Charity Logo

Charity Logo

Charity of the Month


In December I am riding for Heifer International. Founded in 1944, Heifer International works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.

Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

A donation to Heifer International also can make a wonderful alternative holiday gift. Instead of yet another sweater for Grandma that she really doesn’t need, why not donate a Heifer animal or a share of an animal in her honor? Does your child really need so many new toys? Instead of five new toys, give him/her three new toys and a Heifer flock of chicks. Heifer has honor cards to let your loved ones know of your gift on their behalf.

I have set up a Team Heifer page to support Heifer International through A Year of Centuries. My goal is to raise $500. Please make your donation through If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit Whether you give to honor a loved one or make a regular donation, thank you for taking steps to transform the world for the better.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Third Ride in A Year of Centuries - A Benefit for Bicycles for Humanity

Yesterday I completed a successful and merry century!  (I recently read The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and think that merry is a word that should be used much more often.)  I rode in the St. Patrick’s Century in Dublin, Georgia on behalf of my charity for this month, Bicycles for Humanity.  This was the first time in a while that I’ve done a century as part of an organized ride.  I had signed up for the century option on the Saturday ride of the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) Spring Tune Up last April, but my crash was the weekend before.  I forewent that BRAG Spring Tune Up century and just raced in a time trial instead J

One thing that’s fun about organized rides is seeing the wide variety of bicycles among the riders.  Most people ride regular road bikes, but you might see a recumbent, a tandem, a tandem with a trailer (which might have a child or a dog in it), or even a tandem recumbent.  Yesterday I saw a type of bicycle I had never seen before: an Elliptical bike!  It’s essentially an Elliptical workout machine on wheels:

Together, Yet Alone

Although I was prepared to ride solo yesterday, I still hoped to find a group to ride with.  About five miles into the ride, I saw a group of four guys that looked like they were riding at about my pace.  I took that opportunity to glom onto their paceline, and they welcomed me very congenially.  Although these guys seemed like decent riders, I quickly discovered that they were less experienced than most of my cycling friends and don’t ride with the precision I’m used to.  For example, several times when the front guy was finished pulling, he peeled off to the inside right instead of the outside left.  Also, one of them erroneously referred to the paceline as a “dragline,” which caused me to chuckle to myself.  (When I told Robert about the “dragline,” he pointed out that when our friend Stoney, a super strong rider, is at the front pulling, the rest of us are in a dragline behind him – true!)  Regardless, the main thing is that these guys didn’t ride in a squirrelly manner, and so I was glad for the companionship and group energy efficiency.

Alas, my newfound friends left my life as quickly as they entered.  We stopped at a rest stop around mile 15, where the route options split.  They went on the 55-mile route, and I continued on with the century.  I rode the remainder of my ride by myself.  It would have been nice to have others with me, but I’m happy that I could ride as strongly as I did on my own.  Compared to last month, I felt much better at the end of yesterday’s century.  The difference is that last month I red-lined (went into the anaerobic zone) early in that ride as I tried to keep up with the Peach Peloton, which affected me later in the ride.

When I’m out there solo on a long ride, I can’t help but get a little philosophical.  If I do have a group to ride with and get a draft effect, it’s easier, but I still have to make each pedal stroke on my own, and it’s still up to me to finish my ride.  That’s like when I was recovering from my crash.  The care and sympathy of so many people certainly helped me get through it, but ultimately I had to work through my healing day by day myself.  Often when I’m racing or doing a long ride, a snippet from a song will get stuck in my head, serving as kind of a mantra to keep me focused.  Maybe it’s because we’re in the contemplative season of Lent anyway, but the song stuck in my head yesterday was the melancholy yet beautiful hymn “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley”: 

Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.

