Today we rode 83 miles from West Branch to Gaylord, Michigan. We took the long way around to avoid some terrible gravel roads.
Our motel was decorated in the hunter/fisher/lumberjack style. It reflects the locale. We’re a long way from Manhattan.
Our early miles were on rough chipseal roads, steep hills (Ice Age glaciers dug the Great Lakes and scraped vast areas flat, and that material had to go somewhere), and west into a brisk wind. It was slow, hard, hot going. Jeffrey began to wonder if he could reach Gaylord before sundown (9:15 PM – we’re at the western edge of the time zone).
At last the road turned north, the terrain flattened, the pavement smoothed, and we tore along at 20 mph! What a relief!
Jeffrey needed fuel. We stopped at No Limits Pizza in St. Helen. We met Jill (seen below) and Maryanne. Jill is from a nearby town of 400, which for her is just the right size.
Jill and Maryanne asked about the Ride. After Jeffrey explained, they were troubled by U.S. policy not to provide counsel for asylum applicants who can’t afford a lawyer. In an aside, Jill said she worries that some non-refugee immigrants abuse public assistance.
Jeffrey explained that Jill was misinformed. People who come to America for economic reasons – many of whom migrate from Mexico and points south – are not eligible for public assistance, and work hard in sectors vital to our economy. With lower rates of crime and disease, and higher rates of labor force participation and entrepreneurship than native Americans, even unauthorized immigrants are good people and good neighbors. The problem is not the immigrants, but America’s dysfunctional immigration system.
Whether or not Jeffrey’s facts convinced Jill, Jill respects our effort in any event. She refused to allow Jeffrey to pay for his pizza and drink. To honor her kindness, we will donate to the Ride on her behalf.
We continued to encounter bad stretches of road, and occasional smooth bits. Miles of road passed through woods with no houses and no cultivated fields.
We kept going through drenching rains, lightning and thunder, past Otsego Lake and lush ponds, past a house in Arbutus Beach flying the Confederate battle flag, past a puzzling sign, past a hill that suggests what some of the few local hills are made of.
Gaylord hardly seems “Alpine”: it’s flat as a pancake. But we reached it.
And there we met Barbara. She waved as we rode by, then passed us in her truck, leaped out, and handed Jeffrey a $20 bill for Human Rights First.
Barbara, a former paramedic, lifeguard and ski patroller who became a registered nurse and severely injured her back helping patients, said she saw Jeffrey on TV or on the Web, couldn’t believe her eyes when we rode by, and had to be sure she made a donation. We talked about asylum, human rights, and nursing (Jeffrey also is an RN). It was like talking to an old friend.
Barbara went on her way, and we proceeded to a motel where the clerks were so taken with the idea of the Ride, they gave us a room at half price, with a jacuzzi! The tub is wasted on Jeffrey who is such a peasant, and kangaroo puppets must avoid water. But what a kind gesture.
Which brings us to the topic of Heartland values.
More than one of Jeffrey’s friends and family have suggested that he’s nuts to travel the Heartland without a weapon. But look at all the friends we make!
And yes, they are friends. Real friendship is not based on shared interests. It requires shared values. If shared interests were necessary or sufficient, then Jeffrey (who cares nothing for sports) and Nancy (who played basketball at Duke) would not have been an Item for so many years. It is shared values that meld minds and hearts.
We – and maybe you – don’t share a lot of the local Northern Michigan interests: hunting, fishing, trapping, riding motorcycles are a few of them. But we – and maybe you – share their local Real American values of kindness and fairness. Day after day, person after person along our way has been kind to us strangers. Everyone we’ve talked to agrees that poor asylum applicants should not have to navigate the system without a lawyer. Whoever flies that Confederate flag in Arbutus Beach may not be our kind of person, but we feel on the same page with everyone else. It is a good feeling, a hopeful feeling, a feeling we think you’d share if you join us on a Ride.