I am inspired by Blind Pilot, but not enough to start bike touring with my fiddle.
You might have heard the story on NPR this morning about indie-pop musicians in very good shape who have done a couple bike tours.
As a mom I had to smile to hear that they left Vancouver without a map, got hopelessly lost, and almost quit on the spot. But they have young energy. Below, extracts from the NPR story, the whole transcript will be available later today. I think the last comment below is the one to take away from this story...
They talked first about that same tour, down the west coast from Vancouver to, supposedly, Mexico. Actually they only got as far as San Francisco where their bikes were stolen.
"It was a fine ending to that tour," Nebeker tells Morning Edition's Ari Shapiro. "Ryan took it a bit harder than me."
"Yeah, because Israel got his bike back," Dobrowski says. "He found it on Craigslist for sale, so he bought it back for like $50, and I lost my bike forever."
They recently finished a second bike tour with a couple of additional bandmates, hugging Highway 1 down the coastline.
One of their most memorable scenes occurred at a tiny grocery store in Leggett, Calif. As the group played, a crowd began to gather around it, including a handful of unexpected onlookers.
"It was great, because all these truckers said that they'd seen us for the last few days," Dobrowski says. "We were playing music and having beers at this little grocery in the middle of the woods."
"Everything was bike-powered," Nebeker says. "We had little bike trailers and carried our instruments."
Other band members, like bassist Luke Ydstie, even constructed their own storage pieces to help move equipment. "He calls it a treasure chest," Dobrowski says, "but everyone else calls it a coffin. And it definitely gets the most attention."
While the band had a number of shows lined up in bigger cities, many of its performances weren't planned in advance, a decision Nebeker attributes to the uncertainties surrounding traveling by bike — like flat tires and getting lost. Other bands may cringe at the thought of such a tour, but the recipe seemed to work for Blind Pilot.
"It's more appealing to us," Dobrowski says. "I'm sure a lot of people still want the drugs and the women and the tour bus, but we like our campfires and our lakeside biking friends."
The two friends spent a summer living in an old cannery building with no plumbing. It's a landmark locals call "Big Red."
"They used to make and repair nets there and repair boats," Nebeker says. "It was built in the late 1800s, and it's just standing on pilings in the river. So it was great just to be out there. It's private; the only sounds are the water, the wind, the birds, the pilot boats going back and forth, and some of the big ships coming into the mouth of the Columbia there."
That's where they came up with the band's name: Blind Pilot. Nebeker's father bought the cannery building years ago, so he and Dobrowski were free to spend their days there, writing music and painting.
The winter after the duo lived there, though, a huge storm swept in off the ocean. Nebeker recalls assessing the damage for the first time.
"The place where Ryan and I were recording and spending most of our time, the top floor, is what got sort of lifted up and blown out into the river. I cried when I first saw it. It was really tragic just to see it, kind of with its top blown off.
"But I also feel really lucky that we did it. We went out there and made what we did while we still had the chance."