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my thoughts, too

Screen shot 2009-09-15 at 4.17.11 PM

Friend sent link to this wonderful video, Thoughts on My Bike by Andrea Dorfman, a film entry for the NY Bicycle Film Festival. Sometimes people are able to find words, images, that really strike a chord within me, that say exactly what I have often felt and thought – and this is definitely one of those.

Thoughts on My Bike by Andrea Dorfman (YouTube)

When I’m out in the city, riding my bike

My adrenalin rushes as I start to take flight.

The buildings lean over, the lights flash red and green,

The people jump out of nowhere, and the busses careen.

This is when answers fly into my head –

To the questions I ask while I’m lying in bed.

My mind glazes over, the world fades away,

The question that burns is: how did we get to today?

The world was once green, the sky gorgeous blue,

And now it’s surrounded in a grey-ish brown hue.

The ice caps are melting, the earth’s heating up;

We can’t go on like this.  We need to just … stop.

We’re killing our earth with out factories and our cars.

Some say if it dies, we’ll have to move to Mars.

Where we’ll live in a bubble, zooming around the Sun

Looking out from a giant car – made for everyone.

Back on earth, the newspapers, the radios, the internet –

Tell us that businesses are sick; they’re not quite dead yet.

If the government steps in and helps bail them out,

And we all shop again …“We’ll survive,” they shout.

Car companies got the worst of the crash,

Their sales are way down and they just don’t have the cash

To keep people hired.  So unless we buy cars,

The economy will collapse.  So it’s that – or move to Mars?

OK, I’m confused.  I thought we were trying to save the planet we love

From heading straight to the grave.

I may not be an economist, a politician or a logician

But there’s absolutely no sense in this solution.

So remember: I’m riding my bike when these thoughts come to me

And I happen to be choking on exhaust in a traffic jamboree,

When the answer comes to me, blindsiding my mind,

I’m almost knocked off my bike with the force of this find.

If car companies want to survive, they must keep up with the times

So they’re not left in the dust.  I propose that they find

Their own sense of self-worth by inventing a new car

That’s a friend to the earth.

But there’s something we can do too.

We can go outside

And experience the world not from a car,

But from a bike ride.

Let’s dust off our bikes,

Put our wheels to the ground;

Let’s take to the streets,

Let’s make our hearts pound.

When you’re riding your bike through the city you’ll see

The lipstick smiles and the birds high up in that tree.

You’ll smell the frankfurters frying and the hot coffee brewing

You’ll feel the mist on your face as the storm starts a’stewing.

Biking will make you feel alive.  It’ll make your heart sing.

It’ll make you want to do absolutely every single thing

You can do to make sure the earth you love is free

From the fate of horrible human catastrophe.

If feeling alive isn’t enough, I’ll tell you right now

You’ll also receive a gift that will unfurl you brow.

It’s the answer to your puzzle that keeps you up all night long.

The ending to your story.  The words to your song.

obscene water

Why, exacly, do we need to be importing this from halfway around the world?

Earlier today, Mark and I rode to our local grocery store – Season’s Harvest Market.  While we were shopping, we saw this display of imported bottled water – designer bottles of “artesian” water from Norway, selling at nearly $5/pack of four bottles.  This goes beyond ridiculous.  Obscene is the word that comes to my mind.

The multi-million bottled water industry makes me ill.  From the tremendous amounts of resources used in the transporting and packaging of water, to lack of regulation and quality testing, to the destructive and abusive practices of the leading water bottling/privatization corporations – there is nothing palatable about the industry, least of all its water.

Check out these websites on bottled water:

Stop Nestle Waters

Inside the Bottle

NRDC: Bottled Water Contaminants (chart of contaminants, bacteria and viruses found in common brands of bottled water)

While Season’s Harvest Market will probably remain my local grocery store of choice, it’s disappointing to see them carrying items like this.  They try to promote their store as being the “healthy alternative” for groceries, and have one of the better selections of organic and locally grown items, but recently they seem to be slipping further and further into the mainstream highly-processed/junk-food inventory choices.  Fewer organics, lots of plastic packaging, and now ridiculously packaged “chic” imported water.  Green-washing at it’s finest.

The “story” behind the Norwegian Voss designer water – from their own website:

With the persistent conviction that they (founders Ole Sandberg and Christian Harlem) should provide only the highest quality water – to only the highest quality accounts – in the highest quality package, an idea was born: share this naturally tasting delicious water with the rest of the world in a bottle equally unique …

… They secured this artesian source in the middle of their beloved wilderness in Southern Norway.

Because we all know that we need another “beloved wilderness” spoiled by a designer water bottling corporation…

Voss goes on to point out how “green” and sustainable their product is – by their contribution to two carbon offset projects.  The more sensible carbon offset project?  Don’t export water around the globe in designer disposable plastic bottles!

Disappointing from every level – from the fact that people will buy and consume this stuff, to the fact that my local “green” market has stooped so low as to stock it.

If you want a “designer” bottle for your tap water, here’s an option I prefer:

Kor Hydration Vessel – BPA free, reusable, attractive

Finally, two excellent documentaries about water – from privatization to the highly unregulated bottled water industry:

Flow – the film

Tappedthe film

New River Trail bikamping

the "enlightened" bike at the end of the tunnel...

