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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A salad!

I went out to dinner at Jack's, a tourist restaurant in Cusco, last night with Jayne and Sarah to celebrate Jayne's 24th birthday. It was delightful to meet old friends for an evening and eat vegetables! Sarah also gave me her leftover zinc tablets because I am sick and they are leaving.


Cammie and I tried another bike ride today. Unfortunately the road the bike shop suggested that we take out of town happened to be a busy road. I felt like I was playing human frogger. The taxis pulled over suddenly, drivers did not always use turn signals, the sidewalk was even more difficult to negotiate with all the people on it, and there were steep curbs everywhere.

We survived and I did not actually mind the traffic- it made it very exciting and forced me to really pay attention to what was going on around me.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Just being (in Machu Picchu)

Today Cammie and I made it to Machu Picchu- the ultimate travelers destination in Peru. We only had one small fiasco on the way up; when we arrived at the bus station we found out that our travel agency had not actually gotten us entrance tickets into Machu Picchu, despite it being on our receipt (thank goodnesss). Our guide said she did not have the money to cover the tickets and that the only solution was for us to buy the tickets and try to get reimbursed, then she got on the bus up to M.P. Luckily there was another guide who took care of us (talking on two cell phones most of the time).

Machu Picchu is all it is made out to be. Despite the expense (about US$120) to visit, I was glad we went. It is a difficult place to get to, we had to take a train to Auguas Calientes where we stayed last night and then a bus at 6 AM up to M.P. We took a 2 hour guided tour in Spanish and learned about how everything was used for religious ceremonies (right, dad?). We then climbed up WaynePicchu, the mountain in the background of the typical M.P. photo. I took a side trip down another trial and immediately was alone, all the tourists tend to stay on the beaten track. The top of Waynepicchu was drastic: these mountains are unforgiving and steeper than anything I have seen in the states.

After a snack of crackers and peanut butter and climbing back down we wandered into some lesser visited parts of the ruins (kind of sketchy because the cliffs were right there with us) and lay on a rock looking out on M.P. and simply enjoying being there and just being without chasing around to the famous temples.

Now we are back in Cusco and have tickets for an overnight bus to Ica tomorrow!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Climbing up a ladder. Posted by Picasa

I want to play in the river! Posted by Picasa

Cammie climbing a ladder. Posted by Picasa

Cammie and I in front of Machu Picchu Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 27, 2006

La Cena

All day long people have been trying to sell us things. We are incessantly hounded. It is fine when we can get the people to talk about something other than their product. One artist gave us a mini lecture on how competition effects the economy and one boy told us who he wanted to win the Presidential election on June 4th.

On our way to dinner we encountered a boy selling finger puppets of animals that we had met earlier in the day. Two of his amigos also came to try to sell us something. When we had convinced them that we did not want finger puppets, a shoe shine (Laura=sneakers and Cammie=hiking boots), or postcards, we only wanted to eat dinner. They offered to show us a place that was mas barrato (cheap) and so we followed them. On the way we decided to buy them dinner also since that was probably what they were hoping for. We ordered a whole roasted chicken (incredibly good) with fries to share for S./ 28 (around US$9).

So my parents have always made fun of me for not knowing how to eat chicken off the bone very well. I think I did a good job, I was motivated because I knew that the boys would clean their plates and instead of having to think about the starving kids in China, I could look at the hungry kids in front of me and be embarrassed to leave food on my plate.

They were all very polite, but hungry. Luckily we had some left over for them to take to their families/themselves for later. The were 7, 15, 16 years old and went to school during the week from 8-1 and tried to sell things to tourists the rest of the time. It was fun to eat dinner with them.

Arriving in Cuzco

After a short flight from Lima to Cuzco we had to navigate the many people trying to sell us tours and offering us special deals. We did book a tour to Macchu Picchu with an official travel agent because it was going to be expensive to visit Macchu Picchu anyway- the prices go up every year. So if you want to go to Macchu Picchu, ten years ago was a good time.

