Liking the Bike

Today I am hoping to convince you to at least entertain the thought of at least considering the idea of getting a bicycle if you haven’t already. (If I don’t do it today then I must certainly will when I show you my upcycling project…hopefully…maybe…)

This just about says it all.

I only rode my bike for about a week before I stopped, so that I could adorn it. That took longer than expected.

I haven’t worked out the kinks in the routine that I have, but I’m sure I’ll still look bad when I say this anyway. The house I’m riding from is only like 1.5 miles using the major roads. The city’s roads are basically made for cars. The city has sidewalks, share the road signs, but there aren’t any designated bike lanes that are for bikes only (I think we may be getting some though). I choose the sidewalks. I’m so slow and I’m terrified of riding in the street. Therefore, I choose the sidewalks. Because of this choice I have to wait for the walking signs to turn green, (I’ve seen people who use the sidewalks, but go when the cars going the same direction go. Maybe I’ll start doing this.) which seems to take more than a few rounds before it’s ever my turn. It takes about 30 minutes for me to get to school and put up my bike. Thirty minutes for 1.5 miles and it takes about the same time for me to go 2 or so miles and take less busy intersections. It takes me about 10-15 minutes to drive, a few minutes to find a parking place and then about 15 minutes for me to leisurely stroll to my class. I always leave the house about an hour early because I do not want to be rushed in any sort of way and that’s why I let myself take 15 minutes to take to class.

I don’t have a lot of time to work out anymore and when I don’t get my cardio in I don’t feel the greatest. I am not fit by any means, but that little bit of exercise does wonders. My bike rides take that problem out of the equation. If it takes me thirty minutes to get to class, no matter what, then I might as well multitask and get the most effective 30 minutes I can. I could gawk around or pick my nose at a stop light or I could get a work out. On my way home, unfortunately that’s when I’m exhausted, but I still have several hills that I must conquer first. These hills aren’t ginormous and they seem like ant hills to some, but for a newbie like myself, they’re no walk in the park. Summer tends to suck the life right out of me, so hopefully in the fall and winter they might be so bad, but for now there is nothing like being exhausted and still conquering that one last hill before I collapse and (or the first time I go to the top of that hill without breaking a sweat). I have no choice. It’s either do it or sleep in the bathroom on campus. And not being able to use my tiredness as an excuse is pretty motivating.

It is also a therapeutic exercise because you’re being connected to nature and being outside. Some don’t like the gym atmosphere where they’re running or biking, never going anywhere or staring at a wall. Running on concrete may not be comfortable, so biking provides a solution for both and it burns 500 calories an hour. And you get the added bonus of never being stuck in a traffic jam. We don’t have huge traffic jams here, but still it’s nice to be the one going while they’re stuck.

Driving a car is expensive. You have the gas, the tires, the repairs, the replacements, on and on. I save a little less than a fourth of a tank, which isn’t as much as I want, but I go home on the weekends and that’s a 2 hour drive. Still I save about $8 just for the gas.

It also saves money for taxpayers if enough people ride because they don’t have to worry about as many road repairs.

Biking is perfect if you have a co-carpooler that never wants to pay their half because then you can just ditch them and ride for free.

My favorite part is not having to circle around five times looking for a parking spot. It makes just about the whole ride, uphills and downhills, pretty worth it.

You don’t need a loan or a lifetime of savings to get a new bike and then worry about the repairs that you have to make four months later. I got my bike for $50 on craiglist. It wasn’t the prettiest bike ever, but I knew it would get me to where I needed, so I got some stuff (I’ll take about this project soon) for about $30 and made it better. So for about $80 I got myself a pretty decent bike. You can’t even get a car tire for that much.

Those are my reasons for riding a bike. For those that can’t even afford a car it also provides a reasonably priced solution. It may not be practical for everyone, but it could provide an easy solution for some.


Lessons From Africa: Part 3

There is one last thing I want to point out from the things that we could learn from Africa, really any poverty stricken area, and that is how to prioritize.

As Americans we are extremely, extremely blessed. Sometimes I see it as a blessing and sometimes I look at as a curse, especially now as our consumerist society is causing us so many problems environmentally, economically and fundamentally. We’re buying things that we can’t afford, our priorities are so out of whack. I mean even when people are about to get their lights shut off the last thing they want to do is give up their iphone 500 that they just bought a week ago when it first came out. We threw the other one away without a second though of what the damage it would do in the landfill or to what we could to do with it instead, like recycle or upcycle it in some way.

