Tuning into the Awe of Bikepacking, With the Help of a Few Kazoos

Dec 4, 2023

Biking to me is all rhythm, a movement that helps us cycle in sync with ourselves and others. After years of riding with friends, kids, neighbors, older folks, bike groups, and people with differing abilities, I've learned that biking goes beyond moving our legs. Connecting with our bodies and the earth, in tune with the changing landscaping, cycling becomes a movement towards ecological and human connection. Cycling allows me to flow with my senses, moment-to-moment experiences, and community belonging. 

In July 2023, I rode with a group of playful friends (and our kazoos) on a 10-day bike tour from Manhattan to Montreal. The tour started as an idea between me and my friend Jeremy. We were looking to ride the Empire State Trail — a compilation of bikeways and rail-to-trail segments — so we reached out to friends and wound up with a group of people who didn't know what they were getting themselves into.

We ended up riding 500 miles together, embracing the present and togetherness. The crew included Jeremy, Cliff, Kirsten, Eve, Vera, Laura, and myself, along with a massive assortments of Voile straps. We weren't riding with an organization, so we had flexibility in how we wanted to ride, deciding to both camp and stay with hosts along the way. Cliff brought kazoos for everyone to toot along the tour, so we also became a rolling kazoo band. 

a woman with a kazoo in front of a brick wall
Have kazoo, will travel

Planning a trip like this is both exciting and challenging. We had to prepare outside of the normal demands of everyday life and navigate unknowns in the planning process. Collaborating with Jeremy for logistics planning and trading route-finding throughout the trip helped relieve the responsibility, and everyone was flexible and contributed in different ways.

Bike tours are a way to embrace human-earth connection while moving with others in a relatively low-cost, low-impact, human-powered way.

Appreciation for the ride included being outside for most of the day moving our bodies. Noticing the light and darkness while cycling in sunshine or rain. Feeling the breeze, noticing trees and meadows, flowing with rivers and lakes. Being amazed at our legs and lungs. Hanging with friends. Laughing, jamming, chatting, listening, being goofy, being quiet, spotting birds, friends spotting birds, friends identifying spotted birds, and not falling off our bikes during the spotting.  

cyclists on bikes with packs

Cycling for this long means we are moving our bodies at a fast pace yet slowing down at the same time. We ride the whole day to get from one place to the next, going a fraction of the speed of a motorized vehicle. We move slow enough to appreciate the landscape and stop to pick berries. We hit the road in the late mornings, breaking for snacks and meals, and riding into our campsites around golden hour every day, often along a river or lake. 

We carried our gear on our bikes without any support vehicle, and supported one another throughout the trip. In a world that can feel hyper-focused on self-sufficiency and efficiency, this way of touring shined a light on the collectivist approach. I love collective fun, togetherness, being in awe of the beauty of friends and the natural world. I love cozy moments when we wake up and slowly emerge from our tents. I fall in love with everyone deeper the more we come together and I see everyone express their uniqueness. 

cyclist from the side
Pineapple is necessary gear weight

Playing kazoos expanded our movement in an audible way, and included vibrational sounds, texture, and quiet. Kazoos are acoustic instruments, simple to use in that the musician just hums into the mouthpiece, pushing to amplify the sound. This played well as we traveled and shifted in gears, moods, and trails. I heard streams of low tones and bursts of high beats. What prompted us to play was pure spontaneity.

Each person played their kazoo in a unique way. Our musical backgrounds came into song, such as Cliff’s love of Dr. John, Jeremy’s loyalty to Chuck Magnione, Kirsten and Eve’s fondness of Dolly Parton. When someone popped out their kazoo, we got to enjoy a solo, duet, or the whole crew jamming. Everyone oscillated between performer and audience. Having another rider pull out their kazoo to jam along was affirming, often turning into a full-on song.

The group’s willingness to share music, breath, and energy while riding was especially remarkable on the uphills and at the end of days. It infused energy when we needed it, and brought us together even if we were spread apart. We could attune to different genres and moods, playing at general stores and parking lots offered a charming juxtaposition to growling car engines. We jammed to Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat", The Proclaimers "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", and Weezer’s "Say It Ain't So." As we walked through Montreal, the kazoos allowed our group to merge with street musicians. 

a man's selfie with a kazoo

Wholesome adventures like this give me inspiration that we can have an idea, share it with others, create a plan, commit, and say let’s go. These trips give me hope that we can make impactful change that re-centers health, community, connection, and love.

Bits of Awe Along the Route Each Day

bike route map
The Kazoo Crew's Manhattan to Montreal bike route
Credit: Ride With GPS

DAY 1, July 7: Little Island Pier 55 Manhattan → Carmel (64.7 miles, +3,369 ft) 
Trails: Manhattan Greenway trail, Putnam Greenway, John Kieran Nature Trail, Westchester North County Trail, Putnam Trailway 
Spots: Van Cortlandt Park 
Awe: Watching a friend embrace a physically challenging day and persevere. Reuniting with old friends. Finding a quiet, peaceful trail (EST) just outside the chaos of NYC. Endless bridges.
Day 2, July 8: Carmel to Kingston (50 miles, +1,300 ft) 
Trails: Dutchess Rail Trail, Hudson Valley Trail, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail 
Spots: Poughkeepsie, walkway over the Hudson, Caves, Rossi’s and Sons, Rail to Trail Cafe
Awe: Feeling the air from a cave instantly cooling my skin 

Day 3, July 9: Kingston to Hudson (41.4 miles, +1,888 ft) 
Trails: Albany-Hudson Electric Trail (AHE) 
Spots: Bard, Tivoli 
Awe: The delight of rain falling on my skin. Hospitality of Micosta Inn, including hot tubbing, picking berries, and having five people in a one-bedroom making spaghetti and watching Trolls. This was joy. 

Day 4, July 10: Hudson to Karen and Bernie’s (65 miles, +2,000 ft) 
Trails: AHET, Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, Zim Smith Trail 
Spots: Broad Street Bagel joint in Kinderhook where we met the former mayor.
Awe: Seeing otters for my first time! Cool dirt trails in the wetlands. Delight riding in the rain. 

Day 5, July 11: Country Knolls to Lake George (50 miles, +1,500 ft) 
Awe: Crossed watersheds! Lower Hudson River, Upper Hudson River, St. Lawrence River. Laying in a hammock. Swimming in Lake George. 

Day 6, July 12: Lake George to Roger’s Rock (46 miles, +3,400 ft) 
Spots: Hilton Family Farmstand, Swede Mountain, Elephant Rock, Schroon River
Awe: Schroon River with its flow and beauty. Julia’s baked goods. Playing words games that eased a steep climb and long downhill descents. Beautiful sky reflection in the water. Laying on an air mattress in Lake George and floating away, and then getting rescued by a friend. Giggling by the fire till the wee hours. How happy I feel with fruit by my feet and with us throughout the day.

Day 7, July 13: Roger’s Rock to Charlotte, VT (47 miles, +2,100) 
Spots: Diddle & Zen Farmstand, crossing bridge into Vermont, the Bridge Restaurant, Vergenees, Park Squeeze 
Awe: Roadside farm stands and flower shops with the honor-system payment. Beautiful Vermont landscapes and kazoo jams. Watching the sky change from clear to downpour. Double rainbow. 

Day 8, July 14: Charlotte to Colchester (25 miles/40 miles) 
Low mile/rest day in Burlington. 
Awe: Friendships, connections, and bonds formed from biking with others. 

Day 9, July 15: Colchester to Canada (54 miles, +1,500 ft) 
Spots: Hero Islands, Camping Luna de Noyan 
Awe: Crossing the US-Canadian border by bike! A quiet trailer community. Playing “sports” in a makeshift rec center. Ping pong and foosball.

Day 10, July 16: Noyan to Montreal!! (50 miles, +515 ft) 
Trails: Route Verte, Chambly Canal Townpath 
Sites: Chambly, Our favorite lock, Parc des Ateliers, Délires et Délices - Microbrasserie
Awe: Being in sync with a crew. An outdoor shower at our mystical lock. The town of Chambly, the canal locks, and witnessing the rain storm. Hearing the rain and watching it pass in short bursts, just like Jeremy asked for. Biking and bopping to Lord of the Rings soundtrack in what felt like a fairy land dream. Crossing over into Montreal on the bridge, the 20 kilometers of Route Verte Trail into Montreal. The magic of Voile sSraps. 

Days in Montreal: Montreal continued the good times. The lively street culture, cafes, making music on the streets, dancing, more biking, and connecting with those we love.

A Sample of Our Adventures in Montreal: 

cyclists on a paved road with bikes
  • Bike along Lachine Canal, beer/food stop at Messorem 
  • Walk up Mont Royal, sandwiches and ice cream at top 
  • Walk around Mile End and Mont Royal areas and appreciate the live street culture 
  • Bike all around the streets and alleys 
  • Restaurante Jano, Kyber Pass, Chez Jose Cafe, Le Dépanneur Café, Super Condiments, Cafe Dax, Edmond Cafe Cantine, Chesky’s Bakery, Fairmount Bagel. St. Vieteur, Majestique, Messorem 
  • EvaB thrift shop, Club Balattou, Quai Des Brumes, Rockette
  • Nuit Afrique Fest

Gear Cheer

  • Touring bike 
  • Bike bags and panniers 
  • Tents, sleeping bags, pads 
  • Some riding clothes and comfy clothes 
  • Riding shoes and sandals 
  • Swimsuit and towel 
  • Toiletries and showering things 
  • Sporks, camping stove, fuel, lighter 
  • Voile Straps! and bungees and zip ties
  • Monopoly Deal
  • Kazoos and egg shakers
  • Hammock, lunchbox 
  • Sunscreen, chapstick, chamois butter

Food Along the Trip

  • Lots of bagels, tortillas, deli meats, and cheese
  • Peanut butter, Nutella
  • Apples, oranges, bananas
  • Trail mix, nuts, dried mango, granola bars 
  • Stopped for lots of bagels and sandwiches along the way 
  • Cooked mac and peas
  • Spaghetti and sauce, pesto pasta, veggies
  • Host-made chili and spaghetti and mole enchilada
  • Bagels, eggs, yogurts, fruit for breakfasts
  • Creamies and ice cream and popsicles and pies 
  • Baked goods all over the place, especially from Julia on the side of the road.

Regenerative Cycles


*All photos credited to Michael Wilson, Briana Cohen, Laura Rostad, and Cliff Kaplan


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