Posted by: deadmousediaries | June 8, 2017

Green Riders Bike Across the U.S., Plant Gardens, Raise Awareness

  Storytellers know that on the very best days, a story that needs to be told will simply reveal itself. I had that good fortune Sunday, June 4, 2017, when I passed a string of cyclists on their way to passing the Path Valley Hotel. It turns out there were 30 of them strewn along the major east-west roadway in my county. Known as the Green Riders- Good Deeds on Bikes, they are weaving their way across the U.S. from New York en route to Seattle, Washington. The group converged in New York’s Central Park on Memorial Day to begin their three-month mission to create awareness for sustainable green living and to highlight food waste in the U.S. 

   Although the group has been united by a common cause, most had never met until the ride began on May 29, 2017. Riders hail from the U.S., the U.K., France, Australia, Colombia, Spain, Denmark and beyond. On Sunday morning, June 4, 2017, they pedaled through my little town as part of their daily 50-mile increments in their journey of 3,700 miles. They expect to reach Seattle August 18, 2017.

  They’ll be spending their nights in parks and campground and with hosts who are preparing for their visits. There will also be some surprises with stops in other shelters such as barns and churches. The group is also plugged into Warmshowers.org, a worldwide, hospitality exchange for touring cyclists, as well as the social network known as couchsurfing that connects travelers of all types with short-term sleeping accommodations. Along the way, riders are planting gardens, living off fresh produce and also dumpster diving for food that has been tossed before its expiration date. 

   “About 40 percent of the food in the U.S. goes into the garbage,” said rider Sarah Edleman, a statistic that has been backed up by government agencies. Sarah and companions had stopped for a lunch they spread out on a blanket under a shade tree when I caught up with them. Their meal included fresh broccoli, tomatoes and a version of Thai peanut sauce made fresh on the spot in a hand-powered food processor. It was served on a hoagie roll, one from an unopened pack rescued from a dumpster because it had been trashed by it’s sell-by date, not the expiration date. The difference between sell-by dates and true expiration of foods is one of the things Green Riders are hoping to highlight. 

   The U. S. Department of Environmental Protection estimates that the single biggest component of landfills is discarded food and it comprises 20% of all U.S. refuse. A study released by John Hopkins University researcher Dr. Roni Neff confirms that the billions of pounds of wasted food put in the trash in the U.S. each year is enough to supply 84% of the world’s population with a 2,000 calorie diet. 

   While some of the Green Riders are making their first long distance bike journey, organizer Rob Greenfield, environmental activist, has made other cross-country bike trips. His social media appeal for riders to join the adventure included a dose of reality about accepting this challenge where there are no support vehicles and riders had to pack their own food, water and equipment, a responsibility that means bikers are carrying about 80 pounds of gear everywhere they go, including up Pennslyvania’s inespcapable mountains. The true essentials of the trip were defined by riders as the bike, a small pump, patch kit, spare tube and water.

   The appeal to participants was the chance to expand personal knowledge and skills and to get the opportunity to practice sustainable living, including concepts of zero waste, holistic health and learning to live with less money. Organizers promised riders they would come away inspired and informed, leaving each stop along the way better than they found it.

   That promise appealed to Sarah and cyclists Joshua Graveline and Jonathan Nye who offered to share their bounty with me, a random stranger who happened to initiate conversation from my Jeep at the intersection where they had stopped. They passed around everything they had. As we talked, Jonathan and Joshua pulled dandelion and lemon grasses and added them to their lunch.

“The ride is  mostly about awareness, about getting closer to the Earth and living more simply, ” said Joshua, who admitted he has been living a fully nomadic life for more than a year. “I lived in my van for a year and worked as migrant help on farms,” he shared. “I finally gave up fossil fuels and struck out on my bike.”

   When asked how friends and family were reacting to their journeys, Sarah, who grew up in the south of Spain, said her parents had always encouraged independent travel and discovery. When she told them she was considering this trip, they told her to go, enjoy, and were totally supportive. Josh said his mother was terrified. “But I’ve been terrifying her for years,” he added, smiling about his love of adventure and extreme sports which is evident in all his photos.

   As they talked, Jonathan quietly planted cucumber seeds in a small bed of flowers along the roadway, living one part of the Green Rider’s mission by promoting freestyle gardening. Joshua reported he has dropped seeds in random spots in his travels, too, including abandoned flower pots. “Somebody’s going to be surprised to find bell peppers growing in their window box,” he joked.

   Several cyclists from outside the U.S. arrived later at the impromptu picnic spot and were quick to report on the kind hospitality they have received while in Pennsylvania. When asked if they have encountered any angry motorists en route, Joshua took the lead in responding. “For the most part, it’s all been good. Every once in a while people will shout and wave their arms about something. I can’t hear them so I just choose to think they’re saying ‘Hey! You’re doing great! Keep up the good work!’ Then I keep on peddling.”

   The Green Riders moved on to Ohio from Pennsylvania. The next routes take them through Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota before heading through the Dakotas. Travel through Montana and Idaho will bring them into Washington. Their route was plotted to take them through national parks and campgrounds, creating the chance to enjoy the peace of cycling. Stops include time for planting gardens at people’s homes, at schools, and in the small towns and cities in each state along their route. 

   The group will be visiting organic farms and permactulture operations that work in partnership with natural ecosystems. They will also be visiting sustainability centers and homesteads that choose to live off the grid. 

   Riders install solar panels on the backs of their bikes to power their phones and they use social media to stay in touch with families, friends and followers. “Some of us don’t really want to be that plugged in but that’s where everybody is,” Joshua noted. That’s good news for those who want to follow their progress as they make their way across the U.S. in Johnny Appleseed style. Find them on their public Facebook page: Green Riders- Good Deeds on Bikes, #greenriders. 

   If your town is lucky enough to be along their path, the Green Riders will leave you feeling inspired. As true caretakers of our planet, they are honoring that pledge: Take only pictures. Leave only footprints. The only other thing they might leave behind in your community is some bell peppers in your window box.  MK

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Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this!!

  2. Shocking revelations about food waste! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Interesting how stories come to you sometimes. Glad you were willing to seize the opportunity and reach out to learn more. That alone is a good lesson for people to learn, besides the info in the story. Thanks for sharing.


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