Posts from the ‘community’ Category
We just returned from spending several days in Pennsylvania, visiting family. I love riding there – quiet empty roads, rolling hills, Amish farms, horse-drawn buggies sharing the road, and cooler temperatures. And at the end of the ride, a slice of my mother in-law’s wonderful pie – usually apple or “Shoo-Fly”.
While I promised certain persons I would not go on some blog-based rant, I can’t help but feeling concerned about the explosion of natural gas wells that are mushrooming up across the landscape – including one that sits in a corner of my in-laws’ property, a beautiful 20-acre wooded and pastured piece of land in NW Pennsylvania where they have lived most of their lives in their circa 1800’s farmhouse.
It feels like a new century Great Gold Rush is taking place. If you own any property, an enticing lease will come in the mail with the offer of thousands of dollars per acre to lease the land and then provide an additional flow of royalty checks for coming years.
In an area that has seen the loss of industry and jobs over the past several decades, where unemployment is high and new industry is scarce, where the tax base has eroded, where municipal services struggle and schools have been closed and consolidated – players in the gas and oil companies are positioned to move in and bring jobs and an alluring cash infusion to struggling townships and boroughs.
Lucrative gas leases are the talk of the town and everyone seems to want to jump on board and cash in. Landowner groups have formed to negotiate for the best possible price. Shell and Chevron, among others, are ready to invest billions in petrochemical facilities. The local papers are full of stories of not only the Marcellus Shale, but the Utica Shale, the Medina Sands … we’re sitting on a gold mine!
If you’ve spent the last twenty years struggling to make ends meet on your old family homestead, finding a check for tens of thousands of dollars in your mailbox can certainly feel like you just won the lottery.
I understand the needs, the draw. And I support the prospect of clean domestically-sourced energy – if we can come by it safely and sustainably. But the issues, as always, are not so black and white. I know that everything comes with a cost … And looking at the construction of the well on my in-law’s land, and wells on nearly every property along their road and beyond, I ask myself: at what cost, this?
The immediate and contentious issue is “fracking”, or hydraulic fracturing – the process of drilling and injecting massive quantities of water combined with a toxic chemical “cocktail” (a proprietary recipe) deep into the ground to fracture the substrate along in order to release the trapped gas. I won’t bother to go into detail here, as the controversial issues – especially in regards to the eastern Marcellus Shale fracking – are all over the news and internet. NPR recently did an excellent multi-part series about the issues at hand, called The Fracking Boom: Missing Anwers. And of course there is the incredible award-winning documentary by Josh Fox called Gasland.
While I didn’t experiment and see if my inlaws’ water could be ignited and burst into flame coming out of their tap, I do know that their experience has not been without issues. Recently, for instance, while they were out of town for several days, it was discovered that one of the pipes or fittings at the well had corroded to the point of failure, and that gas (and methane and probably heavy metals and proprietary chemicals) had been spewing into the air for an unknown amount of time. My father-inlaw complained that “they must have used some really cheap pipe”. I was thinking: you have no idea how corrosive the stuff coming out of that pipe really is – (and you are probably breathing it, and possibly drinking it).
It bothers me – the possible (probable?) risks, borne from contaminated water and or air. Multiply this by thousands – tens of thousands – of virtually unmonitored well sites across huge swaths of land and cracked open beneath public water sources for millions, the unknown cumulative effect of widespread fracturing of the grounds below… what will the cost be to public health and to the environment?
Extensive research on the effects has yet to be completed, the fracking cocktail recipes remain undisclosed to the public, and the big oil and gas players are moving as fast as they can with fists full of cash before time runs out and they face more stringent regulation. Play now, pay later. Only you know who will ultimately have to pay…
On the farms belonging to the Plain People, the Amish, I didn’t see a single gas well. I saw their vegetable gardens, their windmills, their cabinet-making workshops. We rode our bikes, they passed by us in their buggies. I contemplate our progress. And I don’t drink the water from my in-laws’ faucet.
Lucy is proving to be a perfect commuter bike for me – functional, comfortable, versatile. And appropriately red enough for my trips into the Red Cross office (I swear this never even crossed my mind when I was choosing her paint color).
