What would we find under your bed?
Dust bunnies… if you’re lucky. Scorpions if you’re not. My wife and I are on the same page when it comes to keeping things tidy, not having clutter and keeping encumbrances to a minimum. You never know when you want to take off to Southeast Asia for 3 years.
And yes, living in Arizona, we do have the occasional run-in with a scorpion from time to time.
What was the scariest moment of your life?
I was diving with my brother in Saipan, which is part of the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. He took me to a place called “The Grotto” on the northeast part of the island. He gave me his buddy’s SCUBA gear to use: mask, snorkel, fins, regulator, tank, and BCD.
The Grotto is a collapsed cave that offers access to the open ocean via a 200-meter-long tunnel. I don’t like tunnels, I don’t like caves, but I followed. On the way back, fighting a current, I ran out of air about 95% of the way back through the tunnel. I resorted to short breaths until I made it back to the exit. I shouldn’t have run out of air and confronted my brother who laughed and said, “Oh ya, my buddy adjusted his regulator so he can suck in more air.” I still have nightmares about this.
Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?
Yes, really loud – all the way to ‘11’. The following are Cory Mortensen approved “Music to Write To” albums which can be played in any order but must be played from beginning to end in order:
Pink Floyd – The Final Cut
The The – Mind Bomb
Bauhaus – The Sky’s Gone Out
Peter Gabriel – Security
I don’t really deviate from this playlist. It is music that opened up some creative doors that go back to the 1980’s. I also prefer to write at night.
What is something you'd like to accomplish in your writing career next year?
I have little goals set: Sell a quarter million paperback copies of The Buddha and the Bee, publish my second book, win some sort of writing award, and receive an honorary degree from somewhere so I can finally say I have a college degree.
How long did it take you to write this book?
20 years. It started with just sending emails to family and friends whilst on the open road. Soon, I was being asked to add this person and that person to the emails. (This was before blogs and social media). One of my cousins told me I needed to write a book. I shrugged it off.
My dad saved all the emails for The Buddha and the Bee and the second book which follows. From those emails and my journal, I put my first full draft together in 2005. It was brilliant -- a masterpiece. Then I shelved it knowing it needed a little work. However, I had just started a business in 2003 and was swamped with building the company.
In 2008, I revisited the book and was absolutely embarrassed by what I had written. It was horrible. My wit was forced, the story had no flow, too many useless and unneeded words. I was so frustrated that I shelved it again.
In 2011, I bought an iPad and told myself I would hunker down and get crack-a-lacking on reworking the book. I justified the iPad purchase by convincing myself I would write my yet-to-be-named memoir on it. True to my word, I started to surgically reconstruct the work.
In 2012, I left my iPad on an airplane coming home from Europe. All was lost, all that work, everything – gone. I was devastated. I didn’t care about the iPad -- it was the book. It was starting to come together and now it was gone.
In 2013, I sold my business and upon being brought on by the new company, I was issued a new iPad. I logged in and BAM, there it was. My book! I now understood “The Cloud”.
In 2015, my wife and I sold everything we owned and traveled around South America for a couple of years. During that time, I started to really plug away, adding substance. Upon returning to the United States in 2017, I took a year off from writing and then really dug deep in 2019 to finish. My goal was to publish by the time I turn 50.
...But this is NOT a typical blah-blah-blah memoir
Planning is for sissies. A solo bike ride across the country will be filled with sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, and 80 degree temps every day, right? Not so much. The Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, an alkaline desert, and the Sierra Nevadas lay miles and days ahead. Disappointment with unrealized potential, and the thirst for what’s next drew farther away in the rotating wide-angle shockproof convex rear-view mirror.
"I will ride my bike down a never-ending ribbon of asphalt wearing a backpack."
Cory Mortensen began his bike ride across the United States from Chaska, Minnesota, to Truckee, California, without a route, a timeline, or proper equipment. Along the way, he gained more than technical skills required for a ride that would test every fiber of his physical being and mental toughness. Ride along as he meets “unusual” characters, dangerous animals, and sweet little old ladies with a serious vendetta for strangers in their town.
Humor ■ Insight ■ Adventure ■ Gratitude ■ Peace
From long stretches of road ending in a vanishing point at the distant horizon, to stunning vistas, terrifying close calls, grueling conditions, failed equipment, and joyous milestones he stayed the course and gained an appreciation for the beauty of the land, the genius of engineering and marvel of nature.
It seemed as if I was the only person on this road. I saw no cars, no trucks. I didn’t even see an airplane or contrail. The human race could have been completely wiped out, and I wouldn’t know it, just like I didn’t know what was going on back east a few days ago. As far as I knew, it was just me and the clerk at the Maybell General Store. My situation could be worse. Juliane Koepcke was seventeen years old when, on Dec 24, 1971, the Lockheed Electra OB-R-941 commercial airliner the she was a passenger on was struck by light- ning. The plane immediately broke up in the air. Still strapped to her seat, she fell two miles into the jungle. She survived the fall, with a broken collarbone, a gash on her arm that would eventually become infested with worms, and her right eye swollen shut. She spent ten days alone in the Amazonian rainforest, following a stream, wading through knee-deep water, until eventually she came across a group of fishermen. After two weeks spent recovering, she led a search party back into the jungle to locate the crash, ultimately finding her mother’s body.
And here I thought I was having a bad day.
Fighting the headwind, I occasionally took time to stop and stare at the road as it vanished into the horizon. I had been biking for forty minutes and gone only five miles.
I hoped to see a town, a house, a billboard—anything that showed signs of human life—but it was just me and the road and a rather large coyote.
A coyote stood across the road, looking directly at me.
I had some important questions. What was I supposed to do when I came across a coyote? Were they aggressive? Did they attack humans? Were they fast? Could I out-pedal him? Not with this headwind. He could catch me without even having to run.
In the lore of Indigenous Americans, the coyote was many things. To some tribes, it was a hero who created, taught, and helped humans; to others, a warning of negative behaviors like greed and arrogance; still others looked at the coyote as a trickster who lacked wisdom—he got into lots of trouble, but was clever enough to get out of it.
This part of North America was home to the Snake Indians. The Snake Indians were made up of the Northern Paiute, Bannock, and Shoshone. The Bannock believed the coyote came to help and did good deeds for the people.
I looked west and so did the coyote. I looked back at the coyote, he back at me, and then he looked west again and bobbed his head, as if to say, “Let’s go.”
I started pedaling. The headwind continued; my coyote companion making everything a bit surreal. He was now part of my journey. I put off any thoughts of him being an adversary. He was helping me get through the day.
“You live around here?” I asked the coyote. The coyote gave no answer.
“You have family? Wife? Kids?” Still no answer.
“Do you know if there is a good restaurant in Dinosaur? I’m really hungry.”
Nothing. He could only be of so much help, I guess.
We moved together along Victory Highway, fighting the wind.
Over the next few miles, I watched him as he pranced over the mounds along the highway. He’d stop and wait for me when he got too far ahead, then would continue once I caught up. I was no longer thinking about the wind or the heat or the bumpy road. I thought about the people who had lived along the Yampa River. Ruins of the Fremont people dated back as far as 1500 BC. Their petroglyphs told their stories. The Snake, Ute, and Navajo came after the Fremont and made the land their new home.
Later came the cowboys. Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, Matt Warner, and Isom Dart all traveled this route when it was just a dusty horse trail, known as the Outlaw Trail.
And as I rode along with my coyote and wistful thoughts, there it was: the all too familiar sound of ninety-five pounds-per-square- inch of air leaving my rear tyre.
The coyote heard it, too. Perhaps the sound startled him, perhaps it let him know dinner was ready. I looked down at my tyre and then at him. His body was turned, now facing me. I felt like perhaps our relationship had changed without my input. I thought back to lunch with my dad, when he asked if I was bringing a gun for protection. Then I looked at my flat tyre.
I took the pack off the bike, flipped the bike upside down to remove the rear wheel, and started removing the tyre and replacing the tube, as fast as I could. I looked up to see what the coyote was doing, but he was gone, vanished. I was relieved but also sad, as I was once again alone.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Cory Mortensen has ridden his collection of bicycles over a million miles of asphalt, dirt, mud, and backroads. In addition to the cross-country journey detailed in this book, he has traveled to over fifty-five countries, cycled from Minneapolis to Colorado solo to raise money for children born with congenital heart defects. He’s completed sixteen marathons on five continents, and survived three days of running with the bulls in Spain.
Cory is a certified Advanced PADI diver, and has enjoyed taking in life under the waves in locations all over the world. In 2003, he took time off from roaming, and accidentally started and built a company which he sold in 2013. That same year he married his best friend and explored the state of Texas for two years. The couple sold everything they owned, jumped on a plane to Ecuador and volunteered, trekked, and explored South America for sixteen months before returning to Phoenix, Arizona, where he works as a consultant and is soon to be a bestselling author.
The Buddha and the Bee is his first memoir in which he shares how a two month leave of absence redefined his life’s trajectory of sitting behind a desk and his decision to break society’s chains so he could live life on his terms.
The tour dates can be found here