Thursday, April 24, 2014

New territory, the pounding Atlantic


~car to Jacksonville, FL
~2 miles to Arlington
~30 miles to class in Jacksonville
~35 miles to class in Orange Park
~42 miles to St. Augustine

The bike was fixed by now; my leg was still on the mend, working towards keeping off an infection. And I had just one state line left to cross: Florida. I crossed from PA to DE to MD to VA to NC to SC to GA via bicycle... but I'd cross Florida's state line via car.

The difficult part of this trip (amongst other things) is having such fixed dates for classes and intermediate cities, which puts pressure on making it there on time, amidst mechanical issues, inclement weather, and anything else the Universe has in store. The next leg of my trip was going to be driving to Jacksonville. Easing on expectations. There is the plan and 'the other plan.'

Class the first day in Jacksonville was at the Youth Crisis Center. There were two classes; the first class was 4 girls, ages 12-17. The second class was 12 boys, ages 12-17.

Different class, different personalities, different circumstances, different energy. Thus, our yoga classes were very different.

I was met with a bit of resistance at first, a student or two saying 'I don't want to do no fucking yoga.' I don't blame them. It can be super vulnerable. And who was I to come into their home and talk about yoga? I allowed them to still hold a place in the room and sit off to the side while we did yoga. I was amazed that both students eventually joined in the class (of their own accord), once we started talking about anxiety and working towards breathing and relaxing. Interesting.

The next day, there were 4 classes with youth from the Belmont Head Start School in Orange Park. ~20 students each class, ages 3-5. That's 80 3-5 year olds; I was definitely exhausted after this one. 

After the classes, I biked back to where I was staying in the Arlington section of Jacksonville to do laundry and regather my belongings to prepare to depart again the next morning. Even with just two bags I somehow still feel like I have too many things. I am further streamlining.

Currently, I am resting at a hostel in St. Augustine and am departing again early tomorrow morning to Daytona Beach for the class there. I've been trying to leave earlier these mornings to beat the intensity of the sun. I no longer have to worry about wild dogs; now I am en route on roads with other cyclists (finally) as well as armadillos and potential snakes and alligators. I've yet to see a gator, though.

I've always been more enamored by the space offered in mountainous and forested areas, but there is something truly cathartic about the sea; its constant movement, it's massive size, it's ability to encompass everything within it. There is no single drop of ocean, but the ocean itself.

I am cruising down SR A1A, the Atlantic pounding yards away from me, seagulls in the air, the warm sun shining down on everything. 

40 days in, over 1200 miles biked...

Ahimsa; challenging my feminine side


~car to class in Marietta and classes in Atlanta

Class in Marietta was with youth and staff from Y.E.L.L.S. (Youth empowerment through leading learning and serving). ~8 students

Classes  in Atlanta were outdoors at the Old Fourth Ward fields with youth from Operation PEACE and an early evening class open to anyone in the community. ~16 students and 6 students, respectively.

Each class on this trip has been situational. I'll come with different ideas, but mostly I just come with an open mind to see what people are needing most.

The next day after classes, I took the day off to rest, heal the leg, get the bike fixed, and get a massage which my aunt and uncle graciously treated me to.

I'm 'new' to massages, but my massage therapist was more vocal than I think is typical. She started with some Reiki on my leg, eventually working towards a deep tissue massage on the rest of my body, with an emphasis on the shoulders (I've developed somewhat of a forward roll from all of the biking).

When she got to my left shoulder, she exclaimed 'Oh...' It was painful, and I was tense. She said, 'You're very tense on this side. This is your feminine side. Who is the woman in your life who is challenging you? Is it you?'

Like I said, very vocal. But, she is right. I am working on being softer, in holding more compassion for myself. Ahimsa-- non harming-- is very important to me, so much so that I tattooed it to my body a couple years ago. A reminder; an aide.

Talk about the learning curve of this bicycle tour, there is a learning curve to this life.


Slow down, take it easy


~38 miles to Dacula, GA
~20 miles towards Acworth; car to Acworth

I'm not sure if it was the Universe's method of communicating to me to slow down, but the ride to Acworth was challenging. 

Leaving Athens, I had expected to make it to Acworth in two days in preparations for classes in Atlanta. I was thrilled to be getting close to Acworth because I have family (aunt, uncle, cousins) there. 

I can't express how truly lucky I've been to meet so many amazing humans while traveling; there is a savior in a stranger's smile. But there is a rare feeling of 'home' that comes with familiarity (ie- seeing family in Acworth, seeing Jaron in Athens), and I sure have been jonesing for that comfort of home.

Each day I am on the move, carrying with me my life in two bags. My bike has been my home. I crave simplicity; I am anxious by clutter; I yearn to streamline further to have no extraneous distractions between me and my source. But it is very challenging, too.

On the first of two days on the trek to Acworth, I was unable to make it as far as anticipated; there were thunderstorms which left me finding a new location on the map to settle down for the night. The next morning I'd finish the ride to Acworth.

But the next morning, the weather was worse. Not as rainy as the previous day, but the winds were treacherous. I've seen the wind break people down. I've seen the wind make a good man cry.

After 20 miles of fighting the wind (and fighting myself), I deemed it unsafe to continue in this weather. I called my aunt for vehicle relief. We'd meet just a few miles away at a grocery store. I paced myself to get there.

When I arrived near our meeting place, I got off of the bike to walk it down a hill through the parking lot to where I'd soon meet my aunt. The bike (about 70-80 pounds with its full weight) quickly accelerated down the hill as the wind picked up. I held onto the handle bars to prevent the bike from falling, and between the weight, the wind, and the hill, both the bike and I toppled down onto the cement. I landed on the chainring which dug into my leg, bending the chainring so badly that the bike was unrideable. I fell walking with the bike. Moments before meeting my aunt for vehicle relief. I suppose there couldn't have been better timing for an accident. I was very sore, but okay.

Classes the next two days would be in Marietta and Atlanta, but with the bike now unrideable and my leg being on the mend, I was lucky and glad to have the option of borrowing my aunt's car or else I'd have had to cancel classes.

Perhaps the universe is saying slow down, take it easy.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The scorching sun, the friend, the unicorn bus

~90 miles to Greenwood, SC
~90 miles to Athens, GA

When I was leaving Columbia, I had one goal in mind: make it to Athens in two days so that I could see my friend from Philadelphia who was on tour in Athens that same day (Check them out: That would mean two 90-mile days in a row. And, by now, the sun was out for a vengeance.

Day 1 on the stretch to Athens... my goal was to get to Greenwood, SC. I didn't have a place set up to stay as I usually do, but I felt confident that something would come together. I biked the first 30 miles (or so) and stopped at a gas station to take a break and refill my water bottles.

A woman (Ellen) approached me to ask what I was doing. We chatted for a short while, and she invited me to come to her lake house several miles away to swim and eat lunch before I continued on the rest of my ride to Greenwood. I biked to her home and immediately jumped in the lake to cool myself. She said that usually people around here don't swim in the lake until May because of how cold it is, but I was craving for my body to be immersed in a body of water. It was cold, it took my breath away, and it was exactly what I needed.

I came back inside to join Ellen for lunch; she fixed me a delicious salad and sent me on my way with a ton of snacks, worried for me about where I'd sleep later when I arrived to Greenwood. We had only known eachother for an hour, but you would have never known.

Feeling rejuvenated, I hopped back on the bike to continue the rest of the way to Greenwood. It was a long day of biking, but I eventually arrived and spent the night in a motel (never was able to find another place to sleep).

In the morning I was to head towards Athens. I was so excited about the prospect of seeing a familiar. I'd do anything to make it to Athens that day.

The sun was truly painfully hot. It would be 90 miles to Athens, and I knew that if I didn't take my time, the sun would get the best of me.

I stopped often to refill on water, take a break, and put more sunscreen on. It seemed that no matter how often I drank water or used sunscreen, my body was still being penetrated and destroyed by the sun. I wanted to get to Athens as quickly as possible; I wanted to be out of the sun; but I knew that the most intelligent decision would be to take my time, even if that meant it would take all day to get there. Self-care is important. Respecting boundaries is important. Listening to your body is important.

I stopped at a gas station-- somewhere in Georgia-- feeling totally destroyed by the sun. I layed down on a bench to relax and rehydrate, and a man (Mario) came up to me to see what I was up to. People see my bike and my two bags, and they know I'm not just traveling from around the corner, and they approach me to see where I'm coming from. I'm always so grateful when they do, because it gets tough to bike alone all day, and it is so nice to engage in a dialogue with a human. They're always so surprised that I came all the way from Philly. I think I am too.

