Posts Tagged ‘bike’
So most bike tourers seem to have a pretty little photo with all their gear, and a list of stuff they carry. I’ve never done it, but today, with my stuff scattered all over the floor, I thought it was about time. Yep, i’m fully loaded – but remember it’s everything I own in the world (bar a box of books at mum’s!)…
It’s been eight days of Minneapolis. Eight days of city life, of unloaded bike cruising, of chai teas and coffee shops. “The Crockhouse” – my home for the week – has been the perfect roof… a place to rest, organise, laugh and play. A day after I arrived was Will’s birthday party… the rooms filled with delicious cooking smells and friendly faces. Then I spent two days hermiting on the couch, getting photos finally uploaded and consolidating my options.
I was exhausted. My travellin’ soul is growing weary, the road seems endlessly long. Considering my options, the idea of hitching across North Dakota seemed tantalisingly easy. I could thumb it until Cut Bank – all the way until Western Montana – and then ride from there, over the Rocky Mountains, to the coast of Seattle. This would cut 2 weeks off, mean that I got to ride with Leon (my incredible Irish mate) and Mike (the ‘walking across usa’ guy, who is now riding) and would skip the horrible windy flats of the Dakotas. I set my mind to it. Telling people of my new plan, I explained that I didn’t need the kudos of a solid “Coast to Coast” tour. It’s always been important to me to remain open and flexible in my rambles – to always follow my heart and do what is best for it, not necessarily my ego. I wanted old friends and community – the sooner the better.
I’m not sure if it was my ego that finally spoke up, or if my rest here in the twin cities strengthened me (so many bikes!)- but I soon realised that I was determined to pedal the distance. Yeah I’m tired, my head is unable to absorb much more, and familiar faces are much needed – but I have a dedication to sustainable travel that I won’t dismiss, and a fuel indulged journey wouldn’t heal my heart. Life is just better by bicycle – I know that, I’ve learnt that. Chris, my beautiful host in Ithaca told me as I was leaving: “If you ever feel lost, just remember – pedal on, always pedal on”. And Charlie, all the way over in Tunisia, riding his own road, messaged me a poignant quote: “Life is like a bicycle – to maintain balance, you have to keep moving.” (Einstein)
So tomorrow morning I’ll do both. My gear is packed up and I’ve even found a Canadian fellow by the name of Oak, cycling the same route. Again, I’m feeling the sadness of leaving, the excitement of the open road, and the anticipation of adventures Juno and I will get ourselves into. The Bicycle Film Festival has instilled in me more video inspiration. I’ve got new ideas, new motivation, and am ready to ride! Rubber side down!
I woke up in Chicago on a Tuesday. “Shit. Today’s Tuesday”. I had told Pamela, Charlie’s mum, that I’d be rolling into Madison today. I sent out a quick email, re-set the date for Friday and hoped I hadn’t just blown my chance to ‘impress the parents’.
Pedaling in from Milwaukee was a pleasant ride, rails-to-trails almost the whole way. It made for pretty boring landscape though, just an endless tunnel of trees, perfectly flat, perfectly unremarkable. Still, I overnighted by a beautiful lake, just 30miles out, and it was a clear blue sky that opened itself to me as I cycled in the next day, around 8am. Birds chirped, chipmunks ducked, and rabbits bounced as I meandered along the smooth bike-path leading straight downtown.
My friends had taken to calling Madison “the promised land”, which might give you an idea of how much I anticipated my arrival here. I had dreams of endless crisscrossing bike paths, roads with narrow lanes for cars and twice as wide brightly painted shoulders for cyclists… two wheeled machines piled into the myriad of bike racks, and every spare post, pole, table leg, used to secure a bicycle. Ideas of vegan bakeries on every corner and homegrown hippies jamming next to community gardens. Basically, I saw Madison as a vegan-tourers mecca.
And I wasn’t far off! This place is magic. Within three blocks of where I’m staying is a local diner, a printing co-op, a huge food co-op, an organic local bakery, a vegan coffeehouse, a fair-trade coffee roasting non-profit, an info-shop for all your anarchist information, and a huge local bike shop in a CASTLE! That’s just this one street. Damn! And yep – bikes everywhere!
I found 417 s. Dickinson St pretty easily, it’s just one block away from the “Bicycle Boulevard”. The address had served as my postal point for several months, so was well etched into my mind. Rolling up to it, I noticed Charlie’s ‘World Bike Tour’ flag on the porch and chocked up a little. I prepared myself for two weeks of Charlie memories, Charlie stories, Charlie photos… and wondered how comfortable I would feel in his house, with his mum, and his cat. The back door wasn’t left open, as Pam had promised, so I sat under the pear tree and relaxed the afternoon away. It wasn’t until I’d done a tour of the town, had a tea, said hi to the bike boys, and returned back to the house – that I realised today wasn’t Friday at all… it was Thursday. Shit.
