Here is a short news clip about the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Madison, Wisconsin. He was the guest of honor at the “Change your mind, change the world” panel discussion along with other visionaries and leaders in their field. I found the conference to be a relief that other people are thinking and working on the ideas and issues that I’ve been complaining about for years, such as people’s emotional health being the key to almost all our societal issues.
And it was the honor of a lifetime to be featured on the news. You will see a short snippet of my experience seeing the Dalai Lama. I was surprised and embarrassed to be overwhelmed with emotion, which is ironic because our society doesn’t teach us, as young students, what to do with emotions. The interview was much longer, of course. And it featured many things, including a short description of my bicycle ride through Tibet, and how I was prohibited to possess a picture of the Dalai Lama, or risk being fined, imprisoned or exiled from Tibet myself.
I also found the topic of “Change your mind, change the world” coincidental and personally profound because since the beginning of my website over a decade ago, I have said that my philosophy for traveling was: “If I could change myself, I could change the world.” As some of you who read my book know, I was quite ignorant and got myself into a lot of trouble, but I seemed to know one thing instinctively — that I must get my own feet on the ground first, before I could ever attempt to pretend to know or do anything of significance. Or as Ghandi said long ago:
Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Or as I like to remind myself: Change your self — change your world! And, I think I’d like to start by adopting the Dalai Lama’s playfulness and wearing a baseball cap to lighten the mood.
I love how Alterra Coffee shops give bicycles priority parking spaces. In spring, they install bicycle racks in their loading zone, blossoming like spring flowers. In the winter, they remove the bicycle coral because of the snow plows. We’re one more step towards my dream of being able to safely and conveniently ride a bicycle anywhere. ~ Scott
When The Argonauts first come online in 1999, our vision our vision was to give adventurers a forum to share their hopes and dreams. However, we were a bit over-ambitious and ahead of our time. We were an online adventure magazine, before the notion of “webzine”. Blogs didn’t even exist.
Pictured above: Bob and Frosty stop at Tenaya Lake for a lunch break on their coast to coast ride across America. The lake offered crystal clear waters, jumping fish, Canada geese, woodpeckers and blue birds. It also offered a majestic view of enormous beauty. Sitting down for lunch, they sat marveling at their good fortune. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich never tasted so good. They washed it down with clear mountain water.
The following was contributed by Frosty Wooldridge. It is one of his “Spirit of Adventure” bicycle greeting cards.
Pedaling up into the high Sierra Mountains out of Yosemite, you travel light, lean and clean. You carry your house on your bicycle with kitchen, stove, food, water, tent, sleeping bag and mattress. You travel at the perfect speed whether climbing a mountain pass, summiting it or coasting down the other side. You live simply, spiritually and physically. You travel inside the adventure rather than looking at it through the glass. While pedaling upward through a winding canyon, you break through a grove of towering ponderosa pines to see magical still waters reflecting the mountains above. It’s noon. You stop for lunch on the shoreline of Lake Tenaya. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches never tasted so good. Somehow, as you sit there gazing across the crystal-clear waters—your eyes behold the universe working before you. An armada of Canada geese fly low over the waters and splash down. Speckled trout swim past your picnic spot. A squirrel chatters in the trees above. A woodpecker knocks at the tree trunk. You settle back with your friend, “Hey Bob, did we pick the perfect restaurant for lunch or what?”
My son, Prescott Lee Goodman, 15, was a fearless and passionate bike rider who loved nothing more than to be a leader in his sport. Always in his T-shirt and jeans, you would find him working on his next bike stunt, doing repetitive moves until he got it “just right”. On June 11, 2012, while attempting to cross Bardstown Rd., Prescott’s bicycle made contact with a moving vehicle tragically ending his precious life.
As a family who fostered his interests, we want nothing more than to give to the other children in our community who share those same interests. There are so many kids in our community that do not fit the mold of baseball, football, basketball, etc., but are great kids. This park would give them a place to channel energy that could potentially shift any negative behavior to more positive choices.
Below are two bicycle racks that I discovered in my wanderings. The first is a new coffee shop in Bay View, Wisconsin, which is not only beautiful, but a great way to save space. The other comb-shaped rack I found in Indianapolis. More about my attempts to help install artistic bicycle racks in Waukesha. ~ Scott
This is an excerpt from Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World by Nancy Sathre-Vogel. Together with her husband and children, Nancy rode her bicycle from Alaska to Argentina. Changing Gears is her travel memoir from her time on the road.
“This looks like home,” I thought as I pedaled through the altiplano. The desert of southern Idaho looked very similar with its wide open spaces lined with grasses gently swaying in the breeze. The only thing missing was sagebrush.
I found a beauty and tranquility in the desert; there was something about it that drew me in. I knew some felt it was ugly with the scrub brush being the tallest thing around, but I loved it. It was home.
“This reminds me of the tundra,” Davy interrupted my reveries. “Remember when we first started our trip and it was just flat tundra forever? This is almost the same, but we’re a lot higher now.”
I didn’t relish the idea of frigid temperatures, high altitudes, or unrelenting sun of the altiplano, but the wide open plateaus with sweeping vistas of the snow-capped Andes captivated me. Having the freedom to explore the land and discover hidden treasures that could only be found while riding a bicycle made it all worth it. Whether it was an alpaca herder who was honored that we spent a night with him or bright green cactus growing in intricately fine sand with 21,000-foot peaks in the background, each day brought new and unexpected adventures.
“Where are you headed from here?” Ami, the hotel receptionist in a small hotel in Oruro, asked as we checked in for the night.
“Tomorrow morning we’ll head out for Potosi!” I told her. We were excited to be continuing south through the altiplano and couldn’t wait.
“You can’t go to Potosi,” she replied.
That made no sense to my American way of thinking. Potosi was the fourth largest city in Bolivia; of course we could go to Potosi.
“Potosi is completely blocked off. You can’t get in. There is a strike going on and the entire city has been sealed off – nobody in, nobody out,” Ami continued. “The big news around here is that a group of tourists finally managed to escape the city yesterday after being trapped for thirteen days.” Ami handed me a newspaper with the story on the front page. A group of 37 tourists had finally been allowed to leave after being held in the city for two weeks.
“That’s perfect,” John said when I told him the news. “They’ll block the road for cars, but we’ll get through on the bikes. The road block will mean no traffic so it’ll be perfect for us.”
The more we learned, however, the less we thought it was wise to continue on. We could most likely get through, but everything would be closed – all stores, all restaurants, all hotels. Once we got into the city three days away, then what?
We decided to hang out in Oruro until the strike was resolved.
“It’s getting worse,” Ami told me when I walked downstairs for breakfast the next morning. “The news says they’ve taken control of the hydroelectric plant and are threatening to shut off power to the city. That would also affect the water supply. The news reports are saying there are already serious food shortages in the city. It’s a good thing you didn’t go.”
It was Day 15 of a strike designed to pressure the president of the country into providing certain development projects in the city. Local officials had shut down the city and vowed they wouldn’t relent until they got the promises they wanted. We sat tight, watching the news and hoping they could resolve their differences.
“You guys need to leave,” Ami said as we descended into the lobby on Day 17 of the strike. “Word on the street is that they will close Oruro if the president doesn’t meet their demands.”
We scrambled into action getting the bikes out of the storeroom, packing everything, hauling it all downstairs, and loading the bikes. I ran over to the ATM to get more money out, just in case. Within two hours of hearing the rumor, we were off. Off for a scenic tour of Bolivia.
Our plan had been to stay on the altiplano, a high, flat plain sandwiched between the two arms of the Andes, and we had planned our route impeccably. We knew where the water and food sources were and knew exactly what to expect. Now, that plan had come to a screeching halt and we had changed gears. The only other route we could take involved going up and over the eastern arm of the mountains, then dropping down into the Amazon basin before turning right and heading south to Argentina. It would be a 400-mile detour, but we had little choice.