We finally negociated our way into a cheap hostel and got rid of the man who was hounding us and trying to schedule our stay in Cuzco for us. We had flown from 0 to 3300m in an hour and the altitude was difficult to deal with. Our host made us some tea that the Incas/natives Cuzco people drink to help with altitude (So maybe it was coco leaf tea, but coco in a non drug form). It was good, not sweet, not too strong, and with an odd, distinctive, leafy flavor. In order to help our bodies acclimate to the altitude Cammie took a nap and I, well, I went for a run. I got nice and lost but managed to find my way back to the hostal with out needing to stop and actually look lost.

There are 4 kids that live in our hostal and two of them let me in (everything is locked here). We struck up a conversation ended up playing soccer in the courtyard of our hostal. The oldest was about 9 and I had a huge advantage because my legs are longer than they are tall. Cammie and I are taller than almost everyone here. Las Quechua Albuelas son muy cortas y tienen pelo muy largo en dos trenas debojo de sus espaldas. I bought a hat and poncho (alpaca, of course) from one such Grandmother.

6 AM in Lima

Cammie and I woke up at 6AM this morning to catch a flight to Cuzco and... people are still up in our hostel from last night! Our roomate came in at shortly after 6 and when she saw I was up, asked me if I had a condum... what a different lifestyle. I thought I was up late because I stayed up until 11. Off to Cuzco.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Me gusta a Che Guevera. Posted by Picasa

Cammie le gusta a Nirvana. Posted by Picasa

Relaxing in a hammock at The Point Hostel. Posted by Picasa

Cammie pretends to be hungover this morning in front of The Pointless Bar where we eat breakfast. Posted by Picasa


Bathrooms in different countries are always an experience. Here,s what Lima,s have been like. First, don,t put yout toilet paper in the toilet.. there,s a trash can for that purpose. Second, I think that our hostel the "if it,s yellow, let it mellow, if it,s brown, flush it down" rule is in effect (but it is hard to tell because of the first point). There is rarely soap, hand towells, or toilet paper in the restrooms so we carry a little TP around with us. But at least these flush like normal toilets, unlike the ones in Japan.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Peru Misadventure Blog


is Cammie´s record of our trip, so check it out because she will be talking about our misadventures also!

A Taxi Ride

We began Wenesday morning with a taxi ride from Cammie´s friend´s house in L.A. to LAX. It was a tame, 25 minute drive to the airport and cost us $30. Upon arriving in Lima we also took a taxi ride. We arrived at 11pm and didn´t get through customs and get our baggage until midnight. Knowing we would be getting in late, we had made reservations at a hostel (www.thepointhostels.com) before leaving the U.S. and now needed a taxi to take us there. Having been advised that cheaper options could be found we bypassed the airport taxis ($24 to The Point) and went outside to bargain. We found a driver who offered to take us there for $15 and accepted.

Then our troubles started. We ran into another driver who offered to take us for US$10 and decide to go with him. Okay, be prepared, this is a lesson in NOT being gullible and trusting people...

So we got in the taxi and the driver wanted US$2 to pay for parking (now I know that there is no way parking could cost US$2 in Peru). Not having two ones, we offered him a five that he could go exchange in a change machine. He left for awhile and then came back saying that our 5 dollar bill wouldn´t work because it had tears in it. We gave him another to try, again the same thing. We told him that the only money we had was three five dollar bills and he finally said, fine, I´ll pay for parking.

So we´re finally on the road to our hostel in Barranco. Shortly after leaving the airport our driver says, ¨You have to pay in soles because your dollars are torn and my company won´t accept them... US$12.¨ After much debate he said he would take us to an ATM to withdraw money in soles. So we went to an ATM (after driving in circles for a long time, we didn´t know where we were really but we kept coming back to the same spots). At the ATM was another man, another taxi driver (they pretended like they didn´t know each other but it became clear that they did). This is so sketchy, maybe I shouldn´t continue.

