Friday, September 24, 2010

Planning The Solow Sibling Southern Saga, Episode I: Trip Origins, and Concept

What’s up yall?

As I briefly alluded to in my return post (for which I just realized I linked to a Slick Rick tune, completely forgot about that, go figure), one of the things I’m up to these days is planning a righteous bike trip, loosely inspired by that of my utterly ridiculous erstwhile roommate who I don’t miss at all, especially not when I’m at bike parties at Progressive Field, critical mass, sustainability summits, and in the dark embrace of loneliness in my house in Tremont.


Our planned bike trip differs in several ways:

  1. I am substituting my sister for Alex Nosse, thus benefiting from ties of blood and kinship, but sacrificing beards
  2. Our bike trip goes from Cleveland to New Orleans (at least, with Ruth.  I’m hoping to go a bit farther after she peaces)
  3. I don’t have an Iphone
  4. I think Emelio maybe knows what he’s doing (Alex surely does), and has a touring bike
  5. We don’t go through huge mountains
  6. Our trip has some unassailably cool alliteration
  7. Our trip is more meandering- we’re definitely not getting as far as they have in 39 days, but are spending more time exploring a region that is little known to me and my sis

More below the flip!

I should back up and explain the concept a little.  I’ve been amped on Emelio’s bike trip for some time, and somewhere down the line it occurred to me that I should do my own, like his, across the country.  It had become clear to me this summer that I was twenty-frickin-two years old, and it’s really high time for me to do some of the traveling I’ve been intending for so long, and get up to some wild and woolly shenanigans.  I mean, when the hell else am I going to go on rollicking adventures?  So I decided to go for it, and plan to go on that sucker at the end of my VISTA term with Hard Hatted Women, it seemed like a good celebration thing to do.  I was unsure though about travel compatriots.  I knew I wanted one, but didn’t know who that person would be.  But then:


Ruth Solow: JOELY I’m in adventure-planning mode! Wanna have an adventure with me? August 2011. You should get your license. And a car. (11:55AM)

Joel Solow: AHHHHHH!

I’m plotting a cross-country bike trip starting end of August. you want in? (12:03PM)

Ruth Solow: 2011 or like right now? YES I WANT IN! (12:18PM)

Joel Solow: 2011! oh man, this is gonna ruuuuuule! (12:21PM)

Thus was born the Solow Sibling Saga.  I had a compatriot.  There was of course a missing component.

Now normally, that link would be really flippant.  I was originally thinking like, a clip from Dukes of Hazzard with a really sweet car jump.  Aw hell, who can resist a car jump just for the hell of it?

Pause- wait, they do car jumping in England?

Okay, back.  So normally, I’d do something kind of flippant and mocking.  But given that a big part of my reasoning behind the Southern part of the Solow Sibling Saga (and occaionsal Sojourns) was to get beyond my complete lack of understanding of the South, it seemed like poor taste.  Backing up, I went on a really sweet trip to Indianapolis this summer.  Blew me away.  I literally had never thought of the state of Indiana except for the occasional twinge of slight resentment for producing horrible politicians, excellent pop stars, and industrial post-apocalypstic hellscapes (I’m actually being dead serious- take the train from Cleveland to Chicago, look out the window for a couple miles, and you’ll see what I mean.  No disrespect to Cleveland or my friends in Indiana, but that city puts Cleveland’s Industrial Valley to shame in terms of post-industrial grandeur, the mix of horror and awe that fills me when I think of it).  But between one of the coolest neighborhoods I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, one of the coolest (and most generous) nonprofits that’s ever hosted me and showed me their operations and taken me out to pretty awesome lunch and dinners, and some of the nicest, friendliest, most interesting unlinkable people and houses that have taken me in with a moment’s notice, Indianapolis did a lot to turn my views around.  It was one of the best trips and adventures I’d embarked on, and, though I’ve been experimenting with challenging my perception of a misunderstood place for some time, really reminded me that nowhere can be discounted, nowhere can be generalized and understood from afar.

And so, while I had originally been thinking of doing a cross-country one, I eventually came around to the idea of doing a cross-country bike trip of a different sort.  A Southern tour, to visit all the places (or as many as possible anyway) that I’m curious about in the region, enjoy some awesome food, do some unexpected stuff, challenge some biases, and have a total ball.  Over the last year I’ve read some interesting stuff about cities like Chattanooga, Memphis, Birmingham, of course New Orleans and Austin, and other places, and thought it would be sweet to see them and explore them up close and personal.  As places I see that have some struggles similar to Cleveland, I hope to learn from them as best I can, and get a little taste for a region I’ve far too long misunderstood.  Ideally with some really cool guides like I had in Indy, but we’ll figure that out later.

Anyway, this post is ballooning, so for now I’ll just outline the draft agenda:


Cleveland –> Columbus
Columbus –> Cincinnati
Cincinnati –> Indianapolis
Indianapolis –> Louisville
Louisville –> Paducah
Paducah –> Nashville
Nashville –> Memphis
Memphis –> Little Rock
Little Rock –> Texarkana
Texarkana –> Dallas
Dallas –> Austin
Austin –> Houston
Houston –> Beaumont
Beaumont –> Lake Charles
Lake Charles –> Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge –> New Orleans


So that’s the thing.  Mostly.  About 2100 miles, 2/3rds of the width of the country from Atlantic to Pacific, but from North Coast to South Coast, and clocking in at about 57 days or so (estimating 60 miles/day plus some stopping in awesome places for a day or two), giving Ruth and me some wiggle room before she begins her next great adventure, so we can properly enjoy this thing.  I still need to get my Adventure Cycling Association membership, that’ll give me some maps and trails that will probably seriously change the itinerary, so we can go more to smaller town kind of places rather than just frame it around the cities.  But I think it gives the thing a nice frame.  From one picture of post-industrial decline and disaster yet with potential for renewal to another.  From one overlooked coast to another.

I’ll probably go on a little bit after that.  I really want to see Birmingham, Montgomery, Chattanooga, the Highlander School, and some other essential historical places.  Maybe some sweet parts of North Carolina if I have time.  But that’s the core of it.

One last thing.  I want you to come with me.  Maybe not for the whole thing.  Me and Ruth have that covered.  But I’d love it if folks saw a section of the trip that they’re particularly interested in and decided to join us for it.  I’ve mentioned it to people who have told me about old family locations, friends, or just cool stuff they want to see with us.  Any reason you’ve got to come along and we’ll try and work with it.  I know the agenda above looks pretty set in stone, but it’s not.  There are four places I have to go (Indianapolis, Memphis, Austin, and New Orleans), but other than that I want Ruth and I to change as needed, and adapt to bring people along; I’d love to share this journey with the folks I care about and enjoy.  So think about it, keep an eye out for legs of the journey that look good to you, and keep me posted.

That’s it for now, it’s already been too long, but there’ll be plenty more as I plan this sucker with Ruth.  The rest of this series will be updates on my physical training, planning, progress with assembling the gear (and new bike! I’m gonna require a major-league upgrade), and research into the places I’m going.  Not by any means trying to overplan this, I want a lot of it to be spontaneous and free to shift as needed along the way.  But I loved hanging with the Kibi folks in Indy, and would have a blast doing the same with people doing amazing work elsewhere.  The South, from what I’ve heard, doesn’t want for people fighting incredible fights, both against human and natural foes.



No comments: