Practice Tour: St. Augustine

This past weekend i took the new vessel on a one night, 160 mile round trip from Gainesville to St. Augustine. The ride was long for several reasons; i was fatigued from a long ride the previous day, there was a 10mph headwind the whole way and i am still getting used to this bikes speed (SLOW!!) relative to my triathlon bike. Once i finally got to St Augustine though it was quite a relief and i relaxed at a little coffee shop downtown and people watched for a while.  I camped at a park on the beach which was really nice until it started raining at 4:30 am. And kept raining… I was slightly anticipating running into some rain but i realized very quickly that i was not prepared at all for the rain. The night before i had called a friend whose parents live in St Augustine and who was on her way back to Miami for school. I got really lucky and she offered to give me a ride back to Gainesville so i could avoid a very uncomfortable 5 hour ride through a steady rain. Now i understand that when on the road i will not be able to magically call on a friend when i need help however the circumstances were that i needed to get back to Gainesville to do work ASAP where as when on tour ill be able to take a lay day anytime i please. Therefore i accepted the ride and learned some very good lessons from this mini excursion:

1. Get proper rain gear!! being wet and cold sucks! Waterproof pants, gloves, helmet cover and shoe covers are needed.

2. Parts of this tour will be lonely. However i am still resolute in doing this solo as being alone puts me outside of my comfort zone and makes me much more determined to meet strangers and chat up locals.

3. This is going to be a wild adventure! The feeling of living out of nothing but a backpack and a bike is exhilarating! Will this be difficult? Yes i think so; will it be worth it? Yes i think so.

The Departure

Crossed the FL trail just west of Palatka, FL

Made it!

Song currently listening to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evmS-PYz4s8

Book currently reading: Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter

Bicycling: The Most Aesthetically Pleasing Method of Travel

For an estimated 900 million people on this planet, riding a bicycle is part of their daily routine. Whether for exercise, pleasure, commuting, shopping or etc, bicycling is an extremely efficient method of getting around. With the correct road infrastructure, geographical and cultural climates, the bicycle is simply the ultimate method of travel. Since becoming an avid cyclist for both recreation and utility, I have been constantly refining my opinions and zealous attitudes towards this rediscovered method for transportation and leisure.

First off, as a method for transportation the bicycle is engaging in a way that driving a car or other passive sedentary method simply can never be. As a self-powered method of locomotion the bicycle requires musculature to be engaged, blood to be pumped, enzyme systems to be upregulated, fuels to be catabolized, etc, we won’t get into the physiology but you get the point that cycling is a method for empowering the body to do work. With this empowerment causes an almost involuntary focusing of perception on the present moment. Cycling puts you back in your body sort of speak, and with a typical lifestyle that is prone to over abstraction and distraction, I think this is one of the most beneficial attributes. There is nothing like feeling the wind whipping across your face to remind you that yes, in fact you are still alive! With that said cycling is not necessarily easy; I maintain that serious endurance athletes and ultra-endurance types of cyclists are gluttons for pain and are modern day ascetics. Part of the draw towards cycling for me is the difficulty, however the cost to reward ratio is very high. Perhaps I am unusual in that I like to toe the line between “is this pleasure?” or “is this pain?”.

Another positive quality of cycling is the speed of travel. Bicycling provides the perfect blend of speed, perception and range of travel. I think of the wheel as an extension of the leg. While riding you go slow enough to really see in detail the objects as they pass by, yet you are traveling fast enough to cover large distances at a time. In this respect bicycling is truly the most aesthetic method of travel as the combination of the quality of the view with the sheer quantities of views is unrivaled by other methods of travel. I do hold that walking is almost as pleasing a method of travel however it is inconvenient most of the time due to the slower speeds. In addition, because you are open to the elements and outside, you are much more open to actually interacting with the environment around you, i.e. pedestrians, wildlife, weather phenomena etc. Roadsides also have an interesting tendency of collecting interesting artifacts from passing vehicles. Over the course of my traveling I have found various electronics, money, a brand new bike tire, watches, and the whole gamut of roadkill and leftover meal detritus. You just never know what interesting items you may chance upon or people you will meet.

Just as there are car enthusiasts who are enthralled with the mechanics and aesthetics of the machine, the same can be said for cyclists. I myself am one of these people. Bicycles are beautiful creations, and the extreme variation in structure and function of the different types is astounding. Not to mention the degree of individuality that your machine can achieve with the proper mechanical and artistic eye. In a sense you can ride around on your own personal art piece, your own personal expression of artistic individuality.  Tinkering, upgrading, polishing and adjusting the machine are all parts of the wonderful man-machine symbiosis that occurs when you develop a relationship with a bicycle. Over the course of riding the same bike over and over one develops a keen sense of proper functioning and a certain feel of the machine and the road. You must learn your machine and in a sense I think the machine must learn you. It is a partnership that you forge and it is certainly much more interesting and fun to bestow an anthropomorphized personality to the bicycle.

