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.