This little trip of mine started out on bicycle. I graduated from college with a Studio Arts degree, and I was hit with the usual uncertainty of not really knowing what I wanted, where I wanted it, or how I wanted to achieve it. Burnt out by the classroom environment and doing assignments just for the sake of doing it, I knew grad school (for now) was out of the picture. But, then what was to become of me? This seemed like the perfect opportunity to travel; if I don’t have any definite plans why not take the next year or two and see the country, right? I think of it as my “real life” education, actually out living in the world, not behind the sheltered walls of an institution.
At first, I joined my friend, Seth Buller, on his venture: Freewheelin. We packed our belongings into panniers and headed out on the long roads, through beautiful countrysides, and even mountains using only one power source- our legs. How romantic and adventurous! To bike America- it seemed unreal. We planned to stop and WWOOF for two weeks at different farms along the way, not only to give ourselves a change of pace, but also to allow us to cultivate more experience in sustainability and agriculture, our other passions. Working the land and riding bikes- sounds great, right? Well, I didn’t make it too far. I started in the Smokey Mountains, with hardly any training, and soon enough the terrain, the excessive weight of my panniers, and the heat of the summer tore me down mentally and physically. I found myself on the side of the road, hardly able to stand. My legs couldn’t take it. All of a sudden I was back to square one- I couldn’t hack it. I went home with a bruised ego, but I was also determined not to let it discourage me from my initial plans of traveling. Change is good, and I needed to embrace my new situation.
I realized that now I had the chance to do this MY way. Freewheelin’ with Seth was great, but it was his trip, his plans, his ideas, and this was my opportunity to truly develop the independence I’ve always wanted. I packed up my car with my bike and art supplies and I was ready to make my way around the country, WWOOFing at different farms in different states, and documenting my trip with art projects. I’ve been through North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, and now Michigan where I am staying at Three Roods Farm. It seemed so fitting that on my first day here a group of 11 bicyclists pedaled their way to Columbiaville to see and stay at the farm. All too familiar!
Bike Across America are “global agents for change,” doing a farm tour of the US from Portland, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts. Originally from different parts of the country, most of them met at their school, UBC in Vancouver, coming together with similar interests and a desire to take action. As you can imagine, I was definitely excited to meet them and hear about their experience: I don’t meet a lot of people who can relate to the tribulations of riding, or trying to ride, a bicycle across the nation.
Since I couldn’t hack it, I wanted to see what they did differently, and what they liked or disliked about the pedaling lifestyle. Robin and Greg opened up their farm to the public for the night, offering a tour of the farm and a chance to meet the cyclists. We all found them so humble and gracious. I was amazed with how incredibly polite they were, especially since they were probably very tired, hungry, and ready to just relax. All eleven of them seemed to still have a lot of energy for biking 60 miles a day, and they took great interest in meeting all of us, learning our names, and getting to know the land of Three Roods Farm. After jumping in the lake, eating a massive amount of food, and taking a tour of the farm with Robin, they settled into a circle with their newest fans (us), and we began to have an informal Q&A session. They talked about how wonderful the farms have been, what they want to get out of their travels, and about what it is like to bike long distances.
They are smart about it. The owner of a Milwaukee bike shop and leader of this trip, Chris, lent his business van to haul their gear and spare parts, which saves them from carrying weight on their bicycles. They switch off drivers, allowing for a break from biking, and enabling them to have all their tools readily accessible. Their ride in general, they said, has not been too difficult, and after the first couple of days, it became easier and easier. Life on the go, staying at a new place every night and completely free of any comforts of home, does wear on this bunch. They say that it helps knowing that there is an end date and a set goal: after they reach Boston, they will all go their separate ways. So, by traveling, they are getting a first-hand look at the food industry, the agricultural system, and the people behind both. By biking, they are raising money for food sovereignty, which is the right of the people to define their own agricultural and land policies. But, also by biking, they are inspiring hope in everyone they meet- all of us at Three Roods were in awe of the group for taking on a project like this, and it confirms that my generation is out for change and knowledge, and we WILL work for it.
Let’s just call it food for thought.