Week Eleven: A cycle come full circle

Sitting on Santa Monica Beach, a few miles from where I miserably slumped down nine months before, faced with the certainty of failure.
The ocean is the same but I’m a different man.
Approaching along Route 66, past a hideous succession of urban sterility that only recently would have made me cry with despair. A whirlwind of emotion and memories sending a tear running down my cheek.
The tears are the same, but these are cried for something I did.  
Riding along Hollywood Boulevard with the sun setting, winding my way through the traffic, speeding by the places that had me paralyzed and agonizing in stasis.
The streets are the same but I can use their sidewalks without looking at the stars.
Entering the studio and realizing that we’ve already laid down the foundations. Adding, decorating, flourishing in a burst of creative energy.
The songs are the same, but they resonate with the wanderings of my soul. 
Arriving back in New York for the final departure, the menacing and terrifying reality of the unknown filtered through the prism of a newfound optimism.
The city is the same, but I can see through its facade. 
Returning home, with the satisfaction of knowing there was nothing more I could have done. That whatever didn’t happen only makes the occurred more real.
Reality’s the same, but I’m spinning around it. 
Setting off into a new adventure full of hope. Not the one repeated like a mantra, that I am willing to become real, but the deeply rooted kind, that stems from knowledge. That knowledge that had almost slipped my mind. That the world is nothing but what I’ll make of it.
The world is the same but I can sing it once again.

Song of the Day: Instant Karma – John Lennon

Day 76 – October 31st : Pasadena, CA to Santa Monica, CA and back- 105 km 

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I had played out a hundred times what it would feel like to be sitting on the beach with the sun setting and to contemplate my glorious “success”, but reality is never gonna be that accommodating.
I have a morning recording session, so I only set out in the afternoon. And though I get good light for the trip, I know I’m not gonna make it for the sunset on the beach.
And indeed, Santa Monica is miserable and wet and cold when I arrive. But the thing that makes me happy is somewhere else anyway. It’s knowing I overcame myself a hundred times, knowing that the next day there are some more recordings to be done, knowing that I’m back on track and that I’ve just lived one of these experiences that make all the shit you go through as a musician worthwhile. It’s not glossy, magazine-style picture quality, it’s gritty and crude, but it’s the reality of a life that I wouldn’t trade for any other.

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Song of the Day: Death and all of his friends – Coldplay

Day 75 – October 30th : Pasadena

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I arrived the night before and stayed at a (yet excellent) warmshower in Pasadena. I haven’t technically finished the Route 66 (which ends at Santa Monica Pier), but I have a meeting with Ryan Freeland who mastered our album, and who I hadn’t been able to meet during my previous trip.
After 6500 km across the US I manage to get lost in Culver City, some things just never change. Hence, the meeting is brief, but I get a glimpse of work at this sort of level (he works with Ray Lamontagne, Bonnie Raitt etc) and it’s also the first time I see a real Grammy…

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Song of the Day: Ray Lamontagne – Trouble

Day 74 – October 29th : Rancho Cucamonga, CA to Pasadena, CA – 73 km 

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My last night of camping in Rancho Cucamonga turns out to be the worst of the whole trip. I figure early on that it will be difficult to find a camping spot, what with everything being Fast Foods and fortified residential villages. So I try a first public Park, but the homeless people tell me there ain’t much hope.
I find a second Park and decide to play it cheeky. Halfway through my evening meal the Sheriff turns up. He’s a decent fellow despite the initial mandatory curtness (“put your hands where I can see them”). But he has to get me moving because some neighbour called and complained. He suggests I wait until it’s pitch dark and try another part of the Park.
Which I do, only to be woken by a far less gentle police officer. I get the whole package, frisking, searching my stuff, threats and being told to move.
I decide to try ringing at people’s doors and ask for a backyard. First house, the woman looks through the shutters and doesn’t open. Second house, the couple refuses point blank. Third house a grown man tells me his mother won’t let him. I’m starting to despair, and when the fourth door reveals an old, frail woman, I almost turn around and give up. Turns out though, she’s the most courageous of the lot and will let me use her backyard.
I really hope I caught but a glimpse of a singular and dysfunctional residential settlement and not the future urbanism that awaits us, because just glimpsing it was enough to make one despair…

Song of the day: The Sprawl – Arcade Fire

Day 73 – October 28th : Glendora, CA to Rancho Cucamonga, CA – 85 km

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Foothill Boulevard is atrocious, a modern nightmare. Over a hundred kilometers and ten cities. And each one is identical to the one before and the one after. I count 20 McDonald’s, 15 Starbucks, 15 Subways, 15 Burger Kings etc…
People are entrenched in fortified “villages”, with several houses protected by fences, barbed wire and CCTV cameras. And my own personal nightmare has just begun…

Song of the day: Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell

Day 72 – October 27th: Victorville, CA to Glendora, CA – 70 km 

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I’m riding along Foothill Boulevard, stretching well over 60 miles (110 kilometers) in length, and leading straight to Los Angeles. This is a very emotional moment, as my mind goes over all the memories and events of the last couple of months. And it’s the most energizing feeling, to finally be living this moment that I had played out a hundred times in my mind…

Song of the Day: Your love keeps lifting me higher – Jackie Wilson

Day 71 – October 26th  Barstow, CA  to Victorville, CA – 85 km

I leave Barstow, the city and the painful reminder of civilisation behind and try to recapture some of that enthousiasm and innocence for my last nights of camping.

Song of the Day: Only the Lonely – Roy Orbison

Day 70 – October 25th: Newberry Springs, CA to Barstow, CA – 80 km

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I had been told that coming into Los Angeles was a horrible experience, but it is actually this stretch that is the most terrible. Massive 50km detours to avoid taking the Freeway, getting lost, having nowhere to set up camp, this is all a timely reminder of how special that enchanted parenthesis in the desert and this whole journey away from it all has been.

Song of the Day: Society – Eddie Vedder

Day 69 – October 24th: Needles, CA to Mohave National Reserve, CA to Newberry Springs, CA – 115 km

The longest stretches I’ve gone without any civilization, but it’s definitely worth it.
One of my favourite parts of the journey and most beautiful scenery I’ve pitched my tent in.

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Song of the Day: No one would riot for less – Bright Eyes
Most beautiful song no one has ever heard of that I know…

Day 67 – October 22nd: Kingman, AZ to Needles – 80 km

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I knew there were mountains coming, but didn’t expect to spend most of the day trying to overcome them. I meet some Germans when I reach the top, and they tell me they found it exhausting to come up on their Harley Davidson…

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Song of the Day: Born to run – Bruce Springsteen
The steeper the climb the sweeter it is to unwind, and unwind I did, going down full-speed for about 15 minutes with this song blasting out.

Day 66 – October 21st: Huawapai Indian Reserve, AZ to to Kingman, AZ – 90 km

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A nice wake on the side of Route 66. I’m gonna head out straight. I’m not too far from California now, but there are some mountains in the way before I get there.

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Song of the Day: Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

A great song to be listening to when faced with the never-ending road ahead:
“Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream
I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been”

Day 65 – October 20th: Seligman, AZ to Huawapai Indian Reserve, AZ – 84 km

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I’m now getting to what I was told is the “nasty stretch” of the journey. Up to a 70 kilometers without Gas Station, Shops or Housings. Despite the obvious complications (lack of water, food, internet, sites to camp) this is the part of the Journey I enjoy most. The Huawapai Indian Reserve is one of the most beautiful spots I have camped in, and knowing that things are getting closer to the end, makes everything even more intense.

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Song of the Day: Horse with no name – America

Week 10: Climbing the Hill

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There is this moment, climbing the hill, when you feel such a tiredness, such a bone-tired weariness that you can’t go any further. You are exhausted, wrung out, dead beat.
Suddenly, the idea of another, easier way flashes through the mind, giving up becomes an option, the all-encompassing necessity of getting to the end of it suddenly isn’t the only possibility anymore.
From being an idea in your head it becomes a sensation, you picture the feeling of being shaded, resting, slumped down in a seat while someone drives you the rest of the way.
This is when resolve kicks in, when you start arguing with yourself, to conjure and expose what you would feel and look like if you gave up.
And by the time you’re full right in the middle of these considerations, you realize that you have climbed most of the hill already.
So you decide to go at least until the top of it and then see what’s next.
What’s next is a road going all the way down, so you might as well get that done.
You feel exhilarated and reinvigorated by the speed, the landscapes rushing past, and you wonder how you could have ever even envisaged giving up. You sing along to the tune, you shout out your aliveness, the wind blowing in your face.
And then you are back at the bottom. But you feel confident. You can do it, the first stretch sloping upwards is easy, you’re still carrying the movement from before.
Maybe something has changed, in the nature of the hill or deep within you.
And even as it gets a little harder you tell yourself that it can’t be as bad as what you’ve just managed to climb.
And then you feel it all being slowly drained again, the enthusiasm, the joy, the willingness, the physical strength.
And then you get to that moment climbing the hill, when you feel such a tiredness, such a bone-tired weariness that you can’t go any further…

Song of the day: Helter Skelter – Beatles

Day 62 – October 17th: Williams, AZ to Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ – 87 km

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Andy told me I really had to check out the Grand Canyon, which is a 200 km detour from where I was. I decide to go for it and find myself going North for once, which is strange, I had gotten used to ending my days going towards the sinking sun.
Along the way things get touristy and I am not expecting much. I grudgingly pay the 15$ to get in and make my way to the South Rim. It’s 6 pm, I’m tired, and I’m even considering taking a glimpse and then heading off straightaway (I don’t want to pay for a camping ground).
And then I get to the rim, and I am absolutely stunned by it. No fences, you can go to the very edge, a breathtaking view, probably the most impressive natural setting I have come across (and South-America isn’t too shabby in terms of grandiose settings).
I decide to be cheeky and pitch my tent close to the rim (which is obviously forbidden) and catch the sunrise the next morning.

Song of the day : Grand Canyon Trail – Roy Rogers

Day 61 – October 16th: Flagstaff, AZ to Williams, AZ- 91 km

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A strangely pleasant day. I wasn’t expecting Flagstaff to be this luxuriously green, on the other hand I didn’t really know what to expect as the name only brought up references to Shakespeare plays I hadn’t read. I am treated to yet another amazing Warmshower experience, Andy and Sara are as generously open-minded as the other people I have met on this website.
And to top it all off, I catch sight of my first sign with Los Angeles on it.

Song of the day : I got my mind set on you – George Harrison

Day 59 – Octobre 14th: St Joseph, NM to Winslow, AZ- 54 km

I’m in St. Joseph, a little town lost somewhere in Arizona. After enquiry I’m unofficially told that I can pitch my tent in the central “parc”.
In the middle of the night I’m woken up by a loud sound underneath my head. Turns out to be the sprinklers, one of which is situated right underneath my tent.
Not knowing how much time they are gonna go and how the water is gonna behave (right now I’m protected by the plastic bottom of the tent) after much reflection, I decide to move away.
Stupid idea if there is one, cause now I’m no longer protected and everything gets wet.
So I have to hang out my sleeping bag to dry and spend a miserable night shivering and cursing myself…And obviously the sprinklers stop as soon as I have moved everything to safety.
Not even the first time this happens, because I’ve already had the pleasure of midnight sprinklers when I was sleeping rough in a Churchyard in the Aosta Valley a couple of years back. One never learns…

Song of the day: Why does it always rain on me – Travis

Day 58 – October 13th: Petrified Forest National Parc, NM to St Joseph, NM – 74 km

Waking up to this kind of setting makes everything easy and I’m not asking myself too many questions.


Song of the day: Under African Skies – Paul Simon

As I am headed to St. Joseph and the guy in the song is called Joseph, I think this is the moment to listen to something from one of my all-time favourite albums, Graceland by Paul Simon.
After having had to give Tennessee a miss I decide to listen to it in New Mexico/Arizona, and amazingly, looking at the landscapes lining Route 66 and the I-40 you could sometimes think you’re somewhere in Africa. I wouldn’t know because I have never been to Africa, but in the meantime, the listening experience is epic.

Day 56 – October 11th: Prewitt, NM to Gallup, NM – 90 km

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Gallup is located in the heart of Indian Country and it is home to the
Continental Divide of the Americas. This is the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas. It separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean.

Song of the day: Gregory Alan Isakov: Saint Valentine
“straight down to the dirt so I could find a trail / spread out across the Great Divide”

Week 8 : The path

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We are all on a path.
Not easy to keep one’s bearings.
There are crossroads, turnpikes, switchbacks.
Some of us are on death row, in crowded corridors, clogged arteries, our journey finished before it even started.
Some of us have no way. Blocked and penned in where dead ends meet, unable to find a passage. On the streets, in alleys and aisles, belting out against it.
Some of us are comfortable on main street, serious, thorough, willing to go through with our way, to pay the fare.
Some are on the fast lane, on the highway, seldom resting.
Some have an avenue to themselves, broad boulevards lined with trees, full of propriety.
Some have taken a shortcut, the expressway, the shunpike, have chosen to bypass the difficulties. Some have been blessed, engaged on the high road, the royal road and get away with everything.
Some weather it all because they have a cause to fight for.
Some set out on a trail, track down a different sort of goal, along the corniche, on ridges others wouldn’t dare to tread.
Somewhere in between there is me.
I am a bit of all of the above. Eager to get away from the traffic but taking the freeway, disregarding the paved road, but unwilling to go through the mud, to stick with the dirt path.
On a route, trying to leave my attachments behind, trying to find weightlessness in a world ruled by gravity. In the in between of movement. Always departed and never arrived. Endlessly alive?

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Day 55 – October 10th: Grants, NM to Prewitt, NM – 94 km

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Once the mud and traces of my latest misadventure have been hosed away I need to find a spot for the night. Seeing the sign at the entrance I feel like I might not be in the most welcoming of American small towns, but the mexican family who lives there turns out to be nice. There’s an abandoned house that belongs to their cousin and they tell me I can pitch my tent in the backyard.
The neighbour’s dogs are barking all night, but I’m too tired to care. Win some, lose some.

Song of the Day: Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
My favourite contemporary band. So many songs and albums and live performances to choose from, I put the most obvious and easy song there.
I think the documentary Big Easy Express was one of the decisive elements that made me want to go through with my own trip.
They feature alongside Mumford and Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show in a train-journey from California to New Orleans. Adventure, jamming and concerts, all I’ve ever wanted from music and I’ll keep fighting to get.

Day 54 – October 9th: Albuquerque, NM to Grants, NM – 101 km

Une photo publiée par Phileas (@phileasmusic) le

I leave Daniel and Albuquerque refreshed, clean and eager to get back to the road.
However, it doesn’t take me long to get back to my usual shenanigans.
Once again the Route 66 turns inadvertently into a mud path, but this time I decide to follow it down all the way to the bitter end.

And thus I find myself in the middle of nowhere, following the train tracks that should lead me back to civilisation. It has been raining a lot for New Mexico standards recently and the mud is clogging up my wheels, which means I have to drag the bike most of the time.
It takes me a couple of hours to finally get to the next small village, tired out, mud-caked and miserable.
But very quickly I find myself smiling again, a nice man helping me find a hose and clean myself and my bike.
And when I am told that I accidentally entered a Navahao Indian Reserve, I take comfort in the fact that here is one more item I can strike off my bucket list.

La chanson du Jour: Kashmir – Led Zeppelin