John Powell and his wife, Illana, had nothing better to do in October of 1984, so they decided to ride their bicycles from San Jose to Tiera del Fuego at the southern-most tip of Argentina.
They got back to California last week, having found the excursion required 12 months to complete, what with a six-month stay forced on them in Chile to recover from a severe parasitic infection. The Powells, both 38, said they decided on the trip even though Illana Powell, a chiropractor, had never been on a long bike ride before. The trip had been a lifelong dream of John Powell and, he said, "I just told my wife we'd better do it now or we wouldn't be able to do it."
John Powell had operated a pet wholesale business in Ventura, where his wife had a health practice. They bought bikes and other equipment and went north to San Jose to begin the trek so they could have most of the length of California to shake down their equipment and themselves before crossing the Mexican border.
The Powells biked the entire way, John Powell said, except for El Salvador and Nicaragua, which they flew over because they did not want to have to confront hostilities in either country.
The journey, which the Powells estimate at about 15,000 miles, was planned at least in part on the basis of maps provided by the Automobile Club of Southern California, which warned the Powells that many roads in the interior simply don't appear on any map.
"My wife speaks a little Spanish and it really paid off," Powell said. "We were invited into homes everywhere we went. Mainly, it's because of the way we traveled. It would have been different on a bus."
Now, the couple plan to rest up for a few days and return to Ventura. "We intend to start our lives up again," Powell said.
Color It, Uh, Green
On St. Patrick's Day everybody is Irish, and this year a Little Tokyo restaurant is proving to be no exception. The Sushi and Teri restaurant in the Japanese Village Plaza offers a St. Patrick's week special--O'Samurai stuffed cabbage.
'Stigma of Cancer'
Susan Amy Weintraub of Beverly Hills discovered it is not easy to have had cancer. She needed help. Finding none, she started a group to help people who, having conquered the disease, are faced with an almost equally pervasive assailant--discrimination.
"There is a stigma of having had cancer," the founder of Cancervive said. After losing four jobs, Weintraub began telling people her limp was the result of a skiing accident rather than a result of the chemotherapy and radiation treatments used to cure her of the cancer that struck 10 years ago while she was an 18-year-old at the University of Colorado.
The nonprofit, self-help group has 550 members from Southern California to Washington, D.C. Started in July of last year, Cancervive sponsors support groups, public and corporate education and legislation to fight job and insurance discrimination and helps cancer-free men and women deal with the emotional problems of having had a life-threatening illness.
"I have heard of so many people starting out whose dreams were snuffed out," Weintraub said. Like the 17-year-old boy who was turned down for an ROTC college scholarship because he'd had cancer when he was 7. Or the singles who lie, calling their disease something else, rather than having to face the rejection from loved ones or their families.
Weintraub discovered there are 3,000 cancer-related groups in California, but not one that dealt with cancer survivors. "I started the group for myself," she said, "but I figured if I needed it, someone else probably did too."
The group holds a series of eight weekly sessions in Beverly Hills, with plans to expand to San Fernando Valley and Orange County. The cost for the sessions is $80, but there is no charge for joining Cancervive.
For information call (213) 203-9232 or write 9903 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 344, Beverly Hills, 90212.
A Saintly Sicilian Feast
The patron saint of workers, St. Joseph, is having his day Wednesday and good Sicilian that he is, Dominick Albanese is already preparing for the celebration.
The feast--free to all who wander in--will be at 1511 S. Robertson Blvd. in West Los Angeles, coincidentally a Damiano Mr. Pizza, one of three pizza restaurants owned by Albanese.
If you want pizza, however, this is not the party for you. Albanese is sticking to tradition. A Lenten event, St. Joseph's Day is traditionally meatless. That means lots of pasta and fish (at least 13 different entrees in honor of the apostles) plus the cookies and cakes Sicilians traditionally bake for this day plus about 300 or 400 pounds of Albanese's homemade ice cream. (If you happen into the restaurant desperate for a pizza or a meatball sandwich, Albanese will oblige. But expect no bargains; only the feast is free.)