August 22, 2012 - Traditionally, superhero modes of transportation include flying through the air, swinging from webs and driving state-of-the-art vehicles equipped with all sorts of cool crime-fighting gadgets.
Draped in their colorful capes, the Bicycling Superheroes spent a few days camping and volunteering at the Strawbale Studio (shown behind them), an eco-friendly structure and natural building/sustainable living educational center in Addison. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
No one has ever seen a superhero – not even Captain Planet – pedaling a bicycle down the road . . . until now.
With colorful capes flapping behind them in the breeze, the Bicycling Superheroes rode into Addison Township Friday evening on a mission to serve others and have fun while doing it.
They camped out and did volunteer work at the Strawbale Studio until Monday. Built in the late 1990s, the studio is a 600-square-foot eco-friendly structure consisting of a thatched roof, straw bale walls covered with earthen plaster, log frame, finished earthen floor and fieldstone foundation wall. It's used to educate others about natural building and sustainable living.
While staying at the studio, the superheroes cleared gardens, planted seeds, created paths, built compost piles, hand-painted a sign and added another layer of earthen plaster to the natural structure.
"We're doing anything that can help things run smoother (at the studio) and help support (the owner's) vision," said one of the superheroes who calls herself The SerendipiTease.
The group consists of 21 folks who decided to trade in their everyday identities for more 'super' personas as they spend a month together randomly riding from town to town in Michigan, camping out and giving help to whoever needs or asks for it along the way.
"Our tactics are to roll into a town, send out scouts and just be aware of the people that we meet," explained The SerendipiTease. "We're excited to meet people and perform service in whatever ways present themselves.
"Sometimes it's just listening to someone and sometimes it's more support work for an organization. Part of the joy is that we don't know what we're going to find, so it's like a game."
Each of the bicyclists has their own superhero name along with a special power.
"My superpower is I'm always in the right place at the right time and ready to play," said The SerendipiTease. When she's not being a superhero, The SerendipiTease lives in St. Louis, Missouri where she teaches art and yoga to children.
"The superhero (theme) is about this idea that we are out to save the universe for free and call upon our highest selves," explained superhero Laughing Moon. "A huge part of the superhero ride is celebrating the local heroes. When we ride into town, we're creating a mirror for them to see themselves as heroes.
"After we've worked on a project or meet people, we have a special good-bye ceremony at which we honor the heroes of the community. A lot of times the everyday heroes are not the ones that get the pat on the back or the recognition – I think that's a big part of our journey.
Laughing Moon's superpower is the ability to "reflect wonder and possibility for others (just) as the moon reflects light." When he's not using his powers on the road, Laughing Moon lives at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkley, Michigan.
The current superhero ride began Aug. 10 at Three Roods Farm located in Columbiaville in Lapeer County. The ride is scheduled to continue until Sept. 10. The rides usually last a month, but they always have the potential to go longer if some or all of the group chooses to press on.
"We don't have an ultimate destination," noted The SerendipiTease.
Founded by Ethan Hughes, these superhero bike rides started back in 2000. Superhero headquarters is in La Plata, Missouri at a place called The Possibility Alliance, an intentional community that is completely car-free, petroleum-free and electricity-free. The superhero rides have taken place in many states and even other countries, including England, Ireland, Thailand, Australia and British Columbia.
"This is the 22nd ride," noted Laughing Moon.
However, this is the very first ride that's taken place in Michigan. It was started by Laughing Moon and fellow superhero Star Dust, who also lives in Michigan.
"I really felt called to bring that energy to Michigan," said Laughing Moon, who went on his first superhero ride in Iowa last year. "It was a thrilling experience for me."
"The game is that if you've been on a ride, you can call a ride," explained The SerendipiTease, who's first superhero ride took place in Texas in 2010. "Once you're a superhero, if you choose to call a ride, you just put the word out."
So, why ride bicycles from town to town instead of just driving? "We're serving the entire world by using less energy," Laughing Moon said.
The SerendipiTease added that "something really wonderful" happens while riding a bike that doesn't while traveling in cars. The slower pace allows bikers to interact with those they pass and it offers riders a chance "to be in their bodies in a way that most people usually aren't in their day-to-day lives."
Michigan's superhero ride has drawn quite the diverse crowd of participants. "They're from as near as Flint, Michigan and as far as Australia," said The SerendipiTease.
Wandering Wolf is a superhero from Melbourne, Australia. He's a human rights lawyer who's taking a yearlong sabbatical from his career to spend three months biking around the United States, then the rest of the time in Europe.
"I'm about two months in," he said.
Wandering Wolf heard about the superhero ride from friend and it "felt like an interesting and unusual thing to do."
"When you're traveling as a tourist, you're taking a lot – you're not giving much back. The opportunity to give back tends to create a more meaningful experience and open more doors," he said.
In addition to the service aspect, Wandering Wolf also liked the idea of traveling with a group as opposed to riding around on his own. "You're getting to know people on a more permanent level instead of just meeting them for a day or two," he said.
In case you're wondering, Wandering Wolf's superpower is "the ability to hear out those in need and those who are disenfranchised and lost, and bring them back to the wolf pack with love, laughter and understanding."
Prior to arriving in Addison, the superheroes spent some time in the City of Lapeer. They camped out behind American Legion Post 16 and helped local institutions such as the First Presbyterian Church, Stone Soup Pantry and Adult Literacy Center.
Their work varied. For the church, they helped build a float for the Lapeer Days Festival. At the food pantry, they swept floors, vacuumed, did some weeding and stocked shelves.
"Anytime in life when I give, I also find that I receive," The SerendipiTease said.
But the help they offer isn't just restricted to organizations.
The superheroes also help people on a one-on-one basis by doing everyday tasks such as mowing their lawns and weeding their gardens.
"We're really good weeders," said The SerendipiTease, who noted that much of what they harvest are edible plants that help feed the group and are part of their mission to eat local, organic foods during their journey.
So where were the superheroes headed after Addison?
"We don't know which way the wind will take us," said The SerendipiTease.
She noted the group is excited about heading toward Berkley and Detroit.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.