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Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thank YOU from dad and daughter

Here I am sitting back in Chicago. I just ate a picnic in the park with my roommate. I have nearly completed emptying my bags. Life goes on even when you're not on a bike. But before moving onto the rest, I have a few more thoughts to unpack. We may have done the physical riding, but you were a critical part of our success. I am always in awe of how much any serious undertaking by an individual (or two individuals) is aided by the greater community. Thus this post is in honor of you.

Thank you:
Laura Sinclair for all of your behind the scenes work. For checking the weather for us when we were fearful of incoming storms. For arranging breakfast. For being my friend.

Britney Kreimer and Claire Fischer for corralling the donations and the media. For helping make the group ride possible.

Stephen Johnson-Grove for being an avid blog commenter. For designing the final lag of our trip. For welcoming us home with your beautiful daughters.

the rest of OJPC for all the hard work you do everyday. For joining us for our ride. For fighting the fight.

Ramsey Ford for designing our fabulous logo.

All the donors and sponsors for your generous donations in these hard economic times.

Wayne and Teresa in Crump, TN for a lovely conversation over a late lunch. For inviting us back for the night (even though we were unable to take you up on the offer).

Bob in Kentucky for your coverage in the storm.

Steve and Carol at Market Street Inn for giving us a night in the lap of luxury.

Johnny Clark from Perkinsville, AL for the ride to Columbus, MS when we were down and out.

Cadence 120, especially Keith for putting our bike together for the ride and then giving us roadside assistance when we had chain break #1.

Dave and Nick for the tire and good company. Dave and Nick are riding across the country. You can follow their travels here.

Lady on riding lawn mower in Tennessee who gave us water.

Couple in Indiana who gave us water.

Guy who brought us gatorade when we were too tired to talk.

Guy who drove next to us and chatted.

People of the church in Alabama who welcomed us in for a morning of worship and community.

All the people who waved and smiled along the way.

Carla and George for giving us a much needed respite.

Masseuse in Carbondale for giving my body the best massage it has ever received.

Mom for being a wonderful supporter of our ambitions and adventure. For giving us the time together.

John and Mitch of Biowheels for technical support.

J Branch for being a fantastic law partner to Al, and helping make it possible for him to leave work for such extended periods of time.

Kane for blog advice

Blog commenters, especially E Branch, for undying support and enthusiasm!

Really. Thank you to everyone. Deep breath. Sigh.

A Tribute to my Dad

Most young adults are desperately seeking a way to distinguish themselves from their parents and their home. It is a time of learning to pay bills, to cook gourmet meals and to operate within the working world. It is not the time to get on the back of your dad’s bike, wear matching outfits and spend over 2 weeks on the road sharing motel rooms.

I still remember a distinct May afternoon when I was three years old. I was in a child’s seat on the back of my dad’s red bike. Having insisted on bringing my dog-shaped purse along for the ride, I dangled it from above with pride. Then suddenly, the bike screeched to a halt and my dad released a stern frustrated grunt. My little arm was yanked downward. I had clearly upset my dad, and even worse my doggy purse let out a desperate yelp as the derailleur ate it. The tears began to flow. My dad calmly explained that it was fine, but next time I needed to be careful not to dangle things off the bike. I didn’t bring a purse on this ride. I didn’t even bring a Barbie. And the mechanical issues we had were not caused by my carelessness.

I am twenty-three years old and I just rode a tandem bicycle from Mobile, AL to Cincinnati, OH (1200 miles) with my dad. My dad is not a “normal dad.” We watched musicals together. He tucked me in every night making sure to adhere to my specific rituals including animating my stuffed bear. After spending years helping out with my brothers’ baseball teams, he became the president of the Queen City Figure Skating Club to support me. He did all of this while working insane hours to fight for the civil rights of marginalized groups. In particular, he has focused on using civil rights laws to advocate for criminal justice reform, which led him to found the Ohio Justice and Policy Center directed by the dynamic David Singleton and for which our bike ride has been raising funds.

When I told my friends that I was planning to go on this adventure the standard response went something like this, "Wow, that is so cool! I love my dad, but I could never spend that much time so close to him." The thing is, the terror of being with my dad for over two weeks straight had not even crossed my mind. I had considered the butt pain, getting hit by a car, monotony of bike riding as possible drawbacks to the plan, but not spending time with my dad. I have now spent 17 days on the same machine as my dad, my head buried in his back, our feet synchronized, laughing at the same odd occurrences and I would do it all again…tomorrow.

When I was three, my dad carried me. Now, at twenty-three, we carry each other. Riding through small town America, we got various reactions to our bike. One common male reaction was this, “Oh, so she can just sit on the back and you have to do all the work!” It does not work that way. We were a team. We are a team. One day in particular, my dad’s legs were feeling tired. He wrote in this blog of that experience:
"Who was doing a power surge back there? How did we get up that hill? Who was calling out
those words of encouragement? Who was that gentle person checking in on me asking if I
was OK? Jessica. Daughter. Energized and in charge. I knew enough to get us started on this
trip. But she is getting it done…My back hurts. I may be a little slow as we start back on the
road tomorrow. But that’s OK, Jessica is with me."
There were other days when I was not quite feeling it. My dad would lightly nudge me with a simple, “Give me some legs girl!” With that I was back, giving it all I had.

Oddly enough, after spending two and a half weeks practically glued to my dad’s side I feel more empowered and independent than ever. My dad was my partner, but each of us grew on our own. I have discovered a deep love for pedaling, for being outside, for silence. We gave each other space to process this experience in our own way while also celebrating each other. Like all kids, I thought I had superman for a dad. This trip has shown me that he is human and that is even more impressive. I can trust him, but I also can doubt him, speak up and he will listen. Thank you, dad, for letting me grow up, but never letting me go. I will never be too old to ride on the back of your bike.

Across the Ohio! Jessica back to Chicago...

Yesterday morning we were joined by staff from OJPC,friends and supporters at Pendrey Park in Melbourne, Ky. We rode the last twelve miles as a smiling group. I got to help fix one more flat on one of the bikes. We crossed the Ohio on a bridge - an easy pedal for all of us - so different from and much easier than the journeys of those we commemorate with this ride.

It was very special to be greeted by Gene Mays - a former offender to whom we dedicated the ride. Just Thursday a Cincinnati Court stated that it was fine for the City to exclude him from the civil service list and ignore all the evidence he had presented of his rehabilitation. His years of productive living; educaton; great parenting; drug free living - none of it mattered. The City can refuse him a job simply because decades ago he committed drug related crimes. We hugged Gene and promised to keep advocating on his behalf. Gene needs a conductor. The City needs to lead the way on hiring former offenders like Gene who have earned a chance for solid employment. We need to turn former offenders into taxpayers. The journey continues.

Monday Jessica returns to Chicago. I will miss turning my head and sharing a random thought with her. I will miss the power surges mid-hill. I will miss the insight into all the people we met. I will miss the liaughing fits that come from trying to communicate when we are exhausted and still riding. I will miss the confidence I felt from Jessica in the midst of this really challenging adventure. But I have seventeen days of wonderful memories. And I have the future as I witness her tackle with vigor everything that will come her way.

Thank you Jessica for the greatest Father's Day gift a daughter can give her dad - a fabulous adventure together - that was a great ride! I love you very much. Dad.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lessons From the Road (By Jessica and Dad)

Here we are nestled in the winding roads of Norther Kentucky. We can almost taste the Skyline Chili and Graeter's. My mom came and met us here and has been questioning us constantly as she fills in her crossword puzzle. Life goes on. This is not the last post, but we are getting there. As a matter of reflection we have compiled a list of some of the expected and unexpected lessons:

1. Do not pass a bike at a railroad track. We need to cross tracks at a right angle to avoid getting dragged into the crevice by the rails. So we need room to angle the bike properly.
- One rainy day riding through Owensboro, KY, we felt the danger of not hitting it at a direct 90 degree angle. We remained upright, but thoroughly shaken up. Now when approaching railroad tracks, Jessica often chimes in with “perpendicular dad!”
2. Do not be upset when a bike rides in the road even when there is an asphalt berm. Why do we do that? Many roads are flanked by rumble strips and those are hard to navigate on a bike. Also, many berms are strewn with debris, including glass.
3. The best way to get someone talking is to compliment the area they live in. We found that the second we mentioned how beautiful it was around us, people lit up.
4. Following up on number 3, the majority of people love their home. We met only a handful of people who would rather be somewhere else.
5. Giving up biscuits does not automatically lower blood pressure.
6. Honking at us scares us, even friendly honks. If you want to make it friendly, do a light tap or roll down your window and talk to us.
- Today while biking through Alexandria, a young man yelled to us from his car, “I love biking. It is so cool. I love your bike!”
- Or, the other day while riding on an empty road in Indiana, a man rolled up next to us and drove alongside asking us questions. He invited us to go up the road for a bite to eat at his place, but unfortunately we had just eaten.
7. Everyone has a riding lawnmower.
8. Roadkill smells the same in every state (Turtles are the grossest roadkill).
9. Adults who walk or bike generally have had their license suspended.
10. Wal-Mart has destroyed most of the downtowns in the South.
11. A high class motel is one with a sink outside the shower room.
12. When giving directions it is not helpful to start with, “Do you know where the McDonald’s is?” If we say no the next question is normally, “Do you know where the Sonic is?”
13. Everything tastes like chicken when it’s fried (even alligator and frog legs).
14. Bring a master link (or two) on a bike tour… it may come in handy if your chain breaks once (or twice).
15. Tandem bike riding is actually fun.
- You never have to wait for the other person to catch up
- You don’t have to talk all the time (especially when riding uphill), but you have the option
- When you get tired of talking and silence, you can use an ipod splitter and enjoy tunes and books simultaneously

Thursday, June 18, 2009


We set off at 8am... a late start due to the comfort of the Market Street Inn. Fresh fruit, coffee, french toast with homemade blueberry syrup... We had to peel ourselves away from the table. But once we got going, we were feeling pretty alive and refreshed. Two more days of serious biking. Damn.
Drop....drip..."let's put on our rainjackets"... pedal...slosh...boom. Hmmm. Crack...brightness. "Maybe we should stop." We put the bike against a tree and snuck into a barn.
We practiced our trip song (to be performed at our final breakfast). We laughed. We watched the lightning. We'll just wait it out. Looks like it is breaking. Let's get out there.

Uh-oh. Why is that dark cloud following us? I thought the storm was over. Crash...strike... I look at my dad, and reassuringly tell him, "If I get struck by lightning, don't blame yourself." We decide to stop again. This time we found a beautiful home and an inviting porch. We dragged ourselves up to the door and sheepishly asked if we could settle on the porch for a while. This time the winds really got going. We held each other as the earth shook. Eventually, Bob, the owner/builder of this house came out on the porch and invited us in. We are currently parked at his kitchen table, sipping coffee and plotting our way forward. Bob is a retired GE employee who believes retirment is just a time to be busy with the things you really love. He loves gardening and farmer's markets, grandchildren, antiques, building houses among other things. He is wonderful for letting two wet, dirty and cold bikers into his home. But we can't stay here forever.

The forecast told us there was only a 30 percent chance of rain today.


They don't do any harm if you find them before they burrow into the skin. In "Kenticky" I picked off numerous ticks after roadside breaks. The rolling hills near Brandenberg were great and the bridge and road to Corydon in Southern Indiana were wonderful backdrops to the Billy Collins poetry and podcasts we listenened to on the Ipod. I fixed a flat near an outdoor cafe in Corydon - beautiful town that still has a thriving downtown. No rain yesterday! We also passed the 1000 mile point on our trip! We agreed to celebrate with another stay at a B & B but after a gruelling final hour we were stunned to find that we had overshot the B & B by eight miles! Amazingly, Steve, of the Market Street Inn in Jeffersonville quickly jumped in his pick up and delivered us to a comfortable, beautiful B & B two blocks from the river and good restaurants!

We feasted nearby and toasted our progress.
It will be hard to get in the saddle again this morning. I certainly recommend the Market Street Inn to all who want a Louisville area getaway!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Prisoners Ride the Tour de France!

I was in a CVS this morning when a man came up to me. He exclaimed, "I was just watching the tour de france, and then here you are!" I didn't think the Tour de France had begun yet. He explained that France is having a tour for prisoners. Seriously? I could not imagine a cooler parallel for our trip. I ran back to my dad to share the news. The ride is an innovative approach to prisoner rehabilitation. You can listen to the NPR story by clicking here. You can read the BBC story here. I am truly impressed by the French penal system for thinking outside of the box and treating prisoners as humans. Time in prison is time of neglect and disempowerment. Riding a bike in a group of people, being cheered for, that is hope. I have felt such hope, joy and humanity over the last couple of weeks. I'm glad that French prisoners are getting a taste of that as well.

Monday, June 15, 2009

cheapest motel - winner

J B wins!!!! At $35.00 she had the closest guess to the right answer - $36.00. We will present her prize at the group ride - a wrapped microscopic bar of motel soap. Congratulations!

BTW - check out the new post Jessica did on our church experience from last week. Because she started it a few days ago it appears back in the line. See, "Ain't God All Right."

Touring by Yellow Cab

The Downtown Diner was the place. It was time to try biscuits and gravy. Very tasty! But I could feel the blockage. (I will take an extra Crestor tonight). One smothered biscuit was enough. The coffee and the rock and roll music made us linger for awhile.

We limped into Henderson, KY this morning where the Downtown Diner sits within sight of the Ohio River. Our 29 speed bike was reduced to a five speed as the derailleur and poorly repaired chain reduced our shifting options. But there were few hills so we were fine. Later, as we approached our next destination, Owensboro, KY, the rain returned. We kept on riding and joking and laughing – saw our first tobacco field today and recalled all the places we have eaten on this trip where we were offered the choice – smoking section or back here with the trash cans?

We were just happy to have made it to a town with a bike shop! We sloshed across the city only to learn that the shop had moved to the Wal-Mart estate out on Hwy 54. The brush backs made that section of rainy Hwy 54 some of the most dangerous riding we have endured!

Yellow cab picked us up at the bike shop. The cab was yellow but the passenger door was white. Replacement parts. The driver said that Owensboro was “the third largest city in the United States.” I glanced at Jessica. He said Owensboro was a ghost town and he wanted to move to “Atlanta, Florida.” Jessica glanced at me. Why did I trust him when he said there were motels downtown along the river that we would like? Turns out there is no downtown in Owensboro. And it is hard to find the river. Ever turn around in a cab? Notice that the meter is still running?

No matter. Our bike is getting properly fixed. We will pick it up when the shop opens in the morning. We will eat well tonight. We are safe and happy and lucky. And now dry – in the third largest city in America!