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 with my goal being to finally connect my route again in New Braunfels, TX. 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 endeavor would not be possible without you!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

First Update for 2015 - Part I

Hi, Everybody!!! And Happy New Year!!!

I know it's been a while since my last post. More details about why to follow, but for now let's just say that I've kind of been on an unplanned "Holiday Break" here in El Paso, TX. All is well though and I look forward to getting back on the road soon!

To pick up where I left off, several weeks ago now, heading out of Duncan, AZ....

As it was a fairly long stay for me at the Simpson Hotel including a significant weather shift requiring the new clothing I pictured in my last post, it took a little longer to get everything arranged and packed than usual when my final departure day arrived. In addition, I had a lot of last minute details to take care of like buying a new ($9) phone with a little more internet capability from the Duncan Family Dollar and mailing some things forward to my planned stopping place in Columbus, GA. I finally pulled away around 2:00 pm with Lordsburg, NM as my destination about 36 miles southeast. With only moderate hills to climb on the way I thought I might just be able to make it before sundown.

I saw Sand Hill Cranes gathered in this water-logged field less than a mile outside of Duncan followed by more of the wide open desert chapparall I had grown accustomed to from my previous weeks on the road as well as the two or three side trips I took with Deborah and Clayton from the Simpson Hotel.

I still had plenty of sunlight as I crossed the Arizona-New Mexico border, although as I was setting-up this shot I started to feel slightly apprehensive as one of the big semi-trucks hauling a load of copper sheets came into the pull-out area right behind me. I eventually went on ahead and remember seeing the truck pass me again later in the day. But, no real need to worry as apparently the driver was just making a stop to talk to someone on the phone.

About 7-10 miles out of Lordsburg, the sun went down on me, and as I anticipated, it started to get cold really quick. Rather than wait at all, I pulled out my extra layers - my new foot gaiters, hand gaiters and gloves, my long-sleeve sport jacket as well as my wind/rain gear, and head/neck cover. Much to my chagrin, I wasn't on the bike five minutes before I started to OVERHEAT! I took my gloves and hand gaiters off and that helped, but for the rest of the trip the rest of me stayed bundled anyway.

Along with a few stretches through Arizona, I think I will remember this as one of the harder ones. Once it got dark, it was Really Dark, no moon to speak of and no street lights. I was back on the bike after a fairly long break so I was feeling more tired than I might have otherwise. Although I had considered staying at the Lordsburg KOA and had made contact with the manager for the night, I had some problems navigating once I got into town and missed a turn somewhere. Besides, I wasn't looking forward to being sweaty and then cold while trying to set-up my tent in the dark, so I opted for the first cheap motel I came to instead. Feeling quite chilled, I even took a very rare hot bath for a change, although I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't make it a Really Hot bath since the water temperature just didn't make it up that high.

The next morning I spent a little time activating and familiarizing myself with my new phone before re-packing my bags and loading up the bike. The only place to stay between Lordsburg and Deming was going to be a rest stop about half-way in between, my second rest-stop so far along this journey. It was a nice day though, not too much wind, and in general I was making good time.

As I pedaled down the road I started to see billboards in the fields at regular intervals advertising "Southwest Gifts", etc. Driving in a car, people might not notice them quite as much, but being on a bicycle, I had plenty of time to read Every Single One of Them. Having a minimal background in advertisting, I kept thinking about the "Rule of Seven"; i.e. if you see an advertisement at least seven times you're more likely to respond to it. Well, there were far more than seven of those billboards on the road and, not surprisingly, when I finally got to the exit, I thought, "What the heck, I'll make a pit stop!"

Once inside I began talking with the two women working there as well as a woman who was making purchases. Her name was Susan and she turned out to be a cycling enthusiast herself. I talked with her about signing up to be a host on Warmshowers and she was generous enough to offer me a $5 donation as well. With that donation I purchased a mug so I would have something to boil water in a microwave the next time I was in a motel, something I realized I needed with my stop in Lordsburg. Although the mug had a southwest theme, unfortunately, like so many other items at the store, it was "Made in China".

Having overheard my conversation with the other women, another man there named Dean came out to talk to me about my trip, and to soak up a little inspiration since he has a dream of doing a cross country ride himself. He appreciated my efforts and informed me that there were other Bowlins stores along the route and that he might look into getting them on the Warmshowers map as well in some way in order to better support touring cyclists. (Of course, I didn't know at the time that this stop, and the fact that I chose to make a purchase there, would become a much more significant event later on down the road!)

