Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Onward to Wisconsin!

Chicago was an awesome time. It was by far the largest city we have been in yet and it was clear when we were riding around and seeing cars zip right by you. Thankfully there were plenty of bike lanes.

Sandy skyline

We had two home stays in Chicago. We first stay with Rachael's old friend, Yuri and his girlfriend Randi. They were great host and showed us Wicker Park and we had a great brunch together. After 3 nights there we headed towards Lincoln Park and stayed with Erica, my cousin Kevin's girlfriend, who also came down for the weekend. On a beautiful day we headed down to the beach along the lake and Rachael couldn't get over the fact that people were going to the "beach" in the midwest.

Brunch feast

Glow & vino

Later that night, our friends, Andrew and Kristen were in from Bowling Green, KY and were heading to Ames, IA and we got some drinks with then. It was great catching up with them as they are fellow adventurers and we hadn't seen them since our wedding.

We headed towards Milwaukee the next morning for the next two days as it was 95 miles from house to house.


What a great ride all the way up to Milwaukee, it seems like trails were everywhere!

-The North Shore Canal Trail
-The Praire Trail, which turned into the Kenosha County Trail
-The Oakleaf Trail into Milwaukee

We camped between Kenosha and Racine, WI and got to Milwaukee early on Tuesday, 5/24 and hung out at this awesome cafe call the Hi-Fi Cafe. Great sandwiches and great punk music. It reminded me a lot of Baltimore. The plan was to take a day off the next day before we headed to Madison. We were staying with the Aunt and Uncle of our dear friend Abbie: Laurie, Dean and their daughter Becca. They were really great and welcoming, it was perfect to have a place while a big storm passed through. They made us an amazing chinese soup and took us to Kopps, one of the best custerd places ever.

Mother daughter

Father daughter

Madison, WI, my birthplace, was the next stop and we were going to be taking a 2 week break. We biked primarially on the Glacial Drumlin State Trail, which was 51 miles. As we were biking into Madison, this amazing feeling came over me to think of a place I came to so many time by car and plane, I was now riding up on my bike! The best was at the end of the trail, my cousins Karen and Kelly. They road the last 7 miles with us to there house where we were going to be staying with their awesome, energtic kids, Lucy and John.

Good morning, from the glacial drumlin trail... 40 miles from Madison!

Now that we are going to be in place for the next 2 weeks, expect to see some posts about food, sleeping, equipment, trails and much more, so stay tuned!!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

the way of survivors

The birds are survivors. I know this now because I watch them. I watch as we ride into 20 mph head winds, as the rain pounds down, as the sun scorches my skin, as the humidity makes it hard to breathe. I watch as they dip and dive and swoop and skip through. it. all. 

I wonder, sometimes, if they ever get caught up in unhelpful reactions like I do; if they ever get lost in entitlement or disappointment or annoyance. I doubt it. They’d be a dead race by now, if they did. For the birds have few places to hide with their misery.

“You can learn a lot from sitting in nature.” This is what my dear Lakota friend, Corbin, told me two summers ago in Pine Ridge. “Go out and watch one day. Watch the birds. They never have a child without building it a home.”

There’s a lot to be said for simply doing what needs to be done. Complaint-free. No strings attached. 

Ride 'til you get there. It’s the way of survivors. 
Duck and take cover. It’s a practice of sanity. 
Rest when the sun sets. It’s an act of love.

We’re getting better at simply doing what needs to be done, despite our human longings. We’re growing into people who understand that the earth, truly, does not revolve around us; that we chose this adventure for the adventure, for the ways in which it would inevitably remind us of everything we’ve forgotten about being alive; that we are better off for all our pain and misery and disappointment because they are our sign posts toward light and laughter and understanding if we let them be. We’re getting better at practicing humility and honesty and imperfection and survival—at learning from the birds.

When’s the last time you took yourself out into mother earth’s classroom? Be with her for a day. Choose the day ahead of time and then go outside, no matter the conditions. Let yourself wonder. Let anything that needs to, fall completely apart. Come back and let us know how it went. We’re with you all the way, hoping that together, our journey back to life’s simplest lessons can be the source of power used to create deeper peace and integrity in the world. Truly. A sincerely hopeful wish from my heart to yours...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

10 ways to honor your knees

Happy feet!

I am no expert on this matter. In fact, I'm feeling more than a little ignorant on the subject. But I'm committed to loving my knees (and all of my body, for that matter) enough to create a better practice of caring for it. Here are 10 things I've been practicing that are truly helping with the survival of my knees on this strenuous trek across the U.S. Got advice, knowledge, tips or expertise? Dear lord, do share! Let's get this convo going...

1. Live this rhyme: Ease over speed, please! (Ride on easy gears with at least 60 RPMs at. all. times.)
2. Stretch 10 minutes per every riding hour. This website has cute & helpful drawings with recommended stretches for before & after riding. Yummy.
3. Stop eating massive amounts of cheese and sugar; infamous joint swellers. Eat more veggies, non-animal protein, whole grains, and drink LOTS of fresh water.
4. Get the strap. (I could not bike without it).
5. Gently massage any tightness in your hips and quads every night before bed.
6. Give both your knees kisses goodnight. Positive mojo matters, people.
7. Ice for 20 minutes right after riding when feeling especially swollen.
8. If swollen in the morning, take two Ibuprofen 20 minutes before riding.
9. Lighten your load. Even more than you already have.
10. Make it a life-goal to never need knee surgery. Then get going with these practices!
and one more for good luck...
*11. Treat yourself to the gift of working with a professional. That's right. Schedule an appointment with a physical therapist, personal trainer, physical healer, what-have-you. Love your knees that much. They'll feel the difference.

What are your tried & true resources for loving & caring for your precious knees? I'm waiting eagerly for your genius to show...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

From Indy to Chicago...and Florida?

Hi friends! Last time we posted we were just getting to Indianapolis! Now we're writing from Chicago, where we're staying with Rachael's long time friend, Yuri, and his girlfriend, Randi. But back to Indy--we had a great time there staying with Ed and Ellen Smith. Ed is an amazing retiree who I met through my job at Friends of the World Food Program. It was great catching up and they treated us like royalty with amazing breakfasts and dinners that are making my mouth water as I write this. They definitely made Indy feel like a cozy place to lay our heads. Ed was also so kind to take us to the airport so we could get to Florida for my Brother's wedding.

Ed & Ellen

The wedding was great! Quality time with family and a much needed rest--especially after our emotionally and physically exhausting trip from Bloomington to Indy (in case you forgot, that was the day Rach got bit by a dog and I got two flat tires). We soaked up the sun on the Gulf Coast and rented cruisers to ride around Anna Maria Island (couldn't get enough of the bikes!).

Our weapon of choice in Florida to keep our legs fresh

When we got back from Florida we felt well rested and ready to get back on our bikes. It was going to be a 2 day trek from Indy to my dad's hometown of Hoopeston, IL.

Oddly enough West Lafayette, IN was right in between and I had an old family friend, A.J. Metcalf, who is living there doing his grad work at Purdue University. Perfect! The campus was beautiful and we took a day to rest, perusing around the college town and sipping coffee in cafes, after a 60+ mile day.

No welcome to Illinois sign on dirt road so we made one


On May 13th we got back on our bikes to finally cross over into Illinois--Hoopeston, to be exact, where my Aunt Susie, Uncle Neil and cousins live. This is where my Dad grew up and I visited every year to see my Grandma and Grandpa. My Grandpa moved to Florida and the last time I was there was about 10 years ago for my Grandma's funeral. It was really nice to be back and reflect on childhood memories. Hoopeston is a small town with a population of 6,000 and unfortunately, the story is the same as many small towns with boarded up building and a beautiful main street that is hardly in use anymore. It was really great catching up with family, though. I got to meet Colin, the most recent addition to the family (my cousin's son) and just shot the shit for the weekend.

Uncle Neil & Aunt Susie

The last night we were in Hoopeston we went to see Thor at the movie theater in town and because of high energy prices the theater said that they have to sell at least 10 tickets to show the movie on Monday through Thursday. Four of us were there waiting to see if more people would come, and just when we were about to leave, heartbroken over the whole situation, 6 people showed up and the show went on! The theater was beautiful with a grand balcony and plush seats. But it was so sad to see how it has come to the point where they need 10 people to show a movie.

On Tuesday we headed off towards Chicago--the Windy City. Naturally, we had 12-20mph winds in our face the entire day. That, plus 10 mile stretches of rock roads made it a less-than-relaxing ride. We both hit a wall at 50 miles and decided to camp by a lake in St. Anne, IL. It was great falling asleep to the sounds of cars, trains and geese. Truly one of the most beautiful, relaxing spots we've camped so far.

Sunset peek

On Wednesday we rode about 12 miles then stopped at the adorable Family Restaurant in Momence, IL. The place was filled with older men sipping coffee, talking gas prices, and examining us and our bikes as if we had come from Mars. We had an amazing breakfast and Rach went ahead and left cash for the next four customer's coffees, just to spread some good cheer. It was a really energizing morning!

The Mexican Skillet... Yummmm

The day was a lot less windy and we were able to get to the 95th/Dan Ryan "L" stop in Chicago at 4:30pm. Yes--we decided not to bike all the way into the heart of the city and just take the train. Unfortunately, you can't get on with your bikes from 4-6pm since it's rush hour. But while we were waiting, a Chicago cop was chatting it up with us about our trip, and jaw dropped with disbelief/respect, decided to pay for our train fair into the city. It was quite the experience riding the packed L with our packed bikes.

Loaded on the L

We're having a great time in Chicago so far, seeing old friends and whizzing through the city on our bikes. (Bikers are mighty aggressive in this speedy city). Off to Milwaukee next! More soon. The adventure continues... many updates about health, gear, relationships, a wandering to come.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Oh Indiana

It’s been awhile since we posted an update blog about our journey. We reached Indianapolis after riding in the wind, rain, through hills, meeting new people, spending three days in Bloomington and getting flats tires and a scary dog attack.

Before we headed to Bloomington, we were in Lawrenceburg, IN for 4 days because of rain, but the rest was much needed and we were at my brother Michael’s house, which was really nice with his wife, Nadine and their daughter, Little Nay. We spend these days mainly inside as storms came in and out of the area everyday, all day. Quality family time was the name of the game.

Wii dancing pt 2

Brotherly love

Thursday, April 28th came and it was time to head to Bloomington. It wasn’t so sad leaving my brother’s because we were going to be seeing them in Florida the following week for his wedding. Bloomington was 107 miles away and we were looking forward to having a short two-day ride. As you may have found out, nothing comes entirely easy on this trip. The wind was gusty up to 25 mph on the road and going along flat roads felt like you were constantly going up hill. After some stops to avoid the rain we made it to a pizza shop in Westport, IN, where we met Marshall Bradshaw. Marshall was an older gentleman, who started to ask us about our trip. After some conversation and asking where we were going to sleep tonight and our response being, “we don’t know yet” (this was at 6pm). He offered up his floor to sleep on only a couple blocks away from the pizza place.

We stayed up talking about religion, as Marshall was a devout Christian. He was very respectful and we really appreciated our time together.

Marshall, our new friend

The next morning we were off to Bloomington and it was such a beautiful ride--who knew that some parts of Indiana were so green. My friend Greg Clarke from college, who we were staying with in Bloomington, met up with us in Nashville, IN, about 20 miles from Bloomington and biked the rest of the way with us. It was really great having someone else bike with us.

Bloomington was a really great, friendly place with great people. Our host, Greg, Kristy and Emmy were so great and biked us around the city and we met some really amazing people. Bloomington is also home to some bands that I really like and we went to this great place called the Owlery, which was a restaurant/community space and all of them seemed to be there, haha. Great food, great people, great vibes!

Tangled up in blue

Pump it or dump it

Greg was also so kind to help me with some minor repairs on my bike and showed us the local bike coop call the Bike Project in town. There is too much to write about Bloomington, so if you want to talk about it more contact me ☺ Oh, also Rach got a massage.

