Face The Sun: Let There Be Light!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are exclusively those of its author, and are not in any way meant to reflect the opinions or policies of the US Government.

Past Travelogues.

Finland, Estonia, Petersburg

Kirovograd, Ukraine


Tirana, Albania

Macedonia & Romania

Budapest to Bucharest

Balkans and Poland.

Christiania, Copenhagen.

Northern Norway

Northern Finland


Kashgar, briefly

More to come, Inshallah, as I go through old paper travel journals.

The DC experience, archived.

July '05
June '05
December '05
October '04
More to come should interesting things happen to me. Ever.

Blatent Plagiarism

The nation's largest chain bookstore has indicated that, due to lack of consumer interest, it has stopped selling books.
--Frederick Raphael, The Glittering Prizes

I feel this is the equivalent of a surgeon, skipping through a radiology department singing, 'I don't have cancer, I don't have cancer!'
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

Mum is crying with her faced turned away from me, gulping and honking like an injured seal. And I'm rolled up in the back seat wishing the old man would stop the car and make her walk. That or buy her a fish.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

I love it when well-educated women sweaar -- the words regain their original power and meaning when delivered unexpectedly with so much poise.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

She lived with her mother, who looked like an old labrador, and an old labrador.
--Will Self, Great Apes

When I was small and would leaf through the Old Testament retold for children and illustrated in engravings by Gustave Dore, I saw the Lord God sitting on a cloud. He was an old man with eyes, nose, and a long beard, and I would say to myself that if He had a mouth, He had to eat. And if He ate, He had intestines. But that thought always gave me a fright, because even though I come from a family that was not particularly religious, I felt the idea of a divine intestine to be sacrilegious.
--Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Quality is merely the distribution aspect of Quantity.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

...In the frank brilliance of the bright sun, which, as we all know, is the friend of heroes.
--Jose Saramago, All the Names

He stuttered so badly that you could go out and buy yourself a chocolate bar while he was wrestling with an initial p or b; he would never try to bypass the obstacle by switching to a synonym, and when the explosion finally did occur, it convulsed his whole frame and sprayed the interlocutor with triumphant saliva.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

To Stand on Jericho's Walls and Face the Sun.

Friday, August 07, 2009

I got a flat tire about seven miles outside of Portland, with a three-inch rust-covered nail crucifying the back tire at two separate points. I had already gone 63 miles and was all but done: legs killing me, knees inflamed, and ready for a hot shower and a cold beer. I had put on my iPod, because the stretch from the Washington border to Portland is pretty boring -- 40 miles without much scenery, and little to be excited about except the "welcome to Portland" sign I had already passed. Using an iPod while cycling on the highway is something of a no-no -- it's dangerous and distracting -- and the flat tire felt like punishment for having turned mine on.

I stopped the bike, unclipped my saddle bags and unbungeed the other stuff. For all my tools, I had never actually fixed a flat before.

I flipped over the bike, turned to the "wheel repair" chapter of the Simple Bike Repair book I had bought and read the chapter on removing the back wheel; I had never actually taken the back wheel off, and it seemed complicated with all the gears there. It isn't hard, it turns out; it just requires getting a bit messier than with the front wheel.

I was near Sauvie Island, an organic farming island outside Portland, the site of my first (miserable) marathon in 2007 and a popular cycling spot for people from Portland. The first cyclist heading back to Portland zoomed past me less than 10 minutes after I flipped my back.

"Hey man, you ok?" I signaled that I was, in fact, ok. By that point, I had the wheel off and had my tire levers ready and was about to tackle tire and tube removal, which seemed blindingly complicated by the book's description. I figured that I would try it myself and if I couldn't do it, try to flag down help. If worse came to absolute worst, I could walk the 7 miles into Portland.

Three minutes later, an older couple on bikes (white hair, amazingly sculpted calf muscles) coasted to a stop next to me. "Have all the tools you need?" they asked. "I think I'm ok," I told them. "Ok," they said, "good luck!"

I found the leak, scuffed the tire with sandpaper as instructed by the book, and put on a patch. Two separate people cycling the other direction, on the opposite side of the road, called out to me -- "you good?" I gave the thumbs up.

I pumped up the tire -- itself a process, as I'd never used the pump and it took a while to figure out. The patch held, and I put the tire back together, squeezed it on to the wheel, and reattached it to the bike. Three more people passed; all of them asked if I was ok.

I put the wheel back on the back, and started pumping up the tire, but I couldn't get it to hold adequate air to ride on, particularly since the back tire has to support some 25 pounds of gear and clothing. I assumed the fault lay in the pump, and I took it off and put it back on the valve a dozen times before someone passed me going the opposite direction and asked if I was ok. "Have a pump?" I called out to her.

She was decked out in urban bike courier cycling gear, riding an amazingly sweet looking black and white road bike with low-spoke count tires, and had a lip piercing and was wearing a messenger bag. She was the best I could've hoped for, and clearly knew what she was doing. "Let's do this," she said.

She flipped over the bike ("it's easiest to pump when they're upright"), tried her own pump but couldn't get it on the valve, and then borrowed a nut I didn't know existed off the front tire to make it easier. She gave it a shot, and then tried again, and finally came through with this diagnosis: "Dude, either your patch didn't hold or you've got another puncture."

She offered to take wheel off and fix it for me, but I said I didn't want to take up any more of her time and needed to learn how to do it myself for the future. She pressed -- "aw, dude, I've got nowhere to be. Sure you don't want a hand?" I knew it would take her all of two minutes to fix for me; I thanked her but said I'd take care of it. I wasn't kidding about needing to learn to do these things myself.

Getting the wheel off, finding the problem (the first patch didn't hold after all), fixing it and reattaching the wheel took me less than five minutes; I've got it down now. Someone else passed as I was putting the wheel on.

"Need anything?" he asked.

To a man, every single person who passed me asked if I was ok. Every single one -- probably 15 people over the course of about 45 minutes. Even the people on the other side of the road called out and waited for my thumbs up before going on. I'm not sure if it's a cycling community thing or if it's because I'm on the west coast and people here are nicer than at home, but it's frankly awesome: it makes me much less nervous about doing this route alone, because someone will always be there to give you a hand. I have no doubt that if I run into something that neither I nor other cyclists can fix on the fly, they'll at least ride to the next town and send someone out to get you: it's just how people are.

Next stop: the Oregon Coast.

Posted by Dakota on 11:47 PM link |
Current Location:
The People's Republic of China.

Stop by any time: everyone's welcome.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem to Be Born

Comments and requests for dates should be directed to email.

And here I am.

And for all you random folks out there whom I don't know, for the love of god, email me. I'm abroad, know no one, and look forward to hearing from you. I'm especially looking at YOU, whomever YOU are who's Facing The Sun all the way from Kenya. And Sweden. And Canada. And whatnot.

Books Tackled, 2006:

1. Jarhead, Anthony Swofford
2. Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, Dennis Covington
3. A Brief History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
4. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, Anonymous
5. Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, Dawn Prince-Hughes

This year's movies, in chronological order:

1. Kung Fu Hustle
2. A Wrinkle in Time
3. Pi: Faith in Chaos
4. My Big Fat Independent Movie
5. The Winter Guest
6. Voices in Wartime
7. What Dreams May Come
8. Farewell My Concubine
9. The Ring
10. Like Water for Chocolate
11. Sahara

Foreign Service Officers by day, Bloggers by day as well.

The Diplodocus
(Islamabad, Pakistan).

The Permanent Mission of Joshie
(Zagreb; Libyaward).

Prince Roy
(Chennai; Taiwanward).

Sue and not You
(Tbilisi, Georgia).

Life on the Mekong
(Vientiane, Laos).

FSO Globe Trotter
(Lahore, Pakistan).

Vice Consul: Diplomatically Transformed
(New Delhi, India).

Adventures in Good Countries

Our Man in Tirana
(Tirana, Albania).

Anne's Blog
(Kazakhstan; Greeceward).

(Bogota, Colombia).

Furnish Worldwide

Tasman's World
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

(Lome, Togo).

World Adventurers
(Seoul, Korea).

Aaron Martz

A for Adventure
(Chennai, India).

The Excellent Adventures of Nickie P
(Paris, France).

Permanently Disco
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Consul At Arms
(Kingston, Jamaica).

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