Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When your home is a bicycle

When you make the transition from an occational to passionate cyclist one thing for sure inevitably happens- you collect the tools neccessary to keep your bike tuned. People whose home is their icycle do not have the where-with-all to take this step. Open your garage! Let people know that you have the skill and the desire to make bicycles work. Believe me, this is more about how the exchange will benefit you than anything else.

What is Recycle Cycling

Recycle cycling is not a movement. There will never be an infrastructure. There will never be a central collection point from which donations are distributed. My sister Jane summed recycle cycling best when she said, "You get exercise, Vermont raods are cleaner and someone benefits with a financial contribution to make their life a little bit better". That's it, something good for you, something good for something larger than yourself and something good for someone else. No telethon, no $100 a plate dinners, no tuxes or formal wear, no $100,000 in the till to change the world. Just one cyclist at a time, dismounting and mounting to chase a bottle or can then turn the litter of someone into an opportunity for someone else.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Public accounting of redeemables to cash to donation

The date is the date i took the redeemables to the redemption center and money listed is the cash I collected.
5/18 $1.95
5/19 $.75
5/20 $.60
5/24 $.70
5/25 $1.30
5/27 $1.55
5/31 $1.60
6/1 $6.20
6/4 $4.50
6/10 $2.60
6/14 $3.20
6/14 $2.60
6/21 $5.20
6/21 $2.75
6/23 $4.25
6/27 $2.60
6/29 $3.85
7/1 $3.40
7/12 $5.30
7/15 $3.55
7/20 $4.20
7/26 $9.20
8/2 $5.20
8/9 $6.40
8/16 $10.30
8/18 $5.25
donated $1.00 to get to $35
8/23 $5.30
8/30 $8.65

Total $113.95
3 donations of $35 have been made to date through my social worker friends

Recycle Cyclings "Logo"

A journey with and without a bicycle

Managing the Spiritual Stumbling Step: A journey with and without a Bicycle

I can only speak to what I know. Born in 1947 in the Midwest of the United States of America I can only speak to the concept of the spiritual. It has been dismal. Devout Christians founded this landscape, fleeing religious prosecution in Europe. These same people then turned on women who were thought to be witches with the ability to control the outcome of life by cheating in the spiritual realm; literally taking power that rightly belonged to God. These women were burned to death. Life on the Northern Continent did quiet down after a while. Why? Children were taught early on not only is it better to be seen than heard, when you were heard, do not speak of religion or politics. Fights would insure over differences of opinion on either of these topics. This was a land that had very little tolerance for individuals with different spiritual concepts. The landscape began to change in the mid 60’s with the great ecumenical movement. Catholic and Protestant Churches began to exchange pulpits and pot luck suppers in a hand across the divide attempt to make peace. We searched for our common concepts like; we all believe in the same God and the Baby Jesus at Christmas. The Jews were late invites to this ‘love fest’, Their God was the same but the stumbling stone was Jesus. For the Jew, he just didn’t cut the mustard as a savior of all of mankind. Muslims were never understood and never invited. Wickens? They still had embers in their shoes from the burning incidents with the pilgrims. The The Lucksters and Hipsters? They just walked around with their hands in their pockets, whistling a tune about not hurting anyone. Horoscope readers? Excluded. Gypsy palm readers with crystal balls? Relegated to the carnival but certainly not invited to the Sunday feast. The great ecumenical movement was probably nothing more than words; in the end though, it did move people in the direction of common “good will” projects. Still, even the smallest New England town is as likely to have as many different churches as bars; though there are exceptions where the count is reversed. OK, so most of us on this continent were raised with the concept of a God and some way to get him to pay attention to us as individuals. Except of course if you were some kind of ‘fringe person’, like a women who wanted to be ordained or a homosexual who wanted communion and marriage, or a couple in hard time who wanted divorce, or a Priest or Nun who wanted a marital relationship with another human being. The great wars between the religious liberals and the religious conservatives fought in temple, in sanctuary, in court room and in legislatures; all with the same evidence- the Bible; citing different interpretations. The God of our country, the God in whom we trusted our money, the God of our civil religion was not keen on differences and preferred a spiritual landscape that mirrored our social landscape; subdivisions of 150 identical houses, office complexes with identical facades and cubicles, shopping malls indistinguishable from one another and a highway system to connect all the pieces rocketing us hither and fro in identically shaped and horse powered automobiles. Then disaster hit; the Beat Generation took to the road with Jack Kerouac on a quest for the holy grail of individuality. Simultaneously Priests were sexually exploiting the children in their care. The spiritual landscape began to resemble a scorched earth pock-marked with creators after a bombing run. It is no wonder that we have become a culture suspicious of our gods, taking control in areas that were ones theirs, hurling our species into space to conquer that final frontier; the control of our own destiny. Physically we live in a The Geography of Nowhere and spiritually God has been declared dead and we live in the spirituality of nowhere.

