2019 Bike Blog Day 3: Churchville, MD to Baltimore, MD

Blogger: Nathan Martin

After being graciously hosted by members of the Churchville Presbyterian community on Saturday night thanks to the tireless efforts of Fawn Palmer and the Church’s Peace and Justice committee, our riders gathered on Sunday morning to spend time with the community.

We spent the first part of the morning writing and sharing prayers for the earth, a powerful exercise to elicit people’s concerns and passions around climate change. Here is a prayer that Ardon, a 13-year old wrote during the 10-minute exercise:

It’s where humanity lives
But we take for granted what it gives
We’re polluting its air and water
while making it hotter and hotter
We must take action, start working now
But the question is where and the question is how.
Renewable energy, safe and clean
Traveling in nature and sharing what we’ve seen.
The earth is our planet, and it we must protectBe dealing with climate change, humanity’s defect

We then joined the community for Sunday worship where we were given special blessings for the journey, including a blessing for the bicycles, by Pastor Stephen Melton. We could not have asked for a more welcoming community of faith that supported our work and mission. We hope to continue our connection with the community in the future.

The theme of the rest of the day was water. We contended with a regular rain and cold for the first couple of hours of our ride towards Baltimore, but thankfully the rain let up a bit by the time we entered our 7-mile stretch of the Torrey C Brown rail trail. Because of the significant rainfall from the night before and the morning, the rivers were full and as the trail intersected Big Gunpowder Falls creek we were humbled by the power of nature. 

Jess Ballenger also shared a piece of the story of the Jones Falls river and watershed which we road through heading into Baltimore which became tremendously polluted in the 1800’s with the urbanization of Baltimore and then later became an underground conduit for for storm water and sewer drainage. More recently through the efforts of non-profits working with the city more of the river is being shifted back to above ground and being rehabilitated.

We continue to be humbled by the generosity of our hosts; after a long hard day of riding we were welcomed and well taken care of by Sister Helene Cooke at the Mennonite owned Reservoir Hill House of Peace for our evening rest. We hope to carry the many blessings we received today for strength and perseverance into the halls of congress when we arrive in Washington, DC.

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2019 Bike Blog Day 3: Orbisonia to Huntingdon, MD

Blogger: Casey Cook

Our trip fulfilled the dual meaning of the word Jaunt. After our evening meal the dual meaning of the word was discussed. Jaunt has the historic meaning of ‘tiring trip’. However, it is more recently known as being used to describe a pleasant albeit short journey. This word worked well to represent our day, because of the rain we were entirely drenched for the first half of our ride. Relief came after lunch, when the rain let up and when we arrived in Hagerstown early.

At the beginning of the trip, the slog up Cowan’s Gap was made especially troubling by the world around us. The rain had driven all of the worms out of the ground and they lay strewn about our path. While walking they are easily observed and avoided, but with the speed of a bike that close attention is nearly impossible. To our worm friends for whom we could not go around we thank you for your contribution to the richness of our soil.

A combination of rain and cold reminded me of the intense sense of drive we all must have to complete this journey, and upon arriving at lunch in Cowan’s Gap we were all a little blue. But blue is not bad in the larger scope of things because blue allows us to see contrasts with other colored days. Help did come, in the most unlikely of ways. Many of us took shelter in the heated bathrooms at the lake’s edge using the hand dryer to warm our feet and dry our clothes.  Others took refuge in the heated sag wagon.

Return to the outside was not kind and some of us ended up shivering so violently that we had trouble assembling our sandwiches. Luckily our sag wagon drivers the Najjars were ready to help us with whatever we needed. Chiefly, supplying us with ample amounts of hot chocolate.

Our early arrival in Hagerstown included being greeted with some more hot chocolate and was freeing: No sleeping mats to lay out, or food to find on our own. Our friends from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown prepared us a lovely warm meal. Real bed and hot showers were provided to us by Christ Reform Church. This stay has been a fantastic reprieve from what is promised to be another wet day tomorrow.

Overall our day was exhilarating and quite an adventure. A solid mixture of good and bad. We came to recognize and appreciate both.

Word of the day: Ben blue, Casey dryer, Dean exhilarating and freeing, Dorothy shivering, Janet hot chocolate, Jason slog, Marali worms, Noah jaunt.

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2019 Bike Blog Day 3: Orbisonia to Hagerstown, MD – crosspost from 3WC

Blogger: Ben Wideman

Our ride today was mostly miserable due to chilly temperatures and a constant drizzle. This day of the trip is typically my favorite but the beautiful scenery was lost behind fog, and the thrilling downhill stretches were precarious due to the water on the road. The weather made us less conversational, and more insistent on getting to the destination rather than enjoying the journey.

