At the end of August 2018 I built a Tall Bike and cycled it 250km from Copenhagen to Växjö, to start my studies.
Here’s a spoken word-esque account.
Bike touring by yourself on a tall bike (with no spare parts and minimal tools) is two things:
1. Astoundingly beautiful.
2. Existentially terrifying.
I saw the tops of trees flickering copper, gold and crimson silver in the sun and happened upon a goth’s picnic on some forest roadside. They looked embarrassed for me, having heard me singing moments before.
There was tarmac melted into long cracks in the road slick-shining in the rain like a giant snail’s footstep. In other places the tarmac is just cracked… trailing crows feet into the undergrowth. Little rock-walled channels opened up on either side of the path, with wet surfaces shimmering, reflecting the white sky so as to look like a fresh frost.
A few days later there were leaves landed cup-side up, filled with rain- like little portals through the video game’s map. Sometimes looked like glass, deserving a cautionary swerve.
I slinked past Redneck (Räggare?) hideaways full of muscle cars adorned in Swedish flags. The road within a radius is scarred with snaking tyre tracks.
Lakes and Bridges. Lakes and Bridges.
Patches of desolation appeared from the forest where the cutters and hackers had been. There were long legged hunting perches growing from the sawdust, marking the area with blood for the crime of a mammal placing paw or hoof on scorched earth.
Elsewhere in the dusk I saw the forest pumping steam into the wound where an electric highway tore the growth asunder, pylons eaten up by the mist. I experienced with horror the sure footed terrain give way to sand and gravel! Cycling became more akin to sailing.
Unopenable gates, in the middle of the path. The recommended route became a grassy fence-laden forest scuttle where I had to wrestle my machine through forest edge and deep moss. Once or twice the path was spray-painted “Privat”, but I either back 10km or go through. Houses on the lane-side became hostile blots, where I wait to hear shouting or gun shots.
I heard creatures that sounded like a cross between a boar and bird, fighting in the forest. Felt the worry as the dark crept in:
I’m far away from anything and the rain starts to fall and I can’t be sure what will be dry in the morning, or if I’ll sleep at all. The camping mat went flat and the cold ate my back. Only stubbornness preserves slumber.
I cycled the main road and turned every breath into lazer focus, to hold the straight path of the narrow soft shoulder. Wincing, biting down, “here comes a big one”, when the next double loaded truck hurtles past.
I decided at some point to take the forest path between Ljungby and Växjö. ‘Bout as treacherous as expected, but given a crank arm fell off roughly at the time in a parallel bubble universe where I was still stuck on the highway, cursing the windstones of grit-crusted mudflaps, I probably made the right choice.
Panic, jump, panic, rain, rain, rain, find your fingers, fixed.
A deer stared me down from the middle of the road. I didn’t stop but she silently waited.
I watched an old man fall on the roadside and tried to get him help.
Of the two town’s I stopped in, the first person I met described the places as both “Hell” and “Forsaken”, respectively.
Sometimes it was as though the rapture had come, or I was in a Resident Evil game before the dead body assets and flavour text were added.
I tried my super basic Swedish in the small towns on the way. Now I’m really here. And it’s only just beginning.
But in Alvesta I discovered there are Öresundståg trains that go to Copenhagen central! They might even go to Växjö! Flamingo can potentially be transported by train, the tall bike gang can expect a reunion!
The last day I cycled 70k. Crossed a bridge that said I should do so at my own risk.
I can see why the Nords settled Canada. It was all like a mini experience of BC and Alberta. Even some of the special smells were there. The landscape flowed easily between mimicking North American pine, to lazy Southern willow trees, a-la-The Princess and the Frog.
Along the way I had a lot of time to think and pass the time.
Sometimes I would count the lines on the roadside until 500, then say that the length of the black space between them is a meter. If the line is a meter, double it, tada! I just did a kilometer! … They were definitely longer so it was a pleasant surprise to find I had gone further than surmised.
A strange, amazing, tasking trip:
– Astoundingly Beautiful.
– Existentially Terrifying.
I thought a lot about people, perhaps in the way the hungry think about food. I thought a fair bit about an old flame, rekindled, softly smouldering. I quietly hoped the spark would take… I didn’t know if that was okay.
“Radical independence from all people! Non-entanglement is a virtue!”
I should be thinking about — er, science! Yeah! Science is how I shall temper the indignities of the soul! Science and brogues and mid-life crisis woes!
But I eventually concluded, it’s okay. I realised it was healthy when I found myself longing, in equal and different measure, after company with Christoph and K-dog and Kasper.
I’m a feeble squishy thing at the root of it all, and I shan’t apologise for valuing connection.
I’m a squish. A squish that can squish back, of course. But a squish nonetheless.
Written by: Joshua/Evelyn Carr
The text was taken from here: https://medium.com/@Joshuacarr/tall-bike-tour-94285acd8620
If you’d like to hear more about the construction and philosophy of tall bikes check out Josh/Evelyn’s post on Treadbikely.