Bike Blog 2013.6: Maryland

WE MADE IT! We all arrived, safe and sound. What an exhilarating trip. From Joyce’s gourmet breakfast to our interviews with a national program for PBS, to the heroes’ welcome at Gallaudet, it’s definitely a day I will never forget. 

We started the day with lots of coffee and animated conversation with Joyce and Dave over a breakfast of eggs benedict, asparagus and hollandaise sauce (I had seconds). Jess and Hannah soon arrived and gradually we made our way over to the Café 107, where we met with some local high school students on their lunch break. After hugs and pictures, Joyce took off in her Chevy Volt and we got back on the bikes. 

It was an easy ride down to the tow path, and for the next four hours or so we rode along and enjoyed the scenery. I was particularly delighted when, just around the stunning Great Falls of the Potomac, my old friend from high school Bill Luecke showed up. Bill is a materials engineer with the National Bureau of Standards and something of a biking fanatic. We caught up on each others’ lives (after probably 25 years) while riding along with the crew – oh, and the blue herons, turtles, vultures and lots of gnats that accompanied our ride. 

There’s nothing quite so spectacular as arriving in Washington, DC from the Potomac. The city hits you first with its brawn: huge bridges, overpasses, concrete embankments. Then, very quickly, you spy the towers of Georgetown, the Kennedy Center, and the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. It is amazing and kind of awe-inspiring. 

In between riding and talking with Bill, I was also on the phone, trying to arrange our meet up with the camera crew from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a PBS production. They were doing a piece on Sally Bingham, the founder of Interfaith Power & Light, and got wind of our tour.  Much to our delight (and the camera crew’s dismay), the cherry blossoms were in full, glorious bloom. This meant that traffic was snarled, and (after a few missteps) we finally found one another at the Jefferson memorial. 

Camera takes, film footage, interviews and such took about 2 hours in the blazing heat. We had all run out of water and were pretty tired. But everyone soldiered through with good (enough) humor. Plus, with those gorgeous cherry blossoms and our main task accomplished (we did it!), it was hard not to be psyched. The craziest thing was when the camera man grabbed Hannah’s seat on the tandem and told Jesse to ride around so he could film on the bike – wild! 

Then, we made the last, final trek up the mall to Gallaudet – 4 miles and no biggie, so you would think. But while our bodies were holding out, our bikes were not. After 200 miles, BOTH Dave and Ray got flat tires. Ray’s actually blew on the grounds of Gallaudet, so we ended up walking the last 500 feet to the Kellogg Center. Once again, though, Sally was there to welcome us, along with Cricket and many other IPL friends. Ray was moved to tears, and the six of us joined in a sweaty embrace! 

Tomorrow we head to the Hill, with many stories to share with our representatives. Thanks so very much for all your prayers and good wishes – we rode, but could not have made it without all of your support! 

(Andy, Dave, Hannah, Jess, and Ray) 

Bike Blog 2013.5: Maryland

Editors’ note: pictures will come when we get home and get them in the right format.  For now, you should be able enjoy the videos of the day posted here, and here, and here.

Day 4 (Guest blogger: Jess) It’s been like riding into springtime, each day a little warmer, a little greener.

We rolled away from our overnight stay at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ in warmth and bright sunshine to an excellent breakfast with some of our new friends in Hagerstown. Rev. Tim Leighton, pastor at another United Church of Christ in Hagerstown and an avid cyclist, rode along with us, pointing out many points of interest along the way. For me, one of the blessings of this trip has been seeing something of the rich uniqueness of places like Hagerstown that I’ve only known as name on a highway sign. There is so much beauty in our country that you’ll never see from the interstate.

After a relatively short ride through the Antietam Battlefield and the town of Sharpsburg, we made a steep descent to the C&O; canal towpath for most of the day’s 57 miles of riding. The level terrain along the Potomac was a welcome change from yesterday’s hilly, wind-blasted challenge. We rode along relatively easily through the growing warmth and dappled sunshine, stopping to take in some of the stirring views of the river and some of the beautifully restored aqueducts along the canal.

There aren’t leaves on the trees yet, but wildflowers were in bloom along the trail. The most alarming moment of the day came after stopping in the small town of Brunswick for lunch at a charming local place called Sloppy Tacos. Andy had been having increasing trouble working the gears on his bike for the last two days, and he discovered that his rear gear cassette was actually coming loose – a problem we were not going to be able to solve with the few basic tools we are carrying along even if we could figure out how. We saw that there was a local bike shop – Three Points Cycle – just across the street from the taqueria, and Andy brought his bike over to see if there was anything that could be done. The owner fixed it up in 15 minutes for free.

That was the second time a great local bike shop bailed us out on this trip. In Huntingdon, Jon discovered that his chain had actually chewed through his front derailleur cage. The owner of Rothrock Outfitters in Huntingdon fixed that up in a half hour, charging only $12 for the part. These local bike shops are such a great resource – support them with your business! I’d also like to mention how thankful we are for our own great local shop in State College, Freeze-Thaw Cycles, for its generous support of PA IPL.

We ended the day’s ride by climbing up out of the Potomac valley to Poolesville, MD to the home of Joyce Breiner and Dave Yaney, some friends of PA-IPL that Jon made on last year’s ride (Hannah and I will be staying with Laurie and Brian Hundertmark; Laurie is the daughter of Barb and John Fisher – members of Grace Lutheran in State College). We had wonderful meal out on the back deck, enjoying the warm evening air, the wonderful food, the funny, passionate conversation ranging widely over our experiences and aspirations working for a greener world. Sitting there, it was easy to believe that spring had finally arrived, and that another, more just, more sustainable world is coming.

Of course it is. You can’t hold back the spring.
 Jess (and the gang)

bike trip 2013.4: Headwind!

By unanimous consent, the word for the day is “headwind!” There’s nothing like a stiff breeze to take the pleasure right out of a long downhill glide. For much of the day, we were hunkered down against the wind, when we wanted to have our heads up, enjoying the beautiful scenery. But wind and weather, sun and stone – it’s all part of the experience of spending most of the day on one’s bicycle.
We awoke to the smell of bacon, as Dave rustled up some bacon and eggs in the kitchen of the outreach center. We washed up, packed our bags and headed over to the church for Bible study. Pastor Ed explained that once a month (i.e. the Sunday we were there) the church has gone to a combined service at 10:15. So we decided to attend the 9 a.m. Bible study to meet some folks. 
Our Bible study was a circle of about 20 members, all of whom clearly knew one another very well. The leader, Joe, asked for prayer concerns, and I introduced our group. Joe then engaged in a running meditation on what it means to have character as a Christian, what ways Jesus exhibited his character and how we can strive to be more like him. The examples were personal, deeply meaningful, and we were grateful to be invited in. 
Hannah and Jesse joined the Sunday school classes, where Hannah talked about her trip and the children sent along some drawings and prayers. Turns out one of the Sunday school teachers was SO pleased, as she has been trying to get the congregation to work on sustainability issues for years. We felt embraced, loved and blessed as we headed out on our trip.
Then: SMACK! From the get-go we hit strong winds as we made the long, slow climbs up through Shade Gap to Cowan’s Gap State Park. For me, it was a special pleasure as I still have fond memories of this part of the trip from last year, the mill, the farms and the quiet country lanes (Ray was somehow able to keep up with his family while riding, and whenever we stopped). I also knew, from my experience, to plan for us to stop and picnic by the lake. It was hard to leave that lovely piece of paradise.
It was a long day of biking, but we made it. Bill Shank and his wife Sandy, members at Christ’s Reformed UCC in Hagerstown received us warmly, along with a few other members of the congregation and Tim, pastor at another UCC church in town. There’s nothing quite so delicious after a long ride as lasagna, fresh salad and fruit, all lovingly prepared. Christ’s Reformed recently bought an old factory building next door to the church and is in the process of transforming the space inside. We are staying in part of the homeless shelter, which is now closed for the season – the food, the showers and now actual cots are all very welcome pleasures tonight. 
We reflect on the many blessings we have received on this trip: food, support, love, a good place to sleep, cell phones – and surprising drive-by visits by the executive director of PA IPL (who also happens to be Dave’s wife!). 
Jon (and the gang)

bike blog 2013.3

Day 2, Saturday April 6.  (guest blogger:  Dave)
Everyone slept well at Bethany and Micah’s house after Friday night’s feast, even two-and-a-halfmonth old Benjamin.  After less than twenty miles of biking the previous day, I’d say we were all feeling ready toget on the bikes again.  We even agreed to do some weeding and carrot-thinning in Plowshare’s greenhouse, which seemed more than fair given the wonderful breakfast of baked oatmeal Bethany had prepared.  After a sample from the world’s largest bucket of peanut butter and a few final words of goodbye to our gracious hosts,we were on our way to Huntingdon by 10am.  
The beautiful weather we had enjoyed for our sendoff heldfor another day, and we felt very lucky to be on the road on such a beautiful morning. 
As we got closer to Huntingdon, we picked up a couple extra bikers: Laura White and her daughter Sarah accompanied us for the last few miles into town.   Then our group roughly doubled after we were joined by several other riders, includingthree fourths of the Juniata College Cycling Club, after a short stop at the College.  From there, a short ridethrough Huntingdon took us to St. James Lutheran Church, where Pastor Morelliand several others had set up a fantastic potluck spread that included four giant urns of coffee that Greg Anderson had brought from Standing Stone Coffee House.  We stopped at the Coffee House on the way out of town for more refreshments and good conversation.  The several hours we spent talking withpeople in Huntingdon reminded all of us why we’re making this ride:  So many people care so much about so many aspects of the issue of climate change.
Leaving Huntingdon onHighway 22 east was NOT one of the highlights of the trip:  A narrow shoulder littered with gravel and made even narrower by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s misguided attempt to create rumble strips by carving divots into the asphalt.  So we opted to turn off 22 as quickly as we could do so and wound up on a peaceful, tree-lined street along the Juniata River.  Beautiful.  
Thinking we would take a bit of a scenic route down to Orbisonia, we crossed over the river and were about to start down a bucolic highway when some guy pulled up next to a stop sign, got out of his truck, and flagged us down.  He explained that the road was about to get a lot steeper and narrower, and if we were headed to Orbisonia we’d be much better advised to double back across the bridge and take an alternate route.  After consulting our surprisingly pathetic navigational aids, Jon commented that we couldn’t simply discard this bit of serendipitously provided advice. Long story short:  Our guardian angel was absolutely right:  We were much better off, and the rest of the trip to Orbisonia was pleasant and uneventful.  
Ed, the local Methodist pastor in Orbisonia, could not be more helpful and welcoming.  He has put us up in the local community center, where I now sit in a comfortable, spacious room, typing and getting drowsy and deciding it’s time to sign off…
Dave (and the gang)

Blessing of the Bicycles and Riders 2013

Friends (with and without bikes) gathered on Friday afternoon for a blessing and send-off of the PA-to-DC bicyclists.  Many thanks to all who participated: leaders, long-haul cyclists, in-town cyclists, and all who brought voices to raise in song, prayer and joyful cheer.

Barb Ballenger joined us in song, teaching those gathered a round based on the words of Hillel the Elder:

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? If I am only for myself than what am I?  If not now, when?

Pastor Steve Lynn offered the blessing:

We begin our blessing of the bicycles, the riders and their mission with a reading from scripture.

From Ezekiel: When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When they moved, the others moved; when they stopped, the others stopped; and when they rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.

Let us pray:  Present in a world groaning under the excesses of consumption, we acknowledge the goodness of non-motorized human powered transportation and give thanks for the simple beauty of the bicycle. Lord In your Mercy, Hear our prayer. 

We ask your blessing and protection today on all who ride: Pedi cabbies, weekend bikers, athletes, homeless folks, students, children, eco-bikers, bike messengers and all who take to the streets and highways, bike paths, parks and mountains. Lord In Your Mercy, hear our prayer 

We pray for the safety of Jon, Dave, Jesse and Hannah, Ray and Andy as they ride. Please keep them safe, give them energy and enthusiasm, good judgment, grant them welcome in their rest stops, and restful sleep at night. Lord In Your Mercy, hear our prayer 

We pray for their mission, Please bless their example of riding their bikes to Washington, bless their words about caring for creation and allow their words to fall on receptive ears. Lord In Your Mercy, hear our prayers. 

And last Holy God, please bless our riders with a strong sense of your presence, joy and peace.   Amen

Please receive one more blessing: 

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back, may your journeying be joyous; and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of God’s hand. Amen and Godspeed.

And finally, Cricket added a closing:

We gathered here today to bless and send off these intrepid bicyclists as they
travel to spread the word about the enormous challenge facing us; urge others to action; join in with communities of faith as they demonstrate and explore their own strength of conviction

But in fact, they are also blessing us.

They are, of course, blessing PA IPL by fundraising to help make it possible for us to do this work.  As importantly, they are blessing us as individuals and communities, by being visible signs of hope.

 As the rest of us walk through the next few days, let us recall your pedals with our steps.  Let us feel the strength of hope in your pedaled prayers.

In these days we will pray for that same bright hope of healing action to awaken in each of us, in all those aware of your trip, and in the leaders you are going to visit.

Thank you.
Travel in hope.
Join in community.
Be safe.
Thank you.

Bike Trip blog 2013.2: Send-off and welcome

This is the best way to begin our trek to DC. We arrived at Micah and Bethany’s farm (Plowshare Produce) about six p.m. after a short, but tough, 18-mile ride from State College. We had a short tour of the farm, saw the impressive Percheron draft horses that plough the fields, and cooed over the new lambs and goats. 

This farm is such an inspiration – from solar-powered pumps to a woodstove heating the greenhouse, this is what a low-carbon lifestyle is all about. Some 20 family members and friends joined us for a wonderful dinner and conversation – we even broke into song – seriously! Now we’re sitting around, relaxing and getting ready for bed (there are, however, three computers open and running). 

Many, many folks showed up to wish us off from Grace Lutheran Church. We loved all the hugs, well-wishes and prayers. Pastor Steve Lynn read from Ezekiel 1:19-20: “When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.” Most impressive, however, were all the prayers, drawings and well-wishes that were presented to Hannah – she’s carrying them in a bag over her shoulder! 

About fifteen people accompanied us on bikes out of State College, causing University students to spontaneously cheer us on. We even stopped traffic on Atherton (our main street) as our group crossed. It was a great atmosphere. But, gradually, we six were abandoned to face Pine Grove Mills mountain alone. 

We all made it, though not without scars (sorry, Ray); I was particularly impressed with Hannah and Jesse pushing their way up on the tandem! The view from the top is so great, though, and with the warm sun and light breeze, we felt a real sense of accomplishment. 
Huntingdon, where we’re looking forward to helping make the town more bicycle friendly. Tomorrow, we’ll do some weeding and other farm chores in the morning and then head to 

Jon (Andy, Dave, Hannah, Jess and Ray)