Spring Energy

All around me on my short rides I see nature blossoming. Spring brings the added benefit of extra sunlight hours. The light lingers longer on the horizon after the sun sets than in the winter months so we can squeeze in an extra half-hour of bicycling. In my corner of California, orange blossoms fill the air with a sweet intoxicating scent. Their perfume fills me with nostalgia for my two years in Valencia, Spain known as La Costa del Azahar (the orange blossom coast).

Orange blossoms
Bougainville blossoms
Lemon blossom

Maybe like me, you are shaking off winter sluggishness and feeling more optimistic about future plans and travels. The planning stage is a fun part of travel. I spent five years planning and saving for my around-the-world bicycle odyssey. It was well worth the effort. I spent another five years writing about the journey.

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

On the shelf in the travel literature section of Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena and Half Off Books in Fullerton.

Bicycle Odyssey – An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com , BarnesandNoble.com or at your local independent bookstore.

Please drop a line in the comments below to share you spring plans and dreams. Happy bicycling!

A Tea Break With Healthy Scones

While bicycling long distances, food is important to fuel the journey. When I think about my around-the-world bicycle odyssey, I sometimes get a craving for the various foods in the countries we traveled through.

“July in Scotland was chillier than expected, so we piled on all the warm clothes we had brought with us. A revolutionary, waterproof, and breathable material called Gore-Tex had come out on the market. Because of the rain, we layered jackets and pants made out of it for warmth. The big highlights of each day’s cycling were tea breaks with scones or biscuits to warm and fuel our bodies. We averaged fifteen miles per the tea and bread.”

I reminisced about my refueling stops on our bicycle journey in England and Scotland the other day. Holding a warm cup of tea and eating scones was a welcome fortification and rest break on a long day of bicycling up and down the countryside hills in Great Britain. I decided to cobble together a healthy scone the other evening after a long bicycle ride on a chilly California day.

Here is a quick recipe you can try when you get a craving for a scone but don’t want all the butter and cream that goes into the usual recipe.

1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 T brown sugar or honey

3 T butter or coconut oil

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup blueberries

Mix all the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the yogurt and vanilla (add the honey now if you are using it instead of brown sugar). You may have to use your hands to knead the dough. Add the blueberries last, stirring and kneading gently so you don’t smash them. Shape the dough into circle on a lightly floured surface until it is about one-inch thick, then place it on a non-stick pan, or a  lightly-greased pan. For a sweet treat, mix 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 2 tsp of brown sugar and sprinkle on the top. Score into 8 pieces with a knife. Bake at 425º for 20 minutes until golden. The warm cinnamon aroma will call to you when it is done! Cool for 5 minutes.

Try substituting the blueberries with raisins, currants, or blackberries.

Brew a cup of hot tea and enjoy!

While you sip your tea you can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com ,  or BarnesandNoble.com .

If you’ve read the book, I would love it if you shared a photo of you with your copy and your tea!

Happy reading!

Falling in Love with Solo Bicycle Travel

Photo by Bogdan R. Anton on Pexels.com

When did I fall in love with travel?

I fell in love with solo bicycle travel, when I took my first week-long bicycle ride down the Pacific Coast by myself. It was exciting and thrilling to plan a trip that would take me from Astoria, the northernmost city in Oregon, to San Francisco. I planned to ride alone the first 4 days and 230 miles, then meet my husband in Arcata, California and continue the trip together for 280 miles more. When I told my plan to colleagues and friends their eyes widened and they expressed fear for me, a woman, traveling alone on a bicycle. By the way, this was in the 1980’s before cell phones and the internet gave us instant communication, so I was truly disconnected and on a solo adventure!

Photo by Landon Parenteau on Pexels.com

But I was confident and really wanted to embark on this challenge and exploration of new territory. Everyone I met on the road, in campsites, hostels or in the little coffee shops where I stopped for short stacks of pancakes mid-mornings to fuel up for the next 20 miles, was kind and generous. I passed the most breathtaking scenery of sea stacks on the wild Oregon coast. I pedaled over smooth roads with very little traffic.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com
Photo by Jacob Colvin on Pexels.com

My main challenges were when one day, deep in the forest, lines of logging trucks rumbled by and shook my bicycle with their tail winds and when I crossed an long, narrow bridge in the rain alongside those enormous trucks.

