Posts tagged ‘bicycle culture’
The beginning of 2013. New ideas, new projects, new roads to discover.
I’ve taken some time to think about blogging, biking, photographs, the whole narrative. About what I do and why I do it. Early last year I read a post by one of my favorite artist/illustrators, Tommy Kane (who is often on his bike, looking for things to draw). When I read the post, it felt as if he had pulled words right out of my head … he said:
“Why do I keep going, you might ask? Well, the answer is simple, I just can’t stop. The truth is, when it comes to my art, I have no real goal in mind. I’m not really heading anywhere. I’m not sure what I’m trying to achieve. Maybe I’m just searching for a brick wall to run into. Once I do that, then I can take a long needed rest. … So for now I ‘m going back to what I do best, making drawings of buildings and objects for no apparent reason whatsoever.”
While I hesitate to think of myself as an artist, or even a “photographer” (in that official label-y kind of way), I know that I am compelled to create, like Mr. Kane – “for no apparent reason whatsoever”.
My family can attest to this habit that often drives them nuts; I have to make things, I have to have a camera at hand, I have to take photos, I have to write down little bits of thoughts, observations and ideas. Some of it has appeared on this blog, much has not.
Keeping a diary was something I started when I was a child, and I’ve never outgrown the habit; the format has just evolved. My great-grandmother was a diarist, my grandfather was a painter and prolific letter-writer who kept carbon copies of every page he ever mailed. I am now custodian of these things. I suspect I have inherited a genetic component.
My photos and other “bits” (including this blog) have just been added to the archives, and my now hoard includes of boxes of prints, shelves of journals, notebooks and albums, clouds and hard drives filled with digital files – evidence of an addiction to creating and recording, and a compulsion that I am sure some psychologist might have a field day analyzing.
There are likely as many reasons to start a blog as there are individuals. I think it is often a combination of exploring a topic or subject, and the urge to create something. “Putting it out there”, so to speak, may be inherent to the creative process; it is the voice of the creation.
In the beginning, I think I justified my own decision to “go-public-and-blog-about-it” with the the idea that maybe I could inspire someone to get on a bike. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you want to ride a bike, you will; if you don’t, you won’t. I don’t think pretty bikes, pretty pictures or just the right words will change a mindset. If you happen to be leaning over the fence of “could I/should I?”, there are many vocal and more effective advocates and cheerleaders out there who can provide advice, reviews, instruction and analysis on every aspect of cycling to help you decide. There are groups and clubs to join (real and virtual), lists to subscribe to, pledges to sign, rides and events to partake in … it’s a very bike-y world out there.
Whenever I find myself in very bike-y cities – places with lots of people on all sorts of bikes – I most admire the everyday-ness of the cyclists I see. It’s just a way (granted, sometimes a necessity, but usually a more enjoyable one) of doing something, getting someplace.
When I have watched cyclists in these places, or when my husband brings home photos of people on bikes in China, I always think: I seriously doubt this guy writes a blog about schlepping big loads of stuff on his rickety old bike, even though I find it incredibly fascinating. To these people, it’s nothing extraordinary. To these everyday cyclists, to photograph or write about it would seem as ridiculous as writing a blog about doing laundry or brushing your teeth. (Although I have no doubt someone could put an incredibly creative and artistic spin on either of these… and find a way to blog about it).
Over time, my enthusiasm to get a message across through blogging transformed into, well … whatever it is now. Kind of a jumble of photos, thoughts and personal narrative on the beauty of what I see out there; an extension of this lifelong habit (obsession?) to create and record.
Most bloggers, artists, photographers, writers, etc., want to have their work noticed. Most want to be known, at least to some degree or within some social or professional circle. They want their work to be recognized for an endless range of reasons – from being able to make a living, to personal or professional validation, to inspire change or action, or simply (and sadly) for personal notoriety and self-promotion. The irony for me is that I have always been averse to much of this. I have no agenda and recognition typically makes me uncomfortable. I don’t need validation; I could care less whether it’s good work or complete crap – I just need to do the creating, the recording.
All of this makes it pretty ridiculous for a person like me to even have a blog in the first place.
So. Maybe I have found my brick wall. I have decided that I simply want to ride my bike.
I will always take pictures, I will always be fascinated by bicycles (and cows and old barns). I will always be compelled to create “stuff”, and will continue to fill boxes and bookshelves with my cycling (and my life’s) flotsam to be entertainment for some future curious grandchild who may be induced to become the new custodian. But I don’t need to publicly blog about it or illustrate it, or to advocate, review or analyze something that is ultimately so simple and so basic – just riding a bicycle.
Keeping a blog has been a wonderful exercise; I have learned much and I have grown. But it has also taught me that the narrative I am compelled to keep can be archived in a less public space. It is enough for me to write privately on paper, to stash the results in journals and albums on the bookshelf, and I think it may ultimately be more liberating, more honest, more creative.
I now understand the things that will always be a part of me – and those I can let go of. This is the beginning of a new chapter for me – as just a cyclist, a person with a camera and a notebook, and not as a blogger. I’m retiring. I’ll leave the site up … until I don’t. For my friends who still want to see bike-y and other pictures, I intend to continue with my Flickr stream and you are welcome to come and look; it’s a convenient repository and organizational tool (and remains a compulsion).
To my friends and family who have read and looked at these posts over the years … thank you all for all of the kindness you have so generously shown to me. Thank you for seeing things in my pictures that I had never noticed. Thank you for understanding my words even when I didn’t always know what I was trying to say.
Thank you for riding along.
I am not an exceptional cyclist. Yet somehow, I have managed to have extraordinary and exceptional journeys. Slowly. Purposefully. Sometimes accidentally. On two wheels.
For me it is the love of slow travel. It is not about pushing through to a destination, or about arriving. Rather, it is a conscious savoring of each meter, each mile along the way – under my own power, and to the beat of my own heart. It is about letting the day unwind before me as it will. It is about the diversions and accidental discoveries. It is about seeing the beauty through all of the senses – through touch, sight, sound, smell and taste.
We – my beloved and I – spent mid- through late September traveling and cycling through three magnificent countries – Austria, Slovenia and Italy. We began in Salzburg and finished in Venice. And in between, we fell in love with the mountains, the people, and the villages of Slovenia. We were in the land of the Julian Alps, a region whose heritage is rich in music, folklore, and mountaineering. It often looked and felt like something taken out of a fairy tale … and in a way, I suppose it was.
It is difficult for me to write, at least publicly and impartially, about this adventure. There is so much that goes beyond even the best words and photos. But for the benefit of our boys (who are spread far and wide right now), our families, a few close friends – and anyone else who may be interested in a glimpse of this region as seen from the saddle of a bicycle – I will share briefly and as well as a I can. I will spare you all a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account, and instead provide a few posts and a few photo galleries about each of the regions. Just to give you a taste. Just to (hopefully) inspire you to visit this region a create your own journey…
We arrived in Salzburg several days before we were to begin cycling. Salzburg is a picturesque city, surrounded my mountains and watched over by the old fortress – the Festung Hohensalzburg, or the “High Salzburg Fortress”.
At the heart of Old Salzburg are magnificent baroque churches and architecture, the meticulously manicured Mirabell Gardens, and the gentle blue-green ribbon of the Salzach River.
The city is rich in its musical heritage, with Mozart being the biggest draw for me. It is the birthplace and childhood home of Mozart – and the resting place for his wife and father. It is home to the renown Salzburg music festival and the Mozarteum University. And more recently, it was the home of conductor Herbert von Karajan – as well as being the setting (and home of Maria von Trapp ) from The Sound of Music, which was filmed in and around the city and continues to be a major tourist draw.
Like many other old European cities, Salzburg is wonderfully bicycle-centric. In the heart of the city, bicycles are the rule, rather than the exception. The streets are mostly void of vehicular traffic, with the exception of a few delivery trucks and a network of electric buses. People walk or bike, or use some combination of the two – coupled with public transportation when needed. It is a beautiful thing to see.
After three days of walking and seeing Salzburg on foot, we were ready to get on our bicycles … but that will have to wait for another day, another post.
To be continued …
I have some “nice” fall color biking photos from days prior … but today, while I was riding in the rain, I was thinking about friends in Portland and the Pacific Northwest. (And yes, also snowbound Minneapolis, @bikerly, @blueallez, and @myrnacgmibus). In my mind, cities like Portland, Seattle, and Amsterdam are my idea of cycling nirvana. And Minneapolis. I see the videos, the pictures, read about the bicycle culture, the rideshare, the cupcakes (big incentive), and converse with a few friends who live there in the midst of it. I am fairly convinced that I belong there.
