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 https://teamheifer.heifer.org/AYearofCenturies. If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit www.heifer.org. 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.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Sunday, May 19, 2013
- At the end of Friday’s ride we had lunch at the Blue Willow Inn. This is a regionally famous Southern buffet that became particularly well known after the late columnist and humorist Lewis Grizzard wrote about it. It has enough fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, and pecan pie for Sherman’s entire army, which marched nearby during the Civil War. Robert and I rarely eat at buffets, but this is trough dining at its finest.
- On Saturday’s ride Robert and I and three other teams found ourselves out front on the long route option. It wasn’t really intentional, but of course it turned into somewhat of a hammer-fest. After a while one of the teams called out, “Mechanical!” Immediately, the rest of us slowed down to see what was wrong and whether they needed help. It turns out that they actually cried, “Uncle!”
- At another point during Saturday’s ride, we four teams saw a single rider ahead of us. When we caught up to him, I said to him, “Hey, you lost your stoker!”
- The weather looked very iffy at the start of Saturday’s ride. In fact, Robert and I drove through substantial rain from our house to the ride starting point. However, it quit raining right before we got there, and we didn’t get rained on during our entire ride. The teams who decided not to ride on Saturday sure did miss out.
- We weren’t quite as fortunate weather-wise on Sunday, though. It was absolutely storming. Robert and I went to the ride starting point but realized it was too dangerous to ride there. We turned around and went home. It was only overcast there. The tandem was ready, and we were ready, and so we went for a ride from our house.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
I'm a longtime fan of bats and member of Bat Conservation International (BCI), which is my July charity in A Year of Centuries. I just received this very important e-mail today about the bats at Bracken Cave, which I have visited. The bats emerging from Bracken Cave is one of the most marvelous phenomena that I have ever witnessed; I'm very concerned about this potential threat to the world's largest colony of bats. Please join me in letting the San Antonio mayor and city council know that the proposed subdivision is NOT a good idea.
What happens when you put 10,000 people next to more than ten million bats? No one knows for sure but, unfortunately, we may soon find out.
I’m the new director of Bat Conservation International and I am writing today about our Bracken Cave Reserve in the Texas Hill Country.
As you probably know, Bracken is home to the world’s largest population of bats. The nightly emergence of ten million Mexican free-tailed bats from Bracken Cave, 20 minutes north of San Antonio in central Texas, is one of the world’s great natural phenomena, and we need your immediate advice and help.
A San Antonio developer, Brad Galo of Galo Properties, has proposed a 1,500-acre, 3,800-home “Crescent Hills” subdivision to the immediate south of our reserve, in the twice-daily flight path of these millions of bats. The development also lies within the sensitive Edwards Aquifer-recharge zone and puts at risk the many millions of public dollars that have been invested in protecting the area. Quarter-acre zoning is out of keeping with the large ranches that characterize the area and the interspersed, one- to three-acre lots which currently constitute “intensive” development. The Galo property, like our land and nearby Nature Conservancy property, is also important nesting and foraging habitat for the federally endangered golden-cheeked warbler (the yellow circles on the map).
Texas law leaves little or no room for consideration of environmental issues. The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has granted Mr. Galo the water and sewer hookups he needs for 3,800 homes, but SAWS is not permitted to determine if adequate water supplies exist or to comment on the wisdom of putting nearly 4,000 homes in the middle of a protected recharge area. This project will ultimately come before the San Antonio Planning Commission for approval, but even the Planning Commission lacks the authority to take environmental concerns into account. In fact, if the Commission does nothing, the development will be automatically approved after 30 days.
We’ve been told by our attorneys that the San Antonio City Council and Mayor Castro are our only real recourse, and that our hopes for persuading them to take action rest in our ability to make this a significant public and media issue. Aside from the ecological issues, we’re concerned about putting 10,000 people next to millions of building-loving adult bats and millions more juvenile bats learning to fly that will be attracted to the insects gathering around the porch and street lights of these homes. Should some poor child or parent come into contact with a sick bat or a pet that picked up a sick bat and contract rabies, it won’t matter that the bats have been there for 10,000 or more years. There will be a growing call for the city health department to deal with "this threat to public safety."
This, in fact, is the greatest threat to Bracken’s bats.
We need your help to make this case to the city of San Antonio. We are presenting our concerns to the City Council at their public meeting, 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 22nd at City Hall, and we need to fill the room with Bracken supporters. If you live in the San Antonio area, I hope you will come to City Hall next Wednesday to stand and be recognized as a supporter of bats and Bracken. We hope those who come will also engage the media, the Mayor, the Council and their staff members in side conversations.
