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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!