Even when they can’t feed their kids they’re going out and buying a new Hummer instead buying a bicycle. There isn’t really anything really wrong with either of those things, except the Hummer, but they’re both luxuries and it seems like it’s the last thing people are willing to give up. Africa doesn’t have the luxury of being addicted to anything because they can’t even get what they want. Except now I hear about schools in Africa getting laptops and it’s like, “What?! They can’t even afford food and you think they need a laptop?”

We’d rather go out and buy cigarettes and bear instead of buying ourselves or our kids food. Who am I to talk? I’ve never been addicted to either one and that’s simply because I saw what idiots people turned into when they decide it’s cool to be addicted to something.

We even go out of our way to destroy the planet by getting bottled water because the water from the tap just isn’t good enough even though it’s the same exact thing and people in Africa have to walk 6 kilometers or 3.7 miles just to water. Half the time it isn’t even clean water. Eighty percent of diseases in the developing world are caused by contaminated water

While us Americans are taking our 30 minute showers, leaving the water running while we’re brushing out teeth, watering the herd of cattle that we’ll eat so much of that it will make us sick, and we’re using between 100- 175 gallons of water every day. That is just at home. The UK uses 35.66 gallons and the average person in the developing world uses 2.64 gallons of water every day.

It is estimated that 5.3 billion people, two-thirds of the world’s population, will suffer from water shortages by 2025.

Two- They’re creative because they have to be. Unlike most Americans who can pretty much just snap their fingers and have whatever suits their fancy, they have to come up with a way to use whatever they have, in some parts it’s probably trash left by tourists or something, and use to make what they need. Every time I go to the store, which is as rarely as possible because there is nothing I hate more, I see a few of things. One, I see the ads, the stupid crap people are trying to convince me that I need. It sickens me. Two, I see all the crap that people are buying. I really shouldn’t be judging, but I just can’t help it. And really I don’t care. These people are walking around with their blinders on and most people know what they’re buying is junk, but they don’t care. Those who don’t know are just as bad. They’re not talking responsibility for their life. They’re trusting some government to tell them what is good for them instead trying to make an informed decision. Everybody pays for the poor decisions that any individual makes. Someday it will be through healthcare, but for now we’re paying with through a polluted environment. It takes a bigger toll than anybody could probably guess. The third thing I see is how much of the crap in that store I could make myself. Make myself and probably even things others are throwing away. Make a bookshelf out a pallet, make a cat scratcher out of some old unloved boxes. It’s pathetic how lazy we’ve gotten. People in Africa have to make shoes out some pop bottles and cloth.

All of it makes me just to want to throw myself on the shelves and scream at the top of lungs. Why not? All the kids do it in the toy isle? Probably not for the same reason, but still. By the end of my trip I’m just waiting for someone to run into me so I can punch them out or yell at them to freakin open their eyes. Just to let you know, I’ve never done either one, but I’m sure I feel much better if I did.

I’m sorry for being so rantish. This isn’t to say that we should feel guilty or that it’s wrong for us to be so well off, but the problem comes when we start to take it for granted, when we don’t appreciate and when we don’t even think about it. When we blindly make based on greed and money it becomes a problem and it’s an insult to those who have nothing.

Lessons From Africa: Part 1

When I first started my upcycling venture, my great aunt, who I’ll just call my aunt because it’s easier, said ‘You’d really like Africa. They come up with a use for everything.’

Of the 21 least developed countries in the world, according to the United Nations Human Development Index, 11 are in West Africa. Fifty-five percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. The region’s even poor by African standards – the average annual income is $309, compared to the Sub-Saharan average of $470.

The Sub-Saharan region of Africa is the poorest region in the world.

To be honest, I don’t know that much about Africa. I’ve heard that one-half of the country is pretty normal as far as poverty is concerned and then the other half is the part that has the problem.

I was inspired by my aunt telling me that they are so creative when it comes to their reuse of everyday items and I tried to find some different facts to reinforce that, but I didn’t come up with all that much. I see pictures from time to time of their region. They’re rare and I couldn’t find the ones that had always stayed with me, but here are the ones I did find.

african boat

The fishermen from the West coast of Africa decorate their boats with brightly coloured geometric designs. A group finds these boats and turns them into furniture. This is just one of their designs. Click the link below for more.

furniture from old boats

AfriGadget Soccer Ball

Old clothes, a plastic bag, condoms, and some rope made into a football.

Blockbuster Oven in Liberia

Repurposed Blockbuster Drop Box turned into an oven.

harold and water 2.jpg

This is Harold. A few months before this picture was taken, an organization had come to talk to his community about the effects of poor sanitation.

I nearly got rid of this bottle,” Harold explains, tracing the origin of an empty plastic bottle, now turned into a container fixed to a hand washing facility placed outside his family toilet.

