Starting in January, you can get paid to ride your bicycle to work. It’s all thanks to the $700 billion bailout passed by Congress to goose our failing economy back to productivity. Workers who use their bikes as primary transportation to and from their jobs will be eligible for $20 a month from their employers. In return, employers can deduct the expense from their federal taxes. Bike advocates have lobbied for the tax break for seven years, but it took the bailout package to get the biking benefit “squeezed in,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The federal government is expected to receive $1 million less in taxes because of the subsidy.
Back-of-the-beyond recreation was recently celebrated by a magazine called InsideOutside in its 10-year anniversary issue. The southwestern Colorado publication featured dozens of grassroots writers who shared stories about how they worked as little as possible in order to ski, snowboard, hike, fish, hunt, bike, climb or otherwise hang out.
But as Luke Auld-Thomas recalled, living in a tin can of a trailer got less comfortable as winter set in: “ … every inch of pipe in it had frozen solid. What’s more, I had three feet of snow filling up my wood stove, and my girlfriend had just left me for someone with a better heater.”
Lisa Jones remembered: “I thought that all the empty space outside my living room window was just for the looking at; the landscapes are just scenery, rather than places you actually occupy, places from which you need to somehow make a living.”
But one writer urged living the dream, no matter the cost. In his “how to” essay on becoming a ski bum, Wayne Sheldrake said, “It’s better to ask yourself if you really have the chops to balance skiing and college. If not, save everyone else the headaches — skip college and go ski.”
A woman in Prescott, Ariz., deserves a prize for pluck: She ran a mile with a fox firmly fastened to her arm. The fox had run out and bitten the jogger in the foot, reports the Associated Press, and when the woman grabbed it by the neck, it squirmed and bit her arm. Wanting the animal tested for rabies, she ran back to her car with it “locked on her arm,” then drove herself and the fox to a nearby hospital, where the animal tested positive for rabies. Both the jogger and an animal control officer — who was also bitten by the fox — received rabies vaccinations.
MONTANA. Dan Cooper, the co-founder and president of Cooper Firearms of Montana, a small gun manufacturing company in Stevensville, was forced to resign recently after stirred-up gun advocates called him a traitor and threatened reprisals against his business. Cooper’s blunder? He told USA Today that he supported Barack Obama for president and had donated to his campaign. He also criticized the Republican Party for moving too far to the right, and said the gun lobby had mischaracterized Obama’s position on gun issues. Outrage spread fast on Internet gun blogs. Attacks on Cooper grew so intense that the company’s board of directors issued a statement saying that it did not share his political views, reports the Associated Press. Later, the statement was removed from the company’s Web site. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D, offered to help the company and its 40 employees weather any boycott that emerged. He compared the political pressure to Halloween, when “a lot of the goblins are out,” and assured the company that “things will cool down, they always will.”
As the Bible says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” A football player in his senior year at Mesa State College in western Colorado didn’t die for his teammates, but he willingly sacrificed his right pinky finger. After offensive lineman Trevor Wikre broke the finger during practice, he was told he needed surgery to repair it. Knowing that surgery meant foregoing the season’s last few football games, Wikre decided on amputation. “I love everybody on the team like a brother,” he told the Grand Junction Sentinel. “I told them all before the Western New Mexico game that I would have no problem taking a bullet for any of these guys. I love ’em that much. This is my bullet.”
Teri Paul, the director of a state park museum in Blanding, Utah, found herself the victim of a surprise attack recently. The cause? An anatomically correct statue of Kokopelli, a fertility god of ancient Indians, which has greeted visitors to the Edge of the Cedars Park Museum since 1989. Kokopelli, a well-known denizen of the Four Corners area, is usually portrayed on 800-year-old rock-art panels as a humpbacked flute player with a formidable male appendage. These days his profile has become a tourism cliché — you can find his image on everything from dangly earrings and place mats to coffee mugs. But to a Blanding group of women calling themselves the “Values Committee,” the Kokopelli statue had — after 19 years — suddenly become an embarrassment. As state park director Mary Tullius put it, the group complained that the statue “is too phallic.” Park manager Paul was about to banish Kokopelli and his offending member from the park, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, when another group of locals protested that the banishment amounted to censorship. Paul then tried to compromise, moving the fertility god deeper into the park and away from the committee’s sensitive eyes. But one of the counter-protesters, Bluff resident Susan Dexter, found the flap overblown and thought park officials were too quick to capitulate: “Kokopelli is just a statue. Give me a break. It’s not like a massive erection like some of the ones you see on the panels.” Dexter suspected the women of the Values Committee were out of touch: “These poor ladies have never been to Florence or Rome or any actual art museum. They would be scandalized.”
Tiny toads, each only as big as a nickel, got a little help negotiating a bike trail at the Sunriver Resort in central Oregon. The Western toads were migrating from a man-made pond to a pine forest behind a line of condos. But first the little guys had to hop across an asphalt bike lane, and many were getting squished. Volunteers from a nature center came to the rescue, ferrying the toads in buckets across the path to relative safety. Some bicyclists and passersby also pitched in: “I had 16 in my hand,” boasted one child. Four years from now, reports the Oregonian, fully grown five-inch-long female toads will commute back to the lake to lay their eggs.
It was Aug. 8, 2008, in high-altitude Evergreen, Colo., and Mike Speck was in a hurry because — at 8:08 that evening — he was going to be married. Speck, a 54-year-old contractor, was filling a camper with water and didn’t notice the black clouds building above him, until, wham! Lightning struck, the charge going through his finger, arm and stomach, and igniting the attic of a nearby house. Speck, miraculously unhurt, immediately grabbed a hose, and with the help of a friend, doused the blaze and saved the house. In all, five homes caught fire from what people assume was one lightning bolt that spread through power lines. Paramedics say Speck’s blood pressure surged to a dangerous 250 over 180 after the lightning hit him, but the groom-to-be refused to go to a hospital. By evening, he was ready for his wedding to Dawn Williams. “It rained,” reports the Canyon Courier, “but when it was time for the wedding march, the sun came out just as the Beatles song, ‘Here Comes the Sun,’ started to play.”
A Republican businessman from the town of Scapoose in northern Oregon is running an unorthodox campaign for Congress: He’s publicly backing Democrat Barack Obama for president as well as Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Merkley. “I’m sure I’ve been branded by the GOP base as some sort of heretic,” says Joel Haugen. “He’s got that right,” reports The AP. But Haugen insists he represents fiscal conservatism and other traditional Republican values: “The whole anti-abortion, anti-gay focus seems to be the litmus test for Republicanism these days. I don’t think that’s good for the party, and I don’t think that’s good for the country.”
Lest we forget, as the feisty environmental writer Michael Frome reminds us in his book, Rebel on the Road: And Why I Was Never Neutral, environmental reporting was sparse back in the early 1960s. Turner Catledge, then managing editor of the New York Times, was urged by one of his editors to create an environmental beat, but he dismissed the idea, saying, “When there’s a story there, we’ll cover it.” But the Times ran away from serious environmental coverage, ridiculing Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s bombshell book on the dangers of pesticides, as a “wholly inaccurate” account that would “unnecessarily frighten the readers.” Time magazine took the same tack, assuring readers that accidental poisonings from pesticides were “very rare.”