Keep up with Mike of the Brigada Mariposa biking around the Americas!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Return to California

Well, as many of you now know or have assumed, I have returned to the north to attempt to live in a less nomadic fashion for a time. I did not bike back, however. Nor did I fly. After spending a few days in San Cristobal de las Casas, I biked a good downhill to Tuxla where I caught a bus to Tijuana. Needless to say, it was a long 3-day bus ride.

On board the bus I met some very nice people. Most were going to the U.S.A. to work for a while and save up some money. None of them had papers. Jose Luis wanted to save for a cow, it was his first time crossing but wasn't very worried. Philip, an older guy, had crossed a few times and had worked various jobs across the U.S. in the past. Another young man was stoked to go to New Jersey to pluck chickens for 8 bucks an hour. There were two women on board that had left their children and families behind (temporarily) so they could go north and work for a while. It was amazing to talk to these folks that were going so far (all the way to the neighboring country) so they could make a bit of money to build their dream, be it a cow, a corner store or some other small business. They just wouldn't be able to save while working for 43 pesos a day (about 4 bucks). By simply crossing the border you can make 10 times as much or more, easily. Why such a great divide in earning potential? Have these "free trade" agreements really impacted the poor so negatively in Mexico that they must come here to make a fair wage? Yes. We have free trade when it comes to capital, corporate rights and manufactured goods but there is no freedom for labor like in the E.U. NAFTA really put the hurt on Mexico and is a hypocritic free trade policy.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I got to meet a bunch of really nice, honest, hard working people that were chasing their dream by crossing into the U.S. to look for some temporary work.
They got off the bus before I did, at various points along the border. I hung in all the way to Tijuana, where I was dropped off at 4:30 am with the bike. We had breakfast than waited in line with the thousands of people going to work in the U.S. that morning that live there. After about 2 hours I got to go through the x-ray machine and then Bam! I was in the U.S. and biking north toward downtown San Diego. It was like the U.S. but everyone spoke Spanish. Cool...

In San Diego I met some cyclists and checked out a bike race, then rode out to Ocean Beach.
After some much appreciated California cuisine and beer, I took a rest before another day of travel on Amtrak. A beautiful train ride took me up the coast and back to the Bay Area, where I spent a few days before heading back to Davis where I made it in time for the Whole Earth Festival, which was the goal after all.

Thanks to all those who helped me out during the ride. It was really the most amazing trip of my life. I feel really lucky and happy to have met the people that I did and to share with them so much. To those of you who left comments, wrote emails or kept in touch, right on! The encouragement was really helpful sometimes.

I'll post some stats sometime when I figure those out. Until then,
Pedal on!

Monday, April 30, 2007

I'm sorry Guatemala

but we just can´t be together. I know you are very beautiful and well dressed. I still want to soak in your lovely hotspings and swim in your lakes. Climb your pyramids. It´s just that, well, you´ve got a serious blight and I can't really deal with it any more. Your cars and buses have choked me too often. Your road construction has made my life miserable. You're killing your forests and polluting your rivers. How did it get like this? You were once so much more green - where did all those trees go? Only 30% left? And why did you pollute 80% of your rivers? You made me very sick with that dirty water - I felt like a river myself. cold and cascading.

by the time that you read this I will already be gone. I will have snuck out abruptly in the early morning, riding (shudder) one of those loco vans. Back to Mexico and the mountains of Chiapas. No more Guatemala. I'm bailing. You showed me some nice people, steep climbs, and the highest point of my trip! You abused me though. Oh and how. I wish you luck, Guatemala, I really do. Maybe one day we can be friends, but for now I need my space.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

No to racist ICE

No to racist ICE (immigration and customs enforcement)

What kind of roundup is happening up there? Democracy Now! Reported that in the past month 750 immigrants living in the U.S. have been detained in sweeps – in what the government is calling “operation return to sender.” How are Americans allowing this type of treatment to happen to people living in the USA? Hundreds of Californians are being subjected to random searches, detentions, deportations, and raids on their workplaces. This has already gotten too ugly, why can’t we stand up in solidarity with our coworkers, neighbors and fellow humans and say that this is completely unacceptable? Bush wants to do the Iraq trip here at home? How can we allow people to be subjected to such treatment in our country? People our culture and economy depend on are being targeted. How can Bush expect to pass his guest worker plan by doing roundups of honest, hard-working people? By deporting mothers, arresting a 7 year old boy and holding him in jail for hours for looking Mexican, having armed soldiers asking people who look latino for their papers? This is incredibly racist and cruel treatment on the part of the U.S. government.

No one is illegal. No Mexican military are doing raids on gringos living in Mexico. No one deserves to be beat down for working hard to make a good life for themselves and their families. I have met so many Mexicans and Guatemalans that have lived and worked and paid taxes in the U.S. to save some money to return to Mexico to build their little corner store or small business. People want to work for a decent wage and NAFTA and other economic policies have created the largest income disparity between any two bordering nations in the world. Things cost about the same here, but you can earn around 5 dollars a day in burger king. People work hard to get by and just want to go north to save some money. They intend to make a better life so they can go back and be more independent, or to own a restaurant, a corner store or to help out their family. Some people end up falling in love, becoming part of a community, purchasing property or other assets and one way or another end up making a happy life for themselves in the north. Then sometimes they go to the store and get deported to Mexico with no money, separated from their families. They get pulled over more often, refused drivers licenses and school for their children. They see other people like them being targeted too.

This is incredibly unjust and racist government policy. It makes me ashamed to be a U.S. citizen being treated with such open arms, generosity and kindness in Mexico. Campesinos always ask me about the border and why it is so easy for me to travel here and cross and so hard for them. What can I say but racist immigration policy created by ass holes?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day, here on Earth

What a great way to spend Earth Day – Cycling high up in the mountains of Guatemala, looking down on the clouds, farms and pine forest, listening to some reggae music on my 100% solar powered sound system. It would have been perfect were it not for two things: Jesus and Petroleum.

Today is a great opportunity to get those two concepts out of our collective consciousness. Let us forget about Jesus and Petroleum and live life like they never existed – the world needs this now more than ever. Today I was punished all day by mini buses, trucks and those big, colorful buses with giant colorful stickers proclaiming things like: Jesus Blesses You, Follow me to Jesus, or God Loves You while they blow thick clouds of acrid black smoke in my face as I try to climb to around 10,000 ft. on my bicycle. There is no smog check in Guatemala.

We are creating a serious earth crisis with our abuse of petroleum, people – putting immense amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, contaminating fresh water sources and oceans, littering the earth with plastic while causing various heath problems and provoking cancer in many humans and other animals. Choking cyclists is just another consequence of this demented abuse of natural resources.

What do I hear when I tell people about why I’m traveling this way? When I explain the problems associated with global warming and petroleum use? They usually agree that there is a problem and it looks bleak, but that is all preordained in the bible. It will all come to an end when Jesus returns and the faithful are sent off to paradise – no problem. Shit. I can’t have rational conversations with that type of person. Everyone is so blinded by the evangelical preaching that is happening everywhere in this country and around the world (Yes, especially in the US of A with their Huston Astrodome Sermons and Televangelism). Here there are more churches than grocery stores and you hear amplified preaching at every turn. Some people even drive their S.U.V.s around with loudspeakers strapped to their roofs, preaching their lies at high volume.

Look: We cannot continue to abuse the Earth and do whatever the preachers say to make us feel better about ourselves while we continue to lay waste to this most beautiful sphere of life where we find ourselves. Invading the middle east to help hasten the return of the messiah is not going to help save the planet for our children’s children’s children. I don’t care what Pat Robertson says – he’s got it wrong. All of those preachers and marketing professionals and other loud mouths that promise future salvation or rewards for obedience and suffering now need to get off this planet. We don’t need you. We have serious problems to deal with if we want to prevent a grim future for the inhabitants of this planet and its precious atmosphere. What we need is to start to work together to invent new ways of living that don’t involve Jesus or Petroleum. We will need to look back to the past for many things, but also toward the future, to design a new culture that is carbon neutral, free of carcinogens, full of life and free from oppression of any type. We should get some chickens, donkeys, windmills and solar panels. Plant some corn by foot and hand. Ride a bicycle to the organic farmers market, then cook up yer grub in a solar oven. Then share that food with your neighbors while you discuss how to improve your community. There are so many things we could be doing instead of driving our trucks to the 7/11 then going to church to hear about how good it will be when you die, as long as you suffer while you live.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Getting High

Today I got high. Really high. Up into the clouds. I climbed from 200m to over 3000m today (656 to 9,842.5 feet). No joke. I was only a few kilometers from the Volcan Tajumulco, 4220m high up above sea level, the hightest peak in Central America. It must have been the most difficult day of riding yet. Guatemala gets HIGH! And it's green. Very Green. Lots and lots of jungle - beautiful landscapes to admire as you painfully crank up an enormous mountain with a grade unacceptable in even Mexico. This road was steep. Now I'm up on some kind of high plateau, but I will be getting even higher in the next day or so, crossing the highest peak on the trans-American freeway before getting to Lake Atitlán.

High up on the mountain I encountered some U.S. military soldiers, constructing schools and clinics in the mountains of Guatemala. I told them that was better than killing innocent Iraquis, but they remained friendly and even gave me a vegetarian MRE, chock full of hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients and lots of plastic trash (hopefully it didn’t contain any MKULTRA type ingredients as well). I don’t think their mission was thought up by Mr. Paul Brenner or Wolfowitz or Cheney – they seem to be preoccupied on wars of aggression to fatten the pockets of the oil and weapons industries. Rather, it seemed like they were doing genuinely good work and they were all quite friendly, so I don’t want to dis the mission, but it seems like an attempt to improve the image the world has of our military. Hmm... what could give them such a bad name? Anyway, the press showed up while I was there and did a quick propaganda piece. Then they interviewed me and did an extensive photo shoot of me pedalling up that freaking mountain. I talked about the end of oil, human powered transportation, bikes that can carry big loads, solar power, and climate change, as well as the usual statistics and information about the trip (avg. km per day = between 45 and 120, time spent travelling = 5 months, flats =5) The article should hit the press tomorrow.

Anyway, after cresting the mountain at about 5pm, the soldiers showed up behind me and followed me down a quick decent. Then they gave me the thumbs up.

It was a full day (8am to 6pm) to go about 45 klicks. Nothing but constant climbing to get from Malacatán to San Marcos, an interesting town with a beautiful, decidedly Guatemalan central plaza, bustling markets and a dude guarding the ice cream shop with a shotgun. There are some hot springs around so I think I’ll go exploring tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And just like that…

Guatemala. Well, almost. Maybe even by the time you read this. Tomorrow I will be crossing the border but today I am resting in Tapachula, a lively border town in southern Chiapas. I can’t say it’s like the San Diego of Mexico, because it isn’t – but it is no Tijuana either. There are dancers and artisans in the plaza (including me tonight) and a lively, Mexican-market like atmosphere. I will be selling the various earrings, bracelets and necklaces that I have been making on the road, something that I’ve had a bit of success with so far. I have been using mainly seeds, stones, clay, beads and wire and have been improving my technique bit by bit. People seem to like it.

I had a hellavua push from Oaxaca to where I am now. The mountains of the Sierra de Juarez are as beautiful as they are big, and getting over them to Tehuantepec took 3 days. The 3rd day was really tough: I had to push though some intense pain and anguish to finally make it to the city. Apparently, Tehuantepec is a very accepting and open place for gays. They are hosting a big gay pride party there on the 30th of April (a day which also happens to be the día del niño in Mexico– um…weird) and the people are already getting excited and making preparations. I took a rest day there, spending the time working on the artisania, then headed out to cross the Istmo.

The Istmo de Tehuantepec is a very windy part of the world and as a result, the 5th largest producer of clean energy on the planet thanks to the windmills installed there by the CFE. Great for the electricity lovers, but bad for the cyclists that have to push against strong headwinds and deal with the fierce gusts that can push you right off the road if you let your guard down. After that fun, I arrived in Chiapas and was pleased to see how lush and green it is, with frequent rivers to bathe in and lots of plants and insects. The only down side was riding 8 hours a day for 4 days straight in the blistering sun. Literally blistering – I noticed my arms starting to bubble. It is really hot here. More sunscreen and long sleeves are the solution for now but I can’t wait to get into the cooler mountains again.

Although I took the coastal (less mountainous) autopista through Chaipas, and therefore have a very different perspective of the state then my good friend Pxl, I still think it’s really cool. It’s greener, the people are friendly and there are lots and lots of bikes. Bike taxis everywhere, bike commuters, bike ice cream vendors, bike clothing stores, you name it. I still hope to go up into the mountains and jungles of Chiapas after a roundabout route through Guatemala and who knows where else.

So yea, Guatemala, ready or not, here I come!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Still in Oaxaca

I am still here in Oaxaca, doing various art and artisenia and hanging out at the hostel Fernanda. Recently, I've had some photos featured in an art gallery and a few lamps I made. The exibit is a recycled, furnurature and photograpy exibit. We had a pretty good opening and I think someone may want to buy a lamp. Unfortunately my camera broke before I got a picture. (This may be the end of the photos for the trip)

Short bike trips have been happening, but the rain and hail made it interesting yesterday.

The blackout lastnight gave me a good opportunity to use some of the recycled candle holders we made.