Row With the Flow

I was catching up with my best friend a few days ago and we started talking about my new chapter of life in Wilmington. Settling into a home for a couple of years was not on my life plan four months ago and he was curious how I was doing. I told him I was doing fine and that changes like this don’t really effect me that much, you gotta just roll with life sometimes. He told me that he admired my ability to “row with the flow” (which I find kind of funny because I admire that about him).

“Row with the flow” is kind of a mantra for me (and probably many others). I first explicitly encountered the concept through a YouTube video (see below) by Halcyon when I was preparing for my first Burning Man. My application of the concept kind of goes like this…. we are floating down this river of life and we can either fight the flow, row with the flow, or pull in the paddles and just let the river rush us along. “Row with the flow” is kind of the golden mean of how to approach life.

There are certainly times when we should bunker down and fight the current, but that shouldn’t be our default position. So much of life is outside of our control and if we exert all of our energy trying to fight things out of our control we just end up too exhausted to safely navigate the river. Energy should be applied efficiently to help us reach our goals and not just used up because “we have to do something!”. No, we don’t have to “do something” if that “something” won’t bring about positive change.

On the other end of the spectrum is just letting life push us along. Instead of fighting the river the whole way, we can just let life push us around. This is victimhood and defeatism, we can blame everyone else and every circumstance for the good and bad in our life. This view is to accept that life is based on luck, fate, or God’s plan, and all we can do is forfeit our free will and suffer through it. Every success and failure is pre-determined, so why even try?

Fuck that, I’d rather row with the flow.

Rowing with the flow is to pay attention to your life and alter your course to your desires, but it involves more than that. It involves recognizing that we can only see a short way up the river and someday new bends and splits and opportunities may arise, so we may need to alter course. It means that yesterday’s notions of what will make us happy or bring us success may not apply to today. It also means that sometimes you need to navigate around blind turns into unexpected territory if you want new experiences. Sometimes, you gotta row off the map when the river gives you the chance to get out of the main current and check out an uncharted tributary. It might lead to another river or the ocean or it might dry up and force you to trudge back to your previous course… but no matter what, you will learn something if you row away from the mainstream.

Now that I think about it, I guess we have a fourth choice. We can find an eddy and just paddle our boat into the safe, calm, comforting water and die in stagnation. We can find a place that poses no risk (and thus, no reward) and is “good enough”. We can stay in shitty jobs, never leave our hometowns, and stay in relationships that aren’t good. The fear of the unknown can be overwhelming, I get that, but the unknown is where you create the life you want. You can’t change your life without making changes. You can find an eddy that has some shade and won’t allow you to get harmed, but you’ll be stuck staring at the same rocks for the rest of your life. That might be comfortable, but it certainly isn’t living.

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Prelude: On The Mountaintop

What follows is my first draft of the Prelude for my upcoming book, tentatively titled “Mostly Flat: <something something something>”. If you have any thoughts or recommendations about clarity, grammar, etc please feel free to email me at pjneiger@gmail.com or Facebook message me. I will add chapters as I produce them and then, after some editing and such, make my book available to purchase. 

 

It started on a mountaintop in Afghanistan, as these things often do.

I guess a mountaintop in Afghanistan is specific to me, but the planting of a seed in the mind needs fertile soil, and fertile soil is often found in those moments of peace and serenity amidst chaos. When the mind has been occupied and the body afraid there is no time to think or plan or dream, but when the fear of imminent death slides away you can take stock of your life and how short it is.

My mind turned towards the future as I was laying on that mountaintop, my automatic rifle laying loosely on my lap, my helmet on the ground, and my eyes closed as the summer sun tried to pierce my lids. The men around me, my brothers, were discussing the same things we always discussed when we had spare time in a warzone. We chatted about the food we wanted to eat, the beer we wanted to drink, and the girls we wanted to sleep with. On that final point I had little to contribute, I was a virgin at the time and had sworn to my God to wait until I was married before bumping uglies.

We also talked about home and the places we wanted to go. This conversation required the help of a translator due to the regions of the US that were represented on that mountaintop. On one extreme we had Gagne, a young boy from rural Maine. Slim in stature and prone to embellishment his excited tales of his time in Maine were some of our favorites and always brought ruckus laughter. We knew his stories of competing in destruction derby’s or driving a car without a windshield or hood so that he could pour oil into the engine while he drove were likely not true, but they made us cry with laughter every time he told them. I like to believe they are true.

