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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bicycle Poll - How far have you ridden?


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

7 Bike Trail Benefits

Over the last few decades, the benefits of bike trails have become more obvious. Besides being pleasant places to go bicycling, studies are showing that bike trails and other greenways improve air quality, health, reduce crime, mitigate summer heat, improve property values, spur tourism revenue, prompt economic growth, increase worker productivity and job satisfaction. In fact, the greenery of a trail can even boost community pride & appeal.

- Landscaped bike paths improve air quality.
Plants are the ultimate means of filtering smoke, dust and other pollutants from the air. Just one tree can remove 26 pounds per year of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offsetting 11,000 miles of car emissions. In one study showed, an acre of trees removed 13 tons per year of particles and gases.

- Bike trails promote health.
People are more likely to exercise regularly when a fitness facility like a bike trail is nearby. According to a National Park Service study, claims against medical insurance by people who exercise regularly are 14 percent lower than those that do not exercise. Hospital stays of people that are not fit are also 30% longer.

- Trails reduce crime.
University of Illinois researchers found that inner city areas with flowers, low growing shrubs and widely spaced, high canopy trees have half the crime of similar areas devoid of greenery. Their research showed that landscaping/greenery drew people outdoors and improved self esteem while also reducing fatigue, irritability, aggression and impulsive behavior like vandalism. Since trails also bring residents outdoors, criminal behavior is even harder to conceal.

- Bike Trails mitigate/lower summer heat.
According to the EPA, urban forests (such as bike trails landscaped with trees and shrubs) significantly reduce urban air temperatures through evaporative cooling (greenery exhales water vapor) and by shading buildings, concrete and other heat absorbing materials.

- Cycleways improve property values.
According to studies conducted in Boulder, Colorado, the average value of property adjacent to the greenbelt would be 32% higher than those 3,200 feet away. Psychologist Rachel Kaplan found landscaped places for walking and biking to be among the most important factors considered when individuals chose a place to live.

- Multi use trails spur tourism revenue.
Trails are an attraction for tourism and recreation. The Great Allegheny Passage Rail-Trail attracts 500,000 tourists annually, generating $15 million in direct benefits per year to adjacent communities. A National Park Service study estimated the average economic activity associated with three multi-purpose trails in Florida, California and Iowa at $1.5 million per year.

- Bikeways prompt economic growth, improve job satisfaction & worker productivity.
A long corridor of greenery such as a bike trail can benefit hundreds of businesses along its path. Besides making business steadier for cafes, stores & bike shops situated nearby, trails attract businesses and jobs. Studies have shown that workers feel better about their work and are more productive, healthier and more relaxed when they can see greenery outside or can use a trail on their lunch break or before/after work.

- Trails boost community pride and appeal.
Corridors of greenspace (such as tree lined bike trails, streets and parks) are second only to education in the perceived value of municipal services. Greenery also improves the perception of an area and has been effective at drawing customers & residents back to living and doing business nearby.

For more information on this topic, see "The Value of Landscaping", "Green Streets, Not Mean Streets", "The Role of Horticulture in Human Well-Being and Social Development" and "The Economic and Social Benefits of Off-Road Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities."

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Katy Trail Expansion - Mo' Details

Last week, I reported on a just announced expansion of the Katy Trail in Missouri. Today, I received more details on the project courtesy of Kerri Yap at the Missouri Department of Transportation (Mo DOT)...


Great Rivers Greenway suggested that I contact the Dept. of Natural Resources to get more information on this project... The extension (from St. Charles) to Machens is actually about 12.6 miles. The distance to the West Alton Trail is approximately (an additional) 7 miles. However, this measurement was taken on the road. It is not a straight-line distance nor does it follow any potential alignment. Currently it is the desire of DNR to connect Katy Trail to the West Alton Trail, however there is nothing planned. As far as a construction schedule goes, DNR hopes for construction to begin late Fall of this year. However, the start date depends on permitting and other variables, so it is very possible for the start date to be a bit later. Given the Fall start, they hope to have the entire stretch to Machens open next summer (2008).

Routes for bicyclists between Machens and the West Alton trail are really a matter of preference. Bicyclists are allowed on MO 94, however this might not be comfortable for everyone due to vehicle speeds and constrained shoulders. The majority of the roads in that area are county roads so you might check with them."

Trails like the Katy are magnets for vacationing families looking for a safe yet soft adventure. Hopefully, the powers that be at MoDOT, GRG, DNR, etc. will recognize that more families are turning to bicycle tourism and will close that 7 mile gap sooner rather than later.

Thanks to Kerri for providing these helpful details. :-)

Trails like the Katy are magnets for vacationing families looking for a safe yet soft adventure. Hopefully, the powers that be at MoDOT, GRG, DNR, etc. will recognize that more families are turning to bicycle tourism and will close that 7 mile gap sooner rather than later.

Without a doubt, the Katy is a success; however, until the Katy runs into Kansas City or St. Louis, the trail will never reach its full potential.

Ride safely.


By the way, I'm always looking for first hand reports about bicycling on long distance bike trails. If you rode a trail recently, write me about the experience using my email link at the bottom of this page. If I publish your info, I'll be glad to give you the credit.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Little Town Building $700k Bike Trail

The little town of Sheffield, Alabama is building a 3 mile bike trail to attract tourism to it's historic district and to provide a new recreation space for the community. The paved trail will cost @ $700,000; the town is paying $140k and the balance is coming from a transportation enhancement grant.

The reason I bring up this trail is the novel approach that the people of Sheffield are taking to meld the trail into their mature urban landscape. The trail will be routed over a conglomeration of renewed sidewalks and fresh trail but it will also carve 8' at times from existing streets. Though the town recognizes that it will loose some downtown parking spaces in the process, folks there are confident that the benefits will outweigh any negatives.

Read the complete news story about this bike trail project:

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Speak Now Or Loose Billions

by Larry Lagarde

Fed Slashes Fiscal '07 Allocations To State DOT's By @ $3.5 Billion

The Federal Highway Administration is about to order state Departments of Transportation (DOT's) to cut a total of $3.471 Billion from their highway program budgets. Each state will have 30 days to decide upon the specific cuts they'll make to comply.

When similar cuts occurred last year, funding losses to biking and walking programs were disproportionately high. To prevent these same programs from being slashed again, it's critical to contact your state DOT representatives NOW.

Following is a list of the bike/ped coordinators for each state. Please contact your state's coordinator, tell them you support biking & walking projects and ask them to keep bike/ped funding intact.

Web: www.dot.state.al.us/
Mary Lou Crenshaw
Bureau of Multimodal Transportation
Alabama Department of Transportation
1409 Coliseum Boulevard
Montgomery AL 36130-3050
(334) 353-6439; Fax (334) 353-6451
E-mail: crenshawm@dot.state.al.us

Web: www.dot.state.ak.us
Bob Laurie
Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator
Alaska DOT & PF
3132 Channel Drive Room 200
Juneau AK 99801-7898
907-465-6989; Fax 907-465-6984
E-mail: Bob_Laurie@dot.state.ak.us

Web: www.azbikeped.org/
Michael N. Sanders
Senior Transportation Planner
Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator
Arizona Department of Transportation
206 South 17th Ave, Mail Drop 310B
Phoenix AZ 85007
602-712-8141; Fax 602-712-3046
E-mail: MSanders@azdot.gov

Web: www.arkansashighways.com
Highway and Transportation Dept
10324 I-30
PO Box 2261
Little Rock AR 72203-2261
501-569-2020; Fax 501-569-2476

Web: www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/offices/bike/bicycle_prgm.htm
Ken McGuire
Bicycle Facilities Unit
California Dept of Transportation MS1
1120 N St Room 2400
Sacramento CA 95814-5690
916-653-2750; Fax 916-653-1905
E-mail: ken.mcguire@dot.ca.gov

David Priebe, Bicycle Facilities Unit
E-mail: david.priebe@dot.ca.gov

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mardi Gras Fun

I rode the Aerlite B folding bike down to the French Quarter this afternoon to take part in Mardi Gras. Following are some of the photos I shot while walking around as well as a brief movie of the Shark Cage Band. Among the photos: don't miss the psychedelic folding bike with the self described "otherworldly superhero" seated behind it (dressed in black).

I'll be posting more Mardi Gras photos in a few days. Meanwhile, have a look at this short movie of the Shark Cage Band. Look for the sword carrying passer by that joins the fun...

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Katy Trail Expanding Eastward

by Larry Lagarde

Mississippi River, Illinois Trail Network & Downtown St. Louis In Sight

The 225 mile long Katy Trail will soon become 11 miles longer on the eastern end, making a connection to the beautiful William Clark suspension bridge tantalizingly close. Spanning the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis, Missouri, the Clark bridge has 10' wide bike lanes that connect with an extensive bike trail network in Illinois.
(Photo: Clark suspension bridge.)

Once on the Illinois side, a cyclist can continue south to the old Chain of Rocks Bridge (a historic landmark and formerly a part of Route 66 that is now a bike/ped only trail) and ride across the Chain of Rocks back into Missouri. In fact, this trail leads straight into downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch.

Already, the KATY rail trail spans nearly the entire width of Missouri. This new expansion of the trail (plus efforts now underway to link the trail west into Kansas City) mean that the KATY trail will soon be an even larger producer of tourism revenue for Missouri.

For more about the trail expansion, visit MoBikeFed.org. For maps and descriptions of bike trails in and around Saint Louis, visit RideFinders. For more about the trail network that extends from the Chain of Rocks bridge, see Conor Watkin's cycling page on area trails or try the site for the Confluence Greenway Trail.
(Photo: Chain of Rocks Bridge.)

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Bikely's Bike Route Maps

During some research today, I came across Bikely.com, a Web 2.0 type bike route mapping sites online. Although I haven't attempted to create a map yet on Bikely, I've been looking at several maps created by Mark Wyatt of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the service looks very promising. You can draw your favorite bike paths right on the map, and view everyone else's.

Try it yourself and tell me what you think.


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Viking Distance Cyclist Wows Winnipeg

Jeanette Watkins, publicist for Rune Monstad, sent me the following update this weekend on Rune's progress:

"Rune is now in Winnipeg and he has many reporters after him for stories. The Norwegian Club is doing a brunch for him today and the Scandanavian Club is doing a huge event for him this Sunday. He is also going to be in the annual Ice Bike Ride this Sunday, riding just a few km for pleasure only! He battled very high side winds coming into Winnipeg last night, so he is very tired!"

Rune is certainly becoming a sensation in Canada but then again, how often does a Viking ride solo across Canada in winter?

Stay safe, Rune.


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Virginia Creeper Trail Report

Last year, a RideTHISbike.com reader and folding bike owner (Jim Lukens) wrote that he was planning to go bicycling on the Virginia Creeper Trail. I caught up with Jim over the weekend. He did get to ride the trail in September on his folding bike and here are his comments about the ride.

"I went up in September and stayed in one of the B&Bs in Damascus (Virginia) to scout out the area. I took a shuttle to the top, then rode back to Damascus, then traded in my rental bike and rode another 16 miles (8 down, 8 back) on my Downtube folding bike. I got so enamored with the place that I made my family go back a couple weeks later (they have a great playground for the kids in Damascus) and I'm trying to schedule some spring weekends to get back up there with some of my buddies and maybe do an Out and Back from Abingdon with some camping up in the state forest. I think I found my little corner of heaven. I'm not sure how I'd write a review of the trail or the place other than to just rant over and over 'this place is great'."

Jim also mentioned that some of the local creeks near the Creeper appear to offer good potential for whitewater kayaking.

