Wednesday, December 9

Share your talent(s)

Something funny happened on the way to posting my weekly blog. In the wee hours, while surfing the 'net for ideas on a new project I'm starting in January, I came across a project that took priority over my ride report from Sunday.

Since most of those who ride two wheels and blog also take photographs to enrich both the riding and blogging, I thought I'd share this find with you.


Update: It's late in the project. Some locations may need volunteers to do all sort of things other than--and in addition to--taking the portraits. Your help may be needed to hold lights or help entertain the children getting their picture taken. Check your location for the Help-Portrait Project in your area to determine their need.

Monday, November 23

Roots and Wings

Rode with my passenger pegs down in honor of my brother and all the ancestors who have gone before.

The birthday ride was a peaceful panacea.

Strolling through wonderous gardens really does reconnect us with our roots.

Watching the endless flight of birds left me feeling as if I too had wings.

Saturday, November 21

Karmic Justice for "Smiley"

It is difficult to comprehend that it was one year ago today that my brother, Michael, aka "Smiley" died after being struck and dragged by a hit and run driver, barrelling through an alley at the wheel of a rental car for which he had neither license nor insurance. Michael lingered for four days and died one day before my birthday.

I will not rehash the story, but strange things can happen in a year. For the past many months, I have been in court to represent my brother along side the state's attorney. I see his killer enter the courtroom armed with his thuggish friends. They watch me. They slouch in their seats. They are often late. The laws seemed written to protect him and his rights. He has never shown one iota of remorse. In fact, the last time I was in court, October 17, it looked like this guy would get off because the witnesses are afraid to come forward and without eye witnesses there is no one to publicly state what so many called the police to report that November night. As I've said before, I understand not coming forward. We've all heard of cases where witnesses were not protected and lost their lives trying to do the right thing. This guy has known gang affiliation and is a rumored drug dealer. On many occasions, I will admit to leaving the courtroom with murderous thoughts about him. His cavalier disposition enrages me. I know I should have better self-control, but I don't and apologies will not be forth coming.

About several weeks ago, this same guy was involved in a serious traffic accident, with him at the wheel. The four occupants were transported to two hospitals with three in seriously condition. He suffered the gravest injuries. He was not expected to live out the first week and had been kept in a medically-induced coma. Although he remains in serious condition and in and out of consciousness, he has survived several surgeries. A few days ago, one of his legs was amputated. He cannot speak and has had to have some internal organs repaired. "IF" he lives, the word is that he will never be able to use his limbs and his cognitive functioning is uncertain.

Despite the times I've wanted to personally kill this guy, the news of his accident did not make me happy. It made me sad. It didn't need to be this way. His mother today is in the same place my mother has been in, that is, praying that her son will survive. No matter how despicable this guy is, he was and is some one's child. Had he just admitted what he had done, I think, in my heart I would have been more forgiving. My mother, siblings and the extended family have long ago, put this whole matter "in the hands of the Lord." To that I say, "God known my limitations." I went to court! I wanted him to know that someone speaks for Michael. I wanted him pay for what he had done.

Yet, from the moment I heard the horrible news about his accident, I've been sad.

Sad that he lived his life in a way that made the adage, "What goes around, comes around," rap hard on his door. Sad that his family will know the same grief we have lived. Sad that exactly one year ago today, Michael died. Sad that whether this guy lives or dies, he is right now experiencing a hellish pain on a level to which we are not privy. Even sad that a strange otherworldly source of justice may have intervened. All those times I thought I'd be happy if he didn't exist. I am not.

Somewhere, at some point, this guy lost his way and didn't care whom he hurt along his path to nowhere. Very sad indeed.

I plan a birthday ride tomorrow. I shall ride with my passenger pegs down in remembrance of Smiley.

R.I.P. Michael

Thursday, November 19

Did you get "The Memo"?

