Saturday, June 28, 2008

June 28th: Harrisonburg, VA, Our Community Place Lawn Jam

Harrisonburg is one adorable place. I used to spend a lot of time in Harrisonburg because of my friends from high school who attended James Madison University after graduation lived there. My sister also went there for a semester, so I would make the two hour drive from Richmond to Harrisonburg quite frequently. Its beautiful, quite, and in the mountains, and full of people that are doing some really amazing things. Both Ward and I were really stoked to visit.
We arrived on Friday evening to Marrianna's house, a friend of Kate (Ward's girlfriend) and Ward's, only a few moments before Kate arrived, having driven up from Richmond to visit for the weekend. Ward and I polished off some Roti's that we got before leaving Philly and we all chatted, ending the night really early on the quite porch.

The next morning we woke and went to eat at the Little Grill Collective, a restaurant collective that serves awesome veggie and vegan food. Really incredible how this place is run and the dedication that is involved. They also have musical events, and if you don't finish your meal, you don't have to feel bad because it goes to the pigs! Check it out here:
The event we were setting up at was right across the street at a new community center that is right on the verge of opening called Our Community Place. Check it out here:

The whole day was filled with music, FREE BURRITO BAR, tea and lemonade (of course we made Arnold Palmer's), volleyball tournament, horseshoe tournament, slip and slide, a yard sale, and a lot of other wackiness. We fixed a few bikes, got a chance to talk to the local bike project located in the yard of the OCP, which was this really nice shed were bikes were fixed and stored and sold for super cheap to get people riding who really needed bikes.

After a few hours, we loaded up, and I headed back to Richmond, leaving Kate and Ward to visit for another night. I was ready to go home, even after such a sort amount of time on the road. We had a long week, and it was sad that I was returning alone, but as I drove through the mountains, I came to a point where I was barrelling down this hill, coasting at 65 miles per hour, with the clutch in and the gears in neutral, and for three minutes the engine wasn't roaring and it was almost quite, and I got a chance to call Ward and tell him how cool it was, and how I couldn't believe how fast I was going and for so long, and how I wish he was there because he loves coasting in the bus. It was a pretty perfect ending.

June 27th: Baltimore, CSAFE

We left Philly early on Friday morning to make it to Baltimore for an event that started at noon. Since Ward and I were on our own, I couldn't take an pictures of the event, because the minute we arrived and unloaded, we were swamped with people in need of bike repair. CSAFE had a free cooked out, and supplied was with tons of free water, which was greatly needed in the heat, working in a parking lot with no shade. At one point, the line that had formed that was self regulated got a little tense when two people argued over who was next, but the situation was quickly resolved when we promised to at least get to everyone that was present at that time.
By the last hour, we could tell it was going to be difficult to finish with everyone, so the president of CSAFE helped us out by asked the crowd if anyone knew how to fix their own bike, and provided tools and parts if they would just start working and helping others. Teenagers stepped up to the task, taking off wheels and changing tubes, and it always is really motivating and awesome to see everyone working together. By 3 o'clock we had to retire, because we had a 5 drive ahead of us to Harrisonburg, making it an 8 hour driving day, and we knew we would be exhausted from it.

On the way to Harrisonburg, we passed Dinosaurland, and Ward and I stopped to check it out and take a break. We pulled the bus into the parking lot, walking into the gift shop to buy tickets, and the woman who ran the place said she was closing in 5 minutes (at exactly 6:40). We were bummed not to get to check out the replicas of dinosaurs and sharks and King Kong. She made a comment about noticing the bus rolling in, and I think she saw the bus and figured we were going to unload more like 60 people instead of two, and decided to close so not to have to wait.

June 26th: Philadelphia, David's House

Thursday morning we woke up and got an early start to drop off books at a Summer Program at a place called Heavenly Hall and then headed over the the Bike Church to restock on supplies for the afternoon. Neighborhood Bike Works runs the Bike Church, which is an amazing bike project that is incredibly well organized and had a ton of spare parts that they let us have, which is so important because we have no other means of getting anything on the road that we need. We arrived to our event at 2 outside of David's house, another employee of NMW that does summer programs teaching kids how to work on bikes. He anticipated a lot of kids showing up, since his house was located out side of a community center where a whole bunch of people hang out. Steve, the cook, was along with us for the afternoon, and not only offer up his cooking skills in preparing a platter of veggie burgers during the event, but worked on bikes the whole time.

