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, June 30, 2013

The Price Is Righteous

I love game shows.  It began when I was little when I watched them with my mother.  One of the first ones I watched was Match Game, with Gene Rayburn, Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Richard Dawson in all their groovy 70’s glory.  I even remember the original Wheel of Fortune when Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford were the host and hostess – isn’t that a blast from the past?  However, I have even more memories of watching Wheel of Fortune in later years when I went to visit my grandmother.  Pat Sajak and Vanna White had taken over (good grief – how many years have they been on there now?).  Grannie poked fun at Pat, noting his beady, little eyes and pointy nose.  Also, she always critiqued Vanna’s outfits, which always seemed to have multiple gathers, pleats, etc.  Thus, her nicknames for them were Possum and Pucker.

When I was in high school, sometimes my mother and I would stay up late – on school nights! – and watch Nightline and Love Connection.  Strange juxtaposition, huh?  I guess the laughs and silliness of Love Connection were a good counterbalance to the serious news on Nightline.

These days, I only have time to watch game shows while I’m lifting weights in my basement.  There’s not a whole lot worth watching on TV, but the Game Show Network is usually a pretty good bet to keep me going while I pump (clap!) me up.  (I like Saturday Night Live reruns, too.)

I’ve been able to parlay my affection for game shows into a number of events at my church.  Most of them have been for Family Night Supper, when we meet for a covered dish supper followed by a program.  I’ve done take-offs of Jeopardy, Family Feud, and The Newlywed Game (G-rated and revamped as The Oldiewed Game).  Once I even hosted Reformation Rickshaw, based on Cash Cab, in honor of John Calvin’s 500th birthday.  The “cab” was actually a wheelbarrow in which I toted contestants around the fellowship hall.  Presbyterians are sometimes called “the frozen chosen,” but I beg to differ; we know how to have a good time!

Probably the best birthday cake John Calvin ever got

Rindy, our pastor, was one of the contestants on Reformation Rickshaw

It's John Calvin himself!

There he is again!

He's everywhere!

Although I don’t have any pictures of it, one of the most elaborate game show events I did at church was called The Price Is Righteous.  It was a benefit for the ML&J Fund, incorporated into our collection for needy families at Christmas.  Before some of the toys, clothes, and household goods were given to the families, they were used as “prizes” for the various contestant games in The Price is Righteous.

Come on down!

I was the hostess “Drucilla” Carey, and my friend Stone was the announcer.  Contestants bid on items for a chance to play various games that were based on real Price Is Right games: Hole in One, the Race Game, the Range Finder, the Money Game, the Clock Game, and Pick a Pair.  Several of the games featured grocery items, which we donated to the Jasper County Community Food Bank afterwards.  And of course we had to have a new car!  (Hot Wheels)

Music and sound effects added to the game show atmosphere.  Stone and I made our grand entrance to the Price is Right theme music.  Throughout the show I played sound clips from The Price Is Right, which I had found online.  If a contestant won, bells ding-ding-dinged to announce the victory.  But if a contestant lost, sad horns signaled defeat.   I even played The William Tell Overture during the Race Game, just like on TV.

Speaking of music from The Price Is Right, there’s a connection between it and cycling that inspired the whole idea for The Price Is Righteous.  One day Robert and I were riding our bicycles together and going up a pretty steep hill.  Robert started imitating the mountain climbing yodeler from the Cliff Hangers game on The Price Is Right.  Once I recovered from my fits of laughter, I started thinking about The Price Is Right and how I might do a version of it for church.  By the way, although we didn’t play Cliff Hangers at The Price Is Righteous, I simply had to use the yodeler music somewhere.  So, incongruously, the yodeler yodeled during the Ranger Finder game.

After the first three contestants played their games, we had to determine who got to go to the Showcase Showdown.  Since I didn’t have a giant wheel they could spin, they drew slips of paper out of a bag.  The slips had monetary amounts ranging from $0.05 to $1.00.  Each contestant tried to get as close to $1.00 as possible, without going over, using no more than two draws.  We repeated this process with contestants four through six to determine the second person for the Showcase Showdown.

The Showcase Showdown was filled with fabulous prizes!  Showcase number 1 was called Here’s to Your Health.  It featured a jigsaw puzzle for a sharp mind, a child’s bicycle, an Ingle’s gift card, foam letters and numbers to play with in a relaxing bath, Iron Man 2 pajamas for a good night’s sleep, and a Bible to stay in tip-top spiritual shape.

Showcase number 2 was an All-American Showcase.  It included a child’s shopping cart, some blue jeans, a football, a toy pizza, the girl next door (a doll), Mom & apple pie (a picture of Whistler’s Mother and a can of apple pie filling), and Colors and Shapes Bingo.  Then came the Showcase Showdown show stopper: a “trip” to Hillsboro, an unincorporated town in the south end of our county, complete with U-Haul rental from Ozburn’s Wrecker Service and a tour by “Mayor” Preston Wynens of several buildings.

At the end of the show, I reminded everyone to spay or neuter their pets.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Morning Cycling Adventure

During the warmer months I love to go for a Saturday morning bicycle ride and stop by the square in my hometown.  I visit our farmers market and have a cup of tea at The Vanilla Bean, our wonderful local coffee shop.  It’s gotten to be a highlight of the week that I really look forward to.  As much as I enjoy this routine, I discovered today that it’s even more fun when Robert goes with me.  Today’s adventure was extra special because it was also his birthday and the beginning of the 100th Tour de France!

I planned our cycling route to include a particular point of interest.  A Little Free Library has just opened on one of the rural roads in our county, not far from where we often ride anyway.  A Little Free Library is a small structure built for public access that holds a small collection of books.  People can give a book and take a book at no charge.  Bikes and books – two of my favorite things!  I brought a book to swap with one at the Little Free Library:

This one looks like a real treasure:

However, I opted for a smaller paperback that would fit in my jersey pocket.  This one seemed apropos for several reasons:

Robert and I rode together for about 25 miles and then reached the square.  At The Vanilla Bean I ordered some white orchard tea (a nice floral, fruity tea for a summer day) and a morning glory muffin, which had carrots, apples, coconut, and raisins in it.  This muffin looked and tasted delicious anyway, but it also reminded me of the morning glories I had seen earlier on our ride, commenting to Robert that they have the perfect name.  By the way, one time I made some morning glory muffins.  Mine weren’t nearly as good as The Vanilla Bean’s anyway, but a weird phenomenon occurred.  I used some pre-shredded carrots that I had on hand.  Cooked inside the muffins, the pieces of carrot turned green at the edges.  I made a note on the recipe to shred the carrots myself next time.

Robert had waited to eat breakfast until we got to The Vanilla Bean, and so he ordered plenty to fuel himself for the rest of his ride: a latte, a shot of espresso, a ham and cheese scone, and a strawberry cupcake to celebrate his birthday:

This espresso cup has special significance.  It's one of a pair that came from a time trial that we did.  There were all kinds of great raffle items following the race, and Robert had his eye on these espresso cups.  They were made by Assos, a high-end cycling equipment company.  Words on the inside of the cups read, "Have a great ride!"  Robert's number wasn't called at the raffle, but our friend Jeff Licciardello's was.  Jeff picked the cups and then generously gave them to Robert!  Robert donated the cups to The Vanilla Bean and made a special arrangement with them.  Any cyclist who comes by the coffee shop can get a free shot of espresso in one of the Assos cups, and Robert will pay for it with his monthly tab.  That almost makes me wish I liked coffee!

Robert planned to ride a while longer, but I needed to get on home.  I stopped at the farmers market briefly to get a watermelon.  I thought about trying to balance it on my helmet for the ride home but decided it would be better to leave it at Jordan Engineering and pick it up later in the car when I went grocery shopping.

Speaking of grocery shopping, there wasn’t much in the cupboard for lunch.  I did scrounge around and put together this rather European lunch of cheese, crackers, fresh peach, and leftover wine:

Vive le Tour!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bicycle Shipment Day!

What a terrific day!  I got to take part in a special event: Bicycle Shipment Day with Bicycles for Humanity (B4H)!  B4H was the charity that I highlighted in March.  It collects unwanted yet still usable bicycles and sends them to countries where they are greatly needed for transportation.  Today’s shipment of bicycles is on its way to Walvis Bay, Namibia!

While I was riding my March century, which was for B4H, a realization struck me.  It’s easy enough to try to put the word out about my twelve charities or even to make financial contributions.  Those are certainly important things, but I found that I want to give in more tangible ways, too.  So, as I was pedaling down the road that day, I resolved to look for opportunities this year to do actual work on behalf of the people and animals I hope to serve.  Helping load the B4H bicycles into the shipping container was just such a chance.

Volunteering to help load the bicycles almost didn’t work out for me.  The original shipment date was May 24th, but I wasn’t able to get off work that day.  It turned out that the shipping truck got double booked that day, and so B4H had to reschedule.  I got to go today!

Mary and Davis Harwell are the primary organizers of the Georgia chapter of B4H.  I had been in e-mail contact with Mary in recent months, but it was so good to actually meet her and Davis today.  They have coordinated Bicycle Shipment Day for several years now, and so they know just what to do to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible.

B4H rents several units at a storage facility to keep bicycles as they collect them.  There were also wheels, tires, and various boxes of bicycles parts to include with the shipment.  In fact, a bicycle shop in Arkansas was closing and heard about B4H.  They donated their entire leftover inventory!  You can see some of it on the right-hand side of this storage unit:

Someone even donated some in-line skates:

I hope there are enough paved roads and/or hard-packed dirt roads in Namibia so that the skates can be put to good use along with the bicycles.

About a dozen of us were on hand to load the shipping container.  The first thing we did was to get all of the bicycles out of the storage units and group them by adult and children’s sizes.  The bikes had been prepped beforehand, which involved removing the front tire and pedals and zip-tying them to the frame:

This makes the bicycles more stackable, allowing a greater number to be placed in the shipping container.

Here are all of the bicycles waiting for the truck to arrive:

That’s two different groups of bicycles – over 300 in all!  Wow!

As we volunteers loaded the truck, we divided up by task.  Some of us rolled/toted the bicycles to the truck.  Other lifted them up into the truck.  Still others stacked them inside the truck.  The heavier bicycles went on the bottom.  Lighter bicycles (mostly the children’s), wheels, and tires filled in spaces toward the top of the container.  Also, one volunteer took inventory as we loaded each item into the container.  This information has to be included with the customs forms.  Here are Mary (left) and Kristie (right) making sure that these boxes are inventoried correctly:

We also had Allie the helper dog with us!  She belongs to Mary and Davis.

Here are before and after shots of the shipping container:

Empty truck

Loading the last few items

The truck headed on its way to the port in Savannah, and in a few months the bicycles will be in their new home in Namibia.  I pray that they truly will transform lives, helping people collect water, go to school, and get items to market more easily.

After we finished loading the shipping container, I met my father for lunch.  He lives near Chattanooga, and since container loading was in Alpharetta, north of Atlanta, it was a good opportunity for us to get together.  (It’s about a three-hour drive between our houses.)  Daddy and I had researched where we might meet.  Can you believe that – independently of each other – we both came up with the Marietta Diner?  It was good food and even better company :)  By the way, Guy Fieri has featured the Marietta Diner on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network – cool!

As I was driving home after having lunch with Daddy, I tuned my car radio to a classical music station.  My love of classical music is largely due to him, and having just spent time with him, I felt like listening to it then.  It was grand riding on the interstate through downtown Atlanta, listening to Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”  Daddy called after it began, and I told him to tune his radio to it.  Right after it was over, he called me back, and we talked about what a great piece it is.  It was also the perfect way to end today’s wonderful adventure.  It reminded me of the interconnectedness that we all share whether we’re in the United States, Namibia, or wherever.

Hear "Fanfare for the Common Man" here:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

BBQ Bass Ride

Today Robert and I hosted our annual BBQ Bass Bicycle Ride.  We’ve been having this ride for years.  I don’t remember exactly which year we started, and we may have missed a year or two early on, but regardless, we called this year’s ride the 17th annual one.  Close enough.  It’s a great excuse to get on our bicycles simply to have fun.

BBQ Bass History
The BBQ Bass Ride has morphed over the years.  When we first started doing it, there may have been three or four of us, and we just rode a loop from Monticello to Hillsboro and back, for a total distance of about 26 miles.  We thought that was a pretty long haul!  We’d stop at Tillman’s BBQ in Hillsboro, roughly the half-way point.  Tillman’s BBQ was a great little place right on the railroad tracks in Mouldin Tillman’s backyard.  Unfortunately, Mouldin became ill and had to close his restaurant.  We’ve been to several other BBQ places in the years since.  A couple of years ago we even had Robert’s mother pick up some locally famous Fresh Air BBQ in Jackson and bring it to our house, where we had a picnic in the yard after the ride.

My friend John Fry, a classmate at Georgia Tech, has been to almost every BBQ Bass Ride.  Since I work in Macon these days, where John lives and also works, I run into him occasionally there.  However, for a long time I just saw him once a year at BBQ Bass.  Back in 2003 Robert and I printed T-shirts for ride participants.  John still has his and wore it to today’s ride:

Over the years the route has increased in length.  This year it was 72 miles with less mileage possible via shortcuts.  Also, more and more friends have joined us.  Today we had 27 people on the ride, and I enjoyed seeing each one.

The biggest (and admittedly best) change to the ride has been from the plain old BBQ Ride to the BBQ Bass Ride.  For the last few years, a SAG vehicle has followed the group, providing water, snacks, mechanical support, and – most importantly – Bass beer.  We schedule several rest stops in out-of-the-way locations along the route and take a break for a cold one.  It’s such a happy ride.

We invited everyone to come 30 minutes before the ride to chill at The Vanilla Bean, a wonderful coffee shop that has opened on the Monticello square in the past year.  With it being Saturday morning, our local farmers market was open, too.  I made sure to get some fresh peaches, which I do every week during peach season.  Also, FFA had homemade peach ice cream for $1 a scoop.  I got one to go with my Vanilla Bean vanilla bean tea:

The Chase
About 10 minutes before we were scheduled to roll out, I managed to get a huge gash in my tire.  Robert rushed home to get me a replacement wheel.  When he got back, I worked on changing my wheel out while he went over a few details about the route with the group:

Of course it was my back wheel, which is much more of a pain to deal with than the front.  I didn’t quite have it on my bike when everyone headed out of the parking lot.  Adam, who works at Bike Tech, was very nice to hang back and help me finish getting my wheel on.  He didn’t even mind riding just with me for about the first 25 miles while we chased back to the group.  We finally caught up when the group stopped to look at the Rock Eagle effigy:

(This photo is actually from my cycling visit to Rock Eagle back in April.)

The Chase – Part II
A couple of days before the ride, I learned that our route would take us within about a quarter mile of a lavender farm.  Even more exciting, a Lavender Festival was scheduled for all day today.  I thought it would be a lot of fun to stop to see the lavender field and maybe get some soap or other nice lavender products.  The other women on our ride thought this was a great idea, too.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stop there.  Even though I had told everyone where the farm was and called it out as we approached the turn, I was the only one who actually turned.  By the time I noticed that I was alone and that it would be better to stick with the group, they had gotten a pretty good distance ahead of me.  I had to chase back on again!

The group was going at a fairly fast pace by then.  I think that’s one reason the women who had expressed interest in going to the lavender farm didn’t realize that we had passed it; they were concentrating on hanging with the peloton.  I suppose it was kind of ridiculous for me to think that the testosterone-hyped guys in the group would want to stop at a Lavender Festival, even if some lovely smelling lavender would make them less stinky.  So, instead of the Lavender Fest, we had a Hammer Fest:

As I was chasing back on for this second time, I passed several signs that tickled my funny bone.  I thought, “What’s a few more seconds delay,” and so I stopped to take a few pictures:

Fortunately, it was only a few miles to the next beer stop.

Bass, etc.
For the first few years that we had Bass on the ride, Bass was the only beer we offered.  However, Robert started adding other varieties.  It’s still mostly Bass, though, out of tradition.  I decided to be a purist today:

This year we bought one type of beer especially for our friend Dale, a legend within the Macon cycling community:

Final Stretch
The group was still pretty much together at around mile 50:

After that, the front guys really threw down the hammer.  I stayed with them for a little while but finally had to back off.  Our friend Ronnie Bratcher, who had come down all the way from Cumming, rode with me for the last 15 miles or so.  He and I enjoyed talking and riding at a more civilized pace.

