Alyssandra Nighswonger is a beautiful, inspiring cyclist, artist and musician who will be flying to Seattle, then riding home to Long Beach, California in only six weeks. This journey is 1,500 miles long and she will be riding 40 to 60 miles per day. Along the way, she will be promoting her new EP "When My Love Knot Slips" and playing shows in Seattle, Olympia, Portland, Eureka, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.
I love when fate takes hold of your handlebars and steers you in the right direction. In my case, this is how I stumbled upon Alyssandra and the amazing journey she is about to endure. Usually I ride my bike during the day, as I am still too scared to ride at night by myself. But recently I’ve been going to Berlin (the coffee shop on 4th street next to Fingerprints) and staying late to get out of the house. I’m more productive this way. However, I do not own lights for my bike Lulu so I decided to look around at West River Cycles. As I was paying for my merchandise, I noticed a postcard and happened to pick it up. On the postcard was a picture of Alyssandra and brief description about her journey. I knew I had to interview her for WoBSoCal! She agreed and provided me with my most interesting interview thus far.
MBell: What is/was your favorite bike? Can you describe it in detail?
AN: In college, when I first really started commuting around town by bike, I got this burgundy Trek hybrid bike. It was super comfortable, sturdy and fast. A few years later, I was trying to discover myself and grow into my femininity, and figure out what it really meant to be a woman. In the process, for some crazy reason, I gave that bike to my sister and bought a prettier, girlier, bright turquoise beach cruiser, which was slow and heavy, and had giant cruiser handlebars that were harder to maneuver. There was a lesson in there somewhere. Right now, I'm riding an old Univega road bike. It does the trick, but it's definitely an in-between-er until I find "the one."
MBell: What do you think the benefits of biking are, especially for women?
AN: Independence and time in the sunshine! I feel such freedom and happiness when I ride my bike. I'll ride it home from work and drive over the jam-packed freeway and feel such relief. When you're on a long ride, you don't answer any e-mails or phone calls or text messages. You can just let your mind wander and take it all in. For someone who is as busy as me, it's a great opportunity to get my brain to shut up. I'm always making to-do lists and constantly checking my e-mail. It's nice, because after the first 30 minutes, my brain runs out of day-to-day things to remind myself about, and then I just relax and get nice and day-dreamy.
MBell: How did you come to the decision to do a bike tour?
AN: There were few events that led up to this: for a year, my little brother, who works for an airline, had me on his buddy pass, so I was flying up to Portland to collaborate with Joshua Bassett, from the Portland band Welfare. Then, last July, my car broke down, so I was doing some heavy bike commuting while I saved up for a new car. In October, my little brother told me that he was going to rotate his buddy pass. I was thankful for having had the opportunity to travel so much, but wanted to find another way to connect my project in Portland with my music down here. So, of course, I thought a music tour by bicycle would do the trick.
I have friends and family to stay with in Seattle, Portland, Salem, Eureka, Mendocino, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Marina, Santa Barbara and Ventura. The rest of the time, we'll be camping and staying in hostels. The first person I thought of to accompany me on the tour was my friend Sarah Rosenberger. She's a fellow adventure hound I work with at a coffeehouse in Long Beach called Viento y Agua. She's much more fitness savvy than I am, and has come up with a training plan that involves big rides, little rides, rides with hills, yoga, running and weight training. I haven't spent as much time training as I would have liked so far, since I've been finishing my album and planning the big Vaudeville show, but I'm on the right track and there's still a month left! I'm excited and terrified. It's really fun to talk about. At the same time, my boss at my other job has been training for the Aides Lifecycle, so we've been encouraging each other. I'm a little nervous about the weather and getting lost, or having everything well enough planned, but we still have a month to go, and we've gotten nothing but support from friends and family.
MBell: What do your friends and family think of your adventure? Are they worried or nervous?
AN: They're excited, but they're definitely nervous. When I first got this idea and started telling people about it, I think they pictured me alone in the middle of the night, huffing and puffing up the tallest mountain in Big Sur. And in reality, we're training ahead of time, and we'll only be riding 40-60 miles a day, so we'll get to each destination with plenty of time before sunset. It's going to be harder and easier than we think, but we can do it!
One response that I've been getting are a few friends that say, "You're bringing a BOY, right?!" This always makes me cringe. It's never: "You have the trip all mapped out, right?" or "You've taken some time to learn basic maintenance on your bike, right?" but instead, "Make sure you bring a boy!" I really want to say, "I beg your pardon, but we are two ambitious and amazing ladies and we have been prepping and training hard, and we will make it just fine, regardless of whether or not a boy happens to be with us."
But it does just so happen that there will be a few boys on the trip, but because we want them as part of the adventure, not because we need protection. Our boyfriends are going to ride different legs of the trip, depending on the amount of time they can take off work and school. My friend, Tyler Maughmer, is an avid cyclist, heard about the tour, and sold his car so he could ride half of the trip with us. Then, I found out my friend, Chad Sheby, just happened to be planning the same bike tour as us, but only a week apart! And bonus points: he's going to bike-mechanic school for a month before the trip. We're meeting him in Portland and he'll ride with us as far down as he likes. Maybe San Francisco, maybe further. Then, I'm talking different musician friends into flying/driving up to different stops on the tour to make guest appearances at shows. Adventure time!
MBell: What essentials are you bringing for the trip?
AN: I'm packing everything on the actual bike—no trailer—so we're packing light: change of clothes, some warm stuff, basic bike maintenance stuff (a few extra tubes and tires), lightweight camping gear (sleeping bag, sleeping pad and tent), a baby Taylor guitar so I can play shows, some “merch” to sell at shows (though I will be having my mom mail “merch” to a few destinations so I don't have to carry it all at once), journal, 35mm camera and my flip to take videos.
About Melissa Bell
A senior at California State University, Long Beach she studies journalism and creative writing. In her spare time she loves to write short stories and poetry. Melissa has had poetry published in JAGed Magazine, and Bank Heavy Press. She has experience as an event writer, as well as, writing adventure pieces for Flasking.com. While, she adores writing she is still unsure of where she will end up with her career. Nonetheless, she knows she wants to do something that she enjoys, rather than something that just pays the rent. Read more...