THE CYCLING FAMILY
I love running into people who completely prove wrong the all-too-widely accepted notion that once you have kids your ability to live a wild, adventurous lifestyle goes down the toilet. We met a Scottish family (mom, dad and 10-year old daughter) last week on one of their many grand adventures. They started in Northern Canada, have been cycling for the past year-and-a-half and have ridden over 14,000 miles through North, Central and South America.
Sean, Ingrid and Kate
The tandem Sean and Kate ride
Had you been in the gas station at the moment the 5 of us met, you likely would have assumed that we were old friends bumping into each other after years of being apart. We were all so far beyond excited to meet other English speakers that none of us could wait for our turn to talk. I think there were 5 conversations going on at once. It had been a long time since Mike and I have had people other than ourselves whom we could actually understand, have in-depth conversations with and not have to play charades to get our point across, and an even longer time for Sean, Ingrid and Kate, so you can only imagine the eruption of excitement, wanting to spew out stories from all of our latest experiences.
We spent a night camping together and it was awesome and inspiring to hear their stories. We learned how other parties celebrate a touch of Christmas while living on bicycles by being the audience for Kate and Ingrid's Christmas pageant dress rehearsal, the actors being 5 stuffed animals they have either been given or have picked up along the roadside somewhere along their journey. We rode off in different directions from our camp site, but they too are riding south and we can only hope that we'll be so lucky to have our paths will cross again at some point.
Kate and the actors
We had one of our first really cold and rainy days in South America last week. It's really not fun riding on those days, but it must be done and we better familiarize ourselves with the discomfort of it because they're only going to get more and more frequent the further south we ride.
We had just enjoyed a long, relaxing lunch and hot drinks and then took off riding in the rain. Not long after, I started feeling that rainy-day tired feeling setting in. It's not difficult to lose yourself in your thoughts while on a bike, your mind totally at ease, and then suddenly find yourself 20 miles down the road without knowing where the miles went. But this time my mind went a step further; it got both lost in thought and hypnotized by the rain, I turned around to see where Mike was and suddenly I found myself roaring down a hill, stuck in a sloping gutter, smashing into the guard rail and then skidding on my side on the pavement. Ouch. I was no longer lost in dream world after that.
My bike took a bit of a beating, bending the handlebars and leaving some awesome scrapes. Just a little more character added to the good old Cougar, I guess. Fortunately for me, it was both cold and rainy that day so I had on extra layers along with my rain jacket and gloves to protect me from the pavement. I walked away with a banged up, bloody elbow and knee, a throbbing thumb, aching neck and a lot of holes in my clothes that I'll soon have to patch. It would have been much more painful had it been a warm, sunny day so I guess I was thankful for the crummy weather that day.
STIR FRY HAPPINESS
One night we were making dinner in the center of the town of Villarica, Chile. The huge cement slab we were sitting on was surrounded by little booths with people selling all sorts of touristy trinkets. On the other side of the slab was a portly man who turned out to be one of the men selling his wares and as we were cooking he made a comment of how good our food smelled. Once we finished cooking we realized we had made way more than we could eat (our eyes are often much too large for our stomachs on the days we find a grocery store with good looking produce), so we made up a plate of food for the man and Mike took it over to his booth.
I have never heard anyone cry out in such ecstatic happiness over a simple plate of stir fried broccoli, mushrooms, red peppers, garlic and onion over rice. His continuous laughter was deep and jolly, he repeatedly cried out, “Que rico! Que rico!” (meaning how tasty), told us Chilean food was boring and bland and made sure that every single other vendor knew that he was the lucky recipient of a delicious plate of food from a couple of grubby looking cyclists.
It made our day to see him so thrilled about our food and when he finished, he returned with our plate and a little wooden mug from his booth. Not that we need to be carrying any more stuff with us, but we couldn't turn down his gift, so we now have a mini-mug from Villarica that will certainly finish out our bicycle journey with us.
Mike, the stir-fry guy and Cari
Though it hasn't felt much like the Christmas to us, we get occasional reminders that it's the holiday season when we cruise through towns and see all of the decorations in the store windows and Christmas music playing on the radios. We couldn't let the holidays pass without acknowledging them at all, so one day while we were spending some time in a town and Mike was busy on the computer, I picked up 5 tiny ornaments from a roadside vendor. When we got to camp that night, I picked up a branch and surprised him with our own little Christmas tree. We get a new “tree” every night and it adds a nice touch of holiday spirit our vagabond life.
One of our beautiful Christmas trees
Today is Christmas. We had a beautiful ride along Lake Nahuel Huapi which, in my opinion, closely rivals the infamous Lake Tahoe in spectacular scenery and splendor with its vibrant blue water, snow-capped mountain setting and elaborate lakeside homes. To make our day even better, the weather gods decided to spare us from another rainy day, gave us perefct temperatures and mostly tailwinds for a change. Our gifts to ourselves when we arrived at our destination was a restaurant meal, hotel, soft bed to sleep in and the first shower we've taken in 2 weeks. It has been a great day.