Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Northern Tier Tours Take Off!

Our two Northern Tier tours left the coast of Anacortes, Washington for the plains of Fargo, North Dakota one day apart last week. Wish them fair skies and tailwinds!
Most of Tour #1.

Almost all of Tour #2

To follow some of the women on their bike tour halfway across the country, follow these blogs:
Vicky Chapman
Sherrie Kingsley
Kathy Leonard
Ellen Martyn
Barbara Minnick
Mary Palmberg
Clark Taylor
Linda Tilley

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lessons Learned on Today's Bike Ride

I carpooled with Marcia today to meet some running buddies for lunch followed by a bike ride.  After lunch, I took my bike out of my Marcia's trunk to put the wheels back on. I heard one of my friends say, "Let's watch Jackie put her rear wheel back on so we can learn how to do it. She's the expert."

Well, for the life of me, I couldn't get it on. The chain had gotten all turned around and kinked. I'd never seen anything like it. Feeling the pressure, I undid the master link on the chain, thinking that would make it easier to get the rear wheel on. Then I'd be able to unkink the chain and rehook the master link.

Suddenly, the link slipped off the chain and down between two wooden slats on the deck where I was standing. It was 14'' below us, but it may as well have been a mile. We couldn't see the tiny link among all the debris and there was no way to get beneath the deck anyway.

My friends took off for their bike ride and Marcia offered to drive me to a bike shop to buy a new chain. When I asked the guy behind the counter for a chain, he said, "You don't need a new chain, you need a new rear derailleur!" In all my anxiety, I hadn't realized that the broken derailleur was the reason I couldn't get the wheel on. That explained the strange popping noise I'd heard when I'd put the bike in the trunk of the car!

After a few phone calls to area bike shops, I found a Campagnolo 8-speed rear derailleur - kind of a relic these days, so I'll be spending the evening installing it.

So what were the lessons learned?
1.) Be sure you're on firm ground before attempting a bike repair.
2.) No matter how much you think you know, there's a guy at a bike shop that knows more.
3.) Don't car pool to lunch - ride your bike.

My broken rear derailleur

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back home from the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park Tour

It looks like a fake backdrop, doesn't it? It's the actual scenic overlook, Artist Point at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This is most of our group, minus the "SoCal girls, " who were probably busy tending to their beautiful ti bikes.

The daily weather forecast was for rain all week, but we stayed dry every day except the first. It was an amazing tour - Yellowstone more than lived up to its reputation. For more photos from the bike tour, click here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Reunion before the Yellowstone tour

The best part about bike tours is the friends you make who live all over the country.

I arrived in Driggs, ID yesterday in prep for the start of our Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks tour. It's the home of WomanTours founder Gloria Smith. She cooked a lovely dinner for me and co-leader Linda.

We dined with Phyllis and Lynn, who I met 2 years ago on our Italy tour.  And I got to see Ellen who does all of our graphic design, like our annual tour catalog. She lives in St. Anthony, ID, so we don't get to see each other very often. The sun shined on us all evening. After Phyllis and Lynn finished telling me about their recent trip to the Galapagos, I talked them into joining us in Bhutan next year!
left to right: Me, Phyllis, Linda, Lynn, Gloria, Ellen

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bicycling in Bhutan

When I asked Marian Marbury of Adventures in Good Company where I should plan a bike tour, she immediately suggested Bhutan. I’d never heard of it. But her enthusiasm piqued my interest.

At about the same time, I received some unsolicited literature in the mail from a Bhutanese bicycle touring company. Before I knew anything more than Bhutan was nestled between China and India, I was heading to the small Asian country to plan a bike tour. It was providence.

The first thing you learn about Bhutan is how hard it is to get to. Halfway around the world is a long way to fly. There’s only 1 airline – Drukair – that flies into Bhutan and only one city – Bangkok – that offers daily flights. However, I’m thankful for this, as it will help slow down the change that is quickly overtaking Bhutan. If you want to go to Bhutan, then you have to go soon. But I get ahead of myself.

Bhutan is twice the size of Maryland, with a population smaller than the metropolitan area of my hometown of Rochester, NY.  Three-fourths of the country is covered in forest. The capital city of Thimphu doesn’t have a stoplight. In fact, there isn’t a stoplight anywhere in the country. They’ve only had paved roads since the 1950s and there’s very little traffic.

The monarchy government declared a democracy, appointed a Minister of Domestic Happiness, and opened the nation’s borders to tourism just a couple years ago. They’re working hard at bringing the positive side of modernization, such as electricity and education, to all Bhutanese.

But I couldn’t help but wonder as I passed the line of hotels under construction by the airport, how long will it be until Bhutan starts to see some of our western problems? There is no talk of pollution, unemployment, crime, corruption or homelessness in Bhutan. They just don’t exist as they do here in the western world.

There’s no separation of church and state in Bhutan either. Buddhism is a way of life. Prayer flags are everywhere. They live their faith. I’ve never been to a place that treasures traditions, honors natural resources, and cherishes life like in Bhutan.  I’m not a religious person, but Bhutan felt like a holy place to me.

Maybe a story from my trip can explain it best. As we were driving in Bhutan, we heard a small thump. We stopped and all got out of the car to see a bird lain dead in the middle of the road. I watched as my guide picked it up gently, petted it, and then set the bird softly down in the tall grass on the side of the road.  He said hopefully, “The bird’s soul will return to the world as a higher being.” All I could think about is the times back home when I’d hit a bird and never stopped.

You’ll surely come away from Bhutan with your own lessons. I was reminded to stop and care about the little things.

Bicycles in Bhutan are still an anomaly. If you want to see a place in transition before it’s changed forever, before it becomes the next China, India or even Vietnam, then join us for Bicycling in Bhutan. I guarantee that it will be beautiful and fascinating. And you might even learn a lesson or two.