Posted by: Julia Bradshaw, Team Leader, Team RIConn
We bike a lot. As a team going through major cities (Providence, Hartford, Bridgeport), we have been fairly unsuccessful getting housing in the centers of cities because the churches often say that it would be too dangerous. The common phrase we hear is “we don’t have enough security.” In Providence, we stayed so south in the city that we were almost in another town. We would have to bike at least 3 to 5 miles to get to any meeting or event that we scheduled. In Hartford, we actually stayed in East Hartford and the ride was at least five miles. Finally, in Bridgeport, we stayed downtown and actually got to walk places… weird. And no, I’m not complaining; I love biking, but these miles add up and my energy level goes down.
This week, we are in four towns: Westerly, RI, Stonington, CT, Mystic, CT, and Voluntown, CT. The first three are neighboring towns, and the latter is a good 18 miles away. The numbers above are the miles that we have traveled over this past week (we rode from Bridgeport to Stonington on Friday and Saturday, staying with gracious hosts in Clinton, CT). Although my legs are assuredly tired and probably necessitating a thorough massage, I continue to bike to (1) live out my value of not burning fossil fuels, and (2) show people that ordinary people can bike around on ordinary (note: heavy) bikes. I have been keeping very careful record of our miles traveled (and you can see my reaction to this in our latest posted video).
So, with all this in mind, we did not even think twice about making an 18-mile long trek to Voluntown, CT to attend a potluck put on by the Voluntown Peace Trust (VPT) in our honor. I am delighted that I did not use this long mileage as an excuse to have a rest day because the people I met while at the VPT potluck are truly inspiring. There were the Raging Grannies, who led us in environmentally focused and upbeat songs that had the whole room singing out loud (during which Stella, the caretaker’s 11 going on 20 year old daughter, and I read the lyrics upside down, for apparently good practice to have mental persistence). There was Keren, who had stopped by the VPT’s vegetable stand a couple years ago, and has since never left the VPT.
Let me explain, the Voluntown Peace Trust is a piece of beautiful property with a bountiful garden of vegetables and flowers, a main farmhouse, a building with a kitchen and meeting room space, trails through the woods, and several cabins with seemingly hundreds of beds (the cabin we slept in has about 15 places for people to sleep and the main house has about 21 beds!). Nancy, the caretaker, told us that people often say that the VPT is like a void or black hole because when you step onto the property, you enter a whole new world (this is the appropriate time to burst into a rendition of the Aladdin song). As an organization, the VPT promotes peace in all facets of life, whether that is abstaining from the military or becoming more connected with the land or anything else peaceful! We found many of our ideas overlapping, as we all had a solid grip on what it means to be a conscious and contributing member of the society we live in today.
We could even see how our hard work to make connections has been paying off! Dan Fischer, a member of Summer of Solutions who we befriended in Hartford, taught us how to make an “Intersection Web.” Essentially, you write down two problems on a large piece of paper and draw arrows showing the causes and effects of these problems. Unsurprisingly, their problems begin to intersect, demonstrating that two organizations with seemingly very different focuses (i.e. increasing asthma rates and increasing crime) can work together. The next step is to identify solutions to these problems, in order to (1) envision a better future, and (2) find real solutions that the two organizations can work together on. We successfully held an intersection web and posted the paper up on the wall, with the VPT saying that they will teach intersection web to others.
I can’t imagine a better way to spend Tuesday than talking with exuberant and interesting VPT members, recycling metal parts from old phone boxes, collecting oddly shaped cucumbers and the largest tomato I have ever seen from the garden, partaking in a delicious potluck, and roasting marshmallows around a campfire with Nancy and Stella to end a most spectacular day.
Mileage is trivial in comparison to the connections and friendships that biking long distances has let us develop on this journey.