Thanksgiving As A Verb

While cycling through a sliver of five countries in Africa, I happened upon a mobile flea market/art fest.

51HArTIk9uL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The cars and makeshift cargo bikes and pushcarts formed a wagon train circle brimming with handmade crafts and folk art and recycled wares that could all be closed up and rolled on at a moment’s notice.

Khumbu stood at least 6 ft 3 or 4, but his laugh made him taller. I took a shine to his work and he could tell. When I pedaled back around a third time he said, “You coming in for a landing or more circling?”

The clothe these were painted on… mismatched sizes, draped from the tailgate of a VW van older than me –  and carrying the man’s worldly possessions was my guess. When I asked how much for the bike shack, he grinned, then actually reached out and tossled my hair the way Bill Murray did Glida Radner on SNL, stepped  back, drank something out of a flask I had not noticed until then, offered me a swig, when I waved it off, he threw out a ridiculously low price. I countered with four times his asking price and said I would like the one of his van as well, if he’d part with it.  He looked at me for what felt like a long time, like the first time. Still smiling, he asked,

“You’re so money, then?”

For a second I could see my white privilege on full display. I’d just announced, to the entire market really, that I didn’t need to bargain. In fact, I would pay above asking price. I felt like I’d farted in church…. the embodiment of A Bull In A Pushcart China Shop.

I lowered my voice a notch to outdoor level and pointed at my bike. “I’m American so of course I’m loud and graceless and act like I’m money… but among my people, I’m the opposite of money.”

It was silent for too long. Then Khumbu was joined by his friend one pushcart over, and without missing a beat they proceeded to do the “Baby, you are so money!” scene word for word from the film, Swingers. At this point, relieved but suffering serious cultural vertigo, I closed it out with a solid, “Vegas, Baby, Vegas!”

Laughter and nodding all around. Khumbu made a place for me on the bumper. We chatted for the next 20 minutes. He ask me if I wasn’t money, then who was I? I explained about my travels and my writing and the charity bike ride I was embarking on for Children In The Wilderness, and the cover story for Bicycling Magazine. We bonded over the creative arts. Photo on 11-25-15 at 8.23 AM

In the end, Khumbu got me to drink from that flask, and as I choked down the liquor he said, not unkindly. “So we are the same, except you have the world.”

I told him I would try to get my publishers to use his artwork on the cover of the anniversary edition of my first book. I asked him if that would be OK and where we could send payment if it happened. He explained that most of them were artists exiled by Mugabe and on the run. Some had family running with, but his, a son and a wife, were back in Zimbabwe. “It’s no good running or staying, but I had to run.”

Only a few minutes earlier I’d been romanticizing the idea of a life in the traveling arts and crafts mercado. In those moments, I know that I know next to nothing about the nature of suffering.

“It is a lovely thought,” he said. “But I have no address.” He patted his van.

I paid my price for the artwork. He tossled my head one more time.

“But I do have an email, and Yumbo, he has Paypal.”

When the money was sent, I put the agreed upon subject line in the email.

Subject: Nigerian Bankers Are So Money!

Khumbu’s idea.

If anyone wants signed copies of any of my books this holiday season just email me at or message me on FB for pricing and shipping info. A portion of the proceeds goes to help send kids to our summer bike camps.



Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie Headlining Dec. 4th Benefit for The Oregon City Trail Alliance

metal_cowboy1smlHoliday Kick-off Benefit Event Just Added

Chance to catch my antics live, and support quality community walking and biking programs.

Live show, advocacy, music, book signing, food, drink, prizes.

Benefit for The Oregon City Trail Alliance, Friday, Dec. 4th, 7:00 PM. These folks help out with my summer bike camps, and deserve all the support we can give em!


images-27Venue: Theater inside The End of The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, 1726 Washington Street, Oregon City.

Benefit for The Oregon City Trail Alliance. A non-profit promoting better biking and walking in the Oregon City area.

