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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Heroes (Wendy)

Rain pounded on the tent fly but the sky had lightened to dull gray. I could not stay inside any more. I put on all my warm clothing and covered it with raincoat and rain pants. I dashed to the picnic shelter. While I was priming the stove, a gray haired woman poked her head out of the big log building next door. “There’s hot coffee here in the clubhouse,” she called. I hurried in. An electric heater on the wall glowed orange, but the room was cool. A handful of men clutched coffee mugs and huddled near the heater. Two women hunched over a puzzle at the far end of the hall. One of them straightened up. “Hello, I’m Jane,” she said,” Come on in and warm up. Help yourself to donuts and danishes. You’re not cycling in this weather, are you? It’s supposed to drop to 27

I warmed up my hands on a mug of coffee and gobbled a couple of goodies. Then I gravitated towards the jigsaw puzzle. I learned that Jane makes coffee every morning and organizes the social life of the park. It is difficult, though. The clubhouse is a beautiful room with glossy wood tables, but it is seldom used. “The management,” she says,” is interested in profit. They don’t care about people. I have to lock up this clubhouse right after coffee hour. And if people use it later in the day they can’t turn on the heater.”

I had personal experience with the management, when I went to the office later that morning. The assistant manager was working. I asked if we could stay a second night on site 20, the only high, well drained ground in the park. I explained that moving wet tents is a pain. “No ma’am,” she replied, “you sure can’t stay there. It’s reserved.” She continued: “I was surprised to see your tents here this morning. We do not allow tent camping anymore.”

Slightly daunted, I asked my next question: “Is there a pay phone?” “No, ma’am. The nearest pay phone is three miles away.” I looked out at the leaking sky. “Would it be possible to use your phone? I have a calling card.” “No, ma’am. We cannot let the public use this phone.”

Next morning we hurried over hard frozen ground to the clubhouse. “Miss Jane,” as they call her here, was at her station by the jigsaw. The coffee pot burbled. “They made you move over there? In this weather?” she asked.

I was frustrated after one day of dealing with the woman with the “Can’t Do Attitude”. Imagine how much worse it is for Jane. She tried hard to make our stay more enjoyable. After we put the last piece into the puzzle, Jane announced, “I’m leaving the clubhouse open so you can stay out of the cold today”.

We spent two more nights at that campground, in our site in the farthest corner. No one moved into Site 20.

Jane is a hero in that park.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Guest Blog #1 (Louise Bauck)

My Bird Day Challenge:

This year I took up the challenge again – birding

on bicycle. Normally I participate in a bizarre form

of road cycling, somewhat akin to the exercise a

hamster gets on a “wheel”. I find a local scenic

park, and cycle around and around on the park road

(about 1 mile for my favorite lake-side park), safe

from most speeding drivers. The biggest danger is the

maniac who suddenly backs out of a parking space –

quickly! But park cycling is a great way to exercise

and see birds, as you can relax enough to listen and

to look around you. Our local Georgia parks are full

of wonderful jays, woodpeckers, thrashers,

mockingbirds, titmice and bluebirds.

I have been avidly following the adventures of

The Bird Year tour, as Wendy has been a good friend

since our high school days. In fact, as a “senior

trip”, a group of about 10 of us went tenting and

cycling through the gulf islands in British Columbia,

an adventure I still remember vividly. I saved up for

a 10 speed to use on that trip – and I still have it!

So when I heard the Bird Year tour was approaching the

Florida Panhandle, I decided to try and bring my

trusty bicycle down for a reunion with Wendy. And a

great chance to see some early spring birds!

My new SmartCar has not arrived yet (I am # 983

on the waiting list here in Atlanta) so with some

reluctance I bundled my bicycle friend in the back

seat of my husband’s tiny BMW, and drove at a

fuel-saving pace down to Holt, Florida. It was a bit

embarrassing pulling up to this obscure campground in

the middle of NOWHERE with my fancy vehicle, but Wendy

and Ken and Malkolm were all extremely gracious about

it. Their entire journey has been made without the

use of fossil-fuels, and it was very humbling to see

how easily they managed everything. I couldn’t

possibly be as tough.

I was excited to hear all about their

adventures, and was immediately treated to both

fascinating stories and a delicious lunch. I

eventually extricated my enormous disassembled friend

from the back seat, put all of its missing limbs back

on, and parked it proudly beside the Bird Year

official bicycles (dwarfing them). Wendy and I

chattered away like a pair of grackles, although the

bitter cold – yes, in Florida! - soon had my teeth

chattering as well. We went for a quick brisk walking

tour of the local pine and palmetto swampland, looking

for ivory-bills no less, and marveled at the white

sandy soil and overflowing river. We spotted some

great red-bellied woodpeckers, a white-throated

sparrow, and busy flocks of ruby-crowned kinglets.

Next I was treated to laptop photo highlights of the

monumental bicycle journey that started in Whitehorse

and had made it all the way to the deep South.

Breathtaking pictures of their ride through the

British Columbia wilderness, the spectacular Oregon

Coast, their crossing of the Golden Gate bridge, the

deserts of Arizona, the urban ruins of New Orleans,

and even the endless acres of Texas were all stunning.

The bird photographs were enough to make me want to

quit my job and join them – they are simply amazing.

Not having a nice down sleeping bag, I finally slunk

off to the local skuzzy motel and managed to raise my

core temperature back to normal levels. The next

morning I insisted on bringing a hot breakfast to the

travelers (which they ate with good grace despite its

dubious origin at the golden arches) and then – an

omen! Just before we headed out on our bicycles, I

suddenly spotted a huge river otter bobbing his way

across the grass, about 10 yards away. He must have

felt unsure when crossing the sandy road near me, as

he suddenly did something my ferret used to do all the

time – he “flopped”. His back end plastered itself to

the road, while he propped his head and front legs up

– in a sort of mustelid yoga pose – and he paused

there while evidently collecting his thoughts. My

ferret (Douglas Fur) used to do the exact same thing

when he had a moment of indecision. (“Should I steal

the wallet or destroy the rubber squeaky ball?”)

Finally the otter undulated away again, like a

chocolate slinky. I unfroze and directed a muffled

scream at poor Wendy, who immediately notified Malkolm

(the keeper of The Lens) and we hovered while he

stalked the bold creature with great skill. I can’t

wait to see his photos (400 mm Canon). ..

Eventually, after I had put on every single piece

of clothing I had brought with me, we braved the

bitter cold and set off on our bicycles. I don’t

recall seeing many birds on the way out, possibly

because Wendy and I rarely stopped talking, but on my

return journey I suddenly noticed literally hundred of

American robins, one of my favorites. Growing up in

British Columbia, robins were like a lovely and

melodious alarm clock. Here in the South they are not

as common, and they have a distinctly different

accent! It is a rare treat to see so many at once,

and they arrowed up and down amongst the pines with

great enthusiasm and chirping cries. Blue jays,

mockingbirds, grackles, crows, cardinals, and a hairy

woodpecker also accompanied me. A gigantic turkey

vulture soared ominously over my car, still parked in

the backwoods campground, but I made it out of their

alive and very well. Now longing to ride my bicycle

again, I eagerly await the return of warmer weather,

and many more bird-cycling adventures. Follow the

rest of Wendy, Ken and Malkolm’s journey at !

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sleeping in a graveyard (Malkolm)

Our first night in Florida topped the night behind a Wal Mart, the night on top of Sandia Crest and the multiple nights behind “No Trespassing” signs as the most memorable night of our trip.

“Stopping!” Ken called. “There is something wrong with my trailer wheel.” I steered my bike into the grass beside the road. Ken leaned over his trailer, and felt the wheel. “There aren’t any broken spokes,” he mused. He pushed his bike forward and produced a terrible jarring sound. Wendy came to help.

“It’s seized up,” she said. “We’ll have to take it to a bike store.” We lifted Ken’s trailer, so that he could move his bike forward. On the other side of the road was a massive, yet delicately manicured graveyard. On our side, a convenient pullout and a trailhead. We rested our bikes against the railings of a boardwalk. It seemed the ideal place to “stealth camp”. It was getting late, and it didn’t look like we’d be able to get Ken’s wheel fixed and still make it to the nearest campsite.

Ken removed the tire, and strapped it on to Wendy’s bike. Ken remained with our gear while Wendy and I cycled off. Yet the bike shop couldn’t fix our problems. The wheel was completely busted and they didn’t carry any more of that size. Luckily another store across town had what we needed. A job for the morning. We cycled back to the trailhead.

A few shiny cars were parked in the pullout, and two men loitered at the top of the boardwalk. “It’s kind of weird, “Ken told us. “Many of these people don’t look like hikers, they look more like movie stars. Anyways, we should wait till these people are gone before we roll out our sleeping bags on the boardwalk.”

Through a gap in the thick forest I could see the boardwalk winding down a steep slope towards the sea. I walked down in search of a more secluded site. But all I saw were people sitting on the railings, looking out to sea. It was overcast, with no sunset to watch. Strange. I turned around and walked back with a spring in my step, eager to get away from the strange people. As I bent over a bag, digging out food, a silver sports car cruised in. A young man stepped out. He was clad entirely in black, from his shiny shoes, to his long leather jacket and his dark glasses. His hair was the same colour as his shoe polish. Only his skin was white.

“I can’t believe that I didn’t clue into it earlier,” whispered Ken. “There’s some major drug dealing going on down there.” It was getting dark now and there was nowhere to go.

Except a graveyard. Wendy and I walked over to ask for help at the funeral home. Stepping through the doors was like striding into a different atmosphere. Soft music drifted from an expensive stereo, and vases with roses lined the sills of stain glass windows. Two men in immaculate charcoal gray suits said polite farewells to well dressed mourners.. Engraved on a plaque was “Dignity Memorial”. I looked over at Wendy. Her hair was dirty and tussled and a smear of bike grease underlined her scruffiness. I must have looked just as untidy. I guess we didn’t fit.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (Ken)

Just north of Lake Pontchartrain we saw our first Red-cockaded Woodpecker. It was the bird I most wanted to see on our trip (with the exception of an Ivory-bill of course).

I first heard about Red-cockaded Woodpeckers north of the Arctic Circle, where there are few trees and no woodpeckers. We were paddling down the Firth River in Canada’s Yukon Territory, just east of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. One evening a large herd of caribou crossed the river. The calves, a couple of weeks old, were whirled downriver by the strong current. They bobbed alongside their mothers like buttery-brown corks. Later, a grizzly killed a calf across the valley. We watched the drama while one of the other paddlers told us about another drama, a courtroom battle centered on Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.

“Red-cockaded are the only woodpeckers in North America that nest in living pine trees,” Doug Honnold told us. “They need mature trees, generally 80 years or older. They chip holes around their nest cavities, which causes resin to flow out. The resin coats the trunk, creating a physical and chemical barrier to the Red-cockaded Woodpecker’s main predator, rat snakes.”

It was hard to imagine tree-climbing snakes at nearly 70 degrees north latitude, but I was fascinated by a woodpecker that had evolved such an incredible means of protection. But of course, industrial humans also wanted the mature pine trees, and longleaf pines were logged to within an inch of the lives of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. With less than 3% of the longleaf pine ecosystem remaining, something had to be done.

And Doug Honnold was one of the people who did it. You see, Doug was the Earth Justice lawyer who took the US Forest Service to court over their logging practices in the habitat of the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Jerry Jackson, a leading expert on both Red-cockaded and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers was the expert witness who provided the scientific background for the case.

I wish I could tell the tale as Doug told it. He is not only a great lawyer; he is an excellent story-teller. We were all with him, in the warm, humid forests of the south and in the solemn courtroom – even though across the river a pair of timber wolves appeared on the tundra. To cut to the chase, Doug, Jerry – and especially the Red-cockaded Woodpecker – won the court battle. The Forest Service had to change its logging practices . . . and Red-cockaded Woodpeckers have not become extinct.

To save a species is about as noble a thing as I can imagine. I felt privileged to be in the same campsite as Doug. And we all felt privileged to see Red-cockaded Woodpeckers still living in the forests of the south.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bogalusa (Wendy)

For those of you on tenterhooks after reading Malkolm’s tornado blog, breathe easy. We survived. The events I am about to describe took place right before the tornado day.

Rain bashed noisily above our heads, and thick clouds dimmed the dawn. Ken crawled out of the tent to make coffee and found a note under our stove. It was written with large neat handwriting. “Go back to bed. We’re doing B’fast: Ham, Eggs, Grits, Coffee, Juice Etc. Hot showers???”

We hadn’t planned to come here to Bogalusa. The day before, we’d been sipping coffee in Starbucks in Slidell, joking about getting arrested for cycling on an interstate. We just wanted to nip over the Pearl River into Mississippi, and we thought the interstate bridge would be safer than route 90.

It took determination to get on to the interstate. Two lanes of transport trucks thundered past as we wove our way over the potholed shoulder. One truck driver blasted his horn angrily right behind me. I nearly swerved into the ditch. When I saw the bridge, I suddenly felt frightened. There was no shoulder and there were no breaks in the traffic. That bridge did not reach the standard required by Team Bird Year Safety Officer.

I nervously suggested that we detour north 35 miles to Bogalusa where there was a recommended bicycle route . . . nervously, because Bird Year has had its share of detours lately.

Late in the day we pedaled into Bogalusa. A steely-haired man leaned out of his car window and yelled. “Where are you from? Where are you going?”

“Yukon. Florida.” I shouted back. He caught up to us at the next corner and invited us to camp in his yard. As I cooked a curry supper, Charlie d’Aquin brought out platters of hors d’oeuvres: spinach dip surrounded by a rings of celery and rye bread, and a plate with chunks of fresh fruit. Two of the fruits were new to us – kumquats and tomatillos. Next came buttered mirliton (chayote), a home-grown squash. We hardly had room for the curry. Chai tea followed, made with whipping cream.

Before we got the breakfast invitation, I was already happy we had made the detour. When we cycled to the Pearl River and found a quiet bridge with a huge shoulder, I was even happier.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tornado Warning (Malkolm)

“Y’all know we’re in a tornado watch zone?”

A man leaned out of a truck window. We must have looked an odd sight, three sopping cyclists, squatting in the mud, eating lunch. “Just letting y’all know.” He pulled away, leaving us alone with the rain. Texas had greeted us with headwinds, Louisiana with freezing temperatures, now Mississippi was welcoming us with a downpour and a tornado threat.

We packed up our lunch and cycled on: puddles and pavement below, and massive, dark thunderheads above. I remembered a line from a comedy paper, “If you see a tornado coming, lie in a ditch. If you are already lying in a ditch, do not sit up.” I had laughed when I had read that, but it didn’t seem that funny now.

A few hours later we pulled in to a small town, and headed for an RV park. Wendy walked into the office, I stayed outside and minded our bikes. Through the window I could hear Wendy’s conversation with the clerk. “The weather will be gettin’ worse.” The clerk said. “It’s a tornado warning now. Our other RV park up in Hattiesburg was hit by two tornadoes today – that’s just twenty miles north. Watch out.”

We decided against tenting, and traipsed into a small cabin. If we see a tornado we plan to take refuge in the bathroom of the cabin, which is less likely to get smashed into a pile of sticks. If you want to find out if we survive – y’all will have to read a future blog!

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Orleans (Ken)

When I was a kid, I used to lay awake at night worrying about bicycling to school in the morning. I’d think about all of the warnings my parents had told me about the dangers of speeding cars and swear that I’d walk to school instead. Of course, in the bright morning I’d forget my nightmares and hop on my bike without a care.

Our trip to New Orleans reminded me of that. When you are in Canada, or California, or New Mexico, you hear all sorts of scare stories about the dangers of post-Katrina New Orleans. We pictured roving gangs in dark T-shirts, ready to pounce on unwary cyclists. We had a date to do a presentation with the New Orleans Society for Conservation Biology, but we were all worried about surviving the streets.

We were pleasantly surprised by the smooth bike trail we found along the Mississippi River Levee. It was an easy cycle into town (although the streets in New Orleans are badly rutted and pot-holed). We met numerous people who offered to help us. They gave us their cell phone numbers and urged us to call if there was anything that we needed.

We were only in the city for two days, but my impressions were wildly contrasting. Opulence in the Casino district and the huge mansions in the plantation district and along certain streets. Poverty in the tent camps under the I-10 bridge and in the abandoned houses along the side streets. Non-stop parties in the French Quarter with live music blasting from the bars even at two in the afternoon. Non-stop work for people trying to rebuild their shattered lives and destroyed homes.

We’d planned to cycle east on Highway 90 towards Mississippi, but a “swing-bridge” was out of commission. This wasn’t Katrina related, but when something goes wrong with the aging infrastructure around New Orleans, it doesn’t get fixed quickly with so many other things to attend to. So, we had a little 100 mile detour around Lake Pontchartrain since there was no other safe cycling alternative. After seeing what the people of New Orleans were dealing with, we thought we got off lightly.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Places We Sleep & Another Police Story (Wendy)

A car drove on to the grass and shone its bright lights on the thin orange fabric of our tent. “Come out” boomed a loud deep voice. I clambered out. A burly police man was waiting to talk to me. Two minutes earlier, the Walmart security man had come to evict us. Ken left with him to talk with “management”. A second police cruiser arrived. Security must have sent for back-up. We could be dangerous.

Ken did some good diplomacy and we were allowed to stay on Walmart’s back lawn, behind the containers. We shared to area with mice. Twice in the night, I woke up and saw a mouse running right over the top of our tent.

It turns out that while Walmart welcomes “overnight campers” that does not include those in tents.

In this region of few campgrounds, we have stayed in interesting places. These are the places we stayed in the holiday week.

Dec 25 was our last night house-sitting Jim Stevenson’s very comfortable home in Galveston. We had room to spread out, all modern conveniences, and most important, a 4 burner stove and oven.

On Dec 26 we camped on the expansive lawn behind derelict batteries at Ft Travis, built to protect shipping in Galveston Harbor. It was windy and we sheltered behind a small tree.

Dec 27 we stayed at a neat and tidy RV park. The bathroom was full of tiny jars of potions and lotions, the kind you get at fancy hotels. The shower curtain had leopard spots. During the night it poured with rain and the lawn turned into a puddle. Our sleeping bags were soaked. The laundry room came in handy in the morning - we dried everything in the machine.

Dec 28 we arrived in Port Arthur (Janice Joplin’s hometown) as the sun was about to set. No campgrounds were nearby. The kind women at the Visitor’s Center stayed open a few more minutes and arranged for us to stay behind the YMCA. You can guess what I was singing all evening.

Dec 29 we rode into Samuel Houston Jones State Park near Lake Charles LA in the dark. I was thrilled the next morning to find that we were beside a bayou. I’ve heard so much about southern swamps, but never seen one. This was exactly like what I’d imagined. Malkolm made a thorough search for Ivory Billed Woodpeckers .

Dec 30 we arrived in Crowley just as the sun was setting (hmmmm). We asked at a gas station and a boiled crawfish stand whether there were any camping spots available. The crawfish vendor referred us to the Sherriff’s office, which we did not find. However, we did find the Firehall. The firemen invited us to stay with them. They couldn’t believe we preferred to sleep outside than indoors on a couch. They invited us to share their meal. “This is real Cajun food”, said the fireman stirring a blackened cast iron pot of bubbling shrimp gumbo. It was a very enjoyable evening.

On New Year’s Eve we didn’t want to combat camp when everyone would be setting off all those fireworks we’ve seen for sale. Not to mention guns - we heard people like shooting guns to welcome the New Year. We phoned all the motels in New Iberia, and chose one. It was $25 cheaper than one big chain hotel and $75 cheaper than another. The management was relaxed; no-one minded when I fired up the camp stove outside our door to make supper. The only thing about the room was you didn’t want to walk barefoot.

As usual, we went to sleep well before midnight on New Year’s Eve. We did not even get woken up at midnight. Heck, Canadians are noisier than the folks in this neighborhood. In Canada, people hollering and hoot and bang pot lids. Here, nothing.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bird Year Insider (Malkolm)

“Fun with letters and states- let’s quiz each other’s knowledge!” called Ken cheerfully. “Quiz # 1, how many letters in the alphabet are not used at the beginning of a state?” We were on a back road without much traffic. It was even quiet enough to talk. To pass the endless miles of flat, agricultural land (mainly rice and cattle) we played guessing games. We tried to name as many state capitals as we could, we even tried to figure out how many two letter words we could make using the first letters of states and their capitals. For example the Texas combination makes the word AT. Very exciting. We also tried to name as many countries beginning with a given letter. But we were trying to name obscure places like Myanmar and Omen, so we missed obvious countries like Iraq, Italy, Iran and Germany. I guess that means that we haven’t been watching much soccer or political debates! We also had long arguments, such as the status of Singapore. Is it a country? If you think that this is boring, you are correct! But it ought to give you the impression of what life is like on the road. Usually there isn’t much to do other than peddle and watch out for cars. And of course to mull over complicated academic theories. If Einstein had been a long distance cyclist he’d have had enough time to himself to come up with even more revolutionary discoveries.