Charity Logo

Charity Logo

Charity of the Month

CHARITY OF THE MONTH - HEIFER INTERNATIONAL

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, July 31, 2013

Batman and Batwoman

As we finish up this month that spotlights bats and the excellent work of Bat Conservation International (BCI), here’s something just for fun:


I’m always glad to tell people about bats, which are misunderstood yet so important to people and the rest of our ecosystems.  Several times I have had the opportunity to speak with groups about bats.  For a number of years I had the responsibility at my church of planning the programs for our monthly Family Night Suppers.  One month, the planned speaker had to cancel at the last moment, and so I had to come up with Plan B.  Hmm…it just happened to be October.  Also, we had just recently excluded the bats from the church building (see my post on 7/18/13).  It was the perfect time for a bat program.

I dressed in black and donned my bat wings and mask, which I had bought previously for only a few dollars in a clearance bin.  Dean, one of my young friends at church, had just received his Halloween costume in the mail that day.  He was so excited about dressing up as Batman that he begged his parents to let him wear the costume to church that night.  They said no.  Then, when Dean walked in and saw me in my bat costume, he wailed to his parents, “See!  I could have worn my Batman costume!”

The church members were interested and receptive to learning about bats.  First, I tried to dispel some bat myths, explaining that bats do not swoop down and get caught in people’s hair, and very few bats carry rabies.  Also, I told them about bats’ role in controlling insect populations and how they pollinate a number of plants that we use for food, drink, and fiber.  Maybe the audience discovered that they had had some wrong assumptions about bats.  I left them with one final thought: do we ever make similar wrong assumptions about other animals or even people?

Another time I got to speak to a pack of Webelo Cub Scouts at their bat campout.  This event was also in October, right before Halloween.  These young boys were so enthusiastic to learn about bats!  Additionally, they really liked the anatomically correct Jell-O brain and heart that I brought.  Heh heh.  Before I headed home that evening, the Scoutmaster presented me with a Bat Patrol badge and special Bat Campout patch that the pack had made for this event.  Cool!  I sewed them onto a bandana along with a Bat Conservation International (BCI) patch.  I’ve worn the bandana many times since then when I was promoting bats.  Also, it’s the perfect greyhound accessory when we go on a special outing.


A few weeks after I spoke to the Webelos, I saw one of the young boys at our local drugstore.  When he saw me, his eyes got big.  He pointed at me and said, “Batwoman!”

Monday, July 29, 2013

On-Line Auction to Benefit Southeastern Greyhound Adoption

Southeastern Greyhound Adoption (SEGA) is holding an on-line auction with some terrific items!  All proceeds will help retired racing greyhounds find homes.  Here's the link to the auction:

http://www.32auctions.com/segaauction

Bat Fruit Salad

Lucille, my plush bat named for my grandmother, reminded me of how much fun she and I had riding together on the Rapha Women’s 100 and on my century earlier this month.  At the rest stops on the century, she enjoyed posing with several fruits that bats pollinate.  Many products we use every day, like fruits, nuts, hardwoods, balsa wood, spices, dyes, and fibers, depend on bats.  Some commercial plants, like bananas and peaches, do not rely directly on bats for pollination or seed dispersal, but their genetic ancestors do.  If agriculturists ever want to improve the disease resistance of the commercial plants or cultivate new varieties, they must obtain genes from the ancestral plants.

You can make a delicious Bat Fruit Salad to showcase bat-dependent foods.  The recipe below is from The Educator’s Activity Book about Bats.  Adjust the quantities according to your taste and what’s available.  For example, I use fresh mango and fresh figs when they are in season but use dried ones other times of year.

Bananas
Mangos
Dates
Peaches
Figs
Canned guavas
Peach or banana yogurt
Cashews
Carob chips

Cut fruit into bite-sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in yogurt.  Place in a serving bowl.  Sprinkle with cashews and carob chips.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ryker the Biker

Bonus post!  On this afternoon's ride, I saw my young friend Ryker the Biker at the end of his driveway. He just happened to be wearing his cycling helmet (safety first!). I got to answer his questions about my shifters, brake pads, etc. Expect adventure.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Save Bracken Cave

In my last post I described the beauty and wonder of the bats at Bracken Cave, home to ten million Mexican free-tailed bats, the largest bat colony in the world.  Unfortunately, these bats face a huge threat.  A developer, Brad Galo of Galo Properties, has proposed a large subdivision – 3,800 homes on 1,500 acres! – immediately south of Bracken Cave, lying in the twice-daily flight path of the bats.  Bracken Cave is located in a rural area with large ranches, interspersed with one- to three-acre lots that currently constitute “intensive development.”  The quarter-acre zoning of the proposed Crescent Hills subdivision is out of keeping with the current land use.  Additionally, the proposed development lies within the sensitive Edwards Aquifer-recharge zone, an important public water supply.  Furthermore, the developer’s property and the Bracken Cave property are an important nesting and foraging habitat for the federally endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

Texas law allows little to no consideration of environmental issues regarding the subdivision.  The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) granted Mr. Galo the water and sewer hookups needed for the 3,800 homes, but SAWS is not permitted to determine if adequate water supplies exist or to take into account the wisdom of putting so many homes in the middle of a protected groundwater recharge area.

The biggest concern for the bats is putting 10,000 people next to millions of building-loving adult bats and millions more juvenile bats learning to fly.  The bats will be attracted to insects at porch and street lights and to water in swimming pools.  If a child or parent comes in contact with a sick bat or a pet that contracted rabies from a sick bat, it won’t matter that the bats have been there for 10,000 or more years.  Public outcry will be to “do something” about this threat to public safety.

Bat Conservation International (BCI) is advocating for the bats of Bracken Cave.  Its attorneys have advised that the only recourse is to appeal to the San Antonio City Council and Mayor Castro and to make this a significant public and media issue.  On May 29th at a packed City Hall, 61 people spoke against the development and on behalf of Bracken Cave and its importance.  The speakers represented BCI, Texas Parks, the San Antonio Zoo, the Army’s Camp Bullis, Audubon Texas, Sierra Club, Preserve Texas Heritage Association, the Heritage Group, and the Esperanza Peach and Justice Center.  No one spoke in favor of the development.

The San Antonio City Council and Mayor Castro have not yet taken any action regarding Bracken Cave.  However, Ron Nirenberg, City Councilman from District 8, took the advice to visit Bracken Cave himself to see what an incredible and irreplaceable natural resource it is.  I take this as a hopeful sign.

Even if you do not live in the area, you can speak out for the bats of Bracken Cave.  E-mail addresses for the Mayor, City Council, and Planning Commission are as follows:


Additionally, you can sign BCI’s on-line petition.  As of the May 29th City Council meeting, the petition had 13,300 signatures from 70 countries, and it definitely made an impact.  For more information about saving Bracken Cave and a link to the on-line petition (scroll down the page), please visit http://www.batcon.org/index.php/bats-a-people/save-bracken.html?utm_campaign=education&utm_source=external&utm_medium=redirect

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bats and Bicycles

Two years ago Robert and I had one of the best long-weekend trips ever when we went to Austin and San Antonio, Texas.  What spurred me to plan the trip was the opportunity to go to Bracken Cave, owned by Bat Conservation International (BCI).  At the time, Bracken Cave was not open to the general public, but as a BCI member, I could visit and bring a guest on a Member Night.  (BCI now offers several nights each year when the general public can visit Bracken Cave.)  Little did I know, just how wonderful the whole weekend would be.  It was filled with bats and bicycles.

We flew into San Antonio on a Thursday and drove our rental car to Austin.  After checking into the very cool Hotel San Jose, we began exploring the South Congress Avenue area, a hip and vibrant part of Austin.  I was excited to spot this tribute to bats right away:



The real attraction, however, was the bats themselves at the Congress Avenue Bridge.  This bridge is the summer home of over one million Mexican free-tailed bats and is the largest urban bat colony in the world.


During the warmer months, female bats give birth and raise their baby bats.  We joined several hundred people that evening to watch in amazement as the bats few out from beneath the bridge.  The bats are quite the tourist attraction!  This wasn’t always the case, though.

