So, related to the AmeriCorps stuff, I did meet two VISTA members at the Lincoln Lounge a few weeks ago - a nice reminder that there are still plenty of young, energetic idealists working to improve their world. One of them had left a professional career in downtown Chicago, so we babbled a bit about the midwest and the whole career change bit.
I've also started volunteering at the Reno Bike Project, a rad non-profit community bike shop. Their prices are generally better than the LBS, and volunteering there is a nice change from my professional career in front of a computer or my other main volunteering, which is maintaining the Montana Destination Imagination website. While some of my time there has been simple things like running the register or greeting folks, the part I've really enjoyed thus far has been actually working on bikes - while I may engineer and build complex systems at work and on websites, there's something about actually getting your hards covered in grease and working on bikes. Bikes are generally pretty simple, but working at the RBP has helped me to get more and more familiar with bikes. While I could figure out most of the things myself, their staff is incredible in that most of them are good teachers as well as mechanics, and are genuinely enthusiastic about bikes, to the point where it's infectious.
I had wandered in and out of the RBP for random parts and things before, but starting going a bit more in earnest when I was looking to replace my stolen bike. While I haven't yet found a bike there, I did pick up a bike off of Craigslist, and used the community workstations to true the wheel on my old Schwinn, as well as to replace the drop bars with some pursuit bars and bar end brake levers. Last weekend, I took the Schwinn in and replaced the straight bars and grip shifts with some drops and some friction shifters on the stem. I was hoping to find some bar end shifters, but didn't have any luck with that. I may bite the bullet and just order some, but I need to find a better stem first, as the current stem has some play in it (due to it having an adjustable angle), and puts me at a really awkward position while riding.
I've also got a rack I want to put on the bike, so it'll be a full on commuter . . . not sure I'm willing to commit to riding to work (mainly due to the time issue), but grocery trips and the like should be easier than with the messenger bag . . .