Each spring, as the snow melts, I look with sadness on my clunky winter commuter bike, its chain now covered with rust, salt eating away at the frame and gears, knowing that I haven’t taken good enough care of it through the Pennsylvania winter. My gaze then shifts to my spring/summer/fall bike and my sadness melts away like the recent April snow. Summer is around the corner, and that means warmer weather, longer rides, and the beginning of new adventures.
Every year I become more convinced that travel by bike is the best way to go. It isn’t always the easiest method – especially when it comes to climbing hills or braving the elements – but it is certainly the most rewarding. I know that my bicycle pace allows me to discover the world in ways that don’t happen in the same way if I’m traveling by car or plane.
Bicycle-based experiences also have the ability to deepen connections with a local community, and build friendships. I can navigate the alleyways and back roads of my area with a much deeper knowledge than someone who only travels by car. I can recognize faces, stop for conversation much easier, and get a feel for what’s going on in my neighborhood. I also start to notice the subtle values of things that only city planners, cyclists, and walkers notice – shaded tree-lined routes, the best downhill stretches, streets with bike lanes and less congestion, and the amazing feeling of riding alongside a cooling river. My bike-riding friends always seem to be the folks with whom I have the deepest conversations – perhaps because of our shared experience of the journey, but also because there is something very conversational in the pace of a bike ride.
I first experienced the PA IPL ride in the spring of 2015. I was still new to central Pennsylvania, but that trip introduced me to an incredible group of people who were also concerned about our environment and enjoyed discovering the world by bicycle. Even though we were from different walks of life, vocations, and faith traditions, we developed a connection that has lasted beyond our week of riding together.
As the ride has grown, we’ve started to dream about expanding this experience to other parts of our state. I’m excited to be helping to get a group of riders together for the first PA IPL ride from Philadelphia to Washington DC. Having spent three years as a pastor in the greater Philadelphia area means that I’ve been excited to pull in some old friends to join me on this journey. Our aim is to arrive in DC on the same afternoon as our fellow riders from State College, joining them to lobby on Capitol Hill the following day. This new experience of a bike trip planner means I’ve found renewed appreciation for Jon Brockopp and others who have organized rides like these in the past. It is a bit unsettling to be mapping out a trip on roads you’ve never ridden, covering terrain and neighborhoods you’ve never been, but we’re thrilled to watch this new ride take shape. Already we’ve received offerings of support from several environmentally-minded congregations along our route, and we are working collaboratively with Delaware IPL and MD/NoVA/DC IPL to find hosts and meals as we journey to DC. It is amazing to watch this movement continue to grow and reach more people who will bring a new excitement to the #PAIPLonBikes movement
Just as the changing seasons provide their reminder, the PA IPL Bike Trip reminds me that indeed, summer is around the corner, and that means warmer weather, longer rides, and the beginning of new adventures. I’m excited for all that is to come.
Ben is the pastor at 3rd Way Collective.
Donate online to PA IPL in support the PA-to-DC riders (or send a check, memo: bike 2018 to PA IPL 243 S. Allen St. #337, State College, PA 16801)
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Read Ben’s past profiles