Do you remember Giulia Baroncini? On June 9 last year she set off right from BAM on her solo trip to America following the footsteps of Luigi Masetti, the father of bicycle touring.
How did it go? She tells us herself!
“I am in NY, more specifically in Brooklyn, sitting in front of my laptop. I listen to the traffic, the ambulance sirens, the chatter of people walking down the street, the rain falling, and I am lost in my thoughts. I think about how amazing it is to ride a bike. Comfortably seated on a saddle, pushing two pedals to move two wheels and a chain pulling the whole thing along, I have managed to get this far across the Ocean (excluding, of course, the flight from London to Ny). Until you try it, you cannot understand how the bike can take us far, but mostly everywhere and I repeat, everywhere.
When people ask me why I decided to pedal from NY to Chicago (and before that from home to London) I always say that it was Luigi Masetti who brought me here. He gave me the idea and I’ve accomplished everything else thanks to this fantastic tool. I saw myself in him a lot, and I think that as good cycle travelers, we should at least know something about those who, before us, ventured out and started it all. I was not so much fascinated by the route as by the spirit with which he approached it: swaggering, naive, eager to know, ready for anything. We may have lost these characteristics a bit, and I think it is time for us to be inspired again by this gentleman who is a bit like our daddy.
I never doubted that this “conquest” of mine was impossible, but three months ago I still did not fully realize it. There was always that tiny percentage of fear that it was not possible. But after going through the first few states I discovered that it was easier than I thought after all.
I have a habit now since I left: at night, before I go to sleep, I like to watch the live track that meticulously recorded the entire journey. I like to look at how far I have come. Pedal after pedal, mile after mile, day after day. We are no longer used to this slowness because we live in the society of “everything and now.” That’s why 8,000 km seems like a lot, but in the end you just have to be patient. Pedal after pedal you get to reach your goals. Bike is patience, sweat, toil but a lot of joy, satisfaction, adventure. Bike has educated me a lot in this sense, in the sense of knowing how to wait. Especially in America, a car-friendly country, I liked to ask how many hours of driving from point A to point B and convert it instead to how many days of biking.
From Polesine, my homeland and also Masetti’s one, I arrived in London by crossing Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and finally the United Kingdom relying not on an atlas but on the Eurovelo grid we have available.
Brussels and London are two cities I have seen and seen again in my past thanks to the super deals Ryanair was allocating. Riding a bike though felt almost like seeing them for the first time. And especially knowing that I got there under my own power without any Co2 emissions is rewarding to say the least.
After arriving in NY by plane, I went to discover a world that was new to me, cities, places and landscapes that I would never have imagined visiting on a bike if I had not read about the good Masetti who did it 130 years ago. The United States is a car-friendly world but one that is slowly being converted to the bicycle. So many are the bike lanes I have encountered or dedicated bike spaces along the highways. With only one problem: too few cyclists!
From NY to Albany to Buffalo it was all along a trail called the Empire State trail and then moving on back roads to Lake Erie thus arriving in Chicago. Chicago, the turnaround, arrival at the destination and departure home via Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington (along the Great Allegheny trail) and finally Philadelphia and NY pedaling the East Greencoast trail.
In these three months I have met so many people that I almost lost count. So many open doors, so much hospitality, so much desire to get to know those who venture out on two wheels and know every single detail of their adventure. Among all the people I have met there is a common thread, the bicycle. Some more, some less, some perhaps in the future, some in the past, some in the present.
And speaking of time spaces, 130 years ago Luigi Masetti set off from Milan to Chicago on a bicycle. He fell in love with it while he was sitting on Geneva’s lake, saw it, tried it, and after 28 days learning how to ride, he set off on this adventure. I somewhat accidentally read his reports and do the same in the present. Four years ago, a former colleague accidentally takes me on zero-mile adventures around where we lived. It all seemed new and beautiful, and so a little by chance I took a liking to it and trip after trip I always went a little further.
I am a short time away from returning to Europe. Europe is like home to me but I am sure that even on the way back I will discover new and unexpected things.
Before closing the laptop, I think back for the last time to every single moment since that June 9 and it all seems so impossible and yet it is all simply true.“