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UAB in Antarctica

17-22 May is Bike to Work week in the US. Were I at home I would be commuting to UAB on my bicycle. It is a great way to start the day! In keeping with that spirit, this week my normal early morning gym visit has in principle been my bike to work. I saddle up for a long ride on the stationary spin bike in Palmer Station's small gym. Tailored tunes on an I-pod help recreate the long flat stretches on Highway 31 and the endless long climb up and over Shades Mountain on Columbiana Road.  

   Were I home this week I would have also participated in the local Ride of Silence (ROS) held Wednesday night.  This event began seven years ago after Dallas cyclist Larry Schwartz was struck and killed by a vehicle while on a training ride.  As a way of honoring and memoralizing Larry his friends came up with the idea of a ‘funereal bike ride'.  That ride attracted over 1000 riders!  Intended to be a one time only ride, it is now in its seventh year as an annual event held not only in Dallas, but worldwide. The mission of the event is to honor lost and injured cyclists and also to educate the motoring public on the roadway rights of cyclists (see http://www.rideofsilence.org/main.php for additional background.)

   A few seasons ago here at Palmer Station, I was granted approval to contact the ROS director and inquire whether an indoor, stationary ride qualify for participation.  The ROS director was thrilled with the concept and whole-heartedly endorsed Palmer as an official event site.  (See Chuck's UAB in A 2007 entry http://antarctica.uab.edu/blog2007/544/)  This one time ride in Texas has blossomed into not only a national event, but an international event and one of few events that can lay claim to occurring on all seven continents!  Also, many health clubs now sponsor indoor Spin for Silence rides based on Palmer's version of the event.

   Turnout for ROS Antarctica, was overwhelming with twelve station folks signing up.  Of the dozen ‘registrants' several were dedicated cyclists, all were dedicated to support the intent of this event and help spread the word.

   Twelve riders on 2 stationary bikes for one hour meant each had a ten minute pull.  Most of the folks showed up a few minutes before the hour, as requested.  There was just enough time to briefly brief, review assigned interval and bike, distribute black and a few red wrist bands and ride out at 7PM (6PM CST).

   Leading off the night were Chuck on the spin bike and Juan Carlos (JC) Zabala, from Spain, a member of Northeastern University fish group on station.  Each wore t-shirts from the Birmingham 2009 ROS that Chuck and I participated in since we were home last May.  Chuck's version was black, like the armbands, serving as a memorial to those cyclists injured and worse on roadways.  JC wore a black wrist band, plus a red one and I had him slip the red shirt on over his jersey.  The red indicates a survivor of a bike-vehicle accident.  Ten years ago, while in residence at Stanford University, JC was hit by a car while riding near campus.  He sustained numerous broken bones and is quick to point out the scar atop his head, a permanent reminder of that accident.  His injuries did not dissuade from getting back on a bike once healed and just last December enjoyed a multi-day bike ride through the Alps!

   Taking over for Chuck and JC were Kate and David Barud, one of Palmer's logistics/cargo czars.  Like all of the riders, Kate and David had had a busy, crazy day at Palmer.  Kate and I had tended Ruth and Chuck on two dives near station.  David spent much of his morning in the cold - shuttling the station's frozen food from a temporary freezer out on the pier back into the now renovated kitchen walk-in freezer.  Much of the station turned up in the dining hall to help unload the bucket of the heavy vehicle which was perched onto the deck off the dining room and piled full with cold boxes. The community bucket brigade made it a quick effort.  I hope David mentally transported himself back to New Zealand where twice after his winters on the ice pedaled Kiwi-land for several weeks.  How enviable.

   Laura Pfaff and Michael Blachut were on next.  Laura, like Michael recently arrived on station and in her few weeks here will be evaluating all sorts of environmental health and safety issues.  A runner by background, Laura is branching into triathlon and shortly after returning home to Colorado in June will participate in the MS 150 ride as part of her training.  Michael is a man of many interests, admittedly not a cyclist, but wanted to help the ROS cause.  One of main jobs at Palmer was to renovate the kitchen walk-in freezer.  A success!  As he cycled along, he was probably thinking about his retirement condo in Arizona - how appropriate for a refrigeration expert!

   At the half way point, Robin Solfisburg and Clair von Handorf took to the pedals.  Robin is in logistics with David and played a key role in moving the frozen food.  Lots of cold, heavy work for Clair too.  She is the station waste specialist and also oversees the weekly refueling of the station each Wednesday.  Both took time to mellow in the gym with us for the hour, Robin walking the treadmill before her interval, Clair doing mat based strength work and yoga.  Both intently read the Ride of Silence poem taped to each bike's handle bars. 

   Administrative coordinator Kerry Kells arrived just a few minutes before her ride.  She had requested a late ride as she had kitchen cleanup duty that night.  In addition to black Kerry informed me she needed a red wrist band too.  While bike commuting to work a few years ago, she was hit by a vehicle leaving a parking garage.  She was bruised, but ok but had landed in a mud puddle!  Yuck...  I thought we may have to have a fill-in rider to join Kerry.  Kyle Hoppe is one of Palmer's FEMC (facilities, engineering, maintenance, carpentry) and was involved in both the food shuffle and the station refueling.  Additionally, he had the stress of working with his team to repair one of the station's generators and return full power to the station.  For several hours in the afternoon, once the refueling was complete, all non-essential power was shut off and much of the station was quite dark.  (sunset was about 3:30).  

   As with the leading riders, the final riders slipped the one size fits all Birmingham ROS tshirts on - Lisa Trotter in black, me in red.  Lisa, like Kerry had after dinner kitchen cleanup and by nature of her leading position as station manager, was involved in all the Palmer action described above and no doubt much more! 

   Palmer Station's ROS is not unlike any other ROS I suspect - well most are outside on roads with bikes that move.  But all, even if indoor, more than likely bring together people from many different walks of life to pedal for awareness, to pedal in memory, to quietly reflect on the joy of pedaling and the right to pedal safely.  All have probably had a crazy day somewhere, yet make time to saddle up and head out in silence to promote this mission.  "Let the Silence Roar!"