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I've been randomly offered pot 9 times on the tour... 7 of them were in California. What's the point in busting the Mexicans if we're just going to grow it here? Animals must have a field day when there's a forest fire... more than once I've come over a windy hilltop to catch a huge whiff of reefer. As far as the coast goes, I'm think it's a safe assessment to say that there are two types of people here; those who are horribly caught up in their own image and the hippies riding around in old-school Volkswagen buses. Who doesn't love a VW bus? Shaggy dudes cruising around in their breadloaf mobiles keep hollering and giving me the thumbs-up.

Halfway up a hill and chuggin' merrily along, a car pulls off onto the shoulder and out hops mister condor-man, Nate. He was done with his work for the day and happened to see me on the road again 35 miles from where we met in Big Sur. "Can I give you a lift, man?". I hopped off the pedals to talk to him and my legs nearly gave way... the whole day was a climb and I abused my body more than I realized in order to rendezvous with him in Pacific Grove. The sun was setting and I was probably another ten miles from his place. "Nope, gotta turn you down -- only take rides if the bike is broken", I spoke between breaths. "Well, I mean, if you really want me to...", Nate grinned. My legs were jelly. I wouldn't normally push myself so hard... it reminded me of how I always felt after running "the 800" during track meets -- I never once ranked in that hellish race and felt like I was going to die every single time. Stupid track meets...

So anyway, he drove off and I kept truckin' through Carmel and Monterey paying careful attention not to risk a flat tire. When I finally showed up at his house, I came with a 6-pack of Corona and a couple of limes. "You made it!" -- "Of course I made it!". His apartment was the hangout spot paid for by his employer and housed three or four other good chums my age who were involved in wildlife restoration as well. Charles was a tired bumcyclist. We showed Shadowfax to his stall and Nate let me in on the evening's events. The plan was meet up with some buddies at a sports bar to witness the Gators dismantle OSU. Cool beans, I'm game. Then he told me that we'd be riding there instead of driving. I thought he was joking. He wasn't. But... but... the legs! The jelly! Deal with it, dude. You got a shower, now lace up the boots and get going -- how bad can it be? His ride is a rusty mess and you couldn't be going more than a couple blocks.

I thought his bike was going to literally start on fire. I don't know if this was his normal routine, but he pushed that thing faster than it should have physically been able to move. We moved dangerously through the dark of night and I tagged along his six as his legs whirled in a circular blur. We were weaving through metal vehicle barriers and hopping from road to bike path to sidewalk and back again. I've never been here before. It was a good five miles to the bar. If you're reading this, Nate, try to lay off the crack, man :-P Why were we biking so fast?? You nearly wrecked head-on at mach5 into another cyclist. Seriously... it was insane.

[-- Edible happiness, courtesy of Nate --]
After the game, we cycled over to a motel where a couple of his friends from out of town were staying. The four of us downed some beers and got into a lively discussion about the origin of AIDS. Surry exclaimed, "Tell me how in the world you even go about catching a monkey let alone have sex with it?!?! You can't just catch a monkey! And it's not going to sit there and let you molest it!" -- "It must've been a sick monkey. Or an old one!"

"It's customary for me to take a photograph before we part." Those dudes there go by 'Nate' and 'Sean'. That morning, I packed the AdventureCycling guide and mapped my own way 130 miles inland to Modesto.

Keep it real, my friend.

I rolled into the nearest bike shop knowing well in advance that they wouldn't have what I wanted. I don't know why more people don't know about the Road Morph pumps... they're a godsend compared to ordinary frame pumps. I tried another shop a few miles on the road ahead and they couldn't help me either. Whatever. I'm not going to buy something I don't want... it's just two days to Dad's. Exiting the second store, I took a good look at my hand-written directions and found out that I put myself on a road that was less than bicycle friendly -- it had plenty of room, but cars were flying by and there were piles of debris pushed onto the shoulder. Shadowfax did well, I must admit. That's a good horsey...

This guy is awesome. One day he got pissed off at the world while living in Boston and decided he was going to ride his bike to Seattle to "have a cup of coffee at the original Starbucks." He was my height, 250lbs, probably in his sixties, had some very severe medical conditions and was making the transition from crutches to wheelchair when he decided all this. He said everyone told him he was insane, and his son said he was "too fat, too sick and will die before he reaches Pennsylvania." When Bill made it to Seattle, he didn't want it to end. He's now been on the road for over five years.

The day wore on. The roads became more forgiving. At the apex of the Diablo Range mountain pass, I pushed the bike off the road and up a hill where nobody could see. It took quite a bit of effort to get to the top and I was extra careful not to crush a thorn bush or run over a nail. Piece o'cake! I'm now above all my surroundings and when I look from beyond the highway, I see water where I expect there to be desert. Ziggy knew. Ziggy knew that this was on the maps he photographed at Nate's.

The San Luis Reservoir as viewed from Pacheco Pass.

I knew this was going to happen. I knew it. There was no way I'd be lucky enough to escape a flat tire while my pump was out of commission. This was no surprise. I told the bike that he was the one who got us into this mess, not me. "Way to go, bicycle... way to go. If you think I'm going to fix your flat, you got another thing coming. You're damn lucky I haven't come across any camels." I shook my head at Shadowfax and went about my own business setting up camp so I could munch on some cheese and triscuits. "You sit there and think about what you've done." I swear my horse is helpless sometimes... he never gets himself out of a jam. I ignored him so he'd get the message, but it was useless... I was going to have to find a solution. Again, I struggled in vain to fix my pump. I'm probably ten miles from the nearest town... I can just walk if I have to. I wasn't about to give up on fixing the problem myself, though. I tried everything. I tried to come up with eccentric solutions... like somehow converting the bicycle to a unicycle, or filling the tire with something other than air. Then I tried blowing into the presta valve with my own lung power... which was just humorous when it was over. Maybe AAA will give me a lift? Oh. Nevermind, I'm out of cell phone range. I decided to sleep on it.

Sunrise on the San Luis Reservoir.

Morning came and I didn't really care what was about to happen. I couldn't fix the bike and didn't feel like doing something extraordinary to keep rolling, so I'd just walk to town. But where was town? Where was there even a bike shop? For some magical reason, my cell phone decided it was now in range of the towers so I jumped on the opportunity. I ended up dialing my old desk at Bristol-Myers Squibb which is now occupied by a friend of mine from RIT. "Oh man, you're SCREWED", Mark says to me over the phone. HA! Guess where the nearest bike shop was. Modesto... a good 50 miles from where I was stranded. I began preparing for the longest walk of my life simply because I felt it'd be cheating to hitchhike, but I'd soon realize that pushing my bike such a distance might cause damage to the rear wheel.

I called AAA. "I'm sorry sir, we can only service those in motorized vehicles." I knew she was going to say this to me and immediately replied, "Well my legs are like pistons and my body is really one collective motor when you think about it. I get eighty miles to the hoagie!" It was good for a laugh, but nothing more than that. What happens if I find an abandoned car on the side of the road? Can I then call AAA and get help?

To hell with it all, I'll go hitchhiking.

"Today looks like a good day to entrust my life to a stranger." A blue clunker of a pickup truck pulls over and out hops Terry. This was the guy I expected to pick me up... the old southern cowboy with a big heart. I think we had a conversation... I think. Anyway, he said a lot of words. Over the loud engine, poorly insulated windows and rattling door, I tried to deconstruct his accent and respond but opted to nod and give strategically timed laughter instead. "So, would you have picked me up if I wasn't holding up that sign?", I asked. "What sign?", he says. Oh. He didn't even notice that I had a sign, he just picks up hitchhikers and takes them places... like some sort of volunteer taxi service. "Where do you want me to drop you off?" He starts naming a couple of towns like I know where in the hell I am. I told him to take me wherever I might have a chance at buying a bike pump. "Walmart. Los Banos", he answered. My left turn onto route 33 sails by and we're now going away from Modesto. It was only a few more minutes until we hit Los Banos and the car ride didn't add or subtract any mileage, which is good, but the what killed me about the situation was that I didn't get to coast down the 1,300' I spent an hour climbing yesterday.

I've spent a lot of time in Walmart over this tour... they are not going to have a pump that will get my tires up to pressure. However, with a little luck, I can partially inflate them and get moving again. As I was locking down the bike, this middle-aged, stocky man catches a glimpse of me and hastily redirects himself towards the bike and I. Right away, all I could think was, "damn, that is one hell of a beard" -- it was a good two feet long, both black and grey but was PERFECTLY combed and each hair made a direct line towards the center of the Earth. Still looking at his beard, his eyes light up with energy and he begins spouting out a million words, telling me the right and wrong things about my bicycle setup. "Goretex socks. British military army socks. $7 for two pairs. Completely waterproof. A 2-legged kickstand. And a flickstand. You're always trying to balance the bike in sand or mud and it's a pain in the ass. I know, I've been there. With a 2-legged kickstand, you can adjust the derailleur on the fly. Pillows seats. Look in Performance Magazine. They're inflatable. Look for old bicycles from the 60's, replace your stem with a much longer one. Your hands are always sore. I know, I've been there. I've been there, man. I know what you're going through. I've seen it all, been in the military. I know, man." I stood there looking at him and hadn't even said a word yet. "Oh. Okay, that's all useful information... but I've solved all of those problems through other means." He immediately began talking again and started making point after point about how there were better ways. At one point I looked at him and said, "It's been over 6000 miles already... my setup is working just fine. I'm not a bum... I actually have the resources to do this for another two years." This guy wouldn't let it go. He kept telling me I need this, I need that, "I know, I've been there, man. I've been there." Okay, dude. I got it, you've been there. He wasn't going to leave me alone until I gave in to his recommendations. "Those things would've been great to know when I started", I said... which was bull. My seat is comfortable, my hands aren't ever sore, I can adjust my derailleurs with ease and if it rains, I put plastic bags around my socks. It was just a weird encounter out of nowhere...

Anyway, Walmart thankfully had a pump that would fit presta valves. It was a royal pain in the ass to even get the tire up to half pressure, but it was enough so I could ride without damaging the rim.

This is what happens when force a shitty frame pump to high pressures and your hand accidentally slips from the handle.

And so it was. With a partially flat rear tire, I rode the remaining 50 miles through farm country and made it to Modesto like nothing had happened. During the ride, I began to realize that a broken pump or a faulty bearing were only two of an infinite amount of problems that I could not think to prepare for. There's no way you can prepare for everything. You can sit down and rack your brain all you want. You can read every journal on the web and research bicycle repair 'til your eyes bleed, but on the road, anything can happen... and your best tool to pack is a positive attitude. Shit's going to happen and if you learn to smile at the challenge, there's not a problem you can't solve. I didn't actually believe I'd make it to Modesto on a flat tire. I pictured an earthquake swallowing me in a fissure as I rode... or a dinosaur coming out from behind a barn and eating my bike. "Bring it. Go ahead, take your best shot. I'll saddle a cow if I have to... I'll ride a fuckin' big-wheel all the way to Portland. You're not going to stop me." There comes a point where either you're going to do it or you're not... and it has nothing to do with how prepared, experienced, or skilled you are. You just have to want it.

So, I'm here. The journal is now up to date. I've been hanging out with Dad and Amy with intentions to resume the adventure on the 23rd or 24th. The plan is to move westward, spend time in San Francisco and then pickup the coastal adventure on route 1. But who really knows what will happen. Maybe by some miracle of chance, I'll find Jose and Maria for a third time. There's no destination anymore... I'm game for anything.

An email from Lucas
Hi y'all, As you might already know, I am leaving Gringo-Land on the 16th of January. My adventures are taking me to Antigua Guatemala, a spledid colonial city, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Between other things, I will work as a guide for If I am sending you this e-mail today, it is because I am missing you. It's also because somewhere on the road, during this trip or a previous one, you have been helpful, playful, or just there for me! So now that I will be staying somewhere for a while, it's my turn to send the invitation! If you have some time free in the next 6 months, maybe a few dollars to spend, you will be MORE than welcome to visit me in Guatemala, to hike some mountains, get lost in the jungle or simply eat ridiculous amounts of fruits and enjoy life. So this is it. The end of the bike trip, but the beginning of a back-packing experience in Latino-America. My bike is sold, my pack is packed and my head is clear... Guatemala here I come! Thank you again for you support, help and lovin' love! See you in the mountains, Lucas G

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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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