I Never Shift Twice -- The Adventures of Joe Bike, Secret Agent 00
The cyclist sped down the winding Greek mountain road at a horrific pace, the harbor visible far beneath him. Inches behind the bicycle's fender was a huge truck, the passenger holding a submachine gun out of the window, waiting to get a good shot at the rider. The plan was to run him down if he stayed on the road or to shoot him if he pulled to one side. The cyclist calmly pulled his cycling bandana from his bike bag and expertly tossed it over his head without a glance backwards. The bandana spread out on the windshield squarely in front of the driver, blocking his view, just as the road and the cyclist, but not the truck, made a sudden turn to the left. The truck disappeared over the bluff. Immediately, two helicopters equipped with rockets appeared in front of the cyclist while a second huge truck appeared behind him, taking the place of the first. The rider waited until the two helicopters fired their rockets, and then suddenly veered to the right and braked, letting this second truck speed past him and shelter him from the fireball created by the rockets, which instead engulfed the truck. As soon as the cyclist re-passed the burning truck, the helicopter pilots dove at him in an attempt to spear the cyclist with their landing skids. As the first helicopter passed inches overhead, barely missing, the cyclist hooked the skid with his nylon tent rope and then he tossed the other end in a lasso over the skid of the second helicopter as it tried to skewer him. As the path of the two helicopters parted, the pilots found themselves quickly out of control, and the cyclist saw the dual fireballs behind them in his cycling mirror while turning the next corner. Suddenly, half a dozen motorcyclists zoomed out from a hiding place onto the road behind. To his left was a shear wall, to his right was a steep slope to a shear drop, and in front of him, he saw the awaiting barricade, behind which were men armed with mortars, bazookas, machine guns, and flamethrowers. Coolly, he turned right to plunge down the slope to the drop, the motorcycles close behind him. Suddenly, he was airborne and, as he opened his paraglide chute, the motorcyclists to his rear began their death tumbles. He expertly piloted his flying bike onto the terrace of the largest hotel in the city and then pushed it into the lobby, asking for the honeymoon suite. "And what name do I put on the register?" the hotelkeeper asked. "Bike," replied the cyclist, "Joe Bike."
Of course, Joe Bike was the famous British secret agent, double aught. Born in the United States, which he referred to only as America (ignoring the Canadians and Latin-Americans), Joe Bike was reluctantly hired by the British only after their best agents had all been destroyed. He absolutely refused to take a higher number than any former British agent and thus chose for himself 00, double aught, representing two bike wheels, and was also known as double naught, and sometimes as "naughty, naughty." He had just arrived in the Greek city after pedaling non-stop from England on his ultra-secret mission.
Of course, the moment he uttered his famous name (loud enough to be heard by everyone in the room), gorgeous young women fainted away, and 50 spies, reporters, and hotel employees rushed madly for their telephones and radios to inform their bosses. Joe Bike feigned ignorance of (or was ignorant of) the sensation he had made. Refusing to let the bell-boy touch his bike, he pushed it to the elevator and ascended towards his room. Unknown to him, every attractive young woman in the hotel, whether a teenager, playgirl, newly-wed, mistress, fiancée, call-girl, or nun, immediately began devising schemes to creep into his room that night.
But Joe Bike was already thinking of another kind of passion. Dismissing his bell-boy with a warm American handshake instead of a tip, he pushed his bicycle into the luxurious bathroom, and soon he and the bike were romping in the oversized tub together, underneath the bubblebath suds. Toothbrush in hand, he began to carefully explore and clean the chain, the tires, and every exposed part of his wonderful machine, while producing great signs of ecstasy. One after another, various women crept into his room, only to hear the sounds of bliss coming from the bathroom and only to feel that they had arrived too, too late, and to depart in shame. Later, this scene would repeat itself as other – or the same – women crept into the room again, only to discover Joe Bike in ecstatic convolutions on the bed, not recognizing that Joe was in bed with his bike, kissing the tires and fondling the handlebars. Many a woman spent jealous moments after opening his unlocked door, and many men waited in anxiety, wondering where their darlings had gone.
