Getting Back into the Groove

Posted: August 14, 2019 in Uncategorized
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Home at the Bradner/Fanning Campground

We’re moved out of our house and, while waiting for our departure date of Sept. 2nd, are living in our daughter’s recreational trailer up behind her house.  Life could be worse!

While it would have been ideal if we could have scheduled things so we could leave for the airport the day our renters took over our house, this method allows us to ease back into the touring lifestyle while still being around to help Topher get his gear to France, and to help our daughter ease out of having us around to help with Zoe and such.

To keep in the touring mode we’re biking everywhere possible, to get groceries, take Zoe to school when she’ll let us, and really just being tourists in our own town and picnicking in the parks.

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Looking north from our pitch

 

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It’s About the Pens

Posted: August 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

It was the pens that I noticed first.

Cathy and I are cleaning out the house because we’re going to rent it again (yup, another bike trip and it could be a long one) and as I went through our drawers and all the nooks and crannies, I was amazed at the number of pens we’d accumulated.  I mean, we just went through this a few years ago – the purging of our belongings, and we got our possessions down to what would fit in one 10×10 room – no extra pens.  So, where did all these pens come from?  I don’t even write much on paper any more.  I found a pen in my underwear drawer, some mixed in with the chop sticks, some were actually mechanical pencils but I classified them as pens – some were Sharpies – same thing – probably fifty to a hundred by the time I’d piled them all up on the kitchen counter.  Funny thing is, I can remember having to look for one last time I was writing a grocery list.

Next it was clips – the metal kind that you use to bind a bunch of loose sheets of paper – only my general use was clipping bags of chips or nuts shut – and I could never find one when I needed one – but I learned they were like pens, quietly breeding in my underwear drawer and other obscure places.

Every time we pack up our house for an extended bike tour, or just to move (last time we sat down to count we’ve received mail at over 40 different address in 6 different countries and on four different continents) I’m simply amazed how much stuff we manage to collect, so as I’m filling bags and boxes with stuff to take to Goodwill and give to friends, I always find myself asking, “What about people who never move?  How many pens might they have lying around?  Do they reach a critical mass and then stop reproducing?”  I suspect the latter is the case.

At the time of writing this, we have 32 days before we board an airplane for France, we’ve paired our belongings down to even less than last time (5×10 room), we have the house rented with the promise to the renters that they can have it for at least two years.

Once in France we’ll be biking the La Loire a Velo with our old friend Topher, and Alan, our sidekick for 10 or so days.

Over the spring months I put together an E-Assist hand bike for Topher and made a hitch for it so he can pull his wheelchair behind it – see attached pics.  We plan to camp most of the way as campgrounds are abundant on this route and we want to see if we can do it on less than $75 a day.  Once we get Topher, hopefully alive and unbroken, back to Paris and on a plane to the USA, Cathy and I plan to run out our EU visa in Spain and Portugal before we head to Malaysia and the rest of SE Asia for the winter.  We’re bringing 2 pens each.

All the best,

CnC

The 20-year Anniversary Tour

Posted: September 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

In 1998 we sold our house and business and left for a tour about the world.  This year to celebrate we decided to revisit Galicia.

Here’s my version of the ride.  It really began the morning we put O and Nomada (tandem and trailer) together in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain, with a little help from our new friend and Warmshowers (https://www.warmshowers.org/) host Iria.

Iria

We rode from the park where O was assembled and Nomada was loaded to Iria’s small bulk food shop to drop off keys, on to breakfast, a bike shop for a new odometer and finally to our first campground 10 kilometers away.

Our adventure was off to a leisurely pace.  We had decided after a jet-lagged dinner the night before to head west/north to Ribadeo and onto Lugo (an amazing world heritage site) where we would plot some more.

On the road to Ribadeo we followed the coastal cliffs, rode/pushed over a mountain, saw wild ponies, slept in a surf camp, the bushes and with more Warmshower hosts.

