can. We fill her tiny little pink Camelbak, we strap on her helmet, we put on her sneakers, we slather her in sunblock and she is part of the peloton. She is right in front of me, weaving cuz she can’t quite keep a straight line. I bike up on her left side, herding her. She is scared and wants to get off almost immediately, but I encourage her to keep going until we reach the end of the field. She surges ahead. At the end of the field, she dismounts, and hops back in the trailer. We bike by farms. Eli is scared by another loose dog. Issaiah surrenders and soon it is me and Mica again, and the grapes and the corn, again. We are biking by more livestock today: fields of cows. A couple of horses, a grey dappled one that looks up when I do a little smooch noise. Hello, there, handsome. Our little farm road leads straight to a Target, which is a sign we need to get off the bikes and get back in the truck before we become roadkill.
We end up the day on the river, in Stockton, California. It is late, especially late, too late. We have done our job in covering miles but by the end of the day we are exhausted, strung out, short tempered, all of us. I lead us to the end of the end of the end of the end of a long park which culminates in a very big locked gate. Great. Right in front of the park where I thought we could camp. But I do some magic with a phone call, we get the code to the gate and sail on in. Carlos is mastering backing the house up and there is a lovely, refreshing breeze coming from the beach which is about 10 feet away from our spot. Nice. We open up the RV doors to do what we do: unload the bikes, put down the stabilizers, unravel the sleeping bags, snuggle and snore. But inside we discover:
The Lord of the Flies. It is as though we ordered them as decoration. Hundreds of them. Who flew in, apparently, when we opened the doors in farmland. Soon it becomes a massacre, us v flies. It takes a while, but we win. And then, I bleach the shit out of the joint, along with Mica. You could have done surgery in there afterwards.
June 20, 2013 ·
The breeze is nice here and in the morning we see women skulling down the river: an auspicious sign. Our shoulders drop, let’s stay the day here to recuperate. The kids can fish, we can regroup. But no, you can’t have more than 6 people per spot and unless we’re prepared to sell two of the kids, we can’t stay. We consider it a blessing in disguise, a sign that we need to get on the road and crank out some more miles. And so, we do.
Up I5 to Sacramento. I am on a high thinking of Joan Didion. We stop at an olive joint and get some fancy olive oil and some shockingly delicious shakes. Lennard Zinn, the bike guru who is building Carlos a custom bike, sends us a photo of it. How thrilling. I find us a Wilderness Reserve and we arrive just before a gorgeous thunderstorm seems ready to hit. The boys go play while we stack bikes under tarps.
Eli, the toughest member of the team by far, a kid who takes a licking (for instance, getting his arm run over by his father on a bike), and keeps on ticking (stops crying, wipes off the blood, asks if we can go to Hooters for wings) — kind of guy. Eli starts screaming. He has been stung, in the forehead, by a hornet. He wails and wails and wails. At these primal moments, I tend to step aside. The kids reach for their biological parents in moments of exquisite pain and one must honor it. Carlos tends to him, Mica tends to him. He will be fine, it is plain, but the kid is still screaming. He is given some Tylenol to take the edge off, but he is inconsolable, howling for his mom. Now, this is a tricky moment. I am not, in fact, his mom. But the kid is screaming for her, and she’s simply not here. I give him a moment, but it is getting no better. And I ache for this kid. Eli is pure magic. Kind of kid who walks on his toes through the world, sly wit, deeply kind, and honest honest honest. He’s got way too much charisma for any one human. But I have seen this in him before, this plaintive wail, which is impossible to address — he can become absolutely hysterical at moments like these, hyperventilating hysterical. I don’t want to agitate him. Nor do I want to shy away from him. It’s true, I’m not his mom, but I am a fierce mama and I want him to know he is safe and sound and surrounded by strength and love and rock solid competence, if not blood. Carlos is securing the joint against the storm, so I go to him, relieve Mica of her duty (Mica, that quiet Florence Nightingale, the kid is nearly six feet tall, but such a light touch), and lean over Eli, who is lying on one of the beds, howling. I ask him a couple of questions and then tell him he’s got another minute or two to pull himself together. Breathe, I tell him. To my surprise, he greets my soberness with rectitude. He does, in fact, pull himself out of the I-want-my-mommy wormhole and sits up for me, pants a bit, tells me a bit about what happened. The toughest of all kids is clearly in pain. I ask him what he needs — we decide a bit of numbing would help, so I get a cold beer and apply it to his forehead. He grins. Ah, there we go, an opening. He complains of the pain a few times more and has some dinner. He gets the singular pleasure of watching a movie on my computer — he chooses Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
We all go to bed and I, as I do most nights, try hard not to go down the parenting wormhole, well, the divorced parenting wormhole: just how much have we fucked these kids up by doing what we’ve done? There’s no going back and no good solution other than heroic, voluminous amounts of love and compassion in every direction, but Eli is right: it is worth an endless fucking shriek.
June 22, 2013 ·
Time is flying. I have not posted for 3 days. The trip has taken a turn and all of a sudden we are pressed for time. Over the last three days we have been to three different campsites. Driven out of California and into lush Oregon. During that time we have been kicked out of campsites for having too many kids, Eli had his face stung by a hornet, we batten down the hatches for a storm that never arrived, and Quixote has tried to attack at least ten dogs. I have not felt like writing. Writing takes time and the right frame of mind. We have been pushing the trip so hard that my mind is mush by the time we stop. The time I would normally use to write in the morning has been taken up to pack up and go. I also feel like I am having a bout with sadness. I am going to miss my boys when they are gone in 9 days. Yeah, I know I have them for those 9 days, but time flies. We have already been on this trip for 14 days. Sadness and depression is bitch to fight. It brings up all of my insecurities. I have been having more “discussions” with Meg lately. I told Meg that I feel she should document the rest of the trip and I will just drive. Meg is the writer, I have never been a writer, I am more of a storyteller. But, like always, she pushes me in a good way. She told me she would miss my writing if I stopped. I am writing right now because of her. I have not biked for awhile either. I know when I do not exercise I get into these moods. Especially lately when I have been so used to being active. I do not mean for this to be downer post, but I did promise I would be real with myself.
Ok, on the bright side, we are heading back to the coast, this time in Oregon. I am looking forward to seeing the ocean again. Then we are also going to pick up my new bike in Portland. It is being shipped there as I am writing this. I know the new bike will make an enormous difference in my riding. Now I ride and feel the pain in my knees and back. My bike is too small. This new one was made specifically for me.
Oregon is fucking beautiful. I have never seen forrest that are so thick there is no space in between the trees to see through. I breathe in this pure, wonderful air and it makes my body happy.
The kids are great. We took this trip partly so they could appreciate what is given to them daily. All of them are responding positively in one form or another. I see the greatest changes in Issaiah. He is now starting to be a person who takes initiative when things need to be done. He helps with set up and breakdown of camp. He will walk Quixote and take directives without complaints. He complained too much before. Now he is learning. He is even letting things go with his siblings. Issaiah is a boy who needs the world to be right and just. So everything was a battle for good and fairness. The world is not always good and fair. That only caused him more grief than a ten year-old boy needs. Now he is learning that he does not have to win every battle to win the war.
Zane and Eli…what can I say about these forces of nature? They are the epitome of little boys. Stick fighting, beating each other with anything they can grab, ganging up on anyone in their path, and relentlessly demanding of this world. But even those two have learned to love a meal that they did not love before the trip. They are also learning to clean up and know where their belongings are, like their plate and silverware. The are finding out those items are important in eating. I see them trying most days and that is all we can ask. These are just two beautiful boys whose potential is limitless and will harness that energy for good some day.
Bird and Mila are constantly adapting. Darwinism at its best. These little jewels are constantly adapting to three older brothers who are constantly pushing their little minds and bodies to the limits. Taking on responsibilities that are not given to children until years after their ages (washing dishes, keeping track of their personal belongings) and flourishing in those responsibilities. And even adapting to the physical environments of deserts, oceans, and forest and all that brings. The girls have been magnificent.
Mica the Spectacular. A woman who is there for anything we ask of her. She does not let us down. Everyday I see her growing mentally. She is not asking what can I do, she does it without asking. Unhitches the trailer, redirects the kids, cooks, cleans, and anything else that needs to be done. The greatest change I have seen in Mica is her belief in what she can do in this world. She was talking to us yesterday about wanting to volunteer in Brazil with her friend. I love that. In one year her focus has gone from wanting to work at Taco Bell to traveling to Brazil. We will do everything it takes to help get her there.
We always want our kids to be better than we are. Well, this group is on their way. They still have some work because Meg and I are pretty damn good. I know they will get there.
Nobody said this trip was going to be a Sunday ride, trials and tribulations are everywhere. But really, who the hell wants a Sunday ride?
P.S.- A Turkey almost hit me when I was writing this post. A fucking turkey!!!
June 26, 2013 ·
Carlos is a thousand times more willing than I of expressing his emotions, far more capable of being soft. We wake up. Somehow, we talk through the previous days’ bruises. We mock each other, we circle each other, we clarify our intent, we hug it out, bitch. It will dissipate over the course of another hour of packing up, but it has the kryptonite effect on both of us — we get in the car totally depleted.
We leave the Rogue River. It’s another day to make miles — damn — this land is your land, this land is my land, this land is fucking enormous. To say it’s gorgeous is to insult it. We drove by Mount Shasta the other day and we really should have gotten on our knees. Now we’re surrounded by trees, by hills, impossible green, obscene foliage, the green is nearly audible. The trees might as well be panting. I find us a campground in the Willamette Valley (I’m so aware, on this trip, of my brother, Jack, and his Oregon adventures — he was here for college and so these names are familiar to me. I wish he were here to guide us — hell, I wish he lived here).
I want to pause a moment here to mention dirt. The amount of dirt we’re able to accumulate, on our faces, on our hands, in our hair. And the amount of dirt we’re able to tolerate. I once had a heart to heart with Ken Corbett, my Nana, about how I could not conscience the girls going out of the house with a spot on their clothes, or with a knot in their hair. How things have changed. There isn’t a moment when they have clean hair or clean clothes — Mila is caked in snot and sand, Bird has swipes of dirt on her face. The boys’ feet are caked in fabulous mud. Sometimes we shower. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we can’t — there isn’t water, there are no showers at some of the camp sites.
And, another word, on mirrors. I have in mind Virginia Woolf, who avoided them. I go days on end without consulting a mirror. I love it.
Carlos and I get into another joust. It’s stupid. Is the website too focused on some kids and not others? Is our writing glazing over some realities of the trip, rendering it toothless? It’s always stupid. And it’s always very real. We take Quixote on a walk to see if we can forgive each other. Quixote is helping us by having problems of his own: he is trying to poop out my underwear. He has a passion for ladies’ undergarments. All the women in the family have had to sacrifice a few pairs. I am making what I deem a heroic, unheralded assistance move (oh, the things we do for our dogs) when out of the tacky ass rally the KKK has going next door comes Cujo, the charmless pit bull in a pink collar. Yes, the only thing that remains to be said about the dog altercation is that the pit bull was wearing a pink fucking collar. And poor Quixote looked like a piñata, being swung in the air by Carlos who was whipping him around like he was in a roping competition in an effort to keep the lunatic dog away from him. Quixote, whom we think of as a wild beast, is still a puppy. And it was never more evident than when he was circling the pit bull like a propeller. He’s got some growing to do. And we have to get the hell out of this joint. It feels personal, this dog attack.
All we want now is the beach. And that is what we get. Miles and miles of flat, wide beach, fine sand, Yachats, Oregon coast. Sunset lasts for hours. All we can hear are waves.
Carlos and I get up and bike the coast while the kids go to the beach. I have never seen the kids as absorbed as they are on the beach. It makes me think that childhood should be spent on a beach. They can play for hours, building and working, dripping, sculpting, catching crabs, combing for shells, completely involved in their work. When we get back from our ride, I turn what we’ve got leftover in the fridge (some sautéed potatoes, onions, rice) into soup (add andouille, tomatoes, red pepper garlic eggplant puree). It’s delicious.
It’s rainy and sad and gray on the beach, we decide it’s time to move on. We head to Salem. We need to do laundry. We go to a luxury rv park where we can do 12 loads of laundry at a time. These moments are compelling to me — there is no tv and it is raining out, so the kids accompany us to the laundry facility and find themselves playing together, a version of Monopoly while we work on the computers. It is nice. Mila opts out, wants to put together a jigsaw puzzle which she does with a lot of muscle and total disregard for pattern and match. It is late and we decide to head out to dinner. We haven’t been outside of the community of rv for a long time. A normal restaurant, an Italian joint, seems like The Vatican. Mica notes we feel like aliens. But something is happening: the kids are now grateful. Dinner out is now a rarity, instead of the norm and they are moaning when the focaccia comes. Bird orders for herself the first time. Mila gets cheeky with the waiter — what’s your name? You forgot my booster seat! The kids are offered milk or local fresh pressed cider and when it turns out there is only one portion left, they get Italian sodas loaded with whipped cream (Eli grows so enchanted by watermelon that he says he’s going to bring his children to this restaurant). The mood is ebullient and the kids are complimented for their charm and grace. It is a night that ratifies the trip.
To Portland. For the bike. It arrives today. The eight thousand dollar custom built bike for Carlos. He has been riding a mountain bike that is too small for him, doing his best, but as my friend Milda suggested, he is indeed a bear on a bike. We go to a very twee little bike joint in Portland and sitting there at the back of the shop is the object. A bike that comes up to my sternum. Carlos is all smiles. He bikes around downtown Portland for a while and suddenly looks elegant, extending his legs and arms, finally it looks natural.
We take the kids to civilization, to see Monsters U. We all giggle like crazy. And we spend more on popcorn, candy and soda than we did on our spot in the rv joint.
In Portland, but not really. One of the heartaches of this trip is the sacrifices we have to make. We are breaking Mica’s heart — she’d wanted to see the land of Kurt Cobain, Aberdeen, Washington. But the math just doesn’t add up. We can’t get to Missoula, Montana by Friday and spend time in Portland and spend time in Aberdeen and get where we need to go. I find it galling. But now we are driving again along the Columbia River and it is devastatingly beautiful. You could live in any part of this state and be awed every morning. This is Lewis & Clark land. You wonder why they ever went back east. (Said as we are headed due east.
June 29, 2013 ·
Day ?-21- I last posted 6 days ago. I cannot remember a lot of what happened within those 6 days, but here we go.
We left the beaches of Oregon, which by the way, I love more than the beaches of California. That hurts to say since I have many friends there and I was born there. The beaches in Oregon were much cleaner and the sand softer. The water was, maybe, a bit colder, but it did not keep the kids out of it. I loved looking at it: thick forrest, a drop off, then sandy beaches. There were crab shells everywhere. The kids were having a blast collecting them and incorporating them into their sand castles. The kids have been engrossed in their sand creations. They make castles, moats, and even this “drip” tower. I asked Issaiah how he learned how to make them and he said he learned by watching Cake Boss. I just started laughing.
Meg and I had an opportunity to bike up the coastline. She posted a picture of me on that ride looking out at the Pacific Ocean. I loved the ride. Where could I have found a better place to ride with the person I love? It was gorgeous. The ride had its challenges with some hills. I am still riding my too-small mountain bike and at about the 15-mile mark, I could feel my back and knees aching. Ok, take out the fiddle, because here I go. I hate that nothing fits me. Yeah, I am big, and beautiful, and brown, but it becomes a bitch when you are trying to find something that fits. Cars are a bitch because they are so small I have to contort just to get in and out of them. It sucks to buy clothes because nothing is ever long enough to cover my ass. Trying to find someplace to sit is impossible, especially with bad knees. Everywhere I go I have to have the strength to do full squats to sit and stand. Even in the bathroom, everything is too low. Yeah, I challenge anyone to sit on chairs that are below their calves. Ok, enough. The ride is exactly what I needed. It puts me in a peaceful frame of mind.
We stayed there for a couple of days and started to feel the crunch of time. We needed to get to Portland by Monday to get my new bike. So we left on Sunday and made it to Salem. We did not want to push it because we always pay for it for days. Salem was the first taste of civilization we allowed ourselves to have. We went to this wonderful little Italian restaurant. It was strange being in a place where we had to interact with adults in a civilized manner. The kids were fantastic. They sat down and started to color. I loved how they were sharing. I was also so proud of how they were all using “please” and “thank you” when talking to the staff. Mila had a great interaction with the waitress when she asked where her booster chair was when the waitress had forgotten. Then she asked what her name was and was proud to say that her name is Milagro. They all were given Italian sodas when the restaurant ran out of apple cider and accepted them graciously. It felt like a magical moment. All of the kids were appreciating everything they were given including the time with each other. Eli at one moment said something like, “I love this place so much, I want to bring my children here.” I hope that wish is fulfilled. After a feast of delicious pastas and meats, we got to the RV and called it a night.
We left earlyish in the morning and arrived in Portland. Another inner-city RV park. Meg and I are getting tired of these concrete, smelly seas of RVs, but that is all we could find. We have to bite the bullet for a couple of days to get my bike and I want it. First night was chilling in the rain watching the old Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Gene Wilder is so fucking good in this movie. Everyone loves it. I get up in the morning and take Quixote out for a walk. I think we are feeding him too much food. I do not want to get too gross, but now I can imaging what Mount Everest looks like. We keep busy by cooking and cleaning. Another Ed Gantchoff breakfast of leftovers with eggs. It was received surprisingly well from the crowd. I think it might have been all the leftovers from the restaurant of two nights ago. Yummy. I keep looking at my phone, waiting for the bike shop to call. I feel this bike is going to change my life. I love to bike. I always have. The first bike I received when I was 6 years old, I rode so long that my mother had to massage my legs to relieve me of my cramps. I cannot remember having a bike that ever fit me and I am eager to find out what the difference is going to be. We spent a hell of a lot of money on this bike. I never thought I would spend one 8th of the amount of money I spent. Meg and I really talked in great length about this purchase and it only makes sense. The bike is much cheaper than the hospital bills will be when the other bikes that do not fit me leave me a wreck. And plus, it is time for me to start loving me.
The phone call comes in and the bike shop says “I just got done putting together one hell of a big bike, could it be yours?”
I smile and say “It’s for a hell of a big guy and yes it is mine.”
Confession, I was already 3 blocks away. When Meg and I reconnected, I told her I was not a very patient man. No shit. Meg and I hustle to the shop and there it was. It was like seeing Excalibur waiting for me to pull it out of the rock. I could not stop smiling. It was even huge in my eyes. It has such clean lines and even came with handlebar tape that was Coca-cola red. (Coca-cola red is from Issaiah.) I had taken the mountain bike I was riding, because it had the clip-less pedals I wanted to use. I asked them if they wanted the bike, because I was not going to use it again. The guys kind of snubbed their noses at it. I looked around and the shop was all elite bikes. Then I asked if they could give it to a homeless shelter. They said, “No problem.” I felt a little sad because of the history I had on the bike. And it was not a cheap bike when I bought it. But it was killing me. I asked if they could take off the bike bell Bird had given me for her birthday. He laughed and said, “I understand.” I did not look back. So here I am in the streets of Portland with my dream bike and dream girl. What fucking more do I want?
Meg says, “Get on.”
I thought, I don’t have my biking shoes. More excuses. Hell with it. I jumped on and started to ride. Immediately I could feel the difference in my leg stroke. My legs were extending fully. I felt a stretching of the knee joint and my quads. On the back stroke I really felt it in my hammies and glutes. Wow. My handle bars were actually in front of me, not down so low that all of my weight are on them. I was nervous. I was just going slow to get a feel of the bike. How it moved. How it turned. Slowly. It felt good. So I thought, let’s see what it can do. So I went for it and started to pedal hard. I was blown away with the immediate response it had. If I thought I was a pigeon before, now I was a falcon. I slowed down. This is the bike for me. I rode to Meg who was by the Yukon. She was all smiles. We put the bike in and drove to the RV. When we got there the kids came out and had to touch it. It was received well. They could not get over the size of it. The bars come to about Meg’s sternum. Well, we left the bike alone and decided to go to a movie. When we told the kids, you would have thought it was going to Disneyland. We got popcorn, coke, and candies. It was the jackpot for everyone. Monsters University. It was not bad. The kids loved it. One hell of a day.
