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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Peeing and Alligators (Ken)

So far we have been too genteel to talk about things like peeing in our blogs. But here goes.

People ask us many things when we meet them out front of the local Albertson’s, Piggly-Wiggly or Publix grocery stores. “Where do you sleep?” “What do you eat?” “How far do you ride every day?” But they’ve never asked about our peeing adventures.

The other day I decided to count the number of alligators beside the road as we cycled eastwards across “Alligator Alley” – Florida Route 41. If you look at the map, they call I-75 by that name, but we’d been assured that we were cycling across the true, the original, the one-and-only Alligator Alley.

“Fourteen,” I yelled as I saw a 5-foot-long gator lounging across the creek. “There’s number fifteen – she’s a big one. Sixteen! I only saw the nose and the eyes, but I’m counting it as a whole alligator.”

I was riding in my usual position at the back of the Bird Year peleton. My job? To keep an eye on my rear-view-mirror and watch for dangerous traffic situations. Generally I’m pretty conscientious, but today I was too busy watching for alligators. Suddenly a transport truck materialized beside us, blaring its horn. We swerved onto the bumpy shoulder. “Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t see that one coming.”

“Seventeen! Wow, that one is huge!” As the alligator sank, I noticed that it was oddly pale. I yelled at Malkolm and Wendy to stop and we swerved across the road. A trail of bubbles rose from the murky depths of the pond, and suddenly we saw the nostrils of a manatee rise above the surface. It inhaled and sank back out of sight.

If there is one thing I’ve learned during Bird Year, it is to pee when a favorable opportunity arises. I waited until a red pick-up zoomed past, quickly pulled down my shorts and relieved myself. After we watched the manatee surface once more, we got back on our bikes and started pedalling.

“Another Manatee.” yelled Wendy. “And look at that! Those people got a nature show in more ways than one.”

I saw what she was looking at: a “swamp buggy” across the pond. Swamp buggies are long jeep-like vehicles with an elevated platform for passengers. A dozen pairs of binoculars were trained on the manatees. A couple of minutes before they were no doubt focussed on me peeing.

By the end of the two-day cycle across Alligator Alley, we’d counted 207 gators, three Snail Kites plus numerous Anhingas, cormorants, herons, egrets and hawks. We only saw the one swamp buggy, however.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cycling Down Memory Lane (Malkolm)

Everything seems familiar at Long Pine Key in Everglades Nat’l Park. I remember every bend of that back road, the sign for a Boy Scout Camp and the marsh at the end. It seems more like the 8 months than 8 years ago that I was last here. I guess those first memories of birding and bicycling are embedded in me.

8 years ago we toured (in a van) across the states, speaking about the need to prevent oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In between shows in Key Largo and Washington D.C. we took off a week to experience the Everglades. Twice a day we’d cycle to Anhinga Pond . . . the total distance of 16 miles was the farthest I’d ever ridden in a day. I’d sweat along on my old red bike, longing for the shade of the forest around the pond.

Many of my defining birding moments occurred around the boardwalk and trails of Anhinga Pond. I remember staring at a dark ibis, wondering whether the pale gray around its face was enough to turn make it a White-faced Ibis. (Rarely found east of Mississippi) I sought a park ranger’s opinion. Instead of saying “No you idiot, that’s the common Glossy Ibis” he kindly encouraged me by saying “well it’s possible, it’s only separated by air”. I was awestruck by the amazing birds, I spotted a Limpkin camouflaged in the marsh and admired a gorgeous Purple Gallinule stalking over lily-pads. I stared into the thick reeds, hoping to spot the elusive American Bittern, but only saw egrets and herons. Missing the bittern would soon become a common thread, re-appearing whenever I birded in a southern wetland.

In a way not much has changed since then, Purple Gallinules still walk along the banks and Anhingas still swim in pursuit of fish. And just like my first time here, the American Bitterns are still hiding from me!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Loads (Wendy)

My sturdy bike had carried me 8700 miles when we arrived in Venice, Florida. We wheeled into a bicycle store with a maintenance problem.

The bike mechanic moved my bike on to a stand. He looked alarmed. “Wow!” he said,” this bike is loaded way too heavily. It can’t handle this weight. I’m serious. It will break.”

I’m glad he did not lift Malkolm or Ken’s bike. Mine is the lightest, by far. We weighed our bags once. Mine weighed a reasonable 54 pounds. Malkolm’s weighed an unreasonable 88 pounds. Ken’s topped it off at 95 pounds.