In spite of this, we all have a concept of the spiritual, we all believe!

Every man, women and child has a concept of the spiritual and they have incorporated this into their view of the world, how they will behave within that world. An individual’s concept of the spiritual may be as specific as a belief in God or as diffuse as a belief in a higher power, luck, karma, fate, the daily horoscope or intelligent design. The individual may also ascribe vengeance and hate, indifference or benevolence and love within the concept of the spiritual. My conversations with individuals have a twofold purpose, to assist the individual in identifying their own concept of the spiritual and then guide them to a position where their beliefs produce helpful, purposeful actions.

Can you see this in action? Sure you can, every bingo night at any Catholic Church. The players have all confessed to Jesus Christ as their lord and Savior. They believe in the holy trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. These people believe in a beneficent God and they can control their afterlife destiny through confession and atonement. BUT on bingo night their guiding concept of the spiritual is “LUCK. Each player will have token to promote good luck poised as if to control the fall of the numbered balls. When a player wins, they thank their lucky stars. Too many losses and a player will become vindictive and invoke a hex for bad luck to befall those who have won, especially a multiple winner who is suspected of controlling the fall of the numbered ball through some evil manipulation of luck. My purpose is not to make these people look silly or hypocritical; it is to illustrate the powerful behavior generator our concept of the spiritual can become. Athletes ‘cross’ themselves before a competition! Some ask only for the safety of all the athletes’ while others ask for personal victory. Does God have a stake in the outcome of an athletic contest? Be honest with yourself; don’t you want your concept of the spiritual to have a stake in the outcome of your day? We do want our personal spirituality to give use a measure of control in our lives.

We are spiritual, and we will continue to be spiritual. No matter what concept of the spiritual is ours, it was chosen! So I beg the question; “Why not make a conscious choice and have a concept of the spiritual that is helpful to you?” You cannot be proven wrong, and only the living of your life can prove you right. Right and wrong may not even be the best way to describe the consequences of your choice. You might better think in terms of effective and ineffective. Is your concept of the spiritual effective in your life? Then stick with it!

Making It Work

Without a doubt, mostly because of 12 step self help programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr has become the most popular and understandable to connect a concept of the spiritual with the daily life that often includes just one damn problem after another

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things a cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.


Niebuhr was a Christian theologian and his concept of the spiritual was Christian; God the father and Jesus the son, savior of all of human kind. This does not matter because we are referencing YOUR concept of the spiritual so we are allowed to make some substitutions. Luck is the most widely use concept of the spiritual, so let’s do some substitutions;

Change “Taking, as He did, this sinful world… to Taking as luck would have it, this unlucky world….”

Change “Trusting that He will make all things right… to Trusting that luck will be with me.

Change “That if I surrender to His will… to that if I trust that luck will turn up what’s best for me….

Change “supremely happy with Him Forever in the next (life)… to that good luck may follow me beyond the grave….

Your concept of the spiritual is portable and does not need to be bound by any other concept, religion, or complete lack of religion. The rub however is, that if you want to live your life in a state of harmony, where your concept of the spiritual matches your actions, then you must come to grips with spiritual principals.

There Had To Be A Catch!

It’s not enough to have a concept of the spiritual; that concept must connect to a lifestyle of action that reflects your concept of spirituality. Your life must be lived day by day, side by side with the spiritual principles

Spiritual Principles


2. Acceptance

3. Surrender

4. Hope

5. Commitment

6. Faith

7. Courage

8. Willingness

9. Humility

10. Unconditional love

11. Perseverance

12. Open-mindedness

13. God-Centeredness

14. Awareness

15. Vigilance

16. Self-discipline

17. Sharing and caring

18. Patience

19. Forgiveness

20. Optimism

21. Selflessness

22. Compassion

23. Consideration

24. Kindness

25. Positive thinking

26. Responsibility

27. Tolerance

28. Trust

29. Unity

30. Gratitude

31. Service

My Own Construct of the Spiritual: At Journeys End

So it would not be fair for me to with hold my on construct of the spiritual, so here goes;

1. I am not God. There is something else that controls life either through creation with build in consequences or through intervention.

2. The Profits, Jesus and Disciples did exist and told stories/ shared experiences as they understood them to be true.

3. Actions and Life have built in consequences and I am required to live life on life’s terms.

4. There are only 2 types of problems; one is the problem that has solutions while the other is the problem without solutions. My job is to accept and take action on the solutions where they are present and survive where it is necessary.

5. I can created and influence my own happiness by learning from my own experiences and the experiences of others. This has already taught me that my life works out better when I follow spiritual principles.

6. I do not know what follows life.

7. My own version of the Serenity Prayer:

The ACTION-ists Prayer

Grant me the strength to survive my problems that have no solutions.

Grant me the willingness to solve those problems that do have a solution.

Grant me the knowledge of my own experience and the experiences of others, that I will identify the difference.

And, help me extinguish my desire to indulge my inabilities, and help me nurture my abilities that my actions may be positive throughout my day.

Spiritual Cycling: Road side Redeemer of cast off bottle and cans

I’ve seen a bumper sticker, which I am going to suppose is really a bicycle fender sticker which read: “I Do My Best Thinking on Two Wheels”. I cannot ague with this sentiment because I have done a lot of good thinking while I was on a bicycle. There is something missing though and I believe it is the concept of the spiritual, at least my concept of the spiritual; because that concept has been both developed and tested on two wheels.

This is no advantage in trying to ‘snob’ me in the direction of one segment of the cycling community at the expense of another. In my travels these are the varied communities I’ve seen:

The Lycra Racers


Recreational Athletes

Utility Cyclists running errands

Lids on “Scrappers”

Home Builders

Recycles Bicycles

Weight Losers

Commercial Business run out of a work-bicycle; usually with a save the planet idealism


Collectors with a garage full of bicycles

Minimalists- one bike, single speed hub

Alternative transporters- usually the result of a DWI or loss of driving

Family- either on separate bikes or Tandems


Eccentrics- decorated bikes or in the UK, ‘binners’

Advocates- alternative transportation, bike paths, well kelp roads

3rd world charities- ride for them or donate a bike

At one time or another I have been one or all of these and most of the time like an astrological Gemini or mental patient with multiple personality disorder; several of them all at once. Other than the bicycle, they all hold things in common; perhaps how they each work through these things is the real difference between each community. Wind, weather, hills, and surface conditions bind them all into a human community.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Real Donating

The United Nations established the world poverty level at living on between $1 and $1.50 per day depending on where one lives and that included the USA. I will never live on the level of poverty. After collecting redeemable bottles and cans for three months I now know how hard it is to make a dollar a day. Try it on just one ride. Pick slugs out of a beer can, roll under an electric fence to retrieve a can of coke, pick up a beer bottle used as a spitoon for chew tobacco and smell it; yes, lots of disgusting opportunities out there on the road. So What? Collecting redeemables has brought me closer to knowing what poverty is like and it has changed the way I donate. The donation, to be real for me must in some way bridge or lessen the gap between me a have and someone who is a have not. That's why I use social workers to help me indentify where my $35 will make a difference. Don't know any social workers? Go to Kiva (just google it) and you will be presented with an opportunity to make a difference, a real difference in the class structure that built on money.


I have been bitten by dogs twice. Both times as a runner. As a cyclist I have been attached twice and managed to protect myself enough to avoid another dog bike. Mace! I bought a can of spray mace recomended by the Powder Horn firearms and amunition store in Williston, Vermont. I really do not want to use this stuff and since mounting it on my bike I have not been bothered by a single dog. Of the 'lots of' things I believe, two beliefs are relivent to this post. I believe there is no such thing as a bad bicycle and I believe there is no such animal as a bad dog. There are bicycles that must be properly fit to their owner and then it will be ridden every day. There are also dog owners that must be properly fit to their dogs. This probably wil not happen and deep in my heart the mace is not for the dog, it's the dogs owner I want to spray.

Right Choice of Bike

I quickly learned my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket equiped with Velocity rims and the skinniest tires I could find was OK for speed but not OK in three conditions. First, where huge cracks in the pavement run parrellel to my direction of travel, second where the road shoulder is gravel, and third where there is no shoulder at all. Bottle retrieval often requires not only a quick stop, I must also deftly avoid traffic by bunny hopping off the driving surface and onto whatever is available for travel. In addition to the BF I own a Downtube 9FS. The 9 designates the number of speeds in the drivetrain and the FS stands for full suspension. I had used the Downtube before when I knew I was going to scout a dirt road. The FS does a good job of manageing a washboard gravel and dirt surface. As a full time foreging bike the cramped gear range didn't work. Modifications for full time duty include; ergon grips for comfort, a seat post rack for panniers, holes drilled in the swing arm/wheel stay to mount the BF trailer hitch and a kickstand, Cane Creek system 3 brakes and finally a SRAM 3x9 drive laced into the rear wheel. A set of maximus hookworm tires rounded out my rig and for anything but the smoothest surface with nicely paved shoulders it has become my "go to" collection machine. By the way, both bikes have a low step over hight with is absolutely neccessary for my 63 year old legs. so far this summer I have dismounted and mounted over 3000 times- not a pretty sight with a standard top tube!

The bicycle industry both sets and followes trends. For years it was the mountain bike. Everyone had to have one and 90% have never seen a mountail, they are ridden on flat payes streets. Then Lance won the tour de france and everyone had to have a carbon fiber speed demon. 90% of these are ridden by recreational cycliests burning their leggs at 12 miles per hour. Now its the urban scene with crusiers, single speeds and lugges steel frame touring bikes. 90% of these will never see more service than a trip to a festival otr trip to works and a few errands.

A few weeks ago a fellow came into Little City Cycles asking for an electric assist mountain bike to get to his hunting land because it had been closed to ATV's. Such a bike does not exist so Tim and I designed one. We are building up three right now. Strong steel frame, low step over height for folks dressed in woll not lycra, high ground clearence, internal gears that will not snag on brush, human powered rear wheel drive with front wheel electric assist. racks front and real that can hold a substantial amount of gear. Of course, a rifle scabbord completes the bike as well as the choice of camo, black or brown paint jobs. The bike is called the Nor'easter after the storms that rip through new England. The bicycle industry has forgotten the rural farmer, hunter and recreational rider who can't make it up a rain soaked dirt road hill. try one they are slippery with traction tat is hard to find. Now get on a two wheel drive Nor'easter, breed like a Morgan horse with two wheel drive; human power to the rear and electric power up front. Up you go mate!

Recycle Cycling

Recycle Cycling by Norm Reuss

“You get exercise, the road side gets cleaned up, and you have more money than when you started. What’s the down side? It’s a win-win.” Jane Nelson

Recycle cycling all started in September when I went over the top of my handlebars. The accident happened when my front wheel violently twisted out of my control. It was wedged in the cracks of ill cared for pavement. I landed in a ravine and was transported to the hospital where it took 4 days for the medical staff to put me back together again. The long term consequences included a permanent Traumatic Brain Injury and the loss of my job. At 62 I was now going to enjoy early retirement. That means, lots of free time with nothing to do.

Of course, after the accident I immediately resumed cycling; first on an indoor trainer and as soon as spring arrived, back to familiar outdoor routes. When I was able to take my eyes off of my fear, I saw what every cyclist, walker, or runner sees in the Vermont spring; a winters worth of debris, mostly composed of bottles and cans.

This year Vermont celebrated its 40th Green Up day this year. Green Up Day was initiated by Gov. Deane C. David in 1970. Vermonters taking care of Vermont organized themselves to collect the winters refuse from every roadside in the state. Green Up Day is a state wide equivalent to your own house hold spring cleaning.

I’ve done Green Up day. With youth baseball teams, school groups and as an individual on a bike; handlebars draped with plastic grocery bags and similar bags attached to a rear rack like poor man’s panniers.

Early retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be: too much free time and way too much of nothing to do! Every volunteer organization I approached was bloated with long waiting lists. Evidently the recession and plant closings had put lots of folks in my position, time with nothing to do, so they did the obvious; volunteer with the hope of making meaningful connections.

I was on my own, so I did what I do; create! I rigged a Bike Friday trailer frame to a plastic bin and became my own one man Green Up day, every day, four hours every day. I learned some things about myself. I am not an environmentalist. If it was not a redeemable bottle or can, it was left in road side hell. I was only interested in redemption. Cars and trucks frighten me. I once thought I was invincible. The accident proved otherwise. I now know why those leather skinned old men comb the beach with metal detectors- the thrill of a find. They look for gold. My color was the blue, red and silver of beer cans. I call my redemption center man “Saint Peter” because he is much more forgiving of a dented can than the redemption machines found in grocery stores. One dollar is a good day. Two dollars approaches nirvana. One weekend in Vermont’s North East Kingdom netted me $6.20 between Eden and Lowell, Vermont.

When you are interested in joining me in Recycle Cycling here are ten pieces of wisdom that I learned, mostly the hard way- through experience.

1. Willingness to make frequent stops to pick up discarded items. Actually this increases fitness!

2. Choose what discarded items you will stop for; everything, coffee cups, bottles and cans without dents and therefore redeemable , all bottles and cans no matter what condition.

3. Modify your bike to carry what you pick up. Beware bottles and cans always have one last drop in them which will find its freedom in whatever you choose to use as a carry-all.

4. Add distinctive reflectors or lights to your bike to become more visible to passing motorists.

5. Poses a positive attitude about yourself; some people will see you as a bum just picking bottles for who knows what purpose!

6. There is a market for just about anything except parts of tires, diapers and single shoes.

7. Kickstand! You must have one because there is never a convenient place to lean a bike. I like a kickstand without the rubber end piece, and then I can dig it into the dirt on shoulders that slope the ‘wrong way’.

8. Get 0ne of those 3 foot long grabber things from a hardware store. It is necessary for things you DO NOT want to touch and for those things that are out of your reach.

9. BEWARE, many soda and beer cans are used as spittoons and get tossed to the roadside. Leave these alone, they smell like ass and will contaminate all your gear with that odor.

10. Finally, roadsides are the breeding ground for poison Ivy. You can do one of two things; wash immediately or lather yourself up with a poison ivy blocker commonly sold at outdoor supply stores like EMS.

Post Script: Since the beginning of this project I have been able to dismount and mount over 2100 times to collect over 2100 redeemable bottles and cans and make three $39 donations. The first donation was given to a Grandmother so her grandchildren could have access to a public swimming pool, the second was given to a women to repair a tire so she could continue to commute to work and the third was given to a Mom who successful raised her daughter to a full college scholarship and could not attend parents weekend because she did not have enough gas for the car. All of these donations were distributed by two social workers in Addison County who knew of the need and the inability to fund the need through any other funding source.