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    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    Blog from Belgium, September 30, 2008

    Mackin the worlds best mussels with my hosts Freek n Fiona in Brussels

    I’m sitting the pimp pad of my brother Freek who hosted me for the weekend and then some here in Brussels and am ready to embark on my Belgian adventures shortly. We had a divine weekend and I’m in love with the city of Brussels—it’s worth putting it on your travel plans!

    I left off last blog entry as I was heading out on my cycling mission from Utrecht to Maastricht then Brussels. My first Dutch guest rider was Daan den Hollander, which means Dan from Holland—so does not get much more Dutch than that! He was super excited to take a morning off work and we enjoyed a lovely 60km ride together through the back roads provided by one of Holland’s stunning long distance cycling routes. It was a glorious ride by canals, farms, cute neighborhoods, windmills and more. We built a nice friendship and no doubt we will meet up one day in the future.

    Daan the Man...

    My Shetland pony girlfriend gives me a kiss goodbye

    I continued my journey southeast, found a perfect campsite after about 100km and charged day two in total sunshine to Maastricht passing Shetland ponies, fields of flowers and cool towns. The highlight of the solo ride was when a woman named Ine Steur rode up alongside me and we struck up a conversation. I told her I was heading to eat lunch in her city of Eindhoven and she decided a better plan was to invite me to her house and cook a fat lunch for me! Turns out she was heading to Mali and we shared our passion for that stunning country and some great laughs at her place. Thanks Ine!

    Ine's lovely lunch

    Between sleeping in late that morning, getting lost a few times and the lunch with Ine I was a bit behind schedule so decided to hop a train to north a bit. When I was at the station this chap Vincent was a my savior helping me load my gear in the train and turns out he lived in the same city I bought my ticket to called Sittard. We got to chatting on the train and Vincent has done some cycle touring himself, had the rest of the day off and accepted the invitation to ride to Maastricht that evening!

    Vincent bought me a meal and beer before we pedaled off into the perfect weather where we had a divine ride along the river, did a great filming session and arrived in Maastricht that evening ready to meet up with Karen and her friend Ingeborg. Karen trained in from Utrecht and the four of us enjoyed a lovely evening chatting away over a few drinks before Vincent headed home. Ingeborg hosted Karen and I for the night and the next was the day Karen and I would ride to Brussels.

    Karen, Ingeborg, Vincent and I celebrating all the yumminess of life

    We had mysterious loss of my tripod and Magic Arm filming props the next morning that delayed our departure but Karen was ready to hammer out the 120km ride and we were committed to make it before sunset. Our ride to Brussels was bliss with a nice tail wind, bright sunshine and endless conversations. We arrived at sunset and had a heck of a time finding our host Freek’s place in the wild city center, but managed to make it and were greeted by a crowd of friendly friends of Freek who he invited over for a welcome dinner party!

    Karen and I at about the 110km mark arriving in Brussels.

    There is no better feeling than arriving in a new city and being welcomed with a party! Freek and his girlfriend Fiona cooked up a massive lasagna dinner and I even got a surprise visit from Therese who I met in Mali as well. Another amazing guest was Sanne who was the woman who donated her studio apartment to me while she worked in Brussels! We all hit the town dancing till the wee hours, laughing, meeting new people and life was good!

    Freek's and Fionas Feast!

    The next day Karen had to head back to Holland but we had to suck up the perfect weather so decided to hit the city for the national dish of mussels in white wine sauce (yummy!), divine beers and chocolate, waffles, live music, great sights, endless laughs and chats—Wow, it was a perfect day in the sun! I was sad to say goodbye to my good friend Karen who became like a sister to me but luckily I was still in the hands of some great people so the downer was softened a bit.

    Out on our sunny day exploring Brussels w/ Karen, me, Fiona n Freek

    And Belgian chocolate is as good as they say

    Havin' it all--good friends, good beer, chocolate, waffles--Pinch me!

    For the last few days I’ve been in the company great people, especially my hosts Freek and Fiona who literally gave me this beautiful apartment to myself every night so I have been living in style. I met up with Phillip, my Belgian guest rider who adventured with me in China in 2002, and turns out he has plenty of days off now and will be accompanying me on an adventure east to Luxembourg! Life is good indeed!

