Seeing The End

The only time I spent on the beach in LA last week was guarded. I walked, hands around my eyes like horse-blinders, down Manhattan Beach Boulevard, strait passed the pier, and to the first spot I came across. I spent the next six hours on my towel working on crossword puzzles and looking at nothing and no one.

I love surprises. I can’t resist a grand gesture or a big reveal. Some people call me dramatic, but I think that there is a difference. Last week my roommate, Becky, mentioned that an episode of TV I haven’t seen yet was a great one.

“I didn’t give anything away,” she said.

“I can’t even look at you right now,” I said.

I find my actions were justified, she feels differently.

So when I spent a week in LA with my sister, I told her that I couldn’t go to Manhattan Beach.

“Good luck with that,” she said. When planning the bike trip, I asked her to give us an ending destination. That, not coincidently, is the beach most convenient to her house.

I was torn, emotionally and physically. I felt horribly ruining the big reveal of Manhattan Beach, the place that culminates our month long bike ride through desert and mountains and more… but I really wanted to tan and it is the easiest beach to get to from my sister’s house.

In the end I went to the beach, and compromised by not allowing myself to embrace it all the way. I still feel like I win, because I have a feeling that 1500 miles of biking will make me enjoy it even if I have put my feet in already.

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The Bridge School

I have been trying to train for this bike trip, but am approaching it in a holistic way. Instead of just going on long rides each weekend, I am trying a whole-body-improvement thing. It started by finally watching the Star Wars movies, which, being a human, I obviously now love. Then last week I changed my first bike flat tire. I would say that it’s impressive I have been biking for about seven years and have never changed a tire; only it’s actually just embarrassing. I don’t know how I avoided it for so long. In high school I somehow never got a flat, then in college I had friends who would change them for me. After moving to Denver it became one of those things that was so embarrassing I had no excuse but to avoid it at all costs. One time last year I got a flat and walked my bicycle four miles to a bike shop and bought a new tube so that they would change it. Each weekend I intend to go for a long ride, but I compromise with myself by learning more about The Bridge School instead.

I grew up in a household where Neil Young’s music was played every day. When I look back on my life, that and episodes of Seinfeld fill the background of every memory. It wasn’t just Neil’s music that I grew up loving, but through my parents I learned about his projects with other musicians, his LincVolt car project, and, obviously, The Bridge School. I used to think that The Bridge School was for kids with cerebral palsy, because Neil has two sons with it. I would listen to his album, Trans, and try to grasp the difficulty Neil and Pegi had communicating with their son, Ben. As I grew older, my understanding of the school branched out slightly, to where I associated it more with the annual benefit concert each October, but it wasn’t until deciding to fundraise for them that I took the time to learn more about the school apart from Neil Young’s influence.

Pegi Young, Jim Foreder and Dr. Marilyn Buzolich founded The Bridge School in 1986 in the Bay Area of California. The school is known for being a leader in the field of argumentative and alternative communication (AAC), working with students with severe speech and physical disabilities to teach them how to best thrive in their communities. So many Bridge School students enter the school unable to express themselves in a way others can understand, but the school works with them to help the students be heard.

When people ask why Kloe and I chose The Bridge School, I realize that the answer is a lot less exciting than I think it is. In the same way that the entire trip fell into place, so did this decision. We had been brainstorming different organizations for about a week before a friend inadvertently suggested it.

“Why don’t you do something related to your dad,” she said.

My dad is all about Neil Young, bricks, and gardens. Duh, I thought, Kloe and I can raise money for overweight bricklayers who grow tomatoes. Google didn’t turn up too many results, though, and then it finally hit me that The Bridge School would be perfect.  The more I learn about it, the more I respect the school and all that it does. I have also been into watching the BridgeSchooler YouTube channel, which is really interesting and I highly suggest it.

Calling All Drivers

I am strangely good at finding the right size Tupperware for leftover food. My roommates will cook, and I’ll run into the kitchen and offer to put the leftovers away for them, just to get some practice in. Someone once told me to find the one you think will fit and then go a size down; the advice has proven to be flawless. This weekend I learned that I have a new skill: tiling.