On a national level, the Red Cross is making preparations for the possible landfall of Isaac. It’s fascinating to see the process unfold, the planning, the deployment of material and human resources – and the ways that numerous local Chapters contribute to the response. While I have chosen not to be available for deployment at this time due to some personal scheduling conflicts, I continue to stay busy locally with our DAT team and working with new volunteers – work that I enjoy very much.
The continuing reorganizational changes surrounding our local Chapter can be frustrating at times. While many of the changes to our service model make sense, and should ultimately provide more efficient delivery, the plan for implementation (internally) has not always been so well thought out – and this can be very difficult for a workforce of volunteers.
At the end of the day, I often have to step back and ask myself: are we helping to the people who need our assistance? The answer, thankfully, is yes. Ultimately, this is all that really matters – whether it involves responding to house and apartment fires here at home, or providing relief to our clients after a hurricane. At the end of the day, I know we have helped.
I get on my bike and ride home, thankful for the chance to unwind and mentally re-evaluate the day to the soothing rhythm of my pedals strokes … and hope that storms, near and far, change course.
Riding home, I stopped to poke around the local ball field up the road. Little League season is in full swing this time of year, but the park was empty and quiet when I arrived – an hour or so before the after-school practices would begin. One of these nights, I’m going to go to watch a game. It’s always entertaining to watch the really little kids play – cute, earnest, and usually with a sprinkling of comedy.
I let the Xtracycle steal second base… and I am wishing my beloved a very happy fifty-second birthday today, and many more wonderful miles ahead!
Another day in town of trip-chaining by bike. Stop for coffee, pop into the bike shop, visit our local history museum, drop by the library (and more coffee), hit the grocery store for dinner-to-go, and home again; a bit of a list, and I again apologize for a rather lengthy post. Despite multiple destinations, I will log today’s Utilitaire checkpoint as #9 – museum visit.
In the section of town known as Five Points, we have a very nice regional history museum – the Museum Center at Five Points (and I am sorry to say that the above photo is not the museum, just an old building on the Five Points Corner ). The museum is one of those places I don’t make time to visit often enough, so I am grateful for the Utilitaire challenge and the reminder to make the visit. In addition to the permanent collection of local history and artifacts, the current temporary exhibit features an impressive collection of vintage and modern quilts. As much as I loved viewing the quilts, I was really more interested in taking some time to explore the permanent collection more thoroughly than I have had time to in the past. I learned a few things – including (according to the docent I spoke with) the fact that the industry responsible for “growing” and placing our little town on the TN map was kitchen stove manufacturing. Not only was there a Hardwick Woolen Mill, but also a Hardwick Stove Company, among others.
Since my time was my own today, I was able to read, look and explore a little more. Other things that caught my eye (in addition to the quilts, of course) were a vintage camera and an old grocery bike, along with a interesting collection of daily household items.
Coming to the museum in late March will be a new photograph exhibit that I am definitely looking forward to – a collection of black and white photographs from Knoxville photographer Don Dudenbostel on aspects of Appalachian culture that are fading from existence. From roadside culture to moonshine distilleries to snake handling (yeah, snake handling) … this should be exceptional. I’ve admired some of his other work (x-ray imaging) in the Bluff View Art District in Chattanooga, and it is pretty incredible.
As I was leaving the museum, I discovered I had just missed seeing my friend Jenn, who is an education director for the museum and had been there for a meeting. Sorry Jenn. But I definitely need to ask her for a favor — any chance we can get the museum facilities people to install a bike rack?? (hint, hint) 😉
I left the museum and stopped at the library where I ran into one of my “other” sons, Tim, who had finished his college classes for the day and spotted me parking my bike. We had a cup of coffee and did some catching up in the library coffee shop before he headed off. With all of the boys at schools here, there and everywhere, I don’t get to see these guys as often as I used to – and I was so touched that he was kind enough to take some time to re-connect. My boys have the most amazing friends.
library bike rack
Winding through neighborhoods, with spring colors reminding me of the some of the quilts from earlier in the day. On to the grocery store for a assorted salads for a simple supper, and then home. A very good day.
pansies, reminding me of quilts …
Everyone is going separate ways today, but my beloved and I managed to take a little time out to ride for coffee before he heads out of town later today. Utilitaire checkpoint #2: coffeeneuring. Once again a traverse through town on the Greenway, and for whatever reason, I am always compelled to stop on this bridge. I want to start keeping a tally. There are other bridges, other underpasses, other places I ride through and across as often, or more frequently, than this bridge… but I always consciously think about this location, this bridge, whenever I cross it. I have no idea why.
As for coffee – I know that Starbucks often gets a bad rap. Yeah, it’s not some trendy local roaster, I can’t get a latte with a picture created in the froth, but it’s really about the only game in town. I tend to avoid the Inman Street Coffee House run by the Salvation Army, because I have a personal aversion to the big screen tv’s they have hanging on the walls playing Fox News, and I take issue with some of the national organization’s position statements. Sorry, Tim (and the other kids who work there). At Starbucks, I am always greeted with a smile and treated very well by the barristas I have come to know, I’d rather listen to music than blaring tv’s, I’ve made a few friends here (both cyclists and non-) and truthfully, they manage to make the best skinny vanilla latte in the neighborhood. Not to mention, it’s a convenient ride off of the Greenway.
Rode back, no time for trip-chaining today unfortunately. Time to get on with the other stuff. Sigh.
coffee on the go
Utilitaire 6.12: it began as a trip to the bike shop, #8 on the control card (for the second time). And then transformed into a fun family-friendly community ride on the Greenway, and finally a quick stop for dinner – along with picking up a few boxes of girl scout cookies. Mmmm. 🙂
Dillon is home from school for a quick weekend visit, and we took a ride to the bike shop. Our shop owner, Charles, had also gotten a small group of us together at the end of the day for what is hopefully the first of many more family fun rides on our local Greenway. The idea is to bring families together for some easy and kid-friendly rides, promoting a little more bike friendliness within our community, and working on building/strengthening an advocacy network. I think there is also a leaning toward trying to fill the rides with “bicycle variety” – fixies, cargo bikes, and other non-typical bicycle”oddities”. As the weather warms up and the days grow longer, we hope to include other activities like themed rides, bike picnics, frozen yoghurt stops, maybe even a wine-and-cheese type of stop for the adults. Who knows? We’ve also talked about incorporating some of the Utilitaire-type destinations and goals into the mix, but ultimately to appeal to a wide range of cycling abilities and interests, and get more people out on their bikes.
We left from the shop, rode the Greenway from end to end, and stopped to a few minutes of discussion and planning within our fledgling start-up group. I think we all had fun; I know I did. Mostly, I hope we can grow the group and the idea … I would love to see more of my local friends join in the fun. I took a lot of photos and am posting a few – hope these friends don’t mind, as I didn’t really get permission.
After the group ride, Mark, Dillon and I headed back, stopping for a quick bite on the way. I didn’t manage to get a full-fledged night ride in as I had hoped … but we did get home before it started to rain. Night rides will have to wait for another day.
This post probably won’t mean much to anyone but a few of my local friends – Jenn, Jeff, Sarah, et al. But it’s kind of a big deal for me. We’re getting closer to seeing the completion of a big extension of our local Greenway/walking/bike path. Once finished, it is going to be a more convenient way for me to get into and around town, avoiding some of the most congested roadways. The current section under construction is at least a mile or two closer to me (on the north), and I really look forward to avoiding some traffic-hassle in getting to points south, including downtown.
Over the weekend, we ran into Jeff and he mentioned that we all need to take an “inaugural ride” once the new section is completed (yay!). I am looking forward to the day, although the current state of muck-ness through Tinsley Park appears to be a long way from being in rideable shape, even with some knobby tires. Hopefully things will dry out, and they can re-grade at the very least … maybe drop some gravel? I’m not sure if there is a plan to pave this section?
Mostly, I’m just waiting for the thing to be somewhat contiguous; I’ve never quite understood the method to their expansion plans – very piecemeal and disjointed. There are short sections on the north end that have been completed and paved for several years, but never connected to the rest of the path, making them virtually useless. The same thing occurred on the south end at one point. But I suspect it has something to do with obtaining right-of-ways or permits or funding.
Anyway, it’s exciting stuff – seeing the bridge completed and the heavy equipment in use … I really do look forward to the maiden voyage from north to south.
I suppose I should begin with a statement along the lines of, “the views and opinions expressed in this post are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of , well … anybody else – organization, agency or otherwise”.
Today marks six months since our community was devastated by the April 27th tornados. I was invited to attend a community gathering to celebrate one family’s perseverance and hard work on their journey to recovery, as they moved into their new home – built on the very site where they had lost everything six months ago. The rebuilding was a collaborative effort – from the weeks and months of sweat and toil by the homeowners, coupled with help from several local agencies, the long term recovery committee, and the generosity of numerous local contractors and suppliers who provided manpower and materials. I applaud them all, and I am so happy that this family has been able to rebuild and remain in the place they know as home. It exemplifies the good that can be accomplished by a community pulling together, and the strength of a family who never gave up hope.
But as the minutes passed, and the state and local political dignitaries arrived, along with their carloads of security detail, the media, etc., I couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable. I know it is “the way of things”, but I personally dislike the whole ribbon-cutting-for-political-photo-ops routine, the talking-head political speech-izing for exposure… the pat-myself-on-the-back “yes, I knew I had to get on the waiting jet to fly home from my duties in the legislature to see what I could do, blah, blah, blah.” (Yes, one of them really said that.)
And as wonderful as it was to see so much rebuilding in this hard-hit neighborhood, there are still many families who are still struggling to recover – houses right across the street that have no roof, people fighting with insurance providers, homes that have been left damaged and even abandoned. Several neighbors (in less fortunate states of rebuilding) were watching all of the hoopla of politicians and the media from across the street – and I couldn’t help wonder how they were feeling?
I was happy that the homeowner was given the chance to say a few words, but at the end of the day it felt a like political showcase. And, in my opinion, Mr. Legislator, the press-worthy heros – or at least the ones I would rather celebrate and hear speak on this day – are the first responders, firefighters and emergency response workers (standing quietly in the background today) who were pulling people from the wreckage of their homes in the dark; the families who ran to help their neighbors and offered them shelter; the local businessmen who donated tens of thousands of dollars in relief supplies; the local community agencies and the long term recovery team who continue to work with struggling families. While I know that politics played a part somewhere in the disaster response equation, it is the reaction, action and perseverance of the local citizens and community that has accomplished the most good.
I confess I left with mixed feelings. Happiness for the family returning home, grateful to the countless community heros who are still hard at work, troubled by the sight of neighbors who continue struggling to recover and rebuild – and sadly, some disdain for the politicians who grabbed this opportunity for press coverage. Just my opinion.
There were some drawings from neighborhood school children that were clipped to a clothesline in the background of all of the ceremonial stuff … and they spoke to me. I’m not even sure if any of the politicians noticed them? When the words “hope” and “joy” are clouds above a piece of heavy equipment moving debris, when the sky is streaked with ink black and crimson, when the sun is bright yellow above a family cat that survived the storm – these are the voices of recovery I hear, and the ones I will never forget.
Spent last week in northwestern Pennsylvania, visiting my husband’s family. We took our bikes, hoping for some nice riding on the rural roads with leaves turning and crisp temperatures. Sadly, the weather did not want to cooperate. Gusting winds, rain and temps in the 40’s (F) held little enticement for cycling …
My in-laws live in a small community in rural PA; there are lots of Amish and Mennonite families in the area. It’s an odd feeling to pedal along and approach (or be passed by) a horse and buggy. Better than being passed by cars any day.
Toward the end of the week when the skies began to clear, we took a ride to the Conneaut Lake Park – an old amusement park that originated in the 1890’s that became a local area attraction in the mid-1900’s. In it’s steel boom hey-day, it was a big draw to families employed by the railroad, as well as a convenient vacation getaway for people from Pittsburgh. When my husband was growing up in the area, he and his brother and sister all had summer jobs at the Park. Sadly, it has become one of those places largely lost to the past … although it still opens in the summer, it is barely able to survive any more. It was kind of fascinating to walk around the largely deserted grounds, covered in falling leaves.
Even though we didn’t get to ride as much as we had hoped to, it was a good visit. Nice to see family, good to feel the chill of the North, and great to have a slice (or two) of my mother in-law’s always-amazing pies. 😀
A few of the other pictures ….
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. 😉
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!