We were wet and dry.  And we were reminded almost to severe dehydration that the Spanish keep strange hours.  Grocery stores close from 2-4:30, and lunch is from 1:30-3:30, dinner starts at 10 and nothing but bars, restaurants and gas stations are open on Sundays and holidays which can be local and random.  We also learned that in Galicia on good days the sun rose at 7 (if it was not hidden by a mountain or cloud) and set around 10.  In the villages we watched the bread get delivered and the food grow, they had no need for groceries closed or open and so we learned to always carry lunch, an emergency dinner, and emergency snacks.

If not for the public water fountains in every town, village and crossroad we’d have ended up sun-dried and shriveled on the side of the road we took from Sarria (Camino pilgrim central) to Parada de Sil.

The road to Parada was long, hot, steep and beautiful.  We rode this particular route for the mirador (view) that waited for us at the end of the 10-hour ride/push.  Curt reminded me that the last 5 kilometers of that day took an hour.

From the Parada de Sil to a hippy campground, Portugal, a bird sanctuary and back to the coast.  I didn’t want to miss an inch of sand, sea and surf.  We followed the river from Tui, to A Guarda and on to Baiona.

From Vigo to O Grove, Muros, Fisterra, Malpica and on.  We rode by, watched, walked on and through, castles, beaches, old stuff, food trucks, music acts, dolphins, Viking battles, sunsets, sculptures, really old stuff, the end of the world, goat paths and highways.

We traveled with an opinionated Garmin (electronic mapping device).  It always showed us the shortest route whether it took us through a gypsy camp full of junkyard dogs, a church cemetery with shocked nuns, a long narrow heavily trafficked bridge, up 18% grades or a divided four lane highway around a city.  We love and cursed the Garmin depending on the ride. During the five weeks we spent riding O and pulling Nomada we lived, laughed, cooked, sang, smiled, walked, sweated and loved almost every minute.

And then it was over.  We were back at the beginning, camping 10 kilometers outside of A Coruna.  We had a few days to reflect on our adventures, sight see and compare the Galician maps from 1998, 2015 and the one we used on this tour.   And then we re-boxed O, said our goodbyes and headed home.

Galicia – Part I

Posted: September 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

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I packed too many socks. You’d think I’d know better, I mean this isn’t exactly my first bike tour.

In fact, Cathy and I were in this region 20 years ago; of course we were younger then, and the hills weren’t so steep. Funny how things change.

We came back here because it’s a blank spot on the map. Every time we ride though this region we wonder why there aren’t any large cities along the northwest coast, why this area that was settled by the Moors  around the time Joseph and Mary were trying to find a room at the inn , and then 800 years later by the Romans, remains so unpopulated.

We flew into A Coruna, the largest city in Galicia. Our flight out of the state’s to Madrid left four and a half hours late so it was a mad dash to get our bags, get through customs, and to our next flight; but we did, and we high fived our tired 63 yr old selves as we boarded the plane with 5 minutes to spare and looked out the window to see our bike and gear getting loaded as well.

As is our custom we hadn’t made any firm plans for where we’d bicycle once we got here. We had 3 basic choices. South towards the Mecca of Santigo we Compostela, east along the coastal route towards the Basque country, or west along what’s called ‘La Costa de Muerte’.

We put O together in a park and drew a crowd, I suppose it was because it’s not every day that two old people drag in two suitcases and assemble a Tandem bike out of the tangled entrails. One old man brought us his bike and asked if we could fix it – which of course we did. Fortunately we have a friend in A Coruna who is letting us store our bike cases at her house – she also picked us up at the airport and has now been elevated to Saint status.IMG_1831

Bike together, bags packed in Nomada, our new (and third) Burley trailer, we pulled out the map and flipped a coin. To my relief it came up East. I really didn’t want to start the trip on ‘The Coast of Death’, much better to save the best for last.

The name for this general region is ‘Costa Verde’ – made this color thanks to generous days of rainfall, reason numero uno for the lack of population.  It also has the highest seaside cliffs in Europe and it was our good fortune that we both survived the climbs to get to them,and that it just happened to be one of the two sunny days this area gets per year,so we could actually experience the full 360 degree vista instead of stumbling through the fog and tumbling into the ocean as so many tourists have done before us.IMG_1886

It was on our way up this climb that I started thinking about the socks. This is why I like bike touring, it breaks life down into the most simple of terms. You’re struggling to go up, something’s holding you back, what is it?

In my case it was a general lack of fitness combined with gravity, 16% grades, and 80lbs of gear in tow, but i needed something else to blame it on so I started obsessing on the socks. I mean who needs 6 pairs of socks on a bike tour in the summer?

Four days of rain followed. This region of Galicia makes Seattle look like a desert. We turned inland at Ribadea and headed south. The sun came out and we rode some of the most beautiful routes i can remember.

The Romans had come though here, and god bless their wine loving,fun having,Christian souls, they terraced the hell out of the hillsides to grow grapes, to produce wine, to keep themselves happy, (actually, first they enslaved the heathan  Moors, then the slaves terraced the hills and grew the grapes and made the wine to keep the Romans happy), and they developed all of the hot springs into resorts for tourists, so now tourists come here,drink wine and boil they’re asses. The upshot for us cyclists are a network of beautifully winding mountain roads that go on forever and only connect beautiful vistas with more beautiful vistas, hot springs,and more good wine. Combine this with the current livelihood of Galicia and life doesn’t suck. IMG_1991

But we weren’t content with just being happy. No, as typical homo saphians we wanted more. If this is good,maybe just around the next corner is better? So we went to Portugal. Didntlastlongdriverswerecrazyalmostdiedwentbacktospain.

Found a nice campground, drank some good wine, ate some good food, met a woman from Boulder, and had dinner with a Portuguese man who makes a living impersonating Neil Young, all in a bird Sanctuary at the southwestern end of Spain. Life doesn’t suck.

This reign of Galicia doesn’t see as much rain and has about 1500 miles of incredible coastline. History goes from believable – like Christopher Columbus’ first ship to return to Europe and report that the earth was NOT in fact flat, did so in the area of Vigo; to the absurd, that Noah’s arc is buried somewhere on this coast. Regardless, this area is beautiful and relatively undiscovered.

Now we have the opportunity to ride those dream days, quiet coastal roads that hang on the side of cliffs for miles before dropping down into small fishing villages forgotten by time and then climb back up for no expliciple reason, before dropping down once again into a town of ten shacks and a tavern. IMG_1904

Cathy and I are both falling in love with this region, which is kind of funny when i think about the fact that we miss half of what goes on here.  As Cyclotourists we’re usually sleeping by 9:00 because we have to get up tomorrow,make breakfast,break camp,and ride another day. At 9pm, most people in Spain are just starting to cook dinner, or are getting ready to go out. While we sleep, they live out their evenings, often staying up past midnight. Somehow they all manage to get up the next day and get into work by 9, then quit at 2:30 or so, go eat a big meal, siesta for a bit, and then return to work until 7 or 8. If we ever come back to live here,which is a distinct possibility, it will be fun to see if we can adopt this rhythm of life.

I started writing this weeks ago and have been adding to it bit by bit, coupled with the fact that I’m composing it on a tablet with a swipe keyboard and word processor that frustrates me to no end, I apologize for the lack of style and continuity.

We have just today turned the corner, hiked to Finisterre (end of the earth) and will now head north to bike La Coast a de la Muerte for the bit so I’m thinking now would be a good time to send this off. I’ll save writing the exciting conclusion (did they survive the Coast of Death, what about all of those socks?) for our return to the U.S. where I will have a proper keyboard and word processor,IMG_2195

All the best,

CnC and O

 

The End of the World

Posted: September 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

Feeling smallSo I left off on our exciting adventure when Cathy and I were about to depart our nice campsite at Finisterre (End of the World) and round the corner to Costa de Muerte (The coast of Death), and still hanging in the balance were six pairs of socks.  My guess is that most of you reading this email have hardly been able to sleep in anticipation of what happened next!

