It’s been only 5 years since the Spoke ‘n Revolutions Youth Cycling group became more than just an idea on a piece of paper. It has become more than that to everyone who has taken part of our journey as cyclist. Once you become involved with the group you will always have a part of it for the rest of your life.
I was only 15 when I first joined Spoke ‘n Revolutions and cycled my first 1800 miles. This picture represents each day of a cycling tour because even if it is a rough day with several never ending hills or just an extremely “hot day” ride, you will always have a smile at the end of the day. I smile because I have accomplished more than I thought I could. I smile because I have a cycling family. I smile because after being on a bike seat for several hours I can finally get off. And I smile because this picture captures what a cycling trip is – pure joy!
Triangle Bikeworks started as a pilot project in 2010 to see if teens would enjoy a 60 mile bike ride. It came after a conjuring by one of the founders to have youth cycle from Maine to Florida. That project has now become the flagship program Spoke’n Revolutions which takes youth on cross country tours. Triangle Bikeworks also added competitive cycling programs in the form of Cyclocross and Mountain Bike racing. We’re unique in the fact that we’re the only nonprofit serving underrepresented youth in the Triangle area cycling arena.
- Spoke’n Revolutions Youth Cycling – history and cultures based cross country tours
- Cyclocross – competitive cycling in the fall
- Mountain Biking – competitive cycling in the spring
- Bikes and Barnyards – a summer bike camp
Why We Exist?
- Current school curriculums are not able to do a deep dive into cultural or historical elements of our country.
- There is a need for project based learning because it is effective and lasting.
- Youth need physical activities for proper brain development
- Not all youth participate in traditional school sports
- There is a high cost of entry in the field of cycling
- Youth of color aren’t large participants in organized cycling
The programs of Triangle Bikeworks transformed the life of Jeimy in the most amazing way. She returns from college and gives back to the organization to make sure other youth have an opportunity to have similar experiences.
For the price of a coffee twice a month you can ensure opportunities continue to be given to youth like Jeimy. Transforming lives, one revolution at a time.
I woke up this morning not wanting ice water but NEEDING it. This had never happened before and at 2:40am to boot. But something was different. I walked out of my hotel room with ice bucket in hand and headed to the ice machine, filled it and headed back to my room. Still unsure as to why because I’m tired. very tired.
In the room I picked up the plastic wrapped cup and was about to fill it with water but instead I filled the ice bucket. I needed a long drink. Now I’m realizing why I’m up in the middle of the night. I looked at the clock. I’m going to be up for awhile.
I was trying to make sense of the last two weeks of rising before dawn, cycling all day (at least five hours of the day) and going to bed after midnight. Youth Board Member, Joanna, and I knew that this tour would be different somehow. It had a weird feeling we couldn’t explain associated with it. It certainly didn’t start off very well for my liking as it took me a couple of days to get into the rhythm of the tour. Each passing hour tried its best to keep me off the rhythm of the ride. You can see it in the lack of posts I’ve made along the tour and video interviews of the youth in comparison to previous tours. I guess, in that regard, this tour was different. We had our usual share of mis-directions and wrong turns. Miscommunications and wrong words. Shouting at distances so the kids would remain safe and not make unnecessary hurry-jerky moves. That’s all normal. But we went through the contents of the first First Aid and moved on to the other kits. yes, plural. Bandaid after bandaid was distributed for scrapes and cuts. There were more falls on this tour than I have ever experienced in the last FOUR tours COMBINED. Thankfully, nothing was anything to write home about aside from the fact that I’m telling you that it was a different experience.
This tour was historic in at least a couple of ways. First, it was the first time the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was cycled using paths designated by the East Coast Greenway Alliance. Secondly, it was completed by youth! This is the beginning of people using the East Coast Greenway to travel through a culturally rich region where you will be welcomed as FAMILY. I encourage everyone who cycles by bike or travel by car to make the journey to the region. Of course, I recommend travel by bicycle so you won’t miss ANYTHING along the way. Here are some highlights to help you plan your own trip.
- Leaving Durham our first stop was Erwin, NC and our hosts were the Erwin Fire and Rescue. The carpet could not have been more red as we were treated as dignitaries of the East Coast Greenway (a grand honor, I might add).
- Next stop was Jones Lake State Park
- We were welcomed in grand fashion, once more, in Wilmington, NC by members of St Mathew Lutheran Church who fed us dinner and breakfast. Before that we visited Moore’s Creek Battlefield that had a unique link to the Gullah Geechee corridor.
- After a stopover in Sunset Beach we had a wonderful stay at Huntington Beach State Park and our first taste of the ocean
- Bustling Charleston, SC was our next stop with a service learning project with Wings for Kids. In a somber point the youth visited Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston where history is still being made. Our normal tours are to places where the history and events are close to 100 yrs old.
- The historical Penn Center was our home for two days as we took in its rich history
- A highlight of the tour was our visit to Geechee Kunda Cultural Center where the youth were immersed in Geechee culture and tales of the past
- A visit to Armstrong, FL treated us to dinner and friendly delights from its residents
- Upon reaching St Augustine we visited Flagler College and the youth were provided a tour of this wonderful and enchanting “Harry Potter” like school
Phenomenal is the word of the day when I think of the last two weeks. Something that can only be known through the senses rather than through thought or intuition. A truly remarkable experience. I collect videos and stories for you because I want you to know and see with your own eyes (and ears) the fruit of your hard earned dollars . Seeing the in-kind gifts being put to good use in the development of youth. Seeing their transformation as I see it. When it happens and when I recognize it.
As a parent I know that my children will develop long before I recognize it. Then one day I look at them differently and I see the change. I see myself in them and realize that through all the yakking and nagging they listened and understood. It’s no different here. In a way, these are my children and Iove them dearly; and I love watching them grow wiser and into young adults.
Let me tell you about these phenomenal youth who just cycled close to 700 miles (wrong turns and backtracks included) to learn about an American history that they will not hear about in their social studies class.
I’ll start from the ending and work my way back. Yesterday at dinner the youth were finally all together in one room with no lines between them. No BRAG Dream Team on this side and no Spoke’n Revolutions on that side. Each youth intermingled with the one person they made the most connection with and they were laughing and breaking bread together. Breaking bread in itself being a tradition of fellowship. Well before this moment on the final 15 miles of the tour I was told that there was going to be a youth party and adults were not invited. I laughed and agreed. They needed time to be themselves.
Camilo-A Natural Leader
Tod and I witnessed a very proud moment when we looked ahead and the 15 youth peloton was being lead by Camilo, a first time adventure youth cyclist whom we had been grooming to be a ride leader. As with most bike lanes the one they were traveling on ended abruptly at a segment of the road that had a right turn only lane. To the right of them it began. When the turn lane faded the bike lane to the left began again and it was beautiful to see him steer them back onto that path. They traveled like a flock of birds moving gracefully in line and in synch with one another led by the one person they trusted. All I could do was glance back at Tod and ask if he had just witnessed what I had. We could have ended the tour right then and would have been the happiest two me alive for a moment.
Abeo complained on the second day that she didn’t like to be last and wondered why it was that she was in the back struggling to keep up? I explained to her that there were many factors, including that this was her first cross country tour. Much of it was simply that the bike she was riding was over 25 years old. Sure, it rode fine and was in great condition (due to expert mechanic work) but technology has changed and bikes can move more efficiently now. So when the BRAG Dream Team loaned her a bike from their stable of newer bikes she began riding with the lead group (fast group, in other words) and never looked back. She’s a natural at distance cycling.
Hla Win-Positive Surprises
She was one of the greatest and positive surprises from this tour. Hla Win showed eagerness and determination from the start. She started off as a shy high schooler but really opened up on this tour; laughing and smiling more. Due to family commitments she was unable to attend many of the training rides so she had to perform rides on her own around town and her neighborhood.That’s why we had concern about her level of physical preparedness. But she was ready. By the middle of the first week she was riding with confidence and a steady pace of the middle cyclists. Great job, Hla Win!!
Ree Ree-Ever Effervescent
Ree Ree is one of the Triangle Bikeworks Youth Board Members and she joined us two days into the tour due to familial commitments. She also had to train away from the group by creating her own routes. She would cycle to the family farm in the mornings and cycle back in the afternoons after the work was done. She didn’t miss a beat (or pedal stroke) and performed well by staying with the middle group of cyclists.
Joanna is the team captain and Youth Board Member. I depended heavily on her to be my connection to the dynamics of the SnR group and, subsequently, the dynamic of both youth organizations were doing. It was she who pointed out at Huntington State Beach that the two groups had begun to form their bonds of friendship. That day the two teams had now started to become one.
Ke’air-Full of Life
Ke’air is one of the youngest members of the BRAG Dream Team whom I met on last year’s tour. His return this year was met with lots of excitement because he was a favorite of Itza and Jeimy. Ke’air also turned 13 on this tour. He’s strong, has a great sense of humor and the perfect disposition for a long distance cycling tour.
Cienna-Accepting the Challenge
Cienna was a member of the BRAG Dream Team from many years ago and returned for this historic tour. It was also a reunion of sorts because I knew her as a baby when I lived in Atlanta over 13 years ago. She put all she had into this tour and found that it was more challenging mentally than it was physically for her. She was able to conquer both challenges and come out smiling.
Zaid was squirrelly on the bike. He rode with the pedals on his arches and his cadence was a pedal-pedal-coast, pedal-pedal-coast rhythm. It drove the other youth cyclists absolutely NUTS. He was also new to the BRAG Dream Team as it was his grandmother who brought him along as she was also on her first tour as SAG driver. It was hard to break thru to Zaid because he didn’t know anyone either from BRAG Dream Team or Spoke’n Revolutions. By the second week he was starting the “gel” with the SnR team and his cadence improved significantly (not because of it, just did). I remarked to him that I was in awe of his natural ability to cycle because he was going at a clip of 18mph in sandals! It wasn’t even making him break a sweat. I’m looking forward tp good things in the future coming from this young man in cycling and other activities.
Fernando, Diallo and Micco – Mr.’s Dependable
There’s something to be said about being steady and dependable. The skill is under-rated but everyone depends on it. Fernando, Diallo and Micco are very dependable young men. When asked to get something done they’re on the job and I appreciate that. It could have been pulling a rider, riding in the middle enjoying the company or sweeping from the back to ensure no one is left behind. Their role was necessary.
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.
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.
Kids start out as amazingly inquisitive individuals and if things go right then it’s a good possibility that they will become amazing adults, as well. The personal and institutional hurdles that some have to leap over supports the fact that they are amazing and resilient. I believe that adversity makes you stronger and helps you find deeper meaning in trivial things. Constant adversity can also give lend to the thought that everything is hard and who in their right mind wants to be jumping hurdles most of their life?
If I think back, I’ve been working with children my whole adult life. First opportunities were in Oklahoma reaching out to young males who didn’t have a stable family life. My first official volunteer service began in Tulsa OK with the National Urban League. I remember showing up to the offices and meeting a gentleman letting him know that I wanted to help. I’m not sure what I looked like as I stood there, all of 26 years, looking to give back but he was happy I was.
I didn’t have the childhood that these kids did. I came from a two parent household with both parents working. I was very much, and still am, middle America. Some of these kids were abusing alcohol, illegal and legal drugs and some just had a disruptive home life. The youth coordinator and I were just trying to give them a little insight to something beyond their daily encounters. We chose golf as the medium for this effort. It was something so far removed from what they were accustomed to it kept their interest. Plus, Tiger Woods was all the rage back then.
Whatever reason they found themselves in front of me I realized one thing: these kids weren’t having what little bit of joy I had when I was their age and I considered my life “normal”. Looking back as an adult, other than my stable family life, financially we were just making it. But money doesn’t make happiness.
Organized sports through the school system is important and the benefits are well documented:
Helps develop discipline
Ability to transfer physical successes to academic successes
Develop teamwork and leadership skills
Develop motor skills and strategic thinking
Increases the quality of life through regular exercise
With all the above mentioned benefits it would be a natural thought to ensure that all children are able to participate in an organized sport while in school apart from physical education classes. But it’s not possible because as teams go you want to have the best players in order to be the best team. This competition leaves out a large group of youth from being involved. While park and recreation led organized sports help level the playing field it is still a pay to play dynamic.
Back in my younger days I wanted to bring an opportunity to see things differently to a group of youth who sometimes had a very narrow outlook on life.
Today I use the bicycle as the catalyst for change. I have seen for myself the positive and meditative effect that riding your bike across the country can have on an individual. The time spent on the road is transforming for the very simple reasons you would think it would. Perspective. The youth see the world up close. Not whizzing by from the back seat of a car. They are able to disengage from electronic stimuli while submitting themselves to a very simple routine: eat, ride, rest, ride, eat, relax, sleep, repeat. Sprinkled throughout are immersive* lessons in history told to them from the places where that history was made. Showing them the world outside their community to let them know how many opportunities await them if they can just imagine it.
“I believe that children are our future” to borrow the lyrics from a George Benson song (sung by Whitney Houston). They are the generation that follows us to make the world either a better place or one of misery. I choose to gather people that want to teach them how to make the world a much better place than when they arrived.
If you want to help us at Triangle Bikeworks do that come on aboard, get on your bike and let’s ride for a while and talk.
*Immersive: images that deeply involve one’s senses and may create an altered mental state