“I am surprised at how good you are at laying tile,” my friend, Becky, told me. I was surprised too; it does not seem like something I would be good at. I had actually been avoiding it because I thought it would be dreadful, but we have to finish tiling our laundry room by Passover because it is becoming my bedroom.

It all started when I decided to move out this September. We convinced our friend, Heidi, to take over my lease, but it worked out for her to move in sooner rather than later.

“I could just live in the laundry room,” I said. It has always seemed a little too big to be a laundry room, but we had no use for it to be anything else. Until now.

I was face-timing my sister, Leah, the other day about it, when she brought up that it won’t be much different than when I live with her because she doesn’t even have a couch for me to sleep on.

“But how much space do you have, really?” I asked.

“Not much, it’s a one bedroom,” she said.

Normally this would not bother me at all, but unbeknownst to my sister, I have been using her apartment as a selling point to people when I try and convince them that they should be Kloe and my support-van drivers for the trip.

“And then you can be in LA and live at my sister’s place with us. It’ll be great, it’s really close to the beach and awesome,” I tell people. I have no concept how close Leah lives to the beach or how she feels about long-term guests, but at this point I’m desperate to find a driver because my packing list keeps growing.

I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to find a driver. While “come drive 90 miles a day by yourself for a month,” is appealing to me, less of my friends are willing to quit their jobs and come across the country than I anticipated. I have gotten a lot of replies along the lines of “maybe, let me see what I’m doing then,” but no solid yeses. I’m confident, though, because like I said, they can stay with my sister as long as they want after, and she lives in LA, pretty close to a beach, I think.

Convincing the Parents

“Where are you staying?” My dad asked me.

“With strangers we find on the Internet,” I said, “but we are targeting women and married people,” we aren’t idiots.

“You need to stop this, your mother isn’t sleeping,” he said.

My parents have reacted in different ways since I first mentioned the trip to them.

“Mmhm, okay,” my mom said when I brought it up. I tend to get caught up in elaborate plans a lot, most of which fizzle out within a few hours or days. I went through a graduate school phase, where I even met with an admissions woman at the University of Michigan, but that only lasted a few weeks. Another five days was spent convinced I would work for Lena Dunham.

“You just don’t understand, I’m meant to work for her,” I told my sister.

“Doing what?” she asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said.

Then I went through a heavy move-back-to-Baltimore period, where I went so far as to apply to a job with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, get the job, then turn it down. That lasted about a week. Which is a lot compared to the four hours of “I have to go teach at The Island School” I go through every month of so.

This bike trip, though, felt different. When I think about my life usually, everything is hypothetical and up for debate. Each morning I wake up and think, I guess I’ll go to work today, as if it’s optional. Every thought I have always has clouds around it, like my entire life is just a preview for a movie that will start in years to come. This trip, however, felt real right away. It has a beginning, middle, and end. Granted, the details aren’t hashed out yet, but figuring them out is tangible and fun. When it comes to working at The Island School—the study abroad program I attended during high school—I have no clue what I’ll teach, when I’ll go, or how I’ll get there. When I told my parents about biking to California, though, I had already mapped out the basic plan with Kloe.

I knew they understood how serious we were when my mom looked at the route without my prompting.

“I was looking at the map you sent me the other day,” she said.

And then it hit me. She believed me. I had believed myself since the beginning, but it felt so much more real once my mom started talking about it.

I still think that my mom looses sleep over the idea of Kloe and I out in the world alone, but she is a mom so she’ll loose sleep any night I’m not home with her watching reruns of Seinfeld and eating ice cream. It’s my job to keep her on her toes, after all, so if I don’t go on an adventure I’m really just doing a disservice to society.

Adventure Time

I have always wondered when I am supposed to start paying attention to stories my mom tells me. I listen to her when she talks, but in recent years I have tried to ask more questions that don’t directly benefit me, because someone will have to pass on her legacy once she inevitably dies. This isn’t a sad thought, or one that keeps me up at night, it just seems like the logical next step in my life.

“You and your siblings all get things from me that I absolutely love, but you also get things from me that I hate,” she said last time I visited her. “Like, I love that you take adventures, and you totally get that from me. But I fear you’ll wake up one day and wish you had done anything to prepare for your future.” Then she started talking about when she lived in Germany, and I stopped listening.

This is not new to me. My mom has been saying, “One day you won’t be 25,” for forever. It is the reason she thinks I should do things like build my credit or put money away. To this, I respond, I’m not 25, why are you talking to me about being 25?

In recent months I have been talking to my mom a lot about what I’ll do after this summer, when my current job ends.

“I just don’t get why you have an aversion to getting a legitimate job,” she said.

“I’m not, I could deliver papers,” I said.

For this reason I was excited to tell her when I made a decision about my fall plans. It all came to me one morning.

I am done with winter, I said to myself while wiping snow off my boots. I need to move to Los Angeles. The only problem is that I hate shipping bicycles.

“Want to go on a bike ride with me,” I texted my friend, Kloe. Kloe is the type of person who is always down for anything, and her presence makes everything significantly more fun.

“Sure! Where?” she responded.

“California,” I said.

And now Kloe and I are biking to California.

 

Dora

I went through a rugby phase, where I was convinced I would make a great rugby player for about ten months. I have a rugby sweatshirt, I like knee high socks, and I find black eyes aesthetically appealing. My phase ended when a friend insisted I come to a rugby game he was working at.

“These girls will eat you,” he said. He was right. Some of them were how I imagined; wearing knee high socks and fitted shirts with perfectly placed dirt stains. Most of them, though, looked like they could, and would, eat me if given the chance. I immediately decided to catalog it in my brain next to photography, something I talk about how great I’d be at if only given the chance.

I’m currently going through one of these phases with being a detective. It started out as wanting to be a hacker, but all the websites I found have too small of font, and I struggle reading on the computer as it is. Then I decided to be a detective, because I like trench coats. I am going about researching for the trip with the mindset that it will prepare me for being a detective.

Sure, It would be easy enough to go online and buy maps of different states, but where is the fun in that? Instead, I have searched for maps by calling different departments, like the Department of Transportation and the Parks Department. I go on their web sites, find a contact name, and call or email them. This is how I do anything, really. Why take the time to figure it out for myself, when there are customer service representatives for this reason? I imagine them all sitting in their cubicles, bored as anything, waiting for me to call and entertain them. Plus, when I talk to people I get a lot more than “click here to be sent a map of bike routes in Arizona.”

When it comes to crossing California, Kloe and I have to come up with the route on our own. Piecing together established bike routes has been our go to between Denver and Las Vegas, but we haven’t found any existing routes from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. This is probably because most people try to avoid the Mojave Desert, which isn’t bad, if you’re into biking hundreds of miles in unbearable temperatures with no water. But I prefer to live, so Kloe and I decided that let’s figure it out when we get there probably isn’t the best tactic.

After calling different post offices and schools I found throughout the Mojave Desert area, I finally found Dora, with the Parks Department.

“Can you tell me about Essex, California?” I asked, “I am thinking of biking through and staying there.”

“Oh, honey, I would not suggest that,” she said.

“Why?” I asked, stupidly.

“It’s a ghost town, no one really lives there anymore,” she said.

Kloe and I lived in Ithaca, New York, for a while, where the town was small enough that you knew most people, but I have a hunch that small town in the desert is different. Especially when I saw that on Wikipedia the population of Essex is eight.

Dora proceeded to tell me, from what I can only assume is her memory, how to bike from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree: “Then you’ll see a restaurant, stop there for water. And turn left,” she said.

I scrambled to write down what she was saying on the back of loose paper I found near me.

“Can you repeat that?” I said.

“You’ll go under a bypass, and stop there for a few hours. It’s the only shade you’ll see for days,” she said.

Being a detective, I got Dora’s contact information and told her to expect to hear from me with follow up questions. Being concerned for my general safety, she sent me multiple maps and information packets about the Mojave Desert in general.