Gearing Up

It’s not all smooth flat pavement and tailwinds!

Joey here.

The Rides have taken us on the road for 8 months altogether.

Pedaling through our vast country requires improvisation, stamina, and engagement, every day.

As in Real Life, a Kangaroo Court Puppet or a human proposes, and the Almighty or the Fates or the Universe disposes. The best we can do is equip ourselves for the task.

Creative fixes require implements. We carry the obvious—tools, spare parts, duct tape, zip ties, foul weather gear. Sometimes we use found objects: sticks to dislodge mud from fenders, wire to replace a dropped bolt, plastic to ward off the rain.

The physical demands of the Rides require chauffeur Jeffrey to attain a modicum of conditioning before we begin. He gets out on our 2-wheel recumbent …

Our Lightning Phantom by the George Washington Bridge and the Little Red Lighthouse at Jeffrey’s (!) Hook, up the Hudson River from our NYC home.

… to strengthen his legs to propel our recumbent 3-wheeler at a reasonable pace after an 11 month hiatus. His warmup makes starting a Ride doable. Travel gets easier as he hardens to the road.

We also polish our social skills.

On a recent conditioning ride, soon after we paused at Jeffrey’s Hook (see photo above), our bike’s rear axle shifted in its mount. The rear wheel froze. Foolish Jeffrey had brought no tools. We were 6 miles from home.

On our way upriver, we had passed a movie crew, a common sight in NYC. Jeffrey disabled our bike’s rear brake, kicked the rear wheel more nearly into place, and gingerly pedaled us back downriver, hoping to find the crew—and tools.

Most of the crew had left. Four workers remained.

L to R: Jon, Wesley, Ron, Kate

Wesley offered us water. Jeffrey asked Kate whether they had a crescent wrench or equivalent. Ron walked to a bag and pulled out a Channellock!


After Jeffrey reinstalled the rear wheel while chatting with Wesley and Ron, we sang (in a manner of speaking) our first overture of the 2023 Ride. Our new friends were horrified to learn how difficult it is to immigrate to the U.S. to reunite a family, to meet a labor shortage, or to escape persecution. All four crew members took our calling card …

Obverse and reverse of our new design, created in consultation with our HRF friend Nathan. We have been Ambassadors since 2011. I have volunteered with HRF since 1991, Jeffrey since 1983.

… and promised to follow the Ride.

After our conversation about borders, Jeffrey asked the crew what they had been filming. It was a trailer for a work called … wait for it … The Border! (Or maybe it’s The Boarder. Our new friends didn’t know the plot.)

The Rides are about meeting with people. We were just getting warmed up.

Some days later, we drove to Massachusetts to join our friend Rinaz, an American by choice, at an event she organized.

L to R: Rinaz, Jeffrey

We displayed some literature about the Rides and about Human Rights First.

Why did Jeffrey got top billing on this HRF flyer?

Five hundred people attended over the course of the afternoon.

We enjoyed exhibits and artistic performances from many cultures.

We talked about Human Rights First, refugees, asylum, and immigration with people born in the USA, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Syria, Italy, Israel, Canada, Japan, Iran, China, and other countries. People donated to HRF (and so can you by clicking here).

We made new friends. But we didn’t have to win many hearts and minds that day. People in Needham support Human Rights First’s principles.

Most people we’ve met across our country share our values too. They love their neighbors. They respect human rights. But some don’t have the opportunity one has in cosmopolitan Needham to see how people of diverse backgrounds enrich one another’s lives, and how our laws make life needlessly hard for immigrants and refugees and the American community. The Rides let us bring a fresh perspective to thousands of our fellow Americans.

Improvisation. Stamina. Engagement. Human Rights. That’s what life, and the Rides, are all about.

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