Bishkek, Day One

Bishkek, Day One

As the sun came up on our third flight and revealed the sparse, wintery landscape of Central Asia, the idea finally started to sink in: we're on our way to Kyrgyzstan not for a week or a month, but to live. A day later we're still getting used to the idea, but at least we're 24 hours closer to understanding our new home. First Impressions We were still thanking our lucky stars that all of our four giant suitcases had arrived undamaged when we exited the airport into a small crowd of smoking taxi drivers.…continue reading →
Oaxaca City Cuisine: Chocolate, Cheese and Grasshoppers

Oaxaca City Cuisine: Chocolate, Cheese and Grasshoppers

I was once a careful tourist, eating only what seemed safe and normal when I traveled abroad, but I learned a valuable lesson when a boring roast-beef sandwich in Paris left me bedridden for a week--if even "safe" food can be dangerous, why not just eat everything? From then on I've followed my instincts and indulged in anything that looks or smells enticing, interesting or downright weird. On a side note, I think my immunizations are up to date. Oaxaca City is a paradise for the gastronomical adventurer, especially during the festive holiday season from…continue reading →
Four Days in Oaxaca City

Four Days in Oaxaca City

Snagged by the lure of a city apart, still dominated by tradition, where old women weave colorful tapestries on the street and vendors proffer a wide variety of insects for human consumption, where Mezcal flows like golden water and the spirit of the Zapotec still pervades modern life--we headed to Oaxaca City. We found all these things and more, albeit scattered throughout a buzzing metropolis where modern ideals mix aggressively with traditional appearances to create a dynamic--and yes, unique--cityscape. Oaxaca is not the mythical city of the cloud jungle we were hoping to find, but its reality as…continue reading →

From Sea to Shining Sea: Reflections on My American Road Trip

With Stephanie staying in Europe to walk the Camino Portuguese, I needed something equally epic to show for the remainder of my summer. I needed to do something gutsy, unique—and preferably really, really American. Somewhere between the Accursed Mountains and the sun-drenched fields of western Albania, I decided on The Road Trip. Part 1: The Car The "Go Cart" in Chappell, NB I've lived in the adult world of jobs, paychecks, rent and restaurants for close to seven years now, but none of it has ever necessitated a car. First, I've always lived…continue reading →
Back in Podgorica, the Circle Complete

Back in Podgorica, the Circle Complete

It seems like each day on our bikes has brought new and unexpected challenges, and we've learned to never take the distance on a map as an indicator of navigability by bike. But today, for our last day on the road, we were given the gift of an easy trip to Podgorica. It almost seems like an anticlimax after putting so much sweat, blood and tears into the trip thus far, but mostly we're just glad to be back safe with all of our appendages and most of our gear. We started the…continue reading →
All’s Well That Ends in Shkoder

All’s Well That Ends in Shkoder

We had another hard day, but with another happy ending--this time, we're proud to say that we toughed it out and pedaled to the end. On our way out of our beach we stopped by a grocery store to buy water and ask directions. The proprietor sent for her 12-year-old daughter, who explained that the road we were on lead to a dead end in the mountains, and we had to backtrack nearly 15 km to take the right road. We were confused at the directions, because the only turnoff we'd seen on…continue reading →
From Durres to Drac: Our Own Private Beach Resort

From Durres to Drac: Our Own Private Beach Resort

Our plan to cycle a quaint 35 km from Tirana to Durres proved successful, though more time-consuming and less pleasant than we'd hoped. Our main obstacle had been an overpass leading to the highway just outside Tirana, where we hesitated for at least a quarter of an hour before mustering the courage to heft our bikes across a six-lane entrance ramp and into the sea of trucks leaving the capital. Eventually the traffic thinned, the fumes dispersed, and we found ourselves in the sunny port city of Durres. Our goal was to reach…continue reading →
Tirana: Albania’s Frenetic, Bike-Filled Capital

Tirana: Albania’s Frenetic, Bike-Filled Capital

We spent our Shkoder morning in the Faculty of Economics talking to Dr. Arjeta Troshani about tourism, economic growth and cycling in Albania. Her unique expertise meshes perfectly with our project, adding depth to our explanation of the underlying factors that play into every aspect of our trip. We were very grateful to have the opportunity to meet with her on such short notice, and we'll certainly touch base with her in the future, both for this and subsequent productions. Since our days were limited, we elected to take a bus to Tirana…continue reading →
Shkoder: Albania’s Biggest Little City

Shkoder: Albania’s Biggest Little City

The ride from Koplik to Shkoder seemed like just minutes after our ordeal from the previous day. After our day in the remote mountains, we were glad to coast into the city's frenetic streets and finally be among human beings again. Our first goal was to connect with Dr. Arjeta Troshani, Dean of Shkodra University's Economic Faculty. Stephanie had met her a couple weeks earlier during her time in the Balkans with International Peace Park Expeditions, and she seemed like the perfect person to tell us about tourism and cycling in Albania. With a…continue reading →
Finally Almost to Shkoder

Finally Almost to Shkoder

We thought our luck had finally run out when we crossed the Albanian border and the smooth, paved road immediately turned to gravel under our tires (for the next 70+ km). We knew things were worse when the coasting downhill we'd expected turned out to be more uphill, and the road deteriorated from grated pebbles to rim-bending boulders. We made it about 10 km into Albania in the first 6 hours of riding—the amount of time we'd budgeted for the entire day's journey to Shkoder. Then, things really got worse: the road momentarily got…continue reading →