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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.

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Fighting ALS for our friend Bobby

When I first started this website, I wanted to use it to raise money for charity as well as awareness about bicycle transportation and bike advocacy. Since I hate to ask for money, I haven’t been very good at raising it. However, right now our good friend, Bobby Forster, really needs our help. He was diagnosed with ALS just last Christmas, and what started last year as some weakness in one of his arms has progressed way too rapidly to almost total paralysis. It is painful to see our friend, who just a few months ago was riding bikes with his friends and driving pedicabs, in such a helpless state. He has had to buy a special wheelchair, a wheelchair-accessible van to get around, and hire a full-time caretaker. He also has a feeding tube and will eventually need a tracheotomy. Since he obviously can no longer work, Bobby and his family need as much support as they can get to keep living and fighting this horrible disease. If you can spare anything (even as little as $5), please donate to his fund here.

Always smiling, Bobby (in the Sox cap) is surrounded by amazing friends who participated in ALS-TDI's Tri-State Trek bike tour this summer to raise money for ALS research.

Always smiling, Bobby (in the Sox cap) is surrounded by amazing friends who participated in ALS-TDI’s Tri-State Trek bike tour this summer to raise money for ALS research.

I met Bobby when I became a pedicab driver in Newport, and I worked with him again in New Orleans. He is one of the most positive, welcoming and friendliest people I know, and he’s the main reason why I ended up pedicabbing in New Orleans. I can’t picture Bobby without having a smile on his face. He’s also an incredibly active person, into sailing as well as cycling, so I can only imagine how difficult it is to have his ability to stay so active taken away like this. You can read his story and find out more about ALS through that link, and you can also read Bobby’s updates to his own blog at www.acureforforster.com.

One last thing – If you want to directly fund research for finding a cure for ALS, you can simply text “ALS” to 80077, and you will magically donate $10 to ALS-TDI, an organization that has been working tirelessly since 1999 to search for a cure or treatment.

Closing our PeopleForBikes Season and Looking Ahead

While we’ve taken a hiatus from writing to our NomadicCycling blog, we have been busy traveling, writing and posting to social media for PeopleForBikes. In case you didn’t follow our blogs for PeopleForBikes, you can find most of them at the following links (there were two that didn’t make the cut to get published):

We had the experience of a lifetime traveling around the country in the name of bicycle advocacy, and we feel honored to have been able to work on making a difference in the political climate for cycling in the United States. There were definitely some places that were discouraging, but the majority of people we talked to were supportive of bicycling and wanted to see more bike infrastructure in their cities. While living out of a car for six and a half months was definitely stressful on our relationship, we would do it again in a heartbeat if offered the opportunity.

The best part about our short job was getting to network and meet so many people in the bicycling world. Not only did we get to make some awesome new friends, but we were able to visit old friends and family all over the country that we hadn’t seen in months, or years. We visited over 70 bike shops, mostly on the eastern half of the US, and really felt that we were able to connect with some of them to improve cycling conditions for them locally.

The second best part about the job is that we got new mountain bikes from Giant/Liv, and we got to take them to some of the best trails in each of the states that we drove through! We didn’t get to do quite as much riding as we wanted to, but we did get to go to places that we never would have otherwise. Now that we’ve surrendered our car, we’re not sure we’ll get to use the mountain bikes that much, sadly.

Since our contract ended at the end of October, Dallas and I are taking some time off to relax and make up for all the long days we spent on the road with no down time. I’m trying to focus on the remainder of the cyclocross season, and we’re both hoping to go somewhere warm (South America?) for the winter. In the meantime, Dallas is in Portland and I am in Providence until further notice! Also, follow us on instagram for photos! (I’m too lazy to include any in this post right now)

Shopping for a bike rack?

Even though it may be far from cycling season where you are, it is shopping season!  Whether you’re shopping for someone else or for yourself, a rack that allows you to bring your bicycle along when using your secondary mode of transportation can expand the geographic range where you cycle and encourage you to ride more when conditions outside of your immediate vicinity are not ideal.  We know not everybody can quit their day job and bike around from city to city, so for those of you who have your own car, here’s a guide to shopping for the perfect bicycle rack:

guide to buying the perfect bike rack for cars

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!