Okay, I will. So the ATM machine didn´t work at first and the other taxi driver offered to help. So we tried again and when I got to the screen that asked how many soles I wanted the other taxi driver reached over and chose the highest option, S. 1900, or about US$600. (I told you this was sketchy.) Luckily the ATM continued to not work, because I did not want to have US$600 in a country where the salary for a teacher is about US$200 per month in a big city at one in the morning.

Then we drove in many more circles while our driver ¨looked¨ for another ATM. We found one, with a security guard, and Cammie and I withdrew S. 40 for our taxi driver and some money for ourselves. Then we thought finally we could go to our hostel. But no, after getting back in the car our driver said that his company wanted more money because he had given us three taxi rides (two to ATMs and one to the hostel). I forgot to mention that half of these conversations where on a cell phone to the ¨taxi company¨ (that I am convinced was one of his friends) and in spanish. They asked us for S. 200 (about US$60). So we said take us back to the airport, this wasn´t part of the deal. I tried to convince him to cheat the company and take us the the hostel anyway. He said that wasn´t possible because... (ready for it! (that´s supposed to be a question mark but the question mark doesn´t work on this keyboard))... there is an antennae on his taxi that the company uses to track where he goes. (Okay, then the ¨company¨ would know that he drove us in circles and fire him... except there is no company.)

Eventually we ended up in a huge argument with our driver, Cammie argues very well in Spanish and I was glad to have her along. I thought for sure we were going to end up back at the airport in search of a new taxi but then we stopped and he said ¨here we are in Barranco, your hostel is near here. Pay me the money or we´ll go back to the airport.¨ And Cammie argued a lot and did a good job standing up for us and I recognized the street we were on was the same street that our hostel was on and pulled our backpacks out of the trunk and threw them out onto the street and got out.

So we ended up giving him about US$17. More than the other taxi drive but less than the official taxi. We also got a 2.5 hour tour of Lima (it was three am by the time we got checked into our hostel) and he did point out some travestis, which I was really excited about because of my gender studies, and we got to practice Spanish for a long time. So it was fun, really sketchy, and we both learned a good lesson about not trusting people automatically.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Here are some pics from the drive down the coast. We took highway I-5 then highway 1 from San fran to LA. Posted by Picasa

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Me graduating!

Monday, May 22, 2006

My family joins me for graduation. Posted by Picasa

Kirsten pretending to be a graduate. Posted by Picasa

I try to get a hummingbird to land on me Saturday night. Posted by Picasa

I am going to miss the Walla Walla sunsets. Posted by Picasa

Do I have to graduate? Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane...

Monday morning Cameron Byerley and I are driving down to LA and on Wednesday morning we will fly down to Peru!

I just watched my family drive off with all of my material belonging except for a small backpack which I will be living out of for the next month... scary.

College Graduate

I now am the proud owner of a piece of paper in a very nice leather folder that say more or less the following:

"Whitman College is proud to grant LAURA VALAAS the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Applied Mathematics, Magna Cum Laude."

And, more importantly, I had all my grandparents and immediate family here to share it with!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

No School Day

To celebrate my first no-more-school-day I went with Greg Dering, Mara Abbott, Mia Huth, Noah Bronstein and Eric Shoettle on a Long Ride. We meandered all around the country side: first out Lower Waitsburg Rd. to Waitsburg and then a loop on Columbia School Rd. that went beyond Waitsburg, back to Waitsburg, up over Elevator Shaft hill to Dixie, up Biscuit Ridge Rd, over Tracy Rd on the gravel, down Blue Creek, up Mill Creek, over Scenic Loop Rd in the gravel, over Five Mile hill, and, finally, back down Mill Creek to campus. I had lots of hills, lots of heat, lots of water, and lots of raisins (there are not many options for training food in my cupboard, but raisins are a great standard). My legs are worthlessly tired and my pee is a dark, dehydrated yellow but there couldn't be a better way to spend a summer morning!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How I know it's summer

On the drive over to Walla Walla from Seattle on Tuesday, I took a break from driving and stepped out of the car into 100 degree heat. That, and my M&M's were brightly colored bursts of molten chocolate. That's how I know it's summer in Eastern Washington!

