Monday, June 30, 2008

Bike-Taxi Business Launches This Week

Seven Days
Published June 25, 2008
By Mike Ives
Photo by Jordan Silverman

Ever find yourself exiting a Church Street bar in the wee hours, but not ready to quit reveling? James Simpson hopes so. And he hopes that you have a few dollars left in your pocket.

A former cabbie for Benways Transportation and Yellow Cab, Simpson is now the ebullient cofounder of Pedal Power Bike Taxi, Burlington’s latest stab at fossil-fuel-free transport. This week, Simpson and his colleagues are releasing two “pedal cabs” into the city’s taxi-jammed downtown. A bike-taxi experience, he assures, will be something of a “party thing.”

In addition to pleasure-seeking passengers, Simpson says, his drivers will haul pizza, parcels and whatever else will fit. (Some Pedal Power rigs will haul up to 1000 pounds.) Says the 31-year-old Simpson, “I’m even trying to work out a delivery for kegs.”

And that’s only the first leg of what could be a long entrepreneurial ride. Pedal Power’s two-taxi fleet will soon expand to six, and Simpson’s crew is manufacturing more gear at a “secret location” — a.k.a., his buddy’s place in Winooski. Future projects may include “trikes” with electric-assist motors, “authentic Asian rickshaws” and a $6000 “bike car” with a fiberglass body. Simpson, who pedal-pushed passengers in Tucson before moving to Burlington, says he plans to sell the contraptions to clients in such neighboring towns as Plattsburgh and St. Albans.

Hoping for a lift in his pedal-powered sails, Simpson recently applied for grant money from Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office. No dice. “They said they’d given out all the money, and they were waiting for it to be paid back,” he reports.

Ed Antczak, an economic development specialist for CEDO, says people have come to his office in recent years with ideas for everything from pedal cabs to rickshaws. “None of them ever materialized,” he says.

Simpson is unfazed. In fact, he is hoping to “make a killing” at the waterfront over the Fourth of July weekend. Later this summer — once Pedal Power has acquired “a good amount of bank” — Simpson hopes to move his makeshift office out of the Pearl Street skateboard shop Ridin’ High Skate Shop.

Since Ridin’ High owner John Van Hazinga is a business partner, there’s no immediate pressure to find permanent digs. Still, Simpson says, “We’re hoping to get out of his hair.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

Freewheel Winooski teaches bike maintenance

Burlington Free Press
Published June 27, 2008
By Julia Melloni

WINOOSKI -- Repairing bikes by truing wheels, fixing gears, brakes and chains can be difficult tasks for cyclists, said Steve Scuderi of AmeriCorps Vista.

As a bike commuter, Scuderi learned the importance of maintaining a functioning bike if he wanted to arrive on time for work every day.

Now he's using his knowledge to teach Winooski teens the art of bicycle repair and putting free bikes into the hands of children through a program called Freewheel Winooski.

Scuderi started Freewheel Winooski in April with several Winooski teens through a job skills training program funded with grants from the Department of Labor's Internship Program. The eight-week program provided the teens with an array of bike repair classes along with a small stipend from the $1,500 grant.

Private donors have supplemented the program by providing money to purchase bicycle repair tools.

Freewheel Winooski is located in the old Winooski library on East Spring Street; it is opening workshop doors for the first in a series of bike jams Saturday. Bike jams are sessions where people come to fix their own bikes by using Freewheel's tools.

People can learn how to repair their bikes, ask for help and learn basic bike maintenance. It's also a place where kids in need can acquire a bike or be fitted to a bike they own.

"We focus on teaching job skills to Winooski teens and at the same time having those skills be useful to the community," Scuderi said. "We get bikes donated, then we turn them back out into the community."

Freewheel Winooski offers bike repair services on a regular basis for folks who need more extensive work. Bike jams will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the last Saturday of the month through August.