Chance showed up again to help out, as well as our buddy Mickey, who jumped right in when noticing that the line for bike repair seemed endless, and more and more people just kept showing up. We had a few first this afternoon- we were not only donated a huge tray of food from a local as a donation, but 32 cold Budweiser beers for our efforts. After a women asked me if we drank beer, and i responded, "Not right now", she came back with a bag of beers, and then later another neighbor handed over a case of bottles, to which we greatly looked forward to enjoying after we were "off the clock".

Another first was that we were learning quickly that we had to know how to say no, and when 6 o'clock hit, after hours of working non-stop, we just couldn't get to everyone, even with the help of David and one of this roommates, making a grand total of 6 bike mechanics for the afternoon, the most we had ever had working at one time. We cleaned up and closed the bus, and headed to the roof of David's house to enjoy our donations as well as to see a amazing view of the entire city of Philadelphia. Chance took the opportunity to run over to the community pool behind the rec center, and upon returning to the house, told us that while in the pool, and woman swam up to him, and asked, "Can you help me out?". He looked at her confused, wondering what she needed help with since she was obviously swimming well enough to seemingly not need assistance, and then she said, "Can I get 90 cents?".

Ward and I have to apologize to those who helped us, and how we didn't prep them for the event and certain aspects of how we work and how working with kids goes. When we got done, Mickey and Steve expressed their confusion over the kids asking for "S's"(derailleurs) or asking for their "S's" to be fixed, or asking if we had any pogo's (pegs) for their bikes, so they didn't know what a lot of the kids were talking about and what they needed help with.

In explaining how his day went, Steve said it would have been much easier except he spent so much time trying to get chains back on after fixing flats when having to work around a chain guard. I felt real bad immediately, because this is something that Ward and I learned early on: When you get a small bike with a chain guard, no matter what you are doing to the bike, explain to the kid why the chain guard is a piece of crap and only makes their bike harder to work on and fix, and how the chain guard can be dangerous when little shitty plastic starts breaking, which it will, because they are cheap and crappy. Remove the chain guard, offer to throw it away for the kid (or if they want it they can keep it) and then start working on the bike. It makes the biggest difference EVER. Sorry Steve.
- Shelley

June 25th: Philadelphia, Haddington Bike Shop

On Wednesday morning Ward and I got up pretty early after sleeping in the bus and headed over the Neighborhood Bike Works Haddington Shop. Again, we had been to this location the previous year, so we had an idea of what to expect. Mustafa, who works for NBW, opened the shop on his day off, since they were typically only open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. What an awesome dude!
Before getting off the bus, I noticed that Ward had not taken off his sandals and I expressed my concern for his toes, but he said he was much more comfortable, and he would take the risk of dropping a tool or a bike on his foot for not wearing shoes while hanging out on an unshaded sidewalk for the afternoon. Within a few hours of hanging out in the heat, I found myself being desperately jealous for some sandals myself, even trying to find a cheap pair at the convenient store next door. No luck. I would have to wait until the tomorrow and hit up the One in Five on the same block where Ryan and Chance live.
We set up as usual, and had a small crowd throughout the morning, which was great because it gave me the opportunity to strip some bikes for parts in the bus that we had been toting around while Ward worked on repairs. Ward spent most of the afternoon with DeShawn, or "DeDe", who hung out the entire time, talked non-stop for four hours, and had about 9 bikes that he needed fixed.
The funny thing is that this is a phenomenon at all our events. There is ALWAYS one kid who has a lot of really messed up bikes, like you fix one and they all of a sudden have two more out of NO WHERE, and then a couple more just seem to appear. Where are they stashing all these bikes? And it also seems like they never went far to get the bikes, like they are always just right around the corner, or their pulling them out of their pockets or something. Its a mystery to me. Chance called the "i got a million busted bikes" kid out the day before, yelling, "Damn, Omar, how many bikes you got?!?!?", to which there is also never an explanation more than a shrug of the shoulders as to why one kid has sooo many bikes. Pretty funny.
A guy came by and get a tune-up on a really nice bike and he gave us 30 bucks, which ruled because we very rarely get donations on the road.
A guy in a car at the stop light at the intersection where we were set up asked Ward, while I was standing next to him, "Where did you find a girl that can work on bikes?".
A guy showed up in need of a new inner tube, and then told Ward aggressively that it was Ward's problem that his bike was messed up, which just confused us all. Ward tried to question the guy about it, saying "How can it be my problem? I don't have to ride this bike", to which the guy didn't reply, he just keep talking and talking. Then Ward asked him if he was related to DeShawn, and the guy actually tuned in, saying "Why? Cause he talks a lot?" .
A guy showed up and interrogated Alex, the camera dude who came on tour with us to video tape the events, as to whether or not we really thought we were doing any good in helping people, as to which Alex had nothing to say, because he was just trying to video tape. It wasn't funny because it seemed like the situation was getting tense, but it was almost entertaining that the guy was so relentless in preaching to the wrong person.
We packed up by 3 and headed back to West Philly to the house to enjoy the afternoon on the roof, relaxing, watching the happenings in the park and retiring early for some much needed rest.

