I got to Varadero and I refilled the trailer with gloves, catcher's equipment, soccer and baseballs. I was staying in a Casa that was right beside a dance party that was taking part in the streets..I found myself right in the mix, and roaming around in an old Chevrolet from one place to another. I don't know what's more exhausting biking for ten hours or trying to salsa with the Cubans...I feel like I was more bound to go down with an injury from dancing given some of the maneuvers I was being taught. I woke up in the morning and made my pursuit towards a small town called Colon. I went through a town called Cardenas, and the kids came in hot!! The street tribal call was in full effect, but I managed to get some order. I was cycling against the sunset, and I ended up 20 km short of my destination. I found a bus stop bench to crash for the night, until a gentlemen by the name of Isnel brought me into his home. They made me an unreal dinner, and I spent a few hours learning Spanish together.
Going through the central parts of Cuba they are a few industries present, and I often saw kids playing along side of the highway finding creative ways to keep themselves entertained. I gave away a set of catcher's equipment to a young boy who couldn't believe what he was receiving, thanks to the donation of my friend Jeremy Nichols.
I cycled down to Cienfuegos, and then I made a push through the mountains to Trinidad which was 90 km of cycling. When I came down from the mountains I was blessed with lush scenery and beautiful ocean views. I made my way into this historical city, and I just loved the casual rhythm that was on the streets..When I left Trinidad I had a nice warm-up of a 30 km climb to wake me up in the morning. The views were stunning, and I made it to the top of a place called "Topes de Collantes." I cycled 85 km through tough terrain to make it to Santa Clara, and this part of the tour I gave out all the rest of the donations.
Yesterday I cycled back into Varadero and what an experience it was in such a short period of time. Thank you to the people of Cuba for opening their homes, showing their hospitality, leading me in the right direction, and for the countless Spanish and salsa lessons....This organization has successfully cycled through four countries giving out sporting equipment over a distance of 10 000 km. Chasing sunsets, terrible tan lines, cycling to the unknown and going at a pace that allows you to understand the beauty that surrounds you is my kind of adventure...Much love goes to the staff and students of Cedar middle school for your support..I have amazing students who are all unique and special..Thank you to Adam Jensen, friends and family for having such a wonderful fundraiser to make this ride possible, and everyone who believes in this cause. The trail of smiles you brought to everyone I met was very special. The power of play has brought us all so many fond memories, and it's nice to provide others with a beginning to experience the wonders of this simple gift. Any equipment that you have that is collecting dust please send them my way...Muchas Gracias from all the wonderful people who received donations along the way.
Until next time,
Havana was a sight to see...The smell of cigars, kids playing soccer in the streets, and the tourists train that runs through the square. I left las mamas early with the trailer loaded as I cycled into the country side in pursuit of Matanza. I made a couple stops at schools, but establishments in Cuba do not accept donations unless you go through the municipality. I made the mistake of throwing soccer balls over a fence at a high school, and the chaos inside the school grounds got out of hand. The director of the school said one word "policia" and I knew that was my cue to leave...I high tailed out of there, but had a few students in pursuit of a donation riding double on a bicycle. They went after me for few kilometers and I gave them a soccer ball for their valiant effort.
Che Guevara is idealized throughout the country. Every morning the students make a pledge to be like "Che" and it's incredible to see how much influence and change one person can instill. Revolution signs from the early 60's are still present throughout the country which celebrates the victory over capitalism and exploitation of the Cuban people. Throughout my tour I cycled through remote parts where food and water are sparse. I often had people asking for my clothes because goods and necessities are hard to obtain. In Cuba there are more horses than cars...You can buy your own caballo (horse) for 20 pesos. I was thinking of trading the bike straight up...
The kids in Cuba are all about baseball...There are many professional teams throughout the country, and I met many teams of all ages throughout my tour. As I cycled through the country side of Matanza, many people were playing soccer with deflated balls, and playing baseball with sticks and stones. It's a nice feeling to be able to shout out "amigos" and provide them with a gift that will hopefully last for a long period of time. I met a great little league team and everyone received a toothbrush and toothpaste to keep those teeth looking beautiful!
I reached Matanza after 110 km of cycling and I woke up the next morning to return to Varadero to refill the trailer. It was suppose to be a light riding day which turned into 100 km ride because I took the scenic route..and I was cycling into the wind which was putting the legs to the test...However, cycling is the best way to explore a country. Everything slows down to a pace to witness how the people live their lives, and you make spontaneous interactions. There are no post services in Cuba, and if a message wants to get delivered it's received on a personal note. We are losing our ability to have natural encounters and it was refreshing to have personal interactions amongst the people...
Hola from Havana!! What an amazing country and my tour has only begun! The fourth annual charity ride began in Varadero. It took some time to get through customs given all the equipment and goods that entered, but after two hours of questioning I was set free with no problems. When you step into Cuba you feel you just came out of a time machine....Vintage cars from the 50's, old bicycles, and 80's music blasting...
Imports that arrive in Cuba are not affordable for your average citizen. Any equipment or goods brought here is a blessing to the people and I can't tell you how much excitement I am witnessing from the donations that were given...The average salary for a citizen of Cuba is 20 pesos per month which is equivalent to 15 dollars. The trailer consists of cleats, bats, gloves, soccer and baseballs, and helmets. Also, I have been handing out tons of toothpaste and tooth brushes thanks to the lovely Lisa Perejma and her dental office.
I have been speaking a mix of French and Spanish to survive...Havana is a special place with an energy that doesn't stop...I met a guy by the name of Louis who is a cigar dealer on the streets and my guy set me up with a baseball dealer in Havana to refill the trailer for my next push. I am loving the music that is here in Havana..I played flamenco last night at a cafe with a Cuban band which was a blast. The rhythm is alive in the streets from dusk till dawn. The city is ran by back alley discussions, and the local merchants. This won't be the last time I make a visit to Havana...
It's been mucho calor here in Cuba and it's been a lot of fun riding through different towns. My support team has consisted of locals providing cheese and bananas along the way to refuel...I have been ripped off due to my own ignorance and paid almost a month's salary for 10 small bananas...but I have to tell you those bananas were phenomenal...and I have been learning so much about this country in the few days I have been here. The revolution kept all their traditions in place, and the Cubans live in a very sustainable way. They have limited access to materials to replace or fix infrastructure. I admire their ability to survive, re-use, and find a way regardless of the challenges. It's refreshing being down here, and going back to a simple lifestyle
This will probably the only time I will be able to write because wifi is only available in Havana. I will be making my way south in very remote parts, and I am looking forward to meeting more wonderful people along the way. I stayed with a couple of beautiful mamas in Havana who have treated me as their own. I am loving life down here and I must say thank you to everyone who made this possible. It's a very special way to see a country and make connections with the people...Much love goes out to everyone, and I will make sure every donation is delivered.
Adios from Havana.