We knew nothing about our new route. Our map showed a line on the map, but we had no idea where we might find anything. I was nervous as we pulled out of town, knowing we were sorely unprepared for what lay ahead.
Thirty miles later we pulled up to a small restaurant and started talking with a bunch of truck drivers. “Where are you going?” they asked.
“Cochabamba,” I replied. “How’s the road?”
“You’ll climb for another 45 miles,” came the reply. “The top is at around 5000 meters.”
5000 meters? That was 16,400 feet! We pedaled away hoping beyond hope they were wrong.
High-altitude climbing was hard. Climbing was tough enough at sea level, but at fourteen thousand feet, it was insanity. We gasped for air as we pounded the pedals and slowly made our way up.
Fortunately, the truckers were wrong and we topped out at 4496 meters (14,744 feet). Even so, that was higher than the highest peaks in Colorado.
It took us an extra three weeks of pedaling to reach Argentina, but in the big picture, what’s three weeks and an extra 400 miles?
Through a donation from the author himself, Cayendo Hacia Arriba (Falling Uphill), finally made its Paraguayan debut!
Scott Stoll is an author from my hometown who served as the U.S. Embassy’s cultural ambassador in Argentina during the 2011-2012 school year. His time in Argentina and collaboration with Argentine schools resulted in a Spanish language version of his book, Falling Uphill: The Secret of Life, about his 4 year journey around the world on his bicycle.
Thanks to a generous book donation from Scott a group of Paraguayan youth at a national leadership camp called Jóvenes por Paraguay were able to plan a short reading workshop for kids at a nearby orphanage.
The teenage youth and younger kids seemed to love the story equally– always receiving big laughs at the part of the story where Scott says he got stuck in mud in the desert until a family rescued him. The family told him he was in luck that they came, because anacondas, tarantulas and piranhas love the taste of people from the United States.
It was great to watch the teenagers work together to plan how they were going to present the books to the youth and what activities and games they were going to play with the kids. The book donation was one of six projects that was used to introduce Paraguayan youth at the camp to volunteer projects and community service. You can read a bit more about that camp in this post.
Cayendo Hacia Arriba inspired a group of Paraguayan youth to try out literacy service projects in their own communities and surely inspired new dreams in the children, youth and volunteers who read the book– nudging us all forward in our own process of falling uphill. Thank you, Scott!
With winter weather the current reality it is a natural time to reflect on the past summer and it’s warmth. My past summer was spent walking across the US on the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2660-mile footpath from Mexico to Canada. I seriously soaked up the Sun in the Southern California desert, and more of it in the High Sierras, where above tree line the UV is as intense as the vistas. My legs grew strong and my appetite insatiable. The forests of Northern California provided shade, where they had not been logged, from the heat of mid summer. By the 102nd day I reached the Oregon/California border feeling I had accomplished something significant.
With my home state behind I raced on to avoid the chasing forest fires and the eventual winter in the North Cascades. Walking from one volcano to another the forests protected me where it had not been burned or logged and the sun was losing power at my new latitude. The rugged trail through Washington brought intense beauty, fall colors, and bliss that I was afraid to lose by completing my quest.
I reached the Canada border after five months of walking through the stunning wilderness of the Western United States. I experienced first hand the powers of geology, fire, water, ice, solar radiation, preservation and my human legs. Much of this walk I was very hot and exposed to the Sun, now in the cold winter of California (ha), I dream of the next Summer when I can once again toil in the heat and experience the natural world under the power of my body.
This recent guest post arrived just days ahead of a news story full of controversy, upset and inspiration.
by Jimmy Crose
My love affair with cycling began more than a decade ago, when the shocking news of testicular cancer having spread to his brain and lungs was made public by cycling’s infamous Lance Armstrong in October of 1996. I was not much impressed nor overly fond then of Lance Armstrong then as I was fixated on working long hours at the office to be able to send my four children to the best universities.
A year after he was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, I was surprised to read in the newspapers that after undergoing surgery and aggressive chemotherapy, Lance Armstrong had been declared by his doctors cancer-free. By George! Here I was, an overweight man in his middle age, with no regular fitness regimen and unhealthy eating habits, someone highly at risk of either suffering a stroke or a heart attack who if he didn’t change his current lifestyle would never get the chance to see and play with his grandchildren.
I challenged myself- I’d lose my beer belly and excess weight, eat healthy and exercise regularly, a complete turnaround from what I was normally accustomed to be doing. I thought, ‘why not try cycling?”. Searched online for mountain bikes and accessories from Tesco and bought my very first bike.
If Lance fought so hard against his cancer and won, I, who did not have a debilitating disease and had as much to lose would try to change my life for the better in my own small way. I quit smoking (cold-turkey), cut down on alcohol and biked around the city every morning and late at night when I got home from work. The first few weeks were pure hell and often I ended up questioning myself, ‘is this truly worth it?’.
Now I am 20lbs. lighter, nicotine-free and a proud grandfather to two toddlers. Yes, I can say that all my pain and sacrifice to become a healthier person has truly has been worth it. Lance Armstrong got it right when he said…
Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. ~ Lance Armstrong
The following was contributed by Frosty Wooldridge. It is one of his “Spirit of Adventure” bicycle greeting cards.
Emerson said, “God laughs in flowers.” On a bicycle journey across America, you pedal through, along and past billions of flowers of every color, shape and description. God’s laughter speaks to your visual senses. If you hop off your bike, you may enjoy glorious fragrances given off by flowers. Poets say that flowers gave flight to butterflies. Both delight your life. As you grow older, giving a rose to your loved one means, “I love you.” Just for a moment, on your journey, you pedal through Milford, Ohio when you ride up on a bicycle at the edge of town exploding with flowers. A plaque reads, “Bikes in Bloom.” You take a shot. You remount your bike to travel down Main Street, and to your delight, you instantly fall in love with dozens of bicycles blooming with flowers in front of every storefront. You smile, you laugh, you delight in the glorious beauty of bikes blooming with all the colors of the rainbow. You mutter to yourself, “Gosh, life doesn’t get any better than this.” Yes, you laugh with the flowers.
Some food for thought as to the consequences of our every-day actions. (One of my favorites articles, reposted for those who missed it.)
1. Law of entropy. Everything is bad for the environment, because everything consumes more energy than it produces. The real question: Can humans live in harmony for the life of the planet and sun?
2. The infrastructure of today’s society is inherently non-sustainable. Perhaps if our societies were designed around bicycles or trolleys, I wouldn’t be writing this. However, our society’s are built around cars, which means re-building the roads, or subtracting lanes from the cars, or impeding traffic. What is the environmental cost of increased traffic jams (time driving) or reduced parking spots and circling vehicles. (This legal issue halted San Francisco’s bicycle progress for 4 years.) Indeed, whole communities would have to be rebuilt to a more medieval European scale.
3. Indirect use of petrol. Most cars that pass a bicycle will slow down, swerve and then accelerate. This constant indirect acceleration and decceleration of passing vehicles uses more gasoline than simply driving your own car slow and steady. Compound that by bad drivers, angry motorists and even overcautious motorists creating a mini-traffic jam as they wait to pass the bicyclist.
4. Increased food consumption. Cost of food is approximately 1/2 gallon of oil per 1000 food calories, or about 17 times (up to 54x*) more energy is used to grow the food than is gained by eating the food. In other words, every time we eat we are indirectly consuming petrochemicals (and sometimes we are actually eating the petrochemicals). More info.5. Increased lifespan. The active lifestyle of a bicyclist is estimated to add at least 2 years to your life, which indirectly increases the population and energy consumption.**
6. Increased chance of serious bodily injury to the bicyclist due to accidents (and on a lesser scale simple wear and tear, such as worn out joints, smog-damaged lungs, overexposure like sunburn and dehydration) and the related costs of medical care and equipment. (25% of the average American’s working life is devoted to paying for healthcare.)
7. Being cool. Environmental cost of bicycle, clothes, tools and high-tech gear, especially in addition to a car, or additional modes of transport, like trains, buses and cabs to support the car-less bicyclist.
