Category Archives: The space between

What we’re doing when we’re not actively in the midst of a journey

Goodbye to a good summer

Since our last update, Dallas and I have ridden in the MS bike tour (Ride the Rhode) and raised nearly $2000 for the cause, thanks to our wonderful friends and family who supported us.  We’re not sure where we’re going to be for next year’s tour, but registration is already open if anyone wants to sign up and get an early start on fundraising!  This year, we opted to ride a full century (which ended up being 105 miles) the first day and 75 miles the second day.  We lucked out with perfect weather and no incidents on the road.  The terrain was not too challenging, but not too flat and certainly not boring.

What Cheer? Brigade's 2014 west coast tour poster

What Cheer? Brigade’s 2014 west coast tour poster

Immediately after the bike tour, I set off for the west coast to meet the band on tour, where we continued down from Portland, Oregon all the way to Tijuana and back up to finish at a beautiful wedding in the redwoods outside of the bay area.  After playing every day for two weeks, I couldn’t help but improve my mediocre trumpet-playing skills.  I’m afraid that after not playing for two weeks (on our most recent vacation to Costa Rica), I am probably worse off that I was before tour.

Dallas and I ran together for the entirety of the LOCO marathon in Newmarket, NH this October

Dallas and I ran together for the entirety of the LOCO marathon in Newmarket, NH this October

While not bike touring this year, we have been able to do a few races together, including the 10 mile Blessing of the Fleet race in Narragansett, a half marathon in Worcester, MA and two marathons in Erie, PA and in Newmarket, NH.  I also participated in several cycling events, including a few Women Bike RI group rides, the Woony River Ride, and the Gran Fondo New England.

The summer in Rhode Island was one of the better ones that I can remember, with almost no rain and not too much heat.  As always, it ended too soon.  We have been incredibly fortunate to have barely any excuses not to be outside every day, but I still feel like I didn’t get my fill of outdoor activities before it turned cold.

My first (unofficial) cyclocross race

My first (unofficial) cyclocross race

Still in Providence, Dallas and I are buckling down here for the winter, but in an attempt to combat the depression that comes with this season I bought myself a cyclocross bike.  I’m not very good at it yet, and so far every time I start riding on a cross course I find myself thinking that maybe I’m not cut out for this sport.  That feeling usually subsides after 2 minutes or so, as my mind is consumed with staying on my bike and not crashing into anyone else.  By signing up for races this winter, I hope to motivate myself to get outside during the dark months to practice (and hopefully get better).

Dallas and me on a boat outside of Quepos, Costa Rica

Dallas and I on a boat outside of Quepos, Costa Rica

Speaking of trying things outside of our comfort zone, Dallas and I went to Costa Rica for the first two weeks of November.  While traveling comes naturally to us both, we did get to try some new things while we were there.  Dallas let me practice my Spanish (which is worse than my trumpet playing) on some of the locals whenever we went out.  Dallas also went surfing – I could not, because of a knee injury from my cyclocross bike, but I watched.  It was apparent that he was having enough fun to abandon his usual apprehensive feelings about being in the ocean.  This trip was our first time traveling together internationally, so while we were concerned at first about how we would do, we came out of it only wanting to go back out and experience more new places together.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I’m taking this day off from work at the cave in order to write and bake lots of desserts for tomorrow’s gathering with family.  On Friday, while all the crazy people are out battling each other to buy stuff, Dallas and I will be celebrating Buy Nothing Day by bringing our coats to a coat swap (just when we need them most)!

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A Different Kind of Tour

This weekend Dallas and I will ride in the MS 150 bike tour.  We will bike from Pawtucket, RI to Wheaton College in Massachusetts and back to Pawtucket the next day.  There is still time to donate if you haven’t yet!

The big tour that I’m referring to in my post title, however, begins for me after the bike tour ends.  What Cheer? Brigade, the band I joined in March, is touring the west coast, starting with Honk Fest West in Seattle this weekend!  I will be joining them in Portland for a show on Tuesday, and we will continue on down the coast from there.  If you live on the west coast anywhere between Seattle and Tijuana, please check out our website or our Facebook page for show dates and try to come dance with us!  I promise you will be entertained.  Here’s a really short clip from our last show in Worcester, MA, but feel free to watch more WC?B on Youtube!

