A needed escape from the material world


From back to front, Nora Tien, Kamilla Kinard and Ryne Leuzinger biking up Big Sur, California, on the third day of their bike expedition on Dec. 29, 2014.

By Guy Tal

Editor’s Note: Guy Tal, graduate in Engineering, is a guest columnist to the Daily Illini. This is the fourth in a series that details his experiences during a bike expedition down the coast of California with Kamilla Gray Kinard, Ryne Leuzinger and Nora Tien.

Day 3: We’re Free!

We fly! The craggy ups and downs. Now the seashore, now the cliffs. Big Sur looks like the playground of the ice giants.

Know this: Just when you believe you’ve lost all touch with the expensive, hyper-connected, instant gratification reality that is civilized central California you will climb a hill and find a bakery nestled amidst the trees. Don’t judge. Don’t object too much about the prices. Go inside and treat yourself to a scone.

That night we set up camp in a redwood forest and I quickly build us a proud fire.

“Isn’t fire the best invention?” I ask.

After a lengthy quibble about the distinction between inventions and discoveries Ryne lauds the combustion engine. Kamilla sings an ode to beds. I think they’re both crazy.

As we all quietly stare into the flames waiting for our dinner to cook, I recall the Siberian husky pup I encountered earlier in the day. Being part-dog myself, I approached to greet him.

He howled at me. I howled back.

He paused for a moment—dumbfounded?—then howled with more gusto, a howl that was more song, the joy of being alive, the confusion of being in a car, the excitement of finding a friend, of being in the mountains by the sea, by a cafe full of smells that whet the appetite and set the nose wandering, a howl of unbridled pleasure, a howl that contained also a memory of his wild ancestors, a conversation transcending words, and I howled back, joyful for the kindred company, sad about the shortage of scones and daylight and youth, excited about being outdoors, away from computers, with my favorite people beside me on a bicycle by the ocean, and Kamilla stared at us both in amusement, and we howled and we howled and we howled.

* * *

“If I were dictator,” I tell anyone who’ll listen, “there’d be no more motorized vehicles along this road. You’d have to hike or bike in to get here. Construction would be restricted to three miles from sight of any water, and the U.S. coast would be one gigantic, wholly connected ecosystem.”

I get like this sometimes.

“Would you accommodate handicapped folks?” asks Nora.

“Yes. There’d be some handicap accessibility.”

“What about fat people?”


“What about old people?”


“What about the buildings already here?”

“Most would be torn down. Some few would be turned into sanctuaries for wanderers, filled with supplies. Some others would be made into libraries maintained by monks.”

Nora is optimistic about the digital age saving us from ourselves. I disagree. Real environmental sustainability won’t come without a philosophical revolution, a realization that we are not the shit we buy.  

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