Sunday, April 14

Transportation Geek Out

Between the KY Walk Bike Summit and the APA National Conference in Chicago I'm going into bike advocacy geek overload. Thursday and Friday I met and sat in on small intimate sessions with Andy Clarke (the "e" is for "English-borne") of the League of American Bicyclists, and this morning Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon spoke during the keynote presentation at the American Planning Association National Conference in Chicago, Illinoising.

On Thursday at lunch I overheard Andy Clarke talking to someone about the new League logo. I piped up and asked if he knew about A. D. Ruff's headstone. He replied that he'd seen the Wheelmen's bench in Louisville. I briefly described the stone and later at lunch took my phone over and showed him my photo of the monument in Owingsville.

Congressman Blumenauer is one of cycling's (and livable cities') greatest advocates in congress. He gave a great talk of which I am not going to write much about. Except to relay this: he opened by thanking us all for being fired up about planning enough to forgo attending mass this morning. He said he hadn't expected so many people as he pulled out a plastic bag filled with duplicates of the bike pin he always wears on his lapel. He said he only expected about fifteen people and hadn't brought enough pins for everyone (widespread chuckle), and then he launched into his talk.

I decided that, not only was I going to get a pin, but I was going to get the pin that Congressman Blumenauer was wearing on his lapel as he gave his talk.

When the keynote session was over I went straight to Congressman Blumenauer. He was happily giving out bike pins to other conference attendees and I waited patiently as his meager supply of pins dwindled to one lone one and the one he wore. He noticed me and extended the bag, but I indicated that he should give it to the person that had just walked up.

"I actually wanted a specific pin," I told him.

I told him that I went to DC in '88 as a Boy Scout to the National Jamboree, and when we visited the US Capitol we were each given a US flag that had flown one day over the Capitol building.

I pointed at the green pin on his lapel.

"I'd be greatly honored if I could have the pin you wore today."

With a slight grin he started taking off the green bike pin on his lapel.

"I guess I'm going to be out of uniform for a minute," he said as he handed me the pin.

He asked me where I was from and I told him and shook his hand before leaving. I was actually pretty nervous despite my bold request and it took a few minutes before I realized I could probably have chatted with the congressman for a few minutes.

On the elevator ride up to my room another attendee noticed the pin and said: "Oh, you got one of his pins!" Slightly embarrassed I said I had asked him for the one he was wearing and he'd given it to me. Another person in the elevator said: "It's kind of like getting a flag that's flown over the Capitol."

For a transportation geek I've had a pretty amazing few days.

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