Ain't All Guts and Glory
If we are being honest here, I wanted to cry the first three days of my cycling trip. I'd glance at my cycling computer, the remaining miles taunting me with impossibility. My quads burned, the space between my shoulders blades pinched, every part of me ached and I sure as hell did not feel I was capable of forging on the next 10, 15 or 20 miles. At times I caffeine sweet treats literally kept me motivated. (See the many pictures of ice cream + donuts.) Pushing passed the mental blocks proved more difficult than physical pains. But slow and steady I kept on, until we rolled into the day's planned destination.
Travel = Freedom
True freedom is found outside of our comfort zones. Traveling in general usually puts a person outside their comfort zone because of unpredictability. Even if you are one to travel extravagantly, you cannot predict an airline losing your baggage, canceling your flight, hotels making mistakes, becoming ill, missing connections, or misunderstandings. Travel has always been a way for me to shake things up, change my perspective, and a way to realize all the small and big comforts I have at home. It's okay to be uncomfortable sometimes. In fact, sitting in discomfort it is freeing. I try to ask myself why I am uncomfortable, what's making me anxious. Many times it is because the current situation is not how I perceived things would go.
May 9th is my sober anniversary, this year I am celebrating 14 years. This also happens to be my partner's born day. She asked me to take the day off with her, and being I still have "personal" days left at work, I obliged. (Personal days cannot roll over to the following year and can be used for anything).
At first we planned to head to the Jersey Shore for the day with the puppy. However, as time is running out for us to train for our Cali trip, we decided that a training day would be good for us. I let C do the planning, because she loves doing that sort of stuff. I knew she wanted to go to Harriman State Park. I have not been there in some time, and when I visited, it was only for hiking, never biking. We knew we were ready to bump up our milage, to the 30ish mile mark. C planned a route for us.
Wednesday morning, after coffee, we got ourselves out the door and arrived at Harriman ready to ride by 11 am (a little later than we wanted). With the sun shining bright and beating down on us, we began our ride. Not even half a mile into the ride and we approached our first hill. From there, we faced hill after goddamn grueling hill. On one hill, the climb lasted one bloody mile: my legs burned, my mind burned and I barely kept plugging along to the top.
We picnicked around the lake for lunch and a bit of respite. C hung her hammock and we chilled in it for too short a time. Back on the bikes for a little downhill action, only to head back uphill for some grueling climbs. This is seriously good training for Cali, but I am woefully unprepared for that right now. We will defiantly have to visit this trail again- but dear lawd, not for a few weeks, please!
Well, thank tha goddesses for progress not perfection. I am slow af on the bike right now. We've been out on our new bikes, and I am loving the feel of my Surly Disc Trucker. Did I mention that I named her Florence? She's named after my late great mama, because she is one mother trucker.
I ventured out on my own, two days in a row. On my second day, I decided to practice loading up my panniers... and I experienced a little dismounting mishap. As I slowed down and unclipped my right foot from my pedal, I pulled up next to the curb on my right side and leaned my right foot out. I started to reach the curb- then BLAM. All of a sudden, my bike lay on top of me, my left foot still clipped in. That really sucked, and dang, I felt like a loser. The handlebar really whacked my left boob and ribcage. Plus, my bruised ego something fierce.
I did manage to ride around 10 miles each day, so I thought that was better than nothing.
Here is our first reference, starting our cycling adventures in San Francisco and ending in San Diego.
Two Saturdays in a row, we drove the 1.5 hours down to Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia. Why would we do such a thing? Basically, Trophy was the closet place that had a 42cm frame built, which meant that Cristina could take a bike for a spin. One ride on a 46cm framed Surly Disc Trucker hooked me. I put my down payment on the bike and C ordered a different colored frame than mine, so we wouldn't be *extra* gay. However, this meant we would have to return the following week, when C's bike was built and both of our bikes would be ready for the road.
I woke up Saturday with my crabby pants on, for no discernible reason. I hate it when that happens. On Saturdays, I have a standing commitment, my AA meeting Homegroup at high noon. I left my meeting 20 minutes early so that we could get on the road to Philly. Still in a grumpy mood, I wasn't the best co-passenger. Everything changed after walking into Trophy. My sexy new bike was waiting for me. I started riding her around the store and then around the block. Hip hip hooray for bike day.
Back to the daily grind is hella depressing. I was in serious denial of returning to my paying job as a high school literature teacher. Delusions of grandeur perhaps, but I still dream of paying my bills through my writing. I shall hold strongly to that dream. So, to ease the inevitable, C joined me and Billie on a Hudson, NY adventure over Labor(less) Day weekend.