Gagne, being ever the story teller, was the polar opposite of Harding. Harding is a southern-boy from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and he fit every stereotype. He was big, both in height and weight, and spoke slowly with a deep southern drawl. He rarely spoke except to ask what Gagne was saying, the two couldn’t understand each other, and because of this I became the default translator. My upbringing on the west coast and neutral/boring accent allowed me to understand and translate Yankee and Redneck.

Discussing the all the towns we came from planted a seed in my mind. This seed was to see the country that I was fighting for and, in a way, pay tribute to my unit, the 82nd Airborne Division, the All-Americans[1]. Seeds in the mind are tricky things. They aren’t like physical seeds you get to plant a garden, they don’t come cleanly labeled with species and growing instructions. You may have a general idea what a mental seed will look like but as it marinates in your mind, just below the surface, it mixes with other ideas and evolves into something you couldn’t predict. Then, when the time is right, it springs forth from your mind. It may be months, years, or decades later, and you may have forgotten that the seed even existed. For me, that season for growth started when I attended Burning Man for the first time in 2011.

Burning Man is hard to describe because it isn’t one thing. At its foundation it is a community of people who gather together for a week to build a society based on 10 Principles[2]. The beautiful thing about these principles is that people apply them in different ways and to different degrees, and everyone is accepted as long as they don’t harm another person. The biggest influence for me was meeting people who had taken charge of their lives. They had decided they didn’t want a normal, stable, monotonous life, and they took action. I camped with entrepreneurs, artists, and adventurers. It was hard not to be inspired and, during a particularly pleasurable night of rolling on Molly and exploring The Playa, the seed that was planted in 2004 started to bust forth.

When I returned to DC I tried to ignore the plant that had sprouted forth. It was easy at first, it was small and existed only in my periphery. But as time went by the plant began to grow. Ignoring it became more difficult. The beauty of the idea took up more and more of my mental space and I found my mind wandering to the plant as I worked. In many ways it was like a mirror, showing me how unhappy I was living in Washington DC, working 40-50 hours a week, and buying into the system. I tried to make changes in my life by working from home and taking on hobbies, but the idea kept growing and as it grew it began to take a more solid form.

Not only was I going to explore the United States, I was going to do it by bicycle, and it would start with a solo cross country ride.

Eventually, I got to a point where I had to make a choice. The idea could not be ignored any longer and I either had to destroy it or I had to embrace it. Destroying it would have taken mental effort, but it could have been done. There were all the logical reasons in the world to destroy it. I had a good job with a bright future in an economy that was weak and I had loads of debt. There was no job waiting for me on the other side of the country. I knew nothing about cycling long distances or bike maintenance. It was a crazy idea to abandon all stability and cross 3,000 miles of unknown land on two wheels. I didn’t destroy the idea, it was too beautiful and inspiring to destroy.

Instead, I destroyed all the poisonous things in my life and used them as fertilizer for the idea. My job, stability, the doubts from friends, and my inexperience all became strengths. I quit my job, bought a $100 bicycle at target, strapped everything I owned onto the back with bungee cords, and hit the road with one paycheck in my bank account. I knew there was a good chance I would fail, but damn it, I was going to try.

 

[1] What is now the 82nd Airborne Division received the nickname “All American” from Major General Swift because it had soldiers from every state at the time.

[2] The principles are Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommidification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy. You can find out more at burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/

Vacation vs Transformation

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to why I enjoy the things I do. Pleasure inducing activities seem to fall into two, sometimes overlapping, categories: Vacation and Transformation. Vacations are the things that recharge us and allow us to relax. They are comfortable and stress-free. In some ways they are like a physical therapist, but for our motivation. They help us return to a healthy state when we are worn out and tired. The benefits from the vacation rarely last long once the vacation is over.

Transformation, on the other hand, are experiences that encourage us to grow and alter our behavior once the event is over. They are like personal trainers for the mind that make us stronger and happier for a long time, even if progress is slow in the beginning. These experiences are often extremely pleasurable, but they are fundamentally about growing and learning first.

Some events and experiences can fall into both categories, depending on the person. You can go to Burning Man or take MDMA and have that be a vacation. It can be about the moment, the pleasure, the recharge, but it can also be more than that. It can be Transformation when you take what happens during these experiences and use them to alter your behavior and mind once you leave. I don’t think Transformation comes naturally though, it takes some work.

