Day 52 – October 7th: Cline’s Corner, NM to Albuquerque – 111 km

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I am to be staying at Daniel’s, the guy who gave me a lift to the Gas Station the day before and who lives in Albuquerque. He is working late though, so I wait in a Panera, my new favourite Fast-Food, cause it’s got all the perks (internet, restrooms and the lot) and specializes in Bread which is my favourite food and a rare commodity in the US.
The manager is so impressed with my trip she gives me a loaf of bread (the one I had been wanting for some time but never went for cause it’s dead expensive), soup and dinner.
It might seem like little, but it’s the kind of things that make me insanely happy.

Song of the Day: Take this Bread – Felice Brothers
And I’m even happier to have the opportunity to talk about an underrated contemporary band. If you have a chance, listen to some of their other songs, notably “Frankie’s Gun” et “Greatest Show on Earth“.


Day 51 – October 6th: Santa Rosa, NM to Cline’s Corner, NM – 97 km

As I have mentioned before, Route 66 has a strange habit of abruptly ending and turning into a mud path. Those “in charge” (I’d really like to know who they are) don’t seem to have the energy to put up a “dead-end” sign everytime that happens, they do however have enough to erect a continuous, barbed wire fence between the route 66 and the I-40.
The first time I had to turn back a couple of kilometers.
The second time I had to take all my stuff off my bike and throw the whole lot over the fence.
The third time I have to be stupid, not wanting to lose time taking off my stuff and deciding to heave the whole package. Which I can’t really do so the bike gets stuck and when I unstuck it I puncture one of my tires.
I then have to walk about 10 kilometers, the daylight fading from the horizon while from behind in the valley huge walls of misty clouds and rain come up.
I curse the idiots and their barbed wire, I curse the stupid drivers and their pick-ups that won’t stop for me but most of all I curse myself for trying to save 5 minutes and ending up wasting a couple of hours.
Eventually, it’s two kilometers from the station that someone finally stops and gives me a ride. I decide to call it a day and stop there (in any case there ain’t nothing ahead for 40 miles) and pitch my tent in the backyard of the gas station.

The Song of the day: Trouble – Ray Lamontagne

Day 50 – October 5th: Tucumcari, NM to Santa Rosa, NM – 97 km

And so I leave Texas behind, which I’m happy about, because this state scared me a bit (“Don’t mess with Texas” and all that), and I’ve heard very good things about New Mexico (“Land of enchantment” sounds way better to me when welcoming people).
There is a definite On the Road flavour to this portion of the trip. Especially going through places like Tucumcari, despite the touristy side of it.

Song of the Day: Johnny Cash : New Mexico
Not his best song, but appropriate…

Week Seven: The Great Divide

I’ve just reached the continental divide at Gallup, and I’m a bit like the rivers now flowing towards the Pacific, having definitely left the Atlantic behind.
The arrival, departure and first weeks are now part of the past, present in a way, but irretrievable in essence. They feed my memories, fuel my desire for more and free me for my constant forward motion.
The more reality keeps reminding me of its inescapable presence, the more I want to ignore it, sheltered within this parallel world I have discovered, curl up and find comfort in the tired satisfaction of these traveling days.
It is a different kind of enjoyment now, one that is more secure in its essence but also more aware of itself. I decide to cherish these moments which I know will have passed to quickly, will to quickly become tired words and over-repeated anecdotes. Knowing their taste will fade and their colours will pale and they will be swallowed up by life unfolding.
The idea of arrival taints these moments with the melancholic quality of the finite, while remaining far enough to leave them whole, minute fragments of passing eternity.
I am tired but energized, wary but curious, lucidly determined, on the edge of the great divide of time, living in the nostalgic presence of the past and of what is yet to come.

