THE PEDALING ASTRONOMER PROJECT
Sponsor the Project
April 4, 2016:
In addition to serving as editor for Astronomy Technology Today, I’ve worked for years as a writer of the least-glamorous journeyman sort, one of the faceless ghostwriters who compose the fluff that clutters the Internet. This? After thousands of blog entries, this is the first I’ve written knowing I’d be posting it under my name, which was more intimidating than I imagined.
I’m preparing to spend the bulk of 18 months traveling solo by bicycle. It’s something I do most days, but most days the ride brings me back to the comforts and conveniences of home. 25 miles out, 25 back – simple, safe, gratifying.
I live near a lake and use most rides to explore the myriad back-roads, streets and lanes that trace its banks. I’ve made some overnight journeys to other lakes on the bike, but for no more than a few nights and seldom much more than a hundred miles, and then, again, pedaled back home.
In early May, I’ll do something new. I’ll get on the bike, pedal north, and just keep going. And that presents logistical challenges, which I’ll address here in the remaining weeks before I leave.
I’m not a strong rider – hardly an athlete, at best average as habitual riders go. 50 miles per day seems my sustainable limit, despite having pedaled that far more days than not for long enough to be stronger.
I ride a cargo bike (pictured below), because it is inherently stable, as well as capable of carrying the 85-plus pounds of supplies and gear I’ll need on the long journey. The bike itself is heavier than most, and I load its cases and deck with 85 pounds for my daily rides, but I doubt I could do much more than 50 miles, day after day, even if pedaling one of the high-tech, ultra-light road bikes that so often pass me by.
But 50 miles per day, 250 per week, 1000 per month, month after month, is enough to carry me, plus a lot of great camping, photography, mobile-tech and astronomical gear, quite far.
And I can hardly wait.
The Pedaling Astronomer Project uses a cargo bike by Surly called the Big Dummy (”Surly” is the brand name, “Big Dummy” is the model name). In deference to the youth the project serves, we rechristened it simply “The Big.” The Big is shown here with the seat replaced by a telescope mount carrying a solar telescope, in preparation for viewing the Sun. When traveling, the Big’s custom cargo cases carry two such mounts and two telescopes, plus related astro gear and mobile tech.