After our night in Hebo, we Hitchiked to Newport, Oregon to avoid the scary riding conditions on that part of the 101. Newport is home to an amazing bike shop: Bike Newport. They have an upstairs loft with internet, couches, a shower, and laundry – everything a bicyclist needs! We did some computer work for our project, then stayed with Julie, a woman we found on warm showers.org (a hospitality network for bicycle tourists similar to couch surfing). Julie was in the middle of a big pickled green bean canning operation, and we were happy to help out.
The next day was the most beautiful day of biking of our lives! Up and over beautiful hillsides with amazing views of sand beaches and rocky outcrops jutting out of the water. But to save ourselves some scary riding on 101 over labor day weekend, we decided to go on an inland loop.
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We stayed with Sarah’s cousin in the tiny community of Deadwood, Oregon (population 150). In Deadwood, we worked on writing an article on the current relevancy of sustainable menstruation, especially for low-income women. We hope to get the article published in community newspapers in Portland, Olympia, Eureka, and elsewhere.
Deadwood is home to Alpha Farm, an income-sharing intentional community, which aims at self-sufficiency and sustainability. We gave away two cups to women living on the farm, then ended up having a long conversation about our project with two handsome young man. They were surprisingly interested in learning about sustainable approaches to menstruation and wanted to tell their friends, put up fliers, and help us get on the Ellen Degeneres show. As we walked home from the farm, we started joking about “The Handsome Young Man Project: Sarah and Toni bicycle down the West Coast, live on $4 a day, and Talk to Handsome Young Men About Sustainable Approaches to Menstruation.”
So funny at the time, we were keeled over laughing, but with more thought, we realized that including men in this project and in the conversations in general, was important and could be a valuable tool for spreading this information. We have met several young men who have learned about menstrual cups in the past and have gracefully already told their female friends or even bought them as gifts. It is very important to realize that it is not easy or simple for men to talk to their female friends about how to deal with their periods. With humble acknowledgement of the limits of their understanding and sensitivity to a long history of men telling women what to do with their bodies, we want men to feel empowered to open a dialogue with their close communities about menstrual sustainability.
With all that said, we think that the humor (and flattery) in the Handsome Young Man Project will be a whole new leg to Sustainable Cycles advocacy. Because men like contests, being told they are handsome and young, talking to women, and also prizes, each enthusiastic man who decides to be part of the project will join the Handsome Young Man Face book group and compete to see who can do the best sustainable menstruation activism by the end of 2011. The project will be based on the honor code. For every woman that he sensitively convinces to switch to using a sustainable option, the handsome young man gets one point. There are also additional points available, with discretion, for getting articles published, putting up flyers, bringing it up at a club meeting, etc, but for the most part, we want to encourage the men to talk to their close friends, sisters, mothers, or girlfriends.
Special Note: 2 points for writing and recording a song. How great would it be to have an album of songs about sustainable menstruation written by handsome young men, by the end of the year!
For some Inspiration…
(Thank you Aidan Felman!)
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Our next stop after Deadwood was Eugene, home to the University of Oregon- over 23,000 students. We stayed pitched our tent in the backyard of a student housing cooperative. The Student Cooperative Association of the University of Oregon owns three houses totaling 80 residents. We talked with groups of interested people at each house, gave out 12 cups, and had 4 entries into the Handsome Young Man Contest (HYMC). We also talked to the houses about making a bulk order for all of the women who want cups in all three houses, and getting some kind of bulk discount. We also learned that the Student Housing Association offered, in years past, to split the cost of a cup with any resident who wanted to buy one, in order to encourage sustainability in these communities.
In addition to the student housing coops, we visited two other intentional communities in Eugene, talked to groups of people and gave out cups. Because it was Labor Day weekend, most of the social service organizations we would have liked to connect with were closed, but we left information with Women’s Space and Ophelia’s Place, centers for women and teenagers dealing with poverty and abuse.
After leaving Eugene, we spent some time bicycling through rural Oregon– sheep, vinyards, mountains, beautiful views, and very few people. Though we enjoyed connecting with the people we met there, we became aware of a big difference of impact that each conversation has in a dense network of communities as compared to remote rural areas. So we hopped in another pick-up truck back to the coast, to beat the heat, play in the ocean and get back to some tightly packed cities and communities.
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Riding down the coast, we have been leap-frogging with a group of cyclists on a supported tour from Eugene to San Francisco. The organization happens to be Adventure Cycling, the company that made the maps we are using. They have two guides, one who rides with the groups, and the other who drives a van carrying all their stuff. They have pre-reserved campsites and meals planned for them. Despite being mostly in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, they’ve been keeping a faster pace than us, with our 50lbs of stuff and frequent project stops. After 50 miles of biking, including an 8 mile uphill with almost no shoulder alongside too many big trucks, we appreciated their invitation to share their campsite and dinner for the night. We talked to most of the group about our project, and many of them are excited about getting cups for their daughters or friends. We plan to arrive in San Francisco about the same time as they do, and we hope for more fun campfires, sing-a-longs and charades.
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We are writing this post from the kitchen of three young women who study at Humbolt State University in Arcata, CA. Lucia found us sitting on a curbside at a grocery store, just after we arrived in Arcata. She asked us what we were up to, got really excited about our project and invited us to stay with her.
In Arcata, we first visited the Women’s Resource Center at Humbolt State University. The women running this center are all smart, motivated college students. They are already doing a great job promoting re-useable products on their campus. We shared ideas and left them with some literature. These women are a great resource for anyone interested in doing campus organizing around sustainable menstruation or other women’s issues.
Humbolt State University is also the home to CCAT (Campus Center for Appropriate Technology). This is a student run house that aims to use sustainable energy sources and serves as a resource center for the community. We talked to several people there about our project, and then went back to a joy-filled open mic later that night. We are certainly impressed with the openness and positivity in this town. Most of the students we talked to already knew about menstrual cups, but hopefully we encouraged them to keep talking about these options and getting the word out.
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In the next few days, we will be riding through the redwoods, down the beautiful northern California coast towards the San Francisco bay area. Check out our upcoming events (sidebar), feel free to send us any ideas about publicity, people or places to visit from here on south, and if you haven’t yet, please write to Ellen!
Also, Check out the blog of another great traveling couple. They wrote a piece about Sustainable Cycles, but they are also having some wonderful adventures of their own!