When I was ready, I got back on the bike and continued yet again towards Athens. I had left Greenwood at 9 AM, and I arrived to Athens at 6:42 PM. It was a long day and perhaps the most rewarding ride yet. The next day I would be able to see my friends from Philly.

In the morning I awoke early, feeling excited to see Jaron and the rest of the crew from Amos Lee. We had planned to meet for breakfast and coffee. Afterwards, I was fortunate enough to be able to join them in their touring buses and backstage to The Classic Center, where we enjoyed a delicious catered lunch and dinner. After dinner, Amos and the crew would hit the stage, and I'd join the audience in watching these amazing human beings pour their hearts out on stage. I felt proud. I needed this night in a way that I was unaware of before.

After the show, I met my friends backstage and congratulated them on their performance. Woody Harrelson was there with several people from his crew; they had just finished filming Hunger Games and True Detective in New Orleans and were headed next to Atlanta. They took a bus to see Amos Lee's show in Athens. After the show, it was late, and I was exhausted, and I knew I should head to bed to leave early the next day towards Atlanta. I needed to make it there again in two days in order to arrive on time for my classes there.

Woody Harrelson (and crew) invited all of us to come hang out on his bus (painted in unicorns and rainbows, running entirely on hemp. seriously), but I had to leave to go to sleep.

I'm not sure whether that makes me dedicated or crazy. But I parted ways with them all to head to bed.

Class, shared meals, river rescue

~90 miles to Columbia
~25 miles to class

It's the thing I had hoped for most out of this bicycle tour... to make connections outside of the yoga class. to get other people excited about being on board. to help empower people to create a community amongst themselves. to make lasting connections.

I arrived in Columbia, SC, and met Erin Hall for lunch in the city at First Citizens Cafe. Erin is the coordinator of Palmetto Place Children's Shelter, and she organized a lunch between her, myself, Palmetto's social worker, a meditation/mindfulness instructor, and a pet therapist. Her goal was to have us share a meal together and discuss what we're doing, what we've found works/doesn't work, etc. To engage in a dialogue with one another. I was grateful to be in the presence of such inspiring humans.

Erin also helped to organize the yoga class I'd be teaching later that evening; we were doing a joint class between youth/staff from Palmetto Place Children's Shelter and youth/parents/staff from St. Lawrence Place.

"Palmetto Place provides a safe and caring home for children in the Midlands who are victims of abuse and neglect."

"St. Lawrence Place is a 30-home community where homeless families can find skills an shelter that foster independence and free them from the grip of poverty."

Before class, Erin invited me to join the youth for dinner at Palmetto Place. We call these places "facilities" but they are people's homes. Our language is important.

After dinner, Erin loaded the youth into different vehicles to head to our yoga class at St. Lawrence Place. I hopped on my bike and rode over to meet them there.

Our class had 16 people. Youth, parents, staff. We dimmed the lights and left the door open to enjoy a nice, gentle Spring breeze. We joined eachother for an hour of different movement, breathing and meditation. We played a balancing/focusing game and a 'traveling' game to engage our imaginations in exploring other spaces.

And for one night, we transformed an unconventional space into a yoga studio, talking afterwards about how we can continue practicing 'off the mat'.

The next day I had the day off, and my host Donna took me and three others kayaking down the Saluda River. We five rode in three kayaks (2, 2, 1), and it was my first time kayaking. The beginning of the ride was slow and peaceful, and we allowed for the current of the river to draw us gently down stream.

We were approaching our first set of rapid waters when we heard a woman yelling in the distance. She was far from us, and the water was loud, but we thought we could hear her yelling "No. No. No!" over and over again. We were worried that she was warning us that the waters were too high to continue kayaking downstream and that we should stop immediately. Nervous, we put our paddles in the water to prevent ourselves from being pulled by the no-longer gentle current, as we were quickly approaching the rapid waters and were unsure what the woman was trying to communicate to us.

Our friend (the most expert kayaker of the group) paddled over towards her to see what was going on. It turns out she was actually yelling "Help. Help. Help!" over and over. Her, her husband and their son had been stranded there for hours; their canoe had been pierced by a sharp rock and was fully submerged in the water, leaving them to fend for themselves for hours, hoping somebody would eventually paddle down the river and rescue them.

We were those people. I had never been kayaking before, but now the plan was to put each of the three people onto our kayaks and paddle them to the other side of the shore, to safety. I wasn't even sure whether I could paddle  myself through the rapid waters without being turned over, but now we were a part of a river rescue.

The water was a freezing 55 degrees and these three people, soaked and stranded there for hours, were in shock.

As we were all chatting about how to successfully perform this 'river rescue' without putting anyone else in further danger, a group of people started involving themselves across the other side of the river. They noticed that there was trouble and, luckily, they made a call to the fire department, who would be the ones to come to the rescue of these three stranded and soaked individuals.

We were glad that they were going to be rescued and knew it was for the best that we weren't the ones who were going to be doing it. Once we knew they were safe, we hopped back into our kayaks and continued the rest of the way down stream, the moon now our aiding traveling companion.

What a first kayaking experience that was. Columbia, full of adventure, full of love, full of memory. Heading next towards Georgia.

Activate Good

Two weeks ago, class was with the Raleigh Girls Club in Raleigh, NC. I was very lucky that Janelle Vadnais of local organization Activate Good came out to class to photograph and interview me afterwards. Check out the interview we did together if you're curious of the Who/What/When/Where/Why/How's of the ProjectSPACE bike tour!

Here is the link:

Or read the story below:

"After a line of traffic passes north on Raleigh Boulevard, suddenly you can see her: a lone, female cyclist dressed simply in a pair of black spandex and a short-sleeve, white t-shirt with a navy bandana tied loosely around her neck. She squints into the sun as she comes closer into focus, turning her hand outward to signal her intent to turn into the Raleigh Girls Club.

Looking at her, you’d never assume she was a yoga instructor.

Looking at her, you’d never guess that she had spent the last 18 days riding her bicycle all the way to Raleigh from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Looking at her, you’d never estimate that she still had at least 800 miles left to ride to get from Raleigh, North Carolina to Miami, Florida.
Volunteering to Bring Yoga to Unconventional Spaces Along the East Coast

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds, education levels and with different life experiences, but they are all similar in one regard: their belief in doing good and giving back to their community. Volunteering is neither boastful nor loud, but rather- it takes its place among the quiet, humbling acts of service performed by everyday people who recognize a need and give a few minutes to a few hours of their time to help someone, asking nothing in return.

Kristen Sylvester is an ordinary yoga instructor who is using her passion and skills in an extraordinary way. She is volunteering her time and expertise to travel, by bicycle, down the East Coast, stopping in major cities to teach yoga to those who are underprivileged, underserved or who may have otherwise never had an opportunity to experience the healing benefits of yoga – both on the mind and the body.

On Thursday, April 3, 2014, Sylvester stopped in at the Raleigh Girls Club to teach two yoga classes to young girls. This is her volunteer story.

Philadelphia to Miami: 1,600 Miles, 52 Days, 1 Mission

My name is Kristen Sylvester, and I’m from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I am a certified yoga instructor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I came up with the idea for ProjectSPACE because I believe in bringing yoga to different spaces.

I believe that yoga can be practiced anywhere by anyone; and in its current state, yoga is not accessible to everybody. So, I designed a tour from Philadelphia to Miami over the span of the majority of the east coast; and along the way, over the course of two months, I’m stopping at a lot of the major cities, and doing drop-in-yoga programs with different youth-in-crisis or at-risk populations. Facilities include: community centers, rehabilitation centers, domestic violence centers, juvenile detention centers, etc.

How were you inspired to start ProjectSPACE?

Part of the work I was doing while I was living in Philly was contacting different schools and different homeless shelters and such, and doing yoga programs there. I think that yoga is a really valuable tool for youth. It gives them practical tools to be able to appropriately cope – skills that are not taught to them in schools because our whole schooling system…we’re very rarely taught to verify and look within, so especially youth who are carrying trauma with them – they often don’t have the resources to be able to regulate their emotions.

Have you seen a difference in the way that yoga is taught and the way that kids have behaved afterwards?

Absolutely. [Yoga] is something that I think – just like therapy – or just like any kind of rehabilitative skill like that – it’s something that requires doing continuously. But I think that one time has an effect, and you can give a kid an experience of their own breath and empower them to draw attention to that and make a connection to that…there’s something there.

So, how does it work? Do you bike for a certain amount of hours and then stop? How do you find people to stay with? How do you go about planning a trip of this scale?

Yeah. It took a lot of work. I’ve been working on this for a year [to plan it]. So, I started first by targeting the major cities, and when I say “major cities,” I mean – for instance – Wilmington, Baltimore, Raleigh – cities like that. And then I thought about how long it would take me to get to each city and as far as how long it would take me to bike there. And then I designed on the calendar when I thought I could be in each city.

Then I did some research about each city to see what kind of different nonprofits or facilities were working with youth in those cities and then I started contacting them via phone and email and coordinating classes. So, then I had my schedule about when all of the classes would be, and then I kind of just needed to find places to sleep…[laughing] because sometimes it takes me 4 days to get to the next class – because there’s a lot of mileage. Like, after Raleigh, my next class is in Columbia [SC], and I’m not going to do that in a day; I’m going to do it in 4 days [laughing].

Have you ever done anything like this before?

No. Before the tour, I had never done a bike tour before, and I wasn’t a cyclist. It’s all new for me. It’s very organized, but in that respect, I’m kind of making it up as I go along.

What’s the plan once you get to Florida? Are you going to bike back up, or hop on a plane?

I’m probably going to do maybe a week’s worth of classes there. There’s an organization there called “Yoga Gangsters” who also work with youth-in-crisis doing different outreach yoga programs, and that’s part of the reason I picked Miami to begin with. I had done a certification with them a year ago, and I thought it would be good to connect with them, having biked there. And then I will ship the bike back and either fly back or take the train – whatever is the most affordable.

How would you sum up this volunteer experience so far? And not only that, but at the end of the day, what do you hope the takeaway is for those who are actually involved in the yoga classes?

If I could sum it up, it’s…it’s been challenging. Even in the beginning, there was really bad weather, and it was really hard to bike through…and some..I think – two classes – were cancelled, and it was really difficult because…you know…I biked there…so that was kind of hard to let go. It’s been a practice of surrendering. It’s also been challenging because I’m doing something that’s very new for me. Like, I’ve never ridden 90 miles in a day, but now I have that under my belt. And it’s been challenging to fix things on a bike where I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m learning..and I’m much better now…so, it’s been challenging, but rewarding.

The thing I’m hoping to accomplish is to empower the people I’m working with to create a community among themselves….to see that you don’t need a yoga mat to do yoga, and you don’t need to be wealthy to do yoga, or flexible, or thin, or you don’t need to go to a yoga studio…that these are real-life tools…just sitting there in a chair, prepping for a test when you’re nervous and you can use your yoga…or lying in bed at night, having a struggle to fall asleep – you can use your yoga – or just any scenario.

One of the students after this class [laughs] came up to me and said, “Excuse me, Miss- do you know that you can do yoga, even when you’re walking?” And she’s right [laughs] because I just don’t say it to be…kind of light in my approach about yoga, but it is really true that you can do it anywhere, and that is important for people to know…because even if they don’t like yoga, or they don’t like the physical aspect – that’s ok. They don’t need to. You don’t need to like it, but everybody needs a tool to be able to cope with and regulate their own emotions – to be able to be in control of their own emotions.

That’s one of the most powerful results of practicing yoga – is just being able to be in your body.

About Kristen Sylvester & ProjectSPACE

Kristen Sylvester is a certified yoga instructor in Philadelphia, PA. Sylvester founded ProjectSPACE as a means of transforming unconventional spaces into yoga studios to assist individuals struggling with trauma, abuse, addiction, homelessness and poverty.

At its core, ProjectSPACE aims to help students engage in the practice of yoga and self-care principles as well as connect to the untapped potential within themselves. Like Project Space on Facebook. You can also read about Kristen’s yoga travels and work at her blog: ProjectSPACE.

About the Boys & Girls Club
The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Check out some of the currentvolunteer opportunities with the Boys & Girls Clubs, available through Activate Good! We also encourage you to find out more information on becoming a nonprofit partner with Activate Good.

*All photos taken were published with the permission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wake County. Copying of or reproducing these photos in any way is not permitted and may be subject to legal action. All Rights Reserved. "

Savior in a stranger's smile

Let me share a couple stories, just in case anyone's having a rough day and is needing a reminder of how genuinely good humans can be...