    My Belgian guest rider Phillipe in China 2002--we're off to ride Belgium now in 2008!

    The warm, sunny, perfect weather has finally left but I’m darn excited for the adventures with Philippe and his lady Katrien. I’ll finally be in the arms of my Mamacita and one week from today in Paris so I’m pumped!

    Over n out from Brussels!

    Live Big. Give Big. Love Big.


    Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    Blog from Holland, September 23, 2008

    And greetings from the Dutch Princesses in Utrecht!

    The sun has been shining non-stop for days and days and I’ve been riding a high like no other for weeks. But today it’s misty and grey and I’m honestly feeling a quite low, drained and even sad. I’m over 9 months now on the road and my whirlwind tour since January has taken me through 27 countries in Africa and Europe. I’m happy to say that at least 81.463% of the time I’m pretty darn excited, content & happy. But the ups and downs are still a reality in my life and likely in the lives of almost anyone on earth, regardless of what we all “do”. So I’ll wait this low out as I know it’s just part of the cycle of life.

    Where I left off last blog was our last day in Bristol, England with our hosts Paul and Jo. Emma had paid a visit for the weekend and ended up staying one more night with our new friends Jo n Paul to suck in some more amazing moments together. Emma and I had met a lovely couple down in Gambia in W. Africa last March named Jo and Rich and they invited us to come for dinner and stay the night so we hopped in Emma’s car with the bike, drove to Southampton, did an epic bike ride in the New Forest Park for a few hours, then joined them. Turns out it was Jo and Rich’s anniversary so we tilted some champagne and had a lovely home cooked meal. This was also the starting point where I planned to meet two guest riders to start riding east.

    Emma n I at the New Forest Park riding n filming away

    The next day was the day that Emma had planned to head back to London to get back to work and I was going to do a long ride with a few guest riders who had planned to ride with me. But for whatever reason the three guys who were so excited to ride with me had things come up with their work and were no longer free. I can imagine one or even two, but to have all three cancel their ride with me was a bit of a stinger and I felt a bit bummed. It’s funny it happened because we were all talking about how serious the folks in UK take their work—and this was a prime example. I hope they don’t get more serious than us Americans!

    Jo and Rich's Anniversary Celebration ;)

    But Emma and I were having a blast together as always, two fellow vagabond Aquarius nomads connecting in Emma’s home country, so we got to working out some way to continue the adventure. Like me, Emma is self employed and makes her own schedule. So we both moved into flexibility mode. She moved her schedule and I sucked up the loss of riding some epic terrain in the south for a compromise that turned out to be just right!

    Emma had commitments to her business and needed to do an evaluation of a restaurant in London so that was not an option to miss. So my options were to ride solo in Southern England or to take Emma up on an irresistible offer of a yummy free meal at the evaluation joint, a free night of accommodation at her company hotel and the continued companionship of a very special friend. The mission was to get this evaluation done FAST so we could get back out to some more nature, riding and camping on the east coast where I would then catch my ferry to Holland.

    The trip to London was wonderful and exceeded my expectations. The meal was delicious, watching Emma work her magic was quite enriching and heading out to reconnect with a fellow Bay Area friend Jackie living in London was the icing on the cake. The next day Emma closed her business deals and we got the heck out of dodge to arrive on the North Sea in time for a nice late afternoon ride along the water and into the town of Harwich.

    So England, like Wales, turned out not to be about big long miles and typical touring like other countries. It was more about building new friendships with Jo and Paul, and continuing to build a great friendship with special friends Rich, Jo and especially Emma. I did plenty of riding, in fact almost every day I was out riding & exploring, but it was more about catching the modern day lifestyles of people I care about and creating memories that will last a lifetime. All good with me! Move lika jellyfish…

    And my last ride in the UK on the sea in Harwich w/ Emma

    So after a sad goodbye to Emma I was on the early morning ferry to Holland. It was sad thinking about leaving these lovely islands of Britain and Ireland, and really sad to think I was moving further and further away from so many great people. Seriously, just thinking about everyone—Mark n Denise in Scotland, Brid n Una n Neil in Northern Ireland, Monica n Art n Oisin n Sean n Dave n Wayne n Jono in Ireland, Janina n Sue n Sam in Wales, then Emma n Paul n Jo n Rich n Jo n Jackie in England…no wonder tears well up when I allow myself to just feel the fact that it indeed hurts to say goodbye.

    In fact, just writing this blog has made me realize where this low is REALLY coming from. These are real friendships, heart connections and even soul connections that happened when individuals were open with me and me with them. I will cherish every one of these friendships but I have to remember to allow myself to feel sad and not just try to “move on”…or else these sadness sessions sneak in and don’t know why. Big thanks to all the crew in UK and Ireland for making my journey to your land so precious and truly unforgettable.

    Here in Holland it’s a totally different energy all together. It’s quiet, calm, organized and quite a cultural change from UK indeed. And I really dig it. I arrived on a festive Friday night in true Peace Pedalers style and was greeted at the train station by two of the original Dutch Princesses Sanne and Karen and a new one Martina who escorted me back to Karen’s place where I had my own studio apartment just 1km from downtown all ready for me. They made me feel so special and welcome and this was just the beginning.

    Yummy!!! Thanks Karen!

    Karen had a totally typical meal ready for me of yummy Dutch dishes with wine, champagne, great company and the positive energy I needed to keep the sadness of leaving UK n Ireland from bumming me out for the weekend. From the fine food to the big laughs we took it to the dance floor downtown and were up grooving till 4AM after meeting more really cool Dutch locals. I LOVE to dance and met the right ladies as I was in good company.

    Martina lovin the ride to the pubs downtown

    Rockin the dancefloor till the wee hours!

    A cool windmill that runs a huge saw...very cool

    Karen has been such an amazing host with home cooked meals, great plans, introductions of more friendly folks, more meals and even some Dutch language lessons! Saturday night we hit the town again for more dancing and I was able to meet a few guys (Finally! I know!) Daan and Joffrey for some good chats and Daan is on the bike with me tomorrow heading southeast towards Maastricht.

    Daan and I planning our route over some fine brews :)

    The last few days have been all about meeting folks, takin care of bike and camera equipment, eating, playing squash, checking out the local sights here in Utrecht, and firming up the adventures ahead. Looks like a nice 100km ride tomorrow, 100km to Maastricht to meet up with Karen and her friend there, then another long ride to Brussels with Karen from Maastricht to meet up with a guy named Freek, the friend of my bro Hugo from Benin in Africa and a friend I met in Mali named Therese.

    Wow, writing and a nice cry can do wonders to a traveler in a funk. I’m almost done with the Ireland journals so hope I won’t fall too far behind. So stay tuned…

    Big love from Holland!


    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Blog from Bristol, England. September 16, 2008

    Greetings from the Bristol-Bath cycle route with Paul n Emma

    Wow, life here in UK and Ireland has been total bliss. After all the time in Asia and Africa struggling with the language barrier it’s just such a pleasure to communicate fully. I last left off in Wales where I was getting ready to ride with my host and amazing Amiga Janina from Swansea into the Gower region. I’ll give ya a quick update as I’m heading out riding for next few days…

    Janina and I on day one of our 3 day adventure in Gower

    Janina and I ended up spending 3 days and 2 nights in this charming Gower region cycling, exploring and camping in weather ranging from nice sunshine to gale force storms. This region of the world is something special and it was drawing me back after we returned back to Swansea to get Janina back to work. I ended up meeting a lovely woman Sue and her son Sam in Rhosilli who invited me back to stay with them so I made my way back for some more cycling and hopefully some surf.

    At the top of one of Gowers lovely climbs

    On the way back Rhosilli I ended up meeting a cool gal Eilish from Canada who was heading out mountain biking. So we hit Rhosilli together and charged the trails with my bike in “single mode”. It turned out to be one of the best mountain bike rides of my life following a tight coastal road overlooking the ocean. That night I was hosted by Sue and her husband Paul in Rhosilli at their restaurant “The Bay” and the next morning was able to hop in the water and surf this breathtaking nugget on great waves with the boys before heading back to Swansea to get my last goodbyes for the time being with Janina and make my way to Bristol.

    My ride heading into Rhosilli to look for riders...

    Eilish and I on a perfect day out mountain biking

    And a perfect last day in Wales--sun, waves and offshore winds for the surf!

    Since arriving in Bristol the bliss has only continued. My good friend Mette from Denmark set me up with her friends Paul and Jo and it’s been unforgettable. We also got a visit from Emma who has adventured with me in Zimbabwe, Senegal and Gambia so she made a trip down from the north where she lives to spend the weekend. Jo and Emma got along like sisters and Paul and Jamie like brothers so you can’t ask for more. The weekend has been filled with a great ride to Bath, free tickets to an epic rugby game, a live concert with our host Paul on the guitar/keyboards, Sunday Lunch with his family, great laughs and lasting friendships we will all cherish.

    Hosts Jo and Paul enjoying our 1st meal together with Emma and I

    Emma and I score FREE tickets to an epic rugby game

    And boy are the characters a hoot at these games!

    I have kidnapped Emma and we were going to ride out yesterday but we decided to stay one more day and make our way to see some friends from Gambia Jo and Richard who live in Southampton and do some pedaling in the national park by the coast. Then there are a few guest riders on the cooker for some serious pedaling Wednesday to Friday or so before heading on a boat to Holland to connect w/ my crew I met in Zambia…life is good!

    Endless thanks to Jo and Paul! You guys rock!

    I could not ask for much more on this adventure in the UK—friendly people, great food n drinks, fantastic music, wild weather, pristine nature and epic cycling adventures. I just wish it was not going by so fast but time does fly when you are having fun!

    I’ll try to get more caught up with journals but till then just use your imagination :)



    Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Blog from Swansea, Wales. September 7, 2008

    My last ride in Sligo, Ireland before heading to Dublin with my friend and host Monica

    Wow, the weather in this part of the world is just spectacular. It went from lovely sunshine and tailwinds for two days to a wild windy storm that’s flooding many parts of Ireland and Britain as I sit on a train watching it all go down. I’m officially in Wales and enroute to Swansea where I’ll spend a few days with a new Couchsurfing hostess Janina resting the body and cleaning up after an epic adventure from Sligo to Dublin back in Ireland.

    I left off the last blog update from a tent overlooking the ocean with great waves and rainbows—unforgettable 3 days of Irish paradise! The swell died in the ocean and the winds shifted westerly so I decided to follow them to Dublin to catch up with my good Irish buddy Jono from San Francisco. Everything was flowing just right so I knew it would be an epic adventure east.

    I did a lovely ride with my host Monica along the coast to some of her favorite spots on a lovely sunny day, cooked some great meals with the family and really grew to love Monica and her kids. The next day I ended up meeting two super cool Irish cats Sean and Oisin who became potential guest riders for the 3 day mission to Dublin.

    Oisin and I heading out of Sligo

    By the time Wednesday rolled around I had a terribly hungover yet enthusiastic teenager Oisin pedaling out of Sligo for about 40km then a relay handoff to Sean who would ride 2 days with me. We had tailwinds, exciting weather ranging from downpours to bright sunshine and adventures that will touch your heart as the rainbow continued to follow the tandem all along the way to Dublin. You’ll love the journal on Ireland—be sure to read it when it comes out. The only adversity we had was some bike challenges with a cooked bottom bracket but it lasted just enough to give us timeless memories before disintegrating.

    Sean and I after first day ride camping on Shannon River

    After an 80km ride on day 2 we are ready for a Guinness

    I arrived last night in Dublin and was blessed by meeting an angel Hari Krishna devotee Aiden on the train who loves bikes and vegetarian food. He helped me with my gear, took me to the bike shop and offered me a free meal at his restaurant Govindas (yummy!). At the Cyclelogical bike shop I got a super warm welcome by the entire shop and they really wanted to get my bike running right again—and they did. They gave me the kind of treatment that makes a tired cyclist feel welcome and grateful on a stormy day in Dublin.

    Enjoying my last night in Ireland w/ my Dublin crew Brenden, Catherine & my bro Jono

    I met up with my bro Jono who I had not seen in a few years in his stomping grounds of Dublin and we wasted no time getting out amongst the action on a hoppin Friday in Dublin. We meet his bro Brenden and lady Catherine for some food and music, did some recording then hit two of his favorite bars and clubs. One of them was a heavy metal bar that at first I was not all that excited about but it rubbed off on me and we ended up head banging and dancing till the wee hours.