And then I ride on a cold, grey and damp day and wonder if I really would have what it takes? I can easily do a few days here and there in crappy weather, but am I really cut out for months on end of this kind of kind of stuff? I dunno. The cupcakes I could definitely do on a daily basis. The rain riding, well … ?
For now, I ride in it … just to practice. And to pre-qualify. 😉
Dear Family and Friends,
I have returned. A bit changed, no doubt – as inevitably happens when visiting a new place, meeting new people, experiencing new things. Happy, tired, filled, and fulfilled. Full of bicycle memories and wonderful food, the warm colors of of the Tuscan landscape, the lyrical and expressive sounds of the Italian language. Awakened to important lessons – learning the beauty of living slowly, savoring the flavors, taking in the landscape, speaking through actions and gestures.
I’ve been debating on how best to tell some of the stories of this trip … As you may have already guessed, there is an excess of photos (will be putting final cut on my Flickr as I manage to get them uploaded) along with experiences on the bicycles that are probably too numerous to re-tell. But for my family, and especially my boys away at school who wanted some details, I have decided to tell the story over the course of several days (and several posts). So please bear with me – and check in as often or as little as you care to. I guess that’s the beauty of the blogosphere, isn’t it?
The story begins in Florence, where we arrived and had roughly a day to spend walking and enjoying this incredible city before setting out by bicycle across Tuscany. The architecture is stunning – from the cathedrals and museums to the Ruine Anno (river) and Ponte Vecchio. Bicycles and cyclists are everywhere. From the young and hip, to the older and more classically chic Italians, everyone rides bicycles.
The streets are typically European – narrow, cobbled, winding, and always charming. Everyone gathering in the piazzas in the evening for food and wine and fellowship. The food was beyond description; olive oil, rosemary, porcini mushrooms, crusty bread, vino rosso, and light fragrant pasta dishes … hard to get enough. And of course, our daily GOD (Gelato Of the Day).
Twenty-four hours is not nearly enough time properly see and appreciate this beautiful city, but we managed to walk until our legs nearly fell off and saw as much as we could. Simply, it was breathtaking. And I want to return someday.
So began the adventure….
I am behind in posting … and I have been reminded of this fact. Sorry. We just returned from a trip to Chicago – nine of us (including boys’ friends) headed up for Lollapalooza 2010. Just. Amazing.
The bicycle culture has always been vibrant in Chicago, even from back in the day when I was growing up there. And now, especially in summer, the city is saturated with cyclists of all kinds. Women in heels on beautiful Dutch bikes, messenger-types on fixies, all variety of commuters on all types of bikes. Fast bikes, fancy bikes, hip bikes, beater bikes. I think my favorite (and one I am tempted to duplicate in my own manner) was the fur-covered bike we spotted on Michigan Ave. Good grief, how I loved that one! 🙂
The truth is, we actually hauled two of our own bikes up there with us – but never ended up riding, I am very sad to say. Our group decided to just stay together, enjoying the music and each other’s company, walking everywhere. And I mean everywhere. At first I wasn’t sure I’d be willing to stick it out for 10-11 hours a day in the massive Lollacrowds (estimated at 68,000 each day, I believe), and thought some biking would be my alternate plan if I needed to escape. However, the whole festival scene, the truly amazing music, the energy of the experience kept me – kept all of us – in the park the entire time. It was wonderful and unforgettable.
Every night when the festival ended, the mass exodus of concert-goers would take over the surrounding streets of the city, all heading home. It may look chaotic or even scary – but it was exhilerating, happy, filled with energy and excitement. On the last night, the entire crowd – probably a few thousand people – broke out into spontaneous singing of the chorus to “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire (who were the last to play on Sunday); you’ve probably heard the song from the movie soundtrack “Where The Wild Things Are”. It was just …. spine tingling, and a moment I will never forget.
I think I almost managed to break my camera taking photos, but decided to leave the music and city shots (as I am slowly uploading them) for Flickr, and only put a few of the bike shots up here. I also may have put myself behind schedule on #330daysofbiking; but the truth is, as much as I would’ve liked to have ridden, I just don’t regret it.
Chicago – I miss you. It was a magical reunion – from bikes to music to your breathtaking skyline at night. The enchantment of Grant Park on a summer night, and Lake Michigan in the moonlight. Not to mention some of the best food in the world, which I have dearly, dearly craved. Thanks for welcoming me home. Rock on; bike on!