Eventually I reached the marker for The Continental Divide, actually, for the second time as I had crossed it at another point when I was site seeing with Mons Larson while I was visiting with him in Safford, AZ. Not only is The Continental Divide a major geographical feature of the North American continent, it's a route marker for cyclists like myself as well.

With only about 30 miles to the rest stop, it was a pretty easy ride. Of note is the fact that using only the "map" mode on my Map My Ride map showed the stop as a mere diviation of the road away from the main road.

However, by using the satellite version and zoomed in a lot, the paths and shelter buildings became much more obvious.

I was able to find a shelter facing away from the worst of the wind and took a moment to watch the sun go down outside "my window".

As it was still windy and quite cold, I decided to adhere to my Survival Skills training and see to my shelter/bed first. I used the two tarps I am carrying with me to tightly enclose the base of the concrete table and chairs, figuring I could just fit underneath it to sleep for the night. Not only would this block the wind, it would also block most of the light from the fixture overhead which stayed on all night.

(I know the light was there for my "protection", but otherwise is was really annoying!)

I used my tuna can/pineapple juice can heating system along with the blue enamel camp bowl I picked up specifically for this purpose to boil some water. As the temps were really low, I figured out that the water would boil more quickly if I kept the bowl covered somehow, and I ended up using some newspaper I found in the trash with the lid from my plastic lunch box to weight it down a little. Once the water got to boiling I added a can of chicken and a mix of mung bean and lentil sprouts, topped off with some Dulse seaweed for "Chicken Soup" which turned out to be quite tastey! (A first time experiment for me.)

As I was eating my chicken soup I heard the distinct sound of a cat meowing VERY LOUDLY near my shelter. By now it was full dark, although the light was on over the table. I took one of my head lamps outside the shelter to scout around in search of eye reflections. Seeing nothing I went back into the shelter just in time to see a small dark streak of an animal darting in from the other side, and, to my surprise, heading straight into my "bed room"!

I thought to myself, "Smart cat!" because, not only had it figured out where the warm spot was going to be for the night, I suspect the smell of my chicken soup made it aware there was food to be had as well. Out in the middle of nowhere, I knew this cat could not have gotten here easily on its own, so it was probably abandoned. Furthermore, seeing how it was not the least bit shy about being around a human being, I knew it had had contact with humans previously, adding fuel to the abandonment hypothesis.

As it turned out, I did just happen to have more canned meats with me, including a can of salmon. Figuring the kitten had not eaten or had much to drink, given its scrawny condition and the arid climate, I was sure to mix small portions of the meat with water. It proceeded to consume all of it voraciously, meowing the entire time as well...something it continued to do almost non-stop, except for when it was sleeping. (I suspected it was something it had been doing ever since it was abandoned and it was finding it very hard to stop meowing even though it was now, finally, getting its needs met, at least somewhat.)

I made sure not to feed the kitten too much at a time, so it would not end up being sick, while I also realized it was probably going to want more as the night went on, given its size (i.e. still a "baby" needing regular feedings). Furthermore, as it was hesitant to let me out of its sight and I did not want it following me around in the freezing cold, I tucked the kitten into my jacket with each trip I made to the bathroom - 2 or three of them - over the next 10 hours or so.

After returning on one these occasions, I put the kitten down so I had my hands free to put more food and water in its bowl. It headed for the cushy bed and I did not realize until it was too late that it decided to use it for a bathroom! I imagined that it didn't want to be walking around outside on the cold ground and in the cold night air looking for a place to relieve itself. Since I had pushed the top of my mummy sleeping bag back closer to the table opening, that's where the kitten's pee soaked in the most, smelling, not surprisingly, like salmon! It also soaked into the fluffy blanket, and my outer sheet!

There wasn't much night left but I was determined to try to get a little more sleep, in spite of all of the disruptions. So I could continue to at least use it for padding, I flipped the sleeping bag around so the foot was at the head of the bed. Where the blanket had been wrapped around top and bottom, I now pulled both layers on top with the damp part towards my feet. I was already bundled up with my hat, gloves, warmer jacket with hood and windbreaker, foot gaiters over my wool sock covered feet, as well as wearing my windpants over my pants and long underwear. Miss Kitty figured out early on that the warmest place for her was on or near my neck, where she slept peacefully until she was ready to get up and eat again.