The Congress Avenue Bridge was renovated in 1980.  The new design inadvertently created an ideal bat roost because of the long, thin joints added to the bridge decking.  Mexican free-tailed bats, especially maternity colonies, like to cluster together very tightly in such crevices.  Over the next few years, more and more bats began to roost in the Congress Avenue Bridge.  As the bat population grew, so did the public’s panic.

Fortunately, BCI moved its headquarters to Austin in 1986.  Through a vigorous community education effort, BCI taught the people of Austin that not only are bats nothing to fear, but also bats are highly beneficial because they eat so many destructive insects.  Now, Austin welcomes the return of the Mexican free-tailed bats each spring.

The crowd waiting for the evening emergence of the bats

Bats flying from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge (much more impressive in person)

Having been a BCI member for so many years, the next day I had to take the opportunity to visit BCI headquarters.  The office was very quiet because almost all of the staff was out in the field working – right where you’d expect them to be!  However, Linda Moore, Director of Administration and Finance, seemed genuinely glad that Robert and I stopped by to say hello.

After an enjoyable afternoon touring the Texas state capitol, it was time to make a few preparations for a bicycle ride the next morning.  Austin is very bicycle friendly.  Shortly before our visit, Austin had revamped the streetscape in the South Congress Avenue area.  A bicycle lane was striped next to angled parking spaces, which were next to the curb.  Cars have to back into the parking spaces so that they can more easily look for cyclists in the bicycle lane before they pull out.  How enlightened!  Even the dead guys are into cycling:


When we were planning our trip, Robert contacted several bike shops in Austin to inquire about local rides.  Eventually, he got in touch with a very nice man named Brad, who leads a group ride from his house every Saturday morning.  (Interestingly, Brad is a lawyer who specializes in cyclist injury cases.)  He warmly welcomed us to join the group while we were in Austin.  Not only that, when Robert asked him about the logistics of renting bicycles, he generously offered to let Robert and me borrow bicycles from him and his wife!  So, that evening Robert and I went by their house to check out the bicycles.  They actually fit us pretty well.

The next morning, Brad and his wife weren’t able to join the group ride due to a prior commitment, but they introduced us to the others.  It was a friendly group, and they were no slouches when it came to riding!  Similar to our group rides at home, the peloton broke apart as the ride progressed and the stronger riders put the hammer down.  We rode for several hours and had a good workout.  Another noteworthy aspect of the ride was the roads.  Traffic wasn’t an issue because of the very wide shoulders, but there was significant debris in them.  I’m surprised that the riders there don’t get more flat tires than they do.  It also made me appreciate what an excellent place Robert and I have for our group rides.  The roads on our usual routes are well maintained with relatively little traffic, a combination that isn’t found everywhere.  Even with the Austin road debris, however, it was great to connect with another cycling community.

Robert and I got cleaned up from the ride, checked out of our motel, and headed toward San Antonio.  One side note very worthy of mention is the restaurant where we had a late lunch.  It was in New Braunfels, a town settled by Germans in the mid-1800s that retains much of its German heritage.  I have very fond memories of New Braunfels from a family trip in 1984 and wanted to visit it again.  During the planning of Robert’s and my trip, I selected Friesenhaus in New Braunfels as our lunch stop.  We couldn’t have made a better choice.  It had the most delicious German food and an excellent selection of authentic German beers.  We sat there enjoying our meal so much that we actually Googled German restaurants on our phones to see if there were any within an hour’s drive of our home back in Georgia.  (At the time there weren’t, but we are so glad that Der Biergarten has since opened in downtown Atlanta.  Ja!)

Things were about to get even better.  Having been wowed by the Congress Avenue Bridge bats, Robert and I had no idea that an even bigger adventure awaited us at Bracken Cave that evening.  Bracken Cave, which lies between Austin and San Antonio, is home to the largest bat colony in the world.  About 10 million Mexican free-tailed bats live there during the summer.  Like the Congress Avenue Bridge, Bracken Cave hosts a maternity colony.  The mother bats give birth and then raise the baby bats for about eight weeks.  The young bats were approximately six weeks old during our visit, making them teenagers.

