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pedalweather

There are those days when the weather is so perfectly glorious – crisp and sunny, vibrant blue skies, leaves just beginning to turn color.  A day that simply demands that you ride a bicycle, or take a walk, or sit on a park bench and surround yourself in the beauty.  A day that begs you to spend hours outside.  Pedalweather.   Today was one of those days.

Just pictures.  Your turn to get outside and enjoy it all. 😀

evening

Evening ride … one of the last perfect days of summer, the sound of crickets, an old barn in fading light, my bicycle, and the one I love.  I need nothing else.

sixteen days

Binghamton, NY ... evidence of the floodline, reaching almost into 2nd story of this home.

I have a book by Clara Barton, and I so love her words – they are as true today as they were when she wrote them:

Since the foundation of the Red Cross in America, many direful calamities have afflicted the country.  In each of these visitations the Red Cross has acted in some degree as the Almoner – the distributer and organizer – of the boutiful measures of relief that have been poured out by the American people.

Its work has been accomplished quietly and without ostentation.  The wreckage has been cleared away, the stricken people have been wisely, tenderly, and calmly guided out of panic and despair on the road of self-help and cooperative effort to restore their shattered homes and broken fortunes; and then the Red Cross has retired as quietly as it came, and few, outside of the people immediately concerned, have realized the beneficent powers of help and healing that have fallen like a benediction upon the stricken wherever that sacred symbol of humanity has made its way.

– Clara Barton, May 15, 1904; Glen Echo, MD

September 10, 2011. Binghamton, New York. Rescuers on a flooded street in Vestal, New York. (Photo by Chuck Haupt /American Red Cross)

Binghamton, NY ... flood-condemned home

Sixteen days, no bicycle.  Sixteen days in New York and northeastern Pennsylvania with the American Red Cross, trying to help people recover from catastrophic flooding from the combined hit of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.  Sixteen days where time became a blur – unforgettable, exhausting, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately rewarding.

I got the call asking me to deploy on Sept. 6, and within 24 hours I was on a plane to Albany, NY.  My assignment was to be camera-less this time; I would be serving as an individual client case worker  – working with disaster-affected clients on a one-on-one basis, listening to their stories, identifying their immediate needs, and facilitating contact with a variety of other agencies (FEMA, housing assistance, local charitable agencies, etc.) to help them begin their recovery process.  The Red Cross Disaster Assessment teams had identified nearly 9,000 homes that had suffered major damage or had been destroyed … now it was our job to make contact with every one of those residents.

When I first heard those numbers, I confess it felt overwhelming.

On outreach: shoveling out mud-mess from a front porch; Buskirk, NY

Aftermath: when the mud became dusty on the streets (Binghamton, NY)

Outreach calls (when it became safe to do so) within the communities often had many physical challenges.  Consider the aftermath of a flood: mud and silt mixed with sewage as well as spilled heating oil.  When the film of “mud-mess” began to dry, it would become dusty in the streets, and often dangerous to inhale – requiring the use of dust masks.

Our client casework team at our morning meeting; Jennifer Jones, our lead supervisor, was one of the most amazing, skilled, inspiring people I have ever worked with. (Photo by Chuck Haupt /American Red Cross)

In addition to outreach within communities, our casework teams were involved in serving displaced clients within the 5 shelters that had been opened in the region.  The largest shelter, in the Binghamton University Event Center, intially held over 1,600 clients – including a separate section for functional/medical needs clients (at least one nursing home had to be evacuated).   I had never been in a disaster shelter before, so this was an incredible learning experience.

Binghamton University Event Center mass care shelter ... initial shelter population: 1600

Communal living can be extremely stressful, especially when you have just lost nearly everything you own – and are faced with starting all over again, often with limited financial resources.  The social demographic is very mixed.   Patience and tolerance often runs thin, emotions run high.  It is a never-ending effort to comfort and calm, and help make the situation a little more bearable – all while trying to facilitate necessary steps to find housing, replace clothing, obtain medical care and make application to FEMA and other agencies.

Initially, the Red Cross volunteer staff also resided in men’s and women’s staff shelters – located in the gyms of several of local churches.  We had 88 women in our shelter; all sleeping on cots, sharing bathroom facilities for 8.  It was a “symphony of snoring” when the lights went out, and I’m not sure everyone enjoyed the close quarters, but we all knew to expect this is a disaster relief operation.   I think it was a vitally important experience; it really gave us a better understanding of what our clients have to endure when they’ve been displaced from their homes, and it fosters cooperation, tolerance and understanding on a very necessary level.  I happened to have a white noise app on my phone, so I had no problems sleeping – and I had some really great cot-mates around me. 🙂

Red Cross women's staff shelter (and my temporary home) - Binghamton, NY

There are more stories from these sixteen days than I will ever be able to record … and even as I arrived home, the disaster relief efforts continue in the region.  As some of us leave to go home, others arrive to take our place.

My heart goes out to all of the residents in NY and PA who have had to experience such catastrophic devestation; we want to do everything we can to help, and thank you for letting us into your lives.  And to anyone out there who can help with financial donations to the American Red Cross, I assure you it is desperately needed and well-used.

Last night, I slept peacefully in my own bed, in my quiet room.  Today, I hope to take a ride on my bicycle.  I have so much to be grateful for.

A common sight along the streets in Binghamton & Johnson City, NY

(self-explanatory...)

