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Puerto Asís 

According to Lenin, Putumayo was once the most dangerous and most active zone in Colombia for guerrillas and cocaine production. It’s also very religious, and our host, Monica, was possibly the most devout person we stayed with. She didn’t have a job, but she spent more time at her church than most people spend working. Monica lived in a small apartment just a block from Puerto Asís’s main square with her 10-year-old sister, Carolina. Their mother lived in another apartment around the corner and was also very religious, but subscribed to a different religion than Monica. They were all very nice and welcoming to us, and Carolina and Monica shared Monica’s bed so that Lenin and I could sleep in Carolina’s bed, which was tucked into a corner of the kitchen.

When we arrived in Puerto Asís, we had a vague idea of trying to hop on a river boat to the Amazon. It was Wednesday night. On Thursday, we walked with Carolina to the nearest dock to ask about taking a boat. The walk was inky about fifteen minutes, but it felt like we had walked to a completely different country.  After a stretch of nothing but guava trees were houses of a simple wooden construction between the dirt road and the river. They were decked with banners advertising Colombian lager, and the ambiance was more Caribbean coast than jungle.

Our options for taking a boat seemed limited. There was a passenger boat that we could pay $100,000 each to take us to another town in one day, but then we would have to get onto another passenger boat (for who knows how much $) to take us the rest of the way to Leticia, the capital of the Amazonas. That second boat would take about 5 days or so to get there. Our other option was to go to the bigger dock on the other side of town and inquire about hitching a ride on one of the larger cargo boats. These were slower, however, because they stop at the small villages along the way to unload and load stuff and could take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to get to Leticia. We borrowed Monica’s motorcycle that night to get to this dock, which was a bumpy ride down a long dirt road. We arrived just around sunset and saw three large cargo boats at this dock. After asking around, we learned that it would be hard to get a ride with a cargo boat without a special license or certificate to work on a boat, but it was not impossible. One person told us that sometimes the owner of one of those boats will take passengers, but it really isn’t allowed, and there are quite a few control points along the way. Since none of the owners of the boats were actually there at the time, we had to come back the next day to speak with them.

Workers load the cargo boats using horse-drawn carts to move heavy sacks from the truck to the dock. 

The next morning, we packed up our belongings and rode our bikes to the big dock. It seemed to be faster and easier to bike there than it had been by motorcycle. We spoke with the owner of one of the cargo boats, who informed us that he could only allow us to ride with them if we first got permission from the navy, or someone in charge of fluvial transportation. So we rode a short distance to where several naval officers were standing guard and inquired with them about getting permission. Their captain explained that we actually had to go to an office near the airport to ask the fluvial inspector. When we went there, the security guard informed us that she was in Bogotá until Monday.

That afternoon our duck died. He was never quite strong enough to hold his head up, and feeding him was a challenge since he hardly ever opened his mouth. He probably would have died sooner if we hadn’t tried to rescue him, but I still felt like I had failed him. I didn’t want to give him a name until I was sure he would survive, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected that he didn’t make it. We threw him to the river behind Monica’s house, and he made some vultures happy, at least.

We decided to hang out in Puerto Asís for the weekend and try to get permission from the fluvial inspector on Monday. Meanwhile, I had received news that I was accepted to take part in a documentary called Project Y, which I had applied for while we were in Fusa. This documentary is investigating what makes people do crazy things, like ride their bikes hundreds of kilometers around Colombia, for example. More specifically, they were looking for endurance athletes who appear to have an appetite for torturing themselves via extreme physical challenges. Apparently, I fit their requirements. The first step in participating requires all the athletes to meet in Portland, Oregon for an evaluation, to receive equipment (including a new bicycle!), and be given individual goals and personalized training plans. It meant that I would have to leave Colombia at the end of March instead of the end of April, as we had planned. This did not make Lenin happy, and while I was ecstatic to have been given this opportunity, the mood of our journey was never quite the same after receiving this news. We only had a month before I had to board a plane, and spending three weeks on a cargo boat may not have been the most appealing way to spend my time in Colombia. I also had to either leave the country by March 14th or ask for an extension to stay longer, since my tourist visa only allows for 90 days at a time. I still thought the experience of riding a cargo boat down the Amazon was worthwhile, and I could fly to the US when we got to Leticia. If we couldn’t figure out a way to make the Amazon trip work, we would continue south to Ecuador.
We totally weren’t planning on staying more than a night or two in Puerto Asís, but Monica and her family were happy to have us. We cooked all our meals in their abandoned kitchen, using up whatever food would have otherwise gone to waste. We tried to share with Monica, but thanks to her religion she was fasting for a month and could only eat one piece of fruit after sunset each day. Lenin taught me how to scale and clean a fish, and then proceeded to clean all of the fish he brought home while I worked on one of them. Lenin does everything fast, but I could use more practice for sure.

