Booked

So I booked it out of Atlanta yesterday for the pilot test of Greyhound with my folding bike. It was so successful, even in the almost-nonstop pouring rain (which, frankly, the ducks loved), that I just booked the first leg of my cross-country experiential research trip for my new book, leaving Atlanta on March 20th.

Bringing the bike was a breeze, and having it at my destination was a joy.

I allowed myself to explore where my heart desired — and that, as usual, centered art, art, and more art. I confirmed for myself that when I travel to cities and farms across the USA, I’ll surely search out contextual updates on history and sustainable attributes of architecture. I’ll appreciate the infrastructure, and it will certainly dictate where I end up exploring. But the art? My God, it makes my soul sing. I don’t even need to search that out. It finds me.

Speaking of soul and rock ‘n roll, I couldn’t have chosen a better place for my pilot-test than two hours away from my home to Macon, Georgia, birth place of Little Richard, Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers and more.

I rode through Downtown , Uptown, Mercer University, the Rose Hill Cemetery, and a bit on the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail. I rode past the Hay House, the Cannonball House, and the 1842 Inn (where I stayed in my early 20’s a few years before hubby and I moved to Atlanta; I also came to Macon several times after the older of my two daughters was born when I was hired to write an empowering recruitment package for Macon’s Wesleyan College, the first college in the USA that was allowed to award college degrees to women).

If you’re looking for a real experience regarding the heart, hope and historic horror of the South (and a microcosm of our country as a whole), Macon is a great choice. If you wanna knock it out of the park, come when the cherry blossoms are blooming in March.

I met nice people in and around both the Atlanta and Macon bus terminals (and shared a lot of oranges — I bring a bag when I travel since I’ve discovered it’s a great way to connect with folks). After a few hours of putzing around and playing in public on my bike in Macon, I ate at a build-your-own-pizza place when I discovered the coffee art gallery to which I wanted to go (and which had the only bike rack I found in the city right in front of it) was closed for good (as were, unfortunately many downtown businesses, as they are in other towns and cities across the USA right now).

Enjoy my TikTok, which features the perfect Otis Redding song for this fun day:

I would have gone inside the Otis Redding Museum and the Tubman Museum (the largest African American museum in the USA) had there been bike racks. I did enjoy the Visitor’s Center’s ten-minute movie about Macon but had to bring my bike inside because, again, no bike racks. I wanted to go to the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park, which features ceremonial, religious and burial mounds of the native tribes of this land (and was recently spotlights in the New York Times list of 521 places to visit), but my short time on the trail that would have taken me there was uncomfortable as a woman alone so I stopped. (I trust the journey, and that includes trusting my instincts.)

(Idea: You know what we could use in this country? Not just greenways, but pinkways — where women*, who make or influence 80% of all consumer purchase decisions and can actually save cities and maybe even the world, are truly safe and supported when they travel at the speed of bike. Let’s make sure currently-isolated paths in woods have easy access to local businesses serving as “eyes on the trail” and support services as well as frequent escape routes. I shouldn’t need a male chaperone to ride a bike in the United States. Just a thought lol.)

I have more thoughts on the existing bike infrastructure but, in all honesty, I know from experience that no one really cares about my lived and learned rubber-hits-the-road reality so I’ll keep it to myself. To those riding their bikes every day, it’s nothing new. I know folks are working hard and every little step forward is a milestone, so bravo. Those in charge of cities who don’t ride their bikes will never understand until they or a loved one tries it. No words of mine will change that. Five minutes on a bike will (not twenty years in meetings). That’s a fact. My new book-in-progress therefore ain’t gonna attempt to change minds (but this one does).

I reached out to both Bike Walk Macon and the brilliant Charise Stephens of the U Create Macon youth bike program. We didn’t get to cross paths yesterday but I did hear from Rachel Umana at Bike Walk Macon, and Charise and I hope to catch up via phone this week. If interested, here’s a profile I wrote about Charise and her astounding work that you may enjoy.

I will try to reach out to bike advocacy groups and bike shops, especially those going the extra mile (so to speak) to be inclusive, when I travel from coast-to-coast just to shine a little extra light on them. It’s all uphill out there, team, and these folks are pedaling their hearts out. Do everything within your power and wallet to support them.

And so, tired and a bit sore this morning from lugging my folding bike in a canvas bag in and out of the bus terminal (and having learned a few more lessons about what works and what doesn’t in my packing strategy), I booked the first leg of my actual Round America with a Duck journey (see the full route here). It’s on Greyhound-affiliated FlixBus, which not only had the lowest price but lo and behold, has a whole page letting me know I’m welcome as a person traveling at a local pace where I can look humanity in the face. Check it out!

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