Saturday, December 13, 2008

...you asked.

If you ride you know those moments when you have fed yourself into the traffic, felt the hashed-up asphalt rattle in the handlebars, held a lungful of air in a cloud of exhaust. Up ahead there are two parallel buses. With cat's whiskers, you measure the clearance down a doubtful alley. You swing wide, outflank that flower truck. The cross-street yellow light is turning red. You burst off the green like a surfer on a wave of metal. You have a hundred empty yards of Broadway to yourself. ~Chip Brown, "A Bike and a Prayer"

People are always curious about my bike-life and I am constantly getting all kinds of questions ranging from: Aren't you scared of getting hit? to When are you going to buy a car, anyway?... but the question that I get most often is most definitely: So, how is biking going? The thing I love about this question is that my answer varies from day to day and definitely from person to person. I mean, that's a big reason I have a blog. So, if I am totally honest with you...I would say that the majority of the time it is going good, but there are definitely days when I get frustrated, tired, or just plain sick of biking. The good days are when the weather is nice, I have plenty of time to get where I need to be, and the traffic is cooperative. The not so good days are the ones that often end up being the most entertaining, where I actually wonder if someone, somewhere, is looking down at me and laughing. Two of my most recent "moments" are described below.

Ahhh. Winter. It is definitely not my favorite time of year. If it didn't involve good food, family, egg-nog and ugly sweater parties I probably would hate it all together. The cold makes me bitter, unmotivated, and physically sick... which is why I live in Charleston, home of the 1oo degree 100 percent humidity summer (BRING IT ON). I'd rather roof a house in the dead heat of August than walk to my bathroom in December (did I mention that we don't use central heat in my house?). So... now that I have established my dislike of cold weather... consider the fact that I am hopping on a bike and riding 5-10 miles a day, completely exposed to the elements. I have struggled with how to deal with this "situation" and the best I can come up with is wearing boatloads of layers, jeans and ear warmers. Yet somehow, this still doesn't make my bike trip home at 8pm after class anymore appealing... especially when my throat is raw from the ride in (I am still waiting for my face warmer thing to come in). Ironically, the worst part about it is the sweating. When you are wearing every shirt you own and happen to be running late, I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that you warm up reeeaaaalllly fast. There is nothing like coming into a meeting with important people and having to distractingly peel off layers like an onion and fan yourself with the agenda while your neighbor leans away to avoid your "I just worked out" perfume. I know my face is bright red and that I have an amazingly awkward helmet dent in my forehead, thank-you-very-much. My favorite is having to make a serious argument for something while a bead of sweat drips slowly down your back and heads straight for your crack.... oh...if they only knew. And after all of that, you cool off just in time to get back on your bike, your sweat-soaked clothes clinging icily to your body while you long to be as overheated as you were twenty minutes ago.

My second most recent interesting experience involved a mistake that you just have to make for yourself to truly appreciate. I have to start off by telling you that I am partially blind. I have to wear contacts or glasses because otherwise everything is a blur (I mean this is the fuzziest way possible). Because I can't afford to break my glasses and I need to be able to wear my sweet shades, I always sport my contacts when biking. Now I have always been the girl scout type that is always prepared, but for some reason (i.e. two many jobs and not enough time) I have been flaking out lately on the details of life. One of these seemingly unimportant details was always carrying my contact case, extra fluid, and glasses with me when wearing contacts. So I was making my way over the bridge, with the ice cold wind blowing in my face when a kamikaze bug ended his life directly into my eyeball. I tried to stay cool and fish him out without stopping but it soon became apparent that he was not going down without a fight. Next thing I know, I am huddling behind the middle of the bridge trying to get this little dude from inside my eyelid. Somewhere in this process, my contact decides to go bridge jumping and flies off my face, plunging into the current below. My exact thought: "Shit. That's not good." Since I am coming straight from work and heading to class, there is no time for me to turn around and I have to keep going, contact or not. Is there anything more sad that a one eyed biker? Okay, well, clearly there is, but at that point, I was feeling pretty pathetic. For the second time in my life I desperately wanted an eye patch (remind me to tell you about the other one later). But instead I had to bike to class with one eye shut like an idiot. By the time I got there I had kind of gotten used to the nausea and just dealt with it but the bike ride home was brutal. I had no depth perception (I was curb checking like no-ones business) and I actually had to pull over to dry heave because my body could not understand what the hell was going on. I am pretty sure people thought I was biking home while ridiculously drunk. Thinking back, it probably would have make the ride home a little more enjoyable...but lets just say I have never been so happy to put on my old scratched pair of glasses.

Well, like I said, most of the time I make it there and back with no problems and really enjoy myself... but every few trips all hell breaks loose and I have to laugh at myself. So, now you know "how it is going" at this point :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Its all downhill from here...literally.

So when I was flying back from Boston and trying to distract myself from hurling (yes, I am the reason they still put barf bags in the seat pockets), I was halfway watching these lame US airway travel commercials when I heard the word "bike". This of course triggered by bike-dar and I instantly started paying attention. In this moment, I discovered the holy grail of bike tours. Before this, I had never really wanted to go to Hawaii, but my jaw dropped (it was literally hanging open) when I saw that they offer a bike tour that is all downhill. On a volcano. FOR 38 MILES. In my shock and denial I said "shut-up" out loud, which made my neighbor with the window seat give me the hairy eye-ball, but I could have cared less (especially since I was the meat in our little airplane sandwich). So yeah...how glorious would it be to rock out for 38 flippin miles on your bike with the warm wind in your hair and the tropical volcano scenery flying past? I am pretty sure it would be LEGEN-DARY. Say "aloha" to this short clip and brace yourself for a preview of lazy biker heaven.

video

Yes, it is pretty spectacular....but considering my aforementioned motion sickness problem, the idea of spending multiple hours trapped inside of a plane feeling like I just watched 10 hours of home video footage just isn't worth it, down-hill or not. So after all of that excitement, I realized that there are plenty of mountains to bike down, right here on the east coast... now I just need to find someone to drive me to the top and pick me up at the bottom- like a ski-lift for bikers (lazy, out of shape bikers like me). Any takers?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In-famous

As some of you may know... I am quite the busy little tree hugger. Right now I work two jobs, go to school full time, and participate in a few local committees and organizations... and, oh yeah, I ride my bike everywhere. For me, this is just my life and while I would like to say that its not always like this, well it kind of is. I haven't always been quite this busy and hopefully after I graduate I will have a little more time to devote to: a.) sleep b.) my dog c.) a social life.

Because I have so much going on, I will often accomplish great things, but have no time to relish in them since I have already started something else. Well... apparently good deeds really don't go unnoticed and people have begun to let me know that they appreciate my efforts. Over the past year there has been an increasing amount of attention give to the affiliate I work for, including the Green Building Project of the Year, the American Institute of Architects Sustainability Award and more recently a lot of media attention surrounding the Coastal Conservation League/Habitat Greenbuilding Blitz. See a video HERE. or HERE. Yet it wasn't until the past two months that people have started paying attention to me personally. I was contacted by a friend at the City Paper for their Giving Issue which features individuals that work for non-profits. Next thing I know there is a full page spread about me! Click the picture below (taken by http://www.kaitlyni.com/) to read the story.


Before the story ran I found out that I had been nominated and selected for the Sustainability Institute's Leadership Award which is a HUGE honor. The people that I was up against included the owner of Lulan and the creator of Charleston Greendrinks so I definitely feel lucky to have been chosen. The Award that I received was named in honor of Nathanial Jones who was there to present the award to me. He is next to me in the picture below- he rocks. The following pic is me with my awesome supportive friends! (I am still waiting to get photos back from my dad and the professional photographer... these will just have to do.)

So when I was at the Aquarium to accept this award, I was approached by the Post and Courier to be in their paper and next thing I know my 80 year old neighbor is excitedly knocking on my door because my picture is taking up half of the page in the Saturday paper (she is soooo sweet.) You can check it out HERE. At this point, I have stopped forwarding my friends and family the stories because I am just starting to get a little embarrassed by all of the attention.

In the end, I truly appreciate that the community is not only noticing all of my hard work but giving me positive feedback. The best part about it all is that people have been contacting me with their own stories, questions, and support. It is amazing how much of a grassroots green movement is out there just waiting for someone to lead the revolution. I really feel like change is coming to this southern city I call home...and I am hoping that maybe my efforts will make people realize that the power to change the world lies within each of us... it is simply waiting for us to stand up and take action.

Seriously- what are you waiting for? Every journey starts with a single step. Buy a re-usable water bottle. Bring your own shopping bags. Support local stores, buy local food. Start a "Green Team" at your office, school, or neighborhood. Next thing you know you will be selling your car and buying a bike...hahaha... okay, maybe not, but just know that your actions matter, especially to the next generation of small citizens that we influence everyday (that's right- I played the "kid" card). If you don't know where to start- email me- I am full of ideas :-)

"Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead.