Friday, December 31, 2010

"Bike to Brazil" Intro

Re-intro: Paul Joseph Park, from Mt. Rainier, MD, on the Northeastern border of Washington, DC. I first went to Brazil in 1999, when I was 18, with non-profit Amigos de las Americas. I stayed for eight weeks with a host family in the rural Northeast, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, near Natal. I enjoyed the culture, especially the warmth, creativity and beauty of the people, as well as aspects such as soccer, forró (a genre of music and partner dance), Portuguese, capoeira, and the beach. I had a girlfriend there, and I have stayed in touch with her and her family throughout the years (she has since married and has a daughter). I returned to Brazil in 2004 to tour the country by bus and to visit the friends I had made. I was convinced I wanted to spend more time there, to absorb more culture, especially the aspects I listed, and perhaps live there indefinitely.
After that second visit, I returned to Oberlin College, where I was pursuing a 3-2 dual-degree engineering B.S./B.A. program. I then switched tracks to pursue just a B.A., in Environmental Studies, to wrap up my studies quickly with minimal debt so I could make my way to Brazil to continue my life there. (I now want to complete a degree in energy (mechanical) engineering at a university in Brazil or the US.) Transition to Brazil would not happen so fast. After I finished my degree, I started the Mt. Rainier Bike Co-op, and I picked up a job at a Brazilian restaurant in Washington, DC to save up some money and practice Portuguese. I envisioned that my life would be partly in Brazil and partly in the U.S., but because of my environmental commitment, I did not want to make flying back and forth to become my lifestyle due to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with current airplanes. Meanwhile, a friend of mine had encouraged me to bike the 6 miles back and forth to work; I tried it, and I was inspired by that experience. At some point in the spring of 2006, I had the brilliant inspiration that instead of flying, I could--and here is where it started-- "Bike to Brazil!" In addition to being green, such a trip would bring together many of my skills: Spanish, Portuguese, my experience in Latin America with Amigos de las Americas, cycling, and bicycle repair. Also, I would get to see parts of the world that lie between my home and my destination, places like Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, the origins of so many of the Spanish-speaking immigrants with whom I played soccer, attended D.C. United soccer games, and practiced Spanish.
In addition, I could make my trip into a political-environmental statement, raising awareness and support around a cause I care about--finding solutions to climate change. I thought about what I thought most needed to be done to address the climate issue, and I came up with the answer of national, federal legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions. I did some research as to whether any proposals existed, and sure enough, a cap-and-trade bill called the Climate Stewardship Act had been proposed in Congress, and there was a campaign led by Environmental Defense to rally support. They had organized an online petition that had accumuted 620,000 signatures at the time I found it. I decided to support this campaign during my bike trip. I raised money for Environmental Defense, I collected signatures, and I directed people to the online petition. The petition I later found out had stagnated at 620,000, and it jumped up to about 650,000 within a few months of when I started promoting it.
My orientation to climate change and its solutions has evolved since the last trip; I now focus primarily on the development of breakthrough energy generation technologies. My first trip, however, thrust me into a world that has inherent value and interest: bicycle travel/touring. It is so exciting, fun, and empowering; the fact that it is emissions-free is secondary.
On my first trip, which spanned September 2006 to April 2007, I biked from Washington, DC to Chiapas (Southern Mexico, 4,500 miles) before suspending it due to the following series of events:
-losing my debit card, my only access to cash, in the Northern city of Cd. Victoria, and then waiting until I had an address I would send the new card to, where I could pick it up or wait for it
-later being robbed of $100 cash (1000 pesos), almost all of what I had left, by a host in the small town of Lerdo de Tejada, in the state of Veracruz
-returning to my friends' hotel in the city of Veracruz where I had a secure and supportive place to wait for the replacement card in the mail, instead of having the card sent to a place down the road and attempting to bike there with no cash
-it took six weeks for the replacement card to arrive by Mexican mail (lesson: use Fedex in Mexico if you need speed), and meanwhile the hot summer approached
Other factors that led to cutting it short:
-tires were wearing thin and I could not find the replacement tire I wanted; my handlebar stem was not long enough and I could not find the one I needed; the bicycle did not fit my riding style (this was a Koga Miyata World Traveller)
-I desired to visit Mexican friends I made on the road at their homes in Puebla and Mexico City
-I desired to attend my sister's wedding
After my card finally arrived in the mail, I biked to Chiapas, knowing that would be my stopping point, and from where I would bus to Puebla, visit a friend I had met in Veracruz, bus to Mexico City, visit some friends I also met in Veracruz, and then fly back home with my bike to attend my sister's wedding, work on the bike or get a different one, and regroup.
Since that trip, I have biked to New York CIty from Washington, DC and back (500 miles), and I have biked the 320 miles to Pittsburgh from DC along the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage trails. From January 2008 to September 2010 I worked at REI in College Park, MD, where I was able to teach others about how to do bicycle travel and commuting, and sell them the needed equipment. And I have retooled my own equipment for another long journey; the most significant equipment change has been the customization of a different bicycle, built around the Surly Big Dummy frameset.
In September of 2010, I felt completely prepared to break free and take another long journey. So I quit my job at REI, and headed South, taking the bike on Amtrak and Greyhound to Texas, where I intended to take care of remaining business and feel things out before crossing into Mexico. I took some time in Austin and Houston to renew my passport, obtain my Brazilian visa, and make some final changes to the bike. In early November, 2010 I biked 600 miles from Austin to Brownsville, TX, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico. I spent some days there with locals who straddled the border, with roots in Mexico and the US, and who attended the University of Texas at Brownsville. I decided to take a bus from Matamoros to the city of Veracruz. A contact in Brownsville shuttled me across the border to the bus station, and I was off. In Veracruz, I of course stayed with my friends at their hotel, where I had stayed at for two months when I was waiting for my replacement debit card to come in the mail.
