28-29 July, Weds-Thurs: Day 5-6

Colorado, you've done it. I'm in love with America again.

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Departed Denver, CO (via train) - approx. 9:30am (MST), Weds, 28 July.
Arrived Sacramento, CA - approx. 3:30pm (PST), Thurs, 29 July.

About two hours into my train ride from Denver, I entered and then emerged from the longest tunnel I've ever been in. It was 22 miles long, took about 10 minutes to pass through, at the highest point climbed to an elevation of 9302 ft. and passed underneath the continental divide.

This means that, within *two* days, I have now crossed *over* AND *under* the Great Divide!

* * *

Not much to say about Sacramento, except that it contains the absolute friendliest HI hostel I have ever set foot in, and possibly the most delicious thai food restaurant in all of California. Thank you, guy behind the hostel counter, for your incredibly awesome hospitality, genuine friendliness and relevant advice.

Sitting here now the hostel lounge room, writing this post, getting ready to get on my train to Eugene(!) which departs at midnight tonight.


26 July, Mon: Day 3...

...of my cross country journey and I have climbed to a peak where a 100 year old mining cabin sits, traversed over 1000 miles, slept in a hammock suspended over a river at over 10,000 feet (elev.), seen some of the most beautiful land formations on the earth, saw some of the devastating effects of the mountain pine beetle, picked and eaten wild strawberries, cooked and eaten in a communal outdoor kitchen, slept in a teepee, peed in a teepee, (different teepees) washed my clothes in a river, thought I spotted a bear in the woods at night (but, it wasn't really a bear after all...more likely a moose or deer...c'mon, it was dark...), cheered on a couple of crazy guys skateboarding down the side of a mountain, visited the ridge of the continental divide, made some wonderful new friends, created more memories with some wonderful old ones, staged a super overdramatic photoshoot by campfire and consumed the most giant roasted marshmallow my jaw has ever seen. And that was just two days in Colorado...Whew!

Where I'm headed...

As you may, or may not, already know, this has been a year full of extreme change for me. Within the last year, I spent 5 amazing months in Thailand, (the majority of that time spent volunteering with the Panya Project in rural northern Thailand) and the remainder of that time in Australia meeting and working with some very inspiring people involved with these organizations: Friends of the Earth and CERES, to name just a couple.

I returned to Melbourne from Thailand at the end of March for about a month, primarily to pack up and move out; a bittersweet ending to an extraordinary 2.5 year journey there. At the end of April, I began a slow re-integration back to the states, starting with the southern coast of California and a beautiful road trip through California, Arizona, and New Mexico. After taking a train trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico back to Chicago in early May I now find myself here, deliberating on what's next...

My recent time spent working with various volunteer organizations in Australia and Thailand have had a huge impact on me, and I find myself thinking about the world a little differently now than I used to. My perspective on what I want to do with my life, and how I want to live it, has shifted.

Over the last few years I have become aware of some profoundly transformational things going on in the regional areas where I was living and visiting. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and be involved with such incredibly inspiring individuals and networks of people who are taking action by thinking far outside of the box, and doing thoughtful, healing things for this planet.

I've seen and experienced examples of successful, functioning, eco-concious communities in rural and urban settings. I've participated in planting, harvesting and being sustained by home grown, organic food in a city of over 4 million people. I've lived (happily) for over the last 3 years, basically car free, getting from place to place by biking, walking or public transiting. I've discovered the immense value of a regular meditation practice for myself...(to name a few).

As a result of these shifts in my life, my experience of living is much less stressful, and way more aware. I found this type of lifestyle to be relatively easy to maintain in Melbourne. However, now that I'm back in the states, I am eager to find the places in *this* country where this similar kind of lifestyle exists.

So, I've decided to go on a self organized, self titled: "Beyond Sustainability Bicycle Tour of North America"...

* * *
I've spoken with some of you already about these plans, and here are some questions I've received about this journey thus far:

I know that you made this term up, but what is a "Beyond Sustainability Bicycle Tour"? What does that mean?

As stated above, in the last three years, I've watched and interacted with people who have made the choice to and are living healthy, fulfilled, enriched lives, consuming few resources and who have come up with with creative ways to live outside the box. I've been greatly inspired by these people and want to challenge myself to live outside of my own comfortable box and test my limits. So, I will be traveling as much as possible by sustainable means (ie. absolutely no air travel) and living primarily off of what I bring with me on my bicycle. I anticipate this journey will also push me to many of my own physical, mental and emotional limits, and nudge me to go even a bit further. Through this process, I hope to discover how to live healthily within these limits, and then go beyond them, without depleting my own resources. I'm looking for new ways to live in all senses, not just sustainably, but regeneratively.

Where are you starting, and when? And then where are you headed from there?
I'll be leaving Chicago on Saturday, 24 July, with all of my gear, and heading out to Colorado with a couple of good friends for a few days. From there, my actual bike journey will begin with an organized ride facilitated by Common Circle Education, starting on 31 July.

At the moment (and this is subject to change, at *any* moment) my rough (very rough) plan is to head north, following the tour in Eugene, and travel up through Washington and perhaps a bit into Canada. Then, as the seasons get chillier, head south, to southern California, and possibly even Mexico! I plan to visit many friends, family, farms, eco-villages and communities along the way. (If you have any ideas of places I can't miss, or people I should definitely meet, please let me know! I'm *very* open to suggestions!)

How long will you stay in any one area?
I have no idea. Maybe I'll find some place along the way, just two months in that really fits and decide my mobile journey has come to an end for the time being. Maybe I'll be on the road for an entire year. Who knows what will happen? That's what the discovery is about! I *do* very much intend to post details about when and where I'm at and when and where I'm moving to, when I do.

How are you getting from place to place?
By way of a combination of biking, hiking, train, bus and car travel. (And maybe a ferry or two here or there if I need to get to any islands, such as: Orcas Island or Vancouver Island) This is not intended as a "strictly bike only" journey, but more to raise awareness for the different modes of transportation we have available to us and the viability of each. And, of course, as a personal challenge for myself.

Have you trained for this ride?
Yes and no. I *love* biking. I did a lot of it when I was living in Melbourne (I chose not to have a car there), and have found that, even being back in a big city that is not quite as bike friendly, it is hands down my preferred method of travel. I have been bike, foot and public transit bound for the last few years, but certainly not *every single day* on a bike during those years.

So. Will I be able to keep up with someone who is a seasoned long haul rider who trains for months and months before every ride? Most definitely not. But I don't need to. I've designed this trip to be for me to discover my own limits at my own pace.

The encouraging thing I've learned and heard from talking with many people who have done rides like these in the past (or who are currently *on* one of these rides right now) is that training happens along the way. Starting out slow, respecting my limits and really paying attention to when my body needs a break builds up strength and endurance very quickly.

However, what I *do* plan to do is get my bike loaded up with all of my gear (as soon as I have it all!) and go on as many practice rides as I can before heading out on the 24th of this month. Mostly to get used to how the extra weight balance feels, how fast I can go, what it feels like to turn and stop with 30 - 50lbs of extra weight attached to me...etc.

I'm very excited about this challenge I've laid out for myself, and am sure there will be *many* things to learn along the way.

To me, biking *is* my way of getting around. I'll take a car if I absolutely must, but I really don't enjoy it all that much, and end up feeling regretful most of the time when I'm in one.

How long will you be on the move?
As stated above, maybe only 2 months...most likely around a year. It all depends on what I discover and where I am drawn to eventually settle. Aaaand, how quickly my wanderlust and curiosity subsides...which I've found in the past, is pretty much insatiable. So! We'll see!

How are you going to fund this?
From personal savings I've built up over the last few years, a generous donation from my former partner, close friend and remarkable person, Zach, (thank you, Zach. I literally could not have done this without you), AND the positive, grounded encouragement from all of you. (Optimistic, supportive currency goes a LONG way...trust me!)

What are you going to DO with all of the new found skills, education and information you've gathered in the last few years?
Honestly, at this point, I'm not quite sure. And I'm very much ok with that. I feel like I'm at a point in my life where I've come to a fork in the road and the fork has *many* tines. I've been reveling in and enjoying this place where I can take the time I need to explore all the options, continue my education, build on my new found skills and let it all fall into place when it does. I have *ideas* of what I might like to do in the future (ie. permaculture design consulting and teaching), but I'm not yet at a place where I feel like that can or needs to be decided.

Are you going alone?
I am heading out on my own and do hope to get some serious processing time and solace during my rides, but that doesn't mean I don't want company along the way! If I'm riding through your area, or if you'd simply like to join me at any point during this journey, please let me know! I would love it!

