I’m off on another bicycle adventure!!

It has been in the back of my mind for months now that I needed to get my act together and write something about the Spoke N’ Heart Collective. Now, mere hours from the beginning of our next adventure, I am finally finding the time.

This afternoon, I’m flying to Eugene, Oregon for a Bicycle Leadership Training – the first project of the Spoke N’ Heart Collective. The collective is a group of female-identified people from around the country who have come together to explore the radical, transformative power of biking for social change.

For the next two weeks, I will be riding down the Oregon and California coasts with 8 other amazing people. Along the way, we will be sharing our knowledge, skills, and experience, learning how to handle the dynamics and logistics of long-distance bike trips.

When all is said and done, the collective members will be equipped to organize bike rides in our communities about the issues that matter to us.

This training will be an experiment and an adventure, and I will write about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences here over the course of the trip.

We will also be group blogging (hooray!) at http://www.spokenheartcollective.org, so make sure you bookmark that page or grab our RSS feed.

Now, its on to the plane!

July 3, 2009 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment

Wanderlust goes dormant for the winter

Its the time of bare trees and cold so deep it chills my teeth, and my wintertime wanderlust is mostly concerned with exploring the fractious, passionate politics that make reproductive freedom activism so compelling and so frustrating.  I am working on my thesis, writing about the people we met on Wanderlust 2008 and relating that experience to the long history of feminism and its discontents.

There are whisperings and possibilities about more bike trips in the future, so keep checking back if you’re interested in being involved with that.  You can also email wanderlust (at) protectchoice.org to hop on the email list to get updates about future plans.

December 6, 2008 at 10:28 pm 5 comments

Wanderlust, still and always

It’s Nora, writing from the Spirit House high on the hills of Marin, having traveled farther in the last two months than you would believe – than I would believe myself.  Wanderlust the journey, the bicycle adventure, is a month gone, and the memories are starting to settle.  The narrative begins to have a coherence that I’m sure is different for all of us who were part of it, and I find myself wondering how our memories diverge, what things each of us carries with us from the ride.

I have spent very little time by myself since we rolled back into New York. I left almost immediately for a retreat in Boston and then flew directly to Arizona to volunteer with No More Deaths (www.nomoredeaths.org), an organization that provides food, water, and medical relief to people crossing the Sonoran Desert.  Surrounded by people I love, I spent two weeks hiking through the lush, malicious desert, where everything can kill you and everything has thorns.

We met groups and individuals, young and old, men and women, who left Mexico to cross the unforgiving desert. It is almost unimaginably vast – even knowing the trails, and having cars to go back to, and being in relatively good physical health, I was utterly exhausted at the end of each day. For the people who are migrating across the desert, it is at least a four day walk, mostly at night.  If they get lost, or injured, or separated from their coyotes, it can be a many day walk – and some never reach their destinations. So far this summer, there  128 deaths have been confirmed, and probably many more have simply disappeared.

Everyone has a story, and it was incredibly powerful to hear the stories of the people we met.  We met people like Octavio and his cousin, two men from Michoacan, who had been walking for two days when we ran into them.  Octavio is married and has a five year old daughter and a newborn baby. He left his family, left his baby, left his wife to work as a tomato picker in Florida.  I asked him why, and he told me the story that is every story, that could be anyone’s.  His home is in a fertile valley, and he’d been a farmer, planting corn, selling it at market. Now, the United States imports subsidized corn from Iowa and floods the market. Octavio said “Ahora, perdimos mas que ganamos, y no podemos sobrevivir” – We lose more than we make, and we can’t survive.

It makes me so angry that our laws and our policies create a situation in which trade is legal but people are not – where the commodities that create a global marketplace are allowed to cross borders freely when it benefits the people in power, but the people who that marketplace relies on to function are criminalized, are dying because crossing the border seems like the best possible option.

Some pictures I took on the border are here on my flickr page.

No More Deaths is always looking for volunteers and donations, so if you’re interested in helping out, visit http://nomoredeaths.org/.

August 10, 2008 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

“Wanderlust 4 Life”

Mel here…

I miss you Wanderlust! In Oakland, working too much and trying to not get *too* overwhelmed in this gigantic family reunion that is overtaking my life and lasting over a week. I think this is FAR too long for any kind of family gathering (except of course a Wanderlust one), but that’s just me….Anyways, I took out some of my overwhelmed frustration on the road today, but as a road-rage biker :-) Naw, just kidding- I didn’t cuss at anyone loud enough for them to hear! But damn, after Wanderlust I feel super strong and super fast on my bike, it’s totally empowering, and then in Oakland you have all these (dare I say this?) wannabe bikers who are SO slow and weave back and forth, and all this traffic that thinks you are also slow and don’t know what you’re doing, which means they don’t actually pay attention to your signals! But not to worry, since I always wear my helmet and I know what I’m tryin’ to do out there so cars and slow bikers can’t get in my way ;)

I wanted to be able to post something rather extraordinary, something that could approach the extraordinariness of Wanderlust, and yet now that I’m here writing I just feel overwhelmed because how could I even begin to approach the extraordinariness of Wanderlust, much less explain it in words? I think that what’s needed at this moment is a list. I’m not sure what exactly this is a list of, but I know that these following things are on it:-

-bicycle tattoo with six stars over my right kidney, drawn by Alex who is also left-handed and loves birds almost as much as i do

-New York hustle bustle concrete jungle, me walking zoned out in its wake, dreaming of bicycles and remembering i have a life waiting for me on the other coast

-a greeting from one of my students the first day back at work: “you flew all the way home to us, melon! your wings must be SOOO tired!” (they long since identified my bird alter ego)

-riding Remedios to work and friends and errands thro the streets of Oakland, feeling kick ass and listening to Paper Planes by M.I.A. on repeat while i slam up the steep hills

-delicious breakfast at Blackberry Bistro with my parents, my sister, and…my girlfriend (this is after they were visiting for the huge family reunion and came early to my house to bring me coffee as a sweet surprise but instead caught me and Remedios coming up the steps to my house after a night out at my girlfriends’ house….at which point, i decided honesty was definitely the best course to follow and i told them i had spent the night at someone’s house and then i told them her name and THEN i asked them if they wanted to meet her for breakfast the next morning, at which point my mom answered “i KNEW it would be a girl!” and my dad did his best accepting shrug, which after seeing it several times i take to mean that he is totally freaked out by me being a dyke but he really loves me and is doing his best to be supportive)

-looking at the full moon out my window: feeling again the moon/ stars/ dark sky/ rustling leaves/ shared lives/ communal slumber

-Monterrey Market in Berkeley, eating peaches and drinking peachy drinks at a celebration of the 40th birthday party of my best friends’ Sun Crest peaches, tears coming to my eyes as she beats loud and angry on her taiko drum while her dad reads about destructive hail storms, and then later she talks about power & privilege and a food revolution and- eyes closed- i touch hands with a stranger, following an exercise she makes us all do, and i feel wanderlust rising within me and i feel her powerful dynamic energy and i realize it’s the same thing and damn that’s like a mind orgasm

-hot tubbing with my family and sharing a glass of red wine with my mom (Grapefull Sisters, Noras’ aunts’ house both come to mind)

-browsing the library catalog this afternoon for “Dreaming the Dark” by Starhawk

Maybe I’ll get the neck tattoo after all. Maybe the list’s name is: Until Wanderlust ’09. Maybe I’ll do a solo, self-contained tour up to the Arctic Circle and back in Sweden.
Maybe I will start making good on my dream to “write something.” Let’s go tho, y’all, cuz i’m ready! xoxo mel

July 22, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Who I am Now

So I’m in my apartment right now drinking some excellent white wine from the Grapefull Sisters Vineyard and thinking about the trip. My life feels so empty right now. Even though I have plenty of friends, none of my friends understand Wanderlust in her entirety.

I’m having my period right now so I’m not biking anymore until my crimson waves are over. My body feels week and is urning to bike. Everywhere I go I see bikers and I wish I were them taking the road. My internship with PEP ends mid-August and currently I am in the middle of searching for another job. I seriously am considering being a bike messenger.

I miss being surrounded by 10 other people. Its really lonely here in the big apple. I’m craving an adventure. I’m thinking about joining a cycling club, but I know the cycling club will not be able to replace Wanderlust.

I was speaking to my Grandaddy on the phone the other night as I was making dinner, and I was talking to him about biking. I told him he should bike more, like he should go to the store via bicycle instead taking his car. I told him I’d bring my bike home when I go to visit Ohio at the end of August and we could ride together. He thought I was crazy, and I said that I wasn’t crazy, I was just really into biking!

I wish all the other Wanderlusties were here with me in New York. I wish we could recreate the magical world we had for 6 amazing weeks. I feel so changed. I feel so awake. I feel so different. For example, even thought I’m looking for a new job right now, I don’t want just any job, I want a job that will make a difference and change the world. I don’t want to sell out. I want to be helping and not hurting the world. I don’t want to me a money hungry consumer. Yes I still love to shop and everything, but I’m more consious now where I am spending my money.

I am really trying to teach others everything I learned on Wanderlust, especially the Non-violent communication stuff I learned. I think its very powerful for one to express their needs to others. I am working on being a better communicator.

Everyone knows how I want to be a real estate developer, now I want to develop commune group living communities…I’ve been researching it for the past week, and I really want to learn more. I’m actually considering attending Burning Man now…..uh-oh world…watch out THA KJA won’t STOP!!!

hahhah well I know I just typed a lot of random thoughts and everything, but I though the world needed to hear what was on my mind.

Stay healthy, stay engaged, and never forget!

-Tha KJA aka Kathleen aka K. Dot

July 18, 2008 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Pieces from my life post Wanderlust….

Hello Hello!

I miss everyone sooo much!

First things first…

So I’m really into biking now! Its so in my body! At first I HATED biking but now I do it everyday. I took my bike on the Metro North up to the Fordham campus in the Bronx. I didn’t want to waste money on a gypsy cab from my storage facility to campus, so I biked from the storage facility 2 miles away with a backpack on AND a tote bag hanging between my legs as I dodged out of busy traffic. I was really proud of myself :)

I’ve been biking to and from my summer classes everyday. Last Wednesday after class was let out at 9pm I returned to the bike rack on 60th and Broadway (a VERY busy area) and found that my beloved ligths, pump,  AND cyclometer were stolen. I cannot believe someone could be so rotten and swipe such petty items. It was dark outside and I really wish I had my lights as I biked home… But I’ve grown and matured due to the trip, and I hope whoever took my bike accessories really needed them and I hope the items are put to good use….:)

So this morning as I was getting dressed to go to work I was watchng the Reigis and Kelly show and during some small talk they mentioned a dog that was lost in Queens, NY and was found 5 years and 850 miles later in Georgia….so all you wanderlusties who thought I was CRAZY when I said that dog Sam was Diamond, realize that really I’m not crazy and that WAS Diamond my beloved dog…..:)

–Kathleen Adams aka K.Dot aka tha KJA

July 15, 2008 at 4:33 pm 2 comments

With gratitude and appreciation

We’ve been done with Wanderlust nearly a week, and as the trip recedes farther into memory, I suspect that it will become more and more fantastical – the thought that we really managed to ride bicycles from New Orleans to New York City without any deaths, blunt force trauma, or other major incidents (with the exception of Megan’s broken arm…) Today, I am on a train to Boston, tracing the route I rode more than a year ago on Wanderlust 1, and I’ve been thinking about the innumerable people whose acts of kindness, generosity, and loveliness made Wanderlust 2 such an incredible experience. I was struck again this year by the immensity of the goodwill and support we received from both friends and perfect strangers. If any of you ever begin to doubt the fundamental goodness of people, I recommend traveling by bicycle for a while.

