How many people out there are keeping it real, really? How often do you meet people who don’t use computers, have no mobile phone, can carry their possessions, and travel great distances on a bicycle? Mike Joe not only embodies these qualities, but he also spends his time helping out his friends with their farming, homestead, and hosteling projects, amongst other things.
In 2009 I was cycling with a friend on the Erie Canal Bike Path when I saw a bike tourer on the trail. Having been a cycle tourer myself, I motioned to him when we all were at a road-crossing, to speak to him about his journey. Mike-Joe Jones had been cycling from the deep south that Spring, and was en route to the Deer Isle Hostel in Deer Isle, Maine, to help his friend Dennis to finish construction and run the place. Mike-Joe was smiling widely, riding with a simple bike, the metal bastkets affixed to the rear rack were full – their contents thrown in casually. His leather saddle was broken in and supple like the glove of an old ball-player. He’d clearly been riding for a very long while. Mike-Joe had been spending nearly no money on this journey, yet he would only accept a single apple from me. He had been finding much sustenance through wildly picked salads that he foraged along the trails, in addition to some kind gifts from the people he met along the way.
My encounter with Mike-Joe was short but it stayed with me for quite some time, and was for me the specific inspiration to take another bike tour.
This year I lived in Maine as a garden apprentice. Friends went to Deer Isle and Mike-Joe of course was in my thoughts. At the end of the apprenticeship I participated in the MOFGA Common Ground Country Fair. On my first day, right next to the entrance, I saw Dennis (pictured above in the rickshaw) along with his partner (also in the rickshaw). I introduced myself and told him about how I had met Mike-Joe, and he proceeded to smile and tell me that Mike-Joe was at the fair for the weekend, too. Amazing! The next day I was walking through the fairgrounds and sure enough I caught sight of the man. I am smiling now, just thinking about it. We spoke for a few minutes, and I gave him an invitation to come to Newforest for pizza cooked in our cob oven. Our conversation and getting to sit with him by the fire that evening have continued to stay with me.
I sometimes meet people who tell me that they couldn’t do what I do, or say they wish they had the ability to do what I do. They mean this, I assume, in the sense that they do not want to give up the comforts of their home and car, or something of this nature – I don’t mean to imply that I am superman or can actually do things that other people can not. For the most part, my actions and theirs are separated by will and determination, and not by physical or even monetary issues. Anyhow, Mike-Joe is one of the people who I meet and look upon with wonder and awe and inspiration.
Mike-Joe, thank you for being who you are and for doing what you do.