One of the innovative elements Cycle Oregon has added to the event in the past few years is the Green Team – a dedicated group of volunteers that makes sure we leave the smallest footprint possible in the out-of-the-way places we visit, and the planet as a whole. While 2,000-plus people on the road for a week generate a lot of stuff, the Green Team works to direct that stuff to the places it can be recycled, reused or returned.
To get a little feel for what this team does, we talked to volunteer John Milliken. Here’s what we learned.
What is your role on Cycle Oregon, and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been on the Green Team for one year.
How did you come to be involved with Cycle O, and has it evolved over time?
I met Jonathan Nicholas back in the mid-90s after I rode a tour of Vietnam from Hanoi to Saigon. I traveled internationally for work, and was up and down the West Coast until 2009. Home base is now Portland, and so I re-connected with CO.
Tell us the details of what you (and your team, if applicable) do.
I’m a recycle team member for rest stop number two – our job is educating riders and local volunteers on recycling event waste (our target is 80% recycle-reuse-return).
What skills or traits are important in your role?
I am a LEED-accredited professional (green designer-builder), and I transferred those skills and philosophy directly to my volunteer work with CO. I’m supporting CO’s effort to “get off the grid” with photovoltaic panels on our vendor-supplied shower/kitchen and supply trailers.
My most important skill is that I engage and encourage riders, fellow volunteers, local folks and CO staff in recognizing that we create a sense of a mobile community, which fosters a connection with the communities we visit.
Why is what you do important for riders, and how does that impact your approach to doing it?
What I do, how I present myself and how riders/volunteers/staff perceive what I do is critical to the mission of CO. Though this is a bicycle event, I sense that the staff and volunteers are all aware on one level or another that this event transcends simply being a tour. The secret of the success and longevity of this event is that each of us focuses on the details of “getting it right.” That attitude is, in my opinion, what makes CO more than a well-run, highly enjoyable bike ride. Call it “Zen and the Annual Bike Tour of (a Piece of) Oregon.”
What would a rider be surprised to know about what goes on behind the scenes on Cycle O?
Most of the riders I engage with, either in my role as Green Team or registering riders, do understand the tremendous amount of coordinated effort and energy that goes into putting CO on the road.
Why do you keep coming back?
Bottom line, it combines my recreational hobby – biking – with a very personal sense of self-worth.
How would you describe Cycle Oregon as an event to someone who’s never heard of it?
The best bike-centric event of ambassadorial goodwill – and it imbues a sense of well-being to all participants. Ride it!
Tell us about a favorite moment and host town from along the way.
My favorite episode was last year in Waitsburg, Washington. The local high school social studies teacher sent her students out to interview riders who represent many U.S. states and even foreign countries. The freshman students had a script of questions, and they learned how to approach and interview us, and learn and exchange information and perceptions. I was amazed to see that all three of the Waitsburg school buildings had been expertly re-habbed over the past 5-6 years – which is a testament to wise investment and knowledge of where the future of their community resides.
What year has been the most memorable for you, and why?
I thoroughly enjoyed last year as a rider on the Weekend Ride, and got the chance to get in about 100 miles during volunteering time off on the Week Ride. Most importantly, I met and enjoyed the company of great folks like Bob Manfull, Ingrid Nylen, Gerta Eck, Steve Schulz, Roger Sanman, Sam Lee, Tom Dorzweiler and Lea VanLue.