Loving the land

Somehow, against probability, some sort of indigenous, recognizable culture has been growing on Western ranches and in Western towns and even in Western cities.  It is the product not of the boomers but of the stickers, not of those who pillage and run but of those who settle and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.  I believe that eventually, perhaps within a generation or two, they will work out some sort of compromise between what must be done to earn a living and what must be done to restore health to the earth, air, and water.  –Wallace Stegner

I was at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic over Memorial Day weekend, and was reminded how the act of cycling restores to us a sense of our better selves.  On Saturday the road from Durango to Silverton is open only for event traffic, which consists of thousands of people cycling.  And on Sunday, in downtown Durango they build a BMX (bicycle motorcross) course on Main Street and run mountain bike, kids, and costume rides through town.  The city is designed for enjoyment.

In this economy, what is circulating is people, and more specifically people filled with curiosity, joy and excitement.  Combine the human created atmosphere with the Animas River flowing through the heart of town, quaking Aspen stands, and the La Plata and San Juan mountains flying high on the edges, and you have what feels like a healthy community.  As my wife said, “the oxygen tastes good” in Durango.

Contempt for the natural world is contempt for life.  The domination of nature leads to the domination of human nature.  —Edward Abbey, quoted in “River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed behind the Gold King Mine Disaster” by Jonathan P. Thompson

To put Abbey’s idea into positive terms, perhaps embracing our human nature helps us to appreciate greater nature.  When we get on a bicycle, our legs flow freely around in circles, the wind blows in our faces, and we breath in more of that sacred oxygen.  We feel good.  We move forward.  When I become more alive inside, I see more of the life around me.  Cycling fits here.

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Bike to work day 2018

A perfect day in Albuquerque to enjoy with a ride!  Check out the events, and consider treating yourself with a new outfit to make your cycling go smoother: Team CSP-SBI kits available

#biketoworkday

The breaks

We got a lucky break this year on a trip to the Quebradas Backcountry Byway.  We heard hummingbirds arrive in Albuquerque, and we thought that might mean they would also be at Quebradas–which is about 60 miles south–pollinating the Ocotillo flowers.  We’ve been trying to time a trip to Quebradas for years to synchronize with the Ocotillo blooms.  Finally, it worked.

The byway is a gravel road about 24 miles long.  We spotted Ocotillos immediately, though I had remembered most of the plants were growing at the other end.   It is amazing how the bright red Ocotillo flowers make the landscape light up.  They sing a new song with their flaming reds.

We also spotted some pretty cactus flowers.  With the sparse rains and mild winter, it is amazing how these desert plants survive.  They have developed strategies for scarce water.

It was a great trip!  Although we saw a lot from the car window, the landscape really opens up when you get out and walk, moving at slower speeds, eyes trained to the ground.  Everything is hiding under nursery plants, grasses, shrubs and piles of rock.  It makes it even more inviting and rewarding to get out and explore.  Next time we’ll bring our bicycles.  It is perfect for it.

Other posts I’ve done on Quebradas, and the BLM Website:

https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/quebradas-or-breaks/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/quiet-energy/
https://www.blm.gov/visit/quebradas-backcountry-byway

Dutch cycling

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  —World Health Organization

Cycling culture is universal in the Netherlands.  It is part of the national consciousness.  They embrace all things bicycle.  In a country with less than half the population of California, they have many of the worlds top cyclists including Chantal Blaak, winner of the Amstel Gold Race and World Road Race Championship, and Tom Doumalin, winner of the Giro d’Italia and World Time Trial Championship.  Just as Norway’s love for winter sports was on display in the Winter Olympics, the spirit of the people of the Netherlands expresses through cycling, in sport and everyday life.  Cycling is a principle value the Dutch have built their communities around.  [I usually use my pictures for this blog, but the photos in this post are from the public domain, mostly of the Amstel Gold women’s race which takes place every April in the Netherlands]

The bicycle was the traditional vehicle for transportation in the Netherlands in the early part of the 20th century, accounting for about 80% of trips in Amsterdam.  Car technology changed that in the 1960’s, just like it did here in the U.S.  The Dutch decided in the 1970’s to comprehensively plan for providing service to people cycling, and that has made a big difference.  Cities are built for people on bicycles.  75% of secondary school children bicycle to school.  The Dutch educate their children to travel by bike with a traffic certificate program, which most kids complete by age 12.  This is part of the planning process, to instill confidence.  There is a public expectation that kids will be cycling.  The urban planners work with the traffic department and local communities to ensure that the roads, paths, and trails are safe for bikes.  This is very similar to the travel culture that I experienced in Japan–bikes and walking are thought through and planned as completely as other modes such as trains, buses, and cars.

The results are pretty incredible.  By no means perfect, but they go a long way towards a happy, healthier and more sustainable society.  We have all the seeds in America we need for this.  Our Safe Routes to Schools programming started as a safe streets movement in a country nearby the Netherlands, Denmark.  We have many assets we can leverage including wide streets, space and our hallmark of ingenuity guided by science and a high regard for all people.  Our Constitution seeks to form “a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”.  Bicycling aids with all of these things, the American way.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

When we celebrate cycling, I like to remember how it brings together the highest aspirations for our healthiest possible future.  It is about justice, equity, inclusion, freedom, equality, and building strong and responsible communities.  We can tell our young cyclists when they push those pedals the possibilities are unlimited.  You very well could end up on top of the world.

BERG EN TERBLIJT, NETHERLANDS – APRIL 15: Arrival / Chantal Blaak of The Netherlands and Team Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam / Celebration / Lucinda Brand of The Netherlands and Team Sunweb Women / during the 5th Amstel Gold Race 2018 a 116,9km women’s race from Maastricht to Berg En Terblijt on April 15, 2018 in Berg En Terblijt, Netherlands. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Photo Credits, and References:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/amstel-gold-race-women-2018/results/
http://www.tdwsport.com
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/gallery/2016/may/18/cris-toala-olivares-netherlands-tulip-fields
http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/racing/world-champion-chantal-blaak-wins-2018-amstel-gold-race-376513
https://santanaadventures.com

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/05/amsterdam-bicycle-capital-world-transport-cycling-kindermoord
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_in_the_Netherlands

Waterworks in Albuquerque

If I had sought counseling, I might have become a more mature, emotionally well-adjusted human being.  But I preferred becoming a writer.  —Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Don’t Call Me a Genius”, New York Times, April 14, 2018

I read a Robert Frost poem this morning, and it reminded me of my bicycle rides in Albuquerque.  The North Diversion Channel multi-use trail is a main cycling connection across town.  It runs along a big concrete ditch that’s been engineered to control the water shed from the Sandia Mountains.   Sometimes I close my eyes and try to imagine what this landscape looked like before we built up this city.  Water, which is often used by poets as a metaphor for memory and justice, is a primary shaping force in the landscape.  Water has a voice.

The situation, now and in the past, is that the minority and marginalized communities of this or any other country are often not voiceless.  They’re simply not heard.  –Viet Thanh Nguyen, NYTimes

On Saturday’s ride I made a point to stop by the Mill Pond Refuge at the Sawmill Community Land Trust.  Keshet, a local dance company, performed a water dance there at 2pm.  It was part of the 3rd biannual National Water Dance, where communities renew their connections to the life giving world of water.  In the arid Southwest, during this drought, it was especially poignant.  The Sawmill location represents our community’s changing relationship with water.  Below is the poem from Robert Frost, and then a few photos from the Water Dance that I saw Saturday.

A Brook in the City, by Robert Frost

The farmhouse lingers, though averse to square
With the new city street it has to wear
A number in.  But what about the brook
That held the house as in an elbow-crook?
I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength
And impulse, having dipped a finger length
And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed
A flower to try its currents where they crossed.
The meadow grass could be cemented down
From growing under pavements of a town;
The apple trees be sent to hearthstone flame.
Is water wood to serve a brook the same?
How else dispose of an immortal force
No longer needed? Staunch it at its source
With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run–
And all for nothing it had ever done,
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water.  But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under,
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.
–1923

References:

http://keshetarts.org  “Founded in 1996, Keshet is an Albuquerque-based nonprofit which exists to inspire and unite community by fostering unlimited possibilities through dance, mentorship and a creative space for the arts. Uniting the arts, the artist and the audience, Keshet invites you to engage, experience and be inspired through bold explorations of movement and celebrations of community.”

Keshet’s Water Dance:  http://keshetarts.org/join-national-water-dance-2018_dancing-for-water-in-nm/

Cycling and walking to get our bearings

Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.  Connection is health.  And what our society does its best to disguise from us is how ordinary, how commonly attainable, health is.  We lose our health–and create profitable diseases and dependences–by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving.  –Wendell Berry, “The Unsettling of America:  Culture and Agriculture”, 1977, Sierra Club Books

If I can bicycle there, then I can live there.  This was the mantra I came up with after my visit to Japan last year.  It was my sixth time in Japan, but the first time I bicycled.  What a difference it makes!  I felt at home on my bicycle.  Cycling has been an essential way for me to get my bearings in places since I took it up in earnest over twenty years ago.  But feeling at home in Japan was different since it had felt so foreign.  Cycling is an activity that creates connections.

Wes Jackson of the Land Institute said Wendell Berry’s book on culture and agriculture “launched the modern movement for sustainable agriculture”.  The cycling and walking movements today are doing the same thing for sustainable transportation.  There is tremendous enthusiasm in the cycling and walking communities.  We need to support that by setting up our cities and villages, and the roads connecting them together, to encourage walking and cycling.  This is what I call structural encouragement.

Structural encouragement means that we design for those travel modes.  It would naturally occur to people that we are not only welcome to bicycle and walk, but it is part of the shared experience of living in the places we make our homes.  The infrastructure we design connects people to our own capacity and powers for creating movement.  It makes a woven world.

Human movement is the most fundamental form of human action.  That is why we call “movements”–such as civil rights, women’s marches, conservation efforts–movements.  When we march together, it symbolized the power of collective community action.  We let our legs do the talking.  It is the language that preceded language.  An invisible thread connecting us.

Cycling and walking are not only a ways of moving forward, they are ways of living in place.  They allow us to tune in more to what is going on with our bodies, and the places we live in.  It is a way of paying attention.  Designing transportation systems that facilitate human powered transportation (clean, renewable, healthy, sustainable, fun human movement!) is a direct solution that creates benefits now, and future dividends.  It’s a transformative economic idea, one worth investing in.  Check out the nonprofit I founded to learn more how we can accomplish this change together and how you can help.  https://bikeinitiative.org

Man is made of the same atoms the world is, he shares the same impressions, predispositions, and destiny.  When his mind is illuminated, when his heart is kind, he throws himself joyfully into the sublime order, and does, with knowledge, what the stones do by structure.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Worship” from the “Conduct of Life”.

Blog posts on my Japan trip 2017:

https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/cycling-japan-lights-my-fire/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/travels-in-japan/

Doing what we love matters

When you have a better sense of the way the environment flows through your own body, you’re liable to work harder at taking care of the environment.  –Richard Nelson, “The Way of the Hunter

Cycling is a creative act.  Everyday when we practice what we love, we weave together a sense of our own health and the environment we draw our life from.  In this way culture emerges.

The most important things for human beings are clean air and clean water.  —Akira Kurosawa, “Dreams”

My cycling journey took off 21 years ago in Reno, Nevada when I sold my car and bought a bicycle.  I rode out of necessity to work and to live–errands, chores, and exercise.  Reno offered clean air (for the most part), fresh mountain water, and enough places to ride to help me get started.  The sense of renewal, authenticity and simplicity cycling brings to my life is special.

The best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.  –Meik Wiking, “The Little Book of Hygge”

I was (and still am) amazed at the intimacy cycling creates, both with people and place.  Somehow cycling expands our in-group, we just feel more humane.  I think it has something to do with being in touch with our vulnerability, which is at the core of our human state.  Accepting this helps us build intimacy with all of our neighbors and changes our expectations regarding the terms we put on nature.  We recognize and respect limits, experiencing ecstasy from ordinary things, like being outside for sunrise and sunset, easily swayed by each season’s grace.

And so it goes, and cyclists know!  No matter how you get started cycling, the physical habit immediately delivers positive spiritual experiences–freedom, adventure, the power of will and action.  Bicycling is emancipation in action.  Feel unbounded freedom every day, real freedom within life’s constraints.   Everyone who has experienced it can’t help but wish all could experience the freedom of cycling personally.  Our wisest policies would encourage as much cycling as possible to help people flourish.  Cycling increases confidence and self knowledge, improves daily social relations and decreases disparities, nurtures health, and fosters the invention of culture that both expresses and educates us, affirming care, love and co-creation.