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Nature's private Balcony to the World January 11th of the second year

Ah... I've found peace. The road from Abigail's back to the coast was most welcoming... I love riding through the countryside.



The simple life.



Hello rolling hills. Hello little green veggies. How have you been? Seen more sun than clouds lately? What's new underneath the soil? Oh, me? The places I've been... I can't begin to describe.


I left the farm on a Friday and the two full days of solitude meant that I was talking to the plants and discussing politics with the cattle. It's either I talk to them or I talk to my voice recorder... though sometimes I do both at the same time. When I run out of things to say, I just start making up stories about "how it all came to be". It's half yelling, half mumbling, half ridiculous, half humorous and nine parts insane. Sprinkle a song here and there. Usually I'll be doing some sort of dance while riding, close the eyes and whirl my head around like Ray Charles. Oh man... if I had a nickel for every time I've almost wrecked because of this... well... I'd probably buy a pizza. One of these nights I was having a hard time finding a place to pitch the tent but then located a point off the road where the land went down into a valley and the barbed fencing simultaneously receded inwards. Perfect! I'm not on anyone's property, nobody can see me and no [large] animal can bother me. As such, I slept well. That is until Betsy the bovine stuck her head over the fence and scared the shit out of me with the world's loudest moo. I think the "AHHH!" was coming out of my mouth before I could even come back into consciousness. "Oh. It's a cow on the other side of the fence... ha." She gave another piercing moo. "Alright alright! I'm up! Jesus Christ... put a lid on it!"

[-- Cows in paradise --]
This is probably the 500th photograph I've taken of cows and I've become pretty good at getting them to look at the camera. The secret is to alter the tone of your moo. Give a standard moo then follow up with an inquisitive mooOOO? If they're still not all looking, it's time for the oh-shit-here-comes-the-tractor moo. There are other various tactics, of course, but these are just the fundamentals.


It's now Sunday morning and after meeting Harry, who invited me to stay at his place in San Francisco whenever I got there, I left the breakfast buffet and the adventure continued. "Are those people or road construction barrels?" Many times I've mistaken inanimate objects in the distance for other cyclists, but not this time. I rolled up to find a cyclist and a hitcher still in the initial stages of a new dialog as they had just met each other moments before I arrived. "You having some kind of powwow without me?", as I came to a complete stop. "HEY MAN! What's up?!?! I'm Raven" and he extends his right hand to me. Raven (I seriously doubt this was his real name) walked the line. No, he definitely broke the line. His bike was a mess... heavily improvised with masking tape and wobbly stroller wheels to keep the trailer from dragging. Hey, but who gives a damn... he had the spirit of adventure in him and his soul was overflowing with life. The other dude, who looked to be my age, was hauling a huge backpack covered in a blue tarp... his name was Gino. He had been walking on good days and hitching the others ever since he left his home in Milwaukee a few months prior. Raven was going up the coast and Gino seemed to be going wherever his feet took him. Realizing they had both been on route 1 for a long time, I asked if they had seen a Spanish couple riding along on touring bikes. Since I killed so much time in libraries recently, I thought maybe Jose and Maria may have passed them. Gino thought maybe he saw some people on bikes, so I began to describe what they looked like.

Not a second after I told them about Jose's florescent hat, Raven and Gino both looked far behind me and when I turned around, there they were. "Oh no way. No way. Holy shit, that's them! Those are the damn Spanish people!!!" I left the bike and took off on foot to meet them. "JOSE!!! MARIA!!!! WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!!!! The craziest shit happened after you left... err... after I left." I began to explain what had happened and all the events that had transpired but there was so many thing to say and I was so excited about it that they just sort of looked at me and smiled when I stopped to catch my breath. Oh right... the whole language thing. Woops, oh well... the gist of it was that shit was crazy and I went on an unexpected adventure. We walked back up the road to Raven and Gino. "So man, what happened to you two? I waited forever hoping you had a pump I could use but you never showed up." It was a shortcut. Jose and Maria had stopped to cook and then were offered a ride through a more scenic area and since it was raining, they happily agreed. Offered a ride?! Oh come on! You're biking!! But then again, they're not in it for the accomplishment... they're in it to travel. Still, what it came down to was that while I waited in the rain on the side of the road with a flat, they were off cruising around in a van!

[-- Zee wowpow --]
Maria, Jose, a couple they met cycling along route 1, Gino and Raven.



And right down the road, our convoy of six bicyclists came upon a beach crowded with elephant seals. I took a video of a seal throwing sand around and of another doing a little singing. This particular photo was taken during one of their concerts.


Oh those crazy seals... those crazy, crazy seals. Jose saw one give birth while we were there. "There was one seal then five seconds later, there were two seals! Head, body, plop! And it started crawling around!" A bummer I didn't have the camera handy for that one... but I got my reign as cow-king on film many moons ago, so it's all good. Anyhoo, the two folks on the tandem bike began heading south while Jose, Maria, Raven and I pushed onward. Bike along, hit the brakes, stare at clouds, stop to look around, get back on the bike and catch up to them, hit the brakes, stop, look around some more... take photographs. Nothing had changed, they were still slow. They were slow, but worse, Raven was as swift as an Egyptian pyramid. Why he was wearing a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt underneath a blue jumpsuit was beyond me... it was 70 degrees outside. When Jose and Maria started to pull away and out of sight, I stopped playing caboose and wished him well.

A lot of people who have been on route 1 tell me that it's all cliffs and rocky shores for its whole length and that if I'm not careful, I could fall to my doom at any moment. There are definitely spots like that, but I'd have to be traveling too fast to stop myself... for instance, if I were in a car. For the majority, PCH is right on the "edge of the world" and the waves unrelentingly crash into and shape the shoreline the entire way. I don't know how there are so many beautiful rock formations along the way... it makes the Atlantic coastline look exactly like what it is... part of New Jersey. Ha! I kidd, I kidd... I love NJ... for the pizza. No, but for real, shit was cool. The first time I saw a wave slam into a rock and explode in a spectacle of mist and water like a soggy firework, I dove for the camera. Then I cycled a mile down the road and saw the same thing happening... again... and again... and again -- each time it was more impressive, too. I never really got used to it and would frequently catch these eruptions of skyward water from my peripherals as we climbed up and down the mountainside.

The 64-box of Crayola crayons returns to my world.



A picture is worth a thousand words... and a picture from exactly the right angle is worth...?
A cookie?



F the caboose, I want to be the engine. Here come Jose and Maria.



Oh look, another ocean. How did we get here? You rode your bike, smartass. My bike... across America! Oh shutup, man. Hey! I'll showboat this ordeal all I want... don't rain on my parade, you... you... weird internal self-person!




Night came. Tonight was the setting of a most unprecedented camp site. Along a long stretch of road that moved in all dimensions along the coast, laid an alluring patch of rare forest towards the ocean. As I walked the path into the wood, there was a small drop-off that took some careful maneuvering and just some yards further, a magnificent cliff falling into blue. You could see everything. Wave on rock, the setting sun and every bit of land that receded from and jut into the sea. Nature had offered up two locations where we could pitch our tents and tailered a small grove just large enough for three people to sit comfortably and gaze through a clearing into the great beyond. It was the perfect spot. It was stunning. Surreal. A dream. Immediately I was lost... this was an environment that spoke to me on levels I could not previously conceive. We had found it. We had found it... nature's private balcony to the world.

We've just discovered utopia. The balcony is just beyond where Jose is standing and ten feet to the right. When I look at this photograph, it makes more sense to conceptualize its source as a dream of mine instead of reality. Scenes like this will be better understood during my old age as a place I once traveled in my mind.



A window.



From the balcony.


Jose and Maria went right to it -- the burner, cookware, a medley of food in small packages and plenty of spice. Garlic swam freely in the air as we watched the sun sink and finally drown. All I had on me was a loaf of bread, but I knew it'd be my ticket. "It's a kind of curry", she replied to my query. "Curry? Alright! What kind of curry?" Jose answered, "Pacific-Highway-One style curry. It's always different." It was an evolving curry... a little of this, a little of that... whatever they had handy when night fell. As I've learned over the years living with Mom, anything with garlic is going to be good... and this highway one blend was no exception. In the company of new friends turned missing friends and now reunited friends, the fiesta came and went as the last remaining light gave way to a dark shade of blue.

Easy with the ring, Frodo.



There you go. That's a good hobbit.


I asked a handful of questions about their travels; open-ended questions, questions that made you recall experiences and evaluate them for meaning. They had a lot to say and it had nothing to do with the physical act of cycling. Sentences were carefully made and a long pause to search for the right word was commonplace. As they spoke to me, they would sporadically turn to one another, have a quick exchange in Spanish and then resume the tale with the fitting English word. Even through their translated thoughts, their insights were easy to appreciate -- it's a shame I couldn't receive it in their own language. As the night wore on, the verbal pauses increased in length to eventually cease to resume. We were being pulled into the serenity of crashing waves a mile below and the cosmic beacons which blanketed the sky in a chorus of ancient light.