PHONE: 655-6410, ext. 11
WHEN: Bike Jams, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, June 28, July 26, Aug. 30

Photo Credit: MYESHA GOSSELIN, for the Free Press
Caption: Quinten Lewis, 13, of Winooski adjusts the spokes on a bicycle Wednesday at Freewheel Winooski.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Burton's Bikers Band Together

Burlington Free Press
Published June 23, 2008
By Lauren Ober

ESSEX JUNCTION — It’s 7:30 a.m. on a recent Friday and the sky is threatening to open up. Later in the day it will dump rain for hours, but for now the heavens are content just to spit.

Kahlil Zaloom and James Fisher, each well prepared for a downpour with their waterproof work bags, are practicing their trackstands as they wait to cross Susie Wilson Road. The men rock back and forth on their bicycles. They’re trying to stand still while not letting their feet leave the pedals and touch the ground. Fisher wobbles and eventually dabs a toe or two on the pavement. Zaloom is triumphant. Fisher will feel the slight sting of defeat for their rest of their ride into work.

When the road is clear, they zip across to the old Fashion Bug parking lot where they meet up with fellow cyclist Michelle Boutin, who has been exercising great patience while the men show off their skills.

Boutin is used to those kinds of antics. She, along with Fisher and Zaloom, works at Burton Snowboards, where playful competition is an implicit part of the company’s culture. Even on Creative Commute Fridays, a new initiative conceived by Burton’s employee-run environmental committee, there’s room for some friendly jousting.

After Zaloom and Fisher get their laughs out about their impromptu intersection spar, it’s time to head into work and get serious. Well, as serious as they get at Burton.

The trio rides along Vermont 15 on their way to Winooski where they will pick up some other Burton employees for their weekly company bike commute.Zaloom, a senior project engineer, initiated the bike pool as a part of the Creative Commute Fridays program, where employees are encouraged to find other ways to get to work every Friday besides driving their cars.

The company bike commute, which draws employees from Essex, Essex Junction, Colchester, Winooski and Burlington, happens once a week and has been steadily growing in numbers. Incentives abound for those participating in the program.

All “creative commuters” are entitled to a free breakfast at Burton, plus are eligible for a number of different prizes. “It’s worked out pretty well so far,” Zaloom said. “People realize they can do it and it’s not a big deal.”

For the last month, Zaloom has been leading the weekly group bike commute from Essex Junction. From Susie Wilson Road, the riders wend their way through Fort Ethan Allen and zigzag through some Winooski neighborhoods before picking up more co-workers at the Winooski Bridge. From there, they head along the Riverside Avenue bike path, through the Old North End and down to the Waterfront bike path where they meet up with more bike commuting colleagues. The journey ends a little more than an hour after the start at Burton’s South End headquarters.

For Boutin, a production artist for Burton’s in-house design agency, Syndicate, riding to work with her colleagues is not only good exercise, but it helps build camaraderie with people she might not directly work with.

“It’s cool to interact with other people at the company,” Boutin said.
For other commuters, like John Boon, a Web programmer, the ride into work is a way to have focus before the day ahead. The commute home from work gives Boon a chance to decompress.

“At the end of the day, it’s 30 minutes I have to myself where I can clear my head and have the wind in my face,” Boon said.

Bike commuting can be intimidating for the occasional cyclist. But riding with the Burton bike posse would allay any fears one might have of the road. Zaloom is an experienced bike commuter and tries to ride into work a few days a week. He points out road debris to other riders and uses appropriate hand signals to let other riders, as well as cars, know he’s turning or stopping.

By the time the group hits the Waterfront bike path, its size was formidable. A dozen riders, mostly bedecked in Burton clothing of varying degrees of neon, spun down the path, spooking more than a few people out for a leisurely morning stroll.

There were mountain bikes and fixed gears and tiny BMX rides, as well as a couple of bikes that have seen better days. Any bike or biker was welcome. A few of the commuters, like Frank White, seemed like they’re been awake for hours. Unbothered by the increasing drizzle, White, who said he works in the “global domination” department at Burton, skidded out the rear tire of his BMX bike and then popped a couple wheelies.

Another Burton cyclist, Ali Kenney, a financial analyst, , had the vestiges of the previous night’s kickball game — a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon — in her water bottle cage. She and mechanical engineer Rachel Gitajn, on a black fixed gear bike with purple handlebar tape and a purple chain, rode down the bike path dodging puddles and chit-chatting about the events of the night prior.

The company bike commute isn’t the only Burton program focused on reducing its collective carbon footprint. The environmental committee recently started a loaner bike program so employees wouldn’t have to use their cars to venture off campus during the day.
But Burton, ever the purveyors of cool, didn’t use any bike. Clothing company Paul Frank Industries designed five cruiser bikes for Burton employees to use. About 100 people have signed up so far to use the bikes and Zaloom calls the program “hugely popular.”

Zaloom, who is passionate about working to reduce the company’s environmental impact, is aware that browbeating his colleagues with a stewardship message isn’t the most effect tactic. The company bike commute is an easy way for people to buy into the idea.“We’re trying to lead by example. We provide the inspiration,” Zaloom said. “We’re not the do-gooders telling people what to do.”

Photo Credit: Emily J. Nelson
Caption: Burton Snowboard employee Michelle Boutin of Colchester waits for fellow bike pool commuters to join her for their ride to work on June 20. Boutin and fellow employees have organized a bike pool.

Bicyclist Is Struck by Car in Shelburne

Burlington Free Press News Brief
Published June 7, 2008

SHELBURNE -- Shelburne police are looking for help finding the driver of a car who struck and injured a bicyclist on Shelburne Road early Thursday morning.

Police said a male bicyclist was traveling south on Shelburne Road in front of the Olive Garden restaurant just after midnight when he was struck from behind. The bicyclist was treated and released from Fletcher Allen Health Care.

Police are looking for a dark colored sedan, which now has moderate to light front end damage. Anyone with information should call South Burlington police at 846-4111.

From staff and wire reports.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bicyclist Take To Highways To Recruit Voters

Burlington Free Press
By John Curran
Published June 13, 2008

Max MacDonald always wanted to bicycle across America.

Now, he's getting his chance. He won't be alone, and the ride will be anything but easy.

MacDonald, 22, and six other young Vermont residents are embarking on a 47-day, 1,800-mile bicycle trip aimed at helping register voters and raise awareness about the importance of voting, at a time when Americans are gearing up to elect a new president.

Their initiative, dubbed The Great American Voter Trek, will make stops in Buffalo, N.Y.; Cleveland; Chicago; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Omaha, Neb.; and Laramie, Wyo., for voter registrations and meet with local officials in 25 other places in between.

It gets under way Monday as the seven-member bike team heads west, backed by a two-man support crew, a rented RV and a whole lot of youthful idealism.

"We're going out for a cause, but we won't know how successful it is until we get out there. What will make it a success? One more person that votes," MacDonald said.

A political science graduate of St. Michael's College, MacDonald conceived the trip and used family connections -- his father is a state senator; his mother, an executive at Cabot Creamery -- to gather sponsorships from a dozen Vermont companies and the state, including Cabot Creamery and Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream.

Estimated cost of the trip: About $50,000.

The group, which has spent two months lining up its itinerary and contacts, plans to make the trip in daily increments of 40 to 75 miles. The bicyclists will travel together, with the RV -- carrying two bicycle mechanics -- leapfrogging them along the route.

The RV, which sleeps eight, has a flat-screen TV, microwave oven, power generator and full bathroom, and gets about nine miles to the gallon, will be their mobile headquarters. It will make the return trip to Vermont, the riders will not. They'll fly home.

If they get hurt while riding west, they'll go first to fellow rider Hayden Coon, 24, a trained EMT.

At the six major stops, there will be music, voter registration and giveaways of Vermont products and Vermont vacation prize drawings. In Buffalo, for example, they plan to hold forth at a Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament, an outdoor hoops tournament that draws thousands of people.

At the other locations, the riders will meet with mayors and town clerks in hopes of reaching out to nonregistered citizens at "mini events" in diners and elsewhere.

