Globe Trotter Uzzal

Travel makes one modest,you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world

Crisscrossing USA and globe by cycling

Crisscrossing USA and globe by cycling

By Ashrafuz Zaman Uzzal,, Dhaka:

Someone who has been allured by the call of traveling cannot remain in caged life at home. Traveling is like intoxication. I have been roaming across the world from one pole to another for last 22 years. In this way I have visited 54 countries, have got two books on traveling named “Shongi Cycle and Araddho Prithibi” and “East Africa”. I have also edited two travelogues titled “Bhromoner Kherokhata” and “Experience Bangladesh.”

Humans have been traveling from the primitive age. Most of such journeys in the past were aimless without pondering over that much. Bohemian people used to travel even alone. Humans all over the world have been traveling on feet, cycle, motorcycle, plane, ship, train and different modes. In course of time, human civilization has experienced various dimensions. In place of aimless wandering, people came up with planned traveling to know the unknown.

In one fine morning in 2007, Imran called me and shared his plan about heading for a world tour by cycle and he asked for my advice and support. Rifat also joined him. I took them up to Thailand and gave all necessary supports. I acquainted them to the High Commissioner of Bangladesh. I requested the high commissioner to help them and he did the same.

We planned to cross USA through cycling in 2007. At last the plan came into the reality in 2012. We started our journey on 11th June from Seattle and after travelling through 12 states we finished our journey on 4th August in Washington DC. We travelled 466 miles in 66 days.

One target of the tour was to take entry of litters like plastic bottles, cigarette filter etc. by the side of the roads. A mobile entry APPs was developed by the joint efforts of Imran and MIT. The name of the program is Trash Maniac which is run by Android system. USA is one of those countries which are responsible for climate change as a result of their consumerism and huge amount of useless waste products. So in the beginning we decided to explore this first world country at first. If we can convey this message to the USA people then they may realize that because of their wasteful extravagant lifestyle, the people in other parts of the world have to pay huge penalty whereas this total world is all of our own. The opportunist and selfish people of the world have created divisions amongst the parts of the world by demarcating them as Europe, Asia, Africa and division like rich countries and poor countries. This created dividend identity and people started suspecting each other. The average use of plastic in USA is the highest in the world. Its manufacturing requires fuel like gas, coal etc. and its transportation also needs fuel and water. The more energy is produced, the more carbon- dy -oxide is produced .If this carbon- dy- oxide increases more in the atmosphere then it will cause global warming and as consequence, it will threaten the existence of the countries in the lower region of the world.

We roamed around USA in a vehicle named Tandem bicycle. These cycles have been handmade in a place named Oregon in Seattle. It is a custom folding travel bicycle made by Bike Friday. An advantage of this bicycle is that wherever you go it is possible to dismantle this bicycle and keep it in a suitcase or a box. But it’s very expensive. The cost of the custom made bicycle starts from 1200 dollars. It is a kind of bicycle where the accommodation of two or more people at the back can be made according to wish. For us it was a matter of pride that we were the first to cross USA in this sort of Tandem bicycle. We knew about our unprecedented cycling from Adventure Cycling Association. They weighed the cycle along with our baggage and also confirmed that we were the first to do cross USA cycling with this much weight.

We had to collect maps for crossing USA by cycling before starting the trip. Adventure cycling Association has developed the best map on all over USA. As we were going west to east, we collected this map although later on we did not follow this map to the point. Later we had to collect the local map of every state. We also had cell phone with GPS facility. But the network of our T mobile caused a lot of trouble on the west coast. Very often we did not receive any data service.

Initially we used to stay in the national parks, state parks and private camp grounds. Keoa is the biggest camp ground and it has its network all over USA. A man named Dave Drum is the founder of this camp ground. He started this in Billing and Montana in 1962 and with his two partners he introduced its franchises all over USA in 1963. There are 500 Keoas. The biggest one is in Florida and the second biggest is MT Rushmore in South Dakota. In Keoa there are RV sides cabin, fresh room, toilet and in some places swimming pool too. There is a discount for 10% for the members of Keoa.

Seattle ____

We started our America tour from Seattle. We reached Seattle after a long plane journey from New York. Saikat, who works at Microsoft, came to Seattle to receive us. It was the month of June but still quite cold in Seattle. Wearing warm jacket, watching views of Seattle at night, we reached Saikat’s place where his wife and beautiful daughter were also waiting for us. They were also new comers in Seattle. After having a little chat, we finished dinner quickly and went to bed as we were very tired that night.

