If you can believe it, we are now writing to you, each from the comfort of our respective homes back on the east coast! Don’t worry… there is still more to come and we’ll keep it interesting. Our bicycling adventure is over (for the time being), but we are still doing lots of exciting work to keep Sustainable Cycles growing into its future. Toni just finished her trip with our friend Kaitlin, and Sarah has been in Michigan giving away cups and educating folks at the NASCO conference. To date, we given away almost 300 cups! We are finally settling into our more stationary lives (Toni in North Carolina and Sarah in Brooklyn), doing follow-up work from the trip, and envisioning and creating the next projects for Sustainable Cycles. But first, reports from the field! Since we’ve split up, this post will break our “we” convention and use the first person to describe each of our post-trip experiences.
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Sarah flew home on October 14th, and I had 10 whole days to spend exploring LA before heading off on bike-trip-part-two with our friend Kaitlin. Our event at the Bicycle Kitchen, that we wrote about in our last post, was a lucky start to my time in LA. We met a whole room-full of interesting and motivated women who helped me make plans for the rest of my stay. April of Chicks on Bikes Radio, a monthly podcast about women in cycling, invited me to meet up for an interview for her show. You can download the free podcast here (it’s the 5th episode). I organized several small workshops in LA– revisiting the Bicycle Kitchen twice, and teaching a giving away cups at the LA Ecovillage, Occupy LA, and Casa Maura Clarke, a community of Jesuit Volunteers.
My adventure with Kaitlin was a great epilogue to my trip with Sarah, and also the beginning of the next steps for Sustainable Cycles – opening the project to other inspired women who want to do this work. Kaitlin and I were less ambitious in our mileage, than on the trip with Sarah. We stuck to a small area with relatively safe roads, and beautiful scenery.
We bicycled out of LA on the Ballona Creek bike path. The beds of the LA River and Ballona Creek were completely covered in concrete after a series of heavy floods in 1938. Much of the year, the concrete course is completely dry. Think of the scene in Greece where they are racing cars in the concrete channel… that’s the LA river. Today, plants are slowing growing in the cracks in the concrete, and bicycle paths run alongside the waterways. Ballona Creek empties into the Pacific, and we headed north to marvel the strip on Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Once the bike path ended, we threw our bikes in a pick-up truck to head north on the 101 to Santa Barbara, where we stayed in an amazing group of the student coops. Again, I have been so impressed by all the smart, progressive, and community-minded college students I’ve met in housing co-operatives on this trip.
From Santa Barbara, we headed northeast to the wine country east of the coastal mountain range, then back to the coast to San Luis Obispo, where we stayed at “The Establishment” a community housing 19 people. Mo, a resident of The Establishment, published a blog post about our project on the BambuBatu (a bambo clothing line) website soon after we left town– thanks Mo!
After leaving San Luis Obispo (affectiontely called “SLO” by residents), we stayed in the beach towns of Morro Bay, Cambria, and San Simeon. Several days when we were going north on Highway 1, there were headwinds gusting up to 25mph! That factor combined with the beauty of the scenery left us inclined to linger longer at our lunch stops and then decide, “let’s just stay here!” So, we didn’t make it very far north before needing to head back to LA, but we didn’t mind. Maybe it’s because these were the last spots I got to stay on my West Coast adventure, or maybe because they are just plain beautiful, this part of the Central California coast has become one of my favorite places in the world. It is absurdly magical. You can visit Hearst Castle, the palace-on-a-hill of the newspaper mogul, replete with grand European architecture and a herd of zebras in the pastures below. A few miles north, hundreds of elephant seals bask in the sun. Looking with an east-coaster’s eye, I can’t believe how spacious and undeveloped it is. Most of the land along the central California coast is home to cattle. There are way too many coves and cliffs and caves to ever finish exploring.
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Meanwhile, on the other side of the country— news from Sarah:
Hey y’all… I live in New York City now! Wow! It’s the land of possibility, interesting people, great art, and so much cool stuff to do, that you’re always missing something. In my first week in this Big Apple city, I was able to finally meet, in person, the wonderful ladies who run Lunette, the menstrual cup company based in Finland. Together with their marketing director from Snapdragon, we all shared stories and brainstormed future projects for Lunette, Sustainable Cycles, and this movement in general.
Within my first week in New York, I also got to meet with Kim Burgas – a brilliant young woman introduced to us by Julia Schopik of the Keeper. Kim is working on a project called the Crimson Campaign—much in the same way that Toni and I are working, her project aims to promote sustainable approaches to menstruation and shift the covert and shameful culture surrounding periods. Like Sustainable Cycles, the Crimson Campaign is focused on grassroots education and empowerment of women teaching one another, without working for any one company, and without selling anything. Kim is currently working with the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research to help plan a conference for 2013 in New York City. Kim has invited both Toni and myself to be involved in the conference and its planning. It is a really exciting event because it will bring together scientific research and activism—a rare working pair—to share knowledge and brainstorm about this movement in the coming years.
My first big event post-bicycle-trip was to the NASCO Institute in Ann Arbor, MI. Most of you probably know about student housing co-ops by now, since we have visited many and have sung their praise. NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation) is an umbrella organization for student housing cooperatives from around the country. Once a year motivated students from housing co-ops all over the country come together for a conference to share knowledge, teach workshops, and make connections within the movement. After all of our success with the housing cooperatives on the west coast, I was excited to make it this event. I had a table set up in the commons, next to the Beehive Collective (if you’ve never seen their work… you must!).
Thanks to Julia and Lou from the Keeper, I had 30 Mooncups and Keepers to give away to representatives from over twenty different houses, and I talked to many more people than that! I encouraged everyone who got a cup to go back to their houses and speak about sustainable menstruation loud, clear, and unabashedly. Many of the giftees from the conference are now working on getting our article about sustainable menstruation published in their co-op or school newsletters. Check out the NASCO Tumbler video from my booth at the conference. This felt like and incredibly effective place to “plant seeds” and give away cups. I look forward to hearing the report-backs!
My last bit of news is that I was recently interviewed on a Seattle-based radio show, The Dr. Pat Show, with Tracy Puhl from Gladrags. We talked about menstrual cups, Sustainable Cycles, Gladrags, and what we learned from the people we met on our trip. Dr. Pat had some great questions for us, and Tracy was able to offer a free cup give-a-way to one of the listeners. Thank you Tracy for inviting me to be part of this!
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There is certainly a shift to be made – doing this work inside my everyday life rather than on a trip devoted to it. I want to continue to speak out over the hush-hush of menstruation, and find innovative ways to help people open up to this lifestyle change. Toni and I have our work cut out for us. In the coming months, we want to do thorough follow up with all of our giftees from the trip, apply for fiscal sponsorship (so that you can all make tax-deductible donations!), and apply for grants, so that Sustainable Cycles can have a supported future. There are several amazing women we have met that want to go on Sustainable Cycles bike trips, Toni and I are planning another trip through the southeast later this year, and we want to keep writing, publishing, speaking, teaching workshops, and doing outreach (I will soon be visiting women’s centers and health clinics in New York City).
If you have ideas about this work, we want to hear them. If you want to take an active role by publishing an article or teaching a workshop, we want to give you resources. If you want to help us out— keep telling your friends about menstrual cups, and if we gave you a cup, keep an eye out for a survey coming your way. We are in a privileged position right now, to collect some very useful data about how menstrual cups work for recent converts, from a wide range of different kinds of people. Thanks for all your continued support. Chapter two! Bon voyage! More to come!