Pedaling for Peace

On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. The greater expanse of Texas is still ahead, but for now, I am settling for a time in Columbus, GA to renew an old friendship and do a little "cross-pollination" with the local bicycle advocacy group. I am ever grateful for the ongoing support of friends and family and all of my hosts and other supporters along the way as this ongoing adventure would not be possible without you!

Monday, July 27, 2015

An Invitation to Become a More Significant Part of "The Rest of My Story"

Although I have tried hard to live a life story that would ultimately be a "success in spite of the odds," one that I would succeed at without the support of family, one that would prove what one person, one woman, could accomplish On Her Own to help "Change the World," at this half-century mark of my life, I have realized that in order to actually accomplish my greatest dreams, and challenges, I'm going to need a lot more help!

Three major influences of the last several months have led to this significant shift in my point of view. The first was taking Brené Brown's "The Power of Vulnerability" course via Udemy. In it she describes every human being's "irreducible need for love and belonging". In addition she explains that "shame arises in a social context and it can only be healed in a social context." Up until reviewing that course, I had been denying my own very real needs for love and belonging as well as trying to heal all of my "wounds" on my own. I've come to accept that there is only so much I can do on my own, and the rest needs to be healed in loving and supportive relationship.

The second major influence was another course via Udemy, "Master Your Brain: Neuroscience for Personal Development" instructed by Gregory Caremans. I learned a great deal from that course, but one lesson in particular had a huge impact in its use of a simple illustration of "Demands and Expectations" vs. "Means and Resources". That illustration made clear to me the instability caused when one is carrying way too many demands and expectations with very few means and resources to meet them. I realized this is what I have been doing my entire life. Some of those expectations were placed upon me as a child, others I put upon myself. Since the "means and resources" were never really there for me, I just got used to "balancing as best I could" - stumbling around a lot, from job to job, and relationship to relationship, and place to place - because to stand still for too long threatened total collapse. Unfortunately, my feeling compelled to keep moving, to keep from collapsing, also prevented me from ever establishing the "resource base" I needed all along; i.e. the financial, emotional, and relationship support I needed.

The third and most recent influence has come from reading Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength" by Laurie Helgoe. Although I have known for some time that I am an introvert, this book really made clear to me what a challenge that can be in our "extroverted" society. How it can often cause introverts to become depressed, in part because they are forced to work in environments that are almost invariably over-stimulating for them, and because their true gifts as slow and deep thinkers are seldom recognized when extroverts are all around jockeying for position and attention with their fast (but usually less deep) thinking. Nevertheless, in intimate relationships, introverts and extroverts can work well together if they have recognition, understanding, and mutual appreciation for each other's unique gifts and ways of interacting in the world. As many of you know from the very fact that this blog exists, even as an introvert, I have "put myself out there" in all kinds of different ways. But, I can accept better now that My Greatest Gifts can only be given from what is Most True in my nature, and at my core, I am an introvert, and I know now, thanks to reading Introvert Power I need to find a better way to honor that in myself.

I had already completed the Brené Brown course before I came to stay with my friend in Columbus, GA. I finished the "Master Your Brain..." course and the Introvert Power... book some time after I got here. The resulting realizations had a profound effect on my motivation(s). For instance, where once I was pushing hard to go "above and beyond" to meet the "Great Expectations" I had for myself, again, without the necessary means and resources, I have now made a very conscious decision to just let go of all of those "Great Expectations" - or, at least, to simply put them aside for now, until I have the Actual Means and Resources I need to meet them. The truth is...my riding my bicycle cross-country, or, rather, attempting to ride my bicycle cross-country, was a perfect example of one of my self-imposed, "unfunded (or severely underfunded) madates". And when I refer to it as "unfunded" or "underfunded", I mean I did not have the financial or emotional support necessary to reach my goal - i.e. to complete the journey coast to coast, solo, under my own power.

That's not to say I did not gain a great deal from the struggle, from making the attempt(s), but by the time I got to Georgia, I was on the verge of total collapse. Really coming to grips with how difficult my "underfunded" life has been, even from the very beginning, was the trigger that allowed that collapse to finally happen. I am very grateful for the practical and emotional support I have received from my friend, as that also allowed me the "safe space" to go through that collapsing process.

Nevertheless, life goes on. And life in this world takes some form of resources to keep going, if only just to keep eating. In order to get to Georgia and to transfer my belongings from Florida so I could avoid continuing to pay a storage bill, and to feed myself and pay for my phone since I've been here, I had to use up the only savings I had from my Thrift Savings Plan accounts associated with my military service and federal government employment - a little over $3000. I have found it much more difficult to get around the city of Columbus by bicycle, as it is rather stretched-out and hilly, and the heat AND humidity here are really tough to handle on a regular basis. Consequently, I have hesitated to look too hard for local employment because I am limited to using my bicycle as my friend is already working three jobs and needs his car to get to and from work himself.

In addition, given the description above of my "stumbling around from ... job to job", as much work experience as I have, it doesn't usually align that well with what the market is in need of these days - i.e. employees with a history of stability! In addition, there's that particular challenge for "introverts" when it comes to working out there in the "fast-paced world," and I have to admit my utter reluctance to keep fighting that unsatisfying and ultimately fruitless battle, especially now that I am able to see it for what it is (thanks to reading Introvert Power...).

And, besides, I'm just getting too old to keep doing the same wrong thing over and over again. What I really need right now is a patron (or a husband!?), who is able to support me financially (and emotionally?) so that I can go ahead and do the writing that I know is in me to do. I have not had enough peace and quiet and time so far in my life to do that, and as many times as I have tried to "beat the odds" and "write anyway", that's just not working for me. And, again, the clock is ticking! Yes, I can crank out a blog post like this every once in a while, but in order to really get down to the nitty gritty of writing a serious book, or several serious books, it's going to take A Lot More time and energy than what I have been able to focus thus far, in part because I've been too busy just trying to Keep Going, On My Own!

So, to all of my readers and supporters out there, I really do appreciate all that you have shared with me. To all of my hosts and donors as I have been "Pedaling for Peace" - Thank You! I had a Great Time being Out There On My Own, but also being able to meet and interact with so many wonderful people! Although I was not able to reach my goal of riding my bicycle all the way across the U.S., I was very glad to have the opportunity to share a message of hope and peace with everyone I met during each of my attempts.

For now though, I am really feeling the need to settle down, and I do not think it is going to be with my friend here in Columbus, GA. Consequently, I am looking for a new home. I may have only hinted at it above, but I think I'm really ready for a "husband" - someone who will "manage" the "resource" that I am, with "prudence, frugality, and care," not just for his own benefit, but for what I know I have to offer to the world. I no longer feel any need to try to "do this all on my own", and I've come to that humble realization from having tried, and tried, and tried, to do that without success. I know that I need and am prepared for a deep, committed, and mutually supportive relationship, and I'm looking for someone who is sure that they are prepared for that as well, and are actually interested in having that kind of relationship with me!

But before any of us rush into anything, please understand that I've also "stumbled around ... from relationship to relationship" and I am much, much, much clearer now on what I know I need than I feel I have ever been before. And one thing I know I need is time to get to know a potential intimate partner. So, to whomever it may concern, please keep that in mind should you consider responding to this blog post/"invitation"!

Mine has been a challenging and interesting, but also very frustrating life-story thus far. I'm ready to move beyond all of that, to "The Rest of the Story", and I continue to hold hope for a "Happy Ending!"


(To contact me privately e-mail: thepeacefulblueturtle at gmail dot com.)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Winter in El Paso, TX - 2014 to 2015

As I have been traveling across the country, it has generally been my habit to post a blog AFTER I leave one place and get to another. Part of the reason it's taken so long for this update is because, once I got to my second host's house in El Paso, TX - shortly after Thanksgiving, I stayed...for what has turned out to be - four months! Now that I have actually moved on (and I'll get to those details later in this post) I have a better overall perspective from which to account for my time in El Paso.


So here I am crossing the border into Texas just before Thanksgiving. As you may recall from a previous post, I had met a woman in Deming, NM who gave me contact information for her nephew, John, encouraging me to look him up when I got in the area. She told me he was "into cycling" and would probably be open to helping me as much as he could.

Of course, she turned out to be absolutely right about that! Although John was working when I got to his house, I was able to let myself in with the spare key he had hidden for me. I had a small room to myself, and plenty of space in his garage to park my bike and unload my gear. I thought it somewhat serendipitous that there was a "blue turtle" sitting on the desk in my room ("waiting" for me?) on this my 108th day on the road.


(For those of you more into "metaphysics," you know 108 is a significant number! :) )

In the next couple of days, John, graciously chauffered me around town, helping me (financially) with some sturdier tubes for my tires, and a blue enamel campware plate that I had been looking for to cover my bowl when I needed to boil water in it. He also took me to one of his favorite country western dance clubs, "Little Bit of Texas", where I got to do a little bit of "Two-Steppin'" with him and another friend of his. Although I'm not an experienced two-stepper like John, I still had a good time, and it was a nice change of pace and scenery after being on the road for so long!


So everything seemed to be going just fine for this visit...and then...rather suddenly...I got really sick. Whether it was from being overexposed the previous week or so camping outside (not getting much sleep with the kitten that found me at the rest stop), or because John and his (then) 11-year-old son Michael had also been quite sick just before I got there, or maybe it was from all of the pollution coming across the border from Jaurez, Mexico, or maybe a combination of all of those things - I came down with a really nasty upper respiratory infection - one of the worst I've had in a long, long time. Consequently, I was not in a good position to head back out again in just a couple of days. Instead, I was laid up, often in bed even, for the first week, and still struggling to recover through the second week as well.

Given this timing meant any more plans for crossing West Texas had to be scheduled (potentially) around the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Furthermore, I was looking at many long stretches through some of the most barren and uninhabited regions on this route, while the nighttime temps, especially, were getting colder and colder. Admittedly, John was at least as concerned as I was about my prospects, and so he did not put any pressure on me to be on my way.

In addition, there was the issue of money...which I had basically run out of by that point. Given that John was owner of an electrical contracting company, and he had some paperwork I felt I could help with, he took me up on my offer to organize his expense receipts from 2012 in anticipation of an IRS audit. Granted, this was not something I'd ever done before, on this scale, but I'd managed to work through other novel administrative situations and I figured I could do the same here. Furthermore, since I knew I was not going to be around to be asked questions about my work, I decided to create a spreadsheet where I would document everything - i.e. details of all of the expenses AND reference information for where the expense item came from - sales receipts, bank and credit statements, or a combination of these. The spreadsheet format also allowed for automatic totalling of all the different categories of expenses and it made it pretty easy to add to and make corrections for any items that needed to be moved between categories.


Of course, having no experience doing this, I had no idea how long the whole process would take. I certainly fantasized about it going smoothly, and fairly quickly, but that's how ignorance and bliss can walk hand in hand!...While John traveled to Dallas to visit with his mother and other family members during the Christmas Holidays, I was thinking I'd have most, if not all, of this work done, to his pleasant surprise, by the time he returned home.

With that in mind, Christmas morning, I turned on Pandora, selected a "Christmas Holiday" music channel and started listening, thinking that would be good background music while I was processing all of those receipts. Unfortunately, the Christmas music also kind of "put me in the spirit" and a new and much more compelling idea entered my head: I could take the Christmas wrapping paper John had pulled from the attic and left behind and decorate the house with it!!! Yeah! Afterall, there would be plenty of time to get to all those receipts later!!!! :)

And so, I was off...in my not so unusual (maybe even a little ADD) sort of way! First on my list were "boughs of holly" and "evergreens" to form frameworks around the windows and fireplace mantle in the living room. Those were followed by 15 bright red paper bows, and about 35 paper cranes. I even included a bit of "mistletoe" hung in a welcoming position in the front hall, and topped it all off with a fancy, fan folded, wreath on the front door!




Granted, I think John was (somewhat pleasantly) surprised by the Christmas decorations, but later he let on that he was also a bit disappointed that I wasn't further along on the receipts when he got back. I'm afraid he had his own expectations around all of that, not unlike mine.

Nevertheless, over the next several weeks, I persevered - working a few hours a day on the days that John was not using the office and computer himself. It all turned out to be a lot more tedious and often more confusing than I initially expected it to be. In addition, John confessed to me that he'd been struggling with his company for some time, following his divorce and the economic downturn in 2008. I could see evidence of that struggle from my "research material". At the end of the day, my heart kind of went out to him, and so I wanted to give him my best effort to help in whatever way I could.

Consequently, in addition to this "administrative" work for his company, I also started helping more with Michael, following up on school-work, etc., as well as assisting more around the house with cooking and cleaning, especially when it came to cleaning before and after other cyclists who came to visit. There were 17 altogether before my own departure!

For instance, the first couple John and I "co-hosted" were from Switzerland - Mischa and Tina (seen with me here while we were site seeing around Transmountain).


They stayed with us for a couple of nights and then headed east, only to turn around and come back, because the weather got really nasty.


 To continue on their journey, they opted for a rental car instead, but not before celebrating New Year's with us and treating us to some really awesome homemade bread and chocolate brownie cake!


After Mischa and Tina we hosted the following other cyclists:


Ezra and Chris

 
Greg


Arika and Bill


Emily, Maddy, Lisa, and Sam



"Doc"


Nigel


Joe


Evan


and Glenn and Maya

It was during Lisa, Emily, Sam and Maddy's visit, that Lisa ended up buying one of my newly made, custom designed, tapered headbands. She had just gotten her hair cut shorter than she was used to and was really needing a headband to hold her bangs out of her face. I was actually happy to be able to sell one of mine to her and that single purchase gave me the confidence to believe that other people might be interested in my creations as well. And so I started thinking much more seriously about how I could turn this into a business of some kind. By the time Maya arrived with Glenn, I had mulitple options for her to choose from, and she also decided to make a purchase.


With my background in production line sewing, research and development, I knew I would do well to figure out some way of using the "scrap" fabric left over from making the headband. Consequently, I did a little research on making cloth flowers and developed my own "flower bauble accents" for both the headband itself and to attach (and interchange) on flip-flop sandals - something I'd already been doing since before I left Santa Barbara.


Sewing the long 42-44" seams of the headband, by hand, took some time. And there is actually a lot of prep work that goes into the flowers as well, sewing Velcro "hook" tabs to pieces of felt, cutting out all of the circles that make up the flowers, and then soaking them in a gelatin solution to seal and stiffen the fabric before hot-gluing them to the Velcro backs. Just prior to leaving El Paso, I also used John's computer to produce all of my advertising materials that I'd hoped to use in a farmer's market or flea market once I got to my destination in Columbus, GA. I even found a really nice carrying case to hold some of my supplies and merchandise (and carry with me during my plane flight(!)).


However, I'm getting a little ahead of myself...

In late January, we got a little snow storm in El Paso and since John had this big open area of grass in his back yard, the remnants of a grass tennis court, I couldn't help but take advantage of the opportunity to build a couple of snow-people whom I tried to characterize as tennis players (of course)!


When Michael came home from school, he joined in the fun along with me.


By later the next day, the sun had already done some serious damage, but my "players" certainly hung in there for as long as they could.


(I imagined the player in the back of the court thinking: "Dude, just serve the ball already. I'm dying out here in this heat!")

The weather continued to be a mix of warm sun and cold wind and rain over the next several weeks. I continued to work on John's receipts and help around the house. I took advantage of the fairly well stocked kitchen and started making bread from scratch, along with oatmeal cookies of various kinds, and I even tried making some fudge for the first time (that I could remember).






...And I made a "Kool-Aid" birthday cake for Michael which we shared as we also shared our March 4th Birthday. (Without any food coloring in the house, I ended up using various flavors of Kool-Aid for coloring the icing which gave it a very sweet-tart taste.)


It was also during the month of March that John went through a process of restoring the grass in the back yard as he was getting ready to sell the house.

It went from this:


(Seeds sprouting under plastic sheeting to preserve moisture and heat)

...to this




It also became a gathering place for all of the ring-necked doves in the area - probably because of all of the grass seed left over. I counted as many as 35 out there at one time. And then there was my first butterfly of the season:


A sure harbinger of transformations yet to come...! :)

Although it came a little late for me to actually use it for sewing headbands, I used some of my birthday money from my mom to have my sewing machine shipped from Santa Barbara. That gave me an opportunity to sit down with Michael and give him a chance to get a feel for sewing.


He seemed to enjoy the experience and we even sewed a new bag together to hold the marbles for his "Good Job Marble Jar" that I bought for him (and his parents) before I left. (The bag that came with the container actually turned out too be a little too small to hold all of the marbles.)


I had found out about these "Good Job Marble Jars" from Brené Brown as I was taking her "The Power of Vulnerability" course via Udemy.com. She gave me a new appreciation for the process involved in developing trust in your relationships with others. This quote sums up the basic idea:



As I later explained to Michael, those "marbles" accumulate with other people in your life as you show genuine caring for them and, very importantly, Do What You Say You're Going to Do.

I guess one thing that I have learned during my cross-country trekking is that things don't always go the way you plan! Nevertheless, it is important to be very conscious of what you commit to and, especially where it involves other people, keeping them informed as your plans (or feelings) change.

At the same time, I've learned, it is difficult if not impossible to win the trust of people who are simply not open to trusting in the first place, or are so caught up in their own "stuff" and how they come across to others, that they're paying very little attention to all the "marbles" they might be receiving from others on a day to day basis. (Note the emphasis above on "work, attention, and full engagement". A person can't bring that attention and full engagement to others if they're too caught up in their own "stuff".)

As I have also learned from Brené Brown, it is not easy to live "Wholeheartedly". Sometimes it is hard to move beyond feeling desperate for "love and belonging," as if our very lives depended on it (as was actually the case when we were infants and young children), and feeling the very normal "irreducible human need for love and belonging" that each of us, as otherwise self-sustaining adults, can choose to meet with others who actually have the capacity and desire to meet those needs with us. Again, as she points out above, "trust" is not a "grand gesture" - it is not "all or nothing" - it is "a growing marble collection" and we fill those "marble jars" (or not), with "time...work, attention, and full engagement".

(There was a lot more I learned from "The Power of Vulnerability" course as well as another course I started through Udemy, "Master Your Brain: Neuroscience for Personal Development" with George Caremans as the instructor. I will follow-up on all of that at another time...and probably via The Blue Moon Turtle Blog instead of this one.)

In addition to cycling visitors, my friend Eleanor, from Santa Barbara, also stayed a couple of times. She had temporarily relocated to Florida just before I left Santa Barbara, and then she found another place to stay in Boerne, TX. While making a road trip to pick up some of her own things in Santa Barbara, she also picked up more of my clothes and some of my books and brought them to me in El Paso. Of course, that meant I had that much more of my own stuff to pack up before flying to my next destination of Columbus, GA.


As I commented to John, packing is always a complicated process for me because I'm never packing for just one thing anymore! This time I was packing some boxes to ship as well as some boxes to take on the plane (one large box and my bicycle box), and I needed to know in advance how much they weighed to anticipate shipping costs and avoid overweight fees on the plane. I was also figuring out what I could carry in my backpack, and merchandise and supplies I might need in my new pink and grey carry-all. I had an extra large duffle bag that Eleanor brought with my clothes - not quite full - so I knew I'd have a little more space in it for some of my nicer clothes that she also brought, hanging in a long plastic bag. 

I flew on Southwest via Houston to Atlanta, and when my friend Michael recovered my duffle bag from the carousel, I noticed that it had gotten badly damaged en route (something that has never happened to me before while flying on Southwest). After carting everything up and down the baggage claim area for about half-an-hour, we finally found the customer service counter where they were quick to replace my original duffle with a much fancier (and heavier) one with wheels.

Although I could not find an exact image of my original bag (and I had to turn it over to the Southwest agents in order to get the replacement bag), it was an extra large, single compartment duffle that looked something like this: 


What was nice about it was that I could fold it down to a very portable size, which was handy for shipping, or even carrying it on my bicycle. And the bag itself did not weigh that much so I could pack more stuff in it and not so easily exceed the 50lb baggage limit.

This is what I ended up with in the exchange with Southwest(!):


Now I have multiple compartments...


....And wheels, etc., etc. I could imagine designing a whole new trailer around this bag so I could pull it with my bicycle!

I know, I know...under normal circumstances, I should be Thrilled by this new bag, and how much "better" it is than my old one. I'm sure it cost a heck of a lot more! Neverthelss, I suspect I'll still be looking to replace that old one, for the same reason's I bought it in the first place! And besides the outside pocket getting ripped, I had a Swiss Army pocket knife in it that was small enough to carry on a key ring and had some sentimental value as well. I knew I would need it to open the bike box so I had put it in there to be handy. Unfortunately, it wasn't anywhere to be found when I got my bag back. Again...lesson learned!

Nevertheless, I'm now in Columbus, GA to "house sit" for my friend Michael. We met while we were both stationed with the military in Bethesda, Maryland and we've accumulated quite a few "marbles" over the last 10 years or so. (Kind of hard to believe it's been that long!)

My (tentative) plans are to relocate the remainder of my belongings from Florida and, hopefully, by the end of June, complete that Truly Final sort through - especially of my "historical documents" and "reference material" from the early years of my life. I'm also planning to visit my mother in Dalton, GA with whom I have not had face-to-face contact in many, many years. (See My TEDx Talk for more on that story.) I've already checked-in with the local bicycle advocacy group, Bike Columbus, and will be looking forward to meeting with them and sharing from all of my previous experiences with the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. (To be honest, I feel like a "bee" that is "flying from flower to flower" and serving to "cross-pollinate" between these two communities and who knows how many more as my journey continues?!)

I'm glad to be able to take another "break" from the road - this time with a good friend. It has certainly been an adventure thus far and I look forward to whatever Life has in store for me as time goes on!

I am once again grateful and humbled by all the people who continue to read this blog and show their support as contributors and hosts. It's been quite the ride...and, I guess...it's still not over just yet!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

First Update for 2015 - Part II

The ride to Deming from the rest stop was backed by a very strong wind from the west which I really only felt when I stopped for my usual breaks along the road. The shoulder was in pretty good condition as well, so there were times when I was up to 15 mph (judging by my watch and the mile markers), which is probably about top speed for me on level ground.

As I came into town, I decided to stop for a short break at the picnic tables outside the Sonic. There was a silver vehicle parked on the other side of the railing and two women finishing up their meals inside. Eventually, they got out to walk the dog they had with them and that is when they observed me there and struck up conversation with me. When one of the women, Sue, found out I was heading to El Paso, she explained that I had to meet her nephew there, and gave me his name, address, and phone number. (Little did I know at the time, that this information would prove particularly meaningful later on down the road!) The women left me with encouraging words and a small donation as well for which I was, as always, very grateful.

Prior to my departure from Duncan, AZ I had made contact with the owner of the "Push-N-Pedal" in Deming, hoping he might have an idea of where I might stay for the night. As he explained, there would be a dinner where I would join with other homeless people from the community and then whoever needed a place to stay would be assigned to available apartments in the Agape Village, one person per apartment.

I made my way over to the location to kind of check things out, but since it was only 4:45 or so I still had a while to wait. As I continued kind of "wandering" through the nearby neighborhood I spotted a laundry mat and since I was definitely in need of some big washers and dryers to clean all of my linens from the misadventures with the kitten the night before, I felt lucky to find it so close. The only potential problem was the fact that it would be closing around 5:30.

I unloaded my gear and got everything into the washers as quickly as possible and then sat down to wait while knitting my second pair of "sleeping socks". There were only a couple of other people in the laundry mat besides the woman managing it. However, before the time was up on the washers and dryers, we had all started talking. The manager offered me a long-sleeve "DanceSkin" like shirt, she thought I might need as another layer in the cold weather. The woman who was doing laundry, Kim, was quite friendly and when I told her about my plan for accommodations for the night she was a bit concerned. She had some contacts at the Fire Department, and since finishing up my laundry had taken me past the 6:00 meeting time at Agape Village I was open to letting her lead me to fire station to see if they might have a place for me to stay instead.

As some calls needed to be made to see if that were going to be possible, we left my bicycle locked outside and, per her request, I accompanied Kim to a rather remote location some ways out of town to drop off the laundry she'd actually been doing for a man that she knew. We stopped at his house for a few minutes and I talked to him about my trip and about the WarmShowers community that supported touring cyclists like myself, before we headed back to the Fire Station.

When we got back, Kim dropped me off and I spent the next hour or so with Captain Acosta. Unfortunately, due to liability concerns, I would not be able to stay at the firehouse. However, Captain Acosta made some calls to other local organizations he knew of that might be in a position to host me. Although none of those options panned out, he was very generous with some food donations, offering me multiple cans of tuna and salmon, before I went back into to town, deciding that a motel room was probably going to be my "last resort" for the night.

I checked in to the "Butterfield Stage Motel", one of the cheapest I could find, and began settling into my room. Unfortunately, it was not long before I spotted small red and black insects, about the size of a tick, crawling on the bed and walls. Although I had never seen them before, I suspected that these were the dreaded "Bed Bugs" and I knew this could be a real problem. However, it was getting late and I figured even if I complained about it and they offered to move me to another room, it might be just as likely to have them as this one. Instead, I opted for covering both beds with the two nylon tarps I had with me, sleeping on one in my own sleeping bag and putting my gear on the other since, again, I had a flat tire to repair which meant removing everything from the bicycle!

Needless to say, I slept somewhat wrestlessly on this night as well, on top of the even more wrestless night I spent at the rest stop with the kitten. In the morning, I repaired my tire, and was very, very thorough in inspecting all of my gear as I loaded it back on the bike. Before leaving, I stopped at the front desk with a small plastic bag holding the tissues on which I had multiple squashed bed bugs. I was not angry or anything, but I just wanted to calmly and peacefully make the manager aware of the situation. After ringing the bell, I was expecting to see the older gentleman who had checked me in the night before. Instead a younger, dark-haired man appeared and led me to an older woman in the "house" part of the office/building. This man turned out to be her physical therapist. When I showed her the bugs and explained my experience she expressed some concern, she was sorry it had happened, and she said she would make sure the room was treated; however, she did not then voluntarily offer to refund any of the cost of the room (which, honestly, I felt would have been appropriate under the circumstances). Nevertheless, I accepted the situation for what it was and proceeded to chat amiably with the therapist who followed me out the door, curious to know more about my journey.

As we said our good-bye's I noticed the weather had become quite overcast and chilly, a seeming reflection of my mood after my rough night at the motel. I headed on down the road, recognizing some parts of the town where I had already ridden the day and evening before. Less than a mile from the motel a car pulled past me on the left and then crossed in front of me, stopping on the side of the road. I saw a hand thrust out the window with a bill waving enthusiastically. I recognized this "invitation" and pulled up alongside the car where a woman inside explained that she saw my sign and really appreciated what I was doing, backing up her appreciation with a $20.00 donation. I thanked her graciously and continued on my way thinking, "Now the room only cost me $15.00 so I guess that wasn't such a bad deal after all!" Even if the older woman was reluctant to be so generous, someone in the town of Deming made up for that, and it really helped to balance things out for me overall!

With a fresh psychological/biochemical boost from receiving another donation (I've learned that the amount really doesn't matter, it's the act of kindness and generosity that "strikes home"), I was once again ready to tackle the road ahead which would lead me to the town of Las Cruces, NM. I had two WarmShowers hosts to meet this time, John and Donetta and later Jeff and Liz.



I must have been traveling during Sand Hill Crane migration season. Passing another significant water hole, I could see birds flying in from multiple directions. It was one of those moments when I wish I had a better camera, with a zoom lens, so it would be clearer that the opposite side of the "lake" in this picture was covered with birds! I guess it was one of those occasions where it was all about being there and no better way to do that, in my opinion, than on a bicycle!

Given my route for the day was a little over 60 miles, a longer trip than usual for me, I was relieved as I always am when I came to that point where the road started to dip down into the valley wherein lay the town of Las Cruces, NM. This scene has actually played itself out in various ways multiple times on this journey, and it is always encouraging.


One significant landmark I had to cross as I came into town was the Rio Grande. Admittedly, that turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, since all that was showing for this season was a wide expanse of packed dirt. (In other words, it wasn't so "grande"!)


As you can see by the above photos, it was starting to get dark and I still had a few miles to reach my first host. Nevertheless, I persevered through evening traffic and managed to reach John and Donetta's without incident. There I also met Ben, a cyclist coming from the east along the Southern Tier, and John took us both out to dinner at one of the local sandwich shops.


Ben was one of the first riders I'd encountered who was carrying about as much gear, including food, as I have been. Saturday morning, after changing yet another flat and struggling a little with disassembling and cleaning my derailleur and putting it back together again, Ben and I rode to the Farmer's Market, sharing our experiences of being on the road along the way. Unfortunately, Ben ended up leaving his wallet at John's house so we had to back track to get it before he was really able to get underway for the day.

I had already been planning to stay a little longer with John and Donetta, in part to rest up from my last two days of riding and relatively sleepless nights, and also to time my visit with Jeff as well. In addition, I had at least a couple of cans of tuna that were burning a hole in my bags, thanks to Captain Acosta in Deming. Even though Donetta was initially concerned that John might not like it, I took a ride into town to buy the remaining ingredients I would need to make tuna casserole.

My first stop was at the bicycle shop to get a couple of much needed tire liners. (How many flats have I mentioned over the past couple of posts?!) Then it was off to the "Lowe's" grocery store in the same strip-mall shopping center. Since I could not find mushroom soup, or any other cream soup that did not have monosodium glutamate in it, I decided I could just make my own. Not knowing for sure what Donetta had in her cupboards, I bought a small bag of flour, a small bottle of oil, mushrooms, onions, and celery. I also bought tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce for a salad to go with the casserole.

Still on the look-out for certain toiletries that I needed to re-stock, I went back to the bicycle shop owner to ask where to find the nearest drug store. He directed me some ways down the road to a Walgreens. I went in, did not find what I wanted, but bought some sample bottles of lotion to substitute for my favored "Nature's Gate Fragrance Free" version. It was as I was exiting the drug store that I then spotted something that looked more like a Health Food Store across the street. Much to my excitement, it turned out to be a co-op and I was actually able to restock on multiple items, including my favorite lotion and shampoo, as well as mung beans, and crackers. In addition, I found some cream of mushroom soup that did NOT have MSG in it! The only problem was...now I had all of those other ingredients that I really did not need!

So I began to back-track. First to the Walgreens to return the lotion samples. And then back to the Lowe's grocery store. Of note is the fact that I was doing all of this running around and shopping on the Saturday Before Thanksgiving, so the store was really, really busy! It seemed they were also having a particularly good sale on turkeys as almost everyone had one in their cart!

Nevertheless, I braved the lines and odd stares as I stepped up to the customer service counter to return my flour and oil and mushrooms, feeling somewhat obligated to explain that I was traveling by bicycle and was unfamiliar with the stores in the neighborhood, so I had purchased all of those things not realizing I could get what I wanted at the Co-op.

With my single pannier now filled to the top, I headed back up the hill to John and Donetta's. It was already getting somewhat later in the afternoon by then so I proceeded to prepare the tuna casserole upon my return. It was while I was in the midst of my preparations that a discussion arose between John and Donetta which soon confirmed that there had been a significant miscommunication between them many years back. Much to Donetta's surprise, John would actually be fine eating "cooked tuna", so that meant he would, in fact, be joining us for dinner!

And, as it turned out, there was yet another rider arriving that evening, a "tall dark and handsome" one who happened to have a very pleasant English-Scottish accent, hailing from Northern England. He arrived just in time to take a shower before joining us at the dinner table where we all did some damage to the rather large casserole I'd prepared!



After dinner and lively conversation, John and Donetta went to bed, Simon and I stayed up to wash dishes, and continued coversing until quite late - looking at maps, sharing life experiences, and comparing gear kits! There was quite a contrast, which explains why I feel comfortable designating him as the "hare" to my "tortoise" when it comes to riding styles!

The next morning I shared one of my green smoothies with Simon as well as a few snacks for the road (seeing how little he was carrying!). Knowing my mission of "Pedaling for Peace", in return, he offered me a $20.00 donation, for which I was very grateful.


As I only had a seven mile ride for the day, I was able to take my time getting packed. I said my farewell's to John and Donetta, and then began the mostly uphill trek to my second Las Cruces host, living somewhat closer to the foothills of the Organ Mountains. It was a really beautiful day for a ride!


Jeff had been quite enthusiastic about my visit, and even came down to join me on the road for the last mile or so. There was a bit of a stretch of gravel getting to his house, but once there, settling in was easy.

I had been soaking some lentils on my way, thinking I might have time during my stay to make sprouts and another batch of egg-fried rice to share with Jeff and his wife Liz. It was decided that the warmest place to put them would be in the oven. Later that evening, as Liz was preparing dinner for us, including a berry pie, I heard her exclaiming, loudly, (cursing actually). When I went into the kitchen to find out the problem, it turned out that she had forgotten about the sprouts when she was heating up the oven for the pie. Although the beans were still usable in the stir fry, the plastic mesh/strainer lid did not survive.



I know Liz felt really bad about it, but I found the whole situation to be quite amusing. In the end, we all had a good laugh and, as I said, the stir-fry I later made with the "baked lentils" turned out just fine!

Although Liz had to work most of the time I was there, I did get to spend quite a bit of time talking with Jeff, and that was a very enjoyable experience. We kind of "clicked" on some of my favorite topics, psychology and society, politics, etc. I even shared my "Understanding the Constitution" paper with him from my Introduction to Constitutional Law class (actually the last paper I wrote to complete my BS degree in Social Science).

In addition to the great conversation, I was able to enjoy the hot tub with the view of the Organ Mountains in the background.



Overall, it was another wonderful experience, with another kind and generous "Warm Showers" host. Before saying our final "good-byes", John gave me a donation (in part to cover the replacement of the plastic sprout-jar screen) and once again accompanied me on a gravel "short-cut" to the main road, even helping to push my bike for me, which gave him a greater appreciation for the real challenge involved with that!


It was a beautiful day for a ride as I headed for my first of two hosts planned in El Paso, TX. This would be my third visit to the Lone Star State, having bicycled here from Jacksonville, FL in 2012. I then spent most of the summer of 2013 riding from my aunt and uncle's house in Weatherford, TX (just west of the Dallas/Fort Worth area) back down to Luling, TX where I (officially) ended that first stage the year before.

Now, I was back again, coming all the way from Santa Barbara and still facing that intimidating expanse of West Texas. A new WarmShowers host, Rayce was gracious enough to let me stay with him and his family for the Thanksgiving holiday. He proved to be a most capable cook, preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. (I showed my appreciation by washing all the dishes afterwards!) Apart from the Thanksgiving feast, I had a quiet room to myself, and good internet access, so I put most of my free time into planning the route ahead, not knowing that my next stop, with the nephew of the woman I had met in Deming, would actually be one of the longer ones of my journey thus far!