Spiritual Warriorship

To be a spiritual warrior,
one must have a broken heart;
without a broken heart
and the sense of tenderness and vulnerability
that is in one’s self and all others,
your warriorship is untrustworthy.
~ Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala.

I just recently came across this quote and found it so beautiful I have hung on to it.  I wonder when I read it, however, if having a broken heart automatically makes you a spiritual warrior, or if there’s more to it.  I say this because while I know my soul has grown strong and healed a lot in the past two years, but at times it shakes like it would like to hide under the bed.  I try to hide this by hardening myself to emotion a lot of times.  I avoid anything that will make me feel something, be it books, movies, or songs.  Alternatively, things that shouldn’t make me cry will leave me sobbing brokenheartedly.  My mom tells me I have a gentle heart and that’s why I’m affected by things like this.  I don’t like showing my emotion over certain subjects but I also used to cry at the drop of hat when my heart was hurting.  I used to be embarrassed by that, as if there’s something wrong with crying.  I know that there isn’t and that’s just who I am, but I’ll be honest that it doesn’t mean I don’t still keep my distance from emotional subjects.  So have I become a warrior?

Two years ago today I said goodbye to one of the most important people in my life.  In the end of August 2012 my Grandma passed out at my Aunt Cathy’s house.  Upon further testing it was discovered that she had a tumor on her brain.  A surgery was scheduled to remove what they could of the mass.  The day or so before the surgery I Skype-chatted with her, in case things didn’t go well in surgery.  Up to this point I didn’t REALLY realize the seriousness of the situation.  After surgery my mom called me right away to let me know that Grandma has pulled through it and they had gotten almost all of the tumor.  The doctors told her that she had at least 6 months to live.  Six months seems like it could have been forever but for me it might as well have been the next day.  To this day I honestly don’t know why I didn’t call her every single day after that to talk all day long.

 I got the phone call on Friday September 26, 2012 that Grandma had stopped eating and communicating and basically if I wanted to see her before the end I had like 12 – 24 hours to get to Illinois.  I of course booked the first flight I could get and afford to take.  The next morning my boss drove me to the airport (so thankful) and I landed two hours later in Illinois.  My Aunt Kim picked me up and we headed to the nursing home where Grandma was being cared for.  As we walked hand in hand towards the building she warned me that Grandma looked a little different.  All I could notice was that all the trees in Illinois had changed colors already and in New York we were still green.  We walked down the hallway and into my Grandma’s room.  I actually wasn’t sure what to expect and remember feeling shy and slightly terrified (not of her, but of the reality of what was happening).  Kim told me that Grandma’s skin gets dry so I could rub lotion in for her, and then she went for a coffee, leaving us alone.  I couldn’t even bring myself to look at her face, I was so in shock.  I took her hand and started rubbing lotion into them.  They were so soft, just like I always remembered and immediately I started to cry silently.

After a minute of just watching me, Grandma said ”No, no, no, don’t cry.  You’ll make me cry and I don’t want to be sad about this.”  I said “But, I LOVE you, I love you!”  Couldn’t she understand?  I had to cry, she was leaving me and I was never ever going to see her again.  I don’t believe in heaven so when she was gone we would never talk again.  She was quiet for another few minutes as tears poured down my face.  She finally stopped me rubbing lotion in, and squeezed my hand.  ”I want you to be happy, Maria.  Just be happy in your life.”  Happy?  How could she think I would ever be happy again?

I was exhausted after a night of no sleep so when Grandma said she might nap I crawled into her hospital bed with her with a blanket under my head for a pillow, cuddled up to her and cried and cried.  She reached over and patted my arm in a way that was so familiar it hurt my heart.  I fell asleep, eventually and woke up a little while later.  Grandma had decided she was going to eat some food and the nurse was going to clean her up a little.  Kim and I went to the nearby nail salon to buy some pink polish so I could paint Grandma’s nails, something we had always shared.  When we came back she had a ton of food in front of her and was eating it all.  I got to work filing and painting her nails, and then my nails so we would match.  While I was painting her nails she kept saying things like how beautiful she would look in her casket, to my horror (I was still trying to deny that this lively, chatty woman was dying).  She told me about her guardian angel, a large black woman with orange and purple colors.  Today, I have a changed view of guardian angels and thinking back to this I am so thankful to her angel for letting us have that whole day together, making a few last memories.

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My sister arrived shortly after this and I gave her some time to spend with Grandma.  After this my mom arrived and we went to the cafe to sit and have lunch.  The other big news of the day was that our cousin, Matt, was proposing to his girlfriend, (now wife!) Valerie that night, so we were all waiting to hear about that.  He had a big romantic thing planned in front of the big fountains in Chicago and it was supposed to be perfectly beautiful.

Back in the room Grandma seemed to be living it up, eating Chinese food, bratwurst, beer, cheese and crackers, nuts, jello anything she wanted she could have and eat it she did.  We (my sister, mom, aunts and cousin David and his girlfriend (now fiance!) Cheri,)  all sat around with her giggling about stories from when she was younger.  The subject changed from shaving, smoking pot and terrible cooking.  The news arrived that Val had said yes, as we assumed she would, so we (the cousins) were planning to get together in Chicago (about an hour away) to celebrate with Matt, Val and their friends!  Again, today, I wish I had stayed back and spent time with Grandma but my sister has repeatedly told me that she knows Grandma wanted us all to be together.  It was the first time in twelve years that the four of us had all gotten together at the same time.

