Somewhere in the world there exists a short film of me and a couple friends racing our bikes, hopping up on curbs, riding with no hands, riding wheelies, and speeding down a dirt path to a riverbank from which we launched into the Little Maquoketa Creek. (In Iowa) We made the movie ourselves for a 6th-grade art project.
I sure wish I knew where that little reel of 8mm film was, because it might be the only documentation out there that shows me, as a kid, riding a bicycle. At least I don’t remember anybody ever taking such a picture, even though at every stage of my life since age seven I’ve ridden bicycles on more days than I haven’t.
Continuing into my adult years no picture of me with a bike was taken — as far as I know — until the one you will see after I take a couple of paragraphs to set the scene.
Rochester, MN: I was about to set off on my first bike tour, except at the time I didn’t know cycle touring was even a thing. I just thought I was going on a backpacking trip, only with my bike.
Indeed, I carried my sleeping bag, camera, rain jacket, an extra pair of socks, cooking gear, food, and water in a backpack as I rode. My tent and foam pad were strapped to a bike rack. I cut the southeastern section out of a Minnesota map and kept it in my pants pocket for navigation.
My trip covered about 200 miles of Minnesota bluff country in four days — all on the knobby tires of my mountain bike. I could never have covered that distance by foot. That was pretty much the point where I started transitioning from wilderness backpacking to bike touring.
My bike trips have gotten longer and slightly less minimalist since then but, looking back, I’d like to try that kind of simplicity again in the future. I kept a journal of that trip in a notebook and I took ten pictures with a camera that used something known as “film.” Until now, nobody but me has ever seen any of it. Perhaps someday I will polish the journal up a little and post it on-line.
Since I’m writing anyway, I can’t leave you without a short description of today’s ride.
Barely into June, it’s our hottest, humidest (sic) day of the year so far. Yet, it is far better than yesterday when my ride was hot and very windy. I know a few hills that climb away from the Mississippi River where I can break a serious sweat on days like this. Sweat makes me feel good — like I’ve accomplished something. Mission accomplished.
Maybe you’ve heard about the recent murder of a guy named George Floyd at the hands of a cop in nearby Minneapolis. I wanted to ride my bike up there over the weekend in support of the peaceful protesters, but The Feeshko wouldn’t let me out of concern for my safety.
Anyway, the protests spread to various parts of the Twin Cities and then to cities large and small all over the country. Even MY Town was placed under a curfew. Many of the protests, unfortunately, have turned into violence, looting and arson. That was my first thought when I got back to town after my bike ride and I saw this: