Bikes of Richmond

Bikes in the Fan of Richmond, Virginia during the Winter Break.

New Book: Spring and Summer at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace

Spring and Summer at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace is a collection of images and texts from the year I spent as an Americorps volunteer in Hillsboro, WV.  I’d like to think the text and images speak for themselves, but the book wouldn’t exist at all if weren’t for the initiative and efforts of Martin Magee, who edited the volume.  He saw something worth collecting in my work, and he had the will and persistence to push this project through to completion.  I hope you will check out the book!


Mea Culpa: I’m a Dirty Rotten Polluter!

My Mug Shot

My Mug Shot

I didn’t realize what evil I do when I put on that goofy bike helmet and ride down the road or trail, I swear.  According Seattle Bike Blog Washington Representative Ed Orcutt argues,

“You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car,” he said. However, he said he had not “done any analysis” of the difference in CO2 from a person on a bike compared to the engine of a car (others have).

Wow!  Just WOW!  Every once in a while a public figure says something that just leaves me speechless, and this is one of them.


Even if we never don’t register handguns, maybe we should at least start register these!

Shelved Bike



For My Mother, Born August 7th 1935, Support the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace

Mom’s 70th Birthday with my niece and nephew

There is so much about my work at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace and my life in West Virginia that makes me think of my mother.  She would have hated the snakes and loved the birds!  She would have loved the country homes, but hated the widespread poverty.  I often find myself taking pictures of things in the Pearl Buck Birthplace, brightly colored birds, or unabashed wildlife staring at me defiantly from my yard and thinking, I can’t wait to show this to Mom!

She would have been very proud of my work here, though like my father is now, she would have been concerned about me getting by on the modest stipend of an Americorps Volunteer.  Still she would have approved.
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What Makes a Family?

I was researching something I was writing today when I came across a compelling article by Pearl S. Buck  “The Children Waiting: The Shocking Scandal of Adoption,” published in the September 1955 issue of Woman’s Home Companion.  1955 was after World War II and the Korean War.  During both those conflicts there had been many American troops stationed in Asia who, as the euphemism put it, “had needs.”  The needs of the Asian women who satisfied them mattered less, and many were left behind with child.

At that time adoptions were handled largely by sectarian religious institutions and the children were placed into families that “matched” them in terms of race, religion, and other characteristics.  This meant a lot of children, especially those of mixed race parents, were simply not adoptable.  They spent their lives in institutions until they could fend for themselves.

Buck saw the injustice of this.  Moreover, having adopted several children herself, she new that not all potential parents shopped for children as if they were furniture or shoes.

Two babies came [to me] from adoption agencies, where they were considered unadoptable because it was difficult to find adoptive parents to “match” them. I was sure that there must be good families, matching or not, who could love these babies and indeed there were. . . .

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CAIR Asks South Dakota Governor to Veto Anti-Sharia Bill

No Bigotry in Our LawsCAIR Asks South Dakota Governor to Veto Anti-Sharia Bill.

Have you heard about this bill?  Well it’s pissing me off and South Dakota isn’t the only state with one in process!  I urge you to click on the link above and read what the Council on  American-Islamic Relations has to say about it.  I’m not angry about it because  it once again demonstrates the appalling lack of understanding and intolerable amount of prejudice must be endured by Muslims in the United States. That deeply saddens me more than it pisses me off.  As an educator, I will do my best to fight against this kind of ignorance.    Americans are innately curious and open-minded, there is simply so much misinformation that has  so massively skewed perceptions.

I am annoyed, ok a little pissed off, that not only South Dakota, but approximately two dozen other state legislatures are wasting time on such frivolous bills when there are so many other pressing issues facing the states and our nation as a whole.  What’s all this talk I keep hearing about budget crunches,  fiscal austerity, and cutbacks?  Both Virginia and West Virginia have debated this kind of a law, as well.  These people, our elected representatives, don’t even understand our system of government, it seems. They pass frivolous, unnecessary legislation to prevent things that are already impossible, instead of dealing with real issues.

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The Steel Wheels Coming to Town

If you are fortunate enough to live in or near Marlinton in Pocahontas County, WV, make your way to the Opera House this Saturday, November 12 to see The Steel Wheels in concert at 7:30 pm.  I’ll be there!  I’ve been a fan of these guys for a while now, but this is the first chance I’m getting to see them live.  I can’t wait.  I learned about them from Bicycle Times magazine’s June 2010 issue which reported on their  pedal-powered, seven night, concert tour.  They strapped their instruments and merchandise to their bikes and headed from town to town, covering nearly 300 miles.  This wasn’t some stunt, followed by a support vehicle in case they got tired and needed a lift; this was a genuine concert tour on bicycles.  In fact, they did another this year.  As I read I learned that they were based in Harrisonburg, VA, a place I knew well having gone to James Madison University for my first two years of college.

Those two things alone were reason enough reason to like these guys.  They hail from Virginia, and they tour by bicycle.  (Not always, of course.  They have a national following, and a bicycle tour across the entire country is impractical, at best.)

They were praiseworthy, but were they any good?  Now I had yet to check out the music.

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Greenbrier River Trail, Come Ride With Me

A clip filmed with my iPhone riding a short stretch of the Greenbrier River Trail in Hillsboro, West Virginia. The clip tells you a little about the trail and the experience of riding it.

Yesterday I biked about 15 miles of the Trail, as you can see mapped out on the site below.   I biked out about 7 1/4 miles then most of the way back.  Then I stopped MapMyRide and continued for the remainder narrated in the video.

The clip is a rough cut.  I’ll do a proper edit eventually, probably collecting clips from different parts of the trail.  But I have only recently started my job here at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace and we have a lot to do, so for now, rough cuts it is.
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An Exciting Three Weeks So Far!

I could leave here tomorrow and this will already have been an extraordinary experience.  I’m not planning on it, mind you.  I’ve only been here three weeks and have barely gotten started on the project that is my main reason for being here, and I’m really just getting settled in.

Nonetheless, it’s been an exciting three weeks.  I’ve heard some amazing bluegrass music played live, nearly run over a black bear, spent some time riding along one the best bike trails on the East Coast, seen a stunning display of fall foliage, been visited on my front lawn by a family of deer in the wee hours of the morning,  learned that Pearl Buck was a much more fascinating person than I ever gave her credit for, met some really interesting people, and hopefully made a friend or two.  That’s just some of the highlights of these three weeks.

I’m no stranger to the countryside.  Between the Boy Scouts and family trips, we did a lot of camping when I was growing up.  Yet I’ve been astonished by the wildlife I’ve seen in just a few weeks, ranging from the wide variety of birds, to small mammals and arachnids.
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Hillsboro, West Virginia. Who knew?

Just a field down the road from me. It's still beautiful, even in October.

(Composed on October 4) Who had Hillsboro, West Virginia when I was graduating from high school and we were betting on where I would be when my 46th birthday rolled around? Anyone? Because if you had that kind of foresight, you win big! I suspect no one even came close. I sure didn’t see myself living here or in any place like it. Nor did I at any of the subsequent milestones such as when I graduated from college or completed two higher degrees. All that education was supposed to take me to far away and exotic places, which it it did when I went to Morocco in the 1990s. Hillsboro, on the other hand, is a mere 4 hours drive from where I spent the first two decades of my life. That’s hardly far away….

But it is a little exotic! I’ve only been here a couple days so far, but it’s already clear to me that life in rural West Virginia is very different from life in suburban Richmond, Virginia. Too many of us fail to appreciate the internal diversity in this vast land of ours, and when we do, we tend to indulge in negative stereotypes. My experience in life has shown us how wrong those can be.
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