Xtracycle: the "enlightened" bike at the end of the tunnel...

Last weekend, Mark, Dillon and I headed back to Virginia to spend Labor Day weekend riding and camping in New River Trail State Park.  The park is a 57-mile linear stretch running along the New River, with a packed cinder trail created on an old railroad right-of-way – part of the national Rails-to-Trails system.  The New River itself runs south to north, and the bike path has many trestle crossings and two wonderful tunnels.

nrvtrailmapWe decided to ride from north to south, and made plans to camp at the primitive Cliffview camground at the southern end of the park.  After some a little difficulty finding the northern trailhead and parking just outside of Pulaski (Xaloy?) we got the bikes packed up and headed out – Dillon on my mountain bike (fitted with rear rack and panniers), Mark on the Big Dummy, and I was on my trusty Long Haul Trucker.

The trail runs alongside the river nearly the entire way, with an almost undetectable 1% uphill grade (average) running north to south.  The upper half of the trail – Foster Falls being relatively the mid-point – offers nice views of a fairly wide and shallow river, with spacious lawns and farms along the banks.  For the most part, the riding is shaded, running through the woods along the banks.

Foster Falls is probably the most developed area along the trail – with a river outfitter, picnic areas, day-use parking as well as another primitive campground.  We stopped here, intending to find someplace to eat lunch, and were told by the park attendant that a country store was “just up the road”.

*Note to self for future reference:  when kindly lady says something is “just up the road”, chances are it’s a pretty significant detour by bicycle, unlike via her Buick!”

We headed off-trail in search of the country store, and after some searching and backtracking, we managed to find it.  We stopped for a sandwich and some snacks, and ended up rejoining the trail near Austinville – only adding an additional 4-5 miles to our journey.

Mark and Dillon making one of many river crossings

Mark and Dillon making one of many river crossings

Let me just say this … an average 1% uphill grade may seem fairly imperceptible for a long while – but after about 50 miles, your legs will tell you that you’ve been doing some work.  Nearing the end, I think we were just all anxious to see sight of the campground, as we were all ready to be out of the saddle for a while.  Thankfully, Cliffview campground is a few miles before the actual endpoint of the trail (53 miles on Mark’s odometer) – and it arrived none too soon!  Felt so good to park the bikes, unload and take a rest in the hammock.

Cliffview primitive campground - New River Trail State Park

Cliffview primitive campground - New River Trail State Park

We spent a restful evening at camp, had a some dinner, and hit the sleeping bags a little early.  Sadly, the campground has no shower facilities – which would have been greatly appreciated.  But it was quiet and comfortable, Dillon sleeping in the backpacking hammock/tarp, and Mark and I in our little tent.

Sunday morning we ate some breakfast and broke camp to head back down the trail – welcoming the fact that we would have the downhill grade this time.  Although we could definitely feel the difference in our legs, it definitely didn’t feel like a downhill coast – we were continually pedalling.

One thing to note about the trail, in general, is the fact that it is multi-use for cyclists, hikers and horses … with cyclists and hikers yielding to the horses.  Sharing the trail isn’t too bad.  My bigger complaint would have to be the divots in the trail surface created by the horse hooves.  It made for some bumpy riding in places where the trail surface was slightly soft.

Once again we decided to make our lunch stop near Foster Falls – this time in the picnic area with food we had on hand, rather than venturing off-trail again.  We enjoyed a nice lunch, checked out the rafting/bicycle rental outfitter, and pondered the darkening skies.  It looked like rain was on the horizon.

One of the nice trail stopping points along the way...

One of the nice trail stopping points along the way...

At one point (near Allisonia?), we were making one of the few road crossings, when a truck pulled up near us and  the driver said he really would like for us to stop so that he could check out our Xtracycles.  We were happy to oblige.  It was kind of amusing – he was so excited “to finally get to see an Xtracycle – in person!” He and his wife and another couple were doing the same weekend bikamping – but on some pretty spiffy tandem bikes.  We enjoyed talking to him, and hopefully left him with a very favorable impression of the Xtracycles.

Just after we left them, we started to feel the first drops of rain.  After the last rainy trip on the Creeper Trail, I decided to immediately put on my rain jacket.  Mark and Dillon decided to forego theirs.  A mile or two later, the downpour started.  By that time, there was nothing to do but count down the miles until we reached the car.

a rainy finish...

a rainy finish...

Although I didn’t mind riding in the rain (I was pretty dry and toasty with my jacket on), Mark and Dillon decided to speed on ahead of me, as they were getting pretty soaked.  By that point, it didn’t make much sense for them to even put their raingear on – once you’re wet, you’re wet.  I just rode on at my own pace, and eventually we all made it back to the parking lot and the car.  Loading the wet gear and grit-covered bikes was the least fun part of the whole adventure, once again.

In the end: three bikes, two days, one night of camping, and somewhere over 100 miles of fun.  I highly recommend New River Trail – a lovely ride, regardless what section(s) you choose to ride on, lightly travelled, and great for families.

Complete set of trip photos are up on my Flickr page, here.

Until next time…