So it is Tuesday now and we have to make some tough decisions. Do we go to Aberdeen or not? Mica loves Kurt Cobain. We want to do this for Mica. She has had our backs for the whole trip. But we also need to be in Missoula, Montana by Friday. Three days to either drive 550 miles or 900ish miles. We are towing a trailer, have 6 kids in the truck, and a high strung puppy. We looked into every flying option from cities that were closer. Nothing. With a heavy heart I had to tell my daughter that we were not going to make it to the city of her idol. She looked at me and said, “oh, well.” I already told you she is a fucking amazing kid. I promised we would make it to NYC. She smiled and said, “lets go!” So we took off and made it to Spokane. Inhaled and exhaled and made it to Missoula on Wednesday. I have to say my driving was kick ass.
We have been in Missoula for 4 days now. Within those days there has been eating at many cool restaurants, drinking delicious coffee, having some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted, a beautiful bike ride in the Missoula countryside, and trying to sell the RV. Oh yeah, and we got married. I will save that for the next post.
June 30, 2013 ·
On April 4, 1990 I went to a concert with a woman who would end up changing my life. We went to see Paul McCartney at Sun Devil Stadium. It was a great concert. Afterwards, we bought coffee ice cream and went to Camelback Mountain to view the city while we ate. It was a very special night where I first got to know Meg Giles. I had met her at a park that we were working. She was a lifeguard and I was a recreation leader. The first time I saw her I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever met. Now, I am on a mountain with her looking at the lights of Phoenix. It was a night we would never forget. We ended up dating for a couple of years and my insecurity and stupidity caused us to separate. I never stopped thinking about her. And everyone who knew me knew she was the love of my life.
In September of 2011, I received a phone call in my classroom. I picked up the receiver and said, “This is Mr. Gantchoff.”
I hear some chuckling and a voice says, “This is Meg Giles.”
I almost fell on the floor. My mind started to race wondering who knew Meg and who would fuck with me in this manner.
“Who is fucking with me?” I say on the phone.
She says, “Do a lot of people call you on the phone saying they are Meg Giles?”
I knew it was her. My heart started to race. We made plans to have drinks. We sat at Scottsdale Civic Center until 4 in the morning. Talking and holding each other. I find out she has always loved me for all of those years and I tell her the same.
She looked at me one night and said, “Why don’t you ask me to stay?”
I tell her, “Do you think I don’t want you?”
She moves from New York, gets divorced, we blend the families, everyone loves us, everyone hates us, and we just keep going knowing we are going to die someday.
I am living with the love of my life. I propose to her November 21, 2012 and we go to Phoenix to get a marriage license. We are giddy. One of our dreams is going to come true. Ok, so now how are we going to do it? Big wedding and invite everyone? Small, intimate wedding with family? On the beaches of Mexico with some friends? We never agree to a date, size, or location. Time goes on. We have to sell a house, everything in the house, and plan an adventure. It never comes to fruition.
The first location we wanted to get married was the coast of Oregon. It would not stop raining long enough for a nice wedding. Portland, no. Spokane, naw. Missoula is beautiful and we just love each other so much we want to get married now. So we go to the court house to get the license. I ask Meg if we should put a photo of the Missoula County Court House on the page to see if anyone would get it. We did and it made me smile.
So when should we do it?
I loved the idea. 20 years ago we told one another that when we got married I would be wearing a white button-down shirt, blue jeans, and barefoot. And Meg would be wearing a white dress and it would all take place on the ocean. We ended up being by the Clark Fork River and I added flip flops to my outfit. Meg was wearing an amazing white vintage Mexican wedding dress. She took my breath away. We put the kids in the best clothes they had that were clean. We did not care. We just wanted them there. I was a bit sad that Alex was not there, but someday she will celebrate with us. Our children, Meg and I started walking to river to find a location that we could perform the ceremony. Mica was our minister. Oh, the beauty of the internet. We would not have it any other way. Nothing tickled our fancy along the shoreline. So we started to walk in this beautiful park along the river. Here? No. How about over here? nope. We looked at each other and decided that where we were standing was the perfect location. We just wanted to get married with our kids next to us. So we lined up the kids and Mica next to us, and I said, “You ready?”
Meg looked at me and said, “Wait.”
“What?” I said.
“Wait.” And she walked over to the kids and looked into their eyes. I started to tear up. You see, Meg is so amazing that she had to make vows to all of the kids before she made them to me. One by one she grabbed their faces and looked into their eyes to make them life long promises. It’s just right. She was not only marrying me, but all of the kids, too. I followed her lead and made promises to Bird and Mila to never stop loving them and protecting them. I made very similar promises to the rest of the kids of how proud I am of them and to always love them. You can only imagine how this emotional giant was by the time I got to Meg.
We stood there looking into each other’s eyes and did not say anything for what seemed like an eternity. I started by telling her how I had been waiting for this moment for 20 years. And I am not quite sure what order the vows came out, in my drunken emotional state. But I made promises of always loving her. And told her that there will be no divorce. She will never have that option. Really! She will not. She just smiled and laughed. More vows were said and I got to the point of putting on the rings. That is when I lost it.
When we started to talk about getting married and getting rings, we thought how special it would be if we (I) made our rings out of wood. In particular the olive tree that her mother planted in 1973 in the backyard. I loved Peg Giles very much and I know that she loved me too. I said sure I will make them. Then I thought to myself, how the fuck am I going to make these rings? And now I am getting ready to put the ring on Meg’s finger. My eyes are misting up as I am writing this. We gave each other the rings, kissed, and we hugged like it was the last moments of our lives. Actually, it was the first moments of our married life. The kids cheered and we started walking down the park. Finally, our dream wedding became reality. I have never been so happy.
July 8, 2013 ·
Day- Sometime in the recent past
Last I wrote, we had just gotten married. So the next day, Mica and Zane flew to Phoenix to drop Zane off with his mother and Mica got to see some of her friends. We could not get a ticket for Mica to come back the same day, so we had to stay in Missoula for a couple of more days until she got back. I am feeling the loss of the boys before they have even left. I am sad. They are a handful, but the are also the life of the party. Bird out of nowhere starts to cry and we ask what is wrong.
“I am going to miss Eli!”
The same Eli that is always telling Bird what to do. “No Bird!” “Come here Bird!” and finishes with, “Bird is NOT the word!”
It has a ripple effect on all the the ones left on the voyage. The loss of Zane has already changed the dynamic of the group. The kids have a little less energy at the breakfast table. Eli pauses and says, “I miss Zane.”
Issaiah comes to me from across the table, “I am going to miss you, Dad. I wish I could go to New York with you.”
“Me too, son.” I promise him that I would take someday.
Loss. There is always loss when having to share your children. I know that the boys are ready to see their mothers. Zane has a wonderful mother and father to go to. A little brother to play with at home. A good life. Eli and Issaiah will get to enjoy the small town life for a while. Issaiah has told me how he loves fishing with his grandfather. All of the fishing wisdom he learns, he will undoubtedly pass on to his children. Eli will be in heaven with his mother. Nobody asks for his mother more than Eli. I cannot tell if it is selfishness, but I do not want them to go. I do need them to go. Meg and I need a time to breathe.
We also have decided to sell the RV. We had a cost/benefit meeting and the cost of having it was too much for its benefits. Once we decided to sell it, Mica had it on Craigslist within hours. We put it on Missoula’s, Bozeman’s, and Billings Craigslist’s knowing that we would be traveling through those areas within days. We thought we could buy camping gear and a bike rack with the money we get from the RV. We started to get calls shortly after the listing. “Would you take half the money your are asking for?” or “Would you trade my motorcycle for your RV?” I fucking hate selling things. If I wanted to sell it for half the money, I would have, you dumb ass. And if I wanted a motorcycle, I would fucking buy one. It reminded me of when we were selling our stuff at our house. I never knew how much 25 cents meant to yard sale shoppers. Dialogue went something like this, “How much for the saw?” me, “A dollar.” “Hummmm, nope?” WTF. It drove me nuts. Some assholes would come and just try to fuck with us. Wanting everything for free. There was a point where I would have burned it all in front of them and said, “NOPE!” Anyway. We are making appointments to show the RV. We would take everything out of the RV, shine it up, and put our smiles on. “Oh, the RV is a little to big.” Ok. So everything goes back in. We drive to the next city, set up the appointment, and polish our smiles. “Ohhhh, our bank will not approve for this RV.” We get to Billings. Meg and I look at each other and agree we will not leave this city with this RV. Meg says she will give it to the homeless shelter first. Yep! Long story short, we sold it to a couple who got a ripping deal. Stacey came and picked up the boys and took Mica with her for the night. The next day we bought the bike rack and camping gear, put it all together, and got the hell out of Billings. Montana has been surprisingly hot. We are from AZ and know heat, but the Montana heat is just a little more disgusting. Humid! I cannot stop sweating. We drove to Forsyth where the boys and girls are. We pick up Mica and say our last goodbyes to the boys until we see them in August again. The real treat was getting to see Alex again. We drove to her work to say goodbye to her. Every time is see her, I miss her so much I feel like my heart is getting torn out and left with her. Until I see her again. Love you, Alex.
We left Forsyth and camped by a river about 50 miles down the road. It was beautiful. We were by a railroad bridge and the trains ran all night. That might have bothered some people, but it was strangely soothing to me. Quixote finally got to run loose and I was so happy to see the puppy in him. Mica the amazing put up the 6 man tent by herself. We took out our new tent said goodnight to each other and fell asleep. It is a different trip now. We are not as stressed. We feel we are making all of he right choices and have a moment to breathe. I am excited to tent camp. It feels right. I believe we have elevated our experience. Let’s keep going.
July 9, 2013 ·
Missoula, Montana. A sweet little college town. A gorgeous river, in the park boys with dreads play hackey sack, as though cue’d from central casting, a carousel for the kids, perfect. Carlos and I decide, one night, to go out. It is one of a thousand groovy little local bars. We want mescal, but settle on bourbon. It has been weeks since we’ve had a drink and this feels good. A band starts playing, maybe 15 guys, including horn section, some vague reggae ska hippie happy music. Everyone in the joint is wearing tevas and flowing floral prints, clothes too large, hempish pants: the fashion word here is ease and laze. We have a few beers, get ready to head for home, but when we rise from our bar stools he takes my hand and pulls me to the dance floor. We are wearing what is now our daily wear — Carlos is in shorts and flip flops. I am in running shoes and jeans. When we reach the dance floor, Carlos grins and kicks off his flip flops. We dance. I will admit here to having a certain snottery about dancing. John Giles taught me well. Mami can comport herself well on a dance floor. And suddenly I find myself humbled by my mountain of a man, the guy with so many knee injuries he can barely stand up at times without wincing, the guy with the back surgery, that guy, all 6’7” of him, might as well be Baryshnikov (double Baryshnokov, perhaps — isn’t Misha like 4 feet tall?). Carlos is elegant and smooth, beautiful and fluid. He is pirouetting, holding me, reeling me in and casting me out. I am shocked. And tipsy. Not at my finest dancing game. I pull my shit together and try to pull my running shoed feet into some kind of flow. We dance. We dance. I can’t believe him. I have known him for twenty years, I have danced with him before, but still this comes as a revelation. This happens to me often with him — moments of pure awe. He has the capacity to set me back on my heels with his directness, with his emotional pitch, his candor, his art, his beauty, his Promethean fire.
We walk back to the hotel and I begin to weep in the parking lot. For all the dancing we could have done.
July 9, 2013 ·
We have been given another day. The trains have stopped and I brew a cup of java for my wife. Somewhere on the trip Meg purchased a coffee maker that just holds the coffee and a filter. I place the maker on the cup and pour the hot water in it. It drips all of the delicious liquid into the cup slowly. It is perfect. Something inside me loves earning my coffee cup by cup. She is still enjoying her blissful sleeping bag. Not sure if she is asleep, but she is not making any noise to give it away. I have taken Quixote out of the girls’ tent. We place him in there to warn us if anything is near and his barks will keep most things away. He is a different dog when he can roam free. Happy and loose. He has been loving me up all morning, following me to the Yukon and back to the table. I sit down and he is right next to me. I talk with him. He is a great listener, never interrupts. He can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but he is our pain in the ass. Meg gets out of our tent. I look at her and I am in awe. I cannot remember a moment that I have not thought she was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I ask how she slept and she just smiles. A morning kiss and I start to make breakfast. I find some bacon and potatoes. Bacon. The most delicious food in the history of camping. Our friend Kenny, who is a vegetarian, calls it candy. Come on, who does not want candy in the morning? The girls come out of their tents as the food is cooking. The potatoes are cooking in the bacon grease and the breakfast is coming together nicely. This is a breakfast I will not have much of, but my glucose numbers have been good. We eat and start to break down the site. We are all working hard and the girls point out that a truck is coming. I turn around and they were right. Here comes a 4-wheel drive truck right at us. I am wondering who the hell it is as he pulled up right behind our truck. All of my senses go up and I start to visualize every scenario that could happen and how I am going to get my family out of them. A man gets out of his truck, shuts the door, and both of his huge dogs stick their heads out of the window. The man looks like he has seen many days in the sun. His face has been worn down by the wind and he walks like his body has been damaged by hard work. He smiles and he is missing teeth. When I was younger, I thought that missing teeth was an indication of the intelligence of a person. I was dumb ass. As a matter of fact, I am missing a tooth. He walks right up to me and asks how we are doing. This man is kind. He tells me that he was looking for his nephew and that we are parked at one of the best fishing holes around. We talk for a couple of minutes, he excuses himself and drives away. I have been saying this throughout the trip, but there still are more good people in this world than bad. We pack up, then leave.
North Dakota here we come. We are driving thought the farthest western part of Montana. Meg is on her phone and I ask what she is viewing. “Roads for you to bike on.”
I love this woman. She cannot find a road that is long enough to make it worth taking down the bikes. We stop, get off the highway to gas up in a town called Terry. We talk and decide this is as good a place to ride as any. I take down the bikes, we get our gear on, and Mica and I start to ride. Meg and I want the girls to ride/scooter with us until they get tired. I tell Meg that Mica and I should ride for a while to get out of town a distance before we take the girls out. We ride for about 2 miles and stop. Meg gets Mila’s scooter out, Bird’s bike, and their helmets. We are ready. This will be the first time we have Mila on the road with us. This road is so deserted we have not seen a car since we got on it. I take Bird and Mica takes Mila. It is so much fun seeing them riding. Mila is trying to keep the scooter on the right side of the road and smiling so hard she could chew on her ears. I keep asking her if she wants to stop and all I get is “No.” Bird is now an experienced bike rider and feels the pain of waiting for a not-so experienced rider. The road is edged by tall grass. The air is fresh and the sun feels good on the body. Mila makes it for about a quarter of a mile and is satisfied. We cheer her on like she just sprinted down the Champs Elysees in the Tour de France. Now it is Bird’s time. She starts to ride at good pace. I am impressed. She keeps the pace up and pops her Camelbak nozzle in her mouth for a drink without missing a beat. We ride for about a mile and I ask her if she still wants to ride.
A resounding “Yes” comes out of her little body.
Ok, lets go. She rides for about another 2 miles. I am amazed. From where she was when she started to where she is now, its day and night. We ride by ranches and horses. Bird is steady the whole time. She finally tells us she has had enough. We get her and her stuff into the Yukon and now it is Mica and Daddy time. I love riding with her. She is so strong. I still have the visions of her playing capture the flag at camp with 80 other kids who are 2 years older than her. Mica has always been up for a good athletic challenge. On this day I felt like I could ride forever. Well, forever came much faster than I thought with the road being closed after about 8 miles. So we turned around and rode back to Terry. I loved every minute of it. We stopped where we started at the gas station. Put up the bikes and looked for a new road. About 5 miles down the road we see that there is a good long road to bike. We pull over right after a bridge and have a nice hill to climb immediately. This time I get the pleasure of biking with my wife. I forgot to mention that my wife is injured. She was walking Quixote at the hotel in Missoula trying to run with him up the stairs. She zigged when she should have zagged and twisted her ankle. It is a nasty sprain. She has been trying to muscle through it since. So now she is getting her biking gear on and going to try to ascend up a formidable hill. A goddess. We take off and she is moving like a rocket. I just want to survive. We both get to the top, panting, and see that the road has now turned into a dirt road. Our bikes are not built for a dirt road. We descend down the hill we just conquered and choose a different road to travel. Perfect. we finally find the road we want. We are so happy. Meg says it is the best 4th of July she has ever had and I agreed. We ride. We laugh. we get pushed on some hills, it is everything we dreamed of. In the middle of our ride we take Quixote out and he runs beside us. He is such a beautiful dog. He runs for a couple of miles and we put him back in the truck. We ride for about ten more miles and the road ends. Again, perfect. Everything is right in the world. I tell Meg that I am going to jump in the stream that is next to us.
She laughs and says, “are you sure?”
I look at the cows who were up stream and decide against it. Oh well. We put up everything we needed to and got back on I-94. Meg looks for a spot where we can camp. She finds a place in ND called Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Hell, if it is good enough for Teddy, it is good enough for us. We got there and drove to the campsite. On the way we saw a bison.
Meg starts to scream “A bison! A Mother Fucking Bison!” I started to belly laugh. The place was wonderful. We arrived at the side only to be greeted by some wild horses. We found a campsite, set up camp, and sat down and took a breath. What a great day. Meg made the most delicious pasta with a tomato and olive sauce. We were fully satisfied. All of us went to bed after the meal. We decided to leave the rainflys off the tents to stay cool. We had sweat all night the night before. Of course it started to rain at about 3am, but again the G family to the rescue and solved the problem in minutes. I love my family. Smooth sailing after that little hiccup. I was hoping I would wake up to a bison in our camp. We will see.
It’s exodus day. Zane is first to go, on a plane with Mica, back to the desert. I am so sad I do something not quite believable — I order him a hot chocolate and a Dr. Pepper for breakfast — the kid has been on a Dr. Pepper quest since Washington — there seems to have been a run on it — and they seem to have Earth’s last bottle here in Montana. I am going to miss this kid.
We have got to sell the trailer. To sell the trailer, we have to empty the trailer. And clean the trailer. And so, day after wedding, we work. At some point, I am covered in sweat, bottle of Clorox in hand, all of our wordly possessions are on a Missoula sidewalk and Carlos leans in to say, “Happy honeymoon, baby.” I giggle. We get the job done but the guy who was going to come see Thor blows us off. Pfft.
It’s time to walk Quixote. Whom we have started calling by his Indian name, Yellow Towel. He has taken to peeing before emerging into the outdoors, either in front of the elevators or on the stairwell. And so we go on walks armed with a plastic bag and a towel. I think I have a great idea — I’m going to sprint so fast with him, down the hallway, down the stairs, through the lobby, and into the wide Montana sunlight so fast that we won’t have a chance to pee. It has worked for me once. I take Bird with me and we begin to sprint. I am laughing so hard I barely know what to do when my flip flop (actually, formerly Eli’s — I borrowed them from him the previous evening — my wedding — figuring it was terribly smart to make my something borrowed and something blue my 8 year-old son’s flip flops) is destroyed on the first flight of stairs — a wreckage to rival any Nascar ground up against the rails. I am now without a shoe but still committed to the project, so I keep running and running, down the stairs, through the stairwell door, all the while Quixote is pulling me like a Clydesdale and I am still laughing, Bird by my side, when I take a spectacular spill, twisting my ankle and ending up in a lump on the hotel lobby floor with tears in my eyes. I am in great pain. Unsure if I can stand up. Yellow Towel is going to piss imminently. Bird is looking at me in shock. I muster up enough hop to get us outside, call my husband and say, “Baby, I’m hurt.” My ankle has already started to swell. Carlos appears outside in seconds, offers to carry me upstairs. Within ten minutes, he has my foot elevated, packed in ice, and has ordered the best Thai food Missoula has to offer.
I lay in bed, crippled, watching A Bug’s Life. Bird is at my side. Kevin Spacey makes a superb evil grasshopper. At some point, I feel Bird’s tiny little fingers reach over to me and squeeze my bicep so hard that I yelp. “Ow! Bird! What are you doing? That hurt.” I am shocked and I see, so is she. She looks at me plainly horrified and then puts her hands over her eyes and begins to weep.
“Oh, my god, what’s wrong, baby?”
She won’t look at me, but says, “I didn’t mean to do that to you — I thought it was the pillow!”
My parental radar is on high alert now — what the hell? Why is she pinching a pillow unconsciously in the middle of a movie? Why that hard? What is being displaced? Is my kid in some kind of wild psychic trouble that I do not know about or understand? My mind runs to terrible places: she has been molested. Why is that always the boogie man fear? Mostly my worry is that I have caused her this anxiety — that the Bird, the kid who appears resilient and strong is actually suppressing an ocean of torrential emotion. Because of what I’ve done to her, namely plucked her out of one life and planted her in another. Fuck. I try to calm myself down.
I tell her that I’m fine, I’m not hurt, and that it’s okay and does she want to talk to me about anything?
She says no. There seems no point in interrogating her — I know she’ll recede further. So I tell her something I want her to know: Moms make the world better. Whatever is on your mind, whatever makes you worried or scared, will be made better by your mom. All you do is tell your mom (well, me) and I can make it better. Whenever you want. I can help her distill the world. I tell her that all her parents have these powers — that Carlos and Daddy have the same ability I do — we can make her feel safe.
I feel unsettled, but she is calmed and we watch the movie and nothing more is said.
Bird grinds her teeth, she pinches pillows really hard: something is eating at this kid. And the answer is probably more local than hysterical. She’s been put through the grinder. I know how to access resources if she needs them. For now, I think I have addressed her. It’s been almost two weeks since I told her that and every few days, she says to me, “Mom, remember when we were in that bed and you told me that Moms are superheroes? Is that true?”
I tell her it is true. Yes, Bird, it’s true. I can heal you. I can keep you safe.
Enough. I think. I hope.
July 13, 2013 ·
During the Time of Tammy.
I woke up in N. D. with not a bison in sight. I had to make a bathroom run in the middle of the night. Anyone who has camped knows about middle of the night runs. No flashlight. (We only found out we had not flashlight when it started to rain and one of our tents was missing the fly. Mica to the rescue, with the flashlight app on her phone she gave us enough light to move our pop up canopy over the flyless tent.) I was a little nervous to meet a Bison face to face. I am a big guy and big guys do not like meeting things that are bigger than they are.
I am in dire need of the bathroom. No flashlight. Wild beasts running in the night and I am hearing every noise in the forest. So I am walking through a night that is so dark I can hardly see my hand in front of my face. Every shadow is a carnivorous, man-eating bison. I make it through the enemy lines and get to the bathroom, I sprint back, and get safely into my tent. Morning comes and we pack up and leave. Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt, for everything other than hunting everything to near extinction.
We are off and running, ready for the next frontier moment. This trip has had so many frontier moments. Washing clothes on a mountain, camping beside rivers, traveling the same route as Lewis and Clark.
So I look at Meg and say, “Where now?”
She looks at me as says, “I need a home and mommy.”
I laugh and say, “Me too.” So we haul ass and get to Minneapolis. We have the perfect mommy and home with Tammy Carlson. Tammy knew that we were going to visit her, but did not know when. She would always ask me and I would say I did not know. This trip has had no rhyme or reason to our calendar other than the dates we had to drop off the kids. So I call Tammy and leave a message saying “We will be there by 7.” I next call another part of my Camp family, the Hoyt’s. “Dave we will be at Tammy’s by 7, can you make it?” Tammy does not know we are coming and has no idea you will also be there. Dave laughs and says we will try, if not, tomorrow for sure. “Perfect!” Tammy calls me back and says not problem to us showing up. Just get here. I fucking love my camp family. This it the way we roll. I have been showing up on door steps for decades and have never been turned away. I have had them show up at my doorstep and could not be more excited to see someone. I hope everyone has people who love you unconditionally. It is greater that any gift you could buy.
So the Hoyt’s show up the next day. There is barbecuing, drinking of 3/2 beer, and laughing our asses off. By the way, 3/2 beer? WTF? what is the point of selling 3/2 beer? So people do not get drunk? All it does is cause you to drink double the amount. Meg loves 3/2 beer because it does not make her too dumb or too mean. That’s why I married her. I also love, love, love the Hoyt’s. They are so much fun. Shelly is game for anything. Drinking, swimming, eating or just hanging out on the couches. She has a contagious laugh and smile. Shelly brings such a good energy to life. Dave has been my brother for many years. We have gotten through a lot of camp struggles and successes. I have met very few people in my life who are more loyal than Dave. He has given me the greatest gifts. My tee shirt of Thunder Dan and Sir Charles is still in my closet. Unfortunately, the Hoyt’s could only stay for one night. I hope to see them soon.
The Carlson’s house has been a reenergizing of sorts. Tammy has been working in the days and is shot by the time she gets home. But without fail she is good for a laugh and great comforting. I love that she trusts us with everything she has. I have a long history with Tammy. We met before she was dating Mike. I would go to Duluth to visit the gang and we had a hell of a good time. When the Minnesota bars would close, we would travel to Wisconsin to keep it going. One of my favorite things Tammy has said was “I love Charlie when he comes and visits and I really love it when he leaves.” Yeah, nobody got much sleep in those days when I would visit. Well, nobody but me. I have always had this connection with Tammy that I do not have with most people. She always gives me a perspective to life I do not normally see. I love my time with Tammy.
So we have been in Minneapolis for some days now. We have been to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant and eaten some the most delicious ice cream. We have biked throughout the community and to a town of Stillwater. It is a nice little tourist town. The first time I biked there was with Mica. It is not a very far ride. About a 20 mile turnaround trip. On the way there it is fairly easy. Mostly down hill. We get to the town and eat at a restaurant named Leo’s Grill and Malt shop. The food is spectacular. I order a grilled chicken salad and Mica ordered a veggie burger. It was the best veggie burger I have ever had. I love eating with my daughter. So we finish and start our ride out of town. Coming in to town we rode down a hill so steep I my brakes barely worked. I had to put my butt over my back tire to not flip over. Now we have to ascend this beast. We started and I keep dropping gears on my bike just to keep moving. I was hoping Mica was doing well behind me. I did not dare look back and lose my cadence. As we are going up, my legs are screaming and my lungs are burning like they have not burned since high school basketball. I hear a guy on the side of the road yelling, “ You guys are my heroes, DON’T STOP!” That was the push I needed. I felt a tingling in my chest and arms, but I made it all the way up. I stopped to wait for Mica. I look back and there is my beast of a daughter conquering that hill. She never ceases to amaze me. I smiled at her, clipped into my pedals, and started off. The next 10 miles of the ride was mostly uphill. At some point I scream at Mica, “I fucking love this!!” We made it back to the Carlson’s. It was one of the best rides I have had on this trip. I loved it so much, that I rode the same ride with Meg the next day. Meg is such an athlete. No mercy. She kicked my ass down to Stillwater and back. She made the monster hill look like a speed bump. The cadence she keeps is always pushing my limits. I love this in her. I love how she pushes me in every aspect of life. I hope someday on this trip that all three of us will be able to ride together. As I write this we are still in the time of Tammy enjoying all of her accommodations. I cannot wait to see where our spirits take us next.
July 14, 2013 ·
Independence Day. We wake up to the sound of a freight train and the river rolling by us. It gets hot quickly, Carlos whips up a breakfast and we pack up. We are more organized than we have been but still, there is too much stuff: tents and clothes and pots and pans, bungee cords, Quixote’s chow, first aid bags, cast iron grills, books, bears, cameras, computers, granola, water bottles, tiny little girl heart shaped sunglasses. When the temperature hits 85 and the bugs come out, we all get pointed and short tempered and we shove things in the car and drive. This is why I can only find one biking shoe, one glove. It is sticky, but we gotta bike. And it is always better when we bike. We set Quixote free to gallop beside us in farmland — this is risky, there always seem to be nutball dogs on farms ready to come eat him, but he is so beautiful when he runs, so elegant and a vision of speed, that we risk it. He is meant to run like this.
We bike and then try to find somewhere to camp. Up ahead is a National Grassland and within it, Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Confession: I am a sucker for a National Park. I will admit to loving the post office, I love jury duty, I love voting, I love the public library, I love a public pool. I love a democratic institution. I am a government geek. And I love the national parks.
The director of the National Park System in the 20s had this to say:
“The parks do not belong to one state or to one section…. The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona.”
“Who will gainsay that the parks contain the highest potentialities of national pride, national contentment, and national health? A visit inspires love of country; begets contentment; engenders pride of possession; contains the antidote for national restlessness…. He is a better citizen with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has toured the national parks.”
It has amazed me how much of the country has been preserved, whether by the state or the nation, the wildlife preserves in Montana, the beaches in Coronado, the recreation areas on the Sacramento River, Sequoia Kings National Park and on. And just the staggering size of the country — if we were in, say, Europe, we would have had our passport stamped a dozen times by now, exchanged government for government, language for language. But we have traveled unmolested, state to state, free to explore, free to be stunned by how enormous the land is. The grassland is gorgeous and the idea of going to Teddy’s former ranch on the 4th of July brings me great pleasure. We run into a little parade, then drive toward campground in the badlands. On a hill there is a bison. A bison. A free bison. Big brown wooly guy, exactly as you’d expect. I start exclaiming all kinds of expletives about the bison. Let us pause for a moment. I saw a bison.
At the campsite there are a couple of wild horses roaming around. It is steamy hot, we set up camp, make up some pasta, call it a day. I can hear the fireworks as I fall asleep.
In the night, deep in the night, it begins to rain. I know it is raining because it is raining ON MY FACE. We don’t have the fly on the tent, so we may as well not have a tent at all. We are getting soaked. We stumble up and out. We have no fly for Mica’s tent — the big one — so the solution is going to be moving the giant portable awning over that tent. I fumble for my flip flops. While Carlos and I can barely manage to stand erect, Mica has moved the entire awning to cover the tent by herself. Carlos is convinced he needs a hammer and says so. I try to find the fly for our tent, try to unfurl it, try to open my eyes. I repeat, it is raining. Suddenly, the Godess of Camping, Mica, appears over my shoulder, and when I say appears, I mean appears — she has not walked or run to my side, she has — whoosh — materialized flashlight app in hand, and starts nailing the stakes for the fly into the ground. (Does she keep the stakes in her hair?) She is the Superhero of Camping, more competent than both of us. Carlos remains convinced about the hammer, now needing the keys for the car. By this time, Mica has used her hatchet to secure the fly and is now asleep in her tent, dreaming of Hugh Jackman.
In the morning, we pack it all up again, the tents, the pillows, the pasta, the dog, the everything. Omg I’m getting sick of this. All of our clothes are dirty, our ears are dirty, our dog is dirty, our ankles are dirty. We drive to Bismarck and find a laundromat. I pour Tide all over myself, call it a political act, and hop in a machine. There is an angry little laundromat lady there, but we get it all done. Mica, the little ladies and I go on an adventure to get some bags to organize our shit. We get another tent, we get a cooler. We get back to the Laundromat, it’s 6 at night, we are not up for camping. We book a hotel room. We all get blissfully clean. We go out to dinner, find that no local joints are open, and head to that suburban Valhalla, Red Lobster. It was so fun it was stupid. There were cheesy biscuits for Mica, crab legs for Mila, a pasta dish for me sponsored by the Exxon Valdez.
July 15, 2013 ·
(Yes, I am taking temporary respite from the traditional daily update.) I took a bike ride with my Mica. On the way, she asked if I’d ever been to any countries with ruins. Indeed, I have. But as we biked, I kept thinking, this is a kid who really wants to travel. Miss Mica went to Argentina last year as a graduation present; she has talked with us about volunteering in Brazil next summer.
But it seems to me this is a moment where she could use some solid guidance. I have spoken with her about my ideas for travel but it seems to me there are hundreds of people reading about her every day and I happen to know this audience is well traveled.
Would you, loving audience of G Family Bike Trip, offer her some tips, some life experience, some idea of how a kid who is 19 pursues the idea of travel, to transform is from some fuzzy desire into an actual experience?
For instance, Where did you go?
How did you fund it?
Where do you wish you had gone?
What would you do again?
What would you change?
Any places you want to suggest she visit?
Let me tell the world some things about our Mica. She is just starting college (one semester under her belt, great grades). She is headed on a bio track — she has a gift in math (gets this from her mom!) and loves science, anthropology, and travel.
If you can offer some wisdom on this subject, I can promise you Mica will send you a post card from exotic locales and I will guarantee you a role in the G Family Bike trip movie? I can’t promise a speaking role.
July 22, 2013 ·
Final days in MN.
We have been the Carlson’s “Guests” for days now. Absent of Mike, but he is here now. Days of biking to Stillwater. Everyday I ride this trail to Stillwater I feel myself getting stronger. The monster hill is less ominous. I actually look forward to the challenge of it. I am feel that I am heading in a direction physically that I have not seen in 20 years. My leg muscles are getting striated. I am feeling good about my health. My blood pressure readings are in the normal range. My glucose levels are in acceptable ranges. It’s working. I am a little upset that I have not been as disciplined with my diet. It is challenging. I want to celebrate with great friends and one does not normally celebrate with coconut water and kale. I have always been a man who likes making people feel good. I know Tammy likes my morning chilaquilles: fried tortillas, tomato paste, eggs, sausage, topped off with cheese. Chilaquilles are so fucking good and eating a moderate amount of them is impossible for me. The Hoyts are here. The house is filled with laughter. I make Mike pork in chile verde. It could be the best batch I have ever made. Tammy is lucky the plate we saved her did not get devoured. We go to tequila bars and drink mescal. We celebrate. I love these people. I miss them. I know it will be a long time before I see them again. My heart starts to ache before I have left. My mind is not on how many points my cholesterol will rise. I am not worried about the tingling in my legs from the increased sugar in my blood. I don’t care. I just want to be with them. With them in the manner I was when we were in our twenties. Drinking, eating, loving. I start to feel the familiar dance I have with Mike when our departure time is near. We start to get cold toward each other. Not in a dickish way, but in a way we can allow each other to leave. There is no way in the world I can put on paper the how much I love seeing everyone. I start to think about tomorrow not being promised to anyone. Will this be the last time I see my MN family? Have I done everything I wanted with them? Impossible to answer.
July 22, 2013 ·
Johnny Collins and Nikki
I tap on Nikki’s knee and say “That is John Bell.” I rarely get to see smiles that are so genuine like the one I saw on Nikki the day she saw John. That was over ten years ago.
John Bell. One of the coolest cats I met in all of my years at camp. I remember a conversation, in the early days of knowing him, about music. He could talk about Lauren Hill and Ludicrous with me and then instruct me on all of the cool music coming out of the U.K. He is a hell of an athlete, but knew the importance of letting a struggling kid at camp take the soccer ball away from him to make their summer. I have always admired how he has always been in tune with humanity, he was wise when I met him when he was just a teenager. How did I know that Nikki and John were soul mates? Fuck if I know, they just seemed like cool people.
Nikki. Nikki is genuine and game. Yes, game. The camp could always count on her for anything. Nikki, can you clean the art shop? “Sure.” Nikki, we need to rake the camp, “OK.” Anything. And always smiling and laughing. I love this couple. I always have. I have not seen the for over a decade. They have supported the bike trip from day one with very kind words. The Bells write us messages, wanting to see us. The last one we get is letting us know that they have a backyard that will accommodate our tents. I look at Meg and say we have to go. She agrees. They live by Green Bay. Our plan was Minneapolis to Chicago and its an extra hundred miles. We don’t care. This is what this trip is all about. I
n what seems like the blink of an eye, we get to De Pere, WI. John is waiting for us in the driveway with Fin (short for Finley). John has not aged a second. Still this athletic and warm man. And now he is standing by his daughter who looks like a Greek goddess. Porcelain skin, sky blue eyes, and wavy blond hair that shimmered in the light. John’s first words to me were: “you look the same, but a bit hairier.” We laughed and gave long, overdue, hugs. I look up and see Nikki walking out of the door of the house. She is with Ira. A miniature version of John. So beautiful he looks like he was dipped in the River Styx properly. And Nikki even looks more radiant than 11 years ago.
We are welcomed into their home with water and lemonade. Moments later the rest of their children are brought home by their grandparents. Grandparents whose energy filled the room. They have brought home PJ and Bea. Meg and I look at each other and shake our heads. How can a family be so fucking beautiful? Yeah, I am sure some of you reading this think we are being kind, but go and visit them and see. And, by the way, fuck you for thinking that. We are not kind.
The rest of the night held putting up tents, buying some beer, and sitting around a campfire. The beer run was fun. John and I went to the closest convenience store. We walked in and asked how much time we had to buy beer. The clerk looked at her watch and said, “Ten minutes.” More than enough time. We get Bud with lime, shandies (which by the way I had 3), and I get a can of Fosters. I take it to the counter and wait to be rung up. The clerk is having a hell of a time scanning the Bud. Over and over she looks for the bar code. Nothing. I look at her and say, “It must be free.” I smile at her and she put a broadsword in me with her eyes. As we were pulling out of the joint I looked at John and said, “Someone must have shit in her oatmeal.” Okay, maybe you had to be there? We got home and John makes a fire on a night that I felt like we were sitting in a in a bowl of humidity soup. We drank, talked about the decline of civilization, and times of old. All around the flickering of the campfire. Before we knew it, it was 1:30am and there were promises of biking the next day. It was a good night of sleep.
We wake up and get to the kitchen. The Bell’s have fresh coffee, plates with watermelon, grapes, blueberries, cherries, and a mountain of doughnuts. Doughnuts! The surveys were taken by all the kids and survey says, “BING”, doughnuts were number one. Meg started an album of powdered doughnut faces. So good. Gods with sugar on their faces. We transitioned from food to riding. Mica to the rescue again. She volunteers to watch the kids while the parents ride. Parents with young kids do not get to do things together. Mica does not know the gift she is giving us. She will some day when we do the same for her. We were taken on this spectacular ride through parks and trees. We rode along the banks of the Fox River. We biked all the way into Green Bay. Saw Lambeau from a distance. We shared water. It was just good. Soul quenching. We ride by a building that is for sale (which all of us reading this should buy together and start a beautiful community for kids there). John guides us through some history of community and visions of its future. Then the ride is over. We pack up everything we have taken out. It is always awkward. It is a place we do not want to leave, but we have to. Hugs and kisses. We get everyone into the Yukon. Meg’s door is open and John looks in and says something like, “Thank you for the most wonderful 18 hours we have had all summer.” I cannot get the words out, but my mind is saying “a lifetime of thanks would not be enough for the time you have given us.” As we back up, the Bell family is in it full glory holding children, other children on big wheels, and a sea of waves goodbye. Meg takes a picture with her phone and we are off. Thank you Bell’s. Soon.
Chicago here we come.
July 22, 2013 ·
Day 30. And so on and so on and so on.
We wake in a hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota. What a thrill. Complimentary breakfast. Carlos and I slip from the room for a moment together over toast, over, god help me, Fruit Loops. I love them. We sit together. A woman comes up to us, telling us she is a photographer, and asks if she can take our photo, just as we are, not posed. We say of course and she does her thing, then tells us there just isn’t enough love in the world, and to carry on. Lovely. A blessing.
We all eat, then pack, then begin our drive. I look at the map, trying to figure out a place we can stay, some promising spot in North Dakota, some forest, grassland, something magical. I am finding nothing. I am tired. I ask Carlos if we should just drive straight to Tammy.
Tammy. The mythical Tammy. Wife to Mike Carlson, Carlos’ best friend, a man I met back in the day, a man of great spirit, great fun, a man who happens to be in Russia for another week. Tammy who is known for being just as funny as her husband, which is high praise. Tammy and Mike live in Minneapolis, which is roughly ten hours away from us. Carlos, as ever, is game. He leaves a message for Tammy, telling her we are on our way (they are these kind of friends) and ten hours later we arrive.
Tammy. Tammy who will look like she is thirty forever. So American she should be in a J Crew ad. A flowing mane the color of a redwood in full sun. This girl is America. And she is our mom. This woman’s wit is bone dry. We go to the supermarket, ready to buy the place up. Tammy follows us around, telling us to put everything back, she already has it at home. She congratulates Carlos on our wedding, and me, too, in the produce aisle, like this: “I’m really happy for you two, but I’m actually much happier for myself because I’m so sick of Carlos coming here and getting drunk and weeping for you, crying about how you were the one that got away. I’m so glad I never have to hear that again.” I love this woman.
We have arrived gritty and grimy and tired and it is as though we are home from college. We show up at Tammy’s and do a lot of catching up on eating and sleeping. Tammy goes to work every day and we are left in her gorgeous home, to swim in her pool, to nap on her couches, to eat her refrigerator bare. I do insist on having food on the table when Tammy, whom I now call my lovely wife, gets home. We are joined, when possible, by her sons, the droll and beguiling Josh and Kristian, ads in themselves for kids. They are 19 and 16 and hale and one wants to know everything they are going to do, what they will produce, who they will love, who they will become: they are all potential. And they have fabulous hair.
Old friends come to visit (Dave and Shelley come in like sungods with Joss and Clara and the party in the pool is non-stop, as is the 3.2 beer.) Mica reads and reads and reads, on couches, on chaise lounges, in bed: The Time Traveller’s Wife. And it does feel like we’ve fallen through some kind of portal: every day I nap for hours with the girls. Quixote, jerk and a half, makes friends with their dogs. (!) We start to take bike rides to the nearest town, Stillwater. We are home for the holidays. We go out to dinner together and giggle about the complimentary hairspray in the bathroom. We go to the movies (Despicable Me 2, ugh, Pacific Rim (great comedy, phosphorescent rwoarrrrr!). We watch marathons of Chopped and soon enough even Bird could tell that the chef who put the chocolate smear on the plate is gone (That guy’s going to get chopped!). We eat and eat and eat. This house is peopled with family and friends: Ellliot practices writing the alphabet with Bird and Mila, Nicole swims with all the girls, Mike’s mom comes one day to greet Carlos (one of my biggest regrets of the trip is not getting to meet her). When Mike finally arrives home from Russia we all eat pie and laugh. This is a man who had been traveling 24 hours straight, 19 days total. He rises the next day and makes eggs with Bird. He makes pancakes with Bird and Mila. He comes swimming with us. He writes his PhD thesis, he takes his boys to drivers’ ed, his brother to the DMV, us to a tequila bar. He is Type O as my friend Kenny would put it, the universal friend, everyone loves him.
I sit around the kitchen table with these people (this is my favorite thing to do on earth, my own personal church. The kitchen table is temple, in my book). Tammy and I find our way into a conversation about the honor of being present for a human being’s death, for passing, for whatever we want to call it. Mike and I find ourselves talking about the difference between striving for happiness vs. contentment. Tammy is a hospice nurse, Mike is the world’s most unlikely preacher and I feel shocked and humbled by the work they do, by their avocations, their simple and profound love and concern for others. I am also shocked by their bawdiness, am rendered into tears by their humor and find myself, one night, at a bar, wearing a Jack Daniels t-shirt that we win in a trivia contest. Our team name was Titty Meat. We stay there for a decade.
I admire Ben Franklin: I love a French whore and I firmly believe visits and fish go wrong in 3 days. But this has been the exception (to the visit edict, at least). We have stayed 12 days. I worry about it constantly, but I know it is okay, because the day we leave, Tammy, that dry wit that arched mind, hugs me twice. She and Carlos dance across the floor. This is a place we are loved and teased, adored, mocked, welcomed, ignored (blissfully), all lavishly, stupidly, ardently, like family.
We are told to look for two flags, the US and England. We spot them at the home of John & Nikki, Carlos’ old friends. We had pretty much imposed ourselves on Tammy and Mike, but John has been sending us the most lovely messages, telling us he’d love to see us, no pressure, that they have a backyard for us to camp in, that we are welcome. We agree that anyone who has gone to such lengths to make us welcome deserves a visit. So here we are in Green Bay. There is a potting wheel in the garage, gorgeous art on the walls. There are kids running around who look like they’ve just hopped off the pediment of the Parthenon, flaxen haired beauties with eyes the color of the southern seas. They have all just returned from the local pool. Nikki pours lemonade and asks if we want ice cream sandwiches. Well, yes, indeed, we do. (How does she know I have a secret devotion to ice cream sandwiches?) It is that kind of place, where you are handed the things you crave before you crave them and you happen to be handed these objects by the most beautiful humans on earth. Where are we, Olympus?
The girls are swept up in a wonderland of toys in the basement. We set up the tents in the back yard and Quixote proceeds to put his paws through the door of the brand new tent. Nikki tells me the story of meeting John and I find it delightful, remarkable, because she does not undersell it in the way it seems couples often do when telling their origin stories. She tells me that Carlos smacked her leg, announced John’s presence and she was transfixed by his everything. She glowed when she told the story. I love to see couples who delight in each other, who adore each other, who are in quite evident love. All the beauties go change into their pajamas and John turns to PJ, the eldest, at 7, and tells her to brush her hair. She smiles, grabs a brush that appears out of the air (is that how it works for gods? Objects are summoned by mere mention? Yes, it seems that is how it works here on Olympus West.) The kid starts brushing her hair and I find this remarkable for its simplicity and for the hair. Bird and Mila have tumbleweeds for hair these days. But here is PJ, grinning, brushing, glowing. You can tell by this point I want to be a Bell, right?
The kids are snuggled and tucked into beds and tents and the adults tuck into beverages by a fire on a very juicy night (the weather forecast in Green Bay that night was for gravy). John and Nikki are versed in the art of conversation and we find ourselves talking everything from education to immigration to gossip and travel. At 1.30, we look at a clock and go to bed.
We sleep, we wake and in the kitchen appears bowls and bowls of fruit and a ziggurat of doughnuts. I start playing photographer. There are too many beautiful faces covered in powdered sugar. It requires documentation.
We are planning on going on a bike ride in the morning. Mica volunteers to corral the small people and we, the parents, are set free to bike. PJ, hero that she is, helps me inflate the tires on my road bike. It is absolutely lovely. John and Nikki take us to the river, give us a tour, tell us stories, laugh. By the time we are done, I want to pack these people in my pocket and take them with us. I adore them; I want them everywhere we go.
But are headed to Chicago. We are to see my old friends Lyle and Kate, a couple I’m proud to say I married (yes, I am a Reverend, just like Al Green, in case anyone out there needs a blessing, a funeral, a bris). I have not spoken with them for a couple of years; I left New York under cover of mystery and shame. I did not know how to account for myself and could barely stomach all the changes I was making in my life — I found it impossible to breathe, nevermind to speak to anyone and explain myself.
We pull up in front of a brick colonial at 7.30 at night and through the glass sunroom I can see the beautiful Kate, sitting on the patio, drinking a glass of rose. I am home. Kate comes out, Lyle comes out, we hug, we get teary, they meet my husband and my daughter, Mica, and the little ladies crawl up on them. Then appears John, their boy, a saucer-eyed beauty, the perfect mix of Kate and Lyle. He sweeps the girls off to the most amazing treehouse (better than any place any of us lived in NYC). Lyle grills shrimp and we wolf down a corn salad he has made, wine, tortillas, deliciousness (note to self: if you leave the avocado pit in the corn and avocado salad the avocado won’t oxidize. Who knew? Well, Kate and Lyle knew.) We catch up and Lyle says to me by the grill that he wondered if he would ever see me again. It is clear to me that they are not mad at me, that I have been living in a self-imposed exile; I am simply and purely loved. They give us an entire floor of their house and we happily lose ourselves to about 12 hours of sleep.
August 14, 2013 · Scottsdale ·
I am sitting next to my husband at Nana’s kitchen table in Scottsdale, Arizona. Eli is showering. We have to leave for school in a half hour. Two weeks ago we were in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the tip of Cape Cod, where the pilgrims first landed before abandoning it for a place called Plymouth. Three weeks ago we were en route to New York, to my city, my home, my people.
We’re now on another adventure; assembling a daily life. School lunches (filled with white plums), dog parks (where Quixote is still the most handsome), houses (the midcentury modern in the neighborhood we love, or the joint right across from the school?). Before we left Arizona in June, I wrote this:
The classic line from Walden. I went to the woods to live deliberately, not to find when I died that I had not lived.
I went to the woods, or rather, the desert, to live simply, not to find when I died that I had done 8 million meaningless loads of laundry, or worked unknown hours for a company that did not know my name.
I went to the desert to build a house, to live with a man I love, to teach my children there are more important experiences than Universal Studios has to offer. I went to the desert to taste food, to savor sleep.
I went to the desert to see the stars. I went to the desert to stare at fire, instead of the tv. I went to the desert to read Herodotus. I went to the desert to sleep. Letting the kids slip until they wake up naturally. With the sun. Let their bodies get the sleep they want.
I went to the desert to bike. To run. I went to the desert to live a longer life. To have time. To gain time. To get out of the car. I went to the desert to be grateful. To teach my children what there is to be grateful for.
On the way back to Arizona, we took the Santa Fe trail, like many travelers west have before us. When we got home, my sister in law came out to the driveway to greet us. She had tracked us all the way across the country and back. I hugged her and cried. We’re home, for now.
I am going to keep writing on this page, things relevant to the Bike Trip, which is more than an event that happened this past summer. It’s our manifesto, our attempt to live simply, to value each other, our health, and people and places above objects and grudges and smallness. My husband says this: tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.
True. But we’re still planning to take the Bike Trip to Portugal.
August 14, 2013 ·
Ohio was good to us. We woke up and felt great. Drove through Ohio and Most of Pennsylvania. We could have driven all the way to the Big Apple, but thought it would be too late. Meg had found this dog hotel for Quixote and I don’t think they would have taken him in the wee hours. So we crashed in a hotel somewhere in Pennsylvania just long enough to move our bikes in the room, close and open our eyes, and put the bikes back on the carrier. So we take off again and get to New York about noon.
Holy Shit! This town is a town of inches and everybody wants them. Inches to get on the the Brooklyn Bridge, inches to pass double parked cargo trucks, and inches to turn right before your game of chicken ,with the car in front of you, ends badly. It gives me a little air of Mexico City: there are no rules. I had two choices, I could be a pussy and hide in the nooks and crannies of the town or see who want to fuck with an agitated Mexican driving a 6000 lb. truck. Lets do this shit! So Meg was telling me where to go and I just told myself, the hell with the mirrors. Whoever is next to me better move. So I am giant slaloming this ski slope called Brooklyn and finally get to where we are dropping off Quixote. Meg jumps out and grabs him. I see him walking away and feel a little relieved. We love him, but need a break. He will be in the doggy hotel for four days. Meg comes back and tells me he will be fine there. Now we need to find where the girls’ dad lives. She tells me he lives close to where we have Quixote. We find his house and he is waiting outside. I start to feel the sadness of the girls leaving but know we need to have some time to regenerate. We say our goodbyes and keep trucking. Winding our way through the neighborhoods we get to our groovy little hotel. Yes, I used groovy again. Meg gets out and goes in to get our rooms. I wait with Mica outside in the truck. I look out of my window to the right and see a man with a young girl standing by a bus sign. I rolled down the window and asked him if this was a bus stop. He said yes. Right then I looked in my side mirror and saw a bus heading right to me. Fuck! I pull out and drive around the block. I don’t understand this city. Now I am even more irritated. I pull up to the hotel again and pray the next bus is not on my ass. Meg came out of the hotel and asked if I wanted her to take the car. Sure. My nerves were shot. We have been irritated at each other since we got to New York. For me it was a combination of miles of driving, traffic, and now I am in the heart of my insecurities. New York. Where my Meg left me. Where she had spectacular friends without me. She was married, had children, lived. All without me. She has recently said, forgive me for living without you. How fucking ludicrous. Of course she was going to live without me. Of course she was going to be around spectacular people, she is spectacular. Of course she was going to have a family, I did. I hate it. I hate that I let her go. I let her go so she could be exactly what she ended up being. I can hear people saying, everything happens for a reason or you wouldn’t have such beautiful babies if it would not have happened. That is such bullshit. How does anyone know what our babies would have looked like? I believe they would have been the same babies and there is no great reason that it happened. It just did. So here I am. In one of the greatest cities in the world and I am just trying to breathe.
Meg drives around the block and situates the truck in front of the hotel to get the bikes down and the luggage out. She parked very near a police car and I had to lean on it to get the bikes down. I was waiting for the cop to yell, “YO! get the fuck off my car!” That would have been cool. Stereotypical events in NYC. But it never happened. So we unload and get to the room. The room was amazing, full of art. The bathroom had a chalkboard wall. Mica and Meg immediately tagged it. I wrote Meg and Carlos as high as I could on the wall. I may get upset with her, but I will never stop loving her. It feels weird not having the girls or Quixote. We always had to keep them in the forefront of our minds when we would go anywhere. Now it is just the adults. Meg has made plans to have dinner with James. We are concerned that we have a bag full of camping clothes and nothing for eating dinner in New York. The girls are going to have no problem finding clothes, but it is difficult to find a big and tall section for me. We call around and Macy’s has a section. The store is a couple of blocks down and we take off. We get there and find nice jeans and a white button down shirt for me. I had no luck on the shoes. We leave there and go to a hip store across the street from the hotel. Both Meg and Mica find outfits that are NYC fashion. We go back to the hotel and have just enough time for everyone to get a shower, dressed, and hail a cab to get to the restaurant. We meet James. He is a lovely. We eat delicious appetizers and pizza, we drink wine and beer, and we are enchanted with stories of acting and friends. We finish and walk James to the subway.
New York at night is breathtaking. The lights and sounds of the hustle and bustle. A town that never sleeps. The next four days are a whirlwind of activities. Staten Island Ferries to see the Statue of Liberty, penthouses with Kenny, parks with the girls and Pascale, and biking with Meg and Mica. Biking was so much fun, it felt like I was playing the video game Frogger trying to get through traffic without getting squished. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet up with a life long friend named Kelly and his gorgeous daughter. We talked about times and people of our youth that only Kelly would know. Our conversation make me happy to remember such great days. Again, the fangs that I put on New York and the people who live there are simply not there. It is a beautiful city of culture. One of the things I treasure most in life. It’s so artistic. It was like walking into a painting that never ended. I had to pull on Meg’s arms a couple of times to tell her to slow down so I could actually see where I was. It can make the most Zen-full person speed up into a frenzy. I wanted to see the skyscrapers. I wanted to look at the fire escapes. And I don’t even want to try to describe what Central Park is like, you just have to go.
The day came where we had to leave. I know Meg was sad. She made me promise we would come and visit every year. I did and will keep that promise. I could never live here. When I was younger, I would have owned it, but now my direction is different. Until we meet again.
New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town.
Provincetown is about one thing, Michael. Michael is a man who Meg often refers to as her dad. She loves this man. He brought her up in New York. She wants to see him. Meg set up a time to meet him at a sushi bar. We get to our hotel room, take our stuff out of the truck and start biking to the restaurant.
Provincetown is at the very tip of Massachusetts. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We bike and feel that ocean air. It is night. The town is dimly lit and you cannot see the road. We bike down the main strip that is surrounded by houses. Before long, it is all storefronts and people roaming around. It’s fun and quaint. Again I love the freedom of biking and how it allows me to weave through this town. We get to the sushi place, lock up our bikes, and walk in. It is a place full of booths and spot Michael in the corner. He gets up and embraces Meg. It’s beautiful. It has been a while since they were together. It’s emotional. I thought Meg was going to cry and my wife does not cry. Michael turns to Mica and hugs her and then embraces me. He is kind. We sit. We all have sake together, order some delicious food, talk about life. We finish and go to see one of Michael’s friends play piano. We go to a different room at the bar and play pool. Mica and Michael then play an electronic word game. As they are playing I look at them and feel that he now has another daughter. We are all family. The next day is daddy and daughter day. Michael and Meg got to spend time together and I spent some time with Mica. It made me very happy for all of us. Mica ended up going whale watching. The footage she brought back was incredible. She saw humpbacks, a mama and baby. Amazing. We all go to the beach. It was peaceful. The water was calm. No waves because of the cape. Michael tells us that the beach had trees that the early settlers harvested and only left the sand. I start to think and realize that I was a the start of where the pilgrims landed. How the country has changed since then. We then went to get some seafood for dinner. Shrimp, scallops, clams, and fish. It was cooked it all in one pan, adding the different fish at different times. It turned out to be the meal I wanted to have in Massachusetts. So fucking good. The next thing we did was make necklaces. It was one of the highlights of the trip. It was done with such delicacy and care. The necklaces ended up being beautiful, but what was more important was the love in making them. It was magical. The night ended with Meg, Mica and I walking back to the hotel. The night makes the sounds come out.
Then next morning the old familiar feeling of leaving is evident. Heaviness and sadness is upon us. We don’t want to leave. We go to Michael’s place to say our goodbyes. But I do not say goodbye, I always say I will see you soon. I learned along time ago that in the olden days, people did not wave goodbye. But they would turn their hands and gesture with their fingers to comeback. I loved that. I want the people I love to come back. We say our goodbyes. Mica and I walk to the truck. We give Meg and Michael a moment alone. I am not sure what was said, but their embrace speaks volumes of their love. She gets in the car and we drive off.
We will come back.
The rest of the trip is a haul ass drive to get to AZ. We spend sometime in St. Louis with Liz, Nate, and the most delicious rack of ribs in the country. We track the Santa Fe trail through Kansas and New Mexico. We drove in through the mountains of Arizona and get the boys. And get home to Scottsdale all within a matter of 4 days. We are greeted by my family, who I have never loved more that at that moment when we walked up to my mother’s door. We made it. We have come full circle.
We started the G Family Bike Trip what seems like a lifetime ago. It was a thought about a year ago. Planned about 10 months ago. Put into effect about 5 months ago and we embarked on June 7th. We have been forged by fire. It has also been a time of learning and great joy.
Bert, your words of, “May nothing go as you planned,” was prophetic. We should have never bought an RV. We should have biked more. We should have taken more time in each place and driven less. So many things we had planned that never came to fruition and many more that we did not plan that did.
The trip started off as a means of keeping me alive through eating well and exercise. I learned it will be a life long journey.. I just cannot sink to the depths of where I was. It can be done.
We wanted to minimize the shit we had and maximize the people around us. We sold everything and took off. We got to see many people who we love and did not see many who we love equally. I did learn on this trip that the problems I have with people are usually based on the problems in me. I met strangers who are jewels and made sure we got through Oregon with their personal map. I now have more friends who are family than I ever had.
I want to thank all of the people who followed us on this trip. It motivated us through some tough times and also encouraged us to share our life. Now I want to ask something of you. If you did follow us, write us a comment. I love the likes, but write us a line. I am not sure why, I just want to hear from you. This trip has changed my life. Hell, I have the most wonderful wife and children in the world. I am sure that will be argued by many, well, I hope, for your sakes.
Til soon, a lucky man.