What is Sustainable Cycles about?

I have a confession. Sustainable Cycles isn’t just about menstrual products. While menstrual supplies are the focal point of our work, this project is as much about social and economic justice, community conversation, breaking down stigmas, feminism on the streets and conscious consumerism, as it is about what we put between our legs.

Here are a few of the other things that Sustainable Cycles is about.

Sustainable Cycles is about women being visible, living examples of courage and strength. When we ride through small towns and big cities and talk to people on the street, many ask us: Are you carrying guns? Are you insane? Aren’t you afraid? They assure us that we should be. With so many living in fear, we choose to share stories of the generosity and hospitality we’ve encountered. Like the people who offered to host us with just a few hours’ notice, who fed us dinner in their warm kitchens and sent us off with breakfast. Like the “strangers” we end up talking about birth and death with, sharing stories and tears. In many corners of the country, simply being women traveling by bicycle and fixing our own flat tires is radical. We shake up people’s conceptions of what is safe, of what is possible, of what we are capable of. It seems almost everyone has a spark of adventure inside them, and we get to ignite this – countless individuals at gas stations or public parks tell us about their own dreams of taking off on an adventure, which we wholeheartedly encourage! When the teenaged girls we talked to at a day program in Jacksonville told me they’d like to go bike touring one day, I felt enormously proud. I realized the power of planting these seeds, and remembered all of the people who inspired me to take this life-changing adventure.

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Move over cars!

When we are traveling in a pack of six, as we did for the last leg of our journey last spring, we are enough to hold up traffic. We make cars move over for us. We turn heads. We take up room in the streets. We declare our presence, making ourselves big – when we are so often told to make ourselves small, as women and as cyclists. All of this we do entirely through a grassroots, people-to-people, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other way.

Sustainable Cycles is about conscious consumerism. We expose one way that corporate interest intersects with economics and environmental disregard to negatively affect our health. Tampons and pads are made from cotton, one of the most pesticide-heavy crops grown in the world. The pesticide-laden cotton (less-so for the more expensive organic brands, of course) and synthetic glues and plastics that make up tampons and pads, plus the petroleum-based plastic or cardboard applicators and packaging, plus the fuel required to deliver them all over the world, amounts to a lot of environmental toxins and a lot of garbage. And guess what – these pesticides and plastics are also harmful to our internal ecologies, and they get inserted directly into one of the most sensitive parts of the human body. (Check out books such as Whitewashing and others on our resources page for more info). So, we have a product that is dangerous to our bodies, harmful to the environment, and it is one that companies sell to us over and over and over, creating a monthly burden for many. Because environmental degradation and poor access to healthcare disproportionately affect low-income people and people of color, this issue is also one of race and class. We also learn about how many of the health class videos that students watch across the country are made by Proctor & Gamble or other corporations, and are usually accompanied by sample packs of tampons. Brand loyalty starts at menarche for many pad and tampon consumers.

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Workshop & supplies table at College of Charleston, South Carolina

Now, we’re not saying that disposable supplies don’t have their place. We understand that certain lifestyles, situations, and personalities are not conducive to reusable alternatives, which is totally fine!  However, due to the health risks and the monthly costs and the waste, many folks would like an alternative. So why aren’t sustainable supplies more well known and available? Capitalism pop quiz! You are a multinational corporation that makes menstrual products. Which would you rather sell: tampons, which each woman will buy every month on average for forty years, or a menstrual cup that women will buy one time every ten years? Obviously the prior. And if you are a drug store trying to turn a profit on the materials you stock on your shelves, the same principle applies. On the other hand, menstrual cups, sea sponges and cloth pads are almost all made by small woman-owned businesses around the world, with a much lower profit margin and a social mission. When we shift toward these products, we shift toward a sustainable economy that provides us with choices that are healthier and low-impact for body and earth. We can redirect thousands of dollars that would otherwise end up in the already stuffed pockets of major corporations.

