48-year-old Sellwood resident L.E. Baskow, a former staff photographer for the Portland Tribune, completed a cross-country bike ride in the summer of 2011. He rode 4,000 miles across nine states in three months and even crossed into Ontario a few times. Now he’s created a book about his journey that mixes photographs from the road with life lessons shared by the people he met along the way.
In Pedaling on the Road of Life, Baskow shares an intimate view into everyday, American life and his images are a testament to how much one sees when traveling by bicycle. While he waits to find the right publisher, Baskow is working at OHSU and looking for sponsors of his participation as the official photographer for the Cycle Greater Yellowstone ride coming up in August.
I caught up with L.E. and asked him a few questions about his trip and his book project…
Why’d you feel the need to get out on your bike and see the country?
My life was at a crossroads, having moved to Hawaii to freelance for a year and moving back due to my family not taking to island life. I was planning at week’s ride which became two then came the suggestion to keep going all the way. Within 8 weeks the ride was planned, gear donated by friends and family, Kickstarter money raised and a documentary photo project hatched.
What camera equipment did you roll with?
Amazingly I shot the whole journey with a Canon G12 point-and-shoot with zoom generously loaned to me by Pro Photo Supply in Portland. I mounted a super clamp to my handlebars which allowed for quick access and shot nothing but RAW images. The decision was one of weight and ease with no lens changes needed.
How did seeing the country from a bike saddle change you?
Maybe it sounds a bit melodramatic but it absolutely renewed my faith in humanity. As a newspaper photojournalist for 16 years I have seen and photographed some horrific things and unfortunately witnessed much negative human behavior and emotions. Literally from day 1 people reached out to me wanting to know of my journey, offering me food and drink, often a place to stay. I was treated like a family member and amazing things happened every day to open my mind to a greater appreciation of our country and the diversity of people in it. Moreso, it showed me that I have an amazing inner and exterior strength with the will to pedal over 4,000 miles through all kinds of weather, terrain, bugs, traffic and much more.
Tell us more about your book project…
The photo project is titled “Pedaling on the Road of Life” with the concept that as I’m unsure what my life is all about others out across the country may have good insights, at least tell me what works for them. The idea was to photograph them and pair up that image with their life quote or philosophy. It is currently constructed online with hopes of finding a publisher, think it would make a pretty cool coffee table book.
Lastly, I have just been signed on as the event/ride photographer for the first Cycle Greater Yellowstone week-long ride this coming August. Would love for some Portland cycle businesses to help sponsor me in exchange for my promoting them in any way possible. The organizer of the event is Jim Moore who is a 10 year veteran of running Cycle Oregon so it looks to be great.
Here are a few photos from his strip (captions are by L.E. Baskow):