Sunday, June 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Gonzo

I`ve had some of the best riding and camping experiences of my life coming into Swtizerland.

We would climb a single mountain all day in the beating sun. Going UP UP UP. We would climb along the edges of cliffs, most of the other riders in thier lowest cog. I would zig-zag across the road in order to get the best power-distance ratio from my little fixed gear.

Compared to the blue ridge, these mountains are young and jagged, but every bit as beautiful, often more so. Catching glimpses of the Alps in the distance is quite intimidating, knowing I will be crossing them shortly. This is the first time I have had an experience that rivals the motorcycle trip I took with my father through Montana and Wyoming, through beartooth pass, and the Tetons.

We would climb so high in the summer heat, finaly reaching our camp site in the evening: high enough to have a snowball fight before dinner. My first time in the mountains since leaving Boone; a weight has been lifted, pressure released, I feel at home again.

After climbing all day, there is but one way to go in the morning: down. And down, and down, for hours. At ludicris speed, down. Picking bugs out of my teeth, down. Darting round corners, pedaling all the time, passing cars, down.

Down down down, lake Geneve in the distance. And eventually we made it to town, we went swimming, we washed the salt and sweat from our skin.

The caravan kids were able to reunite with some good friends that used to live with them in Lappersfort and I was able to meet some wonderful people for the first time. These people are what made Geneve worth seeing.

The group stayed at a small community garden just outside of town. It was a nice break from the city. We were able to continue our nightly routine of cooking dinner over an open fire and the space allowed us some much needed R&R. We spent alot of our time simply reading, playing music and backgammon. Lots of backgammon; the game has become a slight addiction among the caravan when there is any sort of downtime.

I finished several books durring my stay. One was called Stardust. It gives an account of how the heavier elements in the universe came into existence long after the big bang, created in the hearts of stars and scattered across the universe in many generations of supernovea (more specifically, the elements that are required for life on earth, and potentially elsewhere). It is not a bad read, if you don't already know elementary astrophysics or just want a refresher on who discovered cosmic background radiation or how the triple alpha process works. But if you already know the basics there is nothing that will really stretch your noodle, it might be worth just skipping ahead to the last two chapters.

I also read another Harukami book called Dance Dance Dance. He is a fun author. His books are surreal, entertaining, and can often be read in a day.

But I think my favorite was Kafka, I haven't read his stuff in years and someone on the caravan happened to have a collection of his short stories, The Great Wall of China, among others. I could read these over and over again.

We didn't spend our entire time in Geneve sitting about though. We had several mini adventures durring our stay. One day we all went swimming in the river, some of the kids climbed to the top of a building at waters edge (used for loading cargo onto boats). They brought climbing harnesses and ropes with them, and repelled off of the roof and onto one of the platforms extending from the building. Usually this platform would be used as a crane to lift the cargo, but that day it became a thirty foot high diving board. Although I have jumped off of things twice this high into water, the last couple times I have dislocated my shoulder (and once chipped my tooth). The last time I dislocated my shoulder was playing capoeira six months ago. This is the longest time I have allowed my shoulder to heal in the past eight years. I didn't want to push my my luck so I decided to withhold the urge to jump with the rest of the group.

That day Tovio and his friend Sarah spotted us swimming, they had just hitchhiked in from France. It was a pleasure to have them for the remainder of our stay in the city. A few other members of the caravan have left, at least for the time being. Kayne ended up heading back to Lappersfort, Gonzo to Austria, and Loki went back to the UK. They have all been missed and always remain a topic of conversation when good memories are shared.

We were all involved in two Critical Masses durring our time in Geneve. The first one was alot of fun. I would imagine close to two-hundred people turned up. There were some agressive motorists which is generally expected at any Critical Mass. Including one gentleman who climbed out of his Porshe to knock cyclists off of thier bikes, started hurling the bicycles midair into a crowd of people, and then pulled a self-defense baton out of his car door to provoke those left standing. I think he threatened to bust my teeth out, but my french still isn't good enough to tell. The gentleman's ego was finally subdued by a bit of pepperspray courtesy of a concerned bystander. So no serious injurries, no arrests were made, and we were able to have a relatively peaceful demo.

Afterwards, hundreds of cyclists and other human powered vehicle fans gathered in the local park for a night of good music and endless free pizza. Amazing pizza, made fresh on the spot by a team of cooks, working at a trailor the had been converted into a wood-fired pizza oven.

The second Critical Mass we were not so lucky. Bob, one of the girls in the bicycle caravan, was struck in a head on collision with a motorscooter. She was knocked unconcious for a few seconds, and eventually rushed to the hospital, leaving behind only a pile of daisies and a puddle of blood on the concrete. Bob is tough though. she recieved several stiches on her head and her face was swollen so much we could't tell if her nose was broken or not. But she was up on her bike again in a few days and ready for the road shortly thereafter.

By the way, I am really not trying to discourage anyone from participating in a critical mass. The demos are generally quite safe and I have witnessed all types of people participating, including very young children, and elderly folk. Just keep your wits about you and stay with the most dense part of the mass (this was part of what made Bob vulnerable). These are two relatively extreme and rare incidents that have happened and should not be taken as the norm.

And then one of the most exciting things happened in Geneve: Kegan & Connor, brilliant friends of mine from home and two of my favorite people in the world, found me in Geneve at a Voku one evening. And gave me a hug that felt something like being swallowed by a jabborwoki.

I was able to spend the next wonderful days with them. A few days in Geneve before hitchhiking to OffPride in Zurich (a queer/trans conference durring europride). Despite having a cold from hell, (my first time being sick since finals) which caused me to miss some of the more exciting events that took place (I recomend reading Kegan's blog and checking out pictures for more on that), I still thouroughly enjoyed the time to catch-up with old friends. And I even made some new ones: the wonderful people who offered to accomodate us while we were in Zurich were one of the best parts of the trip. One in particular who goes by Valorie (sorry for the possible mis-spelling) has a quick wit, is down to earth, and is a fantastic cook. She really made us all feel at home, and not only put up with our antics but joined in on them.

We said our goodbyes. Now Kegan and Connor are heading up to check out Lappersfort in Brugges and then woofing in Ireland: Have a blast guys. The bicycle caravan carried on ahead of me while I went on my detour to Zurich. So now I am going to try to catch up to them in Milano. I was planning on leaving on my bike imediately after getting back to Geneve, but I was welcomed in by some of my friends here and three hours has turned into three days. But I have been having an extraordinary time... in fact the past three days have been some of the best in Geneve so far: Skipping tons of food, learning french, climbing trees, having portuguees food for the first time, working in the garden all day. But best of all has been really meeting the people that live here one-on-one and experiencing thier community firsthand.

So that's it for now... I know I need to get another Camera, riding through the Alps I am starting to regret not having one, but that is the way life works out sometimes.

Miss all of you dearly.
For those who just graduated: Congratulations & I can't wait for the next time we will be having beer together... hmm, why not put off getting a job and come join me for one here!
For everyone else: Happy Summer Vacation