Jeremy Brochin, who celebrated his 65th birthday this year, figured there was no better time to ride while his mind and body are still in great shape! Below is a detailed letter about his experience on the Hazon Cross-USA Ride. And although he intended on finishing the ride in Minneapolis, he recently decided he to get back on the bike for the last week of the ride. Although his time on the ride is over he is just as ready to get back on and do it all again!
First, the ride itself was wonderful, beautiful and tremendously grueling. We climbed through the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, and then through lovely trails in Idaho, and climbed over Rocky Mountain passes. We were biking through the mountains and saw snow just above our route, and lush forests and flowing rivers below. It was truly magnificent. A group of us encountered a bear on the trail and a number of moose, and saw llamas, bison, and other wildlife along the route. After the Rockies, we biked through the high plains in Montana and then the plains of Eastern Montana and South Dakota until we reached Minnesota. While I was fearful of the climbs through the mountains, the most difficult part of the ride was combatting the grueling headwinds and 100 degree temperatures throughout Montana and South Dakota. On those days you pedaled as hard as you could and were just going slow because of the wind. Your body would be totally drained of liquid and you needed to keep pouring water and electrolytes into your body and eating to maintain fuel. Often when we eat we do not have the sensation of transforming food to energy but as we ate and drank on the ride, there was a total sense of filling one’s tank with fuel and using it up until the next fill up. Besides rest stops every 20 miles or so I would be downing energy bars and gallons of liquid. What a wonderful way to enjoy yourself!!
The second neat part of the ride was enjoying the hospitality of so many people and visiting small Jewish communities throughout the western United States. Most of the time we camped and cooked our own meals but we also stayed in community centers, churches, synagogues and occasionally had home hospitality. We visited Jewish communities in Missoula, Helena, Bozeman, Billings, Spokane, Aberdeen, and Twin Cities. We learned about these small communities including how they started and ways in which they are trying to maintain themselves. They greeted us with open arms and I think were energized by this Jewish group that was celebrating Jewish life, supporting environmental change, and were cycling across the country. I had the honor of reading Torah in both Helena and in Aberdeen, which were the first Shabbat morning minyanim there in a long time!!
The third piece of the ride was learning so much about issues that affect the western United States, the Farm bill, and the complexities of political issues in that part of the country. We met with people who were involved in all sorts of issues including Ethanol production, grain production, the Keystone Pipeline, range managements, and all kinds of farm issues. We passed thousands of acres of corn and soybean most of which is used as animal feed- and as part of our food- and is highly subsidized by government grants mostly to the benefit of the huge agribusinesses. Much of this crop, we learned, was shipped to China as feed for a growing demand for beef in China. We also visited small organic farms and learned about the challenges of this work in the face of the changes in American agriculture.
Finally, I had the privilege of riding with 15 other people all of whom contributed to a wonderful sense of community on the ride. We helped each other on the road, worked hard together in setting up camp, cooking and cleaning, and debated issues of Jewish life and politics. This community is continuing and growing as they pedal to Washington, DC. I have been off my bike for a few days now but miss getting up at 5 am, riding all day, having a sore butt, and being exhausted at the end of the day. I am ready to get back on the bike.
Thanks again for your support. I do hope you are having a wonderful summer.
All the best,
It’s not too late to sign up for the very last leg of the journey, one week from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, August 9th – 16th. Learn more about the Pittsburgh to DC segment. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this cross-country community on wheels and cycle in support of sustainable food systems! Join the Ride