Introduction: La Vuelta Puerto Rico // Impact Adventure
✨💕I am in Puerto Rico from Feb 20, 2018-Mar 20, 2018 doing a joint impact + adventure project:
1) THE ADVENTURE: I am attempting to circumnavigate the island on as much coastline as I can string together by fat bike and packraft, solo and self-supported, in an effort to document the recovery of Puerto Rico six months post Hurricane Maria and raise awareness of the support still needed here.
2) MAKING AN IMPACT: I am spending some time with my friend Nelfer who lives in Isabela helping with the relief efforts he has been spearheading since the Hurricane Maria disaster in August.
🌀 If you feel inspired to support us in helping the people of Puerto Rico via a financial gift, you can donate to my GoFundMe account:
Thank you!! Follow me on Instagram @elizasampey for frequent updates. ✨💕
There are few things more discombobulating than trying to explain to a tall, angry Chilean woman that I have traveled on airplanes, her airline actually, all around Latin America with my bike and every single time I pack it the same way: by wrapping the delicate carbon tubing and precariously hanging pieces in my clothing, both as a way to protect my bike and to prevent having to carry multiple pieces of luggage when one of them is awkwardly large. Telling her this, and having her explain to me in a very stern tone that I had been breaking the rules all along and that the only thing allowed in a bicycle box is the bicycle itself wrapped in designated packing materials.
She chided the Denver airline employees for letting me through in the first place, as now I was halfway through my trip. She was determined not to let me go any farther. While my eyes bulged from my head in disbelief, I watched helplessly as she ripped my precious bikepacking bags apart, Ziploc bags filled with tiny priceless things such as chain links, lube and derailleur hanger flying everywhere.
Only minutes earlier I had been sitting peacefully at my gate when two angry looking women from the airline had accosted me, telling me they had been looking for me for 30 min (i had been at the gate at least that long) and told me my bicycle was illegally packed and that it had not been allowed on the plane. I was about to fly to Puerto Rico and my bike would stay in ft Lauderdale.
After they hauled me to ticketing and presented me to the angry Chilean who told me everything but the bicycle itself has to be in my "other suitcase," I tried to explain to her that I had no other suitcase, that I was touring around Puerto Rico on my bicycle and everything inside this box was going on the bike. She was unrelenting. Another airline employee was sympathetic to my plight and produced another box that I could put my offending items in.
She commanded me to fork over $500 for the bike and the extra bag for all the legs of my flight which had apparently been ticketed separately, unknown to me (never buy a ticket through kiwi.com). She then informed me my flight boarded in 20 minutes and I still had to go back through security. Taking a deep breath and swallowing my indignance I forked over my bank card, said a little prayer that my now completely unprotected brand new carbon Fatback Corvus FLT would come out unscathed, and ran for the line.
Just to add insult to injury, in my rush to get back through security my beloved Surface Pro supertablet, a gift from my brother, was left in the security bin as I ran for my plane. I realized it last minute, and they told me I had 10 min before the doors closed to run back for it, but it was too late. The bin had been cycled back and my computer was nowhere to be seen. Shit.
(Therefore, I am now exclusively a phone blogger. Please excuse any typos or weird sounding paragraphs or incorrect punctuation or run on sentences. 😉)
After my airport mishaps, I tried to fight off the feeling that somehow I wasn't supposed to be going to Puerto Rico. This day had been anything but smooth sailing. However, my luck was about to turn.
I was fortunate enough to remember that Warmshowers existed, the couchsurfing for bike tourers. Last minute I contacted a fellow cyclist named Stephen who lives right near the airport. He was happy to pick me up, house me for the night, let me put my bike together at his house and store my box(es) there. Stephen owns a bar in SJ and we rode over and had a couple beers and delicious food. I went home early, played my ukulele on his patio as the rain poured down outside. All the dramas of the day melted away as I enjoyed the relaxing tone of the moment. It was time for my life to slow waaaaay down.