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Photo by Adam Coppola
If you ride your bicycle to work in the United States, odds are you don't have much company. In most U.S. cities, less than one percent of commuters use a bicycle to get to work. If you are feeling very alone, you owe it to yourself to make a pilgrimage to Portland, Oregon.
When I first began bicycle touring, cities were a place to get away from ... as fast as possible. Over the years, not only have I become more comfortable riding in city traffic, but many cities have become increasingly bicycle friendly.
We stuffed ourselves silly on noodle dishes, and curry, and sweets. Plenty of fuel for the next day's pedal toward Laos. Above the din of the people and a loud broadcast advertising campaign from a local business, I heard a single voice.
Here's to the color green! Green is the sign of winter releasing its grasp. Those little shoots of green precede the explosion of flowers to follow. Green makes me dream of fresh veggies to munch and lush valleys to explore. Green makes me yearn to get on my bike.
If you enjoy long, slow, epic climbs, I'd highly recommend you conquer The Condor (Paso del Cóndor). At over 4000 meters, it is the highest paved road in Venezuela. If you begin your bike journey in Barquisimeto at the northernmost point of the Andes, you'll have plenty of time to warm up for the big climb.
Most bridges (new and old) carry huge volumes of traffic. Cars, buses, and trucks make a lot of noise. This kills the esthetic experience. Imagine what it would be like to travel across the Golden Gate bridge completely closed to traffic? That's what crossing U Bein bridge near Amarapura in Myanmar is like.
This post is an update on Tiva (aka The Reluctant Traveler), our rescue dog we adopted last year. My blog post last summer, which was expanded into a column in the Feb 2014 edition of Adventure Cyclist magazine, talks about our journey with an amazing, but fearful, dog.
I'd like to introduce you to one of my bicycling heroes. He hasn't cycled around the world or across the country. I'm not sure if he has ever cycled outside of New York City. He has pedaled his bike around Manhattan for over 50 years, taking photos of what New Yorker's are wearing. He is still going strong at 84.
Oh my God! The most beautiful moth I'd ever seen — as if a forest sprite had decided to go under cover. It was the size of my hand. We weren't gazing at it on some distant wildlife reserve trail. It was lounging on the back of a plastic chair at a roadside restaurant in Myanmar.
During our bike trip in Myanmar last year, we shared the roads (and paths) with a lot of bikes. None of them had carbon fiber frames. They were not equipped with index shifters, or disc brakes, or 9-speed cassettes. Their chains were not replaced when they reached .75% wear. They creaked and moaned when pedaled. They were beautiful, efficient, human-powered machines.
The world lost a truly great man last week with the passing of Nelson Mandela. Sometimes a bike trip is just a bike trip. And then sometimes you find yourself in a place in the world at a time in history that you will never forget.
There is nothing quite as enjoyable on a bike tour as a breakfast break. You've put on a few miles or kilometers, your body and mind are alert, and your taste buds are tingling. You park your bike outside a diner and go in, look at a menu, order coffee or tea, and wait. It generally doesn't take long, ten to fifteen minutes. But when you are bike trip hungry, minutes feel like hours.
One of the delights of pedaling along the dusty back roads of Cambodia, was coming upon a roadside wedding party. There were days when we encountered a half dozen of them.
Bicycle travel is not only one of the best ways to see the world, but to hear it as well. I love how varied the soundscape can be from country to country. Sometimes I like to close my eyes and simply listen to a country—the different bird calls, market sounds, even traffic sounds.
"There is nothing like having an encounter with a grizzly bear to make a tiny cabin feel like a castle fortress. We slept like logs. You see, bears just make travel better."
Almost any day on a bike trip is a good day. But every once in a while, a perfect day comes along. I don't have an official checklist of what qualifies a day as being perfect. But there are those days when your heart sings, and you couldn't keep a smile off your face if you tried. They are the days that first pop into your mind when it's been too long since your last bicycle journey.
When it comes to the stuff I carry on my bike, no one would ever accuse me of being an ultralight bike traveler. When traveling solo, I've been known to pedal with a tent big enough for me and my bicycle. Before the digital camera revolution, a large portion of one of my panniers was devoted to 80 rolls of slide film. I regularly find room to pack a bottle (or two) of wine. How much is too much? 20 lbs? 40 lbs? 60 lbs of gear?
It's always fun to pedal by a school on a bike trip. A bicycle loaded down for an adventure is always a draw. The reaction can vary from polite waves, to smiles and shouted hellos, to all out classroom-emptying chaos. I've never been a rock star, but there are times on the road when I think I've experienced what it's like.
When we first pedaled up to this intersection, I thought I'd see an accident within sixty seconds. This traffic dance fascinated me. An hour later, not a single scrape. How could that be possible without any traffic signals, stop signs, or traffic cops?
At first glance, Cambodia doesn't have the elements most travelers are looking for in a bike trip — there are few paved roads and lots of dust. The country is relatively flat, so no epic mountain passes to climb. And yet, this small country is one of our favorites.
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.
I enjoy the luscious sense of freedom and speed of a long, well earned, downhill. But more often, the most memorable travel moments come when I am forced to slow down.
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.
The back roads of Laos can be a challenge, even when they are dry. But add water and you have a road surface that can be both slick as glass and sticky as tar. The rains come often to the Bolaven Plateau, where some of the most expensive coffee in the world is grown.
Cargo bikes are all the rage these days. Each year more amazing models hit the marketplace. For someone who hasn't owned a car for eight years, a bike with a lot of carrying capacity is high on my list of desires. Hauling a couple of bags of compost, and/or large ceder boards for a garden project is not an easy task with your average bike.