Thanks Jim, for the info. I'll definitely keep the Virginia Creeper Trail in my upcoming rides to do list.

By the way, another site that focuses on the Virginia Creeper is VaCreeperTrail.com. Although it's not the "official" site for the trail, it does offer useful lodging and travel planning info.

I'm always looking for first hand reports about bicycling on long distance bike trails. If you rode a trail recently, write me about the experience using my email link at the bottom of this page. If I publish your info, I'll be glad to give you the credit.

Happy trails. L

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hiawatha, Coeur d'Alene & Spokane Centennial Trails

A reader contacted me today for help in sketching out an upcoming trip to the Northwest to ride the Spokane River Centennial Trail, the Coeur d'Alene Trail and the Routhe of the Hiawatha Trail.

When I was planning my September 2006 trip to ride the Hiawatha, Coeur d'Alene & Spokane River Centennial trails, I was very concerned with the logistics. Initially, my goal was to ride each trail using just a bicycle. My research showed that this was possible; however, it would require a a week to 10 days to do & enjoy. I didn't have that time plus my wife and our infant daughter came along so here's what we did:

We took Amtrak from New Orleans to Chicago, changed trains and continued onto Spokane. The train pulls into Spokane just after midnight so we checked into a hotel. The following morning, I rode the Spokane Centennial Trail WEST through Riverside Park. This was a wonderful ride that I highly recommend.

We rented a car, packed up our gear and drove east to Wallace, Idaho (a great little mining town). The Coeur d'Alene (CDA) runs through Wallace; I suggest riding the CDA west all the way to Heyburn State Park where there are cabins. The trail enters the park by crossing Chacolet Lake on the old railroad trestle which has been modified with a series of ramps so marine traffic can navigate beneath. Stay at the state park or in Harrison overnight then ride back the following day.

The Hiawatha is a short ride but the scenery is wonderful. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it. Begin the ride from the East Portal of the Taft Tunnel and continue west, stopping to read the interpretive signs along the way and for photos of the trestles, etc. The last 2 trestles are minor so you won't miss much if you turn around before reaching that point. It is possible to continue riding on the old railbed beyond the ranger patroled limits of the Hiawatha. Just beware that you'll be riding for miles with no services.

If you don't want to sweat the details of planning how to ride these stunning bike trails, Loren Dudley with Silver Bike Tours is wonderful. Although I've never met Loren, we spoke by phone and corresponded quite a bit. He was always very helpful, offering various ride suggestions.

Loren suggests that cyclists stay in Kellogg over Wallace due to the condo accommodations available at the ski lodge there. I didn't find Kellogg as visually appealing as Wallace and liked the Best Western Wallace (helpful staff, indoor heated pool & jacuzzi, & restaurant/gift shop on site; stay on the 1st floor if you don't want to lug suitcases up stairs...). Frankly, Kellogg & Wallace are only 15-20 minutes from one another so both are centrally located.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

RideTHISbike.com Interview With Yannick Daoudi

Long Distance Cyclist, Traveler and Film Maker

by Larry Lagarde

Yannick Daoudi loves to travel. In the year 2000, Yannick found a travel companion (Kathleen Mullin) and spent 16 weeks bicycling through China, North Vietnam, Laos & Thailand. Together, this duo have visited a variety of exotic places in Africa, Asia, Europe & South America, traveling primarily by bicycle.

Following is my interview with Yannick. Most of the questions refer to Yannick & Kathleen's Andes Bicycle Expedition; however, anyone considering a multi-day, long distance bicycle trip should find his answers useful for planning their own bike tour.

RideTHISbike.com: Over the last 7 years, you've made at least 1 epic bike trip per year, taking 10 weeks on average to complete each trip. Anyone can imagine the amount of time it takes just to plan a short trip. What's your secret; how have you found the time year after year to make these incredible journeys?

DAOUDI: Basically, we just made it a priority in our lives. Taking time off has never been much of a problem. Since we've either been students or teachers (or both) over the past seven years, we've been lucky enough to have a couple of months off in summer and about a month for Christmas.

Getting the money together is trickier, but we offset the expense by the way we live day-to-day: we don't drive a car, we live in a small apartment, and in general we don't lead an extravagant lifestyle. Some people might feel it a sacrifice not to have satellite TV or a cell phone, but for us it's just superfluous. We try to live responsibly and not have too many unnecessary things. But we eat very well - Kathleen is a great cook, and we always buy organic meat, good wine, etc. We enjoy ourselves, we have a good life. We teach part-time during the year, which pays for plane tickets and costs. When we travel, we get around by bike as much as we can; we camp when it's convenient, eat local food, and usually avoid the big tourist spots. The cost of living for one month at home is equal to travelling for a month in most countries around the world. So really, the only extra is the plane ticket.

RideTHISbike.com: What led you to bicycle over the Andes?

DAOUDI: Like most of our other destinations, it was based on discovering a place we knew little about but that seemed to offer us a lot to discover, from its rich Andean culture to its spectacular landscape and wilderness.

RideTHISbike.com: How did you prepare for the high altitudes of Bolivia?

DAOUDI: We're both fairly fit, but aside from that there wasn't much we could do from home to prepare for high altitude. We dealt with it once we got there, and took our time to acclimatize before heading out. I had already climbed a 6000+ m summit, so I had an idea of how well I could adapt; but we didn't know how Kathleen would feel. She was sick for about a week but was fine afterward. We acclimatized well enough, with just the occasional symptoms of high altitude sickness.

RideTHISbike.com: Since you've traveled in many remote areas, do you have any tips to share with others considering such journeys themselves?

DAOUDI: Inform yourself about the types of conditions you'll encounter, and be prepared for them. But don't obsess over high-tech, super-specialized equipment and freak out if you've forgotten something. If there are people where you're going, then there's everything you need there to live. If it's cold, they'll sell sweaters and blankets; if you're hungry, they'll have food. You don't need gore-tex, breathable, uv-resistant, quick-dry, waterproof underwear suited for life on Mars. Our tent cost us $100 and has served us well for the past 5 years. Our bikes cost us $300 each and are used/recycled bicyles. Over the years, we've added good-quality bike racks, wheels, and so on - but you don't need a $3000 bike to travel.

