Vélocity Bicycle Co-op in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA, is a little different than most bike shops. Instead of tailoring itself to high-end riders astride carbon-fiber wonders or bicycle messengers on fixed-gear workhorses, Vélocity focuses instead on bringing bicycling to the community.
The storefront location on Mt. Vernon Avenue is crammed with every conceivable kind of bike and bike part. Tires hang from the ceiling. Rare vintage Italian gears are in the display case. Wooden shelves are stocked full of shifters, brake levers, reflectors and every other kind of hardware. In the middle of the floor are six workstations where the real work happens.
For a $10/hour suggested donation you can learn how to take apart, adjust, lube, maintain, and eventually reassemble your bicycle. From changing a tube to replacing front deraileurs, the mostly volunteer staff, which bridges many generations, is there to help you in your quest for total bicycling autonomy with seasoned advice and, if necessary, an extra set of hands. The vast majority of the parts available are donated by the community and can be had for under $10, making this a great resource for riders from all backgrounds and skill levels. On a Saturday afternoon the customer base ranges from enthusiast cyclers doing a tune-up before a long ride to people who need their bikes to get to and from work.
But another way in which Vélocity really shines is in its community outreach and programming. They offer youth programs that train kids how to repair a bicycle, donated by the community. After the student has learned the basics and completed the work the bike is their's to keep. They also host bi-weekly community rides that help to build the local riding community, encourage safety, and allow people to get out and enjoy life on two wheels.
For more information roll over to www.velocitycoop.org
You've seen them along the side of the street on hot summer days- twisting, spinning and twirling- cajoling you to join the gym or check out the new luxury condos. But who are they, anyway?
Aarrow Ads, an international franchise with locations ranging from Atlanta, Georgia to Zagreb, Croatia, takes the art of Arrow Advertising to a new level. Around since 2002, they have trained thousands of spinners who promote products and services covering just about every industry from fast food to the military.
The Northern Virginia Chapter, managed by veteran spinner Michael Patterson, has mandatory work-outs in the summer where the spinners, mostly young men, learn a variety of techniques as well as their presentation and showmanship skills. The emphasis is on friendliness, professionalism and above all, enthusiasm.
It's true that everyone dreams of flying. Seriously, like a zillion years ago cave men and women looked up at the birds in the sky and, noticing birds in flight for the first time, were like, "no (grunt, grunt) way!" Feeling the inspiration but not yet grasping the physics they then grabbed a handful of feathers and leapt off cliffs. (You've always wondered whatever happened to them, haven't you?) Several thousand years and many many other mishaps later, we have the flying trapeze.
At the Trapeze School of New York in Washington, DC students learn to fly in the safety of a huge climate controlled tent and plenty of harnesses. And, unlike their predecessors, they have safety nets. Through daily, weekend, or weekly workshops one can master the trapeze apparatus and also try skills such as trampoline, the silks, and even juggling. Advanced students can even choose to perform in one of their shows in front of an always-packed house.
Head over to their website to learn more.
Favorite new Vocab word from the assignment: "Catch Trap": The bar where the catcher sits.
What would you do if you were lost in the woods?
Would you know how to start a fire? Make shelter? Signal for help?
The Mountain Shepherd School in Catawba, Virginia has taught thousands of students, from scout groups to special forces, these skills. Reggie Bennett, founder and lead instructor, is one of the leaders in the field (pun intended), bringing years of experience to bear with each class. Options range from the basics in "Survival 101" to more in-depth knowledge in the popular "Humble Thunder" to the always interesting "Hidden Pursuits".
Discover more at www.mountainshepherd.com
Favorite thing that I learned: Pitch wood, or wood found from pine trees that died suddenly, can be used to start a fire, even when it's totally wet.
"Luthier" (noun. Spanish) - A person who makes or repairs stringed instruments.
"Lutheria" - A school for such instruction.
Attracted by the sounds of guitar music drifting through the warm evening air, I wander into la Escuela de Lutheria in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Comprised of just a workshop and a small office tucked inside La Manzana de las Luces, the school attracts students from all over Argentina looking to master a skill set still in demand by the world’s top musicians.
Working mainly with hand tools, pupils pick up the art of instrument-making by first learning how to make the traditional spanish guitar. After learning the basics they continue on, building instruments of their choice.
Dedicating their evenings to the discipline, they listen to music, work, and pass communal gourds of the traditional yerba mate tea. Conversations occasionally punctuate long periods of intense focus as they are completely absorbed in their shaping, sanding, and assembling. The teacher and founder, master Wayra Müyoj, pads silently around the room inspecting the progress of each piece and offering suggestions and advice.
My Spanish is as barely functional as their English and communication is limited to a few hand gestures, tenseless verbs, and mistaken nouns. Somehow the message gets across that I’m taking pictures as part of a personal project on learning. It's interesting to work in such close proximity with a group of people and have very little idea of what they're saying. The sounds of their voices meld into the ambient music as I focus all of my attention on creating images. Eventually they resign to the fact that I am not just a passing turista and am sticking around for awhile. I become just a minor nuisance as I click away, another instrument punctuating the strands of Spanish guitar seeping from a dust covered stereo in the corner.
Visitarlos a http://www.jatunmaki.com.ar
What I learned on the shoot: People crave tradition, whether it's fine craftsmanship or sharing a gourd of bitter tea.
Think Wrestling is fake?
Try this: jump up as high as you can, kick your feet straight out, and land flat on your back. Okay. That's one. Ten more to go.
The men and women who undertook training at the (now defunct) Pro Wrestling Mid-Atlantic are as dedicated a group of athletes as I've ever met. After their day jobs they'd travel as much as two hours each way, several evenings a week, to a tiny warehouse space in an industrial neighborhood in Virginia Beach, Virgina. Then they'd climb into the "squared circle", which was crammed into the space with literally inches to spare and practice their bumps, slams, and stage theatrics. Once a month they'd pack into a van and drive to a community center or high school gym in North Carolina to show off their stuff to sometimes empty seats.
I grew up watching professional wrestling on TV. Growing up in small-town Maine I have purportedly applied my share of headlocks. I've allegedly body-slammed a few friends into snow drifts. I supposedly (and likely failed) to dropkick my older brother once. I understand the fascination. But, despite alternating daydreams of wielding a championship belt and getting slammed through a table (I know, I know) I have never gotten into a "real" fight in my life. Professional wrestling is fun. It's theater. It's spectacle.
But that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt.
In the two shooting days that I re-experienced some of the emotions that I felt as a kid. I witnessed bruises, sprains, and even a little bit of blood. These things make the passion felt by the students all the more tangible. It made me think about my own passions–
–When was the last time I actually bled for something I really wanted?
Favorite thing I learned on the shoot: True passion requires sacrifice.
Honey bees bring out a range of emotions in people. We generally accept the Cheerios mascot and the Simpsons' Bumblebee Man to be pretty good guys (okay, maybe not) but for some reason, when it comes to real bees, we sometimes tend to get a little weirded out. Perhaps we're intimidated by the bees' admirable work ethic. Maybe their reputations get sullied by their more aggressive cousins like wasps and hornets. (Who, by the way, are shunned at even a bee's family picnic.) Or, it could be the fact that, as a last resort, and for the sole purpose of protecting the hive, a bee will get all kamikaze on your exposed skin. It has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster.
The fact of the matter is, bees are pretty cool little buggers. They pollinate crops like nobody's business, eat locally, make honey, and have been wearing black before it was trendy. They were "Brooklyn hipster" before Brooklyn was even in diapers.
The DC Parks and Recreation has a very popular class in raising and caring for honeybees in urban spaces, including rooftops and backyards. The equipment and safety gear is provided, and graduates leave with the knowledge needed to manage their own hives. Additionally, there are several hives that the DCPR maintains across the city that are maintained my alumni of the class.
TWO Favorite Things that I learned on the shoot:
1) Boy honeybees, or drones, are the ones that look like they're wearing aviator sunglasses. (Now try not to picture Tom Cruise in Top Gun as a bee.)
2) When a bunch of bees are about to get all gangster on you, one of them will often pop you in the forehead to warn you that you need to buzz off.
Yestermorrow Design/Build School is tucked into a valley in Waitsfield, Vt. You basically take a left off of Interstate 89, head past a bunch of cow fields, keep the stream on your right, and turn before you get to the birch trees and... ummm.... solar panel arrays. You get the idea.
This is the perfect kind of place to learn how to build things by hand using tools and techniques that have been around for hundreds of years. This is the anti-Ikea.
This assignment was more about the school than the individual class. Wood working classes can be found in just about every city and town in the country. A flip through the Yestermorrow class catalog reveals classes ranging from Timber Framing to Edible Forest Gardens, to Super-Insulation for Zero-Energy Buildings. They also offer courses throughout the year in building with reclaimed materials, solar panel installation, and farm design. But lest you think that this is just a hippy school specializing in obscure alternative practices, you should know that they are a registered provider of continuing education classes for the American Institute of Architecture (The same folks that bring us, you know, skyscrapers) and the University of Vermont.
What Yestermorrow does incredibly well is blending traditional handicraft and general building practices of yesterday with new technologies and techniques.
(You guessed it, Yesterday + Tomorrow = Yestermorrow.)
Now that you're interested, visit them at www.Yestermorrow.org
When you imagine surfing, what do you see? The warm waters of Southern California? Tiki bars in Polynesia or Hawaii? Threading sharks in Australia? Way down on that list, but still above Kansas, you'd eventually get to my own beloved state of Maine.
Coastal Maine has a long tradition of wooden ship building. From the first recorded ship, a pinnace name Virginia, built in 1607, the forests of Maine have provided the lumber that helped to shape the country's seafaring traditions. The great-great-great-great-great nephew (once removed) of this former empire would have to be Grain Surfboards, out of York, Maine. With the tag line, "locally grown, hand built surfboards" pretty much says it all–Quality over quantity, style without the swagger, beauty sans the bikini. (This is northern New England, afterall.)
Situated on a farm several miles from historic York Beach, Grain Surfboards creates custom surf and skate boards out of local Maine white cedar. From "pigs" and "fish" to "biscuits", Grain builds 'em all. [Editor's note: before this shoot, I would have responded to this Jeopardy query with, "What are things you eat".]
But of course, it wouldn't be a Learn Project unless there were classes too!