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Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

-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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Day 331 – Freddy H.

I hope to announce the venue for the Year-End Celebration tomorrow!  It will be Tuesday, December 14th from 6:30-9:00pm here in DC.  If you will be coming and you use Facebook, you can RSVP here.  If you live thousands of miles away or are allergic to kindness and wont be able to go but still want to be a part of it, there is a chance I will have a live feed on Facebook….still working that out.  I will also be raising money for a few awesome charities during the event.  If you wont be able to attend but would like to contribute – I don’t know….$10 perhaps – you can click on the link at the top right of this page that says DONATE.

Freddy has been driving a cab in DC since I was three years old!

Today I present to you Freddy – a DC native who has been driving a cab since 1977.  A good cab driver can tell you as much about people and character as they can about how to get to the airport during rush hour and avoid all the traffic.  I love to talk to cabbies everywhere I go, especially foreign countries – as long as we both can find a language we share.  The worst was a Moscow taxi driver who spoke to me in Russian, which I made painfully clear I didn’t understand, and proceeded to speak to me for 30 minutes.  I just said “da” and “spasiba” a lot.

I flagged Freddy down over in Northeast, DC and headed over near Georgetown in Northwest.  We began talking and I enjoyed the banter and thought I would give him my $10 for the day.  He accepted it but said he had no idea what he was going to do with it yet.  I am going to try to follow up with him and see if he decided yet.

In the last 33 years he has seen everything and unfortunately I mean everything.  “In 1989,” he began to tell me, “I was shot four times and left to die.”  He said he picked up two passengers who asked to be taken to Takoma.  When he got close they pretended to not know exactly where they needed to go and finally asked him to pull over near a pay phone where they got out and conversed a little between themselves.  This is the point at which he should have left.

They got back in Freddy’s cab and asked to be taken over to Piney Branch.  On the way over one of them put a hand gun to his neck and demanded his money.  He handed it over and got out of the cab and was shot four times.  Once in the side, once in his hand, once in his thigh and once in his butt.  “The one that went in my butt is still there…they didn’t take that one out.” 

Fortunately he survived the horrific ordeal and continues to drive his cab.  “Most people are alright,” he optimistically said as I handed him the fare.  “It’s just a few of them who ruin it for the rest of us.”

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Sea of rally-goers between me and the Capitol. (photo: Reed)

Good morning!  DC is full of visitors this weekend for the Rally to Restore Sanity.  Led by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, the event was supposed to be a rally to bring people together.  Unfortunately I think it ended up being attended almost exclusively by democrats.  It would have been nice to have a more inclusive audience.  

My dad came down from Pennsylvania and we went down to the rally.  I can not tell you too much about what happened there because there were way more people there than what they expected.  As a result, there were not enough speakers/jumbo screens for most of us to hear or see what was happening.  It’s too bad too, because I really like Stewart.  I think he is wickedly smart not to mention one of the funniest guys on television.  I would have given him my $10 – but that didn’t happen.  I did give it to a 16-year-old student from NC who attended the rally with his father.  His story in a couple of weeks.

Located at Connecticut and DeSales, The Mayflower Hotel was home to President Harry S. Truman for three months while the White House was being renovated. (photo: Reed)

As for today, I want to introduce you to Luis.  I met him a few weeks ago outside the Mayflower Hotel here in DC when the IMF sessions were taking place in Washington.  Originally from El Salvador, Luis works in the private transportation industry.  On this day, he was chauffeuring executives to and from their meetings.  He’s been in this business for the past ten years he tells me.  Some times he has been hired to make long trips too.  “Last week I went to New York City twice,” Luis said. 

In front of us was a herd of black Town Cars, Escalades, Suburbans – all with tinted windows.  Some had signs in the window to indicate who they were reserved for.  “BNP Paribas” read one sign referring to the French banking powerhouse.  Another had a sign for the London-based HSBC. 

A flight crew from Lufthansa exited and crowded the side entrance to the hotel, about 10 feet from where we were standing.  They all lit cigarettes and a cloud of tobacco smoke settled over us.  Luis, neatly dressed in a black suite with a blue tie, shook his head in disgust and took a few more steps away from the airline personnel.  

His cell phone rang and he excused himself and took the call speaking in Spanish.  He returned a few minutes later apologizing for the interruption.  He explained that his clients were just about ready to leave so I let him get back to work.  

IMF/World Bank Meetings (IMF Photo/Stephen Jaffe)

Before shaking his hand and wishing him good luck, I asked him if he had thought about what he would do with the ten dollars.  He said he would probably use it to buy some breakfast that week. 

He asked not to be photographed and also preferred to not provide any contact information.  Hopefully he will be in touch later so that I can make sure he gets information about the year-end celebration.

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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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