Springtime in Providence

Since our last update, both Dallas and I have been keeping ourselves incredibly busy.  I wish I had been keeping up more frequently with blogging, since I think each of these paragraphs really deserve their own blog entry.  Alas, I will cram everything into one long post – sorry!

bike repair stand at Burnside Park

bike repair stand at Burnside Park

May was Bike Month, and we had great weather to accompany the many bike-related events that were planned around Providence.  Dallas and I, along with Matt Moritz from the RI Bicycle Coalition, gave a presentation on bicycle touring at AS220 as part of a bike speaker series for the month of May.  Bike-to-Work Day was on Friday, May 16th.  Mayor Angel Taveras announced the installation of three bike repair stands around the city, which Dash was instrumental in implementing.  On a ride to photograph all of the stands a few days ago, however, I noticed that some have already been vandalized.  Does anyone have suggestions on how to effectively prevent theft and destruction of the bike tools or is this tragedy of the commons inevitable?

Hiking the Appalachian/Long Trail in Vermont with Hannah and John

Hiking the Appalachian/Long Trail in Vermont with Hannah and John

On Memorial Day weekend, I was invited to go along to hike part of the Appalachian Trail in Vermont with Hannah, the daughter of my dad’s coworker, John.  It was part of Hannah’s senior project and I was needed to confirm that she actually did the hike.  Much to my dismay, it rained on us during 3 of our 4 days of hiking, but it was still a beautiful escape from the city.  We met a few people who were hiking the whole Long Trail, and some that were hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.  I learned that those hikers have trail names that they earn somehow, and I enjoyed hearing their stories about other strangers and obstacles they encountered along the way.

Moving by Bike

Moving by Bike

On June 1st, Dallas and I moved into an apartment just a few blocks away from our previous sublet, taking the place of Liza and Tyson, a couple of pedicabber friends who moved to Newport.  Without a car, we completed our entire move by bicycle and on foot.  My friend Tony was kind enough to let me borrow a bike trailer (and a bike to hitch it to) for the heavy stuff.  We now have a lovely roommate, Perry, and a dog, Mani!

As we near the summer solstice, the MS bike ride quickly approaches.  I have not been pounding people with e-mails asking for donations like I have in the past, so am way behind in my fundraising goals.  I’ll share my fundraising link here if you’d like to donate, but just as important are volunteers to help make the event run smoothly.  If you live locally and have any free time the weekend of June 21st-22nd (or the Friday before that), please consider volunteering.  It’s a fun event and one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the MS Society.

If anyone in Providence is looking for something fun to do this Friday night, RIBike is hosting a dinner and bikes event at 655 Hope Street from 7-10pm.  Check out the facebook event for details

 

March

This past month has been quite a busy one, and Dallas and I have barely had time to relax together.  I apologize for the lack of visual stimulation in this post, but we also haven’t had opportunity or reason to take any photos.  With the miserable weather we’ve been experiencing all month, I think we could both use a vacation already!

Dallas started a new job at Brown University in the beginning of March (send him a congratulatory e-mail!).  This is a pretty amazing accomplishment, considering he submitted his application after they had finished interviewing everyone for the position.  The job had been listed since last fall, and they desperately needed to hire someone in Facilities Management.  However, upon receiving his application, they decided that they liked him better than all the previous applicants and asked him to interview almost immediately.  After finally completing the hiring process and training, Dallas will be working part-time with full-time benefits until further notice.

I started a new job at Dash Bicycles as a bike mechanic.  So far I really enjoy working on bikes.  I’m still learning new things every day, and the time seems to go by so quickly, I often forget to eat.  I plan on organizing weekly group rides leaving from the shop once the weather improves.  If you’re in Providence, stop by the shop and sign the e-mail list to be notified when the rides will be!  We’re on Broadway, directly across the street from the Columbus Theatre.

Both Dallas and I have been working at Brown as temporary and part-time research assistants in the computer science department.  We are helping to construct the new virtual reality cave.  This job was only expected to last a few months, but due to continuous challenges, we may be employed on this project through the summer.  There’s already a cave at Brown, but the new one is supposed to be much bigger and better, with high definition.

We are both working at Crossfit Providence in exchange for free gym memberships, which we have been trying to take advantage of 2-3 times per week.  Dallas has been learning capoeira twice a week at Brown.  I have started swimming in the Brown pool.  We haven’t had a lot of nice days to run or bike outside, and Dallas still needs to get a bike since he sold his in California.  We did sign up for the Erie marathon in Pennsylvania in September!

I have started playing in a band!  I picked up the cornet after years of it sitting in my dad’s basement and auditioned as a trumpet player for the What Cheer? Brigade.  To my astonishment, they accepted me (on a probationary period)!  Check out the show schedule to see if you can come hear us play anywhere!

Dallas is looking for people to practice his Spanish with, and he is thinking about organizing a meetup group since the one that had existed in RI seems to have dissolved.  Any locals who already speak Spanish or want to get better at it, get in touch with him!

Adam and I in high spirits before feeling utterly defeated by the cold rain and washed out roads

Adam and I in high spirits before feeling utterly defeated by the cold rain and washed out roads

Yesterday, I almost died of hypothermia while riding my bike in the inaugural Rhodekill Spring Classic bike ride.  Well, not really, but I couldn’t feel my hands or feet for a good portion of the day, which is not okay.  I am ready for winter and cold weather to be OVER, and now that it’s warm enough not to snow, it’s probably going to rain for the next 2-3 months.

We plan on riding in the MS150 Bike Tour that starts in Pawtucket, RI this year in June.  I am getting a bit of a late start on my fundraising, but Dallas hasn’t even registered yet, so he will need help as well!  If you would like to donate to the cause (please do!), go here.  Don’t worry, I will remind you again when it gets closer to the event, and once Dallas has a fundraising page up you can donate to him too (or instead).

The National Bike Challenge starts officially in May, but there is a warm-up round in April.  This is a challenge to encourage people to commute to work and make other trips by bicycle, or just to get out and ride!  There are teams and prizes for people who ride often and/or who ride far.  If you ride at all, sign up and start logging your miles!!!

National Bike Summit 2014

Since returning to Rhode Island, I have resumed my involvement with the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition so I can try to be a better bike activist.  My timing was such that I was able to attend my first National Bike Summit in Washington, DC this year, and RIBike reimbursed my registration fee!  It was very exciting to be surrounded by so many like-minded cyclists and advocates from around the country.

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Fortunately, I was able to use the credit from the flight I missed in January (from Denver to Detroit) towards a round-trip ticket to Baltimore, with credit to spare – I have one dollar remaining to use towards a Southwest flight this year.  My cousin, Rosheen, was kind enough to host me on Sunday night at her house in Annandale.  Thinking I was escaping the brutal winter we had been having in Providence, I was in for a big surprise on Monday morning.  By the time I was ready to leave the house, the snow was piled up so high on each of the front steps that it was level with the step above it.  The buses were all shut down (along with the Federal government) for the entire day, so what would have been a 2-block walk to the bus stop turned into a 5.2 mile walk to the nearest metro station.  At least there wasn’t a lot of traffic.  The snow was so deep that I walked on the street for most of the walk, while big, wet snowflakes were blown straight into my face by the icy headwind.  Two hours later, I reached the metro station, drenched in sweat, and subsequently chilled off sitting on the almost empty train while the passenger across from me informed me that I had hat hair.  I was already very late to the first day of the summit, and off to a not so great start.

Eventually I reached the Renaissance hotel, picked up my registration materials, and realized that the meeting for first-timers was in an hour.  I considered waiting around in my many layers of sweaty clothing for this meeting, but then pictured myself having to sit next to people, dreading the feeling of being the smelly kid in a crowded room.  So, I moved on, back outside and onto another metro to bring my belongings to my friends’ Tobias and Michelle’s house and use their shower.  These friends moved from Providence two summers ago, and I have missed their cooking.  Monday was the day for the Women’s Bike Summit, for which I hadn’t registered, and bulk of the summit started on Tuesday, so I would start my day fresh from there.

Tuesday was a day full of speakers and panels, including a lunchtime plenary session. After the 30-minute metro ride from Tobias and Michelle’s house, I was only a little bit late to the opening plenary talk, which included Douglas Meyer from Bernuth & Williamson, who presented us with useful data on the perceptions of cycling followed by newly elected mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, who gave us hope for cycling in any city in the US by showing how he has already helped to improve cycling conditions in Pittsburgh. After this, we were free to choose between 6 break-out sessions that went on simultaneously from 9:30-10:45 and another 7 sessions from 11:15-12:45.

For the first session, I ended up at the same one (“Quantifying Bike Benefits”) as Jen and Bari, from RIBike and Bike Newport, respectively. The first panelist was from the US DOT and discussed how they decide who gets funding for the TIGER grant (which just opened up for a 6th round of funding). The second man was from Massachusett’s Green DOT program, and he described the state’s recent efforts to support bicycling and their lofty goals for the future of cycling.

The second panel I attended, aimed at bike dealers, was titled, “Retailers Best Practices for Advocacy”.  We heard local bike shop owners from around the country discuss how they have advocated for cycling in their communities, whether by sponsoring local races or by showing up to town meetings to ask for more bike lanes.

During lunch, we heard from US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, a wonderfully refreshing speaker who really cares about giving bicyclists more attention nationally. He understands that cycling is about more than getting some exercise on a Saturday afternoon, and he emphasized the importance of bicycling for getting people to work and strengthening the economy. We also heard from John Cayer from Kimberly-Clark, who announced the 2014 National Bike Challenge. This is exciting to me, since it relates to my master’s thesis topic, which explored strategies for encouraging more people to commute by bicycle.

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The last break-out session of the day for me was also very relevant to my master’s thesis, and I even recall researching the very companies that the speakers were representing. The panel consisted of people who worked for companies that were awarded Bicycle Friendly Business status by the League of American Bicyclists, and each of the panelists presented on what their companies were doing and how they earned their designation as a Bicycle Friendly Business. Companies included The World Bank in DC, 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota, National Geographic in DC, and PayPal in Omaha, Nebraska.

Before leaving for the East Coast Greenways Alliance (ECGA) reception, the three of us from RI met as a state (along with all the other attendees, separated by their states) and listened to advice from advocacy guru Stephanie Vance as she instructed us in detail how not to embarrass her when we went to lobby at the Senate.

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Wednesday was lobby day, and the Rhode Islanders met up that morning for breakfast in Union Station before heading to our first meeting. There were six of us that day, as ECGA’s Eric and Molly (whose flight had been canceled on Monday) arrived by train the previous evening and we were also joined by Richard Fries, the race director for the Providence Cyclocross Festival. All of our meetings went splendidly well, and we felt a little bad for the advocates from states like Texas, who not only had to coordinate exponentially more meetings than we did, but whose Senators and Representatives were more likely not going to be on board with bicyclists’ interests. However, I don’t believe the three bills we were asking Congress to support were too much of a stretch for anyone to see their benefits. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, the Safe Streets Act (aka Complete Streets) and the New Opportunities Act all aim to increase safety for vulnerable road users, and none of them require any money to be budgeted toward them.  Another ask we included was for our congressmen to join the Congressional Bike Caucus, provided they weren’t already a member. Our first two meetings were at the offices of Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, who met with us in person, and Jack Reed, whose aid met with us. In the afternoon we met with Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline. We were lucky enough for Cicilline to step outside of a voting session to talk with us personally for a few minutes. All four meetings went well, and I think our asks were largely supported.

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On a side note, in between meetings with the senators and representatives, Eric, Jen and I stepped into DC’s Botanical Gardens for a moment, where there was an orchid show going on. I had never been to a botanical garden like this before, and it was incredible. I highly recommend it for anyone visiting DC. In fact, when looking back at my camera at photos over the past week, this was the only place where I had taken any photos.

I learned some important tools for advocacy at the bike summit, and I’m excited to put them to use. I felt like I was receiving similar messages in all of the presentations. For example, it’s important to have a plan if you want to get support for bicycle infrastructure. Funding is much more likely if you already have a well thought plan for action, and you are almost certain to be turned down for a TIGER grant if the main focus of your plan is not transportation (it is in the name, after all). Recreational purposes are important but not the purpose of the TIGER grant. From the second panel I attended, I learned that advocacy and local bike shops depend on one another for survival. To get more people cycling, you need to support your local bike shop and make good bikes (and service) available locally. And of course, bike shops need people to want to ride and buy bikes. When bike shop owners become invested in their customers by helping them to create and achieve their goals, they ultimately will sell more bikes!

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From the very beginning, the bike summit was full of positive energy, and it left me with an even more positive outlook and plenty of hope that we are well on our way to overcoming the challenges of empowering and providing access for cyclists in this country. My only disappointment lies in that it was so hard to choose between the many break-out sessions, and I wish I could have attended all of them!

Picking Up Again

Where to begin?  In waiting for the perfect inspiration to post, I have allowed too much time to go by and too many things to happen that writing a thorough update has become overwhelming.  I will do my best now.

