Category Archives: Rhode Island

A few months away from rainy Portland

On the eve of my departure from Portland I lay awake thinking about everything that has happened since our arrival.  I was feeling incredibly sad that I would be leaving Dallas for two weeks, but at the same time I was excited to go back to New Orleans and hopefully recover a bit financially.   My alarm clock rang to wake me up before I ever fell asleep.  It was going to be a tiresome trip.

St Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square is all lit up for the Super Bowl

St Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square is all lit up for the Super Bowl

New Orleans was colder than I would have liked it to be, but the spirit in the city was just picking up for the Superbowl and Mardi Gras. I came just at the right time to start pedicabbing at the height of the tourist season. It did warm up considerably after a few weeks, and Dallas joined me for a month before going back to Portland. I had planned to fly back to Portland on the same day as Dallas, but I ended up passing up my flight to stay longer and enjoy a visit from my dad. My pedicab license actually expired on my birthday, so instead of pedicabbing in New Orleans, I carpooled with my friend Ryan over to Austin, where my pedicab license was still valid for another year.

Biking around Austin on a sunny day

Biking around Austin on a sunny day

Austin was warm and sunny during the days, but dropped to cooler temperatures once the sun disappeared for the night. I arrived a few days before SXSW, the festival that attracts thousands of people to the city each year. I didn’t want to work as hard as I had last year, but I needed to work enough to make up for the expense of being there. At this point, I had bought another plane ticket to go back to Portland and see Dallas, but it was three days before the festival ended, and I would have had to miss out on two of the best nights for pedicabbing. I also wasn’t looking forward to leaving the lovely weather to go to a place where I would be mostly alone, unemployed, and uncomfortably cold. I decided at the last minute not to take my flight, and instead stay in Austin until the end of March.

Mayan ruins of Tulum

Mayan ruins of Tulum

After SXSW was over, I got in touch with my friend Dainy (D), another nomadic free spirit who showed up both in New Orleans and Newport while bouncing around between other various locations. She had been in Austin for SXSW and was planning to drive to Mexico that day with her roommate, John, from New Orleans. After thinking over her invitation for a few minutes, I decided to join them. A few hours later, the three of us were driving south in her car, headed for Monterrey. We arrived around 4am, where Perla, a couchsurfer in Monterrey, so kindly let us stay on her couches. She even made us pancakes and drove us to the airport in the morning, where we caught a discount flight to Cancun. From there, we took a bus to Playa del Carmen and spent 4 days exploring beaches, cenotes (underwater caves), and Mayan ruins in Tulum. D’s friend from Mexico City, Stephen, joined us in Playa and introduced us to some of his friends as well. Once back on the bus to the airport, D decided to stay in Mexico and actually stopped the bus driver to get off at the next stop. Back in Monterrey, John and I were met by Karina, another couchsurfer that D had arranged to host us. Being the only two ‘gringos’, she easily recognized us and took us to an awesome barbecue at her friend’s house. This was the most memorable night of my time in Mexico, since it was more authentic than eating at a restaurant in a tourist town, and the people were amazingly welcoming and friendly. I still find it amusing that Mexican meals always seem to include the same foods, and this barbecue was no exception. Tacos made with fresh corn tortillas, meat, cheese, and spicy salsa. We stayed at Karina’s house that night, and her mom fed us breakfast (similar to the barbecue, but with eggs too) the next morning before we drove back to Austin in D’s car.

Me, Karina's mom, John, and Karina before leaving Monterrey

Me, Karina’s mom, John, and Karina before leaving Monterrey

Driving back, the line at the border was so long, and the sun was so hot, that the car overheated and the radiator leaked. We noticed this after smelling something burning and seeing smoke rising from the hood. Mexicans are very resourceful, and there were plenty of guys walking around all the cars waiting in line, selling various goods. I kind of wanted to ask if any of them were handy with fixing overheated car engines. We eventually made it to the front of the line, but had to keep turning the engine off and back on again to move forward a space (people would cut us in line if we left more than half a car’s length of space between us and the car in front). I think border crossings should all be at the bottom of a slight decline, so cars can all turn off their engines and coast down the line. Either that, or do something to make the line move faster! The officer who inspected our car did not seem surprised that our engine had overheated, nor did he offer any help with our situation. We did manage to find a shaded area to park once we crossed into Laredo, and after letting the engine cool down I was able to refill the coolant without it leaking again. A mechanic at Sears told us that it’s very common for cars to overheat while waiting at the border. I think there has got to be a solution to prevent this from being a common occurrence.

Oldest tree in Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI

Oldest tree in Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI

I enjoyed the warm weather and company of friends in Austin for a few more days before flying to Providence to visit family for a week. I also reconnected with some good friends from home and started to get back into a regular running routine. I finally flew to Portland at the beginning of April to be back with Dallas. Apparently the weather wasn’t so bad while I was away, but the city greeted me with cold weather and persistent rain upon my arrival. That’s just when it started to warm up in Rhode Island too!

While we were in New Orleans, Dallas and I applied for and accepted jobs as bicycle tour guides in Skagway, Alaska. We will be leaving Portland at the end of April to spend the summer in Alaska. Our plan after that is to head south by bicycle towards Patagonia, with likely stops along the way to work and recover financially.

One more day…

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On Friday morning we biked back to Fairhaven after saying goodbye to our wonderful host and stopping at the nearest bike shop to fix my shoes.  The bike shop, Idle Times, was right at the corner of a bike path that we had missed on our way up the previous day and was highly recommended by Rick and Julie.  The mechanic was kind enough to not only replace the plates that the cleats screw into, but he also gave me a few extras.  I doubt I will need them now that I’ve got some strong Shimano plates (the Keen ones that came with my shoes were weak).  Also along the way, we stopped at a jam/honey shop and a fudge shop to sample the offerings.  We finished cycling before dark this time and drove to LL Bean, where I bought a much-needed headlamp and Garmin Edge 605.

The weekend in Providence was crazy.  It was a huge weekend for the bike crowd, as the cyclocross festival was in town, there was a bike-walk summit on Friday, a frame builders ball at the Biltmore, and a veloswap going on in Roger Williams park concurrent to the cross fest.  Upon returning to Providence on Friday I went straight to the builders ball, where several frame builders from New England had an array of frames on display.  This was a good networking opportunity for possibly finding a bike sponsor.

Saturday was unseasonably warm – a perfect beach day.  Unfortunately, I spent mine selling my belongings at a yard sale on the front lawn.  I woke up at 7am and the neighbor was also having a yard sale. When I looked out the window and saw a crowd of people across the street, I panicked briefly, thinking that all these people had shown up hours early and were waiting for my yard sale.  I started putting the boxes outside at 10am, and people were immediately picking through everything.  This was my third yard sale of the year, and I noticed that the majority of my customers are spanish-speaking, they all want to buy tons of stuff, and they don’t want to pay more than 25 cents for everything.  After the yard sale, I had just enough time to put away all of the unpopular items that didn’t sell, shower, and go to our going away party downtown.  In preparing for the trip, I had accidentally purchased two sleeping bags, thinking that one of them was a sleeping bag liner, when in fact it was a sleeping bag that came with a liner.  I brought this extra sleeping bag to the party to raffle off.  It was a great party, with the highlight (in my personal opinion) being that my friend Andrew brought an entire gateau concorde to share with everyone.  I discovered this cake only within the past year, and it is my absolute favorite.  I encourage everyone to try it from either Meeting Street Cafe or Rue De L’Espoir.

Sunday was the last day before taking off for good, and I had more to do than time permitted.  I woke up early to check out the cyclocross fest before meeting my friend Ashley for breakfast at the Duck & Bunny (one of the places I’m going to miss).  After breakfast I drove to Dartmouth to visit family before leaving, and then drove to Warwick to look into buying a netbook or tablet so I can upload photos and videos (and update this website) from the road.  I spent several hours looking around but became overwhelmed by the options and ended up leaving empty-handed.  I needed to go to Newport one more time to collect the last of my things from the apartment where I was living and to say goodbye to my friends down there.

I felt like I was doing an awful lot of driving a car in preparation for a bicycle trip.  I struggled to stay awake long enough to drive back to Cranston and try to sleep before the big departure.

Practice day 1

This morning Phil and I set off on a practice ride from Fairhaven to Orleans, where we are staying with Julie and Rick, a couple that Phil contacted through Warm Showers.  Despite a late start, the day flew by insanely fast.

We drove from Providence to Tiverton, where Phil made sandwiches and I wrote out the route that we were planning to take (we still have yet to acquire a GPS navigation device).  From there we drove to my family’s beach house in Fairhaven, where I discovered that a squirrel had broken in and made itself at home.  We finished packing our panniers and set off towards the cape.

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broken screw plate on shoe

We had planned to hit LL Bean on the way out, but because of the late start decided it was best to save it for the way back.  Several stops were made along the way to adjust seat height, check directions, refuel and stretch.  Due to the adapting to our new rides with all of our equipment weighing us down and challenging our balance, our average moving speed was a modest 13-14mph.  My new shoes broke less than halfway through the day!  The screws holding the cleat to the bottom of the shoe tore apart the fitting on the shoe, so it could no longer be held to the shoe, and the right cleat ended up stuck in the pedal.

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Rick and Julie's dog, Dude, lounging on the couch

By the time sun had set we were still 15 miles from our destination.  After pedaling 6 or 7 miles with me using Phil’s head lamp and Phil using a blinking light on the back of his helmet, we decided it was too dangerous to continue in the dark on that road.  We ended up hitching a ride with Tim, who generously went out of is way to drive us and our bikes straight to the door of our hosts.  After a delicious meal and good conversation (and a warm shower), it has been an eventful and educational practice day.  We owe enormous thanks to Tim for the ride and to Rick and Julie for their hospitality.

Back home and back to planning

I returned from my weekend in Minnesota, sore but happy.  I had managed to run the marathon on Sunday in 3:37:18, only 3 minutes slower than my PR, despite not having run farther than 11 miles all summer.  And my legs are not in as much pain as I remember they were after running my last marathon.  I do wish I could have seen more of Minnesota.  The International Wolf Center is in Ely, a 4 and a half hour drive from where I was staying in St-Paul.  Wolves have always been my favorite animal, and when I was younger I had speculated about going up to Minnesota to live with them for a while and make friends with a wolf pup.  Anyway, I didn’t want to tire myself out beforehand and was too sore to do much after the race, and there wasn’t enough time to really explore.  I’ll have to go back another time, hopefully on bicycle.

Phil and I had tentatively planned to do a practice ride tomorrow and Wednesday, but we still have much to do to get all of our gear together and bikes ready, and it’s supposed to rain all day tomorrow anyway.  Instead, we will leave one day later, on Wednesday.  We may be able to stop at LL Bean on the way to Provincetown, our chosen destination for this ride, and collect the remaining equipment necessary.  Among the things I need to do before the real trip commences are write to potential sponsors, add content to complete the website, advertise my yard sale, and plan our going away party/fundraiser.  The party deserves its own post, which I will promptly write once I have an idea of prizes for our raffle!

Preparation and contemplation, the weekend before departure

This is the first post I am attempting to write from my phone. I’m doing this on the number 60 RIPTA bus from Newport to Providence to get my pre-marathon massage from Lori-Ann before I head to the airport and fly to Minnesota. I’m practicing blogging from my phone because I suspect this will be the method of choice for the majority of the journey.  It’s Friday afternoon and my dad called to tell me that Michelle Obama is visiting Providence, so hopefully this won’t interfere with my ability to get to the airprt on time. 

I’m flying to Minnesota to run my 9th marathon, and 8th state in my goal to run a marathon in each of the 50 states.  I’m also visiting my cousins Jeremy and Dina, and their two sons, George and Michael.  The timing seems bad, to run a race of this distance only a week before I expect to head off on an indefinite bicycling/sailing journey – and maybe it is, but I had registered for it months ago, before I had planned on leaving in October.  I feel more underprepared for this marathon than I ever have in previous races, due to the fact that I haven’t been running as much as usual all summer.

I was originally planning on leaving for my trip in the springtime, so I would have the whole summer to cross North America.  I wanted to start in Providence and cycle to Newfoundland first, crossing southern Canada from there to Vancouver, and then hugging the west coast all the way down to Patagonia.  From there I would go up the east coast of Argentina and Brazil, trying to find a sailboat crossing the Atlantic that would hire me on as crew.  I didn’t necessarily want to do this alone, but I didn’t know anyone who would want to go with me.  I was just hoping to meet up with some fellow cyclists along the way, preferably before I got to Mexico.

I met Phil at a CouchSurfing (CS) meetup at AS:220 in Providence, Rhode Island.  We were both members of the CS community and lived in RI, so we went to this informal event to meet other local CS members.  After that, I didn’t see him again for maybe 2 years, when we were both at a mutual friend’s barbecue.  I saw him again at the CVS 5k, where I was racing and he was volunteering as medical support.  At some point, we realized that we both had similar aspirations to circumnavigate the world, so we met for lunch one day to discuss and compare our plans.  Months later, we still weren’t planning to go together.  Phil quit his job in June and was planning to leave in July.  I quit my job in June because I needed to get outdoors and away from the office.  I still planned to take a year or so to plan my trip in detail and find sponsorship.  I was also committed to the US Open Cycling Foundation, a non-profit organization that I had become a part of in the fall of 2009, and I wanted to see a cross country bike tour for high school students get off the ground before I left.  My heart is still committed to USOCF, and I plan to donate a portion of whatever sponsorship I receive to the organization.  Anyway, one day Phil came over and asked me to just come with him.  I was never going to leave if I waited until I found sponsorship and was completely “ready”.  I knew he was right, and that I would never feel ready for an undertaking like this.  Just like I never feel ready for any race in which I participate, I just have to plunge in and see what happens.  This trip is going to be interesting, exciting, and challenging…and I may not even be close to ready for it, but we’re in no rush, our plans are extremely flexible, and we will constantly be making adjustments along the way.

The closer we get to the date of departure, the more things I think of that I need to do, the more people I realize I want to see before I leave, since I don’t know when I’ll get to see them again, and the more places (mostly restaurants) I want to go to one last time.  As much as I feel the need to get out of here, I’m really going to miss this place and these people.

Welcome

The official blog begins here. Please be patient with this skeleton of a website while Phil and I learn how to make it pretty and visitor-friendly. Most of the pages have yet to be filled with content, but they’re there. Suggestions are welcome and will be considered!