Linden community welcomes cyclists

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 19, 2007

LINDEN &8212; A group of cyclists rode their bikes into the city yesterday to a welcome none had expected. The cluster of bicycle riders entered town with a police escort as they made their way to their home for the night, a campsite next to the gym at George P. Austin Junior High School.

The 17 riders that were welcomed into Linden are the first to tackle the 2,058-mile journey stretching from Mobile to Owen Sound in Ontario, Canada, called the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route. As the group of weary travelers pulled up to their temporary home they were greeted by a swell of the community that turned out to show their support for the band facing a daunting trek.

Justelieu said the city not only came out for the event, but it also provided the group with facilities to wash, a banquet for dinner and a welcome reception.

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The welcome reception by Linden provided bikers with information on the town and its background, a performance by the Linden High School choir, a presentation by eighth-graders who have studied the subject in connection with the group&8217;s arrival and a speaker from the University of West Alabama, Dr. Michael Cooke, who provided an overview of the Underground Railroad.

As the students of the school have learned about the underground prior to the bikers arrival, so too have the bikers studied it as they prepared for their journey. Justelieu said the group, which hails from all over the United States and has a member from Japan, was provided with a list of suggested readings prior to leaving.

Hayford said as the group travels the route, from their start date of April 15 to May 30, they would be able to see sights related to the theme of the journey. He said the bikers would learn more of the troubles of those who fled slavery as they trace a similar path, stopping at museums and historical sights to gain insight along the way.