Welcome to the Pedal for Pongo information page!
Pedal for Pongo was a self-organized charity bicycle tour to benefit Orangutan Outreach, a charity dedicated to orangutan conservation.
This is where you’ll find all information, pictures, updates, training info, and trip blog updates.
Pedal for Pongo was a bicycle tour that spanned about two weeks. Starting in Providence and heading to the Philadelphia Zoo we met with primatologists, zookeepers, and researchers at several zoos, museums, and universities and talked to them about the different roles they play in animal conservation while learning all about primatology and primate evolution.
Our trip, from planning, to training, to traveling, is being made into a documentary that will be available in several episodes on YouTube as well as on DVD with loads of bonus features and appearances by Rhode Island College anthropology students.
Please follow the link above to read about the plight of orangutans, as well as to see what incentives there are for donating.
Here are the episodes! Three of four are now available to stream on YouTube, with all four available on June 1, 2020.
Below is the journal for the trip, from planning to completion.
It’s been a very long process but I’m excited to have finished Pedal for Pongo. Mostly, anyway. I spent the long weekend polishing the film and have started duplicating the discs.
Special edition copies for those who donated or participated will all be ready and packaged this afternoon and sent out into the world by the end of the week. I’ll also get a selection of photographs from the project for those donors who are expecting them.
Putting this project behind me has a lot going through my mind. What’s next? Do I focus immediately on Scrimshaw? Should I just catch up on chores?
We’ve been home for over two months now. The documentary is nearing completion (about 240 hours have been spent editing so far!), and the discs and cases should be delivered by the end of this week.
If you haven’t yet seen the trailer, it’s good stuff!
I’m working on scheduling screenings with two committed venues, dates TBD.
The fund raiser will be running until the end of this month, and it would be really awesome to get a few more donations before the close.
Check out the link to the fund raiser at the top of this page for more info.
I’ll update this page one or two more times by the end of it, so don’t go too far!
Well. We’re home. We are still working on incorporating ourselves back into everyday life. As with any long-ish trip, that can be weird. The pets are happy we are home. We’ve managed to piece together a few of the mysteries of what happened in our house while we were gone.
One Long Boi got a good cleanup today. I cleaned the chain three times with degreaser before drying it off and re-lubricating. I still don’t feel it’s clean enough. This trip got things pretty nasty. I’ll probably pull the gearing off the rear wheel over the weekend to really get in there.
I’ve begun the monumental task of organizing all of the files. I’m not quite sure how many files there are or how much space it takes up, but it looks like 70gb might be a fair estimate. I know there’s more to transfer somewhere. I’ll find it all.
But think about it. We spent 10 days making our way from Providence to Philadelphia. We filmed with three cameras (and two cell phones), and used two audio recorders. We stopped at 3 zoos, 2 universities, and 1 museum. We filmed every day in some way or another. It’s kind of understandable.
We also filmed the progress of our training and bike-building/customization.
This is a big process. And some of the people with whom we met are rounding up some related photos and video clips of their own field work to include in the final film.
It’s important to keep on top of things. In 4 months, editing will be an absolute nightmare if I don’t spend the time now to organize things with coherent names and in obvious locations. I’ve never gotten this far into a project this complex. Scrimshaw is pretty huge as well, but I’m nowhere near post-production on that.
Also…I want you to be able to piece together your own projects based on what I’m doing. So I kinda-sorta have to map out every step of the way to make it easier for anyone so inclined.
Really it’s just thorough and good form. In the past I’ve been pretty badly burned on projects by rushing or cutting corners. That’s not happening this time…or anymore.
I also took a lot of footage (and asked a lot of questions during interviews) with the intention of using it as bonus footage. This project is going to be pretty intense. I’m not sure when it’s going to be done, but it’s going to be awesome once it is.
Several months ago, me being in this bed typing this entry seemed like a pipe dream. But we’ve made it to Philadelphia! Granted, we took the train and probably only biked about 10 miles today, but even short rides make Julie’s knee protest. It wasn’t worth it, but we still made it.
There’s still work to be done, and the fund raiser is still running (https://www.gofundme.com/pedal-for-pongo), but today is an achievement.
We made it fairly early, too. We were here by about 11am. It was too early to check in with our Airbnb, so we checked out the zoo. It was impressive, to say the absolute least. It’s pretty huge, and the animals have excellent enclosures aaaaand there is a kind of habitrail setup (you know those plastic tube setups for hamsters?) for a lot of their animals. The monkeys and lemurs were just going about their business in them and it felt very immersive.
They have an amazing array of primates, and we got footage of all that we could, but some were either off exhibit, sleeping in, or nocturnal and very hard to get video of. But it was amazing, and we spent the rest of the day thinking over our trip and the gigantic mountain of work in front of me once we get home and it comes time to edit.
We worked it out so that on our route home, rather than staying two nights in Philly, we’ll be swinging through Bridgeport again. Lindsay is our favorite person on the planet right now, and has agreed to meet with us to be filmed a second time, because essentially I (Joe) screwed up the first. Yes, it was an equipment malfunction and that was nobody’s fault. But I always, aaaaaalways have a backup going. I know better and I messed up.
Fortunately we are able to recover and reshoot. And never again will I allow that to happen.
We had kind of an amazing dinner. It felt more celebratory than we almost deserved, because Julie’s cousin’s girlfriend (her family is super close, don’t let the ‘s ‘s fool you) works at a nice restaurant. She was working tonight so we stopped in. So of course she kept sending us food. It was an uncomfortable, though happy, 2.5 mile ride back to our room.
