Flat Ocean of Corn & The Real America

"If I rest, I rust." That was the motto on a key.

After biking for 19 consecutive days with only one rest day (forced upon by the rain storm), I took a day off on Friday, June 28th, in Bowling Green, Ohio. Once you relax, you seem to need a lot more relaxation.

Stayed with the wonderful new friend Karen and Bill, both were Christian ministers, among many other inspiring works. They showed me around town -- very much a college town, and brought me to the coffee shop where young students and the liberals gather. "If you blow up that coffee shop, you would kill all the progressives in town." In that coffee shop, I could imagine myself to be back in the Pioneer Valley of Western MA. People even have the same stickers on their water bottle.

Today, the 29th, biked only for a few miles, and was caught in another thunderstorm. Hastily rolled into the driveway of a family, wondering if they would let me wait out the storm under their front porch. The mother opened the door, and said, "Please come in!"

This is a very kind Christian family, with six young children. They invited me in, and said I could stay for the night. Invited me to the grandparents' home, where I ate two big beef burgers and three full-size corn cobs.

Their political/social views are on almost the opposite end of the spectrum versus Hampshire College, on issues like abortion, gay marriage, evolution/creationism, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, etc. Given the ideological homogeneity in Western MA, I sometimes need to remind myself that there are people who see the world differently from the raging progressives. As I travel further and further into the heartland of the United States, a more accurate political/cultural landscape of this country started to reveal itself.

But, ideological positions seem to be no index for the niceness of people. Most people are all nice people, even though they hold seemingly opposite views. Within their respective belief systems, everything make sense, but the same evidence leads to opposite conclusions. Then, are they both correct? Or both wrong? Is "right or wrong" the right way to look at it?

Tomorrow morning, the family will lead a house church session. I eagerly accepted to offer to participate, and am curious to see more.

Here is a recount of the past few days.

On 25th, stopped for breakfast outside of Cleveland, Ohio. A middle-aged lady asked about the bike, the trip, and then what I studied in college. "You studied history and philosophy? What are you going to do with that?! Well, I teach high school. When our students say they want to study things like that, we ask them to think twice, or to bring in something else, like engineering." Well, this is the view of a high school teacher on learning history and philosophy. America's education problem does not lie just in the lack of STEM.

Biked for an hour through a mostly Black community on the East side of Cleveland. Quite run down. Across one street, entered the "University Circle" of Case Western Reserve -- a bubble of wealth, intellect, research, coffee shops, and other goodies. Once outside of the Circle, there were deserted factories, broken windows, and another poor neighborhood of mostly people of color.

In the afternoon, got caught in thunderstorm. Sat under a porch for an hour. Peddling on, heard a loud shout from a car, "Where you going?" That car turned around, chased me down. It turned out that it's a Korean father and daughter, who biked together across the US three years ago. The father invited me back to their home for the night, and the An family fed me a feast.

Chatted with the father about their life in the US, about Korean politics, Chinese history, Asians in America, and much more. The family probably has much higher material standard of living in the US, but the father said, "It's boring here. Back in Korea, there is competition. Compete in everything."

On 26th, as I biked westward from Cleveland, the landscape became so flat that I could no longer pretend I am anywhere near New England. Biked into the ocean of corn. Corn fields after cornfields.

In the evening, saw a thunderstorm coming my way. Knocked on a few doors. One door has the sign saying, "This is a life, not a choice," with a picture of a human fetus. I thought, "this must be it." The Catholic family welcomed me in, fed me dinner and breakfast, and offered the couch for the night. The father is a rocket scientist at NASA.

At night, saw thousands of fireflies above the cornfield behind the house, as if the stars in the sky has came through the thick, thundering clouds, hoovering above the ocean of corn. Each firefly is merely sending a mating signal. But are they aware, that thousands of them together, they are the magicians of the night, the artist of the cornfields, conducting a silent symphony of light and rhythm?

On 27th, continue to bike through the flat cornfields of Ohio. A little white boy saw me, and excitedly shouted, "Adios! Adios!" The little boy must be pretty proud of his Spanish vocabulary. And my tan clearly makes me pass as a Mexican =)

Listening to the Psalms in the Old Testament now. Must say that being familiar with the Bible has made my social interactions in the Midwest much smoother.

A few pictures from past few days.

Diversity -- Bainbridge Style. They have it all. Well settled.

"Adult Videos -- Truckers Welcome." I wonder where the stereotype come from.

Ivy League and Ivory Tower, of the corn fields.

Stopped a little too late for the 777.77 mile mark!

But after 800 miles, I am still in South Amherst Community Park, of Ohio, though.


lichiness said...

Hi Zilong! Great post and I'm glad you're staying strong. =) Nothing to comment this time; just wanted to reassure you that you have an eager audience! Be well, my friend.


Sharyne said...

Zilong, SO great to see you in Chicago today! Your trip is amazing and so are you. Continue to be safe, strong and healthy. I will think of you along the way. Looking forward to your updated posts.

Take care,

Wendy Millroy said...

Hi Zilong
I enjoyed catching up on your adventures this morning! I am so happy to hear about the kind and generous people you have met. Your descriptions of encounters and of your musings make captivating reading! Thank you for your dedication to the blog. We have very fond memories of your short stay with us in mid June.
Best wished from Wendy and family in Ithaca, NY

Anonymous said...

Hey Zilong..Neal Cox and family here...Enjoying your blog and hoping all is well!...We were so blessed to be part of your journey.