Diary: A children and families manager cycles across the US, part 1

In the first of three entries, a children and families team manager reports on a US cycle tour

After 28 years non-stop social working, I recently took six months unpaid leave to re-charge, spending three months cycling across the US. The time has been condensed into a diary of three weeks.


After 348 miles across Virginia, we come to Charlottesville and the former home of Thomas Jefferson. In the town centre a tree is decorated with 270 blue ribbons. They represent all the children in foster care in the local county and are part of a foster care month to promote the recruitment of carers. Fragrant honeysuckle is everywhere.


The state of Virginia hosts 838 miles of the US bicycle route which takes in 25 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. Generally people are less affluent as we head further east and I notice that places advertising “assisted living” peter out just as taxidermists start to crop up regularly.


697 miles so far and on a stretch of open road there is a group of “inmates” clearing litter. They are dressed top to toe in fluorescent orange and hold matching rubbish bags. The prison officer looked on nestling a 12-bore shotgun.


Cross into Kentucky, one of the poorest states in the USA – a coal mining area and birthplace of many country and bluegrass musicians. The number of churches is staggering and each has something posted for passers-by to think about: “Do the math, count your blessings”, “Be an organ donor, give your heart to Jesus.”


We continue in this very poor region where road kill changes from turtles, raccoon and even beaver, to cats and dogs. On two wheels, we don’t want to share the road with coal trucks so are keen to press on through the weekend. Most of the villages have a “family resource centre” attached to the elementary or high school.


Every other home has a yard or garage sale. This ranges from well organised second-hand clothes to complete junk. Kentucky is the buckle of the Bible belt. No more cold beer to quench the thirst after miles in the saddle, as most of Kentucky is alcohol-free by law.


Tune in to the Weather Channel for weather warnings; 10 children have died this year from dehydration after being locked in cars. Parents are urged not to lock their children in cars during hot weather. It is not clear if it’s OK in cool weather.

This article is published in the 26 November 2009 edition of Community Care magazine under the headline Diary

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