That night was a bit of drunken blur, memories coming in at interesting times: cheers to Grandma! Crying at the dogs in the humane society window watching us walk past, and getting sick in a gas station (I think) and being pissed that I didn’t redeem myself after that last time I drank with David and got too drunk haha.  It was a beautiful night full of a lot of love, tears of joy and sadness and hugs all around mostly from me.  My cousins like to joke that they have no doubt of how much I love them because after two beers I insist on hugging them and telling them I LOOVEEE YOU SOOO MUUUUCCHH over and over again.  Hey, it could be worse.

The next morning we slept in a little, hungover, and then drove back to the nursing home.  That day Grandma was not awake.  She was in a lot of pain and not conscious.  It was a day spent facing the inevitable and watching fall leaves blow outside her window.  That night, sleeping on my Aunt Cathy’s couch I cried myself to sleep, knowing I had to go back to New York the next day and it would be literally the last time I ever saw my Grandma ever again.

Bright and early we headed to the nursing home.  Again, she was not awake at all, she was getting a lot of morphine for pain and was breathing loudly and laboriously.  At 11:30 the pastor arrived and we started chatting with her.  During a pause in talking we noticed that the harsh breathing had gone silent.  We all stared at Grandma waiting for the next breath.  5 second of silence and another breath.  Silence.  Silence.  Silence.  Another breath.  She opened her eyes, her beautiful blue eyes, that always sparkled when she laughed, but there was nothing in them.  It was very clear, like nothing in real life had ever been clear to me before, that her soul wasn’t in her body.  We all started comforting her and everyone was telling her it was okay to go and be at peace.  I had my face in her neck and was screaming inside my head for her to please not leave me, please please not yet.  Was it selfish of me?  Probably.  But I can’t change how I felt.  Finally the breathing just stopped, she was gone.  11:42 AM.  I had spent all weekend crying silently, not wanting to upset her, but now that she was gone, she was really gone and I couldn’t stop the loud sobbing, I couldn’t even breath.  I honestly thought I would choke from crying and not being able to breath.  I didn’t want to let go of her hands and her neck, because she was still my warm Grandma.  If I let go, the next time she would be cold.  As my other cousins arrived we sat around Grandma’s body and told our favorite memories of her. i I eventually had to leave to go to the airport and return to New York.  I was given a moment alone with her and while I was hugging her a nurse walked in to pick things up.  I remember the fury I felt with her at being interrupted saying goodbye to my Grandmother.  She couldn’t know, obviously, she was just doing her job, but I will never forget the level of anger at her I had.  In retrospect, I know I was projecting my anger and pain on this nurse, who thankfully, realized what was happening and left.

My mom and sister drove me to the airport and I cried all the way through security, in the bathroom and onto the plain.   Flying home there was a full moon outside my window the entire way.  I landed and took the bus from the airport to Grand Central, where my friend Rachel met me and hugged me while I lost my shit in the middle of the sidewalk at 11pm.  I have never been so grateful for a friend to just hold me and cry with me.  I eventually took the train home and went to bed.

The following week I was a zombie.  I would wake up crying, go through work motions, and then cry in the shower, not eating and cry myself to a dead sleep at night.  I had no idea what to do with myself with the knowledge that I could no longer call my Grandma up and hear her voice.  Everything was dull colored and depressing.  No more visiting her in Florida, watching her flirt with her church friends, show off her new bathing suits, enjoy chocolates together and hold her hand.

That weekend was a three day weekend and I had to get away.  I had to have a place where I could just sit and stare.  So I went to Rachels.  Friday night I arrived at Rachels around 8:30 or so and we went to sleep at 9. I woke up with a start around 2:30 am.  Now, Rachel has a cat named Raskol, and he is….rather noisy.  I knew I needed to get back to sleep before Raskol realized someone in the bedroom was awake and began his nightly antics.  I clicked shuffle play on my ipod and put on my headphones and of course the song that came on was ”I Will Always Love You”  by Whitney Houston, a version which my grandparents would often sing to each other (Grandpa badly, Grandma adorably) in the car when we would visit when we were younger.  I changed the song immediately and lay back down.  I was suddenly overcome with the knowledge that if I didn’t sit up RIGHT THAT SECOND I was going to have a panic attack.  I sat up and took off my headphones.  My head was spinning, like when you’ve had too much to drink, despite having nothing to drink, and I couldn’t see a damn thing.  Despite this odd blindness, I knew without a doubt, 100% that my Grandma and Grandpa were standing together at the end of Rachels bed, smiling.  I couldn’t SEE them I tried and tried to rub the stars out of my eyes, but I couldn’t see anything, but I knew it was them and I could feel their love, I could feel their smiles.  After a few minutes I laid back down and instantly fell back asleep.

The next morning when I woke up I felt like a new person.  Or rather, the old me.  I could smile, the colors were bright again and the sun was shining joyfully.  To this day, I don’t know what happened that night, like exactly.  But I do know that it was real and I know it because of the drastic emotional change in me the next morning.  I woke up feeling so loved and happy that I don’t even want to try to make it logical.  I still don’t know what I believe but I believe in Grandma and Grandpa at the foot of the bed.  Since then many things have happened to continue my belief that I am being watched over by my Grandma daily in many situations, where bad things could have happened and should have, but didn’t.

