Monday, May 5, 2008

Seeing the World by Bikes and Books

The only way to really see the world is on foot. That’s the way Jesus and Buddha traveled. Because to really be someplace, you have to move very slowly, observe everything, talk to everybody. On the other hand, the world is a rather large place so you might not have enough time left to see it all the right way. By car, it’s a waste of time to even try. Confining yourself to a little motorized wheel cage, you’re bound to miss almost everything. Your best bet is to use a bike. It’s faster than walking and there are no walls to cut you off from anything. You have free access to the world and vice versa.

Although we have barely scratched the surface of the globe on our Bike Friday tandem Project Q, my husband, Dick Burkhart and I have made a few stabs at it and hope to do more. In the spring of 2003, while George Bush was busy wreaking havoc in Iraq, we biked along the east coast of the United States from Miami, Florida to Bar Harbor, Maine. We discovered the Southern peace movement, learned a lot about our nation’s history, experienced amazing little pockets of civilization like the Gullah culture, the grace of Savannah, the southern coastal islands and much more. We jolly well took our time doing that, sitting around camp fires and sharing stories way into the night.

In subsequent adventures we biked along the sunny east coast of Brazil from Curitiba to Porto Allegre ending up at the World Social forum of 2005. Later that year we biked from Toronto to Montreal, then from Paris to the Hague where we toured the Peace Palace and the Chambers of the World Court. Once we even biked across my home state using the Kady bike trail that follows Lewis and Clark’s route along the wide Missouri.

Our most interesting adventure was the trip from Agra to Mumbai, India ending at the 2004 World Social Forum. By choice, if not necessity, we bike alone with no support vehicle nor guide other than Dick’s magical map reading powers. I wrote a book about the India trip. It’s called “Humbler than Dust; A Retired Couple Visits the Real India by Tandem Bicycle (available through as well as Barnes&

The pace of our global circumnavigation was curtailed last December when I fell and broke my hip. The ball joint broke completely off my left femur and had to be replaced by a fake metal one. To assess the progress of my rehabilitation, we’ll be back in the saddle again next winter (2008-2009) for a tamer expedition from Tampa, Florida to Key West. Besides orthopedic assessment, that trip will serve as prevention plan for my Seasonal Affective Disorder. That affliction hit hard this past winter when my convalescence forbad biking from December 5 through February 25. Imagine trying to survive a dismal Seattle winter with darkness descending at 4:30PM without being allowed to ride your bike! Now that’s depression!

Every bicycle traveler has a unique system. Ours is the Bike Friday Project Q made in Eugene, Oregon. It’s a tandem bike that can be disassembled, packed in one suitcase and checked on a plane or train. When you’re biking, the suit case serves as a trailer to haul your stuff. We don’t take much, maybe a change of clothes, a small back packing tent, a sleeping bag, and rain gear. My most essential article of clothing is a pair of neoprene rain booties. Cold, wet feet can completely spoil the fun! We don’t carry cooking utensils, just stop for food at grocery stores, restaurants, and deli’s all of which are great venues for chatting with the locals.

Maybe it’s frivolous to spend weeks on end just “infotaining” ourselves by bike travel. But we have a cause. We call it “Bike for Global Democracy.” Dick and I have a strong belief that what the world needs most is a global democratic government elected by the peoples of the world. So we hand out leaflets and give talks along the way, another excuse to meet the locals.

Before “Humbler than Dust” I had published another book, a novel called “Alien Child” which visions toward global democratic governance. It’s also available through In case you think I chose the topic of this blog entry as a shameless excuse to plug my books, you may be right. I think you might enjoy these timeless adventure stories sprung from the imagination and real life experiences of an old lady on a bike.


do communications said...

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Char said...

I think it's great that you all travel by bike - especially with your Bike Friday tandem & trailer! I have a Bike Friday also, and every year, I go somewhere new with it. LOVE IT! The best way to fly & bike. :)