Greetings blog faithful! I am sure many or all of you have given up hope for a culminating post of some sort and have instead sought refuge from the dreary headlines of the NY Times in the newest Netflix show or an old Austin Powers movie (this was actually a coping mechanism of someone we met). Even though it took a while to motivate after what happened on November 8th, I felt we owed to to ourselves, all the people who followed the journey, hosted or helped us along the way, and Hillary herself to write some sort of post-election reflection. So here goes…
First things first, we finished our bike ride across the country!! Wahoo!! Yay!! After expecting to hop on our bikes hung over from a Vegas election night party (there is no party like a Vegas election night party), we somberly set out on November 9th toward the Mojave Desert and Santa Monica beyond. The only cheerful news of the day was the addition of Meredith’s dad, Jerry, who decided to ride the final leg with us prior to realizing that the first couple days were largely going to be spent in dazed silence. We probably had it easier than many of you, though, as long biking days through the desert sunshine granted us time to think in quiet and solitude, process the bad news without being constantly hit by new waves of badness, and enjoy the beautiful and unchanging desert scenery (the cacti have no idea Trump is our president-elect).
The final two days before making it to LA we tackled some serious mountains, climbing passes of 7,000 and 8,000 feet with smaller climbs interspersed, which made for some of the toughest rides of the journey. These LA hills were truly magnificent though, and we couldn’t help but hoot and holler our way down around corners as new views emerged. Around one particular corner, downtown LA and the Pacific Ocean became visible in one spectacular moment that we will never forget.
Jerry contacted a friend in Santa Monica ahead of our arrival who is a member of the City Council there, and Ted (friend) organized a finish line party with around 20-30 attendees! It was awesome to end on a high note, as all the Santa Monica people we met were so grateful for our journey and kept saying, “Thank you for giving us something to celebrate right now!” We popped champagne, dipped our tires in the Pacific, took a glorious victory swim…it was a fitting ending to an incredible adventure. Thank you Ted, Jerry, and all the fine Santa Monica folks we met!
But once the champagne wore off and we remembered once again that Trump is our president-elect it was an important time to reflect on our journey. In the aftermath of this election, it is difficult to reconcile the amount of energy and time spent with such a dismal result. And I am not just talking about us bikers. There were many Hillary for America ground organizers we met along the way who quite literally dedicated their lives to the campaign, 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week for months leading up to November 8th. Not to mention the thousands of volunteers, contributors, community mobilizers, and so on who took up this effort only to be met with the most disheartening result.
Yet for the Riding Hills for Hillary Team, the outcome actually makes us feel our journey was more valuable and important than we had previously imagined. We took up the ride primarily as a campaigning effort (and ended up canvassing for a collective total of 65 days!), yet much of our trip was centered upon listening to the stories and perspectives of the people we met along the way. From Michigan factory workers to disillusioned Pittsburgh African-Americans to angry Colorado ex-military members and even Navajo Nation tribesmen, we were able to at least somewhat understand and empathize with the diverse perspectives that citizens of this country have on the state of our country and the resultant direction we ought to head. During an election in which narratives centered on division and disunity between Americans urban and rural, male and female, white or minority, and so on, we are proud that our trip stood out as a connector, a link (however small) between these cultures. And we hope that this blog has succeeded in sharing some of these stories with readers, expanding their understandings of the frustrations felt by many across this country. This goal of connecting people and communities across the cultural divide in our country remains even more important after the election.
If there is a silver lining to this whole fiasco it’s that the thought of Trump as president has had a really motivating effect on the Riding Hills for Hillary team and (it seems) many others. Even though a campaign (and a bike ride) give the impression that the work is done at the finish line, Trump’s victory has been an important, if unwanted, reminder that progress on causes and issues we care for requires near-constant effort. Obama’s administration enabled a certain amount of complacency, an air of inevitability that was dramatically popped on November 8th. Trumps election gives us all a reason to pause and reconsider the way we spend our time, the issues we care about, and what we can do to contribute to these issues in the coming four years and beyond.
On this note, we received an encouraging word from Las Vegas campaign organizer and friend of RH4H, Zachary. He reflected that campaigns are essentially run by many volunteers donating a small bit of time. As an organizer he didn’t need the hero volunteer to do 20 hours a week but rather relied on average people to regularly volunteer for a few hours on the weekends or weeknights to sustain the effort. This is a good reminder for those that feel daunted by the thought of addressing any number of issues endangered by the Trump administration; it doesn’t take a Herculean personal effort, just a large number of people carving out time in their lives to further a cause. We hope for ourselves and for all of you that we are able to find ways to do this in the coming months and years.
So what’s next for the crew? Mikey valiantly rode onward up the coast all the way to San Francisco before flying home for Thanksgiving. He is planning to hop in his car and head west after Thanksgiving (a little faster this time) and move somewhere in Colorado or California. Leading contenders include Durango and Big Bear and Colorado Springs! Mike hopes to find work in the environmental education field, where he will undoubtedly be an all star. Benjamin the Brave is back home for the holidays and then deciding between staying in Oakland or moving out to Colorado Springs. He hopes to continue his work with food systems, nutrition, and helping fill in those food deserts (many of which we biked through). Good on ya, Been! Meredith is looking for some well-deserved stationary time after a truly incredible 15 months of near-constant movement (she was travelling on a fellowship for 12 months before the trip). She has looked into moving to DC to work for a congresswomen and is also deeply involved in the food rescue world. We are confident she will find something important to take on quite soon. James is back in Seattle, where he will be working with his father to start a new consulting enterprise and doing some park time work on the side, perhaps tutoring or working in a café. He is also planning to write a longer piece about the journey so stay tuned for that! Finally, Nina (remember her?) is working for an enviro organization called The Quebec-Labrador Foundation until February and then will head to Greece to work on refugee issues in a variety of capacities.
Before we sign off, a huge huge huge thank you to all the many people who made it possible for us to successfully bike across the country and have such a wonderful experience. From distant friends who took us in for night and fed us food to Warm Shower strangers who did the same, to those who donated to Hillary through us or to our trip directly, to the many people who let us camp in their backyard, to the fine folks who bought us food or helped us get to bike stores, to the people who talked with us about our journey and shared their stories, to our blog and Instagram followers who threw us likes on hastily taken photos, to the Hillary campaign organizers and volunteers we interacted with…ah wow the list could go on. It was truly amazing to witness how much the people of the world just helped us out when we most needed the help. We could not have done it without you all!
Finally, if any of you are feeling down about the state of this country, or feeling disconnected from the people living between the coasts, we highly highly recommend hopping on a bike and taking a spin through. Bike touring is a perfect way to meet people you would never meet, as people across the country seem to absurdly friendly and generous to bike tourists. We would all be happy to talk about routes, necessary gear, planning, whatever else that comes up. It is much easier than you probably think it is, and a grand way to travel. To quote the Greek goddess, Nike, Just Do It.
Stronger together, but figuring out ways to make it in the world without one another,
Meredith, Ben, Mike and Jamie (and Nina!!)