Category Archives: bicycle

Shades of Green

THE AUTHENTICS

by Erin Ryan, The Idaho Statesman

Thanks to Brandon Follett and Amy Johnson, Barack Obama may soon share his thoughts on omelets and interstate transportation. The wandering artists teamed up in 2006 to travel, make films, bump heads (and mopeds) with ordinary people and write sociopolitical commentary cleverly disguised as omelet reviews.

Apparently, Obama enjoys an egg white and green pepper mixture in the morning, and Follett and Johnson saw this as a perfect vector to ask the presidential hopeful about his environmental policies as they relate to sustainable agriculture and economics.

All in a day’s work for the creative team behind Boise-based Earthworm Envy, a Web site that offers omelet reviews from around the world, essays, poems, blogs, links to like-minded local organizations and short documentary films on everything from Thai “ice cream” to the Cambodian legacy of John F. Kennedy’s hair.

But there is more to Johnson and Follett than multimedia gold. They are committed to living well, which just so happens to be green.

“I know what a tomato tastes like, so I can’t eat one from the store in January,” Johnson said. She and Follett grow their own or volunteer on organic farms, and what they do buy is as unprocessed, seasonal and socially responsible as possible. Bananas, for instance, are known as the Hummer of the fruit world because of the energy it takes to harvest and transport them, and Johnson refuses to buy them. And even though packaged organics seem green, Follett says they are a trendy offshoot of a deeper problem.

“The biggest thing is consumption. I think people need not to buy into the grand marketing scheme,” he said. “They want to be babysat, for legislation to be made, but you have to start with yourself. Maybe you just need to change your lifestyle … . What if I-84 is full of hybrid cars – does that change anything? And if you’re replacing your eco-friendly clothes every year because of fashion, what’s the point?”

To live as authentically as possible, they try to keep new purchases to a minimum by swapping with friends. They do not own cars and travel everywhere on their touring bicycles. Weather controls their activities to some extent, but neither feels inhibited.

“It’s a mindset change,” Johnson said. “People think I have to give up my freedom, but once you do it’s a different freedom.”

Their love of two-wheeled travel exploded during a six-month trip to southeast Asia last year, where they worked their way through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos as farmers, construction workers and teachers. They found that locals only used big vehicles for big jobs, and community support was integral to individual success.

“It’s about using what you have wisely. It’s just logic, common sense,” Follett said.

Back in Boise, he and Johnson are saving for a bike trek down through Mexico, where they will continue studying omelets and cultures that are closer to the earth.

“Our cities aren’t set up to be green, so it is a bit of a challenge,” Johnson said. “I don’t have a religion, but this is my morality. We have this abundance, so we need to take it upon ourselves to do these things. If I do have the money to buy a Hummer, maybe I’ll buy a park instead.”

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Greenbelt located in Boise, Idaho

Within a 10 minute Bike ride

I live a block off State Street in a little log cabin. I have come to refer to my noisy, congested and sometimes-violent neighbor as the little monster. The four-lane beast runs east and west connecting Boise, Eagle, Star and Middleton transforming these little towns into one big town all suckling off the State Street tit. The other day, Amy and I decided to explore our neighborhood breakfast options on State Street.

We started at The Lift and then quickly moved on to Eddie’s Diner. I will mention that the servers at both restaurants had great conversational skills and friendly smiles. From my observations, I concur that genuine smiles do not correlate with the quality of food. None of the servers came across with that used car salesperson disposition. The servers aren’t having conversations like,
“Hey Johnny, I’m gonna charge this guy $8.00 and feed him processed crap. Let’s see if he catches on that I just sold him canned beans and mushrooms.”
or
“Hey Johnny, my table just asked for maple syrup, so I gave them syrup that has no maple, only chemical flavoring. HA! HA! Cutting corners. Making money for the man.”

I believe servers can honestly sell their product with a smile because they have to assume the diners know they are ordering substandard food. For instance, at my place of employment, sometimes a customer will order a large hot chocolate with caramel syrup and extra whipped cream followed by a pointing pudgy parental finger at the rice crispy treat. The parent loudly declares so that the people in line can hear, “you’ve been such a good boy not complaining about taking your medication and passing your 4th grade standardized tests. You get the biggest and fattest treat.” The parent pats the kid on the head and thinks, “my child will never academically be left behind. Walking – now, that’s another story. My little whippersnapper must have an out of whack thyroid.”

At my job I assume the parents know the type of food they are buying puts their children at a greater risk for certain diseases and the purchase is simply motivated by the greater good of cheapness, oral fixations, and education. I happily hand over the congratulatory snack of diabetes. I can do this with a genuine smile and without my conscious bothering me because diabetes is a small price to pay if it’s the snack that motivates learning. I can deal with cracked heals and obesity but not stupidity. Big tobacco should lobby to have cigarettes used as a motivation for education. Once again here is my motto: I can deal with long-winded hacking and smelly breath but not stupidity.

Enough of this madness — no more wasting writing about the dysfunction of the food industry! I am going to take a positive approach and not take the typical lazy American approach of diddling time away; waiting for new legislation, a new president, a new religion, a new Dr. Phil or a new self help book to promote change in my life.

Within a 10-minute bike ride of our cabin, sandwiched roughly between Albertson’s and Wal-Mart is a beautiful world of omelet fine dining. For delicious omelet ingredients, there are three farms that have an abundance of vegetables and chicken eggs. The farms are City Gardens, Earthly Delights, and Peaceful Belly. In addition, Smokey Davis offers a selection of smoked meats and cheeses. Finally, for the perfect omelet setting there’s the Boise River that runs parallel to the little monster.

On my way to the Boise River, I stopped at Turner’s. This locally owned store offers a plethora of fishing gear next to a bar where a patron can get a shot of Old Crow Whiskey and a bottle PBR for $5. I figured if Turner’s did not sell some sort of conventional fuel, I could by some Vodka to burn.

To turn eggs into omelets, thanks to Back Bone Media and Tracy Wilson, I had a Brunton Vapor AF All Fuel Expedition Stove. The biggest selling point about the Vapor AF is that it can burn basically any type of fuel including butane, bio diesel and jet fuel. As a traveler, I enjoy the peace of mind knowing wherever I go there will be fuel that is compatible with the stove. Once I had figured out how to operate the stove, the flame became as easy to control as a conventional kitchen stove.

So here it is – one of the finest omelets I have ever eaten – a spinach, Idaho trout, and havarti dill cheese omelet made along the Boise River within minutes of the little monster and its big box stores.

Idaho Mountain Touring


This spring with the help of Idaho Mountain Touring, I built a Surly Long Haul Trucker. This is the bike that will take me to Mexico and beyond this fall.

The bicycle mechanics at Idaho Mountain Touring are very knowledgeable about touring, will take the time to thoroughly answer questions, and excitedly show customers how to properly maintain their own bicycles. Anyone who has a question about bicycles or needs bicycle work should be sure to talk to the bike mechanics at Idaho Mountain Touring.

Check back for exciting spring and summer weekend bicycle touring essays. If you have a bicycle touring suggestion for 2 to 3 day trips from Boise, Idaho please leave a comment.

Marty’s Shovel Manifesto

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I’m not sure when it was that I started to formulate my shovel manifesto. Was it the summer I was discharged from the U.S. Navy, pierced my ears, let my hair grow and spent every free minute rebuilding a 1967 VW Van? Or did the act of giving up the bright red VW the next summer, and becoming a bike commuter, ignite the first shovel epiphany?

1. The combustible engine – what an incalculable waste of money and energy. What percentage of our local government’s budget is dedicated to maintaining the automobile and its necessary infrastructure? We have an entire court system dedicated to traffic! How much of your personal budget goes to maintain your car? Cost benefit analysis in human life – traffic accidents have killed more people than war (than all the wars combined, in fact).

Back then I had no idea my anger at the automobile would turn into a love affair with the shovel. (Anger and love why are they always in such close proximity to each other?) A few years later, with life on a bike, I can’t imagine why someone would want to drive a car. It’s so wonderful out here in the wind, sunlight, guided by the moon, so real and alive! No longer am I angry.

2. Human power is healthier, more rewarding and pleasurable even while it’s hard work. It’s cheap and energy efficient. It’s life at a human pace, guided by human energy and it turns out (coincidentally or not) more humane. I’m happier on a bike, even in the rain. I smile more. I’d been hit by a car or two and I still loved my pedals, but even a freewheeling, self-propelled commuter is affected by human drama and finds himself blue. It was a girl and she had broken my heart. I rode to get over it. I pushed my body, forced my heart, lungs and muscles to pump me further then I had ever gone before and then pushed even harder, but it did no good and in the end I was still broken hearted.

3. Even the wheel is limited in its ability to help humans. Sometimes we have to stand on our feet. Sometimes we must kneel and other times it’s best to lie down. A shovel is useful in all these situations. It was a small patch of grass behind my apartment on 13th street where I discovered the magic of the shovel. Ever since, I’ve been articulating the shovel manifesto in empty lots and backyards. No longer am I broken hearted.

4. Digging in the dirt is good for the soul! To watch a plant grow, blossom and bear fruit is magical and warms the heart (even the most bitter and broken ones)! Last month I flipped a backhoe over and it landed on top of me. Luckily, I only suffered five fractured ribs. It was that day that I realized I can live without these gigantic hunks of metal and plastic. They are slowly killing us, some of us they kill instantly. I find life much more pleasant and safe without’m. Time to move on.

5. Don’t run a backhoe while writing a shovel manifesto.

Garden hoe,
Marty

Farmer Marty Camberlango
A farmer who considers growing an art and uses both heart and hands to do the dirty work. I mentored under the shovel farming masters at Upper Rogue Organic in Prospect, Oregon. I consider myself a decent gourmet cook. I have spent years studying and working with place-based foods. Most recently I spent a year in the kitchen, as the Chef’s assistant, at Leku Ona, a traditional Basque restaurant. I haven’t learned how to make a living from farming yet and earn my income as a personal gardener in yards close to town. Boise’s been my hometown for 17 years. I’ve lived in the Czech Republic and Korea and traveled throughout Europe, sharpening my farmer’s eye and growing soul.

City Gardens Market. On Wednesday from 4pm to 7pm, we host a garden market at our 19th St. Garden (NW corner of 19th and Idaho). You can also catch us at the Saturday Farmers Market in Downtown Boise. We garden a number of locations and are based in Old Town Garden City on Adams St., where we have a 1 acre plot that was once part of the original Chinese Gardens. We are driven by a hardy distaste for the combustible engine, the pleasure gained from using our bodies to do work, and the desire to reclaim urban land in the name of beauty, animal and plant habitat and delicious sustenance. Juxtaposed with the noise, fumes and concrete of smoke-belching urban life, City Gardens strives to be growth of a new kind – one of bird songs, dirt and the smell of fertility.

City Gardens
marty.citygardens@gmail.com or call 713-1675
3878 N. Adams St. Garden City, Idaho

Vangviang Organic Farm located in Vang Vieng, Laos

Journey to the Source of the Mulberry Leaf Omelet

Nutritious and delicious, the mulberry leaf omelet at the Organic Farm Café takes the omelet experience directly to my body in a nourishing and satisfying sort of way. After a few bites of speckled green omelet, I’ve fallen in love and want to meet the mulberry leaf’s source of goodness, similar to how couples who are in love become curious about the source of their partners’ good looks. After asking around, I find out that my omelet’s mulberry leaves’ tree parents live only 3 km from town at the Vangviang Organic Farm.

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From the restaurant, I walk across the street to a bike rental shop. Ten bikes are lined up on a patch of dirt accompanied by a ‘bikes for rent’ sign. I hand the man a dollar (the dollar is one of the many currencies accepted in Laos), and the popular LA brand bicycle is mine for the day.

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My route takes me through the center of Vang Vieng a.k.a. Tube Town. While riding, it dawns on me that the challenge of travel is how to maintain a familiar level of comfort while in a foreign culture. Here, it’s easy. Countless bars serve up a mind-numbing cocktail of drugs in milkshakes or on pizzas, TVs show constant reruns of Friends, and low tables surrounded by pillows invite one to lounge the day away.

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A few blocks from the bar scene, the Nam Song River flows through town. The popular tourist activity is to tube the river while wearing small amounts of clothing. Most of the men are shirtless with sculpted hair. The women wear big sunglasses that hide part of the forehead, eyes, and upper cheeks. It seems the women like to show off everything but the upper part of their faces. The bright bikinis make up for the lack of eye color.

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I leave the tourists in Tube Town behind, and continue on the road toward the farm. The road is a transportation utopia – shared by foot traffic, bicycle traffic, motorcycles and trucks. Everyone appears at ease with everyone else. This feeling of serenity must come with knowing the motive behind what you are doing. American drivers always seem perturbed when they drive. I think a lot of that frustration comes from driving without a real purpose.

A conversation between an American motorist and himself:
Self, “What the hell am I doing by myself in this gigantic Humvee driving to the store a mile away from home to buy a can of soda?”

Inner Self, “You look good in a Humvee! You can afford a Humvee, so it is your god given right to drive a Humvee!!”

Self, “This stop-and-go traffic sucks!! This street needs to be widened from two lanes to four. Look at those trees taking up valuable driving space.”

Inner Self, “You should be able to drive freely, and nature ought to be caged in national parks.”

