The Best Time You Can Have In The Woods With Your Pants Still On – My Ebiking Addiction

Travelling to China about 10 years ago I was surprised and overwhelmed by the proliferation of electric bikes. It seemed like everyone everywhere owned an ebike. Hundreds of them would be lined up inside the super markets for consumers to impulse buy a new bike while they were busy with their morning grocery shopping. They were attractive looking and cheap, but most of them ran off lead acid batteries and in general were heavy and not that powerful. I toyed with the idea of importing them to the US to try to sell them here, but once I started to research the shipping costs and the weights I realized it was pretty impractical.

Over the last 10 years batteries have gotten much, much cheaper and far more powerful. There is a new explosion of interest in electric bikes in the US as people look towards reasonable solutions to deal with the escalating costs of owning a car as well as all the time wasted stuck in city traffic. The traffic in Ithaca has gotten particularly bad on Rt 13 and often seems backed up for miles all the way to Stewart Park. The traffic and lack of parking in town was starting to drive me totally batty.

A new store opened up in town called Boxy Bikes owned by my friend Larry Clarkburg that specialized in selling ebikes. I swung by and tried out a used Giant Twist ebike he had for sale and I instantly fell in love. It was a love affair that would interfere dramatically will my sex life and anything else I would want to do for the next several months. I jokingly thanked Larry for destroying my life every time I saw him. The first time I used my electric bike in town I was amazed at how quickly I could get from one place to another. No more waiting for traffic, no more driving around looking for free parking, I could arrive right at the doorstep of the customer site and had a lot of extra time to spare. The best part was that I was no longer isolated in my car in an artificial environment that separated me from people on the street. People I knew would wave hello, I felt like part of the community instead of an outsider just driving through.

This was just the beginning, I had bought one ebike from Larry, but I started spending countless hours on the online ebike forums reading mods people had made and crazy ebikes that would use tens or hundreds of thousands of watts. An entire community of people were on the cutting edge of ebike development, and they were all doing it in their garage. I had stumbled on the golden age of ebikes and I was hooked. I would stay up till odd hours in the morning trying to learn everything I could and then I would wakeup at 5:00 AM and start in again on the forums. It became a complete and all-consuming obsession.

The 8.5 lb motor that changed my life
The 8.5 lb motor that changed my life

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The Desert Wept At Our Passing, And Is Once Again Left Alone

70,000 people came and went where none were before. A place so barren it is without insects, and yet I saw a hawk swooping through our camp at dusk.

Black Rock City. A place like no other on earth. You have either been there and know it, or you are an outsider. There is no in between.

There is no place I feel more alive, more insane, more in touch with the emptiness inside my own soul. That personal struggle to add meaning to an intrinsically meaningless life.

Giant bug puppet. Photo by Jim Laux
Giant bug puppet. Photo by Jim Laux

I didn’t want to go, but I had already bought a ticket and a plane ride, there was no turning back. Doug and I planned for months to build a giant 22 foot walking puppet bug we were going to stride across the playa with. I knew it would be a nightmare building it there, it always is. I knew the wind would make our lives miserable as we tried to cart around this giant creation. Last year I built a 43 foot tall puppet man and moved it around with 6 others on guide wires. I swore never again, but here I was building this bug in the middle of nowhere, right back at it again.

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Kite Through 3 Feet Of Powder, Launch 15 Feet In The Air, Do A Trick, Repeat

Tug Hill Kite Festival 2014 was the best day of snow kiting in my entire life. I had made plans to spend the weekend at The Flurry Festival, a 3 day dance festival in Saratoga Springs, but I decided to cancel at the last-minute because of an impending snowstorm. Instead I packed the van with 6 kites, 2 Snowboards, 3 pairs of Micro skis, XC skis, Ski, XC and snowboard boots, some food, my portable heater and camping gear and a couple sleeping bags and started on my personal Mecca to Tug Hill, the promised land for snowkiting.

Zebulon Crabnebula doing what he does best
The Lean Green Snowkite Machine – Zebulon Crabnebula doing what he does best

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The Ocean Doesn’t Care Whether You Live Or Die – $666 Of Destroyed Gear

As the 8′ high waves came and crashed on my head the only thing I could think was “Get back in your kayak and get out of here or you will die”. I frantically splashed around in the water while the most powerful current I had ever experienced thrashed me around uncontrollably. The boat hit me in the face giving me a black eye, I tried time and again to get myself into the swamped sea kayak and roll it up but to no avail. Eventually I gave up and grabbed my 500lb sea kayak filled with water and started swimming toward the vacant beach.

hatteras

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Worst Idea Ever – Build a 43′ Tall Puppet, Strap It To My Back, Walk Around 60,000 People in 20 mph Winds – Burning Man 2013

My 24' high puppet built for the previous burn in 2012.  This year it was twice the size.
My 24′ high puppet built for the previous burn in 2012.
This year I built one twice as large. Photo by Dan Kaus.