This brings me to my initial topic:  being a spiritual warrior.  I know it was a long way to get here but continue to bear with me please.

I spent the following year asking myself what my Grandma had meant by ”be happy”.  Wasn’t I happy?  I loved my job so much, the kids I cared for were my heart and soul every day.  I had made friends and had a steady paycheck.  So what would she say that for?  I was happy, right?  As time went by I realized that I was not in fact Happy.  I was happy but not with a capital H.  I was satisfied, comfortable and content.  But my soul wasn’t singing every day the way I think it was supposed to be.  As I began wondering what I needed to be doing to bring myself that happiness the idea of the bike tour was presented to me.  When I officially started making plans with Tom, the man I was supposed to tour with, the excitement I felt for the future, for the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted and rely on no one but my self, proved to me that I needed more from my life.

When I would try to explain this to people many didn’t understand how the idea of going ”for a bike ride” was going to help me grow up, or fulfill myself and I had to just let it go.  Not everyone is made to understand.  I set out looking for a SOMETHING with the label happy on it.  If it was a place, a person, anything but I knew it was physical.

Looking back in reflection on the first leg of my bike tour I have come to a realization.  I couldn’t be looking for SOMEthing to make me happy.  I had to be looking for ME to make me happy.  I needed to learn to stop relying on other people to make me feel worthy, to feel loved, to feel needed.  When I started to need MYSELF every day to feel worthy, to feel able and needed, things began to change in me.  No one but me was going to get me up this hill, no one but me was going to push me through this wind, no one but me was going to set up my tent, talk with hosts and strangers, and no one but me was going to hear the wind whistling by me as I blew down the hills I, ALONE, had worked so hard to climb.  Through all of this my Grandmother showed herself, in the yellow butterfly that has followed me through from Texas all the way to San Francisco, in the orbs that will show up in moments on photos when it couldn’t be the sun glare, in moments of great emotion, like when I first saw the majestic Saguaro Cacti on the mountainsides heading into Phoenix.  She is with me all the time, I talk to her all the time and I definitely pray for her help when I need her.  I also told her she was ruining my makeup this morning as I cried while writing this blog.  I know she has put me here at this place at this moment to further understand how I need to be strong on my own.  Yes, I still have moments of breakdowns, when my heart longs to hear her and hug my family so badly that it hurts and I feel short of breath with wanting.  But I also know that however long it takes me to heal from the grief, I can never thank her enough for giving me the push and confidence down the road to finding myself and my soul.  I think I can say I am a spiritual warrior, because to admit my weakness has to be a strength needed to be mighty.  And I am a small biker in the world but I am learning to be big and strong in my heart and soul, and that’s a step, isn’t it?

I heard this song during a movie this weekend and it really hit me powerfully.  Here’s the link, I’m sure you’ll know why.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YLEaRPffEg

January 2010, Maria and Grandma

January 2010, Maria and Grandma

So I stopped for lunch at a little liiiiittle town.

This little puppy was watching me go in.  I bent over to try and pet him but she was SUPER skittish and back away but at the same time kept coming back like she really DID want to be petted.  After 5 minutes I gave up and went inside.  Half an hour later when I came out I had forgotten all about her.  I put on my helmet and turned around to put on my backpack and she was standing RIGHT behind me wagging her tail so hard, clearly VERY pleased to see me.  As SOON as I bent down she ran to me for petting.  I sat on the ground and crawled into me lap and flipped over on her back for a belly rub!  I sat with her for another 20 minutes because she was just so sweet and tremlby like ..I don’t know if she was so used to getting love.  When I stood up I picked her up and she cuddle right in and tucked her head in the crook of my neck and I WAS SMITTEN.  I moed us to the sunlight and we cuddled for another ten minutes before I had to HAD to leave.  She kept jumping up and begging me not to leave and it was SO HARD, but she had a collar and a nice little layer of fat so I know she did have a home somewhere.  I needed some hugs and cuddles though especially after being chased by 4 separate dogs today.  ❤

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Austin – Waco, It’s warm, it’s hot, it’s hilly, it’s gorgeous, it’s freezing. Take Your Pick

Well hi there! It’s been like 6 days! I have a lot to tell you about!! Let’s start with Saturday morning.

So Saturday morning I woke up and showered and Courtney made me a delicious breakfast of oatmeal with nuts and fruit etc and eggs with tea. (Yay thanks!) I had pretty much organized the night before as best as I could so the morning wouldn’t be too difficult but it still wasn’t easy that’s for damn sure.

