As a biker, I’ve thought about joining my friends on the Climate Ride for the last couple of years but the timing never worked out. Now that I have the time (seeking full-time employment here!), I was asked to join the social media team and do a bit of blogging and photojournalism.

How could I say no?

Five days of being around fellow bike riders who are devoted to the cause of bike advocacy and organizations working toward a sustainable future riding through rolling hills of the eastern coast and gorgeous days of sunshine.

Damn. I wish I were on a bike.

So I as I sit here, picking up this paragraph after being on the road, through those rolling hills, and meeting so many wonderful, wonderful people, I’ve got to say that this has been one of those “life changing experiences”; one you will never forget.

I admit that the days blurred one into the other as we raced along to get ahead of the riders to capture video and photos. It somehow seems weird when you keep referring to Tuesday as Day Four, when during your whole work life Tuesday has always been the second day of the week. And time became an arbitrary measure of shooting off to the next water stop or lunch stop or well, water stop.

But really, the champions for me are the people who set out to raise money so that they can do this ride with 200 people. That’s right, 200 people doing 300 miles in 5 days. I met so many incredible people who ranged in age, gender and location of origin that it blew my mind. From France to Argentina, everyone had come to ride together and raise awareness of global climate change. As Marian Westley from NOAA stated at our first night of speakers in Princeton, “Climate change is very real. Make no doubt about it. Humans are having a negative impact on our environment.” Okay, maybe those weren’t her exact words but I got the gist of it. And she backed it up with research that is being done by NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL).

And during our second night Daniel Mira Salama from the Sustainable Development Network at the World Bank showed some very eye opening photos of glaciers that have completely disappeared in the last few years. The glaciers we need to feed our oceans, rivers and streams. The glaciers we need to survive.

And as I walked around, talked with folks and made some awesome videos of people who shared why they ride the Climate Ride trip, I saw my world in whole new light. Not that I’ve been blind to global warming and climate change, but these were brilliant people working in the field, doing research and connecting the dots as they each brought in their unique perspectives. And I just sat, listened and absorbed as much as possible.

It may be that my neural pathways have completely and forever changed because of this.

As we traveled along we spent most of our nights at places like the YMCA or church camps that provided lodging and food for the group. Vegans and vegetarians alike were addressed in the menu planning as well as ways to be carbon neutral with a large group (real dishes that we washed, composting, and corn-based silverware and cups when they were necessary). Most everyone had reusable water bottles and travel mugs for coffee. We recycled whenever we could. We cleaned up after ourselves and respected the environments we were guests in (prayers and keeping kosher when asked).

I met a rocket scientist from NASA who was studying climate change by launching satellites into the atmosphere that will use a laser ranging instrument to measure changes in ice sheet and sea ice thickness, as well as help quantify vegetation carbon sinks around the world. I met a woman who work at Food & Water Watch, an organization that works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced. That means fighting companies like Monsanto who is the biggest player in genetically modified seeds. I met the founder and Executive Director of Windustry, a non-profit that promotes progressive renewable energy solutions and empowers communities to develop and own wind energy as an environmentally sustainable asset.

And so many more amazing people that I could fill page after page of stories. But I’ll stop here because I want to share some photos and links to videos we took along the way. I’ll let the people share their stories with you. And I hope that you will take the time to listen because there are some beautiful and inspiring ideas coming out of this group.

Be patient with this page loading, lots of great videos, but it takes time to load the page!

Why I Ride: Cyclists Share Their Stories

However for me, two great moments will stand out. The first for me was hopping off a platform to do a zipline, something I had never done before. I admit I was scared; it’s so hard to take that first step! But taking it bit by bit (Oh okay, I’ll put the harness on. Oh, so that’s how the harness hooks to the line!) and with a lot of encouragement from the two guys setting it up, I jumped. What a rush!

And second, as we finished up the ride, we grabbed a couple of bike share bikes that DC has installed and biked the final three miles with the group though DC and to the Reflecting Pool in front of the Capitol. It felt great! Especially with my kid’s pirate helmet on! There were a lot of cheers as we rode through and the rally was energizing. The ride ended on a high note of possibility for a brighter, more sustainable future.

And as I sat that final night in the lounge of my hotel, I had a wonderful conversation with a woman from Ireland who enjoyed my impassioned state and urged me to “find what makes you feel your skin”, and old saying her grandmother once shared with her. And I liked it. What makes me feel my skin? Biking, fighting for the environment and most of all remaining open hearted to positive change for the future.

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