-stopped at a baptist church 18 miles outside of Florence, SC. Was running low on water and hoped theyd let me refill. Not only did they give me water, but an elderly woman wanted to follow me the rest of the way to Florence to make sure I arrived safely. Unsure whether she knew itd take me about an-hour-and-a-half, I told her so, and she responded 'Oh, its no problem, ive got nothing to do but make dinner later.' And she followed me for an-hour-and-a-half to Florence. Patiently. To make sure I arrived safely. And when i did, she said 'Love you' and drove off. We never even exchanged names.

-stopped at a gas station to get water in Abbeville, SC, and a woman (Ellen) approached Me to chat and then invited me to come to her lake house several miles away to swim and eat before i continued on the rest of my ride. I biked to her home, swam in the lake, and then she fixed me a delicious lunch and sent me on my way with additional snacks. She even offered to help me find a place to stay in the town i was heading

-i was laying on a bench outside of a gas station-- somewhere in georgia-- feeling totally exhausted and destroyed by the sun. A man (Mario) came up to me to say hello and see what i was up to. We chatted and then he got back to his car as if to leave. Moments later he came back up to me, handed me $6 and said, 'i want you to have this.' And then he continued on his way, and i knew that was alot of money for him.

-last night in Athens, GA, i was fortunate enough to eat a delicious catered lunch and dinner with friends of Amos Lee (who were playing that night in Athens). After the show, it was late and i needed to head to bed to leave early the next day and continue on. Jaron Olevsky skipped out on hanging out in Woody Harrelson's bus with everyone (Woody was at their show and 'after party', seriously) so he could make sure i had a place to sleep that night, and he sent me off with food and snacks for the next day.

-tonight i am supposed to stay with a husband and wife (wayne and dede) in Cumming, GA. Dede's mother just passed away two days ago, so they needed to leave to go to Indiana for services. Wayne offered to stay home to make sure i was able to get into his house and still have a place to stay, rather than him head to Indiana with his wife. I told him to please go to indiana and not worry about me, i of course understood. They left their door unlocked and food in the fridge for me, even though theyre in indiana. Ive never met them.

There is no shortage of stories. Call me if youre needing another reminder.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Other Plan

~85 miles to Florence
~0 miles to Florence
~65 miles to Camden, car to Columbia

The ride from Florence to Columbia was 95 miles. I had originally anticipated doing it in two days, but we all know how the Universe works: It has a bigger plan and sometimes a thing we need that we don't yet know we need.

Severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings left me immobilized in Florence, there to spend another night.

I utilized the day off to rest, practice yoga, plan my route, and think of a new approach towards handling these dogs. I knew I needed to have pepper spray on hand-- just in case-- but the very idea of that felt both hostile and aggressive, and I hated caving in.

If you know me, can you imagine me actually using the pepper spray? I'd still sprint as fast as I could for as long as I could.

I bought the pepper spray anyway.

Morning came, and I gathered together all of my belongings in my two bags-- a routine I've become so familiar and proficient with-- and enjoyed some breakfast and coffee.

I was 23 days in to the trip by then, but I still wake each day with a "Here goes nothin'" mentality, because circumstances are so beyond my control and so beyond me capacity for understanding.

I'm in a constant bow, palms-facing-upward, surrender and submission of what's to come. It's still being written.

The thunderstorms had passed, and the remnants we were left with were its' strong winds.

Winds to a cyclist make for a slow and physically demanding ride, and, depending upon the severity, direction and strength of the wind, maybe another day of being immobilized. But I knew that, regardless of how, I would have to make it to Columbia that day, or else I would risk having to cancel the class that was already scheduled for the following day.

I took the ride slowly-- pepper spray in my back pocket-- trying not to physically exhaust myself too early into the ride. After the first 35 miles, I stopped to take a break in Bishopville. I was hungry and thirsty, feeling defeated, drained and frustrated by the wind.

Having fought the crosswinds all morning in a vigorous attempt to not be knocked over, I could feel ego rising at the very thought of it being too dangerous to finish the last 60 miles. I needed a new game plan.

I spoke on the phone with my soon-to-be host Erin in Columbia, and she graciously offered me vehicle relief if I could make it to Camden, another 30 miles away.

I felt both rejuvenated and grateful, with a new game plan of safely making it the last 30 miles, trying to bring the Buddha back on the bike, pepper spray still untouched in my back pocket.

I finished the ride to Camden at a slow and careful pace, grateful and surprised there were no dog chases at all this day.

