It has been harder than anticipated to find a place to write this post. We ran out of time in Portland, and tried to write to you from a bathroom at Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast using Sarah’s I-phone as a modem. So romantic–sitting on the bathroom floor with a tiny computer and an I-phone, and telling curious camp bathroom users about reusable menstrual products. Alas, no service.
We regret that we lost track of the cord that connects Toni’s camera to the computer, so we have a chunk of time that we can’t share visually with you, but we do have some recent photos from Sarah’s camera. Other things we’ve lost: two water bottles, one pair of bicycles gloves, our mini bottles of hot sauce, vinegar, and olive oil (food’s pretty bland now), two spoons, and one tupperware. We need to shape up.
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Last night was the new moon (taditionally a time to let things go and start anew). For reasons not worth explaining Toni and I ended up at the top of a two and a half mile downhill, just as the darkness was descending. Quickly realizing that we could not possibly ride our fully loaded bikes down a steep, pitch black winding road, we started a slow and humbling, new-moon-rebirthing kind of walk through the deeply dark night to the state park where we spent the night. We planned to pop open a bottle of cheap wine when we got to camp to wind down, but by the time we set up our tent and realized we had no bottle opener, we decided to just go to bed. We massaged each others arms (sore from slowing the momentum of our heavy bicycles as we walked), and concked out. Why have a full moon night on the new moon? This morning we re-organized all of our stuff, and are feeling excited about the next phase of our trip.
Since Portland, Toni andI have been on the very rural Oregon coast. There is not much to report in terms of events, but we have been in doing some great biking in beautiful country, and have given away 4 cups.
Today, we finally got to highway 101: our road for our time in Oregon. After ab0ut an hour of harrowing riding alongside logging trucks, we needed to calm our nerves, and smoke a metaphorical ciggarette. We are sitting in a little bar in Hebo, Oregon (country music videos, farm hands, motorcyclists, etc) using Wi-Fi and sneaking bites of leftover grits and butter beans so the bartender won’t notice.
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This is what we planned to post just after we left Portland…
Wednesday August 24th
Sarah and I are spending the day in the living room of one of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps communities in Portland. They are all away for the day, working in different social services and advocacy organizations around Portland. It’s great to finally have some down-time to work at the computer and have a rest from bicycling!
We left Olympia on Sunday morning and arrived in Portland on Tuesday around 2pm. The first day, we were on a lovely bike path for a few hours. We got to tell a few other bikers about our project, and got two spontaneous $5 donations. One woman is a teacher, and promised to make copies of our fliers to give out to her friends at a party she is attending this weekend.
Sunday evening, as dusk was approaching and we were beginning to look for a place to camp, we happened upon a whole field of tents… and bicycles! Turns out we had run into the crew from Ride Across Washington (RAW), a 6-day “supported tour” (meaning trucks carry your stuff and other people cook for you) all over the state. They were great hosts, letting us “camp in their yard” and giving us dinner and breakfast.
Monday we got started biking at 7:30am, hoping to make it to Portland (almost 100 miles that day). We tried our best, but ended up camping in Columbia City, a tiny town 30 miles north of Portland. We stayed in the back yard of an elderly couple, Jenny and JD. Jenny told us that she had always wanted to do something like our trip, but that “girls didn’t do things like that back then.” One kid she knew had gone on a 200mile bike trip, and another had roller-bladed to the next town. Jenny offered us the use of their bathroom (extensively decorated with ducks), and told us to help ourselves to the kale growing in the garden.
We are so excited to be in Portland, and dig into the sustainable menstruation part of our project.
Yesterday evening, we had a great event at In Other Words, a feminist community space, library, and bookstore. About 20 people showed up, only three of which already used cups. We did a lot of nuts and bolts education on the why and how of using a cup. A few bought Mooncups right then and there from the store, we gave a few cups away, and many people left interested in buying themselves a cup later.
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Since we have recived so much kindness from Toni’s Jesuit Volunteer (JV) network, a little more about them:
Jesuit Volunteers live in community on a very modest shared budget, with just $80 of personal spending money a month (some of which goes towards buying pads and tampons). For a JV, and many other low-income people, $35 dollars in one chunk is hard to part with. We decided to give cups to half the JVs in each house we visit, and have them split the price of buying the cups for the other half. That way, everyone gets a cup for half price—the cups are made accessible, but there is also some sense of responsibility and sacrifice to own one. When we came here yesterday, one women in the house had a cup—now all five have cups. Its’s really exciting to know that their community will be producing zero waste from menstrual products!
We hope that there will be a big ripple effect from each cup we give away. In the case of the JVs, the cups go to idealistic passionate people who have access to underserved communities. Many JVs go on to become leaders in social services and advocacy organizations. They can be part of the project of bringing sustainable, affordable, healthy, and empowering menstrual products to underserved women.
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We have been distributing copies of an amazing zine, “Menstruation Sensation,” written by Alyssa Beers (www.alyssabeers.com) of Gladrags. When we got in touch with the company about copying the zine as educational material, Tracy Puhl, the now-owner Gladrags, invited us to their office in Portland to meet her, see their space, and talk about what we are doing. Gladrags is a Portland based company started by one woman sewing cl0th reuseable pads and selling them to her friends. The rags became very popular, and now Gladrags are sold all over the country. In addition to cloth pads, Gladrags also stocks and sells sea sponges, and menstrual cups from all three companies.
Tracy was enthusiastic about our trip. She gave us Gladrags to add to our stock of gifts to give away, educated us about reuseable pads, and gave us two great books about menstruation and the health risks associated with pads and tampons. Gladrags is a great connection for our project. In addition to making their own products, Gladrags promotes and sells all sustainable menstrual options. Gladrags often offers wholesale prices on bulk orders to non-profits and social service agencies. We will make sure to tell caseworkers and organizations we meet along our way.
In order to help us track some part of our impact on menstrual cup sales, Tracy offered to create a coupon code for sales on the Gladrags website, “sustainablecycles.” Anyone can use that code to order any product from Gladrags to get a 15% discount (and all cups ship free!).
We think what Tracy is doing is awesome, and we hope she will come ride bikes with us for a weekend somewhere on the coast.
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For those of you who don’t know already, Toni and I have two grandiose/whimsical goals for this trip. 1) Get Portlandia to make an episode about us, and 2) be on the Ellen Degeneres show.
When Toni was being interviewed for the Willamette Weekly article (see “press” sidebar), the reporter commented that our whole trip sounds like a Portlandia skit. For those of you who don’t know, Portlandia is a TV show that makes fun of the idealistic culture of Portland 20-somethings. At first we were a bit offended, then we realized that people making fun of us is a great way to get the word out about reusuable menstrual products. Any press is good press, so they say.
We have sensitive ears, and were able to find a film shoot for the TV show while we were in Portland! We pulled aside a filming assistant, Tucker, and told him about our project. Tucker learned all about menstrual cups, our project, and why we would make a perfect Portlandia skit. We gave Tucker a menstrual cup and got him to promise to get the cup to the director’s wife. We stressed his responsibility to make sure that she uses the cup.
Who knows what will come of it– Tucker! If you are reading this…. don’t let us down!
Our Ellen fantasy…
We camp in Ellen and Portia’s backyard. They make us homemade vegan breakfast in the morning, then ride bikes with us to the studio. After Ellen announces our project, we ride our fully loaded bikes on the stage and tell Ellen’s huge audience about sustainable menstruation – multiplying the effectiveness of our trip 100 times, at least.
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Let us know if you have any connections with Portlandia or Ellen DeGeneres. Stay tuned to be part of a mass lobbying effort directed at Ellen – if we get 30 people to write to her, maybe she will notice!
Remember, if you are interested in buying a menstrual cup for yourself or a friend, you can get 15% off and free shipping by using the promotional code “sustainablecycles” at gladrags.com