Thus we passed the night, more wrestlessly than restfully! In addition, I knew I would not be able to leave the kitten behind and that's when my purchase at the Bowlin's Continental Divide store became more significant. The next morning I pulled out my receipt, and, sure enough, there was a phone number on it!

I took my time packing up, especially since all the damp bedding needed some time to hang and dry out. I used my stove to boil more water for tea and oatmeal and even used some of my malted vanilla powdered milk to make "warm milk" for the kitten. After openning up a can of sardines to go with the milk, I think she finally got enough to eat, and was content to sit on the drying blanket, bathing, and soaking up the warm morning sun.

I called the Bowlin's store around 8:00 am, and spoke to the manager, Larry. I explained that I had been there on my bicycle the day before and that now I was at the rest stop 10 miles down the road with an abandoned kitten that I was not able to take with me. He understood, and said he would get there as soon as he could after the other employees came to work around 9:00.

Larry followed through as promised and brought a box with some shredded paper in it to put the kitten in for the drive back to the store. He taped it, but left a little flap open for the kitten to see out of. He decided to put this in the passenger seat next to him, then went back to close the tailgait of the minivan he was driving. Funny thing was, the kitten was not going to have anything to do with that box! No, she was out by the time he got back to the driver's seat and rolling around happily on the sun-warmed dashboard of the car, right in front of the steering wheel! Larry laughed, admitting defeat, and reached up to scatch her head before he drove away.

Still feeling a bit tired myself, I was nevertheless grateful that I was able to help out my little sleeping buddy for the night. I have since called back to the store to confirm that the kitten was given a new home with a mother and her young son! So, mission accomplished!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Journey Continues

I am grateful to share that with some assistance from my Safford, AZ host, Mons Larson, I was able to properly update my iPad without losing all of my data (including photos)! At some point, I feel I need to sort through and reduce the number of photos I have stored so that I can upload more to iCloud, but for now, it's more or less back to "business as usual". ("Usual" meaning I still have to jump through some hoops to get photos added to these posts, but that is what it is!)

In addition to assisting me with my iPad update, Mons also took me up on my offer to work for him at the new Ace Hardward store he has been helping to open in the nearby copper mining town of Morenci, AZ. Mons has been the computer network and inventory management technician for the Safford Ace Hardware store for over 20 years. I found that for a lot of technicians out there who think they know what they're doing, Mons really impressed me as someone who actually knows what he's doing! For the first time in a long time he put my Navy Electronics Training (and capacity for attention to detail) to use - requesting that I add terminating clips to the phone and ethernet cables that had already been run throughout the store by the building contractors. Mons taught me how to properly install and test my terminations. With a bunch of cables to work on, I soon had a system in place that optomized my efficiency. Every "Pass[ing]" result was a bit of a thrill! Consequently, my 17 hours of work (including some much needed cleaning of the office spaces) actually turned out to be a lot of fun - fun that I got paid for! The $13.50 I had at the end of my last post was increased significantly, was good timing given the (relative) plethora of stores in Safford and nearby Thatcher where I could shop in order to re-stock my food supplies and even buy some spare tubes for my bike.

This trend of working to raise more money for my trip has continued to my next destination 35 miles southeast on HWY 70 - Duncan, AZ and the Simpson Hotel Bed and Breakfast run by Deborah Mendelsohn and Clayton Jarvis.

I arrived in the late afteroon and was directed to a small, mint green travel trailer where I would be sleeping and storing my gear while in Duncan. As Deborah had warned me, I would be right next to the roosters so I should be prepared for early morning crowing (which, except for one particularly cold morning, has generally been around 4:30 am).

Given my sensitivity to light and the absence of curtains on the trailer's many windows, I got creative with hanging articles of clothing and rain gear over the windows the first night. However, the next morning at breakfast, I asked Deborah if she had a sewing machine and offered to make curtains. Although she did not have a machine at the time, there was one available. It was retrieved from the nearby Tibetan Buddhist Temple and retreat center at Iron Knot Ranch by Justin Taylor, one of the other guests at the hotel who was going up there to visit that day anyway.

He returned with a Brother Electronic machine, and although it was not like my tried and true Bernina, I endeavored to work with it in the relational "zen" way I had learned from reading Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In three days I was able to sew and install all 12 panels. I also used a strip of wire to secure/mend the springs on the cot/couch before covering it with a better color-coordinating sheet.

