TipsĀ 

As I took a yawn and stretch, I realize I’m sitting in the same seat I was a week ago, and I see the water stains on the ceiling that my dad pointed out to me are still there. I would have never noticed them, but the maintenance, mechanical brain of my dad pointed them out in the first few minutes of us sitting down. My check engine light came on yesterday in the subaru that I bought exactly one week ago. My cruise control light is strangely also blinking on and off. So here I sit, in the lounge of a dealership in Tysons Corner, Va. 

There are two ways I could perceive this situation. This first that went through my head was “you gotta be kidding me.” The second was “well at least this happened while I’m still in Maryland and in the amount of time that the dealership is willing to help me out.” 

In a simplified version, I could complain and be pissed or I could just deal with the situation and look at the positives. I am trying to train my brain to do this. I try to be positive, and sometimes it’s very hard. Big Luke can tell you that I am no angel nor am I close to perfect. 

Another example came up last night. I currently work in the restaurant business. I understand it’s a gamble. Sometimes it can be great, and sometimes its very bad. Lately, if I receive a poor tip, I try to tell myself maybe thats all they could give. Maybe they have never worked in the service industry. Hell, maybe I’m making excuses for them. What I’d like to tell them is “hey I’ve got to tip out to the bussers, bartenders, and food runners on with that 4 dollar tip you left me on your 96 dollar bill. Was there something wrong with my service? Do you know how much 20 percent of 96 dollars is? Can I help you with the math? Maybe you shouldn’t come out to eat if you can’t afford to tip.” Yeah I could dwell on that anger but what’s the point? Those people will continue to go out to eat and tip poorly. The only thing in my control is my attitude and where I put my energy. I’ll continue to treat them with kindness and respect because that’s how I was raised. 

Again, I’m no angel. I still and always will have anger and a temper. I blame that on my grandfather’s genes. Such a sweet man, but oh boy could he flip a switch. If you can take anything from this silly post as I wait for my car to be serviced, it’s that there are two ways you can perceive everything in life. You are in control of your attitude and where you direct your energy. Have a great day! Much love,

Riggs 

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5am posts

Big Luke (as we call him so my 4 year old nephew Luke starts to understand other people share his name) told me my best posts were ones when I couldn’t sleep. The floor off to the right side of my bed looks like a Kleenex murder scene. I’m not sure how there are any tissues left in the box. Pebbles (one of my Chihuahuas) is fed up with my uncontrollable mouth breathing that tickles her ears and shows her discomfort by moving around and sighing. I’m at that annoying stage in a cold where every time I swallow, my nose makes funny noises because of the pressure of mucous in my nostrils change. I also never understood no matter how much you blow, there is a neverending supply of mucous refilling your nose in the time it takes you to crumple up that tissue and throw it away. It’s like a soft serve ice cream machine at McDonald’s. Ok too much?? I digress.

I’m supposed to run 8k tomorrow…that’s 5 miles folks. There’s another thing I don’t understand. We refuse to go metric like the rest of the world, but we all know how much a 5k is. Anyways, my sister in law Megan somehow convinced me to run this race a few months ago, and I’m a little concerned my mouth breathing won’t allow sufficient oxygen to be delivered to my brain to force my legs to move. On the other hand, if I run really fast, maybe the pressure of the cold air will clean out my sinuses. The other perk is it will be near the beach and salt is good for colds right? Well I know you’re supposed to gargle salt water when you have a sore throat, maybe if you breathe a lot of it, it will help too lol. 

I’ve been home for almost 2 weeks now, and it’s interesting to be on the other side of the coin. I find myself wondering how Luke is doing riding solo and can’t wait for his next update. I feel like my life is moving 100mph when in reality I don’t have that much to do. Maybe it feels like 100mph because I was greeted with so many adult things to do when I returned home. I was in a wedding, renewed registration on my car I’m about to sell, did my taxes, filled out paperwork and sent deposits for my teaching program, registered for the Praxis exam, got my teeth cleaned, getting my eyes checked post lasik today, and now I’m about to run an 8k. Eating, biking, and sleeping was such a simple lifestyle lol but being home has had its benefits. Reconnecting with family, friends, and my dogs has been great. I joined my yoga studio again. I saw my beautiful sister get married. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful group of people to come back to. 

Luke, I wish you the best as you continue your adventures in South America and know that even when you come home anew adventure will be awaiting. Safe travels my friend! 

Panama City AirportĀ 

The dark circles under my eyes reveal my accumulation of 3 hours of sleep last night. My dry, cracked heels and fashionable spotted keen tan lines expose my gypsy lifestyle over the past few months. And now, I must return to society. The crowded airport in Panama City left me with a taste that I had accidently been dropped off in Times Square. The chaos of scrambling travelers attemting to get to their connecting flights (at all cost) gave me an uneasy feeling. It makes me appreciate the solidarity nature provides me. 

And now, at about 1pm, it seems that the airport has taken a siesta. The only people I see and hear are the vendor employees. There are few travelers and I wonder where they’ve disappeared to. I have five hours until my flight and I’ve already walked the airport perimeter in search of good coffee and to waste time. I settled with the good old fashioned Dunkin Donuts. I even remembered the lady who served Luke and I two months ago. I attempted to tell her in spanish that I remembered her and about my bike trip. It seemed to amuse her and lift her spirits a bit. I think about how lucky I am. This woman has spent the last 2 months behind a small counter at Dunkin Donuts, while I’ve been traveling by bike across Patagonia. I am so grateful. 

Luke and I spent our last day together with friends we met along our journey. We went up the tallest tower in Latin America, and we awarded with a fantastic view of Santiago.  I was shocked at the speed and smoothness of the elevator we rode to the top. I am not a huge fan of elevators (yes I’m the one that takes the stairs because I’m afraid I’ll get stuck in one of those mobile cement blocks), but when it’s 60 plus floors, you’re taking the elevator. My ears popping were the only sign I knew we were going up. I think we went 60 plus floors in 5 to 10 seconds. 

We also enjoyed some time hanging out at an enormous mall and gorging ourselves with frozen yogurt. I love seeing everyone’s choices when you eat at one of these places…you know like a sweet frog where there are immeasurable toppings you can choose from. It’s the place where we all try to blame the weight of our yogurt on the fruit we put on it, not the crumbled up snickers bars. It’s also the place where you are slurping the drippings of your melting yogurt as you wait in line to pay because you’ve overfilled the capacity of your container. Yes these places are amazing and they’re even better when you can share them with friends. 

After saying goodbye to our friends, we returned to our friend’s house we’d been staying at to pack up my bike. This went amazingly well and was not nearly as stressful as when we left the US. After getting to bed around midnight I set my alarm for 3am. Luke and our friend Diego took me to the airport this morning. Somehow I didn’t get charged the 100 dollar fee for my bike this time. Either I had an employee that didn’t know the policy or was just in a good mood. Either way, this broke girl is thankful. My first flight went well as I entertained myself with movies. I made the mistake of watching a sappy drama (me before you) or maybe it’s (you before me). Either way it’s about how a girl falls in love with a paralyzed man she is hired to care for. Needless to say this resulted in a struggle of holding back tears so I wouldn’t be drawing attention to myself. I wouldn’t recommend this movie if you’ve had a recent death in the family. Spoiler alert (don’t keep reading if you haven’t seen it) but the movie explores a debatable topic of how this man who is mentally well decides to end his life. He travels to Switzerland with his family and caregiver to stop the misery he is living in. This movie reminded me of a podcast I listened to about “assisted suicide.” I put this in quotes because I’m not sure of the proper term but it was basically about a non-profit organization who guides people who are suffering through this significant  decision to end their life. They must be mentally stable and have a terminal disability or illness that is causing them much pain and suffering. I’m curious about your thoughts on this. Now I don’t want to cause any online fights, but feel free to comment or message me. 

I believe siesta time must be over in the airport. More and more people are trickling in and that means it’s time for the best part of being stuck in an airport…people watching. Cheers!

Passing the time

“Alex, you need to take a nap.” I remember saying to one of my preschoolers a few months ago and his sweet little voice replied, “but Ms.Kelly my body won’t let me.” I feel ya kid, I feel ya. 

I’m currently on a bus with Luke headed to Santiago and once again I’m wide awake. I swear I’m not an insomniac,  but it seems I have a hard time sleeping on planes and buses. I find myself in this state of jealousy of Luke because he can pass out anywhere. In fact, it appears that everyone around me is asleep. Ugh, I remember this feeling as a kid at sleepovers when everyone would fall asleep before me…sleep envy is a real thing. 

