Thursday, May 28, 2009

Veggie Pride Parade a SUCCESS

I got back from NYC last Thursday and immediately back outdoors on the bike! Thanks to my close friend Ronnie, i did have a bike and trainer in my hotel room so i could continue riding while i was there. Though what i wasnt prepared for was all the walking that automatically comes with Manhattan. Every day, Jonas and I (and sometimes Ronnie) did the gastronomic walking tour, hitting every veg restaurant and cafe along the way. Knish and pretzel stands were obviously included! Tiengardern was easily the best meal we had there. It is officially chinese food but i have never had chinese food that tasted so fresh and clean.

Parade day was a lot of fun! At the start, we were about a thousand people strong. Most came with costumes, signs or some other veggie standout. In comparison, i felt pretty underdressed with my In Defense of Animals (IDA) tee, long sleeve shirt, and sweatshirt. Worse yet, they put me in the front row as a Veggie Pride Parade banner holder. Although i felt there were a bunch of folks that could have dressed up the front row better, I was honored to be chosen. My arms, on the other hand, resented me for accepting the banner-bearing position. Every once in a while i had to sneak out of the front row to shake the arms out.

Among the dozens of colorful getups were the Meatrix couple dressed in full length shiny black latex coats, promoting their mission of awakening the public to the real truth, a boy holding a homemade sign promoting healthful lunches at schools, of course the peapod and carrot. But my top favorites were the many folks sporting IDA tops and pins. I was excited to see how popular IDA accessories had become!

Even though the walk was no more than a mile or two, I was famashed by the end. Immediately jonas set out for food...and returned a whole hour later after getting lost. Luckily for me though my neighboring booths donated sandwiches and drinks. I ate and drank so much that when jonas arrived with a stack of street pretzels i was full.

While waiting for my turn to talk on stage, i handed out IDA papers and chatted with folks mainly about IDA but sometimes about other random topics, some of which i had no knowledge. One gal asked me about turning her dog vegan, so of course since i am on the "information" side of the table, i gave her my authoritative opinion (based on what i read in VegNews Mag on the topic.) Another guy came up to me and just talked. I still dont know what he was talking about.

As for my speech, I think it went well. It felt good to talk about a vegan diet from another angle other than for the animals, like everyone else's speech. I never once mentioned "do it for the animals" so as to get the point across that a plant-based diet is a solid choice for health. I also hit on some other topics such as the simplicity of a vegan diet. No need to drink tofu, grass, seaweed shakes or eat foods you can't pronounce.

One of the opening lines of my speech was, " Twenty years ago, we never would have believed that all people would have the right to get married, including our LGBT brothers and sisters." Unfortunately, as most of you may know, last Tuesday the California Supreme Court upholded the ban on gay marriage. Good thing the news came this week and not last, because then i wouldnt have been able to think of this progress in a positive light.

After the parade, jonas, Emile from holland (now Spain) and I watched a video called "Meat the Truth." It discussed the impact of cows on global warming, something Al Gore failed to mention in his movie. I had no idea that cow farming contributed 18% to global warming versus 13% from cars.

For the rest of the evening, it was back to our usual walking tour for more veggie meals. We went to Pukk Thai for dinner, and Angelika's for dessert - both in the east village, my favorite part of the city.

The next afternoon, 400 VegNews magazines arrived at the hotel - one day late for the parade table. Instead of sending them back or tossing them (which wasnt an option), jonas and i took to the streets. We gave most of them out to the vegetarian/vegan restaurants mainly in the village, and the rest we handed out on the streets. It was amazing to see how people react to a free magazine. Few were thankful for it, while most either ignored us or looked at us like we are scammers looking for money. That was funny...but not.

Two highlights of the trip were visiting the MET to see all my favorites like the Rodin statues, and visiting Ruth and Bill who were like parents to me for many years while living in NYC. They are the most impressive couple i had ever met. they are i think 87 and 91 years of age, married and still in love for 64 years tomorrow, and full of more energy than even I! They work fulltime as special sales reps for various publishing houses mainly out of their home. And every weekend they head up to their summer home upstate NY.

As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Packing Day

I just finished my ride (just beat the thunder/lightning/rainstorm home) and now it's time to pack for my flight tomorrow to NYC. I havent really gotten excited about it yet, but that is what packing is for. It gets me in the spirit.

The only part of preparation i am not excited about is cutting my hair. I really tried to get my hair cut here a few times but i am always left looking scary. One time they shaved my beard with a straight edge - i didnt even know i had one until i saw the blond fuzz float to the ground. Another time i was left with a mullet. The worst was when they gave me a hardcore "dont bother looking at me as i am gay" haircut. What made it even more amusing is that for months afterwards (according to my male friend who sees the same guy) he bragged to all his customers that he has a gay pro cyclist as a client. Even with all the bad experiences, i still considered getting my hair cut at a salon since it is a little uncomfortable to lift my arm due to the rib incident. But I got my ribs taped yesterday by my therapist and thankfully it seems to help a bit!

Off I go!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Broken Ribs 101

There are varying levels of rib breaks - varying levels of pain and inconvenience, that is!

Certain activities should be approached with caution:

lifting heavy objects
lifting your arm
moving - at all
bowel movements - even those with high fiber diets
sex - without orgasm

Activities that are off limits:

coughing - although it is recommended that you cough to keep fluid buildup out of your lungs
standing out of the saddle while pedaling on a bike
breathing heavily
twisting at the waist
bending over
sex with orgasm
motorcycle riding
leaning laundry basket against ribcage
pulling metal window shutter up
cobblestone or offroad riding
core workout

I am off for NYC this Friday to speak at the Veggie Pride Parade pep rally. The parade is Sunday in Union Square Park. My time slot is 2:50pm. For those of you who will be in Manhattan this weekend, come visit me at the IDA (In Defense of Animals) booth. I am their spokesperson. I was a little nervous performing in front of many thousands of people until i realized that i've done this dozens of times before - only it's without a bike this time around. OK, maybe its a little different...but i will at least be armed with my mom's sage advice. She told me to put my mouth close to the microphone so i dont have to yell (see point #7 in my "activities to approach with caution" list).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Contents of my Saddle Bag

Since some of you have asked...

2 tubes
1 patch kit
3 co2 cartridges (if jonas and his additional 3 co2's dont ride with me, then i put a mini pump in my back pocket
1 co2 cartridge head
1 pair rubber gloves
2 Gojo grease wipes
1 purell
1 big multi-tool with chain-breaker, wrenches, screwdrivers
Sram power-link with extra links
1 safety pin
1 roll electrical tape
1 rubber band
no tire levers (i'm good)
Anti-allergy pill
Epipen - for bee-sting emergencies
2 bandaids
1 butterfly bandaid
emergency info card
chain lube
2 ibuprofen

I think that's about it!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You know your Dutch is getting better when...

you can go to a massage therapist for a jaw therapy appointment and walk out with a much needed leg massage instead.

I have been seeing a jaw therapist to help with the last of the damage (head pain behind the ears) lingering from those head injuries a while ago. Since the head pain is finally subsiding but my legs were super sore from standing all day last sunday at a Communion party, i went into the therapist's office today with the intention of slyly exchanging my jaw work for leg work.

I got what i wanted which gave me confidence that my Flemish is coming along nicely. But what i learned from this experience is that i need a lot more work before i can pull off being sly without a hitch. When i pulled my massage bottoms out of my jersey pocket, clearly looking prepared for the switch, I realized at that moment that i should have added another sentence or two to make the switch appear seamless. oops.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What do milk and rubber have in common?

They both taste nasty the second time around. I found this out today as the rubber camera was pulled up and out of my tummy. The discomfort of the gastroscopy was so intense with all its poking, prodding and snipping for biopsies that it caused silent tears to stream across my face as i fought the urge to gag. And if that wasnt enough torture, throughout the day rubber remnants have been materializing in my mouth to remind me of that fateful day one month ago when i drank milk. They really ought to put a warning label on products that contain milk, similar to the one that is plastered all over a pack of cigarettes. Only now am i able to eat almost normally and back off of anti-acid and pain pills.

The culprit - a SOBE Elixer energy drink. After we drank it, Jonas read the label and said, "This is strange. Cholesterol per serving - zero, cholesterol per bottle - five." I snagged the bottle out of his hands to see for myself what i had just surmised. Totally my fault. I didnt read the label where it had listed milk and cream at #2 and #3 ingredients. I just never imagined that a company would put milk in an energy drink. How naive am i.

Within two hours, the torture began. The milk started to make its way back up the entrance-only route, burning everything in its path. Even a sip of water caused a string of painful burps, heartburn (burning sensation in the chest area as it went down), and stabbing pain in my back directly opposite the location of the heartburn. The doctor told me that the damage looked as though i had ingested poison. I suppose to a vegan, who has eliminated milk products many years ago, it is.

The result of the biopsies are due in ten days. I expect to hear good news as i am almost able to eat normally again. Funny how I sometimes take the littlest things for granted, like being able to eat.

Tomorrow is another long day on the bike and now i finally look forward to my pre-ride meal! I already have it all planned out - farfalle pasta with a bit of (non-cheese) pesto, fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Wanna come see me speak at Veggie Pride Parade in NYC?

Christine Vardaros speaking at the Veggie Pride Parade in New York City
Please attend the 2009 Veggie Pride Parade and support Christine's appearance on behalf of IDA!

When: May 17, 2009 at 2:50 p.m.

Where: Union Square Park, New York, NY

Christine Vardaros, spokesperson for In Defense of Animals and professional world-class vegan cyclist, will be the fitness and nutrition speaker representing IDA at Veggie Pride Parade in Union Square Park, NYC on May 17, 2009.

Vardaros is a columnist for VegNews magazine, Cyclocross magazine, and the Marin Independent Journal. In addition, she is a pro-activist for Organic Athlete, a founding member of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and a member of the athlete's advisory board for the Stone Foundation for Sports Medicine and Arthritis Research. She is flying in from Belgium to attend this special event.

Please attend this post-parade rally and expo. This is the second annual Veggie Pride Parade, which originated in Paris. Thousands of spectators are expected to attend.

Christine will also run the IDA table, handing out pamphlets, flyers and other informational media. She hopes you stop by to say hello.

Anybody wanna go?

Friday, May 1, 2009

I dont see the problem...

"WHAT'S THAT? You're not coming from SPAR?!?" (Spar is a supermarket here in Belgium)

This was Jonas' response when he took a look at my newly installed saddle bag. Even when i showed him all the necessities inside, he still thought the bag was way too big. That's OK because when his bike falls apart, he'll be thankful I brought a roll of duct tape and electrical tape to wrap it back together. And the gloves and handywipes will keep my hands clean while i do the work.

He says he will ride 200 meters behind me when i use my saddle bag. If he does that, then it's only fair that i do the same when he wears his authentic Humphrey Bogart pants to his nipples!