In the morning after a night of passion without sleep, Joe arose completely refreshed. He descended in the elevator to the lobby with his bike and crossed the room, seemly unaware that every man in the room was seething in jealous anger, some because they felt their lovers had betrayed them, others because they felt their lovers had been rejected by Joe, and others because they didn't have any lovers and had no hopes of getting any. However, not a man dare even speak to Joe, let alone attack his behavior. Every woman in the room except one was also furious at Joe but was also furious at his secret lover.
Joe asked the clerk if there was any message for him, and the man gave him a folded piece of paper from an open pigeonhole behind the counter. The message read, "I am sitting at the table to your left; I've got a white purse." Joe turned to see a young woman waiting for him, dressed in a string bikini and wearing a see-through robe, and he pushed his bike over and sat at her table. Since the woman was not a bicycle, he only casually glanced at her as they began their conversation, but every eye in the room was watching them, and every barrel was pointed in their direction. The men in the room were hoping for the woman to move somewhat as they wished to kill Joe without endangering the beautiful bombshell sitting next to him. The women, on the other hand, were waiting for another opportunity.
The woman, a spy who had penetrated the enemy organization, told Joe that SMUSH (SUV Motorists for Universal Super Highways) was making an attempt to destroy bicycling throughout the world as part of their scheme to turn every street and road into a high-speed superhighway. Soon their trucks would be driving down all the residential streets and back lanes, and men would be picking bicycles out of driveways, snatching them out of garages, and stealing them from bike racks before shipping them to a secret factory where they would all be crushed and remanufactured into SUV's. SMUSH had built a secret underground computer headquarters in the most dangerous place in the world for bicycle travel, just to prevent Joe from discovering the site. She was about to reveal further details, known only to her, when Joe noticed what he though was a used tire patch on the floor, so he reached down to get it. At that instant, a fusillade of bullets from every direction struck the woman spy, and she fell dead on top of him. The women had had their revenge.
Joe sat up, prepared to retaliate with angry words, but the room became a blurred mass of fleeing humanity. No one wanted to face Joe's deadly anger. Joe also determined that the black object on the floor was no tire patch and felt doubly frustrated.
Joe spent the day ostensibly visiting bicycle shops, said shops usually equipped with little more than single-speed Chinese utility bikes. However, at the third shop he was conducted into the back room under some pretext and then was led down a secret passage to an underground laboratory where hundreds of novice British agents were testing out secret explosive devices and getting themselves killed in the process. "Que," Joe Bike said as he entered, "I believe you've got a secret underground laboratory in every city of the world!" "We've missed a few, I'm afraid, double O," Que replied. Que then proceeded to show him all kinds of bicycle equipment with hidden explosive devices or weapons, starting with a trick U-lock, while Joe Bike watched passively, in complete boredom, occasionally fiddling with some yet unexplained explosive device.
While Joe was away from his room, it was penetrated by members of WAMM (Women Against Macho Men), dressed in sexy black pajamas. After temporarily removing the bed spread, sheets, and mattress, they covered the springs with enough explosives to blow the side out of the building and set them to detonate whenever Joe sat on the bed. They recognized, of course, that probably some innocent woman and other innocent people would be killed by the blast, but they considered the sacrifice worthwhile if they could destroy the last of the secret agents (WAMM, and not SMUSH, had been responsible for the elimination of the other British agents; SMUSH had had no quarrel with James Bond).
After dark, SMUSH agents also entered the room, planning to kill Joe as he entered. They sat in various chairs, and one of them sat on the bed.
