This guest post was contributed by Josh Friedman, an environmental educator, cycling coach, and father of three in Pittsburgh, PA. He owns ATP Race Consulting, a cycling performance company that trains cyclists of all abilities. You can find him on Twitter at @ATPRacing.
On the Monday before the Presidential Inauguration, my neighbor suggested I ride my bike to the Women’s March on Washington. He offered to bring a sleeping bag for me and let me crash with his family. How hard could it be? I can bang out a 190-mile day followed by a 140-mile day, no problem. Making the idea even more attractive, we have a beautiful, nearly car-free trail from Pittsburgh, where I live, to Washington, DC. I was in.
I immediately started planning my logistics. But the next day my neighbor told me that the trail was way too muddy in parts to get the ride done in two days. Rain had moved into the forecast for Friday too, making hypothermia likely on the 10-plus hour second day and the trail even slower. Prospects for a successful ride were looking grim.
Meanwhile, I had already told people that I was going. Doing nothing big would look weak, but trying to do the entire ride would be impossible and possibly harmful. So I altered my plan to do a big ride on Thursday in support of a local non-profit. It was supremely easy to choose an organization that is the polar opposite of the new administration. Repair the World: Pittsburgh (one of the partner cities of the national organization, Repair the World), does incredible work allying with and supporting diverse and marginalized communities around the city.
I sent out a message on Twitter that I’d be riding for Repair the World at a rate of $1 per kilometer and that everyone should join me. My wife put it out on her social media outlets too, and we got a little movement going.
On Thursday, I set out in the quiet darkness. For the first two hours I saw three people on the trail and countless rabbits. I had no idea how fast I was going since I couldn’t see my computer in the predawn murk. When the lights finally came on I saw how slowly the ride was progressing. And I really didn’t feel well. I was nearing full demoralization, but the idea of racking up dollars for Repair the World kept pushing me forward.
Somewhere around four hours and nearly 90 kilometers into the ride, my mood began to turn around – and so did I. I slammed down some substantial snacks, updated Twitter (including my account of a bald eagle that wouldn’t take a selfie with me), and started heading home. I’m not sure if it was home drawing me closer or a tailwind, but I felt like I was moving faster.
Knowing that each kilometer would help bring some good into the world (I’ve raised more than $500 so far) shined a little light on the otherwise dreary day, and on the overall dreary-feeling political forecast in the US. Hopefully we can look back sometime and say we did everything we could to make things just and equitable for everyone. That is what Repair the World does every day.