Saturday, June 09, 2007


Were it not for Bruce's extreme generosity, we wouldn't have had the tandem tag-along in the first place. He had mail ordered the British built device to be able to ride with both his daughters in tow. They could pedal along in unison without having to match the pace of the adult rider, the seven speeds of the tag-along giving them range. Two wheels made the trailer more stable and provided room for a large basket in the rear. The device seemed the perfect solution for Rebecca, allowing her to ride with 11-yr-old Keenan and 4-yr-old Shayleena. They did ride that way into Arcata, and it seemed to work well.

We hadn't considered taking the device along until the day we started to ride without a support. Prior to that, Tala had ridden in the RV or on a single bike - Rebecca's or Zoe's - and so had never ridden on her single tag-along behind a fully loaded bike. On the day we first tried that combination, we found it too unstable. Rebecca suggested the tandem tag-along. We tried it and found it workable. So off we rode with the twins in their trailer behind my bike and Tala on the U+2 behind Michele. Thus it was until the hills of Northern California.

Our purpose for stopping at Shekhina was to switch trailers. The high mount on the tag-along, which hitches to the seat-post, made it less stable than the dropout mounting trailer. In addition there were the challenges of coordinating Tala's thrusts with Michele's as they struggled up the steep hills. Michele had fallen three times and was ready to switch. Except for one day in Southern California when we tried the combination again, Tala has ridden behind me since.

Outside San Jose, we started to have a problem with the basket sagging. It was filled with two tents, an oversized sleeping pad, and a bag, with Rui's panniers strapped to the top. Sometimes Tala would lean back, adding her weight to the mix. Apparently, the ties that had held it to the frame were over-stressed. We pulled into a Walgreen's to buy a bundle of wire hangers, kept two, and gave the rest to a friendly shopper. Then we fastened the basket securely to the frame and rode off proud of our resourcefulness. That fix worked for a couple hundred miles.

Luckily, the next time the basket started sagging, we were in a town without a Walmart, because only a local hardware store could have provided the fix. The frame was bent nearly 90 degrees at each of the points where we had wired the basket. We got the store to saw a steel rod in half and used two hose clamps on each half to shore up the straightened frame sections. That fix is still holding.

This morning as we prepared to leave Demming, New Mexico, the hitch broke off the head end of the tag along. Providence led me to Wayne and his coworker, Lonnie Zumwalt, who donated a few hours of their time to solving our problem. Lonnie is an innovative machinist and welder who was able to rebuild the hardened steel part so we could reassemble the hitch. He also has dreamed of riding a bicycle across the country. I hope someday to have an opportunity to ride alongside this good man.

We've discussed replacing the tag along with a tandem or a single bike for Tala and a bob trailer to replace the basket. Either option might be less cumbersome, but neither would attract the attention or provide the stories that the U+2 has.

Bike Arizona

Now that we've passed into New Mexico, I've got to give my assessment of Arizona. The tail winds more than made up for the heat, though I might not say that later in the year. Besides our wonderful hosts, two things stand out in my memories of the Grand Canyon State. There are some filthy shoulders on I-10 and Phoenix needs bike advocacy.

Semi trucks blow retreads in every state of the union, but I've never seen such a concentration of shredded rubber as we found all along Interstate 10. Of course, that rubber usually encases steel belts, which reduce into thousands of sharp little wires that penetrate bike tires. I've pulled dozens of those wires out of our tires in the last couple weeks.

Phoenix drivers are an even greater hazard, although our extra wide bikes got enough leeway. We noticed that most local cyclists ride on the sidewalks most of the time. After riding about on my bike without the trailer, I could see why. I've never been passed so closely and quickly by so many cars. It was terrifying.

Phoenix could learn from Missoula, Montana. The smaller, more northern of these western cities has found that encouraging bikes reduces infrastructure costs. They hire a full-time bike advocate to remove the obstacles for bicyclists. Phoenix has occasional discontinuous bike lanes. Even with a map, it can be challenging to get anywhere safely. In Missoula, virtually every street is bike-able.

I don't believe drivers are inherently more rude in Phoenix, but bikes on the streets are still the exception, rather than the rule. It will take a dedicated effort to train drivers and change the culture. Arizona laws defend bicycles as well as the law elsewhere, as far as I can tell.

Friday, June 01, 2007

An Open Letter

Dear George W Bush:

We wish to acknowledge some of the truths you have presented about the war and occupation of Iraq. When you told us that the troops are fighting to preserve the American way of life, you spoke truth. You were also right on when you said that Americans are addicted to oil. Inspired by heros and heroines such as Brian Willson; double amputee and Vietnam Veteran; and Cindy Sheehan; warrior and outspoken mother of fallen US soldier Casey Sheehan; we are on a mission to help transform the cycle of oil dependency, so that US soldiers won't be compelled to fight or die any more for our voracious, out of control, oil consumptive habits. This is our tribute to the country we love, this is our sacred tour of duty.

The Catalysts of H.O.P.E.(Healing Our People and Earth) began riding our bicycles across the United States for Peace and Sustainability on 17-Mar-07 in Portland, OR. All the way down the west coast and beginning to travel across the south, we and our message have been supported by Americans from all walks of life. We've had as many as 15 riders at one time, but our core has consisted of two adults, an 11-yr-old, and 20-mo-old twins. We're a traveling family, dedicated to recognizing and reconciling our complicity in perpetuating a system that allows US; 1/16th of the world population; to consume over 1/4 of the Earths resources, and to produce nearly 1/2 of the waste. Our wanton lifestyle choices and disregard for the repercussions that
those choices will have on the futures of our children and generations to come are combining to create a state of perpetual war, terror, poverty, resource depletion, and ultimately threaten our very survival as a species. By being the change we wish to see in the world and encouraging others to do likewise in their own manner, we're striving to reclaim the soul of our nation and heal the damaged ties with each other and with the world outside of our borders.

These past 2 months have been tremendously eye-opening for us. By trusting in and relying on the kindness and concern of our fellow citizens in this great country, again and again we've witnessed the genuine goodness and concern people innately have for one another, especially children. Through countless conversations with Americans of nearly every stripe, political affiliation and ethnicity, we have also found that our shared vulnerability as human beings on this fragile, endangered planet have left many of us overwhelmed and unsure of what part we have to play in the outcome of the course we are now on. Many have bought into the notion that they are too insignificant to have any impact on the seemingly insurmountable problems we face as a country, and instead have lamentably invested precious resources; especially time; into fleeting, transient material gain, thereby further isolating themselves from the very networks of support that could make the shift to sustainable community possible; family, friends, neighbors, and co-inhabitants of a small planet with limited resources. Therefore, the challenge before us is to take heart from successful people's movements from around the world (e.g.: and to restore the collective belief in the power of humanity to transcend our perceived differences and unite for the common good.

We are appealing to the very best in your human nature, Mr. Bush, as we absolutely do not accept that any human being is a lost cause or is beyond redemption. The movement towards reconciliation and peace is living, breathing proof that another world is possible. We expect to bicycle into Crawford, Texas, on the last weekend in June and would welcome the opportunity to discuss our experiences on this journey and on our past journeys throughout America, the Middle East, and Africa. We will also be in Washington, DC during the second half of September, further providing excellent opportunities to communicate with our elected officials. We've got a lot to talk about.

May there be Peace in Our Time,
The Catalysts of HOPE

Supported by organizations such as Veterans for Peace, CODE PINK, Sarvodaya USA, Whitefeather Portland Catholic Worker, Oregon Peaceworks, and many others, The Catalysts of HOPE (Healing Our People & Earth) are continuing to trek across America and welcome any and all dreamers to join us in whatever capacity each determines appropriate.

As you come to know the seriousness of our situation----the war, the
racism, the poverty in the world-----you come to realize it is not going
to be changed just by words or demonstrations. It's a question of risking
your life. It's question of living your life in drastically different
ways. - Dorothy Day