Bike BikeAbout Trip Log: November 20, 1997 topics: day in the life of an IJ; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: November 20, 1997

Warning: This is not a normal dispatch. It makes no mention of any cultural, historical, or political data, and it doesn't tell you anything about what we really did today. It is simply to allow you, our faithful readers, an opportunity to experience the way that dispatches are hatched — and YOU'RE the lucky IJ (Internet Jockey) to create it! Are you ready, or what?

Breakfast: You wander toward a small store a few doors down from the hotel, hoping for a variation on the same old bakery theme. Alas, the selection is the same as usual: plain bread, warm processed cheese, too-sweet pastries, water, and pop. Blah . . . You scavenge for what might satisfy your appetite, though certainly not your taste buds. Ah well. There's always lunch.

Lunch: Throughout your meanderings today, you barely had a minute to acknowledge your poor, neglected stomach. You see all sorts of ready-to-eat delicacies along the souks and streets, but amidst your mad-dash errands, you barely grab enough to call a lunch. Hmm! It's hard to beat the fantastic food we've had the past week, so it all works out in the end. Maybe today you should just focus on the Meal of Your Dreams (see our Food of the Day).

Dinner: After the visit/presentation tonight, you're not the only tired and cranky IJ. Don't even stop to think that tomorrow is another biking day. All the restaurants that have been calling your name throughout the day have closed, or their menus have dried up and there's only a little of this or that available. As usual, the BikeAbout team collectively orders one of anything and everything suitable to serve, and you'll get whatever looks edible. Better luck tomorrow.

Food of the Day: Meal of Your Dreams!

There's an old saying about wanting what you've got only once you've lost it (or something like that). Now you know it's true. So far during our IJ careers here in the Mediterranean, there has always a food we crave that is totally unavailable. These days, Corinne would do anything for her friend Debi's home-made blueberry pancakes. Ethan longs for the assortment of great, cheap Chinese food dishes only to be found on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Padraic's heart has been set on a good Mexican meal since we don't know how long. And Anthony has to put the Thanksgiving dinner he's missing out of his mind to stave off a crying spell. Even andrEa is not able to fulfill her dreams of (mixed grains) muesli cereal . . . Mmmmmm. And you? What's your fantasy Food of the Day?

Word of the Day: SPONSORSHIP

Sponsorship is a word to learn and love. Without the grace and support of our partners, BikeAbout would never have happened at all and wouldn't go on after the holiday break. As always, we are grateful to our current and past (and hopefully future) sponsors for all their support.

Our additional sponsorship categories available following the break include:

  • computer materials, maintenance, and support
  • video materials, maintenance, and support
  • photographic materials, maintenance, and support
  • bike clothes — warm winter and rainy season gear
  • bike clothes — general
  • bike lights and computer

    For specifics, see the inventory list, our Tech Fact of the Day.

    Person of the Day: YOU, the Honorary IJ!

    You should be VERY proud of yourself, IJ, for making it this far today! Not everyone chooses an adventurous life of hardship and toil, with no days off, unending deadlines, and the constant threat of food poisoning. The break-neck travel schedule we have and many mishaps that occur daily leave you pretty well exhausted most of the time. Not to mention the biking. click to view a photograph There's also the frustration of knowing that all your hard work thus far could be for naught if the whole BikeAbout team is not able to continue past Israel because of a lack of funding and support (see our Word of the Day and Tech Fact of the Day). Regardless, you find the energy every day to provide the world with useful and interesting details on your journey through the Mediterranean, while keeping a pleasant attitude about it. You GO, IJ!

    Place of the Day: Local Bureaucratic House of Horror

    While Padraic, Anthony, and andrEa go to the tourist office, you and Ethan and Corinne head to the government office building to try to convince someone we are safe to talk to school children. After you have been instructed that it's too far to walk to the Education Office, you get a maniac taxi driver (who charges too much!) to get you there. Why not take your bike, you ask? Well, as a safety precautions, it's just better locked to the hotel room balcony than on the street. When the taxi driver let's you out, he explains you can find it "no problem" with your map.

