15 March 2016

The Journey--And Destination--Of My Rides

When I first became a dedicated cyclist--during the '70's Bike Boom--a lot of new adult cyclists were folks who were, had been or did not want to stop being hippies.  In retrospect, it makes perfect sense:  cyclists of the previous generation, who kept the flame lit during the Dark Ages following World War II, were countercultural in their own way.  

During the '50's, much of the American landscape and culture were being carved up to better accommodate the automobile.  Developing an economy and society ever-more dependent on the internal combustion engine was seen as a sign of progress, much as many immigrants and their children saw acquiring an automobile as a sign of economic progress away from bicycling, walking or taking public transportation to work out of necessity.

Continuing to ride a bike--let alone taking up cycling as an adult--was almost a revolutionary act under such conditions.  That, I believe, is the reason why the hippies who rode bikes in the days and years after Woodstock are logical descendants of those who rode in the Dark Ages.    Ironically, it is also the reason, I think, why the new cyclists of the Bike Boom actually had very little truck with those who kept the fire burning during the decade or two before them:  by the '70's, adults on bikes who could afford to travel by other means were becoming a more common sight.  So, riding a bike--especially for a hippie--wasn't such an act of rebellion anymore. If anything, it was one of the more socially acceptable things a guy with long hair and wearing torn jeans could do.

Still, for many, riding a bike--especially taking bike tours or camping trips--was seen as a way of "getting away" or simply not joining the ranks of those who made payments on cars and houses.  On the other hand, those earlier cyclists, who were bucking cultural and economic trends to an even greater degree than Bike Boom riders were, didn't seem to ride out of any sense of rebellion.  Most of them had regular jobs or owned businesses; most were also not adverse to the acquisition of property and wealth.

I have long valued older, more experienced cyclists for their wisdom as well as their insights, and even for their sense of humor.  And, let's face it, they show us that we (most of us, anyway) have to get jobs or negotiate the capitalist system in some way or another, and then find time and ways to ride our bikes in the midst of the chaos.  But I realize, as I get older, that it's really the hippie in me that keeps me cycling:  I ride in order to be free (at least for as long as possible) and that I need my freedom in order to ride.  

So, if you've gotten this far, you might be wondering what prompted this rumination.  Well, I stumbled across a blog by someone who "some would describe... as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over".    Fred Bailey, the "old hippy" in question, lives aboard the Seafire, a boat he is refitting for voyages far and wide.

Actually, I didn't stumble across the blog itself.  Rather, I found, by chance, a photograph included in Fred's latest post.  In that post, he talks about his annual "pilgrimage" to the Fisher Poet's Gathering in Astoria(!), Oregon.   It sounds like a wonderful event:  Maybe the next gathering will give me reason to visit an Astoria that, I am sure, is different from the one in which I live.  

He took the photograph--of "the most westerly bike rack in the USA"--during that trip:

Photo by Fred Bailey, from Seafireblog.

I don't think anyone could create a better visualization of my cycling spirit, if you will.  The colors, the sights and the overall mood are my destination, whatever my cycling journey happens to be.


  1. Wisdom? Insight? Not so sure of that. Thanks anyway.

    I began serious cycling as an adult in 1963. That was before there were hippies. By the time there were hippies, I was an anti-war activist, and "hippy" was a dirty word to us. I would say it was more of a question of the hobo in me. Independent, traveling light... I had sworn to myself at an early age to have nothing to do with cars and internal combustion engines, and I was an athlete of sorts, a long distance runner. Put those together and it obviously spelled "bicycle". I just hoped into traffic on a road bike and obeyed the rules of the road. No problems because I was, as far as I knew, the only computing cyclist in the city. People really noticed me. The city, BTW , was Portland, Oregon!

    By the early 70's I was living in Europe, so cycling just fit right in. At this point, 70 years old, I have never sat in the driver's seat of a car.


  2. Grrr...

    ...HOPPED into traffic...
    ...only COMMUTER cyclist...

    AutoCorrect was invented by the Devil!