Finding My Voice in Lençóis

A birthday, two interviews, a crazy connection, a wonderful host, another new Mom and a middle finger. My unexpected stop in this Brazilian town produced a plethora of experiences.


(Note: I had a really hard time remembering how to pronounce this city. Accordingly, I chose a title that rhymes to help me remember.)

Monday, July 9th

Healthy or not, here I go!

Although I wasn’t quite ready to call my sickness a good thing, the delay it caused me allowed me to make a meeting I was looking forward to. Today I would be heading towards the town of Lençóis Paulista. Little did I know that this place was soon going to feel like a second (or nineteenth) home to me.


I had an enjoyable ride and was able to focus well. I was glad I had waited an extra day to get healthier. I really enjoyed the scenery of the rolling fields. I knew that I was going to be entering sugar cane country at some point. There was just a brief spot where corn and cane coexisted, before sugar cane took over completely.

The tall fields in the red dirt were really interesting for me.

There have been just a couple of bummers about riding in Brazil. First of all, all gasoline is mandated to contain at least 25% ethanol (though ethanol from sugar cane is vastly superior to the corn based product). Secondly, the tolls! My first day on the road I spent over $10 in only about 5 hours. Other than that, it’s been a great place to ride.

I met a group of local riders on big bikes at one of the pay stations. With my earplugs in, it was really hard to communicate (never mind the fact that I don’t really speak Portuguese). Still, we communicated well enough that the lead rider paid for my toll and invited me to ride along with them.

My path diverged from this group after about 20 minutes. This was probably for the best, as they liked to cruise at about 90 mph (145 km/h). That’s doable for Annie and I, but not very safe or comfortable.

So where exactly was I going? To see Fernando, of course. You don’t remember Fernando from the post that my Mom wrote about getting to Machu Picchu? Here’s an excerpt:

“Since we were a fivesome one of us was destined not to sit in the seats of two or four. Guess who was the odd one out.  Me. So I sat down with my new Brazilian friends, Fernando, Eduardo, and Tatiana.

We had an hour and a half to get acquainted and had a great time doing so.  They had good tips for us for our time in Cusco. Of course, they were very interested in Brett’s trip and wished me a happy birthday when they learned I was celebrating on this trip.  All had lived in the US or England for a short time so their English was very good. I wish my Spanish was a tenth as good!”

Can we get a closeup of Fernando, whom my Dad caught with a full mouth? (Granted, my Dad is an expert at this.)

Now let me say this: I meet tons of people. Many of them (generally the more crazy ones) are interested in my trip. I hear phrases all the time such as, “When you get to *some city*, look me up. You can stay with me!” or “I know somebody in *future location* that would be glad to host you.” When I hear something like this, there is usually only about a 10% chance that the person will actually follow through. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful even for an offer, but I try not to get my hopes up.

….but my friend Fernando was definitely one of the 10%-ers. He contacted me on facebook a few weeks prior and offered me a place to stay. In reality, he offered so much more.

The town of Lençóis (rhymes with “mens voice”) is home to about 70,000 people and lies about three hours from São Paolo. It is home to a variety of industries, those related to sugar seem to be most prominent. It is known as “The city of the book” (“Cidade do livro”), as it has a large library which is home to more books than number of people who live in the city.

Pic from later:

I navigated to Fernando’s place. He, along with his girlfriend Paula, welcomed me very warmly. It should maybe be noted that Fernando and I had spoken for probably less than five minutes in Peru. However, he had quite a bit of time with my Mom and she, predictably, made quite an impression. Still, it didn’t take long for me to feel completely at ease and comfortable with my host.

Festivities commenced right away, first with a visit to Paula’s family. I was just there for a short time, but received a week’s worth of hospitality.

(2 photos so everybody could be in them.)

Then it was on to Fernando’s parents place. His parents, Geraldo and Ana Lucia, were so good to me in so many ways. I was treated to lots of good food, including trying pão quiejo (cheesy bread) for the first time. I was trying to take it easy on my digestive system, but all of the tasty items made that really difficult!

I was really fortunate that everyone in the group spoke some level English. I don’t remember all of the details of the conversation that night, but I do remember how I felt: Absolutely at home. These people are really special.


Tuesday, July 10th

While Fernando was at work, I had a really productive day of writing.

We had lunch at his parents place. Ana made a real feast for us. Fernando said that even though he is not a kid anymore, he still goes home for lunch every day. I could definitely see why!

I’d mentioned that I needed to get some parts for Annie, so Fernando accompanied me to check at one of the shops. I didn’t find what I was looking for, at least at the price I was looking for, but it was really nice of him to help.

In the evening we stopped by Fernando’s parents. I were just planning to drop in for a minute, but before I knew, I had a spoon in my hand again. 🙂

By this point in my journey, I could probably draw a pretty comprehensive map of all of the places that I’ve been “mom’d.” Maybe it is just my pitiful, helpless appearance, but Moms from all over the Western Hemisphere have cared for me so well. Ana became an important member of the “Mom group.” 🙂

We took a nice drive that night as Fernando and Paula did a show-and-tell about their city. It really seems like a nice place to live. It is peaceful, modern and the cookie factory in the middle of town emits a really pleasant scent.

We also stopped by a food truck where I had my first churro since Chiapas, Mexico.

I was initially planning to hit the road the next day, but……would you? It wasn’t a hard to decision to stay a couple more nights, especially since one of Fernando’s cats had finally warmed up to me.


Wednesday, July 11th

I had another nice relaxing morning, getting some work done at Fernando’s parents place. The previous night I had asked if I could use their machine to wash my clothes. In a way, the answer was “no.” didn’t use the machine, Ana washed, dried and folded them for me. It was just one more “Mom moment” before she left town for a few days. It was sad to say goodbye to her.

