Madison Worthy and Miriam Engle biked from Copenhagen to Barcelona during the summer of 2015, collecting interview and activity footage for the film Self-Made, all about the European Fab Lab phenomenon. We reached Barcelona on July 13th, and spent the next ten days sweating all over the region interviewing architects, urbanists, and educators at Fab Labs and makerspaces.
Places we’ve been to or through in the last twenty days: Beaune, Chalon-sur-Saône, Mâcon (does not rhyme with bacon), Trevoux, Lyon, Tournon-sur-Rhône, Valence, Cruas, Meysse, Pierrelatte, Saint-Restitute, Avignon, Arles, Lunel, Saint-Aunès, Montpellier, Saint-Pierre le Mer, Argelès-sur-Mer, Cerbère, Colera, Figueres, Girona, Sils, Malgrat de Mar, Arenys de Mar, Mataró, Badalona, Sitges, Barcelona.
This July, 2015, France is a furnace. The country is a sauna right now–the more you move, the hotter your skin tingles. When you stand still to gulp great choking mouthfuls of cotton, the sweat pools, your very mind oozing from your temples. It’s a feverish temperature, surrounded by the claustrophobic drone of insects, you’re constantly sticky and itchy. Even lying down to sleep, an unfulfilled promise of relief, the sweat runs, you’ll toss and turn and scratch for restless hours.
France is a really big country. Like, massive. Its dramatic depth and diversity are enough to make me want to steer my bike into the nearest canal and leave it there.
But then. Just when I start to feel overwhelmed by the monumental task at hand, my spirits are revived by simple, beautiful human connection. From the very first day we entered this vast country, we’ve experienced a wealth of kindness from all quarters.
Places we’ve been to or through in the last twenty days: Uccle, Charleroi, Jeumont, Solre-le-Château, La Capelle, Montcornet, Évergnicourt, Reims, Épernay, Château-Thierry, Meaux, Pantin, Paris, Melun, Fontainebleau, Vallery, Joigny, Migennes, Saint-Florentin, Tonnerre, Montbard, Pasques, Plombiéres-lés-Dijon, Dijon. Plus a day trip yesterday by car from Dijon to Auxerre.
We got spoiled in the Netherlands: bike lanes two meters wide, perfectly paved, geography so flat it weirdly feels like downhill. This past week the Real Bike Tour began: ten hour days in the saddle, nights spent camping, sometimes legally. We dirtbag it up, crusty with sweat and sunburnt, perched outside supermarkets while we devour the day’s bread and cheese and whatever bottom shelf booze tickles our fancy. Does this grassy knoll have Wifi?
Places we’ve to or through in the last twenty days: Leiden, Den Haag, Delft, Rotterdam, Breda, Roosendaal, Bergen op Zoom, ‘s-Heer Arendskerke, Middelburg, Vlissingen, Cadzand, Sluis, Damme, Brugge, Moerbrugge, Beernam, Gent, Asse (where you can bet your arse we rested ours), Brussels.
Madison Worthy and I are not on vacation here. Yes, we’re having the time of our lives biking across Europe, but we’re also making a documentary, setting up the film equipment, breaking it down, schlepping it around. We’re connecting to some impressive characters, individuals who have been involved in the maker movement before anyone was even calling it that. We’re exploring towns and cities that we would never otherwise have set foot in. But we’re not on vacation.
Madison and I had a fabulous time in Amsterdam. (Does anyone not?!) We stayed with Monique de Wilt of ZB45 Makerspace and her cat Neo, named of course for the protagonist of The Matrix. Monique’s building her own open source 3D printer, the MoWi, which is special because it’s collapsible, easy to transport by bicycle. As amazing as Couchsurfing is, staying with Fab folk is a fantastic opportunity for us to get to know people outside of the official Fab Lab filming environment. We love witnessing how Fab folk spend their free time. Belonging to a Fab Lab is not just a hobby, it’s more of a lifestyle.
Places we’ve been to or through in the past ten days: Tostedt, Rosenburg, Sottrum, Fischerhude, Bremen, Oldenburg, Rhauderfehn, Weener, Beerta, Groningen, Leeuwarden, Harlingen, Afsluitdijk, Middenmeer, Alkmaar, Wormerveer (where we got trapped in a Fair Wear clothing company’s compound), Amsterdam. We’ve made it to our third big city, our distance traveled just under 1000km.