“We use the bottle to fill water which we use to wash hands each time we visit the toilet. “From the time we started washing our hand, we no longer get sick,” the young boy explains. According to Harold, he always treasures the bottle and feels proud to have contributed to the eradication of diseases that kept affecting his family and entire community.

This site had a whole bunch of cool pictures, but I wasn’t sure if all of them were made in Africa. This was made from car tires.

I’m not finished talking about Africa. We have a lot to learn about their way of life, but this all I have to say about this particular subtopic. I hope your as inspired by this as I am.

Spring Break Pictures

Here are some of the pictures from spring break. I kept forgetting my camera(I’m used to having my purse all the time, so when I left my purse in the car so I didn’t have to lug it around, I forgot there are actually things I need in there.), so some of the good ones are on my mom’s camera. These pictures aren’t all I took, but they, to me, are the most interesting, prettiest or most unique. I hope you enjoy them.

Spring Break 2012 Part 3

(Some people have been saying that they get a 500 web server error. If you could leave a comment below if you’ve had this problem and tell me when and where it happens that would be very helpful. Thanks.)

So it’s back to reality. It’s Monday which sucks, but there are worse things…like being hit by a truck. I’m kidding, Monday is definitely worse than that. Okay, that’s a lie. Monday’s aren’t so bad unless you have to go to school. The good thing is I’m inspired. Inspired to make some serious changes in this town and motivated to get the ball rolling. How I’m going to do it, I have no idea, but I know that I’m going to. The bad news is that I’m afraid of failure and that has always kept me back from doing the things I really want to. I’m going to try to just plow right on through, but who knows what will become of it. I’ve got some pretty exciting things coming up in my life and the fact that spring break is over just means that I’m that much closer, so I at least have that to be happy about.

The other bad news, at least for animal haters who visit my blog, is that I visited a zoo. It would seem that every once in a while when I get to go to some kind of zoo I get super excited. It’s like a kid in a candy store and it’s quite annoying to those around me. I don’t know why I love animals so much, but I just do. As a result, I’m quite inspired by the animals and after I get some research done then I will be posting several animal related posts in a row. For some, my over zealousness may be annoying and for that I apologize. If I could control it I would, but I just can’t. Anyways, on to my last update on what I did for spring break.

On Friday we went to the Memphis Zoo. It was pretty cool, but I think it will probably be my last zoo. I always feel bad to see to all the animals in cages and whatnot, but I seem to be addicted to the animals. Before now I have always just ignored that voice in my head, but I’m listening to it about other things, so I might as well listen to about this too. For every trash can that was placed throughout the zoo there was a recycling can right beside it. That was actually the first place that I saw so many in one place. I was very happy to see them.

On Saturday we went to Graceland, Elvis’ mansion, and it was quite amazing. When I was younger my friend and used to be neighbor were huge fans of Elvis. At her house, I watched one of the movies that he was in and to be he seemed annoying. I can’t quite put a finger on why, but he just seemed too gregarious or portentous or something. Unlike what seems to be the majority of the female population, I don’t think he’s that cute either. I remember his hair being a reason for thinking that. I just didn’t get him or his songs. But then I went to his house and I listened to this little audio thing which told a lot about him and the house and my opinion of him was totally changed. He was only 22 when he got his break, but he had promised his parents that he would work to make his family’s life comfortable. He lived with his parents and grandparents (I think) in Graceland. He’s sold more records that anyone else ever and he wasn’t greedy with that money. He gave it to lots of different people who needed and charities. He bought cars for his friends and family. He was so generous and that made him so much more appealing. I heard him talk on the audio and it was such a relaxed and just such a kind voice. The second I heard his voice I already liked him a little more. You hear it the songs of course, but this was different. I always thought it was probably just a party boy like the celebrities today, but he really wasn’t. His music was good and although it’s not my favorite kind of music, it definitely beats most of the stuff made today. He was also his own producer. I really like that. He knew what he believed in and he wouldn’t let anyone tell him what to sound like. Later in life he dealt with stress and as a result, had some heart problems and he died from an overdose on prescription drugs. He was such a good guy it seemed and it’s a shame he had to die so suddenly. It’s safe to say that I have a lot more respect for him.

We also went to a civil rights museum. It was cool. Every time I had to do a research paper in middle school, I always chose to do it over Martin Luther King. He was such an inspirational guy and I really appreciated the way he saw the situation. He wanted change no doubt, but he was willing to wait for people for people to accept it instead of having to force it. He only wanted to peace, not acceptance through force. I also love that he figured out a way to stand up for what he believed in without doing it violently. No matter what white people did to him, he held his ground and he did it with grace. He was very wise and I wish that more people would take that approach when trying to change what they don’t like. He is still one of my role models and will continue to be probably until I die. He too had a very sad death. It really was a shame. Overall, I’ve had an amazing vacation and I’m sad that it’s over, but it is time for me to get to work.

