Friday, September 4, 2009

my love, this life. and thank you - the end of a two month bike tour through eastern europe.

"i quit! i quit this stupid cross continental bicycle tour!" i exclaim loudly while unclipping the straps, shoving away my beloved brodie, and wailing my helmet clear across the feild of our final accomodation spot (*next to the airport/ big planes every 15 minutes*) to the rejoicing cheers and jumping up and downs of The Agents, who, ever since they all made it to camp and realized they were missing 1 last soldier, and had started to map out rescue details, had been somewhat spooked by the thought of loosing one on the last day.

Lucky for us, though, good old sweep pulled through. Jake and Keely, who had volunteered themselves for the duty of "sweep" on the first ride day out of Amsterdam, had come full circle to do so on the last day as well, and, just as I was waking up from a little roadside nappy nap to take a break from the constant woosh.woosh.woosh. of those big trucks I was telling you about, I turned my head left and noticed two bright green t-shirts with tangerine orange writing blasted across the chest, complete with the full deal of bright red arkel panniers, and knew it was Agents - to the rescue. "JAKE! AHHH!! hahahaha..." my voice breaks into hysterical laughter, and jake and keely are only mildly surprised to find me, of all people, chillin on the highway taking a snooze alone.

:)

And with that, well, and about another 3 hours of navigating around the city using my red pencil crayon directions in order to find our final sweet spot, the ride is finished.

one final go at setting up our tents. one last time to cook for one another... although, actually, i think we went out for dinner that night to a restaurant with our hosts, and yeah, i definately ate chicken kebabs, but whatevs. one last moment of time together. three days to scamp around istanbul and take some real time to reflect as a team and debrief our tour. make it better for next year's crew, retell stories from the trip, have a makeshift awards ceremony (best couple? cobra and mongoose!! best bum to ride behind? keely and charles!) build on personal goals and cement friendships, encourage one another's future aspirations before we all jetison out of here in 20 different directions: home to university, berlin, oxford, and toronto for masters programs, africa to volunteer with ewb, the middle east to travel, california to build space ships...

i can't wrap up for you in real time words about our last few days together. just some shwarma eating, and general merriment as we slowly moved on. the next few days in istanbul saw the remaining agents meet a few times to smoke sheeshah and hang out with each other in our "normal clothes"... interesting getting to know one another in this new context.

couchsurfing.com hosted sabrina, george, david, and myself with a fabulous man named emre, and my bicycle remains stowed in his bedroom currently as i travel this most wonderful middle eastern world. not sure if this particular blog will hear stories about those travels as well... but thank you so much for reading my writing here over these last few months.

and thank you for making this happen.
the most encouraging thing to carry with me on this bicycle tour has been the encouragement and support of my friends, family, local papers, university professors and colleagues, bike shops and knowledgeable bike friends, sfu cats, elementary school principles from the past, and the many people who donated their hard earned cash towards helping me raise nearly $5000 for the global agents for change opportunity fund. thank-you. this is a charity that i believe has a lot of potential in terms of helping young people become young leaders, and i have found great bliss in being connected with a group of young people who are interested in humanitarian involvement, to varying degrees.

this experience has shaped my life, no doubt. and i wouldn't have made it without the support of my many communities.

and now, so long. fare well. and take care.

damascus sends it's love, dear reader. (and ps, if anyone wants to call my bank it would be nice if they got over their ill relations with syria so i could take out some money! its nice here!)

galatasaray milne

***

oh, and as a closing note, a poem written by my roomate barbara, and posted here without my asking her permission first. thanks barb! the world needs your poetry now.

While you were cycling your leggies...
Another Vancouver summer came and went
Your laughter wasn't in it,
But it was delighting others I'm sure
Many glorious suns melted into the water of the west
Under long, layered violet, orange and pink
And since the dawn of this particular season
Each day has been shorter than the next
And each day we are older than the last
And each day I'm glad to have another
So I'm just gonna live it...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

i'm just a girl alone on a bike on istanbul's fastest highway: day 56

conversation of "our last ride" began to set in near the middle of bulgaria. our final day? coming so soon? had everyone on the team had the chance to spend an entire day's ride together? was there that one person who you never really seemed to connect with that you might want to spend a day riding with one on one? push yourself to ride 35k and hour with the man-pod one day? maybe spend the next day taking it easy with the my-knees-are-shot-and-i-dont-mind-walking-my-bike-up-that-enourmous-hill pod?
yeah. maybe.
but what about the last day? what about day 56 of non-stop bicycle? i've ridden with everyone singularly... but i've never ridden with everyone altogether... 20 people riding as one. can you imagine? a school of lime green and tangerine tee shirted fishies flowing downhill through the sea of semis trucks cars and other motors which is the highway into istanbul on the border of europe and asia and the marmara and the bosphorous sea and the golden horn and the blue mosque ayasofia aie aie aie aieeee arrrribbaaaaaa!

well, no. that would just be silly! surely we would be met with death before 20 little bikes could navigate together through a highway. that is absolutely ridiculous! a)in order for a truck to pass us with space to bear, it would have to swerve into the neighboring lane for wayyy too many metres,
b) i've already mentioned that this team rides at different speeds... and c) how would we ever keep track of one another?

how indeed, team?

despite yashar's insistence, we opted to stay in smaller pods for better navigation on the last day. hoever nice it might be to ride all together for the grandure of it all. that morning, yash woke a few of us up around 4:45am for our last chance to watch a turkish sunrise together. we sat in crickety plastic chairs near the fence of the campground. the asphalt on the road outside looked akin to fresh powder on a ski hill, just waiting for the first run.

the sun was golder than gold and brighter than bright. we are riding our bikes to the edge of the continent today.

the morning would reveal a "rolling start"... that is code for the fact that we didn't get our act together and theres no breakfast today, so lets cycle to the nearest grocery store and regroup to pack lunches. my motive for the day, being one of the most vocally opposed to highway traffic people on the team, was to get on the road asap.
after a quick Petro Offisal java a la see-thru lightweight plastic cup, i left camp with dear sabrina, eileen, shawn, david, george, yashar, nigel, chris, and sweet gene. our ride was only 40k and 20k in we crossed paths with our first sight of saltwater since the netherlands. we'd reached the marmara sea unexpectedly, and you should have seen the pace with which we threw down our fully loaded bicycles and ripped off our jerseys for a chance to jump in the sea! a round of cay tea at the closest cafe, and it seemed as though, being halfway through the day already, that the ride into istanbul wasn't going to be all as hectic as i'd imagined. sunrise? rolling start? cay tea and a dip in the ocean blue? holla!

but gala... how nieve you must be. the next twenty kilometers to the airport consisted of a terrain of mostly steep uphill and downhill highway stretches that are so not-like the pat bay highway towards sidney that its hard for me to describe. and besides, i wasn't really looking and it was more like the highway looked like this: woosh. woosh. woosh. woosh. woosh. focus, gala, focus.

which, surprisingly enough, is a lot easier to do when you are by yourself. any maybe thats just out of neccessity, because there is no one in front or behind you to take the blow of the traffic and you really need all the strength you can muster to stay in a straight line... (slightly exaggerated?) but wait, you're thinking... how would you know what its like to cycle alone on a highway into istanbul? well, my friends... because with all good intentions, they sometimes go astray and these sorts of things happen. because despite plans laid, your pod runs into another pod at a gas station on the road and then you randomly all start riding together down the highway and your worst nightmare becomes an insane reality as you realize there are 17 of you all riding together into the 'stan!

now, like i mentioned, we all ride at different speeds, and the terrain was very insane... so after watching us all zip down an enourmous downhill section and begin to climb up the hill waiting at the bottom, with no real place to stop and regroup anywhere around, and just as i started climbing up the other side too, i noticed that a chunk of the team was still quite a ways back, but the adrenaline and momentum was built up inside me and i just had to keep pushing and meet them at the top. pedal pedal pedal. "hey shani, keep it coming! see you at the top!" i manage to squeeze out of my voicebox as my legs spin around and round.
keep going, girl... keep going.
i notice momentarily as i look up the hill that i can't see any of the kids who (are a little bit stronger and) are probably already at the top waiting for me at the gas station. keep going keep going. i look behind: the slower folks haven't caught up to me in any capacity... and i begin to think to myself... i could be alone. i could totally be alone on this highway right now!

and sure enough, i was!

ha! i must leave the net cafe now because im actually in BEIRUT, LEBANNON!?!?!? and its really cool in here, but i bet its cooler outside. but actually, probably hotter... because theres a/c in here. hmm yeah.

ill tell you more about this most epic of last rides in person one day. but you already know that i survived (i rode 10k of that highway alone, ps) and the trip is over and theres all these emotions! ack! and i have muscles! ack!
but i don't want to spoil the next post continuation thing...


smiles.
gala

Friday, August 21, 2009

12

turkish coffee - been waiting for you.
your black foamy crema is zingıng right thru
my fingertips as i take more sips
and relish a seat ın the shade.

flags reign high over the land,
at the gas station and the fruit stand.
its hard to hide the pride inside
please - take a cold watermelon.

you honk at us twice
you wave cuz you're nice
you invıte us inside
and you tell us our rides...
should have engines.

past the mountains i'd feared
we can now cheer
we're here!
in turkey - it's clear...
that we're strong ones.

istanbul awaits
150k away
and i don't want this trip to be
over.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

la de da dee da... greece?

a split second decision this morning has decided that most of the agents are adding an additional twelfth country to the ride to break the cycle europe tour. and the winner is... greece! apparently mezek, our final sleep spot in bulgaria (just outside svelingrad) is about 15k from the greek border, so the decision was made to make it a tri border cross day. spending the rest of our leva at a cafe here in wonderful mezek with the amazing bulgarian terrain and generous people, we are hesitant to leave this country which has been so good to us. my next correspondance will be from turkey. and then who knows what...

last night we all made promises for the last week of our tour. to give a high five to everyone at the end of the ride, to speak our mind, and mine is to write a poem and draw a picture of everyone before the end of the tour.

hello greek salad.
goodbye bulgars.

xo

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

over hard in plovdiv, sunny side up in kardjali

i always assumed, but never knew for sure, that there was a wall in bike touring. it creeps up slowly, and usually comes after about 7 weeks of strong cycling through unchartered terrain on tight schedules. phillipe, our driver, would have been the first to notice the trend with first a keely, then a nigel, then an eileen, erin, and a shani in the car.
i'd vouched after about a week of riding that i would ride the entire route to istanbul. no matter what. just to prove it to myself, you know? 'you can do it, gala! wooo!'
but once that wall hits you in the middle of the night, and you wake up in the overly-hot gymnasium of the french immersion school in plovdiv, and your stomach is wrenching around, and you make a mad dash to the w.c., you know that today is going to be your day to take a day off and ride in the car.
'is it ok? should i take a day off? really?' i look for reassurance among the team. jake responds, 'didn't you just throw up ten minutes ago while you were talking with phil on the stairs? i think everyone will be okay with you riding in the car, gala.'
considering the fact that the world caved in on me as i dizzily searched for juice in the popmusic playing mega marina supermarket, and i had to make a mad dash to the exit and throw up on the sidewalk, i don't feel that guilty for taking the day off at all.
(writers note: since when did i become so comfortable talking about my stomach activity with the internet? i guess its all part of the touring thing...)
k-os, bob marley, & regina spektor led the way as phil and i rolled in four wheels over the foothills of bulgaria, feeling only slightly sorry for the team.
we have a day off in kardjali today, and i haven't left the little house we are staying in for even a minute. lounging around in my short shorts with keely and sabrina, reading, internetting, dozing off like kittens, as the others hang out in town visiting local media and wandering new streets.
apparently we only have 5 days left. WHAT?! and then 3 days to debrief. it has me thinking about my next four months, and how i'll adjust to not having these 20 amazing kids around me every second of the day.
sayonara for now

g

Saturday, August 15, 2009

paint it gold, son. 492kms to go. current location: kostenets, bulgaria.

lightning storms have followed us to almost every big city we've been so far. waking up in a puddle in prague, racing through the rain in vienna, having a slightly more weather friendly budapest, and then continuing with the trend while drinking hot cocoa on the steps of a school gym on the outskirts of sofia last night while watching neon stripes crackle through the sky every 4 minutes into the night. definately an unexpected trend to note on a trip through eastern europe, where i fully expected my -3 degree sleeping bag to be much to warm to get any effective use of. jokes on me! the rain is really making an effort out here, making for much more memorable rides, like this morning's ride out of Sofia around the epic ring road and onto the A1 towards Plovdiv.

"hole!" "bump!" "tire chunk!" "gravel!" my hands come off the handlebars for a moment as i point out the obstacles on either side of our 1 metre wide stretch of highway, between giant truck tires and hot black exhaust fumes on the left, and funky ashphalt lips that have formed on the right from pressure over time. its a fast start to the morning, jumping right into the thick of things with no real buffer to warm up with. the trick is to find yourself in that fine line between being extremely alert and aware of your surroundings, and being calm enough to shut out any external hubbub distracting your focus. and then, if you find yourself up front of your 5 person pod, its finding that perfect pace that won't frustrate the fast guy, and won't wear out the (*ahem*) less fast guys (and girl). but then it really doesn't matter because suddenly on the right is a big shiny oasis of a gas station and its all red and shiny and beautiful and theres goodies inside, and you might even spend 6 Leva on some carrot juice and a cappucino because, honestly now, you deserve it, and then you pull into the gas station and your pod is all like, what's goin on, girl? and you just tell it straight: i need a break, boys.

bulgaria has definately been the most interesting terrain we've seen so far. and we've been waiting for this, too. the mountain ranges that had me second guessing whether or not i should go on the tour have found us, and they aren't all that hectic. you just do it. and riding in and out of this country's capital was almost a slice of cake, too. my apprehension has now been averted towards the ride into Istanbul, but recent conversations have suggested that we all ride as 20 bicycles in car formation taking an entire lane for that dramatic impact. (i say we do it slathered in gold paint, as well. why not?)

in other news. we stayed in a place called svoge the other night. and unexpectedly, because our host was a crazy un-normal gypsy mountain person that erin found on couchsurfing, we ended the ride day with a 6km cycle straight up the bulgarian mountainside and into the woods. but less easily than that sounds, because upon arrival at the top, we found that the "town centre" was actually an empty town hall style building, a house that sold 1.5L bottles of beer, and a watering trough. and our host, ian the tall scottish man, who said he would meet us there at 4pm, didn't show up for 2 hours with an explanation that "sometimes people say they're going to do something or be somewhere, and then they aren't... did you try the water? it's lovely."

our campsite was still another 30 or 40 minute walk down some dirt trails, so two of us stayed in centre in order to wait for the following pods to make it up the hill, while 6 others followed ian down the dirt trails towards camp. long story short... about 12 of us ended up wandering through the hills completely perdu with our bikes and the impending darkness, and the real chance of having to pitch our tents in the middle of the forest with only blackberries for sustenance. (highlight of trip? maybe...) our cries for help were answered with echoes of help as we stood helplessly on the mountaintop overlooking the valley. but, no hard feelings for those who didn't turn right around to come back and show us the way, because it turns out our hippy friends, who are in the midst of manifesting love throughout the world from their hilltop viewpoint, had sent our friends to work hauling wood and arranging water devices upon their arrival at the camp. so much for ian's offer to get maggie to help us cart our baggage to camp. (maggie is a very thin and weak looking donkey that lives with our teepee dwelling ian)

ok, maybe you get the idea. or maybe you don't because that run on sentence of a paragraph was probably confusing unless you were there. but the best part is, there was also a meteor shower that night, and we slept really close to the stars.

and now, i'll leave you again, because i still have sunlight to play in and a little town to explore. although, this popmusicplayingnetcafe is probably the most bumpin spot in town.

i bike u

gala

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"these rocks look as if they were touched by god" the beginning of bulgaria

we are on top of the world. belgradochik, bulgaria, to be precise. yesterdays ride consisted of one 2 never ending, granny gear, bugs-swarming-your-face uphill crawls sandwiched between one unforgettable endorphin erupting downhill, and brought us to this amazing town nestled in the mountains, real mountains, of bulgaria.
crossing the border from as we rode from gogosu to calafat, romania and then into vidin, bulgaria was done in style with a police escort through the city and a special forces police night watch team surrounded our danube river parkside campsite with white caution tape as we slept. do we look that vulnerable, really? because im pretty sure my thighs are like two giant tree trunks at this point... ya.
this trip is fabulous, and i can't say it enough. even when im down, its good. even when youve eaten chocolate jam sandwiches for lunch every day, its good. when it rains, when you havent showered in 6 days, when your accomodation ends up being in the front yard of the local pub, its all good.
i dont know when it happened, but suddenly whipping out 100k per day is no news at all, and even when we still have 30kms to go, and its 5pm, and the sun is going down, and you're hungry and the food still needs to be cooked, we know that we have the ability to stop for a 1 hour stop with a local should they perhaps invite us to their backyard garden for a cup of coffee as we stand outside her house looking lost. did that run on sentance make sense?
explanation. while riding a most epic day through romanian countryside the other day, myself, mark, sabrina and shawn found ourselves at the gate of a house on the side of the road after making a left turn and not knowing exactly whether or not it was the right turn to make. shawn doubles back to ask someone for directions, just as the most lovely young woman steps up to the gate and asks if she can help us.
"you speak english!" we exclaim with mild shock, as her pronounciation is perfect. "yes" she smiles humbly. "can i help you? would you like an apple from the tree?"
we can't help but say yes to the apple. regardless of the fact that its been a long day and we still have k's to go. an apple turns into coffee in the backyard, as elena has just been sitting there reading a book being somewhat bored back at home for the summer from university. she finds 5 chairs and fills a bowl with cookies and another with chips. her mother lays out four tiny tea cups each of them floral and blue and with their own matching saucer. "these are the size of the cups we have, i hope its ok."
it's ok. more than ok.
Elena talks to us about her experience growing up in Romania. about her education and her country. she is extremely intelligent and realistic, and beautiful. she needs to come on next year's bike tour. can you imagine how the dynamic of the trip would change completely?
"what is your favourite part of Romania?"
"my home, right here."
she loves her dogs, and her family. her yard has a small grape vine which they use to make wine from, an apple tree, a lovely little home, and a barn with plywood falling every which way. her family doesn't live there in the winter. no one does, not even the dogs, who move in with the neighbors.
we don't want to leave. but we must, because, similarly to the night previous, we have no pre-arranged accomodation, and someone has to figure out where we are staying. so far, this hasn't caused any real problem.
an abandoned half built house on top of a mountain that crosses the narrowest point of the danube in borova. this accomodation came with about 10 stray puppy friends :)
and to our delite, as i have mentioned, we rode into gogosu and ended up camping on the lawn of the local pub. (p.s. gogosu's population is about 100, so we were definately at the town hot spot for our 3rd to last saturday night of the trip)

its hard to imagine this trip being over soon. its just getting going. we are finding a groove in the team and things are getting interesting terrain wise. sabrina and i were talking the other day about how neat it would be to have a 6 month twenty person bike tour. roving community. insane dynamics. im growing attached to all these people, and i think september is going to come as a bit of a shock. (not to mention i'll be in mo-frickin TurKeY!!!)

i could go on. i should go on, because i havent been writing down many of the thoughts ive had on the tour, and i havent really documented anything at all. especially now that my 8gb camera card is full and im actually too lazy to upload them. oops.

its crazy to see us getting so strong.
its crazy how much you can experience in one day.
i think everyone should do a long distance tour once in their life.
we met a french man on the road the other day who is cycling from les rochelles, france, to india. solo. over 2 years... he expects to be in egypt for the winter.
thats at least 2 people so far who are on long distance trips in order to "take a break from life". people who have never toured before and are just doing it.

and then theres kids like the two 20 year old boys from england who are taking 3 weeks this summer to ride the entire danube to the black sea. reaching sometimes 200kms per day. just for fun.
people are nuts.

i must go. because, i can't stand this internet business sometimes. there are pastries and yogurt to be eaten. there is rain to be dodged, there are streets to walk.

look up belgradochik on a google map. it was in the nomination to be one of the next wonders of the world. and we are sleeping in the park in question.

xx and o

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

swimming under the slovak sun: velky biel and more...

a treat: a transcribed page from my journal. word for word. minus the delicious penmanship.


swimming under the slovak sun: velky biel

nothing has happened int he last few days which hasn't been magical in at least some small capacity. our last days in Austria were spent under the most gracious roof of Mr. Wolfgang, under the supervision of one extremely enthusiastic, Daniel, of the Vienna Green Party. Austria, like many of the approaching countries which I have never really taken the time out of my day to think about (properly), has exceeded any expectations I didn't have. The friendliness, enthusiasm and generosity of strangers and new friends, the rich coating of a country whose history is so varied, and which has propelled itself to a city of romance and wild character, and the general air of delite which austria captures so well in its gorgeous landscape.

more to come on adventures in Austria at a later date. (**see below you lucky ducks!)

