2019 Bike Blog Day 1: Philadelphia to Newark, DE

Blogger: Chris Antal

I left my home in Narberth, PA, by bike this morning and when we arrived at our destination in Delaware my odometer read 51.7 miles.

On the ride contrasts were stark. We rode past sun-basking turtles enjoying refuge at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, and under lush green canopies along the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail. In between, we rode along bustling highways, as tractor-trailers and garbage trucks rumbled past, moving from wildlife refuge to wildlife roadkill, I found myself evading the crushed snakes and maimed raccoons that littered the breakdown lane. The roadkill was a visceral reminder to me of the impact of US oil and car addiction on the animals who share this planet with us. Some miles we breathed fresh air; many miles we breathed bad air, the smell of roadside death mixed with emissions from vehicles and industry. 

Post Road, on which we traveled out of PA into Delaware,  might better be called NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) Road. Along that stretch, I witnessed some of the infrastructure and industry necessary to sustain high-carbon lifestyles.  We passed the sprawling refinery run by Monroe Energy. We passed the massive complex run by Boeing, a major US Defense contractor. We passed Honeywell, the largest US Defense contractor for nuclear weapons. As I rode past Boeing and Honeywell,  I thought about US Defense expenditures, which an annual sum greater than the next five largest national defense expenditures combined; I thought about the $100,000 a minute the US is spending and will continue to spend over the next decade on nuclear weapons modernization. I thought about my own time as a military chaplain in the Middle East. The words of another military chaplain came to mind: “We were there to protect and defend Halliburton.”

Also along Post Road, we passed Calvary Baptist Church, and a historic marker:

“Martin Luther King, Jr, King lived three years in this community and ministered under the mentorship of J. Pius Barbour. He graduated from Crozer Theological Seminary, 1951. A leader of the 1963 March on Washington, King won a Nobel Peace Prize, 1964.”

After spotting the historic marker, I began to pay more attention to race on the ride. I am white, and our group of riders is white. I noticed the people living along Post Road, breathing the bad air from their front porches, were black. I was reminded of the intersectionality of climate justice and racial justice. I was reminded that those who pay the cost for high carbon living are often the most marginalized and disenfranchised.

Follow the trips on Instagram and Facebook and with the hashtag #paiplonbikes for lots of photos and videos