So now the trailer is more cosy for me as well as for any future cyclists who decide to take this "lower" route from Safford, AZ to Las Cruces, NM!

Nevertheless, my "work" in Duncan did not stop there. After a short break - a rainy day spent working on this post - and another involving catching up on laundry and doing a few other minor mending jobs on curtains in the main part of the hotel, I was duly commissioned to assist with the installation of a sign at the entrance to the Sandra Day O'Connor Walkway for the Duncan Pride Society. Unfortunately, we had to wait close to a week to get all of the city utilities to mark the courses of their power, water, and phone lines!

During that interim, I joined my hosts on a side trip to Silver City, NM (where I would have passed through if I had taken the official Adventure Cycling route). There I was able to shop for a few more things including: chamois cream and another spare inner tube, a pair of blue jeans that were a relaxed fit to work in, two pairs of gloves, and everything I needed to make my own pair of warm sleeping socks. I felt really lucky to find jeans that would fit my proportions and I only had to pay $1 for them! I suspect you'll be seeing a lot more of those jeans in the weeks ahead!

I was also able to stock up on some other bulk items, mung beans, dried apricots, etc., as well as buy ingredients for Tofu Peanut Butter Chili, a recipe I remembered from my college days at Tennessee Tech that I thought my vegetarian hosts might appreciate. As it turned out, they put me on the spot by inviting a couple of guests to share the meal with us! Everything worked out fine though, and now there's a new chili recipe for the household along with ginger cookies and cream cheese for dessert!

However, after all the fun, it was back to work! We finally got the approvals we needed to dig a couple of holes for support posts, and laid the foundation for the new sign. After that it was up to me to lay the brick for the base, and then Clayton and I split the work on the columns. Although the work got extended a little longer than I'd anticipated, by the end of nearly three weeks here, we had our sign installed, and I had some more money to help me along my way, including buying more time with extended rent payments for my storage unit back in Florida!

On another side trip to Morenci for groceries, we were able to stop by the newly opened Ace Hardware Store. And as luck would have it, Mons was working there that day, and although I had to be patient because they were keeping him so busy, I still managed to pull him away for another photo. So here we are in front of the OPEN Ace store (that I helped get up and runnng)!

We stopped in Clifton on the way back to Duncan. There I was able to buy a hat to help keep my head warmer especially when I'm sleeping. (I will probably make another one myself, but this one was blue, and only $0.55 so I figured it was worth it!) We visited our previous dinner guest, John, who gave me another generous donation for my trip. We also stopped briefly at the "Cliff Jail" of Clifton which was next door to the thrift store where I bought my hat.

Then it was back to the hotel, to wrap up work on the sign, sew several more personal projects (while I had access to a machine), and then attack the daunting task of packing everything, new and old, after THREE WEEKS off the bike!

My new gear includes: Extra pairs of short socks graciously offered from my host, Deborah, my new pair of hand knit socks, light nylon foot gaiters and hand gaiters (for wind protection), two new pairs of gloves (liners and outer gloves), head cover and arm warmers I made from pants that I bought at the Family Dollar (THE store here in Duncan), plus another pair of pants to wear early in the morning when it's cold, a blue knit hat, my "new" jeans (that fit very comfortably), a furry blanket and nylon "pillow-case" cover, along with another big skein of red yarn donated by another Duncan resident, Doug, who is actually famous in this town for his crocheting! I'll be knitting some more socks and who knows what else from all that yarn!

In addition, using the fabric from the upper part of one pair of grey, fleece lined pants, I added several more layers of padding and used the ribbled knit waistband from the pants to make the drawstring casing to go around the bottom of a refurbished saddle cover. It all went together surprisingly well and I'm glad not to have to deal with adjusting the old cover that was totally falling apart!

So that about wraps it up here for me in Duncan, AZ. And "wrapping up" is exactly what I will have to be doing as the temps have shifted significantly in the three weeks that I have been here. But, I feel I have accommodated as best I can and we'll just have to see if I'm going to survive the chilly nights ahead, in which I do anticipate at least a few nights camping outdoors!

To conclude this post though, I thought I'd share a photo of the kittens, their mama, and their "apartment building" in the background, after all, the Simpson Hotel is a "Bed and Breakfast" for its feline inhabitants as well as its itinerant guests!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

This Too Shall Pass

For all of you reading this blog, I am sorry that I have not been more frequent with my updates. In this particular case, I wish I had some more exciting photos to share. I've been downloading them from my digital camera to my iPad for the last several weeks, deleting the photos from my camera card with each download. Unfortunately, my iPad has been rendered inoperable as of the last iOS8.1 update and it is looking like a system restore is on the horizon through which I anticipate I will lose all of my photos. I will still have "Contacts" and the information I have stored in iCloud via my "Pages" app, but that looks like about it. Otherwise, I still have a jump drive with some of my photos from Stages I and II.

I have been struggling with my iPad ever since I installed iOS8 shortly before I left Santa Barbara, CA. Not that it wasn't a little cranky before, but this last update has caused major problems. I've trusted the updates I have been prompted to install in the past, so I had no reason in advance to be particularly wary of this one. Of course, it was only after I started having major problems that I looked for information about it and realized I probably should not have installed it on my iPad2, but it was too late by then. (Would have been nice if in the install update preview they would have mentioned that it was not suited for iPad2s or made it so it did not show up as an install update on my iPad2 in the first place!) Furthermore, since I do not have a desk top computer or lap top that I have used to link my iPad to iTunes, etc., I was not able to follow someone else's advice to re-install the previous operating system.

In addition, the iPad and I guess MAC operating systems have not synched well with this blogging platform. In the past I have had to e-mail photos (having them show up as individual blog post drafts), and then cut and paste the html code from those drafts into an actual post. It's a time consuming process that requires a great deal of focus on my part and I've not been able to bring that level of focus to bear of late, given my sometimes accelerated riding schedule and my desire to interact more with my hosts. I've also found myself more at ease interacting with people on FaceBook and posting simple updates there or on Twitter rather than spending so much more time and energy posting updates here. The fact that I cannot even  link this blog on FaceBook (because they have it tagged as "dangerous" for some reason) has also been demotivating. So, again, for those of you following my journey via this blog more or less exclusively, I apologize for not being more adept and consistent in the use of this medium.

I hate to say that some of this comes down to money. I have not been able to afford more than $25/month to pay for my "stupid" phone that I got via NET10 back in 2011 or 2012, and I have not been able to upgrade the phone since then. For internet service with my iPad I have continued to rely on hosts' internet or hot spots at places like Starbucks or McDonald's. And ever since I got my screen replaced in Woodway, TX (summer of 2013) it seems my antenna or receiver has not been as functional - i.e. I've had some difficulty even in using the WiFi that was available to me.

Nevertheless, having my iPad as dysfunctional as it has been was better than not having it at all - which seems to be where I am at right now. And, as of today, I have $ not a lot available to replace it!

As the title of this post suggests, I know that "this too shall pass." I will not let these circumstances stop me from continuing on with my journey, although I may not be able to keep everyone updated, either here or on Facebook, as much as I would like to. (I dare say in the back of my mind the thought comes up "I'm just going to have to do this [bike ride] all over again, but next time with better tools!")

For the record - I have made it as far as Safford, AZ staying with a WarmShowers host and borrowing the computer available to create this particular post. While in the process, this kitten came to join me in order to "suckle" on my wrist... :) At least my digital camera still works by itself!

I will post again as soon as I can. Wish me luck on the whole iPad restoration thing...

Yours in Peace...


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On the Road to Ocotillo, CA - Alpine to Pine Valley

I knew it was going to be a hard day. According to my "Map My Ride" map it was going to be up hill pretty much the whole way. In addition, this was the first time I've set off not being certain of where I would end up, or who I would be staying with at the end of the day.

I kept thinking to myself, "I did 70 miles of Texas hill country from Columbus to Luling in July, 2012. I should be able to do these 63 miles to Ocotillo."

I got up really early to finish packing and load my bicycle. I had to take more time than I intended to strap my "new" wine/water boxes to the back of my bicyle. It was a hard system to figure out, but I was ultimately satisfied with the results. Granted, I'm not all that excited about people thinking I'm carrying two boxes of Wine on my bicycle so I will probably "mask" the boxes in some way soon. Furthermore, I was not ready to carry that much water Up Hill if I could avoid it although, not too far down the road, I was kind of wishing I Had filled at least one of them!

I said "Good-bye!" to my host Jonathan and Konnor (who was waiting for his school bus) before heading up the road, pedaling very very slowly, most of the way, but managing to stay on the bike.

Every overhanging shade tree became a place to stop, catch my breath, and take a drink of water/electrolyte mix. It was very, very, slow going.

At one point I got somewhat confused by bike route signs that seemed to put me onto I-8 only to be contradicted by "Pedestrians, Bicyclists, [etc.] Prohibited" signs on the entrance ramps. So I had to turn around. Eventually, a local cyclist passed me and helped clear-up the confusion.

Another mile or two down the road and another cyclist, named Kathy, came up behind me, reading my signage (!) and we stopped and talked for a little while. She parted leaving me a small cash donation that was very encouraging as those have been few and far between lately. She was able to add some more clarification for my route, and I pedaled on from there.

The greatest challenge of this particular stage of my journey was that it was virtually ALL Up Hill! A low but steady grade that went on for what turned out to be about 16 miles. The image below really does not do the challenge justice and skips the first part from Alpine to the intersection with I-8.

As I rode onto I-8 my water supply was running low - down to one 27 oz Klean Kanteen and my 2 liter "head towel drizzling" bottle. Furthermore, there was a disadvantage to being on the interstate: Even though I was legal on this particular section as a cyclist, I would not be legal (technically) as a pedestrian, so I felt compelled to stay on my bicycle the whole time, rather than getting off and pushing as I might have under other circumstances.

Nevertheless, I used the same basic "technique" I have used when walking: pick a point some distance ahead as a goal, and walk/ride to it. Stop. Catch my breath. Take a drink. Start again. This went on for about 3 miles, but it seemed a lot longer, and it was in the wide open. No trees. No shade. Eventually, as a cyclist, I had to pull off at Vista Point, elevation 3000 feet, if only to avoid the "on/off" traffic of vehicles.

My hopes went up just a little as I spotted a brick pedestal in the middle of a similarly walled in viewing area, and yes, it might have been a water fountain at some point in its existence, but had instead become merely an oversized ash try for cigarette butts.

Realizing my water supplies were insufficient to continue, I dug into one of my side panniers to find some card stock and made a sign that read "WATER NEEDED - THANKS!" Just as I was attaching it to the back of my bike, a couple of cars came into the viewing area, a lady stepped out and approached me and I asked her if she had any water she could share with me. In a foreign accent that might have been Eastern European, she told me that she did have a couple of half liter bottles, which she graciously offered to me. These came as a real relief, and I refilled my Klean Kanteens before snapping one last picture and heading back onto the interstate.

I still had about a mile to go to exit at Japatul Valley Road, heading north to Descanso. Still concerned for my water needs, I attached the sign to the side of my bike and had another couple of guys with a truck and trailer offer me more water as we both stopped under the overpass. They informed me that Descanso was only a couple of miles ahead, and mostly downhill, which turned out to be a bit closer than I expected. In spite or my running low on funds, I ended up stopping for a late lunch at the local "Descanso Junction Restaurant". It was nice and cool inside, and I enjoyed my chicken pita pocket sandwhich along with some fries. I also checked my phone which had several messages on it, one from my cousin, and two from Warmshowers hosts further up the road.

The next few miles, off the interstate mostly on HYW 79 and Old HWY 80 were somewhat easier for having more tree cover. I felt comfortable getting off my bicycle and pushing which I did, a lot, in part because a muscle on the inside of my right leg above my knee was starting to cramp up.

There was a moment when I realized I was not really taking in the landscape around me. I was too focused on Just Keepin' On Keepin' On! So, I shifted my perspective a little and realized that off to the side of the road there was a large patch of wild sage. I managed to maneuver my bicycle into a shady spot, prop it up with my newly taped kick-stand, which held (Yeah!) and cut some sage to take with me.

In general, it was just a good idea to keep breathing, and keep enjoying this experience, in spite of the challenges!

A few more miles down the road, as I was riding through Pine Valley, I saw two women walking towards me and one of them took note of my signs reading "The Blue Turtle" outloud. I smiled as they went by, and then stopped and turned, and asked if I could speak with them. I explained that I was in need of shelter for the night, could put up a tent as necessary, but that my climb from Alpine had been particularly difficult and exhausting.

As it turned out, one of the women, Becky, was very open to the idea and asked me to wait for her at a local diner that was closed for the day as she would be walking with her friend for another hour or so. I found the diner, parked my bike and then went searching for a bathroom, ending up at a small mini-mart, and feeling obligated to pay $2.39 for a Cliff Bar since their bathroom facilities were "For Customers Only". (Given I can buy Cliff Bars for $0.99 elsewhere, that was kind of an expensive pit stop!)