To take an example that is close to me, let’s look at MDMA. While rolling you often are much, much more open to things like cuddling, touch, discussing painful issues, and new experiences. It isn’t like being drunk where your inhibitions go down and you do things you regret, instead it is like tearing down artificial or unnecessary walls to become the person you want to be deep down. The experience can be incredible, but once the day ends and you start to recover then you run the risk of it being a vacation instead of a transformation. You may not feel any regret for what happened and you may logically desire to do those things again without drugs, but there is still a block. The experience becomes an excuse not to change your life, you think “yes, I did that and I liked it, but only because I was (at Burning Man, on Molly, backpacking Europe, etc)” instead of acknowledging that you did it because those are things that you fundamentally want to do, they are part of the person you want to become.

Moving past that barrier is difficult, even when you recognize it. I don’t think I really have any solutions to it. I’m sure there are steps you can take… for example, if you want more platonic cuddling in your life you can actually schedule cuddle sessions with a willing friend. Or if when you are at Burning Man you are inspired to create art then when you get to the “default world” (which is burner talk for life off outside of Black Rock City) you can join an art class and find a way to keep yourself accountable.

It seems that the default position is vacation instead of transformation, at least for me. It is easy to conserve, rest, and be comfortable, even if it isn’t going to help fulfill your life. I guess that is part of what makes humans unique, we can recognize these higher goods and pursue them, even if they are in conflict with our evolved urges. It is never easy, but in my experience transformation is always worth it.

From Waving Flags to Burning Them

**This is the first post in a multi-part series about what and why I identify or believe certain things. Ideally I will get one or two up per week.**

 

I guess the best place to start is my move away from Republican conservatism. It isn’t the most exciting thing to me at this point but it was the first domino to fall in my life. Libertarianism was my flirtation with the unknown, my pursuit of answers to questions that I had no answers to, it was a search for truth when one of the foundations of my youth showed cracks and began to crumble. After politics I began to question everything else, nothing was forbidden. Religion, sexuality, lifestyles, etc. were all open to analysis, dissection, and destruction if warranted. And really, I have George W. Bush to thank for it all.

September 11, 2001 affected us all in one way or another. For me, it lead to war. I walked into a recruiters office the morning of 9/11, the second tower had been hit but had not fallen yet. The initial hypothesis that the crash was an accident soon was overshadowed by reports of “terrorism”, a word that up until that point was something that brought to mind deserts far away from the safety of the US. The recruiters assured me this would not be war, I think they thought the idea of combat would scare me off, but I was there because I wanted to fight. I knew I was smart, school was easy for me, but I didn’t know if I had balls. I also thought war was something that the US needed, I grew up hearing about how united the country during the Cold War, we were a nation that needed an enemy or we would turn on ourselves. Better to face a backwards and inhumane “other” then be at each other’s throats. Besides, the casualties would be strangers to us. People that didn’t have the blessing of Christ on their holy nation.

With nervousness and excitement I went through Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training to be an Infantry Paratrooper. Despite my high test scores I opted for the Infantry. The training was easy, it was obviously a mind game more than anything. The Drills weren’t going to hurt us or anything, screaming eventually ends and you can only do so many push-ups before your body gives out. Yep, it sucked but it wasn’t difficult. The body molds quickly and the Infantry training was mostly memorization and becoming comfortable in the woods and/or with a firearm in your hand. Any attempt at molding me into a drone or brain-washing wasn’t really effective, partly thanks to one of my Drills who took me and another guy aside regularly to encourage us to think for ourselves and read books (books were technically contraband).

I arrived at my unit and we quickly deployed to Afghanistan. We hopped around from fire base to fire base conducting searches, setting up ambushes, and basically doing the things infantrymen do. It was really days of boredom broken up by minutes of excitement and it all is kind of a blur. While we were in Kandahar a change occurred that woke me out of the drone like slumber I had entered during the deployment, we declared war on Iraq.

Even at that time I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why that happened. Accusations of WMD’s and moral arguments for rescuing the Iraqi people from a dictator didn’t really make sense. The world was filled with WMD’s and dictators, surely there was bigger and more dangerous foes out there if the US was going to use that as a standard for intervention. As it would turn out I would end up in Iraq less than a year later.

