Introducing my new partner

I haven’t published here in months, mostly because I haven’t found the courage to write about this publicly, but I have still been writing, and I’ve definitely still been experiencing new adventures.  If you’ve been following on Instagram or Facebook then you’ve probably already seen what I’m up to. I’ve been wanting to start publishing the stories from my current travels, but first I need to introduce my new partner! So here goes…

Shortly after Dallas and I parted ways for the last time, I ended up going on the weekly SiCleada bike ride in Medellín. I was incredibly sad and exhausted, and I almost didn’t go on this ride. My bike was at a friend’s apartment on the other side of the city from where I was renting a room, and it was getting dark. I started walking to fetch my bike, but turned back due to feeling negative vibes around me. When I came back to the house, one of the other guys renting a room actually offered me to borrow his bike! I couldn’t not go after this. The bike was a little out of tune, clunky, and plegable (a folding bike). The ride that week was long and challenging, going up into the mountains surrounding the city. I left the house late and had to pedal as hard as I could to make it to the ride before they took off.

Not long into the ride, I became aware of two people riding on steel touring bikes and speaking English. I gravitated towards these people, since I hadn’t been able to find any touring bicycles like this in Colombia – and I had visited many bikes shops in both Bogota and Medellín, the two largest cities in the country. I wasn’t feeling socially confident enough to initiate conversation, so I just sort of maintained a close distance to these cyclists, unaware that they were accompanied by their WarmShowers host, a Colombian native riding a heavy, rusty hybrid bicycle with a basket in the front.

This Colombian guy started talking me, asking if I realized that the ride was going to be difficult, clearly doubting the folding bike’s capabilities of crescing the upcoming steep hills. Caught off-guard, and only really understanding that he was asking about my bicycle, I started explaining that the bicycle was not mine, and I had borrowed it from a friend. He switched to speaking in English, and explained again that the ride was going to be really challenging tonight. I told him again that the bicycle was not mine, so I wasn’t sure how it would perfom on the hills, but we’ll just see when we get there.

He introduced himself as Lenin, and I learned that he had recently returned from a totally unplanned bike tour from Medellin to Los Angeles, USA. And he had done it on the bicycle he was currently riding! He was wearing a shirt sponsored by Couchsurfing Medellín that had his name on it and something in Spanish about cycling around the world. I was intrigued and continued to talk with him for the rest of the ride.

When we got to the mountainous part of the ride, I just kept pedaling steadily, arriving at the top with plenty of time to wait for the rest of the group, which included over 1000 other cyclists. I actually was the first female to make it up the hill, with the second one being another traveler from Germany who was renting a room in Lenin’s house and had borrowed one of his old, barely functioning bicycles.

This is the group I ended up riding with during the SiCLeada on the night I met Lenin.

At the midway point, Lenin introduced me to the two Germans and Canadian who were all staying at his house. One of the Germans and the Canadian were the guys whose bikes I had been eyeing, and they were in the middle of a grand tour from Canada to Patagonia. Lenin invited me to join the three of them the next morning on a bike ride to Guatape, a touristy town about a 2-hour bus ride from Medellin. It was late already, and I hate not getting enough sleep, so I was reluctant to commit, but I agreed that I would contact him about it the next morning to let him know if I could make it. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the two bike toursists staying with Lenin had expressed dismay that he had invited me, complaining that they would now have to go slow to wait for the girl, and that it would take all day to get there.

Despite my sadness from parting with Dallas, I had had more fun that night than I had had in a long time. In the morning, I woke up feeling exhausted, and my bike was still on the other side of town. I didn’t want to ride all the way to Guatape on a borrowed foldable bike. I sent a message to Lenin, telling him that I didn’t think I would be able to make it in time. He assured me that they weren’t ready yet and that I could borrow one of his bikes for the trip. He actually lived relatively close to where my bike was, so I decided to go fetch my bike from my friend’s apartment before meeting the three bike travelers for breakfast.

It was at least an hour or two after the time Lenin had told me they were leaving when I arrived at his house, but they were still not ready to go. We all walked across the street to eat breakfast, and then departed for Guatape. The first 20 kilometers out of the city were up a mountain, and I had an advantage on my road bike with just a backpack. The German and Canadian had fully loaded touring bikes with panniers, although greatly dimished because they left half of their belongings at Lenin’s house, they were still much heavier than my rig. Lenin had his heavy, rusty hybrid bike, loaded with tools in the front basket and a backpack strapped onto the rear rack. His rear tire was so worn out, that the center strip of rubber was red, revealing the layer underneath. Contrary to their fears that I would slow them all down, I was able to move much faster, staying ahead of the group for the duration of the ride, pausing to let them catch up every few miles.

Taking a break on the side of the road to Guatape

Upon arriving in Guatape, Lenin helped secure a place to sleep in an athletic complex. One of the ladies who worked there offered to let me sleep at her house, so I left the boys to sleep on the floor with the roaches and spiders and hopped on the back of her motorcycle to go to her house. Guatape is one of the most colorful towns I have visited anywhere in the world, and every house has vibrant bas relief pictures along the bottom edge, depicting something of significance to the family that lives there. This lady’s house had pictures of kayaks, because her daughters were all competitive rowers, two of whom competed in the Olympics.

The next morning, after sharing a breakfast with my generous host, I met up with the three guys to ride back to Medellín. Lenin threw a party later that night, which I almost didn’t attend out of exhaustion. However, I realized that this adventure was more than a great distraction from the lost, empty feelings I was experiencing prior to meeting these people. I decided to allow myself to have fun, make new friends, experience new adventures and feel free to enjoy myself.

Lenin and me sailing in Narragansett Bay

That one bike ride in Medellín, followed by the ride to Guatape and back, laid the foundation for a new partnership between myself and Lenin. We both share a dream to travel the world, and the bicycle has been the perfect mode of transportation for us. It hasn’t been easy for me to let go of Dallas as my partner and best friend, and I still think of him fondly, but now that I am traveling again and have more stories to write, I introduce to you Lenin Cardona as my new partner.

About Sarah

Sarah grew up in Cranston - just south of Providence, Rhode Island - and developed a love for travel, music, and outdoor sports at an early age. She had started bicycling long distances at age 12, as a participant of the MS150 bike tours to raise money for the MS Society. She didn't use her bike regularly until she built her own while studying in Montreal and found it an excellent way to get around the city. After graduating from McGill and moving back to Providence, Sarah started working at Brown University's office of Environmental Health & Safety as the Biological Safety Specialist. She was living 4 miles away at the time, and for the first few weeks was driving to work. She made the switch from driving to bicycling when she realized that she could get to work faster, avoid parking tickets, and integrate a few miles of training into her day. Bicycling was better for the environment and better for her own health and mood. She found that she had more energy and felt much happier once she started biking to work. When her car broke down several months later, she never bothered replacing it. After 4 years of working in Biosafety (and on her master's in Environmental Studies), Sarah left her job to pursue her passion. She has been working various jobs in the bicycle industry since June of 2011, including pedicab driver, bicycle tour guide, bike mechanic and traveling bicycle advocate. In between seasonal jobs, she has done a few long-distance bike tours, which is the main reason for this blog. Her dream is to eventually ride around the world and sail across the oceans.

Posted on 10 December 2016, in Bicycle Touring, Colombia, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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