BBQ and Blues
At the end of the ride, we ate at Maw & Paw’s BBQ:

Maw & Paw’s opened on the Monticello square in recent months.  Not only was the BBQ delicious, we got to eat it at the very end of the ride!  If you have to get back on the bike after lunch, it can be a little tough to pedal the remaining miles on a stomach full of pulled pork and Brunswick stew.

We also had a special musical treat.  Henry Maddox, our local bluesman, sang and played his guitar while we ate:

ML&J Fund
Even though this wasn’t one of my century rides, A Year of Centuries was still on my mind.  When Robert and I put the word out about this year’s BBQ Bass Ride, I asked people to bring back-to-school supplies for the ML&J Fund.  Our friends were very generous to provide specific items that are needed: pre-K backpacks and scientific calculators.  A few people even gave cash or checks.  Thank you, everyone, for helping our Jasper County young people!

It was a great day, and I hope everyone will join us again for next year’s BBQ Bass Ride!

Friday, June 21, 2013


I love dragonflies.  Actually, I love insects in general, but dragonflies are especially interesting and colorful.  What better reminder of summer?

A few years ago I went to a dragonfly class at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, a wonderful place right near my house.  First, we had a classroom session, and then we went out to one of the ponds on the property to watch and identify dragonflies.  I was hooked!  Later, I even purchased Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast, a great reference book.

This past Tuesday, I did my usual group ride, a.k.a. Tuesday Worlds.  One of the guys joined us a few miles into the ride.  I saw him on a hill ahead of the peloton, his slender silhouette hovering like a dragonfly.  All of a sudden it occurred to me just how much cyclists do resemble dragonflies.  Darting around in their colorful kits, they both fly.  Happy solstice!

Shining Clubtail

Eastern Pondhawk

Red-Veined Pennant

Common Green Darner

Sunday, June 16, 2013

ML&J Clothing Drive

Now is a good time to clean out your closet!  Volunteers with the ML&J Fund are organizing a clothing drive to help students get ready for the next school year.  If you have any used clothing in good condition, please donate it to the drive.  The collection location is at Monticello Presbyterian Church, 246 East Washington Street, Monticello, GA.  Just about any size is accepted, from small children through adult, because clothes are needed for preschoolers through high school students.  Shoes and purses are welcome, too.  Clothes will be distributed on Saturday, August 3rd in the empty building space between the Bank of Monticello Operations Center and Robby Kelly’s law office on East Greene Street.

Last year I volunteered for a shift at the clothing drive.  It was amazing to see how well thought-out the arrangement was.  Clothes were neatly stacked on tables according to size and gender.  There were even some clothes racks for easy display.  Shoes were arranged in their own section.  I saw a number of very appreciative people find much needed school clothes for their children.  Thank you for your help with this year's clothing drive!

Monday, June 10, 2013

See You at the Hop!

Where do donations come from for the ML&J Fund?  Many people give generously through the community churches.  Other people place their loose change in the empty boots held by our local EMTs on area street corners on a Saturday morning.  Sometimes a donor will stop Mary Lou Jordan in the post office or grocery store and give her a check or a $20 bill for ML&J.

Organized fundraising events, however, are also an important resource for the ML&J Fund.  Mary Lou Jordan and Debby Kelly have come up with some terrific ideas over the years.  They have hosted a Chastain-style picnic band party, reminiscent of outings at the well known Chastain Amphitheater in Atlanta.  Additionally, there are some annual events, including Cookies with Santa and an art show featuring works from local artists.

In these lean economic times, Mary Lou and Debby can be particularly creative.  One of our fellow church members, named Carol, was scheduled to provide flowers for the sanctuary one Sunday.  Debby made a clever alternate plan with Carol.  Debby picked flowers from her yard, and Mary Lou – flower arranger extraordinaire – made them into a lovely display for church.  Then, Carol took the money she would have spent on flowers and made a donation to the ML&J Fund instead.

The most memorable ML&J fundraiser for me was in June of last year, during the three-month period between my crash and dental surgery.  Mary Lou, Jimmy, and Debby organized a Sock Hop that felt like stepping back into the 1950s.  Local resident Jane Hooper hosted the Sock Hop in her amazing garden.  Additionally, an old fashioned soda shop was set up in her bunkhouse, and there was a tent with a deejay and dance floor.

Attendees were encouraged to dress up in 1950s attire.  Robert and I took up the challenge!  His costume was easy: blue jeans; white T-shirt; loafers; and his black, leather jacket.  I wore a full, purple skirt that I made extra poofy with the crinoline slip from my wedding gown.  I even made it into a poodle skirt by printing a color picture of my mother’s poodle, named Peaches, and taping it to the fabric.  A wide belt, white shirt, Keds for shoes, and a scarf tied around my ponytail completed my outfit – almost.  The finishing touch was my grandfather’s class ring from Auburn, which I wore on a gold chain around my neck.  All the effort paid off because Robert and I won the costume contest!

As you can see, I had gotten pretty used to smiling with my mouth closed.

Then, of course, there was all that fabulout 50s music.  Even though it was before my time, I still enjoy the familiar tunes.  Robert and I know only about two dance moves, but we made the most of them.  The main thing I remember about that evening is that is was the first time after my crash that I really forgot about it for a moment while I had fun twirling with Robert on the dance floor.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

ML&J by the Numbers

According to the 2010 U.S. census, Jasper County, Georgia has a total population of 13,900, including 3,475 below age 18.  Within this population, 2,609 people live below the poverty level; of these, 1,046 are below age 18.  That means that 19% of the total Jasper County population and 30% of people under 18 live below poverty level.  Clearly, the ML&J Fund for Children and Youth serves a great need.

Each year ML&J gives feedback reports to the community, telling how many young people and families were helped by the back-to-school supply drive and Christmas donations.  ML&J does everything it can to stretch the available resources to help as many children and youth as possible.  Here are some figures from the ML&J Fund from Christmas 2012:
# Applied: 554
# Sponsored: 479 (including almost 20 foster children and about 50 homeless)
# Families assisted: 185
# New families assisted: 82
# People, churches, and civic groups who sponsored families: 38
# Families sponsored by these 38 people, churches, and civic groups: 73
(This does not include Monticello Baptist Church, who provided for 66 children)
Donations of almost $26,000 were collected.  This includes a $3,000 Operation Round Up grant from Central Georgia EMC, $802 from our local EMTs' Empty Boot Fund, and over $400 collected at Circle K.  Additional funds, not included in the $26,000, were spent by the 38 groups and individuals above who sponsored families on their own.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sixth Ride in A Year of Centuries – A Benefit for the ML&J Fund for Children and Youth

Century number six was a ride of thankfulness.  As always, I rode being grateful for my recovery from my crash, but yesterday I was also thankful that I was well enough to ride after having had a fever for several days earlier in the week.  I guess it was some kind of virus.  It was strange being completely off of my bike for three days, which is the longest stretch since the crash.  But I kicked some virus booty and had a wonderful ride yesterday on behalf of the ML&J Fund for Children and Youth.  I did the Wheels to the World Century in Athens.  (Having ridden in Rome last month, it seems fitting that I visited Georgia’s other city of antiquity this month.)

One Ride – Two Great Charities
When I participate in an organized ride as part of A Year of Centuries, I’m usually helping two charities: 1) my personally designated charity of the month and 2) the charity designated for the ride itself.  It’s a good thing because I get to leverage my own limited resources.  Yesterday, I got to ride for the ML&J Fund (my charity of the month in A Year of Centuries) and Women to the World (the beneficiary of the Wheels to the World century).  Even better, these two charities complement each other beautifully.  ML&J addresses the needs of children and youth, and Women to the World helps vulnerable and disadvantaged women.

The ML&J Fund is about meeting needs at the most grassroots level.  It is local people caring about local people.  The ML&J Fund provides basic things – clothing and school supplies – to impoverished young people.  If these young people’s physical needs are met, they can better focus on their education, which is the key to them making real, permanent change in their lives.

