Fucking Up – The Fast Track to Learning Your Bicycle


In 2010 I went on my first tour without an iota of bike fixing no how. Basically my understanding of bicycles was, you pedal, they move forward, you brake, they usually stop. I left home with a single multi tool that I had never used before, a set of allen keys and a portable plastic pump. I don’t even think I brought extra tube with me. I am sure I didn’t have any extra spokes. This would all seem like red alerts for future me of a bad situation festering and plotting, but past me, was oblivious to bike failure or it’s maintenance to avoid it.

And nature and the odds pitied me all the way to California. I had travelled hundreds of miles down the coast without a single issue with my bicycle. I had picked up the concept of bike chain lubing somewhere on the side of the road in Washington, so even the sound of my used jalopy was pristine. Nothing was out of line, the wheel was straight, and the brakes weren’t rubbing. From a current perspective, this possibly was the all too calmness before the storm, the sitting in your home, asleep, unaware that the heavens were black and swelling with conspiratorial storms in the works.


oooooooooooh, Klamath, California.

oooooooooooh, Klamath, California.

Then, in Klamath, California, under the awning of ancient, thick sequoia trees, the timer stopped unexpectantly. I was staying at a motel across from the large statue of Paul Bunyan and his Blue Bull that stood in the parking lot of the Trees of Mysteries, part theme park, part museum, part schlocky tourist trap. The motel had a restaurant attached to it. I was sole patron, made to look even more depressing, as I was drinking beer, with the accompanying meal being the sampler appetizers combo, which consisted of a lot of yellow fried things that are usually shared between 12 likeminded, intoxicated individuals.  Blech times 12. The taxidermy duck legs that hung down from the faux water ceiling and the stuffed bear at the entrance, which were features highlighted by dead fly filled florescents, encouraged me to pay my bill and seek food elsewhere. Back in my room I removed my panniers from my bike, Klalita, and rode towards the “town” nearby, which reportedly had a general store or mercantile of sorts. What I had forgotten to remove were the bungee chords that I used to secure my tent to my rack. They went unnoticed for about a kilometer in and a half, when all of a sudden, around 6:30pm or so, one of them twisted around the back cassette, tearing my chain in half.


An amazing meal...

An amazing meal…

“My trip is over…”


This was my first thought. As I carried my bicycle back from whence I came, I attempted to work out where I could catch a bus, with all my gear and bike, back to Canada. This minor atrocity, at the time, seemed like the destruction of my entire world. Yet, as I entered my room, staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, as I washed my hands off of bike grease, I realized that while it seemed as if I was in the middle of nowhere, I really wasn’t. I was in the US of A, which had a plethora of amenities that could salvage my bicycle and the trip it was on. I had passed MANY bike shops and cyclists, so finding one of those was an option. But then I remembered….I HAVE TOOLS! I have no idea what they do or if they can help me, but it was a worth a shot trying to figure them out.


Amidst the repairs

Amidst the repairs

With a slow internet connection, I typed my bike issue into the Youtube search menu. 85 million results. 84 million of them were tutorials on how to fix a chain. I set to work, following the step by step guide. Though it took several hours for a job that would now take me ten to twenty minutes, the exhilaration of fixing my own bike was worth the struggle. I had discovered a new desire to know everything about bicycles, to be as self sufficient as possible on future tours, that I now knew I wanted to have.


The view from across the hotel  -Klamath, California.

The view from across the hotel -Klamath, California.

The safety net of being in a country with a plethora of resources for cycle tourists and travelers of all levels made it an ideal first country to tour in and more importantly, make mistakes in. I recently saw on a forum a cyclist lambasting people for touring without knowing your bicycle inside and out. While I think, if I were to do this trip over again, I would have learned a few more key skills in regards to bike fixing, but I would also say that nothing really prepares you for fuck ups. And fuck ups themselves are great teachers, as well as put you in contact with great people, opening lovely dialogues about bicycles and beyond. I think it’s unfair to say YOU MUST KNOW EVERYTHING TO BICYCLE TOUR. That is elitism at it’s finest. I think a working knowledge of things can avoid problems down the line, but I also think that I would rather people get on their bicycles, then not get on their bicycles, because they feel they are not part of the “club”, own a crazy amount of lycra or are dissuaded to tour, because of their lack of bike know-how. I know several non-cyclist cycle tourers who know enough about bikes. The rest, they fill in along the way. And sometimes you just need to improvise. In the end, it will all work out and you’ll feel the exhilaration of coming to a solution, whether it is the tried and true way, or the wonderfully creative and makeshift approach.

Inspirational Each Milers: The Anyone Can Do It World Tour


My first cycle tour, outside of Pea Soup Andersen's in Buellton, California.

My first cycle tour, outside of Pea Soup Andersen’s in Buellton, California.

When I set forth 5 years ago on my first tour I knew very little about the two-wheeled vehicle that I was sticking between my legs and riding down to Mexico. As time has passed, and tours have been completed, little by little I have learned along the way what I need to make basic adjustments, repairs and have some vague idea how to live out of a tent. I still am slow at all of this, still look awkward when I am keeled over my bike, investigating a problem and still put the wheel on backwards now and again, after fixing a flat.


I hesitate to label myself a cyclist, because I am put off by many of the associations that the name may imply, especially a snooty, elitist, sectarian attitude towards bike culture. I’ve met these type of cyclists and it has nothing to do with whether they wear a lycra bibby or have the top of the line, carbon framed road bike. They come from all different walks of life, all shapes, lycra wrapped or sporting a worn bike hat, rim flipped upwards, freely wagging in the breeze due to a lack of a helmet, lawyers and bike shop employees, 1st handers and 3rd handers, all who consider themselves the second coming, prophets on pedals, with their heads so far up their own asses, they can’t see how ridiculous their own pomposity comes across. I dislike these swines, not only for how they act, but the fear they imbue in others in regards to bicycles. They make cycle enthusiasts feel inferior, that they do not know enough about their bicycles to use them, that all their cycle questions are too simple, amateur and downright idiotic. People are scared to step into certain cycle shops and bike coops due to this feeling. Now some of this is self perpetuated, but there is also the “better than thou” complex of “hardcore” cyclists that enforce it, insinuated by their use of overtly technical lingo and snide lambasting of other’s lack of knowledge. “WHAAAT, YOU CAN’T CHANGE A SPOKE??? OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!” Hey asshole, you have to start somewhere! It’s like job applications in Vancouver. How am I suppose to have three years serving experience, if all jobs for servers require at least three years serving experience.?


For me, inspirational Each Milers are those who have influenced me, helped me without a single bit of elitism, creating and promoting a positive environment surrounding the bicycle. First and foremost, they believe that everyone should be able to participate in the culture, ride bikes to their hearts’ content, free from judgment and insult. If they ride with you, sure they could race ahead, never unclip, never stop, for their legs have the strength and diameter of Redwood sequoias, but they would rather ride beside you, explain the mise en scene, compliment your ride, stop for a beer or two. They never scoff at your questions, but greatly invite them, teaching you in hopes that you will pass the knowledge on to someone else, to continue to inspire people to cycle farther, to cycle more, to cycle through whatever the sky decides to do any given day, to test the preconceived limitations of distance and elevation and exceed them.


Kevin stops from cycling around the world to have a much needed dance break with me.

Kevin stops from cycling around the world to have a much needed dance break with me.

Several of these inspirational Each Milers are locals, like the lovely people at Bikes on the Drive, who are constantly happy to answer all my bike questions, pass along great and sincere information and are excited by my future cycle endeavors. A few inspirational Each Milers are abroad, like Kevin, a cyclist from Belfast, who I met through Couchsurfing. I hosted him, when I lived in Beijing and my girlfriend at the time, was sure I would disappear with him at nightfall, joining him on his world domination via two wheels and self penned guitar tunes. He had cycled from home to Beijing and continued onwards, by boat across to North America, cycling north to the Arctic, before turning around and heading down through Latin America. He is a down to earth soul, immensely inspiration, funny as fucking hell and a WAY TOO talented son of bitch for his own good. In fact, some shameless promotion for him, he is on a cycling trip as I type this from Belfast to Australia, which you can follow at: http://www.cycle2sydney.com/


Beijing Bike, Blue Steal - Inanimate Inspirational Each Miler

Beijing Bike, Blue Steal – Inanimate Inspirational Each Miler

And lastly, there are the inspirational Each Milers that are the nameless faces I have met along the many ways I have gone. From some hilarious Serbian cyclists in Turkey, to an old German lady, who I met in the middle of the forest, who cycled with me to find the rest of my group, these are the people that I admire and call my personal heroes. They don’t look at your bike and how you are dressed and roll their eyes or wait until you shut up so they can tell you what you are doing wrong and what they are doing right. They are real people, willing to listen, laugh and live within the moment, rather than tearing it to pieces. These are the inspirational Each Milers that make a world tour something that does not sit unattainable on a pedestal, but something that if you, you being anyone, want to do, no second thoughts, caution be the wind, do it, do it and do it again. Unpretentious, unregulated bliss.


Journal Entry – Meanwhile, In a Comic Book Shop Near Aberdeen – Orig. March 24th, 2010

A little bit behind the journal entries. These shall be my “Photo for the Day” for a wee bit:

Dripping pride. A war vet in a room full of nostalgia and paraphernalia.

Saturday….apparently…March 20th…again…apparently…

I pull the covers over my tarnished black legs. At my feet it reads “God Bless America”. Lady Liberty’s flames rub my ballsack. How appropriately you act, my dear femme fatale. Unlike last night, the room is heated and in the same quarters as the couch surfer host. There are no dead flies on this bed and I feel safe to use the various pieces of the bed as what shall keep me warm through the night, rather than a bunch of misrepresented bedding I will try to avoid. When did I last write? Who knows. I am certain I wrote in Townsend…yes…as I stole Quimper’s signal. Good times. Never did go into any shops in Port Townsend. This trip is prepping me for my inability to see it all on the second bike trip. I have no time. I did, for your Global AFCers, have time to do quite a bit of work finding accommodations. More to follow on that front.

Not just one. Two wrap-around balconies - Port Townsend.

Port Townsend was gorgeous. The rest of the day I wandered by bike, following the historic map up Washington Street and Lawrence Street, passed the old warning bell for the fire bragade, passed the unimpressive Rothchild’s house and the unpink Pink House. Try to fit that court house in a shot is a ridiculous task that I absolved myself of by clickity clacking it in portions. Bumped into a lady who invited for internet and spoke about the marvels of wifi. I mistook their movie theatre for a theatre theatre. A man going uphill stopped to explain how great this town in and how when he broke up with his girlfriend he lived at the homeless shelter. I believe just because through break up your house broken, doesn’t you don’t have a pot to piss in. Quite the opposite if you think deep.
The post office was an amazing stone building that seemed a bit to large for this town. Imposing and physically astounding, the former customs house occupied my last 15 before returning to the bus depot to return to Discovery Bay. The millions of numbered cash boxes, the wood liquered panelling, the augmented glass windows, the natural light created skinny half oval pillars of brightness on the ground. I explored, but felt that odd feeling you get when you go into closed door rooms of other people’s houses. Fascinating and overwhelming.

I came home. Shot the shit with Andrew. He showed me the Llamas, a baby goat…

One of Andrew's plethora of pups.

Finish tomorrow.

March 21st….

Longest day of my life. Worried that people think I am dead. I am NOT dead. Internet tomorrow to insure that death has not occured. No pictures. Nothing. Biked 100 miles to insanity. Never again…I think the stupid Google Earth sucks teste. Saw lots through Joyce and Sekiu and…..need to rethink trip as I cannot ever do this again. Going to bus at least to Forks tomorrow. Its not cheating…most people do not come out this way. Makah Tribe. Night night.

March 23rd…

A day was lost due to scarcity of life left in my loins. Yesterday took my body to a wonderful new place I have never been before. Apologize for my summation of the events that occurred…this past night I have slept in the Forks visitor centre. And much to my own choosing, since I refuse to give a cent to a motel that I will only occupy for 5 or so hours. First daylight and I am gone…gone…gone. I have no real idea as to the next stop, I am trying to hit Taholah. Oh…I slept outside for a bit….damn shoes suck and the water pants froze me even more…the sweat from two days ago’s epics still seeps in its pores. I chose to reside here due to helpful tip from the lovely server at Fork’s Pacific Pizza. I ate a personal pan for no reason. I wasn’t hungry. I am spending cash like a rabid dog…10 bux a day…10 bux a day…I keep trying to convince myself that such frugality is possible with how I want to do this trip. Again, I feel, no avail will come to it at all.  I am finally heading down down down after a treacherous day up up up.

Angry skies. Neah Bay.

Two days ago I did 100 miles in a day. From Sequim, I rode the Discovery Trail to Port Angeles…where it failed…I took it all the way to a split in the ocean that lead to a dead ender at the Nippon Paper Mill. Span around, up a hill, left on 18th, and onto 12 to take my chances with that callus road. That be a road I shall never forget as long as I live. No shoulder, up hills and down hills, twirling and twirling, truckers honking, tempting beaches, warning go 25mi, walking when my knees eroded.  Finally, at 7:30, I pulled into Neah Bay…..made it to the Tyee Motel, pulled myself under the awning, near the sign that says “if you need a room, call Cary” and placed my 50 cents in a pay phone and called Vicki, a couch surfer who lived this way. After several attempts….tada…Vicki pulled up in her car and I followed her to Hemlock Road, to Nursery Road, to Hemlock Road, last house on your right.

She gave up her own bed so I could pass out. She fed me Elk Soup and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Beautiful sign. Beautiful art.

The next day I awoke. I discussed Makah History with Vicki. She explained how the language was being kept alive and about how her different parts of her family looked at religion, the advent of Catholism, the different parts of where the Makah would roam, the mudslides at Ozette that covered the town for 500 years, the goats that mysteriously appeared on the small Wadah Island and their eventual escape over a rock jetty built to protect the bay. She spoke about the Coast Guard that use to live on Tatoosh Island, a girl named Vicki who she looked up to in elementary school, her grandfather that would teach her to live off the land and her sons who fought and put holes in the walls. She went on about drugs, a Native Art, and her laugh sang to me its own tales. I went to the Makah Museum and learned about the covered Ozette site, where over 50,000 Makah artifacts were found, preserved for 500 years by a mudslide. A whale from the 1999 whaling incident hangs from the ceiling, long canoes sit below it. A long house in its entirety sits in the centre of the museum, built to perfection. I walked the town, bought a note book, listened to people interact…tried to get smoked salmon, but the guy only had tuna. Albert, one of Vicki’s 5 children, showed me how to put up a tent. Simple enough. At 7 I left on a bus to Forks and here I am. Today is a new day at 6am. Gonna try to sleep for 2 hours. Tata.