Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Friend Joey

Meet my friend, Joey. She's one of those people that I am really glad to know. After you learn about Joey, you'll be glad you know her, too.

My friend, Joey. (Photo: Joey's Facebook page.)

For most of you, you will have met Joey through this blog post. But for me, I met Joey three summers ago when I was riding my bike eastbound across the country.

As chronicled on Day #37: In Need of a Soundtrack, I was pedaling along a not-so-interesting road ten miles shy of Port Stanley, Ontario, when I noticed a blob in the distance. As I pedaled further, the blob gained clarity. In doing so, it slowly gave birth to three distinct cyclists. Joey was one of those cyclists. Riding along with Joey were her two friends, Lily and Bekah.

The photo I took of Lily, Joey, and Bekah when I met them on the road in Ontario.

The three ladies, who were full of a contagious excitement for life, had recently graudated college and were spending the summer cycling westbound across the country. After exchanging smiles and hellos, the ladies told me about their blog, Inventure Time, where they were chronicling the stories of their cross-country adventure.

Joey, Bekah, and Lily's blog.

A new addition to my vocabulary, inventure (in'ven-CHur) is defined on their blog as:
(n.) An experience or activity that reflects an inward as much as an outward change
(v.) To engage in a journey of the body, mind, and soul
Example: "The three women inventured across the continent."
I love it!

After exchanging route beta and contact information, we continued on our merry ways.
Now I met a lot of people on my bike trip that summer. Though every meeting impacted my life in some way, shape, or form, most encounters were fleeting. But this one was not.

Less than two weeks later, the ladies reached out to me. As their were biking along Route 8 leaving Wisconsin, Bekah and Joey were hit by a van. Though they ended up being okay, they were quite shaken and took a brief break from their ride to recover. The ladies wanted to know if I had any suggestions for helping them to boost their journey westward. I suggested they take the Amtrak train from Wisconsin to Montana. And that they did.

A few weeks later, the ladies arrived at the coast on the opposite end of the country from whence they started. The date was August 13, 2013. With the dipping of their tires into the Puget Sound in Seattle, their inventure was complete. In honor of their trip, the ladies invited me to a celebratory BBQ reunion. I was so glad to see them again and to congratulate them on their journey. (I wrote about this get-together in A Biking Reunion.)

Andy, me, Bekah, Joey, Lily, and Max at our biking reunion.

Though I haven't seen any of the ladies in-person since our Seattle reunion, I enjoy following them on Facebook and occasionally sharing a brief message or two. Bekah is working on a farm in Vermont. Lily is teaching yoga in New Hampshire. And Joey gotta keep reading to find out about Joey.

Joey had written a song about her cross-country trip. In honor of her three-year anniversary in completing the trip, which was just over a week ago, Joey recorded a video of her signing the song and posted it on Facebook. In the video, Joey accompanies her voice on the ukulele, which is significant because she brought a ukulele (though not this particular one) along on her 4,000-mile journey across the country.

My, oh my! Joey's video blew me away! Though her voice and ukelele strumming remind me of some of my favorite folk singers, her lyrics pull me deep into a happy pedal down memory lane. My favorite line is when she talks about cycling through the Cascades. She sings:
I'm asking the trees in the Northern Cascades to take root in my lungs, so that each time I breathe, the breeze of the Mountains will run through me.
And I love how she sings about not being able to open her eyes wide enough to take in the big Montana skies. Oh, and I love how her line about needing to scrape her jaw off the Rockies in West Glacier.

Here, take a listen for yourself:

Isn't this song just grand? Anyone who has ever done a cross-country bike trip can certainly relate to this song, especially if they've ridden along the Northern Tier route. But, really, Joey's song speaks to anyone who has ever undergone any sort of life-changing journey. In reminiscing on her trip, Joey commented, "I see it differently as time goes on." There is so much truth in this statement.

