Thursday, August 15, 2019

In Pursuit of Significance

Hi friends. For those who know The Reluctant Cyclist, I am back! If you are a new friend, welcome to my world of cycling, camaraderie, cohorts, life, and comedy. I am writing this blog as more of a reintroduction than anything because I have been absent of late, in pursuit of significance. Rewind to the summer of 2017, when I had decided to embark on a graduate degree in conservation biology and advanced inquiry. Not the typical program you would expect to find a lifelong professional of manufacturing and asset management, but I like to think of myself as an avid learner & adventurer, and this program fit the bill.

While you may think I have abandoned cycling by the lack of published rides and commentary, to the contrary, cycling holds a much deeper meaning to me now. Allow me to explain my connection between car-lessness, urban biodiversity, conservation biology, and significance through some excerpts from my graduate research.
I attempted to make a behavioral change in my travel habits to affect my carbon footprint.

This life change project to reduce my CO2 emissions brought me to the realization that it is very difficult to use alternate modes of transportation in an urban neighborhood, and specifically, in Cincinnati. Even so, I reduced my emissions by carpooling, combining trips, and simply by planning my trips. As a result of a change in my behavior, I conclude it is possible for a person to lower their CO2 emissions. However, to effectively reduce pollution in South Fairmount, more residents of the neighborhood and surrounding areas would have to be willing to plan smarter use of their vehicles. 

However, current infrastructure of the neighborhood makes car ownership very desirable due to the hardships I experienced when cycling or using public transportation. 

The  proliferation of car-centric geographies continue even though the practice is unsustainable (Sattlegger & Rau, 2016). Throughout the 20th century the growth of car ownership and use outpaced other sources of CO2 emissions and currently vehicular mobility is a fundamental requirement in developed countries, one that will be very difficult to turn around (Sattlegger & Rau, 2016).
I confronted the relationship between epigenetic inheritance and environmental justice

One of the environmental burdens placed on urban residents is the exposure to greenhouse gasses emitted by the transportation sector. My neighborhood is no exception as it is located between the suburbs of Cincinnati and the downtown and uptown business core with interstates on two sides and the railyard on the eastern boundary.

Society tends to address a new science with old ideas. To that end, there is the risk that treating the symptoms, such as behavioral issues, obesity, or diabetes with clinical solutions may garner more support than addressing the xenobiotic exposure cause (Rothstein, Harrell, & Marchant, 2017). Acknowledging epigenetic inheritance and transgenerational traits based on one’s environment opens the door to new ways to address human evolution and adaptation (Wang, Liu, & Sun, 2017)

I planted an urban pollinator garden and provided nesting spots for solitary, native bees.

Pollination is an ecoservice. Flowers are planted in an effort to restore the populations of pollinators, which, in turn, restore the pollination service to plants. This is important because almost 90% of plants, including agricultural crops, reproduce via pollination by animals (Winfree, 2010).  It has become increasingly urgent that we find ways to supplement the natural habitat of pollinators as those spaces become scarcer and detached.

This is crucial in the current political environment of the United States as leaders gut regulations that were put into place to preserve pollinators and to protect us from exposure to hazardous materials. (Reread the part about epigenetics). We cannot rely solely on scientists to restore pollinator populations. Individuals can plant and manage pollinator gardens, nesting sites, and woodlands for foraging to encourage growth. Even small gardens in urban neighborhoods can improve pollination services.

Check back for more entries as I continue my immersion studies of the role of people on this planet and the interconnectedness of species.


Rothstein, M.A., Harrell, H.L., Marchant, G.E., (2017). Transgenerational epigenetics and environmental justice. Environmental Epigenetics, 1-12

Sattlegger, L., & Rau, H. (2016). Carlessness in a car‐centric world: A reconstructive approach to qualitative mobility biographies research. Journal of Transport Geography, 53, 22–31.

Wang, Y., Liu, H., & Sun, z., (2017).  Lamark rises from his grave: parental environment-induced epigenetic inheritance in model organisms and humans. Biological Reviews,  92(4), 2084-2111.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Flutter by: A Late Summer Ride

August seems to be the month that only the die-hard cyclists can still be found around town. At least it seems that way here in the midwest. The summer is coming to a close, schools are back in session, and the temperature can still be raising the mercury by mid-day.

Velo Junkie and I had a vacation to Key West planned for mid-August, a spontaneous reservation made after a night at our favorite neighborhood brewery. Due to circumstances beyond our control (sort of) we decided going out of town was not the best decision, so we canceled the trip, but not the time off from work. You see, I had adopted two pups that needed rescue - both under a year old, and both over 65 pounds. The two of us also had work obligations that required multiple overnights on both sides of the scheduled get-away, so a late summer staycation it was for Velo Junkie and the Reluctant Cyclist. This did not discourage, nor disappoint, as we had plenty of adventures to keep us busy close to home. One of those was our annual bike ride on the Cardinal Greenway Trail to Scotty’s Brew Pub in Muncie, Indiana.

The Cardinal Greenway Trail is a Rails-to-Trails path that starts in Richmond, IN and travels north, past Muncie. Scotty’s Brew Pub is a friendly place in the college town of Muncie that has many beers on tap, including their own brand, Three Wise Men. Velo Junkie and I have been making the trek annually for about six years now. The beer is always worth it, but the Shewman, a large burger topped with cheddar, jalapenos, and peanut butter, is the perfect sandwich to satisfy the appetite after a warm, thirty to forty mile ride through the agricultural heartland of the Hoosier state.

This year we opted for a sixty mile ride starting at the Williamsburg trailhead.  The late summer morning was cool and dewey, the kind that fogs up your glasses and makes your skin feel clammy in your kit. The canopy was still lush, although the shortened days had caused the trees to start shedding leaves. The sun was low in the morning sky behind us, casting long shadows in front of our handlebars as we cantered off on our northwest expedition. The shade of the trees faded fast as the sun quickly rose high above the agricultural fields of Indiana, rich with feed corn nearly ready for harvest. As we rolled along the trail we were greeted by the hues of many butterflies feeding off the nectar of the purple and fuchsia bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), including many orange and black Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) stopping to refuel during the migration to their winter home in Mexico. Scurrying chipmunks crossed our path while readying their burrows for the coming seasons, and finches flew low around us, darting from flower to flower for the precious, ripe seeds that August brings.

A detour took us through the The Red-Tail Nature Preserve, a beautiful, natural area and wildlife sanctuary. Velo Junkie and I were confused at first because the trail is hidden amongst the high grasses of the prairie. It was a short ride through the preserve, one that I would have liked to have lasted a little longer.

By the time we reached Scotty’s Brew Pub we were ready for nourishment and a cold, refreshing beer. Blonde Bunny, a blonde ale, was the perfect accompaniment to the Shewman. After our satisfying lunch we turned our bikes southeast for the warm, leisurely ride back to the trailhead. The butterflies and bees were still busy around the abundant thistle. I couldn’t help but consider what we, as the human race, can do to help prevent the extinction of the delicate but magnificent Monarch butterfly. If you read this blog, please share your ideas, and what you have done for preservation of butterfly habitat and wildlife corridors in your community.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bikes OnBoard


Only two stops between home and Union Station put us at the Amtrak station well ahead of the scheduled departure of the Southwest Chief. We were traveling with our vintage bicycles, a 1973 Schwinn Paramount and a 1983 Mercian Strada Speciale, headed to Paso Robles for the annual Eroica California festival and ride.

Dilemma #1 - The bikes on the roof of the Subaru would not clear the garage.

Dilemma solved - Jacquie would wait on the curb while Jim would park the car.

Dilemma #2 - Jacquie standing on the curb in Chicago wearing a t-shirt, windbreaker and sandals with two bikes, a suitcase, a backpack, a shopping bag, and a large purse in 20 mph winds at 40 degrees.

This dilemma was not remedied until Jim made it back to me so we could proceed into the station. Shivering uncontrollably at this point, a security guard directing taxis observed our conundrum of bags and bikes and generously offered to roll the bikes to the baggage counter with us. We checked our large suitcases because Amtrak requires you hold onto a bike until it is handed off to the porter at the baggage coach.

Dilemma #3 - maneuvering the bikes around Union Station in search of lunch.

After several trips up and down elevators at different ends of the station, a Metra associate kindly walked us to the correct elevator to get to the food court. That's two friendlies so far. In true Chicago fashion we had dogs and fries.

Next we went to the gate that our train was supposed to leave from. This is where you have to forget everything you learned about traveling on a plane. A woman from Amtrak was herding all of us railroad neophytes into a single file line to move to the Great Hall. She was distracted so just told everyone to follow Jim and I because we thought we knew where we were supposed to go. 

Made it to the Great Hall. Now what. We were instructed to have a seat and wait until we were all called at once to move to the train.

While waiting we met another passenger, Tom, traveling with his bike. He had mistakenly chained his bike to a lamp post so he could leave it for a few minutes. In those few minutes his cable was cut and the drug sniffing dog was brought out. Whew.Glad that wasn't us. We almost tried it.

Thirty minutes prior to departure an attendant, who was as round and she was tall, came to the Great Hall and announced that all for the Southwest Chief should follow her. She put Jim and I in the front of the line because we had to hand the bikes off. 

Here's where Jim speaks when he shouldn't. There was a young man at the front whom Jim cordially asked "how are you today?" The young passenger proceeded to display peculiar behavior. After a long, drawn out deduction of phosphoric acid, lower intestines, leaching of nutrients, and vomit inducing levels of sugar it was concluded that Jim's Diet Coke was equivalent to bottled heroin.

I was unequivocally jubilant we were seated nowhere near this young passenger on the train. We were, however, assigned seats next to the other cyclist we had met in the station. Sweet!

Shortly after leaving Chicago an attendant came through the coaches to take dinner reservations. We picked the last time slot of 7:30. Lo and behold we were seated to dinner with another bike nerd. (After this trip Jim will never want to travel any other way.) Galen owned Paramounts and a Voyageur. He was on his way to Albuquerque to purchase a truck to bring home two more Paramounts, 
The conversation went something like this:
Campy this and Shimano that; 27 or 700?; Orange, yellow, or blue?; P13; no, P15; who made the wheels?; is Mercian British? For two hours the conversation revolved around steel. Who would have guessed, of all the passengers, we would have been seated with another bike nut?

We retired to our seats and fell asleep to the gentle rocking of the train.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles we again faced a dilemma of getting the bikes up the stairs to the rental car garage. No problem. We were old pros at this by now. Jacquie waited on the curb while Jim retrieved the car. The 70 degrees in LA was a little bit easier to tolerate.

People, bikes and luggage in the car, we were headed to Eroica California 2017.