Not easy being green: My first day bicycling to General Assembly sessions

Back in 2011, when the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met in Nashville, my tandem-riding bicycle buddies and I brought our bicycles and cycle-commuted back and forth. It was 9 million degrees that summer — especially in the middle of the afternoon — but the whole experience was enjoyable enough that I decided to do it again. So this year, in Orlando, the three of us are staying in a condo about 4 miles away from the convention center and riding back and forth. This morning was my first ride, for 9 a.m. worship. Traffic was light, and motorists were generally really considerate in moving over and not crowding me. (Hooray, Orlando!)

I discovered on this first day that there are a few obstacles. There’s one — ONE — bike rack at the convention center. And nobody who works here knows it exists. I discovered this when it wasn’t where I expected, and the security officer I asked said, “I’ve never seen a bike rack here.” (Turns out it was less than 50 yards away from where this conversation happened.) I forgot my bike lock, so my friends graciously loaned me one of theirs.

panniers and messenger bagBut the biggest challenge is hauling all the “stuff” I need for a full day at Assembly. In addition to my laptop and iPad, I packed a change of clothes, some snacks for the morning, and my water bottle and coffee mug. All of this arrives on my bicycle in two pannier bags and a messenger bag across my shoulder. A friend is loaning me space in her hotel room to store the extra stuff — but that hotel room is five convention halls, an outdoor sky bridge, a trip down the escalator, half the length of the hotel, an elevator ride up, and the full length of a hotel hallway away. Back and shoulders and feet are tired. It’s not easy being green at Assembly!

Some people think I’m crazy — usually by saying some version of, “Good for you!” accompanied by a look that says I’ve lost my mind. Some ask why I do this. It’s a question that has lots of answers: To get some exercise in a way I enjoy. To avoid the exorbitant parking costs at the convention center. To help the environment by driving less. And to model all of these things for other Assembly-goers, in hopes of building a larger cycle-commuting subculture than just the three of us next time. My plan this week is to talk to the Green Chalice team and see if I can help set up some very small cycling accommodations for the 2015 General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio.

So for now I’ll keep riding, despite the challenges, because this is important to me, and because it’s important that cycle-commuting be present at the Assembly.

Day 5 of BRAG: Goodbye, Andrea — Hello, traffic

One of the major forms of entertainment on BRAG during a storm is trying to forecast the next day’s weather. The optimists, like me, look at the range of different forecasts hope for the best. And the pessimists find the worst, most dire weather forecast and make it their job to share the grim news with others. One Wet Blanket informed us that we would be in the middle of a hurricane with 60 mph winds and rain the whole way.

Luckily, Wet Blanket was wrong. (Equally luckily, I had the self-control not to mention it when I saw him.) The weather was delightful – overcast in the early morning, followed by a clear, sunny day. The ride was a 70-mile endurance challenge, but the flat terrain made it easy to go quickly. We passed the time with long, rambling road conversation.

The ElliptiGo

The ElliptiGo — you have to see it to believe it!

The day was interspersed with five rest stops — including one with sulphur water. My favorite moment of the day came at the second rest stop, where my buddy Jeremiah noticed a dog carrying off his cycling helmet. I also got to see the ElliptiGo up close — part elliptical, part bicycle. One brave guy has been riding (walking? climbing? running?) that thing the entire BRAG!

Today’s ride took a challenging turn about 5 miles from the end, when we rode the rest of the way into Brunswick on busy 4-lane highways. Most motorists were courteous and moved over a lane when approaching, but one woman crowded us from behind and then honked loudly when she finally passed us. Vehicles, folks — bicycles are classified as vehicles and need to be treated as such.

Tonight ended with the annual performance of Moonbase. Ah, Moonbase. People wonder what Moonbase is. People ask for descriptions of Moonbase. But Moonbase is simply not describable. It happens at night in a field far, far away, and it can feature anything from light-up armadillos to glow sticks to a stuffed E.T. arriving in a mailing box. Giant light bulbs arranged to make the big dipper, a lighted head of Woody Woodpecker. Performance art at its best.

Tomorrow’s our last ride of this adventure called BRAG. I’m going to miss my team (the Team Vaughn School of Bragging, to be specific) when it’s all done, but I’m starting to look forward to truly clean clothes and my own shower and bed. And of course, the cycling adventures will continue….