Category Archives: General

Volleyball? Really?

After I don’t know how many years of playing baseball year ’round, Son#1 came to us this winter and said he wanted to go out for the school volleyball team.  I kind of saw it coming, but I was still a bit surprised.

He is a dedicated ball player, and while he runs hot and cold with his hitting, his playing at first base and in the outfield is solid.  Further, coaches will constantly comment on his positive attitude and how bad behavior just has never been an issue.

But there’s the rub.  It seems that bad behavior was just getting to be too much.  In the last few seasons teen-level baseball was just getting out of hand with bad behavior, mediocre coaching, and way too much drama.  I was ready for a change, and I can only imagine how Ave felt.

Given his current 6’3″ stature, one of the current volleyball team members started working on him last winter.  He bit, made the team, and tonight is the first official match of the season. 

We’re excited.  He is first string JV and a backup for Varsity (he dresses and is on the roster, and will probably see limited playing time to start.)  We got to see him in a scrimmage tournament and he does really well.  There’s a lot to learn with the various moves, plays, and strategies; but his “natural” ability to pick up on these things is good.  You can see the rise in level of play with varsity, but I also think he will grow into it, being that this is his first season.

Most of all, the culture and environment is so much more positive.  The coaches are very supportive and knowledgable; the kids are very much a team; and there is even a fair amount of mingling among opposing teams.

It’s a breath of fresh air, and I’m curious to see what happens when Ave introduces  his 13 year old brother, who is also 6’3″…


Son#1: “and if I make varsity, some of the practices are at 6am.”

Mom: “well, I guess I’ll just have to get up with you at 5:30”

Dad: “no…I think we need to upgrade the lights on your bike, because you’ll be needing an early start.”

Atta Boy, Ross!


Every year over the holiday season, The Patriot-News presents 12 Days of Caring, highlighting a dozen charities that provide needed services in our community. Each of the organizations featured depends on donations to help underwrite their operations.

View full sizeJoe Hermitt, The Patriot-NewsJacquan Cousar looks for a wrench while fixing a bike at Recycle Bicycle, a nonprofit that fixes up bikes and gives bikes to needy kids in Harrisburg, as well as needy adults who need a bike because they have no other transportation. Jacquan needed a bike, and Recycle Bicycle gave him one. They also taught Cousar how to repair bikes, and now Cousar works as a volunteer repairing bikes for Recycle Bicycle.

Jacquan Cousar came to Recycle Bicycle in need of a bicycle. He got that and a lot more.

Cousar one day last summer walked up to Recycle Bicycle’s warehouse off Derry Street in Harrisburg with his mother and his beaten-up bicycle.

Recycle Bicycle fixes bicycles for kids for free. They’ll also give a bicycle to a kid, or needy adult, who doesn’t have one.

But Ross Willard, the director of Recycle Bicycle, has his own version of sweat equity, similar to Habitat for Humanity’s requirement that people help build their own homes. Willard said Cousar could get a bike — the one he brought in was beyond repair — but he’d have to earn it.

Willard and the other volunteers who keep Recycle Bicycle spinning taught Cousar how to tear apart, build and repair not just his own bicycle, but bicycles for others in need.

“They wanted me to know that not everything in life is free,” said Cousar.

Three weeks after he first walked in, Cousar had a good bicycle and new skills that will last a lifetime. Cousar ended up spending most of the summer working for Recycle Bicycle as a volunteer. He’s back in school now, an 18-year-old student at Harrisburg High, but Cousar still devotes his Saturday mornings to volunteering for Recycle Bicycle.

Willard, a 60-year-old retired railroad mechanic, started Recycle Bicycle just over 10 years ago. The idea came to him as he was helping his wife give out food to needy people on the streets of Harrisburg. He saw one kid after another ride by on a bike clearly in need of repair, either with no brakes, flat tires or both.

At that point, Willard said he decided that brakes are more important than food. The food he and his wife gave away could keep a child going for several weeks. But in seconds, any one of those children riding a bicycle without brakes could be killed by a passing car.

Willard pursues his passion with the zeal of a missionary. In the summer, Willard and other volunteers with Recycle Bicycle load up a trailer with tools and bike parts and they go to block parties, festivals and any other such gathering where large numbers of kids are likely to be. Then they fix the bikes for the kids for free, so they can ride safely.

Kids can also come to Recycle Bicycle’s warehouse like Cousar did, to get their bike repaired or to get a bike if they don’t have one. Willard always asks that a parent or guardian come along.

Recycle Bicycle also provides bicycles to adults who need them to get to a job because they have no other transportation. Willard said if a homeless man or woman is riding a bicycle in Harrisburg, they probably got it from Recycle Bicycle.

If it’s an emergency, like the Red Cross needing bicycles for children in a family that has lost its home, Willard will give them away on the spot. But whenever he can, he prefers to use bicycles to teach a broader life lesson, as in Cousar’s case.

He and his helpers have taught several homeless men how to become bicycle mechanics and they now also work as volunteers in the Recycle Bicycle warehouse. Willard gives bicycles to prison inmates who are in work release programs in both Cumberland and Dauphin counties, so they can get to their jobs.

The warehouse is filled with bicycles, tires, brakes and cables, and other spare parts. If you’ve got a bicycle, or even a bunch of old bikes, that you no longer use and that are cluttering up your garage, Willard will gladly take them off your hands for no charge.

It doesn’t matter how bad the condition. “If it’s run over by a car I want it. The tubes and tires may still be good,” Willard said.

Recycle Bicycle can never have too many bicycles. The overflow goes overseas. So far this year, Recycle Bicycle has shipped about 500 bicycles to Uganda, Ghana, Albania and Vietnam.

How To Help

  • Donations should be made out to Recycle Bicycle of Harrisburg, Pa. and sent to the organization at 6 Creekside Drive, Enola, PA 17025
  • Recycle Bicycle welcomes castoff bikes. To donate a bike, call 717-732-0910.
  • Volunteers are also needed to help repair bikes.


Zippo.  With temperatures looming in the 20’s, wind chills taking things down to the single digits, and the holidays right around the corner; I have exactly 0 miles so far in December, and it will probably end that way.

Last December was cold too, but I think I did a little riding.  This month has seen me doing a lot of wood hauling and splitting… and carrying it in the house.  Our house is a bit drafty, so the wood stove is having a hard time keeping up, and the oil furnace is kicking in far too much for my likes.

Squirt finished up her finals and came home late last night.  She’s officially a junior – credit-wise.  The courses are hard, but at least she now appears to have a sense of direction.

With one Governor on the way out and another on the way in, things are really busy.  I’m planning some vacation time between Christmas and New Years, and then things are going to get even more busy.  It will force me to plan riding time.


My office is basically a large cubicle, and through force of habit, I tend to travel light.  I don’t like to have a lot of clutter, so there isn’t a lot of paper and folders lying about, and most of my personal belongings could fill two file boxes…so I’m outta here pretty quick if I ever get canned or promoted.

But behind my desk is another work surface with an adjoining “bulletin board” that serves as a credenza and is ideal for some pictures.  I have the typical family stuff that shows three great kids and a beautiful wife, a rowing pic from the past that shows my partner and I winning a pretty large event that no one expected; and a picture of my bike.  It’s that picture that’s the rub.

In moments of contemplation…or boredom, I catch myself swiveling my chair around and staring at it.  It’s not a stare of admiration – I’ve done enough of that, but rather; it’s a stare where I imagine myself somewhere else…on that bike.

I’m riding down a country road.  I’m camping.  I’m touring.  I might have a beard.  I’m looking for a stealth site.  I’m cooking some oatmeal.  I’m talking to a farmer who is asking questions about my trip.  I’m looking at a map.  I’m cranking up a hill.  It’s drizzling.  It’s sunny and warm.  I’ve stopped to take some pictures that no one else may ever see.  I’m sitting in front of a store munching on a granola bar.  I’m filtering water from a stream.  I’m washing out my socks.  I’m talking to someone about sleeping on their land for the night.  I’m crossing another state line.

I love that picture for what it represents, and sooner or later, I’m going to do all of those things.  I gradually come back to realty and return to focus on the work at hand; but still, the road beckons.

Big Agnes Sleeping Gear For Sale

I managed, quite fortuituously, to pick up a Big Agnes down bag with a slightly warmer rating, so I am selling my Big Agnes Skinny Fish, along with a pad.

The Skinny Fish is a long (6’6″), right zip, and used twice.  No rips, stains, smells, or funk.  Comes with both a mesh storage bag and a stuff sack.  BA classic bags are known for their quality, roominess, and unique pad insert design.  The Skinny Fish is rated for 20F and it uses Climashield HL Green synthetic insulation made from recycled plastic, which is good for high humidity camping.  More information is available on the Big Agnes web site:   I find the bag really great for bike camping, and would keep it other than this new bag is a tad warmer and packs up smaller.

The pad is a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core, rectangular, sized regular (6′).  Used once, also like new.  It works fine with the above bag, but when you get down in the 40s, I would also recommend using a long length piece of closed cell foam under the bag.  The pad comes with a stuff sack and small repair kit.  More information is available on the Big Agnes web site:

The bag listed for $190, I paid $140.  I’ll take $120.

The pad lists for $80, I paid $60.  I’ll take $40.

A local sale is preferred, but I can ship CONUS only, at your expense.  If there are no takers on here, I’ll put the items up on auction after Labor Day.  I can do personal check, cash, or Paypal.  You can either leave a comment here, or e-mail me at gspiess at aol dot com.  thx.

Keep Hope Alive

After much research, I have concluded that Neato Burrito represents the apex of human achievement.  All that remains is solving the issue of falling asleep after eating one; and exploring the efficacy of producing them in half size portions.

I think I’ll apply for a grant…