You may wonder what the heck we are carrying. The picture shows some of our gear on the picnic table. It looks like a lot. In fact, we are being careful. We need clothes for warm, cold and wet weather. We have tents and sleeping bags. We have one stove, 2 pots, a frying pan and 4 bowls. We make sacrifices. Our towels, for instance, are hand towels, not bath towels. We drink our coffee black because we don’t carry cream.

Because of our conservation project, and my cautious nature, we do have more stuff than most bike tourers.. We have a computer and a SLR camera with two heavy lenses. We have an enormous first aid kit (opened twice).

We are not always careful. For awhile we took along the seventh Harry Potter book. It weighs 2.9 pounds. Ken may choose to buy a six pack of beer instead of two cans. We may carry a large bottle of wine, because we are bargain hunters and it costs the same as a small one. Some of you will think we have rocks in our heads, others will think we are sensible.

Ken is apt to say “Yeah, our loads are ridiculously heavy” in an offhand manner. In fact, he is right.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One last cold spell (Ken)

We rode down the bike trail on Sanibel Island to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. An Anhinga flew overhead. Reddish Egrets charged around out on the mud flats. Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons and Great Blue Herons waited patiently for fish to swim to them. Roseate Spoonbills swept their bills through the shallows. None of them looked cold.

“How are you?” Wendy asked the woman in the entrance booth.

“Cold,” she answered grumpily.

We stared at her, waiting for the punch-line that never came. It was about 70 (21 C). We were in shorts and T-shirts, soaking up the sun. Wendy and I mailed our long underwear home a week earlier, that’s how confident we were that we were done with cold.

“I didn’t come to Florida to shiver,” she added.

We didn’t tell her about the two-week cold spell that is squatting over our home in the Yukon. Last time I called home, it was 43 degrees below zero

The “cold” front came through when we stayed with our new friends Ken Burgener and Linda Warschauer in Cape Coral. I didn’t notice much change, although the humidity was a little lower and we had to pull our sleeping bags above our knees in the night. Linda has a precise internal thermostat. She told us she could tell when the front came through. Ken, who is relentlessly cheerful, was too busy laughing to notice anything. He once took a Scientology test that concluded that he was “unbalanced” because he was too happy.

One more thing about temperatures The price of campsites goes up proportionately to the mean winter temperature. Since I’m used to wilderness camping, I hate paying anything to set up a tent. Okay, okay – I don’t mind paying for a shower and a picnic table when I’m on a bicycle trip – but we were trying to find a place to camp up by Venice, Florida and the going rate was $50 (+ $5 for Malkolm). And that was for the privilege of sleeping on a concrete pad, surrounded by giant RVs. State Parks are cheaper, but they are impossible to get into unless you reserve months in advance, something that is tough to do on a bike trip.

Not that we’re complaining. Not when it is -40 back home.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Link for news clip (Malkolm)

The link for Tampa Bay's 10 New Clip about us is

Friday, February 8, 2008

Media (Malkolm)

After 7 months, 1 week and 4 days of nonstop birding you would think that I could tell a Bald Eagle and a Turkey Vulture apart. Until Tampa Bay’s 10 news channel threw a curve ball.

A pair of news makers tracked us down as cycled south. We pulled down a quiet lane while the reporters grabbed their equipment. I clipped a tiny microphone to my collar, slipped a chord under my shirt and clipped something else to my cycling shorts. The cameraman positioned his TV camera at an odd angle below my left pedal. He pointed an enormous lens up at me. “Now, what inspired you to take this on?” asked the interviewer.

“Well, uh, I guess reading books like Kingbird Highway and The Big Year about others who...” I said. The videographer held up his hand and moved the camera to a different angle. “... did Big Years earlier...” They peppered us with questions and filmed us from all angles.

“Now let’s get you guys looking at some birds!” Only a few butterbutts (Yellow-rumped Warblers) fluttered around in distant bushes. “Okay, say what they are and look at them with your binoculars.” I raised them. The cameraman crouched down and rotated the camera around me. “Okay, great! Now let’s get some shots of you cycling. Malkolm, keep that microphone. When I signal, give a ten second overview of what you’re journey is about.”

The cameraman braced his camera out of their car’s window as they cruised parallel to us. After several tries he got what he needed, and they stopped ahead of us. I coasted to a stop and fumbled to remove the microphone. I glanced at the vultures wheeling overhead. One of the birds was flying differently, with its wings held flat, as opposed to the upward tilted wings on the A Turkey Vutures. I focused on the bird. Its head and tail comfirmed my suspicions. “There’s a Bald Eagle.”

“Keep the microphone on! Say that again!”

“There’s a Bald Eagle!” He aimed his camera up.

As we cycled off I wondered how they would edit one hour of material into a one minute and forty-five second news clip. The next evening, we stayed with Barb and Steve Walker near Tampa Bay. They had recorded the news clip. It ran just as expected – until the final ten seconds. I saw a clip of me pointing skywards and saying, “There’s a Bald Eagle!”

Then I saw footage of a soaring Turkey Vulture.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Encouragment (Wendy)

People often ask us what is the hardest thing about our trip. Malkolm answers “Cycling through cities”. I think the biggest challenges are (1) headwinds and (2) finding campsites in southern Florida (they are gridlocked with Snowbirds in RV’s). Ken says “Dealing with all the computer stuff associated with our website.” Ken has a point. Finding places to plug in the computer at the right time of day (outdoors in midday there is too much glare to see the screen), finding places that have WiFi, it all takes time. After a full day of cycling what I want to do is relax with a cold brewsky and a book. Instead, I have to take that beer to the computer. We need to computer in order to do our conservation project, but sometimes we wish we were not carrying it.

Fortunately, we receive tons of encouragement.

We were encouraged by Carol. She flagged us down beside Route 19, north of St Petersburg. “My mom said why are you pulling over? And I told her, I’m stopping because those are the Bird People! I’m so excited to meet you. I saw you on TV and I really like what you are doing.” She pushed a folded bill into my hand. (We are raising money for bird habitat protection.)

We were encouraged by Greg Harber’s message, one of the many that people have kindly sent to our website and our blog.

I have been following the tales of your travels and have been enjoying every moment, as I hope you are. The story of camping in the graveyard is a classic and Wendy’s description of the woman with the “Can’t Do Attitude” at the park reinforces the notion that we should associate more with the Jane’s of the world! Thanks for the opportunity to “peer over your shoulder” via your blog entries as you bike across America.

I would like to contribute to Malkolm’s Bird Day Challenge effort by making a pledge to contribute to Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries, Inc. I pledge to donate 50 cents/species to DIBS based on the total number of species Malkolm has seen by the time he returns to Alabama on his way back west. I am originally from Florida (Fort Lauderdale native but most of my family now resides in Sebastian, FL (home of the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, our nation’s very first refuge. I do hope you get the chance to visit the refuge on your swing up the east coast!) but now I live in Birmingham, AL. Like many Alabama birders, Dauphin Island holds a special place in my heart and we are trying to preserve and protect as much of it as we are able. So, here’s hoping you hit 500 species before your return to Alabama!

Take care and be safe, Greg

Keep encouraging us! We still have a long way to go.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Out of the panhandle . . . (Ken)

Warning – if you are a member of the Florida Panhandle Tourist Bureau, don’t read this blog.

We woke up at Manatee Springs State Park to the croak of a crow. “That’s a Fish Crow,” yelled Malkolm from his tent. “Listen to how low pitched and croaky it is.”

“That’s a Fish Crow all right,” answered Wendy groggily. Wendy is not at her brightest early in the morning, and this was her day to sleep in. “Definitely a Fish Crow.” She rolled over and tried to get back to sleep. This blog is not about birds however, even though the crow was Malkolm’s 439th bird of the trip. I just put it in to appease Malkolm, who thinks that every blog should feature birds.

This blog is about Wendy’s toes. Two summers ago we went on a six-week canoe trip on Banks Island. Banks Island is north of Inuvik in the Arctic Archipelago. It was a cold, wet, windy journey and most of us suffered from “chilblains.” Chilblains are red, puffy sores that break out on exposed skin during prolonged chilly weather. Sometimes they turn black and look like the first stages of leprosy. Not that I’ve ever seen any stages of leprosy, I’m just trying to be dramatic.

We were not surprised to get chilblains in the Arctic. We were surprised to get them in the Florida Panhandle. Wendy’s toes became red and inflamed after a couple of weeks of cycling in the cold, damp weather. To be fair however, we can’t just blame Florida – it had been cool and damp since we crossed into Louisiana early in January.

Just two more comments:

Our friends back in Whitehorse would not be sympathetic - we just heard that it is -45 degrees there.

My credibility is at an all-time low. I've been saying things like "this is the last cold spell of the year,"since we hit Texas in November.

We are now heading out of the panhadle - and into the frying pan. It is supposed to get up to 80 degrees today here in Clearwater, Florida. We've had our last cold spell of the year for sure.