In the last 2 weeks I …

– Had the bomb squad called on me in the airport

– Was attacked by lawn sprinklers while innocently sleeping outside somewhere I probably shouldn’t have,

– Got pressure washed with foam so hard it hurt while rocking out to a DJ in a plexiglass cage with 80 naked strangers

– Danced 6 hours a day in the desert for a week and ate the best food of my life every day at the Rhythm-Wave camp in Black Rock City

– Built a 43′ high bamboo puppet with scrounged materials found around BRC and walked around for 5 hours over 2 different nights with 5 people helping me

– Hiked for 3 days in Yosemite with Doug while the whole park was on fire, climbed half-dome and didn’t get eaten by bears despite smearing peanut butter all over my face and duct-taping myself to a tree

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Kayaking In The Moonlight At The Edge Of The World While The Waves Crash Against 100′ High Cliffs In Magdalen Islands Quebec.

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The Island That Sings The Sweetest Songs To My Soul.

Words cannot accurately convey the majesty and awe that the Magdalen Islands inspire.

I launched the kayak as the sun turned red on the horizon. Strapping a headlamp on I jumped into my 14′ sea kayak and tightly gripped my favorite paddle and forced my way out through the surf. The beach was tiny, only about 20 feet wide and was the only beach for miles in either direction. The swell caused the giant kayak to tip and sway more than I ever thought possible in a sea kayak. A few feet away the waves pounded the rocks and cliff face. The lighthouse shot up from the cliff. As I paddled away I felt like I had found the edge of the earth. Here the land abruptly ended and sheer sandstone cliffs that would easily give way under your feet shot up hundreds of feet into the air. There were caves everywhere that were easily carved out by the forceful action of the waves. The surging tides would trap air in the holes and they would build up pressure and blow out air, sometimes high up into the air. The noise and the surging water struck a nerve somewhere deep inside me. I plunged the paddle into the water stroke after stroke and mile melted into mile. Before I knew it the sun had disappeared and the lighthouse was miles behind me, completely gone from view.

I had to check out one of the caves before I turned around so I cautiously turned on my headlamp and started paddling into one that looked creepy. The water was rising and falling quickly and the cave went on for a long way. After several hundred yards there was no light left except the light from my headlamp with no end to the cave in sight. As the swell surged up and down little holes in the walls would blow out water, sometimes with surprising force. It was exhilarating and frightening all at the same time, I decided to slowly back paddle my way out again.

Paddling back under a full moon was totally unreal. I could see the waves crash against the rocks and the cliff face rose up hundreds of feet with the moon peaking over the top. I paddled with a furious intensity for miles until I reached the lighthouse again. I left a flashlight on my car so I could find it on the cliff face, the two red LEDs stared out at me in the water like some kind of hideous beast waiting to devour me.

Continue reading “Kayaking In The Moonlight At The Edge Of The World While The Waves Crash Against 100′ High Cliffs In Magdalen Islands Quebec.”

Iceland II: The Revenge Of Ring Road

“Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation” ― Khalil GibranThe Prophet

Our trip to Iceland started out in the worst sort of way.  There was a lot of drama around my separation with my Ex-girlfriend.  She was supposed to go to Iceland with Orion and I, but the plane ticket I bought for her ended up going to waste.  I talked to Orion’s mom about all the trouble with my Ex-girlfriend and she still trusted me enough to go with Orion to Iceland. To call her a saint would be an understatement. I feel so blessed to have so many people who love me and trust me more than I trust myself at times.

We drove to JFK and I knew things were going to be rough when Orion threw up in the parking lot.  He threw up 3 more times on the plane, the woman sitting next to us in my Ex’s seat was very pleasant about the whole thing.  I couldn’t help wishing that she was with us, her backing out on the Iceland trip was really hard on me. I knew that I would have to find a way to deal with it as soon as possible, otherwise it would do nothing but interfere with Orion and I having a good time together. There was serious rifts that had come between Orion and I between his struggles in public school. No matter what came I knew I had to be focused and present for him throughout the entire trip, whatever sacrifices that meant that I would have to make for myself.

Soaking up the sights. The first in our ‘Puking all over Iceland’ series

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