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Posts Tagged ‘bikes’

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge in Washington, D.C.

DSC_0170.jpgSeven years ago Winston Duncan started an amazing organization that would send bicycles to needy individuals in Africa. Now in and of itself this is a tremendous idea and a worthy endeavor, but what makes it extra special is Winston. You see he was only 10 years old when he started this organization. Seven years and four thousand bikes later, he continues on his mission.

I volunteered with Wheels to Africa on December 10th – the final outing of my Year of Volunteering. I arrived in the morning and volunteers were already hard at work receiving bicycles and making adjustments (removing pedals and rotating the handlebars 90 degrees) so that they would stack more efficiently.

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Dixie, Reed and Winston

A good bit taller than me, the 17-year-old is unassuming and quiet. He’s passionate not only about basketball and hanging out with his friends, but also about caring for individuals half way around the world who he has never met and probably never will.

Far outnumbering the adults, I was surprised at how many young people were volunteering. They seemed to have an almost magical feeling of empowerment. Nobody had to tell them what to do – they just stepped up and got the work done. Winston also had a little help from his mom, Dixie, who worked tirelessly on the project. I got to spend some time with her as we rode together up to Kensington, MD to pick up a U-Haul truck full of bikes and bring it back down to the main collection point in Virginia. From behind the wheel of her SUV she kept on working during the 35 minute drive; fielding phone calls from donors wanting information about drop off centers and making calls to volunteer leaders to make sure things were going OK at their respective locations.

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Volunteers put some muscle into getting the pedals off of a donated bike.

Few volunteer opportunities that I have been a part of this year have touched me as much as this one did. The way so many people came together to help Winston in his mission. We worked well into the night; loading bikes from collection centers on to trucks and then driving them to storage centers and unloading them. You gain a new respect for the kind of effort that is required to pull something of this magnitude off.

Exhausted and sore from the day’s work of loading and unloading bikes, Winston laughed and nodded his head when I asked him if he ever wished that he had started a “Harmonicas for Africa” organization instead – it sure would be a lot less heavy lifting and shipping would be a fraction of the cost, but then again I doubt that harmonicas would have as meaningful of an impact on people’s lives.

This year there was no collection point in the District of Columbia and I hope that next year I can help Winston and Dixie establish one. Maybe you will join me? I hope that you check out Wheels-to-Africa’s website and drop by and say hello at next year’s event. In the meantime, Wheels to Africa not only needs your bikes, but they also need your donations to help cover shipping and other related costs to get the bikes to those who need them. So consider making a tax-deductible donation and help Winston fulfill his dream.

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It's not just a guy thing either!

If you would like to see more photographs that I took while volunteering with Wheels to Africa, check out my Flickr account.

Also, I just checked and harmonicas-to-africa.org is still available so if you want to pursue that idea you better hurry!

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Before I share this blog entry with you, I want to wish my father a very happy birthday today – he turns 71! I love you dad!

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Bikes parked at the WABA Bike Valet

When I visit a city I try to see it by foot or bike. Not only is it an environmentally friendly form of transportation, it slows you down enough that you see the details that you often miss while zooming by in a car or tour bus. I also do this in my home city of Washington, D.C. where you can discover new elements of our nation’s capital every day if you take the time to absorb your surroundings.

Every two years the U.S. Department of Energy challenges collegiate teams from around the world to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. They call it the Solar Decathlon and hold it on the National Mall – which for those of you not familiar with D.C. is not a shopping mall but a large open green area that is home to many of our national monuments.

IMG_3987.jpgThe event featured a free bike valet – which is simply a secure place where you can drop your bicycle off while you visit the Solar Decathlon. This allows you not to worry about carrying a lock or removing items such as seats, wheels, bags, etc. that could be easily stolen. The whole process is really fast too. You just roll up and give them your bike and they give you a ticket to claim it later.

I spent the morning volunteering at the bike valet. Operated by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), hundreds of visitors took advantage of this free service. You might recall that I helped WABA out earlier this year at Bike D.C.  Volunteering was a blast and I also enjoyed checking out a few of the energy-efficient homes. I didn’t have a lot of free time away from the bike valet so I mostly appreciated the homes from the outside but did get the chance to tour the one built by the University of Tennessee which won 8th place – winners are judged on their abilities to effectively address affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. I later went online and checked the others out and really liked the home built by the New Zealand team.  It came in 3rd place! The overall winner was right from my backyard here: The University of Maryland.

Illustration of the home built by the team from New Zealand. (photo: http://www.solardecathlon.gov)

Click here to see my photos from the event.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

This post was supposed to be put up yesterday – sorry. I was out volunteering and got behind.

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I captured this image of a fallen soldier being delivered to Arlington Cemetery on a recent return flight to DC.

Yesterday was Memorial Day – a day when we remember those who have served our country. I took some time to think about my family members who have served – most recently my cousin Jonathan and his wife Alex. Thankfully they made it home safely. I then was reminded of Jen B. who I met on Day 362 of my Year of Giving. She lost her husband, Army 1st Lt. Todd J. Bryant, when his Humvee came under attack in Fallujah in October of 2003. My thoughts go out to her, Todd’s family and all of those who have lost loved ones serving their country.

My first bike ride of the year is something that I look forward to every spring. The mixture of warm sunlight and cool air on my face as I roll by some of our country’s most iconic monuments keeps me sane.

Washington is full of wonderful trails that provide safe riding throughout our nation’s capital. However there is one day each year that gives riders full access to the city and so many of the breathtaking vistas usually reserved only for snapshots out windows of slow moving cars. That day is Bike DC.

I rode in Bike DC last year and even gave my $10 away to another rider. You can read the blog post and watch some video I shot while riding. This year I too was going to ride and then I got the idea that I would volunteer for them.

I was stationed at the Will Call table which was set up on the corner of 3rd and Jefferson, directly west of the US Capitol. Technically I was supposed to be answering questions that the cyclists had, but there was a much greater need to actually check the nearly 4,000 riders in so I started checking them in too. It was impressive. We managed to process every single rider in about 90 minutes.

Crossing the Potomac River (Photo: Charles Hagman)

The event, which costs riders about $35, supports the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA). They represent cyclists’ interest here in DC. I overlook their tired emails and letters because I, like many others here in the area, benefit from their work. Click here to find out how you can support WABA.

After I was done working, I tacked on a rider’s bib and headed out on the course. It’s beautiful and there is something indescribable about riding through such a picturesque city with no cars. My favorite part though is crossing the bridge into Virginia and riding down the GW Parkway! That is pretty cool.

Ghost Bike

Photo by M.V. Jantzen

I started this post off remembering those who have served in the military. In the theme of remembrance, I offer a name to you: Alice Swanson. She died just a block from my home while riding her bike to work in July of 2008. For a long time there was a white bicycle placed at the corner of Connecticut and R Streets as a memorial. Although I never knew Alice, there is not a day that goes by when I walk by that corner that I don’t think about her.

Next Monday I will take you along on a volunteering journey with Yachad DC where we will rebuild some lower income housing near Fort Totten.

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My gym.

I am constantly trying to find new places to give my $10 away.  I was walking over to my gym the other day, a walk that I have made far too infrequently these days,  when I realized that I had never given my money away there.  It’s a little weird to go up to someone bench pressing a bunch of iron and say, “Hey, could I give you $10?”  but I was determined to find someone.

The easiest option would be to go give it to someone who was stuck working at the desolate reception – they’re practically begging for someone to come and talk to them there.  Instead, I combed the gym looking for someone working out.  I walked by and saw a lone person in the spinning room; a glass enclosed cage full of stationary bikes sentenced to life in gym.  Inside, Natalie was working up a sweat on one of the two dozen bikes.

"I'm a liberal working for a bunch of republicans," she said referring to her job.

