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It's kind of entertaining, really. When I'm coming down out of the mountains, I can turn my head sideways and the beard will whistle. You can feel the drag; it pulls my chin down and I just laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Who knew I'd ever find myself in this moment? A month before I graduated college, I wrote down a list of "possibilities" as to where I'd be in a year from that day. Believe it or not, nowhere on this lengthy list was there anything about mountaintop, musical muttonchops :-)

A Ziggy eye's view of hills from Tesla Road.


How does one get from Modesto to San Francisco via bicycle you ask? Simple, take all the back roads. Just map your way westward on the little dinky streets and cross your fingers that there are easy ways over the mountain range without having to go days out of the way. Well, I didn't feel like pedaling needlessly in the wrong direction, so I hopped on the freeway for four miles just to stay on course.

"Where's that loud speaker coming from?", I asked myself. I was off in the woods setting up camp nearly a hundred yards off the road and I heard this distorted voice on an intercom. I emerged from the forest to get a look at the road and wouldn't you know it, it's a police cruiser pulled to the side of the road trying to get my attention. I couldn't tell what he was saying, so I just waved. I waved the kind of wave like I was meeting an old friend in an airport terminal, elated to be reunited once again. He kept saying the same thing over the intercom. I kept waving as if to say, "Hi! I'm over here! I see you too!" After he repeated it for a fourth time, I finally heard "STAY OFF THE FREEWAY WITH YOUR BICYCLE!". Stay off the freeway? I'm not on the freeway! I didn't say that, not that he would have heard me anyway, so I just gave him a salute and the thumbs-up. "STAY OFF THE FREEWAY, OKAY?!" I gave another thumbs-up and returned to my den. He must've saw me walking away from the road because there was no way he could see me once I was setting up camp. He drove away. There wasn't anywhere I could have gone beside back onto the freeway until my exit came up -- everywhere else I might turn was barbed wire. Where did he think I was going to go?

Right over this hill was bunch of lost quail running around in the middle of the road. Immediately I thought, "FOOD!" and remembered the sight of Lucas and his slingshot back at the Outer Banks. He never did catch us any dinner with that thing...


"FUCK NIXON! FUCK VIETNAM!!!" My dialog with this old-time hippie in front of Safeway went from mild to intense with a couple pumps of his fists into the air. People just talk to me like I'm some sort of conversation genie and the topic is always of great meaning. It was your typical back-in-my-day talk. "Kids these days are living without meaning. They don't question anything. In the 60s and the 70s, we had passions, you know? We were united and had a common cause. We were conscious of what was going on around us." Listening to him, I started to wonder if I was one of these youths he's referencing. Then, he played the media card. He said that kids these days are caught up in the media and commercialism and it's gotten to such a point that they are simply the products of marketing with no meaningful direction. HE said this, not me. I felt like I was suddenly talking to a mirror image of myself. How does this keep happening? I'm getting in too many coincidental encounters on this tour -- like I've exceeded my fair share of serendipity.

As conversation genie, I granted an hour or so to this exchange of ideas. He kept citing examples of kids he knew who were just living day-to-day with no plans or dreams. "They spend all their money tricking out their cars and riding around with their stereos as loud as possible to sort of prove themselves." In some ways, he was right, but he was so into the "generation bashing" that he would only focus on the negatives. Every generation has negatives and every generation has positives. Whether we're improving as a whole or deteriorating each year is a debate with no end. After a while it became apparent that he was just generally upset with things in his own life. "People used to get into conversations. You'd take a walk down the road and get into a conversation just for the sake of talking. It's the age of communication but nobody is communicating!" I think there are truths to this and I value the input of others, but oftentimes I find myself wondering why people so frequently bash society and rarely make efforts to help remedy the problems.

I don't actually believe that it's any fault of their own. It's not as though each generation is so genetically different that their priorities are polarized. It's their influences. It's observations, it's media, it's your upbringing, experiences, parents, education, fear or religion -- they all shape your character and will put you on a path collectively deemed to be "right". This is true for all people. The tour, this journal, my aspirations and ideals are all a product of these elements in combination with my natural self. What has put me here? Why am I acting like this? What are my motivations? It's a psychiatric examination to understand one's self. Part of the events that have led me here right now come from tragedy. Part of this reality I'm living is due to the inspiration of others. What has caused me to value frugality? The answer is coming to understand that people change and if you're not financially savvy, you might not be able to grow in new directions when the time comes. I observed people that were close to me. Every event has its own causes. Now, it's not easy to come and recognize exactly why you're behaving as you are. It takes time; time alone without distraction. It takes an objective perspective. Maybe your path has no mysteries, maybe it's obvious you are as you are. Simple or not, it's important to just take the time to question your motives. "Why am I doing this, who has influenced me and where does this path actually lead?" Question yourself. Question your motives and aim for further clarity in your priorities.

