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Thursday, August 30, 2012

We're Getting On: The Triumphs and Perils of a 2,000-Mile Bike Book Tour

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 7:30 AM

Don't worry, they made fun of this photo in the movie too.
  • Don't worry, they made fun of this photo in the movie too.

Welcome to The Spokesman, our bi-monthly bicycle column written by French Clements, a San Francisco resident and distance cyclist who considers it pretty routine to ride his bike to Marin County or San Jose and back. He belongs to a club, the SF Randonneurs, and is active in numerous aspects of the cycling community.

When bike touring is good, it can be really, really good. You'll find an ideal state of being somewhere among the camaraderie and well-earned pastries at the end of a long, collision-free day.

At other times, you may prefer the life of a farmer or a couch potato.

So I both cringed and cheered with recognition during parts of We're Getting On, a quick (53 minute) documentary showing September 1 at the Roxie Theater, as part of the United Film Festival. Maybe you remember two summers ago, when the Seattle-bound Zero Emission Book Tour rambled through town by bike from L.A.? Writer James Kaelan was one of its two cyclists, plugging his first novel, also called We're Getting On. He and his buddy, filmmaker Miles Kittredge, strung together readings at bookshops and visits to organic farms on their slow journey into the coastal headwinds. (They also ate at every Taco Bell they saw, up to three times daily, which belies the tour's message of sustainability only a little. There are days, on a bike, when you've just got to eat shitty food.)

Kaelan and Kittredge sometimes opted to keep their farmer-hosts in the dark about the specifics of the book (and maybe about the Taco Bell thing), the plot of which I'll summarize:

Douchebag bicyclist druggie cons his washed-up friends into moving to the desert for a cultish rejection of technological dependency. Reversion to pre-agricultural disorder ensues. All are forced to eat peanuts, wear mud for clothes, and stave off fear, starvation, and murder.

While the film is miles happier and less harrowing and more pro-farm than the book, it's just as well-crafted. (By the way, the cult's leader is obviously a d-bag: He uses a disc wheel on a fixed gear to get around town. Aerospokes are one thing, but a disc wheel?) The film, with its tight editing and sun-kissed shots of chicken farms, is easy to watch, although at times I wondered if the guys are really cut out to be long-distance riders. They seem to have trouble changing flats and being patient. But, hey, three months is a long time on the road. I'd also cuss out entire towns after that long, and I'm sure the film was edited in a way that played up the rare troublesome spots for maximum watchability. The fact is, they finished the tour and their marketing plan seems like a real success and you've read this far.

So even though plenty went wrong on this bike tour -- apparently the support crew abandoned them at one point -- it could have gone much, much worse. Or, as one of the farmers in the film puts it, "We have a saying at Godford Family Farms: all the animals have one bad day." As in, they die! Cyclists, be careful out there.

We're Getting On screens at 2 p.m. September 1 at the Roxie, 3117 16th St. (at Valencia). Admission is $10.

"We're Getting On" teaser.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.
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French Clements


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