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Photo by Adam Coppola
A good pair of binoculars can be a weighty item to add to full panniers. But the few times I've elected to leave them behind, I've regretted doing so. They are for the birds. Literally.
What is the perfect gift? Ask a hundred people, and you'll get a hundred different answers. But when you give one, or receive one -- you know it.
I received one of those gifts thirty years ago. I still carry it with me today.
The summer of 1981 was magical for me. I'd pedaled across the U.S. with my best buddy Thomas. The sense of accomplishment was amazing. My connection to the world around me had never been so raw and wonderful.
It's the time of year when holiday tunes are playing everywhere. But sometimes when you are traveling far away from home in another culture, hearing a Christmas carol or familiar song can be a wonderful reminder of home ... or not.
If bread is the Staff of Life, it is also, at the very least, the Kickstand of Cycling. It holds you up and keeps you from falling over. I love this carbolicious treat.
I enjoy taking extra time to compose my photos while I'm on the road. The slower nature of bicycle travel suits both me and my photography. But once in the city, I enjoy taking what I call "hip shots."
The cold November rains have come and my mind drifts off to warmer places on the planet. While we are slamming into winter here in the U.S., New Zealand is sliding into summer.
If you have the pleasure of taking a bike trip in New Zealand, don't miss the cathedral. While I know there are beautiful churches in Christchurch and Auckland, I'm referring to one made by Mother Nature.
The smiles of the men in this picture, enjoying a beer after a long bike ride, help make up my mental collage of Colombia. They flew by us in a tightly packed pace line as we pedaled our heavily loaded, lumbering touring bikes out of Bogotá. Waves and smiles and they were gone.
They are gifts of the road. Nature's snacks ripened just for you. Their aromas fill the hot summer's breezes and the late fall's chill. Roadside trees, far from any home or farm, display these treats more beautifully than any row of sweets in a candy shop. They must have been planted for the benefit of touring cyclists. Why else would their heavily laden branches lean over the road?
If you are an avid touring cyclist and want an unending supply of beautiful roads with little to no traffic ... negotiate the month of September as your vacation time for the rest of your working days. Then, when you retire, simply continue this travel pattern until your legs no longer spin.
In Thailand, we didn't meet many foreign cyclists on the road (at least on the routes we pedaled), so we got wonderful reactions from motorists. But never honks. The people of Thailand are some of the most polite drivers on the planet.
So when we heard someone honk as they passed it startled us. Then the next car honked as well. And the next. And the next. Were our bikes too close to the road? But each car only honked once or twice. And the occupants were smiling. We smiled and waved back. For the next thirty minutes it was like being on a parade route. We waved at every car and every car celebrated our journey in Thailand with polite honking.
Why can't I pass one without stopping and snapping a few shots? Maybe it's the realization that after all the dreaming and scheming and planning, we are finally there. In some magical foreign place, filled with new sights and sounds and smells.
I've heard it said, "If you listen closely ... you just might hear your priorities."
Donuts. Pastries. Cookies. Fudge. Croissants. Scones. If I didn't ride a bicycle, I'd probably tip the scales at 600 lbs.
I truly feel sorry for people who have only observed the world from the seat of a speeding car. It all becomes a blur. The pace of bicycle travel suites me. But even pedaling can propel you too quickly through your surroundings.
But of all the maps I have (and I have boxes full of them), I do have a favorite. It is no bigger than three by four inches. It was drawn for me by a man I met on the road in South Africa.
I live in the insanely beautiful Pacific Northwest. Due to our cloudy skies and somewhat damp weather (even in July), the color pallet can be quite muted — dark greens, blues, and greys.
So when I travel, I am drawn to the opposite. The rich and vibrant, almost electric colors that you will find on the houses in Cuba, in the shops in Bangkok, and in the markets in India.
I am amazed at how many bike travelers hop on their bikes for a day's ride and rarely stop. Sure, they might stop to fix a flat or to take off a jacket, or to pause to look at their map. But "lingering" isn't in their vocabulary. They zoom to their next destination and check into a hotel or campsite.
There is an art to knowing which travel advice to embrace and which to ignore.
Every touring cyclist has had the experience of some local telling them that the road up ahead is flat, only to discover that it is hillier beyond belief. Or that the next town is just over the ridge, when there are three ridges to climb over.
It's pretty obvious that the songwriter was speaking of unrequited love. But I'd like you to consider it written about you and your travel dreams.
Can you relate to the above lyrics when it comes to that bicycle trip? Always thinking, planning and dreaming, but never going? Are you one to always answer the call of the road with "perhaps"?
I've lost count of the number of times I've jumped off my bicycle and raced to get that perfect sunset shot, only to be disappointed with the results. The images are usually washed out and boring; nothing like the dramatic event I witnessed in person.
That high-pitched whine is annoying at least and terrifying at most, in malarial areas of the world. I suppose we are genetically engineered to respond to that awful sound.
We passed the sign above on our trip in Portugal. It was the entrance to a big highway ... not a road we wanted to travel on anyway.
I particularly enjoy the way the wheel on the wagon makes the sign look like a cartoon figure sticking its tongue out at you. Signs are important. They give instruction and information. They warn you not to proceed, or they lead the way.
Coasting — to effortlessly glide down the backside of a mountain pass after grunting up to the summit — is one of the ultimate rewards of cycling. What is the perfect downhill?
It's May. It's National Bike Month. Let's celebrate it!
The bicycle is an incredible form of transportation. It moves people quietly and efficiently across town or across the country. It runs on a delicious combination of fuels including pasta, ice cream, and beer. No wars have been fought over it. No neighborhoods torn down to accommodate it.
If I had to choose one photo I've taken that captures the view of the world you get when you travel by bicycle, this is it.
Up close and intense.
It's 1995. Nelson Mandela has been president for less than a year. I'm on a five-month bike trip in South Africa, where I'm told by dozens, no, hundreds of people that if I travel in the former homelands that I'm a dead man. Period.