Monday, May 27, 2013


It has been a few weeks since I have updated this blog.  I wish I could blame it on poor Internet access, or absolute busyness even abducion by island pirates.  Although some of those things have played a small part in my radio silence, for the most part it has been because it has felt so good to stay away from connection to the Internet for a short while.  I know that the Internet and Internet devices will always play a big part in all of our lives, (unless, of course, the impending zombie apocalypse does come sooner that expected) it just feels good to remove yourself from those things every once in a blue moon.

I have come a long way.  After Montezuma I spent the night in a shabbly motel in Rivas.  Everything about it was haphazard and dingy but I did get to watch The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in Spanish. Following Rivas were many community busses all the way up into Nicaragua.  I probably wouldn't have made it had I not met a girl from Argentina that was traveling the same way.  More and more I realize how beneficial it would have been to learn much more Spanish before coming to Central America because I had to lean heavily on my newly found Spanish speaking friend.  Valentine and I both made it across the border and soon found ourselves on a ferry to Isla de Ometepe.  Now the funny thing about the word ferry is, is that when people hear the word "ferry" it brings to mind many different images.  The last image I would have ever imagined was the one that would have accurately represented the vessel that we traveled on.  This sucker was a beauty.  Complete with an engine and a bottom this boat had just about everything anyone would need including: vintage school bus seats nailed to the floor, open sides to let water in and out with ease and many seasick patrons.  It would have been absolutely horrible if I didn't have someone to share it with.  Once we were happily off the S.S. Windy Barf Ometepe awaited us.  

Ometepe is A beautiful place.  It it an island in the middle of Nicaragua's gigantic fresh water lake 
that was formed by the growth of two volcanoes right next to each other.  Most people come to Ometepe to hike to the top of the volcanoes but unfortunately I was unable to do so.  I spent a couple of days hanging out with Valentine and her friend Ayelen driving around the island on motorcycles 
hopping in and out of natural fresh water pools and just taking in the comfortable slow pace of the island. By then end of my stay I didn't want to leave... But I did.  Leaving Ometepe was tough but just like everything else here, it was only meant to be enjoyed for a time.  When that time is up all you can do is leave and keep pieces of that place secure in your mind to be enjoyed as a memory for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Playa Muerta

     Learning to dive has been an amazing experience.  In five days I have gone from knowing absolutely nothing to being comfortable sixty seven feet under the water.  It is fantastic.  Really there is not much to it.  As long as there is controll in the mind and trust in the instructor there are very few problems that can occour.  Both my instructors Michele (a positive and spirited Italian) and David (a very controlled and down to earth man from Argentina) gave me no reason to worry or be unsure of the success of my dives.  My first open water dive was at Playa Muerta.  (Death Beach)  Although the name automatically instills fear there is no reason to be afraid of this place.  Right away, under the water, there was a turtle waiting for us at the bottom.  It was just sitting in between two rocks as if it was taking a break and let my instructor come up right next to it and grab it by the sides.  After a couple seconds it realized it had had enough and diplayed its power under the water by speeding of at a speed that seemed impossible for a turtle.  The rest of the dives went swimmingly without problems and I am now certified to dive anywhere in the entire, whole wide world.

     The days began to grow more and more lonely.  I have been staying at my inxtructor`s casita which is about thirty minutes walk from downtown Montezuma.  (I use the word ¨"downtown" but in a place of no more that 250 people the term downtown is a very loose one.)  I haven´t stayed at a hostel or anyplace which is conducive to meeting new people and being thirty minutes away doesn´t sound to bad but when it requires walking up a giant hill it lessens the chance making the trip too often.  It wasn´t until I the second to last day of training did I finally connect with some people.  I was spending my free time that day surfing at Playa Grande and getting totally punished by the ocean.  Previously, two middle easternish looking guys had passed me and starting doing something a small distance away in the protected jungle that comes up right next to the beach.  I was watching a little while and started to notice some things that they were pulling out of their bag.  They had what looked like a sort of webbing you use for climbing and what I thought to be some silver carabineers and were stretching it out a little.  I thought to myself, "there is no way that these guys are setting up a slackline."  Sure enough, these guys were setting up a slackline.

*Slackline: It is basically strong webbing or straps that you string up between two trees or posts or anything solid.  By making it really tight it allows you to walk across.  Like a tight rope.  Some people consider "slacklining" a friviouls or "hippyish" type thing to do.  Those people... are dumb.

     I couldn´t believe my eyes.  Two Israeli dudes were setting up a slackline for their first time within eyesight.  You better believe that I slowly tip-toed over there and asked if I could join.  I was able to help them out a little bit and then, because of the power of the line, we became friends.  It did become magical at the moment when we were on the slackline and all of a sudden a heard (flock?group?gang?) of monkeys were traveling over our heads.  I finally met some people.  They invited me to the hostel where they were staying at (Luna Llena) and lo´ and behold there were more people!  Some French another Israeli and a girl from San Francisco.  It was fun.  We all talked and drank and were able to share some culture and poke fun at each others stereotypes.  This was a good last night in Costa Rica.

       My istructors gave me my diving lisence and I left Montezuma.  From Montezuma to Punterenas I ran into a couple from Finland and Sweeden.  I realize that the more I travel here the more people I am going to meet.  My only regret is that our meetings are so short.  We share a quick moment, some distance together and then we part ways.  Perhaps we will meet again someday... hopefully.

    Well this is it.  It seems that my time in Costa Rica is over.  Now it is time to head to Nicaragua.  To Isla de Ometepe.

(Please forgive any spelling errors for I am writing this on a computer in Central America and these computers recognise only Spanish.  They can´t tell that I am a terrible speller in English.  Also for pictures refer to my instagram. beautrembly)

Saturday, May 4, 2013


     Montezuma.  A beautiful place where the days begin and end at six.  Cascading waves are greeted by beaches with thick, vine covered trees.  Parakeets and seagulls share the forest with squirrels, howler monkeys and lizards and at night armies of sand crabs march from the ocean to their cliff side dwellings.  The sights are as foreign as any California boy could hope for but when it comes down to, it the first sensation is one of tremendous heat.  Man this place is hot!

     My first few days in Costa Rica were spent traveling.  I left LAX on a plan to San Salvador, El Salvador.  This airport seems more like a giant Duty Free with some space for planes to move in and out of.  After about an hour layover at San Duty Free I was on my way to San Jose, Costa Rica.  I arrived just in time to find my bag, catch a Taxi downtown and find a hotel before it became dark.  After a one night stay at the El Dorado hotel, I spent the next morning looking for the bus station.  I'm sure I had the same clueless look on my face that every gringo has when hopelessly wondering the streets of downtown San Jose because I was quickly approached by a small local named Oscar.  Oscar quickly informed me that I as on the wrong side of town and we began to briskly walk together in the opposite direction to where my desired bus was.  The walk was long enough for us to learn a little bit about each other.  It was good to begin to hear some stories about a real person living in Costa Rica.  Our walk ended I tipped my new found companion and I hopped on the bus to Puntarenas.

     It must just work this way, but on the Punteranas bus I ended up sitting next to a fellow traveler.  She is a French Canadian named Annik.  As it turned out we were both headed toward Montezuma so we ended up taking this bus the next ferry and the following bus together.  It was a pleasant thing, having someone to travel with.  I'm not sure how many days in the future I will spend alone, but the days in which I spend traveling with another person seem to feel a little bit better.   Together we made the journey alive.  Even after the bus ride from the ferry to Montezuma.  Which was over two hours.... standing room only.  It was made a little more bearable because someone turned up their MP3 player and blasted the slow jams for everyone to hear.  I never knew I would appreciate George Michael's "Wicked Games" so much.

     At Montezuma I changed paths with my fellow traveler and found myself staying at a small dorm style hostel called "Hotel Lucy."  Hotel Lucy was beautiful little place where I made camp for two nights as I surveyed the town and looked for my diving instructors.  The first night was fine.  I found some food and went to bed, tired from the all the travel.  The next day felt fine too.  I took the down time to explore up and down the coast.  I rented a surf board and surfed a little a Playa Grande, a large white sand beach with a fairly easy beach break.  But after dinner as I was walking back to Hotel Lucy the great emperor Montezuma came to greet me.  Now I know that Emperor Montezuma was an emperor of Mexico in the 1500's and probably would care little about the comings and goings of one person in Montezuma more than 600 years later; but he surely cared about me that night.   I couldn't sleep and ended up making the sickness all over the beach late into the small hours of the night.  It was awful actually.  Even if my body was done being sick I couldn't sleep because of the heat and humidity.  It felt like that somehow this was my initiation.  I suffered for one night and now Central America will allow me to stay.  Hopefully She doesn't ask too much more of me as I begin to learn to dive and explore this magical place.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Coming Home

St. Helens to San Diego
July 17: St Helens - Tillamook (Cape Lookout)         104.50 - Rain
July 18: Tillamook- Florence (Honeyman)                 117.53
July 19: Florence - Port Orphard (Humbug Mtn.)       103.50
July 20: Port Orphard - Crescent City (Mill Creek)     86.55
July 21: Crescent City - Weott (Burlington)                127.06
July 22: Weott - Westport (KOA)                                73.88
July 23: Westport - Fort Brag - Santa Cruz                  20/bike - 175/car
July 24: Santa Cruz - Big Sur (Pheifer)                        78.57
July 25: Big Sur - Morrow Bay (State Park)                96
July 26: Morrow Bay - Refugio                                   104.12
July 27: Refugio - Oxnard (McGrath State Park)         61.73
July 28: Oxnard - Long Beach (Seaport Hotel)            97.29
July 29: Long Beach - Oceanside - Temecula              68.85/bike - 55/car

Miles Ridden on Return Trip: 1119.58
Daily Average:                           93.29
Total Miles Round Trip:         ~3100

     The ride back was a lot of fun.  I was flying.  By then I had seen most of what I thought I wanted to see so the return trip was about seeing how quickly I could make it back.  I got a ride to St. Helens, Oregon from my friend Miranda.  Miranda made the 1200 mile journey to the wedding from Temecula by car and was kind enough enough to shuttle me out of Washington.  It was great to begin again from Oregon.  It took a solid two days out of my trip through some less than stunning parts of Washington as well as making it feel a little less daunting.  The day I left St. Helens ended up being the rainiest day I've ever rode through.  The cloud seemed to be following me because I after it would dump it would let up for about 45 minutes and the start dumping again.  It was the only rain I saw on the entire return trip though.  It was good to get it out of the way.  I sort of felt like Oregon was so sad to see me go that it couldn't help but cry tears of bitter, bitter separation.  Farewell Oregon.
I Found It!

     Things passed by pretty quickly.  The Oregon coast was a blur.  The Redwoods although still vast and magnificent went by in a flash.  Big Sur was a blip.  I was almost solely concerned with just pushing my body as far as I could go.  Not for the sake of exorcise but mostly because I just wanted to be finished and there were people that I began to miss so much.  Even though I was moving quickly there were things that couldn't help but arrest my attention.  Because I was traveling for longer I ended up seeing most of the coast during the sunset.  I can't describe how beautiful it is riding over rugged coast while the sun is descending over the ocean.

    Coming into California felt like returning home.  Even though I still had 800 or so miles to go, it seemed as though I was on my front door step.  I kept pushing through the hills and forests but ended up having some bike problems.  After replacing my wheel I was actually able to meet my parents in Fort Bragg.  They were in San Francisco for the weekend and gave me a surprise visit.  I couldn't turn down the ride they offered which would cut out some particularly hard northern California coastline.   They took me down to Santa Cruz where I would again mount my bike with the new back wheel and finish my trip.  From there on I conquered some of the bigger hills that kicked my butt when I started.  Big Sur this time was a joy to ride and Lompoc, although still dry and desolate, was just slightly challenging, not devastatingly hard.

Point Sur

     I didn't feel the finality of it all until I pulled in with my dad (who met me in Oxnard and ended up riding with me to Oceanside) to the Santa Monica peer.  It's hard to put into words but all of a sudden the joy of the end and the uneasiness of the uncertainty ahead just hit me all at once.  When you're riding all you think about is where you'll be next or what you need to eat.  Now I started thinking less about the immediate and more about the long term.  What am I going to do?  I can honestly say that I don't know but I'm both excited and anxious about finding the answer.

     Now that it's all over I can't help but think about what my next adventure will be.  Hopefully there will be many more to come and I encourage anyone to find their own as well.  Again thank you for reading.  It has been great for me and I hope you have enjoyed sharing the journey.


Friday, July 15, 2011


     Hello everyone.  First I'd like to thank everyone who has been taking the time out of their lives to read all my posts.  It's been really great knowing that people have been sharing this experience with me.  I feel like I'm a different person.  The miles have beaten and galvanized me into a stronger willed and more focused individual.  Everyone should take the time to do something like this.  Some of the things I've learned and been taught, I feel, could not have come about any other way.   With all of that said... I'M IN SEATTLE!!!

     Finally right?  I've been here for about six days.  I've just been moving from home to home, bouncing around, waiting until Erin's wedding.  Sunday was the second day I was here and that day I went to church with Erin and her fiance Dan.  We went to Mars Hill which is pastored by Mark Driscoll.   One of the many bands put together by the church played and we watched Mark's sermon via video.  This church has grown so much in popularity that all but one of the buildings are satellite venues projecting his one week behind sermon.  The people there have a great heart and it was great to be a part of it for a day.  Afterward the three of us went and had Mexican for lunch.  Now, being from Southern California, I have a certain standard for food that is labeled "Mexican."  Although it wasn't 100% up to par, my carne asada burrito was pretty darn good.  I also got to hear the story of their relation ship during the meal.  They both met while on the same bike tour that I have been on for the past month.  Hear that all you single guys?  If you want to find a good lady, join a group bike tour.  After lunch we parted ways.  Seeing as how they were getting married in less than a week they had a few more pressing matters to attend to.

     This was really the only solid thing that I've done all week.  I've been bouncing around from host to host kind of seeing little bits of Seattle at a time.  The fist night I stayed in Ballard with one of Dan's groomsmen named Jake in his townhouse.  It was definitely a last minute accommodation and I was grateful that Jake could help me out at all.  The next two nights I stayed with my first Couch Surfing host, also name Jacob, in his apartment in Magnolia.  Magnolia is located on top of one of the bigger hills of Seattle which give's it's occupants an amazing view of the whole northwest area.  He was also busy with wedding preparations (he is the best man for his brother's wedding) but he was able to spend as much time as he could with me.  The first day he gave me my own set of keys and I was able to goof around the city without all my gear with me.  The second night I was with Jacob he took me to one of the more prominent Ballard bars to have a few beers and talk about each of our adventures.  Well at least that was the intention.  What really happened was, we unexpectedly stumbled into the bars movie night.  The both of us, as well as about 50 other patrons, ended up watching Patrick Swayze's Roadhouse.  If there is ever a reason to watch Roadhouse, it's with 50 other slightly inebriated bar people.  It was amazing.  Possibly the most awful movie ever was made incredible by the situation in which I watched it.  If you've never seen it, here's an excerpt.
Red Webster: How long are you gonna be in town? 
Dalton (Shwayze): Not very long. 
Red Webster: That's what I said 25 years ago. 
Dalton: Really? What happened? 
Red Webster: I got married to an ugly woman. Don't ever do that. It just takes the energy right out of you. She left me, though. Found somebody even uglier than she was. That's life. Who can explain it? 

     The next morning I left Jacob, spent some time in the city and then headed for my next host's home which was in West Seattle.  This was the home of Grant and Lisa.  Grant met me at the door with his giant golden retriever and then led me around back where to my surprise was my own little house waiting for me.  Well, it wasn't a house... but it was an entirely self sufficient guest room with a shower washer/dryer, kitchen area and a refrigerator.  Lisa made sure I had a dry towel and then they too gave me a key to the garage and the room.  This gave me another day to explore without having to drag my caboose.  Currently I'm staying in the American Hostel in Downtown Seattle.

     The wedding is tomorrow.  I feel anxious not only for the wedding itself but to start riding back home.  This will be my last night in Seattle because I'm leaving right after the wedding tomorrow evening.  Actually, I have a confession to make.  My friend Miranda drove up here from Temecula and she also is leaving right after the wedding tomorrow evening...  Now I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking that I'm going to do the dirty, low-down, no-good thing and ride back with her.  I say shame on you for thinking that.  After all we've been through.  I'm only going to do half of the dirty, low-down, no-good thing.  Actually it' not that bad.  She's agreed to let me ride with her down to St. Helens Washington.  Which would save me an entire two days of riding and a whole night in Seattle which, to be honest, is really expensive.  This hostel is costing me 40$ a night.  Anything I can do to save that extra 40 bucks I will.  After the Sunday night in St. Helens I will make the 95 mile ride to Tillamook then take the coast home from there.  Please don't be angry with me.  I just have to get out of Washington.  I feel proud of myself though.  My odometer says that since I've started the trip I've put 1950 miles on my bike.  It hasn't all been forward progress but still... that's a lot of miles.  It's amazing what a little time and about 60 miles a day will do.

