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Old 09-24-09, 02:06 AM   #1
The Figment
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In light of the recent economic crisis...

And after reading the "Parasite Bicycle Tourers" thread,I got to thinking (I know,bad idea) about all the folks I have seen "runnin the roads" this year.
I live in Virgil Ks. so as one can imagine I do a lot of driving,as the nearest grocery store is 24 miles away for instance.
This year I have seen an exceptional number of folk on U.S.-50,U.S.-54,U.S-40,Ks.99 and other roads around here that are not part of the Trans-Am,and a lot of these folk are not riding LHT's...In fact it's been a lot of 80's/90's Mt.Bikes.
This got me to remembering my first "tour". A ride from Boulder Co. to Austin Tx. Sept-Oct '03,I left Boulder on a Trek 950 dumpster frame that was pieced together with a bunch of scrounged or dumpstered bits and peices.

I was broke.
I was homeless
It was getting cold in Colorado.
I needed work and Austin was booming.

So I took the $25 I had,my "Trashster Trek" and my Pacific Kiddy Hauler trailer and off I went. It took me almost 7 weeks to get to Austin,mostly because I had to stop in almost every town and do my best to pick up a day's work.

Sometimes this took a coupla days,sometimes not.

I learned a ****load.About bicycles,About People,And mostly about myself.

So,my point and thought is this...In light of todays economic crisis there are obviously more folks out "Touring",Walking the Appalachian Trail ect. because they have lost everything,house,car,job and sometimes family,all they have left is their bike or backpack and lotsa time...

How do Ya'll feel about these folk?? Being "Bikenuts" like my self,Ya'll would get rid of all of lifes trappings before you would sell your bike,and if you lost everything,would be just as likely (maybe more so) to travel to another city to find work on said bike.

I have always wondered why some treat a poor biker like crap...some speak of the "Touring Experience" like an exclusive club or click. Others treat poor bikers like any other rider,with respect.

Why does having money(or not) make such a difference?

This is assuming that one is not a Psycopath,Criminal,or some kinda other Weirdo...Just the average person,who thru no fault of their own feel they have no other choice,but to leave where they are and go somewhere else.

On a Bicycle.

Discuss....
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Old 09-24-09, 04:14 AM   #2
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People are people and some are good and some are not, just because their mode of transportation is a bicycle doesn't change one's basic personality. It just means their harder to catch if they tick you off.
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Old 09-24-09, 06:30 AM   #3
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Too many people (in the USA) have had it too easy for too long.

'brother can you spare a dime' is now met with disgust.

'there but for the grace of god go I' is now an uncommon thought.

Many have forgotten that we all rely on each other's good will. They truly believe that they alone are responsible for their successes or failures; that people who are down and out must be so because of a mistake they made. Sometimes this is true, many times it is not.

I hope it doesn't take another dustbowl/depression-type economic reset for people to remember their empathy.
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Old 09-24-09, 09:26 AM   #4
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I do my best to check out anybody I find in the area on a bike, walking, etc with as little as a backpack or loaded to the hilt. If they seem sane, I might invite them to overnight. If a bit wacky, and some are, I'll offer to buy them lunch/dinner and maybe show them a spot to camp.

The opposite attitude is shared by some family members. Strangers, especially on bicycles or walking down a busy highway, are potential ax murderers/perverts, generally to be avoided. They think I'm nuts for inviting someone I just met to overnight. Maybe so, but I've sure had some rewarding visits with interesting people.

One of my more memorable encounters was with Omar, skateboarding from Memphis to San Diego. I "captured" him out on hwy 59 and did the host routine. Omar is in Arizona now, still boarding his way to SD and averaging 40 miles/day when he's kicking. He writes a dynamic blog.
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Old 09-24-09, 10:13 AM   #5
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One of the biggest myths of the Great Depression is that everybody pulled together. If you read contemporary letters to the editor in small town newspapers in Kansas, Indiana, California - you will find many who viewed the homeless and destitute as lazy bums. In addition, the wealthy made off like bandits getting stone masons to build them fine mansions at bargain basement wages. It's no accident that many of the finest "country" homes of the rich and famous were built in the 1930s. Although Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water" is considered an architectural masterpiece - it clearly fits into this category.

There is a definite prejudice against touring cyclists after one reaches a certain age - esp. if one is male. It's one thing for kids to head off across the country - or retired folks who have worked hard all their lives - but if you are a middle-aged male on a bike, you are viewed either as idle rich or a bum - more often, the latter. I cannot tell you how often I have been asked if I have lost my driver's license in the town where I live because I do things like grocery shop on my bike.

If those views changed little from 1930 to now -
I doubt they will change much in the next 75 years.
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Old 09-24-09, 10:29 AM   #6
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Some people handle their economic stress and decline by seeking and attacking scapegoats among those less fortunate or different. It is comforting at least to feel one up on someone. It also lets them deny their own situation a bit better.