Do you plan to record this journey in any way?
Yes. I'll definitely be blogging, twittering and GPSmapping as I go. At the very least, I aim to relay my daily travel distances, money spent and inspiring things experienced along the way.

Can I contact you while you're on the road?
Yes. I will have my mobile phone with me, and it will work wherever there is cell phone reception. However, in order to conserve battery life and minutes (as I'll likely switch to a "per usage" plan) my phone may be off for many hours at a time during my rides. I will be using it much less for texting and phone calls and more for emergency use and GPS locating. I will, however, have internet service pretty much the entire time I'll be traveling. So, feel free to email me at this address as often as you'd like!

Where are you going to sleep?
Here's where *you* lovely people come in! I plan and hope to stay with friends and family along the way. In places where I don't already know people, I will be camping (with my awesome Hennessy Hammock!) or hostelling. Also! I am a brand new member of couchsurfing.org! If you are a member too, and want to become my couch surfin friend and/or "vouch" for me, that would be super fantastic!

(So, all that said, uh...do you mind if I crash on your couch/in your bathtub/out in your backyard when I'm passing through your town?)

Why are you doing this?
My experiences in the last few years have unfolded into a significant internal discovery and change process which has lead me to this point. At the risk of sounding a bit cliche, I've truly been inspired to *be* the change I want to see in this world. I feel empowered, grateful, humbled and without fear.

I am doing this to challenge myself, physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. To find new ways of accepting myself and others. To seek out more ways to live with an ever smaller footprint. To educate myself. To discover if there is a physical "place" along the way that calls for me to settle (either temporarily or permanently). To get the space and distance I feel I need to expand and grow. To rediscover and fall in love with America again.

Simply, I LOVE being outside. I feel happy, fresh, creative, connected, joyous, calm, centered and peaceful when I am outside. For much of the time I was in Thailand, there was little visual or actual separation between "inside" and "outside". This is *definitely* my preferred method of living. The less separation there is with our daily lives and the "outside" world, the more we realize we are actually *part* of the natural world, not something other from it.

Additionally, this trip has been partially inspired by these two amazing people who I met while on the farm at Panya: Chris Roach and Hannah Perkins. Thank you both for your inspiring stories and reassuring words!

Do you have insurance?
Yes. Yes I do. My bodily self will be well covered in the event of emergency or injury.

Does your Mother know about this?
Yes. Mom knows. And, while she has expressed some *completely valid and understandable* motherly concerns about this trip, she has also been incredibly supportive. Thank you, Mom. I love you.

And, wherever you are in the world, I wish you well and hope to cross paths with you again soon...or for the very first time!

* * *
Keep up with my movements and progress here:

Visuals: http://www.flickr.com/photos/meggyn/
Words: http://meggynsphere.blogspot.com/
Snippets: http://twitter.com/meagenma
Networks: http://www.facebook.com/meagenma

40 Day Sadhana experience

So...on a beautiful day back in mid-August, zarfmouse  and I visited Kundalini House on their Open Day and I did something I've never done before...I began a 40 day intentional meditation, called a "40 day Sadhana". The intention behind this particular meditation was "self acceptance". And, it could not have come into my life at a better time. Every day, for 40 consecutive days, upon waking and before doing anything else (besides, maybe going to the bathroom), I meditated for a minimum of 5 minutes, usually around 11 minutes...

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The spirit of Ferris Bueller is back in Chicago this 4th of July!

Come hang out with zarfmouse and I as we galavant, paint the town, run amok, dodge the dean and generally have a grand ole time runnin around the city doing spontaneous, silly, fun and awesome things!

The day will begin at approximately 10:30am at my Mom's place in Albany Park just a couple blocks from the Kimball brown line stop (email or call if you need directions). We'll be renting a car for the morning portion of the day...From there we will head up to the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette and try to meet around 11am. We'll hang out in and around the building for a bit then head to Amitabul, in Skokie, for a vegan Korean lunch at around 12pm.

From there the day will be ours to create...
Maybe we'll meet up with the folks hangin out up at Foster beach to lounge on the grass, play games (frisbee?, lawn darts?) and/or any other outdoorsy goodness! Maybe we'll go hang out and support the awesome folks over at Women and Children First! Maybe we'll find a photo booth somewhere and photo-ize ourselves! Maybe we'll head downtown and be tourists (skyscrapers, the bean, ferris wheels, Millennium Park water splashage, boat tours, etc)!

After a wild and crazy day of funmaking, we will convene for dinner at Reza's in Andersonville at 8pm, followed by loitering at Kopi Cafe just before gettin in line for Too Much Light at around 10:30pm for an 11:30pm show. AND, if you're still goin strong, join us after the show for blues clubbin on Halsted until 4am.

YeeHaw!!! Got your bells on yet?

Come play for as much or as little as you'd like!

Please feel free to call us throughout the day to find out where we are!

...and don't forget to watch the twitter action at www.twitter.com/zarfmouse!

Hope to see you there!!!

PS - if you plan to join us for TML, please let us know in advance if you can...
PPS - additionally, and somewhat unrelatedly, we've got (2) free tix to see TML on the lake that night for a 7:30pm show...anyone want 'em?
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Home for the Holidays

My wonderful Grandmother and loving matriarch of our family was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. She was admitted into the hospital last night due to kidney failure and things are not looking so good. Due to this sudden, downward turn in her health, I am unexpectedly coming home to Chicago tomorrow and will be home for a few weeks or so. Unfortunately, Zach will not be joining me on this trip.

My flight plan has me arriving in Chicago this Thursday evening, the 20th. Upon my arrival, my old cell phone will be functional.

More updates to follow.

Moving! Sale! Saturday! Sunday!

***Multi-person Moving Sale*** THIS weekend on: Saturday 9-22 and Sunday 9-23 (10am - 4pm)

at: the NE Corner of Fullerton and Kedzie - on the Boulevard!

Here is just a sampling of items that can be found there:

Solid Pine Furniture
Dell Desktop Computer and Monitor
AIWA Stereo
Misc. Electronics
Outdoor Grill
Kitchen Items (pots/pans/utensils)
Household Items (throw blankets, tools, hardware)
Decorative Items (artwork, picture frames, candles)
Excersize ball
Movies (VHS)
Clothing/accessories (mostly women's)
...and much, much more.

Everything Must Go!

Lemme know if you need more info on anything listed above. I'd be more than happy to give details!

Well, **that** was interesting.

Tuesday, July 3rd:

So, in lieu of taking yet another rental car down to Urbana for just a day trip, I thought I’d take my chances with the Amtrak. Never taken Amtrak before, could be a fun adventure…

Adventure, indeed.

My early morning started off as they normally do when I have some place to be…rushed. Took the train to the other train, to get to the train, and since it was morning rush hour, all the trains heading into the loop were moving s-l-o-w. And, did you know that with the introduction of the ‘pink’ line in the loop, they have re-routed the some of the other main train lines too? Argh! Having not ridden the trains regularly in some years, I was somewhat head in the sand on that one. Well, didn’t seem important until this morning when I was many minutes late and desperately (groggily) trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. Finally, I got on the (blech) ‘pink’ line and tried to will the train to skip all the stops between here and Quincy. It stopped at all the stops. Nervously racing down the steps and sprinting the 3 blocks to the station with 13 minutes until train departure, I leapt into the station, huffing, puffing and trying to remember ‘just exactly’ where the Amtrak ticketing area was…
10 minutes before train departure.

I had already purchased my tickets online, so I knew all I had to do was pick them up at the counter, or use the handy dandy self serve kiosk to print them out myself…only minor glitch in that brilliant plan was that I had never, ever taken Amtrak before and had ‘no’ idea where any of those desks, kiosks, etc. were located and how long it would take to go through the ticketing process. Eek.

Running through the halls of Union Station (which I have been in millions of times before for the Metra) I headed towards the stairs down…but wait, that’s not the right staircase! What am I doing?! Ahh! Back up. Other way. Ok. Yeah. This is it. Did I mention I was groggy and it was early? Rush towards the escalators – Oh Crap! It’s morning rush hour…all the escalators are going ‘UP’ and I need to go ‘DOWN’. Shit! Back up. Find the small, hidden down escalator off behind the food court. Oh yeah, there it is! Geez. Oh! Hey! Amtrak!
8 minutes before train departure.

Ooh. Look! Self Serve Kiosk! YAY! Print tickets. Ask a friendly officer where the trains are. Speed through the large glass doors (after patiently waiting for them to leisurely auto slide open) and find my track. Track Number D. Show my ID and ticket to the lady…Wait. I have to what? What are you asking me to do? Oh. I have to sign my ticket…? Um. Ok. (Groggy. Sleepy.)
6 minutes before train departure.

Swiftly power walk through the doors towards the train on my right, somewhat relieved as I know I have definitely made it, but desperately hoping I’m coherent enough to actually get on the right train.

I got on the right train. With 4 minutes to spare. Whew.

The ride down to Urbana was awesome! I wish it was possible to take trains everywhere. You know…globally. Such a scenic way to move from place to place and way more leg room than on airplanes! Plus electrical plug ins and super comfy seats. After calming down a bit and finding a more normal pace of breath, I started to get excited about this day trip train venture.

The idea was to wake up at the crack of dawn, take the train down in the morning, do some stuff in Urbana, then take the 6.49pm train back and arrive in Chicago at 9.35pm. Easy enough, right?

So. Took the train down in the morning, did some stuff in Urbana, hopped a bus to the train station and arrived well before my 6.49 departure.

6.49 rolls around. No train. 6.55. 7.00. 7.05. 7.09. Announcement.
Train has been delayed. Will be arriving at 9.09pm. Ugh. Inconvenient, but ok. I’ve been delayed before. I can make the best of it. Upon recommendation from zarfmouse, I headed to the nearest Indian restaurant for some take out and headed back to the station to have a lovely outdoor, summer, sunset, evening picnic with myself. And, a few other weary travelers who have stuck around to take (hopefully) the 9.09 train back to Chicago. Estimated arrival in Chicago: 11.50pm.

8.55pm. Some random dude wearing an orange shirt, on a cell phone passes by and tells me the train has been delayed again in Centralia, and they have stopped to turn the engine off and let all passengers out. Um. Ok. Awesome.

Updated Amtrak info online says estimated arrival in Chicago: 12.51am. Fantastic.

What are my options now?

Text a friend: “wanna take a road trip?”

I head inside to see if I can glean any more useful info from the Amtrak attendant. In the 3 minutes it took me to go inside, use the restroom and go to the ticket counter, the train had been delayed again, this time not arriving until 10.46pm. (Arrival in Chicago: approx. 1.30am) Excellent.

I settle into a corner of the waiting area close to a wall outlet, as my phone is now starting to die, and plug in. I eagerly text my friend with an “I’ll pay for your gas!” plea. Just moments before my friend cracked open his piggy bank to scrounge up some gas money to come rescue me, I overheard the attendant talking to some other delayed and frustrated passengers. He, reluctantly, told everyone that there was an LAX bus, in the station, going to Chicago, and if we catch it now, we may be able to find some space on the non-stop bus to Union Station.

Scrambling to unplug my laptop and phone from the wall I had been plugged into for mere seconds, I swiftly shoved everything into my bag and rushed downstairs towards where the buses were moments from departing. Screeching to a halt in front of the non-stop LAX bus to Chicago, whose door was already closed, I learned that this bus was already full and not taking on any more passengers.


I stepped off to the side where some other stragglers who were hoping to make it to Chicago tonight, were also waiting. We were all informed by a station attendant that the next LAX bus to arrive would be heading to Chicago, but making all the usual stops along the way (about 5 or 6), which would make the bus ride a 3-1/2 to 4 hour ride, instead of the non-stop 2-1/2. Somewhat, frustrating, but…whatever. I can sleep along the way.

The bus pulls up moments later. YAY!

I text my friend: “wait wait! i’m getting on a bus!”

The station attendant allowed us to board the bus with our already purchased Amtrak tickets (all 10 of us) and after waiting for the attendant and the bus driver to have what seemed to be a much-too-long conversation, they both finally board the bus and inform us that since every passenger on the bus is going to Chicago, they have decided to forgo the other stops and make this a non-stop bus to Union Station too…Hmm. That’s strangely serendipitous. SWEET!

I find my seat and settle in, then almost immediately realize the impact of this day has made me very sleepy. After trying to scrunch up my body to fit uncomfortably into a small, two seat sized space, I realize the bouncy back seat is wide open and sneak back to almost fully stretch out.

Before falling asleep, I glanced out the giant picture window to my left to witness a nearly cloudless sky and…stars!!! It’s been so long since I’ve seen stars…what a beautiful night surprise!

Body nourished with yummy Indian food, lazily stretched out on the back seat of the bus. Mind, for the first time all day, relaxed. And soul, for the first time in a long while, starting to feel refreshed.

And my journey continues onward…
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