Sunday, December 27, 2009


Caught this photo up on Mt. Tabor last week, with the sun coming up at a low angle.

Happy holidays to all.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Marine Debris

I recently finished a good book, Rowing the Atlantic, by Roz Savage. Essentially, a 30-something woman with a good job, husband, and house realizes she's not happy with her current life (her life's currents?). She jumps ship... and lands in a 23' boat she paddles across the Atlantic.

I've been following Roz on Twitter and like her approach to life. Also, I have an affinity for ocean rowers given that my Great Uncle (or some relation like that) rowed across the Atlantic in 1896.

Anyways, my friend, Joanne, recently sent me a photo (top right) she took in Viera Beach, FL, that documents the life cycle of marine debris in the water.

Salty tales, unite!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Watered Twice a Month

A friend of mine, Annie, waters her plants the 1st and 15th of every month. The plants that don't make it, don't. Those that do, do.

Tough love. I dig it.

Today, being the 1st of December, I watered our budding jade plant.

Grow, little one, grow!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I could have studied garbage in college?

A friend just sent me this article on strange college courses. One offered at Santa Clara University explores "The Joy of Garbage." Nice!

Santa Clara University

The Joy of Garbage is a Santa Clara University course that actually deals with real science through the lens of garbage. Students study decomposition, what makes soil rot, the chemicals that give garbage an unpleasant odor, and they also learn about sustainability when it comes to the things we throw away. Classes don’t just study household garbage either, there’s also a section on nuclear waste. And topping things off there are even field trips, with students visiting local sanitation plants and landfills.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Organic Filing System

This cartoon from a recent New Yorker magazine appeals to me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Stuff" on OPB

This morning,"Think out Loud" on Oregon's Public Broadcast (OPB) network, there was an interesting story on "Stuff."

One woman called into to say how she has 100s of bras, because she can't find the right one.

Others posted a note on the last thing they had purchased.

Amazing what people will share.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

JibJab: Big BoxMart Animation

How have I not seen this before today?

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Two Old Toilets: Keep in Circulation or Flush Away?

Last week, after replacing the main water line, we were digging (heh) on water conservation. Gene went out and got two 1.28 gallon-per-flush toilets (less than $100 each) to replace the old ones. These suckers are designed so well -- they flush perfectly using relatively little water.

The former thrones, thrown into the carport, looked lonely. I went on Craigslist, posted them for FREE, and they were gone within two hours.

I usually promote reuse. But in this case, was I wrong to put these water-hogging toilets back into circulation?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Get Trashed at Green Drinks"

Lovin' the announcements for tonight's talk at Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, OR. Gorge Outdoors published a nice interview in preparation for tonight's slide show on waste management.

See you all, soon!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Leaky Pipes No Longer

Once upon a time, I used to think that a "productive weekend" entailed going for a run, getting laundry done, lining up snacks for the rest of the week, and possibly doing some bike maintenance.

The bar has been reset: this Saturday, we replaced the main water line from the street to the house.

Like most houses built half-a-century ago, the galvanized steel pipes that go into Nancy's house (where we're living) have been slowly been rotting away. Before, when I thought "leaky pipe", I envisioned a pipe with a little hole in it. No no. These things leak. Consistently. The water seeped into the ground and made a corner of the yard constantly damp.

Here's a picture of the pipe(s) that we pulled out of the ground. You see the rust? You see the earth that has adhered to the pipe? It's almost like clay. They needed to be replaced.

First, we rented a mini excavator. This one has "CAT" controls.

Then, after turning off the water and disconnecting some important bits, we dug a trench. Gene did most of the digging with the excavator while I hacked away roots with an axe.

Then we pulled the old pipe out. At the same time, we threaded the new plastic-y pipe in. I could not believe the diameter of the pipe -- that skinny little thing brings water into the whole house? Crazy.