 Through group discussions, we examine this phenomenon and start to become more conscious consumers, examining the way that economics, environmental impact, health, and social issues intersect in almost everything that we buy.

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Taking over the Capitol

Sustainable Cycles is about breaking the menstruation stigma in order to encourage education, health, and period positivity. By talking about periods, whether in workshops or to people on the streets of the towns we ride through, we break the sound barrier that surrounds even the word “menstruation.” In our society, menstrual shaming is so pervasive that for many people, young women especially, if they don’t feel ashamed of their own cycle and disgusted by their own body, they are inconvenienced or in some way feel negatively about it. In my view, this is a tragedy in its own right and a part of the distorted sense of self that results from the alienation of whole self from physical body. Furthermore, when we don’t talk about something, we don’t learn about it. The stigma contributes to a lack of education about menstrual health and how to deal with bleeding from a logistical perspective, leaving most people feeling alone in how to handle their cycle.

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Joining forces with WEBike in NYC

In our workshops, we bring bleeding-bodied folks (of all genders)* together to learn from one another and share our experiences about menstruation. We hear story after story about the embarrassment of being caught red-panted, or about tampon mishaps, or the confusion of a trans-gender experience. In our conversations, we invite everyone to share their period stories to create a community where all experiences are welcome, from the painful to the celebratory. By voicing our stories, we break down the silence, relieving ourselves of the shame that many of us carry. We also get to celebrate the beauty and life of periods! Folks get to share the strength and wisdom they draw from their cycles, the beauty of the life-giving process, the connection to their bodies, earth, moon, mothers, and sisters. We air these stories, celebrate them, laugh in resonance, and learn from each other. Stories tell of some of the most intimate moments of our lives, of how we learned from our mothers or grandmothers or aunties, of how we relate to our partners, of how we treat our own bodies. We create sisterhood when we share and laugh and cry together. This newfound openness and connection can ripple out through our all of our communities. By inviting everyone to share, we uncover the collective wisdom and knowledge of our lived experiences, and share it to help one another live healthy, powerful lives.

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Ahh… Adventure.

So, this is a little bit more of what Sustainable Cycles is about, and why I can hardly wait for our 2017 tour. I hope you will make it to a workshop one day to experience it for yourself!

Rachel S.

*We intend to support and fully include gender fluidity and the experience of trans-gender people in our work. We acknowledge that not all women menstruate and not all people who menstruate are women. Therefore we often use terms such as “bleeding-bodied” or other gender-neutral words to refer to people who menstruate.

In Mexico, cicla tu ciclo

In early October of 2015, the Casa Ciclista in  Guadalajara  hosted Bike!Bike!, the annual convergence of bicycle co-ops from around the world. My local bicycle co-op, The Bikerowave, graciously financed a flight to Mexico to represent Los Angeles; and, of course, to present a Sustainable Cycles workshop during the conference. Since Mexico celebrates Día de los Muertos at the beginning of November, I decided to stay for the month and hang out with my new bicycle friends.

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The cicla tu ciclo workshop was very well-received. Back by popular demand, we organized 3 more during the month I was there.

 

I would say that the folks at the Casa Ciclista community bicycle workshop were unbelievably gracious in their hospitality but at this point, I have experienced such kindness from strangers that I believe it easily. There were around 200 people who traveled to the event; each one of us was provided housing through the expansive bicycle community network in town. Our bike co-op hosts volunteered their time to cook us two meals a day and put together an extensive conference program. We overtook an old warehouse, a local bike shop, and the community bicycle workshop space to participate in programs ranging from how to finance a non-profit bike shop to how to welcome non-binary gender and queer sexuality into a bicycle space. Our hosts planned social events as well. One night, they projected “Bikes vs Cars” onto a big screen, and we watched how people in numerous cities around the world are using the bicycle as an agent for positive change. We went on a night time group ride with at least 400 riders reclaiming the streets of Guadalajara. Believe me when I tell you, the cycling movement is global and growing.