I had done a few practice tours but if you will remember my front rack came only one day before I had to turn over my bike for shipping so I was only able to totally load the bike ONE time prior to my trip. Let’s just say that having EVERYTHING on my bike was waaay heavier than I thought it would be. At one point the bike tipped over and it took some tugging and a lot of huffing and puffing to get it back up again (and as we do so Courtney goes ”you’ve done HOW many practice tours with your bike full loaded?” …er …fully loaded you say? lol) As we rolled Evelyn (poor poor loaded down Evelyn) out the door I was getting more and more terrified because bike home from the bike shop had given me a little taste of what the hills were going to be like that day and I wasn’t wrong. As I said to Kerry later that day, if my bike falls over with me on it I will not get up again as I will have been crushed.
Within a few miles I was noticing that every time I was trying to switch my bike into the lowest gear it was jumping off the rear dérailleur. I pulled over and kept fixing it block after block and then finally I noticed that across the street was a bike shop. I crossed the street and rolled in and the guy actually picked up my bike entirely (insane) and put it on the rack. He was kind enough to do a gear adjustment and send me on my way free of charge. ( Thanks for that!! )

The next issue I was running into was the fact that because I was using the GPS to guide me since I was using the bike route given by google maps I was draining my battery on my phone fast and an issue I hadn’t calculated was that my charging cord was too short to use WHILE biking and watching the map! When I stopped for lunch (and to collapse with exhaustion) I let it just sit in the blazing sun and it STIll wasn’t charging fast enough.. I’ll be honest with you I had initially intended to stop and adjust the phone cord but it turned into Maria’s Fallen and Can’t Get Up Let’s Make This Lunch Time and charge time. I totally fell asleep on the side of the road despite trying to stay awake.

After about another 3 hours of biking through hills that killed me and imagining in my head my Future Legs of America I realized that there was no way I was going to make the 30 mile goal I had set for myself. I started to panic as it was clear that I was still in Austin and my phone was about to die. I had just happened by a community center which luckily had outlets on the outside. I plugged in and sat down to panic and plot. I called the Austin REI, the Round Rock REI and googled the closest churches. Since I didn’t really know the territory I wasn’t sure how fast they would be from me so I stopped a couple walking to ask if they knew. They helped me google and found one just down the hill I had come up. I rolled down there and to my dismay the parking lot didn’t have a single car. I walked up to the door and tried just in case but nope, it was locked (I don’t know what I expected on a Saturday afternoon). Just then I noticed that a Sheriff up the road was having a ”conversation” with someone (I haven’t a clue what it was for so I’m just going to say a conversation lol). I ran up to them and practically threw myself on their mercy and to my horror I almost cried…I was SO tired. They were so gracious and kind and called the library up the street (yes the same hill haha) and the library agreed to let me sleep in their parking lot. I bid the sheriff’s department goodbye and trembled my way up the hill. The manager, Britney (Brittany?) was VERY nice and showed me where I could camp, told me I could use the library for facilities until it closed and that the library didn’t open the next day until 1 so it wasn’t a rush situation to leave. After locking up my bike I collapsed inside and texted with Kerry about what was happening.
As I was setting up my tent a guy who introduced himself as Horus walked up to me to chat about the tent and my trip and I told him about the dillema with my phone cord. I got my whole tent set up and cozy which was perfectly timed as it was getting dark out and I was particularly happy that I had internet from the library to video chat with Kerry and Caitlin. After the long day I had had it was fantastic to see faces I love. As I was cozying up I heard the sound of a dog collar and ears being shook ( I love that sound because Phoenix always did that at night) and discovered that Horus had returned with A LONGER PHONE CORD FOR ME. (THANK YOU SO SO MUCH) We chit chatted a little longer and went our ways. I slept like a rock until 7am. Woke up, broke camp, and off I went.

DAY TWO
In the morning when I woke up I realized my phone was still low on battery so after about an hour I stopped at a little taco place called Los Jaliscienses (512.252.8389) to charge my I’ve Fallen and Can’t Get Up button that my dad bought for me. They were very very nice bringing me cup after cup of coffee. Once I was charged up like 50% I set back out for the day. There were still hills but overall it wasn’t bad and I got to go through some cool parks and bike trails. At about 1pm my phone was still dying faster than it was charging (I think because the GPS just plain kills the battery) so I stopped at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Round Rock (which had been my goal the night before) to charge and get some coffee. As soon as I walked in the door everyone there was so nice to me! The bartender let me bring my bike it, the manager came and chatted with me about my trip and then told me lunch was on him (Thanks it was sooooo yummy and made a delicious dinner too). I talked with him, the hostess and bartender for about an hour while I charged and ate and just plain enjoyed myself. Upon consulting the map and Chris (the bartender) I decided I would be aiming to get to a truck and rest stop where people can shower and sleep if they’re exhausted. It was apparently only like 10 miles or so up the road.
From there I headed on to go through more bike trails including oe called San Gabriel Trail which was just beautiful with ducks and lots of people with their dogs.

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Lots of big hills but flying down them was wonderful. I passed a few cows who stared at me as I called ”HELLOO COWS!!!” and then, finally, I encountered the interstate! I was greatly relieved to see that there was a service road on the side of the interstate so I could ride on that instead of the straight up interstate. I also met my first unfriendly dog. I didn’t even notice it until it was practically right at my heels and let me tell you it wasn’t happy at all. It chased me for a bout 200 feet before it gave up and I was biking as fast as I could.

Suddenly it was about 5:30 and this truck stop was nowhere to be found and I was exhausted! My phone had long since died and I hadn’t minded thinking that the truck stop would be coming shortly and I knew I was going up the interstate for quite a ways anyway. I know that sunset is at 6:13 and I was starting to worry. It got to the point where I almost used my emergency button to ask them to look up the truck stop, but I wasn’t sure if my dad had to pay per emergency (lol) or what so I decided better not risk it over directions. I finally came to terms with the fact that I was not going to find the truck stop that night. I pulled over to a gate where I could see a house waaaay off in the distance and called a little feebly (lol I’m not joking I was so so tired) and upon not getting any response and being nervous about dogs again I turned to go on. I know I had panic tears happening and I allowed myself literally one sob before pedaling on. Half a mile down the road there was a huge gravel driveway with an enormous sign announcing OPEN ROAD BIKER CHURCH. Fate much? I walked my bike up the driveway because I was too tired to pedal even one more time. I knocked on the door and discovered it was open, but there wasn’t anyone there. I used the restroom and then walked to the back of the property where I could see houses and hoped it was attached so I could ask there if I might camp. I had to walk through bushes and trees but I made it to the house area. There were two houses to choose from and the one on the right had a huge dog outside and I couldn’t see if it was on a leash or not. After my escapade with the first dog chasing me I decided to try my luck with the house on the left. I walked up calling ‘HellooOOOo” and hearing what sounded like a very vicious little dog inside. No one was home. I walked nervously towards the second house as the dog was watching me watch it. I called out ‘Hiii puppy!” trying for a friendly sounding voice. Immediately the dog jumped up (I could see the lead that he was on) and started wagging his tail, doing the play pose and generally begging me to come play with him. I was in love immediately, he had gold eyes and was a half white half brindle pittie. So while I petted him with one hand and held up the bike with the other I hoped the owners of the house would hear me and come out so I could ask about the church. A woman came walking down the the road with her baby stroller heading towards the Chihuaha House and I asked her about the church. She said she was sure it was fine but that she would call and ask. I bid farewell to the sweet puppy and headed back to the churchyard.

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Once I was back into the church area I sat down, watched the sunset and after plugging in my phone I explored a little.

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I found a business card with the phone number for the pastor (Pastor Butch) so I called and left him a voicemail. After about an hour I decided to hope he said yes and set up my tent. I had just finished setting up and getting all situated when he returned my call confirming what the neighbor had said, that it was totally fine. He said that he and his wife, Karen, were coming up to turn off the lights and lock up so I would get to meet them which I was glad for. They arrived about half an hour later telling me that there was supposed to be a storm and that I could sleep in the church if I could lock up before I left. I was extremely grateful that they would trust me with staying in their church with their belongings inside. I brought my stuff (left my tent outside) in and ate my dinner (passstttaaaa and tortillas with peanut butter and a clif bar). I video chatted with Caitlin and Rick for a few minutes, routed out my map for the next day (easy, up the interstate) and read a pamphlet that Pastor Butch had given me. I then fell promptly asleep until 8:30 the next morning. I had decided that the next stop was Waco, TX where I had a host waiting or me and while I could technically make it there in two days it would be pushing myself too hard so I decided to try to make it for three days.

DAY THREE
The next morning I packed up camp and headed out later than I wanted to but feeling good because my phone and spare battery where all charged up AND i didn’t even need the GPS because I knew I was going up the interstate. I had told myself no more long lunches like the day before because I was on a deadline, dammit!
It was cold.
It was SO cold.
I bundled up rolled off! I knew I had a tough day ahead of me with nothing but interstate, with 34 degree weather AND with a wind from the NW blowing me the whole entire time and let me tell you it was not easy. It wasn’t particularly fun that day either. I couldn’t even muster up the energy to say hello to cows as I passed them. I did find that rest stop about 3 hours down the road so I am VERY glad I didn’t continue trying to find it the night before. I decided to stop there for lunch around 115 and met several interesting and nice people, a newlywed couple heading home to Michigan, a woman who hugged me as soon as I turned to her which made me SO happy because you guys know how I love hugs and to be almost a week with no hugs was a bummer and a man who chatted with me about a VERY cool sounding ride/walk that you do in Europe that sounds fascinating and of course I can’t remember the name of. (If I ever mention you in a story and don’t name you please don’t be insulted I’m TERRIBLE with names). After indulging in a little bag of chips along with my clif bar I was off! Only about 2.5 hours later I realized that I was done for the day and that it was going to rain. I pulled up to a gate with a videocamera in front of it and waved as obviously unthreateningly as possible in hopes that they would open the gate for me. When that didn’t work I called out in case any dogs were on the property to come and attack The Intruder. When THAT didn’t work I went into the gate and walked down the road to the house in the distance calling out helllloooo the whole time. I ended up going up and knocking on the door and a very adorable little bulldog came barrelling out to say hello. The guy said that yes, I could pop up my tent on the edge of the property. As I was walking back to where I had left my bike just by the gate another truck pulled up. A guy jumped out and said that if I walked along the property past where the road ends the fence would also end and I would be safe in the trees where no one could see me. It was a little interesting to do that as to my right was the fence and to my left was the incline straight down to the interstate (and lots of construction). Once I was in the trees and on the property I was utterly invisible. I set up my tent juuust as it started to rain, and also at this point it was FREEZING cold. Like the weather said it was 30 degrees ‘felt like 23’. I could see my breath and was shivering despite all my layers. In my tent I pulled out my winter coat and put on, basically, all the clothes I had with me. Once I was IN my sleeping bag for awhile I warmed up nice and toasty (but it did take awhile) I also stuffed my face with two clif bars and two tortillas with PB not just beCAUSE I was hungry but because I knew I was colder because I was hungry. Once in my bag I was warm, I was cozy and I had a full phone battery so I was happy. I called my Dad, Mom, Kerry’s Mama and my sister. I read a book on kindle for an hour and then fell asleep and slept all night, even sweating a little because I was too hot (lol imagine!). The weather forecast for the next day called for freezing rain and light snow! I knew I wasn’t going to be biking in that so I texted Andy my host for the next night and asked if he could pick me up the next day. He was so gracious and said of course, that he could even come that night but I was snugged up already so it was okay for the next day.

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The next morning a crow woke me up by banging on the roof of my tent screaming at me because I was in his tree apparently or something like that. I’m not even joking, I could see him sitting on my rainfly and poking the tent with his beak, I was genuinely worried he would puncture it because I know their beaks are weapons. Once I had camp down and my bike packed, Andy and I agreed to meet at a hospital just up the hill from me. He scooped me up and we were off to his and his family’s home which is where I am writing you this blog. I just ate legit four slices of pizza and can’t wait for dinner haha. I had a beautiful BEAUTIFUL shower in and am greatly enjoying my company and being clean. =)

In conclusion:

I am really enjoying meeting all the friendly people that I am meeting. I was saying to Andy that it makes a great difference meeting people who encourage you than grumpies who bring you down. I like having my iPod with me because if I find internet I can facetime with my friends and see their faces. I can’t wait to meet more people!! Until next time!!

Unrelated to Anything Else I dedicate this post to my NY Friends

The last few days I’ve been trying to organize my lists of the last few things I need to buy for this trip and have been finding myself feeling kind of blue.  I couldn’t really put my finger on it, aside from attributing it to hating the holiday season (which I really do) without my family.  Then Carole King explained it for me and made me cry (by the way, readers who don’t know me: I cry at a lot of strange things).

When I first moved to New York I worked for this family for an entire year without making any real girlfriends.  The first real friend I made was Rachel.  [ http://thepawreport.wordpress.com/ ]  We met at an animal rights protest for the cats and dogs living and dying in New York City’s Animal Care and Control.  It wasn’t until a few months later that we actually began hanging out but it was destined to be because we were destined to sing karaoke.  The first time we hung out we went shopping at American Apparel and afterwards went to a bar where my drink was horrible and we convinced our server to put Hawaiian Punch in it just to make it a little better (it wasn’t better haha).  After that for about 6 months we karaoke’d together every other weekend and I would stay with her in Brooklyn.  She has a cat named Raskol who is, in her words, a crazy bastard…and he really is.  I’ll never forget waking up in the middle of the night the night before I auditioned for The Voice to him screaming and racing around her apartment lol.  Rachel wasn’t amused but we laugh about it every time now.  When my grandmother died it was Rachel who met fresh from the airport and held me in the middle of the busy sidewalk while I cried.  She’s a very busy bee but whenever I least expect it she’ll surprise me with a sweet little gift or Facebook post of encouragement.

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I was Rachel’s date to a family wedding in Rhode Island this summer

The second friend I made in New York was Kerry.  I was signing up to volunteer at the local animal shelter and Kerry was the person handing out applications.  For some reason that I still don’t know, I asked Kerry if she’d like to have dinner some night and talk about the shelter system in NY.  (SUPER random right?)  Well, we exchanged numbers and made arrangements for dinner.  Kerry will never let me forget that dinner, allow me to explain.  At the time I was friends with a woman who was a little crazy and too intense when it came to animal rescue (I hadn’t realized it yet though) and that night at dinner she ended up asking me to go on a wild cat chase for a missing cat.  I dragged poor Kerry along, who had no idea what she was getting into but the next thing she knew we were knocking on a strangers door in the rain at like 9:30 at night.  I honestly cannot understand why she ever spoke to me again! LOL!  Once I had established that I was not, in fact, insane (well..) we became glorious friends!  She would come over and we would talk about our love interests over a cup of coffee and lots of squealing ridiculously.  Kerry is who pushed me into actually doing this trip.  She is the one who googled camping on public land etc etc.  She listened to me ramble, rant and rave about all the different plans I wish I could have and why they would or would not work and gave me realistic ideas in return.  Kerry is my one friend actually ON Long Island (since everyone else lives in the city) that I could count on in an emergency not even beginning to mention randomly texting for a 5 minute coffee date!  She comes over every Wednesday for coffee and we catch up on the week and that’s that!  Kerry is the best!

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At Kerry’s surprise birthday party this summer

Last year at Thanksgiving Rachel introduced me to her friend Caitlin, who quickly became my friend also!  (Although if you ask her she’ll say SHE infiltrated our friendship).  Caitlin lives with her mother and her fiance with their 4 dogs, 2 (or 3?) cats and other tiny family members.  Caitlin and Richard became another little safe haven for me when I’d get frustrated in my house and needed to escape.  I could always count on them to let me over for a drink and some ranting angrily (plus a lot of loving on from her doggies).  Catlin does work similar to mine so she always understands a lot of the anxieties and frustrations that I go through.  She also has a sassy mouth on her that won’t stop for anything, and I love it.  Sometimes you encounter people who are quiet just to let the peace continue but Caitlin will speak her part come hell or high water even if it’s about you!  Who doesn’t need that in their lives?  I love that I can talk about shit and Caitlin with definitely tell me straight up how she feels about whatever I saying.  She’s also hysterically inappropriate at times like when I give her my Facebook password for emergencies and she hijacks it with status about all kinds of stuff!  What a jerk. ❤

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New Years Eve with Caitlin ❤

I met Alicia, Kathy and Nicole at a concert for an artist that we all love.  For about 6 months we went out every weekend dancing, having fun and getting into trouble.  Eventually we realized our poor wallets couldn’t handle that but all the things we got into during that time allowed us to become very fast friends who can talk about ANYthing and anyone.  Lots of fantastic memories, sleeping on Alicia’s pullout bed and then getting lost trying to find our way back to the subway the next day; dancing and discussing makeup, clothes, significant others in our lives, shoes and upcoming concerts.  I think the best night of the three of us was when we made the not smart decision to go out to a concert on a Tuesday night.  We had hoped the artist would go out with us afterwards (because she had done that the last time she was in New York).  We ended up at a karaoke bar in Brooklyn and suddenly it was 3:30 am, Kathy was being fed a bagel by Alicia like a bird, Nicole was long gone back to PA (where she lived) and I was panicking on trying to get a cab to the train because I had to work at 6:30 am and the last train was at 4.

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Kathy, Alicia, Nicole and her fiance SJ, and I

Last, but not least, is my friend Taina.  I met Taina in July this year.  We ran into each other at a pow wow in Queens and never interacted and then ended up being in a giftshop in a museum at the same time two weeks later.  We went out for coffee and immediately there was a click.  Right away she understood what I meant when I said I love to sigh in the wind, to stand in the rain with my arms up.  We like to say that destiny brought us together at a time when we needed a friend that understood our souls.  We don’t see each other often but whenever we do and whenever we talk we have these deep, honest discussions about EVERYTHING and sometimes there is a language barrier due to her speaking more Spanish than English and me the other way around but we always get our point made and understand.  We have had many adventures and end up laughing over the silliest things later on.  There is always a race to watch the sunset when she comes to Long Island to visit me and hopefully one day on my trip we will watch one.  ❤

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Watching the sunset at the beach

Needless to say, the first time I left New York I didn’t really mind it because I wasn’t leaving anyONE behind.  This time the thought of leaving my girlfriends behind is really rather excruciating.  Since my phone will be off I won’t be able to just text, facebook message or call any of them if I suddenly have a problem with something and just need to talk, want to see their posts on animals on facebook or what hair drama Kathy is having.  For the first time in my life every single girlfriend I have here is someone I can literally say ANYthing to and know that they won’t judge me.  They accept me for who I am, and respect me enough to be honest with me.  I’ve never known friends quite like this that will have an entire thread about my ridiculous antics on Facebook the way these ladies will and it genuinely makes me smile knowing that I love them as much as they love me.  I’m super glad I wrote this blog out because it actually lifted my spirits a lot thinking of all the joy my friends bring to my life.  #FreeFranny

Oooh Packages!….and other thoughts.

So the last two weeks have been one package of gear after another after another arriving, ending with my business cards being delivered this afternoon.  I can’t decide what I’m more excited about!

1.  DandyCase Waterproof Phone Bag

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So I have a horrible habit of taking my phone in the bathroom when I’m showering so I can play music to sing along to.  I learned the hard way that this messed up your phone pretty fast.  I decided that since I have no idea when I’ll be able to buy a new phone I’d better be REALLY careful with this one so I bought this waterproof bag.  I’m kind of diggin’ it because I watched a few video reviews and it’s totally submersible!  The only downside is that I there’s no way to have my headphones plugged into it so… I might have to buy a second one for my ipod.  We shall see. Until then bring on the rain!

2.  Schampa WarmSkin Balaclava

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So, something that I really wished I had had on my trip to Bear Mountain was one of these.  I saw a lot of other bikers wearing them and, damn, on my way DOWN the hills my poor face was FREEEEZING.  I’ve tested it out once and was actually SO cozy I had to pull it down to my chin!  So hopefully in really chilly winter weather I’ll be ready!!

3.  GoalZero 12301 Nomad 7M Solar Panel

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I decided that I wasn’t going to buy the solar charger I had previously talked about as I was told that it didn’t really charge well at all.  I also started reading different reviews and this brand GoalZero was said to be ultra durable and weatherproof.  You can connect it up to other compatible solar panels which is great!  It has a USB port along with two other forms of charging.  I cannot WAIT to test this out on my next ride!!

4.  Smith Optics SME OTG Goggles

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Along with wishing I’d had a balaclava my eyes were watering like a waterfall on the downsides of hills, and once the rain started, as I mentioned: it was pouring rain and I had to put my glasses in my pocket.  I was really picky about these without wanting to spend a zillion bucks in case they didn’t work.  What I mean by that is that I needed to find a pair of goggles that fit comfortably over my glasses.  Right now the glasses that I wear are small but my other pair that are apparently missing and presumed lost are the ones I want to bring on my trip.

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So the next 2 gifts were incredible.  I had them on my wishlist for items I need to still buy.  I checked the mailbox Tuesday morning to see a box in my mailbox and inside it were a set of 20 Bungee cords of different sizes and an AMAZING bike multitool.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened the box and when I saw the gift note saying they were from my friends sister wishing me a wonderful trip I started crying.  The thing is, so I have all these plans and wishes for this trip.  It is one thing for your friends to like you Facebook page and follow your blog and say that they’re behind you but when you physically get to hold in your hands proof that people believe in you and wish you well in your dream?…Let me tell you, friends, it’s kind of an overwhelming feeling.  I will never need another bungee cord as long as I live….okay maybe I will but not for a long, long time!

The bike multi tool is AWESOME.  It’s the Topeak Alien II 26 Multi-Tool and seriously is the most intense tool I’ve ever seen lol.  Allan wrenches, box wrenches, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, mini pedal wrench, spoke wrenches, a knife, a bottle opener, and several others which I like literally haven’t a clue how to use yet.  Good thing it comes with instructions for every tool on it.  I am so incredible grateful for the people who are starting to come forward saying they’d like to donate to my trip and help support me.  ❤ ❤

MY BUSINESS CARDS HAVE ARRIVED.  There isn’t really too much to go on about with these except that I’m super pumped because they are BEAUTIFUL and everything that I dreamed they would be =)  See for yourself!

See? Pretty!

Moving on.  Remember how in my last post I mentioned that my wrist was bothering me?  Well it still hurts.  A lot.  When I do anything.  Initially I’d purchased KT Tape and that seemed to help but then …it didn’t anymore, and it seems to be getting worse.  So I traipsed back to CVS and got an actual brace, which is glorious.  I then got on my bike a few days later and realized that, no, not even the brace makes it better.  I sound really whiny to everyone I talk to but IT HUUURRTTSSS when I bike!  So this puts a severe cramp in my training plans!  Two weekends have gone by (one of which wasn’t wasted as I had a friend visiting me) but this last weekend and this weekend could have been long trips and now can’t be. How am I supposed to be ready for mountains when I can’t practice going UP them?  It has me genuinely concerned.

Lots to Say

You know when you have so much that you want to talk about but it’s so much that it’s just pain in the ass to type it out because you can’t even SAY it fast enough?  That’s what I’m suffering from haha.  I have a lot to tell but I CAN’T TYPE FAST ENOUGH!

Y’all won’t believe all that has transpired since my terrified bear post.  Where the hell do I even begin, geez.

I traveled this weekend to Illinois by train for my cousin’s wedding.  I chose to take the train because I had the extra day and it was cheaper lol.  I take the Amtrak from NYC to Washington and then another train from Washington to Chicago.  The WA-CHI train is my favorite ride ever.  It goes through mountains and fields and streams and it’s just gorgeous and this trip was no different.  I’m sure I looked like a crazy person to the man sitting across from me because I would stare out the window at the trees whirring past me and random start smiling so big and joyously, and I’ll tell you why.

Usually when I take this train trip and I admire all the scenery I think to myself ”boy one day I’d love to travel through this area on foot or something that I can stop and enjoy”.  And then I start playing a game called ”if I was on my trip where would I sleep?” and start searching for places that I could have put a tent up if I were travelling.  This is the point where I get really excited and start smiling lol.  To make things even better at one point we were passing through a really beautiful clearing with a lake and next to the lake are BIKERS WITH THEIR TENT SET UP!  I gasped so happily I’m sure people were like what the hell is this woman’s problem??

So fast forward a little bit.  For my birthday my aunt gave me a book called Wild by Cheryl Strayed [http://tinyurl.com/lz77ko3].  It’s the true story of how she (Cheryl) hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone!  ALONE!!  Her mother died when she was 22 and afterwards she kind of fell apart, her marriage, her relationships with her family and husband, everything fell apart.  She decides to do this grand journey with no training or anything.  I immediately connected with her while I was reading.  It was actually incredibly difficult for me to read every single sentence in the Chicago airport while she discussed being with her mother in her last days.  I was definitely reflecting back on the last days I spent with my grandmother and the discussions we had on her last day of coherency.  She basically chooses to go on this major journey as a kind of spirit journey, finding her happiness and center which I LOVE because that was what inspired me to do this trip.

So anyway during every part of this book I was totally enthralled and by the end I was so excited I couldn’t stand it!  I am so excited to find places I’ve never seen, to watch sun rises, and sleep with a full moon sky, to learn about shit that I never would expect to happen and have to deal with by experience.  I can’t wait to wake up and listen to the birds or fall asleep listening to the rain on my tent and be cozy [I hope haha] in my little home.  Most of all I hope to be happy.  I’m so ready to find a place where I can remember moments with my Grandmother and not dissolve into tears as I do now, not find myself unable to breathe with sorrow and I know that she would support me doing what I feel I need to be happy.

Everything that stresses me out in my daily life floats away easier because I have an actual dream that I’m looking forward to.  I know that I’m not in this endless job that I will never escape and if I’m having issues all I have to do is plan or research anything trip related and before I know it I’m high on happy feelings.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”

John Muir