Time has a way of passing faster when you’re not paying attention.  I am lucky to have enjoyed my time so much in the past few months that I was barely aware of its passing until another notch on my personal timeline hit and I am celebrating, or experiencing, my 30th birthday.  While I wouldn’t call it a celebration, it is an experience – and a little reminder that time does keep going, and nobody has yet figured out how to control that.

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Liza Jane, during a trail run in Durango

Dallas and I were dog sitting and house sitting in Durango, Colorado for about 6 weeks.  Dallas went back to California on Christmas Eve to sell our bikes and collect some belongings while spending the holidays with his family.  I stayed until New Year’s Eve, and attempted to rent a car to drive to Denver to catch a flight to Detroit for my cousin’s wedding.  After walking around Durango for 3 hours between a few different car rental companies, I conceded to defeat.  Despite having plenty of savings in the bank to buy a car, let alone rent one for a day, I was turned down by every rental company because I didn’t have a credit card.  This is one of the most ridiculous things about the US.  These companies would be perfectly fine renting a car to someone who is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt as long as they have a credit card, while the people who are careful never to spend more than what they have are punished for not having any credit.  I had to get to the Denver airport the next day, and there was literally no way to do it.  For $400 and an expensive cab ride to the Durango airport, I could have bought a plane ticket to Denver that would have gotten me there a few minutes after my flight to Detroit took off.  I felt utterly defeated and helpless.

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This is Coda

  Naturally, I began scouring craigslist for…anything.  Durango doesn’t have enough of a presence to require its own craigslist page, so I was searching the entire western slope of Colorado, with no luck.  I began expanding my range to areas south of Durango. Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Farmington, Phoenix…I was desperate.  Eventually, I found someone who was driving from Phoenix to Cleveland.  While I was originally hoping for a ride to the airport, I ended up securing a ride for myself all the way to Michigan.  AND I got to stay in Durango for an extra day and hang out with Liza and Coda, the two dogs I was sitting.  As luck would have it, my flight out of Denver was canceled and I was able to get full credit for the price of the flight I would have missed anyway.  The drive took two days, but Ray had done the drive many times before and dropped me off safely at the hotel where my family was staying in time for the wedding rehearsal dinner.

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My beautiful cousin Rachel and her new husband, Ben, along with the rest of the wedding party

While I love my cousin Rachel, I wonder about her sanity when it came to picking a time and location for her wedding.  I’m pretty sure everyone who was flying in had trouble related to snowy weather conditions, and there were just as many delays or cancellations on the way out.  I amazingly managed to fly out of Detroit somewhat on time, but the plane I was destined to take from DC to Providence was stuck somewhere else so I ended up spending an extra 7 hours in the airport after that flight was canceled.  Had I been allowed to rent a car, I probably could have driven to Providence in less time.

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Back in Providence, I am dog sitting again. This time for Kyla, the husky.

Dallas met me in Providence a few days after I arrived.  It was his idea to come back to Rhode Island and try it out for a while.  We hadn’t had an income since September, and we really needed to take some time to rebuild our bank account balances.  I vaguely questioned Dallas’s sanity as well for choosing to come to Providence in January, but he really didn’t know any better.  I am happy to be back in an area where I’m surrounded by familiar faces and places, and I think my friends and family are happy that we’re here (for now).  Now I just need to figure out how I’m going to save enough money to hit the road again in a few years.  Dallas just started a job at Brown, so send him congratulatory messages!  He will be working part time with full time benefits, and he may choose to stay long enough to earn a degree while he’s here.  This means we could be here for a few years!  But I have every intention of still completing my bicycle journey around the world.  During this pause, I am thinking about starting a business to help support our goals and mission of promoting bicycling!  I will update as things unfold…

Arizona Road Trip

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Dallas and I figured that while we were already in the Southwest, we should find a way to explore the surrounding area before our dog-watching duties began again.  So we rented a car and drove down to Flagstaff, where I have a cousin, Jeanine, and Dallas and I have a friend, James.

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The road between Flagstaff and Sedona

Over the past two years, I have been traveling around my own country like I never have before, and I am still astounded by how vastly different it can be depending on where you go, and how dramatically beautiful it is.  It’s amazing that you can see such an array of climate zones, landscapes and people all while remaining within the United States.  These experiences that I’ve had make it a little easier to appreciate being an American, even though I am still itching to get out and explore the rest of the world.  From the food and hospitality of the South, to where the mountains meet the ocean in Alaska, and everything in between, I am more in love with this country than I ever have been.  Our recent trip to the desert in Arizona further exceeded my expectations, and continued to awe me in every way.

