Having a last little time to ourselves since school has begun.
As Promised, Niagara Falls, NY
I awoke first again, almost for the last time of this tour. I’m sure I’ll awake first Saturday morning, as well. I walked through the wonderfully creaky and beautifully spacious home of David and Molly and set myself up to blog.
It wasn’t long before Rich was up to join me. After a few pleasantries and light conversation we were nose deep in our work. Rich doing his thing and I, mine. Shortly after, Bob arrived and talk of the day’s events, politics, religion, and “Sarah Bachman” were in full swing.
|The 30 min Goodbye
It wasn’t long before bets were laid as to when we would actually be ready to leave our gracious hosts and head to Niagara Falls. It was now 08:30am. Bob placed the time at around 10:30am, I said 10 and Rich gave no opinion. Later, Bob modified his guess to 11:00. We actually left at 11:30.
The flipped egg breakfast was cooked up by Rich and garnished by Molly with fixins of craisins, walnuts, english muffins, butter, cream cheese, donuts(?), juice, water, milk and of course, Quaker Oatmeal. The breakfast was comparable to, if not better than, any hotel restaurant could have provided. As a matter of fact, come to think about it ( I said it before to someone else along the route) we pretty much had a Bed and Breakfast Tour almost every day of this tour. As for the food, it was delicious.
It is now 11:00. We are outside gathering our bikes together and mapping the route to Niagara Falls. There’s supposed to be a route that we can take that is pure bike path. Bob didn’t think it was possibleand chose not to lead the ride for the first time. So, for this day Rich lead the team and I brought up the rear. We were using Google Maps to get us there. No tried and true Adventure Cycling maps were available.
The bike path was nice. It rode along the water and gave astounding marina views. We were having a great time enjoying the comfortable ride with even pavement and nothing to worry about but other cyclists also enjoying themselves.
It wasn’t long before Kyvon ran off the path. We giggled as this has become a staple in the rides. His falling off his bike is like the sun rising in the morning. You know its going to happen even if you don’t always know exactly when. Five minutes later he was flying over his handlebars because his foot became stuck in his front wheel spokes while trying to fit his foot into his pedal stirrup. We all rushed to his aid to ensure he was alright; he was. With that relief laughter rose from everyone; Kyvon included as he explained what occurred.
The boys who were lagging behind sped ahead as Rich suggested that they take the lead. They were confident that the ride would be all bike path so they zoomed ahead only to return a short while later to inform us that the bike path would end a few hundreds yards up. Now, we had to double back.
We went back far enough to see where we should have made a right turn. This took us off the bike path and onto the surface streets of bicycle friendly Buffalo. Soon we found ourselves winding our way around people, sidewalks and trolley cars until we got back to the Marina. There the bike path picked up again and we thought we were home free. But that ended, too.
Back on surface streets we road the sidewalks of Buffalo and Takawanna. By the time we checked the GPS we realized that we were still 20 miles (by bicycle) away from Niagara Falls; not even approaching Grand Isle, yet. We’ve already been on the road for 2 hrs. This was turning into another LONG day. We pressed on. This was not turning out to be the Grand Finale of the tour due to the mishaps we were having. As we moved forward as a group word came that Kyvon had fallen behind and Chris was with him. As I doubled Chris told me that Kyvon’s spokes had broken. After inspecting the damage I assessed that there were three spokes broken and one bent. He could not continue with this amount of damage.
After calling Suepinda to come pick us up I asked how did Kyvon’s spokes become broken. Chris confessed that his pedal touched Kyvon’s back wheel breaking the spokes.
After Suepinda arrived we packed the van and headed into the Falls by car. Not as momentous as we would have liked but arriving in Niagara Falls, nonetheless. As I stayed in the van working and watching the bikes the Youth Cyclists had a fantastic time at the Falls. The took the tour of the Maid of the Mist and enjoyed EVERY dripping moist moment of it. The collected souvenirs and came back to tell me of the joys they had.
Leaving Niagara we went to eat at Cheeburger, Cheeburger. You guessed it, a burger restaurant. Everyone had a great dinner and finished it off with a delicious shake that had 1001 combinations!
With everyone fed we moved on down the road to get as far as we can before taking in a hotel/motel for the evening. As I type it is 2:30am and we are bedded down in the Days Motel in Meadville, PA. I’m done for the day/night. I think I’ve finally caught up to this blogging thing.
Thanks to the National Park Service for assisting us in making this happen. Our wonderful and many donors who gave generously and from the heart. We are forever grateful to you. Thank you to the webosphere and families for your support, comments and following us on this magically adventurous trek through middle America. An America they refuse to show us on the ID 10-T box. Your America. My America. And the wonderful, kind and giving people in the stretch of land that has been labeled the Underground Railroad.
Let’s Move Outside!
Leaving Sara’s Campground.
I awoke to a beautiful sunrise on the lake.
Blogged a little until my battery ran down (there’s no quick access to power on the beach) and awoke the Youth Cyclists at 7am.
Breakfast was of champions (because our cyclists are champs) but the fear of birds and their droppings ruled the morning. While getting ready for the day we fixed other cyclists’ bikes (a ReCYCLEry Mobile Repair Day). To show their gratitude they rode with us to the top of the hill outside the camp.
The ride was (another word for great) and 68*-73* . Fantastic! We crossed the New York state line today.
After I got in the van to start work the riders continued on. Bob moved at a comfortable 16 mph pace but even at that speed one delay puts you 1/4 mile behind. Soon, he was far ahead but the group continued on at their comfortable pace. Suepinda, Ibn and I headed to the campground. We passed Bob waiting patiently for the rest of the group. While waiting, he attended a vintage car show and saw many cars. He was in Bob heaven.
Last night was COLD.
Let’s Move Outside!
Heading to Pennsylvania
Leaving Woodside Lake Park Marshall was carrying the tools as I was driving the van today to give Suepinda a much needed break. He commented that since he was carrying the tubes and pump someone was going to get a flat. Little did he know of the power of words but he soon found out. Before they were out of the campsite it was Marshall who “caught” the flat. After a quick change (as quick as could be) they were off again and so were we.
Our first stop was Burton, OH. We were allowed to stop at the Chamber of Commerce’s maple syrup and candy store. We were told that many cyclists make their stop there. Its a large park in the round in the middle of the city. Great view of all around and a stopping point for many people driving through.
Driving out of Burton and into the countryside we saw many people of the large Amish community living simply and doing a good job at it, too. The boys took a picture with three cute boys who were standing by the roadside watching us and the cars go by.
The Youth Cyclists were rained on once again when a sudden storm summer loomed up on the horizon. The storm came quick and hard in these parts (well, everywhere, I guess. But its worse when you’re on a bike). They sought shelter from a friendly neighbor who allowed them to use his barn to wait out the rain. There was another cyclist who was not so fortunate (SnR Style, again) standing by the roadside drenched. We didn’t get a picture as it would have been uncomfortable to do so and we were searching out the barn where our cyclists were staying dry. But he was an older gentlemen, fitting the demographic of most adventure cyclists of 50 plus, in years. He told us he was from Pennsylvania. Wow. We will do that someday.
The rain let up and the Youth Cyclists continued onward. At the next rest stop it was cold for some but they would be getting off the road and onto bike trails this last section straight to the campsite Safe House for the evening.
With little to do at this place but camp we required that they blog and catchup. lights went out early this evening so that we could force them to go to sleep. Some were exhausted due to the rain while others tried to fight fatigue and play games or text. We took away electronic
instruments and they all went to sleep. Just like at home with my kids.
Let’s Move Outside!
Culmination of a Summer of Change
Its the 29th day of this extraordinary trek for the Spoke ‘n Revolutions Youth Cyclist Team! They have made it to Buffalo, NY. Next stop Niagara Falls, NY to bring the whole tour to a close. This was a journey of them “coming of age” as the next step for these fine young adults will be considered adulthood. Houston and Mahlique turned 17 during this trip. Chris, Kyvon and Itza are already 17, Marshall will be 17. Ife, who turned 18 just before the trip, and Ibn, who is 19, are already considered adults in the eyes of the state. But we all know there is so much more to being an adult than the number of your age. Our desire is that they take the lessons learned and the accomplishments made on this tour and continue to develop into the exemplary adults that their current trajectory is bound to take them.
There was a hidden cost that was paid to be on this trip. It wasn’t hidden in the fine print, not posted high and above to dissuade you but just a “back in the mind” understanding that it wouldn’t be easy. The Youth Cyclists have endured cramped van rides, 100* temperatures, cramped legs, muscle fatigue, mental fatigue, themselves, each other, irritability, dog chases, rain, broken bicycles, broken skin, blood, 80 mile rides, racist individuals, birds, bugs, and HILLS.
What they purchased is priceless. They have come out of their comfort zones and burst the bubble of their small town. They have met female leaders who take care of their individual communities, they have met female mayors who run whole towns and cities; they have met doctors, lawyers, professors, actors and actresses and knowledgeable, enthusiastic historians; mayors of towns who welcomed them with police escorts INTO town, bands playing songs for THEM.
They have met people who were once strangers who now call them friend. They have been welcomed into the homes of people whom they’ve never met and treated as family. They have met and slept in the homes and on the lands of Quakers who showed them how to live simply, but modern with a low carbon footprint. They’ve heard history direct from the history makers, themselves. People who marched during the Civil Rights era who were younger than they when they did so.
They have learned to work and live together and to protect one another. Some have become a little less self-centered and some a little more patient. They learned tolerance of others and they learned to be leaders. They pushed their limits and exceeded them beyond their own expectations and came out as champions.
They finished this days ride a little worse for wear. What was supposed to be a small jaunt of 25 miles became 40 by the end of it. The happy smiles that were expected for this culminating event were suppressed by fatigue and dehydration. The normal 15 mile break was not there and that happened almost three times over. The last 10 miles were difficult and against the headwinds coming off the lake. Topping it all were the potholes. With attention devoted to avoiding potholes a cadence couldn’t be achieved which made things all the more difficult.
At the church, a building block of Buffalo’s fledgling African- American Heritage Corridor, the group listened to a presentation on the church’s history by Kevin Cottrell, an expert on local Underground Railroad sites.
The riders also had the opportunity to see the tiny room in the church basement where it is believed slaves were hidden while awaiting the chance to make their break for the river. The group later visited Broderick Park near the foot of West Ferry Street, said to have been a jumping-off point for fugitive slaves headed to Canada.
Afterward, the Youth Cyclists cycled down to the marina for additional lessons in history.
At the end of the day, in a show of gratitude for her sacrifice in coordinating and driving the complete route, they all agreed to allow Suepinda to choose where to eat for the night. She, in typical Suepinda fashion, choose a place that served the food the Youth Cyclists would enjoy most – Pizza.
Our Safe House for the evening was with Quakers David and Molly Coffee. A truly wonderful and youthful couple with a fantastically marvelous home in Buffalo, NY. Its the home that your grandma had when you were just a little kid and it felt just as comfortable to be there. As usual, we were made to feel at home and welcomed graciously. To our surprise, they were the youngest Quaker family (they have a baby on the way!) we have met, so far.
Let’s Move Outside!
We awoke to get on the road. My attempts at blogging in the morning, noon and night are becoming futile as a day goes by and I’m behind again.
Suepinda helped me with the Youth Cyclists’ blogs but we’re still behind in posting some. I’m not mad at them for not blogging everyday because its a challenging process to recap the day when you’re living it!
After each ride we allow them to just break out and be kids (after taking care of their responsibilities and eating. Of course, eating). So, of course being into this tour we are seeing a few things that were ambitious on our part and the requests of the cyclists but its all working out organically.
