Sunday, January 01, 2012

Peru Adventures 2011

Peru Adventures 2011
by Lon Haldeman

The police gave us a warning at the roadside checkpoint. A group of bandits had stopped and robbed a bus 100 kilometers ahead on our route. The good thing is that we only had to ride 60 kilometers more today.

Our cycling route from Tarapoto to Yurimaguas, Peru was 160 kilometers of newly paved roadway across the jungle. I had ridden this stretch almost ten years ago and the road was filled with mud and melon size rocks. It took me almost 12 hours to ride 100 miles on my mountain bike. During the past eight years the road had been improved from each end until both cities were now connected by a smooth path of twisty black pavement suitable for filming a sports car commercial. This would be the first time we could ride the entire distance without sections of road construction.

This road has always been a strategic location for hijackings and political protests. The road bends and climbs through many miles of mountainous jungles, making it a perfect location for hiding bandits who ambush buses and taxies. Since this road is the only way to reach the river port of Yurimaguas, there was always a steady supply of trucks and supplies being transported from the jungle to the coastal cities. Whenever there was political unrest this section of road would be blocked with burning tires and fallen trees by protesters to disrupt the transport of goods across Peru.

This year during our bike tour we would divide our ride from Tarapoto to Yurimaguas into two cycling days. The first day was 36 miles up and over the mountains to the truck stop town of Caynarachi. We would sleep at a basic hotel that had a bathroom down the hall and a restaurant across the street that served local jungle food. The next day would cover the final 64 miles to the river port at Yurimaguas where we would find our boat to travel down the Amazon River.

Our tour group included Greg Lester and his wife Drue Banister. This would be their first trip to Peru. They had wanted a tour “that went where tourists don't go”. We were trying to balance adventure with a safe tour so we were taking precautions in this part of the country. We were also joined by Susan Rosenblatt who was returning for her fifth tour in Peru. Her easygoing spirit is always welcome when things get stressful. Lynette Chiang was along to document all of our Peru Projects and make a DVD about our tour. She would have a challenge producing a program that covered eight major projects in a 22-minute show. (More Peru DVD updates later). Peru National Cycling Champions Alessandra Divila and her sister Samantha also joined us. They rode their racing bikes and didn't have any trouble dropping us whenever they wanted. Rounding out our tour group was our 12-year-old friend Aracely and her mother Nayda. We met Aracely six years ago at a roadside restaurant in the jungle. Since then she has traveled with us every year to all corners of Peru. Her friend Yeni from the Chosica Girl's home also joined us. Yeni won a competition to go on the tour for being the top English-speaking student at the Girl's Home.

All together we had a varied group of eleven people ages 12 to 65. We traveled and worked together to complete a busy schedule of projects across Peru. We had all arrived in the busy city of Lima and spent our first two days visiting the Chosica Girl's Home and buying books to deliver to Amazon River schools. The next day we flew 250 miles into the jungle to the remote town of Tarapoto. Here we assembled our bikes and began our tour, while transporting 220 pounds of school books in our support vehicle.

Our first cycling day leaving Tarapoto included a break to tour a waterfall in the roadside canyon. The recent rains were making the 100-foot high waterfall expand to over 20 feet wide. After an hour of hiking to the falls and wading in the pool we continued riding up the mountain. A steady cool rain began as we climbed higher over the summit. The new road was built on a series of pillars and braces extending out from the cliffs. The cliffs on one side and the drop off into the canyon on the other made a picturesque landscape as we meandered up the green jungle grade in the misty drizzle.

After our night's rest in Caynarachi we were planning our next day to Yurimaguas. We knew we would need to ride through the location where there had been a roadblock and robbery the day before. We made a plan to hire taxies from Tarapoto to travel with some of our non-cycling crew. One taxi would drive two kilometers ahead of our bike group and the other taxi and crew members would stay two kilometers behind us. If the taxies saw any suspicious roadside activity they would drive up and warn us. We would have the choice to wait or turn around before riding into an ambush.

It rained throughout the night and the drizzle continued until 9:00 AM. We waited at our hotel for our taxies to arrive from Tarapoto. The taxies were delayed 45 minutes and we began to wonder if we should find different taxi drivers. Finally they arrived and the drivers were agitated and talking fast in Spanish. I knew something was going on. They had just been stopped in a ten-vehicle ambush a few miles before Caynarachi. We were familiar with the twisty road from the day before. The gunmen made the drivers get out of their cars. Then they were robbed and the gunmen threw the driver's car keys into the jungle. The drivers were further delayed when they needed to hunt for their keys.

The incident added to the anticipation of proceeding to Yurimaguas. Now there were recent ambush locations in front and behind us. The police were out patrolling the road but the heavy jungle coverage along the road gave the advantage to anyone hiding in the bushes. We packed our escort taxies and started riding our bikes with our eyes scanning the ditches for hints of trouble. The feeling was similar to riding past a familiar farm where you are chased by dogs. We were on the lookout while playing hide and seek.

We passed the location of the ambush the day before and didn't see any signs of activity. The rain had stopped and the jungle humidity was making us wetter than the rain. As we approached Yurimaguas we could see three riverboats docked at the port. We had made it through the most dangerous section of road. (Next year we have an eight-day bike ride planned through a very safe region). Now we would need to find a riverboat to take us down river for the next two days covering over 400 miles to the city of Iquitos.


Delivering Books to Amazon School

Delivering Books to Amazon Schools
At the port in Yurimaguas we made arrangements for one of the big riverboats to transport us down the Amazon. These boats are mainly for cargo and they are notorious for being delayed and not departing on time. That is why it is best to visit the docks and then choose a boat that is getting ready to leave. We were able to find a boat that was leaving tomorrow morning. We reserved cabin space on the upper deck to store our gear. We would spend most of our time in chairs or hammocks on the deck during the day and then retire to small sheet metal cabins when the nighttime temperatures cooled down. The views of the jungle and trees are fascinating as the sun reflected off rain clouds in the distance. We would spend hours watching the world pass before us as we glided down the river.

Our main project on the riverboat was to deliver schoolbooks to six rural jungle schools as part of the Anne Marie McSweeney Book Delivery Project. We had bundled our assortment of books and school supplies we bought in Lima into neat tight packages. Our mission was to take a small shuttle boat to villages along the shore. Our delivery time was limited because the big boat was continuing down the river. We would have about 15 minutes to locate the school in the village and make the delivery and then hurry back to catch the big boat. Our deliveries would need to be quick and efficient.

We have organized this book delivery project four times in past years. Our delivery schedule would need to be during school hours if possible. Since we started this voyage almost eight hours previous to past years we calculated we would be stopping at new villages during this tour. With the recommendations from the captain, he suggested which villages hidden along the riverbank would have schools that needed books. A crewman from the cargo ship drove our small motorboat to shore. He would take six members from our group to the riverbank. Usually we were met by some local villagers wondering why non-native people were stopping at their village. This is why it was important to be traveling with our young friends Aracely, Yeni, Alessandra and Samantha who acted as the ambassadors for our group. After a few minutes we were led to the school where a class was in session. The teachers were happy with the surprise visit and books and the class was happy for the distraction. We repeated this delivery routine to six schools in eight hours.

The chance to get real books and classroom supplies was a real necessity for these rural schools. Some of the schools wanted us to stay and visit longer. They had never been visited by non-native people (gringos) before. Some of the villages insisted on giving us handmade gifts of carvings, beadwork and other elaborate souvenirs. This was an exciting and worthwhile project that is always a highlight of our travels across Peru. That night we continued down the Amazon River on the boat. When we were 100 kilometers from Iquitos in the town of Nauta the paved road began again. From there we rode our bikes the final 65 miles into the city. We had completed the book delivery project and now we had four days of other projects planned in Iquitos.


Peru DVD and Street Kid Parties

Get Your New DVD of Peru Projects
Lynette Chiang has produced a new 22-minute documentary about all these adventures and projects across Peru. This DVD is being sent to all the people who have supported these projects with a $100 donation this year. It is not too late to make a $100 donation and receive your DVD. Your donation will go toward continuing to support these projects in Peru. Checks should be made payable to:

“F.P.C. Global Outreach”

Send to: PAC Tour
P.O. Box 303
Sharon, WI 53585

Street Kid Parties
Iquitos is a sprawling jungle city of 400,000 people. It is isolated by 300 miles of jungle in all directions. Iquitos has gone through several boom and bust periods in the past 150 years. The markets for rubber, wood and oil have contributed to extreme wealth for an elite few and poverty for the majority.

During our stay in Iquitos we organized several group dinners for the kids who live on the street. Many of them haven't ever eaten in a restaurant so this party is a special event for them. We usually invite 15 to 20 kids to a prearranged restaurant that serves a meal of chicken, salad, fried bananas and birthday cake. The kids also receive a new t-shirt. We organized two parties in different neighborhoods this year. These parties are always a special night for the kids and for the members of our tour.


Peru School Building

School Building Projects
While we were in Iquitos we needed to inspect the two schools we built in the jungle near there. The first school (Jack Wolff School) was built in 2004 and is located 9 kilometers outside of the city. The second school (Joseph Pulley School) was built in 2008 and is located 50 kilometers in the jungle. Visiting the schools is always a special day and the schools always have a warm welcome for us. The Jack Wolff School continues to grow and now has over 600 students. The teachers and parents are working together to keep the school running smoothly. We had a meeting with the directors to discuss some plans to improve the school. Last year we replaced the metal roof. Unfortunately during the roof construction the builder did not overlap the new metal panels the required amount. The roof has some leaking seams so more metal sections need to be added. We estimated it would cost about $1,500 in additional materials to reinstall more roof sections. The work needs to be done soon before the rainy season in February and March.
The Jack Wolff School also requested support for more computers. They want to have a room where more students can work and use the Internet. They have some computers we bought them three years ago. We are reviewing how much we can spend on three more computers. The school also wants to have a traveling Soccer Team for boys and Volleyball Team for girls that will compete against other villages. The coach says they have some good high school age players to recruit for their team. They requested $500 to buy 30 uniforms with their school name and colors for the teams. We are going to be able to help them get a team organized for the next school year, which begins in March.

The second school we built in 2008 was the Joseph Pulley School. It is much more remotely located, almost 35 miles from downtown Iquitos. The brick school is in the jungle three miles off the main road. Most of the children walk several kilometers on a network of trails through the trees to arrive at school. Currently there are about 25 kids who walk to school each day. They recently painted the school inside and out. The most pressing problem is to protect the school from the termites that live around the cement foundation. The termites are climbing into the wooden roof beams. The teachers are spraying for termites several times per week. The school is closed for vacation January and February so we hope the school is ready for classes again in March. Overall both schools are in good shape and doing a good job with the students.


Girls Home and Aracely

Chosica Girls Home
We began helping support the Chosica Girls Home six years ago when our little friend Aracely moved there from the jungle. The Home was founded by a group from the Netherlands who wanted to start a safe house for abused or neglected girls. Since that time several other groups from Canada and Germany have continued to help with special projects. The Home has expanded to a rebuilt private residence that includes a remodeled kitchen, shower room and large dining area. The Home is located on two acres of land with a nice yard and a secure fence around the property.

The Home usually takes care of 15 to 18 girls from the ages of 3 to 17 years old. Our support has been to take the girls on shopping trips to the market where they can pick and choose new clothes. Most of the girls never have personal money to spend, so buying their own clothes is a special occasion for them. During the year we help supplement their food budget with better meat and chicken. We have also provided an English teacher to meet with the girls one day per week. This year the top two English students (Aracely and Yeni) were chosen to travel with us on our tour across Peru. In the future we will continue to help them with their food budget and English classes.

Aracely Update
We met Aracely when she was six years old. Her mother could not take care of her and Aracely had the chance to live at the Chosica Girls Home. For the past six years (Aracely is now 12 years old) we have watched her grow into a young woman. Aracely is now attending additional English classes that are part of the University. She can receive a teaching certificate in three years. She is a top student at her school and her favorite classes are History and English.

Someday she wants to live with her mother again. We visited her mother's house but it needs many repairs like a bathroom, running water and security. It would be a good project to go there and do a Total Home Make Over. I expect with four people working on the project her six-room house could be cleaned and repainted in three days. We would need to make the house secure from rats and other critters. To complete the electric and plumbing we would need some professional help to install a water pump and toilet.

Aracely understands that living at the Chosica Girl's Home in a better opportunity for her now. She realized that someday with a better education she can live with her mother and make a better life for both of them.


Puerto Ocopa Orphange

Puerto Ocopa Orphanage
The village of Puerto Ocopa is located over the Andes Mountain about 300 miles from Lima. We discovered this remote village in 2004 during a bicycle tour to the end of the eastern most road in central Peru. At the end of the road is the Puerto Ocopa Orphanage. It is a home and boarding school for 45 to 85 kids who live in the wild jungle between Peru and Brazil. During our first tour we saw that the conditions in Puerto Ocopa were very basic. In the following years we have organized many tours to bring supplies to the orphanage.

This year we hired a mini van to make the two-day drive over the mountains to the town of Satipo. There one of the nuns from the orphanage and three of the kids met us. They would help us do the bulk of the shopping for food and clothing before making the final 50-mile drive to Puerto Ocopa. We were able to buy about 2,000 pounds of rice, sugar, beans and cooking supplies. The nuns estimated we bought enough food to feed the kids for 2 months.

Traveling the final 50 miles to Puerto Ocopa is always an adventure. Fortunately the terrible mud road from past years is now half paved and road crews are constantly grading the rough gravel sections. The driving time has been reduced from three hours to less than two hours.

We made the deliveries to Puerto Ocopa by early afternoon. All the kids lined up and received their new set of clothes and sandals. We stayed and ate lunch with the kids and had a tour of the buildings. The conditions are improving thanks to several organizations from Germany, Spain and France. It is nice more organizations are helping in this remote part of the world. In past years we donated 15 bunk beds that are now being used in a new building. The people in Puerto Ocopa always appreciate the support we give.


Peru Bike Racing

Bike Races and Training
Two years ago our friend Alessandra became the Women's National Cycling Champion of Peru. Her younger sister Samantha is the Junior Women's Champion. They were both chosen by the Peru Sports Foundation to represent Peru at the Pan-American Games next year. Last September Alessandra had the opportunity to travel to Monterey, Mexico and train with the Mexican National Team. Alessandra was surprised at the amount of drug related violence in the region. Their training rides needed to be escorted by a follow car and they were not allowed to travel near certain areas. Dead bodies in the roadside ditch were a routine sight. A classic sign on the bridge tells how the area has accepted the violence. It read: (in Spanish) “Please do not dispose of bodies in the river because they pollute the water”. Alessandra said she was glad to return to Peru after seeing how bad things were in Mexico.

Alessandra has helped organize many bike races in Peru. We took over 300 prizes of donated parts and clothing to the race in Lima this year. Cycling is still an elitist sport in Peru compared to soccer or running. We are hoping to help more riders receive better equipment and be able to participate in cycling. We are continuing to collect a large assortment of clothing and parts from donations. We have been using these donations as race prizes and to rebuild bikes and frames that have been donated. We are always amazed at the good quality of the equipment riders are contributing for these projects.

Bike equipment can be sent to:

PAC Tour
202 Prairie Pedal Lane
P.O. Box 303
Sharon, WI 53585

If you would like a DVD from this year's adventures, you can send a $100 check
payable to:

“F.P.C. Global Outreach”

Send to:
PAC Tour
P.O. Box 303
Sharon, WI 53585

For more information contact:
Lon Haldeman


Future Project Plans
We will continue to support all of our current projects in Peru. Our short range goals are to repair the roofs at both schools we have built. We will also provide help for the Chosica Girls Home with better food and more English classes.

Cycling Plans
Next year we will fly with our bikes to Cusco located at 11,000 foot elevation. . We will have two days to visit the ruins at Machu Picchu and get used to the altitude. We then start riding our bikes back to the desert coastal towns of Nazca and Pisco. We have a downhill ride to the ocean covering 900 kilometers in about eight days. The road is safe and smooth for road bikes. We will climb several mountain passes over 10,000 feet and stay in towns with hotels. The region is safe and the people are friendly. There are lots of historic sites along the way. This total tour is about 13 days including flying to Peru and back. Look for more details on the PAC Tour web site in June.


Friday, July 01, 2011

Alessandra to Mexico

Here is an update about one of our friends in Peru.

Alessandra Davila is the Women's National Cycling Champion of Peru. She lives in the city of Iquitos along the Amazon River located 600 miles in the jungle. She received a notice this week she was invited to Mexico City to participate at their Olympic Cycling Training Camp. She will ride several races in Mexico and then go to Costa Rica for more events. Her coach is a tough former pro rider from Columbia with Tour de France experience. He was impressed enough with Alessandra to donate his time to help her train. She is now 25 years old but the Peruvian Sports Council would prefer to support younger 18 year old riders. Her coach was able to convince the Council that Alessandra was the best woman rider in Peru and she was chosen to represent
Peru at the training camp.

Her success in bike racing has continued to beat the odds for a Peruvian women from the jungle. First of all, bike racing is an expensive sport in Peru. Few riders can afford a decent bike. We have helped Alessandra get equipment and clothing during the past four years to continue racing. She now has a Calfee Dragonfly Carbon Bike. Her bike is a 16 pound beauty with the best components. Alessandra saves it for special races. We didn't tell her how much it costs but it is worth more than most Peruvians make in a year.

Since Alessandra is from the jungle region she needs to travel to the city of Lima to attend national quality races. Her transportation and travel logistics are other obstacles she has had overcome. Her story reminds me of a Navajo women basketball player who was the point guard for the University of Arizona in Tucson. Her friends and family would travel 300 miles from the reservation to see her games each week. Being a Navajo college basketball player is as unique as Alessandra being a cyclist from the jungle.

Alessandra is proud of her jungle heritage when other racers from the city call her "Jungle Girl". She is a good sport and refers to her family as her tribe. She says she gets her strength from a special diet of bananas and monkey meat (not true). She went to the University to study the environment and worked as a tour guide for jungle expeditions. Sometimes her Malaria flares up and she needs to rest a few weeks. She wants to be a lawyer working to save the jungle from oil and lumber exploitation. For fun she likes to sing Karaoke tunes in night clubs. She was the city Karaoke Champion and her specialty is singing difficult bilingual Shakira pop tunes.

During the past five years we have helped sponsor many bike races in Peru. Many of the riders are actually good athletes. It has been exciting to watch them develop and get stronger. For Alessandra to finally get a chance to leave Peru and ride with the best women in South America is a big opportunity for her. She understands how fortunate she is to have our support from the United States and she is the lucky 1% who has has a chance to go to the Olympic Training Camp. She needs to raise the money for her round trip airfare from the jungle to Lima and then to Mexico City and Costa Rica. Her flights will cost about $1,600. The sports council is paying for
her living and racing expenses during the month. We have raised about $1,200
so far for her airfare and travel. She begins the training camp on July 15th so we are trying to raise another $400 by then.

If you know anyone interested in helping sponsor Alessandra please forward this update to them.

Donations can be made to:..........
F.P.C Global Outreach Fund
P.O. Box 303
Sharon, WI 53585

Alessandra is good about sending her progress reports. I will keep you updated about her racing accomplishments.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Route 66 Cafes and Motels

Our bicycle tour of Route 66 begins May 21st. We are going to be eating and staying at many Rt. 66 cafes and motels during our tour. Figuring out how many of these places stay in business is part of the charm of Rt. 66.

I recently stopped at a diner to eat and asked the waitress how late their restaurant was open. She said "We are open everyday from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Except for Friday nights when we are open until 8:00 PM for dinner". Then I said "We are looking for a place to eat dinner on Wednesday". She said "We serve the same food for lunch and dinner. If you want dinner on Wednesday you can still eat here. You just need to eat before 3:00 PM".

Then I stopped at a motel and asked the owner how many non smoking rooms they had. The owner said to me: "How many nonsmoking rooms do you need?" I said: "We need 13 no smoking rooms". Owner: "No problem. We can make them all no smoking. All we need to do is take the ashtrays out of the rooms before you arrive".

Travelin' Route 66 is always an adventure.

Friday, April 22, 2011

New Peru Amazon Tour

New Adventures Across Peru

“The silhouette of the black jungle lined the river banks in the moonlight. Fallen tree trunks bobbed in the murky water ahead of our boat. The reflection of distant lightning flickered silently on the horizon. This was a typical night on the Amazon River. Relaxing and fascinating at the same time.”

Lon Haldeman- Amazon River Tour 1999

During te past twelve years we have traveled to a variety of Peruvian destinations. We have combined many of our favorite adventures from past tours. We will participate in a wide variety of experiences not usually seen by tourists. This tour will offer plenty of opportunities for cyclists and non riders to see Peru as the local people really live.

This tour is appropriate for cyclists and non cyclists. We will travel to all the same locations along the same roads. Non cyclists will travel with 2-3 Peruvian guides in rented vehicles. The cyclists will ride with two Peruvian guides who are elite cyclists. We will ride about 320 miles during seven cycling days of 35 to 65 miles. Five of the days are on all paved roads. Two of the days have 10 miles of rough gravel and rocks and are not recommended for road bikes. Riders with road bikes can travel in the support van during those sections. A mountain bike could easily be ridden on all the gravel or paved roads.

This year will include:

*Visit to the Chosica Girl’s Home

*Tours to several jungle villages

*Riverboat tour down the Amazon

*Delivering school books to Amazon schools

*Visiting schools we have build in Peru

*Dinner party for homeless kids

*Bicycle race in the city of Iquitos

Day 1
Saturday, October 22
Airline flights from the United States typically take most of the day with connections to Lima, Peru. Most flights arrive in Lima about midnight. If your flight arrives after 2:00 AM Sunday morning it would be better for you to travel to Lima the previous evening. When you arrive we will meet you at the airport and take you to our hotel in the nicer section of Lima. You will have time to sleep in the next morning before we start our adventures across Peru.

Day 2
Sunday, October 23
If you have not been to Peru before we recommend taking the 9:00 AM Lima City Tour by bus. This tour visits the old colonial areas of the city and is a good introduction to the history of Peru. The morning tour is three hours and costs about $30 (additional). At noon we will have lunch with a typical family who live in the back street neighborhoods of Lima. (At our friend Sara’s house). In the late afternoon we will travel 50 miles to the Chosica Girl’s Home and take 15 girls on their annual shopping trip to buy new clothes. We will share an evening dinner together. That evening we will return to Lima and we will be joined by little Aracely (age 12) and her mother Nayda who will travel with us across Peru.

Day 3
Monday, October 24
This morning we will go shopping for school books in the Lima market. These are the books we will deliver to rural jungle schools during our boat tour on the Amazon River in a few days. In the afternoon we begin our travel into the jungle. We will go to the airport to fly over the Andes mountains to the remote jungle city of Tarapoto. This city of 50,000 people is located on the eastern foothills of the mountains and has a good variety of terrain with a moderate climate. We will assemble bikes for the next day. There are several nice restaurants within walking distance of our hotel. Our base hotel for three days is modern with a nice swimming pool.

Day 4
Tuesday, October 25
The next day we travel 20 miles from Tarapoto to the colonial mountain town of Lamas and back (40 miles round trip). There are paved and gravel road options to Lamas. Non cyclists will travel in our support van or taxi and and have time to stop and visit the sights along the way.

Day 5
Wednesday, October 26
Today we will make an overnight tour to the village of Sauce (Sow-see). This secluded mountain village is located 35 miles from Tarapoto on a high jungle lake. The road is gravel the final 10 miles up the mountain to Sauce. Riders with road bikes can travel in the support van during those sections. A mountain bike could easily be ridden on all the gravel or paved roads. In the afternoon we will travel on a boat across the lake and visit a village where they are making paper by hand. The thatch roof restaurant and motel are clean but basic. This is a quaint jungle hide-way town.

Day 6
Thursday, October 27
We return 35 miles to Tarapoto on a slightly different route by crossing the river on a small ferry boat that is big enough for only one car at a time.

Day 7
Friday, October 28
We depart Tarapoto and begin traveling over the mountains toward the Amazon River. The new highway is paved and we will travel 40 miles to the village of Caymarachi. The bicycle and taxi tours will all rejoin in the afternoon. This is where the low jungle begins. Our hotel is simple but clean without hot water. The jungle will be warm and a cool shower is refreshing.

Day 8-9
Saturday, Sunday, October 29-30
The cyclists will depart early to beat the heat during the remaining 50 miles to Yurimaguas. The highway is paved so we should all arrive in Yurimaguas by noon. We will then evaluate if we should take an afternoon boat down the Amazon. If a boat is not available we will allow time in our schedule to sleep in Yurimaguas until the next day when a boat is ready to go to Iquitos. The boat is 100 feet long with three decks and carries 80% freight. The passenger schedule is not always predictable until the freight loading is done. If we stay in Yurimaguas an extra day we will go hiking in the jungle forest preserve. The Yurimaguas fish market is also a fun place to see many unique items for sale.

Day 10-11
Monday, October 31
and Tuesday, November 1
This boat trip down the Amazon is a unique experience. You will be traveling along one of the most peaceful and enchanting areas of the world. We will have some cabins to store our gear but most of us will prefer to sleep in hammocks or on foam mats on the deck. “It is like camping on a boat”. We will bring our own food and cooks to prepare the meals we prefer (like spaghetti and French Toast). We will be on the boat during two nights for about 40 hours on the river. One of our main goals of this boat ride is to deliver school books to remote Amazon Schools. During our tour we will stop at six remote schools to deliver books. Most of these villages are rarely visited by tourists. Receiving new books at their school is very exciting for them. Our travel on the riverboat will be interesting with spectacular sunrises and sunsets. The boat typically stops at twenty villages to load banana and off load bags of rice. The activity on the river bank is always entertaining. Even with all the people on the boat you will have time to relax on hammocks and deck chairs for most of the trip. Most travelers like to bring a good book or sit and talk while watching the scenery pass by.

Day 12
Wednesday, November 2
After two nights on the boat we will be near our first opportunity to depart on a paved road again. The highway begins in the town of Nauta located 60 miles from Iquitos. Depending on the time of day or night our boat arrives in town we may ride or drive this remaining 60 miles to Iquitos. We have several options for going overland or staying on the boat to Iquitos. We might sleep in Nauta and continue on the road in the morning. We will need to finalizes these plans during our final night hours on the boat. If we arrive in the morning we may visit one of the rural schools we build 30 miles from Iquitos.

Day 13
Thursday, November 3
This is our day to be tourists in Iquitos or just sleep and relax in a real hotel room with a hot shower. We will have time to visit several traditional jungle villages and go shopping for jungle handicrafts. In the evening we will have a birthday party for 30 homeless kids who live on the streets of Iquitos. This is always a memorable night for our group.

Day 13
Friday, November 4
Today we will visit the schools we built in past years. This will be a busy day of ceremonies with the teachers and students. We will also evaluate future projects that the schools will need. Cyclists will have the opportunity to ride their bikes to the schools if they choose.

Day 14
Saturday, November 5
(option: non cyclists may want to return home today to arrive in the United States on Sunday)

Today is the Bike Race from Iquitos to Nauta. This 60 mile race has become a popular event for riders from Lima, Columbia and Brazil. Cyclists in our group can join the race or ride a leisurely shorter route. Non cyclists can view the race from the support motorcycles or from our support van. In the evening we will have dinner with many of the racers at a local restaurant.

Day 15
Sunday, November 6
We will fly back to Lima. Most flights back to the United States depart in the evening. You will have time to go shopping for Peru blankets and woolen sweaters in the Inca Markets.

Day 16
Monday, November 7
Most flights arrive back in the United States by noon concluding your busy tour across Peru.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

History of RAAM Sleep

Here is a brief history of our sleep patterns during our first cross county rides.

John Marino set his coast to coast records in 1978 (13 days) and 1980 (12 days, 3 hours). He eventually slept less and less during his 1980 record and was sleeping only 4 hours per night.

In 1981 I started my Double Transcontinental Record Attempt from New York City. My goal was to ride 3,000 miles in 12 days or 250 miles per day. Many days I was able to start at sunrise and be finished by dark. Many nights I slept a full 6-8 hours. As I headed west across Kansas the headwinds were bad and I started riding more at night to miss the wind and heat. I finally reached California and I was usually sleeping from 1:00 AM to sunrise. Sometimes I was taking an afternoon nap. My East to West Record was 12 days 18 hours so I didn’t break Marino’s West to East Record of 12 days 3 hours. (my East to West Record still stands....somebody should be able to do it in under 10 days).

I slept 4 hours in California and started back at 3:00 AM.

On the return trip I started riding 275 miles most days during daylight hours. The first two nights I didn’t ride in the dark and got a full eight hours of sleep. The last couple nights I rode more at night to be sure I arrived in New York City before morning rush hour traffic. I finished in 10 days, 23 hours breaking Marino’s Coast to Coast Record.

Susan started her Transcontinental Record the next year in June 1982. She was making good time the first 4 days and she was on pace with my 1981 record. She had some slower days in the middle so she started riding more at night. She basically rode nonstop the final 600 miles from the middle of Ohio to New York City the final 2 days finishing in 11 days, 16 hours.

The Great American Bike Race (the first RAAM) started in August that year. After watching Susan ride the final 600 miles nonstop at the end of her transcontinental I calculated I could ride 600 miles nonstop at the beginning of my race. I rode the first 500 miles in 32 hours to Flagstaff, AZ and then 125 miles that evening to complete 625 miles in about 40 hours. I went to bed at about 1:00 AM because of thunderstorms and headwinds brewing in the area.

When I woke up at sunrise the next morning I still had about a 6 hour lead on John Howard. Those were the days of limited communication between racers and we only receive one vague update about rider positions per day. We had no idea if a 6 hour lead was good or not. Gradually I increased my lead by about 1-2 hours per day. I was sleeping about 3 hours per night. That GABR was my toughest race and I was totally wasted by the time I reached Kansas on the 4th night. I had a few total collapses the 7th and 8th nights and I slept about 6 hours those nights. I still finished with about a 15 hour lead but I was trashed.

Over the next 2-3 years the RAAM riders learned how to sleep less and pace themselves better. The diets and equipment made staying on the bike easier. Eventually Pete Penseyres and I cross the country in 7 days, 14 hours with only 9 hours of total sleep....(6 sleep breaks of 1.5 hours each).

Racing RAAM is always a balance of pushing to the limit and still having enough energy to race again the next day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Breaking In a Leather Saddle

Breaking in a Brooks Leather Saddle
by Lon Haldeman

Most Brooks leather saddles are very firm when they are new (similar to knocking on wood). The leather will eventually get softer to the touch but this could take several thousands of miles of riding in dry conditions. The following break in procedure is a way to speed up the process and still have 40,000 miles life expectancy from the saddle. During the past 30 years I have broken in at least 10 saddles every year. During a cross country PAC Tour event I recently broke in 20 saddles in 20 days for riders who wanted to ride a leather saddle the next day. I can break in my own saddles in less than one hour and 10 miles of riding. The following steps will take slightly longer, but they will break in the saddle in less than one week or 100 miles. The key is not to overly break in the saddle. You want to make the saddle comfortable enough to disappear beneath you.

Different models of Brooks Saddles are cut from different locations of the animal’s hide. The best and thickest parts of the hide are saved for only a few of the Professional model saddles. Personally I like the leather that is used on the B-17 model saddles. The leather is slightly thinner and it breaks in faster. All saddles of the same model are not the same and you can feel the difference with your fingers. The point is, thinner leather breaks in faster, and you need to be careful when using the following steps to break in your saddle. This break in procedures needs to be a balance of making the saddle comfortable but not ruining the saddle and making it too limp to offer good support.

What you need to get started.

2 gallon bucket, extra seat post that fits your bike, tin container of Mink Oil (it is a paste wax type of water proofing sold in the shoe department at Walmart)

1. Fill a sink or bucket with 2 gallons of hot tap water. The water should be quite warm but not too hot to soak your hands in the water.

2. Put the saddle in the water and make sure the saddle is totally under water.

3. Let the saddle soak for 5 minutes. Take the saddle out and flex the sides of the saddle with your fingers. The saddle should feel pliable but not limp.

4. If the saddle still feels stiff then soak it another 5 minutes. Do not over soak it because you only want to break in the saddle about 50% during this first process.

5. When the saddle feels pliable, remove it from the bucket then dry the saddle with an old towel. Rub the top and bottom for several minutes to remove as much moisture as possible. The saddle should still feel warm from the water at this time.

6. Before the saddle cools... immediately start rubbing Mink Oil on the top and bottom of the saddle. The warm leather will help melt the Mink Oil. The evaporating water will help draw the Mink Oil into the leather.

7. Rub and massage the Mink Oil with your thumbs into the “sit bone” areas of the saddle. Use lots of Mink Oil. Massage the saddle for at least 10 minutes. It is okay to leave some extra Mink Oil on the surface of the saddle and on the underside of the saddle.

8. Mount the saddle on a seat post and test the saddle for tilt and height on your bike. Put on some old bike shorts and go for a short 10 minute ride (shorter is better at this time). You should not ride very far on a damp saddle because you can distort the leather.

9. Your old bike shorts will have rubbed off the extra Mink Oil from the top of the saddles. When you know the tilt is correct, then park your bike and wait until tomorrow. Apply one more thin coat of Mink Oil and allow it to sink in overnight.

10. The Next Day test the saddle to see how pliable it is. If the saddle is quite stiff you can remove the seat post from your bike and soak the saddle in hot water again for 5 minutes then repeat the first process from yesterday.

11. If the saddle is feeling better then only apply more Mink Oil today. Put on your old shorts again and go for a longer one hour ride.

12. It is important to keep the saddle well oiled the first month. DO NOT let the saddle dry out. Apply at least 5 coats of Mink Oil during the first week of riding or before and after each ride.

13. After one week or 100 miles the saddle should feel quiet a bit softer and starting to fit you better.

Brooks Saddles have a tensioning bolt at the nose of the saddle. During the break in process you might need to tighten the bolt and stretch the saddle 1/2 turn for every 500 miles of riding. Usually after 3 turns (3 threads showing) and 3,000 miles the saddle tension is pretty stable for a while. For our old RAAM bikes we used to like using saddles that had been stretched about 10 turns (10 threads) after 20,000 miles. Those saddles were long enough to allow the rider to side fore and aft and have several different saddle pressure positions.

I hope this helps you enjoy your new leather saddle sooner.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

History of little Aracely in Peru

History of Meeting Aracely in Peru

We met Aracely when she was six years old. She lived with her mother and grandfather at a roadside restaurant with a thatched roof. Our bicycle tour had stopped there for lunch while riding on a tour over the mountains deep into the jungle. There were eight riders in our group and the grandfather asked us what we wanted for lunch. We will have “chicken” was the common request. The grandfather then took a section of steel pipe and started chasing and swatting at the chickens under the porch. We could hear the commotion as the chickens ran and squawked for about ten minutes as the grandfather chased them. The grandfather came upstairs empty handed and announced “No chicken today, would you like fish?”. We said “Okay we will have fish.” The grandfather then went and got his fishing pole and went down to the river to start catching fish.

During this long wait for lunch we were entertained by a charming little girl named Aracely. She brought us oranges from the tree, then she sat on our bikes and had her photos taken with the group. When our assortment of fish were finally cooked, we finished our lunch. As we were getting ready to leave the mother and grandfather asked if we could take Aracely with us because they couldn’t afford to take care of her. We couldn’t just take Aracely home but we said we would keep in touch with them. A few months later the mother wrote me a letter that she had moved to Lima to clean houses and Aracely was living at the Chosica Girl’s Home. For the past five years we have stayed in touch with Aracely and her mother. They have traveled with us each year on tours across Peru. Aracely has continued to learn more English and she is a helpful guide for our tours. Aracely is now one of the top students in her school and her favorite subjects are math and science. During her school’s recent talent contest she was voted “Miss Chosica”.

In Lima we visited her mother’s “house” located on the flat cement roof of a store front building. Her house was constructed of six pieces of plywood to make a box big enough to hold a bed, table and propane stove. One of her few possessions on the table was a thick photo album from our tours together. Aracely would like to live with her mother again someday but for now the Chosica Girl’s Home is a safer and better environment for her to live. That is why we continue to support the Chosica Girl’s Home.

This is her story from her diary....

My Infancy in Yurinaki
a dairy by Aracely

Hello friends, my name is Aracely and I was born in Yurinaki the 27 April, 1999 in Peru. At the present I am 11 years old, and live in the house “Home of Gina”. (In the town of Chosica 40 miles from Lima.)

My first seven years I lived in Yurinaki (located 200 miles over the Andes Mountains in the jungle). What I remember of that place is that was very green and with plenty of animals, like the zamaño that is a type of wild hog, also there were wild animals but they were far from my house.

In Yurinaki my house was made of wood and brick next to the river. I there lived with my grandfather, my uncle, my mom, my brother. Of my father I never knew nothing. My mom spoke me of him, but I do not remember him.

In Yurinaki my mother would awake me at 6 o'clock AM for breakfast. It was a very simple breakfast of only bread and oats. To be able to feed us my mom sold food in a restaurant and I helped her after school. I walked to school because it was very close across the river bridge.

My Godfather
I first met my Godfather Mr. Lon when his friends rode their bicycles to Yurinaki from Lima. They stopped for lunch at our restaurant where my mom sold food. My memory is that I gave him three oranges. I noted that he was a good person. He asked my name and my address. We wrote letters and I was surprised since from time to time he sent me things like knives for our restaurant. I never imagined that that man to who I only had offered oranges in the future would support me so much. I thought that my Godfather was a good person, but never I imagined that he was going to take me to so many places.

How I Arrived in Lima
When I lived in Yurinaki I had heard of Lima. This is the city of the capital and the people were going there to make a better future. I did not intend to go there and I never imagined that we would be able to move to Lima.

When I was 6 years old, my mom found some work in Lima at the house of a family. She went to Lima with my brother in January. I remained with my grandfather and my uncle, but I missed a lot my mom and my brother. Then my mom returned in April and she asked me if he wanted to go to Lima with them. I told her yes because I wanted to be with them.

My Arrival to the Home of Gina
I arrived at Lima at the age of 7. My mom had to work and she could not leave my brother and me alone. She was in search of a home for girls so that they take care of me. That was how I arrived at the Home of Christ, today called Home of Gina. I remember that the first day I felt fear because I was not going to be with my mom. I thought that I was never was going to see see her again. Then I calmed down upon knowing that my mom was going to be able to visit me.

My Days in Home of Gina
The Home of Gina is as my house. That place where they received me with the open arms and that up to now they worry about my welfare.

In the Home of Gina I like to be with my other companions. When a new girl arrives I try to play with them so that they do not they sit down sad.

In my spare time I like to play and to read. A book that I liked a lot was "Blood of Champions". I felt quite sure to know that my friends in the United States would help me and that they had not forgot me.

My Trips
Knowing my friends in the United States it has been marvelous because never I thought I would be able to travel to so many places.

First we returned back to the jungle to the places of Yurinaki, Pichanaki, Satipo and Iquitos. These are all places of the forest which is a quite large place. I remember that when I travel I am very happy to know that my country is large and marvelous. It is incredible the quantity of beautiful places that Peru has and that many people of the world come to visit.

In my last trip I went to Nasca the see the Nasca lines! We wanted to rent the small airplane but we could not rent the light aircraft because the only two airplanes that day were busy. We were able to view the lines from a tower and they are incredible. Then we went to see the museum of María Reiche, a German woman that dedicated their life to the study of these lines.

In the afternoon we started our long taxi drive to Cusco (two days, 400 miles). We slept in the town of Puquio where their streams fell in waterfalls. This was a very pretty place also.

The next day passes to the town of Abancay, where we saw several estates and trees. We stopped there to have some lunch. I would have liked to visited longer but we needed to keep traveling to our destination of Cusco.

Upon arriving at Cusco at first I felt a little fear because we could not locate our friend Clara. We needed to ask the friends of Clara in the streets. There were many tourists and finally we locate Clara and I calmed down. Cusco is a marvelous place, but is different when you see it in person. In school I had learned much data on Cusco, but nothing of compares to the fact of being there to enjoy it.

The next day we went on the train to Machu Picchu. Upon being there I could not believe the contrast to my home in Yurinaki. My jungle home is a simple place. Now to see this marvelous place I never believed that I would go to a place like this. It was very surprising there when I saw the houses of stone where the Incas did the great work. I feel happiness and pride that Machu Picchu is chosen as a world wonder.

My Dreams
In the future I would like to be tour guide, since I like the languages, the history and the trips. I dream that with the first money that I would make is to help the Home of Gina, because that was the first place where they received me. It would hope that the other girls that enter should reach their dreams as I.

I would like to travel to other Peru cities like Arequipa and Lambayeque, etc. It is important to know other places because thus I can learn more about each place and be able to be the best guide of tourists!! My gratitude's.

I want to thank all the people that made possible my trips. I tell them thank you for everything that they do for me. It is a little difficult for me to understand why the people of another country have so much appreciation for me. I thank the day that my friends first found me in Yurinaki.

Thus also I give thanks to the Home of Gina by receiving me. They are my family and never I will forget them.

Many Thanks.


Job Opportunity

Travel Story by Lon

I was driving through Mississippi scouting Southern PAC Tour routes for next September.

I stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast. The restaurant was empty except for two waitresses and the cook behind the counter waiting for customers. I took a seat at the booth near the grill and looked at the menu which doubled as a placemat.

After a minute the waitress asked me what I wanted. I always get the All American Combo which includes a waffle, 2 eggs, 2 sausage patties, hash browns and 2 pieces of toast with jelly for $6.39. Coffee is $1.30 extra. I calculated with tax the total was a little over $8.00 and that still left a nice tip for the waitress out of a $10 bill.

I wasn't real hungry so I told the waitress I only wanted the waffle and 2 eggs and 2 sausage and coffee. She could hold the hash browns and the 2 pieces of toast. I asked if I wasn't getting the hash browns and toast if I could add a teaspoon of pecans on the waffle. The waitress said "No problem. I will recalculate your order without the extra items"

While I was waiting I noticed an employment application in a dispenser near the counter. I took a copy and checked out the four simple questions.

1. Are you over 16 years old?

2. Do you have reliable transportation?

3. Have you worked at Waffle House before?

4. List all criminal convictions on the lines below.

I was wondering what kind of people apply to work at Waffle House. I was about to find out.

My breakfast came and I ate everything. The eggs and waffle and sausage were perfect. Even the coffee was good. When I was done the waitress brought my ticket. The total was $10.41 including tax. I double checked the placemat menu for the All American Combo price and it should have been about $8.00.

So I asked the waitress why my breakfast increased over $2.00 when I ordered less food. She said what I ordered individually added up to $10.41. If I had ordered the All American Combo the total of all the items together cost less. This is what happen next.....

LON: Did you ever see the movie "Five Easy Pieces" when Jack Nickolson tried to order wheat toast at a restaurant?

Waitress: Who is Jack Nickolson?

LON: Never mind. Just charge me for the complete All American Combo and I will pay for the items I didn't get.

Waitress: You can't do that because I can only charge you for the items you received....and you ordered pecans in your waffle. Pecans are 45 cents more. If I add up all the items you received the total is $10.41.

(Visions of Jack Nickelson flashed in my mind again as I scratched my head at her logic. Maybe I was missing something so I tried to talk slow and reconsider what I was asking)

LON: Are the Combos pre made? Did I mess up the cook buy NOT having him make something?

Waitress: No. All the orders are cooked fresh.

LON: So I actually saved the cook work and saved food by not ordering hash browns and toast?

Waitress: That's right

LON: Okay. Can I pay $6.39 for the All American Combo, plus $1.30 for coffee, plus 45 cents extra for pecans? That's about $8.60 with tax and you will still have a some extra left over for a tip. (As I held up my $10 bill.)

Waitress: I am sorry. I have to charge you for the food you received.

LON: You mean I should have ordered the Combo and left the hash browns and toast on my plate?

Waitress: Yes. That's right. On the menu 2 eggs are $2.99 and the pecan waffle and sausage are $5.59 and the coffee is $1.30. Your total is $9.88 and with tax is $10.41. I have to charge you for what you ordered. Do you want to talk to the manager?

(The manager is the cook who was still standing next to the grill in the empty restaurant waiting for something to do)

He had heard most of our discussion that had happened up to that point. The manager looked at me like I was a jerk asking for a deal.

Manager: So this is what you want to do. You only want to pay for the Combo even though you didn't get the hash browns and toast?

LON: Yes. Is that okay?

Manager: You didn't get the COMBO then. You got eggs, a waffle, sausage and coffee and that cost more than a COMBO.

(I could see this discussion was going in circles and my logic wasn't making any sense to the manager or the waitress.

Manager: Okay then. If that is what you want. (He said with a glare)

I gave him the $10 bill and said "keep the change".

I don't think I would ever pass the employment application test for Waffle House.