I spent most of Wednesday in the car, driving from site to site along the Harriet Tubman Byway, trading off between the excellent audiotour (it didn’t go off the rails with reconciliation rhetoric until three stops from the Delaware border) and the rental car’s satellite radio–a Springsteen-only station? Be still my roadtrip heart! It was a dreary rainy day, and I was all complicated feelings and quiet as I passed through the heart of Caroline County’s Underground Railroad territory and the place where the Still’s had to decide which children to leave in slavery because they couldn’t all make it to freedom at the same time. I drove to the Choptank River, the site of Tubman’s first escape, but I had to pass a house draped in Confederate flags to get there. I learned about the Caroline County Courthouse where slave auctions were held, and just down the block, the local jail’s intake center. The sign out front told the story of voting for a state constitutional amendment banning slavery, since the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t apply to Union states. Apparently Caroline County voters protested their disenfranchisement, claiming their votes against the amendment were destroyed. Voter disenfranchisement, right. I got lost over and over again, because there aren’t a lot of signs out here, and I wonder the backstory, what kinds of resistances have been thrown up at every stage of remembrance. And then I made it to stop 31, Adkins Arboretum. Oh, it was worth the trip, a walk through an upland forest and an audiotour that described the role the natural environment played in enabling and hindering flights to freedom. Each track trailed off with different names of freedom seekers, and I wanted to know them all. William Still kept a book of all who passed through his Philadelphia office. Two of them turned out to be the brothers his parents had had to leave behind. They’d been sold to Kentucky, but 27 years later, they were free, too. The sun had come out, and it was hot and sticky and the bugs, oh the bugs. In a car you. Don’t feel it. It’s different on a bike, too. Today was a good day to take a bit, slow down, walk, and listen.
I got up early, hitched a ride to the train station to the airport to a bus and another bus and then finally I picked up a rental car for his week’s summer trip along the Harriet Tubman Byway along the Eastern Shore. And of course I brought my bike with me. Today’s ride started from the Dorchester County Visitor Center. I eschewed the one or so mile path that goes between the center and the one giant golf spa resort hotel in town and went for a ride through town instead. The woman gave me excellent directions and three different maps, but I got so caught up in her use of the highlighter to show me where I should go, and where I shouldn’t go, no matter what, that I failed to pay attention to the first direction. I took a left instead of a right and got myself lost–I take after my dad that way. Continue reading
I’m spending my holiday in St. Louis with N. and her family, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sneak in a bike ride with Brompty, who got her own spot in the trunk for the long drive here from Baltimore. Monday started at Family House #2 and on our way to Family House #3, N. pointed out Grant’s Trail, a rail-trail that went from right there to I-didn’t-know-where, and after bundling up and unfolding the bike, I traced the drive backward and then happily pedaled my way along the trail, stopping to learn about one of the first African American public cemeteries in St. Louis (Father Dickson’s), admire a gen-u-ine St. Louis cardinal, and to ogle these clyesdales, who all looked up at my click-click and came over to say hi. And then there was a National Park–Grant’s Farm–and I folded up the bike, stashed her behind the ranger’s desk, and got a private tour about the private life of Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia Dent, and the Dent family farm where Grant hoped to retire before he got suckered into that whole presidency thing. Oh, and he was totally against slavery on moral terms, except that most he thought it was economically inefficient–why not just hire temporary seasonal labor and cut them loose the rest of the year? The interpretive film, though, argued that Grant *had* to use enslaved laborers, even though he kind of thought slavery was wrong. In the house tour, we saw a video reenactment of a dinner where Julia tried to change the subject from the dinnertime arguments between Grant and Daddy Dent as an enslaved woman served the meal. Yep, it’s hard to tell a heroic narrative in the midst of such ugly history, but we’re going to keep trying, it seems. And then I headed back before it got too dark, and oh, it was cold, and then there was a light snow and I got lost and it got dark and I didn’t have lights on my bike and I had to call N. for the rescue. Good thing the bike slides right into the trunk, and good thing I brought her–I really needed the ride.
Well, it wasn’t all sunshine and blue skies like yesterday, but I was still excited to hop on the bike this morning for a ride around town. I headed to Hampden for brunch and some light reading and then to the Jones Falls Trail to snake my way downtown for a visit to the Lewis Museum and their new Dandy Lion exhibit. Continue reading
It was a ridiculously sunny day today, and I got to spend it on my bicycle. I rode down to meet K. for brunch and then headed toward the Quarter. As a Friend of the Cabildo, I get free admission to–you guessed it–the Cabildo, so I stopped in for a quick visit (and to use the bathroom) before heading the St. Claude bike lane into the Lower 9. Continue reading