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Reflections and Cavernous Madness May 1st of the second year

"It can't ever be too fucking easy, CAN IT?!?!" I've wrecked and am laying on a slippery, muddy bank with my head at the bottom and my feet still clipped into the bike above me. I'm stuck, and it's raining on my face. "Unbelievable! UNFUCKINGBELIEVABLE!!" Shadowfax lays in the mud with his front wheel still spinning in circles, "Man, what the fuck is wrong with you!?!? What the HELL was that all about?!?! Do you realize how close we were?? Do you see the fucking sign?!?! FIFTY-FIVE MILES! That's it! Fifty-five miles left and your stupid ass blows up on some god damn tracks! TRAIN TRACKS!! AAAAAHHHHHH!!!"

I reach up with my hands and twist my shoes to release them from the pedals, which immediately causes me to slide a little further into the ditch. Looking around, sick, dark and soaked trees line the road. Behind me are the bastardly train tracks that assassinated my bike. Naturally, I'm covered in mud. The bike, now dead on the ground, is also covered in mud. I take a look over my shoulder and wouldn't you know, there's the diner I just left. There's the diner I just left before the bitter-sweet realization that the tour is ending. I don't know if I'm frustrated or entertained by this, so I just sort of stand there stupified by the scene. I look at my bike, look at myself, and look at the diner. "Unbelievable..." The rain and cold are just icing on the cake.
"There's no good place to rip apart my rear wheel, so I'm going to walk it up the road 'til I find one. I'm not even sure what happened. The train tracks are diagonal to the road and even though the front wheel got across just fine, I guess the rear one fell in and my spontaneous freak-out managed to pop it back out. In any case, I threw the handlebars to the side to keep from wrecking, swerved, fell off the road, almost fell off the bike, went through the mud, slid sideways in the mud, still was able to regain my composure, took another revolution and BOOM, shit blew up and down I went. I have no idea how it exploded or what I ran over... or even if my tire is shredded or not, I haven't gotten a good look at it yet."

Leaning down, I grab my horse by the bit and pull him to his feet. Here isn't the greatest place in the world to repair my a blowout, so it's time to walk. And I won't lie, I hate walking the bicycle. I can see myself, defeated by the road, walking with my head down in shame. It's a scene of despair and I feel like the trees are laughing at me. To a passerby, I'm some murky shmuck in a poncho moping around half-dead in the rain at 7am. He's the eyesore of the neighborhood, the kind of person who's fallen out of anyone's knowledge and too lost in his own world to care. Well, I never make it that far -- I can't even walk the bike. For some reason, the back wheel isn't turning. Upon further inspection, it seems the inner-tube tried to make a break for it and got mangled in the machine before finding freedom. It's bound the wheel in place and now I have to carry my ride.

"Great... that's just great."

So with the bike and all its gear now on my shoulder, I'm carrying this tank through the wind and rain. What slim light is out does little to help -- the cold stings my face all the same, but I'm still too tired care. "I can't believe this shit... on the last day, on railroad tracks. I've gone over a billion railroad tracks without a problem. Why did I blow up on those?" One foot in front of the other, Chuck. The weight of the bicycle is digging into my shoulder as I walk, but I'm not really concerned at the moment. I'm still wondering what's in store for me on the road ahead if this is only 7am. "I'm going to get to Portland and my bike's going to be on fire, and I'm going to be on fire, and I'm going to be running around like a maniac before I stop, drop and roll. Seriously, this is ridiculous. I should be sleeping right now."

See that thing caught in the brakes, spokes and hub?


Walking into the parking lot of some industrial milling company, I set the bike on the ground and flip the kickstand down. The rain turns to an annoying mist as I stand there and marvel at the rubber labyrinth entangling my rear wheel. "And to think you waited five months to pull this one out." Shadowfax never says much in response. "So let's see what we have here." I kneel down to get a closer look. "Ah. Yes. Mmhmm. I see. Well, Mr. Fax, I'm afraid you have a ruptured tube. Not only is it ruptured, but it's made quite a mess of your wheel. Have you been experiencing any kind of immobility? Perhaps, like you're dragging an anchor?" The bike only gives a sad nod, already knowing where I'm going with the thought. "Ah, I figured as much. Well, we can't have you laying around all day, you're going to have to go into surgery." Ten minutes later, the horse is prepped and put under for the procedure. I grab the scissors from my swiss army knife and the surgery is underway. "I will now make my primary incision just below the rear presta valve..."

An hour later, Shadowfax is as strong as ever and ready to roll. He's beaming with health, but I suspect it's largely psychological -- the operation had a few, how should I say, "curious happenings". The drained rider and surgeon is a little out of whack, but in good spirits nevertheless. Before riding into the wet overcast, he leaves his final remarks.
"So I'm on my last tube, completely expecting everything, EVERYTHING to go wrong. I put it back together in the rain, pumped it up and in four different spots, I saw water bubbles coming through the tire, which would normally indicate that the tube has a hole in it, or four holes in it, and for all I know, it MIGHT! There was a lot of dirt, and a lot of mud, and who knows what kind of debris is inside that tire! I've got fifty-five miles to Portland. I don't know if I'll actually be lucky enough to make it there, and a part of me kind of hopes that I don't. A part of me hopes that shit goes terribly wrong and I switch to my walking shoes, so that when I show up there around midnight or 3am, I'll look like I have died! That'll be a fitting end to this journey! A very, very long day, that began at 5:30am in a high school dugout! ON PRESIDENT'S DAY! [I'm just realizing this as I speak] Oh my god it's a holiday!! And I left as early as I could not realizing that there's no school today... HAHAHAAA!! I love it!!"

The party just never stops.


Personal frustration turns to pure entertainment and I've cracked. "No way did I, and you, haha! HAhAhaHA!! Everything was 'was'!
WAS the journey,
WAS the tour,
WAS the life and WHAM!
IS the MUD!!! hAHaHahA!!#$!@#"

Swirling and scribbling with a large purple crayon, the pages of this story are being written with blissfully confused color. I'm out of the lines, off the page and mashing wax into the table like a rainbow-flavored meteor ripping into Candyland. Oh, I've most certainly cracked. And this is what happens when you read life as you write it; today's misfortunes are lived through tomorrow's eyes and it's far more amusing in such present hindsight. Solitude becomes a one-man comedy act with a captive audience and material or not, you've got to perform.

And it's true, I've become damn good at it. Nowadays, food can be damn amusing and sleep is a grand voyage. I haven't felt an ounce of boredom for months despite having nothing to do but pedal and think. Countless times have I woken up in the middle of the night only to happily lay there getting lost 'til the sun came up. On one particular night in Texas, I began to sew. Twenty feet underground, in a drainage tunnel below a barren desert highway, I sewed up holes in my jeans. My shelter was a circular tube of corrugated metal just big enough for my tent and when the occasional semi passed overhead, my world trembled like shock waves through a rigid slinky. But again, I sewed. With a miner's light strapped to my head, I broke the black empty of my subterranean cave and practiced a cross-stitch with needle and thread. It wasn't until I reached for the hunting knife to trim my patch job did I realize how absurd this reality had become. "Is this really happening?" I sat in the black, eyes wide open, in a tunnel with my bicycle. Not a soul could possibly know where I was. I doubt very much that any of those truckers suspected that some furry troll lived underneath their desert route, awake at three in the morning, sewing. Hell, I could hardly believe it. My own laughter echoed throughout the tunnel and poured into the desert landscape like a river of cavernous madness. But again, I sewed.

Back on board, the bike shakes muddy water all over the place like a wet dog. It's created a pleasant work of abstract art on my shirt and face. "Not bad, not bad at all, Mr. Fax. I think we might be onto something here." Oh yes, we've started a new fad. Ripped jeans, eat your heart out, the future is mud! These days it's all about wearing your surroundings and wearing them in style. "Is that grease on your leg or a racing stripe?" Oh that? That's fashion, my friend, and it expresses plenty. It says, "I don't give a fuck, I didn't want to sit on your couch anyway." And don't worry about taking your shoes off in my home-on-wheels, I wouldn't want you tracking cleanliness all over the place. Man, I tell ya, this is just one more liberation I didn't see coming. You can go ahead and add "cleaning" to the list of annoying things we have to do in life -- put it somewhere between "Greeting cards" and "Laundry". We're going all-natural here. It doesn't matter what I've known, who I'm with or where I'm going, when I look into that mirror, I want to see a seasoned man staring back at me.