I did what was asked on my Iraqi deployment but the seed was planted for me to question the motives and authority of the government, as well as the moral superiority of the GOP. It was enough to eliminate any prospect of re-enlisting (though I did do one year as a National Guardsman in South Carolina). I had to find another political option but wasn’t ready to even consider the Democratic Party, I was still too religious and they were all baby-killing atheist traitors.

This exploration was going on during my first year in college and I was taking a basic Political Science course. My professor said there were four basic political party philosophies: Liberals believed you should be free in the bedroom but not the boardroom, Republicans believed you should be free in the boardroom but not the bedroom, Libertarians believed that you should be free in both the boardroom and the bedroom, and Statists believed that you should not be free in either. Libertarians seemed the most in line with my current thoughts. He also mentioned that Reason Magazine was the official magazine of the Libertarian Party (I don’t think that is actually true) so I picked up a copy at Barnes & Noble, liked it, and eventually subscribed.

There were three things that Reason brought to my attention but I can’t really remember the order. First, they did a run-down of all the politicians running for President in 2008 and mentioned that in a good world Ron Paul would win. Second, they had some sort of memoir for Milton Friedman, this was my introduction to economics and I purchased “Capitalism and Freedom” because of the article. Third, they had an article about why you should be allowed to sell your own organs, this article shifted my entire way of thinking about self-ownership and the proper role of government, it was the beginning of me thinking like a libertarian.

The next few years involved jumping in head first. I volunteered for Ron Paul’s campaign and I devoured any piece of economic or libertarian political literature I could find. Milton Friedman, Hayek, Ayn Rand, David Friedman, and eventually Rothbard. By time I reached my junior year of college all it took was reading David Friedman’s “The Machinery of Freedom” and an IHS seminar and I was a full blown anarchist. My anarchy was grounded almost primarily in economics and the endless pursuit of efficiency though, I had little love or time for morality.

As I graduated college and entered the workforce in DC my hatred for the state grew but an emptiness was inside me. I needed something positive, some love, art, happiness, and community to add light to the darkness. Working for SFL helped a lot, I was able to converse with a variety of people and travel the country, and they sent me to Porcfest. Porcfest was my first opportunity to see some anarchy in action, the small voluntary community operated as much as possible without a state and served as some inspiration. I was skeptical of it growing beyond a small community in a short period of time though, it seemed that just because something works on a small tribe-level that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work on a city or state level. What good is being morally or philosophically “right” if it had no practical application in human affairs? Was anarchy nothing more than an interesting ivory-tower thought experiment? At the time I wasn’t sure, then came Burning Man.

For unrelated reasons I found myself in the basic dust of the Nevada desert under the hot August sun. Around me ran debauchery and love in every creative form. Humans exploring art, community, and many illegal substances seemed to interact like a designed and living organism, but there really was no designer. The infrastructure provided by the organizers was minimal, basically just some street signs and porta-potties, but you could find volunteers providing medical care, Rangers to provide help, bars to get boozes, massage parlors, live music, tea, art performances, classes being put on by college professors, food, and basically anything you would expect from a 70,000 person city like Black Rock City.

Part temporary intentional community and part everything else, Burning Man provided me with another example of how anarchy might play out if adopted on a larger scale. Certainly there were problems, particularly the economics of a gift economy that seems like it could collapse if it lasted more than a week in such a resource deprived environment. How long can “gifting” last when people had to drive hours to bring in more food, water, and supplies to repair structures? Still, here was anarchy with the capitalism or consumerism. While the economics seemed unsustainable the experience opened the doors to the community and love that anarchy can provide. This was a community of people who wanted no state enforcement of building codes, drug laws, or health codes, but having a reputation for being a dick, speeding more than 5mph and kicking up dust, or mooching off the community could lead you to being an outcast. That rarely happened though because everyone involved wanted it to work, by travelling from far and wide to the Playa they explicitly agreed to the principles of Burning Man.

A life changing week in the dust shifted what I believed was possible in this world, and shifted my means of accomplishing change. Before I didn’t think political action was effective but I saw no alternative. After Burning Man I saw politics as not only as ineffective but a waste of my time and energy. Surely, I would be happier and more effective if I lived the life I wanted instead of voting to get someone in office who might give me permission to be happy and free. I decided to just do what made me happy and abide by my own moral code, “don’t harm”.

