Mercury is Retrograde, So Vacation is Koo-Koo.

3 Jul

It was a beautiful, hideous, wild, calming, agonizing, challenging, easy-going, joyous, complex, and –above all– profound vacation, as evidenced by the following end-of-trip reflection that I nervously shared with 2 travel companions as we ate massive platefuls of eggs, avocados, and bacon while overlooking an insanely idyllic Pacific setting:


Ya know, this was kinda like a perfect metaphor in terms of celebrating my 40th birthday and 2nd Alive Day: Pretty much nothing turned out the way we planned or expected. In fact, we encountered some seriously bad shit that might’ve ruined other people’s experience, but I was with people I love and looking around and being with you now . . .

My thoughts trailed off into the air and were picked up by the above-pictured dude who said: “Yeah, when you’re with the right people, things somehow work out pretty well in the end.”

Indeed, whether it’s 1 week of vacation or 40 years of living, no matter what happens, when you’re with the ones you love, it all works out in the end — Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.

Lucky (?) for you, blogs exist to bloviate. So here’s some background regarding what befell us:

Bleeding. Puking. Phlegm. Crying. Dirt. Delay. Detour. Extreme heat. Exceptional cold. Blown fuses.

These things were experienced, respectively, by: Jay. Me. Ron. Kim. Everyone. Everyone. Chris. Me. Everyone but me. Everyone, but especially Sarah.

Rather than detailing all 10 incidents, I’ll just offer the now “obvious” explanation as to why we were fated to suffer such cataclysms: Mercury was in retrograde.

None of us knew about this phenomenon before we arrived at our lodgings, the Maui Eco Retreat. In fact, there was much we didn’t know about the Maui Eco Retreat itself — mainly that it’s run by some super-far-out people (tantric tutorials, anyone? … uh, no thanks!).

Free life tip: Before engaging in any major travel or life decisions, it would behoove you to check your Farmer’s Almanac. If we had done so, we would have known that “Mercury’s retrograde periods can cause your plans to go awry.”

Ah. Everything makes sense now.

After 4 days of trying to fix our aggressively “standard” morning power outage, our main host/proprietor, Raphael, finally told us that the outage problem may persist throughout the Retrograde period. Ditto for the faulty shower that Ron, Kim, Sarah, and Chris had to share (along with various other “interns” — read: tantric trainees), which offered wildly fluctuating water temperatures that predominated toward the frigid end of the spectrum. Jay and I offered to share our own less-flux-oriented shower to no avail.

4+ days of power outages and cold showers do NOT make for a happy, relaxing, vacation. 😦

The troops were getting restless. Rebellion was afoot. Decampment plans were being conjured via AirBnB and VBRO. I felt bad that my brain damage has rendered me so utterly Zen — unable to share my compadres’ outrage.

Intellectually, I understood that cold showers and electrical outages (and “interesting” eco rules like: not flushing your TP, or having to put your egg shells into a special, fly-infested jar on the kitchen counter) are not acceptable aspects of a typical tropical relaxation vacation. But emotionally, I just couldn’t get worked up about it. The island was so beautiful! And you shouldn’t be working anyways, Sarah!

Happily, full-blown mutiny was avoided once we met Raphael’s wife. She’s also a bit dreamy-minded (she’s written books about Dolphin Consciousness and Mind-Body-Morphing), but she’s also a solid pragmatist. She conjured several solutions for the shower problem and assured us that she would find a “real” electrician to tackle the power outages. Her solutions worked and homestead harmony was restored.

But we still had plenty o’ challenges out in the field, like Jay slashing his big toe almost to the bone on a coral reef. He was a trooper and Kim got to put her MD to use in a Peace Corps-inspired “Where There Is No Doctor” kind of way — see Wound Care image here.

I took on the next medical challenge, and in so doing proved my neurologist right regarding her warning to avoid spending more than 15mins in +100º weather. Apparently 3,500′ of climbing in 102º = SUPER BAD NEWS for me. It started with a headache, progressed to fever/chills, and culminated in puking and other gastrointestinal roils that persisted for 24+ hours. It was decidedly un-fun. And the un-fun-ness was exacerbated by the fact that the training ride that we were doing involved a ridiculous amount of hairpin descents, which “nicely” invoked my PTSD. Sigh.

The good news was that my friends at least desisted in their relentless (although ultimately/utterly good-natured) “pick-on-CZ” sniping campaign. In fact, they put their sarcasm in abeyance for a full 48 hours. Now that’s what I call love!

Next up was Kim: Her perky lil’ tush proved irresistible to an extra-evil yellow jacket and she declared that its stinger caused her to “grow a third butt cheek.” This rendered her ride up Haleakala a “little” more challenging.

But at least she got to do the ride! Poor Ron got assailed by some serious sinusitis (or something like that), which was pretty much The Worst Birthday Present Ever. Yes, the poor dude got to “celebrate” his 45th birthday by sitting at home, alone, while we ladies tackled the volcano and the other 2 dudes went off for outdoors adventures of their own.

As for the ride itself …

Well, there are many ways to peel that onion. I could beat myself up for how long it took, or I could celebrate the heck out of the fact that I did it at all given the yet-more-challenges I experienced along the way. I could resent my pals for dropping me or celebrate the fact that they waited for me at the top even though it was REALLY FUCKING COLD up there. I could question my decision to keep energy in reserve or thrill to the fact that my legs felt great upon reaching the summit.

