Monday, October 24, 2011

Where Travel and Loss Will Lead You

Traveling so many miles, you're bound to lose things...

Your mind, your comfort, your stability, your prisons, your sense of self, your phone charger 1 million times.

This is why I urge you to travel.

Traveling invites loss. Loss invites you to be achingly alert. When your eyes and heart are wide open, despite what they see, there's a way that you're liberated from the anxiety of occupying more than one space at a time.

I invite you to lose it all.

Lose the words you don't have the time to write. Lose your favorite ring you don't have the wits to turn back for.

Lose your temper. Then really lose it. Then lose it so often that you stop looking for it and you just chill out, turn toward laughter, start calling your lover nonsensical nick names that make you both giggle like 7 year olds.

Lose hope. Rub so hard on that tattoo you've marked to your ring finger that you make a rash. Go to the wits end of your faith and fearlessness until you begin to learn that those qualities derive from hitting the bottom and surviving. Sweat and tears, and then more sweat and more tears.

Lose your cool. Lose your shame. Lose your self-awareness in public places. Be too loud for the timid small-town diner. Order pie at 9 am. Moan. Excessively.

Lose yourself completely.

I promise--you will have regrets and you will be wiser for each one.

Lose weight. Lose options. Have 3 outfits and 3 pairs of panties that you wash in the sink when you're lucky enough to remember. Lose your sex appeal.

Lose money. Tip too much to the woman who gave poor service. Get haggled by the homeless man and drop him a big fat 20. Lose your so-called standards.

Lose your future investments. Lose your illusion of security. Lose your maybe-one-day dreams and just do it already.

Lose your map and your perfectly calculated directions. Lose your battery life. Have nothing left to do but flag down a stranger and ask for help, stick your thumb out, become human again.

Lose your vanity. Lose your make up, your razor, your deodorant, your hair products. Take a scary-as-fuck picture of yourself and post it on Instagram for all the world to see.

Mostly, lose what you grasp the tightest... Your safety, your soul, your sense of purpose, your image.

Lose it for just a month, a few days, an afternoon in mystery walking down the block. But lose it wholly, with no reservations.

When it's all said and done, you won't feel "found", per se. Rather, you'll feel as though you've arrived carrying only what's truly needed in your bags. Nothing more, nothing less. And it will be strange and vulnerable and magical.

You will know that the sweat and tears and suffocating bike shorts were your uniform of sacrifice. You had your protests, and rightly so, but that uniform brought you to the boundaries of your dark territories, the terrors of life you never wanted to see, the edges of your strength and also your humility, your meek existence in this glorious, overwhelming world that you absolutely needed to travel in.

You will lose a handful of illusions in this sea of loss. The greatest of which being that things last forever. No. You will see clearly that everything eventually surrenders.

One day, you will not only understand, but accept, this jewel of truth. Perhaps the deepest truth you could ever grasp.

Until then, you will continue to travel, to lose things, to wander at the crossroads of terror and letting go into love.

So travel. Travel to the end of the world and back. See what needs to be lost. See what's waiting to be found.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's Called for in the Final Stretch

LOVES! We have almost completed our crazy MadWard Adventure!

I'll save all the notes on HOW for another time, and just say this much for now:

It took a village of support to get us here (really) and it will take a village of support for us to finish. So we're going to make a request:

A spiritual exchange of motivation.

Yes! This is hippy-dippy! Yes! It is also fun!

Okay...We are traveling the Pacific Coast and it is an endless road of ups and downs--this time I'm being literal.

We need your motivation (really!!) to make it to Mendicino, CA where we're meeting my parents in 9 DAYS!!!

Give Mojo
Will you call us & leave silly/serious/suspicious voice messages? Will you tweet/text us daily with encouragement? Will you let us know, in one way or another, how our journey has affected you? The small seeds of courage we've possibly planted? What it would mean to YOU if we were to finish?

Get Juju
In exchange, when you send us some good mojo, we will climb a hill with you in mind. Really!

It will sound something like this:

Huff, puff, this hill is for Jen... huff, puff... And all the people who aren't sure if true love exists...huff, puff... And all the people who are piecing their lives back together...huff, puff... And struggling to get over yet another hump.....huff puff huff puffgg HUFF!

You can start with a comment right here. Fill in the blank:

This one's for me & all the people who ____________!

Heaps of gratitude for your solidarity as we run the final mile of our marathon. Lovin' the spritz of bubbly and marching band already!

Rach & Bri

Sunday, October 9, 2011

1,000 Gratitudes

After 6 months of traveling, mostly by bicycle, we finally reached the Pacific Ocean from Washington DC. I can hardly express how much commotion our lives have consisted of, and still, how often we lost track of our moving bodies and simply glided. Like b

Arriving in Place

Yesterday, we caught a ride to the Oregon Coast from Portland. We meandered through pine-forested mountains and lush family-style farms that had trees hugging houses. The sweet smell of cow dung whisped through our open windows, and memories of my grandma flickered in my mind. She used to say that the smell reminded her of home; that it's kind of silly, but she just loves it. I feel the same way. We breathed in the sounds of Iron and Wine as we rounded the final bend before the ocean shot into sight. The Pacific Ocean. We arrived. We made it to the other side of the country.

the paths we travel
A small path caught Kate's eye, and she asked if we could stop, wander down to the ocean. Beside huckleberry bushes as we stepped slowly on slippery grounds, my chest rose and fell, full of something I couldn't quite grasp. Until it hit me--hard--like 1,000 tears flooding in all at once.

We made it across this land, to this very ocean, with help. Tremendous help. Help from strangers full of so much love and desire to give. Help from sunshine reaffirming beauty, reminding us to hope. Help from songs in my ears and songs leaving my lips. Help from friends on the phone who said things like, "It makes perfect sense." or "Now's not the time for quitting." or "I'd want to kill something, too!" Help from my parents, who gave me the greatest gift of all: their confidence in me, in us; who said things like, "You're my hero."

It all helped. Every e-mail, every friendly honk, every asshole who jabbed into my fragile wounds, only to make me stop and breathe and pray and grow stronger. Every bed, every celebratory glass of wine, every sign made my siblings still growing strong--every tiny bit was huge.

Arriving in Time

At the pacific :) 1 year
Today is our very first wedding anniversary. This time last year, we were surrounded by the most collective expression of community I've ever wittnessed. Hands and hearts were offered in full for celebrating love. No one held back with their generosity, with their gifts. And I don't mean presents. I mean, everyone gave what they were put on this earth to give, in one way or another.

Today, it is just us out here; and then again, it is everyone. So much of this year has felt like a call to see how much we could do "on our own". The greatest lesson in this kind of challenge is discovering that you are never "on your own". Ever.

And through all the ups and downs (in bed, and otherwise) there's still no one I'd rather experience them with than you, Brian. There's no one with whom I'd rather discover the world, in all its magic and all its gory loss. There's no one I'd rather snuggle up against or whose smile I'd rather awake to. There's still no hand I'd rather hold, no voice I'd rather call out to. There's still no one with whom I'd rather share a life.

It's our first wedding anniversary!! And we crossed the US on bikes!!! So much for a first year of marriage. #madward

We're celebrating today. Celebrating how it feels to discover that when you keep going through, the tunnel of darkness really does lead to light.

Thanks to all the living things out there that have been with us every step of the way; that have given so so much. We feel you. Big time. We couldn't have done it without you.

love & gratitude,

Monday, October 3, 2011

Let the Final Month Begin

the crazy ones

Last night Rachael and I bought our train tickets home. We'll be leaving from Sacramento on November 4th and arriving to DC on November 7th. It was actually pretty emotional pressing that purchase button. Putting an end date on this adventure is weird because, up until now, our notion of when we would get home has always been some obscure time before Thanksgiving. Now it's real.

