Lodestar

Jeffrey here.

I’ll sum up the 2021 Ride for Human Rights.

Joey and I have pedaled 506 miles (863 km) this season, 12,279 miles (19,769 km) altogether on our eleven annual Rides.

Our travels were cut short when our Brompton’s rear wheel cracked.

Joey and I stopped near a flock of geese in Riverside Park after our rear brake began to thump.
After thousands of bumpy miles, the rim gave up.

Master Mechanic Jake at Brompton Junction on Bleecker Street needs time to replace the wheel, so it’s a good time to end this year’s Ride. (And it’s a good time to donate to Human Rights First and earn your souvenir Beatles postcard, autographed by Joey and me!)

Jake and his colleague Simone are fans of human rights.

L to R: Joey, Simone. See our calling card on the table? Simone noticed that Human Rights First has a presence in Houston. Her mom is a Houston paralegal who helps Haitian refugees.

On the 2021 Ride, the pandemic kept us local as we showed the sign and the flag that stand for freedom.

American freedom is based, not on the necessary evil of military power, but on the ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

The pandemic kept us from sharing these words along distant roads with our fellow Americans, citizens and noncitizens, of First Nations and other nations, who are the focus of our Rides.

I miss those folks.

I am reminded of Clare Sestanovich’s June 2021 essay in The New Yorker, ”The Joy of Crossing Paths with Strangers”.

There’s a Robert Frost [1874-1963] poem, called ”Meeting and Passing,” [that] describes two people walking toward each other. . . . They see each other, they stop and speak. . . .

. . . But all / We did that day was mingle great and small / Footprints in summer dust as if we drew / The figure of our being less than two / But more than one as yet.

. . . Here are two people who meet, but do not merge. . . . But it is not by merging, by simply passing, that they see things anew:

Afterward I went past what you had passed / Before we met, and you what I had passed.

This is obvious, and almost unnecessary to describe. And yet it’s remarkable, too—a cartography of a shared world that does not insist on bringing everyone together. In parting ways, we are still importing something of ourselves: go ahead; go look; go see what I have seen.

The Rides, and our stories about them, let you see the best of what we have seen.

Seeing and being seen. Engaging with, teaching, and learning from those we meet.

These Ride essentials are best done in person. As David Brooks wrote on October 8 in The New York Times:

[Dropping stereotypes] requires social courage, crossing group lines to have conversations. When we have conversations with people in other groups, we take the static world of essentialism and turn it into flux. In conversation people are not objects, but ongoing narrators of their own lives, navigating between their multiple identities, steering through certainties and doubts, and refining their categories through contact with other.

We’re a big diverse country; whether we see that diversity through a fixed mind-set or a growth mind-set makes all the difference.

New York City is not a melting pot. To use MAD Magazine’s Dave Berg metaphor, NYC is a stew. Ingredients retain their identity while blending with and enriching the other ingredients.

People in this city know that immigration enriches, financially and culturally. That immigration makes America. That immigration of refugees and others, works.

Not everyone in America knows all that.

When the pandemic permits, we want to leave NYC and pedal from where we left off in Seattle in March 2019, to the last 9 of the Lower 48 States.

The red arrow points to our bike. The green states are the nine we have yet to reach on the Rides.

Out where, as Brooks says, we cross group lines, have conversations, refine our categories, and see diversity through our growth mind-set.

Maybe in the spring of 2022.

New York is our base, but America is our lodestar. Its land and its people draw us in.

Savor this NYC subway poster. ”I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t stay home where the big dipper rises from, time and again; one mountain ash. And I wouldn’t have thought without travelling out how huge that dipper was, how small that tree.”
Look closely for the Big Dipper and the North Star—the lodestar—above my native village in northern NY. The clouds near the horizon are in Canada.

I love being on the road. Family … friends … Emily and others at Human Rights First … and readers and donors like you, give me the courage to keep going out there, among the roaring trucks and slavering dogs and raging storms—and the amazing sights and the wonderful people.

Yet I willingly end each Ride.

Because Nancy, my other, brighter, more powerful, more beautiful lodestar, my source of everything good, draws me back, guides me home again.