Green Riders Doing Good Deeds Across Europe- Week 1

This is a guest blog by Gray Harrison from the Green Riders.

Hello dear readers! 

Lexi here, writing to you from Champvert, France. I thought I would give an introduction to what we plan to do with these blog posts. We are going to aim to have one Green Rider write a new blog post every week. These posts will give an overall summary of what our week has looked like while also evoking the personal experience of the rider who is writing the blog. They will touch on where we have biked through, where we have volunteered, and what the overall feel of the trip and group has been. Additionally we will share separate posts that will be short biographies of all of our Green Riders as well as highlights of some of our hosts and projects. 

Our first blog post is written by a first-generation Green Rider, Gray Harrison. A retired teacher, Gray hails from Fort Collins, Colorado where he volunteers his time to working on bicycles for their homeless population. He takes his bicycle skills and knowledge to the Green Riders tour where he always finds the time to help our riders with all of their bike ailments even after riding all day and doing other good deeds like picking up litter. Here is what he has to say:

When I first heard of the Green Riders tour across the USA in 2017, I immediately knew I wanted to be part of it. At first I thought I could maybe just help make it happen, but then I realized I really wanted to ride it. The idea of riding with a group of committed people who want to make the world a better place and actually have a plan to do it and make it across the country really resonated with me. I wanted to meet these people and work with them and as we say “Do Good Deeds.”

So on May 29th, 2017, about 30 of us met in Central Park New York City and started on a journey across the country. As it turned out, because of other obligations, I was only able to join the tour for the first week and the last three weeks of it. Nonetheless, I felt completely connected to this group and to what they were doing to fulfill their mission. Even though we were all relative strangers only knowing each other from the Facebook group, it was amazing how well we all came together, helped each other, encouraged each other, and inspired each other as we moved on our way across the country.

In the two years since that first ride many of us have stayed connected, visiting each other, working with each other, and helping each other with more Green Rider style projects. I can honestly say that the first tour changed my life. The people I met and now have become friends with have inspired me and lifted me up in ways that were totally unexpected when I first heard about the ride. So, it’s no surprise that when the Green Riders European tour for 2019 was announced, I decided to commit to it immediately.

The Green Riders departing from St. Brevin Les Pins, France on June 1st, 2019

Before the first tour, I considered myself an experienced bicyclist and touring cyclist. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado along with my wife. She had never done a long distance tour previously, and did not feel ready for a heavily loaded self-supported tour through very mountainous conditions. Even though she couldn’t come, she encouraged me to do it and I was very grateful for the opportunity. After coming back from the tour and expressing how meaningful it was, how many amazing people I met, and how many great projects we did, she realized how the tour had changed my life. So when the European tour was announced, Paula said right away that she wanted to be part of it too. After much planning and preparation, we arrived in Paris a week before the tour started, so that we could have a wonderful time doing the tourist things in Paris that we had never done before. We had a great time in Paris, but I was very excited for the tour to start. When we arrived in Saint Brevin les Pins at the beginning of the Velo 6 path and met many of my old Green Rider friends and new Green Rider friends too it was a very happy day, indeed! Thanks to some of the experienced Green Riders from the first tour, we had a great itinerary to follow, a beautiful route along the Loire River in France to start, and many great hosts and work opportunities along our way.

Perhaps others in our group will write some more detailed information about the tour so far, but I would like to stick with some general impressions. Above all, the people in France that we have met have been incredibly helpful and welcoming. The stereotype that we had heard of before, of French people being stand-offish, has not held to be true. Everywhere we’ve been people have been welcoming, friendly, and curious about our mission and what we are doing. Also, our hosts have been amazing people! I can’t say enough about how well they have taken care of us, fed us, and taught us about their ways and their culture. The Loire River Valley has been so beautiful that I think all of the Green Riders will want to come back here someday. The food, the scenery, the architecture, the art, and the people have been like nothing I’ve experienced before.

 

Visiting the “Cinderella Chateau,” Le Château d’Ussé, in Rigny-Ussé, France

 

Post-volunteer day dinner for more than twenty at Troglobal community (of caves!) near Grezille, France

Most importantly, though, the people who are participating in this tour are some of the most interesting people I’ve met in my life. I love being with my Green Rider friends from the original tour, and the new folks who have joined us for this experience are, one and all, amazing human beings. It is an honor to ride with them and work beside them. We have been through heat and sun, rain, cold and wind, yet we are all sticking together and supporting each other and making this happen! Even though it has only been the first week of a long tour, it already feels like a new life has opened up for all of us. If you have the chance, please, join us. You will never regret it! If that is not possible for you this year, please stay connected to our group and if there is another Green Riders tour, don’t let it pass by. It is truly a life-changing, positive experience that you will never forget.

To read more about our incredible visit to the Troglobal community, please follow this link to a blog written by Green Rider Maya.

The Green Riders thank everyone who donated to our cause to make Doing Good Deeds possible. Our seeds and select fruit trees are funded by the Live Like Ally Foundation via The Free Seed Project and Community Fruit Trees. We cannot thank them enough and encourage you to read more about these great initiatives.