A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Rhombus

Antarctic Dreams

Antarctica, Justification of Zen, Lucky Me, Oh, Yeah 2 Months in Argentina

semi-overcast 56 °F

Antarctic Dreams
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It was somewhere near ten in the morning when my friend busted into my dark man cave. She beat my leg and announced, “Thom! THOM! Wake up. WAKE UP! I got the email! I GOT MY TRIP! WE‘RE GOING TO ANTARCTICA!“ At this point, I sat up in bed, and mumbled, “Wha? Grgup deer. Diggumrifits johberglubs. Okeh okeh.. Greibits.”

My friend realized I probably wasn’t comprehending this information. She hurried out saying, “Sorry to wake you, now go back to and dream about Antarctica.“

My friend later told me that I didn’t say anything coherent during that conversation. I thought I was communicating clearly, but I guess I was wrong. I was very agreeable. I figured the faster I agreed, the sooner this person would go away. Before I passed out, I thought to myself. “You might be going to Antarctica.”

At one-thirty p.m. the same day, I woke up from my sleep and one word popped into my head. Antarctica. At that point, my head exploded.

When I say my head exploded, I mean that I immediately began to think of the things I was going to need for the trip. What did I have to do before November? I had to get tickets, maps, accommodations, and timetables. How long was I going for? There was no way I was going to sleep anymore that day. This was a problem, because I was working night shift that night, and I had only gotten a measly 5 hours of sleep.

With my mind aflutter, I still didn’t quite trust the fact that I was going to Antarctica. After all, I may have dreamed the whole thing. After an hour of laying in the dark, I flipped on my computer and began to make tentative lists of things that I needed to do. After another half hour, I went up stairs to get a cup of tea, with a muffin. I wanted to verify what I believed was true.

I walked into the galley where my friend was working, and asked her, “Is it true?” She jumped into my arms, and yelled, “WE’RE GOING TO ANTARCTICA! We got the 21 day trip, including South Georgia and Falklands!” I smiled. I’m from the Midwest. I don’t know how to show enthusiastic displays of excitement in public. I was very excited, but it had not really sunk in yet. I had my tea, and watched a movie, I tried to sleep, but it didn’t happen. I went to work, and somehow made it through a very long night.

Zen Flow = Antarctica and Argentina
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Since July, I’ve been running without a plan. I think I’ve talked of this before (see Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Nebraska July 2012). In short, I had such an enjoyable time driving through Nebraska without a map that I decided to apply this concept to my life. This is not easy. I’m a man of action, of plans, of adventure. It was hard; I even turned down an offer to go to Morocco, because it didn’t feel right. Many people have asked me, “What are you going to do after your contract?” My best answer was, “I don’t know. I’m just going to let the Zen flow and see what happens.”
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Well, the Zen has flowed.

This is happening fast. In three weeks, I’ll be in Ushuaia, Argentina (the southernmost city in the world). I have made many decisions already concerning this adventure, but there are many that I have yet to determine. The biggest decision I’ve had to make was, “how long are you going for?” I figured that since I’m going to be in Argentina, I might as well spend some time there. However, that still didn’t answer the original question. I looked at tickets, and decided that I would fly out of Buenos Aires two months after I got back from Antarctica. My mind exploded for the second time in a week.

How Did You Get So Lucky?
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The obvious question is “Why do you get to go to Antarctica?” I’ll tell you. I work for an expedition based touring company that runs small cruise ships all around the world. One benefit to working for this company, is that they offer some of their trips to crewmembers when there is space available on the ship. In order to qualify, one has to complete a four-month contract or work full time, and one has to sign up for a space on the waiting list for that trip. My friend heard there were cabins available on this Antarctic trip and put her name on the list. Three weeks before any trip departs, they fill any open cabins with crew applicants. For this Antarctic trip, my friend was at the top of the list. The cabins are double occupancy, so she can bring a guest if she chooses (for a price), and she chose me. We’ve signed the paperwork, bought our plane tickets, and paid our ship fees. It’s a done deal, at least on paper. We still have to get there.

I feel like the luckiest man in the world. Who takes a romantic getaway to Antarctica? This guy does.

A Two Headed Monster

It’s very hard to live in the moment right now. I still have three weeks to work on the ship, which includes a four-day positioning trip down to Los Angeles. Every other thought revolves around either Antarctica or Argentina. This is a huge two-headed monster of a trip. The first half is very structured for the most part. Our ship will visit the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica making stops at known locations. The second half is completely free forming as we speak. The only thing I know for sure is my flight out of Buenos Aires on the 31st of January (unless of course my plans change).

I have a few ideas, but my mind tends to wander. I’ve looked into taking Spanish classes in Ushuaia. I also plan on hiking in Patagonia. Maybe I’ll learn to Tango, who knows? The world is my oyster.

Amundsen, Shackleton, Ross, and now Miller. Holy shit, I’m going to Antarctica!

Posted by Rhombus 15:35 Archived in Antarctica Tagged friends ships argentina planning antarctica Comments (0)

A Pedestrian In Portland

Breakfast in the Park, A Walk up Tenth Ave, Powell's, Hoagies and a Thirsty Birds

sunny 60 °F

I think I’d be a good companion to explore an unknown city. I don’t think enough people take advantage of my accessibility. I am available, and carry a keen interest in wandering around large cities. Now, this may ring of conceit, but hear me out. I’m not a lecture circuit. If we walk around Paris for instance, I’m not going to chatter on endlessly about the history, the food, wine or art. I will offer friendly companionship, an open mind, and good-natured conversation. Our focus is simply what we find from moment to moment.

I prefer to explore my cities on foot. After all, the life of a city is in its pedestrians. Walking a city offers a more intimate view of urban life. I tend to notice the details, and it is in these smallest tendrils that a city keeps its charm.

Late Morning Breakfast in the Park
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I’m in Portland, Oregon. Have you been? Portland is The City of Roses. Random fact: In Portland, you are free to walk around naked so long as you claim your nudity is for artistic purposes.

It‘s sunny, yet cool in the shade. It’s just after eleven a.m. and I’m sipping a mug of steamy Stumptown medium roast coffee. Its companion is a delicious pecan bar. It’s a condensed version of pecan pie. It’s a good start to my day.

My breakfast takes place near a flower garden on the western banks of the Willamette River (pronounced Will-LAMB-et) near Portland’s downtown. I’m relaxed, and moving slow. Since my brother isn’t answering his phone, I decide to set up my slack line in some out of the way trees near the boulevard.

It’s a great session. My balance is good, and I’m able to walk the line with ease. I practice a few tricks that I continue to try and perfect. It’s great fun. A man walks up to me with a camera. He asks politely if he can take my photo, and I give him full consent. He’s a foreigner, his accent slightly British. He’s intrigued by this weirdo in front of him. I give him a good show, and he seems satisfied. Who knows where that will go?

I’m surprised at the comments I overhear as I play. “Now that’s different.” “What is that?” “I could never do that.” They never ask me questions directly. Instead, they ask their buddy who‘s as clueless as they are. I would think that in Portland, slack lining would be more popular. Apparently, I’m wrong. No matter. I watch the joggers, bicyclists, and power walkers zoom by. I’m confident I’m having more fun.

A Walk Up Salmon St.
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As I walk, I hear snippets of conversation. “Hi, I’m calling to see if I can have a prescription transferred…” says a forty something woman in smart casual clothes. “No, I just got out, I haven’t done anything yet…” answers an elderly woman talking on the phone to her ride. To some, eavesdropping is rude. I don’t feel that way, because I’m only interested in a sentence or two of their lives. Overhearing two mundane sentences of a stranger’s life isn’t a crime or rude; It’s interesting. It helps me understand the life of a city dweller.

I have invaded the personal space of a man walking in the same direction I am. I’m about five feet behind him, and keeping pace with him. I know I’m crowding him, but our strides are nearly identical. Eventually, he crosses to the other side of the street to ease his discomfort. I am slightly relieved; walking shouldn’t be this stressful. You can tell I don’t spend much time in cities.

On the next corner stands an elderly gentleman in a vintage suit. The suit is a rich caramel color with a pale yellow tie. His face holds character; his lower lip protrudes a fraction more than it should. He reminds me of a fish, perhaps an Atlantic codfish. He has disheveled silver hair that he has combed back on his head. I decide he’s either a writer, or a barrister. His theme is a man who has spent too much time in quiet studies presiding over a stack of leather bound books. He reeks of unstated opinions.

I pause for a light at Broadway. A woman drives by in her car. Her face is expressionless. It’s so blank that she could pass for a fashion mannequin standing in a shop window. Across the street, the opposing pedestrians won’t accept my eye contact. This is the way of the city. To acknowledge a passing stranger is rare. Eye contact could invite trouble. I wonder why this is.

At 6th Ave, a rabble of down and outs congregate along side of a brick building. There is strength and camaraderie in numbers, and these folks spend their day comparing notes, smoking endless cigarettes - passing the time. A wooly bearded man asks for some change. I’m no better than anyone else is, and I pretend I don’t hear him. I move along, wondering if I could have made a difference.

At Park Ave, I stop to write this in my journal. Portland always seems to stimulate my writing. I’m sitting on a stained park bench next to three smokers. The light is incredible, deflected from the building across the street. A leaf falls and taps into my hand. “Hi there.” One of the men notices my bike tires that I have been carrying.

“New tires, huh?” He asks. “Yep, ‘cept they are the wrong size. I should have measured first.” He offers no reply. It’s human nature to point out the completely obvious.

Exchanging Money for Tangible Wealth

At a bike shop, I exchanged my bike tires for fifty dollars. I walked along Tenth Avenue until I hit Burntside. At Powell’s City of Books, I exchanged those fifty dollars for six books. I would happily make this trade any day of the week. “What books did you purchase?” Well, I’ll tell you. I picked up three books on philosophy. Alan Watts wrote two of the books. Lin Yutang wrote the other. I opened up “Zen and the Beat Way” (Watts) to the preface. There I read the following:

Robert Wilson: What is Zen?

Alan Watts: [Soft Chuckling]

Robert Wilson: Would you care to enlarge on that?

Alan Watts: [Loud Laughing.]

In the aisle of the store, I started laughing aloud. I knew I didn’t have to read another page in the book to understand the point. It was clear to me in these four short lines. I bought it anyway.

Beyond philosophy, I bought a collection of short fiction by H.P. Lovecraft, A biography of Bruce Chatwin (one of my favorite travel writers of all time). Finally, “On Writing Well”, by William Zinsser perhaps the best book on writing I’ve ever read. I left one of the world’s great bookstores, satisfied with my efforts.

Humanity in Hoagies

The chief mate of my ship is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the week, he began to tell me of his cravings for a good hoagie. A “hoagie” is a sandwich of sliced meats, veggies, cheese, and sauces. They come in a variety of styles and carry a variety of names. In Philly, they are hoagies, and John was jonesing for one. I decided to remedy the situation.

The night before, I researched the likeliest sandwich shop online. I made a mental note of its location, and this brought me to the “People’s Sandwich of Portland” on the corner of 1st Ave Northwest and Couch Street. The theme of the shop was Communist based, and the sandwiches for sale carried clever names. I bought a “Hammer and Pickle”, a “TKP“, and a “No Frills.”

I walked a mile back to the boat. I shared my bounty with John and the Chief Engineer. We decided the “No Frills” was the clear winner. It had girth. There was a pile of turkey, roast beef and a slice of bacon on a fresh hoagie bun. It was delicious. After our meal, John asked me how much he owed me. I told him, “Not a thing.” I explained to him that I felt it was more of a human gesture to share my food with him than to accept payment for it. It would make me feel like I was fetching him some food, instead of a friendly gesture. He accepted this, and we both felt better about our humanity.

Thirsty Crows and Paddy’s Pub
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On my way back to the boat, I happened to encounter two crows perched on the rim of a brass drinking fountain. One flew away, but one held its ground. I stopped, and slowly pulled out my camera from the front pocket of my shirt. I kept talking to the crow, “Stay. Stay. Wait a minute.” My camera in hand, I took its picture.

The crow had a good idea. After eating lunch, I headed back up to 1st Ave SW. I walked north a couple of blocks until I found my destination: Paddy’s Pub. I stepped in and walked up to the bar. It was quiet in the place. There were only a few people seated in the booths quietly watching the start of a baseball game. I ordered an IPA and went off to sit at a quiet table near the entrance.
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The light was very interesting at my table. The sunshine filtered through Venetian blinds casting zebra striped shadows all over my table. I took several photos, and finished off my day by sipping delicious ale and writing my last thoughts in my trusty journal.
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Portland is perfect for pedestrians. What a great day.

Posted by Rhombus 07:20 Archived in USA Tagged shops parks cities walking oregon restaurants portland Comments (2)

An Autumn Wind

The End Of Summer, The Start of Autumn, Favorite Pictures of the Week

sunny 75 °F

An Autumn Wind
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Yesterday was… It’s hard to describe yesterday. I will try. It was hot, dusty and exceedingly bright. One had to squint to try to alleviate the discomfort. Squinting all day makes you tense and irritable. It was hard on the eyes. A listless pall of negativity surrounded the ship. I felt it. This was heavy and draining. It affected everyone. I saw many stifled yawns. I saw many frowns. I felt mildly annoyed all day.

Evening came on, without much improvement. I had stowed the flags, I was standing watch at the gangway enjoying the cool darkening of the skies. From somewhere unknown, an unexpected wind arrived. It hammered into us. I’ve felt the slap of the wind before, but it has been awhile since it has punched me. This was no love tap; this was a well balanced punch with a strong follow through. This wind blew for forty-five minutes without letting up. This was an impressive wall of nearly invisible energy.

I turned and faced into the melee. Cool, moist air engulfed my mouth, my nose and lungs. It whipped through my hair, tousling my beard. Then the wind began scouring our decks. Our garbage cans went sailing, empty gas cans tumbled across the lido. Three kayaks toppled from their racks onto the deck. Our mooring lines stretched taut under the strain, and our deck mats flipped upside down asunder.

The deck crew assumed headless chicken stances, and ran around the boat securing all loose ends in order of importance. It took awhile, but eventually we secured our decks. When I stepped inside, the ship seemed so calm and peaceful compared to the tumult raging outside. I went back out into the wind. It was awesome.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this gale cleaned that dying breath of the last day of summer right out of us. Amongst the crew, moods visibly improved (myself included). I felt more alive, much happier, and more buoyant.
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As quickly as it came, the wind dissipated and vanished. The waters were calmed down; the stars reappeared above. You would never believe that a straight-line wind had ripped though.

This morning, I awoke fresh. I could feel the difference from yesterday to today. The morning light seems brighter. The air is fresh. It’s chilly out, whereas yesterday it was sticky. The autumn has arrived. Our second mate noticed it last night during the gale saying, “Holy crap. Is that the end of summer?”

I started my day with the following passage:

“Foolish. Of course! To give up a steady job in order to gratify a few vague daydreams. To leave a life of comfort for one of constant danger, discomfort and insolvency. Surely that is the height of foolishness. I reasoned with myself. How in the first place could I ever find the money to do it? But I was young, argued that other restless self, and a lad of twenty-one can always find a way to realize his desire.

And the desire grew and grew until it rang in my ears like a trumpet call.”

Dennis Puleston ~ Blue Water Vagabond.

I came to the park equipped with coffee cup, muffin, yogurt, orange, phone, books and slack line. I chatted with my brother Karl, talking of many good things. Our conversation covered comfort, breakfast nooks, Limo, our brother Eric, paradigms, the wind, and autumn. We complimented each other on our prospective journeys and appreciation for all the good things in our lives, and ended on a good vibe.

I breathed that fresh cool air; I ate my breakfast in the shady company of trees. After many minutes, I set up my slack line and found my balance.

This is good. This is how I like to start my day.

I'll end this entry with my favorite pictures of the week. Enjoy!
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Posted by Rhombus 01:37 Archived in USA Tagged night rivers friends autumn moon photography washington wind Comments (0)

The Great Bicycle Fiasco

The Trials and Tribulations of a Bike Owner

sunny 78 °F

The Great Bicycle Fiasco began (not surprisingly) with a single thought. “I should get a bike.” Well, that thought blossomed, and I began to visualize the bike I was hoping to get. I like old bikes. Old bikes have more character than newer designs. I love big fenders, shaky wheels, big springy seats, and handlebars that haven’t any aero-dynamics. The best ten dollars I’ve ever spent in my life was on one such bike. It was a one speed, rusted black, Schwinn. It came with big chrome fenders, and narrow handlebars. It quaked and shook slightly when I rode it. I loved that bike. That bike had an epic demise. It involved a beautiful blonde, a sunny spring day, and a moment of bicycle self-destruction. That story will have to wait for another day.
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I found my new bike at a funky antique store in Clarkston, Washington, called The Hangar. Many antique stores are run as a collective- meaning several dealers have banded together to form a co-op that has rented out a space to sell their wares. When I walked into the shop, I asked the sunny woman at the register if she had any bikes. “Yes, just the one out front... Or, I do have an old one.” The way she said it, made it sound like I’d be crazy to be interested in the old bike. I said to her, “I’d like to see the old one, if you don‘t mind.” Since the customer is always right, she smiled and led me on a winding path through a maze of interesting old stuff.