But rather than throwing judgements around, I’ll just give you the facts and you can make your own judgements. Some of you will be wildly impressed that I did this at all. Some of you will be highly annoyed that I continue to do anything on the bike at all. Some of you will deride me for being a shlub. Some of you will wish you could channel your mental energy in such a controlled way. Some of you will think that I’m a damned fool for sequestering my energy in the way that I did. Whatever.

It all works out the same and The Metaphor holds true: When you’re with the ones you love, it all works out in the end.

So, here’s how it shook out. Upon waking at 4:00am that day, I was feeling about 85% following the prior days’ GI troubles. 85% = “good enough to go” and I found us a nice ride train to wheel-suck on. They laid down a solid, but not insane pace. I could’ve gone harder, but I wanted to go smarter. I sat 4th wheel. Unfortunately, wheels 1, 2, and 3 were typical macho dudes who took extra long pulls and therefore burned themselves out after a few miles each. No pace lining, just long-pulls. So, ~10-miles in, my train derailed.

I was in no condition to pull a train myself but these 2 A-hole Spaniards refused to share any work. You are a special kind of jackass if you are making a GIRL pull you up a volcano. Kim shared some work with me but we couldn’t shake these 2 Spaniard wheel suckers unless we went full throttle for a bit. I didn’t have full throttle in me. Kim did. So off she went.

Not more than 3 minutes after she dusted me, I picked up a very unexpected, highly unwelcome passenger: My Aunt Flo.

Are. You. FUCKING KIDDING me?!?!

My intestines are already in a very precarious state and now YOU show up?! And you bring cramps with you, too?! Fuck you, Mother Nature!

Ah, well, the first feed zone was approaching. I could take care of business in the Port-O there.


There are no Port-Os?


Three feed zones on the ride and NO Port-Os anywhere. Haleakala might be a dormant volcano, but by Feed2 I was feeling like I might experience papulopustulary intestinal eruption. It is reasonable to think that I might have burned 700 calories simply on the effort to focus my mental energy on trying not to have a gastrointestinal blowout or a massive menstrual gusher. Just keep pedaling. Don’t listen to your tummy rumbles. Just keep pedaling.

My official ride time was 5:01:00, but my Garmin showed 4:58:33 (it took me couple minutes to clear the official Start shoot). 5:01 just outside of what I expected myself to do. Ron (coach) wanted me to do it in 4:00-4:30. I thought 4:30-5:00 would be more reasonable. But I feel OK about the outcome, given what my Garmin knows to be true and particularly given what I was contending with.

187 racers competed in the event, but just 144 managed to finish. Being 110 out of those 187 competitors makes the “reasonable”-ness of my outcome feel a little more jubilant. Seeing the Top 10 finishers’ times be ~10min slower than last year, validates my assessment that the winds had been aggressively unfavorable — they weren’t anywhere close to the brutalization I experienced at the RWP, but they definitely did not aid my ascent!

And seeing that Kim and Sarah did NOT dust me by the ~20mins that I had expected them to put into me made me downright giddy! Kim bested Sarah by exactly 2 mins and Sarah bested me by another 2 … That’s a nice, tight finish girls! No wonder we have such big smiles at the Finish line!

We nearly got into fisticuffs with a Park Ranger who refused to let us take a photo with the 10,000′ sign, but that was the only real mar on the day. The freezing cold and lack of oxygen at the top were actually invigorating — although not for very long. We needed to get back down so we could reclaim our boys and celebrate our climb and Ron’s birthday.

Siri tried her best to prevent all of that from happening — somehow sending us on a 15-mile detour in our effort to claim Chris who sat not-so-patiently in the rain.

But cold beers, gourmet pizza, and homemade chocolate chipotle brownies with organic vanilla bean ice cream, eaten with 4 of us piled onto my bed while watching Monsters Inc. on my 15″ laptop pretty much lead us right on back to The Metaphor:

When you’re with the ones you love, it all works out in the end.

Amazing vacation. Amazing friends. Amazing life.

So much to celebrate.

Now, onward to Italy!

PS for Mom: here’s a link to the full HI photo album on my FB page.

PS for Everyone Else: Get ready for Blog-o-palooza — the Italy trip will likely result in ~daily blog updates starting July 9. Y’all will be inspired by all the BEYOND AMAZING veterans I get the honor of riding ~550 miles with over 10-ish days! If you haven’t done so already, PLEASE consider making a donation to support the incredible rehabilitation programs that Ride2Recovery offers to help veterans overcome their injuries:

DONATE TODAY: — Enter my name CRISTIN ZEISLER under the “Find a Rider” field. Massive love will flow your way immediately. ♥

3 Responses to “Mercury is Retrograde, So Vacation is Koo-Koo.”

  1. Sarah Fergusson Chambless July 3, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Nice synopsis, CZ!! Although I still don’t understand why I had the “especially” blown fuse… I think there were some other people, not mentioning any names (but we might just share a surname) who bested me in that regard… 🙂

    • justadventures July 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

      If we’re personifying the “blown fuses” concept, then, yes, several household members would qualify for that distinction. I meant that the daily power outages *directly impacted you* the most because the Manatt monsters made you work and that was impossible to do w/o power. See?


  1. Best Year Ever! | JustAdventures - December 30, 2013

    […] topic (#1 by a landslide … particularly among readers in India, of all places) and that I can conquer a volcano even while being surfeited by unexpected physiological […]

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