Many of us are discretely taught to value order; that you can become better than others based on certain criteria. Perhaps it's lifestyle -- who seems more comfortable in their own lives? Who is the most traveled? How much money did you make on your investment property last year? Who drives the fancier car, who has the most impressive collection of digital photographs? Who is perceivably happier? Much of this is fruitless. What does it matter? Why are you playing this game? If you'd ask me, the most important questions used to order are 'who is making a difference in the lives of others?'... 'who is trying to improve our world?'. Not long before I left my job and took off on bicycle did I find myself reading a collection of ethical wills on this site. If you have the time, read a couple -- they'll open your eyes. An ethical will is similar to a last will and testament in that it's read upon your death. Instead of instructions to be carried out, though, the ethical will is written to express your own values. It's written to try and pass on the most crucial of lessons and beliefs. Oftentimes it is written by someone who is terminally ill. In coming to accept one's own death, the authors of these ethical wills have quite simply peered through all the superficial, everyday waste to shed light upon what is truly important in life.

One bus ride, two bus tickets and a fee of exactly $0.00.


Enough of that. I need to start taking asides or interludes to the narration of the actual adventure for those kinds of topics... hrm... perhaps in time. I'll give you one guess as to what I was doing this particular day. Yes! Exactly! I was riding my bike... and this time it was through downtown Oakland. I knew weeks in advance that the Bay Bridge was closed to pedestrians, but for some reason I kind of just ignored the problem and figured it would fix itself when the time came. Well, eventually I came to the edge of the bay and up to the toll booths upon the bridge into San Francisco. "Uh, okay... now what, Chuck?" Hitchhike the bridge! Of course! Not even a minute after I stuck my thumb out did a police officer on motorcycle pull up behind me. Oh. Hello there. Now, I've been pulled over in car more times than I'd like to admit and I've found that if you initiate the conversation first, things tend to go your way. I parked the bike and walked over to him, "So, I'm finding out the hard way that I can't get into San Francisco on my bicycle." You know how this goes. He asks what I'm doing, where I'm coming from and all of a sudden we're pals. Too bad he didn't have a car... I bet he would have taken me across. In any case, he pointed me in the direction of the bus stop and away I went. I waited in the rain by myself for this damn bus. Here it comes! Here it is! There it goes! About twenty buses passed me at the bus stop before one of them picked me up an hour later. Man, like everything else, this is a story in itself. I was the only one on the bus and the young guy driving it felt like talking politics, printing off multiple tickets as momentos and taking me across the bridge without charge. Life is bizarre when you're touring alone... I almost expected it to be free.

"And what?" She repeated herself. "And what...?" I asked again. Again she repeated herself. "What's the last word you're saying??" I couldn't tell what she was saying and finally she just pointed to the menu. "Oh! Spaghetti! Ha, no thanks, I'll have the rice." I walked the streets of Chinatown for most of the day after stashing Shadowfax in a hostel. I walked and walked... and I walked. I walked until the sun dipped from the sky and the soles of my feet turned red. I hiked up and down the hills of San Francisco and spent a good while wondering how the trollies were able to stay on the tracks on such an incline while it was raining. Then I saw a large green sign with white lettering -- Lefty O'Doul's. Irish pub?? Yes! Irish pub and piano bar! Chuck did the walking, I did the talking and low and behold, we made another friend. Cindy charged me for only 2 of my 5 drinks and randomly decided to give me a bowl of clam chowder. Lovely. I requested "Piano Man" from the dude rocking on the piano but was pretty dismayed at his powerfully "gay" rendition of a classic song. At the edge of a bar, a young, English couple was conversing with a middle-aged pair of friends. "You can go through elementary school, middle school, high school, get a bachelors degree, masters degree or a PHD and enter the work force with absolutely no knowledge of what the world actually is. You can go around with this supreme education but still be living in this box for your entire life!" She expressed great distaste for the short-sightedness of typical educational programs and was taking it into her own hands as she was nearing the end of an extended trip living in different places around the globe.

I expected rain. I got rain. I'm somewhere in San Francisco.



Obviously, this is the Canadian part of downtown.


