Tag Archives: Abandoned

An American Wereboy in Sudamerica: Year end recap.

One year on the road. Un ano. An excellent adventure and bogus journey. The throttle was turned and old New York was spied in the mirror in June of 2011. Since then we’ve spent most of our time in Latin America, through Mexico, down Central America way, over the Darien and into Colombia, then Ecuador, and now Peru. Patagonia was always the goal, and it still is, but I never really actually thought I would make it this far en serio. And indeed it is far and a long way to come on an old moto and in stinky boots.

Sure, few great truths are revealing themselves, few insights.

But look, it was never that kind of trip.

A great DJ once asked me, “Subcommandante, after all this is over, how will you adjust back to civilian life?”

The truth is that I never really adjusted to it anyway. So it’ll be more or less the same.

I’m just living my life, one peso at a time.

…but never mind that.

We’re in Peru now where the death roads bring new life when you’re staring into the eyes of the beast and crazy, muddy, rocky dirt roads with vertiginous drops blow us away like we’re listening to an old-school Maxwell tape.


On speaking Spanish:
After 8 months in Latin America I can faithfully say that I am a beginner level Spanish speaker. You hear a lot of people throw out the platitude that they can speak Spanish well enough to order food. The truth is that ordering food is one of the harder things to do while speaking Spanish in Latin America. It’s a process that is entirely different than ordering up a cheeseburger in the states. Every country and every different region of each country has different names for everything and, like an imaginary linguistic wall is set up between them, no one knows the words that other places use for different foodstuffs. Menus only exist in upscale joints and sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to get. It’s cool though and I don’t mind. The set lunch is a common thing down here and it’s something that I think we used to have in the states but disappeared a long time ago. It’s like the menu of the day but it’s super cheap, between $1.50 and $4 for the most part wherever you go and it comes with a soup, main dish with meat, starch and vegetable, a glass of juice, and sometimes a little something for desert. It’s really a great deal and it’s enough food for two people. En serio, my spanish is not that bad. It should be better, but I’m lazy. I never study my notes from Xela and I’m a loner man, a rebel, and care little for small talk anyways. And yet, I get by. Here I am.

But hey c’mon man, you got your whole life riding around in that rubbermaid top-box. What if somebody looks in there!?

Relax Billy, they won’t even know what it is man, they won’t even know what it is.

Che Guevara. Who was Che Guevara?

I dunno, some dude I guess. Latins and hipsters and gente the world over love their romantic losers, killed on mountaintops and emblazoned on t-shirts the world over. Best to die, but better to die for a cause.

I’m not going to tell you to go out and buy Che Guevara’s biography. I didn’t. I was going to, in a bookstore in Phoenix, but it was like 900 pages and weighed a metric ton. Couldn’t they have condensed it into a 200 page paperback? Louis L’Amour could’ve done it. I just wanted to know why those dreamy eyes are staring at me from a million t-shirts and car bumpers.

I read the wikipedia article and washed my hands of the whole thing. Fidel won his revolution, but there are no Fidel t-shirts and the reason is obvious. What if Guevara had won?

Che Guevara’s first name is Ernesto, but everyone called him Che because he used the word Che a lot. Che is like saying dude, or man, in American English. If Che Guevara grew up in Mexico instead of Argentina, everyone would have called him Guey Guevara. Because that’s what they say a lot in old Mexico.

I don’t care about dead revolutionaries and It’s not my fight anyway and so the mind drifts to other, more important things.


To go on forever, would be ideal.

The Salton and Camp Zero. One of the last great American wastelands which can never be forgotten.

Lusting for the sun on top of old Tajumulco down old Guatemala way, guey.

I was in Xela, Guatemala for nearly two months and everything revolved around the Miguel de Cervantes School of Spanish. They surprisingly had these neatly constructed ramps to get motorcycles up the two feet of steps and into the narrow hallway. I never fell but the thought of being pinned in the doorway with a hot exhaust pipe burning my leg to the bone was always there.

The Mexican experience summed up in this neat little sign, spied in San Cristobal.

Temascal, or Native American sweat lodge, had down in old Mazunte town.

Brain food baby. I miss Mexico…so long ago.

Free waffle breakfasts at the Roadrunner Hostel in Tucson taste alright to the desert drifter. Plans to dip south of the border materialized here. Who opens a hostel in Tucson?

Worlds tallest flag pole (it isn’t) in Calipatria, California. It was well over a hundred degrees that day and I was alright with that.

Saguaro cactus at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Just south of Why, Arizona and bordering old Mexico, thousands of Saguaro reach and twist towards the sky in all sorts anthropomorphic shapes. I was camped out here, under a million stars, awakened by a Black Hawk border patrol helicopter hovering over my tent.

The Cabazon dinos and the end of the road for the great American adventure.

The Alvord desert. We had finally done it, reached the true West after the Alaskan adventure. A memory never fleeting, the Alvord will always reign supreme.

Dude, the Arctic Circle. Way up North. An incredible day really. I would do the Dempster in the rain and in the mud all the way up to Circle and back without pause. Over 500 miles and skies that stretch forever.

Hyder, Alaska. No small feat indeed. Hyder is this little thumb of America reachable by road that juts into British Colombia off the Cassiar Highway on the way to real Alaska. It felt good to be back on American soil, if only for an hour or so, and out of stinky ol’ Canada.

Ah, the melodious mambo beats of Captain Louis Prima. Who can forget lil’ Kevin and his homestead up in Northern Maine? I can’t, what with all his pianos and what not. This guy was a real surprise. An original.

It’s hard to beat Abi’s Adirondack cabin for a first night’s lodging’s. First day out was cold and wet and awful and my rain pants ripped to shreds, a harbinger of things to come.

This weird tomato from Morelia still makes me giggle and the memory of seeing a little girl that looked like French actor Jean Reno just minutes after purchase will forever be intertwined.

Ceiling of the LA Metro. Thousands of real reels line the ceiling for as far as the eye can see. I thought this was a nice touch. Each station has something different adorning the ceilings or walls.

Canyon of the Gods. No great American road trip can ever be complete without visiting the Grand Canyon. Check it off the list dog.

Teacup terrier shots are the thing to do on one’s 29th birthday in Los Angeles.

Why, Arizona. A great campsite under a great tree. The CB looks so cleeeeeean, a handsome ride.

Where’s the beef? The food in Mexico was amazing, inspirational even, the best in Latin America and the best I’ve seen yet in the world. I haven’t seen anything like it since, not even in Ecuador where they gobble down guinea pigs for breakfast. Sure, that’s different, but I don’t really want to eat guinea pigs. I just ate one because it’s the thing to do. But I could eat head tacos everyday. American food is boring, bland even, but the things we do we do well. New York pretzels and pizzas, a cheeseburger at any diner in America, a cheap fat steak, and a good beer are the things I miss most here in Latin America. They sell pizza in Latin America, but it’s universally terrible, and usually expensive because of the price of cheese. Most of it is sort of like Elios type stuff. The pizza place I used to work at on Long Island would cut the good cheese with the cheap to save money, the good sauce with the bad. I don’t want to know what they do here. Beef is expensive here too, and the hamburgers and cheeseburgers are always thin joints, all slathered in sauces and messy, salty, and disappointingly small. They use “super” a lot to describe the ones that come with cheese but they’re never super, and I always feel just a little bit sorry for my latino brethren because their super cheeseburgers aren’t super at all, but sad. Pitiful even. Maybe  as we inch closer to the pampas the beef situation will get better. No se che, vamos a ver.

But yea, I just miss the regular stuff about being an American in America. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, taking a shit in a clean bathroom, being comfortable and warm and snug, and even the law and order of it all I miss at times. Les extrano mis amigos and amigettes.

But I wouldn’t be here in Latin America if I didn’t want to be.

I’m going to miss Latin America wherever I go next. A lot. The people here might be xenophobic dicks sometimes(who isn’t?) but they are unpretentious and you can ride a motorcycle nearly anywhere. On the sidewalk, through buildings, or down one-way streets and no one cares. Motos are looked at here kind of like the way bicycles are in the states. And go ahead and climb a live volcano if you want to because no one will turn you away.

And when all this is said and done, I don’t know where I’ll end up. Probably America. There are no jobs down here in Latin America anyway. You can teach English and make $5 an hour and scrape by, or rent out your abs to washerwomen for less, but neither is a real option; maybe for a little while.

Just remember that wherever you go, people are going to be the same, no matter the tongue.

Predictable.

There are scant originals out there, though it’s been told that but a few hooligans still roam the roads, searching for something that they will never find.

strangers in a strange land

…with thoughts of the West continuously swirling inside their heads.

That’s it yo.

No regrets…well, maybe a few, but the trip isn’t over yet and they will be made up for.

The heat is on and it’s never been hotter.

See you in Patagonia putas.

Meet me across the sky.

Waiting for the Sun

Alaska was never a real destination for me. It was a trophy. The real aim of this journey was to see America, to bathe in the sun of an endless desert, and weep at the feet of the Dinosaurs from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. I’ve been in the North for over a month and I’m coming home to the USA. I’m cold and wet and tired of being cold and wet. Alaska is not America, it’s Alaska. The Yukon isn’t Canada either. Both exist unto themselves and each has earned its rightful place upon my imaginary mantle, bathing in the heat of the internal eternal flame of the quixotic loner. I’ve conquered the North and I feel it is a better place now.

Dawson City, Yukon. A cool place no doubt with a beautiful vibration. Deadwood should take lessons here, although the only thing that prevents Dawson from becoming more of a tourist trap than it already is, is its isolation. People still mine here and the locals still drink. A great place to drink to get drunk and then drink in the history of the gold rush. There’s a hostel here, but be forewarned that it has no electricity or running water. There is a sauna however that is somewhat proper, in that it gets hot enough for my tastes, and a “prospectors bath” in which one heats up water to a boil in a wood furnace, then creates a lukewarm mixture with cool stream water, and finally douses himself to a sudsy cleanliness in a wet-room. Methinks Dieter, the German owner, is just a cheap fuck. A man of my own ilk really. I tip my hat to you sir.

From Dawson, the Top of the World Highway garners one entry into mainland Alaska. Here it is folks, the culmination of a long midsummer’s dream. Pick up that trophy polish in Boundary, population 4, and don’t forget to stop in Chicken, the next town over, and grab your visa to Alaska, the Land of Misfit Toys.

Alaskan Travel Tip: Remember, you can’t run away from yourself.

From Chicken to Tok and from Tok to Fairbanks and into the arms of kindhearted Ukrainian host-dolls Igor and Sveta. These real-life living dolls are an attraction unto themselves and they let me set up shop in their wall-tent for a few days, killing time and seeing the sights. It was here that I dined on boiled moose, feasted on Muktuk (whale’s blubber), supped on fried Chum Salmon, sampled Cloudberries from heaven, and munched on mushrooms. Delectable! An early morning hike even saw your author down on all fours culling wild blueberries like a real spirit bear.

Chena Hot Springs: 55 miles or so one way from the fair shores of Fairbanks. A nice diversion but I wouldn’t do it again and wouldn’t recommend it as a destination. Hot Springs should be held sacred and be as minimally developed as possible, if they are to be developed at all, which they shouldn’t. See: Liard Hotsprings. If moose is your thing, there’s a lot of them to see on the way.

 As noted previously, Alaska is the truly the Land of Misfit Toys, a giant lost and found bin of souls. Most people come up here to escape something, to run away, but remember people, you can’t run away from yourselves. About a third of the people who live up here really love it. Another third openly hate it. The last third hate it but delude themselves into believing they like it. It’s called cognitive dissonance. There’s a lot of insanity up here, a lot of drug use. The winters here are long, cold, brutal, and dark. Auroras flash the sky like psychedelic nighttime wallpaper. A perfect recipe for mental illness.

