Hi, this is Shawn René Graham. I just finished riding more than a hundred miles and it was one of the most exciting trips I have ever made. In the spring, I started riding with the Underground Railroad Riders and it is amazing to see their progress. Riding all those miles through the stops along the Underground Railroad and learning more about the history of slavery was enlightening and transformative.
I met up with everyone at the Freedom Center in Cincinnati on July 2, where we had a great tour through the exhibits. Harvey, our tour guide, asked a lot of questions about what we knew about the history of slavery but, more importantly, he pointed out that although there was a lot of history in Ohio, we should all return to New York and research what is in our own backyard. The displays were amazing and so realistic, especially the original holding pen where slaves were shackled and waiting to be forced onto ships. It is unfathomable when you think about it. In this context, I think about how strong my ancestors were and I remember that I am not a descendent of slaves, but of those who were put into slavery and managed to survive under horrible living conditions.
On Saturday, July 3, we left Morgan’s Canoe Livery at 9 am for a 45 mile ride. I have to say the kids keep really good pace now and the training has paid off. I do okay, but I am gassed at mile 40. And gees, the hills at the end on the way to John Bryant State Park have me wide-eyed, but not bushy tailed at all!!!! I do make it and immediately think about napping. The kids went swimming at the pool in town and later prepare delicious spring rolls and cream cheese wontons for dinner.
On Sunday, July 4, the kids were all packed up and ready to go at 7:49 am. After one day of riding in the heat, no one wanted to be on the road during the hottest part of the day. Chuck, our bike tour guide decided to change the route a little bit, but didn’t say we would be riding rolling hills for 25 miles!!!! We rode into Catawba, where we stopped for lunch and stopped again about 6 miles later in Mechanicsburg where we met the mayor, a real treat for Team Bronx Lab. Mechanicsburg was also a station on the Underground Railroad. We learned about Addison White, who made his way to freedom here.
Then we were on our way to West Jefferson, where the kids would camp out for the night. Fransys beat me up that last steep hill and zoomed on into town!!! We road by nothing but corn fields in 98 degree heat, but the ride was well worth it. There was all-you-can-eat BBQ awaiting us at Zion Lutheran Church. Later, we sat directly under one of the best fireworks shows I had ever seen. They were so close, it looked like you could reach out and touch them.
I know that we adults talk a lot about what teenagers should be learning, but it turns out that they have taught me a lot about persevering and being flexible over the past few days. The truth is I was afraid to ride all those miles and camp. I doubted myself before the trip because I did not train as much as I wanted to and only do the outdoors in the daytime. Ha!!! But I made it and I am grateful that Chris, Dawry, Fransys, Isaias, Joshua, Theo,Wade, Michele, Joaquin and Rachel helped push me along.
Thanks for the memories guys!!!!! And ride on!!!!