From the Long Road South – The 7000 Mile Ride, Entry #1


This is my first of many updates I am writing for the Invisible Children community about my bike trip from Oregon to Patagonia. This organization is about celebrating and defending the common humanity of us all, specifically focusing on defending the lives of children and families caught in war in central and East Africa. But it is more than that. It is about the whole planet–all people and how we are all connected in a web of community. John Muir said, ‘”When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” I believe this is true of humanity at large, and I intend to find out.

I have been living on a bicycle for five weeks now. I have covered close to 1000 miles from Florence, Oregon, to San Diego. I am 1/10 of the way to Patagonia. I started on the unfamiliar coast of Oregon and have progressed to my home in Southern California.

I have learned lessons expected and unexpected. I have learned some about bike maintenance; how and where to find a hidden thicket off the road to hang my hammock out of sight; how to answer the same questions to everyone we meet, “where you headed?” “‘how do you charge your phone?” “what made you want to do this?”  I’ve learned how to sleep in any position on any surface. I have learned how to push through absolute physical exhaustion in order to visit and story-tell with a kind host family eager to hear stories at 11pm. I have learned never to turn down a washing machine.

I have learned that the pace of a bike is so different than a car. I see every house, every driveway. I race past dogs that bite at my heels because I am as exposed to the world as they are. I say hi to the lady gardening her corner of the globe. I smell every dead animal and it doesn’t leave me right away. I see uphills as work. I see downhills as reward. I see other bikers as comrades. I smell the sage and the seaweed and I am with them.

My travel partner is a man named Phillip Crosby. He is a bottomless resource of ingenuity and handiness. He sees every problem as a playful challenge to be overcome by craftiness and simplicity. He lived in New York City for years and gave the start-up entrepreneur world a try. But he found himself drowning in ambition without reflection or personal growth. He knew he needed something to shake himself awake. This trip was his answer. He is in the midst of a spiritual reboot. Every time I bike up next to him he has some new idea about social justice, the economy, God, capitalism, the 1%, health, faith, or the opportunities of the poor. He is a man of eager curiosity and urgent outrage, both playful and righteous, patient and anxious.

He and I discuss the people we have met while biking or by the fire at night. At this early stage of the trip, so many of our observations are inconclusive. We are too young in the trip to know what any of it means. As for now, we are collectors without judgment. We have seen the rich living on the coast, and the poor who live among them. Each is almost invisible to the other. So many people are on disability or out of work. On the Oregon coast and northern California, the streets are peppered with crust-punks and people who have made tramping their life. Phillip and I look yuppy next to them.  We have passed migrant workers who have covered every inch of their bodies with sweatshirts and hats as they toil under the hot sun. We don’t know where they are from or if they are happy. We don’t know where they go home to or if they feel free to leave. We rode through the oil refineries of Los Angeles and felt tiny amidst an ocean of eighteen-wheelers. We were almost run off the road by old men in their RVs, racing to see their country before they expire.

All of these things are tied together.

We are a couple days away from crossing the border into Tijuana and Baja. The first truly unknown territory of this trip. We don’t speak Spanish very well. I am nervous. Not so much for my safety, but for the unknown. But I will report back. I want to know how human beings live in every corner. I want to see if they are different than me. If they are worthy to be feared. The most common blessing we receive as we bike away is “stay safe!” They often mean to stay safe south of the border in those “scary countries.” I have found that almost every type of fear comes from misunderstanding and loss of trust. Some fear is real. Most fear is not. It seems to be a lion’s shadow cast by a mouse.

I want to carry with me the curiosity of my entire community, and learn for myself as I learn for them. I want to know how my actions affect the world. I want to know if I have a moral duty to care for a human being eight thousand miles away that I should never meet but will. How does knowing a face and a name change how I live?

This is my first report of many. I am sorry that it doesn’t have more analysis. I am still a new ship at sea, I don’t know yet that the stars are my map and the clouds on the horizon are not necessarily rain. I am new. I feel particularly young again. But I am listening and getting better. And I am entering Mexico. I will tell you how it goes.

Follow @jedidiahjenkins on Instagram to tag along Jed’s journey.

re-posted from Jedidiah’s post on Invisible Children Blog.