Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wagons West! HO!

It's good to be back! Anna and I recently returned from our 2 week trip to Northern Minnesota, rested and energized!

Wagons EAST!
While visiting Minnesota I had the opportunity to hang with an extraordinary band of  volunteers who staff the Fargo Moorhead Bike Workshop. These people  are committed to doin’ good in the neighborhood!  

I was interested in finding out more about the Bike Workshop so I stopped into the Great Northern Bike Shop .  I spoke with Tom, the owner, and Alex, a motivated and energetic mechanic, among others. Both people felt their shop benefited from the work of the Fargo Moorhead Bike Workshop. 

In their words, the Bike Workshop gets people who aren’t going to buy a bike shop bike on safe and reliable bicycles. The Workshop provides wrenching services that help teach customers how to build, maintain and fix their bikes. These are services a bike shop can’t offer.

Throughout the week I got several chances to experience the Bike Workshop not only as a spectator but also after volunteering a couple of hours. During that time on a very hot and humid Thursday evening I got a chance to talk with Steve and Alex in depth about how their non-profit “collective” works and how jobs are divvied up. The FM Bike Workshop has a collective group of volunteers who meet on Sundays who identified the jobs that didn’t get done from the previous week, assemble a bike parts order, discuss current topics and plan for upcoming community events.

I returned later that week on Sunday for their collective meeting. Items on the agenda were shop cleaning, organizational development and collective oversight, how to fill out the receipt book, how to register a sale of fundraiser bikes, the weekly parts order, and a discussion of BikeBike! Which had just taken place in Vancouver BC.    

It was refreshing to hear a group of dedicated volunteers having a progressive and positive discussion about bikes, with the a common vision of moving Fargo forward. Fargo had recently been recognized by Bicycling Magazine as an up-and-coming place for biking. Fargo had made great strides in becoming more bicycle friendly over the past few years. According to a couple of riders I met during the Great Northern’s weekly “Fargo Family Bike Night” A lot of this is due to advocates in the community and an increasing number of organized rides led by community volunteers.

The night Anna, my Dad and I rode with them  there were upwards to 40 people riding along. It reminded me of Bike Night 4 or 5 years ago.
Cruising Broadway!

Having been born and raised in the Fargo-Moorhead area I thought I knew Fargo backwards and forwards. After the ride I clearly understood – I have become a tourist in my hometown. It was great riding bikes rediscovering the town where so much of my life was spent.  

Prior to leaving the Bike Shop on our family cruise I remember hoping we’d return by riding Broadway. Shortly after leaving  Island Grove Park we made our turn north on to Broadway. Cruising Broadway on bikes was great, something I hadn’t felt since riding bikes for the first time down Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis shortly after graduating from college in 1994.

I took away several things from my time in Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota. 1 is getting people together to ride bikes is truly a community building event. 2. We really want to do good for other people. 3. Exploring new and new-to-you places is more fun when there’s bikes and free Gelato involved. And, finally, eventhough my family got a brief mention here, they are a super-fun bunch of people!

Wagons WEST!
This Wednesday is our Bike Night so please join us at 6:30pm at Roosevelt Park. Last week 158 people joined us. This week the theme will be Disco! So grab your platforms, Gold Lemay and your jump suit and join us.

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