The Greater San Fransisco Area

Continuing my quest to travel the world.

It has been my quest to cycle around the world for a very long time, although I have ticked off 16 countries to date, I still haven't achieved the ultimate goal of cycling the world. I cannot wait any longer for the conditions to be perfect, age is catching up with me, so it is now or never.

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia
After our trip to Vietnam in 2012.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Strong Legs

Here's a subject that most female cyclists can relate to. It's rather annoying, but really quite hilarious. Come on girls own up. When you're out cycling and you overtake a male cyclist of any age, they can't stand it. They have to overtake you back again. Men and Boys hate to have any female overtake them, and they'll 'turn themselves inside out' in effort to pass you. The really hilarious thing is when, without even trying, you overtake them again. Have you noticed that they suddenly have another direction or a corner to turn in to, Niel has also noticed it when we are out riding together. Don't get me wrong - I'm not some Tour de France athlete, just a reasonably strong rider who's been riding for a long time, and developed quite strong legs.

Actually that reminds me of a quick story. Last year, when we were cycle touring the US, we were climbing a large Pass in Colorado of 12,000 feet. I finally made it to the top and a women got out of her car and said: " I don't know how your legs do it." I replied: " My legs are the only thing that feel good, everything else hurts." It was true - from burnt,split lips, Asthma, RSI in my wrists, down to my problem feet, But my legs felt as strong as an Ox.

It's these 'strong legs' that have made my feet worse. The Doctor say's my cycling muscles are so powerful that they are putting a strain on the less powerful ones, and are pulling things out of balance. Apparently I can push my feet down so hard that I've lost the ability to pull my feet back up. That powerful push has formed the compression problems on the ball of my feet. On the few occasions when my feet feel good, I feel like I could take on the world.

Sometimes I feel like one of those cartoon characters like in the 'Asterix' books with abnormally large muscles from doing something to excess.

These are NOT my legs!

I only wish my strong legs equalled great performance. Unfortunately they just seem to cause me problems. However I do get a kick out of overtaking males and seeing their reaction.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Go west young man.

Check out our changed trip, in the Route. [For the third time].Actually I prefer to think of it as perfecting the trip. It's a combination of the previous two options. Niel is definitely back on to do the Global Bike Race. It's been his dream for many years, and I didn't want to be the one spoiling his dream. I'm not allowed to follow him, but that doesn't mean I can't meet up with him from time to time, with my bike. That way I won't be hindering his challenge, but I'm not excluded from it either. I still get an adventure, I still get to complete my goal of cycling in all of the worlds Continents.

The advantages of going home at times while Niel is conquering the world is enormous. I can go back to work to earn money and give my work mates a break from covering for me. I can give my beloved cat some love and attention. The house, garden and water supply [we are on a Well, storage tanks, and a pump] are up kept, and we can both look forward to when we met again.

You know when you think about it, going East only has the advantage of favourable trade winds, but starting in Europe in February, the climate is all wrong. If you're travelling a lot from North to South for example [or vice versa], wouldn't better weather be preferable to favourable winds for those times you are going East or West?

If we did our route of choice going East, it would be Winter when Niel started, then Spring in China, then Winter in Australia and New Zealand -not just cold but shorter daylight hours. Then in South America it would be Winter, dicey for crossing big mountain passes, and then the middle of Summer when we would want to go to Morocco Africa - absolute stupidity.

However going East, It's still Winter at the start, heading straight South, it will get warmer and warmer until Niel hits the Spring in Morocco. We'll have Summer in South America, Autumn in New Zealand and Australia, Summer in China, and also when we are in Europe. It's a 'no brainer' as the saying goes.

The bicycle is a wonderful thing. What other form of transport can you so easily put on a Plane, or train, boat, bus or car for that matter, and then get on and start riding anywhere in the world. There's no red tape, no paper work, no petty bureaucrats to deal with and it's so cheap. I couldn't believe the hassles involved in trying to transport my Vespa overseas. As much as I love my Vespa, the bicycle is so much easier.

Vespa Chick Birthday present

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Other Training

I haven't done much cycling this week. It's been one of those weeks. Lots of things on, bad weather, and spending one precious day off - simply having fun with it being my birthday.

I got an awesome card from my very talented Step - Father Jim. I hadn't told them about our change of plans and that I'm cycling now, as his card portrays. He's right though, in a way, not all training is spent turning pedals.

Niel said he was uninspired this week. Have you ever noticed that moods can rub off on each other. When one of you is upbeat and insatiably happy, the other becomes the same way. The same thing happens when one of you is down.

Needless to say, Niel's lack of inspiration rubbed off on me, so I put my energies to 'other training'. Sometimes just getting your head around a plan, is half the battle. There's such a lot to think about, sometimes it's a bit daunting. My to do list, and need to get list, never seems to get shorter.

Last year before or mammoth USA trip, I made sure I rid myself of any body niggles that could cause me problems in the trip. I cured my Anxiety attacks with investigating what nutrients were missing in my diet to cause excessive stress. I got injections in feet, which I have already talked about. I started a set of exercises and dietary supplements to prevent stiff joints, but I forgot about my Asthma and that is what caused me the most problems, with Altitude sickness and burnt lungs in the desert, giving me bad Asthma.

So just as important as riding my bike, is staying healthy and sane. I have a routine every morning that I've been doing for a couple of years now. It really only takes half an hour, but my body knows if I don't do it. Stretches, followed by my Asthma huffer, followed by Dietary Supplements. If you listen to your body and give it what it needs, it serves you well.

I didn't have to do this when I was young. It's amazing how you can do anything when you are young, and your body just takes it. Not so as you get older. Nurture and be sympathetic to your body and it will take you around the world.

Picnic on the beach

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Clothes list

I've been updating my Equipment Page. Now that I'm cycling instead of Vespa - ing a lot of changes needed to be made to my list, My bike is the obvious change, however I no longer need motorbiking spares and motorbiking clothes.

Clothes - is the thing I'm most pondering over. It's easy for a guy, they really only need 1 change of clothes and a warm jacket. But for females, it's a wee bit different.

1) We'll be away for about 4 months. There's no way I'm wearing the same clothes for all that time.
2)The weather. Most of the places we will be going to will be very hot, even tropical, but there will be times where it won't be.
3)What is really tricky is dressing for a country where Muslim customs dictate covering up,even if it's really hot.
4)I need something tidy to wear on Aeroplanes and out to restaurants.I don't want to give offence by being a scruff.
5)I need something comfortable for day walks, or sightseeing.
6) Everything I take, I have to carry.

Four months - that's one third of a year. I could wear the same clothes up to 6 weeks, but no longer. It's bad enough wearing the same cycling clothes everyday. That doesn't mean I need a whole wardrobe, just something I could mix and match.

Peru and Bolivia are hot and tropical, Cuba [our stop over of choice] is definitely tropical. Morocco will be in the Springtime. Hopefully the temperatures will be comfortably warm, however the nights might be quite cold. Beijing[China], is quite high in latitude, about the same as Korea, so it will be quite cold in late Spring. As we cycle south, it will get warmer and warmer, then tropical and finally reaching the Equator at Singapore. So that's a lot of climate changes to adapt to.

Morocco and Malaysia are Muslim countries. The Moroccan guide book states that "Western style of dress is not uncommon in the cities, but scanty clothing should not be worn when exploring traditional quarters of towns or venturing into the country" and " for women, wearing a headscarf may avoid unwanted attention". The Malaysian guide book states that " Women must dress modestly". So although it sounds less strict than Iran [for example], it is still necessary to be covered up. I'm thinking light loose layers.

I don't want to look like a baggy clothed hippy though, when it is required to be tidy and respectable [ like on the Plane or at a restaurant], some sort of tidy top and shoes are necessary as well.

There will be times when I'll need walking shoes, can you imagine exploring Angkor Wat in Cambodia in rigid cycling shoes?

Okay add this all up and it seems like a lot. That's the whole point, it can't be a lot, that's why I'm pondering. Everything I take, I'll have to carry with me on the bike. Obviously the lighter the bike the easier it will be.

On one of our trips to Europe, I met up with a girlfriend in England. She was a city girl, and couldn't get over how little luggage we had. "but where are your clothes?" she asked repeatedly. I will continue to ponder, and adjust the list until I'm satisfied, I'll get there in the end.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Happy Feet

I have  major pain in my feet. I counted this morning that I've had it for 20 years! And on our Tandem ride yesterday I finally found a solution to the pain. I'm so happy I could burst. Only someone who has had a painful disability and finally has the pain taken away, will understand how happy I am.

Tandeming out in Motueka Valley

For those of you who want to know the story of my foot pain: read on. For those who don't cut to the next paragraph. Touring back in the early 1990's I developed this intense pain, I had no idea what it was and the only way to combat it was to walk into rivers, dunk my feet in fish ponds and village fountains. The cold water obviously reduced swelling and therefore the pain. The pain got worse, I used to stop on the side of the road and pour water from my drink bottle on them then massage them, more years past and I called the pain my 'screaming feet' as I was resorted to standing on the side of the road, my body shaking in pain, lifting one foot then the other and screaming. I had to limit my daily distance to around 60 kms a day instead of 100 kms. Still the pain increased, and I started to put on weight, due to the lack of exercise. When  I put on more weight than I was happy with, I had had enough and went to the Doctor. "What do you want me to do about it" she said. Can I at least get some x- rays to check for Arthritis? I had x-rays - they didn't show anything. Try a Podiatrist she suggested. I went to one, I had Moretons Nueroma [An inflammed Nerve], and I badly pronated inwards and had no flexibilty in the bone joints, I ended up with insoles and the promise that Anti-inflammatory injections would help, but I was only ever allowed 2 at the most. I saved that injection for the US trip and miracles of miracles - no pain. 3 months later back it came, I decided to go to a Foot Doctor. More x-rays from every angle imaginable, and an MRI scan, and special shoe insoles, and Physio to gain flexiblity. No I didn't have Moretons Nueroma but Metatarsil Algia. Basically my Metatarsils are too long, and my 'knuckles' under the ball of the foot protrudes and it's like walking with a large stone in your shoes. This 'stone' or protruding knuckle swells, and as you get older your padding on the bottom of the foot thins, so the pain is more and more intense. Unfortunately cycling puts compression on this point as you push on the pedals especially in shoes that clip in to pedals. Remedy: none. There is an operation to 'shave ' the knuckle, but the surgeon is reluctant to do it because " I wouldn't get the result I want".

I didn't give up on cycling and tried to find ways of coping with the pain, I've been taking Anti-inflammatories every day, just so that i could carry on exercising. Then I worked it out in my head, I can't eliminate the compression, but I can limit it by not using my clip in pedals. I was reluctant to try ordinary pedals as they are so inefficient, then inspiration went off in my head like a light bulb, what about using them in conjuction with a flat surface. I had some mountain bike pedals that were clip in on one side and flat on the other. Oh my god, I couldn't believe it, for the first time I can cycle properly without any pain, infact the swelling has reduced so much I don't need Anti - inflammatories, I am so happy - I could cry.

For any one with a similar problem: Clip in to your pedals going up hill when you need the pulling power, Unclip on the down hill and use the flat side, also do this when the going is easy. Then clip in one pedal and unclip the other one, and alternate feet to keep any compression to a minimun. I've got my life back - yahoo.