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.

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The Lifestyle: A Review

Yesterday I finally finished “The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rights of Swingers” and I really enjoyed the analysis of what was going on with Swingers in the mid-late 90’s. The book is a bit dated but many of the lessons stand true today and books like this help destroy the unfair discrimination and naive views some people have towards those who don’t fit neatly into the “traditional marriage” paradigm. In fact, I found it surprising how many people were actually involved in The Lifestyle, the odds are someone in every neighborhood across western civilization there are play-couples who don’t see a problem with introducing third party eroticism into their relationships.

There are several different types of swingers discussed throughout the book but each type shared some common themes. It is very woman-centric, the ladies tend to control the action and explicit consent is absolutely mandatory. It mentioned many times throughout the book that come down to men tend to initiate the idea of entering the lifestyle but it is the women that really dominate. Due to the potential for coercion the official lifestyle clubs work very hard to self-regulate. Some clubs require interviews, psychological evaluations, and an application process to make sure both members of the couple are healthy and interested. Swinging cannot save a couple with a bad or weak relationship, but it can strengthen a strong and healthy one. Swingers don’t consider their actions cheating because everyone consents, especially their partner. The relationship comes first at all times, which is more than I can say for the people who cheat on their partners. The lifestyle at this time (and possibly now) does have a male homophobia though, men showing intimacy for other men is more than just frowned upon. That may have changed over the last 15 years as pansexuality and bisexuality become more normalized though.

The majority of swingers I would call “soft swingers” and they make up roughly 3/4 of people in the lifestyle. Soft swingers don’t necessarily have sex with other people, instead the enjoy the carefree and sensual atmosphere of being around adults where everything is out in the open. Because people are so open there are much fewer cases of unwanted touching, grinding, sexual assault, or harassment… everyone knows the boundaries, there are no games, it is all in the open. This is much like the Orgy Dome that my partner and I went to at Burning Man, it is a sexual place where trusting couples can be surrounded by sensuality without a worry of anyone being hurt. When some sort of sex outside of the primary relationship happens it is usually with another couple they know, trust, and it is a beautifully intimate affair.

Within the lifestyle there are also “hard swingers” who are more orgiastic. These are the vast minority though. Not that there is anything wrong with indulging in group sex with strangers, but it is relatively uncommon. Of course this is the type of swingers that comes to mind thanks to the media, you say swinger and people imagine “key parties” or groups of writhing oiled up bodies, when the reality is most swingers don’t engage in group sex behavior at all.

One chapter of the book was also dedicated to polyamorous people, though whether they are part of the lifestyle is up for debate. Where “swingers” brings up the idea first of sex (and many swingers would agree with that), the polys discussed in the book view things very differently. In their view they are very explicitly trying to remake society along the boundaries of love. Their relationships tend to be sexually closed and intimacy is shared within multi-person families and marriages. They wanted to bring Robert Heinlein’s views from “Stranger in a Strange Land” to life and even adopted the terminology of “grok” and “sharing water” in common conversations. To be honest, this chapter of the book kind of surprised me because that has not been my experience with polyamorous people. My experience, which I admit is minimal, seems to be closer to a middle ground between these polys and swingers. This may be due to the 15+ years separating now and this book or it may be that my experience is not the norm.

One of the most common criticisms of any lifestyle that is not monogamous is that it isn’t “natural”. The standard model of human sexuality pushed for monogamy, but that is being challenged pretty heavily by sperm competition. Under sperm competition a male will have more powerful and pleasurable orgasms if they think (or know) that their partner has had sex with another person. It is a pretty common fantasy for a man to want to see his partner be with another and sperm competition leads some credibility to that. This theory also shows why women can have multiple orgasms, take longer to orgasm, and become very vocal during sex… because they were built for many partners to help guarantee they get the strongest genes. More info on this can be found in “What Do Women Want?” and “Sex At Dawn

The media in the past has seen people in the lifestyle as perverse and open to all sorts of unfair criticism. They reinforced a form of classism where when rich and beautiful people embrace their sexuality it is to be celebrated but the common folk must do no such thing. Articles were written focused on how unattractive swingers were compared to their hollywood counterparts and how disgusting it was that they would wear scantily clothes, show intimacy in public, or openly flirt. I can’t help but be disgusted with the idea that sexual fulfillment and relationship experimentation is only a good thing if people fit into a certain physical mold. If all humans are equal we should all be free to pursue happiness with other consenting adults.

As disgusting as the media’s actions were for a time their tune eventually changed when the government decided to enforce morality. The major turning point was when the California ABC (which is responsible for giving out liquor licenses) started targetting venues who allowed swinging conventions and using nude art as their justification. Once there was a clear attack on free speech the media got in line and started at least supporting the swingers rights to practice what they wish. The ABC, as a bureaucracy, has virtually no check on their power. They are charged with defending public morality in any place where alcohol is served and used this power with virtually no oversight. They couldn’t be sued and any complaints went internally to ABC. They even claimed the authority to revoke the liquor license of any hotel that allowed nudity or sexual activity behind the closed doors of a hotel room. They used their power to primarily go after those who couldn’t fight back but the swingers had resources, they are primarily middle and upper-middle class suburbanites who weren’t going to go down without a fight. After the attempted censorship of nude art a judge finally reigned in ABC by putting a restraining order on them. To this day the ABC is charged with protecting the safety, welfare, health, peace, and morals (emphasis mine) of the people of California. As the author says, “When a government – any government – feels itself standing as a righteous bulwark against sexual immorality, the public becomes the enemy”

All in all this was a fascinating book that I really enjoyed. It did a great job of showing how “normal” most swingers are. They are mostly married, have good jobs, raise kids, and are many times religious. They just reject the current view of sexual morality, as the author said “Morals are without exception dictated by the dominant figures in a group, who ruthlessly attempt to constrain the sexual expression of others.” Swingers are telling the establishment to fuck off, they are living life their way. I would love to attend the national convention in 2014 but it is unlikely I will be able to due to my bike ride. Hopefully my partner and I can at least check out one of the local clubs or something though. There is a wide world of sexual and relationship acceptance out there for those that will open their minds and think for themselves.