I was forced into retirement by a bicycle accident that left me unable to work with a damaged hip, damaged shoulder and partially dead right temporal lobe (tramautic brain injury). I didn't know what to do with my time. I couldn't get work and the lines to volunteer were long. I have since been accepted as a volunteer at the Fletcher Allen Hospital.
I was once asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without much pause I said an eccentric, like the guy I met in Belize with a totem-decorated bicycle or the homeless men I see in downtown Burlington who has rigged a bicycle to a shopping cart and also decorated it with the totems of his life.
Almost simultaneously, the minister responsible for credentials in the Michigan United Church of Christ, described me, "Norm's life has been a grand and difficult adventure".
I have ridden for over 30 years and have looked at returnable empties littering pristine Vermont roadsides. Eccentric, I have wondered, would be to stop and pick up this litter.
Today, was the first day in the life of an eccentric bottle picker. It felt good. I started out wondering if purpose would interfere with the spontaneity of a ride.
Mostly, I ride the same well established loops and out-and-backs, so I am not sure what spontaneity I was thinking about; perhaps the imagined spontaneity of freedom to go left or right at the flip of a coin. Picking bottles was actually about as much spontaneity as I could handle. Or perhaps serendipity as a 5-cent returnable would glitter in the sunshine. At one point, I felt like one of the sun-leathered old men with a metal detector on a Florida beach. We were both in search of treasure.
I did learn a few things as would be expected on the first day of any new experience. Watch out for poison ivy, it lives on the side of the road. So does mud. A sloping shoulder is a difficult place to set a kick-stand.
When I returned home, I replaced the one I had with a shorter one from my parts bin. Crushed or severely dented cans have no value; they will not go through the automatic bottle return machine. The addition of a two wheeled trailer presents itself as a traffic hazard for following vehicles so best be alert.
Even though the three-feet rule was passed by the Vermont legislature this year; no one follows it. All a driver must do is give a cyclist three feet while passing. I feel lucky when I get three inches. Please don't kill me while I'm picking bottles. The litter of me dead on the roadside will defeat my purpose of keeping Vermont roads looking nice. On the plus side, this is great exercise. The frequent stops, like a rural post delivery is good for the legs, heart and vision- everything keeps working overtime.