Eventually our voices fell silent and though we were sitting there on the edge of a cliff, I was as far away as possible. Jose and Maria called it a night and made way towards the tent, but I dared not move. I lost myself. I lost myself to the stars and in my mind, every memory and moment that brought me closer to the world was relived. It was all a dream. Everything was a dream... there is no history, no chain of events and certainly no time. I am but me and it has always been the now. My body became weightless and my eyes wandered in galaxies above. To the left and right of our balcony were tall pines engulfed in the blackness of night; more beautiful than any sense could perceive. They were the dark, dimensionless foreground to a deep, encompassing blue. I followed one of these trees skyward and examined its flat, black portrait. It was close to me. It had life. I could sense its spirit, its very essence... the same essence to which I belong... to which all things belong. As my eyes traced this pine to its top, it thinned and thinned until its apex and then beyond, its energy exploded and gave way to the heavens.

The ocean was a sheet of blue with a ring of ivory where the water crashed into foam. A pier of white broke far into the water and out to a rock ripping a hole into the sea. It was all so clear... both in visual relevancy and spiritual understanding. I was in awe. I felt I was at the end of my life... like I had unknowingly died and become one with all that ever was. There were no questions, no feelings of anxiety or even the self. I don't know how to put it into words and to those who have never experienced such a release, this depiction may seem heavily inflated but I assure it is not. This journey of solitude is a gift. Everything was right. I could have stayed there forever... in the dream I expected to awake from at any moment but never did. That night, the tide put me to sleep.

Not enough starlight for Ziggy... but trust me, they were there.


Morning came and the usually routine was underway. Pack it up, check your tires and hit the road. My rear tire was a little squishy, so I busted out the pump. The fact that I'm even mentioning this is evidence that my repairs back on the farm were fruitless -- the pump was still not pumping. Oh. Great. I used Jose's pump to get my tires back up to pressure and we all hit the road. I told them I was going to cycle ahead and find the library in Big Sur so I could locate a bike shop, which is true, but moreover I just didn't feel like moving at their pace. Biking through Big Sur was incredible, but also horribly difficult -- there wasn't a flat strip of land for forty miles. Thankfully the scenery was more powerful than the hills. The route this day took some twists and turns both along the coast and into dense woods and the morning air would change from Summer to Fall as I moved from the cliffs to the trees. I kept rolling up my sleeves and then hastily pulling them down. I think these patches of very warm and very cold air were directly related to the geography of the coastline... or something. The forests kept tunneling and turning and when I'd come to the exit, it felt like I was traveling onto another planet. I could see mist coating shorelines through these airy doors into light.



Meet Yuseff.


Only a couple of miles from the library, I stopped at a vista point to catch a breather and check out some seals. Right away, I got into a conversation with this dude who was using a telescope and binoculars to spy on the wildlife below. His name was Nate and we talked for a good hour about the tour and his efforts to help restore condor populations. Especially after talking to Yuseff, I fully expected to see Jose and Maria come up from behind, but they were nowhere to be seen. "Here we go again...", I thought to myself. Anyway, Nate and I were buddies from the get-go and he invited me over to his apartment if I could make it to Pacific Grove that evening. "How far is that and what time is it?", I asked. I was already crushed thanks to the endless climbs through Big Sur and it was another 40 miles to his pad. Forty miles in four hours up and down the coastline after already putting in forty grueling miles? I said I'd try and make it there but it was a tad unrealistic. On top of that, I would have had to ditch Jose and Maria. Well, in any case, he gave me a bag of almonds and away I went.

I love this photograph.
The arch in the background is the Bixby bridge featured in all those ritzy car commercials.


The rest left me with more energy than I thought I had in me. When I reached the library, I said to hell with the bike shops and restaurants -- I can make it to Pacific Grove and buy a pump there. Inevitably, I was going to leave Jose and Maria in the dust yet again. I left a note on the side of the road that they couldn't have missed and made my way north. Just a minute later, a lady came up on her bicycle behind me and exclaimed, "I think you have a flat!" I have a flat? I looked down at my tires and they looked fine. I looked at her and her front tire was almost entirely out of air. "Oh", said Heather. She heard air leaking from her tire and thought it was mine... nope. She didn't have a pump on her and after I spent a frustrating half hour on the side of the road trying to fix my pump, I couldn't help her. She was stranded... something I'd be if I got a flat before reaching Nate's place. Fan-freakin-tastic.

I'm now biking without food, without water and a broken pump. Who knows how Jose and Maria were traveling so slow. Would he ever meet them again? Will he make it to Pacific Grove? STAY TUNED!

-Charlie



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