Jeffrey was up at 0500. He loaded our machine and we set off for the Lake Michigan shore, then to the UChicago Charter Donoghue Campus on the South Side.
We were met by the third grade scholars of Ms. Heller’s (Deena’s) class, and by our good friend Ruth, seen at right snapping a photo. Deena suggested that I stay in my plastic bag, so as not to distract the children.
Deena has taught the students a lot about refugees, asylum, and immigration. They shared their considerable knowledge with Jeffrey. The children had thought their community was homogeneous until Ms. Heller opened their eyes and their minds. Turns out that several of their parents and grandparents had immigrated.
Jeffrey showed the students this photo . . .
. . . and told redacted stories about clients who might have been the pictured children’s parents: The woman from China who worked in a bank, reported thefts to the Party, and was jailed because Party officials were behind the thefts. The soldier from Libera who faced death for refusing to obey orders to kill innocents. The man from Russia who became a Baptist, then was beaten and fired from his job. The lawyer from Bangladesh who started a group to protect the rights of women, then fanatics broke his bones. The woman from Colombia whose life and children were threatened because she refused to help guerillas.
The third graders asked excellent questions and showed great empathy. Their intelligent, open minds give us hope in this season of political ignorance and venom.
Deena is a remarkable teacher. She is like a lawyer in the courtroom: hypervigilant, reacting instantly to everything to prevent matters from spinning out of control. It is an exhausting job that she does with flair.
The mutual lesson over, we left for the Southwest.
We rolled through the South Side.
The wonderful architecture, the wide boulevards and lush parks, show that once this was a rich area. Now it struggles. America always has evolved due to domestic migrations and immigrants. The unchanging Old America eulogized by right-wing politicians, never existed.
Drivers everywhere were courteous to us. We enjoyed friendly toots, thumbs-ups, kind words for us and our mission. People photographed us and our Ride sign. Climbing a short steep hills, we were shadowed by a Chicago police car that prevented anyone from passing us until we reached the top, then sped away with a toot and a wave.
Ten miles from the Donoghue school, we got our first flat tire ever on the Sprint 26. The tube was punctured by glass debris. Jeffrey patched the tube and tire, then changed our route so we would pass a bike shop in another 9 miles. That would give the tire time to leak if the patch was bad.
The tire held. But to be safe, Jeffrey asked the opinion of a mechanic at Richards Bicycles in Palos Heights. He showed Jeffrey that after 4200 flat-free miles, the tire sidewalls were deteriorating. Jeffrey had them install our spares. The mechanics were quick, expert, and cheerful: A+.
We continued SW, sometimes on busy roads, sometimes on long stretches of the well-paved Tinley Park and Old Plank Road trails.
Debbie and Maxine were walking separately on the Old Plank Road trail.
Debbie teaches high school English and is earning an ESL certificate. Many of her students are not native English speakers. Maxine grew up in England, retired from a career as a lawyer for a major American firm, and loves teaching middle school science. Both are sympathetic to refugees and will follow our progress.
A paintball convention (yes, we are in the Heartland!) filled Joliet’s hotels. Ground controller Nancy phoned around, found us a room, and ordered Jeffrey a pizza. The care she takes of her bumbling spouse is like something out of a storybook.
Nancy’s attentions deeply impressed Amit, the son of the owner of the Best Western Joliet. Amit immigrated from Mumbai 10 years ago after waiting 13 years in the visa queue. He says it’s only right to help refugees.
Thanks to Nancy, Amit gave Jeffrey a warm reception and a room just right for a Kangaroo Court Puppet, his human chauffeur, and a Sprint 26, after 15 hours on the road.