Take the Tampon

In middle school we used to throw tampons at our male classmates (un-used tampons, of course). My girlfriends and I had all started menstruating, and we thought it was hilarious how terrified they were by a piece of cotton and plastic.

“Ewww, get that thing away from me! That’s disgusting!” they’d bellow, as the girls shrieked with laughter. I understood that it was a completely foreign object to most adolescent boys, but I wanted to help them understand: It really is just a piece of cotton, like a q-tip. It’s not disgusting and you don’t need to be afraid. So I decided to take a more educational approach, and simply hold the tampon in my hand so they could see it, touch it, and understand how it worked. At the age of thirteen, I thought it was important for everyone to have this knowledge. It’s no wonder I wound up being a spokeswoman for Sustainable Cycles.

Despite my new method, the boys still wrinkled their noses and backed away hastily. I was prepared to give up, when along came Alberto.

“Can I see?” he asked calmly.

“Yeah!” I blurted out in shock, “here you go!” And I thrust the device into his open palm.

He inspected it slowly in a clinical, curious manner. Frowning, he asks:

“So… how does it work?”

I raised my eyebrows. “You really wanna know?”

“Yeah,” he nodded.

I wasn’t quite prepared to explain the details of tampon use to a boy who, admittedly I had a huge crush on, so a gave him a brief, vague answer, something along the lines of, “Oh you just shove it up there and it catches the blood.” I’ve come a long way since then in my jargon.

Alberto smiled, returned the tampon, and walked back to his friends, who were wide-eyed and open-mouthed a few feet away. They began to harass him, and he cut in:

“It’s not gross guys, it’s just somethings girls need in life. It’s totally normal. Grow up.”

Many cis-gender men are uncomfortable talking about periods. Why shouldn’t they be? When the boys at my middle school reacted so drastically to the tampon in my hand, they were only doing what society has taught them to do. If young women themselves are afraid to talk to their mothers about menstruation, how can we expect cis-men to be any better? That is why Alberto’s confidence was so profound, especially at such a young age, and he said some very key words: “It’s totally normal.” Then why do we still feel so dirty and abnormal, as people who menstruate?

At a workshop we held in Cherokee, North Carolina, one woman had multiple stories about how embarrassed she was when she’d have a menstrual emergency and need her man to run to the store for her: “He’d come back screaming, ‘Don’t ever make me do that again! I feel disgusting!’” Rachel once asked one of our friends if she used a menstrual cup, and this friend glanced awkwardly at our male friend standing next to her and said: “I don’t really want to answer that right now.”

It’s clear that we have some trouble being accepting of our cycles, and it is deemed inappropriate to discuss the matter openly. I think it is time to end the stigma and shame, and those of you who don’t menstruate can play a huge role in that.

I am absolutely delighted when I meet period positive men. It only makes sense for people of all genders to understand how our bodies work, and for our partners to be informed and supportive. I once bled on the sheets of one of my romanic partners, and instead of making me feel ashamed or humiliated, he soothed my worries and said it was no big deal: “Don’t feel bad, Olive, it happens!”

In Asheville, we had one cis-male at our workshop, and he had great questions and comments. He was very interested in all the re-usable products we had, the science behind menstruation, and what he can do when his girlfriend is experiencing pain or discomfort.

Outside of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Sustainable Cycles team was having a parking lot picnic, when a young man emerged from Radio Shack to ask us about our tour. We explained our project to him, and he was stoked: “Wow, that- that’s amazing! I am really interested in women’s health, my girlfriend has taught me a lot and it’s become really clear that feminism is one of the most important movements right now. You girls are doing incredible work.”

It’s unacceptable to perpetuate the culture of silence and shame around our cycles. We bleed, we cover it up, ignore it, and god forbid we talk about it, let alone with men. No matter your gender identity or expression, all of us are effected by the moon cycle- it is the origin of life! If you are a non-menstruating individual and want to learn more, please join the conversation. All voices are appreciated. It feels so incredible when your partner says “It’s okay if you bleed on my sheets,” it is so amazing when a bearded man walks out of a Radio Shack and expresses his feminist views, and it is just astounding when a twelve-year-old boy ignores his immature peers and takes the tampon.

Olive Mugalian

Monday, May 11, 2015

Written from Raleigh, North Carolina

Here’s a few photos from our adventure!

Toni Craige, one of the co-founder of SC joined us for a few days of our tour.  She likes to relax!

Toni Craige, one of the co-founders of SC joined us for a few days of our tour. She likes to relax!

Rosie injured her hand a took a little vacation in Alabama.  This is Rosie, Olive, Rachel, and Toni at our reunion at the Greyhound bus station in Asheville, NC.

Rosie injured her hand a took a little vacation in Alabama. This is Rosie, Olive, Rachel, and Toni at our reunion at the Greyhound bus station in Asheville, NC.

Rosie with a baby turtle.  At our workshop in Cherokee, someone said that Cherokee women used to fashion menstrual cups out of baby turtle shells.  Pretty  cool!

Rosie with a baby turtle. At our workshop in Cherokee, someone said that Cherokee women used to fashion menstrual cups out of baby turtle shells. Pretty cool!

Someone gave us a $100 bill at a gas station in rural North Carolina!  We were eating pretty fancy for a few days!

Someone gave us a $100 bill at a gas station in rural North Carolina! We were eating pretty fancy for a few days!

The crew plus our host, Tammy.

The crew plus our host, Tammy.

Our first FaceTime workshop, at the California Student Sustainability Convergence.

Our first FaceTime workshop, at the California Student Sustainability Convergence.

From our workshop with the Job Corps girls in Cherokee.

From our workshop with the Job Corps girls in Cherokee.

Bike Tour Magic and the Gateway to the East!

In the past few weeks Ruby and Sarah have been pedaling hard to the east. We are happy to be in Virginia, and looking forward to meeting up with our other Sustainable Cycles crew members in Richmond!

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We had a wonderful ride through Missouri on the Katy Trail, which is an old rail road line that has been converted into a bike trail that traverses almost the entire state. We saw more animals than people, but did have a chance to give away a menstrual cup to a curious female cyclist we met on the trail. We also had a successful event at Clover’s Market in Columbia, MO where we met fellow women’s health enthusiast Carrie Pattison. Carrie is an herbalist and midwife, and gifted us free samples of Wishgarden medicinal tinctures in exchange for a cup. They have been helpful to us on the road, especially for muscle cramping during the ride and seasonal allergies. Visit her website here: http://www.wishgardenherbs.com

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After the workshop we  continued along the Missouri River to St. Louis, spotting everything from eagles to deer to turtles. The scenery was breathtaking, and the riding conditions were easy and enjoyable. At last!

St. Louis was a stark contrast to our trail riding, but we quickly fell in love with the city’s diversity, which was reminiscent of our home town of Brooklyn. We had a great workshop at the Community Arts and Movement Project, and spent two nights with our inspiring friend and fellow bike touring enthusiast Amy Fleming! We traded travel stories and stayed up all night working on a jigsaw puzzle before riding out to the city bus station at 3am to catch a Greyhound bus to Lexington, KY. Ruby miscalculated the mileage and we were going to have to cut out about 300 miles to get to our next workshop in time!

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We arrived in Lexington on the day of the Kentucky Derby. Our gracious host Bill offered to drive us 50 miles the next day just so we could attend his Derby party. How could we say no?! The race was only two minutes long, but we enjoyed the company and the city of Lexington, and got to drink authentic mint juleps out of silver cups. Next we went Stanton Kentucky where we met Joe Bowen, a man who walked across America on stilts in 1980, and who has done TWO 14,000 mile American bike tours. Joe was inspirational, and told us how important it is to follow your dreams. He also took us on a tour of Kentucky’s natural arches along the Red River Gorge. Joe was intrigued by our project, and requested a menstrual cup so that he may share the idea with fellow travelers as they come through his bed and breakfast. “This is incredible!” exclaimed Joe as he got a close up look at a Rubycup!

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We were sad to head east into the mountains and leave our new friends, but the Appalachians offered us lush green vistas despite excruciating climbs. Since many of these roads were built before grade regulations, we often had to get off and walk/push our bikes up the steep, winding roads. Our mountain riding was cut short by a busted axle and wobbly wheel just after we crossed into Virginia. Feeling unsafe on the steep mountain passes, we were miraculously able to get 3 separate rides over 100 miles to the closest bike shop in Abingdon, VA.

We are very excited for our event tomorrow!

Saturday, May 9th
at: the Virginia Tech Women’s Center (206 Washington St., Blacksburg, VA)
12-2PM

Tell your Virginia friends!

Georgia on Our Bikes

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Phew! We were so relieved to be out of Florida, we did a little happy dance under the sign!

We thought it might never happen but…we made it out of Florida! We crossed the Florida/Georgia border on Thursday, which also marked week two of our excursion! We arrived in Savannah, GA, this morning, where there was an Earth Day Festival happening in Forsythe Park, downtown. Lots of organic veggies and sustainably minded people! Before leaving Florida, however, we had several notable experiences.

But, first: A list of new reasons to use sustainable menstrual products, discovered on the road:

1. Don’t be shark bait. Cindy, our host in Sebastian, has spent most of her life on the water as a diver, surfer, kayaking guide, and more. Not only do tampons have to be changed more often, requiring a schlep back to the mainland, or get soggy and fall out, or put you at risk of having an embarrassing string hanging out of your bathing suit… if they leak, your blood could literally make you shark bait! Solution? Use a cup! No leakage, less changing, fewer sharks.

2. Touring the world? Jocelyn (read about her below) has spent years biking all over the world. Pads are definitely a no-no with bike shorts we when you’re in the saddle all day, and tampons can be hard to come by in distant lands. This applies to anyone traveling around the world, of course. Instead of packing a giant ziploc full of supplies – just bring your reusable and you’re good to go!

3. There aren’t drugstores on Marine ships. We met a woman who used to be in the Marine Corps and told us that female Corps members often have to pay super inflated prices to get supplies, or end up resorting to less hygienic ways of coping when out at sea.

4. Have 4 daughters? Disposables are expensive! Having 5 women in the house could easily mean spending $30/month on supplies. That’s $360 every year. Instead, you could buy 5 cups for $200 and spend nothing for the next ten years.

5. SFMS (Summer Festival Menstrual Synchrony). Several women have told us that in their younger days they would go to a music festival and all of the women would start getting their cycle at the same time. All of a sudden your period would have come 2 weeks early and everyone else would be getting their cycles too, and supplies would run out quick! Solution? Bring your reusable, Duh!

Ok. Now back to the story.

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Cindy!

A woman who came to our workshop in Miami set us up with her friend Cindy, a wonderful hostess and adventurer who we stayed with in Sebastian, FL. She not only let us swim in her pool and made us french toast for breakfast, but she also led us to the Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, FL, a magical spiritual place with a series of shrines devoted to teachers from many religious traditions. There we were welcomed with open arms and a great deal of interest in our mission. We left feeling refreshed and inspired!

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Kashi Ashram in Sebastian

In Cape Canaveral we met Jocelyn, a touring cyclist who  – at our age – has gone on several tours of the US and also biked from Morocco to Thailand! Her story (as well as those of many other adventurous women we’ve encountered) was extremely inspiring! We wish her the best of luck in her ongoing adventures. She and her family leave next month to bike from Washington to Argentina. We talked about menstrual cups, which she had heard of recently on a women’s cycling group on facebook, and how useful they would be for traveling and surfing. We left her with a ruby cup to take with her on her next trip!

We spotted our first alligators in the swamps along the NASA Astronaut museum outside Cape Canaveral – so cool!

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That same day we rode 80 miles (through the rain, nonetheless!), our longest day yet, to get to Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona. Thanks Graham, of Bath Salt Zombies for the hospitality! We held an impromptu information session at the Agape Birth Center in Daytona Beach, where we talked about menstrual cups and pads with some of the midwives and expecting mothers.

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On Tuesday the 14th we finally reached Jacksonville, where we held a workshop for 70 girls, ages 12-17, at the PACE center. The girls split into two groups and Rachel talked to one group about the benefits of reusables while Heather led body-positive discussion and writing exercises with the other, and then the girls switched. While this was a mature and surprising topic, the girls were awesome and asked lots of great questions. Many of them were excited to try a cup or a reusable pad, and were also curious to hear about our bike trip. Maybe some of them will be interested in taking a trip in a few years!

Community Loaves in Jacksonville.

Community Loaves in Jacksonville.

