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Port St. Joe (Florida) Star newspaper

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Port St. Joe (Florida) Star newspaper

Post  ChasingSanity on Sun Feb 06, 2011 7:08 am

Around the world on two wheels
By Tim Croft
Star News Editor
Ari Gold readily acknowledges he was in the throes of a midlife crisis in the fall of 2009.
Newly divorced, 49 and unemployed for more than a year, on the verge of becoming homeless in one of country’s most depressed economies – Las Vegas – Gold, not the character from the television show Entourage or the man on whom the character is based, arrived at a novel solution.
He hopped on his bicycle.
Three bicycles, three pairs of shoes, a separated shoulder, a minor head injury after contact with a car, more flat tires than he can count and hundreds of miles later, Gold rode through Port St. Joe last week on what he is calling a ride around the world.
Or at least to Australia, as the name of his blog, http://biketoaustralia.roflforum.net/forum.htm, implies.
“A friend at the time (September of 2009) told me I have a rare opportunity,” Gold said while guzzling the coffee that helps fuels his forward momentum. “I could do what I wanted. And I wanted to see the world, experience other cultures and hear other accents.
“I’d like to see how other people of the world think. I wanted to go where no other Ari Gold had gone before.”
Yes, he has heard before that he is, to put it gently, a bit of a “nut.”
There was a bit of planning as Gold sold all his belongings in yard sales to finance the start of his journey – “I was meaning to downsize but that wasn’t what I had in mind,” Gold chuckled – and began to familiarize himself with a bicycle that had sat idle in his garage for more than 15 years.
He charted his journey in the United States on a map.
“My plans parted with reality as soon as I walked out the door,” Gold said with a laugh. “I didn’t have a schedule. I didn’t have a clue and I knew I didn’t have a clue.”
He had planned to ride 20 miles a day but quickly realized he was in no shape for such a distance. Only after more than a year is he up to 60-70 miles a day – “that is a long day,” Gold said – while shedding more than 30 pounds from his 220-pound frame.
“I could eat for a family of four and burn it off,” Gold said.
An avowed “minimalist”, Gold subsists primarily on peanut butter, tortillas, spices he scrounges at thrift stores – they expand the palette of the familiar food that comprises his diet – as well bananas and yogurt.
“The challenging part is finding fresh veggies,” Gold said. “Everything along the way is scrounging and scrambling to make things work.”
He works for his keep, a roof or a meal, where possible and touches bases with the places and people in his sights through cell phone and e-mail which he receives and answers on a small computer notepad.
“I tell people if they e-mail me I guarantee I will e-mail them back,” Gold said.
His pack, with full water, weighs over 70 pounds and his current bike, a Specialized Rock Hopper, a high-end mountain bike he bartered for at a bike store in Texas, weighs 115 pounds.
The Hopper is his third bike. His first, a Schwinn, was stolen in New Mexico. Another was damaged in Texas and was swapped for the Hopper.
And to label his route from Las Vegas to North Florida circuitous would be a vast understatement. After Salt Lake City and Albuquerque, NM, he headed north, through Texas and as far as Oklahoma City. A turn south and Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida followed.
“Anything but the Interstate,” Gold said. “Everything else is free and open country.”
Gold said motorists are generally forgiving souls, sharing the roadways with him, though he has had the occasional single digit salute and plenty of honked horns along the way.
“There is this human thing, if you try to miss something you’ll get closer than you think,” Gold said. “Most of the time people ignore me, do a bit of swerving or move over. A lot people honk at me to get off their road.
“But my faith in humanity has been restored. I have met a lot of incredibly nice people.”
He prefers to spend nights in the woods, but in cold or wet weather he will try to work or barter for a room for the night. Campgrounds and homeless shelters have also provided a home for the night.
And, as for a goal or mission to all this pedaling, well, for Gold it is pretty simple.
“This is all about the experience,” Gold said. “Working within society’s rules and goals wasn’t working for me. I felt I was on a cliff.
“And unlike a lot of people I decided to gather up a few things I liked and jumped. I had to learn to fly. I’m happier with more sense of purpose and enthusiasm than ever before in my life.”
From Port St. Joe, Gold intends to meander south to Key West because, well, it is Key West and then move up the Eastern Seaboard until he encounters a ship and its captain heading right, toward Europe.
“I’ll work up north until I find somebody heading east. I’m going to walk up to him and say, ‘Hi, I am Ari Gold and I’d like to work my way across on your ship. I’ll do whatever you need,’” Gold said.
Originally on a five-year plan: one year in the States, another in Europe, then Asia, Southeast Asia and ultimately Australia, Gold, given the year between Las Vegas and Florida, acknowledges, “I’m on plan B now.”
The journey, he said, is now likely a 10-year jaunt. He hopes to be in Europe before 2012 dawns, but beyond that to reach his stated goal of seeing the cultures of the world, Gold acknowledges he will likely be nearing 60 when all is said and done.
“My goal is simply to see the world and then go back to the place I like most to settle down,” Gold said. “And my guess is there will be coconuts and olive trees growing wild, there will be some beach and it will be where Oriental languages are spoken.”
If nothing else, Gold has had considerable solo time on the road to think and clear his mind of the obstacles life has tossed in his way. He has learned that he needs to work at communicating with people and learning to laugh. The resentments that had boiled over in 2009 he has worked to shed.
“I have learned to put down my pride,” Gold said. “It was heavy and weighed me down. It was too much for me to carry. Yes, here I am happily in the middle of a mid-life crisis. And I have a few lemons, but I have made a whole lot of lemonade.
“It is all about attitude. My attitude and belief in myself are my best weapons. And the enthusiasm other people have shown for me feeds me.”
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