Saturday, August 1, 2009

Media from DC

We cleaned up nicely for lobbying!

The Michigan crew at the White House

Sorry again for the lack of updates. We've all departed DC after a successful day of lobbying and our final rally. Here's an article someone wrote about our journey.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

WV to VA

The Trek Crew has made it to Virginia! We were thrilled to have made it through West Virginia, the only state that is completely covered in Appalachian mountains. These last few days and nights since our break in Charleston have been interesting, and some of the most difficult days of the journey for many Michigan riders.

Our last afternoon in Charleston five of us went and indulged our Harry Potter obsession with a viewing of the sixth movie. Later that evening we met the Colorado team and were joined by two other riders: Cims, a large, loud, jolly fellow who loves to belt gospel-type folk songs while we ride and turn the heads of entire parking lots full of people in valley towns, and Kyle, a friend of one of our Washington state organizers who is trekking with a ten dollar thrift store bike he got before the trip.

That morning we left a thank you for Dana, who had hosted us for three nights in her apartment, and headed to Summerville Lake. Our group was the first to a road full of campgrounds, and none of them had reservations for 35 cyclists. We chose a camping area on the lake that was really cheap, but we had to pay the price of waiting in a huge line THREE TIMES and trying to find out the first and last name of everyone who would be camping with us, finding 4 people with driver’s licenses, and making sure that each of our home states was represented through our registration.

Phew! Time to eat. During our meal we always have a group meeting and talk about community tasks for the next day – what groceries need to be purchased, who will drive the support vehicle, who will wash dishes, what are we having for breakfast, etc. Tonight’s meeting turned into a musical with food themed lyrics and kitchen utensil instruments. All that fun was not enough to tickle everyone’s fancies, though, because many people went swimming in the beautiful (and surprisingly warm) lake, and a few others walked 4 miles to get ice cream at 11pm.

More to come later! We’ve been camping in the woods for so long that we haven’t had internet, but we’ll keep posting updates about the end of our trip. Today we’re biking into DC, and nearing the end of this incredible journey!

-Nichole and the Michigan Trekkers

Friday, July 24, 2009

2 days left!

Sorry about the lack of updates. We've been biking through West Virginia and Virginia with limited access to internets as we are mostly camping. Don't worry though, we're all doing great and we'll post updates from the past week soon!

Marci and the Michigan Crew

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The truth about coal: Days 7-13

Hello there, trek followers! This is Katie writing from the living room of Dana Kuhnline, an environmental activist from Charleston, West Virginia who has been kind enough to let us stay in her home for a few nights. We’ve been enjoying our rest days (the first ones of the trip for the Michigan crew) by exploring the city of Charleston, learning about the environmental action that’s going on in the area, having some good meals, resting our muscles, and playing with Dana’s cats and guitars.

Picking up where the last blog left off: on our way from Lancaster to Athens, we found a paved bike trail from Hocking College to Ohio University (our final destination). We rode on the trail for the rest of the day, which made for a pleasant, shady, and relatively hill-free afternoon. In Athens, we camped on the hillside next to Ohio University’s eco house, which was a normal house that has been renovated to include solar panels, a vegetable and herb garden fertilized by compost, a super-efficient water heater, and insulated windows. The next morning we woke up early (even though some members of the group had seen a midnight showing of Harry Potter the night before!) for a thirty-five mile ride to Racine, Ohio. Thirty-five miles seemed short to us when we started in the morning, but the day proved to be a challenging one because we were getting into more and more hilly terrain. When we reached our destination, we were excited by the arrival of the “veggie bus,” a refurbished school bus that is equipped to run on used vegetable oil from restaurants. The bus and its two drivers, Joe and Christy, had provided support for the Seattle and Minnesota riders earlier in the tour, so those riders were happy to see some old friends and we were all interested to learn about the workings of the bus.

In Racine we were hosted by Elisa Young, who has spent years fighting the harmful effects of the many coal plants in the Racine area. Residents of this part of Ohio are faced with hazardous amounts of water and air pollution and many of them have cancer as a result. Elisa took us on a tour of some communities near her farm, and we visited a playground where a giant smokestack loomed in the background, spewing smog into the air (a sad but memorable sight for us).

