Frankie makes new friends

Frankie, the Joyful Bear, has been traveling and meeting new people all across the U.S. Here are some of his new friends and fans, beginning with old and new friends who came to our presentation at The Book Loft of German Village. If you’ve never been to The Book Loft, it has 32 rooms and is one of the most unusual (and non-ADA-compliant) bookstores in the world. The books are neat and tidy, but the architecture is downright higglety-pigglety!

After his visit to central Ohio, Frankie boarded an Amtrak train (watch the video!) in Cincinnati and rode for four days to Eugene, Oregon, enjoying the scenery and capturing hearts along the way. He was extremely impressed with fellow author Tamara Boyens, whom we met in the observation car of the Coast Starlight. A Ph.D. student in Tucson, she publishes dystopian novels in her spare time.

Memory Lane

Memory Lane marker

The marker for Memory Lane on East North Broadway in Columbus, Ohio

Last week, I expected to take a trip down Memory Lane when I attended my 35th high school reunion. Much to my surprise, it was an event two days later that took me down the literal Memory Lane and taught me a bit of Columbus history.

I arranged to meet one of my oldest friends from college, Vicki, in Clintonville. She lives a few blocks from my home in the 1980’s, and she’d told me about a guided art walk being held in the neighborhood. I was eager to take a stroll down Memory Lane with her, because I had walked, driven, and bicycled every street in that area.

Halfway through the tour, I got a real surprise. It turns out that East North Broadway, a street I have traversed thousands of times, actually is Memory Lane!

In the 1930’s, when the city was planning to build a new bridge across the Olentangy River at Broadway, the newly-formed Clintonville Women’s Club proposed that the bridge approach have flowering trees along it, planted for young men of the neighborhood who died in the service.

Little did they know what was to come — the project was underway when World War II broke out. Memory Lane would be lined with trees, each one bearing a marker for one of the boys who died in the war.

Many years later, the city widened the street and removed the trees, which may be why I never realized I was driving on a historic street every day. But a Boy Scout project saved the markers and had them preserved in a nearby cemetery.

Today, there are markers along East North Broadway, like the one above, for those who died in many wars, and homeowners maintain beautiful memory gardens with blooming trees in the strip between the sidewalk and the busy road.

And for those who attended the Friday night event of the high school reunion, I’m posting a few photos for you as well — our own little trip down “Memory Lane.”

On a roll with The Bike Lady

A couple of years ago, when Barry and I joined Facebook, we found out what happened to some of the folks we’d gone to high school with. We were especially interested in the ones who’d left Columbus, Ohio, that place known as “Cowtown” that inspires long-distance travel.

Now I have to admit that one of the most interesting is still living in Central Ohio. Back when she went to high school with Barry, in a class of about 100 kids, she was known as “Kathy.” Now she’s “Kate.” For a couple of years, I’ve listened with growing irritation to Barry’s constant chatter about her, always prefaced with, “On Facebook, Kathy said…” She has the kind of big, successful life that makes me green with envy: A writer and video producer, single parent to two adorable adopted kids, funny, charming, good-looking.

OK, I can look past all that. Kate Koch Gatch is a real, live hero.

For the past five years, she’s collected brand-new bikes, helmets, and locks to donate to foster children in Central Ohio. This year’s goal of 750 bikes brings the total to almost 2000 bicycles.

Kate is known as “the Bike Lady.”

It’s a passion, not a job. She volunteers her time and covers all the administrative costs, so that every dollar donated goes towards putting kids on bikes. Kate points out that the public funds that cover the foster care system cannot be used for holiday gifts, so these are kids who wouldn’t have bikes otherwise.

Kate, herself, is not into cycling. She just recognizes what a bicycle represents to a kid — a big-ticket item that demonstrates love, respect, freedom, and hours of fun.

Margaret on her first bike.

Me and my first bike. What was your first bike?

It certainly brings back memories for me — what was my first bike? It was red, a hand-me-down. When it was time to take the training wheels off, my Dad was at work, and I had the impatience of a small child. So Mom grabbed a wrench and wrestled them off. Then there was my first new bike, a blue-green one-speed with coaster brakes, high handlebars, and a banana seat. You could carry one friend on the handlebars and another one on the back of the long seat, if you could balance your bike with three people on it!

This morning, I woke up thinking about all the people in my life who I want to share Kate’s story with:

  • Barry’s rambunctious nephews, who are growing up with their own bikes in Columbus.
  • A dear friend in San Diego who years ago experienced the foster care system in Central Ohio.
  • A friend in Central Ohio who used his bike to commute to work in all weather when he couldn’t afford a car.
  • A friend in the Bay Area who is an advocate for adoption, who lets her kids bring their bikes into the living room.
  • My sisters and their families in Eugene, Oregon, where bicycling is a way of life, despite the rain.
  • Our friends in Virginia who lost their daughter in a cycling accident, but still want kids to know that bicycling can be safe and fun.
  • And all my Sou Digna friends, who know that grassroots projects can make a huge impact in any community to remind people that they are worthy.

Thinking about all of them, there was only one thing for me to do this morning, to kick off the holiday season: Go to the Bike Lady’s website and “put a kid on a bike.” It’s just one of the 750 that Kate will give away. Reading about this project makes me feel really, really good about the world. So if you are feeling down or blue, looking for some inspiration, or wondering if you can do anything to make the world a better place, check out the page on her site called “Start Your Own.”

It feels great to know a person who is doing something to bring happiness to so many kids in difficult situations. As Kate says, “So many kids will be over the moon and riding down a hill in 3 weeks thanks to people like you who get it, understand it and take action.” That’s what we all have to do, with the emphasis on taking action.

A little inspiration and a lot of action can go a long way. To use her own words, Way. To. Roll. Kate.