Staying at Shannon's in the Mission District, it was an easy BART ride to the Oakland Amtrack Station to greet our bicycles. All in all, it went well, although we were a bit taken aback by the torn-up appearances of our bike boxes. It looked as if Amtrack rough handled our bikes, but all parts were in tact. All we had to do to get on the road, was put our pedals back on and turn our handlebars.
Asheville, NC has been on my radar for some years now, as a place I wanted to visit and possibly move to. The timing of the Asheville Zinefest ended up being perfect for a road trip. I convinced my sissy, Chris, to go on an adventure with me. We loaded up my Suburu and the two of us and my pooch, Billie headed to Virginia for the first leg of the trip.
We stayed at dog-friendly Orv's place in Linville, VA the first night. Orv is a really chill dude and he has a small shiitake farm on his property. He is growing shiitake on logs. We headed out early-ish for the 6-hour drive to Asheville. The sun wasn't beating down either of these days and made for a pleasant drive. Billie did find in the car and at the rest stops.
We happily unloaded at Cheryl and Corey's place around 4 in the afternoon. Billie trotted around the fenced in yard and we settled into the Cheryl and Corey's cozy Airbnb suite.
We got to sample just a little bit of Asheville-hiking, downtown, eateries, bookstores... Highlights were hiking Mount Pisgah, dipping into Catawba Falls and Skinny Dip Falls, bluegrass clogging at The Feed and Seed and the incredible amount of fireflies out everywhere. Lots of delicious farm to table food, the freshest baked goods and of course ice cream. The Asheville Zinefest was pretty cool and I met some rad zinesters.
Although I have only gotten into bicycling the last two years, I have traveled solo for over two decades. Before I dated my partner, I would ride my bike to the grocery or the library or to work occasionally. But with her, I started taking longer rides. Since traveling solo has been my thing for awhile, I thought why not add the bike to the mix? I started reading about bike adventures on blogs, in magazines and talking to people about the idea. I love the zero emissions factor that goes along with traveling via bicycle and the idea of being self-contained and transporting myself. Thus, a seed was planted about traveling with my partner on our bikes.
I joined some bike packing forums and really paid attention in the women's ones, and I started asking questions. Staying in the US was a no-brainer for several reasons: much easier to communicate and get help if anything goes wrong, less travel hassles, no language barriers. I found a book by Bill Thorness in which he not only gives cues for traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway 1, but he makes suggestions on daily mileage, where to spend the night and possible side trips. The route actually starts in Vancouver and ends in Tijuana, but we knew we had to break it up due to time constraints. I hope to travel the northern section next, from Vancouver down to SF.
We researched as much as possible: gear options, gear carrying options, bikes, accommodations, what people do for food... I read blogs on how much stuff to bring... (For example many people say, three sets of cycling clothes- one to wear, a clean/dry set, and one that has been washed and is lashed to the bike, drying as you ride). Food? Do people carry all their food? Buy as they go? In California, the options were many, farmsteads, groceries and plenty of restaurants. Though you could go hours in some areas without seeing a thing, not even a toilet. Hydration is vital. We each had two bike bottles of water, I think 24oz each, which is not enough to sustain the entire day. We depended on being able to refill our bottles at rest stops, restaurants, gas stations, etc.
One of my favorite events of the year is the NYC Dyke March. Now in its 26th, the March began as protest, in contest to the Pride parade which traditionally centered around gay white men.
Last year, my pal Elvis and I decided to step it and get trained to marshal the March. We had a blast and decided to do it again this year.
Dykes everywhere showed their solidarity against fascism, racism, deportation, nazis, prisons... it was incredible. It’s overwhelming to see all these radical people come together, be political and have a helluva time while doing it. Yup, queer as in Abolish ICE.
I will be performing a drag act at Branded Saloon in Brooklyn on Monday June 11. Come check it out!
On June 17th I will be reading from one of my zines at an LGBTQAI zinesters event at Quimby's Bookstore in Brooklyn.
Rainy weekends makes it hard to get out and train. For one thing, I’m a bit of a baby and I don’t want to ride in the rain if I don’t have to. I’m sure the time will come, probably in the nearer future that I will have to suck it up, but until that time...
So as to not lose a training day, we decided to check out Jalepeño Cycling in Bloomfield. I’ve never taken an indoor cycling class so I didn’t know what to expect. Kate and Andrew the joint owners and a dynamic couple welcomed us enthusiastically at 945 am. Kate and Andrew fitted our bikes on their fancy trainers.
Kate had already created and loaded a course into her system, and into a giant TV which was in front of the bikes. Six of us climbed onto our bikes and began warming up. Kate designed a course based on real life local streets and terrain and it was a doozy. A grueling hour and a half later, I had climbed several steep and low grade hills, practiced sprinting and learned some techniques to help from getting fatigued on longer rides. I’ll admit, before class I worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish the hour and a half without a break. But I succeeded! I made it through the whole time, not the whole course. And then I carb-loaded a delicious careibean french toast and chicken apple sausage brunch.
May 9th is my sober anniversary, this year I am celebrating 14 years. This also happens to be my partner's born day. She asked me to take the day off with her, and being I still have "personal" days left at work, I obliged. (Personal days cannot roll over to the following year and can be used for anything).
At first we planned to head to the Jersey Shore for the day with the puppy. However, as time is running out for us to train for our Cali trip, we decided that a training day would be good for us. I let C do the planning, because she loves doing that sort of stuff. I knew she wanted to go to Harriman State Park. I have not been there in some time, and when I visited, it was only for hiking, never biking. We knew we were ready to bump up our milage, to the 30ish mile mark. C planned a route for us.
Wednesday morning, after coffee, we got ourselves out the door and arrived at Harriman ready to ride by 11 am (a little later than we wanted). With the sun shining bright and beating down on us, we began our ride. Not even half a mile into the ride and we approached our first hill. From there, we faced hill after goddamn grueling hill. On one hill, the climb lasted one bloody mile: my legs burned, my mind burned and I barely kept plugging along to the top.
We picnicked around the lake for lunch and a bit of respite. C hung her hammock and we chilled in it for too short a time. Back on the bikes for a little downhill action, only to head back uphill for some grueling climbs. This is seriously good training for Cali, but I am woefully unprepared for that right now. We will defiantly have to visit this trail again- but dear lawd, not for a few weeks, please!
Well, thank tha goddesses for progress not perfection. I am slow af on the bike right now. We've been out on our new bikes, and I am loving the feel of my Surly Disc Trucker. Did I mention that I named her Florence? She's named after my late great mama, because she is one mother trucker.
I ventured out on my own, two days in a row. On my second day, I decided to practice loading up my panniers... and I experienced a little dismounting mishap. As I slowed down and unclipped my right foot from my pedal, I pulled up next to the curb on my right side and leaned my right foot out. I started to reach the curb- then BLAM. All of a sudden, my bike lay on top of me, my left foot still clipped in. That really sucked, and dang, I felt like a loser. The handlebar really whacked my left boob and ribcage. Plus, my bruised ego something fierce.
I did manage to ride around 10 miles each day, so I thought that was better than nothing.
Miami is huge and spread out... I had no clue just how big. Thankfully, we rented a car during our stay or we would have spend a million on Uber or Lyft. We stayed in an area, or village called El Portal which is located in North Miami. The whole village is a bird sanctuary, primarily for peacocks. Those birds have the right of way- to wander and strut and holler from the rooftops of residential homes.
I decided I was going to try out fasted cardio this week, by going for a morning 20 minute jog. First thing is, I hate jogging and most forms of what we call cardio. Unless I am running from a burning building, I don't particulary want to run anywhere, for any reason. However, this winter is dragging on and I seemed to have developed a sugar addiction over the last six weeks, so I thought maybe a morning jog first thing would kick start my body... So, C and I got our arses out of bed whilst on holiday, and I did my best at dragging my body around for 20 minutes. During the morning torture, the peacocks made their presence known. We crossed paths with several different males, bright gorgeous tail feathers fanned out in all their splendor, shouting to attract a mate. Female peacocks wandered more quietly in groups of three or four. In the evening, as I wandered ready to snap photos, I spotted more than one male peacock on a rooftop, shouting and making noise. The palm trees, humidity and sunshine added to the romance and I felt as if I could have been on a tropical island. (Side note: I have not jogged since my return.)
The food scene has blown up in Miami, there are so many restaurants to choose from I am not sure how they all stay in business. There are super fancy restaurants and small cafes as well as tiny mom and pop places and no shortage of desserts either. We ate well during our stay and one of my favorites was the Pinch Kitchen in El Portal where they know how to make a damned good beet salad and delish salmon. While sitting at a tiny place in South Beach and savouring the best pistachio gelato I have ever eaten, we watched somebody's car get towed. Parking is more expensive in Miami than it is in NYC, we were constantly feeding the meters, thankfully from an app on our phones. Also, a fun gourmet grilled cheese joint called Ms Cheesious is worth a stop if you are in El Portal.
The summed up version of Miami: We hit the beautiful beaches on Key Biscayne which had plenty of trees and thus much shade to offer. Another day, we drove down to the Everglades so C could experience an airboat and alligators. We wandered up and down South Beach, which is just as cheesy as the Jersey Shore, but throw a lot more money into the mix. I met up with a former Jersey AA pal and we hit a fantastic women's meeting in Brickel. Since I am the queen of meeting up with old friends on vacay, on our last night, we enjoyed our second dessert with an old NYC friend, Andrea. Sunshine and 80 degree weather warmed my heart just enough to send me back North. Today I heard rumors of snow, again. Say it ain't so.
Another amazing zinefest in the books. I look forward to this festival of zines each year. It is the only fest I actually go to each year. Although later this year I am breaking out and heading down to Asheville to check out the scene. The NYC FzF is filled with amazing humans who all create zines. I want to trade zines with every single person there. This year I sat next Pirate Sarah and her pals and got to know them a bit. The energy at the fest is always incredible and I love meeting new peeps. Check out pix below from my zine haul this year! I was also excited to spread the word about the new zine venture I am putting together: stories of recovery and sobriety. (Below: Billie Holiday sniffed the zines and wondered why her couch was covered in paper.)
Hi, I'm Reverend J, a queer+ sober wanderer, activist, writer and ordained minister.