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