In 2009, Ben Sollee made headlines after looking at his trusted two-wheeler and sparking an idea. With some help from Oxfam America, Ben Sollee strapped his cello to the back of a bicycle and rode from his home in Lexington, Ky. to Bonnaroo, playing less familiar small towns along the way. He knew he was onto something, taking the idea one step further and exploring 500 miles of the East Coast Greenway touring between Wilmington, NC and Jacksonville, Fla. a few months later for his winter tour.
This year, Sollee takes on his largest challenge yet – the Ditch the Van Tour 2010, presented by Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe -a transcontinental endeavor not reliant on the traditional modes of touring. Four regional tours, in which all touring members ride without the use of support vehicles, are linked together from San Diego on August 18th and ending in the capital of his beloved Commonwealth October 8th.
The Ditch the Van Tour is about much more than going car-free though. Sure, it’s a reaction to the massive carbon footprint that many tours leave behind (particularly the fleet of 53′ trucks required to haul an elaborate U2 stage) and an awareness-raising project for the nation’s elaborate series of Adventure Cycling-advocated bike highways and communities where bike infrastructure is lacking. However, Ben also sees the bike tour as an opportunity to acquaint himself with a myriad of towns and communities across our nation – a “beautiful limitation” he calls it – that can only present itself when you slow down the pace of life by traveling by bike rather than bus or plane, as Ben tells National Geographic in a recent interview:
“It’s not about trying to be ‘green’ – whatever that means these days – and saving the environment. It’s about pace of life and re-localizing. I’ve spent nearly ten years on the road now and the expectations of the industry are enormous. When you get a call the night before to play late-night TV the next day on the other side of the country you do it. If there’s a good money gig but it’s 300 miles the other way, you do it. But not if you’re on a bicycle. It’s a beautiful limitation, because all the reasons you once thought of to avoid these small towns go out the window and the communities become really valuable to us.”
To further his cause, Ben invites local art and music organizations, as well as bicycle communities, to get involved with every show he plays. It is this reason that his home state’s Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe got involved. Located in the quaint and picturesque capital of Frankfort, Kentucky Coffeetree is the type of art and community-conscious, worldly aware business that shares Sollee’s vision. They, along with Adventure Cycling and the League of American Bicyclists, are proud sponsors in this innovative nationwide tour.
Watch an overview of the previous bike tour at http://vimeo.com/8330060
Sept 12 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
Sept 15 – Doylestown PA – Puck Live
Sept 16 – Bethlehem PA – Wild Flower Cafe
Sept 18 – Kempton PA – Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Festival
Sept 21 – York PA – The Depot
Sept 23 – Frederick MD – Cafe Nola
Sept 24 – Bethesda MD – Mansion at Strathmore
Sept 25 – Washington DC – Edmund Burke School
Oct 06 – Berea KY – TBD
Oct 07 – Richmond KY – Eastern Kentucky University
Oct 08 – Frankfort KY – Grand Theatre