An American Red Cross' Emergency Response Vehicle drives through a damage neighborhood in Vestal, NY passing out hot-meals on Friday. ( Photo by Chuck Haupt /American Red Cross)

and the winner is …

I thank all of you who took time leave a comment (entry) for the YMX jersey; I wish I could send everyone a jersey.  But the winner, by random draw, happens to be Myrna from MN – and Myrna, I am also a big fan of Bridget Jones.  😉

Myrna from MN ... cyclist, pilot, mom, wife and writer

I was thinking about other women cyclists, and have gotten to know Myrna over the past year or so from twitter and comments on this blog.  This just seemed like the perfect opportunity to profile another strong and capable “girl on a bike” – and at my request, she was kind enough to send me her bike-ography and a couple of cycling photos … which I want to share with you.

Congrats, Myrna! (And thanks for this “guest post”!)

Cassi asked me to share a bit about myself…I’m Myrna the very lucky and super happy winner of the YMX sleeveless jersey. In addition to being a happy jersey winner, I’m a freelance writer and mom of two who lives in the country about a half hour south of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m also a private pilot, a gardener (well, I have a lot of flowers and a lot of weeds), a quilter who hasn’t had time to quilt and a person who loves to bake.

I’m also a fledgling bicyclist. Sure, like most people I rode as a kid – I even went on a long distance bike trip from Minnesota to Michigan with my youth group when I was about 15 – but I really only started riding with any regularity two years ago.

What happened two years ago to get me bicycling? Well, my friend, an avid bicyclist, had a mechanical and his bike pedal broke when he was going uphill – fast. He crashed. His helmet probably saved his life. At that point I had a bike that I rode sometimes but I didn’t have a helmet.  My kids had bikes and helmets but they didn’t want to wear them. I figured if I should get a helmet and thought if I wore one it might help my kids wear their helmets, too.

So I went to the local bike shop to buy a helmet and I saw a flyer for a charity ride, the Jesse James Bike Tour. For some reason I decided I could manage to ride the 25 mile route even though the ride was just a month away.

Long story short, I rode the 25 mile route on my Specialized Crossroads bike with my husband. It was fun and we decided we liked bicycling enough that it would be worth getting road bikes. The next spring, March 2010, I bought us each a road bike. Yay! I planned to do a lot of biking but signing up for the first 30 Days of Biking challenge is what really got me going!

Thirty Days of Biking got me riding my bike each day, which was great fun even with the challenges. Through reading the tweets and blog entries of the many participants I learned that all sorts of people have fun with bikes and that the bicycling community is very diverse and full of neat people. I also learned the most important thing about bicycling, for me, anyway…Bicycling is not about going far or going fast – it’s about having fun along the way.

But best of all, I got to “meet” so many cool people through 30 Days of Biking –  like Cassi here at shebicycles.com and Darryl from lovingthebike.com – these two people inspired me to keep bicycling more than anyone else I met along the way.

So here I am just two years after deciding to buying a helmet and deciding to do a 25 mile charity ride – where I am now? My husband and two children, Rose is 12 and Ryan is 9, are very much into bicycling. Adding bicycling to our lives has prompted us to become active year-round and has brought us closer together as a family.

I’m doing the same charity ride, the Jesse James Bike Tour, again in one week and plan to ride the 60 mile route this time. I’m a member of two bike clubs, ride both of my bikes regularly – my old Specialized Crossroads and a Giant Avail – and want to own more bikes (I’m thinking a mountain bike and a fat bike for the snow are in my future)! I’m also doing 30 Days of Biking again for the fourth time.

Bicycling has changed my life. I suppose that sounds sort of silly but it’s true!

~ Myrna

http://www.myrnacgmibus.com

Myrna and her bike 🙂

adventures in solitude

The first day of September.  For some reason, it feels like such a turning point … leaving summer behind, kids back at school, the last week of swimming outside.  Awaiting the pungent crunch of leaves, diminishing daylight, cooler temperatures.  For me, a time of  Adventures in Solitude.  By bicycle.

I rode today with only my little Lumix point-and-shoot.  It makes me “work” a little harder … and I’ve just been feeling like I need to be challenged.  With the first of the month here, I feel like I’ve been slacking off over the past few months, not feeling especially creative.   And I find myself looking for some long-term personal “project” to tackle, something to inspire me, to spark some creativity, to prod me in some new (?) direction.

I confess that I am a big proponent of 365 projects.  My experiences with ShutterCal and #330daysofbiking were rewarding, challenging, and a “push” to grow, learn and expand my proficiency with my camera and on my bike.  I’ve been trying to figure out another 365 avenue to tackle; as much as I loved the photo-a-day, and the ride-a-day, I’m just not feeling an urge to repeat those.  A variation on the theme would be fine, but just not a repeat of the same.

Some of the more fascinating 365-projects I’ve come across in my search for inspiration:

  • Clouds 365 Project – a daily photo project of a single subject: clouds.  Stunning stuff.
  • Make a Book A Day – a seriously ambitious undertaking of making a hand-bound book every day.  Wow.
  • ThreeSixtyFiveBears – the creative undertaking of my (twitter) friend Meghan’s husband, Phil Barbato (artist/designer/web developer), who is drawing a bear each day on his iPhone.  Awesome.
I just haven’t figure out what to do yet … But I hope something will come to me.  Soon.  For now, it’s bicycle and camera.

Final note:  Thank you to everyone who responded to the jersey give-away; I appreciate the interest and the great rom-com suggestions for my Netflix queue.  ;-).  I will be revealing the random-drawing winner by Monday, 9/5.

365 days of field corn ... ???