Many of you do not live in the area, but you can help us make the case that Bracken and its bats are a global jewel that must be protected. We need you and other members to call, write and email the Mayor, City Council and Planning Commission before and after the council meeting.
If you feel unable to comment on the proposed development per se, it will still be a significant help to speak to the importance of Bracken and the ecological and economic importance of bats and the global threats they face. I hope we can count on you and your family to come to Bracken’s aid. Please come on the 22nd or contact Mayor Castro and other city decision makers.
Bracken Bat Cave is too important to allow such intensive development to occur along its border. Please help us convince San Antonio that Mr. Galo’s proposed subdivision is an incompatible use that is sure to put people and bats into potential conflict, to the harm of both.
Please don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my assistant, Shanna Weisfeld at 512 367-9721 x19, if you have any questions.
Thanks very much and best wishes.
P.S. Here is some more information (pdf) regarding this issue.
P.P.S. If you are coming to central Texas this summer or early fall, don’t hesitate to let us know if you’d like to visit Bracken. We’d love for you to see it.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Monday, May 13, 2013
I wonder what the dreams of the Dream Team are. Probably most immediately, they dream about finishing a long ride or even getting to the top of that big hill. Hopefully, this will inspire them to work toward even bigger dreams, like making good lives for themselves. I thought about all my own dreams and aspirations during my ride on Saturday. There are so many things I’m interested in that one lifetime isn’t enough to explore them all! Sometimes I wish I were a cat with nine lives so that I could have all of the jobs that sound so fascinating to me, like meteorologist, entomologist, or geographer. (If you notice a common thread, you won’t be surprised to learn that a few years ago I became a Master Naturalist through the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. I absolutely loved the program!) So, as I took in all of the aspects of Saturday’s century, they started coming together within a framework of “ologies” for my ride report (plus one “onomy”).
You’ve probably heard of Indian summer, which is a warm spell during the fall. Here in Georgia we’ve been having the springtime equivalent, which poetically is called blackberry winter. (This term may have come from the belief that a spring cold snap helps the blackberry crop.) Although it was a milder than usual winter, what winter we did have hasn’t quite wanted to leave. On Saturday’s ride I wore a base layer and arm warmers, something I don’t remember doing in May before. Oh, well, at least they made my ride comfortable.
Even more attention getting was the rain – a steady rain for the first 15 miles, to be exact. I’m a big fan of the Weather Channel website, which tends to give very accurate data even on the hourly forecasts. They sure missed it on Saturday, though. There was only a 30% chance of rain for the first half of the day. I guess we hit that 30%! The good news is that I’m not sweet enough to have to worry about melting.
The second thing I ever wanted to be was a meteorologist. (The first thing was a math teacher.) My Brownie troop visited the WSB-TV station, and I was enthralled with all of the weather maps. They gave me some old printouts, which I used to play meteorologist. Also, when I was growing up, my favorite family activity was going to Fernbank Science Center on Friday evenings. The best part was the meteorology station, especially the display where you could create a tornado with the push of a button. In graduate school I studied hydraulics and hydrology (sub-discipline of civil engineering) and was excited that one of the required courses was meteorology. One of my workgroup’s assignments was to build a computer model of a maritime stratiform cloud and to make it rain. We never could get our cloud to rain. Maybe that was an indication that I did the right thing by not becoming a meteorologist. Or maybe it was just confirmation of our professor’s subsequent explanation that maritime stratiform clouds are rarely observed to rain.
Another dream job of mine is cartoonist, but all I can draw is stick figures.
Speaking of meaty urologists, perhaps you’ve wondered how one deals with the call of nature when on a bicycle ride. If you’re doing an organized ride, there are port-o-potties at each rest stop. However, if the call doesn’t coincide with the rest stops or if you’re on an unsupported ride, you just find the nearest secluded clump of bushes or trees. Guys have it easy. They barely pull off the side of the road and do their business. On the other hand, we women have to be a little more discreet. Regular cycling shorts are enough of a pain to pull down, but bib shorts are even worse. Bib shorts have straps that go over your shoulders, kind of like overalls. You have to take your jersey off to get to the straps before you can pull your shorts down. That means you have to worry about exposing even more parts of your anatomy. I’m guessing that it was a man who designed bib shorts.
I’ve been on many a group ride where I was the only woman among a bunch of men. The guys will call for a nature break when we get to a wooded area. I ride a little ways ahead of them and find my own private location. I always laugh to myself and pretend that I can’t look back or else, just like Lot’s wife at Sodom and Gomorrah, I’ll turn into a pillar of salt.
