Cycle America 2000
August 20, 2000

Santa Cruz

Mount Rainier, MD

Washington DC


Next Event: Santa Cruz NBG Fest
On what ended up being a rare beautiful from sun up to sun down August day in Washington DC, around a thousand cyclists found their way to either our rally in DC, to our festival in Mount Rainier or both by the time it was all said and done. The morning began with gusto as world TransAm hi-wheeler champ Steve Stevens blew the cavalry charge that symbolically sent hundreds of cyclists from five different staging areas to the downtown Washington DC Capital. The largest group left from the Mount Rainier Nature Rec center where the night before a small number of cyclists camped and probably twenty people enjoyed bike movies and the interviews of several of our TransAm cyclists, Monty Clish and Bill Tucker (Seattle to DC) and Dale Lally (Miami to DC).

Arriving at the Festival site on the awesome tandem trike that College Park Bikes had generously loaned me for my stay in Mount Rainier (at Mayor Fred Sissine's house) and for this event, we found Mike Lawson and his crew of city workers busily getting the stage and tents and displays, including the NBG storyboard that Gayle Michael had built for us, etc, set up for our festival. I also found longtime NBG advocate Lindsey Hackman. Lindsey and I had never met before and during the two + years that we had been corresponding as she helped from the DC area where she lives, we had gotten to know each other somewhat. I had even given her some coaching when she did her own TransAm during the summer of '98. As such I made her my stoker for our ride to downtown DC.

To digress for a moment, it needs to be noted that Mount Rainier is positioned at the confluence of three of possibly the most beautiful bike greenways I have ever ridden, the Northeast, Northwest and Sligo Branch Trails. While at Mayor Fred's I got to meet Morris Warren, the man largely responsible for many of the tree and green enshrouded car-free pathways that this area is blessed with! And I got to enjoy them on one absolutely beautiful machine, a Hase Kettwiesel trike pulling a Hase Lepus foldable trike.

On Wednesday when I arrived, I had brought this tandem back to Mayor Fred's beautiful Victorian house from Larry Black's (this guy is truly Mr. Bicycle DC. A legend in the area, the Spokes magazine article that he gave me about our rally also had a feature in it about him) shop, College Park Bikes, located right next to the University of Maryland campus, with ex-Mount Rainier councilwoman Michele Sust. The tree lined streets of Mount Rainier also found me joined on them with many many kids and adults from the local area. What a complete and total blast. I want one or both of these trikes. THX so much Larry Black!

On the five mile route engineered by Car Free Mount Rainier Mayor Fred and Bicycle Space owner Phil Koopman, children (one as young as six) joined seniors (see pic), one with a festive NBG, NBG, NBG hat, Ruth Maki, and another whose bike read 'Seniors for NBG', and human powered vehicles and other recumbents and three speeds and ten speeds and racing bikes and clunkers from far and near as we formed one long continuous string of happy bike riders. In festive fashion, we honked our horns, rang our bells and called out to all those who watched us from their still sleepy Sunday morning doorsteps to join us.

Led by Branch trail powerhouse, Steve Mckinley-Ward, and with the rear held up by former world class bike racer Otis Hayward, we made our way to the Capital easily and joyously. Once there we found our way on to the route that Col. Dan had worked up for us on the downtown streets where we were met by probably over a hundred other bike riders. We regrouped at Independence Square where one head count of cyclists present was set at 230 people. From there, we biked back to the top of Capital Hill and it is a hill -- not steep but with enough rise over run to string all of us out just a little bit.

Our return found the publicist that Hampton Roads Transit had loaned us for the day, Joanna Beeman, busily choreographing the TV news cameras that were present. She arranged interviews with LA to DC TransAmers Al Ramos and Mauny Murray, (pictured with NM to DC Joe Richey at right) she made sure that radio personality Renate Dallas (see pic), and the Connecticut girl twins told the media why they had ridden with us and Joanna also made sure that they had an audience with Steve Stevens and myself.

From there maybe 50 of us biked down to the west steps of the Capital, which look out to the mall and the Washington Monument where the Bike Aid TransAm group had already assembled. There I gave them a 10 minute talk, the subject of which was "Leading by Example". I exhorted the young riders present, 50 in all, to use the achievement they had had of biking across America to inspire others to use their own bodies to move themselves about by staying as Car Free as they could.

When I was finished, we rode back down to the bottom of the hill where we regrouped once again with the rest of our NBG riders where we found the brothers Max and Mark Chen who kept their own website as they rode here from Portland, OR. When Steve Stevens sounded his horn, once again we were off. His small horn, which he wore like a wine flask, an antique made in the late 1800's, was incredibly loud. It added to the excitement we felt coming in and now as we headed back to Mount Rainier.

