The sun rises right outside my front door on the Kansas prairie in the heart of America, where I’m staying as part of the global WWOOF program while traveling Round America with a Duck via bikes, buses and trains.
I do my Vinyasa flow of warrior poses before heading to my chores — helping care for a herd of alpacas and a flock of chickens as well as tending two large gardens and a high-tunnel hoop house in a sunflower field.
My down time here for this month will be spent riding my bike around the block, Kansas style, which means four right-hand-turns equals six miles on dirt roads past commercial farms, which surround this 80-acre enclave of environmental stewardship and show small signs of changing such as an increasing use of no-till farming methods. Maybe I’ll add a block, but I don’t want to be too far away in case my bike tires get taken out by locust tree thorns. There is no MARTA I can hop on.
I also hope to learn to spin alpaca yarn (I got to participate in the annual alpaca shearing the morning after I arrived) and make pottery in the straw-bale studio, as well as spend more time in the meditation silo and help Sister Jane rebuild the 11-circuit labyrinth.
I want to hear more stories from the super-cool sustainability-focused lives of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, all in their 70s and 80s, who own and operate this farm, and am grateful we have a shared lunch meal most days.
And I’m heartened to discover young people here with expertise in the biosphere, agrivoltaics and wind technology (the wind turbines I saw out my bus window had almost made me cry because they filled me with so much hope). Did you know wind jobs here in Kansas have been paying more than oil jobs since 2019 and are attracting workers off the rigs whether or not they believe in climate change?
Since my April newsletter, I finished my farm stay on repurposed tobacco land in North Carolina, ran up the steps from the movie Rocky in Philly to store up some strength, rode my bike over three bridges and through three boroughs in New York City and then dipped my bike tire in the Atlantic Ocean on Long Island after riding one of the best bike paths ever — which was built in the 1970s during America’s biggest bike boom in history when it looked like real environmental progress was going to be made but then got derailed. It’s an absolute crime how much time we have squandered pretending to become bike-friendly and yet continuing to showcase sharrow-minded thinking, compromises that kill and the gutter of failed imagination.
I’ve taken my bike on AmTrak, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad, and on more Greyhound buses than I can count (and I have definite tips to offer). Can you say 2 a.m. transfer in Indianapolis and getting stranded in Oklahoma City?
I’ve leaped on Route 66 and mourned at the site of the deadliest tornado in U.S. history. I’ve listened to so many people’s challenges with physical and mental health and the logistical, economic and emotional impacts of environmental disasters including devastating multi-year drought. And I’ve figured out the ins and outs of traveling solo as a 59-year-old female, and ways to maintain dignity in a truly undignified built environment. (Short answer: the greater number of people are kind, and Cliff Bars are clutch.)
I have much to learn and far to go, and yet there is no place I’d rather be right now than right here in the heartland of America. I’m blogging about it and posting short mostly-up-tempo videos on Instagram and TikTok, if you are interested. Scan the QR codes below or join the more than 60k others who have tapped in to the hashtag #RoundAmericaWithADuck.
(Disclaimer: I’m tapping most of this out on my little phone so pardon any typos or editing flaws.)
Here is a 60-second peek at the past six weeks.
See recent blog posts, FAQs about the cross-country journey, and more here.
Thank you for joining me for this hands-on experience in a country-at-a-crossroads and a world-in-crisis. There is hope. There is always hope.
Trust the journey,
Pattie Baker, featured in O: The Oprah Magazine, lives her passions as she strives to help create a better world. Founder of one of the newest cities in the USA’s Sustainability Commission; numerous food-growing gardens (including for refugees-of-war and the largest volunteer-run community garden in the State of Georgia); and the first text and TikTok-based bike skills courses for women and teen girls in the world, she is a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor; PeopleForBikes Ambassador; first Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor as part of a global consortium with the Amsterdam-based social enterprise BYCS; and a member of Mensa (the high IQ society). She has written and project-managed for many major global corporations and nonprofit organizations, and is the author of thousands of feature articles and blog posts as well as numerous books (both nonfiction and fiction for adults, teens and children). See her resume, portfolio, and other links on her Linktree. She considers her “invisibility” as an aging woman in America to be her superpower and harnesses it as a street photographer. See her street photography.
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You are amazing