"Local officials will be there with us," MacDonald said. "They're the ones who'll sign people up. We'll come in and we'll be like, 'Hey, we're here, come talk with us and oh, by the way, you can register to vote.' We're appealing to the young people, but we're hoping anyone and everyone who isn't registered will come."

The choice of destination was partly pragmatic, partly symbolic. The riders didn't want to spend the entire summer on the trek, and they chose Wyoming as an end point because "the Equality State" was the first in the nation to let women vote, serve on juries and hold public office.

Like MacDonald, rider Megan Newhouse, a 22-year-old triathlete from South Burlington, had also talked about the possibility of a cross-country bicycle trip before becoming involved in Voter Trek.

"When I first told my mom, I said, 'Mom, I'm going to go cross-country on my bicycle,' and she said, 'Not this again.' She was extremely happy to hear it was supported and that I was doing it for a cause and wouldn't be in one of thousands of horrible scenarios she could imagine," Newhouse said.

Photo by Tony Talbot, AP. Caption: Max MacDonald and Megan Newhouse are part of a team of Vermont collegians embarking Monday on a cross-country bicycle trek aimed at helping register voters.

More information at

Catamount Trail Competes for Vineyard Grant

Burlington Free Press
By Phyl Newbeck
Published June 20, 2008

What does a California vineyard have to do with a cross-country ski trail that runs across the state of Vermont? If things go well for the Catamount Trail Association, the answer could be $50,000.

Through its “Greater Outdoors Project,” the Redwood Creek vineyard in Modesto, Calif., has launched an online contest that will result in sizable grants to two nonprofit programs. Almost a hundred organizations ranging from conservation groups to trail clubs submitted entries to the Greater Outdoors competition. Five finalists were selected by a panel comprising wine and outdoor enthusiasts.

The Catamount Trail Association is one of the five finalists. The association is a nonprofit, member-driven organization that builds, manages and conserves the Catamount Trail, a 300-mile public access ski trail covering the length of Vermont. Voting to decide which nonprofit should receive the $50,000 grant (the runner-up receives $10,000) is under way now online ( through July.

Berne Broudy, a free-lance writer and photographer who serves on the CTA board, brought the contest to the attention of executive director Jim Fredericks. Fredericks was impressed with the notion of collaboration between the public and private sectors. He noted that as the economy gets tighter, people might be less willing to contribute to charitable organizations. Therefore, it is crucial that corporations and other entities pick up the slack. Only 210 of the Catamount Trail’s 300 miles are permanently conserved. It is imperative that CTA find ways to ensure the other miles will remain open to the public in perpetuity.

CTA is competing against two national organizations and two regional ones. One of the national organizations, American Forests, was founded in 1875 and has a goal of planting100 million trees by 2020. The other, NatureCorps, is of more recent vintage. Founded in 1987, NatureCorps is described as “the premier national network of volunteers dedicated to the preservation of America’s National Parks.” The two local organizations are Friends of the Cheat, which focuses on the Cheat River Watershed in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and the Southeast Wisconsin chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Fredericks is undaunted by the challenge of competing against national organizations, noting that the projects proposed by the four groups deal with small areas of land. “Because the 300-mile Catamount Trail traverses the entire state, I’m presenting the challenge to all Vermonters to vote as often as possible to protect the last 90 miles of the trail,” Fredericks said.

Richard Wiese, former president of The Explorers Club and host of PBS’ “Exploration with Richard Wiese,” was one of the judges who winnowed the applications to the final five. Wiese has skied on the Catamount Trail and is familiar with the issues facing local and regional trail organizations. He said he felt comfortable that any money given to the organization “would be money well spent.” Wiese praised Redwood Creek’s commitment to the environment and believes it is important to have nonprofit and for-profit companies band together for creative solutions.

In contrast to the Long Trail, which runs across the spine of the Green Mountains, the Catamount Trail typically crosses lower elevation land near the mountains, the same land that is coveted for vacation homes. Ten years ago, CTA negotiated with roughly 100 landowners for the right to cross their land. That number has almost doubled, with most located in the northern part of the state. Quite a few of these are second homes belonging to out-of-state residents with whom it might be harder to negotiate. Additionally, roughly 20 percent of the Catamount Trail follows the VAST trail. Fredericks would like to move off the VAST trail to terrain that is less accessible and more “back-country.” If CTA wins the contest, the money will go toward negotiating easements to preserve the unprotected portions of the trail.