Gene then connected the new pipe to the house and back to the main water line from the city. It was a little touch-and-go when water started spraying all over the basement. I started envisioning a week of bucket baths, but Gene was able to fix it.

Finally, we turned the water back on in time for dinner! We even made it to a pumpkin carving party that evening, though, after carving up the yard all day, I didn't feel like carving any pumpkins.

It is so satisfying to see the dial on the water meter -- which had chronically spun no matter if no one was using water in the house -- stay put.

Yay, efficiency.

Monday, October 26, 2009 International Day of Climate Action

Saturday, October 24, 2009, was the International Day of Climate Action put together by Bill McKibben and the folks at

What's 350? It is the number that "leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide—measured in "Parts Per Million" in our atmosphere. 350 PPM—it's the number humanity needs to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change."

Check out, along with their beautiful photographs from around the world.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

There Once Was a Recycler on Nantucket

Edged out by just three other stories (Dementia, Toxic Parents, and Where the Wild Things Are), the New York Times article today on the trend towards Zero Waste communities is the fourth most emailed story.

The island of Nantucket -- once whaling hotspot, now upperclass retreat with three shades of grey -- is leading the charge?! Ahoy.

Photo: Michael Weymouth

Monday, October 19, 2009

Double Your Pleasure: Environmental Homonyms

Whenever I get on the tandem, I start singing the Doublemint Gum theme song from my childhood:

"Double double your refreshment,
Double double your enjoyment.
Oh, no single gum double freshens your mouth
like double fresh, Doublemint, gum."

In honor of this doubling, I present environmental homonyms that have crossed my mind recently:



WHETHERIZATION (yes, I made that up)

Not to mention...

I KNOW TRASH (my domain)

photo: Beth Ross

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yeah Chip!

Ten years ago, I lived with my sister, Jenny, in Seattle. She and I had so much fun the summer of 1999: we climbed mountains, went to concerts, played Kadima, and ran around Greenlake. Around that time, her friend, Chip (photo right), organized a mobile-making party where friends could come and make balanced works of art that spun in the breeze. His invitation read something like, "Get Mobilized!" (I loved the pun.)

So Jenny, Chip, and I went around town to collect mobile-making supplies. Jenny zipped us over to some industrial site near Ballard. We got out of the jeep, walked up to the dumpster, and Jenny, without pause, jumped into the dumpster in her bright orange sundress. She bent down, and then popped up, holding up all of her prizes: cool, rusty metal parts that would be great for a mobile. With her big smile, she said, "These would be perfect!"

That was the same summer that Chip started his little online environmental newsletter.

I relate this story because, somewhat like a mobile, it feels like our paths have come full circle. Now, I jump in dumpsters, Jenny plays with words (with their kids, Ellis and Sebastian), and Chip just received a big prize. Go Chip! I am so proud of you.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pro-Recession, Less Waste.

The Oregonian recently published a story on how Oregonians threw away less stuff in 2008 compared to 2007.

Tighter wallets = more mindful consumption.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Running Water for Runners at Public Events: Water Event Station

On August 23, 2009, I volunteered for the illustrious Freshwater Trust's Portland Triathlon. In addition to yelling, "Right turn. Right turn, here!" for four hours, I got to check out the City of Portland's W.E.S., or Water Event Station.

The Portland Water Bureau hooks a glorified spigot into the water main (or fire hydrant), and supplies running water for a bunch of thirsty runners and event-goers. The portable, public fontain with little nozzles for easy refills is a great option for events seeking to reduce the use of plastic water bottles.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Umbra on Bubble Wrap

I do love Umbra, Grist's Advice Columnist of Reason and Wit.
In her post today, on recycling bubble wrap, she wrote,

"Congratulations and best wishes for a long and happy marriage. You may wish to retain a portion of the bubble wrap for use during periods of marital fragility."


Monday, August 24, 2009

Rules For Being Human

A friend of mine shared this essay (below) with me last week after I completely messed up a great opportunity after making a series of silly choices. Lesson. Painfully. Learned. I took this picture (right) while hiking the length of Madagascar -- it seems fitting because it reminds me to keep dipping my paddle in the river of life.

Rules for Being Human

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours the entire period this time around.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error, experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as valuable and as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately "works".

4. A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go to the next lesson.

5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

6. "There" is no better than "here". When your "there" has become a "here" you will simply obtain another "there" that will, again, look better than "here".

7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do wtih them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Your answers lie inside you. The answers to life's questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10. You will forget all this.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Montavilla Farmers Market Takes the Plunge with Durable Dishes

This is no ordinary stack of dirty dishes.

These dishes are part of the Durable Dish Pilot Project for the Montavilla Farmers Market (MFM) at SE Stark and 76th in Portland, Oregon. What is a "durable dish"? It is one you can use over and over and over again. You probably have some in your home. Now they are being pioneered at a Farmers Market. Start drooling: that green salsa on your tamale just got even tastier.

Through a grant from Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Montavilla Farmers Market purchased 108 plates, 48 cups, and 150 forks for use at their market. It's a pretty straightforward process: Volunteers distribute the plates, forks, and cups to the food vendors at the beginning of the market. The vendors then serve their food on the plates. People then sit down in the eating area and eat their food. When finished, they bring their serviceware to the the trash station. This month, because it is a pilot project, volunteers take their plates, and ask folks to fill out a survey about their experience.

The feedback from the food vendors has been positive: they are able to present their food artistically, and they are also able to cut costs because they do not need to purchase as much disposable serviceware. Farmer market goers are also enthusiastic: they like the plates, cups, and forks because they create a nicer eating experience. Someone also wrote on their feedback form that "the plates don't blow away in the wind." One person said that they always bring their mug for coffee, but that they were never going to bring a fork and plate from home. Now, they are psyched because they have a waste-free option of eating food at the market.

At 2pm, when the market closes, a designated volunteer brings the dishes to Thatchers, a local restaurant. At Thatchers, she loads the dishes into an industrial washer where the dishes are washed, rinsed, and sanitized. She then stacks the dishes and brings them back to the market where they are put away, ready for next week. The whole process takes 20 minutes.

I met with Kristin Wildensee who organizes the trash at the MFM to get the full story. She is a superstar. I thought I loved waste reduction and recycling. No no. Kristin does it all. Better yet, she gives the attendees of the farmers market the tools they need to do it all. When I say, "Do it all," I mean reduce waste and properly recycle.


Let's start at the beginning. When the Montavilla Farmers Market started out in 2007, Kristin had just finished Portland's Master Recycler Course and volunteered to manage the market's waste. She set up paired trash-and-recycling cans throughout the small gravel lot. At the end of each market, she looked in the bins to see if the signage on top of the lids worked. It did: she was successfully capturing the usual recyclables generated at public events: plastic bottles and aluminum cans. The trash was full of clamshells and plastic cups, but there was nothing she could do about that, right? Keep reading.

The second year, Kristin helped volunteer at the Bite of Oregon, where Lindsey Newkirk of Elysium Events led the charge to get thousands of plastic cups recycled. Kristin recalls an epic morning at Waterfront Park, dipping cup after cup into 5-gallon buckets of cold water. Once rinsed and stacked, they were able to give the cups to a plastics recycler. That experience inspired Kristin to look at Montavilla Farmers Market's waste stream with a more critical eye. She says, "I had thought that volunteers wouldn't like rinsing cups because it was too messy and took too much time. Through this process, I realized that there's only a barrier if I think there is." She could get cups out of the waste stream! Perhaps she could get more.

Building on her experiences, in 2008, Kristin built "over the barrel" signs out of PVC piping that point directly down to the trash and recycling cans. She reduced trash and recycling bins to one centralized station. After many tries, she realized that people like simple signage. At this point, she had three waste stream categories: 1) bottles & cans, 2) clear cups (she was rinsing and recycling about 100 cups a week), and 3) landfill.

In 2009, the third season, Kristin had high expectations. In looking at the garbage, she realized that about 95 percent of the waste generated was disposable serviceware. She asked the knowledgeable folks at Community Environmental Services for help and they gave her some tips on signage and waste stream evaluation. She went around to each and every vendor and asked them for an example of every piece of waste that might end up in the trash. She then labeled them and spread them out on her porch, trying to see patterns in products. She did some research and realized that every paper item (napkins, boats, plates, straw wrappers, parchment paper from the bakery items, Ecotainer hot cups, and tamale wrappers) was compostable. The lemonade vendor had also just switched to compostable cups. She did a waste audit and verified that the market generated about two full 45-gallon containers of compostables each week. She presented her findings to the MFM board, and they agreed to fund the additional costs associated with organic diversion: in this case $25/month for an additional hauling cost, plus ~$75 in compostable bags. Organic diversion: check.

Kristin says, "It made me feel good that there was so little landfill waste," Kristin says, "but there were still all the plastic clamshells, plastic forks, and plastic cups." She continued, "It's one thing to rinse and stack plastic cups. It's quite another thing to get plastic forks and greasy clamshells clean...with a bucket of cold water. It's also time consuming." She described the process: "The first week, I was enthusiastic. The second week, it [cleaning greasy clamshells] was gross. The third week, I thought, 'This is ridiculous! There has to be a better way.'"

She considered compostable serviceware (sometimes called "bioplastics"), but had concerns. Could the market's small businesses afford the extra costs? Would the bioplastics increase contamination? (They look like plastic, but they are not.) How would they be processed? (They have to go to a commercial composting facility.) Are they good for the soil? (Sure, they "break down", but they add no nutrient value to compost.) Umbra, on Grist, writes about corn plastic here. Deciding to skip bioplastics, Kristin applied for a grant for durable dishware.

She was awarded a Portland Recycles! grant designed to reduce waste. A few other businesses received grants for durable dishware, but MFM was the first outdoor farmers market in Portland (that I know of) to invest in reusable dishware.

In August 2009, armed with real 9" plates, metal forks, and hard-plastic cups, the waste stream has shifted dramatically. In an outdoor market with about 35 vendors and 1400 customers each Sunday, Kristin reports her findings of the waste composition:
  • PLASTIC FORKS: Before durables, 118. After durables, 10.
  • PLASTIC DRINK CUPS: Before durables, 30. After durables, 7.
  • PLASTIC CLAMSHELLS: Before plates, lots. After plates, none.

I applaud
Montavilla Farmers Market for skipping the compostable serviceware step and going straight to durables. Kristin is leading the charge, gathering information, and gleaning insights that will help others "take the plunge."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Deschutes River, 2009

Last weekend (August 1-2), I went on a fun rafting trip on the Deschutes River with seven other ladies.

We all had a good time jumping off the columnar jointing (that's the fancy geology term for the basaltic hexagonal columns) at one section of the river. Jess captured this good one of Bree and me. Yippeee!

When we were pulling into our campground, someone said, "This place has a phoenix!" At first I thought they were talking about a bird. [yawn] Then they explained, "A phoenix is a special composting toilet." Sign me up! It was very nice, with a bin of wood chips and a little scoop to add after every deposit.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pelican Beak, Kangaroo Pouch, BYOB

Animal Planet TV has a series of short (<1 minute) public broadcasting messages on YouTube on how "Animals Save the Planet." My favorite, so far, is the one on bringing your own bag.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Un-Shopping Card

I am at a nice pivot point in my career: as I look for employment, I want to stay true to my passion for solid waste, but also recognize that I have a broader commitment to the field we currently refer to as sustainability. It seems like there is a lot of opportunity to blend these interests; it's just a matter of timing.

