Friday, December 12, 2014

One more post.

Now that I have the two really important topics out of the way.  I think I'm going to wrap things up, finally, with one more post.  This is not that post.

A Year and a Day, Thoughts on Privilege

So I hope this entry doesn't get too prickly, but it's something I still want to address. 

Many entries back I talked briefly about some of my reasons for leaving my potential job as a teacher in Philadelphia.  Specifically I mentioned my argument with The New Teacher Project personnel over an assignment about white, male privilege.

I was upset at them for their claim that all white males were privileged and all minorities and women were not.  More specifically, I was upset at the notion that I was supposed to feel guilty about this situation and about the idea that society treats me differently.  Society certainly does treat me differently, but I'll get to that in a bit.

So I've been thinking about this argument I had for quite a while now, and I decided to do a bit more research on the subject.

Long story short, I discovered that while maybe I was correct about it not being true in all cases it's far too true in the overwhelming majority of cases.  I also learned that the 'not-all-men' argument is used by both racists and misogynists to try to sweep the problem under the rug.  I don't want that, so I'm officially going on record as saying that both racial and sexual discrimination is a huge problem that deserves both time, effort, and attention (and lots of all three).

To bring it back to my own (perhaps mild) experiences, I think I have a pretty good example that sums up how I feel.  Call it a small metaphor for a greater problem:

Being white didn't make my trip physically easier.  It didn't make the miles any less long, the hills any less steep, or the wind and snow any less cold.  Being white sure as hell didn't peddle the bike for me.

However, every time I stopped or was stopped, whether it was to grab a bite in a cafe or whether it was to answer the questions of a curious law enforcement agent, I was treated, at minimum, with dignity.  I'd like to think that this was because the people who greeted me were just genuinely good people, and I don't want in any way to belittle the kindness I received.  The point I'm trying to make is that I didn't have a SINGLE negative encounter with any officer or with any patron or place of business.  From what I've read and what I've seen, this would never have happened if I had been a young black man traveling alone.

So I feel angry that other fellows, no worse than me, would be at a much greater personal risk on such a trip just because of a national attitude and a different skin color.  I feel angry that many women would feel equally threatened, not by the elements that they might choose to pit themselves against, but by the people they might meet.

And maybe I'm still missing something.  I still can't quite reach the feeling of guilt I've been told I should feel over all of this.  I still want to look at receiving basic human dignity as a right that should be given to all but has been unfairly denied to so many.  I keep hearing instead that even such a minimum of respect is a privilege that has been unfairly granted to only a few, myself included.  I'm having trouble bending my mind around the concept that dignity is a privilege, i.e. something that should be denied until earned, regardless of race or gender.  I am clinging desperately to the idea that dignity is a right that should be assumed and granted, regardless of race or gender.

I always thought anger was for when I see other people treating someone poorly and that guilt was for when I have treated someone poorly, myself.  Perhaps I'm wrong, or, even worse, perhaps I am part of the problem, myself, in some way I don't see yet.

Maybe someone can help clarify these things for me.  There has to still be an angle I'm not seeing the subject from.  So this is me trying to be all ears and trying to have an open mind. 

Peace, I had done.

A Year and a Day, Many Thanks

So this is more like a year and a week or a year and a fortnight, I guess, since the end of my trip but those just didn't have the same ring to them as far as a title goes.

I don't know if anyone will really bother reading this entry.  My trip is long done now, but I always did mean to write at least a few more follow up entries and it's been weighing on my mind as something unfinished.  So here we go.

Many Thanks:

First off, I need to offer some very specific thanks to the following people.  These are the people who either gave me a gracious donation of funds during my trip, a place to stay in their home (or boat), or in some cases both.  So, in no particular order I want to offer my most sincere appreciation to:

My good friend Josh Lang, currently of Pittsburgh and his wife Kristi.
My cousin Mike Sincevich and his wonderful fiance Joy Willard.
My cousin Joshua Beard, long live the emperor.
Kathryn Mueller, who met me once in a bike shop.
Dan Rodina, who never met me at all.
Those two fellows in Wyoming who let me crash in thier work RV even though it was probably against company policy.
Captain Jim Hall of the ship High Tithe.
Sheri, who runs The Pink House in Boise.
Cousin Pat Sincevich, Brandi Sincevich, and all of their fine children.
David Chadwick and Gina Pace of Seattle.
A certain Miss Whitney, whom I met in a cafe not far from the Idaho-Wyoming border.
And lastly, that fine gentleman who met me once in a men's room, told me about his time in the Korean War, donated me $10, and wished me the best.

All in all, total donations came to $440.00, which amounted to a month's worth of food and bike repair supplies for me while traveling.  At the time I was very strapped for resources and I used every penny of it.

In honor of all of your many acts of generosity, I have recently donated a total of $880.00 dollars to my favorite non-profit, The American Chestnut Foundation.  It seemed fitting to try to give a little back to the out-of-door.  I'd like to say that the second half of that amount was me meeting all of your contributions, but if I'm honest I'm going to have to look at it more along the lines of acknowledging all the free meals, free desserts, and free couches that were provided for me.

I have one or two more topics to write about, but this one is important enough, I feel, to warrant it's own special entry. 

So once again, thank you all very much.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Peace, I had done (Nov 27th)

Last night I looked down and realized that my coat's entire front had become crusted with white ice.

I stopped under an overpass and beat the coat against the wall for a bit, but the ice wouldn't break off.  So I bivouacked under a pine tree a short distance from there, not too far west of Alexandria, Ohio.

There was too much ice on my boots to easily get them off, so I scraped off what I could with a knife and slept with them on until they started to thaw (dangerous business that).  Once they loosened up, I removed them, threw them into a plastic bag, then took off my cotton jeans and used them to soak up the little bit of moisture that had leaked off the boots into the bivvy (turns out cotton is good for something after all).  I had already removed my overcoat.

The bivvy is warm enough, I was wearing enough woolen undergarments (especially on my legs), and I timed it right so that I didn't get soaked or cold, and my bedroll stayed more or less dry all night.  I was warm and cozy, but still, dangerous business that. 

I put the bag with my boots in them back into the sack so they wouldn't freeze.

This morning my red overcoat was frozen as stiff as old rawhide.  The bike's brakes still work, but the shifters are caked with ice and unresponsive.  The bike path through Granville towards Newark and Newcomers is choked with snow.

So I took the slushy roads fifteen miles as the crow flies (but closer to 20 or 25 as the biker rides) to the town square in Newark.

Winter has been nipping at my heels state by state since I left Idaho.  There was a dusting of snow on my tires on Halloween, but I outran it.  Well, it has finally caught me.  Perhaps I could press on.  Home is less than 300 miles from here, even biking; Pittsburgh and my mother's school apartment only about half that far.

But it's Thanksgiving tomorrow, and a few snow sodden days of biking seem poor trade compared to a holiday with the clan. 

So it is, with a surprisingly light heart and in my last set of dry clothes, that I hereby declare my journey over.

Katelynn is meeting me here in Newark at the "Simply Rising" cafe and bakery where I am treating her to lunch.  I will be riding home with her this evening.

It may seem a shame to come so far only to fail on the last leg before home.  The funny thing is, though, I don't feel like I've failed at all.  Quite the opposite, in fact, though I'm not sure exactly why.  Sorry to let you all down one last time, but in the end this was something I was doing for me (wasn't it?). 

I don't know how many thousands of miles I've travelled.  My phone won't tell me (It's fritzing again), so I will have to tally that up later.  I need to tally up the donations as well, send out a few personalized thank-yous, and see that I donate an equal amount, myself, to nonprofits as promised.  I'm still thinking Chestnuts and maybe Rails-to-Trails.  I'm giving myself six months to make said donation(s), but I should be able to afford them much earlier than that if the tutoring in early 2014 goes well.  So there will be one or two more posts sometime in the future just to complete things.

I don't know what else to say.  I'm going home friends.  It's not far.  The thought of it makes my heart swell.  Thank you all for following with me.  Be well; be warm.

Peace, I had done.

The storm.

Rough storm last night. Had to bivvy early.  Managed to stay mostly dry and warm, though.  More about it later. Trying to make mileage now.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Heading for Home. (Ohio, nov 25th)

Winter has been right behind me state by state.  I think it's about to catch me.

I biked yesterday after (hopefully) fixing my phone and didn't stop until 6 am.  The cold didn't seem to bother me much.  I'm in Ohio now; Dayton to be exact.  There are many good bike paths in Ohio and I aim to follow them again until as late as I can keep going. 

I've taken to waking late so that I can eat lunch buffets for breakfast and then biking long ways when the traffic is low to nill.

A fellow at Rob's diner in Brookville called me inspiring this morning.  Then a woman named Cathy (not the one from Rossville,  a different Cathy) bought me breakfast, and a Veteran in the men's room talked to me about Korea and gave me a ten to help me on my way.

I don't know how inspiring I am, and I never ask for these hand outs.  Usually someone sees the bike helmet and starts asking questions.  All I do is talk: Tell them how I came to be here, and how good I feel, and how much I thoroughly (even desperately) want to be home.  People are kind, it would seem.

Right now I am letting my phone get a good charge and resting up before another hard push.  I need to try to cross Ohio before the snow hits too hard.  I've made it this far, though. 

If the weather shuts me down, that's okay.  I feel like I left the old anxieties somewhere in the Idaho Deserts.  I'm ready to be home. :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Slow going.

The weather slowed me in Illinois, and my equipment has been giving me trouble in Indiana.

After I wore a hole clean through my rear rubber (leaving Illinois) my phone then started fritzing.  The Verizon guy said it's probably because I took too many photos and used up most of the memory.  So currently I am uploading said photos to the cloud, a slow process that is costing me a lot of mileage, but hopefully one that will fix the problem.

After all, I use this phone not only for photos and updating this blog, but also to find restaurants, crosscheck maps, and keep an eye on the wind and weather.  It is the source of most of my information and when it isn't functioning I am riding a bit blind.  Granted, I can improvise (and have) when the phone was down or out of batteries, but I don't like to be out of contact for long.

I guess I don't mind taking things easy today, being that it has grown mighty cold out, but honestly the cold hasn't really bothered me yet (so long as I am pedaling with the wind). 

On the plus side the Verizon guy gave me a free, rechargeable external battery (and was awesome to talk to) and the people of the town of Advance were very nice company (My phone died, so I went east until I saw their water tower, steered for it, and used the computer in their library to reorient myself).

In other news, I have also upgraded my visibility.  I have gotten a bigger, brighter blinker for the back of the bike and have a bright construction worker vest covering my pack.  There were too many people getting too close for my liking as they came up behind me.  The vest seems to have done the trick, but I still stay off of state highways now as if they were the interstate (because they might as well be the interstate at this point).

The guy at Dunums gave me a huge discount on the safety gear. :)

The sleep sack still keeps me toasty warm at night even at single digit temperature. :)