8. Cold beer and hot showers. I think just about everyone loves a cold beer and hot shower after a day of cycling; however, some research studies have concluded there is not even enough energy (re-newable or not) to produce a hot shower or a cold beer every day for every citizen of the planet until time’s end, nevermind the cost of manufacturing and transporting these materials.
9. Angry bicyclists. Being a bicyclist myself I hate to admit it, but lots of us, particularly the gearheads and fanatics types, just plain have bad attitudes, and bad attitudes correlates not only into increased backlash in most of my points, but also if you are metaphysically inclined, the bad attitude is polluting the atmosphere with a bad vibe.
10. Lost time and energy. Bicycling takes time and can be exhausting, which could drain resources and passion away from all other endeavors, including saving the planet, and/or increase resources needed to recover.
Here is an article by National Geographic News about the polar ice melting; and, I can’t stop thinking how I would love to go river rafting down this glacial melt. What beautiful colors! In the meantime, let’s treat Mother Earth with some love.
Fox Lake Correctional Institute. Photo courtesy of WI.gov
I had the honor to speak to the inmates of Wisconsin’s medium security prison, Fox Lake Correctional Institute. It was one of my more challenging presentations. I asked the chaplain who was organizing the event, “To be frank, why would the prisoners, who can’t go anywhere, want to hear about traveling the world on a bicycle? That sounds like a recipe for disaster.”
She said, “That is exactly what they need to hear? They need the hope! They need someone like you to show them what is possible.”
And so I spent quite a bit of extra time preparing a presentation that would: “create an atmosphere or climate which restores the dignity of the individual and provides optimum opportunity for positive behavioral changes.” More specifically I hoped to inspire them to with the inner passion to transform themselves right then and there. I may have needed my trip around the world to transform myself, and learn that I held the key to my own happiness, but travel isn’t required to learn these lessons.
Despite my worries, my audience was more polite and attentive than the norm. (I’ve run the gamut of ages from kids so young they can’t sit still because they have to go the bathroom, to elderly care centers where they have the same problem.) At one point, though, the inmates were literally rolling in their seats with laughter when I told them about my experience drinking coca tea in Bolivia, which I said, “Is made from the same plant as cocaine.” As they roared with laughter, I tried to clarify, which didn’t help, “No, it’s more like drinking a cup of coffee. It’s not like doing cocaine. Not that I would know…. Not that I’m judging anyone here if that’s what they choose to do….”
Like all great teaching experiences, I felt as if the students taught me even more. In particular, one man asked me what it was like to return home. He said that he had been incarcerated for 8 years until he had to go to Madison for a medical procedure. He said the lights and billboards, and everyone buzzing around in their cars and on their cellphones frightened him. That’s when I realized that when these men are released they are going to experience the same culture shock that I experienced when I returned home after 4 years. Coming home was like looking into a mirror and realizing that I was a different person, and that my reality was an invention of my own mind. A scary experience! I also sympathized with how lonely and isolated from society these men were. I know these two elements were my hardest obstacles. Reform—or should I say?—transformation is the most difficult journey anyone can take.
I was grateful for the chaplain’s dedication to helping the inmates. She had to go to a lot of extra steps to organize the event, especially since during my first visit the prison was locked-down due to fog and the show was canceled. But she truly values making a difference in their lives; and I think she did, since the inmates were lined up to shake my hand at the end (hugging was not allowed according to my list of rules), and tell me how much they loved the show, and thanked me for volunteering my time. And there is a long waiting list for the book I donated to the prison library.
One more funny side note: Instead of emailing an update to my family, I accidentally emailed my dear friends Dick and Ingrid, who inspired me when I met them a long time ago when they had just retired and were cycling across the USA to celebrate, and told them: “I have to go to prison today.” They, of course, emailed me back right away to say the were sorry to hear that and asked if they could help in any way.
I wasn’t allowed to bring a camera, so to give you a flavor of the experience, here is a great video of Johnny Cash singing a song just for the San Quentin inmates.