Bike touring…do it for the economy

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Here’s another post I’m migrating over from my old blog (now retired). Ellee’s bike touring guidebook to Oregon is now much closer to reality than it was when this was posted a month and a half ago. I’ve been inspired by her passion and entrepreneurialism to embark on some more ambitious publishing projects of my own — stay tuned right here for more on that.

more of that canyon

[June 6, 2011]

My latest column at Grist is up today. This one focuses on the hyper-local economic impacts of bike touring.

Pictured here is my friend Ellee Thalheimer (yes, she’s a writer and bike activist named Ellee, what about it?) cruising down through Hell’s Canyon on the Oregon/Idaho border last month.

Ellee’s writing a cycle touring guidebook to Oregon, something that weirdly enough doesn’t yet exist despite a growing interest in the practice. I was tagging along on a scouting trip for her chapter on eastern Oregon.

Bike touring can entail a lot of different things. What we were doing in Idaho wasn’t exactly the textbook ideal of setting off from your front door with unbelievably heavy panniers and sense of complete self-sufficiency mixed with nervous anticipation of the suburban nightmares and rural idylls to come. But we did hit a bunch of the highs, like the swoopy mountain roads, a cozy bed and breakfast, chatty ranchers and local store owners, and a fox running across the road with a golf ball in its mouth. (Though it’s just this minute occurred to me — that was probably not sporting equipment but some poor bird’s would-be offspring.)

The best part, though, is looking at a very distant bend in the road and then arriving there in an impossibly short amount of time, under your own power. Then you eat a godawful amount of trail mix, fix your flat tire unassisted, and pedal on.

Bike touring can change your life, or at least shake you out of your rut. Heidi Swift might just have put it best — one of the most important parts for me, anyway — I’ll leave you with her words on the topic.

Now get out there and ride!