I suppose there are worse things in life than losing at night of sleep, like getting bit by a dog while riding a bike. Poor Luke. We had just celebrated the end of our trip together with a bottle of champagne staring off into the waters leading out to the Pacific Ocean. After killing the bottle of champagne, which we realized is hard to do…it’s so bubbly, but hey we felt fancy and that’s what you drink when your celebrating. I was slightly worried about drinking in public, (I have no idea if this is legal in Chile) but no one seems to care. All the police really go after are offenders of harming their endangered huemele deer species. Anyways, we finished the bottle and la de da we decide to check out this bed and breakfast recommended to us by the tourist information center. I’m terrible with navigating (hence why the Appalachain Trail was so good for me…follow a white blaze), so I was following Luke to this destination and out of nowhere I see and hear 3 street dogs approaching us from my peripheral vision. I notice one of them getting close to Luke and ahhh he bit me. There may have been some choice words spattered in the moment. Somehow as this happened the dog knocked off one of Luke’s paneers, which I quickly picked up since we were in the middle of the street and it was getting quite dark. Some guy whistled at the dogs to call them off. As Luke pulled off onto the sidewalk, I could already see a reddish purple round spot on his calf. As we were inspecting the wound, a taxi driver pulled up and was clearly angry but we had no idea what he was saying. We thought something of the extent that the dog should be killed but at this point Luke was bleeding and we had more pressing matters to handle than trying to chase after the dog that committed the crime. 

Looking around the street, we saw 2 pharmacies and decided maybe they could help. They did direct us to the hospital which we first went to a hospital on Maps.Me that didn’t exist (hence why we weren’t directed to this closer hospital). Of course there’s a freaking steep hill out of town to this hospital. It’s dark, starts to rain, and we have no lights. Really safe situation. On top of that we were on major highways trying to get to this hospital. 

We thought about leaving our bikes and taking a taxi, but our first impressions of Puerto Montt told us not to leave our valuables out. Thanking a higher being that we make it to the hospital,  we then try to figure out what the receptionist was saying. It’s really frustrating when you think you know your spanish and then you have to have adult conversations. We were directed into this huge waiting room full of people and told to wait until they call our name. A man sitting next to us starts chatting us up and we find out that we could be waiting for many many hours. He recommends a 24 hr clinic that’s closeby and will see us right away. Of course we decide to try that option. We are about to saddle up on our bikes when someone comes out and says hey I think they just called your name. So back into the hospital we go and knock on this door to God knows what is on the other side. I walk through with Luke and we are hit with a whole new prespective. Things could be much much worse. 

I immediately see family members standing with 2 patients that are on stretchers with their spines immobilized. Then a young lady in a wheelchair comes in holding her head and starts vomiting in a trashcan. As I am taking all this in, the sliding doors open where the ambulance is and paramedics rush a patient past me and through another door. I turn away because I’m afraid to look. I feel like I’m in the way. I don’t know where to stand and it turns out we are just called back to get Luke’s vitals. The nurse confirms that it will be at least a 6-7 hour wait to see a doctor. We go back into the waiting room and decide to go to the 24 hr clinic.

And we’re off, navigating in the dark, in the rain, on some back street to avoid the highway to get to the clinic. The problem with back streets is there are dogs and we are now both hypersensitive to any bark we hear or dog we see. Well, we make it and have a much better experience. No crowds, we take a number, get called up to the receptionist,  get called to the back to see the doctor within 15 minutes, and are out of the building in abut 45 minutes. A nurse cleaned out the bite wound and the doctor prescribed Luke antibiotics. We asked several times if he needed to get a rabies vaccine, but it doesn’t seem to be of concern in this area. The doctor spoke English, which was a relief to us, and he told us Luke didn’t need the shot.  

After leaving the clinic around 1130pm, we now have to find a place to stay. Luckily,  the first hostel we try works. I felt horrible coming in so late. An older woman answered the door and was so kind to us. She also spoke English and we were so grateful when she said she had room for us. After sneaking our bags into the shared dormitory room where others where already sleeping, we walked down to the closest market that was open and bought some ham, cheese, Salami, and bread to make sandwiches for dinner. 

Needless to say, it was a long evening. Thankfully both of us passed out once our heads hit our pillows. The following morning we were greeted with a breakfast of homemade jams, butter, raspberries, orange juice, and coffee. We met a few other cyclists and others staying at the hostel. One cyclist had started his trip from Alaska in 2015. We discussed the psychology of canines and methods of dealing with aggressive street dogs over breakfast. The consensus is to either stop your bike, kick them, or throw rocks at them. Even the 70ish year old hostel owner Perla said when she rode her bike she always carried a bag of rocks. 

