He wakes up and hits the snooze three times. Its a daily routine.
Today though, he will be 15 minutes late to everything.
Eventually, knowing that the day must begin he wakes up, rolls over, and wishes he saw Hannah Rose but knows that for the next two months he’ll have to be without her. If this was a winter morning he would pull up the same long johns, coat, and cream colored vest but it’s mid May and it’s now the same pair of black Carharts and a hand knit long sleeve with a neon trucker hat. He fumbles out of his room, turns on a pot of coffee, hops in the shower and starts his day. It’s 8:45 a.m, he has no idea but he already has two missed calls.
He lives at the Maitreya Eco Village out on 8th in between Chambers and Taylor street in Eugene, Oregon it’s located 15 minutes by bike to 1st and Washington.
A year ago Derek Thomas had just finished art school. He was living in a cooperative house in Boston, Massachusetts which is 3,086 miles away from Eugene.That’s 195,528,960 inches or a straight two and a half day drive.
A month after graduating he found, researching bicycle sustainability, the Center For Appropriate Transport (CAT) and decided this was where he was headed.
Thomas is 22 years old, has a graduate degree in art and has for the past 7 months been an apprentice at CAT. He’s roughly 6 foot 4 inches, he has messy strawberry blonde hair, an unshowered but clean musk, and adorable features. “He’s a good one to talk to”, says Jan VanderTuin, his teacher, friend, and the founder of CAT.
Thomas runs into CAT, now knowing that he is 15 minutes late for an interview and bellows, “I’m sorry I am late, long day yesterday” and the sincerity in his voice and the honesty of his face makes it all go away. Thomas is kind hearted, soft but well spoken, and has a great laugh. In addition, he truly cares about community impact and believes in bicycle sustainability.
“I came here (to CAT) as an apprentice already into bikes, already into welding, already into frame fabrication, and I got the opportunity to be totally immersed in that for 6 months,” Thomas said while explaining his role as an apprentice at CAT. “Thats all we did 5 days a week, built bikes, learned about machining, and did gardening.”
CAT was founded 20 plus years ago on petty cabs, which are commuter bikes, in New York City by VanderTuin. Since then CAT has become a place to stimulate the minds of youth looking for alternative schooling, create sustainability in a community, and be a safe place for new ideas.
Thomas has since finished his apprenticeship at CAT but continues to work there building new cargo bicycles and saving money for his trip across the country this summer. While at CAT he received more than just bike knowledge and has decided that teaching kids about sustainability is important and something that he wants to do. “Bicycles are more than just a sport, or a recreation,” Thomas said, talking about Mobile School presentations, “We want to get kids to think about how they get around and how they get to school specifically.”
At CAT, Thomas got hooked on Mobile School presentations. He now goes around to different schools and teaches kids and presents to them information about bikes. In one week, Thomas will head to San Francisco for the beginning of his summer journey. “I have created, written, and prayed for funding” Thomas said while talking about a grant he wrote through Iobi. “I want to create a pony express Mobile School Presentation where different people from different cities get excited about teaching kids and start showing kids there are other types of transport.”
He leaves on the 24th of May. Today is the 24th of May.
suzi – I have a video I did of this, as my multimedia piece, but I cannot upload it through WordPress. I guess I’ll just show it to you on Wednesday May 30th?