Thank You and Goodbye Middlebury

By the end of the week I will be leaving my beloved Middlebury College in Vermont and all the wonderful people here to join the RASR crew in Florida and begin our adventure! Thank you so much to all my friends for the amazing support and encouragement they have given me for this trip; none of their actions or words have gone unnoticed. As excited as I am for this soon-to-be fantastic trip-of-a-lifetime, I will be thinking about my friends back here the whole way. Through and with them, I have grown the last three and a half years to become the person I am today.(Shout-out to Hannah and Madie for the super-cool bike-cake! I'm not sure who won the best bike card, but there was truly outstanding artistry all around.)

As my friends at Middlebury have shaped me, so too do I look forward to meeting all the fascinating and gracious people who have both already reached out to us through our ride and who will help us all along our route. The generosity of our friends and the people we have connected with for help during our trip has been really wonderful so far, and I know we will only become more humbled by the ability of others to give. Thanks again everyone!


PS: 4 days until kickoff! Go RASR!


Wha?! Come on Congress...

The House has proposed a transportation bill that eliminates federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects. Specifics from the Bike League:
For the past 20 years, the federal Transportation program has included dedicated funding for biking and walking. Over the course of twenty years and three federal transportation laws, federal support for bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure projects has slowly ticked upwards. As a result, more and more communities feature safe roads for people who travel on foot or by bicycle and more people are bicycling — there has been a 40% increase in bicycling from 2000 to 2009 and a surge in Bicycle Friendly Communities.

In 1992, Congress passed ISTEA, the first federal transportation bill to include funding for transit, biking, and walking. As each consecutive transportation bill passed and continued dedicated funding for biking and walking, funding increased from $23 million for 50 new projects in 1992 to $297 million dollars and 971 projects in 2000, to a record $1.2 billion dollars and 3010 projects in 2009.

However, recently there has been a drop in funding and projects — since 2009 — as a result of the decline in stimulus spending that was available for a limited period and uncertainty over the future of the programs. A similar phenomenon occurred between 1997 and 2005. Now, however, a new transportation bill threatens to eliminate federal support for biking and walking infrastructure all together.

Next Thursday, the House Transportation Committee will vote (see timeline) on the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, a bill that eliminates crucial funds for biking and walking. Representatives on the Transportation Committee are key positions to save dedicated funding for biking and walking.

The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, the long awaited multi-year Transportation bill, eliminates the two largest programs that fund biking and walking infrastructure — Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School. Without these programs, communities all over the country will lose resources to build the sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways that make biking and walking safe and accessible in communities across the country.
Nooo!  Bike-friendly roads are safer for everyone (even drivers, who travel more slowly and smoothly in the presence of bikes). Bike-friendly communities are the healthiest and most attractive places to live. The critical importance of healthy kids goes without saying. So, why is this short-sighted action a good idea to anyone?

Please PLEASE take the time to contact your Representative to ensure future funding for safe routes!


Road Trip

 Two days, great weather, easy driving, and we're in Miami!

RASR was here
Steph got the flash tour of DC on our way outta town
Stopped overnight in Townsend GA to meet Darlene, our future riding partner, and her lovely family. Sweet log cabin!

Cruised into the Sunshine State today


Final Countdown

9 days til our kick off in Key West. Trip prep is at a climax!

Stephanie arrived in DC on Wednesday on an overnight train from Chicago just in time for a pre-trip happy hour at the Boundary Stone Public House. Thanks to all our friends that came out to support us and send us off! And thanks to our very gracious hosts at Boundary Stone for letting us stake out the front of their pub for 4 hours.

Here, body composition scanning

Mom the masters of public health student had us in to get some baseline exercise science testing done so she can compare the before and after effect of this endeavor on our bodies. Thanks to Cameron and Dr. Berger for administering the tests!

The "Bod Pod" - another body comp test, something
about volume of air displaced versus weight...

And VO2 max testing. Kind of like spinning while
scuba diving...

Today we picked up our van after a few token embellishments - pretty slick!