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A view of Sedona from Submarine Rock

The enormous red rocks rising straight up, illuminated by the sun, give off a presence that is impossible to capture on camera. Yet, the scenery was constantly making me want to stop and take a million pictures everywhere I turned.  It is so stunning, I could not take my eyes off of the landscape. This presented a challenge when Dallas and I went trail running in Sedona.  We spent a few hours on a ‘run’ that couldn’t have been more than 6 miles, pausing to take in our surroundings and attempting to photograph everything without falling into the canyon.  It was equally difficult to drive down to Sedona from Flagstaff without stopping or slowing down to feast our eyes upon the vivid land.

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Simultaneously standing in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah!

The day before we went to Sedona, we drove from Durango to Flagstaff, stopping at the Four Corners National Monument along the way.  My eyes could barely handle all of the visual stimulation then, and it was nothing compared to Sedona.  Once in Flagstaff, Dallas and I met up with James (who Dallas had originally met on his first bike tour in California and who had stayed with us in Portland when touring with his mom, Jo).  James brought us to Diablo for burgers, and then we walked over to Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution to meet my cousin, Jeanine, and her husband, Stuart.  Flag Bike Rev is a local bike shop, and they were having their holiday party.

IMG_4849After leaving the party, we were kindly welcomed by Jame’s friend, Lauren, to stay at her house.  Two of their other friends were in town from Silver City, New Mexico, and Dallas had stayed with one of them while he was passing through two years ago.  We had good conversation with James and friends, and I really enjoyed listening to Lauren and Mike sing and play the guitar (Dallas even joined in on guitar towards the end).  It’s really comforting to know that there are such good people all over the country, and we can relate to many of the same things, like music, the environment, and bicycling.  I think that this would be my group of friends had I lived in Flagstaff or Silver City.  It also makes me miss my friends back in Rhode Island, and I look forward to seeing them again.

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Anyway, after all of us went out for an early breakfast of chiliquiles at Martan’s, Dallas and I headed off to Sedona.  I could probably spend a few months in Sedona before I got tired of exploring all of the trails it has to offer.  I did want to visit Arcosanti before heading back to Flagstaff, so we only got to spend a few hours in Sedona.

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Arcosanti’s skyline

Arcosanti is an experimental town, designed by architect Paolo Soleri, who just passed away earlier this year at the ripe age of 93.  Soleri was born and studied architecture in Torino, Italy before coming to the US and working under Frank Lloyd Wright.  He started constructing Arcosanti in the 1970’s, based on his idea of Arcology (architecture + ecology).  It is still somewhat a work in progress, but is a very cool idea with the goal of being environmentally sustainable and lean with regards to urban sprawl.  I first learned about Arcosanti while working on my master’s at Brown and researching places that are not autocentric (revolving around the automobile).  I am slightly embarrassed that we had to drive there, but I am glad that I got to see it.

The drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon

The drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon

On the way back to Flagstaff, it started snowing, and the next morning there were several inches of snow covering everything. I love the way the snow clings to all the tree branches, turning them white. We enjoyed coffee and breakfast with James and friends at Macy’s, and then said goodbye before driving to the Grand Canyon. We drove over a mountain pass on the way, and once on the other side, there was no more snow on the ground.

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Dallas basks in the views of the Grand Canyon

I felt like we were the luckiest couple of people on earth when the clouds began to break while we were at the Grand Canyon National Park, and I was reminded of when the same thing happened while we were visiting Denali National Park in Alaska. I can’t believe this enormous canyon has been sitting here all this time, and I had never even seen it once until now. It’s incredible how different everything can look depending on the season, the lighting, and the weather. There are so many different types of beauty, but I think my favorite is these striking natural landscapes.

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The South Kaibob Trail stretches for 7 miles and drops over 4000 vertical feet before reaching the Colorado River

Dallas and I began hiking down into the canyon from the South Rim’s Kaibob trail, but we only had enough time to go about 1.5 miles before having to turn back up. We watched the clouds shift as the sun set behind the south wall of the canyon, casting various colors and changing moods on the whole picture, all the while maintaining its majestic aura. The long drive back to Durango was dark and silent, but the moon rising behind the clouds was also pretty magnificent.

Finally selling my jewelry

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samples of my jewelry

I think I started making hemp jewelry when I was 12.  I remember doing a lot of it in Germany one summer, and purchasing about 80 Deutsche marks worth of beads and string.  Well, I have kept the materials over the years and started picking it up again.  There was a craft fair in Durango last weekend, and while I missed the boat on that, I was able to get a small table at the local grocery co-op, Durango Natural Foods for two hours on Sunday.  I sold three things, and I have much more.  I will probably continue making things until I run out of supplies before reassessing whether this is a worthwhile hobby.  In the meantime, I decided I would try to sell my creations online instead of lugging everything around wherever I travel.  Now is the perfect season to start selling these sorts of things, so after researching my options, I decided to use Etsy as my online jewelry selling platform.

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I would also like to use this as an opportunity to raise money for a charity, since I haven’t actually done any fundraising since last summer.  So, if anyone does want to buy this jewelry, I will keep track of all my sales and donate 20% of whatever I make to the National MS Society.  If you would like to make a larger donation to the MS Society or are not even interested in the jewelry but still want to donate, please e-mail me and we can figure out a method via paypal or some other option.  At the end of this year, I will submit my donation (and will continue to do the same thing for next year).

So, without further to write, I introduce my Etsy shop, Nomadic Jewelry by Nomadic Cycling

Cycling in the City vs. Nature: A Collaborative Article

While I love the way cycling through a bustling city gives me a rush of adrenaline, heightening my awareness of my surroundings, since going to Alaska I have been gravitating towards a different kind of cycling.  A fellow blogger pointed out that there are many ways to enjoy exercise, and we agreed to collaborate on a post to highlight the differences.  Whether you live in a city or in the middle of nowhere, exercise is a necessary outlet for most people, and it can be enjoyed at both extremes.

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Teaching kids how to ride safely on city roads

When I lived in Montreal, I would regularly go running.  I trained for and ran my first marathon in Montreal, and most of those miles were on busy city streets.  City running (and cycling) is my favorite way to learn a new city, or get even more familiar with a city you’ve lived in for years.  As I steadily increased the distance of my long runs in Montreal, I familiarized myself with more streets and parks than I ever knew existed during my first 3 years of living there.  However, something can be said for escaping the city and getting out into nature.

In Alaska, nature was more accessible to me than ever before, and my love for trail running and mountain biking grew stronger.  Fortunately, many cities have huge parks where you can run, safe from traffic – I have utilized many of these parks in various cities where I’ve lived or visited.  If it weren’t for the noises of the city, you might actually believe that you were far from civilization while you lose yourself on their trails.  In between our bike tours, stopping for a few weeks or months at a time allows us to explore and find some of our favorite ways to stay in shape while we’re not touring. 

It may seem like bicycling from place to place every day is plenty of exercise, but if it weren’t for these in between times, I’m pretty sure I would be ten pounds heavier.  We’re actually pretty energy efficient when touring, and our bodies quickly adapt to cycling 50-60 miles daily.  These miles become predictable to our muscles and are rather slow – the miles are more of a mental challenge than a physical one after the first week or so of touring.  The mental fatigue from the long hours on a bicycle prevents us from doing much of anything at the end of each day on the road, and we probably end of eating more calories than we burn.  Variation is needed – whether it’s a different sport or just a different style of riding – so we don’t plateau and lose fitness.  I like to run on my days off from cycling – but city commuting or mountain biking (without 40 additional pounds of gear) is a great way to mix it up. 

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At opposite ends of the spectrum, both city cycling and mountain biking are totally different from touring.  I was surprised by how many different muscles, including upper body, that I used when I was mountain biking in Alaska.  It was so different – so fun and challenging, and something I wish I could do more frequently.  Likewise, city commuting really conditions your legs to accelerating from a stop after every stop sign and light (which can be quite frequent).  I also enjoy the challenge of racing up hills and having my own secret races against other commuters who have no idea (or maybe are racing me in their minds).  And then there’s trail running.  Trail running is like playing Tetris with your feet.  You have to figure out where to plant them before they hit the ground, and there are plenty of obstacles to make that challenging on your ankles.  Each type of exercise comes with its own mental game, and the variation really helps me to not burn out. 