So by now I’m definitely looking like the most disorganised, ditsy, daughter in law ever to have existed – the only consolidation coming from the realisation that I’m truly in the bike touring ‘time doesn’t exist’ mindset. Thankfully it’s a warm hug and a smile anyway when Pam get’s home, and it’s not long before I’m feeling settled and welcome. A pile of packages greets me too… thank you all SO much for the love – the words are all worth their weight in gold. I even got a “welcome to Madison” postcard from Charlie’s mate Day, who became a great ambassador and friend.
Now it’s been almost a fortnight and I feel like one of the family. The motherly love I’ve been given could never be described in print… every need has been met, every part of my body/mind/spirit re-energised for the rest of the road ahead, from repaired shoes to repaired soul. I got to make a trip out to Johanna’s (sister) farm and picked up pieces of info on native herbs, what to eat and what not to eat, while listening to the soothing creek running through the beautiful ‘drift-less’ region. Juno has had it good too – Charlie’s old bike buddy Derek tuned her, lubed her and loved her, and she’s never felt stealthier.
I got a chance to set up a new Lightfoot Sustainable Post box (Madison would be lost without one!) at Mother Fools, the vegan coffee house. John, one of the owners, has been so enthusiastic and into the project, I can already see the letters flying in.
And now it’s time to pedal out. I’ve had a 23rd birthday, rested and recuperated, and am ready for the Bicycle Film Festival and Josh Ritter gig in Minneapolis. As itchy as I am for the open road, it’s going to be a hard town to leave. In a lot of ways I feel closer to Charlie here, his history and memories is in a lot of the landscape. It’s a reminder too though of the distance between us, and I’m looking forward to centering myself again, to becoming more present. Hopefully this time I can keep track of the days though! Adios!
And some photo’s from Charley III:
Fully loaded, I pedal up Manhattan. It wouldn’t feel like “the beginning” until I crossed the George Washington Bridge, but I was on my way. Somewhere uptown, on Amsterdam Avenue, a smiling cyclist cruised up to me. “Where you headed?” For the first time on the road, I say I’m cycling cross country. He did it two summers ago and with such warmth and honesty, wishes me a good trip. It’s my first hour, but I already feel blessed.
40 miles out, up the Hudson river, a ‘roady’ slows his cadence to have a chat. With a sparkle in his eye that I recognize as lust for the open road, he asks me my destination. I fill in the blanks as we ride the next few miles into Nyack, a charmingly liberal country town. James, a frequent tourer, cycles Europe, Cuba and North America when he’s not flying for a commercial airline. A pilot with enough eco-conscience, but not quite enough incentive to give up the childhood dream of machines in the sky. He introduced me to another James, owner of the 30-year local one-man-show bike shop, who’s pure love of bicycles was reflected in his free and comforting demeanor. They directed me to a dreamy campsite, mossy grass by the river. While setting up my tent, I chatted with locals out for a run or walking their dog, even the police, none of whom seemed to mind my audacious lodging location.
The next morning was cold and rainy, but a hot shower, cooked oats and the warmth of a home, offered by the pilot James, was a boost to another bleak day. His farewell and good wishes again made me feel magically cared for, and I pedaled off with a song in my soul.
Three days later, I rolled into Albany, New York State’s capital. My couch surfing hosts Abe, Charlie and Ashley were a dirty bike bums fantasy. Within an hour, I was scrubbed up and stuffed with delicious vegan dinner, watching my clothes spin in the wash. There was even beer. Their apartment was in a royal old building, top floor, and their huge rooftop proved perfect for drying out my tent, sleeping bag and other damp travelling gear. Matt, a downstairs neighbour and old school bike fanatic, gave me a real 80′s cycling jersey while recounting enchanting stories. The morning of my departure, Ashley, a vegan baker, rose early to send me off with chocolate brownies and peanut butter cookies. Heavenly!
Sometime during my 3 day rest in Albany, I managed to convince Jon, a basement housemate, to join me on the ride to Ithaca, 170miles away on the finger lakes. His bike was in good shape and he was bundle of energy, so the perfect candidate. We took route 20, though another cross-country cyclist advised me not to based on the steeeeeep hills, and Jon flew to the top of every one, powering through the miles and only stopping when I insisted. He was a positive vibe at the end of each day, despite the tiny tent and rainy weather. I enjoyed the company, and was proud to have facilitated a confidence boost in his touring ability. I was reminded again though, of the pleasure of solo touring, and the difficulties in finding someone with the same rhythm. Our farewell in Ithaca (he took a ride-share home) was quick but warm, and I counted myself one friend the richer.
I met another Jon on route 20, on a day when Albany Jon was well ahead and a few hills away. His loaded Xtracycle rig eased up to mine while I was fumbling with camera gear. He had ridden from Virginia to Boston and was now heading west, towards Buffalo. The curious thing: This was his job. He carried an amp and guitar on his two touring pedals and was a travelling, cycling, musician and lecturer. A kindred spirit, we slowly took the slopes and chatted the day away. His understanding and insight into bike travel was intriguing and refreshing. Our roads diverged but only to converge again soon: He is doing a gig in Ithaca, tomorrow, Monday night. I’ve stuck around another day or two to hear the man play and in such an incredible ‘Gorges’ town, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
The ride from my first hosts house, Marvin’s (a perma-culture, plant identifier and masseuse), follows creeks and forests down a VERY steep, endless hill, and yet is only 4 miles from the town center. Yesterday, at the fiddle playing pub, my “revolution cycles” Madison sticker attracted two other tourers, a couple from Wisconsin, Emma and Chris. Their love of their hometown fused with mine when I explained my (Charlie) connection and unconditional, unverified love for the bike capital. They have become my second hosts in Ithaca, and while we bake Baba Ghanoush and vegan treats, their stories fill me up. Twice since, I’ve been offered other beds in homes and the abundance of care, consideration and community here continue to surprise me.
A journey is only a sum of the people who colour it, and every connection, no matter how brief, provides me with fuel and fire to carry on… one revolution at a time.
Recycle-a-Bicycle was the second bike shop I walked into in New York City. Willy and I had caught a lift down from Newport and spent a night with his sister, Kimmy, in the Bronx. The next day we set our sights on used bike stores and the library told us the East Village. It was a miserable day, cold, wet and grey. We hurried off the subway into the streets and, shoulders hunched, shuffled into the first bike store on our list. Two men looked up from behind the counter, but only nodded, and the few bikes on the racks were way overpriced. We shuffled out.
The next stop was only two blocks up. Closing the door behind us, we filled the space not taken up by bikes. Again, two men looked up, but this time with smiles and a hello. We laid down our claim: Two touring bikes, in good condition, cheap, of x and x size. Oh and recycled. Testament to when things are meant to work out, they work out: Among the 20 or so bikes in the shop, two perfectly sized touring beauties sitting side by side.
The next clear day, I took my Panasonic out for a test ride. The first ten minutes were awkward… her drop bars were new to me and felt unstable, her down-tube shifters even more so. I tried to imagine her fully loaded and it didn’t feel safe. I was disappointed – I had felt sure this was the lady for me.
Back in the shop Patrick adjusted the saddle and showed me a few tricks. I went out for a longer ride, down to the river and along a wide empty bike lane. Suddenly, something clicked. The magic happened. The feeling I’d been hoping for, waiting for… came over me and I knew then it was love. She was in mint condition, her 80′s paint job without a scratch. Her hill climbing chain ring on the front, a 28, was so small compared to her biggest, a 50, I was surprised she shifted so smoothly. I sped back to the store and announced our engagement. For 450 dollars, she couldn’t be beat.
New York city is better by bike than by subway, and once my pedal powered beauty and I were acquainted, we couldn’t be separated. The town opened itself up to me and surprised me on every corner. I had expected “The big apple” to be pretentious, arrogant, and though exciting – very daunting. In fact, humanity is what I found. A living organism, the city itself alive. Sure, I met a few oh-so-networky types, but they were few and far between. I stayed in the Bronx, then Williamsburg, Brooklyn (home of the “hipster” – a new word for me) in a busy CouchSurfing house where I set up a lightfoot box… and later in the West Village in Manhattan with Brad, part of the Ramble Atlantic crossing crew. I went to gigs, to galleries and to a random ‘World Laughter Day’ event, where a hundred of us giggled through the streets.
Most days I popped into Recycle a Bicycle, Ave C between 5th and 6th, a place that felt very warm and welcoming to me. The two bike mechanics, Patrick and Daniel, became good friends. Dan took us to a top secret Queens location, where, surrounded by quiet and space, we could watch Manhattan whiz by as we stoked a campfire and I had my first all American ‘Smore’.
About a week after arriving, Willy dropped out of the bike touring gig when he was offered a sweet-ass sailing delivery job out of L.A. No more Lily and Willy jokes, or Cribbage games. That left me and my bike to do it alone. I spent another week readjusting my head to this new mission, and trying to build up my courage. I was excited, nervous, anxious, and terribly afraid of failing. But so begins any meaningful journey.
A last soy chai with Dan, and my loaded rig and I hit the road. Crossing the George Washington Bridge, overlooking the whole crazy, comfortable, beautiful mess that is New York City, I brushed away a few salt splashes, took a deep breath, and pedaled on. My trusty steed, whom I named “Juno” and I, would cross the United States of America. And if she can’t do it for me, nothing can.
Friends and Family for Fun: