Life-long cyclist brings his story to Tahoe |

Life-long cyclist brings his story to Tahoe

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunMicheal Washington plays his guitar at the Tahoe City Farmers Market.

Micheal Washington sports bike shorts and a sleeveless tie-dyed T-shirt while playing guitar and harmonica at area locales. But he isnt just a musician, and he isnt just a cyclist.Washington, 65, travels the world by bicycle toting a self-designed trailer that took him 15 years to build. A short, well-built man with bronzed skin, he notes that many people are curious about his travels.I get asked where Im going and where Ive been at least 100 times a day, the Selma, Ore., resident said. Ive learned to deal with that. The only time I dont like to respond to it is before coffee in the morning. No Q&A before coffee. After coffee, no problem.It would be better to ask Washington where he hasnt been. He has traveled across America eight times and in 68 countries by bicycle. He has crossed every continent in the world and perimetered as many as he could by bike.A native of Negaunee, Mich., he ran away from an abusive home at the age of 15 and explored America by bike for the first time. At 16, he was diagnosed with epilepsy and was refused a drivers license because of the possibility of having a seizure, he said.I decided that wasnt going to stop me from doing what I wanted to do, and that was to travel, Washington said. I have used the bike as my sole means of transportation for most of my life. It has totally enriched my life. It has given me the ability to see things at 12-and-a-half miles an hour. It puts you in touch, it really does. You smell the air. You feel the hot, cold air changes. The most self-empowering thing any human being can do is to ride across this nation. A mechanist and welder by trade, Washington started a bike church in Santa Cruz 10 years ago to train people how to take care of their bicycles. Now a successful co-op, the concept has spawned other bike churches in other states and 11 bike shops across the country from people who Washington and his volunteers have trained. The bike church started as a pipe dream, Washington said. I wanted to see a change in the industry … It is very empowering for people. Doing work themself, they understand why it happens.Through the bike church, Washington has visited Central America four times, bringing bicycles to villages that need transportation and training them how to take care of their bikes.We ride down, build a bike shop, train people, give them bikes and set them up, Washington said, adding that they have done programs in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua in the last six years. There is no public transportation in these places, so when you give someone a bike, you are giving them the freedom of employment.Washington has been in the Tahoe area since before Memorial Day, having just returned from Guatemala in April. He stays with friends in Tahoe City and Truckee and plays music at the Tahoe City and Truckee farmers markets and at the Dam Caf in Tahoe City. He plans to stick around for another month and will head home to Oregon to start a bike church in his own town and maybe travel to Europe.But for now Washington is enjoying dips in Lake Tahoe, camping and playing music for the crowds.People here have been really, really generous, Washington said of Tahoe-Truckee. There are a lot of good people here.

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