Immigrants Needed

Our new friend Eddie took us, the BikeE and our gear a little past Jim Thorpe, PA, so we could avoid close encounters with huge trucks next to narrow gravelly shoulders in a heavy rain. (The area got as much as 2″/5 cm of rain overnight and into the morning.) After some serious uphills, and some long pauses when we sought porches and barn overhangs during cloudbursts, we passed through Beaver Meadows and proceeded to Hazleton.

Hazleton’s downtown is a dump. The streets are crumbling. Storefronts are empty. Glorious old buildings with stone columns, left over from the city’s heyday, stand neglected. Piles of mine tailings loom right outside town. If any city could use some immigrant energy and entrepreneurship, it’s Hazleton.

You may remember that Hazleton spent more than a million dollars on legal fees, trying to defend its ultimately illegal effort to harass unauthorized foreigners into leaving town. The NYC borough of Queens was on the skids until waves of immigrants in Elmhurst and other neighborhoods worked a revival. It’s a lesson in how we’re better off leaving good people alone and letting them get on with life, instead of trying to micromanage people’s personal and business relationships.

Our impression of this part of Pennsylvania is that it has great physical beauty and richness — all that wood and water! It is not crowded; indeed, the number of abandoned properties suggest that it’s underpopulated. One wonders why anyone would care about a person’s national origin if that person wanted to pull her/his own weight and become part of these local communities.

We had no flats today. We did break the BikeE’s chain. Jeffrey never had repaired a chain, so it took a while, but with some help from a friendly farmer, he got us rolling again.

Steep downhills aren’t an unmitigated joy. Jeffrey actually walked us down one today. After picking up speed, Jeffrey decided to test our ability to stop; he could stop only by squeezing the brake levers as hard as he could, and even then, he needed to drag his feet to effect a final stop on the middle of the hill. On a straight, smoothly paved hill, he broke 40 mph today, but he didn’t want to take the risk of rounding a bend at high speed and hitting gravel, a dead animal, a stopped vehicle, or other obstacle that might ask too much of the BikeE’s four little rubber brake pads.

Below: A sign common in this part of Pennsylvania (remember, we started from NYC at sea level, so any downhill runs mean that we had to pedal uphill to get there); a colorful sculpture garden at Hazleton; the sign where we reconnected with Route V(ictor) after last night’s detour to find a hotel; a flooded creek; farm fields; one of tens of waterfalls, many probably seasonal, cascading down the cliffs lining the road; and St. Cyril Academy Maria Joseph Manor, not a structure one would expect to find in little Danville, along the now-flooded Susquehanna River, where we found a hotel for the night.