Tourist Attraction

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Our blue dot is getting close to San Jose, the last city on our Seventh Annual Ride itinerary.

This morning, the Sprint 26 excited a Chinese tour group.

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Only their guide (on the right) spoke English.  We didn’t get their names.

The man in the middle, whom we’ll call Mr. Bicycle, showed Jeffrey photos of him, his friends, and their bicycles, in China. Through the guide, Mr. Bicycle said he has biked around all of China (or did he mean all around China?), and invited Jeffrey to southwest China, promising to organize a welcome and a group bicycle excursion.

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Mr. Bicycle enjoyed a spin around the motel parking lot.

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More of the group gathered to admire the machine and wave at Jeffrey through the breakfast room window.  The guide said some were equally fascinated by the photo of Jeffrey’s 2014 post-crash post-surgery leg xray displayed under the fairing.  Jeffrey gamely displayed his leg so the crowd could appreciate the surgeon’s skill.

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Mr. Bicycle tried on Jeffrey’s helmet.

Jeffrey explained the Ride. His new friends applauded and some shook Jeffrey’s hand.

Jeffrey didn’t mention that he has won asylum for people who fled persecution in China. It didn’t seem fitting, when our new friends came as tourists and soon will return home.

Kalin had questions for us too.

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Kalin has a fabrication business and can remake and refit vehicles.

He and his family were headed for San Francisco to buy a bread van to convert into a mobile food truck for his wife’s gourmet sandwich business. He and his wife support Human Rights First’s American principles and warmly wished us a safe journey.

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L to R: Aaron (from Colorado), Roger (from Chicago), Patrick (from all over).

These gentlemen climb to dizzying heights to install transmission equipment for AT&T. Aaron said the work is frightening, yet exhilarating.

The three agreed that it’s unfair to expect asylum applicants to navigate The System without a lawyer.

Aaron champions the little guy.  He talked to Jeffrey about his belief in the gold standard, and about how the rich run the world to our detriment. Aaron used the term “Rothschild Zionists” to refer to bankers. When Jeffrey hears such stuff, he gently tries to lead the speaker away from disparaging generalizations. Jeffrey pointed out that people of all backgrounds try to arrange things for their own benefit; it’s human nature. We came to think that Aaron quotes conspiracy theories without fully understanding their terms, not that he hates Jews.

The men shook Jeffrey’s hand and wished one another well, Jeffrey on the road, our new friends on their cell towers.

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Strawberry harvest!  We didn’t see anyone there who looked like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the U.S. attorney general who hasn’t said who will pick strawberries when the immigrants are gone.

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In a neighboring field, the harvest was done under the Mexican flag. We think it rude, and in the current climate impolitic, to fly a foreign flag without also flying the host country’s flag.  On our 2014 Great Lakes Ride, our vehicle flew a green safety banner rather than the U.S. flag when we were guests in Canada.

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Cows mooing and grazing along the 4 mile long, 1000′ climb up the San Juan Grade north of Salinas.

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Beehives.

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After climbing for miles on relatively smooth pavement, we looked forward to a fast descent. But at the top, after we crossed from Monterey County to San Benito County, the pavement was so rough that we rode the brakes for miles.  At least the winds were soft (they picked up later) and we didn’t have to pedal downhill.

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Even 10 mph was too fast a descent for these cracks, patches and potholes.

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This valley view reminded Jeffrey of our recent quote from The Grapes of Wrath, when the Joads first saw California.  We were told that John Steinbeck frequented this road and had a cabin nearby.

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Here’s George, and two of his three dogs.  We met him by a house he might like to buy.  George heard about the Ride and Jeffrey’s work and said he and Jeffrey are kindred spirits.  He started to describe the help he gives to people in nursing homes when . . .

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. . . Jan, the house owner, came out to talk.  George and Jan both want asylum applicants to have legal counsel.  For Jan, it’s personal.  She remembers the persecution suffered by the Irish and Basque branches of her family.

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This area is famous for cherries . . .

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. . . and garlic.  Gilroy hosts a garlic festival.

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We arrived in Gilroy during a power outage.  Computers were down so we had to wait for 4 hours to check into a motel.  Carlos, a U.S. citizen born in Mexico, drove to fetch Jeffrey a soda (he wouldn’t accept payment).  He said that although a few Mexican immigrants are bad people, almost all work hard and give to this country much more than they take.  A kind man, he sees kindness everywhere.

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Howard, a lifelong Californian, also waited hours to check in.  He had time to tell Jeffrey his interesting history, from the carrot trucking business, to 25 years as a graphic artist, to his current job with a water purification company.  Howard wants all people, including asylum applicants, to get a fair shake.

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Yvonne, the warm and patient hotel clerk, had no idea that poor shoplifters are appointed a defense lawyer, but poor refugees are not.  Now she’s a fan of Human Rights First.

Stuff

Tonight we’re at the blue dot: Salinas, California, 1130 pedaled miles from Albuquerque.

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Today’s 53 miles from King City was hard. Over half of it was on bad roads . . .

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Sand!  Jeffrey pedaled furiously in low gear and did not get stuck. But he got lost.

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Slow and b-u-m-p-y.  For hours and hours.

. . . and into unrelenting 15 mph (24 kph) headwinds, with gusts even higher.  These leaning trees tell the story!

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The wind blew the fount of aerated water.

The sights made it worth the effort.

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This far downstream (north), the Salinas River was dry from 2013 to 2016.  Last winter’s rains restored it.

Salinas River Valley foodstuffs feed America and the world.

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We see Andy Boy boxes in NYC supermarkets and restaurants!

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Newly planted, or soon to be.

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Grapes.

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Onions?

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What is all this?

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Leafy greens.  Do we eat the tops or roots?

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Grapes as far as the eye can see.

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Across the road:  baled hay.

These enterprises need lots of labor . . . for now.

Craig stopped to talk.

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L to R:  Craig, Mickey.  See Craig’s shirt?  He has donated over 27 gallons of blood.

Craig is a substitute teacher and Greenfield resident. He said that the increasing mechanization of farm work means that fewer laborers are needed. Craig believes that joblessness, and population growth leading to climate change and competition for resources, are the roots of the world’s troubles. He respects hardworking immigrants, and says others in town are unemployed and are looking for things to steal.

We think Craig overstates the case against population growth. Technology has improved quality of life and slowed (even reversed) population growth as families come to value quality over quantity.  And stagnant populations tend to have stagnant economies.

Still, Craig points to a serious issue.  As machines do more and more work, what will humans do—particularly the uneducated?  What happens to a society in which workers aren’t needed?  If climate change and work upheavals create refugees, but their labor is superfluous, who will take them in?

We don’t have an answer.  Maybe an immigrant will come up with one.  (Immigrants are where new stuff comes from.  Forbes Magazine says so!)

“Brilliant,” you say.  “Which immigrant should we let in?”

There’s the rub.

We can’t know who will be the next Steve Jobs (the late America-born co-founder of Apple).  Jobs’s biological father was a Muslim immigrant from Homs, Syria, who met Jobs’s biological mother at the University of Wisconsin.

Do you understand, Mister President?  The iPhone from which you tweet . . .

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. . . would not exist without Jobs, who would not have been born if Muslims, or Syrians, had been banned from the United States.

Let’s help ourselves, play the odds, and make it easier for good people to immigrate.  They, or their children, will find The Answers and stuff.  Or not.  We won’t know until they try.

To find good people, let’s start with asylum applicants.  They stood for something, or stood up for something, and had to flee because of it.  One can apply for asylum only from within the U.S., so asylum applicants further stand out for having the resources, or the resourcefulness, to make their way here.

To present a cogent case for asylum, most applicants need a lawyer.  Few applicants can afford one.  Until the law allows (or compels) the government to provide one, let’s help Human Rights First continue to find and train volunteer lawyers to help people of principle, who face persecution abroad, have the meaningful hearing every asylum applicant deserves.

We’ll cap the day with congratulations to Olga.

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Jeffrey got us lost in a maze of sandy roads. Olga found us a way out.

Olga had various government jobs before moving to the private agricultural sector as a safety monitor. She agrees that asylum applicants deserve legal counsel. Olga is soon to go to Flagstaff, Arizona—we just biked through there!—for her younger daughter’s college graduation. The new grad will bring her marketing degree to join her mom and her agronomist big sister in the Salinas River Valley.

What a happy occasion for this nice person who got us onto the the right road!

Be Not Afraid

We’ve pedaled 1,077 miles (1,745 km) from Albuquerque.  See the blue dot?  We’re at most 3 days’ ride from San Jose.

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Overnight, the first rain of this Ride fell in Paso Robles. While we waited for it to stop, Jeffrey had a leisurely breakfast.

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Jill is holding Jeffrey’s omelet.

After they talked about bicycling—Jill’s father (another Jeffrey) was a bicycling enthusiast—my chauffeur Jeffrey explained the Ride. Jill made an insightful comment: lately a big deal is being made out of what has been the norm. People always have sought refuge in America. Why be afraid now? Jill said, if you can’t say something nice about refugees (who don’t scare her a bit), then say nothing.

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Jeffrey couldn’t get the camera to focus on the slug on the restaurant window.  Hence the blur.

The rain stopped by 9AM, as predicted. We rolled past the tony shops of Paso Robles, into a flatter, lower landscape.

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At San Miguel, this old weathered commercial building has a modern folksy mural.

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A classic motel name!

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Are the Camp Roberts tanks threatening one another, or the sign? A military propeller plane flew overhead.

Aaron bicycled south as we rolled north.

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L to R:  Joey, Aaron (a lawyer from Oxford, England).

Aaron recently resigned a corporate law position to take a year to explore the world. He bought a bicycle, is riding from San Francisco to San Diego, and there will ditch the bike and fly to Peru.

Aaron, sympathetic to asylum applicants, noted that America’s foreign adventures created much of today’s refugee problem. True. (Britain also played a role.) Now what? The least our countries can do is be welcoming and humane to those we displaced—not easy when immigration enforcers’ “id” was released by our respective countries’ new leaders.

We wish Aaron a happy and meaningful Walkabout.

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We saw this Ride’s first redwing blackbirds.  The camera didn’t capture the red bit.

We had some good roads today. And some bad.

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Hitting these high-ridged deep cracks on the Highway 101 shoulder gave us constant bounces and hard landings.

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Fifteen oil pumps were in a line.  Ten were running, including this one.

Agricultural fields and interesting geology lined 17 bumpy miles of Cattlemen Road north of San Ardo.

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Two good guys were pedaling south.

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L to R:  Chris, Tom

Chris has worked with the Heartland Alliance to protect Central American children who have been abused by United States officials. Tom is a Tour Leader for the Adventure Cycling Association, to which Jeffrey belongs. They talked about human rights. They traded news on road conditions. Tom offered to put us up if a Ride takes us to Portland, Oregon. (Which it might.)

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This San Lucas facility reminds us of a Charles Demuth painting.  Not shown:  Wooden cases hand-labeled “Pea Meal”.

Today’s trail ended in King City.

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L to R:  Danny, Joey, Eileen

Danny and Eileen are from Wales. They are driving a truck, escorting their bicyclist son as George escorted us. Their son lives here with his wife and children, and is cycling through California to celebrate a significant birthday.

Our new Welsh friends pity refugees, but believe that Britain is too small, and its social insurance too generous, to absorb very many.  They think Brexit is needed to protect Britain.

Jeffrey listened respectfully. It’s not up to us to say what Britain should do to help refugees. But Jeffrey did explain “American exceptionalism”. He said that unlike Britain (where one might be able to say that there is some paradigmatic ethnic Briton), America is the country of its inhabitants. America has five times the population of the UK, and forty times the area. We too need limits, but we should take in a LOT more refugees than we do.

We like exceptional America. Jeffrey and I grasp the extraordinary vastness and richness of this country as not everyone can, because we have pedaled across it, seen it up close, smelled it, talked to the people, FELT the size and wealth and power, FELT the goodness of the people, FELT their common sense and their face-to-face acceptance of newcomers and their gravitation toward the center.

We aren’t afraid to lose our identity because America’s identity is that of its inhabitants.

Let little countries worry about being overwhelmed. Let little countries fret about language purity and ethnic identity. While they do that, big strong diverse America, with our values of mutual acceptance and inclusion, will eat those little countries’ lunch.

We’re not afraid!

Don’t you be afraid either.