Monday, December 20, 2010

Is it boredom or necessity that is the mother of invention?

Without going into too much detail on the absolute origins, I got it into my head to make things out of other things. Specifically, cycling things. Things to use on a bike or to be made from pieces of bikes. Material is repurposed, satisfying the Oberlin-educated environmentalist in me. Material is free, satisfying the cheapskate in me. And it's unexpected, satisfying the surrealist in me.

Throw it into a bowl, a weekend of too much t.v. and a pair of pliers, and voila! COURSE is born (or reborn - COURSE "Classic" is not dead, just in stasis).

So, bringing you a new way to fundraise for LIVESTRONG, I present COURSE:

A percentage of every sale of every item will be donated to LIVESTRONG (most items specify how much in their description).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why a ficticious character and a huge corporation is my Holiday Hero...

Otherwise known as, "What I did for my Channukah Vacation"

Some of my friends and colleagues know that I spent a couple of days in Washington, D.C. last week. My very good friend had a family member die very suddenly, so I took some time to accompany him, give him morale support and do whatever I could to make things easier. I also decided to meet up with my friend, Miriam, from college who works as a Park Ranger on The Mall (possibly one of the most underappreciated jobs in D.C. Show your support - hug a Park Ranger today!).

While the visit with Miriam was going to be nice, this wasn't a pleasure trip. I tried to keep things buoyant and spirits high, but there were some grim realities that were being dealt with. Death. Remains. Destroyed property. Identification.

The day before the trip, I'd been Tweeting with my Tweeps, and following some fun campaign RadioShack launch featuring Alphonse, Lance's Assistant (@AssistLance), who was trying to be a Holiday Hero and was stumped for a gift for Lance. (See the video below for Alphonse's plea for help.)

So, I threw out a couple of ideas to @AssistLance on Twitter with the hashtag #GiftLance. Who knows? Maybe the good folks at RadioShack would like one and retweet it. It's always fun to see your work and name in lights, even if it's just on a computer screen.

We arrived, checked in, dropped off our luggage, and had to begin my friend's daunting journey. We were in the car en route to the Medical Examiner's Office, and my phone buzzed, which meant I'd received a reply or direct message on Twitter. My friend was driving, so I was able to see that I'd received a Direct Message from Alphonse.

I was a bit taken aback. Ok... some kind of really cool, dynamically personalized marketing campaign from RadioShack? Did everyone who participated get this? Wait... there's no link. Hmm... I responded, "Yes! Seriously?" I mean, there was no way this was for real. Maybe someone hacked his account?

My phone buzzed again. This time, I was mentioned in a Tweet. My friend kept driving, but my adrenaline was rushing. Then, I saw the mention I'd received on Twitter, which was broadcast to all of Alphonse's followers:

Uh... uh, oh. Is this for real? The GPS was chirping... we were arriving at the Medical Examiner's office in a few minutes. I'm sitting next to the person who is closest to me than anyone, and I think I just won an absurdly incredible gift... do I say something?

Another message comes up on my Crackberry.

Ummm... OMG. We pull into the parking lot and enter the Medical Examiner's waiting room. Here I am, sitting there as my friend waits to start the process to identify his family member and prove he's next of kin, and, my phone is vibrating like a car with a potato in the muffler. I'm getting congratulatory messages from fellow LIVESTRONG Leaders, RadioShack fans, Lance fans... I'm getting offers to go riding with random men when the bike arrives... I'm getting a slew of new followers. Which is cool - "Yay! People like me! They really like me!" - but even cooler, it means I have more folks that might in turn help support my efforts to fundraise for LIVESTRONG down the road. I'm getting touching, personal messages from friends, and now I'm kind of giddy and hyperventilating uncontrollably.

"Rica, what is going on?"

"Um... I'm not sure it's the right thing to bring up right now. Let's just wait until we're done here."

"It's ok. I'm fine."

"Well, I think I just won a Madone."

"You did what?"

"I just won a Trek Madone."

While my friend is new to cycling, he's come to visit the shop a number of times, and has heard me blab on and on about the Madone, how one of the reasons I am working at the shop was to save up to buy a Project One 6.9 Madone one of these days, etc. In fact, on the way down to D.C., while we were in Jersey (shout out to Billy & Dave!), I was just telling him that at the rate things were going in my life, I'd have to work at the shop for the next 5 years to be able to save up for the bike that I really would need to ride. He asked me what was the one thing I wanted for Channukah (I imagine assuming I'd throw out something that he'd be able to get me) and I said, "I really want a Trek Madone 6.9!" Needless to say, he's been educated on the Trek Madone.


I showed him the Tweets - the original message from Alphonse, the Tweet that started a thousand Tweets, and the responses, including excitement from fellow LIVESTRONG leaders about seeing me ride it in Austin at the Challenges. He looked me square in the eye and told me to sell it as soon as it arrived.

To be honest, I thought about it. And I thought about Elden Nelson, when he was given a Madone, and auctioning it off to benefit LIVESTRONG. But my friend's reaction was a bit too much of reality buzzkill for me to handle, and I told him I needed to step outside when he was taken to the back offices at the ME's office.

I called my friend, Sean, and told him the situation. We talked, and as much as I need the money for bills at home, and as much as it might bring for LIVESTRONG, we realized one key point: My beloved Bianchi Eros, which I got last year when I was hit by a car in October, is great. It has served well for my commuting. It's ideal for the NYC Century Tour. But, for me, it's a bit heavier and still tough to ride up hills. Given that I still have to take it easy on my back as it's still not 100%, riding the Madone in Austin just made it so clear that the Bianchi isn't suitable for most of my charity rides. It's an amazing bike, and will still be my commuter bike, and good for urban trips. Folks that know the story behind the bike, enthusiasts, at least, will understand the sentimental, and other value it has). But, functionally, it's not suited for the kind of riding that I do for LIVESTRONG, nor is it the bike that I would grow into. More importantly, this wasn't a contest win. As my contact at RadioShack pointed out, this wasn't originally a contest. RadioShack decided that it was truly a gift for me. Would it be right to re-gift something like that? Or put it to good use - by using it to ride whenever I can for LIVESTRONG. To know that, down the road, this bike will fit my daughter. That, someday, when it's time to retire the bike, it will become a collectible with a fantastic story for its origins, and hopefully, many, many other stories of places it had been to raise money to kick cancer.

I spoke with the owner of my bike shop, Lou, and she put it very simply, "There is no one that I know that deserves that bike more than you."

I went back inside, collected my friend, and we drove back. It was a long day for him, it was a long drive for me as I decided to just let him relax and enjoy the drive down so he arrived as unstressed as possible to deal with his family tragedy. After a bit of an outburst where our mutual exhaustion (we left Stamford at 5:30 am) got the better of us, and we both had hissy fits akin to a 3-year old who really wants a bag of candy for dinner in the middle of a grocery store and gets it yanked out of their hands, we went to get dinner. And he toasted my Madone (which, I'd since learned, is a RadioShack Project One Trek Madone 6.9 SSL) with a smile pointing out that I'd just wished for one on the drive down, and within hours, it was hand delivered.

Sarah at RadioShack emailed me this photo and said, "THIS one."

Am I wrong for keeping the bike and not auctioning it off? I was worried about that. I'm the kind of person that, if I do something wrong, or feel something is wrong, it will eat at me for days until I can't stand it anymore. But, I have to tell you, I haven't had that feeling. This bike will get put to good use. There's no question in my mind. And, in my heart of hearts, I know I will be able to do more for LIVESTRONG riding it Challenge after Challenge, Team LIVESTRONG event after Team LIVESTRONG event, and passing it onto my kids to do the same than I would in a single auction.

So, as a LIVESTRONG Leader, I'm grateful to say that my Bianchi Eros is retiring to being my commuter bike and will only be brought out for rides that might be deemed to rough for the Madone, and that the Madone will become my LIVESTRONG road bike.

Thank you to Alphonse (whoever you really are - Matt Griesser? I don't know who manages that Twitter account!), Lance Armstrong (as Alphonse said that he and Lance were both giving it to me), Sarah Barnes, Lee Applbaum and everyone at RadioShack, my friends and LIVESTRONG supporters who have sent me message after message of good cheer, and the powers that be that let the folks at RadioShack know that this is probably the best gift - not just because of value - but because of all the things I've ever really wished for for Channukah, it is the only "luxury" item that I really can use that I've ever gotten.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

As 2010 comes to a close, 2011 plans are in motion...

First, if you haven't had a chance to take the survey evaluating 2010, please take it now. This will help me get your take on what was organized in 2010 as well as help narrow down 2011!

Secondly, we're already securing dates an locations on the following events:
- ROCK the RIDE and RUN - the cycling course may change this year - more details later
- ROCK the RIDGE - awaiting approval from the venue, but this will now be an official EFTA (Eastern Fat Tire Association) race. As of right now, it is not an NECS qualifying event, but the more folks we have signed up and the more noise that's made, who knows? Maybe that will change!
- LOVESTRONG for LIVESTRONG (or formerly known as LOVESTRONG for LIVESTRONG) - again, awaiting approval from venue/sponsor, but we hope to make this happen. (For branding purposes, we can't use LOVESTRONG anymore, so any alternative suggestions are welcome)

We're also working on some of the following ideas:
- A wine & cup-cake tasting
- A support/chat group for cancer fighters/survivors
- A formal gala/dinner/auction

But, as all of you know, I'm so absurdly open to ideas, especially if you're willing to help pitch in, that I welcome you to post them here, or take the survey and leave your feedback there! (Make sure to leave your contact info if you're volunteering to help organize them!)

Check out the Upcoming Events - the 5 Boro Tour is going to be a Team LIVESTRONG event with LIVESTRONG riders from all over the Tri-State! Join the team! (Just be sure to register on February 1, 2011 at the stroke of midnight - I was locked out last year within 24-hours!)