Fourteen years of continuous travel and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.

I know it may seem I write a lot about how “evil” the internet and social media are, so I guess today it's time to 'splain some stuff and flesh this idea puppy out a bit.

Now, I do think I need to preface this essay with a couple of things:

When I say “quit” I don't mean completely and totally. I still read authors I admire – via RSS – and all of you here on, Google bizarre shit my nerdy mind is dying to know, and veg-out to YouTube almost nightly. I'll go to my grave defending YouTube as the greatest learning tool in the history of mankind. You can learn literally anything there, from physics, to engineering, to restoring old tools, to how to fix a ten-year-old dishwasher! For free! It's crazy.

Also, I didn't quit the internet intentionally, it was quite accidental.

I still remember the day. At “home”, on the couch, thumbs ablaze and eyes aglaze. I was on Instagram, faithfully doling out little red hearts to strangers I didn't really care about all over the world. (And who certainly didn't care about me, let's not fool ourselves.)

I did it because I felt I had to participate. I had an Instagram account for my business and was using it to get my work out into the world. There's something yucky about spewing your stuff all over the digi-space and not taking the time to appreciate others. IMHO, at least.

So I'm doling, and doling, and then I get up to pee and come back and dole some more. I'm coming up with half-assed, shallow, yet flattering comments 'cause, that's whatcha do, and notice I'm getting increasingly irritated and bored.

But, the artists I follow there are positively magnificent! I adore their work. Their feeds are stunning!

What is going on here?

After an hour – or more – of doling and hoping they'd dole back, I snapped.

This sucks! I feel bad!!!

I turn the phone off and chuck it across the couch, down into a cushion. My anxiety level was sky high, something I didn't realize it until the Glowing God was out of my damn face.

Now if you've read some of my other posts you may have gathered that I deal with issues of mental health in a very cautious way. I have for years. And if I've learned anything, I've learned that when you suffer from anxiety, and then encounter something that causes you anxiety, you must remove it from your life or you'll go absolutely mad.

This is just bad. I feel bad. I feel anxious. I don't know why but I don't have time to think about it right now. Do I really need to be here? Do I really need to do this? Do these people really give a crap about my little red hearts and silly little words?

(I talk to myself a lot. It's not crazy as some would have you believe. It helps a lot.)

I've spent thousands of hours of my precious life on this platform. Hours I'll never, ever get back. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing! Actually, NEGATIVE something! Because not only have I lost that time, I feel like shit, too!

I continue talking with the only person in the world who's crazy as I am. Good thing they also live in my head:

Stop. Just stop. Walk away. It doesn't have to be forever. You won't disappear from existence. Chances are they won't even notice you're gone.

I can be quite the prognosticator from time to time. Little did I know I was 100% correct in that moment.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

It went exactly as you'd imagine. At first it was gnawingly uncomfortable. I'd look around and there was no information coming in for me to think about. Nothing to occupy my thoughts. (And when I say “occupy”, I mean it in the military sense.)

And, if I may anthropomorphize a brain for a second: it was fidgety. A toddler forced to sit quietly in a restaurant seat, the squirming and pouting almost impossible to keep down. I should be out playing! It protested. I should be out “consuming” things and double-tapping things! Are you trying to kill me?! Waaaaaaaaaaa!

Miraculously, I did muster the willpower to give it a few days. And then a curious thing happened...


No, like real thoughts. Like the kind I made all by myself when I was a child and teenager. They emerged from their cave, looked around quizzically, and then took a nice, long stretch, the sleep still in their eyes.

Me: Ohmuhgosh, Thoughts?! I didn't know you were still living here! How's it going?

Thoughts: I mean, were a little out-of-shape but, for the most part, we've been doin' alright.

Me: So glad you're here. I'm soooooo bored right now!

Thoughts: Sorry to hear. But, you know, nothing's changed since you were a kid. Boredom never goes away, it can only be masked. When you were a kid you were bored constantly, remember?

Me: Yeah?

Thoughts: Well, we were there, and you WERE. Don't you remember what you did back then when you were bored? You made stuff. You drew pictures and designed plays and handmade all the costumes. You wrote stories and climbed trees and pretended you were traveling on the Oregon Trail with the other kids. Remember that giant “old people” bike you guys borrowed and made into a stagecoach? And then you pushed each other down the hill because you didn't have horses and the dog wouldn't cooperate?

Remember the paintings and the exploring and the experimentation? Remember making up songs in the attic and performing them for each other even though you didn't know a damn thing about music?

Remember all the beautiful work you used to create? Remember all the awards you won? I think you walked away with, what, seven ribbons in that school art fair? You really did whoop all their asses with that one. Leave some for the other kids, amirite? Ha!

Remember the daydreaming? The feelings? The calm?

Me: Oh my gosh, I DO remember!

Thoughts: All these things happened because you were bored. When you're not bored, these things go away. No hard feelings, or anything. They're just not needed anymore. Make sense?

It did.

All these years I've been brutalizing myself for “losing my creativity and talent”. Of not being an artist anymore. Of turning into a dull, run-of-the-mill, internet person in a gray mental jumpsuit. Of agonizing over the possibility that I might have to learn to navigate Corporate America, 'cause I can't make a living in the creative field anymore. Of blaming my loss of creativity on “becoming an adult”. It happens, right?

Consuming is easy. Creating is hard.

But the good news is boredom is even harder. It's such a terrible state for the human mind that we'll do anything to avoid it. Even put our heads down and make art.

Need proof? This blog post exists because I wasn't browsing Instagram this morning.

#technology #humanity #creativity

January 24, 2017 – Tomoka State Park – Ormond Beach, Florida

Up with the birds. Dawn is coming in muddy pastel behind the silhouette of oaks and palms. I poke my head out of the safety cocoon and while I certainly don't feel renewed, I'm a heckuva lot better than when I went in.

We were expecting a 50-degree low last night, but even the likelihood of freezing my tuchus off didn't compel me to set up the tent. Around 4am I woke up shivering so I got up and put on every item of clothing I have. Then I squeezed the hammock shut to defend what precious little warm air was trapped inside.

