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Posts tagged ‘kids’

Mailbag Monday #14

Today_we_continue our Mailbag Monday series…

We’ve had a ton of fun chatting with our pen pals, and here is the final letter, unless we get more…

Dear Nathan,

My name is Shane.  I like video games.  What do you like to eat?

Your friend,

Shane

Rainy climbs in Ecuador

Hello Shane,

I’ve been known to play video games every once and a while. My brothers and  have been on a pretty significant drought, although I did beat the Angry Birds game on my brothers iPhone. I was thinking about hanging up video games since I hit the pinnacle of my career, but I figure I should keep my skills sharp in case something more difficult comes along.

Lately, the bakeries in South America sell pineapple pastries that are impossible to resist. If there was one type of food that I miss currently, I would have to say a good sandwich. It has been several months of tacos, rice, and now chicken. It’s going to be an adjustment to come home to a kitchen with all the fixings. The simplicity of this trip has been an eye-opening experience; I won’t soon forget the convenience of a permanent home.

Thanks for writing!

Nathan

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24 Hours

The_sun_ushers a green glow to the inside of our tent with the warmth in its wake.  At 7:xx the alarm rings a tone that one of us rustles out of our sleeping bag to silence.  Time to cue the music and our morning rituals.  Isaiah and I are usually the first to get up and out of our beds.  He who shall not be named continues to sleep or sits up to resume where he left off in his book, until breakfast is served.  A concoction of oatmeal, sugar, and granola has been the backbone of the trip, although we’ve been experimenting with scrambled eggs and vegetables.  We finish eating in about fifteen minutes.  Isaiah packs up the stove and food supplies while David and I work on our sleeping bags and air mattresses.  Once the tent is cleaned out we tear the tent down, pack the remaining things into our panniers and change into our riding clothes.  The morning reveals our respective moods, ranging from grumpiness to sassiness and smiles and sarcasm.  Mood is strongly affected by quality of sleep, difficulty of riding, and how tasty our oatmeal was relative to the 136 other times we have had it on Bound South.

Breakfast of Champions

Our new frying pan adds some variety to morning meals

The first few hours of riding go by quickly.  Our legs are fresh, leaving our minds wander as we dance with the white line. Snacks are consumed hourly to offset calories we burn riding at such awe-inspiring speeds.  Shopping for snacks has been simplified by the use of a convenient formula: Cost per Calorie per Gram per Unit of Volume.  Typically the tried and true Bound South snacks are Oreos, Poptarts, vanilla wafers and assorted Candy Bars.  Obviously the healthiness of the food isn’t a big factor since we are merely looking for quick energy.

Perfect lunch combo

A European lunch break helps to break up the day of riding and decompress, when we have the time for it. Since we’ve hit Mexico our lunch break has changed in a few ways. A place to sit in the shade has always been an integral factor, but Coca-Cola has become the focal point of our noon hour.  Oxxo and Pemex (convenience stores and gas stations, respectively) have become our oases in Mexico.  With a 2-3L bottle of Coke and a spot to sit indoors we are satisfied and ready for grub. We’ve converted to tortillas from bread, using them for both lunch and supper.  Peanut butter is becoming more expensive and harder to find, but still worth it in every regard.  Peanut butter-honey-granola tacos are keeping us fueled for lunch, if we aren’t taking advantage of cheap street food.  Meals have been supplemented with fruits and vegetables that are becoming incredibly cheap as we continue south.  After an hour of eating we overcome our lethargy from the food and sore muscles and resume our voyage, newly christened with Coke.

Following lunch, our schedule returns to snack breaks, map checks, and glances at the sun to keep us heading south.  With thirty minutes till sunset we begin to keep an eye out for a campsite.  Camping in the desert was simpler when we had the choice of pulling of the road anywhere to camp. Lately the land next to the highway has been fenced off, forcing us to be more creative.  Often times we find a secluded spot on a quiet side road, or we meet someone with a good suggestion or a nice lawn.  We have found people to be very kind, happy to offer their yard and occasionally well-received food. Warning: Don’t camp next to or near a chicken coop.

A tree belt between corn fields provided a stealthy spot for the night

Once we find a flat spot and put the tent up, we gather cooking supplies from our packs to prepare for supper.  Since groceries have been so cheap we’ve been eating like kings.  Our meals are comprised of peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, beans, rice and some type of canned meat.  Teamwork comes into play to get everything sliced, portioned out, and into the pot to cook.  Two of us work on the ingredients while the other continually stirring to keep the bottom from burning.  Gasoline burns significantly hotter than premium camp fuel, but it is cheap and easier to find.  When the rice softens up we serve out the mixture of ingredients.  After frenzy of flailing silverware and tortillas, something resembling the calm after a storm occurs.  With five months of experience eating supper in this fashion, I apologize to anyone that has bought us supper and didn’t have a typical dinner conversation till our plates were clean.

Our host's sons assisted us with tent duties

They were fascinated at the construction and happy to help

Sleep prep begins with inflating our air mattresses, brushing our teeth, and gathering any extra clothes we might need for a cold night.  The tent turns into a mosh pit as we all pile in and start to massage and stretch muscles, exercise, and read.  At some point things settle down.  Once our sleepiness causes the nooks to fall from our hands and hit us in the face it is usually time to call it quits for the night.  We all have a tendency to talk in our sleep, occasionally waking ourselves telling poorly received jokes or delivering impassioned speeches to cruise ships in our dreams.  This dialogue might be our best security for thieves in the night.  Ten hours of sleep is a good number for us until we wake the next morning and start another day all over again.

Our host provided artificial and natural light for our evening responsibilities. His sons huddled around the campfire as we prepared dinner and a sharpened branch (used as a stake), electrical cord, and lightbulb made this light pole possible.

Leaving a campsite feels like leaving an apartment, looking back you pause to see the barren potential of the space.  What is left behind is a haven that gave us a place to be out of sight (tenting under a bridge), exposed us to extreme unexpected weather (desert windstorms in the night), or introduced a new career possibility (bicycle goat herding).  Looking ahead to the next evening there is an exciting sense of uncertainty, something like a crab must feel scurrying to a better conch under the open sky–except we worry about trucks rather than gulls.  There’s a give and take with each new home. We take the time to convert a rocky patch in the desert or a family’s courtyard into a temporary home.  Upon departure we take a piece of it with us; a lesson learned on tenting 101 or fond memories from teaching a new game to nearby children.

Isaiah and Angus made a great goat-herding team

Children love to join in the frisbee fun

The Yellowhead

The Yellowhead Highway of British Columbia and Alberta almost defies categorization.  Between the world’s largest fly fishing rod and a children’s costumed bike parade, the Yellowhead brought us a puzzling array of memories.  We left snow-capped mountains at the beginning of Highway #16 in British Columbia, sped across rolling pastures and farmland, were beset by heavy logging trucks on the highway’s narrow or non-existent shoulder, mowed lawns and picked apples on our days off in Prince George, and now leave the Yellowhead amidst glacial lakes and vast mountain ranges in Jasper National Park.

Mount Robson

Picking apples in Prince George

Every day is an adventure. We start some days with a destination in mind and others with nothing more than a direction (South, perhaps?).  The concerns of time and distance dissipate throughout the day as we meet friendly tourists and locals. Setting aside the time to talk is one of the most important lessons that I have learned thus far.

One of our hosts, Johnny, puts us down in his "black book"

From mushroom pickers to Mounties, we have met some fascinating people on the road with valuable knowledge to share.  Our conversations led to an powerful phenomenon on the Yellowhead: referrals. For a period between Smithers and Prince George, we had several home stays. Church congregations and folks we met would refer us to their friends and family down the road, which led to a cycle of home stays.  After returning to the usual routine of a small camp stove and tent, I know firsthand how magical a family’s dining table and guest bedroom can be. To all who have fed, hosted, or helped us in any way, thank you.

huckleberry "bear" pancakes!

Seven-Eleven's two-for-one dollar doughnuts + peanut butter + honey + granola = joy

Enduring the rain has been a challenge for us all, but we continually attempt to improve our waterproofing methods. We have begun to tie plastic bags over our boots and wear dishwashing gloves to keep our hands and feet dry. We certainly do not look “pro” with our new accessories (you would probably laugh if you encountered us on the road), but it sure beats being wet at the end of the day. After days of rain, days like today (the forecast calls for “abundant sun”) are uplifting.

As we ride closer to the U.S. border, I reflect over all that Canada has meant to us – the kindness and generosity of those we have met, the harsh weather, and spectacular scenery – and know that it will be missed.

I wanted to share one highlight from the Yellowhead.  After a grueling 150 km day to McBride, where we camped in the city park, we were surprised to learn that the town had planned a fall fair for the next day. At the time, we were particularly interested in the costumed kids bike parade so rather than leaving that morning, we delayed our departure so that we could take part in the festivities. Although we didn’t decorate our bikes, wear costumes, and ride through the parade, we thoroughly enjoyed the day’s activities. Conversations over coffee and doughnuts, singing for the fair, cheering on the young bicyclists, and watching a horseshoe tournament made for an memorable day and capstone for our time in British Columbia.

Our new friend, Pete "the Heat"