Friday, August 28, 2009

Telluride Townies

Friends: The small town of Telluride, nestled in the high mountains of southwest Colorado, is a haven for active outdoors people with a progressive bent. For the second time in the past decade-and-a-half these townsfolk are attempting a free bike program. The first ended in disaster when all the pink painted bikes that were available to anyone on a "see bike, take bike" basis either disappeared or were trashed.

Two months ago the New Community Coalition in conjunction with the town library started a bike borrowing program. They collected an assortment of donated bikes, painted them pink, converted them to single speeds and equipped them with a handlebar basket. They are known as "Telluride Townies." Anyone with a library card can borrow one of the present stable of fifteen bikes for four days and renew it indefinitely as long as there are bikes in stock.

The program has been a fabulous success, "Our most successful program ever," one librarian said. Tourists, as well as locals, have been taking advantage of the bikes. Any visitor can acquire a temporary library card for five dollars, putting down a twenty dollar deposit and then receiving fifteen dollars back when he leaves town.

The bikes are kept locked outside the library, each with a number on it. All one need do is select a bike to his liking, tell the librarian the number, and present his library card. He is then given the key to the lock that he will use to lock the bike wherever he goes, though that isn't entirely necessary in this laid-back, casual town. If he fails to return or renew the bike in time, he is charged $5 a day. If he should lose the bike, the fee is $250, which can be worked off volunteering for the library. So far that hasn't been necessary.

The bikes are meant for getting around town and enjoying the three mile bike path through the valley floor rather than taking on the mountainous terrain, as without derailleurs and multiple speeds there's not much chance of anyone climbing the steep inclines all around. With their baskets they have been especially designed to encourage people to bike, rather than drive, to the the grocery store at the far end of town.

This is my 18th straight late summer visit to this enlightened town. I was initially drawn to Telluride to attend its renowned film festival. I've been drawn back each year since for the film festival, but also by the spectacularly beautiful box canyon it takes place in and by the many people who live there who share a love for adventure. When I learned that first year in 1992 that this small town of just 2,000 people was always in need of volunteers to put on its world class film festival that attracts over three thousand people each Labor Day weekend, I signed up. I am now a full-fledged staff person, getting to spend a month in Telluride enjoying a paid vacation.

It feels like a privilege to be out here. Today I spent time working with a woman who spends ten months of the year living in Thailand teaching yoga, a woman who regularly goes to Bhutan to volunteer at a medical clinic and another woman who leads trips to Japan. The night before I had dinner with friends whose son is traveling around the world by bicycle, also a friend of mine. Also at dinner were two woman artists who were leaving for New Zealand in a month to attend an art festival where their work had been accepted.

One meets one fascinating individual after another in this town. Another of our dinner companions was an artist who wild camps outside of town during the summer months and then spends a good part of the winter in Death Valley, also living out of his tent. He is part of the local "Woodsie" community. He comes in and out of town on his bicycle and also makes his yearly migration to Death Valley via bicycle. He has traveled the world by bicycle. He plans to be in Greece this spring. We might just meet up and do a circuit of the Black Sea.

Later, George

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Touring Websites

Friends: I have been following the travels of Tim and Cindie Travis ever since they set out for South America from Prescott, Arizona on their bikes over seven years ago. When they began their journey they thought they had saved up enough money to last seven years on the road. They discovered along the way that they could actually earn a living as touring cyclists, selling articles and photos and giving lectures and publishing books (two so far). They are now more than breaking even and do not plan to quit the touring life until old age or health issues force them to.

They maintain a web site ( and send out periodic updates on their travels and the attention they attract from the media. Their latest report mentioned an interview with a fellow touring cyclist, Darren Alff, who also maintains a website ( promoting cycle touring. The thirty minute interview offers at least one worthwhile nugget of insight into the mind of long-time touring cyclists. Tim said when asked what their favorite times have been he says usually its the day they've just spent on the bike. He can pin point perhaps ten days that have been their worst, but when it comes to the best, any day spent touring is an exceptional day. He did not say at what point in their travels he came to this profound realization.

Tim and Cindie know they are blessed to be touring without any strict deadlines, enabling them to take their time. His foremost advice to anyone setting out on a tour is that they take twice as much time as they initially planned to cover the same distance.

Their interviewer, Darren, is an eager 25-year old who has been touring since 2001. He is six months into a European tour. His website is rich in how-to articles for aspiring touring cyclists. He lists ten things that cyclists should take with them that they might not otherwise consider. He is also a proponent of stealth camping. His site includes other interviews with touring cyclists, including a recent one with a Canadian he encountered in Macedonia. He likewise had been on the road for six months. They both said they had not encountered another independent touring cyclist in all those months. Darren is determined through his web site to get more people out touring. I wish him the best of luck. He is certainly making a concerted effort.

Later, George