We have been on the road for a little over 6 months! It's the longest either of us has been away from the DC-Baltimore Metro area (outside of my first 6 years of life in Wisconsin). For those of you who don't know, we have been in Portland, OR since September 10th after we started to feel burnt out on traveling while we were in Missoula, MT (which is an awesome city). We then made the decision to rent a car and drive to Portland where we could hang out for a while. Since then, we have been living in a garage apartment, seeing friends and enjoying the city. We're getting ready to leave on Saturday, October 8th, heading down the Oregon and California coast to the Bay Area.

my life is a garage... there's a story somewhere here. excited for @binduwiles 's photo/essay class to help unearth!

We have had so much time to reflect, center ourselves and really start to figure out what we are going to do with the rest of our lives, though our ideas are merely vague concepts. As we leave Portland on Saturday, Sunday will mark our 1-year wedding anniversary, which is insane. The reality is that I am so happy we did this trip in our first year of marriage. We continue to say to people that this has been more of a "relationship workout" than a "physical workout". Through all the ups and downs (and I don't mean hills) we have made it through, in both months of fun and months of fighting and frustration (and yes we had plenty of both). Love indeed is the thing that has gotten and continues to get us through.

As we prepare to get back on our bikes again and enjoy the last month of our trip with a special visit from Rachael's parents, I can only say that these 6 months have been life changing and I am so grateful to be able to do this.

If there is some adventurous idea bouncing around in your head, make it more than an idea. Make it a reality. And expect the best and worst experiences of your life. The world is waiting for you!

Monday, September 26, 2011

"What's the mood of this country?"

We stood there on the side of the road right near the exit onto I-90 just outside of Butte, MT. Rach had been coughing for the pass couple of days and we thought it would be better to hitch a ride over the continental divide rather than ride it. After waiting there with our thumbs out for 15 minutes and watching pick-up truck after pick-up truck pass us by, our ride came in the form of what looked like a badass older couple with a licence plate stating "Union Paid". This indicated to me that we were in for a good 25 mile ride.

Immediately we started talking politics and Rich asked a very profound question to us, "Along your travels, what would you say is the mood of the people in this country?"

Oh man, what a good question. I asked Rich, "do you mean political?" He had a quick response, "yeah, but really just the general feeling."

Both Rach and my first response was "ANGRY!"

Throughout this trip we have gotten into conversations with people from all over the political spectrum and the resounding feeling was that the system itself is broken. It's not a debate of Democrats or Republicans. I can't tell you how many people just said to me that they just want something different. Polls continue to say that people don't approve of Congress's job or the President's job with an overwhelming majority of people in this country wanting another option.

The only problem is that people don't see or have an alternative, they see a 2-party corrupt system that doesn't care for ordinary working people. In 2008 we saw an extreme amount of hope in President Obama, who represented an end to the Bush-era policies with no reigns on Wall Street, endless wars and the continuation of tax cuts for the most wealthy people in this country.

The past 3 years have shown the world that Obama's polices are a continuation of the Bush Administration, which includes the continuation/increase of the U.S. occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya, the continued handouts to Wall Street and no change to this unbalanced tax system. Currently this economic crisis has made it even more clear where the government's interest lies: drum roll please, with corporations and the war machine (I know it's a big surprise). Both parties always have money for tax cuts and war but will have no problem cutting money for education, health care, programs that actually health ordinary people.

Throughout this trip most people I meet say we need to end these wasteful wars (even the military contractor I met). Does Obama or the Republican Congress listen? NO!! War has always been the ultimate bipartisan issue in this country. This is the fundamental flaw in our current system, the Democrats and Republicans are in bed with corporate leaders, a clear example is the health care system "reform" which was basically a handout to the health insurance companies and had absolutely nothing to do with actual care. This is how capitalism works, it has enough food to feed the whole world while 1 billion people go hungry everyday, there is a housing "overproduction" crisis while we have homeless people, you will find CEOs making millions of dollars in bonuses while they will try to cut benefits and lay working people off. Does this sound like a fair system? The reality is both the Democrats and Republicans are pretty staunch capitalist and we can't count on them to change things.

Unemployment, poverty and inequality will continue to grow unless we build an alternative movement. That's why we need to build an independent left wing movement separate of the Democrats that promotes democracy in all aspects of our life. We have already started to see the fight back with the events that happened in Madison, WI, the Verizon Strike and the "illegal" Tacoma, WA teachers strike that won a new contract. Working people are standing up! Though these struggles are small, they show the anger people have as they see the backwardness of our current leaders/system. They are asked to take a pay cut as banks have received $16 trillion from the government since the beginning of the economic crisis. This also shows that people CAN fight back and win.

These opinions I have aren't just shaped in my mind, but rather they are developed through experiences I have had with working people throughout this country on this trip, whether it's at Wendy's, in a coffee shop or at a protest. I would argue that now is one of the best times to go out there and talk to your neighbor, your co-worker, attend a protest and join an organization to fight the injustices in this country and throughout the world. Just remember you are not alone.

The politicians won't get us out of this, the media won't get us out of it. People power will be the only thing that gets us to a level where we can actually end these wars and end the attack on working people and have real justice in this world.

So don't just get mad, get out there and join the movement.

Here is a thing you can get involved in immediately. They are looking to lay off 120,000 post office workers. Join the post office union in a protest at your local post office happening everywhere in the country on Tuesday, 9/27 from 4:00pm to 5:30pm. Check out more information here: Save America's Postal Service

For great media coverage of events that the mainstream media won't cover go to:,,, and there are plenty more.


Friday, September 16, 2011

the mountains we cross

This post is an excerpt from my journal from the day after we rode over the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming. It's unedited and simple and raw and ready to be out there, after plenty of time to myself. Enjoy.


Why ride a bicycle up a mountain?
I just rode my bicycle up and down a Very Steep MOUNTAIN.

I pushed, cried, lost my shit, laughed, paused, doubted, stretched, hoped, and proved possibility out of an INSANE endeavor.

Now is not the time for rushing. Not the time for explaining. Not the time for "imparting wisdom".

Now is the time for Integration & Gratitude.

For letting it all sink in.

For getting close to my godliness.

Some part of me has expressed some part of my highest self. BIG TIME. In other words...

Some part of me... my body, mind, spirit & heart... carried me into my DEEP WELL OF POWER.

That well, in essence, is the breadth of life and love I've been given as a human being, part of the family of all living things, by whatever mystical power or pattern created me.

Tapping into that well is NO SMALL DEAL.

Tapping into and living out a version of "me" that is beyond "me", but belonging to something larger, calmer, stronger, more free & also more reckless... it felt like the biggest "accomplishment" of my life... the most fulfilling thing I'd ever done.

And what, exactly, did I do?

I let go.

And then... I kept going.

And then... I went all the way.

The story began like most, with Brian packing up three fourths of our belongings, while I did everything in my being to simply get myself dressed and psychologically prepared. Then a talker came over to us at our ghetto-fab campsite. A talker from Chicago. A talker from Chicago who--hahaha--wanted to know what--hahaha--was taking us so long to leave--hahaha--not like someone was holding us up or anything--hahaha. She was amusing, with her ripped button-down shirt and post-smoker baritone voice. I'll give her that. But now it's 10 am and we have a mountain to cross.

So we're pedaling with our daunting destiny in sight. I'm listening to Lakota flutes and drums and praying hard-core because God knows I don't think I can do this on my own. Then, POP! My front tire's flat.

Now it's 10:30 am and we still have a mountain to cross.

Tire's fixed and we're back in commission. Except I'm having physical anxiety over what I think is a metaphorical dilemma, but is, in fact, just the way it actually feels to cross a real-life mountain on a bicycle with 50 pounds of luggage.