Fredericks gave an example of the problems the organization faces. Every winter CTA organizes a weeklong tour of the trail. This year’s tour traveled from Morrisville to the Canadian border. The group had almost completed their trek when a landowner came out and barred them from crossing his land. Unbeknownst to CTA, the landowner with whom they had previously reached an agreement had sold his land and the new landowner would not honor that arrangement. One of the skiers knew of private land over which public access was allowed, and the group was able to finish the tour. CTA is negotiating with another landowner to relocate the trail.

Fredericks said Redwood Creek’s Greater Outdoors Project makes good business sense, noting that someone who might not otherwise try their wine might be impressed by their charitable initiative. “People have a good feeling for companies that do that,” he said. Fredericks hopes Vermonters will log on to the Web site and cast their votes for the Catamount Trail Association. “In general,” he said, “Vermonters care very much about their environment, and I think this is an opportunity to make a difference with very little effort.”

Burlington Free Press File Photo of Executive Director Jim Fredricks.

Green Mtn Bike Club Is Running Circles

Burlington Free Press
By Phyl Newbeck
Published June 20, 2008

Round and round and round the cyclists went, leaning sharply on the curves but not losing speed along the flat, 1-kilometer course.

Tuesday was the fourth scheduled criterium in a series run by the Green Mountain Bicycle Club. Rain earlier in the day and a less than promising forecast cut down on the number of riders who made their way to Gauthier Drive in Essex Junction. Previous races had attracted more than 40 riders, but only 30 visited the course this week. Organizer Claude Raineault said that aside from the Green Mountain Stage Race, a four-day cycling competition held in September, the practice crits (as they are known colloquially) are the only officially sanctioned road event in Vermont.

The series began in the early 1990s with cyclists doing loops in the vacant Taft Corners area where Wal-Mart is now located, said GMBC president Kevin Bessett. When construction began, the series recessed before beginning again in 2000 in two different locations. Raineault took over running the series four years ago.

Organizing the races is no easy matter. Raineault has to obtain permits and permission from local businesses to close the road, and volunteers are needed to sweep the course before the race and act as marshals during the race.

This year, in addition to the “A” and “B” races, Raineault has added a “C” race for those who are either new to racing or to criteriums. C racers are assigned mentor who ride alongside them, providing pointers for the first half of the race. During the second half, the riders are on their own. All racers are required to be members of the U.S. Cycling Federation, although non-members can purchase a one-day license for $10. In contrast to most GMBC events, which are free, there is a $5 fee for the races, which includes a USCF surcharge. Riders are required to wear helmets . Because of the inherent dangers of taking turns at sharp angles, races are canceled in the event of rain or other unsafe weather.

Tuesday, low attendance and damp roads caused Raineault to combine the B and C racers for a later start. Initially, the 11 riders stayed in a tight group, but eventually some were dropped from the pack. The pace quickened toward the end of the race, and in a sprint to the finish, John Painter, 33, came across the line first. The B/C group finished 29 laps in 29 minutes.

The A group started shortly thereafter. One of the marshals, Andre Sturm, pointed out that these experienced riders were working more strategically. They stayed in closer pace lines, taking turns “pulling” the group. Isaac Howe, 22, had a breakaway early. He was pulled back into the pack, but broke free again later in the race to finish first. The A racers completed 57 laps in 46 minutes at an average speed of 27 mph. The fastest lap time was just under 32 mph.

Raineault said attendance has increased every year he has run the series. Ages range from juniors to those in their 50s. Although men greatly outnumber women, Raineault said this year has shown an increase in female ridership. Tuesday, however, there were only two female cyclists. Many racers are local, but others come from as far as Burke, Castleton, and Plattsburgh, N.Y. This week, there was one rider from Montreal and another from Denver. Coloradan Mike Welker was visiting his girlfriend’s Vermont family and had investigated his racing opportunities ahead of time, planning his trip in part around the race. Welker finished third in the B/C race, despite the fact he was using a rented bike and unused to sea-level air.

