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Posts tagged ‘“Bradley County”’

cycling, interrupted

The month of March feels kind of like a vinyl record with a scratch in it; there is still a lot of music, but there are skips, repeats, and the tracks don’t always play as they should.  For now, I am starting at the present, and moving backwards – in pieces.

Our son Mason came home from school for a brief weekend visit, as we had missed him over his Spring Break.  We got to catch up, get back on our bikes after too many days absence, and do a little leisurely riding in the incredibly balmy temps that have been setting records across the country.  Mason had spent his break with a team of students from his university; they travelled to the islands of Trinidad & Tobago to work on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village project –  mixing concrete, shoveling sand and helping lay the foundation for a family’s new home.  There was a cement workers’ strike on the islands, so they really had their work cut out for themselves – mixing everything by hand with shovels and a lot of muscle.

He had some wonderful stories (best listened to while we were out on our bikes), made some new friends, got some running in (lol), and I loved that he took some time from his busy schedule to do some giving back.  (Photos from my son’s camera).

 foot race challenge

Habitat for Humanity Global Village, Trinidad & Tobago … the cement mixing

While Mason was off getting dirty and building houses, the rest of us headed to the mountains for our annual week of skiing in Colorado.  It was a well-needed break for all of us.  The snow was wonderful, the skiing fantastic, and like in years past, it was hard to come back home – I always tend to leave a part of myself in the snow and mountains, and someday may be staying for good.  My plan is to post a gallery of snow-mountain-ski pics of this place I love, my second home, later this week.  But for now I’m just including a few of the bike-y ones (and a snowy one … because it’s been so warm everywhere else).

I love the active mountain culture in Steamboat, and especially that they are so bicycle friendly – they are an LAB Gold Level community.  Skiers on bikes, bikes loaded with everything from groceries to snowboards to dogs and kids.  Weather, altitude, snow-covered roads are never a deterrent.  One of these days my dream is to have a little house along the Yampa River, riding on the Core Trail into town for breakfast or lunch, and loading my skis on my Xtracycle for a trip to the slopes.  Oh, perfect life.

And then there was all of the tornado and Red Cross stuff that I had left off with.  Sigh.  I am relieved to report that the damage was not as massive in scope as last April – which is still little consolation to the people who have lost their homes – and we are all grateful that no lives were lost.  Our local Red Cross chapter joined with folks from Chattanooga and Knoxville, and the relief efforts went very well, as you can read in detail here.  (Photo credit for these two shots from my volunteer friend, Sandy; my camera stayed at home).

But very sadly, in the midst of all of the disaster response, our chapter suffered another major blow; due to continuing reorganization and personell changes, we now no longer have a Disaster Services Director in our chapter.  My friend, mentor, and “boss”, Michele – a 10 year Red Cross veteran – is no longer with the organization.   This change in addition to the other personell cuts made earlier in the month, I can’t help but think that the writing is on the wall, so to speak.  It appears our small local chapter has effectively been dismantled at this point, and I am greatly saddened … I honestly don’t know what my own volunteer future will be.

Most frustrating, no one from the upper echelons seems to be providing any communication/direction to the volunteer base.  It reminds me of sitting in an airplane on a runway with no pilot … are they going to cancel our flight?  Are they going to send another pilot?  Or do they just expect one of the passengers to take the controls?  Like I said, it’s just incredibly frustrating – which made my decision to leave for some skiing during Spring Break a little easier.

I am back to my bike, my silly routine.  I am sorry to have not been able to finish the Utilitaire games, but I take my hat off to The Old Guy and my other friends who finished successfully – I applaud you all.  And I thank MG for the dreaming up the whole idea, for I had great fun participating for the weeks that I was able to – which, for me, is what it was all about anyway.  It made me re-think variety in destination riding, and I look forward to incorporating the goals into my riding routine.

Hopefully the remainder of March will be a little more normal, a little less interrupted, no big scratches.  We’ll see.

disaster relief on two wheels

a hawk dropped into the frame

It is a very good thing that I completed #330daysofbiking when I did … I think I have just had the longest stretch of not being on a bicycle in several years.  Twelve days, no cycling; fourteen days of Red Cross Disaster Relief.   And not a moment of regret.  It has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

Are things back to normal?  Hardly.  A funny thing about natural disasters  – from tornados, to hurricanes, earthquakes and floods – when cable news has moved on to the next breaking story, the communities that were effected will spend months, even years, recovering and rebuilding.   Healing –  on all levels –  takes a very, very long time.

I have to believe that almost everyone who lives here has been affected, either directly or indirectly.  Colleagues at work who have lost their homes, neighbors who have lost family members, friends at school who were severely injured … everyone is connected to the devastation to some degree.  Lives have changed.   At present, we are simply out of the immediate “crisis” mode.  Now begins the recovery.  And it will be a long ride.

My boys have all arrived home from college (for a few weeks, anyway), and on my first day “off” and away from the disaster efforts, I finally had a chance to take long and much-needed ride with my son Mason.

While too many familiar landscapes have been drastically altered and damaged, and it’s still nearly impossible to travel many of our local back roads without encountering various work crews still continuing the endless repairs and clean-up, I realized that I really needed a change of course.

I needed to leave the piles of rubble and the smell of burning pine behind me.   I needed some open space, green fields and fresh air.  I needed roadside daisies.  I needed to find beauty again.

And my heart lifted when I found that it was all still out there.

Getting out on my bicycle again, seeing green fields, being with my son, feeling the rhythm of  heartbeat, pedals and breath … it was my own personal disaster “relief”.

What lies ahead?  I am not entirely sure.  I have signed on with the Red Cross as a regular volunteer and have enrolled in their Disaster Services Human Resource System.  I’m continuing to help with follow-up work being coordinated through our local Chapter’s office, and am looking forward to continuing disaster response training and becoming an active responder.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with experienced Red Cross Disaster Relief teams who came in from around the country; I learned so much from them, and made some very close friendships along the way.

I also want to extend an enormous and overdue thank you to all of my friends (both local and cyber) who extended so much help and support – from your personal notes, to finding much-needed material items (including a twin bed), monetary donations, offers of manpower, and even mailing a hand-crafted prayer shawl across the country for a woman in our community.  Your generosity and kindness is unparalleled, and has been appreciated more than I can express.

Mostly, I have been forever touched by the individuals and families I have been privileged to serve and have gotten to know over the past few weeks.  You are in my heart, and I will never forget you.

(Slideshow:  amazing friends from Red Cross Disaster Relief)

 

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beyond plight

I took this photo with permission from the incredible young woman standing beside the tree, with hope that it will get someone’s attention – and some desperately needed help for her.

This is the mobile home she had been renting, and what you are looking at is huge tree that had fallen right through the center of it – directly onto her young son’s bedroom – literally splitting the structure into two halves.  You are looking at the “inside” of the center of her home.  When the storm approached, she was alert enough and quick enough to snatch her son from his bed only moments before it fell, saving his life.  Miracle.

One half of the structure has no roof – and there is rain in the forecast.  She is living in the other half a good part of the time,  relying on the generosity of friends at other times, and working to find affordable new housing.   But like so many others, I know she is still functioning in a state of shock – shaken, upset, and often barely holding it together.  Most of what is left of her belongs are damaged beyond recovery, scattered across the hillside.

Here we are – almost 7 days later.  There is no power, no water, and her landlord is demanding that she vacate and remove her few remaining possessions from the property within the week  … and she has to climb over this damn tree every time she enters or exits.  It is just beyond ridiculous.  She cannot find anyone to help her get this behemoth removed.   We can bring her meals, batteries, diapers and bottled water – but we can’t get the stupid tree out of her way.

And this is only one desperate story of hundreds I have heard over the past few days.

We’re doing out best out in the RedCross vehicles from 10 and 13 hours a day, bringing hundreds of hot meals, emergency supplies (as we have them), and as much comfort and consolation as we possibly can.  And there is just not enough.   We start making friends, we learn the names of the family dogs, we hear and see the unbelievable; we hug, we laugh, we cry.

Yet I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated as the days pass –  mostly over the mind-boggling absence of coordination and horrible logistics planning among the gazillion number of churches, organizations, schools, relief agencies and everyone else who has the best of intentions (I truly believe this), but seem to be operating in nothing short of barely-organized chaos.  (And yes, I well-remember Katrina, and I know this is nothing compared to that mess).  I realize that no one is perfect, and the scope of this disaster is extraordinary for this area.  But unbelievably, there is almost possessive in-fighting among various groups, over who should/shouldn’t be handling this or that – and to me, that is completely unacceptable in a situation as dire as this one.  It helps no one, and it must change.

At the very, very least, we need to get this tree out of this poor woman’s way.  She doesn’t care who does it – it just needs to get done.  (Insert expletive).