iceland day 5

wow, what a ride!
this ‘road’ goes through the middle of nowhere, on the map it’s a dotted line, my favorite.
in fact it is less than a road, and more like a ‘way that someone drove once or twice with a big truck’.this day, all day, i saw noone. not a soul.
it was hard work, of course. if a nice fresh loamy packed dirt road is like chocolate, then this was like, chocolate with krispy caramel chunks, nuts and raisins…
across lava fields, over heath and mossy moors, sliding down snowbanks and almost getting stuck in quick-mud, i really had to work it!
i got to the ‘better’ road, the Kjolar route, wanting more…
and the sunset picture? that’s as dark as it gets here, but when i sleep, oh, i sleep like a log fallen in the forest.
really at peace here.
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lava tube caves!!

just the other day, i was riding along a glacier in iceland, and came upon these lava tube caves!
helmet: check!
headlamp: check!
let’s go have a look…
inside there was this weird black carbon flowstone, and the rock was bubbly and fluid, but hard of course…such a strange place, under the earth.
i felt at home, down there under the earth.

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Iceland day 2

up early and into the hotsprings, after my coffee, of course.

had to schlepp the bike up one little hill, almost fellinto a ravine with the bike on top of me!!

following the track past more geysers and steam vents…the landscape seems so, new, fresh, yet so old at the same time.

rain started falling, but i dont care. waterproof jacket (kinda) waterproof pants (yes) waterproof gloves (not really) waterproof shoes (surprisingly so) i just kept on.

following a track on the gps, a horsetrail or a sheeptrail…on the map it looked like it skirted around a little lake. when i go to the lake, i found the trail went into the water! it was shallow, but riding in the water, then up into the sand, onto the mud…crazy insane, some of the most intense riding i have done, ever.

also the longest rides i have done in 25 years, yesterday 37 km, today about the same.

state of mind does so much for endurance…this place is beautiful, everywhere, at every turn, just awesome!

and the bike, works as planned, a little adventure home on wheels.

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Iceland day 1

RElatively easy I got out of the ‘city’, though it wasn’t much city, as i didn’t go into Reykjavik. The bike came through the airpot uscathed, i built it at the hotel and took it for a test ride, all good.

Following the gps maps, i found a way out of town on the horse trails, which took me to the main road #1. So much traffic up there! i can’t believe anyone actually wants to ride (or skate) that road. I onluy had to do 6 km, before coming to the gas station and turnoff…always search the back way, on a dirt road!

up past the thermal power works, the landscape looked like i expect Mars will look, after the first 30 years of terraforming. you know we’re gonna do that, as soon as the tech allows…

riding on mars, that’s what it’s like, oh yeah. by the roadside, geysers, and bubbling primordial fluids…

i made my way to the hotsprings, well, it’s a hot river! soaked, camped, ate a lot a lot (the bike is heavy with all the food, i can eat as much as i like)

awesome, welcome sleep, alone on the field…alone, blissfully, finally, alone…

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after the sea, the mountains

from the beach, along a day of flat coastline, camping in a river valley at the foot of the space i would eventually cross, the road i chose ran directly up into the hills…

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and made me sweat, turn red, slather myself with sun creme, and dig it, all that uphill…

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hot coffee in the village, then rain on the ascent. i hid out under my tarp for a bit, then off again. sorry scott, no way to keep the board outta the wet, i’m afraid i abused her/it. but we got the job done…

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sunset over the taiwan straits…

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and then there were bridges, coming down from alishan, by way of jade mountain…

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fog, deep thick fog, and i emerged in the swiss alps. damn google maps!

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evening fell as i pushed up hehuan shan, rainbows, moon shining high, clouds billowing over the mountian tops, approaching 3000m altitude. after sichuan, this was hard, but like child’s play…

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the last seven kilometers, in the morning…hehuan shan on a skateboard!

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camping in the sea of clouds…

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and then there was this, two hours of gopro running, crazy beautiful, follow the road…i made it more than 50km before crashing…

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though this was the end of my ride kinda like planned, it was a stoke-killer (almost) when i hit a wet patch and landed wierd, wrenching my knee. ouch! i went along the coast road a bit, just to see the cliffs, and the next day (today) i hitched to daxi, to hang with Quake, at Daxi. relaxing, recuperating…feeling much better, it should be ok.

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Taiwan 2013 the long flat coastline of the soul

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after a visit to the guan yin statue in hualien, on the road for stage two, along the pacific coast. averagins 70km each day, sunrises and beach camping…that’s where it’s at. well, that’s where some of it’s at, the flat part.

sunscreen, my friend!
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tunnels, surfers, rain!
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beach camping, most amazing sunrises. i set my alarm for 5 am, try to get on the road before six, because when the sun gets higher, quickly it gets hot hot hot!

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the tropic of cancer marker. i am sure it got hotter as i crossed the line. i win!

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mangoes! and a pit stop, to switch the truck mounting. the heat/rain/steambath maybe started melting my board. like the wicked witch of the east…i’m melting! its worked out ok, though, still rideable, still awesome subsonic.

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morning coffee, i like it hot. midmorning, i’ll stop by the wayside and get a mr. brown iced coffee, in a can. not bad, actually…

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then back up into the mountains, for stage three- steamy jungle skating. hard work, it is! wouldnt want it any other way. everyone has a different perspective onthis long distance thing, but mine is simple: i never suffer. sure its hot, it’s hard, i grunt and almost meltdown sometimes, but i never doubt, never retreat, just keep pushing, and rest when the old man in me says. what goes up, must come down, and when it cools down in the evening, that downhill is even more chill.

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so i reach my halfway destination, jialeshuei, near to kending, in the far south. relax, some bodysurfing, but the surf hasnt come up yet…will look in town for some fins. chillin with winson, local surf guy, and we’re off to find one longboarding taiwan guy this evening…another pusher. POWER RELAXING…

taiwan 2013 stage 1

On the road again! this time in taiwan, going north to south. been pushin’ it for five days, from taipei first over the north cross-island highway…narrow roads, good pavement, up up up. it’s not such high altitude, the first passes around 800m, but it’s HOT! gotta get up early. no espresso this time, but i found these excellent drip coffee baggies, makes a good cup to get me going.

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The board i am riding is a new subsonic, a hybrid longer racecar, higher gt, set up directionally, mounted tighter in, in the back. Scott made this fresh for the season, its not as low as the gt, so i’m not bottoming out as much and have a lot more control in the corners (i asked for something ‘snappier’ and subsonic Scott delivered the goods! efp i think is 28 inch, which lets me keep a wider stance, i like! honestly the best board for me, my leg length and cycle of my thigh-knee-calf.

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Riptide is sponsoring this trip too, and set me up with a load of fatcones and chubbies, but i settled on the aps barrels in the buzzed v2’s, with amish cupped washers boardside and flat roadside. the carve is awesome, it jumps left and right and back into line, exceptionally stable and mad fun at speed, and i’m stoked on the center line when i’m pushing. and in these mountains i’ve been pushing a lot, a lot!

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the roads up here are sweet, good pavement, often narrowing into what seems like bike paths, one lane tracks through crazy forests. the vegetation changes with the slope, mixed broadleaf subtropical forests downstairs, cedar and pines on the ways up, tree ferns and leather leaved shiny monster plants higher up. some places are even like cloud forest, everything covered with moss and green slime caking the roads, it never really dries out up there.

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most valuable piece of travel kit again is the water filter, it’s hot and humid here and i drink seeveral litres of water per km. haha, no, that’s an exaggeration but still, my clothes are drenched in sweat, some days i wished it would rain, it wouldnt matter. everything in the pack is wrapped in a dry sack, and every day i get clean socks and undies! awesome, clean socks make the man, almost…

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day five, entering taroko national forest, i had no idea of the scope of this place. it took me two and a half days to skate up, i didnt even realize i’d made it to 2670 meters altitude, till i saw a sign fly past…

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then, the road snakes through the ‘sea of clouds’, it’s up there on the list of fantabulous super badassed trekking downhills, 75km from 2600+ meters down to sea level. in some places the clouds are pushing up over the side of the mountain, spilling onto the road, the trees and the mountains like ghosts, catching a glimpse of the man on the skate on the road.

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camping out in the cloud forest, the soundscape includes screeching birds, little chirps here and there, zithering crickets in the evening, and grunting monkeys as i cook my noodles. i pound my chest and bark back at the monkeys, the food is mine! gorilla in the mist, don’t mess with me. they’re just little monkeys, i dont know are they gonna come back in a gang and make trouble? i think the chest beating does the trick, though, mostly they scamper off and watch me sour from the trees.

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finally back down to earth, or, to sea level, and headed along the coast to land in hualien. and here i sit, at the bar in formosa backpacker hostel, sipping tequila. after six days on the road, around 250km skated, i’ll have a little treat. actually, this is my prep for another long ride. ever hear of the tarahumara runners?

David Francis Willis

my father, sculptor and painter David Francis Willis, has a new art site showing his acrylic paintings…

I was working on a print, and my mother wrote me, “oh you know, max, your father is working on a series of prints…” it turns out he is doing color wash plate impression on canvas, and brush painting portraits as an overlay. he calls them Moments In Time, they’re pretty cool, hybrid print-portraits.

check out David Francis Willis art website

skateboarder magazine’s vietnam skate trip

i found this video while researching my next journey, it’s kinda cool, a skate trip in a very different sense, and in it is some valuable information for this long distance skater, some slick skating as well.

of course, i would do it very differently, and in fact, i fly into saigon jan 6. i’ll be with my girl, and we’ll be tote’n two longboards. we’ve got a month to check out vietnam, and to make it across the border in the north back to china. we’re gonna do some power relaxing.

one main piece of information this video offers is that at least one of these guys on a bike was struck by the danger of it all. he was on a creaky two-stroke, which is a different kind of danger, but it seemed he was contrasting vietnam with his own, perhaps safer world. perception of danger is, of course, relative. i often say, when people ask me that my skating or romping around in developing countries is perhaps dangerous, that living a life without adventure is dangerous. all of us who skate fast or long accept a certain element of calculated risk to life and limb in order to navigate that particular space, and travelling rough to remote places is no different, managing risks and returns. on this journey, however, i dont want to drag my girl into some difficult situation when she is hoping for a more leisurely jaunt about vietnam. so the plan is, to take it easy.

since i have been skate trekking in china and tibet, it’s difficult to imagine going somewhere and not taking the longboard. for me riding the skateboard is simply the most awesome way to visit a place…

as long as the road surface is ok,
the traffic’s not too crazy,
the sun isn’t too blazing hot,
nor the wind blowing up a gale,
and the dogs aren’t snarling from all directions,
and the police not making hassles…

to be honest, none of these things make skating a place less awesome, but they are things to think about if one is looking for leisure and not a slalom through the seven hells. i watched some of the longtreks morocco videos and now i think skating is not the most awesome way to visit morocco. my girl likes to skate, but she shakes her head, and worries a bit, while i do my hundreds of km. plus, it’s gonna be hot, really hot, 35 degrees hot. i dont even know if i am going to want to skate…haha…not want to skate…ha…

we definately wouldn’t want to do the motorbike thing. in the video i saw them on their bikes in the mountains, and imagined how way much more awesome it would be to skate through there, up and down through there. they remarked that they went barrelling from place to place, not connecting and missing a lot, and they found [not many places to skate]. i saw some nice roads in the video, hey! they spoke several times of mountain passes. not mountain passes like my beloved himalayas, but the terrain goes up to 2000m, i’ll bet there’s some nicenice slow uphills, meandering jungle mountain roads, and crazy water-buffalo strewn downhill runs along the way. in places the road surface looks broken, in other places, not bad at all – but just because it’s black on video (or in a satellite image) doesn’t mean it’s smooth blacktop, i know that. i also know that with 85mm speedvents, if the road is even halfway decent we can make some grand skating days.

it looks like from this video, the a1 coastal highway might have heavy traffic, in the north at least, and around the end of our stay in vietnam is the tet festival, when there might be more drunken drivers on the road. yes, i saw the weather they were biking through, it didn’t look so great untill they hit the south. i did watch another video of some kids scootering about on the coast road in the south, and that actually looked like super skating: flat, direct by the sea, not much traffic, beaches, palm trees.

so, we decide to stick to the south, and have come up with a plan of action: after we spend most of our limited funds on diving and tequila sunrises, lounging on a tropical island for a week or so, we will head back to the mainland and slowly skate north, in no haste, from beach to beach. if we are enjoying the skating, and can camp and save some of the money we would spend in hotels and on busses or trains, then we can maybe afford some more diving and tropical island time as we travel north along the coast. just before our visas run out, we’ll pop back into china, into yunnan, where we are home free with sweet roads, easy camping, and good friends to go and visit. once back in china, i expect we’ll need to relax and recuperate for a couple of weeks

right now it’s -12 C in beijing. i haven’t skated for a number of days. i am stoked, nonetheless, dreaming about the beach, about long distance skating, imagining the best way to make a hybrid push-push-adventure x relax-n-chill vacation. In doing my research, i learn something from watching online videos.

now skate video is a lot to do with narcissism, so is blogging and posting reams of text to a forum. at least, in this video, the cool skaters aren’t me, they are not riding longboards, and the text is about something i haven’t even done yet. i just think it’s cool to share how a video of some skaters on an adventure can inspire, educate, entertain, even an old rat in another world, like me.

banned in the free world

after about 1200km, my footbrake pad wore out. it seems my original fat radial tyre ausschnitt weathered better than the moped tyre cutout. the moped model was easier to wear, thinner, lighter, and as a result, shorter-lived.

the columbia shasta trekking shoes turned out to be super comfortable, relatively waterproof, lightweight – and therefore quick-drying, good skate shoes. however, the nice-nice grip of the soles also translated to tasty-tasty, and the road ate my sole in due course.

so, i bought a vial of superglue, the really cheap, stinky, likely very poisonous, banned in the free world kind of superglue, and i carved up the remains of my footbrake pad to make a repair.

functional, practical, it was all death-fumes and glue down my pants, on the floor, doing the diy, but in the end, i fixed up my shoe and was on the road, footbraking as usual! not bad.

this trip i experienced my first pain ever from skate trekking. after two days skating without the footbrakepad, and one major downhill, my left shoe sole was ground down to the soft bits. pushing all afternoon without the hard formed support of the original sole, caused a pain in the arch/ball of my left foot. doing this sole repair took care of the problem, but it was another three days on the road before my foot was back to normal and didn’t hurt anymore.

so it’s back to the beginning, trying to find the better shoe for skate trekking.