June 24th: Philadelphia, Ben's House

We arrived in West Philly around 9 in the morning and pulled up to our friend Ryan and Chance's house who we would be staying with. We grabbed some coffee from across the street at this great little coffee shop called Satellite Cafe, and as I napped in the park across from the house, Ward read and made sure no one messed with me. Chance came out of the house around 11, announced that this time (meaning this summer tour) he better not read an "shit talking post cards" about him when he visits Richmond. I guess at some point last summer Ward and I wrote postcards home about our trip and managed to mention something about staying with Chance that he didn't find too flattering, and ended up reading later on. We laughed about it, trying to figure out what we possibly could have written and to whom, and then went in the house to unload our stuff and get ready to get over to our first event at Ben's house.
Ben works for Neighborhood Bike Works, an amazing bike project in Philly that helps kids and adults learn to work on their bikes, and the kids programs involve opportunities to earn bikes or bike parts and such in exchange for hours working. Really awesome. Chance and his roommate Sara decide to come along to the event with us, which is great because Chance ended up staying and working with us the whole time which we really really needed, and he is great with the kids, showing them how to patch flats and change tires, with his handy adjustable wrench attached to his belt with a phone cord dangling so it doesn't get away from him.

We had set up at Ben's house the year before and had had a really busy day, so we anticipated a lot of kids coming out. We bring out our tools and stands, and immediately kids are rolling up, or more like pushing up, because they all have flats. The neighbors are playing music from outside of their house, and immediately the setting is energetic and feels welcoming and fun. Ben's neighbor Mike brings out some bikes to work on, and donates us some bikes and wheels from his basement, and seeing that we are super busy, helps work on bikes as well. At one point, Mike sees Chance using a chain breaker to take out a link on a chain, and he says to him excitedly , "They make a tool for that?!?! THANK GOD!!!". Supposedly, Mike has been breaking chains and putting them back together with a hammer and a nail. WTF? It amazes me what people come up with to make things work and get the job done.

Other people were helping out a quite a bit, kids that had "graduated" from the NBW program who knew how to work on bikes, which was wonderfully helpful. With some advice from Chance, Ward and I realized how important it is to provide tools for people at our events to use, because it is amazing how many people are willing to help out and are able to help out given the means to do so, like tools and parts, or new tubes. All afternoon there were kids in an out of the bus, getting parts they needed, or just checking out how we set up the bus for traveling. Ward and I have this combination lock that we used to use that hangs on from our rear view mirror, which is this cool lock that instead of numbers it is letters, so you can spell a word. Ward and I chose "CHODE" as our combination, but then the lock rusted and didn't shut anymore so we had to switch it out. Anyway, I was walking out of the bus after having gotten something for a bike and notice that a very small kid is looking at the lock hanging, awkwardly trying to pronounce "CHODE" out loud to himself, as though he is asking a question, and all i can do is shake my head and think, wow, we are assholes.

After working for four hours straight, we were pretty beat. We got rid of a ton of books, mostly having summer school teachers coming by after work and taking boxes of books for their students. We packed up and headed back to the house to enjoy an evening of Roti's, which is like a Jamaican burrito, and a little QT with some Philly bro's.

We have returned...

AHHH!!! Where to begin. I guess the first day is a good place to start.
It was endlessly difficult to try to accomplish much on the road this time around. Not only were we out for a very short amount of time, but we have never been as busy as we were this past week with our events. Each day consisted of rising early with the sun (whether we wanted to our not) and then getting ready for a four hour event, driving to our destinations, setting up, and then working non-stop on bicycles until we had no choice but to turn people away every time because if we didn't stop, we would never leave. So therefore, writing on the road was not an option, especially since I don't have a computer that would fit into a small bag, and we try to travel with as little valuable items as possible. But, we are going to try to do our best to recap from memory.
We left on Monday night, getting out of town at a reasonable 10:30 pm, stoked with Ginger Ale and Goldfish snacks for the road. It was smooth sailing and a drive we had done before, so there we no surprises, except that immediately Ward and I felt the absence of both my sister and Joel the Intern. We had never been on tour without them (since it was only our second one) and the bus felt empty. But considering its so damn loud, even if they were there, we couldn't hear them, let alone hangout with them, so we figured it to be OK in the end. Ward was ready with his big apple juice jug for the when after he jugged it, it was time to let the apple juice back out. I forgot to bring something to relieve myself in the bus in a lady like manner, but our drive was less than five hours, and my bladder is strong and willing to withstand some traveling.

When it hit 2:30, we decided to pull over at the Chesapeake House rest area, less than 60 miles outside of Philly and get some sleep instead of arriving in the city at 4 and trying to park, and still waking up at 7 to the daylight bursting in through the bus windows. We pulled over, quietly curled up, with Ward on the couch and myself on the loft, and got some sleep, stoked about the week to come.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I love our friends...

New York Deli is the best!!!!! The benefit was so much fun, even the dude from the beach party bus barefoot and came in and left three different times, each time knocking over the sandwich board outside, once while I was standing against it, so it just kinda bounced off me. Scott won the bike raffle and I think he was a little stoked on it! Thanks to everyone who came out. Major huge hugs to John Gethins and his dog grooming business. We love you, buddy!

Oh, and we met the lovely folks from Art of Wheels last night. They bring art classes to kids in communities and they are incredibly sweet people who care about doing cool stuff with kids. I love that. Check them out:

And VCU TV is coming on tour with us! The whole time! To video the dumb crap that Ward and I say! STOKED!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Free to be Me!"

Yeah, we are ready! Ward finished caulking the windshield today, and VCU TV came by to video tape the action. We are getting ready with last minute details, like finding the cheapest diesel in town and packing snacks. We will be officially departing tomorrow from downtown outside of the National after the Daniel Johnston show, attempting to avoid traffic by driving to Philly overnight, but mostly just because there will be less motorist annoyed by how slow we move.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friends Association for Children: Gilpin Court

Friends Association for Children is a really great organization located in Gilpin Court in Richmond. During my first year of grad school, my internship was with Friends and I love going back and working with them because they do a lot of awesome stuff for the community in regards to low cost day care, after school programs, and adult education and are super positive people. Ward and I were invited to come hang out for a backyard cookout party that they were having. Here were the highlights (i really like lists lately):

1. Ward tried to convince a girl that the only reason she could have gotten holes in her tube is because she must have been chewing on it

2. It was the first time in two years that I had a kid bring us a bike that had a rear coaster wheel used as a functioning free wheel. I love innovation!

3. Every kid in Gilpin Court wants you to either hold something for them or watch their bike while they go find something to drink

4. Friends provided tons of bottled water and potato chips

5. A bunch of kids worked on their own bikes! Free labor!

6. I only saw one book fly across the parking lot in 3 hours

7. I got to see a bunch of kids that I used to work with, included Edmon, who is 16 now, but still calls me Ms. Shelley, which is weird because I'm not that old and he is way bigger than me

8. A four year old asked Ward 172 consecutive times if he could have a bike, of which Ward just responded "no" over and over and over and over and over

9. As we drove away, 8 kids who had had there bikes fixed and had hung out with us all afternoon escorted us out of the neighborhood, riding 4 blocks to Chamberlyn surrounding the bus on both sides and from behind, yelling and screaming in excitement. I think one of my happiest Books on Wheels moments yet.
- Shelley

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Upcoming New York Deli Benefit: Sunday June 22nd

Again we are getting ready to get on the road, this time for a short week up north, and we are super stoked that New York Deli in Carytown is holding a benefit for us so we can get to our destinations and back without having to push the bus (Ward, I call steering if we run out of gas ever). So please come out to New York Deli on Sunday June 22nd for the following reasons:

1. Ward and I will both hi-five you at the door

2. We still have Books on Wheels Spring Break '08 t-shirts for sale (they are now collectors items so the price has gone from 10 bucks to $80 for a shirt. Sorry, no smalls or mediums left)

3. We are raffling off a bicycle!!!! And you don't even have to stay at the bar all night having too many drinks to win it

4. 5 dollars gets you in and happy hour prices at New York Deli all night!

5. I am sure someone sweet will be playing some awesome tunes for your listening pleasure

6. They may or may not have gotten the photo booth working

7. New York Deli has an outdoor patio in the back in case the idea of being inside sounds rough during the summer

8. Ward and I love you and want to see your face

Thanks again and again and again to everyone that supports us, for real. We will be there as of 9 pm, come hang out!
New York Deli
2920 W. Cary St.
(next to the Byrd Theater)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chimboarzo Elementary School

Wow! We gave away books to over 500 K-5th grade students durning thier last week of school. Thanks to Will who set up the event, and all the Ameri-core volunteers who helped to direct the kids, make book reccomendations, and restock as the kids as almost ever student that attended Chimborazo Elementary School. Fun!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mosby Court: Martin Luther King Elementary School

This is by far one of our favorite places to hangout because the neighborhood is so full of kids and adults who ride bikes and get really stoked when we come by. Our friend John who is a teacher at the Middle School where we set up did all the flyering for the event, riding his bike around a couple days before, telling people to come out for some free bike repair and books. I arrived around 11 a.m. and it was scorching outside, but people still came out to stand around on the concrete and chill really hard while John and I fixed flats and what not. Not only that, people were helping, doing their own patching, changing out their own inner tubes. Whoa! I can't thank the woman who brought us the bucket of ice water from her house enough for her thoughtfulness, and the girls who brought their sun-brellas who stood next to John, shading him as worked hard in the heat. I love friendly and nice people!!!!

Coolest thing I heard:
Six year old kid: "Why did you paint the bus?"
Me: "Why, don't you like it?"
Six year old kid: "Gets some 23's on there and then I'll be ready to deal with it."


Friday, June 6, 2008

Joel (is) the (best) intern (ever)

Joel who came on our spring tour with us is a super awesome dude and a great friend. He was in Richmond the other day and it was way awesome to see him, and it reminded me of what a blast we had traveling together, as well as some of the finer quotes that came out of Joel's mouth during the trip. Here are a few from our favorite intern!

I found this flyer in a bathroom at a bar in New Orleans, and I take it off the wall and bring it to our booth, and ask Joel and Ward to look at it and tell me what is funny about it. Ward notices pretty quickly that the funny part is that this cat has been badly photo-shopped as a cello and the cat is upside and HUGE. Joel takes a little longer at looking at it, and then says, " Hey, there is no way that's real! The cat doesn't even have strings on it!"

Right before we leave for the trip Ward is explaining to Joel the bathroom situation in the bus. Erin and I have these big plastic bins that we would be using, since stopping for a pee breaks would take way too much time. But, I guess the explanation wasn't totally clear, because upon seeing these pee bins, Joel figured that were we would be doing ALL of our bathroom business on the bus, and didn't comment on it, but kept it to himself, feeling weird about thinking that we would be pooping on the bus in front of one another.

The last day of our tour before heading home, we were in Austin, TX and Joel, Ward, and I had woken up in the bus super early and decided to drive over to the park where we were meeting up with some people before heading out on the road in the afternoon. Since the weekend had consisted of getting free stuff almost everywhere, like vitamin water and ice cream and gum, we figured we might be able to score some free stuff at this event as well. We get to the park way before anyone else, and only a few people are setting up tables and wandering around. We are searching to see if there are any goods we can snag with out being charged, but it seems pretty dry so early in the morning. Joel and I decide to sit down in this one shaded spot, and Joel notices someone close by rolling out this banner across the front of a table and the first word on the banner is "FREE", and he's reading very excitedly as its being unveiled, saying "Free!? Free!? Free Burma!? Aw, man!"

We love you, Joel!


Thursday, June 5, 2008

I need a spritz

It's hot. And the metal boxes we drive around do not have air conditioning. What they do have are those tiny little fans that are attached to the front of the bus that are directed at the bus driver, which is pretty cute, except that it doesn't really do much good when its a hundred degrees and the only thing your getting is hot air blown at you and your legs are sticking bad to the vinyl seats from all the sweat. Last summer it was rough on the road, but Ward and I figured something out to help keep us cool that ended up being quite a prop for entertainment as well...
We were in Philly staying with our friend Chance last summer, and he lived on the same block as this little store that sold all sorts of stuff for super cheap, like novelty ashtrays or slippers like the ones Chance wore all the time, even while bike riding. Chance talked about how much he liked the place, so Ward and I popped in to check it out. We poke around for a bit, and end of finding these squirt bottles for like a buck, and figure it would a good way to cool each other down. So we bought two, filled them with water, and immediately became refreshed as spraying each other with a fine cold mist.
So, a little while later, Chance decides to take us to South Street to visit our friend Scott at work and just hang out a bit since we had the afternoon off. We hop on our bikes and cruise through the city, taking turns leading the way, while shooting the water bottle behind our backs so the riders behind get hit with water. We get to our destination and decide to head to the Whole Foods for smoothies, and at some point on the way there, Ward sneaks up behind me, makes a fake sneezing sound, and squirts me on the back of the neck. Although I knew it wasn't real, it still has this disgusting feeling to it that made me cringe a little bit while laughing really hard at the new joke. Ward seeing that I thought this was way funny, he decides that it is a good idea to do this to complete strangers. A whole lot.
My favorite incident was when Ward gets this dude in the check-out line at Whole Foods, who gets super grossed out and sorta pissed about it, while I'm trying not to laugh and blow it all. Ward is standing there apologizing to this guy for "sneezing" all over the back of his head, and I think the guy said something along the lines of "your luck I don't' hit you", and then for some reason he changes subjects and asks Ward "Where the headies at?", of which Ward responded, "What?" about three times, before the guy just got frustrated and walked away. Ward and I looking at one another in complete confusion, not really understanding what had just happened. We find Chance and tell him about the situation, and he explains that headies is good weed. I couldn't comprehend why the guy figured that the dude that sneezed on him also new where he could get some marijuana.
Oh, Ward and I actually had this conversation at one point:
Ward: "They call me coach".
Me: "No one calls you coach."
Ward: "I do. I also call myself 'They'".