However, Joe never returned to his room. Recognizing that SMUSH and WAMM agents were watching all the roads and had probably penetrated the hotel, he waited until dark and then left the town by sea, with his bicycle attached to two pontoons. While rounding the cape, he noticed a huge ball of fire from the hotel and soon after heard the thud of the explosion. He had already decided that the secret underground headquarters of SMUSH must be in Silicon Valley, the only place matching the dead agent's description. However, getting there via airplane to the States would be too obvious, so he decided to cross Russia by bicycle instead. He felt the approaching winter weather would be more of an aid than a hinderance, especially for crossing the Bering Strait.
After the destruction of the hotel, the agents of WAMM and SMUSH carefully searched the city, checked all departing ships, planes, and boats, and watched all roads, walkways, and paths carefully to see if Joe Bike should reappear. He seemed to have either vanished off of the face of the earth or to have been killed in the hotel explosion. After several days of silence, it seems that the last of the secret agents was no more.
Then one evening, he calmly appeared at the largest hotel in Istanbul, announced himself as Joe Bike, asked for the honeymoon suite, and spent a quiet night. Some argument occurred during the night among the spy organizations, as the character announcing himself as Joe Bike had appeared without a bicycle, and when SMUSH agents arrived in the early morning, they discovered that Joe had already left. However, they also so discovered how he had arrived and left. Joe had arrived, of course, by pontoon bicycle, and was last seen pedaling his bike out over the Black Sea, after crossing through the Bosporus. The thought first occurred of sending a powerful motorboat after him, but it was immediately dropped as a suicidal mission. Instead, strongly worded messages were sent to the Ukrainian and Russian governments, urging them to send cruisers, aircraft carriers, submarines, jets, and helicopters to destroy Joe.
Yet these efforts proved futile, as Joe could spot the enemy craft long before they could see him. He would simply don his face mask and siphon and partially flood his pontoons until he was pedaling submerged (his pontoons included a prop drive). To the Ukrainians, Russians, and agents of SMUSH and WAMM, it seemed that Joe Bike had once again vanished from the earth.
After crossing the Black Sea by bicycle, Joe Bike emerged from the other side, discarded the pontoons, and began riding down the highway towards Chechenia. In space, 22,000 miles overhead, a secret Russian satellite detected his presence, and fired a super laser beam towards him. Joe was briskly riding along when the laser beam cut through the sky and began boiling the pavement immediately in front of him, the deadly beam moving in his direction. With lighting-quick reflexes, Joe grabbed an umbrella-like object which Que had given him with clear "safety reflectors" attached to the outside and swung it open to protect himself from the evil beam. When the laser beam hit the "umbrella," the reflectors shot the laser beam directly back to the source, causing a violent explosion within the laser device, the destruction of the satellite, and a brilliant star-burst high in the heavens above, visible from half the earth.
However, the Red Army had now been alerted, and a tank brigade was now traveling down the highway in a double column, headed straight towards Joe. Shortly before reaching the area where it was expected to contact him, the brigade was given its final orders: Shoot to kill without hesitation, ignoring the effects of collateral damage. Joe rode up a hill and, immediately over the top, encountered the enemy brigade. Without hesitation, Joe rode straight between the two columns, accelerating at maximum effort. The enemy, taken by surprise, swung their weapons around to hit him and blasted away. Because Joe was speeding too fast for some and too slow for others, the projectiles, missiles, bombs, and bullets missed Joe and struck the columns of men and machines on either side. The carnage spread all along the column until Joe emerged unscathed at the opposite end. The tank brigade, on the other hand, had been mostly destroyed and could pursue him no further. Joe proceeded on to Chechenia without further difficulty.
In Groznyy, Joe explained to the assembled political and military leaders that they had been using the wrong methods against the Russians. The Russian war machine was dependent on petroleum products, and Chechenia had many productive wells that would attract their interest; therefore Joe Bike suggested concentrating on destroying fuel supplies and on contaminating of oil wells with radioactive isotopes, no matter whether the fuel supplies and oil wells were in Russian or in Chechenian hands. Only the destruction of these resources would stop the Russian attacks. The leaders were astonished at these proposals. "How can we mount attacks or produce power without fuel?" they asked. Joe Bike insisted that the problem was easily resolvable. BP would guarantee to supply Chechenia with solar panels once peace had been established, and in the meantime, troops mounted on bicycles and carrying light-weight weapons could more easily infiltrate the enemy lines than motorized forces. Within a hundred years, the oil would be usable again, and would be a much more valuable resource at that time anyway.
