Richmond Party and Beyond

Hey everyone, I’m sorry that this post has taken so long to come up. We decided to pause our bike ride after reaching Washington DC and the last couple weeks have been filled with busy transition. We are currently in Myrtle Beach for the next three months or so, and then we are off to Wilmington to live for a couple years. This will probably be one of the last posts on this blog for a while, but if you are interested in following my thoughts you can check out my personal blog at www.wanderingoak.wordpress.com. I try to blog daily about philosophy, veganism, open relationships, politics, and just my life. Thanks everyone who has followed us on our weird adventure over the last few years. I love you all if you are ever in Wilmington please let me know.

 We knew we would love our hosts even before we arrived at their home. The many messages we exchanged before arriving exuded light and I felt like they had a similar view on a lot of things. It turned out the weekend we were arriving was also the last day of work for one of our hosts (let’s call them Luna and Sola) for a while and they were having a going away party before Luna went on a trip to the west coast. Nothing explicit was said about the party that would really make me think it was anything special, other than a comment that roughly said “we think you guys would get along great with our group”.

Normally, that would be a pretty mundane thing to say to someone on Couchsurfing, but our CS profile is pretty, umm, non-conservative. We have photos from naked bike rides, transformational festivals, and Burning Man, and we are part of a psychedelic group. Our profile also emphasizes how open-minded we are, how we are interested in alternative ways of living life, etc. Basically, when someone says we will fit in it makes me think the party will be far from a few friends drinking glasses of wine and discussing politics.

I was right.

After arriving at our host’s home we found out that most of the people (all?) are actually polyamorous. I’m not sure if I’ve discussed polyamory on this blog or not, but the basic ideas is that polyamory is a relationship arrangement (style? orientation?) where the individuals involved have multiple romantic relationships at the same time with the full consent of everyone involved. It is different from an open relationship (which is about having multiple sexual partners) but there is often some overlap. There also tends to be a lot of overlap in the kink/BDSM community and the LGBT community. Belonging to one group does not mean you belong to any of the others, but the groups tend to mingle and get together a lot… at least in my experience.

Anyway, it turns out that Luna and Sola are in that network of alternative relationships and they wanted to make sure we were cool with that. Even if it became more of a “play party”.

Of course we were! We love to be around people banging, flirting, and having some good ol’ consensual adult fun. We worked at the Orgy Dome at Burning Man after all, we love being around people being uninhibited.

In fact, it had been a long time since we were with a group like that. I think LA was really the last time. Sure, we’ve had some fun experiences with close friends that, but we haven’t been to a party in a long time. Unfortunately, we are introverted as fuck and can get a bit shy around new people. It is especially hard when we are at someone else’s house and don’t have a way to retreat and recharge our energy. Luckily, we had a room in the house that worked for rest and recharging. We also had our good friend, MDMA.

I did make a rookie mistake while rolling though. I got a little tipsy and had too much food in my stomach before rolling. I was nervous asking Luna or Sola if they would be okay with us taking Molly at their house (always get consent!) so I had too many beers. This stomach full of booze and chips gave me some stomach issues and delayed the roll a bit for me. No bueno.

Anyway, except for that minor personal issue the party was absolutely wonderful. Everyone we met was incredibly friendly and respectful. It is kind of rare for us to feel like the “vanilla” people in a group, but we did around them. We aren’t poly (though we are certainly not completely sexually monogamous), but they all accepted us for who we were and seemed genuinely interested in us. It was kind of nice to know that we could really discuss anything and it wouldn’t shock or offend anyone. It was also really nice to be around poly people because communication is so important. If I was interested in kissing Luna (which I was), all I had to do was ask. If Luna was interested as well then it would happen. If Luna wasn’t interested then they would just say so and there would be no harm. Because it is a poly group it encourages people to openly talk and not come up with excuses. Nobody can really say “I can’t because I have a boyfriend/girlfriend”, instead you hear something more honest (but still tactful) like “I’m really honored but I’m not interested in that right now” or “Thank you, but I’m really enjoying our conversation and I’d rather stick with that”. Also, poly groups are check on creepy guys because the community is so close and tends to be controlled by the women. If you act inappropriately then everyone will know about it and it is likely you will have a hard time getting involved in future events or meeting people. You see the same behavior in the swinger/lifestyle community. Creepy vibes are not tolerated and everyone is looking out for the safety and comfort of others.

There was no creepiness involved though. We had an amazing time and they all seemed to enjoy our presence. We even managed to convince some people to join us for some multi-hand full body massages. It is always a treat to see, touch, and taste new bodies and experience such an intimate connection with someone. I even got to kiss Luna a few times, and they are an fantastic kisser 🙂

The party eventually died down and people started to head home. We went to bed fully glowing after a night of great conversations and wonderful memories. I wish I could remember the names of everyone, but I’m shitty at that (especially while rolling… details are hard but overall feelings are easily remembered). I’m really excited that we met Luna and Sola, we’ve continued to talk and I hope we can get together again soon. They are such a beautiful and loving couple, it will be great to have them in our home someday, visit them again, or maybe head out to a festival in the mountains or rent out a cabin for a weekend of nature time.

Hmm, this blog post is pretty long already. I think I’ll talk about the rest of our time in Richmond, our ride to DC, and what we did there in another piece.

Into Richmond

Virginia started, as all states do, with a stateline border crossing. This particular crossing was a little unique though, the beautifully paved road we were on turned immediately to gravel when we hit Virginia. Borders are kind of funny things, if it wasn’t for government projects you wouldn’t even know most borders exist. I think in our minds we tend to expect some sort of natural difference between one state and the next, but nature doesn’t care about borders (and neither should we). They are a political creation that is literally meant to divide two people. They unnecessarily make an “us” and a “them”, when that division doesn’t really exist in nature. Crossing into new states has allowed us to feel like we are accomplishing something, they are another check box (23 out of 48 states accomplished!), but there is still something a little gross about them. We shouldn’t be dividing humans into separate boxes to make things easier on politicians, we should be uniting people and encouraging voluntary associations across all artificial borders.

Anyway… our ride into Virginia started off a bit rough but soon we found ourselves back on main roads. Things have been getting safer and easier for us as we travel north, we are clearly in a place that spends more money on roads and has a population that is relatively comfortable with cyclists. In fact, the last few days of our journey have been downright pleasant.

We stopped at a cheap hotel in Franklin, Virginia to rest a bit and get some work done. It had been about 4 days since we showered last and with the heat index in the low 100’s and the humidity bordering around 195% we desparetly needed to clean ourselves. We are still pretty under-budget when it comes to our housing costs (we try to spend $10 or less per night) because of all our stealth camping and we didn’t mind splurging. Besides, we wanted to bang and having access to a bed and air-conditioning helps that be a more pleasant experience.

After Franklin we pushed hard for two days towards the southern edge of Richmond. We had a Warmshowers host waiting for us and wanted to make about 75 miles in two days. Overall, that isn’t a tough push but we only went a few miles when we left Franklin because we needed to do laundry, shopping, etc.

The final day into Richmond got off to a slow start as well. We were about five miles from our stealth camping spot when Anna spotted a dog in a ditch on the side of the road. It had clearly been struck by a car and left to die. Despite some blood on the road and a mangled leg, it actually seemed to be doing alright. There was not any massive bleeding or any clear terminal damage. Some asshole basically hit this dog and sentenced it to days of suffering and death by dehydration, exposure, or being eaten alive by other animals. Sometimes humans suck.

Anna slowly earned the dogs trust and was able to get it some food and water, but there was no way we could actually transport the dog ourselves. So, we tried to get a hold of animal control to get some help. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a cell signal where we were so we had to bike a couple miles to get signal. We called the local animal control and the website was disconnected (of course). After calling a local vet we were directed to another county animal shelter who used a secret number to call the first shelter and get us help. About 20 minutes later we were on the side of the road with animal control and they were transporting the dog to get some help. The whole thing took about 2 hours, but it was worth it.

We hit the road again and pushed hard to make up the lost time. Luckily, it still isn’t too hilly out here and we were able to make it to our host with a little bit of daylight left. We even spent 15 miles on an actual bike trail, which is something we haven’t seen in a long time. Our host was a super cool hippy type of guy who had several acres of land with a few tenants renting houses spotted across the property. He talked a lot about the history of the land  and how stuff in the area was the oldest X, the first time Y happened, the place where a founding father did Z, etc (a trait that seems to be universal among Richmonders). We did our best to participate in the conversation but, to be honest, we were exhausted and could really only manage a few smiles and nods to contribute.

Once darkness hit our host showed us to a spare house he was renovating and said we could stay in there. Our original plan was to just set our tent up on the land, but we were thrilled to accept a roof over our heads. I’m glad we did, because that night a crazy storm came crashing through the city that included tornado watches and heavy winds. The storm knocked out power for about half the city for several days. We left the next morning with a pretty basic plan… brewery, food, coffee/work, beer store, grocery store, Couchsurfing host. With only 15 miles or so to get to our Couchsurfing host and most of our stops directly on the route it seemed like an easy enough day… it did not go as planned.

Our first stop, Stone Brewing, was a failure because they lost power and couldn’t open. One of the brewmasters also told us that they may need to dump six batches of beer if they didn’t get power back soon. We wept openly.

Our second stop, Ipanema Cafe, was a greater success… though, on the way we faced some pretty serious hills and were stopped by strangers so that they could explain the history of the town to us. Ipanema has some awesome, wonderful vegan food that made us so happy. Our waitress was planning a bike tour and we gave her our info and some of our thoughts. We ended up spending a couple of hours at the cafe trying to figure out our next move. The beer store was closed and it was getting a bit late to bunker down and get work done so we decided to just head to the grocery store and our hosts house on the north side of town.

The ride took longer than expected. Most of the roads we wanted to travel were closed because of power lines and trees, which made navigating a fun experience… and by fun I mean “this is kind of bullshit and I hate it”. We finally arrived at the grocery store to find they were technically open but all their freezers were failing. We were able to get what we needed though, as well as some beer. Finally, we got to our host’s house where we would be spending the next few days having a fucking amazing time touring the city, drinking beer, rolling at a poly party, etc…. more on that next time 🙂

North Carolina

After Wilmington we started our long trek north through rural North Carolina. In six days we covered around 275 miles. That probably doesn’t sound like much, but six days straight for us is a lot. We really only had one restful stop, New Bern where we stayed with a wonderful Warmshowers host. Other than that, it was a lot of camping in the woods.

This was a unique chapter in our ride. The roads were paved (mostly) and had very little traffic. We didn’t need to worry about our safety that much, which allowed us to pay more attention to the ride. We were able to get some joy out of actually riding, something that was missing throughout South Carolina and Georgia. In fact, we were really considering ending the bike ride for a year or more in Wilmington, I’m glad we pushed on.

Rural North Carolina felt like a place out of time. Long stretches of road with few homes, and the homes you found were either collapsed and broken, trailers, or the huge homes of farm owners. Most homes had family graveyards in front, many with gravestones without dates just waiting for the living to join the dead. In the back yards we saw clothes hanging on the wire in the sun, technology ignore in exchange for simplicity (or maybe out of necessity).

This was a place with one gas station every 30 miles and every time we stopped to rest we were approached by locals, curious about what two white people were doing on bikes in this part of the world. We stood out here in a way that we didn’t in many other places. When we crossed a river on a ferry the ferry operator informed us that his ferry was “pretty busy” and that he saw “about 12 people a day, maybe 15”.

This land was also filled with a kindness that is hard to describe. We were treated well and offered help on all occassions. When we asked the a local fire fighter if we could sleep at the station the response was “sure, why not?”. The assumption here is to help people, not to look for excuses why you can’t. There was no concern for what the rules were. It was simple, if it made sense and helped someone else then you did it.

This is also a land with abandoned schools and collapsed infrastructure, right next to large churches with elaborate stain-glassed windows. Education is sacrificed for theology, God comes at the expense of man. People here don’t leave the city they were born in, both due to lack of interest and lack of opportunity. It is a place that will soon be passed by, left behind, a figment of the past.

It was a beautiful leg of travel, and a sobering one. The beauty and pain of life is outside the highways, off the beaten path, and on the back roads of North Carolina.

Wilmington

The day we left Myrtle Beach was a little bit better than what we’ve come to expect from the South. The roads were manageable, for the most part, and we even occasionally had a shoulder. Traffic was heavier than expected (I still have no idea where all these people are going on back roads at 2pm on a Tuesday… but whatever). It took us a whole day to get out of South Carolina, but we made finally made it to North Carolina (State #22) where things got so much better.

So far, North Carolina has been a huge improvement over Georgia and South Carolina. The roads are better maintained, there are plenty of side roads to keep us off of major highways, and they even have bike lanes. In fact, we spent the whole day going into Wilmington on roads that had shoulders or bike lanes… it has been a long time since we actually didn’t fear for our lives while cycling.

The day into Wilmington was one of the best days of the ride. The weather was beautiful (a little on the hot side, but that’s to be expected) and the route was a dream. We were on North Carolina Bike Route 3 the whole time and had a solid shoulder for the first 15 miles, then we hopped on a ferry for a lovely ride, and then we had an actual bike lane for the remaining 15 miles or so. We took a break on the beach to drink a beer at a cute little vegan friendly cafe  and, for the first time in a while, we felt excited about what we were doing. It did end up getting insanely hot towards the end of the ride, but really that is a small price to pay.

We arrived at our Couchsurfing hosts home towards the evening and felt immediately connected to her. She is an amazing person who has such excitement and warmth about her. After a getting settled in and a delicious home-made dinner we went out to a local dog-friendly bar for drinks and chatting

The next few days followed a pretty similar pattern. We woke up, knocked out some work and such while our host was at work, and then we explored the city a bit at night. And, in the process, we fell in love with Wilmington. I know I’ve said that before about other towns, but Wilmington really has everything we need or want (plus some extras).

I think it is really important to travel and explore different cities to find out what feels good to you. Staying the same state or city is to essential embrace the ethos “ignorance is bliss”… something some people are proud of but never really struck a cord with me. As we have been to different cities in different states in different regions we have found certain common threads that appeal to us. I won’t say Wilmington is the best place ever for us, but it is certainly the most appealing at this point.

For us, we only have a couple of “needs” in a city.

  • Reasonably Priced Housing: We found several houses for rent that were 3 bedrooms with a yard and less than $1000 a month. Hell yes.
  • Bike Friendly: Not only is Wilmington bike friendly inside town it is also bike friendly to outside of town. We could bike 15 miles to the beach along bike paths, that is super awesome.
  • Dog Friendly: Our furbaby is part of the family and having dog-friendly bars and breweries and such is something we really want. Also, no breed discrimination. Yes on all counts, we took Higgins with us to nearly every bar and brewery. Our host says everyone takes their dogs places here.
  • Medium sized college town: We’ve found that a college town with about 100,000 people feels good to us, it is big enough to do things, has a fun and progressive culture, but isn’t going to feel smothering. Wilmington has 112,000 people, a university, and a community college. Perfection.
  • Food options: We need at least a decent grocery store to get fresh produce and such. It is tough being a vegan in a food desert. Wilmington has a Trader Joe’s, standard grocery stores, and vegan friendly menus all around town.

After that we have some things that are less important but still something we desire.

  • Fitness options: Anna wants to do aerial silks and I like yoga and martial arts, also half-marathons… Wilmington has it all
  • Location of events: We want to be able to drive easily to festivals, clothing optional organizations, outdoor stuff (mountains, hot springs  or beaches), and open sex events. We can do all those, and more, from Wilmington thanks to Asheville and Raleigh being a relatively easy drive.

Lastly, is the unmeasurable “feeling” you get from a place, the general warmth and friendliness and culture of a city. Wilmington has that for us. I realize that it is subjective and very much based on our experience with our wonderful host and her friends, but it is still a part of it. No matter how great a city is, if it leaves a bad taste in your mouth then you aren’t going to be happy there.

So, what now? Well, in the short term we are continuing the bike ride through October. We have a lot of exciting stuff coming up including DC, Philly, NYC, Boston, Maine, Pittsburgh, and a bachelorette party in Canada.

After that we are still going to spend the winter in Myrtle Beach, but starting next year we might take a few years off and live in Wilmington. During that time we can go on our honeymoon (ICELAND!), I can finish the book I’m working on and take some college classes to see if I want to get into psychology, and we can both explore things that require some stability like gardening, go back to Burning Man, home brewing, silks/martial arts, etc. Then, maybe around 2020 we will wrap up the final leg back west to finish the lower 48 states. At least that’s “the plan”, which means it will probably change greatly.

For photos of this leg check out our Instagram (@shifts_and_higgles) and our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/shiftsandhiggles)… the two accounts actually have different pictures because we are terrible at this.

Dirty Myrtle

Our ride between Charleston and Myrtle Beach was pretty much what we’ve come to expect from the south… terrible roads and a buttload of stress. We altered our route (adding about a day of travel) in order to avoid as much of Highway 17 as possible. We still spent most of the first day on windy, one-lane roads filled with traffic. One highlight was our stop at Westbrook Brewing Company. We got there in the late afternoon and enjoyed some pretty marvelous beer. Anna purchased a $50 bottle of beer, because apparently we are the 1% all of the sudden. With a nice, expensive buzz going we hit the road again and found a spot in the woods to sleep.

The next day was actually a pretty nice ride (mostly). We cycled through Francis Marion National Park along back roads that had very little traffic. It was really, really nice to spend some time not terrified that we are going to be run over. Near the end of the day we stopped at a park in a town to get some work done and refill water. Two stray(?) dogs approached us and played with Higgins for a bit. It was cute.

Unfortunately, that was our only day of cycling that was relatively stress free on this leg. The next day we were back on roads with lots of cars and it started to rain. When we got to the town of Georgetown we took a break to check out the bridges getting out of town. It looked like the shoulder was non-existent on the bridges (because, fuck you cyclists and pedestrians) when we looked at them on Google Streetview but we wanted to see it with our own eyes. Alas, bad luck struck before we got to the bridges.

One of the wheels on my trailer broke and, of course, there were not any bike shops in Georgetown. After some discussion we realized we didn’t have much of a choice so we got a cheap hotel and got a rental SUV to get us the last 50 miles to Myrtle Beach. It sucks to spend money on that type of thing, but we have emergency savings in place for a reason. We did get lucky and our SUV was upgraded for free to a cargo van.

So, the next day we drove the final miles into my old stomping grounds, Myrtle Beach. We happened to arrive in Myrtle at the most ridiculous time… the end of Harley Week and the beginning of Atlantic Bike Week. Myrtle is a funny little town. It is a gigantic tourist trap with every cliche and beach stereotype you can imagine. If we didn’t have a friend in town we probably would have just passed through as quickly as possible.

Instead, we stayed for almost two weeks. This was longer than we planned but a tropical storm (which ended up being a light sprinkle) convinced us to extend our stay. It was a really fun and productive two weeks though. We relaxed, went to the beach, got some work done, planned out our route, rolled, got the bikes and trailers fixed, and made new friends.

Our time here also provided us with a great opportunity for the coming winter. Our friend has a spare room in her dog-friendly house that we can rent for a really low price. It isn’t all set in stone, but it looks fairly likely that we will come down here for the winter this year between November and March. In addition to being a good financial opportunity, it will save us the stress that comes from trying to find a dog friendly place that allows 5-month leases, it is fairly warm down here during the winter, we can take long weekends in Asheville or other mountain towns, and it is near Charleston and Savannah (two cities we’d love to visit our friends in).

So, it really looks like a win all around.

If you are interested in our pictures and such you can check out our Instagram (@shifts_and_higgles) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/shiftsandhiggles)

Return to Chucktown

After such an amazing time in Savannah it was very bittersweet to leave but, alas, we hit the road north towards Charleston, SC. South Carolina has a special place in my heart because of my wonderful experiences in Charleston during college. I’m afraid that my perspective was skewed and I have idealized the state more than I should. I think this is true for most people, by our nature we can only live in finite places for finite amounts of time so we use limited experiences to define large places. If you hate a certain city you may decide you hate a state and if you love a city you may love a state.

Most of us have only lived in a few cities though and the experience there colors our perception of the region. We’ve had many people who told us we would love a particular state because of their experiences in particular cities, but when we arrived our experience was very different. This seems to be particularly true in the south where I have friends who have lived in states their whole lives but really only lived in a hometown and a college town, they had a great time and say that they love the state, but they haven’t really traveled much of the state or seen enough places to be able to really decide how they feel about it. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, and that came to bite me in the ass with South Carolina.

Upon entering South Carolina from Georgia things instantly became more terrible. The road condition deteriorated instantly and the “shoulders” became nothing but grass embankments that dropped quickly into ditches. The drivers are clearly either ignorant of how to bike near cyclists, unaware of their surroundings, or complete assholes as they often drove up on us at 60mph and didn’t change lanes until the very last second (if at all, more than a dozen times we had to drive into the grassy shoulder to avoid a car who decided they didn’t care if they hit us). In case you didn’t know, bicycles are allowed on the roads. Cyclists hate having a lack of infrastructure or safe way to get from place to place, we don’t want to share a highway with 3,000 lb steel machines, but in places like the south we don’t have a choice. It seems that shoulders, much less bike lanes, are something that the politicians here didn’t even consider putting onto the roads. So, we are stuck sharing a road and we’d rather not die on it. If, for no other reason, realize that if you hit a cyclist who is driving you will be the one going to jail. It isn’t that big of a deal to hit your brakes for a few seconds to wait for a safe opportunity to pass.