On the return route, Brian Robinson, our Takoma Park route master, pulled up the rear and used a whistle to let us know if those at the end had been delayed by a stop light or traffic. There were no flats or mechanical breakdowns coming or going - yey.

On our return trip, DC was now awake as we encouraged onlookers that all seemed happy to see us to come to Mount Rainier for the party they were throwing for us. And wow what a grand party it was. After regrouping on the edge of town before we made our grand entrance, we all rode in as one unit. Steve Stevens once again heralded our presence as he dwarfed us with his sky high bike and the revelry call he blew to make sure everyone knew we were there.

We arrived to the fresh orange juice that Michael Karpman of the Glut Food Coop (btw: Michael, a pioneer in the Car Free art form, he raised his kids without a vehicle and could be seen taking them everywhere in his Canondale bugger, drives a car now.
And yet, he was so inspired by our event that he told me he will ride across the US when I do it again. He made this pronouncement after he discovered what his recumbent riding business partner, Chris Doyle, has known all along when he rode my trike, that one can be comfortable on a bike!) was busily preparing. He cut and then squeezed case after case of fresh oranges. As the heat grew and the need for liquids increased, the Grainaissance amazake drink arrived to supplement one very busy Michael's juice offerings. People were standing 5 and 6 deep in line when our Odwalla juice delivery then arrived. They had had had a flat tire on the way and it got here just as our amazake and poor Michael's arm were just about ready to give out.

While all the while both Peter Koskinen of Softride and Phil Koopman of City Bikes fixed bike after bike for the local kids and band after band blasted their high voltage tunes from the stage that that Michael Lawson had arranged for us. High atop it's roof was our banner which reads; "National Bicycle Greenway, the multi-use recreation and transportation bicycle highway". The Bilenky Cycle Works Band, of which the lead singer Janet Bilenky and her daughter, Ruchama, the bass player, were dressed in beautiful period wear that set them apart from everyone present, waited patiently as the stage stayed busy with music and speakers. Our TransAm riders came before the F e s t i v a l crowd for their important introductions and a few of the brief interviews that I hosted.

We were so busy having fun that we didn't realize that our bicycle acrobats had not arrived until it was time for them to come on for their first show. As it finally turned out, Perfection on Wheels went to the wrong city somewhere two hours away in Maryland. To make matters worse, Dennis Langlasis's (their manager) cell phone stopped working so they couldn't access him for the proper location and when they many hours later figured it all out, his team with their ramp and truck and bikes, then got a flat tire.
Many of Mount Rainier's city leaders are hailing this as the best event that their city has ever known.
I had a lot of fun, especially on the ride, and meeting
and talking with other cyclists.
      Stephen Bach
Thank you for bringing the NBG vision and "west coast enthusiasm" out our way for a high energy event.
      Mayor Fred Sissine
This left it all up to the Bilenky Cycle Works Band and then the Ballroom Dance Co (BDC) (besides the stage and the bands, Michael even got his beautiful wife Amy, a professional dancer herself, to interest BDC in our show) to carry the rest of the evening. And carry it they did. When Janet Bilenky finally came on with her husband Steve on guitar, their daughter on bass and their drummer, Michael John Smith, a whole new energy seemed to be coming from the stage. Their sounds were solid, practiced and pure. We watched and listened as these pros ran through their highly polished repertoire of tunes as one song flowed seamlessly into the next.                                                                    **What the other bands said**
The rock and roll they played was so consistent that professional dancers from Roy Bugnusen's Ballroom Dance Company even danced to many of their tunes. TransAm vet Monty Clish (a very good dancer himself) and I were both flattered that they even worked a lot of their steps with us.

This set the stage for the swing lesson that Roy Bugnusen and Gina Anderson gave before they then turned their swing CD's and tapes over to the sound crew that gave the whole day the volume it had needed. Dancers filled the streets. And finally as the day began to end, I danced feeling both happy and sad. I had wanted the event to be better for all who had come so far to be a part of it (even though everyone told me how good of a time they had had) and for all off those who worked so incredibly hard to make it real. While at the same time I knew I had to accept less than perfect and was pleased that my very long campaign had finally born fruit. I took comfort in the knowing that we had taken the hardest step in insuring that the many many years ahead will bring an annual party that will only grow in size, stature and power. We have begun!!

The Day in Photos

Note: As a postrcript In keeping with the awareness that every adversity is the seed to an equal or better opportunity, Dennis Langlais of Perfection on Wheels has promised to pull out all the stops for NBG Fest. He said he also is going to promote the National Bicycle Greenway at their web site ( and all of the many hundreds of shows they do at the grade school level all around the country.

Original Images and Sounds are Copyright © 2001 National Bicycle Greenway. All Rights Reserved.