Malkolm is cycling on! He is now cycling from Alaska to Washington DC, and then continuing on to the UN Climate Change conference in Cancun in December.
It all started with Bird Year, Malkolm and his parents' year-long, fossil-fuel-free journey in search of birds. Cycling a total of 13,133 miles (21,144 km), they identified 548 different bird species and raised more than $25,000 for bird conservation. Bird Year turned them into confirmed cyclists and taught them that climate change was more serious than they had thought.
In 2009, Malkolm biked from Whitehorse to Ottawa as a part of Pedal for the Planet: the project called for the Canadian Government to become a leader in the struggle to come to grips with climate change. The Harper Government did not even meet with the young cyclists.
Malkolm is now 18 and just finished high school. On August 24, he dipped his foot in the Pacific Ocean in Skagway, Alaska. Then headed up and over the White Pass to the Alaska Highway on his journey to Washington and on to Cancun.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Texas (Ken)

Jim Stevenson kindly left his house to us while he went to Florida to visit his mother. Jim’s place is a wooded oasis in a desert of new subdivisions spreading like cancer the length of Galveston Island. Before he drove off he casually said, “By the way, watch where you put your feet. I just saw a big cottonmouth in the yard.” From the wooden observation deck above the house we watched Roseate Spoonbills and egrets out in a marsh, White-tailed Kites hovering over the fields, and cormorants and ducks swimming in a pond. We’ve had four days to rest here. We think we deserve it.

Christmas day in Galveston dawned clear and cool – at least cool for Texas. Not as cool as we are used to however. The typical December 25th in Whitehorse is about 0 F (-18 C). In Texas it was about 60 F (16 C). Instead of skiing out past Hidden Lakes, we went down to the beach. A couple of men were sitting shirtless on lawn chairs. They toasted us with Bud Lights and said that it doesn’t get any better than this.

During Bird Year, we never get a holiday from birding. We scanned every gull, hoping that one of them was a Lesser Black-backed. Unfortunately Santa Claus only left us Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls, although we did see a Mottled Duck, the first one of the trip.

The best part of the day was using the stove in Jim’s kitchen. We are cooking a real holiday meal, instead of our typical one-pot-glop using the camp stove. It is almost ready as I type this: nut loaf, mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, broccoli, cauliflower and yams. It is time to go set the table. . .

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Police Escort (Wendy)

Dec 21: Winter solstice and the half way point of Bird Year. We have travelled 6924 miles and Malkolm has identified 417 bird species. We have had about 40 flat tires, and exactly 13 broken spokes. We have consumed 1,800,000 calories and burned up slightly more. We have slept 147 nights in our tents and eaten rice, beans and tortillas sixty times for supper, thirty times for lunch and once for breakfast. We were in Galveston when we took our official half-way portrait. It was 66 and pleasant T-shirt weather.

Before we started Bird Year, I worried most about angry drivers, the kind who might want to rid the world of cyclists. We have encountered very few of those.....and NONE HAVE SUCCEEDED! Two drivers in a Texas border town came pretty close, within half an hour. But this blog is about the happy encounters we have had on the road.

Several times, in a construction zone, we have coasted alongside a line of parked cars and been stopped by the flagger. The flagger has waved us through, giving us the whole lane. Other times, a pilot car has followed us, keeping the other vehicles back. That’s fun.

Out on the open road, train engineers toot their whistles at us. The first time it happened, I didn’t think the train was whistling at us. I figured it out when the whistling stopped after I waved back. Truckers honk their horns in a friendly way. It’s like there’s a fellowship of the less-travelled road. Motorcyclists wave when we are out in the country, but not in town.

On the Texas Gulf Coast, causeway bridges cross many of the bays. We knew there was a bridge several miles long outside Port Lavaca, so we went into extra-safety mode. We put on our bright yellow jackets. We rode in a tight little line: me, Malkolm, Ken. The shoulder was narrow and dirty. I concentrated on riding straight, just outside the white line. When I dared to glance in my rear view mirror, I saw black pickup close behind Ken. Ken shouted that it had veered over from the outer lane. It followed Ken, forcing the other traffic to go around us. Dang! It was protecting us. With considerate drivers like that, who needs extra-safety mode? Before the end of the bridge, the black truck took off. Instead flashing blue and red lights brought up the end of our procession. This must be how it feels if you’re a visiting head-of -state! Without even asking, Team Bird Year had a Police escort.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bird Year Breaks Barrier (Malkolm)

(image courtesy of Bird Year Instant Replays Inc.)

Team Bird Year shattered a milestone Saturday, becoming the first fossil-fuel free team to break the 400 species barrier. “It was huge,” commented Wendy Boothroyd in the post game press conference. “Now that we’ve broken 400 we can start focusing on the long, tough process of reaching 500.” When asked what was more important to her, breaking 500 or having fun, she answered “Obviously 500!”

At 177days: 11hrs: 21min: 35sec into the game, Bird Year made the milestone when Malkolm Boothroyd spotted two Fulvous Whistling-Ducks circling above an Aransas NWR wetland. “We were hoping that the endangered Whooping Crane would be our 400th and we were planning our birding so that we’d be at 399 when we headed to the crane stakeout,” he said. But there was a misunderstanding between the team and the scorekeeper, so they reached their milestone earlier than planned.

“It was a disappointing not to have the (Whooping) Crane as the species that broke it, but it was a pleasant surprise to find that we one higher than we thought!” said Ken Madsen. The Whooping Cranes were so distant that they had to “go upstairs” to check the bird. The instant replay told the truth, showing the tall, white crane clearly. The judges let the bird stand.

A team Bird Year statement released by coach, Christianne Hinks said that Bird Year plans to “dig deep and to give 110%”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hazards of the road. (Ken)

A few days ago I started to read Kayaking the Vermillion Sea, by Jonathan Waterman, which someone had left in the bunkhouse at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. This is what he wrote about the hazards of paddling in the Sea of Cortez (not counting stormy seas) … “We have also been warned about rattlesnakes dozing under sleeping bags, neuro-toxic sea snakes curling under kayaks, scorpions crawling into shoes, seventeen-foot-wide manta rays jumping out of the water and capsizing kayaks, whirlpools forming out of the tides, elefante winds blowing small boats out to sea, and tarantulas nesting as copiously as ground squirrels. We are also wary of stepping on poisonous sea urchin spines, getting between a killer whale calf and a protective mother, encountering thirty-eight different species of shark …”

I won’t go on. You get the idea.

We too have been warned about hazards… about getting thrown in jail for camping behind a WalMart in Texas, about the bears in the north, about being caught between a motorhome and a guardrail, about being flattened by a transport truck, about Los Angeles drivers suffering from road rage, about the desert heat, about toxic fumes from the Salton Sea, about winter storms in the mountains of New Mexico, about cycling through Texas in general, about being assaulted by “illegals” near the Mexican border, about being harassed by the Border Patrol, about the insane traffic in Florida, about rattlesnakes and scorpions and killer bees…

I won’t go on. You get the idea.

When I told Malkolm that I was writing this blog he was silent for a minute. Then he said, “You forgot to mention the biggest danger of all… getting between Wendy and her morning cup of coffee.”

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Owls, Oil, Close Call (Wendy)

Before leaving New Mexico we had a “rest” day. We took a side trip which involved cycling 77 miles. We rode to some hills with red soil. We walked through arroyos lush with mesquite, agave, and bushy grasses. They reminded me of miniature Grand Canyons. Mesquite trees grow on the arroyo rims, their roots growing over the edge. We were looking for long eared owls, and we found them, sitting on those roots. They were so well camouflaged that I thought the owls and mesquite must have evolved together. The owls’ plumage matched the texture and colour of the roots. They sat still, but followed us with their big yellow eyes.

Cycling south east from Carlsbad into Texas, we entered oil country. Oil pumps – known as “Grasshoppers” but we are calling them “Mosquitoes” – dot the countryside. “Dot” may be the wrong verb. In half an hour, I counted 61 “Mosquitoes”, while Malkolm counted 10 birds. The road was lined by barbed wire fences. Every side road was guarded by a closed gate. It was uninviting to cyclists looking for a place to spend the night. Signs warned “Poison gas may be present”. I learned what sour gas smells like.

Close to dusk we found a dried mud hollow in which to set up our tents. Before going to bed, I shone a flashlight around our kitchen. I saw movement and shone my light on a rat, a large Norway rat. The rat stared back at me, insolently. There were no trees in which to suspend our food, so we took it in to our tents. (Yeah, yeah , I’m a northerner, I know it is wrong to bring food into your tent. But bears are not a concern here).During the night, something chewed right through the netting of our tent to get our bananas. I never have liked rats.

We really notice the short hours of daylight. We get up before dawn in order to cover lots of distance. Approaching the Rio Grande, the land south of us was desert scrub, grayish green. Blue misty mountains in the distance were in Mexico. The land undulated. Those undulations were canyons. For a whole day, we rode down a canyon and up the other side. The road was chip sealed , a little rough. We cycled 83 miles. My legs got really tired. I knew I was really beat when the last 4 miles were downhill and I thought they were difficult.

Yesterday, in Del Rio, I had my first close call with a car which almost side swiped me. I was pulling into the left hand turning lane on a deserted city street. The car pulled out of some hidden driveway. I don’t think she saw any of us. I was shaken up. Most of the drivers in Texas have been really polite. I meet a few impatient ones and it freaks me out. I will be glad to get back on a highway today.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Stuff on the road. (Ken)

Wendy’s sister Sa is a great and eclectic artist. If you think I’m biased, check out her website: Sa lives in Gibson’s, BC with our friend Jody and their two daughters Lucy and Pippa. Sa spends many hours on her bicycle. I don’t know everything that goes on in her head as she stares at the road ahead, but part of her brain is analyzing the treasures on the shoulder. She frequently stops to collect stuff – and if you buy her a good cup of coffee and a delicious scone I’m sure she’d be happy to tell you about it.

Don’t tell Sa, but the other day all three of us peddled past a quarter lying on the pavement. It was on an uphill and none of us wanted to lose momentum – especially now that a US quarter is worth less than a Canadian one. However, just south of Roswell, NM I saw a treasure trove beneath my tires. I immediately thought about Sa and wheeled back to check it out. It was a heap of coins: 7 quarters, a dime and four pennies. I couldn’t figure out how it got there in a neat, discreet pile. I almost checked behind the nearest cactus to see if someone from “Candid Camera” was hiding with a video camera. I picked up the cash anyway and bought scones with it at the next grocery store.

If you are in the mood for light-hearted reading, STOP now.

The other things we found along the shoulder of the highway were not treasures at all – but birds that had been hit by speeding vehicles. I guessed that more birds than usual had been concentrated along the road after the recent snowfall. The first was a stunned Cactus Wren. Malkolm picked it up and gently placed it behind a creosote bush away from the road, hoping it would revive. The rest of the birds were dead. Half-a-dozen Horned Larks, three Mourning Doves, a couple of Lark Buntings, a Harrier, a Short-eared Owl and a pair of Meadowlarks. There were many other unidentified piles of feathers.

The speed limit along that stretch of Highway 285 is 75 mph. As I cycled south, I wondered whether anyone has studied the relationship between high speed limits and road-killed birds. We know that slower speeds result in better gas mileage and less production of greenhouse gases. I wondered if people who cared about birds would slow down if they thought that might save a Horned Lark’s life. I hope so.