Our BCI guide met everyone at the property entrance.  We caravanned to a bunker area where soldiers stayed during the Civil War and World War I.  They mined bat guano (droppings) from Bracken Cave to make gunpowder.  Today, BCI sells the guano for organic fertilizer.  We saw bats flying overhead at the bunker area:


But the real show was at the cave entrance, a short hike away.

The bats emerged in three main groups over several hours.  They swirled out of the cave entrance in a vortex.  The cave is approximately 180 feet high at its tallest point.  Because the cave entrance is not this high, the vortex had to somewhat collapse on itself as the bats emerged.  Talk about excellent fliers!  The bats flew in a stream into the wind, which gave them lift.  As they flew higher and higher, they dispersed in all directions.  A bat may travel as much as 50 to 60 miles one way each night.  That’s a lot of energy expended by a little mammal that weights only about as much as two quarters.

Sitting quietly in the viewing area, you can hear the soft rustle of millions of bat wings.  If you listen very carefully, you might even hear their high-pitched calls.

video

There’s no way to describe the awesome beauty and majesty of the Bracken Cave bats.  Seeing them was truly one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had.  How many other wonders in the world must there be that humans rarely – or never – get to see?

I didn’t want the evening to end.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t have any trouble staying up later than usual.  Robert and I strolled along San Antonio’s famous River Walk.  We celebrated bats – pollinators of the agave plant, which gives us tequila – with Texas-sized margaritas!


The next day it was time to go home.  We did have one other unexpected delight before we left.  We went to the San Antonio market area, thinking that this would be a good place to look for one last good Mexican meal.  (Of course, we had already had some delicious Mexican food several times over the previous few days.)  A vendor at the market suggested a restaurant called Pico de Gallo, a short walk from there.  I was looking forward to some of my favorite Mexican dishes, like chiles rellenos and tamales.  Alas, Pico de Gallo was still serving breakfast.  My disappointment didn’t last long, though.  I had never had a real Mexican breakfast before, and it was fabulous.  The restaurant was filled with locals rather than tourists, and so we obviously had hit the jackpot.  Ole!

It was an absolutely incredible trip of bats and bicycles.  I always think back to it whenever I see bats flitting around at twilight.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Expect Adventure

This weekend Robert and I and several friends went to North Carolina for a weekend of racing and other festivities.  The racing event was the French Broad Cycling Classic, named for the river.  It occurred to me that that this was the first time that I raced out-of-state.  More interestingly, it was the first time I did a Merckx-style time trial (TT).

A Merckx TT is named for Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx, considered to be the greatest pro cyclist ever.  He won the Tour de France five times (1969-1972 and 1974), the Giro d’Italia five times (1968, 1970, and 1972-1974), and the Vuelta a España once (1973).  At the 1969 Tour de France, he simultaneously won the general classification (yellow jersey), points classification (green jersey, i.e. sprinters’ jersey), and mountains classification (polka dot jersey); he would have won the white jersey for Best Young Rider if it had existed at the time.  No other cyclist has ever accomplished this.  Additionally, he won all of cycling’s monument races (e.g. Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege) at least twice each.  Eddy Merckx was nicknamed “The Cannibal” because of his insatiable appetite for victories and the way he devoured the competition.  Therefore, a Merckx-style TT is sometimes said to have “cannibal rules."


What makes it Merckx style is that TT bicycles are not allowed, nor is aero equipment like disc wheels or aero helmets.  (The French Broad Classic TT did allow skin suits as long as they were short-sleeved and short-legged.)  You have race like Merckx did, on a regular road bike with regular equipment.  Unlike Merckx, however, you do have to wear a helmet, fortunately.

We took a day of vacation and arrived early Friday afternoon in Marshall, NC, a short distance north of Asheville, where the TT and road race were held.  We had plenty of time to scope everything out before the TT late that afternoon.  I even spied a Back Street Boy (swoon…)


The TT course was relatively flat, considering our mountainous locale.  It was an out-and-back course from Marshall that paralleled the lovely French Broad River.  I raced well except for the turn.  I’m not the best when it comes to turnarounds, especially on a fairly narrow road like the one we were on.  I took it a little too fast and went off into the grass.  This cost me a few seconds as I got back up on the pavement.  I came in 8th out of 26 in my field, but I probably should have come in about 5th if I had cornered better.  Even so, I’m very happy with my performance because the French Broad Classic tends to attract pretty serious racers.  Others in my field hailed from North Carolina, South Carolina, and even Louisiana.

