Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Website, More Info!

Thank you to all the loyal readers and folks who have stumbled on to this blog.  It's been a pleasure to spread the joy of bike touring to so many new faces!

From now on, you can read all the old blog posts, and many new ones, at my new website:

This website is the new space for my partner Guthrie and I to share pictures, drawings, videos, and writing about our adventures, both on and off the bike.   We also have gear reviews, touring advice for newbies, and recommendations for routes!  Please check us out:

We are gearing up for a bike tour of the Southwest soon:  Southern California and Arizona!  Woohoo, sunshine here we come!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Aftermath... sorta

The bicycle saga ended months ago, yet somehow the adventure continues...

... I still find myself urinating in people's yards.  Frequently it's my own garden, but every now and then nature calls when I'm out walking and I can't help but use a convenient rhododendron bush for the excellent coverage it provides.

... last month I got a "thumbs-up" from a school bus driver who was thrilled that I screeched to a halt at the sight of her red stop sign swinging outwards.  Kids scrambled off the bus and crossed the street in front of me, backpacks weighing them down like over-sized turtle shells.  "You don't understand how many of  'em just keep going!"  she shouted out the window at me.  I assumed that "many of 'em" referred to all cyclists, and I grinned, swiveling my hand merrily like a princess on parade, and as an entire busload of schoolkids chugged past, I had the satisfaction of knowing that I had just been a good example on two wheels.  

... this journey has been excellent ammunition for almost every writing and research assignment that's come my way this term at Pacific University.  It's almost as if by NOT being in school, I've gotten more material to use IN school.  Hence, I am as rabid an advocate as ever for young scholars to take breaks from academia and go do something brave/spontaneous/unsettling for a semester.  It'll rock yo' world!

... if anyone's in the area, I'm using this bicycle odyssey as grounds for my Senior Capstone Project. I'll be giving a 20 minute talk on how bicycle touring connects to Permaculture on April 25th at the Pacific University Forest Grove campus.  All are welcome!  I'll keep you posted as to the time and exact classroom.

Thanks for reading, y'all, and keep your own adventures rolling!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The (Bicycle) Vagina Monologue

Warning: If you're a fan of the Vagina Monologues, you'll enjoy this post! If you're not a fan, you may want to skip this one...

From an essay I wrote recently called: "My Vagina Rides Bicycles":

My vagina rides a bicycle.

She always has, I just didn’t know it until I hopped on one, and we realized that we were both riding a bicycle, me and my vagina.

It’s something we do together. She gets forgotten, otherwise. Activities like walking, swimming, dancing, sitting still... somehow the limbs take center stage in all of those. She’s hiding up in that dark corner between my legs, and stays there quietly, just observing the strangeness of life.

But when we ride on the bicycle, she gets to explore. We careen around corners, pump up hills past cemeteries and elementary schools, through valleys full with golden stalks and fat cattle with the sun on their backs. We go to her favorite places; the pond where we he kissed me, the field that we hugged in, the meadow where friends ate blackberries from one another’s hands and licked their stained fingers. Those delicate folds of flesh must be steering, the way we streak down Main Street and sneak through alleyways. You’d think the world was her oyster, with the shell split wide open and pearls rolling everywhere, and her trying to snatch every one. You’d think that life was an orange, with the zest stinging her eyes and nose as she peels back the skin and sinks her teeth into the flesh of it, feeling the juice drip down her chin.

She’s a consumer, my vagina. The best kind. She’s never wanted the money, but the greed and the gluttony was always there. It’s not that she wants more than anyone else, she just wants as much as she can get her hands on. She’s not looking for happiness, she knows what happiness is, and any chance she gets she takes it and swallows it whole, laughing with her whole throat. There’s no hesitation, with my vagina. She doesn’t think about things, she doesn’t ponder them quietly in dusty attic spaces. She goes out into the storms and the sunshine, she moves through the world and she knows. She knows a good thing when she sees it. She knows happiness, even when its dressed up in its best camouflage. She knows these things, spots them quickly, and if I stay out of her way she’ll swallow it all, laughing like it’s a rock song.

I spent my whole life trying too hard, and not listening enough to my vagina. And then I sat on a bicycle and began to peddle. A funny sensation came over me, as my legs pumped up and down and the machine moved forward. I looked down at my arms, and they seemed impossibly long and beautiful. They ended miles away from me, with hands gripping the handlebars. I was certain they were someone else’s hands, the way they rested there, effortlessly, guiding the steel machine as if it was an extension of itself. My legs, too, with their spandex shorts, looked distant as they worked up and down, pushing the pedals down, up, down, up.

