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Gary’s Bio

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Astronomer?

This website bills me as the Pedaling Astronomer, but I’m not an astronomer. My formal training is in economics, law and education, not astronomy. What I am is an über amateur astronomy enthusiast. But the Pedaling Über Amateur Astronomy Enthusiast Project is too much the mouthful, so Pedaling Astronomer Project it is.

If I’m expert in anything relating to astronomy, it’s only in the industry that provides the tools of amateur astronomers. When asked to give presentations to astronomical gatherings, it is the industry I cover, not the science.

I’ve served as managing editor of Astronomy Technology Today since 2006. It’s the only magazine, of which I’m aware, devoted solely to celebrating the tools of amateur astronomy. Other publications cover the science and cover it well. Yet others focus on the people of amateur astronomy and do them more than justice. ATT covers telescopes.

Astronomy has fascinated me since childhood, but I did not commit to it until midway through life. Even then, it did not happen at once. Like a black hole at the edge of the cosmos, the attraction was subtle, yet irresistible.

Ah, but telescopes!

What a marvelous subject! Telescopes reveal a universe that is at once humbling in scale and inspiring in grandeur. Indeed, they inspired me, then a middle-aged lawyer, to study math, physics and education – even art. Imagine what they can awaken in the far-more-impressionable minds of youth. Just one glimpse through a telescope is enough for some. Others need many, as did I. The Pedaling Astronomer Project will offer as many such glimpses to as many people as possible.

I find even more joy in sharing views through telescopes than in looking through them myself. I hope the Pedaling Astronomer Project inspires others to carry their telescopes wherever people gather outdoors, so they too may know the fulfillment of delivering breathless wonder.

But delivering it by bicycle? There may be magic in that!

I pedal.

I’m not one of the spandex-wrapped folks you see speeding by on svelte road bikes. Although I admire their dedication, athleticism and sleek forms, I’ll never keep up with them. But I am a guy who journeys far by bicycle. I do pedal – a lot!

Traveling by bike is never tedious – it’s no more work than is astronomy. And just as telescopes reveal hidden wonders of the night (and day) skies, my bicycle delivers astonishing scenes I’d miss at highway speeds, ensconced in a steel-and-glass cocoon.

When I first encountered a young cyclist traveling cross-country, I asked why anyone would do such a thing. He gave three answers:

1. “Bicycles equal freedom. They carry you places automobiles can’t. They reward traveling light, liberating you from the clutter we stuff into cars.”

2. “You experience things from the seat of a bike that you don’t behind the wheel of a car. Small things. Big things. Important things. You experience details that blur at automobile speeds. You’re in the open, more engaged with your surroundings.”

3. “And you stopped to talk. How cool is that? You wouldn’t have otherwise, would you? People are friendlier to folks on bikes. With the least encouragement, they smile, they wave, they share.”

I resolved there and then to see for myself. Weeks later, I had stopped on a highway shoulder to answer a phone call during one of my first long rides. Minutes into the call, a driver paused to offer help. Moments after she drove away, a second stopped.

It’s true, people are nicer to folks on bikes. Trips to work or to the store, once negotiated by car amid angry traffic and snarled parking lots, are now excuses for delightful cycling adventures, and refreshing exercise, to boot. Given the option of cycling, why drive?

Don’t tell me, show me!

It’s fine to speak or write of these things; it’s much more to show them. I know this, because when it was another on a bike who spoke of them to me, it was only because his words confirmed what his actions had just demonstrated, that I felt the truth of it all so completely. I’ve journeyed by bicycle almost daily since and hope to until my final day.

And that is what we designed the Pedaling Astronomer Project to do: To show through deeds that of which words can only hint. To paraphrase someone wiser than I, the project’s goal is not to invoke wonder at the sky above. That wonder has always been there – it always will. Our task is merely to harness that wonder – to help guide it someplace special. Even if by bicycle.

Odds are, sometime in the next few years, I’ll pedal a road near you, hauling such portable telescopes, I can carry the competent marvels thousands of miles by bicycle. With them, I hope you and I share life-affirming views of the heavens, just as I hope to demonstrate for you that all journeys can be life-renewing … when enjoyed at the more human pace of a bicycle.

Until that happy day, clear skies and smooth roads, friend.

Gary

Undertakings like the Pedaling Astronomer Project do not happen without a lot of people working toward a common goal. For every hour I pedal, others work many hours seeing to the myriad details required of success. The project is a collaboration of family and friends, of which I am just one, but because I’m the one assigned to be the face of the project, it is my bio that appears here.

         © The Pedaling Astronomer Project, Inc. 2016

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