Note: If you really are ignorant of how to deal with cyclists here is some information… if a cyclist is on a highway and is in the lane they are there for a good reason. It is likely the shoulder (if it exists) is dangerous because of broken class, debris, or rumble strips. They don’t want to be in the lane but it may be the least bad option. As you approach the cyclist get over into the left lane as soon as possible, please don’t wait to the last minute. If you don’t have a second lane to use it is okay to cross the yellow line into traffic as long as it is safe. If it isn’t safe, please slow down and allow the cyclist to safely pull out of your way (which a good cyclist will do). It really only takes 10 seconds or so out of your life and it will save our life. Also, please use your turn signal to let the cyclist know you see them. We can’t read minds and you may have every intention of pulling around us, but all we see is a speeding vehicle who has given no notice that they see us.

Anyway… after three days of travel along terrible, terrible roads we were in the home stretch into Charleston. I thought the day would go rather smoothly… I was fucking wrong. Our planned 32-mile day that should have ended around 2pm ended up being 45 miles and ending around 7pm. Entering Charleston was the single most stressful day of our trip and the most difficult to enter by bicycle so far (which is saying a lot). Highway 17, which is the only way to get into Charleston from the south, is a death trap for cyclists. It is a two lane highway with no shoulder, rumble strips, and traffic going around 70 mph. We had to literally look over our shoulder every 10 or so seconds to make sure a car wasn’t approaching us too quickly and we had to pull off the road emergently at least 100 times. We also had to push along the side of the highway much of the time, and when we did find side roads to avoid the highway they were mostly sand. It was terrible and mentally exhausting, and it has removed all my love for South Carolina. I still love Charleston, but fuck the rest of the state at this point. I know cyclists are not a priority for any city or state, but I don’t understand how every state outside of the south manages to put shoulders on their highways.

But, like everything else in life, that all came to an end and we found ourselves safely in Charleston. The first few days we spent at my former college mentor’s home on the peninsula. Unfortunately, my mentor was in Europe but his wonderful wife (Dawn) took us in and made us feel right at home. The first couple day was mostly spent recovering and getting errands done. We made the most of the time and went to a couple of local coffee shops for food and drink while we worked, and we even made it out to a Vietnamese restaurant with Dawn. Our second day was also pretty work/errand heavy during the day, but that evening we went out with Dawn and met up with our friends Brad and Mae at Moe’s Crosstown (a chill dive bar). After that we bar hopped a bit and walked to one of the local breweries for a pint before going to The Royal American where the Hotten Hallers were playing. The Hooten Hallers is a band from Columbia, Missouri that Anna knows. They put on a really good show and it was nice to be out getting drunk without any real worries. We were even able to leave Higgins at the house while we cut loose. We love our furbabby but it is nice to be childfree every now and then. This was also the second drunkest I had ever seen Anna, it was highly entertaining.

Our last day at Dawn’s house started with a hangover. We pushed through it and walked down the farmer’s market to get some veggies to grill in the evening. We were able to (finally) get some new cycling shoes to replace our old shoes. They had about 8000 miles and two years of use and we desperately needed new shoes. That afternoon we had a calm afternoon grilling with Brad and Dawn, and then hit the town for some more beers. Our first stop was House of Brews, a sweet house filled with bottles of beer that you can purchase to go or drink on the premises. They also couple of beers on draft. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time before Revelry (our next stop) closed. My old college friend Alex met us at House of Brews were we said a quick hello before heading out. We stopped by Revelry quickly (Brewery #75!!!) for one beer before they closed, and then we went to Closed For Business where we met up with Alex again, his friend from France, and our mutual friend Christina.

It is kind of surreal to be back in my college town, I have so many memories here (both good and bad) which can be hard. I want my partner to love this city that I feel a lot of pressure on myself. There are also still people who live here that I had relationships with in the past, including a woman that I loved very much but our lives just weren’t aligned for a long-term relationship. Charleston has clearly changed a lot, but the ghosts of my past are still very much haunting these streets. It will always be a town that I love, but it will forever be my past.

The next morning we left Dawn’s house and rode a quick 14 miles to the Isle of Palms (after we stopped at House of Brews again for beers and chill time in the backyard). In Isle of Palms we met our dearest friends who flew in from San Diego to see us. It is difficult to fully describe the connection we have with this couple… hell, it is hard for us to comprehend it ourselves. We love them dearly and every time we see each other our bond grows closer and closer. Part of this certainly stems from how similar we are (introverts, enjoy chilling, have active lifestyles, similar perspective on the world) but I think much of it comes from the experiences we’ve shared. We’ve bonded over shared intimacy and feel we can truly be ourselves around each other. We support each other in our growth and are around to try new things with. They are our ka-tet, we love them, and I am thankful every day that we live in a world where technology allows us to stay connected. Hopefully, some day, we will live close enough together to see each other more than just once every six months. When I think about people I would want to share a communal living situation they are the first to come to mind.

Actually, someone recently just asked me what type of communal living situation I would want to live in. There is, of course, something I could consider “the ideal” (which is utopian and impossible, but something to shoot for) and “the practical”. For me, the ideal would be 8-10 people sharing land somewhere. We would all have homes on the land that were our own (you still want a space to get away), but we would also have a ton of communal areas, particularly a swimming pool, hot tub, community garden, artistic workshop, etc. Most important would be the people who you live with, I’d want us all to have some shared interests including relatively minimalist living, comfort with drugs, commitment to being relatively off the grid, online jobs, interest in physical and mental fitness, comfort with nudity, etc. I sometimes think about how cool it would be to be part of a community like that and share in raising kids, learning new skills, and living a peaceful life.

Anyway, we met up with our friends at a house on IOP. It was a pretty wonderful place. It had a hot tub and was a couple of blocks from the beach. The first night we just caught up and then crashed, but day two was more exciting. We went downtown to wander around the Peninsula a bit. We hit all the highlights (waterfront park, Mellow Mushroom, College of Charleston, Market street, etc) before going back to the house for a nap. That night we took some Molly and rolled the night away.

After a night of cuddling, kissing, hot tubbing, and love we crashed late knowing that we had nothing planned the next day. The day following an intimate roll is always a little bitter sweet. The strength of that drug is how it breaks down barriers and helps you embrace the love you feel for others. It is a confidence and feeling you hate to lose and you logically know could exist even when sober, but it is always hard to break down those barriers. At night it felt natural to spoon your friends, hold them close, or make out with them, but the next day there is a resistance to your desires. Maybe someday I’ll break through that barrier and ask to kiss and cuddle my friends when sober.

Despite a day with a Molly hangover we did drag ourselves to the beach. It would have been a shame to miss out on seeing the Atlantic when we were so close. The beach was rainy but it was wonderfully refreshing. My friend and his daughters met us on the beach as well, it was great to catch up with him after 5+ years. Time is a funny thing in the modern world, with Facebook and such we feel so close to each other but decades can go by without seeing each other. I feel like it takes even more of an effort to see each other than it used to because we have a regular, somewhat superficial connection with everyone. It is nice to see someone in the flesh, hug them, and have real conversations.

After the beach we went back to the house, napped, and watched Deadpool… a perfectly introverted end to a wonderful week. The next day we cleaned the house and said our good byes… never a good moment. Luckily, we will see them again soon in some random town. Now we are drifting north to the Dirty Myrtle to see more friends and keep the adventure going.

Our Time in Savannah

After leaving Tallahassee we quickly settled into our routine for this region… several days of biking without much happening. It took us seven days to get to Savannah and the days mostly blur into each other. The roads after entering Georgia became kind of terrible with narrow shoulders and oppressive rumble strips. We stealth camped every night except for a cheap hotel we got halfway to Savannah. This rare treat was a necessity for us and for our future Couchsurfing hosts. Using nothing but baby wipes to clean your naughty bits only works for so many days and after a few days of cycling during a heat wave we needed a shower. Besides, that gave us the opportunity to bang several times, which was nice because it is tough to find the energy, time, and not feeling gross to bang when cycling all the time. We even had a chance to reciprocate some sex pics to a group of our couple friends who have sent us pics recently.

We arrived in Savannah early evening on May 2nd. Well, we actually arrived in Pooler, which is a suburb of Savannah, but it’s all the same thing. Couchsurfing was our savior again and we found an awesome couple with a beautiful home that opened up their spare bedroom to us. This couple (who shall remain anonymous because I don’t like identifying people without their permission) was absolutely awesome. They were incredibly warm, kind, friendly, authentic, and gorgeous (seriously, super hot)… we kind of have a crush on them. They even had two dogs that became Higgins pack. They are the best and we couldn’t have imagined a better group to explore Savannah with.

While in Savannah we did our normal work and errand stuff (boring, boring, boring), but we also got to explore the city a bit and relax. In addition to hosting us, our hosts also had two guys from England staying with them at the same time. The Brits were on a three-month van trip around the US and drove from Florida to California to New York and back to Florida (with lots of adventures in between). It was really interesting hearing their perspective on the United States and what areas they really enjoyed. We didn’t get a chance to ask them the most important question of all though, “Did you guys get laid a ton with those accents?”. They are good looking, fit, intelligent, fun guys with an accent, I’m sure they got laid, it is just always awkward to bring up my favorite subjects (sex, drugs, relationships, politics, religion, etc) around new people, even if you are sure they are open about discussing things you don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable (and end up with a negative Couchsurfing review).

We ended playing Cards Against Humanity and drinking a ton of beer one of the nights. Okay, I drank a ton of beer, I don’t think anyone else really drank that much. Damn oral fixation, always getting me drunk. Cards Against Humanity is such a great ice breaker though and really does make me realize that we are all horrible people and that is a beautiful thing.

We ended up going down into Savannah three separate times, which is really a record for us in towns that we visit on the bike ride. Usually we are stuck working and such, but our workload wasn’t crazy and our hosts were cool with us crashing an extra two nights. Savannah is a really fun city to explore and it is absolutely beautiful. Most of our time was spent walking around, relaxing in the park, and hitting up a few bars after a nice Mellow Mushroom dinner. Savannah is one of those cities that I’d really like to live in for a year, or at least visit regularly. I don’t think I would want to live there more than a year or so but it would be a cool experience at least once. Then again, I don’t know if there is any place I really want to live more than a year or so. There are so many places to live and explore. Though, it would be nice to settle in and make some friends that we could get to know and become close to.

Well, with a tinge of sadness we left Savannah and our new friends. I wish we could have gotten to know them even better and I really do hope we find a way to meet up soon, or at least stay connected (luckily Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat exist). We are now heading north to Charleston and we’ve been looking forward to it for some time. I went to college there and will love to show off the town to Anna, and two of our best friends are flying in from San Diego to hangout in a beach house for a few days. It should be a wonderful weekend filled with all types of sinning.

Pensacola to Tallahassee

Leaving Pensacola put us back on our old friend, Highway 90 East. This old road has been good to us recently and those positive vibes stuck with us as we drifted east through Florida. Out here Highway 90 has a shoulder that is plenty big enough for bikes and the terrain is fairly flat. There are some rolling hills, but those haven’t been much of a problem. I fear that will change once we leave Florida and start cutting across Georgia.

The ride between Pensacola and Tallahassee was one of our longer rides without a day off. It was just over 200 miles and seven days long. That is a pretty low “miles per day”, but we stop for a couple hours a day to work and we aren’t in any hurry, there just isn’t any need to rush. The days mostly blurred together as we camped on the side of the road a lot and slowly peddled along, we did meet lots of cool people though…

Mike was a newly retired guy who has always loved cycling. He has been doing bicycling touring for over 40 years but this is his first time going on multi-month rides. Right now he is cycling from the east coast to the west coast and bouncing around from state-to-state. He flies back home once every couple of months to see his wife (she doesn’t like cycling and isn’t retired yet), but for the most part he is just being a nomad.

In Bonifay we met a retired couple who were doing an unsupported cross-country tour from San Francisco to southern Florida. They were loaded down with equipment and leisurely rolling along the country.

Also while in Bonifay, we met a large group of cyclists who were doing a cross-country tour. They were mostly disabled veterans and many of them had hand-powered bicycles. One veteran was a woman who only had partial use of one arm… she was literally cycling across the country using the power of one arm. There was also another man who was on a tandem bike with his son who had Down Syndrome. We had a great time chatting with them and taking pictures. People like that make me feel like a slacker sometimes, they really don’t let shit get in the way of their dreams. It is inspiring because we usually run into people who say things like “oh, if I were in better shape” or “man, if I were younger”. It is nice to run into people who decided they wanted to do something and just did it, despite their age or other problems they encountered in life.

The one time we paid for camping during this stretch was at Falling Waters State Park. We got into the state park pretty early and had planned to pick up some beers in town but, unfortunately, there are theocratic tyrants running many of the legislatures in the south and beer was illegal to purchase on Sundays because Jesus (or some shit). So, we went without beer… sad day. The state park was beautiful and it was nice to explore, we saw some water falls, sink holes, and were able to relax. After our seven days of cycling we finally arrived in Tallahassee.

Tallahassee was an absolute blast. We ended up staying with a (new) friend who opened his home to us because a Facebook friend of mine asked around for us. It is amazing the time we live in. Connections are everything in this world and having a good network opens doors and makes your life so much richer. We did the normal things in Tallahassee (eat food, drink beer, get work done, bike maintenance, etc), but we also had an opportunity to do some more things.

The house we stayed at was in a traditionally African-American neighborhood that reminded me a lot of the place I lived when I was in college. There are clear cultural differences in neighborhoods like this and the places I grew up. The neighbors here all know each other, they hang out together, the play loud music and dance in the street. It is so communal and lovely and inviting. Even though we were clear outsiders the community was friendly towards us. It is very different from the dead (and sometimes uninviting) feeling we get when cycling through upper-class white neighborhoods.

There was a libertarian event in town that I was able to go to and meet some of my Facebook friends. This is one of the first opportunities we’ve had to turn Facebook contacts into flesh-and-blood interactions, and it was wonderful. The event was great (as all Dan D’Amico events are) and the after-party was even better. We got drunk with our new friends, talked about things we are passionate about, and (in typical introvert fashion) ghosted back to our bedroom at a random point without saying goodbye.

We were lucky enough to find two people who were interested in rolling with us, so we took the last of our Molly (sad panda) and had a fairly light roll. Normally the night ends when the high ends, but there was a skinny dip going on with the local nudist club and we couldn’t turn that down. The four of us drove out there fairly late at night… it is always a little bit of a nervous experience when you get naked in front of friends. Even if you are intellectually okay with it there is a lot of built up resistance due to our social stigma against body acceptance, but we went out there and it turned out to be a wonderful experience.

The group of nudists who were there were incredibly friendly. We sat around a campfire, sang songs, chatted, and even jumped into the chilly lake at around midnight (the full moon helped with the lighting). There was even a fire spinner for a short time. I was actually really surprised at the group that was there. The stereotype of nudists is that they are generally overweight, older white men… and I’ve been plenty of places where that stereotype holds true. The group in Tallahassee bucks those stereotypes. It was mostly people under 30, there was a variety of races and ethnicities there, and there were a lot of conventionally attractive people. Nudity isn’t default sexual, but you can definitely recognize if someone is sexually attractive while they are naked. Also, the diversity of the human body was on display, which is my favorite thing. I love seeing how different we all can be, the varied ways that the genitals present themselves or how breasts/chests look, nipple placement and love handles, pubic hair and stretch marks, how things look when we are hunched over or laying back or playing guitar or laughing or shivering or drying off… it is so beautiful and empowering to see humans who aren’t posed or touched up with computer programs. I love it, and I hope we get more opportunities to be naked with friends and strangers.

Tallahassee was so much fun and we hope to come back again someday. Now, we are on our way towards Georgia. There won’t be many stops between here and Savannah, but I’m sure we will see some great stuff and meet some interesting people.

Finishing the Gulf States

Our time in Mississippi and Alabama was relatively short because we biked through the southern portion, which is only about 200 miles wide total for both states. These are states that are hard to define, there are all kinds of stereotypes and such that are attached to the Missibama region. They are perceived as backwards, regressive, anti-science, and bigoted. We didn’t really see too much of that, but we spent our time on the coast and coasts tend to be more laid back and progressive. We did see A LOT more Trump signs, flags of former US enemies (ie the Confederate Flag), and “In God We Trust” bumper stickers. It was a place where we felt lucky to be both white and straight-passing, and it was an area where I would mention my veteran status often with strangers to minimize suspicion.

When we entered Mississippi the weather was gorgeous and we had a nice tailwind. We were also riding high mentally from our great experience in Louisiana. We cruzed at a pretty quick pace for us (9.6mph) and arrived at Buccaneer State Park with plenty of daylight left. We checked the weather report and saw a storm coming, so we decided to stay two nights and ride it out.

The next day it rained… all day. And our tent started leaking and flooding. And it was cold as fuck. And everything we owned was wet. Luckily, the campground had a laundry room that we could use after the storm stopped.

Oh wait… some kid (probably) shoved pennies into the dryers and broke them all, so we had no way to dry off everything we owned.

After a night of terrible sleep we woke to the sun in the sky. We laid out all of our property and let the sun dry it for most of the morning. A lot of the other campers (and by “campers” I mean people in giant RVs) came around to talk to us at that point. I guess they wanted to make sure we survived the night, but didn’t really care enough to share their shelter with us. Blargh. I shouldn’t be so annoyed with strangers.

The next day was pretty short because we spent the morning drying things out. We biked along the Gulf of Mexico for a while into Bay St. Louis. While in Bay St. Louis we saw a campground that said they allowed tents. Normally we wouldn’t spend money multiple nights in a row on camping but we were pretty physically and mentally tired from the storm. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay at the campground because the owner didn’t like how Higgins looked. Apparently, a dog wagging its tail looks aggressive. Fucking breed discrimination. Oh well, we made it to a free spot in Pass Christian, a cute little town.

The next two days went quickly and without much to report. We entered into Alabama and immediately the roads went to crap. We lost our shoulder and immediately had poorly maintained roads through most of the state. In Grand View we stayed with a wonderful family we found on Warm Showers, they had a couple of kids, a bunch of chickens, a dog, and a handful of cats. We only stayed with them one night, unfortunately.

After Grand View we had a short ride, 14 miles, to Mobile, Alabama. In Mobile we stayed with two awesome people, Willie and Ryan. We found them on Couchsurfing and we had a lot in common. They had a lot of the same views, hobbies, and love of travel that we do. I hope we get to meet up with them again some time. It was a blast spending a few days with them and hanging out.

The ride out of Mobile was ugly for the first 20 miles or so, after that we ended up on the Southern Tier Adventure Cycling route. We had a beautiful shoulder and traffic started to lessen as we moved east. We even had an actual bike trail for a while separated from automobiles. While on the bike trail at the end of the day we were approached by a woman named Cheryl and she offered to let us set up our tents on her land. She was in the middle of having a yard sale to sell her father’s stuff, he had just died. She was incredibly kind, but seemed a little sad. In the morning she made us breakfast, I think she liked having us around to cook for, even if it was just one meal.

The next two days of travel took us into Florida (state #19!!!!). We arrived in the Pensacola area pretty early in the day and set up at a coffee shop to work. While at the coffee shop our Warmshowers host for the next day (Cheyanne) came by to say hi. We also had a family stop to talk to us. The family (two parents and two kids) were friendly but it was a bit odd, we were obviously being used as an object lesson and the kids were quizzed about geography and such while they talked to us.

Our plan that night was to camp at Gulf Island National Seashore on the beach but, as is often the case, we got windfucked. We got to the beach and found out that dogs weren’t supposed to be there (we pulled the Emotional Support Animal card) and the wind was coming in at about 25 mph. So, we had to hurry to Big Lagoon State Park which was about 7 miles away. Big Lagoon was absolutely gorgeous. We were able to sleep in and explore the park a bit. It was nice to be in a secure place without an alarm waking us up in the morning.

That afternoon we went into Pensacola downtown to see Cheyanne. So, Cheyanne ended up being one of the coolest people we have met so far. She was so kind and generous to us, she let us stay extra days at her place and took us all around her city to show us what Pensacola had to offer. It was a fun city and one we hope to return to again soon… and maybe even move there someday. Sadly, our days in Pensacola came to an end and we hit the road to finish off Florida and start our crawl up the east coast.

 

Busy, Busy, Busy

Wow… I am really behind on updating everyone on our progress. It has been a busy couple of weeks. We are currently in Florida and I will be updating the blog about our travels through Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida once we get to Tallahassee later this week. Until then, maybe check out two interviews we did in the last month or so.

First, we were interviewed on Isaac Morehouse’s podcast. Isaac is an entrepreneur who is passionate about living free in this world. You can listen to us here.

Second, we had the pleasure of Couchsurfing* with a vegan blogger named Jen and her partner. She did a brief interview with us here.

Hope you enjoy!

*If you ever want to host us on Couchsurfing or Warmshowers feel free to message us!

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