Today we are backing up all the footage we got today (it was a lot), charging cameras, clearing memory cards, swapping batteries, and generally just getting ready for Sunday, when we wake up in Bridgeport and clean up our mess.
Then we’re home, and it’s time to start processing the last week, and looking toward what’s next.
This morning we made the made the two mile or so walk from our room over to the Rutgers Douglass Campus to meet with Dr. Erin Vogel. Dr. Vogel is a primate dietary ecologist who has worked extensively with orangutans since 2004, and with primates as a whole for about 25 years.
We spoke for around an hour, and I’ve come to realize that these interviews aren’t always the easiest discussions to have. Dr. Vogel and researchers like her (including Katherine Meier) work in remote and often environmentally hostile areas studying animals that are going about their daily lives in spite of an ever-encroaching and destructive human presence.
Field primatologists get to know these animals on an individual level, and they also see the devastating effects that logging and slash and burn agriculture have on these animals. But these animals aren’t alone. They are part of a dynamic and often delicate environment. They are big and recognizable, but there are thousands of other animals who are also impacted by this activity.
With Dr. Vogel, I wanted to try and see the hope in this story. We have interviewed a lot of people about the ways their work fit into the overall umbrella of conservation. With field primatologists it’s always been difficult.
In a museum, the goal is education. Specimens preserved long ago are combined with modern educational exhibits and dioramas to help people experience the cultural and bio diversity all over the world.
In a zoo, captive breeding programs and species survival plans help boost the biodiversity and preserve the integrity of species in decline. Animals who are difficult to handle or who have suffered injuries can still pass on their genes and help ensure the preservation of their species. It’s heart breaking when an animal dies, but that’s usually part of life and often times animals in zoos surpass their life expectancy.
For a primatologist out in the field, there is little to compare with heading out for a field season to find thousands of acres of your research area has been burned or logged illegally. Scientists aren’t inhuman…they’re passionate about the animals they’re studying and their wellbeing. It is devastating and emotionally traumatizing to the point where some change research focus both because they can’t handle seeing the devastation, and also because the orangutans simply may not survive the course of a dissertation project.
It is difficult to find hope there.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this project and the direction I’ve wanted to take it. We are on bike, raising awareness for orangutans and the environment as a whole. It’s part adventure travel and part NOVA, kind of. Since we left Providence I’ve learned enough to write a book. But I’m making a documentary. I wanted to find some message or thread of hope while speaking with Dr. Vogel, because “there’s still a chance” was the best I’d come away with so far.
Having learned as much as I have and with a clearer picture of what I want to be able to put out there when all this is said and done, I think I was able to take that away from our meeting with Erin. I hope when all is said and done, that still come across and seems feasible.
Tomorrow morning we set out for Philly. The bulk of this trip is behind us.
Yesterday we made the trip from Manhattan into New Brunswick. Meaning we have completed 3 of the 5 states we will be visiting, and are firmly lodged within the 4th. It hasn’t been without difficulty. Both of our bikes are in need of new brakes. Steep descents in inner city areas mean a lot of brake riding when you’re on 50-100lb bikes.
We have been working with Beardsley on how to reconnect and have them play the major role in this project that we are hoping for. I spent some time exploring the different settings on the recorder that malfunctioned, and also scoured some internet forums. Apparently there are some auto-record features that wind up producing that error. I’m not sure what they are supposed to do in the first place…but somehow they wound up activated, and once activated managed to malfunction.
I’m not positive that this recorder will be completely taken out of the rotation, but I will definitely never completely trust it again.
Yesterday was also another kind of setback–physical. After the intense climbing that Eastern Connecticut put us through, and old injury of Julie’s was making itself known. Day 2 was relatively flat, although intensely rainy. After our stay in New Haven, it seemed she was good to go.
Some more climbing on our trip to New York upset it a bit again, and just 20 miles into our trip into New Jersey, it was becoming concerning. We were very close to Penn Station in Newark and so we decided the bike-touring-street-cred was not worth the health of Julie’s knee. We took the train into New Brunswick and sacrificed roughly 20 miles of riding.
Entering New Jersey was stressful. We wound up at an apparent hub where every interstate highway in the Western Hemisphere converges. There are multiple bridges passing over about 709 waterways. The pavement is rough. The smog is thick.
It wasn’t unsafe, but it was definitely suboptimal. Once we snaked out way through that, Newark wound up being surprisingly beautiful and honestly kind of quaint when compared to the intensity of New York City.
Today, we have mostly eaten. We met with an old friend of mine, Sarah Hlubik, who is an archaeologist and paleoanthropologist at Rutgers University. She specializes in the origins of fire in human ancestral groups, and she was (still is) an instructor at the Koobi Fora Field School, where I had the astoundingly good luck to attend in 2013.
I hadn’t seen her since we parted ways in Nairobi in 2013, and it was good to reconnect. She led us to a really good sandwich shop, and gave us a tour of the anthropology department–introducing us to several of her colleagues. Some of them had heard of our project! Which was slightly less incredible once we found out that Sarah was the one who mentioned it in the first place. Only slightly less, though.
There are some talks about Pedal Powered Anthropology being involved with the Koobi Fora Field school, but for now I’m going to leave it at that. Also it’s just a rumor and you didn’t hear it from me.
We also got to meet Dr. Vogel, with whom we will be meeting tomorrow. Which was nice, because we both know our way around and who it is we are looking for…but also a little worrisome because I am out of presentable clothes and a few tight/improvised situations have left the single pair of pants I have rather covered in bicycle chain ring imprints.
Dr. Vogel is a field primatologist, so I’m sure she’s accustomed to a degree of messiness at times.
We are still piecing together what comes next. We will likely be taking the train into Philadelphia as we don’t want to push Julie’s minor injury into a severe one. Rest and Tiger Balm have worked wonders, though.
Tomorrow is the last day of interviews. I’m already trying to catch up on organizing clips to make sure everything will be in order for once we get home…when it will be time to start editing.
Lastly! We are past the 50% mark! Keep the donations and sharing going, and let’s hit our $1,000 goal by the time we are home!
The same couldn’t be said for the cars we cruised past
In a city like New York, a bike path is always a shortcut. Cycling cuts congestion and is exponentially cheaper than driving. Add in bike paths that lead where people are actually going and it’s a viable, accessible, and reasonable form of transportation. People gravitate towards it because it’s economical. The environmental impacts, while awesome, are secondary.
The same can be said for farmers in Brazil who are given incentives for leaving some trees standing so that Golden Lion tamarins can continue to traverse their land.
In both cases, the onus of conservation was shifted to the government who simply made it worthwhile for people to engage in behaviors that both benefited them and the environment.
As we pedal toward the end of this trip, these are the types of things going through our minds.
And with that said, we’ve gotta get up early and head to New Brunswick, New Jersey, for our second to last stop–Rutgers University.
Today we reached Bridgeport. After spending two nights in Hamden with Nelson and his wonderful humans Dan and Emily, it was time to head on.
Our stay in Hamden and New Haven was amazing. Weirdly, our ride there was great as well despite being caught in blinding thunderstorms when it was about 45 degrees.
We met with Katherine Meier, a PhD student in Yale’s Anthropology/School of Forestry and Environmental Science joint degree program.
She was awesome, thoughtful, and even offered to pick us up from Nelson the dog’s house so we could get steering-wheel-sized cinnamon buns and meet a lot of dogs.
She spoke at length to the intricate issues and the sometimes grim realities surrounding animal conservation and working with animals like wild orangutans, whose environments are under grave threat.
We had a last minute addition to our roster. Dr. Gary Aronsen is the supervisor of the biological anthropology labs at the Yale Peabody Museum.
Dr. Aronsen intimately understands the role of museums in helping connect people to the natural world and the role of public education in animal conservation.
We talked about his work on understanding the lives of primates through the study of their remains.
We had been talking previously, but his participation in this project was confirmed at the very last minute, and his contribution was invaluable and we were grateful for it.
After a full day, we decided to take the night off and got dinner and a movie with our [human] hosts.
This morning we woke in the highest spirits of our trip so far. Julie packed bags and made sure nothing would be left behind while I went over the bikes to make sure they were perfectly tuned after the hard riding of the days before.
It was a cold ride, with some rain, but a fast ride all the same. We made it to the Beardsley Zoo an entire hour ahead of schedule.
We met with zookeeper Lindsay, who is fantastically knowledgeable about Beardsley Zoo and is so incredibly passionate for their animals. She spoke at length and emphatically about the important role that zoos play in conservation and the complex balance that needs to be struck in helping governments and local people get actively involved.
Unfortunately, the day took a sharp down turn when after our interview, I realized that almost none of the audio had recorded.
It will take some work to recover what we can, and we may honestly have to schedule another visit to properly represent the incredible information and perspectives Lindsay and Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo have brought to this project.
We have tried hard to stay positive for the rest of the day and try to look forward to the ride tomorrow.
These things can happen, it’s part of the process to encounter sometimes major setbacks.
We’ve already taken steps to make sure it’s almost impossible for this to happen again.
To top it off, tonight’s Airbnb host forgot that we are traveling by bike and we haven’t been able to get our bikes into her garage. She won’t be home until “later,” but couldn’t clarify when that may be…which is less than exciting after a day like today and knowing we have to set out very early tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow we finally head out of Connecticut, and we hope to get to our room in New York City by mid-late afternoon. Tuesday we hit New Brunswick, and we’ll officially be on the tail end of the trip.
Today we woke up both surprisingly early and surprisingly…not sore. It was a bit rainy in the morning but we took a mile or so walk to a little diner with surprisingly good coffee.
It was 9am and we were already getting good surprises.
On the walk back, it seemed the rain was letting up. More good news?
We packed up the last of what we had, locked up for our amazing host Coryn, and off we went.
Some interesting issues with our GPS unit wanting to bring us back to our starting point didn’t dampen our mood.
Nor did the rain.
It seemed like we had lucked out. But it started sprinkling a bit after we had gotten to the Connecticut Fast Track bike path. After about an hour of that, we stopped for lunch in New Britain.
Wet and hungry, they took pretty good care of us and were kind of astounded we had ridden so far.
Pizza and a burger inside of us, we saw a break in the rain and, shivering almost uncontrollably, we headed out.
We managed to warm a bit before the rain really started. Now. It had been raining for hours. I mean really started. It came down so hard we couldn’t see, and stung like hail although it wasn’t.
The worst of it lasted maybe 10 minutes before settling down into a steady but tolerable storm.
Eventually the thunder passed and the skies even threatened to brighten a few times.
We snaked through a few more city roads before making to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. And believe me when I tell you this trail is incredible.
Still soaking wet, it was hard to get many photos, but we rolled through miles of old mills and beautifully designed and maintained paths.
I feel like a lot of today would have been well-suited for Rhode Island’s Industrial Revolution.
This path was so perfect that it brought us to our host’s street. That’s right. A 53 mile ride today dropped us off a bike path 3/4 of a mile from our host’s house.
Speaking of which. We are staying with Dan and Emily. We hadn’t met them before today but they are two of the nicest people who have ever lived.
