Tour Video Weblog
The talented film crew, Katie & Marty Benson, traveled with Ben on his Pedaling Against Poverty tour. Below are their daily videos showcasing the tour and featuring a nightly performance by Ben!
Day 1 - Lexington to Frankfort, KY
Today was challenging and exhilarating. As you might imagine, the learning curve for someone that has been on the road only in planes, trains and automobiles transitioning to a bicycle was not very steep. But we did get everything strapped on to the Xtracycles, including Marty’s homemade camera mounts (he’s really proud of them), and hit the road into a fine, Kentucky veil of rain. It never let up but once we we’re completely soaked it didn’t really make a difference. I had hunger today unlike any I’ve had in years. I had a Clif Bar that tasted a gourmet dinner! Frankfort, KY is in a valley, which was rewarding at the end of the ride. The weight of the load on the back it pretty overwhelming sometimes but I’ll get better and stronger as the tour goes on. We had a lovely show at Poor Richard and finished off the night with Katie and Marty’s very first ALE8ONE (Kentucky’s signature soda)… success. Tomorrow is a longer ride to play a beautiful room in Danville, KY at the Community Arts Center. Here’s hoping the rain sticks to the sky tomorrow.
Day 2 - Frankfort to Danville, KY
Unfortunately, I left my riding shorts in a dryer in Frankfort (yikes). However, the weather was a big improvement over yesterday's drizzle. It's a bit of give in take I guess. I'm getting a better handle for what it means to ride this Xtracycle with all the gear. You can't approach the terrain with the same intention as you would on a regular road bike. It's more a kin to driving a truck and letting the load push you up the hills when it's possible. But some of these steeper hills I had no option but to walk the bike up. Our bell competition is heating up. I knabbed Marty's bell earlier but then I crashed and took a huge dive over the embankment... it so important to know how to fall. Once we got to Danville things smoothed out. We played at the copmmunity arts center which was nice but it's always hard to get people out to places like that. I don't know if it's that it doesn't get the kind of foot traffic it needs or if people just aren't ever expecting shows to be at the center. Eitherhow, two of my favorite people from my childhood, Ellen and Kevin Dennison, we're at the show. Both we're my teachers in school and both we're always supportive of me experimenting with cello stuff. It was great to see them and Marty captured some neat moments on camera.
Day 3 - Danville to Berea, KY
We started off the day gathering at John Robinson's house to check out his collection of bicycles and alternative vehicles. He was a hoot and had a lot of really crazy contraptions including the uni-skate (a uni-cycle skateboard hybrid) and clown cycles. Katie and Marty both excelled at all the different recumbants and segway stuff because of their time in the water as surfers. They are tres sportif! The road from John's to Lancaster was hilly and took a lot out of us. But our stop at Smith's restaurant recharged us and the roads from then on were fairly empty which made for some solid cruising time. Berea was as it has always been...picturesque. We had a lovely crowd and generated some solid talk about the work of Oxfam.
Day 4 - Berea to Somerset, KY
The good news: Katie, Marty and I are now official Pulaski County Colonels. The bad news: we barely made it to the show in Somerset. The ride was incredibly difficult and almost defeating for me. I guess I just underestimated the energy it would take to truck myself and this load through Appalachia. The show was at 4pm and at 1pm we were sitting on the top of a mountain 23 miles away. In reflection, I’m amazed how nutrition can affect one’s spirit. I had eaten a heavy lunch (cheeseburger and fries) for lunch and it provided nothing for my body to use. But as soon as I put some whole grains in my body it came alive again. Clif bars have never tasted SO good. We made it to the show with 8 minuntes to spare. While the show was thinly attended we all had a great time and May 7, 2009 was declared Ben Sollee day in Pulaski County.
Day 5 - Somerset to Albany, KY
Day 6 - Albany to Cookeville, KY
Day 7 - Cookeville to McMinnville, TN
Day 8 - McMinnville to Bonnaroo, TN
Raising awareness about global poverty, 330-miles at a time
Starting in Frankfort, Kentucky (Ben's home state), Ben and crew traveled roughly 40-miles per day and played an amazing show each night. Pedaling south, Ben used his amazing cello skills, talented voice and poignant lyrics to raise awareness of our growing distance between the haves and the have-nots.
Supporting Lives and Communities
In keeping with Xtracycle's tradition to enact positive change in our local communities and the world, Ben Sollee, a multi-talented musician from Kentucky, is using his skills and public persona to promote a better, more equitable world for all.
Teaming up with OxFam, Topo Ranch and other like minded sponsors, Ben rode his Radish Xtracycle cargo bicycle on a 10-day music tour to promote OxFam's efforts to reduce global poverty.
We're excited to have Ben representing our values and company on the road and wish him, his crew and his family the best as they embark on this green mission to help others.
June 4th Frankfort, KY @ Coffee Tree Café June 5th Danville, KY @ Community Arts Center June 6th Berea, KY @ Coffee and Tea June 7th Somerset, KY @ Carnegie Arts Center June 8th Albany, KY @ Clinton County Library June 9th Cookeville, TN @ Backdoor Playhouse at TN Tech June 10th McMinnville, TN @ Capalano's June 11th-14thManchester, TN @ Bonnaroo
Articles & Blogs
"Selected as an NPR Top Ten new artist to watch, Sollee's unique work has been hailed as a blend of Al Green's soulful pipes with Yo Yo Ma's original string compositions. He will forego the jet arrival and zig-zag his way over 300 miles through the Kentucky hills and Tennessee Cumberlands on an Xtracycle (extended-frame bicycle). Sollee will be pulling his 1930 Kay cello, along with 60 pounds of equipment, for the weeklong tour, as part of a benefit of Oxfam America's development programs. Sollee has also been a vocal participant in numerous anti-mountaintop removal benefits in the region."
“I always felt like I was missing something during the high speed transportation of conventional touring,” says Ben who aligned with Xtracycle (extended-frame bicycles) for the trip, inspired by its technology to haul gear with relative ease. “I’m hoping the limitations of traveling by bike will cause me to be more present at each place, and be a part of the community.”
"After arriving in the rain Thursday and changing quickly into dry clothes at Completely Kentucky, next door to the Coffeetree Café, Sollee said, “Today was a real learning curve. It’s just a totally different riding experience with 60 pounds on the back of the bike.” ...
He said he’d “always dreamt of doing some kind of bicycle tour.” But he had never thought about combining it with a music tour until he “saw an info clip about this company in San Francisco called Xtracycle (now one of his sponsors) that makes long-frame bicycles.
“That’s when I thought, ‘I can haul a cello on that. I should do a tour.’”
“We’re going to be riding through the heart of these towns and people will have questions. Conversations will take seed,” Ben told the Huffington Post this week. “In the end, the music will bridge any gaps in vernacular and we’ll have a great show. It’s important for me to remember that I’m going to these places on an invitation from the community. Booking agents didn’t book this tour. Rather, the community found places to host us.”
For his extended road trip, the cellist alligned himself with the Xtracycle brand, which manufactures extended-frame bicycles.
“I always felt like I was missing something during the high-speed transportation of conventional touring,” Sollee said. “I’m hoping the limitations of traveling by bike will cause me to be more present at each place, and be a part of the community.”
In addition, Sollee is also working with Oxfam America, a relief and development organization that works to find lasting solutions for poverty, hunger and injustice.
“I suspect there will be some moments when I question the wisdom of hauling 60 pounds of equipment on a bike through the hills of Southern Appalachia,” he said. “But it’s important to me.”
The musician mentality that I’ve picked up on in my time is “take every opportunity, turn nothing down.” When you do that you, as I have been doing for about 5 years now, you find yourself on red-eye flights, early morning trains, transatlantic flights for one performance and so on. The bicycle introduces a beautiful limitation: I can only go so far as my body and top speed will allow. That in and of its self makes touring far more sustainable and less impactful on the environment. However, before I discovered the Xtracycle and its long-tail hauling system, it was impossible for me to even dream of traveling by bike with my cello, equipment, merch, and supplies.
“Considering I hadn’t really ridden much before this tour, it’s going great,” Sollee said Monday. As he talked on his cell phone, Sollee pedaled Ky. 90 through Wayne County. His voice was occasionally drowned out by the swoosh of a passing truck.
“We had a really hard day going from Berea to Somerset … hauling about 60 pounds of gear up all those big hills,” Sollee said. “Heading into Somerset I didn’t think I was going to make it. We pulled in eight minutes before show time.”