Cycling days 5&6

I’m writing this now from home in State College – hard to believe this adventure is over, it was such a whirlwind. We are so grateful to those of you who helped make it possible – we felt buoyed by your good thoughts and prayers and gratified by your continued outpouring of donations: we beat our goal of $3,000 for PA Interfaith Power and Light! That means 6,000 dollars, thanks to our matching grant from IPL national.

Our last day on the road was very pleasant – Joyce made a cyclist’s dream breakfast of eggs Benedict and asparagus, and we looked over maps while planning our final 35 miles into Washington. Just as we prepared to leave for our lunch meeting in Poolesville, though, Peter discovered his tire was flat again. Taking the tire apart he found, much to the surprise of his thumb, a small wire sticking through the tire. Good thing he has nine other fingers to play piano for Bernadette Peters tonight …

We had a great lunch meeting with representatives from local Presbyterian, Lutheran and Reform Jewish congregations, and afterwards, Peter quickly dashed over to the Presbyterian Church to have a look at their buildings. We are going to miss Peter and his readiness to share his knowledge and expertise so freely with others, but our loss is Maine’s gain.

The day turned quite warm (an amazing contrast to the freezing weather we had only a few days earlier), and we rode through some beautiful country on our last leg to Washington. The concentration of wealth was palpable, however, and the comparison with the poverty of Central PA couldn’t be more striking. As the roads got busier and traffic more annoying, we hit the old C&O; canal towpath once again for our ride in to DC. The going was slow, but seeing the Potomac river and the old canal locks was pretty cool.

We rounded one bend and could see the Washington monument, then a little farther on we glimpsed the Lincoln Center and passed the Watergate hotel. Soon we were riding up Independence Avenue and knew we had really arrived! We stopped briefly at the King memorial and then rode by the Smithsonian, around the Capitol building and to Reformation Lutheran Church, where Pastor Mike Wilker was waiting for us with cold water and a warm embrace. We didn’t stay for long, however, as we needed to connect up with Cricket (PA IPL executive director) who had our “meeting clothes” for us and our marching orders for the next day. Cricket was attending the Interfaith Power and Light national conference at Gallaudet University, and as people got wind of our arrival, they came out to greet us (see a short video clip linked from the national IPL Facebook page). Finally, Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder of IPL, came out and gave us a real hero’s welcome, beckoning us to bring our bikes right into the conference center where about 100 IPL folks gave us a standing ovation!

Peter and I stayed that night with Mavis and Rev. Phil Anderson, members of Reformation Lutheran and wise in all things political, who helped prepare us for our visit to Capitol Hill on Wednesday. We then joined Cricket and Rev. Cheryl Pyrch (board member of PA IPL) and split into two teams to cover as many offices as possible. Because Congress was in recess we didn’t meet any actual members, but we were able to talk at length with staffers in (so I am told) a much less hectic environment. Many of our meetings lasted 30 minutes or more as we urged them to support specific bills on energy efficiency (the U.S. government is a huge landlord – let’s start by making these buildings energy efficient: good for the budget, good for the environment!) and support new EPA Clean Air rules. We spoke to Republicans and Democrats, seeking common ground and trying to break the deadlock in DC.

Thanks to Cricket’s great work, all of them had heard about our bike trip and asked us about it. One staffer said to Peter: “we get a lot of people talking to us about the environment, but they fly their planes here to do it – you rode your bike in.” I think we really made an impression as we spoke passionately about the many people in Pennsylvania choosing between food and fuel, and about the people everywhere already suffering the effects of climate change.

After a long day, we tied our bikes to the rack of the car that Cricket drove down, piled in and headed for home (watching all those hills whiz by with amazing speed). We have a lot of experiences to process, many things to think through and much work ahead of us. Without doubt it was a successful, transformative experience and one that I hope we can repeat year after year. Thanks for being a part of it!

Jon, Kris and Peter