Andrew Reflects on Day 7

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Time for journaling

I’m a freshman at Bronx Lab, and I came on this trip to escape the Bronx and learn about our history. Also I just like camping. Today was the sixth day of the Ohio Underground Railroad trip.  I’m just wondering why the teachers decided to make me leader on the longest, hilliest day (“He’s a strong rider,” they say; “He’s a good leader,” they say). Anyway, today was ok. It could have been better but Nailea isn’t with us (she should be arriving in NYC as I type), but we made the most of our day. We woke up at 6:00, but I woke up at 6:15. There was more of a fight to get me up. Then I took an amazing shower and ate oatmeal for breakfast (apple cinnamon, to be exact). Then Chuck and I went over the map for the day, and everyone got physically and mentally prepared to ride.

Then we started our 50-mile ride (or so the teachers say; I was counting it as 60 miles or so lol). By the way, I’m eating pancakes right now, and they are delish. The ride started off hard with a massive hill, but then it was calm and peaceful riding through the countryside. We then soon arrived at our lunch destination where there was a big tree with overgrown bugs. (Did you know that what we believe to be the world’s oldest living organism is the methuselah tree in California? It is approximately 4,800 years old.) There was an argument at lunch, but for the most part I think we are past it. Afterwards we started biking in the Amish country, and we saw so many horses and buggies. There was also so much poop on the roadL, and Chalani stepped in it lol. The ride went on for thirty more miles or so, and that’s when the ride got very tiring. Then I realized we were very close to Findley State Park, our campground for the day. We finally arrived and set up our tents and rested for approximately thirty minutes before we drove into Oberlin.

Visiting the Oberlin Historical Society
Visiting the Oberlin Historical Society

We then went to an old school house at the Oberlin Historical Society where a kind lady named Liz taught us about the town’s great history. Oberlin College was the first school to openly have Caucasians and African Americans learn together, and it wasn’t an easy process. People in Oberlin also helped many slaves in so many ways, even endangering their lives or facing being imprisoned. After that we then played some games that were played back in the 1800s including graces, stilts, sack racing (which I happened to win), and a few more. Then I went with Chuck and Rachel to a store and bought a few necessities before coming back to camp and resting in my tent. I waited for these pancakes and we just made a fire to make smores to end the day. Actually it didn’t end there. I was just surprised by some lovely day before Fourth of July sparklers.

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Chalani Reflects on Day 6

Happy trails!

Hi. My name is Chalani Styles. (Yes, I am married to Harry Styles) I’m in 9th grade going into to 10th grade in Bronx Lab High School. I came on this trip because my friends and I were biking after school and have been enjoying biking around the Bronx. I was the leader today but it was hard because I hurt my leg yesterday and it hurts a little bit. But I was leading anyway. I’m sitting on the bench at our campsite as I’m typing this. The people next to us are cleaning up their toilet in their camper. Ughhh it smells horrible.

We all woke up around 8:30am today, which is much later than normal. And there were 2 spiders in our tent but Tia and I survived. But I miss Nailea L. We all do! We ate oatmeal and cereal for breakfast. We cleaned up after ourselves and started putting things inside the van. We thanked Mike for letting us stay at the camping site for free and headed to the next camping site. We had to drive to the campsite instead of biking because Rachel was still in Columbus with Nailea. While we were in the car, we got a call from Nailea J. We were all happy to hear her voice. When we arrived we set our tents up and got our bikes ready so we could ride our bikes. It was hard to ride my bike with my leg but I made it. After we got back, Rachel and Chuck had arrived so we all ate lunch and headed to the river. Tia, Randy, and Andrew got in the water while Josh, Rachel, and Basil played Frisbee. Oh I almost forgot we called Nailea. J

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After a while we went back to our campsite and ate hot dogs, beans, and pasta. It was very good since I was really hungry. And I started blogging. SO that’s what we did today.

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Randy Reflects on Day 5

Hi my name is Randy Caesar Joseph Birkett IV. I was the leader for today and it didn’t really go so well. It actually started out well because the nice and kind church people let us stay the night even though it was on such short notice.

We had two accidents. The first one was with our friend Nailea. She fell and broke her arm while we were riding. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I still felt bad because I was the leader and it happened when I was leader. The other one was with the junior Basil. He was riding and a car went by. He pressed both brakes too hard and he flipped over. He is ok now. Nailea is in the hospital now getting surgery on her arm. We are all hoping she gets better.

But other than that today was actually good except for all the bumps and hills. I don’t know why Ohio has so many ups and downs. They are so annoying and tiring. At least we got to have fun in the Kokosing Lake. The water was so cold but then you got used to it after awhile. So in all actuality today wasn’t so bad.

