Post by: Sara Finkle
As we lounge on the couches of the beautiful parlor of First Church Somerville tonight, it is pretty incredible to think back on all of the places this week has taken us!
After a somewhat haphazard arrival at Rolling Ridge in North Andover, our first week ended up going really smoothly. Thanks to Candy Dann, recycling and environmental extraordinaire for not just Andover, but the state, we already had appointments at four local schools.
We spent the mornings carting our bikes and trailers into classrooms to talk to kids about climate change science and how they could get involved in protecting the planet. We were all so pleased to see that the 6th graders of Doherty Middle School and Woodhill Middle School, the 5th graders of Sargent Elementary School, and the 3rd graders of West Elementary were not only receptive to our presentations, but already really informed and enthusiastic about fighting climate change!
We were also so grateful to the teachers who so kindly welcomed us into their classrooms. In the afternoons, we kept busy at Rolling Ridge, enjoying the views of Lake Cochikewick and gardening as part of our work-for-stay there. A great lunch meeting with Steve Fink, another great environmental enthusiast, and a delicious dinner from Ron and Susan Smits (my neighbors) made our time in town a pleasure. Before we knew it, we were packing up again!
Friday morning we set off for Gordon College in Wenham, the site of the New England United Methodist Church Annual Conference. The ride over was 20 miles, but we all enjoyed the beautiful back roads of Boxford, Topsfield, and Hamilton. We did not know what to expect at the conference, but were all so excited with the level of activism and enthusiasm in the air. We decided to photo petition and got 100 people to take their picture in support of clean electricity. It was great to talk to folks about Climate Summer and what we care about. My favorite part of the day, however, was collaborating with Cambridge Welcoming Ministries on their “Coming Out” Party, a celebration of inclusivity, the congregation’s new location, and social justice issues of all kinds. As we cut fruit to be put on the cake (the fruit-cake) and “I’m Coming Out!” blared from the speakers, I thought about how good it was to collaborate with Cambridge Welcoming Ministries. While on the surface it might seem like we were striving towards different ends, in reality, we are both passionate about creating a more just world. The excitement of the crowd, combined with a nap in the middle of the quad and an abundance of snacks made it a really exciting day.
Nonetheless, we found ourselves saying TGIF as we pedaled towards Maple street in Wenham for some R&R and our first day off. We stayed at the home of Mary Buntin, who graciously welcomed us for two nights on very short notice. Hey cozy home became even cozier when Bliss’ mother and step-father came over with homemade Mexican lasagna and we all sat down to a family dinner. Tuckered out, we were in bed not long after the last of the strawberry shortcake had been eaten from our dessert plate.
Twelve hours later we awoke to beautiful sunny light of Mary’s sunroom. We decided to spend our day off celebrating summer: strawberries and swimming. Mary made us a map down to Conner’s Farm in Danvers, where we unknowingly showed up in time for the strawberry festival. If fresh, warm, juicy berries weren’t enough of a treat, the band in the background, the lakefront views, and the happy kids and dogs running around us certainly were. Then we headed down the street to the Ipswich River where we explored the old train tracks and got to take a dunk before heading back. We had a lot of preparation for our big trek to Somerville!
After an attempt at sleeping under the stars was thwarted in the middle of the night by mosquitoes and rain, we woke up groggy and feeling daunted about our 31 mile ride. But we loaded up the trailers, checked our map, and regretfully said our good-byes to Mary. Then we hit the road. And it was hot. And the trailers were heavy. And the hitch kept coming undone. But many miles, hours, hills, and water and snack breaks later, we arrived in Bedford at the opening of the Minuteman Bikeway Rail-trail. After the traffic jungle of route 62, the bikeway turned out to be more of a literal jungle. Leaves and vines spilled over the side of the path, making the ride through the city one of real natural beauty. The road was flat, car-free, and full of enthusiastic bikers, rollerblades, and walkers. We thought it couldn’t get any better. And then the sky cracked….Ah, what is like the pleasure of a summer storm on a burning hot day? Torrents of rain flooded down, cooling and refreshing us for the last miles of the journey. When the storm cleared, steam rose from the ground, enveloping us in a misty fog, and the air felt clean and cool to breathe. It was a really fun and relaxing moment, just before our first taste of big-city biking.
For soon after, we found ourselves in Somerville. Before we knew it, we were racing down busy city streets, and chatting with other bikers as peddled! With a little help, we found our way to bustling Davis Square and up to First Church Somerville, our home for the next week. When I saw the purple trimmed building, the waving rainbow flag, and the thriving garden on the lawn, I knew it would be a home. There, we were met by Andrea Ranger, who showed us the beautiful interior and got us settled.
Soon after, we were rushing off to dinner at Cambridge Welcoming Ministries. Though tired, the thrill of city biking (and our hunger) made the rush fun. What’s great about city biking here is the wide bike lanes. It’s such a relief to have your own space and to know that there is such a thriving bike culture abound! I bet it really encourages people to get out on their bikes. A mile or two later, when we arrived, we were met with an incredibly warm and welcoming group. We were just in time for a dinner of lobster, lentils, chicken, spinach, rice, and cake. The company was friendly and kind. We were sad when dinner was over and it was time to leave. Before the night was through, however, we made our way to Sunnyside Avenue in Arlington for a much needed shower at Marla’s (thanks to Sean and Tyler!) and loved getting a few minutes to sit and chat.
Thankful for an amazing first week, we look forward to our time in Somerville. All signs point to an amazing week. We are so excited to get to work with Somerville Climate Action and the entire community. But first we are excited for bed!