So, as we were heading out for the day after breaking camp we met Ken. We were allowed to sleep in the reception room of our Safe House due to the storm that day. It didn’t rain again but we weren’t taking any chances.
Ken and his wife lives modestly in Texas and Pennsylvania 6 mths out of the year for each. Ken’s a great guy who gave us a tour of the area and showed us the longest covered bridge in the world that was just a few miles away so we decided to go. After that we saw the lake town of Ashtabula. While moving through town to get to a grocery store because we spent so much of a good time with Ken we stumbled on the Hubbard House. A major component of the Underground Railroad. The Hubbard’s owned a lumber and shipping company that would send lumber over to Canada across Lake Erie. Well you can imagine that if he had a boat he used it to smuggle now free people to even freer land over in Canada. Once they were on the boat they were home free or Canada free.
Ken pulled out his atlas again at the grocer and said he’d take us to where he thought they should be on the bikes. It took some time due to the detours but we got there and they weren’t there. They had already moved passed the area. They move fast.
Called Itza and they were just up the road in the town where we make our way east across the lake. We found a nice park by the lake and had lunch.
We left Ohio and moved into Pennsylvania. Took pictures of both signs. Leaving Ohio we really headed into wine country. For one of the rest break stops we pulled into an ice cream stand and were refused service. We should have known something was up when we read the sign to said “STAY OFF CONCRETE BLOCKS” that were placed in front of the building which seemed quite ODD since they were SEAT HIGH. The proprietor of Dairy Oasis, near Erie, PA had a bad experience with a “group” of cyclists sometime in the past. WHATEVER! These are kids not arrogant middle aged ars’s . He didn’t want to hear our story or what we’re about and his wife just shook her head no in the background. Another individual “cyclist” rode up as we were being denied service and got an ice cream shake. He was dumbfounded to find out what just happened, as were we. So, this makes bad experience number 4 in comparison to our 240 GOOD experiences, so far. A drop in the bucket of useless encounters. Later for them and that.
We moved on down the road to find an even friendlier place in Godfrey Run Farm Market Cider Mill. TJ, the owner’s son treated us very kindly. Be sure to stop by their place when in the area!
We ended the day at our great Safe House – Sara’s Campground. The last private camping location outside the state park. Its HUGE. We slept on the beach. The Youth Cyclists road to the lake and around the peninsula, a 13m roundtrip, with complete joy. We ate at a delicious burger joint and they all ate heartily.
We ended the night by turning in as early as possible. Except for the boys. They’re now on curfew for the next two days. haha.
We had light lake effect rain overnight but other than that it was peaceful.
Let’s Move Outside!
Hilliard, to Kokoosing Campgrounds in Fredericktown, OH
This is where it starts to get easy. Well, at least for a while. We were leaving the Hilliard YMCA. It was Rich’s first day and you know what he does? He starts maintenance on the bikes! Good thing, too, because I had just about exhausted my bicycle mechanic skills. The quick inspection and work only delayed us 30-40 mins. One of the YMCA staff members made a generous impromptu donation. Not too much of a late start but people were getting antsy to get going. During the bike repair and excitement we forgot to eat breakfast. Ohh, what a rough start today was.
|Hilliard YMCA Staff
A few miles down the road we found a nice little corner sandwich shop where we used the space to have our own little breakfast. The owners didn’t seem to mind. The time was around 11:30. Soon I’ll be stopping to begin work.
Later in the day we passed the Columbus Zoo. A great place to visit but we cruised on by. Darn!
|Outside Hilliard YMCA
|Great town, great people
|Just like John Wayne, he was here. We reached the Kokoosing Campground well before nightfall. The days up north are much longer. It doesn’t get dark until around the 9pm hr. While walking to the showers a Vietnam Veteran remarked to Rich (thinking that he was a “brother” in arms) that “one grenade would take out the lot of them” when referring to our boys as they were gleefully and rambunctiously gathering wood for the fire. Rich was dumbfounded and could only respond “there with me!” The guy never said another word.
|Fun is a LARGE word
Despite the ignorance and stupidity of others (my opine) we all slept well but there was something worth remarking about. Just before dawn as I made my way to the restroom there was a flurry of insects that gathered around the lights. When I walked out I was amazed that they almost comprised a curtain like mist thick with flying bugs. I went back to get the camera but when I returned there was a considerably less impressive amount but I took the picture nonetheless.
Let’s Move Outside!
Leaving Dr. Cousins
The Youth Cyclists were well rested today. Ready to get on the road and finish this journey. As we were moving out to leave it was, for me, like leaving my “cousins” (no pun intended) home after a family visit.
As required, the adults road off early to get coffee. Dr. Cousins got on her bike for the first time in quite a while and showed us the way. At least she says its been a while. She powered ahead of us all!
With the coffee chore done we headed back to prepare the cyclists for the day. They were all ready to pack the van, laughing and joking with each other. Another family moment.
When all was packed and nothing left but the goodbye’s we headed over to the future site of Oberlin’s Underground Railroad Interpretive Center. It will be housed in a converted granary. Something that suits its purpose well due to its round shape.
After the goodbyes to the wonderful Dr. Olivia Cousins we headed off again. Winding our way through the Oberlin bike trails to surface streets on to county roads. Eventually landing up at Woodside Lake Park. A great family stopover where there’s swimming a game room and lots of people who stay for the summer. The people who run the park were great. They allowed us to sleep under the pavilion in the event it rained.
Let’s Move Outside!
A Treat Like No Other
We stayed in Oberlin, OH for another day. We couldn’t help it. The hospitality was exemplary, the accommodations impeccably unique and the food was a smorgasbord of delights. What more could you ask for a full day of history?
We were greeted in the morning by Dr. Margaret Christian, a local historian of Oberlin (even though she’s not from here she knows it ALL) and a graduate of Oberlin College. She’s a spry 79 years old and remembers a LOT.
The day started off with the usual big breakfast. When I say big, I mean BIG. I ordered the two egg cheese omelet which came looking as it should, two eggs big (but they had to be some BIG eggs) with a short stack of blueberry pancakes. You know diner plates, right? About 12 inches in diameter? Well the short stack comprised of TWO of these 12″ pancakes! In addition, I took the pan fries from Dr. Cousins. Needless to say I was chastised by a couple of the male Youth Cyclists for leaving food on my plate. One even offered to have finished it if he’d known. I don’t know how they do it.
Today is the tour of Oberlin, OH as delivered by the incomparable Margaret Christian. Dr. Christian is one of the local historians of Oberlin. She, along with Dr. Cousins and Julia gave us a one of a kind (SnR Style) tour of the city. From the Oberlin Underground Railroad monument to the Wlson Bruce Evans house to the cemetery to learn how to read a town from them.
The best part of the tour is on audio. I couldn’t archive enough video for this event. The battery wouldn’t last long enough. We were overwhelmed with the wonderful history of the struggle for survival and freedom in this little town that said NO.
Of the many conversations that was had with Dr. Christian one that stood out was the fact that she actually spoke to my hero, El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz/Malcolm X. Dr. Christian met him during one of her art exhibits in New York. She was a radical then displaying art that people at the time weren’t quite ready for. His advice to her was that she has to give the people what they want. I interpret that to mean for me that you give them what they want while encouraging them to take what they need. The jewels of the tour for me is meeting people like Dr. Christian in Oberlin and Ms. Mae in Selma who, unknown to me, have done extremely arduous footwork in terms of the struggle for identity and rights for people of the darker hue; and to know that they did it for me because they sure weren’t expecting change the next day. They are my heroes, as well.
At the close of the day Dr. Cousins presented us with gift bags put together by the City of Oberlin, OH in recognition of our special Underground Railroad tour. They have done this for no other cyclists, tourists, travelers of the UGRR, no one. In TRUE SnR Style they were treated as the special people the Youth Cyclists are; with honor, delight and wonderment that this group of youth from Chapel Hill North Carolina, who aren’t “troubled” teens, who are average, next door neighbor kids of various economic levels, who do average to above average in school and have embarked upon this unprecedented tour of 1800 miles along the Underground Railroad that no teens known to us have EVER done before. They have done this and deserve to be uplifted for this historic effort. Just as the people who have escaped the brutality of slavery had to do so many years ago. This honor and gift was bestowed upon them in the home of John Mercer Langston, an abolitionist, a conspirator to end enslavement of African People. Done in the very room that the gathering and plan was made. May the ancestors be proud of this moment.
|The meeting parlor of John Mercer Langston
The historic John Mercer Langston House, a designated National Historic Landmark (Dr. Cousin’s home in Oberlin) is also on the National Registry. The John Mercer Langston Institute hosted our overnight accommodations at the Langston House, meals, including one at a restaurant associated with the protection of immigrant rights, town tours with a high school student guide and local community historian from the John Mercer Langston Institute, Margaret Christian.
We also attended the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival 2011 Season opening night’s production of A Raisin in the Sun, and met lead actress, Debra Rose. Before riding out of Oberlin, we stopped at the site of the Oberlin Gasholder Building/Underground Railroad Project.
Thank you, Dr. Cousins, Nikita Johnson (AIR), Margaret Christian, Mrs. Reeder and Julia for a fabulous and fantastic visit to your lovely hometown.
Spoke ‘n Revolutions Youth Cycling UGRR Tour 2011 ~ Visit the nation’s National Parks.
Let’s Move Outside!
Fredericktown, OH to Oberlin, OH
Road Construction and Detours ~ Jeimy Finishes Class and Final Exam!
Bob and I left the campsite at 6:57am. The Youth Cyclists weren’t ready yet so we were headed into town to get a cup of coffee. Bob said it was just up the road and across the highway easy enough for Rich and the Youth Cyclists to find their way. My mental clock was tuned to 7am so leaving 3mins early messed me up. I turned back once we crested the hill outside the campgrounds because I had left my phone on the power post, my hydration pack on the ground and unbeknownst to me, the van keys in my jersey back pocket. I’m glad I turned back!
When we all got to moving toward town I realized that 2 miles to Bob must be country miles. It was a distance just a bit more than 2 miles but enough to make you doubt where you’re going. Then there was the question of left or right at the “T” intersection. I figured it out but I would have been mud if I had gone with him.
Soon after our arrival and before Suepinda could get a sip of her first cup of coffee it began to rain at 7:30. We sat/stood/laughed and took photos at that gas station for 3 hrs!. A local reporters husband interviewed us for their weekly paper. They were quite impressed with our endeavor. Their paper is not online so when I get a copy I will scan it and post.
After 10 miles of cycling we stopped for lunch. Ibn provided the fixin’s (PB&J Supreme). During the stop we met two small children with a very interesting bicycle.
Even though I rode early in the day but had to stop to begin work at 2pm. The delay really put a damper on the day’s ride for me. The morning ride was a nice and easy one but you could tell that it was going to get hot and muggy due to the rain if you weren’t moving.
Eventually we had to come to a decision on how to complete the day’s ride. Dr. Cousins had laid out some very interesting plans for us that began around the 4pm hour. If we were to ride into Oberlin we wouldn’t make it until 7pm. The executive decision was made after our 2nd construction detour that showed NO visible means (signage) around it to pack the bikes and get in the van. Soon we were on the road to Oberlin, OH to meet Dr. Olivia Cousins. She gave us the unique and wonderful opportunity to stay in the John Mercer Langston home. John Mercer Langston, among a great many other things, also happens to be Langston Hughes great uncle.
We ate at a restaurant associated with the protection of immigrant rights
and attended the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival 2011 Season opening night’s production of A Raisin in the Sun, and met lead actress, Debra Rose.
That was a great close to a day that started with delay.
Spoke ‘n Revolutions Youth Cycling UGRR Tour 2011 ~ Visit the nation’s National Parks.
Let’s Move Outside!