Saturday, July 26, 2014

bike touring: my gear, my comments

i got a request for info about the bike touring gear i used + my thoughts, so here it is:

  • miyata one thousand: i love my bike. her name is winnie and she's a stellar japanese touring bike built in the 80s. 
  • all originial shimano components: everything was about 30 years old and it worked out fine. i did get an extra jumbo chainring installed in the rear prior to starting. it allowed me to have the granniest of gears ever!
  • (started with the original biopace chainring: had it replaced about 50 miles in; was not working for me.)
  • brooks b-17 standard women's saddle: a beauty. the first two weeks on it were horribly painful simply because i was adjusting to cycling everyday, but it worked out great afterward. highly recommend.

  • our beloved orange flags: i think it's helpful to have something that's moving, that catches drivers' attention; it would also visually tell us when we had tailwind, not that we weren't feeling it. 
  • reflective triangles: i think people called us "the triangle couple." haha, kidding. but i would've if i'd seen a couple using our same triangle reflectors. loved how bright it was.
  • red rear safety lights: i need to invest in a better rear light.
  • first aid kit: only used it once, but glad we had it!
  • bell: my bell is super cute, but when i really wanted to "honk" at someone, it was too soft and cute. i totally want a loud air horn next time.
  • wrench: we used it 1-2 times. the time we really needed it, we actually needed two.
  • three extra inner tubes: way too many. just needed one and didn't even use it. we mailed home the other two
  • 2 patch kits: just needed one; gave one away
  • chain lube: absolutely
  • rag: absolutely
  • bike multi-tool: so helpful to have
  • brooks proofide: we used this to tan our saddles handful of times
  • reflective rope: used it to hang our clothes to dry/air out, but didn't really need it. we mailed it home 
  • i wish i had brought extra shifter cable + end cap: definitely could've used this when my cable held on by a few threads and i lost ability to shift my front derailleur. would've been an easy diy fix. instead we paid someone to fix it for us.
  • ortlieb back roller classic panniers (black): had these for a few years so stuck with them. i wish i had originally gotten yellow; it's much more visible!
  • ortlieb front roller classic panniers (yellow): rolling them down and having to clip twice was annoying. i'd like to try the ortlieb sport packer classic next time.
  • arkel handlebar bag: hideous 80s design, but very functional. i'm so glad i had a handlebar bag to access my phone, camera, chapstick, etc without having to get off my bike and unbuckle/roll-up my front panniers. i highly recommend a handlebar bag and so do they.
  • one bungy cord for rear rack: you never know what you'll need to bungy to your rear. 
  • blackburn FL-1 standard lo-rider rack: keeps the weight low, but for my size bike, my front panniers would get scraped up on the bottom because of where it was situated (and because i'd roll up fast and hard to a curb, ha!). i ended up with a couple holes on my front right pannier. oops
  • blackburn rear rack: just fine. 

  • soto od-1r stove: lightweight, easy to use 
  • hybrid summit cookset: to cook soups and korean spicy noodles occasionally
  • uconserve square containers: we bought these stainless steel leakproof containers for food storage and to minimize our waste production. (i.e. we'd ask for people to put our food in our container versus a one-time use plastic container
  • cloth napkin + fork and spoon: each of us had a set we carried and used as often as possible. another way to reduce waste
  • small plastic cutting board: i left it at a campsite (on purpose) b/c i was trying to reduce our load, but regretted it later when our makeshift cutting board grew mold.
  • swiss army knife: amazing knife i used to cut EVERYTHING, mostly in the form of vegetables.
  • two water bottles each: absolutely necessary
  • 3 liter water bladder: i would consider taking this if bike touring in a more remote area. we always had access to water when we needed it. 
  • klean kanteen 16oz insulated mug: i loved having this to get cold drinks/ice and have it stay cold. it fit in my cage well and it reduced waste production
  • reusable mesh & cloth bags: great for produce, nuts, etc instead of getting plastic bags. the cloth bags eventually grew mold on them. gross. mesh all the way
  • chicobag: great for getting groceries and handy in case we needed to carry stuff and didn't want to use an uncomfortable pannier. nice to have

  • mountain hardware skyledge 2.1 tent + footprint: great to have two doors and vestibules. enough space for two people to lay down and sleep. that's all we needed. 
  • mountain hardware phantom 15 degree bag: i love my bag. 
  • thermarest women's prolite plus + stuff sack: laying down on anything inflated is a wonderful thing when you're sleepy and tired. when we got a chance, we'd lay out our mats to get some air flow and sun b/c it started to smell a little mildewy from having to blow it up and seal it so frequently.
  • iphone & charger: took most of my pics using this, blogged on it, looked for directions and food, overall, it was something i used extremely often
  • sony alpha 7: my camera's name is "buster" and i would take it out to capture "buster-worthy" moments. had extra batteries, charger, and memory card as well.

