This is a guest blog written by Lexi Beshara of the Green Riders Europe Tour. To learn about the Green Riders mission and more details on this trip click here.
On July 31st, 2019 the Green Riders completed their 2,500 mile (4,400 km) journey that began on the Atlantic coast of France in Saint Brevin Les Pins and ended at the Black Sea in Constanta, Romania. Twenty of us started together, and while traversing through nine countries, over a dozen more who would call themselves Green Riders joined us. Our riders represented the far stretches of the globe, from the USA to Australia, France, Denmark, Italy and Serbia, just to name a few of the dozen countries.
Collectively we picked up nearly 30,000 pieces of trash from the side of roads and trails as well as during organized trash cleanups along rivers and in villages. We did volunteer days at 11 different projects and also committed many volunteer hours to our hosts across the continent. We worked at intentional communities, permaculture projects, bike havens and associations, backyard gardens, an off-grid homestead, in villages, and alongside rivers and trails. Our work was always matched with incredible hospitality and safe and comfortable places to rest for a few nights. Often we were also treated to some amazing meals shared together, and we always made sure to help in the kitchen. Communal meals were a favorite whether we were or were not at a host for the night.
We slept in many backyard ‘gardens,’ inside of homes that were multiple centuries old, along stunning rivers like the Loire, Rhine, and Danube, next to countless castles and fortresses, in a martial arts studio, and even in a cave system that was home to an ever-changing community. We had so many generous hosts that we found through WarmShowers, CouchSurfing, HelpX, and Workaway as well as so many kind and welcoming souls that we met along the road who invited us in without prior arrangement. We were saved from inclement weather countless times by village folks and farmers who would allow us to camp under shelter in their barns or sheds. We were constantly welcomed with kindness whether it was elders walking along the trail miming through a conversation with us trying to direct us to a good place to set up our tents, or the produce farmers selling on the roadsides insisting that we take what they offered us for free. I can confidently say we all left with immense gratitude, humility, and awe for the people of these fine countries.
Most countries had little food waste so we are happy to report that our dumpster-diving numbers are very unimpressive! However what lacked in the dumpsters was made up for by the flourishing road sides. The fruit and greens available to forage were absolutely abundant throughout every country we cycled and we certainly took advantage! Western France (where we began) is a magical place where cherries and loquats grow alongside each other, so we were sure to sneak in a loquat or two before we couldn’t. We continued to be showered with cherries for the next six weeks! Mulberries also seemed to rain down on us quite literally and quite often. Other fruits we foraged included apples, plums, apricots, blackberries, juneberries (my absolute favorite), and even figs! My favorite part of foraging was all of the stinging nettles. They are so much more than just an annoying plant. We treated ourselves to using nettles as our nightly cooked greens– a perfect nutritious addition to bicycle touring meals! We were also fortunate to be graced with the presence of wild hemp and lambs quarters as further green supplements. Although we didn’t keep track of numbers, there is no doubt we collectively foraged hundreds of pounds of food.
To be able to serve the great people of countries previously unknown to most of us was a humbling experience. We learned about so many different cultural traditions, were able to observe simpler and more connected ways of life, and deepen our greater human connection. Some countries boasted a plethora of solar panels found on most roof tops, while others did their part by making community wide recycling available and obvious with road-side collection bins. In every country almost everyone had an edible garden or wildflower patch in their front (and back) yards rather than maintaining a lawn of grass. It was amazing and inspiring to see.
The Green Riders left (or stayed in) Europe with expanded networks and even more expanded hearts. Times were sometimes trying on the saddle, but the group motivation and our purpose behind this mission kept us pedaling! Hard times were met tenfold by some of the most exhilarating and memorable experiences. Bicycling along these beautiful rivers awarded the most refreshing mid-day dunks (or three of four) and often mesmerizing camping spots. The belly laughs and the tears, the shared meals and fireside chats, the scars from falls and the high fives after conquering hills will all remain with us for the rest of our lives and will be able to be built upon during our next adventures.
I want to thank every person who helped the Green Riders along our journey. No matter how big or small of a contribution, for individuals or for the whole, we really could not have done it without you! For those of you who donated to our GoFundMe, we wanted to be transparent with where all of those funds ended up going. Unfortunately we were not able to secure seeds in time for seed spreading and sharing along our route to be successful, and it was the wrong time of year to plant fruit trees, but with your money we were able to support some seriously incredible people and organizations. Check out our public spreadsheet hereto see where the funds were allocated.
Future Green Riders trips will take place, and there are rumors about a 2020 journey in the US. Join the Green Riders USA Facebook group to stay up to date about future rides and follow the Green Riders. By joining the Green Riders Europe group, you can view photos that were posted from the last ride and read some updates there!
Thanks for following our journey!