Self, “There are no parking spaces close to the store. Why can’t the store be longer so there can be more storefront parking? I hate walking.”

Inner Self, “Leave the walking to the four-legged critters who don’t have the sense to drive, but you still want to maintain a healthy look. Don’t drink regular soda. You need Diet Coke Plus!”

Self, “I know, I drive by the billboard so many times, I have it memorized. Each 8-ounce serving of Diet Coke Plus provides 15% of the daily value for niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, and 10% for zinc and magnesium – but I only have a coupon for regular soda. I promise I’ll eat a chewable Flintstone vitamin as soon as I get home. Maybe go to the gym?”

Inner Self, “You always break promises. You feel ugly and guilty.”

Self, “I’m going to take a drive in the country to relax.”

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A Lao truck driver would never ask himself why he’s driving a gigantic truck, because the answer is obvious – the 10 chatting people in the back or the sound of a mooing cow.

When I arrive at Vangviang Organic Farm, I find more than mulberry trees. I find a business built on the philosophy of preserving ecological diversity and providing locals with accessible and sustainable technologies to earn a living. Someone here must realize that you can grow a vegetable from chemicals, pesticides and big industry, but you can’t create a salad from thousands of acres of corn.

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Even with the success of the mulberry business, the owners want more than just a mulberry tree empire. At the farm, there are goats, guest houses, and a beautiful vegetable garden. There is also a volunteer program to help build community centers, teach English, feed baby goats and many other projects. The goal of the farm is to grow a healthy community.

As I pedal back to town, I wonder what it would be like to order an omelet in Boise, Idaho and use the omelet as a guide for a bicycle adventure. For instance, would the hash browns be made from local potatoes within bike riding distance? If so, would I get run over by a Humvee along the treeless four lanes of Fairview Ave on my way to the farm? When I arrive at the farm tucked away between the suburban sprawl of Meridian and Boise, will I be greeted by a business that provides a local product and supports local people? Or will I find a dusty field growing one crop only and the topsoil blowing away in the wind?

Thinking of the traffic and monoculture farm practices makes drugs and reruns of Friends seem like a bright future. Actually, I think the future is all ready here. How many times a day can a person watch Friends reruns on network and cable TV? How easy is it to get prescription drugs? Hmmmmm….

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This blog post sponsored by Local Grub.

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Click on the logo to learn about Local Grub

Viva el Super-Burrito (short video)

Brandon rides his bicycle through downtown Boise and along the Boise River Greenbelt to enjoy a delicious bite of bean burrito at a taco truck on 42nd Street. Music by Miguel Gonzalez.

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Bicycle = Hope

A person visiting the USA and only going to Disneyland and Disney World by airplane is one way to describe the typical foreigner’s travel through Thailand. Now consider taking a bike from Disneyland to Disney World. The adventure will stimulate your imagination more than meeting a talking mouse or puking in a teacup. However, the typical foreign traveler I’ve met in Thailand would rather spend their days waking up, getting a bite to eat at a foreigner’s Thai cafe, riding in a tuk tuk to the bus station, suffering through the four hours of motion sickness to get dropped off at another bus station, riding in a tuk tuk to a guest house, then eating watered-down Thai food for dinner while watching a Walt Disney movie.

Meeting fellow travelers and hearing their tales can either make me squirm with disgust or lighten with hope. Hope is what happened when I met Nicolai from Copenhagen, Denmark and Sandy from Ottawa, Canada, both traveling SE Asia by bicycle.

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Nicolai Bangsgaard began his journey in Denmark in April 2006. I met him in Luang Prabang, Laos a few weeks ago, where he’d just arrived from cycling through Vietnam. Planning to circle the world, he shares photos and writing along the way at www.worldtravellers.dk

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At the age of 65, Sandy Mackay cycled across Canada with his daughter. Now he is 69 years old and had just ridden 182 mountainous kilometers from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, Thailand. Sandy’s two day bicycle ride of meeting friendly people is the real Thailand that many travelers dream of experiencing. However, for many people, bicycle travel is not considered convenient because it might not involve a comfy guest house or foreigner’s cafe at the end of the day. I suppose it is a daunting thought being half way between here and there with no consumer familiarity in sight. The only western comfort is what it’s in your heart. Hopefully you brought lots of respect, trust, and kindness from home. And in return, you can expect lots of love and generosity. When there is no western tourist economy, you can’t rely on your pocketbook. All you have to rely on is your humanity and charming personality.

The Bicycle

The bicycle is the only salvation
For a planet choking to death
On its own convenience

from A Promise for Siam by Tom Radzienda

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