9:00am, Wednesday Morning

When I left the house it was raining. It was also cold and foggy. I could have used the car sharing program that I joined after I sold my hardly ever driven Honda CRV, but four wheel travel just didn't sound interesting. So, I geared up for the weather and set out on Jesse Owens.

The cold was made worse by the wind. I had the heated jacket plugged in but didn't wear my heated pants. Some folks complain that the F800ST throws off unwanted heat. I cherish that warmth--and it's a nonissue if you wear motorcycle overpants, which I always do. So, my bottom half kept toasty through my jeans and overpants. The heated grips were on full power.

The wet roads were made worse by the wind too. I had all the luggage on the bike, still I slide around a bit and said a silent prayer to the ancestors to ride along with me. Doing the speed limit or a bit slower, is the key to keeping safe. In the city of Chicago, however, doing the legal speed limit on an Interstate is considered extreme sport.

My trip out was about 35 miles in the direction of the rain. Within 10 minutes the rain turned angry and heavy. I listened to my helmet being pelted. I turned my jacket up a notch and road the rest of the way in comfort. I know what the riding instructors say about a day like Wednesday. But all motorcycle riding is about risk-taking and the level of it that one is willing to take on any given day. I adjusted my riding to the conditions and took to the Interstate.

What I noticed immediately is that those tucked inside their cars--and trucks--either didn't notice or care that the pavement was drenched and the conditions challenging. Too many drivers zipped in and out of lanes with no regard for conditions. For the longest, a car tailgated me. When he finally passed, he was talking on his phone.

When I arrived at my destination more than an hour later, the people assembled for the meeting seemed curious, if not, shocked that I arrived on a motorcycle. They had questions galore: "Isn't it dangerous to be on a bike in the rain?," "Aren't you cold?," "How do you wipe off your helmet," "How do you see?" I answered the questions and downplayed their kind concerns.

What they don't understand is that two wheels isn't just a fun, summer hobby. It a form of transportation. Yes, the risks are higher on a bike. And, on a cold, rainy day the risk is even greater but if one takes her time, understands the challenges and rides with heightened awareness, it remains a safe method of travel. My biggest concerns weren't weather related. The biggest threat to my safety were those on four wheels! I realize that I can be a highly skilled 'cyclist but still there remains things about which I have limited control. I am confident that my skills will allow me to handle the weather. But a driver who decides to tailgate and then change lanes directly in front of me even though there is clear and empty space to change lanes safely without coming near me, is a knucklehead that has a deathwish and wants to take someone with him/her. I try to anticipate crazy drivers and get as far away as I can.

Did you get the memo?

Somewhere some of these drivers must have received a memo stating that the use of turn signals is optional. This memo told them that they should ride as close as possible to a motorcycle. And, that driving with a phone cocked in one's neck is mandatory. They clearly were told that in heavy downpours it is always best to crank up the mph so that your usual 20 mph over the speed limit is either matched or exceeded. The memo goes on to say that if desired, share the lane with a motorcycle--after all, it saves space and is more efficient. This memo closes by ordering all those in possession of the memo to IGNORE the weather. It is an artifact. Recipients of the memo possess a license to drive like the road is your personal Indy 500!

Four hours later, when the meeting ended I reassured those concerned about my safety that I would be okay and was prepared for the conditions. What I failed to do and now regret, was to say to the dozen or so at the meeting that they, as drivers in cars, should give up the view that two wheels is a summer hobby and to LOOK for two wheels at all the times. I should have encouraged them to take their concerns for me and apply it to anyone on two wheels and ride with care for those on two wheels.

My return trip greeted me with a head wind and I watch my fuel drop dramatically.

Still, I enjoyed my day off from paid labor and found great pleasure in two wheel riding, despite the rain, the cold and the fog, it was a great day to be out.

Upcoming: Essay on solo riding

Note to my fellow bloggers: (You are fun and sweet anchors in my daily online life. My peeks in on your life have been undermined by life's clutter and work. I know we're all busy and I don't give up easily, so bear with me as I fight my way back to visiting you. I miss you all. Thanks for your patience).

Monday, November 9

Busting stress with riding time...

By Wednesday of last week, I had already worked nearly 40 hours. In an economic context where many people are experiencing hard times, it's difficult to complain about work. Some people are impatient and simply don't want to hear it; they are likely to tell you things like, "Just be glad you have a job." Or, "At least you're not unemployed." And,, "You're blessed to have a paycheck coming in." I understand these sentiments--though times are not lost on me. Still, responses like this are annoying. In fact, they are lame and thoughtless. Yes, relative to many situations, I'm doing well. Personally, life isn't a relative matter IMHO! I never feel better knowing that someone else feels worse. One's pain isn't lessened knowing that someone else's is greater. To offer, "Well, it could be worst, you could be unemployed," or, just be happy that you have a roof overhead," is to buy into a form of self-denial that devalues one's reality. It's sort of like saying, something I heard on television. A woman was saying that she knew her husband was a cheater but at least he didn't beat or abused her like some husbands did. What??? That is just insane! I think we all feel a little better when we feel heard.

I am acknowledging that the events in my life, at the moment, are making me nutz! So excuse me while I rant a bit about time and how little I feel I have to experience joy. I'm exhausted from work. Riding the 'cycle is a stress buster for which I've always made time. But on days when I've arrived home at 11:30pm after having arrived at the office at 7:00am that morning (or before), I have little energy to do anything. I have forced more late night rides than I care to count, but I know when I'm really pushing that envelope to the danger point. That was an awful work week. I fired up the bike only for grocery shopping.

Given that winter is knocking on fall's door, I want to take advantage of every ride-worthy day that comes my way. I've loved my 33 degree F morning rides! But I won't mount the bike if I'm exhausted. I'm spending too much of my time doing things that rob me of spending time doing the things I love. I used to own my own business and each year since reminds me of how much I miss that freedom. I definitely worked harder then but I loved every minute of being able to exercise control over my time.

The weather in Chicagoland this past weekend reached the low to mid 70sF! Motorcyclists were out and about. Prior to the weekend, the roads had been lonely on those cold morning rides. Finally having others to wave to made me think of spring rather than Thanksgiving. Didn't do nearly as much riding as I wanted this past weekend but I did enough to give me that rider-rush I seek. Saturday, I had no destination in mind. My main ride consisted of riding Dave's GS home for him. Sunday, I took a trip to an arboretum to be alone and reconnect with nature. Hundreds of other people had the same idea but the vast grounds hummed with people on foot, bikes, and in cars. Sunday was heavenly.

I was able to get my fix in. One of the best things about motorcycle riding is the need to be singularly focused on the ride. When I am, I strive to that place where I can feel myself zooming in on the ride and zooming out distracting clutter like the mental noise that a stressful job can produce. Work becomes a non-issue. Those who don't ride might not understand this, but riding a motorcycle is a most relaxing activity--even when I'm stuck in traffic. To ride well and safely, I need to block out all those things that tax the cells and clog the immune system. I enjoy that motorcycling demands sharp attention. I feel both alive and extra worldly when the riding seems automatic, the gear changing is smooth, my lower body moves my hips effortlessly to maneuver the bike, I'm relax--there's just nothing like it. Old, lightly traveled county roads, with tall cornstalks lining each roadside, have become genial, hiding places for weekend solo retreats. These rides are time well spent; they save me from appearing in the headline news--if you get my drift!

Time. It is elusive. We all have the same amount yet we use it differently. I had a woman tell me that she was bored and had nothing to do. I tried hard to understand her. I have been bored before; but never, to my knowledge, have I ever had nothing to do. I will continue to try to reign in my time robbers--even though the biggest one is the one I have the least amount of control over. Oh well...

For November, my time now includes Nanowrimo. By the end of the day, I will have over 18,000 words toward the 50,000 needed to crank out the first draft of a novel. If this amazing and strangely warm weather continues, I smell a weekend trip in the air.

I will not take time for it.

I will MAKE time for it.

Safe riding

Tuesday, October 27

Riding and Shutter tripping (Click on pics for better fall colors)

Recently while on a trip to Starved Rock State Park, I embraced the inevitability of the riding season ending soon. I started out in damp, cold temps below freezing. The day progressed nicely and reached the low 50s. When I arrived at the park, I unpacked and de-layered. As I removed my camera gear a group of men exited a car. They too had camera equipment. We were all there for the same thing: Starved Rock's annual Fall Color Hike, a series of guided hikes thought the park. One man said to me, "Eh, a little cold to be on a bike, uh?" I looked at him, "What?" He responded, "A little cold to be on a bike, uh?" I told him I had heated gear. "Still, a little cold, don't you think?" Now, this always makes me wonder..."Why is he talking to me?" But I responded with as much cheer as I could muster. So I say to him, "Oh, it's's really not a problem. I'm toasty--the heated gear is the key." His friends all said they hadn't heard of heated motorcycle clothes but felt that it would make for comfortable travel. But their show off buddy was having none of it. "Well, that's good...but I think it's still a little cold to be on a bike this time of year." I wanted to say so many things to him, but thought, "What's the point?" Different strokes for different folks. Still, I had to consciously shake off my first question, "Why is this man even questioning me"?!

I haven't much to say today. I shall ride until they pry the bike from my hands that remain comfortably tucked inside heat gloves atop heated grips. One year I was able to ride until December 3rd or so. On that day a huge blizzard-like snow storm was predicted. I remember riding to the shop that stores my bike over winter. It was near rush hour and everyone had the same idea--leave work early to get home before the deluge. I sat in snarled traffic as the wet, fat snow flakes began to fall. By the time I reached the shop the streets were wet, temps were dropping, roads were becoming slick. Winter was putting an exclamation point on its arrival.

I see fewer bikes on my trips nowadays but when the temps reach 50, the two wheels hit the road again. Today, I have pics to share. Some are from two wheel rides I've taken recently; some are from a recent car trip on four wheels, to Savanna and Galena, IL. All are about embracing the fall and it glorious colors. Some were taken with my faithful Nikon D80 and some with my new toy, the Nikon D300s.

Embracing Fall (The colors look their best when viewed large, click on the image)

Included are three abstracts. Two are taken of trees; I am using a very slow shutter speed. shooting up into the trees and twisting the camera while tripping the shutter to get a swirling effects and a creative way of conveying fall transformations. One is a multiple exposure effect (ten, to be exact) to give the forest a dreamy appearance. You can probably guess which is which.

Embrace the fall...Ride safe and watch out for wet leaves in curves.

Monday, October 12

Gallimaufry Time!

So many things to say and so little time. I'm not usually this invisible but life has been rearing its head and reminding me of the many things beyond my control.

Here's a hodgepodge of happenings that will allow me to catch up.

Fall is here and its cousin, "Winter" is never far behind...

This weekend, I took my coldest rides thus far--33 degrees F. The day started off in the low 50s and by the time I reached Fountain City, Indiana, the temps had reached the mid-50s. Beautiful fall weather. Still a bit cool, but with a heated jacket, I remained comfy. I did notice that my left hand grip, which already had been replaced under warranty, failed to heat up as smoothly as the right hand grip. Thus the fingers of my left never really warmed up. I packed the heated pants but never donned them. This is the time of the year when the heat that the ST is known for throwing off, is a welcomed feature. On my returned home from central Indiana, the temps dropped to 33F. Yeowwww! My thighs did get cold and I had by evening forgotten that I had packed the heated pants. So, I sucked it up and thought warm thoughts the whole way.