  • crocs: i don't go anywhere without em, they were a daily use item. for the shower and then for walking around camp
  • inov-8 roclite trail running shoes: these are my go-to shoes for hiking, running, backpacking, everything. they worked fine for cycling in my toe cages

here's my thinking on clothes: we tried to look as 'normal' as possible on this tour. a few years back, this guy julian who toured the us and stayed at the barn where i previously lived, said that he didn't want to intimidate people when walking into, say, a restaurant, by coming in wearing all spandex. he wanted to fit into everyday society because cycling for him, was more about the lifestyle. samuel and i took the same approach and wore clothes that you could find us in on a hike or any normal day. plus, we didn't want to spend more money on gear we wouldn't end up wearing very much. (note: samuel did buy a pair of "diaper" shorts, but only ended up wearing them a handful of times.)
everyday wear
  • patagonia shorts: light, breathable and great length to cover my knees from getting burned. my only problem with them was the two buttons to close up. why buttons? and why two? dumb style design, i think. one snap button would've been way better so i could get out of them quick when i needed to pee BAD.
  • rei hiking pants: when i wasn't in my shorts b/c they got too dirty, i wore my lightweight hiking pants and rolled them up below my knees. loved them.
  • horny toad travel skirt: loved having a skirt to slip into on off days. didn't absolutely need nice to have
  • icebreaker short sleeve: when we got further south, i really enjoyed this shirt b/c it's light breathability. icebreaker shirts also do not get stinky for like...4-5 days of major sweatage, and it's barely smelly if that. 
  • icebreaker long sleeve: i wore this shirt a lot when it was cooler up north, but barely touched it down south
  • the north face cotton button-up: glad i had it b/c cotton is a luxury item didn't absolutely need nice to have
  • smartwool long sleep half-zip: for evenings after a shower or to layer up on cold days. didn't touch it much when it got warmer
  • white cotton vneck tshirt: my favorite shirt on any given day. i brought it so i would have one regular shirt i could wear on an off day or if i just felt like wearing it. i felt so nice in it. :-) AND, i ended up wearing it on our last day! didn't absolutely need nice to have
  • the north face running shorts: useless. i wore them once and did not like how they kept riding up, exposing my thighs which then rubbed against my saddle. i did wear it after a shower (instead of long johns) when it got warmer down south. didn't need
  • the north face running tank: ehh..i could've done without it. i did wear it a few times on hot days or on cold days, i'd layer it under my long sleeve didn't absolutely need
  • three pairs of ankle socks: two were smartwool awesome sauceness, and one was an old pair of cotton ones i brought in case of emergency. i ended up losing one smartwool sock at a laundromat one day, so the extra pair came in handy
  • one thick pair of smartwool socks: i loved these for the colder days after my shower and to wear around camp
  • outdoor research rain jacket: necessary to have a rain jacket! if it's barely drizzling while you're standing still, it feels like it's pouring when you're cycling. very bizzare. 
  • mountain hardware rain pants: necessary! rain gear was as much about staying dry as it was about keeping the mosquitos off my skin. 
  • patagonia down puffy jacket: i wore this a lot in the evenings at camp, then used it as my pillow at night
  • patagonia trail running houdini jacket: super lightweight and awesome...for trail running. *doh* i brought it thinking it would be a nice outer layer to block wind on cold mornings, but it turned out to not be breathable enough. i mailed it home halfway through the trip didn't need
  • patagonia capilene long johns: kept me warm enough (but not too hot) while preparing dinner and hanging out outside
  • gap tank top: cotton is so nice to put on after a refreshing shower. and had enough boob support.
  • two sports bras: i ended up preferring one over the other and wore that one most days.
  • three underwear: 2 of 3 were patagonia and one always served as my emergency pair. i would wash my underwear everyday and dry them the next day so i'd have a fresh pair. the emergency pair would come in if i couldn't wash my underwear for some reason (i.e. too tired and sleepy).

Saturday, July 12, 2014

month 9: over and over again.

my love,

we were on our bike tour during month eight, and although i had the best of intentions to write you a letter on my little iphone late at night while you were sleeping, sleep overcame my intentions and instead, i passed out after our ride from santa cruz to vets memorial park (day 32, i think). i like to believe my month 8 love letter was more live love letter from pedal to pedal. you get me? 

but what i would've told you was how much i admire how your love is new every morning. it's as if going to sleep fills your cup and (lucky me) it overflows into my life. i've been really touched by experiencing this part of you over and over. 

it's hard to believe nine months have already passed since we wed. let me recap (for my sake) what's transpired since we said i do. we pared down all of our combined belongings into one car, left the bay area and moved to montana in the dead of winter, we did the artist's way, learned to ski (me, just barely), made some new friends, entertained old friends in our new place, you learned how to bake and cook!, we went zero waste, learned to communicate with each other (and still learning), biked from canada to mexico, hiked up our drama queen sphinx, and a lot of wonderful little things along the way. oh, and i ate from the biggest pizza i've ever seen and you weren't there to participate! how ironic. 

we've seen each other at our best and at our worst these last two months and i feel like i've learned more about you than i ever have to date: when you need to recharge alone, what ticks you off, what energizes you, your totally weird quirks like saying "missoula" a thousand times in that accent of yours, the way you put me first, your flexibility and adaptability... 

i've seen you go from hesitating to put your needs out there, to being clear and open as you make your needs known. i've seen you go from being (or, complaining) in pain from cycling day in and day out to riding really strong for 92 miles! i've literally witnessed your confidence grow where once you slowly held your brakes all the way down a steep windy hill to taking them head on. and i've seen you transition from "i want to explore writing" to calling yourself a writer.
(remember this? you were blazing down this hill!)

you, samuel, have impressed me with your determination, your willpower and your loving softness of heart. i cannot be more grateful than i am now, to have a life partner in you.

what's next?!

your buttercup

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

one of the biggest commitments a girl can make (next to marriage).

before i started the pacific coast bike tour, i considered committing to never complaining about my body again after we completed the journey. (the operative word here is considered.) well that idea flew out of my head, instead being occupied with finding lunch, eating snacks, avoiding glass, camping, and oh yeah...cycling. it was like my conscious mind avoided this idea because i wasn't sure i had the determination to make such a huge commitment. thankfully it wasn't lost, just undercover germinating.

about halfway through the tour, i hesitantly tried the commitment on for size. i said to myself, "i commit to never complaining about my body again." i remember i was cycling and had to say this over and over until i could feel some semblance of naturalness, yet i still felt discomfort in my body. i was grateful for the space to explore what it would feel like to make this commitment, and grateful to drop it. it was clear i wasn't fully ready.

it wasn't until the last few miles before hitting mexico, as i filled up with a soup of emotions, that it became crystal clear i deeply desired to make this commitment. so i did. it was simply a whisper of a commitment i hope would change my life, one choice at a time.

i couldn't see anymore how i could complain about an exquisite machine that carried me from one country to another on a bicycle and (i hope) will one day create, carry, and deliver a new life into this world. but it wasn't just that my body (and yours) can do absolutely amazing things...more than anything, it had become clear that i didn't want to spend anymore time and energy on trying to change my body, on nitpicking my flesh, on rejecting myself. it wasn't worth it. cool thing about this decision? momastery just wrote a piece about how our lives are our masterpieces, not our bodies. i love that she called out this truth because women (and men!) need to believe it SO badly.

anyway, to start my journey, i started by saying: i loved my body, it does really amazing things, it's beautiful and i was grateful for it. and now when i feel tempted to complain, i just say a quiet, "thank you" or "you're cute" and move on from fixating on nothing. 

i commit to never complaining about my body again.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

four lessons i learned about life while bicycling 1,973 miles from canada to mexico.

it's been over a week since completing our bike tour along the pacific coast. these are four leasons i've learned about life during 40 days of cycling: 

1. you get to define your own journey. 

my husband and i didn't plan on riding our bicycles for 40 days when we decided to take a year off to create a pause in our busy lives. we had imagined road tripping around the usa in our big ole ford expedition, nomadically driving our way from this place to that place. a bike tour never even crossed my mind. 

but the tour came about because i noticed that the seed planted years ago about doing an extended bike tour, had bloomed. it was time to pick it, so we did. we seized an opportunity to say "YESYESYES!"

i can easily say that this tour has forever marked my life. it's the craziest thing i've done to date, and yet somehow it was incredibly grounding. i think when we choose to live on the outer edge of our comfort, we experience clarity of self. this, this is freeing. 

our canada to mexico tour reinforced my belief that all of us get to create our lives, we get to live an epic story. we get to choose everyday the journey we want to define our lives.

