Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Confession

I have a confession, I am not really a bicyclist. I am not a bicycle tourer. I am not an adventure bicyclist. I have never identified myself as a bicyclist or cyclist as real bicyclist are often called. I do not think that I would ever call myself a bicyclist.

I have ridden bicycles ever since my father taught me how to ride when I was a little kid. I enjoy buying old bicycles and restoring them to original condition. I have owned perhaps a dozen different bicycles in my life. I enjoy the simplicity and complexity of bicycles.

In my home town of Austin I occasionally ride my bicycle from my home to the city center - about 8 miles (13 km) round trip or a ride in a city park. The farthest that I've ever ridden a bicycle is probably 14 miles (23 km).

I have not trained for this bicycle adventure. I actually bought the bicycle that I am riding one week before this journey began. I bought it through craigslist used for $325. It was in excellent condition. I think I got a pretty good deal because a brand new bicycle like mine retails for about $600. I test rode my bicycle about 200 feet in a parking lot. I test rode it again about 200 yards in the street in front of my house. I admit that I look like a circus clown while riding my bicycle. I bought my plane ticket one day after I bought my bicycle. Common sense would indicate that this is no way to conduct a proper bicycle tour.

Other real bicyclists would probably not recommend doing what I am doing. One should do research, talk to experienced bicycle tourers, buy a real touring bicycle, ride your bicycle, familiarize yourself with your bicycle, disassemble and reassemble your bicycle, accessorize your bicycle, become one with your bicycle and train.

I am not a real bicyclist.

However, I do have faith. My faith is not blind, but has been developed from years of experience. I have faith in God, in people, in my bicycle and in myself. I have faith that I am always in the right place at the right time. I have faith that I will meet people and we will enrich each other's lives. I have faith that I will meet strangers that will help me in a moment of need. I have faith that my little bicycle will take me to places where I have never been. I have faith that I will live simply, be safe, choose wisely, be friendly, calculate risk, overcome obstacles, have empathy, share generously, act passionately and smile.

Today I conducted another test ride. I rode my bicycle 25 miles (40 km) over roads, on dirt, up and down hills, along the ocean, under the sun, in the rain, from Baracoa to Yumuri. A new distance record for me! I rode, I walked, I pushed, I finished.

Now there are about 800 miles (1200 km) ahead of me. Poco a poco.

This is my confession. I am not a real bicyclist, but I have faith that all things are possible.

Wandering around Santiago de Cuba

I was traveling from Havana to the east side if the country to Santiago de Cuba, then to Baracoa. When I travel I often enjoy taking various forms of transport. In Cuba there is a train which travel across the country, but has a reputation for being delayed, canceled, slow, irregular and unreliable. It sounded like the perfect way to start an adventure.

Well the train did live up to its reputation and was delayed about 2 hours. It was rough and uncomfortable. I think that we arrived 4 hours later than we were scheduled, not bad. The rest of the way to the east coast I would need to take a bus.

I've arrived... Cuba

Hola Cuba, es un placer a conocerte.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Arrival to Cuba

Just a short post for an update. Internet is slow and expensive so post will probably be mostly text.

Flew from Houston to Mexico City to Havana. Almost got scammed by security in Mexico City airport. Arrived in Havana. Stayed at Guesthouse Don Gregorio. Walked along the Malecon (boardwalk), watched fishermen reel in their catch, got propositioned, ate pizza, drank refresco and slept.

Met a fellow traveler named Robert, walked the city, visited old town, saw the catedral, plaza de armas, theatre, museo de bella artes, obisbo, fort, lighthouse, ate a cajita (take away food in a box of rice, beans, beef and plantain), visited famous bar, Hotel Nacional, ate pizza, drank yogurt.

Bought train ticket to Baracoa. Road bicycle around town and along the Malecon. Hopped on train east to Santiago de Cuba, slept poorly. Arrived in Santi de Cuba, walked the town, saw huge statue of Maceo, theatre, park, correographed dance rehersal, visited baseball park, met ball player Roberto Castellano, given official jersey of Santi de Cuba team. Caught bus to Baracoa.

Arrived to Baracoa. Staying at Hostal Brisas along the Malecon (The Breeze Hotel), slept a few hours. Walked the town, exchanged more Euros for CUC, bad exchange rate, internet.

Let the adventure begin!!!

Life Lesson: Tree and the Traveler

There was a big tree more than hundred years old located in the middle of a dry land. It gave rest and shelter to hundreds and thousands of travellers. The tree was located at the centre of four different towns, act as a connection point of all towns and villages in the nearby area. However, except the big old tree, there was no other tree that can offer rest to the people. The tree has a huge and broad trunk with innumerable branches which spread the shadow covering a wide space.

One day, two travellers were travelling from a distant place and tried to reach a town located at the east of the tree. They were walking for several miles on a hot and sunny day. They started their journey from early morning and it was almost mid noon. The sun was too hot and they could not walk anymore due to the heat. They were completely exhausted! Fortunately, they reached the place where the tree was located.

They were very happy to see such a big tree with breezing wind. They decided to take rest under the tree. They slept for some time happily enjoying the soothing cool breeze of the tree.
They felt hungry and one of the travellers decided to climb the branches to see whether the tree has any fruit.  Since it is not a fruit-bearing tree, the traveller was disappointed.
He started cursing the tree owing to his hunger. ‘Oh, this is just a useless tree and it has nothing to feed us, not even a fruit or even nuts! It is of no use!’

The other traveller composed him and asked him to stay cool. However, the traveller was so angry due to hunger and cursed the tree.

The tree, which could not tolerate the cursing words of the traveller, in a sad yet strong voice, ‘You can’t be so ungrateful to me. Just look back at the condition when you reached here in the hot and dry sun! I offered you cool and comfortable place to rest and sleep with soothing breeze. If I’m not here when you are very tired you would have died now! I saved your life from the hot sun, but you humiliate me!’

The traveller realized his mistake and apologized to the tree.

MORAL:  Every creation of God has innumerable benefits to the mankind. There is good in everything and we often fails to notice the good! Also, don’t badmouth the one who helped you.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A New Adventure… Chasing Sunsets

This is me...
This is me and my backpack ready for a new adventure...
This is me, my backpack and my bicycle ready for a new adventure…
This is a letter from the US Treasury Department providing authorization for me to travel to Cuba.

And so the adventure begins… Chasing Sunsets in Cuba

The goal is to bicycle an estimated 1200 km (750 miles) from the East coast to the West coast of Cuba following the setting sun. I plan to do some location scouting and document the changing times and attitudes on the island nation.

I hope to provide ongoing reports, but I hear that internet connections are somewhat spotty in Cuba.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Inspiration to get out and ride

Inspiration is powerful. It arrives unexpectedly. It can be subtle. It may penetrate deeply. It might be fleeting. So embrace it while you can. A word, quote, song, image, event or person can inspire.

Here are some people that I have met along the way that have inspired me to get out and ride.   
Marisa rides her bicycle around town for leisure and posts her rides online.  
Dustin is planning to ride the 2015 RAAM (Race Across America)
Hernan and Lucas have riden around Argentina in areas like the scenic Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes)
Russell started traveling as a backpacker. He acquired a motorcycle along the way and traveled by motorcycle. Then he traded in his motorcycle for a bicycle and rode around Europe. 
Hanna has ridden her bicycle from North America to the tip of South America over a two year period. 

Thanks for the inspiration y'all.