With the TT finished, I could simply relax for the rest of the weekend.  After everyone had finished the TT, we all went to nearby Mars Hill and found a great pizza place.  Then, we headed back to Marshall to the house that our group had rented for the weekend.  We called it an evening pretty early so that they guys would be ready for the road race the next morning.

All of us brought breakfast food with us.  We had enough oatmeal to last for two weeks rather than the two days we were actually there:


I accompanied the guys via bicycle from our rental house to the race staging area.  It was a beautiful, quiet morning:


My plan was to watch all of the guys start in their races and then ride my bicycle to the finish line to see them at the end.  The finish line was on a mountaintop, and I could climb the backside, which offered me a great workout without having to get on the racecourse.  The guys’ races would last about two hours, and so I had some extra time before I needed to head out.  So, I enjoyed hanging out with a few of the other wives in the local coffee shop.  When it was time to ride, I stepped out of the shop and saw this motorcycle rider with his parrot, who rides with him!


Apparently, parrots like brownies.

As I was getting on my bicycle, a young man asked me if I was familiar with the roads in the area.  I replied, yes, a little bit and described the climb that I was about to do.  He explained that he was with the Changing Diabetes team.  This team consists of young people who all have Type I diabetes; being on the team helps them to manage the disease.  Many of the members are from other countries.  One of the riders, a 16-year-old girl from The Netherlands, was dropped in the Pro 1/2 race and wanted to do some more riding.  He asked if she could accompany me on my climb to the finish line, and I enthusiastically said yes!

My new friend is named Susanne, and I enjoyed learning a little about her and her cycling background as we rode.  She races a lot in The Netherlands and Belgium.  Amazingly, she said that a crit with only 15- and 16-year-old girls might have 100 racers!  Knowing that cyclocross is very popular in this part of Europe, I asked her whether she races cyclocross, which she does.  She told me about riding for many kilometers at a time through the woods, seeing a house only every 25 km or so.  That’s one reason she took particular note of a pretty house on a mountaintop along our ride.  She asked if I minded if we stopped so she could take a picture.  A kindred spirit!  Stopping to take pictures has been a fun and important part of A Year of Centuries.

We made it up the mountain to the finish line.  Soon thereafter, Robert’s teammates Jeff (a.k.a. Stoney) and Tyler crossed the line.  After they rested a few minutes, I asked Stoney to take a picture of Susanne and me.  Not knowing how to use my phone camera, Stoney managed to take the best picture of the day:


Fortunately, Tyler took over camera duties:


Robert came across the line a few minutes later and was ready to ride back down to Marshall.  I said goodbye to Susanne.  Later, she sent me a message that she and five others were hit by a car!  Three of them, including Susanne, went to the hospital!  She said she’ll be OK (bruised hip and road rash), as will the others, but they are definitely in my prayers.

We got cleaned up back at the house, and then our group headed into Asheville.  Asheville is such a cool town.  It's not everywhere that you see a bumper sticker like this:



(Robert and I are beekeepers.)

After a little shopping and a refreshing pint at Jack in the Wood, several of us took a LaZoom comedy bus tour:


We got to learn a little about Asheville while being entertained by come colorful characters.  Our tour guide was Earlene Hooch, an over-the-top Southern belle.  Actually, she looked more like Flo from the old Longhorn Steakhouse commercials.  Several other individuals hopped on and off of the bus during the tour.  Most notable of these was Sister Hairy Mary, a man dressed like a nun who acted kind of like the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live.  She passed out several citations, including one to our friend Bill for drinking Foster’s instead of a local brew.  Bill graciously let me wear his citation nametag:


The tour went to several areas of Asheville that I knew nothing about.  It was a really fun and entertaining way to see the city.  I highly recommend a LaZoom tour if you’re in Asheville.

After that, we had a delicious dinner at Local Taco, which offered flavorful and unusual tacos and quesadillas made with locally grown ingredients.  Then, we went back to our rental house in Marshall, watched the next-to-the-last stage of the Tour, and hit the hay.

There was a crit the next day, but none of my group planned to race in it.  Therefore, as soon as we ate breakfast and finished packing, we headed back to Georgia.

I’m having more and more fun as I go through A Year of Centuries.  No matter what kind of ride or race I do, something magic seems to happen every time.  This weekend I came up with my new motto: Expect Adventure.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bat Exclusion - NOT Extermination

Our human structures sometimes provide the perfect roosts for bats.  Well, perfect from the bats’ perspective; people don’t always think so.  However, there is no reason to exterminate the bats.  In fact, doing so is not only cruel but counterproductive; bats play a crucial role in controlling insect populations.  Instead, bats should be excluded from the building, allowing their exit but preventing their return.

Many bats like narrow slits for roosting sites.  If they lose their natural roosts in trees or caves, they might seek shelter in human structures.  Places like attic vents or gaps in old wooden siding often provide just the spacing that bats prefer.  Usually, there really isn’t any reason to evict bats.  If they are causing a problem, though, you might be able to exclude them yourself, or you can contact a reputable bat-exclusion professional who pledges to use safe and effective exclusion methods.

Bat exclusion has two main components: 1) leaving a one-way exit through which bats can leave but cannot return and 2) sealing all other potential entryways.  Bat Conservation International (BCI) has instructions on its website on how to use tubes or netting for one-way exits.  Other entry points can be sealed with caulking, flashing, screening, or heavy-duty mesh.  Please visit http://www.batcon.org/index.php/bats-a-people/bats-in-buildings/subcategory/69.html for more details.

Whether you are excluding bats yourself or hiring a professional, it is imperative not to do the excluding during maternity season, when bats give birth and raise their young.  If exclusion is done before baby bats can fly, the young bats can be trapped inside the structure and starve to death.  Maternity season in North America begins as early as mid-April in the southernmost U.S. and in mid-June in the northern U.S. and Canada.  Young bats fly by late August.  Therefore, exclusions should not be performed between April and August.

When bats are excluded, it’s a good idea to install bat houses for alternate living quarters.  BCI has information on building or buying bat houses at http://www.batcon.org/index.php/get-involved/install-a-bat-house.html.

My church, Monticello Presbyterian Church, was founded in 1829, and the oldest part of the current structure was built in 1898.  Several years ago we discovered bats in the attic.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t stay.  I happened to be serving as an elder at the time, and I explained to the church session (governing body) the importance of bats and that we should exclude them, not exterminate them.  Thankfully, they agreed, and we hired a professional bat exclusion company.  The company humanely excluded the bats, cleaned up all the guano (bat droppings), and sealed the crevices in the wooden siding so that the bats couldn’t get back inside.  I’m happy that we did what we could to be the good stewards of creation that God calls us to be.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bats, Battes, and Adopt-a-Bats

Happy birthday today to my mother Nancy and to my greyhound Mr. Spock!  Mother might not want me to tell the world how old she is, but I’m excited that Mr. Spock is 10.  That’s a pretty big milestone for a greyhound!  It’s appropriate to honor both of them during this month highlighting Bat Conservation International (BCI) because my mother is a Batte, and Mr. Spock’s ears stick up like a bat’s.

Mother likes having the same birthday as Mr. Spock.  In fact, one year she even got Mr. Spock a birthday card.  Well, technically, it was “from” Mother’s dog, a poodle named Peaches.  Before I tell you more about the card, let me explain Mother’s reasoning about family relationships.  Peaches is her dog, which makes him her “son” and, therefore, my “brother.”  Mr. Spock is my dog, which makes him my “son” and, therefore, Peaches’s “nephew.”  So, Mr. Spock received this very cute Snoopy card from “Uncle Peaches.”  I told Mother that it sounds like Mr. Spock’s pimp uncle!

