Five highlights from the past two days

26 02 2010
  1. A PANCAKE-POWERED DESCENT TO THE OCEAN: I left San Jose yesterday morning at about 9am after a delicious free pancake breakfast and saying goodbye and handing out business cards to the new friends Nikki and I made while at the hostel. Then I rode a long and fast 130K mostly downhill to Punta Arenas on the Pacific, arriving 30 minutes before the last ferry of the day for the Nicoya Peninsula. I didn’t even dream of making it that far so I was unprepared. Should I ferry to the peninsula and ride the dirt roads 40k to a beautiful beach town I’ve heard so much about, or should I go tomorrow, or should I just continue quickly up the Pan-American Highway?
  2. RUSHED RESEARCH: I had 30 minutes to research and decide what to do. I opened the lonely planet while making conversation about the peninsula with a woman who works in a local restaurant. The verdict: the ferry arrives before dark, and there are hostels and restaurants there. So I didn’t buy food, nor worry about daylight. I just went to the ferry, laid my bike down in line with all the cars and motorcycles, and read about the Peninsula. The more I see and read, the more Costa Rica reminds me that eco-tourism can be a successful economic alternative for developing countries. It’s not perfect (in fact, there is a lot of destruction in the name of Eco-Tourism Development) but compared to Paraguay’s 93%-destroyed Alto Parana Atlantic Forest and continued poverty Costa Rica is looking delicious.
  3. ARRIVING IN A DARK JUNGLE: The sun set while we were still on the water and I thought, “Oh well, at least there will be hostels…” Then I was reading the Lonely Planet and it said the town is actually 4 kilometers away from the port where the ferry arrives. The ferry arrived at port and there were no hostels or restaurants. I had to decide whether to pitch camp somewhere in the dark, which i never do, or ride 4K in the dark, which I also never do. I decided to pitch camp. In the darkness I found a place next to the driveway of a house that didn’t seem to have any dogs or people around.
  4. ANXIOUS SLEEP, DOGS, AND MONKEYS: Over the course of this trip I have learned to sleep in almost any condition, but I didn’t sleep well this night for a variety of reasons, hunger being one of them, fear of getting caught for trespassing being another. In the middle of the night two dogs found me and stood a few meters away barking at my tent for about 15 minutes. I didn’t move an inch. The lights came on in the house and I heard people talking but fortunately nobody came out with a rifle. I woke up this morning to howler monkeys hooting and growling right above my tent (Scared the spandex off of me! Howler monkeys are the loudest land animal in the world and they throw their voices at you like a tin can filled with Read the rest of this entry »




Gear Reviews: BOB Trailer and Panniers

22 02 2010

A look back: Skinny Horse and the BOB trailer on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

panniers

The BOB (Beast of Burden) trailor was working sweetly until the drybag was stolen. Then I had a new vinyl bag made in Bolivia. It worked quite well, but a continuing frustration was the difficulty of carrying the bike AND trailor up and down steps, which happened quite frequently in non-wheelchair-accessible places.

In the end I dumped the trailer. I’m a big fan of the BOB for touring in the U.S. but I’m an even bigger fan of panniers on a Latin American tour.

So, what kind of panniers do I use, and what kind should you use? I got the cheapest ones I could find, but you should get Ortlieb panniers. They are king. My front Novara panniers aren’t waterproof and leak a bit even with raincovers. My rear TransIt panniers are waterproof but badly designed; I broke the top off of one when carrying it by the attached handle, had to re-sew it with dental floss and am now afraid to carry them by their handles anymore. So I carry them like babies. But I love them less.

In short, you can make anything work with enough plastic bags, zip ties, duct tape, and dental floss. But you see Ortlieb on most touring cyclists’ bikes for good reason.





Nikki’s Latest Update. We’re in Costa Rica!

22 02 2010

Well dernit, I guess I can’t use Nikki for her updates anymore. Oh well, I’ll milk this for what it’s worth while she’s still here ūüôā

Celebrating WI-FI and milkshakes at the Dome in beach town Uvitas, Costa Rica

In all seriousness, having a green friend from Arizona join Ride for the Trees for the past month has been a blessing. Nikki, thanks for the good company, you’ve been an inspiration, especially when you encourage me to “Hurry up and pick up those diapers!” from the side of the road. (We’ve been towing forest garbage around Central America. Thank you for not littering along my route. The load gets heavy sometimes!)

Anywho, here is an excerpt and a few photos from her latest email home outlining the highlights of our beach-to-mountains ride through Costa Rica:

“I love my bike! On 2/13, a very rainy day, we made it into Costa Rica. You may ask how Sam and I motivate ourselves to ride through torrential down pours– if so you clearly have not heard us rap with our chorus being “Riding down the road towards Costa Rica.”

Cruisin' Costa Rica

So it seemed the vegetation rapidly changed to lush “jungle-ness”. In looking at the map and the miles we needed to put in we decided to ride a couple days along the cost, check some beaches, and then head up to the mountains. I was like “sweet, mountains. I’m up for a challenge!” Challenge it was! Try riding up to 10,000 feet through/above clouds, SINGING Hallelujah by¬†Leonard Cohen. The lack of oxygen will get you even if you live at 7,000 and sing the national anthem every morning! (It’s American Pie, Right?)

So we are heading up into the mountains, then BAM! Sam’s shifter cable breaks and the extra cables he has brought for his 10,000 mile ride are too short! This calls for team Sherlock, with Sam’s intellect and language skills, a welder’s generosity and fire, and my stunning company we MacGyver our way back onto the road. Aka we welded the shifter cable… for the record it is possible and Sam’s has held strong.

The Clouds

Beauty was everywhere: mountains, birds soaring, clouds, goats, and houses on cliff edges. There was the infrequent worry of falling off the road or one of the many speeding Mac trucks losing it breaks, but mostly Sam and I were calmly chugging upward and stopping at the welcomed coffee stops. Weather has been beautiful, and we would try to listen to the Howler Monkeys for clues about rain. After the top of the climb Sam and I had about 1.5 days of downhill riding! It was glorious, cruising around these windy roads and leaning into curves. I think we actually were passing cars! (Parked cars count.) We road downhill all the way to San Jose! What a sweet ending to my ride, we couldn’t have planned it better! We are now hanging in San Jose. We are going to get a bike box, see some museums, run some errands. Sam needs some real tent stakes so he can get rid of the rail road ties he is carrying to stake out his tent. Then I am flying out and Sam has about four more months on the bike till the US! Everything passed so fast!

Packing up the tent at sunrise. Grassy-cliff-overlooking-Costa-Rican-Valley camp.

Costa Rica is expensive so we have been camping. Where do we camp? On wonderful nights we camp in a generous person’s back yard, a beautiful beach with coconuts and a body surfing cave, or an empty house lot on a cliff that overlooked a valley. Other nights we climbed over/under/around barbed wire to a small tuft of bumpy ground or pile of rocks and sticks to snooze…we made it work. Wherever we are, sleep always finds us. =)

Well, I love and miss you all. I am so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. I will be back in Flagstaff and to work Thursday.

Peace,
Nik

ps. if you have not checked out sam’s webpage or blog please do! its below…there is a link to his blog from the site.

www.rideforthetrees.com

pps. So, so far I love bike touring, It is an amazing way to travel, and right now I am trying to talk Jakki (sis) into touring across the US with me…maybe…my bike does need to make it home first…or well i guess we could use mom and dad’s tandem…anyone want to join? HA HA!

the welded shifter cable holding strong





Congratulations to Ride for the Trees Beneficiary for Earning Charity Navigator’s Highest 4-star Ranking!!

22 02 2010

I am pleased to quote the email I recently received from World Land Trust-US, the official Ride for the Trees beneficiary:

“We have earned Charity Navigator‘s coveted 4 STAR RATING for being one of the most efficient conservation nonprofits in the US. World Land Trust-US is proud to be recognized for our effectiveness in directing your support to real and lasting conservation actions.”

We’re owning this. As you probably know we have collectively pledged and raised about $23,000 to support forest conservation in Paraguay! The fundraising goal is $100,000. ¬†With your help awareness is still spreading, and friends of friends of friends have donated. As deforestation continues (not just the 2,000 trees per minute you hear about in the Amazon, but also on scattered plots, little-by-little, like in the photo above) supporters continue to donate, little-by-little. We are counteracting the loss as much as possible, helping to protect indigenous communties’ habitats against illegal destruction. I am incredibly thankful to each and every one of you for your support.

I know donating is not a possibility for everybody right now and if you cannot donate I completely understand. For those wish to contribute here is the link: http://www.firstgiving.com/rideforthetrees





Why can’t I stop laughing at this?

21 02 2010

Why haven’t I seen this girl on the x-games?





The Story of Stuff

12 02 2010

This video may change your life:





Adios Panama!

12 02 2010

Nikki and Samuel casually lounging on Wizard Beach in the Caribbean

Nikki says: “Just a short hello with highlights! This is our last day in Panama, in the¬†city of David.¬†(Next time you hear from us we’ll be in Costa Rica!)¬†

We put some big days in, a couple 100 k days (i think that is about 68 miles). One of these days ended by meeting a family who had a laughing parrot! We got some great footage. Later they put me to the test in cooking for their entire family… a little stressful but the toasted ham and cheese sandwiches came out great!

After putting in a couple long days my ankles started swelling like balloons! Well maybe like baseballs. Any who, we decided to leave the bikes in David and bus up north to some Caribbean islands called Bocas del Toro. I am not sure if it was drinking coconuts on the beach, getting off the bike, or thinking about the possibilities of boating in a canoe carved out of 1 tree trunk, but my ankles went back to their normal size.

Bocas del Toro islands, Panama

Surprising: The islands were Rasta communities…Not surprising: they had beautiful beaches and great swimming and surfing. We did see many canoes made from 1 big tree trunk…that was so cool! Sam and I hiked over one of the islands to hang out and camp at the beach. After a day or two we were itching for out bikes and headded back to David. Today we ride to Costa Rica, and¬†the holiday Carnaval starts. This holiday is celebrated by most Central and south American countries. Men and women throw water balloons and spray shaving cream at each other. Sam¬†was told¬†that it is the time during the year that god turns his head, he does not judge your actions and¬†the devil¬†“runs in the street.”
 
Wikipedia says: ‘Carnaval is the main celebration in the country. It is held 40 days before the Christian Holy Week, running through the weekend and ending on Ash Wednesday (February 21-24 in 2009). … streets compete with separate queens, activities, parades and musical performances.'”

Nkki riding through northern Panama