Needless to say, that was just the beginning.
Connecting the Dots
Upon returning to the U.S., I landed in Durango, Colorado, to teach again, where it didn’t take long to realize I was ready for a new path. I jonesed to get back south and kept asking myself, “What can I do that will allow me to connect, explore and adventure more in the world?”
I’d fallen in love with the Spanish language, the Latin culture, the people, the way of life, the dancing, the food, traveling, adventuring and exploring new horizons. I decided to resign from teaching and spend the winter in Mexico.
Off for summer break from teaching, I returned to Crested Butte for landscaping and began figuring out where in Mexico to go. An evening spent with my dear friend Christie Hicks turned my thoughts to Oaxaca. “You’ll love it Schweimy,” she assured me.
I did a little research into it online and, hours later, I had a one-way ticket to Oaxaca City. Seeing that there was mountain biking, Indigenous culture, lots of adventure in nature and Latin dance, it was an easy click! I spent eight months living, working and traveling Oaxaca and fell in love with everything about it. In that time, I made connections with the mountain biking community and a local outfitter became a dear friend and partner: Carlos Hernandez, co-owner of Coyote Adventures(S'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre).
Upon return home from that first experience in Oaxaca, I worked a hodgepodge of jobs and started talking with a life coach who asked me deeper questions about my vision, connecting the dots between the passions and outlets that have helped me grow, push myself and break out of my comfort zone: mountain biking, yoga, travel and cultural connections. Not only did I want to keep traveling and adventuring to feed my own passion, I wanted to share these types of experiences with other like-minded women, offering a fresh perspective and break from the daily grind to help them wake up to a world outside of their own comfort zones. Womens Radical Pursuits(S'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre) was born.
This passion project has evolved over the years, blossoming into more than I ever dreamt it could. I’m stoked to see its evolution and the full fruition of where we end up.
A Boy, His Bike and a Dream
There’s one village community in the Sierra Norte mountains of Oaxaca that has a special pull on my heart: Lachatao, meaning “sacred heart” in Zapotec, an Indigenous language of Mexico. You really feel the heart of this little village—the people, the land, the energy. It’s truly a magical place.
I returned to Oaxaca again in the winter of 2018 and was fortunate enough to work with the kids of Lachatao, teaching them yoga and English. It really helped me foster a deeper connection to the community and initiated a strong desire for me to give back. They taught me about Indigenous traditions, the healing power of nature, the energy of Jaguar Hill and how it’s the simple things in life that really matter. Here, I thought I was teaching them when, in hindsight, those kids were the teachers I needed, reminding me of the simple things in life: kindness, connection, nature and the joy of simplicity and just being.
I remember that, when I’d bring groups of women through the village, some of the kids being super intrigued with mountain biking. One eight-year-old boy in particular, Uriel, shared that he wanted to be a mountain bike guide someday.
He had a little red bike and his mom asked me if we would let him guide us up to the cabins. It was awesome, and I remember thinking that I had to find a way to get more bikes for the kids of Lachatao. I was inspired by Uriel's desire to be a mountain bike guide, and this could help build a greater connection between the tourists and the locals.
People from all over the world travel through that little village on mountain bikes and it seemed like a cool and empowering way to bridge the gap—through biking no less. Even if tourists don’t speak Spanish, they can share a spin and some smiles with the kids. And if the kids chose to explore beyond the simple joys of biking, they could become mountain bike guides in Oaxaca—one of the fast-growing, yet hidden, mountain bike gems of Mexico.
Launching Project Bike Love
Upon returning from that trip in 2018, I sought out partners to help make the magic happen and scored with the most stellar team.
I found Erin Machan, from Project Bike Love(S'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre), who was on board from our first conversation—a huge part of realizing this dream. Project Bike Love helped support this initiative through fundraising, and Belen Ramirez helped us source mountain bikes in Mexico City so we could also support the economy of Mexico.
Tina Ouley, from EveryPedal MTB(S'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre) was another main player in the magic making, helping us approach skills, culture and comradery throughout the delivery and ongoing support of the bike program.
We connected with my friend Carlos Hernandez, from Coyote Aventuras(S'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre) who helped receive and assemble the bikes, organize and provide the transport for delivery, tackle the logistics and the local connection to the village for the delivery, and beyond. The kids love Carlos, and he is such an incredible role model and inspiration for them. He’s already been back for some skills, maintenance and riding with the kids.
Though the 2020 pandemic felt like a setback at first, having to push pause on the trips, I can embrace that it helped shift the sails and initiate Project Bike Love, Lachatao. Not only did I experience another round of life falling apart, only to fall back into place again, but I was finally able to put my focus and energy towards giving back to the communities that we adventure to, starting with Lachatao.
Things felt slow over the course of two years, but we hung on to the dream and offered different events and fundraising initiatives. We finally got some quick momentum in fall of 2021, with a big donation that helped us reach our goal to launch in January 2022.
The Dan Mahon Memorial Fund(S'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre), honoring the life of an avid biker, was the miracle that helped us buy 16 Rockrider mountain bikes for the kids participating in the Lachatao project. Mahon’s family felt that the best way to honor his life was to spread kindness in the form of bikes. His smile will continue in the smile of others, and that was certainly the case on delivery day for the kids of Lachatao; their smiles were big and they are still beaming.
Delivery day is hard to describe, but heavenly. Working hard for two years through a global pandemic, hanging onto the faith in this dream, was quite a feat. Everything from the arrival to Oaxaca, the preparation and the beautiful two-hour drive through the mountains up to the village, with the bikes up top of the van, felt surreal.
Arriving at the village was heartwarming, and seeing the kids, dressed in their traditional clothes and surrounded by their families, was an experience that’s hard to put into words. They had been awaiting this day with such excitement and anticipation. We were met with open arms and you could see the smiles through their masks and in their eyes. Food awaited us as thanks and celebration.
We brought the bikes to the courtyard in a circle with the kids surrounding them. They’d made signs and cards of thanks. After we delivered our speech about their new bikes, they sang “Date Cuenta” by Manuel Mijares beautifully, and some shared words and poetry in their native Zapotec language.
We led the kids one-by-one to receive their bike, a T-shirt designed by Coyote and stickers for their bikes. The kids expressed their joy and gratitude with big hugs, tears and beaming smiles. After we delivered the bikes that afternoon, they rode into the wee hours of the night, laughing and playing together on two wheels.
It was truly divine to witness and be a part of this Project Bike Love initiative, spreading the joy and empowerment that a bike brings to a community so kind and grateful.
We will be donating a portion of all Womens Radical Pursuits mountain bike trips to support this project, along with other fundraising campaigns through Project Bike Love. On our upcoming Oaxaca trip, we’re offering a service and connection day for participants to meet the kids, ride bikes together, offer skills and games, and experience the magic of Lachatao.
If you are interested to support this project, you can follow @womensradicalpursuits(S'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre) to stay up to date on fundraising events, join us for a mountain bike trip to Oaxaca(S'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre) to support, ride with and meet the kids or visit the Oaxaca Mountain Bike Project fundraising page(S'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre) to make a direct donation.
Featured image via Carlos Fernandez