We had pizza for dinner today. It was really good, just not as good as New York pizza. I wish we could have had more but you get what you get and you don’t get upset. We also got to stop at the store at one of our pit stops. We don’t usually get to stop at stores for some reason. Also we stopped at this really nice fire station where we got to refill our water bottles. The guys there were very helpful and nice.

Tonight we get to sleep outside.  Yay (he said sarcastically) but I hope I get to lead again and have a better ride. Tomorrow we have the shortest but most hilly day. And OH OH IO IO WE LOVE OHIO BIKING THE UNDRGROUND RAILROAD !!!

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Tia Reflects on Day 4

Ice cream day - a bike trip tradition
Ice cream day – a bike trip tradition

Hi my name is Tia and I will be a 10th grader in the fall. I go to a school called Bronx Lab High School in New York City. To start off my summer of 2015, my biking group and I are on a biking/camping trip along the Underground Railroad in Ohio. Some of us have been training since fall of 2014 and some started training earlier this year.

So far this biking/camping trip has been good. The weather has been cold, rainy, and slightly sunny. Today was a very fun and interesting day. The morning was very moist and wet. We had breakfast and packed our stuff in order to be on our bikes by 7:30am. We slept in a church so I felt confortable and welcome. Today I was leading for about 15 miles. I think I did well, I had a good pace and did biking calls such as “car back” and “car up” meaning that a car was coming behind us or in front of us. Sometimes I got tired, but I did not give up and stop. My biking friends and I were cheering everybody up by saying a line that every one from Ohio says, which is “OH” and we all scream “IO”. When the biking was over I really didn’t think that we had done 40 miles! I thought that we had done less. We biked the 40 miles so fast we made it all the way to the college before lunch. Lunch was good; we ate under a big tree because it was raining really hard, on and off.

After biking was over we went to see the church that we were going to sleep in over night. We were going to camp in a state park but because of the storms, we decided to sleep at the church. We did go to the state park to take a nice warm long shower. We also took a tour at a college called Ohio Wesleyan. It seemed very big to me and I liked how they had different types of cafés and they had good and fairly big dorm rooms. Also I like how freshmen are treated the same way as others in the college. When we were done we went back to the church and made a big dinner of aloo gobi and chicken.

The daily journal entry
The daily journal entry

After dinner we went to an ice cream shop that was unusual. It looked like a house but when you got inside you realized it was a store. The ice cream is home -made and very good. Finally we went back to the church and relaxed. We wrote in our journals and are about to have our evening circle where we all talk about our day. I have to lead the circle because I was the leader for the day. I am happy to be on this trip, but I miss my twin sister Tamera a lot. She was going to come on the trip, but is doing a college program at Skidmore so could not come. Overall today was a fun day.

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Basil Reflects on Day 3

Basil as a Fireman
Basil as a Fireman

HI name is Muhammad Basil and I am a senior at Bronx Lab School. I am from Pakistan but grew up in Dubai. I have been living in New York for a year. This is my second camping trip, but my first trip sleeping in a tent. My experience so far has been tremendous and I have had a lot of fun. I haven’t been out camping ever in my life as my parents never let me but thanks to my teachers who convinced my mom into letting me go to the trip I am happy to learn a lot of new things and experience a different environment away from home, by myself doing all my work on my own. This trip has taught me a lot, and I am really happy to take away good facts, which could help me in life.

It was the third day of the trip and I dwas informed last night after dinner that I was going to be the leader for tomorrow and I had to lead the biking crew to our destination. I went through the map to our destination with Chuck and Chuck informed me that we might not be able to bike tomorrow due to the unstable weather as it was going to rain the entire evening as well. The bike ride was really long, over 60 miles and had a lot of turns but I was still really excited because I love to bike and the most I have gone is around almost 59 miles a day with my cousins who used to bike back home in Dubai. The next morning I woke up and heard water dropping on my tent, which clearly meant that it was raining and we couldn’t ride. We went and had our breakfast in a shelter we found near our campground and played a small game, which was really fun. After that we decided to head out towards our destination, but instead of biking, we drove to Mechanicsburg where we met Ellen Seward a community resident and a social worker. She spoke to us about a black man during the 1800s who fled for freedom. The man, Addison White, was basically rescued by the entire town of Mechanicsburg. The people of the town all worked together to keep the bounty hunters from finding him and he ended up living his whole life in Mechanicsburg. We met with the Chief of Police and two of the firefighters who gave us a short tour of the fire station and the vehicles. I was really interested to know more about them and also got to take a pic with them in their coat and hat. I also talked about how to become a firefighter. They both, Michelle and Taylor, were very nice and really kind.

