Friday, August 30, 2013

Our two wheeled RVs

One of our goals has been to go camping via our bikes, and we've done it!

Wednesday afternoon we loaded tent, sleeping bags, minimal food and dishes, clothes and a few other creature comforts and headed out.  Now admittedly the "out" wasn't really all that far away.  Just under 3 miles, via the greenway to Johnny Appleseed Campground at the eponymously named park.   When I get home from work tonight we'll do a postmortem on what worked well and what needs tweaking.  We really want to get is a trailer and  I think that would make for a much better load distribution.

So what does one do when camping that close to home?  Well a bit of regular routine and a bit of regular camping routine.   Wednesday evening was the first Wednesday Night Live dinner at church, so we brought our store-bought salads and rode downtown to church.  We went via the greenway the whole way, which is not how we usually travel, so it still felt "different."  Lots of great potluck food and visiting later, we came back to camp via our house so we could let the dogs out.  Once back to camp we walked down along the river, and over to the IPFW campus.   There is a pedestrian bridge across the river on campus and it is well lit.  The spiders are quick studies, they have figured out that the bridge lights attract lots of insects, which equals good eating and some incredible webs.  Pete was fascinated and wanted to take pictures, so we promised to go back by on Thursday night with the camera.

Thursday we did "at camp" stuff.  Mike went running, Pete and I went hiking, found some apple trees near Johnny Appleseed's gravesite and picked some, also got some peaches from a peach tree.  I ran home to take care of the dogs and collect Pete's soccer gear.   We ate lunch at camp and went exploring the Indiana Tree Walk at IPFW.  We've done it before and it is fun.  Pete and I left from IPFW to pick up some supper and head to his soccer practice.  Mike joined us along the way.

After soccer was over, we came back via the Venderly bridge with its spider webs and Pete got the pictures he wanted.  Then time to clean up and head to bed!  This morning we had breakfast, struck camp and headed home.  I did a quick change and kept on in on my way to work and Mike and Pete have gone on with their day.

Farmer's market later today and our Labor Day Weekend will continue!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Warehouse fire today

Two blocks down the street is a bridge across the Maumee River.  I love to look upstream in the evening just before sunset to see the reflection of downtown Fort Wayne in the water of the river.  It is my favorite view of downtown.  Tonight the bridge was closed to the public.  The emergency officials (fire and police) who were on the bridge were probably too busy too watch the lights come on downtown.

This afternoon a fire started in what back in the day had been the Wayne Pump Co.  Now it is a mix of empty and and repurposed warehouses and businesses.  I first saw the Journal Gazette notice of the breaking news just before I left work this afternoon.  The plume of black smoke was unmistakable even 6 miles away across town.   Here is what Google has the site looking like.

The electric company had turned off power to the neighborhood sometime this afternoon.  It came back on at 9:24 this evening.  I'll  be interested to read to read the news reports of how big this fire turned out to be.  I could see fire trucks from outside of Fort Wayne.  The river greenway runs right across the Maumee from the warehouses, so getting views of the scene was easy, though we were well out of the firefighter's way.

Here are some pictures of what Pete and I saw this evening.
From just north of the fire site.
Flames are visible in the center of the picture as the warehouse next to the railroad tracks burns.

More flames.

Smoke obliterating the view of the building and tracks.

Six buildings were in the complex..  This one has already collapsed.

From two blocks east of the fire, the setting sun the smoke and the railroad tiracks that seem to have been closed all afternoon and evening.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Wildlife in the City

While out biking this afternoon, Pete saw this hawk on a light post downtown, in front of Trinity Episcopal Church. A woman who lives across the street and had just parked her car saw it eating on the corner. We found the feathers from what looked like a pigeon. The hawk had flown up to the light post when she got out of her car. Mike, Pete and I stood watching it for a while. Michael Roeger had to leave to go to work (a block away) so Pete and I watched it for awhile. It flew and Pete saw it land in the front garden of a house across the street. We crossed the street and saw it eating something (white fur in the hawk's beak) behind some taller flowers. I got a picture and the guy who owns the house came out. We told him he had a hawk in his front yard. He was skeptical until he came off the porch and looked in his garden. The hawk then hopped up on the downspout (where you can see it in the picture) and wiped its beak off on the metal. We all took pictures. Then it flew on to the railing of the house next door. Had a nice conversation about restoring old houses and gardening with the homeowner too! 

Pete saw the hawk on the light pole, so we stopped to look and I pulled out the camera.

The hawk kept looking back toward the pigeon it had just finished eating. Pete and Mike were between the hawk and it's leftovers.

Pete crossed the street and got this shot of the hawk looking at him.

When it flew from the streetlight, it went to this garden across the street and was eating something furry closer to the bushes. When it was done eating, it sat on this downspout and cleaned its beak on the metal.

Then it flew onto the porch railing next door.

Friday, August 16, 2013

One year ago today...

A much smaller Pete, a much larger me and our silver Saturn station wagon.

we started our carftree experiment.  The silver Saturn station wagon went to the shop.  To catch up on the whole story, you can read this earlier entry.  I can't say it was to celebrate exactly, but my son and I went to the West Main farmers market this afternoon and I got 25 lbs of peaches and 10 lbs of blueberries.  And they got home - by bike!   I don't think I would have even considered trying something like that  a year ago.   It  was not an elegant trip home.  The box fell off to the side of the carrier several times, before I gave up and walked the bike with the peaches the rest of the way home uneventfully.  But now I've got some of those peaches in the freezer.  I may even try canning some of them!

Bikes as ambulances in Uganda

I have to say it upfront, I'm a fan of NPR.  So  I follow them on facebook and listen to them the traditional way, on the radio.  I'm also a fan of bikes.  But if you read this blog with any regularity you already knew that.  This story was on my fb feed this evening.  It is a just one of those stories where someone is doing the right thing.

In Rural Uganda, Homemade Bikes Make The Best Ambulances

Bike ambulance driver Grace Kakyo transports a patient in northern Uganda.
Bike ambulance driver Grace Kakyo transports a patient in northern Uganda.
Photo courtesy CA Bikes
When Chris Ategeka was 9, his younger brother died while Ategeka was helping to carry him to the nearest hospital — 10 miles from their village in Fort Portal, Uganda.
There was no quicker way to get his sick brother, who was coughing and had a bloody stool, to medical care. "I did not understand the concept of lack of mobility being the biggest factor until it got later in life. I realized how that could have helped so much," he tells Shots.
Chris Ategeka started a nonprofit to help villagers in rural Uganda build their own bikes.
Roibín Ó hÉochaidh/University of California, Berkeley
Ategeka and his five siblings became orphans after their mother and father died of AIDS. But Ategeka, now 28, considers himself lucky.
A U.S. aid organization Y.E.S. Uganda helped AIDS orphans like him attend school. Ategeka did well. He impressed the California family that sponsored him so much that they invited him to come live with them in 2006.
Since then, he has earned engineering degrees at University of California, Berkeley, where he'll begin a doctorate in mechanical engineering this fall. And he's been using what he learned already to solve the problem that contributed to the death of his brother nearly 20 years ago.
Ategeka founded CA Bikes, a nonprofit that teaches villagers how to build bike ambulances and wheelchairs from scrap metal. "I teach you how to make it, and I teach you how to fix it," he says. "If it breaks, you know what to do, and if you want to build something you think outside the box and you do it."
So far, he estimates the group has helped support the fabrication at centralized workshops in local villages and distribution of more than 1,000 bikes and bike ambulances throughout Uganda. Just 100 bike ambulances can transport about 10,000 people a month, according to Ategeka. One ambulance costs an equivalent of $600 to make.
The group's goal is to connect rural communities in Uganda with clinics in cities. The nonprofit has caught the eyes of major funders, like U.S. Embassy in Uganda and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
"I wanted to do something about the effects of lack of health care in rural villages, so I combined my life experience and engineering," Ategeka says.
Local villagers, health workers, AIDS orphans and CA Bikes staffers celebrate the delivery ofa bike ambulance  to Barr Village in northern Uganda.
Local villagers, health workers, AIDS orphans and CA Bikes staffers celebrate the delivery ofa bike ambulance to Barr Village in northern Uganda.
Photo courtesy CA Bikes
The group's bikes are used for many purposes. Of course, they're able to transport patients to hospitals. But they also serve as delivery vehicles, picking up HIV medications and basic medicines for local villagers.
"When you talk about HIV/AIDS or TB, the issue is delivering medicine to patients who need to take it on a regular basis," Dr. Arthur L. Reingold, a professor at Berkeley's school of public health, tells Shots.
The organization also provides bikes for kids to go to school. A survey conducted by CA Bikes found school attendance and performance increased by about 90 percent after boys and girls got bikes.
"When I got my bike life became much easier," Ategeka says, recalling his youth "Hours of walking became minutes of riding."
Still, the are some limitations. "In mountainous areas it can be extremely difficult to pedal great distances," Reingold says.
The view of Fort Portal, Uganda, from Rwengoma Hill.
The view of Fort Portal, Uganda, from Rwengoma Hill.
Photo Courtesy CA Bikes
A goal for CA Bikes is to create jobs and to be self-sustaining. Funding for the project is constant challenge.
The demand for the bicycle ambulances is outstripping the supply. Ategeka keeps at it. He marvels at the villagers' ability to make things work. "The human spirit is really, really strong," says Ategeka.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Fifth Grade Epic Begins

Well it is VERY quiet at the library today.  It was back to school day for the district our building is in.  There are a few kids still here, the biggest district in the city starts back next Monday.   It really does feel like summer is winding down a bit now.

Last Saturday my son and I did a dry run from our house to Teachable Moments Academy/ Lakeside Learning Garden bookstore.  The bookstore sells mostly homeschool materials. The woman who runs it, is actually moving the store to online only, but will still be teaching classes aimed at homeschoolers.  There are two math classes and one in writing that sounded intriguing that cover Pete's age range.  He agreed they sounded good, so we made the trek (by bus on Saturday, but very doable by bike) to check on timing etc.  So now he is signed up for Sir Cumference math (following the books by the same title), math used to set up a business (he's currently very intrigued by the idea of running his own business) and a writing class that will focus on the Civil War.  They will  all meet on Thursdays.   Tuesdays look to be Youtheatre and perhaps one other class offered through the Arts Academy downtown.   Once a month there will an afternoon science class at Science Central. And religious education on Tuesday evenings.   Mondays and Fridays there are some standing library programs he does.  Saturdays will be soccer.  It seems our fall is filling in with a well rounded schedule  and learning.

I realize we are on the cusp of changes.  Pete is a new fifth grader.  In some places that would put him in middle school, in others, still a grade schooler.  Either way, it is a year that seems to be marking the beginning of more independence, more self-picked focused learning.  He's getting firmer ideas of what he wants to do as an adult. He's more self-directed in saying "This is what I want to learn."  and of course he still forgets to put his yogurt container and lid in the recycling bin after he eats.  In other words he is a kid. But a bigger, more thoughtful and growing-up kid. 

I'm looking forward to this year. I'm looking forward to see who Pete will continue to become.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Urban living and suburban dreams are shifting

There is something to this article that echoes thoughts I've been having about our 1930 house. My neighborhood is urban but very livable. The house is built to a scale that does not encourage collecting too much stuff. (Now I just a have to shed enough of that stuff to fit the scale of the house!)

" Have the suburbs hit a dead end?" asks the Washington Post.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

How biking changes things

Day camps are now done for the summer and we can settle into August, with some down time and enjoy summer with far fewer schedules.   Pete has his summer soccer tournament on Monday at Kreager Park, about 5 miles east of us.  He and I rode our bikes out there today to give it a dry run.  Teams from all the parks will come together and play each other on Monday.  The ride out was totally uneventful except for the puddle portage about half way out.  It rained yesterday and last night. A lot .  I was concerned that the greenway might be closed along the river, but it was fine.   In one spot, the water had pooled over the greenway for about 40 feet.  The pavement was under enough water that you couldn't see the asphalt. There was room to the left of the path to walk the bikes through some really slimy mud, so Pete and I chose to do that instead of riding through the puddle.  Pete started through the mud and I passed him his bike.  He walked it about half way down the length of the puddle and I followed with my bike.   About half down the puddle I stood my bike against a tree, and finished walking Pete's through some overgrowth and then passed it back to him on the pavement.  I went back to get mine and slipped in the mud. Landed right on my fanny. You just knew that one was coming! Bikes safely back on the pavement, we finished our trip to the park.  Took 45 minutes exactly.  Then there was plenty of  time to just play at the playground.

Kreager Park has a playground called Taylor's Dream that was build to be accessible to all kids.  It was getting full use this evening!   Rather than go back through the puddle, Pete and I decided to go home a slightly different route.  We stopped at the grocery store.  Of course I got a bit more than I had planned to and ended up with two grocery bag hanging off my handle bars but it worked out just fine and we got home uneventfully.  The round trip was about 14 miles.

Pete has turned into such an excellent biking companion this summer.  It has been so much fun watching him gain confidence on his bike and in his traffic skills.  He is also getting such a good grasp of his city by bike.  We have ridden across much of the south side between soccer and Lifetime Sports Academy. He's ridden through the northern suburban areas going to Solomon Farm.  There are still miles and miles of  Fort Wayne we have yet to explore, but our adventures this summer have been beyond what I would have imagined even this spring as Pete's riding skills have evolved.

Going by bike has changed other areas of my life too.  As I cleaned up and rearranged somethings in the kitchen this past week, I realized that I can get by with less storage in the kitchen because of how my grocery shopping habits have changed.  I don't stock up on huge quantities anymore. I shop for smaller amounts and more frequently, so my cupboards are generally enough to hold what I have on hand.  It weird, but nice to feel like my 80+ year old house and I might finally fit a mutual lifestyle.  It was designed in another era.  I have tried to make it into a house of this era.   Maybe our biking lifestyle has finally brought us into closer harmony with what the house was originally designed to do!

I'll have to cogitate on that idea for a while and maybe it will work itself into a future blog entry.