Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Heroes

My life has been completely consumed by the vision of a continental critical mass of bicycles converging upon DC for World Car Free Day, Sat 22 Sept. Energy for this Gandhian action is coming from all directions, convincing me that the ecosphere has a mind. Let me tell you a few stories.

Ron Toppi is the founder of Sharing Wheels, a community bike shop in Everett, WA. Determined to simplify his life and save others, this brave veteran has ridden to DC twice with Bike4Peace ( "We'd rather bike for peace than kill for oil." Ron is planning to lead another contingent across the northern route this year.

Michele Darr is a mother driven by love to heal our society. Having spent two months in Kuwait under Iraqi occupation, she is aware of the realities of war and opposed to US military activities in the region. Even with three children in diapers, Michele has been arrested three times for practicing free speech in a Senator's office. The Journey of HOPE (Healing Our People & Earth) will move down the West Coast and across the south, empowering discussions in communities along the route ( I'll be riding with Michele and family.

Brian Willson recently added another chapter to his inspiring story by leading a ride up to the Veterans for Peace conference. Brian lost his legs to the nuclear train while engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience, but that hasn't stopped him from riding a human powered vehicle. We hope to see Brian cycling in DC.

Don't wait to be led. Check the web to find out what's happening in your area. Take the initiative to organize a ride to DC from your home. Host riders coming through from elsewhere. Spread the word to everyone you know. Please tell us how you fit into this cross-continental uprising. Sustainable communities are breaking out all over!

- Vernon Huffman

Bike4Peace Again!

We're riding our bicycles to Washington, DC, again arriving on Sat 22 Sep, World Car Free Day. You say you could never ride that far? Well, how far could you ride? Twenty or twenty-five miles? Okay, so you do that right after breakfast, then you take a break. Then you do it again and stop for a good healthful lunch. Another twenty or twenty-five miles, another break. One more ride, dinner, shower and sleep. That's a typical day for Bike4Peace. After riding five days you take a rest day. Pay attention to your body as you grow stronger. Stretch frequently, drink lots of water, eat low on the food chain. At this pace, nearly anybody can cross North America from west to east in about seven weeks. Or perhaps your ideal pace is different. Plan your route to push yourself, but don't break anything. It's not easy, but it's beneficial.

Prepare by getting very familiar with your gear. Consider the minimum you need to stay healthy. Pack it onto the bike and ride twenty-five miles. Too heavy? Reconsider, reduce, and repack. There are some things everybody needs - four large water bottles, a toothbrush, and a sleeping bag. It's a good idea to have two bicycling outfits and a set of sweats for when you're not riding. When you buddy with another rider, one of you can carry a tent and the other some cooking gear (keep it simple). Invest in Ortlieb panniers; they're worth it. You'll need some special items you might not find in a convenience store, and these items can be shared across the packs of all the cyclists. There's always room for the item that nobody else would think to bring. Avoid unnecessary redundancy as you pack the way only you can.

What sort of bicycle is best for this journey? Well, it's got to be comfortable for you and sturdy enough to haul your load over every imaginable surface. Some prefer 26" wheels, while others like 700c. Either way, you need aramid tires, heavy spokes, and light rims. A super skinny, flexible seat is most comfortable. You'll want the best bike mechanic in town to consult and examine your gear. Pack some extra spokes, a few tubes and a tire or two. Start out with a fresh chain and gears. Carry 4 oz of Tri-flow and a rag. Know how to take your bike apart and put it back together. Be sure somebody has the tools and parts you might need. We decided one good floor pump was easier than a bunch of little frame pumps. There are bike shops along the way, but they don't always have what you need.

Cross continental bicyclists are the core of Bike4Peace, who welcome additional riders for any portion of the trip. Some will ride across town, some across state, and some the rest of the way to DC. It's especially nice to be joined by riders who know the local terrain when we're trying to find a specific place or determine the safest route. We've skipped around some bike trails that may have been great because we weren't sure where they went. Highway maps only tell so much. It's such fun to meet people who live on their bikes, each in a unique way. Every community bike shop is a delight. A local cyclist leading the pack can be a great asset, especially if her panniers contain lunch.

Of course, hosts are the true heart of Bike4Peace. The ride simply could not happen without the support of the generous people who open their homes or churches to the riders. We've been repeatedly surprised by the graciousness of strangers. Most Bike4Peace hosts have been found by googling the name of a town plus bike or peace. Those who stay behind help to line up hosts by telephone as we ride. Sometimes we make connections through organizations with resonate missions, but some of our greatest hosts had divergent political or religious beliefs from the bikers they hosted. Humanity itself is common ground enough to inspire support for survival. If you can look a stranger in the eye and explain your needs without expectation, you'll always be okay.

Different levels of support are appropriate at different times. Cyclists are prepared to sleep outside, bathe out of a cook pot with a towel and some Dr. Bronner's, or eat whatever is available, but they really appreciate a warm shower, a lovingly prepared meal, or soft bed. Hosts who can provide massage, chiropractic care, or a sauna can achieve legendary status. We've found that a simple diet of diverse fruits, veggies, seeds, and nuts is best. We especially appreciate locally grown organic produce. Perhaps a pot luck, with the challenge of using food grown organically within the county, would be appropriate in your community. Beggars cannot be choosers and riders with food sensitivities may need to carry some hard to find foods.

Bike4Peace is building a network of people devoted to the search for a sustainable lifestyle. We're eager to observe your successes and discuss your challenges, particularly if you live where we could spend a rest day. Communication is always a challenge. Riders can carry cell phones, which sometimes work, or check e-mail when the Internet is available, and we can always use help passing the word along to make sure everybody is on the same page. We don't want to organize or control anybody, just to share what others are thinking and doing. We want you to feel unity with a whole nation full of good people who are only a bike ride away. Please take the initiative to build your own Bike4Peace and let us know what you're doing. Together we can build a peaceful world.