Saturday, June 21, 2008
Today was the day that we will pass the 100 mile mark (one third of the way from Raleigh to D.C) and also cross from North Carolina into Virginia. But before we get there, we had to have breakfast. Luckily for us, Mike H. had called ahead and offered to bring breakfast for us, and to walk with us for part of the journey. We worked on packing everything back into the car. Mike brought some bagels, granola and fruit and nut bars, and a very special treat - peaches.
We were soon on our way, with Dave driving the van. The walkers spotted the local library and called Dave so he could come back and update the blog. Dave asked if they had Wi-Fi, and the librarian replied that it was scheduled to be installed "on Monday". So another day would go by without a blog update.
Mike walked with us the first hour, then Dave drove him back to his car at the church. It was already a hot morning, no rain having materialized overnight. About six miles out of town, at our second rest, Scott noted that we had passed the 100 mile mark.
We were now on Highway 48 north of Roanoke Rapids, heading east. The road was less busy, although there was still a lot of logging truck traffic. We walked with our banners (which are getting pretty dirty by now, but holding up well). We stopped near a small farm for a water break. At Pleasant Hill, we turned north on Highway 301 and had a short walk to the North Carolina/Virginia state line. We noticed some picnic tables at the Georgia Pacific facility across the railroad tracks, and walked over there. We asked the young man mowing the grass if we could picnic there, and he said he thought it would be OK, but fifteen minutes later, someone came and ... he seemed very sorry that he had to ask us to leave. So, we went back across
the street to the Stateline Lottery store (and former restaurant) and picnicked at a table outside.
We were soon making miles along Highway 301 north... all the way into Emporia. None of our initial contacts at churches panned out, so we decided to lodge an a motel where we could get showers, do some laundry, and get some internet time. Unfortunately, the motel we picked did not have working wireless connections. The Starbucks across the street was scheduled to get its internet set up "on Monday" - apparently, Monday is the day for getting Internet service in this part of the country. Debbie and Roberta struggled with broken washing machines and dryers, getting close just past the dripping stage by 11:20 PM, while Dave went to the Texaco to try to vacuum up the gallon of water that had spilled in the seat well in the back of the van. After that, he bought some internet time at the McDonalds.
We had very little contact with people this day, except for those we waved to as they drove past us in cars, trucks, and trains. It was a long day, but it felt like we made significant progress by passing two significant milestones.
Thursday, June 19, 2008.
Since we had families meeting us at 5:30 on Wednesday evening, and having taken an overly long lunch break in downtown Warrenton that day, we did not get as far as planned. Dave, Scott, and Patrick picked up the pace and covered 5 miles in the last hour and fifteen minutes Wednesday, but we were still a mile and a half short of Vaughn. We left our hosts and met back near Granpda's Stump Grinding on Highway 159 between Warrenton and Vaughn, and started our 23.5 mile walk to Roanoke Rapids.
We did a lot of fast paced intervals. We've settled into a routine of walking three miles, which normally take folks 54 minutes to an hour, then stopping for a fifteen minute break. To help make up time, we cut the breaks to 10 minutes today.We entered Littleton after about 7.5 miles of walking. Thanks to some phone calls that our new friend Heidi had made, we had three reporters from local Littleton/Lake Gaston papers came out to interview us!
We stopped at Littleton Baptist Church, on the east side of town, where a parishioner had been murdered there twelve years ago. Reverand Marc Currin met us and we had a prayer of remembrance. W few of us headed south a couple blocks to visit Heidi, and she shared some cold lemonade and Sunny D and showed us her 1908 home which she and her husband Jim have been renovating for 18 years.
We had a nice offer for lunch from Mike and Beth whose friend Neal had a house on Lake Gaston, about four miles off of our route. Erica (with Annie) also drove up from Garner to walk with us for the afternoon. Mike met us at the Piggly-Wiggly in Littleton and helped shuttle folks to the house. While folks were driving, Scott, Dave, and Patrick caught up some distance, covering 2 1/2 miles in 35 minutes.After lunch, we estimated we had 14 miles to go to get to Roanoke Rapids. We would have to walk the whole way to get to our destination, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. We simply walked and walked and walked. The logging trucks flew past us on Highway 158. Some would move over; others not, so we simply adjusted.