I had contacted Rebecca, an amazing woman I studied herbs with last year to see if she had any surplus of herbs on her homestead. Rebecca lives on the Triform farm in Hudson. It is a shared living community and they have sizable vegetable and herb gardens. It turned out, that yes, there was enough herbs for me to come and harvest. C and I then contacted Tim, who runs the sweet Suminski Innski in Tivoli, NY to see if our little family could stay overnight. Tim had room for us, including the pup, so we headed upstate on Friday around noon. I am still discovering those little towns in the Hudson Valley. It is a fairly easy drive north or you can take the train our of New York City directly into Hudson.
Tivoli is tranquil, with only a handful of restaurants and a general store in town, compared to Hudson, which has dozens of eateries and more. The Inn is down a giant hill and beside the train-tracks and river. (The train passes all night long and roused C a few times, but Billie and I were unfazed). C and I enjoyed a short bike ride that looped out and around Tivoli and back into the center of town, although we did have to cross through a construction area.
We enjoyed some damn fine organic, grass-fed burgers at the town pub before returning to the Inn for the night. Billie enjoyed the hell out of running free around the Inn's property. The next morn, we enjoyed a fresh breakfast and chat with Tim and the other guests before heading to the farm. We arrived at Triform around 1030. Rebecca had time to show us around the community a bit and before we began harvesting some plants. There is something so immediately calming about plants. I was so zen in those fields of calendula, meditating, pruning, collecting flower tops. The incredible scent of fresh lavender soothed my mind, albeit temporarily.
After Rebecca's husband showed us the rest of the farm, including the Icelandic sheep that Billie did not approve of, we packed up for downtown Hudson. I reaped the benefits of Triform Farm, and I am excited to process the various plants we snipped. We parked on a side street and wandered down Warren Street, in search of the recently opened brick and mortar Good Fight Herb Co. Shop, owned by Lauren, one of my amazing herb school teachers. After a chat with Lauren in her magikal little shop, we meandered on to get some grub. We found a fantastic sandwich shop- I had a grilled vegetable sammy with fresh pesto and goat cheese and a cup of amazing pour-over coffee.
With our bellies full, we started for home but decided to make a stop off at the Walkway Over the Hudson, located in the town of Poughkeepsie. Billie was mostly behaved as we walked the 1.25 miles over the bridge and back again before hopping in the car and heading homeward. Although, I made one last stop once we were close to home, so that C could get the homemade salted caramel ice cream from Holstens in Bloomfield.
Elvis, C and I enjoyed a wee cycling tour around Montclair my final day before going back to work, which sadly did not include ice cream.
Below is a photo of C from our first geocaching adventure as well as photos of my herb-filled apartment and my handmade smudge bundles.
Early bird gets... to see Maccu Piccu. We found out many travelers couldn't get to Aguas Calientes due to the strikes and the disruptions they caused. At our hotel we spoke to several folks who were stranded in Aguas Calientes after seeing MP.
We were up at 4:20am to have a little brekkie before catching the bus to MP at 5am. I think part of the mystique of MP comes from being a sleepy or weary traveler as I was a little out of it when the bus pulled up to this wonder of the world.
MP is strategically placed high in the mountains and between several peaks, so that it remains partially hidden and shrouded in mist. The sun appears late on this mountaintop, adding to the magic and mystery of the ancient Incan ruins.
We walked the grounds in the brisk air with our tour guide, Vilma, who explained the historical importance of the different structures. Sun burst through clouds, slowly warming up the air. The site is overwhelming, it is enormous and spread out. As I meandered, I tried to imagine what MP was like as a thriving little village. It is belivwd that the Incans observed the land and climate many years before they built upon it. This is how they knew exactly when the equinoxes and solstices occurred, and how they were able to build a Sun Temple which the sun shines through on the solstice.
After Vilma set us free, our group decided to hike Wayna Piccu, a higher mountain beside MP, with an altitude of 2,668m. The steep climb up was slow-going at points, and I kept thinking about slipping and falling over the edge. (Unlike the US, Peru doesn't feel the need to 'idiot-proof' the grounds, so there aren't any guardrails.) There are tiny steps that even my 6.5 foot cannot fit on.
The breathtaking view from the top was worth the climb. Although we were among the first groups to climb Wayna Piccu that morning, it got hairy at the top as there were too many people vying for the perfect selfie or photo.
After the treacherous climb down Wayna Piccu, C and I wandered the grounds a bit more before catching the bus back to Aguas Calientes.
Back on the bikes at 8am. I hope I am becoming a better cyclist, getting stronger. Each day pressing onward. I can't always keep track of my distance because it's told to me in kilometers, (so I'm always doing the math in my head). I just keep pushing forward.
After we dined on banana quinoa pancakes with our host family on the peninsula, we set out cycling. It was so damn frigid this morn that I had to pile on extra layers. I logged 20 miles at around 12,000 ft before 10am. I was happy to hop in the van to travel onward to the next location.
After a few hours traveling by van we unloaded the bikes. This ride started out downhill, then the road was up and down, as we rode through two villages and past the Quattro Lagunas. The ride added another 9.45 miles to the daily total. I'm feeling strong and accomplished.
Everyone has various levels of experience cycling, the 19 year-old Scottish kid is extremely fit and speeds on ahead of all of us. The hubby and wife from New Zealand have been on many trips and cycle a lot at home. The Aussie keeps a good pace. I think I'm the only one huffing and puffing at times.
C and I are different types of cyclists. My style is more slow and steady, with stops to smell the flowers (or photograph the alpacas). I'm more of a meanderer on a bike. (Whereas I'm a city walker, and keep a fast pace on foot.) C is a competitive, strong cyclist, pushing herself, very technical about things and happy to finish among the first, (and not so happy to be a long the last). Sometimes she waits for me or cycles just a bit ahead of my pace. I don't mind cycling alone, I am pushing myself each day, more than I have ever before. I have to remind myself, I've only just started this sport, cycling with a bit of seriousness since April, on my hybrid road bike. Previously, I meandered along in my beach cruiser, complete with my late great min-pin, Miss Holly Go-Lightly in the basket. (I've included an old pic of Miss Holly & I below).
Lago titikaka, or Lake Titicaca, means "puma head" in the indigenous language. At 3800 meters, Titikaka is the highest lake in the worldand belongs both to Peru and Bolivia.
We boarded a boat around 845 in the morning to access the man-made floating island of Uros. It took about 30 minutes to reach Uros.
I was a bit uncomfortable at first, because it felt like we were exploiting the people there, as it seems they put on a show for us (tourists in general). But they have chosen tourism as their main source of income. Four families live on the island of Uros, and they have set it up for tourism. The community works together to build the island by tying layers of tampote grass. (When dried, it reminds me of bamboo). Obviously, the grass rots from the bottom up, as it sits in the water. Layers must constantly be added to the top to keep the island from disappearing. The people built their homes in the traditional way, made of grass and straw so that tourists can see how they lived in the past. The women on the island hand embroider and sew various handicrafts.
We hopped back into the boat for an hour and 45 minutes to reach the peninsula of Llachón.
I suppose it was good to have a rest day off of the bikes and an interesting stopover at the homestay, though I could have lived without it. The people are genuinely kind. It was freezing last night and though C and I cuddled close and were warm enough in bed, we couldn't get out of bed. There wasn't any heat, electricity or running water in the rustic accommodations, and I woke up stiff and achy this morn. One of my glands feels a little swollen, I'm hoping it's just because I slept fitfully last night. We huddled under the covers by 845 last night and called it a day.
We slept in the canyon, in cabanaconde. The temp dropped down but there were many warm and heavy blankets in our lodging. Usually I'm a furnace during the night, so C snuggles up close to me for warmth.
We left after breakfast so we could view the condors putting on their show. The Cruz Del Condor is a location that has thermal winds, which the giant birds catch to become airborne. This is a big tourist a lot with several local traditional women setting up shop to sell handmade alpaca items.
After about an hour, we hopped on our bikes and began our descent into the canyon. 3800m (12,844) and traveled 17k. After lunch I rode another 10k to the town of Copraque, before hopping into the support van, while the others continued by bike to the next location. I am usually the last rider in, the slowest, but I'm getting the job done.
The isolated accommodation was, by Peruvian standards, a resort. There were hot springs on the property, so we soaked our aching bones for a bit before dinner. It's been a few days since I have been able to get online. (Totally okay with that.)
Last night was chilly and we had piles of heavy blankets on us in bed. When we came back from dinner, we found a lovely and mysterious surprise of candy on the nightstand. When C got into bed she exclaimed how warm my feet were, but my feet weren't yet under the covers! Along with the candies, we were left the gorgeous surprise of a hot water bottle at the foot of the bed. Although we were in bed early, we were awake enough to watch a (pre-downloaded) episode of Orange is the New Black on my iPad. (Almost done with this season!)
The next morning we loaded the van to continue on to Puno and Lake Titicaca.
Hi, I'm Reverend J, a queer+ sober wanderer, activist, writer and ordained minister.