In The City That Doesn’t Listen To What The People Say

This morning we rode the rails to the SW end of the Northeast Corridor line:  Washington, DC.

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A kind gentleman in the Union Station taxi line took our photo.

Here I am in front of the White House.

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Secret Service agents looked the other way to allow Jeffrey to put me on the fence.  Jeffrey remembers when the sidewalk wasn’t off limits, when Americans could approach, even enter, the White House.

We contemplated the (George) Washington Monument.

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Somehow it doesn’t evoke Washington’s renowned character.

We pedaled to the Capitol.  In Jeffrey’s youth, the People’s House wasn’t closed and barricaded.

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That’s the Washington Monument at the other end of the Mall.

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Everywhere we went, people talked to us, asked about the Ride, and expressed support for providing counsel and giving a humane reception to refugees and asylum applicants.  A family from India, now living in Connecticut.  A woman who said her first readings in law school were about refugees who were returned by the U.S. to face the persecution they had fled; she personally has helped resettle Syrian refugees, and said it is getting harder and harder to help them.  People from the world over who photographed our sign.

Here are some of our many new friends.

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L to R:  Riley, Joey, Keena.  They’re from Tupelo, Mississippi—we were there a few days ago!  Riley is a fine gentleman who believes in being kind to others.  That means that if people fleeing persecution aren’t equipped to apply for asylum without a lawyer’s help, a lawyer should be provided.  Keena agrees.  Like other Mississippians we met on our Ride, they get it!

Pedaling away from the Mall, Jeffrey spotted the Mayflower Hotel.  When he was 18, he won a scholarship and stayed there for a week as the guest of the W. R. Hearst Foundation.  He stopped for a souvenir photo.

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L to R:  Joey, Jeffrey

Asmamaw took our photo, and let us take his.

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Asmamaw grew up in Ethiopia.  He misses the Old Country, yet is grateful to be here.  He says it’s only fair for asylum applicants to have lawyers.

Our travels show that DC locals, and tourists, get it.  People from Maine to California, from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico, get it.

The get what it takes to be fair to foreigners, to the fearful, to the oppressed.

We saw the White House.  We saw the Capitol.  We thought of the people who work in those buildings on our behalf.  Why don’t they get it?

Americans want to be kind.  They tell us so.  Yet our leaders talk trash and act mean in our names.

Tomorrow we’ll link DC to the rest of our Rides by tagging up in a neighboring state.  And inspired by George Washington, we’ll think more about character.

 

Intermezzo

Joey here.

We left Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday morning.  Deena and I mugged for the camera.

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Jeffrey drove us 200 miles to Grove City, Ohio, where we recharged the electric car at the same free terminal we visited on the way out.  While we waited an hour, we strolled the town.

The downtown is out of a movie about mid-America.  It looks like a modern version of these murals.

Jeffrey lunched at Plank’s, built in 1854.

Caijun style salmon and two sides for $11.50.  It was all Jeffrey could do to finish it.

Then Jeffrey strolled to the city museum.  No one was there but Barbara, the docent.  They talked about—what else—immigration, asylum, and refugees.  Before our visit, Barbara already was upset at how the government treats refugees.  She told Jeffrey about her lovely Middle Eastern neighbors.  There is room in her town, and in her heart, for people who need a home.

We reached Bentleyville, Pennsylvania, 380 miles from Louisville; spent the night; and drove another 380 miles east through construction, traffic, and rain.

We thought of a saying of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:  “All the world is a narrow bridge . . .

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. . . and the important thing is not to be afraid.”

(ICE.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  You get the dark joke, right?)

We reached New York City on Saturday afternoon.

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Jeffrey greeting Nancy.

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Nancy greeting me.

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Our first gray view from home.

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Nancy and Jeffrey, together again.

Ordinarily, the Ride would now be over.  But these are not ordinary times.

Every year, beginning in 2011, Jeffrey has pedaled me over 1000 miles through the American heartland.  This year, in California, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennesee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana—combined!—we’ve biked only 759 miles.

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The black pins mark as far as we got in 2018 in California.  The gold pins are from 2017.

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The dark purple pins mark our 2018 Southern route.  The red pins are from 2012.  The light purple, marking St. Louis, is from 2016.

We still have work to do.

When we biked through Maryland and Virginia in 2012 and 2013, we skipped Washington, DC.  But biking to the Lower 48 won’t be complete without it.

Tomorrow, Nancy leaves for Washington, DC, on business.

Now’s our chance.  We’ll tag along.

We’ll be in touch soon from the capital city.

Six, Eight, Ten

Jeffrey here.  In two weeks of pedaling, we covered 635 miles from Indiana to Louisiana.  We added the five states (at left) to bring our Ride total to 37 (at right).

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I awoke this morning in a 19th century Airbnb house in Huntsville, Alabama.  Owner Jeanie helped with a special rate for the Ride. 

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At 6 AM on Thursdays, moviemaker David attends a Bible discussion session in Huntsville.  The group graciously allowed me to join them, listened to my explanation of how our country’s treatment of immigrants and refugees violates our moral principles, and assured me that sincere Christians must help the stranger and the oppressed.  In turn, I listened and learned.  Today’s topic was forgiveness.  L to R:  Tim, Reuben, Todd, Mark, Daniel, David.

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At 8 AM, David and I met in Huntsville with Caroline and Katherine.  They are starting a grassroots organization to help the 300+ immigration “detainees” (prisoners) in the Gadsden County Jail.  While they gather resources, they educate themselves and others about asylum seekers’ plight, and visit prisoners.  The visits are painful and sad.  I admire these fine women’s energy, conscience, and courage.

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At 10 AM, David and I met in Ardmore (the town split between Alabama and Tennessee) with Brother Brian, assistant pastor at a Baptist church.  His teachings about the Christian interpretation of scripture are fascinating.  Brother Brian affirmed that Christians must love the stranger.  We discussed how our country could be transformed if pastors woud lead their congregations to insist that the government that acts in our names, be kind to immigrants and refugees.  I respect Brother Brian’s intellect and heart.  We parted as friends.

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Our day’s meetings concluded, David chauffeured us back to Nashville, Tennessee.  I retrieved my electric car from friend Susan.  I transferred our gear from David’s car to mine.  Joey and I posed for David’s selfie.  We shook hands on a Ride well ended.  Cinematic David returned to Huntsville to begin editing his footage from our two weeks on the road.  I drove to Deena’s and her David’s house in Louisville, Kentucky, from which we left by bicycle on May 2.  Tomorrow morning, Joey and I begin the two-day drive from Louisville to our home in NYC.  Check back with us in a few days.