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Monday, September 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 52.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Changing Gears for sustainability
Cross-country bike tour stops in Madison

Andy Davis and Melissa Henige got on their bicycles in Bloomington, Indiana, a couple of weeks ago, embarking on an ambitious undertaking. They call their expedition Changing Gears, a ride that will take them all the way to the west coast in search of municipal, organizational and individual sustainability initiatives and practices they can take home to Bloomington and help to apply.

Henige, 31, and Davis, 30, are documenting their experiences on a pair of blogs, one with impressions and photos from their travels and another featuring video reports, the first stage in a documentary about the ride.

So far, their route has taken them to a handful of communities in Indiana, to Chicago for a few days and then Beloit. Today, they are in Madison. Without advance notice, the duo stopped by Isthmus to talk about their tour and what they hope to accomplish. I'm glad they did: What they are attempting to do is as impressive as it is intriguing, and they are as articulate as they are engaging to hear.

Henige has been in Madison before, during an AmeriCorps VISTA stint here. She has also lived in such disparate locations as Glacier National Park, San Diego and the Netherlands. Davis brings a filmmaking background to their collaboration, along with an interest in sustainable design, urban planning and soccer.

During their visit downtown, Davis and Henige began by introducing themselves and outlining the scope and intent of Changing Gears.

Henige and Davis then offered an elaboration for what they hope to accomplish with Changing Gears, the sustainability concepts that have been drawing their attention here in Madison, and the makes and models of bikes they're riding on the tour -- along with the origins of the Changing Gears concept, which occurred in the sort of setting that has given birth to a good number of other inspired ideas.

The duo then proceeded to offer their definition of sustainability, and talk about how they'll be spending the remainder of their time in Madison.

Wrapping up the discussion, Davis and Henige talked about the trends and factors that led them to undertake their Changing Gears project now, and put their efforts in the context of challenges confronting Bloomington that might be addressed by importing some of the sustainability practices they hope to collect on their tour and bring home with them.

Davis and Henige invite donations and email inquiries; donors who contribute more than $20 will receive an autographed DVD of the movie's first printing, expected late this year. From Madison, their itinerary will lead Davis and Henige to Baraboo, La Farge and on into Iowa, up into Minnesota, then across South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho to Oregon, then down the Pacific coast to San Francisco, where their tour is scheduled to conclude in mid-August.

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