     As far as coffee goes, there hasn't been anything that exciting here.  I did see the original Starbucks in Pikes market.  Apart from the the aesthetics of the store they're still selling the same coffee.  They're just using better machines to make equally as awful drinks.  On some street corners if you stand just right, you can see two Starbucks at once.  Seattle coffee roasters traditionally roast pretty dark which just isn't something that I'm into.  Some people really like the harsh and heavy roasted profile but it's just not my thing.  I'm kind of coffee'd out to be honest.  I know it's a little anticlimactic, but I've had so much good coffee from these other places that I think that there would have to be a super stunning shop here to really catch my attention.  And although there is at least three coffee shops on every street corner most of them are mediocre at best.

     This is going to be my last post by text.  On the way home I plan of traveling as fast as I can so I don't think that that will leave me much time to write about my travel back.  I'm going to try to take videos with my iPod touch so maybe I can upload those pretty frequently.  Again, I want to thank you all for reading.  Maybe this story of an out-of-shape kid from SoCal riding all the way to Seattle will inspire you to do something similar in the future.  Anyone can do it.  You just need the time.  And remember...

-John the Rider

Sunday, July 10, 2011

All My Friends Are Dead

Tacoma, Not Just a Truck

Great Book
     From Olympia was the ride to Tacoma.  Not a whole lot stood out to me.  It was a pretty easy ride with the wind at my back most of the time.  There was not much a view of anything as I rode through some smaller cities on the way to Tacoma.  I arrived around six with somewhat of a clue as to how I would be getting to my next host's house.  It turned out that I was way off and after I was able to get directions, mess those up, then get more directions I finally rolled up to my stop.  Even though the house was in a residential district it was nestled within an amazing flowered lawn.  It felt like I was walking through Narnia to get to the front door.  The door was opened by the master gardener that attended to this wonderful land named Connie.  Her husband Mat was working that evening so I didn't meet him for an hour or so later but in the meantime I was treated to another delicious meal.  Something of a vegetarian thai dinner mixed with some pork tenderloin.  It was amazing.  I was also introduced to her daughter Holly and her kids that had just returned from their vacation to San Francisco and Yosemite.  A short time later Mat came home and quickly I felt like I was a part of their family.  I learned a lot about these people as we spent the night sharing stories of each of our travels.  Connie and Mat, who met during a bike tour, both have extensive touring experience.  I wasn't joking also when I said that she is a "master gardener."  It's an actual title to someone who completes a training program and afterward can assist with garden lectures, exhibits, demonstrations and is equipped to answer pretty much any gardening question.  Mat is a social worker that tries to get first offender kids back on the right track.  They gave me a clean bed to sleep in and around 11 I passed out.

    The next day Connie and Mat and I all had coffee together at a pretty decent coffee shop called Valhalla Coffee Company.  I liked the tribute to the masculine slavic lore but the coffee wasn't spectacular.  The barista making the milk drinks did a good job but the drip coffee wasn't handled with enough care to make it worth the price.  Afterwards we went to see Holly's home which was within this beautiful place called the "Narrows."  It's in this inlet where the Puget Sound comes and meets Tacoma which puts these homes right on the water.  They're all built on stilts and the level at which they are above the water is dependent on how high or low the tide is.  The views from these places are absolutely astounding.  When we were finished there we went back to Connie and Mat's place where we would await the arrival of two touring cyclists from Canada.  That night there was another amazing meal of
salmon and ratatouille.  The Canadians were just as hungry as I was and we all at an amazing amount of food.  There's nothing like the dynamic between five cyclists.  As we were talking it felt like we had shared all of our experiences together.  We all at and talked late into the night and after some Klondike bars and some home made cookies we went to bed.  Leaving from a campsite in the morning is easy.  Most times I just want to get out of there.  Leaving from a such a warm and hospitable place is really hard.  The short time it takes to get to know these people is enough to form a strong bond that is hard to pull away from.  Connie and Mat wished me goodbye on a sunny morning as my wheels were pointed in one direction... Seattle.