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov on Pexels.com

I camped or stayed in hostels and once I stayed in a little mom and pop motel. I loved meeting new people from all over the States and the world in the hostels. If I had traveled with a companion I wouldn’t have made many of those encounters and enjoyed their conversations.

Photo by elijah akala on Pexels.com

By the time I arrived in Arcata I felt strong, self-reliant, and comfortable on the road by myself. I had conquered the pouring rain, the threatening trucks, and reaped the rewards of deep forests and pristine coastlines the likes of which I had never seen. That trip made me fall deeply in love with solo bicycle travel. It also made me realize how much strength, both mental and physical, that I possessed and taught me to have confidence in my self-reliance.

What experience made you fall in love with travel? Please share in the comments. I would love to hear about it!

Photo by Dorothy Castillo on Pexels.com

You can read about the life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey I embarked on after this experience in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com ,  or BarnesandNoble.com .

John O’Groats In My Sights!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Only 5 miles to go to reach John O’Groats, the northern tip of Scotland and the end of my 1,084 mile journey. Yesterday I passed the ruins of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe on my virtual bicycle ride.

This last week has been difficult. Sometimes, when the end is in sight, the effort of the journey can weigh you down. You need to muster up the will to keep going. All that is going on the world now overwhelmed me the last two weeks.  I am in the healthcare field, so you can imagine.

But getting on my bicycle has been my sanctuary. Feeling the clean air against my skin was a purification at the end of the day. The rushing air blew away a majority of the stress. So I forced myself onto my bicycle before the sun sank, coaxing my tired limbs to pedal. I knew I would feel better afterwards even if in the moment I only wanted to curl up on the couch and nap.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There were many days on my year-long odyssey when I felt the same way. I had no choice but to get on the bicycle and keep going. A few times, when one of us fell very ill, or locals warned us not to attempt the road ahead, we took a bus for a short distance. In the end, as we watched the scenery go by and became nauseous from the bus fumes, we usually regretted not biking.

Photo by Dorothy Castillo on Pexels.com

At least twice, we contemplated cutting the trip short and flying home. But we stuck with it and celebrated the accomplishment. The rewards were enormous.

Have there been times when you almost gave something up but persevered? How did you feel?

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com ,  or BarnesandNoble.com .

https://amzn.to/2V9x6Rd

PS. I made it to the end just before posting!

Bicycling France’s Loire Valley

 

We flew to Paris with our bicycles. But in order to avoid fighting traffic in the city we took our bikes onto the Réseau Express Régional, (the commuter rail service that links Paris to the suburbs) out of town as far as we could. We started cycling at Saint-Martin d’Étampes past brown fields of mown hay, waving barley, tall oats, and yellow sunflowers. 

In addition to the secondary roads, France has a wonderful system of even smaller roads only the local villagers use. These are the roads we chose for our trip in France. They are the thinnest lines on a detailed map and are called “departmental roads.” We bicycled past a village every three to ten miles.

Our first destination was the cathedral in Chartres. We spent an afternoon in and around the glorious medieval cathedral, marveling at the 167 stained-glass windows in its Gothic interior. The Chartres Cathedral, home to a Black Madonna (Notre Dame de Pilar), is one of several pilgrimage sites throughout Europe with Black Madonna figures. We walked around the labyrinth on the floor of the cathedral, following the footsteps of pilgrims who had walked it for hundreds of years. This was a good start on our journey through France.

We continued on toward the Loire. Bicycling the Loire Valley was a dream. The land was fairly flat with dense forests on either side of the road. Every so often, a stately château broke up the ride and begged us to visit. We easily bicycled over one hundred miles a day, still managed to tour a château or two, and ate well. With the long summer days, we packed two days of cycling into one. Our legs and stamina were strong after Scotland. In France the days were warmer, and the sun shone during our entire month there. Campgrounds were plentiful with amenities, such as hot showers, clean toilets, swimming pools, and even little stores. We met other campers from all over Europe and enjoyed talking with them about travel and life.

Chambord

The châteaux of Blois, Amboise, and Chinon impressed us, but my favorite château was Chambord, which Leonardo da Vinci had helped design. I had visited Chambord many years ago, but bicycling up to the château was an entirely different sensation.

I hadn’t realized that the grounds were so enormous and surrounded by woods full of deer, wild boar, and other animals. Before our visit inside, we took out our cameras and fanny packs with our money and passports, and locked the fully loaded bikes together. We did this at every stop without a problem.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci’s final resting place in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, Amboise.

The Loire Valley in France is a wonderful bicycling area. I highly recommend it both for the ease of cycling and the abundance of campsites.  Unlike many other places we bicycled in 1991-1992, I believe the area hasn’t changed too drastically. Since then, many reclaimed rail lines have been converted into bicycling, hiking, and equestrian trails. They are called “voie vertes” in France. The possibilities of bicycling for hours without traffic are very enticing. I want to explore more of them soon. Do you have favorite rides or hikes to recommend? Or ones you are dreaming of doing soon?

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com ,  or BarnesandNoble.com .

Bicycling along Loch Ness

My virtual bike ride takes me alongside Loch Ness in Scotland for the next couple of days.

Photo by Callam Barnes on Pexels.com

To inhale fresh, clean air and bicycle around my area with a purpose, I signed up for a virtual mission last spring to walk  the Camino de Santiago with a friend. We both tracked our progress when we walked or bicycled in our neighborhoods on an app with the My Virtual Mission organization. It was a good way to combat the frustrations of not being able to travel during our Covid shutdown. I found myself bicycling more and more and felt so uplifted by the experience. The organization planted trees every time we hit the milestones of 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100%.  We could even log on and see the street view of where we were in our progress and find out what the weather was like! The experience helped combat stress and frustrated wanderlust, so I signed up for another mission when I completed the Camino de Santiago.  

Photo by Callam Barnes on Pexels.com

Today I am bicycling alongside Loch Ness in Scotland as I approach John O’Groats at the northern tip of the country. I’ve come 928 miles and have 156 miles to go. The weather is rainy and it is 33º F (1º C). A big change from the 54º F (12º C) in my town in California!

The organization sends me a postcard when I go through areas of interest and history. Here is my postcard from Loch Ness. 

Almost 30 years ago I bicycled this same route, but on the other side of the Loch! Here is an excerpt from my book, Bicycle Odyssey, about that day.

We stopped at Loch Ness but didn’t see Nessie, the famous Loch Ness Monster—a creature locals consider to be more than a myth. We looked out over the still loch waters and talked with a man working by the side of the road.

“Hello! Have you come to see Nessie then? She hasn’t shown herself today,” the friendly man said.

“Have you ever seen Nessie?” I asked.

He took off his cap and scratched his head. “Aye, many times I’ve caught a glimpse of her. You should have been here yesterday. My neighbor looked out the window as she was cleaning,” he said as he pointed to the house by the loch. “She said she saw a hump of Nessie’s back come right up out of the water.”

Loch Ness, with a depth that surpasses the oceans surrounding the United Kingdom, was connected to the ocean at one time. Over the years, scientific investigations using sonar in the dark mysterious loch have yielded large animate objects. Not a single ripple disturbed the surface for us, though.

I would love to go back and bicycle through Scotland. Until then, cycling through the country virtually will have to do. The experience helps satisfy my desire for travel.

What have you been doing to combat stress and open up in your world? If you are interested in trying a virtual adventure of your own, check out My Virtual Mission. Maybe I’ll see you on my next planned experience, trekking to the top of Mt. Fuji!

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com ,  or BarnesandNoble.com .

https://amzn.to/2V9x6Rd

Changing Holiday Celebrations

This year so many of us will experience a change in our holiday routines and celebrations. One year when that also happened stands out brilliantly in my mind.

Aarti in Karnataka

In December 1991 on our bicycle odyssey we climbed up into the high elevations of Tamil Nadu, India to reach the town of Kodaikanal which sat at seventy-two hundred feet in swirling mists with thick pine and eucalyptus forests. Kodaikanal means “the gift of the forest” in Tamil. The hill station lies on the edge of the Western Ghats in the Palani Hills.

The Western Ghats

 Minimal traffic circulated in the quiet town, and the fresh, cool air was pleasant after the high temperatures in the plains below. The town offered a delightful place to settle in for a few days of rest and exploration. We planned to spend Christmas in Kodaikanal, hike in the hills, and take day rides without the constraint of our gear.

Forest monkeys near Kodaikanal

During the colonial era, the English had ascended to higher elevations and established hill stations to escape the heat and dust of the plains in the summer. Many of the structures in the town had been built during that time period. The stone buildings, cottages with fireplaces, and old churches reminded us of Scotland. We found our own one-hundred-year-old cottage to rent. Fireplaces in both the bedroom and the sitting room provided cozy and comforting heat in the chilly mountain nights. Because of the eucalyptus forests, we could buy fresh eucalyptus and lemongrass oil. Almost three decades later, I still have the bottle of lemongrass oil. The aroma has stayed potent and transports me back to Kodaikanal with one whiff. We took hot, steamy showers and inhaled the eucalyptus oil to clear our respiratory systems. We cleansed and healed from our ordeal bicycling in the hot dusty plains below

A local resort offered a Christmas Eve buffet and we decided to attend. As we walked over along the lake that night, pangs of homesickness echoed through me. I missed our families and holiday meals together. I knew they worried about us. They received news of our whereabouts and wellbeing only once or twice a month when letters and postcards arrived. We, however, were on this great adventure. The homesickness usually vanished when I focused on the next experience. My thoughts of home melted away at the gathering, where we met people from different parts of India, who traveled to the resort while on holiday.

Before and after Christmas, we spent several days hiking and bicycling in the forest around Kodaikanal. We rode and hiked peacefully together in harmony with nature and each other. Deep in the forest, we experienced a side of India most visitors don’t have time to see and don’t even know exists. Our journey by bicycle connected us with the hidden, out-of-the-way places that held exquisite beauty and magic.

Forest monkeys – mother and child near Kodaikanal

That Christmas broke with tradition. At first I experienced homesickness and nostalgia, but the new experiences and encounters filled me with joy. That holiday will always stand out in my Christmas memories. What about you? Do you have some unusual holiday memories? 

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com ,  or BarnesandNoble.com .

https://amzn.to/2V9x6Rd

Bicycling with Scottish Ghosts

When you bicycle you are close to the land. You pick up the aromas of the different landscapes you glide through.

At times you inhale lavender, heather, pine, sage, or unfamiliar scents you can’t identify. Strong winds might buffet your body as they fight to blow you off the road and keep you from moving forward. In turn, soft breezes will caress you and push you towards your destination. We started our around-the-world bicycle trip in England and Scotland. Besides the elements, I learned on this ride that the history of the land affected me also.

From Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, we took a ferry to Ullapool on the main island. Traffic was sparse on the roads. The summer daylight extended past ten o’clock in the evening. With our stronger, more conditioned muscles, we biked easily and hit a good rhythm. I loved the green all around us, which felt exotic and fresh after years of living in dry, brown Southern California. We glided by grand estates, castles, and fields of cattle.

Even though we followed the main road down from Inverness, there was minimal traffic. About five miles after Inverness, an inexplicable mournfulness fell over me in spite of the stunning nature and the occasional stately castle. I thought I suffered alone. Decades later, discussing our trip, we both recalled the deep melancholy that had swept over us at times during our ride through Scotland. I’ve since learned that we traveled right beside the area of the famous Battle of Culloden. Our spirits must have picked up on the sadness that permeated the land from so many souls who had lost their lives there. Highlanders had rebelled against the English for decades in the Jacobite risings during the early eighteenth century. On April 16, 1746, Scottish clans fought in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart so he could regain the throne. The battle was fierce, bloody, and short. The Highland clansmen lost almost two thousand men in the hour-long battle against the better-equipped English, who lost only fifty men. That was the Highlanders’ last battle.

Staying open to the sensations and emotions we pick up as we travel and bringing a sense of curiosity is enlightening. Learning about the history of the places we visit is illuminating. Have you ever been struck by a strong emotion in a place you visited without realizing why at the time? Did you research it and find a correlation with the site’s history?

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com ,  or BarnesandNoble.com .

https://amzn.to/2V9x6Rd

Festivals in India

Every November for the past thirty years I am brought back to the festivals I attended while bicycling through the state of Karnataka in India. I set out with my husband on a two month journey through southern India by bicycle. Our only agenda was to look for magical places away from the tourist trail. A chance encounter by the side of the road led us to divert our route to a small, tucked-away village during its most important festival of the year. A young priest befriended us and took us under his wing for a life-changing week.

This diversion from our route ended up being my most memorable experience from our two and a half month odyssey through southern India. That experience taught me the valuable rewards we can reap when we listen to our intuition and stay open to serendipity.

As I reflect back on that era I am reminded of the importance of trusting our intuition all the time in our daily lives. Of the importance of keeping our eyes open to serendipity. It is a constant dance. What wonderful things have happened to you when you did this? When you trusted your gut feeling in spite of the impracticality of it?

Ganesha Festival

was the first one we attended during that magical week in the hidden village we stumbled across.