This main purpose of this meandering ode to the bicycle is really to announce my plan of riding across the United States this upcoming summer, beginning in May in Washington DC, heading north to Maine, then west across the great lakes area and the northern plains and finishing in August somewhere in Washington or Oregon. The exact route is still being planned however as an added wrinkle to the trip, I plan on visiting as many family members as possible along the way. I will be camping along the way, visiting as many state and national parks as possible and will carry everything I need on my journey on the bicycle using panniers. I just recently bought a touring bicycle that is an absolutely gorgeous vessel and rides extremely smoothly. I have no doubt that this bicycle whom I have named “A Brief Moment of Clarity” will be extremely reliable on my adventure. I will periodically update this blog as I acquire more necessary equipment, finalize a route plan and execute some practice rides and mini tours. If you know anyone on this route (or relatively close) that wouldn’t mind me setting up my hammock in their backyard please let me know! Also if anyone has any tips I am open to all suggestions, not necessarily cycling only related, just cool travel tips in general.

P.S. From now on with each post i will post the current song that i am listening to and a current book or article that i have recently read and found extremely interesting.

Song: Bluetech – Leaving Winter Behind (which is what ide like to do right now, Gainesville is freezing!)

Book: Symmorphosis – On form and function in shaping life

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0674000684/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0521586674&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=09AV0V334MJ7SKKBZK3H

Camping in Myakka State Park

This past December i had the opportunity to do some hiking/camping in Myakka. Overall a really nice time, lots of nature and wildlife. Here are some photos. Videos are hosted on facebook at this address: http://www.facebook.com/#!/video/video.php?v=809824887377

Joining the Historical Process

Myakka State Park 12/31/10

For me, usually the hardest part of completing a desired task is starting. It doesn’t seem to matter what the task is; a workout, studying, chores etc. With this in mind, I have wanted to start a blog for quite some time however until now I lacked the mental fortitude to break through the barrier of starting. So I have determined there remains only one thing to do, just sit down and write. In this first post i would like to outline the general purpose of this blogging activity and how I envision this as a mechanism for maintaining relationships and connectivity amongst people all over the world.

The main impetus for me wanting to start a blog is to do what I like to call “joining the historical process”. History, from tribal agrarian animal herders to complex electronic information-transferring technological societies is really only 100 generations! 1 generation being 25 years, and history being approximately 2500 years, a geological blink of an eye. How many human beings lived their lives, performed their cultural duties and passed away without ever receiving mention of a life lived? Billions perhaps? All of which was necessary in order for us to sit where we are today. In earlier times the entire history of a culture was maintained by certain individuals selected for their prodigious memories. In these pre literate societies word of mouth and folklore were the only means of recording historical events. With the advent of written languages, the temporal dimension of the past achieved a lucidity much greater than the always shifting and ambiguous spoken story. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “the symbol of an ancient man’s thought becomes a modern man’s speech”. Through the process of writing, we now have the capacity to store our thoughts and instill a somewhat greater measure of permanency to these thoughts. This ability presently reaches a concrescence with the technological advancements that allows this printed information to be stored in circuitry, where it is much safer than say stored on a roll of papyrus or wood pulp paper, which are certainly more susceptible to environmental degradation. In the act of writing this blog, I feel that I am now joining history (at least temporarily, as history is fluid and is constantly being re written) by putting my thoughts into circuitry and actively creating something of an historical artifact. Even if this act is as insignificant as writing a blog on the internet, where probably only a few people will actually participate in its reading. Regardless, it is quite empowering to have a cyber space location solely dedicated to sharing my thoughts and ideas.

With that said, the aim of this blogging operation is to share ideas, thoughts, stories, photos and videos amongst friends and family. Instead of having a central theme such as photography, hobbies or professional essays, I would like to keep this as open ended as possible, simply writing about whatever it is that moves me to the edge of my seat at the moment. I don’t want to limit the scope of possible topic exploration. In addition I would very much like to receive feedback and open a dialogue with readers, especially concerning controversial topics that may be written about. This blog is an outlet for me to get my thoughts and ideas outside of my head, look at them, analyze them, observe them, then hopefully hear your perspective. Through the archive function of the blog I am also looking forward to observing over time how my thoughts and opinions change, in an attempt to gain better perspective. In addition, I find myself constantly wondering what past friends are currently up to. I am going to chronicle events taking place in my life in order for my friends and family to keep tabs on what is going on in my life (if anyone cares that is!). Travel journals, photos and videos will all be posted. We are so fortunate to have the internet at our disposal to maintain relationships and increase connectivity between individuals. So with all this said please check back occasionally for new content and I strongly encourage you to comment on these posts!

Thank you,

Evan