I have been posting on the Adventure Cycling Association’s blog since 2009 under the category of Sights & Sounds. That was over 240 posts ago. It has been a chance for me to revisit many of my/our bicycle journeys and grab bits and pieces of beauty, humor, and inspiration from around the world. You can read them all at the link above. Below you will find ten of my personal favorites.
Here’s to life as seen and experienced from the seat of a bicycle!
During my week-long exploration of Minneapolis by bike, I was hosted by a different Warm Showers host each night. I arrived at Natalie’s place late in the evening after a flight from Seattle. Natalie and her housemates are all bicycle enthusiasts, so they immediately took out a map and gave me suggestions of places to see in Minneapolis: restaurants, diners, trails, murals, and interesting neighborhoods. I think I managed to visit them all within the week.
One of the joys of staying with Warm Showers hosts, is the chance to hear stories from fellow bike travelers.
I asked if I could interview Natalie and Leah about a bike trip they took with two other female friends. The four not only had bikes in common, but music as well. They are part of a female folk band called Knots on a String. I highly recommend taking the time to listen to the excerpts from that interview below. The song you’ll hear, Traveller’s Lullaby, is from their band’s album, Not So Far From Your Porch Swing.
If you know someone who is interested in bike travel, but reluctant to take the plunge, send them this interview. Natalie and Leah capture the essence of why bicycle travel has such an impact on all who choose to pedal the open road.
Kat and I first encountered Bangkok traffic from the perspective of the backseat of a taxi. The chaos of any big city can be daunting. Though neither of us spoke the words, I know we were both thinking, “Not going to bike here.” But over years of travel, both of us have learned that first impressions are often wrong. …
She stares out from underneath the gap in the backyard fence. It’s a scary world out there. We recently adopted a rescue puppy—a Formosan Mountain Dog/Lab mix from Taiwan. We named her Tiva. Her name has a bittersweet history.
My wife Kat was the excited instigator. I was the skeptic. I wasn’t sure how a dog was going to fit into our travel lifestyle.
Kat dreamed of long walks with her trusty dog on city streets and mountain paths. I hoped for a dog who saw a bike trailer as her second home.
Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan it.
Tiva is horrified of traffic. The revving of an engine sends her into a panic. Garbage trucks are enormous monsters in her eyes (or ears). She can hear their rumblings a mile away, and she retreats to the safety of her crate.
She is a reluctant traveler. Our dreams of cross city walks and long bike rides with her in the bike trailer are indefinitely postponed. We have to take a step-by-step approach.
Our goal this month is a fear-free walk around the block. Tiva’s bike trailer sits in the living room and we are slowly introducing her to it as a safe place. Hopefully, not too long from now, I will be that crazy neighbor who walks the streets, towing his dog in a bike trailer. Then I hope to actually attach the trailer to a bike. Then, and this I understand might be years away, we’ll take Tiva on a bicycle camping trip.
I look into the frightened eyes of this lovely, friendly little animal that I adore, and am reminded that conquering fear is almost always an incremental process.
I’ve talked with cyclists who dream of a long distance bicycle journey, but have a companion or spouse who is afraid of the venture. Maybe you find yourself in the same situation.
A cross country trip can be daunting, even for an experienced cyclist. So why not start with a bike overnight? Take a grand adventure on a much smaller scale. An overnight trip could lead to a weekend, and then a week-long tour, which could lead to the possibility of a cross country trip. Step-by-positive-step.
Who knows? Maybe your reluctant traveler will transform to one who longs for the open road. I’ll keep you posted on ours.
Every bicycle journey has a theme song. At least all of mine do. A tune that fits the mood of the journey … or describes the place you are pedaling through … or sometimes it’s just the tune that is incessantly playing on every radio.
“White Bird” by It’s a Beautiful Day became the theme song of my first bike trip. Why? Because our Adventure Cycling maps (then Bikecentennial) listed a big climb ahead. White Bird Pass. My buddy Thomas sang a snippet of White Bird six million times before we climbed that pass. It still rings in my head.
Johnny Clegg’s Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World was the soundtrack of my five month trip in South Africa. Anyone who listens to Johnny Clegg’s music will yearn to travel in that country.
Macarena by Los del Rio haunted us throughout our bike trip in the Balkans simply because it was playing on every radio in Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia at the time or our trip. The one time we had access to a television in Bulgaria, we turned on CNN, and there was Al Gore … dancing to Macarena at the Democratic Convention.
Kat and I recently pedaled the Golden Circle, a route from Haines, Alaska, to White Horse, Yukon, to Skagway, Alaska. For the first time our trip theme song was provided by live musicians. Bonfire At Home was playing at the Skagway Brewery the night we pedaled into town. Loved their music.
The next morning we encountered the group playing outside the Alaskan Sojourn Hostel. I recorded them playing their tune, Ally’s Face.
That tune has already spun through my mind a hundred times. There is a lyric in the chorus, “You went out of your way.” I don’t know exactly what Andrew and Tyler meant by that line when they wrote the song, but it speaks to my traveler’s soul. For that is what travel is all about. Going out of your way to see parts of the world that others speed by.
Thanks Bonfire At Home for providing a great tune to accompany the amazing images and memories of our brief journey in the wild north!
Have you ever in your bike touring experience asked yourself this question: How am I going to get my mail?
If you began bike touring within the last ten years, your answer will revolve around internet access and wi-fi availability.
But if you have been doing this for a long time, you’ll remember trying to plan out your mail stops. Post offices along your route, where you asked (sometimes pleaded with) friends to send you physical missives. You informed them to send those letters to a post office with your name and a note, “Please hold for traveling cyclist.”
Then you hoped and prayed that the employees at that small town post office would do just that. Hold your mail. So that at some unforeseen date you could physically hold your mail. Caress it even. For it was treasure. Handwritten news from home. Maybe a photo or two. Or a newspaper clipping about an event where you were missed.
I miss those days. But I’m being nostalgic. And nostalgia has selective memory.
It forgets the time you arrived at a post office on a Friday afternoon and stared at the “closed” sign and realized you’d have to wait until Monday morning. And there certainly wasn’t a guarantee that you’d have mail waiting for you.
Nostalgia forgets physical mail has heft, and because it is precious, impossible to throw away. Six pounds and growing in your back pannier.
It forgets how often you wanted to change your route, only to realize you’d miss a mail stop, so you trudged on as planned … only to have nothing waiting for you behind the counter.
But nostalgia always remembers the chocolate chip cookies. Wrapped with care and boxed and mailed. True love.
Communicating while on the road has never been easier. But you still can’t send cookies over the internet. At least not the kind you’d want to eat.
If you don’t have the time to spare for a extended bike trip, you can get loads of inspiration on Bike Overnights.org.
But sometimes you can’t even afford an overnight. That’s the time to head out on a bike breakfast.
Kat and I did this just last week. A glorious weekend morning with sunny blue skies couldn’t be wasted. We got out the panniers, loaded them with breakfast treats, coffee in a thermos and camp chairs. We pedaled down to the shores of Lake Washington and ate breakfast on one of the docks. We soaked up the views of the lake and Mt. Rainier, and manufactured some much needed vitamin D.
After draining the thermos of coffee, we packed up and pedaled off to the Washington Park Arboretum, where the winter garden was in full bloom. The sights and smells of a grove of witch hazels will remind anyone that winter definitely has its upside.
So even if you only have a couple of hours to spare. It’s still enough time to pack up and head out. I’m not sure if bike breakfasts warrant their own website, but they sure can be a great way to start any day!
“Give the world outside a point of entry. It’ll give back to you.”
That lyric stuck in my soul the first time I heard it in Larry Murante’s title song of his album Point of Entry.
Music is an incredible force, and each listener interprets what they hear in their own way. Words can be heard and quickly forgotten, but put them to music, and they will most likely be with you forever.
I know for a fact that Larry didn’t set out to write a bicycle travel tune. But that is exactly what it is for me. My “point of entry” is my bicycle. It allows me to be more engaged, more vulnerable, and more in touch with the world around me.
With that in mind, listen to the tune with added images, and you may agree that this is one of the most beautiful bicycle travel songs ever written.
Note: Larry will be performing this song live at my presentation, Come to Your Senses: A Celebration of Bicycle Travel at Seattle’s REI Flagship on Tuesday, Feb 7th at 7pm. Advance tickets at: Brown Paper Tickets