An Opportunity To Become A Leader

Heroes come in many forms but the most known archetype is the reluctant hero. An ordinary person thrust into a situation that allows them to rise to the occasion. Well, this isn’t that kind of story. There were no people needing to be saved and no evil to be vanquished. But what it is though is a simple story of teacher and student and how that student was able to find a moment where they witnessed their own rise and became one with their new role.

Camilo

Camilo was new to Spoke’n Revolutions Youth Cycling, our youth summer bike touring program. He was a good friend of Fernando, a returning youth cyclist who has an outstanding character and positive outlook on life. With two tours under his belt, Fernando invited Camilo to what would be Fernando’s “swan song” tour. Fernando was graduating high school and would be leaving for college in the fall. Camilo heard stories from the two previous tours Fernando had participated in and wanted to join him. Being on the school varsity football team Camilo is very athletic. But he had never travelled across country on a bicycle.

The tour started off well but it was Camilo who was the first to be injured while following in line with the other cyclists. While we were winding our way along the bike path at UNC Wilmington he smashed his finger on the post designed to keep cars off the greenway. He was still getting used to the group dynamics of cycling but learned a valuable lesson in staying vigilant for one’s own safety.

It was early in the second week of the tour when, mechanic and coach, Tod Andrews and I recognized the leadership qualities that Camilo possessed. It was a simple thing that happened in a moment. A moment so quick that you knew what you saw, because it resonated with you. Camilo was leading the group along a bike lane when the bike lane diverged, as they do when they converge with a right turn lane, and he followed the bike path, stayed true when the path became ambiguous and resumed back onto the bike path. The youth behind them did exactly as he did, like little ducklings.

I turned to Tod. “Did you see that?”, I said, now coasting in amazement and joy. Tod smiled back and said, “Yea!, that was cool”.

Allow me to geek out for a moment. If you don’t ride bikes you might ask, what’s the big deal? He did what he was supposed to do. And technically, yea, he did.  But, as a cyclist, you know the ambiguities of road cycling and the minor adjustments or judgements you have to make while keeping yourself safe.  Add to that the fact that we’re riding with youth. What was so amazing about that moment was that while Camilo was leading, he was wholly aware of the safety needs of his and his fellow cyclists and they trusted him.

Camilo was not aware that he was being groomed to be a leader. We provided the opportunity for him to be up front, gain confidence and subsequently, the trust of his team.  During a recent Facebook chat with Camilo I explained what we were doing and when. He said at the time he didn’t think it was a big deal. He was doing the job he was given. And that’s what natural born leaders do, excel at the job they’re given.

Camilo in his words:

 

Along the journey I became accustomed to seeing road kill ranging from little pigs to armadillos. The smell was so bad it made me want to hold my breath! There were more pleasant sights, such as the major cities of Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.

It was in Charleston that just a few weeks prior a young white male took the life of nine African Americans church members at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church. When we arrived I was caught off guard when I was hit with a huge wave of emotion that I hadn’t experienced during any other part of the trip. I began to cry in front 
of the church. I couldn’t comprehend why 
someone would commit such a horrendous crime.

We were able to meet Dr. Herman Blake, 
who gave us some insight to the massacre. People usually visit places 
like this by car, so for us to ride up to this emotionally charged
place on bikes was surreal.

Throughout the tour I’ve felt many different emotions. Anguish being one of them when my legs and back would hurt after climbing a big hill, or when the summer heat of the south made cycling difficult. Despite the challenges I faced it was my determination that helped me push through.

During the beginning of the tour 
I kept back and watched how things were being done. But a few 
days after we visited Charleston, SC, something in me had 
changed. From that point I took on a leadership role that our 
group needed. For 15-20 miles each day, I would take on the
headwind in order for my team-mates to cycle easier. I made
sure we stayed in a straight line so that everyone rode
together and was safe.

At the time, I felt as if what I was doing something natural and not above average. I had figured it was just my role on the cycling team. In the article “Triangle Youth Tour Historic Coastal Corridor,” my coach, Kevin Hicks, describes a moment in which he felt I was a natural leader.

I did not realize this even happened, and didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I simply moved slightly to the left when the bike lane ended, and all my team-mates followed me.

However, at that moment my coach felt that we were in “synch with one another and led by the one person my team-mates trusted” (me).

I was not aware my coaches were grooming me to become a ride leader, but without much instruction I did what I was there to do. At times
the group would be slowing down and it was then that I realized that I needed to lead the group to pick up the pace.

Even though I was new to the cycling tour, I was able to fulfill a bigger role on my team by becoming someone who led my team-mates with humility, fearlessness, and selflessness. Participating in this tour made me more observing of the world around me and made me realize how some of the little things I do can have a big impact. I failed to realize how important I was to my team. That was, until the day I read those articles about the cycling tour.

Due to this experience I am now more aware of my ability to motivate others, and feel more confident in doing so.

A Geechee Kunda Experience

A lasting lession

One of the most enlightening, enriching and heartfelt moments of the Gullah Geechee “Path to Freedom tour” was our visit to Geechee Kunda in Riceboro, GA. It was discovered by Coach Atiba doing his reconnaissance mission planning the tour. Founded by Jim and Pat Bacote, the Kunda is a haven of peace and love just off the East Coast Greenway. A sanctuary to all who walk onto the property. Kunda has many definitions, several of them from India. But it was Jim’s definition that centered around the word meaning a compound. Meaning Geechee Kunda is a Geechee compound.

A select number of youth were lined up and given an object of their trade: rice, iron, milk, flour to name a few. One youth represented 100 in a community. A few other youth were given the task of being slave traders. As the slave traders conspired one by one the youth villagers were taken. Each time the impact on the community of villages and trade among them was explained. The skills of the people from one place were being plucked away to reluctantly start a new nation.

Jim and Pat Bacote

After a day’s ride the youth were welcomed by Jim and Pat at the pathway to the front door of their home. They built the Kunda around their spacious property which houses a museum and an interpretation center. After the interpretations, the youth enjoyed a drum sessions where they were able to delight in the beauty of music making and revelry.

A lesson on the Slave TradeThey were given a talk by one of the “elders” in the new Geechee community and the youth were enraptured by her stories. The full day ended with a low country boil dinner of crab, potatoes and shrimp, among other things. With the overnight stay and the loving conversation the name Geechee Kunda was imprinted on the hearts, minds and lips of every youth present. Our leaving the next morning was bittersweet, taking longer than it should have but as long as it needed.

I have taken words from the Geechee Kunda website as it explains the reason behind its origin and every word is the truth:

Geechee Kunda is one of the most impactful and meaningful cultural education facilities to be found anywhere, a true lifetime experience. Geechee Kunda is our way of dispelling the non-sense that ours is a dying, faltering culture, and to help insure that instead of being written out of history, be included in a true light. Included here are exhibit galleries, a gift shop, a family research center, and most importantly, an ongoing research and documentation effort.

Geechee Kunda was created as our means of contributing to efforts to preserve and perpetuate the knowledge of important elements of African Culture that exists in the United States. We are also interested in assisting in nurturing and perpetuating threatened cultural traditions elsewhere in the Americas and Africa itself.

For more information on the Geechee Kunda follow this link

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Top 5 Reasons They Don’t Use Bikes On The Walking Dead

During a Zombie Apocalypse a bike seems like the perfect getaway ride. Except for the rear cassette, it’s way more quiet than a car or motorcycle and it can’t run out of gas. But then, of course, you can. Yeah, Rick used one when he first awoke from the hospital. It made sense then, he was wounded, by himself and walking would have hurt. That was it.

So, I thought through all the benefits of cycling and came to the conclusion that there’s no way that bikes would ever be good enough for the Zombie Apocalypse. And here’s my top 5 reasons why.
.

5.

They would have to call it The Cycling Dead

So, face it, tell me the truth, if someone gave you the option of walking 60 miles or biking 60 miles what would you choose? I know what MY choice would be. So, no, the title is The Walking Dead cause the dead don’t cycle.

4.

Cyclists can be too relaxed

This could definitely work against any cyclist. Cycling’s like meditation. You’re riding along in your zone and Wham! out pops a car! Uh, I mean, a zombie! Well, on second thought maybe cyclists do pretty good being relaxed and quickly avoiding calamity.

3.

Too many cars will be in the way

What?! Why couldn’t those people just leave their cars at home during an apocalypse? Cyclists are well aware of the need to avoid cars and this gets no more important when you have to run the labyrinth of cars while avoiding zombies stuck under the cars.

2.

There will be too much debris on the road

Don’t you remember, everybody is GONE! Or at least most of them. So there’s no city services to clean the streets. If you think the roads are bad now just wait! What’s a newly avid cyclist like you to do, carry a hundred pounds of bike tubes? Only if you want a zombie sneaking up on you while your changing your tire. It’s just ain’t gonna happen.

1.

Once you’re a Zombie you travel in groups

We all know that zombies are attracted by sound. When they hear something they move in that direction. Given enough time you can have thousands meandering the streets. Out in the vast countryside cycling to your heart’s content, having a great time, meditating. While the cardio vascular benefits of cycling are so well documented everybody knows that just as soon as you get comfortable on that long luxurious ride you might just turn the corner and head smack dab in the middle of a zombie herd. If you can’t turn around fast enough you’ll be stuck with nowhere to go. Wait, isn’t that’s what it’s like to be in the middle of campus at UNC?

I don’t think you’ll be seeing any more bikes on The Walking Dead anytime soon. I hope that I don’t have to eat my fleshy words but to me it just wouldn’t make sense.

The Kindness of Others

Back in 2011 I wrote a blog entry during our Underground Railroad summer tour. In it I talked about how we completed our almost 1700 mile journey by criss crossing from state to state and having sleeping accommodations in living rooms and backyards along the route. The majority of the stops for the night were with people we had only met that day or the day before over the phone. For me this was a testament to the greatness of the American people despite various news reports and pundits. Acts of kindness such as those happened for us on each of our four touring seasons and continues to happen through community donations and in-kind support of bike parts, clothing and bikes. The kindness of others sustains us.

I recount those days because just a couple of weeks ago we took our training ride out to Maple View Farm. The Maple View Farm Ice Cream Shop has for a long time kept a drinking fountain outside of their shop to quench the thirst of people biking in the area. That’s a great act of kindness. Recently, they’ve added a much appreciated addition to their porch deck so that it extends around where the fountain was located. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized that they simply moved the fountain to the other side of the building. Continuing their act of kindness to people who bike.

The Spotted Dog

Similarly, the church on Union Grove Church Road ran a water line near the road so that cyclists can quench their hard earned thirsts. This is where we met two ladies hanging out in the shade and changing a flat tire. As the youth replenished their water supply Tod and I walked up to see if we could help. Tod, in his amiable way, was able to assist in the replacement of the tube and using Tyvek from Tod’s universal bike kit to shore up the puncture in the tire. It worked like a charm and soon the conversation went from tire repair to everything else.

When we parted we were offered lunch on them at the Spotted Dog. A great place to eat in Carrboro for both vegans and carnivores. Yesterday we were able to take Linda and Karin up on their offer of lunch and use the gift certificate. Man! was it delicious! With nine people in our party we were pleasantly surprised to know that there was still room on the certificate to get dessert. Thankfully, there is never an end to the kindness of others.