Short Distance, Long Day

This morning was foggy and just above freezing.  There was frequent rain until midafternoon.  Ah, well.  We accept conditions as we find them.

Jonathan brightened our morning.  He is an engineer from Oxford, England.  He attended a Silicon Valley conference and stayed on to see a bit of California.


He and Jeffrey talked about the American and European approaches to immigration and asylum.  Jonathan said that America’s current image abroad is one of hard-right insensitivity, but the Americans he meets belie that image.  Jeffrey suggested that the problem is politics, that the U.S. government is dominated by an unrepresentative minority.  For the second time in two days, Jeffrey explained the Electoral College.

Here are some scenes from the countryside.  The white dots in the photo in the lower center are sheep.  Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Two of these photos are of vultures.  There were many more nearby.  A coyote . . .


. . . and a powerful stench suggested that these animals had gathered to feast.

Wyatt is an artist in Point Reyes Station.


He was about to paint a mural in connection with a conference on sustainability and happiness.  He and Jeffrey talked about compassion for immigrants, and the importance of the arts.  More art, more artists, less cruelty, perhaps.

Kenny, a Marin County deputy sheriff, pulled over to chat.


Kenny is kind.  He doesn’t like that asylum applicants are unrepresented, that ICE and The System break up families and send our neighbors away.  As a good officer, though, he thinks laws should be enforced until they are changed.  But Jeffrey pointed out that our government has become incapable of reflecting the will of the American people: thus we are stuck with bad laws that (e.g.) hurt the “Dreamers” (unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children) and give civilians easy access to military-grade weapons.  Real police like Kenny use common sense when enforcing laws; for example, they don’t issue tickets for driving 59 mph in a 55 mph zone.  Fake police—ICE agents—enforce immigration violations with zero tolerance.

Jeffrey was tired and considered spending the night in the hamlet of Tomales, but after he decided to put some more miles in the bank, Nancy secured us a hotel room in the next town.  Jeffrey’s choice had consequences.  It took us two full hours to climb and descend 7 miles of hills, and to navigate a detour after Jeffrey saw TWO of these signs.


Something bicycle-unfriendly must have been over the hill.

At last we reached Valley Ford, 37 miles from today’s start, 121 miles from San Jose.

At the top of the last hill, we met Filipe, a Mexican immigrant justly proud that he learned English.  He had stopped to close a gate so a neighbor’s cattle couldn’t stray.


Filipe, on his way to work, took the time to talk.  He asked about the Ride.  He told us that Marin County is crawling with ICE agents but it is an agricultural center that needs its foreign workers.  Filipe wants kindness and common sense to be part of immigration law.  He gave Jeffrey a restaurant recommendation; Jeffrey went to the restaurant, gave Filipe’s regards to Enrique and Dolores as instructed, and refueled to chauffeur me another day.

(P.S. – We didn’t snap his photo, but Joe, a transplanted New Englander who owns a carpet company, approached us in Valley Ford.  Jeffrey explained our mission.  On the spot, Joe gave a nice donation to Human Rights First.  Our new Oxford friend Jonathan would recognize Joe as a real American.)




Water Above, Water Below

Today, knackered from the long cold rain, we’ll say it in pictures.  As always, we take many more photos than we publish.


Dan, a transplant from Brooklyn and Queens, spent a good part of an hour conversing with us.  He has thought things through. He knows it’s important to vet immigrants carefully. At the same time, he believes we ought to emulate Jesus and treat them with love.


FDR’s presidential yacht, USS Potomac, is anchored in Oakland.


Greg (L), a mariner and a cyclist, saw our Ride sign on the Oakland-San Francisco ferry, tipped his hat to Jeffrey, and treated Jeffrey to a cola. Chelsey (R), a motorcycle aficionado, was disturbed to hear that HRF has to find free lawyers without whom poor asylum applicants can’t properly be heard. She admired our courage in pedaling in traffic. Jeffrey admired her courage in riding on two wheels at high speed. (Each may actually have thought the other was a little crazy.)


San Francisco from the ferry.



One of the famous San Francisco cable cars.


A bit of the San Francisco skyline.




Taulant is a scientist from Kosovo, attending a conference. He has spent time in New York and Virginia.  He admires the social organization and wealth of the German university town where he lives. But Taulant is a people person and has fallen in love with American openness, the way people here smile and engage strangers. Jeffrey is no scientist, but was able to explain to Taulant the basics of the Electoral College.


At Ft. Mason, still miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.


Aaron, who took that last photo, was walking his friend’s dog, Rihanna. He is a kind and thoughtful man, a West Point graduate who works on projects to create small resorts that have low environmental impact and employ the poor (mostly in the Third World).  Jeffrey thinks Aaron may find community with Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First.


We saw various sorts of wading birds today, but only this one stood still for a photo.


Manny was walking his dog near the on-ramp to the Golden Gate Bridge. He and Jeffrey talked about the plight of unrepresented asylum applicants. Their chat was cut short when the drizzle turned into a downpour.


Approaching the Golden Gate.


On the famous bridge.


After many cold, wet miles, Jeffrey stopped in Fairfax, CA, to look for a place to stay.  Tao—whose parents are from Brooklyn and the Bronx, and who likes BMX biking—was excited to learn that we had pedaled all the way from NYC. Jeffrey and this self-possessed, articulate young man discussed the importance of helping refugees. Then Tao recommended a hotel in San Geronimo, six miles down the road. How’s that for a guy who knows his neighborhood? Tao went into a nearby supermarket to ask his father’s permission for me to take a photo. He has our card and will follow us on the Web.  We expect to hear great things of him someday.


A bit of the countryside between Fairfax and San Geronimo, during a brief lull in the rain.


At the Valley Inn, cold, wet Jeffrey got a warm welcome and a seat by the fire.


Dante, who used to live at 79th & Riverside Drive in Manhattan, has a wonderful spirit. He grew up in Brooklyn and absorbed that borough’s cosmopolitanism. He and Jeffrey talked about immigration, politics, philosophy and more. Dante is fascinated by the Ride; he’d like to get a recumbent machine and see the country as we do.

Tomorrow, this biggest regional storm of the winter is expected to continue for a third day.  Good thing that Jeffrey’s late mother had him pegged.  She would tell him, “You’re not made of sugar.  You won’t melt in the rain.”

Oakland Raiders

We left this morning at sunup.  Friend Julie was behind the camera.

We pedaled through the rain.  And we had a 14 mph tailwind!  The value of the tailwind was emphasized when Jeffrey made a wrong turn and had to backtrack into the wind.  The wind-driven rain on his face was almost as painful as hail.

Most of the route was on dedicated bicycle paths and on busy streets with bike lanes.  But for the rain, the trip was generally civilized.

Jeffrey particularly liked the snail’s gold-green shell.  So California!

Since we parked the Sprint 26 last May, its front derailleur cable rusted.  We couldn’t access the lowest gears.  It’s our good luck that Otoniel immigrated from Honduras and became the top bicycle surgeon in Hayward, CA.


Dr. Otoniel performed a cable transplant and got us back on the road. We commiserated with him over the Hondurans who flee the murder capital of the world, and are jailed and bullied and deprived of legal counsel when they exercise their right to request refuge in the United States.

Joe and Jim at the hardware store talked to us about cycling. Then the conversation turned to the reasons for the Ride.


They were shocked to learn that asylum applicants can have legal counsel only “at no expense to the government.”  Both were incredulous that a shoplifter and a murderer are entitled to a lawyer, but not a 5 year old unaccompanied refugee child.  As for most Americans, this violates their sense of fairness.

With Toni and Roseanne, retired educators walking on the Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline, we had a wide-ranging discussion about refugees, asylum, the right to counsel, and the mistreatment of neighbors whose paperwork problems lead to their exile from our country, their home.


Jeffrey explained that in our view, after people (irrespective of immigration papers) become part of our community, we cannot toss them aside.  People, even felons, at some point become our people, our felons, and their problems are our responsibility.

Our last stop today: Oakland.



This is the logo of Oakland’s professional football team.

We rode through beautiful parks; passed tent encampments and streets lined with dilapidated RVs housing the poor; saw streets littered with huge oranges that fell from nearby trees; and pedaled past industrial zones, high tech campuses, fancy housing developments and slums.

And we couldn’t forget that this week, the Oakland area was the target of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) raids.  These raids were conducted without regard to the family or community ties of the people arrested.


Most people in areas of high immigration, including Oakland, welcome and accept their neighbors without regard to immigration status.

Yet—as in presidential elections when the people’s choice is overridden by the Electoral College, as when military weapons are made available to untrained civilians despite the people’s opposition—the xenophobic minority is pandered to, and the people’s wishes are ignored.

Today our faith in Americans got a boost . . . and our disgust at our unrepresentative “democracy” rose too.

Our friend Jennifer met us in Oakland, put our gear in her office, and brought us to her home near the Indian Rock overlook in Berkeley.

Tomorrow morning we’ll return with her to Oakland and continue the Ride.