Adventure, Andre Sólo, The Great Adventure, Writing

Return of the Rogue Priest

Hi adventurers. It’s been a while. I’ve spent the last few months doing many things:

  • Planning the next leg of the bike ride
  • Dating someone wonderful
  • Writing

Writing has, in fact, consumed most of my time. And not just writing new stories—I also educated myself about how to build an author career. A few weeks ago I made my first ever submission to a literary journal(!). Those journals are where great authors start out, and they’re the road to prizes, literary awards and publishing contracts. I’m excited to see if I’m accepted.

At the same time, I believe in the indie route. My novella Lúnasa Days was independently published, and was 100% funded by my fans (that’s you guys—I couldn’t do it without you!). Readers also backed the last leg of the bicycle trip, which produced four short stories set in Mexico. One of those stories is the one I’ve now sent out to the journals.

So, what are the fruits of all these months of work? Well, I have three big announcements to make:

1. The Adventure Continues

My Adventure is far from over, and the next leg is coming up soon! I expect to be back on the bicycle starting in November (just in time to escape Trump). The next ride will go from Mexico to Panama, through all the countries shown in pretty colors here:

Next leg of the journey! Image by Wikimedia Commons.

This will be the most borders of any leg of the trip to date. It’ll take me across mountains, rainforests and volcanic lakes, and through places you’ve seen on the news—the countries where child refugees come from.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that this leg of the Adventure will be a fundraiser. This time, the miles I bike will raise dollars for a worthy cause. I’m working to identify an organization that’s a good fit, preferably with a focus on heroism or immigration, both of which are close to my heart (and appropriate for Central America).

Any thoughts on an organization worth supporting?

2. New Rogue Priesting

The long hiatus of this blog is over. I won’t be posting every week, but you can expect new pieces in the near future. Topics will include:

  • An updated vision of the Heroic Life.
  • A new report on the journey to meet the gods: where I’m at, what I’ve seen, and everything I’ve learned so far.
  • The true story of how I ended up chasing down a laptop thief, and what it taught me about the bystander effect.

3. My New Website

I’ve known for a long time that I need a separate website for my fiction. That site is now under construction! The most exciting part is that I will release free fiction online there, and eventually run a full length fantasy story, told in free weekly episodes.

Don’t miss the first episode when it launches—sign up for my new mailing list and be the first one to see it. Signup is free and you can unsubscribe at any time. Click here to sign up for email updates from me.

Subscribe

That’s the latest here. What have you all been up to?

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Andre Sólo, Travel

Sólo, Where Yat?

We’re long overdue for an update. The short version: I’m back in the US now, and it’ll be a few months before I’m on a bicycle in Latin America.

After Mexico

Here’s the latest. After my time was up in Valladolid I traveled around Mexico a bit with a friend. (We took buses. The Giant is stored safely at Alberto’s house in Valladolid. That’s the same Alberto who leads underground swimming expeditions.)

Then I needed to buckle down and work somewhere. The journey has taught me that my purpose really is to write, and I’m focused a lot more on career. I chose the city of Xalapa—my favorite stop from the ride across Mexico, and the perfect place for a creative. I rented a small apartment June-August and finished drafting four new short stories.

Finally, I returned to the U.S. I have no illusions of doing the bike trip all in one go. Instead I do it in segments, often with six months or more in between. I’m currently in Wisconsin for a long overdue visit with my parents. I spend weekdays with them, weekends seeing friends, and every day getting a lot more work done.

Some of that work was dedicated to this year’s Hero Round Table, which I spoke at this past weekend. (It was great, by the way. Once the video of my talk is live I will share it here.)

Backstage at the HRT. I took this photo, but I can't describe what's going on here.

Magician Scott Dietrich backstage at the HRT.

When to Adventure On?

Those of you who are supporters are very familiar with the words adventure on. It’s the refrain I finished all of my video logs with. The problem: at this point, I don’t know exactly when I’ll be taking my own advice. I have no date for the next leg of the Adventure.

This is nothing new. So far, no segment of the journey had led seamlessly into the next one. Each section requires prep work and planning, and has to be balanced with other priorities in my life. But this time, the biggest consideration is career: there’s a lot I want to publish. I’d like to do that before I get back on the bike.

I’m fine with the delay. I used to agonize over the pace, and felt like a failure if I didn’t get on the road quickly. Not anymore. I have a deeper confidence about the Adventure now, and I know I’ll continue it sooner or later. Meanwhile, I gotta keep my kitchen in order.

Some things on my list before the next leg:

  • Publish four stories set in Mexico, and two books
  • Launch a collaborative writing project
  • Launch an app
  • Spend Hallowe’en and maybe Carnival in New Orleans
  • Look into getting a permanent home in New Orleans, so I have a place to come back to

One thing I’m not worried about is recruiting. I used to really, really want adventuring companions. Then I biked across Mexico solo, just like the name says, and it was amazing. A handful of friends have expressed interest in the Central America leg, and they’re welcome to come. But there will not be a massive call for adventurers this time. The journey is mine, and that makes me happy.

So what exactly are all these books and collaborative projects? I’ll save that for next time. Until then…

Adventure on :)

Lúnasa Days

Lúnasa Days is the story of a young man on a bicycle, finding his purpose in life. Check it out here.

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Andre Sólo, Spanish, Writing

The Goldfish and the Purple Cat

Photo by Gracias

This week my Spanish tutor asked us to write a composition using some of the irregular verbs we’d learned. He wanted just one page in a notebook, with something simple like what we’d done that day before school. But since everyone made such a big deal about the fact that I’m a writer, I decided I had to spend some time on it. I submitted a short story about a goldfish and a purple cat. My hope was to capture some of the morbid outlook of Mexican culture.

I’m just going to put this here, untranslated, for those of you who speak (or read) Spanish. I do welcome feedback and corrections, as I have no illusions that it’s perfect, but it’s really just here for your entertainment.

El Gato Morado y el Pez Dorado

Érase una vez, en una casa invertida, en medio del mar, vivieron juntos un gato morado y un pez dorado. La casa flotaba al reves sobre el oceano. El pez dorado vivía en una charca delgado y larga que se había filtrado en la cima del techo. El gato, en cambio, prefiría las ventanas y los cabrios. El pez no podía saltar al mar y el gato no podía nadar a la tierra. Así que tuvieron una vaga amistad y, por la noche, jugarían al ajedras.

Sin embargo, el pez intuyó que al gato tenía hambre. Al principio había comido su comida enlatada y, cuando acabó, había comido las termitas, porque termitas no pueden jugar al ajedras. Eventualmente era sólo el morado y el dorado.

El pez concluyó que su destino era ser una botána por un gato. Y, pues no creyó que una persona o un pez puede muy bien influir su destino, decidió abrazarlo. Pero, prefirió a encuentrarlo luchando.

Cuando vino el gato por él, el pez estaba grueso, gordo, lleno, y envuelto en una pieza de perejil. El morado sonrió. En un solo movimiento el gato clavó sus colmillos en su amigo. Tragandolo, notó un sabor raro: el distinto sabor de pesticida para termitas.

La casa flotó sobre las olas en perfecto quietud.

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Adventure, Bicycling, Fellowship of the Wheel, Mexico, Road Logs, The Great Adventure, Travel

Three Days in Saltillo

In the last road log the Fellowship rode hard away from the border—and then promptly lost one of our key members. This time, I pick up alone.

This is the weather I was dealing with. Photo by André.

This is the weather I was dealing with. Photo by André.

November 11-13—Rest and Writing in Saltillo

After Pixi and Ernest left I biked over to my hotel for the first of my three rest days. The Hotel Huizache was a pretty little place with an outdoor pool surrounded by a garden/courtyard, both essentially unusable in the freezing, foggy weather that had descended over the city.

It didn’t matter much to me. My “rest days” were really work days. I spent the first two of them working overtime to catch up on articles for clients, road logs, and other writer duties. It still felt like I was perpetually behind, but I managed to get the most important work done.

Saltillo boasts the first, and likely last, bike lane I've seen in Mexico. It lasted two blocks.

Saltillo boasts the first, and likely last, bike lane I’ve seen in Mexico. It lasted two blocks.

That afternoon I went to a nice cafe/book store I had biked past and enjoyed their comida special. Afterward I perused the books, thinking I might pick up some extra Spanish reading material. It turns out they’re a Christian store, and all the books they had were either biblical or self help/inspirational in nature.

I was surprised that I didn’t feel more upset about Pixi leaving. In fact I felt quite calm. I had spent a year planning the group ride across Mexico, and canceled a kayak trip after months of training because I didn’t want to go it alone. Now my main partner had bailed on me. I wasn’t happy about it, but I felt completely capable of carrying on alone. There was also a chance that others would come through: last I’d heard Luce was trying to catch up to me, a cyclist named Ron wanted his own trans-Mexico trip to cross paths with mine, and Fellowship member Ysa hoped to join me in San Miguel de Allende.

Even so, I had to face certain difficult truths:

  • Pixi and I had planned to share hotel rooms. With her gone, my cost of living for the next 75 days is now twice what I had budgeted.
  • The next leg, from Saltillo south, was originally broken up into three or four days of camping out in the desert. With friends I felt comfortable with that; alone, it didn’t sound as safe.

I spent a lot of time pouring over my route, searching for signs of hotels in the tiny desert towns, and conferring with faraway friends. At no time did I consider giving up. Pixi’s decision had left me in a difficult place, but, as it is written by the sages of old, “Time to get your balls up, son.”

Selfie at the Huizache. Photo by André.

Selfie at the Huizache. Photo by André.

The second day I enjoyed the Huizache’s continental breakfast, which consists of: doughnuts OR sugary cereal, orange-flavored sugar juice, and Nescafé. (Get ready to see a whole lot of Nescafé on this Mexico trip.) Then more writing. In the afternoon, despite the cold, I made a short foray to the Centro—a reasonable walk—mainly just to find somewhere cheap to eat. One thing I love about Saltillo is that, finally, I had gotten to a town with a real Mexican centro in the sense of a central town area with plazas, a walking mall, food stands and local businesses like fruit and produce shops. The cost of a meal is much cheaper at these places than it is in bigger restaurants and supermarkets. The atmosphere is nicer too.

At night I continued working.

I had made an oath to myself that I wouldn’t spend my entire rest breaks working. The point of the journey is, at least in part, to see the places I visit—not just to pedal across them and hide in hotels with my laptop. So I worked double time the first two days and made sure I’d have the third day open for a museum and some exploration.

The Centro! Photo by André.

The Centro! Photo by André.

The third day came and it was as freezing as the one before (literally, with temperatures in the 30s). Desert nights are supposed to be cold, but these nights were 20 degrees lower than average and the days weren’t much better. [André’s note: I would later see a “coldest day of the year” bit on a local weather show.] Still, I had kept this day open for a reason, right? My new friend Scotch in Nuevo Laredo had told me that Saltillo is beautiful and its museums are great… so I looked up the museums online:

  1. The Museum of Birds. It has one or more stuffed specimens of every species in Mexico. Honestly this is something I would like to see, especially (a) the local species around Saltillo so I could identify them during my long rides and (b) the quetzal bird, sacred in the pre-Hispanic religions of Mexico. But was it worth leaving my toasty space heater with no jacket? Not quite.
  2. The Desert Museum. An eco-museum about the geology, history and wildlife of Mexico’s northern deserts. This actually is also something that interests me, except (a) I’d be seeing A LOT of desert up close and personal over the next few weeks, and (b) it’s far outside of town (in, you know, the desert) requiring a substantial bike ride to reach.

I was not museuming today.

(I explained this predicament to a friend online, asking if staying in made me a bad traveler. “No way,” she said, “It makes you smart.”)

Still, the day wasn’t a total wash. I did muster the will to venture out in the afternoon, exploring more around the Centro and having another great lunch (gorditas stuffed with nopal, delicious!) and some hot Nescafé. I also found a great artesanía (handmade craft) market. I considered getting a hand woven hooded sweater, but they were all acrylic rather than wool. I did, however, pick up a calavera (skull) which I mounted on the front of the Giant:

Photo by André.

Photo by André.

I also got bananas for tomorrow’s ride and a bag of dried cherries to add to my trail mix, both at the local fruit stand.

When I finally got back to the Huizache I finalized my plans for the route. I would go all the way across the mountains and desert, originally a four day journey, in just two days. These would consist of:

  • A trip over a high a mountain pass on the first day out of Saltillo. Pixi had showed a me a cool topographical tool for bicyclists, however, which revealed that the terrain was both taller and steeper than expected. Additionally, the hotel I had planned to stop at after this monstrous ascent (just 40 miles away) turned out not to exist. Thank goodness I street viewed it on Google Maps. Instead, I could aim for the only other confirmed hotel in the desert, bringing the day’s mileage to 55. Not an easy day.
  • If that wasn’t enough, I was then going to go the entire remaining 109 miles to the next rest stop, all in one day.

It wasn’t a great plan, but everyone I talked to agreed there’d be a shortage of places to stay out there. And besides not wanting to camp alone, my camping equipment just wasn’t meant for these record low temperatures. I made a fallback plan, charting roadside rest stops where I could camp near food and water if it came to it, but I preferred one brokeback marathon all the way.

Time to get your balls up, son.

Looking for the perfect gift for someone who loves to read? Let me recommend my novella Lúnasa Days:

L Days cover_front only_half size

Lúnasa Days debuted at #1 in Fantasy and #2 in Literary Fiction on Amazon. Following the journey of a magician who no longer believes in his spells, it brings together the spiritual and the magical—and the questions that they raise. It has been called “like Paulo Coelho only darker.”

Available in paperback and on Kindle. Get your copy here.

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Mexico, The Great Adventure, Travel

Photo Friday: Washin’ Ropas

I’m interrupting these road logs to bring you a quick glimpse of my first rest day in Cedral, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. I’m staying at an AirBnB rental (the only one in town!) which is cheaper per night than most Mexican hotels.

Here is my setup for washing my clothes:

Photo by André

Photo by André

Technically, the owner does have a washing machine, but the water doesn’t drain out of it. She seemed prepared to let me use it anyway but I didn’t want to create extra hassle for her. I said I could wash them in my sink, and she instead showed me the set of buckets she uses to do her family’s laundry.

I also ended up with some helpers:

Photo by André

Photo by André

Their assistance mostly consisted of playing with the hose, spraying each other (but not me), and drowning a plastic dinosaur. Their mom eventually ran them off, pictured here. They also put some leaves in my laundry water. I’m not sure if that is supposed to help (maybe they smell good? Or have helpful properties in local folklore?) or if it was just boys causing chaos (this seems more likely to me).

Either way, I have no clue if I did a good job or not. I mean, I swirled my clothes around in the soapy water till it was grey, and rubbed them against a washboard (a real washboard!). But is 60 seconds of that the equivalent of 40 minutes in a laundry machine? Or will they still smell a little funky when they’re done drying? I have no idea.

I did, however, manage to complete the job and my clothes are now hanging up to dry:

Photo by André

Photo by André

…which shouldn’t take long in the desert air (I hope, since I want those jeans before the nighttime chill sets in).

Please share this post on the social media of your choice. And if you want to help support the adventure, consider grabbing my novella in print or ebook!

 

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Andre Sólo, Spotlight

Live on the Radio It’s the Rogue Priest

Photo by Guigui Lille

What are you doing after work? I’ll be giving an interview for Radio Enso, an internet radio show, and I’d love for you to tune in.

Greg Berg, the host of Radio Enso, has dedicated himself to meeting and interviewing people who have unique and creative ideas. He’s sat down with a number of innovators and inspirers over the years, and I was on the show once before around the time I started my journey across the Americas.

Greg is particularly interested in two topics: the Fellowship of the Wheel’s upcoming ride across Mexico, and my recent report on the quest to meet the gods.

However, I warned Greg that this time I plan to turn the tables. I have a question I want to ask him and I’m going to do it on air.

You can tune in at Radio Enso at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern. If you’re listening live, you can also ask questions via the same site; otherwise, you’ll find the full show archived there tomorrow if you’d rather listen to it later.

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Religion

It is not so easy to hear the gods

Photo by Felix E. Guerrero

Photo by Felix E. Guerrero

It’s hard to hear the gods.

It’s easy to hear the whispers of our own wants and fears. These are the first voices when we turn inward, and the second, and the third. We’ll gladly give them the masks of gods because we are in love with them. We love our wants because they tell us we’ll get everything we wish for with just a little time, just a little faith, maybe a dash of determination. Our fears tell us that nothing could be different than it is, that it would be too dangerous to change anything—and we love that too. So we live our lives passively, reassured, and if we remain unhappy we whisper, “everything has a purpose.”

What do the gods truly say? Often they are silent. They know that if they spoke we would not listen, and gods do not do pointless things.

They are silent, because they see that we prefer the company of wants and fears, wants and fears, and who goes to a house uninvited?

They are silent, simply because they have seen so much. They know that, irrespective of our individual pains, the world remains a glorious place.

When I was younger I went for esoteric practices. I sought visions and prophesies and messages from the gods. This is the most dangerous of all sciences because it is the most enchanting. To pursue myth means to open up to an endless field of imagination, where every tree talks and every rock has an ancient spirit—each of them ready to tell you the grand significance of your daydreams. The more extravagant a vision is, the more we like it. But extravagant visions are the ones that mean the least.

I learned to read cards, and spoke with startling clarity (because I spoke of wants and fears). I learned to sense spirits, and choose the right offering for each one, and hear them speak softly in my ear, always of wants and fears. I did the most demanding and far fetched meditations from the Himalayas and from the Middle Ages, and I got the vision I sought, a vision of my wants triumphing my fears.

Today I rarely practice the esoteric arts. When I do it’s more for the simple joy of it. It’s the way you read an old, favorite book: you aren’t surprised by the ending, but there’s a certain pleasure in hearing the words again.

Sometimes I seem very unreligious. What good is a priest who doesn’t hear voices? Why listen to someone who doesn’t read the stars, the cards, the numbers, the smoke, the crystals or even dreams?

Even here, on the journal of my spiritual search, I rarely write about religion. It gets showy all too easily. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pastor breathing the Holy Spirit or a Sybil breathing Apollo’s breath. The gods don’t whisper of fears and wants, they only speak of truths; and most of us, when we seek religion, are there to get away from truths.

There are useful spiritual practices, and those are the ones aimed at the self. The self is the one tool the gods gave each and every one of us, the only tool that is with us all our days and must suffer whenever we suffer. So the self has a level of trustworthiness that visions, mentors, priests and even parents cannot match. It’s dangerous to get to know yourself because there is no room to secretly doubt the things you find, even when you dislike them. You can always find another guru or chase another vision, but you cannot beg another self.

To know yourself is only half of the practice. It may even be the least important part. But whatever little bits you find, you can shine them everyday. Everyday you can polish your true self until it gleams and serves as a light, a beacon past your wants and fears.

If the gods ever speak, that might be when you’ll hear them.

L Days cover_front only_half size

Lúnasa Days is a tale of finding yourself. It has been called “like Paulo Coelho only darker.”

Available in paperback and on Kindle. Get your copy here.

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