Western Mass Goes to Worcester!

Post by: Tali Smookler

On June 14, the 12 of us rode out of camp Wilmot cheering for the video camera, rocking the SJSF T-shirts, and excited to finally be on our way.  The weather was perfect, and prospects were high.

And then we turned right, onto the rode. At this point, trailers untied, bags fell off, bikes needed to stop, and eventually, each and every team had succumbed to its own misfortune…more than once.  We would say goodbye to nearby teams as we fixed our own problems and road away, only to find ourselves doing the same thing again a mile later (luckily, most saw the humor of the situation, laughing every time something went wrong).   Finally, after much effort and pit stops, all teams finally met up at the turning point in the rode; Western MA to go right, NH and Eastern MA to go left.  And there we said our final goodbyes, and started to finally make headway on the open road.

The hour and a half ride after lunch was much smoother and more productive than the first hour and half.  We had gotten the hang of the trailers and of riding alongside cars.  We were doing so well that when we finally saw a red car pulled over at the side of a road up ahead, and a man who was clearly Jay waiting outside of it, we had to do rock paper scissors to see which two of us would have to stop biking to get our first team’s portage.  Ultimately, Tali and Shelby went in the car, while Katie and Caroline rode on.

Jay dropped Shelby and Tali off in Milford (to return Nick’s car), 25 miles from our destination, Ayer,  at 4:30, much later than we had hoped, and much further from our destination than we anticipated.  However, it was worth it when, an hour later and in the rain, we passed the much anticipated sign, saying “Welcome to Massachusetts.”  In the meantime, Marla picked up Caroline and Katie to meet up with us, which they finally did at Shelby’s grandparents’ house in Townsend, MA.

At this point, there were two options: Shelby’s mother could drive us to her house, around another fifteen miles, or we could continue to bike.  The rain had cleared up, though it was soon going to be dark.  Ultimately, Shelby drove home while the rest decided to bike.

At first, this seemed like a great decision to keep biking; the sunlight on the trees was gorgeous with the light bluish gray sky peeking through, and the sun was setting beyond a field at a local high school.  The going was good, and we were looking forward to arriving to our destination after a long day’s ride.

But then it started to get dark. And then it continued to get dark.  Dark enough for us to become nervous, and for cars to yell, “Get off the road!”  Finally, we pulled over into a dark parking lot next to a closed restaurant to discuss the situation; we discovered to our dismay that it was 10:15 p.m., and that we had at least another 30 minute ride before a turn that was still another couple miles from Shelby’s house; we had not eaten, and had been up and about since 7a.m., not to mention riding for hours straight since 11.  So we consulted each other and discussed our options, and finally gratefully advantage of Shelby’s mother’s offer to have someone pick up us (Mac).  We were relieved to finally pull up to the house, enter to a counter set with food (for we hadn’t eaten), and to be in the light, off of the road.

Our second day of biking went much better; though we got off to a late start.  This, however, was not entirely our fault; who would have thought that not one map in the bike store or a gas station would have a map with the city of Ayer on it, nonetheless a map with both Ayer and Worcester, our destination?  We were directed to the fire department to ask for assistance (thanks Lt. Johnston and Capt. Shea, and the other man with no nametag), and they photocopied maps and highlighted the route for us, one being an avid biker himself.   And once we were off (at 12:45), we made great time, even stopping by a beautiful reservoir to take a group picture.

When we passed the “Entering Worcester” sign, we were relieved to see that it was only around 5 p.m; opposed to 10:15p.m.  We pulled over again to document the important occasion with a picture, to stretch, and take a water break. During this time, we saw a lady approach us from around the corner. “I saw you pulled over on my way home,” she explained, “and wanted to make sure everything was alright. Do you need anything?”  We told her we were fine, and explained our mission to stop the climate crisis.  “Oh, don’t get me started on that; it doesn’t exist.”  We laughed the comment away, saying that that’s fine, yet the bluntness of the comment was still unexpected.  “Well, I suppose it’s good your fighting for a cause” she concluded.  Shortly after, we made it to our destination, a college apartment in Clark University.

Today, Wednesday, we took it easy.  We went to a farmer’s market, and started collecting photos for our photo petition.  At first, business looked a little slow.  However, the manager, Andrew O’Keefe, was very supportive of our efforts. At first, we were standing there awkwardly in the parking lot, until luckily, a girl from another stand came over, yelling, “I’ll sign your petition!” not even knowing what it was about.  She then sent over her other co-volunteer, and some customers.  Though slow and steady, we were definitely accumulating more and more pictures.

Every now and then, Andrew O’Keefe would approach us to chat, tell us about himself (he was a tour guide for a very long time in Russia, Europe, and Northern Africa, in the army, majored in math, and taught some math, including the guy who invented touch screen, and taught us why V and X meant 5 and 10 in roman numerals, and that the man who invented the toilet was John Crapper, hence the terms “going to the john” and ___) and ask us about ourselves.   He also sent another customer over, a lady, Betsy, who was a biology teacher and taught stuff about the environment and loved what we were doing; she also used to run the REC, the Regional Environment Council.  We got some pictures of parents with kids holding up signs with “Worcester supports a green future” (adorably) and teenage boys playing basketball holding up signs as well.  We met a woman who was selling pictures and does recycled art.  In short, though the quantity of photos was not overwhelmingly large, we made quality contacts and enjoyed our first day on the job.  This afternoon we all worked a lot on “office work,” and have high hopes for the following days and weeks.

Peace out from WeMA for now.  Sounds like we’re all still getting our bearings.

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