We Made it to LA!!!

On October 2nd we left the Bay Area, bringing with us our fun and spunky host, Kit, to ride south with us for a few days. We rode our bikes to Half-Moon Bay, where we camped for a night in a cypress grove overlooking the ocean (one of the most beautiful places we’ve pitched our tent!). The next day was the first rainy day of our trip. We spent an extra day there by the bay with a wonderful family before biddng adieu to Kit and making our way to Santa Cruz.

Our first stop in Santa Cruz was a visit to SubRosa – an anarchist community space, zine library and coffee shop. We learned about their projects and gave away a few cups.

Santa Cruz was not the most productive of our stops. We hadn’t planned to stay long, but bad weather slowed us down. It rained for several days and our hosts Ian and Bob were so awesome we hardly wanted to go anywhere.  Ian studies solar energy and is a talented guitar player. Bob is a social psychology grad student at UC Santa Cruz. The internet was amazingly slow, so we had no choice but to enjoy ourselves playing music, cooking, and hanging out.  Tough life!

That’s a blurry trailer behind us. Ian took us to a potluck at a student trailer park at UCSC. All the women there already had cups and were already telling their friends!

We left Ian with a cup to give to his sister and had him model a t-shirt that Lunette sent us. The back of the shirt says: “Take care down there:  Us women spend 6 ½ years of our lives menstruating.  But with Lunette’s menstrual cups, it desnt have to feel like it.  You can continue to play sports, and some say, even enjoy oral sex at any time of the month.”  Thanks for sending us the shirt, Caron (from Lunette), I’m sure people will really notice when Ian wears it!

Ian… the new face of Lunette!

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Often in life, you can wake up in the morning and visualize fairly accurately how your day will turn out- what friends you will see, where you’ll eat your meals, and where you’ll sleep.   This is emphatically not the case on a bicycle trip.  On October 6th, we imagined a long day of bicycling along some of the most famously beautiful coast line, in order to reach Big Sur on the afternoon of the 7th.

Here’s what actually happened:

5 miles into the ride, Toni got a flat tire.  We fixed the tire in front of a real estate office in the Santa Cruz suburbs.  Onwards!  A few miles later…. another flat tire, no more spare tubes, and a chilly rain.  We hitch-hiked to a bike shop where we blew $21 on three new tubes, and invested $40, we think wisely, in a new tire.  By the time we left the bike shop, it was almost 5pm.  We weighed our options, took a brief go at hitch-hiking towards Big Sur, then decided to turn back to spend another night with Ian and Bob.  A long, hard day, ending where we started.

Right before we left Seattle our friend Patrick jokingly asked, “Are you guys going to totally dominate this bike ride?!?” We thought for a moment about the challenge ahead, our own personalities, and our philosophies about travel/life.  After a moment, Toni said, “No, we are going to experience it.”

We think about that conversation almost every day, as we walk our bikes up huge hills, ride along congested freeways, run out of food or water, hide in shade for hours from the brutal midday sun, get flat tires, pass each other without noticing on the road, then worry, wait, and maybe ride around aimlessly searching.  We also think about that conversation when amazing things we could never have imagined fall into our laps.  The idea of dominating any of this is absurd.

In coming towards the end of this trip, we’ve been reflecting on why we enjoy or don’t enjoy an experience on a given day.  We know we can’t be in control of what happens, but that lesson is not easy to internalize. Any situation can be good if it is approached with creativity, perspective, and gratitude. Often we can’t muster those virtues in the moment.

By chance, this time of year is also a time of reflection in the Jewish calendar.  Yom Kippur, which fell this year on the 8th of October, is the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the holiest day of the year. On this Day of Atonement, in the Jewish tradition, we reflect on our sins and ask for forgiveness from the people in our lives. We fast from food and water, mourn those we’ve lost, get a last chance for repentance from sins, and usually spend most of the day in the temple.  Sarah grew up in this tradition. Toni is not Jewish, but we were both interested in creating a meaningful ritual in the spirit of Yom Kippur and our trip together.

We had been very concerned with where we were going to spend Yom Kippur. Of course things did not turn out as planned. We did not get as far as we wanted, but ended up finding a good place in Carmel Highlands, the last town before a long uninhabited (and steep) stretch of Big Sur State Park. We knocked on the door of a house with a garden filled with prayer flags, flowers, and huge stacks of balancing rocks (cairns), traditionally used for marking trails.  We knew we’d found our spot.  Jim, the artist who created the rock sculptures and the garden “retreat” space, invited us to stay, brought us to the private beach across the road, and talked with us about the spiritual meaning us his art-making.

In our version of this Day of Atonement, we started with apologies to each other. We have spent a lot of time together over the last two months and have been each other’s main support system. We’ve done a lot of things right, but naturally we’ve disappointed each other as well.  It was powerful, but also scary to be specific and honest about the ways in which we caused each other (and ourselves) suffering on this trip. It is humbling to think about the magnitude of time we’ve spent in our lives not being happy and not giving our best selves to the people around us, and how it’s our own fault.

That conversation set the tone for a day of reflecting on the other facets of our lives.  We spent the day at Point Lobos State Park, a beautiful setting for peaceful reflection.  As we broke our fast with wine and food we talked about what is next in our own lives and for Sustainable Cycles (more on that later).

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We woke up on the 9th of October, 300 miles from LA, with an event at 8pm on the 10th. Hmmmmmm…

We took a morning ride along the Big Sur coastline and then sadly said goodbye to the last pedal-powered moments of our adventure.  Toni hurled a hard-boiled egg over the cliffs into the ocean as a sacrificial offering to the hitch-hiking gods, and… it worked!

The first truck that drove by stopped and offered to drive us 130 miles!!! It was perfect. We got to join the family vacation of David, Scott, and Liz. We stopped to look for jade on a rocky beach, saw elephant seal pups lounging in the sand, and visited the estate of the Hearst family (a huge castle surrounded by vineyards, and ranch-land where zebras graze next to cattle). They dropped us off at a gas station in Pismo Beach at 5pm. After an hour and a half of fruitless attempts that were beginning to try our patience, we found the perfect ride. Sarah, a 22 year-old pre-med student at UCLA gave us a ride all the way to Los Angeles!  We gave her one cup for herself and one to give her friend.  Sarah dropped us off right by the water at Venice Beach, where we spent a few minutes in the hum of bars, music, and beach bums before heading to our friend Maria’s house a few miles away.

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Surprisingly enough, we love LA!  By reputation, not the most bicycle friendly town due to traffic, sprawl, pollution, and heat, we’ve actually had a lot of fun exploring the city on our bikes.  So far, we’ve met great people, biked through vibrant neighborhoods of all different cultures, and enjoyed the unique “So-Cal” beach-y feel.

Full moon over Los Angeles

On Monday night, we had our favorite event of our trip: we were special guests at The Bicycle Kitchen’s weekly ‘Bicycle Bitchen’, i.e. women and trans-gendered only night.  The Bicycle Kitchen is a non-profit, cooperatively run, do-it-yourself repair shop.  “Cooks” volunteer their time and teach people how to fix their bicycles.  Customers pay a suggested $7/hour (or whatever they can afford) to use the space, tools, and expertise of the cooks.  Bicycle Bitchen, held from 6:30-9:00pm on Monday nights, is a basic repair/maintenance workshop by and for women and transgendered people.  We worked on our bikes until 8:00, then settled in with pizza and beer to talk about menstrual cups.  We gave away 12 cups, and got a plenty of suggestions for other communities to connect with in LA. One of the “Bitchen Cooks” invited us to a craft night at a bar in the same neighborhood. We showed up to a room full of people in great spirits! Crafting, drinking, and open to our message. We gave away 7 cups and got a few more tips on places to visit in LA.

On the surface LA is a tricky place to find community.  Thankfully, we stopped at the Bicycle Kitchen first– it was the perfect place for us to plug into some great networks.

Bike repair/ menstrual cup workshop at the Bicycle Kitchen

We are thrilled to be in LA during Occupy LA, the Los Angeles wing of the Occupy Wallstreet movement.  We think it is important to build awareness about the Occupy movement – mainstream newsmedia is not doing its job.  According to the Occupy Wallstreet website: “Occupy Wall Street is [a] leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”  This movement is huge: over 650 cities around the world have agreed to organize solidarity protests on October 15th.  Please take a few minutes to educate yourself about this movement!

View in front of City Hall at Occupy LA

In LA, there are hundreds of tents set up on the lawn of city council.  The Occupation is less than two weeks old, and is impressively well organized.  Free meals, snacks, sunscreen, and pads and tampons (we will work on that) are provided. There are 6 porta-johns (which we hung our fliers on), there is a Welcome tent with a daily schedule and volunteers to answer questions.  The organization is horizontal, and non-hierarchical– basically, you jump in and help out with whatever you want.  Of course there are kinks to work out, but overall, Occupy LA has built a well-functioning, leaderless society in less than two weeks. Wow!  Within 20 minutes, 50+ people can be rallied to speak at a city council meeting against an unpopular item on the agenda.  And it’s fun – on Tuesday, we spent a couple hours playing music and singing protest songs with a group of new friends.

On Thursday the 13th at 2pm, we are doing a workshop on menstrual cups at Occupy LA – we’ll let you know how it goes!

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News in Sustainable Cycles:

Snapdragon, the public relations firm that works with Lunette, has began helping us publicize our project.  Deidre Sullivan is blogging, tumbling, and tweeting about us.  She is planning to pitch our project to a few TV shows, and documentary film-makers.  Snapdragon is based in NYC.  Sarah has a meeting planned with Deidre when she moves to New York in November to talk about PR and Sustainable Cycles projects in NYC.

We’ve already written several times about our outreach to social workers who work with low-income women: we give them a handful of cups to give away at their discretion.  As we continue to imagine how our project can grow and change, we are excited about empowering more people to educate their community and give away cups.  We are starting a small pilot project of giving away a few cups to passionate, smart young women who want to spread the word.  We encourage them to talk about cups, plan events, and get articles published.  After they give cups away, they email us the contact information of their giftees so we can follow up with everyone who has received a cup.  We invite these “spokespeople” to write guest essays for our blog sharing their experience doing Sustainable Cycles activism in different parts of the country.   We want this project to keep growing beyond “Toni and Sarah” and this bicycle trip.

Ou main goal is to get as many people as possible to know about and use menstrual cups.  This trip is the seed of that project. Even though this chapter of Sustainable Cycles is coming to a close, stay tuned – there’s a lot more work to be done.

In the very immediate future…

Toni is going to keep bicycling for three more weeks!  Our good friend Kaitlin McCarthy (also a passionate cup enthusiast) is meeting Toni in LA on the 24th.  From there, they will continue the Sustainable Cycles project, revisiting areas of central California that we missed on our first pass through.  We have enough money left in our budget for them to continue living for three weeks on $4/day.  Toni will fly home for Thanksgiving and spend December at home with family.  There are many universities and colleges within 30 minutes drive of Toni’s house in Raleigh (Duke, UNC, NC State, and many smaller colleges).  She hopes to do Sustainable Cycles work through those institutions and other organizations around Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.  In January, she is doing a month-long dance-training intensive, and from there, she has no set plans.

Sarah is flying to NYC on October 14th to work dancing and teaching yoga. In November, Sarah will be in Michigan participating in the NASCO Institute, a yearly conference which brings together progressively-minded activists living in housing co-operatives from all over North America to teach workshops, gain access to wider networks, and share ideas. Sarah will have a table, give out cups, and encourage and facilitate bulk orders in co-ops like the ones we have connected with on this trip.

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We honestly don’t see this as the end of this work, but rather the beginning of much larger, evolving project. Toni and Kaitlin will continue to blog about their adventures in the coming weeks. Later, you can look forward to stories and updates from our “spokespeople”. In about three months we will be emailing all of the giftees to find out what happened with the cups and if/ how they have spread the word. We’ll let you know what happens.

Craft Night at AkBar. Glue, games, and menstrual cups are fun!

Thanks for the support!