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

In the beginning...

RVA Magazine has always been way awesome to us, and let Ward and I write kinda whatever we want. I couldn't find an Internet link to the first article we wrote for them in April of 2007, but here is how it goes. These are our very first stories because this trip was our very first events and we had no idea what we were doing...

Books on Wheels: Spring Tour-na-ment 2007

Books on Wheels provides free books and bicycle repair to the Richmond community and beyond through the MobookMobikeMobile, a brightly painted mini-bus equipped with an assortment of books, tools, and bicycle parts ready for distribution. What most people don’t know is that the founders of the project, Shelley Briggs and Ward Tefft, are out to accomplish their goal with an ulterior motive. The real mission is to find out which really rules: books or bikes. So the duo set out for 8 days in March with the Southern States as the deciders, the bus as the scene for the ultimate cage match, and a no-holds barred, winner take all showdown. With Shelley in one seat for the bikes, and Ward in another for books, the tour-na-ment begins…

March 8th: Greensboro, NC
Our first event was held at Deep Roots Market, a local co-op near Guilford College. To our surprise, we arrived early in the afternoon and found that they had printed awesome posters and had done an incredible job of spreading the word of our arrival with only three days notice. They even put our event on the marquee! We immediately had a great crowd of people pass through, mostly those who had heard of us from various email list-serves. Greensboro has a great community of supporters for new ideas and creativity, and a lot of people just wanted to stop by to say “hi” and look at the bus.
The reason we had the response we did in Greensboro was due to a woman in her named Phyllis who was a avid bicycle rider and a member of a local bicycle club. She dropped off a dented Fuji frame from which we were able to salvage all the parts. Ward left for a moment to go to a local bookstore to let them know about our event. After they closed, a kid who worked there brought two bikes by for tune-ups. I also spent a little time over the course of the afternoon cleaning up our good friend Scott’s bike. After clearing off years of dust and cobwebs, Scott’s bike really just needed some air in the tires. He promptly went home and road his bike to his girlfriend’s house and back, uphill both ways.
+2 points for Bikes
After nearly giving away a box of books at Deep Roots within the first hour, Shelley and I left for 30 minutes to visit the Glenwood Public Library for an event with the children’s librarian. She had rounded up 7 kids from ages 3-9 who all were all really excited about the free books. Two of the kids were accompanied by their mothers who told them they could each only take one book. When I told them they could take as many as they wanted, they gave their mom that “See” look.
+2 points for Books
Ward actually believes that this was fair ground. I mean, come on, at a library? When I see a huge building that lends bicycles for free then maybe we can call this even, but this is slanted. Anyway, I polled the kids while they were looking through the boxes of books: “Which do you prefer, books or bikes?” EVERY kid raised their hand in excitement, shouting, “BIKES!”. Ward, you’re a sucker. You had home field advantage and you lost.
+2 points of Bikes
Alright. That’s fair. I thought the crowd was on my side and left with egg on my face. But before Shelley gets to overconfident, let me remind her: she had a bike to give away, a working, ridable bike with no strings attached, and none of the kids took it. The librarian even told us that we couldn't’t leave it there and had to take it. Seems that these so called bike supporters were in too much of a hurry to get inside and look at their books.
Well, I might have been able to give it away if half the kids at the library were able to tear themselves away from the Internet long enough to come outside to look at either the books or bikes. I guess we both lost here.
+5 points for the World Wide Interweb : (

March 10th: Pensacola, FL
Our second day was spent driving from Greensboro to Pensacola. What should have been a 10 hour trip was extended when Shelley made an emergency stop at Georgia’s largest flee market so she could eat grilled corn smothered in mayonnaise, dusted with parmesan cheese, and flavored with chili powder and lime juice. Not only did this gastronomical disaster provide much debate on corn versus tacos (a subject for our next trip?), but it prolonged our drive.
When we returned to the bus, we found that it wouldn't start. Electrical problems. Eventually we had a few large pick-up trucks try to give us jumps, but it took so long that the first two pulled away before the bus was able to start. The third truck was driven by a man whose wife and two children stayed in the cab while he helped us. He was really patient despite a language barrier and the lingering odor of mayo, and eventually the bus started. To thank him, we gave his children a box full of children’s books and he sent us on our way.
+1 point for Books
Pensacola welcomed us to the wonderful parking lot of Sluggo’s Vegan Restaurant. Ward managed to score us a newspaper blurb about our day-long event, right between the announcement of college Spring Break for the area and the winning lotto numbers for the week. As quickly as we had a chance to set up outside of Sluggo’s, a man dropped off 4 bicycles for donation. Not only did this give me work to do for the afternoon, but a nice guy named Ben from Chicago was strolling by, and, equipped with his own bike tools, stayed to help repair the generous donations. The weather was Florida warm, and we were feeling great.
+ 2 points for Bikes
We were set up in the parking lot for 5 hours, and during that time about 7 groups of people stopped by to donate books. We accepted all of the donations graciously, though Shelley definitely shot me a look when a woman dropped off a bag of romance and thriller novels. I had to admit that those wouldn’t be going anywhere fast. Plenty of people came out to look through our book collection, and by the end of the day it seemed we had given out as many books as we had taken in.
Though we did have a blurb on the front page of the Metro section, most of the people attending said they had heard of it through MySpace. This is a new website where you can create a profile of yourself or your business so that people can keep up to date with your goings on through bulletins, comments, messages, and blog entries (kudos!). It is so powerful, our extended network reaches over 734 people! Thanks Tom!
+2 points for Books
+5 points for the World Wide Interweb : )
So as Ward focused on his books, I managed to give away all the bicycles that had been donated to us earlier to neighborhood kids who wandered by through the course of the day. After a long afternoon, we sat down to a great Culture Club Vegan sandwich courtesy of Sluggo’s, and headed to the beach with our buddy Ryan to catch the beautiful Pensacola sunset.
+ 3 points for Bikes

March 11th-13th: New Orleans, LA
I hadn’t been in New Orleans for almost two years, so returning was a big deal. Ward had never been, and I was so excited to show him a city that means a lot to me, despite the difficultly of returning. We were stoked to get on the road and head into town, and we even spent the 3 hour drive writing a song about Books and Bikes. But as we got closer, our emotions changed as we realized just how extensive the damage was and how incomprehensible the state of city had become. What we did find was that even though New Orleans is still plagued with destruction and isolation, everything that has happened there made our events in the city that much more important, not only for the residents, but also for ourselves.
The first event of our three day stay was at the Israelite Baptist Church in Mid-City. Our friend Hope, who volunteers at the New Orleans Bicycle Project called Plan B, suggested that I contact the Rev. Larry Campbell at the church. Rev. Larry is an inspiring individual. He welcomed us to his church to work with the children that attended the after school literacy program, and to be a presence in a neighborhood that was unfamiliar.
We were greeted by Rev. Larry and friends and set up immediately (we had had bus problems again and were an hour behind schedule). Ward thought he had this event in the bag since the program was based on tutoring children who didn’t ride bikes to the church. The kids even chanted “Book Mobile!” as we drove up. But as soon as people saw us in the parking lot from the neighborhood, I was swamped with bicycle repairs for 4 hours straight.
+ 2 points for Bikes
After hearing the crowd go nuts over the “BOOK MOBILE,” we spent some time talking with the woman who ran the tutoring program. She gave us some pointers about what kinds of books the kids would be interested in and then offered us a donation of books that she couldn’t get the kids to take. I was hesitant at first, not wanting to get overloaded with stinky books. My worries only increased when they brought 12 milk crates of books to us. Not only were they giving us books that we had to take, we barely had room as it were. Then I looked through the crates. Lemony Snicket. Dr. Seuss. Encyclopedia Brown. The Polar Express. Shel Silverstein. Classics. It led me to wonder why the kids weren’t interested in these great books.
The counselors brought the kids out in groups of 5, and though we had put out boxes of books from Richmond, they all went for the milk crates. After about 40 kids came through, we had emptied 6 crates. The director of the program was shocked, wondering how we managed to get them interested in books they couldn’t force on the kids. This is the point we realized how much the bus was working to our advantage. It’s not that the kids didn’t like the books, they just needed them to be contextualized. By a really cool bus.
+3 points for Books
We took the next day off, really only because we had nothing booked (or should I say “biked”?). Luckily, my friend Becka works for a local TV station in New Orleans, and got a great contact for us through the New Orleans Recreation Department. We enjoyed the day sightseeing (a.k.a. sleeping one off) and on Wednesday we were refreshed for our 2nd event in the city.
We arrived at the N.O.R.D. center after quite a rough ride on some not-so-repaired roads and we were pleased to see how huge the recreation center was and in what a seemingly populated area it was located in. We expected to see a lot of people strolling through the neighborhood and bus loads of kids being dropped off. Unfortunately, it was quite deserted. Two blocks away, housing projects that at one point had been occupied by thousands of people were boarded up and abandoned, with no signs of reconstruction anywhere. What should have been a busy day turned out to be our slowest and quietest event yet.
Having already given away all the bikes that were donated to us, Shelley didn’t have anything to work on, so I used this break to learn to repair the bike which I had been riding throughout the trip (note: Shelley did not use the time to familiarize herself with books). Eventually some kids were dropped off for an after-school tutoring session at the recreation center, and though we had trouble convincing any of them to come and take books, their parents were more than happy to utilize our services. Eventually, we became a small meeting place for some local residents and the parents. Some of them seemed to already know each other, though hadn’t seen one another since being relocated, so this gave them a chance to catch up. Everyone talked about being busy either repairing damaged property or settling in to their new residences. We were able to talk and laugh with them and to learn how they were affected by and were recovering from Katrina. Though the turnout was small, Shelley and I were stoked that our project was what we had hoped it would be: a hub where people of the community gathered to share stories and ideas. Plus, I gave away a ton of books to the parents.
+3 points for Books
Towards the end of the event, Ward and I began to pack up and head out for some po’ boys when a guy approached the bus to ask if we had any bikes for sale. I told him we didn’t have anything right now, and he said thanks anyway, and started to walk back towards the dilapidated houses across the street. I thought for a moment, and realized that we did have one bike: Ward’s bike. I yelled to the man to come back, and asked him if he would like the bike that was on the stand, the one Ward was “learning” about, and mentioned he could take it with him if he wanted. The man expressed his gratitude continuously, saying that he just started working in the neighborhood and had no way to get out to get something to eat. When I gave him the bike, his eyes welled up and he said he had to leave before he got “all emotional.” Ward tried to lighten the scene by asking him what he was going to name the bike. He looked at the bike for only a moment, then looked up. “Praise The Lord.” Ward and I refer to it as PTL for short.
+ 2 points for Bikes
-5 points for giving Ward’s bike away

March 15th: Nashville, TN
We set out early from New Orleans in preparation for a long day’s drive. We thought that Nashville was our goal, but, in a twist of new-age fate, the journey became our destination. We ended up stopping twice for gas, once in Mississippi and again in Alabama, and each time were approached by strangers who were curious about our bus. When we explained our mission, they got really excited and asked if they could have some books. We gave a grandmother in Mississippi a box of books for her granddaughter’s upcoming birthday, and in Alabama, Shelley talked to a gas station attendant who requested mystery and romance novels, to which we promptly handed over the big bag we had received in Pensacola. Standing in front of a wide ranging selection of cigarettes, she beamed for the camera while showing off her new reads. The enthusiasm we were greeted with opened up a whole different venue for our events. Look for us at your local gas station, Summer 2007!
+2 points for Books
Our event in Nashville was at Centennial Park, a centralized grassy area with an impressive replication of the Parthenon build for the bicentennial celebration of America. We were greeted by a group of bike enthusiasts that had heard about us from Craig’s list (Thanks Craig!) and had come out to discuss our project and talk about their local bicycle projects.
I was approached by an older man almost immediately, and began to give him an in-depth description of where we had been, what we had done, and what we hope to do in the future. He responded by saying “ I give it 20 minutes until you get kicked out of the park by the park rangers”. I didn’t have anything to say to that, so I turned around and focused on the small crowd that had gathered around Ward and the books. One younger guy that was there mention the older man I had just been speaking to, and, with carefully chosen words, I called him an asshole. I guess I really haven’t learned to abide by the PG rating of our events, or really just watch my mouth in general.
+2 points for the World Wide Interweb
-2 points for Bikes for name-calling

Throughout the event we had a lot of browsers and onlookers, but due to a heavy wind (we ended up chasing some books around) and a slight chill to the air, Shelley and I watched most of this from the comfort of the inside of the bus. We felt bad at first, thinking we weren’t giving Nashville the attention we had lavished on the other cities, but soon came to accept the fact that the week’s events had finally caught up with us. Just as Rocky and Apollo staggered to their respective corners as the final bell rang, not caring who won but rather feeling relieved that the match was finally over, Shelley and I looked at each other through heavy lids and called it a day, deciding to head home to Richmond. We both understood that the other was fading, and that we were bound by a tacit agreement: we would let this battle be settled once and for all during the sequel.