Saturday, July 6, 2013

Adventura-Guay Part I

A quick 3 hour boat ride across the Rio de la Plata (River Plate), the wide river mouth separating Uruguay and Argentina, and we set down in Montevideo. The night was cold and misty. We quickly put on the jackets, put lights on the bikes and pedal away from the port to the hostel.  A welcome surprise at the hostel awaited us, a friendly guy from Ft. Worth, Texas willing to lend his nice beach cruiser bike to Anish.  It comes included with an extra innertube, pump and helmet.  That was easy!  What's next?  Dinner, let's grub. We take a quick stroll across the plaza to the first place we see open.  Upon sitting down and warming up with some vino and whiskey across the table, a part of the ceiling falls and hits the ground, reminding us all how lucky we are for not sitting below that tile, the rest of the trip may have been history.  Well we live to enjoy this meal.  What's for dinner?  

Chivito.  What's that? 


Chivito Uruguayo
photo courtesy of: Jason Adams

The photo above explains why we did nothing else for the rest of the night, food coma.  We arise early the next day ready to ride to the bus station and get up to Punta Del Diablo.  Fortunately, we see an ad in our hostel for a house to rent in Punta del Diablo, Nao Tem Fim (Portuguese for there's no end). A nice house run by a guy named Nico. More about Nico in a little bit.  On the ride to the bus station, I get the first flat of the trip.  Oh boy, here we go, already one innertube down.  Willi Whit the trip mechanic quickly changes out the flat while providing instruction to Anish, changing a tire 101. 

The rest of the band continues to the bus station to ensure we can catch a bus to Punta del Diablo with six bikes, no easy task. Fortunately it's low season.  Luckily we score a bus leaving at 2:30pm, it gives us a couple hours to hangout at the bus station/ shopping mall/ food court.  Total cost of bus trip is $35us + $8us for each bike.  Four hours of riding up Route 9 de Uruguay from Montevideo to Punta del Diablo on bus and we arrive in Punta del Diablo and it's already dark.  The bus drops us off and we're lost already.  Good start to the journey.  We all quickly turn on every flashlight in our possession in order to put our bikes back together.

Putting bikes together in dark after arriving to Punta del Diablo
photo courtesy: J Adams
As we're wondering which direction to go on the main road, a nice girl rides by on a sweet beach cruiser bike. She offers her generous help. Her name is Mariana.  She's so nice that she goes back home to get a collection of maps. Some are of Punta del Diablo, some of the whole departamento (state or province) of Rocha, some of Uruguay.  She's the bike angel who answered all our prayers. Then she mentions Don Diego is the place to go eat and watch her and friends dance to candombe.  Candombe is a style of music influenced from African slaves, much like tango and samba of Argentina and Brazil respectively. It includes 3 drums and provides enough beats to dance all night.  

First, we must find our house, Nao Tem Fim.  This place is dark, very few street lights and no sense of direction because the sun has disappeared on us.  After 20 minutes of riding in all directions, we find the house. Nico and his dog, Limonada, are awaiting us with a heated home.  Life is good!

After settling in, we take Mariana's recommendation and go to Don Diego, the only open place in the village. We're the first tourists this place has seen in over a month it seems. For a good hour, we're the only people in the restaurant, accompanied by an old man named Luis. This man, Luis, is like the Uruguayan Socrates of our trip. He's a silver-tongued devil charming Brett, the one girl with us and telling us his many life stories, some believable, some not so much. 
Luis, aka Uruguayan Socrates, flossing with a knife after one of his many stories

 The nice server comes to show off his beer pouring skills, ''with or without foam?'' He tilts the glass with the beer bottle to pour without foam, the man's got skills so let's stay a while.  The best of this night is yet to come. Mariana and friends arrive with the candombe drums. Then, what none of us expected happened.  An old man rolls up to the bar on his wheel chair, ditches the wheelchair for his cane and struts into the bar, this is the party man of the century.  He gets the whole restaurant dancing to the candombe drum beats, ''Vaaamooooo chicos, vaaaamooos,'' he screams from the dance floor. How can we say no to a man who was just in a wheel chair and is now dancing?  We all join him with our own gringo-styled version of candombe dance. 

the ol' man dithced his wheel chair and showed us how to dance!
photo: J Adams
 The rest of the night is a blur, dancing with the kids, grandfathers, brothers and sisters of the Punta del Diablo village.  This is why we love travel, nights like this!

The next day, we awake to a beautiful, sunny day.  It's already noon and we haven't eaten yet, we take a quick ride down to the village to get some food. After a nice meal and sharing stories of the night before, we get our first glimpse of the beach...

checking out beach of Punta del Diablo for first time, muy buena!
After an hour of playing carelessly on the beach, we decide to test out our biking legs by venturing north of Punta del Diablo to Parque Nacional de Santa Teresa.  The journey is a 24km (15mi) round trip.  The wind also seems to be at our face the way up. Regardless, we arrive to the parque in just a little over an hour. 
Upon arrival to the park, it appears my front tire is punctured, spitting slime out on every rotation. That's 2 flats in 2 days, this could make for a long trip.  The air holds in the tire just enough to get us to the beach, just so happens to be one of the most beautifully, deserted beaches I've ever seen. Not a bad place to change a flat tire.
There is nowhere I'd rather change a flat than here, Playa Grande Parque Nacional Santa Teresa, Uruguay
We spend a good 2 hours at the beach enjoying every minute of the solitude drinking a mate and watching the waves crash.  The journey back, we decide to take a 'shortcut' based on the recommendation of the guards at the Park entrance.  The shortcut leads us through some beautiful areas of inclines and declines. Now we're warming up the leg for the 350km journey that we embark on tomorrow.  The sun sets on us and we're riding in the dark, again.  We make it back to the house and we all have one thing on our mind... asado!  We go to the village supermarket to buy all the meat, veggies and wine.  Nico fires up the parrilla (grill or barbecue).  As the meat and veggies cook on the grill, we sip wine and watch Willie Whit prep all 6 bikes for the journey. 

bici maintenance 
After the bikes are prepped, it's time to grub. This may be one of the best asado meals we've had, thank you Nico, there is not better way to prepare our panzas for the journey ahead.

chorizo, lomo, bell peppers on the parrilla, yum!
The asado has the food coma effect, hasta mañana.

We wake up, it's Monday morning and we're ready to start the journey south west towards Montevideo. The plan is to try and get to Cabo Polonio which is about 60km south. However, we get a late start so we'll see how far we actually make it.  Nico surprises us by telling us he's joining us for part of the way. We're all stoked and ready to ride.  

the crew fist pumping to a good ride ahead: L to R, Amit, Anish, me, Willi, Brett, Nico, Jason

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adventura- Guay: El principio

It started like anything, as an idea to get out of the city and cover some real ground on two wheels.  The coast of Uruguay called our attention through various tales told by amigos, a curiosity to explore more lands via la bici.  Originally, we planned to do this trip in April of 2012. It was like an unrealistic dream due to lack of expenses and large workload.  We pushed it up a year. We who..?

Amit Patel: funny, charming, sarcastic buddy from San Francisco, CA.  He's been a brother since la universidad.  It had been too many years since we've reunited. He's a true wiseguy, literally speaking.
Amit's model shot on the dunes of Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
Jason Adams: lively, spontaneous, vibrant Jason Adams from east coast of the US of A, Asia and now currently residing in San Francisco.  He loves travel and inspires us to travel more and live more in the moment. Just the perfect dude to have around. ''Adventura Guay." JA
Jason, prepped and ready in Montevideo, Uruguay
Willi Whit: Also known as BJ, Guille, Will, uncle.  The idea man, the reason Biking BA exists.  You can spot him riding with no hands down Ave. Santa Fe with a big smile. Someday, this man will fly!
Willi taking a break outside of Aguas Dulces, Uruguay
Myself: Aka Binho, Colo, Red.  I'm one lucky dude.
Smile upon arrival to Montevideo, Uruguay
...So we pushed it to April 2013.  One more year of growth for each of us and we can better prepare for this.  Amit comes two weeks separated from getting a cast off for a broken wrist. Jason arrives with fresh wounds after a recent crash, training for the trip riding the streets of San Francisco.  Speaking of streets of SF, check out our friends who run Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours.

There were four of us. But who's going to take care of us?  Enter, Brett Rezek, yes it's a girl with a boy's name, get over it.  She's amazing and was perfect for this trip. She always has food with her and makes amazing trail mixes.  She also resides from Colorado, Durango to be exact.  Brett has been with us at Biking Buenos Aires since November 2011.  The longest tenured employee we've had, she has earned this trip with us.
Brett finding a puppy on the side of the road, outside of La Paloma, Uruguay
There were five of us. But wait, someone has to jump on board spontaneously to make this trip exciting right?  Enter Anish Shah, friend of Amit and Jason. He so happens to be in Buenos Aires and very intrigued by this journey. He hops the boat from BA to Montevideo with us without even having a bike. The plan was to be in Montevideo one night and take off the next day in the afternoon, leaving Anish 16 hours to find a bike.
Anish after scoring his bike and helmet from a guy in our hostel in Montevideo, Uruguay

Let the adventure begin...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

O Samba do Brasil

February 6th 2012
Excerpt from journal of travels in Brasil 2012

Left to right: Danielle, myself, Lívia, Maria enjoying a Saturday Samba

Three days into my visit here in Sao Paolo and the felicidade (happiness in portugues) is becoming part of my bloodstream. Yesterday, we went to a feijoada and Samba.  This is a gathering at a very nice, quaint restaurant in an authentic part of the city. The street was filled with colorful buildings and smiling people enjoying their Saturday afternoon.

A man next door is in the barbershop getting his haircut meanwhile we are preparing to indulge in a typical Saturday Brasilian style lunch. Feijoada is a plate of rice, beans and pork served aside with flour of mandioca.  The beer complements the dish to perfection.  Fried banana and mandarin are also a nice touch.

The tasty food goes down slowly with the cervejinha (beer) and the Samba band is finalizing their set up.  Testing their many beautiful instruments, they all pass smiles, laughs and jokes.  When the first drum beat hits and the beautiful vocalist of African descent begins to sing, the people light up the room and start dancing Samba.  I had no idea how the steps were but my girlfriend took my hand and showed me slowly the steps. By this point the cervejinha has lowered any inhibitions I had to dancing in public a dance I'd never known.  The steps come easier with each beer and each drum beat.  After several songs, the whole restaurant and it's patrons are on our feet dancing together. The love being shared through this dance is like nothing I've ever seen. With every passing song, the samba eases its way into my heart and I'm in drunk, happy and in love. I so happen to look across the dance floor, aka the restaurant to see one other gringo dancing his life away. We catch eyes and realize that we are the two luckiest gringos on the planet to be experiencing this. It is impossible to be upset, stressed or angry while dancing samba with these fine, Brasilian people. The power of the drum beat and energy around the room encapsulates any fleeting thought of yesterday or tomorrow.  There is only this beautiful moment, with these beautiful people sharing this beautiful sound.

"O Samba é o pae do prazer, o samba é o filho da dor"
Translated: "Samba is the father of pleasure, samba is the son of pain"

Friday, June 8, 2012

Shhh. Listen to your body

Breeeeeeathe in 1, 2, 3

Exhaaaaale 1, 2

Heart pumping at a steady rate, the attention draws to my heartbeat and breath.  Finding a 3 second inhale and 2 second exhale sets my rhythm.  With a constant focus on my technique, my mind only drifts when I no longer am aware of my breathing. Five kilometers into the run I look back to see where my running partner for the day, Karri, has set back to. The Finnish soldier is about forty meters trailing at his own steady pace.  At the end of the 8.5km loop, I stretch and wait for Karri to get there.  My energy seems rather high on this Friday afternoon. After greeting Karri acting like I'm not even breathing hard, I confidently state my intention to run another loop.  He wishes me luck and rides on his blue cruiser out of the Eco Reserve on his merry way.  After a quick stretch, I venture back onto the trail at a slow pace.

The pain sets in not even 500 meters into the run. The left knee feels stiff and extremely sore all of the sudden. Now it feels like rusty metal bending in a heavy wind everytime I flex the knee.

This cannot be happening, not now.  Flash back four years ago, the same pain setting into the left knee. Flash back 18 months ago. Yup, I recognize this feeling.

The It band not only hurts on the outside of the knee but inside as well. I quickly walk back and hop on the bike back on my merry way.  Perhaps I was getting a little ahead of myself with this whole process. My mind wants to do one thing and my body stands it's ground with a purpose.

Flash back nine years and four months ago at the State Champion wrestling tournament in Denver, CO. My mind is poised for a state title run. My body, ribs in this case, gives me a dose of reality with incessant pain every time I rotate laterally or horizontally.  What is one to do? Perhaps I haven't learned a very simple, yet often overlooked, art form. Listening.  Not just listening, listening to my very own body. It has powerful messages that can not be disregarded.

Where to go from here...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Running back to life

Maratón Internaciónal de la Bandera en Rosario, Argentina awaits me, my legs, running shoes and heart. That's right, I signed up for a marathon, the full 26.2miles/ 42.9km. 

Am I crazy?  It'd be hard to argue that I'm not.  I haven't done distance running in two years. A nagging IT band injury stopped my brief long-distance running career.  For you non-runners, the IT band is Iliotibial band, the muscle that runs from your hip down the oustide of your leg. The pain is often felt in the hip and the outside of the knee, where I so often felt it. 

Fast forward to 2012 and I'm daring to go from zero to 100 with my running, much like my blog posts. I now have something that is a bit more exciting to write about. Plus, it's low season with bike tours so I have a bit more free time to put pen to paper.  Two weeks into my training I feel the IT band pain again, hmmm. Ok, it's time to figure this out. After some research, I've narrowed it down to either A.) I need new running shoes.  B.) I need to correct my running technique  C.) I'm just not a runner.

I'm vying for option B at this moment due to not wanting to spend more money on running shoes and I'm not ready to give up running.  So I've been working out my IT band muscle with many stretches and strength training. I've also taken up a new form of running called Chi running. I literally am re-learning how to run. My training sessions have been just as much mental exercise, focusing on every move and how my feet land, as physical.  It has become somewhat meditative, all I think about is my breath and every step in stride. It's a great way to forget about daily stress and problems.

Curbing stress and problems. That is why I like to run.  Yes I also bike about 30km a day around the city and play futbol twice a week. Those are both great forms of exercise. However, running is just different. The way I feel after a long run is unlike any other feeling. My mind and emotions are pure, clear and balanced.  My body? Exhausted and pumping blood at a rapid rate.  If you find a good stride in your run and feel no pain sometimes it's hard to stop, just ask Forrest Gump. I decided to get back into it because a good friend of mine down here is also running in this marathon. He was a J. Robinson wrestling camp attendee as well. Anyone who really knows me well, knows that those 28 days in Minnesota with J. Rob and company were the most challenging in my life.  I never thought I'd say it, but I miss those days.

My parents will question this marathon decision with memories of shin splints and hip problems that I had while running cross country in high school. My form was awful then, I knew nothing of good running technique which slightly makes me wonder if my coach ever noticed or cared. 

Nonetheless, I'm back at it.  I'll keep writing as my marathon training continues. June 24th is the marathon date. It takes place in Rosario, 4 hours up the river from Buenos Aires.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Note from my brother

It's not very often I receive long messages from family, especially my brother. We've always had a relationship of picking up where we left off instead of keeping in touch extensively. Today, I received an email from my brother about upcoming change in his life that inspired me and made me damn proud to be his lil' bro. Whether your beliefs differ from his or not, you must admire his insight and writing, thus I share with you...

Happy holidays! Happy new year... happy birthday Jesus... happy solstice! In all matter of reality, we should have based the calendar new year around the solstice. I demand calendar reform from this Gregorian bullshit. We could even pretend that Jesus was born on the solstice just to appease the Christians.

I'm looking forward to 2012 with great anticipation. I haven't been this excited and scared and intrigued by coming events in a long time. In fact, I've never felt the way I feel now. I'm living in madness right now. Not in a bad way, just general madness. I think about all the crazy shit I've done in my life and I still can't clear my head of the shockwave set off this fall by a casual spill on my bicycle. The most painful and mind-consuming traumatic injury of my life may be the best thing that ever happened to me. The healing process of the organism is incredible. It's like the awareness of self comes reverberating all around in everything I sense. It didn't happen all at once and it's not just me, but everything around me feels more alive.

As you all know, I've spent my entire life in cruise control. Lucky me, right? I learned at a young age how to tweak the system in my favor. I never cared for school and I definitely never learned anything, but I always did just enough to get by. I've used that same technique over the last decade to manage financial security and good health. But jobs are like relationships. It's no place to be if you don't want it. I could be the best chairlift mechanic in the industry, if that were what I wanted. If I really cared to own the situation, I wouldn't just work on the equipment. I would engineer every chairlift right down to the nuts and bolts to be more efficient and environmentally compatible. But I don't really want to. Basically, I can perform this sort of work, but I'm simply not a mechanic. It's time to be honest with myself and stoke that inner fire again. I've always been comfortable with life changes. It seems I am at my best in times of transition. It's the idea of job security which frightens me. It's the security which dulls the mind. But life transition offers the chance to sharpen the edges and focus on execution. But where's the passion? What to do? It didn't come to me as an epiphany. All I needed was a few seeds. Once the thoughts were planted, I watered them with research and life began to appear in a far more peculiar fashion. Never has anything so changed my fundamental perception of the world than the combination of a few seeds in the past year. Yeah, so breaking my face was a 'seed', or more directly a wake-up call.

Who are we to impose our values on the future

- Another 'seed' came from a speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival this summer. Aubrey de Grey is a prominent gerontologist who believes that aging is completely not necessary. Seriously, check him out on youtube. Essentially, he doesn't see any reason why we should just accept death and aging as a natural process when we have evolved to manipulate our way out of natural processes. He believes we can manipulate ourselves on the cellular and bacterial levels to refresh and re-up our bodies through therapy. What caught my attention wasn't the general subject of immortality, but rather the fact that he admits it may not occur in his life time. But he has dedicated the rest of his life to bringing light upon a subject that people today find not only controversial but demoniacal on many levels. "Who are we to impose our values on future generations." This was the line that got me thinking. This was a seed.

So I thought to myself, what if people from millennia past foresaw the future and left warnings in place to tell us that our way of life is wrong. Some people may say, 'yeah, you're right let's go back to the old ways.' But I think most people would defend their lives. If the past generations altered things to the point which current time were effectively and fundamentally different, we wouldn't be here. Our families, our cities and all the things we know would be gone. Would you allow past generations to alter our evolution in such a manner?

I truly believe that nothing but recyclable matter exists after death. All life occurs within the realm of respiring cells in the ever-constant process of decay. A friend of mine once questioned the enduring sadness of this position. She even accused me of being a depressive and hopeless being who should have more faith in the simple joys of life. Sadly enough, she is missing my point. In theory, all life concedes to the perpetual cycle of the next generation. Whether an afterlife exists or not, I have no interest in what lies beyond. What could be more liberating than living for this life, and this life only? Why rest any hope on going to heaven when heaven is here on earth? This is it. Love it, respect it, study it, own the experience. To me, life is religion. God didn't make man in his image. We make god in our image. Again, evolution. We can become masters of our own destinies. We won't be around for it, and we won't always be rememered, but life in some form is immortal. I do believe this.

