Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Visited Ripley, OH & Met the Inaugural Riders!

The UGRR route is a very newly-established route, and the first official group of riders is conducting a ceremonial inaugural ride of the trail right now. These folks left Mobile on April 15, and as chance would have it, they are arriving in the Cincinnati area this week. They reached Ripley, Ohio, on Sunday, and yesterday (Monday), Ripley put on a formal welcoming ceremony for the group. Joan and I traveled to Ripley yesterday for this occasion.

Ripley is a small, very historic town about an hour east of Cincinnati on the Ohio River, and holds a very important place in Underground Railroad history. Two houses in Ripley are especially notable. The Rankin house (shown above) was the home of Rev. John Rankin, who personally assisted as many as 2000 people to freedom during the Underground Railroad days.

The second house was the Parker house (shown at left), home to John P. Parker. He was born a slave, worked to purchase his own freedom, and acted as a "conductor" under very dangerous conditions to help many people cross the Ohio River to their freedom.

While visiting Ripley, we were able to meet the cyclists on this first ride. They were very gracious in spending time with us, sharing their experiences from the ride so far, and giving us pointers about what to expect when we set out ourselves. In addition, since some of these riders were actually responsible for a part of the project of creating this route, we got to hear first hand about the work and the philosophy behind the route, and the partnership that took place between the University of Pittsburgh and Adventure Cycling to make it happen.

At right, Joan poses with Mario Browne (L) and Dr. Stephen Thomas (R), both of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Minority Health, and both active leaders in the UGRR bike trail project. Beyond commemorating an historical heritage, their interest in the UGRR route was in encouraging minorities to adopt healthy, exercise-oriented lifestyles as a way of overcoming today's statistics of disproportionate health issues in the minority groups in this country.

Below is a group photo of all the riders we met. Adventure Cycling provided the tour leaders, Alvin, leaning on the bike (front center), and Joy, 2nd from the left in the middle row. This was a very diverse group. One man is from Japan, a number of others are from the west or east costs. The oldest member of the group is 76 years old!

While at the welcoming ceremony in Ripley, this man and his two young sons came riding up on this triple-tandem bike. They were wondering what the gathering was about. It turns out that they are from Boise, Idaho, on a cross-country tour of their own, and they suddenly generated much interest in their own right!

All told, a very interesting day, and incredibly helpful to us as we try to get our minds wrapped around what is ahead of us!


glenn said...

Well, it's sure sounds exciting! It's good that you got to talk to those riders in Ripley. You all have fun on your adventure.

Stephanie Reed said...

Neat that you rode the UGRR Bike Route! If you want to read more about the Rankin family and their Underground Railroad station, you can read my Across the River series. The first book is Across the Wide River. The second book comes out this April. You can watch a book preview trailer of The Light Across the River here: