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    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 ;)