SOLA PEDALING by Carter Helliwell

Sola Pedaling

A story about cycling alone through Italy and Greece at the age of 17 . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life


Carter Helliwell is an artist and writer who lives on an island on Western Canada’s most southerly tip. Her blog chronicles her life’s sometimes rocky, but mostly happily enlightening journeys from far and near. 


I am an environmental educator and filmmaker. I directed and produced a short film called The Sacred Place Where Life Begins: Gwich’in Women Speak which advocates for Arctic indigenous Gwich’in women in Alaska and Canada and calls for the permanent protection of their sacred land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from potential oil development. Their way of life depends on this sacred land and through my film they are inspiring audiences around the country to take supportive action.

I have promoted this film on my bicycle over the last two summers, because I love socially and politically driven adventures. Last summer’s adventure was called “1,000 miles for 1,000 allies.” My hope was that by riding 1,000 miles on my bicycle, stopping along the way to show my film at various venues, I would create a community of 1,000 allies along the way. I even prepared myself for spontaneous screening opportunities by inventing a portable theater to show my film anywhere and anytime!

Last summer, I rode solo on my bicycle from Washington D.C. to Bar Harbor, Maine over the course of five weeks. My journey started in D.C. with a surprise invitation to an award ceremony where Sarah James, a Gwich’in elder who is in my film, was to be recognized for her lifetime commitment to protect her people’s sacred place. At the party, I had the most significant political moment of my life – I had the honor of being with Sarah in the presence of Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, as well as President Bill Clinton.


Photographer: Robert Thorpe

Five weeks later, my journey ended in an epic way. I summarized  the theme of those five weeks in Haiku (Japanese poetry):

Friendly faces, kind hands
Angels whisper when in trouble
Protected always

It was July 22nd at 4:00 AM sharp. Ravens woke me up as if asking me to enjoy the last day of my tour. I packed up my stuff and rode out to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. I saw a mama deer with a fawn in the morning sun. It was a quiet, magical and peaceful morning. I rode out to a bus station and held a sign on a piece of paper. It said: “Ellsworth or Portland.” I thought it would be safe to do this in the early morning in Acadia National Park. Some people had an early start and passed by me. Rose, one of the people who came to see my film the night before, drove by. She stopped her car and said that she would take me to Ellsworth. I said, “If you don’t need to go there, no worries. I will take a bus.” She said, “I am just going for a hike today so I don’t really mind.”  I told her to enjoy her day and sent her off.

A little after 7:30 AM, the bus showed up. “We can’t take your trailer,” said the driver. I explained to him that this was how I was traveling and that I didn’t have a car. “I have to ride this bus and get as close to Ellsworth as possible, so I can make it to Bangor today to catch another bus to Portland. I have a flight early tomorrow morning from Portland.” He said, “I can’t let you take the trailer. I will get in trouble. It’s against the rules.” I insisted that he help me out. I started to take the wheels off of my trailer so it would look just like a suitcase. Meanwhile, he called his supervisor. The answer was no.

I stood there speechless. All I could think was how the system is set up to make cyclists – minorities on the road – vulnerable. There was nothing I could do. Feeling helpless, I apologized to all the passengers on the bus for the delay that I had caused. I got my bicycle off the rack and wondered what I was going to do – there were 52 miles and lots of up-and-down between here and Bangor. I wouldn’t make the last bus from Bangor to Portland with my 50-pound trailer unless I made no stops.

Right then, a car pulled up behind the bus. It was Rose again. “Did you come back for me?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “I had a feeling that you were in trouble. Here, I can give you a ride. Let’s get your stuff in my car. Everything will fit.” We rearranged her stuff and surely, everything packed in nicely – her stuff, my bicycle, the trailer and me. She took me to Ellsworth and we had a great conversation on the way.

To me, these people are like angels who give me their hands when I am in trouble. This happened constantly throughout my journey and it makes me feel hopeful. We live in a world of despair, injustice, and violence, where people are hurt every day, but when I meet people like Rose, and so many others like her, I believe that the world is a good place, where people look out for each other, even if they’re strangers. The fact is, we are all connected – we are not strangers at all. This reminds me of a plaque with Rachel Carlson’s words that I saw in Wells, Maine. It says:

” . . . all the life of the planet is interrelated, each species has its own ties to others, and . . . all are related to the Earth . . .”

Most people have never heard of the Gwich’in. On my film tour, I saw audiences connecting emotionally to the women on screen, recognizing what it’s like to lose something so important and sacred. This started driving people to want to protect the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Witnessing this inspired me to hop on my bicycle every morning to reach one more person and ride one more mile.

In the end, I rode over one thousand miles on my bicycle that month. I also rode on trains, buses and support vehicles, which enabled me to reach many hundreds of people. In addition, I collected over two thousand signatures on petitions to President Obama as well as Congressional representatives. Behind those numbers is all the love and support that people provided to me.

I am hopeful – even with the news that I heard as I was getting ready to catch my plane from Portland, Maine the very next day: Shell’s Arctic Ocean drilling permit had been approved. The news was a reminder that we have numerous battles to fight, miles of walls to take down and many barriers to break through. Yet there is always hope, as long as there are people who demand justice and peace.

All this was on my mind on a hot humid evening in Washington D.C. the night before I began my journey to Bar Harbor. It led me to ride my bicycle to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and to view the large stone with these engraved words: Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

In the country where I was born, I write my first name 民穂. The first character 民 (mi) means “people” and is a symbol of democracy. The second character 穂 (ho) means “rice,” which is our staple food and a symbol of our cultural and ecological heritage. My parents chose these two characters as my name with the hope that I would become a protector of people, culture and the environment.

I want to live up to my name. Even when I recognize a mountain of despair, I hope to be a person with optimism and courage who takes action to protect others. Still, on my bicycle film tour, so many people were protecting me. Perhaps that’s what my parents actually intended with my name: a secret wish that I be protected.


Miho Aida, originally from Tokyo, Japan, is an environmental educator, filmmaker, and outdoor adventurer in California. She is recognized for her inspirational media project called “If She Can Do It, You Can Too: Empowering Women Through Outdoor Role Models.” Her award-winning film is titled The Sacred Place Where Life Begins – Gwich’in Women Speak

MRS. SPOOK, SPAIN, 1965 by Lillian McCloy

Lillian McCloy

A story about assisting her husband, a CIA officer, by trailing a suspected Russian spy . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life


Lillian McCloy was the wife of a deep undercover CIA officer during the Cold War. This story is an excerpt from her memoir, Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant, which was published shortly after she turned 90 years old. John le Carré describes the book as “a charming and unusual portrait of the secret life.” Her memoir averages 4.5-stars from nearly 100 reader ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. 



A story about quitting a high-paying corporate career to volunteer at an animal reserve in Africa  . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life


Melissa Haynes is a shark advocate, animal lover, adventure junkie, conservationist, and author of the book, Learning to Play with a Lion’s Testicles. Her book appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and on Ellen

ISN’T THAT FABULOUS? by Jenna Jolovitz

Isn't that Fabulous Jenna Jolovitz

A story about daring to go topless in France, and the unexpected happens . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life


Jenna is a writer and an alum of Second City in Chicago, where she wrote and performed shows alongside Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and others. She has been on the writing staff of such shows as MADtv, and Steve Martin’s The Downer Channel as well as a guest writer on Saturday Night Live

TRUCKIN’ by Johanna McCloy


It was the fall of 1984 and I was a sophomore at Duke University. My boyfriend Mark had just graduated and was uncertain about what he wanted to pursue as a career, so he extended his summer job as a driver and mover for a local moving company while he pondered his path and his future.

The moving company that he worked for was founded by a couple of Deadheads, Doug and Toni. Besides them, the staff comprised of Mark, Mark’s brother, and about five other employees, so it was small and had the feel of a large family. The name of the company was Truckin’ Movers and their logo was the same famous Grateful Dead boot that is seen on the cover of the band’s live Europe ’72 album. (I was told that Doug ardently pursued and happily received the band’s permission to use the name and logo.)

In addition to being Deadheads, Doug and Toni were also Krishna devotees, so Doug sometimes wore traditional Indian clothes to the office and donned a tilak (ash mark) on his forehead. In their Durham warehouse, incense smoke wafted in the air and shoes were stashed at the front door. Tapes of the Dead played all day with occasional interludes of Krishna chanting. We knew to be quiet upon entering the warehouse whenever chanting was heard.