Sunday's ride started out colder with temps in the 30s and eventually reached 39F and hoover there. By mid-morning the temps were in the low 40s. This time, from head to toe, I was prepared and thus, I enjoyed the ride without distraction. Watching the leaves' evidence of change in the many shades of golds, reds, and greens and every hue in between was humbling as well as breath-taking. Fall is an amazing reminder that all things that nature has spent the spring and summer seasons building, begins to fall apart and in doing so, displays the beauty of this season of change--only to start over again next year, which it will as sure as the sun rises again.

Levi Coffin House, Saturday, Oct. 10th (Underground Railroad Research)

On this brisk fall morning, I motored to Fountain City, Indiana (formerly Newport) to tour the Levi Coffin House, where it is believed that over 2000 human beings escaping slavery found safe shelter. Coffin, a Quaker, felt free to ignore unjust laws and spent the rest of his life doing what he could to destroy the institution of slavery. I arrived at the Coffin House around 3:29pm--after having a wonderful lunch at Shapiro's Deli in Indianapolis.

The Coffin house closes at 4pm. I'm beginning to think that it's good practice to arrive at these sites near the end of the day. I received one of the best tours from Janice McGuire. She shared stories that are not part of the official tour. She was knowledgeable about UGRR sites in general and knew the Indiana history well. And, what she didn't know, she was eager to assist me in finding the answer. For example, four of the pallbearers at Levi Coffin's funeral were African American. That is UNUSUAL as they were present not in a position of servitude but in a role honor, friendship and respect for Levi Coffin. I wanted to know who these men were. How did they come to carry the coffin of Coffin (no pun intended)?

In Coffin's obit, a church is mentioned along with the name of a Reverend who shares the surname of one of the pallbearers. This is definitely a case for the History Detectives--but why should they have all the fun? I plan to do some research to find the answers and see where this leads. Wish I could find a funder to fund UGRR research. Oh well...

Wisconsin's Rustic Roads (RR) Revisited

Wisconsin's rustic roads program is always fun.

I get terribly lost on many of the roads but there isn't a turn or bend that isn't exciting and fun to follow. County roads DD, C, FF-- and many other--are simply wonderful gems with interesting sites, house, and animals along the way. These hidden pockets thrill the urban rider. Even when I can't seem to follow the map to link one RR to another, this is never a dull trip. These lightly traveled Wisconsin back roads allow me to hear myself think and reacquaint myself with me, myself and I. What I love most is that I can get to Racine, WI, for example, in a fairly short amount of time and lose myself as if I've traveled through many states--and still be back home before nightfall. Let no one say the Midwest is flat--well, it is, but there are lots of hilly places too.

Where there are rivers, glacier activity, drifts, moraines, kettles, there are bound to be some fun twisty and rolling roads to explore. I hear that some Wisconsiners (?) tire of Illinoisians coming to their state. I don't know if this is true and if so, why. This is America and last I heard, it is a united states. So, I shall freely go again and again 'cause I love the terrain! And, I'm certain that my few pennies contribute to the Wisconsin coffers.

Track Day (TD)

Ok, remember I did a Track Day this summer? Well, Motoworks, who sponsored the TD, mailed the participants a gift. A CD with all the participants riding around the track! They had a professional photographer there, who really did a fab job. She managed to make everyone look like experienced racers! She shot us at our best. I look fast and furious in these shots--of which there are many! Don't you agree, I look Ma-va-luss! Yeah, I know...looks can be deceiving.

Thank you Motoworks! Looking forward to TD next ride season.

BMW Mileage Contest Closes (October 11, 2009)

It started in April, right around the time that I flew to Fredericksburg, VA to retrieve my bike, which had been at Morton's BMW dealership since my "get off." Before leaving VA, my pal Claye at Fleeter Logs reminded me that the BMW mileage contest had started and that I should make my ride home count. My start form was signed by a person who has reached 1 million miles on BMWs. I couldn't ignore this--this would mean some huge tires to fill. No one puts this kind of pressure on me--I'm just goal-driven enough that instantly I felt obligated to live up to this man's riding legacy. So, I set a goal of 20,ooo miles for the ride season. I would have been nice to have completed it all during the six months.

I watched my bike turn over to 22,000 miles Saturday around 8ish p.m. I took a ride on Sunday too because that was the official end of the mileage contest and I wanted to end on a good note. Thus far, I've put on over 15,000 safe miles--not counting the miles I've put on the BMW F650GS, which can't be counted for the contest because I didn't include that bike on the start form. Nor do those miles include the time I spent in the SV650's saddle. And, the official ride season isn't over yet and won't be until they pry my hands from the handle bars. So, I still have time to hit that 20,000 miles goal for the season--all done on my Beemer. Fingers crossed. Still, I'm quite pleased with the miles I've put on Jesse Owens so far, given that most of my long distance riding is accomplished on weekends. I now know that when I hear of someone putting 40,ooo miles on their bike from April to October, they typically don't have a regular job. Am I envious? You dang tootin' I am. I want a life where once April arrives, I just ride off...and return some time after Labor Day. Oh well...dreams are free.

Bun Burner before the season ends?

I am seeking one decent weekend, a good 36 hours to scratch an itch that bugging me. It's an itch to do a Bun Burner. For those who don't know, this is an Iron Butt Association Ride of 1500 miles in 36 hours. Yes, I know, I just finished a Saddle Sore. But I have a nice route all planned out. The fall, with it shorter days and unpredictable weather, and the insane demands on my life, might make accomplishing a BB a tough undertaking. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for a nice break in the weather.

Okay...that's it for me. I've missed you.

I have a project I'm working on that I can't reveal at the moment (don't you hate it when people tell you something and then tell you they can't tell you about it?!) but I plan to share it with you in a future blog. For now, if you have an extra million dollars sitting around, wondering what to do with it, I have a project that needs funding. Call me...

Monday, September 21

The Two-wheeled historian visits Iowa's UGRR

While still fussing with the Nicodemus and Topeka, KS post, other road trips have come and gone. As part of my ongoing Underground Railroad project, I headed out on Sunday morn, September 20th, for southern Iowa.

View Larger Map

I had huge riding plans for the weekend but everything changed when I lost my wallet Friday night and discovered it missing as I was packing at 3:30a.m. for my trip. The restaurant, where I knew I left it didn't open until noon! They didn't even have an answering machine set up. I started calling at 6a.m. and by 9a.m I still couldn't get through. What business doesn't have an answering machine?! I called throughout the morning, hoping someone would pick up. No one picked up until noon! The wallet was there and a dear friend (thanks, Cindy) retrieved it for me as I dared not ride the bike without having my driver's license. That would be the day I'm stopped for some reason. Isn't there an old Blues song that goes..."if is wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all." By the time I got my hands on my wallet, with all cards and money intact, it was way too late and I was way too stressed to begin a trip. Missed another gorgeous day.

Sunday, I was ready to leave at 5 a.m. In one direction the weather gurus predicted a 20% chance of rain; in the other, 40%. I took the road statistically less rainy--southern Iowa. The two sites there that I wanted to visit didn't open until 1pm, which is late for my taste. First stop, Salem, IA, a once all Quaker town in the 1830s, and onto the Keosauqua, IA. Like Ohio, Iowa had a large number of UGRR (Underground Railroad) stations given the Quaker presence there. Unlike, Ohio, most of Iowa's are now gone, some through fire or deliberate demolition after falling into disrepair.

In Salem, stands the Henderson Lewelling House on Main Street, just a stones throw from the old Quaker cemetery down the road. I like getting to the place I want to explore, so I took the Interstate, knowing that some pretty nice county roads awaited me, which are always a treat. I like too old two lanes highways. The only thing I don't like is too often there are too few places to pull off for a photo op. Fortunately, many of these roads have very little traffic so it's not impossible to get a picture of a beautiful old barn or grazing cows and horses. I was in a riderly mood and didn't plan to stop much. I would have been fun to have Dave's GS on this trip as it would have better handled all the gravel encountered on this trip. I recall a U-turn I executed and a slight wiggle of the back tire on gravel--oops!

Temps in the 70s, the weather was ideal until I got near Galesburg. The sky turned angry and gray and opened. It rained from 1:20 until 2:00p.m--a hard, heavy downpour! So much for taking the road less rainy! After a good soaking, I checked the GPS for the nearest gas station where I headed to find a shelter to don my rain gear. By the time I reached Burlington, IA a blue sky with nary a mean cloud in it welcomed me. I stopped at the Port of Burlington to set the GPS for Salem and poke around a little.

I was doing badly on time but I didn't care. I just needed to ride and if I arrived and the UGRR sites were open, fine; if not, I would at least see the structure. I passed far too many old barns without stopping, which is plenty of reason to return to this area.

Ugh! Time is always an issue. I realized that I was later than I thought! Oh well...I was now on course to arrive in both Salem and Keosauqua after the UGRR stations were closed.

I arrived in Salem, and immediately found Main St. Nicely placed signs lead right to the Henderson Lewelling House. I observed two cars in the gravel lot and one was leaving. According to my watch, the museum should already have been closed for fifteen minutes. But opened back door beckoned me in and after parking the bike, I made a beeline inside.

Once inside, I walked to the front of the house and startled a white-haired old lady who was sitting in a rocking chair going through some old newspaper clippings. She said they were closed but that she would quickly take me through, "since I'm not busy." I signed the book but didn't have two dollars in exact change for the donation. She didn't have change. I dropped a five dollar bill into the jar and told her to keep the extra three (am I a big spender or what?!). When she checked my sign in and saw that I was from Illinois, things changed. "Oh, since you're from Chicago, I'll do a tour for you--that's a long way." And tour she did! We had a most lovely discussion of the Underground Railroad stations in the Midwest. She beamed when she told me she had attended the recent conference in Springfield, IL, which I had so wanted to attend. She picked up some new titles on the subject and shared stories she had heard about various stations throughout the Midwest. She kept interrupting her tales with memories of stories related and unrelated to the UGRR--I was loving each minute!

The Henderson Lewelling House was a safe place for runaway slaves. Lewelling, was a staunch abolitionist and member of the Quakers who believed that they should become actively involved in resisting slavery's evils. It is a myth that all Quakers were anti-slavery to the point of activism. Salem's Quaker activity is a good example of the split that fractured the Quakers in one small town. Quakers shared that slavery was an abomination but some felt strongly that they should obey the law and not get involved in anti-slavery activism. I guess, they were the "let's just pray about it" faction. Another group (thank God!) felt that they had no obligation or responsibility to follow unjust laws and felt it their moral and religious duty to help put an an end to that "peculiar institution" called slavery.

In his travels, Henderson Lewelling never forgot seeing humans shackled and vowed to do what he could to put an end to such human suffering.

Several areas inside his house--all built beneath the floor--provided temporary shelter for escaped slaves. This secret network of transporting fleeing slave to safety was efficient and orderly. Runaway slaves were hidden until they could be carried safely--only at night-- farther north until they reached Canada. Inside the Lewelling house these clandestine places were kept out of sight by throwing a rug over the space and putting a bed or table over the hideaway. Looking down into these dark, small, cramped holes is pretty frightening but I would imagine nothing is as awful as being owned and kept in involuntary servitude where beatings and selling off "stock" were frequent.
(The railing was put in place to protect tourist. The trap door would be closed and covered by a rug and a table placed over the area.)

Lewelling sounded like a real character. He was the father of a big brood. He lived in Salem for years and then moved on to Oregon. He's known for more than his anti-slavery work. He is also acknowledged for almost single handily bringing fruit trees to Salem. He carried many fruit trees on to Oregon too during a particularly difficult journey west and planted them. There he also established a fruit production industry. In fact, Fruitvale, CA is named for Lewelling's fruit production in that area. Today Lewelling is know as the "father of the Pacific fruit industry" and credited with permeating Iowa, Oregon and California with his gift for fruit production. I applaud this too but it is his work as a devout and activist Quaker that captures my heart most.

Salem, Iowa is in a location that benefited its anti-slavery efforts. It is in close proximity to the Mississippi and Des Moines rivers, both providing escape routes for slaves.

The problem is that Salem is close to Missouri, a slave state. My favorite story is when a Missouri slaveholder named Daggs came to Lewelling's door, bring with him a cannon that he placed in Lewelling's front yard, aimed at Lewelling's house! He threatened to use it if Lewelling didn't return his human property. Lewelling didn't scare easily. He claimed not to know what the man was talking about. News travels fast in a small town. Let Rachel Kellum tell the story of the Daggs' slaves and the cannon. I couldn't help think of the terrorist behavior of the Missourians who, as Kellum describes, bogarted their way into people's homes, searching for slaves and threatening to level an entire town. These terrorist acts are repeated throughout every states suspected of helping slaves escape bondage.

The Underground Railroad was an efficient network of people and houses that worked in the dark of night, moving slaves from one safe house to the next until there was no more clear and present danger. Their work was deliberate, methodical and quick. Secrecy was key. To make it work, the cooperation of many people was mandatory--even children were trained to not discuss their parents' nighttime activities.

Slaveholders were suspicious and befuddled. Slaves would flee and all roads seem to lead to Salem. But once there, the slaves seemed to vanish. Word would spread that a slaveholder was in town demanding his property. In one incident, the Salem authorities were summoned and the "owner" was asked for names and descriptions of his property. Eventually, because he was able to identify his "property" he was able to have several of his slaves returned to him but some were not returned. I'm hope they ran away again the first chance they got for they knew that once they crossed the Des Moines or Mississippi river, safe house in Salem would shelter them until they could move "up yonder."

Of the safe houses in Salem, only the Lewelling house still stands. If you are ever within 100 miles of this area, go there. Hear history come alive. Revisit the timea. Feel inspired by the abolitionists, the resisters, and the unsung heroes (and she-roes) that our history books either don't mention or gloss over.

I heard so many stories while at the Lewelling House that I left there riding a cloud. I already knew I wouldn't get to tour the Pearson House in Keosauqua. Still, it was only 25 miles away and the ride would be lovely beneath an azure sky with mash potato clouds. The bright sun had already dried out my wet gear and soaked gloves and my bike, Jesse Owens, purred along.

The ride to Keosauqua did not disappoint. The roads swoop and curve and roll along. Dodge Street in Keosauqua is easy to find, just look for the courthouse. The Franklin Pearson House is a big structure with many windows across the second level. The area around the Pearson House looked rich in history and I wished I had come early enough to hear the activities that transpired at the Pearson house. I took a couple of pictures and headed for home. I was feeling great and thinking I would abandon my plans to stay overnight somewhere nearby. According to the GPS, if I didn't stop, I would arrive home at 11:30pm but I needed to eat and take break soon as I now heard my stomach complain.

I enjoyed the roads for another hour before stopping to eat. I passed through many small towns that were cute and begging to be explored. I would have if I were sleeping over but I was in a ride mood and just wanted to keep going. I definitely felt moved to pause in Fort Madison. I passed by their "rebuilt" fort and wanted to know more about it. The town looked inviting. There were signs announcing the history of this and that--little towns all claiming their place in the regional and national history pages. I've never heard of Bentonsport or Bonaparte, but they both claim a national historic district that I'd like to visit.

Roads of note. Many places along US Hwy 34, 67 and 61, as well as State Hwy 2. Fun! Lots of big swooping curves, hilly with travel along a several state parks, preserves, and wildlife areas.

Both homes are on the National Registry of Historic Places and worth a visit. The Henderson Lewelling House may soon be made a National Historic Site, which is a huge accomplishment.

Sunday mileage: 620 miles
Fun factor 8/10--the rain was a bit much...