Monday, March 26, 2007

Bicycle Tourism

Touring is a unique style of bike riding. Demands on both bike and rider are different than other styles. Riders must be prepared to camp, fix their own gear, and pack and carry everything they need. The bike must be prepared to haul all that stuff up and down hills and over diverse terrain.

I strongly recommend bikes for touring be equipped with the broadest range of gears available. A heavy bike is more subject to momentum than a lighter one. In order to make the most of a downhill and make it up the big hills, it's nice to have a range from as low as most mountain bikes to as high as most road bikes.

Including myself, four full panniers, and the twins in their trailer, I estimate my bike weighs about 300 pounds. So far, I've had to replace three broken spokes, but it handles very nicely. On my first Bike4Peace ride, the tandem weighed about 450, but with two people driving it (thanks, Ananda). We broke a lot of spokes and, because my front rack was too high, I fought it more. I'm glad I built up my legs last summer and we're not riding such long distances on this journey.

The bicyclist has great incentive to "unstuff." We become painfully aware of every ounce we carry. Of course, the easiest place to shave a few pounds is usually the rider, and several of us are experiencing that process as we ride. And the most important place to save weight is the rotating parts, because you have to push them around more. Tourists are well served by small SPD pedals, but want to shy away from wheels that are too flimsy.

As a gearhead, I am often challenged by the need to reduce stuff. It's tricky to balance the desire to always have the appropriate item for the task at hand, but at the same time to minimize the weight I haul. One learns to greatly appreciate durable flexible tools, especially small, lightweight ones. I've gathered a few of which I'm quite fond. The more frequently I use one, the more attached I become.

Still, part of the challenge is determining one's role. On the last ride, videographer was a primary role for me. It didn't take long on this ride for me to decide to mail my camera equipment to my sister to make extra space for diapers. Babies naturally take priority. Two minutes of the girls singing and laughing back there is easily worth hauling them and their stuff all day. Still, I'd love to find lighter, less bulky and more effective diapers...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

"Nice" Cars

Not every vehicle out there is an SUV. From the point of view of some SUV drivers, at least their vehicles aren't Hummers. I don't really understand the perspective of people who drive Hummers. In fact, the more I rely upon a bicycle, the less I relate to even drivers of nice cars.

I know automotive sales are very sophisticated. Once they've sold you the idea that you need a car, they can sell you almost anything as "at least it's not a Hummer." Just to bring things back into perspective, I offer this test for Truly Clean Vehicles. Try it on your 100-mile-to-the-gallon Ecosensitive Cruizer.

1. With the vehicle running, position your nose within an inch of the exhaust pipe and breathe deeply for three minutes.

2. On a rainy day, gather 16 oz of the water running off the pavement on the underside of your vehicle and drink. Alternately, you could just mix up a cocktail of the various fluids you regularly add to your vehicle.

3. On a beautiful new moon night, find a quiet secluded spot. Stand gazing up and breathe in the beauty of it, before having some heartless bastard drive your car right by you.

If you're not willing to take these tests, please reconsider asking those around you to live with the secretions of your vehicle. If you need help getting around, visit your local community bike shop.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Healthy Thoughts

Isn't it delightful that when we do things that are good for the planet, we become healthier? I first noticed this when I gave up my car to start using a bicycle as my primary mode. I couldn't justify burning oil at thousands of times its natural replacement rate. It didn't hurt anything that I was saving huge amounts of money, meaning I needed to work fewer hours and I actually had more time, even riding seventy miles each week. Improved health was just an unexpected bonus.

Today I was thinking about the health benefits of a low energy diet. When we eat locally grown organic fruits and vegetables raw, we save huge amounts of energy that might otherwise be spent transporting, preparing, and cooking a less healthful diet. Like bicycling, it might take a little more planning, but it tastes so good and it turns out that people who eat a raw vegan diet of fresh organic food generally experience great health. Could it be that what's good for the planet is also good for us personally and vice versa?

It certainly seems true about attitude. Positive enthusiasm, respectful gratitude, and a good sense of humor seem to extend healthful life. They also make one easier to be around, which eventually equates to being good for the planet, I suppose. There are undoubtedly other corollaries I can't think of just now.

I shouldn't be surprised at this. After all, the ecosphere is the smallest individual life form and I am a component of that. It only makes sense that I'd be naturally inclined to work for the good of the planet.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


If things are ever going to get better, we've got to be willing to share our dreams of a bright future, so here's mine. The future begins immediately. If you've been waiting for the future to do the right thing, now is the time.

Under intense public pressure, the US House of Representatives passes Articles of Impeachment against Bush & Cheney for the international crimes of aggressive war. If Cheney resigns, a filibuster prevents Senate consent to his appointed replacement. As the facts of the case are laid out, several Republican Senators agree to vote to convict, in an effort to save their political hides. In her short term in office President Pelosi starts a Truth & Reconciliation Commission to examine Congressional complicity and war profiteering, as well as the complicity of the society that wastes the oil they're fighting over. And finally, in the first free and fair election with mass popular engagement, Dennis Kucinich is elected President and leads the world to sustainable peace.

It's a beautiful vision, isn't it? But I'm not holding my breath. And I'm not going to stop doing the hard, joyous work of grassroots organizing to build a multi-party democracy from the bottom up. The 2007 elections will make more difference than 2008. School board members and other local elected officials have more impact on our daily lives than does the President.

Our daily decisions - how we earn and where we spend our money - make a bigger impact than voting usually does anyway. It's time to start living in the future we want to see.

- Vernon Huffman

Friday, March 02, 2007


I can't live without you. Well, not you, specifically, but people in general. I'm completely vulnerable. I need other people to survive. Life would be miserable without the attention, respect, and kindness of other people.

I am so grateful to all the people who have met my needs in so many ways. There's no way I could ever repay all that kindness, so I'll continue to make myself available to serve the needs of others. Truth be told, I find serving others to be extremely satisfying work. In fact, it is the source of my deepest joy.

When I think this through, it makes it easier to ask for those things that I need. Because it's unlikely that I'm the only person who enjoys serving others. I've met lots of people who seem to get as much from voluntary service as I do. Requesting what I need from anybody who enjoys service is a kindness. A request is a gift.

Of course, there's a huge gap between a request and a demand. Like me, everybody I know needs autonomy, the sense of controlling one's own life. To respect that need when I ask, I must be willing to hear "no" as an answer. Nobody owes me anything. I certainly don't want to force anybody to do my will.

Luckily, there are a lot of good people who are happy to serve others. So whenever one person can't comfortably meet my needs, I can always ask somebody else. When I ask, I always try to preface my request with the understanding that I don't want anybody to do anything for me unless doing it brings them joy.

So even though I am completely vulnerable, I'm supremely confidant that my needs will be met and I will continue to find opportunities to joyously serve. That confidence makes it easier for me to express my needs without seeming needy. I can freely choose to be with others.

Thanks to Marshall Rosenberg for sharing the principles of Nonviolent Communication expressed above. It really works!