Ride for Human Rights: Joey Goes to the Great Lakes


Joey here.

I’m the Australia-conceived, Korea-manufactured, bicycle-passenger kangaroo court puppet.

My chauffeur Jeffrey Heller helps people seeking refuge in the U.S. from persecution abroad on account of race, religion, nationality, social group membership or political opinion.  Since I came to the U.S. in 1991, Jeffrey and I have introduced thousands of law students and lawyers to U.S. asylum law.  Since 2011, we have bicycled thousands of miles through the American heartland, talking with friends and neighbors about immigration and asylum, law and policy, human rights, and Human Rights First.

This year, we plan to bike the route you see in green above on the map from Holling Clancy Holling’s 1941 book, Paddle-to-the-Sea.  Reversing the flow of that story, we will Pedal-from-the-Sea, from New York City to all five Great Lakes.  For the first time we will cross international borders together, from the U.S. to Canada to the U.S. again.  We will end our journey in Chicago, from which we and our recumbent tricycle will ride Amtrak’s Lakeshore Limited back to New York.  This Ride will cover 1500 miles (2430 km), longer than our 2013 trip to Florida.

You know my background.  Who are some other characters in this drama?

Jeffrey, a member of the New York bar since 1981, a registered professional nurse since 2008 and on the case management staff of the Vera Institute of Justice Guardianship Project since 2012, took his first asylum client in 1983.  Here he is in the high desert of Utah in March, in front of a Bronco Buster Brownie at afternoon tea.  Jeffrey ate the whole thing.

Two brownies, ice cream, whipped cream, fudge sauce, crushed Oreos. All the food groups!

Two brownies, ice cream, whipped cream, fudge sauce, crushed Oreos. All the American food groups!

Vital to this adventure is Jeffrey’s beloved best friend and life partner Nancy.  She accepts Jeffrey as he is, allows him a break from his domestic duties, pays all the expenses of the Rides, and worries about his safety.

Pretty Nancy! Sappy Jeffrey.

Pretty Nancy! Sappy Jeffrey.

Nancy can’t do it alone.  Here’s her backup:

Benjamin, Rebecca, Deena: Backup Pit Crew

Benjamin, Rebecca, Deena: Ground Control

In a matter of weeks, these three will have among them three undergraduate and two graduate degrees from Grinnell College, Columbia University, and The University of Chicago.  And three backbones of steel.  And three hearts of gold.

Don’t forget our vehicle!  The ICE Sprint 26 has a new chain and cassette, the brakes are adjusted, the cables are oiled, it’s ready to go.  Last year it carried us 1400 miles to St. Petersburg, Florida, without a mechanical problem, not even a flat tire.

Inspired Cycle Engineering Sprint 26

Inspired Cycle Engineering Sprint 26

Another character is Human Rights First.  Human Rights First protects and projects American values.  Kindness.  Justice.  Welcoming and protecting the stranger.  Finding and training free lawyers to help bewildered refugees navigate America’s legal system.  Stopping the flow of arms and supplies to dictators and persecutors around the world.  Standing up for the oppressed.

You play a role too!

As on the prior Rides, we plan to post from the road every night.  Follow us as we explore the Great Lakes at low speed, close to the ground, where we can see and hear and smell this remarkable part of North America.  Listen with us to the people we meet along the way.  Learn how they feel about refugees, asylum, and human rights.  And if the spirit moves you, donate to help Human Rights First continue its work.

4 thoughts on “Ride for Human Rights: Joey Goes to the Great Lakes

  1. Jeff,
    What a challenging route you are planning and this time dealing with US Border officials. I see you have referred to a book which outlines some of your route about ‘paddling to the sea”. I remember reading somewhere of a St. Lawrence County native, a Civil War officer, Willard? Glazier who also did years of exploring…coast to coast and the length of the Mississippi River. I think his writings exist in some old books.. I don’t think he crossed borders but it will be nice to have you and your bike return home via Amtrak. When are planning to kick off from NYC?
    Cousin Joel


  2. Joey,

    Will you do any of the peddling this year or is your role strictly navigation and hospitality?



  3. We will definitely be following you and commend you on this awesome ‘adventure!!



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