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.

On my way to BRAG

Imagine using a week of your vacation to ride 300+ miles across Georgia. Along the way, we sleep on gym floors, shower in high school locker rooms, and subsist on peanut butter, bananas, Powerade, and fig bars. We get up around 5 a.m., ride most of the day, and relax in the afternoon and evening.

Most of my family and friends don’t get it at all, but this experience called the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG for short) is one of my best weeks all year. That’s not to say it’s easy — I’ve fallen and scraped skin off my leg, have had to give up some days because of asthma, and have gotten dehydrated at least once. But it’s a ride that engages all of me in a way I don’t often experience. It takes all my time, my attention (a slip in attention is how I fell), and my lung power. But it’s also a chance to connect with the natural world, to reconnect with good friends, and to be surprised by what I can do.

So I’m on the way to my seventh BRAG since 2006. I’ve worn myself out packing and I have some butterflies — as I always do. But what I love about BRAG is that no matter how any one day goes, there’s always something new to see and someone new to meet. I’m excited and ready for this adventure. BRAG, here I come!

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