26 July 2002

San Diego, California, USA to Guerrero Negro, Baja Sur

Even though Justin lost the entire print out for Baja California that we copied from Bicycling Mexico and woke me up the first night screaming (in Spanish and in English) at a person messing with our bikes while we were sleeping (it turned out to be the tarp blowing in the wind); he still has a lot of funny things to say.

630 miles down, we are pushing along pretty good. Climbing mountains under the blazing sun isn’t exactly the most fun thing ever, but everything else more than makes up for it. I am not all that excited about the Baja; I wish I had prepared more for it mentally. All I can think about is riding through Chiapas and Guatemala, but I guess we'll be there soon enough. The most fun parts have been chillin out during lunch with the locals and our sketchy camping situations. It’s always an adventure looking for a flat place to camp off of the side of the road that is hidden out of sight. Then we get out our headlamps, set up camp and cook our gourmet meals.

No matter what we are doing it is better than sitting in some cubicle or in a stuffy classroom. How many more years can I get away with not working in the summer? Maybe I have to get my PHD so that I can be a college professor and do this every summer....
We ended day 6 with style, we camped right on the beach, not a person, house, or coca-cola sign in sight. It was beautiful; I have never slept on the beach before. Going for a walk along the beach first thing in the morning made me appreciate it more than I ever have in the past. Now I know why some people are so gung-ho about it. That's what I love about bicycle touring; we are happy if we find some where to sleep where no one will mess with us, but sometimes you find yourself on a completely uninhabited beach. Even if you could plan something like that it wouldn’t be as fun. I did crash on the dirt/sand road we took back there (my shoes didn’t unclip out of my SPD pedals when I started to slide out) but I got over that quickly.

For the next couple of days we crossed the ultra hot disierto central, we had to each carry a gallon of water and we couldn’t ride between about 11am and 5pm cause the sun was so hot. We would scramble in these small towns to find shaded where we would sit and read or write. The environment is astounding, from huge rock formations to dizzying switch backs down huge mountains (top speed-- 46 mph!). My appreciation of the desert continues. We did find a pool about a mile down a dirt road off the highway that was definitely worth the 15 pesos each.

We keep hearing rumors about two Swiss on bikes heading the same direction as us; two swiss backpackers tried to speak swiss-German to us cause they thought we were them. No luck finding them yet. Our friends from 'World Bike Tour' left San Diego on Saturday, so we are still days ahead of them. The other day we were sitting in front of a small tienda (like we do often) when a woman asked us in English where we were going. After a couple questions she asked, "Are you all with the special olympics?” We are still laughing about that one. Justin and I have found a way to pass the time that seems to never get old; passing stories about our mischief as young kids (and not so young kids). We might actually never run out of stories.

Overall, the biking is going well. We are hammering out about 75 miles a day and slowing disposing of the 25+ pounds of food that Justin brought with him. For lunch day we finally got some excellent bean tacos, I fired down 6 for a $1.50. Yum. We are still getting along wonderfully and excited about how the trip is materializing. There is so much more I want to write about, but it's no fun typing it into a computer. I'll save some stories for in person.

23 July 2002

San Diego

160 miles down, its been hectic. Justin cant find anything in his panniers, I keep having to work on my bike. Head winds all the way to the beach, I am sun burnt......

But is has been so exciting to be rolling on to a new adventure, I cant stop smiling. Am I really doing this again already? The coast was beautiful, we were on bike lanes/paths almost the whole time and the weather has been amazing. I am stoked that we are staying with friends our last night in the USA. I also had to go the grocery store and pick up some tofutti treats since I won’t be able to for the next two months....

22 July 2002

Belize trip start: San Bernardino, California

First off, I have to give a huge thanks to Ralph, Zephon, and Tim, my boys in Cali. Without them driving me around, picking things up for me, and doing other things I hate to ask of people Justin and me would still be trying to get out San Bernardino. Its great to know that I have made good friends in the short time I have lived in Cali.

We left two days late, on July 21st heading down the California coast towards Belize City, Belize. I was waiting for Bianchi to send my warranty forks and a friend of a friend (props to mike miller!) was doing all the work for me. I ended up having to call them and have them overnighted plus Saturday delivery (32.50!!). On top of that the local Bianchi dealer (acme bikes) decided they wanted to charge me $25 just to have the forks sent there. Nothing like that hometown inland empire feeling. Needless to say, I was bummed on the situation. I had to take the forks home, cut the top off with a hacksaw so they fit and rig my rack on (that fit my old forks) with some clamps from the hardware store. Its been hectic, but we rolled out successfully at 930am. It feels so awesome to be back on my bike and finally be on a trip like this again.

18 July 2002

Ways to be prepared for a 3000-mile bike trip

Know the route for the first two days.

Have a functioning bike, especially one that has forks.

Don't expect Bianchi to warranty your bent forks within a month of needing them.

Don't have a cold.

Have read all the guidebooks and bike books that you plan to photocopy.

Leave enough time so that your laundry actually dries before you pack it.

Don't have 75% of your summer class assignments still due.

Don't wait until the day before you leave to request an extension for the assignments.

Don’t make plans to go to a vegan restaurant, no matter how good it is, the night before you leave (cause you probably haven’t even started packing).

Know someone with a car who can take you to the 100 places you need to go to the day before you leave.

Don't get a flat on the bike you borrowed and be stuck.

Don't forget where you hid the key for your bike lock and end up having to cut the lock with bolt cutters.

Try to make it to the bike shop before it closes so you can actually buy the parts you need before you leave.

It’s unfortunate that we did everyone of these wrong. But really, how else would we do it?

17 July 2002

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.

13 July 2002

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.

01 July 2002

pre-trip hysteria

It's 101 degrees in Loma Linda today. I have to pack for my Ecuador trip that leaves tomorrow, pack all of my stuff and move out of my room, and be prepared to leave for my bike trip when I return. I wish I at least had forks for my bike (I bent the pair that was on there), but I don’t think I will have my bike running before I leave. I also realized that my shifters might not be compatible with putting on a third chainring. Who designs this stuff? Some of these 8,000 ft passes may be difficult with only two front gears. I am not too concerned, because we don’t actually know if there are any 8,000 ft passes cause neither of us have elevation maps. I think we have enough regular maps, I guess we'll see when Justin gets to California.

Now I just need to avoid getting sick in Ecuador. I guess that means no corn on the cob from street vendors or tamarindo Juice in a bag. Darn.