Challenge Yourself and Make a Commitment to Sustainability
In September 2014, I had the pleasure of participating in the final 3 miles of the 2014 Climate Ride NYC-DC and from that experience was introduced to Climate Ride. I was inspired to participate in the 2015 Climate Ride from Bar Harbor, Maine to Boston.
Team AGU and their supporters at Climate Ride 2014
I made the decision to participate last year for a few reasons: I wanted to showcase that there are alternatives to fossil-fuel based transportation, I wanted to spread the message about climate change, I have a personal commitment to sustainability that dovetails with AGU’s own mission of science for the benefit of humanity, and I was just turning 60 and wanted to challenge myself both physically and mentally.
I found Climate Ride to be a really thrilling and personally rewarding experience. I encourage others who are thinking about it to sign up to participate in one of this year’s Climate Ride events.
The Bar Harbor to Boston trip was an incredibly beautiful and amazingly historic ride. We had five perfect days of weather. The natural beauty of both inner Maine and its coastline was awe-inspiring. We passed farmland and lighthouses, rode the Concord Trail—part of Paul Revere’s ride—and passed the location of the Battle of Lexington. The trip really reminded me of the values we have as a country for diversity and inclusion and gave me a chance to reflect on our nation’s history and the fragility and yet beauty of the natural environment.
There was a real esprit de corps between all the riders, not just the AGU Team. Everyone was working toward a common goal and shared the same values of sustainability which really brought the group together. Even when riders or support wagons passed, as they did to me a number of times, they did it while cheering and beeping in encouragement. The AGU Team was also a great support to have at the end of the day. Even if we weren’t riding together, we all checked in on each other.
On the last day of our five-day journey, my sons joined me for that final 60-mile push. It was incredibly special and I felt such a rush and sense of accomplishment pedaling into Boston that day. I had contributed to something important and meaningful, raised a significant amount of money for a cause I truly believe in, and had the support of friends and family cheering me on from near and far.
The Climate Ride organization itself is especially well-prepared. When you sign on to complete a Climate Ride (or Hike) everything is laid out clearly and you don’t need to worry about logistics, just pedaling and logging miles. Although it’s a challenging 390-mile ride (from Bar Harbor to Boston), they really set it up to make sure you succeed.
Climate Ride bicyclists
Don’t let the fundraising overwhelm you or be a barrier to your participation. I found that people are always willing to contribute so don’t be afraid to ask your friends, family members, and colleagues. Whether they give $20 or $1 for every mile you ride, it all adds up. AGU also helped to support me and the other members of Team AGU in our fundraising efforts by sharing our stories. One thing I did to keep my supporters engaged along the way was send personal thank yous for their donations, training updates about my rides along the Potomac River and bike trails in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, and little notes to keep them informed of my progress.
If you’re considering doing a Climate Ride, or questioning whether you have the physical ability to do it—I’d say to you, “If I can do it, you can do it.” I’m not a competitive cyclist; I rode on a hybrid bike, not a fancy road bike. You’ll be welcomed, you’ll be encouraged, and you’ll enjoy it. Anyone who’s determined and in reasonable shape can finish this ride. I challenge you to sign up for a ride, hike, or create your own adventure!
This is a nice ride and I have supported friends who chose to participate in earlier years. However, if we really want “to showcase that there are alternatives to fossil-fuel based transportation”, a one-off leisure ride is just not going to cut it. If we really want to “showcase that there are alternatives to fossil-fuel based transportation” then we need to get on our bikes every day, or at least, whenever feasible. To paraphrase Benjamin Franta (e.g., https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2016/jun/29/after-6-years-of-working-on-climate-at-harvard-i-implore-it-to-show-the-courage-to-divest), we’re seeing a lot of talk about climate action but not much actual pedaling. Commuting by bike is a great way to show a “commitment to sustainability” but it does involve sweat and — sometimes — blood and tears. On the other hand, you’ll get so fit, hospitals will be able to take Tuesdays off — and if you didn’t think you could physically achieve bike commuting enlightenment, the Climate Ride will almost certainly change your mind! Have a great ride!