Opening the door to new experiences and actively pursuing those experiences means I crossed paths with people unlike me. It was like a fog had lifted over my perception, I began to recognize the struggles faced by minorities and those whose cultures have faced generations of systematic oppression. I began to see that the government is not the only oppressor, and for some people the state can rightly be called a savior and protector. Before I had only seen libertarians and anarchists who fought solely the state. In fact, many people seemed to argue that libertarianism ONLY speaks about a person’s relationship with the government, that the philosophy of liberty has nothing to say about racism or misogyny.

If that is the case then libertarianism is doomed just from a practical standpoint. Progressives and Conservatives provide a complete world view, they not only say the proper role of government but they try to explore the best way to live. People are not going to jump behind a philosophy that remains neutral on a significant part of the human experience. A lot of people like to argue that we are somehow living during the end of liberty, that the state is so massive and powerful that every resource must be mobilized to fight it. I just don’t see that as accurate.

We are living in the freest time in human history. Things are better now than they have ever been. Sure, there are problems, and maybe the US is not holding the torch of freedom high anymore, but things are still on a good path. Even “tyrannical” programs like the NSA are facing greater scrutiny and the country seems weary of foreign entanglements. Not to mention the vast expansion of liberty as the dominoes of prohibition fall at the same time as marriage equality continues to spread. You can’t say that we are living in the worst time for freedom when people have more bodily autonomy and to associate than ever.

But, I don’t think libertarianism is limited to the individual’s relationship with the state. I think embracing liberty as an economic principle, moral guidance, and simply because it provides the best life for the most number of people can provide support in dealing with non-government issues as well. The purist form of liberty is anarchy, it is the rejection of man’s dominion over another, no “ifs, ands, or buts”. It is to say that we are responsible for our own actions and reject the use of coercion. And I believe it should be pursued as much as possible. We all will slip and fall, we are humans after-all, but freedom is something worth pursuing for practical and philosophical reasons. It makes life better for others and, for me at least, the exercise of liberty makes one healthier and happier. 

Defecating on Immortals

Caution: This post contains adult language and discussion. This was originally posted on our bike blog “Barely Functional Adults” on May 23rd.

Part of my intentions for this blog is accurately share what we experience. Often I fail, that is the nature of writing, language, and I guess all types of art. What I am feeling or what I intend the message to be gets lost sometimes due to me doing a shitty job or because I kind of do a stream-of-consciousness style writing where I don’t proof-read before posting. There are some cases when the intention of the artist is irrelevant, in that case the art is open to interpretation by the observer… I don’t consider this blog one of those cases. This is supposed to be a true story with all the ups and downs of our little friend-family and I try to represent it clearly and accurately. I also try to represent things as we see them, not just as I see them. I fuck up though, my ego, identity, and such gets in the way on a subconscious level and I struggle to remember this is “our journey” not “my journey”.

So, after reading my last post I felt there was some stuff unclear and things were not portrayed as I wish. It is true that I was irked by the change in plans but that wasn’t because of the specifics involved, that was purely an internal issue of mine. It was one that I need to work on and the events are proof of how fucking awesome things are when you let go of planning and expectations to embrace the now. Jesus joining us turned out to be a major highlight of the ride and we all wish he could join us more and in the future. There are certain souls that you meet and feel united with, certain people who you think you can learn from and want in your life, Jesus was one of those people. Luckily, the universe seems to have a way of keeping those people in your life, call it fate, ka, ka-tet, power of attraction, or just human nature, but it happens. Strong bonds of similar material are not easily broken.

I will keep doing my best to portray our journey as a group, and not just as an individual. I’ll probably fuck up again but two amazing people, one dog, and a reader or three to keep me in line or call me on my shit. Also, I will call myself out because writing is what I love and I want to do it well.

Alright, now where were we on our ride… shit, I can’t remember so I gotta check the last blog post again. BRB

That’s right, we were in Fort Bragg and about to head out. The ride along the coast on Highway 1 continued to be beautiful and provide us with amazing scenery. It is interesting how you get used to things though, no matter how beautiful a site is when you first see it you eventually get used to it and it becomes boring. That seems to be an evolved trait for humans, whether it is a partner, food, or environment it doesn’t matter how much you love it you will eventually get kind of bored with it. The view along the 1 didn’t really suffer from this because the scenes change regularly, even the beaches morph from sand to rocks to cliffs and moving at about 8mph keeps things changing regularly.

