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And thus, ’twas done.

Despite the best efforts of my taxi driver, who showed up 30 minutes late, got lost twice & answered his mobile phone while driving,  I’ve made it to SeaTac airport & a through a hassle free check in.

I have certainly learnt many practical things in the past 3 months, from bike maintenance to chicken rearing to lock picking. I feel that I’ve also learnt more about myself & some far out life philosophy stuff. But the stuff about myself is private, & the far out stuff you either already know, or have to experience for yourself….

So here at the end, another huge thank you to all the people who donated their time, effort, encouragement & hard earned cash to get me here. A huge thank you to Rob Greenfield & his partner Cheryl Davies for coming up with the Green Riders idea. A huge thank you to all of the Green riders, hosts, & random strangers that supported & welcomed me along the way, both during & after the ride. It means more than you know.

Farewell North America, you have surpassed my expectations in every way. Until next time…

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America, fuck yeah! 

My experience of the USA has been completely different from the America we see on the news. Without exception, everybody I’ve met has been warm & accepting. Lucky for me.

There is no doubt that the USA has more than it’s fair share of fear & hateful behaviour at the moment,  but it also has a lot of love.

One of the things that has struck me is widespread public displays of tolerance. An incredible number of businesses & homes have posters in their windows or placards on their lawns with inclusive, welcoming messages or supporting a campaign (& not just on the liberal West Coast). 


Rainbow flags are not only to be found outside gay bars but in the windows of hairdressers, cafes, creameries, advice services, you name it. They are not necessarily gay businesses, they’re actively welcoming the ‘other’ & making it clear that a safe space awaits.
There are also many ‘Little Free Libraries’ – book exchange boxes that people have set up to better their local streets. Simple & amazing!

These are not things I’ve noticed so much in the UK & I find myself wondering why. Just sayin’…

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Green Riders reach Seattle! 

This photo was taken in Central Park on day 1 of the Green Riders – good deeds on bikes – tour. 82 days later I cheered on the Green Riders who finished up in Seattle for their last hill of the journey! 

The Stats: 48 people joined the ride, for all or a portion, cycling a collective 87,000 miles (apparently that’s 3 1/2 times around the world!). Along the way we cleaned up over 20,000 pieces of trash, rescued 5,000 lbs of food, planted 1000’s of wildflower & vegetable seeds, 50 fruit trees & gave time & effort at many community gardens. I have to say that we inspired tons of people along the way (not blowing my own trumpet – they told us so!) I’m guessing that we also all learnt a lot about ourselves & the power of giving & receiving. I certainly did. Though I went on my own journey after 1000 miles, I will always be a Green Rider. I have so much respect & gratitude for this bunch of people, all on their own personal journeys & striving to make the world a better place.

Check out Rob Greenfield’s blog or Facebook page to see what sustainable environmental adventure he has planned next!

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Sleeping in Seattle

Seattle,  Washington – state #9

My time in Seattle has mostly been spent walking the tourist trail, playing with a very cute gremlin dog & finally succumbing to the lure of book shops. One of my best days involved a troll, Lenin, a piece of the Berlin Wall, & a really good cup of tea. I did find some interesting community stuff as well…

Seattle Urban Farms

 I’ve seen many wonderful urban gardens scattered around Seattle – lots of people are growing fruit & vegetables in their yards.  One day I took a tour organised by Seattle Farm School & saw some really cool gardens & small farms. I ate off trees, learnt more about bees, was impressed by mulch & got goat salvia on my kness!

Along the way I met one of the founders of Seattle Farm School. It started through a seed swap group that she set up on facebook & developed naturally as people started swapping advice & skills.

It’s a Riot

I went to a reading of ‘Don’t call it a Riot’, a play about the Black Panthers & the human side of revolution. Amontaine Aurore, the writer, introduced the play & let us know that Seattle started the 2nd Black Panthers chapter in the USA. I also learnt a bit about a riot that happened 50 years ago in Detroit at a talk at Seattle’s public library. 

And lots of other stuff…

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Portlandia

Portland, Oregon – state #8

I had a great time chilling out in Portland – mostly swimming in the river, cycling, & drinking craft beer.
Cycling

Portland’s cycling infrastructure is really good, meaning that craft beer & cycling do go together …(?!) – the motorists are also very careful to stop & give both cyclists & pedestrians lots of room. A chap told me that this is because motorists are always seen as in the wrong if there is a collision, though I like to think it’s just good manners.

Bike Farm

I visited Bike Farm, a volunteer run collective that has been running for 10 years. They host do-it-yourself sessions (for the price of membership or $5 an hour), sell cheap used bike parts, and sometimes refurbished bikes. They are entirely self funded from these pursuits, relying on over 300 volunteers who lend their time sharing skills & building their skills with each other & the community.   I went along on a ‘Women & Trans only’ night &, with the guidance of Momoko, successfully learnt how to change my brake pads & true my very out of shape front wheel (which I had been riding on for a week!) Bike Farm was a wonderful community space – very warm & inviting. I ended up drinking craft cider with some volunteers after the session. I was offered a volunteer role and a roommate, & a few days later Momoko drove myself & one of her friends out to a local river & lake to go swimming! A very special experience.

Waterfalls & Mountains & that

Portland is also surrounded by beautiful waterfalls & mountains. It is home to Powell’s book store which covers a whole block, over 70 microbreweries, & the world’s official smallest park (Guinness Book of Records), which also happens to be the official largest leprechaun colony West of Ireland (Irish Government).

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Craft beers

Well, they’re just delicious.

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Summer of Love

50 years after it’s official Summer of Love, San Francisco is still an amazing trip…  Go there (but don’t move in, cus it’s bursting at the seams)!

I went head first into the city – saw loads, did loads, & met some amazing people. Too much to do justice to in one page. Some highlights..

A LGBT paradise

I went to an amazing play-in-progress reading & discovered the story of ‘Compton’s cafeteria riot’ – a drag queen / trans uprising against police brutality in San Fran, 3 years before the Stonewall riot. Two of the three writers hung out at Compton’s during the time. Afterwards I went to ‘Aunt Charlie’s’, a gay bar where it’s constantly Christmas, on the only street I know of that has been officially named after a transexual icon – Turk Street’s second name is ‘Vicki Marlane’.

I also spent time on the rainbow lined Castro, GLBT museum, & learnt more about Harvey Milk & his massive impact upon the LGBT community despite just 43 weeks in office. Reflected a lot on how much ‘hidden history’ is so easily lost, and the danger of people losing touch with recent struggles.

A hippie haven

I loved learning about the Summer of Love in 1967 – again, just a few months of hope, positivity & a slice of something different that had a lasting social impact . . . the Summer of Love inspired more people than the people who started it imagined – so many that they became generally overwhelmed & held a ‘death of the hippy’ ceremony to try and discourage more people from coming! Was it a revolution? Or an alternative lifestyle that got too popular? Could it happen again?

I also met so many incredible people – family of friends & friends of family – it is a wonderful place to pull up a chair & start chatting to a stranger. For me, that was a personal challenge & amazing experience in itself. Embracing the unknown. All i got was positive responses!

An exciting anomaly 

I got real close to a real life police chase WITH GUNS! Ok, one gun. It may have been an air rifle. . . But it was scary & exciting! The chap running from the police (who went right past me!) eventually made the decision to lie on the street & get arrested, as opposed to being shot.

 And so so much more! What an amazing place.

