regression to the mean

Living in California (especially in the inland empire) will drive you to do crazy things. How did all this start?

To avoid getting a real job I applied to graduate school on the last possible day (august 2001). I even had to overnight FED-EX my application. Much thanks to Blanca, the nutrition secretary who managed to talk the applicant committee into reviewing mine and to Sarah who let me type my essay up that day and drove 90 mph to get me to FED-EX 5 minutes before they closed.

Next thing I know (spetember 2001) I am 3000 miles from all my friends living in a borderline desert 60 miles east of Los Angeles. I go to Loma Linda, the largest health science University in the country. Our nutrition department is on the forefront of vegetarian nutrition, all the cafeterias on campus and in the hospital are vegetarian.

But I am restless. Christmas time rolls around and I am officially without a girlfriend. I am tired of sitting in classes. There is no one to ride BMX with. I send out an email regarding something that has been on my mind for over one year: I want to ride my bike to Belize, through Chiapas, Mexico.

I got a bunch of replies, but the most stoked was Justin Cummings (of PUSH fame), my long time BMX friend from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We have been tight forever and both of us have a new found interest in bicycle touring. What do ya know, he is graduating in December of 2001 and his girlfriend has just dumped him. Perfect! We set the date for early July.

So we plan the best that two lazy bmx kids can. We email about it. We chat online. But basically we save everything for the last minute. Justin plans to go on a US tour with his band, Crucial Unit in June. I decide to go to Ecuador in early July for a nutrition project through the University, putting off our departure date by two weeks.

How crazy could this be? We have to plan for not only an 8 week bike trip, but for spending two months in Central America. We search for resources, but they are limited. One website recommends $50 a day. We have budgeted for $12. Another site suggests training for two months ahead of time, we ride to the health food store to buy tofutti ice cream sandwiches. So the summer is a bad time to do this trip because it is over 100 degrees in the desert and it rains everyday in the jungle? Oops, my bad. No doubt an adventure awaits.

2001 Cross Country Summary. First bike trip.

In the spring of 2001 I started a 3100 mile cross country bike trip in Huntington Beach, California that lasted two months and landed me in Easton, Pennsylvania.

It was an adventure before it began. I graduated college (PSU) in December 2000 and within two weeks I was heading to Austin, TX with Dave Vmaas for his new job as Art Director at Terrible One bikes. In Austin I was lucky enough to share a two bedroom apartment with 10 other BMXer’s, most of them from the FBM road trip that was put on hold thanks to the death of their shitty mini-van. Corrigan, Rob Doleki, Stew Johnson, Vmass, and I made use of our similar obsession with vegan food and stuffed our selves silly for the days preceding my flight to central america.

Two months in Belize with my girlfriend (at the time) was a mind boggling experience. That poor girl had to share a room with me for 8 weeks! We went camping at a jaguar reserve in the tropical rain forest, swam in rivers, traveled to Chiapas, Mexico (where we were nearly killed by an exploding restaurant), and survived the mess that is called Belize City. I even did a 125 mile bike trip and met a bunch of cyclists. They invited me to follow an illegal bike race that shut down the only paved highway in the country. Towards the end of my stay I went a World Economic Forum protest in Cancun, where the Federales were brought in and I ended up spending the night in jail. They stole my bag with all my belongings (and a bunch of other people’s!), but at least I wasn’t deported.

On that I returned to Austin where Vmass picked me up at the airport and couldn’t remember where he parked. Then he took me to IKEA to complete my culture shock. The next couple of weeks I spent hanging out in Texas and then in Tucson, Arizona with my boy Boaz Ramos. I worked day labor at a construction site for a ridiculous $5.15 an hour. I was told to “Get the f**k off the road” by a bunch of roadies when I would ride out to Gate’s pass. I learned quickly that roadies here are nothing like the friendly ones I met in Central America.

I went to look at a graduate school in Cali and then couldn’t find a place to stay on the coast. I ended up staying with some friends of friends, to their dismay as well as mine. We had some things in common (sxe), but they thought I was completely nuts. That was my situation BEFORE I left for my cross country journey. I had already been on the road for 3.5 months, I was exhausted and away from my friends and from usual comforts.

On April 12th I took a picture of my bike at the beach and started pedaling east towards Pennsylvania. Within 10 days I had climbed a 5000 ft pass, road through a 100 mile stretch of desert with no services in 100 degrees heat, crossed one state border, met another touring cyclist, road through a snow storm, and got hit head-on by a car going 55 miles per hour. It was a rough start.

Getting hit totaled my bike and put me in the hospital with a broken wrist. Luckily it was his fault and insurance would cover my bike and then some. I stayed with the brother of someone who stopped at the accident. He smoked a lot of pot, but he had numerous tapes of Simpson episodes which we watched in marathon lengths. I made the difficult calls to friends and family to tell them what happened and that I was continuing on nonetheless. After 10 days I left his house with a brand new Bianchi Axis and a broken wrist.

The rest of the journey is hard to convey; numerous days in a row without talking to anyone and then days where I met some extraordinary people. In Columbia, Missouri I finally came across some normal kids (not married with babies by 22) and we went to an indy film theatre, cooked up mad vegan food, and just chilled. We could all relate even though we didn’t know each other. Maybe there are some benefits to punk. Those kids will never know how stoked I was to see them.

Christian Kurpiel met me in Missouri, and we continued east. We did a 137 mile day into Indianapolis where Chris from Goshen let us into his Papa John’s at midnight to cook up some XL pies with veggie sausage (and then I ate the entire thing). We took a closed highway into pittsburgh and stayed at the peach pit with Justin Cummings. It was an appropriate place to receive an email from my girlfriend (now ex) telling me that she didn’t think I was right for her. Who could blame her? Add her to the list of bicycle related dumpings. The cycling didn’t get any easier when I got closer to my destination. Pennsylvania is one giant mountain. No, wait, it is 1000 giant mountains. After stopping off in the old stomping ground of state college and having reunions with close friends, I pedaled the final two days to Easton, Pennsylvania.

Despite some hardships, I knew this bike touring stuff was right for me.