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, 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.

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