Thursday, June 14, 2012


Which Is Better: Picking Up Trash or Riding A Bike?

Two years in a row I've participated in the Real Ale Ride (a bike ride starting and ending at the Real Ale brewery in Blanco, Texas), first as a volunteer, then as a rider. As a volunteer, I got drunk and wandered the grounds of the brewery bagging litter. As a rider, I completed my first
serious road ride on serious hills, and then got drunk. Which was a better time overall? Let’s compare.

Pros of Volunteering
1. Volunteers got more free beer than the riders.
2. You can totally drink beer WHILE picking up trash.
3. Litter reduction is a tangible social benefit, making the world/brewery a better place.
4. It requires no strategy or pacing.
5. It’s a happily solo activity.
6. You get some nice exercise with little exertion.
7. Free!

Cons of Volunteering:

1. As a volunteer, I felt like I couldn't go ahead and do the brewery tour (on the clock, so to
speak), although it sounded cool. 

Pros of Riding the Ride:

1. Touring truly lovely countryside on an utterly perfect day. (Seriously, if you've never visited the Texas Hill Country, you simply must, because it is simply beautiful, particularly when the wildflowers are out.)
2. The camaraderie among strangers on the course, urging each other on — particularly the guy in the Viking outfit at the first nasty hill, who laid his bike down to just stand there and cheer everyone struggling upward.
3. Going 47.8 MPH without even pedaling — just hanging on and letting the bike soar down the other side of the one hill where I had to hop off and walk up.
4. Makes all those hideous hours of spin class worth it at last.
5. Gave me an excuse to rent a super-spiffy carbon road bike — only $34 for 24 hours with a lovely machine that goes for $2000 retail, an amount which is as far from my budget as the sun is from the earth.
6. All the hills were in the first half, so the last half was a delightful exercise in seeing how fast my bike-for-a-day could go. Verdict: so, so, much faster than my 18-year-old mountain bike.
7. The brewery tour was AMAZING. Fans of chemistry, you must go tour a brewery, because that process is fascinating.

Cons of Riding the Ride

1. The friend who was supposed to do this event bailed on me, so I was left standing alone sipping my beer like a weirdo while everyone else hung out with their friends who did not bail on them. The post-event chitchat (did you see? remember when?) is a good chunk of the experience, so I felt gypped on that point.

Which experience would you prefer?

Maureen Kelly lives in Austin with a variety of mammals and rides her bike a lot.

68 Comments / Post A Comment


DEFINITELY picking up trash while drinking delicious beer. I'm terrified of bikes. 48MPH?! HELL to the no.


@Amphora That was my reaction also. I'm just...bad at bikes.


excellent post, excellent.@m


the biking! riding a bike in the country? yes please! extra bonus because i love how a cold beer feels as it seeps into your exercise-worn muscles...


maybe to find another word besides gypped?


@hairspin Oh thank god I wasn't the only person to have that reaction. I enjoyed this otherwise, but seeing that word at the end felt like a slap in the face.


@SarahDances not the only one, no. yikes.


@SarahDances Did you feel gypped when you got to the end?


@stonefruit Yikes indeed!


@nyikint I get really cranky about people being casually and thoughtlessly racist with respect to "gypsies"/Roma in ways they would never be racist about any other ethnic group because they aren't a visible population in the US and most people have actually never given it any thought. See also: "gypsy" Halloween costumes.


@SarahDances OH, is that the origin of the word? I thought it was a word like 'moist' - just an ugly word. I didn't realize its racist connotations - I'm so sorry about throwing it around then, and I didn't meant to undermine the other very valid comments expressing opposition to its use.


@SarahDances Why is it racist to dress gypsy for halloween? Isn't that the POINT of halloween, to dress up as something you are not?

This reminds me of freshman year of college when I got yelled at for calling chocolate sprinkles jimmies. (I was born in Boston, it's what everyone calls them) I had NO IDEA that the term came from Jim Crow laws? I still don't buy it, and I still call them jimmies.


@nyikint That was precisely my point. People who would never use other racial slurs don't give a second thought to "gypped" because they either don't realize its racist origins or they don't think it's really a big deal because seriously, it's not like we even have gypsies here, right? (We do.)

Even the word "gypsy" itself is kind of a tough case. It's an exonym which originated from the incorrect belief that the Romani people were from Egypt (they actually trace their origin to the Indian subcontinent). On top of the implied inaccuracy, it's seen as pejorative by a considerable portion of the Romani community, although the use is so widespread in English that some Romani organizations have even started using it themselves.

You also see it in cases like "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" where it's used to refer to all nomadic peoples without distinguishing between ethnically and culturally distinct groups like Romani and Irish Travellers. Some members of these groups will use it themselves, but I still cringe at it being through around all willy-nilly by others.

Aah! Sorry for being so long-winded! I just have intense Thoughts and Feelings on this particular subject.

fondue with cheddar

@SarahDances It took me many years to realize it was a racist word because, like you said, they aren't a visible population here in the US. When I did learn the origin I was horrified at the number of times I'd been unknowingly offensive in the course of my life. I wouldn't be surprised if there were other people reading this post who weren't aware of it as well, so it's a learning opportunity. In that sense, maybe it's good that she mentioned it in the post.


@Rubyinthedust Would you dress in blackface for Halloween? Most people aren't wearing even remotely authentic Romani costumes (by the way "gypsy" is totally not a cool thing to call them), they are dressing in racist caricatures.

Also "jimmies" is just a name for sprinkles, the origin is unknown. Feel free to keep calling them that!


@Rubyinthedust I got yelled at in college for "jimmies," too! (Hey-ey, Boston) But take heart - all internet research suggests that there is NO reason to believe that the term comes from Jim Crow laws. Jimmies they were and jimmies they are.

ETA: TheUnchosenOne beat me to it!


@SarahDances. OP here. Holy cow, I had no idea that "gypped" had racist connotations; to me it's just a funny word that my mom used all the time when I was growing up. The more you know!


@TheUnchosenOne No, but I would conceivably dress as Nicki Minaj or Rihanna, and I don't believe that is offensive. I suppose its a question of dressing as a stereotype of a group or as an individual. So maybe people who want to be gypsies for halloween should research specific gypsies to be politically correct.


@Rubyinthedust I generally find dressing in costume as a member of any racial group of which you are not actually a member to be in pretty poor taste, but ymmv.

ETA: I do not mean dressing as a specific individual (e.g., Rihanna), but as just a generic member of whatever race.



Thanks so much for your reply! I've seen the word 'gypsy' used in conjunction with some awfully negative stereotypes (especially in some of the rural parts of the UK) but I never actually made the connection with the verb. Shoot, I didn't realize how insensitive my comment would be.


@SarahDances The word "geek" doesn't have the greatest origins either.


@Rubyinthedust Racialicious always has a lot to say about this topic around Halloween - they and the links they provide give a lot of insight and say it better than I could.

fondue with cheddar

@roadtrips Oh, thanks for the link. A stroll through the local Halloween store always makes me uncomfortable because of this stuff.*

Along the same vein, I get upset at a lot of non-racial costume items, too. You always see fake teeth in those stores (and sometimes in gumball machines at the grocery store). They've got buck teeth, gapped teeth, yellow teeth, crooked teeth, broken teeth, and rotten teeth. It may be a costume for you, but for some people it's normal. I've got crooked teeth, and even though they're not as crooked as the ones in these costume pieces, it hurts when I see crooked teeth labeled as "hillbilly teeth"** for use in dressing up as a poor/uneducated/rural/ugly person.

*Though I must confess that I dressed up as Sacajawea for Halloween in 3rd grade.

**which is doubly offensive


@Megano! I thought "gypsy" meant one of a vagabond race, not necessarily Romani, kind-of like Bohemian can mean an unconventional artist or writer, not necessarily from Bohemia. I guess just having a title for "one of vagabond race" could be offensive.


@whizz_dumb The offensiveness of the term "gypsy" to refer to nomadic or traveling people is sort of a gray area, although the offensiveness of the term "gypped" is definitely NOT a gray area. I generally just avoid it altogether, as I think its rather frequent use as a pejorative, especially in Europe, makes it kind of questionable. There are lots of other words to use instead of "gypsy" if you're using it as a synonym for "vagabond" or "nomad" (those are two pretty good words, for instance). And if you're referring to a group of people then it's appropriate to use the name they themselves prefer (i.e. Roma).

Hot Doom

@roadtrips Am I the only one who now has that "Queen of the Gypsies" song from I Love Lucy stuck in her head? Yes? Oh well.


@TheLetterL Snopes says false! I had to look it up when I came to college in Boston for the first time and people told me that.


@jen325 The dialect terms for being cheated that I can think of are all racist slurs. And now I don't feel like I can type them here because... racist slurs.

Says a lot about how English as a language situates difference relative to honesty, doesn't it.


fondue with cheddar

@PistolPackinMama I used to work for a shoe store where the owner was Jewish, and one time a customer used one of those slurs right to his face. And he really looks Jewish so it's not like he could even use the excuse, "I'm sorry I didn't know." Not that it's an adequate excuse anyway.


@PistolPackinMama Ripped off?


riding the ride!


I volunteered once to marshall the Five Boro Bike Tour in NYC and after that I never rode it again--man, there are some maniacs out there.

I feel like in NYC (at least in the bike tours I've done, and tehre are many) the camaraderie gets overwhelmed by general NYC jerkiness and the sheer volume of spandex jockeys whose $5K bike somehow bought them a license to be an asshole :(


@parallel-lines Also, what's the distance on this ride? I used to do a lot of centuries, and even a 120 miler once (don't do this!) but I've found 80-85 miles is the sweet spot of distance riding.


@parallel-lines when i was 19 my dad somehow convinced me to take his place in a 128 mile ride despite never having ridden a road bike before. Worst decision ever, and I was wearing sneakers which got lots of comments from the assholes on 5K bikes, because I didn't know better.

I finished but had a scab that turned into a scar on my butt for a whole year in the shape of a bike seat. Not lying.


@Rubyinthedust Oh yeah, no one tells you this, but if you are doing more than 50 miles for god's sake, wear the padded shorts and use a chamois cream, like this http://www.amazon.com/Chamois-Buttr-8-Ounce-Skin-Lubricant/dp/B000HZGTUS/ref=pd_sim_bt_1

I had saddle sores once so bad I was on antibiotics for two weeks. Not fun!


@Rubyinthedust Seeeee, this is why I never want to get into sports at any serious level. My ex was all, "You should come to the ski race, xc skiers are awesome!"* Yeah, really, like the jackass who yelled at me because I couldn't get the gatorade in his hand as he swept by at many mph? Maybe you should have aimed for my outstretch hand better, jerk.

OK, so I know that that's only like 2% of competitors in any given sport, but I imagine I will encounter them ALL, and... I'm afraid of looking dumb. Maybe I got made fun of too much as a kid? But I am totally nervous about being the slow person at my half-marathon this winter and getting Comments.

Also, OUCH on the butt scabs!?!

*I really like to xc ski, actually, and I would really like to do a race someday. But only the short races where they let slow people also race.


@che as luck would have it, i also have an ex who was a xc-ski racer! And I had never gone skate skiing once until we started dating, and he took me to the Birkenbeiner, which is in Wisconsin and the largest race in the country I think. It was AWESOME because everyone there was a huge dork and really excited about it and really supportive to people like me who were very slow. So yay xc skiing!


@Rubyinthedust Yeah? This makes me feel better about someday trying to race. (I live in the land of no snow, ever, right now, but want to move back to New England.) I only ever skied on poorly maintained / unmaintained trails in the woods, so I didn't have much interaction with other skiers.

MAN, I miss it! LAST July I was super excited for winter so I could ski again, and then I lost my job and had to move back south before winter ever came. I even considered finding an old pair and making the crazy rollerblade-ski contraptions the Dartmouth ski team used...


@che I fell in the middle and two people stopped to ask me if I was okay! In a race! Such a great experience.

and those roller ski things terrify me. there are no brakes! i still don't understand how you stop.

Chris G.

Drinking (and picking up trash), no question. Chitchat is SO much easier with a higher blood alcohol level.

rianne marie

OMG You could rent the super snazzy bike?
I would normally stay the hell away from something like that because my bike, which I love desperately (and am currently having some anxiety over sending it to the shop for a couple days), is the comfiest thing on two wheels, but totally upright. I'm not even remotely aerodynamic and hills are the worst. I commute about 12 miles each way to work and I am not speedy. Super comfy and happy, but not particularly speedy. That 12 miles takes me about 70 minutes when I'm working really hard.

Occasionally renting an exciting fast bike would be super cool!


@rianne marie Tell me how much you love bike commuting anyway, even though your super comfy bike is slow? I just bought a comfy but slow bike (buying something billed as a "comfort bike" makes me feel like the couch potato of bikers) and will have a 6-ish mile commute each way.

rianne marie

@che I love it so so so so much.
disclaimer being that I don't own a car and work in a adjacent city. Without my bike I am trapped on a slow bus for an hour or constantly harassing my coworkers for rides.
I never knew I had a slow bike until I started reading numbers on the internet about how fast bikes are supposed to be, in the city I will pass other commuter cyclists more often than they pass me. And occasionally get insufferably smug when I do it in a pencil skirt.

Dr. Allison Absinthe@twitter

@rianne marie
And occasionally get insufferably smug when I do it in a pencil skirt.
I love you, internet stranger.


@rianne marie I am impressed with your pencil skirt biking talents :)

I have a car because it's really really hard not to where I live (maybe if I lived downtown I could, but I have a free room with family in the sticks, soo...), but I prefer not driving. I lived for 5 years in places with great public transit and good city planning, so I am cranky about moving back to my non-pedestrian-friendly southern city. But there's a bus stop 6 miles from my house that will take me to campus, so I am determined to become a bike commuter!


i'm always too anemic to donate blood, so i volunteered at blood drives instead. makes you feel powerful, telling people they can't leave till they've eaten their cookie!

maybe partying will help


Who would ever leave before they've eaten their cookies and may I eat their cookies for them?


@plonk I do this too! But one time one of the people there who I was helping asked me why I wouldn't donate, and I said I had health issues (anemic+ very low bp+ lots of medication, etc. etc.), and then she loud whispered to me "Is is because you have HIV?!" ...I have not volunteered since.


It depends entirely on who you want to shame. Do you want the bike participants to realize your moral superiority as a volunteer, or do you want drivers in passing cars to be made aware of their self-indulgent and wasteful lifestyle while you pedal away just as Nature intended?

Anyways, I'd pick the one with the free beer.

Kirsten Hey@facebook

I would pick a bike ride over almost anything!

Heat Signature

Would I have to pick up trash if I chose volunteering? I mean, fine, I'll do it, but I'd rather work at a soup kitchen or with the elderly or do hospice work (all of which I've done and loovvvveeddddd...hmm, this seems sort of "look at how altruistic I am", now that I read it over. Maybe my pickiness about the trash cancels it out?).


Go for the ride! But maybe stash a cooler toward the end and then you can really win it and simultaneously stick it to the $5k bikers.


Both sound awesome. I want to volunteer at anything involving beer.


Bike ride.

But you're spoiled for choice, which is always nice.


But are you still friends with the person who flaked out on you? Because I've given up on a few flakers in my day because frustration, insulted. It seems like flaking out is not usually a one time thing and I think 3 strikes and they're out applies here. (I hope "flake" isn't offensive to a large group of people.)


@whizz_dumb. Yep, I am. Flakiness is just part of the total package in this case; my friend has significant virtues that balance out the flakitude.


Aaahh, I live in the Texas hill country! Yes, to all Pinners, you must come to visit--it's absolutely gorgeous. I've also been to some anniversary party (10 years? 8?) of the Real Ale Brewing Co.

Such. Awesome. Beer.

(And the volunteers were, indeed, hilariously soused :)

And hello, by the way! I've lurked for maybe a year, and I guess a post about beer + Texas was what it took to finally draw me out :). Nice to meet y'all!


@hungaryforchile Welcome! Beer brings out the best of us... right?


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