The Bike Project, Bloomington

After three wonderful days there we embarked on the one-day, 65 mile journey to Indianapolis. Little did we know what was in store for us that day. We didn’t leave until 11am to avoid the rain and for Rach and I to get on the same page. About 20 miles into the ride my tire went flat! This was the first, so I changed the tube up really quick and got the sharp shit that was poking through my tire. 10 miles later the same thing happened. This time it seemed like my tire had really gone to shit, so I changed the tube and the tire. Then to find out that this shifted my brakes, so I had to fettle with that. I was so frustrated because we were making such great time and going at a good pace. It was about a 45 minute stop, which really sucked and I was extremely frustrated, you know like cursing a lot and yelling.

Flat tire part 2

We were back on the road and when we were only about 12 miles away from our destination’s house (my friend Ed’s house in Northern Indy). A dog came out of nowhere and took a big bite at Rach’s leg. Read Rach’s post to hear more about that.

Somebody wanted to eat my leg!!

We finally made it to Indy and are being hosted by Ed and Ellen Smith, who have been so nice to us with feeding us, taking us around Indy and driving us to the airport to head to Florida for five days! We will be back on our bike to head to West Lafayette, IN and Hoopeston, IL (hometown of my Dad) on 5/11!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to love your enemy

Grounded in love

"I hate that dog!"
"I hate that dog, too!"

We sang this song back and forth, back and forth, riding away from the scene of the attack. First I'd say it in a sorry-for-myself kind of way. Then Brian would echo my feelings in a protective, empathetic kind of way.

The seconds in between, though, I'd think to myself, This is how war survives. Attack me and I'll hate you forever. And so will my entire clan. And soon enough, we won't even know what we're hating. We'll just look for something to hate. Then rejoice when we've gotten the enemy! (Sound familiar?)

The thing is, I was terrified. My body was shaking and my heart pounding. A 90 pound, sharp toothed, territorial being latched it's jaws onto my leg, ripped through my pants and left a 6 inch welt on my calf. Then it stuck its teeth into my bags and growled around for extra shits and giggles. I got off my bike in fury and yelled at the dog, "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!?!?"

Cars pulled over to see if I was okay. "No. I just got bit by that fucking dog!" (De-emphasis on "fucking". Wouldn't want to cause a scene.) "How terrible! That dog should be put down!" they responded, like any kind human-tribemate would. Destroy the enemy!

I held in my tears out of embarrassment. Don't cry in front of strangers. Wait until they go away and you're alone with Brian. He sees you cry all the time.

So my fear and my saddness and my sorrow sat in my chest as I walked steady with my strong outer shell. Finally, the nice eye-wittnesses had vanished and I could let down my defenses, let myself be seen, let the truth come out:

I am not invincible, no matter how many people want to destroy the enemy. I am vulnerable, subject to chance and as likely to be struck by loss as anyone else. There is no illusion of strength or safety that can save me. Not from random dog attack, freak accident, or otherwise. We are all subject to loss. And facing this, while difficult, releases me to the power of acceptance and healing.

But what if I never got that moment alone? What if the eye-wittnesses were always watching? Would I ever give in to the truth? Or would the frustration of holding all that saddness in my fist eventually release with more fury? With retaliation? With a decade-long crusade to Get the german shepherds!?

We need to see the truth. We need to carve space to be with our feelings. To give ourselves the gift of healing, of forgiving, of grieving and accepting loss. Because we cannot avoid it and it does us little good to hate reality. Hate begets hate and serves no true justice.

Susan Piver wrote this in a phenomenal post about Bin Laden's death:
Perhaps the way to kill your enemy as a way of putting a stop to violence rather than escalating is to shift our view of “enemy” altogether. Our enemy is not one person or country or belief system. It is our unwillingness to feel the sorrow of others—who are none other than us.

So take aim at this enemy completely and precisely. Feel your sadness for us and them so fully and completely that all boundaries are dissolved and we are left standing face to face, human to human, each feeling the other’s rage and despair as our own, one world to care for.