Whitman News Release

Dave Holden wrote a nice article on the Whitman Cycling Team's performance at nationals: here's the link to it via the Whitman College homepage


Sunday, May 14, 2006

The mens team... plus our coaches Glenn Silver and Dave Tupper. I suggested that we pick a theme to dress up for the banquet and we decided on cowboy/cowgirl theme. Apparently the guys decided to try something different. They are elves, or are trying to be. The riders: Sam Johnson, Sam Bell, Jaime Wendell, Brandon Weil, Greg Dering, Chris Thomas.  Posted by Picasa

eek! I got to give a speech at the banquet Saturday night... too bad I dropped Fundamentals of Public Address last semester. Posted by Picasa

Dave Tupper, of Valley Physical Therapy in Walla Walla, WA. Dave takes good care of us: massages, tape jobs, food, driving. Posted by Picasa

The individual omnium ceremony. Mara and I took first and second! Posted by Picasa

Mara is hungry. Rj and Jane are gorgeous.
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Watching Bill Wykoff, the NWC Conference Director, bring us presents: Stars and Stripes jerseys and Gold medals.
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We won the National Team Title!! Posted by Picasa

The seniors on the team (standing: Brandon Weil, Jane Rynbrandt, Laura Valaas, Sam Johnsosn). Greg Dering is in the picture also since we consider him to be in out grade. This is post award ceremony in historic downtown Lawrence, KS (why are all downtowns "historic?").  Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 13, 2006

2006 Road Race

The DII women's road race consisted of two 28.4 mile laps with a strong wind and steep, short hills. The first lap was almost entirely uneventful. By the end I was bored enough to wonder why I had even bothered racing... I mean, I could be studying for my finals or writing a blog post or SOMETHING that was interesting and useful. There was one MIT rider off the front by herself, but she went off at the start of the race and I was sure whe would fry and we would catch her. At the begining of the second lap, Rj and I were riding on the front and Mara came up and said, "You know what I'm going to do, don't you?" And I knew exactly what she meant because there was a hill coming up that stairstepped- the perfect place to drop people because people were tired out by the time they hit the second step.

So Mara attacked, and I sat on her wheel and at the top of the hill there was a group of 8 of us. Working smoothly together we quickly caught the MIT girl. 8 was still too many, we (Mara & I) wanted a more selective group. In other words, we wanted Mara off the front by herself so she wouldn't have to sprint against anyone for the finish. So I attacked several times as we neared the hill that I knew Mara would attack on. The strong girls in our group worked to chase me back and I hoped to tire them out that way so that they would have less energy to keep up with Mara's attack.

So we hit the attack hill, another, longer hill-flat-hill again kind of hill. Knowing Mara was going to attack I got Caitlin's wheel (a strong rider from RPI, yeah, I don't know what RPI stands for either) and held on as best I could, which was not good enough. I crested the hill in fifth and by myself. With Mara off the front by 15 seconds and the chase group of three right out of my reach. I was in no-man's land, desperately trying to catch the chase group, knowing that I would fry if I sat out in the wind alone. I was about to give up on chasing and started to look around for riders close behind me to drop back to when I saw Caitlin drop off the chase group. One rider I can catch and I picked up the pace to close the gap.

At the top of another hill I was just about to catch Caitlin when we came upon a bunch of cars in the road and officials waving at us to stop. So we stopped, along with all the other DII women and waited, and waited. There was a big crash in the DI field at the bottom of the hill and a couple of girls were helicoptered to the hospital so we had to wait for all the ambulances and helicopters to clear out. After about 40 minutes we got to restart... in the order that we had stopped, pursuit style. There were only 6.6km to the finish at this point so it was just a mean time trial and spring to the finish. Mara started, 12 seconds later two other women started, then 18 seconds after that Caitlin and I started, and the rest of the field in a similar fashion. Caitlin and I worked together time trialing and didn't catch anyone or get caught. As we neared the finish (about half a mile), Caitlin pulled through and I pulled up next to her and we had a conversation:
LV: I don't want to draft you.
C: Me neither.
LV: Let's ride in side by side.
C: sounds good.
LV: No game playing.

So we drag raced in to the finish and I managed to out sprint her for fourth place. Mara won, Jane got 13th and Rj got 14, so a very good showing for Whitman!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The system: Greg Dering and Jamie Wendell loading bikes on our rig after the TTT. Because we brought 6 men and 5 women we have a couple non racers everyday to help with the race tasks. Posted by Picasa

Mara, myself, Kate, and Rj warming up for the TTT. Jane is pinning my numbers on. Posted by Picasa

How things happen at a Collegiate bike race:

For as well organized as we may appear, lots of weird things happen on a bike trip. Every day I make exclamations such as the following: "hey, what happened to my disk wheel?" "Where did my bar end go?" "What did you do with my bike!?" "Who took my pump?" Which may all seem like questions that imply that my gear is getting stolen, no, just borrowed, and I in turn am doing a fair share of borrowing. But people also do a lot of good things which make me make excalamations such as the following: "Oh, someone loaded my bike onto the rack for me!" "Oh, someone unloaded my bike and brought it up to my room for me!" "Who fixed my bar tape so that it doesn't have a gap anymore?" as well as specific thanks to specific people. People that have helped me out so far this trip that I want to mention:

*Thanks to Dave Tupper, Valley Physical Therapy, for about half an hour of massage and many hours already of driving me around and buying me FOOD!
*Andy Stone, Shimano, for giving me sweet Shimano stickers and for fixing my broken rear derailleur and putting a new pulley wheel on my bike.
*The mechanics at Sunflower Bike Shop in Lawrence for giving us 4 trainers to borrow for the weekend.
*Glenn Silver & the rest of my teamates for being supportive and cheerful!

2006 TTT

It was a blustry day for the TTT this morning. The barriers at the start finish area kept blowing over, fortunately I did not blow over. I used a tri-spoke front wheel and disk rear wheel despite the heavy wind and could actually control my bike fine even in the aero bars. The trouble with aero wheels is that they catch the cross winds and tend to throw you sideways if you are not bracing for it. Our team started first (the defending national champions are supposed to start last, but we didn't pre register) and everything went smoothly. The team consisted of myself, Mara Abbott, Rebecca Jensen, Kate Ceronsky. Parts of the course were fast with a tail wind, some were dead slow with a head wind and others forced us into a pronounced echelon (drafting to the side instead of directly behind someone). We finished in 40:25.50, beating the next DII women's team by about 1:30 and beating the winner of the DI women's race by .19 seconds! One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to have the fastest TTT time of all the women's team at nationals so it feels good to accomplich that! Our men also rocked and placed second in the DII men's TTT... 45 seconds behind Lees McRae (N. Carolina). Since Lees McRae placed second in the DII women's TTT we are tied for first as a team with Lees McRae. Tense, but exciting!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


We arrived late Wednesday night, not getting to bed until midnight, but that's how these things go. The brilliant portion of our arriving was when we fit 11 people, 13 bikes (in boxes, BIG boxes), and everyone's personal luggage (and emotional baggage?) into a 12-passenger van and a Dodge Caravan minivan for the hour long drive to Lawrence from Kansas City. We were sardines: Sam J was paked into a seat with only his head sticking up, the four people in the back had no leg room due to the piles of luggage on the floor, and Jane's feet were offensively stinky. But I think we're all a lot closer because of it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Goo Goo Dolls

The Goo Goo Dolls played a free concert at an indy record store in Seattle tonight. Alan & I went- it was amazing to walk into this store and have the Goo Goo Dolls playing. And as we were leaving we almost walked into the lead singer coming back in to sign autographs.

Tomorrow we fly down to Lawrence, KS and are racing Fri/Sat/Sun check for the race reports!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A crucial part of the Whitman Cycling Team: The women's B team. I am so proud of these women for overcoming all their trepidations about taking up a male-dominated sport and joining a team that has a "ohmigod- you have to be really fast to be on the bike team, don't you?" reputation.

From L to R: Mia Huth (crit sprint specialist and fellow varsity cross country runner), Mary Zatochill (super perservering and positive rider, also a Spanish 306 classmate), Katie Levy (fellow varsity cross country runner, huge smiler and maker of delicious baked goods), Jessica Conrad (Montana girl and skier, this girl's got a lot going for her), Andrea Miller (the only B who can climb with the A's... so far), Annie Lawrence (the most competitive drop dead gorgeous blonde I know), Cammie Byerley (my partner in crime for the trip to Peru and recent recoverer of knee surgery).
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Being at College

The Duck Fest is currently underway at Whitman College and I was in the Stevens Gallery looking at the duck displays when a strange man started talking to me. Okay, not strange, just someone who clearly didn't go to school here. I'm not sure why it is so obvious who "belongs" and who doesn't but it is. We talked for awhile and eventually I asked him what he was doing on campus. "I just like to come in here occasionally and look at the art. I miss art... I wish I was in college." Which made me think: being in college rocks. I'll miss it when I'm done... in two weeks.

Friday, May 05, 2006

ìHoy es el Cinco de Mayo!

El cinco de mayo es una fiesta nacional mexicana que conmemoró el 5 de mayo 1862 cuando los mexicanos ganaron la Batalla de Puebla contra las francesas. El es un día de fiesta celebraron en los estados unidos por los mexicano-americanos más de en méxico. No es el día de independencia mexicana. Es un día (y batalla) que probó que los mexicanos pueden triunfar contra los estados grandes y poderoso.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

We had the Varsity Athletic Banquet Wednesday night. Hannes and I received the Most Outstanding Performers award for Male, Female Senior! Here's a gathering post banquet of the nordic and alpine teams.

front: Nathan Alsobrook (Head Nordic Coach), Lindsay Records, Nicole
Wolf, Maria Corcorran, Rachel Walker, Tom Olson (Director of Skiing,
Head Alpine Coach).
2nd row: Tory Amorello, Tara Gregg, Kate Ceronsky, Charlie Erdman (on
his 23rd Birthday), Malcolm Dunn (Asst. Nordic Coach).
3rd row: Hannes Zirknitzer, Meredith Riley, Charlotte Gourlay, Marc
Nabelek, Davis Taylor.
4th row: Andy Erickson, Laura Valaas, Alex Farnand, Whitney Heyvaert.
last row: Nate Johnson, Lauren Schmidt.

(note that clicking on the picture will give you a larger version of it.) Posted by Picasa

Warming up for the Criterium last Sunday in Lewiston, Idaho. From left to right: Rebecca Jensen, Kate Ceronsky, Laura Valaas, Mara Abbott, Jaime Hinderliter. The crit was a huge success, Mara and Rj broke of the front and time trialed in to take first and second and win almost all the prime points. Jaime and I stayed in the pack, stringing it out to drop people and sprinted for fourth and fifth. Kate, unfortunately flatted in the final laps of the race and was out of contention.

Notice the pink bar tape on my bike, a gift from Jane Rynbrandt! Jane raced with us on Saturday despite her seperated shoulder but decided to take Sunday off.

note: If you have a problem in a crit (crash or flat usually) you get to go to the "pit" where they have mechanics and spare wheels and then rejoin the race after a lap. If you have a problem with less than five (sometimes three) laps to go, you don't get the extra lap. Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 01, 2006

Whitman Cycling Team = NWCCC Champions!

Yes, that's right, after a strong showing this weekend in Lewiston/Lenville/Palouse we pulled ahead of WWU by a mere 22 points to win the Conference Championships. As prizes we all received custom handmade ceramic mugs touting our rank!

It was an exciting weekend, both spirits and energy running high despite the strain of traveling and racing three races in two days. We enjoyed beautiful weather with only a couple short thunderstorms Saturday evening. I can't wait to head down to Kansas for Collegiate Nationals in a week! But now I must do school work...

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