One of the things that has become very apparent to us over the course of this trip is how much pervasive fear there is surrounding women travelling alone, or even in pairs. People that we meet along the way will constantly wish us safety–more often than they wish us fun or adventure. While safety is important and travelling is inherently risky, it has been intriguing for us to shine a light upon these attitudes of fear and caution and realize that they are not always based in reality. Along the way we have been met with nothing but kindness–from friends, strangers, men and women alike. People are continuously inspired by our story and often flabbergasted by the very fact that we would undertake something like this.
We’ve been advised to carry guns on our bikes. We’ve been called “gutsy” and “go-getters.” We’ve also been called “lunatic” and “psychotic” with minimal irony. We MUST be crazy if we can do what we’re doing so matter-of-factly: venture out into the world, trusting in good intentions, trusting in our own good sense and strength and intuition. The world is not safe for woman travelers. Or so goes the narrative.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Sustainable Cycles is not only that we are striving to educate and empower women to make informed choices about their bodies, but also that we are blazing a trail through any social/patriarchal norms that would keep us confined and paralyzed. We are proving, in practice, that women CAN be safe, capable, and confident on the road–and that, along with the healthy dose of caution necessary to any traveler, we can be free, active, engaged in the world.
On that note, back to our narrative:
In Charleston, we held an extremely rewarding workshop at the College of Charleston, co-hosted by Dr. Andrea DeMaria of the Women’s Health Research Team and Jen Jones of the Office of Sustainability. Almost 50 students came, even with it being the last week of classes, and we had a lively discussion with lots of questions. People where very open to sharing their own perspectives and reservations in relation to renewable menstrual products, so we covered a lot of ground in terms of addressing concerns. We also got to discuss the particular stigma that surrounds menstruation, which makes menstrual blood seem gross or dirty while other bodily fluids are accepted as a regular part of life.
Our hosts in Charleston were Andrew and Subadhra, whose father we had met back at Kashi Ashram in Sebastian FL. We had some great conversations with Subadhra about alternative community living and sustainable menstrual products, and Andrew cooked some scrumptious shrimp and grits for a taste of Southern Food.
On our way out of Charleston, we rode through the Francis Marion National Forest, a beautiful stretch of pines with peaceful pools of water, and spent a peaceful night in our tent beneath the stars. It was both of our first times in South Carolina, and we were both struck by the peaceful, rural beauty of the areas we rode through. We met many people along the way who were curious about what we were doing and eager to help, whether by lending us a pair of pliers or treating us to a sweet tea.
Just south of Gresham, we pulled up to the Pee Dee Baptist Church and decided to camp there for the night. (We’d heard from other travelers that church grounds are usually a good spot to pitch a tent). As we were eating dinner, a member of the congregation named Meita pulled up and let us know it was perfectly fine to camp out there but to be careful of the snakes. About fifteen minutes later she circled back with the key to the church and the go-ahead from the pastor to let us stay inside. It was a sweet offer, and after hearing that the snakes she referred to were in fact copperheads, we decided to take her up on it. It was a lovely night.
After fixing more flats and enjoying the landscape, we both felt sad to leave South Carolina, but on Saturday morning we crossed the border into North Carolina (after sleeping less than a mile from the state line, it turned out). The terrain has gotten more hilly, which provides fun challenges on the uphill sides and exhilarating rides downhill.
As it was getting late we made a bathroom stop at the Blue Horse Market, in the small town of Whispering Pines, NC. We explained about our trip to the store’s owner and some local police officers who had stopped in, and they were all impressed and excited about it. They were determined to find us a good place to camp. They ended up sending us over to their friends who run CaroKen Farm, a small sustainable farm raising chickens and goats. We had a delightful evening there, including chatting with Caroline and Ken, the owners, eating delicious, healthy eggs from chickens who have the run of 40+acres, and enjoying a fire in the lodge.
On Sunday we were determined to get to Durham so we biked the 70 miles there, including the last 20 on the American Tobacco Trail, part of the rails-to-trails system of converted railroads. We are definitely gaining a new appreciation for bike paths and bike lanes!
We’re having a great time hanging out in Durham with our friends Gabe and Silas, as well as Toni Craige, a co-founder of Sustainable Cycles! We made breakfast pizza, talked about the origins of Sustainable Cycles, went swimming in the river, straightened out our finances, and even got to dance last night (finally!!) at Durham Dance Wave.
We held a workshop at the Scrap Exchange in Durham for an intimate but highly engaged group. One of the women described herself as a “failed” menstrual cup user who was interested in giving it another try, so we talked about reasons that the cup hadn’t worked for her in the past, as well as discussing different brands and sustainable options. We also had the opportunity to introduce the cup to a couple of women who hadn’t used one before. We had a group conversation on how the cup hinders (or doesn’t!) sexual activities–definitely a juicy topic! The women present were all athletes of some sort–roller derby, running, cycling–and it was great to be reminded of how great sustainable products (especially cups!) are for these activities.
Overall, out time in Durham has been engaging, enjoyable, and thought-provoking. We’re excited to be headed into Virginia to explore some mountain country and meet up with our fellow spokeswomen in Richmond!