And that's what happened. With blackened and sometimes bloodied hands, hair in his eyes, a rugged, dirty face, sun-inscribed tattoos and one massive beard, it took a long while before I saw that man as myself. The two of us got into arguments every time we met, but in the end, the beard stayed. Despite how I looked, I felt great. And it's not that I didn't care how I looked, it's just that I didn't notice. Without anyone or anything telling me how I should look, feel or behave, "normal" became whatever I was used to. My "normal" was sometimes so introverted that I was too caught up in my own world to even notice his. While he lived a forward reality through a first-person perspective, I wandered in all directions, sometimes just watching him at a distance. I could see him in the eyes of those we met. I listened to his words and took note of his mannerisms. He seemed to execute his own programming. "Why?" became a common question. "Why have we come here? Why did we say that?"

The two of us changed as the tour wore on, sometimes with positive intent, other times at the mercy of circumstance, and the trip quickly evolved from a long bike ride to a means of discovering personal truths. I guess this is what's bound to happen. With so much time apart from our steadily streaming reality, all we've ever known, a designed system of order supplying the corresponding answers to its own manufactured questions, I raised the whole lot of it to the ground. Truth is forged from within, not bestowed upon us by another. Piece by piece, it took time to understand let alone tear down and reconstruct. And you need this time, the time to escape influence. It's the time needed to be born anew, to shed this notion of destination and simply live to live instead of achieve. Alone in the woods, alone in the desert, alone on the beach, alone in endless fields of golden grass, my company was the earth and its elements. Subjective memories became objective and the stories we lived turned into the stories he lived. There were lifetimes laid out solely for reflection. In this world where free time is a scarce commodity, consumed by duty or distraction, rare is five minutes for reflection, oftentimes unwanted or even uneasing. Through it all, whether age 23 or 59, we're constantly being told what we should be doing and who we ought to be. Instruction is the cure for cognition, a mild death of mind, and if the code runs dry, amusement is abound. I don't mean to be cynical, my point is merely that if we don't forge truth and meaning for ourselves, some motivated else will.

So who have I become? I don't really know -- no definition, no matter how broad, ever feels right. Right now, I'm me, and while this is most reassuring, come tomorrow I haven't a clue who that'll be. I'm pretty sure most folk have assumed that I'm either a crazy guy on a bike or a homeless man, maybe a combination thereof. I remember walking the streets of San Francisco one night and as I strolled by a table of friends and their drinks, one woman looked up and shouted, "HEYYYY!! LOOK!! A HIPPPIEEE!!". I turned and smiled at her for a brief moment before continuing on my way. "Is that who I am? A hippie?" Maybe I have the look and some of the ideals, but I don't think I'm doing nearly enough drugs to fit the stereotype. Does aspirin count? Well whatever, in any case, I'm definitely not who I used to be -- people used to mistake me for military prior to this trek. It's just a trip being a different kind of me, I guess. If I can, I want the trips to keep coming. I want to hop from one version of me to the next in an indefinite vacation from the comfortably numb and content day-in-day-out lifestyle. The more I find myself saying, "Well, I certainly didn't see this coming", the better. And it doesn't have to be some kind of physically-demanding adventure or the path less traveled, it just has to be something different. I just want to see who I'm capable of being and I want to see the world through many sets of eyes. Call it an eighty-year sabbatical from "the real world" where I'm always trying on new selves that I'm initially hesitant about. I mean, why not? Nobody says you have to order an entree in the restaurant of life, you'll only be here once! Order the sampler, try as many as you can before you're full; odds are one the items on this menu does more for you than you ever thought. And if I'm wrong, tell the waiter that his menu sucks, throw the cook aside and invent your own masterpiece. Just pour 'em all in, all your favorite ingredients. With enough imagination, any combination will work -- there are no recipes for the paths still awaiting discovery.






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A New Earth

Written by Eckhart Tulle


2008
Transcending our ego-based state of consciousness is not only essential to personal happiness, but also the key to ending conflict and suffering throughout the world.




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