Portland Portland Portland

Yeah it rules. Both of my indulgences in life can be fully satisfied here. There is even a vegan grocery store. I am spending the day exploring some more and preparing to leave for California tomorrow. About 750 miles to San Fransisco, I am going to try to do it in 13 days in order to meet my housemates (on tour) and possibly head back to LA with them in their van. We’ll see. I am stoked on this leg of the trip, it will be absolutely beautiful. I head 80 or so miles to the coast and then it is a straight shot on the 101 south. I am especially excited to ride through the redwood forest park in northern Cali.

Cell phone (no where to charge battery) use and email access may be limited. I will most definitely be checking voice mail messages, so feel free to call. I’m looking forward to being back in LA! It’s funny, often on this trip the people I have stayed with have provided me with better accommodations then I have at home (own room, laptop, DSL, car). Insane. That says a lot about my life and how I have organized it.


Vancouver: more eat, less ride

Today is my 10th day in Vancouver and I feel like I have done so much, yet at the same time feel that I have done so little. This is from an email I sent to someone earlier in the week–> ‘I have fallen into such a routine. wake up around 11-12, eat some food, head to the library, check email, hang out at sweet cheribum (cafe, veg restaurant, Indian grocer all in one), and drink coffee and eat vegan sweets then mill around Commerical Ave (the Haight of Vancouver) till I run into someone I know. Then go to the Sikh temple for free dinner, hang out at the house afterwards doing various random things, read, discuss, etc, then go dumpster diving. In bed around 3am or so.’

It’s definitely fun, but I am always thinking I should be doing something better. I guess thats the story of my life. Over the weekend we snuck into a movie and took a midnight bike ride through this huge park. Pulled an all-nighter at Kinko’s helping with a zine. Oh, and on Friday there was a ‘squeegee kid’ protest. In Canada it is common for the poor and street kids to squeegee cars at intersections for change. In a time of increased unemployment and decreased social programs in Canada it is a way of survival. Anyway, police have been harassing the squeegee kids sometimes resorting to physical intimidation. Friday was a protest to draw attention to the situation. A bunch of us from the house cooked enough food for 75+ people and distributed to everyone in the area. It was so much fun. None of the participants in the protest would speak with the media due to the decision from the IWW squeegee council (yes, it exists) so I talked to them as a supporter. It was fun! I did 3 camera interviews and talked about the situation. I wonder if they knew I was not Canadian!?

Despite not mountain biking much, the main reason I came here, I have had a wonderful experience. Everyone at the house is so busy. There are always groups of people going off to do various things. Someone is always cooking (free) food. The dishes always get done. People are always playing music or reading. This is a house of 15 or so people, almost all of them under 21 and with very little money. It has motivated me considerably. Sure, there have been a couple shows at the house where destroyer punks came and were all drunk and obnoxious, but no one at the house is like that. I have spent individual time with almost everyone there and have learned from each of them. My stories pale in comparison to kids who have spent the last couple years of their lives traveling by train hopping, eating by dumpstering and living by squatting.

Tomorrow I am leaving for the 200-mile trip to Seattle. The route I am taking links together islands in the bay instead of just riding along the coast. I am looking forward to being on my bike again, but hopefully the weather improves. I have a lot to think about from this trip so far; the contrast between the doctor I stayed with in Alaska and the punks I am staying with in Vancouver pulls me in two opposite directions. But are they that different? At both places food was shared freely and bikes were a theme. In both places people are doing what they think is best to help the most people. I am lucky to sit in between the extreme of the two ways and have my life influenced by both.

Now I am going to go get some sweets. yum.

Extreme Thursday

My last week in Alaska has been productive, but not in Alaska sense. A lot of time just chillin in the apartment I am staying in and A LOT of time in the library. Its been good though, time to take care of things I didn’t do before I left and things I need to do for the next leg of my trip. Still, I have gone mountain biking almost every day this week, despite poor weather. Mountain biking is amazing in the city of Anchorage due to all of the parks and cross-country ski trails. There is even a small ski mountain within the city.

Tonight we are going to an ‘extreme Thursday’ at a local bar after we go riding. Tomorrow I fly to Vancouver, where I have finally secured a place to stay and I have a couple of leads on places to ride but no firm contacts. I think I’ll work something out. I’m not sure if my cell phone will work, but I will be able to check messages on it either way. Email as well. Really looking fwd to riding the north shore stuff down there. Peace!

Leaving Anchorage

Okay. So I bought a BOB trailer (tax free- thank you Alaskan oil) and I love it. Am thinking about selling it before I leave or just taking it with me and using it. It is something I will definitely use in the future. We’ll see.

I should be leaving tomorrow and heading north from Anchorage towards Denali National Park, stopping along the way at smaller state parks. From there I hope to take the 135 mile unpaved Denali Hwy East, and then circle down and back towards Anchorage. Weather will be cold with possible snow accumulation, tourists will be minimal, and scenery should be splendid. I will try to update from the road, but you never know if that is a possibility.

I’ve got plenty of vegan chocolate and dehydrated beans so don’t worry about my eating. ha. My time is up at the library, so this is it for this entry. I miss everyone!

Yo from Alaska!

Leaving LA was drama, of course. Despite a guaranteed delivery day the BOB trailer I was borrowing did not arrive before I left. I (actually a ‘we’) were up until 3am packing my bike into 2 boxes in order to skirt the $80 bike charge. It ended up working, but sometimes, when you have had that little sleep, $80 seems like a small price to pay for a couple hours extra sleep.

Anyway, I finally arrive to Anchorage and am lucky to have my friend from Loma Linda picked me up at the airport. We had to kill time to wait for my luggage to arrive on the next flight and drove out past the water planes and saw a giant male moose! After an expensive meal I settled in for my first night of this long journey in the comfort of Marc’s living room.

Without a BOB trailer my options are limited: I can buy one and continue as planned or I can take the expensive buses and just backpack around. But 5 days later I am still in Anchorage! Amazingly Marc and his friends have kept me super busy’ I have been mountain biking and/or hiking every single day since I have been here.

The scenery has been superb. Within 45 minutes of the city is everything from beautiful mountains and glaciers to forests and lakes. All very accessible through parks and trails. One day we rode single track up through a ski resort and then hiked to a 4150 ft summit before blasting back down on our bikes. Saturday we did some of Johnson Pass Trail, a slightly technical trail with only moderate elevation gain that passes through spectacular scenery. Some parts were wooded with huge trees keeping out direct light and others parts were full of ferns and other plants that reminded me of central America. The trail was complete with wooded bridges and waterfalls. Yesterday we went to the hippy-ish town of Girdwood and rode some trails in search of a ‘mountain bike park’. We never found it but had some fun times exploring.

Later in the day we met some kids on crazy downhill bikes (they look motorcycles with 7 inches of suspension on the front and back) who gave us the heads up on some trails. Turns out one kid is from Pennsylvania and used to ride BMX. We knew a bunch of the same kids. Finally we spent some time at the public sk8 park and I had a blast flying through it on my mountain bike, though being clipped in was kind of scary.

So what’s on my agenda now? Today is the first time I have been able to think about it. I heard that the only road into Denali is closed due to snow. That is surprising because the weather in Anchorage is at a comfortable 45-60 degrees everyday. If I want to get a BOB trailer I will have to buy one; which would not be a bad investment and there is no sales tax in Alaska. My options are limited because with only two weeks or so left I don’t have much time to cover a lot of miles (especially if I am riding through snow!). I might go backpacking for a week and then spend another week in Anchorage exploring on day trips or get a trailer and head south through the Kenia peninsula where the weather is warmer. Today I am going to get some better info on Denali.

Some quick bits: Food is expensive when eating out, but very reasonable at grocery stores. I got tofutti ice cream sandwiches 2 boxes for $5! Also organic broccoli and chocolate bars (the important things) are cheap.

Anchorage is a great city with all of the resources anyone needs for a trip at good prices. The REI here has the same prices as the online store.

Anchorage also has a system of parks with bike trails running through the city.

I have been making use of my zero degree sleeping bag by sleeping with the window open in the living room. bbbrrrrrr.

My cell phone works here and is not roaming!

I will try to update with what my plans are before I leave.

Thank you everyone for all the kind emails!

Off to Alaska!

Much time and energy went into this upcoming trip. It started as going to Ecuador for 3 months to work. Slowly the career/intellectual oriented trip motivation faded and the explore/adventure part of me took over. The original plan was to fly to Alaska and bike to Los Angeles-4000 miles solo-but time/weather were not permitting.

The rough, and I do mean rough, itinerary for this trip is 3.5 weeks in Alaska with my mountain bike and a BOB trailer with all my hiking gear. I will ride to national parks throughout the state and do some overnight hiking loops back to my bike. I will probably be sleeping outside 90% of the time I am in the state. Will it be cold? The weather is starting to cool this time of year; I am sure to have some below freezing nights. I have wisely upgraded some gear for this trip including a zero degree sleeping bag and an actual sleeping pad (as opposed to the 2ft x 2ft foam pad I have used for two previous trips).

What have not changed are my preparation methods. I leave in less than 48 hours and am still waiting to get the BOB trailer in the mail. I haven’t packed yet. My seatpost is bent and the local shop doesn’t have the right size. Those who know me well would not expect anything better! ha. As usual though many of my friends have come through to help me out in many ways; I am extremely lucky to have the friends I have and am looking forward to reciprocating soon.

I don’t know what else to say. I am so excited to explore new terrain with a different bike and a whole different mentality. This trip is less about the destination; I have no real schedule except to get back on the plane on October 3rd. Until then it is just my bike, some hiking gear, and me.

Ecuador- nutrition, buses, groups

I have two major problems with writing: The first is an inability to correctly convey the emotions I am (or were) feeling during the event I am attempting to describe. I think that is pretty common. My second problem is more unique; I have difficulty recalling events when I am just sitting in from of a computer. If I am not excited about it right now, how can I write about it? Maybe I will learn from 2 months of updating my journal.

Nutrition Work

Our group of 12 ended up being highly effective in Ecuador. In Santo Domingo we measured about 60 students, did 6+ general nutrition lectures, and helped with nearly as many parasite eradication campaigns (which included distribution of pills and education for further prevention). We also did some group counseling of the teachers at the school. I am still waiting for an email from a really cute teacher at a school outside of Santo Domingo, whom I inquired about and shameless flirted with in front of her students.

In Quito we worked with a Seventh Day Adventist school doing more measurements in the day and helping with a series of lectures on health at night. The crowd of 70 or so was a bit on the well off side, so I think my tofu scrambler cooking demo went over well.

Overall we learned as much as we taught. There are so many fantastic people doing excellent work in Ecuador, we were lucky to be a part of their team for a short while. My main concern was the promotion of vegetarianism. If most of the population cannot afford the adequate foods is it ethical to suggest this diet? I have recognized the privilege that veganism is. My compromise right now is to further knowledge on what types of foods can be grown locally and their nutritional benefits; and from there suggest a more vegetarian diet. We’ll see.

Group Theory

Working and traveling in groups was an adventure in itself. I realize how difficult it is to be always thinking of how actions affect the group. Also, how most people do not have a lot of experience in group dynamics. Considering our diversity in ethnicity, age, religion, and other categories we all worked really well together. I have been working and traveling in groups most of life and we did as well as any. The only pitfall was religion. I had more than my fair share of it over the last two weeks. The pastor of the school we worked with asked us all our denomination and where we went to church. I told him, in rough Spanish, that I was brought up catholic, but no longer went to church. He asked me if I don’t believe in god! I was dumbfounded, but told him, hay una pregunta muy dificil….that is a very difficult question. I thought the more respectful thing to do was to avoid giving him my real answer.

Ecuador Traveling

Ecuador is amazing. 18,000 ft mountains, tropical coasts, bustling markets, a large indigenous population… On our 3 days off we took the bus trip around the Chimborazo volcano via Ambato-El Arenal-Riobamba. The volcano is 20,700 ft tall and the road goes with 10 km of it at 13,000+ ft. the peak is the farthest point from the center of the earth due to the equator bulge and is a popular mountain to summit. Plans are in the works for a summit in the next two years! We then spent a day and a half in Banos, a small town at the foot of another large volcano (that erupted 3 years ago). We rented mountain bike and headed down the mountain towards the Amazon, stopping at waterfalls and to watch some drunk Ecuadorians do this crazy bungee-swing type thing off of a bridge. It was great to be on a bike and its still the best way to travel.

The most dangerous thing I have ever done is ride on a bus in Latin America. Hands down the bus drivers are the craziest people in the world. They treat the Pan-American Highway like it was 3 lanes and one way. Passing on blind curves, up hills, when other cars are coming; it’s all done without a flinch. The buses are always packed as well, on one trip there was even a small child sleeping on the dashboard. Sometimes you hope that the driver is drunk, cause then at least he drives slow.

Our trip was a complete success. No one sick from the food, lots of work done, adventures galore (including a kick ass game of sardines), and I got to know some of my friends a lot better. It was worth dealing with the religion and postponing my bike trip…….my bike trip I now have a day and a half to prepare for.

Ecuador entry 1

Yo! Arrived in Quito after an over night flight, then the 11 of us took a bus down from the Andes (Quito is at 9000 plus ft) into Santo Domingo de las Colorados, a small city in the coastal region (at about 1800 ft).

We spent July 4th through today doing anthropometric measurements of school children to help establish baseline data for Ecuador-accurate growth charts. There is a community-based hospital here that we visited who will use the data in the future for focused nutrition programs. In the evening we have been doing group (from 5-65) nutrition education sessions. It rules because we are merely helping out within a structure that already exists-not just coming in and leaving. We are staying with some doctors and everyone has been so hospitable, even though they make us work so much.

Ecuador is amazing, as most places down here there is such a diversity of things to see and do. I am struggling to put something together for my one weekend off. Mountains and snow? Tropical rain forests? The beach? Some more dancing (some Ecuadorian women helped me with my Marange and Salsa last night) Indigenous markets? Arts, crafts, and museums? Or I will probably just hang out and eat. The food (we have had 2 women cook for us since we have been here, it is as great as it is ridiculous) is outstanding, even though hot sauce is hard to come by. Lots of plantains, potatoes, quinoa, and tropical juices. yum yum.

I just received a bunch of emails from friends, and I appreciate it more now than ever. When you are in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people (and planning to do the same for two more months) you cant explain how important kind words from someone you care about are. You know I am thinking about all of you as well.

I will write more soon, but I am on a $3 a day budget and I just spent most of it on the internet. peace.