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California Zephyr (or 2 1/2 days on a train)

  • Chicago, IL to San Francisco, CA via Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, & California. 
  • Going through 3 (?) time zones & losing track of an acceptable time to crack open a beer.
  • On night one, sleeping next to a man wearing a Jesus t shirt who covered himself head to toe in a coarse blanket. It felt like sleeping next to a giant sack of potatoes. 
  • Reading the Handmaid’s Tale whilst sharing a train with many women wearing old fashioned white bonnets & ankle length reddish dresses (Melanites?)
  • Starting to feel like a zoo animal & planning ‘trips out’ to the viewing cart two carriages back.
  • Meeting lots of lovely people in the viewing cart – a Scot living in Denver,  a chap planning to cycle from Reno to Vancouver, a couple on their way to a Jazz festival,  a couple visiting from Australia,  a nail technician starting biochemistry at uni… they laugh at Britain’s tiny mountains.
  • Travelling through the Rockies,  Sierra Nevada’s, Gold Country & heaps of beautiful places

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    2 days in Chicago


    • A tour of Chicago’s old time gangsters – gangwars, black mail, & the theatre where John Dillenger was shot. The people loved him so much that women dipped their scarves in his blood just for a momento.
    • Visiting ‘Oz Park ‘ & reading in the Emerald city (gardens)
    • Selfies at ‘the Bean’, Anish Kapoors’s addition to the city.
    • Feeling like a dinosaur in the fern stricken botanical gardens. 
    • A real Chicago deep dish pizza.
    • Seeing only 1 animal at the free zoo. Presumably the other animals were clever enough to steer clear of the heat… especially the polar bears.
    • Being inspired by social reform at the Jane Addams museum, the first American woman to win the Noble Peace prize & a massive lezzer.
    • Contemplating several quilts representing people killed by Chicago police.
    • Having dinner & a beer at ‘Revolution Brewing’.
    • Discovering the existence of an axe throwing range too late.
    • Staying with, & being spoiled by, Erica & Paul (& feline campanion, Alex)

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          Farm life

          • Catching my first runaway chicken.
          • Catching the same chicken 3 more times & developing an odd sense of pride & irritation each time i see her.
          • Imagining the great chicken escape to involve climbing, jumping & catapulting over the electric fence, only to discover her ungracefully shuffling under the fence.
          • Getting shocked by the fence.
          • Developing a welly boot hurdle tactic to avoid future shocks from the fence.
          • Fertilising the plants with a fish gut mixture that looks like, but certainly does not smell like, milky coffee. Wearing a ghostbuster-esqe plastic backpack & spraying it on whilst dancing to Fatboy Slim.
          • Hunting for fat grub-like potato bugs & putting them in a bucket to feed to the chickens.
          • Feeding compost to the pigs & watching them fight for the last banana skin.
          • Discovering barn cat living in the hay bales.
          • Showering outdoors with a view of the sky.
          • Driving around in a golf cart.
          • Planting, weeding & harvesting.
          • Riding the transplanter.
          • Learning about cover crops.
          • Celebrating Summer Solstice with the farm fam & other Wwoofers.
          • Trying a ‘Smore’ for the 1st time.
          • Re-reading Harry Potter & hanging out in the garage a lot.
          • Learning what a combine harvester actually is.
          • Coyote pups out back.
          • Celebrating 4th July, in America,  with Americans! 
          • Seeing Lake Michigan for the 1st time after sneaking through a state park at night.
          • Swimming in the Lake.
          • Driving a speedboat!
          • Trampolining.
          • Drinking local craft beers.
          • Climbing Sleeping Bear sand dunes.
          • Skipping stones.
          • Camping trip at Sleeping Bear. 
          • Compost toilet…

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            A change of direction

            Day 22 – to Kent City,  MI (50 miles)

            I found ‘Earthkeeper Farm’, an organic farm looking for helpers on workaway.org & wwoof.org – sites where you can find room & board in exchange for work. It’s 50 miles backwards & I’m heading there today. Goodbyes are always hard so I won’t mention those – it’s my first ride alone but the day is sunny, the trails are clear & I feel on the right path. There is a rainbow in the direction of Earthkeeper Farm as I make my approach. 

            I plan to stay for 2 weeks,  I end up staying for 3.