To all the people who helped me prepare by giving me moral support, prayers, positive energy, advice, and cheers…
to everyone who donated time, equipment/items/stuff, money….
to everyone who called, texted, replied to my posts, sent me mail during the trip and just had faith in me..
to those who biked with me and shared the experience…
to all the new friends who let me camp in their backyards or on their couch, who let me use their internet, their shower, their pool, who shared a meal with me and gave me something cold to drink, and sometimes a little money, who gave me a meal on the house or let me in somewhere for free…
to all the people who took the time to have a conversation with me, tell me their opinions, tell me about their family, their history, their life and what’s most important to them…
to everyone who worried, cared, and supported…
to my family, old buddies, and new friends…
and to everyone who takes journeys much more arduous than mine, out of necessity rather than adventure, those same people who inspired me to take my trip and gave me the faith to do it……
thank you thank you thank you.
I wouldn’t have be able to take this trip without all of you, and if I could do it without all of you it would have been lonely and sad and terrible rather than the joyful and amazing and life-alteringly fabulous journey that it was! Thank you!
This is EVERYTHING that I packed. It looks so pretty!
Below are some images from the reenactment of my arrival. We forgot to take pictures when I got to NOLA on the 30th, so a couple of days later Monster and I got around to recreating it. I think I looked a bit more ragged during my first arrival. Note the toilet paper finish line.
Thought people might be curious about what I packed with me on the trip. Here’s a list.
WHAT I BROUGHT:
bike immigration justice sign
Handle Bag Bar:
sunglasses x2 bc i found a pair on the road
tire tube x2
3 tire levers
spare chain links
3 cycling shirts, acquired
3 shorts, acquired
3 socks (lost 3)
rain pants and rain jacket
baby blanket, acquired
all in one cooking pot, pan, and dish
knife and spoons
Maps (6 adventure cycling bike maps and about 7 AAA maps, ended with 4)
bike ride/new sanctuary movement flyers and notes
1st aid kit: ace bandage, guaze, bandaids, anitbiotic ointment, epi pen, painkillers, benadryl,
hygiene stuff: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, tweezers, butt butter, insect repellent, sunscreen
toothbrush for cleaning bike
rear view window
chargers x3 (old phone, new phone, gps)
voice recorder and 2 extra tapes
best gadget: all-in-one solar charger/boom box/noaa weather alert
needle and thread
LOST, ACQUIRED, BROKEN ETC.:
Stolen and held for ransom:
wheel (when hit by car)
journal (got wet)
helmet bike light
camel back mouth piece
palm leaf flower from Ann
bike lights x2
2 CDs from artists I met on the trip
4 flats (3 were all related and happened in the course of 2 days)
wheel bent from car accident
bottom bracket loose (x3)
rear wheel truing x4
handle bars loose
screw came off front rack
front fork loose
bought a new tube, wheel
spent on trip: approximately $8/day
bike repairs: $19 + new wheel after accident $70 (still awaiting insurance reimbursement)
And finally, I found a total of $149.69 in my bags when I unpacked in NOLA!!
I think its very important to add that on the day I traveled to Allyson’s in Holt, Florida I passed a town called Dorcas, a road called Lard St., and tons of signs for this real estate agent named Dan Crapps. What fun!
The trip into Pensacola was rainy rainy rainy. And kinda cold. And windy. Once we got near Pensacola we had to ride over some causeways. Causeways are kinda like part road, part bridge; they cross over water but are really long and low, like highway ramp, if that makes any sense. Anywho, the causeways were so windy and kind of terrifying. I hadn’t been scared of biking over waterways since the bridges of the Outerbanks which scared the crap outta me, but these causeways were just so windy that you thought they’d blow you right over the edge and into the turbulent waters beneath. Luckily that didn’t happen, but James and I had to pedal so hard and were hardly moving at all. It felt like we were moving in slow motion. That was a pain in the butt.
Once we got into the city there was a bike lane, yay! And then it ended, boo! And there was crazy trafico, no shoulder, and no sidewalk, poop! We eventually made it to Pat’s house (a friend of a friend of my friend Justin whom we stayed with in Tallahassee) by re-routing many times, sticking to the sidewalks when they were available, and trying not to be bothered by the cars passing within inches of us while we were on the road.
Pat’s house, despite looking like it was inhabited by college dudes, was wonderfully relaxing. James and I made a big meal of veggies, rice, and beans. We got to shower. It was also nice to spend some time indoors, in a set location, and not feel like a guest or anything. Many times my indoor nights consisted of hanging out with and meeting and being entertained by/entertaining new people…this is wonderful and fun, but it’s nice to have a balance of both. It was great to spend spend some time relaxing inside on a couch, knowing that I didn’t have to go anywhere for at least 12 hours, and also not feel much obligation to be social.
That evening Pat, James, and I went to a nearby cafe where I gave a talk about my Bike for Immigration Justice. It was weird…I spoke on a stage with a microphone to an audience…yikes! Up until that point I had only ever spoken to people while sitting in a big circle. It is much more intimidating to be standing in front of a crowd that is sitting and looking up at you and waiting for you to entertain and enthrall them. It went just fine. I did a good job at not appearing as nervous as I was. My voice didn’t shake at all! At the question/answer part there was a guy who kept raising his hand and saying the same thing. His basic point was that immigrants don’t have it as badly as I was saying they do. In his experience working in construction, immigrants are paid good money and treated fairly. I made the following points in reply: This is not the way all immigrants are treated in all jobs in all towns. The majority of times immigrants are not treated so fairly. Also, these immigrants he was referring to probably have no job security or benefits, and minimal unionizing power. And most importantly, even if all immigrants in the US were treated justly, is it fair that we have contributed to the economic conditions that have triggered their migration in the first place? Is it fair that we cause poverty and disturbances in other countries (ie. replacing a traditional agricultural lifestyle with US-owned sweat shops)? Can we justify this by saying that we treat people fairly once they come? No way Jose!
After my speech that dude approached me hoping to chat more about his views. We talked for a little, but I got so frustrated with his denial of the problem combined with his ability to justify the imperialistic actions of this country. I lost my temper with him. I think it was my first and only temper-losing experience of the trip. We were in the middle of this intense discussion when I snapped at him, “I can’t talk to you about this anymore! You’re frustrating me!!” making it very clear that I was angry and annoyed with him. I don’t plan on making a habit of that way of dealing with people whose views are different from my own, but I also don’t regret saying that stuff to him. Apart from the fact that I was tired from the trip and jittery from just having given a speech, I was also genuinely annoyed with this guy and his line of thinking and I’m glad I let him know it. There were many people whom I met during the trip that said some terribly racist and xenophobic things concerning immigration and part of me wishes I had expressed more openly exactly what I thought of them.
The next day (Wed June 23rd to give you a feel for the timeline) James and I woke up late, made pancakes and eggs, and finally left Pensacola around 2pm. We weren’t worried about leaving so late because we only had 35-ish miles to go to Gulf Shores, where we’d have to find a yard to sleep in or something. It was really really hot, so by the time we went 25 miles we were not doing too well: hungry, tired, thristy. Luckily (well, not luckily, I had been planning on this for weeks) we arrived at the Flora-Bama just when we really needed it!! The Flora-Bama is a bar on the border between Florida and Alabama…it’s awesome! I was there in 2007 for their Mullet Tossing Extravaganza (mullets are fish..who knew?!). There are about 10 actual bars inside and the place is still in disrepair since Hurricane Ivan (2004) and probably violates a ton of codes.
James and I got drinks and sat out on the deck and I started eating the scrambled eggs that I had been carrying in my hot-as-crap bags all day. (Wow, the cutest little baby lizard is jumping around on my table right now!!) Then Lauren and Earl came outside. They almost danced outside and Lauren began loudly exclaiming about the beautiful weather, the wonderful bar, the awesome beach, and…the oil in the Gulf. Soon we were chatting with them and learned that they are self-identified middle-age hippies now employed by BP (who from then on they referred to as The Devil). They were mortified to be employed by The Devil, but they had both been unemployed for so long that they had to jump at the chance, so they fenagled their way past the pee test (adding a wee bit of water apparently does the trick) and landed jobs earning $25/hour as parking security guards. Lauren and Earl told us all about themselves: nude vacations, two sons, homemade bread making abilities, religious upbringing. They talked about despising BP and their complete lack of trust in the work they’re doing to clean up the Gulf.
