As I wrote this on Wednesday, I had crossed my fifth stateline, and into New York state, and headed for the Huson River. My goal is to be in Philadelphia as you read this note on this Fourth of July.
With over 650 miles under my belt I have cycled through Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. From the seat of Manifest Destiny, my recumbent trike, this eighth grade U.S. history teacher has gained an enhanced appreciation of the scenery of New England, its people, and its history.
At the center of each town, one always finds war memorials honoring those that offered the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit of their country and community. Then come the churches.
One cannot miss the abundance of churches in New England. It is evident that this part of the country has strong religious roots. For the most part, English men and women who had been denied the right to practice their religion freely had settled it. The evidence is strong and is still standing. It is not unusual to see three or four churches per town belonging to different denominations sitting side by side peacefully. What had so easily torn Europe apart through devastating religious warfare was never present here. The founders understood the importance of religious freedom and guaranteed it in our Bill of Rights.
Riding nothing but backroads, and at a slow pace of between four to 10 miles per hour, one gets to witness what is most definitely missed when you are doing 70 mph on an asphalt interstate highway. This is precisely the reason I named my tour the Tour of Discovery. Not only am I traveling, I am actually discovering the greatest beauty of America.
There are drawbacks, too. On Tuesday, the 16th day of the tour, I crossed the Appalachian Trail and left New England to enter New York state. It was then that Manifest Destiny suffered its first mechanical problem.
The smallest chainring on my crankset had been under intense use since Maine, for I have done nothing but climb hills. The stress on this component coupled with the vibrations from the road resulted in the loss of three of the five bolts in the crankset.
It was sundown and I was climbing my last hill only seven miles away from the town of Rhinebeck, N.Y., when it happened. Under the weight and pressure, the smallest chainring gave in and warped. I must change this part for the tour to go on.
Having cycled past Westborough, Mass., the birthplace of the great engineer and inventor Eli Whitney, I can truly appreciate the gifts of history. Without the technological inventions of this New England genius of the early American Industrial Revolution, I would be doomed. His creation of the interchangeable part will come to rescue me. When I walked into a bike shop to replace this part, I thanked Mr. Whitney. Without him, I could not continue on my journey.
Rafael Giraldo is a teacher at Tequesta Trace Middle School in Weston. Follow him on his ride for the Republic at http://www.tourofdiscovery.com.