Once we got to the Lost Coast we left the ocean behind for a few days as the route took us inland into the redwoods and over a bunch of shitty hills. We have started seeing a lot more cyclists similar to us. They aren’t dressed in bright jerseys with 5 oz bicycles, nope they are dirty, sweaty, with tents on their backs and huge smiles on their faces. These are adventurers who see the bicycle as a particular tool instead of the purpose of the experience. We’ve met Australians, Swedes, Danes, and other Americans plowing their way up and down the coast looking for a good time. Despite being fairly introverted we have had some conversations with these social rebels and it is inspiring. Maybe someday we can visit their land and get some riding in.

Most of our nights have been spent either stealth camping in random off-road places or using the state parks (which usually have $5 hiker/biker rates up here… fucking glorious). Off-road camping is our preferred because it is free, but sometimes there are non-monetary costs. We were camping under some redwoods at an abandoned park or something that a logging company made when gross struck our little family. Higgs was off wandering around off-leash when he apparently found some feces to roll in. He came trotting back with a grin on his face but was reeking of poop. The poop also had maggots in it. Poop. Maggots. Maggots in poop. Because we were off road there was not any running water to use so Anna cleaned him with baby wipes… so now our dog smelled like shit and baby wipes. He is a constant reminder why we never want kids. I’m pretty sure it was human shit too.

After finishing up Highway 1 (sad panda) we got onto the 101 and headed deep into the redwoods. Of course there were tons of tourist trap shit… “oh look at the magic Confusion Hill, you’ll never believe how physics is defied!!!!!” Blargh. I’m also not giving you $5 to look at a big tree you can drive a car thru when there are a ton of trees to be viewed for free in nature. We were only on the 101 for a few miles before we camped out at a local campground near Leggett. Leggett was a bitter-sweet place and is proof that Google is not yet omniscient. Supposedly Leggett has a market, hotel, cafe, and a gas station, in reality they have a gas station and a market 2 miles away up a big damn hill. The market was actually pretty good though so once we resupplied our food our spirits lifted up. It is such a mindfuck when you plan on arriving at a location only to find you have two more miles up a hill before your day is even near being done.

The next day we ended up taking a break in a town called Garberville, home of a weed college. Normally, that would be awesome. We aren’t really weed smokers but we support full legalization and usually get along well with those who smoke (or vape, or brownie, or however kids do the marijuana in this day and age). Garberville wasn’t a great town though, there was clearly tension between the large number of tye-died, scruffy dog owners who seemed to just hang out on corners and occasionally strum a guitar and the business owners in the town. There were “no loitering” and “no panhandling” signs everywhere. Ironically, there were also a lot of “now hiring” signs. The coffee shop we stopped at even limited wireless access to 1 hour unless you kept purchasing things. The feeling was the opposite of Arcata (where I am now sitting) where there are tons of dreadlocked, tye-died individuals but they are all working at coffee counters and grocery stores. There is definitely some grad school level sociological research that could be done comparing Arcata and Garberville.

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We left Garberville in the afternoon and took a break from the 101 to ride The Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue of the Giants. I swear, whoever named these places are awesome in my book. I feel like I am seeing signs for an old 90′s era RPG. When we got to the entrance of the Avenue there was a sign telling us where we were… only it was completely wrong (see photo below). The sign, which I assume was put up by a government agency, said that we were on the north entrance when we were really nearly 40 miles away at the southern entrance. As some kind stranger points out, that is the worst possible mistake they could make. This kind of highlights the difference between government and private market. Businesses certainly have errors like this but it is in their best interest to correct it as soon as possible, no business is going to allow a map, billboard, or other advertisement stay in circulation if it sends all the customers in the opposite direction. Government agents have no real incentive to correct this type of mistake.

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The Avenue of the Giants is an incredibly 30-mile route through giant redwoods. I felt like I was playing the Cruisin’ Earth arcade game, except instead of a humvee that shot flames out of the tailpipe I had a bicycle named Harmony… and instead of a shitty soundtrack I had a Spotify 2000′s Rock Hits… and instead of finish lines and bikini-clad 2D women I had the greatest fucking family ever, even though we smell like dirty hippy. But other than all that stuff it was just like the game, only better. We took a ton of pictures (check ourFacebook page). We camped out at one point under some redwoods, which is apparently a bad idea because they can kill you with falling branches, but it worked for us. There is a strange absence of sound or life under the redwoods because they prevent sunlight from really getting to the ground. Being without infrastructure means you sometimes have to shit in the woods and I did that on a tree that is over 500 years old. It is kind of strange to look at a living creature that was around before Columbus landed as you defecate on it.

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Leaving the Avenue for the 101 again was bittersweet. The highway is flatter but the views not nearly as beautiful, though crossing the Eel River over and over again was quite amazing. I’m terrified of heights though and got nervous sometimes while riding. I don’t know how tall people cross bridges, just the extra 3-4 inches that riding gives me makes me feel so top heavy that I constantly fear I will somehow fly over the railings. I end up taking up a lane of traffic out of fear, especially if the wind is blowing.

We found a campground in Fortuna to spend the night and rest. We had a good day, close to 50 miles, and really wanted a beer. Lucky for us Eel River Brewery was less than 1/2 mile away from the campground. So we showered, put on clothes that only moderately smelled like a locker room, and got ourselves some brew. I got pretty wasted, which everyone on Facebook knows thanks to my “Peter Patter” of constant stream-of-thought random updating that I tend to do while intoxicated. I’m always a little embarrassed the next morning but people seem to have fun, there was even a pretty thorough debate on shower sex and 69ing (awesome or overrated?) and the use of chains, ropes, and other BDSM tools in the bedroom/bathroom/bang palace of choice.

We kept on plowing through miles and arrived in the town of Eureka whose primary economic force seemed to be meth and sadness. It was in a CVS parking lot that part of my bike exploded. One of these days I’ll learn the proper name of bike parts but lets just say the insides of my rear wheel went everywhere… ball bearings, grease, and my dreams scattered around. Luckily there was a local bike shop about a mile away so Anna and I walked up there to see if they could help us out… and fuck yes they did. They hooked me up with a new wheel pretty cheap and this also seemed to help me with a derailer problem I had been having. We lost a couple hours but it could have been worse, if this would have happened on another day it may have been 50 miles or more to the nearest shop. We got lucky this time, but that will likely not always be the case. We have just accepted there may be a day when one of our bikes is unrepairable while we are in the middle of nowhere. Oh well, we will burn that bridge when we get there.

So, a few hours behind schedule but we arrived in Arcata where we got a couchsurfing hook-up from Jesus and plan on spending a few days. Our hostess, Belle, is really awesome and we all stayed up late drinking beers and talking last night. Her and her partner are definitely the type of people that we hit it off with immediately. Their home had all kinds of signs that we would get along, including an anarchy symbol on the calendar, a bumper sticker that said “Make Love, Not Babies”, and just a general open atmosphere. In fact, this whole city seems to have that type of atmosphere and we are looking forward to spending a few nights here. We even happen to be here when they are having some sort of statue race… it sounds like you just get to drink and party all day, which is amazing to us. After this we head up to Crescent City and into Oregon.

So, this isn’t really related to the ride but there are two things I’d like to share with this little audience. First, our friend-family was accepted to camp with “And Then There’s Only Love” at Burning Man. They are home of the Orgy Dome that was an incredible experience for Anna and I last year. It wasn’t really an orgy when we were there, more like a bunch of couples having sex in the same room, but it was so much fun we went back several times. It is great to be in an open, intimate, sensual, sexy place. It helps fulfill my love of more variety and strengthens our relationship, I’m sure this year will be a similar experience and we are excited to join such a great group.

Secondly, I want to recommend everyone check out the book Opening Up by Tristan Taormino. It is about non-monogamous relationships but I think everyone could learn something from it, whether you are polyamorous, monogamous, or something in between. I know it has really been eye-opening and informative for me as my partner and I navigate our monogamish relationship. It is an easy read and even monogamous couples could learn something about communicating and it can help us all be more supportive and accepting of our different relationship orientations.