Many hours of packing followed, during which time we contemplated at regular intervals the space that was going to be our home for the next three months.  Hmm, yes, smallish.  Nevertheless, tomorrow we'll jam in all our gear and Steph and I will hit the road. Next time we check in it will be from sunny Miami!


Planning, planning, training, planning...

We are gearing up! As Chelsea said the hardest part of the planning process is waiting to get down to Florida and start riding.

Planning is really coming along (in fact it's just about taken over my life!  Can't say I think about much else lately...)  We've got events and school visits in the works all across the first three states on our route, in: Key West, Miami, Venice (FL), Tampa, Deland, Gainesville, White Springs, Jacksonville, St Marys (GA), Savannah, Walterboro (SC), Columbia, Augusta, Athens (GA), and Atlanta.  Future posts will be dedicated to publicizing the details of those events.  And before we even head to Florida to set off on this crazy journey we are spreading the gospel of Safe Routes here in DC with a promotional fundraising happy hour.  Details:


Why NOT ride across the country? Or anywhere…

A typical contrarian.

When Jeanie decided last August she was going to ride across the country and make it a bike advocacy grassroots movement, I was so excited for her. What an awesome plan! I knew she could generate the attention around the bicycling community she was hoping for, and that it would be a trip for a lifetime. My sisters have both been the top role models for me my whole life. In my eyes there is nothing they can’t do. And everything they do, they do well.

Anyways, back to the point. To repeat: when she told me, I was excited for her. And then I thought about it a little more. What was holding me back from joining her?! Why couldn’t I be just as excited for her as I was for joining her? Well, the list of restraints starts with senior year in college (senior spring specifically, yikes!), and goes through the typical list: best friends, dog, thesis, water polo season, comfort zone… but the list doesn’t get much farther (although it does remind me that I’m living a pretty self-centered life, tucked away in a very comfortable little bubble world called Middlebury College in Vermont). I found that I have no commitments in my life right now that couldn’t wait or wouldn’t still be around after 3 months and 5,500 miles. It wouldn’t be easy to change all the plans I had made, but it wouldn’t be that hard either. When would I feel this way again, if I didn’t join her? Like most people, probably never.

Once I jumped on the bandwagon (and convinced friends and professors it was a necessary experience in my life that couldn’t wait), I found the hardest part of my decision to ride across the country for bike advocacy was waiting for the ride to start. Luckily, the wait is soon to be over. The movement is building every day. We’ve made connections in most of the major cities we’ll be biking through for the month of February. People we’ve never met have offered their homes for us to stay as we bike through their area. Group rides and fundraising events are being organized. We’re getting emails from people we didn’t email first wanting to join us for anywhere from a couple days to a week.

This is what gets me going, even more than the thought of riding across the country and seeing the country by bike: the bike community. There are people everywhere who love to bike, and very few cyclists who don’t want to share their love with others. To me, this is a perfect reason to promote general legislation and specifically safer streets for bikes. If there is so much love in the biking community, and we expand that by inviting more people to ride, spreading the mission of the Bike League and Safe Routes to School, and fundraising for these organizations, there will automatically be more love in more communities across the country. Cheezy? Sure. Reality? I think so.

When you bike rather than drive, you experience the world differently. You have to leave more time to get places (unless you can beat traffic and parking, which is almost always the case in DC, my hometown). You observe (and hopefully appreciate) more details about your route, as you both move slower and are probably closer to them – unique architecture, a new store, a friend on the sidewalk, a lost pet poster, a restaurant you didn’t notice before. You are physically doing the work to get to your destination (which brings more oxygen into your brain and helps increase brain power, burn calories, strengthen muscles, etc). You have to be conscious of the weather, always grateful for good weather and victim to bad weather unless you dress properly.

For me, bicycling is both freedom and connection. Bikes are a transportation mode independent of cars and better for the environment. I want to be part of a movement that will make this country better for the next generation, and I believe more bikes on the road will do just that.

I hope that our ride inspires you to bike somewhere, as my sisters have inspired me through my whole life. Whether you get on your bike for five minutes and cruise the neighborhood, join a bikeshare program and access the city out of your car for a day, or come join us for our whole ride, it will be a step in the right direction.

Happy riding J

Chelsea Ward-Waller