RIDE REPORT: Climate Ride 2011
Day 1: It was good to be reunited with some old faces from the original Climate Ride in 2008, and to make new friends at the starting line. We ferried out to New Jersey under gray but nonthreatening skies and started our 300-mile journey. I arrived at the Princeton camp early enough to set up my tent and get in line for a massage while one of my riding buddies powered our phone chargers with a dynamo that had been hooked up to a cycle trainer. The massage turned out to be a mixed blessing. One of my upper vertebrae clicked back into alignment under the slightest pressure, but I awoke the next morning with my shoulder in more pain than ever from the tissue work.
Day 3: On the third day we awoke to a light mist and rain. Water's not so bad for riding as long as you're not cold. What water does, though, is stir up the shards of glass on the road and stick 'em on your tire. Revolution after revolution they get pounded in until your precious inner tube is punctured. Roughly 2 dozen riders got a puncture in the first hour of riding, some people more than once. I managed to skirt all the carnage and get a little ways down the road, but chivalry called me and my friend David Dubovsky to the rescue of Shawna Seldon, one of my fellow board members, as she struggled with a stubborn tire. We were rewarded several miles down the road with a piping hot pain au chocolat, one of the best I've ever tasted. The rain was letting up at that point, which made for great riding as we headed into Amish country, chasing buggies of stoic men and inquisitive children up the hills. The knee I had fallen on the week before had started giving me trouble on Day 2, so I raised my saddle thinking it would relieve some of the strain. It did, but little did I know that doing so would cause other problems down the line. Our camp that night was a Mennonite retreat nestled in a hollow off the road, where we were treated to a supernatural sunset reflected off of textbook-puffy clouds.
as a sculptor in Brooklyn. I had promised her I would wear it in return for a donation. Despite my flamboyant attire, I found myself in a withdrawn mood. Climate Ride is a lot about socializing and networking with great people from the bicycle and sustainability worlds, but for some reason on both rides I've felt the need to just Zen out on the open road on Day 4. Maybe it's because we head into my home state of Maryland and it causes me to reflect on my personal voyage. Maybe it's just the sheer build-up of exhaustion that comes from pushing my body past where it usually goes, the spiritual displacement of constant motion. In any case, I needed some serious Zen because I was starting to get persistent pain in my Achilles tendon opposite the knee that had been bothering me before. (A saddle too high can also cause strain, which is why proper bike fit is super important.) After a lunch stop at a traditional horse farm in rural Maryland, I pushed on, bolstered by the quiet companionship of another tired yet strong rider, Allison Smith, a friend from the 2008 ride. Coming around a bend we almost ran over a turtle crossing the road, which warranted a stop for some ridiculous photos. The lessons of the tortoise and the hare certainly came to mind. We pushed on. The pain intensified and narrowed my focus. Chatter tailed off. I just wanted the day to be over. And then we hit it. The biggest hill of the ride. Now, I usually try to gut out the steep ones, but I really wanted to get off and walk. I almost did. But about three-quarters of the way up the hill these miraculous chalk messages started to appear, Tour de France style, with words of inspiration. And names. And then my name! And with it I let out a yawp of purest joy that pierced the quiet forest, and with a heart reignited and my energy turned primal I charged up the rest of the hill. I waited for Allison at the top and we wound our way the last couple miles to camp. That night, Geraldine, one of the Climate Ride founders, floated the idea to me of joining the inaugural board. Everyone chowed down on delivery pizza to make up for the nutritional deficits of a delicious yet insufficiently vegan kosher meal. It was a special night, with a bonfire after dinner that put everyone under its pensive spell. We could feel the end of the ride somewhere out there in the dark, rushing up to meet us.
MY 2011 BENEFICIARY: TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES
In 2011, my Climate Ride beneficiary was New York's best bicycling group: Transportation Alternatives. I have been a volunteer with them for years, so it really made me happy when they signed on to work with Climate Ride. Together with the other riders on Team TA, we raised about $22,000 to support their work. And since Climate Ride disburses funds to the beneficiaries in December, TA was able to pair their Climate Ride money with a year-end matching grant, thus doubling the impact to nearly $45,000. And it's all paying off for cycling in New York City. The bike network keeps growing, and we are on the cusp of getting a bicycle rental system that will revolutionize the way people get around town. Transportation Alternatives has been one of the major forces pushing this kind of project forward to build a culture of safe cycling, and reclaim our streets.