This was awkward.  I didn’t want to affect her workout, but I did.  She slowed down to a leisurely pace as we talked.  Originally from Little Rock, AK, I quickly learned that we both had a connection to former President Clinton’s foundation.  She had worked for the organization in Little Rock and I had worked for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit that he helped start jointly with the American Heart Association.  Now she works in government relations.  “I’m a lobbyist,” she says as I probe a little deeper on what someone in government relations actually does.  She’s been putting in long days working on energy related issues and only gets to the gym when apartment lights are being dimmed and people are pulling down their covers to go to bed for the evening.  I asked her what her motivation was to go to the gym and she said, “Just basic maintenance, stress, and guilt.”

When this twenty-something is not immersed in wonky energy related policy or relieving stress on the stationary bike, Natalie enjoys reading and traveling.  Her dream is to become a high school teacher some day and then retire in a sleepy town in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas.

As for the money, “I’ll have to give it away,” she says.  “I’ll probably give it to someone who is homeless.”  We talked about how society today has changed and people don’t stop to talk to strangers that much.  “I don’t talk to people on the street,” she admits, “I’m a headphone person.”  I encouraged her to take a second and talk to the person she gives the money to – ask them their name.

I totally screwed up Natalie's work out.

Before I left, I asked if she needed anything that I could add to the Lend a Hand initiative.  “Maybe some advice,” she started to say, “about how to make my parents golden years meaningful.”  Her dad, a bar owner, and mother, a special education teacher, live together in Little Rock.  I liked that she thought of them and their happiness.  Our parents do so much for us.  I could also use some similar advice for my father.  I have some ideas, but getting him to want to do those things is a whole another story.

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Ben, me and Ian. I look ridiculous I know! (photo: Reed)

One thing I did not do enough of this summer is ride my bike.  I meant to meet up with Mark E. from Day 132 and go for a ride.  He is an avid rider and offered several times to meet up.  I did manage to get out a few weeks ago though and took my $10, notebook and camera with me.

Somewhere about a mile or so north of Georgetown is a place called Fletcher’s Boat House.  It was there I spotted Ian and Ben.

You can rent boats to go out on the Potomac River at Fletcher's. (photo: Reed)

“I’m officially a police officer,” Ian tells me.  “But I consider myself an EMT.”  It turns out he is quite the busy guy.  He is juggling classes at George Washington with his work as a police officer and EMT.  “I hope to go to med school,” he says in a steady confident tone.  Somewhere in all of that he finds time to get away and enjoy the beautiful crescent trail.  And let me tell you, it is stunning this time of year.

A senior at GW, Ben is figuring out what he wants to do.  “I’m leaning toward the music industry,” he says shrugging his shoulders a little bit.  He’s double majoring in philosophy and psychology, you’d think that this would help to give you the critical thinking skills necessary to figure out what direction to go in, but who knows, maybe it just complicates the entire equation. 

Ian's got his eyes set on going to medical school. (photo: Reed)

My notes say that Ben was going to use his $5 to buy some bottled water.  Next to that I wrote, “or deep fried H20” it looks like.  I have no idea what that means, I certainly don’t remember him saying that.  Let’s see if he checks in on the site and tells us.  As for Ian, he was going to put it toward his Metro fare card to get to his EMT station.  

I got a kick out of something Ben told me.  “Ian is time-locked in the 80s.”  That’s kind of funny, because if I do the math right he was born in 1989.  I guess that first year really influenced him!  “Music, TV-wise, movies….he loves Scarface,” Ben goes on. 

Ben needs our help to get an internship at a performing arts center. (photo: Reed)

Hey performing arts centers…Ben needs an internship.  Ideally he would like to get a programming or production internship at the Kennedy Center.  Shoot me a message or leave a comment if you can help Ben out.  Oh, and by the way, if there is dancing at the year-end celebration, I hope Ben comes.  Ian told me, “Ben can dance to absolutely any kind of music.”  Wow…the bar has been set pretty high.  Maybe instead of his internship he ought to try out for the show So You Think You Can Dance?

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So my first two days at work are in the history books.  I am still in orientation mode, but I can tell you that this organization is full of talent.  The WWF is doing really meaningful work around the world.  Please visit their website to learn more about their 19 priority areas.

I am still trying to catch up on my blog entries!  Today was actually day 211, so I am 13 days behind in my writing.  Oh, by the way, if you are at the supermarket this week and see a magazine called Woman’s World, there should be a story in this week’s edition about the Year of Giving.  I haven’t gotten to the store yet to check it out but am going tonight, so I will let you know.

Alexander on his pedicab (photo: Reed)

Day 198 was interesting.  I spent the entire day over at my brother and his wife’s house dealing with my sick computer.  At 11:00pm we were still running into dead-ends.  I hadn’t given my $10 away so I grabbed my things and headed back to DC in hopes to find someone along the way to give the $10 to. 

Right off of Pennsylvania Avenue near James Monroe Park I spotted a pedicab waiting to pick up a late night fare in front of Kinkead’s restaurant.  I parked the car and walked over and introduced myself to Alexander.

After a career as a military air traffic controller, he tells me that he has been pedaling for the past three years for a company called DC Pedicab.  “We’re the original pedicab company in DC, we started four years ago,” he tells me.  It’s a nice alternative to a traditional cab.  You slow down your travel and actually can take in some of the rich history of our nation’s capital.  While Alexander is pedaling away he likes to share some of that rich history with his customers.  After an hour and a half of chatting with him I can assure you that he is very knowledgeable about the city. 

photo: Reed

Fares typically run about $15-$30, but this all depends on how far and how many people he is pulling.  “I actually charge a little more if the customer is considerably overweight too.  It’s a lot more work!”  And he is a good judge of weight.  He said he could guess my weight and what do you know, he guessed mine within five pounds! 

I asked him what his longest fare was and he said he once took a wounded veteran from the centerfield entrance at the new Nationals Stadium all the way to Walter Reid Medical Center.  How much?  $150!

Alexander found this job on Craigslist.  “I like it.  I pay a monthly fee for the pedicab and then I can work the hours that I want.”  He says that he earns good money and stays in shape.  He also likes that he gets to meet all different kinds of people.  “You never know who you are going to meet.  I even drove Sir Richard Branson around at the Virgin concert at Pimlico.”  Here Alexander talks about another very memorable fare that he had.

We sat and talked for a long time about a myriad of topics.  From what he was doing the day MLK was assassinated and racial tensions in America to what it was like growing up in a Polish-American household in Bridgeport, Connecticut (his mother was first generation and his father second generation.)  Not to mention all the DC history he shared with me.

If you live here or will be in the DC area, I encourage you to give Alexander a call.  You could do a romantic night out on the town or maybe an hour-long guided tour of Washington.  He offered a special rate of $45/hour (please tip him on top of this!) for the readers of the Year of Giving.  Trust me it will be worth it!  He can be reached at 202-531-7432.

Almost forgot, his $10 went on his metro card.  Sometimes Alexander wants to sit back and relax when he travels!

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Stephen waits for work

Stephen has been a bike messenger in DC for two years.  Prior to that, he studied sociology at George Washington University.  

It was not too cold when I met up with Stephen, however, the wind was blowing a little and there was a lot of snow and ice on the streets and sidewalks.  Both of which create challenges for Stephen. 
He is dressed for the job: helmet, heavy coat, messenger bag, radio, and pants that are pinned so as to not interfere with his peddling.  His bike leans against a pole nearby.  “I’ve got four other bikes…different bikes for different occasions.”

Most of his jobs are downtown.  Transporting documents for law firms.  In fact, he says more than 90% of his work is for law firms and lobbyists.  Occasionally he gets the odd request to pick up some pet food or something like that.

As we talk, some other couriers show up.  I detect that they have their own lingo.  One of them talks about an area of DC they call “the hole.”  They mention dangerous jobs like going from Capitol Hill over to Arlington to an area that was not plowed.  Hopefully they get some hazard pay or something for taking such assignments.

Occasionally Stephen’s radio will squawk…and there is the chance for work…but unfortunately that is not the case while I am there. 

Check out the video to find out what Stephen is going to do with the $10.  And keep a look out for these guys when you are driving…try not to hit them, they really do earn their living.

How did I forget to ask him about the mullet?!

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