A Mighty Woman

Jeffrey here. As every year, until next spring’s Ride, Joey gives me the last word.

Nancy brought me home by plane, 5 weeks to the day after I left for Albuquerque.  We arrived before dawn.

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Home!  My first view west from our apartment. That’s New Jersey across the Hudson River.

This seventh Ride achieved my goal to propel myself across the United States.

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Not shown: the Rides from NYC to Iowa, Tennessee, Florida, the Great Lakes, & New England.

The circuitous route of over 3500 miles (5700 km) more than compensated for some tens of unpedaled dangerous desert miles through which my truckin’ New Mexico friends, Jesus and George, powered Joey and me on the 6th and 7th Rides.

L to R: Jesus, Joey (2016); Joey, George (2017)

Every Ride is a hypnotizing mix of mental and physical challenge, solitude and human connection, focus on the moment and absorption in the vastness, staggering beauty and ugly motor traffic, and people of all backgrounds. I need time to process it. Channeling The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962):

The thread through every Ride is American kindness and fairmindedness. When gently shown that our law abandons persecuted foreigners to fend for themselves in court, the People say NO.

It’s why, every year, I fall in love with Americans again.

Emma Lazarus loved America, too. You know her 1883 sonnet. Please read it again, with added emphases.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Refugees are the Least Among Us.  They have no country to protect them.

In this land that belongs to its inhabitants, no matter their papers (what papers did the First Nations, the Conquistadores, the Pilgrims, Alexander Hamilton, and most Ellis Island arrivals have?), Americans want to be fair and generous to strangers, as their Scriptures tell them to be.

Some of our kind neighbors don’t realize they have the tools to help.

Let’s speak up softly but firmly when people are misled into fearing refugees. Refute lies about immigrants: even unauthorized immigrants commit less crime, spread less disease, create jobs for Americans, and work harder than the America-born. Be a friend to the stranger. Join with others in the community, and with nationwide organizations like Human Rights First, to see that asylum applicants get the professional help they need to have their cases fairly heard.

Let’s lift our lamp beside the golden door.

And now, some thanks . . .

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America is wonderful. Each year, I roll through a land set like a banquet table. Even its worst roads, are roads.  Even its poorest food, is food.  Even its simplest motel is shelter.  My needs are met by new friends I make every day.  People are kind and generous.  I am but dust, yet it seems that the whole world was created for my sake.

Question:  If a kangaroo puppet is pedaled across the country and no one notices, did it really happen?

Answer:  The answer is irrelevant, because this year, as every year, friends like you show that you notice.  You email and text, you post encouraging comments on the blog, you donate to The Cause, you spread the word, you are the wind at my back and the descent after a hard climb.  I don’t often respond, but I see, and I remember, and I’m grateful.

I’m particularly grateful to friends and family who took me in:  Peggy and George in New Mexico; Steve and Michele, Hillary and Courtney, Cindy and Lou, Terry, Julie and Nattie, in California. They made a home for me, far from my home.

Peggy and George went above and beyond. For 12 days, George (in a truck he rented and fueled) made sure I got over the mountains and across the desert.  George supplied me with iced water, tuna subs, sugary snacks.  He explained area geology and suggested detours into the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, and Meteor Crater.  After he saw me past the Mojave, George needed 2 more days to drive home.  Peggy gave her time, money, and blessing to make it happen.  And imagine—through our mutual Maryland friends Elisa E., Irene and Mario, we first met less than a year ago!  I can’t thank them enough.

Emma Lazarus called Liberty “a mighty woman with a torch”.

There is a mighty woman for whom I carry the torch.

IMG_2433Nancy is brilliant, principled and determined.  She has run businesses and ran (not walked) the NYC Marathon.  Someone has to run our family; talent and circumstance chose her.

Without her annual fearful assent, the Rides would not happen.

On every Ride, I eat and sleep because Nancy works to pay my way.

This year—when the route included hundreds of miles of desert beginning in New Mexico, followed by 250 miles across California’s arid Mojave— Nancy asked me to find a chaperone (enter George!).  The dangers I encounter are less scary than the dangers Nancy imagines.  But she never says that I can’t go.

If I am the kite, pretty Nancy is the string.  She lets me rise, keeps me steady, and at the end of the adventure, draws me home.

To be with my love.

Where I belong.

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9 thoughts on “A Mighty Woman

  1. Well written, Jeff – as were all your travel entries. And thanks, Nancy, for putting the ‘courage’ in encourage. Rich

  2. This is so beautiful, Jeffrey. You and Nancy are exemplary Americans and role models for all of us at Human Rights First. We are beyond grateful for your kindness and sacrifice. You inspire us!

  3. Jeffrey, this is a very moving post. In fact, it makes me weep, out of happiness for you and Nancy and out of sadness for my brother Tom (our common denominator) and his beautiful, steadfast wife Susan. A strong sense of humanitarian purpose unites you all and is a “torch” of its own that will be carried forward by people you have inspired, even when all of us are gone. Congratulations on a successful, tremendously interesting journey and welcome home! Barbara (Rugh) Robeson

  4. Welcome Home. You are such an inspiration. We are proud to have you as our friend.

  5. Welcome home to where you belong with Nancy. She is truly all that you say she is. Your heartfelt tribute is inspirational and makes me grateful for her as well. Carry on!

  6. Congratulations and welcome home!! What a truly beautiful tribute to Americans, Nancy and our country! Thank you for taking us all on your ride.

  7. Just arrived home from a holiday in Berlin and Amsterdam. Once again heartiest congratulations on your ride and to your wonderful wife, Nancy and not forgetting Joey of course! Looking forward to your next venture. Regards Michael and Annette

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