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Chasing Shadows into a Blue Oblivion August 5th of the third year

My map holder is already coming apart.
Water is finding its way through my tent.
The pedals are making all sorts of fun squeaking sounds.
These gloves are torn to shreds...
But, let me tell you, the prosthetic leg I made for Shadowfax is kicking ass and taking names!

Check this baby out. I chopped down the original kickstand and riveted together some copper piping, brackets and an aluminum plate to make a new one. To my surprise, this thing has stayed together for over 1,600 miles. Now, every time I trek into the woods at night and park the bike to setup camp, the kickstand can't pierce through the ground and bring everything crashing down. You want one? Pay me in caramel delights.


"So, do you always pick spots to camp with the highest likelihood of getting raped?", Matt says to me. "You can't rape the willing", I respond and continue hauling my bicycle through the bush. Matt found me sitting in the library when he pulled in on his touring bike. He didn't want to face the wrath of the sprinklers in the public park, so he followed me to my self-declared camp site adjacent to the railroad tracks. "So why don't you just make your money, get a girl and live it up?", he asks as we're setting up camp, "what does all that stuff matter to you?". Earlier I dumped the contents of my mind upon him. Matt continues, "I mean, won't you miss being able to chill out now and then, lounge on the couch and watch TV?"

"Yea, I'll probably miss the couch. I don't actually know how long I'll be doing this though... could be another few weeks for all I know." I have no idea whether or not this will work out in the long run. In any case, I can't ignore what I know. "I guess I could just get an IT job I enjoy, make a crapload of money and have a good time. I can look after myself, protect my wealth, have fun and do what I want... but I dunno." Even if I were to die an early death, I would still be content since I feel I've already lived so much. So sometimes I forget why I care. Though, it doesn't take long to remember. "The thing that really bothers me is that people are being brought into the world that will have no clue why they're suffering." I continue, "Ya see, my sister has a 4-year old kid and..." Ah, now we get the picture. The dialog more or less trails off from there, but the train of thought continues long passed those words. It's a story for another day which will come slowly but surely. For now, I've got a bike to ride.

The next morning was Matt's last day on the road. His great adventure from Seattle to Maine was officially postponed thanks to a shoulder injury he received back in Washington after hitting a pothole. As luck would have it, his aunt was driving cross-country from Maine to Seattle and happened to be coming through Montana that very day. And so, just like that, he was gone. Nearly a month on the bike to meet me in Montana, and probably no more than a day in the car to get back home.

I copied this photo from Matt's website. He started from Seattle with his dog in a trailer behind his bike, but had to rent a car and take the little dude home when he started to get sick.

Best of luck next year, Matt. Maybe we'll bump into one another again -- just look towards the train tracks :-)




In the week after leaving the small town of Havre, I have only photographs at night. The days are absolutely sweltering and no matter the landscape, all I see is sweat as it streams down my sunglasses. Hazy waves of gas and steam evaporate from the road ahead and the wind is relentlessly pushing against me. I stop every mile to seek out shade. Immediately a swarm of flies tracks me down and begins to use me as a giant salt lick. Mosquitoes join the feast seconds later as I'm swatting and dancing on the side of the road just trying to drink some water. They're in my ears, up my nose, landing on my eyes and flying into my mouth. It's horrible. I can't drink, I can't rest, I can't take photos, I can't even bike slowly or I get mutilated by these fucking air-sharks. The bug spray barely helps... and yelling out in anger does nothing. If I spend too much time talking to my voice recorder while riding, some dipshit of a nat will fly into my mouth and lodge itself in my throat. I can't tell you how unnerving this is as I cough it up and spit it out...

It's 102 degrees outside without a cloud in the sky and already I've drank a pitcher and eight bottles of water. I practically emptied a water fountain into my mouth at the last town. Salt is building up on my face and gathering in large clumps at the brim of my helmet. I have to break it off like breaking ice off a windshield just so it fits my head again -- I never thought this was even possible. "I'd give so much to be back in the cool winters of the southwest." It's never been this hot before and no matter how much water I drink, I'm still thirsty. The headwind is clocked at 40mph and I'm about to fall over dead. The day isn't halfway over. In just a couple miles up the road, I find a rest stop and call it quits for a while.

But still, there is no reprieve. Even in the shade of a picnic pavilion, the parasites with wings are sucking the life out of me. Horse flies the size of a penny silently land on my calves and take bites out of my leg. I'm about to flip out. "GET THE FUCK OFF ME!", I yell over and over as I swat at an escaping foe. Grabbing the bug spray, I coat myself in that chemical merrily named "DEET". I want bathe in it. I want to drink it, let it ooze out my pores and poison all the flying assholes who dare try and eat me. It works for a short while, long enough to brush my teeth with my now liquid toothpaste, smear huge chunks of hot chapstick onto my lips and answer the jackoff who says to me, "Pretty hot out there, huh? Bet you don't have a very good air conditioner on that bike." I want to freak. Ants are gathering around my feet and begin to crawl up my leg. I've had it. Despite the heat, I put on pants, long-sleeves and hat. The sweat promptly pastes the clothes to my skin as I dig through my panniers for a pocket knife and lighter. "You fuckers asked for it."

You'd be surprised how therapeutic it can be to decapitate insects. Ants are the easy target and the few horse flies I manage to cripple make for excellent torture subjects. Who would have known how many insects can walk in straight lines even without a head? It's a little tricky to catch a mosquito, but once you do, put him in a paper bag along with a few of his friends then light it on fire. "That's right jackass, BURN! BURN, BURN, BURN!!!" Ah, relief. So, that's what I did for a solid 5 hours by myself at this rest top in the middle of nowhere. And I do believe that the rest of them got the message because they did eventually stop trying to eat me.


Between exacting revenge upon the insect world and reminiscing about the days of frozen water bottles and cold pillows, I sat and thought. I recently heard through the grapevine that an old friend of mine is getting married. My immediate thought was, "What are you doing? Are we not on the same page?" I forget that the people I grew up with and went to school with did not end up like me. Or I guess I should say that I did not end up like them. While there are thousands of people like me beginning to recognize their own programming, break their molds and shove off to pursue whatever they deem meaningful, there are far more still executing the cyclical code they've been fed by the machine. There are a lot of people just doing what their parents have done, doing what they've been told to do, and going through motions in every predictable way until their lives are utterly spent.

These are not ordinary times. All is not well. We are not free, we have never been free and we are being pushed further and further into an oppressive grid of control everyday. History shows us that if continue on blissfully ignorant and do nothing to stop it, things will get ugly. So for the love of god, do not follow the same path that has led us here! There is so much we could do, such much we NEED to do. Stop listening to the people who have led us to this place -- their influence and advice will turn you into them and perpetuate the machine. If you're young and uncommitted, stay that way for as long as you can until you find a true calling. Stay out of debt, minimize your possessions, detach yourself from your surroundings, live far below your means, escape your influences, turn off the television, close the newspaper, stop comparing yourself to others and forget about what other people think of you. Don't throw all your chips on the table so soon! Don't anchor yourself to a certain end. We don't need anymore cogs inside this machine just spinning 'round and 'round for no particular purpose. The world has enough airplanes, it has enough drugs, it has enough cardboard boxes, it has enough waiters and it has enough cars. You are better that. Do not settle for ordinary.




With the sun almost expired and wind at rest, I finally get back on my bike and continue east. There's no more heat, no more thirst and no more fatigue -- just puffy clouds and a cool night breeze with the sun at my back. It's still strange to see my shadow cast on the road directly in front of me. I feel like I'm chasing it down and if I could only go fast enough, I might catch it. As night closes in, my silhouette gets taller and reaches out far in front of me. It stretches down the road, closer and closer to the horizon where the road falls off into a dark shade of blue while the neighboring power lines and wheat continue on. If I didn't know better, I might believe I was cycling toward a road made of sky, but it always shows up as pavement just before I arrive. With a fading sky of orange in the mirror and a purple backdrop ahead, the day finally ends as I retreat into painted fields of grain.

-Chuck










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Work Less, Live More

Written by Bob Clyatt


2007
Semi-retire and do more of what you love.




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