CYCLING THE ROAD TO FREEDOM
Six adventure cyclists on a 2,028-mile Underground Railroad journey from Mobile, Alabama, to Owen Sound, Ontario, will arrive in Erie on Tues., June 3, between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
The riders have come from as far away as New Zealand, and include cyclists from Tigard, Oregon; Burien, Wash.; Oxon Hill, Md.; Cleveland, Ohio; and Waterville Valley, N.H. They are biking an average of 50 miles a day, 300 miles a week, with one day off per week. The total trip will take 48 days.
Underground Railroad character actors from the Harry T. Burleigh Society will be on hand to welcome the cyclists at Front and Walnut Streets overlooking Erie's Bayfront, the site of a free black community called New Jerusalem that is known to have harbored freedom seekers on their way to Canada. The two groups will have the opportunity to share stories and compare notes about their journeys, then and now.
The welcoming party will also include Lenwood Sloan, director of cultural and heritage tourism for the Pennsylvania Tourism Office in Harrisburg, and Terri Blanchette, Director of Community Programs Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, and Emily Beck of VisitERIE, who will be announcing additions to the state's new “Quest for Freedom” web site and Live and Learn Weekends coming up in Erie and Pittsburgh June 20 and 21.
The Underground Railroad Bicycle Route was named one of the world's top 10 bicycle routes in National Geographic's travel guide, Journeys of Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips in 2007.
Created by the Adventure Cycling Associate in 2007, the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route honors the legendary flight to freedom many enslaved African American's took previous to the Civil War. The route traverses eight states, from Alabama to New York, and one Canadian province touching some of the major historical sites. The Adventure Cycling Association and the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Minority Health have worked with historians and other experts to chart the route. A new Pittsburgh to Erie spur was launched in April.
"The route sprang from collaboration with hundreds of committed people and organizations. Many cyclists who have experienced it are transformed for life," says Ginny Sullivan, Adventure Cycling's new routes coordinator.
The visiting cyclists will be staying in Erie Tuesday night at the Lampe Marina Campground near the entrance to the Erie Channel on Erie's bayfront, on land owned by the Erie Western PA Port Authority, before heading to New York state and Canada.
For information about Erie's role in the Underground Railroad, see www.wqln.org/safeharbor http://www.wqln.org/safeharbor and http://burleighsociety.org/
For information about the state's Quest for Freedom web site, which will soon introduce sections on Pittsburgh and Erie, see http://www.questforfreedom.org
For information about the Adventure Cycling Association's Underground Railroad Bicycle Tour, see http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/undergroundrailroad.cfm