Just outside of Roanoke Rapids, Roberta was driving the van, with a couple of the teenagers in tow. She stopped at an old country store and asked the owner if it was alright to park the van in his parking lot to wait for the walkers to catch up. He said "You can park there all night if you want", and invited her in for ice tea. She asked if the kids could have some and he said "bring 'em all in". She mentioned we had eight walkers coming in in a half hour, and he smiled and said that would be fine. We soon arrived and quickly exhausted their cup supply. We still have about 200 cups, so we brought them in and cooled off with some delicious, authentic North Carolina sweet tea. It was a nice, long break.After reaching Highway 48, most of us caught a ride to the church, where fried chicken was waiting for us. We had a brief prayer lead by Rev. Michael Butler, a lovely dinner, some car clean up and air mattress inflating, and great foot massages by Erica. We said goodbye to Patrick, Moira, Veronica, Timmy, Annie, and Erica, since they were all returning home that night. Dave drove them back to Littleton, where we had left Erica's car at the Piggly-Wiggly. Dave drove back to Roanoke Rapids, stopped at the drug store for a restock of sunscreen, lip balm, and moleskin (both the thin the the thick "mole pad" variety) and soon were sound asleep on our air mattresses.
Friday, June 20, 2008
So, on to the miracle.
On our walk Tuesday, one of our early breaks was at the Kitrell Grocery. At about 10:20, we stood outside the grocery for a while, getting water and some Gatorade, and maybe a dry granola bar. I went inside to use the bathroom and was overtaken by the scent of fried chicken. It smelled great. Later that day, around lunchtime, we were in Henderson, and walked past a restaurant serving fried chicken. Later that afternoon, after our vigil at the Vance County Courthouse, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some Gatorade mix, and they had some fried chicken there as well. We've been traveling with a good number of vegetarians, so I tried to set aside my longing, but the three encounters simmered all afternoon. That evening, I mentioned this to Roberta, and she also thought it would be good to have some fried chicken. But soon, a couple days passed, and it seemed it was out of reach.
After our long march on Thursday (almost 24 miles; I have not written about that day yet), we approached St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Roanoke Rapids, NC. Some parishioners there had generously prepared a meal for us, and as we walked the last mile at 6:30 PM, we were looking forward to it very much. We walked in the door, and the miracle occurred - there on the table was a small mountain of Genuine, Home-Made, Southern Fried Chicken.
I do not mean to trivialize miracles. Mary Rider once told me that miracles happen every day; you just have to be open to seeing them. Like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the miracle is not the obvious multiplication of a few stale pieces of bread and some fish in a basket; the real miracle was the conversion of heart in those who had enough food to share all along, but who were at first hesitant to share it. The miracle was the sharing that spread. Our hope is that our message will also bring about such a conversion in the hearts of those who may support the death penalty but who perhaps have not really heard what their faith community has said about it, or what their neighbor has said about it. Maybe they have not thought through the effect another act of violence has on those around it.
Some people may not have been aware that a week ago, they were going to be making fried chicken for a group of abolitionists from North Carolina. Some people may not have been aware that a week ago, they were going to be talking about abolition with a group of fried chicken loving folks from North Carolina. What will happen next week?
We feel blessed in so many ways. We are blessed to be surrounded by good friends on this journey. We are blessed with wonderful weather. We are blessed to be able to walk through such beautiful countryside. We are blessed to live in a time when the death penalty may come to an end. We are blessed to have friends and family at home who are praying for us and supporting us.
With sadness, we left behind our new friends at Cedar Cross; we hope to return to spend more time there, perhaps with the energy to walk some of the four miles of trails they have there, or to help with some of the work around the retreat center.
Today's journey took us from Middleburg, just west of Henderson, through Norlina, then through Warrenton and ending east of Warrenton. We followed Highway 158, which is so much nicer to walk on than US 1. It's less busy and more scenic, although the shoulders are a bit narrower. The best part, however, is that we are closer to the people. We stopped by a volunteer fire department and briefly spoke to two men out front who were very interested in our walk and expressed great support. Two women were running a fruit and vegetable stand east of Henderson. They were delighted to hear our story and enthusiastically wished us well, offering to pray for us. Just west of Norlina, a gentleman pulled up alongside us and said he had seen us the day before while on his way to visit the hospital in Raleigh. We also said he would be praying for us. On the way out of Warrenton, someone pulled alongside and asked if we were the same walkers who were featured in the Henderson Daily Dispatch. He then offered us his copy of the paper to take with us.
The most interesting encounter of the day occurred while we were on a water break near an intersection three miles outside of Henderson. He pulled up in a truck, and asked what we were doing; we said we were walking. He ask "About the death penalty?" and we said yes. He said an expletive, then spoke to the two others in his truck. He then said that in North Carolina, one can be convicted if the jury is convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt", but for a death sentence, there should be "no doubt". (Although we would prefer there not be a death sentence, we would certainly agree that "no doubt" would be preferable to "reasonable doubt", but what constitutes "no doubt", and who decides?) But he seemed to want to be on his way and simply said that we could agree to disagree. He drove by a few minutes later, before we had a chance to start walking again, and I guess he could not resist stopping. The first words out of his mouth: "Do you need any water?". We asked him to tell us his story, and he did. He turned off the engine of his truck. We was a retired corrections officer and had seen horrible violence in that role. We listened, without interrupting, but asked him more questions. He went on at length, and perhaps too graphically for the younger children in our group, but it seemed that he needed to tell us his story. When he finished, he offered a banana he had, which Patrick and Scott accepted with thanks, and we all left on friendly terms, "agreeing to disagree"
We ended up in separate houses for the night. Sr. Margaret at St. Jospeph's in Warrenton arranged for two parishioner couples to take some of us. We stayed in lovely homes on Lake Gaston, where we had wonderful showers, hot meals, good conversation, and took sunset boat rides in the clear air. Sr. Margarate took Patrick and his kids. At the house where Dave, Debbie and Ellen stayed, their hosts Ann and Don also invited friends Jim and Heidi from Littleton for dinner. After introductions, Heidi remarked to us, "Ann wouldn't tell you this, but we didn't know what to expect from you. But you're so normal!" We got a kick out of that. Everyone was very supportive, and Ann offered her home in Littleton as a rest stop on our way through town (we told her how difficult it had been to find a bathroom in Henderson).
Today ended as a great day of meeting people on our journey. We hope to meet more tomorrow and tomorrow's tomorrow.
Leaving Middleburg, known for the Middleburg Steak House.
Crossroads in Norlina. Yikes! We had to turn south for a few miles to get to Warrenton. Feels like we're walking backwards.
Warren County Courthouse. We had a nice lunch there, and a small vigil on the courthouse square.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
After a great breakfast at Cedar Cross, and only a minor delay waiting for their dog RJ (short for Restorative Justice) to return, we left the desnse shade of the retreat for the dark asphalt of US 1 North. Driving from Cedar Cross, in Frankin County, we crossed briefly into Vance County, then back into Franklin County as we drove "the wrong way" on US 1 until we reached the spot where we stopped walking Monday evening, and resumed our walking at 8:02 in the morning.
US 1 this far north of Raleigh is much less busy, and also much more scenic. We enjoyed rural North Carolina, from the dilapidated hay barns to the scenic vistas. By 8:45, we had walked almost three miles as we crossed the county line back into Vance County.
Shortly into our walk, we met two walkers, Kate and Rebecca. Loaded with backpacks, they were on a 1,800 mile trek from Miami, FL to Boaston MA to raise awareness of sexual violence against women. They walked with us for a few miles, until we came to Kitrell, where we stopped for a break at the Kitrell Grocery. Kate and Rebecca had been walking for seven weeks, since the beginning of May. The nice folks at the Kitrell Grocery filled our coolers with ice, and we were soon on our way. We still had a pretty good hike into Henderson, and traffic picked up, as did the temperature. We got off of US-1 and followed the US-1 Business route into downtown.
We paused in downtown Henderson (to post yesterday's blog entry and to rest at the library), and then headed over to the county courthouse for a vigil. Scott was interviewed for an article for the We soon started out from Henderson and followed 158 out of town. The temperature dropped, the breeze picked up, and we all felt much better walking out of town. We got as far as Middleburg - a few steps more and we would have been through Middleburg. We spend the night at Cedar Cross again - it was very relaxing. We had some chips and great homemade salsa, and a great dinner featuring wonderful salads, and lemonade pie for dessert. Much thanks to our wonderful hosts, Margaret and John Hilpert, Betty Anne and Nancy.
Henderson Daily Dispatch. We were on the front page, with a color photograph, on Wednesday, June 18. He was misquoted once, but overall it was a good article which covered much of our Pilgrimage's purpose and hopes. The statement, "But he finds most family members of victims oppose capital punishment, though he acknowledged those against the death penalty might gravitate toward him because of the work he does." was incorrect; Scott did not say that about victim's families but rather the wider community that Scott interacts with.
We soon started out from Henderson and followed 158 out of town. The temperature dropped, the breeze picked up, and we all felt much better walking out of town. We got as far as Middleburg - a few steps more and we would have been through Middleburg.
We spend the night at Cedar Cross again - it was very relaxing. We had some chips and great homemade salsa, and a great dinner featuring wonderful salads, and lemonade pie for dessert. Much thanks to our wonderful hosts, Margaret and John Hilpert, Betty Anne and Nancy.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Of course, we picked the hottest day for our first full distance day. We planned to cover 21 miles today, from Gresham Lake Rd just north of the 540/Capital Boulevard interchange, through Wake Forest and Franklinton. Patrick and a few of his children were there before the rest of us - he said "You know your late if I'm here before you!". We had no fixed stops today, just marching. We left about 8:40 in the morning and set a quick pace, stopping briefly for water every two miles. We had 10 walkers for most of the day today, and 6 more joined us in the after noon.
The long walk provided a lot of time for quiet reflection. Some of that reflection was devoted to avoiding the hot sun. We found some relief when our course veered off of US 1 north, taking us along 1A through Wake Forest. We had a nice rest in the shade in front of Forestville Baptist Church. We reached the downtown area near noon time and asked a local fireman about a goood place to eat lunch (Over the Falls Deli). Patrick also stopped at the local Wake Forest newspaper to see if they had received our press release and if they would cover the story. The editor sent Leslie out to meet us, and she interviewed several of us at length about the Pilgrimage and the death penalty.
We left at 1:00PM and started the long march up to Franklinton. The walk through the older estate section of Wake Forest was beautiful. We also enjoyed the quaint town of Youngsville; the road crew working on road improvements through downtown were very friendly towards us. After passing through Youngsville, our route took us back onto US 1 north, which is a busy four lane highway. Soon, though, the business route veered off towards Franklinton. We stopped for a fifteen minute break in the shade, knowing we had only a mile and a half to downtown and two miles after that - about an hour of walking. Scott was not feeling well, perhaps from dehydration, but some PoweAde powered him through the rest of the day. Blisters also took out Grant and Moira.
Just south of downtown, near the elementary school, a group of kids had grown tired of bouncing in their trampoline, but found renewed vigor as we passed by. In downtown, a reporter from the Franklinton paper met us to take pictures and interview Scott and Patrick. A mile north of Frankinton, Business 1A merges back into US 1, so we marched another mile before finally stopping for the day at 5:30PM.
We regrouped, gathered our cars, and drove to Cedar Cross retreat house near Louisburg. Our gracious hosts, Margaret and John Hilpert, Betty Anne and Nancy, had a hot meal waiting for us, and we were very grateful for that! We also had showers! Yea!!! The Cedar Cross retreat center was the perfect place to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. Many birds ushered in Tuesday morning, and we were ready to hit the road again at 7:30.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Strangely, I also am thinking of a line from the original Jaws movie when the main characters realize the size of their task and one says, "We're gonna need a bigger boat!" As I feel the sunburn, I'm thinking, "I'm gonna need a bigger hat!", not to mention something for this ankle pain... SB
Sunday, June 15, 2008
It was a busy day! We started at Central Prison with silent prayer
and a short greeting to the prisoners on Death Row.
We walked through the streets of Raleigh, passing to remember a murder victim at the sight of a murder on South St. We were fortunate to be joined by the parents of a death row inmate and by John Comer of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation. MVFR is one of the Pilgrimage's endorsers.
Our next stops were the courthouse in downtown Raleigh, where capital cases are tried. We remembered the anguish suffered by all who must endure a capital trial. A few short steps north brought us to the old Capitol building an the heart of Raleigh. Gov. Mike Easley's office is located here. Each time there is an execution, many come to the Governor's office to plead clemency.
We continued through Bicentennial Plaza, past the NC Legislative Building, and on to the Governor's Mansion. Gov Easley has only granted clemency in a death sentence two times, in 2001 and 2002.
Our march then continued north. We stopped at the site of another murder in Raleigh before picking up the pace in order to get north of the 540/US1 exchange by 6:00. We crossed Raleigh's 440 outer beltline on the Capital Boulevard bridge.
(Some of the younger set took a ride in the sag wagon to get around the busier traffic areas, or simply to rest and cool off on this 90 degree, sunny day in Raleigh.)
This evening, we were welcomed to the Church of the Nativity in Raleigh for a gathering of prayers, some dinner, and fellowship. We are very grateful for the hospitality granted by Mother Diane Corlette, Rector of the Church of the Nativity. Diane is a former president of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty (PFADP).
Stephen Dear, current and tireless executive director of PFADP, was there with his family to greet us and give the core walkers fresh PFADP shirts to wear on our journey. (You can order your own "Fry okra, not people" shirt at www.pfadp.org). Folks from Rutpa house in Durham, Leah from the Capital Restorative Justice Project and Marcia Timmel provided food/and and support. PFADP and the Capital Restorative Justice Project are also endorsers of the Pilgrimage.
Rev. William Barber, president of the NC state NAACP, spoke to the group, to provide Strength for the Journey. Rev. Barber spoke, "We in the civil rights movement know the value of walking." He also voiced his - and the 20,000 members of NC NAACP - endorsement of the Pilgrimage. "As predident, I have some authority in such matters." We appreciate his kind and inspiring words, and we will contemplate them in the 290 remaining miles of our journey.
Right, Rev William Barber accepts a PFADP shirt which reads "I have a brother on death row. So do you." From left to right: Marcia Timmel, Scott Bass, Roberta Mothershead, Steve Dear, Dwane Atkinson, Rev. William Barber, Patrick O'Neill.
Only NBC 17 and the News and Observer came to cover the beginning
of the match on Sunday at Central Prison, Raleigh. NBC 17 shot some
of footage as we walked through Raleigh, and they interviewed Scott Bass.
A reporter from the News and Observer also interviewed Scott,
but the interviewer did not let Scott finish answering several questions,
and did not write down much of what Scott said. For example,
Scott tried to emphasize that a key component of our
Pilgrimage is that of remembering all victims of violence,
and that we especially wish to remember the murder victims
and their families and continue to show them compassion.
We hope this message will come out if and when the N&O
publishes the story. If not, please be assured that this
is part of why we walk; see our earlier blog posts.
Below are some of the media links as of Sunday evening,
"Dozen death penalty opponents begin 300-mile walk"