New Rules For Bicycle Touring

1. If you see a female touring cyclist riding alone, you are touring in the wrong place. (If she is traveling with a man you probably are in the wrong place too.)
1.a. Wave her down and ask why she is not keeping a home and tending to children?

2. If you see other fully loaded touring cyclists and you are fully loaded, you have too much gear. Unload to a single water bottle and a sleeping bag and continue.

3. The only places that merit being fully loaded are in countries where there is no population or where the population is too dangerous to approach for one’s needs.

4. Bicycle touring in Europe is a joke. Europe is fucking Disneyland.


2 Aphorisms From The Ride To Tolhuin, Argentina

1. The nature of man is the nature of his obedience. Whereas we may define other animals by their natures, the nature of man exists only in so far as he obeys it. Verily he obeys, and he is as predictable as the other animals.

2. Question for men: Of the things you do in your life, how many of them are also done by women?


The Professor

At that time I was a student. I had a friend who was taking French classes and he says to come to this professor’s house for dinner. There would be a lot of people there. It was a party, he says. The professor has books and records just like you, he says. You guys will understand each other. I don’t think too much of it. See, I was doing a lot of my own work then--reading and writing. I didn’t get out much. It would be good to get out of my little apartment. It had cockroaches and the neighbor’s television made a muffled rumbling through the wall.

He lived nearby the university, this professor. I parked at a condo building and went to the front and buzzed and the door unlocked. Down the hallway I saw my friend standing in the professor’s doorway. He had a glass of red wine and jazz music was playing loudly from inside and you could hear all the voices.

The apartment was full of students, nearly all were guys. I didn’t know any of them. The place was furnished very Belle Epoque with gold trim and there were paintings on the walls and statues and vases and flowers and there was a grand piano near the door. The professor kept a beautiful place. You could see it meant something to him.

I followed my friend into the kitchen and he introduces me to this professor. The man is short and a little stout with carefully combed hair and he smiles easily. He was one of those older men of an indeterminate age and you could see his appearance meant something to him. He speaks with a French accent and while he’s pouring me a glass of red wine he says he’s heard a lot about me. I heard a lot about you too, I say. I don’t mean it though. I’m just being polite, you know. Have you really? He says it slowly and he smiles at my friend and looks back at me. He’s got a group of students around him waiting to be entertained and I excuse myself.

I didn’t like these other students much and the only girls to talk to were a little chubby so I started working on my drinking. I went out the sliding door by the piano and onto the veranda. There were potted flowers around it on the brick wall and there’s a glass table with a canopy and four chairs. It’s a clear, cool late-spring night and I sit down. I think I was drinking whisky now. Yes, it was whisky and good whisky too. Johnny Walker Black. At some point I must have gone back in and brought out the bottle.

I must have been sitting there and drinking whisky for awhile because I look inside and most of the students are gone. I saw my friend though talking to a tall skinny kid and I turned back to the bottle. It was good whisky and I was enjoying it. I must have been getting pretty drunk by this time too.

The veranda door slides open behind me and the professor comes out and he sits down. He’s got an empty glass with him. We don’t say anything and I pour him some whisky.

So tell me something about your growing up, I says. When I’ve been drinking I can be very direct with people.

I’ll tell you a story, says this professor. I’ll tell you about Andreas.

Go ahead, I says. I might as well listen. I’m drinking the man’s whisky, aren’t I?

It was summer and I was thirteen and we were on vacation at Cap d’Antibes, in France, he adds.

Yeah, I know where that is, I says. He may be a professor but I know things too.

I had a bad stutter then. I was without confidence. I did not have friends. I remember watching the boys in the park playing soccer. I have never played soccer. When you are of my class you do not play soccer. I remember two boys walking arm in arm along a road. They had back packs and they were going camping together. The professor stopped talking.

Go on, I says. Tell me about Andre.

Andreas, he corrects me. He was older than me. Sixteen. A German. His father had been killed in the war. He was on holiday too. He approached me in the town and it was the way he looked at me and wanted to talk to me--the way he listened to me--he made me feel special. My father told me every day that I was stupid. My mother ignored me and only talked of herself. I stuttered and had no confidence. But Andreas made me feel special. He was the first one.

That’s a good story, I says.

That is the beginning only, says the professor.

Then go on, I says. I pour up another glass for myself. The professor hasn’t touched his yet. There’s at least four more drinks left in the bottle.

