October 15, 2005: Headlines: COS - Vanuatu: Conservation: Bicycles: Mankato Free Press: Vanuatu RPCVs Christie and Eric Nelson provide an example for vehicle-addicted Americans that there is another way to move

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Vanuatu: Peace Corps Vanuatu : The Peace Corps in Vanuatu: October 15, 2005: Headlines: COS - Vanuatu: Conservation: Bicycles: Mankato Free Press: Vanuatu RPCVs Christie and Eric Nelson provide an example for vehicle-addicted Americans that there is another way to move

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-6-135.balt.east.verizon.net - on Thursday, October 20, 2005 - 5:32 am: Edit Post

Vanuatu RPCVs Christie and Eric Nelson provide an example for vehicle-addicted Americans that there is another way to move

Vanuatu RPCVs Christie and Eric Nelson provide an example for vehicle-addicted Americans that there is another way to move

Christie and Eric Nelson aren’t going to berate you for climbing behind the steering wheel of your SUV. The Nelsons won’t knock on your door with pamphlets extolling the virtues of walking and biking. And the Mankato couple won’t be picketing local convenience stores begging people to stop wasting so much gasoline.

Vanuatu RPCVs Christie and Eric Nelson provide an example for vehicle-addicted Americans that there is another way to move

Saying no to gas

By Mark Fischenich

The Free Press


Caption: Eric Nelson of Mankato rides into the darkness on his way to work. Nelson walks or bikes most places for the environmental, spiritual and health benefits. Photo: John Cross

Christie and Eric Nelson aren’t going to berate you for climbing behind the steering wheel of your SUV. The Nelsons won’t knock on your door with pamphlets extolling the virtues of walking and biking. And the Mankato couple won’t be picketing local convenience stores begging people to stop wasting so much gasoline.

Instead, the Nelsons, who turn the ignition switch on their car about one day in every five, are content to provide an example for vehicle-addicted Americans - proof that there is another way to move.

But the one time they have trouble holding their tongues is when they hear people with healthy, working legs complaining about the high price of gasoline. An article in The Free Press about people grumbling in response to record fuel costs while doing nothing to change their driving habits prompted Christie Nelson to respond with a lengthy essay.

We talk about the prices at the pump like we do the weather - unavoidable, sure and true. We play the victims of the storm - getting pounded at the pump. This attitude is aggravating to me. If you are able bodied, do not require a vehicle for work and live in Mankato, get moving!

While her essay begins with that semi-rant, Christie Nelson is far from a scold. In fact, it’s a good bet that people who know her consider her to be somewhat upbeat, a bit enthusiastic about life.

Biking and walking pretty much everywhere is really doable, she said. And not only that, it’s enjoyable.

For instance, when she rides her bike from her home not far from downtown Mankato to South Central College, Christie isn’t thinking about that long, sweat-inducing, muscle-fatiguing ride up the hill and out of the valley.

"I cross over the Minnesota River and I look down the river and say, ‘Wow, what an awesome creation. What a beautiful place.’" she said. "... It seems really natural to be able to say ‘Thank you.’ Commuting in a car, I think we miss that - ‘Thank you for today.’"

So it wasn’t $2.90 gas earlier this year that prompted the Nelsons to leave their hybrid car in the garage 80 percent of the time. They’ve been consistently ranking their car as their third best travel option for about two years now.

The physical, emotional and spiritual gains are great when you bike and walk. I think all of us know exercise is essential for a healthy body. It feels good to move our bodies, propelling it with our own power. In addition to keeping fit, we look forward to our commute as a time to refresh our minds, reconnect with one another and thank our Creator for the blessings of the new day.

Christie, 27, who previously worked at the Harry Meyering Center, was required to have a car at work to transport clients. But she regularly biked to classes at South Central College, where she’s studying to be a registered nurse. And when she begins her new job at Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital, she plans to bike there.

Eric, a metallurgical engineer at the Dotson Inc. foundry, has been biking or walking to work for years.

"Really it’s not doing anything out of the ordinary," he said. "Everybody learned to walk at one point in their life - about one year of age. People learn how to ride a bike at a young age. It’s just doing things that come naturally."

For the vast majority of Americans, however, what comes naturally is getting in the car, sports utility vehicle or minivan when they need to get from home to anywhere more than a block or two away.

Eric suggests that people just try the healthier, cheaper, more environmentally kind approach - preferably on a day when there’s no time pressure. Just walk or bike to work or the store or to church and see what you think.

"Once you have a good understanding, then it becomes real and you have a choice," he said. "But until you try, you have no idea."

Eric, 28, can walk the two miles from home to Dotson in 25 minutes, about 15 minutes more than it takes to drive the six-stoplight route. Christie said she can bike to SCC in 17 minutes, no more than seven minutes longer than driving. They walk or bike virtually all the way across town to attend Hosanna Lutheran Church.

We forget most of our fellow human beings on this planet don’t even own cars. Why do we think we deserve or are entitled to drive wherever, whenever and whatever we want, and then complain about the price? Move beyond society’s definition of how a proper person should travel.

The Nelsons are quick to recognize that not everyone can make that choice. People have legitimate reasons for driving - and complaining about high gas prices - if they have a physical disability, are very old or work at a job where a vehicle is required.

But most folks are entirely capable of self-propulsion. And Eric and Christie have an answer for most excuses. Too much to carry? Bike racks with sidebags or even a backpack can haul plenty. Too old? They have examples of senior citizens riding bikes across the country. Too out of shape? Start small and build up the endurance.

"It was difficult initially," Christie said of climbing the hill to upper North Mankato. "I was in about the lowest gear on my bike and peddling with all my might."

Now she’s in a higher gear and moving much faster. And the ride home is a blast.

The obvious question, of course, is the potential misery of biking or walking in the sometimes nasty Minnesota weather. Eric said heavy rain is the only thing that sometimes forces him to drive simply because he doesn’t want to work in drenched clothing.

"I don’t know if we’ve ever done it based on winter conditions," he said. "... If it’s cold, I walk faster."

Although they don’t expect they’ll ever convince a large percentage of Americans that cars should be a second or third choice when it’s time to go somewhere, they’ll gladly accept any level of converts they can get.

"You pick up a few people here and there," Eric said. "And that’s how things get started."

And Christie, despite joking that people consider her and her husband crazy, her essay defines the word another way.

Are you still driving and complaining? That’s crazy. ...

Walking enthusiasts had practice

The source of Eric and Christie Nelson’s motivation - the impetus for walking an hour to church, biking for miles on a scorching summer day to get to college classes, trudging through snow to run errands or go to work - is varied.

Eric said his mom walked to work for years. And his first dramatic foray into alternative forms of traveling occurred while the Albert Lea resident was attending the South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City.

"I biked home from school one year," he said.

Christie said she grew up in a nonrecycling, conversion-van driving family, but majoring in biology and environmental studies changed her thinking.

"It brought a new level of awareness and responsibility, I guess," she said.

The couple, who met while fifth-graders in Albert Lea, had an eye-opening experience about appreciating the luxuries of America while serving in the Peace Corps in the South Pacific island-country of Vanuatu.

And they learned about America’s natural resources and beauty - not to mention getting a lesson about their personal stamina - while spending four months walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail.

"When people say, "Oh, it’s not walking distance,’ that expression just tickles me," Christie said. "Because what’s walking distance? Is it Georgia to Maine? That’s walking distance."

- Mark Fischenich

When this story was posted in October 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Contact PCOLBulletin BoardRegisterSearch PCOLWhat's New?

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
'Celebration of Service' a major success Date: October 10 2005 No: 730 'Celebration of Service' a major success
The Peace Corps Fund's 'Celebration of Service' on September 29 in New York City was a major success raising approximately $100,000 for third goal activities. In the photo are Maureen Orth (Colombia); John Coyne (Ethiopia) Co-founder of the Peace Corps Fund; Caroline Kennedy; Barbara Anne Ferris (Morocco) Co-founder; Former Senator Harris Wofford, member of the Advisory Board. Read the story here.

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

PC apologizes for the "Kasama incident" Date: October 13 2005 No: 737 PC apologizes for the "Kasama incident"
The District Commissioner for the Kasama District in Zambia issued a statement banning Peace Corps activities for ‘grave’ social misconduct and unruly behavior for an incident that occurred on September 24 involving 13 PCVs. Peace Corps said that some of the information put out about the incident was "inflammatory and false." On October 12, Country Director Davy Morris met with community leaders and apologized for the incident. All PCVs involved have been reprimanded, three are returning home, and a ban in the district has since been lifted.

Military Option sparks concerns Date: September 13 2005 No: 731 Military Option sparks concerns
The U.S. military is allowing recruits to meet part of their reserve military obligations after active duty by serving in the Peace Corps. Read why there is opposition to the program among RPCVs. Director Vasquez says the agency has a long history of accepting qualified applicants who are in inactive military status. John Coyne says "Not only no, but hell no!" and RPCV Chris Matthews leads the debate on "Hardball." Avi Spiegel says Peace Corps is not the place for soldiers while Coleman McCarthy says to Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps. Read the results of our poll among RPCVs. Latest: Congressman John Kline introduces legislation to alter the program to remove the Peace Corps as an option for completing an individual’s military enlistment requirement.

Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger Date: August 25 2005 No: 717 Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger
When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger.

Top Stories: October 10, 2005 Date: October 9 2005 No: 727 Top Stories: October 10, 2005
Carl Pope says the looting of America has only begun 2 Oct
Report of PCV Misconduct in Zambia 7 Oct
Chic Dambach speaks in Oklahoma 6 Oct
Murphy to give papers to Heinz museum 6 Oct
Mike Honda speaks out on Katrina 5 Oct
Kinky Friedman could be the next governor of Texas 5 Oct
Peter McPherson urges new nuclear weapon designs 5 Oct
Doyle and Green in dead heat for Wisconsin Governor 5 Oct
NPCA Membership Directory ready in late November 5 Oct
GOP hopefuls avoiding Taft 4 Oct
Ask not 4 Oct
Russell Carollo wins journalism prize for "The Toll of War" 4 Oct
Mark Gearan says provision was a mistake 4 Oct
Mike Tidwell says Bayou has been sinking for years 3 Oct
Carl Pope writes: Preparing for Global Warming 3 Oct
Director Vasquez Meets with Volunteers in Gulf Coast 3 Oct
John McCain's call to service 3 Oct
Joshua Berman wins Lowell Thomas Travel Writing Award 2 Oct
Operation Offset proposes freeze in Peace Corps Funding 1 Oct

Returned Volunteers respond to Hurricane Katrina Date: September 12 2005 No: 729 Returned Volunteers respond to Hurricane Katrina
First and foremost, Give. Then volunteer with the Crisis Corps. Carol Bellamy says "In situations such as this one, money is needed the most" and added that Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans is comparable to last year's tsunami. Thailand RPCV Thomas Tighe's Direct Relief International has committed an initial $250,000 in cash to assist hurricane victims. Mayor Tom Murphy (RPCV Paraguay) says Pittsburgh is ready to embrace refugees from devastated areas. Brazil RPCV Robert Backus is among the first Vermont doctors to volunteer to travel to Louisiana to treat victims. Latest: FEMA requests RPCVs to assist in recovery efforts through the Crisis Corps and the Peace Corps hopes to send 400 RPCVs to the Gulf Coast for short term assignments to assist victims with their applications for federal aid.

The Peace Corps Library Date: March 27 2005 No: 536 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related stories in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can find hundreds of stories about what RPCVs with your same interests or from your Country of Service are doing today. If you have a web site, support the "Peace Corps Library" and link to it today.

Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000  strong Date: April 2 2005 No: 543 Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000 strong
170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Mankato Free Press

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Vanuatu; Conservation; Bicycles


Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.