I expected grizzled bearded men, lumberjacks, and bawdy dames to make up the majority of Alaska’s population. Of course, I knew that wouldn’t be the case, or would it, but I was real curious to meet real Alaskans and check them out. To me that is the real wildlife. Like I said previously, there’s a lot of craziness in Alaska, but I expected that. I mean, just to make it up here and live takes some character and that sort of ambitious insanity will always be married to that. But I didn’t expect to find such a glorious, tremendous amount of white trash.

Fairbanks is a complete dump. It’s a city but it’s all spread out and there’s nothing there anyway. A ghost town. Another pseudo-city of the North. The most happening place is Wal-Mart and it’s rife with Melungeons. Same as anywhere else really. There’s a free museum in the old city hall and a decent coffee shop next door to that, that’s it really. I discovered pulltabs in Fairbanks. Pulltabs are advertised everywhere, in every store window and on every corner. There are even whole stores devoted to them entirely. Well, what are they? They’re like scratch off lottery tickets, but instead of scratching them you pull back a little cardboard tab to reveal whether you won or not. They are ubiquitous and everywhere. Alaskans are gaga over them.

 

Ah, Denali National Park. What can I say? Fuck you, I guess. Another clusterfuck of fools. Chock FULL of motorhomes and old codgers! DNP is the home of Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain on the North American continent. If you want to see the mountain you don’t have to actually go to the park. You can see it from the road, if you’re lucky and it’s not ensconced in mist, for miles. It’s the biggest thing out there. It’s white and looks like a big ol’ scoop o’ ice cream plopped out on the horizon. You’re not allowed to drive within the park and if you want to go anywhere you need to take a bus. A bus trip to the base of Denali costs about $100.

Holed up on the side of the parks highway under picnic area enduring 16 hours of rain.

My quest to find the real Alaska led me to the Talkeetna Blues Festival. For the last 30 years, armies of Alaskan white trash have descended upon a gravel pit off the side of the Parks Highway each summer to listen to Bluegrass for 3 days. That is the theory of it really. It was a weird scene man and a sloppy, muddy rain soaked mess. No one was listening to the music. Tarps a plenty. Rap music blasted from shitty car stereos  in the muddy parking lot. People getting completely fucked up. The tar stink from the gravel pit mingling with people burning anything they could was pervasive. Fires constantly hissing out from the rain. A weird apocalyptic scene. I drank gallons of coffee and finished a bottle of cheap whiskey, picking up on the vibes and going crazy in my tent from the rain and the cold. Hating Alaska.

Anchorage: Most liberal Alaskan city and completely overrun with homosexuals. The San Francisco of the North and America’s new Gay Mecca. Stay away, or not, if that’s your thing.

 

Gakona, Alaska and HAARP: This is your future. High Altitude Auroral Research Program. Let me in!

 

I holed up in Tok for a couple days before striking for Haines and the ferry, my ticket out of this wasteland. Listen, next time your in Tok, Alaska don’t pass up a chance to visit Mukluk Land, home of earth planet’s biggest Mukluk, and say hello to George and Betty. A true slice of Americana in the separate nation of Alaska. Don’t forget to play skee-ball while you’re soaking wet.

Destruction Bay: Caviar wishes and Yukonian dreams. For the most part, the weather in the Yukon was always cooperative. It is like an imaginary wall is erected between Alaska and British Colombia and the sun always shines there, in the Yukon. When I got to Destruction Bay, it was the first time that I had seen the sun, and taken off my rain pants, in two weeks. Note that Yukon government campsites are pretty nice, and well stocked with free firewood, water, and covered shelters with wood stoves in them. No one, it seems, ever comes to check that you paid. So don’t. But also note that it is unnecessary to utilize the one on Destruction Bay, for ample bush camping opportunities abound. The setting was entirely picturesque, almost comically so, and the Beardar remained silent. I threw up the tarp in a mad dash, such is paranoia of the rain and the wet.  

Haines: Wildlife abounds in Haines, Alaska, a land of super natural beauty. Grizzlies munch on salmon and bald eagles swoop about. There are too many bears here. On my way into town I stopped at a river overlook to snack on some delicious nutritious sardines. I was watching a black bear cavort on the other side of the river when he looked up and spotted me. Our eyes met and he bore the expression of a curious dog! He jumped into the river and started swimming, coming to say hello! I jumped on the bike, furiously kicking it over until it finally started, the bear having scrambled up the bank.

I was able to snag a couchsurfing gig here, so grateful for an actual insulated walled structure with roof and to be out of the rain. Gina took me to see the bears, fed me delicious nutritious halibut and sourdough hotcakes, and clued me in to her soap making operation. One of the few fond memories of Alaska. Seriously, it rained everyday I was in Alaska and I didn’t see the sun for two weeks. Is it gay to want to fellate the sun when it comes out? The ancients, man they were on to something with that sun worshipping business. I’m tired. I’m going to Mexico.

 I’m on the ferry now, headed for America.

A pod of killer whales streaked past me this morning and dolphins playfully jump and twist in the air.

Fuck you Alaska.

The Great Alaskan Soap Company: Run by Gina St. Claire: Haines resident, Alaskan, and a St. Chrisopherette who protects solo adventurers from the storm and cleanses them with handmade soaps. Fisherman’s Friend, made with anise and smelling for all the world like fresh licorice is a personal favorite. Listen, by all means buy all you soap here! Made in Alaska by a real Alaskan.

 

Thompson’s Eagle Claw Motorcycle Park: Located in Tok, Alaska, Thompson’s Eagle Claw provides tent sites and various forms of enclosed shelters for bottom dollar. I spent the night in a kitted out ambulance to escape the rain. They also have a wall tent, cabin, and bunkhouse. Ah, and don’t forget the motorcycle workshop, free for all to use, and steamroom, which doesn’t quite get hot enough for this steamqueen, but is a welcome respite from the punishing Alaskan cold. Thoughtful host Vanessa provides all that one might ask for and more, except running water and electricity, which is fine because there is water in jugs that one can drink. Touch lights abound!

Cain’s Cause: Father son duo travelling around on bikes to raise money for some cause. MS I think. Yes, it is MS. A worthy cause. But listen, I forgot to put on my Dad-repellant and met Steve, the Dad, on the Cassiar Highway in the “town” of Bell II, really more of just a super expensive soapstone fireplace equipped $200 per night lodge.  But, they have terrible, buggy campsites for $22 per night. Steve was all despondent because he’d been riding for four days in the rain and his son’s bike broke down in Portland, meaning that they would never be able to complete their dream goal of riding to the Arctic Circle and back. Happy endings would ensue when I ran into Steve weeks later in Fairbanks, reunited with adoring son and covered in mud, having just completed that fabled run to the Circle. Congratulations sir!

Kev and Lorraine Hatchet: BMW riding power couple form England met at Thompson’s Eagle Claw Motorcycle Park in Tok. They smoke, drink coffee, and drink beers. Lots of each. And they’ve been around the world, taking their time and seeing the sights at a snail’s pace, but in a good way man. They made me coffee.

Who runs Van City?

The American West has been tamed, albeit quite easily too, and all on the back of that brown and bucking steed, the CB500T. Jefferson should have just waited 200 years and then given me a call instead of sending Lewis and Clark. I would have done the whole thing in 1/10 the time, but for top dollar man. Rumor even has it that Lewis’ first name was Meriwether. Cmon, man.

Well, regardless, we’ve made it baby and the continent has been straddled. At this very moment I sit penning this very journal entry from the Vancouver Public Library. Ah Vancouver, such a town! One gets the feeling, that the kind of vibe put forth by this city is the same kind of vibe that propelled New York to the top of the cultural food chain lo so many moons ago for all the world to see and to shudder. I’m a young duck and was never around for all that jazz back in the New York heyday; but I’m sure it must have a real time to be alive back then, to navigate the Big Apple badwaters with real zeal and zen. But look, if that’s the case and we’re talking Vancouver now, this might just be a great place to be alive if you want to be dead. Van city is alive with vermin of all sorts. Look, I don’t mean to be harsh, I’m just reporting the facts here as I see them, and maybe someday a born and bred Vancouverite will wax ecstatic on the virtues of their Pacific City some 20 years hence. We’ll see. $10 will buy you a bed for the night in the worst hostel in the world right on the edge of society. Take a walk down Hastings Street on Van city’s skid row. Breathe in the Funk. Junkies and Runaways litter the sidewalk. Step over and around and do not make eye contact. Eyes forward young Turk! Smoking crack and injecting your veins with heroin is bad for you and while you shouldn’t do it at any age, people the world over make mistakes and we can forgive them for the most part. But there’s just something off-putting about a man in his fifties dressed like a teenage runaway openly smoking crack in the street. Sir, should you even exist and should you have dreadlocks? Even when you’re balding at the temples? This is the end of the line man, a no-man’s land where no law applies. Winters suck in Vancouver and I wonder how many of these dregs freeze to death each year. Does anyone even care?

But hey, lets juxtapose this with the next block over. A quaint little steam clock, the first of its kind and a real delight, blows its melodious whistle signalling you’re arrival in Van city’s Gastown district. Million dollar steak dinners and artisanal wines are all yours to be had! Don your Ralph Lauren Versace Polo turtle neck and get ta steppin. You will blend right in, if you dare!

But you don’t. You’re a traveller baby. Best to pick up some day old dumplings at the Vietnamese supermarket for $1.50, devour them outside next to a garbage can like a hungry dog, and wipe your greasy hands on your filthy jeans. Maybe do a few pullups on some scaffolding while you’re at it because, to the untrained eye you’re just another filthy junky with hair akimbo, soiled clothes, and a sunburnt weathered and unshaven face.

Now go get drunk and wonder who the real animal is…

 

 

Word Up: Jumproom to Mars

Stargate Navigator Kurt Russell.
Indeed.

Confessions of a Pedalphile: Lonely Boy Digest Vol 2: Brooklyn Banyas and Beyond part 2: To steam perchance to dream…

If one pedals hard and fast enough they may in fact reach the land of the Banyas, but if, and only if, they are true and light of heart. Fortunately for you, Ryder Strong is made up of all of these things and more! Beets and teats and soccer cleats!

Sloughing off from Floyd Bennet field, the lonely pedalphile will soon reach Brooklyn’s Coney Island. He need only follow the Belt Parkway bicycle path. Pedal here and you have reached the land of Banyas. Reward yourself with a bagel(for the jewish influence here is strong and the bagels delish) to replenish your calories and prepare yourself for a grueling sweat. Once you reach the general vicinity of Coney Island, you have 3 public banyas within your grasp. There is:

Now, keep in mind that the Banya business can be weird and rough, strange and terrible, and the aforementioned banyas are apt to go out of business, change ownership, move, etc. so that by the time you read this, those weblinks may not necessarily work. A good guide to current Russian Baths can be found here. It has served me well over the years, but it too may vanish at some point. Of course, there is always the promisedland: know that the manboy will do his best to always provide the seeker of steam with the most up to date sweat-related info at all times.

Fair enough.

On we pedal, through the borough of Brooklyn, to 1200 Gravesend Rd. and to the Russian Baths of Neck Road! Nestled betwixt 12th and 13th Streets the baths may at first be hard to spot, as they are tucked away behind an apartment complex and playground, and set back from the road. Find them and venture forth! Do not be afraid, for the staff are extraordinarily welcoming and friendly to the solo wayward adventurer and speak perfect English.

Keep in mind that Ryder Strong has his own personal sauna (he built it in his parents’ backyard) and knows what a good steam is, but he still likes to keep abreast of the general state of steam. Of course, it had been a while since he had been to a real Russian banya, so don’t hold it against him that he forgot the entry procedure. It follows thusly: Introduce yourself, stating that you want to partake of the steam. The proprietor will then hand you a plastic baggie, into which you put your wallet and then hand back to him. He locks it up behind the desk and then gives you a key. This key is the key to your locker in the locker room and is to be worn about your wrist. It has a number stamped on it, which functions like a bar tab. If you want a juice, a beer, or a dish of dumplings you simply flash your number and pay at the end. The Russian Baths of Neck Road cost $30 for the day.

As mentioned previously, Ryder Strong, Pipe Adams, and the Manboy know steam. They are the voice of steam for their generation. They know their shit. They have detailed files.

And if one truly knows steam, they know that the majority of banyas, saunas, Turkish steam rooms, etc. are mislabeled and misidentified. You can’t trust anyones description or label, save mine, and you never know what you are going to get when you enter a banya, spa, steam room, or whatever name your place of steam goes by.

That’s fine and you expect it by now. However, what you are looking for is the general quality of the steam, no matter the conveyance. This shit just doesn’t exist anyone like it once did and you take what you can get. When talking banyas, at least in New York, what you will generally encounter are variants of the banya, Finish sauna, and “Turkish” steam room. The banya, or Russian sauna, traditionally consists of a LARGE stove within the bathing area. The stove is heated and water is thrown into it, where there are rocks inside. Once the water strikes the rocks, steam is produced. The Russian banya tends to produce steam of a fine mist like quality. It is an excellent and well thought out way to steam bathe. Out of all the aforementioned steam bathing variants (Finish sauna, Turkish steam room, banya, etc.) the banya, being a thoroughly Russian tradition, will usually bear the most accuracy to its namesake. The Finish sauna, although it has its own variants, generally consists of a small stove within the bathing area. The rocks are external to the stove and water is ladled onto them to produce an invisible vapor-like steam. The majority of spas, banyas, what-have-yous consider the Finish sauna to be a dry heat bath and this is a misnomer. A real Finish sauna will ALWAYS use steam to accentuate the bathing process. The Turkish steam room is an enigma unto itself and they truly do not exist in the states. You will find them in Turkey I hear, but I imagine they are a dying breed. Generally, what is passed off as a Turkish steam here room will consist of a tiled room pumped full of cool, cloudy, vaporous scent infused steam. They are usually weak at best, but can provide some satisfaction should the mood for such a steam strike you right.

The Russian Baths at Neck Road consist of 2 thoroughly Russian banyas, a “Turkish” steam room, and a large swimming pool. The baths are laid out around the swimming pool. The space is generally tight, but an agile hooligan should have no problem getting around. And lest I forget, sorry ladies, there is a fantastic mens-only banya just off the locker room. It is LARGE, and in charge. I would describe its steam quality as superb. And, being that it is quite large, and limited to men only, it is thoroughly uncrowded and quiet. Perfect! It might well be worth a visit to the Russian Baths of Neck Road to check this one out.

Moving on, we encounter our first Banya, located just beyond the deep end of the swimming pool. It is HOT. An observant hooligan noted its temperature to hover between 230 and 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Doting attendants bounce in and out to splash water on the rocks. Excellent! A powerful steam indeed.

Nextly, we find the second banya between the previously mentioned HOT banya and the steam room. This one is for byrds, boys. The heat is medium. While there was a ladle and bucket of water on the bench, one gets the impression that this is considered to be the “dry” banya, as no attendants came in to spash water on the rocks. Fair enough. A good transition from the HOT banya to the steam room.

Ah, the steam room. Not bad, I would say, as far as steam rooms go. Thick clouds of deliciously eucalyptic and odorous steam obscure one’s vision and clear the sinuses. This Russian Bath’s steam room is better than most, as the steam is hotter here, than most. Be careful not slip however. You have been warned.

Past the steam room, there is a nice indoor lounge where hooligans can watch soccer on quality television sets and take naps. Thumbs up!

All in all, a quality banya worthy of a second look. As noted previously, the staff are courteous and polite, which has become a shocking rarity anywhere. No shenanigans and no hijinks here. $30 and you get a great steam. Ryder Strong left satiated and satisfied, pedaling on air all the way back home.Russian Baths of Neck Road - 1200 Gravesend Ave., Brooklyn.

 

Confessions of a Pedalphile: Lonely Boy Digest Vol 2: Brooklyn Banyas and Beyond part 1

In this installment of Lonely Boy Digest, Ryder Strong mounts his iron steed once again to take on the realms of the forgotten and the bizarre. And what better place to start, friends, than his own backyard.

Crossing the Atlantic Beach Bridge from Long Island leads one into Queens and the bygone hinterlands of New York city known as the Rockaways. Quickly, one is upon the jarring wooden planks of the beach boardwalk and hurtling towards Fort Tilden and the Marine Parkway Bridge, which secrets one into Brooklyn.

Excerpt from Ryder Strong travelogue:
The Rockaway Boardwalk: Truly, the freaks come out at all hours. Waterheads, decrepit and crumbling senior citizens being pushed in their wheelchairs by Haitian women, Russians, the mentally ill, the homeless, observant old jews, people letting their dogs shit and piss on the wooden slats of the boardwalk. These people are always here but gone are the shirtless muscular black men with perfect abs jogging the boardwalk and the doughy latinas stuffed into too-tight cheap clothes pushing baby strollers of the summertime. This is MADNESS!

Indeed, Ryder Strong is no stranger to the absurdity of it all, however the physical appearance of those encountered during this most recent pedal through the lesser Apple revealed a a truly beat down populace. People are falling apart. Things are getting worse. The end of times is coming, make no mistake.

Moving on, we encounter Floyd Bennett Field, yet another unremembered testament to a better time. Designated as part of Gateway National Recreational Area, Floyd Bennett Field is now a lightly used, and largely abandoned, airfield. Many derelict hangars and buildings dot this seldom visited park. There is an archery range there, if you’re into that sort of thing. Three people were using it. It is a well-known fact however, that all hooligans are strangely attracted to abandoned buildings.

Hmmm...the #33. Where have we seen that before..?

…to be continued.

Camp Zero Hour

The Hooligan obsession with forlorn and forgotten places continues with a recent visit to Long Island’s very own cold war relic and rumored site of ultra top secret government experiments, the infamous Camp Hero.

For those not in the know, Camp Hero is located at the easternmost tip of New York’s Long Island. Take route 27 Sunrise Highway all the way east past the Hamptons and the town of Montauk and keep going all the way to the point. The turnoff for Camp Hero is reached just before the lighthouse.

Now, excluding its supposedly sordid past, Camp Hero once played an important role in our nation’s defense. Huge concrete bunkers that once housed massive 16 inch cannons remain as monuments of protection from an old-timey forgotten age. Things were simpler, back then, when our enemies consisted of easily identifiable nations and mal-intentioned dark-skinned gents with boxcutters. The huge concrete hulk and rusting dish of a SAGE radar tower dominate the park and give testament to another era represented by our icy psychological battle with Mother Russia.

It is speculated that weird things went on at Camp Hero. These happenings are collectively referred to as the Montauk Project. As with any government related abandoned military base that is sealed up tighter than a drum and turned into a state park, there is bound to be controversy. There is too much written about the Montauk Project than to go into detail here.

However, take these morsels of truth from someone who has been there and someone you can trust.

  • The Montauk underground is sealed up tighter than a drum, as stated above. There are likely ways into the underground, however you must be a truly ambitious sort. Be prepared to get covered in asbestos, grime, and cave crickets. That is, of course, if there is a way.
  • All abandoned buildings above ground are defunct, including the radar tower, which is falling apart and is extremely dangerous (as noted in the video). However (again, as noted in the video), the “church” has a new lock on it. All other buildings are nailed and/or welded shut. We did not gain access to the church.
  • The Camp Hero underground is extensive. This was verified through conversations with locals who explored the underground system after the base was decommissioned and before it was designated as a state park. Many of the buildings are linked via a system of tunnels. The tunnels go quite deep underground and are host to an odd assortment of bizarre reliquary such as rooms plastered with psychedelic wallpaper and what appear to be interrogation rooms.
  • An October 2010 exploratory venture (as noted in the video) to Camp Hero revealed that this site has not been forgotten by the U.S. military.
  • Long Island East is or has been home to many governmental, quasi-governmental, and all-around bizarre institutions and happenings. See Nicola Telsa’s Wardenclyffe, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Plum Island, TWA flight 800, etc. among others.