As you all know, I love dogs. I have 2 small ones and they are family to me. The thought of throwing rocks or kicking a dog makes me whince, but in the end you need to defend yourself. I’m glad Luke is alright and the situation wasn’t worse. We were lucky to even be in a city with medical treatment. 

After an awesome breakfast, we had a wonderful day in Puerto Montt. We went to this fish market and saw sea lions, met up with some friends for lunch, ate ice cream, and waited around for our bus. For the past few hours I’ve been trying to translate the red text that is displaying itself on a repeated loop in the screen in front of me. I believe it says report any bad driving and let us know if the driver crosses the rumble strips too often. I also can’t figure out how my seat keeps returning to the upright position. I paid for these fancy seats that fold mostly horizontal and still can’t sleep….gah sleep envy it’s a real problem. 

Netflix and Chill

I never thought I’d be spending a day in Chile watching Netflix and relaxing but here I am under a candycane striped comforter watching True Grit. After several attempts, Luke successfully gained access into his father’s Netflix account. You’d think we were two kids in a candy store. 

We had planned on leaving Hornopiren this morning, but after awakening to a monsoon out our window we tucked our faces a little more under the covers. We have about 90 miles  (we think) left to Puerto Montt, where we will take a bus to Santiago and I will fly home. I find myself with similar emotions as to when I was nearing the end of my Appalachian Trail hike in 2015. I’m excited to return home to see family, friends, and of course Pebbles and Boots. However, Im sad to leave the simple lifestyle of sleeping, eating, and biking. In August, I’ll be moving to Boulder, Colorado to start a program to get my elementary education teaching license. I want to continue biking there and possibly commute to work. I’d also like to include Pebbles and Boots on some smaller bike tours. They have gone with me on the C&O Canal Towpath before and road in a trailer. They seemed fine with this, but I think I will get a front rack to put them on so they can see what’s coming up next. It would also make it easier for me to keep an eye on Pebbles, who has seizures sometimes. 

The biking has gotten better the further north we’ve come. We no longer deal with the wind. The gravel roads are overall better, but I have learned if I bike tour like this again (and with the dogs) it will be on pavement. I think touring in the US would be much easier logistically. I also will have tons of biking out my back door when I move out west. 

I have to be honest, I haven’t been motivated to write on my blog lately. One reason is the lack of internet. Another reason is that I find myself being bored with my writing, and I think well if I have no interest in it, then why write it? I know family back at home like to know what’s going on, but if it starts to feel like a chore than it takes away from my experience. I do my best to keep friends and family updated. 

With that said, Luke and I are doing well. We’ve been lucky with our health and with the bikes on this trip. We’ve really put our bikes (and bodies) to the test. Luke and I have learned how to work better as a team, and it will be a big change for him when I am gone. I wish him the best and look forward to hearing about the rest of his journey. 

A few thoughts

It’s about 3am here in Coyhaique and I can’t sleep. I blame it on the few drinks I had with dinner. It seems whenever I drink alcohol I fall asleep fast, but wake up not being able to go back to sleep quickly. However, I do not regret trying the pisco sour, which was very yummy. I also blame my not being able to sleep on some weird flash happening outside my window. I’m trying to pretend it’s lightening since it’s raining, but it’s making this crackling noise that confirms it’s some loose wire reacting with the rain (how reassuring).  I also can’t stop thinking that there is no way I’m going to have dry clothes in the morning since they are probably soaking up all the moisture in the air. They are under a tarp so that helps. The gracious lady at the hostel we are staying at let us use her washing machine since all the laundry mats in town close early on Saturday and do not open until Monday. Hell, I don’t care if they are still wet, they smell mighty good now!

Since I can’t sleep I figured I’d post about some random thoughts I think about (and maybe some things I’ve learned) while biking on this trip. Here ya go…

1. The wind makes me an angry person.  

 2. Crappy gravel road makes Luke and angry person.

3. Heavy wind and crappy gravel road is a toxic combination 

4. The headwind is strong when you have to pedal downhill.

5. The headwind is very strong when you can’t go anywhere or even stand up.

6. Yelling at the wind does nothing except exercise your lungs.

7. Bow your head to the wind, dust, and sun

8. Luke is forever loosing things and I worry about letting him carry his own wallet and passport when I’m gone.

9. I want to continue to learn Spanish and become bilingual. I believe my friend hannah does online lessons : )

10. Don’t bring a deer skull to southern chile. They have an animal called a huemele that is endangered and they are very serious about protecting it. So serious that undercover cops pulled over to interrogate and lecture luke on the deer skull on his bike. They don’t mess around. 

11. Empanadas are the greatest food invention ever! I’m a bit disgusted at the high quantity of empanadas I’ve consumed, but yet I still eat every chance I get. 

12. One big thing I was freaked out about when I came here was the fact that you throw your toliet paper in at trash can. It’s not so scary anymore. Sheryl this country could use your expertise on septic systems.

13. Dad, Jonathan, and Sheryl- I’ve never understood nascar, but I sure have discovered the benefits of drafting. Luke and I take turns when the headwind is bad.

14. Uncle cricket there are many potholes down here to be filled…just sayin 

15. Why do the police always have their lights on? How do you know when your getting pulled over?

16.holy sh*t that was a loud crackle. I hope this hostel doesnt burn down

17. We should send some deer down here to help the huemele population (I’m teasing)

18. Out of the hundreds of cows I’ve passed, they all have the same look on their faces. It’s fun to make up a voice for them when you drive by.

19. Why is there cow poop at every campsite? 

20. Dog gangs rule the streets down here. 

21. One of my guilty pleasures of coming to town are the dogs.

22. Roosters crow whenever the hell they feel like it. They also look like they give it their all when they crow…kudos to them.

23. They don’t all say cockle doodle do…what are we teaching our kids these days 

24. Wait…why do they cockle doodle do?

25. Well now that I’ve filled your head with my random thoughts, I shall attempt sleep again. Goodnight : )

Ketchup

Well if you know me at all, you know I grew up putting ketchup on everything…but it’s not my fault. I blame my eccentric food habits on my older brother Eric. He taught me that it goes great on white rice and as a dipping sauce for grill cheese. However this post has nothing to do with ketchup…more like “catch up” haha.  How do I cram in the last few weeks in a post? I can’t spend my entire day off writing a blog, so I must give you a summary. 

El Chalten was amazing! If you read my last post, you may have gotten the vibe that I was miserable…and to an extent I was at times. Having a few days off in Chalten was just what my body needed. We even got to do 2 day hikes to Cerro Torre and Mt. FitzRoy.  We were fortunate to meet new friends at our hostel and I am hoping to meet back up with them in Santiago before my flight home. It turns out all three of them go to college in Santiago, and they were traveling together on their break. Fernanda is a geology major and Cristian and Matias are studying electrical engineering. The day we were leaving Fernanda gave me her Chile baseball cap as a gift. It was so sweet and at that moment I decided to give her my Colorado hat in exchange. Those few days with them were some of my fondest memories on the trip. 

As I said, Chalten was beautiful. I highly recommend the hiking there…it’s free! Everything else in the the town is pretty expensive, and make sure you have cash because no where takes credit card. We had a tough time getting money because the ATM would run out and they wouldn’t refill it until the next day. Also, we could only get a small amount out at a time. 

After Chalten, we set off with our other new friend Samuel. We hiked the 7km border crossing that took us into Chile near Villa o higgins. Luke and I helped shuttle each other’s bikes up the steep hills and over the rivers. Instead of wading through the rivers, we took a more precarious approach. 

Currently, we are enjoying a rest day in Cerro Castillo. We decided to camp 2 nights at a hostel, and today is the perfect day for rest. It’s been raining all day which is a great day for napping, reading books, and the occasional walk around town. We went to buy lunch food and I think visited every grocery store in town. After buying some potatoes and veggies, we decided to eat out at a restaurant we passed and save the food for dinner. We will leave town tomorrow and head up to Coihaique. It’s paved for the next 200 or so kilometers so I’m looking forward to that. I’m hoping we finish the Carretera in Puerto Montt, and then I will catch a bus to Santiago. It’s hard to keep myself in the present and not think about all the things I need the accomplish when I get home (aka sell my car, buy a car, take the Praxis exam, fill out paperwork for the teaching program I’ll be doing, look for places to live in Boulder, work, make money, save money, visit family, visit friends…ahh). I am constantly reminding myself to find peace by living in the moment. I am beyond grateful and appreciative of this experience and want to inspire others with what I have learned along my trip. Hasta luego! 
Ps-I would post more pictures but it takes too long to upload. I’ll try in our next town!