Meshing with a city


Here I am again for along month of absences. Here is what happened with my life since I left the West Coast.

Boring, boring, boring

No more adventures like the ones before. I am back at Pittsburgh dealing with papers and books and papers and books. Occasionally one or two interesting ideas come to mind.  This is a period that I enjoy a lot because I can be secluded and in isolation to read and think.

So what have you been thinking, big thinker!

I feel that schools pushes really hard for people to get jobs. And that is a bad idea. And you have to pay to get skills to get jobs. You know where this post might be going but no. This is not a post about education. I dread them since they mostly debate the same issues.  This is about the mindset of the people.

And this is the question that I ask myself sometimes. What is the mindset of the people?  I have seen that, the mind set, since I took my body off the bike, for people is to work and have a life. And a life means anything that keeps you busy so you can say your busy having a life.

I was busy having a life in my bike and it was quite a different one. It has not been easy to transition from the adventure to the stoic stationarity of a city. In the first days I wanted to ride, to go to the library or to the park. Slowly, very slowly I started riding less until now I ride only to school.  The first weekend I felt anxious from being in a closed space and with some of my friends we went to a river and we explored a bit.

It was an abnormal sensation to go back into a house. “What is this place? ” I thought as I came back into the house I live ” I live in a box!!!” And yes, having been in the outdoors for a summer made me realize that we have confined ourselves to small places.

When I was in the really small town of Jackson – Montana, I met a woman. She was doing the Pacific Trail and she looked seasoned from walking not only that present journey but others she had done in the past. We shared conversations and I remembered two things in particular from her. First, she is from a LA and she said she should not go back there because people live like rats. I thought it was a harsh comment. However, in order to keep open any type of idea I kept listening. She said how we live in small boxes and we have no conscious of what we consume. And she kept going and going. And my mind diverted into the idea of … really? humans with rats?. I would say that there is an incoherence in the way we see the world. We do not have a sense of what it means to live in a city and the amount of resources it consumes. We do not have a sense of what we consume and what it takes to produce it. Cities detach that aspect from our interactions. What  cities produce is an infinitive interaction of ideas. To run the ideal city every single individual in it would have to produce its resources and deal with its own trash. Hmm… pretty ideal. However , there is a detachment and, to make it more diplomatic, to not acknowledge it would make us look like baser animals, like rats. ( funny how the majority of the experiments carried out to test if some drug, signal, strategy should be applied to humans is done first, with rats, ha! like rats)

The second part of her story was that, as she looked at me, she said: “you know Nico, you know that this is not your last trip, you know that, you can not stop now”. We spoke very briefly about the sense of freedom that one develops in those long journeys and I must agree, it is an amazing sensation of freedom. She said that she does her walking because she feels free and that she can do what ever she wants and no one is there to tell her what to do, what or when to eat, which direction to walk. Yes, it is all some how true.

I partially agree with the freedom truth. Partially, because the idea that we came to this world only to have fun and to recreate doing whatever activity we do is a distorted message.  I believe the world is a very large enterprise and we are all in this. Our contribution to the human development should not be small or tiny. I believe the contribution should encompass using our full capacity. And sometimes, by just being a free fairy in the woods we might not deal or address the thick morality issues we face today. All the big questions of who we are? and what are we really pursuing here? are not going to come from proving that we all can be free. Actually that might be our jail to think we can live in a wonder world full of rainbows, scaping and protecting our short life from other humans when at the same time there are billions of people leading their lives under tales of fear, tyrannic governments, slavering ideals (study, work, reproduce, die). If she tells me, “Nico, I am freeing souls of their mental slavery so people can see, pursue, and contribute to the earthly happiness project as I am doing, just walking” I agree with that. But she didn’t, so I don’t believe we all should be walkers.  At the end, the ACTION is the same. And I just projected two wordy scenarios over the same outcome: “A lady walks on the woods, and believes in freedom” Is up to me to decide what to do about it. Rebel, believe in freedom, scorn that useless idea or just don’t believe in anything this post says. Isn’t that the small freedom that we have left?; to decide. Other than that, it is all and illusion.

A while a go I decided. “That’s it!!! Life is way too cool to don’t ride bicycles like crazy” So I did it.

Recently,  I felt like writing a post. I decided. So I did it. This post is over.








Portland! (And the sea)

I read the blog post before in which I highlighted (very proudly) that “I have camped seven days in a row.” That, my friends, is nothing compared to the last leg of the trip. From Joseph, OR, to Portland it was a camping adventure. 525 miles of camping.

In Portland I did a trip to the ocean with Maddie, she is good! She also said I should make her look good, there is no need for that; she made it to the ocean and kept the pace of camping in unknown places and riding fast in the downhill🙂

I arrived to the ocean and that’s it. Done.

Well, for those who like accounting, overall in the lapse of 81 days or so I did over 3710 miles on the bicycle, (I am not counting small detours on campsites and stores etc.) That is almost the same distance to center of the earth but as you may know that distance is an approximation, nobody has reached it. As a kid, I read Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. I like to wonder about the adventure of Axel down there. I climbed 112,830 feet- that is, approximately four times the altitude at the top of mount Everest. Also, I descended an estimated three and half times to the deepest point in the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. Humans are awesome.

Those stats are just numbers. The real accounting does not exist, and there is no medal or reward at the end of the journey as one of my fellow bicyclist remarked. So what it is all this for? The 81 days “off the grid” with me promoting “solar energy” and “solar” changes and behaviors with a solar panel and a bike.

At the beginning of the journey I made some remarks on motivation, on emotions and wishes taking into consideration emotive words from Dr. Carl Lewis from CMU’s graduation ceremony saying that “I will change the world, responsibly.” I guess I took it the wrong way. No single man on a bike, even if he goes to Jupiter with his bike (I know there is no road, yet) can change the world by himself.  My message for myself is then: “Nico: change yourself – the world, your world, your created perspective will follow- just change yourself.”

I am again on the path to do so. I hope the readers join in their own way.

“Every human around us is a story teller, every single one of them distorts the truth.”

-Don Miguel Ruiz



Reporting from the ocean

In my birthday, I was fortunate to do the things I like the most: Dipped myself in the ocean, had some tea, got some plants and had dinner with the best of ‘Merica.

Adventures crossing Oregon!

I have become a humanoid riding from state to state. I have become very skilled at:

  • The heat, at managing it (that is, exposing me to less of it).
  • At crossing deserts
  • Climbing forests
  • Riding gravel roads with the hybrid bike I ride
  • Not getting lost in national forests when there are no directions
  • Joining routes over roads that are not transit-able
  • Looking at the sky at night for stars
  • Diving in streams and ponds to cool off

In Oregon, I found that the previous journey and experiences of riding were helpful (it is very easy to think that after the fact) to cross the state.

There were fossil beds, rocks, geological insights, more animals driving large cars.

Forests, smelly trees, campfires, cold rivers, salmon, climbs, sketchy people, road rages, rain, I love the rain so much now.

There were also hard cold nights, wet clothes, lack of food, Pacific Trail hikers and beautiful girls. There was not a single flat tire.

There were hot springs, cold water, naked people, hippies, stoners, warm families, kind people, happy kids, marshmallows and s’mores. There are helpful and candid people, always helpful, always the best, the best disposition and the extension of a hand to help. That is for sure.

They gave me water when I needed it but didn’t ask for it, they gave me food, when I needed it without asking, they gave me tools, when I wanted them and I asked for them.

There were big trees, and green mushy forests, forests eating the roads, forest covering the sky at its fullest. There were sights. There were war veterans, loud bikes and folks I just did not understand.

How can I express to the reader the importance of being outside for long periods of time if the reader is in a computer inside? as me at this moment, yes.

Outside! Go outside! Don’t take the same road! Go milk a cow! Go find some fossils!

“Any good poet, in our age at least, ought to begin with the scientific view of the world; and any scientist worth listening to must be something of a poet, must possess the ability to communicate to the rest of us his sense of love and wonder at what his work discovers.” Edward Abbey

I am inclined to think he makes sense (think of Voltaire: a poet and a scientist). However, I believe that an aspect of imagination and dreaming is missing from this quote, maybe in the word “poet” or maybe in the word “wonder” this most important part fits. Yes, for me, I have found not as a scientist, but more as a living being, that imagination and dreaming are the essence of the stories we tell ourselves and others. Do you believe my stories? If in doubt, go outside and look out for them. If in trust, I don’t trust you. Have doubt.



