Ho Chi Mihnute: Blood Road Documentary

Early in my biking life I knew I was a tortoise and not a hare. It’s okay, don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not a speedster. I compete against myself, and that’s A.O.K. by me.  I’m not a competitive cyclist. I’m a strong, competent, confident commuter cyclist and I prefer touring. There, now you know.

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 5.33.53 PMWhy tell you that? Sometimes I wish I was more than a wannabe. I sort of wish I was a professional athlete.  I’ve talked about this before in other posts. I’m not. However, I can support others in their athletic aspirations.

I watched a new documentary called Blood Road and it is still with me. Every July 4th I go for a bike ride through some of the city’s cemeteries and I watch a movie about war. Freedom isn’t free as they say, and this documentary offers a perspective from both an American and a Vietnamese women about the ultimate cost. I watched this documentary a few weeks ago and I’m watching it again. Blood Road is the story of a daughter finding her father long after the Vietnam War’s end. “I feel drawn to go looking for answers to a mystery that been with me my entire life.”

Every frame of this film is spectacular. The unfolding of the mystery of Rebecca Rush’s father, a U.S. Air Force pilot, shot down during the Vietnam War. Extraordinary  “ultra-endurance” biker takes her viewers on the emotional and physical journey she took in 2015 when she pedaled 1,200 miles of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in search of the crash site that claimed the life of her father.

The most compelling aspect of the story are the primary source documents, video and recordings that are shared. Another aspect of the storytelling involves the people who help Rebecca in her quest. When Rebecca meets Huyen Nguyen, a Vietnamese competitive biking champion, and together they traverse the jungles of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam you see their interactions and genuine support for one another. Also, you learn about the Vietnam War.

War has a lasting impact and Blood Road honors the memory of Rebecca’s father and puts a face on victims of war. The Vietnam War may have ended on April 30th, 1975, but it left a mystery that time and trails mitigate. Yes, I’d love to ride it. How about you?

It doesn’t matter if you watch it on the Fourth. Just watch it.

Available to rent or buy on iTunes.

Have a Happy 4th!

Be safe and get out there and ride.

BG

 

 

Bike Rental: the Leased Commitment

 

DSCN0989Whenever possible, and it’s almost always possible, I rent a bike when I’m away from home. My life would be infinitely easier if I didn’t have this need-to-ride, but it would be bereft of the experience engaging in the world and trying to get a bike to ride around wherever, whenever, for however long. Riding a bike heightens your ability to sense  where you are staying. It’s as though the veil has been lifted and you see all that was, is and could be.

In the U.S.A., the advent of bike sharing in various cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Hartford is a preferable option, but not all American cities have that available. Internationally, I’ve rented bikes in Tokyo, Japan and rode around the Imperial Palace. My favorite overseas bike rental experience was in Potsdam. I’ll come back to that later in this post.  Riding though the Tiergarten in Berlin is also a favorite memory. I’ve even rented bikes in Pokara, Nepal too and my husband’s bike ended up getting a flat, but even with that it was a memorable way to see the sights and enjoy a city from the saddle of a bike.

That why this story that Tom Hanks shared with Stephen Colbert had me laughing a few weeks ago.  The bit about the bikes starts at about 6:58 into the clip. It got me thinking about the worst bikes I’ve ever rented. There aren’t too many bad experiences I’ve had with bike rentals and certainly nothing that comes close to Tom Hanks’ story.

 

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My rental in Potsdam during the summer of 2009. 
My favorite memory of a bike rental happened in Potsdam when we were there in 2012. I had been in Germany during June 2009 and I rented several times and went between the hotel and the University of Potsdam. I was there on a Fulbright summer seminar. Our hotel had bikes to rent so I rented everyday and then asked for a deal since I was dropping Euros on so much renting. Crazy American! I was told I could take a taxi or the bus shuttle, but what’s the fun in that?

Riding a bike between the hotel and the campus gave me confidence to go a little farther afield. I’d sit in the lectures and listen to speakers all day and then hit the pavement and ride around like a kid free from all the cares of the world. I rode around the city area and took shortcuts through other neighborhoods. One day I ended up with a bike that needed some repairs. I didn’t notice it right away, but after an hour the front tire started to shimmy and the seat post twisted with any slight movement. It literally had some screws loose. I did the best I could but dusk was hanging over me like a cloud and the front rim lights weren’t operating properly. The dynamo light sets that were supposed to run when touching the rim malfunctioned. The rim was out of alignment and would drag on the tire and produce no illumination. That means I was on these narrow cobblestone streets with no lights. I felt vulnerable. Plus as the sun sets everything starts to look veiled and all the straße looked alike. Nothing is on a grid so panic started to set in and I didn’t know where I was. 

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I listened. I listened some more. The hotel was close to the U-Bahn and I figured if I could hear the train I could ride toward it, find the station and make my way back to the hotel. It pedaled toward the rumbling metal sounds and after a little while I made it.

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Logging miles with a rental bike doesn’t have to be disastrous. It requires a modicum of planning and ask around for bike shops that provide rentals. I love this topic and I promise I’ll spend some more time on it in the future. Now see what Tom Hanks has to say. It’ll make you smile.

Renting a bike is the least commitment one can make when trying to decide what bike to buy. Instead of buying, you can try out a bike. However, when you’re traveling and you’re not sure how much if any riding you’ll be able to do, renting is the perfect option and a unique way to dig in and see things from another perspective.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried renting a bike while on vacation.

Happy riding!

BG

 

New Gen Gets All the Fun

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Did you have access to a cycling team when you were in high school? I remember being in my high school math class and there was an announcement over the PA on a Monday morning. Blah, blah, blah and then something about our bike team winning a race. I thought, “Huh, we have a bike racing team?” I had no idea. The team consisted of four to six guys, two of them were in the upcoming spring play with me and I didn’t know that either one even rode a bike. Then what followed was the math teacher saying my name repeatedly to break me out of my dumfounded state of consciousness.

How did I miss this opportunity? I still don’t know, but a friend of mine, Larry,  saw this article and sent it my direction. I wondered why we don’t see more cycling in high school. Find the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) on Facebook and give them a like. Also you can donate online to help their efforts. Mountain biking is a far more attractive option for our young racers in training. What a great way to learn how to handle a bike and perfect your skills with balance and agility. At the end of nearly every sentence I kept moaning, “Where was this when I was in high school?”

Personally I did not find a place with traditional sports in high school. I was easily discouraged. I enjoyed volleyball the most, but I had the impression I was supposed to be good right away and I wasn’t. I thought you went to practice and learned about the game, whatever the game. I parted ways with the idea that I’d be able to learn a sport and put my focus in other areas. I kept riding my bike to school and work at my after school job.

“A lot of these kids have done football, baseball, and haven’t really found their place in traditional sports,” says Shaun Anderson, who coaches the Cuyuna Lakes team in northern Minnesota. “They find this and it’s given them a home.”

Truth be told, I’m older than the mountain bike, but younger than Gary Fisher.  I’ll donate what I can to help the efforts of NICA! The next generation can count on me to support their riding.

Good job team! Read more about NICA here.

What do you think? Wish you had something like this? Were you lucky enough to be on a team in your youth? I would have loved to letter in mountain biking!

Have a great week.

Be safe and get out there an ride.

BG