Song of the day: Jackson Browne : “Running on empty”

Day 49 – October 4th: Adrian, TX – Tucumcari, TX – 97 km

Ode to Cars:

They are noisy
They pollute
They sometimes get way too close on purpose
They must have a hand in the systematic, taxidermic display of animal carcasses on the side of the highways…

But without them there would be no paved road or gas stations. And that would complicate things a lot. And when you have a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, the sight of an ugly, big-ass pick-up that can accommodate your bike is as welcome as any…

Une photo publiée par Phileas (@phileasmusic) le

Song of the Day: The Beatles – Drive my Car

Day 48 – October 3rd: Amarillo, TX – Adrian, TX – 85 km

And that’s 4000 kilometers done…

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I have this song by JJ Cale playing when I crack the 4000km mark, and though hardly surprising, because in shuffle mode he is a constant feature (I stacked my I-Pod with 7 albums of his), being in Texas and hearing an old Oakie sing about Louisiana sounds about right to me…
If you want to get into his work, I’d suggest starting with the album 5.

Day 47 – October 2nd: Groom, TX- Amarillo, TX – 105 km

Ode to Trucks

They pollute
They are noisy
They get way too close on purpose
They butcher animals like a meat-producing Texan factory
They leave pieces of their flat tires on the side of the road, which have small metallic parts that cause terrible damage to a cyclist’s tires and are very difficult to remove

That being said, some people actually have a job to do, and a pretty unpleasant one at that.
My hatred is thus relative and due to circumstance…though I’d love to get rid of them…

The less romantic side of the highway:
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To illustrate this post I needed a song about trucks, and I almost went for Tim McGraws “Truck Yeah” cause it has to be seen to be believed, but my goal being to put links to good songs I refrained and opted for something more classic.

Day 46 – October 1st: Shamrock, TX to Groom, TX- 92 km

Now we’re getting to the part that has always scared me about America, at least since I’ve watched documentaries like Food Inc. and Home. Giant cattle-farms with several thousand cows, immense corn-fields with giant machines harvesting them, huge concentrations of land. Where the entrepreneurial spirit that made America great meets the driving force of ambition and greed applied to Food production. Food for thought and unease…


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Song of the day: Don McLean : American Pie

The only song I found talking about food. Well, only the title to be honest, cause the rest is about disillusion with the American Way of Life and how they destroyed music. Which is always a pertinent subject to me…

Day 45 – September 30th: Erick, OK to Shamrock, TX – 90 km

I’ve always been impressed with the Americans’ ability to integrate and assimilate foreign cultures. It is already stunning to walk through their major cities and go through the ethnic enclaves, the famous Little Italy and Chinatown of course, but also Little Ethiopia, Japantown, Little Manila, Korea Town and many more. But coming to a city like Shamrock, in the middle of Texas, which is entirely Irish themed reminds you again that this is a country which has been built on waves of successive immigration.

Song of the day: Dirty old Town- The Pogues

And so to fit today’s subject I needed a piece of Irish music. And I’ve decided to go for The Pogues. Ok, they’re not Irish, but in an age where Swedes sing like Texans, Englishmen rap like hoods from the Bronx and no one can tell, who cares where anyone is from. Everything is intertwined. American Country music is but traditional Irish Folk songs adapted to a different setting. Music has no frontiers. And this sounds as Irish as it gets to me.

Life goes on

Not easy to pick up again

Not easy to pick yourself up and get going again. You’ve crossed a country where guns are everywhere, where attacks with firearms are common, where the threat of terrorist attacks is omnipresent, only to return and find this.

Not easy to pick your topic, anecdotes shot through with cynicism, stories of exhaustion and tales of disappointed hopes, when it’s people that have been killed, people that have been irremediably crippled and people that have been forever broken.

But that is what they’d want, to destroy, annihilate and silence us, and so we will keep building, creating and singing with a vengeance…our artistic vengeance, our creative settling of the score.

With words, songs, projects, ideas, stories and dreams we will show them that we are more alive than ever.

Sadly, I have nothing to offer to those who suffer but to cultivate this gift that is life, that which they can never take from us…

This blog will be back to normal tomorrow as I hope our lives will soon be.

Here and now I am grieving, there and tomorrow I will be moving on, towards the West, towards the Ocean and towards myself.

One

After much hesitation, I’ve decided to post what I have written in the sleepless night that followed the November 13th attacks. Hesitated because I’ve always been uncomfortable with putting stuff out there that has been written in the thrall of emotion. Hesitated because this doesn’t seem like the place to put it out. Hesitated because I don’t want to be part of the discussions that will arise from this tragedy, the shortcuts and simplifications, over-emotional appeals and self-aggrandizing statements.

But if I don’t use this plateform to express genuine emotion, flawed as it might be, what is the point of writing at all?

If I don’t use this platform for other things than pretty pictures of sunsets and entertaining tales of adventures, what is it really worth?

If I shy away from other people, their opinion and reality, from the painful questions that come with it, why would I want to publish anything?

Excuse my shortcuts and simplifications, over-emotional appeals and self-aggrandizing statements, I’ve just woken up and the wake is painful.

One o clock. The phone rings. The words cut through the thick fog of sleep. The world cuts through the bubble of meaningless plans and hopes and dreams. Terrorist attacks. 129 dead.
I check on those who are there. Those who love football, who love music, who love food, who love life. It could be anyone.
The randomness of their attack makes me feel fear. Fear what I feel. Hatred. Anger. Directed at no one.
But anger needs to be directed. The images I haven’t seen and names I haven’t heard yet are already burning into my mind’s eye. Burning words of hatred not yet spoken waiting to be said. Waiting to be aimed at someone.
And as the first wave shock subsides the certainty that someone will say these words, will play the part, lay our hearts on the line. Some of the media. In a frenzy. Sniffing blood. Some of the politicians. In dammage control. Sensing opportunity. Some of us. In pain. Drawn in.
When they will close our borders, try to narrow our minds and tighten our hearts, everyone will play a part.
To defend liberty by not letting go of our freedom to think and to forgive.
To safeguard equality by not condemning all of them as uniformly evil.
To claim fraternity by not hating those who weren’t born our brothers.
To stand as one without making our ground a battlefield
To think as one without yielding to uniform thought
To walk as one without marching for vengeance
To sing as one without chanting discord
To be as one while remaining each one
To make sure they haven’t won

 

 

 

Day 44 – September 29th: Elk City, OK- to Erick, OK – 70 km

So as I mentioned before I was going through a bit of a turbulent time in my head. I’d just missed a concert in Oklahoma City by a hair, my repeated flats were tiring (!!!) me out and I had a general weariness coming up. I was reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho at that moment, and after two weeks of rather blissful cycling I might have read a little too much into it. For after triggering a brief initial round of excitement the novel proved to be rather limited in scope and quality. And my newfound optimism and faith in the workings of fate remained fragile. The shadow of my previous American experience and it’s harshness was still menacingly looming and I hadn’t yet shed the fear of a disastrous event that would put an end to this trip. But I was working on it, and confident that I could make this the last bout of anxiousness of the trip.

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Song of the day: The End – The Doors

A perfect illustration not only of the state of mind I was in at that moment, but also of my aforementioned previous trip to the US. A disturbing, jarring piece of  music. Like a bout of dizziness, interesting in nature but unpleasant to experience. Not my favourite track by far, but one that might be as indispensible as suffering is to a growing soul.

 

Day 43 – September 28th: Clinton, OK to Elk City, OK- 70 km

I’ve decided to add a little something to each post from now on, namely one song that is associated to a particular moment of the trip. You are probably familar with the magical feeling when a song fits a moment and surrounding so perfectly, it seems to have been written on purpose.

Before I left I had the good idea of stocking up my i-pod with songs, notably Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of all times. Though their selection remains controversial (by nature, omissions and choices), there is a great deal of musical gems there, and combined with other (more contemporary) artists of my own choosing, there have been some very nice shuffle-mode surprises.

I hope that I can maybe share and make you discover a couple of the tunes that have become the soundtrack to my trip.

First Song: Passenger – 27 

One of the artists I listened most to, both while preparing and during the trip. An example of steadfastness and artistic integrity, this song of his was the one I chose to put on when crossing Washington Bridge in New York and kick off this adventure.
Here are the lyrics, I have nothing to add but to say that I wish I’d written them:
27 years, 27 years old
Only thing I know, the only thing I get told
I gotta sell out if I want to get sold
Don’t want the devil to be taking my soulI write songs that come from the heart
I don’t give a fuck if they get into the chart, or not
Only way I can be, is to say what I see
And have no shadow hanging over meI don’t know where I’m running but I know how to run
‘Cause, running’s the thing I’ve always done
I don’t know what I’m doing but I know what I’ve done
I’m a hungry heart, I’m a loaded gun

27 years, 27 years now,
Only thing I know, I know that I don’t know how
To please everybody all of the time
‘Cause everybody always fucking changing their minds

A little bit faded, a little bit jaded
Don’t want to stop, won’t be persuaded
To write words I can’t believe in,
To see my face on a video screen

 

Sixth Week – The importance of being honest

This is a peculiar moment in the journey. The initial excitement of the unknown has given way to routine and habits but without them having yet become too familiar to be boring.

It is also the moment when I’m coming to terms with the fact that this journey is not going to attract the widespread attention I secretly hoped it would.

To quote the article below, the spark hasn’t started the wildfire that would help me set my musical career “ablaze”, but I warm myself near the campfire of those I know to be around.

The sympathetic eyes of the few who follow as day after day passes, are always worth more than the hollow approval of the masses.

And living what I am, seeing what I am given to behold and being where I am supposed to, it seems their indifference is growing less cold.

What I am missing will always be but a means to an end and it doesn’t mean that much in the end.

The end being always to write, play and record new songs and I can feel them coming up on the horizon, like the many sunrises in the endless skies in front of me.

I sometimes briefly forget what is truly important, but there are always people that remind me, through a comment, a compliment or an article.

When I read the one below for the first time, I remembered a lot of the truths and reasons that have convinced me to set out on this journey…and will keep me going…  

In 80 Days Across the States – The revolution will not be televised

Day 42 – September 27th: El Reno, OK to Clinton, OK – 95 km

The famed route 66 is nice, but inconsistently existant.
And having to turn back after several miles because there was no sign indicating a dead end doesn’t contribute to my happiness.
While they don’t have the energy to put up these signs that would be well useful, they do have some to spare when it comes to putting up  a continuous fence, which means I can’t get back on the I-40 unless I turn back (or other bad ideas that I will come back to later).
In any case, there’s not much in between Gas Stations, so I keep going until I reach Clinton.

Day 41 – September 26th: Chandler, OK to El Reno, OK via Oklahoma City – 45 km (+ 80 km hitchhiking)

Having noticed my slightly deflated front tire, I decide to get up an hour early to fix it and get a fresh start…
Except that after having changed the tube, I find myself flat again, 15 minutes later. I do another tube-swap with the same result.
I’m all out of tubes, in the middle of nowhere, with 120 km to go to Oklahoma City.
But luckily I can catch a ride to the next village. They invite me to the Sunday mass, at the end of which the pastor asks the congregation whether anyone can help me out. And indeed I find someone to give me a lift to Oklahoma City and a bike shop.

Rex is a well nice guy, and his ancestor, whose name he shares, is a certain Benjamin Franklin. So I enjoy an improbable ride through Kentucky with the great, great, great-son of one of the founding fathers, all the way to an open bike shop.
Turns out I have little metallic filaments fom truck tires that have been piercing my tubes.
I get it fixed, but my troubles are just starting…

Day 40 – September 25th: Tulsa, OK to Chandler, OK- 100 km

I should have known that the first night in Oklahoma and it’s related troubles where an indicaton of what awaited me in that state.
But for now everything seems fine, apart from a slightly deflated front tire.
Which will turn out to be the beginning of a stretch of bother that will last for some days.
And I will find myself knee-deep in it, fishing for sense…

A photo posted by Phileas (@phileasmusic) on

Day 39 – September 24th: Chelsea, OK to Tulsa, OK – 97 km

I’m now on the historic route 66, which I will be following all the way to Santa Monica, California if everything goes well…

Day 38 – September 23rd: Wyandotte, MO to Chelsea, OK – 75 km

And so I officially enter Oklahoma, and set up camp near Chelsea.
I am tired and a bit reckless and plant my tent in a residential neighbourhood.

And so for the first time since the beginning of the trip, I find myself confronted with the police, the neighbours called.
After an initial tense introduction (“hands where we can see them, step away fom your tent”) the officers turn out to be nice enough, and actually quite impressed with what I’m doing.
But I nonetheless have to dismount my tent, pack up all my stuff and get on my way, which is not easy to do when you’re being watched by two policemen.
They advise me to stay at the nearest Motel, but given its state, I prefer to keep going, and eventually find a Church backyard, where I can set up…

Day 36 – September 21st: Springfield, MO to Carthage, MO – 93 km

After 93 kilometers I find the most beautiful camping site of the trip so far, a river near Carthage.

I’m about to leave Missouri and head into Oklahoma, and also the Transamerica trail I was following since Kentucky.

 

Fifth Week – Halfway there with no end in sight

So I reckon the halfway point deserves a special post. I thought hard about what title to give this post that attempts to give an impression of the successive states of mind I went through.

Nowhere near with no end in sight
That would have been the title I would have used at the beginning of the trip. Never had I been so unsure, full of doubt and skeptical towards a project of mine. But I just gritted my teeth, and got on with it, step by step, ignoring the thousand good reasons that would make it impossible and concentrating only on putting things together. Like a puzzle I couldn’t believe would ever look like the picture on the box, but that I kept adding pieces to until I sat in my saddle and pedalled the first tentative strides into the uncertainty of the unknown.

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Somewhere with no end in sight
And so I found myself taking every day, every stop, every city, like a small step yet again. I made mistakes, I was unaware. I discovered and understood. I reflected and did better. Found a routine, a place outside of the world, parallel to it. When everybody was static yet busy I was passing. And people liked me for a small moment of incredulity, maybe even amazement. I was a forward movement, cyclic in scope, that cut through the whirlpools of life.

 

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Everywhere with no end in sight
The free-wheeling feeling that I am nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

 

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Anywhere with no end in sight
And I am immersed in this parallel path, counting to myself of ways I could have gone. I don’t sing often but I’ve got music playing in my head all day. I speak to few people but learn new ways of talking. I take what I’m not supposed to but always leave something behind

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Halfway there with no end in sight
And as I am preparing for the next step, I’m taking stock. More and more I find myself smiling to myself, incredulous.  Unable to grasp it while clinging tightly to it.

And I don’t want it to stop. I want sunrises with a horizon, not the walls and the fences.

I want endlessness, not the confinement of stasis.

I want life, not the idea of its perfection.

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Halway there and an end in sight

And at the same time I’m longing for the end. Every stretch of road is defined by its destination, which I am striving for.

Always projected forwards, towards a reason.

And so I’m yearning for the arrival while I dread it.

I’m waiting for the conclusion, and want to postpone its judgement.

I want vindication, and fear being proven right…

 

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Day 35 – September 20th: Hartville, MO to Springfield, MO – 86 km

In Springfield I have my second warmshower experience.

A lovely couple that make me feel right at home, incredibly nice and welcoming.

So much so, that I have a hard time finding the resolve to get going again.

But the road is still long, and Springfield itself too big to be my kind of city.

So I finally to set out again…