Today we pedaled 80 miles from Vassar to West Branch.
Until now, I’ve been ornamental only. Last night, Jeffrey put me under his mylar sheet and used me as a pillow.
Without access to water, we thought it best to get rolling early. After leaving a few dollars toward the electricity we consumed and the inconvenience we caused – hoping the token would not insult our hosts – we slipped away.
Our first stop was the Char House in Portsmouth, at the edge of Bay City, where Jeffrey washed his hands and face and had a vegetable cheese omelet with fatty Texas toast – uncharred.
Some customers asked about the Ride, and others listened to Jeffrey’s explanation. One couple took the blog address; perhaps they’ll follow our progress.
We passed the U.S.S. Edson at the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum. The Edson formerly was part of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum a few blocks from our home in New York City.
Our route became more rural as we moved away from Saginaw Bay. Many area roads, in town and country, are bad. Every dark spot and line you see here is raised asphalt, or a hole, and both make bumps. The trike tires, frame and seat absorb some of the shock, but the trike has no suspension. Bumps aren’t painful; they are wearying. We got pretty weary.
We stopped at a local supermarket. We did not buy Hillbilly Bread but wonder if there is a connection to 1940s Texas pol Pappy O’Daniel’s Hillbilly Flour (see the second volume of Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson). Oddly, we do not recall seeing this product on our 2012 Ride to Nashville.
We took our lunch to a county park in Pinconning, where we met a number of locals. Robert, formerly a machinist, told Jeffrey of his health problems, of becoming a widower months before his 50th wedding anniversary, and how lonely he was until he married a widow who had lost her spouse with similar timing. Robert fears that his health issues burden his spouse and needed someone to listen, so we just listened and assured him that he gives his wife the gift of feeling useful.
Jeremy is the mechanic, and Dan the supervisor, who keep the park running. They showed Jeffrey some cool artifacts (a handful are shown below) in the rangers’ office. Dan, a professional photographer who fell on hard times as newspapers declined and fewer people could afford professional photos and photography classes, has found a new niche improving this park. We think it looks great, and Dan has only begun.
Back on the road, we enjoyed these hints of local culture.
The air was fresh, but the sun sapped Jeffrey’s energy. The official temperature climbed to 88F (31C); the shadeless pavement was hotter. We stopped at a park to cool down, and met Roger, Julie, Connie and Ed, who rode their beautiful Harleys from Flushing, a Flint suburb.
Jeffrey explained how asylum applicants in America are on their own, with help and counsel only “at no expense to the government.” Our new friends think this is shameful; they think people deserve a fair chance to make their cases, and that means a free lawyer for those who can’t pay. They gave us advice about what we will encounter as we move north in Michigan. Nice people!
We met many more nice people in the course of the day, but we’ll leave you with Joe. He called out to us from the roadside as we pedaled by, and asked to borrow our phone. Joe said he left Seattle five years ago, unable to afford West Coast rents. He has traveled the country since, sticking to 2-lane roads, surviving on his “food stamp” SNAP card and on whatever people give him. We gave him a little to help him keep going.
Joe got us thinking. Joe isn’t “productive” in the conventional sense. But there’s room for him here; good people help him survive, what he spends on food helps the economy, and like Robert he gives people the gift of feeling useful. In America, there’s room for Joe, and for you, and for Jeffrey the crazy cyclist whose voice is a kangaroo puppet. And there’s room for refugees whose path to safety and membership in our community is longer and harder than it ought to be.