Next morning, we went out to see explore the city after breakfast. We went to a shop to buy cycles and necessary accessories for the tour. That shop was a heavenly place for adventure lovers. A famous shop for adventure gears is REI. It is a well equipped and excellent shop. There were discounts for the members of REI. Everywhere in America there is a touch of commercial trick. Every big store has its membership cards. These stores are like Mackey, Gap, Cutco, Republic etc. We did shopping at REI and went to roam around in Downtown. There was huge gathering of the tourists.

There are offices of reputed companies in Seattle. Big companies like Boeing, Microsoft Pioneer Square of Downtown and Pike Place are the ones most worth visiting. Besides, the theatre hall, park and museum of the city are quite famous. Seattle is the birth place of rock legend Jimi Hendricks. The area of Seattle is 85.9 square miles. It is a mountainous city on top of 7 mountains.

The biggest landmark of Seattle is century 21. Saikat mentioned that there is Starbucks at Pike Place Market. It started its journey on 30th March 1971 and it has turned into the biggest coffee company in the world which has coffee shops in 66 countries. In America there are 13 thousands and in the whole world they have 19 thousands 972 coffee shops. It started its journey with three partners—English teacher Jerry Badwin, History teacher Jive Segol and writer Gordon Bower.

Before 1952, Seattle’s name was Dwamps. At present 75% Seattle residents have got home internet. Seattle is an ideal city in the whole America for walking and cycling. A very big festival of South America is held in Seattle. The name of this festival is Bumper Shot. It has been in practice since 1971 and it is a festival of international art and music.

From 1869 to 1982 this centre was recognized as “Queen City”. The present official name of Seattle is Emerald City. The only one prominent Daily here is the Seattle Times. Every year Seattle International Festival is held here. It started its journey from 1976. We saw most of the joggers jogging in Green Lake and Discovery Park.

Along with Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks there is also internet retailer department store Nord Storm. The political culture of Seattle is quite liberal and progressive in comparison to the other states of USA.

As mentioned earlier, the name of our cycle is Tandem which can accommodate two people at a time. At night we organized our luggage properly. We were supposed to start next morning. For this purpose we bought some dry foods, dates from and Indian grocery store.

11th June was the date of starting our journey. We had never run a Tandem bicycle before. Imran was on the driver’s seat and I was at his back. I had to paddle at the same pace with him. I had to stop wherever he wanted to stop .If he speeded up, I also would have to speed up. I had no liberty and it was not so easy to cope with. I also had to depend on him for my rest of the activities like drinking water etc. This condition was not very comfortable for me.

Moreover because of lack of previous experience with Tandem I was feeling a little shaky too. I was a little heavy in weight which was 70kg. We were cycling by the sides of the lake. The place was very solitary and beautiful. After crossing the serene lake area we reached the busy city street and it took a long time for us to find the street that would take us to the high way.

I 90 is quite large and famous highway. There we got quite big space and lakes for cycling and biking but many big lorry trucks were moving with high speed so we had to remain very careful. It was very difficult to cope with the air force of the big vehicles. Just a little carelessness would cause fatal accident.

We were stopping sometimes, having food and then again started paddling from plane surface. But the highway started rising upwards and along with it was becoming more painstaking and laborious for us with the increasing height. We were feeling thirsty and having breathing problem. The only good thing was the comfortable weather. There was no reason for sweating but the trouble in GPS service made us to sweat. Often we were not getting any network in the mobile. Above it, that place was such an area where we did not get to see anyone. So there was neither any option for asking anybody.

In order to ask someone or to get the direction, we entered into some business institutions with trembling feet because in USA without permission no one is supposed to enter into any premises. Moreover there ware “beware of dogs” and “no trace passing” signs.

It took till evening to find out the address of first camp ground. It was private campground. People of that place got acquainted with us, treated us with cold water and also provided us with the location of the next camp ground. The next campground was a state park. It took a lot of toil to find that out.

The in-charge of the campground said that we could stay anywhere we liked. The rate was very cheap. There was a display where anyone can fill up the form and can submit the money on a drop box. We raised the camp there. Noodles and shemai (a sweet dish) were being made after setting up the burner. We ate full stomach. We had paddled cycle for more than ten hours, so we were very tired but were very hopeful too.

