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Archive of posts published in the category: Story
Apr
19

Tripping in LSD’s Birthplace: A Story for “Bicycle Day”

Exactly 71 years ago, April 19, 1943, Albert Hofmann, a chemist for Sandoz, in Basel, Switzerland, ingested a minute amount—just 250 micrograms–of a compound derived from the ergot fungus. He soon felt so disoriented that he rode his bicycle home, where he experienced all the heavenly and hellish effects of lysergic acid diethylamide. 

Psychedelic enthusiasts now commemorate Hofmann’s discovery of LSD’s effects every April 19, a.k.a. “Bicycle Day. ” To celebrate this Bicycle Day, I’d like to describe one of the strangest trips of my life, which took place in Basel and involved (sort of) Hofmann. 

In 1999, while, researching a book on mysticism, I flew to Basel to attend “Worlds of Consciousness,” a leading forum for scientists studying altered states, especially drug-induced states. The meeting, held in a convention center within walking distance of my hotel, offered two divergent perspectives of hallucinogens. In the convention center’s lobby, vendors peddled visionary books, music and art, including drawings, by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, of pouty-lipped, warhead-breasted, cybernetic vixens transmogrified by titanic psychic forces.

Beside this artistic evocation of psychedelic visions, a display of “scientific” posters—with titles like “Psychoneurophysiology of Personalized Regression and Experiential Imaginary Therapy”–seemed parodically dry. The meeting’s schizoid character was reflected in its speakers, too. One group sported hippy-ish threads and extolled altered states in subjective, even poetic language. The other wore jackets and ties and employed clinical, objective rhetoric.

The meeting’s guest of honor was a stooped, white-haired man with fierce, Churchillian mien: Albert Hofmann. His contributions to psychedelic chemistry extended beyond LSD. In the 1950s, he analyzed Psilocybe cubensis, a “magic mushroom” consumed by Indians in Mexico, and deduced that its primary active ingredient is psilocybin. Hofmann’s research inspired other scientists around the world to investigate LSD, psilocybin and similar compounds, which psychiatrist Humphry Osmond dubbed psychedelic, based on the Greek words for “mind-revealing.”

At 93, Hofmann still avidly followed the field he helped create. One day we spoke during the lunch break, and Hofmann, in halting, heavily accented English, vigorously defended LSD, which he called his “problem child.” He blamed Harvard-psychologist-turned-counterculture-guru Timothy Leary for giving LSD such a bad reputation.

“I had this discussion with him,” Hofmann told me. “I said, ‘Oh, you should not tell everybody, even the children, “Take LSD! Take LSD!”'” LSD “can hurt you, it can disturb you,” Hofmann said, “it can make you crazy.” But properly used, psychedelics stimulate the “inborn faculty of visionary experience” that we all possess as children but lose as we mature.

Hofmann recalled a psilocybin trip during which he ended up in a ghost town deep inside the earth. “Nobody was there. I had the feeling of absolute loneliness, absolute loneliness. A terrible feeling!” When he emerged from this nightmare and found himself with friends again, he felt ecstatic. “I had feeling of being reborn! To see now again! And see what wonderful life we have here!” The gruff old man stared above my head, his eyes gleaming, as if born again this very

Apr
2

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I
am Tim Travis, an
ordinary American who decided to live out my dreams.  I saved my money,
quit my job, sold my possessions and set off to travel around the world by
bicycle.  I left my home in Arizona, USA on March 2002 and traveled on
a bicycle for many years. 

 

 

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Apr
2

The Bicycle Story | A Tale of People and Bikes

Hi Folks,

After six years of written interviews and stories and blog posts and one year of podcasting, it’s time to close the book on The Bicycle Story. I launched this project on Nov 1. 2010 with an interview with Stevil Kinevil. I wasn’t sure exactly what the path forward would be for the site, but the late 2000s bike culture boom was reaching its peak and there were a seemingly endless number of fascinating characters in the bike world about whom I wanted to know more. Luckily, it turned out there were lots of readers who were also interested in the lives of bike racers, adventurers, advocates, industry insiders, dirt bags and wild women and men.

Over the years, the site grew beyond my expectations and gave me the opportunity to interview so many awesome individuals. Adonia Lugo, Oboi Reed, Ed Ewing and many others illuminated how race and class can remain barriers to cycling. Jeremy Powers and Stephen Hyde and Mo Bruno Roy gave readers a glimpse into what it takes to perform at the highest levels of the sport. Artists and artisans such as Brian Vernor and Martina Brimmer shared their craft. Adventurers such as Nick Carman, Jill Homer, and Alastair Humphreys took us along on their rides to the far corners of the globe.

When I launched the podcast last year, my intentions were threefold: breath some new life into the site, give myself an opportunity to experiment with podcasting, and create a revenue-generating product. The first two items were grand successes. The latter, much less so. In order for podcast sponsorship to work, the podcast needs a fairly large listenership. My hope was to sustain the podcast through listener support via Patreon pledges while building up a sponsorship-worthy audience. Unfortunately neither really happened. There were a handful of extremely generous listeners who made pledges and helped keep the project going for as long as it did. I am eternally grateful for their kindness and support! But ultimately the Patreon base and the overall audience remained fairly stagnant over time and never reached the sort of sustainability I needed.

I realize this might sound like sour grapes, but I promise you it’s not! I recognize there were plenty of things I did (or didn’t do) to help the podcast reach its full potential. More importantly, I am deeply humbled and have nothing but gratitude for all The Bicycle Story’s readers and listeners and supporters and interviewees over the years. It’s been a fantastic and satisfying ride.

Though there won’t be any new interviews or episodes on The Bicycle Story from here on out, the site will remain online. You can help me offset hosting costs (and clear out my closet!) by picking up a Bicycle Story tee from the shop. They’re deeply discounted right now and shipping is free anywhere in the U.S.

So once again, thank you to all the amazing people who shared their stories over the years. And thank you to