Thursday’s bike trip from campus to the participating downtown businesses started from home to campus for me. But my preparation for this little group excursion actually started over a week ago. Since moving to Bemidji, my mountain bike has been one of those toys that has taken a back seat to other toys and activities. When I found out there was a bike trip planned for one of our field trips for People and the Environment, the time came for a good reason to pull the bike from its suspended animation in the rafters of the garage, blow the dust off, take it in for a tune-up, and shake the rust off my butt.
The bike shop said two weeks turn around time as they were inundated with projects from patrons who apparently had the same idea I did with the long awaited hint of summer making an appearance. The only problem was whether they could find the parts to repair what 10 years of hard riding and five years of sitting on the shelf had inflicted. She needed a good lube, brake adjustments, gear shifters repaired or replaced, and, as I found out after the fact, new tires and tubes; both the tires had deteriorated to the point where they blew in the shop after I dropped it off. My apologies to the folks at the Home Place Bike & Ski shop for that one!
I didn’t know if I would have it back in time for the big ride, but to my surprise there was a voicemail Monday saying it was ready to go. I immediately headed down for pick up, hoping to get as much riding in as possible before Thursday in order to get, well, certain parts of the body use to it again. One more piece of new equipment would be vital to this – a new seat to replace the worn out, cushionless original. So, $120 later, my Giant ATX 760 had new rubber, a new seat, properly functioning brakes, and working gear shifters. Not bad, considering the alternative was a MegaLowMart special for a similar price or a comparable Trek replacement for for over five times the cost.
Now, I just needed to get the old muscles reacquainted with the bike. The first few strides told me the worry would not be my gluteus maximus, but my quads. Apparently, parts of those muscles had forgotten what it was like to ride a bike. Ol’ Jake remembered the days when we used to tackle the trails of the Three Rivers Park District, as he headed down the road beside me – one sorry old butt after another. Well, the bike rode like new again, the quads were a surprise, but I’m happy to report the new seat worked great. It felt good to be back on that bike again.
Thursday morning I timed the commute from my place to Deputy Hall so I could begin implementing a bike commute for summer and fall classes - 16 minutes flat without pushing it really, well, at all. I had no idea how long it would take me to cover the few miles to campus – I was the first one to arrive by about 15 minutes! I suppose there was about 40 of us on bikes, students and faculty alike, and we finally were blessed with a gorgeous day in this rain-filled spring to enjoy the ride.
There would be five businesses we would be visiting in the downtown area as part of the reacquaintance with this mode of transportation:
At Wild Hare, co-owner Reed spoke with us about the integrity of the benefits of organic agriculture and fair trade, such as a fresher, higher quality product produced with little to no hormones, pesticides, and herbicides by producers being paid a fair price that covers the costs of sustainable production and living in order to establish balance between industrialized and non-industrialized countries involved in international trade. He talked about how the produce they use in their cuisine have a naturally better flavor than the genetically engineered “cardboard” products you’ll find from corporate farms. Their “About Us” introduction on their website states:
We envision a space where people of all walks of life can come together and share in good food and conversation, get to know their neighbors and break down social barriers.
At Harmony Foods, Lisa introduced us the benefits of local produce versus products shipped in from all corners of the world giving the consumer a better quality, fresher product that has ripened on the vine or grazed natural grasses rather than the lesser quality, truck-ripened, hormone-injected, whatevercide-laced, growth enhanced, vitamin and nutrient free products you’ll find at the any nationwide MegaLowMart. She informed us of the ability for their consumer to buy bulk products by ordering or bringing in their own receptacle to the store which saves the all parties involved, from producer to consumer, the extra costs of packaging and advertising. She also spoke of the benefits of fair trade, their community-based service niche, and, although shelf price is shelf price, for a $60 lifetime membership, members can share in profits and benefit from price discounts on bulk items.
At Pawn USA, Goodwill, and the Twice But Nice consignment clothiers, each store explained how their business worked from the pawn or sell option at Pawn USA, to the tax-deductible donation option at Goodwill, to the percentage based profit if sold option at Twice But Nice. Overall, the message portrayed by these businesses is one of reducing by reusing when it comes to clothing and “stuff,” and, with my mother and sisters’ garage sale and my own eBay success, I can attest to the fact there seems to be quite a market for fraction-of-the-cost-of-new, second-hand goods. In affect a second hand purchase preserves the amount of our natural capital it would take to produce the same item, albeit new, but for an inflated price tag of the slightly used.
OK, OK, I agree with most of the stuff these businesses are pitching, but I draw the line at clothes someone else has lived in – but that’s just me and my opinion. I’ll just have to make up for that part of my ecological footprint somewhere else. I think the thing that left the biggest impression on me was the realization that Goodwill uses the money from their profits to help create training programs for people with disabilities. I didn’t know this and it will help me the next time I am reluctant to give away some of my “stuff” in the form of a tax-deductible donation.
I was most intrigued by the introduction to Wild Hare and Harmony Foods Co-op. The convenience of shopping the MegaLowMart has robbed me of the quality produce local, organic agriculture can provide. I had shopped Harmony Foods prior to this encounter but I never really understood the value of the co-op and the products they provide. I plan to shop there more frequently in the future. Wild Hare is a no-brainer for me as I am always on the lookout for a new, great place when it comes to dining – any type of dining. I will be back often.
However, I think the bike trip for me was about the bike trip itself. The bike had spent too many summers hanging from the roof of the garage and I have spent too much time behind the wheel of the truck. It’s time to get right back on that bike.