    After just 2 hours of sleep I just boarded the ferry for the wildest ride I’ve ever had on the Irish Sea with massive waves and gale force winds. The weather has been crazy and still not sure if floods will keep me from getting to Swansea or not until I arrive in this small town Shrewsburry, Wales to see where the winds blow me.

    That’s the latest from the train…should be enjoying a fun Saturday night in Swansea, Wales soon enough! I’ll be in Wales till next Friday then off to Bristol to meet back up with several English folks

    UPDATE: There’s been a lightening strike and massive flooding…crazy stuff! Stuck in some small town hoping to make it to Swansea for an Argentinean music event!

    UPDATE 2: I made it to Swansea just as my Tango lesson was kicking off with my Couchsurfing host Janina and all is well. The storms have settled and we’re off to pedal & search for waves to surf together on the Gower Peninsula outside Swansea. Life is good!

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    Blog from Ireland, September 2, 2008

    My surf perch here in Ireland. Big Love from Paradise!

    I’m in my tent now at sunset, perched on a cliff above the ocean where surfers are out getting their last waves on a perfect day—great waves, offshore winds and sunny weather. It’s been such a treat to get back in the water again and close to my cherished energy source of the ocean. I’ll be perched here at least another day so I’ll be writing as long as the laptop battery will allow me to catch up on full on journals but here’s the quick update on the latest from the saddle.

    My last day in Belfast was stellar with two enlightening guest riders Joe in the afternoon and Austin in the evening. Joe is a former IRA volunteer-turned softie who could not hurt a fly and Austin a progressive, committed Peace Pedaler who has done and continues to use bikes as a vehicle for the healing process in Belfast. It was a big day of filming and Austin rode with me outside Belfast to kick off my ride to the west on the charming tow road by the canals.

    Meet Joe, the sweetest former IRA Volunteer ever!

    On the road out of Belfast w/ Austin...a VERY cool cat!

    I camped at a soccer field and was up at 5AM to start a 80 mile/130km ride to Enniskillen where I would meet Brid and Una’s brother Niel at their family home. It was one of the most challenging days in my life but a warm welcome from Neil at his place overlooking lakes in every direction, a nice meal, cold beers, good music and fun conversations made it all worth it.

    Neil was not a hard sell to come riding with me the next day and from Enniskillen to Sligo could have been one of the best days riding I’ve had in Europe—tailwind, gorgeous terrain, great chats, perfect weather and positive teamwork on the bike and in our minds. We arrived in the evening in Sligo where we met our host Monica and her son Art who invited Neil and I to stay the night.

    Neil is into Peace...let's all make it real!

    My brother Neil and I lovin life on our 3-day adventure!

    Neil and I are greeted with a smile from my Sligo hosts Monica and her son Art

    Yesterday was bliss with a blissful day that started out of surfing with Art on perfect waves and conditions. This lead to an adventure into Sligo to find Neil a bus back home that did not exist and Monica and I talking him in to staying one more night in Sligo. All the while Neil and I have been building a super solid friendship, as well as Monica and her family of three.

    Pinch me, am I dreaming? Perfect surf, board/wetsuit no sweat, sunshine, local spot...!!!

    And today I had to say the sad goodbyes to Neil and decided I wanted to camp on the ocean so I rode on out here for some surf and sea goodness. Monica’s son Art’s buddy Carien set me up with a board a wetsuit yesterday and today so the blessings continue for the lone Peace Pedaler out here in Ireland indeed. Been meeting some very friendly locals and have felt so at home and peaceful here on this green island of good fun loving folks.

    My surf brother and host Monica's son Art and I ridin the tides :)

    Monica takes me to her favorite secret spot on the dunes...lovely!

    The wildest family I've ever met--but so full o love!

    That’s the latest n greatest. I’m feeling grateful, blessed, free, alive and strong with great memories in the past and wow, I’m so excited about the future adventures of Peace Pedalers on the way down to Portugal over the next few months.

    Over n out from Paradise! Come to Ireland!!!