Joe Cruz in Cuba

Joe’s been on the road again. Who dreams bigger? Who seeks adventure like Joe? Here he is #evergreening Cuba over his holiday break. Text and photos, his.

Clack clatter sliding shush as they get mixed up before the round, or later the slap flourish when you put down a domino especially well played. Sounds from when I was young and sitting across of my father, he’s gone so I’m savoring this moment that we’re laughing and carrying on. Sweat coming off my elbows, bottle of Havana Club passed ‘round again. Dust midday haze heat when we rolled into town, asked after maybe something for lunch, this open sided cafeteria had run out of eggs for the pan con tortilla so we’re guzzling lime sodas instead as a break and regroup. The three guys in their 20’s saw my too long look at the white tiles, big hearts and grins like so many Cubans we’ve met, asked if I wanted to sit and play. When I got shellacked in the first round they didn’t say a thing but when it came back and I won, just raised eyebrows and cheerful teeth whistles. Linger long enough to be grateful and polite, we’ll get back on and pedal through sunshine and suspicions that the ocean is just 10k away.

Cuba of images and glimpse is chipped plaster glorious Spanish moorish buildings as if from a movie set, mazes of music, oceanside fortresses, mid 20th century Detroit curved cars, 2am salsa dancing, mojitos palm trees hand rolled cigars Fidel Castro murals. We find all of that, but riding from end to end east west we also and most of all find Cubans’ eyes glinting with reflection and pride to talk about their home and to open it a little to us.

Our route, a broken meander on the smallest back lanes, cow paths, stony hike-a-bikes, with a dose of wading and lifting sweat skin biting fly swatting. Our light fast drop bar knobby tire bikepacking rigs, January riding in t-shirts and sandals, big mileage days or cross-eyeing steep pitches. Hundreds of kilometers of rattling dirt farm roads, we’ve wild camped and set up our tents on people’s porches and in their yards and on ball fields, had water offered to us from ice filled gas cans strapped to sugar cane harvest machines. That one night 4am wide awake in our sleep sacks in a town gazebo hardly could be happier listening to the karaoke that’d been going on for hours on a Saturday night. We’ve jungle bushwhacked and sand surfed to sleep on the beach and swim in jade water cenotes.

In a month we find no singular place that is Cuba, instead fractal shards where every deeper shape contradicts the emergent ones. We know something of the history of the revolution, Hemingway’s idealized Caribbean paradise displaced, Cold War stasis or crisis communism, and we can see it on the landscape and in the impossibly flattened economy where surgeons make fifty US dollars a month and farmers make twenty five. But then there’s simultaneously something else, a lucidity and humanity in the idea—made explicit in the words of people whose daily rhythms are rural and local but for all that are also globally conscious—the idea that was told to us, we Cubans may be poor but that makes us all in this together, we help each other, no one is better than anyone else. A rancher who shares his homegrown coffee with us says that he wishes Cuba was a little more like the USA, but not too much like it.

It astonishes us every day, we’re breathless in its self aware narrative.

Back home when we were packing our gear and zooming in on maps to link together towns we assertively couldn’t find out anything about, we reveled in the sense of horizon. Our times in Camagüey and Santiago and Viñales and Havana are splendid, but in between is where we found the thick experience of just movement and days. The generosity we meet is visceral, joyful, it’s here you are in a sliver of our lives and we’ll embrace you. And after evenings in people’s homes or in roadside shacks knocking back dubiously cold Cristal beers in the company of so many, the bright smart smile and handshakes and cheek kisses has transformed us into and through friendship. Nuria, after she took us in, insisted and fed us the most elemental delicious dinner, and in the morning as we were leaving she rubbed the skin on her arms, black as coal, and she said my skin is this color and yours is different but we’re family and we can’t forget that. We won’t.

Joe Cruz is a professor of philosophy, an expedition cyclist, and an ambassador for Seven Cycles. Find his other stories and images at joecruz.wordpress.com and follow him on Instagram @joecruzpedaling.

#coast2coast4acause

The bike, we know, can be a powerful tool for change in our world, whether as a vehicle for personal empowerment, as a symbol of work invested, or as a platform for telling an important story.

The Seven-sponsored REAL Ride aims to harness the bike’s power in all of those ways. The REAL Riders will cross the country by bike, but not in the usual way, directly and on paved roads. No, they are more ambitious,

They’ll ride largely off-road, and take a route that spans 5,000 miles. It will be hard, some might think even prohibitively hard, but that is intentional. The ride is about highlighting the difficult path some students face in navigating our educational system, kids who too often drop out rather than finding a way through.

In their own words:

We can make a difference, with your help. The REAL Ride is supporting a life-changing school for highly at-risk students — a school that’s making a profound impact locally and nationally against the drop-out crisis. To make the ride possible for the REAL Riders, we’re hosting a fundraising event for the team on May 6th — and it’s a party you’re not going to want to miss! To buy tickets or make a donation to support the team, check out https://www.biddingforgood.com/RealRiders. See you on May 6th!

#coast2coast4acause

Seven is supporting the REAL Ride with bicycle support as well as a custom Evergreen adventure bike, much like the ones the riders will be on, auctioned at the launch party. See the details here:

 

The REAL Ride Gets Real(er)

The Boston Globe ran a feature on The REAL Ride this week, bringing even more local attention to this ambitious event, which will raise money for school kids who are struggling to stay on track.

Our friend Cris (caricatured at right) told The Globe, “Many people ride across the country on pavement, but we’re going to do it in an alternative way that will challenge ourselves like these students are challenged,” said Rothfuss. “These kids are off-track in the sense that they’ve wandered from a traditional educational path, but they’re making their way to a diploma, and their route is rigorous.”

The REAL Ride will cross the country, from Seattle to Boston using dirt roads and farm paths to the greatest extent possible, stretching the distance from 3,000 to 5,000 miles. The team will ride mainly Seven’s Evergreen line of adventure bikes.

Art: CHRIS MORRIS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Kevin’s Evergreen SL

This is Kevin’s Evergreen SL, a bike we built with the good folks at Spin City Cycles in Decatur, IL. We had built him and his wife a tandem previously.

This bike features a red, black and bare Ti Dart paint scheme and matching silver Chris King headset and Alloy Ride wheelset.

Kevin sent this, and the following note, below, just this week:

Seven,

The bike is here and it is gorgeous. I went for my first ride this morning and I wanted to tell you it feels EXACTLY right. You absolutely achieved my somewhat paradoxical request for a fast efficient bike fitting wide tires with fenders, kickstand too! It’s amazing just how lively it is, I’m definitely another happy customer. Some gratuitous pictures attached.

Thanks again,

Kevin