Andreas invited me to go camping with him in the Midi-Alps. But first my parents want to meet him, so I invite Andreas to join us at the beach. My father was wounded badly in the war and he was always very against the Germans and I have not said that Andreas is German. I am very nervous about that. Andreas meets us at the beach and my father hears Andreas speak French with a German accent and he is very cold to him. My mother is polite, but it is awkward. Then my father removes his shirt to reveal his scars. I had never seen his wounds before. There are eight shiny, pink scars where the bullets went through his chest and out his back. My father takes off his pants and he is just in his underwear now and he has a prosthetic leg for the one that was amputated. He does not say anything. My father drops the leg at the feet of Andreas and he hops down the beach to the water.

The professor doesn’t say anything more. I don’t say anything either. There’s more to this story and I want him to go on.

Andreas and I went camping together. We walked up into the mountains and he made a fire and we ate together. Then in the tent he held me. He made me feel so good about myself. He told me how intelligent I was. It was the first time for me. This is something different than love. This is friendship. It is what two men can do together. You must understand that. Do you understand that?

Yes, I understand that, I says. I think I understand what he’s talking about but I’m not sure. Maybe this whisky has me confused. I stand up. The professor stands up too.

I remember going to the train station together, the professor continues. Andreas was returning to Germany. My mother came with us. I said goodbye to Andreas. He promised to write me letters. I watched him get on the train and I began to cry. My mother told me to stop.

The professor looked away distantly.

Then my mother turns to me and she says, Isn’t it funny to think that his father might have been the one to shoot your father in the war?

The professor looks like he’s about to cry. He looks like a little boy about to cry. His face is all tensed, about to give way.

When I got back to the villa my father took off his military belt and chased me through the rose garden.

I almost laughed. Imagine that one-legged guy hopping through a rose garden after a little boy with a belt. I could see it wasn’t funny though.

The professor’s eyes are wet and he looks away. We’re just standing there on the veranda. I didn’t know what to do. So I held him. I don’t know why I did it. I was drunk, I guess. Here I am in the middle of the night on a veranda embracing an old French professor. I can hear him sobbing. He’s got his arms around me and his face is buried where my shoulder meets my neck. I hold him and feel him heaving against me. He’s crying hard. The tears are coming out. I go on holding him. I hold him for the longest time.

Ushuaia, Argentina 2/23/2011


9 Pound Hammer

Instead of another book for the libraries, why not an other man?
Make of your life a philosophical example.

On Ontology

Ontology was a mistake, a distraction. Its only contributions have been arguably negative. Compare the impact of Aristotle’s Physics to his Metaphysics. The former laid the groundwork for modern science and changed how men act and understand and control the physical world. The latter spawned only arguments and hostility between religious men, and provided a subject for lesser men to argue about and write papers in journals to gain tenure at universities.


The Journey Back

Ruta 3 is the only road to Ushuaia and out of it. The ride in is wonderful through the big mountains and everything is new and you have come so far on brittle knees and a broken bike and that last 105km from Tolhuin is truly joyful. The road has ended at the last city on earth.

But that is also a problem and you think about it in your tent the next morning. In what way do I leave Ushuaia? How does one leave the end of the world? Do I pack the bike into a box and leave on a airplane or a bus or a ferry with all others--all the others that the bicycle was used to avoid?

The idea was given to me by a Dutchman to ship out on a freighter which had some extra shipping space. But there are no freighters at this port. I would need to go to Puerto Williams or to Punta Arenas. At Puerto Williams if it was not possible I would have to return to Ushuaia and it would be an expensive trip there and back if there was no freighter and it would also involve a ferry and a bus. Puerto Williams is on an island of protected land across the Beagle Channel and cannot be ridden.

To get to Punta Arenas and ship out on a freighter I could take a bus, a plane, or a boat to the port, but I could also ride there. This would mean riding Ruta 3 the way I had come. At least three days of riding would be back along the way I had come to Ushuaia--back over the mountains outside the city, back through the hills and smaller mountains covered with twisted trees and past Tolhuin, back across the windblown sea-side at Rio Grande, and back up onto the higher plain along the Bay of San Sebastian and to the frontier with Chile. From there I would ride straight into the wind west across 150km of Chilean ripio to Porvenir where the ferry runs to Punta Arenas. That part of the riding would be new but would be of the highest difficulty on bad ripio and into the strongest wind.

It is a journey that could be done in 5 days but could take 7. The weather is supposed to deteriorate badly in a few days time, right when I would begin riding. I could stay a few days at the bakery in Tolhuin and wait out the big storms, or even stay an extra day in Rio Grande at the Club Nautico and drink “Fernandos” with Claudio. The woman who runs that place was awfully nice to me. There were so many good people along the way that I could see again. And at the border crossing with Chile I could sleep inside the customs house. Both the Italians and the Canadians had done it while I had camped wild on the Bahia San Sebastian.

The wind would be completely against me, and maybe I would pass Matthias who was pushing his bike into it. Maybe I would see the Dutch couple who were no doubt riding into it. Maybe they were on the ripio today. They were going to Punta Arenas and even the woman did not fear the wind. They were good people. The best sort. I have always liked Dutch people. Ian rode Ruta 3 back the way he had come. Ian did it and he was already destroyed. His knee had made him nearly a cripple. Of course it could be done. Going back was possible. Maybe going back in Tierra del Fuego was the challenge? Maybe that was the journey? To see it all again a few days later from the other side of the road, with the wind blowing harder, with worse weather?

The vendimia of Mendoza would begin on the 25th of February and go into March. Maybe I would get there but probably not if I took the freighter from Punta Arenas to Valparaiso. Marco the Italian said the high Andes crossing from Santiago was very high and very hard but very beautiful. The wind that blows on the Argentine side is a hot, dry wind that will blow with you as you descend and they call it the Zonda. It is also a little of a cross-wind but the Zonda will greet you and guide you down from the high mountains and into Mendoza.

I am too weak to come to a decision. It is sunny and clear today in Ushuaia and I have food and water and I look at the snow-capped mountains behind the city and the still waters of the harbor and the dark mountains that shield it and I feel very good here. It feels very good at the end of the world and today was so pleasant I do not really believe the talk of the coming bad weather. Maybe in another day I will have the courage and the strength to ride the way back but I do not have it today. I may not have it the next day either. And when I do have it I will also need more courage and strength for the wind and the rain and the cold. But I have had that strength before and I will summon it again. I will take a long, hot shower before I leave. I will shave. I will even wash my hair. I will leave fresh upon a new journey. The journey back.



To live for just a moment
Alongside the gods
I shall be satisfied
I shall long for nothing.


A Book Wrapped In Plastic

There was a table of three young men behind me at the YPF. First they were eating and then they were doing something on a laptop. It was something secretive because they turned the screen away so that I would not accidentally turn and see it.

Later the blond-haired one got up and bought a snack and as he came back he put his hand on my shoulder and he greeted me, smiling. We spoke and I noticed he laughed a little too quickly and easily. He asked me the usual questions I am asked in Argentina, but he did not seem especially interested in my answers.

I went back to my writing and it was going well and I was in the middle of something that I thought might still be good tomorrow when the young blond-haired again put his hand on my shoulder. He was smiling and handed me a thin paperback book wrapped in plastic. There was some poorly rendered image on the cover and I could see it was a religious book and I did not read the title but saw the subtitle. It translated as a book to solve your life problems.

“I cannot accept this gift,” I said to him.

He smiled at me knowingly. “No. It is for you. It will be the answer to your questions.”

“And if I am without questions?”

He smiled more broadly. “All have questions. The book shall answer them. The book shall solve your problems.”

“And if I am without problems either?”

“That cannot be,” he said most certainly.

I pointed to my fully loaded bicycle leaned up outside against the glass.

“Do you see the bicycle?” I asked him.

He nodded and continued to smile knowingly.

“Each day I ride from a place to another place. I sleep the night in a tent. I have food and water. I have money. My map is good. The wind is not a problem and nor is the rain, nor the cold. My body is strong and without malady.”

I paused. I wanted these words to have an effect upon him.

He was looking at me. I could see the smile had weakened just a little.

“I am without problems,” I said. “I do not understand the problems of others.”

I tried to hand the book back to him but he was not ready to take it.

“Then you must be unhappy in a way?” He said hopefully.

“Not at all. To ride a bike each day makes me more happy than I have ever been.”

“Then there is nothing wrong?” He was disappointed. The smile had gone.

“Everything is good.”

“Then you believe in God?” He smiled weakly.

“I do not.”

I handed the book wrapped in plastic to him and he took it this time. He wasn’t angry but I could see that my happiness had troubled him. He walked back to his table and sat down with the other two. Later the other two left and the blond-haired was alone.

I was readying to leave and thought I might try to talk to him. I felt a little bad about refusing his gift. I wanted to tell him about the time I had been unhappy because of a girl. I was sure that would please him. But that had not lasted long and girls did not trouble me at all now, and if they left me before I wanted them to go I was only pleasantly surprised. I could not tell him that. He would want to hear about continuing troubles and continuing unhappiness. But I did not have any of that. I looked in his direction, at the back of his blond-haired head. There was nothing to say to him. As I left the YPF I realized I was smiling.



It was good to be alive then,
And that is all
To say or write about it.

Argentina, 2011

Its not sad, you don’t have to agree,
But I cannot make it any more clear
To me or to you:
The pain of the rides into wind,
Wind descending, wind ascending,
Just words--
So many things the pictures and poems.
The sweat the dust the last push around the turn
But the climb continued and my heart sunk.
You cannot know that
And already I cannot remember.

Because there is no record, there is no way to keep this,
To collect it as so many things.

She will age and be gone, the dog will die before you do,
You wanted to conserve it and you tried.
But there will be new days.
The sun will make them.
And if the rider rides,
There will be a shadow.



The body functions better outdoors and under heavy physical stress. It responds wonderfully when you make it sweat in great amounts and tax its energy stores with great efforts. The body will become covered in a veneer of salty crystals and wind-blown sand and dirt and you will have formed a fine protective layer atop the skin. There is no need to wash this layer off with bathing, as this layer performs the additional function of moisturizing and providing a natural screen against the sun.

The unwashed hair, filled with dust and bleached by the sun, will lose the oiliness it once had, and which drew to it so much dirt when you were inactive and sat much of the day and washed it frequently. The folicles themselves will feel dry and strong between your fingers and you will be reminded of the touch you had once given to the mane of a horse, or some other powerful animal that grazed freely.

Your immune system will have doubled in strength. Viruses and bacteria will find no home inside you. You will not fear the filth of other humans or even the unsanitary conditions in which they live in their cities and towns. Your body will repel that sort of filth. Even non-potable water will be without an effect upon you. You will wake with the sun and go to sleep when it sets. The dogs will follow you and look at you differently, and it will seem that they are welcoming you back as an animal that has begun again to live properly.

You will feel euphoric from the endorphins produced from your great physical efforts. All kinds of natural phenomena will begin to take on a heightened significance: the temperature, the time of day, the wind and its direction, the sun and its heat, the shape of the clouds and if they indicate a storm, the condition of the road, the habits of the other animals, the countryside and its bushes and trees and mountains, and you will always be on the lookout for secure places to pitch your tent. Your discovery of these hidden, protected places will bring you great excitement and you will eye the spot as you once eyed a beautiful woman and you will remark to yourself, even at midday when you have no intention of camping there: “My, that is a fine place to put up the tent, protected from the wind and unseen from the road. I should very much like to camp there. Another time, perhaps.”

Your sense of smell will have expanded and you will now pick up in the blowing winds the scent of animals both alive and dead, and from the intensity of the odor how long the decomposition. In the wind streams of passing trucks, mixed in with the exhaust of diesel, you will identify a man’s aftershave or the perfume of a woman, if one is traveling with him. But in the cities your recovered sense of smell will punish you. There the men and women bath frequently and perfume their bodies in excess to attract each other, and walking through the streets your olfactory sense will be assaulted.

You will let the beard grow on your face. Whereas once it felt dirty and itchy it now feels natural and protective to let the whiskers lengthen. It is another way that you have allowed your body to assume its natural state, un-manipulated, attuned to the outdoor efforts you are making daily.

Your clothes you will wash infrequently and never with soap, needing only to rinse them in water and ring them out, then letting them dry in the wind and sun on the back rack of your bicycle. And when you are not able to access water (because you do not waste the water stores you carry with you on washing clothing, or your body) you will put the dry clothes on the back rack and let the wind and sun clean them without any need for water.

Because what is dirty and unclean is what exists among men, in those places where they sit together and are inactive. The men who sit their days in cubicles in office buildings, and travel together on buses and trains to get to them--sharing the air of one another--these men become dirty and unclean. These are the men who begin to smell, who have sweat that is impure and must wash it daily from their bodies.

Some of these men may give their bodies a few hours of vigorous exercise, but it will not be enough to counteract the sitting. For their lives are dedicated to sitting and any exercise is but a brief diversion. For theirs is the life indoors, sharing space and air with other men, and it is only with much washing and soaps and perfumes that they disguise the smell of their mistake.


Copyright © Moraline Free