I’ll be doing new material, classics, video, slides and Q&A. We’ll eat, drink and be merry!

This will be a ticketed event. 12239973_10153374987414858_845409811768822964_n-1 I will post an update with any cover charge/cost or purchasing info. A chance to catch my act before next spring when the book tour launches. Come on out and kick off the weekend and the holiday season right!

more info:

And if you haven’t signed and shared my petition yet to save lives affected by iron overload disease, click here: Petition

New Portland Date Added To Book Launch 2016 – Broadway Books May 24th 7pm


New Date Added To The Metal Cowboy’s Book Launch/Performance Tour 2016

Broadway Books Tuesday May 24th 2016 7pm

563500_10200579667675178_1307083711_nShow, Signing, Mayhem for: A Guide To Falling Down in Public – I’ll cut loose and do my bar/club material, so it might get a little blue, but we’re all grown ups… and it’s  more of a pastel blue.
I once did a hint of my bar show during a week of events in Missouri. Next day Morning Radio called me a button downed Dave Cappelle. I told them they needed to get out more. If anything, I was a button downed Bob Newhart.

Whoever I show up as, we’ll have a grand time at my favorite local Indie Bookstore.
See you there.
And be sure not to miss Indie’s First Day at Broadway Books, on November 28th 2015.
I’ll be there much of the afternoon with some of Portland’s best and brightest writers. We’ll be recommending our favorite books for holiday gift giving.


What A Difference A Year Makes!

Exactly one year ago today I stepped back from everything… thought I was wearing out when I was actually being poiso11218929_1068196623199249_4008655004449843682_nned with iron by my own body. I would have been dead outside of a year or two

Luck, a sharp Doc and my big mouth kept me in the land of the living, feeling 25 again, running an action network, a series of bicycle camps, 3 books coming out… a second chance to make what remains an experiment in kindness and service. Joe's bio picture

Help me pay it forward – take a few seconds to sign our petition to save others.


Cycling Past 50 – The Ageless Cyclist

Cycling Past 50 – The Ageless Cyclist

There was a time when you thought 50 meant the establishment, your parents or your boss. Fifty was over the hill, with one foot in the grave. But middle aged cyclists are routinely knocking off more centuries with little or no attention to age.

Middle-Age Cyclists
The older generation has realized there’s something addictive and healthful, both mentally and physically — about cycling. Statistics prove that cyclists who take up cycling in mid-life are more likely to stick with the sport than younger riders.

A Class by Itself
The Race Across America is a grueling, transcontinental solo bicycle race. A good percentage of RAAM riders are in their 50s and 60s, and outpacing younger riders. For example;peter-300x243



Peter Lekisch, 60-years old, finished the RAAM in 12 days and 20 hours.
Passion and Cycling
Biking has become a passion for cyclists over 50. The need for glasses, slightly graying hair — or loss of it, and few more wrinkles is insignificant. The things that matter most, cardiovascular, lungs and circulatory, or possible issues with hips and joints, can be addressed easily enough by a doctor who can make recommendations for training or recreational riding.

Fast Versus Slow-Twitch
The mass of fast-twitch muscle fibers needed to produce power is greatest during your 30s. Studies have shown a decline in power of at least one per cent per year for both men and women. But there’s a trade off — slow-twitch muscles, the kind that give you endurance, are more plentiful at 50. The demographic of long-distance riders is continuing to favor older riders because of this distinction.


What to Expect
It’s not wise to blast off the line like you were racing. Warming up the first few miles is important. Everyone is different, and you should know by now what it takes for your body to respond. If not, experiment with warms ups to find your own regimen. Simple stretching might be enough, or a slow cruise for the first mile or two might be what you’re looking for.

Cycling Past 50

Cruising Speed
At some point during a ride, you’ll likely feel your lungs and heart find a balance. It might be between 12-to-16 mph, give or take. Serious cyclists call it the anaerobic balance. When you feel it, stick with it for a comfortable cruising speed.

Bounce Back
Recovery from a long ride might not be as fast as it was when you were 25. Pushing yourself to the limit breaks down muscle fibers. When the muscles grow back, they’re bigger and stronger. At 50, muscles don’t mend as fast, but they do mend, only slower.

Mood and Hormones
It’s not uncommon during middle-age, to feel down in the dumps, less amorous, or you simply can’t sleep. If you have any of these maladies you’re probably not a cyclist. Cycling affects estrogen and testosterone levels. It’s one thing to say that cycling is a cure-all for these simple health problems, but knocking off a few miles or more each day or as often as you can, is an aid to health issues, and when you feel good, and look good, you feel more attractive.

About Training
Older cyclists tend to understand their own responses to training, rather than just blindly knocking out the miles, or following a “one size fit’s all,” training program. If you’re not into training, but instead prefer a more recreational approach, older cyclists are still more likely to listen to what their body is telling them, because it speaks louder — especially in the morning.

The Agless Cyclist
Cyclists who prefer to spend their weekends shredding the blacktop rather than puttering around in the garden or on a golf course have much to be happy about. It’s impossible to reverse the arrow of time, but consistent and intelligent cycling minimizes its effects, allowing the older cyclist to maintain or gain fitness as the years tick by.
Middle-age cyclists typically appear younger than their biological age.

How I See/Feel Every Moment I’m On A Bicycle

This Is How I See/Feel Every Moment I’m On A Bicycle!
Doesn’t matter if it’s raining. cold, pedaling down an alley, through traffic, dodging potholes, kids complaining, out of water, too many layers, not enough layers, sweat in my eyes or on an actual crest like this one pictured. It’s just how good and alive I feel every time I’m on the pedals… any pedals.

Oslo To Become First Major City To Ban Cars

14585501532_6a69dd127f_oCars are no longer welcome in downtown Oslo.

Oslo plans to ban all cars from its city center by 2019, Reuters reports.

It will also build more than 35 miles of bike lanes by 2019 and invest heavily in public transport.

The permanent ban will affect the 350,000 or so car owners in the Norwegian capital.

Oslo’s car ban is the largest of its kind, says Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an organization that helped install New York’s Citi Bikes and advocates for car-free cities.

“The fact that Oslo is moving forward so rapidly is encouraging, and I think it will be inspiring if they are successful,” he tells Tech Insider.

The car ban in Oslo will reduce pollution and make it a safer city for those on foot.

“We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone,” Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, lead negotiator for the Green Party in Oslo, tells Reuters.


Madrid set a similar precedent last year, when the city announced an ambitious plan to kick cars out by 2020. Madrid’s ban, larger than Oslo’s, will cover 500 acres of the city. Other European cities have worked toward similar objectives, but not to this scale and speed.

Paris banned cars from its major landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, last month. If commuters in Milan leave their cars at home, the government will reward them with public transit vouchers. Copenhagen introduced pedestrian zones in the 1960s, and car-free zones slowly followed over the last half-century.

Oslo’s auto ban may mark a shift in our thinking around cars, White says. When cities move away from private transportation, they can rededicate that space to public parks, sidewalks, and cafés.

The problems created by cars are many.

4997898054_5f12fbb7ea_oAn estimated 150 million Americans — nearly half the country — live in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards. Cars produce the majority of this carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide pollution.

Traffic in London today moves slower than the average cyclist, and drivers in the U.K. waste 106 days of their life searching for parking spots. Commuters in Los Angeles spend 90 hours per year in traffic.

Pollution aside, cars are actually the most inefficient way to move through a city. Car bans could solve that.

“Having cars inside a dense city center is the equivalent of putting a large dinner table in a small studio apartment,” White says. “In the space it takes to park a car, you can park 15 bicycles.”

White predicts large car-free zones will eventually happen in the U.S. “Because Oslo is moving forward on such an aggressive time table, the world will be watching and seeing how it goes,” he says. To follow Oslo’s lead, White says other cities need to provide more bike lanes, sidewalks, buses, and subways.

Options like these will improve everyone’s commute.

“What a human and wonderful thing: to be able to walk down the street and feel like you’re a first-class citizen,” White says.

The Best Ways to Get to Work, According to Science

The Best Ways to Get to Work, According to Science

Commuting affects your mental health, your physical health, and even the way you think about other people. And these changes are more profound than you might think.

The average commuter spends about an hour a day heading to and from work, but plenty spend as much as three hours commuting. Those hours we spend in the car can have profound psychological and physical impacts on us. A growing body of research shows that there are far more nuanced problems with driving than the ones you’ve probably heard about.

And as a corollary, more scientists are quantifying how “active” commutes, which involve walking, biking, or off-brand hoverboarding can make life better.

Driving is the most stressful way to commute

Sure: Driving is stressful. Traffic is stressful. Being late is stressful. These aren’t groundbreaking observations, but researchers are finding that specific types of commuting produce very different levels of stress. In August, a team of researchers from McGill University published a paper in Transportation Research that asked a seemingly simple question: Which type of commuter endures the most stress: Walkers, transit riders, or drivers?

Their study included almost 4,000 subjects who commute to work or school at McGill University in Montreal, and were surveyed at the end of a long winter when it was still very cold. The results showed something interesting: Even though they were polling in the deep Montreal winter, walkers had the least stressful commute. The second-ranking type of commute was public transit—and even then, the subjects said that the most enjoyable part of their commute was the walk to and from the train or bus.

So even though walkers had to traverse the cold Montreal winters, they also endured the least stress on their way to work. Not everyone enjoys the luxury of living close enough to work to walk, but even when respondents took transit, they still enjoyed the walk the most. By far the most stressful mode was driving, in part because subjects had to budget in a lot of extra time just in case something went wrong.

It’s also bad for your health

You’re probably wondering whether we can really trust how commuters responded to any of the study surveys above. Self-reporting is a notoriously fragile methodology, right?

Sure, but there are studies that give us more objective evidence, too, as UC Irvine researcher Raymond Novaco summarizes in this useful overview of research about commuting and wellbeing. For example, in 1998, two Florida scientists named Steven M. White and James Rotton decided to test how commuting affected blood pressure and heart rate—and got around the self-selection question by assigning subjects their commuting mode randomly. People who drove had significantly higher blood pressure and heart rate, and “lower frustration tolerance,” than those who took the bus.

Since then, more evidence has accumulated about the physical tolls of driving to work. In 2012, a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine tracked the health of more than 4,200 drivers across Texas cities over several years. The researchers took weekly measurements of drivers’ health–everything from their glucose levels to their cholesterol and metabolic levels, as well as things like BMI and weight.

In doing so, they got a very clear picture of how commuting distance is associated with medical health: The longer the distance a person had to drive, the worse their cardiorespiratory fitness was–and the higher their blood pressure and BMI were, even when adjusted for how much physical activity a driver got.

Other studies peg the increase at an exact number: Every hour you spend in a car makes you 6 percent more likely to be obese. Every kilometer you walk (about .6 of a mile) reduces it by almost 5 percent.

It’s bad for your relationships and community, too

That driving is physically and mentally stressful may not come as a surprise. But this may: Driving seems to affect the social and economic health of your whole city by lessening your trust in other people and compelling you not to engage socially in your community.

A recent study of more than 21,000 people in Scania, Sweden, found that people who commute by car not only are less social–attending fewer social events, family gatherings, or public events–but they have lower trust, with more drivers reporting that they couldn’t trust most people. Meanwhile, active commuters—walking or biking—and even transit commuters reported much higher social participation and trust in others.

The results, published this year in Environment and Behavior, suggest that commuting by car actually harms the creation of “social capital,” a term for social relationships that lead to community building and economic development, or “the glue that holds societies together and without which there can be no economic growth or human well-being.”

The authors make a compelling argument: Bad urban planning is actually harming the economic and social development of humans. “Car commuting was associated with lower levels of social participation and general trust,” the authors conclude, adding that we need to consider how growing cities balance their growing labor markets with the commute those workers will need to endure.

When we design cities that make long drives to work necessary, we harm the social health of those cities. Active commuting doesn’t just lead to healthier people: It leads to healthier cities.

Riding or walking to work makes you healthier and happier

What’s so intriguing about the Swedish study was that biking and walking helped people develop a greater trust in their peers and engage more in their cities. There’s also research showing that it does a lot for your happiness and health.

One oft-cited University of East Anglia study of roughly 18,000 adults in the UK from last year showed that the shift from driving to walking (or riding) reported feeling better and having better concentration. And even if they had to take a train or bus, they were still happier than drivers, as lead author Adam Martin explained:

One surprising finding was that commuters reported feeling better when travelling by public transport, compared to driving. You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress. But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialise, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up.
As Gizmodo’s own Alissa Walker has explained before, increasing the number of people who walk in a neighborhood has the power to increase property values and neighborhood community. “Walking is the simplest, most cost-efficient way to improve a city’s economic and environmental viability,” Walker writes.

Meanwhile, a good overview of this evidence about cycling to work is a sprawling review in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports called Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review, that evaluated 16 different studies dealing with everything from an association between cycling and lower instances of colon cancer to simple cardiovascular fitness benefits. But overall, 14 of the 16 studies showed health benefits to cycling to work, even when the pace is slower and the distance short.

More importantly, 14 of the studies showed that there’s a strong inverse relationship between cycling and mortality–whether from cardiovascular disease or colon cancer. Their conclusion is straight forward: Riding work will improve your fitness, reduce the risk of death by cardiovascular disease or cancer, as well as risk of obesity.

… And the benefits vastly outweigh the risks

There’s one big argument against riding to work that you hear again and again, and one smaller one. The first is the physical danger of commuting by bike, and the second is the hazard of inhaling car exhaust while riding on city streets. Many people may reason that despite the fact that riding or walking might make them emotionally and physically healthier, they don’t want to risk an accident. Fair enough.

But it turns out this exact risk/reward assessment has been subjected to scientific study, too. In fact, the authors of one major study even tallied the relationship between riding to work and life length—down to the month.

A few years ago, a Dutch study from the University of Utrecht calculated the mortality rates if a group of 500,000 Dutch adults made the switch from driving to riding their bikes. Using census data and data about air pollution, physical exercise, and accidents, they found first that the switch to riding would add between three months to 14 months to your life expectancy. Seem small? Well, it’s huge compared to what air pollution and accidents took away. Breathing in pollution on the street only subtracted between .8 days and a little over a month over the course of a lifetime, while accidents subtracted between five and nine days.

Overall, riding to work was nine times as beneficial than the risks posed by accidents or air pollution.

As great as it is that we can point to scientific evidence of the benefits of active commuting, it’s harder to articulate the less empirical effects of riding or walking to work. An essay by Tim Kreider from a few years ago is one of my personal favorites when trying to explain the joy of riding to work, and how it seems to quell the sea of anxiety some of us feel. Kreider says:

I’m convinced these are the conditions in which we evolved to thrive: under moderate threat of death at all times, brain and body fully integrated, senses on high alert, completely engaged with our environment. It is, if not how we’re happiest — we’re probably happiest in a hot tub with a martini and a very good naked friend — how we are most fully and electrically alive.
After all, our bodies were designed to move–it’s unsurprising that we feel better when they do.

Is it possible to fall or crash on a bike or on a walk to work? Absolutely. But it’s also possible we’ll be slowly struck down by longer-term ills that driving seems to be associated with. Figuring out how to get to work on two wheels or two feet may sound stressful. But once you’re out there, you might find yourself enjoying it.