Column: Family


(From left) Rachel, Sharon, Sue, Mark and Hope Bruce make a stop at London Public Library during a bike ride that follows the Underground Railroad.

On June 11, I met the Bruce family, who reside in Canton, Ohio. They have been discovering the Underground Railroad from a unique point of view—the seats of their bicycles.

The five-member team started in Pensacola, Fla., over four weeks ago and have slowly but steadily been winding their way along a route that follows the Underground Railroad.

I learned that their itinerary was created by the Adventure Cycling Association, a non-profit group that promotes bicycling for recreation, health and self-discovery. Details on the organization can be obtained by visiting their Web site at:

The family’s goal, while discovering interesting facts and historical locations along the Underground Railroad, is to bicycle all the way to Ontario, Canada—the end of the road, so-to-speak, for their 2,000-mile, two month journey.  

When I asked what their favorite stopping point has been, they all agreed the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati topped the list. The center is located at 50 E. Freedom Way, between Paul Brown Stadium where the Cincinnati Bengals play and the Reds’ Great American Ball Park.

During our chats, I learned that Rachel, the oldest daughter, is the official recorder of the journey and updates the group’s progress at regular intervals through their online blog at

So when the opportunity came to stretch their legs, freshen up and access the library’s computers and wireless network to check e-mails and update the blog, they happily took it.

“Libraries are very important to our journey,” said Rachel, making note that they have allowed the family to keep in touch with the rest of the world.


As I continued to feed my curiosity about the Bruces’ adventures, I was amazed by their exuberance and determination. Here was a band of family members that conquered riding through five states and was now halfway through Ohio. It was apparent to me, that they were making lifetime memories. Even 11-year-old twins Hope and Sharon seemed to take into account the sacredness of the journey and the roads they were traveling.

After a few snapped photos and a short story about a hungry raccoon trying to get in the food compartment of Rachel’s bike the previous night, I bid the family farewell. 

“This is a family with an admirable journey,” I said to myself as they pedaled away to their next destination, the Delaware State Park, for a night’s lodging. “Good luck and may the winds be at your backs,” I yelled, as they disappeared down the street.

Mike Hensel is the communications and marketing manager at London Public Library. He can be reached by 740-852-9543 or

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