There are a few other elements of Joey's song that I'd like to share with you:
  • At the beginning of the video, there is a quick slideshow of a number of photos from Joey's trip. Eight seconds into the song is the photo I took of the three ladies (the second photo in this post).
  • Joey sings about how they got "knocked down on Route 8" and that they then "box up [their] wheels and ride the steel to Montana." This line refers to when the ladies took the Amtrak from Wisconsin to Montana.
  • At the end of the song, Joey sings, "And we roll into Golden Gardens, right by the Sound. I'm feeling my heart beat into the ground. I'm soaking Seattle right into my feet." At the time, I owned a house right above Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. There have been so many times when I, too, have stood on the sandy shore at Golden Gardens and felt my heart beat into the ground and my feet soak-in the beauty. I can definitely relate.
  • There's a line in the song when Joey sings, "Now in Washington, I'm watching the horses with men tied to their backs as they plunge over the cliffs through the river in Omak." Though I had heard of Omak, a town in north central Washington, I wasn't familiar with the reference to the horses and men. Joey is referring to The Suicide Race, which is part of the annual Omak Stampede. With roots tracing back to a Native American endurance challenge, according to Wiki, the race is best known for the section "where horses and riders run down Suicide Hill, a 62-degree slope than runs for 225 ft to the Okanogan River." The horses and riders swim across the river and then sprint the final distance into the arena where the crowd is waiting. Many natives view the race as a preservation of a spiritual and cultural endeavor, in which the rider is one with his horse. Animal rights groups, however, oppose the race, which has been responsible for the deaths of numerous horses. How fortuitous that the ladies cycled through Omak on the one day a year when this tradition takes place. Fortunes such as this seem plentiful when traveling by bicycle. Here's a brief video about The Suicide Race:

  • The mention of clouds at the end of the song is in reference to a song called "Break in The Clouds," by Elephant Revival. Joey, Lily, and Bekah frequently sang this song on the trip, especially as a parting gift to their hosts.

Though it is Joey's song of her cross-country trip that prompted me to share my friend, Joey, with you, Joey has inspired me in other ways. Though this is Joey's first inventure into a videotaped musical performance, Joey is no stranger to the arts; she dedicates a majority of her time to creating visual art.

The intention set forth by Joey for her cross-country trip was "to ask questions and sweat hard and make something." Aligned with this intention, Joey kept a sketchbook (which is located on the "Joey's Sketchbook" tab of the Inventure Time website) as she bicycled across the country in 2013. The sketchbook includes one drawing per day. It is this artwork that initially drew me to Joey.

Joey calls her art Us & We Art. In 2012, Joey founded Us & We Art with the aim "to provide humans with art and words to inspire, remind, help, and heal our tired minds and hearts." Us & We Art never fails to bring a smile to my face. My favorite pieces are the ones where Joey imposes images onto maps, showing the parallels between earth and human bodies.

"Pull Me Out."

"Mother & Son."


And I love this tree:

"Invisible Tree."

And this cyclist, too:

"❤ ❤ ❤ ❤."

For those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook, you may recall a post I had written about Joey near the end of 2014. At the time, Joey had created an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funds for and interest in her coloring book, which is called "I'm Feeling My Feelings."

Joey's "I'm Feeling My Feelings" coloring book.

The coloring book includes thirty pages of creatures that are void of gender and race. The creatures are doing nothing more than participating in the very human act of feeling their feelings. In our world where there is so much division along lines of race and gender, we sure do have a lot to learn from Joey's creatures.

In addition to her coloring book, Joey has created a line of greeting cards that feature her adorable creatures. Here is one of her greeting cards:

Joey's "thinking of you" greeting card.

Though the Indiegogo campaign has long since ended, Joey's "I'm Feeling My Feelings" coloring book and creature greeting cards are available for sale here.

For those of you who love Joey Hartmann-Dow's art as much as I do, you can have your very own piece of Us & We art. If you live in or near the Philadelphia area, you can see Joey's art in-person, as she often has her work displayed in shows and galleries. Luckily for the rest of us, who live in other parts of the world, Joey's art is available for purchase online at Us & We Art. (If there is a piece of art that you like that you can't find listed for sale online, you can reach out to Joey at to see if she might be able to wave her wand and make some magic happen.)

I will leave you with one final story about Joey. In June of this year, Joey was preparing for an exhibit in New Orleans. The day before the exhibit was to open, the studio caught fire. Joey's artwork was (mostly) lost in the fire. I mention this not to solicit empathy (Joey wouldn't want for that), but rather to display Joey's resilience and her creative way of transforming tragedy into something positive. Before the last embers were doused, Joey rebounded and started creating new art. Here is a fascinating video in which Joey explains the story behind the fire and her new art that emerged because of it:

Whenever I finally settle down from my feral lifestyle and build my tiny house, you can bet that I'll have a piece of Joey's artwork hanging on my walls. In the meanwhile, Joey, please keep writing more songs!

Thank you, Joey, for letting me share your images on my blog. Keep inspiring with your art, your music, and the beauty that radiates from your inner being.


  1. Wow, there is something about the her voice that just gets inside of you. You know how cold and callous I am, but somehow she made the eye well up a bit...

    I feel the earth in my knees, spoke volumes to me...

    an incredible lady

  2. You're not the only one whose eyes were affected by the song -- mine, too.

  3. What an incredible friend Joey is. Deep, profound, real and rare.


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