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Saturday, December 31, 2016

R.I.P. 2016 - Year in Review

Here's my attempt at 'understatement of the year'... 2016 was interesting. A number of astounding things unfolded. Some good, some bad, some horrid. All making my personal achievements for the past 365 seem insignificant, and absolutely trivial. 

In January, North Korea announced that it had successfully conducted a hydrogen bomb test. On February 1, World Health Org declared Zika a Public Health Emergency. Later in the month Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary and gave hope to those of us who someday wish for climate change awareness, equal rights, accessible healthcare, quality education, and substantial change in the United States. 

In March, Obama became the first US president in 88 years to travel to Cuba, lifting the travel embargo. On March 22, attacks in Brussels killed more than 30. On Easter Sunday, a suicide blast in a park in Pakistan killed 69.  

On April 3, The Int'l Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the 'Panama Papers', which outlines how a Panamanian law firm established secret shell companies and offshore accounts for elite global power players. On April 16, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Ecuador, killing 663 people.  

In May, Eric Fanning became secretary of the Army, making him the first openly gay secretary in the US military. On June 23, the United Kingdom surprisingly voted to leave the European Union, effectively making England the butt of many a 'Brexit' joke. Unfortunately, later in November the world stage would have a new clown to mock.  

On July 19, sadly my birthday, Donald Trump officially became the Republican Party nominee for president. On July 26, Hillary Clinton became the Democratic Party nominee for president, and the first woman in the history of the United States to lead the presidential ticket of a major political party. On July 3, a suicide car bomb detonated in Baghdad, Iraq, killing at least 292. On July 14, a truck plowed into crowds on the Promenade in Nice, France, killing 85 and injuring 200.  

On September 9, North Korea claimed to have successfully detonated a nuclear warhead. In early October, Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti, tearing through the Caribbean nation killing more than 500.  

On November 8 (after substantially losing the popular vote) Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. On November 22, the Dow Jones Industrial closed at over 19k for the first time ever, signaling that while humanity is lost, at least our economy continues to steadily grow. On November 28, a plane ran out of fuel and crashed near Medellin, Colombia killing more than 70 people, including the majority of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense.  

On December 10, 44 people are killed and 155 injured in bombings in Istanbul, Turkey. On the 11th, a bomb killed 25 during morning mass in Cairo, and another car bomb killed 20 in Mogadishu, Somalia. On the 19th, a truck ran into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 and injuring 48.

Marking a very somber year, there were too many notable deaths to mention throughout. David Bowie, Harper Lee, Nancy Reagan, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Fidel Castro, John Glenn, and many many more. Finally, there were far too many shootings in the United States to highlight. A sad fact about the state of our union in 2016.


From a personal perspective, again an understatement, 2016 was interesting. I was able to accomplish some lofty goals, and also travel to several far flung locations.

In early January I founded a group called the NYC Adventure Cycling Club. It now has a wonderful leadership team, over 1k members, and continues to provide unique group rides and 'overnighters' throughout the northeast. Most importantly, it allowed me to meet amazing, lifelong friends. Really, it was more of a social club on two wheels. Some have even said it's a "drinking group with a cycling problem". Regardless, big shout out to Colin and Chris. Keep up the amazing work running the show!  

A bit later in January, I was able to explore the amazing areas of Tulum and Akumal in Mexico. This was part of my family's annual 'Destination Christmas' idea, which has removed all gifts and replaced them with quality time together in an exotic environment.

In early February, my sister ordered and received a copy of 'Someday Never Maybe', a blog-to-book recounting my one-year, 24k mile motorcycle journey to/through Central and South America. This marked one of the first 'paid' copies to be shipped. Although it's family, and my sales will most likely remain in single digits, it feels nice to have a published physical book that I can look back on someday.  

In early March the NYC Adventure Cycling Club completed the first of many organized overnight rides. Although cold, we had a solid group of amazing individuals show. Thanks Chris, Anna, Bert, Colin, and George. We'll look back on that long weekend up to Harriman with fond memories of smiles, laughter, and good friendship.  

In April I traveled all over the United States for work on a whirlwind tour. Miami, LA, Seattle, Vegas, you name it. I was also invited on a fun trip to explore New Orleans with Jen. Later that month I joined my good friends Peter and Sam in Austin for a MotoGP boys weekend. Foggy memories of that one, but I'm certain we had an amazing time. Finally, I popped down to Nicaragua to revisit a few places I'd uncovered on my moto trip, and explore a couple of business opportunities.  

In May I continued to explore my incredible home, New York City. It takes awhile to feel 'at home' in NY, but I'd made friends, knew where my favorite bagel and pizza shops were, and was able to navigate the subway with eyes closed. I don't know if I'll ever be a New Yorker, but the city in Spring was beginning to unfold and present itself to me in a way that's hard to explain for those who haven't lived there.  

On June 11th, I quit yet another fantastic job, and my father and I set off from Brooklyn to ride bicycles for 100 days across the country. On September 18th, 4,519mi later, we dipped our wheels into the Pacific. Following the adventure, I was able to sample the #vanlife by renting a ridiculous minivan and road tripping through the PNW, into Canada, then back 'home' to Denver. It was a lovely way to end the bike journey, and nice to explore and spend more time with Jen.  

In October, I found myself in Mexico yet again. This round to explore the beautiful city of Guadalajara. I sampled wonderful tequila, met rad people, and ate fantastic street food. Later that month I made way down to the Caribbean. Jen accepted a one-year contract in St Lucia with the Ministry of Education, so I figured I'd spend time getting her settled in, and do a bit of 'exploring' myself. My first stop was the lovely fishing village of Castara, Tobago. 

Then from Nov 4th - Dec 28th I was 'living' in St Lucia alongside Jen. During my time there we explored the island together. I also checked another item off ye olde bucket list by spending a month learning and becoming officially certified to sail. I now hold Competent Crew, Flotilla Skipper, and Bareboat Captain IYT certifications, and can fully charter my own boat with confidence. I even captained an overnight trip to Martinique to explore St Anne's French bread and croissants. Happy to report, they're both amazing.

So now I find myself back in Castara, Tobago. I've been contracted to assist a small, boutique hotel to build their website and help with sales/marketing efforts. I'll be here for five weeks, then it's off to Panama to explore several land/business opportunities. Finally, at the end of Feb I'll make way to Cali, Colombia to spend some time dancing salsa, practicing Spanish, and looking at a business there. After that? Honestly I have no idea. An idea that's terrifying, but apparently just the way I want it. Some say life begins at the end of the comfort zone. Sure, we'll go with that, this year was slightly uncomfortable. 

What a fucking year...  Let's put 2016 to bed. See you soon 2017. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

100 Days Later /// TransAmerica Complete!

Well there we have it, as quickly as this thing started it's come to an end.  We rolled out of Brooklyn, away from the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, June 11th.  Sunday, September 18th, 100 days later, we found ourselves in Florence, Oregon sipping celebratory bubbly that the girlfriend Jen was kind enough to provide.  

Here are some stats from the trip...  
Miles ridden: 4,519
Riding days: 84
Tent camping nights: 40
Saddle time: 399hrs 25mins
Longest day: 95mi / 8.5hrs
Push-ups completed: ~9k
Estimated calories burned on bike: 336k
Weight before: 178lbs
Weight after: 170lbs
Ice cream cones: ~1,334,574
Flat tires: ZERO!

Jen met us in Florence with a rental van (awesome / #vanlife).  We dropped my father off in Portland and are now taking a road trip together towards Denver.  From Portland we hit Seattle, then it was up the coast to camp.  We're currently in Vancouver exploring and visiting a friend Jayden that I met randomly in El Salvador on my moto trip.  He owns a craft beer and wine tour company called Vine and Hops, so his hospitality and 'tour-guiding' have been spot on.  Tomorrow we plan to head east towards Banff, then we'll hook a right (south) and head towards Colorado with several stops in between.

Seems like yesterday - Brooklyn Bridge
I'm still processing everything, and will write a proper recap soon.  As for next steps?  Once back in Denver I/we plan to rest for a bit.  J has been offered a one-year contract position with the Ministry of Education in St Lucia beginning Oct 10th.  I'll join her in paradise for a month or two to get settled in.  There's a chance I'll fall in love and will never want to leave, but for now I'm in the beginning stages of planning yet another two-wheeled adventure that could potentially take 9'ish months, and lead to some pretty remote and far-flung places.  Most likely my most epic yet, and perhaps this time filmed (more to come on that).  Once this is all a bit more solid I'll of course post a rough outline and itinerary.  Until then, 

Cheers pops!  I'm proud of you/us - we did it!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Days 93 - 98 /// Final Pass & Man Down!

Last post was from Mitchell and again, if you get a chance be sure to check out the Spoke'n Hostel and Tiger Town Brewery there.  A special stop on the TransAm route for sure.  From there it was Prineville, then Sisters for a couple nights.  Note, waking up to 26F, inside a bag rated for 40F isn't ideal.  I ended up sleeping in three layers for three nights.  From Sisters we set out on what would be the final big climb, and one of the best days of the entire trip for me.  

I woke up in good spirits, despite not being able to feel my toes.  Got everything packed up and we were off around 10am after it warmed up slightly.  The climb out of Sisters up to McKenzie Pass was amazing.  Started off at a slight grade w/ beautiful large pine forest on both sides of the road.  Once we started really climbing it cleared out presenting beautiful views of Three Sisters to the left, and Mt Hood to the right.  At the top seemingly everyone was surprised to find a sea of dried lava.  Apparently 1,500 years ago McKenzie summit wasn't a hospitable place.  After yet another roadside PB&H (switched the J for honey as it keeps longer) we set off on the most amazing descent down into McKenzie Bridge.  We're talking 20+ miles of smooth pavement, blue skies, stunning mountains and forest all around, and switchbacks for days.  

I was well ahead of my dad after the climb and descent, so ended up stopping in at the ranger station.  There were two cute female park rangers inside who were quick to offer up recommendations for the area.  They told me to set camp at McKenzie Bridge campground, and I was glad for the tip as the campground is gorgeous.  Directly on the river and surrounded by fairytale-esqe, ancient, moss-covered trees.  Also, 1mi back is the McKenzie Bridge General Store, which has been acquired and renovated by two younger guys.  They've added an outdoor patio, food truck w/ amazing salmon tacos, craft beer everywhere, and a movie screen.  Spaceballs was on, so I settled in with a few Buoy IPAs and enjoyed the cult classic.  

Yesterday morning we woke up and slowly packed.  The river and setting was just as beautiful with the sun on the other side.  We rode Hwy 126 for the majority of the day, and it was bad.  My dad and I were discussing just how dangerous some of the roads are on the TransAm.  Little did we know it was foreshadowing for what you'll read below.  

We ended up making it to Eugene with no issue and are staying in a great host home.  If you remember, I met three killer chicas in Ash Grove, MO.  One of them was named Erika and she and I have stayed in touch via email ever since.  She recommended that I reach out to her cousin Alissa who is our current awesome host, along with her equally awesome roommate.  Small world, big hospitality!  We are currently enjoying a rest day here.  Although it's been filled with errands and getting caught up, so not as restful as one could hope for.  :/  

Now back to the danger of the roads referenced above.  Upon arrival in Eugene I was checking messages last night and noticed one from Matt, the young guy from NY we were riding with for some time.  He informed me that Wally, the guy we have been riding on/off with since Kentucky, was sideswiped by an RV and had an ambulance ride to the ER.  I talked briefly with Wally this morning and he'll be OK.  That's most important of course.  

Get this, it was his very last day on the TransAm.  After months on the road and 4.5k+ miles, a bastard in an RV chose to knock him off the road mere miles from the finish in Astoria.  Unreal, couldn't have scripted it that way.  Apparently the driver pulled off 1/8mi up the road, but never came back to check on him.  Others stopped to help thankfully.  I wasn't involved, but can't tell you how livid this makes me.  I don't even know what to say.  There really isn't anything to say, some people should simply be taken out back and shot.  I guess it's best I wasn't there.  My temper wouldn't have helped the situation.  Again, I'm just happy he will be OK.  He told me this morning that he plans to hop back on his bike and ride 14mi to the finish line within the next few days.  That's Wally for ya!  Didn't think I'd meet anyone as stubborn as me.  :)  

Wally isn't on social media, but he is raising money for a cause here.  I'm sure it would mean a lot to him if you could throw a few bucks his way.  You can also learn more about him there.  He is a very interesting guy, and talented writer.  I look forward to the day he organizes all his journals, processes this whole trip, and incorporates it into a book.  I'll be first in line to purchase a copy.  

I guess that's it for now.  We're apparently ~85mi from the finish of our trip in Eugene, Oregon.  We plan to wrap up on September 18th.  I'm sure there will be plenty of writing then.  For now I'll leave you with a few shots.  
Ciao for now, 

Note, photos below are semi-graphic...  In the grand scheme, Wally got lucky.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Days 87 - 92 /// That Hospitality Tho

A reader/friend sent a note and asked for some stats, so I'll kick it off with that...

Riding stats:  
Mile count:  4,240
Day count:  92
State count:  15
Crash count:  3
Terrible hangover count:  2
Rabid dogs nailed direct to the face w/ pepper spray:  1
Flat tires:  0 (Schwalbe FTW!)

Combined total of excessively oversized RV's, Trump signs, mouth-breathing redneck trucks, rebel flags, and other various 'Merica stereotypes:  8,435,679

Wildlife stats
Bear:  1
Foxes:  8
Deer (alive):  ~150
Deer (roadkill):  ~1000
Cows:  3,457,934
Various birds of prey:  Many

Total wildlife spotted in ALL of Yellowstone:  0

Stats out of the way, the riding in Oregon continues to impress.  The last post left off in Baker City.  From there the road has led to/through Prairie City, Dayville, and now Mitchell for a rest day.  Baker was a cool little town.  I ended up exploring the Main St historic area, ate at Bob's Burgers (do it!), went to the museum (dope), and got properly buzzed at Barley Brown's Brewery, which offers surprisingly great grog.  

After Baker we headed out for a loooong day of climbing.  There are three passes en route to Prairie City.  My pops stopped at Bates Campground, which was just before the third climb.  It was nice, but no shade, showers, and/or wifi.  We met a nice lady at the site named Christy who has a guesthouse in Mt Vernon.  She scrawled a phone number on a piece of scrap and said, "if you get up and over the next hill I have friends in Prairie City who'd be happy to host you for the night.  Plus, there's a great Mexican restaurant."  It was early in the day, sunny, and due to the rest day in Baker I was feeling great, so I decided to press on.  

I was up and over the last pass before I knew it rolling into historic Prairie City.  I grabbed a coffee and reluctantly called the number on the piece of paper.  A woman answered and I explained myself.  "Um...  hello, my name is David and I'm a bicycle tourist from..."  On the other end a man picked up and said "stop, come on up!"  I was taken aback at first, but he gave me an address and told me the doors were unlocked and to "go on in and make yourself at home".  He said they would be home in an hour or so.  

I arrived at a beautiful home overlooking Strawberry Mtn.  I let myself in and as I was unpacking my hosts arrived home.  Jimi and Karen are avid cyclists and have built a beautiful home together.  They host cyclists frequently, and were more than hospitable and generous.  Seriously, I could write for days about how honored I am to be invited into people's homes.  I've had home-cooked meals, the opportunity to utilize showers and laundry, and sleep in comfortable beds.  It still blows my mind.  Jimi and Karen were no exception and are a standout on this trip for sure.  If you are reading this, thanks guys.  And of course thanks to Christy who tipped me off to call em!

My pops met me in Prairie City the next morning and we made way to Dayville.  It's a nice little town and solid stop on the route.  There's a church in town that has hosted cyclists for years.  Rose, who runs the show, let us in and showed us around.  We had a shower, laundry, warm place to sleep, and a full kitchen.  Again, that hospitality though!  

Yesterday we made our way up and over another pass, and down into Mitchell.  We've been hearing about a new bike hostel since Missouri called Spoke'n Hostel.  I thought to myself, how good could it be?  What Jalet (pronounced Jal'ey) has done with this place is nothing short of amazing.  It's an old church they've taken over and renovated.  The generosity and friendliness is hard to explain.  The warmth and hospitality she has created will certainly make this a top 5 place to stay on the TransAm.  I'm certain of it.  She loaded her dog Lily into the vintage church van and even drove us up to check out the Painted Hills.  Seriously, a MUST stop, if only to see what she has created here.  

Finally, Hannah and Patrick showed up for the evening.  Hannah is a nice, young, aspiring dentist traveling the TransAm from Ashville, NC.  Her flag/visibility game is on point!  Seriously, I've never seen so much neon yellow.  Not poking fun, it's no joke out here and she is smart to rock that much visibility-increasing gear.  Patrick is a biology major from St Louis, rocking a Trek, with impeccable taste in music (only because it's similar to mine).  Most recently working for the zoo and a biology lab.  We met them both in Missoula and it was nice to cross paths again.  Best of luck to you both.  Safe and happy travels!  

*Update* - Also make sure to stop at Tiger Town Brewery in Mitchell for some of Eric's 'Tiger' wings.  They are EPIC!  Brewery itself should be open soon.  The combo of Spoke'n Hostel, Tiger Town, and Sidewalk Cafe (great shakes) make Mitchell a prime cyclist stop on the TransAm.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Days 84 - 86 /// Lions, Tigers, & Bears... Oh My!

Storms headed into Baker City
Ok, so I didn't see lions and/or tigers, but did see a bear on the Weiser River Trail.  This was a two-day detour I decided on after seeing how incredibly $hite the I-95 portion of the TransAm route is in Idaho.  For anyone who finds themselves in the area, take the trail instead.  A bit rough in areas, but a real gem.  I deflated the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires to 45psi, which made the trail quite manageable.  Only real issue, I was a dirty/dusty mess after both days.  However, this made for the best two showers of the entire trip!

Yesterday we capped off several long days in the saddle with a 70 miler from Oxbow to Baker City.  This took us up and over two passes.  Showed 4.5k ft of elevation during the ride.  All of it made worse by a mad headwind for the second half.  Still a very lovely day, but I can't tell you how happy I am to have a hotel room w/ proper bed.  My first since Breckenridge!

Antique trucks, covered wagons, 'elixir' cart, and magic white horse
Today I'm getting caught up on email, contacts, and checking out the sights around Baker City.  This is a railroad town directly on the old Oregon Trail, so there's quite a bit of history to explore. 

On a random side note, we crossed over 4k miles yesterday just as we were entering into our 15th and final state, Oregon.  Quite the accomplishment.  

I'll let photos do the rest of the talking.  

Until next round, 

~ D

Snake River Dam...  Dayumn!

Cute little guy in East Bumble, ID

Weiser River Trail, ID