The mind-trip is that we are still on the "outskirts" of the mountain, looking at what we're about to dive into, and our positioning is such that the road we're traveling LOOKS flat but is actually VERY FUCKING STEEP. Nevertheless, I am all why-the-hell-is-this-so-hard and I'm-always-so-god-damn-slow and Jesus-Christ-I-just-need-to-sob-because-nothing-makes-sense. And then I sob.

I feel better, emotionally, when we get into the thick of the mountain, because at least then the incline appears as hard as it is.

Still--tears, body aches, doubt, shame, fear, fighting, cursing, stopping, looking for ways out around every single bend, and did I mention shame?--are all present in overwhelming ways.

Every 10 minutes I take a 3 minute break.

I am pushed to my physical/spiritual/emotional edge. Completely. Who knows what's going through Brian's head. I assume he wants to kill me because I'm falling apart completely. You'd hope that on a trip like this, you'd learn to be more compassionate with yourself and be able to assume that others will extend the same tenderness. Not so much.

Eventually it's 3 pm and we've traveled something like 12 miles in 5 hours. We realize this 36 mile climb will not be completed in one day. Egos blown, we decide to rest, digest our troubles, endulge in renting one of the only cabins on the whole mountain, which is, of course, over priced and also cute.

We get to the place a few miles later and are instantly questioned by some know-it-all dude who gives us crap for not finishing the mountain in one day. Shame-dagger twisted, I proceed to curse the man for a total of three hours after our interaction, as Brian and I eat ramen noodles with pre-packaged Indian food.

Wake the next morning with a new sense of confidence that sounded like this: Even if I have to stop every five minutes, I will still reach the top. I Can Do It. Shamelessly.

Then I get on my bike and begin again. Things feel easier. More familiar. Less terrifying. Just as hard. Not as important. More holy.

We ride and laugh and cough and rest, and finally, four miles from the peak, with 25 mph head winds and cool air circling round, we take yet another water break. Only this time, I can see in Brian's face that he's losing momentum from stopping so much. So I let myself hear the call, let myself own my power, let myself go completely. I promise: No More Breaks.

I will not get off this bike again until we reach the top. Pinky swear. Hugs and kisses. Cross my heart.

Why? Because I know I can. Simple.

We mount our bike and 30 seconds later, POP! Flat tire number two.

Eager to maintain my promise, we fix the tire in record time and jump back in. The promise still holds, cutie! All the way to the top!

And I swear, it's like a movie. The sky turns dark grey, the winds gust faster, harder, less lovingly, the thinning pine trees sway violently, unfriendly cars pass quickly, and there's nothing left to hold onto. So I just  let go.

I climb, one heavy leg at a time, as if ascending a never-ending winding staircase that's leading me to the pinnacle of my life. My eyes tear uncontrollably, the thin air barely enters my lungs, I think, I'm definitely going to need a double-knee replacement and I don't even care. Brian passes me with strength and exhaustion in equal measure. I breathe in "everything". I breathe out "surrenders". I recognize my unflappable determination the same way a mother must as she's giving birth: with deep knowing that nothing will stop her from bringing this new life into the world, even if it means the end of her. So it goes. This will be done.

And it was. I finally see the sign, Brian waiting for me 100 yards from it so we can reach the top together. We cycle forward, cross the road, and collapse completely in our sweaty shivering bodies as vacationers in RVs sit inside their temperature-controlled mega-huts watching in wonder the way they watch buffalo in the pastures. I sob, only this time it feels like hope rather than hopelessness. I sob for a half hour, holding my new born miracle in the arms of my dying fear.

Brian whips up a tripple layer peanut butter and jelly sandwich that feeds both parts of me. Then I sob some more. We get onto the bikes to descend the mountain, and still, I cannot stop sobbing.

Something broke crossing that mountain. Something huge. Something in me, that for so long doubted so much of myself, no longer seemed valid.

Nothing's impossible, I think.

Will sweating, cursing, doubting, fearing, crying and wanting a way out all emerge when I attempt INSANE goals? Of course.

Will that stop me? Nope.

Definitely Not.

It takes a mountain to break a mountain. It takes a mountain to build a new one.

And I know mountains.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

a peak into the past

The morning we left on our bicycles. READY written all over my face.

You wouldn't believe it if I told you that pre-bike trip I was neurotic about organizing my Inbox. Like a kitchen sink, it's better off if you don't let shit pile up. Ah, and then I took up bicycling as a full-time job. The first full-time job I've held for over five months since graduating college! The kind of full-time job that doesn't require gazing into a screen for 8 hours a day. The kind of full-time job that, actually, doesn't allow for it.

All this to say, I just sorted through over 300 neglected e-mails. To all the overflowing-kitchen-sink people out there, this will sound like nothing. But to the wipe-with-sponge-three-times-daily people, you will understand that this was a big deal.

Here's an e-mail from the trenches that's living proof of how much we sign up for our destiny.


dear dear friend,
it's 1 in the morning over here and i just finished watching eat, pray, love. despite the glow above every single person's head, i loved it. here now, lump in throat with the image of her getting in the boat, crossing over, choosing the "physics of the quest"--that everything matters, every interaction a clue, every person a teacher. i can't help but think of you--of your story and the books you'll write and the movies they'll make, because how could they not? i can't help but get a lump in my throat over the journey i'm on--even now, even before my feet ever touch the pedals for that first long ride 10 days from now. i'm choosing this hard-core, mama. really fuckin' choosing this. i know you know. it's just that sometimes i can't believe the choices that choose us. it's taken a long time to choose this one back, and i'm sure i'll go back and forth. but it's about that--about choosing to say yes to the truth you find, to the thing you were seeking in the first place, to it all. lately, i keep quietly admitting that i want it all. in a way so far from fairy-tale that's it's crazy. i want the bruised broken knee. i want the lingering taste of let down. i want the paralyzing doubt. and then, i also want the 12 track ukulele album. i want the sex under the starlight. i want the floating in the river with my six pack abs. it reminds me of your words, of your beautiful, beautiful poem, of the way that even with a life full of companionship, i can have a heart that still lacks a fullness of love. there's a love that's waiting for me. that is in this letter. that is in these tiny words and in my tiny tears. like you said, love was right there all along.
i am so ready, love. not a fists up ready. an arms out ready. ready to receive. dear god, here it goes.
love you so. let's see each other soon.


That e-mail said it all, knew it all before it happened. And still, there are centuries of wisdom to be lived. You know? We can't just stop at our hunches, leaving them unexplored. We have to go forth, live, get messy, go deep, go light, back track, rearrange, re-find what we never needed to look for to begin with. That's the kind of living that creates fullness in our hearts. The kind of living that feels like love.

What hunches do you have these days about where your life is leading you? What do you expect will happen as you walk willingly into your destiny? Create the story you want--the story that has you arms out, ready to receive, surrendering to all the magic and mystery.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wyoming is a Very Big State

Entering Wyoming! ... Wow.

Oh man--it has already been 3 weeks since we left the rez and now we are in Montana! Since we left DC five long months ago, we've gone 2,890 miles, and we're now less than 800 miles away from Seattle!! How the hell did this happen? One day at a time.

Well, we left the rez and saw our amazing friends, Jodi, Judy, Ruby and Rachel, in the Black Hills. They were heading to volunteer at Re-Member for a week, so we rendevouzed in the middle. The Black Hills were a beautiful ride and it's understandable why the Lakota revere those mountains as their most holy land.

Once we got to Wyoming, it began to hit us that we hadn't been on our bikes for five weeks. Exhaustion kicked in. We tooks days off, hitched hiked, met beautiful strangers and climbed mountains.

On our way into Wyoming we were having both a physical and mental break down (aka--sobbing on the side of the road, wondering if we still want to do this) when Wilbert, from Fargo, MD came to our rescue with his pickup truck. Rach saw a car from Maryland at the rest stop and talked him up. He was great! He was driving across the country to Yellowstone and the Tetons then to Las Vegas and back. He was such a great spirit with a huge heart and drove us about 70 miles to Gillete, WY. When he dropped us off, he said, "I feel like I should just take you guys with me!"

In Gillete, you can find the largest open air mine in the country, thus practically all the jobs in Wyoming. People would come up to work in the mines for a couple weeks, staying in hotels, then rotate home while a new crew comes in for a few weeks.

Wilbert... From Largo, MD... Met at the WY visitor's center & he was our pick up truck miracle (gave us a 60 mile ride on an emotionally draining day!!!)

The next day we biked for the first time on the interstate. Yes, you are allowed to bike on the interstate in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho...basically the states with no people. Anyway we ended up biking halfway to Buffalo, WY and slept under the stars with no tent on the side of I-90 (for all you east and west coasters, the interstate is not a 5 lane highway our here, so no worries).

Buffalo, WY was at the base of the Big Horn Mountains, part of the Big Horn National Forest. This is where we confronted our first mountain climb of the trip. We climbed from 4500 feet above sea level to 9666 feet in 36 miles. It was draining, exhausting, hard to breathe at times and took us 2 days. But we made it and it definitely felt like our biggest accomplishment of the trip. After the climb we had a 30 miles down hill which was magnificent and worth it all.

Holy fuck!!! We made it up the mountain!!!

After a handfull of small towns and hot, shade-less sun, we arrived to Cody, WY, about 50 miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. At the end of a 55 mile day into Cody we ran into Ramona on her bike as she was going for a ride. After some talking, she and her husband Jeff invited us to come stay the night at their beautiful house just outside of town. It was so nice because we haven't been able to stay with people becasue recently we didn't know anybody. It was refreshing and we had a great night of conversation, food, beers and more. They made us feel right at home! Better yet, Jeff offered to drive us into the park the next day, which he and Ramona did for 80 miles, taking us to our first campsite in Yellowstone! We were so greatful for them and now we know where to go next time we come to Yellowstone.

Jeff & Ramona!

So Yellowstone, lived up to all the hype. It was beautiful with a quiet lake and a row boat, a bike ride through the steam of hot strings and geyers and Buffalo walking right next to us on the road. Yellowstone cannot be captured in words, its a crazy place that can both make you relax and freak you out at the same time. So if you can, GO THERE!!

Say cheese!

Now we are in West Yellowstone, MT and gearing up for a 5 day trek to Missoula, MT and then onward to Seattle by September 19th!!! Hope you enjoyed the long overdue update from the road. We're having fun out here... and excited to be getting back into a groove!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Loose Change

All I want to do is tell you stories as we throw back whisky around a flaming campfire. We'll be in Yellowstone in a few days, people. It's not too late to have the best evacuation destination evah & come join us for some soft-side camping. Hey, you'll likely be without power or work, so why not??

So much has happened in such a small space that I feel packed to the brim and creatively constipated. (Accepting your laxative recommendations for this particular form of stopped up!)

What I can say here & now is that mountains have tops, which you can do whatever it takes to reach, without ever really being ready or knowing how the other side may look. Sobbing, cursing & hysterical happiness are definite likelihoods.

Also, letting someone see you, in the most sacred ways that no one ever sees you, is a sound decision and highly recommended--no matter the trembles it may cause in your usually still water.

Also, get out of your head and into your body whenever humanly possible. Pick your poison--swimming, sex, masturbation, drumming. It matters not what you do, but that you do whatever it takes to get your body moving. I swear, your psyche will be so so thankful.

And last but not least, I dare you to write a completely true story. Something from your past. Write it with so much truth that it makes you chuckle or cry or both. Share it only with one or two people, for which you know it will have the same effect.

These are the things I've been up to lately as we cycle from the Rez across the long stretch of Wyoming into Yellowstone.

We've been stopping every two days, practically, to unwind emotional, physical & spiritual tension. It's been a slow two weeks, bike-wise, but a necessary speed in order to synch up such a transformative period with the here-and-now.

What's going on in your here-and-now? The space is yours for the sharing in the comments below.

PS-If you're wondering if I'd weep or laugh hysterically over your story, the answer is YES. Waiting eagerly at rachmddx at gmail dot com.

IMPORTANT ANECDOTE :: When I'm physically constipated (which happens with unfortunate consistency) I report my poop droppings to Brian in terms of loose change... "A few quarters, but that's it." "Not even pennies!" "Maybe, like, 5 dimes." ... This was a loose change blog update. Have no fear, though. The laws of nature make it so that everything eventually squeezes out. More soon. (I hope! ;)

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Lakota Warrior Spirit in the 21st Century


As you all know we were working for Re-Member while we were on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and it was absolutely great! We made a lot of friends and fell in love with the Rez and the Lakota people and their cause. Plus we had a great visit by my parents from Maryland and we were able to show them the Rez plus take them to the Oglala Lakota Nation Wacipi (Pow Wow).

Henry Red Cloud

While we were there we made friends with Henry Red Cloud (and pretty much the whole Red Cloud family). Henry is a 5th generation Red Cloud, you may have heard of Red Cloud, he was a warrior and statesman for the Lakota as the U.S. government was closing in on their lands. Henry is a 21st century Lakota warrior fighting on the front lines for Lakota and all of Indian country to be self-sufficient on the earth through renewable energy. Henry owns and operates Lakota Solar Enterprises, which helps produced solar hot air heaters, which help keep homes warm during the cold winters on the open plains all through the power of the sun. Henry goes throughout Indian country to teach other reservations how to build these. There are now 700 on the Pine Ridge Reservation and Re-Member has one for their office.

first round of earth plaster for the circular straw bail house

Henry convinced us to stay on the Rez for an extra week and help out with the building of a straw bail house, which he hopes to help with the housing shortage on the rez and throughout Indian country. Man am I glad he convinced us!

So what is a straw bail house? It's a very inexpensive house that is made of straw, covered with mud, a roof and it is circular, like a tipi. Plenty of straw bail houses have been standing around the world for hundreds of years. Inside it stays cool during the summer and warm during the winter. Similar to how the tipis worked when the Lakota lived as hunters, gathers and roamed on the open plains. This is not only an effort to bring housing to the Lakota but to help maintain and bring back the strong culture they have and a connection to Mother Earth. It would only cost $2,500 to buy one.

So our goal was to build this prototype straw bail house in a week. People came from near and far to help out with this. Their were volunteers from the organization, Trees, Water & People, based out of Fort Collins, CO, Re-Member volunteers came everyday to help out. Last but definitely not least, their was a group of people from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Henry knew this group from when he went up their to train them how to build the solar hot air heaters. When I met the Cheyenne, I couldn't help but think the Lakota and Cheyenne are working together again like at the Battle of Little Bighorn, where they killed Custer and his 7th Calvary. They hope to bring everything they learned back to their reservation, who are facing much of the same issues as Pine Ridge.


It was an amazing community experience where everyone was helping out and coming up with ideas. Yes this was Henry's idea, well it was actually his Dad's, but it didn't seem like anyone was in charge. Everyone pitched in and this is how it could be in Indian country bringing back the communal spirit with the idea of self-determination and self sufficiency.

This was truly inspiring because this was a dream of Henry's Dad and he is making it real and it will help the Lakota and the idea is coming from the Lakota. This works hand in hand with the idea of nationhood and self-determination that Indian reservations deserve. The renewable energy revolution is and should be lead by our Indigenous bothers and sisters as they are the most affected by climate change and we can learn a lot from a community that prays to mother earth. We need to listen, learn and work with them for a sustainable future on this planet.

Our experience on the Rez for 5 weeks was truly life changing and cannot be captured in a blog post, so if you want to learn more, talk to us. We will be back this coming winter and hopefully the spring and summer too!!!

After that week we biked through the beautiful Black Hills and we are currently in Gillette, WY resting before we head towards Yellowstone.

Onward and Upward (literally up the mountain!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Final Push for Friday!

You all have been sooo great! With the $3,330 you've donated we've been able to give 66 children on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation a safe warm place to sleep!!

We need your help one more time. In order to get to our goal of $5,000 by Friday we need $1,770 more. Rach and I left the Rez less than a week ago and we can't get it out of our heads or hearts.

Please help us get to our goal and better yet, help the Lakota children get a safe warm bed to sleep in.

Any amount you can muster is incredible. Here are some suggested rates:

  • $10 Gives Solidarity from the budgeted, but hopeful

  • $25 Gives Mattress, Sheets and Pillows

  • $50 Gives a Full Night Sleep

  • $100 Gives Two Kids Sound Rest so they Can Focus in School

  • $150 Gives Three Kids Sweet Dreams

  • $200 Gives a Family of Four Peace of Mind

  • $500 Gives the Whole Big Family Comfort Every Night

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for helping our Lakota friends!

*The tracker doesn't have the extra $500 on it because we got some checks in the mail going towards our goal.

How we got here:

Story of Pine Ridge

Start of our Campaign

The Progress

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Different Kind of Strong

Things are easing up over here after a packed month of holding space for hundreds of people at a time. Let's just say that, at any point in time, you are free to speak the inconvenient truth, let go of annoying pleasantries, and be with the people you naturally gravitate toward. No shame in liking what you like. No point in holding back. There's a wisdom in following the path that's lit naturally before you. A space emerges to embody yourself more fully, more freely. And you are needed--the exact strand and variety of you--no denying it. You'd be amazed at what we can teach each other when we're not afraid to be ourselves.

While breathing room feels nice, there's a certain shade of strength in having no processing time. You just keep going, even though you need to cry, even though you're totally confused, even though you have so many questions. You let it all sink into your soul, into a deep place in your body. And you survive. You become stronger than you ever wanted. And you become more like your new friends than you ever thought possible.

When you finally lose your shit (and you will... we always do), you'll wonder if it's okay that you're sobbing uncontrollably when everyone else appears to be dealing just fine with complete and utter travesty. And then a friend in the midst of loss and love will tell you that you are beautiful for feeling so much and doesn't it feel wonderful to cry? to be so alive? And you will say yes and know that he is right and this is exactly what's needed. Wordlessness. Tears for a thousand and one reasons. Grieving for however long it takes.

You will never solve the "problem" with answers, so you don't look for them in rationale or reason. You let your heart pull you toward your next move and you let your body release how it needs to release. You follow, no matter how tragic or terrifying or tantalizing the path might be. You go all the way with the way it is, because that kind of witnessing is needed more than any solution you could think of.

We're heading to a good friend's house for a few nights of camping on the land under the stars next to the fire, and helping bring a dream of his to life. Looking up, cool grass on my back, I get the feeling that no matter how complicated or sad or only half hopeful things feel, I'm unbelievably blessed to be here, and exactly where I belong.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bedtime Stories from the Rez

Damian excited for is new bed!

Dear Friends... You're rockin' it! So far, your generosity has raised $2,815 of our $5,000 goal to provide beds for Lakota children on Pine Ridge Reservation. It only took 34 donors to raise over 50%. With that kind of lovin', we're confident that by the time we leave Re-Member on August 7th, we'll be able to reach our goal of 100 new beds for our Lakota friends! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

But first, a few stories to let you know who you're money's helping.

Last week I was able to deliver beds to some very happy children. In total, 19 beds delivered in 6 hours all over the Rez.

I've been getting to know Ampo and Tyra Red Cloud (7 and 12 years old, respectively) over the past few weeks, as Re-Member has been repairing their grandparents' roof. At first Ampo was shy, but after a few days getting to know us, he warmed right up and became an excited helper--both curious and careful. He helped with the roof, and when we pulled up with the trailer of bunk bed parts, he couldn't wait to screw them together. We hustled into the one-room home and constructed the bunks next to the family TV. Ampo's house is one of 3 small trailers that the 20-person family occupies and the only one with electricity, so on really hot days, the whole family crowds in for a respite from the sun.

Ampo and I have developed a special bond over the weeks, so I was happy beyond words to see his huge grin when he finally climbed that latter and jumped into his fresh, new bed.

Here is Dakota, who was 3 years old and getting his first bed! Before we came with the beds the whole family was sleeping on the large bed in the middle of the living room. His face was priceless.

The best story of the day was speaking to Velvet, who was the grandmother of Damian and others. She purposefully scheduled Re-Member to come when her whole family was gone so she could surprise them with the beds. They'd been waiting for weeks and she said to me, "I have been praying for this". Its amazing what a little bed will do for the morale of a family.

Building beds is a simple and easy way to help the Lakota, who have been the subject to oppression by the U.S. government for years. It's a band-aide, yes, but an important morale booster and something we can give.

Help us reach our goal by the end of this week!! We only need $2,185. Imagine if 90 people gave $25 or if 23 people gave a $100... 50 more kids would have a comfortable place to sleep at night. Any amount you can muster is incredible. Here are some suggested rates:
  • $10 Gives Solidarity
  • $25 Gives Mattress, Sheets and Pillows
  • $50 Gives a Full Night Sleep
  • $100 Gives Two Kids Sound Rest so they Can Focus in School
  • $150 Gives Three Kids Sweet Dreams
  • $200 Gives a Family of Four Peace of Mind
  • $500 Gives the Whole Big Family Comfort Every Night

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for helping our Lakota friends!

*The tracker doesn't have the extra $500 on it because we got some checks in the mail going towards our goal.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bunk Beds for Friends!

Consuella, daughter of Matt, one of Re-Member's construction leaders... and my best friend here.
Friends. We have so many friends out here. Friends whose stories we're hearing and aching for. Friends who inspire and move us to go deeper into the earth, our spirits, our connectedness to all things. The Lakota end every prayer with the phrase Mitakuye Oyasin, which means We Are All Related or We Are Related To All Things. The two-leggeds, the four-legged and the winged... We are one family, meant to honor and care for each other.

Still, we live in a system that doesn't support such communalism, and the Lakota have been made to suffer countlessly by the powers at large, particularly the US government. The history is depressing. The current situation isn't much brighter. But the Lakota are creative survivors, helping themselves and each other to get through. Our friends here have let us know how we can help, too--bunk beds.

Each winter thousands of Lakota children hurdle up on floors of delapidated trailors alongside elders to brave another freezing night. Within one week I have met over 20 youth who have told me that they have never slept in a bed. I talked with them in their homes as I, alongside a handful of Re-Member volunteers, delivered and constructed their very first beds. As they jumped into fresh linens, we watched something shift in them--something tangible--a small sense that somehow, they are cared for, held, safe.

Crystal--a nine year old girl--saw us as we were delivering bunk beds to her neighbors. She came up to me and told me that she lives with ten other kids, none of which have beds, and did we have any more left for her family. Luckily, that day we did. Other days, our lumber supply is too low because we don't have the funds and we have to put people on the wait list.

Through Re-Member, it takes $100 to build a set of bunk beds, including mattresses, sheets and pillows. That means it takes $50 to give a child her first bed. Just 50 bucks.

This year already, Re-Member has delivered 83 bunkbeds, creating 166 beds for the Lakota thanks to generous donations by supporters.

In one week as a Program Manager, I make $150. Not much, but enough to give three kids a place to rest at night.

I'll get the ball rolling by pitching in $150 for three friends.

Will you contribute $50 to give a child his first bed? 
Or $100 for a whole set?
$150 makes you matching royalty.
Above that, I just love you.
If you're living on a budget, you can still help by chipping in any small amount ($5, $10, $20) and/or spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and e-mail!

Every bit counts and we appreciate your generosity!

These children are my best friends on the Rez--full of imagination, play, and zest. Let's be part of the village that raises these kids--part of the human family that leaves no strand behind.

Thank you for your courage. Mitakye Oyasin... Let's do this thing!

If we can raise $5,000 or more, Brian will donate one weeks' pay for good measure.

PS--Please leave a comment or e-mail me with your address if you donate so I can thank you personally!
PPS--All donations go directly to Re-Member and are tax deductable. They will send you confirmation in due time.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Universal Warrior

On-again-off-again tears mixed with sweat and suntan lotion
Too much disbelief for too many reasons
Sweltering afternoon sun giving birth to a rash on my skin, with
Hand after hand offering friendly gestures from car windows
telling us that we are welcome here--
that we are a certain shade of Warrior for travelling this many miles by bike
and every shade is One

He waves to us from his front porch, broken fence, tin can rectangle
He offers us water from the front yard spicket
He asks us to stay a while, visit, ask him anything we want
On-again-off-again tears mix with centuries of sweat--no suntan lotion
Too much heartache for too many reasons
Sweltering afternoon sun heating his home like an oven

He gestures us in, tells us he doesn't show many people his home
His grandfather puzzle-pieced together on the wall
Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, posters with AIM emblems
The Tribal Council banters on the local radio about "cultural education"
He excuses his French because Bull shit... those fuckers... they're all lining their pockets while we get nothin'!
Look at this! I get my water from my front yard and go to the bathroom in an outhouse!
He pounds his hand on his bare chest
Change our hearts! We need to change our hearts!

His tears resurface just before he swallows them in alcohol-laced orange juice
He smiles wide, lips receeding without showing his teeth
Pauses, gazes out past the rolling hills, past the pine trees, past the sky
This was a damn Holocaust!
The Jews survived their Holocaust.
The American Negroes survived their Holocaust.
I hope we can survive ours.

Orange Juice.
I guess I'm still here.

Everybody has opinions. I have an opinion!
But nobody asks a dumb Indian.
They don't represent me!--

His pride makes my insides crumble like the Badlands on fast foward
He is anything but a dumb Indian
Sacred as the hills, the trees, the sky
Sacred as the knowledge that We Are All Related

The afternoon sun sets into the early evening
Our rested legs swing over our bikes to pedal their last 16 miles
On-again-off-again tears mixed with sweat and sunburn
Too much overwhelm for too many reasons

We fly down a 3-mile stretch, balancing between rumble strip and grass
Between heartbreak and holocaust
Between emotional and physical exhaustion
We exist on a tight rope
Our falling means our death
And we must survive to tell our story
We must survive to create new stories
Which are really ancient stories
Which is really all of existence on repeat

5 miles in the distance we spot a red barn-like building at the bottom of a hill
The same hill where we stood two summers ago
dreaming an impossible journey of carrying ourselves back
with our own two legs, two wheels

On-again-off-again tears
Deep breaths, not bothering to excuse my French
Holy FUCK; how did we do this?!
We turn the bend with a mile to go, wind swooping us along
Our wheels meet the dirt-road driveway and
I sob like a an over-tired child who can't find her blanket
Except the only thing I can't find is a suitable explination of
How we made something wonderful from something impossible

He grins like a proud papa and says
We did it together!
I sob some more and then we mount our bikes for the 100 yard dash up the driveway
We're met by smiling faces, wonder, disbelief, questions--
But none that I will answer
Not in words

The medicine wheel is lush with tomato and pepper plants--
Don't forget the weeds--
My body rests beside them, heart bouncing out of my chest
I make out the sky through sunglasses and teary eyes
Feeling unbelievable evidence in my aching legs
my exploding heart
my dumbfounded mind
the inifinite sky--
That impossible visions are made manifest all the time
and the unlikliest of events are sometimes just
Forgotten potential, forgotten strength
The Warrior Spirit that waits for our awakening

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why Pine Ridge: forgotten history & invisible survivors

Yesterday was the 4th of July, the day in which we celebrate our nation's independence from the tyrants of the British Empire. Of course, this independence did not include poor whites, black slaves and the Indians*, who were being driven from their land. Therefore, this day can also be looked at as a day of mourning as genocide and westward expansion of the country continued. The history that is rarely taught to it's fullest extent is what has brought me back to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota for the second time.

Pine Ridge is the home of the Oglala Lakota tribe, which is part of the great Sioux Tribe (a racist term dubbed by the french, meaning "enemy"). On the rez you can find Wounded Knee, site of the 1890 Massacre in which the U.S. Calvary brutally killed hundreds of Lakota men, woman, and children. This was the U.S. government's final way of dealing with the "Indian Problem" after breaking countless treaties. The most well known broken treaty being the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, which promised to the Lakota the Black Hills (where you can find Mt Rushmore), and hunting grounds in much of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. Of course, this was before the white man discovered rich minerals in the Black Hills that they wanted to exploit from the earth.

The U.S. government systematically forced the Lakota to change their way of life by trying to make them farmers and own land, lifestyles totally foreign to the Lakota. They were also forced onto secluded and barren reservations where hunting the sacred buffalo was regulated and living off government rations was the new way of life for the hunters. Later, the Eisenhower Administration moved to force Indians into the cities in order save the money that was spent on the reservations, which created new Indian Ghettos throughout western cities. Reservations became even more desolate and depressing, leaving glimpses of the third world in the richest country in human history.

In the 1970s, there was a resurgence of activity on Pine Ridge and throughout the U.S. with the American Indian Movement (AIM). They demanded reparations, fully funded programs for education, health and other basic needs, and claiming back the land that was stolen from them. This got them right on the Terrorist Watch List. In the 1970s Pine Ridge was run like a Latin American dictatorship would operate. The U.S. would funnel money to Dick Wilson, the tribal council president, who basically made the Rez a very scary place, outlawing AIM and having the Guardians of the Olgala Nation (Goon) Squad hunt them down with nightly shoot outs. The Goon Squad worked with the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The blood of hundreds of deaths were on their hands just within the course of a couple years. As tensions rose between AIM and the FBI, there was a shoot out at Oglala on the Rez resulting in the death of two FBI agents and one Indian. The FBI wanted justice no matter what and to make a long story short two Indians were found not guilty but Leonard Peliter, an AIM activist, was convicted for two consecutive life sentences. As more and more documents came out through the Freedom of Information Act there was very little evidence against Peliter and he did not get a fair trail. Peliter is still to this day a political prisoner of the U.S. There is so much forgotten history to cover, and I would strongly recommend reading In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's war on the American Indian Movement for a chance at relearning our nation's past.

Today on Pine Ridge you will see a world of extremes with unemployment upward to 85% and the life expectancy the second lowest in the Western Hemishere. You will find many of the social ills of society enhanced, with alcoholism, diabetes and teen suicide rates at depressing levels. You will find many homes without plumbing, electricity, or heat. Yes, all of this in the richest nation in the world. But you will only find these things if you are looking. And many do not look. Many do not wish to see. Many wish to let the surviving Indians go unnoticed. But we cannot.

Rach and I are about to start our month long jobs on the Rez with the organization Re-Member. Re-Member is not only about helping build houses, out houses, bunk beds or wheel chair ramps (though they provide these needed resources to hundreds of Lakota families every year). They are about building relationships between current-day Lakota and Americans, and re-teaching the history of the indigenous people of this land. Re-Member brings volunteers every week from March-October for an immersion service program. Most volunteers can't help but return to this incredible organization and place. We are two of those volunteers. Since we went in 2009 we have been advocates for the Lakota and the oppressed of the world. Please check them out at and consider coming out to do a week-long program (I swear it will change your life) or donate money to the cause.

Though Re-Member's does not and cannot "fix" everything on the Rez, it is making strides in bridging gaps--resource gaps, relationship gaps, and knowledge gaps. In my opinion, a more sustainable solution would be reparations, a sovereign nation for the Lakota, and a formal apology by the US government. But right now what Re-Member is doing is materially benefiting the Lakota people and we can only hope that this helps bring back the fighting spirit of Crazy Horse and the belief that things can be different.

*notice that I am referring to the indigenous people as Indians rather than Native Americans or American Indians. This is how they refer to themselves on the rez.

If you are interested in learning more check out these resources:

Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee (all about the fight in the late 1800s)
Indcident at Oglala (about the Peliter case)

Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen (about the Peliter case and AIM in the 1970s) The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven by Sherman Alexi (compilation of shot stories that reveal reservation culture)
Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance by Leonard Peliter (a easy poetyic read)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

dakota skies

There are places, sky so big, that one tree leaves the mark of a mountain

There are places, sky so big,
that one tree
leaves the mark of a mountain
and a simple inhale
is enough to fill your chest for days

Where dazy blue meets
golden wheat, as far as the eye can see
and hearts are made to wonder
why they're not beating faster, at such
deafening sights

Where telephone lines cross paths with clouds
and ducks fly freely into the wind

Where cows become our wisest friends,
offering from their eyes a quiet hello
or stampeding with pride beside us

Where we stand at nature's lightless intersections
that give no order, but every reason
to pause
to stop
for a full ninety seconds, even
and drop jaws at the moving clouds
each one, a fleeting miracle
each one, a disappearing love
each one, each one, each one

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wait a second... we're in South Dakota?

We're in south dakota!!!!!!

Greetings from Pierre, SD... capital city right along the Missouri River! (One of the boundaries of the Great Sioux Nation that was promised to the Lakota in the Fort Larmine Treaty of 1868, which was of course broken by the U.S. government in the persuit of more resources and ended in the killings of thousands of Indians...but that's another story that I'll be writing about soon!)

So how did we get here?

We made our way through thunderstorms in the beautiful Minnesota Valley near Lake Manitanka, Hutchison, Granite Falls and Marshall. As usual, we met amazing people. The one that stands out the most was Matt, who we met in Hutchison, MN at a coffee shop, where we exchanged travel stories, as motorcycle is his weapon of choice. He broke out his camera and showed us pictures of his trip to Northern Minnesota. We both fell in love with him and wanted to get him a bike so he could ride with us (he was definitely itching for an adventure!).

Then we were about 10 miles from the South Dakota boarder when Rach spotted a white spec in the distance that seemed to be going our speed. She said to me, "Go fast and get him! It's gotta be a touring cyclist!" I went up a hill through Lake Benson, the Midwest wind power capital, and finally caught up with him only to find out he name was Brian and he was biking across country from upstate New York. We shared stories and took pictures at the boarder.

We picked up another Brian!! Cycling from upstate NY to olympic national park

We crossed the boarder then pedaled 20 more miles to Brookings--an awesome college town with a really charming Main Street. When we got to Brookings, the Couch Surfers we were staying with, Taylor and Scott (AWESOME PEOPLE), told us that they were also hosting Lowell, another cross-country touring cyclist coming from Philly. What were the chances that we would all meet in Brookings?? This called for a celebration, so the four of us got beers and had a huge "family" feast thanks to Taylor and Scott. It was so great sharing stories and similar experiences with others who could truly relate. Our first time on this trip getting that experience!

Lowell!!! Another cyclist going cross country from Philly. How the he'll did we all end up in brookings, SD?!??!?!

Lowell and Brian headed out tolds Sioux Falls the next day to bike together, as they were both alone most of their trip and probably enjoyed a little company. Then, when Rach and I were having coffee that morning we spotted a couple on a loaded tandem walking the city street. Dayne and Charolette, we found out, were also riding cross-country on a tandem bike from Salt Lake City eastward. Too coincidental!!!

Dayne & Char!

Taylor and Scott were some of the best people we have stayed with on this trip. They are truly couchsurfers that we will stay in touch with and hopefully become even better friends with in the future. Who would have thought that Brookings, SD would be so cool and this post doesn't even say the half of it. I guess you will have to ask me for more!


As we continue westward there are less and less people and more and more beautiful senery. We can really feel outselves in the thick of this trip. We will be camping at the Badlands National Park for the 4th of July. It was when we were in Pine Ridge that we decided to do this trip and now we are about to get there after 3 months of pedaling. It's kinda of surreal, crazy, normal and everything in between. I am so happy to be where I am right now.

Now I'm sure you can't wait to read my next blog about why we are going to Pine Ridge. Until then, get out on your bike and enjoy the summer heat!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Expectations, feelings, and what's just around the bend

It's the first day of summer, and 11 weeks have come and gone living out of our Ortlieb panniers. The weather hasn't exactly "cooperated" for the majority of our trip; but what could we expect? Cooperation just might be overrated. Who knows.

Expectations are a funny thing, too. I'm learning I'm way better off having none and just embracing what I end up with. I'm not nearly a pro at this practice. But my novice skills are taking me far enough. I no longer expect to go as fast as Brian, to slim down into my highschool body, to miss people or places, to fail, to need things my way (or any way, for that matter), to be exhausted or happy or sad. For the sun to shine on the first day of summer. Nope. I just show up and see where the day takes me.

Today I woke up and cried for the first time in a week (which is equivilent to a decade, as far as this trip goes), then played some ukulele, then rode through wind, drizzle and 50 degrees of gloom, as I listened to my favorite musicians for 40 miles. It was a normal day, all things considered. We rode our bikes. That's really all it takes to feel "normal".

Stopping is a bit strange. One of us usually begins to wonder what the hell we're doing with our lives when we're holed up in a hotel watching Bizarre Foods and Project Runway on endless loop. But our angst is normal, too. And it wouldn't matter if we were on this trip or not. Everyone experiences "feelings" over "what the hell they're doing with their lives" irregardless of the shape or form that their lives take. So when I cry or Brian explodes in confusion, we just sit quietly and listen. We don't try to fix. "I'm just having some feelings," I tell him. It's nice to be wittnessed. It helps the feelings seem barable, likable, human.

Tomorrow we'll ride into South Dakota. Just writing that seems a bit surreal. It was on Pine Ridge that the embreyo for this trip was fertilized. Countless times, I have pictured us riding up Re-Member's crushed rock driveway, hot sun of the Great Plains beating down on our bare necks. Who knows... Who's to say how our arrival will really look, how our experience will manifest, how everything might change just around the bend.

No one knows, but we're going to find out. That's what our life has become: a discovery, an unfolding, an opening to what lies before us. It's taken getting used to and some days we have more "feelings" than others. But most of the time we recognize how totally alive we are and that one simple recognition is enough to make us weep with joy.

What expectations are you ready to rid? For the sake of opening to the way it really is... the way it really could be? For the sake of stepping into your mysterious, incredible life?

Loving you and feeling thankful that somehow we're connected -- that somehow our discoveries are really not so different.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What is normal anyway?

Now that we are in Minneapolis and 2 and half months into this trip, it feels completely normal but it's still hard to feel like we have no home other than our bikes and tent. It was especially nice staying in Madison, WI for two weeks with all my extended family on my mom's side. I love them all so much. They are so supportive and in general it was just nice to be around familiar faces for so long.

Now we are back on the road and yes, it was really nice to get back on the bikes because this is what we consider to be normal now. We had a lovely ride along the Mississippi with beautiful bluffs on our right. In fact, it was the most beautiful ride so far (route 35 in Wisconsin). See beautiful things everyday also feels normal now. We are expecting beauty more and more now. I have also began to appreciate nature so much more than I did in the past. As we are biking we are not only seeing everything around us, but we are feeling everything around us from the wind, to the bugs flying in our faces to the heat pounding down on us. I noticed this most especially when we were at a beautiful overlook gazing at Lake Pepin in Wisconsin and a car came by with their windows up and just slowed down and looked from their airconditioned cube without getting out to feel their surroundings.

This sense of normalcy may be hard to understand but now that I have done this, I can't help but think about all the other amazing things we can do in our lives. It's like once I took the leap, more doors seemed to open. So many times when we meet people they say to us, "might as well do it when you're young!" It's true. But also why should adventures like this be reserved for only the young? We had a great opportunity to meet a friend of my aunt's who biked around the world with his wife in the 1980s (when he was "young") and now he is about to retire in the next couple years and they are planning on doing it again. Also, right now we are staying with amazing couchsurfers, Brian and Amy, and they have a house here in Minneapolis and work construction and then take the winters off to travel. Just last winter they biked through India and Bangladesh. You are never to old or young for an adventure.

What I'm trying to say is that no dream is too crazy and no lifestyle t00 abnormal. We all have choices that we can make and if you are looking for an adventure, you don't need millions of dollars or a heart of steel, you just have to put yourself out there and overcome your fear and make it happen. You are not alone in this adventure! We are constantly told that we have to have the "American dream" which doesn't even exist for most American people. We all need to create our own dreams rather than just following the one that we are told to follow. Break the cycle and create your own dream and go get it!

Now we are 600 miles away from getting to Pine Ridge, SD, which was what started this dream.

What's your dream that you want to follow that might seems unthinkable?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Let's talk Life Work... because it matters most

Confession time: I've been feeling frustrated lately after returning from the World Domination Summit (super fun-crazy-inspiring-overwhelming shin dig for non-conformist types)... As if there's a time limit for how long I have to process, decompress and then "bottle & sell" what I learned there. (Says the vagabond leftist.) Oy fucking vey.

As if somewhere in the middle of South Dakota, while biking a 70 mile day, stopping every 30 minutes to stretch my dying hips and hydrate my scorched body, my little "business" (who's products I have not yet clearly identified, let alone, "produced") is supposed to take off and earn me a "healthy living" (funny phrase, in my context, don't ya think?). And how? By working my ass off, of course. By beating productivity to the ground & forcing wisdom out of a stubborn glass ketchup bottle that I can't even find because... right...we're in South Dakota!

In reality, having zero time to do anything but ride my bicycle across the country (ie--have the adventure of a lifetime) is a blessing. But not just for the incredible places & people we meet--for the invaluable lessons we're learning (like them, or not).

For instance, TAKE IT SLOW. I can't rush... even if I want to, even though I'm frustrated, even though I'm scared (of losing the mojo, of feeling left out, of not being seen, of not being enough, of missing my chance.)

Instead, I'm forced to trust that things are sinking in nice & slow, little by little, at just the right pace. I'm forced to trust that I am in the perfect place and my "work" has all the time in the world to come together. I'm forced to remember why I'm really here and what my real Life Work is. And i gotta break it to ya... It's not life coaching or literacy teaching or cycling (god, no!) or writing or making art or .... or any "occupation" you could name. My Life Work has no title. My Life Work is a practice.

That practice is love. That's it.

My Life Work is to practice love.

That's what all my "work-work" always, always boils down to. And there is nothing in the way of practicing love. Never, ever, ever. No matter where i am or what i'm doing. Nothing real. Nothing true.

I recently met an awesome man named Steve who biked the world with his wife in the early 80's. He said to me, in reference to his grand adventure,

"The only problems we had were the ones we created with our own imagination."

Steve was spot on. He understood where so many of us go to torture ourselves. He understood my agony. He pointed me to my freedom.

Which is: There is nothing to fret; nothing at all. Even our worst nightmares coming true are openings to love. I sorta hate to say it because it's really fucking hard to practice acceptance THAT huge (and much easier to slide into thinking that "loving all reality" is some hippy dippy, non-realistic BULL), but I just know it's the practice for me. The practice of a lifetime. The biggest adventure I could ever go on and nothing can ever keep me from it except myself.

So here's to recognizing my neurosis... and then loving them... and then letting them go.

Here's to practicing the Life Work that will follow me wherever I go.

Here's to practicing love.

How about you? What's your empire built on? What's your Life Work practice?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ground Zero from the New Labor Movement

Today I went to my first protest in over 2 months and what better place to do it than Madison, Wisconsin, the very heart of this country's new labor movement.

I'm sure you are all aware of the recent attacks that Governor Scott Walker has brought upon workers in Wisconsin. For those of you who are not aware, Walker and state Republicans motioned to pass a "Budget Repair" Bill that would get rid of collective bargaining rights for public workers such as teachers, as well as be able to privatize public utilities, discriminate LGBT people, cut Badger Care, and the list could go on and on. Basically it is an all out attack on ordinary Wisconsinites. However Walker did decide to give $140 million worth of tax breaks for corporations and changing the slogan for the state to "Open for Business". Not to mention that $140 million is about the same amount of money that is the budget gap.

I'm sure also many of you know of the fight back that ordinary Wisconsinites did in February and March with the occupation of the State Capitol. I had the opportunity to go there as well and you can read my blog post about my experience there.

This week was the restart of this as they the State Legislature has to vote on the budget by the end of the month. Right now people are camping around the square, which they call Walkerville and protesters will be staying until the budget is or isn't passed.

Today was a march/rally/blockade that looked to recapture that energy from the winter. About a thousand were lead by local fire fighters, farmers and nurses in a march from the station to around the capitol. They were demanding to tax the rich, a living wage, for universal health care and of course against the budget. It was a hot day but the energy was high as it seemed that this was the first protest since the capitol occupation. Chants of "Walker we won't back down, this is a union town" rang through the air. This was clearly the left wing of the current labor movement and we were successful in shutting down the square and briefly occupied the lobby of the M&I Bank (large donors to Walker) and closed it down chanting, "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."

After some confusion in the crowd we headed to the capitol to get back in there. As we got to the door and people were going through the metal detector and as all police were distracted by that, a bunch of us ran to the other door that was unguarded and we all got in the capitol chanting in the rotunda. Police arrested 5 people, 2 were journalist with credentials. Protesters tried to prevent the arrest by chanting "let her go" as they were trying to get into the elevator we continued to hold it open. Eventually the police pushed us out of the way. This was definitely one of the most militant actions that I have been a part of and the tension was thick.

After some discussion we left the capitol. The general feeling was that this was a success, with a need for better coordination. But the bigger deal is this action shows that this fight is far from over, whether they pass the bill or not, this fight has awakened a sleeping giant in this country called the working class. As austerity measures are being pushed by Republicans and Democrats around the country it becomes much more clear on who is on who's side. Especially when Wall Street got us into this economic crisis and they were given handouts while ordinary people are being asked to tighten their belts. There always seems to be money for war and tax cuts, it's time to continue to build a new labor movement that is independent of the Democrats calling for money to go to jobs and education, not war and occupation.

As I said these austerity measures are not special to Wisconsin, so look to see what is building in your community and how you can resist cuts!

For more details about the action, check out the report from