Web Log

We Made It!

January 20, 2005

On January 20th we bike up the last hill into Tijuana accompanied by throngs of traffic. We crossed the border where Erin's husband met us and drove us to the Santa Barbara area for a small celebration gathering. The final numbers are: 2706 miles, 13 flat tires, one broken spoke, and some minor adjustments. Yahoo, home at last!

As with any journey, this adventure would not have been possible without the help and support of an entire community.  We would especially like to thank the Moms and Dads for their patience in putting up with two daughters who continually partake in adventurous activities.  Our sincerest thanks also go to our sponsors, our advisors Jim Brady and Martha Merrill, our four riders, guest writers, our webmaster and (Erin's) husband Ted Kisner, Sally Mellinger, Jenny Breselow, Karen Olesen, Cyberpadre, EIL Thailand, the students, teachers and friends who followed our progress and encouraged us along the way, and the countless amazing people we had the opportunity to meet over the course of the past three months.

We would also like to note the major importance of Gold Bond, Nicaraguan peanut butter, and the ice cream man in San Miguel, El Salvador.

As this project is being completed as part of our Master's program, we would appreciate if you could help us out by completing this Survey.  Thanks for joining Teachers on Bikes!

Desert Plants

January 13, 2005

Baja California has two main deserts: the Vizcaino Desert in the west and the San Felipe Desert on the eastern side along the Sea of Cortez.  We have been biking through the Vizcaino desert for the past week and have been amazed at the variety of plant life the desert contains.  Of course there are cactus and scrub brush but also thick-trunked elephant trees and Cirios which look like they are straight from a Dr. Suess book.  The desert actually looks lush in places, as it has recieved an unusual amount of rain lately.  In fact, it poured rain our first night in La Paz and continued to drizzle as we peered at the huge cardon cactus from our bike seats the next day.  Everything is flowering and sprouting this time of year.  We find lupines, clover, and various grasses on the side of the road.  Hiking in the Cataviña rock garden, scrambling on huge boulders, watching the sunset and the sky blossom with stars was a particular highlight.

  For more information and pictures try http://helios.bto.ed.ac.uk/bto/desertecology/bajacali.htm

Words of the Day: desierto = desert, amanecer = sunrise

Question of the Day: What are two adaptations plants have that enable them to survive in the desert?


January 12, 2005

Many of you have been asking “How do you do a bike trip like this?” or “What gear do you recommend?” Here is our attempt to answer that. It is pretty simple to complete a bike trip - one has only to get on a bike and ride. Erin carries her gear in a trailer that she tows behind her bike, while Marin prefers to have her gear in panniers set on racks on the sides of her bike. We carry as little as possible cause dragging extra weight is a real bummer on the uphills. That being said we also enjoy some luxury items. We carry two riding outfits (padded bike shorts, longsleeve lightweight shirts for sun protection and socks). This way we can wear one outfit and wash the other or have it drying off the back of the trailer or rack. We carry two regular outfits and some cold weather thermals, fleece and hat, which we have been using far too often lately.

Our three best friends are the water purifier, Gold Bond medicated powder (for chaffing) and peanut butter which we have been known to scoop out with the ends of our toothbrushes when in a desperately hungry state. Of couse we have some tools to repair our bikes, some spare parts, a medical kit and a sheet sack for camping and in case of really nasty bedsheets. Additionally we carry a digital camera, an ipod, and a dana book (see our technology section for details) and all the cords and pieces needed to upload this information for you.

We considered the first week of our trip our training ride to get in shape. So if you want to do something like this, just get out there and see the world (or your own neighborhood) from the seat of a bike.

Everywhere But Here - Thoughts In the Desert

January 08, 2005

In Panama, people told us, “oh, it's very safe here,” but that in Nicaragua things would become dangerous. In Costa Rica, it was El Salvador and Guatemala to watch out for. In Nicaragua, it was Honduras where people would be poor and desperate and want to rob us. In El Salvador, we should watch our backs with the Guatemalans. In Guatemala, it was the Mexicans on the highway that would surely be a threat. In Southern Mexico, it was the people in the cities along the coast who would have no respect. Along the coast, it was people in the next towns to the North who could not be trusted. Then, a few days ago, someone asked, “Isn't there a war in your country right now? Isn't it very dangerous there?”