In a recent web-job-research session, I came across this "Un-Shopping Card" on Clackamas County's Spring 2009 Sustainability Newsletter. I think it's fantastic! Mindful consumption: bring it.

Just to keep sending it out to the airwaves, here is my resume.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bike to a Mountain; Bike to a Wedding

The last two weekends, Gene and I have built up a good track record for using our tandem as our primary form of transportation, even when it involves mountains and weddings.

The first weekend in July was the 12th annual Watershed Relay. It's this funky event put on by some friends where you race from the summit of Mt. Adams to Hood River. "Race" is a generous term; besides Gardner, the brainchild of this event, and Johnny, his adventurous roommate, everyone else is just psyched to make it through without too many sore muscles. There is no registration fee. There is no support crew, besides what you figure out for yourself. You just stash a whole bunch of gear in bushes along the way so that you can glissade, mountain bike, road bike, kayak, run, and paddle your way through the Mt. Adams watershed and across the Columbia river.

People typically drive up to the base of Mt. Adams. They then use their vehicle(s) to shuttle gear and people down the coarse. Gene and I wanted to try a new approach: using our bike. We started out in White Salmon and strapped our backpack on the back of the tandem.

It was a 5-hour ride up to the south summit parking lot. The last few miles were tough -- the mosquitoes were starting to come out, and the gravel road was really dusty. We asked ourselves, "Why are we doing it this way? Why are we biking when we could have easily carpooled?" We were heartened by the astonished looks of hikers (non-Watershed folks) passing us in their cars. They honked and gave us thumbs ups of encouragement. We also hoped they thought, "Hmmm... I wonder how I could bike up to the base of Mt. Adams for my next climb."

After dinner and a few hours of sleep, we awoke and climbed Mt. Adams in our bike clothes and shoes. (Shimano SPD clips act kind of like crampons, and bike gloves work surprisingly well to brace youself during the glissade downhill. But you can be sure, we got plenty of funny looks from people completely geared up with crampons and ice axes). We met up with the other Watershed folks in time for the 10am descent from the summit. After the descent, we did the single-track mountain bike portion on the tandem. Some friends took our backpack in their car, so we were a little more nimble. Even without a backpack, mountain biking on a tandem is burly. I was nervous a few times, but took deep breaths and put all my trust and confidence in Gene's bike handling abilities. He did great. Back on the road, with gravity and pavement on our side, we flew downhill back to White Salmon. Tired and slightly sore, we fell asleep before sunset. Next year we hope to do the entire Watershed Relay, from Portland, unsupported. We'll see. More pictures and descriptions are here.

Last weekend (July 11-12), we went to our friends' wedding. Scott and Katja were getting married on the flanks of Mt. St. Helens. Only 50 miles from Portland, we figured we'd make a bike trip out of it. Again, we could have easily carpooled with other friends from Portland, but we want to make a go of it. Sure, anything under five miles and 30 lbs of carrying is a done deal (it will be done on bicycle). But a wedding? 50 miles away? Let's try it.

We made it, and gladly pulled into the field where our friends had pitched their tents. We hopped into a bunkhouse for a stealth shower and cleaned up real nice! We perhaps didn't dance as hard as we might have if we had driven in a car, but it was still a good time.

Congratulations Scott and Katja! A little birdie told us you got a tandem as a wedding present, so we are looking forward to some double Dil- car-free adventures.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Retiring the Header; Shift to

My travels have come to a close. I am extraordinarily grateful to the Stevens Fellowship Committee for granting me the opportunity to follow my passion (my trashion!) in Europe and Central America over the past eight months. I saw a lot, learned a ton, and feel confident that I can serve as a trash ambassador for many years to come.

I have put together a professional website (I Know Trash .com). I am currently looking for work in the solid waste industry, so if you know of any opportunities, especially in Portland, OR, send them my way!

I hereby retire this blogspot header. It has served me well.