Playground with smokestacks in the background near Racine, OH

In the morning, we rode over a bridge spanning the Ohio River and crossed into West Virginia! The day was a long one—sixty-four and a half miles on hilly terrain and often busy roads, but we made it to Charleston in time for a delicious potluck dinner that was put together by our hosts and other environmental organizers in the Charleston area. The next day we drove up Kayford Mountain to talk with Larry Gibson, an activist who focuses on fighting mountaintop removal, a big issue in West Virginia. We were captivated by Larry’s stories about growing up in the mountains and about his efforts to curb the coal mining industry. We then followed him from the beautiful leafy green park where he spoke with us up to “Hell’s Gate,” a ridge overlooking a mining area where a mountain had been shaved down to accommodate the demand for coal. The term “mountaintop removal” is an unbelievably accurate term for what happens to these mountains—unfortunately, it’s exactly what it sounds like. In the afternoon, we visited a community of environmentalists who use public demonstrations and civil disobedience to raise awareness about coal issues. While we were there, a few of us helped them make a giant banner that said “Coal Keeps WV Poor” which was to be dropped from a bridge as a counterstatement during a pro-coal rally in Charleston the next day.

Mountaintop Removal at Kayford Mountain

After our visit to the mountains, the Michigan crew returned to Charleston to enjoy some more delicious food and another day of rest. Tomorrow we head out to our next destination—we will keep you updated!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Special-Live-Blog-Treat from Ohio!

I'm sitting here in a wooden rocking chair on the porch on an abandoned antique store in Logan, Ohio, stealing wireless from who knows where. I really wish I had a bathroom, because my morning coffee from Lancaster, Ohio, is catching up with me.

Today I'm driving the support vehicle, so I have some time to relax while I wait for the riders. It's been a great trip so far, we spent the first week as a group of just Michigan riders, then met up with the Northern route (17 riders) last night. We're just entering the rolling hills that mark the beginning of the Appalachians, and we're officially in the South (I can tell from the accents, which gained a twang as soon as we went south of Columbus).

Taking my time this morning, as I said I grabbed some coffee in Lancaster from a local coffee shop. We usually make coffee or tea in the morning, but our eggs and potatoes took up both burners on the camp stove so I took a side trip. At the coffee shop I met a kindly old gentleman, obviously one of those slightly-crazy regulars who just love to talk to anyone. Saul asked me if I was getting ready for work, and I said, no, I'm biking from Michigan to Washington D.C. He asked me all about it and as I was finishing my coffee, he told me how wonderful it is to be kind to everyone you meet and just have a conversation, even if you'll never see them again. He kept handing me pieces of the newspaper but then he just kept asking more questions about our trip! It's nice to meet kindred spirits on the road. You can never predict when it'll happen, but they're out there, just waiting for you to sit down and share some coffee with them.

Well I wish I were on the road this morning, as the weather is perfect and the scenery is so beautiful. I just called my brother asking if they are in Logan yet and he says, "No Marci, there's hills, there's hills! We're at 10 miles!" which is way below the average pace of the last two days.

So the group that left at 6:30am (in order to buy tickets for a midnight showing of Harry Potter) just rolled up to my antique store, which means that our 8am group of Michigan riders probably won't be here for another hour and a half. I helped fill up some water bottles and we took turns using the bathroom. Yes, an actual gas-station bathroom, not our usual road-side stops of trees, shrubs, cornfields, riversides, etc. I guess I'll just keep waiting here, rocking on my porch, admiring the farm stand across the street, and cherishing this warm breeze and free wireless internet. From the road, peace!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Days 6-7

You may have guessed from Joe’s foreshadowing in the last post, but on Day 6 we started off with some heavy rain and thunderstorms. The six riders (two were in the car) decided to take shelter and ended up at Wolfe’s produce market, just outside of Findlay. We were immediately greeting by Tiff, an aging farm dog who had lost her sight due to glaucoma but she kept our spirits up during the storm. The owner also told us about the history of the land and the farm, gave us cucumbers, and showed us a picture of the farm in the “olden days.” As the storm abated we got back on the road, raincoats on and rear lights flashing. Lunch that day was our usual buffet of bagels and toppings, but on our way to the port-a-potty some of us discovered a playground with see-saws! I’m pretty sure some of them weren’t meant to hold the 350+ pounds we put on each side, but we had fun. One of my favorite parts of this trip is that we all love to laugh and see each other having a good time. The stories, jokes, and farts start flowing and we all forget our aches and pains as we are crippled by hilarity.

That night we stayed in Richwood’s city park (a venue we are quite familiar with by now) and chatted with a local policeman. Shayna was even handcuffed! Just for laughs though. The next morning we took off towards Columbus. We met a lot of other serious cyclists en route that day, whether it was the Sunday morning weather, training for an upcoming half-Ironman, or some inspiration from Lance Armstrong. We also saw a man walking 4 little dogs at once, instead of them chasing us down the street as usual. Day 7 was our shortest day yet mileage-wise and time wise. We’re getting up earlier and earlier (today’s 5:30am was rough though given that the sun wasn’t even up), taking more efficient pee-breaks, and carrying our lunch instead of relying on the car. Also, instead of riding as one big group, we split into partners. Everyone is gaining strength and confidence on the road, but we don’t quite know what will happen with our riding pace and groups once we join the larger group tonight.

Instead of going into Columbus yesterday, we actually skirted it and spent the night at the Darby Creek Metro Park. Arriving in the early afternoon, we had plenty of time to relax, napping on the soft grass and washing off the daily grime with a hose shower. As the sky got darker, the park visitors emptied out and we fell asleep with our tents circled like wagons around the pile of bikes. At breakfast, we FINALLY finished the mass of bagels. A few went moldy, but we’re quite proud of ourselves for eating so many free bagels. Thanks Kevin and Big Apple Bagels!

Lastly, tonight in the Lancaster Fairgrounds we’ll meet up with the Northern Route group. We’re SO EXCITED!

This week's route:
July 14th: Athens, OH
July 15th: Racine, OH
July 16th-18th: Charleston, WV

P.S. Here's a print version of the State News's article.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Days 4-5

As I type to you all from a hard plastic picnic table in Richwood, Ohio, I’m replaying all of the events of the past three nights since the last blog post by Nichole.

Chronologically this post begins with the amazing taco-themed meal that was prepared for us by Molly and Sean Williams and brought to us on Wednesday at our stop in Stockbridge, Michigan. It was delicious! There were plenty of beans, chili, tortillas, veggies, rice, and more to go around. They went out of their way to accommodate the vegans and vegetarians of the trip, and we really appreciate it. With dinner came the arrival of our last two riders, Shayna and Kara. They were ready to go and fit right in with our group. We also saw the arrival of a whole mess of free bagels, donated to us by the Big Apple Bagels of East Lansing. They were a day old, and were going to be thrown away anyway, so by obtaining these bagels we saved them from going to the landfill, saved ourselves lots of money on the other kinds of groceries that we would have needed, and got to enjoy tons of guilt-free bagels (you’ve got to carbo-load, right?)

The next day we set out for Ohio, which seemed so far away. Sometimes we forget that if you spend enough time on a bike you actually get somewhere. Bryce’s knee was giving him trouble, so he and Anna operated the SAG (Support & Guidance) vehicle that day. We all had so many bagels. I don’t think that anyone could ignore all of the beautiful fields of wheat we passed that day. We finally crossed the border into Ohio just a mile or so before arriving in Metamora. We were all hoping for a picturesque “Welcome to Ohio” sign and the photo opportunity that it would bring with it, but taking back roads lead us past one of the least picturesque signs, which seemed to put more of and emphasis on county’s border than on the state’s. Never the less we all had a blast and took several pictures. For dinner we had rice noodles and fried veggies, and I think that we all started to realize the collective hilarity of Shayna and Kara, and the relaxing vibes that follow.

The next morning we packed it all in the truck and headed for Findlay, Ohio. Little did we know that there would be a serious headwind and that bagels do eventually get old. Very old. En route we met up with and talked to a fellow cyclist, Pat Squire who was tediously painting route markers for Mad Anthony Wayne’s River Rally, a 100 Mile trip that shared a lot of the same roads as our route. As we neared our stop for the night, we found it increasingly hard to press on in the wind. We all got tired, and most of us were getting irritable when we finally pulled into Findlay. As we rode up to the Komosinski residence, we all were surprised to see a newspaper reporter for the Findlay Newspaper taking our picture and later interviewing several of us. The next morning we saw the picture of an exhausted Nichole on the cover and the whole story that continued on A3. Luckily for us, the Komosinski’s were amazing and had some serious hook-ups. What kinds of serious hook-ups you ask? How about sleeping inside, an in-ground pool, a hot tub with some amazing jets, and amazing hospitality. We had it made and slept better than ever, especially those of us sleeping on a waterbed! The next morning we all packed up and headed off to Richwood with stormy-looking skies.

