Track us as we go!

View Civil Rights Bike Ride in a larger map

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thank YOU from dad and daughter

Here I am sitting back in Chicago. I just ate a picnic in the park with my roommate. I have nearly completed emptying my bags. Life goes on even when you're not on a bike. But before moving onto the rest, I have a few more thoughts to unpack. We may have done the physical riding, but you were a critical part of our success. I am always in awe of how much any serious undertaking by an individual (or two individuals) is aided by the greater community. Thus this post is in honor of you.

Thank you:
Laura Sinclair for all of your behind the scenes work. For checking the weather for us when we were fearful of incoming storms. For arranging breakfast. For being my friend.

Britney Kreimer and Claire Fischer for corralling the donations and the media. For helping make the group ride possible.

Stephen Johnson-Grove for being an avid blog commenter. For designing the final lag of our trip. For welcoming us home with your beautiful daughters.

the rest of OJPC for all the hard work you do everyday. For joining us for our ride. For fighting the fight.

Ramsey Ford for designing our fabulous logo.

All the donors and sponsors for your generous donations in these hard economic times.

Wayne and Teresa in Crump, TN for a lovely conversation over a late lunch. For inviting us back for the night (even though we were unable to take you up on the offer).

Bob in Kentucky for your coverage in the storm.

Steve and Carol at Market Street Inn for giving us a night in the lap of luxury.

Johnny Clark from Perkinsville, AL for the ride to Columbus, MS when we were down and out.

Cadence 120, especially Keith for putting our bike together for the ride and then giving us roadside assistance when we had chain break #1.

Dave and Nick for the tire and good company. Dave and Nick are riding across the country. You can follow their travels here.

Lady on riding lawn mower in Tennessee who gave us water.

Couple in Indiana who gave us water.

Guy who brought us gatorade when we were too tired to talk.

Guy who drove next to us and chatted.

People of the church in Alabama who welcomed us in for a morning of worship and community.

All the people who waved and smiled along the way.

Carla and George for giving us a much needed respite.

Masseuse in Carbondale for giving my body the best massage it has ever received.

Mom for being a wonderful supporter of our ambitions and adventure. For giving us the time together.

John and Mitch of Biowheels for technical support.

J Branch for being a fantastic law partner to Al, and helping make it possible for him to leave work for such extended periods of time.

Kane for blog advice

Blog commenters, especially E Branch, for undying support and enthusiasm!

Really. Thank you to everyone. Deep breath. Sigh.

A Tribute to my Dad

Most young adults are desperately seeking a way to distinguish themselves from their parents and their home. It is a time of learning to pay bills, to cook gourmet meals and to operate within the working world. It is not the time to get on the back of your dad’s bike, wear matching outfits and spend over 2 weeks on the road sharing motel rooms.

I still remember a distinct May afternoon when I was three years old. I was in a child’s seat on the back of my dad’s red bike. Having insisted on bringing my dog-shaped purse along for the ride, I dangled it from above with pride. Then suddenly, the bike screeched to a halt and my dad released a stern frustrated grunt. My little arm was yanked downward. I had clearly upset my dad, and even worse my doggy purse let out a desperate yelp as the derailleur ate it. The tears began to flow. My dad calmly explained that it was fine, but next time I needed to be careful not to dangle things off the bike. I didn’t bring a purse on this ride. I didn’t even bring a Barbie. And the mechanical issues we had were not caused by my carelessness.

I am twenty-three years old and I just rode a tandem bicycle from Mobile, AL to Cincinnati, OH (1200 miles) with my dad. My dad is not a “normal dad.” We watched musicals together. He tucked me in every night making sure to adhere to my specific rituals including animating my stuffed bear. After spending years helping out with my brothers’ baseball teams, he became the president of the Queen City Figure Skating Club to support me. He did all of this while working insane hours to fight for the civil rights of marginalized groups. In particular, he has focused on using civil rights laws to advocate for criminal justice reform, which led him to found the Ohio Justice and Policy Center directed by the dynamic David Singleton and for which our bike ride has been raising funds.

When I told my friends that I was planning to go on this adventure the standard response went something like this, "Wow, that is so cool! I love my dad, but I could never spend that much time so close to him." The thing is, the terror of being with my dad for over two weeks straight had not even crossed my mind. I had considered the butt pain, getting hit by a car, monotony of bike riding as possible drawbacks to the plan, but not spending time with my dad. I have now spent 17 days on the same machine as my dad, my head buried in his back, our feet synchronized, laughing at the same odd occurrences and I would do it all again…tomorrow.

When I was three, my dad carried me. Now, at twenty-three, we carry each other. Riding through small town America, we got various reactions to our bike. One common male reaction was this, “Oh, so she can just sit on the back and you have to do all the work!” It does not work that way. We were a team. We are a team. One day in particular, my dad’s legs were feeling tired. He wrote in this blog of that experience:
"Who was doing a power surge back there? How did we get up that hill? Who was calling out
those words of encouragement? Who was that gentle person checking in on me asking if I
was OK? Jessica. Daughter. Energized and in charge. I knew enough to get us started on this
trip. But she is getting it done…My back hurts. I may be a little slow as we start back on the
road tomorrow. But that’s OK, Jessica is with me."
There were other days when I was not quite feeling it. My dad would lightly nudge me with a simple, “Give me some legs girl!” With that I was back, giving it all I had.

Oddly enough, after spending two and a half weeks practically glued to my dad’s side I feel more empowered and independent than ever. My dad was my partner, but each of us grew on our own. I have discovered a deep love for pedaling, for being outside, for silence. We gave each other space to process this experience in our own way while also celebrating each other. Like all kids, I thought I had superman for a dad. This trip has shown me that he is human and that is even more impressive. I can trust him, but I also can doubt him, speak up and he will listen. Thank you, dad, for letting me grow up, but never letting me go. I will never be too old to ride on the back of your bike.

Across the Ohio! Jessica back to Chicago...

Yesterday morning we were joined by staff from OJPC,friends and supporters at Pendrey Park in Melbourne, Ky. We rode the last twelve miles as a smiling group. I got to help fix one more flat on one of the bikes. We crossed the Ohio on a bridge - an easy pedal for all of us - so different from and much easier than the journeys of those we commemorate with this ride.

It was very special to be greeted by Gene Mays - a former offender to whom we dedicated the ride. Just Thursday a Cincinnati Court stated that it was fine for the City to exclude him from the civil service list and ignore all the evidence he had presented of his rehabilitation. His years of productive living; educaton; great parenting; drug free living - none of it mattered. The City can refuse him a job simply because decades ago he committed drug related crimes. We hugged Gene and promised to keep advocating on his behalf. Gene needs a conductor. The City needs to lead the way on hiring former offenders like Gene who have earned a chance for solid employment. We need to turn former offenders into taxpayers. The journey continues.

Monday Jessica returns to Chicago. I will miss turning my head and sharing a random thought with her. I will miss the power surges mid-hill. I will miss the insight into all the people we met. I will miss the liaughing fits that come from trying to communicate when we are exhausted and still riding. I will miss the confidence I felt from Jessica in the midst of this really challenging adventure. But I have seventeen days of wonderful memories. And I have the future as I witness her tackle with vigor everything that will come her way.

Thank you Jessica for the greatest Father's Day gift a daughter can give her dad - a fabulous adventure together - that was a great ride! I love you very much. Dad.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lessons From the Road (By Jessica and Dad)

Here we are nestled in the winding roads of Norther Kentucky. We can almost taste the Skyline Chili and Graeter's. My mom came and met us here and has been questioning us constantly as she fills in her crossword puzzle. Life goes on. This is not the last post, but we are getting there. As a matter of reflection we have compiled a list of some of the expected and unexpected lessons:

1. Do not pass a bike at a railroad track. We need to cross tracks at a right angle to avoid getting dragged into the crevice by the rails. So we need room to angle the bike properly.
- One rainy day riding through Owensboro, KY, we felt the danger of not hitting it at a direct 90 degree angle. We remained upright, but thoroughly shaken up. Now when approaching railroad tracks, Jessica often chimes in with “perpendicular dad!”
2. Do not be upset when a bike rides in the road even when there is an asphalt berm. Why do we do that? Many roads are flanked by rumble strips and those are hard to navigate on a bike. Also, many berms are strewn with debris, including glass.
3. The best way to get someone talking is to compliment the area they live in. We found that the second we mentioned how beautiful it was around us, people lit up.
4. Following up on number 3, the majority of people love their home. We met only a handful of people who would rather be somewhere else.
5. Giving up biscuits does not automatically lower blood pressure.
6. Honking at us scares us, even friendly honks. If you want to make it friendly, do a light tap or roll down your window and talk to us.
- Today while biking through Alexandria, a young man yelled to us from his car, “I love biking. It is so cool. I love your bike!”
- Or, the other day while riding on an empty road in Indiana, a man rolled up next to us and drove alongside asking us questions. He invited us to go up the road for a bite to eat at his place, but unfortunately we had just eaten.
7. Everyone has a riding lawnmower.
8. Roadkill smells the same in every state (Turtles are the grossest roadkill).
9. Adults who walk or bike generally have had their license suspended.
10. Wal-Mart has destroyed most of the downtowns in the South.
11. A high class motel is one with a sink outside the shower room.
12. When giving directions it is not helpful to start with, “Do you know where the McDonald’s is?” If we say no the next question is normally, “Do you know where the Sonic is?”
13. Everything tastes like chicken when it’s fried (even alligator and frog legs).
14. Bring a master link (or two) on a bike tour… it may come in handy if your chain breaks once (or twice).
15. Tandem bike riding is actually fun.
- You never have to wait for the other person to catch up
- You don’t have to talk all the time (especially when riding uphill), but you have the option
- When you get tired of talking and silence, you can use an ipod splitter and enjoy tunes and books simultaneously

Thursday, June 18, 2009


We set off at 8am... a late start due to the comfort of the Market Street Inn. Fresh fruit, coffee, french toast with homemade blueberry syrup... We had to peel ourselves away from the table. But once we got going, we were feeling pretty alive and refreshed. Two more days of serious biking. Damn.
Drop....drip..."let's put on our rainjackets"... pedal...slosh...boom. Hmmm. Crack...brightness. "Maybe we should stop." We put the bike against a tree and snuck into a barn.
We practiced our trip song (to be performed at our final breakfast). We laughed. We watched the lightning. We'll just wait it out. Looks like it is breaking. Let's get out there.

Uh-oh. Why is that dark cloud following us? I thought the storm was over. Crash...strike... I look at my dad, and reassuringly tell him, "If I get struck by lightning, don't blame yourself." We decide to stop again. This time we found a beautiful home and an inviting porch. We dragged ourselves up to the door and sheepishly asked if we could settle on the porch for a while. This time the winds really got going. We held each other as the earth shook. Eventually, Bob, the owner/builder of this house came out on the porch and invited us in. We are currently parked at his kitchen table, sipping coffee and plotting our way forward. Bob is a retired GE employee who believes retirment is just a time to be busy with the things you really love. He loves gardening and farmer's markets, grandchildren, antiques, building houses among other things. He is wonderful for letting two wet, dirty and cold bikers into his home. But we can't stay here forever.

The forecast told us there was only a 30 percent chance of rain today.


They don't do any harm if you find them before they burrow into the skin. In "Kenticky" I picked off numerous ticks after roadside breaks. The rolling hills near Brandenberg were great and the bridge and road to Corydon in Southern Indiana were wonderful backdrops to the Billy Collins poetry and podcasts we listenened to on the Ipod. I fixed a flat near an outdoor cafe in Corydon - beautiful town that still has a thriving downtown. No rain yesterday! We also passed the 1000 mile point on our trip! We agreed to celebrate with another stay at a B & B but after a gruelling final hour we were stunned to find that we had overshot the B & B by eight miles! Amazingly, Steve, of the Market Street Inn in Jeffersonville quickly jumped in his pick up and delivered us to a comfortable, beautiful B & B two blocks from the river and good restaurants!

We feasted nearby and toasted our progress.
It will be hard to get in the saddle again this morning. I certainly recommend the Market Street Inn to all who want a Louisville area getaway!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Prisoners Ride the Tour de France!

I was in a CVS this morning when a man came up to me. He exclaimed, "I was just watching the tour de france, and then here you are!" I didn't think the Tour de France had begun yet. He explained that France is having a tour for prisoners. Seriously? I could not imagine a cooler parallel for our trip. I ran back to my dad to share the news. The ride is an innovative approach to prisoner rehabilitation. You can listen to the NPR story by clicking here. You can read the BBC story here. I am truly impressed by the French penal system for thinking outside of the box and treating prisoners as humans. Time in prison is time of neglect and disempowerment. Riding a bike in a group of people, being cheered for, that is hope. I have felt such hope, joy and humanity over the last couple of weeks. I'm glad that French prisoners are getting a taste of that as well.

Monday, June 15, 2009

cheapest motel - winner

J B wins!!!! At $35.00 she had the closest guess to the right answer - $36.00. We will present her prize at the group ride - a wrapped microscopic bar of motel soap. Congratulations!

