Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cycling Festival

The vote was cast and the disappointing news was shared Minneapolis/St. Paul (actually Bloomington) would not host the 2023 World's Fair.  And that is too bad.

But what about all the energy that went into preparing the bid?  All that energy shouldn't just fizzle away.  Hey Mark Ritchie, I've got an idea for you.  What about a Cycling Festival?

This summer the family and I will be traveling in Scotland and northern England for six weeks for my sabbatical (thanks to the generous clergy renewal grant).  I've gone a little overboard concerning when and where we will include biking, but that's okay.  As I sleuthed biking in Edinburgh I discovered an amazing concept.  What I found nearly made me jump for joy: A two-week festival of cycling!

Imagine a cycling festival in the Twin Cities (not just in Minneapolis, not just in St. Paul), a true regional festival with daily rides, speakers, workshops, bicycling world record attempts, feats of strength and skill, promotion of alternative transportation, bike camping trips, how-to's, region wide encouragement of high fives, you name it.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Exploring the 2%-3% Rule

Exploring the 2-3% Rule.  First off, I don't know if this exists as an official "rule" but I am treating as one.  Second, I learned of this "rule" by a friend who teaches at a local university and is one of the smartest people I know.

Here is the rule, interpreted by me: To bring about lasting social change one should look to advance the cause 2-3% each year.  Anything more is too much of an upset to the system and the system will look to revert back to homeostasis (for those of you familiar with pastoral care theories...the language works well).  Over the course of time, from the outside, it will appear as if there were sudden lunges or lurches or leaps toward social change.  However, the leaps were due to the incremental 2-3% changes each year.  Think of an icicle melting, at the first experience of warmth an icicle doesn't just fall off the eave.  It melts and drips and then finally falls off.

Four winters ago I began biking and walking and public transiting and car-sharing (the service I used no longer exists) as a way to move around as the pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church.  The shift in movement brought about lots of immediate change: better health, financial savings, weight loss, got to know the Twin Cities better, and self-image improved.  But the change was my own, it was a long time coming.  I had tried biking full-time in Rhode Island, but the roads were too narrow; I tried in New Orleans but the rain and the humidity soaked my attempts.  My attempt wasn't a sudden jump, even though it may have seemed like it was from an outside perspective.

But would my change bring about change in the family's transportation?  At first NOPE.  For sure, it was winter.

Over the last four years, however, 2-3% change started began to happen.

The first Spring the kids wanted new bikes, CHECK.

Then we started biking to the lake.  CHECK.

Then we biked to get ice cream.  CHECK.

Then we biked to church.  CHECK.

Then the Voice of Reason wanted a new bike.  CHECK.

Then the kiddos started riding bikes to school and to see friends. CHECK.

Then the Voice of Reason and I started riding bikes for dates: to the Guthrie, to a Twins game, to the Orchestra.  CHECK.

Then the kids and Voice of Reason got lights and cycle computers (for distance and speed and time).  CHECK.

Then everyone got racks for the back of their bikes to haul books and groceries.  CHECK.

Then everyone either purchased, was gifted, or won a "buff". CHECK

Then yesterday afternoon (because our van was getting worked on) the Voice of Reason and I pedaled to Judson Memorial Baptist Church for the Choir's presentation of the Faure Requiem then we pedaled over to the Seward Co-Op for grocery shopping.  Big deal you might say.  Oh yeah, here is the big deal: it was cold yesterday and the Voice of Reason does not like the cold and vowed never to bike when the air temp or feels like temp was below 28!  Yesterday evening it was 33 with a feels like temp of 17!!!



Now one kid wants their bike to be winterized, and the VOR wants windproof biking gloves.

Dear Divine this 2-3% rule is amazing!

We still own a van; we still drive approximately 10,000 miles a year; our kids still aspire to get their driver's license; but over time...


Monday, October 23, 2017

Starting Them Young: Biking Toys and Paying Teenagers Not to Drive

I've been biking full-time for four years.  I regret not doing it earlier but there's nothing I can do about that now.  But I do wonder what impact biking will have on my progeny?

I realize the social pressure on teenagers to get their driving license is beyond my parental influence and the even more influential Voice of Reason (my lovely bride has only taken the van to school to teach once or twice this year).  So I have created an incentive to put off driving and to encourage biking, walking, public transit: I asked our insurance agent to provide me a quote for how much it would cost to add one of my progeny onto our auto insurance.  After I receive that number I will give my progeny half of that number.  So yes I am subsidizing my progeny for not driving (just like our government subsidizes cheap oil).  

With the other younger progeny I am hoping the continual days of biking will develop into a deeper love of biking which will hopefully make them not want to get their drivers licenses until much later.  

Which brings me to the point of this blog post.  

I think we need more bicycle themed toys.  Spaceships, remote controlled cars, boats, dolls, buildabears sure.  But what about more bikes - Barbie on a bike, buildabike shop in the mall, a bike built out of legos, bike puzzles, & etc. 

Today I turn 43, and my boys got me this.  

of course they thought it was hilarious that I wanted such a gift, "dad, you don't even have the rest of the CITY set to play with..."  Oh well, but I wonder why the Danish based company does not have more bikes in its sets?  

We got to start somewhere to make walking/biking/public transiting the new norm not an odd alternative.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Biking Around Rochester (New York)

Around 20 years ago myself and the Voice of Reason hopped in my Ford Ranger and drove north from Richmond, VA to Rochester, NY.  We were exploring the possibility of relocating to Rochester; I wanted to transfer from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond to Colgate Rochester Divinity School.  Because Myrtle Beach does not count, this was really the first time we had been out of Appalachia & the South (we grew up poor, give us a break).

We feel in love.  We arrived in Rochester on one of those rare blue skyed, clear sunshine, verdant spring days.  I was infatuated.

Ever since that trip I hold a special place in my heart for Rochester.  It is where I was ordained, it was where I found my calling, it was where I met great people, it is where I go when I'm down and out to be filled.  But interestingly, it was not a town I biked much.  I bought a bike during my last semester, an old Motobecane at a yard sale, but it was too big.

So this year I booked the first flight of the day from MSP to ROC so I could have a few hours to bike around the town.  As I waited in line to pick up my rental car (yes, I see the irony) I looked through City Newspaper for food recommendations.  I settled on Rohrbach Brewing as my spot (nice combination of high reviews, beer, and close to a bike share kiosk).

First things first the zagster ride share program is a piece of cake to operate.  Seven speeds, easy to ride.   Knowing I was going to have a beer at the end of my ride I started off by pedaling up to the top of Cobbs Hill Reservoir.

(downtown Rochester)

Back down the hill, past my old apartment where the dude downstairs smoked weed every night and every morning yelled, "stop barking" to his barking dog.  Cut through where Dr. Lemke used to live (what an angel and scholar that man was), then up the hill to CRCDS.  
Bike lanes in front of the divinity school!  I would make that the front page of the webpage.  

The day was very much like the day the VOR and I first arrived.   Who wouldn't want to go to school here?  
MLK, Jr. did not attend CRDS but he did attend Crozer Theological School which merged with CRDS to form (drumroll) Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.  Look at how young he was.

On down the hall I was pleased to see the Zagster poster.  

Then I stopped by the Samuel Colgate Chapel (yelp that Colgate both the school Colgate University and Colgate toothpaste) he was a good Baptist.  

 This is the stained glass window as you leave.  Four people (men, white men) who framed the tradition I was trained in: from L to R: Roger Williams, William Newton Clarke, Adoniram Judson, & Walter Rauschenbusch).

From the school I pedaled over to Highland Park Bowl to the Frederick Douglas statue (the first statue memorializing an African-American in the US).  As I looked up at Mr. Douglas I wondered how different the nation would be if instead of Confederate generals there were statues of Douglas!


From the park I made my way down through the University of Rochester campus (by the way, Baptist in origin too).  As I pedaled through campus I planned on taking the path by the river back to downtown but I saw another bike path and took it instead.  What a lovely ride on the other side of the Genesee.


Through downtown, over the Inner Loop.  If you haven't read about a city reclaiming/deconstructing roads then read this piece.  Not having the Inner Loop threw me off a bit, but how cool that it is no longer there.  

By then I was hungry (and thirsty) and I was running out of time.  I parked my bike in the kiosk and called it a day.  


A few notes about Zagster bikes.  One, they are cheap.  $1/half hour.  Two, they are everywhere.  I couldn't get over how many kiosks (usually small, six or seven groups) there were throughout the town, sometimes just blocks away.  Three, people use them.  Later that night I saw a peloton of them pedaling through downtown.  

The ride inspired me to create a Social Gospel bike tour through the city for next year.  Oh that will be fun.  

The day finished with a beer and maybe, a strong maybe, the greatest ham and cheese on a pretzel roll sandwich I've ever had.  



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Bikeable Parish: Equity, Churches, and Bike Lanes

This week the New York Times ran a nice piece on bike share programs in Washington D.C.

About halfway through the piece my eyes nearly popped out.  Why? bikes and churches were mentioned in the same article.  Unfortunately, the mention was not in a positive manner. The issue mentioned centered on the disruption of parking due to proposed bike lanes.  For the record, I have nearly an entire chapter devoted to parking in my book proposal.  I had to find out more about the issue.  Using the google machine I bird dogged down the bike lanes and churches back story.

In 2015 churches, African-American churches, protested the proposal of a protected bike lane in front of their churches.  One deacon was quoted saying, “This ain’t London, this ain’t Europe. The United States is built on the automobile and we need to respect that."  The deacon is exactly right.

I would like to see churches adopt biking and the beautiful benefits of bike parking.  But I don't think the best way to do that is to plop(impose) a protected bike lane in front of historic African-American churches.  Especially, when African-Americans drive, with a higher than average percentage, from their homes to their churches. The African-American church is a thriving (and sometimes strained) and meaningful institution that should be honored and recognized when the issue of biking (and bike lanes) is proposed.  Should historically disenfranchised institutions bear the brunt of alternative transportation plans?  NO.  These institutions and communities have bore the brunt of transportation decisions for decades.  Instead of disrupting their communities these communities should be first and foremost in the conversation.  Listen first then look to Outreach, Partnership, Communication, Education; not disruption and taking away of parking spaces.

On the one hand the sentence in the article is a sad mentioning.  On the other hand I see it as a generative idea for not what to do.  If the narrative or assumption is that biking is an activity for the privileged and historically disenfranchised must adapt to the privileged activity then the expansion of biking is dead on arrival. To make biking equitable the biking community must do its homework, tenderize consciences, and be open to alternatives.  And listen to this piece from MPR news.

I think churches can be leaders in this realm, I hope so.

Post-script.  Have any of you ever seen the word "stippled" in print?

Post-post-script the idea of e-bikes in a bike share program is pure genius.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Arches of Glory

As some of you know I have campaigned, unsuccessfully, for the Minnesota Twins to offer "Clergy Passes" for home games.  I mean the Red Sox do it, so do the Cardinals, and the Reds so why not the Twins?  I know there are good reasons not to start the program, but it would be cool if the Twins offered 100 first come, first serve, standing room only tickets, for free, to clergy within the Twin Cities?  Imagine rabbis, pastors, imams and others all standing along the rail watching the Twins play a game, talking shop, complaining about parishioners, sharing favorite restaurants, bike routes, hopes and dreams.  I think it could be a model initiative for peace in a multi-faith world.

Which brings me to today's post.  In a few hours the Twins will play the Yankees in the Wild Card play-in game.  One game, winner take all, anything can happen...  For the record, I will not pray for the Twins to win; I have other issues to bend the Holy One's ear with.  But it doesn't mean that I will not have transcendent thoughts about baseball and the Twins.  You see, when I walk into Judson Memorial Baptist Church I have to think such thoughts!  The architect who designed Judson forces me (and every one else) each and every time I (we) enter the church to do this.

How so?

The current Judson building (1914) was designed by Harry Wild Jones, how could a parent look down at the little babe in their arms and name him Wild? (I know he was named after his mother, but still).  In 1912 Harry Wild Jones designed the renovations for Nicollet Park, the home of the Minneapolis Millers.  And one of the key features of Nicollet Park was it its arches.

Bicycling Interlude.  A few days ago while biking from the west end of Minneapolis back to Judson I took a five minute break to explore the Wells Fargo branch that occupies the location of Nicollet Park.  I heard the branch had a community room with items and pictures of Nicollet Park.  I was misinformed.  All the branch had was three pictures of the park.  This is the best.


 Outside of the branch is a plaque about the park and the ball played there.




I was hoping they would have some kind of marking of home plate, like they have at the Mall of America.  Oh well.  I then biked south to 38th and Nicollet to take some pics of the mural of Nicollet Park.  


Mark this as #4,561 of the things you can do much easier on a bike...

Back to the post.

Okay, now get ready.  Take a long look at those beautiful, spanning, architecturally wonderful arches.
Keep looking.

Now close your eyes and count to 6.



As you can see Mr. Jones dressed up the Nicollet Park arches for Judson Church.  So every time I enter Judson, I am imagine I am walking also into Nicollet Park; I'm going to play, to watch, to experience, to laugh and cry, to sing and pray.  Somewhere under these arches the line between church and baseball blurs and I love it...I don't care if I never get back...


Monday, October 2, 2017

Civil Bikes: A Civil Rights Bike Tour of Atlanta

Recently I attended the New Baptist Covenant Summit 2017.  If you don't know about the NBC and their work stop what you're doing and read about them here.

Welcome back.  Still feeling the high from the record setting bike ride in Portland I asked the leadership of NBC about a bike ride as part of the Summit.  I knew time was not on my side (only about six weeks to get the word out) but I had to try.  Not only did they think it was a good idea they even created a really cool event for it.

Let me back track for a moment.  While working on my article about bikes and the Montgomery Bus Boycott I found a link to Civil Bikes.  I read about Civil Bikes and fell in love with this organization. I wrote the principal of Civil Bikes and asked if we could arrange a Civil Rights tour before the NBC Summit.  She said yes as well.

It is one thing to read about the Civil Rights era but it is another thing to pedal on the ground and see it at "bike-level".  I kept thinking this over and over and over as we pedaled around Atlanta.


So on the Monday morning before the Summit an intimate group met in the parking lot of King Center behind Ebenezer Baptist Church and started our tour.  (Know that Nedra will provide bikes - nice bikes - and helmets, but if you have your own bike that works too).


From the King Center we pedaled to the David T. Howard school and learned about the school's namesake and the amazing list of alumni.  Right from the get-go my re-eudcation of civil rights began and kept coming...



We turned, pedaled, and admired the differing architecture everything from restored Victorian to plain and fancy shotguns.  And then there was the MLK, Jr. birth home.  
Back on the bike to this amazing mural.  I could have spent the remainder of the day taking in the metaphors, symbols, and words.  
But we had more to see.  On our way to the state capitol we ran into a blocked road, no problem when you're on a bike though, we just pedaled around it.  By the state capitol someone yelled at me for not wearing a helmet, said I was breaking the law.  


(The MLK, Jr statue on the grounds of the Georgia state capitol, which was only recently added.  let that sink in...only recently added to the capitol grounds!)

We stopped for a water/snack break at a convenience store about an hour after we started.  On the glass at the counter I found this interesting imperative.  

I was surprised how easy it was to get around Atlanta on bike.  Drivers were not too aggressive, bike lanes were well marked, and it wasn't too hot. 
Our next stop, our pen ultimate, was the John Lewis mural and Big Bethel AME.  


Again more re-education, more insights, more great stuff.  

Then we stopped a few feet away for our final stop outside of Wheat Street Baptist Church.  

Then we biked back to the parking lot and finished the tour.  I felt like the tour was just getting started.  It was that good.  I had never thought about a bike tour as the perfect vessel for a tour like this.  Each stop was an education (for me) but also an emotional experience.  Biking from point to point gave me some time to process it and moving via a bike gave my body time to process it as well.    Plus, sure you can talk while biking but since it was an unfamiliar city there wasn't a lot of chit-chat going on which created silence to process the tour as well.  

All in all it was a three hour tour, encompassing about eight miles.  I would do it again in a heartbeat. 



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bike Camping, a first experience

Yesterday the Norvell men completed our first ever bike camping experience, a 62 mile round trip adventure. 

(the boys after pedailing 31 miles to the campsite) 

Ever since I started riding my bike full-time (for reader clarification: my family owns a van, but we try to bike as much as possible.  and we dont get paid to pedal) I have been thinking of ways to integrate bicycling more and more into the life of our family.  We bike to church, to school, to work, to the grocery store, to the park, to the lake, we bike with a canoe on a trailer, I've hauled supplies for my hammock post from Home Depot on my bike, & etc.  But we have yet to bike to camp. 

We love to camp (for reader clarification: I and my kids love to camp, my lovely and amazing and wonderful and highly perceptive bride is learning to love to camp) but to camp we load up the van and drive to a state park.  For the record Minnesota has some amazing state parks.  The state parks, for the most part are a good distance from Minneapolis.  So where to ride bikes for a camping experience?

Here comes the fantastic Three Rivers Parks District and the Carver Reserve Park with the Lake Auburn Campground.  Because our dog is experiencing separation anxiety only the boys and I went on this trip.  I wanted the boys to have a good experience so I loaded all the gear onto my bike trailer (the bike trailer is the former trailer that used to haul the kiddos in years ago.  I stripped it down and put a plywood base on it) so the boys would only have to pedal themselves to the destination. 
(Reader, you'll never regret purchasing a couple of those gigantic Ikea bags.  We use them for laundry, camping, hiding treats from people, storing old sermons, & etc.)

We loaded up the trailer with too much gear and began pedaling.  And here is the beauty of this trip: 98% of the trip was done on bike trails! Along Minnehaha Creek, onto the Cedar Lake Trail to Hopkins then the Minnetonka Regional Trail to the Campground. 

Now how did I get a 14 year old and 11 year old agree to pedal 31 miles to a campground?  I lied and I bribed them of course.  First, I told them it was only 20 miles.  When we passed the 20 mile mark I told them you can never trust google maps.  Second, I filled them with treats along the way.

The first stop was the Hopkins Depot.   This was our first time at the Depot; human do I feel like a sucker for not stopping there before - what a cool spot. 

 

What's not to love about coffee, donuts, youth run organization, bikes, solar panels, trains, a garden and grills?  What in the world are serious grills doing out there?  I dunno, but I can see a biking and grilling event in the near future. 

Then we just kept pedaling.  Reader, note that once you start pedaling on the MRT it turns into an aggregated path rather than a paved path; which means compacted dirt and gravel.  It will slow you down, but wont pop your tires. 

I was taken aback by how many churches lined the trail.  This one, St. David's especially caught my attention.  Come on, St. David's you should have a welcome bikers, hikers, walkers, explorers sign on the path with worship/prayer/meditation times.  I visited their website only to discover that the rector spent significant time in God's chosen state, West Virginia, therefore my critique of St. David's ends here. 











And we just kept pedaling.  Every time we came to one of those Three Rivers Parks kiosks with the poles pointing directions I would point something out so not to alert the boys of the mileage to the camp.  
 
This sign near Shoreview indicating there were 8 miles to go (when I told the boys it was just a little farther) could have ruined the trip but luckily the boys never saw it.   

We reached our site around 7pm after being chased and tormented by mosquitoes and horse flies and some kind of smallish horsefly.  The bugs...they were serious.  After claiming a site, setting up hammocks, securing firewood and checking out the surroundings we cooled off in Lake Auburn then it was the usual camping experience: brats, smores (with jumbo marshmallows, there is a Lunds & Byerlys right on the path in Hopkins) time by the fire and card games.  

Now is the time to ask why didn't we stay at the bicycle only camping spot?  The boys sure did want to know!  Well it was simple, there was a RV near the bike camping spot with a generator and I didn't want to listen to it run all night.  Next time, we probably will stay at the bike site.  Here is my only request for the bike camping site: how about some chairs. It is hard to pack camp chairs for a bike camping experience, some heavy duty outdoor chairs by the fire ring (and maybe a sheltered coin-operated massage chair).  Great idea, plus it is only $10/tent. 
The moon was only a quarter full, the sky was clear, & the stars were everywhere; so were the fireflies (a spectacle we rarely see in the city).  I awoke around 5am to the sun beginning to rise and the birds chirping.  It is amazing how only 30 miles west can transport you from the sounds of the city to the silence of the woods which creates habitat for all kinds of birds.  I loved listening to the waves of different birds until around 7am.  Around the 7 the boys awoke and were, of course, hungry.  But I had only planned on a one night trip.  So we took the camp down, loaded up the trailer and pedaled back to Minneapolis.  On the way we stopped at Cafe 318 for breakfast.  I apologize to the owner I am sure we stunk the place up with a toxic combination of body odor, campfire, bug repellent, and camp smell.  Then we kept pedaling with plenty of rest breaks and tom foolery.  
As we neared Minneapolis I pulled over to adjust the bags on the trailer at Lilac Park in St. Louis Park. 





 As you can tell the boys were starting to feel it. 

I had no idea the beehive was a grill.  Or that there were several roadside parks along Highway 100, "Lilac Way."  We had roadside parks in West Virginia, I kind of forgot about them.  Roadside parks, now turned into biketrailside parks.  I like this. But why dont they open up the beehive for grilling again?  It would be nice to pedal to the park, grill a couple of brats when the lilacs are in bloom, I'd do it. 

As we neared  home, the boys cooled off in a sprinkler at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. 
That was that. 

Next time: two days minimum, whole family, fishing gear, better bug plan, camp chairs (unless the park provides them), bike camping site, and telescope.  

I wouldn't trade living in the city for nothing, but I need frequent trips outside of the city in the midst of starry skies, with more bird songs, and less plane noise to restore my soul.  I'm thrilled to find just such a spot within biking distance of home.  Now to explore the other camping sites within biking distance...


Saturday, July 15, 2017

MSP vs. PDX (bicycling)

A couple weeks ago the family and I drove out to Portland, OR for the American Baptist Biennial (I know try to contain your excitement).  I was excited to visit the west coast, see the ocean again (still aint as cold at Lake Superior), see the Rockies and Cascades and Coastal mountains, sip some Pinot Noir, eat some Tillamook cheese, and etc.  But the real reason I was excited about going to Portland was to investigate the bicycling scene. 

Thanks to the wonders of the internet I have been able to learn some of Portland's bike scene via the Bike Portland page.  But I knew I would need to get on a bike and ride around the city to get a full sense of things.  Sad to say all of my time was accounted for and did not allow for a city investigation (however, I did get on a Biketown bike and set a record!).  Nevertheless, I did notice a few things that make me think, "Minneapolis/St. Paul we should be pedaling circles around Portland." 

Why? 
1.  We're relatively flat.   Portland has all kinds of hills and stuff that make you sweat and wear your brakes our fast. 

2.  We have dedicate bike lanes and biking infrastructure.  Many lanes in Portland had a bike symbol on them but no space at all for a bicycle and a car.  Our bikes lanes, our bikes lanes, our bike lanes!

3.  Did I mention the MSP area is flat and easy to cycle?

4.  Minnesota Nice, use the passive aggressive culture to our advantage.  I watched bicyclists after bicyclists get cussed at, yelled at and swerved at in Portland.  Sure drivers are aggressive here in MSP, but mostly they internalize their anger and let it simmer for generations. 

It was great and inspiring to see so many people cycling in Portland, there is no reason MSP cant get to double digit riders.  We have the flat surfaces, the infrastructure, the niceness, and lots of biking institutional structure.  Come on Twin City-ans. 

 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Father's Day Gift Suggestion

As a pastor no one every asks me for last minute Father's Day gift.  nevertheless, that has never stopped me from offering advice.

The most obvious gift idea: a nice pair nose hair trimming scissors.  No dad wants to admit they have out of control nose hair, but it's a truth.  Furthermore, even if your dad is losing his head of hair his nose hair will continue to grow with abandon.

Beyond the most obvious.  I want to implore you to purchase your father a Brian Doyle book.  The title does not matter, just get one.  Write on the inside cover how much you love your father, even if it is a troubled and broken relationship, even if you can only write "read this book please."

Brian Doyle was a gifted and talented writer but I think his deep treasure was his ability to make dads, especially, appreciate fatherhood in a deeper capacity.  I love my children and I love being their father, but Brian Doyle made me love my children and love being a father even more.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Let Us Now Praise a Famous Man

Word of author's Brian Doyle's death circulated this weekend.  I and my family love Brian Doyle.  When I announced his death to my family all of us mourned.  His writing impacted every one of us from the way I include stories in my sermons, to great words he had for my lovely bride he signed in Grace Notes, to the stories I tell my kids at night (all rules are off), even to the way I talk to my dog (as a more cognizant animal). 

I saw him once a couple years back in Chicago; it was great.  He shared the most unusual writing prompts: describe the first time you kissed someone, when was the last time you hit someone, describe your favorite flower, tell me about the great sin you committed.  Oh those are some great prompts...


Doyle wrote this poem for the memory of Henri Nouwen, I offer it for Doyle as well. 

Poem for Henri Nouwen by Brian Doyle in Epiphanies & Elegies

The way he leaped up suddenly from the table
To make a point with the whole wild exclamation
Point of his body and the day his arm swirled
And swung and whirled and dance cheerfully
Around his cheerful face as he spoke and the way
As soon as he sat down he leapt up again to agree
Utterly and wholly from the bone of his being
With what you said rather than find the certain
Hole in what you said but then leaping off rom
What you said he would say something so new &
True and clear and refreshing and you wished you
Carried a notebook just for Henri but pausing to
Keep track of the swoop and zest of his thought
Would ruin the whole joy and verve of the thing
Which was a thing never before in the world and
Never again which was the sort of thing that gave
Henri a bubbling childish brilliant genius holy joy
Which was pretty much the point of Henri,
And what we miss most.


Brian Doyle, rest eternal.  thanks for catching (nutritious) stories and sharing them with us...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Let's Set a Record

So the last part of June and first part July the American Baptist Churches, USA will hold their biennial meeting.  This is a meeting of lots of American Baptists (clergy, missionaries, denomination staff, seminary staff, church delegates, institution folk, & etc.)  It is an enjoyable time. 

The last two were held in Overland Park, KS.  I understand why the venue was chosen but it felt like a fun desert to me.  You couldn't walk anywhere, poor bus service, and no bike share programs to be found.  This year, however, the meeting is in Portland!

Several months ago I began dreaming of a way to get clergy on bikes.  I thought what if we broke a record: most clergy on bikes.  I started researching and guess what: there are no clergy and bikes records!  So I filled out an application, paid my $5 Value Added Tax, and submitted my plans to the Guinness Book of World Records for a new record.  They said it would take several weeks, I haven't heard back yet; it has been several weeks.  But I am still hopeful.  Even if Guinness doesn't get back to me there are several other record books I have applied, they have accepted my record. 

Next came logistics: how am I going to get at least 250 bikes for clergy?  I asked some friends at NiceRide (Minneapolis/St. Paul's amazing bikeshare program) if they had any ideas.  Boy (and Girl) did they.  They put in contact with the person who is in charge of the bikeshare program in Portland: Biketown.  I got in touch with Biketown and sure enough they were game!

