Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Poland, Germany, Amsterdam 2005

This bike was built in the early winter and spring months of 2005. I knew that I would be doing some overseas travel that summer so I wanted to take this bike with me and see if it would stand the test. In the past I have taken tallbikes to Poland, Brazil, and New Zealand but never this compact. I feel like I paid my dues and was ready for a more compact tallbike to travel with. Once the bike was planned out and built the first official outing was to ride it to the annual St. Chino Ride that covers about 35-40 miles one way and the only part of the ride I was concerned about was the last hill coming into Stillwater. I had a fear of the bike just coming completely apart on me causing others to crash around me but in the end the welds held strong and it completed its first test and gave me more confidence to bring it overseas three days after Chino.

European Tour
The first leg of the journey took us to some podunk town in Poland. And as I checked in the bike box it was looked at with much suspicion so I had to explain what it was. For simplicity sake I just said it was bike instead of having to describe a tallbike for the people at the check in counter. Cuts down on time when you're trying to get somewhere. When they weighed it on the scales I was so surprised to see it come to 74.5 pounds. I tried really hard at home to guess what should go in the box and what should be carried on the plane so I wouldn't get charged for oversized and overweight luggage. I knew I was fine as far as the dimensions went but the weight was my only concern. So after it passed the weight test I exhaled and had a sigh of relief. We checked it in with absolutely no charge whatsoever.
Right off the bat I knew the wheels that I had chosen for the box were going to be a problem. I threw them on there at the last minute knowing full well I would have problems with them. The bike was finished for a while before the trip but I had to wait for the box to be completed and I just ran out of time. We flew through Canada in route to Krakow, Poland on a series of planes that varied in size and it happened that our last leg from Vienna to Krakow was a very very small plane and I had a thought of my bike being the cause of the plane to crash because of its weight and all. I dismissed the thought.
Sure ‘nough when we arrived at baggage claim I checked the bike box over and the wheels on one side were completely smashed. The box itself was clearly beat up but intact. I waited to open the box later to see how things had held up inside to see if I would need to repair anything. We stayed with some friends in Krakow that helped me get to a Home Depot type place to buy some new wheels for the box and I had a full day to get it fixed before we needed to catch a train the next day. I definitely wanted it to be able to roll smoothly cause carrying it was pretty much out of the question. Carrying it up steps and stuff is one thing. Got the new wheels on but I still didn't like the setup but I couldn't realistically rework it till I got home a month later. It would have to do for the time being.
We set off the next day to where we were meeting up with the No Longer Music crew and we would be joining the tour and my hope was to use the bike to go out and invite people to the shows. That was the whole purpose of dragging it around the tour and so we took a train and then hopped on a bus and it was a challenge to get the bike situated in the storage compartments. Just enough hassle to get you sweating a bit and I realized that I couldn't move quickly with this thing at all. Every time I would try to race either to catch a train or bus my heels would be constantly hitting the box making me walk all goofy. I made mental notes of the things that needed to be changed or adjusted to make it more compatible with moving quickly. When we arrived at the first show a couple of hours before the concert I decided to put it together for the first time and put it work. I lugged it that far, a few thousand miles, so I was excited to get it put together. Nikolas helped me assemble it and when it was all put together I got a sense of accomplishment as I mounted it for the first time in Poland. I took it around the amphitheater where NLM would be playing and went to work with a handful of flyers. I took the bike out into the streets and sidewalks to promote the shows but I found out quickly that chances were the Polish people had never seen a tallbike so there was a lot of shock and starring. I managed to hand out a few hundred flyers and it was time to get back to setup for the show. Success on its maiden voyage in Poland.

The next significant experience with the collapsible was in Poland doing something similar to before. I was out flyering for the upcoming show later that night and I found myself in this sort of hip district with upscale bars and shops. I must of taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up running into a group of Polish guys sitting at this table having beers. I think they all must of been bouncers or body guards based on their stature. I was riding up to them and was quite intimidated by them as they all turned around to look at me and the bike and when I was about ten feet from them one of them shouted to me, "Hey, Go back to Dublin!" I took that as a sign that they didn't want to have much to do with me. It was said in a way that communicated that they wanted me to leave their square. I quickly split. Sometimes I get misunderstood for being for Irish because of my red beard. I rode away and said under my breath I'm from Sweet Home. The NLM crew sure got a kick out of the Go back to Dublin comment and it followed me throughout the tour somehow.

Another memorable moment was in Zamosch, Poland. This is when the bike was officially blessed and rode by a local Priest. His nickname is "Dziki" which translates to "Wild" in Polish. If there were a cool Priest he would definitely meet the criteria. He asked to ride the bike and I didn't see any reason not to let him and then I realized this was a very good thing. The last thing I wanted was to injure clergy but in the end he did fine and enjoyed it. This was another success in my book and I hadn't really thought up to that point about blessing the bike. After that I realized that many people would ride this bike and so therefore it made sense that it be blessed so as to keep the experience safe and fun instead of pain and destruction.
A not so memorable moment happened in the same town when I was riding around passing out flyers to the show. I turned a corner and was headed down a small cobble stone street when I noticed two young little girls watching me come down the street. As I got closer I thought I would just greet them as they probably too young to be interested in a flyer for the show. So I said hi as I slowed down to be careful not to run over them and right as I got a couple feet from them the smallest girl who looked to be all of five years old slung a rock and hit my right in the forehead as she let out a sinister laugh. That really put me in my place I tell you what. I rode away incredibly humbled and embarrassed. Does this kind of stuff happen to other people or just me? Kids these days.

I took the bike to SLOT fest which is an art festival in a small town in Poland. It draws upwards to five thousand people and this was to be our last stop of the tour. I had been to this festival before and actually had brought tallbikes there before and I ended up giving them away so I wouldn't have to lug them back to the States. This time was different because I actually wanted to take the bike home with me and be able to take it to South America. As usual tons of kids wanted to try this thing out so I set up Gilbert to show people how to ride it. I just couldn't watch this cause I knew there would be damage done so that's why I asked Gil to do the dirty work. After several hours of watching people ride around the bike was brought to me with a tacoed front wheel. I was actually surprised that was the only damage done after some 50-75 people rode it. I knew then that my welds were very safe and were going to hold for a lifetime.

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