    The tourist map includes only main roads and the street you are looking for would probably be described as an alley. The first people from whom you ask directions give long explanations with plenty of details: "Walk 50 steps, turn 120 degrees to the west, look left, and then put the clock tower on your right-hand side . . . " But after failing to correctly follow those directions, you rely on others, who simply smile and say, "Ah yes, just up the street, 50 meters." Obviously they just don't want to be the ones to break the bad news to you. If they weren't trying to be nice, they would say, "You are so lost and so far away from the street you are looking for that you would need a helicopter to get there from here." click to view a photograph

    You refuse to give up and march on, knowing that it has to be around here somewhere. Finally, someone takes you by the hand and walks you straight to the building you are looking for, talks to the guard, brings you upstairs, introduces you to a secretary in the Education Department, and waves goodbye. He leaves too fast for you to take a picture of him and make him your person of the day. No worries — you meet so many amazing people each day it shouldn't be a problem.

    Now your adventure begins. The person you need to speak to has left for the week, her superior just went into a meeting, and the alternative department for handling these things was just downsized. That's OK, you say, you'll wait. And wait you do. Five hours, four smiling bureaucrats, three explanations of BikeAbout, and two cups of office coffee later, you finally succeed in getting the necessary approval. Next, you visit three additional offices to get a printed permission on paper, get that stamped, and the paper itself gets laminated. Can we go now?

    Tech Fact of the Day: INVENTORY

    Here's a look at what our specific needs are following the break:

  • additional memory for our four Compaq computers — all should have 32 MB RAM
  • more Zip discs
  • a reserve power pack for our Zip drive
  • winter gear:
    arm warmers, leg warmers
    fleece sweaters/jackets
    long bike tights
    rain gear — Gore-tex jackets, rain pants
    long-fingered gloves
    short-fingered gloves
    winter hats
  • general gear:
    bike underwear for women
    sports bras
    bike shoes

    Group Dispatch, November 20

    picture of Corinne

    Let's pretend — for just one minute — that YOU could be an IJ for a day. Just think about it a little: What does a hard working IJ go through to bring you a dispatch each day? Go ahead, put yourself in our shoes for just a moment. No, really, close your eyes and picture pedals and panniers. Why? Because this is MY dispatch, and I say TODAY YOU ARE an IJ! So deal with it!

    It's like this:

    Gooooooooooooooooood MORNING IJs! Wake up, wake up, wake up — with a smile . . . THAT'S more like it! Oops, don't roll over onto your Compaq laptop, dear; yes, you fell asleep with it in bed again last night. Now, let's get up and s-t-r-e-t-c-h! Oh all right, you might be a little tired, sore, or disoriented, but so are the rest of us, so you'd better get used to it and quit your whining! Get ready for another day of BikeAbout, where every day is an adventure!

    The muezzins in their minarets click to view a photograph are wailing the morning prayers. ausio clip They have been since before dawn. (Ahem.) How did you sleep through it? Oh, it must have been because of all that (FABULOUS!) biking yesterday (what a view!), not to mention the stressful and constant threat of roadside dogs and children chasing you. Let's see . . . what city is it that we just came from? Anthony got the GPS reading click to view a photograph just before we set off with the sunrise on the Sea . . . we met those lovely little school kids at the fork in the road click to view a photograph . . . and the next thing we knew, we arrived! You plugged in your computer before even taking off your bike gloves or washing your face . . . but WHERE were we yesterday? Uh oh, I can't remember either. We go through so many cities (not to mention countries) so fast, it's like a whirlwind! No worries — it'll be our little secret, just like I won't tell anyone you didn't know that dates grew on palm trees. Shhh . . . ;) ;)

    So, let's get this day started already! Who knows how much there is to learn about the culture and politics of this new place? You've learned so much so far, and seen SUCH great sites! click to view a photograph click to view a photograph click to view a photograph And there's morning motivation too! Down the hall, an ice-cold shower awaits you and your checkerboard tan lines. Then it'll be time to feed that rumble in your tummy. Or maybe that's the rumble in andrEa's tummy? click to view a photograph Better grab some grub for her too — and a coffee to go if you can find it. Since so far these some of these countries aren't big on breakfast click to view a photograph and it could be slim pickings. This isn't exactly the land of Wally's 24-Hour Diner and Pancake House.

    Since, it's pretty early, maybe you can explore the town a little; it's nice to have a few moments to yourself every once in a — oh, wait, no. Forget it. You still have goo-gobs of photos to download from your Casio digital camera to accompany the dispatch from yesterday, which still isn't finished. So THAT'S why you woke up curled up with your laptop! We thought maybe you were just busy typing e-mails home again. (It's so sweet of you to keep up the correspondence with your family, even given the BUSY schedule of an IJ. Of course, you ARE behind on your postcards to your grandparents — tsk tsk.) Now if you can just remember the opening hours for today's historical sites and monuments — and where's the tourist brochure for those ruins . . . ?

    But first we need some clean clothes to wear. Um . . . well, that could be interesting. None of your clothes are what anyone could really describe as "clean" per se, but you did rinse out a few items with a bar of soap last night. Where did they go? Oh yeah, you hung them on the balcony . . . but now they're gone! That little fishing-line-and-bungie-cord trick Ethan taught you sure will come in handy now! You laughed then, but all his years of bike touring experience can sure help out.

    Hey, IJ, we know you want to explore this lovely town we've just stepped out into, but your health is important. That little tickle in your throat could lead to a full-fledged cold if you don't get some vitamin C. Let's pop into this pharmacy. It'll only take a minute (although that's what you said at the post office last week . . . and that took two hours). You tell the clerk that you need vitamin C, and sniff and cough and clear your throat to indicate an oncoming cold or flu. The clerk just smiles and says something totally unintelligible. Hmm . . .

    Unless you are andrEa, you have an American accent at your disadvantage, so you try again, saying "Vitamin C, please," very clearly, even with a slight British accent. The clerk doesn't move, so you give it another go with a French, then German accent. Nope. You rack your brain for what might be the Arabic word for "vitamin" and wonder why we never made that the word of the day. As the tickle in your throat becomes a severe scratching and you become convinced this cold will turn into the flu, then pneumonia, and you'll have to bow out of BikeAbout all together, the tears of frustration begin to well in your eyes. Just then, the clerk ducks behind the counter and produces a bottle of . . . vitamin C! Hey, was that her idea of fun . . . ?

    Okay, now we're REALLY going to get something accomplished today, with or without Corinne sticking the video camera in our faces (blasted thing). click to view a photograph By now we've come to understand so much more about the entire Mediterranean, but there's much more out there! Our initial stops are the tourist office and the local Education Department office. You ask the hotel clerk how to get there; the directions seem pretty simple. However, you are slowly but surely learning that very little of what happens in your daily life can be classified as simple (see the Place of the Day). Nevertheless, we persevere.

    Thoroughly exhausted from THAT experience (phew! just be glad it's over), you look at your watch and realize lunchtime is upon us. However, you can't really stop to eat now if you want to visit all the exciting historical places here, now can you? Don't worry, we'll find something on the way (see lunch). Promise.

    So, we've arrived at the monument that our Lonely Planet guidebook assures us is enlightening and very important for any visitor trying to understand the culture. Let's do it! And this gentleman has offered to give us a guided tour, in ENGLISH to boot — wow, what a treat! Or not . . . Sometimes a blessing in disguise is really just a fancy curse. This tour guide NEVER stops talking, your feet are sore (mine too), and you promised the others to meet them for an early dinner. Now what? While the complete working history of this place may be fascinating to the guide, he's started repeating himself. How can we politely get him to stop? Of course andrEa is having a fine time wandering away click to view a photograph taking muchos photos. click to view a photograph Oh, quick, get a photo of that neat looking bug for Mr. Scott's class in Ohio! click to view a photograph Ooh, hey, that one too! click to view a photograph They like getting bugs!

    Barely escaping death by what Padraic calls "brain node overload" at the monument, you return to the hotel from your "dispatch data-finding mission" with a few minutes to spare. "Great!" you think. "I'll have time to wash up, jot a few notes about my day, and maybe even read the paper!" However, when you arrive, you see that Anthony has monopolized the newspaper click to view a photograph — the same one we've all been reading for the past week because they can be so hard to find — and your laptop's battery is dead. Naturally, the outlet in your room doesn't work, and in the other room Corinne is using all three ports on the multi-plug (for the Zip drive, a laptop, and the video camera), downloading still images for HER dispatch! What's an IJ to do? Take a NAP! Yea!

    Now, obviously you haven't learned your lesson about simplicity in life yet? Did you really think that you could get a little nap in before dinner? If you answered yes, we have some advice for you: Things click to view a photograph are rarely what click to view a photograph they seem. click to view a photograph Ethan bursts through the door just as your head hits the pillow, and insists that everyone help him give a presentation at a youth club down the street. He was just passing by on the way from the only known working telephone booth in town, where he unsuccessfully tried to manage an Internet connection. It's been four days since we've found anyone to cooperate with our need for a telephone line and the situation is getting desperate.

    Trying to salvage what has turned into a pretty unproductive day, you agree to join him in the presentation at the youth center. In fact, you can't wait, since you fondly remember meeting our many and varied other young friends throughout the tour . . . click to view a photograph click to view a photograph click to view a photograph

    Before leaving the hotel, you check your look in the mirror, because you want to represent BikeAbout in its best light. click to view a photograph Eek-Gad! When's the last time you had a haircut!?! (Hint: Unless you're Anthony, it's been quite some time.) We'll have to put that on the agenda for the VERY near future. You could jeopardize the whole BikeAbout reputation going out looking so scruffy! On the way to the youth center, you encounter a rare but relaxing phenomenon: a clear, early-evening sunset. click to view a photograph It makes you think that maybe today was worth it after all. Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective. And it makes YOU Person of the Day!

    Following the presentation, it's food and haircut time. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph Don't worry, you're an IJ, so you can pack all SORTS of activities into one evening. So let's eat (see dinner).

    Once you get back to the hotel, it's group brainstorm time! click to view a photograph The fact of the matter is this: BikeAbout is in trouble! We are in need of more money, materials, and other support to complete the remaining two thirds of the Mediterranean journey (see the Word of the Day).

    In Febraury, once we have visited Syria and as we make our way up through Turkey, the weather will turn decidedly COLD for a few months. Unfortunately, some members of the BikeAbout team are under-prepared. We will need extra-warm biking clothes, including warm bike gloves, tights, jackets, and extra socks for the rainy season. Similarly, the trailers, laptops, bikes, and the video camera could use some work and replacement parts. We're hoping to get all these items donated from bike, computer, and video accessory companies, but it's a pretty time-consuming task finding donors, and you've already seen what we go through in a single day!

    Ignoring our beckoning beds, we address these concerns. The boys focus on the inventory situation, which just happens to be our Tech Fact of the Day. This is a list of everything we'll be needing once we're back from the holiday break. Meanwhile, the gals set their minds to the sponsorship tasks at hand, our beloved Word of the Day. Now that you are an IJ too, you have a vested interest in the continuation of BikeAbout–the Mediterranean. So, where do you want to get involved?

    Note: The funky thing about today's dispatch is that it is too close to home. Today the BikeAbouters all ran around Cairo attempting to conquer and capture as much knowledge as possible, but mostly we got the bureaucratic shuffle, waited around, got lost, were "rugged" by wayward taxi drivers, went hungry, and got further behind on our dispatches.

    We also racked our brains for how BikeAbout can continue bringing you educational Internet cycling adventures after the holiday break in January. If you can help us out, please do so!

    Tomorrow we visit the Pyramids at Giza, so expect that exciting report soon!

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    Questions? Ask Corinne Go To Corinne's Page!

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