A Gift!

Since I climbed Hell’s Canyon I have received only gifts from Joseph’s legacy.

After the climbed I stayed in Ollokot’s (Joseph’s brother) campground by the Imnaha river. It’s a marvelous place with tall trees and very dense forests. The next day I did the second climb into Joseph (the town) from the Wallowa mountain range. It was a steep climb and then two hours or so of downhill.

It was a Saturday, and without noticing I had arrived into a gem of town. Joseph, it is by the foot of the Wallowa mountain range in a beauty-full valley. No wonder these lands were so disputed (I thought)! In town a big transition was taking place. Heaps of people were moving from one place to another. As I asked for information, I found out that it was Chief Joseph Festivities, a four day party in town commemorating the Native American chief.

Soon I found myself sharing chants and meals among Native Americans. It was a meal to honor the legacy of the Ne Mee Poo, descendants from the mountains. It was a meal I will never forget because of what it took me to get to Joseph, the experiences, the fall (previous post), the books I read about Native Americans and the new side of America I started to be curious about since Sioux Falls.

Unforgettable the words from the Chief, the present chief who said that the meal was for me, to remember that the land, the soil, is becoming one with me as I eat it, it is who I am, and that that day, it was for me, and for all of us, it was OUR  DAY.  He said prayers for all those present and he encouraged us to be united, independent of where we came from and to raise our thoughts to the spirits, to honor them and listen to their voices.

I had a remarkable rest time in Joseph. I met several kind and hospitable people, shared with them the festivity atmosphere to relax and also was very well taken care of by Peter Bary, an extraordinarily candid man. I met Joseph from Portland, an MIT physicist who shared with me there was a Star Party taking place in the Ochoco Forest. He gave me the location and I prepared myself to go there.

Joseph was a gift for me in all its dimensions. Whether in the form of a mountain, river, lake, humans that bear his name, festivities, books, prayers, spirits. They all shaped a significant part of the meaning of the bicycle journey. They also prompted me to think about giving a gift. A gift back to them.




The Fall and the Rise


– Mr Bicycle rider!! Mr Bicycle rider! You dropped something…

I have dropped many things along the way.
I dropped the helmet yesterday, I took it out for a moment and somehow it slid trough the banks and very close to the river. I had to get down and get it.
I’ve dropped the solar panel, oops!  (twice).
I dropped oranges, mangoes, tomatoes, bananas, bread and had to go back and take them back with me.
I dropped a soap bar while camping. A squirrel or some other animal really liked it took it some 30 yards away into the field and my riding partner of the moment; Keith, found it in his search for a secluded space to do his business (send a fax).
I dropped the camel bag with water and without water.
I lost a cap, I lost a pair of gloves, unaware of the fall of those, items I couldn’t get back.
My cell phone, it has dropped many times and I am very lucky it is still ok, since sometimes it has been in motion and I have dragged by the cable for a distance.
I fell twice, once in Chicago, I got stranded with the toe clips in a street light, lost balance and felt sideways in a very busy road, I was lucky there was nobody driving. I also fell in the Big Horn mountains while trying to play Rambo and hike through a canyon.
From Hell’s Canyon Oxbow Dam to Hell’s Canyon panoramic overlook there are 4596 ft going up in a stretch of 15 miles or so. I gave my all this day and my body also dropped… full of exhaustion my legs said no more, about two miles from the goal I found myself on the ground shirtless as a result of  heat, agonizing in pain and wondering how come I am so close and I can not go on, I had also dropped.
It was one of those days when you are giving yourself so much to the adventure physically that your mindset completely changes, you realize that only the material things can fall and have to be picked up. My spirit full of hunger and ambition asking me to keep going for the top brought my body back to life after a five minute rest.
Countless times we have to be picked up from the ground and it is a wonder to realize that we have always inside of us the innate courage and the inner fire to perform a miracle, to stand up and keep going.
I rode to Hell’s Canyon outlook. There was just only me and the view. I had encountered a new perspective, not only from being above in the outlook, but also an inside one, a new perspective about myself.





Camping in Ollokot’s campground


Beautiful Endless Days

by Nico Cerquera


The route diverged from Chief Joseph Pass towards Idaho. The road has been difficult, simply because I don’t advance as I used to. Sixty miles feels like a hundred miles.

I climbed a mountain in the Challis National Forest. It was unpaved but it made me feel so alive. I also got a welcomed break from the cars on the road. At the end of each day I have felt this accumulated weariness.

These days have been mostly camping in the forests, Challis and Boise National Forest also, and there are no major cities. The last town was Salmon with 3,000 people. Since then, they all have had no more than 100 people in the town.

A lot of riding up and down. I needed a day off and I took it in Stanley by the Saw Tooth Mountains. That day I rode for only twenty miles downhill in the morning, but I slept as if I had been riding the whole day. I met a forest service guide named Ethan. We fished by the Salmon River, and although we did not catch any fish, we shared many good stories.

Every river I find I take a jump in it to refresh myself. I have been following the Salmon River, the East Fork River and the Payette River, and they are just beautiful.

I visited the Bonneville hot springs: it was awesome. My weary legs felt brand new. At least for a day.

I cannot write much about what I am seeing and about my journey. I can only experience it. This part of Idaho is very rural. I wish that people took their bicycles out more and explored this world, their world. I wished for less cars and I have been listened to; I have found paved roads with very low traffic. I hope for more beautiful endless days by the river, by the mountains, sitting under a tree to take a break, with my legs not willing to move but my mind so ready to explore. I can only wish for the best things in the world for those who venture to be in touch and to learn from it.


















Reflections from the Journey: Day 58, Bike Riding and Independence of Self

by Nico Cerquera


Posing with a waterfall near Yellowstone National Park, July 18, 2016

Bike riding has pushed me to my limits because of many facts:

  • I ride alone and I like it, at some times more than at other times
  • I make my own route, as opposed to each of the riders that I have encountered so far, who follow adventure cycling preset maps or other established routes
  • I don’t use panniers, which makes packing and unpacking tedious (I have a theory that I am aerodynamically more efficient this way)
  • Solar panels are my fundamental source of energy for communicating and it is not always convenient to use them and rely solely on them (however, I think energy independence is the future)
  • It gets freezing cold sometimes in the hammock, especially when I am in the mountains
  • I don’t share the load of shelter and food with others

I guess that is the price of being a lone rider, but it is all right with me. I guess we all have little things that make us unique. Many times I think twice about whether I should ride the popular routes, buy panniers, or charge my phone from other sources, but that would be denying the development of my identity as I interact with my own personal bike journey, the world, and create my own choices and character.

I have shared the road in occasional encounters with two guys from Virginia. These guys are great. They ride super fast in an athletic rhythm. I don’t know if it is because I am there and they want to share their skills or what!?… but it was really fun to take turns leading the team under the wind. They are impressed with my packing and with the way that I ride, and I am also impressed with how they help each other and how they give signals to warn of eventualities on the road. We are different and that is the primary characteristic that makes us learn and grow. I think that it was great that I got to meet them and also that I got to understand that each one of us has the opportunity to develop a unique individuality whether we are on the road bike riding or in other aspects of life.

If you look around and find yourself in a world determined by others and somehow feeling (as if  you have mannerisms and behaviors) just like everyone else (around you), I would highly consider looking back to see what is the fruit and the origin of such behavior. Why do we think the world is how it is and cannot be changed, are we afraid of change and afraid to confront those changes to behaviors that make sense to us? Why do we need the accept that governments and major socio-economical forces (conformed from centuries of struggles and  fight for power, resources, and control of crowds)  shape and determine the one and only chance we get to be, and to step two feet in this earth?!

Environments are super influential. Therefore, I am learning to apply this reasoning: what I am afraid of the most is the one single thing I have to do more urgently.  It is not easy to keep things in mind day by day, ride by ride, mountain pass after mountain pass. I also try to not make silly decisions (like biking up a crazy ride across the Bridger – Teton Wilderness…. a truly crazy idea!). I love the changes that I am experiencing and I want to share them with those around me. Pushing a little bit further, having a genuine attitude towards uniqueness (so many have critiqued me for just being me and not others) has brought me insight that is hard to gain from sticking around with the crowds. It is all about learning.

“All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with humans beings. The reason Wakantanka (The Great Spirit) does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by Wakantanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself.”

Shooter (A late 19th century Teton Sioux)
















Bike repairs: the other side of the ride, July 19, 2016