Vegan cyclist? Do you think we’re crazy? Don’t worry, we got used to it. We’re cycling with two dogs from Canada to Argentina, everybody thinks we’re crazy.
Today’s post will be a bit different from the recent ones. Confession and explanation of our route to veganism. How, when, why. Why are we complicating our life? Why are we not enjoying all local specialties? How is that even possible, we’re still alive if all the commenters under the articles about veganism think we should’ve been dead within a year?
Vegan cyclist and his past
We weren’t born like that, this confusion of mind came as time passed. We don’t remember the exact beginning of this mental problem. In London we experimented a lot with vegan cuisine but weren’t strict. We even stuffed our mouths with Honest Burgers and fish & chips when we were cycling together from work after 13hrs shift (a.k.a. grab some takeaway just before they close, bottle of beer, wolf it down in the garden and faint into the bed, just so the next day you can repeat the whole process). Otherwise we ate vegetarian, from the doctors’ salary we were buying all the organic and free range stuff, thinking it’s ok.
Then it all began, for some reason we decided to try dishes without animal ingredients. Despite the ads which were telling us the milk is healthy. The tasty dishes really got us. On Amazon we ordered two books, Aine Carlin Keep it Vegan and Thug Kitchen Eat like you give a f..k.. Both are full of easy recipes and the second one is in addition full of spot on humour (don’t buy it if you’re tight ass vegan cyclist or tight ass non vegan cyclist). We discovered that vegan cooking requires much more creativity and use of spices than regular cooking. Without the necessary crutches as bacon or cheese just that everything tastes like from your mummy or in Tom’s case, daddy. Living by the motto “One should torture themselves regularly” we came up with fully vegan days. 24 hours no animal products. Bringing your own plant based milk (can I still say this in the EU?) to work because in the hospital cafe they had only regular milk. Refusing that yummy looking cake from one of the colleagues. On the other hand, colleagues envying our lunches because they had only poor canteen sandwich. Anyway, this whole process was a piece of cake at the end because it was happening in England. Where our workmates didn’t have a problem with us being different and didn’t feel the need to condemn us. In contrast, they were interested in the food we had on our plates so they could widen their own cooking skills (or scoff half of your portion in some cases). This could have never happened in Prague Podolí hospital where I worked before. My colleagues were stuffing their starving stomachs with so called “South Bohemian Delicacy” (meaning three kinds of meat/sausages, two kinds of cabbage and dumplings for poor, hard labouring doctors) while I was eating buttered veggies and potatoes (a.k.a. vegetarian food in average Czech hospital), for the 150th time answering a question why I’m vegetarian. Welcome to the tolerant Czecho-Slovakia!
15th February was the day when we officially stopped eating anything coming from animals as part of a clinical trial. Dear statistics nerds, please forgive me that I don’t have a control group and I’m badly biased. I’ve had high cholesterol for years and when they tested it again in the UK, it was again above the norm. At my GP I had a talk with a nutrition nurse who couldn’t understand how it’s possible with my diet. No redundant fat (though I had slightly different view of things of course) and in comparison with common Brit, really modest diet, you could say ascetic. We agreed that we would test again before the journey and then make a decision about statins (medication that a lot of GPs give to their patients instead of education that they should check the contents of their fridges for likely culprits). So I agreed on this trial with myself that for two months I’ll be 100% vegan and we’ll see what happens. Tom joined as a support and because he was worried I wouldn’t have made it mentally with cheddar in the fridge. First day at work I failed big time when my colleague brought homemade cake and I only realised what day it is with my mouth already stuffed with it.
After two months the nutrition nurse stared at the screen in disbelief. Cholesterol had normalised. Two months of plant based diet. No statins necessary. But don’t tell anybody, I haven’t calculated the odds ratio. 26th May we took off to Vancouver and decided we would continue in vegan diet apart from the times when somebody invites us. Because we were in foreign lands now and our mothers taught us to be polite and don’t turn away the food that’s on the table. So we ate like this through the whole of British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and northern California.
Vegan cyclist and his present
Until the sad (both in weather and the events) September day of 2017 that broke us. Everything that we’d been taught for 30 years by the school, ads and parents, fell down as a feeble house of cards. We were crossing an area of diary farms close to the town of Ferndale in California. What we saw there will stay with us forever. These are the pictures of baby calves, separated from their mothers, put into small plastic boxes where they couldn’t even turn around.
And above it all, a big shiny sign “Organic”. Through the tears we hardly saw the road. Since then we haven’t consciously eaten a single animal product on this journey (we can’t really comment on unconsciously eating anything because Mexicans will nod to everything just to make you happy). Since then we’re polite towards own moral standards in the first place and towards the animals that are forcefully separated from one another and that are unnaturally conceived, so we can have that “natural” nourishment – as for example cows’ breast milk meant for calves.
Slow travelling on the bicycle really opens one’s eyes. So many transports with animals for slaughterhouses that we saw on the road. Inhumanely stuffed in the trucks, in the heat, cold or rain. Nobody cares about them. They were born solely for the needs of the so called supreme species.
This is not an article to recruit or convince you about our truth. Even though you’re thinking this now or since we have used the word “vegan”. And us idiots said it already in the title, we could have had you hooked already (not sure if this metaphor is appropriate bearing in mind the topic of the post, better maybe caught on tofu?). People ask us constantly why, so we wanted to put it all together. Why are we complicating our lives and why are we “rude” (sorry moms)?
- we respect other alive creatures on this planet and we don’t feel they are here for us to use
- we care about our planet and we know how badly the factory farming hurts it
- we want to show on our case of high intensity and longterm sport performance that it’s possible to be a vegan cyclist
- to create a discussion with locals, some of them have never heard about that
When we stayed with warmshowers hosts for more than one night, we usually cooked something and in 100% cases we shined. Many families surprised us that they did their homework and tried something new (in the profile we mention that we’re problematic guests, vegan cyclists and with two dogs!!). We will never forget big success of sauerkraut dumplings with fried onions at Dick’s place in Utah. The truth is that when cycle tourist cooks for himself, he eats mostly vegetarian, if not vegan, anyways because meat and diary will soon start living their own life in the panniers and from the eggs you’ve got pre-made scrambled eggs including shells. The only difference is that we probably won’t have much choice in the Mexican loncherias by the road that offer meat, meat and meat and some refried beans made with the pork fat. But there are exceptions, and therefore we don’t agree with the opinion that we’re cutting on the local culture. Poor Frida Kahlo turned in her grave and her moustache fell off as she was just compared to tacos. Despite our handicap, in Mexico we tasted gorditas, tacos, mole, panuchos, flautas and many more local specialties, only little fine-tuned. It’s not always easy and sometimes we are really tired of looking for the food we can eat. Of never ending reading the small print ingredients. Dehydrated milk ingredients everywhere, maybe they’ll even start adding it to drinking water, to prevent lack of calcium, or what. But we’re in it together and Tom cooks really well, so we can the dehydrated milk ingredients you know what…
Vegan cyclist and his future
From the respect to the animals and to ourselves, we would like to keep this problem “trait” until Patagonia. It’s worth it for us, to look into the mirror in the morning, see that (colourless, because we’re anaemic right?) vegan face and know we are not betraying our beliefs. It’s very likely we’ll end up on rice and beans for some time (non vegan cyclist can add chicken, otherwise the variety will be the same :D). Hopefully at least some muscle fibre will remain from the plant protein. And we would like to create vegan guides for the countries we cycled, so that similarly “disabled” cyclists and travellers have it easier. Maybe even some recipes from the camping stove, but we swear to the cycle god not to turn this into a food blog.
PS: If you find we used the word vegan too much in the post, it’s because of these two reasons:
- because vegan has to tell you he’s vegan already in the first sentence
- so that also google can recognise what this article is about and help other v….s (it’s getting similar to Voldemort)