To be honest, the Costa de Muerte was a bit anti-climactic.  I rather suspect this had something to do with us being on a bicycle rather than a boat and the fact that the coast in this region is so rugged there are few coastal roads – only spurs off inland roads that take you to lonely wind-blown points with remote beaches that you have to hike down to.  I think my most memorable take-away from this region will be the roads themselves.  Because of the lack of development in this region we often found ourselves cycling goat paths that just happened to be paved in places and would occasionally lead to a pueblo of ten or so houses, or a path through a church cemetery.  The main attribute of these goat paths was that they lacked any sort of consideration for anything that wasn’t a goat – like they just went straight up hills at 16% to 18%.  Cathy and I, bike and gear weigh roughly 385 lbs and we can peddle a 6% grade all day- but we could barely push up some of these.Goat Path

We wrapped the tour up by cycling through A Coruna (Spain’s seventeenth largest city – maybe we should have skirted it instead) to Los Manzanas campground where we spent 5 days recovering, visiting with a couple of old friends, and visiting some old Roman sites – like the Tower of Hercules, the world’s oldest lighthouse, built in 2 AD, which is really pretty remarkable when you think about it – not only that it’s still standing but just the thought that there were enough ocean going vessels knocking around that long ago that it was practical to build something like this.

So here’s the trip by numbers:

1485 – Touring kilometers (923 miles)

40 – Days in Spain

37- Days cycling (Not all of it was touring- sometimes we just rode to various sites)

31 – Nights in a tentIMG_2090

10 – Days with rain

5 – Days over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Farenheit)

8 – Most liters of water consumed while cycling in one day by Cathy and I

1 – Dolphin spotted

18.5% – steepest recorded grade

1 – Flat tire – caused by excessive braking going down a steep grade

86 – Most kilometers cycled in one day (53 miles) – Sarria to Parada de SilIMG_1989

1,741 – Most meters of climb in one day (5,712 feet) – Sarria to Parada de SilReward at the end of a long day

2 – pairs of socks repurposed –(one became a seat cover as my seat was disintegrating and one pair was used to clean the bike chain)IMG_2018

2 – pairs of socks that returned home unused

5 – pounds lost by Cathy

9 – pounds lost by Curt (I had more to lose!)

 

  • Most beautiful day – Valdovino up along the cliffs to Carino –
  • Most beautiful camping- Los Manzanas- Santa Cruz
  • Weirdest event – a Viking festival in Rianxo area – it was really all about dressing funny and getting really drunkIMG_2268

The Quest

Posted: June 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

When we began thinking about riding a third lap about the world, we entertained the idea of beginning the adventure by riding the Camino de Santiago with our friend Topher.  But as fate would have it that didn’t happen. However, we wanted to begin somewhere that sang to our souls.  If not the Camino, where would we find our song?   We tried on Asia, Madrid and Croatia and finally realized what we both really wanted to do was ride out of Paris.  Once we had the beginning we could start nurturing the grand ideas.

We left Denver, this time, on July 4th, 2015 with 75 pounds of gear and maps in the hopes of rediscovering the world.

We were in Orleans, France, only two days out of Paris, riding our faithful tandem, O, pulling our trusty friend Noma (a Burley trailer), collectively carrying our home and meager possessions.  I was wallowing in my re-found freedom, giddy with anticipation as we stood in front of the grand cathedral.  And then, Curt, the love of my life, confesses that he’s on a quest.

I spit out the 98-degree water I had just chugged from my water bottle and quietly cursed.  What happened to our fun filled adventure I mused.  I thought of all the quests I had read about.  Quests are a dangerous business that often include bodily or emotional injury.  I started thinking about the holy grail, the ark, killing dragons, rescuing princesses, hobbits, challenging gods and on and on.  I became a little obsessed upon hearing that we were now questing instead of just having a good, old age, crisis.

Bop seaching

But then Curt explained, he was questing for his lost sense of humor, which made me laugh as I adjusted my expression from seriously dour to wonderment.   That night after getting lost two or three times we found a petit campground on the Loire a Velo.

The Loire a Velo is a famous bicycle route designed for questing.  Every day we rode past castles, cathedrals and through medieval villages with cyclists of every age, shape and nationality.

 

Every night we’d stop in a campground filled with bikes and their riders.  We all had the same basic routine, we’d set up our tents, wash our clothes, cook our meal and drink some wine while we told tales of our day’s adventures.

