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, December 8, 2013

Twelfth Ride in A Year of Centuries – A Benefit for Heifer International

I’m still on a high from yesterday’s century.  I’m overjoyed to have reached my goal of riding 12 centuries for A Year of Centuries, but I’m a little sad that the year is drawing to a close.  Have you ever been in the midst of something that you know is very special, and so you try to savor every moment?  That’s what this whole year has been like for me.  What a tremendous blessing.

My centuries themselves may be complete for the year, but I still have the rest of this month to show my support for Heifer International.  In case you’re not familiar with Heifer International, it’s an organization that works to end hunger and poverty around the world while taking care of the Earth at the same time.  Heifer International provides animals and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries.  Any month would be a great one to support Heifer, but I chose it for my December charity because a gift of an animal to a needy family makes a true difference during this season of giving.  Yesterday during my ride, I saw the perfect decoration that simply made my day:


Yesterday’s ride may have been my last century in A Year of Centuries, but it was only my first in a new type of cycling that I am undertaking: randonneuring!  Randonneuring is not racing; it’s about finishing the prescribed route within a set period of time and enjoying the camaraderie of your fellow cyclists.  Its roots go back to the early 1900s in France.  The American organization to promote this style of cycling is Randonneurs USA (RUSA).  Yesterday’s ride was put on by Audax Atlanta, a chapter of RUSA.

The particular type of randonnée that I did yesterday is called a brevet.   A brevet can be 200, 300, 400, 600, or 1,200 km long.  A 200K brevet is about 124 miles.  This is a little more than a century, and so I knew that it would be slightly more challenging yet doable.  A 200K brevet has a 13.5-hour time limit, and it’s the only route length that is considered a daytime ride.  (Lights and other considerations must be taken into account for longer distances.)  I’m going to do some more 200K rides and a 300K ride.  From there I’ll decide whether I want to tackle any of the longer distances.  Actually, I’ve already decided that years from now, when (if) I retire, I’m going to celebrate by riding a 401K.

It’s kind of interesting how I found out about randonneuring and RUSA.  When I did my June century (Wheels to the World), I rode a portion of it with a couple of guys.  I told them about A Year of Centuries, and they said I might like to get involved with RUSA, of which they are members.  It sounded interesting, but at the time, I just mentally filed it because I still had half of my centuries to go in A Year of Centuries – plenty to focus on for the time being.  Well, a few months later I started looking for an organized ride for my December century.  A great resource has been  (FYI, another good one is the Southern Bicycle League.)  On I found several of this year’s rides by searching for “century.”  At first I didn’t find anything for December, but this didn’t shock me because there aren’t as many organized rides during the colder months.  However, when I searched for “bicycle,” I found the Silk Sheets 200K, hosted by Audax Atlanta.  I read more about the ride and remembered what my June cycling companions had told me about RUSA.  Not only did the Silk Sheets 200K fit perfectly into my schedule, it seemed like the ideal introduction to this new type of cycling.  So, as I look back on a wonderful Year of Centuries and anticipate many more RUSA brevets in the future, it’s appropriate to think of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions.  (By the way, January is named for Janus – looking back and looking forward):

Getting Started

The ride started from Waffle House in Sandy Springs, which is north of downtown Atlanta.  I arrived in plenty of time to get my gear in order, meet the other riders, and – very important – get my brevet card.

A brevet has designated checkpoints, or controls, along the route: convenience stores, restaurants, etc.  The rider has to stop at each control and have a store employee initial the card and put the time of the rider’s arrival.  At the end of the brevet, the rider turns in the completed card to the ride organizer, who certifies it and forwards it RUSA headquarters.  If the brevet is also an ACP (Audax Club Parisien) event, the world headquarters in France certify the results as well.

There was an unexpected bit of jollity before I got on the road.  Santa Claus was at Waffle House!

I think this particular Santa rides a hawg instead of a sleigh.  He said that all of the bikers he knows wear black leather.

About a dozen people did the brevet.  As we gathered outside, I knew that I would stick out as a newbie.  I had read in the RUSA handbook about bicycles that randonneurs use.  Having several types of bicycles myself for various types of riding, I was not surprised to learn that randonneurs’ bicycles typically are a little different from my trusty road bike, which is built for racing.  My handlebars are pretty low, even for a road bike (I tend to ride in a fairly aggressive position), and they certainly are lower than most randonneurs’ bicycles.  Still, my road bike has served me well on all of my centuries, including this one.  Additionally, randonneurs usually have a bag on their handlebars or elsewhere on their bicycles.  I can see where this would be helpful, even necessary, on a brevet longer than a 200K.  However, I managed just fine yesterday by putting everything in my jersey pockets as usual.  By the way, I included some seasonal treats in my food supplies, including an Iced Gingerbread Clif Bar and some fruitcake (don’t laugh – it’s terrific bike food!):

Although my regular cycling habits served me quite well on yesterday’s ride, I know that I still have a lot to learn, particularly if I do longer brevets.  Adopting aspects of the culture particular to the randonneuring form of cycling will make my rides more successful and comfortable.  This reminds me of Heifer International’s work in other countries.  Heifer workers don’t just go in and tell recipient families what they should do.  The workers learn about the culture of a particular area, listening to the people and helping them make their own decisions about what is best for their communities.  It’s a wise strategy that is much more effective in the long run.

The Route

The route was a lollipop, out and back for most of the way with a loop at the far end.  The first part of the route went through one of the most luxurious sections of metro Atlanta.  I’m glad that this homeowner has a sense of the whimsical:

I also had this lovely view of the Atlanta skyline:

Next, I went through a more industrial area.  Particularly because it was Saturday, traffic was light.  Toward the end of this section, I went right by Six Flags!

As much as I love roller coasters, my bicycle offers an even better ride.

From there, the route entered the area known as “Silk Sheets.”  It’s a wonderful place to ride in the southern part of Fulton County.  Metro Atlanta cyclists love to ride here because the roads are very good with light traffic.  It’s pretty rural, making it hard to believe that you’re in the same county with downtown Atlanta.

I was familiar with a portion of the Silk Sheets section because it overlapped a section of a time trial (TT) course that I have done several times.  For the last couple of years, Peachtree Bikes has sponsored a TT series in this area, including the state championship TT this year.  (By the way, Peachtree Bikes suffered a devastating fire at its Peachtree Road location last week.  Prayers for healing and rebuilding go out to them.)  On my way out on the lollipop “stick,” I entered the TT course at its northwest corner.  There was a turn there that I have raced through four times.  On my ride yesterday, I was amused to discover that there is a big house right on that corner that I had never noticed before!  TTs are so intense that you miss all kinds of scenery, even otherwise obvious things like a big house.

Shine On

The part of the route that coincided with the TT course went through a crossroads called Rico.  As I rode through, I thought of Claude “Shine” Bryant, an elderly friend who passed away earlier this year.  He was originally from Rico.  I also thought of him because he was a World War II veteran, and yesterday was Pearl Harbor Day.  Although Mr. Shine actually fought in Europe, I still thought with gratitude of his service.  Mr. Shine moved to a nursing home in another town before I began A Year of Centuries, and so I never told him about my project.  Still, I imagined him smiling down on me yesterday and encouraging me to keep going.

Information Control

Besides the control at the Waffle House start/finish, there were four other controls.  Three of these were at stores, but one was an information control.  The cue sheet instructed us to write the name of the place at mile 61.3, North Newnan General Merchandise:


The “stick” part of the lollipop route paralleled the Chattahoochee, a major river in Georgia.  I crossed the Chattahoochee several times:

I couldn’t help but think of Sidney Lanier’s poem “Song of the Chattahoochee,” which begins:

Out of the hills of Habersham,
Down the valleys of Hall,
I hurry amain to reach the plain…

The part of the Chattahoochee that I was on was a lot closer to the plain than to the hills of Habersham or the valleys of Hall.

I also thought of Alan Jackson’s toe-tapping country song “Chattahoochee,” particularly the chorus:

Yeah, way down yonder on the Chattahoochee
Never knew how much that muddy water meant to me
But I learned how to swim (ride?) and I learned who I was
A lot about livin’ and a little ‘bout love.

This month I’m writing a lot about giving alternative gifts of animals, but Heifer also helps provide clean water in many communities.  Clean drinking water is something we easily take for granted here in the U.S., but millions of people around the world don’t have this basic necessity.  Many families don’t have running water or even a well, and so they must spend a great deal of time and effort fetching water both for drinking and sustaining their crops.  Fetching water is often left to girls, leaving them no time for school.  Heifer helps lift this burden by providing treadle pumps, which provide drinking and irrigation water.  You might want to consider a Gift of Clean Water ($300) or a Gift of Irrigation Pumps ($150) as a meaningful gift in honor of your own loved ones.

You Animal

Of course, I also thought a lot about Heifer animals during my ride.  I definitely wanted to get a picture of some cows along the route.  I finally found this herd, munching on hay at feeding time:

In addition, I saw some other animals that Heifer provides to impoverished people, including goats and ducks.  I even saw a pig:

Sprayberry’s BBQ is famous in the Newnan area.  I had heard about it for years, and yesterday I finally got to to there; it was one of the brevet controls.  Also, a BBQ sandwich hit the spot and gave me some good protein, necessary on a long ride.

I had planned my fueling pretty well, but shortly before I got to Sprayberry’s, I could tell that I needed to eat.  I must have been channeling Maverick from Top Gun because I started thinking, “Talk to me, Goose.”  Fortunately, Goose didn’t actually talk to me.

Party Time!  Excellent!

I rode more slowly than I had hoped, but I was still thrilled simply to finish.  I felt good physically, and I was elated to reach my goal of 12 centuries!  I got an extra boost because my mother and stepfather were there to greet me at the end :)  They even brought me some flowers:

I wasn’t able to stay with them long because Robert and I had plans to go to a Christmas party in Macon.  Because I finished later than I thought I would, I didn’t have time to go home first.  At least I had a good change of clothes – my Heifer International shirt!

When I called Robert after my ride, he suggested forgoing the party, but I told him that I really wanted to go.  The people coming to the party were primarily my cycling friends, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the day than by being with them.

I made one quick stop after I left Waffle House.  I'm not a coffee drinker, but Starbucks has a few non-coffee drinks that I like, and a warm beverage sounded just right after my long, cold ride.  Currently, Starbucks has a seasonal drink, butterbeer, inspired by the Harry Potter books.  It's steamed milk with several flavorings, including a toffee one that's only available during the holidays.  (That's why butterbeer is a limited edition drink).  Then, it's topped with whipped cream and caramel sprinkles.  Not a bad recovery drink!

I had a great time visiting with everyone at the party, but the festivities weren’t quite over.  When I finally got home, Robert had some more beautiful flowers for me!

I’m enjoying all these fresh flowers in my kitchen.

Robert also got me a very special memento: a century medal from 1901.  Earlier this year I enjoyed reading a book entitled Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way).  It describes the early days of cycling in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  People rode centuries even then, but they used much heavier bicycles and wore much more cumbersome clothing than us modern cyclists – quite a feat.  At the end of a century, a cyclist often would receive a medal to commemorate his/her accomplishment.  It’s kind of hard to read, but this medal reads “3rd Annual New York Journal Century Run”:

Passing on the Gift

One of the most important aspects of Heifer International’s work is Passing on the Gift.  A family who receives an animal and training from Heifer pledges to give one or more of their animal’s offspring to other neighbors in need.  In this way, entire communities can become stronger and more self-sufficient.

I don’t have a cow, sheep, goat, or other animal to pass along, but I do offer my thanks to Robert, my family and friends, my doctors, and people I don’t even know who have followed my blog.  All of you helped me in my journey through A Year of Centuries.  In addition, I hope I can pass along inspiration for you to set and reach your own goals.  I also offer my encouragement if you’re facing difficult circumstances of any kind.  Things WILL get better, and you are strong enough to make it through.

My 12 routes in A Year of Centuries

By the way, yesterday I got my first ever Strava suffer score of Epic! (a.k.a. You Cray Cray)

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