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    Tuesday, December 30, 2008

    Last Blog of 2008, San Diego, CA
    December 30, 2008

    Life has it's ups and downs! Don't take it too seriously and ride it baby!

    My latest mobile office in Mamacita's spare room

    So 2008 has been one of the most exciting and rewarding years of my life, no doubt! Way back in January I was in San Diego, then was soon off to Ghana, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania then Morocco by April. After that, well, the amazing 26 country tour of Europe took me all the way to November when I finally came home to open arms from my family, friends and supporters back in USA. I am trying to finally catching my breath but wow! It keeps getting better!

    Santa came to Peace Pedalers HQ! My mom's front porch after Tour de Cali.
    Sponsors are still very supportive, even in the bad economy!

    Right now I thought I'd fill in some of the blog readers who want to know what REALLY goes on when I'm back in the country in between 9-11 month expeditions away from home. The first thing I always want to do is see my friends and family who I missed so much out on the road. So I did a whirlwind work/play tour of the California--a cool photo album of my tour de Cali is at if you want to check it out...

    Reunited feels so good! My Godchild Kaya in N. Cal. She was born when I was in China in 2002!

    My two bestest lady friends since kidz Boof n Eneeja

    And my SF crew out on the town my last night in San Fran

    A "work/play" tour essentially means I work my butt off all day while my friends are working their butts off. Then, at night we connect, share, cook, eat, drink and be merry. I stay a few days with each set of friends then move on to the next. Yes, I work full, long, taxing days in front of the computer and on the cell phone with a 1000 minute/month plan and on the laptop with wifi usually at coffee shops or at the houses of friends.

    But in between work sessions, I get out to enjoy. How can you stay inside with these babies???

    Right now my "work" is about raising money for not only my project but for the Good Hope School in Uganda that I am sponsoring ( An in today's dicey economy this has been especially difficult, as you can imagine. But I flew out to Panasonic to give a face to face pitch (thanks Mom for free flying benefits with American!) which finally resulted in them coming on board again to 2010. I'll be working with a new project of thiers called Living in HD--check it out at Day after day it's all about getting equipment, re-pitching sponsors for gear, dialing in a huge fundraising event in San Diego (info at including food, wine, beer, music, expositions, volunteers, videos, photos, bikes and tons of PR work.

    The last stop on tour de Cali was with my Nieces. And my annual foot rub!

    Then there's the film work--working with Les, pitching networks, revamping production equipment and strategies, refining, reviewing footage, etc. I have a book in the works so that's another project in the works with proposals, agents and meetings still to come. Still more--planning the expedition itself through the last 20 countries homeward bound.

    But, in light of all this work, I never forget to get out and enjoy each day as if it were my last. Seeing so many of my friends and family with far more personal life responsibilities of children and family I'm taking these last few years of my life to live it up indeed! I've been surfing, riding, running, swimming and plenty of wonderful nightlife adventures to boot. I'm quite aware of the responsibilities around the corner when I finally settle down, so going big now and enjoying the freedom :)

    All work and no play sucks. How to do both--Wifi & cell phones between holes!

    At the end of a long day of work--this is where I spend my time. Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, CA

    So it's almost 2009 and no doubt it's going to be an epic year! I'll be heading to Brazil 1st of February and living there a few months before heading back on the road to North America. Till then, back to work and play I go...

    Live Big, Give Big, Love Big ;)


    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    Blog from USA. San Diego, California. November 22, 2008

    Reconnected with my brother Nick and Mamacita in Mammoth Lakes, CA

    After about 11 months and 32 countries of Peace Pedaling I’m FINALLY back on US soil and elated as ever. I’m finally proud to be an American again (Go Obama!), stoked to see my family and can’t wait to connect with all my friends all over the country in the next several weeks. One thing that happens from long bouts away from home is that gratitude levels go off the charts and I appreciate so much my relationships and community back here at home.

    Pablo's new baby Madison! So so cute!

    I’ve been back about a week now and it feels like a month. I’m sucking in every moment and observing all the unique differences of culture, nature and energy. It’s quite fascinating and very stimulating. My first stops were to see my bro Pablo’s new baby Madison and to connect with my brother Nick for his birthday in Mammoth and spend some time with him, his wife, my mom and my brother Pete. Since then I’m trying to perfect a lovely blend of work and play that seem to dance quite effortlessly. I work a few hours, hit the surf, wrk some more, go for a run, work some more, see some family or call a friend, take a ride—life is pretty good.

    Nick's B-Day dinner was epic!

    Gotta love Cali! 7500 feet above sea level and almost 70 degrees. Kari n Me road riding ;)

    Our mountain biking with Nick's wife Kari in Mammoth. Sick!

    For those who think I don’t really “work” or “have a job”, well, think again. On the project board now are such exciting yet challenging tasks as getting a book deal, moving the film and TV project forward since signing our first development deal with a major network in Canada, organizing and updating endless bike and production equipment, setting up partnerships with new organizations, lining up media appearances, planning events, mapping out the 20-country route through the Americas—just to name a few. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it’s still hard work and fries the ticker just like any job.

    So that’s the latest and greatest San Diego where I just had an epic surf and glorious road ride in 70 degree weather in mid November. Off to hit the town on a Saturday night and cause some trouble…

    Meeting new friends in San Diego Saturday night. Good to be home!

    Update: off to see my family and friends in Northern California--going to be driving a 2700 VW Westfalia camper I picked up named Ciella and will be adventuring with an Israeli friend Shine I met in India in 2002. Rollin...

    Meet Ciella, my little home on wheels while back in USA ;)



    Thursday, November 06, 2008

    Blog from Portugal, November 6, 2008

    Happy Halloween from Faro, Portugal. Me--Love Angel...

    My hosts a Bolivian Farmer Marcio and Injured by Love, Ricardo :)

    Greetings from Faro, Portugal where I’m just a few hours from departing on ride up towards Lisbon with two cool Portuguese guest riders Ricardo and Marcio. This will be the last leg of my 26 country European expedition and what a wild ride it’s been!

    I last left off in Mendoza, Spain where I was taking a few days off the bike to do some surfing on one of the world’s best lefthander waves. Unfortunately the waves and good weather came on a weekend and every surfer from Spain seemed to be in the water. At one time we counted over 120 people going for one wave in various sections. I’m a good surfer, but the talent out in the water was truly world class and I ended up getting more frustration thacn waves out in the chaos over the next few days. But it was still epic :)

    The perfect

    Honestly, for some reason I was observing myself in a pretty grouchy mood, even before I arrived to the crowded surf scene in Mendoza. In San Sebastian I was also not feeling like connecting with the people—even though I could since I speak fluent Spanish. I think, looking back on it, that I closed up and got negative after asking lots of people in France to come ride with me that last day and they all refused. Not only did they refuse, but a few even laughed and balked at the idea. I usually don’t take things so personal, but I might have been a bit tender and got hurt by those events. So I got into a closed mood—and that’s the worst mood I can ever be in for traveling, and especially Peace Pedaling.

    The lovely Mendoza, Spain

    In addition to this unconscious closure, Spain was the first country in the entire European expedition that I could not find any Couchsurfing hosts available to host me and I knew nobody in the country except my friend Isabel who I dated back in 1994 while living in Madrid. Spaniards are not such avid travelers so I did not meet so many in the past five years on the road. So I arrived into both San Sebastian and Mendoza without any local contacts and I realized how accustomed I was to having this luxury of local knowledge and companionship when landing in a new community. I felt like a stranger, an outsider, and my spirits were lower than they have been in months.

    Xabi breaking my ice w/ donation of his board and suit

    Luckily I did meet some very cool Spanish guys in Mendoza that saw through my grouchy vibe and warmed me up. The first guy is a local surf nut name Xabi who, just out of the blue, bought me a beer, gave me a smile and he and his girlfriend struck up a conversation with me. From there he proceeded to loan me his surfboard and wetsuit since the surfshop had closed early and I was out of luck to get a board for the next day’s session. He did not even know me but somehow trusted me with his precious equipment. This act started to melt my ice a bit and warmed me up right away.

    And, on the same night Xabi loaned me his board, as I was melding into the local community, I met two cool cats from Venezuela living in Mendoza named Gregory and Marcial. We got along like brothers right from the first moments and my mood was getting better and better. However, by the time I met these guys I had already made plans to escape the north of Spain to warmer and drier climates in southern Spain. There was a nasty cold front coming in with freezing rain, wind and I discovered that southern Spain and Portugal was sunny and warm.

    Two of da coolest guys Gregory and Marcial from Venenzuela

    It was hard to leave Mendoza by then but something was drawing me south. I took a train to Bilbao where I was hoping to take an overnight bus to Sevilla. But when I arrived the bus was sold out and my only option was to take a 1:30AM bus to Madrid then transfer over to the fast AVE train to Sevilla. So I had about 5 hours to kill and went to one of Bilbao’s many bars where I worked on the computer a bit and sipped some Spanish wine. Within a few minutes I ended up befriending the owner of the bar Jon and his buddy Pedro. Like Gregory and Marcial up in Mendoza, I loved these two guys right from the moment we met and the feeling was mutual. We ended up spending 4 hours together talking, laughing, drinking wine and sharing endless stories. We are still in touch now and we’ll meet up again for sure one day!

    Pedro, Jon and I building a friendship from strangers in just a few hours...

    But I was being called to the south and had to get on my 1:30AM bus to Madrid then down to Sevilla where I’d finally start my ride in Spain and Portugal. Sadly, I had sent Couchsurfing requests to many people in Sevilla but nobody could host me once again. So I decided to go solo again and finally rode out of Sevilla at about 3PM as the sun was shining and I was in relatively good spirits. That is, until I met a few police officers and asked for advice how to get out of the city.

    Even when I followed their directions exactly I ended up on a dirt road that had just been hit with rain, which created a thick mud that engulfed my bike completely so the wheels could not even turn. Imagine pushing a 220+ pound bicycle in the mud when the wheels can’t turn—I was in a sour state. On top of this, I noticed that I did not seem to have much energy and as I was riding that first day the bike seems very heavy and my average speeds were very slow for how hard I was pushing myself.

    Finally on the road, chasing sunshine, but feeling a bit before I got sick

    That night I was hoping to meet some locals, find a rider for the next day and maybe even someone to host me. I had offers to stay at people’s house several times in Bilbao and in Mendoza so I figured the Spanish were open and up for hosting a traveler. I was in a small Andalusian village outside of Sevilla and unfortunately nobody stepped up to either host me or ride with the next day. I was a bit bummed, but more than anything, I was feeling a bit sick in my stomach and very drained of energy. I decided to hit the sheets early in a cheap hotel and start fresh the next day.

    My sleep was rudely interrupted at about 2AM when I woke up with nasty stomach cramps and mean diarrhea. After twisting and turning for a few hours I finally ended up vomiting violently and sitting on the toilet for about an hour after. Luckily I fell right to sleep afterwards. But the next morning I was feeling better, so I thought, and decided to do my best to make the 75km ride to Huelva where I would meet the only Couchsurfer in Spain that was available to host me.

    I don’t know what I was thinking trying to ride that day since I puked out all my nutrients and had no appitie to eat that morning. But I stubbornly pedaled away in my weak state just to make it only 20km before my body gave out and I tipped the bike over on the side of the road and was done, nada mas, finished. I had no appetite, major diarrhea was back and I could barely move. I decided to sit on the side of the road and hitch a ride to Huelva and to get some rest, water and nurturing down there. But after almost two hours of hitching, even with my most cute puppy dog eyes on, nobody would stop to pick me up—for the first time on my entire expedition I struck out hitching! I had to put all the bags back on and pedal my sorry self to the next town where luckily there was a bus that finally came.

    After a few days of suffering, my first meal w/ Team America ;)

    After a full day of physical suffering I finally made it to the town of Punta Umbria where I was greeted at the bus station by three American travelers. The first was my host, a cheerful dreadlocked woman named Aviva who is teaching English in this town. Collin was another Couchsurfer and Mackenzie a friend of Aviva who was also in Spain for a teaching career. Somehow I immediately felt better in their company and knew these three were just the kind of people I needed to be in with my current state. I confirmed this later when I discovered that both Aviva and Collin BOTH have the same birthday as me! How crazy is that? 3 people in southern Spain with February 10 birthdays!

    Me (feeling better) and my crew on Halloween Eve--Aviva, Collin and Mackenzie

    For the next few days I was nursed back to health by this little family of mine and I felt so grateful for all their energy and support. We watched movies (Happy Feet—what a winner film!), laughed, slept, listened and relaxed until my strength slowly came back. By the time I was finally better it was just about time for me to move on towards Portugal and I was a bit bummed that I would get so little riding done in Spain. But that’s life, and I was at least able to recruit my crew to come out riding with me on Halloween day on the way to Portugal.

    Halloween was a classic day. I had a Couchsurfing host named Ricardo waiting for me in Faro, a one day ride from Punta Umbria, so I invited Mackenzie and Aviva to ride with me on the way to Huelva. From there the plan was to pick up Collin and he’d ride to the Portuguese border. For some reason it die not all happen exactly as smooth, but I did manage to get a ride in with both Aviva and Mackenzie, me in my Love Angel wings and Aviva in her orange butterfly outfit, while doing some filming, laughing and having a blast together.

    Aviva the Orange Butterfly on our morning ride

    By the time I said goodbye to this crew I felt like family with them. Spain was the first country where I did not ride or at least stay with some local folks but at this moment I realized that it was all meant to be. I met some friends for life and, since they are Americans (I’m proud to be American again, I might add, FINALLY!), I’ll be able to see them again and hopefully continue to build our friendships. And, of course, all celebrate our February 10 birthdays together!

    Our last moments with my crew in Spain...Love you guys!!!

    Spain was not at all what I expected. But that’s the beauty of travel—learning, growing, discovering, observing, evolving, being surprised in every way. I know now that I’ll never REALLY stop traveling, but the style will just change as I do ;)

    I made it to Faro, Portugal just in time to hit the town for a wild Halloween party with a surprise couchsurfer and fellow cycle touring chap Gregory from Germany and my two Portuguese hosts Ricardo and Marcio who have since become my brothers from another mother in the Algarve! More on these three gifts of human beings in the next blog…

    Over and out from Baleal, Portugual where I’ll be based up at Surf Castle for the next few days to enjoy the sun, surf, epic riding and culture of this lovely place where I came after the end of stage one. And I’m back at the end of stage 2! Life is good!

    Live Big. Give Big. Love Big. (oh, a personal note on this philosophy as it’s evoloving. The “give big” does not and should not be “measured” or “doing focused”…but rather an intention and value. Action follows the intention and values naturally. Love Big—well, just do it and watch the magic follow…)

    Jamie ;)

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Blog from Spain, October 25, 2008

    Reconnecting with Isabel and her kids in San Sebastian after 13 years....

    Wow, I can’t believe this is all happening! It’s like a surreal dream but yet so alive and juicy! Here’s the latest! (by the way—journals are up to date, minus France—which will come soon enough...)

    I left off last blog on the way to Biarritz, France where the Peace Pedalers Rainbow was calling me back to the beach for more sunshine, perfect waves and more friendly French people. I arrived by train in Biarritz at about 5PM and got a call from one of my couchsurfing hosts Vincent inviting me to have a drink overlooking the water. I liked Vincent from the moment I saw him—very cool, laid back and smiling ear to ear when we connected.

    My Couchsurfing hosts Margo and Vincent in Biarritz--Perfect!

    Another amazing rugby game in the setting sun

    Oh, almost forgot, somewhere in between all that surf I was invited to yet another professional rugby game where Biarritz, one of Europe’s best teams, demolished an Italian team as the sun was setting and the crowd all fired up. After the game Vincent got me into a VIP party where we had free food, drinks and met several of the players, fans and more cool locals. Thanks Vincent!

    Biarritz sunset on the pitch after they smoked the opponents

    The surf mobile searching waves in Biarritz

    We sat at a beach café watching surfers rip up the perfect waves in the sunshine and were soon joined by my other couchsurfing host Margo who would be hosting me that night. It was another festive Friday night and the weather, surf and people helped me get over the temporary loss of my mom and Sophie who I just adventured with. Margo took me to her place, we dropped off my gear, grabbed some nice wine and food, and geared up to hit the town that night in the charming Bayonne.

    Margo and her boyfriend Mathieu were amazing hosts. Both are still in college and the youngest hosts I’ve ever had both at about 21 years young. I knew their idea of a night on the town might me a doozy but I was ready to relive my youth and before I knew it I was as a college happy hour party drinking 2 for 1 shooters until all of us were in rare form. I met some great people and the night was full of laughs and interesting chats with the locals, mostly in French (my French seems to get better after a few drinks)

    The next day it was time to hit the surf and I was blessed to meet the owner of an adventure outfitter and rental company named Benoit at Takamaka ( just near the beach. He set me up with a board and wetsuit for the next few days and so I was set. For the next 24 hours it was all about the surf with three amazing sessions, including a morning session where I was first in the water getting countless glassy waves as the sun slowly rose, casting perfect hues of light on all the lovely rocks and building—truly unforgettable.

    And the sunsets in Anglet are to die for! Go there!

    The perfect waves in Biarritz--stunning!

    I was all surfed out after three long sessions and that Sunday evening Vincent came from his place in Anglet to fetch me in his huge van. Anglet is another cool town just north of Biarritz with amazing beaches, world class surf and a more laid back feel than Biarritz. Vincent cooked me up a bachelor’s meal of rice, coconut chicken and a few sweet Desperado beers to wash them down as we chilled at his condo just on a golf course. Vincent is a super cool cat and we had a lots in common so it a pleasure to spend time with him

    The next day the sun was out and it was time to ride! The plan was for Vincent to come out and ride for the morning and have Melanie, my French friend I met in Morocco, meet us both somewhere along our ride. I was super excited to ride with Vincent but when riding time came he decided to change plans and bail on our ride. I was a bit bummed at first but luckily Melanie was on her way to Bayonne and Vincent decided to take me there and do a bit of sightseeing together before he said goodbye.

    Mel and I on day one of our 3 day adventure. Bayonne, France

    It had been seven months since I first met Melanie in Morocco and I had no idea what to expect so I just decided to expect nothing and let it all flow as always. We had only spent a few hours together and really did not know much about each other except the fact that we are both travel addicts. She had been following my ride online since we met and since she was only a few hours away at the time and had time off of her job in the tourism industry she decided to come out for a ride.

    About ½ hour after I said goodbye to Vincent Melanie arrived all tanned, smiling and ready for adventure. She had a big, heavy backpack so I hopped she had some good legs. Fortunately she had done some touring in Cuba and was stronger than most of my riders and I knew she’d carry her weight. We grabbed some lunch, toured the town, ran some cameras and hit the amazing bicycle route outside of Bayonne into Basque country at about 4PM with perfect blue skies, warm temperatures and good vibes flowing!

    After an epic ride along the river and through charming Basque villages we finally rode to a place called Pas de Rolland. We landed the most free perfect campsite ever right on river surrounded by mountains. We enjoyed an epic sunset dinner, some Bordeaux wine, Basque cheese, yummy treats Mel brought from Spain and life was good! The stars came out in full force that night but the clouds were making their way in and the forecast was for rain in the next 24 hours.

    The next day we slept in late, relaxed by the river and finally hit the road at about 11AM. We had some mechanical issues that delayed our actual ride until after 2PM but still managed to get some incredible kilometers through the charming Basque region before the clouds came in heavy and eventually opened up just as we rode into the small village named Bonloc. We showed up at the only restaurant in town totally drenched, freezing cold and ready to get off the bike for a while.

    Melanie did not have foul weather gear with her and, based on the torrential downpour and cold temperatures that were clearly there to stay, we were considering calling Bonloc home for the night. However, the only hotel in town was full and camping in this weather would have been a nasty proposition. So we both put it out to the ole Universe to provide us with a local host and proceed to relax, read, dry our clothes, have a few drinks and chat up the locals.

    Basque country has some interesting road hazards ;)

    And a kiss from a local horse to send us off with love :)

    Air guitar performance by Jean Michel--priceless

    Our Basque host Jean Michel, guest rider Mel and I lovin' it!

    Melanie was the first to meet a friendly Basque man named Jean Michel and I heard them chatting away as I sat reading. When I went out to join them I was informed that Jean Michel had offered to host us for the night and he just was as excited as we were! He lived 5km away from the restaurant and the rain was still quite heavy so the cool owners of the restaurant offered to keep the bike for the night and allow us to go up to Jean Michel’s in his car so we were set!

    The feeling that evening was festive and warm as the locals all started to warm up to us. Several rounds of beers were purchased for us and we befriended several cool locals that evening before finally making our way up to Jean Michel’s. From there it only gets better! Jean Michel clearly had never hosted strangers before and he was so excited he went out shopping for amazing food, wine and treats for the special occasion.

    The temperature dropped quickly that evening and was close to freezing so we were so grateful for Jean Michel’s hospitality. Our evening together was truly unforgettable and filled with a jolly vibe from all the great food, amazing Bordeaux wine, air guitar performances to Joe Satriani, cranking Basque music, loud chats in three different languages and much more. Jean Michel has such a warm heart and we became like family that evening.

    The next morning the weather was still quite nasty. But the forecast was for clearing and evening sun so we were optimistic. Before we left Jean Michel drove us to his favorite spot on top of a huge mountain where we were able to capture his feeling and thoughts on the video, I got to kiss a horse and we all admired the stunning Basque scenery while sucking in our last moments together.

    Our Banloc crew bids Mel and I farewell--unforgettable!

    Mel and I hit the road after the owners of the restaurant treated us to a nice meal and our entire crew came together for a lovely farewell photo and even a nice scene for the show. Jean Michel almost cried when we said goodbye and it was a touching farewell. I know I’ll see him again one day!

    Our destination for the day was Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, which was only a 40km ride or so, but hilly as hilly gets. We were warned of steep climbs and constant hills, but we were ready! The scenery was nothing short of spectacular and yes, there were some brutal hills. We managed to pick up a tail wind, the sun was trying to shine and we were clicking the kilometers along slowly but surly through the stunning mountains.

    We arrived in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port about an hour before sunset and landed a sweet hostel for 10 euros a night, dropped off the gear and headed out on the tandem all ready for a rolling interview through this truly magnificent little town. Just as we started our ride the sun finally came out and we managed to do one of the most picturesque and impactful rolling interviews ever. With the sun casting the perfect light on us and all the surroundings we chatted away for about 30 minutes and Mel shared her dear heart with the world—you’ll love it when we finally get to editing!

    The stunning town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

    Mel and I out on our filmed ride in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

    Mel missed her bus but hitched a ride in seconds back to Bayonne

    Our last night together we shared with a Canadian cyclist named Celine, several cool locals and Mel cooked me up a yummy meal at the hostel before getting to bed early. Mel missed her morning bus but was able to hitch a ride back to Bayonne in a few minutes and before I knew it I was solo once again. I was a bit sad saying bye to Mel as we got along so well and had really built a wonderful friendship. But fortunately bright sunshine made me feel much better and I decided to take a day in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to explore and hopefully find another guest rider to come with me to San Sebastian, Spain.

    Lovely Basque villages in every direction

    The morning scenery on my 100km solo ride to San Sebastian

    I spent several hours looking for guest riders but had no luck so the next day I cranked the Ipod and pedals over 100km through some of the most striking scenery I’ve ever ridden and arrived last night in San Sebastian. The surf forecast was for massive swell and no wind so I my original plan was to call this town home for the weekend. I had heard great things about the town and the surf so I was excited as ever when I rolled in.

    I was ready to get into the water when the Peace Pedalers Rainbow sent me a messenger who was just getting out of the surf himself. He told it was mostly closeouts (bad waves) and would only get worse at that spot and that the best place to be now for this massive surf was a place called Mundaka. I had heard this place had one of the longest left breaking waves in the world and, since I’m a goofy footer (I like left waves), I changed my plans just like that.

    Before leaving San Sebastian to Mundaka I was able to reconnect with a good friend Isabel and her two daughters for some fun in the sun. Isa was my girlfriend when I lived in Spain in 1994 and we had not connected since so boy was it great to see her!

    Out for some Pintxos (tapas) with Isa in San Sebastian

    I’m just out of the surf now and going for one more session before the weather here turns downright nasty. The forecast is for some mean rain and cold temperatures as winter is starting to show its face around here lately. So, being the fair-weather guy I am, I have decided to take the last adventures of Peace Pedalers to the southern regions of the continent and am off to Andalusia to Seville and will be cycling southwest to southern Portugal from there. The weather is warmer, less rain and I love the people and culture in the south so off I go!

    Over n out from Spain!


    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    Blog from France. October 17, 2008

    Feel the love--mom and Jamie reunite in France w/ da most cool Frenchies Sophie n Mathieu

    Chillin’ on another perfect autumn day in the south of France I’m filled with gratitude from all the truly blessed experiences in the past few weeks. The sun is shining, it’s another festive Friday afternoon and sprits are high as I suck in the last few weeks of my European adventures.

    I left off during my hibernation period that I started to fend off the travel burnout bug and to enjoy fully the experiences with my mom Carol who was due to visit me for almost 2 weeks in France. Luxembourg was all about relaxing, reading, sleeping and yes, catching up on Europe journals, which are all be posted and up to date by the time you read this. From Luxembourg, the day I had been waiting for, October 7th, finally arrived and my mom and I would finally be reunited after over 9 months away from the states.

    I’m happy to say my mom, aka Mamacita, and I have a very healthy and positive relationship and she has been such a huge supporter of this project since Garryck and I dreamt it up in the 1990’s. She’s come out to adventure with me in Japan, India, Thailand, Australia, Kenya, Uganda and now it was time for a taste of Europe in France! Unlike previous visits, she was coming out without a bike and without the intention to do much riding due a blow-out of her knee that happened just weeks before coming to meet me. But, like the trooper she is, she showed up anyhow with a shot from the doctor and a few painkillers to get her through her time in France. Go Mamacita!

    Mamacita and I in Paris reunited after 9 months on da road

    I arrived in Paris all rested up and feeling much stronger than before to meet up with not only Mamacita but a special guest from Sweden Carina. Carina was our Nanny in California 29 years and her and I met up for a pedal in Gothenburg, Sweden and it was time for her to reconnect with Mamacita. If all this was not good enough, we were also hooked up big time with a complimentary Paris luxury apartment rental from a close friend from university Drew and his company Cobblestay. Score! We had Marais rental in Paris that was unreal!

    And special guest Carina, our Nanny from 29 years ago comes to join the fun

    We had planned to stay in Paris for 5 days but the Peace Pedalers Surf Rainbow that has been blessing me with great waves my entire trip was working up alternative plans. By the time I arrived in Paris the report was calling for perfect surf conditions and divine weather in the next few days lasting for a whopping 5 days! Mamacita, Carina and I had both been to Paris several times so it was not a difficult decision to cut Paris short and make our way to the stunning northwestern region of Bretagne (Brittany) to meet my good buddy Mathieu in his home country—finally!

    Mathieu and I first met in Benin in Central West Africa, a tiny sliver of a country next to Nigeria. Mathieu got word that a globetrotting cyclist and surf nut was in town and hosted me for several days at his pad near the beach. We built a great friendship while I took a few weeks in Benin and he ensured me that when I hit France he would take me out on the famous waves where he’s from. We bumped into each other out of the blue in Berlin, Germany a few months ago that led to a 2-day cycling adventure together so we were destined to connect again!

    The perfect waves waiting for us me in Brittany...yes, they were that good!

    And boy did the heavens have a treat in store for us later in the week! But first, back in Paris, I had plenty to do to get my broken bike and camera equipment sorted and start sucking in the lovely Parisian experiences with Drew, Mom, Carina and crew before our departure west. Thanks to Mamacita lugging a brand new wheel out for me from USA all I had to do was change tires and that was sorted. But the 2 broken Sanken microphone wires were another challenge.

    Drew, my bro from university and donor of our pimp Paris luxury apartment w/ Cobblestay

    But thanks to the most gracious efforts and world class soldering abilities of one Antoine Malnati at a small firm Areitec in Paris my microphones were all running perfect in less than 24 hours! And, the best part of it all, they did all the work for free as they loved the Peace Pedalers project! Bonus! So with my bike and camera kit sorted, I was free to enjoy some of the world class food, wine and company of my loved ones. I was able to reconnect with my bro Drew from my university days, sip the fine wine and eat some of the best food on planet earth.

    We hit the road Thursday afternoon to meet Mathieu in who not only was excited to host me, Mamacita and Carina, but who also managed to get Friday and Monday off of work to give us 5 days of surfing, adventuring, cooking and great times in the sunshine. We had a few challenges getting there but made it in time for an epic sunset surf session followed by Brittany cider and one of Mathieu’s amazing meals. We were off to a great start!

    Our first of meal of many with Matthieu, mom n Carina

    Mathieu lives in the a tiny town called Plozevet about 2km from the ocean. By the time evening rolled around we could hear the pounding swell coming in, the offshore winds were picking up and there was not a cloud in the starry sky. I’ll wait for the journal to go into full details but the following 5 days of bliss went something like this:

    Wake up late, have an epic breakfast of fresh bread, croissants, fruit and oats, pack the boards on the car, hit the world class surf for the first 2-3 hour session of total perfection, have a huge lunch in the sunshine, rest, head back out for another blissful surf until the sun went down, drink yummy cider and wine, eat home-cooked meals, take a bath, hit the hay, repeat next day…a dream come true! And having mom and Carina there was the icing on the cake as the got along like peas and carrots and positive energy was moving all over!

    Carina, Mathieu and Mamacita cooking up a storm after a lovely day of surf

    Carina finally left and, as if it could not get any better, the day she had to go back to Sweden was the day that another close French friend of mine Sophie was free to adventure herself! Sophie and I met almost six years ago in Goa, India where we built the foundations of our friendship and even did a ride together in southern India. We had kept in very loose contact since then but clearly our escapades together were far from over now that I was in her stomping grounds of France.

    Sophie and I almost 6 years ago in India

    And reunited in France! Life is good!

    Just like my bro Philippe in Belgium and I, Sophie was a lifestyle and freedom addict and choose to work as little as possible and celebrate life to its fullest. It did not take her long to accept the invitation to come to Brittany for a few days and it was so great to see her again. So, just like that, we had a new partner in crime in the Brittany crew and life was good, very good!

    The routine continued with perfect sunny days, divine surf sessions, unforgettable meals, fine wine and cider and connections with Brittany’s spectacular Nature that none of us will soon forget. But Monday the 13th finally came and, after 8 long surf sessions over 5 days in 7 different locations, it was time to move on. Mathieu had to go to work and we were both totally exhausted with every possible surf muscle sore to the bone. But we were glowing and neither of us will ever forget one of the best 5 days of life we have ever had.

    Just one of my countless sweet rides in Brittany. Delicious!

    The views of the charming towns in Brittany

    Mathieu lovin the insiders

    It was hard to leave Brittany—it’s truly a magical region of our planet. But Mamacita and I wanted to explore a bit more and possibly do a day or two of riding so we went with Sophie to the train station but had no plans of where exactly we were going to go next. We said our “see you next times” to Mathieu and sat in front of the Lonely Planet and some maps until the next plan of attack presented itself.

    Turns out that Sophie did not REALLY have to be back up in her home town of Lille just yet and she was up for some riding too. So we picked the town of Angers as a base camp for new adventure in the Loire River region of France that nobody in our crew had properly explored. So, just like that, I teleported the slightly injured but ever-enthusiastic Mamacita and the fellow vagabond travel addict Sophie with me to the Loire!

    The view from our super cheap but lovely hotel in Angers

    We had intentions to ride that Wednesday and Thursday but Mother Nature vetoed the Wednesday ride with heavy rain and cold temperatures. We opted for a day of sightseeing, eating, strolling and relaxing in the most charming town of Angers with it’s huge Chateau, dazzling architecture and vibrant student population bringing a positive buzz around the town.

    Thursday was an entirely different situation and we woke up to crystal clear blue skies, a brisk westerly tailwind, and three excited pedalers ready for action! We discovered a bike lane that would take us about 70km from Angersto Saumur and, although 70km is a tough day for even the most healthy athlete, Mamacita was up for the challenge. Sophie rented a bike for herself and we hit the road in the early afternoon for a glorious day in one of France’s most beautiful regions.

    Mamacita back on the bike on a perfect fall day on the Loire River!

    I’ve ridden with Mamacita many times and have seen her cry from pain and frustration in Australia, almost get killed in Kenya, conquer 80km days in 100 degree days in Uganda, fear for her life in Thailand. Add to these memories the fact that she had a nasty crash back in San Diego and had not been on a bike since and you see how I admittedly was quite stressed when we took off as I did not want her to suffer. I took a bit too much responsibility for her well being from the get go but as the kilometers of glorious riding clicked on by my mood got better and better as I realized she was strong and going to make it with flying colors!

    The day was simply divine with gentle riverside riding along the Maine River and Loire rivers, darting off into villages lined with mansions, cute farm houses, shops and great eye candy in every direction. The last 10km were the toughest into steep hills that made it tough to put our head up and see the wonders. The weather ranged from bright sunshine to threatening thunderstorms but we managed to roll into Saumur dry, happy, strong but quite ready to get off the bike indeed.

    And Sophie rents a bike to come along on the adventure--she loved it!

    We found a perfect budget hotel overlooking a castle for only 35 euro a night with a perfect garage to park the bikes and the skies opened up and released all the rain it held off for us the second we stepped foot into the hotel. We were all filled with a glow of gratitude, pride and awe of it all. To top it off, we got a hot shower and headed out on the town for the very best Saumur had to offer.

    Our last night together we celebrated with a divine meal at a small bistro and wine bar. Saumur is world renowned for its wine and boy did we score with cheap glasses of unbelievably good wine accompanied by the best food in the world, by far. I’ve been dreaming of finally eating my way through France and boy did we go big with meats, veggies, cheeses, sauces and desserts that almost brought tears to our eyes. The food and wine in France IS THAT GOOD---come and try it for yourself!

    So my hibernation period is about up and I’m refreshed as ever, ready to get back on the bike in southern France and beyond. I am on my way to Biarritz to meet my Couchsurfing ( –get involved in this!) hosts Margo, Vincent and potentially a French friend Melanie I met in Morocco. I’ll be exploring the Basque country in the Pyrenees then off to Spain and Portugal. Life is good!

    Over n out from S. France!

    Jamie :)