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Saturday, December 17, 2016
I'm fascinated by how aloneness can be so wonderful for some people and so not-wonderful for others. Clearly, loneliness and solitude sit at opposing ends of the being-alone spectrum.
When people think of being alone, they typically think of physical isolation from other people. But it's not the only type of isolation that comes with being alone. How do I know this? Because the times when I have been most lonely in my life were times when I felt alone in the presence of other people. There's a lot to be said for mental isolation. Though I can be in the physical presence of another person and engaged in social interaction, if that social interaction is unfulfilling, then I feel mentally alone.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
You may recall me mentioning The Rectangle Ride before. In my Bloated Fish & Butt Raisins post from 2013, I wrote about the perfect autumnal ride around The Rectangle. In my Backpacking in Hell's Canyon post from 2015, I mentioned my mid-winter ride around The Rectangle, in which I first saw the aftermath of the Oso landslide. Needless to say, The Rectangle Ride is my favorite close-to-home overnight bike trip.
In mid-September of this year, I rode The Rectangle for the sixth time. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the ride with six friends. This is a photo journal of our trip.
|The Gang (from l to r):|
Brad, me, Yonina, David, Faisal, Eric, and El Mecánico.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Four years ago today, I quit my job and was thereby born again into a new life. Since my re-birth, I have luxuriated in the freedoms afforded by unstructured time and financial independence. Wow, what a joy ride it has been!
Sunday, August 21, 2016
|My friend, Joey. (Photo: Joey's Facebook page.)|
For most of you, you will have met Joey through this blog post. But for me, I met Joey three summers ago when I was riding my bike eastbound across the country.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
I am a sports bra girl. I wear them all the time -- sometimes even for days-straight when I'm on a bike trip. Fulfilling their definition, sports bras make it appear as though I have a single, compact boob. I own a regular bra, which I only wear with the one dress I own. Both the bra and the dress hardly ever see the light of day (or the dark of night, for that matter). Yes, for me, it's always a sports bra.
The heat here in Florida is sweltering. A few days into my housesit, I broke down and bought a tank top. The top happens to have a built-in bra -- one that actually separates and lifts my boobs rather than combines and compresses them. Heavens to Betsy! For the first time in years, I have cleavage!
|Ladies and gentleman, I have cleavage.|
It's been an interesting experience looking at myself in the mirror. I can't help but to stare -- wow, those boobies are mine!
Friday, August 12, 2016
In my last post, The First 800 Miles with My Brompton, I shared my thoughts about my new folding bike. As I explained, the one drawback is the gearing -- I wish I had more optimal gearing for climbing and descending hills, particularly while carrying a load.
A number of you responded to my post saying that you would consider purchasing a Brompton if the gearing were more touring friendly. Your responses encouraged me to reach out to Will Butler-Adams, the CEO of Brompton.
|Will Butler-Adams, CEO of Brompton. (Photo: http://makeitbritish.co.uk/)|
Here is a snippet of my email to Will, written August 2nd:
Sunday, July 31, 2016
A little over a month ago, I introduced My New Set of Wheels -- my folding Brompton bike. Many of you asked how I liked my new bicycle, which I affectionately named "Bromleigh." At the time, I hadn't put enough miles on Bromleigh to form an opinion. But now, with more than 800 miles on my new rig, I'm ready to share my thoughts.
|Me, just about to set out on my first tour with Bromleigh. (Photo: Pat Goede)|
In the past, I've toured with Shirley, my trusty Long Haul Trucker. Commonly referred to as the "gold-standard" in affordable touring bikes, I've been nothing but satisfied with Shirley's performance. However, on my recent bicycle travels to South America, I learned that traveling with a full-sized bicycle can be cumbersome and expensive. And so it was that Bromleigh was born into my repertoire of bicycles.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
|I picked up Adventure Cycling's Tetons-Yellowstone loop in the town of West Yellowstone, at the far north end of the route. A few miles outside of West Yellowstone, I crossed the Continental Divide and entered Idaho.|
Monday, July 11, 2016
In just a few days, I will be leading two Tetons/Yellowstone trips for Adventure Cycling. Each trip will be van-supported and will last for eight days. Having been to neither the Tetons nor Yellowstone before, I decided to do a "reconnaissance ride" on my own along the route. The reconnaissance ride would enable me to scout out the area so that I could provide a better trip experience for my riders.
