Friday, March 7, 2008

Day One: Richmond to Greensboro, NC

We made it out of town by 10 am after loading the bus with our bikes and bags, and stopping for coffee. It starting raining not too long after that, and come to find out the windshield leaks badly, so Joel the intern spent 3 hours changing out rags and wiping water off everything in the front of the bus. So far he is doing his job well; probably won't last long when he realizes that this is not a paid internship.

We arrived in Greensboro at 2 pm and went straight to the Hive, a community space that is really rad. We had to set up inside because the rain was so bad, but we still had people coming through and got a bunch of neat bicycle donations (Thanks Phyllis!).

Even though the weather made for a pretty slow event, we were excited to realize that over the past 14 months of Books On Wheels, this is the only event we've had that it rained. Still, I worked the door at the Hive to make sure the too many people didn't crowd into our space. Scott was really crowding the doorway; looks like we're going to need a velvet rope if anyone is going to take us seriously.

Friday was double "booked" for us, so at 4 Shelley,Scott, and I drove the bus over to Glenwood Public Library. We had visited this library last year, and Brandon, Greensboro's most enthusiastic librarian, had been a great host, so we knew we had to return this year. Unfortunately, Brandon was out of town for the week, but before she had left she made posters advertising our return. Still, the rain was pretty bad at this point, so the library was almost empty. I used the time to catch up on the blog while Ward asked if we could leave a few boxes of free kids books. "Are you kidding," the librarian wondered, "with budget cutbacks, we can use anything we can get." Perfect.

So we left 2 boxes of great kids books inside the front door with a "Free Books" sign and prepared to drive back to The Hive. That's when Larkin and baby Henry came in to catch up with us. She had 2 other kids in tow, brothers she had met in the parking lot checking out the bus. Turns out that she had been busy outside talking us up, and brought the kids to us because they had a bike at home that they needed fixed. We gave them directions to The Hive and headed back, not really sure if they would walk the 8 blocks in the rain.

Back at The Hive, Erin and Joel were busy working on some great bikes that Phyllis and friends had donated to us. Some people had come by while we were gone and were busy looking through the books, but no bikes had come through. We waited until about 5:30 until we decided that nobody else was going to come by and that we needed to creatively pack the bus to fit all of our recent donations. Well, planning on leaving early only draws customers: Right as we packed up the bike tools, a family of 4 came through with their bikes, and the kids from the library finally showed up!

The family had a set of very nice Giant hybrids, bikes they had bought a year ago but hadn't ridden since. The father said that they really wanted to start riding, and had been inspired to get them out of the basement when they saw the we were in town working on bikes. Though the bikes were new (the tires still had that bike store glow), they needed to be dusted off and to get some air. Shelley went over the basics with them (seat post adjustment, quick release tips, tire inflation), and we packed them up.

The kid's bike needed a little more attention, but Joel put his intern enthusiasm into quickly switching out wheels that would fit the bike.

Meanwhile, I nursed his cold and watched with embarrassment as a Hispanic woman going through the books picked up a copy of The Minutemen, a right wing diatribe about "securing our borders." We get all kinds of donations, and while we try to streamline the books we put out, some really horrible ones sneak past our borders. I mean, we are all about Freedom of Speech, but some voices just don't need to be speaking through Books On Wheels.

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