I was unable to control them, to control any of it. I felt like someone else was powering it all. There was someone else conducting this symphony of limbs and steel tubes and rubber tires. And when I looked down at the place where it was all meeting, the place where the machine and the girl came together, I discovered the driver was clearly my vagina. She had known how to ride bicycles all along.

She had been waiting for me to figure it out. She had been curled up there, in the darkness between my legs, humming little songs to herself and waiting for me to find a bicycle. Not just any bicycle would do, though: it had to be the bicycle. It was to be the machine that would unite us all, that would move us across paradises and wastelands in the same day. It was to gleam in the sun and glimmer in the rain, it was to be a machine that was built for escape, not just trips to the grocery store or commuting to work.

We had ridden many bicycles, but what we needed was the bicycle. We needed the steel-framed symbol of childhood freedom and women’s liberation. It needed to keep up with my vagina’s appetite, moving fast enough that she could eat the world as we went. It needed to take us too quickly down mountain slopes and too slowly back up them, it needed to have a little bell to make children smile, and it needed fenders to keep the mud off our back. It needed these things, and my vagina knew it. She had just been biding her time, waiting for me to figure it out.

It took 5,000 miles for me to learn to listen to my vagina. It took three and a half months of pedalling, swearing, screaming, and laughing for me to understand that the desire, the appetite, the wisdom and naiveity of travel were all manifestations of my beloved vagina. I did not move her: she moved me.

When people tell me they’re proud of what I’ve done, I wish I could tell them the truth: that it was actually my vagina that biked across America. It was her feet on the pedals, her hands on the handlebars, her head inside the cheap plastic helmet. It was her life on the line, and her happiness at stake. This is her adventure, and I was just along for the ride.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For the Ones Who Didn't Make It

There's many things I miss about bike touring. One thing I don't miss is the roadkill.

As any long-distance cyclist could tell you, there is a lot of death at the side of the road. No critter seems exempt: I've seen everything from dogs and cats to raccoons, skunks, squirrels, possums, deer, antelope, coyotes, foxes, elk and a beaver.

One time, halfway through Kansas, I saw a donkey who had appeared to have exploded in a linear fashion. Parts were scattered along the highway for nearly 20 feet. As I carefully steered Miya through the reeking land mine, I speculated on what could have caused such a gory scene. Coming up with no satisfactory explanation, I brought it up to the cycling couple from New Jersey that I met later that day. They were clearly disgusted, but more with me than with the scene I described. "Ew! Why would you tell us about that?" The woman asked, making a face.
"Well, you're going to go right by it..." I reasoned. But in reality, I honestly thought they'd be interested. After all, the squished snakes and grasshoppers had started to get boring. At that point in my trip, surrounded by hundreds of miles of flat prairie, an interesting roadkill specimen was my idea of entertainment.

At first, I found it horrendous. My eyes watered at the sight of a fawn in a drainage ditch in Oregon. But then, after seeing roadkill countless times a day, I became accustomed to it. The smell stopped bothering me. I actually started thinking of some animals as carcasses instead of living beings. For over a month I thought that armadillos had a pink tint to their gray bodies: I had only seen them crushed at the side of the road, stained by their own blood, and had no live ones to compare them to.

It got to the point where, when I saw a deer crossing a quiet country road in front of me, I couldn't help but think of it as already doomed. The image of it dead and bloated on the roadside would come too easily to my mind. I had been conditioned to think of animals as roadkill, in much the same way as urban kids might be conditioned to think of animals as creatures in cages at the zoo.

People, I've noticed, don't like to talk about roadkill. They don't even like to think about it. Part of it is the grotesque image, but part of it must be guilt, too. Because without people, there would be no roadkill at all. We euphamistically call it "roadkill", as if the road itself is to blame.

I think its time to talk about roadkill. Having seen and smelled my fair share of it, I think we can do things a bit differently, and avoid at least some of the million animal deaths that occur every year at the side of the road. I'm becoming increasingly interested in transportation infrastructure, especially the design of "complete streets" that work for multiple modes of transport, instead of just cars. I'd like to add another component to the "complete streets" idea: that we should have roadways that are more safe for the other members of our biotic community, not just humans.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Confessions of a Touring Cyclist

To the owners of the littl brick house just outside Sisters, Oregon: Yes, I did pee in your front lawn in broad daylight. You had a big, shady tree next to an empty road, and I had a full bladder.

To the young couple on bikes that I passed in Montana: I so wanted to stop and chat with you, but I had just coughed up something and had it in my mouth when I waved and smiled. I didn't want to spit it out in front of you... so I just kept pedalling.

