Baltimore. Bikes. Bananas.

I like bikes. Riding them. Looking at them. Talking about them. Wrenching on them. Contemplating which one I’ll buy next. Some years back, I thought about the possibility of completing a century. For the uninitiated, that’s one hundred miles. On a bike. I put it off using every excuse I could think of. I’m not fit enough. I’ll never be fit enough. One hundred miles is so far. Too far. Thankfully, some friends held me accountable and asked repeatedly how training was going. It worked. I completed my first century in 2014.

This got me thinking. What else can I do? I set my sights on long day trips. I set goals to ride from DC to Annapolis, and from DC to Baltimore. While I made the roundtrip journey to Annapolis on a summer day in 2015, I still put off Baltimore. I used much of the same logic I had used prior. It’s too far. I’m not in the best shape. There’s no good route. The route isn’t safe. And it continued.

A co-worker told me about creating routes on Strava, a social fitness tracking site. The creating routes feature allows you to pick two or more points and get the most popular route between them. There are also options to minimize the route’s elevation and to plan the route manually. I looked into it. After exploring different routes to Charm City, I decided that I’d go all in. Baltimore or bust.

Last weekend, I made the trip. There were a few times during the 60+ miles that I questioned my decision making. But none of that was present as I saw the Baltimore skyline in the distance. My route was a nice mixture of trails, back roads, quiet residential streets, and slightly busier streets with wide shoulders. It took around five hours in total (just over four hours of actual moving time). After a delicious Baltimore lunch, I made my way to Penn Station to take the MARC train back to DC. My life and legs weren’t quite ready to ride 60+ miles back. It’s a nice day trip that I’d recommend to anyone considering the opportunity.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

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Getting naked in Cape Town (SFW)

It was Sunday evening. I had returned to Swaziland to attend training. I was on cloud nine after having the most amazing weekend in Cape Town. I had started the weekend with two goals. Eat great food and ride bikes while naked. Cape Town is known for some exquisite cuisine. The World Naked Bike Ride happened to be on the same weekend. Both of my goals were exceedingly accomplished! I ate amazing Thai food and sushi. Other PCVs at the training commented on how refreshed I looked as I shared highlights of the weekend. I smiled. I was extremely rejuvenated. 

One PCV friend asked when I would be writing about this experience on my blog. I responded that I wouldn’t be writing about the naked bike ride weekend. I had reasoned that the weekend was not related to my Peace Corps service, and that this blog was singularly about my service. I had reasoned that I wanted to be a “good” volunteer, and not attract bad publicity or attention to the Peace Corps. 

The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) is a clothing optional bike ride that takes place in more than 70 cities around the world. People from all walks of life join in to celebrate people powered transportation. Most ride bikes. Some ride longboards. Some participate in roller skates. Others choose to run. 

The reasons that people choose to participate, like the participants themselves, are diverse. Some people want to bring attention to our global dependence on non-renewable energy. Others want to highlight the vulnerability of cyclists and remind motorists to share the road. There are naturists, and naturism activists, who use the ride to promote a clothes-free lifestyle and remind the world that nakedness does not equal sex or lewd behavior. 

My first WNBR was 2012 in Philadelphia. A big reason for my participation, at the time, was to be part of an exciting counter-culture. It was thrilling to be around 2500 people in various states of undress. 

To date, I have done the WNBR in six cities on three continents. While it’s still exciting to be naked and ride bikes through the city, I have added to the reasons that I ride. Having struggled with body image issues at various points in my life, I try to fully embrace body positivity, both in practice and thinking. People with all kinds of body types participate in the ride, and all are welcomed and embraced by fellow ride participants and most onlookers. Cape Town was no different. As we rode through the city, people lined the streets to cheer for us. The smiles were plenty. The weather was perfect. I was even gifted some delicious pizza after the 7.5 km ride. I even posed for pictures, and completed some interviews (one of which ended up on Japanese news). Body shaming has been normalized and is commonplace in far too many places. Simply stated, I ride because I refuse to embrace a culture of shame. 

After much internal debate on whether or not I should write about my experience at the Cape Town WNBR, I decided that it was necessary. Yes, this is a blog about my Peace Corps experience. However, that experience isn’t limited to teaching classes, building gardens, and writing grants. Also, I believe in the importance of fully representing the great expanse known as the US of A. Some day, someone will read this while wondering if there is space in Peace Corps for them with all of their unique intricacies. Let this post be a resounding yes! 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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​Monday in a Picture – New Bike Day 

Merry Christmas from sunny Swaziland! In addition to Christmas, I recently celebrated another holiday: New Bike Day! Santa made an early stop to drop off a new bike in the Manzini region. I’m beyond elated. Peace Corps Swaziland approved me for reimbursement to get a bike just over a week ago. 

I knew that I wanted something that I would enjoy riding in my rural community. I wanted something that I could use for transport, recreation, and commuting. After speaking with a fellow PCV and a local Swazi about their respective bike buying experiences in Swaziland, I decided that I would check out Adventure Cycles in Manzini. 

I also decided that I would be purchasing a hardtail mountain bike. The shop had many options for mountain bikes. There were a few full suspension bikes that stole my attention for a while, but I regained focus. I wanted to have something that I would be comfortable fixing myself.  There were also some road bikes that caught my attention. However, I live in a community with gravel/dirt roads, so a road bike was out of the question. Again, I regained focus. As I perused the selection of hardtails, I settled on a beauty. 

This Scott Aspect 680 came home with me last week, and it is amazing! On its maiden voyage, it performed very well. It took everything I could throw at it. It handled like a dream while riding the gravel roads. It’s much more speedy than I was expecting. The suspension was phenomenal, and the ride wasn’t nearly as jolting as I thought it would be on the bumpy road. Of course, my legs reminded me that I should never be away from cycling this long. I’m confident to say that this bike was the right decision. 

For those of you who may be wondering, I have not named this bike (yet). Feel free to leave any name suggestions in the comments. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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