The Acoustic Bicycle Tour is an ongoing performance journey where I travel solely on bicycle, presenting solo concerts and playing with ensembles of area musicians. I see the entire trip as a kind of composition. Like all my music, it looks to combine the predetermined, indeterminate, improvised, intuitive and structured into an organic whole. The endeavor is an act of composition, a performance art piece, a philosophical statement, a celebration of musical community, and an exercise in extreme physicality. For me, there are clear analogies between choosing to travel by bike and choosing to pursue a career in creative music: the trip may be slower and more arduous, but it is ultimately more rewarding in its acoustic pleasures and unexpected delights.
Finished. It feels good to be done. As the elation and adrenaline from the tour begins to wear off, I recognize how wholly exhausted I am. Bone weary is a cliche I’ve used before, but I can really feel the tiredness deep in my tissues, my joints, my mind.
Both music and biking made one’s perception of time particularly malleable; sometimes minutes stretch into near eternities, other times hours pass in a seeming breath. This has felt especially acute over these final few days.
I’m still living inside some of the music from the weekend.
Tonight is my final night camping out and probably the last shot of much natural beauty before I enter the SoCal LA-San Diego megalopolis that will cover the rest of the trip. I got my biking done early so I’m treating myself to some time at the beach.
One week left to go. A couple of long, quiet days riding through the hills and valleys, farmlands and ranchlands, that are just inland from the coast. Strawberry farms so huge you can taste the sickly sweet smell in the back of your throat.
The magical rides tend to happen in the early morning. I left the campground at 6:30am, and had several hours almost to myself on the road through Big Sur’s southern coast. Tendrils of light from the rising sun making streaks through the light fog, cliffs dropping into the ocean, hard climbs on the yo-yoing road made worth it by the beauty at each turn.
After a day and a half of biking through the Silicon Valley suburbs, I was ready to escape back to some more outdoorsy environs. By the last half of the day today I got my wish, climbing up Highway 1’s zigzagging path through Big Sur.
I’m coming to the end of my mid-tour Bay Area respite, so time to jump back on both my horses – the diary and the bike. Yesterday was my one full day off for the whole five week experience with no gig and no serious riding, and it was just delicious doing nothing.
Last night in Arcata was the first gig that felt deeply affected by the biking. In Vancouver, I had just landed, so it was still theoretical (except for the crash, of course). It was long rides to Seattle and Portland, but nothing like what I covered over the past five days, and I gave myself a day and a half of recovery time before each of those gigs.
One kind of fast I forgot to mention yesterday. (And not my speed of travel; I’m happily mosying along at 11 or 12 mph.) When on bike, you can’t listen to recorded music – one’s ears are the early warning sign for oncoming vehicles, and you learn to differentiate the size by the sound they make.
Not sure how much journal time I’ll get in the next few days, in the midst of some serious daily mileage. (I was perhaps a tad ambitious in my planned itinerary.) After an early morning start from the campground, I just inhaled a huge breakfast: veggie-stuffed omelette with hash browns, raisin toast, and a side of boar sausage.
I’m rarely biking at night on this trip, only on the way back to wherever I’m staying after gigs. But nighttime rides can be special – last night it was just about a full moon as I wound my way through deserted residential streets in Portland, with the downtown skyline off to my right.
Yesterday began very nicely, with a quiet trip south through Washington State. Perhaps not the spectacular coastline I’ll get later on, but nice wide county highways zigzagging I-5, with views of the mountains or lined by the trees, a soft wind at my back.
Biking south out of Seattle on a clear day, Mt. Rainier looms like a totem, beckoning you forward from your left up ahead. You catch glimpses of it as you bike through the strip malls, suburbs, and industrial zones that, like most American cities, ring Seattle.
My cousin Piper and his son Theo came across the bay from Port Townsend to meet up with me in Bellingham, and we camped out in a friend’s backyard. So great to see them, and they joined me for the first twenty miles of my ride today (a beautiful run through some lush forest, almost primordial with the ferns and moss and trees).
I just crossed the border from Canada to the US, eating a fish taco at a Mexican restaurant with a view of the harbor and the Peace Arch (shout out to the great Paul Robeson). At first, a Mexican restaurant felt incongruous, but once I thought about it, I realized it was the perfect meal for this first real day on the road.
I’m in a “European-style” cafe with a slightly confused identity – the vibe is part Italian coffee bar, part British tea house, maybe some Vienna thrown in, with a French name and a menu in English and Chinese. Welcome to modern Canada.
So today got…interesting. Everything was going so smoothly. All the things I was worried about – getting up at 3am and driving to Newark before dawn, getting the giant box from the parking lot and checked in, finding a big taxi in Vancouver to get me to the bike shop, getting my bike rebuilt – went without a hitch.
An early morning at the airport’s theme park replication of a Jersey diner, as I wait for my flight to Canada. My bicycle, boxed up by the fine folks at the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop (a fitting name to support a tour of that devil’s music), currently being loaded into the cargo bin of the airplane.
I’m writing this at dawn from a campground named Hopeville, as the fog rolls off the pond and the cicadas’ nighttime drone becomes dotted with morning birdsongs. Seems like as auspicious a beginning as any. In two days I turn thirty-nine, and in eight days I begin my Acoustic Bicycle Tour – my attempt to turn a five-week, eighteen hundred mile bicycle ride into a kind of musical composition.
Sunset solo at Wreck Beach, Vancouver, BC
Duo with Francois Houle (clarinet). The Apartment, 119B E Pender St, Vancouver, BC.
Trio with Lisa Cay Miller (piano) and Skye Brooks (drums). China Cloud, 524 Main St, Vancouver, BC.
Quartet with Cuong Vu (trumpet), Carmen Rothwell (bass), and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). The Royal Room, 5000 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA.
Quartet with Gregg Moore (tuba), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Jonathan Kipp (percussion). Arcata, CA. House concert, rsvp required.
OrcheSperry, 14-piece ensemble led by Phillip Greenlief (tenor saxophone). Berkeley Arts, 2133 University Ave, Berkeley, CA. Including Ela Polak (violin), Shanna Sordahl (cello), Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), John Shiurba (guitar), Pete Fitzpatrick (guitar), Rachel Condry (clarinet), Cory Wright (bass clarinet), Jon Raskin (baritone saxophone), Clifford Childers (trombone), Gino Robair (percussion), and Tim Perkis (electronics). Also featuring the Goggle Saxophone Quartet (Chris Jonas, Randy McKean, Cory Wright, Dan Plonsey).
Quartet with James Fei (saxophone), Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), and Jordan Glenn (drums), performing the ‘70s quartet music of Anthony Braxton. Duende, 468 19th St, Oakland, CA.
1pm afternoon duo with Ben Goldberg (clarinet). Lytton Plaza, corner of University Avenue and Emerson Street, Palo Alto, CA.
Santa Barbara, CA
Trio with Vinny Golia (winds) and Jim Connolly (bass), Piano Kitchen, 430 Rose Ave, Santa Barbara CA.
Los Angeles, CA
Anthony Braxton Trio, with Braxton (saxophones, electronics) and Kyoko Kitamura (voice). Angel City Jazz Festival, Zipper Hall, 200 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA.
Los Angeles, CA
7-tette with Nicole Mitchell (flute), Michael Dessen (trombone), Jeff Gauthier (violin), Jeff Parker (guitar), Mark Dresser (bass), and Alex Cline (drums). Angel City Jazz Festival, Barnsdall Art Park Gallery Theater, 4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Mission Viejo, CA
Duo with Mark Dresser (bass). Saddleback College, 28000 Marguerite Pkwy, Mission Viejo, CA.
San Diego, CA
Sunset solo at Border Field State Park, San Diego, CA.