Goodbyes to Austria were handled with great class as sabrina, joanna, and i soaked up the white grape culture under a roof of vines and leaves in a 19th century farmhouse halfway through our ride to the border. Slovakia and its sunflowers awaited us, but our e.t.a. was not for another 3 hours , and i had a slight mission in mind.

Chris and Johanne, of sonneleiten farm in dear old metchosin, which i talk about way too often for anyones liking, had told me about the magical time of year when Austrian farmers open the barn doors to the public and signify their welcome by placing a broom on the door. The idea is you come in, enjoy their place, and drink great wine at cheap prices so they can liquidate for the new harvest season.

Realizing there were only mere hours to be spent in A-land, we set out to find such a miraculous place the Perger in Heinburg did the trick just fine. Three content girls with bratwurst, parmesan and olives... the owner gave us a bottle for the road, thinking we might need to chill once in a while along a 4000km ride. danka!

Our first sight of Bratislava came on the crest of a sea of sunflowers and forgive me if it sounds romanticized because over the last few days its been difficult to not see the beauty in everything around. Especially after experiencing the hospitality of our hosts in Velky Biel. (2okms outside of bratislava).

Velky Biel is 25kms outside of Bratislava, where we met at the National Theatre and were escorted the extra 25k by a man on a bike whose name I never learned.

We don't often get the chance to ride en masse, twenty as one, except for the times when an enthusiastic character decides we need to be excorted in or out of town. Bt we love it. The video function of all our cameras is turned on as we marvel at the ridiculous lime and tangerine coloured parage which is us. Arms flailing, impromptu songs being sun, slower riders being able to ride with faster riders as the pressure is taken off and we are all in the "resonably moderately paced" pod. The extra 25k away from beautiful bratislava is worth it though, as we arrive at the gates to our hosts house to a banner that reads "Welcome Global Agents for Change" and in small print it tells you that we are cycling from Amsterdam to Bratislava to Istanbul - which is almost exactly on par with how I envisioned the trip going down in my mind.


... unfortunately this is where my pen died, so now i have to think back to our day in slovakia, and will give you a brief description because i am actually in budapest currently, and its a crime to be inside on a computer. isn't it???

...

basically these hosts let us stay inside because of an approaching shower, cooked us 2 dinners, and a two desserts, took us swimming at the local lake, cooked us breakfast, encouraged us to dance all night long, sang us slovakian guitar acoustic songs in their outdoor barn shed thing with an open fire that sizzled sausages at 1am and later. it was fabulous.

...

and as i mentioned, we are in hungary. and i must go. to see my brother and maybe get something pierced within the next hour!

tchuss lovers and friends.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

hold me tight, vienna

for if you don't, i shall not stay long...

Even as I recollect romantic vienna and the musical hills of austria altogether, my memory is slightly fuzzy as I am already two countries away, having weaved my way along the danube, spending a brief yet filling 24 hours under the slovakian sun, and later coasting into the big paprika... also known as Hungary.

but vienna, my magical, mystical, romantic friend... we were torn to leave you. you inspired us, brought us in close, gave us a whirlwind tour of your finest streets while old folks with austrian outfits and bug eyes stared as we tranced around your town like a gaggle of smurfs on primitive vehicles, dressed in bright green and orange breathable tees. but honestly, we are a sight to behold.

accomodation hasn't proved to be the easiest thing to find in the large cities we visited. a campground in amsterdam that was paid for by the generous bahai community, a centre for troubled youth on the outskirts of prague that was found upon arrival to the city, and countless communications from daniel, of the austrian green party, to find us a church parish for our stay in vienna.

daniel and the green party's hospitality did not end there however. our day off in the city was planned around a photo shoot for local media at 9am, followed by some on camera interviews for the local tv station, a tour of the united nations complete with lecture (for which i regret my eyes would not stay open), and last but not least, an absolutely amazing dinner at a RESTAURANT called 'lux', which was nothing short of luxurious, hosted by the green party for us ridiculous young punks. this is where i learned to love sweet cheese strudel, maybe a little bit too much - but that stored energy would prove to come in handy for the events that followed dinner as a few of us decided to explore vienna's nightlife after the sun went down on our cobblestoned candlelit dinner party.

a short wander brought jake, jenika, mark and myself to a nearby park where the enchanting sounds of opera music bellowed from the base of a large gothic looking church in the distance. obviously intrigued, we pushed our bicycles along a path lit with tiny lamps that shone on the faces of lovers and families and friends who were seated on the the benches listening and laughing. as we got further, the park opened up to a giant film fest where Carmen, the opera, was playing on an enourmous screen to an audience of thousands gathered at the foot of this church. beer tents and romantic purple and yellow lights set the tone for good times, while behind the church steeples flashes of lighting played tricks on our eyes and fooled everyone into thinking it was a well timed light show playing in tune with the staccato and baritone sounds of the opera.

needless to say, the four of us trekked closer, leaving the crowd and running into the windstorm that was funneling leaves into small tornados behind the church. we lay on the grass in the open, staring at the lighting storm above, until grey clouds covered it up, and then we lay there a little longer. enough to feel the first rain drop, and then the second, and then the third, and soon enough we were drenched. rain doesnt hit often in vienna, or this part of europe, but when it does, its hard and pounding and fast and furious and flooding.

our minds escaped us as we ran toward the closest wall to protect us from the harsh winds. we chose a covered space on the opposite side of the street from the subway station, and waited out the 15 minute flash storm, but not before having the opportunity to have the wind pick up my bicycle and thrash the big spiky chain poker thing into the back of my ankle for a dramatic bloody effect. so there you have us, 4 shivering kids with bikes and blood, soaked and slightly lost. trees were falling all around and branching toppling onto the cars that had quickly blocked the streets as the previous opera party goers piled into the roads to get home toute de suite. later, we would find out that this storm had killed 8 people throughout europe, and debris and cracked tree frames lined our entire route into slovakia the next day.

in those moments while we waited out the storm and met other wet and random strangers (including a very strange woman who seemed to have swept through the park after the storm to find a few treats that others had left behind ... a bottle of croatian iced wine, top notch olive oil and homemade honey - to name a few)... in those moments i thought it would be impossible for us to pick up the next day and leave this city and its beauty.

but thats the nature of this tour.
we ride, we ride, we ride. each day is new. and just over 12 hours after the storm we were looking at signs notifying us that we would enter bratislava in less than 12 kilometres. mon dieu.

one day in slovakia - and a most grand reception to be had...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Yield to snowflakes; slow for hedgehogs; stop for roadside cherries - South Bohemia

First let me say that yesterday morning I woke up on a couch in a kitchen on a farm with a little orange kitten asleep on my neck. And second, that option B’s sleep included an enourmous high-ceilinged attic inhabited by bats. (yee yeah!) Thirdly, let me begin this blog by stating, in order of appearance…

…Rain rain rain rain RAIN rain rain rain rain RAIN cycle cycle cycle cycle…

Not only have I surpassed my wildest expectations of kilometers cycled through unknown territory in such a short amount of time, but the weather has also been striving to break the cycle of normalcy here in Eastern Europe. And its been doing a good job. In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to thank the consistent rainfall for my lack of writing journal entries, for it has succeeded in drenching my lovely thick-paged handmade journal and rendering it impossible to dry for the last 6 days at least. da.