People seem to see danger as something that exists in other places besides their own. Because they know their own community and place, things seem tranquil and manageable there, but it is the Unknown Other, the Outside, where bad things happen and dangerous people live. This seems an almost universal mindset, perhaps exacerbated by news sources which glorify horrific tales.

Something to think about as our own country seemingly becomes more inwardly focused. Will we let our actions be dictated by fear of other places and people? If we had followed such a train of thought or even heeded the warnings of countless well-meaning people, we would still be sitting at home, never having experienced such a rich and broadening journey.


January 05, 2005

Palm trees and coconuts are everywhere along the coast of Mesoamerica. In El Salvador we witnessed a local boy climbing a 30 foot tree to chop down the young coconuts - then he offered us some coconut water. Yum! The water is actually quite nutritious and contains minerals, electrolytes and potassium. Young coconuts also have delicious soft white meat. Recently we saw the older coconuts being harvested on the side of Mexico's Highway 200. The old coconuts have very little if any coconut water but are harvested for the hard coconut meat. The nuts are cut open and left to dry in the hot coastal sun. Then the meat is scraped out, shredded, and sold on the side of the road. There are other uses for coconuts as well. The fiberous husk can be made into rope, filters, insulation, and mulch. Some people believe coconut water or meat has medicinal uses. Coconuts are not all good though - watch out as you wander among the coconut trees, as people are seriously injured and die from falling coconuts every year!

Question of the day: To which plant family do palm trees belong?

Words of the day: coconut = coco, watch out for falling coconuts = cuidado!

La Paz, Baja California Sur

January 04, 2005

And here's what we did to celebrate the new year (we took a ferry to Baja)...


January 03, 2005

From the tropics of Panama and Costa Rica to the high deserts of Oaxaca, Mexico, Mesoamerica has a wide range of bird life. Riding in the pre-dawn morning is the best time to see birds. The sun rises as flocks of blueheaded parrots fly overhead or we pause to observe some toucans in a tree. We even saw a crested eagle glide onto a branch only a few feet away from our bikes. Lately the bird life has been a bit sparse along the Pacific coast of Mexico, though new coastal birds have appeared. Pelicans can be seen skimming the water and the vultures are never far from the roadkill. Birds are tricky to photograph, especially while biking, but here are a few shots we managed to capture.

Question of the Day: What are three birds you can see in your local area?

Words of the Day: birds = aves, to fly = volar, vulture = zopalote

Happy New Year!

January 01, 2005

As in many countries, Mexicans have certain superstitions about what should be done on new years in order to assure good luck, love, and prosperity in the upcoming year. Here is a list of ways to properly see in the new year, taken from the Noroeste newspaper printed in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico on 12.31.04.

Dress: You should be wearing new underwear for the new year. If you want love in the upcoming year, wear red. If you want money, wear yellow. The new underwear must be a gift from someone else.

Home: Your house should be impeccable on this night. Put cinnamon for luck, and sweet candy so that you don't lack love, in various parts of your house.

The Dinner Table: Burn red candles so that you do not lack love, and don't forget to serve champagne - the bubbles that form when it is served represent happiness.

The First Minute: Eat twelve grapes in the first minute of the year, and make a wish for each one. In the first minute, throw a glass of water to the street to represent the throwing away of pain and tears. One a piece of paper write all of the bad things that happened in the last year and burn it.

For Money: Wear yellow underwear and make sure you are carrying some money with you.

For Love: Wear red underwear and make sure that the first person you hug on the new year is of the opposite sex.

To Travel: At midnight, leave the house where you are staying, carrying two suitcases in your hands.

Daily Living

December 30, 2004

Throughout our journey we have been fascinated by the way everyday necessities in life are handled in different countries; the availability of water and electricity, the variety of toilet facilities, the way in which food is transported... Here are some pictures of the amenities of life, from Panama to mainland Mexico.

Question of the Day: Why are the telephone poles made out of cement?

Math problem: Marin's wheel radius is 14 inches. We have now traveled 2,084 miles total. How many times has the wheel turned around? (Yes, we already had a similar question, but this one includes our TOTAL mileage!)

Where do you live?

December 29, 2004

Here are some houses that we have seen throughout cities and in the countryside. We have included a selection of housing photos from a variety of climates, social classes, building materials, and locations.

Question of the Day: Notice the materials used to build the houses - how do they reflect the surroundings?

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