Earthquack at Festival of Books

by staff writer, Laura Davis

The folks at Bitingduck Press took Earth Day seriously. Very seriously. Editor-in-Chief Jay Nadeau and Technology Director Chris Lindensmith decided to combine their weekend as vendors at the L.A. Times Festival of Books with observing Earth Day. To that end, they hitched trailers to their bicycles, loaded up all of the books they needed for the weekend and display materials, and rode from Altadena, California (in the San Gabriel Valley foothills) to USC. It’s 20 miles each way, with an elevation change of approximately 1,200 feet. It took them about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the festival: the downhill leg of the journey.

How did this ambitious plan come about? Nadeau explains, “I had this folding bike, Bike Friday, that I bought to go to the Arctic for my field work. There were no roads, so you pretty much had a choice of walking or using an ATV. The campsites were about 12 kilometers aparts and it was really muddy while I was there. That’s a long walk in the mud, so I thought why not try it with a bike?” The Bike Friday comes with a trailer, which is a hard-sided Samsonite case, fitted with wheels and a hitch. When you’re not riding, the bike can be stowed in the trailer. She got used to carrying supplies back and forth in the bike trailer, and her relationship with Bike Friday was cemented. It’s a bit of a challenge, though. “The trailers oscillate,” Nadeau adds. Ouch.

“When we planned to go to the book festival,” Nadeau continues, “I told Chris we should ride our bikes, but he would have to get a trailer, too.” Nadeau had experience at riding the route, since she rode her bike to USC while attending grad school there. “It takes some time to find a good route, especially when you get into that Downtown area.” Her chosen way? Down Arroyo, past the Rose Bowl, all the way to Pasadena Avenue, Main to Spring, and Flower from 8th on.

Despite the challenges of getting all of their stock to the festival on bikes, Bitingduck Press put out a great selection from their publishing catalog, which ranges from non-fiction -both fun and serious – to mysteries, to a historical maritime fiction series set in the 18th century. As they were telling me the story of riding to the festival, my eyes landed on the stack of 436-page copies of The Classic Star Trek Trivia Book sitting on the table. Nadeau laughed and said, “Yes, we hope to sell lots of those before we have to ride back home!”

In a quick follow-up today, I asked how long it took them to get home. Three hours, according to Nadeau, and mostly uphill. Would they do it again? She doesn’t miss a beat. “Definitely.”

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