Week #16 - The Hamptons, New Jersey, Delaware and on to Maryland
Monday October 14th to Sunday October 20th
Monday October 14th
I was staying in Montauk with Courtney and Tim. We had an affinity and shared plenty of laughs. I would ride around The Hamptons today, see what they are all about and return to stay a second night. Tim kindly mapped out a list of things to see and I set out for the day.
First order of business: visit the Montauk Lighthouse at the end of the island. The lighthouse sits on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic. Slowly the bluff is being eroded. The lighthouse was authorized to be built by Congress under George Washington in 1792. It’s the fourth oldest active lighthouse in the USA. I climbed the tower to the top on a clear-sky day and could see far off across the ocean, along the sandy beaches, and across the State Park inland. A gorgeous view.
I drove back to Sag Harbor to see the super yachts. There were only a couple left in the harbor. Perhaps all the others had already gone south. They weren’t particularly “super” either. I think in October I’d already missed seeing the best of the best.
I headed to Shelter Island but didn’t take the ferry across due to time. Next, Tim had told me that the biggest house in the USA was along Peter’s Pond Lane to the south. I found it and to get view I took a sandy side road towards the beach. It was a big house for sure. Who needs that much space I wondered.
I then headed towards Southampton but weekend traffic exiting The Hamptons, going back to New York City etc was very heavy. I ended up on Dune Road along the coast instead and found all of the big, modern homes Tim had recommended I see. They are something to behold and the sit right on the beach, which I decided to walk along for an hour or so.
Everywhere I went in The Hamptons I was taken by how many homes were for sale. They were everywhere. I don’t know why. Perhaps hard times have hit The Hamptons. There are many, many homes on the market.
Tuesday October 15th
A grueling day. A rushed day. A long day. Probably the longest and most jam-packed day of the whole journey so far.
I started in Montauk, leaving Courtney and Tim behind and headed for a lunch appointment with a friend at Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York City. Lunch had been arranged for noon. It took about 2.5 hours to ride there. I think I was about 10 minutes late. Sadly, my lunch with Amanda was rushed and cut short as I had to be back on the road at 1pm to keep my schedule. But it was good to see her and we had enough time to catch up a decent amount, so I’m very glad we made the effort to make it happen.
I left the heart of Manhattan at just after 1pm with the thought in mind that I had arranged to meet all of the UrbanPromise children in Wilmington, Delware at 4pm. It would be a close call. I was thrilled to be riding in the madness of Manhattan. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and I laughed with unbelief that I was riding my motorcycle down Madison Avenue, Avenue of the Americas, W 56th Street and 5th Avenue.
I rode like the wind and arrived at UrbanPromise Wilmington at 3 minutes to 4pm. Thank goodness for answered prayers! I made it. The children were ready for me and we all gathered in a large room with a projection screen on the stage showing my route. As always we talked about my journey, why I’m doing it (to support the children I was talking to because I believe in them), what I’ve seen along the way, and asked them what their dreams were. We went out to see the motorcycle and they asked enthusiastic questions. I get such joy out of meeting the UrbanPromise children. It’s always a high.
Then I had to ride back up into New Jersey, to Deptford Township where I was going to be staying for the next few nights. Deptford Township was perfectly located for my upcoming schedule.
Wednesday October 16th
I was scheduled to meet and talk to the UrbanPromise Trenton, New Jersey children today, at 4pm. That gave me enough time to head into Philadelphia first to do some sightseeing.
I drove around the historic city for a short while and then parked the bike so I could visit The Liberty Bell. Philly didn’t feel safe to be leaving the bike at all. I left it in a supervised lot and walked to The Liberty Bell. I was confused when I got to the bell– it’s just behind glass? You can’t go in and see it? Only see it from the outside? That’s odd. And then it dawned on me that we were still under a ‘Government Shutdown’. Well, I was able to see it through the window thankfully.
I walked the cobblestoned streets for a while, taking photos and then decided I’d like to drive up to Princeton and see it’s Theological Seminary. So I did. It wasn’t that far. The campus is quaint houses, historic churches and buildings, intermingled with trees turning all colors. Beautiful! It was quiet and peaceful and brought a smile after the unsafe feeling of being in Philly with the bike.
I arrived at UrbanPromise Trenton on time. I was surprised by Trenton. Some of it is beautiful historic stone buildings, like the State Capitol building with it’s dome. Other parts of Trenton were old houses that could have been beautiful if they’d been kept up. But they were located in poor neighborhoods, which seemed to cover large sections of the city.
My time with the UP Trenton children was rewarding as always and followed the same format, except this time the children got the additional thrill of me riding around the parking lot for them. They chanted, “wheelie! wheelie! wheelie!” but I can’t do a wheelie on the Bonneville. Instead I rode it through cones for them, hoping that would satisfy them instead.
Antonio, who works at UrbanPromise Trenton, told me that it was so good that we focused on the children’s dreams. He said many have lost hope or didn’t have dreams (what’s the point of having a dream if it’s never, ever going to be fulfilled?)
And I left Trenton after meeting an elderly lady, Edna, with HIV who was in tears. We sat and talked. She cried. She was glad to have someone to listen to her. But I left Trenton quite depressed. I couldn’t shake the feeling of a black cloud hanging over me. The poverty, the rundown houses, Edna, the UrbanPromise kids who are scared to dream– all left me with a heavy feeling.
I felt like Trenton was a prison for most there. Invisible bars of economic hardship and no way out. Horrible. And I only sensed the despair as I drove through. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live there. We must help our own people!
Thursday October 17th
One thing on the agenda today– ride to UrbanPromise Camden, New Jersey, get there at 2pm to speak with the children at first UrbanPromise center, opened 25 years ago.
Camden, New Jersey– billed as the most dangerous and poor city in the United States.
Joan, my host for the last couple of days warned me to be careful in certain sections of Camden. I’d also recalled the account of my Pastor, Hallie visiting this very center and being stopped in her car on the way into Camden and asked, “where are you going?” They let her and her friends go on when they mentioned UrbanPromise. So it was with some trepidation that I entered Camden on my motorcycle. Perhaps it was the route I took but I didn’t feel threatened or in harm’s way. In fact I thought Trenton was perhaps in worse condition than Camden from the standpoint of poverty. Camden has come along in the last few years. There are efforts to help.
UrbanPromise Camden is a unique center because it has a school that serves 600 children (out of 30,000 children in Camden). The school serves elementary through high school ages. I met with Jodina, the Executive Director, and then went into a full assembly room of children. All of the school children were there. As always, so friendly, all smiling, all wanted to say hello. They had made a big poster with their dreams on streamers taped across it. They had made a mobile out of a stick, string and pine cones which they had painted (it looked really good!). And after my presentation and talking about their dreams they sang two songs and also performed a drum piece. It was all quite spectacular.
I sat afterwards with Dr. Bruce Main, President and Founder of UrbanPromise. We chatted for a while about my journey and then he gave me a tour of the school. Wow, what a school! The children are in excellent hands. I would say much better than your average school. The children here are always affirmed, built up, they feel good to be at school, they go through an amazing ‘rite of passage’ camping and hiking trip before high school graduation, they are loved, they are given attention, they are given what they need to succeed in this world. To be honest I was quite envious– I wish I had gone to a school like this! I think most of us would feel the same if you saw the school too. It is a place where children blossom to their full potential. Yes, there should be an UrbanPromise center in every city in the USA, and beyond.
Friday October 18th
Dr. Main had invited me back for an unscheduled additional meeting with the UP Camden high school students– at the weekly Friday Lunch Club. At the Lunch Club local business people (mentors) from the surrounding cities come in and have lunch with the high school students.
On this particular Friday Dr. Main had me push the motorcycle into the lunch room. I was quite amused by this. I thought it was great! So did everyone else (who had no idea why it was there).
We all grabbed lunch, had an ice-breaking few minutes where we all met someone new, and then Dr. Main invited me up to the front for a Q&A session. Following on from me was the two Directors of UrbanPromise Malawi who had flown in to provide an update to everyone on how things were going there and to describe what school was like at UP Malawi. The whole lunch was extremely inspiring for everyone in attendance.
Then off to Lancaster, PA. I had promised Joan, my host, that we would take a ride together through the farmlands and Amish country for a nice afternoon trip. It was a long ride and Joan was surprised to find Lancaster not as she remembered it. But the rolling hills and woods of the farmlands was totally worth the journey. It was a good day!
Later I wrote a text to an MSPC member: “Coming to the fore now are thoughts of the journey ending. It both seems far off (something that doesn’t seem real) and something very close (two weeks away). I wonder what on earth God has in store for me next. I don’t want to go back to doing what I was before, I want to keep doing some kind of missionary work like this, whether it’s in Miami or beyond. What shape it might take, if it happens, I just don’t know. I cannot wait to get back to Miami to see all the dreams on Miami Shores Presbyterian Church. I sincerely feel that I have been doing one of the most important things of my life. I have new hopes and dreams that have risen in my heart because of this journey. I’m looking forward to heeding my own advice… “Just take the next step and leave the rest to God”… And starting on the next adventure. The next adventure won’t look like this one but I hope it’s just as important.”
Saturday October 19th
I had thought that perhaps I could make it to both Washington DC and then to Annapolis, Maryland. It became apparent that I couldn’t do both and so I decided just to head to Annapolis.
Annapolis was such a shock to my system after four days in Wilmington, Trenton and Camden. Annapolis was a pleasant shock. It was the opposite of everything I had seen in the last few days. All of a sudden I had gone from desperate poverty to idyllic quaintness and prosperity. My system had somehow adjusted to scenes of difficulties. To now be in a world of marinas, boats, farmer’s markets, coffee shops, men and women in sharp-dressed uniforms, cobbled streets and 1800’s storefronts, so close to all the poverty was a welcome relief to be honest.
Sunday October 20th
Into town with my hosts Laurie and her daughter Ellie, and two other couch surfers Phill and Britt who were also staying at Brian, Laurie, and Ellie’s house. Grabbed some breakfast and I split off from the group to attend church at First Presbyterian of Annapolis. I found out later that the church was one of our MSPC member’s home church, and where her parents are buried. Small world, all the time.
The message for me today: persistence and stewardship. Interesting. Very. I can’t really explain at this time other than to say that I wonder if stewardship will play a role in my future somehow. The word had came up weeks and weeks prior to this and it’s been rolling around my brain ever since. We’ll see. I think stewardship fits quite nicely with one of the things I sing to myself in my helmet sometimes (and when walking through woods when no one is around)… “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” I love singing those lines and it makes me recall where everything in this world originates from, and that we must look after it all properly and to the best of our ability.
Phill and Brittany packed up and left for Washington DC. I packed up to head to Gettysburg, PA– a place I had wanted to visit. Before Phill and Britt left they offered me a place to stay in Washington DC, which I gratefully accepted! Then I rode out along the expressway and along route 140 towards Gettysburg where I was spotted on the road by a couple who photographed me riding along from their car, and then later sent me the photo via Facebook. Pretty cool!
I arrived in Gettysburg. I had been told there’s not much there. It isn’t true! There’s lots to see and do in Gettysburg. It’s a small town, very historic, well-maintained, plenty on offer for the tourist, and it is surrounded by well-preserved historic sites from the Civil War. It’s well worth a visit.
Journey’s end creeps closer. Today is exactly two weeks away from crossing the finish line. Real life back home seems like a million miles and hours away from today. Completely unreal. I can’t grasp the reality of it.