Spring Break 2012 Part 2

I’m so sore, like I knew I would be. The thing about being sore is that once you are then if you keep being active it just gets worse until you finally let your muscles heal. That is what I’ll be doing today during the car ride Memphis.

Although I’m super-duper tired and sore I had an awesome day yesterday.

First I went horseback riding (Which is one of the major reasons I’m aching. I felt decent until I did that.) It was awesome and worth the pain. I rode a horse called Mr. California; he was a good horse. I rode with a family of four, a little girl, a mom, and another younger girl who rode with her dad.  I rode in the back and pretty much let my horse meander along. I don’t expect much from animals as long as they don’t try to kill me or destroy my belongings or in the horse’s case just get me left behind then I pretty much let them be. The dad in the group was a nice guy who had ridden horses before or does on a regular basis, but the other three, not so much. The older girl did well, the younger girl cried almost the whole way and the mom was just an idiot.

When we were sitting on our horses still in the stable, waiting for the rest of our group to be ready to go, she turned to me and said, “I used to like horses until I saw all of their bodily functions.”

She was already acting a little grossed out, so I knew she was going to be annoying, but then that just made me mad. They are living, breathing beings, so yeah they’re going to have ‘bodily functions’ unless they’re dead which means they would be living or breathing anyways. I hate when people act like that, like animals don’t have rights to just simply exist. I think Mr. California was tired of listening to her too because he just turned us away from her. I tried to block her out.

On the trail, I was in the back so I just let my horse meander. He knew what he was doing and I had no clue, so who am I to tell him what to do. The mom was right in front of me, so I heard every complaint. Animals to me are not property and they are not my slave. As long as my cats aren’t tearing things up, I let them do just about whatever. I don’t yell at them if they’re crying to loud or for cleaning themselves because I realize that’s what animals do. If I don’t like then I would get rid of them, simple as that. Anytime her horse would slow down she would yell at it or say something mean about it. My horse only slowed down on an even spot or on a rough hill. I would feel it slip and I would just pat it and tell it good job. It wasn’t its fault that it slipped, I’m sure he was doing the best he could while carrying such a heavy load on its back. I don’t know why she was being such a jerk. When the little girl started crying, Mr. California slowed down a little and I let him. I didn’t want to listen to her either. She was crying because she wanted ice cream for goodness sakes. After a while I felt we were falling a little too far behind, and since I don’t even like to do the little side kick and so I just told him to come on and he did. He was smart.

I guess I’m sounding a bit harsh, but I hate how people treat animals sometimes and I may be a bit hypocritical because I was also an idiot I’m sure.

I knew that probably hundreds of idiots rode him every day and I didn’t want to be like that, but seeing as I know nothing about riding, I’m sure I was doing something wrong. My feet kept slipping out of stirrups, so I had to fidget to get them straight and I’m sure I was not balanced either. I did my share of idiotic things, so the least I could do was try to be nice. I hope he understood.

It was a good ride for me all things considered, although less so for Mr. California I’m sure.

After that we went to Ripley’s Aquarium which was wicked awesome. I’ll post pictures of this too. There was a bunch of kid views that I kept getting in which was stupid because they were small and I had lay down on the floor to scootch in there. Some people were looking at me like I was an idiot, but I didn’t care. I never got to go places like that when I was kid, so I’m making for lost time. I’ve said before that I love water, but I also love fish. Sea World in Orlando was the only place I’ve been to, aquarium wise, that was better than this. You can’t really beat Sea World though. I mean it has dancing killer whales for goodness sakes.

We ate at the Hard Rock café which was fun.  The one in Gatlinburg is the only one that you can get married in. It was pretty cool. A lot of outgoing people work there. Then we went the Guinness World Record Museum. I love the book, but the museum not much. It was kind of lame and I was overwhelmed by the number of things I had to read in the short amount of time I had. I think I’ll stick with the book.

My dad and I rode the aerial tram. It took us up to a little mall thing with an ice skating rink. It was cool, but on the internet it said that it was a ski-lift that just took you back around. It was a nice surprise, but we didn’t know any of it was there, so we didn’t have time to do it. Ice skating freaks me out anyways. I also envision myself falling and then cutting my leg or something off with my skates.

My mom had stayed in the car (she doesn’t like heights) and she found that we were only 30 miles or so away from North Carolina and a place called Clingman’s Dome which is the highest part of the Smoky  Mountains. It was beautiful view (pictures coming later). I love, love, love the mountains. My mom says that if you ever stay in Tennessee stay on the Tenison side rather than the Gatlinburg side. She said its way prettier.

Then we went to get some ice cream and came back to the cabin to eat dinner. Ice cream before dinner; such healthy choices we make on vacation.

Spring Break 2012

This break is very refreshing to me. Right now I’m sitting outside watching the sunrise and I can see the mountains. There is a cool breeze and everything is quiet.

I’m in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and in my view is the Smokey Mountains. Mountains and waterfalls are my favorite things in the world and I can find both right here.

My vacation started out on the road to West Virginia. We stopped and stayed in St. Louis, Missouri on our way there. I got to go to the top of the arch. It was a rather neat sight. I saw 100’s of 5kers preparing and running their race in the downtown area and I saw other things from 630 feet high. I’m obviously not afraid of heights.

To get to the top we had to ride in these three feet wide car and there was five us in there. According to the nerd riding with me and my dad on the way down the ride was exactly three minutes and ten seconds. They had it pretty cool in there which taught me that I don’t necessarily panic in tight spaces because I’m claustrophobic, but because I can’t stand to be too hot. One usually goes in hand with the other. I still know that I’m claustrophobic because I got that way in the car, but it’s good to know that if I can just keep myself cool then I can do other things that I have wanted to do even though they were in such small spaces.

Then we traveled on to West Virginia where we saw my mom’s best friend from high school and her husband. Her friend lives in a tiny town with only around 1,000 people and guess what? They have a recycling center. My town has 70,000 or so people and it has almost the same things as them. The closest town to them has 60,000 people, but it just had such a variety of stuff to do. It was the town that I always had dreamed of living in. Small, almost traffic less, but still had something to DO. It was a cool place. Very pretty too even if the trees hadn’t gotten their leaves or anything yet. It would probably be amazing later on.

We went to the State Capitol and looked around. It had a gold dome, fancy right? We went to the senate and representative chamber which was neat. We were the only tourist type people there. All these people with fancy, nice suits and shoes, the women in ridiculously uncomfortable clothes and shoes, and I was walking around in a t-shirt with my shoes untied. I’m sure they were jealous.

Then we went bowling. I haven’t bowled in years and last time I bowled I wasn’t that good. Maybe a 60 or 70 on average. The two people we went with boasted of their awesome skills, but my dad ended up winning the first game and I, the second with a score of 113. The husband was pretty upset; I guess he’s pretty competitive. He was determined to beat me at tennis, but we didn’t end up having time to play. Too bad. I love tennis even though I’m terrible and I would have liked for him to have some of his pride back.

While we were there we ate at ‘Hillbilly Hotdogs’ as featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the food network. That place was intense. It was really overdone with hillbilly type decorations, but I guess I had a sense of humor for since I come from a hillbillied type town. I was apprehensive at first, but the food was good. We ate in a bus that was connected to the restaurant. How’s that for upcycling?

Then we made our way to Tennessee. We’re now in a cabin, a really nice cabin with everything a girl could want including the mountains. Yesterday we went to a couple of waterfalls we had to hike to. The first one we hike 1.3 miles to get to and it was all up-hill. With the steepness of the hike and the high altitude I thought I might die when we first started, but it really wasn’t too bad. I’ve been trying to get into better shape for a while and everything seems just as hard as it did when I first started, but I guess I may doing better than I thought.  Despite the steepness, my breathing never got super heavy and my legs never really started burning. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t very hard either. It was just perfect. And the weather was good to. I’ve complained about hating the heat (just wait until the summer, I’ll never shut up about it) and although winter would have been an awesome time to come, it really wasn’t that bad.

The next fall was only a .3 mile walk, so it was more a meander than anything. It was a cute little fall. My legs are getting a little sore and I can tell that I’ll be hurting in the morning. It wouldn’t be much of an issue, but this cabin has two floors and my room is on the top.

I’m obsessed with mountains and waterfalls and rivers and streams. Flowing water is just very relaxing for me. I thought for a moment that maybe I had been a trout or fish of some kind in one of my former lives and maybe I did something wrong, so I had to be demoted to a human, but that only explains why I like flowing water and contradicts everything else that I like, such as cats. I wish I could have seen more, but they were so far away and it takes too long. It was nice to see just the two.

That’s it so far. I’ll try to upload some pictures when I get home.My favorite part about vacation is getting to see all the different places. It’s nice to remember that there places outside of where I live and that no every place feels so dead. It’s good to be reminded that people are different and somewhere there’s actually a person or two that care about the environment  or wants to better themselves. I’m really loving this vacation.