Someone who has experienced the allure of travelling cannot remain caged at home. Travelling is like intoxication. I have been roaming across the world from one pole to another for the last 22 years. I have visited 54 countries, and gotten two books on travelling out, named “Shongi Cycle and Araddho Prithibi” and “East Africa”. I have also edited two travelogues titled “Bhromoner Kherokhata” and “Experience Bangladesh.”
Humans have been travelling from the primitive ages, on feet, by road, sea or air. Most of such journeys in the past were aimless. In the course of time, human civilization has experienced various dimensions. In place of aimless wandering, people came up with planned travels to know more about the unknown.
One fine morning in 2007, Imran called me and shared his plan about heading for a world tour by cycle, and asked for my advice and support. Rifat also joined him. I took them up to Thailand and provided my support. I acquainted them to the High Commissioner of Bangladesh, and requested him to help them, which he did.
We planned to cycle across the USA in 2007. At last, the plan came to fruition in 2012. We started our journey on June 11 from Seattle, and after travelling through 12 states, we finished our journey on August 4 in Washington DC. We travelled 466 miles in 66 days.
One target of the tour was to take entries of litter, like plastic bottles, cigarette filter, etc on roadsides. A mobile application was developed by the joint efforts of Imran and MIT. The name of the program is Trash Maniac, which is run on Android. USA is one of the countries responsible for climate change as a result of their consumerism and huge amount of waste. So, in the beginning, we decided to explore this first world country. If we could convey this message to the people of USA, then they may realize that these practices cause major negative impacts on the rest of the world as well. The opportunist and selfish nature of some people in the world has created divisions amongst the parts of the world by demarcating them as Europe, Asia, Africa and divisions like rich countries and poor countries. This has created division in identities, and people have started suspecting each other. The average use of plastic in USA is the highest in the world. It requires fuel like gas and coal to be manufactured, and its transportation also needs fuel and water. The more energy is produced, the more carbon dioxide is produced. If the level of carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, it will cause global warming and, as a consequence, it will threaten the existence of the countries in the lower regions of the world.
We roamed around USA in a vehicle named Tandem bicycle. These cycles have been handmade in Oregon, Seattle. It is a custom folding travel bicycle made by Bike Friday. An advantage of this bicycle is that wherever you go, it is possible to dismantle this bicycle, and keep it in a suitcase or a box. However, it is very expensive. The cost of the custom made bicycle starts from $1200. It is a kind of bicycle which can accommodate two or more people at the back, according to preferences. For us it was a matter of pride that we were the first to cross USA in this sort of Tandem bicycle. We got to know about our unprecedented cycling experience from Adventure Cycling Association. They weighed the cycle along with our baggage, and also confirmed that we were the first to cycle across the US with this much weight.
We had to collect maps for crossing USA before starting the trip. Adventure Cycling Association has developed the best map all over USA. As we were going west to east, we collected this map; although, later on, we did not follow this map precisely. Later, we had to collect the local map of every state. We also had cell phones with GPS facility. But the network of our T mobile caused a lot of trouble on the west coast. Very often, we did not receive any data service.
Initially, we used to stay in the national parks, state parks and private camp grounds. Keoa is the biggest camp ground and it has its network all over USA. A man named Dave Drum is the founder of this camp ground. He started this in Billing and Montana in 1962, and with his two partners, he introduced its franchises all over USA in 1963. There are 500 Keoa branches. The biggest one is in Florida and the second biggest is in Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. In Keoa, there are RV side cabins, fresh rooms, toilets and - in some places - swimming pools, too. There is a 10% discount for the members of Keoa.
We started our America tour from Seattle. We reached Seattle after a long plane journey from New York. Saikat, who works at Microsoft, came to Seattle to receive us. It was the month of June, but still quite cold in Seattle. Wearing a warm jacket, watching views of Seattle at night, we reached Saikat’s house, where his wife and beautiful daughter were also waiting for us. They were also newcomers in Seattle. After having a little chat, we finished dinner quickly, and went to bed, as we were very tired that night.
Next morning, we went out to explore the city after breakfast. We went to a shop to buy cycles and the necessary accessories for the tour. That shop was a heavenly place for adventure lovers. A famous shop for adventure gears is REI. It is a well equipped and excellent shop. There were discounts for the members of REI. Everywhere in America, there is a touch of commerciality. Every big store offers membership cards. These stores are like Macy’s, Gap, Costco, Republic etc. We shopped at REI and went to roam around Downtown. There was a huge gathering of tourists.
There are offices of reputed companies in Seattle. Big companies like Boeing, Microsoft Pioneer Square of Downtown and Pike Place are the ones most worth visiting. Besides, the theatre hall, park and museum of the city are quite famous. Seattle is the birth place of rock legend Jimi Hendrix. The area of Seattle is 85.9 square miles. It is a mountainous city on top of seven mountains.
The biggest landmark of Seattle is Century 21. Saikat mentioned that there is Starbucks at Pike Place Market. It started its journey on March 30, 1971, and it has turned into the biggest coffee company in the world, which has coffee shops in 66 countries. In America, there are 13,ooo coffee shops, and in the whole world they have 19,972. It started its journey with three partners—English teacher Jerry Badwin, history teacher Jive Segol and writer Gordon Bower.
Before 1952, Seattle’s name was Dwamps. At present, 75% of Seattle’s residents have home internet. Seattle is an ideal city in the whole of America for walking and cycling. A very big festival of South America is held in Seattle. The name of this festival is Bumper Shot. It has been in practice since 1971, and it is a festival of international art and music.
From 1869 to 1982, this centre was recognized as “Queen City”. The present official name of Seattle is Emerald City. The only one prominent daily here is the Seattle Times. Every year, Seattle International Festival is held here. It started its journey in 1976. We saw most of the joggers jogging in Green Lake and Discovery Park.
Along with Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks, there is also an internet retailer department store, Nordstrom. The political culture of Seattle is quite liberal and progressive in comparison to the other states of USA.
As mentioned earlier, the name of our cycle is Tandem which can accommodate two people at a time. At night, we packed our luggage. We were supposed to start the next morning. For this purpose, we bought some dry foods and dates from an Indian grocery store.
June 11 was the date we started our journey. We had never run a Tandem bicycle before. Imran was on the driver’s seat and I sat behind him. I had to paddle at the same pace as him. I had to stop wherever he wanted to stop .If he sped up, I also would have to speed up, too. I had no liberty and it was not easy to cope with. I also had to depend on him for the rest of the activities, like drinking water, etc. This condition was not very comfortable for me.
Moreover, because of a lack of previous experience with Tandem I was feeling a little shaky too. I was a little heavier then, and weighed about 70kg. We were cycling by the side of the lake. The place was very solitary and beautiful. After crossing the serene lake area, we reached the busy city street and it took a long time for us to find the street that would take us to the highway.
I-90 is quite a large and famous highway. There, we got plenty of space and lakes for cycling, but we had to be careful, as there were big lorries there. It was very difficult to cope with the air force of the big vehicles. Just a little carelessness would cause a fatal accident.