Wow! I can’t say that enough. This past weekend the SnR Youth Cyclists completed their first 50 mile ride of the season from Chapel Hill to Asheboro, NC. This also happened to be the first 50 miler for our new recruits this year. They all performed marvelously! Again, I can’t say that enough.
The day started off in typical fashion for SnR. The veteran cyclists know this to be a ritual: schedule a start time and blow past that time by 2-3 hours when checking bikes and gathering loose items and waiting for all the cyclists to arrive! Normally, it’s not that bad but for this special trip, where the cyclists will be mimicking a day in the life of an adventure cyclists, we were overly committing of our time then we decided to wait for Bob who had a previous appointment. With that done we headed out at Noon a whole FOUR hours beyond our start time and started out on our 5.5 hour journey (at least that’s what Google Maps predicted the trip would take).
It began with our normal route to Maple View Farm Ice Cream store on Dairyland. Then we headed east on Dodsons Crossing. Everything looked familiar because we used this route for our 30milers. We started to get into uncharted territory when we hit Staley, NC. When we stopped for breaks we realized how warm it was. The day’s ride was a beautiful 70 degrees and the breeze kept us cool along the way. As the day wore on the length of time we were cycling started to weigh heavily on Kate, one of our new youth cyclists. She’s physically fit but cycling uses a different set of muscles and those muscles were getting tired.
Houston, Rich and I continued to stay with her and traded turns in offering encouragement while the other group continued on their pace and soon were out of sight.
Suepinda and I are especially proud of Houston as he’s one of, if not, the strongest cyclist of the group and he stuck with Kate the whole way.
I don’t know how it happened but it did (Rich agrees he doesn’t know how it happened). I saw on the route sheet where it said left and we went right. So, 40 minutes later when we saw the same highway that we had already passed I knew we had gone into a humongous circle! We obtained directions from a nearby pedestrian who gave us good directions (hindsight being 20/20) but also vague directions. Seeing a passing police car I waved it down for directions and the officer was kind enough to pull into a church parking lot to review a map. When I walked up to it he was not longer in the car. Turns out when he pulled up there was a person behind the church that took off running so he gave chase.
When he returned he instructed me to bear right at NC 22 then bear right again and maybe another bear right at NC 22 then on to Cedar Falls Rd. He mentioned a factory that we’d be passing and so on. As it were, there were three bear rights and there was a factory (we saw the burned out factory) but it was not to the one he was speaking of. So, at the top of a hill we called in our lifeline and rode back down the hill to our agreed upon meeting place. We were done for the night. But, not exactly. Turns out that the tents we rented were in the OTHER CAR!
You could say we had our lessons for the day: Start early and make sure you have all of your equipment. LoL.
The next day the youth cyclists awoke in good spirits had breakfast and were on the road by 8:00am making the journey back. This time around I was driving the support vehicle, preparing lunches and water and Suepinda was cycling HER first 50 miles. Kate rode the first 23 miles then joined me in the van for encouragement and questions and answers. I let her know that she needn’t worry and eventually her “will” will overcome her muscles and do what they’re told during this tour. And that muscle memory will win out and all this will be easy for her. That’s exactly how it was for me.
The ride back took about 7 hours but it was relaxed and full of breaks. All of the youth cyclists were happy when they finished and were looking forward to the next training ride.
All of you fellow cyclists if you could remember when you first started cycling serious distances and what got you through it please offer words of encouragement to new cyclists Kate, Khin, Sammy, Damaris and the other veteran cyclists. Not that she’s discouraged but everyone can use words of wisdom every now and then.
Today we finally made it into Buffalo, NY. Honestly, it was very surreal to me that we had actually made it to NY. It felt like yesterday we were unloading the bikes for the first time in Mobile, Alabama. I couldn’t believe it, we are one day away from finishing our journey.
We started the day off with a pretty easy ride. It was flat and the weather was cooler than usual. I liked the atmosphere of NY so far. We rode to Michigan Street Baptist Church in Buffalo where they would hide escaped slaves right before they would try to cross over to Canada. We got a tour of the church and part of the city from a man named Kevin Cottrell, a local historian and tour guide. He was really passionate about the UGRR and knew a lot of history. He said he really admired us for doing this because he had traveled the UGRR many years ago but it was in a van not on bikes, like us. I thought that was pretty cool. He really knew things that I had never heard about from a teacher or read in a textbook. In my opinion talking to people and really listening is the best way to learn.
The day ended with us driving to another Quaker family’s home. David and Molly were so very nice. David’s wife was pregnant with their first child and still welcomed us into their home. We tried to help her out as much as possible. We didn’t want her doing too much at all, so we washed the dishes for her and I helped her cook breakfast. Anything we could do to help out we did. After everything was done we all fell asleep on the floor watching napoleon dynamite.
We finally made it. It took 32 days and countless amounts of pedaling, but we did it. We made it through everything and got to Niagara. We were looking across the falls at the place where enslaved people traveled hundreds of miles on foot to freedom. Some of our ancestors took on the challenges of traveling the UGRR so they could make a better life for themselves and the families. Present and future. I wish I could go back in time and thank them, but I can’t so hopefully I’m honoring them and making them proud by being one of the first youths to cycle the trail they walked. At the moment when we reached the falls I felt so proud of myself, and also my SnR family. We made it together.
It was a tough journey but I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it with such a great group of friends.
July 4th Chris Kings Island, Ohio
Today after weeks of riding in the hot sun we finally had a chance to have some fun! We went to Kings Island in Ohio. We were all very and excited and well rested because we stayed in the Embassy Suite hotel the night before. The rooms were so comfortable and breakfast we good and hot.
The start of the day was great so I knew the day could only get better but actually after breakfast things got a little bad. Kevin lost his phone and we had to wait for 30 minutes for him to realize that it was in the side pocket of the car and then it began to rain kinda hard. I thought the park would be closed for the day and our entire day would be ruined, but when we got to the park the rain stopped and we got in with no problems.
Since the 4th of July wasn’t a day off of work for Kevin he was forced to stay back and work while we had fun. I felt kinda bad because Kevin works hard during the bike rides and after the rides he doesn’t get a break. He stays up later than everyone to work. He stays up the latest and gets the least amount of sleep. He never really has any down time. I’m very thankful that Kevin makes those types of sacrifices to make this possible for all of us. I hope the others in the group know how hard he works.
I was so happy to finally walk through the gates and be able to not worry about how many miles we were doing today or how hot it was outside. It was nice to be care free for a few hours. When we first walked into the park we all decided to ride a roller coaster as a group instead of splitting up for the entire day. We decided to ride the BEAST. It’s the oldest wooden roller coast in the world, I think. I’m actually pretty terrified of roller coasters but love the thrill they give me. Houston and I actually felt the same way about most of the roller coasters so we decided to ride the first one together. We were both so scared but after the first drop Houston began screaming and making the funniest faces. He made me laugh so hard I wasn’t even afraid of the roller coaster anymore. The entire day was just fun there was no drama and the lines were short so we didn’t have to wait very long at all. It was a really good day.
Spoke ‘n Revolutions Youth Cycling UGRR Tour 2011 ~ Visit the nation’s National Parks. Let’s Move Outside!
Today we stayed at Kevin’s sister’s house (Ms. Lene) in Memphis Tenn. When we got there she was cooking on the grill. It was nice to stay in a home with air conditioning and eat a home cooked meal. I was feeling home sick and having those things made me feel a little bit closer to home.
Ms. Lene invited some other friends over to her house and we conversed and just relaxed. One of her friends brought 3 foster children with her. I started a conversation with one of them. While talking to this little boy he told me a few things about himself. When we were talking he seemed indifferent about a lot of things. I tried making him laugh but he really didn’t smile that much. I don’t know if that was because I was just corny or just because he was shy, but he just looked a little sad to me. It may been the absence of his parents, or something simpler but after seeing him like that I really appreciate my mother a lot more. I find it funny that from just talking to this kid for a few minutes he taught me a lot.
After a good nights sleep we took a day off from riding and went to the Lorraine Motel, home of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. This is were Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed. When you first walk in the museum you see a wall of many famous people that visited, at one point. There were some very big names on the wall, such as Bill Gates, George Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Common. I was very surprised to see that these celebrities would take time out of there busy schedules to visit the museum. But then, we did, too. After seeing that we were in good company I knew the museum would be good, and I was correct. I was amazed to see video and pictures in the actual exhibit. In the museum they had a model of the bus Ms. Rosa Parks sat on and refused to give up her seat. You could actaully get on the bus, and when you sat in certain seats it would trigger a recorded voice to say some of the things rosa parks and other african americans were forced to hear when they got on public buses. I thought that was one of the best parts of the museum. In school the only way you learn in some classes is from out of text books. Its repetitive to read sentence after sentence everyday. Going to the museums and things like that are more fun and active ways to learn. I wish we did more stuff like that in school.
Todays ride in Decatureville TN was full of hills. The up and down kind, of course. It didn’t make it any better that it was very hot and there were bugs every where. At this point in the trip I’m used to riding in the hot sun and going uphills, but no matter how long I live I will never be used to being around bugs, or bees!!
While on the ride I caught a flat tire and had to change it on the side of the road in front of a local small burger joint. While changing my tire a man comes up and approaches Itza, Kevin and I. He invites us inside for a cheese burger, but we have to respectfully decline his offer because we need to make it to the camp site. When my tire is fixed and we make it to the camp site we all begin talking to this other man who has lived the area for many years. He tells us that the area actually is one of the most racist in the state, and even in the nation. I was very surprised to hear that, when just 15 minutes ago the cook from the restaurant offered us food. I told him that and he was surprised, too. Maybe the guy just wanted our service, maybe he wanted to spit in our food, or maybe he just didnt take part in the racist actions around him. I didnt know, and never found out because we didnt go there for dinner. Better safe than sorry, I guess.
After the ride today we stayed at the River View campground. I was tired, but that changed after I saw the basketball courts and the lake. When we first got there the boys went to the basketball court and played with one of the local kids. He was pretty good. We played a couple of games and it began to get a little late, but the boys weren’t tired and wanted to go to the lake, so we did. While there we all stood around looking at the water and feeling it to see the temperature. All of a sudden Mahlique takes his clothes off and runs into lake. After that we all did the same. It was fun swimming around alone in the lake with my crew. It was a drama free fun filled day until we got out of the lake. While we were changing back into our dry clothes a little girl called Kyvon the “N” word. I don’t know exactly how it happened but I just heard that word come out of her mouth and I was appalled. Its sad because since the girl was like, 7 years old and didn’t know any better it shows us that she is a product of her environment. Meaning her parents probaly encourage or tolerate her racist acts. Its crazy how some people can be so ignorant in 2011. We couldnt even retaliate because one, she was a girl and two, she honestly didn’t know any better. The only thing we could do was walk away and ignore her ignorance. She completely changed our day.
Today Mahlique’s cousins came and camped out with us since we were in Indiana. I was so excited to see them because they treat me like their son and they’re just fun to be around. I never stop laughing when they’re around. It was nice to see some new but familiar faces for once, since I’m with the same 8 people 24 hours a day every day. We camped out and made hot dogs. It was a nice atmosphere.
To get to the campground we had to bike 85 miles! That is the most miles any of us have ever done in one day. It was crazy! We were all tired, but we found energy to be social with Mahlique’s family, that wasn’t hard though because they are all fun to be around.