They learned that we were going to Gulf Shores that night and made it their mission to find us someone to stay with. During the couple of hours that we hung with them, Lauren would periodically shout out the name of a person that she just remembered in Gulf Shores. Then she would find the person’s number, call them, ask if they could take in two travelers, and end up rejected for a variety of reasons: out of town, lice infestation, ferocious dogs etc. Finally, just as we were ready to head out, she yelled out, “Allen!!” and gave Allen a call. Apparently he said, “Well, it doesn’t seem like I have a choice in the matter,” which she took to be an emphatic YES! We got Allen’s number and Earl drew us a terrible map to his place. They invited us to stay with them many times, but they lived way off of our route and in the path of some very busy roads. Before we left, Lauren, who really wanted to offer us something, got an idea. She would go home, bake bread, and then stash it somewhere along our route for us to find the following day! Secret bread rendezvousing?!….what could be better?!?
We crossed into Alabama (!!) and road 10 more miles in the dark to Allen’s. James didn’t have any lights so we tried to stay close together with him just in front of me so that my lights worked for both of us. We arrived at Allen’s house. It was just off of a main road, but his neighborhood was so quiet. It was right off the bayou and he had a little dingy boat in his driveway. He invited us in and once we met his dog Laika and learned that she was named as a memento to the first dog in space I knew that this was a good guy. We chatted with Allen for a short while and then he told us we were welcome to camp in the yard or sleep on the hammock or the patio furniture. I started out the night on the hammock but then I got bit by a mosquito. Then I covered myself in bug repellent and tried to sleep, but paranoia took over. I began feeling imaginary mosquitos all over me! Then I started slapping at all of the imaginary mosquitos. Five minutes of sleep would come to an abrupt end with the slightest breeze that would have me violently slapping at any exposed area of my body. I looked over jealously at James, who was peacefully sleeping on a lawn chair. Finally, at 2 am (after 3 hours of delusions) I begrudgingly got out the tent, pitched the damn thing, crawled inside, and went to sleep.
The next day we planned to get an early start, but Allen had a pool! So we took a nice morning swim. Then Allen made some breakfast and we sat outside and ate together. Then Allen and I got to chatting about his younger years. He told me about his band Free Love and his life as a hippie in the 60s-70s living in San Francisco. Soon James and I were in Allen’s office looking through a pile of old photos and posters of his Free Love days. I saw more of Allen in those photos than I ever expected to see…. It was so fun hanging with Allen that morning, but James and I had to head over to Mobile, so we took some pics, said goodbye, and road on.
We road about 3 miles until we turned onto Route 10. Then we passed a parking lot and a high fence. Then we came upon a gray electrical box. And there, tucked behind it, in a plastic bag, was was a loaf of Lauren’s rye bread, just where she said it would be! It was AWESOME! Later on down the road we bought some tomatoes and peaches and that was what we ate all day: sandwiches of bread, spray butter, garlic salt, and tomatoes, and peaches for dessert. Not too shabby.
At a convenience store I met two men from Greece (Frank and Joe I believe, or else I’m just daydreaming about the Hardy Boys). They were super excited about the bike ride and gave me coffee and a muffin on the house and offered me a job and a place to live! Understandably, like many immigrants I met, they didn’t want to be interviewed or have their picture taken.
This was a super hot day and unexpectedly HILLY! James and I were sweaty messes. We were quite happy to have bike paths for a lot of the way so that when we started swaying due to dehydration and delirium we didn’t have to worry about getting hit by cars. We were 10 miles from our destination and just losing our drive when I got a call from Sharon, my friend who we’d be staying with in Spanish Fort (right next to Mobile, AL). She told sweet tales of the AC, pizza, wine, cookies, and ice cream that were awaiting us. I pretended that those things were tied to a string and dangling right in front of me and picked up the pace, making it to Sharon and Paul’s house 40 minutes later. After much hugs and freaking out, Sharon poured me some beer in a frosted glass (classy!) and led me to the shower where Paul gave me two towels (“one for your particulars and one for your whatevers”). Then we ate, drank, and hung out to our hearts’ content before finally going to bed.
Some highlights from Mobile:
-Borrowing Sharon’s car and driving 10 miles below the speed limit to Mobile, Al, where I lived back in 2006-07 while doing JVC. I went to the clinic and homeless day center where I used to work and checked out the house where I used to live
-Celebrating Sharon’s birthday with James and Paul and some Mexican food
-BBQ with Sharon and Paul and friends
-great company, movie watching, excessive laziness, lots o food, AC
We arrived in Spanish Fort on Thursday evening and left Monday around noon. It was a long break and it was very hard to get back on our bikes and start riding again. Especially since Sausage Fest left me with some unpleasantness in my tum. Also, I could suddenly feel the excessive heat. All that time in the AC spoiled me and I was no longer accustomed to hanging out all day in 100+ degree weather. I was ready to be in New Orleans…I really didn’t feel like riding for three more entire days, uggg. It didn’t help matters that Mobile is a terrible biking city, I think the worst I encountered on the entire journey. The cars are totally oblivious to bike riders, there is heavy traffic, no shoulders, and few alternate routes. The sidewalks, when present, are so disheveled and torn apart from the large oak trees that line the streets that riding on them means almost certain damage to your bike. We spent some time riding on the grass beside the road when there was no other option. It sucked!
When it came time to camp I felt totally out of practice with finding a random person and asking to camp on their lawn. Also…we weren’t seeing any random people. There was nobody outside. I started getting that nervous, urgent feeling that I got sometimes when it was getting late and I didn’t know where to live for the night. Crap, I better find something fast before it gets dark! And it always gets dark so quickly when I’m thinking that. Finally I accepted the fact that even though it was a nice evening and we were passing many homes, we weren’t going to find someone outside. So I picked a house. I liked it because it had a basketball hoop, cute dogs (not scary, mean, chasing ones), and hanging ferns. It met James’ approval. I went up to the front door and began my shpeel, “Hi there! I’m Sheila and this is my friend James. We have an unusual request…We’re biking through town on our way to New Orleans as a ride for immigration justice, and we don’t have a place to stay tonight. Any chance we can camp out in your backyard?” Tim said that that was indeed an unusual request, but yes we could certainly camp in his yard. He took us around back and we saw that he had a pool…score! Then he spend a good amount of time helping us pick out a good spot that would be away from the dogs, fire ants, and morning sun. He told us to feel free to go swimming…don’t mind if I do! James and I pitched our tent and cooked some veggie soup and Zattarran’s Red Beans and Rice with extra beans in honor of our impending NOLA arrival. We got in the pool and ate our din.
The next day we crossed into Mississippi (!!!) and continued towards Gulf Port where we had plans to stay with my friend Will’s friend Bill’s Mom, Alva. We came to a No-Bikes-Allowed Bridge. I put out my thumb and within a minute Justin from Oklahoma pulled over. He loaded our bikes in the truck and drove us over the bridge. Then he realized that he didn’t know where he was going (he was new in town) so he decided to just keep driving us in the direction we were headed. Then he realized where he was and found that he was headed in the same direction as us so we stayed in the truck with him. I looked in his cup holder and saw some dead fish wrapped in plastic wrap. It turns out Wal-Mart has a 90 day guarantee on the goldfish fish they sell. If they die before then you can bring them back to the store and exchange ’em. Good to know. Then he offered to drive us 20 more miles to Biloxi, but we figured we should do some biking that day so we thanked him and got out of the truck and on our way. He took us about 10 miles.
Soon we were riding on the sidewalk right along the beach. It was great because we got a nice ocean breeze and could look right out to the ocean. It was not great because we could see the clean-up crews picking up big globs of oil and knew we were most likely inhaling gaseous, toxic fumes. It was also not great because there were huge port-o-potties on the sidewalk, and every 5 minutes, if there wasn’t enough room on the path, we’d have to get off our bikes and walk them around. If there was enough room to pass I’d nervously zoom past them, each time expecting that someone would be exiting at that moment and I’d crash into them or the door and sustain terribly injuries and then have to endure the shame of a port-o-potty injury preventing me from completing my 2 month journey on my second to last day.
A few stressful hours later we arrived at Alva’s house. Her place was fabulous! And so was Alva! She welcomed us inside and was so excited to have us there. She was in the process of cooking and told us to make ourselves right at home. She told us that the upstairs was ours, we could sleep in any room we wanted, help ourselves to drinks in the upstairs fridge, watch tv, whatever. I ran upstairs excited about fighting over the best room, which I got because James wasn’t as excited about fighting over it and didn’t seem care one way or another, but that made me feel guilty so I moved out of the best room and took another one. Alva had cooked up a storm: brussel sprouts and pecans, muffins, lima beans, meat loaf, potatoes, and strawberry shortcake for dessert!! She had her friends Gloria and Dick over and we all chatted about my bike ride, immigration (Gloria worked with migrant farm workers and was particularly interested), and a lot of bands I had never heard of. Then we talked about Hurricane Katrina. Alva’s entire house was flooded from the storm, she had eight feet of water in there. Apparently she had left all her photos in boxes on a table on the first floor. That table floated up with the water and sunk right back down when the water receded. The photos stayed neatly on top and were all in perfect condition when she returned, despite everything else on the floor being destroyed!! We listened to Alva tell stories about her family and their home until we all got sleepy.
Then we went to bed, woke up, and biked all the way to New Orleans! Which I wrote about when I got there! Hurrah!! The End! Not really The End actually.
If you thought I was done blogging then you’ve been had!! I feel rested and ready to write again (blogging was really getting to be chore towards the end of the ride). Plus, I have much more to write about, such as: I looked out my new kitchen window and saw a male lizard wooing the ladies with his red bulbous neck, I went to a yoga class yesterday and pulled my butt muscle, and I can catalogue all of the meals I’ve eaten in New Orleans thus far by the stains on my sole pair of non-spandex pants!
So far I’ve made three potential friends! I was also interviewed by “CSPAN” about the oil spill in the Gulf. Upon further reflection I have my doubts about my interviewer’s credentials. He was one dude with a video camera and tripod. There was no CSPAN van or crew. I actually only saw the word CSPAN in one place: he was wearing a black hat, upon which “CSPAN” was hand-written with what looked like white-out and a shaky stroke. Also, does CSPAN even do news reporting?? Isn’t it just just footage of the House of Representatives and such?! Nevertheless I gave him the lucrative interview he so desired. Because my brain didn’t process all that stuff until later. And because he had a winning smile.
My unwavering trust in strangers makes me think of Allyson, whom James and I meet while around Holt, Florida. We are relaxing at a convenience store/gas station, assessing an approaching storm, talking with store-owner Sadruddin, who is remarkable for many reasons: He immigrated from Burma to Pakistan to the US with his beautiful, model, Indian wife and has passion for the rights of all immigrants. He acknowledges the irony of the problems US border states are having with immigrants from Mexico, given that this was formerly Mexican land, which the US illegally invaded and stole from Mexico in the 1800’s. He gives us a brief, but detailed and informative description of the history of Islam. Without any knowledge of my background, he nonchalantly references my half-Indian-ness, how did he know?!
I see Allyson, who is about to hop into her car after shopping in the store, and ask her if she has opinions about what the gray clouds in the distance will mean to bikers such as James and I. She thinks it is best to bike on and out ride the storm. She overestimates me. She lives about 5 miles away. If we get caught in the storm she tells us we are welcome to come by her house and take cover for the night. James and I do not get caught in the storm because we weenie out and wait for it to pass, but we decide to stop by her house anyway…we need a place to live for the night! She opens the door exclaiming, “Oh my god, I didn’t think you’d actually come by! What if you are axe murders?! What was I thinking?!” She’s freaking out. It’s hilarious!! We assure her that we would be perfectly happy camping in the yard. Despite her suspicions of our murderous intentions she invites us in for pork chops. We meet her son’s girlfriend Zamira and Zamira’s 18-month daughter Isabella. Then she proceeds to call a local camp ground and when they don’t answer she pursues the search online for any place where we could possibly stay other than her house. Anything to get rid of us! It’s super awkward and so funny.
Finally we get her talking about her family and found that her son James was in the same infantry unit as my cousin Dave (well, at least I think so, we’ll have to talk about this Dave). Anywho, she says that she is a Republican but her son is in Iraq Veterans Against the War so my bike ride would be just his thing. I’m thinking, “We’re in like flynn! A place indoors to sleep!”
After pork chops, the five of us go out to the patio and have some drinks. Isabella is a little cutie-pie with a ton of energy who’s getting into stuff constantly. Allyson, Zamira, and Isabella are so friendly and wonderful to spend time with. Allyson tells us about her house. The property belonged to her great grandmother who acquired the land through some government act who’s-name-I-can’t-recall that allowed people to live and work on large areas of farm land and eventually gain ownership. The land has been divided up among family members now. (This is the same way that many people I’ve met obtained their property). Last year she knocked down her great g-mom’s original house and built the one she’s in now. She saved the materials of the old house and plans to build a small replica of it on the property.
Zamira tells us about how, one week prior, she and one of the dogs encountered a rattle snack in the backyard, “right over there,” she says, pointing at our bikes. She screamed to Allyson who ran and got her shot gun and killed the rattle snake before it could strike. Then they say goodnight to us and Allyson tells us we’re welcome to set up camp anywhere in her [rattle snake infested] backyard. This was an unexpected turn of events. I really thought we had scored a place inside!
James heads for the safety of the bathroom while I move trepidatiously towards the bikes. Allyson comes out and asks us if we need anything, she seems all jumpy. I’m laying down the tarp and getting the tent out. Allyson comes out again, suggesting that maybe we’d prefer to set up the tent on the concrete patio, put pool floats inside, and sleep on them. Hmmm…tempting? I’m getting out the tent stakes. Allyson comes out again. She shows us the bug spray and suggests that we could sleep on the patio furniture outside…she’s flustered. She’s about to go inside when she cracks, “OK, OK, you have to sleep inside! You can’t sleep outside with the ratttle snakes! I just can’t allow that!! Just please don’t kill us! I really hope you’re not axe murderers!!” This woman is hilarious! By doing nothing at all we’ve worn her down. Tent stuff gets packed away and we’re inside in 5 minutes. James and I find cozy spots on the floor in front of the TV and the three of us hang out watching Naked Gun. Rattle snakes are but a distant memory.
The next morning we wake up to Allyson making coffee and pancakes, sweet! Ok, I know this is totally obnoxious and ungrateful, but I have to vent. I’m still a bit perturbed that James got three pancakes and I only got two. I have a ginormous appetite, but people assume that I eat less because I’m a woman…not true!! I would woop James’ butt in a pancake eating contest and everyone knows it!! I finish my 2 pancakes and had to sit there jealously while James continued eating. Painful!
We say goodbye and thank you to Allyson, Zamira, and Isabella. Together we all breath a sigh of relief that no one was murdered doing our stay. Just as we leave it starts to rain. Then it’s I-can-hardly-see-in-front-of-me pooouring. But we ride on. There’s no one else crazy enough to be on the road so we have no cars to worry about. The rain is refreshing. We’re heading to Pensacola!
WHOA! I’m in New Orleans…Holy Crap! This is so exciting! I have showered. James is doing my laundry (he’s so lovely).My sister Monster just brought me a strawberry beer and told me I have a cute butt. Monster, James, and I are about to go out for pasta and then “celebrate” whatever that entails.
There was a toilet paper finish line and celebratory Mardi Gras beads!! Hoorah!
I saw such interesting road kill today: bull frogs, fish, AND….BABY ALLIGATORS. Plus I saw two living baby raccoons cross the road, some super interesting crustaceans hanging out on the shoulder, and awesome looking birds (could they be cranes?). James got a flat tire, my front brakes went out, we got super dirty, dirtiest ever, and were evading hurricane Alex all day long. We were on the road for ten and a half hours and went approx 80 miles.
And now I’m heeeere!
Welp, about to hit the road for one last day of biking…weeee! To be honest I am quite excited to get there. This will be my 61st day of riding and I started feeling ready-to-be-there about 3 days ago. Weather reports are calling for scattered storms throughout the area, some funnel clouds, rates of one inch of rain per hour, and cloud to ground lightening. Perfection!
Here are some things I’m going to do my first few days in New Orleans:
sleep for 20 hours
go to a yoga class
color with my new 64 pack of crayons
go to some BP protests/learn more about the oil spill situation
After we finish our very-athletic protein shakes we’ll be leaving Alva’s in Gulfport, Mississippi. 70-some miles later we’ll be there!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?! I feel like a super woman!!
More blogs to come…
Sad to be leavin’ Mobile, AL, but…should be in New Orleans on Wednesday. WHOA!!! I can’t believe it!!!!
James and I set off from Tallahassee having decided to stay in Chattahoochee that night (because it’s called Chattahoochee) and swim in the nearby Seminole River. When we arrived in Chattahoochee, we encountered Father Eddie outside of his home, stationed next to his Christian church. We asked if we could camp in his yard and quickly recognized his military background when he put down his lawn equippment, walked directly over to us, and said that before he agreed to anything we should introduce ourselves thoroughly and tell him about ourselves. Well then, after having done that he explained that since his house is at that bottom of a little hill the lawn often floods in the rain so we would be better off in a motel. Then he offered to give us $40 to put us up in a motel down the street!
Then I told him about my Bike for Immigration Justice and things quickly got heated. He kept saying that it is illegal to cross the border so “once they’re over here they are already felons.” He seemed to think that every human-made law must be obeyed regardless of whether it is inhumane or unjust. Things got very intense. At one point he demanded, “give me my $40 back.” As I returned the money he said, “no, I’m kidding, keep the money.” Later in the conversation he looked me in the eyes and said, “I doubt you’ll ever live up to your own high ideals.” Aren’t ministers supposed to motivate, challenge, and inspire?!
Finally we left with the $40 (which I had been trying to determine if I should keep). Eddie had said he was happy to have a little bit of extra money in his life so that he was able to “help the stranger.” But I wondered if he would have shown the same consideration for the migrant or the foreigner. I wonder what he believes Jesus’ opinion would be about immigrants in this country.
As we promised Eddie, we used the money for a motel room that night. There we made rice-a-roni, watched Seinfeld, played cards, and James washed my socks for me!!
The next days we crossed into Central Time Zone!! Wahoooo!! Swam in the Seminole Lake, saw sign: “caution alligators,” and promptly removed ourselves.
We biked a bit off-route to Florida Caverns State Park planning to take a tour of the caves. At the entrance we met Tye, Raffie, and Tim. Tye was a volunteer worker at the park and Raffie and Tim were leading/supervising a Boy Scout Troop camping trip. Tye told us a good place to covertly set up camp to avoid having to pay the $30 camping fee. I told the men about the purpose of my bike ride and they were really excited. “I can’t imagine a better cause than that,” Raffie said. Tim and Raffie proposed a deal: they would invite us for dinner with the Boy Scouts and let us share their camp ground if I would be their guest speaker for the night. Who’s turing that down?!
We set up camp with the Scouts. They had shower and bathroom access and were cooking dinner and BIRTHDAY CAKE in dutch ovens (hehe). Lief, another troop leader, made an awesome dinner: chicken and rice, veggies, pasta salad. You know a meal is high class when it has sides rather than all the ingredients combined in one big mush.
Later on there was a huge bonfire with about 10 Troop leaders, 40 Boy Scouts ranging from 10 to 17 years old, James, and me. I was the first act. Eleven year-old Caleb was MC-ing the event. He introduced me as “Cheryl, from the New Sanction Monument.” That’s pretty damn close. The boys and I played “Immigration: Myth or Fact.” I called out stereotypes about immigrants (ie. Immigrants are criminals and terrorists”), boys had to determine if it was a myth or fact, and then we discussed the different views. For the most part the boys seemed to be pretty enlightened about immigration. They (esp the older boys) were able to dispel a lot of the myths and explain the reality of the situation. In response to the myth that immigrants steal jobs from US workers, one kid explained that immigrants are taken advantage of by employers. Another boy, while talking about the myth that today’s immigrants are different from the immigrants of 100 years ago, explained that most immigrants of past or present come to the US to get jobs and make a better life for their family.
Just as I was wrapping up, one of the scout leaders said, “But they come here illegally. These are felons!” As he resisted, I explained that people most often come here because of economic oppression caused by the US. Then another scout leader stood up to make a comment. He said, “Thank you, Sheila, for coming and sharing your side. But I just want to remind you all that 100 years ago, Irish and Italian immigrants came to this country to make it a better place. They worked hard and didn’t cause trouble. We should remember that this is different from what’s going on today. Today’s immigrants don’t come here to try to make this country better. They are lazy and commit crimes. They are nothing like the hard-working immigrants of years ago. I think it’s really important that we remember that and always consider both sides of the story.” I didn’t even get to make a rebuttal! What a jerk! As the scouts began to perform the skits they had planned, Tim and Raffie took me aside and thanked me, acknowledging that it had been a tough crowd. They appreciated my message: We should treat everyone with dignity and respect. They were so supportive!
We ate watermelon and birthday cake and watched about a dozen skits. James performed a Boy Scout Song for the group. There was lots of singing, some funny skits, some awkward skits, and some skits that didn’t make any sense. Then we went to tent.
Somehow, about 100 ants found their way into our tent. Die, ants, die!
The next day we began riding on Rt 90 (where we’d be for about the next 3 days) and got as far as Ponce de Leon, Florida. We went to the Ponce de Leon Springs and swam in the springs. Florida springs are part of an underground aqueduct/cave system that formed water accumulating in porous limestone. The water is the clearest I’ve ever seen and freezing, since it comes up from the underground caves. In the springs you can see the opening of the cave that supplies the water from beneath. That cave is over 30 feet deep and looks super scary.
We camped in a trailer park behind the trailer of some nice folks: Jim and little Hailey who was zooming around on her tricycle. The problem was that the neighbors were a little crazy. They had loud fights the whole night and the woman, who was super drunk, kept getting pissed off, hopping in her truck, not bothering with the headlights, and peeling off across the lawn and out onto the street. James and I were sleeping on that very lawn. The first time she zoomed off we were sure she was gonna run us down. When it happened a second time we realized this might be a reoccurring thing and we might not make it through the night. We decided it would be wise to move the tent. We tucked it right by Jim’s house in between their trampoline and the playhouse. The distant cussin’ lulled us to sleep until the beating sun woke us early the next morning.
Just a quick few things before I head out of Tallahassee.
First of all a response to one comment from my last post where I mentioned the 15 year old who was killed on the border. The agents said he was throwing rocks, but video footage of the event shows that that was not the case. Follow this link for more info. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/10/mexican_teenager_shot_dead_on_mexican
Also, for those in Philly, there is an important New Sanctuary Movement Event coming up in an effort to stop Secure Communities, a program that links the police department with Immigration Customs and Enforcement. Secure Communities, among other things, creates a fear of the police. Immigrants who are victims and witnesses of crimes fear deportation and do not call police in the case of a crime.
On Sunday, June 27th from 2 to 4 pm at Annunication B.V.M., community leaders from North and South Philadelphia are going to share personal testimony about how police/ ICE collaboration affect their lives and our city with the Deputy Mayor and the District Attorney. We need YOU to come out and support the movement for justice for your fellow neighbors and communities at this Community Forum. Our goal is to have 400 people attend this gathering! We have about 200 people confirmed, help us meet our goal! Make the commitment to be at Annunciation B.V.M. (on the corner of 10th and Dickinson) at 2p.m.
There are three ways you can help us have strong voice on June 27th:
1.) Include the announcement below in your newsletter and weekly bulletins from now until the event.
2.) Email us by June 25th if your congregation or organization is willing to sign-on to the event (see attached letter) and you will be acknowledged in the program at the June 27th event.
3.) COME ON JUNE 27th and bring your friends and family to show your support in person! RSVP to Jen Rock firstname.lastname@example.org
Ok, off we go towards Chatahoochee!!!!!