We arrived, sorted out our bikes. Changed. And they made us hot tea. AND THEY HAD MADE US LASAGNA BECAUSE IT WAS RAINING.
Also they have a dog named Nelson:
It’s been a long couple of days. We’ve ridden 133 miles. Everything we’ve recorded is backed up. Our bikes are handling beautifully. We are mysteriously already way stronger. I got a bit of sun
Today has been simply amazing. Tomorrow we wake up, with no alarm. We are meeting Katherine Meier and fiiiinally getting to work for the first time since setting out.
With no cycling and lots of filming, it’ll be a welcome change.
At this point I have to mention that we are I think $75 from our 50% mark. It’s the goal we had hoped to hit before New Haven. Technically we are in Hamden right now, so you can still get us there!
Any donation that helps get us closer to the $500 mark gets a free Anthrospin Skull and Crankset logo sticker in addition to donation incentives, so now’s the time!
Wellp! 79 miles, 4,000 feet of climbing, one pizza, and 7lbs of Chinese food, and day 1 is behind us. We have made it to Manchester.
It wasn’t entirely easy. One friend rode out with us and flatted almost immediately. Without a spare tube, he was forced to bail.
For 19 miles we were on the Washington Secondary Trail, and really got a feel for our bikes under so much load. We made it to the end of the Washington path, and it was out into the great unknown.
Sort of. We’ve both spent a good amount of time cycling on some of these backroads. But still. Little of it wound up being exactly where we’d ridden.
Eventually we made it to Connecticut.
There were a few mishaps. Julie’s rear derailleur needed some fiddling, and still does. We’ll sort it out in the morning. But it got us through our most intense day of climbing, with close to 4,000 feet of it in around 50 miles.
Rhode Island is flat, people.
There were hills that went for miles. MILES. We don’t have that in Rhode Island. But we also don’t have the same kind of down hills. Those were fun.
The GPS route wanted us to ride into a swamp. All we could think of was Dwight yelling at Michael that “it can’t mean that! There’s a lake there!”
We figured it out.
We saved a turtle. We encountered the most amazing drivers in the world. We even saw a beaver dam.
I am pretty sunburned. I didn’t expect it but it’s ok.
The ride was incredible. The scenery was worth the sunburn and the climbs were worth the descents.
Our Airbnb host is amazing and our room is wonderful. We are both in excellent moods. Tired, but happy. But mostly tired.
Tomorrow is just 47 miles to get to New Haven. That’s about 32 miles shorter than today, and about 1/3 of the climbing. It’s supposed to rain in the morning. But we’ll see where it’s headed.
For now, it’s time for bed.
It’s time to make history. And go to bed. Mostly going to bed though.
Today was day one of on-location filming for Pedal for Pongo! We made the very short trek to the Roger Williams Park Zoo, where we met with primate keeper Kelly Froio.
Kelly was awesome. She has worked with the primates here for a long time, and knows them all very well. We talked about the different ways Roger Williams Park Zoo is involved in animal conservation and captive breeding programs, and the different ways the money of zoo patrons goes to help out animals around the world.
After our talk, she fed both the monkeys and the gibbons and we were able to film and watch their behavior with one another through feeding time.
We learned so much from Kelly and her monkey and ape friends. But just as importantly, we got to handle our bikes juuuust about fully loaded, and we got to see our transport and packing system in action. While we went into today thinking we had a good idea of how things would go once we got there, we didn’t expect things to go so well.
Our bikes ride more smoothly than we could have anticipated with the amount of gear we are hauling. Kelly and education director Shareen were incredibly gracious even though there were a few apparent communications breakdowns that both sides became aware of yesterday. Despite that, today went perfectly. The weather was cool and comfortable, the rain early on and the holiday kept more patrons from showing up than otherwise may have, the lighting was perfect.
If this is what’s in store, Thursday cannot come fast enough.
The days grow fewer, and the anticipation grows higher. Right now we are more or less climbing the slow climb on the roller coaster before being dropped and freaking out despite knowing everything is going to be fine.
Tomorrow we are stopping by the Roger Williams Park Zoo to meet with primate keepers in their rain forest exhibit. TOMORROW. That’s a wild word to type in relation to this project.
Tomorrow, we are loading up our camera gear and making the [super short] ride over to the Roger Williams Park Zoo. This is comfort-zone work at this point. If we mess up shooting at the zoo, it’s possible to just come back another day. The interviews will be great, but we’re going to be working the kinks out of filming there. If they bring us back into food prep areas or let us peek our heads into exhibits…we want to know how to quickly set up and not stress out the animals AND get a clear shot that doesn’t look like I pressed my forehead against the lens.
We’ve got names to drop at the front desk to get everything in motion. This is happening.
But there’s still some planning going on! We may be including someone else at the Yale Peabody, to generally talk about conservation and education from a museum perspective. It’s not definite, but it would absolutely be an exciting addition.
We are discussing the different roles we will be playing–both on and behind the camera–to make sure we give our hosts the impression that we know what we’re doing. That part is critical.
I’ve touched base with everyone we’re meeting with and they’re all aware we’re still on. Tomorrow night, rough interview topics will be sent out to all our subjects. Later today video release forms will be printed. Tomorrow there will be a short, fully-loaded ride to make sure my system of loading up the Big Dummy handles well.
After that, the next update will be about how filming went!
Another day, another update.
Things are cruising along, and it’s weird to think that this Saturday we’ll already have our first location behind us.
Last night I laid out pretty much everything I’m going to be bringing.
Bike clothes, normal people clothes, extra shoes in case of rain or not wanting to look like a goon. And all of my relevant film equipment…meaning virtually all of it.
