Welcome to carbonstories.org. On this site you can learn about Michael Johnson-Chase and follow my blogs. With some exceptions, this site follows "theme based" cycling tours focusing on social and climate related issues. Slowed down observations of the world over days, weeks and months at 10 to 15 miles an hour can reveal a depth and quality of understanding about our environment often missed by faster modes of travel.

Blue Ridge, Post 1

Blue Ridge, Days 1-2, Post 1, Meditation and a State of paradox: From time to time I get asked if I get bored cycling long distances. I don't. I've often wondered why this is so, and found myself thinking about the topic yesterday as I started this trip and cycled out of Raleigh. I think there are several reasons. One is that by cycling I am teaching myself to more deeply observe what is in my immediate environment. This takes focus. It's a skill to be a good observer, and it doesn't come without practice. Another reason is meditation. I find long distance cycling very meditative. I am with my own mind for long stretches at a time, and although I rarely transcend my mind enough to sit in that part of me that watches it as an adept meditator might, I am still very aware of the flow of thoughts coming and going. Some are quite uncomfortable, and others quite joyous, and I try to observe them. Sometimes I realize something through the flow and a decision gets made, or an insight occurs. Finally, at the end of a day of cycling, I usually feel a remarkable sense of peace. No doubt it's the increase in endorphin activity, but maybe it's also the result of things seen and thought.

Day 1: Check out my road cycling activity on Garmin Connect

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1792209543

I left Raleigh in the morning after having taken Amtrak from NYC the day before. It took into the afternoon to get out of the research triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. It's a pretty area, but predictably, traffic is intense. I found it challenging to navigate and was pleased when I was finally past most of it by early afternoon. After leaving Chapel Hill (I did ride through the beautiful campus of UNC), I got on the old Greensboro Road. And I was where I wanted to be. I followed this road for a good 25 miles before arriving at my campground for the night in Cane Creek near the town of Snow Camp. The campground is attractive and the weather had cooled off and was sublime. I slept with the fly off my tent under the stars. And it was a good thing, too, for I hadn't slept very well the previous two nights.

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The moon in Raleigh as I got off the train.

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A bike trail in Raleigh. Although not long enough, it sure helped me get out of town.

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I saw this on a signpost for the American Tobacco Bike Trail. 

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And this right underneath, which is my first reference to the State of paradox, North Carolina.

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Interesting name for a tire resale shop.

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In about 10 miles I saw 17 of these. All from a church, or a local sign shop?

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My campground on the first night out.

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My tent on the first night out.

Day 2: Check out my road cycling activity on Garmin Connect.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1793969186

Today I followed more roads with little traffic. Because traffic is sparse in the hill country in central North Carolina, the cycling is very pleasant. It's hilly, pretty and although there is ample evidence of homes tucked away everywhere, there is no glaring poverty (and thankfully, no McMansions). But things always look good in the sunshine. There were no billboards whatsoever, few traffic signs or lights, and hardly any amenities, although every 20 miles or so there was a corner store with a few groceries. But it was hard to find a restaurant. Even so, the biggest surprises of the day were cultural. I stopped for something to drink at a local cornerstore run by a Pakistani man (I think) with a terrific handlebar mustache talking excitedly on the phone in Farsi (I think). Although there were  few customers there, they were all African -American. I didn't think about this much, until I had biked a few miles down the road where I saw this:

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And then, not too far away I saw this:

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To me, this is another version of the State of paradox. I am always astonished that someone in 2017 will brazenly and publicly display a flag that is associated with the intent to enslave a race of humans for the economic gain of another race. It's even more offensive and deeply disturbing to see it displayed alongside an American flag. Yet, thinking about the area I passed through, how can it be that South Asians (perhaps Muslims), African Americans and white southerners who still fly the Confederate flag can all live so close to each other? How does that work? 

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I finally arrived at a humble and comfortable motel in Richfield. Asheville is about 160 miles to the west. Although I'm making it up as I go along, tomorrow I may stop in Lincolnton. If I do, it'll be interesting to find out the origin of that name. 

More to come,

Michael

Blue Ridge, Post 2

I See Change