Alone

(With a nod to Admiral Byrd.)

Jeffrey here. As on previous Rides, I get the last word.

In past years, this blog has gone dormant after a Ride was finished.  This year, with immigration reform on the table, I may continue to post, although not nightly.  We shall see.

Yesterday I drove 1,075 miles from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Bellmawr, New Jersey, stopping there so Nancy would not wait up for me. This morning I drove the last 95 miles to my home overlooking the Hudson River.

The vehicle was a $29/day rented, oxymoronically large, minivan. The trike fit easily in the back.

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In pedaling 1400 miles to St. Petersburg, the only petroleum I consumed was a few drops to lubricate the trike chain after a North Carolina rainstorm.

The return to New York took 45 gallons of gasoline. That fuel bought me speed and comfort. At a price.

It wasn’t just the $155 and the environmental cost.

In that glass and steel living room, rolling through the countryside at the touch of a toe, I saw only cars and trucks, the road, the sky, and a blur of forest and field and development. I heard only engines, tires, the roar of the wind. No birdsong. No interesting plants or animals. No feel for the topography or pavement. No legible historic site signs. No friendly waves, nor even the rare rude gesture. I was isolated from the world, and from others in their own wheeled boxes. The only natural odor was a single quick whiff of skunk.

Alone is an absolute. One can’t be “more alone” any more than one can be “more unique” or “more pregnant” or “more dead”. Either one is or one isn’t.

I was alone.

Yet on a bicycle or tricycle, I am connected to the world and to the people in it.

Connectedness to one’s community is important to well-being. When I arrived home this morning, my family all were out making the world a better place, but Mike and Claude (who saw me off on March 27) were there to greet Joey and me. Community!

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L to R: Mike, Joey, Jeffrey, Claude.

Yet the comfort of community poses a danger. Embed oneself too deeply in a particular community and it’s easy to ignore those who don’t belong.

I’m happy that these Rides generate a bit of money to help Human Rights First do its important work. My own reward is the chance to leave the urban bubble – it is a bubble, notwithstanding NYC’s astonishing diversity – and bridge a bit of the gap between refugees and the good people in the Heartland who would help if only they knew.

Putting aside a handful of rude drivers, I was treated kindly by everyone, everywhere. I took every opportunity to talk about HRF and how asylum applicants are treated. People listened sympathetically and respectfully, and they gave moral and financial support.

No table-pounding. Just facts offered gently and in context. That’s all it takes to inform people about a way to improve America.  Maybe, someday, if those people act on what they now know, things will get better.

I am grateful to you who followed this Ride, and to you who used it, or who will use it (click here) as a vehicle to donate to HRF.

My sincere thanks to the restaurateurs, hoteliers, and other merchants in every state who gave discounts and kind words to help us along; I’ll put in a good word on the Web.  Special thanks to Douglas and Nancy Lowry (VA), Patti Fowler (NC), Peggy Tyler (SC), and Mimi and Rich Rice (FL), friends who went out of their way to welcome, feed and shelter me for hours or for days.

My father’s community, the residents and staff at the Toby Weinman Pavilion in St. Petersburg, welcomed me also. One resident gave me a water bottle to replace one lost en route. Several made donations to HRF despite their limited means. Most have had refugees in the family, and all know what it is to be alone.

Thanks to my friends at HRF – particularly Lauren Trinka and Kathy Jones – for staying in touch from the mother ship.

My children and almost-son-in-law – Benjamin, Rebecca, Deena and David – were there when I needed moral or practical support. They donate to HRF, give advice, find hotels, and look after Nancy in person and by remote control while I’m away.

When people try to sell you something, they say, “You deserve . . .”. Hogwash! People don’t get what they deserve. They get what they get.

I got Nancy, quite undeserved. She thinks I’m nuts to do these Rides, but she stands behind me anyway, working to keep us afloat and pay the Ride’s expenses while I spend weeks away from my professional and domestic duties. She has all of the worry and none of the fun. She helps me, with love, to do what I want to do.

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What more could one want than a friend, a spouse, like that? Nancy, my sweetie-pie, is the reason I come home.

4 thoughts on “Alone

  1. Jeff,
    What a perfectly written post – ride essay..on all levels, personal and yet universal. You are a rare “New Yorker” to understand or admit that despite the urban diversity, New York City residents often do not realize they are in a sheltered “bubble” in many ways, and we both probably have met many New Yorkers who don’t dare leave Manhattan. Bubbles can burst and you have gone way beyond the ‘fringe’ biking to Iowa, Tennessee and now Florida. By the way that was an excellent rate you got for a mini van rental and the gas comsumption for the drive home did not seem extra large.
    Good for you . I hope you can rest a bit and get “resettled” back in your home.

    Cousin Joel

  2. Very inspiring reflection and encomium for causes and the loved ones who support us in them.

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