(Warning: Science ahead. Feel free to skip ahead.)

I went out to lunch with Fernando and Geraldo. They both work at the same company which focuses on the process of converting sugar cane to ethanol. Being a Nebraskan, I naturally had lots of questions for them. The ethanol industry in Brazil survives with no government subsidies (although all gas sold is required to contain at least 25% ethanol). This is because producing ethanol from sugar cane is about 7 times more efficient than producing it from corn.

The corn process has to begin with converting the kernels into sugar, a process that is obviously not needed with sugar cane. It is for that reason that corn-based ethanol is such a wasteful product. Unfortunately, the US does not have the climate to grow sugar cane. Unless major advances in chemistry take place, American ethanol will continue to be a fool’s errand.

Kudos to Brazil though! They’ve found a way to use their climate to their advantage. Additionally, Fernando and Geraldo told me that many of the plants for processing sugar cane are “one stop” operations. At the same plant, they are able to extract ethanol, raw sugar and other by-products of the plant. Now that’s efficiency.

(End science.)

My evening began quite interestingly: With a newspaper interview. I had a great time chatting with Flavia from the local paper, “O Eco.” Fernando acted as a translator for us. She asked really good questions and I’m eager to see the final product.

It’s probably because I don’t really promote myself, but I do find it a bit funny that I made a Brazilian newspaper before making one of the major papers in my home state. I’m planning to rectify this by titling my next post:


That should work. 🙂

In all honesty though, I am nothing but flattered when I get to do an interview like this. It warms my heart anytime someone decides that my story is interesting enough to tell.

We saw some more sights around the center of town like the library and the cathedral.

We also took care of signings this evening. I had one additional task for Fernando. On the back of my sign I have the Spanish translation for “I’ve Been Everywhere.” I had thus far neglected to get the song title in Portuguese.

His translation is just perfect, capturing the attitude of the song perfectly.

Then it was time to party. These hours represented my final moments as a 33-year old. My new friends and family helped make them memorable for me.

We went out to sort of an American/rock and roll-themed restaurant. They even had a classic picture of Mr. Cash on the wall which I did my best to emulate. This photo features me being a bad example to kids, so I will put it behind a click HERE.

I even have a video of the Brazilian birthday song (yay for fast internet!). I had a really hard time knowing when to blow out the candles. 🙂

They really made this a special night for me.

There was also a really interesting coincidence that happened. Astute readers of this quality publication will remember that I celebrated my last birthday with my Aunt and Uncle, Janet and Doug, in Trout Lake, Washington (this post).

One of the reasons that Fernando speaks English so well, is that he spent a year studying in middle-of-nowhere, Oregon as a teenager. When I mentioned to him where I celebrated my last birthday he said, “Oh yeah, I’ve been there.” I just love connections like this. Also notable was that Fernando was present for my Mom’s birthday in Peru too. I guess:


Thursday, July 12th. Birthday.


On facebook, I summed it up like this:

“I guess when most people add a year to their age, they say that they can’t believe how old they are. I kind of take a different view: Even before this crazy trip, my time on earth has already contained a whole lifetime’s worth of experiences. As funny as it may sound, I can’t believe how young I still am.”

This birthday was going to begin a little differently than my previous 33, with an interview in Portuguese. I was a little nervous, given that I had been speaking the language for just a few days, but I had Fernando by my side once again.

They uploaded it on youtube so I can share it here. I give almost all of my responses in English, but manage to chime in with a few Portuguese phrases.

Rogerio was a great interviewer. He had obviously done his homework on my story and was able to ask some really specific questions. It was a great experience.

Lençóis actually has a team that plays American flag football. They have a name that strikes fear into all that hear it:

They got me a jersey and some other swag. 🙂

It was time to get packed up and on the road. One of Fernando’s cats started attacking my shoelaces during the process. I just love this picture:

My final stop was at Fernando and Geraldo’s office. I had one last coffee, one last nice conversation, then began rolling out of Lençóis.


What an amazing stop. I can’t believe the generosity of these people. I truly felt like an honored guest during my time here. But it wasn’t just about my trip. I talked more about my thoughts, beliefs and pre-trip life than I had in a long time. I know that I’ve made some more friends for life. See you in Nebraska, Fernando!

Keep ageing, everybody.



Realtime update: I’m on the Atlantic coast again, currently sitting in the picturesque beach town of Ubatuba. I might take a couple more days hanging out around here before continuing on to Rio de Janiero. As always, thanks for being part of my journey. It means a lot to me!

Author: BA


11 thoughts on “Finding My Voice in Lençóis”

  1. Loving your blog! What a blessing it was for us to have met u here in Sampa! Keep riding and keep writing!
    God bless,
    Raquel & Gord


  2. It’s great to see another update and seeing the background scenery change as you travel along is interesting. Keep making friends and closing the gap between you and home.


  3. I delight in hearing how well you are being taken care of and how warm and welcoming lots of people are to you on your adventure!


  4. Thanks Fernando!!! What a great guy with great family & friends! Super thankful for another family for you along the way! Great interview (Brad understood some of it, I understood the English 😉 ) and can’t wait to see the newspaper article! -B&E


    1. I’m impressed that Brad understood some of it. Portuguese is tough, even for native Spanish speakers. The newspaper is on its way to Mom!


  5. This post ranks as one of the most special for me thanks to dear Fernando and his family and friends! You have had no chance encounters but tremendous God incidents in meeting these great people along the way! I’m especially thankful for all those who have mom’d you! Thanks, Ana! How wonderful to have another “family” to help you celebrate your birthday! Can we put in a reservation to help you celebrate the next one? 🙂 Love you so much! Mom


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