Cross-country bicycle tour helps to green America

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When two life-long friends finished their cross-country bicycle tour last month, they could look back and honestly say they had left their mark on the route behind them.

Steve Cash and Ben Kelchlin didn't leave behind graffiti or trail blazes, though. They planted trees.

The pair planted 103 trees on their meandering 5,391-mile bike tour from Eastport, Maine, to Neah Bay, Washington. They planted trees in parks, elementary schools, and the yards of strangers who showed them kindness on the road.

Spokes and Stems

Cash and Kelchlin set off on their bike tour — dubbed Spokes and Stems — soon after they graduated from college in May. They figured the total age of their bicycles — a Raleigh Gran Prix and a Fuji — was 70-some years old.

Each bike, when loaded, weighed about 100 pounds. The usual camping gear was augmented by walkie-talkies, radios, a solar panel to power them, and a box to hold 20 or 30 saplings.

One bike also had a cardboard sign — Maine to California (later changed to Washington) — which helped to break the ice with strangers. As is common with bicycling travelers, Cash and Kelchlin often found a warm meal or dry roof to sleep under thanks to people they met along the way.

Good people

After the trip, Cash wrote at the Spokes and Stems blog that they found lots of “good people” along the way:

“If you can show up dirty at a stranger's house, get a shower, a meal, some laundry done, and sleep in a bed, you've found some good people.”

They carried about 20-30 saplings at a time. They were resupplied along the way. They planted red and sugar maples from the East Coast into Ohio, then red oaks into Missouri, honey locusts through the Great Plains and blue spruce in the mountain states. They planted some redwoods on the West Coast.

Planting record

They kept a record and detailed descriptions of the locations where they planted trees, just in case they ever return in later years.

After they had completed their bike tour, Cash summed up some of what he learned:

“After this summer, meeting so many good people, I feel like I would being doing a dis-service to the world by forgetting the goodness that has found me in front of gas stations, foodstores, or just past the little white line on the highway. I wonder how many people have been treated as well as Spokes and Stems has been in a country that according to the media is filled with crazy people. However many have, I hope never to forget the goodness which is quietly around me.”

Picture above from photo log of Spokes and Stems.

First seen at Bike Bits online newsletter published by Adventure Cycling Association.

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