Yeniden.

On Sunday night I woke in a cold sweat, jolted out of a nightmare. I am terrible remembering my dreams; the one thing I remember about this one was Steve Bannon sitting behind an ornate desk. Suffice to say, imagery of Bannon in a position of power is enough to qualify as a nightmare in itself.

On Monday night, acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired for acting as an independent check on executive branch excesses. In the middle of night, I woke with a start. I didn’t know what triggered this, but I was terrified that the president had gone on a noctural rampage and fired the entire Justice Department and all of the state Attorney Generals, including New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been a vocal and vociferous opponent of the president (I later remembered that state AGs are elected at the state level, so the president doesn’t technically have the power to hire and fire.).

Needless to say, my anxiety about the state of our nation approached an unhealthy level this week (Fueled by too much internet, I’m sure.).

But on Tuesday night, after a lovely dinner with friends and Trump’s final rose ceremony announcement of of Neil Gorsuch as his SCOTUS pick, I was tired, frustrated, fearful, but mostly angry. It was 11 pm, I was two beers deep, and I felt the overwhelming need to do something. So I pulled out a pen and paper and began to write. I wrote letters to my liberal, progressive Members of Congress, thanking them for their vocal opposition to Bannon’s horribly oppressive and offensive Muslim ban (let’s call a spade a spade here), but also urging them to translate these words into actions on the Congress floor. I wrote Paul Ryan a rainbow-striped postcard, in which I implored him to resume consulting his moral compass at any time he felt was convenient in the near future. I also wrote a rather lengthy letter to our new president in which I told him he was ‘shitting on the Constitution’ and discussed his casual erosion of our democratic institutions. I held little back. Then I went to bed, and for the first time in three days, I slept like a baby.

It’s been trying times lately. But Tuesday night reminded me of how important writing is to my processing process. It’s something that has fallen by the wayside in graduate school; I spend a majority of my ‘professional’ time writing, so more writing is the last thing I want to do at the end of the day. But writing is the way that I work through my feelings and puzzle out my questions. It’s also where I find humor and beauty and grace. So my month-late resolution is to write (and blog) more. I’m hoping that everything I write won’t be explicitly political in nature, that I’ll find funny or quiet things to write about, but I’m studying policy and politics and they’re what I’m planning to devote my life to professionally, so no promises. Regardless, this has felt good and I want to continue down this path.

Her zaman yorgunum.

Hello, dear readers. Sorry for the lack of updates on my bike riding life. I’m having fun and really enjoying the adventure. We left Ohio what feels like ages ago, but was really only a few weeks ago. Left the rain in Ohio, as well. Made our way across the flat states of Indiana and Illinois. Saw my parents in West Lafayette, IN (Boiler up!). Crossed the Mississippi River! Currently tackling the rolling hills of Iowa. Iowa is really beautiful and Iowans are very courteous drivers. So far, two thumbs up for Iowa.

As a result of all this fun and mayhem, I am constantly exhausted, so writing blog posts has fallen pretty far down my list of desirable evening activities… Sorry (but not really)

If you want to hear all about my Fourth (and other P2S adventures), mosey on over to the P2S15 blog. It is updated far more regularly than my own blog: https://bikeandbuildp2s15.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/july-4-lisbon-to-marshalltown-ia-happy-fourth-of-july/

As I’ve been spending many miles in the saddle, I’ve been percolating a few blog ideas. Look back for stories soon. That is, if I can rustle up the energy to actually write something.

Ohio. 

Perhaps we were getting too cocky. After conquering the hills of Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, we were all looking forward to the flat farmland of the Midwest. Ohio will be a breeze, we thought, we’ll be able to coast right through. 

After two weeks in the saddle, we had become overly confident.  Too big for our chamois, if you will.

The Bike and Build gods frown on this kind of hubris. The gods wanted us to remember that we still had much to learn. That the journey is not all naps and snacks and descents. There are also early mornings and bonking and climbs.

At the unimpressive Ohio state line.

As we crossed over the Ohio state line, with egos inflated too large for our helmets, the Bike and Build gods decided to knock us down a gear or two. Thus, the seven plagues of Ohio:

 

Trekking through all the mud on our way to Gambier (Photo: Z.O.).

 

  1. Potholes – Ohioans refuse to pave their roads properly, preferring them riddled with potholes that just invite flat tires and bent derailleurs.
  2. Angry drivers – Of all the states we bike through, I expected New York to have the most aggressive drivers. But no, that award goes to Ohio. I guess I would be angry too if I were forced to drive through Ohio day in and day out.
  3. Humidity – A 7 o’clock in the morning, 1 o’clock in the afternoon, 9 o’clock at night. It doesn’t matter the time, the still air hangs heavy and damp when the dew point is upwards of 85%.
  4. Rain – You would think that rain would offer respite from the heat and humidity, and it would if you were not sitting on a bike in the pouring rain for 8+ hours. In this case, it’s a little bit miserable and cold; i just had to accept my fate – wet.
  5. Mud – Relentless rain turns dirt bike paths into quagmires that are nearly impossible to bike on. Mud coats tires and brakes, thereby complicating the slowing and stopping process. Thick mud and puddles are traps just waiting to ensnare hapless riders and tip them over. Mud is also exhausting to pedal through.
  6. Mosquitoes – Rain also means stagnant, standing water, or the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.  Ohioan mosquitoes are particularly persistent, leaving their victims covered in red, itchy welts.
  7. Mennonite country roads – Mennonite country is beautiful and the Mennonites are kind and lovely people. But Mennonites drive horses and buggies. And horses poop a lot. This brings another level of complication to navigating shared roadways.

 

Buggy wash on a rainy day. in Fredericksburg.

But the Bike and Build gods are not malevolent gods. Although the Ohioan plagues reaffirmed my stance that Ohio is the state that I would vote out of the Union, the gods did offer some redemption.

 

Trailside snacks on the way to Dayton.

After days of rain and humidity and red-faced motorists and equine feces, we were no longer so bold as to think we could conquer Ohio so easily. We submitted to the Bike and Build gods and they granted us with a few gloriously sunny days, full of wheat fields, paved bike paths, and a rescued kitten. They also gave us ice cream – sweet, creamy, delicious ice cream from Jeni’s and Handel’s. And finally, they gave us a blessed day off, with nothing to do but sleep late, eat brunch, and drink cold beers.

 

Rolling deep at Handel’s Ice Cream in Youngstown.

Ohio may not be my favorite state (in fact, it may rank 50 out of 50), but during my sojourn here, the Bike and Build gods have taught me much: Stay humble. Ride through the puddles and avoid the mud. Bikes are faster than horse-drawn buggies. Eat ice cream every day, if possible. Ohio does have a few things going for it.

Enjoying a day off in Columbus.

 

Insanlar. 

One of my favorite things about Bike and Build is the opportunity to meet people along the road. In our matching jerseys and on our bikes, we attract a lot of attention. Once people find out that we’re biking across the country, they are usually curious and impresses, though some are thoroughly nonplussed. Many people are interested in hearing our stories. However, I have been impressed by how many people are willing to share their own stories. It only seems right to pass these stories on. 

Trudy

Trudy is the proprietor of Trudy’s Secondhand Shop, located on some forgettable stretch of backroad between Ithaca and Savona, NY. The shop is full of little odds and ends and clothes, all dating from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Trudy has been running her shop for more than twenty years and loves her little project. However, her husband got ill about five years back, so the two of them are downsizing, which means closing down the shop. Trudy was truly devastated to have to abandon her labor of love. We bought a few funny trucker hats from her at half price. She then sent us in our way with a prayer and a blessing. 

RC

I actually don’t know RC’s name, but I do know he is a 60-year-old electrician and retired firefighter from Corning, NY, on the NY-PA state line. We came across RC while he and his friend John were flying RC model airplanes early on a Saturday morning (No, they wouldn’t let us have a go.).

RC told us all about his long battle with Lyme’s disease. He had it for nearly five years — he put on a ton of weight, couldn’t walk or see, and fell into depression. After a while, he came to a conclusion that the prescription drugs from the doctor weren’t working for him. He researched the disease to find out what it fed on and used natural remedies to starve out the disease. These days, he’s Lyme’s free, 70 pounds lighter, and quite happy. RC has cut prescription drugs out of his life completely, relying solely on natural remedies. 

 

Unfortunately, this little fellow couldn’t tell us his story.

 
MaryEllen and Sam

MaryElln and Sam are two avid cyclists from Bradford, PA. Every summer, they hop on their tandem bicycle and join up with their kids, grandkids, and 3000 other people for a cycling tour of Ohio. 

A couple of years ago, MaryEllen came across the P2S riders eating lunch outside the Bradford Regional Airport, where she worked. After chatting with the riders, she and Sam decided they wanted to do slime thing for Bike and Build. Unfortunately, they were on their Ohio tour when P2S rolled through last year. However, the stars aligned this year and MaryEllen and Sam provided us with a delicious cookout for lunch at Mile 38 of 67, complete with ice cream sandwiches!

Debbie’s sister

I don’t know this woman’s name, but I do know her sister’s name is Debbie. She works at the Corky’s II Pizza and Ice Cream in Pleasantville, PA. After a rainy morning, she provided all 29 of us with free frozen treats. In exchange, she asked that we dedicate our ride to her sister Debbie, who had recently passed away. The 62.5 miles from Warren to Franklin, PA were for Debbie. 

It’s been a fascinating journey. The scenery is magnificent, but I would argue that the people we meet and the stories we hear are even more interesting. 

The kindness of strangers. 

Here on Bike and Build we depend a lot on the kindness of strangers. Every place we spend the night allows us to stay for free. They usually provide dinner and often ever cook us breakfast. The folks we have come upon along the route have gifted to us soda, ice cream, and not one, but two birdhouses! After life in the Seattle Freeze (I exaggerate), I have been bowled over by the generosity of people we will never see again. 

On our notorious 70-mile ride from Poughkeepsie to Roscoe, New York, we met some folks who really went above and beyond anything I could have imagined. 

C.K.L. and I were sweeping that day, which rant we rode in the back to make sure everyone got in to the host site by the end of the day. It was a long, challenging ride. 

We joined up with E.F. and J.C., both of whom had suffered some mechanical issues earlier in the day, just I time to conquer the infamous Hunter Road, which went over one of the tallest and steepest mountains in the Catskills. It was late in the day and we were tired and sore, but we made it over!

  
However, we still had more than 20 miles to go and some ominous clouds were rolling in. Suddenly, thunder crashes overhead and the heavens opened up on us. The Rafa got slick, our brakes got wet, and the sky got dark. Visibility was next to nothing. The J.C. got a flat tire. We were in a very bad way, to say the least. 

As E.F. and I helped J.C. change her flat, C.K.L. rode ahead to seek out shelter. As the storm picked up in intensity, I grew more worried, unt, out of nowhere, a Kia Soul appeared. The man behind the wheel said that he lived up the road and C.K.L. was waiting on his porch. He promptly loaded J.C.’s bike into his trunk, while E.F. and I rode on toward our refuge. 

  

When we arrived, our savior’ wife was waiting with warm, dry towels. It was heavenly. 

As we dried off, our savior asked us what we needed. “Water? Warm Gatorade? I’m afraid the only cold beverage I have is beer. You want a beer?” That last offer was tempting, but we declined. Instead, his wife brought us steaming mugs of blueberry tea. Then, a plate of cheese and crackers appeared as if out of thin air. 

As I sat wrapped in a dry towel, sipping on hot tea, and munching on cheese, while the lightning flagged and the rain poured down around us, I was floored by the generosity of these complete strangers. I didn’t know their names, nor did they ask for ours, but they opened up their home to us and gave us what they had. They also gave me a little piece of hope. 

  
In a world where we only seem to hear the bad news, it was soul-filling to see that there are good, kind, helpful people out there to lend a hand. 

A day in the life.

6:00 am: Wake up; get dressed; pack up our gear

6:30 am: Pack up the trailer with everyone’s bags and our food bins; fill up the coolers; clean up the host site

7:00 am: Breakfast — either provided by the host or cereal/fruit/pastries/leftovers

7:30 am: Clean up breakfast; ABC check on the bikes (air pressure, brakes, chain); route meeting — go over the plan for the day, share facts about our next town, receive cue sheets with turn-by-turn directions

8:00 am: Roll out

The day is ours to ride and explore. We take in the scenery, stop for food/coffee/ice cream/thrift shops, explore parks/towns/monuments, and just enjoy America at 15 miles per hour.

One team leader drives the van each day, hauling all our gear and food and helping out in times of need. They are responsible for setting up the lunch spot and making sure the day goes smoothly.

Lunch is approximately halfway through the ride and usually consists of PB&J, fruit, chips, and leftovers. On days that are 90+-mile rides and/or over 90 degrees, we get two lunches at the one-thirds and two-thirds mark.

4:00 pm: Arrive at the host; unload the trailer; clean bikes; take showers and get settled for the night

6:00 pm: Dinner — either provided by the host or prepared by us

7:00 pm: Clean up from dinner; free time — read, write, sleep, hang out, explore the town

11:00 pm: Lights out.

Sleep. wake up. Repeat until one day begins to blend into the next.

Yorgunum. 

Update from P2S15. We’ve had two days of orientation in Providence, a build day in Providence, and two days on the road. TL;DR: New England is awesome. It has approximately one million giant hills. I am tired. This is the best.

  
 After two days we have ridden 100.2 miles, eaten lunch in two cute New England towns, crossed one state line, been fed and housed by two awesome  churches, climbed countless hills, gotten one free yoga class and one free bag of popcorn, and have gotten lost on more than one occasion. Despite this hills between them, Providence, RI, Pomfret, CT, and Granby, CT have been super kind to us.  It has been a blast. It’s been two days and I’m in love with everything about B&B.

I want to write something more substantial, but I want to sleep even more. So, if you want to find out more, check out our team tracker page/blog:  http://bikeandbuild.org/rider/route.php?route=P2S&year=2015
Peace, love, and P2S. 

Brake for shakes!

Gidiyorum. 

It’s 6 am here in Newark, New Jersy and my body is silently screaming at me because it thinks it is 3 am. It wants to know why I’m such a masochist who loves to pursue sleeplessness. I don’t know what to say other than, “I’m sorry, here’s a bagel.”

The last few days have been a complete whirlwind of packing up and moving out of my apartment, packing for Bike and Build, cleaning, running errands, and spending as much time as possible with friends. I didn’t know if it all could be done, but yesterday afternoon I found myself sitting alone in my apartment with nothing else to do. Slight disbelief. 

Found while packing. Thanks for the encouragement, Mom.

 
On Friday night, I had the most perfect send off. Friends, food, beer, beachside bonfire. I had all of my favorite Seattle people gathered in one place on a simply gorgeous Seattle night. I found myself asking for the thousandth time, “Why am I leaving, again?”

But I know why I’m leaving. For adventure. For a cause. For a break. For a challenge. For new friends and experiences. For me. For many others, who lack the security and well-being that comes with adequate housing. Because I can’t sit still. 

So, next stop: Providence! In three days I’ll start the long trek home. 

Thank you to all my friends and family for your ongoing humor, love, and support. Special thanks to M.S., P.N., S.D., M.L., A.F. for looking after my things all summer, helping me move, and getting me to the airport. Also for being your spectacular selves. 

  

Mail drops.

We’re in the single digits, folks. Only six days until I’m off! Other than the fact that I have packed precisely zero things in my apartment, I’m ready to go (It’s fine, or that’s what I tell myself). I think I have all the supplies I need. I’ve trained. I’ve fundraised. I’ve shipped my bike east (please, please, please let it arrive by Saturday, FedEx gods).

Yes, I’ll be living the fabulously glamorous life of waking up on a new community center floor each morning and getting an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at our nation’s finest corn fields, but that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna miss y’all a whole lot. Luckily we live in a world of instantaneous communication and nearly universal internet access (at least in this county), so contact is only a few clicks away. But you know what else we have? The fabulous United States Postal Service! Which means mail drops!

Yes, I’ll send you postcards from exotic locales such as Peru and Lisbon, but I’d also love to hear from you. So send me letters and treats and stupid tchotchkes for my bike. Here’s all you need to know:

Mail drops will be every Thursday along the route. Address mail to:

Bike & Build

ATTN: Elizabeth Johnson

General Delivery

STREET ADDRESS (if noted)

CITY, STATE ZIP

Packages should include a note that says “Please hold for pick-up on DATE.” Only send packages via USPS (FedEx, UPS, etc. not accepted). Late mail will be forwarded to the mail drop two weeks later. Late mail from the last two mail drops will be returned to sender.

June 4

389 North Granby Rd

North Granby, CT 06060

June 18

99 S Walnut St

Youngstown, OH 44501

June 25

123 S High St

Hartford City, IN 47348

July 2

Clinton, IA 52732

July 16

Chadron, NE 69337

July 23

Lander, WY 82520

July 30

2201 Baxter St

Bozeman MT 59718

August 6

Kellogg, ID 83837

August 13

52779 Railroad Ave

Rockport, WA 98283

I look forward to hearing from y’all along the road. Keep an eye on this page for any updates to mail drop information!

Yakında

Have not talked much about my preparations for my Bike and Build adventure, but the start date inches ever closer (actually, if I am being real with myself, it is speeding towards me like a bottle rocket).

I have some mixed feelings about this upcoming, brief chapter of my life. I am so, so, so excited for the journey that awaits me! I know it’s going to be fantastic. But I am sad to be leaving Seattle, my friends, my cozy apartment, and all the Seattle-y-ness (particularly in the summer). Also, I have to start thinking about packing soon –something I am looking forward to with no small amount of dread.

But in the last two weeks, I have hit many Bike and Build milestones, which makes me feel infinitely more prepared. This weekend, I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity Seattle – King County, completing my sweat equity hours. Two weekends ago, I embarked on a cycling adventure around Lake Washington with some Bike and Build alumni, covering 68 miles in one day, blowing past my 500 mile training goal, and, most importantly, not dying. The biggest victory for me, though, was reaching my $4500 fundraising goal!! A humongous thank you and shout out to all my donors and supporters (give these folks high fives and/or hugs if you see them).

If you have not donated yet and you still want to, your donations will always be welcome. Your generosity helps provide shelter and security to neighbors in need.

Only 26 days until I hit the road. During that time I plan to continue procrastinating on packing, preferring to spend my time on hanging out with friends and reveling in the glory of a beautiful Seattle spring, as seen by bike.

Convincing friends to train with me. Promises of wine help to entice them.

Convincing friends to train with me. Promises of wine help to entice them.