A day on the Hill

I was initially unsure what my time in Washington, DC would bring – there were promises of meetings with lawmakers but knowing the unpredictability of politics I kept my options open. However as soon as I arrived, the bustling energy of the city swept me along and gave me the confidence to share what I had learned pedaling across the country with anyone who would listen. Luckily for me, I have friends in high places, and scored a series of great meetings for my day on The Hill.


It is not often that a girl living on her bike has the opportunity to don heels and meet with legislators in the halls of Congress. I felt as though I was living a dream as security agents verified my ID and wrote down my computer’s serial number at the US Department of Agriculture. After passing through multiple layers of waiting rooms I found myself perched atop a fancy couch stealthily taking photos of the magnificent room. Before long a secretary escorted me straight into the office of USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.

A hug rather than a formal handshake greeted me and I instantly felt at ease. Deputy Merrigan was interested in hearing about the Tour and the folks who I have met along the ride. We chatted about the importance of Farm to School programming and the need for a policy that allows more in-depth connections from seed to cafeteria. Deborah Kane, formerly of the Ecotrust in Portland and now Director of Farm to School for the USDA, caught wind of the meeting and popped in for a few minutes of conversation. I did my best to absorb every detail before Deputy Merrigan was promptly whisked off to her next meeting – the announcement of $3.5 mil of Farm to School grants! Yay!

The most heartening take-away for me was that SHE GETS IT. Someone in charge who understands the importance of wholesome food for young minds and bodies is doing her very best to create change. I thank Deputy Merrigan, Deb Kane and the USDA for their kind hospitality for a weary but excited traveler.

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Guest blog by Mom: So what DOES her mother think?

Self portrait attempt during a brief sightseeing excursion in DC.

“What does your mother think?”

Okay, at this point in the School Food Tour both Sara and I have had this question from a number of people, so let me try to respond from a Mom’s point of view.  First of all, I have to say that when the idea of the School Food Tour was still germinating in Sara’s brain; I thought it was probably just a pie in the sky idea that would not come to fruition.  In my mind, there were so many variables and obstacles to overcome that when Sara asked if her Dad and I would take her Siberian Husky, Grizwald, for the duration, I quickly responded, “yes”, quite sure that the dream would not become a reality.  Well, low and behold, I underestimated my idealistic and determined daughter.  We have now had the grand puppy for 10 months and Sara is on the last leg of the School Food Tour, pedaling north to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.

For me, the time has, by turns, gone by quickly and interminably slow, waiting for phone calls, texts or emails to assure us of her safe arrival at yet another destination on the tour.   I’m afraid to say there have been times when my attitude has been, “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”, especially when waiting for some form of communication assuring us of her safe arrival in civilization.  During those times I worry and, when I do have to opportunity to talk to her, remind her of the dangers lurking (“Remember, Sara, there are people who actually live in those trees in the Redwoods who might prey on you”!)  Okay, that might sound a bit goofy, but remember, this is her Mom talking.  I have to say, my emotions during the past 10 months have run the gamut, ranging from anxiousness to relief when hearing her voice after a stretch of no communication.  While her Dad and I worry and remind her of the dangers of the road, we are also extremely proud of her efforts and in awe of this worthwhile epic venture.

After following the Tour from afar, at home in the Upper Peninsula, I now have a new appreciation for the daily grind of pedaling and promoting healthy school food while still working on the road; keeping up with updates to social media, blogs, etc. That’s primarily because I just spent the last week on the road with Sara as support vehicle for the School Food Tour, joining her for the Washington D.C. to Ohio stage of her trip.  During this time, I had the pleasure of meeting the elusive and loyal Felice as well as a generous supporter, Liz.  When we hit the road out of D.C. I found myself a little less anxious, thinking I now had some idea of the route on a daily basis.  Of course, it didn’t help to ease my fears when I found she changes her route frequently dependent on traffic, terrain, etc.

Throughout this grand adventure, my worries and concerns have been significantly assuaged by Sara’s friends, her sponsors, as well as our friends and family members who have supported her on this journey either in spirit or in person.  My thank you extends to the people who welcomed her into their homes, fed her and gave her a place to rest her weary head.  As a Mom, knowing that people like this exist helps me worry less and sleep at night.  So, in closing, as I always say at the end of my conversations with Sara on the road, I love you and be safe.  And, in answer to your question Sara, I do think it’s possible for one girl and her bike to make a positive contribution to the school food revolution in this country.

Washington, DC: The arrival

On a bicycle tour it is easy to get absorbed into the rhythms of travel – pedal, eat, pedal, eat, sleep, eat, pedal, eat, pedal, sleep, etc. This cycle is a mesmerizing sort of existence and one tends to tune out everything besides these basic daily needs. Which is why, as I pedaled across the Arlington Memorial Bridge into our Nation’s capital, I felt as though I was riding out of a dream. After 4,000+ miles on the road I had finally reached the most important destination of the School Food Tour.

My first landmark, the Lincoln Memorial, loomed overhead as soon as I crossed the bridge. Grinning from ear to ear, with “I have arrived” echoing through my head, I stopped to absorb my surroundings (and send out a social media update) when before I knew it there was a group of foreign tourists snapping photos with me and flashing shakas. This bustle of activity set the stage for the rest of my stay in DC – meetings, tours and unexpected encounters filled my days. I’m catching up on blogging just as quickly as a girl on a bike can mange so stay tuned for many more stories and photos. Cheers ya’ll!