Georgia has quite varied geology across the state. I live in the Piedmont, characterized by rolling hills. The underlying rock is mostly igneous or metamorphic. Saturday’s century was in the Ridge & Valley section, which has long, parallel ridges and valleys formed from the erosion of sedimentary rocks. I was surprised to discover that the ride on Saturday was less hilly than my Middle Georgia rides. That was because Up the Creek Without a Pedal mostly followed roads within the valleys. The century option did have one substantial climb over Little Sand Mountain, which lasted about a mile and a half. No problem, though – I kind of like the climbs.
The rest stops on Saturday were very well stocked. There were a number of sweet or salty food options, including both carbohydrates and proteins. It’s good to have all of these on a long ride. Here’s what I had at one of the rest stops:
Moon Pies are quite educational. If you hold a Moon Pie in front of you with the light behind you, you have a total lunar eclipse. If you hold a Moon Pie right in front of the light, you have a total solar eclipse. Furthermore, once in a blue moon you may get to eat two Moon Pies in one month. However, don’t worry when you run out of Moon Pies; then you have a new moon.
One portion of our ride followed a lovely stream through the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Because of the abundant rainfall in the last few months, the vegetation along this stretch of road was extremely lush, forming a verdant canopy. As we emerged from the area, I commented to Robert, “There was a lot of biomass in that corridor.” He misheard me, thinking I said, “Get your ass on down the road!”
About 20 miles from the end of the ride, Robert and I saw a strong looking rider up ahead. We decided to catch him. (FYI – In the cycling world, a person you’re trying to catch is called a carrot.) It took some work on Robert’s and my part, but we finally did. The rider was glad to see us because he had been riding solo and was ready to catch a draft. We were happy for him to join us, and the three of us took turns pulling for the remainder of the ride, making it easier for everyone.
Our new friend’s name was Forrest. He was wearing an attractive jersey:
He said that a friend had gotten it as part of some tsunami relief work. The jersey didn’t fit the friend, and so he gave it to Forrest. I joked with Forrest that I was glad that Robert and I could bring truth to the words on the back of his jersey by riding with him. In all seriousness, though, these words were appropriate for so many reasons.
The people in Japan who have been devastated by tsunamis are not alone. There is a thread linking them to Forrest’s friend who donated time and/or money, linking to Forrest, linking to Robert and me.
The young people on the Dream Team are not alone. In spite of whatever life difficulties they face, whether it’s poverty, broken families, violence, or whatever, they have Coach Atiba and other mentors who care about them. Even though I am not working with them in such a hands-on manner, I am connected to them through cycling and our common humanity.
Dudz and Ynigo Villanueva are not alone. They are a father and son I learned of through a wonderful Facebook page called “Why I Ride.” On this page cyclists share why they ride, and it’s always inspirational. It might be for better health and well being. Others are fighting back from injury or illness. Still others, like Dudz, ride to support others. He rides because he wants to see his son Ynigo cured from diabetes. They both ride in the Tour de Cure, and Ynigo is even a Red Rider, a rider with diabetes who serves as an inspiration. Dudz told of his plans to ride in the San Antonio Tour de Cure on May 11, the same day as my century on behalf of the BRAG Dream Team. I told Dudz that I would be thinking of him and Ynigo during my ride. I treasure this connection.
I was not alone after my crash, even from the first moment. One of the other racers, a dear person named Nancy, stayed with me until the ambulance picked me up. The EMT who took care of me in the ambulance was named Donna. The emergency room nurse who looked after me all that day was named Linda. When I finally got to go home that evening, I had to get a few prescriptions from the hospital pharmacy, which was named Graves Pharmacy. I particularly remember all of these names because my mother is Nancy, my sister is Donna, my mother-in-law is Linda, and my mother and stepfather’s last name is Graves. Coincidence? No, this was God’s way of letting me know that I was not alone and would be OK.
One Last “Ology”
There are a lot of cool “ologies” out there, but this is my very favorite one of all: Robertology
Amazingly, I felt stronger Saturday during the last 25 miles than the first 25 miles. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised because that’s what training will do for you. Still, I’m grateful that I felt better at the end of this century than any I’ve ever done. In fact, I was (almost) fresh as a daisy.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Saturday, May 4, 2013
A seed was planted in 1992 when my friend and flight attendant, Adrienne, shared a Delta magazine article that described BRAG. After reading it and thinking about my cross state bike rides in Rhode Island and New England in the 1980s, I bragged – “I can do this...if I can find the time off!