Kids from the nearby school surround me and bombard me with questions.

On Monday we rode back towards the airport to talk with the fluvial inspector. The street was blocked off a block or two before we got there, and we learned that the president was in town, meeting with one of the last guerrilla groups for negotiations. We were still able to bike through, and upon arriving at the office, a group of school kids surrounded me, sensing that I was a foreigner. They bombarded me with questions, tried to speak English, and asked me to speak English. It seems that everywhere I go, outside of major cities, the children are fascinated by me. It makes me very self conscious and uncomfortable, but as they keep questioning me, it gets easier. I imagine that these kids in Puerto Asís were more interested in taking to me than they were in meeting the president, or at least it was easier for them to get close enough to talk to me. They invited me to come to their school and talk the next day. Apparently, the English teachers in most schools are not native English speakers. When people hear a real foreigner who speaks English, it is enchanting. They want to listen to us speak, or ask us to look at their homework assignment for them. During my time in Colombia, I have corrected a fair number of class assignments or projects people were working on in English.

Anyway, when we finally met with the inspector, she told us that she could give Lenin permission because he is Colombian, but I would need to have a work visa in order to be granted permission. Without a work visa, I would need a visa to enter Brazil, which, for Americans, is not a quick or cheap process. The cargo boats pass many check points along the way, where they are inspected thoroughly. They also pass into Brazil briefly before coming to Leticia, which is on the Colombian side of the border with Brazil and Peru.
Leaving the fluvial inspector’s office, I mentally prepared myself to ride to Ecuador instead. Lenin hadn’t given up quite yet though. He had heard that sometimes the cargo boats drop people off before going to the checkpoint to pass into Brazil and then come back to pick up the people to continue down the river. He was still thinking about going anyway, without the fluvial inspector’s blessings. I thought it was too risky and didn’t want to do anything that might get me kicked out of the country or banned from traveling there in the future. In the end, Lenin was not happy, but we decided to ride to Ecuador.

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Cycling in and around Medellin

Cycling is among Colombia’s most popular sports, second only to football (soccer), and you will find all sorts of riders out training or commuting on the roads both inside and outside of the cities.

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A mural outside of Parque Salado in Envigado

 

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One of the ciclovias on Avenida Poblado

Aside from the heavy traffic and air pollution, Medellin and its surrounding areas are incredibly conducive to cycling. Following Bogota’s lead, Medellin also hosts a Ciclovia every Sunday from 7am to 1pm, closing 42 kilometers of roads to motor vehicles so people can feel safe to bike, run, walk or skate freely. Some of these same roads host a smaller version of Ciclovia every Tuesday and Thursday night between 8 and 10pm. Additionally, there are over 100km of ciclorutas (separated bike paths) within the city. For the BMX riders, there are parks and pumptracks sprinkled throughout the city, including a pretty big one named after world champion Mariana Pajon, a native of Medellin. While there’s no velodrome (yet) in Medellin, there is a decent track where roadies can train, riding circles as fast as they want out of traffic.

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Bike touring through Antioquia and Caldas along one of the highways

If you’re comfortable riding with traffic, the autopista (highway) is one of the fastest ways to get around town, and it is not off limits to cyclists. While there are many bike routes throughout the city, they can be slow due to the numerous pedestrians who are not paying attention to their surroundings while strolling down the bike paths. Most road cyclists will end up riding out of the city on one of the highways and inevitably end up climbing switchbacks up one of the steep mountains on the outskirts of town. It is not uncommon to see pelotons of professional cycling teams training on these roads every week. Possibly the most popular spot to ride on the weekends is the road leading to the airport in Rio Negro. It’s basically straight up a mountain for 16 kilometers, but you can find hundreds of riders on both road and mountain bikes cycling up Avenida Las Palmas on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

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The ciclorutas throughout Medellin are painted at intersections

The worst part about riding in Medellin is undoubtedly the pollution. Medellin is currently the 8th most polluted city in South America, and you can really feel it when you ride a bike. Most of the buses and trucks emit thick clouds of black smoke that encompass you and your bike as they accelerate away from you, and the numerous motos are not much better. Traffic can be very slow, and you really have to be careful when going around buses and taxis because the motos are usually speeding along in between the lanes of cars. I regret not having a GoPro to take video footage of one of my rides through traffic, because I think the video would be quite exciting.

bicitourOn our first full day in Medellin, Dallas and I took a tour of the city with BiciTour Medellin. Carlos and Mateo were excellent guides, and I was lucky to be able to ride with both of them a few weeks later when I had finally acquired my own bike. The tour is a great way to learn about Medellin while seeing more of the city than you would be able to on foot. They will teach you about the city’s violent history, show you some of the graffiti, buy you salpicon, and take you to Pueblito Paisa, a model colonial village with one of the best views of the city.

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Taking a break in a park during one of the Sicleadas

Every Wednesday night SiClas organizes a ride called Sicleada that leaves from Carlos E. Restrepo park at 8pm. The route changes weekly and is never repeated. It varies from easy, flat rides within the city to fairly difficult rides that include climbing the surrounding mountains of Medellin. This ride draws over 1000 riders every single week and is a great way to meet people and make friends. The ride is usually more or less 20 kilometers, and very slow. Volunteers block cars from intruding on the ride from side streets, and the front of the group waits at the top of every hill for the rest of the group to catch up before moving on. There is always a break about halfway through, where some of the riders sell homemade sandwiches, cookies and juice. People are talking, laughing, whistling, playing music, and generally having a blast throughout the entire ride. If you ever find yourself in Medellin on a Wednesday night, you should rent a bike from SiClas and do it – this is an experienced not to be missed.

enciclaAnother encouraging program in the city is EnCicla, a free bike share service. Drawbacks to this are that it can take a few days to get a card to use the program, since you have to apply with ID and a utility bill to prove you are a resident. The other down side is that the service is only available on weekdays from 5:30am until 7pm. There are some stations that are manned by a person and others that are automatic. Because it’s a free program and doesn’t generate any income, it’s expensive to operate. Maybe in the future it will be more like existing bike share systems in the US that are all automatic and available 24 hours a day, but this will probably require them to charge a small fee to rent the bikes.

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Mountain bikers bomb down a trail from Tres Cruces, in the heart of the city.

The cycling community in Medellin is expansive, and there is something for every type of rider. Groups on Facebook, Meetup, and Couchsurfing exist for mountain bikers, road cyclists, and casual riders who just want to socialize. The people are friendly, and it’s very easy to make friends and find people with whom to ride. I did have a bit of trouble finding a good road bike, and it’s not easy to find a good, inexpensive second-hand bike. Most shops sell new bikes for the same price that they would cost in the US. They do come with an ownership card that includes the serial number in case your bike ever gets stolen, which is a system I think should be adopted everywhere. If you know where to look for used bikes, they can be very cheap (30,000-100,000 pesos). But depending on what kind of riding you plan on doing, I’m not sure how reliable these bikes are.

Now that I’ve written enough material for three blog posts (and I could go on), I should conclude by saying that cycling around here is really great, no matter what kind of biking you’re into. There are obvious concerns with exercising in such heavy air pollution, but I think my positive experiences and the excellent views have outweighed the risks.

New Job for Nomadic Cyclists

Dreary Providence at the cusp of winter and spring

Dreary Providence at the cusp of winter and spring

Dallas and I have persevered through the worst of winter in New England, while apparently the rest of the country has had the warmest winter on record.  It’s probably the worst timing for us to be leaving, when we should be reaping the reward of spring and summer after having suffered through such misery for the past 3-4 months.  Summertime is really the only reason to ever live in Rhode Island.  I’m sad that I won’t get to experience it to it’s fullest in the Ocean State, but we have a pretty good reason for leaving now.

Hiking in sunny Boulder, after our job interview

Hiking in sunny Boulder, where it’s warm enough to go topless, after our job interview

We applied as a team for a job with PeopleForBikes, a non-profit based in Boulder, Colorado, whose mission is to increase cycling (and cycling infrastructure) in the US five-fold by 2025.  This is a seasonal job, and the ultimate opportunity for Dallas and I to play an active role in bicycle advocacy while remaining nomadic and (hopefully) still cycling every day.  The job is sponsored by Volkswagen, so we will be getting a brand new car to travel around the country to various events, setting up our tent and giving out prizes to people who sign on to our movement.  We are very excited to be starting this new chapter of our lives, but at the same time very sad to be leaving Providence so suddenly.  We will be back.

Multi-use paths are everywhere in Boulder!

Multi-use paths are everywhere in Boulder!

Dallas and I are going to be the East Coast Crew – they are still looking for the ideal candidates for a West Coast Crew, so if you’re ready to drop everything and travel around the western half of the US for the next 6 months, you can apply here!  Part of our job involves blogging and posting to instagram – so if you’d like to follow us on our PeopleForBikes journey, the blogs will be posted here, and you can follow PeopleForBikes on instagram (and if you don’t already, follow nomadiccycling on instagram too!).  And, after reading all of this, if you haven’t already joined the movement, you can sign up here!

Winter Cycling

Before the first big snow storm, when the bike path was still somewhat easy to ride on

Before the first big snow storm, when the bike path was still somewhat easy to ride on

So many people have been shocked and maybe impressed that Dallas and I are riding our bikes through the winter.  At least once a day someone tells me, “I can’t believe you’re still riding in this!”  Well, to be honest, I would much rather ride my bike in this snow than drive a car.  Don’t get me wrong.  Cycling in the winter has its own drawbacks and discomforts, but I feel I have no right to complain about the choice I made not to have a car, even in the worst of winter conditions.  I have no regrets and am happier than ever to ride my bike instead of drive.  Here’s a few reasons why.

Riding in the snow can be peaceful and fun, before it gets salted and all serenity is destroyed by filthy traffic

Riding in the snow can be peaceful and fun, before it gets salted and all serenity is destroyed by filthy traffic

I am still getting outside and incorporating activity into my daily commute (and sometimes for fun as well, although we have both been heavier on the yoga and other indoor forms of exercise these past few months) – as long as I’m dressed appropriately, I feel much better than I would if I were sitting in a car (and in the crawling traffic jams that seem to be everywhere during snowy rush hours).  From the moment I step outside I am moving, keeping my body warm.  The snow adds a bit of a balance challenge, and the cars sliding around add a danger factor (how exciting).  I have to ride my bike differently in the winter, watching out for snow and ice and taking my turns cautiously.  I may have to change my course to avoid hills or roads that present hazards I would rather not deal with.  I have a little more trouble looking over my shoulder for cars because I have to turn half my body around to see beyond my hood, which I have pulled up over my helmet.  I adapt to these challenges, and I even enjoy them for a time.  I feel more confidence on my bike as I learn how to improve my balance on these challenging surfaces.

Embrace winter and have fun in the snow!

Embrace winter and have fun in the snow!

Driving a car in this weather actually seems like hell.  There is no room on the roads for cars to pass each other on many of the side streets, because the snow is stacked so high along the sides of the roads.  The sidewalks are so inconsistently cleared that pedestrians are forced to walk in the street, creating yet more obstacles for drivers.  Cyclists are forced to ride in the middle of the road, if there ever was a bike lane, because all the snow is in the parking lane and cars are parking in the bike lanes.  Where there are parked cars, they stick out, adding to the difficulty of navigation.  Why drive when you end up sitting in a line of traffic, catching the same red light for 3 or 4 (or more) cycles before you finally arrive at the intersection?  Why drive when there’s nowhere for you to park your car?  What are you supposed to do when you finally do arrive are your destination and there’s a parking ban because of the snow?  It’s more work to have a car in the winter than it is to bike, in my opinion.  If you’re not spending hours shoveling your car out of your driveway, you’re spending money for someone else to do it for you.  Unless you keep your car in a heated garage, you spend the first 10 minutes of your trip just sitting there freezing, waiting for the heat to kick in.

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Skiing in the park near our house – look at all that snow!

The one thing I could live without are cars.  And salt on the road.  I know the salt makes the roads less slippery, but it really destroys my bike.  If you are riding in the winter, make sure you clean off the salt to prevent corrosion on your bike.  It’s not an easy task.  If it weren’t for cars, the roads probably wouldn’t get salted.  I wouldn’t have to worry about them slipping on ice and sliding into me, or driving way too close because the roads are half as wide as they normally are.  I wouldn’t have to turn around so far to look behind me before making a left turn because there would be no cars to plow me down from behind.

These Bar Mitts have been the best Christmas present - before I used to have to stop mid-ride to warm up my hands on the way to work. You can see form the photo that locking up a bike becomes a little...different, in the winter.

You can see from the photo that locking up a bike becomes a little…different, in the winter.

As I mentioned, cycling does have its own drawbacks and discomforts during the winter season.  But I believe they are far outweighed by the positives.  The worst part about winter cycling (besides having to watch out for scary cars) is that my body can never seem to distribute heat evenly.  My hands and feet and face are most vulnerable, while the rest of my body will be overheating.  Maybe I just haven’t figured out the right gear – and this changes daily depending on the outside conditions.

These Bar Mitts have been the best Christmas present - before, I used to have to stop mid-ride to warm up my hands on the way to work.

These Bar Mitts have been the best Christmas present – before, I used to have to stop mid-ride to warm up my hands on the way to work.

My dad gave me a set of Bar Mitts for Christmas, which have been a lifesaver (or hand saver).  They keep the wind off my hands and I’m able to wear lighter gloves, but depending on the temperature, but hands will still freeze with heavy winter cycling gloves inside the Bar Mitts, or they will be sweating profusely along with the rest of my body, while my feet are still solid ice cubes.  This is a personal problem, and everyone needs to experiment with different layers in different conditions to determine what works for their own body.  I’m afraid I’m just doomed to have perpetually cold feet (even in the summer).  A face mask can help keep the cold wind off my face, but then my glasses usually fog up if I breathe.  These are problems I can deal with temporarily, but they do require that I bring a dry change of clothes with me wherever I’m going.  I still think it’s better than driving.  All that said, I am ready for winter to be over!

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)!

Review of North St’s Woodward Convertible Pannier

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Riding to the grocery store using my new bag as a pannier

I am writing this review on a bag that I purchased with a preconceived bias, so keep that in mind if it sounds slightly like I may be searching for a reason to love this bag.  The Woodward Convertible is a bike pannier that can also be worn as a backpack.  North St Bags, which is located in Portland, Oregon, was named for the street the owner grew up on in Montpelier, Vermont.  Unfortunately, I left Portland just before discovering this amazing local company, and had to wait for the bag to arrive in the mail.  Since I don’t remain in one place for very long, it was a bit tricky to coordinate where to have the bag shipped, and to make sure I would actually be there.  Consequently, by the time I did receive the bag, I was over a thousand miles away from my bike, so I had to test it out as just a backpack first.

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The bag converts easily between a pannier and backpack, with a zippered flap that contains the backpack straps while being used as a pannier and a velcro strap to secure the pannier hooks and bungee while wearing as a backpack.  The bag is also waterproof, so there’s no need for rain covers if it starts to rain on you during your ride.  There are good reflective stripes all over the bag, and my favorite part is that you can customize the colors of both the main bag and the reflective stripes.  

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Inside the main bag is a padded compartment for a laptop (or papers that you don’t want to get crinkled), and there are two velcro pockets on the outside as well as a pocket that perfectly fits a U-lock.  The side velcro pocket is perfect for my water bottle when I’m walking around town or already have my coffee thermos in the water bottle cage on my bike.

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I did get to try the bag out as a pannier when our friends, Dustin and Katie, from Alaska came through Durango after bicycle touring around Arizona and New Mexico.  The bag fits best on a rear rack, since it would hang pretty low and may hit the ground if you were to try it out as a front pannier.  There is a bungee cord with a hook that hooks onto the bottom part of the pannier rack, and two hooks at the top of the bag that hook over the top of the rack.  It does allow the bag to bounce away from the rack, since there’s nothing securing the bottom of the bungee to the bag, but it seems pretty secure and I don’t think it would easily fall off of the rack.

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This bag has been perfect for biking and walking around town and is wonderful for grocery shopping.  I am extremely happy with it so far, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who commutes by bicycle or even occasionally would use their bicycle for a shopping excursion into town.  It’s a pretty durable material, and while a bit costly for me, I think it could last a lifetime, and I feel good about supporting a local company that’s making handmade bags in the USA.

For anyone who is interested in purchasing from North St Bags, use the code “bagforlife” to receive a 20% discount on all orders over $100! This discount code is good until December 14th of this year.

Day 11 – Eureka to Weott, CA

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Just off the 101, tons and tons of lumber stretch for a while to the right and tons of logs to the left

Getting started this morning was a struggle.  Dallas and I didn’t roll out until almost 11am, then stopped less than a mile down the road at the grocery store for another 20-30 minutes before we really hit the road.  I think the long days and miles without much rest in between has been wearing on us, and it has been tough to motivate ourselves out and onto our bikes for another long ride.  Personally, I have been dealing with some knee pain and saddle sores, while Dallas has struggled with an ingrown toenail and mental challenges.  Miles have been going by painstakingly slowly lately.

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This place is wonderful

Fortunately, it was another beautiful day, and it’s hard not to be happy out in the sunshine.  The traffic and hills were not too bad today, and after lunch we got to experience riding down the Avenue of Giants, through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  We stopped about halfway through our ride in the quaint town of Rio Dell, where we had amazing Mexican food at Tonetta’s.  The Avenue of the Giants took us off the highway and into the forest, where it grew darker and cooler under the super tall redwood trees. 

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Riding down the Avenue of the Giants

The Avenue also took us through a small town called Redcrest, where we made one last stop for hydration and a bathroom break.  The lady working at the shop where I bought some lemonade asked in a hoarse voice if I thought it would be a good idea for people who use bicycles for transportation to be required to have registration and insurance.  I’m curious to know what other people think of this, but I like that bicycling is accessible to people of all ages and income levels, and I’m afraid requiring registration and insurance would only be an obstacle to discourage cycling.  I do think that it’s a good idea to teach cycling to kids in schools like they do in other countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark.  Maybe having them pass a course in school so they can earn a license to ride will make cycling more popular as a transportation method.  As for insurance, I all insurance is generally a rip-off.

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In the forest it's dark in the daytime

We continued through the forest until Burlington Campground, after having gone just about 50 miles.  Dallas and I had just enough time to pitch our tent before needing our headlamps to see.  Now, under these giant trees, it is really quite dark.  Our campsite is pretty close to the road, but hopefully traffic will be light enough for us to get a good sleep.  I think we’re both so tired that it probably wouldn’t matter anyway.

Day 9 – Crescent City to Arcata, CA

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Dallas and I started our morning off by breaking our bags before even getting onto the road.  Dallas broke the zipper on one of his panniers, and I forgot to tie down the straps for my Seal Line backpack, so one strap got caught in my rear wheel and wrapped around the hub several times before being wrenched off of the bag with a loud snap.  This was going to be a very long day.

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Snack time at the bottom of our first huge hill

We were planning to get to Arcata to stay with Dallas’s cousin, Mike, and his family.  Arcata is 80 miles from Crescent City, and the bike directions provided by google maps showed that we would encounter three major hills along the way.  The first hill began not even 2 miles after our departure, and rose to 1200 feet over the next 3 miles.  As we approached what looked like the top of the hill, we saw another cyclist mounting her bike and getting ready to descend.  We eventually caught up, and it was then that we learned there were three summits to this hill.  A bit past the bottom of the hill, after stopping for a snack, we caught up with two other cyclists from Amsterdam.  The woman we had passed on the hill was riding with another man to raise money for cancer research, and all three pairs of us ended up coming together on the same road at one point.

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Other bike tourists!

After talking with them for a bit, we took off first since we were trying to make it another 65 miles.  The next major hill came after a town called Klamath and only climbed to about 800 feet.  The descent on this hill was my favorite part of the ride, since we were riding down a winding road amongst enormous redwoods.  We stopped several times just to appreciate these trees and read some of the information signs at various trailheads. 

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We could live inside a redwood tree...with our bikes

By the time we had reached the next town (Orick) it was already 2pm, and we were still less than halfway to Arcata.  We ate burgers and milkshakes at the Palm Cafe and inspected the map on our phones.  We decided to stay on highway 101 a bit longer and take a more coastal road instead of take a detour to the east suggested by google bike directions.  This meant we would be on a higher speed road for a few extra miles, but we ended up avoiding the last monster hill we had seen on the elevation chart.  It still wasn’t an easy ride.

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Riding down Scenic Drive along the coast by Trinidad

In between all of the giant hills were more hills, too small to register as anything on the elevation chart, but definitely registered as tough hills in my legs.  The coastal roads we took were scenic, with beautiful views (we got to see elk by a lagoon and seals by the ocean), but they were narrow, winding, and not flat.  My legs would have been happy to quit riding after lunch.  We made one last snack stop in Trinidad before tackling the last 20 miles to Arcata.  Dallas is a wonderful cycling partner, and has been very encouraging and supportive for all the times I have doubted my ability to carry on.  I’m very lucky to have him here with me. 

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Last glimpse of the sun for the day and still about 10 miles to go

We watched the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean before cycling away from the coast on a bike path that grew darker by the minute.  When we finally reached Arcata, I felt energized knowing that we were almost to our destination.  The last few miles uphill to Mike and Toni’s house in the dark were no longer painful.  Mike greeted us and helped us unload our bikes.  He had dinner ready, which was salmon caught from the Klamath River, chantrelle mushrooms he harvested locally, and baked winter squash.  Not only is Dallas an excellent partner, but he has amazing and supportive family!  It has been wonderful getting to meet some of them.

Day 6 – Reedsport to Langlois, OR

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This blue bird hung around, hoping we'd share our breakfast

This morning I woke up before Dallas’s alarm sounded.  I had actually fallen asleep and slept fairly well all night!  So I guess its not impossible to get a decent sleep in the tent, but I definitely appreciate a good bed.  Both of us were in high spirits this morning after having had some good rest, and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of apple, cheese, and turkey jerky before packing up the tent and getting on the road.

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This is when I discovered that the lighthouse, which we had climbed so steeply to reach the previous night, was not even halfway up the hill.  We started our morning off by finishing the ascent before rejoining with highway 101.  From there, it was about twenty miles to the next town of North Bend, and another 3 miles to get to Kaffe 101 in Coos Bay, where we remained for a good hour or two.  This place was adjoined to a Christian bookstore, and was much larger inside than it appeared from the street.  We snagged the table just on the other side of the window where our bikes awaited us and then ordered two cups of soup, a panini, a carrot cake muffin, marionberry scone, chocolate peanut butter cupcake, chocolate covered espresso beans, and two triple-shot lattes.  AND we took advantage of their WiFi.  So yeah, we were probably there for two hours.

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Heavy traffic as we cross the bridge to North Bend

Our goal for the night was a campground by Lake Floras, about 46 miles away.  The Pacific Coast Highway is much different from the country roads and forest roads we were on before.  This road sees a LOT of traffic – large, heavy, loud, fast-moving traffic.  For the most part there is a shoulder or a bike lane to ride on, but the traffic was still far too close for comfort in many spots.  In spite of this traffic (or maybe motivated by it) Dallas and I made great time after leaving the cafe…until we reached East Beaver Hill Road.  I despise any road with the word “hill” in its name.  This was the steepest climb we’ve encountered by far, and it continued for far too long (over a mile…maybe two miles).  It was so steep that I tried to stop and walk, but had more trouble pushing my bike up the hill than riding up it.

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We saw a bald eagle

We stopped again for groceries in a town called Bandon.  It was my turn to go in and buy food, and I came out with half of a roasted chicken.  I normally don’t like chicken, but it was strangely appealing to me in the market.  We sat on the ground just outside the entrance and ate the warm, delicious chicken before hopping back on our bikes for the last 17 miles or so of rolling hills.

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We still had ten miles to go when the sun set

Aside from Beaver Hill, our ride went pretty smoothly and quickly.  We had a tail wind and managed to cover 66.66 miles of rolling hills for the day.  It was, however, dark when we arrived at the campground, and once again we had to set up the tent in the dark.  Hopefully we chose a decent spot!

Day 3 – Monmouth to Corvallis, OR

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Dallas and I didn’t make it very far today, in spite of our early start.  We were on the road by 8am!  Neither of us slept very well in the tent the night before.  As I was trying to fall asleep, I kept hearing what sounded like fireworks going off sporadically in the distance, with no discernible rhythm.  This sound went on for hours.  Then, I must have actually slept a little bit because I remember both of us being woken up by the sound of howling in the distance.  Maybe coyotes?  We were awoken a second time by the howling a bit later, only this time it was MUCH closer.  Like, right outside of our tent.  Dallas asked me if I had my pepper spray near me.  Terrified, we lay there hoping it would go away.  That night I dreamt that I had to use my pepper spray – on a hitchhiker.

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We were packed up and on the road before daylight really filled the sky.  We finally met back up with the scenic bikeway about 7.5 miles into the ride.  Here, there was a convenient cafe that offered breakfast sandwiches, quiche, and coffee.  I figured we would stop briefly to refuel and then be on our way to Eugene, but once settled in, we ended up staying for about 2 hours!  (Dallas’s excuse was that his coffee was still too hot to drink).  Here is where our luck seemed to have run out.  The weather forecast for the day included lots of rain and possible thunderstorms.  We were both tired, and we didnt want to end up stranded somewhere in the middle of farmland, 20 miles from the nearest cover when the storm hit.  Since we didn’t sleep well on the ground the night before, we decided to splurge on a cabin rental at the nearest KOA campground.  This was just an 8-9 mile bike ride from where we were, and we would be safe from the rain.

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Upon arriving at the KOA, we unloaded our bikes and made ourselves home in the cabin.  First order of business was showers, then laundry.  Food options at the KOA were rather limited, so we ordered a pizza.  Then we went for a walk on their “Nature Trail” – a short loop around various trees and blackberry bushes.  Back in the cabin, we will rest our legs for the remainder of the evening.  It barely sprinkled while we spent our day lounging around the campground, but Dallas assured me that just 30 miles south of us it was probably stormy and miserable.  Let’s hope so anyway.