I would also say be flexible and don't overplan. Traveling is unpredictable, which is a huge part of its allure - to impose a rigid scheme to your experience is frustrating if not impossible. On our first cycling trip across Southeast Asia, we had planned the exact number of kilometers for every day of the first month. The whole thing was scrapped after the third day. We abandoned our kilometre-counting, and told ourselves we could always take a bus/train/boat to make our flight in Bangkok if we ran out of time.

RideTHISbike.com: Long ago when I was a student in Austria, I was "shaken down" by Italian customs officiers at the Brenner Pass. Have you ever encountered problems with customs officials when crossing a border on a bicycle? For that matter, what do you say to those in fear of being hurt, robbed, etc. on a long distance bike trip?

DAOUDI: We've never had any big trouble at border posts, at least nothing a US dollar bill couldn't fix. However we have had our share of misadventures, from a pack of hyenas surrounding our tent and keeping us wide awake the whole night, to being detained and searched by a paramilitary group in Laos when we accidentally entered a "forbidden zone".

We try to avoid cities as much as we can when we travel. From our experience, these are the only places where there is a big risk. We've never felt threatened cycling through wilderness or rural communities. This will depend on the country, obviously - if you're planning a bike trip, Somalia or Iraq might not be the best idea right now. Just be aware of any political or social problems in the country you plan to visit. Most of the time it has nothing to do with foreigners anyway; even in politically unstable countries like Bolivia or Myanmar, the locals are amazing, kind, hospitable people. Using your common sense will usually keep you out of trouble: be tolerant, be humble, don't flaunt your Rolex or whip out a stack of hundred-dollar bills to buy bananas, and you should be OK.

RideTHISbike.com: Tell us about an event that stands out in your mind from the Andes trip?

DAOUDI: Taking a walk on the largest salt desert in the world, in the middle of the night on a full moon.

RideTHISbike.com: Of all your trips, which was your favorite and why?

DAOUDI: That's a hard question, and Kathleen and I would answer it differently. I like large spaces, deserts, vast scenery, quiet, unpopulated places; whereas Kathleen prefers the cultural atmosphere of a place. For me, crossing the Namib desert in Southern Africa will always be a very special memory. For Kathleen, nothing can compare to cycling into the minority-populated town of Lijiang in the mountains of western China.

RideTHISbike.com: I see that you'll be selling a video from this trip on dvd. Where can someone buy the video and are you selling videos from any of your other trips?

DAOUDI: Our documentary can be ordered online at: www.y2ktravels.com/documentary It's $10 + shipping, payable with PayPal or by cheque.

RideTHISbike.com: I understand that you just returned from a bike trip in southern Chile; how did that go?

DAOUDI: It was a wonderful experience. We had heard a lot about Patagonia, but nothing could prepare us for such a unique and breathtaking place. It is clearly one of the most beautiful regions we have ever seen. Four weeks was really too short for a trip like this. The whole experience was enhanced when we were joined by a traveling companion, a dog we named Philips. He immediately became attached to us, and followed us for the last 10 days of the trip, stopping wherever we stopped and garding our tent every night. He was a great dog, we shared wonderful moments, bonded like only a dog and a human can, and letting him go at the end was one of the toughest things we ever had to do.

RideTHISbike.com: What wild adventures are you planning for the near future?

DAOUDI: That's the fun part! We have quite a long list to go through, but the next two are Northern Mongolia by horse and Northern India by motorbike.

RideTHISbike.com: How many miles did you ride per day on the Andes expedition?

DAOUDI: Not many. The conditions of the "roads" (if you can call them that) and the short winter days meant that 40km was a good day. We rarely hit the road after 11 a.m. after taking time to thaw out (the temperature dropped to -20 degrees every night), make breakfast and pack up. We needed to have found a camping spot by 5 p.m. so we could be in our sleeping bags by six, when the sun and the temperature dropped suddenly.

RideTHISbike.com: How many pounds of gear were you carrying?

DAOUDI: When fully loaded (with 10 days of food and 60 hours of water), we were carrying about 150 pounds (excluding the weight of the bikes).

RideTHISbike.com: How much water did you carry?

DAOUDI: About 15 liters of water (an autonomy of 60 hours).

RideTHISbike.com: Did you ever run out of water?

DAOUDI: Almost once, as we didn't have enough water to take us through that night and morning. But we managed to find a stagnant lake right before sunset. The water was not good at all, but filtering it and boiling it did the job.

RideTHISbike.com: How many flats did you have?

DAOUDI: None! About two or three years ago, we equipped our bikes with the Schwalbe Marathon XR tires, which are basically bulletproof. Nothing can get through them.

RideTHISbike.com: Did you have any major mechanical problems?

DAOUDI: Everything you can think of, we've had, from broken frame to broken wheel. Our gear gets punished badly on the road, from being thrown off the roof of a bus, to tumbling down a ravine...But we have chromoly frames (which can be welded in any village anywhere on the planet), and carry plenty of spare parts. And you would be amazed at what a piece of rope, some metal wires and a little creativity can fix.

For more about Yannick, Kathleen and their incredible adventures, see the free YouTube trailer for the documentary of their Andes Bicycle Expedition or visit Y2kTravels.com.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

NOLA-BR Bike Path Master Plan Funding

On Wednesday, the Baton Rouge Metro Council agreed to contribute $12,500 towards the $250,000 master plan to build a proposed bike path on the Mississippi River levee from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. The master plan is required to qualify for federal funds, which could pay for up to 80 percent of the $33 million project. The Pontchartrain Levee District is putting up $50,000 for the study, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to provide an additional $125,000. East Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville and the three other parishes on the proposed bike path are being asked to kick in $12,500 apiece for the study.

See the complete story in The Advocate (Baton Rouge's main newspaper)

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Video & Interview - Bicycling The Bolivian Andes

by Larry Lagarde

If you've ever wondered what it would be like spending 14 weeks crossing the high Bolivian Andes and northwestern Argentina by bicycle, take a look at this movie trailer for the 76 minute documentary "Andes Bicycle Expedition: A Crossing of the Bolivian Altiplano." Shot by the cyclists portrayed in the film (Kathleen Mullin and Yannick Daoudi), the trailer gives a glimpse of the stark terrain and challenges the riders encountered on their bike trip.

I learned of this bike trip documentary while reading about the films being shown at the 2007 Vancouver International Mountain Film Fest. Taking place now through February 24th, the festival features amateur and Canadian films relating to mountain climbing and other extreme sports.

After I viewed the trailer, I contacted the cyclists for a brief interview and Yannick Daoudi (the male cyclist featured in the movie) agreed. Once the interview is conducted, I'll be publishing it here at RideTHISbike.com.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

How To Cut Healthcare Costs

"What is the value of a bike path? What's the value of commuting without polluting? What's the value of a good walk, a long run or a pleasant bike ride? What's the value of clean air? What's the value of a healthy life?"

Recently, these questions were posed in the Napa Valley Register in an opinion by Tim Thulin titled "Bike paths; A step in right direction." Apparently, some local folks in the Napa area view bike trails as costly/wasteful projects used by a select few and Tim's opinion was an attempt to explain the benefits of multi-use trails.

Though Tim's opinion was sound, he didn't assess the value of the bike trail in dollars and cents. As people pay attention to money, I thought it worthwhile to demonstrate how a trail can easily pay for itself by cutting healthcare costs. Here's what I wrote:

A bike trail may sound expensive - until we consider the role that it can play in keeping health care costs in check.

We Americans are more obese and inactive than ever. As a result, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, etc. are all on the rise. Sure, we can control many diseases/illnesses with medication, surgery, etc. but that is costly. For example, the average open heart surgery costs $150,000. If building a $10 million bike trail prevents the need for just 67 open heart surgeries, the trail has paid for itself. Such is the value of exercise.

If we are going to reverse unhealthy behaviors like overeating, healthy behaviors must be more attractive. Bike trails make walking, jogging & biking more attractive, providing a car free place for families, seniors, etc. to exercise/recreate.

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

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Folding Bike Video - A-Bike VS. Strida

Lots of YouTube videos tend to be grainy and unprofessional; however, here is a great one from Britain (scroll below the video for more text).

The video is from "The Gadget Show, a television series in the UK that profiles various types of gadgets. The subject for this segment is a comparison between two highly unconventional folding bikes - Sir Clive Sinclair's infamous A-Bike and the Strida. With a telescopic frame, 9" wheels and weighing in at just 12 lbs, the A-Bike wins in the portability test; however, the Strida beats the A-Bike on riding comfort and speed. Have a look.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Places To Go Bicycling - Tuscaloosa, Alabama

by Larry Lagarde

Located in northwest Alabama about 60 miles west of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa is best known as the home of the University of Alabama (Crimson Tide), several large hospitals and the place where Daimler-Benz produces the Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV. In existence since the early 1800's, Tuscaloosa is more than simply a college town. A former capitol of Alabama, Tuscaloosa offers over 20 points of interest including museums and antebellum homes.

Places To Go Bicycling In Tuscaloosa
According to Stephanie Roberts at the Tuscaloosa CVB, Tuscaloosa offers three great places to go bicycling: River Walk, Lake Lurleen and Sokol Park.

River Walk
Since 2002, Tuscaloosa has been working on a 13 mile biking and walking trail along both banks of the Black Warrior and North rivers. Though only a portion is complete, the trail is developing into a recreational attraction that links the University of Alabama (UA) with shopping & dining opportunities downtown.
(Photo: Bridge on the River Walk Trail.)

Lake Lurleen State Park
Located 9 miles Northwest of Tuscaloosa and 14 miles from UA, mountain bikers like Lake Lurleen's approximately 15 miles of multi-use trails. Lake Lurleen also offers a campground, fishing & boat rentals.
(Photo: Mountain biker a riding single track trail at Lake Lurleen.)

Sokol Park
Located on the north side of the Black Warrior River off of Watermelon Rd, Sokol Park offers @ 14 miles of mountain biking opportunities including challenging and technical sections which are sometimes steep.

Getting There
Tuscaloosa is served by both I-59, Amtrak's Crescent and a regional airport. The Amtrak station is only a few blocks from downtown; both the university and the River Walk are just a mile away. (Photo c/o David Smith: River Walk bridge.)

More Bicycling Info
For additional info about cycling in and around Tuscaloosa, try...
The Bicycle Shop
1408 University Blvd
Tuscaloosa Alabama, AL 35401
Ph: 205-758-4906

More Sports/Fitness Info
Stephanie Roberts
Director of Sports Marketing/Public Relations
Tuscaloosa Convention & Visitors Bureau
Ph: 205-391-9200

Places To Go Bicycling is a new, weekly feature of RideTHISbike.com.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Long Distance Katrina Cyclist Terry Hunter In Metairie

by Larry Lagarde

He's been on the road for months but long distance cyclist Terry Hunter finally made it to New Orleans.

I had been wondering if something happened to Terry since speaking with him briefly on Saturday. He was about to cross the Bonnet Carre Spillway just west of New Orleans and I was expecting him to call me when he reached the Mississippi River Trail (MRT). The call never came. (Photo: Larry, Rita & Terry on Airline Drive in Metairie, Louisiana.)

On the way to pick up my 7 year old stepson from school, I called Terry and he answered. It just so happened that he was moments away so I made a quick detour to greet and congratulate him on all the miles he has ridden.

We met in front of a sports bar on Airline Drive across from Zephyr Field. In the bike trailer, Terry's dog (Rita) was sleeping soundly with her paw hanging out. Strapped atop the trailer was a water jug, radio and a spare tire & tube. A fishing pole with a bright orange float protruded up from the rear.

Terry shared that his original bike and trailer were stolen earlier in the bike tour while he was in Monterey, California. He's had a great deal of support from everyday folks along the way, including someone that custom made the heavy duty front fork just for him.

Terry told me that his back was still sore from sleeping last night on the levee. He arrived in Metairie via the MRT which is a smooth, non-motorized, asphalt trail atop the Mississippi River flood control levee. Unfortunately, there are no lodging places along this section of the MRT and Terry did not know how to retrieve my number from his brand new cellphone.

Terry only plans to stay in New Orleans a few days to share his story with local media and meet with staffers at the office of Mayor Nagin. Then, Terry will continue his ride east through other areas devastated by Katrina and beyond, finally ending the Homeless Ride For Southern Grace tour when he hits the east coast in South Carolina.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Paratrooper Folding Bikes & The Military

by Larry Lagarde

Last month, I was asked to help obtain Paratrooper full-size folding mountain bikes for US service personnel stationed in Japan. Out of curiosity, I looked into the history of bike use in the military and here's a brief overview.
(Photo: Paratrooper all terrain folding bike.)

Bicycles have played a military role for over a century.
In the USA, the Buffalo Soldiers bicycled on journeys of hundreds of miles. British use of bicycles in the Second Boer War led to later bike use by Belgium, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Switzerland.

In WWII, the Japanese captured Singapore because of their bicycle infantry and British airborne commandos secured a German radar station by sneaking up on folding bikes.
(Photo: WWII airborne folding bicycle.)

The Viet Cong were famous for there use of bicycles along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Even when the trail was carpet bombed, cyclists could ride between the bome craters. Until 2003, the Swiss had a folding bike parachute brigade that could be on the move within 60 seconds of making an air drop.
(Photo: Montague folding bike attached to US Army Airborne soldier preparing for air drop.)

The Montague Paratrooper was developed at DARPA's request to bridge an important gap between walking infantry and heavy military vehicles. It is manufactured by a company in the USA (Montague Corporation) and has been used internationally as an all terrain military bicycle as well as by the US Special Forces in Afghanistan.

Today, the high-performance, rust resistant (aluminum), suspended fork, 24 speed Paratrooper folding bike is available to soldiers and civilians alike, typically selling in the USA for @ $695. I sell Paratroopers within the continental US for $649.95 including shipping and I DO ship to APO/FPO's.
(Photo: Paratrooper folding bicycle being loaded folded into Humvee.)

Reference Links About Folding Bikes:
- Full details & specs on the Paratooper folding bike.

- Video showing how the Paratrooper folds/unfolds (bike in video is the MX, a flashier version of the Paratrooper).

- A description of the Paratrooper project from Montague (circa 2001).

- 1st Tactical Studies Group (Airborne)'s Light Bicycle Infantry Page (w/pics of Paratrooper folding bikes dropped via a C-212).

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Bike Tour With RailTrails.org's Jeff Ciabotti

by Larry Lagarde

Jeff Ciabotti, Vice President of Trail Development for the Rails To Trails Conservancy (RTC), flew down from D.C. last weekend to pledge the full support of his national non-profit organization behind the Lafitte Trail. In a meeting Tuesday with representatives from the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission, the Governor's office, FOLC and other stake holders, Jeff made clear that the Lafitte Trail is of national importance and should be built without delay. (Photo: Bart Everson and Jeff Ciabotti on a dilapidated bridge over the last surviving remnant of the Carondolet Canal.)

I spent several hours bicycling around the corridor with Jeff, Billy Fields (also of the RTC) and Bart Everson (a fellow FOLC board member and the man behind "b.rox, Life in the Flood Zone"). We rode from Mid City to the French Quarter and back, stopping frequently to take in neighborhood features such as historical landmarks, locations of schools and the new motion picture production studio being built by the Louisiana Institute of Film Technology (LIFT).

Jeff was amazed by the level of devastation and the strange emptiness of once vibrant neighborhoods; yet, he acknowledged the corridor as an incredible opportunity to spur revitalization, unify neighborhoods and heal a great American city. He also noted that the Lafitte Corridor is one of the most significant urban greenways he's seen and that a portion of the trail could be in use almost immediately. (Photo: Bart Everson, Jeff Ciabotti & Billy Fields at the proposed Basin Street/Armstong Park trailhead for the Lafitte Corridor.)

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bicycling With New Orleans' Recovery Czar

by Larry Lagarde

I bicycled through the New Orleans neighborhood of Gentilly today with Dr. Ed Blakely, the recovery czar selected last month by Mayor Nagin. A regular cyclist and internationally recognized urban planner, Dr. Blakely was recently called "the master of post-disaster" by the Los Angeles Times for his recovery work in California following the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 and the Oakland Hills wildfire of 1991.

During our ride, Dr. Blakely saw areas where residents had returned and blocks where signs of activity were minimal if any. We visited the site of the levee breach at the London Canal. While there, a cyclist that had lived in the neighborhood before the flood pointed out the build date on the flood control structure that had failed; it had been built by the US Army Corps of Engineers just months before Katrina.

Both during and after our bike tour, Dr. Blakely voiced his support for pedestrian friendly, transit-accessible urban villages and expressed interest in identifying "trigger projects" to stir the pace of neighborhood recovery.

Of interest to Dr. Blakely are key areas in New Orleans where all the buildings could be rehabbed simultaneously via a pool of approved contractors. Dr. Blakely believes that quickly and completely rehabbing areas will inspire rebuilding by property owners in adjacent areas while simultaneously creating streets that are active, safe, functional & livable. If LRA (Louisiana Recovery Authority) money won't cover these endeavors, his goal is to secure a funding instrument similar to a reverse mortgage so a home owner's renovation costs could be paid after their death if necessary.

The Lafitte Corridor biking and walking path would certainly make a wonderful trigger project. Not only is the corridor itself historical, it runs through or beside historically significant neighborhoods like the French Quarter, Storyville (birthplace of Jazz), Treme, Tulane/Galvez and Mid City. The path is a critical connector to other biking/walking facilities such as the Jefferson Davis bikeway, the Marconi bike route, the Wisner Trail (now under construction) and even the multi-state long Mississippi River Trail. The greenway corridor would help fight diabetes, obesity, depression and provide New Orleans with another, family-friendly tourist attraction too. (Photo: After the bike tour, Dr. Blakely explained his plans at Dillard University's chapel.)

With Dr. Blakely also leading a study on how cities can adapt to global climate change, the environmental benefits of cycling as an emission free mode of transportation are hard to ignore. Since the Lafitte Corridor is already in the city's Unifed Plan for recovery, let's hope the corridor is selected as a trigger project.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Folding Bikes - The Ticket To Ride

Earlier today, a reader sent me a link to this YouTube video showing the folding and unfolding process of a new folding bike from Bike Friday, the Tikit 2 Ride. The video is so impressive, I had to replay it four more times and even called Bike Friday for more details.

Though brief and grainy, the video is an awesome demonstration of the versatility of folding bikes. In the video, a bicyclist rides into view, quickly comes to a halt, dismounts, folds the bike, rolls it a few feet, unfolds the bike and rides away. The entire sequence takes just 16 seconds!!!

According to Peter Berra at Bike Friday, the bike is currently in testing by a small core of cyclists and is expected to be available for sale this Spring. MSRP will start @ $1200, a reasonable price for a custom fitted, made in the USA folding bike with high quality componentry.

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Homeless Katrina Cyclist From West Coast Rides Into New Orleans

Terry Hunter just emailed me that he's approaching the western outskirts of the New Orleans metro area and should make the city today. He's in LaPlace, Louisiana and riding down the Airline Highway on his tricycle. If possible, I'll meet up with him later this afternoon.

If you're unfamiliar with Terry's story, see my previous posts about him dating from the 31st and 16th of January. He's a homeless guy that has ridden all the way from Oregon to focus attention on Katrina victims and homelessness. It's a touching story.

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How To Grow Mass Transit In A Car Centric Society

by Larry Lagarde

In all the world's great cities, public transportation or mass transit is viewed as essential to the well being of the metropolis; yet, in many North American communities, mass transit is struggling. Case in point: Allegheny County's Port Authority.
(Graphic: Drive to work; work to drive.)

For years, the Port Authority (P.A.) has struggled with financial challenges. Created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1956 to plan and develop Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's port facilities, the P.A. grew to be responsible for all bus service and commuter light rail serving the region. As suburbia grew, the P.A. added routes and traveled further to meet the demand. Due to insufficient governmental subsidies, the P.A.'s struggle to remain solvent has lead to a slow increase in fares and cut backs in service.

The Port Authority's plan to cut services & raise fares is the result of a century of car culture blinding us to the obvious. We all know that oil supplies are dwindling, pollution is triggering global climate change and traffic congestion creates road rage; yet, we continue to drive our cars. Why? Because in our emotion driven psyches, cars symbolize mobility, mobility means freedom & freedom means bliss.
(Photo: Bikes add freedom to mass transit.)

President Bush once said we were addicted to oil. In truth, we Americans are addicted to our cars. Like changing any ingrained habit, breaking ourselves of driving everywhere will be painful.

Until mass transit becomes more appealing, people will continue to rely upon their personal motor vehicles. To be appealing, mass transit must be reliable, affordable, safe, frequent and available throughout our metro areas.

Using a bike that folds makes mass transit feasible to more users by making transit stops more accessible from greater distances. Because they fold, riders can take their folding bikes onto the bus, subway, etc. As more people discover the advantages of folding bikes, use of mass transit will rise; however, more must be done to make mass transit attractive to a wider base of users.

My thanks go to Ed Heath for drawing attention to Pittsburgh's transportation issues via his blog, Cognitive Dissonance.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bike Tour Of New Orleans' Katrina Ravaged Areas Saturday

Recovery czar, Ed Blakely, will take a bike tour of Gentilly on Saturday to chart a course for the revitalization of the neighborhood. He will be joined by New Orleans City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, who will focus on points of interest along the route.

Blakely said in January that after reviewing preliminary neighborhood plans, he intended to bicycle through the city's neighborhoods, talking to residents and getting a detailed view of life in Gentilly, eastern New Orleans, Lakeview and the 9th Ward. This will be the first of those bike tours.

The tour begins at 11 a.m. at a shopping center on Elysian Fields Ave at Gentilly Blvd. Cyclists will head west, turning right at Norman Mayer Ave., then merge into St. Anthony Avenue. They will then head north and make a right at Mirabeau Ave., then continue to Elysian Fields and turn right again onto Gentilly Blvd. The tour will end at Dillard University’s Chapel.

Residents who are not interested in biking may attend a briefing at the Dillard chapel at noon, where Blakely will discuss his impressions and gather input from residents.

All Gentilly residents with bicycles are invited to join in. For more information call Hedge-Morrell’s office at 504-658-1040.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Places To Go Bicycling - Birmingham, Alabama

by Larry Lagarde

Located in north central Alabama with a population of about 250,000, Birmingham is the largest city in this southern state. Founded just after the Civil War as an industrial center, Birmingham is the only place in the world where all the raw materials for producing steel are found in significant quantities. In the first half of the 20th century, B'ham's steel output was so high that it quickly earned the nickname "Pittsburgh of the South."

