Today we begin our journey home, we will be taking a 10 hour road trip back to North Carolina in our van. I am excited to go home to my friends and family in Chapel Hill. Looking back on this trip I realize that I have gained a great deal more than I knew I did from it. I have learned information from the past that most people will never know. I have seen things that most people will never see, this trip has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about my past and I am very grateful for having this opportunity. Making this choice was one of the greatest decisions of my life. From this trip I have realized that there is a lot of history that we are not taught in school and I would sometime like to learn more about this. I think in college I will take an African American studies course.
This trip has been an overall great experience for me.
Today was the last ride of the trip, and I think we were all excited. We were supposed to be riding from our hosts home in Buffalo, to Niagara Falls. While we were riding we saw that the “bike trail” we were supposed to ride on ended. Once the trail ended, we rode around in a circle for a while, until we finally got back on track. When everything was going fine, Chris and I crashed, and some of my spokes broke. Since that is something that you never want to happen, I was told that it was unsafe to ride with a wheel in that condition, so everyone had to take their bike apart and get in the van, because we all were going to ride or nobody was going to ride. We then drove to Niagara Falls and boarded the Maid of the Mist to take our long awaited tour that took us next to the Falls. After being able to see Canada on the other side, and to be able to see the Falls themselves, all of our hard work for the past month was worth it.
So today I woke up in the lovely home of David and Molly. I woke up with my mind set on freedom. I had the 1st day of school feeling again. I felt like today was the day I’ve been waiting for for a really long time. I didn’t and I still can’t put words to the way I was feeling. All I really know is that I made it, we made it, we all completed an 1800 mile journey. Something 31 days ago was nothing more than a goal, an idea, a dream, a distant thought. We all made it to Niagara Falls! We did it!! I Can’t say it enough but I’m extremely proud of Jeimy, Chris, Mahlique, Houston, Kyvon, Ibn, Marshall, Mrs. Sue, Kevin, Mr. Brogden and Rich for doing this!
We left Molly and David’s home and headed off on our last bike ride. On our way to Niagara Falls we got lost. We were on a bike trail but the bike trail stopped and we hit a dead end. Everyone we asked said that we could ride a bike trail all the way to the Falls. With the dead-end ahead we decided to head back towards Ohio St and follow the directions we had printed from map quest or one of those direction giving websites. We eventually made it to Niagara St.
While riding on Niagara St. Ibn got a flat so we had to stop which gave us time to figure out where we were and how we were going to get to Niagara Falls. After Ibn’s bike was ready to go we set off in search of Aqua Lane. About a mile away from Aqua Lane, Kyvon and Chris get into a minor accident. Where 3 of Kyvon’s spokes broke making it not possible for him to finish the ride. The decision to call the SAG van and call it a day was made for several reasons one being that Kyvon’s bike was unrepairable at the moment and the other was that we still had 20 or so miles to go and it was close to 3pm. So if we kept riding we wouldn’t really get to spend enough time at Niagara Falls. When the SAG van arrived to pick us up the bikes and were ready to go. The front wheels were off the bikes. We all worked as a team to get the bikes on the trailer and locked.
Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls what a beautiful sight! This is truly one day I will never ever forget! My heart was racing like never before, I was getting kinda emotional and wanting to cry because I didn’t know another way of expressing how happy I was. We headed to the Maid of the Mist area and we got closer and closer to the falls. I can’t find words to describe the natural beauty before my eyes. Once on the boat I remembered my dad asked me to call him if I had signal down there and thankfully I did! I gave him a call and to hear his voice while on the boat made me feel extremely special. I was on top of the world while I was at the bottom of the falls.
Before getting off the boat I had to make sure I gave a big thanks and hug to my SnR family (except Houston who gave me a handshake since he doesn’t do hugs).
Once we left the Falls we headed to CheeBurger, CheeBurger which has 1,258,000 combinations of milk shakes. We all set down and had a wonderful dinner. We laughed and talked and then got back in the car and said bye to Buffalo, NY and here we come Chapel Hill. I could not have asked for a better last day than this.
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.
Today was the very last day Spoke ‘n Rev would hit the saddle. I believe it was with a sad feeling for all of us that we would be leaving the next day to head back. It all seemed so surreal to me. I had just finished the Underground Railroad tour on the seat of a bike. A feat not many people can say they have done; let alone by high school students. Anyway, we made it to Niagara Falls and it was one of the most magnificent sites I have ever got to see in my short life. As a bonus I also got to see a part of Ontario!
When we saw the Falls we got to ride the boat that took you out to the base of the falls – The Maid of the Mist. To me the bike trip to get here was worth every hardship we encountered. Now I have a great story to tell my children and my grandchildren.
After the falls we got in the van and headed off back to North Carolina. For dinner we ate burgers & shakes; and let me tell you that the food was superb! After dinner we headed down the road till we found a hotel to stay in for the night. And that is how my last day of the tour went. It was one of the best feelings to know that I am one of the only teenagers to have completed the Underground Railroad route. I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped Spoke ‘n Rev get to where we are and allowed us to complete this tour.
|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.
At long last, today we completed our journey and made it to Niagara Falls, NY.
The falls were one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my entire life, they are tremendous and the water looks clean and swimmable. I have never seen a waterfall that enormous before and seeing this for the first time is awe inspiring. The state park revolves completely around the falls so you can see them the entire time from all sorts of angles. We also went on the boat tour called Maid of the Mist which took us right next to the falls. The mist from the falls was everywhere and because of this there was a rainbow next to the falls. Seeing these falls means a lot to me, not just their majesty but their historical meaning.
To me it symbolizes freedom and accomplishment. People on the Underground Railroad worked tirelessly to get to these falls and for me to be here after traveling the Underground Railroad myself is so rewarding. I could not think of a better way to end this trip.
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.