Willie Weir : July 29th, 2011
The world has gone digital. Albums became CDs, which became MP3s. Books have been digitized. Even mine has. Many cyclists prefer to use their GPS than having to carry paper maps.
But just as I love the look of an album cover and the smell of a printed book, I adore maps. Physical maps. Maps that fold and sometimes tear. Maps that wear the dirt and grease smudges of adventurous travels. Maps of places I dream to travel that I can pin up on my wall. Every trip I’ve ever taken has begun with my gazing at a map.
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. He was trying to describe which route I should take. I kept getting confused with his instructions. He pointed to my small notebook and asked for a pen.
After a couple of minutes he handed it back to me. A little piece of art with the information I needed. There was me on my bike, the town I should sleep in, and the way to the Tugela Valley.
But that was many years ago. Today, no matter where I travel, a local is more likely to pull me inside to their computer and bring up Google maps than to draw one in my notebook. That’s pretty amazing.
But I still miss the feel of a map.
Willie Weir : July 18th, 2011
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.
The photo above was taken in a small mountain town in Colombia. We were looking for a place to park our bikes at the guest house and stumbled across this scene. It looked as if a cement truck filled with paint had backed up and unleashed a river of pigment.
The simple household items — brooms, dustpan, and hose — were elevated to art on this wall. The already bright blue hose was now painfully blue in contrast to its backdrop. The brooms appeared to have magical qualities. Perhaps we could ride them out of town instead of our bikes? The red spattered drain suggested that fresh paint was sprayed on nightly (probably with the bright blue hose) after everyone was asleep.
If I close my eyes I have a hard time remembering what the rest of the guest house looked like, or even the town. But I will always remember the wall.
Willie Weir : July 14th, 2011
We always talk about bicycle travel. But what about bicycle lingering?
Bicycle lingering is that ability to stop forward motion, pause, and soak up what is around you.
Cafes. Ice cream parlors. Roadside restaurants. City parks. Riverside picnic tables. They all call out for you to park your bike and linger.
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.
What’s the hurry? As far as I know there is no podium to stand on at the end of a day of bike travel.
Unlike a bicycle race, I believe it is more likely for the participant who arrives last at the end of a day’s ride, to have reaped the most rewards.
Learn the art of lingering and you will be a better traveler for it.
Willie Weir : July 2nd, 2011
Thirty years ago I left Seaside, Oregon with my buddy Thomas to cycle across America. July 2, 1981. Almost 11,000 days have passed since we dipped our rear tires in the Pacific Ocean. Hard to believe. In some ways it really does feel like it was yesterday.
In this photo we are wearing gym shorts, cotton t-shirts, and no sun screen.
The shirts are matching. On the back is printed, “East Coast or Bust!” Our friend had them printed up for us. But due to an unfortunate choice of font, they read to most people as “Easy Coasy or Busy!”
We had meant to train … but didn’t. We had an extremely limited budget. I had a total of $400, most of which I’d attained by selling my ’64 Pontiac Tempest. We had purchased these incredibly cheap tires and learned that “you get what you pay for” when they wore out within the first five hundred miles.
In our panniers were cotton sweats, cotton sweatshirts, cotton socks, and no rain gear. We had the first set of maps (that’s all we could afford) from Bikecentennial (now the Adventure Cycling Association).
Many people would say we were ill-prepared, and they’d be right. Perhaps we should have postponed our trip. Waited until we got our gear and plans and routes just right. But then maybe that delay would have led to more delay and changes of life and finally apathy toward the dream trip.
And thirty years later I would be thinking, “What if I’d …?”
But we did. I did. And I have been forever grateful for it.
Happy Anniversary to everyone who has ever begun a trip of a lifetime.