I met Erin at a Revolutionary War site in Camden, and she drove us the rest of the way to her home in West Columbia. I'd be glad to rest and felt thrilled to not have to cancel the next day's class in Columbia.

We can plan and plan as much as possible, but the Universe also has its own plan as well as a thing that you're needing that you may not yet know you need.

Philly Area Yoga & Philadelphia City Paper

ProjectSPACE has had some mentioning/"buzz" lately, which is exciting because one of the goals of this tour is to open up a dialogue amongst and between our communities. Our youth are a worthy investment; how can we bring mindfulness to them on an ongoing basis? What have you noticed that works/doesnt work?

Thanks to Patrick Rapa of Philadelphia City Paper for mentioning ProjectSPACE:

Thanks to Allegra Tiver of Philly Area Yoga for mentioning ProjectSPACE:

Do you also want to touch base or ask additional questions to ProjectSPACE? Email or reach me on Facebook at

Monday, April 7, 2014

Is the Buddha on the bike?

~90 miles to Florence, SC

I had no idea that this would be the case (refer to an older post to be reminded I am no cyclist), but there are dogs everywhere out on these country roads, and they all want to run after me. I'd like to see a census report of how many people own dogs in North Carolina and South Carolina. My guess is all of them.

But, more seriously, bicycles are so foreign to dogs out here, and many of them are trained to protect their property/attack, that it is very terrifying to ride down the roads and be accosted by them. They see you before you even notice them, and, before you know it, they're chasing after you.

I haven't developed a tactic yet. All the advice I've received says pepper spray, spray them with water, kick them, hit them with your pump, etc.

So far, I just sprint. 

It's worked thus far; eventually the dog tires out and stops chasing you. But I think this is more of a temporary solution than anything. In fact, I really don't even feel safe being on the roads anymore without a new plan. The roads are way too desolate for anything wrong to happen.

The ride to Florence was challenging and really pushed me into a new gear that I didn't know I had, or had forgotten I had.

I kept up a steady pace: ride the road, avoid the dogs, fill up the water bottles, eat a snack. Repeat. 

No matter how you look at it, 90 miles is a long day. I needed a new reminder, and so I taped a note to myself on the bike which says "Is the Buddha on the bike?"

For me it means to bring more conscious breath awareness during the ride. It is so easy to get swept away with thoughts of reaching the destination, thoughts of the pain, thoughts of wanting to give in, etc. But with a reminder to stay with my breath, I can bring more present moment awareness to my ride, focus more on the journey, tolerate the pain, pull deeper into my source.

Some days I honestly can't tell whether I'm riding the bike or whether it's riding me. Or both. But about 70 miles in to the ride to Florence, I no longer felt like "me"; like it wasn't my doing anymore.

Ride the road, avoid the dogs, fill up on water, eat a snack. Repeat.

Running low on water, I passed by a Baptist church (as I frequently do) with a group of people outside. I decided to approach them to see if I could fill up on water inside. I wasn't really sure whether that was "kosher" or not, but there are a lot of things I do now that I normally wouldn't: like change my shirt and pants in public, walk around a cafe in my socks while my soaked shoes dry, lay on a patch of grass next to a highway, take a nap on a restaurant table, etc.

The people were very friendly and were glad to let me fill up with more water. An elderly woman mentioned she lives in Florence and that we were just about 18 miles out now. She wanted to drive behind me to make sure I arrived safe. I wasn't sure whether she realized it'd take here a mere 20 minutes to get home while, on the other hand, it would probably take me another hour-and-a-half.

I told her, and she said, "Oh, I don't mind. I've got nothing to do but make dinner later on."

And so she followed in front and behind me. For an hour-and-a-half. Patiently. I tried not to rush (it's hard to do when there's a car tailing you) and reminded myself that she truly wanted to see me through to Florence.

Is the Buddha on the bike? Only sometimes. My body was truly hurting by now, and I dreamed of resting my legs and eating a meal. "I wonder what I'll eat," I'd think. Or, "if she asks me if I want a ride, I'll say yes," I'd think with tears in my eyes but too much pride to give in and ask her myself.

But she never asked. She just patiently followed me. And I finished the ride to Florence. And dinner was truly delicious.

I am currently still in Florence due to the severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings, but tomorrow I will finish the ride to Columbia (92 miles) to arrive on time for Wednesday's class with Palmetto Place Children's Shelter/St. Lawrence Place.

Still figuring out a game plan for the dogs...