Right Now-

Worship? Why not worship the true creator of all life as we know it. I dig our world's creative relationship with the star in our daylight sky. Creation is due solely to the nearly improbable events of the last four billion years. The chances of this particular experience of life in all it's odd and unusual forms is nearly infinite. The connection is perfect in it's way simply because of the reality that it even exists. That is to say nearly impossible, one can only guess at the sum of trillions of a trillion billion chances at this exact outcome. Earth is a cell in the universal sea of outer space. Just like the first single-cell organisms which appeared in the shallow tides and the volcanic soils of the young earth, we appear in microcosm wading through the cradle of life. Simple prokaryotic cells born of base elements, electrified by ultraviolet radiation, who photosynthesized for over one billion years just to release enough oxygen over the surface of the waters to create an ozone membrane and allow for an oxygen-rich atmosphere. The evolving complexity of organisms over the next two and a half billion years, along with the complexity of atmospheric cycles has given way to a species whose dashing attempts of conquest and desire for understanding had driven all life to the brink of fatal pressures. Our greatest imaginations cannot comprehend the rarity of our current circumstances. There are so many questions and endless mystery to life. There is so much we'll never learn so much we'll never know, but we'll never stop asking the questions. We will never cease to uncover the mysteries. I just want to live like heaven is here on earth. This is it. I want to draw the most accurate connections to natural world. I'm going back to college to study biology. I hate academia, but right now it is going to provide the right framework around my self-education. I need to surround myself with like-minded people for once in my life. People seeking truth in life. So there you have it, back to school next fall. That's all I've been trying to say here. CSU or CU Denver to burn up my GI Bill for a couple years of undergrad core curricula, then on to grad school and an everlasting life of continuous education and research.

Sorry I had to drag that out so big, just trying to get the idea across.Let's skype soon, Love you bro!

Love you too hermano, suerte en 2012 :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Blissful moment

Tense, all tense muscles remind me I'm not breathing properly. My shoulders, my neck, my face all tight and caught up in the world of responsibility. Managing a tour business in high season, based on level of service. Keep our service level high, keep our friendly faces smiling, keep our name in the right light. So many thoughts, anxiety level inclines until I remember to inhale.

I stretch the legs, set aside twenty minutes. Emails, you leave me alone for a minute. Phone, shut the hell up for just a minute, maybe even twenty. People, give me this moment. Take it easy, just for this moment, shhhhh.

Hamstrings stretch, quadriceps stretch, breathe in... breathe out. Gluteus maximus, stretch to the maximus, so tight from the pedaling motion. I'm sure lucky to be complaining in my mind about a job that I absolutely love I think in each stretch.

My position transfers to lotus, stillness. Just... breathe!

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.... hold... exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Email the accountant, respond to Alejandro, call Ingrid...

The thoughts make their way quickly to the moment of stillness. Invited or not, thoughts find their way in the backdoors and sidedoors of the mind, even the doggy doors. My awareness stops them in their place, then lets them pass.

Remember to update finances, check bike maintenance log, go buy a few onions for dinner...

Through the sidedoor perhaps? My awareness becomes scissors and cuts the tangle of thoughts invading this moment, cut them away... they float away in pieces.

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.... Hold.... Exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

The muscles begin to relax a bit after several rounds of uninterrupted breathing.

Hmm, rice, veggies and chicken or pasta? I'm hungry, what's for dinner?

Just breathe, be here, be now.

But my stomach is growling, listen to the body right? I need to call my benzinha tonight and email my family.

Inhale 1-8... Hold... Exhale 8-1.

I feel lighter, with each exhale the muscles loosen and the tension gives way to slack.

More thoughts arise, this time, I don't fight them as I usually do. Accept the thought, observe it, embrace it fully. This thought is here for a reason, it snuck it's way through the windows of my mind and I greet each one that comes through with a smile and a hug.

Poof... stillness... bliss.

Moments of absolutamente nada proceed, no thoughts occur, sneak in, nor ring the mental doorbell. I've embraced them and they're gone.

Inhale 1-10... Hold... Exhale 1-10. Light fills my bloodstream, each blood cell is a particle of light. I'm not longer physical matter but rather a field of energy. Energy connecting with other forms of energy, all flowing on different wavelengths, but flowing nonetheless. The bird chirp outside the window, the honking in the distance, the smell of eucalyptus from the candle are all inside of me, the world is inside of me.. why? Because it's in my head, it's my perception. This eucalyptus candle may smell different to you, the honking and bird chirps may come across your ears differently, but it's your perception, in your world. Breathe in, let it go.

This moment is bliss, this moment is peace, this moment is meditation. And just like the moments of stress, tension and dis-ease... this too, will pass.

Happy Holidays, may they be filled with moments of joy, peace and love.