Greg Tomcyzk was riding in his first crit of the season and had forgotten to take the rack off the back of his bicycle. No extraneous parts are allowed on bikes, including the aero bars, which are popular at time-trial races. Since these are informal races, riders took an extra practice lap, while Tomcyzk found an allen wrench to remove the rack. The races are low-key enough that riders who drop from the pack are allowed to coast until the pack comes around and jump back in. The only proviso is they are then not allowed to take part in the final sprint.

Raineault says criterium racing is more exciting than other forms of racing such as time trials where riders start at one-minute intervals and ride alone. He said the close quarters in which crits take place provide a real adrenaline rush. Unlike time trials where you are alone and have plenty of time to focus on your pain, in criterium racing, the close quarters allow you to continue past your pain threshold as you concentrate on staying with the pack. Raineault noted that there are more crashes in criterium racing than other forms of bike racing, but the series has not had any serious injuries. Sturm said most of the crashes are the result of flat tires causing chain reactions among cyclists.

At 51, Bruce Bell is one of the older criterium racers. He hopes to compete in the Green Mountain Stage Race this year. Bell said there aren’t many sports where those older than 50 can compete with people half their age or less. “Or beat them,” chimed in Jared Katz, 41, who was standing nearby.

Katz said criteriums are his favorite event because “there’s something about riding at speed in a group and having somebody, or a group of bodies, go off the front at 5 or 6 miles per hour faster than the rest of the field and knowing you just have a couple of seconds to decide whether to chase them. In those couple of seconds,” Katz said, “everything can change.”

A Pretty Good Workout

Burlington Free Press
By Jessie Forand
Published June 4, 2008

3,756 miles. Two months. About 25 pounds. These are the result of a journey taken by Rick Hubbard. From mid-March through mid-May, Hubbard rode a bicycle from San Diego, Calif., back home to South Burlington.

Oh, and one other important fact — he is 66 years old.

In celebration of his retirement, the former attorney “pumped up the health part” and decided to ride his bike across the country: “I’m old enough, at 66, to clearly be in ‘use it or lose it’ territory,” Hubbard said. “Better do it while I still can."

An early estimation, in one of Hubbard’s along the road e-mail updates, he predicted he would arrive home May 21. He not only met this goal, but surpassed it and arrived back in South Burlington on May 12.

“I had incentive to beat it,” he said: His “sweetie,” Sally Howe, was leaving on a trip of her own to meet up with family and then former classmates in Spain, beginning May 18. He described himself as “like a horse headed for the barn.”

Hubbard flew to San Diego and began his venture March 13. The reasoning behind his departure location was twofold. First, he partially followed the Southern Tier route provided by Adventure Cycling, leading from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., although he only stayed with the trail until just before the Mississippi River and then forged his own path.

The second reason: “It’s winter, and there are no options anywhere else,” Hubbard said.

Having “held it down” at first, Hubbard’s daily travel, excluding the first two weeks of the trip, was 75 to 90 miles per day. He took it a bit easier at first because he had suffered from an injury in the recent past and had been training with cross-country skiing as opposed to biking during the winter.

Fourteen states were covered in the journey, including Texas, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Hubbard crossed back into the Green Mountain State near Lake George, N.Y., and was met by Howe in Vergennes for a meal and an accompanied final stretch home.

Hubbard took a unique and ultimately very enjoyable approach to finding shelter along the way. He used the Warm Showers Organization, a Web site that connects cyclists — those on trips with those willing to host visitors for an overnight stay and, yes, a warm shower. The No. 1 rule of the site is that if people wish to find a host home, they in turn must open their home to others, so Hubbard’s home is listed on a map of hosts around the globe, available to those in need of a temporary shelter.

“I tried to pick people that were a little older,” he said, “a little closer to my age.”