Don't laugh. Sleeping in a hammock in last night's conditions is a big freakin' deal for this extra-warm-blooded South Florida girl. Travel hasn't changed my disdain for cold weather one bit – I still turn into a pumpkin as soon as it drops below 60.

On a positive note, the raccoons of Tomoka have markedly better manners than their Anastasia brethren, so I'm happy to report my campsite was 100% critter-free. That's not to say I slept like a baby; I was up constantly throughout the night. Every rustle and every clatter, every whoosh and every snap sounded the warning bell and started the palpitations. Again, I'm not in a remote place by any stretch of the imagination, but the lizard brain don't care. With only a thin veil of nylon separating warm, vulnerable flesh from the outside world, the lizard perceives every little disturbance as a threat to life.

It's a strange feeling to be afraid when I sleep. Like I said, I camp all the time, but there's something about being alone that dials up the dread. I'm sure, with time, I'll get over it.

Despite being up all night, I feel surprisingly rested.

We have much different weather than yesterday. It's perfect. The sky is clear and there's a light, bike-friendly breeze.

I don't intend for a second to rush to camp tonight. Yesterday I blew through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world on a mad dash to arrive and set up before dark. Today things are going to be different, gosh darnit! I'm going to enjoy, take it slow, and see more.

That's the whole point of this trip.

Only 450 miles to go.

More Stories from This Trip

#bike #florida

January 23, 2017 – Highway A1A – Saint Augustine Beach, Florida

No sleep. Two near-death experiences in one night. All things considered I feel pretty good as I peddle out of Anastasia State Park and onto Coastal Highway A1A.

Get comfortable, you're going to be here for a while.

I know it will be cold and windy today, so I'm as mentally prepared as possible. Whatever the case, I can handle it. I'm tough.

Song in my head: Against the Wind by Bob Seger.

I am disgusting, I am a mess, I'm embarrassed of the way I look, but I am free. I'm excited for what today will bring and what I will discover about myself during the next three-plus weeks on beautiful Florida roads.

In no time flat my mood goes from jubilant to slightly grumpy. It's colder than I expected and the wind is piercing. I'm only 15 minutes out and I'm becoming highly uncomfortable.

I have to remind myself: it's just wind.

After I stop and add more layers, I resolve to be patient. Stuff will warm up.

My legs do eventually warm up, but all that other “stuff”? Not so much. My face is numb from being pulverized by frigid bands of beach sand. They are unrelenting and carry an occasional twig, leaf, or other projectile traveling at 30-plus miles per hour, each quite unsuitable for bare skin.

My lungs sting and ache. They are working overtime right now to power me and sixty-seven metric tons of my shit through violent winds and up gentle inclines of sand dunes and short bridges. They can't keep up. The breaths enter cold and leave cold. My poor lungs are as dry and chapped as my lips, which are no-doubt turning blue despite the eventual addition of a wool balaclava to the ensemble.

There are no pretty thoughts.

I have to use every fiber of my concentration to keep my bike from blowing off the road. I look back at my parachute, AKA “tent”.

What a doofus you are! Just get rid of it!

No freakin' way I'm getting rid of that tent. I will suffer now for the ease of popping that mofo open at the end of the day and heaving my tired ass inside seconds later. I have no patience for the setting up or taking down of anything.

A couple of hours later and things haven't improved. I'm wrecked from the insane amount of muscle power it's taking just to maintain a somewhat decent speed. I can't stop. I have to arrive at my campsite before dark. I'm in all black and riding at night on the road into Tomoka State Park is a death wish.

The sand is piling up on the sidewalks of Matanzas Inlet. The wind has been depositing it all night and all morning. The tires on my bike frequently lose their grip due to the immense sideways forces of the wind and I slide around helplessly, again and again, and nearly have a stroke from the adrenaline bursts before regaining control and pushing forward.

A large insect is flung into one of my incisors. I'm startled and gasp, which immediately sends it down into my esophagus.


I pull the bike over so I can hork uncontrollably without killing myself and everyone else on the road.

Maybe it's time for a break? Maybe take some photos?

Since there is a comical amount of shit on my bike I can't just set it on the kickstand. If I do my bike and all my crap will keel over and faceplant right into the soft sand. The sand will get into everything. I quickly lose the desire to take any photos, as it would mean actually getting to my camera in the first place. That would involve unstrapping the monstrosity which is my pack at the moment, and then strapping everything back in while fighting these unbearable winds and sand pellets.

I decide just to stand there and look at the epic lashing the landscape is getting on either side of the road. A few minutes more and feeling far from artsy and inspired, I squeeze out a couple of crappy cell phone photos.

If I weren't so grumpy it would be magnificent. The wind is so strong it's making a monster howl from a nearby drainpipe. The brave birds who do try to fly become little feathered ragdolls.

I guess staying put would be the best bet. Hunker down beneath this bridge and try to stay as positive as possible until this all “blows over”.

But I don't. For some reason I'm terrified of nightfall, even in this gorgeous place. I have to get to camp where there's other people around. I don't know exactly what I'm afraid of out here, but it's something. Any other day I would think sleeping in this place beneath the stars was the most romantic, adventurous thing ever.

But when you're fighting for your life against wind, sun, sand, and insects, it's the last thing you want to add into the mix. No, I must push on.

After another hour or so, the wind mercifully shifts and acts as a propeller for my two-wheeled monstrosity. I relax a little and enjoy the ride. At times it's so strong it feels like I'm on a carnival roller coaster.


Like all good things, it doesn't last forever, and will change back and forth for the remainder of today's ride.

Every time it works against me I curse, scowl, and fantasize about hurling 50% of my crap into the violent waves. I've cycled with a lot of crap before, but never this much crap. And let me tell you, it sucks.

I'll figure out the crap situation later, once I'm at camp and at peace.

A few passers-by in cars give me a concerned look. I give them a look back that's the best I can do at reassuring them. It says: don't worry, I know exactly what I'm doing.

The things is, I have no idea what I'm doing.

Beautiful People

After what seems like an eternity I allow myself a stop. But not just any stop. Only here.

I see it from the road, a scene out of a fairy tale. Red umbrellas and a building bathed in tropical plants. They have coffee and I need it.

It's a family business and I strike up a conversation with the proprietor's daughter. I know I'm notorious for complaining about lack of humanity and depth in many of my interactions out in the world, but I cannot say the same after meeting them.

I learn of love, of loss, of respect for the plants and animals that nurture us. Of the family's commitment to their diners and the farmers who serve them. My hardship today somehow seems silly when I hear their stories.

After one little hour I'm renewed, both in body and mind, and ready to venture on.

Peace At Last

I finally make it off the coast and onto a back road that will lead me to Tomoka's gates. The sun is getting low in the sky and the marshes, live oaks, and wildlife are striking. So pretty they could break your heart and they would've broken mine if I weren't so pissed off, exhausted, hungry, and eager to just collapse.

I take a few ceremonial photos, but ponder not a single pretty thought while marveling at nature's magnificence. I pedal on.

Don't worry. You'll have plenty of time to do all these things when the weather improves. Today is an outlier. Tomorrow will be better. Just get some sleep.

I make it to the entrance during the last seconds of daylight. I don't even have the strength to set up the tent I fought so hard to bring along.

I throw some straps around a couple of pine trees, string up my hammock, and heave my aching, wind-burned, grumpy ass into the nylon cocoon.

The nature at this lovely park doesn't matter to me right now. Neither does meeting my neighbors.

Only sleep does.

More Stories from This Trip

#bike #florida

When you work-a wit-a nature, is no fight. Always wit-a nature, never against. – Adopted Japanese grandfather, AKA “Sensei”

With nature. Never against. Learning and living this could quite possibly solve 99.999% of problems. I'm beginning to believe there is no such thing as mental illness on a societal-epidemic level. And, save for a few cases, on an individual level. Yes, people break sometimes. We have Dahmer, and Hitler, and school shooters to prove it.

But this whole concept of depression? A “condition” that a scary percentage of individuals in the Western world suffer from? I just don't buy it.

I don't think it's them. I think it's all of us. There can't possibly be this many “broken” people in a society.

And there isn't.

How can people possibly understand a culture and way of life they're born into and which it's the only they've known their entire lives? It's like asking a fish how the water feels. The fish will look back at you and ask, what water?

Learning from Dogs (and Cute Old Japanese Men)

I got a dog recently who came to me with what we'd call “emotional problems”. Highly anxious, hyperactive, and destructive. I'm embarrassed to say I dealt with him in a most shameful way at first.

Punishment for undesirable behavior. A “corrective” collar. What is wrong with him...Jesus!!! Him being a mess made me a mess. I was angry at him. I wanted him to change, to be normal, to be more human.

I dove into any dog training literature I could get my hands on. Down the rabbit hole I went where I eventually discovered the philosophy and training style of César Millan, known in pop-culture as The Dog Whisperer. Before I got the dog I considered him some ordinary reality show hack, but today I can honestly say that man saved my life. (In more ways than one.)

César fancies himself a trainer of people first, dogs second. He trains people how to speak dog since dogs are incapable of speaking human.

I could go on for hours about this man's wisdom, but one elegant little nugget of his jumped out at me, more than any other, and has made me think these last few months:

“Dogs in third-world countries don't have mental problems.”

(Probably not a direct quote, by the way, but the spirit is there.)

I recall my days living and traveling in a few of these “third-world” countries and he's right. Dogs are generally let to roam and just be dogs. There are a lot of street dogs who form packs and live in what I believe is similar to the way they'd live out in the wild. An established pecking order. The freedom to physically do and go where they wish. Adherence to behavioral rules dogs have set for themselves for hundreds of thousands of years, maybe more.

They are not dangerous to people. Nor are they anxiety-ridden or suffering from other maladies we commonly find in rich-country dogs. They stick together, scavenge, deal with spats between them, rest, and generally exist quite well alongside people.

In short, these dogs are permitted to be dogs. To live in line with their nature. They are not shoehorned into some strange culture completely out of line with their species. They are not kept in cages. Curbed with leashes. Prohibited from learning about the world around them in the only way they know how: through scent, sound, sight, and then touch.

They are also not prohibited from having completely natural and necessary social bonds with other dogs. They are not forced to stay alone for hours on end and are not subjected to unnaturally loud sounds, flashing lights, and anxious energy from the humans around them.

César has made quite the living in the United States treating dogs with mental issues caused by us. And like most Latin Americans I had the pleasure of conversing with, he thinks it's utterly ridiculous the way we take what are essentially wild animals (though domesticated) and treat them as though they are humans. Our babies. And punish them when they act up. All the while we are oblivious to the fact that they simply don't understand how to behave like a species they are not.

This makes me very sad. Sad for the way we treat our animals and sad for the way I've treated my very own dogs until this point.

We Are In Cages, Too

While I was driving home from a Fourth of July party a few weeks ago I completely broke down. I took my dog and he was frolicking around in the front yard with the neighborhood kids. When the ball was kicked over to a smaller kid, he pranced over to play – tried to get the ball – and accidentally knocked the poor little guy over. His parents didn't mind. They realized it was an accident. I apologized profusely.

One of the other moms angrily walked up to me with my dog in tow. She said something like, if this dog even tries something like that with my kid, we're gonna have a problem. I gathered that she was threatening me.

I spent the rest of the party basically in a corner with my dog tied to a tree, terrified to take my eyes off him.

In the car I looked at him in the rearview mirror and his innocent, deep eyes looked back. I'm not evil, they said. I just wanted to play.

I know, baby. The tears were uncontrollable. I want to play, too. But we can't.

We have to behave. We can't chase birds on the beach. We can't even walk down by the lake in a community we pay for (HOA) to chase a tennis ball around quietly and peacefully. We can't sniff the world and learn about others this way. We just can't.

I think we're in the same situation they're in. I think we're being denied our right to be human sometimes. I think we've made it so hard to live in a traditional human world with traditional human communities (it's against the law some places here in Florida) that we're acting up the way dogs do.

We weren't designed to be isolated. We weren't designed not to play and break bread with others. We weren't designed to have to face the world and our problems all alone. We weren't designed to sit in front of glowing pieces of metal and glass all day in one position, without natural movement, sunlight, and some semblance of peace and quiet. We weren't designed not to know who our neighbors are. We weren't designed to communicate primarily through written means, where tone-of-voice, facial expressions, and all nuance of our humanity are stripped out. We weren't designed to solve community-wide problems in a top-down, faceless way. We weren't designed to be born and then carted off to daycare so mom could “have the modern woman's dream”.