After four days there, I continued by bus to Cancun, where I attended a few of the events related to the UN Climate Conference, and had many a good discussion with conference attendees who were staying at my hostel, expressing my ideas related to breakthrough technology. After the conference, some tours of the nearby ruins, and some partying, I finally loaded up the bike and rode South three hours, 41 miles (70 km) to Playa del Carmen. In Playa, I stayed with a friend who I had met in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz on the first trip, who now works at a hotel near Playa. As I write this, I have am enjoying all that Playa has to offer including beaches, soccer, cycling, and nightlife. I will celebrate the start of the new year here.
Then the journey on bicycle will continue South to Belize, and is projected to go to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama (Colón); boat to Cartagena, Colombia; bike to and through Venezuela and to Manaus, Brazil; then boat down the Amazon to Belém; then bike to Natal, Brazil. There, I will stay at least awhile, and then maybe bike on South to Recife, Salvador, Rio, São Paulo, Florionopolis, and maybe into Argentina and down to Tierra del Fuego! Lots of potential here. I am commited to at least make it to Brazil, much of that by bike, some by boat, and perhaps some by bus.
As far as my environmental perspective, I am following mostly the train of thought promoted by the think tank The Breakthrough Institute, and leaders such as Bill Gates and Google, Inc. who are investing in breakthrough energy technologies. I am working on an article that I will post soon that explains my perspective.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas went well. I am putting photos up at my Facebook page; if you like, add me (Paul Joseph Park) and please add a message to your friend request indicating that you are reading my blog. I will definitely leave Playa by January 2, if not before. Playa is expected to have some fabulous New Years Eve parties, with international DJ's coming into town for an annual festival. So I may stick around for that.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Everything is going well. Preparing for Christmas. Played soccer today on the beach and injured my toe a bit--reinjured it really, and then iced it for a half-hour. I hope it recovers quickly. Hanging out at the moment in the outdoor plaza with the Starbucks and the fountain. Getting excited to take off South. A local told me about some cool natural spots near where he is from, Chetumal, on the border with Belize. Once I get there, I will take photos and post them. I will leave after Christmas or after New Years. Still planning on writing for and looking into tutoring Math and English online.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Playa del Carmen. More and more folks are arriving for the Christmas and New Year holiday. The weather is quite nice. I am enjoying riding my bike around the town. The bike continues to get high compliments. Also, I have been using it to give rides to friends and acquaintances here. Playa, as Playa del Carmen is known for short, is definitely a bike town. Bikes abound everywhere. Pedicabs--the kind with two wheels in front and one drive wheel in the back, the same bikes as cargo bikes for carrying and selling 5-gallon containers of water, fruit, food stands; regular bikes are prevalent throughout the town. Thus, everyone is very bike-aware. And when they see my bike, they immediately recognize its novelty, beauty and utility. The Surly Big Dummy would certainly be an excellent design to proliferate here, a place where it is not uncommon to see a family of four or sometimes five transported on one scooter, and normal bicycles frequently have two people on them.
I have been playing lots of beach soccer recently, everyday at 4:30pm. Mexican locals, French, Canandian, German, Argentinian young adults gather for pick-up soccer in the sand. It is more challenging than on grass or pavement as one's feet sink into the sand and the ball rolls unpredictably. Nevertheless, it is a great workout and good training, making easier subsequent play on firmer, more predictable surfaces.
I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas with my housemates here. We began planning our meal to include mole, rice and chicken, and perhaps turkey soup. I am hoping for tamales and toritos.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One of the original motivations for taking a long bike trip was to travel far without the emissions, with a focus on climate-changing carbon emissions. However, while it stands as a superb technology with the distinction as the most energy-efficient form of transportation known to man, the bicycle does not solve our energy challenges. And while there may not be a silver bullet to solving the energy-economy-climate challenge, some emerging technologies have the potential to address the core of the challenge: to create a base-load energy supply that is cheaper than fossil fuels and carbon-free. In this post, I will highlight two of those technologies: TerraPower and Enhanced Geothermal Systems.
TerraPower is a next-generation nuclear technology that overcomes many of the limitations of existing nuclear technology. Bill Gates, who is a major financial and intellectual supporter of this project, introduces this technology in a recent TED talk, Innovating to Zero, which does a superb job of clearly and concisely defining our challenge and this potential solution. It takes a waste product, depleted uranium, and turns it into the fuel source. From TerraPower's website, "TerraPower’s traveling wave reactor (TWR) will offer a path to zero-emission, proliferation-resistant energy that produces significantly smaller amounts of nuclear waste than conventional nuclear reactors. After an initial start-up with with a small amount of low-enriched material, this innovative reactor design can run for decades on depleted uranium – currently a waste byproduct of the enrichment process. An established fleet of TWRs could operate without enrichment or reprocessing for millennia. TerraPower has explored the advanced physics of this concept in detail with 21st-century computational tools and is moving forward with the overall plant design."

