Day 13. 763 Miles. Feen.

Shaving removes 10 years off my reflected appearance in the mirror. Not that I’ve been around many mirrors the last couples weeks. More Muir then mirror, fa sho. Riding removes about 12 pounds from my body. I’d like to keep going and get another 12 kilograms off. Trying not to put it all back on, I’m spending the day staying busy with various activities, like cleaning my gear, packing my gear and unpacking my head. That last one involves a lot of reading and swimming in the southwest Florida sunshine… lucky me.

I’m reflecting on how many roadside memorials I bore witness to throughout this state. Florida has a lot. A lot lot. Somehow more little shrines adorned with crosses or flowers or stuffed animals than whatever iteration of flag praising Cheeto Mussolini — and there was a butt ton of those. I make no mention of the memorials until now because I really didn’t wanna end up one. Didn’t pass a single one without thinking about whoever that person was that had their life extinguished by some fuck nut who doesn’t realize the automobile is as deadly as the firearm. You hardly see anyone texting and shooting and you hardly see anyone NOT texting and driving. It’s disturbing to say the least. I’ve heard many people say Floriduh has the worst drivers. This is the third time I’ve bicycled this state — more than any beside my home — and while I’ve been brushed past by a few and incredibly vroom vroom, I can’t say I’ve found the drivers to be much worse than elsewhere, though these memorials might say otherwise.

I ride 1/2 mile to the pool, where I’m reading Lin Yutang’s The Importance Of Living. Written in 1937, it has never ceased to be ever more relevant to the present day since it’s publication. It’s basically about enjoying life and “the noble art of leaving things undone”. Something I’m not very noble, artistic, or generally proficient at. Like most Americans, I value gettin’ er done. Like few Americans, I now realize how bullshit that value is. I’m on Chapter 11, The Importance Of Travel. Human beings get maybe 25,000 sunrises in our lifetime if we’re fortunate. I’m hoping to see 36,500 of them. I could on and on about this book; I’m not gonna, get yourself a copy. Reading is fundamental. And it also allows me to take pause and reflect on my own writing.

At least 4/5th of my thoughts never make it into this journal each day. Can’t text and ride very well. And if I stop every time I have something, I’d never get more than 20 miles. So many fleeting ideas and thoughts, I’m pretty certain that I’ve solved a couple of the worlds problems — or at least a few of my own — via pedal power, letting it then fade away once me feet are on the ground. Definitely. Probably. Maybe. I dunno. Somehow someway, I set an intention to find a way to bring that number down to 50% of my thoughts never being documented. At the same time I don’t want to forfeit my own experience by being too caught up in its documentation. Like tourists in an exotic land so preoccupied with taking photos that they never enjoy where they’re at and what they’re seeing. Like those basic ass bitches who only go somewhere to get some photo so they can put it on the gram and get likes. To say they’ve been there. Not to actually be there. I cannot be that basic bitch. I will not. Even if, like this blog, the documentation is primarily for my own personal remembering and reliving — I want to make sure I balance staying in the moment and capturing some part of it for future reference and enjoyment. Both, por favor.

Laying in the mid afternoon heat, I feel totally relaxed and I recall an interaction I had about a week ago, coming out of Indialantic and heading into Daytona Shores. It previously fell into that 80% forgotten, when something rings a bell in my head. So I’m on that wonderful non-motorized bicycle trail. 35 miles of it. At some point I come to a crossing with the road. Lots of truck traffic zooming by. I ease up and apply a slight brake, slowing myself down, allowing traffic to move along, waiting for a gap to pass. I’m in no hurry. There’s a police officer on the other side of my crossing, parked up in the grass. Maybe someone’s in there, maybe not. Out on long rides, I really welcome the site of the police. Typically just their presence calms traffic, even if it’s in an overseer sort of way. Slower traffic is my goal, speeding vehicles are my enemy. Sometimes my enemy’s enemy is my friend. As I’m slowly approaching, this particular cop in a car blurbs something over the PA. I can’t make it out because traffic is cruising hard as a pull up to the crossing. Whatever he’s saying, I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. One, I’m generally good at ignoring cops, or anyone who relies solely on some unfounded authority. Two, I’m very good at ignoring anyone when they’re doing a half ass job at something. In this case, both are applicable (and in many ways are the same thing!). Anyway. More indiscernible jargon come out of his speaker; more ignoring by me. Really, I can’t hear him and if he really needs anything from me he can get his lazy ass out of his AC’d car and exercise his authority in a respectful and responsible manner that benefits society. Otherwise, I can’t do nuthin for ya man. Instead I’m focused on the moving vehicular traffic; I negotiate eye contact with a driver who slows and allows me to pass. I wave and cross. Neither of us has to come to a complete stop to do it either. We both carry on. As I clear the other side and shift gears to regain speed, this fried breakfasty meat for a human being has the audacity to then blurb out “Bicyclist: use crossing signal”. Id call him a dough bag but vaginal cleanliness products would be disrespected by the comparison. Twelve’s windows are tinted, I give him the dismissive hand and a look that says you’re an unneeded tax expenditure at this point. I pimple on the ass of society, ready to be popped and drained. I pedal along, wondering why he’s getting paid to do that. Why he feels the need to exercise authority over something as stupid as this. And the most important lesson I take away is that the motorists and myself are able to figure it all out on our own without that cops help. All he did was irritate law abiding citizens and waste taxpayers dollars. I support community policing and I support departments nationwide taking long hard looks at how they can reform and revise how they operate, much is the same way Fire took on EMS work in order to maintain relevancy and positive work in the communities we serve. Once again, I said it and I meant it. We can agree to disagree; the beautiful thing is that’s exactly what democracy is. American flag emoji.

Speaking of flags. The American flag stands out as symbol of singularity. I’m not about to praise the flag or pretend like everything is great. I will posit that the single flag on the back of my bike is a giant fuck you to all the multi-flatters out here. Why does anyone need so many other flags. If your front yard competing with the UN? What’s the basis? Y’all eat pieces of shit for breakfast? I like to believe that one flag is enough. If it’s not, maybe feel free to go live somewhere. That’s what it always come down to right? Love it or leave it? That’s such a false equivalency, as if staying and contributing to make something better is not an option. Only a Sith deals in absolutes, young Obi-Wan. Plus isn’t that sort of “cut and run”. I heard we didn’t too that? I do sincerely hope my bike USA flag is a traffic calming agent; maybe motorists will slow down and not kill me out of a sense of patriotism. More than anything, the flag represents people. And the people are the only thing I’m pledging allegiance to. You know, the “We” in the preamble. The true power lies within the citizenry, or at least it used you. When we say We the people, we mean it. When we say all power to all people, you best believe it. Get past the rhetoric and propaganda you might associate with that. Because the only power is in all people; Human is god. Not some mysterious god all those Baptists and Catholics and Muslim and Jews crowd buildings over on weekend. There’s no Heaven and there’s no Hell. Just us on Earth. Power in us. The people. The proletariat. Not the pig. That fact won’t change, no matter how much power and individuality we confer to corporations. It’s purely numbers and energy.

So now I’m chatting with my father and stepmother about the news. Like the news on TV. Not something specific. All they do is watch the news. Talk about the news. Even the non news news. Celebrity gossip. The weather. Media today is a waste of time. News media or social media. Immortal Technique would call it the 4th branch of the government. Maybe. I’ve stopped watching the news altogether years ago and I don’t feel like I miss anything important. I spend maybe an hour on social media per week and read the newspaper once a week. Get everything I need. The idea of watching the weather man on TV Instead of just going outside turns my stomach. I’d rather be alive, doing something rather than receiving whatever “information” some multi-national conglomerate deems most profitable to deliver upon my mentals. More propaganda. I don’t care if you call it left, right, or center. Liberal or conservative. I’m with none of them. What a waste. Basura. Straight garbage. I implore that they try to cut back on digesting the news cycle; they’re more concerned with this “cultural analyst” on CNN talking about the Oscars. First off, who cares about award shows anymore. Second, what in the actual fuck is a “cultural analyst”. What sort of degree is needed to call yourself that? How does one even step out of being part of culture in order to professionally analyze it? And most importantly, why would anyone on Earth want to do that? Sounds much lonelier and exhausting that any cross country bicycle ride. My 15 minutes sharing this journal on Instagram also reveals the same wave of Oscar based bullshit content. More clever, cuz less Boomers. Equally annoying. Same shit. Different toilet. Fucking “Influencers”. Fuck you. Now I’m all pissed off for nothing.

After some tasty shrimp, I calm the fuck down and realign my priorities. Notably, I’m an addict who needs a fix on my most expensive of habits. The fact that coffee prices are out of control not withstanding , I jump on the now fully unloaded All-City Space Horse. Destination: 11 miles east to the Howl Gallery in Fort Myers. And with the wind out of the west, I finally catch a tailwind! I average 24 mph over those 11 miles and meet the talented Andy Howl, who has agreed to stay par closing and proceeds to provide me with what he calls “a banger”. Its what I call a souvenir in the form of a permanent skin artwork via needle trauma. Viva La space horse! A tried and trusted steed on the ranch.

Howl Gallery is an awesome space where it’s not just tattoos and piercings, it’s also framed art and a live music venue. Super fucking cool and so is Andy. I tip him extra because he calls me a weirdo. And he ain’t lying. What a wonderful ending to a memorable long ride.

In the morning, it’s crisp and cool and moist. Like many of my favorite things. There’s fog and dew everywhere and it’s literally misting out, rather than raining. These light, fine micro drops of precipitation hang in the air. I can see it like a thin veil and it’s the perfect opportunity to go for an outdoor run, something I ain’t done in a while. 2.5 miles. I hit and quit it. Like a fiend. Feen. Fin.

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Day 12. 736 Miles. Triumph.

I awaken, still never having the pleasure of molesting an alligator. A life not yet fully realized, I guess. It’s a chill morning here in Pioneer Park. Not like the vibe, the temperature. It’s like 59° and after 12 days down here I’m in danger of having my Western New York privileges revoked for stating the above. A lot like I’m Butch hearing from Marcellus Wallace (after having literally saved his ass): “When you gone, you stay gone, or you be gone”.

So what now? I’ll tel you what now. I kinda hate myself for being cold right now. I have to get moving, especially if I wanna pull off a successful advanced remote sleep. I am Jack’s thin skinned tropical sensitivity. I punch myself a few times, exactly the way Edward Norton does in that office — before he realizes he’s Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden. Only a Fight Club reference could follow one from Pulp Fiction. Finally, I pull myself together. More accurately, I put on my designer camo adidas sweatpants. Yeah. Adidas doesn’t pay me (they should); yet damn do I pay them. These are definitely the most comfortable, stylish and expensive pants I’ve ever worn. Serio. My entire life. And they weren’t cheap. I’m not gonna take a photo of them, I rocked them on the plane ride down to Fort Myers you can look it up. I’d never think of bringing these on a bike-camping adventure. These are a bit heavy and definitely cotton as fuck. Not what I normally look for. Plus usually gear gets worn hard. These situations test the limits of durability, craftsmanship and design. They’re only here because they fill out the pack cube with my raincoat and towel very nicely to make a camp pillow. Yeah I said it. I rest my head on them. Now, I’m wearing them. And fuck it I’m happy I brought them. And damn I bet I’m the best dressed motherfucker in all of Hardee County right now.

I emerge out of the penthouse and it’s wonderful. Campground coffee for just the second time, I check the nearest baños and they are closed for repair. Realizing I’ve taken zero wild poops so far… so you can bet your bottom dollar on what comes next. A little walk. A little dig. A loots wet wipes. Naturally in nature. The real au naturale. Me human, not dead yet. Ten minutes later and I’m five minutes late on dodging the park manager. Damnit. Even with all the white pickup trucks in this state, I recognize him straight away as he’s pulling around. My designer pants can’t save me. He looks like a Kevin. “G’mornin”. “G’mornin”. “I think I owe you fifteen dollars”, to which Kevins simply replies, “sixteen thirty five”. I have exact change and get a receipt. If I hadn’t left that message, I’d have probably gotten away with. The Advanced in advanced remote sleep means it costs nothing. It’s not about the money… it’s the principality of it, Smokey. Paradise lost, I eat a cookie and break the fuck out.

Timespace rolls on and on and one. More rural backroads through citrus farmland. More winds out of the west and I alternate between south and west. For 1/2 mile I go east and I’m reminded what a tailwind feels like. Weather and route are almost carbon copies of yesterday. I’m avoiding any place with more than 1,000 people in it. Out on the road, all I see are motorcyclists. No commercial trucks on this route for sure. Where’s all the personal vehicles? Ah. I turn a bend and see a flood of cars parked, it’s like Noah level flood. It’s Sunday. Baptist churches abound and everyone’s inside getting their delusional existential rationalization on. Opiates for the masses, I’m glad that at least it’s not the pharmaceutical kind killing everyone. Thank the spoke gods for that and the reduced traffic. Many of the motorcyclists wave. Some of them, and that’s usual. They wanna be called bikers. The long distance easy riders types are cool as fuck and usually have valuable info — because they are out there. You can tell them apart the same way I don’t look like a coordinated spandex superhero riding a feather. Pretty much 100% of them wave. It’s a low hand out sort of wave. They give it to each other and they give to me. I love chatting with them at stops too. Still not calling them bikers though. Not with that motor.

More farms. All farms. Petra does the damn thing whether shoulder or none. Currently there is no shoulder. She puts herself out there to protect me and I can’t thank her enough. My love for Petra is undying is eternal, and I hope she’ll join me on every long ride from here on out. I’m pretty sure humans can’t marry pool noodles in Florida yet, otherwise I might finally tie the knot, not.

I push into Port Charlotte and over a bridge in Punta Gorda. Fat Point? Whatevs. This is my first sizable population area in a few days and it’s comes with the yoozsh traffic. Oh hey, I’m back on the west coast of the state! I chill out for a bit, snack on a peanut butter banana burrito, contemplate the meaning of life. Nah not really, though I do let my mind wander a bit notice how awkward the idea of “guided meditation” is after days of riding, guiding my way along, staying deep in thought the whole while. Every other version of mediation seems silly now. Like how every sheltered table in the this little waterfront park is taken. Most of them with a cake and no people. There’s no shade to be gotten. Fuck it I post up and snooze near the restrooms. Quiet enough spot until it’s not.

I ride to the edge of town and take one last stop. I’m at Publix and I’m breaking the open container law and grabbing some quick and executional calories courtesy of Goose Island (nope they don’t pay me). Call the cops. I’m not normally an IPA fan, though the 9.9% ABV lures me in. Cause why not, what’s the worse that could happen. I push out, my return to Cape Coral now in sight.

This road is called Burnt Store. I have no idea what that means but it’s better than Highway 41. It’s a nice long stretch with a shoulder all the way to Cape Coral. I think. Five miles in… Fuck. There’s goes the shoulder. Even Petra is not into this two lane road moving where idiots think 55 mph is slowing down. I scranpble to find a reroute. There’s a strange picnic table chained to a sign in the middle of nothing else Not much options as I’m now bugging the Gulf of Mexico. Whaddya know. Durden Street. No sign of Brad or Edward.

I do however find Old Burnt Store road. It’s much quieter and has a bike lane. Science bless the old and…. Oh shit. Wu-Tang reference! Kills Hill 10304, you best to check ya neck.

I’m showered, shaved and emptying my fathers refrigerator at the moment. The loop takes 12 days and I’ve got a lot of thoughts about it. More to come. For now, I’m going to readjust to sleeping inside.

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Day 11. 659 Miles. Hodgepodge Pedaler.

Bottom of the shift chat with Gustavo. He’s the engineer and paramedic. Really great guy. Educated. Married with kids and coming off a 48 hour shift. I’m surprised he even wants to chat with me, but he’s waiting on relief. Sitting around the lounge talking with him about the job. Even in Budapest, firefighters put the wet stuff on the hot stuff. Fire science. The same gig everywhere, mostly. Over some great coffee, we discuss the intricate differences between our workplaces. Basically our employers and our unions. They have a brand new station coming. The have two mandatory 24 hour shifts per month and are having trouble hiring people. The career isn’t as attractive and I soon find out it’s probably because they make less than I do. I already feel like I’m underpaid. Inflation is out of control. Rap is out of control. Wages been have been stagnant, mostly since right around the time I came to be alive on earth. Sorry not sorry. I didn’t do it. It ain’t my fault. So the firefighters at Polk County Fire have top of the line equipment, apparatus and houses. And also shit pay and what I consider a shitty schedule. No wonder they aren’t lining up to take the job. Gustavo says it’s also like this in orlando as well. He’s hopeful that they might get that 24/72 rotation that I have. I hope so too, because those guys deserve it. Tell a friend and tell a neighbor. Join or create a union wherever you work. If you’re retired or self employed, let your local government leaders know you support better pay and working conditions for the fire fighters that your tax dollar pay for.