The Chechenian leaders, with no other hope for ending the war, followed Joe's advice, and soon Joe was instructing combat and commando units in the art of bicycle war. The new bike forces were able to move quickly across any terrain as they could carry the bikes when they couldn't ride them, could carry a sufficient supply of food, ammunition, and weapons for a short campaign, and were able to easily hide from aircraft, even in open areas by covering themselves and the bikes with camouflaged tarps. In the battles that followed, the Chechenian troops were able to outdistance foot soldiers and to travel through terrain that tanks couldn't use. They struck behind enemy lines, destroying fuel, food, and other supplies and destroying the moral of the poorly supplied Russian troops.
Once the Chechenians had demonstrated that they had mastered the new form of warfare, Joe slipped through the Russian lines and continued his northeastward trip across Russian, spreading propaganda against motor vehicle use and Russian aggression. Local police forces were soon alerted to his progress, but they were ineffective at finding him and unable to stop him. After a number of encounters with police, in which the police suffered greatly, Joe noticed that police forces usually just pretended to search for him and often ignored him even after he was spotted. Joe had little trouble in making friends with the Russian people, so he had lots of opportunities to resupply himself with food and pass on his environmental and anti-war messages.
But Joe did not realize that a WAMM trap was being prepared for him. Using the old adage, "it takes a thief . . .," WAMM had found a female cyclist within the ranks who was totally against all malekind. Kat was young, extremely attractive, innocent and almost frail looking, the kind of girlish-looking woman that would make any man's heart melt instantly. At the same time, she was deeply offended by any sign of physical attraction, romantic overtures, or other sexist behavior or language. Her response was automatic attack, and she was fully trained in every martial art to be a killing machine. She also could use every weapon in current use, although she preferred hand-to-hand combat. She was highly skilled at wilderness travel, and her cycling skills were beyond compare. The leaders of WAMM felt that they only needed to drop her along Joe's path, and he would walk into the trap. He would make some kind of sexual overture with his defenses down, and Kat would strike and kill him without warning.
Of course, WAMM couldn't predict Joe's exact path, so they airdropped Kat at a point some hours behind him. Even though it was incredibly difficult to follow Joe's trail (since he did not leave powerbar wrappers behind), Kat immediately began following him, using her ultra-secret tracking skills, and depending on her ability to travel mile after mile without rest. As they traveled northeastward, the weather turned cold, and the first snows began to fall. A heavy driving wind blew the snow across the route, making Joe's route impossible to follow -- for anyone not using Kat's method. To follow Joe's unmarked path, she would simply say to everyone she encountered (using fluent Russian), "I'm trying to catch up with my boyfriend who's also traveling by bicycle. Have you seen him?" Daily, the distance between them grew smaller, as Kat was frequently able to take shortcuts which the locals told her about.
Finally, Kat learned of an flatter and somewhat longer route that would allow her to ambush Joe. After he finished pedaling over a high mountain pass, Joe arrived at the road junction in the valley below below, where Kat was waiting in plain sight, apparently unarmed. Joe, of course, was not aware that if he made any attempt at a pass at her or even if he said that she was a pretty "girl" that she would become an instant killing machine. However, Kat was similarly ignorant about Joe and could not have predicted his reaction to encountering her. He stopped in astonishment as soon as he saw her and her bicycle. He jumped off of his bike and rushed passionately towards her, while Kat tensed herself for a murderous assault. But Joe, instead of embracing her, began to madly kiss and fondle her front bicycle tire, raving about what a beautiful bicycle it was. Kat was flabbergasted and disarmed, and then she found her heart melting. "Could I check out your bike while you're inspecting mine?" she asked. And so the two of them spent long, long minutes, perhaps hours slobbering over each other's bikes. They ended up camping there for the night, sleeping with each other's bicycles, and in the morning, they finally became friends. Kat decided to quit WAMM -- not because she had changed her mind about men but because Joe was a different kind of man. She now wanted to aid Joe in his crusade for bicycling and against SMUSH.
As the two traveled northeastward, as the year grew later, and as villages became further apart, it took all of their considerable skills working together to master the wilderness via bike. Of course, they were aided by the freezing of the rivers which had now become highways, and they both had attached skis to their front forks. They used their tents turned inside (white side) out, so they could not be spotting from the air, and when traveling through wide open areas without ground cover, they would camp during the day and bicycle at night. Occasionally, Russian patrols would spot them and attack, a useless waste of good soldiers. Once they were even briefly captured -- until one of the soldiers made a sexist comment (in Russian) about Kat being cute. There were no survivors. Gradually, as Joe and Kat traveled together, they started falling in love with each other, although they did not recognize the fact, since neither had been in love before. They both did recognize a tremendous desire to be with each other, and they gradually became more and more casual about dress when resting in the tent. Indeed, any male except Joe would have overreacted -- to his deep regret -- to Kat's casual intimacy, but Joe was, beyond question, the last male to overreact, indeed, the last to react at all. But eventually, the kisses went from the most intimate parts of the bicycles to the least intimate parts of the bicyclists. Going further was a very slow process, as they were both virgin and innocent. As this account will not appeal to prurient minds by indulging in further details, let's just say that they drifted slowly and naturally into a complete relationship over a long period of time, one that combined all their talents, possibilities, and sensitivities.
While Joe and Kat were traveling through the snow, SMUSH was planning to destroy Joe as soon as he set foot in the US. The SMUSH agents with conventional minds predicted that Joe would probably turn southeastward at some point to catch a freighter in Magadan. Those with bold minds predicted that Joe might try to cross the Bering Strait by bicycle, a prediction that earned derision from the first group. To be absolutely certain, every port along the Russian coast was carefully watched. But Joe instead disappeared into the snow and never arrived anywhere along the Russian coast. Joe and Kat did what no one would have predicted and crossed from Russia to Canada via the North Pole, getting food from a surfacing British submarine along the way.
Joe and Kat arrived in the Yukon before the snow melted and continued their trip southward. They corresponded with cycling clubs via the internet and gathered Alberta contacts. Soon Joe and Kat were traveling with dozens of winter cyclists, and the numbers kept growing as they traveled southward and as the weather grew warmer. SMUSH gradually realized that Joe had arrived via the back door, but the organization was unable to attack him with airplanes and helicopters due to the admiring throngs traveling with him and Kat.
Then the Grand Wizard of SMUSH arrived at a perfect strategy for stopping Joe. SMUSH would declare a huge SUV rally in Alberta. The SUV's would terrorize the cyclists, causing them to abandon the roads and leaving Joe an open target. The Million SUV Rally was both a great success and a great failure. It was a great success because well over a million vehicles traveled to Alberta for the rally, and it was a great failure because the rally did nothing to stop Joe, Kat, and a growing army of cyclists. You see, the Grand Wizard had forgotten that 1) SUV's burn tremendous amounts of gasoline (something that Joe could never forget), 2) they burn even more gasoline in cold weather and on rough roads, 3) the population of Northern Alberta was very small, 4) there was no large stockpile of fuel in that region for a million extra, unexpected vehicles, and 5) there was no space for all those SUV's on the roads, especially in the spring. To make matters worse, when the motorists found themselves stuck in tremendous traffic jams, they kept their motors running to keep warm, thus exhausting their fuel without traveling anywhere.
In the meantime, Joe, Kat, and the winter cyclists were not handicapped by the stalled SUV's at all, although they greatly disliked all the fumes. The extra vehicles simply helped clear the snow off of the roads, and the cyclists rode between them without losing much time. To the humiliation of SMUSH, the SUV drivers were soon begging the cyclists for food, water, gasoline, and other help. The situation gave Joe a good opportunity to point out to all the SMUSH members the superiority of bicycles and the sedentary weakness and dependent helplessness of motorists. Eventually, emergency vehicles were brought in from other provinces and from the US to rescue the trapped, further increasing the traffic problems temporarily. In the meantime, Joe and Kat were safe from attack, surrounded by cyclists, SUV's, and emergency vehicles at all time. The cyclists reached British Columbia, where they demonstrated for cyclists' rights, and then US border without further problems, the numbers continuing to grow, aided by a huge influx of cyclists from Critical Mass.
The ride turned into to a triumphant tour of the West Coast, with demonstrations in each of the major cities. The number of cyclists had swelled so much that local officials posted lower speeds on the highways and multiple roads were used for the southward trip, making SMUSH's attempts at locating Joe even more frustrating. Being much stronger than the average cyclists, Joe and Kat traveled alternate routes to meet more cyclists and lead demonstrations in more cities. Of course, their secret and unstated goal was the headquarters of SMUSH, which Joe had already decided must be in Silicon Valley.
SMUSH followed Joe's activities without problems, as he was on national television (nearly every station), the radio, and most papers nearly every night and was featured in in People, Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and every other publication that kept up with current trends. He even appeared in Bicycling. However, with the press constantly around him at every stop (few reporters could ride) and press helicopters flying overhead, filming the journey, SMUSH was helpless.
When Joe reached Palo Alto and Silicon Valley, he began demonstrations as he had elsewhere. In interviews in the regional papers, he pointed out that large numbers of citizens wanted to ride their bicycles daily but found the traffic speeds too high to allow them to do so. He also furnished statistical proof that if motor vehicle speeds were lowered that the amount of traffic which the roads could handle would increase. He also demonstrated that the extra time involved in bicycling was quickly made up through cost savings and better health. For some days, the region resisted, but the motorists soon found themselves in traffic jams while cyclists could travel freely. The number of cyclists on the roads began to grow.
In the meantime, Joe was unable to find the SMUSH headquarters, but the SMUSH headquarters realized that they must quickly find him before SUV's were outlawed in California. As a strategy to get into the headquarters, Joe arranged for an opportunity for him to be captured by his enemies, and that matched their plans too. Joe and Kat were both captured and carried into the secret underground headquarters, disguised beneath a busy parking deck. Joe confidently assumed that once he was in the headquarters that his enemies would make a fatal mistake, but he discovered that their plan was much more fiendish than anything he had imagined.
It seems that some West Coast scientist had invented a mind projector, thinking of it as a method of rescuing the mentally confused. However, SMUSH had seen the invention as the perfect brainwashing device. The Grand Wizard and his agents strapped Joe into one machine and Kat into another, each of them connected to anti-cyclists. Joe's alter-ego was a huge truckdriver that had attempted to kill every cyclist he had ever seen on the road. He radiated hatred at Joe when the cyclists were dragged into the room. Kat's counterpart was a middle-aged, chain-smoking housewife who harassed every cyclist she encountered on the road, refusing to pass and honking her horn until they got off of her road and out of her way. Their mind projectors were designed to focus their thoughts on Joe and Kat. After a few hours of such numbing mind projection, Joe and Kat would become bike haters too. To make absolutely sure that their minds were open to suggestion, Joe and Kat were each heavily drugged. Leaving guards behind to watch Joe and Kat, the Grand Wizard and his chief associates left the room with complete confidence that soon the couple would be denouncing bicycling, thus destroying all the successes achieved so far. However, in order for the mind projector to work effectively, a tiny trickle of Joe and Kat's thoughts had to provide feedback to the minds of their tormentors. And although their minds were first fogged and then flooded with hate messages, Joe and Kat never abandoned their mission. Instead, their alter-egos were the ones who suffered a reversal of opinion. While the guards were standing around bored and watching only Joe and Kat, the truck driver jumped them by surprise, knocked them down, and released Joe. Then Joe and Kat, with their new allies, quickly overran the defenses of the building. Unfortunately, the SMUSH leadership had gotten away. Nonetheless, it was a great triumph, as Joe and Kat invited the press in and proceeded to make public all the secret papers, computer logs, and video tapes which they had discovered. As a result of many embarrassing disclosures, the California legislature soon banned the sale of SUV's within their state, lowered the top traffic speed to 50 mph, residential speed to 15 mph, and passed other laws to encourage bicycling. Washington and Oregon then followed suit.
However, SMUSH was far from dead, so Joe and Kat began a grand campaign to finish the destruction of the organization. First, they announced a massive bicycle ride from coast to coast during the summer. When asked how many riders they expected to take part in the ride, Joe said he felt 60 to 100 million would participate. Because the reporters were incredulous, Joe explained further. A few hundred thousand to perhaps over a million would make the entire West Coast to East Coast ride; however, all along the way, they would be joined by local cyclists who would ride with them for a week, a day, a few hours, or just a few miles, whatever they could do. On the trip, the cross-country cyclists would fan out to cover all the roads in America, so every local cyclist would have an opportunity to join them.
The months prior to the trip involved heavy planning and organizing. Joe worked to get different groups to participate. The scouts would be sending troops over part of the distances, and a few scout groups were riding all the way. At the other end of the spectrum, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance was also riding as a group. There were business groups, clubs, national organizations, and of course, cycling clubs and Critical Mass organizations. WAMM itself became heavily involved. At first, WAMM had seen Kat as a rebellious failure, but gradually the leadership realized that the macho men were all driving SUV's and sports cars and not bicycles. Finally, the release of the SMUSH secret papers which contained many sexist remarks had changed the minds of the last doubters. WAMM was determined to have as many women on the road as men, and as many girls as boys, so the organization worked to get every woman's and girl's group involved.
Besides having to make the commitment for the trip and having to train up to the ride, those making the long trip had to be educated on camping and outdoor skills. Joe anticipated trouble along the way, so he made sure that route leaders were well-trained and had adequate equipment for any problems that would occur. He anticipated that SMUSH would try to block the roads in the mountains, so he made sure that all the leaders had topographic maps and knowledge of how to use trails, paths, and railroad right-of-ways to bypass roadblocks. He also provided two methods of crossing streams in case a bridge was blocked. With the first, the cyclists would use small inflatable boats to ferry cyclists and bicycles across the stream, and with the second, a rope or cable would be stretched across, and the cyclists and their bikes would ride across suspended below pulleys and pulled by ropes (both the rafts and the ropes were carried by bicycle). In addition, Joe and the leaders planned for camping areas, food supplies, water supplies, and toilet facilities along the many routes. Joe also contacted hot-air ballooning, hang gliding, and gliding associations to provide air reconnaissance for the trip. Ten thousand balloonists would be making the coast-to-coast trip as well.
When the ride started, everyone was aware that the greatest danger was in the Western States. The Plains were full of friendly cyclists, and the Eastern States much too populated for a real confrontation, but in the Far West, the SUV lovers predominated, and there were many desolate roads and hard-to-climb passes. "Everyone" included SMUSH, which had been planning to destroy the ride before the cyclists got far beyond the Coastal States. Blocking roads, passes, and bridges plus threatening cyclists with shotguns and baseball bats would soon bring any attempt to cross the US by bicycle to an end.
However, the SUV motorists underestimated the planning and preparation that Joe and the ride leaders had made. With plenty of airborne observers plus some satellite imaging and good maps to locate alternate roads, trails, paths, rail lines, and river crossings, the attempts to block the ride backfired. In nearly every case, the cyclists bypassed SMUSH, while SMUSH received heavy blame for obstructing traffic. Where SMUSH could not be bypassed, the cyclists took another route entirely. In one case, SMUSH managed to terrorize a group of cyclists, the Ladies Over Eighty Tricyclists. When videocam shots of SMUSH hooligans harassing old ladies were shown on TV, SMUSH found itself being attacked even by the Republicans. The organization was thoroughly demoralized and humiliated.
The ride turned into a triumphal procession as it passed through one state after another; the bicycle age had finally arrived. Joe lead his troops into Detroit, where he was given the keys to the city by the mayor and the heads of the three big motor companies, who all praised bicycling and insisted that the roads be shared.
In New York, Joe was invited to address the United Nations, and when he reached Washington, he was invited to address a special joint session of Congress. There he made a speech from which the following words are extracted:
The Role of the Bicycle in the Modern World
For an entire century, the mistaken belief has dominated that bicycles are slow and inefficient while motor vehicles are much more practical. As a result, traffic deaths, heart disease, strokes, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, pollution, sprawl, traffic noise, and the cost of living have soared, while the trade balance, the quality of life, and the survivability of the planet have declined.
I would not attempt to argue that motor vehicles have served no useful purpose or that they should be outlawed; on the other hand, I must point out that nearly one third of the gasoline burned each year is consumed for frivolous purposes, and that everyone can get to work and have a higher standard of living while burning less than a quarter of the oil that we currently use, if we are willing to change our society.
Today Japan and Germany are among the countries that demonstrate that energy efficiency and a high standard of living can coexist. The United States could prove the same tomorrow.
Why should we reduce our fuel consumption, adapt solar power, and ride bicycles more? I can give good economic, environmental, and health reasons:
There are two very strong economic reasons: First, our oil reserves are decreasing every year while our demand for oil is increasing. The United States has a huge trade imbalance which is made worse by our oil imports. Second, the world oil reserves are also decreasing every year. Eventually, costs will skyrocket, and the economic consequences will be severe.
There are two strong environmental reasons: First, fossil fuel pollution in this country is responsible for over 100,000 deaths per year, and it is also damaging our forests. Second, the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are increasing each year, which has been causing climatic disruptions which will only continue to grow worse, unless we change our ways.
There are two very strong health reasons as well: First, our motorized society is harmful to the human nervous system due to noise, confusion, constant danger, and life in an obviously artificial and ugly environment. Second, our sedentary lifestyle is the cause of one third of all premature deaths along with decreased health and enjoyment. The human body and soul need healthy excercise in a more pleasant evironment.
People have maintained that it would be impractical to use a bike to get to work when one has to drive a hundred miles every day. But if we did not make motor vehicle wastelands out of our cities, no one would feel the need to travel a hundred miles to work. Our cities were once pleasant places to live, but we made then undesirable through pollution, neglect, congestion, and noise. In addition, we have turned the value of life around backwards. Rather than working in order to have a satisfactory life, we find ourselves on a consumer treadmill, where we spend the majority of our waking hours either traveling to work or earning money, and the rest of our time buying or using consumer goods. This may be very good for industry, but it is not very good for people. Our wealth, rather than making us wiser, is making us more ignorant, as we no longer have time to learn and think. We have become, as Thoreau warned, the tools of our tools. Our wealth, instead of improving our lives, is injuring our health.
I challenge all Americans to tear down their cubicles and get to know their neighbors, to quit driving their cars and to learn how to use their muscles, to quit absorbing pablum from the TV and to start to think and create, and to quit worrying so much about retirement and to enjoy living their lives today.
I now represent a broad coalition of cyclists willing to fight for such a better lifestyle. I would like the President and Congress to aid us in making sweeping changes, because anything less is not good enough. However, it must be pointed out that the bulk of the changes will have to be made by individuals taking command of their own lives.