The other potential solution I will highlight, Enhanced Geothermal Systems, is promoted and financially supported by Google as part of its RE < C, or Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal project. This technology will use heat of the Earth's core to generate electricity not just in those locations of the Earth where the magma naturally comes close to the Earth's surface, but virtually anywhere by drilling deep enough to access it. If this technology can be made affordable and the process reliable, then it, too, could provide a base-load supply of electrical and thermal energy virtually anywhere in world. More on Google's Enhanced Geothermal Systems project here.
Both of these technologies are examples of the type of projects promoted by the think tank The Breakthrough Institute, which promotes significant and increased public-private investment in breakthrough energy technologies. They support an integrated, directed public-private program to speed the development of technologies such as these.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Playa del Carmen.  Today I gave three little brothers a ride on the back of my bike (see the photo show below and to the right); met some clowns preparing for a circus; headed downtown and spent the afternoon and evening playing beach soccer.  Now at the BK catching up with work--some of the best free wi-fi in town is here.  Lots of people are out, the weather is warm and pleasant, the mariachis are playing their music.  Christmas time is approaching and more and more vacationers are arriving.  The soccer games shall get larger and more frequent.
Goodness gracious, my bike gets so many admiring looks and comments.  It is nearly all black, and hence very appealing to the eye, and in addition, it is a novelty as it is longer than normal with the rear capacity for passengers.  Several folks have asked me today how they can get one and how much it would cost.  I have been encouraging folks to go to Xtracycle to purchase the extension so they can make their current bike into a long-tail cargo bike.  I usually am quite hesitant to say the full-on price of the bike; instead I give a ridiculously low-ball figure, like somewhere between $200 and $800, the poorer the person looks, the lower the figure so as not to inspire jealousy, or I tell them how much I got the frame for, and say that many of the other parts I already had. If someone in Mexico really wanted to get the same bike I have, they should contact Xtracycle or go to the best bike shop they know of and see if they have an account with QBP where their bike shop can order the frame and specify all of the parts they want.  The complete bike that Surly builds is quite different than the one I have; it is easier to get the complete bike, but if you know what you want, get the frame and specify to your bike shop all the parts you want.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Playa del Carmen; Bike Shop Experience; Route Reflections

