Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What you talkin bout Williston (ND)

Brief update on adventures in North Dakota:

-In a coffee shop in Fargo, we saw "the wife that gets kidnapped" in the Coen brothers' movie Fargo.
-We met a sweet couple in Cooperstown that took us out for burgers and shakes and gave us a tour of the town in their green Buick LaSabre. It's a slow, nice town with a lot of grain silos. Even the turn signals click more slowly. Ca-chik. Ca-chik. Ca-chik.
-The pastor of a church in Devil's Lake let us stay inside when there were flash flood warnings for the county. This church had an indoor basketball area, DDR (Dance Dance Revolution), a kitchen and a shower.
-We've started running into other cross-country cyclists. We got a tip to avoid a 40 mile radius around Saco, Montana since it is apparently swarming with mosquitos as "dense as the cartoons."
-To get through windy expanses of North Dakota, we started a new relay "leg" method of riding...James is even taking a turn sometimes!
-We've battled headwinds up to 30 miles per hour. And won.
-We just et a bid supper et gramma sharon's all-you-ken-et country cookin buffet.

Don't you just wish you had a giant hair dryer?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

We're in North Dakota! connection...bad....static...zzzzzzz

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Twin City Whirlwinds

As tornadoes rolled through Minnesota, we conducted a whirlwind of interviews in the Twin Cities. We started out by serving lunch on Thursday at Catholic Charities...we donned hair nets and dished up lasagna, beans, fruit and salads to the families streaming into the lunchroom. We talked with a Housing First manager at a different branch and then with a recommended "Housing First guru" head of the SARA (Single Adult Rental Assistance) Program at Simpson Housing Services. The next morning we spoke with Julie Manworren, Executive Director at Simpson, and she walked us through one of the shelters they run. Simpson is unique in that it has emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing for single adults, and subsidized rental assistance for families- I recommend reading their mission! One big takeaway from our conversation with Julie was her call for our generation to not accept the "normalization" of homelessness.

We then headed to Wilder Research, part of the Wilder Foundation that does community research, to talk about the information they gather about homelessness in state-wide surveys administered every 3 years. Here are some interesting numbers from the 2009 study compared to 3 years ago:
-25% increase in numbers of people experiencing homelessness
-46% increase in numbers of homeless youth
-African Americans (4% of MN adult population but 41% of homeless pop.) and American Indians (1% of MN adult pop. but 11% of homeless pop.)are significantly over-represented in the homeless population
-3/4 of the homeless report at least one of the following major health issues: mental illness, substance abuse or a chronic physical health condition

Our next stop was Cabrini Partnership, a permanent supportive housing organization implementing Housing First to build a very devoted community. Usually we meet with only one to several people at once, but we sat around a big table in their kitchen and heard stories, one by one, from about 15 folks- including the Executive Director, case workers, other staff, and tenants. It was a unique opportunity to talk to so many people at once! They even shared root beer floats with us... :)

We ended up the day briefly talking with Cathy ten Broeke, who has been instrumental in advocacy and community leadership in the Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness. She has also done some incredible photography about homelessness- check out her work!

Saturday we stopped by a bike shop to get a "QuickFit" to help make some adjustments with cleat positions, seat height, etc, which will hopefully alleviate some of our knee-related woes. We talked and laughed with Arnold, a Vietnam veteran, for about 2 and 1/2 hours about his life and thoughts on everything from "flop houses" to Mitch McConnell. And big news: James and Sarah cleaned and organized the van, which had accumulated all sorts of surprises! It is now fit for human habitation again. Now we head into the wind towards FARGO, ND...

Westward Ho(pefully),

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Crossing into Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Hello. Much has happened since we last spoke! Where to begin?

I think every state we enter is our new favorite (except Indiana, no offense), and Wisconsin's rolling hills and National Wildlife Refuges were awesome. There were also some unnervingly long cave/tunnels, which were even scarier for Jon as he made his way through alone as Sarah rested her knee.
But Minnesota might be our new favorite. We stayed in Winona at a Catholic Worker House, which is a really incredible place where people who are homeless or in between housing can meet daily in the afternoon for "hospitality" - games, cards, conversation - and do laundry or have a hot meal. Guests can stay overnight for several weeks at a time as they look for jobs and places to stay. We had great conversations with the people staying there, and even got a dry place to sleep in the unoccupied rooms! The House struck a chord with all of us, but especially James; talking to Dan, the live-in volunteer, we learned about the combination of direct service, direct action advocacy work, and sustainable good-stewardship communal living that they practice, working in the backyard garden, providing community for those that have none, and feeding and housing those who need a bit of help.

Turns out, one of volunteers we met at the Catholic Worker House recommended a toy store where we stopped the next day, en route to Red Wing. He had even called ahead to let them know we were coming. They welcomed us with free carousel rides and we took an extended lunch break to watch the llamas (?) and play a round of mini-golf. By the time we left, this had already been posted at the entrance to LARK toy store.

Also, in Red Wing, we found the World's Largest Boot.

We made it into Saint Paul yesterday and are staying with Jon's aunt and uncle. Last night we backtracked to Eau Claire, WI to see NC-based band Megafaun play in their former hometown. Sam Quinn from the Everbodyfields opened with some solo material (!). He looked exhausted and the bar, which was pretty packed at this point, kind of talked over him and his guitar and I think he might have fallen asleep on stage. But when Megafaun got on and struck the first sweet, sweet banjo notes of 'Longest Day', the grungy House of Rock bar was the most still and quiet it's probably ever been. Megafaun is unfortunately often known mainly as 'former bandmates of Bon Iver' but, man, their folk-rock and mountain-man harmonies which soar overtop intricate guitar and banjo work - so often deconstructed into experimental electronic soundscapes, only to slowly gather form as they funnel the sound-fragments into the next song - put us in an hour long trance as we stood stage-side. Afterwards, after talking to the bandmembers, Jon noticed that Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, was hanging out across the room. After a really awkward, "Hi Justin, Ireallylikeyourmusic," they talked for a bit and turns out Justin is one of the nicest, most humble guys you could meet.

So now we have a break from biking and have scheduled interviews at some of the Twin Cities' organizations working with homelessness. We're now headed over to Catholic Ministries to help serve lunch, and then interview some of the service providers on their staff. 3 days, 7 interviews!

In the house like furniture,

Western Wisconsin

a post in pictures:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Milwaukee to Madison to Sauk City WI

Well hi there, dontcha know. We've now left all the Sufjan Stevens-states and have entered the wholesome, wholesome land of Wisconsin, with great accents and great cheese.
Molly and the Greenings hosted us and filled us with Thai food at their lovely home north of Chicago. After a long 76 miles to Milwaukee, we met up with Sarah's aunt, uncle and cousin. Thanks to Aunt Sarah for the homemade lasagna, Uncle Jim for biking with us in and out of Milwaukee, and Will for his expertise in bike mechanics!

Biking into Madison included the 52-mile long Glacial Drumlin Bike Path that led us through marshes and was often lined with wildflowers and woodland creatures. We had the pleasure of staying with Brianna Deutsch from Davidson before we headed out for Sauk City. After some World Cup soccer and beans and rice by the river, we're ready to hit the hay.

Children of the cheese,

This Just In: The Greening Family offered to match all funds we raise between Milwaukee and Minneapolis (up to $500)! We reach Minneapolis on June 16th, which means you have four days to go!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About the Homeless Cycle

(A guest blog post by Molly Greening.)

I have had the great pleasure of riding with the Homeless Cycle team for over 24 hours straight, giving me an insight into what the daily lives of these courageous Davidson students is like while they are on the road. For all of you trusty followers of the blog, the ones who support the Homeless Cycle website every day (and this one especially goes out to all you Blog-O-Moms…) I am going to give you the 7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Homeless Cycle.

1) The team carries not only their bicycles in the van, but also one banjo, one mandolin, one guitar, one harmonica, and possibly one fiddle. The team has written such great hits as “Go To Sleep Ya Little Johnny”, “Don’t Need Know Peanut But the Butter”, and “Cuz I’m A Yeti”. More serious tunes that show the band’s softer side include the loosely titled “Cartographers”, a song about home written on the road.

2) The Homeless Cycle will never listen to Taylor Swift the same way again due to some avant garde performance art in Chicago.

3) Once the crew took cover from the rain in Indiana under a bank drive-thru and practiced stepping, not realizing that security cameras likely witnessed the entire performance.

4) On the second day of actual travel, two unnamed crew members biked off with the key to the van, leaving the unnamed driver stranded at the Lincoln Memorial. Several forms of public transportation reunited James with the key at the Reston Virginia Pizza Hut. A special thanks to Karen for reminding us that Pizza Hut is an establishment we all can trust.

5) The Homeless Cycle finds stretching very important. So important, it takes almost an hour each morning for the bikers to be ready to hit the trail. They have plans to release a “Stretching of the Homeless Cycle Calendar: Spandex Addition.”

6) The Fourth member of the Homeless Cycle is Bruce, the Australian guiding compass of light. Some may call Bruce a GPS. We just call him a robo-friend.

7) Common phrases include “I Slaapp Da Bass, Mon”, “Where is Bruce taking us?”, “So…You guys ready to go?” and “It’s not Kermit the frog, it Aaron Neville!”

Thanks to Sarah, Jon, and James for teaching me about homelessness in my own city and letting me live vicariously through their van lifestyle. If I could, I'd do it all over again.

With love,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Saturday was our first full day in Chicago, and we drove over to Good News Partners to hang out with kids living in the Jonquil Hotel, a transitional housing development. We finger-painted, played with Legos, blew bubbles, played freeze tag. It was a great two hours. It was also Banana Split Day.

Monday we began a whirlwind tour of interviews across Chicago – Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Alliance to End Homelessness, the Pierce Foundation, Housing Action Illinois, and Housing Opportunities for Women. We talked to a number of people on the street and heard some powerful (sometimes tearful) stories. These days are more exhausting than the biking days, by far.

Britt Shawver, director of Housing Opportunities for Women (HOW), has been incredibly helpful in informing our research from her wealth of experience with housing initiatives. She’ll also be joining us for the first leg of the journey tomorrow as we bike towards Milwaukee! James and Molly will drive up in the Sag Wag. The fambly keeps growing.

“Wait, where’d the clam-shell go?”


A Safe Place

In Chicago, our eyes were opened to a different aspect of homelessness that we had not come across in D.C. We learned that Chicago has large numbers of homeless youth (15,000 youth experience homelessness every year in the city), and that within this demographic many of these youth identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender). Many have severed ties completely with their families, who may have kicked them out or not accepted them. Some form their own families out on the street to cope, and many experience violence and instability daily. Through our connection with Lakeview Presbyterian Church, we heard about Cafe Pride, a Friday night social space held in the basement of the church. Around 40-50 youth will come regularly, some from as far as 2 hours away by train, just to hang out, be themselves, and belong to a community that cares about who they are. We also walked through the Center on Halsted, a state-of-the-art LGBT community center that offers social spaces, learning areas, various resources, programs and services, community organizations that serve the LGBT community. Check it out!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


We rolled into Chicago yesterday - there's good news for weekend recreationists, because Rollerblading is back in style. According to further research on the Lakefront Trail, so is Biking in Jeans and Sweating Through Collared Shirts. We're staying in Kim's place just outside the city, and David took us out to a great Ethiopian dinner followed by a Taize worship service. We're heading to off to volunteer at Good News Partners, and wanted to leave you with this quote from Neil from National Coalition for the Homeless in DC. More soon!


“So should someone be all better before they get into housing? I think all you have to do is walk up and down the street of your average city and ask yourself the question, ‘Do you think everyone who lives in all these units of housing are ALL BETTER’? And the answer’s probably no. They’re probably pretty typical. Some are wrestling with addiction, some have demons……Our philosophy is that everyone belongs in housing and housing is a human right. Who deserves to go into housing first? And the answer is we all deserve to go into housing. So do the chronically homeless deserve to go into housing before the family with little kids? Does the family with little kids deserve to go before the US military veteran? So you’ve got to ask yourself the question, there’s all these populations and there’s this hierarchy that we as a society have created that says on a compassion scale, the people who have long beards…are kind of pitiful, and the mother with the young child, let’s put them next….So we have this weird dynamic with the unhoused where we assign them a rating on the pity scale but rank them somewhere on this hierarchy of need and the reality is we’re all in need of housing and we ought to flatline that hierarchy. We ought to say everyone is in need of housing and it’s not really for us to say who is more pitiful than another person. Our job is to get people housing. It’s not our job to sit and judge if someone’s deserving of housing or not. I certainly wouldn’t want to be judged on your ranking of how I live my life and I certainly wouldn’t want to do that to someone else either.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Logansport to Renssalaer to Crown Point, Indiana

Our Wednesday: (leaving Logansport, IN)

5:45 Wake up, brush teeth
5:55 Thunderstorm starts
8:30 Get on bikes
9:45 Chased by large, barking dog
10:45 Chased by large, silent dog (really scary)
12:30 See James and Van in distance, relieved to be so close to lunch. Turns out to be 2 and a half miles away. Thanks, Indiana.
2:00/3:00 Time change - hello Central Time!!
3:15 Second storm starts rolling in.
3:30 Arrive in Renssalaer
5:00 Meet up with Sarah, Elinor, Catherine and Josh at Devon's Family Diner!
We spent last night camped out with the Jackson WY bound (or bust!) roadtrippers who brought word from the world outside of rural Midwest towns. It was really great hanging out. Really really great. Much too soon we got back on our bikes and headed towards Crown Point, 40 miles south of Chicago. James met up with his Lady who took the train down from Chicago, so our van-driver-sandwich-maker-errand-runner-camera-operator-best-guy-to-have-on-a-trip-like-this will be MIA for the next 4 or 5 days. But we're getting excited for our interviews and filming in the windy city!

Here we come Chi-town,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lima to Bluffton to Logansport, IN

INDIANA...has a lot of corn. We pretty much are always passing corn. Or commenting on how much taller or shorter or greener it looks than the other corn. A little girl was playing her trumpet on the Ohio-Indiana border, so we asked her to take our picture. Soon after, Indiana welcomed us with a massive thunderstorm. Also we are getting practice sprinting away from dogs!
Today was a big 70-miler so we're beat.

Look forward to more elaboration later...but just know that we had homemade tacos and horchata from a very nice doña in Logansport, IN.

Thinking of family and friends back home!