Blue Ridge Adventures, and some thoughts on bodily fluids.

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In Durham, NC with our friend Gabe

We got to Virginia with some extra time to spare before meeting up with the other ladies in Richmond, so we’ve been doing an improvised tour of the western section of the state. And luckily so; we’ve both been smitten by the rolling hills and ascending peaks of the aptly named Blue Ridge mountains, which extend on either side of us in soft, deep hues of sea blue, evergreen, and lavender. We decided to take a detour into the George Washington National Forest and bike a forty mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we encountered a number of other cyclists and lit a campfire underneath the voluptuous full moon. We hope to ride along sections of Skyline Drive, the northern section of the parkway which runs through Shenandoah National Park, on our way over to Richmond via Charlottesville

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Travelling north from Durham and headed towards Harrisonburg, where we had scheduled a workshop at the Friendly City Food Coop, we rolled through a town called Danville in southern Virginia. We didn’t know much about Danville beforehand; we’d simply picked a point on the map and decided to head there. It was a rainy day and we were wet and exhausted from riding up and down the rolling slopes of Virginia’s country side. We wandered in to the Main Street Coffee Emporium for some warmth and we were received with wonderful generosity (and free cookies!) from Leisa, the owner.

We stayed in Danville with Karen, a Parks and Rec professional who toured from the border of Canada to New Orleans last year. She was flexible enough to host us on very short notice, and even treated us to yummy Mexican food at her friend’s birthday dinner!

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The next evening we rode until a beautiful sunset which dyed the sky above the blue green mountains incredible shades of violet bleeding into orange. Our destination was a house just south of Lynchburg, VA, where we stayed with warm showers hosts Danny and Linda. Danny treated us to some beer and a home-cooked spaghetti supper, and shared stories and words of wisdom garnered from his own tour across the U.S. Linda was very kind and friendly and we left feeling refreshed and ready to brave the oncoming slopes of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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The parkway itself proved to be everything we could have imagined; starting from the lowest elevation point in James River meant that we had to do some steady, sweaty continuous climbing that was rewarded by long stretches of soaring down hill. “Onward and Upward” took on a new meaning.   The view was stunning; a continuously changing landscape lit by spring wildflowers blooming by the roadside and blossoming dogwoods. As we climbed into higher and higher elevations, it felt as though we were travelling back in time. Trees were coming into bud, and cool springs were bubbling down the mountain sides; spring was just arriving. We descended the mountain to visit Sherando Lake a beautiful creek gushing into a swimming hole on National Forest land in the Shenandoah Valley. From there we wove our way to Harrisonburg, where we are staying with Erin from the Friendly City Coop and her boyfriend Jason, both avid cyclists. We got to talk about co-ops, learn about the local food economy and the proposed VA pipeline currently being protested in the region, and eat some seriously gourmet food that these two cooked up. Thanks for having us!

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Bean, Erin, Jason, Rachel, Heather, Turtle, and Cooper (hidden behind Turtle). There were three cats, too!

Our workshop at the food coop was attended by a spirited inter-generational group including several James Madison university students. We swapped stories about early menstrual experiences and embarrassments, and talked about the benefits of menstrual cups as well as the irony of being grossed out by our own blood.

We also had the opportunity to give a brief presentation to the Rocktown Rollers, a roller derby team based in Harrisonburg. We got to witness the last few minutes of their practice, which was fast-paced, graceful, and inspiring to the two of us as dancers and athletes.

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 ALSO, it’s time for a shout-out to our hometown bike shops who set us up with our dear, dear Surlys that have been helping us truck our way up this long piece of country.

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The Long Haul Trucker is truckin’ us up those mountains!
Many thanks to Ferris Wheels Bike Shop in Jamaica Plain, MA for all of the honest and friendly help in getting Rachel set up with her Long Haul Trucker, and shipping it to Key West so that we could start in the sunshine. Special thanks also to Berkshire Bike and Board in Great Barrington who helped Heather order and outfit her surly long haul trucker on a very tight schedule.  We’ve had a smooth ride all the way, and it sure is nice to not have any bike  problems when we’re biking 60 miles, cars are flying by, we’re coordinating workshops, and we don’t know where we’re going to sleep that night.

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Fair warning: things are about to get graphic.

Another reason to use a menstrual cup/reusable pad/sea sponge: Pack it in/Pack it out. A student in Charleston reminded us that many places that one may hike or visit have LNT (Leave No Trace) rules – meaning, you must carry all of your trash out with you. When carrying used tampons you also have to send them up the tree with all food in a ‘bear bag,’ to avoid unwelcome visitors at your campsite. Which would you rather carry – bags full of new AND used supplies, or a single cup?

Thoughts on The “ew” Factor. A lot of people think that using reusables is ickier than using tampons and pads, because you actually have to see and interact with your blood. They involve emptying and washing your cup/sponge/pad and they put you in more intimate contact with your body. But let’s think about it for a minute. For one thing, there are plenty of bodily fluids that we interact with on a regular basis. Do you think it’s gross every time you see your own urine? People with kids spend years handling dirty diapers, and they deal with it. Yet when we talk about menstrual cups, often people’s eyebrows go up and they squirm in their seat. Menstrual blood is a body fluid just like all the other ones – except that it has the distinction of meaning that the bleeder can create new humans. Which is pretty freaking amazing. It’s curious that some folks find it so much more repellent than other bodily functions, isn’t it? Some women are also disturbed by the thought of the intimate contact with their body that using a cup requires. Well, chances are that if you’re a sexually active human, someone is interacting with that part of your body. So let’s reclaim it, ladies! If someone else can touch your vagina, so can you.

Which brings up another point – knowing one’s own anatomy. We’ve gotten the question: Can you pee when you’re wearing cup? It seems to be a pretty regular phenomenon that women who are in their teens, twenties, thirties, or older, don’t know the anatomy of the female body when it comes to excretion. If learning to use a cup spurs someone to learn about exactly what is going in there – GREAT! Knowing these parts is a great step to avoiding infections and staying healthy.

Those are just a few thoughts of many… There’s a lot of time for thinking on this trip 🙂

Until next time!

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2 thoughts on “Blue Ridge Adventures, and some thoughts on bodily fluids.

  1. Hi, Rachel! I have read every post and enlarged every photo, and find your journey exhilarating, inspiring and fun. You are, indeed, a good writer and seem to capture the mood and wonder of this trip. I want to be right there with you! Thanks for sharing your stories. I look forward to seeing you sometime this summer and hope to hear more stories told “live.” Take care, Michele

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    1. Thanks Michele! It feels good to know that this trip is affecting those beyond the people we interact with in person. I look forward to seeing you back in MA!
      -Rachel

      Like

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