Today we pedaled 81 miles across the thumb of the Michigan mitten, from Port Huron to Vassar.
We started our day by talking to Sandra, Kathy and Kimberly, native Michiganders who were taking a break from their hotel housekeeping. Sandra, who has a B.A. in psych but works in housekeeping and has worked in a pickle factory because of the bad economy and the pressures she has faced as a single mom, spoke for all three. She said immigrants to the United States are just like everyone else, trying to take care of their families. She has had her own bewildering legal difficulties and thinks it’s important that asylum applicants have lawyers. All three women think it’s a shame that Canada provides lawyers for its putative refugees, while “The Land of the Free” does not. People like them, who live in the real world and know that roosters don’t lay eggs, want us to do the right thing.
We took our leave and headed for a public beach on Lake Huron, the third largest freshwater lake in the world, three times the size of the State of New Jersey. Jeffrey and I stopped to enjoy the beauty. Jeffrey snapped my picture on a picnic table in a moment of Churchillian contemplation, as well as my full face.
Soon we were deep in farm country. Some roads were smooth, many were rough, and some were gravel. With the same effort, at times we cruised at 6 mph, at other times 16 mph.
We would have regretted our longest gravel “shortcut” of about 3 miles, except that we met Brian, who was about to plant organic soybeans.
Brian and Jeffrey had a fascinating discussion about the role of government in our lives. About allowing lawyers for asylum applicants only “at no expense to the government,” he said that asylum applicants are right to apply, and the government is wrong to deny them the means to be heard effectively. Not that counsel is a guarantee of justice. Brian told Jeffrey about high-voltage power lines that are to bisect the 300-acre farm that his family has worked for 4 generations. He failed to stop the imposition of eminent domain. But he had a lawyer so he had the help he needed to do his best. He talked of other things too, such as the First Lady’s well-meaning but (he thinks) misguided pro-broccoli campaign, and how one size does not fit all. Jeffrey knows that; after pedaling all day, he doesn’t need greens, he needs calories!
When we finally got back to pavement, we needed a sugary soda and some ice cream. We stopped at a bait and sundries shop. Jeffrey made his selection. In came Dan, who had seen the sign on our trike. He asked what human rights we are promoting. After Jeffrey explained, Dan insisted on buying Jeffrey’s snack. We will donate the value to Human Rights First on Dan’s behalf. He and Casey, the proprietress, said they will follow us on line. Casey showed Jeffrey some photos from her pastor daughter’s Third World aid missions; Casey well appreciates the religious importance of helping refugees win safety in America.
Some time later, we passed a church where the notorious 1930s demagogue, Father Coughlin, once was pastor. The open bigotry he espoused was common in his day, but no more. Times have changed for the better.
In Mayville, we met Ryan, who tomorrow will graduate high school and who has enlisted in the Marines. We wish him well on his life-changing adventure, as he wished us well on ours. He said he’ll keep track of us on line.
In Vassar, we met Nathan and Margo, who took Jeffrey’s photo. Nathan works in construction; Margo works hard raising children and caring for the home. They suggested a good route north; warned us of areas to avoid; said that immigrant workers are common in Michigan, particularly in grape-growing areas to the west; and support immigrants’ rights. Nathan said his Irish and Italian ancestors were badly treated when they came to America, and that they did what today’s immigrants want to do: better themselves, their families and their community. Once again we are heartened by people’s kindness.
We reached the Vassar Inn, the only hotel for miles, and discovered that although it’s deserted tonight, all the rooms are spoken for by wind turbine workers who have left for the weekend. Jeffrey talked to the owner, Sue, who thought a bit, then offered to put us up in the room also used by her brother Tony, and refused to accept any money. Kindness to a stranger, pure and simple! (I don’t know whether she asked Tony, who was painting an exterior wall.) Jeffrey didn’t want to disturb anyone, so he suggested that he sleep in the garage. Done! Jeffrey has an air mattress but Sue offered a chaise lounge (hidden behind the trike). Jeffrey carries mylar “space blankets” so he has emergency “linens.” A shower would have been nice, but the important thing is a roof and walls. Tomorrow is another day.