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We exaggerated the trails we were on, signs missed, tires punctured, castles passed and people we encountered.  It was an enchanting pilgrim route as we followed signs that led us to cobblestoned paths, double track, single track, through vineyards, villages, cities and a cave system.  Curt was starting to comprehend that the only way to survive the ride was with a sense of adventure and a smile for everyone on a bike.  He was becoming a lighter shade of serious.

And then one evening after we had checked into the campground and found a romantic pitch all to ourselves fate paid Curt a visit.  We were sitting in our Thermarest chairs, making spaghetti, sipping wine from our miniature steel espresso mugs and laughing about the end of the quest.   Curt was boiling the noodles while I chopped up cheese and stirred the sauce.  He stood up while also lifting the pot.  I watched in horror as the boiling water cascaded down the front of his leg.  Curt kept walking as I squealed “What the f%$! Are you okay?”

He looked at me and then followed my eyes to his leg.  He finished what he was doing and came back to sit next to me as he checked out the damage.  We had no ice or cold water as we were camping in a rustic campground.  “I think it ran off of my leg fast enough that it probably won’t blister” he said.  “I have Vicodin just in case” he continued.  We ate in nervous silence, finishing the wine while staring at his leg, willing it to be okay.  Before bed he succumbed to reality and swallowed a pill.

In the morning, he had round blister, about the size of an egg yolk that was surrounded by ugly reddish, purple skin from his knee to his ankle.  Curt said he could ride, luckily, we ride in Choco sandals as I don’t think he could have gotten socks on his ankle.   That evening he decided the thing to do was to pop the small round blister in the center of his leg and let it dry out.  He reasoned that when he popped his blister in India, despite the cow dung infested puddles we rode through, he healed and when I left mine to heal itself I had to get treatment.  It was stomach churning to watch him grit his entire being as he opened his wound.

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The next morning the ugly reddish-purple skin had blistered around the small open oozy section and his ankle also had a large blister.  We rode.  Curt’s sense of humor was no longer just hiding, it had hitchhiked out of the region and mine was not far behind.  After four days of trying to get him to seek treatment while watching him try to ignore and sleep through the pain and walk carefully to keep the puss inside the blister from wiggling, I had enough.   We were riding through Royan when I saw a large pharmacy.  I stopped pedaling.  An injured Curt didn’t have any hope of pedaling the tandem with my dead weight and our 75 pounds of gear.  He stopped the bike and I pointed to the pharmacy.  “Cath, let’s go find the campground and come back, I promise I’ll come back.”

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“You are welcome to ride to the campground and set up camp but I’m staying right here until you come back” I told him.

With a big sigh, he got off of O and limped across the six lanes of traffic and into the pharmacy.  About fifteen minutes later I watched him limp out of the pharmacy, he was a very pale shade of frightened and empty handed.    Curt had found an English-speaking pharmacist to show his burn to.  I probably could have heard the poor man gasp from across the busy intersection had I been listening.  Once the pharmacist recovered his ability to speak, he told Curt he wouldn’t sell him anything, not even a bandage or an aspirin, and that Curt needed to go see a doctor, immediately.  The nice pharmacist gave Curt the name of a clinic not far away, drew him a map and sent him on his way.  Curt again told me that we should set up camp and then go find the clinic so we didn’t have to haul all of our belongings all over town.  We started riding toward the campground.  As we rode I asked him if he could plug the clinic address into his phone.  Silence happened but the bike didn’t stop.

We were slowly riding up a small hill when I spotted a medical clinic with a large URGENT sign.

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“Is that the clinic?”  I asked as I started to steer O from the backseat by leaning toward the clinic with all of my weight.  Curt swore as we tacked into the clinic parking lot.  Curt and his burn shuffled into the clinic while O and I waited in the outdoor area.  O watched me pace for almost an hour before one of the nurses came out and pantomimed that they had washed and scrubbed Curt’s leg.  She then typed something into her phone and showed me the google translation that said they did not have to remove his leg or lock him in the hospital.  That good news did not do a lot to relieve my anxiety.

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Curt came out an hour later with his leg bandaged from knee to foot.  We paid the nice people and set up an appointment to have his bandage removed in three days.  He had managed to convince the doctor using Frenglish and google translate that he would be good and take care of his leg.  He had promised not to ride or surf and to take it easy.  He also promised to change his bandage and clean his wound daily.  He did not mention that we were camping.  Curt left with a prescription for antibiotics and a small smile.  He told me as we rode out of the parking lot that the doctor said that if we attempted to leave town on our bike he’d have Curt arrested and put in the hospital.  His burn was a day from going septic.  With his leg wrapped and antibiotics coursing through his body he captained us to a nice sandy campground and helped me unpack and set up the tent.   As he opened the wine he smiled, his smile became a grin and he chuckled for the first time in four days.

 

Three days later we returned to the clinic with O and all of our gear packed into Noma.  Curt went in to confront the doctor and explain that he was healed and ready to ride.  The doctor said he was looking better but if there was any sign of the infection spreading to get his ass to a clinic.  The doctor came out to see the tandem and all of our gear and wish his patient a “Bonne journey”.  I thanked him profusely for saving my husband.

As we rode out of the parking lot I said “look, is that your sense of humor under that bush, oh no there it is hiding behind that tree”.  I poked my wonderful, living, stubborn husband as the quest continued.

where are we

 

 

 

Our 13-year-old daughter charged out of the corn field she had just entered stammering about music and spirits and finding another field.  Willow had entered the field to relieve her bladder.  As we rode away from the possessed field she told us that every time she lowered her bike shorts and started to squat music began playing.  She said she made a couple of attempts before bolting.    We went about a mile before we found a sunflower field.  We all entered the field, proclaiming the family that pee’d together stayed together.

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That was just the beginning of years of trying to find a safe or hygienic place for our daughters and myself to not only relieve ourselves but to change tampons and get clean.   My husband Curt would just put the bike between himself and the road or find a small twig to hide himself so he could get relief.  With us it is a little more complicated.

There was the time in Paris when Willow was patiently waiting outside of one of the 25-franc plastic street bathrooms as it was in use.  After about five or so minutes the door opened and a scantily dressed young women came out followed by an older man adjusting his tie.   Again, Willow went “yuck, I’m not going in there”, despite the fact that the minute the doors shut it was being drenched in disinfectant.

But it wasn’t just Willow.   Bathrooms and or available outdoor cover so I could pee turned out to be one of my nemesis.  I have had to hold my breath longer than I thought was possible as well as shut my eyes to keep from vomiting from some of the restrooms I was directed to.   There were so many times that I wish we could carry a portable and extremely light weight bush, maybe something out of carbon fiber.  I figured what was the weight of a small bush considering we had to carry a months’ worth of tampons, pads and yeast and urinary tract infections meds.   Menopause was a relief, not only did we lighten our load but the night sweats kept the tent warm.

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I digress.  I was ranting about bathrooms and fields.  When we ride the European countryside farms, fields and forests are plentiful and welcoming places.  European cities are not so bathroom friendly.  Even the gas station attendants guard the W. C’s as if they are vaults full of gold.  Restaurants, campgrounds and even grocery stores have coded locks on their facilities.  At least they are bathroom unfriendly to both genders.  Curt found that men are asked what they intend to do as it cost less to just use the urinal.  We have learned to pee before entering a large town or city and pray we don’t get lost or distracted before we exit and are able to find an available bush.

And then there was India, what is known to many as the shit capital of the world.  Trying to find a clean public women’s bathroom in Delhi was “mission not happening”.  I saw men urinating everywhere and the poor, women, children and men walking into every available field and as discretely as possible relieving them selves in plain view.   As we rode, trying to find an unoccupied bush, rock or twig was nearly impossible.  When I would become desperate I would get off of the tandem and Curt would slowly walk forward while I would duck into what would appear to be a deserted field.  One time I found a little bit of cover only to look up and see a fist size spider staring down at me.  I had my bike shorts around my ankles and a sarong wrapped around my privates as I tried to crab walk and pee my way to safety.  When I got back out onto the road I saw that Curt had collected ten new Indian friends.   Even when we were riding in the Himalayas between mudslides it was difficult to find a place to pee without people.   Then I got a urinary tract infection.  The medicine I had been carrying for 8 months had either expired from the heat or just wasn’t strong enough to kick Indian bacteria so we visited a pharmacy.  I thought I explained to the male pharmacist what I had and what I needed.  He gave me some meds, which I took immediately as I was in pain.  Within two hours I no longer had trouble with my urinary tract, I was dizzy, I had heart palpitations, I was freezing and sweating and my vision was blurry.  Curt went to the hotel desk and asked them to call a doctor.  A middle age man showed up with a little leather case.  He looked at the meds I had taken.  He then examined me through the blankets that I was shivering under.

He asked Curt “Does she have pain in her stomach?”   “Yes” I replied.   The doctor looked at Curt as if he hadn’t heard me.  Curt then asked me “Do you have pain in your stomach?”   and so it went for ten minutes the doctor asking Curt and Curt asking me.  Finally the doctor explained that the medication I had taken was meant to kill all of the bacteria in my body, the good, the bad and even the indifferent and that I was suffering from it’s side effects, all of them.  I would live.  And then he gave Curt a lecture about going to a pharmacist instead of a doctor, and do we behave that way in our country and and and.  He made us promise we’d go to his clinic in the morning and charged us $15 for the hotel call.

In the morning I was feeling much better, but still decided it was best to go to the clinic so I’d know what meds to buy in case I got another one.  We followed a dog and her brood into the clinic.  She laid down in the waiting room to nurse her seven pups.  We explained to the nurse why we had come.  The doctor yelled out that he needed a urine sample.  She grabbed a dirty plastic cup off of a shelf and handed it to me and then pointed out into the alley.  I must have gone pale as she smiled and then walked me out to a cement enclosure with an open door and three-foot-high walls.  There was a hole in the middle of the floor and a small bucket of dirty water next to it.   I urinated into the cup as carefully as I could and used the dirty water to rinse my hands.   When I stood up I saw that the entire nursing staff was staring in my direction.  While I pee’d Curt watched the nurses wash needles in the sink as the puppies nursed.  The doctor claimed my urinary tract infection mild and prescribed me some medication.  He charged me $2, we gave him a $5 and thanked him for his help.

From India we flew to Thailand, the land of friendly gas station toilets.  There was never a time in Thailand that I couldn’t find a toilet and a pharmacy with knowledgeable pharmacists.

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And as I had been trained, the lack of tissue never bothered me as I always carry my own.  The only downside was the non-availability of tampons.  Thankfully for the new generation of cyclists, that has changed with the advent of 7-11’s and most of the gas station mini marts.

And then there was Vietnam and China.  In 2000 we biked from Hanoi to Beijing with Bree, our 21-year-old daughter and a pound of tampons.  Bree had flown in from Scotland she was translucent pale and freckled, with red hair that cascaded down her back.   We had a tandem pulling a Burley trailer and a loaded single bike.  Whether we were walking, riding, eating or checking into a hotel we drew a crowd.  School children wanted her autograph and young men would ride their rickety one speeds beside her trying to get her attention.  And when she had to use the restroom every woman in the restaurant would follow her into the bathroom.  She had to learn how to urinate in the open troughs while being observed by strangers.  During our periods, we’d try to time stops in fields or small eateries that had no other customers.  Bree and I learned that it was best to go together so only half the crowd was staring at our American butts.   We pee’d in a pig sty, in a bamboo outhouse that was hanging over a rice paddy and across the street from the restaurant under a small tree.

boy and grass outhouse

However, the most memorable pee was the one on the un-repaired section of the Great Wall of China.  Mother daughter bonding at its best.

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I’ve now free-range pee’d in 29 countries.   I’ve had to think about landmines in Cambodia, getting attacked by monitor lizards in Malaysia, snakes in Myanmar, baboons in Kenya, monkeys in India, mean dogs in Peru and being seen and reported in the US where it is illegal to urinate in public.