Until next time, this is Joe for the MI chapter of The Trek to Re-Energize America.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Media updates

Check out our latest media hits:

MSU's State News Video

Ohio's "The Courier" Article

And also see our freshly uploaded photos on Flickr

We're sad to leave our boundlessly gracious hosts in Findlay, but it's time to hit the road again!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Days 1-3

The crew of 7 with our first hosts, Bill and Kathi

The Michigan group is on the road and in the middle of Day Three! Whooo! We started from Rothbury Music Festival on Monday, all pumped up and ready for our first 27 miles. I was driving the support vehicle ahead of the riders and about 5 or 10 minutes along the route, something happened… something we’ll just refer to as “the unfortunate incident”… and we weren’t sure what this meant for the rest of the trip. We knew everything would work out and we’d make it to DC, but we had a pretty huge hurdle to clear. With one of our group member’s father’s hard work and generosity, and the support of a warm, compassionate host family who let us camp at their house, use their shower and washing machine, and offered us food, we were on our way the next morning in a different car with revitalized spirits.

Day two was another sunny, breezy, beautiful day and was a 60 mile ride – the longest that 4 of our riders have ever gone in one day! Our healthy hydration made for many, many “de-watering” breaks, and a few of us learned about the term “bonking.” A stop at a public access point to apply some Chamois Butt’r proved unforgettable when we all heard a scream from the outhouse as Marci discovered that it was not butter-like in the slightest. The familiar looking white liquid had squirted everywhere and left a nice surprise for the next beach-side visitors. Our support vehicle drivers – one who is coming on this trip despite a recent appendectomy! – did a fantastic job marking the route for us along the pavement so we did not have to worry about fumbling with maps and found our way to our second host home in no time. Surprise! She had prepared a delicious meal for us – sloppy joes, pasta salad, veggies, chips, muffins, and peanut butter cake! She showered us with stories of all of the embroidered gifts she has made on her fancy computerized sewing machine while the mosquitoes showered us in bites. After sharing a couple of warm-fuzzy, cold-pricklies (or highs and lows of the day), our crew was ready for the 9 hours of sleep that awaited.

The cool morning air brought with it some sore butts, tired quads, and post-surgery pains, but a nice group stretch session sent us off on another 60 mile day. Our first stop was at a park about 10 miles away where we were interviewed for the Michigan State news about our trip! We were able to talk about how we got involved with the trek, some of the fun things that have happened along the way, and that our purposes for the journey are many, including to let everyone know how serious we are about this climate bill, and how independence from oil can and will be sustained by using our bodies as engines! Before lunch we accidentally left our rear rider in the dust for a few minutes – apparently we all got so used to hearing him yell, “Car back!” that some of the riders nearest to him didn’t notice today when he yelled “Halt! Stop!” During our parkside lunch, Marci found a Buzz Lightyear and a dinosaur toy in the bathroom and decided that the dinosaur, covered in who-knows-what from the bathroom and the little boy’s hands who had most likely been the previous owner, was hungry and should eat a cherry. So she stuck the dinosaur in the bag of our dumpster-dived goodies and he finally grabbed one to munch on. Sadly, a woman on a bike pulling a carrier with two little boys soon pulled up and asked for their toys back ☹

After we finish our East Lansing errands this evening, we will be meeting up with our final two riders in Stockbridge and heading out tomorrow for our last day in Michigan! Sending peace to the rest of the crews across the country,
Nichole and the Michigan Riders.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

To Rothbury!

I’ve heard that the week before leaving on a bike tour, you should stop training and let your body catch its breath until the final plunge. Regardless of whether this is true, five of our Michigan riders will be spending their final breaths at Rothbury Music Festival dancing, singing, and of course, telling everyone about the Trek to Re-Energize America.

Rothbury Music Festival isn’t just about the music. They’ve made incredible strides towards sustainability, helping jumpstart Michigan’s “Green Economy.” These efforts include easy-access compost and recycling bins all over the festival site (a psychedelically-themed forest and campground), bio-diesel generators, wind power carbon offsets, and daily “Think Tanks,” a concert-like venue of environmental experts and activists. This is where I come in. I was invited to be a speaker on a Think Tank panel called “Voting for Change with Your Everyday Actions: How YOU Can Join the New Green Economy and Why It’s the Right Thing to Do.” I think this is a perfect title because going on a tour like the Trek to Re-Energize America isn’t something I do every day (it will be for the next three weeks, of course), but riding my bike is. Cycling to D.C. from all over the country, we’re showing people that riding your bike is a sustainable, efficient, and fun form of transportation. If we can help inspire people to fix up that old bike and give commuting another shot, all of the work will be worth it.

Once the five of us finish celebrating our kick-off at Rothbury, we’ll meet up with four more Michigan riders and start our 900-mile journey to D.C. Even after reading blogs from those of you who have already been riding since May, we still don’t know exactly what to expect once we hit the road. Our crew of nine had drastically differing levels of cycling and advocacy experience, but what better time to start than now? I am so incredibly excited to see everyone bring their own positive personality and individual talents to our group! Until we meet in Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, or D.C., ride on!

P.S. Here's our route for the first week:
July 6: Rothbury to Greenville
July 7: Greenville to Ovid
July 8: Ovid to Stockbridge
July 9: Stockbridge to Metamora, Ohio
July 10: Metamora to Findlay
July 11: Findlay to Richwood
July 12: Richwood to Columbus

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Biking to Washington, Maybe We'll Meet Steven Chu?

Reading Rolling Stone magazine last night, I came across an article about Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist and Obama's Energy Secretary. Typically you see pictures of him dressed in a suit, like most people in Washington, but Rolling Stone featured a photo of him decked out in a helmet and spandex shorts. Chu is a legit biker, and according to R.S., his only luxury is his $5000 carbon-fiber Colnago bike.

He doesn't even own a car, although this wouldn't be too difficult at U.C. Berkeley, the country's most bike-friendly campus. Moving from Berkeley to Washington, however, he now has a gas-guzzling chaperone.

I realize that Steven Chu's appearances on two wheels are part of a press stint, but I'm glad we have a biker as our Secretary of Energy. After all, biking is one of the most efficient uses of energy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

One week to go


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Counting Down the Days

In less that two weeks a group of seven riders will depart from Rothbury Music Festival on bike. Actually, we might take a quick car ride down to Muskegon to avoid complications with 40,000 people leaving the small town of Rothbury, Michigan at once.

I can hardly believe that it is so close! I've been organizing the ride from Michigan since January and it's been on my mind since I first heard of the Trek to Re-Energize America last August. Here's a post that I wrote for a major youth climate blog, It's Getting Hot in Here:

From Rickshaws to Road Bikes: A Journey to Stop Climate Change from Michigan

I’ve been a cyclist nearly my whole life. My family has pedaled across lower Michigan three times, and my brother would rather ride 45 minutes of hills on his home-made fixed gear than drive 15 minutes to class. Are we crazy? Maybe, but last summer as I was biking through the cornfields of East Lansing, I knew I wanted to bring together my passion for biking and my motivation to fight climate change. Serendipitously, that very night I first heard about the Trek to Re-Energize America.

Spending last semester in Bangladesh, the effects of climate change took on a new light. I met the farmers whose land might be totally flooded in 10, 50, or 100 years. I met their wives and children. What a cruel joke that a country that pales in comparison to America’s carbon emissions now must suffer the consequences. Coming back to Michigan, climate justice has become more than a cause to me; it is for the Bangladeshi children who can’t go to school because of flooded roads, the farmers who lost their crops in a cyclone, and the strong women who are fighting to keep everything from falling apart. It is for the rickshaw pullers, for whom biking is not a pleasure, but a desperate way to subsist in poverty. This summer, I will be biking for them.

Now back in Michigan, I am ecstatic to see that my fellow students are mobilized to fight for sustainable solutions to climate change. From campus groups to our statewide network, the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition (MSSC), the young leaders within our state are ready to demand change at a national level. Two weeks ago nearly 200 Michigan students gathered on a frigid weekend to talk and learn about climate change at the MSSC’s ReGeneration Summit. In three weeks we’re sending seven commercial buses full of students to Washington, D.C. for Powershift 09. The youth climate movement is going full speed ahead, so don’t miss the bus. Better yet, get on your bike!