By the way, I’ve never been exactly comfortable will the whole notion of referring to pets as one’s “children.”  “Fur kids” is just as bad – worse, really.  Such labels are demeaning…to the animals.  A few months ago a friend sent me a funny cartoon with a term that describes perfectly my relationship to Mr. Spock, my other dogs, and (I hope) all animals: Beast Friend.

Suppose you just can’t figure out what to get your mother, uncle, Beast Friend, etc. for his/her birthday or other occasion.  Why not adopt a bat from BCI?  The recipient will get a plush stuffed bat toy (choose between the Eastern Red Bat and the Sulawesi Fruit Bat), an official adoption certificate, and complete species profile information about the bat of your choice.  The $25 adoption fee goes toward BCI’s research, conservation, and education work.  Even better, for just $50 your recipient can adopt a bat plus become a BCI member (totally cool!).  http://www.batcon.org/index.php/support-bci/adopt-a-bat.html

Some years ago I got Adopt-a-Bats for Mother and my Aunt Betty (the one I’m named for) for Christmas.  Aunt Betty is Mother’s sister, and so of course, she’s a Batte, too.  And naturally, I had to get an Adopt-a-Bat for myself as well.  Back then you got a photograph of a bat rather than a plush toy.  I selected a Chapin’s free-tailed bat for myself and named him Frank in honor of my grandfather Frank Batte.  I was a little concerned that Mother and Aunt Betty might think this was disrespectful, which of course was not my intent at all.  However, Mother got a big kick out of it.  Then, when I told Aunt Betty about Frank, she laughed and said that she had named her bat Nancy Sue after my mother!

Nancy Batte

Mr. Spock with his bat ears

Frank Batte

Frank Bat

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Seventh Ride in A Year of Centuries – A Benefit for Bat Conservation International

I’m batty about bicycling!  Yesterday’s century, Pedal for Pets, was doubly great because it directly benefitted spay/neuter programs in the Senoia, Georgia area, and personally I rode for Bat Conservation International (BCI) with A Year of Centuries.

With bicycle rides and races, Robert and I often have to weigh whether it would be better to stay in a motel the night before or get up very early to get to the event.  If it’s within about a two-hour drive of our house, we usually opt for the latter option.  It’s nice to save on the motel cost, but it also makes it easier to take care of our animals.  Senoia is about an hour-and-15-minute drive from my house, but because the century started at 7:00 A.M., I had to get up quite early!  4:30 A.M., to be exact.

As I ate breakfast, I checked Facebook.  I discovered that the previous evening, Robert had tagged me in a photo from a time trial that I did last month:


When I race in time trials, my mouth is always gaping attractively like this as I pant for as much oxygen as possible.  At least I’ll never have a protein deficiency because I can always catch flies.  This photo was the perfect way to start the day because it reminded me of our bat friends who eat so many flying pests.  A single little brown bat (a common species here in Georgia) can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour.  A pregnant or lactating female bat usually eats the equivalent of her entire body weight in insects every night.

I headed out in my car for Senoia.  It was pitch black outside.  I thought about bats going about their nightly business.  They leave their roosts at dusk, feed all night on the insects that they detect through echolocation, and then return home at dawn.  So much happens in the dark while most people are asleep.  Nocturnal animal habitats, the incredible deep of the oceans, the vast expanse of outer space: if we humans ever think we know it all, we are just fooling ourselves.

A little magic music from Rush made my morning mood, and I arrived in Senoia.  I checked in, got my bicycle and equipment ready, and was ready to roll out 10 minutes before the official start time.  Because it was now light enough to ride and I didn’t have anyone else to ride with, I decided to go ahead and get my ride underway.  I didn’t see any other cyclists on the road, but I expected that.  I had started a little early, and there are usually many fewer century riders than those who do the shorter route options.  Also, the people doing the shorter routes weren’t scheduled to start for another hour or so.  About eight miles into my ride, I passed a sign that read, “Welcome to Senoia.”  Huh?  I soon determined that I had just ridden the Family Fun route.  (So that’s what the “FF” stood for on those route markings.)  Brilliant.  I had just ridden an extra eight miles.  I got back to the staging area and asked a volunteer to point me in the right direction for the century.  I started on the correct route, kicking myself for my rookie mistake.  But I was laughing, too.  I knew that this would be just another great memory on my adventure.

