A New Chapter

I’m stoked about my grad school adventures at SIO and I’ll occasionally post about them over at saltyscientist.tumblr.com, but I’ve decided to add yet another “first” to this first year of grad school: I want to train for a sprint triathlon.

There are many reasons why I should NOT take on this challenge:

  1. I’m a full-time grad student
  2. I am NOT a big fan of running (shudder)
  3. I haven’t swum seriously in years
  4. I’m definitely out of shape compared to B&B (which might be from classes/work, or just might have something to do with the fact that there’s beer at every grad social event…)
  5. I’m recovering from a minor injury in December (and a skiing knee injury from 08)

well, now that I’ve put those lovely excuses out there, it’s time to counter them. Here’s what I’ve got:

  1. Why not?
  2. It would be fun
  3. It would be awesome
  4. I can ride my bike with no handlebars, no handlebars, no handlebars…*

*if it’s not uphill, windy, or imperative that I get somewhere quickly

Since, clearly, the pros outweigh the cons, here goes! It promises to be quite an adventure –Come along, if you’d like.

Goal: Solana Beach Sprint Triathlon: July 24th

Back-up Goals: Surf Town Sprint Triathlon: August 21st

Pacific Grove Sprint Triathlon: Sept 11th


Beyond Bike and Build (Written April 2010)

Hi Everyone!

I’ve gotten a few requests to finish off the trip blog and tell you what I’m up to now. So here goes.

The end of the trip was a blast- both in terms of fun, and in terms of speed. It felt like those last couple weeks just flew by (and by flew, I mean that I spent many many hours a day on a bike saddle, but now they seem like just a moment).

So bike and build was amazing, and running into the pacific ocean was … indescribable. There are a few youtube videos of our trip made by one of our awesome riders, Brad Milison. You can watch them at http://www.youtube.com/user/b2sb09!

After bike and build, I moved home to San Diego to save money while I worked a little, volunteered at the Birch Aquarium, and applied to graduate schools. It definitely took a little while to adjust to life after the trip. My body still wanted to bike many hours a day and eat everything in sight, but San Diego is not really commuter bikeable (especially from where my parents live). Mostly, I took the year off from school to try and figure out what I wanted to do in life. I know, it’s not really something you can solve overnight, nor something you can solve by sitting around thinking about it. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t game to try. I got far enough to realize these things in life:

1) I’ d like to make a difference somewhere. (doesn’t everyone, to some degree?) Bike and Build showed me how much I love working to solve a problem that plagues our country.

2) I need (and want to get) a PhD. I love learning about biology, I love teaching biology, I love writing, thinking, breathing biology. Yes, I’m a huge nerd. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than undertake my own research over the coming years. I will also need the degree if I intend to be taken seriously among the scientific or environmental community. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to solve problems if you aren’t taken seriously.

That logic led me to write my statement of purpose for graduate school. Needless to say, those goals are far too broad- I needed to narrow down what I wanted to do. I started out with an interest in neuroscience and helped out on research projects in learning and memory, before undertaking my own project on Cone Snail neurotoxins. However, along the way, I took courses at Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey, and fell in love with marine biology. I’d always loved the ocean, but scuba diving research is an entirely different experience. After my honors thesis work, I ended up helping out on ecology projects and spending most of my Master’s year down at the marine station, including an entire summer of diving research on rockfish and kelp forest ecology.

Though I considered returning to neuroscience for my PhD, I found myself drawn back again and again to marine biology. Why? What is it that draws me to marine biology? Fun, love for the ocean, beautiful work setting, I suppose. But it is also the lack of knowledge about marine ecosystems and the need to protect their beauty from destruction by anthropogenic influences. I think I’ve found the problem I want to work on: climate change in marine systems. More specifically: ocean acidification. Basically: some of the carbon dioxide that we’re adding to the atmosphere (through burning fossil fuels, etc) is absorbed by the ocean. Although this removes some greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, this CO2 has far-reaching effects on the ocean ecosystem, especially for organisms that build skeletons and shells out of calcium carbonate, such as corals and mollusks.

So after some careful soul-searching, I’ve reached the next stage: starting my PhD in the Marine Biology/IGERT Climate Change program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography! I start in June.

..and now we’re in New Mexico!

Wow. this trip is going so fast.  Let me recap the last few states: Missouri was crazy: hilly, windy and tiresome. we did a 3-day stretch of 300 miles that wore all of us out. Then we had a few shorter days into oklahoma, where we all remembered that we could do fun things DURING the ride (stop and see the sights, take pictures, etc) because we actually had plenty of time to do the mileage! Our oklahoma hosts were wonderful, and we had some great southern cooking. The red dirt was beautiful.

On to Texas. Well, I’ve been informed by some texans that the panhandle is “different.” It was certainly a change. Though we had a good shoulder, the texas roads were the bumpiest roads and fairly unpleasant to ride on, especially considering the many cattle feed lots lining the roads. You could smell Hereford, TX (the beef capital of the world) from miles away, despite having a good wind to keep the smells to a minimum. We were in TX for three days, and had our Bike and Build Prom (with amazing thrift store outfits) in Hereford. Everyone looked amazing- please check out pictures on Larry’s or Christina’s blog- apparently they’re good at updating and uploading!

After Texas, we headed into New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment” and my favorite state (although Massachusetts is a close second because it was so beautifully green that I couldn’t help but smile and stare during the entire ride). The roads have been smooth and usually have a good shoulder, but most of all, there is just so much land out here.  So much land and not much else. Our first or second day in the state, we had a 65 mile stretch with NOTHING. no gas stations, nothing. And then we realized that was not bad at all – today we rode 80 miles on only two highways and passed only one real town. Carizozzo (where we stayed last night) had a gas station but no supermarket. Tonight we’re staying at the Pastor’s house in Socorro, in the shadow of mountains. New Mexico is gorgeous. Words can’t really describe the desolate beauty of the desert. I’ve been taking pictures that I know will never fully portray the landscape and the feeling of emptiness. We rode a few flat desert days (saw our first cacti!) and have been climbing the past few days. We’re climbing the bottom of the rockies  (i think…) and will hit our highest point tomorrow in Pie Town, NM.  Last year’s trip voted Pie Town their favorite place, so we’re all excited. I love the climbs out here- they’re usually slow climbs and you get rewarded with a full 360 degree view from the top AND usually an awesome downhill. Yesterday I hit my max speed since I got my cycling computer- 48.2 mph!

We had a day off a couple days ago in Roswell, NM. Megan’s parents and Christina’s mom took us out to eat. The first night we had awesome mexican food, and I met up with my (2nd) cousin Philip Tarpley, who happened to be roadtriping back from CA to TX! During dinner, it started rainstorming, and we got our second crazy thunderstorm of NM (The first one was a beautiful lightning show  in Portales, an amazing town that declared our day there “Bike and Build Day”). Wow, I have the hardest time summarizing- there’s just too much that happens each day.  Oh well. You can read  the B&B Boston to Santa Barbara blog for a more complete idea of the trip! Well,  I’ve  got the cold that’s been going around, so I’m off to take a nap to try and recover. We’re getting up at 4ish  tomorrow to beat the heat  (hopefully we’ll be on the road by sunrise), so naps are pretty key if we want anything near a good amount of sleep!


(written in Joplin, Missouri)

            So I think I should mention that I feel like I’m exhausted 24/7. It’s crazy how on this trip, you can be having the worst time, so tired and feeling like you have to work for every pedal stroke, and the next minute you’re on top of the world. All it takes is a funny conversation, a glorious downhill, or the sheer stupidity of an exhausted rider. I wish I’d seen when Denis thought Icy Hot was meant to soothe and thus applied it to his chaffed butt. Apparently he danced around the parking lot trying to cope! The trip has been a twisted mess of ups and downs – a confluence of the most tiring and amazing things I could have ever thought of doing. I love it. Today was an amazing day. We just finished a build day in Springfield, MO after an awful 3-day stretch. We rode over 90 miles each day, and since I rode 111 the last day (we took a few unfortunate detours when someone thought the route should be different!), I ended up riding over 300 miles in 3 days. We were in bed by 11 and up by 5am, but that’s still only 6 hours of sleep! I’m not sure why those days were particularly hard for me, but I’m still not sure how I made it through! So today seemed very short, clocking in at only 81 miles through still-hilly Missouri (we crossed the Ozarks during those long days!) When I got on the bike this morning, I remembered why I love biking and this trip. My legs were still tired (I’m not sure that will ever go away!), but I felt pretty good. Sadie and Tatiana and I took off early from lunch and ended up getting into the host site really early. It was great to have time to shower first, clean my bike, hang around, and now upload pictures and write a bit. I’m so behind in my trip journal and have no idea when I’ll have the chance to catch up.

            I was foolishly under the impression that I’d be sleeping a ton and have plenty of time this summer – oops, bad call. Oh well! We’ve got a 60-something mile day tomorrow, so I’m pretty excited about maybe getting some pictures online. We’re also playing assassins right now – every person drew another rider’s name: our “target.” To assassinate your target, all you have to do is touch them with a spoon, our plastic weapon of choice. However, if the person is holding their spoon-weapon, then they have immunity and can’t be killed. No assassinations during lights out or while we’re clipped into our bike pedals, but since we’re around each other ALL the time, I’m sure it will be an interesting battle royale. Well, I’m off to get some sleep – 11pm to 6am for the next few days, then once we hit the heat of the desert, we’ll be up real early to try and get most of our ride done before the worst heat of the day.

Bloomington, Indiana

I finally have  some time on the computer again. I’m currently in Bloomington, Indiana! We have a build day today, but the Habitat for Humanity can only use half of us at once, so I took the morning shift and have spent this afternoon exploring Kirkland street with Sadie and Tatiana. I’m now at the library, but realized I forgot my camera cord, so the picture uploading will have to wait for our day off in St. Louis.

Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were very hilly. The worst days were into State College, PA and into Johnstown, PA. THe first day was our first century ride- or close to it. I only hit 99.18 miles, but was too tired to pedal around the block to even it out! The day was so long because we spent most of the day fighting a huge headwind. We were going through ‘rolling hills’ in Amish country, but the wind was so bad that we had to pedal like crazy to maintain a 10mph speed…downhill! There was no way to gain momentum for the steep uphill after each dip, so the day seemed to drag on and on and on. I’m sad I missed Megan (one of our leaders) telling an Amish boy to check out our website at bikeandbuild.org, and then laughing histerically after realizing he didn’t have internet. I had a really good riding day that morning- one of those days where you somehow have endless energy and can push past the pain and up those hills! BUt then by the afternoon, I was so beat I thought I wasn’t going to make it up that last hill in State College.

Johnstown, PA was the hilliest day we’ve had. We hit the continental divide at ~2500 ft! Yes, i realize the rockies and sierra nevadas are much much higher, but we did spend some of the day going up a 14% grade!

We all expected it to be flat the moment we hit Ohio, but it took us until central ohio to hit flat land. The ride into Yellow Springs, OH was the best day ever – 60 flat miles, 40 of which were on a well-paved bike path. Although there were no breathtaking climbs and the sights were mostly of cropland, I still had a great day. I spent the first half with Cali and Annie, taking it easy- singing disney songs and American Pie, playing word guessing games and chatting and then the afternoon hanging with Annie, talking about biking and the trip. It felt like a rest day! I got in by 2pm and we were taken over to people’s houses for showers! The couple I showered with also gave us black cherry soda and talked with us for a while – it was wonderful! The food that night was AMAZING, full of veggies and yummy alternatives to the pasta and red sauce that we’d been subsisting on during the previous week. Everyone in the town was super nice and there were knitted cozies on many of the lamp posts and street signs. An amazing green hippie town in western ohio-who knew! Our hosts also gave us gift certificates and drove us over to Young’s Dairy for some delicious ice cream. The town also had an amazing coffee shop that reminds me of the Julian Coffee House near my camp at home. MMM.

After I thought I couldn’t get any better, we rode into Rushville Indiana, and had more amazing veggie-ful food and wonderful hosts. I have to say, people in Ohio and Indiana are so nice! Where some people in Pennsylvania honk at us and yell that bikes belong on the sidewalk (which, by the way, they don’t – that’s actually illegal in many places), people in the midwest stop and chat with us, put us on the news. and open their hearts and homes to us, even when we probably smell and look like the dirtiest group of youth ever.

We are currently staying at an amazing church in Bloominton. It has a pool table, ping pong, air hockey, many couches and a big projector screen that we used to watch Breaking Away (a cycling movie based in Bloomington) last night. Today our food consisted of leftovers for breakfast, and donated Chipotle for ….BOTH lunch and dinner. wow. too much burrito. We’ve actually been really lucky getting donated food lately, which is great because I’m already a little tired of pasta with red sauce. The leaders seem to doubt our ability to get donations in the southwest, so I’m enjoing the food while it lasts!

I rolled my ankle playing basketball early in the trip, and since I’ve been riding on it a lot, it hasn’t been healing and has actually been getting a bit worse. I took a day off in the van and am hoping it will heal soon- it’s not fun watching everyone else tackle a day while sitting around. Well, since free time is a luxury and I don’t want to spend all of it on a computer, I think I’ll head back to the church.  For anyone reading who hasn’t realized, we post a trip blog and trip pictures up on the bike and build website (bikeandbuild.org). If you click on the “2009 Route Tracker” and then “Boston to Santa Barbara” in the gray left hand column, you will see a map showing where we are in  the country! Then on the right, you can click on the pencil to see the trip blog (one person is assigned each day), the camera to see pictures that have been posted, or the people icon to see everyone on the trip. Most peoble try to keep a personal blog, and you might find someone that is better at keeping up with the days!

I hope you all are having a wonderful summer, and thank you again for supporting me in this crazy endeavor!

Going West, Must Cross Mountains

I can’t believe how amazing this trip has been, and it’s only week two! Today is one of our four days off, so we are hanging around Pittsburgh and getting some rest. There’s a 10 minute limit on computers here at the library, so I can’t write a full post, but suffice it to say that I have been incredibly busy, tired, and happy while cycling across the northeast. More to come soon. Much love, tess

—Ok, I convinced the librarian to give me longer. so how bout I start at the beginning?


On June 17th, 32 strangers showed up at St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Revere, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston). It promptly rained. Over two days, we learned names, some basic background info, and took a 14 mile shakedown ride around Revere Beach. It was beautiful. On the 19th, we had a tire-dipping ceremony: walked out on the beach and dipped our back tires in the Atlantic Ocean, prepping ourselves for our trek to the Pacific. Mom and Dad came to see us off, and with hugs and best wishes from a number of concerned parents, we headed off to Andover, MA (a 20 mile ride). It rained. We stopped at a McDonalds about halfway out of town for a bathroom break and stayed to talk to a table of ladies perplexed by the appearance of 18 drenched college students taking the parking lot by storm. Lo and behold, we got our first On the Road Donation!! After making sure we didn’t leave an inch of the restaurant dry, we finished the last leg of our ride to Andover, where we stayed at the Pike School and were generously fed and watered by The Webbers, the family of a former Bike and Build Program Director who passed away.

Andover, MA – Build Day

We stayed in Andover two nights: I spent the first afternoon playing basketball barefoot and consequently rolling my ankle, and I’ve spent all my time since then feeling foolish about not having worn shoes or some sort of ankle support. The Webbers had all 32 of us over to their beautiful home for dinner both nights and royally spoiled us for the rest of the trip. Their kindness and hospitality was truly wonderful.

We had our first Build day in Andover, and I spent the entire day measuring, cutting, drilling and screwing in ballisters on a front porch with Chris, a dedicated volunteer from the area. He was patient when I stripped a screw and let me help out as much as a I could. They had a lot of work for us that day- people were working on 3 different housing sites doing everything from pulling up old carpet (for a rebuilding project), putting up siding, landscaping and painting, to shoveling debris and laying concrete for a sidewalk. In a strange twist of fate, it was beautiful and sunny. It was hard work and we were all tired, but excited to get back on our bikes and head west.

Fitchburg, MA

The Webbers had us over for a mouth-watering breakfast and much-needed coffee, and then we set out on the ride to Fitchburg. It was only a 40 mile ride, so I stayed with a fairly large group as we navigated the twists and turns of unmarked pothole-riddled Massachusetts roads in the rain. My ankle was black and blue and about twice its normal size, so I decided to skip the last 10 miles of the day in favor of getting an ice pack and giving it a little time to heal. That night, we stayed at a unitarian church and gave a presentation to our hosts. They were generous both with time and food, and we passed a wonderful night there. Neal, one of the hosts gave us a preview of our day to come: HILLS. He mentioned that we were hitting the worst of the Berkshires and would hit some of the Poconos, so we all hunkered down to try and get enough sleep in anticipation of the week to come.

Northampton, MA – Ali (one of the leaders)’s town, and the spot of several Chris Pureka shows!

New England is beautiful. BEAUTIFUL. Despite the fact that we’ve been rained on almost every single day, I can’t get over how gorgeous the country is. Everything is so GREEN. and Treed. and at times, extremely hilly. The ride to Northampton was beautiful, though difficult. I rode with Jodi much of the day, ‘tortoising’ our way there. Basically, we were slow and steady instead of stopping a lot, and had a wonderful ride. The lunch spot was the most gorgeous view over the hill (though I’d like to call it a mountain, it was probably just a hill) we’d climbed.

It was hilly, but most of all, i think it was difficult because my muscles were still exhausted and confused about being in constant use. I think by now they’ve realized they’re not getting out of cycling, but the first 5 miles of every day are the slowest, most tiring miles I usually bike. Northampton seemed like a town that would be much more at home near San Francisco/ Santa Cruz, or perhaps in the Northwest near Portland or Seattle. But Ali assured me that Massachusetts has its fair share of cute liberal vegetarian-friendly coffee shop laden towns. I hadn’t really expected to find that sort of atmosphere on the east coast – i always considered it a west coast thing. Maybe the northeast is not so bad after all.

We stayed with a friend of Ali’s in a crazy cute Duplex- I have no idea how we squashed everyone in, but we did and it was amazing. I slept on a couch that night and slept extraordinarily well. There’s nothing like a soft couch when you’ve been sleeping on thermarests on hardwood floors!

Boston to Santa Barbara!

It all starts tomorrow! Sorry I’ve been lax about posting lately- life got a little busy trying to finish up the school year. So now, I’ve graduated, have a masters, and am about to embark on a crazy almost 4,000 mile journey across the US. The last century I did was in early May and benefited the American Diabetes Association. it was a blast! I did a bit of riding around monterey, but trained very infrequently in the past month or so due to a busy schedule and a tendonitis issue with my thumbs. Hopefully jumping back into riding with recovering hands wont be too much of an issue as we start our trek. In total, I trained for 860 miles and raised $4681. THANK YOU for making it possible. I would love to send you postcards from along the route, so if I don’t have your address, please let me know where I can send a note!

The post below has Mail drops where you can send me letters, if you’d like. I hope you have a wonderful summer, and let me know if there’s any place in particular you’d like a postcard from!