To begin, then, at the beginning, with recognition that words on the page, while never enough, are better than nothing, and with these words to recognize the people who contributed to the daring, challenging, action-packed, deeply lived adventure that was Wanderlust.

Deepest thanks, first and foremost, to everyone who supported Wanderlust 1, and as always my love to Carol, Robert, and Elizabeth, who helped hatch the first initial plans that have grown farther than any of us ever imagined. The most love ever, of course, to my amazing family, Katie and Torie and my parents, who have supported and encouraged me every step of the way – it is only recently that I’ve realized what a rare and wonderful thing that is. To Kate Raven and Deb, for helping me develop and articulate the plans for Wanderlust 2, and to David Moore, Lisa Stulberg, and my classmates at NYU for helping me refine, reconsider, and research the trip.

Immense gratitude for Aimee, for your unmatched support, guidance, and wisdom, to Mary, for your invaluable commiseration, dedication, and talent, and for amazing conversations on long drives, and to Bianca and Kathleen for all of your work organizing places to stay and things to do along the way.

I am grateful to everyone who donated money, resources, bike gear, and other necessities to make Wanderlust possible – over 350 people donated more than $20,000 in order to fund the trip. Special thanks to Elizabeth and Grey, for the gear from California, to Charlotte and Scott for the water bottles and comfy saddles, to Jake for our beloved sound can (and to Pete for fixing it when it broke!), to Yoga to the People for the yoga mats, to Brooke and Clifbar for the energy bars, and to Ingrid and Gear for Good for the tents and utensils.

And of course, huge thanks to Leif, for the She-Beast, our behemoth gear carrying van without which many of us would still be somewhere near the Gulf of Mexico. It was an unexpected and generous loan, and it is deeply, deeply appreciated.

Thanks also to Amy Marlow, for opening your home to us in New Orleans, and for being simply incredible – for your cooking skills, your crazy food resources, your willingness to transport Wanderlusties hither and yon, and for connecting us to your community. To Ric, for spending hours lending your bike repair talent to ensuring that our bikes were actually rideable – I truly don’t know what we would have done had you not magically appeared. To Noah, for the great conversations and the first aid kit recommendations, to Ally, for the informative and entertaining tour of New Orleans, and to Paul, Dylan, and the Iron Rail Book Collective for generously hosting our orientation.

Appreciation also to everyone at Mission on the Bay, for hosting us, and for the wonderful work you do reconstructing the Gulf Coast. Deepest thanks to Mindy Mitchell for coordinating the first Wanderlust meeting in Mobile, to Linda and Anna, for sharing your stories and opinions, and to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mobile, for hosting us in Mobile.

Gratitude to Ashleigh Reynolds, for helping to coordinate the Birmingham gathering in absentia, to Jack Zylman, for your support, and to Holly, Jessica, Lisa, and Micheal for great conversation and insight into the challenges of organizing in Birmingham. Also enormous thanks to Merrilee and the Bottletree Café for hosting the gathering and for the delicious food.

Deepest thanks to Paris Hatcher, for being an amazing organizer and an incredibly vibrant, inspiring, talented activist, and to Mia Mingus, for your enthusiasm, unwavering commitment, and innovative and groundbreaking organizing. SPARK is an inspirational example of what the reproductive justice movement can look like. To Nancy and everyone at the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, for hosting us for the weekend, and for the amazing food, the pancake breakfast, the massages, and the love and appreciation – it left us refreshed and ready for our long ride to the sea.

Thanks also to Kristin, for organizing an amazing gathering in Augusta,  to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta for hosting it, and to Lori and Katie, for being such warm, open-hearted hostesses. It was an unforgettable visit, and I wish you both the best in your struggles and your journey.