We weren't designed to outsource our culinary habits and culture to a giant company who doesn't give a damn if it kills us. Nor our entertainment to the horror show that is social media. Calling this type of entertainment “social” is grotesque, ludicrous, and borderline sickening.

We weren't designed to learn from books written by God-knows-whom, from God-knows-where. We were designed to learn from each other. Out in the world. On the job. From elders. From our cultural peers. From those invested in our success.

I recently met an incredible man from Japan. A carpenter. When I complimented him on his work and was awe-struck by how he could possibly create such perfect, simple, gorgeous pieces, he considered my reaction silly. Call it Japanese modesty, I guess. Only modesty to us because they understand where their genius comes from. Nature.

His reaction to my reaction went a little like this: it's really not me. It's what I know. I always work with nature, never against her. It's so much easier when you don't have to fight. Things are beautiful when you ride nature's waves and participate in harmony, not in defiance.

< Head pretty much exploded at that moment >

I think we've made a perfect deal with the Devil in our modern, Western society. We have unimaginable technology and quality of life. It's truly astounding when I think about how much better our lives are today than even the royalty of 100 years ago. But like any deal with the Devil, there are tricky little downsides that are hard to comprehend, or even see at all.

While certain areas of life are fan-freakin'-tastic, others are obliterated. I'd love if we could start working on healthy humans in healthy communities as ferociously as we work on self-driving cars, YouTube stardom, and editing the genes in our not-yet born babies.

Please don't think I'm downplaying mental illness if you truly have one. It is not my intention at all. But if something feels terribly wrong to you and you feel very bad and can't figure out why, I just want to throw this out there:

It's probably not you at all.

You are probably a perfectly normal, beautiful individual, desperately trying to navigate in a highly unnatural world. Be gentle with yourself.

I'm afraid they're all correct. I do need professional help. Depression, bi-polar, anxiety, take your pick of pop-diagnoses – I suppose I got 'em all.

I try telling them all creative people are at least a little batshit. It comes with the territory. You are an artist as a result of being batshit first, not the other way around. Art doesn't cause crazy. Art is the result of crazy bubbling over and giving birth to (sometimes) beautiful shit.

I tell them this, but then tell them also not to worry. It's managed. Like someone with Type I diabetes, I'll have this my entire life. But, you learn to navigate the world with it, I tell them. We have our insulin pumps, too.

I've been reading a lot of Vincent Van Gogh's letters to his family lately. They were concerned about him, too. They didn't understand the weird behaviors that any artist would observe and say yeah, pretty much.

There's no freaking out when there's darkness in your head because you know that's where infinite beauty lives, too.

The darkness is a supernova. Violent. Hot. Destructive. Scary.

Just keep watching, though. Be patient.

Out of it will emerge a beautiful, twinkling star, which will assuredly take its place in a gorgeous galaxy. To be marveled at. To bring forth wonder, study, and calm for the brave traveler who dares pull over on the side of a dark road and lay supine and silent in the grass.

It's a cycle, everyone. Darkness and light take turns, don't you see? Nothing to fear, just wait. You'll see.

But this time is different.

I fear the darkness is so dark that incredible beauty may not be on the horizon. The darkness is so dark that it has crippled the mortal body and mind responsible for bringing the beauty into being.

The darkness has eclipsed all care and longing for success. This is a first.

The darkness is not new, but the apathy towards perseverance in the face of it most certainly is.

Without perseverance and eventually something pretty to show for it, I fear the darkness is fighting dirty this time. He's come back full of steroids, loaded up on bath salts, and with backup.

Like David I can swing my little sling with all my might and hit Goliath right between the eyes, just like always.

But when I haven't the strength, nor care, to muster another stone and try again, I fear I will have no choice but to lower myself to the ground and let him devour me.

This is our sad, sad culture.

Old people get too old? Off to a nursing home with you! Dogs just wanting to do what's in their nature and not be kept in cages? Off to a new owner. A family member and friend trying desperately to connect with you and just be understood? Go find some professional help.

“But I'm here if you ever need to talk.”

No you're fucking not.

Glad to see a few fellow minimalists popping up on this platform. I'm not surprised, of course. This is the only writing platform I've found – and I've done some serious searching – that truly leaves me the hell alone, both in a privacy sense and in a not building useless features sense.

While going through old journals/notes to find interesting travel stories to share I'm finding a ton of old scribbles, realizations, and ponderings. This one in particular sums up why I choose to live as a minimalist:

“The messier the mind, the cleaner the space.”

I guess what I was trying to say was, the busier things are in my head the more I need my surroundings to be un-busy. Sometimes (usually) things in my head are very busy, indeed.

Lots of friends and family think I'm too radical in my desire for sparse surroundings. It's put me at odds with roommates, friends, and even my spouse. Like everything, I know it's me who's the weirdo. I should want lots of stuff and shouldn't complain when I have to trip over it, clean it, maintain it, and eventually dispose of it.

I guess I am radical.

There have been a few times when I've felt downright rage when I saw clutter – I actually got angry at the inanimate objects. I wanted to kill them for being in my presence. Ha! This really does sound like madness now that I write about it.

True minimalism, for me, doesn't end at “stuff”. I like applying it to all aspects of my life, such as my philosophies, the people I spend time with, the ideas I let influence me, etc.

I don't believe there's such a thing as too much education or learning, but there is such a thing as too much information, if that makes any sense.

For example, how many books do we really need to read about weight loss? Once you understand how your body works (education) it really is as simple as eating less. (Perhaps, for some, also moving more.) That's it.

And how many books do we really need on productivity, for God's sake? Seriously, if you're an artist, writer, musician, etc. all you need to do to be more productive is limit your inputs (entertainment/distraction) and ramp up your outputs. Kind of like weight loss. I promise you, if you allow yourself to get bored enough, you'll be all kinds of productive. It's absolutely, positively no more complicated than this.

(If you really think you need books on productivity, fine. Go get yourself a copy of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, read it in a day, and then go live it. It's the last book you'll ever need.)

I could write a million more words on minimalism, but I won't. Don't want to ruin the spirit of this article. :D

#minimalism #philosophy

New here? Depending on where you came in you might be a little confused. Isn't this supposed to be a travel blog, bro?

I guess? Maybe sorta? Man, I don't know if this is a travel blog or not, so the answer is: it is whatever you think it is. Welcome to a new (old) paradigm, my sweets.

Nah, I'm just playin'. This is only a “travel blog” insofar as the human writing these words travels a lot. Confused? I don't blame you a bit.

< Begin semi-crazy-cat-lady rant about how things were so much better “back in the day”. >

Back in My Day (AKA You Spoiled Little Shits!)

First, a quick time out: I swear I'm sane, just trying to 'splain some stuff I've been thinking about a lot lately. So, pull up your big boy/girl pants, check your attention span with the nice man in the three-piece-suit, and read on if you wanna get woke, my fellow kids.

I got online for real around 2003. Yeah, I was already a 23-year-old-fart when you OG nerds out there already knew what was up for years with your IRCs and your Prodigys and your whatever-other-crazy-shits you used to reach out on the Information Superhighways. Sorry...The World Wide Webs's.

Granted, I wasn't around for your quickdraws and saloons, but I caught up just about the time y'all's first mayor was elected. In other words, around 2003 is when the internet began making sense to me; when it finally became relevant to my life.

It was a place of exploration. A little dangerous. A little magical. A little WTF?! Anyone remember Jesus, we laughed for hours at that site. How neat! (Well, I laughed until it was time to turn my head so I could throw up a little in my mouth without my friends seeing and making fun of me.)

Wait, wait. Hold on just a second...I can't make this important observation with poop jokes. Lemme try something different...gonna go talk to myself, real quick. Be right back.

So, this is a letter to “the kids today”, right? Hmmmmm. Think, smiley, think! How do we get them “woke”. I know! Kids love fairy tales, right? Let's try it!

A Whole New World

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a magical place called the Insterstellar Internets World Wide Webs [IIWWW]. Everybody loved visiting the IIWWW, for it was a limitless land full of explorers, adventurers, thinkers...and, yes, granted, kooks, poop-posters, crybabies, and trolls.

When smiley first visited the IIWWW, she traveled from village to village and was kindly invited into the Villagers' homes for tea and conversation. They'd talk for hours. When it was time for her to leave, she kept in touch with the villagers through their writings, sometimes for years to come. She followed their lives, slowly learning about their hopes, fears, and desires. Smiley felt like she knew some of the villagers better than she knew her own friends, even though they weren't together in the same kingdom anymore.

The Villagers' lives weren't particularly interesting, but since there was a long history between them and smiley, she looked forward to checking in and finding out how they were doing. It didn't matter if they had stories that were a little on the boring side sometimes...she considered them friends.

One fine day a band of Nobles began riding into the little Villages in every kingdom on Earth.

We will help get your stories to the entire World!!! said they. Since the Villagers loved the human connection and long time friends their writings produced, they were more than happy to listen to what the Nobles had in mind.

The Nobles proclaimed, not only will we distribute your writings to the entire World, we will ensure you receive correspondence from your Readers on how they feel about you. Imagine all the attention you'll get!

The Villagers perked up.

Who doesn't love attention? they thought. And since there's so very many people out in the world, imagine all the attention our stories will get! We won't know what to do with it all!

So the Villagers signed up to give their stories to the Nobles, and the Nobles faithfully kept their word to spread the stories far and wide, to as many people as possible throughout the world.

But, after a while, a curious thing happened: the Villagers noticed that the Readers reading their stories seemed a little rushed. And who could blame them? There were so many stories to get to. So many stories, in fact, that the Readers had a hard time figuring out which ones were lovely and interesting, which ones taught lessons and resonated with them, and which were not. The poor Readers just couldn't keep up!

Since there were so many stories for the Readers to get through, not to mention all the time it took to let the Villagers know they liked them, the Readers grew weary and began to lose interest. How much more time could we possibly spend reading, then writing love letters about what we read? We have fields to tend, clothes to mend, and families to nurture.

We can't have this!! exclaimed the Nobles. One day the Villagers' stories will be worth bags and bags of gold, but we're not quite there yet! What to do? What to do?

So the Nobles devised a plan. To keep the Readers reading and the Villagers writing, they would make it easier for them to do so.

Make your writings shorter! the Nobles advised. For the Readers grow weary of your longform tripe.

Make your stories easier to understand in a very brief period of time! The Readers have so very much to get through today and you're making it too hard for them to maintain their reading load.

So the Villagers' did. Their stories were stripped of personal opinion, because they realized context is very important in understanding and relating to someone else's point of view. Context requires time, and time was something the Readers simply didn't have any more to give.

The Villagers' stories became less about how they felt and more about what they saw. After all, who wouldn't be able to understand a description of what was on their breakfast plate? Or how big (and expensive) their new plough horse is! That's something everyone can relate to!

See that? asked the Nobles. You don't need to waste time on writing something from your heart! Just look at all these love letters you're getting!

The Villagers checked their mailboxes, and sure enough, they were positively exploding with love letters about how interesting, great, and meaningful their short writings were to people all over the world.

What shall we do with so many love letters?! they exclaimed. This new way of sharing our writings is positively magical!

So they had a party and everyone felt grand! How fabulous they all felt to be so loved.

But little did the Villagers know that the Nobles had a sneaky little hand in these love letters. Instead of having to assemble paper, ink, and a quill to send a love letter – as well as spend a few minutes writing and sending it off – the Nobles contracted with a Sorceress to create a magic spell that would make these love letters appear, almost out of nowhere, and mail themselves magically with just the press of a button.

They had no choice but to do this. Once the Villagers tasted all this love, the Nobles knew they could never let it stop.

So for years the Villagers pumped out more and more and more stories, which became ever shorter easier to understand. They didn't mind because the love letters kept flowing into their mailboxes. How could they stop when everyone out there loved them so much?

But what the Villagers didn't realize is that everyone in the world was also getting lots and lots of love letters, and that the Readers sending the love letters were also sending them to every other Villager in the world who wrote short, easy-to-understand stories.

It's so easy to send a love letter, the Readers thought, why not just send a bunch of them to everyone and make the world a better place?!

When the Villagers around the world heard of this, they weren't as happy as they used to be.

What makes the love letters we get so special when everyone else gets them too? If the Readers sending these love letters don't even have to think about them, are they really meaningful at all?

The Villagers were a little bummed, but they kept right on writing. Sure, they felt emptier inside but decided that having false love was better than no love at all.

The End.

Moral of the story

Kind of a bummer, right?

I'm pining for the old days when I followed people on the internet, not subjects, or sites, or groups.

I think the first place I began to find people was on Livejournal. I read some of these “journalers” for years, followed along with their lives, and after a while I swear I felt like they were my friends, even though they didn't even know I existed.

When they said inflammatory or “controversial” things, it didn't bother me a whit, because there were years of context around these statements. I knew what struggles, pain, difficulties, and personal experiences they had. These statements made sense because I knew the big picture. I understood what these fellow human beings had witnessed.

Today when I find someone I can read and follow just like I did in the olden days, I hold on for dear life. I feel as though there are precious few left...and that their numbers continue to dwindle.

Let's not forget what a wise man once said “be the change you want to see in the world”. This quote will never go out of style, never be obsolete, never be untrue.

I guess my crazy cat lady conspiracy theorist rant is over. If the takeaway isn't clear, I'm seriously missing the humanity I once experienced on the internet. When it was just me listening and a storyteller telling. They didn't need to hear from me and I didn't need to shower them with compliments...they kept on writing anyway.

It was lovely to hear the sincere words of a person on the other side of the world who didn't seem to mind the absence of likes, comments, and retweets.

Even today it seems I can hardly visit someone's personal blog without being bombarded with ads, tracking scripts, SEO optimation, and Amazon links. You do you, but man, it just feels wrong. I don't want to come back.

Perhaps right here, on, is where the renaissance could occur. Where the real people are. But we'll see. I can already smell the SEO bros, “marketing experts”, and flimsy thinkers on the other side of the drawbridge, their battering rams at the ready. I consider this site sacred, so please just take that shit elsewhere.

It's tough and there is no easy answer...the founder most certainly has to make a living. I'm just being honest and sharing my feelings.

That's what we're all here for, right?

#internet #humanity #thinkingoutloud

January 23, 2017 – Anastasia State Park – Saint Augustine Beach, Florida

I've never accused anyone of embarrassing me. I'm quite capable of doing it all by my myself, thank you. – Thoughts

I'm nearly packed up, the Beasts of Satan are hibernating, and it's time to ride my green, scaredy-pants ass outta here. I have a reservation at Gamble Rogers State Park tonight, so completing a few short miles today shouldn't be an issue at all.

Today I get to ride along our magnificent A1A Coastal Highway, which I plan on taking all the way to the Florida Keys. White sand, sea oats, muted blues, fair winds, beach bums, retirees, majestic bridges, marshland, free birds...thoughts.

Everything's loaded on the bike and (this is my today self speaking) I look positively ridiculous.

It's a clusterfuck of crimes against physics, mixed with zombie apocalypse, with a spritz of what is this chick doing? Huh...whatever...probably homeless.

Since I refused to buy any fancy cycling gear and vowed to only use what I had on hand, my rig presented thusly:

A cheap, shitty bike. They call them “comfort cruisers”. It's sort of a mountain bike meets beach cruiser. Wide, flat tires. Shocks. 20(?)-something speeds. Rust herpily clinging to every surface not covered in “chrome” finish. At least I sprang for the gel seat.

Atop shitty bike is a, meh, I guess not so shitty rear basket. I use it when I go to the grocery store. It's served me very well thus far; hasn't broken a single pastured egg or rustled a single gallon of raw, happy-cow, monk-blessed milk.

But hilarity always ensues when I'm around, so here we go:

A backpack. As I mentioned before I have no panniers. Fuck that pansy shit. I put all my crap (way, way, way, way way too much crap) in a “backpacker” backpack. You know the ones the kids these days use when they travel around Europe for the sole purpose of getting good Instagram photos? Snug around the hips, carbon fiber chassis, top heavy...cause that's where the weight belongs if you're using one of these packs properly...on a body. A body is not a bike. On a bike, the weight belongs as low to the ground as possible. But not for this rebel! I threw that shit right into the basket and threw an ailing bungee cord over it to “secure the load”. Bwahahahaha!

If you could only see see this setup. The backpack rises like a friggin' three-foot, bulbous tumor out of the innocent little basket. The bike is so heavy it can't even rest on its own kickstand. I have to lean it up against a picnic bench to shoehorn all my crap into it's rotten, tired body.

And, of course, my “tent”. If you're not yet entertained enough about my choice of tent, oh my friend, just sit back and get comfy.

Yes, it folds down nice and flat into a roughly 2-foot diameter disc. It's a pop-up tent after all. But believe me when I tell you that Yours Truly is probably the only soul in the entire universe of God's creation who has ever opted for one of these on a long-distance cycling trip. Ever.

Why? Oh, where do I freakin' begin? Let's just say they're not as small and lightweight as possible – valuable features when you're planning on riding your bike five-hundred-and-fifty freakin' miles – and, as I'd soon discover, they are the arch nemesis of aerodynamicity. In other words, when you are peddling dozens of miles per day, and I'm not a scientist here, it helps bigly not to have a large parachute strapped to the back of your bike.

This is something only a psycho or masochist would do, kids.

There's is no room for my “parachute” on the bike 'cause, of course there's not. So what do I do? I shove the tent down in between the back of my seat and the basket, the disc's face perfectly perpendicular to the 60-mile-per-hour gusts we're experiencing today because of the cold front brought in by the storms last night.

But me? I'm just as derpy as I can be. I look at my rig and experience what it must feel like for a proud parent to look at their loser kid and have absolutely no idea. I smile and point: See everyone? I made that!

Lord Almighty.

And then there's Yours Truly. It's only Day 2 and I look like haggard shit run over by Mad Max. Tactical. Bitch-faced. Black wool from head to toe. Vibram Five Fingers. Determination in my eyes. The struggle is real.

Two park rangers are cleaning up the campsites as I heave my ridiculous ass onto my ridiculous bike.

They laugh at me.

Them: Wow, that's some load you're carrying there. You might wanna put some of that weight down a little lower on your back wheels. It's kinda dangerous the way you're riding.

Um, first of all, shut...up...cute Ranger People. How dare you? This is my system. I'm sorry if you have a problem with it. What? You never seen anyone be different before?

Me: Oh...haha. Yeah, I know. I'm planning on getting everything figured out once I get to Daytona. Thanks! Have a great day!

I pedal the Clampett-mobile's Slow Cousin out of the park and into the beautiful, beachy world.

Haters gonna hate, amirite? Screw em...I'm gonna have a great day!

So what if there's nearly tropical storm force winds out there and I have a parachute strapped to my back? So what if my bike weighs 483 pounds, with all the weight concentrated up top, which to a normal person would signal a dangerous riding situation in which I could lose control very easily and die? So what if I have to employ my recently-out-of-shape ass to hike all this shit up a few bridges in the current conditions?

So what, right?

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#bike #florida

January 22, 2017 – Anastasia State Park – Saint Augustine Beach, Florida

I didn't get my head bashed in by a falling branch, so I got that going for me.

The wind is calm enough now for me to crawl back into my sad little tent and when I get back to it, I'm quite pleasantly surprised. No, wait. I feel victorious! Not a scratch. Not a single bungee, rope, stake, or doohickey out of place.

Maybe I know what I'm doing after all!

It's hard to fall asleep. Even though I'm at a busy campground and there's people all around me (all in RV's, mind you, I'm the only asshole in a tent) I'm on high alert.

I'm sure if I had my camping buddy right now I wouldn't notice every crack, creak, pop, and bang. But I don't, so tonight I notice everything, even over the whooshing remnants of the storm.

At around 2am I finally relax a little and doze off.

Now, I don't know how many of you know what it's like to be awakened by a beast sniffing around your face in the middle of the night, so in case there's any doubt: it's terrifying.

My eyes pop open. My heart goes from 0 to 200 in a half-second flat. (That's quite a new experience for me, I must say. Normally in a scary situation my heart rate increases incrementally before it reaches top speed.)

The sound is a combination of snorting and deep, cavernous breaths. I can hear the hot air traveling in and out of the creature's lungs in between short, skipping sniffs.

This indicates I'm dealing with a large creature. I feel panic coming on.

But, it's sniffing? Oh! It must be a dog. You love dogs...keep your shit together and calm down.

I do calm down.

But only until the creature – by this time I realized we were dealing with creature(s), plural – comes back. While I'm still “safely” inside my tent, it's six inches from my face!

(See, this is why you should buy a big girl tent for grown-ups. Not a tent that isn't even really a “tent”, but a toy, in which your head and feet will press up against the walls.)

This time I panic, even after all the self-talk.

You know the ol' fight or flight thingamaboop they teach us in biology? We all know it's true, but what a lot of us don't realize is that we don't control which we will choose. Our higher selves toss up the deuces, run out the back door, and the lizard brain springs into action immediately, like Superman jumping out onto a stage with magestically flowing capes. I'll save you!!!

The lizard chose to fight.

I spring up and start beating on the side of the tent like a lunatic. The creature(s) retreat. I can hear leaves rustle and twigs break as they scurry into the woods.

I start to chuckle – just a little 'cause I'm still drunk on adrenaline – but then I realize the animals I heard running into the woods did not possess the heft of dogs. Wheels start turning. A-ha!

Those were the freakin' raccoons the ranger warned me about! Silly girl.

All this mayhem over some schweet wittle innocent trash-pickers with their wittle furry faces and their cute little wannabe opposable thumbs. Sorry, I think they're cute.

Now I've never been face to face – or, face to mouth – with a raccoon before but those mofos certainly don't sound cute and wittle. Maybe I was just perceiving this 'cause I was scared, but Jesus, when they're that close they sound like beasts of Satan, freshly-escaped from Hell.

Whatever, they're gone. I work up the courage to peek outside. Ziiiiiiiip. Got my flashlight trained on the woods and the whole squad is staring back at me.

You little shits. You're lucky you're so cute.

Sleepy time.

Satan was bored tonight

A couple hours later Satan's Beasts pay me another visit. Once again I wake up to snorting in my ear, once again I bang, once again I'm jolted awake only to nearly faint.

But this time there's scratching. The Beasts want in.

They are emboldened. I look down at my feet and spot my double-bagged trail mix and leftovers.

What do I do? Are they going to break in?! Should I chuck the bags out into the woods as a peace offering? If they do get in, will they go after me? What if they're rabid? What if they rip my face off?! They ARE carnivores, after all!

It's truly hilarious when a supposedly tough, no-fucks-given Miami girl has this kind of inner dialog when dealing with a bunch of adorable counterfeit cats.

I need to protect my pride. I get my game face on.

Oh, heyal naw! Homie don't play dat. You wanna fuck with me, cats? Let's do this!

I decide on a battle plan then and there.

I will lie in wait, silent. The second one of those little fuckers breaches the ripstop nylon they'll be greeted with a face full of pepper spray. I can't take the chance of being trapped in here with a rabid, Satanic, face-eater.

I don't want to attack something so cute, seriously. But if it's between them and me, they're going down!

But, wait, wait, wait a second. Stop. Think about this. Do you really want to start flingin' pepper spray around in this tiny-ass tent? With hardly any ventilation? And even less room? And you had to pull some contortionist moves to get out last time? Wouldn't you just literally be pepper spraying yourself? And then have to struggle, blinded, gagging, and panicked through the tiny door? And that's the best-case scenario. That's if the zipper doesn't jam because you're rushing. Is this really smart?

I'm stuck. The Hounds of Hell on one side and self-immolation on the other.

I just survived a tornado, you little shits! I don't need this!

I'm not throwing the food outside. That's irresponsible camper behavior and I care about the environment, dammit! I'll have to just be brave. Be strong. Take one for the planetary team.

It was a long night.

The beatings on the walls of my shitty tent got more aggressive, and after a couple more visits the Beasts left me alone.

With barely any sleep, a nasty cold front waiting for me outside, and a lot to pack up and figure out, I woke up with the sun to begin Day 2 of my grand “adventure”.

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#bike #florida

January 22, 2017 – Anastasia State Park – Saint Augustine Beach, Florida

Today was so fabulous, so normal, so everything I imagined this trip would be. No snags at all, save the unfortunate “chain” of events on the bridge. (Now, that was a great freakin' pun, admit it.)

I ride my bike over the Bridge of Lions and enter Anastasia State Park, where I'll spend my first night. Why the hell am I nervous? I've traveled alone in some pretty sketchy places. It's just camping. You've camped a million damn times! You've slept out on the beach, in a hammock in the swamp, in your car at a rest stop.

Didn't make any sense. I wasn't terrified, but I was definitely scared. Turns out, I wasn't crazy for being so.

I check in with the park ranger.

Ranger: All right, here's your map so can find all the trails, restrooms, and other goodies. Just to let you know, there are raccoons all over the place in our park and they're not afraid of people. We tell people not to feed 'em, but they do it anyway. You should keep all food items inside in closed containers so you don't attract them. should be all set.

Me: Thanks!

Ranger: Oh, one more thing. I don't know if you're aware but we're supposed to get some pretty nasty weather tonight. Since you're in a tent, I would advise going to the restrooms if things get too ugly. It's a concrete structure.

Nasty weather, huh? Nothing this Florida girl ain't seen before.

Not a good start

I'm so freakin' awkward. Really?! I choose NOW to learn to set up a rain fly?! I choose NOW to try and remember all the knots I was supposed to learn when we lived on a damn sailboat?!

I can't just sleep in my hammock tonight. I look at the weather and it is, indeed, going to get pretty ugly.

I'm so nervous I end up over-engineering the shit out of my rain fly. Sixty-seven knots, anchor points, and fasteners. The tent is quadruple-staked to the ground. I would love to say it's a fortress, but I have no damn idea what I'm doing.

I put all my crap inside and settle down to read, even though dusk hasn't yet fallen.

Professional camper, indeed!

After a couple of hours I get really hungry and all I have is trail mix and a few other random things. I had no intention of going back out tonight, but the overwhelming sweetness of all this “food” is unbearable. I need something real for dinner.

All I can find is fast food and it's dark. There's a bunch of shady characters standing outside and sitting inside. Once again I'm atypically scared. I pat my backpack to make sure my firearm is still in the proper “get it out quick” position. Yep. On the way home, the wind picks up.

I can't eat too much. I pack everything up, just like the Ranger said to do. I even double-bag to be super-duper responsible.

Finally some rest. I put my phone on silent and read a book. The rain begins. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a heavy thunderstorm with wind gusts. I poke my head outside to make sure all my knots, stakes, bells, and whistles are holding strong.

I'm jolted out of my book by a piercing siren. I thought my phone was on silent, but it ain't no more. The alert on my screen looks different:

Tornado Warning in Your Area. Take Cover.

Are you fucking kidding me?!!! (And, yes, I say this audibly.)

Pull up some weather app. I plot my shitty-ass, sorry-ass, cheap little tent, with my noob-no-survival-skills ass inside on the Severe Weather map and it looks like this tornado will make touchdown – LIKE BULLSEYE-LEVEL-PRECISION touchdown – on me in just a few short minutes.

Moth-er...fuck-er. I don't need this right now.

I take my phone and peel my ass out of the tent, doing a limbo-contortionist thing cause the rain fly is too tight and too low. I make my way to the restroom building, just as the nice Ranger suggested.

I look back. My shitty little tent is jerking, pulling, and leaning. Looks like a rodeo bull right before they open the pen and dig the spurs in.

I freak out, run back, and peel my ass back in to get my expensive stuff. Yeah, 'cause I just left my laptop (really?! A laptop on a self-discovery trip ya dumb shit?) and professional-grade camera inside. What a dumbass.

Where is everyone?

I sit in the restroom building for over an hour. I'm the only one here.

Did they tell everyone where they're supposed to go? I wonder if they know a tornado is about to kill us all.

But since I'm not motherfuckin' Chicken Little, I stay put and just stare off into the blackness beyond the door.

It's ugly in here. I feel so damn alone. Fluorescent lights assault once freshly-painted cinderblock walls. The washer and dryer, equally zombie-apocalyptic-looking from years of being workhorses for traveler skidmarks.

They've seen some shit. Should prolly just take 'em out back and shoot 'em.

I'm Indian-style on a sad little bench, my head flops onto my hands. I stare at the dirty floor. I can barely hear the howling of the wind outside over the sickening buzz of fluorescent bulbs.

Check the track. We're still probably going to get hit.

I miss him.

You've been my travel buddy for two years you fucking deserter! Why aren't you here right now?!

I shouldn't be mad at him. Why would any sane person choose this over hanging out with friends, watching a football game, and drinking beer in the comfort of a riverfront condo?

Jesus, what the hell is wrong with me?

To waste time I go pee. Walk very slowly back to the sad bench and plop down. The trees are getting quite the shakedown outside. Another 30 minutes.

Fuck this. I'm getting the hell out of here.

I'd rather get blown to Oz right now than listen to another second of these psychosis-inducing fluorescent bulbs.

Outside the world is dangerous, but magical. I stay close to the restrooms, but cautiously venture out to stand beneath the canopy. It's surreal. The branches whip violently, but look absolutely stunning, almost like they're dancing. I think back to the passionate Tango dancers I used to watch in Buenos Aires. The dancers almost appeared to be fighting as the dude whipped and jerked the chick around, their legs interlocking and then gorgeously disentangling before the next round of pasión(!!).

The energy of the wind is intoxicating. I can feel my body picking up little particles of it through the skin. And my hair? I'm most certainly waking up with dreads tomorrow.

But who cares?

The branches creak loudly and repetitively, but not a single one breaks. The sound of the wind screaming would make a fine horror sound sample.

I'm afraid of being knocked out by a falling branch, but don't go back inside because this, right here, has been my metaphor for life ever since I had my epiphany on that beach fifteen years ago:

I might die out here. But that's alright. I'd rather be witness to such beauty, vigor, excitement, and perhaps pain and death than spend another second inside with that fucking washer and dryer.

To be continued...

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#bike #florida