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, June 27, 2008

You know it ain't easy . . . (Ken)

We thought that the challenging part of Bird Year was behind us. We’d survived January’s bitter cold and headwinds. We’d dodged drug-runners and illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande. We’d coped with the searing Texas heat. We should have known that we faced one more hurdle: getting home from Big Bend.

We didn’t have time to cycle since Malkolm has to be back for Grade 11 at the end of August. We knew that jetting north would be the least fossil-fuel-friendly. Eventually we decided to take a Greyhound bus to Albuquerque, a train to Vancouver and a ferry to Skagway, Alaska. Then we could ride 110 miles over the White Pass back home to Whitehorse.

We quickly learned that ground transportation isn’t as easy as it sounds. When we tried to switch busses in Fort Stockton, the driver calmly informed us that the bus was full. It didn’t seem to matter that we had reservations. In El Paso, our bikes and duffle bags were almost left behind. Today we learned that our train is 6 hours late. We don’t know what that means for our connections, and no one is answering the phone at Amtrak.

I wish we were still cycling.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Building Character (Wendy)

Big Bend National Park was every bit as hot as we were afraid it would be. Three good things about the heat: (1) We learned that we could survive in that harsh environment - it built our characters. (2) I never had to use a towel for the last 6 weeks of the trip. (3) Dousing yourself in cold water is fun.

We stayed one day longer than we had planned at Rio Grande Village, the hottest place. Beside the Rio Grande I felt like I was inside a salon hair dryer, set on “high”.

We ended Bird Year at Carolyn Ohl-Johnson’s oasis in the Christmas Mountains. The day after Bird Year ended, we rode into Alpine: 71 miles into a head wind and up 2000 feet. That built character too.

We have become strong riders, but not strong bike mechanics. Ken, Malkolm and I attempted to remove pedals, seat posts and handlebars that were firmly fused to our bikes after a year of hard use. After 2 hours of struggling we had removed 2 seat posts. Humbled, we carried our bikes around the house to where Carolyn’s husband, Hugh, was working in his shop. “Hand me that cheater”, he said. Within minutes, he had our bikes apart. Dismantling bikes is about as stressful as a moderate headwind.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flames in the forest (Malkolm & Christianne)

Carrying our sleeping bags in our hands and our food and water in a small day pack, we hiked high to camp in the Chisos Mountain back-country. We decided to leave our tent behind and hoped there would be no thunder or lightning. The forest here is very dry and the fire danger extreme. Just as we were falling asleep we heard a chilling scream, most likely a mountain lion. All night we wondered if something was creeping around just beyond the reach of our flashlights. As a comfort, we heard tons of Whipoorwills and Flammulated Owls - both new birds for me.

When we woke up I caught a glimpse of what looked like a Flame-colored Tanager. It's a bird that's supposed to live in Mexico and has only been seen a 1/2 dozen times in Texas. However, the bird flew away before I could get a great look. After an hour of tramping around in the forest, we managed to hear a different Flame-colored Tanager singing - a female. I was able to get some good photos of this ultra-rarity.

Fortunately, the only fires in the forest were Flame-colored Tanagers and Flammulated Owls!

My total is now 545 species, 200 short of the Big Year record.
The picture was taken in the mountains SE of Albuquerque this spring using a motion sensor/camera.

Next week Malkolm, Ken & Wendy will bicycle down from the relatively cooler Chisos Basin to Rio Grande Village, where temperatures are 105 degrees F. They will be looking for the Black Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk. 

My thanks to the BBNP personnel who have been so helpful in getting phone messages to the Bird Year! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bear Facts (Malkolm & Christianne)

You will undoubtedly notice that this blog is written in the third person. As Mission Control, it has become one of my duties to appear from behind the curtain and write from Malkolm's dictation taken during our scratchy phone calls from the borderlands.
Since their last post, Ken, Wendy and Malkolm rode from Sanderson, TX to Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park. It was a brutal ride! At one point Ken was carrying an extra 44 lbs. (20 kg) of water in the bike trailer in addition to his regular load. 

Sunday morning they hiked towards a scenic viewpoint hoping to find Black-capped Vireos. The only black thing they saw were four bear cubs sitting in a tree above the trail! They were very cute - they yawned, they stretched, and they looked adorable. Ken and Malkolm saw no reason not to continue on, but Wendy the Safety Officer said "No Way!"

Scenic viewpoint being unavailable, they went to the sewage lagoon. There, Malkolm found a Black-capped Vireo.

Monday they hiked 12 miles in search of the rare Colima Warbler (these birds are found only in the Chisos Mountains and there are probably fewer than 100 of them in the United States). Miraculously one of these birds landed right at Malkolm's feet - actually too close to take a photograph!

Malkolm has added 7 new species to his list (his current total is 541) since arriving at Big Bend National Park.
As Team Bird Year was riding through the toughest and most intense part of their trip I was fortunate to be paddling Southwestern rivers running high with spring snowmelt. It was a hard three weeks to be out of touch with them. Phone conversations about heatstroke symptoms with a family practice physician (who should know better than to ride towards the Texas desert in June) were frequent and worrisome. But, as always, Ken, Wendy and Malkolm survive with a huge grin and eye-popping stories. I'm including a picture of some bear-paw petroglyphs from the Dolores River in Colorado, carved by another enduring Safety Officer a thousand years ago.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Out of the fire, and into the ... ? (Malkolm)

I don't want to write another blog about heat and I'll try not to. But in this stifling Texas heat wave, it's everything. It fills every pore in your skin, it fills your stomach and it fills your mind. We do everything to avoid it; we're on the road before the sun is up, and we seek shade an air conditioning in mid day. But when I step out of this library from which I write, I'll be greeted by the familiar wall of heat.
We've re-traced our steps through Texas, following the same roads that we took through here in December. But soon we'll head into new country as we leave our old path to cycle down into Big Bend National Park. So the final few hundred miles of our trek are veiled in heat mirages, and around ever bend and over every hill there will be a new surprise. But I know that on the far end are the Chisos Mountains. They'll be like islands in a sea of desert and a refuge from the heat. A bit. Hopefully it will cool down at night and I hope my sleeping bag will no longer be dead weight.
We'll relax at altitude for a week, then brace ourselves for the journey back down to the desert and to the Rio Grande River, where we'll seek out the last few birds for our year.
We won't have internet access again, so this will be my last post, but we'll try to phone in updates to Christianne, our mission controller. Then she can update you on our progress.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Statistics, etc (Ken)

Since we are about to cycle into the West Texas internet desert, I thought I’d mention a few pertinent Bird Year statistics:

Days on the road: 348

Number of days that we have had to drink Budweiser rather than a beer with some flavour: 2 (the last 2 days in West Texas – tonight there will be NO beer!)

Number of bird species identified: 534

Distance cycled: 12,674 miles (20,405 kilometers)

Hottest day: 104 F (40 C) – heat index about 120 F (48 C)

Coldest day: 20 F (-7 C) – don’t know the wind chill, but it was wind chilly

Number of days that we have melted into blobs of fat on a desert highway: 0

Number of days in a tent: 298

Number of flat tires: about 70

Number of meals of rice & beans: too many (and we love rice and beans)

The next few days could be among the toughest of the trip. We’ve cycled up many hills. We’ve cycled on many hot days. We haven’t had to cycle up many hills on a hot day. That’s what lies between us and Big Bend National Park. Wish us luck!