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Bike!Bike! hosted over 200 people, mostly from the Americas

Cicla tu ciclo was very popular. After I left Guadalajara for Mexico City, I collaborated with some local feminists to organize some more. One of these events was held at an old radical printing shop called the “Casa de El hijo del Ahuizote” in the historic center of downtown Mexico City. Amongst a strong history of corruption in Mexico lies an inspiring counter-movement of activism and human rights advocacy; the structures of yesterday’s movements continue to support today’s. At the downtown venue, I was assisted by a number of new friends in running the cycling workshop. As little as we talk about menstruation in the US, it is spoken of even less in Mexico. The dedicated space for flow conversation was well-received and appreciated by a non-exclusively female audience.

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Elaborate art in Cuernavaca during Día de los Muertos

During the Guadalajara conference, I met a friend who made my stay in Mexico City two thousand times more enjoyable than it would have been by lending me one of her bicycles for the whole month I was there. Biking around Mexico City during the sunlit hours of the day is not something I encourage you to add to your bucket list; traffic is bad and fumes are noxious, but late at night, the roads quiet and the riding becomes much more enjoyable. I am happy to report that the Mexico City bike scene is alive, well, and fast! Thank you to the Casa Biciteka for welcoming me into their strong community of fierce cyclists. I return from Mexico knowing that when I ride the streets of Los Angeles, I do so in solidarity with cyclists who share a vision of independent mobility, healthier bodies, and a healthier earth.

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Cyclists from around the world converge at La Casa Ciclista in Guadalajara. The cooperative bicycle movement is strong!

 

A post-ride word from “Down Under”

Wow. Sustainable Cycles 2015 was everything I had imagined and so much more. As the only international member of the team, it felt pretty amazing to be welcomed into the United States by such incredible people, and have the privilege to ride with such a “bad-ass” bunch of women. There were so many highlights on this trip, from the warm hospitality we received the whole way, to the workshops, the food and life on the road on the other side of the world. The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research (SMCR) Conference was life changing. Never before have I felt so welcomed, needed and nurtured by a professional society. I made connections that, thanks to technology, I will be able to maintain and use in this incredibly important work in the future.

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Our workshop in Philadelphia with Women Bike PHL.

Now that I’m back in Australia, apart from missing my riding team like I would miss my right arm if I lost it, I’m eager to plan the next adventure. It felt amazing seeing Sustainable Cycles grow this year, and for word to get around. The interest of people both on-line and in person, is really wonderful to see. I’m so excited to see where this project is going next, and what the following years will bring. We had quite a few people of all ages ask us how they could get involved, and if they could ride too. I’m looking forward to seeing the team grow, the message get out, and menstrual cycles get greener across the USA. I’m hoping to see the same thing happening here with my work in Sustainable Menstruation Australia. It was great seeing participants at Sustainable Cycles workshops who were there on behalf of a friend or partner who couldn’t make it. A huge part of finding sustainable solutions to menstrual health is having conversations that allow shame and fear to melt away. When we talk sustainable menstruation, we aren’t just looking at a greener planet; we’re looking at a long-term healthy view of this beautiful, wild and wonderful bodily function.

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“Never Give Up” Atlanta, Georgia

One of the great things that life on the road brought was long stretches of time for thinking and creativity, away from distractions. I wrote this piece in a park, somewhere near New York, in preparation for the Menstrual Hygiene Day and SMCR Conference poetry open mic nights. It sums up my experience of Sustainable Cycles pretty well. I hope you can join us in spirit, on-line, or in person, on our next ride.

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Flow.

My feet flow through each cycle. Every revolution takes me further into the cycle. Life Cycle. Bicycle. Upcycle. Recycle.

My small wheels move along the road, a mirror to the larger wheel of which I am a tiny, insignificant, and yet pivotal part. My essence is essential to the whole. The microcosm of my womb reflects the entire universe!

I look at my legs powering my bicycle across state after state. I watch as I bleed and listen to my body as my ovulation is reflected by the road. My menstrual cycle is a perfect replica of the seasons, of the stages from egg to caterpillar, to pupa, to butterfly. The Earth rotates around the sun, just as my pedals rotate around my crank shaft, and foot by foot, mile by mile, I move forward. We move forward. Propelled by our destiny as cyclists. Life Cyclists.

We cycle, and millennia of oppression melt away. We are part of something immense. Individually, we are just a tiny cog in the giant clock of evolution, but together, we can say menstruation. Period. I bleed. You bleed. We were, are and will be bleeders. Without our blood, life as we know it would not be. Cycling, together, we conquer fear. We surmount shame.

Sustainable cycles? It’s a pun about bikes and periods, but it’s so much more. Our message is clear. Love your cycle. Love the cycle. Take care of yourself, and you take care of the planet. Learn about your body, and you will be empowered.

I watch a teenage girl ride her bike through the streets of Philadelphia. Will she have knowledge of her cycle?

I see an old woman on a park bench in New Orleans. Who is learning her life lessons?

A middle aged dame in Texas tells me she doesn’t like “that word” and I wonder. Does her daughter know her – Period?

A transgender man tells of his forgotten tablets and using soft leaves to soak up his accidental summer-camp flow.

So many perspectives from so many places and we’ve only just scratched the surface. So many lessons to learn from our neighbours.

Collectively, we have a purpose.

Learn to love. Love to grow as our cycle continues. I watch a playground of children. What world can we envision for them? A world where we know our bodies? Where we can be ourselves without fear?

… a world void of hatred?

Who knows. I am but a tiny wheel on the cycle of life.

Yet one small action can trigger a revolution.

One cycle. One. Cycle.

We are in it.

Where do you want to go?

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Riding the home stretch into Boston.

Sustainable Cycles 2015 Moves On…

Happy belated Summer Solstice!

We are happy, a little sad, and proud to say that the 2015 tour has concluded! Both Sarah and Ruby are back to work in NYC, Rachel H is working at a summer camp in Vermont, Olive is working at a camp in California, Rosie has returned Down Under where she is applying what she learnt on tour to her work with Sustainable Menstruation Australia (www.sustainablemenstruationaustralia.com.au), and Rachel S. is in Boston planning her next adventure. 

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The last  week of our tour from NYC to Boston were some of our best and strongest days. We hustled hard, completing the 300 mile journey in 5 days’ time.  As we headed north we got to bike through some New England beach towns. We were near the ocean for much of the week, and got to ride through beautiful salt marshes and forests. After a 77 mile day that ended just before a rainstorm hit, we were hosted by an amazing Warmshowers host named David who generously took in all 6 of us. He regaled us with stories about his bike tour from England to Israel and fed us a veritable feast that included freshly caught trout.

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We then traveled to New London for our last official workshop at Fiddleheads Food Co-op.  We felt incredibly welcomed by the community, and their employees even took us home for the night. Next was the long, but exciting last leg to Boston. Although the weather was unseasonably chilly and rainy, our spirits were up and we were feeling sentimental about our last few days on tour.

Finally, BOSTON!
WOW! WE DID IT. 
Our trip concluded in Boston on June 3rd. We got a great surprise when Ruby’s mother arranged for a police escort for the last three miles of the tour. The streets of Melrose, MA shut down, and we were welcomed warmly by enthusiastic bystanders! We were overwhelmed by joy and gratitude at having completed our journey safely, and we ended the evening with a “make your own baked potato” bar-– this was a highlight of the day!

On June 4th we made our way to the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference. We were so happy and relieved to have arrived at our final destination and the mecca for menstrual activism. The Society gave us many platforms to share our stories, including a morning panel, afternoon workshop, and evening potluck. It felt great to have our work be recognized and valued by other activists, scholars, and researchers. Individually, we all found the conference itself to be life changing. Key note speaker Loretta Ross spoke about her Reproductive Rights model, and opened our eyes to the many social, political, socioeconomic factors that effect women’s reproductive rights daily. Jax from the Menstrual Activist Research Collective (M.A.R.C) led an eloquent discussion about the importance of “queering” menstruation, and the implications of our language when discussing periods. Lisa Leger from Justisse enlightened us about the Fertility Awareness Method of birth control, which was inspiring enough to have Ruby looking into a possible career shift! WASH United presented a global perspective, and reminded us about the basic needs that are not being provided to women all around the world, including clean water and the privacy needed to change a menstrual product. We were all touched by  ceremonialist Giuliana Serena, who gave a heartfelt workshop about rites of passage with her organization Moon Time Rising, and gave permission for each attendee to use the space to facilitate their own rite of passage about issues ranging from menarche, to menopause, to abortions. We left the workshop with teary eyes, and full hearts. 

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All in all the conference was life affirming, and reminded us of the great importance of this work to our community, and world! 

And our work continues!

Sarah W. was able to present on a guest panel for the “Unmentionables Film Festival” in NYC. Again, another opportunity to share stories from our journey, and meet other inspiring activists, including a woman who teaches therapeutic double dutch, and two 16 yearold, upandcoming film makers who had their movie, “A Girls Rite” featured at the festival. 

Although our 2015 tour has ended, Sustainable Cycles continues to grow and gain momentum. We feel that we are at the cusp of a menstrual revolution, and we are deeply grateful that we (and you!) are a part of that revolution. Stay tuned for more updates as we enter the next chapter of Sustainable Cycles post 2015 tour.

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Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day. I got all my sisters with me!

111 miles in one day. Thanks to our sag wagon support and the expertise of WEBikeNYC navigators!

111 miles in one day. Thanks to our sag wagon support and the expertise of WEBikeNYC navigators!

The cross-country riders have united at last. We are together, and the period party is just beginning. Rosie, Ruby, Sarah W, Rachels H & S, and Olive are together in New York City in the last throngs of their bicycle journey. Boston is under 300 miles away, and it is hard to believe the proximity. 300 miles. A distance that, not so very long ago seemed daunting to cycle across now seems like a hop scotch away. It is amazing what a long-distance journey will do to a small group of women.

Richmond, VA workshop.

Richmond, VA workshop.

We wish you a Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day! We will celebrate this young holiday tonight in NYC at the Delancey Lounge on the lower east side. MHD was created to “raise awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management for women and adolescent girls” all around the world. The taboos and discomfort about menstruation that Sustainable Cycles has observed across the country is a part of a pervasive “period negative” culture that “limits women’s and adolescent girls’ access to relevant and important information about their bodies, directly affecting their health, education, and human rights”. We are excited to be a part of the movement to change the culture from negative to positive. Our workshops have been full of supportive menstruators and allies brave enough to ask the questions that are well overdue.

Thanks to WABA Women & Bicycles for hosting our workshop! DC, you rock.

Thanks to WABA Women & Bicycles for hosting our workshop! DC, you rock.

We have ridden our bicycles thousands of miles. We have facilitated over two dozen workshops across the country. We have distributed over 200 menstrual cups. From California and Key West to New York City, we have “started the discussion” every 60 miles or so with the kind people we met all across the United States. We have disagreed with one another, we’ve spit snarky comments, we’ve cried, laughed, sweated, bled, stretched, massaged, supported, talked and listened to, and cycled together. We have created a sisterhood of cyclists. And we are excited to continue our adventure as we cycle to the SMCR conference next week.

"But what if you get a flat tire?" "Well, we fix it!"

Thank you to those who have helped and continue to help us in our journey of self-exploration and sisterhood. We have found the people of this country to be helpful, generous, welcoming, and caring. On a freezing rainy day, the home of a kind stranger is all the home we need.

A cold and rainy day was tough, but the kindness of a warmshowers host made all well.

A cold and rainy day was tough, but the kindness of a warmshowers host made all well.

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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