While I made my way from Philosophy to Japanese to Geology classes at Duke, my beau mastered the art of loading and driving an 18-wheeler. The large truck had just been added to their fleet of smaller vehicles and Mark was the first employee to get a big rig driver’s license. It wasn’t easy. Maneuvering such a large truck was one thing, but there were also 12 gears and a very specific approach to braking. (If you’ve ever seen runaway truck ramps, that’s what they’re for, braking problems.) Mark had to know about the truck’s mechanics and followed a regimented checklist before each trip, just as a pilot does with a plane before taking off. He also had to know what to expect at highway weigh stations and how to address any issues that might arise there.

When Mark drove long distances over holidays, school breaks or weekends, he’d sometimes take me along, picking me up at the house where I lived off campus. Everyone knew he was coming for blocks before he arrived, because you could hear the truck’s rattling diesel engine and the hissing and squealing of its brakes. Large rigs weren’t supposed to drive through smaller neighborhoods, so as soon as I heard his truck approaching, I’d run outside and wait at the curb. He’d drive up and I’d open the passenger door, take the three large steps up into the cab, plop into the large rotating seat awaiting me, and throw my duffel bag into the sleeper area behind us while the truck barely idled. Then, he’d get the truck out of there before the police could arrive to hand us a ticket. (Doug and Toni weren’t always informed that I joined him.)

Truckin TrailerThe truck’s CB created another world on the freeways, an audio salon covering about a five-mile radius. Over the CB, truckers talked to each other about their jobs, the roads, their trucks, or the area around them. The most common use of the CB was to announce “Smokey” (highway patrol officer) sightings, which allowed truckers approaching the area enough time to slow down and avoid a possible speed trap. In Mark’s case, he received a lot of questions regarding the relatively new crate and tarp system that was being used on his 18-wheel trailer. After explaining how it worked several times, Mark suggested that I take the next query. I happily consented and we decided to make my CB “handle“ Tokyo Rose, based on my years of living in Tokyo as a teenager. It wasn’t typical for a female voice to be heard on the CB and the actress in me loved it. I’d use any excuse to start a conversation. “What’s the weather like in Bammy [Alabama]? Over.”

Truckers also used the CB to comment on motorists, looking down from their high perches into neighboring car windows and taking note of what they saw. Approaching truckers would be told to watch out for the chick in the blue skirt in the brown Toyota, for example. They’d look into the car as they passed, commenting to everyone with a “woohoo,” or “let’s see more of those legs, darlin’.” Little did that poor girl know that all the truckers in the vicinity were talking about her. Moving freely to her tunes, she was likely feeling invisible inside her boxed enclosure.

I learned about runaway ramps located off steep inclines for trucks whose brakes were failing. I learned about the frequency of torn tires and the need for replacements. I also learned the silent ways that truckers communicate by blinking their lights once to tell a truck behind them to go ahead and pass, and blinking twice as a way to say thank you after getting in front, if you were the truck that did so.

When we went to truck stops, we always used North Carolina accents so we could blend in and converse without calling attention to ourselves. When we pulled into weigh stations along the freeways, we’d hear the universal request from the officials awaiting us, arms outstretched with a palm open toward the driver’s window, their words jumbled together as one: “drivuhzlicenserestrationlawoogbuuk!” (driver’s license, registration, log book.)

A trucker’s log book identifies the drivers, the truck owner, the type of truck and the commodities being shipped in its trailer. It also tracks the location and miles for every 15 minute interval of time, whether on or off duty, and throughout every 24 hour period. (This is because there are strict laws regulating how much time a trucker can drive between rests. A faulty log book can result in harsh fines and even prosecution.) After the officials checked the documents and found them to be okay, which was most of the time, Mark would drive onto the designated scale markers on the ground. Each axle would be weighed to ensure compliance with state law maximums and a red or green light would indicate whether we’d need to pull over for further inspection or were free to move on.

When Mark first started driving for Truckin’ Movers, they only owned small trucks, so we were accustomed to riding together on those long vinyl seats that ran across the cabs and rattled along with the truck engines. When he graduated to the 18-wheeler, it felt like we’d become freeway royalty, bouncing with soft air suspension above everyone, in big comfortable easy chair thrones. The first couple of times we rode in those trucks, we’d inevitably break into British accents, pretend waving as if on a parade, “greetings to the minions.” When I rode along with him on multi-day trips, we generally stayed in motels overnight, but when he was alone with the big rig, he’d park at the large truck stops and sleep in the sleeper section of the cab, occasionally awoken by truck stop prostitutes knocking on the cab door to see if he might need anything.

One time, we were hit by a horrible storm in Alabama. I usually helped him by tracking inventory of the items being moved, but that day, I helped him load the truck as well. He was solo and the weather made the work even more grueling. The shipper couldn’t have been nicer and didn’t balk about the trucker’s girlfriend helping him load. After we finished loading, it was after dark and we were frozen to the core. We drove to a motel, took long hot baths and buried ourselves under the blankets, our bodies aching from head to toe. Another time, we unloaded a truck in San Francisco, where Glen, Mark’s “humper” (that’s the actual job title used for the person who assists the main driver/loader in the moving business), literally humped the client in her bedroom as we inventoried and unloaded her furniture on the floor below. She came downstairs with a wide grin on her face and when we were done, she took us all out for pizza.

Mark and I enjoyed all the adventure and independence that came with life on the road. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we seriously pondered buying our own truck and taking a year to live and work on the road as independent owner/operators after I graduated from college. That didn’t come to pass, but it remained a dream for some time.

When I’m on road trips and I pass big trucks on the highway or on long country roads, I consider my brief sojourn into that world and smile. Sometimes, I blink my lights to offer a trucker the chance to pass me, or as a way to say thank you for letting me do the same.

Tokyo Rose says hi. Over.

Johanna McCloy is editor of the Dare to be Fabulous website and the book, Dare to be Fabulous: Follow the journeys of daring women on the path to finding their true north. She also edited her mother’s memoir, Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant:Undercover and Overwhelmed as a CIA Wife and Mother by Lillian McCloy.

ON THE EDGE by Alison Levine

Alison Levine

A story about an attempt to scale Mount Everest after a failed (and media-covered) first try . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life


Alison Levine is a history-making polar explorer and mountaineer. She has climbed the highest peak on every continent, served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and skied to both the North and South Poles. She is the author of the NY Times bestseller, On the Edge, and is the executive producer of the documentary film, PASANG: In the Shadow of Everest.


Tabra Tunoa logo

I am Tabra Tunoa, Fabulous, Creative, Jewelry Designer, Artist, and Very Courageous World Traveling Adventurer. That’s how I like to think of myself….

In the summer of 2006, I decided the time had come for me to stop designing and manufacturing jewelry in the U.S. and move “Tabra International” to Bali, Indonesia. I couldn’t afford health insurance for my employees any longer and the increasingly difficult economic times were stressful. I had marched and marched in the streets of San Francisco protesting the beginning of the Iraqi war and was becoming discouraged as the war started anyway and then dragged on year after year. I was angry, depressed and obsessed about it.  I was losing interest in creating beautiful art.

My business had grown from selling jewelry on the street to a corporation with jewelry sales close to five million a year. My business won the “Inc. 500” Award for one of the fastest growing small businesses in America for two years in a row along with a prestigious Award for Diversity and Social Responsibility in the Work Place. There were many newspaper and book articles written about the way I created jobs for refugees.

In 1997, I faced a difficult life situation. I went bankrupt and lost everything – my house, my car and of course, my business. I was penniless with no prospect of a job. Realizing that there was no one who would hire me at the salary I wanted or give me the freedom of “running the whole show,” I began slowly and painfully to rebuild my business.

During my 20s, I lived with my son in various countries in the South Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe and Central America. I only returned to live in my home in Texas, when it became clear that the war in Vietnam was ending. However, I never really fit in there, so my former college art teacher suggested that I should try Berkeley, California.  Sure enough, at the age of 29, I found a place where an eccentric, non-conforming gypsy, hippie artist and single mother, could thrive.

I sold on the streets of Berkeley for many years before deciding to try the Renaissance and Harvest Festivals. That’s when I began to make real money from designing and creating my hand-made jewelry. The next step was to hire employees to meet the growing demand for my work. I also hired a professional business therapist to teach me how to manage and run a business.

For some 30 years, while traveling in remote corners of the world, buying stones and beads, looking for inspiration, and selling in fairs across America, I continued to grow my business and raise my son in California – all at the same time. In 2006, with my son grown up, and me without a significant other, I was ready for life in another culture again. I was ready for more adventure. I would go alone and I would be okay.

After making that difficult decision (the logistics of it all were absolutely daunting), I gave my employees six months to find another job. The majority were Asian refugees who had fled oppression in their own countries. Some of the refugees had worked with me for 20 years and many had chosen my company when they first arrived in the U.S. fresh off the boat, so to speak. They took my announcement with amazing grace and supported what they knew I had to do.

Powerful Bronze Indonesian Moon Goddess Amulet Bracelet With Lapis Lazuli Eye Symbols To ard off Evil and Protect the Wearer. Set in Sterling Silver Designed by Tabra and Fabricated in Bali.

Some of my employees found other jobs right away and some stayed with me until the end – helping me with the difficult business of closing down my life in America. Some didn’t like the new jobs they found, returning to work with me again until they could find another job that suited them better. I had been advised that this was not the way to close the business – that it would be best to announce the closing as I passed out their final checks, the same day I closed, but I closed my business in the manner I felt my employees deserved. They had to make their own adjustments and it would be difficult for them, as well. What I kept reminding myself throughout the process was “this is not all about me.” We had worked together for so long, through major ups and downs, and they were like family. Those who stayed with me got jewelry-making equipment, office supplies, computers, beads and bonuses at the end. Everyone got something.

During those hectic six months, I took time to write up plans for my future – a one year plan, a five year plan and a twenty-five year end of life plan. It was important for me to be very clear with myself about what I wanted to do with the remainder of my life.

I decided that Costa Rica and Bali, Indonesia would be my focus countries. I knew that I wouldn’t be happy being tied down to just one country or one culture and I wasn’t finished designing and creating. There were still many women who enjoyed wearing and collecting my jewelry and I wanted to supply them. I also knew that wherever I went, helping educate young women in Third World countries would be an important part of my life.  That would be my gift to the world.

Figuring out what I would need in my new life and what I should let go of, working with lawyers, accountants, realtors and distributors, shipping beads and stones to Bali – took the full six months. It was difficult, fun, physically and emotionally exhausting, exciting and sometimes sad. I was working 16 hours a day, making important decisions every hour that would directly affect the rest of my life. Although it was scary, there was really no time to think about how difficult and complicated I was deliberately making my life.

On the third of January, 2007, I flew to Bali alone – to begin the next phase of changing my world: setting up my workshop and making my jewelry in Bali, selling it directly on my new website and opening up my beautiful little gallery on Hanuman Street in downtown Ubud, the Art and Cultural Center of Indonesia.  I continued to sell my Tribal, Modern/Ethnic Jewelry to wonderful craft galleries in the U.S., Australia and Japan. I hired five smart, young Balinese women and began English classes for them and Indonesian classes for myself – so that we could communicate. I told them my life goals and they told me theirs. That way we could all help each other achieve those goals.

Three months after arriving in Bali, my condo back in California, sold. I took the profit and made a down payment on 85 acres of jungle and a small cabin in the Turrubares Mountains of Costa Rica. I put the rest of my money into gold and silver investments. I had worked with silver and gold for so long, I felt I understood that market best.  It turned out I had made wise decisions. I sold my house and invested in metals at a very good time.

My future plans continue to develop as new opportunities arise or the unexpected occurs and I have to change directions. However, my overall plan has remained the same: live part of the year in Bali, visit my friends and family in the U.S. every year and develop my land in Costa Rica for eventual retirement. I will build cabins for my artist friends, people I like and family  to live near or visit me often as I grow older. It will be another calculated, but crazy adventure.

The challenge of changing your world takes the courage to be different, to risk disapproval, and to take chances, but for me, it has been worth it. My life is interesting and full of change. I have no regrets. I love the world I have created for myself.

Returning to the U.S. to see family and good friends for a few weeks each year is very important to me. I miss the long walks in the forest with my best friend and seeing her two or three times a week in California. Best friends are not replaceable. But I write long letters and visit her twice a year and I cherish the memories I have of the good times.

I have made many mistakes, but I have tried to learn from them and live my life with grace. Now, I am ready for new challenges. My life in America is finished. From time to time, when things get really tough, I tell myself that maybe I will settle down and live a safe, uncomplicated, predictable life. But I can’t. And, anyway, I don’t want to. I’m addicted to adventure and change.

Tabra TunoaInternationally known artist, Tabra Tunoa, is a leader in the Contemporary Ethnic style of Gypsy Jewelry. She studied Mayan and Aztec art at the University of Mexico City and in San Jose, Costa Rica. She also studied jewelry design at the Masana Art Institute in Barcelona, Spain in the ’60s and ’70s.  She continues designing jewelry and working with young Balinese women in her home near Ubud.