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"No way! Dude! Oh my God, that's incredible! You JUST got here now?? You want a beer?! Chips, soda?! Wanna burn one?! MAN! You need to be on TV, you're an inspiration! What a blessing! People love to hear this shit! You've been blessed!!!"

My request for a photograph of the bicycle and I on Ocean Beach turned into a small picnic with new friends and though I turned down their offer to blaze, I took down the bag of chips anyway. The three of us sat on the beach just as the sun fell off the horizon to extinguish our light. Wait a minute... sunset? Ocean? Wha... Remember all those days you spent pedaling your bicycle, Chuck? Well, you're not exactly on the east coast anymore... the sun sets on the ocean when you're out here. OH! No shit? Oh man! Oh man... isn't this neat!! And it's going to do this all the way up the coastline?? Yup, sure is. DUDE! YES! OH HELL YEA!! Eat your heart out, OBX! Take your sound and shove it! :-P

There wasn't a ton of time to soak it all up at that moment since night was coming and I still had some cycling to do in order to meet up with Bob and Lisa. No big deal -- the Pacific and I will have plenty of time to bond in the days to come. Most certainly I will spend entire days sitting on the beach from sunup to sundown in the company of my alter ego and the list of inanimate friends I've racked up courtesy of the trek. Only a mile away, I met up with Bob and Lisa and was introduced to their son, Dan (17). As always, I had only planned (at least verbally) on staying for a single night, but that's actually never happened in all the times I used the WarmShowers list. "You can hang out and spend the night tomorrow if you want. Stay as long as you need." Phew, what a relief. I was sitting at the computer trying to budget my time throughout the night in order to draw routes, upload photos and videos, update my journal, pay my bills for the month and make sure I knew how to get around San Diego so I could see everything that people kept telling me I should see. I don't feel its my place to ask, but every single time I've been offered an extended visit... and I'm very grateful for it... especially now. Lisa could cook; leaving so soon would have been painful.

So, I got to San Diego on the 23rd of December and am planning on going to Balboa Park and Coronado Island (which is technically a peninsula... don't ask) on the 24th, staying another night and leaving on the... 25th. Heh, fat chance, Chuckles. I'm not sure how or why this happens, but very often I find myself in deep, meaningful conversations with people who have taken me in. Whether it's about life, religion, politics or happiness, I think the perceived significance of a solitary trek combined with an ability to relate with others and keep an open ear tends to create an instant bond. Sometimes I get thinking, too, that people are less afraid to say their thoughts perhaps because they feel a sort of superiority based solely on my appearance. I also believe that my interactions with people would be significantly different if I had a companion on the trip. This is kind of like how if you're in a bar and see a certain someone sitting alone, he/she is far easier to approach than someone in a group of friends; people are quick to fall back on their familiar [read "safe"] support and collectively judge you. I don't think James would so tenaciously have tried to get me to "see the light" if I was standing there with a friend back in Florida.

Forgive the rambling. Anyway, there were some hearty conversations and even before I could lay down to sleep on the second day, Lisa and Bob invited me over to the family gathering for Christmas. One, two, three nights? What's it matter? Lisa didn't ask. She said, "You're coming with us for Christmas tomorrow." My immediate reply was a smile and I said, "that will make my Mom very happy".

In the meantime, I'm off to explore on an unloaded horse.

I think this was part of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. I got into a long conversation with this 8-year-old kid on a Razor scooter just after taking this photo. "Isn't it beautiful", he said, "I could stand here all day just looking around." What? Aren't you supposed to be walking under seesaws or burning down cornfields? Our conversation ended in time. "I hope our paths cross again one day." WTF?



Are the plants and trees happy to be part of the botanical garden or are they pissed off with their transplantation? Woah, that's actually a word.



Aboard the ferry.



If this doesn't say "San Diego"...



Coronado island is just a short ferry ride (or a long bicycle ride if you find the strip of land leading to it) from downtown San Diego. Everything here is perfect. Lawns are perfect, the beaches are perfect, the palm trees are perfectly shaped and its inhabitants are perfect... in appearance anyway. Personally, I thought the whole place was ridiculously fake, but I'm sure it floats the boat for many a people.



Harbor'ness


Christmas dinner at the kiddie-table is always a good time. Afterwards, the family gathered upstairs to relax and Dan hopped on the piano simultaneously ending the small talk and putting us all in a state of reflection. The kid's got some skills, that's for sure. All the time I was there I had Augustana's "Boston" playing in my head thanks to him and now have it on thee ol' voice recorder though it's much catchier coming directly from the piano. One of Dan's uncles compiled a classic, silent family video for his Mother from the 50s and threw it in the VCR. Yea, it was kind of weird to watch a family video where you know nobody and you're in the company of the entire gang, but the imperfections of the film and its slightly accelerated pace made it incredibly nostalgic.

The initial stages of a werewolf transformation.


December 26th. I hadn't originally planned on meeting up with my father and Amy in San Diego, but he just happened to be spending New Year's here and he'd be there on the morning of the 28th. Now that it's the 26th, I've got to stick around and meet up with Dadio. But it's already been 3 days with Bob and Lisa... this is more than I've spent at anyone's house and to stay another two days with all the meals in between will definitely feel as though I'm overstaying my welcome even if I'm not. I started to feel more like a mooch than an adventure cyclist and caused myself all sorts of anxiety. And so it was. Lisa and Bob kept telling me that it wasn't a problem and they knew I was now sticking around to meet up with Dad, but I never know how to interpret such statements as nobody is going to directly tell me that it's time to leave. Somewhat silly to think about in retrospect. Anyway, I spent the day cycling around with Dan and his new ride on an incredibly windy afternoon in San Diego. Of course, we biked through a park system that was primarily loose dirt and sand which completely nullified Mr.Fax's recent overhaul and I found myself in another situation where wearing goggles on a bike seemed like a good idea. We stopped at one point to throw a giant tumbleweed (it looked like a Woolly Mammoth) into a lake but before we could, the wind seized control and it bowled over Dan as I pulled the ejection lever on our little operation and abandoned ship. By the time we got back on the pedals, the lake had nearly a hundred Russian Thistles in it all turning together like the paddles behind a giant riverboat on their journey to the far shore.

Dan, Lisa and Bob. Many thanks to you all. Who would have thought that I'd have a stocking for the holidays while 5,000 miles from home? I can't express my appreciation enough... definitely a Christmas to remember.


Though it meant I'd have a hard time finding a place to stealth camp near the city, I couldn't take anymore free handouts from Lisa's kitchen despite her being happy to keep me well-fed. I hit the road on the 27th to wander around aimlessly and see what there was to see. Within a mile leaving the house, I met Juan-Francis on a loaded bike who was on day #1 of his tour down the Baha Peninsula. I came up next to him and said, "Are you touring??". "Of course!", he replied... like I should have known better. How am I to know? He could have been a bum. Where do you draw the line between bum and bicyclist? If some bum is living on the streets with nothing but a busted bike and some blankets then one day decides he's going to ride it 10 miles a day halfway across the world, is he a bum or a bicyclist? I always tell people that I'm not actually a cyclist. If I were a cyclist, my clothing would match my ride, I'd be concerned about weight, aerodynamics and speed. So does that make me a bum? No, not yet anyway. I have goals... and an IRA. I'm not sure what I am, but in any case, I'm having a good time.

Anyway, I got talking to Juan and he started to tell me about how traveled he is and all these tours he's done all over the world. Apparently, he's also in the business of giving seminars about bicycle touring. I just kind of listened to him as he continued. He said, "I have seminars in Vancouver all the time and one of the first questions I ask is, 'Who here has ridden for 2 days in a row?' One or two people raise their hands. 'Who here is going to ride their bike across Canada?'... and everyone raises their hands. People don't realize that you have to train. You have to prepare. Touring is a major undertaking." As he's saying this to me, I'm thinking about how I didn't know a damn thing about bicycles, wasn't in shape, didn't train and yet have made it all the way to San Diego without someone to help me. This guy wasn't even wearing a helmet. When I started, I knew absolutely nothing about what to expect. His seminars were surely a waste of money. You don't have to know jack. There is no right way. There is no "proper diet" and no one way is better than another. If you want to do it, just do it... to hell with the questions, they'll solve themselves once you get moving. If everything went according to plan, it would hardly be an adventure.

The cities of Japan had Godzilla.
San Diego has Bert and Ernie.



RUN!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!



Mileage from Pennsylvania. It would appear that I've started to care less about the actual number as this is the second time I've missed the milestone.


With a little creativity, I found a stealth spot four miles from the Hotel Del Coronado where my Dad would be in less than 24 hours. Out with the Goober, out with the bread... it's PB&J time and I'm going to sit on the beach with my bicycle for the entire day. Not that I purposely flavor my food as such, but you get used to the crunchiness of sand when you spend a lot of time eating on the beach. It's become more of a spice than an inconvenience. Sitting there, watching the waves crash, I began to comprehend the trek in its entirety as opposed to the one-week-at-a-time life cycle I'm usually living. I've said this before, I know, but to think back upon all the events that have led up to me sitting on the beach in front of the Pacific is just so powerful. Oftentimes in a library I'll walk by a globe or a large map of the world and I'll run my finger along the route. It's so strange to realize that I've ridden a bicycle through all these places... it's so weird to realize that it's me and not some kid in the newspaper or on a website. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.


Again, I watched the sun set on the ocean and called it a night. On my way out, an old man got up from his chair and called for me to come over to him and his family. Things like this have never happened to me before... the bike grabs everyone's attention. I took a seat with Dave, his kids and grandchildren on the beach around a bonfire. "I saw you sitting there all day long and was wondering if you'd ever leave. We saved you two hotdogs." He pointed to his daughter who was already cooking them for me over the fire. How random is this? We talked about everything... the tour, his life as a navy pilot, psychosomatic illness and of course, McGuire's Irish Pub. If you've flown for the US Navy, it's a pretty safe assumption to say you've kissed the moose, too. The particular spot that they chose to sit on the beach was directly beneath the route that naval pilots fly as they land in the nearby airbase and Dave would look up every minute or so to announce the exact model of each aircraft as it passed overhead.

"Look who it is! You look like Robinson Crusoe out here by yourself without shoes." Friday had finally come and wouldn't you know it, my Dad and Amy found me sitting on the beach waiting for them. We spent the next two days with one another with me telling stories about the tour and Dad telling a portion of his infinite and priceless painting stories while in college. Good ol' Willy. Every time he gets going on "the painting days", he finds another ridiculously funny story that he's never before told.

We spent much of the day at Balboa Park exploring. This photo is of a painting inside the Natural History Museum. We caught Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" at the IMAX inside.



Hoorah! The wee turtles!
A day at the San Diego Zoo with Dad and Amy :-)



6-year-old Hua Mei and I think that's Bai Yun with her back to the camera.
These pandas are loved by more people than any human on Earth.



HA! This thing was a riot!

For those that don't know, that dude there my Pops. Essentially, our ride was a steel golf cart with pedals instead of a motor. We rode around Coronado island in this beast, almost got into an accident and came close to breaking down at one point. We took our turn at an intersection and struggled to move from a stop while onlookers in cars waited at their stop signs laughing at us.. haha! Good times, but I think I'll stick with the Mr.Fax for now :-)




More to come,
-Charlie



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The Simple Living Guide

Written by Jane Luhrs


1997
Living simply is being fully aware of what you're doing and why you're doing it. This book will elevate you out of your own world to take an objective look at your actions.




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My name is Charles Tronolone and I'm attempting something a bit unconventional; I'm trying to make a living by writing while on a perpetual bicycle tour. How I got to this point is a story in itself, but suffice to say that I refuse to be just another cog in the machine. There's too much important work to be done and too many eyes to open for us to be content with personal goals or riches. In late 2006, I managed to escape the machine, and now I'm setting off to help bring it down.

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