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Mike and a Bike

Mike and a Bike
By Michael Shaw

Professor of computer science Michael Goldweber has a head for numbers and a backside born for a bike saddle. Consider this equation: Goldweber has a wanderlust rivaling the most far-flung of Jesuits. Add to that a certification as a professional bike tour guide and what do you get? A bottom line of Goldweber logging more recreational miles on two wheels than most of us have achieved within the cozy confines of a car. Not that he’s counting.

But a few quick calculation reveals impressive numbers.

“My first real trip, in 1982, was from Albuquerque, N.M., to Golden, Colo. (460 miles). Then I rode from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Cleveland (913 miles). In 1985 I spent six months touring from Colorado to Fairbanks then down to Anchorage (around 3,400 miles), then headed back until I ran out of money.”

Next came career, marriage and family—but the biking bug proved incurable.

“So I’m in a real job and I wanted to continue doing trips, but my wife was uncomfortable with me riding alone. So I became a professional tour guide. A tour group is typically 10-12 people. It’s whoever has signed up for the trip. It’s a nice mix—male, female, young and old. People have different reasons for going on the trip. There’s never been a trip that I’ve led that had someone who couldn’t handle it physically. If they stick with it for three or four days, then they can handle it. If they’re not in shape, they’re going to get in shape really quick.”

When Goldweber extolls the virtues of bike touring, one does feel the urge to take notes, because there just may be a test at the end of the trail.

“Biking is a great way to travel,” he says. “It’s fast enough that you get someplace and slow enough that you see everything. It’s not like the Tour de France. It’s really touring. We take a bicycle, put a front and back rack on it, then add saddlebags—two in the front and two in the back and you load them up with everything you’re going to need—so we’re talking tent, sleeping bag, food, clothing, stove, fuel. Fully loaded you’re carrying 40-50 pounds of gear and you can go forever. You just have to stop and buy food.“

Provided that you can actually stop.

“Downhills are fun. You’re loaded with fifty pounds of gear screaming down a hill. You can get fast if you want to be fast. I do know that one time I’m coming down this road in the Canadian Rockies called the Ice Fields Parkway. It’s between Jasper and Banff. We’re coming down out of the Continental Divide and it’s sleeting. So there’s a lot of this icy rain kind of thing. I’m passing cars because I’m just screaming down the hill.”

Although he can’t say how fast he was really going.

“I don’t have a speedometer. I don’t have a odometer. I’m not a techy person that way. I’m not into the miles. I’m not into the numbers. Anything that has to be plugged in or buy a battery for, I’m not really keen on that— except for flashlights. Flashlights are a good thing. Everyone says I’m a luddite when it comes to gadgets. I’m not really keen on that kind of technology. I’d rather see the stars.”

And whatever else there is to see—or run from.

“I’ve had grizzly encounters,” he says. “Grizzly’s are different from black bears. They’re opportunistic feeders and we’re not on the menu. First thing to do is too move slowly so the sun is behind you to make yourself appear as large as possible. They have very bad eyesight. They have a very keen sense of smell though, so you want to figure out if you’re upwind or downwind. You want to get the sun behind you and cast as big a shadow as you can. And you want to talk in a very low voice. I said ‘I’m a scrawny little Jewish guy and I don’t taste very good.’ ”

These days, Goldweber’s touring is family focused but still ambitious. “My son and I are going to do a two-week trip in Alaska. It’s the same one I led many years ago. “

Not that his group touring days are over, they’re just becoming a bit more refined.

“I’d love to do a Xavier alumni inn-to-inn tour on the bourbon trail. Every night you end up at a nice bed-and-breakfast. During the day you ride and stop at a distillery, take the tour, then a nice dinner at night. I’d love to do that. As I get older, my need to be sleeping on the hard ground in the wilderness is still there, but I don’t mind a bed.“

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