I figured that I should probably have an entry about the trip seeing as how amazing an experience it was, so here goes. True, I did keep quite an extensive journal totaling over 100 pages, but I'm too lazy to type the thing up and some of the subject matter is quite private. No. I don't talk about my lust for some Georgian chick or anything along those lines, but I do go into some detail about digestion problems and what happens afterward, if you catch my drift...
Probably the greatest part of the trip, besides the insane biking of course was getting to see the diversity of the country. The trip can be divided into three sections, the South, the Midwest, and the West. The Midwest, namely Oklahoma was quite boring so I will not talk much about it. It is not a place I would ever want to revisit and I probably will have no need to go there, making this my last trip to that cursed state. The state is basically barren plains with incredible winds inconveniently blowing east as we biked west, It was extremely sparsely populated, especially the panhandle where you're lucky to see even a cow every ten miles. There is one thing that I would like to make clear though. OKLAHOMA IS NOT FLAT! Repeat after me: "Oklahoma is not flat!" Not flat, got that? Is Oklahoma flat? Hell no! I don't know where that myth came from but I will try to shatter it for the rest of my life. Perhaps the lack of trees, or building or anything makes the openness seem flat, and it is true that there are no mountains. Perhaps from a car with a wind shield, an air conditioner and an all powerful internal combustion engine the state may seem flat, but try biking across it before declaring it so. The sad part was I kept waiting or the terrain to level out but it didn't until the last fifty miles of the panhandle, and even then it was not flat, but a gradual climb into the Rocky Mountains. All I have to say is that I'm glad I got to wave goodbye to that state with my middle finger, even if it meant saying goodbye to my good friend Scott Loftist at the Lord's Table.
Ok, so I did talk about Oklahoma more than planed, but I promise I will talk more about the other regions starting with the south, so sit tight. Of the stereotypes of the south, most seemed true. It is quite backward, poor, religious, crazy, and obsessed with the civil war. The one stereotype that didn't fit was racism. Although some areas seemed quite segregated with the white population usually having better housing, there seemed to be no open racism. As an Asian American and a Northerner, I expected prejudice and unfair treatment and was quite surprised to find people quite welcoming of me. When we biked through Tuskeegee Alabama, which is virtually all black, we were the only non blacks at the local Piggly Wiggly supermarket, but they treated us quite well. At one point a local boy came up to me, shock my hand and asked how I was doing. I guess he had never seen an Asian person before. All across the south, we were taken in by Baptist churches, often on very short notice, a testament to their good will. Although they often tried to convert us, with the exception of a few babbling Jesus freaks who told us we were gong to hell, they didn't pursue it too far.
The story of our night in Cordele Georgia perhaps best illustrates our experience in the south. When we arrive in Cordele we were supposed to stay at a campground, but we had called the local police station and they arranged for us to stay at a Baptist church on less than an hours notice. Bro Ronnie, as he liked to be called, who was the deputy sheriff and associate youth pastor, showed us around the church. He also bought us pizza and gave us a tour of the local fruit market and high school where we used the locker-room showers. The fruit market although it contained the largest assortment of fresh fruit that I had ever seen was quote sad because of the poverty of the workers. They were predominantly black with a few whites and Hispanics. The heat was unbearable (yes we did bike through it, but biking is fun), and the wages insecure. As one farmer described it, he just grew the watermelons and brought them to market where he hoped people would buy them, otherwise all that effort would have been in vain. There was even a line for migrant workers looking for a job for the day, but the wages must have been horrible and there was a surplus of labor, so a few unfortunate souls waited dejectedly for a job that would never come. Bro Ronnie described how one local youth worked all summer at the fruit market just to raise enough money to go to high school. This made me feel extremely guilty.
On a lighter note, back at the church there were a few more cultural shocks. The first came when Bro Ronnie told us about a play that one of his students had written that, "Took a fun jab at that new theory of evolution that says that man cam from monkey." The play's premise was that evolution was just a theory arbitrarily made up with little supporting evidence. I felt quite angry reading the play and wanted to argue with its author, but I knew that would be quite useless and rude. Another culture shock came when Bro Ronnie introduced his daughter who was twenty and married with a baby. Our leader Kristen got in a long conversation with her. When Kristen mentioned that she was going to med school she asked if Kristen wanted to become a nurse. When Kristen said, "No a doctor," the conversation ended quite abruptly.
We did get another view of their society in the form of a letter found in the boy's locker-room. It was a letter from a girl named Jesse to her boyfriend Wayne and discussed sex and other vices you would not associated with a religious community. Also when we were driving around the parking lot we saw two people making out. I guess there are some thing common to teenage life no matter where you live.
The West may not have been as exciting to the South culturally but it made up for it in scenery. Often as we biked we could see beautiful mountains or mesas in the distance. The mountains of New Mexico provided some challenging climbs but every inch we went up we got to go down. Sometimes I coasted for half an hour at 30 miles an hour even getting up to 43 at one point, Yee-haw! In the words of an LA motorcyclist, "Holy Fucking shit man, those hills are fucking huge!" The interesting cultural thing about the West was the numerous Indian reservations. The Navaho reservation was huge, spanning hundred of miles from New Mexico to Arizona, but in the words of Caroline, "The government sure gives the Indians crap to work with." We did not see much Indian culture though beyond the Indian churches we stayed at. The interesting thing here was how they managed to blend Christianity with modern science with traditional Indian beliefs. One minister, who strangely was from Holland told us about geology, Jesus and human metamorphosis into animals in the same speech and he sincerely believed in all of them. Beyond this our only experience with their culture was their rampant drinking that went along with their extreme poverty. Biking through the city of Farmington on route 64 was a nightmare. This stretch of road has the highest rate of drunk diving in the country and there was tons of shattered bottles on the side of the road. The city was basically urban sprawl to the extreme ironically placed in a beautiful valley between orange and red mesas. Since part of the road turned into route 666 I joked it was the highway from hell.
With such incredible diversity it's hard to realize that this is all one country, but I guess one thing that technically links it all is the postal service. The speed and efficiency of the postal service never ceases to amaze me, delivering a postcard from Hicksville population eight to the other side of the country in days for only 28 cents. I got such a big kick out of this that I sent over 20 postcards partially to say hello but secretly to see how well the postal service works. As far as I know, every one made it. Maybe the postal service should sponsor our trip like they sponsor Lance Armstrong. By now I'm dragging on, so I better end this entry. Hopefully you have a better understanding of the country but more importantly you know that OKLAHOMA IS NOT FLAT! Goodbye y'all till next time.