So You Wanna Go On A Bike Ride…

So, our upcoming bike ride has garnered some interest from friends and strangers. One common question we get asked is “can people join you for a day or nine?”. The answer is a resounding MOTHERFUCKING YES!!!!!!!!!!!! We love our friends, even those that we haven’t met yet and adventures shared are better than adventures alone. I think there is a ton of value in riding with your friends and exploring the world. There are some things potential travelers should know though…

1. We are burners and that means we will take the 10 Principles of Burning Man as guidelines for this adventure. While all 10 will be important I think Gifting, Communal Effort, Immediacy, and Leaving No Trace will be common themes throughout. It would be lovely if our friends who join us are at least familiar with them.

2. We are a dating couple who plan on having sex in every state and skinny dipping in many places. You should be at least comfortable with nudity and tolerate the sounds of us rubbing against each other. To be blunt, I can be a bit loud, particularly when I know I have an audience.

3. We don’t have a set plan and things can change quickly depending on how our minds and body feel or terrain and weather. Also, we will definitely discuss routes with all parties involved but in the end we will follow the path we choose, even if other people don’t like it. Of course we would never leave anyone behind though and when things break or people need to rest we will do that.

4. Be prepared to take care of yourself. As it is put in the pickle back video, we will work together but everyone should have what they need to survive alone. That means having a bike, food, water, and shelter at the minimum.

5. This is going to be fun. There will be hard work and we will all get less fat but it is about the experience and enjoying everything nature and society has to offer. We aren’t setting any land speed bicycle records, rather our plan is 50-60 miles per day on average with many breaks

So, if you are interested let me know sometime… it can be today or 6 hours before we arrive in your general area. We aren’t comfortable anyone riding with us for the entirety at this point but if you want to spend a week or two with us that would be really glorious. Much peace and love to you all.

The Rise of “Festivals”

My recent return to Burning Man last week, this article about Taco Bell attempting to reach out to “burners”, and a few conversations about the apparent increase in festival attendance really has me thinking. If there is an increase in participation at “festivals” why is that? As is the case with all my blog posts I basically have no facts, just my own experiences and hypotheses that I think out when I should be working. It should be noted that for simplicity sake I use the word “festival” very broadly and include Burning Man (definitely not a festival in most ways), Lucidity style events that involve multiple days off site and includes a spiritual aspect, and EDC-style events that are more musically focused.

I think the biggest factor is the seemingly unique environment that people in their 20’s and 30’s operate in today. It is no secret that marriage is often being postponed, kids are birthed later in life, and college graduates are enjoying social freedom that is usually reserved for retirees. Many of them, including me, cohabitate with a partner or friends which allows for a lot of disposable income. Festivals can be expensive but if you have two people with college degrees and professional jobs sharing an apartment with no kids it is financially possible to participate often in multiday parties.

These celebrations can often involve intimacy and sex (the Orgy Dome at Burning Man is pretty awesome) but the focus is rarely on hook-ups or “one night stands”. In fact, festivals are very often attended by people in long-term committed relationships. I went with my partner, my best friend has gone with his fiance, our camp at Burning Man has had at least one married couple each year, and two of my dearest friends often go to EDC and similar events together. I also went to two weddings at Burning Man this year, one of which was a couple who got engaged at Lucidity.

Another important factor in festival attendance is technology, particularly the internet. Even relatively small events can spread the word quickly via Facebook to like-minded people across the globe. This is true for big events as well like Burning Man, which has been around for over 25 years, saw themselves face ticket scarcity for the first time thanks to burners sharing their pictures and videos over social media in the last couple years. Musicians who don’t have major labels can also use the internet to attract a fan base and advertise their presence at musical festivals. There is also greater specialization that is possible when people can communicate freely, it is now possible to attract participants to very unique and focused events where in the past smaller cliques would need to participate in big festivals and hope their classes would be attractive enough to get attention.

Lastly, I feel like there is a feeling of lost direction among many people due to the fracturing of society around us. Politicians continue to prove that party doesn’t matter and that they are basically all the same. Traditional religions are fracturing and failing at providing even the bare minimum support for individuals as their beliefs are unwilling to change to accept new scientific evidence. Modern media works tirelessly to tell us all how doomed the world is, despite evidence to the contrary. The social institutions that provide support, love, and comfort in the past have been found lacking so people are looking elsewhere to connect and find family. Festivals, particularly Burning Man and similar events, help fill that gap. At least that is why I go, because I reject violence, consumerism, religious zealotry, and the idea that I need to work in an office for most my life before I can have fun and celebrate life. Festivals give me community, love, support, and acceptance, and I think it does that for many others as well.