To Not So Hostel in Charleston, for the accommodations, and to Victoria and Fritz for opening your beautiful (and air conditioned!) home to us for our orientation. You saved us from a day of sweltering and mosquitos, which was a bigger gift than you probably realized. To Noele, for helping to organize the Charleston gathering, and to Alison, Brenda, and everyone who shared your experiences and stories.

Warmest appreciation to Amy and Sheila, the Grapefull Sisters, for being entertaining, gracious hostesses, and for the delicious wine. Thanks also to Lonna, for lending us your apartment, for being our Carrboro tour guide, and for organizing an informative and thought-provoking gathering. Huge thanks to Charlotte and Scott, for hosting the gathering and for cooking unbelievably delicious barbecue, and to everyone at the Recyclery for your loving attention to our bicycles (and to Mary Lindsley for organizing it!)

Gratitude, also, to Emily Kane-Lee, for your generous hospitality in Washington DC, to the staffs at Advocates for Youth, SEICUS, and National Abortion Federation for meeting with us and talking about your work, and to Reverend Vezey and the rest of the staff at Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice for organizing such a wonderful gathering.

Thanks to Clint and the rest of his housemates in Baltimore, for letting us make use of the house while you were away, to Suzy for organizing the gathering in Charm City, and to Red Emma’s and the 2640 Community Space for hosting us.

A big thank you to Pete Tridish, and everyone at (k)notsquat, for a lively and informative stay, and for the delicious dinners, breakfasts, and lemonade. Thanks also to Arielle Kobula and the rest of the staff at the Philadelphia Women’s Center for organizing a wonderful gathering, and to Susan Schewel for your assistance with outreach and your generous offer to host us.

Deepest appreciation to Cathy and Don, for seeing me off last year and welcoming me home this year, for opening your home to us, for the delicious food, and for rescuing us when we got lost. Thanks also to Elizabeth, Connie, and everyone at HiTops for sharing your stories and your experiences with us.

Gratitude and love to Sadie, Tasha, Arielle, and Mel at Myrtle Mansion for hosting our welcome home party as well as the last night of Wanderlust, and to Mary, Kayden, Paris, Lydia, Cari, Max, and everyone who helped welcome us to New York City.

There is no way I could ever put into words the depth and breadth of my gratitude for the incredible women who participated in Wanderlust. You are, each and every one of you, fierce and courageous and inspiring and complex in your own individual ways, and I am so fortunate to have spent such sacred time with you.

This trip, Wanderlust 2 is dedicated to the women who brought it into life, who breathed fire into every day, making it a new and essential incarnation – to Becky Turner, Elizabeth Ebright, Kathleen Adams, Elisa Dolowich, Megumi Kanada, Heather Mooney, Paris Hatcher, Mel Preston, Shelby Knox, Stacey Middleton, Megan McKendry, Taylor (Vanessa Renee), Erin O’Daniel, and Heather Ault – for being willing to deeply engage with the world, with the movement, and with each other.

Wanderlust was, above all, an opportunity to create our own world, Wanderlustland, in which we floated over hills, pedaled through vast landscapes, and did precisely what we wanted. The process of discovering ourselves in relation to each other, of deciding how to divide our days, was complicated and challenging and confronted many of the deepest and most intractable problems we face in society and as people. How do we approach work and decision making? How do our identities and backgrounds influence the ways we relate to each other? Where does personal responsibility end and social responsibility begin? How do we perpetuate and resist liberating and oppressive social structures? Can we still be nice to each other when it’s 100 degrees in the shade and we’ve been biking all day? How do you get bike grease out from under your fingernails?

I can truly say that never in my life have I learned so much, lived so deeply, or worked so hard, and I know the repercussions of our experience will echo through my life in many ways over the next few months. I hope to share my reflections on those echoes here.

As we say in Wanderlustland, Wanderlust is a process, not an event – and so the adventure continues.

July 9, 2008 at 1:34 pm 1 comment

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