Thursday, April 30, 2015

Knees the combined age of 120 and other things I worry about while training for Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry

              Picasso said “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”  I’ve got the solitude part nailed.  Many Chefs Cycle riders organize group rides but I’m in a different city every day and my only window is 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. So it’s just me and the birds to break the silence. (I like to think the birds are singing not laughing.)  Besides I doubt I would be able to keep up with the group.

            The constant travel means I have to keep renting bikes and searching out new bike paths.  Here are the top five things I worry about as I go:

-          The combined age of my knees is 120 years old, a fact that is physiologically not relevant but mentally devastating (you’ll know what I mean someday)


-          That I won’t be able to find a Dunkin Donuts, Corner Bakery, or Arby’s when I need one (something that also differentiates me from my more fit riding colleagues)


-          That I will accidentally use some of the choice words I use when I am struggling on a steep climb, when struggling to get Nate to behave.


-          That while I’m celebrating finishing a 40 mile training ride, Allen Ng, Jason Roberts, Sara Polon and Mary Sue Milliken are celebrating an 80 mile training ride.


-          That instead of my conditioning peaking on the week of May 25, 2015 per the Endorphin Fitness training manual, it will have peaked sometime during May of 1995.

A big part of ending childhood hunger is overcoming fear of failure. That’s also a key ingredient for completing this ride.  As is finding more ways for more people to share their strength. I’m in awe of and inspired by my fellow riders who are doing just that.  As you’ll see from the Chefs Cycle website (  this turning into serious money for our No Kid Hungry campaign

Confidence building donations on my personal fundraising page are much appreciated and enable us to feed thousands of additional kids. @

Friday, April 24, 2015

Excerpt from my ride journal, #2 (for Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry)

            Since I know little about cycling and even less about training, I take as gospel every word that comes out of Jason Roberts’ mouth. During our recent No Kid Hungry summit he said “don’t worry, just put some miles on the bike every day and you’ll be fine.”  So that’s what I’ve been trying to do, even while Roe and Nate and I are on our annual trip to Turks and Caicos during Nate’s spring break.

            It’s not easy to rack up 30 miles a day on an island (Parrot Cay) that is only 3 miles long. At least not without getting dizzy.  The only bikes here are Gravity EZ Cruz, with one gear and tires as wide as a Volkswagen’s.  The chain is so rusted I wanted to give the bike a tetanus shot. The average temperature here is 88 degrees.

 An island vacation is certainly no hardship.  But there is a sense that if I can ride in these conditions I can ride in any. I’ll keep doing what Jason advises. With less than 8 weeks to go, every mile counts. So does every donation. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

letter from my ride journal for Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry, training day #1

             Ok, this is going to be harder than I thought. Last week I began to train for the upcoming Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry, ( @ )  I started  by consulting the training guide prepared by our friends at Endorphin Fitness. That was my first mistake. The week of April 13 was labeled week 6 for training purposes.

 On Saturday I took my first ride of the season outside of the gym. 28 miles on the Capital Crescent Trail that follows the Potomac River.  The first half felt great, I was really soaring, and I thought “Jason Roberts look out!”  What I didn’t know until I turned around at the 14 mile mark was that I’d had the wind at my back.   

            I learned some important things during the ride:

-          When a passing rider yells “on your left” it can be shorthand for “I’m passing so fast and close there will be no skin on your left arm and leg after I’ve gone by.”


-          Proper cycling shorts are not a luxury but a necessity unless you plan to stand at dinner while the rest of your friends and family sit and eat.


-          28 miles down means 272 more to go to complete the Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry 300 mile ride. The math is unassailable. The common sense of it is more questionable.

            Despite all of the lessons being learned the hard way and growing reservations about what I’ve got myself into, my experience tells me that Sharing strength is always the right thing to try. So getting back out there this weekend.   More riders still welcome!

Support of all kinds welcome, especially @


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tom Vilsack and Cesar Chavez, bearing witness across half a century

            Last week USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack led a ceremony to name a courtyard at USDA for Cesar Chavez. Vilsack explained that it was the 50th anniversary of a United Farm Worker hunger strike Chavez led “to bring justice and equality to the people who feed America.”

            The organizing efforts of Cesar Chavez, his grape boycotts and hunger strikes, were a way of forcing the country to bear witness to the injustices suffered by migrant farm workers. Today his legacy stands as an amazing testament to one man’s ability to make a nation pay attention to what was otherwise invisible to most of us.

Secretary Vilsack’s action 50 years later, could be mistaken for a small symbolic gesture but it actually represents a historic milestone. On Sunday night Vilsack told me: “It is hard to believe but until this administration no representative from the United Farm Workers Union ever felt welcomed or set foot in the USDA headquarters. It was long, long overdue.” 

Since Vilsack became Secretary, the USDA has invested more than $200 million in affordable housing for farmworkers. From his first day in office he has championed the vulnerable and voiceless.  A few months into his term he told of how during his job “interview” with President Obama, the president said he knew that there were numerous responsibilities at USDA but the number one thing he wanted him to do was make sure children get fed. Just last month we met with him at his office to talk strategies for protecting SNAP and Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

During the event last week it was as if Vilsack was taking a page from Cesar Chavez’s own playbook and continuing in the tradition Chavez established – acting to bear witness, putting others in a position to do so, insisting that we have a duty to see, remember, and give voice.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

And so it begins: first steps in 2016 presidential campaign

On Tuesday, the New England Council and The New Hampshire Institute of Politics hosted a breakfast for local business leaders in Manchester, New Hampshire to meet former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. It was his first trip to the all-important first primary state since he left the Governor’s office and began to seriously consider challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination for President.  Because O’Malley was such an energetic champion of our No Kid Hungry campaign, and because it’s less than an hour drive from Boston, I went up to take a look, just as I did 32 years ago when a mostly unknown Colorado Senator named Gary Hart for whom I worked set out to challenge the front running former Vice President Walter Mondale.


O’Malley was well received though most New Hampshire voters wait to be courted, hopping from one candidate event to another, as unready to commit as a bumblebee to a tulip.  It’s a small state and there are lots of only half-joking comments like “I haven’t decided to vote for him (or her) because I’ve only had lunch with them twice.” In addition to the local coverage, the Washington Post and USA Today sent reporters along to cover O’Malley’s maiden voyage.


At one point Governor O’Malley asked for a show hands from those in the audience who thought they had more opportunity and a better life than their parents had.  About two-thirds of the 80 or so people raised their hand.  Then he asked how many thought the same would be the case for their children.  Only two hands went up, and wavered uncertainly. You  have to be my age to appreciate just how remarkable a change that is from the conventional wisdom that prevailed for so long about the meaning and viability of “the American Dream.”   The rest of us stared quietly at those two half-raised hands; a sadness to the silence, even a twinge of guilt for being the first generation to short-change their own children in this way.


“It underscores the central question that is on the kitchen table of our democracy” said O’Malley:  “How do we make sure that our economy works again for all of us?”  And by connecting that question to the future prospects of children, O’Malley framed why our work with No Kid Hungry, and the impact it has on educational achievement, child health, and our nation’s economic competitiveness, is both important in its own right and more connected than ever to the emerging national conversation about who the next president of the United States will be.


We must make our work and the historic results Share Our Strength has been able to achieve, part of that conversation.