Due to the way Alabama allocates gas taxes and the city's location at the confluence of 3 interstates & 2 US highways, automobile use in Birmingham is among the highest in the USA and has fueled an out migration to the suburbs since the 1960's. With the steel industry waning in the 1970's, the economy of B'ham diversified over several decades into banking, bio-technology, information technology, law, medicine, research and publishing. Over the last 10 years, an urban renewal has taken hold in downtown's art deco skyscrapers and warehouses, revitalizing disused spaces into lofts, condos, retail developments and restaurants.

Places To Go Bicycling In Birmingham
According to Steve Fair with the Birmingham Bicycle Club, the best place to go cycling in Birmingham is the Shades Creek Greenway Trail. In the region, Steve suggests Oak Mountain State Park, Cheaha State Park, Talladega National Forest, Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area, Bankhead National Forest and the Chief Ladiga/Silver Comet trail from Anniston AL. to Atlanta, GA.

Shades Creek Greenway Trail
Running alongside Shades Creek in Homewood, this paved trail offers plenty of shade and picnic spots on a hot summer day. Fairly level, this is a family oriented trail within the city and very near to Brookwood Mall. No cars are allowed on the trail which is presently 5 miles long.

Oak Mountain State Park
Oak Mountain S.P.'s 17-mile Red Trail loop attracts mountain bikers from as far away as Florida and Louisiana. Built in 1993 by the Birmingham Urban Mountain Peddlers (BUMP), this combination of single track and an old two-lane fire road offers grueling climbs, rocketing downhills and hairpin turns, with sheer drops off the sides and an elevation gain of up to 500'. Several trailheads offer parking & access to the loop.

For those wanting a more relaxed road ride, there is also a bike lane running on the side of Oak Mountain's main road. The lane passes 3 lakes and wooded areas with plenty of wildlife including turkeys and deer. Although the bike lane has several minor climbs, the length of these stretches will grab your attention. Total distance round trip is about 15 miles.

The popularity of the Red Trail has led to other nearby state parks, national forests and wildlife management areas opening trails to mountain bikers. Cheaha State Park has completed a mountain bike trail, the Kentuck Off-Road Trail has opened in the Talladega National Forest as has a trail at the Choccolocco Wildlife Management. Currently, 30 miles of off-road vehicle trails are being built at the Bankhead National Forest.

Chief Ladiga/Silver Comet Rail Trails
Those who are interested in traveling a few miles should consider riding the Chief Ladiga Trail 70 miles northeast of B'ham in Anniston. Currently, the trail currently goes from Anniston to Piedmont, stopping just 8 miles short of the Georgia line; however, paving work on that section is currently under way. When that work has been completed in coming months, the Chief Ladiga will connect seamlessly with the Silver Comet Trail. Cyclists will then be able to bike on a paved, non-motorized trail all the way to Smyrna (a suburb of Atlanta). The current distance for the Alabama section is 25 miles (one way). Since the trail is built on an abandoned rail line, the steepest grade is around 2%, making the trail inviting for families. Picnic spots are easily accessed by car in Jacksonville and Piedmont too.

More Bicycling Info
Each weekend and several evenings every week, the Birmingham Bicycle Club sponsors rides of varying difficulty and distance. For information, call Homewood Cycle at 205-879-3244.

More About Birmingham
For more about other attractions or accommodations in this diverse city, contact the Greater Birmingham CVB at 205-458-8000.

My special thanks go to Vickie Ashford and Steve Fair for their help & suggestions.

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Silver Comet & Chief Ladiga Trails Connecting Soon

During a meeting this week with Jeff Ciabotti, Vice President of Trail Development for the Rails To Trails Conservancy (RTC), I learned that construction is now underway to complete the final connecting sections of the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet rail trails at the Alabama - Georgia state line. Upon completion of this project, a cyclist will be able to ride all 101 miles from Smyrna (a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia) to Anniston, Alabama on a smooth, non-motorized rail trail. Since Atlanta and Anniston are both served by Amtrak's Crescent, cyclists will be able to ride one way and take the train back.

Although there are many bike trails throughout the USA, the number of interstate trails is small; thus, the opening of this connector is quite an event. In fact, both the governors of Alabama & Georgia are expected to attend the ceremony as are key figures from Washington, D.C. (like Jeff) and representatives of corporate sponsors of the project (like Coca Cola) and stake holders (such as Atlanta's PATH Foundation).

During a meeting yesterday with Jeff, I proposed that we promote the ribbon cutting event to members of the RTC from around the nation as well as to cyclist organizations across the Deep South. Jeff suggested I begin by getting an update on the construction progress from project manager Shannon Robbins.

According to Shannon, the wet weather they've been experiencing this Winter has turned the work area into a muddy mess. As a result, the work on the rail trail may not be complete until mid July '07 amd no date has been announced for the ribbon cutting event at the Coca Cola kiosk being built at the state line.

I'm planning to ride the Chief Ladiga & Silver Comet and will be timing my visit to coincide with the ribbon cutting. If you'd also like to attend, either email me or check my site periodically as I will be publishing more details about the event as they become available. As I plan to take Amtrak to the event, I'll also begin to publish info about places to go bicycling along the route of the Crescent from New Orleans to Atlanta (and perhaps even beyond).


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Monday, February 05, 2007

Vancouver Critical Mass Documentary

This weekend, RideTHISbike.com reader Jeanette Watkins introduced me to a film titled "You Never Bike Alone," an 80 minute documentary about Critical Mass. A cycling phenomenon and social movement that started in San Francisco in the 1990's, Critical Mass bicycle riding events have been spreading to other cities across North America (there was one here in New Orleans on January 26th).

Based on the teaser footage, the movie is an interesting and fun look at a variety of Critical Mass events that have taken place over a decade in Vancouver, Canada including the World Naked Bike Ride and municipal events like bike lane openings.

You Never Bike Alone - Vancouver's Critical Masses
You Never Bike Alone - Trailer

My thanks go to Jeanette who has also been helping me stay in touch with that hardy Viking Biker, Rune Monstad, as he makes his way East across the frigid Canadian landscape.


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