Women to the World also helps people, women specifically, build better lives for themselves.  It works with women locally in Athens and in a number of countries around the world.  The local program is called Partnering Ambassadors for Life and Service (PALS), and it helps women get their GED, find jobs, and learn other life skills.  Internationally, Women to the World helps women in countries including Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, and Kenya.  It goes into very remote areas that generally are too small to be served by larger NGOs.  A typical Women to the World project might be installing a well in a village.  The Women to the World mission statement summarizes its work well: “Rescuing women and children from poverty, dependency, and abuse.”

I had read about Women to the World’s work on its website before the ride, but I got much more of a sense of its realness from the ride volunteers, who also volunteer with the PALS program.  There was a rest stop at mile 50, where I had a conversation with a man who tutors women in math as they work on their GEDs.  As he described a typical woman in the program – in her 30s, unmarried, and with four children – really making strides in her life, tears came to his eyes.  What a privilege to be a part of this, even as just a participant in the Wheels to the World century.  I had been dragging a little bit on the first half of my ride, but this conversation truly energized me for the second 50 miles.

Wind and Water
Because I didn’t know anyone else there, I did the whole ride by myself.  Well, I did ride the first six miles with a group of guys.  Then, the two cups of Irish breakfast tea that I drank during my drive to Athens hit me with a vengeance.  I had to pull off into the brush for a nature break, and I never caught back up to the group.  It didn’t bother me because I was up for the challenge.  Besides, it was a perfectly lovely day for a ride!

The route was beautiful, mostly through farm country.  I even saw an old windmill that looked like one from Holland.  It was across a big field, and the lighting wasn’t great, but here’s the best photo I could get:

The second half of the ride went through Watson Mill Bridge State Park.  Traffic (including bicycles!) actually travels through the one-lane covered bridge:

I also took a picture of the South Fork River flowing below as I crossed the bridge:

It Must Be a Sign
Athens is one of the most bicycle friendly cities in Georgia.  As I pedaled on the roads leading out of and into Clarke County, it was quite gratifying to see so many signs like these:

Speaking of gratifying signs, I was very impressed with the road marking for the ride.  It was so easy to follow the blue arrows indicating the century route.  I didn’t refer to my cue sheet or paper map the first time.  It’s a uniquely fun feeling to ride along on unfamiliar roads and simply follow the pavement markings, not being concerned with getting lost.

I must admit, however, that as an REM fan, this was my favorite sign of the day:

When they were still in Athens, the REM band members often ate here at Weaver D’s, a meat-and-two restaurant.  Owner Dexter Weaver has a motto, “Automatic for the people,” which REM co-opted as the title of the Grammy-winning album.

Being in REM land, a number of their songs floated around in my head throughout the day.  The main one that got stuck there was “Shiny, Happy People,” which I thought of as my theme song for the day. 

Shiny, happy person

Jittery Joe’s Roaster
For someone who doesn’t even like coffee, I had such a good time at Jittery Joe’s Roaster after the ride.

It was even fun washing my hands in the restroom.  Check out this highwheeler in the sink:

As you can see Jittery Joe’s is very friendly to cyclists.  In fact, they even sponsor a racing team.

Our ride organizers put out some yummy post-ride vittles.  Who doesn’t love pizza and homemade pimento cheese?

We even had live music.  The guitarist/singer was great, playing all kinds of bluesy and folksy tunes.

And can you believe they even offered free massage?  I had never seen this at a ride!  A few minutes of work on my neck and shoulders were heavenly.

I started talking with the Jittery Joe’s manager about the operations there, and he offered to show me the roasting machines.  It was fascinating.  They have two 25-lb. roasters, but they have shifted to two 50-lb. roasters to keep up with demand.  This facility supplies all of the Jittery Joe’s stores and anyone who sells their coffee, including canisters.  There were a number of pallets of coffee beans waiting to be roasted, which the manager says is about a week’s worth.  They go through two tractor trailer loads of beans per month, more in the wintertime.  The beans come from 31 countries.  I learned that the medium roast beans come from the tropics, like Costa Rica, which I got to visit over this past New Year’s.  The darker roast beans come from Africa.

After buying some whole bean coffee for my husband (who loves his java!), I headed home with these words of wisdom: