Last weekend at NEAF (the largest astronomy show in the world) held annually at Rockland Community College, it was surprising to meet a cyclist, Gary Parkerson, the ‘face’ for the Pedaling Astronomer Project.
Gary, 62 years of age at the time he started his solo, self sustained bicycle journey in May 2016 across the United States carrying an entire mobile astronomy lab with him from New Orleans, LA, plans to keep biking to as many of the lower 48 United States (originally set at 13,500 miles), before ending his trip in Nashville, TN for the August 21, 2017 Great American total solar eclipse (75.0% visible from NYC), where he hopes to organize at least 1,000 cyclists to experience it with him.
Already, Gary has made news in Hutchinson, KS (8/2016), Northridge, CA (9/2016), Southern, UT (10/2016), Moapa Valley, NV (10/2016), and Las Vegas, NV (1/2017), as well as providing very detailed information about his preparation for the trip (6/2016).
The purpose of the project is two-fold, to show to as many people as possible:
1. Paths to personal astronomical discovery are open to everyone.
2. Bicycle transportation is not only accessible, healthful and responsible, it’s fun.
Gary will do this by attending as many astronomy, and cycling events as he can both large and small nationwide, as well as anyone he meets along the way.
Gary, a self described ‘non-athlete’, is also not actually an astronomer either, but is the Managing Editor of Astronomy Technology Today a leading publication about the instruments and technology that amateur astronomers use. Believe it or not, several years ago, he had a medical condition that makes him unable to drive an automobile anymore, that is why he took up biking which was his primary mode of transportation, even before this trip.
Gary rides a Surly Big Dummy long-tail cargo bike on his trip, he prefers to call “The Big”, that with all of his equipment, and camping gear, weighs in at about 150 pounds. An average biking day for him is 50 miles. He also carries a least one refractor telescope, capable of being used for both nighttime, and solar observing, which he can attach to a specially designed mount behind his seat, when not biking.
His future plans are to bike across Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Australia, all with his mobile astronomy lab, to carry on the same mission.
Gary says he will be back in NYC for the Bike Expo New York, in 2018, just missing the 2017 edition, which is in a few weeks, so stay tuned, if you want to meet, likely, the world’s first ‘pedaling astronomer’.