This space may (or may not) be updated with future pursuits, trash cans, or recycling randomness. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I am at your disposal.

Till next time,

Friday, June 12, 2009

Association of Oregon Recycler's Conference, and 113 miles home

After a quick visit to my folks in New Jersey, Gene and I flew out to Redmond, Oregon. I had been invited to speak at the Association of Oregon Recyclers (AOR) 2009 Conference.

We landed at the tiny airport and rolled our bags over to an open space next to the ticket counter (see photo with bike parts sprawled on the floor). An hour-and-a-half later, bike and trailer assembled, we rolled out of the airport on our tandem. We pedaled fast so I could make it to Jerry Powell's talk on Recycling Markets. I felt a little funny showing up sweaty, in my cycling outfit, but the Oregon recycling community is very relaxed and friendly.

My talk on Saturday, June 11 -- the keynote -- went well. Lots of people came up to me and said, "I really liked your speech." I take that as a good sign. The presentation forced me to organize my photos is a meaningful way. Also, even though I get nervous, I do like public speaking because it forces me to synthesize my thoughts. Finally, I used this opportunity to put together a professional website:

Saturday night was jolly. At the banquet, the Port of Portland received an award for their stellar waste minimization program. That was a proud moment for me because even though I have not worked on that project for a year, I know I was been a key player in its success. This photo is of me, Michael Budds, Mitch Frister, and Shanna Eller, all members of the CES (Community Environmental Services) crew. Stan Jones, who heads up the Port waste minimization and recycling program, should be in the photo but was busy playing in his band. Talented fellow.

After the conference, Gene and I biked 175 miles home to Portland, OR. Our last day was the longest of this trip: 113 miles. Cycling in Oregon in June was such a treat: cool temperatures, moderate grades, beautiful scenery, and long daylight hours. It was still light when we rolled into Portland at 9pm.

Portland has a comprehensive recycling program. Better yet, the community is starting to target waste reduction efforts, as evidenced by this billboard we passed on the way into town. I am scoping out the scene and trying to figure out options that would allow me to work with inspiring individuals on meaningful projects. Send good job thoughts my way.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Costa Rica

We crossed into Costa Rica, the 6th country of our trip, on May 23, 2009. We noticed lots more single occupancy vehicles. We also noticed how little litter there was on the side of the road.

We pedaled down the InterAmericana Highway through the Guanacaste towns of Liberia, Cañas, and Esparza. At that point, we turned south. We wanted to both avoid the traffic of the capital, San José, as well as experience some of the mountains. Everyone we spoke to said we were crazy -- that the hills were extreme and that we should stick to the coast. We figured we would give it a try, and if it really was too hilly, we could just roll back down to the coast.

Hah. Once we got up and over the first hill, we realized there was no return. Our gearing was limited due to some hub issues. Plus we had a fully-loaded trailer with all of our camping supplies, water, and laptop. So, when it got too steep, we got off and pushed up the hills.

It was beautiful, lush country. We benefitted from the simple generosity from so many people that found our story compelling. One man bought us an amazing lunch with delicious fresh pineapple juice. A young man, the owner of a fledgling bakery in a small town, told us our donuts and coffee were on the house when we went up to pay. A third guy, a delivery man that sold snacks to local businesses, handed us doritos and fanta out his window as we leap-frogged through the hills, with us moving slow and him stopping at different shops on the side of the road. He was our snack angel.

We went through Orotina, Santiago de Puriscal, and finally to San Ignacio de Acosta. At that point, we decided we had "experienced" the hills enough. We packed up our bike into the suitcases/trailer and hitchhiked back to the highway, past the Cerro de la Muerte, and down into San Isidro de El General. Between the fog, treacherous curves, and pouring rain, I was quite fine traveling on four wheels through that section.

We reassembled the tandem, climbed up out of the San Isidro valley and dropped down to a sleepy surfing town called Dominical. We then went up the coast to Matapalo where Gene lived 20 years ago, for nine months, with his mom and sister. It was, quite literally, a walk down memory lane.

Surprisingly, not much had changed in Matapalo. Gene remembered the school, the store, and the bridge. A few guest houses and huts had sprung up to cater to the surf scene, but overall it was a sleepy sandy-path, coconut tree oasis. We stayed in Matapalo for two nights, sleeping 50 feet from where Gene's house used to be.

Michel, a lovely man, put us up in his extra cabin (a generous term). We shared meals and swapped stories. Michel taught us how to play dominoes; we helped him fix his roof. We jumped in the warm ocean periodically throughout the day. The beach was stunning.

On our way up the coast, a friend of Michel's invited us to his property, Finca Cascade. We scrambled up the rocks past his 20 waterfalls. Except for the monkeys, we had the place to ourselves. We swam in the bright blue pools.

We then pedaled our last leg up the dirt road to Quepos. That stretch of road is doomed to be "developed": the section between Dominical and Quepos is slated to be paved by September 2009. We saw the trucks, tractors, and asphault operation gearing up. Ahhh, development. What a funny concept.

We packed up the bike and caught a bus into San José. The pedestrian malls through downtown felt European. We managed to connect with new friends and old, which always makes a city more lively. On June 4, 2009, we flew to the USA with our eyes on the horizon.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Granada and Rivas, Nicaragua

Never use FedEx. At least, not if you are in Nicaragua.

FedEx routed our replacement hub to Europe because someone at their hub (heh, lots of hubs) in Memphis thought Nicaragua was in Africa. After three weeks of phone calls and emails between Bike Friday, FedEx, and us, the hub was finally delivered, ironically, by a kid on a mountain bike.

Back on our bike, we headed south through Sebaco. Gene thrilled the local kids with a ride on the back of the bike while I marveled at the amazing veggies in the market. We continued south. Just as it was getting dark, we rolled into a little town where a nice man and his wife let us camp in their sideyard.

People are so friendly and curious when you travel by bike. About 20 people gathered as we unpacked our house (tent), beds (thermarests), and kitchen (stove). That night we got hammered by a rainstorm, but luckily stayed dry in the tent.

The next day, we rolled into Granada. In Granada, a friend of a friend, Bill, graciously showed us around town. Bill is one of those guys that speaks five languages (or more), has lived overseas more than half his life, and knows a whole lot about a range of subjects. Of course, I asked about the trash scene in Granada. Bill said that a German is helping Granada digitize all of their documents and tracking information. Hopefully, with a more robust database, Granada will be able to track who is paying for garbage service and identify inefficiencies in their system.

So much of our experience in a town is driven by the people we meet. Largely owing to our pleasant introduction (via Bill), we were quite smitten by Granada and its charming streets, old churches, and historic buildings. After one day of gringo-land, we were ready to roll south. It was Friday, and I was eager to meet with the City of Rivas' mayor's office.

We pedaled hard and made it to Rivas by 1pm. I quickly showered and walked down to the mayor's office. I had been told by Matagalpa's mayor's office that Rivas had the first sanitary landfill of Nicaragua. Rivas' solid waste guy met my queries with blank stares: "Nope, lady, all we have is a big landfill. You can visit it, if ya like."

So we did. Saturday morning, we rode the tandem out to the dump. Federico, who has worked at the dump for nine years, showed us around. It is a very quiet operation. About 15-20 people glean out materials from the 7-8 truckloads per day. Looking at all of the organic material, I asked if anyone composted. Nope, he said, the only money is in aluminum.

Mounds of plastic bottles and other materials are stored next to houses of the people that work in the dump. Like the rest of the world, they are waiting for the markets to bounce.

We headed south down the Interamerican Highway, and made a quick stop on Lake Nicaragua to look out to Isla de Ometepe, rising out of the choppy waters.

Onward to Costa Rica.