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Evening amusement

We than headed to a church where we were to spend the entire night and we were to have dinner there with the people at the church. We than had some activities where we all went to play outside and had an amazing time, and we got all our clothes dirty. We came back and decided to do our journals and I sat down to do my blog as I was the leader of the day. I wasn’t able to lead a ride today but had an amazing time and look forward to leading a ride later in the week.

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Touseef Reflects on Day 2


Hi. My name is Touseef and I am going to be a senior at Bronx Lab School in the fall. This is the first time I have ever been camping and I am happy to be here. I moved to New York from Pakistan last summer and wanted to come on this trip so I could learn more about the United States and do some more biking. In Pakistan, my dad bought me a bike and I biked with my brother to and from school every day. Sometimes my brother and I would ride the same bike, he would be in the front and I would be in the back.

After the long day in Ripley yesterday I woke up today excited for more fun coming up. I arrived at the breakfast table and Rachel informed me that I was the leader of the day, which excited me even more as I was going to lead the entire biking crew, which was an honor for me. After breakfast Chuck showed me the map to our destination, which was John Bryant State Park. We had a long journey of almost 40 miles. I was very nervous as I was biking again after almost 4 years, which was a long time. We started our ride and made a couple of stops. I was nervous in the beginning of the ride, but as we went on I got stronger and stronger. Yesterday we learned about the slaves who had to walk miles and miles to get to Canada. I thought about them as we were riding in the sun, thirsty and hungry and tired at times.

When we arrived at the campsite everyone was tired, but I was very happy to have led my group safely. We set up our tents and then went to a pool in Yellow Springs to swim. When we all were swimming my friend Andrew dived in the water and he didn’t realize how deep the water was and thought he was drowning but thanks to the lifeguard and my best friend Basil they were able to get to him. We swam for a long time and then came back to the campsite to eat dinner. We made burritos and rice and beans, which was very similar to Pakistani food that I eat.


This month is Ramadan and I am supposed to be fasting, but because we are biking so much I have to put the fasting on hold. I might try to make up for the days I miss fasting when I get home. I think that the reason we fast during Ramadan is to know the value of food and to better understand people who are hungry and poor. Even though I can’t fast during the trip because of the biking, I think Ramadan helps me to understand what the people who were escaping slavery along the Underground Railroad went through.

I am so thankful that my friend, Basil who is also from Pakistan, is here on this trip with me.


After dinner, we had a surprise birthday party for Chalani. Her friend, Nailea, made her cupcakes and brought balloons for her. Now we have to write in our journals and get to bed early because tomorrow we are riding 60 miles and Basil is going to be the leader.

I want to thank Rachel, Josh, Joaquin, Chuck, Basil and all the other students on the trip for making this a great experience and something that will help me later in life.

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Nailea Relfects on our first day of the 2015 Bike Trip


Hi, my name is Nailea Rodriguez and I just finished my first year of high school at Bronx Lab School. I came on this trip because I have been biking after school all spring and I love history. At the moment we are beginning our camping/biking trip and as I sit in the van typing this, the kids in charge of cooking are making pasta and chicken.

We took a train to Kentucky from New York yesterday and because of a delay, it took 19 hours! The first thing we did after we woke up and got ready this morning is had breakfast in the hotel café. There were many options; waffles and toppings, fruits, bagel and cream cheese, toast, croissant, and a variety of juices, coffees and teas. After we finished, we packed our things in the trailer and left. Oh, almost forgot we had to go back because we left a buttercream frosting in the fridge for Chalani’s surprise birthday party. Oh, and even more amazing we found a baby turtle in the lake; we named him Stuart. He jumped off my hand :(

The first stop we made today was at the Rankin house. John Rankin was an abolitionist. An abolitionist is a person who didn’t believe in slavery and worked to end it in America. John Rankin was a minister in the south but wanted to preach against slavery and couldn’t do that in the south so he moved to Ripley, Ohio and built the house at the top of the hill in order to see who was coming before they got to his front door. The Rankin house was one of the first stops on the Underground Railroad in Ohio, which was a free state just across the Ohio River from the slave state of Kentucky. The railroad is not an actual railroad, a path or underground, its just people helping slaves escaping their masters and trying to be free by getting to Canada. In the Rankin house there lived 13 people. The oldest sons would guide the slaves to the next stop in the nighttime and would be home by sunrise. There is no evidence of the Rankin’s hiding slaves in their house; but it is to be believed that slaves stayed in the barn. In order for slaves to get up to the Rankin’s house they needed to climb up the hill and through deep woods. Back when slaves were going up there were no stairs, just rocks and a very steep hill. Now, the rocks and the steep hill are still there but stairs were added in order for the house to be visited. Later today, when we were at the Freedom Center in Cincinnati, we saw a movie about a woman who the Rankin’s helped escape from slave catchers.


Our second stop was the John Parker house. John Parker was a slave who was taken from his mother when he was 8 because his father was the slave master and the master’s wife didn’t like him. When he was older, he bought his freedom from his owner. John’s owner said if he could pay what she paid for him, she would free him. She paid $800 for him and he paid her $1800, after a year he was a free man. Before he bought his own freedom he was sold off to 4 different slave owners. One of his owner’s was a doctor whose kids he became friends with. The doctor’s kids would give John books to read and he read them many times, sometimes to the point of memorization. He lived in Ripley in order to help other slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. John would go into Kentucky and extract slaves through the Ohio River. He helped hundreds of slaves escape over the years and had 7 children who all graduated from college. Oh, and inside the house there were pictures of all the Bronx Lab trips over the years. :)

Our last stop was the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. In the 3rd floor there is a slave house in which they stored the slaves waiting to be sold. Most of the tour was based on how slaves basically built America. Although they didn’t do it because they wanted to, they still built it. The Freedom Center tells the story of how slavery started, was practiced and ended in America. Our guide, Carl Westmoreland is a historian who built the Freedom Center. He has worked with other Bronx Lab students and came to New York a few years ago when members of the Bronx Lab bike club spoke at a city council hearing about preserving and protecting an Underground Railroad house in Manhattan. He told us there was a lot of Underground Railroad activity in New York City, which I didn’t know.


After we finish dinner tonight, we are going to write in our journals about our day and have a circle discussion, which I have to lead. I am excited about the trip and looking forward to our first day of biking tomorrow.


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Mataeo Reflects on Day 7

Yo, It’s Mataeo Smith again blogging for another ride of the Bronx Lab bike trip.

Today was a day of pure torture. First off I was having a fun dream this morning about flying broom sticks only to be so rudely interrupted by Josh. I was all toasty in my sleeping bag just like a marshmallow. I dragged myself out of my tent only to have the cold air smack me in the face.

A few miles into the ride we stopped at this big open field in Amish country to have lunch. I plopped myself right on the grass and took an hour nap right under the sun in the green grass. It was actually a pretty nice nap and it helped me regain my strength. According to Josh the hills were supposed to stop after a big one in Jeromesville but that was a BIG LIE. After the hill in Jeromesville, it was one hill after the other, each more annoying than the last.

This ride totally wore me out. But I got through it. As I was cycling the road, I remembered all the times I got mad at school when Josh said it was getting late to ride bikes. I wish it was the same situation for this trip. But at least the hard part of this trip is over I can finally relax. Tomorrow we’re gonna chill in a hotel for a few hours and then go home, plus we get to go to a gigantic pool. I’m gonna blow past the 15 miles tomorrow in an instant. When I get home I’m going straight to my bed to take a nap and I have a lot of catching up to do on youtube, I must have a million videos to watch and I know my kik is blowing up. For those who don’t know what kik is it’s a major texting app that is also very fun. Anyway I’m kinda bummed that this trip is over; I was having fun. But it will feel awesome when I’m home again in my own bed and sitting on my OWN toilet. Seriously some of the bathrooms I’ve encountered on this trip should be condemned and blown up. But you know how it is when you gotta go you gotta go.

I also saw some Amish people today riding horses in the streets today and they have cool beards. Their side burn is normal but when you get to their chins an ocean of hair appears. It’s pretty cool. They say that an Amish teenager has the choice to join the real world or stay in Amish country. I have no idea about what I would choose. You learn something new everyday J Speaking of which, at the end of our ride today, we went to the Oberlin Historical Society.  We learned that Oberlin was a town full of abolitionists and the whole town came together to help slaves escape.  Slave catchers hated Oberlin because they knew everyone was against them.  We went to an old school house and used slates to write and do some math problems.  We also learned about a girl who was on the Amistad and after she escaped, she moved to Oberlin.

That’s all I am going to write tonight.  We had a fire that Mr. Apple made, got to drink hot chocolate with left over marshmallows from the other night and now are going to light some fireworks.  It’s going to be lit.

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Vincent Reflects on Day 6

Hey, my name is Vincent Franchi and I am the first Bronx Lab biker in 7 years to blog twice on the trip.  Today was kind of a short day and it was very challenging like the other days, which were also tough. This morning was fine and very wet because it rained on all of our tents. When I woke up it was already about 6:30 A.M. and I was woken up by Michael.  I got out of my tent and took a nice shower for the day. When I ran down the hill back to our tents the breakfast was just getting ready to be prepared and I was looking forward to having some multi-grain Cheerios and a few pieces of granola on it. It was good. Then I ate some apple cinnamon oatmeal with granola also in it. All of the breakfast that I ate tasted good. I offered to give everyone one chewy and delicious chocolate fiber bar and one fruit snack. I made sure that everyone got one to get them through the day.

I led the group out of the campsite and out of town. We went to another town to refill water and use the bathroom. Once we established that, we started to ride on East 95. We took that down, made a few turns along the way and rode until we reached 403 and that is the part I hated the most because the big hills were located along this route. Riding up those hills were so tough I did not think that I could make it through the rest of the day but Josh pushed me to go through and helped me make sure everyone stayed together even when I was out of breath. The hills were such a pain in the neck. I have never gone up hills like that in my life and hopefully I will never have to do that again.

We were communicating with some cows earlier, which was funny.  After the cows,  we went to have another bathroom brake, I had an apple and some trail mix. A few of my teammates went to the bathroom and then hung around on the playground. After using the bathroom I went to the playground with them and when they tried to climb up to the slide, Juan or Greg spotted a huge spider on the rock climbing wall. We decided to go on the little horse that bends back and forth from a spring but when I went on, Juan pulled me all the way back and made me fall off.  It was not serious just funny.

After a long ride we hit Route 603 which led us to the campsite and we ended the ride there. I felt relieved when we arrived at the site.  We set up our tents and then went in the lake.  Afterward we played basketball, ate dinner which was chicken stir-fry, played another game as a group and finally had desert, which was ice cream with sprinkles that Rachel’s father bought for us. The day went well and it is still continuing. At the moment the group is writing in their journals.

All in all, it was an ok day. I am happy that a day of bike riding has ended. I miss being home with my family and laying in my bed instead of a tent every night. I am not saying that it is not nice sleeping in tents but it gets kind of annoying waking up every morning when my tent is wet from rain. I just think that I am more used to being home with my family than out camping day after day. All I know is that we have two more days of bike riding and Sunday is when we get to go home. It is fun but THANK YOU GOD! After a while it gets tiring. It should be fun spending the last night in a hotel and going to a water park.  I am ready.

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Michael Reflects on Day 5

Hi, this is Hunter (Michael Gardinet)

Today was a good day.  We woke up around 6:30 and  then got the things out of our tents and took out our tents and put them in the trailer.  The tents were a little wet from the storm last night.  The cooks then took out the food for breakfast; we had cereal and boiled eggs.

After everyone finished their breakfast, we cleaned our bowls then we readied up for the bike ride. We filled our water bottles, got our snacks and checked our bike tires. I checked the map to see where to go. We went though some busy streets and roads today and a lot of trucks went by us. We had to go almost 15 miles on the roads before our first break.

We stopped near a church for lunch and I had some peanut butter which is what I have every day for lunch. Near the church was a corner store, which was over 100 years old, where we stopped to use the bathroom and the woman behind the counter knew about the Underground Railroad and told us a story about a barn near by that had a secret ladder and hiding space which they thought was used to hide slaves.

We then started biking towards the campground. The road was really pretty, but there were so many potholes and bumps that made my hands hurt.  It felt like the closer we got to the end the more the bumps started to get deeper and harder to avoid. The sun was up the whole ride it was really hot while riding.

When we got closer to the campground there were a lot of hills that we had to climb. When we got there we decided to go for a swim in the lake. We got into our swimming gear and went into the lake, which was really big with no net and I was kind of afraid to get attacked by a shark or something else that may live in a lake.  The floor of the lake was really soft and mushy which made us feel weird like we were standing on poop. We swam for about 1 hour. We decided to come out because the sun had gone behind some clouds.

We dried off a bit and played on the playground. Then we collected some sticks for the campfire where we cooked hotdogs on sticks. Some of the hotdogs fell in the fire while we were cooking them.  After the hotdogs, we made s’mores, which I had never had before.   I then led the discussion for the night and now we are all going to bed.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a hilly ride.



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Juan Reflects on Day 4

Hi my name is Juan Rodriguez. I came to this trip to test myself and also because I’m a member the biking club. These last few days since the biking trip started have been pretty hard. We have been eating some foods that I don’t eat daily but I am trying to make the best of it.

Today I was the 4th leader. First it was Vincent, second was Mataeo and then it was Greg.  Greg picked the worst day to be the leader because that day it was really sunny with lots of wind pushing you back and lots of hills.  Tomorrow Michael will most likely be the leader because he hasn’t led yet. But today was a good day.

We finally slept somewhere confortable with air-conditioning because we were allowed to sleep in the church.  We had such a good dinner last night made for us by some people who go to the church.   When I woke up we finally had something different than oatmeal for breakfast. Those bagels we had gave me enough energy to make it through the day.

I tried to memorize the map for our ride today but I only memorized the first 7 turns then I just asked Chuck for directions. The first few days, I was always in the back but being in the front gave me a whole new perspective.  If I went slowly everybody went slow, if I went fast almost everybody went fast. I controlled the pace of the group. This made my day leading the bikers much easier. The previous day we had biked for almost 60 miles and I think this made me much stronger for today’s ride.

Without Chuck helping me in the front, I would have been lost. I’m thankful he was there because if I had gotten lost we would have had to ride for a longer time. We took the road for about 25 miles then a bike path. Some people were complaining that I wasn’t stopping enough and that I was going too fast. I guess I didn’t know my own strength. The conditions were almost perfect except for the sun was really hot.

Today Rachel’s dad joined us on our bike ride.  He came from Vermont last night and is going to stay with us until Saturday.  We also had two women join us for part of the ride. I like having all these people on the road with us because it makes us go faster.

On the bike path today we stopped at a site to eat some snacks. Then the planned route we had today was cancelled because the bridge we needed to take into Delaware was being worked on and we couldn’t find another way across the river so we ended the ride short. I was so relieved that we were biking less because the sun was burning my skin.

When we got to Delaware, we went to a college called Ohio Wesleyan and this is where we set up tents.  Then we took a tour of the school. When we came back, the cooks made some spaghetti and cheese. We also started playing basketball with Rachel’s dad.   We had to cut the game short because we went for a walk to get ice cream. It was so good and we got to have waffle cones.  This was the perfect day to lead.

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Gregor Reflects on Day 3

Hey, this is Captain Morgan and this is my perspective of the Bronx lab Ohio trip.

We got up at 5:30 in the morning after we had a battle with some crazy raccoons last night.  They were mad because Josh threw rocks at their leader.

Today was very horrible for me because I can’t stand all the hard work and exercise that they try to provide for me.  I had no choice but to give up because my thighs were burning the crap out of me. I didn’t want to but I chose to because Chuck was pushing the team to the limit and I could not perform at the 100 percent that I was trying to give. We biked about 60 miles to day, which was one of our longest rides for this whole trip. I think I would have had a lot of stamina if I wasn’t pushing too hard and not stopping to rest. Also I should have hydrated more often and I should have been breathing through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. If I had, I would maybe still be at the top 5 and Chuck wouldn’t have had to take my leader position because I was dying slowly.

For lunch, we stopped in Mechanicsburg where we were given water and fruit by the mayor.  But, I was sleeping the whole time.  I tried to listen to the story about Addison White who was a slave who escaped with the help of the townspeople in Mechanicsburg.  After they helped him, they all paid for his freedom and then he moved to the town and lived his whole life there.  His great, great, great granddaughter was there and she told us the story.  But, I didn’t hear it all because I was dreaming of not having to ride anymore.

After lunch, we had to get back on our bikes in the hot sun.  Rachel was not supposed to be here because she got into an accident but she was right by my side when I gave up riding and threw the bike across the cornfield. I found her presence strangely comforting but I was still scared with all the trucks going by at full speed.

I am not in love with this trip but it is only the second day and I am trying to get over it and get ready for the waterpark and the nice hotel at the end.  I hope that will provide me with my needs and wants. I am scrawny and not built for the steroids that I need to complete these rides.  If you like camping and suffering in the blistering sun and getting attacked by raccoons at night and having to eat nasty nuts and dried fruit, I strongly advise you to go on this trip.

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Mateo Reflects on Day 2

Hey my name is Mataeo Smith and this is pretty much my perspective of today. It started in the morning. Last night was one of the most unpleasant sleeps of my life due to the condensation in the tent. The truth is I was kinda happy to get woken up by Josh.

The bike ride today lasted for five whole hours. Today I was the leader and at first I thought I would get everybody lost. But to my surprise I did a pretty good job.

On the ride, I thought about how much I really miss technology; Josh and Rachel took our phones away on the first day. They told us they wanted us to focus on the experience instead of our music, friends at home and Facebook.  I miss my bed, I miss my television, I miss my ps3, and I miss my food but I am having fun anyway.  (except, I really don’t like the bugs)

It was really hot at about noon today and I was starting to sweat. I had a little fun being the leader and choosing when to slow down and stop. Memorizing the directions wasn’t all that hard either. At the beginning people were convinced I would be a horrible leader and mess up but I really showed them today. I’ll admit I’m more exited for the hotel and water park on the last day than biking again but I guess I have to do it anyway.. But tomorrow I get to follow someone else. ^_^

The cooking idea isn’t half bad. It’s kinda fun to cook but too bad it has to alternate between us. Tomorrow I’m guessing I have to be the one on clean up duty -_- But another thing I like about this trip is the shower situation, for some reason I just don’t stink if I don’t shower. And since I don’t stink showering isn’t really a problem. Today my shower was at the pool and I was having fun doing it. It was so cool.

This trip has also taught me things about slavery too. For example, John Parker was a slave who bought his own freedom. He had a hard life being separated from his mother at age 8. I learned that the slaves had to go on the same path as me to get to freedom except they had no shoes, water, Gatorade, or bikes. I was really tired at one point but then I thought of how tired the slaves must have been. It took us about three hours to get from point A to point B. But it must’ve took the slaves days, maybe weeks to travel 40 miles. That information opened my eyes up completely to the perspective of the slaves.

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Vincent Reflects on Day 1

Hi my name is Vincent Franchi. This is my first year at Bronx Lab School so therefore this is my first time going on this bike trip, which has been nice so far.

It has seemed like a very tiring day because of all the traveling that we had to do and most of us have been complaining. The complaining stopped a little because we had an awesome time at the hotel, which was located in Maysville, Kentucky, and the breakfast they prepared was great. All of us were getting seconds and thirds of the foods, which apparently was really good and I also enjoyed it. Josh, Rachel and Joaquin finished pretty quickly and ended up asking us to start finishing up but the food was too good to eat fast.

Our first location was the John Rankin House, which was not so big but was noticeable from a far distance and located on the top of a hill in Ripley, Ohio. To get to the Rankin House we had to walk up a steep hill then start walking up some stone steps that made each of us very tired. A lot of complaining was occurring and by the time we had reached the top of the stone steps we had to walk up some wood steps that led to the Rankin House. The hill that the house stood on was scarce and grassy. We got a chance to have a tour of the house, which was being remodeled back to its original form. The Rankin’s were abolitionists, which means that they fought against slavery and so what they did is they found slaves and hid them in their home but that was not the best idea so they were smart enough to hide them in a much safer place for the time being. The Rankin’s hid the slaves in the cellar beneath their house and in the barn. Bounty hunters were sent by the slave owner’s to capture the slaves and return them. When the Rankin’s caught the slaves the bounty hunters could not find them so they searched in other places. They managed to chase the slaves but the slaves always got away because of the Rankin family and John Parker who lived in the town of Ripley.

Our second location was the John Parker House, which was also in Ripley, Ohio. He was a slave who was taken away from his mother when he was very little and his mother did not want to let him go. His father was a white man who raped his mother but his own father sold him because he was a slave owner as well. At the age of eight, John Parker was bought by a doctor who had two young boys that John Parker often spent time with when he was not working. These two young boys were kind enough to bring John Parker books to read and this is how he learned to read and write. Slaves were not allowed to be educated and that was a slave law ordered by the president. The doctor’s children secretly brought him more stuff as well but when they did not get a chance to he would just decide to read the same book more than once and that lead to memorization. Because he was self-educated he became a very wealthy man who was able to buy is freedom. He also risked helping other slaves escape as well and he was very successful in doing so.

The last tour we took was at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The man who gave our bike group the tour was the historian who helped create and build the museum. He explained to us a lot about what happened to the slaves and his name was Carl Westmoreland. It was a very long tour and a lot of information was given. Carl told us a story about a slave woman who was raped even though she was married and that lead to many children being born.   He showed us how slaves were kept in slave pens and how they were shackled together.  He also talked a lot about how slavery started in Africa and Africans sold each other to Europeans because of tribal differences.  He asked us to think about what we do when we feel different from each other and how we all have to respect each other even though we might think differently.  The museum was really big and we watched a movie about John Rankin and John Parker and it was cool because we were just at their houses.  At the end of the tour, we saw a lot of quilts made by different women all having to do with the history of slavery.

Now we are at our first campsite and are looking forward to biking tomorrow but we are not looking forward to the heat.

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Sheila reflects on Day 7

Hi.  This is Sheila.  I am 14 and I am from the Dominican Republic.  This is our second to last day of the bike trip!

Today we all woke up at 6:30 and started taking our tents down and making sure that we had all our stuff in the van. I had to lead today and I had to talk to Chuck about the map and how many miles we had to do.  For me it wasn’t that hard, but I did get confused a little bit while we were biking and we did made some wrong turns, but we kept going and eventually got back on track. I felt a little bit bad because I thought I was going to get everybody lost and maybe mad but I guess that I just needed motivation from the group telling me it was ok.   It was raining a lot while we were riding and we took a long time waiting for it to stop but finally we made it to Oberlin and the Oberlin Historical Society.

In Oberlin, a beautiful young woman gave us a tour around an old school building that was used about 100 years ago.  Oberlin is very special because it began as a utopia and many people were against slavery.  We learned about a little girl who was taken from Africa and shipped to Cuba where she was sold.  She was put on a boat to go to a plantation in the Caribbean, but the boat was the Amistad.  Some slaves on the Amistad took over the boat and she was freed.  She went back to Africa and learned to read English and then went to Oberlin College.  We also learned about a fugitive slave that went to live in Oberlin and when the slave catchers tried to take him back, the people form Oberlin helped him run away and scared the slave catchers away.   Slave catchers did not like Oberlin because so many people were involved in the Underground Railroad, they could never get any slaves back once they made it to the town.

After our tour, we got to play with all the old toys in the schoolhouse, like stilts.   Then we came back to our campsite and put our tents up and prepared everything to eat dinner.  The cooks made tuna melts and rice and beans.  All of it was delicious and now everyone is just hanging out and writing journals.  I am glad I came on this trip even though I am the only girl and the youngest.  It’s been hard, but in a good way.

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Jahod reflects on Day 6

Hey it’s Jahod, one of the least experienced riders of the group and today I’m going to tell you how day six of the Ohio trip has gone so far.

Well the day started for me at 1:00 am in the morning when my tent rudely awakened me as I rolled down the hills of Kokosing (our campsite). My tent mates and I slowly walked out of our tents only to get our socks wet by a drowned tarp. Under the drowned tarp were our slippers, which were also drenched. After we had shaken the slippers dry we gently called out to Josh by whispering, “peanut butter” (it’s an inside joke). Josh rose out his tent only to see our flipped over tent right against his. After this he woke Joaquin and informed him of the situation. Gradually after discussing our issue Joaquin and Josh decided to put us in a hot cabin where we had to sleep on a very hard wood floor. This was the worst night sleep so far in Ohio.

My eyes suddenly opened as I heard the wake up call from Josh and Rachel. Just by hearing the sound of their voices I knew it was around 6:00 am. THAT MEANS I ONLY GOT 5 HOURS OF SLEEP. With only five hours of sleep I would usually be a real grumpy guy but that breakfast of hot oatmeal with dried up cranberries and granola made my day a little bit better. After breakfast, Chuck approached me with the map he had given me the day before and he asked me if I knew where I was leading the group. I had honestly forgotten about leading the group probably because I didn’t want to do it, but I knew it had to be done.

As I began to lead the group out of the campsite, we stumbled upon a hill, which was not the last hill we were going to see. We made it up that hill and it was pretty much smooth sailing for the next 7 to 8 miles, until we approached Bunker Hill Road. When I first glimpsed the map I noticed many hills but they didn’t look that steep until I actually got to them. The hills themselves had to be equal to at least 15 miles. Despite all the hills, I think I pulled through for the team and managed to guide them to Charles Mill Lake, which is our current campsite. Well, this my blog and I hope readers everywhere can read this and feel that they were here with me. This is Jahod and I’m out.

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Keymani reflects on Day 5

Hola! My name is Keymani Reid. Today, compared to other days, was a pretty short day, which is what we bikers really needed for this long trip. We only biked for a total of 35 miles, which is great for us because this is probably the closest thing to a break we can really enjoy.

Our journey began at one of the best colleges in Ohio called Ohio Wesleyan University and we biked to our campsite of the night called Kokosing Lake. We stopped to have lunch next to a nice white church that had the best shade anyone could ask for when getting some grub before hitting the road. The ride there was not all that bad but there were a few bumps on the road that really tripped us up as a group and almost claimed one of our bikers as he took a really hard fall. But with me as group leader, we all stuck together as a strong unit and powered through whatever came at us.

Along this trip we have encountered beautiful weather for most of our days but as each day goes on it begins to get BLAZING HOT and we all are becoming slightly darker than when we came. When you first enter Ohio, some may expect it to have a southern touch to it……….  Well it does.  89% of the time you see farms, cows, corn, fields, and many other aspects that give the state a rural, southern feel. For a second I thought we lost track and began riding in Mississippi.

Being leader today was sort of a challenge considering I had the least experience riding for a long time but I was up for the challenge, especially because I think it will help me become a better football player.  In the beginning, I was worried about not satisfying the whole group with the right speed for everyone and I was nervous about my leadership skills.  It all turned out ok, though.  As of tonight, we have biked about 175 miles in 4 days, which in my opinion is great. I am not really sure how much we have left but I know it will be something I have no problem handling.

After a fun dinner, made over the open fire, we are all looking forward to s’mores tonight.  All in all, a good day!


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