Looking back at 2012, it feels immensely odd to think that, one short year ago, we were celebrating the holidays at the other end of the world. When we flew to New Zealand, we were so sure it would be the gateway drug to a year or more of international rambling that we traveled on a one-way ticket. Instead, our Kiwi adventure pointed us back to the US, and a new trajectory that has turned us from active bicycle travelers to advocates for bicycle travel.
Far from being a sad twist of fate, for us, this change means a chance to build something bigger – to take all of our vast experiences of the last three years and put them to use in a way that increases opportunities for others to travel by bike.
We welcomed 2012 in a small backpackers in Turangi, drinking beers with three other international travelers. It was raining outside and we almost missed the stroke of midnight because there was no Dick Clark-esque TV special with a countdown. The international incident hadn’t happened yet and we were still in the honeymoon period of understanding this foreign place. Two months later, we would ride the Otago Central Rail Trail, and find ourselves in the middle of a complex theory that had sprung to reality. Several months more, we would dig deep into the memories and emotions of our New Zealand tour, and synthesize it all into a very-hard-to-write article for Bicycle Times.
We still grapple with everything that happened while we were in New Zealand, and what it all meant. But we still smile when we think about all the incredible people we met, and we still laugh when we think about all the pickled beets on all the hamburgers we ate, and we know that we learned something immensely powerful about the economics of cycling that has opened so many opportunities for us.
In May, we did something we never saw coming: we signed a lease on an apartment in Portland, Oregon. After nearly three years of living as nomads, we knew it was time to take a break from continual travel, put down some roots, and give ourselves the space to focus on bigger projects. We chose Portland for many reasons; chief among them is the simple fact that Oregon is leading the US in recognizing the power of cycling, particularly in terms of rural economic development, and we dearly want a seat at that table. Being in Portland has enabled us to work with Travel Oregon and Cycle Oregon, creating video content that captures the stories behind the Scenic Bikeways and the iconic Cycle Oregon ride. The more we sit in on bike tourism meetings and meet with proponents in small towns, the more deeply we understand how Bicycles Can Save Small-Town America.
This year also saw us take on larger speaking gigs, blending real-world findings with storytelling, to inspire a variety of people and communities to embrace cycling and bike travel. From the Oregon Active Transportation Summit to a targeted meeting of Haywood County officials in North Carolina, we’re helping people think about bike travel in an entirely new way. Believe it or not, both of us hated public speaking until we started traveling; now, we get geekily excited at the prospect of standing up in front of more and more audiences and building more and more support for bike travel.
So what about the actual travel part? Do we miss being on the road? Yes and no. The road is exhilarating and full of incredible new and spontaneous adventures. It’s also deeply introspective and free of the hustle-bustle-multitasking of “regular” life. We miss it enough that, in a few weeks, we’re hopping an Amtrak train to bike tour around some of our favorite parts of California. But after all of the time we’ve spent on the road, we also know that we want more than just the simplicity of the road. We’ve built up an incredible karmic debt over the past three years, and it’s time to start paying it down, all the while channeling energy into building a movement behind bike travel. We may not be vagabonding around at present, but we still live and breath bike travel – and we can only hope that 2013 turns out to be as awesome as it looks.
I’ll be honest. After the first exhausting day of riding and filming CycleOregon, I didn’t think I would make it through the week alive. We had brought a week’s supply of 5 Hour Energy and it wasn’t looking like it would be enough.
A week before we even made it to the start line, Laura was making phone calls, setting up interviews with local proponents and juggling our schedule so we could hit all the small communities by rented mini van before the event. I was busy testing out video gear, trying to reduce things to the bare functional minimal I would need since I would be carrying everything by bike. In three days we drove the entire route, stopped at all the communities, shot some B-roll, interviewed the local proponents and then circled back to the beginning.
THEN, the actual ride started. It was our first CycleOregon so we had to get over the initial shock of the sheer enormity of the ride and get to work. It was also proving to be one of the toughest CycleOregon routes in the history of the ride with 35,000 feet of climbing over the week.
Our daily schedule consisted of getting up at 5:30am while it was dark and literally freezing outside. We would quickly take down our tent, shove things in our duffle bags and carry them to the luggage drop. Then it was a mad rush to shove hot breakfast foods down the gullet so we could shoot B-roll of people rolling out of camp. We’d ride hard everyday, trying to stay in the middle of the pack, knowing that by the end of the day we would be coming in near the back because of all our filming stops.
During lunch breaks and rest stops we’d shovel more food, barely taking a break before we were up and walking around trying to find willing cyclists and volunteers to interview. Then, more B-roll. We’d usually end up spending an hour at stops, longer than we usually would but we had to get footage.
Victory at the finish line everyday was sweet but short lived. I’d stop to film the volunteers and riders coming in, while Laura went to luggage drop to find our bags with the tent. We’d quickly set up camp, stand in line at the shower, shoot more B-roll, eat dinner, shoot more B-roll, then go to sleep exhausted only to wake up at 5:30am to repeat the whole process.
During the first few days of the ride, people thought we were nuts. Heck, I thought we were nuts. People would pedal by on their lightweight bikes and ask us about the “Film Crew” sign on our bikes. We’d explain what we were doing and ask if they wanted to join. We could always use more interns and grips to carry some camera gear. Surprisingly, there were no takers. By the end of the week, people had caught on and would cheer “Film Crew!” as they flew by us going up the hill. Though we did have one sweet day of revenge on the last day. It was flat and fast and we were feeling good and we hammered along at 25mph with camera gear and all : )
But as I’m learning, filming in someways is the easy part. It’s been about three months since we rode CycleOregon and nearly everyday I’ve been chipping away at editing the 18 hours of footage. It was a monumental task, our first video project of this length. When Jerry Norquist from CycleOregon first asked us to ride and film the event, we were hesitant. It’s challenging enough to just ride the event, much less film it at the same time. But in retrospect, we are glad we said yes because it has been one of the toughest and most fulfilling projects we’ve taken on.
So now we are done and the finished product is online. We learned a lot on the ride and after. When we first set out, I didn’t think it would be a 28 minute documentary, but that is what is has become. I’m proud of it and feel lucky to have been part of CycleOregon’s 25th anniversary ride and help tell their story. I also feel privileged to have spent time with the proponents from the small communities and to be able to share their voices. So sit back, grab a beer and some popcorn and enjoy.
(Keep our adventures going and the site growing! If you’ve enjoyed our stories, videos and photos over the years, consider buying our ebook Panniers and Peanut Butter, or our new Brompton Touring Book, or some of the fun bike-themed t-shirts we’re designing, or buying your gear through our Amazon store.)
We like to march to the beat of our own drummer here on PathLessPedaled, so sometimes that leads us to trying things out that may go against conventional wisdom. For example, riding in flat pedals, touring with a 16 inch wheel folding bike, and touring with a paella pan . It keeps things interesting. In the same vein, we’re going to make a bold statement here: Da Brim’s Rezzo visor is the most functional bike helmet visor ever. I’m sure there are lots of roadies cringing at something so Fredtastic. Deal with it : )Read More»
As some Facebook fans know, I just got an iPad Mini and have been nerding out on it. One of my favorite apps so far is Maplets. It lets you find and download regional paper maps! It’s great for touring or if you’re visiting another city/town and want to see their local transit/walk/bike map.Read More»
At this year’s Interbike, one of the new items that got us the most excited were the Velo-Orange Sabot pedals. Yes, they are “just” platform pedals and aren’t clipless. Yes, they aren’t made of any exotic alloys or fiber weaves. So what’s there to get excited about? As platform pedal users ourselves (and before you ask, yes, Russ use to ride clipless as well before coming back to platforms), there seems to be little innovation or new thinking in the commuter/touring flat platform pedal, so it was good to see that Velo-Orange was taking a stab at new designs. Perhaps the last interesting flat pedal design that was targeted towards tourists and commuters were Riv’s Grip Kings (aka Battle Axes). The Velo-Orange Sabot pedals is an attempt to up the ante, but does it succeed?