Empathy would require them to realize how close to the edge they really are. The less fortunate are a mirror showing us where we too could be at any time due to unforeseen circumstances, outside economic forces or accidents.
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Old 09-24-09, 10:37 AM   #7
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That skateboarder is awesome. thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-24-09, 11:07 AM   #8
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It takes a knowing eye to distinguish between a cycle tourist and a homeless biker. The regular non-biking citizen sees homeless bikers dig through their trash, wash in their playground bathrooms, and sleep under the sliding board after dark and then associates anyone with extra "stuff" on a bike as destitute. Some of the hiker-biker sites of the west coast have taken a turn for the worse and free camping in much of the country has become challenging in part because of this attitude toward cyclo-bums. A cycle tourist who considers himself an upstanding citizen but gets a less-than-friendly reception by a police officer or is turned away from a budget hotel because of this association may not been entirely compassionate to their down-and-out brethren.

That said, I think is it rare for a fellow cyclist to treat any other cyclist poorly. Most everyone would stop and help a person with a flat regardless of their circumstances.
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Old 09-24-09, 04:39 PM   #9
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That said, I think is it rare for a fellow cyclist to treat any other cyclist poorly. Most everyone would stop and help a person with a flat regardless of their circumstances.
I agree, I make a not to nod or wave to every cyclist I pass on the roads, especially if I am out in the country. I don't care if you are a rich guy on the most epensive touring rig or a homeless guy on an old mountain bike, you are a fellow cyclist and that earns you respect. We have enough going against us out there without helping and being nice to each other.
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Old 09-24-09, 08:19 PM   #10
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That skateboarder is awesome. thanks for sharing.
^ yea, for real!

This is a very good thread, it touches home for me.

If anybody has followed my threads (unlikely) you might have caught on that I fit into this "young, poor, and adventurous" category. My family just doesn't come from money. We aren't desolate starving though. My mother is a supremely hard worker and we have all pulled our weight to stay alive and sane. We have always just found ways to make ends meet. When I got the "itch" to travel a year ago I did not let money stop me and I just packed my bike up and left. Since then I have learned more than in all my years in school. I have experience joy and pain and I am ready for the next road that I will go down. All I want to do with my young life is find a way to get from point a to point b with little to no money and my bicycle (my guitar too if at all possible ) while learning my life lessons along the way. I have sat with guys who have all the money they could imagine and shared a beer and a laugh. I have also defended myself from nasty crackheads trying to rob me. I have also been harassed by church going folk just for trying to fill up a water jug. People are unpredictable and you really just cannot judge a book by its cover. I think the people who have to find a way to survive with nothing but their wits are a very good resource and most likely have really cool stories to tell and skills to teach. Thanks for starting this thread, I will add something of value when it comes to mind. Cheers!

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Old 09-25-09, 12:59 AM   #11
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Good posts! this makes me feel a bit happier.

I never have had the luxury of being able to travel by credit card,or stay in first class accommodations, but bike touring has made me a better person...it makes me look at the world and its people in a very different light.

And learning to survive by my wits and ingenuity has made the last few months much easier...I quit my job to be able to buy an inexpensive cabin on a half acre out in the "Middle-o-Nowhere Ks." and make my living (at least for now) on some of the Hippie/Deadhead crafts that I learned years ago,something that ten years ago I would not ever have thought to do.Especially in "This" economy!

So who ever planted the seed in my head to get on a "Trashster Trek" and just go....Thank You!

Oh and...Cross Country on a skateboard??...Wow,just Wow...That takes Brass Ones and a bit of "Guano Loco" to pull off...NICE!!!!

Last edited by The Figment; 09-25-09 at 01:05 AM.
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Old 10-26-09, 03:32 PM   #12
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Tilman Waldthaler interview

I just interviewed Tilman Waldthaler about his many bicycle tours. He's been touring since the late 70's pretty consistantly. Maybe if you can read German you may have read some of the numerous touring books he's written. you can see my interview with him here
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Old 10-27-09, 08:10 AM   #13
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And after reading the "Parasite Bicycle Tourers" thread,I got to thinking (I know,bad idea) about all the folks I have seen "runnin the roads" this year.
I live in Virgil Ks. so as one can imagine I do a lot of driving,as the nearest grocery store is 24 miles away for instance.
This year I have seen an exceptional number of folk on U.S.-50,U.S.-54,U.S-40,Ks.99 and other roads around here that are not part of the Trans-Am,and a lot of these folk are not riding LHT's...In fact it's been a lot of 80's/90's Mt.Bikes.
This got me to remembering my first "tour". A ride from Boulder Co. to Austin Tx. Sept-Oct '03,I left Boulder on a Trek 950 dumpster frame that was pieced together with a bunch of scrounged or dumpstered bits and peices.

