Back in the Saddle – 180 KM to Pemberton



Spontaneity and preparation seem to be two polar opposite lifestyles that people abide by and adhere to. Golden rules, or unruly gold. If a spontaneous person is meant to prepare or vice versa, there is a possibility of the person feeling overwhelmed with the stress or anxious due to the uncertainty. I am usually spontaneous, leaving my known world on a simple fancy or trifle, living from day to day, on bit of cheese, bread and insider’s treats. I bicycle everyday. It’s a routine I have come to not think about, but just see as the only viable option to make it from point A to B. This is by no means preparation for a 170 kilometer slog through the mountains to the Pemberton Music Festival. This is where ill preparation could seem detrimental. I see it as a challenging thrill, a sickly pleasure to see if, and it’s really a BIG if many a times, if I will make it to my final destination, scathed or unscathed. 90km is never 90km. There is always about a 10km error. 170 then is really 180.


The day started 2 and a half hours later than expected. Not only was I ill prepared when it came to training for this ride, I was ill prepared when it came to packing appropriately. Possibly it was the concept of appropriateness that I felt uncomfortable with to pack as such. Possibly that last sentence sets precedence as how terrible I am at on the spot excuses. Spoiler alert: after spending considerable time deciding my attire for the 5 day festival, I ended up sporting my “Got Hummus” crop top the entire time. To paint a better picture galemptness (Yiddish for uselessness), I’d like to quickly note that I had only recently purchased clipless pedals and shoes and had only decided to adjust and test them that morning. Thank the bike deities, I was able to remember how they worked and how to unclip without impaling myself in some fashion. Anyways, it was what it was, I had what I had, and I hadn’t what I hadn’t and at 8:30am, after deciding which, between my three pairs of functional sunglasses I should sport on the ride up, I left my front door, pedaled down Nanaimo Street, through the traffic peanut butter and jammed streets of Downtown, across the Lion’s Gate Bridge to North Vancouver, stopping once, in the centre, to take in the incredible view of the inlet and Stanley Park, before getting a tad lost, finding my way and zooming along the coast towards Horseshoe Bay. Horseshoe Bay, for those who don’t know, is one of the gateway ferry terminals to the islands that speckle the British Columbian coast. I paused for a moment to stare down upon the Queen of Surrey slowly distorting the deep black blue ocean on it’s way to the island, munched on a No Name Rice K rispy Square, before crossing an overpass and entering onto the Sea to Sky Highway.


The Sea to Sky Highway and I have history. My father and I spun off of it once into a snow bank ravine, luckily, undamaged. A childhood friend of mine also left that same road almost 20 years ago, at excessive speeds, crashing through an impenetrable guardrail, the trauma of the experience, evident in the lasting image of her patched body, a beautiful, sullied woman, now a ragdoll, that was on display at her Ismaeli funeral, that is patched into my memory forever. The road terrifies me, a night terror that hinders your sleep, but until you face it, it runs you, orders you, enslaves you. And so, fear and adrenaline pushing me in opposite directions to places I don’t want to go and places I didn’t want to return to just yet, I swallow and I face the roar of traffic and missing, at times, shoulder of careening paved landscape. The road swerves, switchbacks, climbs and dips. On my side of it, a sheer rock face clips my right shoulder. Across the divided street, the ocean, trees and the wind, race passed me and I race passed. Each town is a small blip, like starting to say something and having nothing really to say, so abruptly ending to speak mid-sentence, that there is no meaning, or effect. Lions Bay, bled into Brunswick Beach, small little, wealthy communities, with one or two food options, marinas and stunning houses, hidden amidst properties brimming with evergreens and shrubbery. For some reason, in the town of Furry Creek, I stopped to take in the awesome name, the awesome patch of grass I found, near the town sign and a full package of awesome Whoppers that I scarfed down. Seriously, Furry Creek, I will be back to check out your museum. I am intrigued. The sign said Discover Furry Creek. I feel like standing on that singular patch of green life, between two parallel roads, was a good vantage point to see most of what the area had in the way of offerings.


Onwards, and after a nosh of maple and bacon poutine at the Squamish Micky Ds, it was literally upwards, constantly. The hills come mountains, soared into the heavens and the shlog became more intense with each pedal. Sweat pooled and beaded in every crevice and strained part of my facial expression. Breaks became more frequent. I was running out of No Name Rice Krispies. WTF WTF WTF was the running monologue in my head. The end was not in sight, unless it was my end. Nature was spilling onto the road. Trees became churches that I silently prayed to. What made it worse, was the lack of discernable landmarks to determine where I was on the planet. I was in a void, a blank nowhereness, heading somewhere, hopefully. The shlog was heightened by the sound of an impending storm. Clouds transformed the sky into a granite wall, a taunting ringleader, the cracking sound of the whip, was actually the sky unzipping it’s cloudy drawers and pissing all over me. Cold piss. Soul drenching piss. Everything was frozen, yet the wheels kept spinning, and I kept moving through the hellish drizzle. For a moment, I hid under an information sign about the Squamish Native People and ate Israeli chocolate spread and shmooshed bread, that had a hole in every piece of the loaf, due to a failed attempt to stash a pipe in it (ended up hiding the pipe in the tent and drugs in my deodorant). I didn’t even bother with utensils or cleanliness. I looked like a beast, cowering bellow the wooden awning, looking out as a few tourists approached, then were quickly dissuaded by my presence. Shuffled on, like a psychiatric pill line.


Finally, around Whistler, the rain stopped and so did I, for a bite at the Amsterdam Café in the middle of the village. An okay burger and some okay fries semi-filled the gap where my stomach should be.. I made the necessary calls, telling my mom and cousin where I was and that I was among the living. That is something I owe to mother, that no matter wherever the hell I am, I tell her I am alive and not disabled in anyway. I could hear the maternal sigh on the other end of the line and I knew I had done the right thing by calling. I scarfed down the last bite of burger and met up with my cousin, who was waiting for a burger at another place in town. Standing outside of the establishment, loaded tank leaning precariously on some railing, as her carmates sat inside, looking out at me, a twang of sympathy changed their tones from not wanting to help carry some of my load up, to carrying everything for the rest of the ride to the festival. The stubborn voice in my head said don’t do it, you have already made it most of the way fully loaded…but fuck that guy and his voice, so I gladly handed over all my possessions to be petrol powered up the rest of way.


The rest of the ride was mostly downhill, over turquoise streams, and by turquoise lakes, only once climbing over a steep ridge, known as Suicide Switchback, the route’s last attempt to murder me. Unsuccessful, it relented and I rushed into Pemberton, passed the large welcome sign, 12 hours after I had set forth from my front door. I met up with my cousin and the car crew and loaded my stuff and some of their stuff onto the bike to roll it, through the struggling masses, who were dragging their camp stuff and coolers along the rocky, dusty path towards the festival campgrounds, some 40 minutes away. Score one for the bike came late that evening, as I whizzed passed all these poor bent over souls on my two wheels. A satisfaction creepily welled inside of me, like a Vincent Price cackle. I had made it. 180k on two wheels. A new personal record. Swag.

The video is on it’s way TONIGHT!

The Possibility of My End – A Bike Tourist’s Fears

Me on a ferry from Zebrugge to Hull.

Me on a ferry from Zebrugge to Hull.

There is only so much you can prepare and read up on to cycle around the world. The preparation comes in the form of amassing enough bicycle and survivor knowledge to make it through the rougher, more isolated patches of the tour, being attuned to quick fixes, work arounds and just knowing of the very possibility of being stranded with your loyal, two wheeled steed. Reading provides additional knowledge about these dire times on the road, but also acts as sort of a harlequin novel, a steamy romance, a fantastical exposé brimming with exoticism. It never seems real, even when there are people I know in the publication’s pictures, people I have met amidst the journey that I now read about.


Pancake in Middelburg, Netherlands

Pancake in Middelburg, Netherlands

So there is a gap in reality, an unfathomable, and unpreparable amount of possibilities that precariously latch on to a “world cycling tour”. These “what ifs” hit me like a cacophony of screaming voices, naysaying that this as a great idea, doubting it’s logic, tearing it apart like it was a carcass, and each melancholic tone was a ravenous hyena. Some of the voices are real, as in, they are real people telling me of their fears of what is to become of me. Some of the voices are deep inside of me, concerned for my own soundness of mind and safety. My biggest fears of the road are as follows.






On my 2010 tour from Amsterdam to Istanbul I experienced this. Two Bulgarians beat the shit out of me in Svilengrad. In the end, they only got a pair of battered sunglasses and I was able to ride through Greece and into Turkey the next day. My fear is what if it had had a less pleasant outcome? What if they had had weapons that they simply didn’t just carry for brandishing purposes? I know that being robbed and hurt is always a possibility, even in my own city, but especially when I travel to countries where I appear to be an anomaly, associated with the wealthy Western hemisphere, simply due to my leisure form of travel and the colour of my skin. I have theorized how I will try to avoid this from the get go. Again, if anyone has better alternatives, please chime in. First is to camouflage the bicycle. I don’t care about its appearance; just it’s condition and functionality. Scratching it, smearing paint on it, dinging it a bit, may draw less attention to it as a shiny, new bike and that it’s owner is financial well off. Growing out my hair, both on my face and head, may also give myself the appearance of a gruff vagrant, a drifter, as opposed to a bike tourist who has a Gopro Camera, computer and plethora of other gizmos and gadgets on his person. Finally, I plan to carry an additional wallet on me, that only contains a few dollars and possibly some expired cards. My theory is, that as long as I present the robbers with something and that in the heat of the moment, they think that is all I have, they may take it and let me go along my merry way.



Some crazy dude rebuilt Noah's Ark in Dordrecht, Netherlands.

Some crazy dude rebuilt Noah’s Ark in Dordrecht, Netherlands.




As quick as a spark from flint, civil disorder, violent upheaval and run-amuckery can explode in any corner of the earth. Tensions can lead to sweltering results and my fear is that I get unknowingly entrapped in a situation, which puts me face to face with blind and jaded violence, that takes aim at anything moving in it’s general vicinity. There is no way to avoid this unforeseen problem, asides from keeping my ear to the road, asking locals about each step of the journey, keeping abreast of any reports and/or rumors and being flexible to change my plans at a moment’s notice. There are certain countries that have been built into my Eurocentric mentality to fear. A large part of this journey is to reconsider these fears and if they are built upon generalized fiction or appalling truths. Yet, they still remain fears, that no matter how much blunt logic stands against them, like the peak of a rollercoaster, the thought of them, makes my skin clammy, my breath pick up, my heart run a marathon.


Kinderdijk, UNESCO windmills in the Netherlands.

Kinderdijk, UNESCO windmills in the Netherlands.


Natural Obstacles


Cyclists die all the time and aren’t found for months due to the remoteness of their final resting places. The human body can only endure so much starvation and exhaustion, before turning on itself, shutting down specific faculties, breaking down tissue, trying to protect and feed the brain and heart from finally giving out. Sorry for the details, but I am scared of these places, scared that my bike knowledge will suddenly escape me and I will stranded with a broken bicycle in the middle of a desert or on the very top of a barren mountain with not a sign of life for a thousand kilometers in each direction, snow spilling out of the guts of the cloudy skies above. I am trying to avoid this by compiling a “Bikes for Dummies” guide for myself, both as a digital and physical copy, in case I run out of electricity and/or my solar panels are dead or broken. Each plan has a backup plan, so if A doesn’t work, or B, C will definitely work. I am trying to cover all my bases to avoid, peaceful nature, turning into maleficent natural disaster. I plan to switch out gear when I come to the big cities, because as the weather and the terrain changes, it will require a different approach to each aspect of road life. A tent will be needed instead of a hammock, a cover slip will be replaced by a thick sleeping back, thin and wiley tires, will be replaced with ones with ultimate traction. Again, being practical and unheroic about each step, will avoid any nasty surprises when I realize I didn’t bring the appropriate tools for this specific leg of the journey. Also not being an idiot and heading into nature without knowing what I am to be looking forward to, is probably a safe bet to avoid disastrous foolhardiness as well.



Delft - Town centre.

Delft – Town centre.




A simple tattoo, if revealed, may sway people’s entire perception of me. When I was 17, I got my first ink on my left shoulder, in memory of my grandfather. The Hebrew writing, reads Shlomo, and in fine small cursive below it reads “home again, home again jiggidy jig” from the nursery rhyme about the pigs, a phrase that he use to sing song mutter under his English Leather scented breath when we returned home. I am worried that if people see the tattoo, they may simply dislike me due to our religious differences and the assumptions they associated with Judaism. I am not religious in the slightest, nor care to divulge to people my opinions about a homeland, that I have no connection to. When I think it is necessary, I am not ashamed to hide the tattoo and with it, my Jewishness. My role, as a visitor to other countries, is not to antagonize nor question. It is simply to visit, to learn and to listen. Politics and religion, as dividing markers are the ultimate measurements of stubbornness and unwillingness. Let’s talk about history, trees, laughter, a world of other things that do not ultimately pit one against another.


The minster of Beverly, England.

The minster of Beverly, England.


It will be a nerve racking, yet adrenaline pumping three years and part of my safety net is knowing that you read this and are along with me every step of the way. The Kerouac inside of me sees this writing as the ultimate testimony of my existence and tracks my process, physically and mentally, as I am subjected to struggles and victories each day. The mama’s boy inside me, smirks at my self deification and sees these words as more as a pinpoint on a map, that if I go radio silent (or blog silent), my mother can start her search for her only son. Yes, it’s morbid, but that’s just the delicate, high wire act that is this so called life. Oh yeah, and deportation/visa problems. Those suck as well, but since I have experience with them, which is a long winded tale for another time, I am more annoyed than scared of them. Being able to laugh off shit, is also an important tool. Shit will happen, it’s my reaction and lasting impression that will truly mar and heighten my tours.

Make sure to follow, like and more importantly add your suggestions to the forums for the WORLD TOUR,


Ira – Misguided Guide of Cycling the World