It was love at first sight. I told my host, “Now, that’s a great bike.” She looked at me askance, but seemed mildly amused at the same time. I walked around it, admiring its lines. The bike is that sixties tannish beige color. It wasn’t pale yellow, yet it wasn’t tan, it was a mixture of both of them. It had two solid fenders, wide comfortable handlebars and a boxy triangular seat. It was just what I was looking for.

The tires were both flat, but this didn’t scare me. I’ve picked up some handy man skills over the years and figured a couple of inner tubes would be an easy fix. Beyond that, I’d raise the seat, polish the chrome, and give it a tune-up with tools I had onboard the ship.

I bought the bike for forty dollars. This might sound like a lot for an old cruiser, but I knew I could easily resell this bike at the end of my ship contract. Several of the women I worked with would buy it from me in a second. I pushed it out of the store, saddled up, and pedaled on down the highway. I know that this isn’t good for the bike rims, but I HAD to ride it. After two hundred yards, I stepped off and pushed it another half mile back to the ship.

Author’s Note: The following is a true series of unfortunate events. I offer you the sequence of anguish this bike has caused me over the past week and a half. As you read this, please keep in mind that all I really want in this world is to take this bike on a leisurely ride.

The First Week

On the first night that I “owned” my bike, I set to work seeing what I could improve. I oiled the moving parts, inflated the tires, and chemically scrubbed some rust off the rims. I found from my initial investigations, that one of my tires held air, while the other tire did not. This seemed an easy fix. I decided to run off to store the next day to get a couple of tubes. In my haste, I neglected to measure the size of my tires before I headed off to buy new tubes. Consequently, I bought the wrong size and style of tubes.

I figured this out when I tried to install them on the rim. I had to stretch it like a taut rubber band to get it on the rim. And when I tried to inflate the tire, it remained flat. Then I got the bright idea to patch the original tube. I filled it with air and held the tube to my ear to see if I could hear where it was leaking air. I found a tiny hole near the valve stem. I talked to our Boson who gave me some extremely powerful glue to use to patch the rubber. I went about cleaning, preparing, gluing (nearly getting high in the process) and sealing the hole. The instruction manual informed me that it took twenty-four hours to cure. I was happy with my efforts.

Twenty-four hours later, I happily grabbed my tire, tube and tools. I put the tube and my tire back on its rim and re-inflated it. I watched with excitement as it seemed to be holding air, but after ten minutes, the tire began to get softer and softer, my initial pleasure began to deflate and sag- just like the tire.

A day passed before I had a chance to work on it again. Since I’m working on a ship, I can’t just run to the local bike shop every time I need a new tube. I have to work, and I only have limited free time in which to run into town. However, I knew I’d be at The Dalles with plenty of free time on a Monday afternoon. I found a map to the bike shop online. When one p.m. rolled around, I bolted off the ship to get my tires. I kept a brisk pace as I walked east along Second Street, counting down the numbers on the buildings until I reached Salmon Cyclery. The shop was dark. The door locked. The shop was closed on Monday.

I walked glumly back to the ship. I checked online again and found that my next chance to go to a bike shop was in Hood River the next day. I checked with my supervisor to see if I could run to town for a half hour, and I was ready to go. I didn’t count on the fact that as soon as we dropped our guests off at the dock, we left.

In retrospect, I can’t quite believe my patience. I guess I was still doggedly holding to the idea that I would be riding my bike the next day. “Tomorrow never comes.”

Finally, six days after I purchased my bike, I was in Portland, Oregon. Portland is one of the most bike friendly cities in the United States and I figured if I couldn‘t find the right gear here, I couldn‘t find it anywhere. I speed walked up Salmon Avenue counting the blocks to get to Tenth Street. There I would find the Bike Gallery. This was the closest bike shop to the ship in downtown Portland.

It seemed like my stars were finally starting to align. The shop was open, and well stocked. Before I left, I had measured the tires, and had memorized their dimensions since my first mistake earlier in the week. I talked with a skinny guy at the register, and he helped me find two tires, with matching tubes. I made my purchase, and went back to the ship.

I tolerated the day of work. I was slowly baking away in the hot sun, impatiently waiting to get off my shift. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Finally, 7 pm rolled around and I ran up to my bike. I quickly dismantled the tires in the gloaming of late evening and brought them down to the crew lounge aka Thom’s Bike Shop to put on the new ones. The tire said 26 inches. The rim said 26 inches. They should work, right? Wrong. The tires lied. After many frustrating minutes of trying to stretch the tire over the rim, I finally gave up. They weren’t going on. Upon measuring the tires, I found they were only 25 inches. It was another crushing blow, and I was beginning to lose heart in this futile project. I told the chief engineer, “At this point, I’m hoping I’ll get to ride it by November.”

The next day brought me to Astoria, Oregon. I gathered the last of my optimism and put it to good use. I had the following things going for me: It was my day off, I had a ride into town and Astoria has a bike shop that was open on Friday. I had all day to work on my bike if it came down to that. I was hoping it wouldn’t.
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I had some time to kill before the bike shop opened. I put my time to good use by calling my brother. I sat on a park bench overlooking Astoria’s waterfront. It was a pleasant morning. The wind whisked charismatic leaves about the sidewalk. I couldn’t help but set up a few photos. The conversation was great. It reminded me of why I really like this guy.

Comedic Timing

I walked into the well-appointed bike shop in Astoria shortly after it opened. The owner wore a working man’s apron, spectacles and smile. I asked him if he had any bike tires that would work on the rim I had brought in with me. He said he might, and asked me to follow him to his tires section. He searched through his tires, testing them against my rim. He measured my rim, and tried some more, mumbling to himself while he searched. Finally, he turned to me, and gave me the bad news, “Sorry, I don’t have any that will work. I can order them for you though, and you’ll get them next week.” I thought about it for awhile, checked my calendar, and did the math. I just couldn’t face another week of this. I thanked him for his time and stepped out into the street.

I sighed, and wondered what I did to deserve this kind of run around. I had one option left that I didn’t think of before. What if I put my new tubes in my old tires? The old tires were well worn and cracked. They had sections of dry rot where the supporting mesh poked through. I decided to give them a shot. If it worked, I’d be riding that day, if it didn’t, I‘d be no further along then I currently was on this project. I caught a cab back to Tongue Point where we moored our ship. I went dumpster diving into the trash to pull out the old tires that I had thrown away the night before. I grabbed my tools, rims and new tubes and set to work.

The installation went well. By this time, I had become very proficient at changing bike tires. I had them reinstalled on the rims faster than you could recite Homer’s “Odyssey.” I crossed my fingers, and put air into the tubes. They inflated beautifully. Finally, after all that disappointment, I knew I could take my new bike out for a spin around the dock. I bounded back up to the Lido where my bike lay upside down. I bolted on the tires, and spun the wheels until they hummed. They rolled straight and true.

Down on the dock, I stepped into the pedals and took my baby on our first ride. It was awesome. I kept yelling at the occasional crewmember who walked by, “Look at me! Look at me! I’m Riding, I’m riding!” I was completely happy.

It passed its trial run. I grabbed my adventure bag, and set off down the dock at a comfortable speed. I didn’t know where I was going, but the unknown was calling my name. As I neared the first hill, I built up some speed to help me ascend the slope. Just as I started up the incline, I put all my weight into the downward stroke of the pedal, “POW!” My chain had snapped.

Now, I am blessed with a good sense of humor. At this point, all I could do was laugh. The irony, and comedic timing of this chain snapping was perfect. All of the pent up frustration I had with this bike drained away with my laughter. There was nothing to do about it. I braked to a stop, walked back a few feet to what was left of my chain, and wrapped it around my handlebars. I turned my bike around, and scootered it back to the boat. I hauled it up to its home and secured it to the rail. I put on my walking shoes, and stepped off the boat. I was going to walk to town.

For the rest of the day, I pampered myself, and enjoyed my day off. I went out for lunch at the Rogue Public House. I ate a delicious burger with a Dead Guy Ale. I stopped in at one of my favorite bookstores to peruse their racks. I found a book on writing style. Finally, I bought a new bike chain from the bike shop. I finished my spree by drinking a strawberry milkshake in the shade of a comfortable birch tree.

I caught the bus back to the ship. It was evening, and I decided to install my new bike chain. After tinkering a little on the new chain, I set it on my bike. I would test ride it the next day.

Moonlight Ride

It’s getting dark out. The breeze blows steadily with occasional warm currents from the heat of the day still curl around me. A day past full, the moon is rising steadily over our little harborage. It casts a pale light across the vacant park I’m enjoying. I had just finished a satisfying slack line session. It’s hard to slack line at night, but it was fun all the same. I’m sitting with my back to a fragrant pine tree. I have a cold beer in my left hand. I’m watching the moonlit harbor scene morph around me. Taking an idea from my brother, I talk awhile about where I am in this world. It was a good chat. And it seemed like a good thing to do.

My bike is leaned on its kickstand. I messed up again. I didn’t tighten my rear wheel enough when I installed the chain. I’m completely at ease with the situation. I think there were many lessons taught to me from the last week and a half, and I feel like I’ve learned them.

After I finish my beer, I grab my gear and walk my bike back to the boat. Instead of housing my bike, I decide to wrench on it a bit and get the wheel back in place. This time, I tighten down the nuts with as much force as I can muster on my vice grips. I put my tools away, and push my bike up the ramp to the gravel parking lot. I tentatively try a few slow circles. I gain more confidence with each pedal stroke. Soon, I am flying along the asphalt trail, a moonlit streak in the dark park. The smile upon my face is as large as the moon. I feel young and alive - my skin tingles with excitement. I feel as though I just learned to ride a bike again. Once again, I’ve caught the exhilaration of freedom, and relearned the lesson of balance.

Posted by Rhombus 02:08 Archived in USA Tagged bikes rivers oregon trails washington woe Comments (0)

In The Raw: Journaling From Alaska to Washington

A Look Into My Travel Journal, My Writing Process, and Photos

semi-overcast 75 °F

I decided for this week’s entry to offer you my journal entries in their rawest form. These entries are the starting point for what will eventually become another thrilling edition of this blog. In a given week, I’ll head out exploring and recap the days adventures in my trusty journal. I’ve been writing a journal since 1997, and have filled up twelve notebooks of a variety of size. The entries are usually a quick recap. I try to write about what really struck me throughout the day. When I have time to write, my journal more thought out and thorough. There are often diagrams, maps, sketches and doodles added to the mix. Using these scribblings for inspiration and facts, I let the writing process flow. Often, I will get inspiration at strange times, and I have to try to remember what it is I want to say for most of the day before I get a chance to write it down. Somehow, the system works, and I'm able to occasionally write something thoughtful and coherent.

I realize I haven't updated my blog in the last couple of weeks. My apologies. I’ve been very busy of late spending my free time getting reacquainted with my slack line, my camera, and my friends. I've been depriving myself of needed sleep in order to enjoy my life, and something had to give. However, I think this small sabbatical has been good for me, but perhaps, not my blog.

The following are journal entries ranging from the inside passage of British Columbia to Clarkston, Washington on the Snake River.

9-10-12 BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
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I’m in B.C. these days. It’s our phase day (deckhands switch shifts once a week giving us 18 hours off in a row). I took advantage by going on a short hike into the thick forests. The moss is quite spongy, and comfortable to lay upon. We found a black banana slug, some shells and whatnot. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I wrote my blog. I ate some cheese and crackers. I also collected a few plants to add to my terrarium. Mostly moss, but another limpet shell pool and the like.
Peanut butter , Honey and Cinnamon sandwich for lunch. Tea with Miss Tiffany. Pretty Beautiful. Pretty nice.
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9-11-12 TO BREATHE
Lido. Sunshine. Coffee. Orca. Watts. Dolphins. Stretch. Then I sat in the shade and exercised my breath. Alternating Nostril, deep, shallow in and out, deprivation, inflation. So good. Then I let my voice flow in a chant and it was lovely. I had all of the air I wanted and my voice was very, very low and rich. Satisfaction.

9-16-12 A FOUR DAY RECAP: POSITIONING, AMELIA, SEATTLE, PORTLAND
Well. Here I am in Astoria again. To get here, I went to Seattle. We dropped off our photo nerds and I went to sleep. I awoke to Amelia in the dining room. We talked, catching up and sat in the sunshine. She brought me a giant burrito from our favorite food cart. We compared notes, we had a good time.
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Positioning was a dream. I love positioning (this is when we take the boat from one port to another without guests). I was working nights, as usual, and hung out with Lofall (my deck partner) in the night. Decent seas. I love a good roll.
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I forgot to mention as we rolled into Seattle, I watched bioluminescent bow riding dolphins. It was AMAZING! Pacific White Sided Dolphins slowly doing barrel rolls in the bright white biofeed. Beautiful. I love the ocean. It felt so good to be back on it, rolling, riding and moving in flow.

9-17-12 CASCADE LOCKS ZEN
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Such a lovely place. A shroud of pines protects me from the sun and wind. I’m in a pocket. Cozy, but breatheable. The carpet is tan of dead grass silky to the touch. Chickadees roll through. Time to forage. In the center of the grove is a picnic table which I’m quite attracted to. So I stop and take it in. This is my second spot to stop. No, my third. My first were a wind swept pitch of grass under an ancient oak tree. Good air forced into me. My second was a slack line session with a lead of forty feet. It was awesome to feel it all. Warm sun, strong wind, slick slack line, freeness of accumulated crap I collected all night. Gone. Smiling.
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I could use one more stop, a visit to a tree I know on the south end of the island. I think I’ll let that one stand as a fine memory of last year. I love seeing the cusp of a shadow. The upper branches of a broad leafed maple are green. Glowing. Beautiful. And here I am.
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“He who understands the Tao in the morning can die in peace in the evening.” ~ Confucious

When I’m this tired, I can stare at anything for long periods. When I’m this tired, my blinks take longer, sometimes several seconds.

9-19-12 PALOUSE RIVER STATE PARK, WASHINGTON
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Well, I’m here again. At the falls, though this time I chose a shaded grove of trees and grass to slack line in, rather than hike around to the falls. It’s nice. It’s quiet. The wind in the trees, soft, warm, and fragrant. Slacklining has been good. So far, I’ve managed to slack line everyday this week. Each time at a different place.
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Yesterday, was at Maryhill. A typical session involves a couple of beers, walking the line, friends, shade and trees. The smoky clouds mute the intensity of the sun. It’s still out, but obscured by wildfires.

9-23-12 SEPTEMBER FLYING
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Whoa. Time is hauling ass. Made it to Clarkston. Three days of smoky skies, friends, slack lining, a bit of work, and walking around.
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On the first day, I went slack lining when I finished work. I went to the doctor who told me I had strained my shoulder. Seems about right. It takes six weeks to heal, and I’m on the 4th week. Ah weel.

On the second day, I visited my old friends Eva, Ada, and Faith. We caught up and hung out at the pool. Eva and I went slack lining. What a fine lady. On our way back to our ships, Tiff calls and I rush off to an antique store and buy a bike. I asked the lady in charge if she had any bikes. “ Just the one out front… or we do have an old one.” I told her I wanted to see the old one. “Really? Ok.” It was an easy sell. It’s a seventies tan cruiser. It had two flat tires, but I can fix it. In fact, I’ve already put on a fixing session. I put on an inner tube, pumped up the tires, adjusted the seat, de-rusted the rims and so on.

It’s going to be a sweet ride.

Day three.
Smoky. Real smoky out. Mountains obscured. I went to the Nez Perce County Fair in Lewiston. It was hot, muggy and smoky. Every type of person you can imagine was there, a walking display of humanity, most of it kind of appalling.
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We went on rides and they were very fun. Part of the scare of these rides is wondering if the contraption they lock you in is going to hold together. Then the fun speed of flipping upside down and screaming. I was having a ball. We went on the Kamikaze, the Zipper, and the Tilt a Whirl. My body didn’t know what the hell was going on. I flipped it, spun it, rotated it, and shook it. It’s sleep deprived, sun baked, dehydrated and sweaty. The tilt a whirl was too much. I felt sick halfway through the ride.

Then we waited a long time for a ride back to the ship. Stupid Purser. I felt like a kid though, exhausted, sticky, tired, and a little sick. Don’t count fat people at a fair. It might depress you.
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Hot shower. Cold Beer. Comfortable bed. Ahh.

Now, you are back up to speed. Look for more adventures along the Columbia River until early November. My plan of riding the Zen flow has already proved very interesting. Instead of leaving this ship in Portland, Oregon, I’m now leaving it in Longbeach California. Big Smile!

Posted by Rhombus 16:59 Archived in USA Tagged islands rivers rainbows friends sunsets canada ships sunrises forests philosophy zen slacklining Comments (0)

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