Tag Archives: history

East Bay Punk Rock History Bike Tour

“Punk rock” and “bike tour” are two  phrases you don’t expect to see together.  Throw in “history” and you’ve got the East Bay Punk Rock History Bike Tour.   When I saw this in my news feed a few weeks back, I knew that I had to make the trip.  The ride was co-sponsored by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) and the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA).  So I cashed in some frequent flyer miles and began looking for a rental bike that wouldn’t make me look like a tourist who’d escaped from Fisherman’s Wharf.  Shout out to Golden Gate Rides who set me up with a Cannondale Quick flat bar road bike that was perfectly suited to a long weekend in the Bay Area.

Chris kicking off the ride at OMCA

The sellout ride began at the museum in downtown Oakland.  The 30 or so riders mingled prior to a welcome and pre-ride briefing from the WOBO board president, Chris.  CBGB and Dead Kennedy T-shirts replaced the typical cyclist kit.  And there was a bit of minor incredulity that someone would fly 1500 miles to participate.  Each rider received a pocket-sized Powerpoint deck detailing each stop of the tour.

 

We rolled out under clear blue skies to the first stop at the former site of the Practice Pad, in downtown Oakland.  Our guides were Kamala and Kate, pioneers of the punk rock scene in the East Bay.

Here, and at each of the eight following stops, Kamala and Kate related stories “from the day”.  Stories of starting bands, communal living, and less-than-normal rental practice spaces shared with semi-legal tattoo parlors and offbeat print shops.

More than half of the nine stops no longer resembled their punk rock roots, due to gentrification, remodeling, and new construction.  This ride was not about sightseeing as much as about the stories.  After each stop’s story, the guides played a song from one of the associated bands.   There’s nothing like a punk rock soundtrack on a bike ride.

Here’s a quick video of the music portion at one of the stops:

One particularly interesting detail about gentrification stuck with me.  Most of these neighborhoods were, at one time, inexpensive warehouse spaces or housing.  They were often very ethnic and dubious of the punk squatters.  Gentrification in the early 90’s hadn’t started, but Kate expressed regret that they didn’t try harder to build bridges with the existing neighborhoods.

The final stop on the tour was 924 Gilman which is a:

  • DIY and nonprofit venue for music, art, and community events
  • Cultural landmark since 1986 that continues to inspire similar spaces globally
  • Volunteer-run, all-ages, drug and alcohol-free safe space
  • Multi-generational, independent collective
  • Place for young people to work cooperatively

The route from OMCA to 924 Gilman was just under nine miles:

Stretching to Berkeley, the ride also provided a quick glimpse of some of the exceptional Bay Area cycling infrastructure, e.g. bicycle boulevards.

To top off the post ride, WOBO sent a playlist of the tracks played at the stops and during the ride:

01_TheGr’ups_RRHood.mp3
02_Special Forces_South Africa.mp3
03_StarFuckingHipsters_Immigrants_Hypocrites.mp3
04_Neurosis_Double Edged Sword.mp3
05_Christ on Parade_Just Pretend.mp3
06_Tilt_Berkeley Pier.mp3
07_Econochrist_Withdrawl.mp3
08_Spitboy_Sexism Impressed.mp3
09_NoMeansNo_Dad.mp3
10_Fang_Berkeley Heathen Scum.mp3
12_SocialUnrest_GeneralEnemy.mp3
13_Isocracy-2 Blocks Away.mp3
14_Crimpshrine_Tomorrow.mp3
15_Operation Ivy_Junkies Running Dry.mp3
16_Mr. T Experience_Gilman Street.mp3
17_Blatz_Berkeley is my Baby.mp3
18_Filth-The List.mp3
19_Lookouts_Big Green Monster.mp3
20_Screeching Weasel_Ashtray Song.mp3

Most of these titles seem to be available on Youtube.

Although this wasn’t a commercial bike tour, I’m including the usual:

What We Liked

  • It was a well organized, well run, well thought out event.  Kudos to WOBO and OMCA.
  • The pocket guide and music samples were a great idea.
  • Tim from WOBO even brought water along in his panniers.
  • Follow up emails with the route information and downloadable MP3s.
  • Friendly fellow riders.

What Could be Better

  • Nothing, even the weather was perfect.

Final Notes

Over an après-tour beer, I heard that WOBO is planning a shipping container themed bike tour around town and the Port of Oakland area.

And, finally, if you’re interested in learning more about the East Bay punk scene, check out a new documentary titled: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk.

Bicycle Tours of Atlanta – Fall in Love with Atlanta Tour

While visiting family in Atlanta, an extended BTBT team rode the Fall in Love with Atlanta tour from Bicycle Tours of Atlanta along with a few other guests.  When we arrived, all eight bikes were ready to go, identified with name tags for each rider.  BTofA’s website asks for height and age info when booking to provide an appropriate bike for each rider.  That’s not only helpful to find your bike, but doubly nice since it makes it easy for the guide and riders to learn one another’s names.

After a brief test ride and a few fit adjustments in the parking lot, we rolled out toward the historic shotgun houses near the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.  From there we began a rambling clockwise route roughly encircling the Little Five Points, Inman Park, and Cabbagetown neighborhoods.

After stopping for an iconic downtown Atlanta photo, we paused again to explore street art along a short section of the Atlanta Beltline (including one of three “tiny doors” that we encountered).  From there, we rode the Freedom Park Trail passing by The Carter Center.  A few shady streets later, we arrived at Little Five Points, Atlanta’s “answer to Haight-Ashbury”.  Little Five Points is proud to have exactly three non-local establishments:  The post office, a Starbucks, and an American Apparel.

After more shady residential streets and another short stint on the Freedom Park Trail, we entered Inman Park proper. Sadly, we rolled PAST the King of Pops HQ & Walk Up Window. (“Mmmm, popsicles…”)  Several blocks later, we stopped for a story about a pair of iconic houses, and their connections to the Coca-Cola company.  A bit further on, we discovered the butterfly flags marking the first neighborhood in Altanta to gentrify.

Next up, a fast, dark ride through the heavily graffitied Krog Street Tunnel followed by a photo taking break at the Cabbagetown terminus.  Heading west along Wylie Street, we encountered more murals along the concrete railroad embankment.  We then circled back to Sweet Cheats for a brief cupcake and bio-break.

Following the break, we pedaled a short distance to the site of the Fullton Bag and Cotton Mills.  A portion of the historic mill was converted to loft apartments in the late 90s.  Hundred year old walls overlook the inviting modern pool.  Just around the corner, we rode through a residence of a different sort, the Historic Oakland Cemetery.  The cemetery predates the Civil War and serves as both a final resting place and peaceful city park.

The final leg of the tour took us past the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Center, once again, before returning to the bike shop.

What We Liked

  • Just about everything.  The location of the shop and tour route are nearly ideal to experience a cross-section of Atlanta.
  • The bikes were in very good condition (a couple were brand new) and set up for us in advance.  The name tags were a nice touch.
  • Walt was an enthusiastic, knowledgeable guide.  Sara was learning the ropes and having a second guide to help with intersections in busy Atlanta added to our safety.
  • Plenty of water provided before and after the ride.

What Could be Better

  • One of our riders had requested an e-bike.  She wasn’t able to use the throttle, but the pedal assist worked fine.  Kudos to Walt for emailing us after the ride to explain the quirks of how that bike usually works.
  • I sure could have gone for that King of Pops popsicle  🙂

Should You Go?

Absolutely, highly recommended!  

Of note, Bicycle Tours of Atlanta also runs “Street Art” and “Twilight” tours.

Progress in Memphis

It’s Martin Luther King Jr day in the U.S.  Rev. King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

The timing is coincidental, of course, but we’re happy to say that we’ve finally located a few bike tours in Memphis.  Surprisingly, there still doesn’t appear to be a commercial tour operator (other than a couple of pedal pubs).  But there are two guided tours available from Nick at Vayable.  We’ll have more to say about Vayable in an upcoming blog post.  Nick’s tours are Memphis Today & Tomorrow and Barbecue Bike Tour.

In addition to Nick’s tours, we’ve unearthed three self-guided tours:

We also hope that AIA Memphis will once again be hosting last year’s Architect’s Bike Tour this September.  Stay tuned to this page for updates.  It also features four self-guided bike/walk architectural tours to explore Downtown and Midtown Memphis on your own.

Mumbai at Night?

OK, we know what you’re thinking.  You saw the post about cycling in Mumbai, but it sounds a bit too busy and hot for you.  Am I right?

Here’s the solution: Reality Tours offers a Mumbai Night Tour.

Chhatrapati Shivaji station, formerly Victoria Terminus. Photo: Shailesh Andrade/Reuters via The Guardian

The tour rolls past palaces, gardens, temples, mosques, markets and people.  Sleeping people, in the streets.  They stop for chai and climb a hill topped with billion dollar homes.

Beginning at midnight, the tour ends near dawn, as the city of Mumbai is waking up.

A New Bike Tour is Born

Fly City Bike Tours is opening this spring, in Fredericksburg VA.  Located about an hour south of DC, near the Quantico marine base, Fredericksburg is a small town of about 30,000 residents.  A small town that enjoys nearly 1.5M visitors annually, in large part due to its history, especially during the Civil War.

Image: Roger Price
Image: Roger Price

Fredericksburg appears to be a great fit for a bike tour.  The owner, Catesby Payne:

“…has taken bike tours on recent vacations and thought the concept would work well here.”

How great is that?  Catesby is apparently a recent city bike tour convert and is starting her own tour.  Fair warning, though, Catesby also owns Fly Fitness Inspiration, so plan on keeping up!

On A Mission

San Antonio has recently completed major upgrades and extensions to the original downtown Riverwalk which is very much focused on food and fun.  The Eagleland segment extends the pedestrian portion of the Riverwalk to the Blue Star Complex.  The Mission Reach Trail starts here and provides cyclists and walkers access to four historic missions, recreational facilities, picnic tables, and views of river wildlife in a semi-urban setting.  North of downtown, the Museum Reach Trail is nearing completion for access to several museums and the zoo.

I rode from the Blue Star Complex to the southern end of the Mission Trail and back on a perfect February afternoon in Texas.  In addition to visiting all of the well cared for missions, I spotted a pair of golden eagles, numerous turtles, ducks and other water fowl as well as a large snake.

 

Blue Star Bicycling
Blue Star Bicycling

Although I brought my bike from Austin, there are B-Cycle stations located at all of the missions as well as many of the road intersections.  B-Cycle would be ideal for short rides between two or three missions.  But the bikes are fairly heavy and the trail was hillier than expected.  If you intend on riding the full length, consider renting a bike from Blue Star Bicycling Company located in the Blue Star Complex at the north end of the trail.  From there, if you visit all four missions, plan on riding about 22 miles.

Of course, you don’t have to ride the entire length.  The trail is well marked and has frequent picnic tables, shelters, and water fountains, as well as easy access to local businesses.  Lingering at the missions and parks, you could easily make a day of it or just spend a couple of hours riding out and back.  Or just ride a few miles and enjoy this treasure that San Antonio has provided us.

Finally, after your ride, you might like to enjoy one of San Antonio’s oldest brewpubs, Blue Star Brewing Company:

The Blue Star Brewing Company was one of the first brewpubs in San Antonio that has been serving their uniquely brewed beer and food since 1996. Shortly after opening The Blue Star Brewing Company, owner Joey Villarreal and his wife Magdalena opened the Blue Star Bike Shop within the walls of the amazing brewery, and later moved to its very own location right next door. The Blue Star Brewing Company offers organic brew and a selection of locally sourced food, The Blue Star Brewing Company is the place to relax and enjoy a well crafted meal before or after an adventurous bike ride on the trails.

Tell them Been There Bike Tours sent you!

e place to relax and enjoy a well crafted meal before or after an adventures bike ride on the trails.

Little Town – Lots of Bike Tours

America’s Favorite TownAmerica’s 20th Quirkiest Town? America’s Coolest Small Town of 2012 (OK, it was a tie)?  A city of 4000 residents with 10 different bike tours?

Welcome to Beaufort, NC and be sure to pronounce it BOH-fert if you visit.  Beaufort is located in NC’s Inner Banks — 150 miles and a ferry ride away from where Orville and Wilbur made history at Kitty Hawk.

Hungry Town Guided Tours features 10 different bike tours and will even work with you to create you own tour.  Here’s the current lineup:

N.C. Oyster Tour N.C. Shrimp Tour Beaufort Culinary Tour Hidden Beaufort Tour Early Morning Risers Tour
Bike, Brunch & Bubbles Legends & Lore of the Sea Beaufort Lunchbox Tour Ride with the Bride A Ride to Remember

I imagine there may be a little bit of overlap in the routes, but this is seriously impressive!

Want more?  Here’s a video from UNC TV. And another one from the Crystal Coast.  Be sure to check out their unique bike license plates.

 

History Biking in Tampa

We weretbh pleased to stumble across History Bike Tampa this week.  Florida cities, in general, don’t have as many bike tours as they might.  Humid summers and sometimes challenging cycling conditions may help explain that.  History Bike Tampa offers monthly two hour tours for free (with suggested $5 donation).  Rides are held on the first Saturday of the month and each ride focuses on a specific neighborhood or topic.  Bring your own bike (BYOB) or arrange a rental through City Bike Tampa.

Recent rides have been examining the history of the area soon to be impacted by the TBX makeover of “Malfunction Junction” otherwise known as the I4-I275 interchange.  If you’ve ever driven in Tampa, you’ve probably suffered this confusing freeway tangle.

Check out History Bike Tours’ upcoming rides and sign up early – rides are capped at 80(!) participants.

Green Fleet Signature City Tour

gf_bagWe booked Green Fleet’s Signature City Tour at the tail end of a work conference in Nashville.  Green Fleet has two other tours, Bike the Line: Stories of Music Row and the Downtown Highlights Tour.  Our crew was four riders and two additional ladies from Detroit.  Booking and payment was easily handled on Green Fleet’s website.  However, where to actually show up for the ride was a bit unclear until I received the very helpful reminder email and text message the morning of our booking.  The bike shop itself is on the move soon and that will be changing.

Two of our riders had a late afternoon flight to catch.  Green Fleet was super accommodating about that and allowed them to keep their luggage behind the counter at their tiny shop on Edgehill Avenue.

Our bikes had been set up in advance in the lot across the street from the shop.  The bikes themselves were an assortment of different models and sizes, and it took a few minutes to get everyone on an appropriately sized bike.  It would have been helpful to assist a couple of novice riders with seat height adjustment and the various shifter types.  Each bike also had a bottle of water, which we appreciated.

Austin was our guide, whom we later learned is also the owner of Green Fleet.  He’s super friendly and a very laid back, easy going guy.  Once settled on our bikes, we took off and turned quickly north headed toward “the Gulch”.  Austin told us that we could mostly ride in a group, abreast, taking the lane and that the Nashville drivers tended to be very patient.  That turned out to be true, in spite of the fact that we saw very few cyclists in the downtown Nashville area.  It seems that the slow/social cycling movement is taking some time to build in Nashville.  Considering how many people comment on the similarities between Austin (home of BeenThereBikeTours) and Nashville, this is a notable difference.

The Gulch is a historic moniker named after a natural railroad cut.  The also historic Union Station is now an upscale hotel in the valley area, which is transforming into condos, trendy eateries, music venues and shops.  At the time of this tour, there was quite a bit of road and building construction that required a bit of care on the bikes.

From the Gulch we rode through an old industrial area where a couple of Gibson Guitar buildings are located as well as the olfactory notable Burton Snuff building.  This route circumvented the large hill on which Tennessee’s state capitol building resides.  We stopped at the foot of that hill on top of a large map of Tennessee in the Bicentennial Capitol State Park.   Standing on the Tennessee map, with the Rivers of Tennessee Fountains at our back, Austin told us some history of the Capitol and about the 2 (or 3) dead bodies entombed within the walls.  From there, we rode north-(ish) through the park, parallel to the large, linear farmer’s market building.  We stopped once or twice and talked a bit about Tennessee’s Confederate War history.  We arrived at the Court of 3 Stars promptly at 2PM to hear “Love Me Tender” and “The Tennessee Waltz” played by a 95 bell carillon contained within the 50 columns surrounding the plaza.

We then rode out the east side of the park, headed toward the observation tower at Public Square Park.  En route, we passed by the Criminal Justice Center and a hand full of 24 hour bail bond outfits.  Nothing scary though, other than the small hill that challenged a couple of our riders, heading up to the park.

The observation tower is built atop an underground parking garage, whose elevators extend to the tower top (some of us took the stairs, just sayin’).  From the top are fine views of the Cumberland River and riverfront parks, football stadium, the “Bat” and “R2-D2” buildings, the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, and public art installed in the park below.

From the tower we rode to the Downtown Presbyterian Church via Arcade Alley which crosses The Arcade.  We learned about the long history of the church, including being pressed into service as a hospital during the Civil War and the Army Corps of Engineers failed experiment with a multi-story outhouse in the adjacent alley.

We also got an insider tip for seeing Bluebird Cafe singer-songwriter style live music in a nearby venue.  (Want to know where?  Take the tour!)

We continued south, past the Frist Center art museum, housed in Nashville’s former main Post Office across from Union Station.  There’s a 21 minute video documenting the journey from Post Office to museum here.  (OK, I admit it, I didn’t watch the whole thing either.)

After a right turn on Demonbreun, we crossed over The Gulch and rode a short climb over the freeway and past a number of trendy restaurants and bars.  At the Music Row Roudabout, we stopped to talk about the controversial Musica Sculpture, sometimes referred to as the “Naked Statue”.  Amusingly, the locals have occasionally clothed the figures in kilts, Christmas lights, and hockey gear.

From the scandalous statue, we proceeded south on Music Square W, down the middle of Music Row.  The final stop before returning to the shop was RCA Studio B, famous for its role in popularizing the “Nashville Sound”.

Our tour concluded a short distance later at Green Fleet’s shop on Edgehill.  The tour lasted two hours and 15 minutes and covered close to seven miles.  The timing was perfect for our two riders Uber’ing off to catch their flight.  The pace was easy, mostly flat, with a couple of hills.


 

This is the first chance we’ve had on BeenThereBikeTours to write a review so soon after our bike tour.  With the ride fresh in our minds, we’re experimenting with some new sections for our reviews:

What We Liked

  • The route choice and focus away from the obvious destinations (e.g.  Rymans, Broadway, the County Music Hall of Fame, etc.)
  • Austin was an amiable, knowledgeable guide.
  • “Insider” tips.

What Could be Better

  • With the proximity to Vanderbilt University and Centennial Park/Parthenon, we were hoping that would be part of the itinerary.
  • A couple of the riders could have used some bike fitting and explanation of the gear shifters.

Should You Go?

Absolutely, highly recommended!  

 

Confederacy of Cruisers – Creole Tour

In 2012, we took Confederacy of Cruiser’s Creole Tour with a small group of eight riders.  They ride on comfortable cruiser bikes (thus, Confederacy of Dunces becomes Confederacy of Cruisers). It was our first foray into the neighborhoods east of the CBD and French Quarter.  Focusing on Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater areas, our tour was led by Jeff, one of the company’s founders. CofC’s T-shirts say “Not Even Close to Exercise” and this tour epitomized that. Starting in Washington Square Park, we rode a block or three between each stop and eventually rode as far east as Vaughn’s (featured in HBO’s Treme series). At each stop, Jeff told us about local restaurants and neighborhood haunts, New Orleans history and cultural development, Katrina and its aftermath, and the bits of local color from someone who knows and loves his town.

We visited a “Country Club” of a different sort, rode the biggest hill around (a good 20 foot climb) to the Mississippi levee, talked about the food at  Elizabeth’s (go there for breakfast, don’t tell anyone else), and….talked…..about shotgun and double shotgun houses, the Great War Memorial, land barons, Creole history and food, quadroons and plaçage, A Street Car Named Desire, what the symbols painted on houses after Katrina meant, about gentrification, the HBO Treme series and what it meant to the neighborhoods.

We stopped for a beer at a neighborhood spot that I can no longer find on the map.  Finally, it began to rain and we rode just a bit more quickly back to the shop.  Jeff knocked a few bucks off our tours for the rain and made dinner suggestions, bar recommendations, and called a cab for the couple headed to the airport.

Since this visit, we’ve also taken CofC’s Cocktails in New Orleans Tour (review coming soon), and joined the CofC crew and friends for a Frankenbike ride on Halloween.

We’ve recommended Confederacy of Cruisers to many friends visiting New Orleans and HIGHLY recommend them to you.