I loved the route.  There wasn’t much traffic at all, and the roads were in great shape.  Although it didn’t seem very hilly to me, my computer data later told me that I climbed 5,505 feet during the ride.  That’s an average of about 50 feet per mile, typical of the rolling hills of Middle Georgia that I usually ride.  And aren’t these the cutest route markers?


This spring and summer have been much rainier and cooler than normal.  We’ve had few, if any, days above 90 degrees.  Yesterday was very overcast, but I pretty much dodged the rain.  I did ride through a heavy mist for one stretch, but I just pretended that I was a flying fox bat in the tropics.

This reminded me of the important role that bats play in pollinating tropical and subtropical plants, including many that are very valuable to us humans.  In fact, I had never made the connection that a lot of these plants make excellent bike food!  Yesterday, I pinned the same small, plush bat to my jersey that I had ridden with last Sunday at the Rapha Women’s 100.  I named her Lucille, in honor of my grandmother Lucille Batte, who would have celebrated her 99th birthday that day.  On yesterday’s ride, Lucille posed with several fruits that her cousins pollinate:

Peaches

Bananas

Figs (Lucille got confused and tried to pollinate a Fig Newton.)

As you can see, Lucille was terrific company since I didn’t have anyone else to ride with.  I gained a deeper understanding of Tom Hanks’s character’s connection to his friend “Wilson” in the movie Cast Away.

There were other delicious goodies at the rest stops, too.  One of them had hummus with crackers and fresh vegetables.  Also, someone had baked some wonderful homemade pumpkin-walnut muffins.  In addition, because it was the Pedal for Pets Century, I thought that these animal crackers were most appropriate:


Speaking of rest stops, when I first scanned the cue sheet (list of directions), I didn’t see any rest stops listed.  What?!  Then I realized that, in all the many rides I’ve done, they were called something I had never seen before: break points.  I felt like a polyline in AutoCAD.

Even with the most careful training, attention to diet, and rest, some days you’re in better form than others.  It doesn’t matter what your age is.  If scientists could bottle good form, athletes would buy it by the bucket.  Yesterday was one of those days when I felt really good on the bike.  That was fortunate, especially since I knew I would be riding those extra eight miles!  I didn’t question why I felt good; I just rode with it (pun intended).  Despite getting a little bit of a late start on the century route thanks to my Family Fun faux pas, I started passing some of the other riders, particularly on the climbs.  A guy at the rest stop at mile 69 (actually mile 77 for me) asked me if I was doping.

Although it was a ride, not a race, just as all my centuries are, I pushed myself a little extra on yesterday’s ride.  I didn’t start noticing any fatigue at all until about mile 85, and at that point I was averaging a little above 18 mph.  I set a goal of finishing all 107 miles at no less than 18 mph.  There was a rest stop about nine miles from the finish.  Normally, I probably wouldn’t have stopped so close to the end, wanting simply to get through the ride.  This time, however, I sat briefly and got a little more water.  I thought that this would recharge my batteries enough to reach my goal.  I was right!


When I got back, I changed clothes and got a couple of slices of pizza offered to the riders.  One of the volunteers had his dog with him, a Boston terrier named Sammy Adams:


Isn’t he a cute fellow?  Just remember, they’re even cuter when you spay and neuter.

I was looking forward to one more treat.  I had decided that on my drive back into Monticello, I would stop for a Blizzard at Dairy Queen.  Normally, this wouldn’t have even occurred to me, but in the last week or so I had been noticing the sign out front declaring the Blizzard flavor of the month, lemon meringue pie.  This is a special, seasonal flavor that sounded like the perfect way to end the day.  Boy, was it delicious!


Dairy Queen is having a special fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, an excellent pediatric hospital.  For a $1 donation, you get some Dairy Queen coupons, and you can put your name on a paper balloon to be hung on the store wall.  There were already lots of paper balloons hanging up.  I had taken Lucille inside with me.  After all, she had been a faithful companion all those 107 miles!  I let her put her name on our balloon: