Thursday, May 24, 2007

back into the real world

i took my bike in to palo alto bike shop. they gave it a major tune up, and said it held up really well. all the guys at the shop are so nice. at one piont in my trip i called then freaking out cuz my chain had broke, and they gave me really good instructions (via telephone), on how to get things working again. thanks everyone at palo alto bike shop!
it's so funny being back. i've been working at this bike shop in san francisco called valencia cyclery. i'm learning how to put together bikes from their shipping boxes, and i also sell bikes to customers. so far i'm not that great at bike assembly, but i'm trying really hard, so i figure i should start improving eventally.
i'm still not used to being back in the US. everything seems insanenly expensive. and there is just so much stuff. i love going into super markets and seeing the crazy variety of food. all the cars everywhere, and public transport, and the buildings all look so new, and well constructed. sometimes i just get really overwhelmed, or like i almost feel like a tourist in my own country. things have also been really crazy just because i don't have anywhere to live and have been crashing at all my friends apartments, but starting in june, i have a one month sublet in the mission (near where i work), so that should give me some time to sort things out.
i think all in all, i'm really glad i did this bike trip. parts of it were really hard, but overall, it was pretty amazing. maybe one day i will bike the silk road from italy to beijing, china. any takers?

Friday, May 04, 2007

honey, i'm home....

so... i am back at my parents house in palo alto, california. it feels really good to be back. also, i had no idea that sethy (the cat) was so overweight. all the cats in latin america are really small and thin, sethy is like the biggest cat i've ever seen. at first he didn't remember me, but once we exchanged a few meo's, he seemed to warm up a bit. i really missed those cats. and i also really missed my parents! so good to see them again. i think this is the longest time i've gone without seeing them. i thought it might feel really wierd to be back in the US, but actually i'm just really enjoying food shopping, and cooking, and reading magazines in english.

i spent the last couple of days in buenos aires. there is a really nice neighborhood in buenos aires called san telmo. originally it was where the upper class families of the city lived, but then there was a yellow fever outbreak and everyone moved to recoleta. now san telmo is the cool bohemian neighberhood. on sundays they have a giant antique fair in the central plaza, and all the locals and tourist pour into the neighboorhood to shop. street musicians play tengo and couples dance. there are guys putting on puppet shows with antique marionettes, and men of all ages dressed up like carlos gardell, one of argentinas most beloved tango singers, posing for pictures for cash.

of course i had to eat some more steak, while in buenos aires. i went out for lunch with a bunch of the travelers from my hostel. this is a picture of andres from autria serving me some really awesome lomo (tenderloin). everytime i eat steak in argentina i say that it's the best steak i've ever had. and i mean it too.

this is a photo of mark, from australia and maria from isreal. mark is serving maria the other steak we ordered, bife de chorizo (sirloin). so, i think we all ordered too much meat because at the end of our two hour lunch there was one bife de chorizo left over that none of us could eat. i decided to take it to go, and as andres and i were walking to the subway, we saw this street dog. i was all, "hey, let's give the steak to the street dog. i bet it would make his day." andres thought that it was crazy to waste a perfectly good steak on a dog, so we just broke off a corner of the steak and fed it to the dog. man, that dog was happy. and that wasn't a stupid dog either. he knew we had the rest of the steak right there, and starting jupping up and down in front of us and wagging his tail. so we decided to run, and then the street dog starting chasing us through the financial district. we decided to throw the whole steak at the dog in order to escape him. that dog ate the steak so fast, and then still ran after us! we eventually escaped into the subway station. ha ha...

that night i went out to dinner with these girls i'd met in mendoza, tamzin, tandi, and caitlin, and a friend of my parent's friend cathy named sandra (who is argentinian). i wasn't too hungry after that monster lunch, but did manage to drink a bunch of wine. wine is really good (and cheep) in argentina. we got a bottle from a small winery we's visited in mendoza for $6.

sandra took us on a walk down through puerto madera, which used to be the old port, but is now a trendy night spot. this is a photo of a famous bridge called puente de la mujer (woman's bridge, or a i guess literally bridge of the woman). anyways, it's a bridge designed for women. as we were walking across sandra said, "if this is really a bridge designed for women, they shouldn't have put these gaps between the planks. my high heeled shoes keep getting stuck." women in argentina are really beautiful and wear really nice clothes.

the next day maria (from isreal) and i went to meet sandra at her apartment and we walked to recoleta cementary where eva peron is burried. recoleta cementary is like a small town complete with streets and street signs, but instead of houses there are tombs for argentina's deceased elite. <most of the tombs are really elaborate. some look like greek temples, others like gothic churches. and every where you look are stray cats. i think sandra told me that they feed them at the cementary. it was a pretty cool place to wander around in. after that i got my taxi to the airport and did my best to pack up the bike and what not. it made me sad to say goodbye to everyone. it's funny when you've been travling for a long time, you make friends so quickly and then you have to say goodbye just as quickly.

i started to feel really crazy once i was on the airplane. i think i'd been so busy site-seeing and hanging out in buenos aires, that it hadn't really sunk in that i'd be back in the US so soon. i was watching the computer screen that shows have fast the plane is going, and i figured that every hour on the airplane was about 5 days of bike riding. when we were near quito, ecuador, i just kept thinking that it was insane that the plane could go that fast. like it just didn't feel right. i got to feeling so anxious, that i couldn't sleep the whole flight. then when we landed in the US, there was this stupid video playing in customs that said, "going through customs is as easy as 1, 2, 3!" and then they would tell you what was goig to happen in customs. at the end of this totally cheesy video, they say, "welcome to the united states", and i totally started crying, right in the middle of the customs line!
anyhows, it feels really good to be back in the US. hope everyone is good!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Iguazú falls

iguazú falls are so amazing! the falls are located on the north east corner of argentina bordering brazil and paraguay. all together there are about 270 falls, plummeting an average of 210 feet. while i was there 9 times the normal amount of water was surging through the falls, so many parts of the park were closed, which was kind of a bummer. catwalks are constructed both above and below the falls. so you are really upclose to the cliffs where the waterfalls begin. i cannot imagine what it must have been like to contruct these walkways above the falls. at a certain point the catwalk stops, but you can see some old support post from where it used to continue. i guess the last part got swept away in the current? not a very comforting thought. iguazú falls are probably some of the most beatiful scenery i've seen on this whole trip. from almost any angle the falls make these beautiful rainbows, and there are hundreds of different types of butterflies flying about. there were yellow butterflies, purple ones, red, green, orange, irredescent blue, back, and also ones that looked like dead leaves.
so just imagine these beautiful watefalls with tons of rainbows everywhere and a million butterflies of every size and color flying around. it was pretty incredible.

while i was there i decided to take a boat tour. in my guide book, it said that you can take a "safari" boat tour and get close to the watefall spray. at the bottom of this photo you can see one of these tourist boats. this boat trip was crazy! i think the captain tried to get us as wet as possible. like we totally could have stayed dry, no problem, but they brought us right underneath where the falls were coming down, and then decided to do all these tricks in the rapids, like driving in circles really fast so that one side of the boat was tipped way down into the water, and the other side was way up in the air. i should have known something was up when they gave us dry bags for our cameras. i wore jeans and sneakers and it took a couple hours before my pants were totally dry.

to make a long story short, i've been carrying a small packet of ashes of a woman named susie. Susie was a bicycle and pedestrian advocate and was killed in St Louis walking across a street in a crosswalk with a walk light by a bus driving who was looking over his shoulder. She was the director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and the first director of the Thunderhead Alliance. She believed in liveable communities and was working for the Methow Conservancy when she was killed. She had just begun her own business as a consultant on alternative transportation and the job in St louis was only her second.

More than 70 people have taken Susie's ashes around the world in the five years since her death. She has been on bike rides across the U.S. and Estonia, and on cruises to Mexixo, the Carribbean, and the Inland Passage to Alaska. In the last year her spirit has traveled to China, Pakistan, Australia. i put my packet of ashes in the bosseti falls at iguazú. so now, her mom can add the iguazú falls in argentina to the list.
just one more week till i come home to california. i can't wait to see everyone. love,

Thursday, April 26, 2007

san francisco

i spent most of last week hanging out in san francisco de cordoba. when i was 18, did an exchange program through my community college where i spent three months living with a host family in san francisco. this photo is of my host mom and sister, cristina and minnie. it was so crazy to be back in san francisco 8 years later. Cristina was so, so happy to see me. i did a lot of cooking while i was there, and cristina remembered things i'd made for them like tacos and chocolate chip cookies. on saterday they invited a bunch of friends over, and minnie and i spent the afternoon making beans, salsa, and homeade flour tortillas (you can't buy tortillas in argentina). i was worried people would think the beans looked weird and wouldn't want to eat them, but the tacos were a big success. it was funny watching people eat tacos for the first time, because when i lived in california i'd eat tacos a couple times a week.
argentinians don't do easter egg hunts for easter, but they do make these elaborate chocolate easter eggs that people give as gifts. cristina (my host mom), won a giant egg in some type of raffle, and so we all ate a bunch of it after the tacos. this egg was insane. definately the largest chocolate egg i have ever seen. inside were more chocolate candies, and a weird looking doll that had a pillow glued to the back of it's head.

cristina and her sister are both teachers, so they had me make presentations about my trip in the local school. i did made a slide show from my photos, and made three presentations, which were like an hour long each. it made me really nervous to talk in spanish for so long. during the questions portion, the kids asked me about skateboarding in the united states, whether i had a boyfriend, and if i'd met any famous people. at first i couldn't remember meeting any famous people, but then i remembered that when i was 14 i met gwen stefani. everyone was impressed.
i am currently at a hostel in buenos aires, and tonight i have a 16 hour bus ride to iguazú. i'm leaving my bike here in the hostel, while i travel. it's funny, i thought i would really like traveling with out the bike, but really i just feel kind of tired, and like i don't really want to do any sightseeing. i'm really looking forward to coming back to CA. hope everyone is good!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

i'm done cycling

so, i've decided to stop biking. i'm about half way down the length of argentina, and the distance between towns is starting to increase. i had about a day and a half stretch before hitting a town, and i got trapped in some really strong winds. things started out fine. i'd cycled up a dirt road over this mountain, and then as a started to descend down the other side, the wind started to pick up. by the time i was down into this river valley, i had tail winds of about 60 to 70 mph. the wind was pushing me along faster than i could pedal, and i actually had the breaks on because it was too scarey to be going that fast. you cannot imagine what a crazy experience it is to cycle with winds like this. imagine cycling with a person who has super human strength and they have their hand on your back pushing you forward. seriously it felt like i was cycling with the hand of god at my back. at one point i crossed a bridge that was about 15' over a small creek, and the wind was blowing so hard that water was flying through the air and hitting me in the face.
dust was blowing everywhere, and i kept having to close my eyes because they would start to burn from the flying dust. it's terrifying to be cycling on a pothole filled road, screaming along with crazy winds with your eyes closed. i figured it was going to take me a bit of time to set up the tent with winds as they were, so i stopped early and started looking for a place to camp. there's pretty much nothing around that you can take shelter behind, and i was having trouble finding a spot that wasn't covered with horrible spikey plants.
i finally found a spot that was mostly free of plants, and then ended up using the saw attatchment on my leatherman to saw down all these spikey plants so that they didn't poke any holes in the tent. setting up the tent was a huge challenge because everything wanted to blow away. i finally got it set up and put huge rocks down over all the tent stakes so they didn't get ripped out of the ground. at this point, a man and his son came along, they had been walking through the pampas collecting firewood, they told me that i should come and sleep in their house, which was just over the hill. i think probably this is one of my worst decisions ever, but i told them no thanks because it had been such a struggle to set up the tent, that i just couldn't imagine taking it down after all that work. a little while later the man and his son reappeared with a thermos of hot water for me and again asked me if i was sure i didn't want to spend the night in their house. that night was not a good camping experience to say the least! the wind was so strong, that the wall of the tent kept blowing in and hitting me in the head. even thought i had synched the rainfly down as tight as i could, all this dust kept blowing in through the mosquito netting. i kept waking up coughing because my face was covered in dust. it was pretty much impossible to sleep. i read for a while, but then the batteries in my flashlight died, so i just lay there praying for morning.
when winds are blowing that hard, every little task becomes a herculean effort. in the morning as i was packing up camp, i was pretty much talking out loud to myself saying stuff like, "ok, you're doing really good. now you're going to strap on the water bottles. ready? ok, hold the bike steady, now slip the water bottle under the strap, you are doing great!" the winds were blowing so hard, it was a challenge just to stand up. just as i was finishing up packing, the man and his son came back to see if i'd made it through the night. i waved goodbye to them and headed down the road, after about 50 feet, i was hit with a cross wind the sent me sailing across the road and ultimately landed on the gravel shoulder skidding along on the palms of my hands. i got up and looked back to see the man and his son watching me. i waved to them to let them know i was alright, but the palms of my hands were bleeding. i put on gloves after that. after about an hour of riding, i decided that it was just too insane, and i was going to hitchike out of there. i found a roadsign to stand behind to protect me from the wind.
there was pretty much no traffic, but after about two hours, this guy in a pickup came by and gave me a ride back to malargue, which is where i am now. the guy who gave me the ride (named juan), was super nice and took me out for coffee afterwards. it's funny because after he picked me up we'd been talking for a little bit, and i asked him if my face was covered in dirt, and he was like, "it's a little dirty." when i got to the coffee shop i went into the bathroom to wash up, and my face was totally covered in dirt, and there were tear streaks down my cheeks because at one point i'd gotten scared and started crying.
anyhows, i'm a little dissapointed that i wont be cycling farther south, but on the otherhand, i really can't deal with wind like that. they say that the wind stops. today there is no wind, but i don't want to get stuck out in the pampas again like that. when juan picked me up, i asked him how fast he thought the wind was going, and he said 130 kph, which is like 80 mph. crazy, huh? i have about three weeks until my flight home, so i figure i'll visit my host family from when i was in argentina before, and then do some sightseeing. hope everyone is good! love,

Sunday, April 08, 2007

mendoza (again)

oh my god that family i stayed with in mendoza was so, unbelievably nice. i tried making them chocolate chip cookies, but only about half of them turned out. the first tray was ok, the then i didn't put the second tray in the oven straight, and all the cookies ran together into one giant cookie. then the third tray turned out really good, but then i accidentaly dropped the fourth tray on the floor. oops. you win some you lose some, right?

Sebastian, took me on a biking tour of mendoza. seriously i think mendoza is probably one of the nicest cities i-ve ever been in. all around mendoza are vinards and fancy wineries. the city has five plazas, and lot's of gourmet restaurants, and fancy clothing shops. the surrounding area is really dry and desert-like, but the original city planers developed a system to bring water into the city. sebastian told me that all the local rivers are diverted into these small canals called "sequias" that run parallel to the street and bring water to all the trees.

that night i went to the shopping center with carolina and some of her friends. guess what time the shopping center closes? one o'clock in the morning! can you believe it? argentinians love the night time. we all went bowling, and i discovered that i am a horrible, horrible bowler. all the guys kept making all these srtikes, and i hit gutter ball after gutter ball. my best score was only 71. it's funny because all the bowling stuff is in english. like if you want to play another game, the screen says, "press the blue key to play again". and the bowling shoes are in american sizes (i.e. 7,8,9) instead of south american sizes (i.e. 38,38,39).

this is a photo of a fancy hotel. in the morning when i left sebastian and carolina gave me all this food to take with me. cereal bars, powdered drink mixes, and i told them i like to eat hard boiled eggs and they cooked up a bunch for me for the road. as i was leaving town i saw i place to buy cashmere sweaters and went to get one for my mom. they guy who was working in the shop was so into my bike trip, that he tried to give me a bottle of wine to take with me. i really can't believe how nice people here are. ok, hope everyone is good. happy birthday mom! love,

Saturday, April 07, 2007


i am hanging out in mendoza with a family that gary, a friend of a friend of my parents got me in touch with. thanks gary! holy week is starting up, and last night i went to my first mass. i was a little wiped out, and so i had trouble paying attention to the priest, but all in all it was pretty cool. i don't know anyone who goes to church in the US, but catholacism seems a lot more important to peole in argentina.

all along the highway you can see little shrines erected for catholic saints or virgins, the most popular being "difunta correa". legend has it, that during some war, a women wandered through the desert with her child looking for her husband who had disapeared during the war. at some point she died of thirst, but her child continued to nurse (and her breast continued to give milk) even after she died.

there is a huge shrine for difunta correa near san juan (which is supposedly where she died). people come from all over argentina to ask difunta correa for miracles. then they build her these little houses that say things like, "thank you difunta correa for helping us buy our house." people are really intense about this shrine, and you can see them walking along the highway for miles before the shrine. some people walk for days to ask for miracles. i saw one guy crawling on his hands and knees up a flight of stairs to the shrine.

it's easy for me to understand how difunta correa died of thirst. in this photo the blue color is not the ocean. it's desert stretching on as far as the eye can see. vistas like this are not a happy sight for the touring cyclist because it means no food or water for a long time. the shrine for difunta correa was the first thing i saw after being in the desert for a while, and i was running really low on water. while camping, i didn't cook any dinner to conserve water, and so it was pretty great to go to a tourist restaurant and eat steak and drink tons of water. i still felt hungry after my meal, so i ordered a ham sandwhich for dessert.
a few days ago i spent some time in a national park called ischigualasto, which is another UNESCO world heritage site. in order to see the park, the ranger told me i'd have to find someone with extra room in their car. fotunately a whole tour bus of exchange students showed up, and so i got to ride around in the park with them and eat free snacks like cheese sandwhiches and candy. it was great. it was also so, so fun for me to speak in english. sometimes when i communicate in spanish i feel a little bit like tarzan trying to hold down a conversation. ischigualasto is considered to be a "paleontoligists' paradise". there are tons of dinosaur fossils that they have uncovered, and the park has a small museum where you can see some of the dinosaur skeletons. the rangers were so nice and let me camp behind the bathroom and use their internet for free. this would never have happened if i'd been in the US. anyhows.... today i'm going to check out mendoza, and then tomorrow keep heading south. hope everyone is good! love,