Saturday, June 28, 2008
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".
Monday, June 23, 2008
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
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 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.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
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
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
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.