Fairly boozed up, we walked the streets at a nice, leisurely and reflective pace. Chinatown was a never-ending display of Christmas lights and blinking neon signs. I walked slowly. I looked in ever window along the sidewalk. Through one window stood a man in a white shirt and blue jeans. He wore a baseball cap and walked along with me. A man appeared in the next window. He wore a baseball cap and a backpack... and this man walked in stride with me as well. When a bearded man wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans appeared in the third window, it came to me. "That was a memory I just made that I'll never make again... the image of this man in the shop window walking stride for stride with me. It's him. It's that guy on that website. It's the guy who rides a bike and writes stories." I was apart from myself. "That guy in the window... he's living a story right now! I can see it. I can see his thoughts and the pages being written at this very moment. This is part of the story... this is the next chapter." I don't feel like I'm living it anymore. Looking at my own reflection among the lights of San Francisco, I did not see myself. I saw him. I'm no longer the main character -- someone else is in it. It's strange to ponder.

The trip is coming to an end and I've begun to contemplate my options on the road ahead. In doing such, I'm growing apart from the now; I'm growing apart from my reality and prematurely living the days ahead before squaring away the present. "No. Charlie! Wait. WAIT! Come back! We still need you here!" I crossed over the trolley tracks in a moment that seemed to move in slow motion and looked down upon his two feet shuffling along. The sensory input was etched in stone upon my memory. San Francisco. The trolley tracks. You're walking around San Francisco. You've never been here before. You rode your bike here. It's not over, there is much to explore. There is much to learn and discover inside and outside your own self. Don't leave me now. Don't go back to that place. Stay in the present. This is not a hiatus from "normal" -- you have changed for the better. Stay centered. Stay here. We didn't work this hard to call it a temporary escape from the ordinary. Yes, the tour will end, but you do not have to. Continue to challenge, continue to pursue, question assumptions and expand your world. Aim not for comfort but to challenge yourself and do great things. There is no value in ordinary for you.

I began to realize that the man in the window was a man I'd never see again. Just as the engineer, soccer nut, webmaster, fraternity guy and programmer have all lived and died, the crazy guy on a bike would soon be a part of my past. He'll be a part of me that I'll remember in amazement just as the others are now. He was a type of me I could never perceive until this day... I didn't know I had this capacity. The beauty of it is found in knowing that he won't simply retire, but he'll live on as part of my new self for the rest of my days. It's what he's learned, it's what he's taken away. It's his influences upon the new self. It's the messages that must be spread to those living vicariously through me. It's the reason I write to you today. By no means was I pressured to live this dream. By no means was I forced. I willingly chose this path. I willingly molded myself. When life comes at you, you're going to develop accordingly. You'll gain characteristics that you may or may not desire, but there is yet ample room to shape the self. It's not who you are by circumstance, it's who you are by will.

Everyone is capable of doing extraordinary things; of being someone greater than themselves. Put yourself in the right spots and make opportunity find you.

You know you're in good hands when Optimus Prime looks after you.


We walked along as one. We walked through a million music notes fluttering from a saxaphone on the corner of Grant and Post. I approached several curious people along the sidewalk and just started conversations for the hell of it -- one guy was carrying around a pair of panniers and had just finished his tour through Mexico. On the way back to the hostel, I entered a coffee shop when I saw a sign for live music and a guitarist giving it his all inside. I talked to a man about his chemical addictions. Back at the hostel, I met Andy who actually had been living in the room I was now sharing with him for over a year. He worked two days at the hostel in exchange for a free living quarters. Can you imagine how many people from around the world he's met? I met Alice (88) in a library and she told me of her husband's 3000 mile solo bike ride through the west on a one-speed in 1938. "You learn to make friends or you go about it alone", Alice spoke. And it was true. "He left with fourteen dollars and came back with three."

On my way to the famed Golden Gate the following day, I cycled through a market and stopped to listen to a family folk band playing in front of a fruit stand. "Here, this will get you to San Mateo" he said, and gave me an apple and a bottle of cherry juice that he just purchased for himself. He came out of nowhere and I could only squeeze in a smile and a thanks before he disappeared. I continued along with Shadowfax and through the fog, it finally appeared.


There's so much more to tell you about. I've never been so conscious in my life and for every day that passes, I could write you a novel. Stay tuned.

-Charlie



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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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The best of BreakTheMachine.net
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  5. Oh those happy slaves
  6. The Beard learns to Whistle
  7. Dreams within Dreams
  8. The Imagination runs Wild
  9. I've Crossed Over
  10. Heaven, Hell and everything in between

About the author:

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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.

Whether or not this website proves to generate the revenue required to keep me on the road remains to be seen. I understand that the odds are heavily against me and that this means of income requires incredible amounts of time I simply won't have. However, it's the content that is going to accomplish what actually matters in the end. Should I fail financially, there's pride in knowing that I have already succeeded in purpose -- I have helped to liberate my peers to spread truth and meaning into their own lives.

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