I am in Playa del Carmen now, a very pleasant place, cozy with a very nice beach and some pedestrian exclusive streets. Yesterday, I went out to find some work. I went to a bike shop and they asked me if I knew how to build a wheel. I said yes. They gave me the materials and I went to work. I knew the basic idea and technique, but I had never built a wheel from start to finish. In about an hour to an hour and half, I had built my first wheel, with a bit of guidance looking on as a co-worker built a similar wheel. They inspected my product and offered me a job starting the next morning! The terms were: 8am to 8pm M-Sat, and 8am-1pm Sunday, payday. 1200 pesos/week plus one meal daily. That is 77 hours/week for $100, or $1.30/hour! Wow. Even though it was a paltry sum, I decided to try it for the experience. I came in this morning, and the boss said that after speaking with the owner, he could not hire another worker. Oh, well. So today I turn to the web to try to make some money--via this blog, and also through writing articles for Any other ideas?
At this point I plan to stay in Playa through Christmas to celebrate with some friends, and then continue the journey. Last night I met with old friend David Kroodsma and his co-Stanford alum friend Kate Larsen, who both work in the climate field--David as a blogger for the Huffington Post and Kate as a climate negotiator for the US Department of State. Both were in Cancun at the climate summit and hung around afterwards for some touring and relaxing. David did "Ride for Climate" 5 years ago, which was a self-supported bike tour from California to Tierra del Fuego, educating about impending local impacts of climate change. At the end of our visit last night, David suggested I take the island hopping route of Cuba, Haiti, DR, Jamaica, etc. instead of Central America, which he said is probably the least desirable place in Latin America to bike through. I am considering it; food for thought. I have a couple weeks to think about that. I have considered the island route before and this would probably be the best place to switch tracks. Or perhaps in Belize. I am not decided yet if I still want to do Central America, the "Island-hopping route", or skip straight to Colombia, which by all accounts of recent visitors--cyclers and backpackers alike--is one of the most wonderful and exciting places on my route. Any comments or suggestions from folks who have recently traveled to Central America, Cuba, Haiti, DR, Jamaica, Colombia? What have you seen and experienced? What do you like? I have been looking forward to Central America, but I am open to route variations. I am not married to using the bike exclusively--all modes of travel are on the table. What about Venezuela? I hear it is a bit tumultuous, but I always take fear-mongering with a grain of salt; some first hand reports would be instructive.

Monday, December 06, 2010

I am in Cancun now, and have been checking out the ruins, the beaches and the climate conference. I have been enjoying discussing the ideas of the Breakthrough Institute with folks who are part of the climate conference and staying my hostel, Hostel Quetzal.

Planning to head South in a few days to Playa del Carmen and stay there with a friend perhaps until Christmas. This will be the first leg I do by bicycle since I rode to Brownsville from Harlingen. Looking forward to Playa, and a Christmas in Mexico. The Posadas start on the 16th of December, and there is one every night until Christmas--includes call and response songs, pinyatas for the kids, processing through the streets to various houses and churches looking for a place for Mary to have the baby...should be fun! Then tamales and toritos for Christmas!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I am in Veracruz Mexico now. Some of this trip is by bike, some by bus, some by train, some by boat. I could just fly, but this way I get to see the friends I met last trip, see places along the way, feel the accomplishment and physical gain from biking, etc. Next stop is Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The climate conference starts tomorrow. While I am not officially apart of it, I want to witness the alternative conference organized by the Mexican farmers and network with those officially apart of it. And go to the beach! I haven't been to a world-class beach in years. So I am excited about that. I have a friend in Playa del Carmen who works at a hotel, so I will be posting up there for a few days, too. Then my rough plan is to bike Southward to Panama, boat to Colombia, bike to Venezuela, and then Manaus, Brazil in the Amazon. Boat to Belem, Brazil, and bike to Natal, Brazil. Big trip with lots of possibilities. I am taking it step by step. So far so good, very smooth sailing. I am currently staying at a hotel in Veracruz now, owned by some friends I met last trip.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Brownsville Bike Mechanic Helps Out!

Noe Valles of Brownsville is the city's best bicycle mechanic. Though it is no longer his full time job, he has a bicycle workshop at his house and he donates his time to work on bikes of the local River Rockets cycling club, and he put in time and materials to help out my project. I came to him to tweak the handlebar set-up to address the pain I experienced between my shoulderblades after my 100 mile ride. He changed out my stem to arrive at a lower, closer-in position. We also cleaned the right Ultegra brifter and installed new shifter cables. Thank you, Noe, for your time, energy and materials! If you are cycling tourist passing through Brownsville, be sure to look up Noe and say hi! Reach him via River Rockets.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Kingsville, TX to Harlingen, TX

Hey All,

Yesterday I biked 101 miles from Kingsville, TX to Harlingen, TX over a large stretch of land with not much development since it is part of the "King Ranch", a privately owned wildlife preserve. The great thing was that the wind was at my back yesterday. The three riding days prior to that, I was riding against a steady wind, but yesterday, the wind was finally back in my favor.
Highlights of the day included meeting a themed blanket vendor, and by that I mean that each of his blankets was like a large poster--with a theme like Marilyn Monroe or Batman, etc. He was a great guy, from Guanajuato, and the first thing he said to me was, "Who sent you?" I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Someone sent you here. You wouldn't be traveling like this if no one sent you." I said, "I sent myself." He said, "It costs lots of money to do what you do." And he made the Mexican gesture for money which is made by making your thumb and index finger wrap around an imaginary credit card. I said, "No, it does not cost lots of money." Partly because I know from experience that it is not smart to reveal one has money, and partly because of the truth of knowing how to travel frugally. I got some good photos of myself, the vendor (Enrique, "El Cochero"/"Blanket Man") and the state trooper who stopped to let me know that the next service station was 60 miles ahead to I should make sure I had enough water.

The next highlight was 60 miles later, which went by quickly due to the wind, in Raymondville!, TX. I ran into the three blokes, one of whom is a creative painter and sign maker. They were inside a cluttered warehouse structure, smoking dope, I could smell it. But they came out and talked when they saw me looking at their artwork--bikes and home-made trailers, signs, paintings, etc. The guy had made a trailer-wagon that looks like a old-fashioned car made out of plastic and a trashcan, a radio, speakers, bike wheels, a tool box, complete with an ad for his business, all trailing behind a regular bicycle.

He ended painting my website on my utility deck and a Brazilian flag on my handlebar bag for free. Muy buena onda/very good vibe. Oh, and their puppy was supercute.

Later, I met up with my CouchSurfing host, Wesley of Harlingen. He is a marathon
runner and a cyclist, and he rode out to meet me a few miles outside of town.

I took a rest day and read a book, and felt out Harlingen, walking around, stretching out my legs. Tomorrow, I will bike the 30 miles to the border town, Brownsville, and stay there a few days taking care of some business before entering Mexico, most likely by bus to Veracruz. Business to include installing a front rack on the bike, perhaps exchanging my camera for a waterproof/shockproof one, etc., visiting the zoo, and South Padre Island, etc., feeling out Brownsville, listening to folks about Mexico, Matamoros, etc. Looking forward.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Three Rivers, TX to Kingsville, TX*

*Click on heading to view photos.
Ok, wow, today was awesome. 80 miles, made it to Kingsville. I kicked up my game; I now treat my riding like a sport, and I am an athlete. It may seem a bit strange; like obviously I was always engaging in a sport. But not really; that is not how I saw it until today. It really has to do with workrate and heartrate. Until today, I really mostly focused on kinda riding-as-transportation, and not really doing it competitively or aggressively. Biking to get there, and not really focusing on it as an athletic activity. That meant that my workrate was not very high and my heartrate did not get that high. But at some point during the day today, I fell into the posture of riding aggressively as sport. I think it happened as I was listening to the song, "Remember the Name" by Fort Minor. It had to do with working hard and distinguishing oneself. Just riding to get there was not distingishing myself. I needed to work hard, and pull ahead. That led to thinking about being an athlete, engaging in sport. I thought about other times in my life that I have been focused and competitive. I remembered in 7th or 8th grade when I organized a table tennis tournament with 16 classmates; I focused hard and won the tournament and took home the prize.
The wind was against me again, for the third day, for most of the day. When the wind is at my back, as it was from Austin to San Antonio, I feel like Super Man on speed (but seriously, don't do speed!); and when I am going against the wind, I still feel like Super Man! I just get this burst of energy and I start going like 17-18 or so miles an hour, and that is pretty good when you are loaded down with at least 60 lbs of stuff and going against the wind! Eventually, I have to take it easy and bring my workrate down a bit to rest. Then my energy builds again and I turn it up again. It helps when a good song pops on my playlist.
Let's jump to the best story of the day. It is the story of how I got lodging tonight. And these are always the greatest stories, I think, in my trips and perhaps most cycle tourists' trips. Here's how it went. Yesterday, I went on and found just one couchsurfer listed for Kingsville, TX. I requested to couchsurf with him, and he eventually replies, indicating that he now realized that his profile was out of date and that he had since moved to Corpus Christi. He said his couch in Corpus was game for surfing, but in Kingsville he could try to see if some of his friends might host. As I neared Kingsville, I asked him if he could see if he could just line up a place to shower, to get internet, and a place in the backyard to camp. He tried all his friends and it turned out they all had either moved or were out of town. He racked his brain for somewhere I might shower, and he remembered the boxing gym at which he used to train. He messaged me the location and suggested I try that, stating that the gym was open for another half hour, that the coach there is a super guy, and that their are Spartan accommodations including a shower and a bed. I found the gym, met the coach, and the pieces all fell into place wonderfully. As collateral, I gave the coach my passport, and in exchange I set me up with the shower, a towel, a bedroom, and the key to the gym so I could come and go as needed! And he suggested for internet the Burger King 3 blocks away! Super set city. To recap, the connection chain was as follows: CouchSurfing member John Casey formerly lived in Kingsville-->moved to Corpus Christi-->wanted to host, and if not, help in anyway he could-->racks his brain and comes up with the boxing gym and coach-->gym is still open for another half-hour after getting into town-->I find the gym-->coach Jaime Cantu is present-->meeting goes well-->facilities available-->a deal is made-->PJ is hooked up! I gotta give it up to CouchSurfing. It has really come into its own. The communities and the connections it creates are phenomenal. All these stories highlight a combination of trust, generosity and resourcefulness of humans that is truly inspiring. I will have to recount the stories of each of my previous hosts, all of which are equally interesting, if not as surprising. In the interest of getting this posted and going to bed, I will stop there.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

San Antonio, TX to Jourdanton, TX

First full journal entry, though I will go back and make entries for the three other days I biked so far this trip. Today was a good day in that I made progress. I got out to a late start as I had to go to the post office to pick up a package I had mailed General Delivery to San Antonio. There is only one post office in San Antonio that accepts General Deliveries, and that is the Main Office, which is the one in the Northeast on Perrin Beitel and Wurzbach Parkway. An employee at another post office, the one on McCullough street, over the phone, told me that his office accepted and processed general deliveries. So I had the item I ordered on Amazon, a backup battery for my android phone, sent "General Delivery" to his post office. I kept checking there and they said nothing had arrived. But the usps tracker indicated it had arrived in San Antonio. Later I realized that they indicated the zip code it arrived to, found out the nearest post office to that zip code, and realized it was the same post office that one of the McCullough employees told me was the main office and the only one that accepsts general deliveries. So I put 2 and 2 together and surmised that postal employees had the package delivered to the main office instead of the one I specified since it said General Delivery. I went to the office to pick it up, and at first they could not find it! Well, eventually the higher ups found it and realized it was their fault because they had scanned it both received and delivered. It should not have been scanned "delivered" until the customer, me, picked it up. Anyway, after I picked it up, I headed to my couchsurfing hosts' house, packed up, wrote in their guest book, and then headed out South.
I revisited the River Walk a bit, and then I went to a bike shop to pick up a spare tandem length shifter cable. I wanted a multi-tool, but they were out. He told me a new bike shop opened up South, on my route, so I resolved to stop there and check to see if they had a multi-tool. A pleasant surprise was in order. The shop was not only open, and they had a multi-tool, but the owner was present and he hooked me up with a prodeal on the multi-tool, and threw in a free waterbottle and cage (I wanted to exchange mine because it was one designed for a very large, like 32 oz Gatorade, bottle. Dude rocked. Garrett or Jared I think was his name. Thank you, again, man, if you are reading this. All all you other folks, patronize this guy if you ever go to San Antonio. The shop is called S.A. Cycles, or S.A. Bicycles. It is on South St. Mary's road, just before the underpass where it changes to Roosevelt Blvd.
Okay, I finally got heading South, after he hooked me up with a big cup of fruit because, "I think you have a lot farther to go than me and can use this more; I only live 2 blocks from here!"
Yeah, so I headed South, and then after a bit, I wanted to charge up some more. The wind was blowing hard in my face. I sat down in the shade. I put some sun block on, and I whipped out the two PB&J sandwiches I made earlier and I took those in, and drank some water. Soon I was back on the road. After about 10 miles of riding into the wind, I was hungry for more food. Stopped at MickyD's and had a grilled club chicken sandwich. Not bad. Was $5. Loaded up my waterbottle at their drink station with Powerade. Blue. Chugged and refilled. Then headed out for some more up against the wind, uphill riding. Cadence. Pretend like you are in an excercise bike. Doesn't matter how fast you go, just put out the high amount of power that you can when you have the right cadence (~70-90), you are in the appropriate gear for the resistance you face, and you are at a good workrate. The miles went by slowly but surely, as I listened to my music and I did a Portuguese lesson and an Spanish lesson (Pimsleur, which I love and highly recommend for language learning, especially when you are biking since you can listen and respond out loud as you bike along, and that is the main core of the learning process of Pimsleur). I eventually sat down in the shade to rest, chug some Powerade, and change the music. Got back on and plugged the last 10 miles to Pleasanton. Looked for a motel. Eventually stopped at one, the price was $40/night but no internet so I kept going. Forgot my helmet at a gas station, went 4 blocks before I realized and went back to retrieve it. Continued on and checked out a total of four more motels and they all were completely booked, no vacancies! Saw some Halliburton employees at one, truckers at another. Various things draw people past these towns and to them. I made it to Jourdanton from Pleasanton, looking for a motel, after dark. My lights are pretty good, so no real issue. In Jourdanton, I ate at the Mexican restaurant I ate at four years ago on my trip from DC to Chiapas, which originally had the intent of making it to Brazil. The waitress of the restaurant said she remembered me from four years ago! I was quite impressed and felt loved, cared-for, etc. The food was delicious and she didn't charge me for it! I gave her a $4 tip on a $6 meal:)
Then I checked in with the firestation next door to see if they would put me up. Pretty much all the motels were booked, I told them. I was hosted by four different fire stations during my trip from DC to Chiapas, and folks such as David Kroodsma have had great luck with firestations hosting them as touring cyclists. They said I could camp under a tin-roof covered area, and he would let the cops know I had permission and so to not bother me.
I thanked them for the offer. I tried a motel/hotel I had not yet tried, Holiday Inn, and they, too, were booked, but let me use the bathroom and the internet from the lobby. And so that is what is happening now--I amd in the Holiday Inn lobby as I write.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I am in Austin, Texas. I got here by Amtrak from DC to New Orleans and Greyhound Bus from New Orleans to here. I brought one of my bikes with me and had the other one sent on Greyhound later. I made a bunch of changes on them, swapping parts and perfecting my final ride. I am selling the other one on ebay once sold I will bike South to Brownsville. I will stay there a while, making any final changes to the bike and finalizing my plans for moving South. One option is to take a bus from Brownsville to Veracruz. I intend to go to Veracruz to visit friends. From there, I am planning to bike to Cancun. The climate conference is to be held there this December.

From there I plan to bike South, probably through Belize, Guatemala, perhaps El Salvador, Honduras, then Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. From there, I plan to take a boat from Colon to Cartagena, Colombia. From there, I plan to bike to Manaus, Brazil, passing through Venezuela. From Manaus, I plan to take a boat down the Amazon to Belem. From there, I plan to bike to Natal, Brasil, where I have many friends from my community service trip in 1999 with Amigos de las Americas/Amigos das Americas. Plans subject to evolve. That is my update.