So the word started to spread and clergy began to get excited, but then a funny thing happened: non-clergy wanted to participate as well.  So the invitation was expanded to include both clergy and non-clergy.  So the record will be most clergy and most Baptists (religious group) riding bikes. 



It just so happens the stars were aligned for this event to take place: either other mainline denominations are not meeting this year or if they are they are meeting they are not meeting in a city that has a strong bike sharing program or if they are meeting in a city with a strong bike share program they do not have enough time to organize such an event (thus, why I have been so coy about this project).  But here is the fun part: I want this record to be broken.  I want the Lutherans or the Methodist to smash our record.  I want clergy and non-clergy riding bikes, getting healthy, exploring their communities, saving the planet, seeking economic and racial justice, gaining courage and putting a smile on their face.  Because the world needs courageous and joyous people right now.  But the Divine help us if the Southern Baptists find out about this record setting attempt; they have enough institutional might to overcome all of my obstacles...  They will crush the record, sanctify the bikes & then funk bike riding up for years to come. But who know maybe riding a bike will soften 'em up a bit. 

I hope you can join us for this record setting event, Friday June 30 8:30am - Portland, OR. 

here is the link to the actual press release, just in case you think I'm making all this up. 

http://abhms.org/about-us/news/join-in-making-american-baptist-biking-history-in-portland/

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Need for a Clergy Union, part 73

many pastors may not know that our brothers and sisters to the north of us have a union for clergy, no foolin'.
but some of you will ask, but why would we ever need a union? personally, i do not. the good folk at Judson Memorial Baptist Church treat me great.  but one cannot define the world solely by their experience.  we are brothers and sisters of the spoken word. 

so have a look-see at what a church around the corner is doing to their pastor for easter: six back-to-back services, six back-to-back times he has to announce Christ is Risen (i cant help but think by the third time it seems a little melodramatic), not to mention when does the dude even get to go to the bathroom?






Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Creative License

As a kid I was a sucker for any free toy in a box of cereal.  I especially loved the free bike license plates that came in a box of Honeycomb (you can buy them on ebay, of course).  Of course other classmates in elementary school were able to get license plates with their names on it at Kmart, but Travis was never to be found on the rack of license plate names (Tracy, but never Travis).  Nevertheless, I happily placed a state of Colorado license plate on my Schwinn and rode around town. Of course, no one ever asked me if I was from Colorado or anything about Colorado.  If someone had asked me anything about the state I would have looked at them like they had three ears or pedaled home as fast I could convinced they were trying to kidnap me.

Some of you may know that for the past couple of years I have had a CLERGY auto license plate on my bicycle.  For the record I totally swiped this idea off of Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.  I just had to have one of my own.  First I called Judson Press (publishing arm of the American Baptist Churches, USA) to see if they carried any CLERGY license plates, they did not.  Then I scoured the internet and found two places: the Methodist shop (aka Cokebury) and the UCC shop (aptly named UCC Resources).  Interestingly, Cokesbury no longer carries the license plate but they do carry a window decal, a "clergy" auto tag holder, and a "clergy" auto rearview hanger.  The UCC shop has them for $10.00.  I purchased one from the UCC shop, but seeing that the UCC one, rightly so, had the UCC logo I went over to the American Baptist Churches, USA resources page and downloaded an ABC,USA logo and taped it over the UCC logo.

Okay reader, go ahead and catch your breath and give your heart a chance to settle down, I know that was pretty damn exciting.

The auto license plate served me well.  But I really wanted a bike specific clergy license plate.  Sure enough thanks to the wonders of the information superhighway there is a company that manufactures personalized bicycle license plates.  And sure enough, I ordered one; for $10.

I like it.


you notice my bag to the left of the bike, I just got back from playing basketball; so consider this an action shot as well.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Winter Biking 2016-17 Year in Review

Now that the first pitch has been tossed, 30DaysofBiking is well under way, liberal solicitors are blanketing south Minneapolis neighborhoods, and pastry shops are jumping the gun by serving rhubarb treats it is time to do a review of the winter biking season.

1.  The Bike.  This year I dedicated the Breezer as a winter biking only bike.  This decision worked out well.  Last weekend I simply took the bike (studded tires and all) and placed it in the basement till it snows again.  However, due to climate change the snow is not like the snow of yore.  Several times I had a presbyterian of a time navigating the wet chunky snow.  Despite low pressure tires with studs I could barely remain upright.  So I may be in the fat tire bike market.

I am having a difficult time even thinking about purchasing a fat tire bike.  Why?  Shortly after moving to Minneapolis the kiddos and I were walking around the lake when some jackass on a fat tire bike came rumbling through.  The dude was drunk and zigzagging all over the path and cursing at everyone within 10 feet of him.  That was the first time I had ever seen a fat tire bike, never mind someone riding one.  So forever in my mind, even though since that experience I've met many kind hearted compassionate souls who ride fat tire bikes, every time I see someone on a fat tire bike I have a difficult time not saying, "shut up jack ass." 

2.  Gear.  Three big advances this year. 
1.  An Endura jacket (one with a built in light on the back).  This jacket was (and is) amazing.  One person told me that it was so bright I looked like I was on fire.  Yeah, it's bright.  And it is Scottish made so the zipper is on the opposite side. 
2.  A Buff.  I was skeptical of anything called a buff, but this sleeve shirt looking thing is quite amazing as well.  Thanks to the good folk over at The Road Less Pedaled for this recommendation.  Then finally 3. A fleece lined beanie.  Again I was skeptical of anything that resembles a condom but I was quite surprised.  A gentleman over at The Hub recommended a beanie + a ear band + the Buff as three layers for winter biking.  Yeah, it worked amazing.  Because I had three layers I could adjust due to the temperature/wind.

3.  The 46th St. Station.  I was surprised how much I used this station this winter.  Several times I biked over to the station then put my bike either on the bus or the light rail to get me to where I needed to go. 



Saturday, April 1, 2017

30 Days of Biking Blessing

This year April 1st fell on a Saturday which meant I could participate in the kickoff ride for 30 Days of Biking.  What a day for it.  Sunshine, blue skies, temp in the 60s, and my lovely and talented bride by my side for the ride!

And since I was at the ride I delivered the bike blessing in person, no foolin'.  I modeled it after a Celtic ship blessing.
 
For thirty days you shall ride your bike
For thirty days you shall be made anew
For thirty days you shall find strength

What can befall you?
Check your brakes, oil your chain, pump up your tires.

What can cause you anxiety?
Watch our for cars, potholes, and thrill seeking squirrels!

The charm of the biking community be with you
The charm of a tail wind find you
The charm of bike riding joy never leave thee.

What can tempt thee?
It's not a contest, dress appropriately (or not), you can do this.

Beloved, enjoy your rides...

(rarely does a preacher get an action shot)


I thought long and hard about wearing a clerical collar for this blessing, but then I discovered the bike bow tie by BeauTiesltd.com, it was no contest.  bow tie it was.


Happy 30 Days of Biking Everyone...


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Eternal Man in Black

Oh about 20 years ago I was driving a church bus full of youth from Toronto back to Rochester, NY. Somewhere around Batavia, NY on the thruway I told the kids to hush up and listen. I pulled out the mixed tape I made for the trip (church vans did not have cd players back then) and turned the volume up.

Playlist? I cant remember the contents, but I do remember one song that made an impact, What Is Truth by Johnny Cash.

At first the youth giggled at the selection but as the song played on the van went silent. At the end of the song they asked me to play it again and after that one more time. One bit of truth from my life touched one bit of truth in their life. It was a beautiful moment. For the record they did not have the same reaction to One Piece at a Time...can't have everything.

Probably once a week, if you would sneak or just get buzzed in, into the sanctuary at Judson Memorial Baptist Church you would hear me hum the tune of What Is Truth. So when I was asked to submit a piece to The Christian Citizen on truth in the age of fake news I jumped at the chance. Immediately I thought about re-writing What Is Truth. I thought Curtis Ramsey-Lucas would say, "that's is an idea for sure Travis. Maybe you ought to sit this one out." But no he said have at it. I thoughtI could rewrite the song with my eyes shut in 15 minutes... Friends, I have already asked a friend of mine to kick me in the shin if I ever volunteer for a like project in the future.

The lesson in all of this: don't ever let it be said the editors and publishers at American Baptist Home Mission Societies are not full of grace because they actually accepted my song.
have a looksee here:  it is embedded in a fantastic article by John Burns, pastor of University Baptist Church in College Park, MD

Monday, March 20, 2017

They Should Call It The Genius Pot

Like many of you I heard the story on NPR about The Instant Pot.  Like many of you I was intrigued by the idea of an electric pressure cooker.  Like many of you I started researching and contemplating purchasing an Instant Pot.  Unlike many of you I was paid for a funeral service which enabled me to purchase an Instant Pot.

I chose the Eight Quart model, we are a family of five. 

I confess I was really most excited about the porridge aspect.  I eat some form of cooked oats nearly everyday.  Currently, I am in love with cooking whole oat groats.  But to cook them on the stove top takes hours and sometimes I have to add more water.  Therefore, at first, the woman who chose to marry me, said over and over again, "You bought a $100 oat cooker."  "NO!" I replied, but it is an amazing oat cooker!  Especially with the timer ability.  Before I go to bed I place the makings of a wonderful breakfast: oat groats and water then set the timer for later that night.  When I wake up the groats are fully cooked and ready to eat.  The timer function is the beauty of this machine.  You see when I fill up the pot with groats and water the groats have a few hours to soak before cooking.  Genius I tell you, Genius. 

So far we have made the following meals with the Genius Pot: chicken noodle soup, black beans, oats, and...the feast of last night. 

Before I tell you about the feast last night I have to say the other genius feature of the pot is the saute feature.  With a regular slow cooker I would saute stuff on the stove top, then dump the contents into the slow cooker, then go back and deglaze the pan then pour that into the slow cooker.  Now I saute in the Genius Pot and deglaze then close the top and set it and forget it. 

Okay onto the feast last night.  Allow me to set the stage.  Dinner for Nine Adults and Five Kids; most are meat eaters, but not all.  Menu: I chose to make pulled pork sliders and beet sliders with cubed sweet potatoes and slaw and beans on the side.  Beans - out of the can.  Sweet potatoes and slaw - domain of ms. lovely.  And I would not get home to start cooking until after 1pm, folk would arrive at 5pm. Sounds like a train wreck doesn't it...and we still had to clean up the downstairs...train wreck indeed. 

Not with the Genius Pot.

The night before I put my dry rub on the pork shoulders.  My rub recipe: (amounts are all eyeballed) brown sugar, garlic powder, white pepper, black pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne, chipotle powder, coffee grounds, kosher salt, and ground cumin.  I placed the pork shoulder onto a jelly roll pan and judiciously spread the rub over the meat, wrapped the pan and mean in plastic wrap and placed them in the frig. 

On Sunday I got home from church and started cooking.  I browned the pork shoulders in the Genius Pot, deglazed with some beer, then poured another beer into the pot with some water but did not cover the meat.  Closed it all up and set the timer for 90 minutes.  Then I started helping clean the downstairs.  All sounds good, train wreck avoided. 

Then I got a call from a dog rescue organization asking if our dog was with us.  I said sure.  Then I looked around the house, no dog.  Then I looked in the yard, no dog.  Then I noticed the gate on the fence was left open, definitely no dog.  After some back and forth phone calls we found our dog in a neighbor's back yard.  See why I call it the Genius Pot, no worries about cooking while I retrieved the dog. 

Now reader I gotta tell ya I was extremely skeptical of cooking pork shoulders in the Genius Pot rather than smoking them on the grill like I usually do.  But the pork was so tender, juicy and delicious.  I set the pork aside to cool, then pulled it apart, made my vinegar sauce (apple cider vinegar, tomato puree, and hot pepper flakes) poured over and tossed in the pulled pork then placed on a lined jelly roll pan (the one ms. lovely had baked her sweet potatoes on) and broiled the meat for a couple of minutes. 

Delicious.  Amazing.  Genius. 

Then I cooked the beets for the beet sliders.  Folk came over, wonderful time, wonderful meal. 

The Genius Pot.

Other features folk dont know about.  1.  Press Saute and Porridge at the same time for the shoe shine function.  2.  Knock three times on the side for clues to the New York Times crossword.  3.  when you manually release the steam you can both unwrinkle your shirts and get them to smell like pork shoulder.  4.  If you open the Genius Pot and look deep into the stainless steel pot after a few minutes  you can communicate directly with Kellyanne Conway. 


Friday, February 24, 2017

A Transfiguration Freebie

This Sunday is the day of the Transfiguration, or the last Sunday before Lent; take your pick one which title you like best.  I like Transfiguration.  On the one hand the story of Jesus being transfigured is a bit odd.  But on the other hand, I'm sure that if you were to sit down and ponder for a few minutes moments in your life you would recall or discover moments of transfiguration.  I've seen people with ashen faces transfigure to bright red when someone they love walks in the room.  I've seen transfiguration happen the moment someone forgives someone else and their countenance changed.

The more I think about the story of Jesus' transfiguration the more I am drawn to it..that God still wasn't finished with Jesus.  Just like God is not finished with you or me.  Regardless of our age or situation in life the possibility of transfiguration remains...

This week I read Man of Letters, a 3 1/2 page story by Guy Lebeda. It is the story of two friends, Guy and Dave, who communicated, primarily, through writing letters.  Before Dave died he went to visit Guy, as they were walking one night this scene of transfiguration occurred, 

"Shortly before the end of their visit, Doug and I went for a walk through my suburban neighborhood.  As we strolled through the fragrant darkness, he was suddenly swarmed by fireflies.  He was completely enveloped in a gentle cloud of flickering lights.  We stood looking at each other, while the insects hovered over him.  After what seemed like a long time, the swarm floated away, and I shivered strangely in the hot night air."  

May you be transfigured this week, in some form or fashion, by the mysterious working of God.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why You Should Become a Winter Biker

An alternative response to the Trump presidency: become a winter biker.

Why you should become a winter biker.

1. It's fun. You get to ride your bike in the snow and on top of the ice. Everyday you go back to being a kid.

2. It's fast. Many days when the weather is ugly and the roads are a mess and cars are slipping, sliding, and clogging up the roads you can pass them with a smile as you pedal past them.

3. Parking is a breeze. Parking lots may be full, street parking may be dismal but parking a bike in the winter is no worry. But if all the bike spots are taken then just shove your bike in the snow and put a sign on it that says, "Please do not steal this bike because if you do I will be forced to pray that you have uncontrollable diarrhea and I dont want to do that." That should keep one refraining from taking your bike.

4. You do not have to warm up your bike. It can be 40 below no big deal your bike is ready to go as soon as you mount up and start pedaling. Added bonus you do not have to worry about polluting the environment by idling your automobile.

5. You do not have to scrape or deice your bike. Again, 40 below and everything else is covered in frost - big deal. Hop on your bike and start pedaling, no deicing, no scraping, no nothing, instant riding.

6. It's a workout. When the streets are a mess and the ice and the snow and the sand and the salt are as thick as oatmeal it is a workout to keep you and your bike vertical. The energy and muscles involved in this workout cannot be duplicated by any core plan or machine at the local fitness center.

7. Instant warm-up. I play basketball one day a week, when I pedal up I arrive at the gym warmed up and ready to go. No hamstring pulls and sometimes I even make my first shot!

8. You realize the cold aint really that cold. 10 below looks cold when you run from your house to the car but when you bike in 10 below you realize it really aint that cold. In fact, after biking on 10 below day you realize that 10 above is actually pretty warm balmy.

9. Sights. You will see things you cannot see while driving: owls swooping down in front of you, kids playing in the snow, 1000s of lost gloves and mittens. Sounds: the silence of snow, the singing bush (there is a bush on 40th st that sings b/c of the 100s of chickadees that hang out there), ice cracking.

10. Mental/Emotional Health: It is guaranteed that everyday the new president will do something to make you want to pull your hair out with frustration and make you want to scream and kick and cuss. While those are proper outlets for your emotions why not pedal the emotions out instead? I find that a nice bike ride when I am mad or anxious can assuage my troubled soul. I find that after a bike ride I am in a better place to talk and listen to those I disagree with. The last thing we need is more division. We need to love the fear out of each other and it is hard to love when your heart is clamored with frustration, anxiety, and hate. AND by riding your bike you will have more energy for the fight ahead! With a free and light heart you can keep marching, keep resisting, keep reaching out, keep challenging, keep dreaming, keep imagining, keep on keeping on...



Pedal on...