We also had the pleasure of staying with our friend Sarah in Jacksonville, who started a lovely bakery called Community Loaves. They make delicious sourdough bread and serve as a center for local food and community connection. We also made a pit stop for some brake adjustments at Zen Cog in Jacksonville and appreciated the continuing support and enthusiasm from the bicycling community.

Hostel in the Forest, Brunswick, GA

Hostel in the Forest, Brunswick, GA

Our friends in Jacksonville directed us to the Hostel in the Forest just outside of Brunswick, GA. So we spent our first night in Georgia sleeping peacefully in a tree house and exploring their beautiful grounds, which include an outdoor tub, geodesic domes, and a two story glass house! We’ve been lucky to be surrounded by trees–pines and live oaks adorned with Spanish moss, during most of our time in Georgia.

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There are many other stories to tell… camping on the beach, watching the sun come up over the ocean, meeting all kinds of people, being on the receiving end of incredible generosity and hospitality, visiting the Smallest Church in America… but they’ll just have to wait and be told over a campfire next time we see you!

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Next destination: Charleston!

Update from the Southern Tier: G’day Y’all!

Rosie flew in from Australia to join Rachel and Olive in Austin, TX. Thanks, Cycleast bike shop for the awesome goods and services! Thank you, Yellow Bike for the wrenching time. Thank you Savanna and Doug for the home, haircut, and best-of-Austin bike routes. Austin, so good.

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Rosie, Rachel, Olive, and Russell (Cycleast Owner)

Our workshop at the University of Texas, Austin was very successful. Thanks to the Gender and Sexuality Center for the space, snacks, and enthusiasm for reusable menstrual products. We look forward to collaborating in the future and getting updates on your new menstrual wares.

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Olive and Rachel enjoy Australian style porridge (oatmeal) at our campsite in Burton

The Texas wildflowers made for a stunning ride out of Austin. We biked 70 miles to Smithville where we stayed with a kind stranger; the head of the local chamber of commerce had a trailer in her backyard—deluxe! This is Rosie’s first bike tour, and she’s keeping up well. There has been some rain and rough road conditions, but we continue to bike 60-something miles a day. Texas is full of surprises! We found Shepherd’s Sanctuary – a true respite run by a wonderful couple, Connie and Peach. They have created a small paradise in Shepherd, TX–a fully stocked kitchen, an awesome shower, and a loft bed under a giant metal roof. Rachel made a routing error and realized we wouldn’t make it to New Orleans in time for our scheduled workshops at Tulane University. We had to change our route, ride to Beaumont, and try our luck catching a ride on I-10. We were lucky. We met Joe, an extremely generous local who spontaneously decided to drive us the remaining 260 miles to Nola.

Workshop participants at Tulane University

Workshop participants at Tulane University

On our first day in New Orleans we were very fortunate (again), as the rain eased up and we were able to ride to our workshops without getting wet. We gave two workshops, first at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and second at the undergraduate campus. We had fascinating discussions about reusable menstrual products and  insights into the culture around menstruation in New Orleans. Many of the people we spoke with had no idea how to locate their cervixes. People, we need better reproductive education ASAP! We like to facilitate space to share important knowledge about menstruation options and body-positive familiarity, but this is education that should be institutionalized.

We will now head north as we make our way to Boston. We are excited about the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference (June 4-6). You can still register. Time is flying! Also, Rosie just had an awesome article on menstruation and the 21st century published in the Royal Institution of Australia: Australia’s Science Channel blog.

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Rosie and Olive get ready to head north

Ruby and Sarah Pedal the Prairie

We have had a great few weeks through colorful Colorado and into Kansas. The Colorado landscape was the most beautiful we’ve seen so far, and we were even more excited to be finished with the Rocky Mountains. We had a safe journey into Boulder where we stayed with Ruby’s cousin and were greeted by our sponsors at Green Guru. Jezryl from Green Guru showed us around town, invited us to a bike party with free food and beer, and even gave Ruby a tour of the Green Guru studio/shop and a well-needed bike bath! Our event at Community Cycles was equally successful, bringing in about a dozen passionate participants.

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Next we rolled southeast towards Denver. We visited with some old friends and family, and made new friends at our workshop at the Mutiny Info Cafe. We had a large, diverse turnout of people, many of whom shared their own expert knowledge. We were especially happy to meet Jen Lewis, a talented menstrual artist who is also involved with the SMCR (http://www.beautyinblood.com).

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As we headed south into strong winds, we stayed with some inspirational and hospitable female cyclists, includinga retired naval officer, a passionate dietician, and a mother of two who is planning her own cross country bike tour!

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Pedaling east from Pueblo we were happy to see new landscapes as the mountains gave way to flat, flat plains. Today we made it into Kansas, marking our halfway point through America. Kansas welcomes with a windstorm, but we are still thankful for the flat terrain! We will continue to pedal the prairie until our next workshops:

April 25th in Columbia, MO, at Clovers Natural Market 11am-1pm
April 29th in St. Louis, MO at CAMP 6pm-8pm

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Made it to the Mainland

It has been almost a week since we left Key West and set out on this trek. A first for both of us, we had no idea what to expect from our first cycling tour, and it has certainly not been free of challenges. However, since we started biking last Thursday, our lives have been full of surprises and blessings, often in the form of unexpected kindness and words of wisdom—usually from absolute strangers.

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The ride from Key West to Key Largo was gorgeous, often with nothing between us and the glittering aquamarine sea than a few inches of steel and concrete. The islands which curve out to the west of Miami are connected by a series of bridges—some of them quite long. The Seven Mile Bridge, for instance, is exactly what it sounds like—an excruciatingly long bridge that connects Knight’s Key with Little Duck Key. The view from the bridge is beautiful, but cyclists best beware that it does not distract them from the whizz of passing traffic.

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Before crossing the seven mile bridge, we talked with a fisherman who was feeding mangled fish heads to a pelican on the side of the bridge. “This is Charlie,” the man told us. “I can feed him out of my hand.” The pelican reached with its long beak and snapped up one of the fish heads. “He has to flip it around so it is facing nose first,” the man explained. “That way he can swallow it.” We watched Charlie gobble up three fish heads and then fly away. “People say I’m crazy, standing on bridges and talking to pelicans all day,” the man told us. “But I’m happy. What else is there to do in the keys?”

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On Saturday, we felt energized, and inspired to bike the 45 miles to Key Largo—the final island, and our furthest distance yet. (Since it was snowing in New England until the day we left, neither of us had done much training for this trip.) We ended up in the middle of the island with an hour before sunset and no place to stay for the night.

We had heard encouraging stories from other travelers about knocking on strangers’ doors and asking to camp in their back yard for the night. So we did just that—picking a house with a car that had an Oregon license plate (not that we prefer Oregonians over Floridians, per se…the jury’s still out on that one).

“Well, come on in.” We were lucky. Rebecca, the woman who opened the door, did more than offer us a yard to camp in—she invited us in for dinner and a place to stay in her house. Her sister, Carolyn, was visiting, and the four of us whiled away the evening talking about bicycling (Rebecca, as it turns out, is a triathlete) and women’s health (Carolyn, a Nurse Practitioner, gave us some excellent advice on bicycling hygiene!). We left feeling inspired by the generosity and strength of these women, and appreciating the grassroots, person-to-person way that so much important information gets spread.

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On Sunday we headed onto the mainland and into Homestead, FL, where we were staying with Gabriele at Paradise Farms. We were about three miles away, cruising down the bike path, when Heather ran over a glass shard and SPLAT—our first flat tire, in a less-than-ideal location. We changed the tube and had some help with the pump from a bus stop patron. These kinds of experiences—meeting kindness in unexpected places—have become more and more frequent.

When we finally did arrive at Paradise Farms, it turned out to be everything we could have imagined. We walked our bikes down an avenue of fruit trees and into the main grounds: a grand pavilion with a colorful outdoor kitchen, a mandala garden, composting toilet, and coals smoldering in the fire circle from a sweat lodge the previous evening. Our hosts were Ernest—the farm’s B&B coordinator who found his way to the farm during the course of seven years of biking around the world—and Gabriele, the farm’s owner, who shared with us her own stories of walking and biking through Europe.

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We have been struck by how many fellow travelers we’ve met, sometimes in the most unexpected of places, and also by how many strong, vibrant women we are meeting who encourage and inspire us. We also receive lots of warnings to be careful as well as offers of theoretical help, should something come up. While the sentiment is perhaps well-intentioned, it is also frustrating, as it is based on and reinforces the idea that we (as young women) should be fearful and dependent on others. Does this serve to keep women trapped in this role? Does it function as a self-fulfilling prophecy?

We held our first workshop on menstruation and sustainable menstrual products in Miami on Monday, at the home of Deanna Alvarez, a birth coach and community leader. We had a deep and dynamic conversation with the group (which included some younger members around ages 3-16) about our history with and feelings surrounding menstruation, and how to bring up children with knowledge about, respect for, and appreciation of women’s cycles. Then we had a lively discussion on the benefits of reusable menstrual products (picture menstrual cups flying and colorful cloth pads being shown off). Some women were inspired to start using cups, others to try them again, and others to bring them home to their daughters and nieces. There was an intergenerational strength to the group which made for meaningful discussion and a realization that we’re working for change on a grand scale. We are working to break the cycles of shame, toxic products, and ‘disposable’ culture for generations to come.

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Last night we stayed with Ilene and Brad, Warm Showers hosts and world travelers just north of Fort Lauderdale. Ilene does Iron Mans and other triathlons – another inspiring female athlete. Tonight we write to you from Shauna’s beautiful house in Lake Worth, where we have settled for the evening. More to come.

Starting from the Southernmost Point

Greetings from the Florida Keys! We, Heather and Rachel, arrived in Key West on Tuesday afternoon, to clear skies and balmy temperatures. We were both awestruck when we stepped off the plane into the sunshine, both coming straight out of a harsh New England winter. Luckily we had a home to land in – we stayed our first night with a Warm Showers (like Couchsurfing for cyclists) host named Brian, who did his own bike tour last year around the perimeter of the United States. He’s given us lots of helpful tips and encouragement for the adventure that awaits us. Just before sunset we walked along Mallory Square by the water front, where we got to witness some incredible street performances (including the idiosyncratic “Cat Man” who guided his trained domestic cats along a tight rope and through flaming hoops). We ate fresh caught fish tacos and drank beer on an outdoor patio with the scent of magnolia drifting on the breeze. A visit to the beach and a swim in the ocean completed our Key West beginning.

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We were staying in the older part of Key West, which has a very quaint, small town feeling. Many people travel by bike, so we got to peddle around, already feeling like part of a community of cyclists.

We had both of our bikes shipped to We Cycle, a shop on Stock Island, just across the bridge from Key West. They were incredibly helpful, setting us up with bike locks and head lights, alongside our matching We Cycle hats!

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Although our trip has barely yet begun, we have already encountered a phenomenal level of generosity. Our hosts, Brian and David, showed us around Key West and helped us find places to stay elsewhere in Florida. The folks at We Cycle hooked us up with some complimentary gear and lots of help setting up our beautiful new bikes. We haven’t held a workshop yet, but already we’ve had some interesting conversations with people about women’s cycles—mostly men who had no idea that sustainable options even existed, but who were curious, intrigued, and supportive of our mission.

This morning will be taking off from mile marker zero—the southernmost point of the continental United States. We are beyond thrilled to be on this adventure!! We are feeling tons of joy and gratitude thinking about all of the people who helped us get here, and all of our friends and family all over the country who have sent us love and encouragement. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Looking forward to our first workshop in Miami on Monday, hosted by Deanna Alvarez!

Sarah and Ruby take on The West!

Ruby and Sarah are happy to report they have made it to their 4th state, Colorado! The West has treated us well and we continue to meet inspiring women everywhere we go. Salt Lake City greeted us with open arms, and lucky us, we rolled into the Bicycle Collective on Women’s Night! The Bicycle Collective also hosted an all-women’s alleycat race leading up to our event!  It was great meeting more strong and bike-friendly women, and being hosted by our lady bike pal Alex from NYC. We got to take a few days off, see the city, and soak in Alex’s antique bathtub! We had an inspiring workshop with our new friend Giuliana Serena of Moon Time Rising (http://moontimerising.com) who started us off with a presentation on the history of menstruation and the feminine hygiene industry, and it was great to meet another menstruation enthusiast! We will be seeing her again at the SMCR Conference in June, and are super excited for her workshop on ceremonialism! SLC was also our biggest workshop yet, GO SLC!!!

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We continued to be inspired as we headed east, especially when we stayed with 91 year old Jane in Ioka, UT. Jane has previously founded two special education schools in schools in her county, and is currently in the midst of creating a transitional program for women released from prison. We briefly skirted around the subject of our bike tour before Jane made it clear that she loved talking menstruation. “It happens around the dinner table whether we talk about it or not,” she said! She was impressed with our project, and even requested a few cups to pass on to the young women she counsels. She also introduced us to her friend Karen, a Mormon midwife who knows loads about women’s health and is passionate about caring for the women in her community even though many of her neighbors disapprove of her having a career that takes her away from her family. She told us about the Mormon Feminist Housewives, a group of women intent on improving conditions for women from within the Mormon faith. We were so honored and humbled to meet these incredible women who continue to fight the good fight despite adversity!

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Our most beautiful biking day yet took us through Yampa River Valley in Northwestern Colorado, and we found ourselves in Steamboat Springs staying with an an avid female mountain-biker, skier, and fire fighter! We have enjoyed meeting strong western women and talking PERIOD!

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Over the next few days we will be traversing the Rocky Mountains. We are excited to be hosting our 4th and 5th workshops at the following locations:

April 3rd: BOULDER, CO from 6:30-8:30pm at Community Cycles, hosted by our awesome sponsor Green Guru Gear!  https://www.facebook.com/events/861494443909492/

April 4th: DENVER, CO from 4-6pm at the Mutiny Info Cafe

We hope to see you there!

Cycling Along the Loneliest Road in America

Ruby and Sarah here! Proud to say that we have officially made it to our third state- Utah! This is the first bike tour either of us have ever done, and we are finally starting to adjust (both bodily and mentally) to this new physical lifestyle.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

After leaving the sunny state of California and beautiful, mystical Lake Tahoe, we began our journey across route 50 in Nevada, known as ” The Loneliest Road in America.” Nevada was beautiful in its own way, and very difficult to traverse by bicycle. There are often 60-70 miles between towns, with no services or even places to refill water from one town to the next. Also, the mountain ranges run north to south, so between towns we also had to cross 2-4 mountain ranges a day. The ascents were brutal, steep climbs for 5-15 miles, followed by thrilling and terrifying descents at up to 30 mph, flying down into the basin only to climb up the next range.

The Loneliest Road in America

The Loneliest Road in America

In addition to the fact that we were both still green to the physical challenges of bike touring, we both got visited by “Aunt Flo” in Nevada (to use my favorite period euphemism). We mused a lot about the impact of our menstruation on our physical performance, whether it was a hindrance or not, and what the spiritual significance might be of emptying a menstrual cup on the side of the road in a barren desert. I will say that we felt incredibly grateful for menstrual cups, because having to change tampons or pads in this type of environment would have been pretty inconvenient and gross (where would we dispose of them?) not to mention quite uncomfortable for biking such long distances.

At the border of Nevada and Utah

At the border of Nevada and Utah

While the populations in Nevada were sparse and we had very few interactions with other women, we did have a few impromptu discussions along the way about alternative menstrual products. We visited with a friend in Fallon, NV who is in the US Navy, and we talked about how menstrual cups could be a total game changer for women in the service who are deployed on ships or in other conditions where it is not convenient to carry a load of period supplies or dispose of used ones. We also stumbled upon a big St. Patrick’s Day party in Border, NV where we country-danced with a bunch of real-life cowboys and had some quiet little girl-talk side conversations with some of the women there (most of whom were young mothers) about the harmful chemicals in pads and tampons, and how much money they could save by switching to reusables. We were delighted that they were very curious and open to it!

The awesome flyer for our SLC event in collaboration with Moontime Rising!

The awesome flyer for our SLC event in collaboration with Moontime Rising!

We finally made it to Salt Lake City yesterday, where we will be taking a few rest days before our BIG EVENT on Saturday! We are thrilled to be collaborating with Giuliana Serena of Moontime Rising, a local menstruation expert and guru, who will be opening the workshop with a talk on the history of menstruation! The SLC Bicycle Collective has also organized an all-women alleycat race during the day to lead in to the event! Tell your Utah friends, this event is going to be our biggest yet!

Southern Tier Update. Yes, Boston, Massachusetts. No, we don’t have a man with us.

Hey All,

All good news on the Southern Tier. So far so awesome. Olive and I have been facing some headwinds, uphills, epic descents, and mostly sunny days.

We have succeeded in balancing our bikes together. This is no small feat, as many of you may know from personal experience. This is especially helpful when we get sick of touching our bicycles. Since we have been riding through mostly desert in Arizona, we spend about 9 hours in contact with the steel beasts. We ride 50-70 miles a day, and our biggest climb yet was over 5,000 ft in between Arizona and New Mexico.

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Biking over the San Diego coastal range, we met Rachel Throop, pro-mountain biker and part-time waitress. She adopted us for the night after we met her at a local brewery. Thanks to her, we’ve gotten a little more famous on Instagram, which is AWESOME. On our way out in the morning, she hooked us both up with Oakley sunglasses for the rest of our tour. Thanks, Rachel Throop!

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The bike life is full of adventurers. We met John and Su while staying with a very giving woman in the CA desert. They are two very normal and level-headed people who quit their jobs and have spent the past year and a half trekking and cycling the world. It’s nice to see more women on the road. Girl power!

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For those of you that think Olive and I are amazing and/or crazy for biking across the country, check out this family. Mom, Dad, and two kids. We met them in Carlsbad after they had already spent months biking Europe and South America. The youngest was in diapers when they started and quickly learned that sitting in poopy in a bike seat is no fun. Mama was interested in our menstrual cup wares; we are excited to see how it works out for her.

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Crossing into Arizona meant starting dry desert days. We were met by many warmshowers hosts who are more than accommodating. We also met Lauren and Karren, two snowbirds from Wisconsin who winter at the Desert Gold RV park in Brenda, AZ. We were standing in front of the only grocery in “town”, met Karren, and within 30 seconds had been offered to sleep on their RV plot. After dinner and discussion, we of course were upgraded to the living room floor and breakfast in the morning. We had a lot to talk about, as a young woman in Karren’s family almost died from TSS a couple of years ago. Another cup giftee, and we are looking forward to exploring the new option for this now tampon-free person.

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After our breakfast, Lauren accompanied us on his bike as we rolled out of town. If we can encourage anyone to get on their saddle a little bit more, the trip has been worthwhile. A few miles down the road, we were flagged down by a very fun group of young cyclists. 2 couples who met on the road plus us made 6 happy peas in a pod. We biked to the next town together, camped with a communal dinner, and made fast friends. We look forward to seeing them again as we roll through Austin and NYC.

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Olive and I were solo again as we rolled into Superior, AZ. We had a big climb ahead of us, the wind was picking up, and it was getting to be dusk. We decided to go find a backyard to camp in. Lucky for us, we met life-long resident Dennis as he was hanging out with his grandkids near his home. Camping in his back yard turned into showers and then breakfast in the morning. We are still in touch.

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Eastward into Arizona, we stopped at a gas station in Thatcher for a water refill and started talking to Jared, an organic gardener, composter, vegetable juicer, and super awesome granola bar-baker. I know, you wouldn’t believe it by the photo, but I swear it’s true. We were his first cyclists to take in because he wanted to “show his kids that there are still good people in the world”. We shared dinner together, had a great time with his kids, and again slept on the living room floor. Olive got the couch cause she’s spoiled. Not to mention showers and laundry. AND amazing granola bars for the road. They kept us going over the next mountain summits. Thank you, Rios Family!

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We look so happy to be in New Mexico because we just biked over 5,000 ft to get here. The bike trailer next to us belongs to Josh, a Oregon man who’s toting Shoeless Joe Jackson, a beautiful dog who runs upwards of 40 miles alongside his pedaling dad.

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Now we are in Silver City. We have found a treasure here. The Bike Haus. After rolling into town after 6 pm with no plans, we were directed to this bicycle safe-haven and immediately taken in. It’s a home with friends. How awesome is that? We had a nice rest day, and we are ready to summit Emory Pass tomorrow. 2,500 ft just over 8,000 in elevation.

Along the way, we’ve had a couple of very worried mothers. “Just the two of you? Aren’t you scared? What do you do about danger?” Well, “Yes. No. We don’t get into it in the first place”. You don’t need a man to go on a bike tour. I encourage anyone with the inkling to do it and be smart about it. If you want some more inspiration, check out this awesome collection of solo female bike tourists traveling the world. WOW–Women On Wheels.

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Directions. Can never have too many of ’em.

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