I've become a little bitter about car commercials on TV... there's so many of them, and when have you ever seen a commercial for a brand of bike?

To thae older gentleman in the country store in Mississippi: I probably shouldn't have been so rude towards you, since you didn't see anything wrong with what you said. I have a difficult time hearing such blatant racism without getting angry.

To Idaho: I owe you an apology. When I cussed you out on the side of the road after I got that big gash in my leg from falling off the shoulder, I should have been more specific. I wasn't mad at the entire state, just Highway 12.

To Kansas: I should apologize to you, too. When I dropped some F bombs that night at the lake, I used your name but that was only because I didn't know the name of the creature that I was truly mad at: the sizable black snake that appeared eager to slither into the tent with me.

To the men in the white truck in Arkansas: I probably should have concealed myself a little better, but there wasnt any vegetation to hide behind and I had to GO. All the same, sorry for flashing y'all.

To the clerk in the New Orleans supermarket: I was so disappointed that you didn't have any pumpkins for sale on Halloween that I forgot my manners. Your suggestion to carve spaghetti squash instead worked great, and I should have said thanks.

To my Warmshowers hostess in Alabama: I ate the pink frosted cupcake on your table. It looked really good, you werent home, and I was really hungry. I moved the remaining cupcakes to fill the gap on the plate... and it was just as delicious as it looked.

To all my friends in so many states: I've been telling everyone that I did this trip "self-supported" (meaning I didn't have a sag wagon) when really I felt that I had all of you supporting me. Many, many thanks for all the great messages.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Missing Miya

It's been over two weeks since I rode my bicycle. (Unless you count that brief afternoon ride with my niece, when we sped through every puddle in the neighborhood and came home dripping and cold, but smiling.) I've traded my trusty steed for cars and greyhound buses... and the transition is a little rough.

I've left Florida now for a new kind of adventure. Im heading north to visit family and friends, some of whom I haven't seen in years, and some that I met just months ago. I will be visiting about 15 people in three weeks, and so far it's been a whirlwind of cramped bus rides, good hugs, and friendly faces.

Thanksgiving was spent with Jessica and Joey in their homes in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was good to be there with them, as they navigate the jungle of non-cycling life. It used to be something so familiar, but a lot can change in 3 months. Instead of pitching the tent anywhere flat enough, an apartment and roommates must be found. The full-time job of getting up and pedalling each morning is replaced by the specter of unemployment. The big question seems to be "what now?".

I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect at the end of an intensive trip like this one. I anticipated the discomfort in automobiles, the relief of having made it safely to Florida, the glow of accomplishing a dream, the extra energy I feel now that I don't ride 60 miles each day... but what I didn't realize was that I would feel a sense of loss. The trip is over, and it feels like a friend moved away. I made room in my life for this bike tour, and now that it's ended it leaves a big, lonely gap.

But I don't mean to sound so sad. My travels continue, by combustion engine this time, and there are so many wonderful people to visit! There will be many more bike trips in the future, and meanwhile I have a home to return to in Forest Grove, complete with boyfriend, friends, and school to keep me busy. I believe that having this stability waiting for me after the adventure puts me in a better position to handle the post-trip blues.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Panama City Beach

I rolled into Panama City Beach yesterday, managed to get interviewed for the local evening television news channel, hugged my sister for the first time in months and hugged my niece, nephew, and bro-in-law for the first time in 5 years. It was a crazy, disorienting, joyful day.

(Local news clip link: )

They had a beautiful guest room waiting for me, with a basket full of delicious soaps, lotions, bubble bath, and shampoo. "Do you need another pillow?" they asked, "is two going to be enough?". I stood staring at the double bed, thinking that just 5 days ago I was stealth-camped on the side of the road, using my coat as a pillow and rejoicing in the fact that, although the ground beneath my tent was very hard, it was at least smooth. I managed to laugh, and reply that 2 pillows was luxury...

There are still more miles to bike, but the main event has come to pass. Visiting my sister and her family was my milestone: I knew that once I got here, I would feel like I truly had biked across the country. Ive pedalled 4,600 miles as of yesterday.

I'd still love to bike to the Atlantic side, to make this a proper coast-to-coast tour.We'll see if I get that far. There's something that's happened in my mind since yesterday, and I can feel the trip winding down. I will continue to post here until I return to Oregon in January, since the adventures will undoubtedly continue.

Thank you, thank you, with all sincerity, for the strength you've given me. Your readership, messages, phone calls, and well-wishes were better than any energy bar to keep me going. Never have I felt so loved as I have in the past three months. I look forward to the opportunity to thank each of you personally.

Here's to the future!