My adventure began at the Greyhound bus station in Seattle. At 11:45pm, I boarded a bus for a 16-hour ride to Bozeman, Montana. Riding straight south from Bozeman would get me to West Yellowstone, at the far northern tip of the Tetons/Yellowstone loop. Note that Bozeman is 120 miles away from West Yellowstone. Though I could have taken a bus to Jackson, Wyoming, which is the official starting and ending point of the Adventure Cycling route, doing so would have meant arriving into an unfamiliar town in the middle of the night. Instead, I opted to ride an extra 240 miles roundtrip in order to arrive in the daytime.
This was my first long-distance bus trip in the United States. I had heard from numerous people that the scum of all scum took Greyhound. I was sorta looking forward to experiencing the scummy experience for myself...but sorta not.
Shortly after arriving at the Seattle Greyhound Station, a man named Reginold Smiley put my mind at ease. Sitting just a few seats away from me, we started chatting as he opened up his sketchbook to draw Greyhound's greyhound.
|Meet Reginold Smiley, hobby artist extraordinaire.|
It didn't take long for Reginold to draw the greyhound. We hadn't even left the bus station, and we still had many hours ahead of us. Reginold asked if he could make a drawing for me. Really? For me? I'd be flattered! Reginold asked what I wanted him to draw. I hemmed and hawed for a bit, and then I requested that he draw something related to my favorite quote: "Roots hold me close, wings set me free." (See Sailors, Whores, & Ink for more information about this quote.) Reginold started the drawing, saying that he likely wouldn't finish it until mid-bus ride.
Monday, July 4, 2016
In mid-June, I staffed Adventure Cycling's Columbia River Gorge Tour. This eight-day, fully-supported bicycle ride covered more than 325 miles of spectacular scenery in both Washington and Oregon. There were twenty riders and five staff members.
"Wait a second, Sarah, haven't you already shared this post?," you ask.
You may be remembering the post I wrote last year, Adventure Cycling Along the Columbia Gorge. This is the second year I've staffed this event...but this is the first year I donned a climbing helmet with my new bestie.
|Me and my new bestie.|
While I expect you'll recognize the goofy face on the left (it's mine!), there's a chance you may also recognize the lovely face on the right. The face belongs to a woman named Elle Steele. More about her in a little bit.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
Many of you have asked what I'm up to this summer.
You: What are you up to this summer, Sarah?
Me: I have a jam-packed summer full of housesitting, bike touring, and trip leading. My summer plans are as follows:
- Housesit in Seattle (6 weeks)
|My summer plans include housesitting for this lovebug, Ricki, for six weeks!|
- Staff Adventure Cycling's Fully-Supported Columbia River Gorge Tour (1 week)
- Do reconnaissance ride around Tetons/Yellowstone (1.5 weeks)
- Lead Adventure Cycling's Van-Supported Tetons/Yellowstone I Tour (1 week)
- Lead Adventure Cycling's Van-Supported Tetons/Yellowstone II Tour (1 week)
- Visit my cousin in Denver (2 days)
- Housesit in Florida (3 weeks)
- Staff Adventure Cycling's Fully-Supported Black Hills - South Dakota Tour (1 week)
- TBD in Pacific Northwest (maybe housesit, maybe bike tour) (1.5 weeks)
- Lead Adventure Cycling's Pacific Coast Epic Tour (6 weeks)
The summer is already well under way, and I'm having a blast. My summer plans sure as heck beat sitting at a desk!
Friday, June 24, 2016
Someone has a new set of wheels. And that someone is me!
Wanna guess what kind of wheels I got? Here's a hint:
|My new set of wheels.|
Yup, I got myself a Brompton! For those of you not familiar with Bromptons, they are the coolest little folding bicycles on Planet Earth.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
In Reflections on My Turkey Trip: What I Learned About Myself, I compared life experiences to the tiles in a mosaic. Just as tiles are combined to create a unique picture or pattern, our experiences combine to create a mosaic of our unique selves. And just as a mosaic becomes clearer with a greater density of tiles, our true selves become more apparent as we acquire more life experiences.
|The individual tiles in this mosaic are photos from the Patagonia trip. |
You may wish to enlarge the image to fully appreciate the mosaic.
The Patagonia trip added more and more tiles to the mosaic of my life. Though some of these experiences confirmed what I already knew, others revealed new insights about Patagonia, Chile, and myself.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
My recent four-month tour to Patagonia proved to be a true gear test. The remoteness of the route, the weather, and the bumpy roads made it quite clear which gear were my favorites and which were my least favorites.
This post describes the best and the worst gear from my trip. For my cycling and outdoorsy friends who enjoy geeking out about gear, read on. For the rest of you, you're more than welcome to bow out, if you'd like.
If you are interested in more information about any of the "Best Gear,", simply click on the photos, and you will be whisked away to the product's webpage. Note that I was not sponsored by any of these products. As such, I am at liberty to share my unedited opinions.
Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Chair
As is true for most all forms of travel, the general rule is to carry the minimum of what you might need. Excess weight is carried at the cost of energy, comfort, and speed. Minimizing volume has its benefits, too.
Some travelers will go to extreme measures (and extreme costs) to travel as lightly as they can. While I'd just assume pedal with as little weight as possible, I'm also of the frame-of-mind that if I'm going to be living on my bike for a few months, I want to be comfortable. Plus, once you add food and water to your touring load, meticulous savings in gear ounces here-and-there are easily overshadowed. And so on our Patagonia trip, where I knew that seats (even those offered by a picnic table) would be far-and-few-between, carrying the extra weight and volume of a Crazy Creek chair was acceptable.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
When traveling internationally, however, shipping costs are prohibitively expensive. As such, Shirley, my Surly Long Haul Trucker, flew in an airplane on our recent trip to and from South America. On the way down to Ushuaia, Shirley was enveloped in a frumpy cardboard bicycle box ("The Cardboard Method"). But on the way home, she was dressed to the nines in a revealing, form-fitting plastic gown ("The Plastic Method").
|On the left, Shirley is in her cardboard box on her way to South America.|
On the right, Shirley is wrapped in plastic on her way home from South America.
Friday, May 27, 2016
All of the photos I've posted on my blog thus far from our Patagonia trip have been from my camera. Aside from a few exceptions when I handed my camera to someone else and requested that they take a photo of me, most all of my photos have been of El Mecánico or of scenery. As I am in many of Brian's photos, this post proves that I, too, was in Patagonia.
Take this one, for example:
|Me, strumming some tunes.|
As you may recall from my To the End of the World post, we had a 22-hour layover in Buenos Aires at the beginning of the trip. We spent many of these hours sitting outside the airport entrance, basking in the sun, reading books, and strumming the guitalele (a cross between a guitar and a ukulele). El Mecánico took a photo of me playing his guitalele. Based on the position of my fingers, I was playing Mumford & Son's "After the Storm." (In case you are interested, there is an awesome set of tabs for this song located here.)
Saturday, May 14, 2016
There is a long stretch of parkway between the north and southbound lanes of Avenida Argentina in Valpo. On certain days of the week, vendors set up produce booths along the parkway (see Valparaíso: The Markets). Sandwiching these produce vendors are hawkers of all sorts of wares. Old housewares, cellophane-wrapped books, and shoelace-less shoes are all laid out on the ground. Imagine blocks upon blocks of garage-sales-on-picnic-blankets.
One of these vendors sells parakeets. Although parakeets count as charming two-legged creatures, what I found more interesting was the four-legged creature who was intently studying the birds. Surprisingly, the doggie was exhibiting no lip-licking; he was merely observing the caged two-legged creatures' every movement.
|This four-legged creature intently studies the two-legged creatures.|
Around the block from our rental on Cerro Alegre is a mural of a man watching two dogs shag. I found it funny that a street dog decided to nap on the steps below the mural, as the dog's position made him look as though he was dreaming of doggie fornication.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
There is something magical about produce markets -- the colors, the smells, the hubbub. And while the farmer's market in my Seattle neighborhood has received national recognition, let's be honest -- it's so damn expensive! We do nothing in the United States to encourage healthy eating; McBurgers are cheaper than produce! That's why I love shopping at produce markets in other countries.
|A vendor at the Valparaíso market on Avenida Argentina. Tomatoes cost 600 pesos per kilo (less than $0.45/lb), five squash cost 1000 pesos ($0.30/ea), and one kilo of avocados costs 2000 pesos (less than $1.50/lb).|
On a recent trip to the market in Valparaíso, El Mecánico and I filled both of our backpacks with an array of fresh goodies. While our bodies were weighed down by nearly 30 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, our pockets were lightened by less than $18.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
I've taken hundreds of photos as I've wandered the streets of Valparaíso. As I've browsed through the photos, I've notice recurring themes -- doors, windows, signs, laundry, skies. Below are a few of my favorite photos from each of these categories.
Many businesses close for the afternoon siesta. Though siestas can start anytime after one o'clock and last as late as four o'clock in the afternoon, hours of operation vary drastically during this window of time. Accustomed to the 9-to-5 mentality common in the Unites Stated, the siesta hours sure do complicate shopping. I like the casual hours posted on the door of a jewelry workshop in Valpo. The sign reads: "Hours of Attention: From When I Open to When I Close." This is so Chilean -- in so many ways.
This door is surrounded by an elaborate border of capped columns. I like the contrast of the two columns; one is in decent shape, whereas the other is falling apart.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Valparaíso: Murals #1 shared my favorite wall-sized murals. This post shares my favorite smaller-scale murals.
While I love the comic-style and vivid colors of this man in a boat, what I love even more is how the paint has peeled, leaving him with only one eye.
Likewise, while I love the simplicity and open-armedness of the girl below, I love even more how she has lost her poor little nose.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Valparaíso was founded in the mid-1500s as a port town. Located on the Pacific, its location is vital to both industry and recreation.
|A view of Valparaíso, from a lookout above the port.|
Historically, its port made Valparaíso one of the most important coastal cities in South America. For ships that rounded Cape Horn, Valparaíso was the first port that ships would encounter on their long voyage around the continent. However, with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, the importance of Valparaíso as a seaport decreased.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
We wanted to experience our final weeks in Chile as residents rather than as travelers. We wanted to immerse ourselves in the language, the culture, and the day-to-day going-ons of Chileans. After considering a handful of locations in which to pass our final six weeks, we decided on Valparaíso.
|Looking out over Valparaíso.|
Valparaíso is located two-thirds of the way up the Chilean coast. Nicknamed "The Jewel of the Pacific," Valparaíso is the second largest city in Chile. Though neither Brian nor I would describe ourselves as "city people," Valparaíso sounded appealing. In recognition of the city's significant contribution to Chile's culture, Valparaíso earned the highly coveted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. It was this recognition that attracted us to Valparaíso.
Friday, April 15, 2016
Thursday, March 10th through Tuesday, March 22nd
Leaving Coyhaique, we had two options. We could continue north along the Carretera Austral. Alternatively, we could take a ferry over to the island of Chiloé and bike northwards from there.
Quite frankly, we were done with the Carretera Austral. Though the few kilometers immediately ahead were on pavement and would lead us through a pleasant climate, further beyond we knew that the Carretera meant more terrible roads and wet rainforests.
|Me, posing with our last Ruta 7 sign along the Carretera Austral.|
We were fine saying goodbye to Ruta 7.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Monday, February 29th through Thursday, March 10th
If Coyhaique was a record, and if the record player's needle was stuck on the particular moment shown below such that the moment was endlessly played over-and-over again, I would never tire of it.
|Coyhaique kitty & me.|
What exactly is Coyhaique, you ask?
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Sunday, February 21st thru Monday, February 29th
We spent the next eight days continuing north along the Carretera Austral. Here are photos from those days:
|An early morning start rewards us with breathtaking views of the valley.|
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Friday, February 19th thru Sunday, February 21st
Caleta Tortel is a town that has no roads. Built on a steep hillside, the houses and shops that compose this coastal fishing village are connected by a web of wooden walkways and staircases. All of the town's buildings and public spaces are built on stilts.
|One of the public plazas at Caleta Tortel.|
We debated whether to visit Caleta Tortel. A town built amongst boardwalks sounded interesting. But we were concerned that we'd be turned off by the tourists. Plus, the town required a 40 km roundtrip detour off the Carretera Austral on a road that has a reputation for being in eternally poor shape.
Thursday, March 31, 2016
Tuesday, February 16th thru Friday, February 19th
Located at the southern tip of South America, the Patagonia region stretches across both Chile and Argentina. Within Patagonia, there are two popular cycling routes: Ruta 40 and Ruta 7.
The first, Ruta 40, runs through Argentina. Because of its location on the east side of the Andes, the climate along this route is desert-like, and the terrain is, in my opinion, less-than-interesting. Ruta 7, on the other hand, runs through Chile. Because of its location on the west side of the Andes, the climate is more temperate, and the terrain is much more varied--think lush rainforests, glaciers, and fjords. Whenever you see gorgeous photos of Patagonia, chances are high that you are looking at the Chilean side of Patagonia. I wanted to see those gorgeous views with my own eyes, and for this reason, I chose to bike Ruta 7 through Patagonia.
|This gorgeous view, which is of the bridge crossing Río Mayer, is from the Chilean side of the Andes.|
Ruta 7 is commonly referred to as the Carretera Austral ("Southern Road"). Extending from Villa O'Higgins in the south to Puerto Montt in the north, the Carretera Austral runs for 1240 km through southern Chile. It is often called "The Road at the End of the Road" because it starts where the PanAmerican Highway ends. The Carretera Austral is represented by the blue line in the map below:
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Saturday, February 13th thru Tuesday, February 16th
The travels of these few days are best summarized by the following map:
|We travelled from A to E.|
The red circles indicate Points A thru E, as described below:
- Point A is El Chaltén, in Argentina. This town is where we left off with my last post, El Chaltén or Bust.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Question: What do these three things have in common: backpackers, roadkills, and abandoned houses?
Answer: All three have been common sights on our ride thus far through Patagonia.
Backpackers have been a common sight as we've traveled through Patagonia. They are everywhere. We see them in towns drinking beers, in the backs of pickup trucks on their way to towns to drink beers, and by the side of the road with their thumbs held high seeking rides in the backs of pickup trucks on their way to towns to drink beers.
|Though we didn't actually hitchhike, I couldn't resist posing as a backpacker when I came across this "El Chaltén" sign.|
Roadkills have also been a common sight. If you know me well, you know that I am intrigued by roadkills. I have a morose fascination with lifeless animals that litter the roads. I enjoy attempting to determine precisly how the little critters lost their lives. I apply my paltry forensic skills to study the entrails, deducing the speed and angle at which the deceased was traveling, as well as the speed, make, model, and color of the vehicle that struck the deceased. It's weird. I know.
Friday, March 4, 2016
Monday, February 1st thru Wednesday, February 10th
Having stocked up with more than a week's worth of provisions, we set out on our ride towards Torres del Paine National Park. A mere fifteen or so kilometers outside of Puerto Natales, we said goodbye to the pavement and began riding on a well-maintained gravel road. The scenery was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The view of glaciated peaks in the distance were like The Sirens, summoning us towards them with their entrancing beauty.
|El Mecánico rides towards Torres del Paine.|
For the first time on our trip, the riding was truly enjoyable -- the winds were manageable, as were the quality of the ripio ("gravel") roads. Having felt as though we had finally settled into a steady rhythm of traveling, we all agreed that the ride felt like a true bicycle tour.
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Sunday, January 24th thru Monday, February 1st
The theme of the last nine days has been Chilean towns that start with the letter "P": Porvenir, Punta Arenas, and Puerto Natales.
Having finished crossing Tierra del Fuego, we spent one night in a hotel in Porvenir, on the far west side of the island. The ferry that was to take us across the Straits of Magellan to Punta Arenas didn't operate the following day. Being the frugal tourists that we are, we spent the next night sleeping on the benches outside the ferry terminal. We were entertained by the longshoreman as they loaded large containers of fish onto ships. The precision with which they operated their forklifts was incredible!
Later the next afternoon, we boarded the ferry for the twenty kilometer crossing across the straits.
|After hanging outside of the ferry terminal for nearly 24 hours, the ferry finally arrived.|
We spent the next two nights in Punta Arenas, on the mainland, to resupply and take care of some other need-to-dos. We camped in the yard at Hospedaje Independencia, where we were all super impressed by the owner, Eduardo. His hospitality went above-and-beyond and set a very high bar for our future hostel stays.
Monday, January 25, 2016
Tuesday, January 19th thru Sunday, January 24th
Masochistic. Yes, that's the word that seems most apropos. Crossing Tierra del Fuego, we felt like The Three Masochistic Musketeers. It sounds like a Disney movie gone awry. Or perhaps a chocolate candy bar chock-full of razor blades. To be honest, these descriptions are not far from the truth.
|El Mecánico sets out into the wild blue yonder.|
Tierra del Fuego ("Land of Fire") received its name when European explorers first came to the island and saw the naked natives huddled around fires to stay warm. We've only seen a few fires while on this island -- namely campfires and stove fires. We firmly believe there are more fitting names than Tierra del Fuego for this inhospitable land. Tierra del Nada ("Land of Nothing") comes to mind, as does Tierra de la Muerte ("Land of Death").
Saturday, January 16th
In the morning our AirBnB hosts, Pablo and Neli, saw us off.
|Me, Tío Ramón, Pablo, Neli, and El Mecánico.|
We rode the ten or so kilometers before reaching our first checkpoint, just outside of town.
Saturday, January 16, 2016
How about kicking off this South American bicycle adventure with some introductions!
You know me already. I'm Sarah. On this trip, I'll be known as "Saracita," which means sweet, dear, angelic Sarah. Very fitting.
I've been wanting to explore outside of the United States by bicycle for quite awhile, and it was time to finally make that happen. Now, some folks will hit up as many cities or countries as they can in their travel time. But that's just not my style. I'd rather spend time knowing one country and its people well. Since I anticipate a good number of years remaining in my life, the plan is to hit up one or two countries a year. This trip will focus on exploring the country and people of Chile.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
If everything had gone as originally planned, I'd be biking in South America right now. I'd be pedaling through the far northern reaches of Tierra del Fuego, about to enter the pristine wilderness of Patagonia. Instead, I spent this last weekend in the steel jungle that is New York City.
My original plans went astray all because of a phone call from Arlen Hall, Tours Director at Adventure Cycling Association. During this call, Arlen asked if I would be interested in helping to represent Adventure Cycling at The New York Times Travel Show the second weekend in January. If I didn't already have plans to be cycling in South America in early January, I would have given Arlen an exuberant "YES!" Instead, I hemmed and I hawed. I wanted to help at the Travel Show. But I also really wanted to get my long-awaited South America trip under way. Decisions, decisions, decisions!
|The grand entrance, welcoming visitors to The New York Times Travel Show.|
To make my decision, I needed to learn more about The New York Times Travel Show. This is what I learned: Held at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, the Travel Show boasts more than 500 exhibitor booths from around the globe, 150 travel industry speakers and events, 100 cultural presentations, and 28,000 travelers and industry professional attendees. In a nutshell, The New York Times Travel Show is sorta a big deal.
Ladies and Gentleman, the video is now complete and ready for your viewing! Grab some popcorn (though a small bowl will do -- it's a short video). Enjoy!
How fun to see this video in its final form!
Friday, January 1, 2016
While I'm generally not one who celebrates holidays, I appreciate the changing of the year as an arbitrary time to examine my life. Near the end of every year and before the beginning of the next, I set aside uninterrupted time, pour myself a warm cup of tea, and settle into a comfy chair under a cozy blanket. I have with me a writing utensil and two sheets of paper -- one is labeled with the current year and the other with the upcoming year.