While some people are able to go to the gym and run on a treadmill every day, I know I could never do that.  Here in Durango, it has been incredibly cold and snowy, but I would still prefer to bundle up and go snowshoeing or ice skating outside than to concede to the gym. I will make exceptions for swimming, and I have been going to use the pool, but if it were warm enough I would choose to swim in a lake or ocean any day.  The problem with winter sports for me is the cost, but many people around here ski or snowboard during the winter and there are enough professional athletes living in the area to either motivate or depress me (I haven’t decided yet). Read Bridget’s perspective, below, on exercise and cycling from a totally different city.

A Cyclist Makes Friends with Las Vegas

It’s amazing what some of us will do to get our exercise. I used to spend almost all my free time at the gym. After work, I’d head there and stay most of the evening before going home. I didn’t exactly enjoy spending so much time in that cramped space with sweaty people running nowhere like so many hamsters in a cage. Like many others, I simply hadn’t found a better way to stay fit. Sure, I knew that some folks ran outside and others would cycle around town on errands, but those options seemed unsafe. Then I moved, and my life and habits changed radically.

A move to Las Vegas seems an unlikely catalyst for becoming an outdoor enthusiast, but that’s exactly what my move became for me. Although I originally thought that outdoor exercise in Sin City likely entailed too much to drink and a faltering march along the strip, I found out that many outdoor activities lay waiting for those willing to participate here.

If you’ve seen pictures of the Las Vegas strip lit up in all its promotional glory, you may tend to forget that the city lies in the heart of the Mojave Desert. This natural landscape features miles of bike trails, and I love taking rides through the area. Of course, getting lost here would be a travesty, so I use this handy resource to help me keep my bearings.

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Bridget's boyfriend helps her fix her bicycle

I also enjoy cycling in urbanized areas near my home. Las Vegas earned the designation of one of America’s Cycle-Friendly Cities from the League of American Bicyclists. In part, this has to do with the 390 miles of bike lanes located in the city. Downtown, several new bike racks and lockers have also been installed for the convenience of cyclists.

Travelers also benefit from the culture of fitness here. Hotels in Las Vegas offer a myriad of fitness amenities. In addition to well-equipped gyms, many local accommodations provide exercise sessions and outdoor fitness recommendations to guests. In order to find activities and accommodations that suit your personal fitness needs, use that link to filter pretty much every establishment in Las Vegas based on your travel and fitness preferences.

You don’t have to be a fitness nut to know that exercise is only one aspect of a healthy lifestyle. The fitness culture in Las Vegas has also given rise to a number of healthy eating and drinking establishments. Vegetarian fare isn’t hard to find, and several restaurants offer healthy menu options that accommodate those on the paleo diet or similar healthy food plans. If you find a juice bar more appealing than a tavern, you’ll easily find several from which to choose here in Vegas. I hope you have a chance to visit my city soon and experience all this for yourself.

Turkey Trot Recap and Thanskgiving in Durango

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Today was Thanksgiving.  While most people spend the holiday with their family, the best Dallas and I could do was talk with family and friends on our phones.  Traveling does cause us to miss our family and friends, and it is especially apparent during the holidays, but Dallas and I are thankful to have each other.

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I started my morning off with a 5 mile running race, the Durango Turkey Trot.  This was my first race since the Klondike Road Relay in September, first 5-mile race since August of 2012, and first ever race at high altitude.  I didn’t do that badly, for having lived my whole life at sea level until last week, but I did feel noticeably out of breath earlier than I would have liked.  Dallas couldn’t run today, but he did bring the chocolate lab, Charlie, and both of them stood around to cheered me through the race.

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After the race, we cleaned ourselves up and walked over to a community Thanksgiving dinner at the Plata County Fairgrounds, where we were given a full Thanskgiving meal for free!  Hundreds of people sat at long tables inside a large room, with volunteers serving food, buffet-style, from the tables along the side by the entrance.  Dallas and I found two empty seats on the other side of the room, between the table with all the pies and the band (but much closer to the pies).  The average age of attendees was much higher than our ages, but the people were all very friendly.

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We walked back and spent the rest of the day lounging around the house, making food (including pumpkin waffles and pumpkin egg nog!), napping, playing with the pets, and studying languages on Duolingo.  The house where we’re pet sitting has a trampoline in the back yard, and today the sun had finally finished melting off the last of the snow that was covering it since the first snowfall.  I hope everyone else had a nice holiday, if you celebrate it – and have a great weekend!