Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Where Do We Go From Here?


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

It's become very natural to sharing sharing my words on this blog. As the end of the journey was closing in I wondered if I could just stop writing cold turkey. After all, everyday life isn't as exciting as biking across the country.

On the plane ride home, Fr. Michael passed me a note. It started with a poem that read:

For oft, when upon my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude

He clarified that "they" for William Wordsworth referred to daffodils. Yet for me "they" are the scenes, situations, people, feelings of the pilgrimmage from Camden to Mexico by way of Canada and the Pacific on a BICYCLE...The blog should go on with the Reflections of Jeremiah.

How can I pass up the advice of a great writer. So now that I am stationary and I have the time to lay on the couch in pensive mood, I plan to still write when I "they" flash upon my inward eye. I'm not sure how often this will be, but please check on me now and again.

Newspaper Articles

Check out 2 newspaper articles that were written about my return to Camden:

Courier Post

Philadelphia Inquirer

The Importance of Community


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I had the chance to say a few words to the congregation on Sunday. I tried my best to express how crucial their role was over the course of my journey. On May 22nd I was sent out of Sacred Church annointed by God and also a cloud of witnesses. For this reason I was able to travel for almost 6 months by myself and yet never feel lonely. It's a paradox that's hard to explain. Knowing that this community and many others were following the words that I wrote and responding with prayer, was a daily source of comfort.

I also wanted to communicate that I never questioned whether I would return to Camden. My journey presented my senses with some beautiful things. Yet I realized that beauty is a very personal thing. Camden and the community of people that I have found there reflect to me the Kingdom of God...which I have found to be more attractive than anything else.

Lastly I am truly grateful for the way people have financially contributed to the 'healing of Camden'. Over $30,000 has been raised. This money will go towards efforts that allow the people of the Waterfront South neighborhood breathe air that is as fresh and clean as the air that I took into my lungs throughout this country. It's ultimately a matter of loving our neighbor...the second greatest commandment.

Washing of the Feet


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

As I mentioned earlier, Fr. Michael doesn't take milestones lightly. As such, he wanted my entrance into Sacred Heart Church on Sunday to be as special as my exit. He told me to show up for mass late with my bike and wait for him to announce my arrival after the homily.

I showed up late waited outside the church. Two photographers from local papers were waiting for me. One was a Dominican fella who works for the local Catholic paper. I remember him from the day I left the church on May 22nd. He brought his whole family to meet me. He had me posing with his sons and gave them strict instructions to tell all their friends about me. I felt like a celebrity.

This picture is the only way I can describe my reception from the congregation on Sunday. I walked down the aisle with my bike surrounded by smiling, welcoming faces...is was like being consumed by a cloud of love. Father had me sit down and he washed my feet..."the very feet that pushed the pedals for 7,100 miles". It was a humbling and honoring moment.

Home Sweet Home


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Saturday I flew back to Camden, accompanied by my good friends Elissa, Andrea and Fr. Michael. I was greeted at the Philadelphia airport by a group of my housemates and wisked back into the loving arms of America's Most Dangerous City...home sweet home. I must say it felt great to be back. I toured myself through the house, noticing all of the improvements that had been made since I left. We all sat down to a feast prepared by my housemate Cassie. It was great to look around the table at so many faces that I had missed. Not to mention, the opportunity to talk and laugh and celebrate with a group of people who care for me understand me so well.

Mexican Fiesta


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

After the parking lot celebration Fr. Michael, Andrea, and I walked across the border into Tijuana, Mexico to make it offically a three country journey...U.S., Canada and Mexico. We were in search of the best fish tacos we could find. All of a sudden the fella with us in this picture, Pepe, welcomed us into his restaurant, bicycle and all. We asked if he had fish tacos and his answer was, "The best!"...we had found the spot.

We toasted the occasion with Tequila and Corona. Fr. Michael got a kick out of the Tequila shot ritual, with the salt and the lime...but he learned quickly. He said, "So I lick the salt like a deer?" I mentioned that Corona translates to 'crown' in Spanish. Father lifted his glass and said, "To the crowned prince of cylcing." I'm not sure if I deserve such a title but in the grandeur of the moment I gratefully took it in. As I sat at the table it felt like the whole world was celebrating the moment...it was anything but anti-climatic (which I had thought it might be). At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and I realized that we were the only ones in the place, but as soon as I sat down again, I was consumed again by the 'cosmic celebration'. And for the record, the fish tacos were "the best" as Pepe promised.

The End of the Line


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Andrea, Elissa and I left San Diego Friday morning on bicycles, making our way south to the border town of San Ysidro. Fr. Michael, Helene and her daughter Alissa, met us there via the trolley. We chose to celebrate the moment in a rough looking corner in the parking lot of the Greyhound Bus station...it reminded us of Camden. I popped open a bottle of champagne 'championship style' and we passed it around, everyone toasting and drinking straight from the bottle. This picture shows 'the poet himself' gracing us with his words. When he was done he took out his pen and very meticulously captured the moment on the newly boarded up wall behind him...holy graffiti. He made sure to document the final number of miles...7100. We talked a lot about that number throughout the day, trying to grasp how far it really was. We ended up calculating the number of times my wheel turned...each one a prayer for Camden. Over 7 million for those who are curious.

San Diego...The Final Stretch


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I was greeted Wednesday night in San Diego by a friend named Helene, who is the executive director of the Heart of Camden (our neighborhood's non-profit housing ministry). Her daughter was wearing a bright yellow shirt that said, "Camden Will Heal---Jeremy's Journey 2005" (a shirt you will see a lot in the pictures I am posting). Helene gave me the king's treatment and took care of all the details to make the celebration special.

Thursday afternoon my housemates Elissa and Andrea arrived from Camden. Thanks to their encouragement I mustered up enough courage to plunge into that chilly water that I had been looking at since October 4th when I reached the coast. It was good to feel the power of the Pacific as the three of us body surfed. They were also committed to joining me for the final 30 miles of my trip into Mexico. I finished my ride the way I started...surrounded by my community.

Thursday night, Father Michael Doyle arrived from Sacred Heart. He's a man who believes strongly in honoring milestones. He is also knows the importance of manifesting the spiritual into the physical...a man of sacrament if you will. As such, he flew across the country to be physically present to celebrate the end of the journey. His presence meant a lot to me. When I came out to greet him he embraced me and kissed on the cheek 'Godfather' style, saying in his Irish brogue, "Now look at you, still in one piece...and these are the legs that carried you all this way."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It's All Coming to an End


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Tuesday and Wednesday have been threatening rain and windy. It seems like when the weather's crappy the wind comes from the south. In other words, "When it rains it pours." As you can see from this picture, the kite surfers are making good use of the wind.
I camped out near the beach in San Clemente Tuesday night. I'm currently writing from UC San Diego. I have a sweet hook up in Mission Beach. A woman from the Heart of Camden, Helene, happens to be vacationing here. She's offered me hospitality. I'm also looking forward to the arrival of two of my housemates, Elissa and Andrea, along with Fr. Michael who are flying in tommorrow to be a part of the culmination of this journey. Andrea and Elissa will bike with me to Tijuana tommorrow.
It's hard to believe that it's all coming to end. I definitely have mixed emotions but this journey has offered me things that will hopefully always stay with me. More reflections to come later.

Back to Reality


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

To balance all the high rollin' I've been doing in Southern California, I dipped into the bowels of LA around Long Beach. I found a great hispanic market where I was able to get some cheap pan dulce at the bakery.
I also went through a strip of polluting industry on the edge of the neighborhood. Interesting that I had to visit a minority neighborhood in order to discover such things. I took in some deep breaths in an attempt to condition my lungs for their return to Camden...they didn't go down as smoothly as they used to.

Venice Beach


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I had two good nights in Santa Monica thanks to a hook up from an old friend. One of my teammates/friends from Marquette, Andrea, went out of her way to connect me with her sister, Anne Marie in Santa Monica. Anne Marie gave me free reign of her place while I was in town...many thanks to her.
After taking a rest day Monday I got back on my bike Tuesday morning. I started off on the boardwalk, taking my time to take in the scene at Venice Beach. I had a good chat with the "World's Greatest Wine-O", shown in this picture. He told me a joke about Bill Clinton. He has roots in Philly, in fact he was just back there for his mother's funeral. He still remembers his mother's church on 22nd and Bainbridge.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Dave


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Today I met up with my buddy Dave from back in Crystal Lake. He's lived in LA for about 8 years. Dave spent a few days at the Camden House this summer during a trip to Philly for a sociology seminar. I was sorry that I missed his visit, but glad to catch up with him on his turf. Dave toured me through the city so I could take in UCLA and Hollywood. We talked about some important stuff, a lot of which revolved around the tension between recognizing privilege and engaging the suffering of this world. This tension was very real as we drove through Bel Air and talked about Camden. Many thanks to Dave for his hospitality.

Malibu


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I spent Sunday biking from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica. The water was full of surfers, braving the chilly ocean in search of any swell they could find. I met a kid from Rhode Island at a hostel in Santa Barbara who said that the water is in the 50's...luckily he brought his thick wet suit that he uses in the Atlantic.
One of the more interesting stretches was through Malibu. I picked up a copy of the Malibu Times Magazine to study up on local culture. I read a very interesting article entitled, "Pet Palaces". It highlights a pet boarding facility where dogs can play on Astroturf-carpeting (flushed hourly for cleanliness), nap on Ultrasuede beds, have a massage or enjoy aroma therapy, or work out on a treadmill immersed in warm water.
It's scary that there's such disparity between the people of this world/country...but it's even scarier when I consider where I am on the spectrum.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Santa Barbara


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

This is a picture off one of the many vineyards I passed yesterday and today...another advantage of taking 101. So here I am in Santa Barbara, which definitely feels like Southern California...sunny blue skies, surfboards on top of every other car and the "movie star look" is definitely abundant. I've been checking out UC Santa Barbara. I feel like I've been on California college tour: Humbolt State, USF, UC Berkeley, UCSC, Cal Poly SLO, and now UCSB. Tommorrow I head for Santa Monica and the crazy LA scene.

Blowing Down Highway 101


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Yesterday I decided that I needed to get away from the ocean for a stretch...a need I never would have anticipated a month ago. So I decided to jump on 101, which is an interstate at this point. It ended up being quite a ride. I was graced with a mad tailwind that pushed me at 25 mph on the flats and 45 mph on the downhills...which is about as good as it gets when you're pulling 60 lbs. The big shoulder felt like a runway, after trying to manage tight roads over the last weeks.
I decided to exit in Santa Maria for the night, a big suburb. It's been awhile since I've experienced true suburbia. It amazes me how similar they are across this whole country...Walmart is always next to Home Depot and Applebees is always next to Target. The closest thing I could find to a local eatery was In and Out Burgers, a California original (as far as I know). You got to respect a place that only 5 items: hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, fries, and a shake.
I stumbled upon a Lutheran church that had a lot of land. I introduced myself to the pastor and he invited me into his office. He listened to my story and was very encouraging. He gave me a nice spot to set up my tent in the Spanish courtyard of the church and asked me if I needed anything else. I was appreciative for a place to stay and the pastor's kind spirit.

The Good Folks at B.O.B.


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

The trailer I'm pulling is made by a company called B.O.B., which stands for Beast Of Burden. They run their operation out of a warehouse in San Luis Obispo. Yesterday as I was passing through SLO (as the locals call it) and I decided to stop by and say hi. When I pulled up the workers started spilling out one by one. This picture is of James from sales and marketing who hooked me up with a cold beverage and a free new flag (I accidentially left mine back in Helena, MT). He talked to me about his bike trip to Costa Rica that he took recently and gave me some tips on how to bring BOB on the plane. Then one of the engineers came out and asked me what I thought of the trailer, pointing out all the strengths and weaknesses. I've got nothing but good things to say about BOB...good product and good people.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Reflection on Solitude


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I've been reading this book called Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen. He describes three different tensions in the spriritual life, the first being 'loneliness to solitude'. I've obviously spent a lot of time by myself over the past 5 and a half months. I made a large effort to embrace the quiet...avoiding music, excessive reading, and other media. I feel like I've had an incredible experience of solitude and I feel like this book is helping me make sense of it.
I'm learning about a new form of solidarlity. Living in the Waterfront South neighborhood for 2 years before this trip granted me physical solidarity with some of the realities of Camden...breathing polluted air, subjecting my body to potential violence, and exposing my eyes daily to the destructive patterns of addiction. (I also recognize that my solidarity will never be complete because I have the choices that priviledge has granted me and not my neighbors).
Before taking this trip, I wondered if being physically separated from these realities would disconnect me from this solidarity. I've found that this hasn't been the case. Nouwen has helped me understand that by engaging solitude we create space within ourselves for the pain of this world...allowing ourselves to carry it in solidarity. I feel like this has been the case for me, especially because the story of the city and community has always been close to my mind, heart and voice as I've traveled.
For me, pulling my trailer has been symbolic. In the first week of the trip I realized that I was carrying too much and I had to mail some things ahead. In these last weeks I've again realized that I've accumulated more stuff than I need again. But I feel a new strength that is encouraging me to keep carrying the load. In the same way I feel as if my time of solitude in these months has created room in my heart to carry a bigger burden.

Elephant Seals


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I stumbled upon this beach that was covered with a colony elephant seals. They basically just lay there occasionally flipping sand on themselves. When they do move it's quite entertaining. They basically do 'the worm' dance move down the beach. There is also an occasional fight within the colony, which is accompanied by a very loud throaty gargling sound.
Thursday night I stayed in a hostel in the town of Cambria. I met some cool folks.. Australians, a New Hampshirite, and a San Diegoian. We hung around in the living room chatting most of the night. The owner of the hostel had biked cross country earlier in the summer. He had 12 straight days of headwinds in Kansas going west to east...so maybe all those people telling me I went the wrong way are actually wrong.

Big Sur


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Ever since leaving New Jersey when I would tell people that I was heading for California, they would say, "Don't miss Big Sur!" I must say that it lived up to the hype. This picture says a thousand words...jagged cliffs, different colors of water, crashing waves, sunny skies and tailwinds. It was like this for miles and miles. The road was tight and hilly but much more bearable with ideal conditions.
I camped out in a state park where I met a fellow rider about my age who was doing a week-long tour in the area. He treated me to breakfast on Thursday morning. He had recently bought a house with his girlfriend in the Sacramento area and she called him Wednesday night to tell him that taking a bike tour was selfish in the midst of all the work that had to be done on the house. I think talking with me over breakfast made him feel better...and the huevos rancheros made me feel better.

Change of Scenery


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Thursday I got away from the ocean for awhile and cruised through some farm fields. The change of scenery was nice, plus it was nice to see massive amounts of crops other than corn and wheat, which dominated most of my trip. The fields were filled with cauliflower, cabbage, strawberries, and artichokes. The majority of the workers were Latinos, and somehow they are able to amplify Spanish music across the fields...which added to the enjoyment of the ride.

Sleeping with the Banana Slugs


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Wednesday I crashed the UC Santa Cruz campus, home of the banana slug mascot. I endulged in the all-you-can eat dorm food...pizza, cereal, chicken and ice cream all available at the same meal. The campus was pretty low-key, I think everyone was recovering from Halloween. I hung around the library before retreating to the woods around the campus to get some sleep. I had heard that Santa Cruz is a lot like Arcata, with a big transient community. Supposedly a lot of them sleep in the same woods, but I didn't run into any of them.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween to Santa Cruz


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Last night I celebrated Halloween by tagging along with my buddy Rob at a Halloween party. I was introduced to the "young professional" San Francisco crowd...real estate brokers, dentists, engineers and lots of techies. Due to lack of options, I decided to go as a cross-county biker. Everyone else had very elaborate costumes. The funny thing was that the buzz around the party was that I went as the guy who won the second season of the reality show Survivor. Their reasoning was that my hair and beard resembled the guy from the show. Surely I must have been not grooming myself for months for my Halloween costume...it's the only way they could justify my lack of effort.
I woke up this morning with a bit of a hangover...I think a combo of too much candy and beer. But a nice 80 mile ride along the ocean to Santa Cruz remedied my headache nicely.

Friends in Oakland


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Some old friends, Darin and Meeghan, live in Oakland. A few weeks ago they had their first baby, Justice, who's in this photo. My camera wasn't working, so I took this picture from Darin's blog.
Darin happened to be in Cuba this week, but I had a nice visit with Meegan and Darin's mom who was visiting from Omaha. I held Justice on 2 different occasions and both times he cried. Meeghan made me feel better by saying he was hungry the first time and needed to be burped the second.

Berkeley


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Monday I took the Subway across the bay to Berkeley, a city that has always interested me. This is a picture I took while on the UC Berkeley campus. It's a group of singers/perfomers who were putting on a little Halloween show in between classes. It was quite the scene, campus groups ranging from Dodgeball club, Jehovah's Witnesses, fraternities, and political groups set up shop to solicit students as they walk past. Supposedly this happens every day.

Back to Another Time


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Sunday I stumbled upon a music festival in Golden Gate Park with about 20,000 other people. It was a tribute concert to a fella named Chet Helms. People described him as "one of the founding fathers of the psychodelic movement of the 60's" or "a hippie icon". He died recently of a stroke at 62 years old.
The whole scene felt like a time warp to what I pictured the 60's to be like...lots of tie dyed material, lots of long hair and lots illegal substances out of the open. One vendor who was a little more creative had a basket of brownies and would occasionally hold up a stick with a sign that said, "Nacho mama's brownies". I found out on Monday when I read the paper that I wasn't the only who felt the time warp. Lots of people who had experienced that era felt like Sunday was a flashback. One guy was quoted as saying, "Everything was the same except everyone looks so old now."
I've often wondered what happened to this generation...a generation that tried to redefine progress. A subculture that questioned: "Is our way of life and our economy worth the loss of thousands of lives in war?" "Will material wealth make me more happy than the previous generations?" "Is our level of consumption sustainable for this earth?"
Where has this generation gone? I saw Sunday that some are still hanging around San Francisco. I believe there are some who have evolved into a life more conducive to family but have still maintained their values. But I think a fair amount have joined the way of the life that they were resisting.
These are things I've thought about before because I feel like I am also a part of a movement that is trying to redefine progress...going against the flow of the American Dream in an attempt to seek the Kingdom of God. What will make this movement last?

Henri Nouwen, a very honest Catholic priest, says this about the peace movement 60's, "When our protests against war, segregation and social injustice do not reach beyond the level of reaction then our indignation becomes self-righteous, our hope for a better world degenerates into a desire for quick results and our generosity is soon exhausted by disappiointment...it was not deep enough, in the sense that it was not rooted in the solitude of the heart."