My mind is wide open and relaxed. Thoughts arrive and I think on them and then they leave. I process and pedal. Mind and body both working congruently, at a scientific frequency in time with the living world and universe. It’s all so inexplicable and indescribable, so I’ll just say that this long ride shit is the cure. Not the band The Cure, an actual cure. Certainly the cure for my tendency to be pulled in many directions at once; a sanity refreshment. A mental rebirth. Probably the cure for the growing wave of ADHD. Maybe even peanut allergies. Definitely digital dependence. Pretty much everything everyone is getting. Attention here and now matters. Missing a turn can be costly. Doesn’t feel good at all, going back 5 miles or more. I can only measure time through space. Time isn’t real. Fight me about it. Timespace is the realest thing happening. It’s happening right now. It just happened and is still happening and is about to happen. Wrap your puny human brains around that. Through only the lens of distance can I tell how much time has passed. Pioneers of time measurement use the sun and it’s effect on a fixed space to measure time. There you go. I realize I didn’t take note of my mileage after a turn, I have no idea how much longer until the next turn. Only with both time and space considered can I be certain where and when I am and where and when I am going next. I make the next turn, there’s isn’t even a sign for what road I’m on. Get on this level.

A brief little route and wind update: it’s windy AF out of the west. Clear sunny day. Big same as yesterday. My route is not though. It’s turn after turn after turn through gridded out rural roads. Pythagoras would have a god damn brain aneurysm if he saw it. Zero hypotenuse available dude. Also, 90% of it is through farmland, citrus groves to be precise. I’m passing what must be millions of dollars in orange juice commodities. Looking good Billy Ray! Feeling good Louis. I stop and grab one. Not sure how ripe it is. Might give it a day or two. I catch a field worker harvesting. It’s straight ninja steez with their head to toe sun coverage and how quick they’re pulling fruits off the tree. Karate man cries in the inside.

I make it to Lake Wales. “Historic”, of course. I chill at he public park. Eat a snack. Cruise the lite downtown for signs of interest. I nice example of architecture and a nice example of street art. I move on.

“Historic” is baffling. People throw the label on everything they can. Historic cities and downtowns. Historic buildings and swaths of grass. I live in the historic Fruit Belt neighborhood. Just my neighborhood? The entire damn city up to North Street is historic. Isn’t each and everything that has ever happened at any time anywhere historic? It’s part of history. I sense false motives. Not to mention my timespace concerns. The entirety of the USA is a historic cemetery for millions of Native Americans. I could use the slave trade as another example if I need to. I don’t mean to rain on the rich (or “pretend rich” folks parades; just for cherry pic history and we’re good. And stop trying to make an extra dollar of throwing “historic” at the end of shit.

So yeah, looking at the map one might think I was going south and eat all day. Look again the map is not of the normal “north as up” variety. Adventure Cycling Association maps are oriented to maximize mileage per panel. It confuses some. I love it. So I’m going south and west most of the day. Which equals headwinds about half the time. Not too bad.

Peace River is, well, pretty peaceful. Nice break from farms and oranges. After 80 miles or so I arrive at Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs, Hardee County, USA. Did Hardee’s pay for naming rights to the county? They’ve got tent sites and showers and don’t take reservations. The sign says vacancy but the office is closed. I call and no answer. I take a site on the water. I haven’t seen a single gator and so I figure this site is the most legit. Thoughts? Unfortunately, molesting alligators is prohibited, so I’ll have to control my animal instincts. The sun is setting so the pop up penthouse goes right alongside the water feature. I lay out the feast on my nearby picnic table.

A little about what I call tour gourmet before zonking out. I kept simple and effective. Thanks to my BFF and last year’s coast to coast compaction Damon, Lenny and Larry’s cookies has taken a spot on the menu away from pretty much any sort of cliff bar type thing. They are dope, I like the white chocolaty macadamia. Trail mix full of nuts and dried fruits all day or course. The peanut butter banana burrito has been my personal long ride go to since 2004. Quick ramen noodle has been a great addition for a few years too. For saltiness, I dig either Frito’s or plain old pork rinds. Whatever refreshingly cold and bubbly beverage I can find. That’s pretty much it. Easy and effective. Minimal effort or cleanup, maximize caloric nutrition. Oh also, electrolytes because you know — it’s what plants crave.

I knock out a PB-B-B and a bowl of Ramen and a bag of pork rinds and then I knock out myself in the tent, happy to be on a much quieter swath of earth for the night.

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