Blogger Ben Wideman
This morning I began making pedal rotations, slowly moving my bicycle from State College to Washington DC with a group of riders from Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light. Today’s journey took us 36 miles, climbing more than 1200 feet of Pennsylvania’s rolling hills, to Huntingdon, PA, home of Juniata College.
Our start group includes eight riders, and we have at least one person in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 70s, with a broad range of riding experience. Seven of us have made this trip before, with just a single new rider in our start group. We are supported this week by a handful of SAG vehicle drivers, and well over 200 people who have supported this trip and the work of PA IPL by making a donation to this cause.
Our plan is to arrive in DC on Tuesday evening after 200 miles of riding, and to spend Wednesday on Capitol Hill talking with our congressional representatives from Pennsylvania about our journey and explaining why and how people of faith care for the earth and work against climate change.
Today’s journey was a beautiful mix of rolling farmland and wooded areas, with a few long climbing roads.
I continue to be struck by how valuable the pace of cycling can be – both in terms of stepping away from the busy (and occasional frantic) pace of my life, but also to be granted the space to breathe deeply and more intimately connect with geography. Today we were joined on our journey by different birds, livestock in fields, scampering woodland animals, and many more creatures we couldn’t see. We felt the wind on our faces and the clean air fill our lungs. We felt the warmth of the sun, and the sprinkle of a few raindrops. We felt the groan of our tired muscles as we downshifted to get up one more hill, and the exhilaration of a long descent.
The car and truck drivers that passed us so quickly missed the tiny streams and budding trees. They were moving too fast to notice the subtle changes of the grasses and flowers along the road, or the quality (or lack thereof) of the pavement. It may have taken us four-plus hours to travel as far as a car could have done in less than an hour, but during that time we moved slow enough to share life stories and reflections of other bike trips. We waved and were greeted by the people we passed who were out waiting for the school bus, holding a yard sale, or walking along the road.
We ate lunch at a tiny country bakery, and were reminded that there are people living their lives in spaces far more rural than State College. Next door was a fly fishing shop, and someone pointed out that those who walk our streams for recreation have a more intimate awareness of how climate change is impacting the those spaces. These are stories and moments that a car may not have provided us.
I find myself wondering what the pace of cycling can remind us about how we live our daily lives. I wonder what we might gain if we moved slower though the world from time to time, and savored our physical setting.
The Huntingdon Presbyterian Church welcomed us warmly, ready with food and drink, and a place to park our bikes and bodies. PA IPL friends trekked from State College and Williamsburg (in cars) with yet more food and fellowship.
Tomorrow our journey takes us to Orbisonia, PA, a small former mining town struggling to reinvent itself in the wake of the changing mining industry. I’m sure more stories and slow moments to breathe deeply await us on our journey.
This group is ending each day with a word of the day. Day 1 words: Noah—legs, Marali—ice cream, Casey—patina, Jason—”miffling”, Janet—pathbreaker, Ben—breathe, Dorothy—flow, Dean—beautiful.