Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

From the library of Paul Smith's College, there is a lovely view of lake and forest and presumably of mountains beyond. On this April morning, however, I can only verify the water and the woods because the clouds spitting rain and snow are keeping distant objects obscured. A perfect time to pause. And reflect. I find myself thinking about this current endeavor and a similar though different trip undertaken exactly 10 years ago.

When I was 19, I departed Charleston, South Carolina with a loaded bicycle and a plan to pedal it across a continent. I ate, slept and pedaled my way to 20 years old, then kept going across Texas and the Southwest. Although people who passed in their trucks and cars saw only a solitary cyclist, I was reluctant to say yes when asked if I was going alone. Despite my original plan of camping out every night, so many total strangers shared their meals and homes with me that in over two months of cycling, I only slept outside four times.

Since leaving White River Junction, Vermont, I have once again ridden a bike into a new decade, and I am once again overwhelmed by kindness. Our team has been graciously hosted at every stop along the way. When given the chance, most people like to help one another. It is true in Montpelier, Vermont, Montpelier, France, Gurdon, Arkansas, and Gao'an, China. In 1999, people who had just opened their homes to a strange-looking unsmall young man would look up at me and warn, "Tyler, you be careful, there's alot of crazy people out there." My smile broadened each time this warning was repeated by crazy people who had shared their breakfast and sent me on my way with snacks, prayers, and good thoughts. In 2009, the parting messages are more positive. More frequent than warnings have been expressions of gratitude. "Thank you all for stopping here on your tour. It's nice to hear there are other people who care." And that is true. When one considers the enormity of changing lifestyles to fit within the bounds of global resources it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless.

I wish i could share the palpable sense of commitment being demonstrated by people we have met all along the way. If I could, then you would feel as re-energized as I do to continue working towards a more sustainable future.

On this trip, I am obviously not alone as passing motorists and active audiences see the four of us pedaling or presenting. It has been wonderful traveling with Jim, Susan, and Ross and feeling the support of folks newly encountered and support from friends and family awaiting our return.

Until then, keep pedaling, or walking, or planting, or shoveling, or protesting, or lobbying, or voting, or writing, or creating, or ... whatever it is that you do. When done with intention and attention, these simple actions will beneficially change the world.

Thank you- Tyler

Earth Week in the Adirondacks

We arrived in Keene Valley, New York on Monday, April 20th, after the team's longest ride so far, and were welcomed like family. Robin and Jake of the Keene Valley Hostel put us up for the night, Karen Glass invited us and others over for a delicious dinner, and Mark at Leep Off Cyclery, made some repairs on Tyler's bike--all as donations to the tour. We continue to be so wonderfully hosted and cared for along the ride.

Tuesday the 21st, we spoke at the Keene Central School, to an all school assembly to kick off their Earth Week activities. We were absolutely inspired by the knowledge of the students about climate change (perhaps 2nd or third graders explained some of the intricacies of CO2 emissions and sinks!), and by the sustainability efforts at the school. They have an active all-school composting program, a school garden that provides food for lunches and a local food thanksgiving dinner. Go, Keene Central!!

After climbing the dredded Cascade Lakes pass to Lake Placid, Green Goddess Foods provided the team with yet another delicious free meal, while we spoke to shoppers, and Mike Lynch of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (see his article, here). We then headed on to Saranac Lake, guided by local biker, Peter Seward, for the third and final event for the day at the Saranac Lake Free Libray. Here, yet another warm welcome, with plush housing provided by the Doctors Inn and Gail Brill. The Tri-Lakes Transition Town group (Gail Brill, in particular) organized the eventing event, with snacks and chatting, and the team's presentation. The Saranac Lake area seemed to us like a hub for sustainability in the Adirondacks: the Tri Lakes Transition Town group has been hosting a film series, the Wild Center in Tupper Lake organizes climate conferences, a summer farmers market(and much more), and Saranac Lake is growing a community garden on land offered free for use.

Earth Day, itself, April 22nd, (John Muir's birthday) started off with a sunrise ride to Eric and Nancy's house, about half way to Paul Smiths. Eric and Nancy made a scrumptious breakfast for us and other attendees of the previous evening event. We were impressed by their combination of photovoltaics and solar hot water, and were thankful for a warm respite from a drizzly day. Then on to Paul Smith's College, for a full day of Earth Day events. Here, we spoke at two classes, and Jim's gave his Radical Simplicity presentation to a packed hall of students and community members. We so enjoyed being part of this engaging community for the day: there were wood-fired dutch tubs running, a team of draft horses giving wagon rides, trade-a-palooza, and a trash clean-up. The dining hall here has been working hard to reduce waste. They stopped using trays which has significantly reduced the food waste, and for Earth Day had all the students weight the trash from meals--at the end of the day, a mere 130 pounds or so, for a campus of around 1000--not bad! Thanks to the many folks that made this day such a success, including Tom Huber, TRiO Student Support Services, the President's Office, and Students for Environmental Action.

Wind Powered!

Our day started with a clear yet crisp morning departure from Metta Earth Institute in South Lincoln. Any chill in our bodies was quickly worked out as we climbed up and up on Notch Rd toward Middlebury. On the way to Middlebury College we passed several windmills whirring away in the southern wind. Things were warming up, buds were popping, and dandelions flowering - and 60 miles to ride to Keene Valley! This had the potential for a great day.
After meeting with an inspired group of students at the college and an essential re-fuel for our push into the Adirondacks we hit the road knowing we had a tight deadline. With gears spinning and rolling Addison County farm scenery urging us on, the miles ticked by. Rounding the bend on Rt. 125 and contouring the lake flowing north, the same wind acted like a motor on each of our bikes. We formed a tight paceline, or atleast as tight as would allow with the addition of our loaded trailers, and cranked. Taking advantage of whatever boost we could, the pace kept building and it must have been quite the sight as our awkward peleton whipped by families fishing near the Champlain Bridge.

Heading into the hills outside of Port Henry the scenery changed to that characteristic of the Adirondacks; exposed rocky hilltops, small fast moving streams, lush understories of fir and spruce. But one thing stayed the same - the wind at our backs. Winding through the uplands on Rt. 6 we were able to soak in the views of surrounding mountains while still feeling the undeniable support from behind us. The last leg on Rt. 73 leading through a narrow notch where trees had been scultped by the force of the winds that had the potential to set us in our place and dish out some hard earned miles at the end of a long day. Instead, those miles were pure enjoyment as we tried to take in all the surroundings of Chapel Pond (which was still holding the last of its ice) and the Ausable River as we approached Keene Valley. Making it to town just in to time to grab a shower at our generous hosts for the night at the Keene Valley Hostel and then head off to a delicious dinner at the local librarian's house was the cap to an amazing day filled with people and the elements pushing us along in our endeavor.

It seems that we have been particularly foturnate in catching good pockets of weather and extremely blessed by the help of generous individuals along our route. It should not come as that much of a surprise but the help that others have been extending to us as we pedal and share our stories has been inspiring. Exploring these topics of sustainability and simplified community living, I feel inspired for the future by the tremendous support we have been receiving. Not only the wind powered us on our ride to the Adirondacks, but the positive thoughts and actions of our friends made it possible and this is what will continue to carry us on as we face new challenges.

- Ross

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cycling for a Sustainable Future in the Media

We've been lucky to get some fun media coverage. Check out the Carl Etnier's interview with Jim Merkel about the tour on Equal Time radio show. Also, WCAX channel 3 covered the tour on the morning news on Friday, April 10th. We haven't gotten to see it ourselves, but as we headed north from the Norwich Inn, someone pulled over to say that she had seen us on the news. On Earth Day, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise also included a front page (above the crease!) article, and Jim was interviewed by Paul Smiths college radio station, WPSA. Listen to North Country Public Radio's interview with Jim on April 23rd, as well, here.

And... they're off!!

The Cycling for a Sustainable Future - 350 people-powered miles tour kicked off at the Upper Valley Food Coop in White River Junction on Thursday evening. With the Eco-Tones playing fun, environmentally inspiring songs, and yummy food provided by the Upper Valley Food Coop, D-Acres and others, we celebrated the start of the tour along with the exciting projects and efforts that organizations from this area are doing now to create more sustainable communities. So much is happening in this town, and here are just a few examples of projects and organizations represented at the Kick-Off:
  • The first meeting of  Transition Town White River Junction is happening May 8, 5-7pm, location TBD. Contact Kye Cochran at the Coop, and join this effort to create a vision for the future of White River Junction.
  • The Upper Valley Land Trust helps people conserve land, and runs educational and other programming.
  • The Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club continues to support many exciting initiatives in the region, including our tour and the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network.
  • Cover runs home repair and reuse programs and builds bridges between sectors of the population through volunteer service, the Cover Store and more. A benefit concert featuring Mary Gauthier and Anais Mitchell is happening at the Lebanon Opera House on April 18th.
  • D-Acres is an organic farm and educational center in Dorchester, NH that has so much going on, you must check out their website.
  • The Marion Cross School in Norwich: we visited their Ecoclub of 3rd and 4th graders, and their parents, and were inspired with what these children are doing for their community. They constructed recycling bins, do classroom trash audits, started a successful composting program for the school and present (yes, 3rd and 4th graders!) to the PTA and the faculty (filming their own presentations) as they work to further green their school. 
All this and so much more.. the perfect place to start, with enormous inspiration to (alternatively) fuel our journey!  

We would like to especially thank other supporters for this event as well, including the Norwich Inn, that put us all up for the night, Heron Graphic Arts, that created the beautiful event posters, Ibex who tremendously outfitted us for our tour, and all the volunteers who helped organize this event.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Since 1996 the Cycling for a Sustainable Future Tours have covered over 17,000 miles. This year's Cycling for a Sustainable Future - 350 people-powered miles tour members, Jim Merkel, Susan Cutting, Ross Scatchard and S. Tyler Durham, are tuning up our bikes and getting ready to go.

We thank the wind at our backs generated by our sponsors and supporters: The Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club, Ibex, the Upper Valley Food Co-op, The Upper Valley Land Trust, The Mountain School, Dan Breslaw, Bear Pond Books, Bethany Church, The Buffalo Mountain Coop, Transition Town Hardwick, Sterling College, Office of Sustainability of St. Michael's College, GOT S.K.I.L.L.S.?, The University of Vermont Office of Sustainability, Vermont Earth Institute, Focus the Nation, ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, Charlotte Sustainable Living Network’s Transition Town Charlotte, Metta Earth Institute, the Middlebury College Sunday Night Group, the Keene Valley Hostel, Green Goddess Foods, Peter Seward, Gail Brill, Barbara Tam, Tri-Lake Transition Towns, the Keene Elementary School, Paul Smith’s College Office of the President, TRiO Student Support Services, Student Activities, Students for Environmental Action (SEA), St. Lawrence University, the North Country Sustainable Energy Fair, Patricia Greene, D Acres, West Coast Climate Equity, William H. Calvin, the Global Living Project and many others!