I was broke.
I was homeless
It was getting cold in Colorado.
I needed work and Austin was booming.

So I took the $25 I had,my "Trashster Trek" and my Pacific Kiddy Hauler trailer and off I went. It took me almost 7 weeks to get to Austin,mostly because I had to stop in almost every town and do my best to pick up a day's work.

Sometimes this took a coupla days,sometimes not.

I learned a ****load.About bicycles,About People,And mostly about myself.

So,my point and thought is this...In light of todays economic crisis there are obviously more folks out "Touring",Walking the Appalachian Trail ect. because they have lost everything,house,car,job and sometimes family,all they have left is their bike or backpack and lotsa time...

How do Ya'll feel about these folk?? Being "Bikenuts" like my self,Ya'll would get rid of all of lifes trappings before you would sell your bike,and if you lost everything,would be just as likely (maybe more so) to travel to another city to find work on said bike.

I have always wondered why some treat a poor biker like crap...some speak of the "Touring Experience" like an exclusive club or click. Others treat poor bikers like any other rider,with respect.

Why does having money(or not) make such a difference?

This is assuming that one is not a Psycopath,Criminal,or some kinda other Weirdo...Just the average person,who thru no fault of their own feel they have no other choice,but to leave where they are and go somewhere else.

On a Bicycle.

Discuss....
Well, let's start with this statement:

"In light of todays economic crisis there are obviously more folks out "Touring",Walking the Appalachian Trail ect. because they have lost everything,house,car,job and sometimes family,all they have left is their bike or backpack and lotsa time..."

I don't see the "obviously" part of it. If you've seen more folks out on bikes - and haven't been specifically looking for them - it could be simply that these folks choose to ride. And perhaps they chose the 1980s and 1990s MTBs in their garage because they don't post here and haven't received the light/spam about the LHT.

Incidentally, I've ridden and walked parts of the AT in Maryland and PA, and ridden on tour this summer through three states, and haven't seen these down-and-out folks you've mentioned. Perhaps they exist, but your post jumps to a lot of conclusions. I realize many folks here think it's romantic to be a vagabond, and anti-materialism noble, so your post and many of the replies strike me as what Freud called projection.
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Old 10-27-09, 08:14 AM   #14
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One of the biggest myths of the Great Depression is that everybody pulled together. If you read contemporary letters to the editor in small town newspapers in Kansas, Indiana, California - you will find many who viewed the homeless and destitute as lazy bums. In addition, the wealthy made off like bandits getting stone masons to build them fine mansions at bargain basement wages. It's no accident that many of the finest "country" homes of the rich and famous were built in the 1930s. Although Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water" is considered an architectural masterpiece - it clearly fits into this category.
Bravo! +100! I tire of the constant romanticism of poverty. If being poor was so great, everyone would want it.
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Old 10-27-09, 08:15 AM   #15
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Long tours teach you something you will never be able to learn from any other way. Life experience of dealing with strangers and you as the stranger can only help your personality evolve.
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Old 10-27-09, 12:56 PM   #16
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I don't think many people go on vacation when they lose their job and/or home.

Let's not forget we are still dealing with the worst economic downturn in over 70 years, and many of the people who lose their jobs have families to support, and often high debts. Taking off for a leisurely jaunt by bicycle just is not an option in that situation.

I also haven't seen any solid indications that bicycle touring has significantly increased. Maybe it has, but I'm not aware of any organization that specifically researches that topic.

I'm sure you had fun, and I don't have an issue with your method of transportation or decision to tour. But let's face it, if you had taken the bus you would've had 7 more weeks of time to find a job or earn money. So I don't think that's a common choice.
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Old 10-30-09, 02:13 PM   #17
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I just interviewed Tilman Waldthaler about his many bicycle tours. He's been touring since the late 70's pretty consistantly. Maybe if you can read German you may have read some of the numerous touring books he's written. you can see my interview with him here

Good time readin your interview pretty incredible guy!!!!! Gives me hope that i still have plenty of time to do amazing things in my life.
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Old 10-30-09, 03:05 PM   #18
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None of the touring folks that I have met were down and out or had recently lost jobs as far as I could tell. Most were either recent grads with no strings, middle aged folks who were at least moderately comfortable financially, or retired folks.
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Old 10-30-09, 05:12 PM   #19
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When I was on an organized tour this past summer, the organizers that there may be a decrease in numbers due to the economy and that state was hit particularly hard. The numbers were about the same maybe down a little but I think that the flat route had more to do with that. But I doubt that alot of out of work people would fork out a couple of hundred dollars to sign up for the tour and the additional cost of food (my wife would bring me back to earth if I were in that situation). It is still cheaper to sit at home and cook food in your house than being on a tour and you can't be on a job search when touring.
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