Spring Has (Almost) Sprung

I love being outdoors, and even on a bicycle you can notice a lot of things about the natural world if you’re paying attention.  I particularly enjoy looking for signs of the season at hand.  Right now we’re on the cusp of spring.  Not too far into my ride, my eyes started to hurt because something was getting into them.  Wait a minute…this is March, which can only mean…it’s almost time for pine pollen!  Sure enough, I checked the pine trees growing close to the road and saw the burgeoning pine pollen sacs (which, by the way, are the male pine cones).  I think this is a slash pine: 

Every year for about two weeks around the middle of March, riding my bicycle can be difficult because the pollen bothers my eyes so much.  (I wear contacts.)  It’s this painful, gritty feeling that, during this earliest onset of pine pollen, I usually can blink away as my eyes water.  However, I almost have to avoid riding for about a week as everything becomes coated in yellow.  Dublin is probably about a week ahead of Monticello in the flora cycle, and so I’ll start noticing the pine pollen here at home any day now.  Fortunately, my other observations of nature during yesterday’s ride were much more pleasant.

I love frogs!  It’s especially fun to identify their calls, which are easier to learn than bird calls.  (Incidentally, a lot of times people might think they are hearing a bird when it’s really a frog.)  I even have a CD of frog calls from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  This time of year, one of the most prevalent calls is that of the upland chorus frog.  It sounds like running your finger over a comb.  I heard lots of upland chorus frogs yesterday in swampy areas and even in pools of water left from recent rains.  Although frogs are easy to hear, they can be much more difficult to see.  To my delight, I did see one frog yesterday:

Yesterday I had my first turtle rescue of the year.  Whether I’m in a car or in my bicycle, whenever I see a turtle trying to cross a road and it’s not too dangerous for me to stop, I move it off of the pavement so that it doesn’t get run over.  The key to turtle rescue is to place it on the side of the road toward which it is crawling.  If you put it back on the side where it’s coming from, it will just try to cross the road again.  Understandably, a turtle being rescued like this usually will seal itself up in its shell while you carry it to safety.  Sometimes, like yesterday, you can hear the sound of it sealing itself up, which is really cool – WHOOSH!

Turtle on the road

Turtle safely moved to the side of the road

Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

I’ll admit that I don’t have to think much about bicycle maintenance because Robert is my mechanic.  It’s a good deal for both of us, though, because I’m his nutritionist.  Even though I don't do much bicycle maintenance, I definitely get into the zen side of cycling.

As I’ve been doing during each month during A Year of Centuries, I think my highlighted charity while I’m riding.  I had a wonderful reminder of Bicycles for Humanity on yesterday’s ride, a bracelet from the Atlanta chapter that came from Namibia, the focus country for its bicycle shipments.

Particularly during my more tired moments of the ride, I gratefully reflected on the good, paved roads available to me, considering that the people of Namibia only have much rougher, unpaved roads.  Also, I thought about how any discomfort I might be experiencing is nothing compared to having to haul water, wood, and everything else with only my own two feet to get around.

Toward the end of my ride, I laughed when I passed a highway sign unlike any I had seen before:

It caught my eye because I’m a civil engineer and specialize in stormwater.  I suppose it’s a lot easier and cheaper to put up a sign warning people of the problem than to actually fix the problem.  As I rode along and thought about this some more, it occurred to me that maybe there’s a little more truth to be learned from this sign than I first realized.  One of the main things I’m trying to do with A Year of Centuries is to raise awareness of certain concerns and the charitable groups that are addressing them.  Like the road sign, I can point out the problem all day long.  That needs to be done, but what else can I do of real value?  Giving money is certainly a good thing.  But sometimes there’s no substitute for actually rolling up your sleeves and meeting face-to-face someone in need.  Maybe I already to this to a degree, like coordinating the Middle Georgia chapter MATHCOUNTS competition.  The challenge for me is to do this outsize my comfort zone, to try to intersect with people whose orbits in life seem vastly different than mine.  I may not be able to go to Namibia myself, but as I continue through A Year of Centuries, I’m going to look for some different orbital zones.

So, overall it was a terrific century yesterday; the weather was nice, the countryside was beautiful, and I fueled properly.  In reality, though, any day I get to ride my bicycle is a good one, as this sign that I passed reminded me.  I’m glad I saw it early in the day because it made me smile for the rest of my ride:

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely post, Betty Jean! We are completely honored to be a part of your adventure this year! Thank you for sharing in the journey with us, and for providing a well-written window into your century. I look forward to meeting you one day!

    With gratitude,
    Mary Harwell (Bicycles for Humanity - Georgia)