BTW - check out the new post Jessica did on our church experience from last week. Because she started it a few days ago it appears back in the line. See, "Ain't God All Right."

Touring by Yellow Cab

The Downtown Diner was the place. It was time to try biscuits and gravy. Very tasty! But I could feel the blockage. (I will take an extra Crestor tonight). One smothered biscuit was enough. The coffee and the rock and roll music made us linger for awhile.

We limped into Henderson, KY this morning where the Downtown Diner sits within sight of the Ohio River. Our 29 speed bike was reduced to a five speed as the derailleur and poorly repaired chain reduced our shifting options. But there were few hills so we were fine. Later, as we approached our next destination, Owensboro, KY, the rain returned. We kept on riding and joking and laughing – saw our first tobacco field today and recalled all the places we have eaten on this trip where we were offered the choice – smoking section or back here with the trash cans?

We were just happy to have made it to a town with a bike shop! We sloshed across the city only to learn that the shop had moved to the Wal-Mart estate out on Hwy 54. The brush backs made that section of rainy Hwy 54 some of the most dangerous riding we have endured!

Yellow cab picked us up at the bike shop. The cab was yellow but the passenger door was white. Replacement parts. The driver said that Owensboro was “the third largest city in the United States.” I glanced at Jessica. He said Owensboro was a ghost town and he wanted to move to “Atlanta, Florida.” Jessica glanced at me. Why did I trust him when he said there were motels downtown along the river that we would like? Turns out there is no downtown in Owensboro. And it is hard to find the river. Ever turn around in a cab? Notice that the meter is still running?

No matter. Our bike is getting properly fixed. We will pick it up when the shop opens in the morning. We will eat well tonight. We are safe and happy and lucky. And now dry – in the third largest city in America!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Western Kentucky

Seriously?! Again...

The day started out perfectly. 5am wake up call. Drive back to Grand Rivers, KY with Uncle George after a fabulous stay in Carbondale with the most amazing massage of my life (thank you Carla and dad!!!). We quickly suited up and were ready to ride. The bike had supposedly been upgraded to Mercedes quality after spending all day yesterday in a shop to get tuned up and cleaned. As we rode off, we were feeling pretty good.

The first four hours of the day may have been my favorite of the entire trip. This country is beautiful. We climbed up one of the largest hills of our journey landing us on a ridge overlooking the ohio river and rolling fields of hay. Cows dotted the fields. Barns struggled to stay upright as they flowed into the creeping grass. Truly breathtaking (photos can now be viewed on my picasa account. The photo album is on the right side bar). As we rode we finished The Shock Doctrine and listened to John Denver croon folk songs of lost love and country roads. At one point we stopped for water and as we sat on the side of the road, the sun was shining on all sides of us, but it was raining large spread out drops on top of us. We laughed at the irony and kept our spirits high as we gathered our stuff to pedal on. We should have taken that as our first sign that our perfect day might be taking a turn on a different course.

We rode on. We smiled. We breathed in the scenery. For the first time in my life, I was truly giving Kentucky a chance and slowly falling for it (that is no slight to Kentuckians--> It's just that growing up in Ohio we are bred with such an attitude). Damn. The chain keeps falling off. Weird. Annoying. But not a deal breaker. We ride on. SNAP! And here we go again.

That is right. Our chain broke...AGAIN. We then spent the next three hours fixing the chain. Riding. Breaking the chain again. Fixing the chain again. Eventually we pedaled on with no water, 5 working gears and another 30 miles to go.

Objective A: find water. We stopped in front of a small white house covered in overgrown foliage. A dog was barking inside, so we figured someone had to be there. We knocked on the door. An older man with bulging red eyes screeched it open and stepped out on the porch. We asked for water. He shook his head and said his water is not drinkable because it has rust in it. He just got back from the store where had bought pop, but no water. We rode on. The next house we got to was a bit more pristine. The couple welcomed us in, filled our water bottles and shared a small window into their lives. They had recently retired from jobs of public service and spent their days enjoying life, each other and the wildlife in their yard. The man told us that he grew up hunting turkeys and deer among other animals, but he has recently stopped hunting. I inquired, "why?" He replied, "I don't know. We enjoy looking at the turkeys in our yard in the morning. They are so pretty." My dad joked that he had gone soft. He shook his head and chuckled in agreement. I'm glad to know that hunters go soft.

Objective B: Get to destination. We pedalled on in a more hydrated state. But of course after another 15 slow miles, a storm decided to roll in. A few drops of rain. Some wind. Downpour. Luckily, we stopped being able to see right as we rolled up to an abandoned feed mill. We spent 15 minutes with BJ and Darlene (a motorcycle couple) in the factory waiting out the storm. We were drenched and ready to be done, but I had fun playing photographer in the rickety old building.

Finally, the weather let up, and we screeched out the final 5 miles. Showers. Mexican food next to the Super Wal Mart. Bliss.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tandem at the Ball Park

PLAY BALL! But how can that be done without a ball? Tandem team to the rescue! The Cincinnati Reds called and have officially invited this daughter-father team to deliver the game ball to the pitcher's mound on Father's Day, Sunday, June 20. How cool is that?

cheapest motel quiz

All who know me also know that I do not like to waste money on fluff.

Post your guess as a comment and list lowest amount of money we have spent on a motel during this trip. Correct answer and best guess will be posted Monday night !

Need Your Help!

Blog Readers - We can use your help - We are getting spoiled staying with wonderful Carla and George Feldhamer today. Can you blog readers come up with any more home stays? The bike is getting a long overdue tune up so assuming we are on schedule we will be at the following -

Sunday 14th - Sturgis KY

Monday 15th - Owensboro KY

Tuesday 16th - Brandenburg IN

Wed 17th - Utica IN/Louisville KY area

Thur 18th - Sparta KY

Fri 19th - Near Group Ride start in Northern KY (claire - can you send details?)

If you want to share ideas directly email us at or


On the road video!

"There's Something Happening Here"

I will always be Dad. But as the Buffalo Springfield sang, “There’s something happening here.” Being Dad does not always mean being in charge or knowing more or being the strongest. Early yesterday afternoon my hammers stopped pounding. They floated on the pedals. They were jello. Who was doing a power surge back there? How did we get up that hill? Who was calling out those words of encouragement? Who was that gentle person checking in on me asking if I was OK? Jessica. Daughter. Energized and in charge. I knew enough to get us started on this trip. But she is getting it done. Today is a much needed day off. My back hurts. I may be a little slow as we start back on the road tomorrow. But that’s OK, Jessica is with me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ain't God Alright

(Delayed posting...)

There are several messages the south has given me. One thing I definitely know is that Jesus loves me. Several signs on telephone poles and churches have assured me of that. This morning a woman gave me a daily devotional over breakfast. I have learned not to mess with the devil because:

It is no exaggeration when I say that we have seen more churches than houses, especially when riding through Alabama. Naturally, I was compelled to attend one after passing so many. Thus our first Sunday we stopped into a small black Baptist church on the side of a county highway in smalltown, Alabama.

We arrived an hour late, but from what we could tell they had just been warming up. We popped in the back door, sweaty and in spandex. After a quizzical look from the ladies in white (the greeters), we explained we wanted to attend. They welcomed us in with smiles and encouraged us to go sit in the front. Feeling a bit out of place, we found our seats toward the rear.

Pastor Roberts was a small man. He walked with a confident uneasiness. His robes hung off his shoulders making him appear even more feeble than he was. While he was clearly the leader of the congregation, everyone pitched in to make the worship flow. When he thought it was time to do the offertory, it was really time for announcements. No problem. A man in the side pew simply hollered out, "wait, who's doing announcements?" A little lady in the choir came forward with a stack of papers and read all the church mail. It seems that it's Baptist Church homecoming season, and everyone has been invited to attend all the churches in the region. Worship is a full time job in June. The whole event seemed more like an informal family gathering than an orchestrated church service.

25 heads strong, they were not the best singers. The pastor was not the most charismatic. But there was soul in that small building. We witnessed the pep talk of the impoverished. Any intellectual would have quickly been deterred if she were listening closely to the words. But, this gathering was not about logic. It was about feeling. Love. God. Holding each other up. Community. I've been to lots of churches. I've studied religion. But what unfolded in the hour and a half we sat there was unlike any service I have ever attended. Any spoken words quickly transitioned into songs. People could not hold back harmonies, melodies and croons. The pastors sermon was actually a 30 minute Blues song. He sang us the book of Job. He sang us the troubles of the congregants. He sang to us of greed and contradictions.

"Ain't god alright...mmmm. If you want a mother to move... ain't god alright...yeeaa... having trouble sleeping oh yea...ain't god'll take any kind of job...mmmm.... ain't god alright.... ain't no jobs father... ain't god alright....mmmyea...."*
The community swelled as he sang. It was clear this was their lullaby. When he finished his "sermon", he giggled and apologized saying, "you know I always have to sing part of my song." I got the feeling this song is one that never ends. It was clear that my dad and I were not from this community. We did not know the songs and the stories. But that afternoon, we held hands with them. We introduced ourselves to inquisitive eyes. We belonged. As Pastor Roberts struggled to bring the service to a close, he blessed his church family and he gave us a special blessing as well. And just when we thought it was over, a little woman sitting off to the side stood up.
"I just have to share my song!" She said. She then proceeded to burst out with a strong declaration of sorrow and hope. The room pulsated. The beat carried us for the rest of the day. I struggled sitting in the pews. I felt upset and conflicted as everyone agreed when the pastor exclaimed that they had no power, that God was in charge. But, it was clear this was their power. This room. These songs. These clasped hands. As we rode off, everyone told us to come back again with a mutual understanding that this would probably be the last time we interacted. We thanked them for welcoming us and pedaled on humming their songs,

Riding down the country roads of Alabama.... mmmm...ain't god alright.

*I have actual audio clips from the church... but can't figure out how to put them on the blog-> please comment if you know how to do this

Just a little bit different

A few days ago I looked over at my dad and absentmindedly said, "When I get back to the states..." Today while sitting exhaustedly at the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area Visitor Center, my dad looked at me bewilderedly and noted, "I just had a moment when I felt like I was in a different country." This feeling has occurred to me several times while on this trip. And I think it is attributable to more than the cultural differences between the North and the South. I think it is us. We are spending everyday on a tandem bicycle averaging around 85 miles a day, wearing spandex and matching jerseys. We are the ones who don't fit in. Doing something like this, so out of the ordinary from average citizens makes us essentially representatives of a different country--Biketopia. My dad's breaking point at the visitor center occurred after witnessing several able-bodied people use the handicapped button to open the door for them. There is no handicap button for our bicycle. Our legs have to keep pedaling even when our minds want to stop. We speak about chains and derailers and sore butts. We don't interact with many people besides each other. And when we do... it is usually about the weather or how beautiful their land is. We are living in our own little subculture that makes us foreign wherever we go. People look at us funny. We sometimes have trouble communicating with the people we are talking to. We are just a little bit different.

Yesterday night and tonight are quite possibly the most comfortable nights of the trip thus far. Last night was spent at the Nolan House B and B with the jovial owner, Patrick. Patrick collects antique tractors, gave lectures on Jesse James at the local historical society and enjoys drag racing. He gave us a fabulous history lesson about the B and B and provided us witha fantastic breakfast spread at 6:30 this morning--that is service. Patrick's laughter was effusive and got us through many a hard patches in our 90 mile bike ride today. The true bait that kept us pedaling onward was knowing that my Uncle George would pick us up at the end of our ride and take us for a night in Carbondale, IL.

When his truck pulled up, my legs surrendered and my heart fluttered. Don't get me wrong. I am absolutely loving this trip, but a day off in the comfort of family was quite appealing. Surprisingly, I found the 90 mile trip in George's truck to be one of the more anxious moments of my past several days. I haven't exactly been riding at 70 mph. The speed terrified me. But, I just sat quietly in the back aware of how ridiculous my fear was. Upon arriving at a home cooked meal, I was more excited to be out of an automobile than in a house. Still, the food smelled great, and it was nice to launch into conversations with more than just my dad... though my dad is a superb conversationalist. Still, I feel a little uneasy. I feel a little guilt even. Shouldn't I be in a sleazy motel right now? Shoudn't I have my stuff tidily stacked ready to be packed and on the bike by 7?

What's that you say? My aunt got me a massage appointment for tomorrow? I can sleep in? I have time to get caught up on work? Oh my. I guess I'm back in America. The reprieve is nice. But, I'm glad we aren't done. I could use another week in Biketopia.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rising Gas Prices Don't Affect Us!

The South Alabamian

While treking up a hill out of Jackson, AL, a middle aged man with a camera around his neck waved at us and asked us to stop. We thought for a second as it did mean stopping in the middle of a hill, but we could not pass up the opporutnity. This was last Saturday. The weekly paper has been published. We subscribed so we could get the article in full. I have copy and pasted it below.

Riding the 'Railroad' Midwest cyclists make stop in Jackson on their ride advocating civil rights By Evan Carden SA Editor Father and daughter cycling team Al Gerhardstein and Jessica Gingold stopped in Jackson, June 4, on their way north toward their destination in Cincinnati, Ohio. The two are traveling the Underground Railroad trail in an effort to raise awareness about civil rights. (SA photo by Evan Carden) Al Gerhardstein and his daughter Jessica Gingold are traveling more than 1,200 miles to raise awareness about civil rights.
That may not sound unusual, but the fact they are doing it on a bicycle built for two (tandum) makes it unique.
Gerhardstein said although tandums offer the advantage of being powered by two people, there are certainly some challenges that go along with them as well. "For one, they are pretty heavy bikes, with a thicker and heavier frame than one-seaters," he explained. "That means there's more weight to move uphill."
The pair began their trek Wednesday, June 3, in Mobile. Arriving on a connecting flight from Atlanta, they spent their first day taking in some of the sites of the Port City.
They are riding on behalf of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, following the Underground Railroad trail, which served as an escape route for slaves seeking freedom.
The Ohio Justice and Policy Center, a nonprofit organization founded by Gerhardstein in 1997, is led by David Singleton and relies on civil rights laws to advocate for criminal justice reforms.
While Gerhardstein, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, has been on several long bike rides, this is Gingold's first time making such an extended trip on two wheels. "I have ridden on shorter rides around Chicago where I live, but have never been on one this far," she said.
Gerhardstein said he is proud to have his daughter with him. "I guess you could say it's kind of a bonding experience," he smiled.
One of the biggest challenges, according to the pair, are the bridges in this part of the country. "They are designed differently than those in other areas," said Gerhardstein. "Because the design was not completed with cyclists in mind, they especially present a challenge for tandums."
The father and daughter riders had an unexpected setback the second day of their trip, when their bike's chain broke, stranding them on a stretch of rural U.S. Highway 43. Luckily the staff at the Mobile bike shop, Cadence 120, where their tandum was shipped for the trip, was kind enough to send out an employee to assist them with repair of their bike.
The father and daughter team stopped in Jackson for the night, June 4, and struck out again June 5, heading up State Highway 69.
Stopping in front of Stave Creek Baptist Church, Friday, Gerhardstein explained why they began their trip in Mobile. "It was where the last slave ship from Africa disembarked," he said. "That last load of slaves was unloaded despite the fact that the importing of slaves had been outlawed some years before. We hope to discover a lot of history along the way."
The pair are hoping to finish their ride in Cincinnati by June 20, just in time to attend the first ever Civil Rights Major League Baseball Game, which will be played that night between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. Gerhardstein is a Reds fan while his daughter favors the White Sox. They plan to reach northern Kentucky by June 19, where they will be met by family and friends for a group ride into Cincinnati.
Folks can keep up with the pair's daily progress through posts on their blog site: http://civilrightsbikeride.blogsp Readers can post comments and view photos via links on the site. The father and daughter team are hoping people will respond with history about their towns and communities for them to share with others.


Here in Southern Tennessee (a state that did not secede), the Confederate flag is more visible than in the Deep South. Why? We passed many cars and businesses displaying the stars and bars as we arrived in Shiloh. That was troubling. But the grounds of this famous clash between generals Grant and Johnston rose up as a neutral, solemn space. Hundreds of acres of well groomed, now- peaceful, rolling hills. The overcast skies only added to the somber feeling we shared as we rolled up and down the battlefield markers. I told Jessica that the Civil War just seemed like one of those armed confrontations that could not be avoided. Diplomacy had been tried for years and finally failed. Through those efforts our core principles had been severely compromised as we continued the accommodation for slavery and fugitive slave laws that had been drafted into our constitution.

But the monuments we passed seemed to say so little. “These folks fought here…” Until we reached a large (18’) stone tablet with the symbolic figures of Death and Night at the top flanked by soldiers on each side. The Confederate monument. The most telling and honest in the park. Eager, inspired soldiers (before battle) on one side, dejected soldiers (after battle) on the other. Flanking the bust of their fallen general. The message was simple and appropriate. It did not promote the Southern Cause – it simply commemorated and honored those who fought for the Confederacy at Shiloh – and lost. I have visited many Civil War battlefields. Framed as this visit was by the crass and commercial flaunting of the CSA flag, we felt a stark contrast to the surrounding area. These are special places that remind us that the best way to honor the sacrifices of those who fought is to finish the work of promoting freedom for all. It was a special moment to share with Jessica.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I'm tired. Really tired. We've done two century or near century days in a row. Dogs were out today providing us with the opportunity to have several intervals of sprinting. My dad's theory on dogs is that they are sprinters and then tire out. So if we just pedal really fast, they will eventually give up. This has worked so far. The reason we don't use pepper spray is that my dad is convinced that if we hurt someone's dog, the owner will hunt us down and shoot us. So we pedal. fast. Today we also employed a yelling technique. When my dad yells, dogs cower. We stay safe.

Creative writing cannot flow in this fatigued state. But a quick brush stroke of our day. Rise early. Leave the Sunset Lodge, by far the sketchiest motel yet. Ride hard to get to Shiloh... two wrong turns allow the rain to catch us before we caught shelter. Drenched, we eat sandwiches from a gas station and then take in Shiloh.

Shiloh to Crump. Food. Friendly motorcyclists who offer us a place to stay... but driven on by impending bad weather tomorrow and a desire to spend a rest day with my aunt and uncle in Carbondale... we ride on. Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine is our new audiobook. It is absolutley fascinating. We are thoroughly distracted for the next four grueling hours. We are officially the nerdiest bikers ever. Comfy beds with quilts and a pizza buffet. aaaahhhh. SLEEP.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pedaling the John Rankin Highway

John Rankin’s Ripley, Ohio home stood as a beacon to slaves escaping from across the south. John was with us today. We pedaled the “John Rankin Highway” as we left Fulton and headed toward Moore’s Mill, Miss. A beautiful, wooded roadway, it takes little imagination to think of passengers on the Underground Railroad tracking the North Star as they moved through the area. They were headed to the Rankin Home near Cincinnati, hundreds of miles away. Cincinnati remains at the center of efforts to secure freedom. Ask Gene Mays. A client of OJPC, Gene has been drug free and crime free for many years. But the City of Cincinnati will not hire him because he has a criminal record. Gene deserves full restoration of his freedom to resume his place as a productive citizen. David Singleton and Stephen Johnson-Grove and the whole OJPC staff are conductors for Gene Mays on his path to freedom. Please remember this important work and help us use this ride to raise funds for OJPC and raise awareness about Gene Mays and the thousands just like him. Thank You!

Murmurs, cars and barks.

"Hey, where you guys going?" a teenage boy yelled from the side of the road where he congregated with a group of friends. We were on the move, but I turned around and managed to yell back, "Cincinnati!"

"Cincinnati?! Good luck..."

My favorite is when one person hears of our journey in a gas station and then while walking down another aisle I hear little murmurs, "did you hear that? They are going to Cincinnati on a bike!"

"Well, I'll be..."

Or when we were riding through Aberdeen yesterday, and a small boy said to himself as we rode by, "Damn. Now that's a bike!"

And everyone warns us to be careful. I'd be lying if I said it didn't unnerve me to hear the stories that people tell of cyclists who've been hurt. At Streeter's diner in Bay Minette the men at the table next to us warned about their friend who had already "run over two cyclists." Their friend was going to trial. Everyone we talk to "reckons we need to watch out for all them crazy drivers out there." It is true that we are a bit of an anomaly on these streets. But I think maybe our strange looking bike makes us a little safer... people need to slow down to take us in. For all those crazy drivers out there, there are plenty of kind and considerate ones as well.

The day that we ended up in Butler was a very hot day. It was day 3, allegedly the hardest day of a tour. We were feeling it. On the top of a hill we pulled off the road, layed the bike down on some grass and promptly collapsed to regroup. In a daze, we saw an SUV pull around. A man in the driver seat rolled down his window and lifted a bag of cold drinks offering us water and gatorade. Unfortunately in our state of exhaustion, we could barely muster up a thank you, let alone any enthusiasm. But, it was truly a godsend. That same day Larry Jones stopped his truck to check on us. He told us fun stories of other bicyclists he had encountered and gave us a recommendation of people who could help us find accomodations.

I've come to learn which drivers are the nice drivers and which ones are simply exhibiting transportationism. The nice drivers either go around peacefully or give a slight honk and wave as they pass. The not so nice drivers lay on the horn and occassionally throw us a middle finger as if to say, "I'm bigger, faster, and better than you...weirdos!"

The most knowing of creatures we seem to ride by are the cattle. I have made some mean eye contact with cows through the states of Alabama and Mississippi. They always seem to know when we are close and carefully survey us as we pass them by. The dogs are by far the scariest... much scarier than semis. The rule in the south seems to be "one dog is not enough." One day we literally encountered packs of nearly 10 dogs sprinting from their yards three separate times. We probably reach our top speeds when attempting to escape dogs.

Riding a bicycle is not boring, I reckon'.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lessons learned while hitchiking with a tandem

Did I tell you about the bulges on the back tire? A steady leak was located at the site of one of those bulges this morning. These bulges had been making me nervous the whole trip. So I installed the backup tire the man from the Mobile bike shop brought during our chain event. And off we went. For a while. I realized down the road that the tire was rubbing on the fork. The tire was too wide! I had looked up bike shops on the internet and there was a shop in Columbus, MS. We started hitchhiking and soon Johnny picked us up with his truck. We learned about his 12 siblings, three wives, three children (ages 31, 29 and 2). Johnny told us that crime and drugs and drinking are all rampant in Mississippi because no one is allowed to hit their kids anymore. He saw no hope for our youth.

As we got in cell phone range we called the bike shop. Out of business. Johnny left us at a gas station. I decided to switch the front and back tires as the front fork was a bit wider. Unfortunately, not wide enough. I reviewed the problem with a firefighter and showed him if I could just have the front wheel ride a bit lower in the frame we would be set. I was trying a duct tape plug but wanted something more solid. He returned a few minutes later with short pieces of sheet metal he had cut. They fit perfectly and the bike was usable again but without a front brake.

We made it to a spot where we could intersect Dave and Nick (other cyclists whom Jessica will blog about later) who had retrieved our bulging tire from the motel in Aliceville…as I thought it may be salvageable. They arrived. They also had a spare tire our size. Forget salvaging that tire with the bulges. They graciously shared their spare with us. Thank you Dave and Nick! Their tire works perfectly. But now the tire I had installed on the back seems to be developing bulges and may have a slow leak….Yikes! This bike is definitely not behaving. I know what Johnny would say. Of course bikes would mind us if we spanked them.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

This One is for the Ladies (No one else allowed...)

My butt hurts. My back is sore. I look like I'm wearing shorts when I'm naked. Pimples have sprouted in all the wrong places. I have a permanent sweat stink. My hair spends most of the day matted to my head. I have one outfit that isn't made of spandex. I did not pack any make-up. And I feel great. I am a woman.

Trust me, I did not ever think I would be doing this. Sure, I liked to play rough. I wanted to hang with the boys. But, I was a figure skater. Figure skating is one of the few sports that requires getting pretty before performing. Don't get me wrong. Figure skating is hard work. In fact, I think it is my 12 years of competitive figure skating that prepared me for this ride... and life.

We live in a very fast world. We eat fast food. We go to school and have to learn seven subjects in 7 hours. We e-mail instead of writing letters. We are used to instant satisfaction. You want it. You get it. Skating everyday for 3 hours a day was not fast. It was an endeavour of patience and persistence. I spent most of my time training and preparing for only a few opportunities to shine, if all went well(and often it didn't). Skating was not about winning. It was about the process. As is this bike trip. I am definitely excited about the moment I get to ride over the Ohio river with friends and family by my side. But, that is only part of this journey.

Each day I am learning more about the joy and satisfaction that comes with slowness. I get to pedal through sweet smells of magnolia trees and roadkill. I get to feel pain and work through it. I have come to look forward to the occasional wave from front porch sitters to give me that extra ounce of energy up the hill. At the end of each day I feel like I have truly accomplished something. What I have accomplished is more than the number of miles I've covered or the calories I've burned. It's more than I can put into words. So, slow down. It may be a good thing to get involved in sports, relationships, ideas, games, groups that take time. There is power that comes from sitting with something for a while and letting it grow in you and with you. I am growing.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Rest Day

It's easy to get caught up in the drive. Growing up as the youngest daughter in a family of do-ers has been one of the greatest igniters in my life. If my brothers could do it, you better believe I was going to do it, preferably better. I could not stand when the boys and dad would go off on a birding trip or backpacking trip and leave me at home. But being 4 and 6 years younger than my brothers inevitably led to times I just wasn't ready for the adventure.

Still, I have been on my fair share of end of the world expeditions. It is fun. The exhilaration of doing something a little beyond rationality. Yesterday when we decided to press on despite not knowing where we would stay, my dad looked over at me and said, "Are we stupid?"
"Yes," I said.
And we smiled and biked out of Jackson.

Going to the end of the world is for the soul, the bonding experience, and of course the ego. The body sometimes has other ideas. My body spoke up last night. After two 90 mile days, countless hills, and rain coming in every direction, my achilles tendons felt it. I've never had achilles tendon pain before, and of course my first instinct was... It'll be fine- PRESS ON! But upon further reflection, we have decided to stay in Butler, Alabama today and rest.

My incredible dad got up at 6am and spent the first few hours of the day researching achilles tendonitis. We have been reaching out to all who know anything on the subject all day and are enacting several solutions.

1. Change position of cleat
2. Tape ankles
3. Slight lowering of seat
4. Rest, Ice, Ibuprofen

We are open to any other advice out there. Tomorrow we are going to move on, but with the option to do a much shorter day than our norm depending on the pain. It's fun to get caught up in the drive, but not when the body gets left behind. So, today... today I am listening to my body. Suprisingly, I am missing the bike. It's crazy how quickly such an undertaking can infect you.

Also, new photos have been uploaded to our flickr account:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Proud of my Daughter

Jessica is tough. We have had three days of rain. Our derailleur was not working on the climbs. We had many climbs. And there was only fast food when we stopped for breakfast this morning. A call ahead to the one motel in our destination town revealed that the place was closed. And it was only 10:30 a.m. Do we stop for the day and regroup? Do we press ahead and hope it will all work out? When she was a little girl Jessica would have cried when the day did not go just right. Not today. She helped attack all of the problems. We have a tradition in our family of “going to the end of the world” when making such choices. So we pressed ahead. The hills continued but the rain let up and we even saw the sun in the late afternoon. We reached a spot twenty miles out from our destination. I started negotiating for a ride to a town beyond our cycling capacity that had lodging. But Jessica learned of a motel in a town 14 miles off route and even figured the route for the next day to get us back on track. We went to her town. She is tough. And tired. And will be asleep very soon. I am proud of my daughter.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cincinnati Enquirer

We've made it into the news!

Check out the Cincinnati Enquirer article online.

Broken Chain

The soft sound of the wind is broken only by the many robins who call to each other from the woods on each side of the road. That would be the dense woods; the deep woods - the woods that we will call home while stay here at roadside with a broken chain. We have no engine on a tandem. Only our legs. But the big bike goes nowhere without a chain. And ours just busted as we powered up a hill in the middle of nowhere. The chain tool is at home. I just tried a pliers. No luck. A chain tool is one of those special tools about which cyclists say, “Don’t leave home without it.” Oh well. Jessica just calculated the time by which we must leave if we are to reach the next town with a place to stay. We do have a tent but prefer not to go that route. So we wait. For what? For Keith. Who’s Keith? The young man at the bike shop back in Mobile. The boss let him run a private errand and we have negotiated the purchase of a bike tool, a roadside repair and the purchase of a new back tire as I see we now have a bubble emerging on the back tire. At least we have cell phone coverage here! So all things are possible – and we will be rolling soon enough.

After extended rains we are finally getting some better weather. And we are leaving the extended Mobile suburban scene. Less traffic. More nature. We saw road kill several armadillo yesterday and today saw turtles basking on logs in the sun and several snakes along the road. This is beautiful country.

We started listening to “Bound from Canaan” on the IPod. This is a book about the Underground Railroad. We learned about Isaac Hopper. He was a Quaker and was active in the fight against slavery in the late 1700’s. His first choice was to use the law. That sounded familiar. He used the law to challenge what was then the status quo. Slaves were everywhere. North and South. But the Quakers knew this was wrong. No matter that the majority community accepted slavery as a normal aspect of everyday life. He and a few others set about to tell the majority community that slavery was intolerable. We are learning about court battles and extraordinary efforts to free people when those cases were lost. But on some cases Hopper prevailed and precedent moved ahead toward more arguments to expand liberty. Read about OJPC. Quietly OJPC is challenging the status quo. A prison population that is 50% black is intolerable. A prison population that exceeds 55,000 in this state is intolerable. Treating as criminal many acts that are driven by drug dependence is intolerable. Sweeping into the criminal system drug addicts and mentally ill folks and then doing little to help them conquer their underlying problem is intolerable. Hopper is an inspiration. David Singleton is too. But the chain is still broken…

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Real Day 1: Mobile to Bay Minette

I am overloaded with stories, thoughts, feelings and exhaustion. Thus, this one is going to have to be brief. My dad warned me that during the first week of a bike trip night productivity is rare. I feel that the satisfaction of sleep in bike riding world is comprable to the satisfaction of a good night with friends in social Chicago world.

Today was not a very long day in miles, but it was day 1. With day 1 comes the tweaks and twitters of getting body, mind, machine and gear in line. We biked 47 miles today. Most of it was in the rain. Most of the time we were being passed by fast cars and even a good number of semis. This is not the scenic biking we are hoping to encounter soon. We biked somewhat out of our way after being thrown off by Mobile's highways and suburbs, but we eventually made it into Bay Minette in time for lunch and my dad's afternoon conference call.

It was during lunch that I really felt Alabama. The waitress called me sugar. The men at the table next to us fought for 15 minutes about which roads we should bike on. I overheard a wonderful conversation about the role of biscuits in causing high blood pressure. Anecdotes abound. Eyelids are heavy. Tomorrow's forecast is thunderstorms. Our plan: 87 miles. Here's to hoping.

I'm working on making a map that tracks our progress. Click here for now, but eventually I hope to get it into the blog.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 1: Cincinnati, OH to Mobile, Alabama

(everything we need for the next 18 days!)

Mobile, Alabama is one of those places we have all heard about, but how many people from the North have given it serious thought? My dad and I definitely had not. I commented that we would likely be in a tiny plane from Atlanta to Mobile... my dad argued that it is a real city, so maybe not. It turns out Mobile is small. The airport does not have underground trams. People can park their cars infront of baggage claim to wait for their relatives' arrivals. The downtown is charming, but largely empty. Given that Mobile is the biggest city we will see until Lousiville, KY, we decided to stay a night and take in the culture and sights.

Our cab driver had an aura of someone who just knows things. He loaded our gear and we asked him to take us to Cadence 120, the bike shop where our tandem had been shipped. As we drove to the bike shop, the cab driver mused on life in Mobile, the places to find the best seafood and the virtues of being a good person. "You know," he said, "You may not get everything you want when you do things the right way, but you'll be able to go to sleep every night with a clear conscience. That's all I need."

Brad at Cadence 120 had fixed our bike up nice. We spent a good hour tweaking every last part. I made friends with Brad's 9 year old son who was going on a tandem ride with his father this Saturday! It seems father-child tandem rides are all the rage. When all was set, and our 55 pounds of gear was masterfully loaded onto the bike, we set off to ride the 8 miles into downtown Mobile. The ride itself was uneventful, but a nice way to ease into the trip. We set ourselves up in the lap of luxury, also known as the Hampton Inn--likely the most plush accomodation of our trip, and then headed out to take in the sites. Seafood sandwiches, old beautiful buildings, a less than romantic waterfront and the Museum of Mobile rounded out our day. At the Museum we were able to get a history of this once cosmopolitan city. Mobile was the capital of French America from 1702-1760. It has since been occupied by the British and the Spanish, til it became part of the United States after the war of 1812. In 1860, shipyard owner Timothy Meaher importated the last slave ship, The Clotilda, into Mobile despite the fact that importing slaves was banned in 1808.

Tomorrow morning we will ride with the sun rising from the corner of Royal and St. Louis Streets, the site of one of the busiest slave markets of the south. We look forward to learning more about the South and the struggles for freedom and justice that paint its history.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Group Ride-In Detail!

We are training our minds, bodies and souls for this upcoming ride... and there is nothing we would love more than finishing the ride with our friends, family and supporters by our side.

Day: Saturday, June 20

Starting point: Pendrey Park in Melbourne, KY.

Directions from downtown Cincinnati: Take I-275 to Exit 75A, Alexandria Exit. Go south on US 27 about 1 mile -- turn left onto Rt. 1998 (Industrial Road). Follow to end and turn right onto Rt. 8. You will go 3.8 miles to Pendrey Park.

Meeting time: 9am

We will be meeting at Pendrey Park and riding to Sawyer Point in Downtown Cincinnati. We will provide rides back to your car after the ride. If you need a ride out to Pendrey Park in the morning, please let us know, and we will make arrangements.

Suggested contribution: $20 (please bring any contributions on the day of the ride. Cash or checks made out to OJPC.

For more information: Please contact Claire Fischer ( or 513-421-1108 ext. 15).

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Shake Down Ride

We drove down to Beecher, IL, a small town about 45 minutes south of Chicago. The car was loaded; our spirits high. The plan was to find a place to park the cars in Beecher, pile onto the tandem and ride 70 miles to Plymouth, IN where my dad's college friend lives in a beautiful country home. We drove into the parking lot of the firehouse and quickly made friends. My dad is a pro at country relationships. I think it comes from his farm roots. He is a master of small talk that is fully genuine. The fire chief gladly let us park our cars in the parking lot behind the station. After multiple laps around the parking lot, adjusting seat heights between each lap, we were off.

The first day went relatively smooth. The second hour in we were dumped on by some driving rain, but soon after planted ourselves in the Country Kitchen in Hebron, Indiana. There we were warmed by bottomless cups of coffee, crisp home fried potatoes, eggs and a spritely middle aged waitress with big blond bangs who excitedly shared with us her recent affinity for biking with her mother-in-law. But she "sure can't bike as long as we can." After being reset, we had a successful afternoon biking country roads. Nearly every time we stopped for a break, a car driving by would slow and ask if everything was ok. I was struck by the contrast to city life...where I fell off my bike a month ago on a busy street in the late afternoon and no one even slowed down.

In our last couple hours of day one, we got ambitious and decided to try listening to the Ipod with a headphone splitter. Like any daddy-daughter combo biking cross-country we chose to listen to a This American Life episode. We put on one from a long time ago titled, "Life after Death." After the intro, I knew it was a bad idea, but we couldn't stop listening. The first story was about how 6 boys got struck by lightning at a summer camp and died. That one shook us up, but we kept listening. The next story was about the guilt of a driver who had hit a 16-year-old cyclist and killed her. That one was just bad. I officially decided there is nothing worse to do while biking on a road than listening to a story about a cyclist being hit by a car. We listened to the whole story, and only later on in the evening did we acknowledge what a horrible experience that was.

Despite the unfortunate stories, we made it to Plymouth unscathed. We were treated to warm showers, a walk in the woods, a multi-course dinner--the works. The bar has been set very high for future homestays. The next morning, with bananas in bellies, we set off at the crack of dawn. The idea was to beat the wind. We had 35 miles under our belts before breakfast and were feeling pretty jazzed.

Then, we encountered what my dad referred to as, "the hardest biking day ever." We spent the next four hours battling head winds that gusted at 30 mph. Tunes of Godspell and Rent helped in the beginning, but after a while we had to turn off the tunes and focus on each push. We were literally pedaling through marshmallows. As if the wind weren't traumatizing enough, we witnessed a killing that day. We were coming up over a small hill with a car heading toward us on the other side of the road. I heard a short squeaky noise, "eeep," followed by my dad grunting out, "that was gross." I looked to my left and saw the car roll on leaving a paralyzed, anguished squirrel in its path. The squirrel's searching eyes remain with me. I have a feeling we will encounter many killings and searching eyes in June.

Overall, the shake down ride was a success. We faced all the elements with grace and couldn't be more excited for our next ride! I remarked to my dad that surprisingly I did not get bored at all. I think the civil rights bike ride will provide some wonderful reflection and meditative time that is much needed for city-dwellers like us. If you'd like to see pictures of the ride, click here. We will upload photos to the flickr site as we go. Here's to an adventure!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Please Support our Journey!

Picture this - A dad (Al). His daughter (Jessica). A tandem bike. And roadways tracing the Underground Railroad from Mobile, Alabama to the Ohio River and Cincinnati.

We are pedaling the entire 1200 miles and will finish in time for the MLB “Civil Rights” baseball game, Cincinnati Reds (Al’s team) vs. Chicago White Sox(Jessica and President Obama’s team)!
Join us virtually, as we blog daily! Join us physically when we arrive in Northern Kentucky on June 19 for a group ride into Cincinnati. Join us emotionally as we leave from the dock where the last slave ship from Africa disembarked, and as we ride through the Civil War battlefield at Shiloh. Join us joyfully, as we meet and enjoy people across the South who will be wondering what that old guy in Lycra and a Reds Jersey and that hot number in a White Sox Jersey are doing on that odd looking bike???? We will have fun! We will learn much civil rights history. And we will share it all with you!

This Civil Rights Bike Ride will support the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, a nonprofit founded by Al in 1997 and led by the dynamic David Singleton that relies on civil rights laws to advocate for criminal justice reforms. Your gift of $20, $50, $100 or whatever you can spare will help us make this ride a real success! Donate online or send your check today to 215 E. 9th St., Suite 601, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Thank You Very Much and stay tuned!