Refugees are Friends You Haven’t Met

Our first Oklahoma motel was prepared for muddy boots.


And for motorcycle boots.  Rory is a good name for a good Harley man.


Rory and Jeffrey compared road-crash stories and leg scars.  Rory’s were far more interesting.  They talked about asylum applicants, too.  Rory seemed dubious, but allowed that it’s OK to take refugees if they obey the law.  More on this in a moment.

Richard and Evelyn live in a Denver suburb.


They were excited about the Ride.  Eight miles into our journey this morning, we met again; they pulled up alongside us and waved hello.  We get nice surprises like that.  And like this: in the afternoon, Jeffrey asked a truck driver for route advice.  The driver began by saying he’d seen us in Vinita last night!

We saw a lot of beef cattle today.



This lot trotted from mid-pasture to look us over.  Then they ran alongside for a while, on the far side of a fence.  Horses (and dogs!) have done that too.  Maybe it’s the kangaroo puppet scent.


Freight trains were frequent on our route.  This one carried military vehicles.

One of many roadside flowers we can’t identify.  Jeffrey has skipped photographing some interesting blossoms, intending to do it later.  Sometimes he can’t find them later.


Roads today were variable.  We had good shoulders and no shoulders; decent pavement and serious construction that required slogs through sand, and pedal-sprints over narrow bridges between waves of trucks.  When there was no shoulder, Jeffrey watched the mirrors carefully.  A couple of times he steered abruptly onto the grass when a motor vehicle didn’t move over.  Once he steered abruptly onto the road to avoid a chasing dog that appeared out of nowhere.


The wind rose, and we stopped by a rail crossing for Jeffrey to don rain gear.  Then we proceeded through a thunderstorm.

When the rain stopped, we pulled over to regroup.  Robin (“We’re Native,” she said) and Lakota noticed us when they were coming and going, and stopped in their truck (with official Cherokee Nation license plate) to offer help and a drink.


Jeffrey told them about the Ride.  Preaching to the choir!  Robin works with refugees. She’s part of a volunteer group that provides free goods and services (including mobile phones) to people fleeing violence in Central America.

Hmm.  Robin and Lakota are members of a First Nation that inhabited North America before Europeans arrived.  On land that is theirs by right (because they were here first and didn’t voluntarily relinquish it), they welcome newcomers who need help.  So . . . by what theory do non-First Nations politicians claim the right to shut U.S. borders and expel people they don’t want?  Whoever Robin and Lakota welcome, is welcome!  It’s their country, their choice! Don’t you think?

This got Jeffrey thinking about Rory the Harley man.  Rory’s a good fellow.  We respect his concern that asylum applicants not be lawbreakers.  But then, Rory and Jeffrey and other Americans break laws all the time.  In Missouri, our vehicle reached 30 mph in a 25 mph zone.  Jeffrey’s lazy lawbreaking (he wanted to conserve downhill momentum for the next uphill) put others at risk.  Contrast that with, say, a woman who crosses our border to work to feed her family, or to seek asylum.  She’s not putting anyone at risk.  She’s just trying to live!

A leading candidate for President has promised to tell Syrian refugees, adults and children, to get out.  Crowds have cheered his tough talk.  Maybe they haven’t met the right people.

In the Ride videos of 2015 and 2016, you met Renaz (music teacher), her wonderful kids, and her charming spouse (who works for a major corporation).  With Renaz’s permission, we share a photo of her and her kids, taken before their status in the U.S. was settled.


This is a Syrian Muslim refugee.  Scary, huh?  She and her husband were building a house.  Gone.  They come from a cultured city.  Destroyed.  Their family is scattered in half a dozen countries.  Uprooted.

Would any of us look her and her kids in the eye, and tell them to go?  Go where?

We think if the doubters talk to actual refugees, they all will make new friends.  As we do on these Rides.

In NE Tulsa, we met Chariot, Dakota, and Phoenix.


Everyone (including neighborhood kids) was fascinated by the machine, and by our journey.  Dakota and Chariot also see beyond the adventure, to the ideas.  They understand that a right is not a right if you don’t have the tools to use it.  In matters of life and death, like asylum, there should be a lawyer for everyone.  And when we think, we talk, we act, we vote, we should put human rights first.

2 thoughts on “Refugees are Friends You Haven’t Met

  1. your encounters with First Americans are better than anu novei or movie
    wonder if you’ll have the desire or time to compose a multi -thousand word essay or your journeys. The NEW YORKER seems to give pages an pages to single articles….or perhaps THe Atlantic….?..

    cousin Joel


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