In Which We Say So Long

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Left to right: Jeffrey, Joey

Jeffrey here. I get the last word.

For those who like such things, some statistics:

Distance cycled: 1216 miles (1960 km). Days cycled: 18, not counting 3 days staying put in Chicago and Postville. Daily average: 67 miles (109 km). Shortest run: 47 miles (76 km) from Hubbard, OH, to Kent, OH. Longest run: 100 miles (161 km) from Elkhart, IN, to Chicago, IL. Top speed: 41 mph (66 kph) down a Pennsylvania mountain, while braking to avoid going even faster. Fastest daily average: 14 mph (23 kph). Slowest daily average: 8 mph (13 kph). Flats: 5 in rear tire (NJ, PA, IL, WI, IA); 1 in front tire (OH). Cargo: over 40 lb (18 kg) when twice I took on 8-packs of Gatorade bottles (10 lb, 4.5 kg), before I learned that one can buy Gatorade powder to add to water as needed. Funds raised for Human Rights First: over $12,600 and counting.

My daughter Rebecca will drive me back to NYC from Iowa.  The trip that took 3 weeks on a bicycle will take 2 long days by car.

I had a marvelous time in the Heartland, out in the fresh air, seeing the sights, startling the livestock, talking to people. I kept my promise to carry Joey from NYC to Postville, even if I fell a bit short of 1400 miles due to mechanical failure.

And I did it all by myself.

Well, not quite.

For starters, I was born in this wonderful place we call the USA. I came into a world of agriculture and industry and comfort and safety, for none of which can I claim the least bit of credit. I had parents to love and care for me, siblings to teach me and test me, languages ready-made for me to learn. There is no such thing as a self-made man.

I didn’t pave the roads or build the BikeE. I didn’t produce the food that fueled the trip. Everything I used was created by others, some long dead, for my benefit. Of the people I met, all of whom had names and lives and histories before and after I passed through, all were civil and virtually all were actively kind to me. They taught me a lot, and listened respectfully, even acceptingly, when I told them about immigration, refugees, asylum, and Human Rights First.

Judging by where I went and whom I saw, America is big beyond my ability to grasp, rich beyond measure, and inhabited by people of intellect and decency. We have plenty to share, and we do share a lot. We should expect even more from ourselves; Americans have the character and resources to deliver.

I thank those who followed this blog, who donated to the cause of training free lawyers for refugees (It’s not too late to donate!  If not now, when?), who told family and friends of the plight of immigrants and refugees, and who offered me words of encouragement.

I’m grateful to the people of Postville for telling me their stories and letting me teach their children.  In Postville, I learned how diversity and acceptance (not mere tolerance) can flourish in what seems an unlikely place.  It’s an important lesson.

The Mohan, Haverkamp, Olian, and Polsky families provided shelter, food, and friendship along the way. I’m lucky to know such wonderful people. I made new friends, too, chief among them Eddie Roberts, Ron Wahls and Shad Sluiter, who, true children of Abraham, spent hours of their precious time providing warm hospitality to a stranger; and in the case of Shad and Ron, giving me insight into the culture and history of Postville and rural Iowa.

Lauren Trinka and Justin Howard, of Human Rights First, helped me start this project and kept me going with cheery and professional advice and encouragement.  HRF’s Director of Development, Kathy Jones, was behind them and behind me the whole way, even turning out for the predawn departure from Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

I am deeply grateful to my children, Deena, Rebecca, and Benjamin. They encouraged the old man to go through with this crazy idea. They were there when I needed them. Their kindness and sense of social responsibility make this parent very happy.

The person who deserves the most credit is my best friend and the light of my life, Nancy Freund Heller. She paid all expenses of this adventure, so every penny donated will go to Human Rights First. She let me abandon my domestic duties for more than three weeks of freedom on the road. She was my ground control, watching over me with a GPS, finding routes and places to stay, worrying about my welfare, never wavering in her support, notwithstanding the daunting personal and professional burdens she has had to shoulder in the past weeks, alone.

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Nancy. She's simply the best.

Maybe if our legislators loved someone (other than themselves) as I love Nancy, they would not enact immigration laws that separate families. No law could keep me away from Nancy. She is why I am ready to go home.

9 thoughts on “In Which We Say So Long

  1. I am moved to tears by your accomplishment and your wonderful words about Nancy. You are a remarkable man Jeff!

  2. Hats off to my wonderful hubby! He completed an amazing journey despite rain and hail, flat tires and hills, run-down hotels and sparse road signs. Not many could manage such a trip with just a stuffed kangaroo. Your tribute brought tears to my eyes.

  3. Jeff – You’re incredible: not only do you support a good cause, but you teach us to appreciate the world around us, esp. the great U.S.A. And you have a great family as well.

  4. Jeffrey,

    The pleasure was all ours. I’ve truly enjoyed following you, the blog, donations, and all that came with setting up this adventure. HRF couldn’t ask for a better ambassador to travel the distance that you did in our name and benefit.

    Many many thanks

  5. I was so very touched by your words and actions.It is truly amazing. Your message about the children and Nancy made me cry. I remember hearing that at your wedding my Dad spoke – the Freunds always did – and I believe he called you a hell of a guy – Oh how right he was.

  6. Inspired Jeff! I was particularly interested in your comments on being more optimistic in America after this Trip. Without the tour I’m becoming cynical…prior to and just after the last national elections every politician says “jobs,jobs,jobs” are going to be our focus. What happens? Fewer federal dollars, deficit mania at the wrong time, and job losses at all levels of government! Just the opposite of what was campaigned for. Real unemployment still >15%.

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