Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Tour, Guest Post & Giveaway: Changing Gears by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

My very first bike tour: A comedy of errors

I was curled up in my chair, watching the flames flicker in our wood stove, and I got lost in my thoughts. As the flames flickered, I drifted back through the years and I started thinking about my very first bike tour.
cycling in nepal
After my first tour, it took me several years head back out for another tour – that time I rode from Norfolk, Virginia to New Orleans. A few years later, I took off to spend a year cycling in Asia. This photo is me in southern Nepal.
That first tour I took – I hesitate to even call it a tour – it was really more of a comedy of errors than anything else – but it was start, and I was so proud!
Way back in the early 1980s, I came up with the cockananny idea of traveling on my bike. I had no gear other than a bike and a sleeping bag, but that didn’t stop me. A quick trip to my local K-Mart solved the problem of no rack to put things on and an hour later I was beaming. My mechanical prowess had paid off! I had somehow managed to mount that contraption on my bike.
My gear found its way into a myriad of plastic bags which then were tied and bungeed onto the rack and I was off. Off on a grand adventure! I must have looked like the quintessential bag lady.
My destination was simple – a dam 100 miles from Boise. It sounded like a good idea at the time. The way I figured it, I would pedal fifty miles per day, making a four-day trip. Sounded perfect for the novice I was. I kissed my mom goodbye, promised to call home every day, and set off to find my rainbow.
Five miles from home I almost crashed; something was throwing my bike terribly off. Maybe my mechanical prowess wasn’t as good as I had imagined it to be… It didn’t take long before I discovered a screw had fallen out of my $5 rack.
I found a stick to fit through the holes and continued on my way. Three miles later my stick broke and the rack wobbled dangerously. I replaced it with another. And then another. And another….
Fifty miles went by quickly – fifty miles of sugar beet fields. And cornfields. And onion fields. And broken screw-sticks. I started looking for a place to sleep, but sleeping in some farmer’s field wasn’t an option I considered at the time. Ten more miles went by – ten miles of sugar beets. And another ten miles of onions. I was getting tired. I wanted to stop, but the farms showed no signs of letting up.
98 miles from home (and countless broken sticks) I finally found a spot. In retrospect, it was perfect – a flat grassy spot right next to a meandering creek.
How young and naive I was! I know now that nobody knew I was there. And even if they had known, nobody would have cared.
But at the time, all I could think was, “What if?” What if someone saw me come back off the road? What if someone knew I was camped there? What if someone came back here in the middle of the night? I wasn’t the least bit concerned about being attacked. Or robbed. Or raped.
My greatest nightmare was that someone would come and tell me I couldn’t camp there, and I would be forced to climb back on that god-forsaken bicycle again. I lay there all night long, sure that every passing car was bringing that person who would kick me out. And I didn’t sleep a wink.
I was up and out as the first rays of the sun graced the earth with their presence – eager to escape my torture chamber. I pedaled away … and found a wonderful little campground with a hot spring-fed pool a mere two miles down the road. If only I had consulted my map I would have known that.
I still marvel at the fact that I made it back home in one piece and that I’ve toured many miles since that day, but I learned a lot from that trip. I learned that a good rack is essential. I learned that panniers are a better option than plastic bags. And I learned that it is helpful to consult a map every once in a while.
In many ways things haven’t changed at all. I am still footloose and fancy free. I’m still out chasing rainbows. And the magic of bicycling hasn’t diminished one bit.

Changing Gears:
A Family Odyssey to the End of the World
by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a 21-year classroom veteran who made the decision to leave her teaching career behind to travel the world on a bicycle. Together with her husband and twin sons, she cycled 27,000 miles throughout the Americas, including traveling from Alaska to Argentina. Now she lives in Idaho, pursuing her passions of writing and beadwork.

Follow The Tour Here

Giveaway: 5 ecopies of the book

Genre: Travel memoir/Cycling
Publisher: Old Stone Publishing
Release date: March 21

Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

What would you do if you were not afraid?

Changing Gears is the true story of one woman asking herself that very question. What followed was a family journey of epic proportions – a journey ofphysical challenge, emotional endurance, teamwork, perseverance, and tremendous learning opportunities. It was a discovery of self, of priorities, of accepting hardships, of appreciating blessings, and of contrasting a comfortable past life with the extreme hardship and poverty of those they met.