Besides cycling we also had another purpose which was to keep the date of any non disposable litter on the way. The non disposable waste products contained products like water bottle food package, can, glass, bottle and any product which does not get disposed in soil for a long time. Imran’s friends from Massachusetts Institute of Technology made a special platform for us. Whenever we saw a plastic product we used to give entry of that and instantly that would go to our website through Google Map. We had to get up very early in the morning. We used to get up at 5am and started our journey after folding the tent and having some light breakfast. We kept light foods like dates, energy bar and drink along with us. For tea and coffee, we stopped at grocery shops or gas stations on the way. During these stoppages we received some rest too. The journey of the second day was through the trail of unmetalled road which was very painstaking. On one side there was the heavy weight of the cycle and on the other, we had to paddle very slowly. After reaching a safe place, we took shower and went to sleep early.

In the morning we again started our journey. There is a bridge on Columbia river in front of the Vigent campground. This bridge is connected with Sunset Highway. Sunset Highway at present is called I 90 Highway. Many tourists came to Vigent Highway for rock climbing. We started moving through GPS signal. After paddling through 10 miles, we reached a dead end. We realized that we came to a wrong way. Turning back we came to Vigent again. Inspite of crossing a wrong way we did not feel bad at all because the road with little up and down structure had a panoramic view. The view removed our tiredness and we enjoyed cycling a lot. In this way we crossed 20 miles including the bridge and started cycling towards Matwa. On the way we noticed some Mexicans who were plucking cherry. I knew a little Spanish so started conversation by saying Buens Diash Ola Amigo. We asked them and ate a lot of cherries and also took a lot with us. The cherries helped us to remain energetic in the later part of our journey.

The road was very nice. We were enjoying cycling a lot when we reached Matwa city. We saw a number of Mexicans there. There were a lot of onions and beer cans beside the road. There were huge grain fields and fruit trees on both sides of the road. There were also many corn and apple trees. We were waiting in the cross road of three streets to go to Othello from Matwa. We had to ask somebody. Often our GPS network was not working. Even sometimes the mobile network was unavailable. In most of the places of western USA, We did not get the service of T mobile. So in order to get the path direction, we stopped and were waiting for people who can guide us. Suddenly we saw a car was coming and we asked it to stop. There were two people in the car, one was an American and the other one a foreigner. We asked them how to go to Othello. But we were totally unprepared for the man’s answer. Instead of answering our question, he asked us about our religious identity. He asked us whether we were Muslims. We found it very offensive. I told him that it was not the answer to my question. The woman in the car requested him to answer my question; it seemed to me that she was also ashamed of his behavior. However, I did not lose temper, because I knew there was nothing to be exited and nothing to invoke hatred. It is not wise for a tourist to get involved in an argument regarding religion and politics in a foreign land. As a Rotarian I also knew that getting angry means getting defeated.

That man did not answer my question. I told him: “Thank you for your time.” After waiting for some more while, some Mexicans gave us the direction of the road. We were crossing through that road. Till than we did not know that something horrible was waiting for us. It was noon so our speed was very slow. Our drinking water was almost finished, but there was no sign of human habitats or shops. We were cycling and thinking that wherever we would get a place ahead, we would stay there. But unfortunately we did not see anything like that. Finally we saw a church and with a mixed feeling of hope and fear, we moved forward to enter the church. There was an office beside the church. We were looking for somebody to ask for some accommodation or drinking water. But, there was no one. So we got nothing. As we did not get any source of water there, we gave up the plan for staying there. A little bit away beside the road we saw an RV car and rushed to that. There we came to know that before Othello city there was no place for camping and to go there still it would take more cycling for 4 to 5 hours and that also without water. We became very anxious. Gradually we reached an empty road. Sometimes we started speeding up seeing some habitats from distance but those were also like mirage. The closer the houses looked, the oppositely distant they were. Beside the road, whenever we stopped to see some habitats, we stopped for water. But all the times we had to come back without getting any water. At one point we saw canal and we stopped for taking water. Tying a rope with bottle we finally fetched water. After drinking, we also washed our faces with the water and for some time our tiredness were gone but there was more bad time to come. It started raining; we increased our speed. At last after 10 o’clock at night we reached Othello city. We stopped at a gas station but the same bad luck; the staff girl in the station said declared that the shop was already closed. Moving a little further, we saw some shops and entered into the restaurant Burger King. That was more than 10 o’ clock by that time. They would also close their shops but seeing our condition, they said “no hurry, eat as you need.” We ate to the full. We took the information about a cheap motel from them. Later, they came to the motel to see whether we could reach the place properly. Most of the staffs working in Burger King were young people. More than half of them were Mexicans. Such visit made us very grateful to them. I said good bye to them by saying “muchas gracious.” The in-charge of the motel informed us that the owner of the motel was a man of Pakistani origin. We cycled for 83 miles the next day. That was a memorable day of our traveling life.

We got up late in the morning. This time our destination was Moses’ Lake, which was 31 miles away from Othello. We started from Othello with relaxed mood. There was huge greenery all around. People were watering their green fields with modern technology. By noon we reached Moses’ Lake. We withdrew some money from bank of America and took the direction of going to the camp ground. The camp ground was situated in an overwhelmingly beautiful place beside a lake. Many people were fishing while some were riding the speed boats. We camped under a tree beside the lake. There we met a Bangladeshi named Kanak Aditya who is a member of a popular band named “Joler Gaan.” He is also the chief of Deshal boutique. He stays in USA. We talked to him and said that we listen to his songs while cycling.

Many people came in that camp ground with their family. The children were playing, fishing, swimming in the lake water and roaming around. Oh, what a fun! No traffic jam, no hue and cry and no hurry for going back home.

We dismantled the cycle part by part and cleaned it thoroughly. It was our everyday duty to take care of our cycles. We bought necessary stuffs from a shop nearby the camp. Imran cooked some delicious dishes and we ate full stomach and then fell asleep.

We started from Moses’ Lake. Our destination this time was Rig Vill which was 40 miles away. After paddling for a while we observed barren fields and grain fields nearby the road. We got water on the way. The weather was quite hot and we were sipping water every now and then but were still getting exhausted. We had to push the cycle for about two hours, because the road was very uneven. Finally we reached Rig vill city which is quite an old city. We went to a down town area and brought banana, cake and energy drink from a Chinese grocery shop. We used to drink it every day in the whole journey. Monster was our most favorite drink which energized us a lot. We saw a police van and took direction of Four Season Camp ground from them. The entering path towards that place was very difficult to cross. The road was unmetalled and rough but the huge green surrounding it mesmerized us. We reached the camp ground in the evening. There were 5 to 6 RVs. We got acquainted with a man named Erwin. He and his wife also boarded at RV. They were making dinner and offered us chicken and beans. I gave them pickles of Bangladesh. We got acquainted with another gentleman beside and charged my mobile from his RV. It was drizzling at that time, so we could not cook any more. So we finished the food given by Erwin and fell asleep.

We started from 4 Season Camp ground for Chenoy. It was a path of 37 miles. Our destination was David’s place. David is the friend of our cyclist friend Rick Gun. A few miles were rough. Because of jerking, we could not sit on the gravel road properly as our hips got ached. In the afternoon we talked to David and proceeded towards his house. On the way, there was a signboard saying ‘cat crossing.’ That day it was Father’s Day. David would take us to his daughter’s place. David’s own place was around 15 acres where only he and his wife live. David was 68 years old. His beautiful house had a huge kitchen. David showed his kitchen and told us to use it ourselves. We boiled rice and fried egg and ate the meal. It was the first rice of our tour. It seemed to us we had not had rice for such a long time. David gave our cloths to the washing machine. In the evening we started for his daughter’s place. The road was really beautiful. After high and low patches, there was a lot of greenery. We also saw deers on the way. We reached his daughter’s place. David took some wine bottles for his daughters and his son-in-law who was a hunter. They have got three daughters. We had dinner together and visited their whole house. Bryan decorated a room with leathers of different animals. He took us and with his pistol and gun and taught how to target and shoot. To save our ear from ear bursting sound, he gave us ear plugs. Bryan used to visit Aidath, Montana for hunting. Ha also hunted a bear. He told us his story of hunting in Alaska.

At night we came home and checked e-mails. Rahat bin Jaman emailed from Bangladesh High Commission of Canada. He asked for the address of some Bangladeshis in Mexico. I gave him the addresses. Bangladesh government was trying to open up embassy in Brazil and Mexico. Besides Brazil and Mexico, an embassy would be open in Panama too. The people who would be posted here will need to know Dutch and Spanish languages. In seven central American countries we have a lot of things to do in fields like business, education, culture. The World Cup 2014 and Olympic Games 2016 will be held in Brazil. Brazil is a strong economical country. Bangladeshi people have not inhabited in Latin America in that way. But the most number of Bangladeshis reside in Paraguay, Mexico and Brazil. Once I had a talk to the Minister of State of Brazil named George Heg Sobrinho. He invited me to go to Brazil. In these countries, there is ample opportunity for investment for Bangladeshi people. The opportunity in agriculture and tourism is also not bad. Medicine of many Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals is coming to Latin and Central America too.

David showed us our room. We came to our room and uploaded our photographs on our website and flicker account. After many days we went to sleep in bed instead of tent.

(The author is a professional traveller and could be contacted at for comments)

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