Los Angeles leg starts Sept. 1st

September 1 is the anniversary of the train assault that dramatically altered Brian’s path in 1987. This year it is the kick-off date of the Southern California leg of his BLOOD ON THE TRACKS book tour. L.A. here we come!

Check out this cool little video made by B Media Collective as a preview for the tour:

YouTube video: Blood on the Tracks – Bicycles, Book Tours and Brian Willson

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Home after a successful tour

I returned home from the first leg of my book tour on Sunday, July 24 via Amtrak, from San Jose, California to Portland, Oregon with my cycle boxed. Since the book tour launch on June 24, I cycled a total of 750 miles and did 24 book talks. My shoulders held up beautifully.

The handcycling itself, from venue to venue, is a radically different experience than traveling by car. That fact alone made this leg of my book tour a thrilling trip. We cycled Hwy 101 from Coos Bay, Oregon to Cloverdale, California, with a little sag wagon assist south of Crescent City. At times it was a bit scary because 101 does not always have wide shoulders. In Northern California, about 40 trucks (many carrying cut redwood trees) passed us every hour, and on those sections where there was virtually no shoulder, there was often only about 2 feet between my left elbow and the truck. Thus, I had to be fully engaged with all my senses, focused on staying as far to the right as possible while avoiding any bumps on the road that might throw off my front wheel and at the same time constantly checking the rear-view mirror attached to my helmet. I averaged about 40 miles a day.

There was no set formula for my book talks. They became spontaneous expressions of the whole process of writing the book, stories from my life and summaries of various themes in the book, and occasional selected readings. Audience response was wonderful. The average attendance was 50, ranging from 0 at one disappointing event to 170 in Berkeley, California. Books were purchased by about 40 percent of attendees at any one event, which I am told is higher than average. I returned home happy and exhausted and am now resting up for the Veterans For Peace convention, to be held at Portland State University August 3-7, 2011.

I neglected this blog while on tour, as it took every bit of energy I had just to stay focused on the cycling and the book events. After a few days rest I hope to post more stories from the road.

–[post dictated by Brian]

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Reaching half-way there, and 70 on July 4th.

The journey has at least taken us more than 400 miles from Portland.  And on July 4th – at that halfway mark – Brian turned 70 years old.  Having traveled on both 99w and then along Hwy 101, we’ve been to over a half dozen venues prior to Brian and Becky’s home before Arcata.  A day following his birthday party, we headed on again; biking along in solidarity with us: John Calkins, a close Arcata friend & fellow Veterans For Peace member, as well as Mango, who was present September 1st in ’87, at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, the day he was assaulted.  Together, we cycled to Eureka, and by the end of the day, we were with long time Bee-keeper friend Seth, in lower Humboldt, who brought Brian to a meeting with folks who are working to restore the Golden Rule; a wooden sail boat used in mid-century nuclear testing, in the Atlantic ocean.

Getting ready to leave Arcata on July 6

Brian and Joel get ready to leave Arcata on July 6th, accompanied partway by friends John and Mango (pictured in green jacket)

Leaving Arcata

On the road again, cycling south. John Calkins (on left) cycled along to Eureka, Mango to Loleta.

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On to Corvallis

Here’s a nice photo taken with Joel’s camera on Tuesday morning, June 27.

Rest stop Monday morning June 27

Brian and Joel check their map somewhere along the road between Salem and Corvallis.

Thanks to The Book Bin in Corvallis, and to local organizers, VFP Chapter 132 members Leah and Bart Bolger, Brian enjoyed a wonderful book talk event and reception in that town. This came as no surprise to me; on our Veterans Ride for Peace in 2006 I remember the Corvallis gathering as the best potluck I have ever experienced in my entire life. Thanks to Brian’s friend Mike Hastie for these photos. More shots can be found on the Blood on the Tracks facebook page.

On the road

Leaving Salem

baby reading a book

A young fan

Funny car with stop the war sign

Waffles the Clown travels in style

The Book Bin

Good turnout at the Corvallis Book Bin

Brian signing books

Brian signs books

Leah Bolger

Leah Bolger: Her shirt says it all.

gas station sign

This sign says a lot too.

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Salem, Oregon

On Monday morning (June 26), Brian and Joel got up at 6:00am, were off by 6:30 and reached Salem around noon. Their route included a big hill on route 121 which was a bit of a challenge for Brian. Otherwise it was a pleasant ride that involved taking the Wheatland Ferry over to the east side of the Willamette River and then riding along the river on Wheatland Road, which becomes River Road and then Commercial Blvd. Total mileage between Newberg and Salem about 40. In addition, they cycled twice to the Book Bin from the home of their host, John Roy Wilson—once just to make sure they were ready for the event and then back again for the 3 o’clock book event. In the evening they cycled another 2+ miles over to the Salem Friends Meetings House where Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) was holding their monthly potluck and program, then cycled back to John Roy’s house.

Brian talks in front of The Book Bin in Salem, Oregon

Brian talks in front of The Book Bin in Salem, Oregon

About 10 people came to Brian’s  talk at the Book Bin in Salem, which was held on the sidewalk out in front of the store. Four people bought books and the bookstore bought an extra four for their inventory. Salem host John Roy Wilson, a fellow Viet Nam veteran, served as a medic in Viet Nam. John Roy will be delivering a small number of Blood on the Tracks books to the Annual Northwest Regional Conference hosted by Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation July 1-4 at Seabeck Conference Center in Seabeck, Washington. Also present at the event was Michelle Darr, whom Brian met in Corvallis during his 2006 ride through Oregon. He reported that Michelle has started a small pedicab business. Brian was also pleased to report that his old friend Josh Dostis, a.k.a. “Waffles the Clown,” from Western Massachusetts, was able to hook up with Brian and plans to be present at Corvallis and Eugene events as well.

Next: Corvallis. Stay tuned…

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Catching up with Brian

We’ve all been busy this past week, Brian preparing for his book launch event at People’s Co-op, he and Joel finalizing planning and getting packed for the trip, others (Becky, Nicole, Anne) helping to get the word out and finalizing tour details. Phew!

I think the best way to convey the unfolding of Brian’s book-tour adventure is to share a few photos (all taken by Mike Hastie, unless otherwise noted). Beginning with the “sneak preview” fundraiser at the Metanoia Peace House where Brian read on June 11. The living room was filled with like-minded folks who came to listen and were moved by the intensity of the stories Brian chose to read. His reading was well received and it was a great way for him to break the ice.

speaking at sneak preview

Brian's first book event at fundraiser for Veterans For Peace Chapter 72

Gimme Peace book talk

A view of the room at Metanoia Peace House where Brian gave a "sneak preview" of his upcoming book on June 11th

It’s always hard to tell how many people will show up at a public event, because there’s always so much going on in this town, but there did seem to be a bit of a buzz going around, a lot of excitement building and information going out in a variety of channels. We weren’t disappointed when 80-90 people showed up at People’s Co-op for the big Book Launch on Friday evening (June 24). It was hard to get an exact count because people kept coming up the stairs and then backing out because of the lack of room. Brian was seemed a bit nervous but he soon hit his stride. He told some stories, chose some passages to read, and then fielded a lot of followup questions before finally signing and selling at least one case of books, maybe two. Here’s a few pics from that night:

reading from book

This is why they call it a "book reading"

standing room only

Brian points out his cycling companion, Joel Finkelstein (in orange jacket) at the standing-room-only crowd at his June 24th book launch event at People's Co-op.

signing books

Brian signs books at People's launch event

Although I accompanied Brian and Joel to the site of their cycling kickoff on Saturday morning (June 25), I missed the actual event because I had to rush off to my third day at the Focus on Book Arts conference in Forest Grove, Oregon. When I talked to Brian later, he told me about 15 people turned out to see him off, including a couple on a tandem.

Getting ready to go
Joel and Brian get ready to leave from Portland city center
checking the route
Checking the route with a knowledgeable cyclist
Brian's cycle
The sign says it all: “Bicycling: A Quiet Statement Against Oil Wars”
group photo morning of kickoff
Brian and Joel with all the cyclists and well-wishes who showed up for the tour kickoff
brian starts peddling toward Newberg
Brian begins peddling toward Newberg with kickoff cycling companions close behind.

The trip to Newberg was about 25 miles. Of those who cycled along with Brian and Joel, most dropped off within a mile or two; four went four or five miles; and one accompanied them all the way to Newberg—Tim, a mechanic who works for City Bikes. They left Portland city center at 8:30am, a half hour later than planned, but still managed to make it to Newberg right at noon, as scheduled, where host Bruce Freeman escorted them all up to his house which is at the top of a long, steep hill. I remember riding up that hill during another bike ride we did in 2006, and I can attest to its steepness.


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The books have arrived!

For weeks Brian has been thinking and talking about when his book was to be at the printer, estimated printing and shipping dates, and wondering if he would have books in hand in time for the beginning of his book tour. Yesterday his publisher, Ramsey, at PM Press, confirmed that the first three boxes had been shipped and were due to be delivered today by UPS. About half past three, Pedro, our dog, happened to be out in the yard and got my attention by barking the way he always does when the UPS truck is on our street. I saw the truck round the corner and alerted Brian and we both greeted the delivery guy at our driveway. Our friend Mike Hastie happened to be visiting, and he and I both ran to get our cameras so we could record the moment. Here’s a few of my shots.

Books being delivered by UPS

UPS guy brings the books in with our handtruck.


opening the box

Brian immediately opens a box

examining a book

Brian examines a book

brian holding book

Finally! Eight years in the making!

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Tuesday, June 14

I completed 42 miles of handcycling today. My shoulders feel good after having received a diagnosis last November of serious arthritis. Have been on an anti-inflammatory diet [no gluten (wheat), no casein (dairy), no phytates (soy, except Miso and Tempeh), no refined sugar], and along with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and massage, my shoulders are now able to arm-power my handcycle 40-50 miles a day without pain. We’ll see how it feels once the 800 mile handcycling tour begins on Saturday, June 25, at 8 am from behind Lincoln Hall on Portland State University campus, for the 30-mile trip to the first stop at 2 pm in Newberg, OR. But this is a routine I must keep up for at least three weeks until I arrive in San Francisco. On Friday evening at 7 pm, June 24, the night before, I will have unveiled for the public my new book at a signing in the upstairs community room, People’s Food Co-op, SE 21st and Tibbetts in Portland.

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Sunday, June 5

I handcycled 38 miles today, a few miles less than yesterday, as part of my continued training for the cycling book tour that begins June 25. I carb up the night before at dinner, then in the morning I start with about 18 ounces of water. Soon after beginning cycling I have half a sandwich on gluten free bread of almond butter and honey. In a couple of hours I have a second half sandwich of the same. Meanwhile I regularly drink water with a little electrolyte solution from my camelback strapped to my back through a tube always resting near my mouth for easy access. Yesterday I saw two other handcyclists on the trail. Today, none. But hundreds of regular cyclists going in both directions on the trail that varies in width from 8 to 12 feet. I anticipate averaging 40 miles a day once the tour starts, thus the need to build my endurance.

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Today, June 4, I handcycled 45 miles as I strive to build up my endurance that will certainly be tested once I start the daily cycling tour on June 25. I started too late in the day — 9am. I need to get in the habit of beginning at 6am so that I get all the day’s cycling in before noon when the sun is more vertical, more fatiguing, and before the winds pick up in velocity. I first cycled east on the Springwater Corridor into a headwind to near Boring, then reversed directions and cycled west to downtown with the tail wind (big relief). Took a short break along the Willamette River before going east up the long, but fairly gradual hill, but again into a headwind. It is all practice as I will need to confront various weather factors day after day — temperature, wind, humidity — and change of elevation up or down, etc. Stay tuned!

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