His hosts included another retired attorney, a younger couple who met through biking, a British man and his Swedish wife, a doctor, and a minister. In addition to Warm Showers homes, Hubbard stayed in motels, with relatives, and even an old hiking buddy.

“It really was the highlight of the trip,” Hubbard said of his accommodations. “It broke up being on my own a lot.”

With only himself and a bike, Hubbard just brought the necessities. He had bike shorts, a fleece, Day-Glo protective gear, sneakers, a pair of running shoes (for when he was off the bike), a pair of zip-off khaki pants, one polo shirt and a sleeping bag and tent for emergencies, which he needed once while in New Mexico.

On this occasion, Hubbard found himself in a tiny town with no motel in sight.

“I ended up in my tent, on gravel, behind a post office, and it went to about 28 degrees,” he said.

In New Mexico. Hubbard was able to see a former cliff dwelling, where adobe houses were built in caves. The houses were built in the 1200s — “Some were quite sophisticated,” Hubbard said — but abandoned in the 1300s, for unknown reasons. According to Hubbard, it could have been because of climate changes, such as droughts, or because the people were driven out by other tribes.

“Here’s a whole civilization that when there’s climate change, abandoned,” he said.

Adverse weather was possibly the worst part of Hubbard’s trip. After going for about 35 days without having to don a rain jacket, he hit Stroudsburg, Pa.

“It poured buckets,” Hubbard said.

The rain soaked through his alpine ski gloves. Hubbard, who had a pre-existing condition where the cold would cause circulation problems in his hands and feet, went on for about 20 miles and climbed the “steepest hill of the trip,” before finding an environmental center, where he warmed up.

Aside from the elements, Hubbard never faced anything perilous.

“I never felt threatened. I never felt my life in danger,” he said.

Hubbard did, however, discuss bicycle safety — by which he meant a lack of road shoulder for bikes to use for travel.

In an e-mail update while on the road, Hubbard wrote, “... Route 11 entered Virginia. At the Tennessee/Virginia border, the shoulder disappeared (all of it!), but the heavy traffic remained. The shoulder never reappeared. ... So far, of the route I’ve traveled across our country, my route in Virginia ... feels the least safe (with only 1 previous exception) of all I’ve encountered.”

After returning home, with tired legs, Hubbard has not been back on the bike. He has, however, gone walking with friends and jogging.

This is by no means Hubbard’s first long-distance trip. He once walked more than 450 miles around Vermont, and he has walked both the Appalachian and Long trails. He lists two reasons for these long ventures: entertainment and exercise.

“I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors,” he said. “I’ve tried to make that a lifestyle.”

Hubbard said that easy, long distance exercise is also the best way to lose weight. His own weight loss supports this theory, going from about 185 pounds to about 160 pounds.

Hubbard already has his next trip in the works; and this time he won’t be alone. Howe, his “sweetie,” as he called her, and he will be heading out in September.

“We’re planning a three-week bike trip to southern France, Provence,” he said.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Biking the U.S. of Awesomeness

Seven Days
By Kevin J. Kelley
Published 06.11.08

Anne Callahan belongs to a generation that’s supposedly bagged books in favor of electronic media. But the 27-year-old Middlebury College alum remains very much a woman of the printed page. She recently launched an old-fashioned publishing business, Graphic Union Press, from her apartment in Harlem. And its debut book — titled Biking the U.S. of Awesomeness — further flouts the conventional thinking of the Digital Age by putting a collection of email messages into the form Johannes Gutenberg pioneered six centuries ago.

The same spirit of contrariness animated the four cyclists — three of them also Midd grads — who chronicle their 4377.5-mile, coast-to-coast journey in this slender volume. Most cross-country bikers pedal from west to east to take advantage of tailwinds. But Nicole Grohoski and friends pushed off from Lubec, Maine, and dismounted 77 days later in Cape Meares, Oregon. “It’s OK to go against the prevailing winds,” Grohoski explains.

She means that figuratively as well as literally. Grohoski and fellow biker Caitlin Prentice (both Class of ’05) note in an appendix to the book that Middlebury College has a narrow view of “success” — namely, a high salary. So one objective of their excellent adventure, the bikers explain, was to prove “it isn’t about stuff” and that “the unconventional can also be successful.”

In their whimsical weekly emails, the bikers tell friends and relatives about some of the oddments they spin by in the U.S. of Awesomeness: the site of the invention of the paper bag in Palatine Bridge, New York; the Lawn Ornament Capital of the World in Michigan; the statue of the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota; the world’s largest bird feeder in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Callahan, who’s currently studying the history of decorative arts and design at the Bard Graduate Center in Manhattan, notes that Biking the U.S. of Awesomeness is illustrated by another Midd alum, Charles Mahal.

This initial book from Graphic Union Press has the distinction of being one of the last printed by the Stinehour Press, a Northeast Kingdom company that earned a national reputation for its museum-quality work. Founded in 1952, Stinehour closed a couple of months ago — a reflection, perhaps, of the trend away from the printed page that Callahan has set out to defy.

Long an admirer of Stinehour’s exquisite illustrated books, Callahan visited the press’ plant in Lunenberg and was delighted to discover “they were perfectly willing to take on my little baby project.” She says she turned to the company after failing to find a printer she could work with in New York. “It’s way easier to find a business like this in Vermont,” Callahan said in an interview last Saturday during an appearance in Middlebury.

She placed an order for an 800-copy press run — the smallest number that Stinehour could print — for a cost of about $4000. Success in this case will be recouping that expense, at $12 per book. In the first week, she’s sold 25 copies online and at Middlebury’s Vermont Book Store.

It may be an old-fashioned love affair she’s having with the printed word, but Callahan makes no apologies for carrying that torch. “I don’t think books are going to die anytime soon,” she surmises. “Besides, I’m doing what I love doing.”

Montpelier Public Art Project Is a Wheel Deal

Seven Days
By Patrick Timothy Mullikin
Published 06.04.08
Photo: Tricycle made by John Brickels

Rob Hitzig, co-owner of The Lazy Pear Gallery in Montpelier, is excited about an unusual public art exhibit that’s popped up around the capital city. “SculptCycle 2008,” a collaboration between the Montpelier Downtown Community Association and the central Vermont arts community, is a summer-long event featuring 20 sculptures made mostly from recycled bicycle parts. “The pieces do not have to be 100 percent recycled, but bicycle parts need to be in the sculpture,” Hitzig explains. “We wanted to give the artists a pretty wide range of flexibility in terms of how they put things together and what they did.”

“SculptCycle” marks the first time the city has presented a formal outdoor public art event, says Hitzig, event chairman and one of the 20 participating sculptors; his piece is entitled “Dog Walker.” In addition, the sculptures are for sale, with proceeds going to the MDCA. That group plans to purchase one of the “SculptCycle” pieces for permanent display in Montpelier.

Hitzig reveals the original idea was to create sculptures out of fiberglass. “In researching the project, we did talk to other communities that have done things like this using fiberglass for projects where they create cows or moose,” he explains. “A number of them also said there are people worldwide who collect public art and sculptures from these projects.”

Those collectors, along with summer tourists and locals, will all have a chance to bid on the pieces on October 4. Each artist received a $500 stipend for his or her work, says Hitzig (who declined his), and will be given 20 percent of the auction sale price. The remaining 80 percent goes to the MDCA.

So why bicycles? “We were looking for ways to promote environmental sustainability and what we can really do to improve our environment and create a sustainable world,” Hitzig says. “Using bicycle parts really put that in the forefront of the project. We get people thinking about biking and using alternative forms of transport, and recycling objects and turning them into works of art.”

The 20 works span a range from the abstract to the functional. “I saw one . . . where they had crushed bicycles into a cube — totally cool, I thought,” says Vermont Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Skoglund, who is judging the works. Skoglund’s undergraduate degree, for the record, is in sculpture. She is also curator of the Vermont Supreme Court’s lobby gallery. (Members of the public will have a chance to vote on their favorites on October 4, the night of the auction.) “I think it’s a great way to inspire and get the community excited,” says Skoglund of the event. “Art makes us happy.”