Would the journey be a dream come true – or a mother’s worst nightmare?


Highs and lows in Costa Rica

“Congratulations Daryl,” I said. “You’ve just entered your eighth country.”
My son turned to me and said, “What difference does it make, Mom? Crossing a border doesn’t change anything. A border is just a line on a map.”
As I passed through the border formalities, I thought about Daryl’s words. He was right. We were still in the Central American jungle. People on Costa Rica looked exactly like those in Nicaragua. They spoke the same language and worshiped the same god. Nothing changed as we crossed that border except that we spent a different currency.
After spending so many years of my life poring over maps and dreaming of visiting far-flung places, I had developed a bit of a “map syndrome.” I saw a very distinct, physical line at that border. I saw a new country with a new government. In my mind, each country was a separate, unique entity and, of course, the people belonging to that country were unique and different from those from neighboring countries.
Daryl’s words brought me back to reality. There was no line at the border. The people who lived on one side of the border were no different from those who lived on the other. Once we strip away all the wrappers we tend to wrap around people – when we look beyond the language they speak, the clothes they wear, the god they worship, and the food they eat – we are all more alike than we are different. Underneath it all, there isn’t any difference between us at all.
My sons, at age eleven, understood that. I, at 48, was still working on it.
cycling Costa Rica
For miles on end, we cycled through a tunnel of green.
I was pedaling along the Costa Rican road and was quite bored. It was just another day in paradise. Nothing in particular to look at. No villages to keep me entertained. Just mile after mile of lush green jungle.
Then I thought, “This is crazy! Here you are in Costa Rica – COSTA RICA – and you’re bored? Costa Rica is paradise on earth! It’s a traveler’s utopia! Costa Rica is one of the premier vacation destinations in the world! And you’re bored?”
beach costa ricaI feared I had become jaded. I was so accustomed to fabulous scenery and people that I zoned out when I only had tropical jungle to look at. We were pedaling through a lovely area and I wanted to fall in love with the jungle and the green all around and the monkeys swinging in the trees.
Yet I wasn’t quite there. I was so focused on getting out of the blasted heat that I wasn’t paying attention to the small details surrounding me like I generally did.  My mind was so centered on getting to the next town and away from the interminable heat that I missed everything else.
For the first time ever I started to wonder if it was all worth it. Cycling through the jungle was miserable; there’s no other word for it. We awoke in the middle of the night and packed up as sweat poured out of our pores. By first light we were on the road, but it was still blazing hot and the humidity level made it hard to breathe.
I mentally drew a map in my head and figured we still had 800 miles of jungle. 800 miles of being covered with layer upon layer of sweat, sunscreen, and road grime. 800 miles of nothing but lush green jungle on either side of the road. Was it worth it?
I wasn’t quite ready to give up yet – that would come later – but I knew I wasn’t enjoying the journey.
The following day I sunk even lower. We had been amply warned by other cyclists about two things: the hills and the truck drivers in Costa Rica. By all account the hills were the steepest in Central America and the drivers were the worst. In our short time in the country, I had to agree.
We slowly ground up hill after hill while sweat fell like a river from beneath our helmets. At one point, John even took his helmet off and strapped it onto his trailer – he figured he was safer without the helmet than blinded by sweat.
traffic jam in costa ricaAnd the truck drivers did their thing. Their Costa Rican thing. Regardless of whether the far lane was open or not, each and every truck driver that passed by held his ground and refused to budge an inch. It seemed like the attitude was that the lane belonged to them and us cyclists hugging the edge of the road were nothing more than pests.
The third time a truck cut me so close my knuckles actually scraped the side as it whizzed past, I lost it. “What the hell is with this country?” I screamed to nobody in particular. John and Davy were too intent on controlling their own bikes on the narrow road to pay any attention. “This is crazy!” I hollered into the jungle.
All I wanted was to get safely through the country and out the tail end. Was that too much to ask?


Unknown said...

Great post!!!

Brooke Showalter said...

Thank you for hosting. Great post!

Pit Crew

Unknown said...

Good for you that you can laugh at it all now. Makes for a good book plot. :)