My cameras, my lenses, my audio recorders, my lighting, my tripods, my drone, my chargers…pretty much everything.
The specific clothes might change a bit, but this is more or less what I’m going to be hauling.
Surprisingly, it took maybe 10 minutes to pack this into a well-balanced load. I’ll be doing it again over the week and taking it for a quick ride to feel it, but this bike continues to exceed my expectations.
On a semi-unrelated note, on our off day (Wednesday, 5/1), I will be having a webinar with a 5th grade social studies class in Arkansas!
I’m very excited for this and can’t wait to set up the web conferencing room. I’ve never done anything like this, and it’ll be good having Julie sitting right next to me because she taught high school biology and knows a bit about framing a lecture for a younger audience. I’ll be recording it but I’m not sure it will be publicly posted anywhere.
Other than that, I’m well into getting my interview topics and questions together, GPS maps will be complete and loaded onto my Garmin by this evening, we’ll be testing out how awesome it is over the weekend.
Not even two weeks left! This is getting exciting. I’m making the rounds through all of our destinations and contacts and touching base. Our time spent in the saddle is constantly rising. And I don’t think it’s been below freezing in 6 days!
Our fund raiser is starting to look pretty respectable. As of this morning we’ve raised $290! Not bad seeing as how about a month ago I think we still had just $50.
If you haven’t yet had the chance to, please consider contributing! $10 gets your name included (or the name of a family member or pet, etc) in the film credits. $25 and you’ll get a nice 8×10 photograph from our trip. We’ll have a few to choose from so you won’t necessarily be stuck with a large photo of one of us eating an entire pizza single handedly (we anticipate that being a popular one, though).
$50 or more and you’ll get a special edition DVD copy of the documentary, with exclusive bonus features and I’m sure plenty of yet-to-be-thought-of goodies.
Julie’s bike is done-done. It’s been ridden all over the city and is well set up for her and she won’t stop talking about how damn comfortable it is. There will be a few tweaks and adjustments as the new cables break in and such, but is a very nice bike. Now it just needs to be named.
GPS maps are working out quite well. I purchased a Garmin Edge 520 Plus bike computer because it’s got excellent battery life and incredibly dynamic GPS mapping/turn by turn directions.
I’m pretty handy getting around Rhode Island. From here to Philly, however, we’ll probably appreciate a computer barking orders at us from time to time. This thing can apparently generate a URL that will let you follow our GPS beacon to watch our ride progress in real time. It’s no Indian Pacific Wheel Race, but it’s still pretty damn cool.
Dash Bicycle has listed our ride on their website hoping to round up a small posse to send us off. Don’t be fooled by my name being listed as Lyons. It used to be up until last June. So Lyons or LyonWurm, you’re still getting the real deal.
I’ll be finishing up adding route maps to my super fancy Garmin and polishing up interview questions for the rest of today and throughout the week.
Tonight I will be laying out aaaaaaaaaaaall my gear and roughly what clothing I’m going to bring, and developing my method for packing all this stuff on One Long Boi. He’s been really anxious for it and I can’t deal with his whining any more.
Next Saturday, we hit Roger Williams Park Zoo. After that, is history.
Two and a half weeks to go. Time is starting to speed up. AND! Things are really starting to come together.
All of our rooms are sorted out. Julie didn’t know it, but our host in New Haven almost had something come up that weekend, but his obligation wound up being a different weekend. Our room in Philadelphia is incredibly close to the zoo. Really though we’re going to focus on getting a hold of the rental car once we check into our final room. Which, the rental is the final bit of logistics going into this thing.
The week after next is our dry run.
Which brings me to the next update:
It needs some fine tuning–cleat adjustments, fenders, and handlebar tape. But Julie’s bike is rideable! This is her first build, and it was awesome seeing it come along from start to finish. After our tour, this bike will be stripped back down and repainted.
And lastly, we may have another addition to our already impressive roster of experts and researchers. I’m waiting to hear back, but should know within the next couple of days!
March is ending and our training has moved from structured rides and yoga practices, to just getting outside and riding pretty much every day. Some days are chillier, some days we’re grumpy, but at this stage it’s more important to deal with situations we don’t feel like dealing with, because once we’re riding and have to meet someone on a schedule, rain or cold or whining isn’t going to be allowed to stop us.
That said, here is the updated (and almost finalized) itinerary. A little bit is subject to change, but this is what we’re hoping/planning for.
Saturday, April 20, 2019, RWPZ Dry Run— We’ll be visiting the Roger Williams Park Zoo and meeting with/interviewing zoo keeping staff. In addition to kicking off the on-location filming for this project, we’ll be close enough to home to work out any kinks and also sort out how things are gonna roll once we arrive somewhere. From RWPZ, we’ll be cycling to New Bedford to simulate an entire day of our tour in fairly controlled conditions.
Sunday, April 21, 2019, Buttonwood Park Zoo-– Our “dry run” is a bit more comprehensive than originally planned. From our stop at the RWPZ, we’ll be heading to stay with family/friends in New Bedford and on Sunday morning we’ll be riding over to the Buttonwood Park Zoo to meet their primates. After our tour, we’ll be heading back to Providence to regroup and address any kinks in our system.
Thursday, April 25, 2019, Day 1–We’ll be packed up and ready to go as of the night before. We’ll be headed to Broadway in Providence, to the Nitro Bar, to have a fantastic breakfast. After which, our friends at Dash Bicycle will be riding off with us as we start our trip. We are stopping in Manchester, Connecticut for the night.
Friday, April 26, 2019, Day 2— Today we only have to ride. We’ll be arriving in New Haven and meeting up with our gracious host, who lives just a few miles from the Yale Peabody.
Saturday, April 27, 2019, Day 3— Today we will be meeting with Katherine Meier at the Yale Peabody Museum and talking with her about different aspects of primatology, primate ecology, and conservation. We’ll also be touring the museum and learning about primate evolutionary history.
Sunday, April 28, 2019, Day 4— It is a very short ride to Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, where they’re very excited for our project. We’ll again be meeting with zoo staff and talking about their role in animal conservation and the impact individuals can have. We have booked and Air BnB two miles from the zoo, where we can quickly check in and drop everything that isn’t camera gear and head over to the zoo.
Monday, April 29, 2019, Day 5— Splitting another 100+ mile leg of our journey in half will see us about halfway between Beardsley and Rutgers. We will likely be staying somewhere close to New York’s Central Park, about 65 miles from the Beardsley Zoo.
Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Day 6— We will be arriving in New Brunswick and getting oriented with our surroundings while we clean up and charge our electronics. We’ll likely be staying with another Warm Showers Cycling Network host.
Wednesday, May 1, 2019, Day 7— One week in and we’re at our second to last stop, with a full day off. We’ll be making sure everything is cleaned, charged, backed up, and properly packed. Also we’ll be over eating.
Thursday, May 2, 2019, Day 8— Today we’ll be meeting with Erin Vogel at Rutgers University to learn about primate dietary ecology and how her research factors in to the critical need for conservation.
Friday, May 3, 2019, Day 9– Today, we will be touring the Philadelphia Zoo, the destination of our ride, and one of the few places in the northeastern United States with orangutans! This is still a bit fuzzy. Coordinating schedules has been tricky, and at this point we are left with a limited time span. We can rent a car in New Brunswick and drive to Philly, or ride to Philly and rent a car for the drive home.
What’s most likely is that we’ll be cycling to Philly for Friday and renting a car on Saturday. By then, we’ll be grateful for the rest.
In juuuuuust over 4 weeks, we’re heading out. I posted only 4 days ago, but it seems like so much has happened.
Julie’s bike is close to being almost done. We’ve had a few kinks getting things to fit right and making sure the pedals can actually be turned without the crank arm getting jammed on the frame. But with a bit of grinding, filing, wrenching, and prying, it’s almost good to go!
We are torn on the last several days of the tour. We can hop on the train from Bridgeport, hop on another in NYC, and arrive in New Brunswick. By Wednesday, April 1, we’ll be back on bike heading to Philadelphia.
Or, we can bike it to New Brunswick, have Wednesday off to eat ourselves into diabetic shock, and then meet with Erin Vogel on Thursday, April 2. Friday we’ll head to Philadelphia, Saturday we’ll see the zoo, and get ourselves home by Sunday evening (that part is gonna require some driving).
It’s a matter of wanting to take the train versus wanting to spread our destinations out more comfortably but in which case we have to plan for more rooms.
Six of one, half dozen of another.
This is our discussion for the rest of tonight while we process the excessive amount of pizza we just ate.
On a lighter note!
TRAINING HAS OFFICIALLY BEEN MOVED OUTSIDE.
That’s right. The hideous, icy grip of New England Winter has relaxed a bit, and we got out for a couple of hours today.
We have to focus a bit more on yoga, because all the cycling (for me, anyway) has wanted some more stretching and strength training to balance it out. But we’re doing great, we’re stronger and faster, and more comfortable on the saddle for longer amounts of time.
Julie has had issues in the past with one of her sits bones getting very painful on longer rides, so we’ve been mindful of this. There was no pain at all, today. Not even soft tissue soreness from simply sitting on a hard leather saddle for 2 hours with little break.
The last part of today’s update is perhaps the most exciting bit:
DONATIONS ARE STARTING TO PICK UP!
We’re now at $140 raised, which is encouraging because the majority of it was on Thursday and Friday of last week. That’s 14% of our goal raised, several individuals now being immortalized in film credits, a few 8×10 photographs from film production going out, and one copy of the final film on DVD with exclusive features for donors of $50 or more.
Please help us hit our goal of $1,000 for orangutan conservation through Orangutan Outreach by following this link.
As the departure date races closer, I’m sure we’ll have plenty more to say. I’ll share updates to Facebook, but if you’re one of the seven people on the planet who aren’t on there, be sure to check back frequently, as updates are going to be on a weekly or semi-weekly basis from here on out.
We are just about a month out from the start of Pedal for Pongo, and Things. Are. Hectic.
Training is kind of wild at this point. Balancing full time jobs and steady training schedules gets very tricky, especially when it’s still 18° in the mornings. But we’ll manage. We are getting out on our bikes together more and more, and this weekend our outdoor routes are going to include more climbing and all kinds of delightful misery.
Planning is all but complete. We have the first several nights sorted out as far as lodging, but the final leg of our trip (into New Brunswick) is tricky and we’re being careful not to jump the gun and buy train tickets if that doesn’t quite make sense. It’ll be sorted by this Friday, though (today is Wednesday).
All kinks are pretty much ironed out of filming with the Big Dummy. I’ve filmed two episodes with it and I am in love with the comfort and versatility, as well as the framing of my shot.
Julie’s bike is also coming along very well! She stripped down and is rebuilding a 1985 Detel Legend 2000. Detel is an uncommon name. It was founded by a former pro cyclist in 1984, and the bikes were built in Green Bay, Wisconsin for literally just 7 months before financial backing fell through.
They are rare, but excellent bikes. This one is in near perfect condition.
Right now it’s down to just the frame, but by the end of this coming weekend, it’ll be assembled and ready to ride. After some fine-tuning and last minute changes, it’ll be ready to paint (or not, we aren’t decided just yet).
We have begun drafting outlines for what we want to cover each day and at each location, as well as rough questions for the experts we’ll be meeting. We’ve even begun picking out and learning songs for the soundtrack. With any luck, we’ll have one or two recorded before setting off.
Donations are still coming, albeit slowly. They’re cash and so need to make their way from our living room to the Gofundme Page.
Please give what you can, when you can, and share this page far and wide!
That’s all for now! More to come over the weekend!
We are officially a week through our training. Already we are feeling stronger and more flexible thanks to our trainer rides and yoga practices.
This is absolutely critical! We are going to be spending upwards of 8 hours a day on our bikes, carrying a full arsenal of camera gear and a week’s wardrobe for two people. In the hundreds of miles that lie between us and our destination, we are going to be dealing with quite a bit, and not all of it is going to be hills.
If we aren’t physically prepared, this is going to be miserable. A flat on the side of the road in failing light when you’re not quite at your destination is a lot worse when you’re sore and cranky on top of it.
And so, yesterday we started week two:
We worked through our intense yoga session from last week once again and found that it was much more comfortable. The shoulder injury I’ve been working through is already much alleviated in just a week of specifically working it with yoga.
Today (day two) is our designated ride for the week, which is listed above. We’ll be doing this twice, and our distance ride will have a good 5-10 miles tacked on to the 15 we did last week.
Lastly, this week (read: tomorrow) Julie will be starting to dismantle and customize the bike she’ll be riding.
On a more immediately related note, I’ve purchased a new camcorder! It’s a Panasonic HC-V770 camera, which while not state of the art, is an excellent addition to Pedal Powered Anthropology’s gear.
I now have an action camera for filming on the move, a very nice Nikon DSLR with lenses for interviews and B-roll (all the “other” stuff in documentaries), and one dedicated video camera that will be used to record full scenes when the ultra wide angle of the action camera is obnoxious, and for when there’s a second person working with me (like this project, for instance).
It’s a very exciting addition and I’ll soon post a short project that shows just what it adds to the array of awesome content Anthrospin has to offer.
That’s all for now, but stay tuned for a lot more updates, hopefully by the end of this weekend!
We are about halfway through week 1 of training. Julie currently doing today’s yoga practice, which I’ll be doing later once I’m home.
It’s a bit intense to start off with, but we’re both a bit out of shape for the ride ahead. We are sore. But we are encouraged.
It’s not a race, so we aren’t training for speed. Rather, we are training for the long days in the saddle with a good amount of gear with us.
Our training plan is based on this plan, from Bicycling Magazine, which we are tailoring to our needs.
We didn’t start on a Monday, so our days are “day 1,” instead of the days of the week. We have three “kinds” of rides. The first is to build up our aerobic base (I’ll share another image below), the second is to build up our endurance with time spend spinning steadily on the bike (Starting with 10-15 miles, ending with 65-75 miles). The third is just an easy ride to keep us active on off days–it could be a ride to breakfast or to run an errand.
For cross training we are doing yoga. We are putting together or finding practices online that specifically target areas we want to whip into shape. We started with a shoulder opener because I’m working through an old injury, and today we are doing one that focuses on lower body flexibility.
As we move through training we’ll continue to update you both about how our tour is coming along as well as how miserable we are in our training.
We are less than a week out from the start of training. Julie’s days off are requested, which implies something pretty big–the dates are set!
There’s a wee bit of grey area toward the end while we tie up logistics, but here’s the trip so far.
Sunday, April 21, 2019, RWPZ Dry Run— We’ll be visiting the Roger Williams Park Zoo and meeting with/interviewing zoo keeping staff. In addition to kicking off the on-location filming for this project, we’ll be close enough to home to work out any kinks and also sort out how things are gonna roll once we arrive somewhere.
Thursday, April 25, 2019, Day 1–We’ll be packed up and ready to go as of the night before. We’ll be headed to Broadway in Providence, to the Nitro Bar, to have a fantastic breakfast. After which, our friends at Dash Bicycle will be riding off with us as we start our trip.
Our first leg is around 120 miles, so we’ll be stopping a bit past the halfway mark.
Friday, April 26, 2019, Day 2— Today we only have to ride. We’ll be arriving in New Haven and checking in at wherever we plan on staying. We’re going to be using the Warm Showers Cycling Network so we don’t have all our beds lined up just yet.
Saturday, April 27, 2019, Day 3— Today we will be meeting with Katherine Meier at the Yale Peabody Museum and talking with her about different aspects of primatology, primate ecology, and conservation. We’ll also be touring the museum and learning about primate evolutionary history.
Sunday, April 28, 2019, Day 4— It is a very short ride to Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, where they’re very excited for our project. We’ll again be meeting with zoo staff and talking about their role in animal conservation and the impact individuals can have.
Monday, April 29, 2019, Day 5— Splitting another 100+ mile leg of our journey in half will see us about halfway between Beardsley and Rutgers. We’ll be stopping somewhere with great food and maybe a museum or three. This is mostly going to be a day to rest and recharge.
Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Day 6— We will be arriving in New Brunswick and getting oriented with our surroundings while we clean up and charge our electronics for what may be the final day of filming.
Wednesday, May 1, 2019, Day 7— One week in and we’re at what may be our final stop, with a full day off.
Thursday, May 2, 2019, Day 8— Today we’ll be meeting with Erin Vogel at Rutgers University to learn about primate dietary ecology and how her research factors in to the critical need for conservation.
From here, logistics are still out. We’re still working on approval to film at the Philadelphia Zoo, but at this point, we may just be headed home!
We are to the point where donations are becoming more important! Please consider contributing to our ride–all funds go directly toward orangutan conservation through Orangutan Outreach. Please give our fund raiser a visit and read up on why this is so important: https://www.gofundme.com/pedal-for-pongo
Already approaching mid-January, and lots is happening. Details and kinks are being worked out, and as schedules are being compared, dates are being revisited.
Pedal for Pongo will kick off the last week of April, 2019.
Our visit to the Roger Williams Park Zoo will be the weekend of the 20th, where we will check out the primate exhibits, work out the kinks of how it’s all going to work, and hopefully meet with one of the primate zookeepers there.
The next weekend we are heading down to New Haven, Connecticut, to visit the Yale Peabody Museum and speak with Katherine Meier.
Meier is a PhD candidate in Yale’s anthropology department. She is studying Great Ape Ecology and Tropical Forest Conservation and works as a museum assistant at the Yale Peabody Museum.
Her expertise in pretty much every aspect of what Pedal for Pongo hopes to accomplish makes her an incredibly exciting addition to this project and we cannot wait to meet her in person.
From New Haven, we will be heading over to the newest addition to our route, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. I had the privilege of doing some primate observation exercises there as an undergraduate, and we are looking forward to seeing their facilities and meeting their animals (especially their marmosets!), and are excited to speak with them about the critical role that zoos play in animal conservation efforts.
Over this coming weekend I’ll be updating our route map to reflect where we’ll be stopping. We’ll also be creating GPS maps to give us specific turn by turn directions so our bikes can bark at us before we get lost.
Bringing me to the next major update:
THE BIG DUMMY IS HERE!
I’m slowly making adjustments but this bike is everything I had hoped it would be. A few things will be added and switched out, but expect to see a lot more of this bike going forward.
Julie is going to be getting started on her tour build. We’ve got 90% of the components, it’s just a matter of deciding which frame to go with and having at it.
Lastly (but critically), our filming gear is the last to see updates. We still hope to pick up either a new action camera or a Zoom Q8. Either will be an excellent addition to the arsenal for this project as well as going forward.
That’s all for today! Expect more frequent updates now that Pedal for Pongo is our priority, and head over to the GoFundMe Page when you’re ready to chip in!
Today is the first (of many) big updates for the Pedal for Pongo charity ride!
Donations have started to trickle in! Keep on sharing and getting the word out because we cannot do this without your help. Ranging from film credits to DVDs with exclusive content, every donation amount has some incentive attached to it.
Our route may be changing, slightly, to stop at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo on our way south.
Orangutan Outreach is aware of and excited for this project. We are in touch with Richard Zimmerman, the executive director, and as this project develops and begins to crystallize a bit more, our progress and fund raiser will be shared through their social media. Meaning more eyes on orangutan conservation!
Our gear fund (separate from donations to this ride) is slowly climbing as well. The goal is to have upgraded my bike to the sexy one you can see below in the update from November 4, as well as some extra memory cards and another action camera. One thing at a time but it’s looking really good for this stage of things!
Lastly, and most excitingly, I spoke with Dr. Erin R. Vogel, a primate dietary ecologist at Rutgers University, and she will be taking part in this project.
She has a PhD in Ecology and Evolution and has worked with both orangutans and capuchin monkeys to better understand the factors that influence food acquisition and diet selection in non-human primates. We are very excited for her participation in this project because her expertise is exactly what we were hoping to bring into the mix of perspectives we want to include.
Things are getting exciting, and are only going to get even more awesome from here! So keep an eye on this page for updates and head over to our fundraiser page when you’re ready to chip in!
As of right now, in late spring (specific dates TBD), 2019, my wife and I will be traveling from Providence, Rhode Island, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to raise money for orangutan conservation and help educate people about the diversity of primates and critical need for conservation, as well as the important role that zoos play in conservation efforts.
We are funding this project ourselves. Meaning that any of your donations go directly to Orangutan Outreach once we close out the campaign. Money that comes into Pedal Powered Anthropology through Patreon or any DVD/Sticker Sales will inevitably go toward funding this trip.
There’s a lot of logistics involved. Right now we are working on building our campaign web presence and reaching out to the various institutions we’ll be visiting in order to have someone to speak to us about their particular role in conservation and education.
But beyond that, we’ve gotta plan all of our stops, book all of our hotel rooms (and one bus ticket), purchase some additional equipment (one camera, one lens, several memory cards, one bike and a second that will be built up for this trip).
The bike picture there (and modeled by the lovely Julie) is the model (and hopefully the exact bike) that I’ll be purchasing for Anthrospin and which I’ll be using for this trip. Called a Long Tail Cargo Bike, is has an extra-long wheelbase for increased stability under loads. This bike can carry everything Anthrospin will ever need to transport. They’ve moved refrigerators before. I will even be installing secondary handlebars to be able to carry a passenger.
This bike will be the hub of Pedal Powered Anthropology.
Julie will be building up her tour bike with custom parts on a frame set we already have.
Eight weeks before we leave, we’ll start training. Short rides will familiarize us with our tour bikes on various terrain (and in traffic), longer rides will acclimate us to long days in the saddle. As training goes on, we’ll be riding fully loaded for mock-days of our tour.
You’ll be able to follow it all here!
All of the planning and training for our trip will be added here. We’ll be posting regular photos to Instagram, daily journal/blog updates, and periodic exciting tidbits or horrible mishaps from our trip.
If you can’t wait for the daily updates, the Anthrospin Facebook, Instagram (@anthrospin), and Twitter (@anthrospin) accounts will be updated in more or less real-time.