Three more outstanding interviews last week, and then I headed off to a small cottage outside Gananoque to reset and then do some writing.
My first interview last week was with a young man who rides a John Deere bike. Yes, John Deere makes bicycles. I’ve actually interviewed two people who ride this brand, and when I spotted this one, I thought I was going to be greeting the other person.
This young man has done a spectacular job of rebuilding the old frame, which is now more of a cruiser style of bike. But that’s not the most charming aspect of his story. He takes his Doberman, adopted off the streets, with him almost everywhere he rides. I was uncomfortable with this idea until I met the dog.
The dog is “so high energy that walking him is painful; the bike is his speed.” As it turns out, I had trouble keeping up with them. I suggest that perhaps he is not only a high-energy breed, but that he is also carrying tension from his early years, as do most rescued animals. That he chooses to release that energy and tension in exercise is a credit to his master.
Here is a photo of the bike and the dog, who is cleverly shielding his identity.
My next interview was with James Schwartz, of @jamesschwartz and @theurbancountry. He wanted to meet at the bridge that connects Roncesvalles with the Martin Goodman Trail, partly because it connects that part of the city with the downtown core, and partly because of the suffering imposed on that neighbourhood when the Gardiner Expressway went in. We had a great discussion on bike issues and how to get more people to recognize the bike as a valid (and extremely enjoyable) mode of transportation. James is widely travelled, so his opinions are formed on things he has witnessed in other countries. He is also a well-known blogger on the topic and has gained no small respect for his opinions. He and I share a common goal and it was a great pleasure to spend an evening hearing his stories.
Finally, I met with a man who sums up his life this way: “My life has been an investment in doing things rather than in having things.”
Henry Gold has devoted much of his life to getting rugged bikes into third world countries to help kickstart economies and offer independence. His business model originally was pretty simple, but the most unconventional I’ve ever heard. Organize a bike ride that spanned Africa. Cyclists travel from Cairo to Capetown—12,000 KM—in 20 days. Funds raised go directly to purchasing bikes for the local people. Today, there are similar rides on most continents.
How is this a Toronto bike story? Well, consider how a “tiny little company based in Toronto leads cycling tours like no other.” There are literally only a handful of people here in the Toronto office and a few subcontractors in other countries. And while the trips are international, there are always a few Canadians on every one. This is another example of the innovative spirit I have come to admire in Toronto.
Interested in putting this experience on your bucket list? Visit www.tourdafrique.com. If not, Henry has one advocacy objective you might find inspiring. “If we can cycle 12,000 KMs in 20 days, you can cycle for 20 minutes to commute to work.”