2. you can never predict what'll happen next.

we had this book called "bicycling the pacific coast" (aka: the bible) guiding us through every day of this trip. it mapped how many miles to cycle, the difficulty, step-by-step turns, and descriptions of each segment. every night, we would read the next day's journey to help us prepare. 

as helpful as this book was, i hated it at times. it gave us just enough information to get us predicting what the next day would hold. bad mistake.

each and every day held their own surprises, challenges, and joys we could never have predicted. our "easy" days would be filled with surprising challenges like intense headwind and a "difficult" day might not turn out to be as hard as we expected. we were always surprised.

i learned over time that i had to approach each day, each moment with an open posture because literally anything could happen. and what turned out to be the case was that i would have a good day if i stayed open and accepting of everything that came our way, instead of resisting (aka: complaining) about what was not written in my book of predictions. 

imagine if each day was approached with openness to exactly what is, not what it ought to be. how much more joy and ease would we experience? 

3. you can conquer every gnarly hill.

some of the hills we had to climb were nuts (e.g. 4 miles at 7% grade up a windy two-lane shoulder-less highway). many times, we'd be coming down one hill only to see another monster one ahead. at first, all i could think was, "oh my lord!" and then brace myself for some major quad burning. over time, however, i realized the hills were never as bad as they looked from where i was. from afar, the hills always looked enormous. my perspective made it look that way. but it wasn't until i got up close that i could get an accurate sense of the challenge ahead. and then, i would simply put one foot in front of the next and pedal my way all the way to an amazing vista (profusely sweating and all)! sometimes, i would have to look at the road right in front of me or only 10 feet ahead so i wouldn't get overwhelmed by how much more i had to go. and you know what? i made it up every gnarly hill every single time, whether i could tackle it without stopping, had to be on my granniest gear, or took several breaks along the way. i made it each time. 

i have this tendency to get overwhelmed with fear about how HUGE something seems from my point of view. i'm afraid to even get near my story of fear. it's more comfortable to stand back and say, "it's too hard. it's too big. i can't do it... maybe i'll catch up on some shows," instead of getting up close and personal with my "hill" and see what it's really made of. 

right now, i've been dragging my feet  with a personal passion project because it seems so overwhelmingly big. i have a gift to see the big picture and to see what something could be, but i can also get paralyzed there. 

i've learned that even when a task at hand seems overwhelmingly unconquerable, the way i'll conquer it is to see a project for what it really is and then take one small step at a time. that is the only way i can climb my gnarly hills. (there ain't no escalators on the road.)

4. make unforgettable memories. 

the monk who helped us get up the last incredibly steep mile to camaldoli heritage said, "you'll never forget this," regarding our journey. i wrote about it on day 33, but i want to come back to this again because it has left such a strong impression on my mind and heart.

one day, if i am ever 80 years old scanning my history, i believe this specific journey will stand out like dolphin jumping in the ocean. i imagine i'll be taken to a special place of awe, inspiration, and fondness. i will not forget this trip: the time my beloved and i biked 1,973 miles from canada to mexico.

i want to live a life creating unforgettable memories that shape my life and the lives of those around me. memories that remind me of a life well-lived, a life well-learned.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

day 41: encinitas to the mexican border

it was a slow start to our 50 mile day. we ate most of our leftovers and fueled up to zig zag through san diego. by the time we got out the door, it was already hot. eep.
the four of us decided to ride together today since it was our last (and because m&m were going to stay at my sister's place too, after all was said and done).
(typical meredith move) 

although 50 miles isn't a short distance, i felt like lingering today. there was little urge in me to pedal fast. i wasn't sure i felt ready to be "done." 
the nice thing about cycling is that it's a really nice pace to help with transition. not as slow as walking, but not as fast as flying. our arrival to the border felt well paced, well deserved. 
we stopped by la jolla's the living room for lunch, and saw our friends susan and michael, and then weaved our way through san diego's bicycle path maze. samuel did an excellent job of guiding all four of us to the border. and as we got further and further from the more popular areas of sd, the streets became more tame. it gave me the quiet i needed to just be there to be in my own disbelief of such a feat.
(green bike lanes are the best!)
meanwhile, all four of us tried to come up with a "trail" name as is popular in the thru-hiker community. meredith came up with "song" for me because she said i am someone writing my own song for my life. it really resonated with me and then it clicked!!! my trail name is "songbird" and it's been that all along. samuel gave it to me before we even started dating, and it only clicked now. my heart was thrilled to adopt a special name for my adventures. 
(our first "mexico" sighting) 

we arrived at the border to be greeted by samuel's dad who escorted us to the pedestrian entrance. we took plenty of photos to mark this enormous moment, and then...very simply...turned around and walked away. 

done. finished. complete. 

it's hard to believe that with every push of the pedal, from pain to glee, we cycled from canada to mexico. (i am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around it.)
my sister picked us up and we miraculously packed four bikes and ALL our bags into her honda odyssey and drove ridiculously fast to her home in san marcos. (it would've taken us two days to bike the one hour we drove.) a korean feast was prepared for us by my sister and bro-in-law and we ate until we were more than satisfied.
we started as two and ended as an unexpected four. relationships strengthened and deepened. desires and intentions clarified. darker and more muscular than ever. more confident and humble than our first days of pedaling. and more full of awe. 

what a fulfilling journey indeed.

day 40: long beach to encinitas

"it's freezing. i never come here this early. i usually come at 2 or 3 and it's never this cold." 

(said by attitude-y teen girl in bikini at huntington pier around 11am, temperature in the 70s. samuel and i were sweaty and hot after riding about 15 miles.)
i got a pretty good chuckle after i heard her complaining of the cold, especially now that i really know what "freezing" means since moving to montana in the winter.

in other news, it's our second to last day before reaching the border. we rode 92 miles in 8 hours, our longest day on this whole trip. 12 miles were on accident, 17 miles were on the 5 freeway, AND we ended by finding out there were no more campsites left and had to ride in the dark to the crappiest $110 motel room. (don't worry, we had some lights/reflectors.) it was a CRAZY way to end our 40 day trip, but looking back, it made the journey even more savory, even more memorable. (i'm writing this on my third day off since completing this journey, by the way.)
we left lindsay and chris' home and said goodbye to the sweet leila joy, hopped on the san gabriel trail (aka: la river) down to seal beach. this portion reminded me of the time roy, cindy, sammy and i biked down the same path during high school. i remember it was a hot summer day and it was the furthest i had ever biked at that age, no doubt a grand adventure. it felt like a lifetime ago that i was in high school, most of it a blur, but how is it that this memory came back with such clarity? because adventures are almost always unforgettable. 
along the coast, some older surf dudes were cutting up a watermelon so naturally, i asked for some. they gave us large slices and flocked around when we told them we had biked from canada. disbelief and amazement was their response. to be honest, i really enjoyed their reaction and decided to milk the next two days by telling people where we've come from and where we were headed. my guess was that we would get a lot of oohs and ahhs in so cal. (haha, it turned out to be true.)
orange county, by the way, was exactly as one might imagine it to be. we zipped through as quickly as possible, except for the one stop where i found an older woman with a gash on her forehead and helped her until the paramedics came. 
and then there was the extra 12 miles we rode which aren't worth discussing further except that it happened and we had to accept our mistake. what a cost to pay for not being precise with our questions and not questioning our assumptions! 
then there was the eight lane freeway (the I-5 to be exact) that transitioned us from orange county to san diego county. "head down, pedal fast, and just get through this!" i told myself. although there weren't any massive hills to climb, cycling on the freeway demanded more than i hoped. it was exhausting to my senses!

but the best part of the day? 
finding out we had nowhere to stay for the night. samuel and i stopped at a store to pick up some breakfast food and got a call from m&m telling us that the south carlsbad campsites  were all full AND they had no hiker-biker sites. ??!?!?@&$?! that was a first! we desperately sought out cheap places to stay and m&m found the closest and cheapest option. 
samuel and i were further north than m&m, so we cycled into nightfall down the coast while they checked in and prepared our final dinner. our headlamp batteries were fading, and our backlights weak, but we finally rolled into encinitas after 7:59:59 of cycling and the longest mileage we've ever ridden in one day. (m&m ended up cycling 100 miles that day! wow!) 
what a day.
at least we got to shower and get cleaned up for our final day of this 40-day cycle tour of the pacific coast. we all fell fast asleep, letting our slumber wash away the intensity of the day's affairs and prepare our minds for our journey's end.
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