But in all honesty, the rain factor is just value added for this ‘lil adventure. Without it, how could I begin to describe how it feels to wake up on a mid-July morning on a hillside overlooking central Prague, after cycling 125kms of unmarked trails the day prior to arrive in Eastern Europe’s culture capital, to the most grandiose thunderstorm-rainshower-lighting crackling earsplitting orchestral fiesta you’ve ever bared witness to? Well, I suppose I just wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Entering Prague and the Czech Republic all in one piece – for the most part- has not only signified entrance into an entirely different region and lifestyle, but it also marks the +1000km czech point (ha ha), and the fact that our ride is more than ¼ of the way through. We’ve grown accustomed to many combinations of jam, peanut butter, mayonnaise, mustard, nutella and random-condiment-with-wonder bread sandwiches (*no relish yet, mads&joel*). We’ve come to terms with body odour. We’ve taken long and winding bike paths 30kms in the wrong directions, and often opted for highways over bike paths, for better or for worse. And, we’ve danced like monkeys till 5am along the river ‘Elbe’ and woken up at 6:30am to ride it into loverly Dresden.

But it seems to me, this trip is taking on a new face as we reach the final stages of the honeymoon. And I think it all stems from Tabor, South Bohemia.

For those of you who recall, each rider was assigned to find the team accomodation in random cities throughout Europe. Some got Utrecht, some got Vienna, and I got Tabor – the most random place ever, in my opinion. For weeks I fretted and feared that it would be impossible to make contact with this mystery town. I googled it, couchsurfed it, and generally got displeased with the fact that I was responsible for housing my team in it. Until one sweet day, when both the cultural exchange station in tabor (CESTA) as well as Mike and Nicola Robinson both agreed to have us spend a night with them. Dream. Come. True.

Tabor is approximately 130kms south of Prague (took my pod 14 hours straight to cycle it – no jokes) – and it is the most beautiful region of my trip so far. Rolling farmland carved away by narrow brooks and streams, uphills that take your breath away as you race down the other side, cherries, plums, and peaches everywhere you look, and flower pots at the edge of almost every pink, yellow, & turquoise cottage’s window sill. The good Czech people mow their lawns in their panties, showing no shame, and far more skin than you ever needed to see. And a 14 hour long day is still ended in smiles as you realize that there is no way you would ever be able to have this kind of experience if not for your 2 wheeled bicycle friend, and the amazing people kickin’ it beside you.

Tabor was the first place we’ve stayed where our hosts cooked us a homemade meal, served hot and delicious as we walked through the door (a welcome embrace). It was also unique in that the two places we stayed in this region provoked some inspirational thoughts about alternative lifestyles, community engagement, and environmentally sustainable options – composting toilet and solar shower, anyone?
Taking a brief break from our +100km days allowed for a short ride between tabor 1 and tabor 2 and a welcome opportunity to spend more quality time with our respective hosts for the evenings. Mike and Nic had promised us a long anticipated hog roast, which even some of the vegetarians passed off as a “cultural experience”, and invited us to camp in their backyard underneath the most brilliant countryside lightning storm that you’ve ever seen. Streaks of fluorescent light rippling like veins through a pulsing palm trying to grab the sky. Thunder that cracks much less than 10 seconds later. The energy we needed in order to power through the relentless rain into Ceske Budejovice today. A 50km ride upon which my pod encountered at least four cute little hedgehogs squished and mangled spike-side upwards into the highway, and a few red triangular road signs with the picture of a single snowflake in the middle.

Thunderstruck, and dominating headwinds,
-gala milne

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

(days) 1 2 3... easy as do-ray-mi

well, if you don't mind 4 flat tires on the 2nd day of orientation (yes, one was mine, from pumping my tires too much), getting lost, gene almost getting electricuited AND falling head over handlebars into a ditch while trying to take a photo riding fully loaded (he's o.k.)... then it could be considered simple as 123, do-ray-mi, abc baby you and me girrrlll.

when we heard the news of MJs death, we briefly nicknamed this the michael jackson memorial tour. and some of us considered riding with only one bike glove the whole way.

no....
tonight we arrived in utrecht, 40kms south of amsterdam, to stay in an abandoned warehouse with a guy who sabrina met on couchsurfing. after arrival, since my chore group's chore this week is Making Dinner (they dont know my cooking skillz)... shawn, gene, eileen and i set out to find the nearest grocery store and then purchased food for the next three meals, stuffed it into panniers, rode back and cooked a delicious pasta with both vegetarian and meat options, and then we all played a massive game of hide and go seek in this nutty joint.

nutty!

time to go to sleep. ill get 5 hours if i sleep riggghhht now.

g

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Amsterdam and the last of civilization...

I just finished washing some dishes, mainly a butter knife used to spread nutella on bread (staple diet at the moment) at Jan's apartment here on the Noord side of Amsterdam. 63 ms. oslofjordweg, a former shipping container, since painted red and transformed into a narrow bedroom complete with kitchen and bath, has been my residence since hopping off the train from Paris on Wednesday.
After setting up the bicycle, I was introduced to student life in Amsterdam with a traditional homemade 'suriname'meal at a friend of Jan's, a houseparty, and a night spent dancing to wrap up day one. Not bad at all, would be my argument.

The 'crew' have been quickly streaming into town.

"How's the bike treating you?" ask two tall strangers as Chris and I walk down the canal... "umm..." "No, no... we're one of you, i mean.. global agents? I have the same bike as you..." responds Jake Moir, one of the 15 or so people I had yet to meet of our crew of 20. Amsterdam's petite size allows for a couple more random run ins with a few more global agents for change, and friday night finds 10 of us in a people-packed park, each with a bottle of wine in hand.

this is the beginning of our tour.

we've all got our reservations about the Balkans, and there is a reciprocating feeling of non-saneness among us too. some have experience in similar cycling tours, and some (cough cough) have never ventured from day-long tours. although, i did have my fair share of critical masses this year. and although we won't be a team of 2000, which is the stats of the latest Vancouver Mass ride (check out this cycle rant from a former professor of mine about CM here), our team of 20 will be a sight to see in our bright green and orange jerseys next week.

"training" these past few days has consisted of very slow mini-rides (as most people ride granny bikes with one gear) around the cutest lil houses on cobblestone streets that you ever did see, and a trip to Jan's parents house for use of their holy washing machine.

holy washing machine.
did i just say that?

i think i'm losing my mind. and, i promise my writing will get better once my surroundings get less comfortable. that's a usual trend that i've noticed.

ps, the library here is really neat.
ramble, ramble, ramble. orientation starts tomorrow and i'm moving from this nice little storage unit of a house out to the campground which will be hosting us for the next 3 days.

g

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

parisien limbo & 6 days left





limbo could be a lot worse than this

...

but my limbs are itching for those balkan mountains, showerless days of chaos, confusion, and calamity.

amsterdam to istanbul has been 10 steps away since november last year. seven months, two full course loads, three fundraisers, conversations had, people met, $5000 raised for microfinance, czechy accommodation found, sunflowers planted, bike ridden, and ocean crossed, and here we are.

6 days till countdown.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

box of treats

You'd think that on the evening of your departure for a 2 month long cycling trip through foreign countries... on the evening of your embarkment on a journey that one year ago you never could have imagined yourself doing... a journey that relies 100% on having your bicycle endure the entire 15 hour plane ride from vancouver to paris, and then another 4 hour train trip to amsterdam, all inside a cardboard box... you'd think that as an amateur at this profession, you might get someone else to dismantle your bike and assemble it neatly into that cardboard box for you. because probably somewhere along the line, someone told you it wasn't that easy to do.

well, as usual, i found myself learning things the hard way, and after 3 hours of loosening bolts, twisting handlebars, loosing important miscellaneous small pieces under the porch, removing tires, not so easily removing pedals, finding makeshift tools to do the job with, and grunting and screaming as i realized the bike just doesn't slip easily into the stupid box (because i think my bike shop gave me a child sized box, i swear...) it worked. well, lots of packing tape, and it worked.

23 hours, 2 planes, and 117 tiny steps up a narrow french staircase near "sacre coeur de montematre" later, and my home for the next 10 weeks is sitting in a closet waiting for the train ride to amsterdam next tuesday.

at this point, 11 days will come too soon for my liking, but there is definately no backing out now.
besides, it'll be nice to stop paying $6 for a shot of espresso.

a bientot!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

thanks for the donations!

since charla's article in the gazette last week, i've gotten at least 4 cheques in the mail, and you've also been handing over some generous 20's lately... and for this, i thank you!
it's truly fantastic to live in a place where people value giving. speaking of which, the latest donation came in the form of a complimentary haircut and colour from my favourite hairstylist, mr. ben shum. fabulous man, quality work, and here is my advertisement for him! thanks ben!

in total, i believe the fundraising is at just over $5000. $1000 more than my original goal. thanks people!

galalalala

Friday, May 22, 2009

Extra Extra!

The Western Communities newspaper, the Goldstream Gazette, is hip to their game in this week's news copy. Thanks to Charla Huber for her splendid writing! Although I'd probably save the "champion" part for after we complete this trip.

Still don't think I've fully comprehended just how far we're going.

Read on right here: http://www.bclocalnews.com/vancouver_island_south/goldstreamgazette/community/45708942.html

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Routes and Observations




These are some rad routes I've ridden as of late:

1. Surrey to Tsawwassen (along river road and ladner trunk road)
2. Swartz Bay to Langford (following beauty farm roads along the lochside trail and the galloping goose) 1&2 combined = approx 125kms
3. Langford to Leechtown (taking the goose past the Sooke Potholes to the very end and back!) 75kms
4. Sooke to Jordan River (the winding West Coast Road along the ocean and up some hills) 66kms
5. Mill Bay to North Cowichan (following Telegraph road through more rolling farmland and down past the bustling Cowichan Bay) approx 50kms
6. Metchosin to Victoria (the goose, again) 20kms
7. Sooke Road to Aylard Farm (east sooke and back along gillespie road) approx 20kms?
8. Shawnigan Lake (around the whole thing!) approx 30kms

These are some things I've seen and learned along the way:

1. It is unpleasant for both your eyes, and for bugs when bugs fly directly into your eyes.
2. Hummingbirds look a lot better buzzing in the air, rather than squished into a perfect roadside fossil.
3. Tail winds are awesome. Head winds are not.
4. It is possible to get amazing tail winds from large semi trucks
5. It is not so good to have two semi-trucks in a row sail past you while on the side of a busy road, because this may cause the tail wind to drag you within inches of the second semi truck, increasing your heart rate.. lots.
6. Lone cyclists on opposite sides of empty roads share that same feeling of unity as do motorcyclists, expressed often in a small nod or wave of the hand (acceptance, finally!)
7. When using clipless peddles, it is best to "unclip" before coming to a stop. Otherwise you may suffer humility and leg wounds from the tumble that inevitably occurs.
8. If you suffer a deep leg wound from falling off of your bicycle, it is best to create an elaborate lie about how you received your injury. For example, "i got a snakebite" seems to do the trick quite well.
9. People who say they don't enjoy a ride on a bicycle are either lying, or just don't know any better...

yours truly,
gala "snakebite" milne

Monday, May 4, 2009

Vancouver Pledge Ride!



On May 31st, for all those who call Vancouver "home", or for the ambitious Victorian... Global Agents for Change is having a 10km pledge ride! ride, donate, have fun, and help send off the Mexico riders on their way down South! The Vancouver to Tijuana team will be heading out directly after the pledge ride is done!
Pledge riders are asked to contribute $40 to your favourite "Agent of Change" and come on the ride. All money raised goes toward our microcredit fund... and for this, not only do receive that warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good, but you get a bamboo GA4C tee shirt too :) Reason enough?

Check it out! Do it! yeah!

Fundraiser News

We did it. With two months to spare! Although I will gladly still be collecting money for the ga4c microcredit fund, the goal to raise $4000 for microcredit was surpassed last weekend at the silent auction fundraiser in metchosin!

Thank you to everyone who came out, donating your time, energy, enthusiasm, photographs, paintings, books, lovely knitted things, eco-friendly jean bags, and money for microcredit. You are a generous crowd of supporters, and the grand total raised was over $2000! This definitely overwhelmed my goal of raising $1000!

Throughout the day tensions were high as minor bidding wars occured over Frank Mitchell's Daina Pig... pearson college students and peoples alike strolled in for refreshments after long hours of picking up garbage along roadsides for Earth Day... NDP candidate John Horgan stopped by to show his support, as did a couple of volunteer firefighters (for good measure).

I'd like to extend special thanks to Seabluff Farm for their overwhelmingly generous donation, and entice everyone who reads this to support purchasing their locally grown, and delicious produce.

As well to Zara of THE (Towards a Healthy Environment) Bag Project for donating the money earned from her bags toward the microcredit fund!!

i almost forgot... a HUGE THANKS TO MY MOM! not only is she beautiful, but shes smart and witty and organized the rental of the community house, and threw a fantastic Earth Day event, AND convinced the lovely artists to donate their fine works to the event. GO MOM! I LOVE YOU!!!

till next time!!

g

Sunday, April 12, 2009

18013kms. woah.

it's late on a saturday night. can't sleep.

decided to do some research... and learned that there are going to be some outstanding people on this trip.

holy smokes.

Nasim and Jafar *click here* have been cycling around the world for peace. So far they have ridden 18013 kilometers.

!

inspiring, yes. extremely. but it has me wondering about that old saying... something about biting off more than you can chew? epitome of my thoughts at present. I really need to whip this body into shape. yikes!

well, sweet dreams! g

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stanley Park Fundraiser Ride Video

On Sunday, March 15th 2009, a group of 27 diverse individuals gathered together for an early morning bicycle ride around Vancouver's epic Stanley Park. The culmination of a term-long project aimed to raise awareness of microcredit and global poverty, this event raised over $500 for third world entrepreneurs to get the loans they need to pull themselves out of poverty through Global Agents for Change.

We barely dodged March's harsh elements of wind, rain, and snow, but a good time was had by all, including our videographer friend Kevin. Here is the video.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bringing it Home - Musical Artful Environmental Fundraiser - Metchosin Style

On April 25th, Ride to Break the Cycle is coming to home sweet home, Metchosin, in conjunction with the first annual Earth Day celebration at the newly renovated, lovely/gorgeous Metchosin Community House.

This is a great excuse for all us islanders to rendezvous together in the beautifulest municipality in the world - and do it in style.

I'll be accepting donations for the Ride to Break the Cycle with the goal of reaching the my $4000 fundraising goal that day! Currently, my amazing supporters have helped me to fundraise approximately $2,850, which means I have a hefty goal of raising just over $1000 on April 25th at the Metchosin Community House!

All the money raised goes directly towards the Global Agents for Change youth-run microcredit fund which will give business loans to third world entrepreneurs who are trying to make a sustainable living for their familes and pull themselves out of poverty.

The day includes a silent auction with donated paintings from local artists Robert C. Anderson, and Frank Mitchell. Wendy Mitchell has donated a handmade item made from sheep's wool. As well, locally made jean tote bags will be for sale! Not to mention, lino print bicycle cards, handcrafted by your's truly.

Musical talents are being looked into, but we are hoping to have a very talented mandolin player from Victoria join us in the good times.

I'll be there to mingle and chat about what it is the 25 of us are hoping to accomplish this summer, and might even share a tidbit or two on how to change a flat bike tire - something I've just learned and am pretty proud about!

Please come and show your support! I would love to see as many beautiful Metchosin faces as possible.
This artful/ environmental/ musical event will run from 2pm at the Metchosin Community House on Happy Valley Road on Saturday, April 25th.

Optional: Bike ride along the goose before or afterward :) Let me know if you're interested and let's raise $1000 for microcredit and the trip of a lifetime!

cheers and bananas,

Gala

contact me at
applegala@gmail.com for more info on this event

Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Community Bikes


So maybe you're wondering, hey gala, why haven't you been telling us what's going on in that little brain of yours? I've donated some serious cash to your cause, and now there's no feedback? You aren't thinking of backing out, are you? ARE YOU?

To tell the truth, things are a little overwhelming right now. My 15 credits seem to be exploding in front of me before they come to a quick halt in the first week of April, and for some reason, this time of semester always seems to make my brain seem a little more dense.

Result? A minor meltdown!

This came after a busy day, which included nearly getting wiped out by an SUV at a crosswalk while cycling downtown to interview a local bike shop owner. The interview is part of a short video Candice and I are putting together for our class fundraiser event on Sunday. The idea is to question local shopkeepers about the empowering effects of running a business, in an attempt to further understand the benefit of microcredit loans, as we believe they enable 3rd world entrepreneurs to do something similar. The bike business was proving to be rough on this sunshiny friday morning, however, and his commentary didn't really suit the answers we were looking for, so we kiboshed the interview... but only after I got to wait in my favourite cafe nextdoor for about 1.5 hours and harass the owner there. Poor guy, stuck with me... he seemed nice about it though...

Did you say Fundraiser?


Yes! No. 2, coming up! The "Bike for a Cause" Stanley park pledge ride with afterparty at Steamworks is happening this Sunday (the 15th - sorry mom, I'm missing your b-day!) at 10:30am... with a beautiful forecast of slick, wet, cold, depressing, Vancouver special, rain - not to deter any potential riders from coming out, of course.

This fundraiser has a dual feature of being the final result of a semester-long project for an upper level Communications course I am taking at SFU. The goal of our project has been to inspire people to get on their bicycles, and realize that by peddling ourselves around the city, we become self-sufficient, and empowered human beings: 2 elements of life that we would be bare without.

Our hope is to have at least 20 riders bike around the seawall - even those who don't have bikes. We've gotten great support from the bike community in donating us loads of prizes, volunteers, and bicycles for the 1 hour trek. Steamworks has also helped out in letting us rent a room free of charge or minimum spending fee, and has given us some gift certificates to give away, as well! It's all pretty cool stuff, but I have to admit that the bike industry side, and asking for donations has been mostly Candice, my project partner's, suave work. At the Steamworks portion of the event we're having a woman from Global Agents for Change speak about the organization and microcredit, as well as a cool dude give a run down on bicycles!

I mean what I said though... I donated, and you can't back out now, Gala.

The fundraising has been wonderful... truly. Especially the part where I get 'real' mail delivered to my house with nice letters from really neat people, and the part where I get to have good conversations over coffee and/or beer with great friends and family that I haven't seen in a while. A girl in my class last week approached me and said, "hey! I saw that article!" I guess she has always wanted to do a big bike trip, and felt inspired, so she wrote me a $50 cheque on the spot.

The only thing now, is to do those tummy crunches I keep whining about.

nuts and bolts,

gala

Sunday, March 8, 2009

elements of a bike - in other's words

"Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live." (mark twain)

why not?

"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride." (john f. kennedy)

how so? surely, there are other ways to get around...


"A bicycle does get you there and more.... And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun." (bill emerson)

"Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world." (grant petersen)

save the who? saywhat now?


"Consider a man riding a bicycle. Whoever he is, we can say three things about him. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it. That is a metaphor for the journey through life of any living thing, and I think of any society of living things." (william golding)

how do we maintain that motivation?

"The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine." (john howard)

any rewards for this challenge?


"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle." (ernest hemingway)

wind in your face...

"Tens of thousands who could never afford to own, feed and stable a horse, had by this bright invention enjoyed the swiftness of motion which is perhaps the most fascinating feature of material life." (frances willard)

and what more, in this day of progress?

"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." (h.g. wells)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"How to change the world"



Well, here we are - our cover article of SFU's Student paper, The Peak, as promised! I had a prof ask me yesterday, much to my embarrasment, "is there anything you don't do!?" She was referring to my winning photo which is still on the homepage of sfu.ca and to the video contest i won just over a year ago. And really, there are a lot of things I don't do. For example, I definately don't participate in that particular prof's in-class discussion verey often, as most of the jargon flies right over my head. But for the other things I have chosen to do... I just seem to be getting a lot of press! It's strange and interesting. hmmm...

Take a look at the article! See what you think. Deanne Beattie is an amazingly talented writer, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Can You Handle it?" A photo shoot, a news article, a big hill

Burnaby Mountain is big.

And, I already knew that. I've been up that mountain a zillion times by bus, and I even walked it once. So, I figured since we had a photo shoot for an article about the Ride in the SFU Student Newspaper, The Peak, on Friday... it might be the epic day that I cycle up that beast of a mountain and prove to myself - I can do this!

I made it as far as Hastings and Duthie. Which, for all those who are unfamiliar... is about a 0.001% of the way up the hill. Then, with it's shiny yellow bike racks cutting through the wind, the bus came to my rescue and saved me from what would have been a long, sweaty-grimy-disgusting-panting-breath-seizing sludge upwards.

But, whatever. I'm not ashamed. The downhill ride on the way home was excitement enough for one day. 10 minutes of straight downhill steepness... I was going insane. Did I mention it was after sunset? Yikes.

But yes, indeed, we were up there for a photoshoot. My amazing friend Deanne Beattie has written what sounds to be a fabulous article about myself and two other SFU students who are doing the RtBtC down to Mexico (there are two routes this year, one from BC to Mexico, and mine through Europe). She posed the idea to me in January and has since met with the 3 of us 3 times each to ask Q's about why we're doing this, our training schedules (if any!), fundraising techniques, team logistics, whether or not we're considering dropping out... things like that. The article is for The Peak - SFU's student newspaper and should be out this coming week! All this SFU press is pretty neat, and we maaaay even be on the Front Page! More to come on that...

Adam, Jessica (the two other SFU riders), and I are also collaborating to throw a Pub Night at the Sfu pub on March 3rd - and to go along with the Can You Handle It? slogan, we're planning a Handlebar Moustache theme. Get it? Handlebars? Like, on a bike...? ya. And having live Irish music hopefully? We'll see how it goes... an interesting experience in throwing events, however. Booking, poster making, coordinating... it's neat. But I think advertising is the big one. Must.. get.. word.. out!

But the planning is in the works for two more fundraisers! I'll give you the skinny...

The next one (weekend of March 14th/15th) will be a Tour de Stanley Park pledge ride with after event at Vancouver's own, Steamworks pub! This will be the "final project" of my Communications 425 Applied Cmns for Social Issues course. The goal is to basically re-create the Europe route, and have different bike shops/establishments sponsor our mini teams (made of members of our class) as they tour around Stanley Park for the morning! We'll raise funds and awareness, and end with a social gathering debrief at Steamworks Pub to show a video of people's thoughts about microcredit, amongst other things. I'm stoked for this!

The other thing is a bicycle/ earth day fundraiser in Metchosin! I have the community house booked for April 25th and am planning to have an art sale/ raffle fundraiser with some live guitar or something. This is still in the works... but I think that everyone who comes should be given a slice of pie with cheddar cheese, too. Because that's what i want, righhhhtt now. That plan is subject to change...

Well, that's all for now. Bought some new bike lights today!
peace love and hippopotamus y'all.
g

Friday, February 13, 2009

Micro-credit for SFU credits

Being a student in the School of Communications at SFU has been good to me so far.

Through one of my courses, "Applied Communication for Social Issues", I have been able to team up with a classmate to work on a semester-long project which will basically re-create the communication ideas behind the Europe Tour and culminate in a mini-tour around Stanley Park in Vancouver.

This means, I'm getting credit for fundraising, and making sense of this bike ride from a communications point-of view. woo!

Our professor is this genius man, Markwick, who has successfully seared a quote from Aristotle into our minds for the rest of eternity. Aristotle argument states that "Man is born for Citizenship". And Markwick's argument agrees that it is in empathy for one another that change is created.

food for thought.

Our project pitch can be seen in this unintentionally comedic video:

Gala & Candice from candice drouin on Vimeo.

More credit? You be crazy!

Yes, it's true. I'm milking this for everything it's worth. After a rather heartfelt and convincing conversation with my co-op advisor, they have agreed to allow this 100% volunteer trip be a co-op work experience. Which makes sense, because there is a ton of work to be done. But for me, this means I'll be considered a full-time student while travelling abroad, still be eligible for scholarships, and student loans. (Which is good - because then I will be able to ride off government $ while I live in Turkey at the end of our trip! juuusstt joking... muahahaha)

Anyhoo... I think the co-op people at SFU like me, because I keep randomly winning these co-op contests and giving the communications co-op faculty a reason to be proud of their students. In January I won the Work Integrated Learning Photo Contest open to all of SFU.
I was shocked, to be honest. The grand prize was a Nikon D90 Camera - which is almost the same price as the bike/bike accessories that I have to buy soon! But I am promising myself that I won't return the camera in exchange for cash, despite my small urge to do so.

The point of this post? I guess that the ride is for all sorts of people's credit now... not just micro-credit, and not just personal credit, but credit to SFU, and to a degree too.

The Decision to Ride

Every day I have a tiny flip-out thinking about what I've committed myself to doing.
Four thousand kilometres on a bicycle is no small task even for someone who is physically fit... and at current state, I am left of center on that premium.

"But this is more than a bike ride"

I agreed to become an "Agent of Change" with the Global Agents for Change Ride to Break the Cycle for a few reasons:
A) It would be a great chance to meet (and spend 8 epic weeks on the road with...) 27 other invigorating people my age who are genuinely concerned with the state of humanity and are interested in making a difference
B) By the time we depart Amsterdam on July 1st we will have collectively fundraised
$100,000 for our 100% youth-operated Microcredit Fund
C) I can't imagine a better way to travel through a foreign country and interact with local communities than physically peddling every step - feeling the bumps in the road and sleeping in community centres
D) and of course... my gluteus maximus could use some discipline after 22 years of free time...

A few facts about me

I don't think there is anything unique about me, in particular, that is making me commit to this challenge. I am currently a full time university student in the midst of an undergrad degree. I serve tables a few hours a week and make some pocket change, but not enough to create savings. And I have student loans. Some might say these are things that one would consider fallbacks in taking time off school, and from saving $ to go 'travelling'.
But, for these simple reasons, I believe this situation is unique. I am a full-time student and have the opportunity to integrate this experience into my degree, and use resources from the university to promote the Ride. I don't have a mortgage, or a cat. And... student loans should be spent on getting the education you want, not the one that's prescribed.

A Decision is Made

So, when the lovely Shawn Smith (president of GAFC) offered me a spot on the trip back in November 2008, I tossed around the dates and the numbers and the time and the energy and the absolute chaos of it all, and said yes.

Three months later, and here we are. Our team of 25 riders and 3 ride leaders is assembled. We have sorted into 3 organizational committees: Internal (what is our message?), External (how do we relate with the communities we meet?), and Logistics ( to minimize the amount of "wrong turns"). Fundraising is underway. I'm learning about bicycles (Who knew there was more to them than 2 tires and a set of handlebars??). And finally, I have gotten around to creating a blog.

Therefore, enjoy! support! comment! and contact me for ways to donate! (online donations can be directed to the link at the left of this blog)


thanks so much

gala