But the day was wonderful despite all of those things because of the very real and raw reminder it provided for me that bike trips, just like life, have days like this. These are the days that challenge and stretch. These are the days that add fatigue to life, and challenge us in ways we don’t expect. These are the days that remind us that life is not all sunshine and wind at our backs.

Joni Mitchell’s iconic Blue album has become an important piece of music for me for several reasons. I find her voice and songwriting skill to be incredible, and it doesn’t hurt that we share a homeland (Canada), but what I’m most drawn to is her ability to sing with a vulnerability and transparency that acknowledges the ups and downs of life.

The frustrations we felt today also had this unintended side effect, in that we ended up appreciating the small things even more. The moments where the rain would stop were to be savored, the food at lunch time and dinner was spectacular simply by the inclusion of simple warm drinks, and the warm showers at the end of our ride have never felt better.

Our group also finished the day with a much greater sense of accomplishment than we had felt previously. We named simple things as the highlights of our day – hand dryers in the public restrooms, towels, dry socks, and hot chocolate. We felt admiration for our fellow cyclists for completing the journey, and we felt stronger having survived our most difficult day together.

Tomorrow’s journey will include surprises, no doubt, but we continue on, feeling the full range of emotion that life brings. Just like Joni Mitchell’s incredible music, we ride not because every day is easy, but because life is about both the ups as well as the downs.

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2019 Bike Blog Day 2: Newark, DE to Churchville, MD – 39.2 miles

Blogger: Eric Kauffman

Enlarge to see the riders on the announcement sign!

This morning began with a welcome 3 mile ride back down the hill we climbed Friday night. That 3 miles ended at Temple Beth El of Newark, DE, where we paused for several hours as Rabbi Jacob Lieberman and the Beth El community graciously invited us into their Shabbat service and subsequent meal. Our own trip leader, Rabbi Nathan Martin, helped with the Torah reading and short reflection. Today it appropriately centered around a passage in Leviticus, which speaks of Creation Care. (Leviticus 19:23-32, full Torah portion here.)

The Torah lays out a way of life for Jews, Christians (my own faith tradition), and other faiths that leads to more life. According to today’s passage this includes: a Sabbath (a weekly day of rest and renewal), not taking extra measures to reap everything out of our vineyards or fields, and not picking fruit from a tree for the first 3 years it is planted. In a culture where hard work, efficiency and production are measures of success and status, these call us to pause and take a wider look at a “successful way of life.”

Resting one day out of 7 reminds us our human value does not come from hard work and productivity alone. Not harvesting immediately reminds us that the tree does not actually belong to us, but to God and to the wider community; it also establishes a healthier tree with longevity to feed people beyond ourselves. And leaving some fruits of our labor for others reminds us that creation care includes being mindful of our fellow humans.

Purposefully taking time to rest and renew also gives us a needed time to reflect on our relationships and priorities, and helps us make wiser choices. Too often we get trapped in always ‘doing’ (even when we stop for a minute to wait in line we tap our phones to intake more information); we lose sight of the larger picture of where our present actions are leading us.

crossing the Susquehanna

Today we biked 39 miles, which included a two mile ride across the Susquehanna River with a police escort (for which we were grateful) and a steep climb out of the River valley on roads with very narrow shoulders. One rider, Bill Cozzens stepped out for a day due to dizziness (please keep him in your thoughts and prayers). These were stark reminders of our need to step back and rest. Our presence as cyclists on the road caused others to pause and consider their response. Their consideration in giving us space and sometimes encouraging beeps or smiles made our day brighter.

Every action we take or do not take affects people around us. We need to stop and listen to our body (individually, but as larger humanity as well)- we can’t just keep going, and think we will get better. We need to take time to stop and listen to each other. Even if it seems others don’t listen – our stopping will cause them to pause. Enough positive pauses can cause a change.

A pause is what we are asking for when we get to D.C.: a pause to build relationship, a pause to remember that we are all seeking a better life for humanity, a pause to find commonalities on which to take action for a sustainable future. Thank you for your support to make that pause and this ride possible. We encourage you to take a pause of your own (a personal Sabbath) to reflect and renew Creation nearest you —yourself, your environment, your relationships; and perhaps invite others into that pause.

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Tree planting and caring for community-owned or community-used lands can be a wonderful spiritual practice. Mark Smith leads Tree Tenders connections in Philadelphia, Greg Williams leads “workparties” for invasive removal and diverse native plantings in State College, Huntingdon, and Williamsburg (including Saturday, with the other group of riders). He often works with collections of volunteers of all faiths and none, and also has created inter-congregation intra-denomination events. Either Mark or Greg could connect you with some resources. Reach out to get connected.

Want more Sabbath pause reflections? Ben Wideman’s Day1 blog has some of that, and Cricket Hunter’s sermon from University Mennonite does too.

Want to think more about healing that which is within reach? Have a look at this approach, and think about whether it might be a good fit for you.

2019 Bike Blog Day 2: Huntingdon to Orbisonia

Blogger: Janet Swim

 Following our longer pathfinding ride on our first day where we became acutely aware of the power and necessity of our legs to carry us long distances and climb two steep and long hills, we were able to have a relaxing second day.  Although some of us had our sleep challenged by cold temperatures and train noises in the room that had windows open all night, the rest of us had plenty of time to sleep. 

At 10:00 am we, along with Cricket and her two daughters Molly and Betsy, met Greg Williams at Detweiler park where were contributed to his visionary efforts to regenerate an area next to the Juniata river that had previously been covered in invasive plants. We saw many new plants previously uncovered by invasive plants, pulled out additional invasive privet with long roots, and planted gray dogwood trees and elderberry bushes which will live in a grove of tulip trees.  The long roots were notable because of how sturdy they make plants. Roots metaphorically are also important for people in various ways as well. We learned much from Greg including being enlightened by the concept of the umwelt —the world as seen through the experience of others, including a tick who is just living life when she sucks out our blood in the last minutes of her life.

From the park we “miffled” our way to lunch at the Standing Stone Coffee Company. We met our driver, Chris Davidson, and Mary from Stone Church of the Brethren.  Her congregation generously sponsored our lunch with its delicious options and beverages.  We relaxed at the cafe because it was a beautiful day, there was a huge Connect Four game, and we had plenty of time to travel over the next 23 miles to arrive in Orbisonia by 4:00 pm.

Too much of the first ten miles of the ride was on a terrorizing portion of route 22.  We were passed by trucks on the left and two trains passing each other on the right while we squeezed our self on to the small shoulder on the road.  Apparently those of us who traveled this rout before were more immune to having road than our new rider. Unfortunately, the previous relaxation made me (as one of the leaders) a bit too lax because I did not worn our new rider about this portion of the ride.  We all recovered in the rest of the ride, however.

When we were bypassing 22 we resumed our views of beautiful landscapes, including the patina from the vegetation and forests along the road and the Juniata river that flows through the natural landscape.  At about mile 12, we, along with our driver, Chris, stopped for ice cream at the Q, continuing the joy of the same treat from the day before.  From there we passed through Mt. Union and saw interesting street names such as Wrangletown Road. Then we continued along 522 until we reached Orbisonia. The rest of the ride yesterday and today allowed us to feel more hopeful about our ride and the joy of bicycling which gives us time to breath in fresh air and breath out the stress and distractions in the rest of our lives.

We were greeted by Pastor Don and his wife Ann at the Church of God and Prophecy when we arrived in Orbisonia. They, especially Ann, had spent much time preparing dinner for our visit. They shared wonderful pots of chili and soup and delicious rhubarb and apple crisp.  We sang a round for our blessing which revealed that we had a refreshingly harmonious group of cyclists.  After our “word for the day,”* we also got into a philosophical discussion about the impacts and control of invasive species—including plants, people, and goats! Pastor Don had to leave to ponder his sermon for Mothers’ Day which may include memories of his childhood paring potatoes for his mother and watching Batman, that happened to show up on TV today. At the end of the day a group walked to see the trains at the nearby museum and then played a game of “heads-up”.

Through all of these joint experiences of tree planting, cycling – both the good and the bad, eating, sharing, singing, exploring, and playing games together, we are forming deeper connections with each other, bonding with those we meet and as a group.

*At the end of each day, we share one word that captured our experience for the day.  The words for our first and second day are listed below.  See if you can find them above!

Orbisonia was once a mining town.

Day 1 —  Ben: Breath, Casey: Patina, Dean: Beautiful, Dorothy:  Flow,Janet:  Pathfinding,Jason: “Miffling,” Marali: Ice cream,Noah: Legs,

Day 2 — Ben:  Roots, Casey:  Trains, Dean: Hopeful (& Terror), Dorothy:  Regenerative, Janet:  Lax, Jason: Umwelt, Noah:  Connections,Marali:  Wrangletown Road,Pastor Don Pflugh:  Memories, Ann Pflugh : Sharing

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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.

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