Welcome back

5 09 2016

Welcome back FALCON SENIORS class of 2020!

The Road 2 Oz

23 02 2014

“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

The journey to cycle across Australia and New Zealand has begun…


No finish line

7 09 2013


“The world’s seen me lookin’ in the mirror,

Images of me, gettin’ much clearer,

Dear Self, I wrote a letter just to better my soul,

If I don’t express it then forever I’ll hold, inside

I’m from a side where we out of control…

My story’s like yours, yo it gotta be told” -Common


 September 2013. This is my comeback season- my writing comeback, surfing comeback, training comeback, teaching comeback- my everything comeback. These are a few pages I’ve written over the past week to help “clear my head” and justify the planning of a new long distance cycling journey attempt in the summer of 2014. If you don’t mind, I’m choosing to quote some of my favorite lyricists in this entry. I’ve listened to a good deal of hip hop the past few weeks and have found clarity and understanding in much of the music. Society misinterprets “rappers” as lacking intellect when many have an abundance of it. People fail to recognize that experience is the best teacher; overcoming adversity is the real life advance placement course- not just for rappers, but for all of us. Did traditional American authors have more intellect and bravery than modern lyricists? I don’t believe in generalizations; there are geniuses and heroes around us that we fail to acknowledge because of a lens of stereotypes from which we perceive. The worst of all stereotypes are the ones we give ourselves: we’re not good enough, we can’t do this, we can’t become that. I’d like to believe we should strive to be influential and heroic instead of assuming we can’t be like the heroes we’ve been taught about. Often times, we measure ourselves against perfect models of virtue and are not exposed to the full truth- all heroes were and are imperfect. Martin Luther King cheated on his wife but that mistake is overshadowed by the battles he fought for equality. Babe Ruth simultaneously had the strike-out and homerun records in his most historic season. We all make mistakes and struggle to become what we set out to be. There is no finish line in “growing up”: we continue to race, learn, and see the world differently. The deepest education occurs beyond the classroom.

Some legends are legendary just because we were taught that they were- but what do they really mean to us now? I look around at certain modern “rappers” and see more cutting-edge intellect at play than some of the authors in traditional textbooks. I imagine authors like Kerouac smoking cigars with a false sense of sophistication and condescendingly detailing their adventures. Meanwhile, he had to borrow money from his mom to make them happen- this is not aligned with the rugged individualism that many male writers “force.” For a cult classic, On the Road is actually pretty lame from an adventurer’s point of view- smoking cigarettes, drinking, crashing on couches, and doing nothing for society isn’t exactly exciting- or admirable. Without a doubt there are classic writers that deserve their due credit- but it shouldn’t just be given to them because our teachers told us they deserve it. In my opinion, many don’t deserve automatically renewable accolades by generation. They should be able to timelessly relate to their readers. Respect should be given to the writers that truly speak to you, whether they are classic writers or modern “rappers.” Some of the cliché advice stems from American literature and sticks in the subconscious of society’s head: “Live the life you have imagined.” This is a great quote but it means nothing unless it inspires action. Thoreau, an author who inspired the likes of Christopher McCandless (who died for ideals he found in works of writers like Thoreau) lived a short walk from the town of Concord- not exactly in the depths of the wild. What adversity did he overcome while chilling in a house, “rebelling” from society, while his mother picked up the slack he left behind and paid his taxes for him to avoid trouble with authorities? No one is a perfect role model for any ideal; life is not a movie. Whatever the source, words have potential to spark self-awareness and global conscientiousness- they stem from the deepest aspects of our personalities. For the sake of realness, let me pay tribute to some of society’s imperfect, unsung lyrical heroes while making sense of my own “voice” and journey.

Wiz Khalifa, not the best role-model for the present generation nonetheless seems to speak to me in his song “Cameras,” especially when he says, “You hopped on a plane, got airborne, left all the people you cared for.” The past 7 years I have been exploring the world while surfing and competing in triathlons. The allure of exploring different continents and meeting new people has become irresistible. Abandoning comfort zones usually leads to positive changes in perspective. Some people explain that “You need to get it out of your system while you’re young.” The more I travel though, the more I fall in love with it- there is no finish line in sight considering the size of an expanding bucket list. One challenge at home is applying what I’ve learned abroad- restlessness creeps in. Rapper BoB alludes to that post-journey malaise in “Airplanes” when he says, “After all the pandemonium and all the madness, there comes a time when you fade to the blacknesss…that’s just how the story unfolds, you get a new hand after you fold…and as your plans unravel in the sand, what would you wish for if you had one chance?” The hollow stage of recovery after chasing dreams abroad is simultaneously melancholy and strengthening. On one hand, the “story” seems to be over but on the other, a new one needs to be written. You are forced, at some point, to make sense of it all. Lately I’ve been yearning for the opportunity to decompress from a ceaseless series of adventures through writing…before beginning the next phase of “dream-chasing.”  As Common explains in “The Food,” “Though I know to grow I’ve got to learn to let go.” The most difficult aspect of traveling is letting go- of the people and places encountered- and recognizing that they live on in how I let them impact my own life and hence others’ lives. That’s what gives “home” the possibility of being such a special place; it needs to be fully appreciated and I know I need to get my head “out of the clouds” of yesterday to really do so.

It seems necessary to debrief on the past, be at peace with it, and to not let it affect one’s future. Underground rapper Immortal Technique wrote a song about just that: “Leaving the Past.” He explains that, ”Some people think I won’t make it but I know that I will. Escape the emptiness cause that…is slow and it kills. You can make the future but it starts with leaving the past.” He highlights how important it is to recognize that the only person that can change his life is…him, which is why he goes on to explain,  “I’m not concerned with condescending advice, because I’m the only…[person] that can change my life” and “…since life is a gamble like the craps tables at Vegas, I freestyle my destiny, it’s not written in pages.” Immortal Technique recognizes that life is unpredictable- it offers the sweet victory of defeat but also the bitter sting of unexpected defeats and setbacks. Despite that, he finds importance in the fact that he is still in charge of his outlook and hence how the story ultimately unfolds. He keeps his hands on the steering wheel instead of letting outside factors like alcohol, drugs, and others’ opinions lead the way. He doesn’t give in to the norm behaviors of his peers in the quest to fully be himself. This is a challenge that we all face. Kendrick Lamar acknowledges in “Swimming Pools” that, “Some people want to fit in the popular- that was my problem.” Kendrick Lamar followed the road to conformity and it lead to disconnect and discontent. He highlights how he found strength and happiness in fully being himself and finding his own voice instead of rapping about what others wanted to hear. He sought change. He said in an interview,  “I’m trying to learn something new. I’m trying to surround myself with people that inspire me or at least inquire similar desires.” Travelling has been my own way of seeking a new perspective and finding my own voice. It has led to that and more than can be articulated.

In high school I went to Ireland, Jamaica, and the Bahamas but the “traveling bug” infected me during my junior year of college when I backpacked Europe after studying abroad in Ireland. A surfing friend from Ireland, Mark Hanley and I traversed through France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. At times, it seemed “ridiculous” to be spending so much money on the trips that would follow- but deep down seeing the world was the most important dream I had. Lupe Fiasco is a lyricist who refuses to make catchy pop tracks that downgrade his intelligence and desire to bring awareness to young people: “Do not let others dictate success and value to you. You will never live up to it and you will die a slave and by God I will never die a slave.” There were no material awards for backpacking through Europe- we collected a hell of a lot of memories though. The spontaneity and excitement of the trip changed our outlooks on what real adventure was- it was more about “getting off the map” and immersing in culture instead of hanging with other Americans at “soulless,” cliché tourist traps.

Once teaching started, surf trips to Chile and Morocco followed- this included a trek to the Sahara Desert. Then it was back to Ireland and on to Scotland. The next summer I cycled across the country and down to the border of Mexico. The next summer I travelled to Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic with students, backpacked in the wild of Alaska, and surfed Guatemala and Costa Rica after traveling through El Salvador and Nicaragua.  At times it feels like I’ve put excess mileage in my brain without a chance to recover. In an attempt to live life to the fullest, I’ve overwhelmed my metaphorical memory stick with an unprocessable amount of megapix. I’ve seen so many beautiful places and people that it sometimes results in jaded lenses. My attention span has shortened and I think I could be a case study for ADHD acquired during the 20s. Restlessness and constant planning of adventures simultaneously takes away from the moment while attempting to capture it. Sometimes I end up chasing a fleeting finish line.

All the trips were a gamble to a certain extent, which made the rewards incredible and the punishments rough. In Central America, for example, I went from being laid up in a cheap hotel in El Salvador for days with some type of food poisoning I contracted in a village of Guatemala to surfing in a beautiful thunderstorm with locals in Costa Rica. The clattering of raindrops on my surfboard, laughter amongst friends, and the imploding of small barreling waves provided an incredible sensory experience. On that same trip, I accidentally drove an ATV off a 10 foot bridge into a giant rock and somehow escaped unscathed- hours later I almost peed my pants while zip-lining through the jungle with my friends Mark, Steve- and monkeys. In Alaska, some of the nights inside my tent were piercingly lonely and cold; having frozen dried food for two weeks didn’t help. The experience of being surrounded by vast mountains covered with snow and glaciers in July and no signs of other living activity other than bear tracks was surreal. Nature engulfed us and we recognized our small place in a wide-open desolate wilderness. No access to cells phones and internet forced us to be in tune with our own thoughts and our own breath. One day we accidentally had a close encounter with an enormous bear and her baby walking into a ravine; the angry mother got on her hind legs 10 feet in front of us- and was probably about ten feet tall. Sheer terror ensued and luckily the two gracefully ran away with speed, disappearing beyond the horizon in moments. 50 Cent poetically point outs in “Many Men” that “Sunshine wouldn’t be so special if it wasn’t for rain. Joy wouldn’t feel good if it wasn’t for pain.” This philosophy mirrors life closely.

The “good and the bad” with travelling have gone hand in hand just like they do in life. As far as positives go, I understand the world and people better and I have have acquired a comfort zone with activities I used to fear. After surfing in Ireland all winter, I decided to make winter surfing a part of my life in the colder New Jersey Atlantic. It is now my favorite time of year to surf. It is an unparalleled experience to glide across barreling waves being held up by smooth west winds blown over snow-covered sand.I felt challenged to go sky-diving after zip-lining- I went and it was more epic than I imagined. My trip to Alaska inspired me to be more “in-tune” with my body- so this year a competitive edge returned and I had my first legitimate triathlon season. A newfound passion for cycling was cultivated through straying a bit from the run and shifting my attention to the bike instead (pun intended).

Adorned with lobster gloves, booties, a face mask,  and a comfort with the cold because of surfing, I logged miles all winter. Hoping to harvest the planted seeds of labor, I had the best race of my life at the Orange County Duathlon in California, placing 8th overall, qualifying for the World Age Group Championships in Canada. The bike course was exciting, with long winding uphills and 40 mph descents in the aerobars. The last 10k was run under 6:00 mile pace. Afterwards, I got to surf Salt Creek and Trestles for two days during an overhead swell. The next successful race was Stafford Sprint Triathlon in LBI where I placed 2nd with a 17:45 closing 5k. The third positive result was a 4th place finish at the Born to Run triathlon in Asbury Park. Along with the highlights were significant “lowlights.” I completely bombed the first race of the season- the Jersey Devilman as I raced sick and my lungs felt like they were going to collapse in the shrill 60 degree water.  I almost had a panic attack. The focus of the season was the Eagleman 70.3 Half-ironman. The new training strategy of focusing on the bike and relying on a running background simultaneously paid dividends and backfired. In my other half-ironman in 2011, I raced a 4:55 with a 20 mph average. At Eagleman the hard work proved to pay dividends on the bike with a 23 mph average- a 3 mph improvement, and was ready to achieve the 4:30 goal. After 4 miles on track in the 13.1 run course, I “bonked”- my energy became depleted and I death-jogged the rest of the race, coming in at 4:50 after being on pace for a sub 4:40 or even 4:35. The last stop of the journey was the World Duathlon Championships in Ottawa. I placed 16th out of 23 in my age group and felt flat on the windy, boring course. My bike split was disappointing and painful- the left knee injury that I spent months in physical rehab during the winter was retriggered. The effort that I put into the year was not reflected and I drove home crestfallen and disappointed- and in need of reflection that I’d put off too long.

In Cameras, Wiz Khalifa hints that we should be proud of our mistakes as they help us change and learn: “Oh, it’s hardly a secret, you ain’t gon stop tryna get where you going until you reach it…Feel your scars knowing what your pain is but what’s it all worth if its painless?” Too much is too much- burn out is unavoidable from travelling and competing if not prioritized properly. Four months of spread out racing is unproductive- next time I will pick out two races within a 2 month span and gun for them instead of trying to hold such a long “peak” phase. In all, I’ve learned that I really don’t care about the results- that’s a superficial outcome- the real rewards lie in putting a best effort forth to improve, explore unseen locations and meet new people. The stats and numbers can be “deleted” from the memory stick. More importantly, how these experiences shape “real life” is paramount. Have I become a better teacher? –a better person? If not, what the hell was the point? As J. Cole puts it in “Crooked Smile,” “What’s real is something that the eyes can’t see, that the hands can’t touch”…” What’s real is not what our resumes say we are, what our jobs say we are, what other people say we are, but who we really are underneath it all when no-one is looking. The best souvenir you can get from traveling is coming back with a new perspective- having more love or understanding to offer is priceless. The accolades and money that could be amassed in life are not going to buy character or the peace of mind that living dreams will.

Overlooking the ocean from the boardwalk, one can see how small we are. It almost seems pointless to feel the need to “debrief” on my life considering my vastlessly small role in it.  Hurricane Sandy reminded us that the force of nature is beyond our control and that the flow of life is often times inescapable and not even worth fighting. However, on closer examination of the ocean’s incessant energy, I’m reminded that, although humble, I’m hungry to adventure, learn, and teach. I share the ocean’s ferocity and endless drive to launch myself on a new shore- to meet new people- because I now know I belong to both. The time is always now- to make it happen and not look back.  Notorious B.I.G. advises in “Sky’s the Limit” to, “Stay far from timid…make moves when you’re heart’s in it, and live the phrase ‘sky’s the limit’” After staring at the same sky that Christopher Wallace ruminated on and the same ocean that Leif Erikson pondered over, it seems obvious that the importance of time is to make an impact on people- not to have a fast race that will be remembered by no one. I feel challenged to be strong yet peaceful like the ocean, to be one with my surroundings instead of a separate entity navigating through the day to the peaceful finish line of sleep. Instead of planning amazing experiences, it makes more sense to attempt being constantly in tune with the moment- and making it adventurous somehow if it’s not. Moments could be represented by a single piece of sand- they seem unimportant but they compose the “whole” of the shoreline’s existence. Moments make up our lives. The real battle is to live in the now and to find meaning in it even when planning what’s “next” down the road.

The tides approach and recede throughout the seasons as they are aligned with the moon. It seems like a challenge to stay aligned with meaning as the adversity in our lives fills in with the tides. The meaning always lies in following the dreams that stem from the deepest parts of ourselves…in changing the world instead of letting it change us. Macklemore is a new rapper who has produced songs “calling” out hip-hop for its degradation of women and gays and its prioritization of money and the superficial. His music stands for progress;  in “Same Love” when he advocates “Here we go American the beautiful still fears what we don’t know…Press play, don’t press pause, progress march on.” The lesson to progress from the past is reiterated, and much of his music reflects a quest to find meaning in life now. He recognizes the challenge of finding real wealth when he says, “Make the money, don’t let the money make you, change the game don’t let the game change you.” It’s easy to blend in and “go with the flow.” Nature seems to suggest that we’re rewarded by following what seems to be right- but that’s not always true. Sometimes, we have to face our fears and deal with discomfort to do what’s right. It’s easy to take the easy route and not take risks. At the end of the day, that would equivocate to a life not fully-lived.

Jay Z famously asserted in “Can I Live” on his cult classic album Reasonable Doubt“I’d rather die enormous than live dormant.” When I was younger I used to think “enormous” would need to involve the excess we see in American media: fancy cars, women, and an exorbitant lifestyle. If not that, I believed it would at least involve being adventurous in as many locations as possible. Although I’m still a proponent of the latter, I’m beginning to realize that if I can’t create content and happiness for myself and others at home, “I’m doing it wrong.” In other words, I’m trying to live more in the moment, appreciate it and the beauty around me- much more often- instead of imagining the possibilities of it somewhere else. Eminem must’ve made a similar realization after getting out of his personal rout when he details in Recovery on the song “Not Afraid,” “I’m raising the bar. I’d shoot for the moon but I’m too busy gazing at stars. I feel amazing and I’m not afraid.” I’m planning a large scale adventure next summer but this time I’m taking my time planning it; I’m too busy with the people and waves of opportunity here and now. The sound of crashing waves lulls me to sleep and I find peace knowing that the sun will illuminate itself on glistening ocean swell in the morning. I’ll watch them break on the shoreline over a cup of coffee that I won’t rush in route to getting “somewhere else”…for now….

23 05 2013

26 11 2012

Final destination: Tijuana, Mexico @ mile 3,844 from the Spring Lake South End Pavilion

8 09 2011

After cycling and surfing down the remainder of the California coastline, we arrived at sunny San Diego. A few days before our flight on September 1st, we decided to cycle to the border of Mexico and the United States. We did so with a Swiss cylist at a San Diego hostel who was finishing up the Pacific Coast route. Stay tuned for a final recap and video footage of the summer-long journey!

Days 45-50: August 12th-August 18th: 410 miles: Las Vegas, Nevada to SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA- mile 3,662- FINISH LINE

19 08 2011

The final leg from the bright lights of Las Vegas to the beaches of Santa Monica was the most trying portion of our trek. Our short break in Vegas provided a false sense of security; we went into the final stretch feeling complacent that the journey was practically done. Little did we know, the Mojave Desert of Nevada and California was much more treacherous than we ever imagined. After escaping Vegas traffic, we faced full-on headwinds that prevented us from riding over 8 mph most of the time- getting in 58 miles that day was exhausting and frustrating. The winds let up the following day, allowing us to ride 84 miles as we left Nevada and entered California via historic route 66. Over the following days, this road had a few 50 mile sections without any resources; we were forced to stock up on supplies to prepare for the worst. The most crucial mistake of our trip occurred during that 84 miler when we didn’t pack enough water and quickly ran out. With the temperature over 105 and the air oppressively dry, hydration was a key factor. It was odd drinking 32 ounces of Gatorade or water within a minute and then having extreme thirst again just minutes later. We just couldn’t stop drinking. Luckily an awesome couple pulled over and helped us stock-up on water.

The next day, the temperature raised up to 115 degrees- cold water turned into hot bath water within minutes and it burned while going down. With our skin sizzling, we road 49 miles until we found a motel. Never before had I felt so vulnerable to the elements; it felt like I was holding on by a thread over the last few miles. We decided to ride as directly west as possible instead of pressing on southwest to San Diego in order to get out of the desert as quickly as possible. We slept at the motel for the remainder of the afternoon and woke up at 1:30am to resume the night riding strategy. Although we road 94 miles in this session, it was tedious since we had to hop over three barbed wire fences to cross the freeway and access where Route 66 resumed. Unfortunately this part of 66 was riddled with a multitude of potholes. We rode about 10 miles at which point our hands began to hurt from the constant rattling. As the sun rose, we switched to the California 40 West Interstate for the remainder of the day. While camping in the desert, we luckily never encountered the sidewinders or rattlesnakes that the gun-strapped cashier at a rest stop in ghost-town Amboy warned us about.

We struggled to find a route to the Santa Monica Pier over the last 100 miles so we decided to put our trust in the GPS. The GPS thought it would be funny to play a practical joke on us since it was the end of the trip so she took us on an 84 miler up to 8,000 feet in elevation through the San Gabriel Mountains on the California 2 Highway. We camped on the side of the road overlooking what we believe to have been the skyline of Hollywood. The following morning, we rode 41 miles through Sunset Boulevard, the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and then finished at the Santa Monica Pier at mile 3,662. It was a thrilling anticipation we experienced in the miles leading up the Pacific- the realization that we “made it” once we did so provided a feeling that can not be articulated. It seems like life’s most precious moments are not meant to be described since they are meant to be deeply felt and experienced firsthand. I am beyond grateful that I got to experience that culminating, intimate moment with the mist of the Pacific in our faces as it appeared in front of us after 49 days on the road dreaming of it. After dipping our tires, we body-surfed and then rode two miles south down to Venice where we stayed the next day, rented surfboards, and surfed for the day. We rode 70 miles yesterday south via the Pacific Coast Highway to where we are now- San Clemente. We passed through the LAX airport area where we did not see Miley Cyrus hop off a plane with a dream and a cardigan. We later went through Laguna Beach where we fortunately didn’t meet any of the characters from the soulless television show Laguna Beach. Today, thanks to David, John, Jackie, and Biff, we got in some legendary hours of surfing at Old Man’s break- we caught some epic waist-high longboard waves that just kept unpeeling. It’s a nice break to be watching waves unravel instead of roads. Stay tuned for a final trip wrap-up update as our journey heads south down to San Diego near the Mexican border as we search for waves!

Days 42-44: August 10th-12th

13 08 2011

We are well-rested and ready to finish off the last 400 or so miles. Tomorrow morning we will be beginning the final stage of the journey, departing Las Vegas to traverse California. Gotta give a big shout out to my friends who we met up with in Vegas- John, Vin, Steve, Sean, Richie, Billy, Jimmy, and Kenny! Thanks for helping us get ready for the final part of the journey- SAN DIEGO HERE WE COME LET’S ROLL!!!!!!!!!!

*mile 3,260* Days 33-41: 618 miles: August 1st-August 9th: Mancos, Colorado to Grand Canyon, Arizona to Zion National Park, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada

10 08 2011

The dynamics of the journey became more rugged as we trekked through the heat of the desert in Arizona. We had another run of flat tires and James’ back rack snapped in half, forcing him to improvise and create a rack out of sticks and duct tape. We carried an extra amount of food due to the fact that stores and restaurants were unavailable for up to 80 miles at times. Unfortunately we did not get to shower for five days in which we covered two 70 milers, an 81 miler, a 92 miler, and then an 82 miler. We then had a 91 mile excursion day to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon cutting down south and returning back north to Utah. The vast cliffs had us in awe; we felt lucky and humbled by the experience to have made it to such a phenomenal destination from good ol’ Spring Lake beach. We then decided to cut back on the mileage as we were far ahead of our projected schedule and were fortunate enough to book a hotel for 4 days on the Vegas strip for a short recovery vacation with my best friends from home.

A 52 miler, 70 miler, and a 51 miler have brought us to Las Vegas, Nevada where we are currently letting our legs rest until Saturday morning. The only route to get here was the I-15 freeway- two days ago we were in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada on the same 70 mile ride. Although it was exciting to be quickly descending in on Vegas, it was a bit reckless and frightening to ride the freeway- we had no other choice. In most areas it was legal to ride I-95 but in others it was not. The police pulled us over just outside of Vegas and kicked us off it but we were able to use the GPS to navigate a backroad route here.  The absolute highlight of the desert-trek to Vegas was not the Grand Canyon- it was Zion National Park in Utah. In Zion we slept in sleeping bags on the sand, next to a stream surrounded by a stadium of mountainous cliffs.

We spent an hour or so in silence before falling asleep gazing at the stars and the silhouette of mountains covering the stream. It was a defining spiritual moment of the trip that I can not capture or encapsulate with just words- we were transcending our lives’ petty worries and anxieties and making the astute realization that the universe is nothing short of a miracle…and we are dam lucky to be a part of it. Life will always have drama and problems but at the end of the day the infinite, mysterious sky reminds us that we are just a small part of the world. It made such sense in that moment that time is so significant since we are just passing guests existing in this world- I feel a stronger sense of responsibility to somehow leave it better than I found it after my short time here has passed. I’m not sure how, but I do know that we’re at mile 3,260 and we’re heading in the right direction. To my family and friends- I love you. Thanks for believing in us, this journey, and life itself. When the dust settles with perspective, there is clearly so much to live and fight for.

*mile 2,642* Days 28-32: July 27th-July 31st: 488 miles: Garden City, Kansas to Mancos, Colorado

1 08 2011

Colorado provided the adrenaline shock necessary to resuscitate us out of the mental sluggishness that Kansas induced. Tedious and monotonous miles in the dark left us in a hypnotic trance when daylight seeped in each morning. Visuals of fields and hay will forever be en”grained” in our nightmares. Our 101 miler on July 27th brought us into Colorado where we fell into a rhythm with the Rockies- we logged 100 miles on the 28th, 106 on the 29th, 91 on the 30th, and 90 yesterday- the 31st. In Kansas the most exciting moments were when massive trucks blew by us with accompanying wind gusts that would blow us off the side of into the grass, reminding us that were awake. In Colorado, however, the breathtaking scenery, drastic altitude and climate changes kept us fully in-tune with the moment.

Colorado kindly greeted us with an intense lightening storm that forced us to pull over to the side of the road, pitch our tent, and wait for nature’s mercy. This occurred on a desolate 75 mile stretch of road with no signs of civilization. That night we crossed a bridge under construction that was closed to traffic and camped on the side of the road once the odometer hit 100 for the day. Nature humbled us in Colorado, constantly reminding us that we are at its disposal. As wise rapper Andre 3000 of Outkast says in the song “Ms. Jackson,” “You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather.” Our daily plans were constantly foiled and plan B’s, C’s, and D’s constantly had to be created. We realized that the only thing we had under our control is how we reacted to the provided conditions. Colorado hit us with two other lightening storms and various sections of downpour and unrelenting headwinds- always when we would least expect it. There were also fortunate moments, especially between mountain ranges, when we would get east winds at our backs helping us to sail forward.

Never before have we witnessed such unpredictable and rapid climate changes. The most memorable experience relating to this occurred on July 30th when we climbed to 11,000 feet elevation in the San Juan mountain range to Wolf Creek Pass. In retrospect, the decision to begin such a climb at 5:30pm was reckless but it left us all the more wise for the mistake. At the foothills of the mountain we were sweating in oppressive 95 degree heat. When we reached the summit at 9pm, in the dark, the temperature was below 50 degrees. It was difficult to breathe as the warm breaths of exhaled air joined the heap of icy smoke permeating from the asphalt. Stories from locals about the descent’s frequent truck accidents and fatalities lingered in the back of our minds as we plunged downwards from the summit. The next day we were told of the recent death of a Race Across America competitor who passed at this location. Our headlights faintly lit the pitch-black road; we proceeded with as much caution as we could with frigid fingers gripping the breaks- we still moved rapidly at 20 mph. Tears fell down our cheeks and snot flowed out of our noses for 10 miles of eerie, frigid descent. By the time we hit the bottom, our hands were in pain from gripping the breaks so excessively.

Overall, our experience in Colorado was legendary- it revived our spirits that were a bit broken down from Kansas. The constant climbing was tough but the descents were thrilling. We found ourselves whipping around tight bends at 40mph while the GPS tried switching out of bike mode setting into car mode due to the speed. Today is August 1st and we are about 20 miles in on the day preparing for a trek through more deserted stretches to the Grand Canyon. This evening, in 39 miles we will arrive at “Four Corners”- the border that joins Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. James and I are experiencing unexplainable phenomena while riding together- we both have a similar minor ailment in our left knees and are having similar thoughts and lucid dreams. The other night we both had the same dream: our fathers were telling us that the mileage of the trip was too intense and that we needed to cut back the planned mileage for the next ride. We are grateful that our legs have held up and that we are feeling strong. Despite the predominant westerly winds of the United States, the lure of the Pacific is pulling us closer each day.

*Stay tuned for photos and the next entry as this library in Cortez, Colorado will not let us upload. In a few hours we be in Arizona and we will probably not find a computer in the desert.