Nevertheless, I had an extremely clean bathroom to use, before finding my way back to the diner where I had left my bicycle parked in the shade. I had time to take more notes on my phone messages and do a quick manicure before my host arrived and invited me to follow her a mile or so back to her house. There I met her husband Jack and their dachsund Scooter - the Fifth dachsund/dachsund mix I've met since La Mesa, CA!

And that's where I find myself now, after a somewhat more restful sleep in the coolness of these higher elevations.

It was a hard day. Probably one of the harder ones of my cross-country cycling so far. But it was also rewarding and encouraging given the positive responses I experienced from people, "strangers", all helping me with water, cash, and lodging. As a consequence, I feel encouraged to keep going, and to keep trusting in what I already know to be the mostly generous and peaceful nature of my fellow human beings.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Getting on the Road Again - The Devil Really IS in the Details!

Since the inception of the idea of riding my bicycle across the country I have faced many challenges, some expected and accepted, others unexpected, but still accepted and sometimes used to advantage wherever possible.

After what turned out to be "Stage II" in 2013 - 400 miles through the Central Texas hill country from my aunt and uncle's house in Weatherford, TX to my last "official" stop from "Stage I" in Luling, TX - my plan was to spend a year in Santa Barbara, working and hopefully saving some money for "Stage III". What I found out the hard way was that most full-time employers were not willing to hire and train me for just a year of work, and, of course, that time frame grew shorter and shorter with each month that passed. Eventually, I felt I had to set aside my "dream" for an indefinite period of time to be able to work and live in Santa Barbara at all. In the mean time, I continued to work temporary jobs through Office Team with my last assignment being at the City of Goleta.

In the early part of July, one potential full-time employer called me back. I had interviewed with them several weeks before and because I was honest about wanting to finish my bike ride in the spring/summer, and that was their busiest time of year, they chose another candidate instead. However, at the time they contacted me, they were still facing a growing customer base and filling a big gap that had been left by a long-time employee who had passed away. Since I had changed my mind about continuing my bike trip right away, I accepted their offer and went to work about two weeks later, giving the City of Goleta proper notice in order to wrap up any last-minute projects I was working on for them.

I had been told upon hiring that the work was going to be stressful. That I was going to have to accept a lot of complicated instruction and correction. After 8 years in the Navy, I figured I could handle it. I know how to pay attention to detail, and I'm not shy of working hard.

However, what I was maybe not as prepared for was - you know - office politics. And since they had already sent another woman away in tears, my guard was up just a little. And, sure enough, by the end of the week "training by default" i.e. letting me answer phones, make lots of mistakes, and then correcting me after each call, started to take its toll. However, before it did any real damage to my psyche, I gently but firmly stood up for myself, basically saying "I just need to take a break from being constantly corrected for a while," especially in light of the way I was being trained, i.e. no real scripts to go by, and having multiple people involved in correcting me, without everyone knowing who was telling me what and when or how often. I'm a pretty self-confident person, so when I started to lose that feeling of self-confidence even with regards to parts of the job that I was handling without problem, I knew there was "something else" going on, and I took what I felt were rational and functional steps to deal with it, directly, at the lowest level, first; i.e. with the person who was "primarily" responsible for training me.

Apparently, that did not go over well with her, and eventually I found myself in a somewhat impromptu conference with the owner of the business and the other woman who was also less directly involved in training me. I thought things got at least somewhat resolved at that point, finished the work week, and even went out to celebrate my new job on Friday evening. However, by Saturday morning, I found an e-mail in my inbox from the owner saying,"I don't think you are a good fit for this job. I hoped it would work but there is stress in the work place." Of course, that was a bit of a shock, and kind of a let down, although, admittedly, I was not looking forward to continuing to work there under the circumstances I have described above. To soften the blow (I guess), the owner also offered another week's "severance pay" and asked me to come meet with him that day. When I went in to pick up my check, there was no antipathy expressed from either of us towards one another, but from the conversation, I was left to conclude, that there were issues with one or more of the other people (women) I was having to work with. And really, not something I could have done much about, so I "Let it Go!" (And yes, actually, I was thinking about using the "adult" clip of the chorus, but have to keep in mind there may be younger people reading my blog! And, otherwise, at this time of year it is more that "the heat never bothered me anyway"...although, it can sometimes, but I've learned how to deal with it!)

True to the song, none of that really mattered. I just had to Roll with It! Something I have learned to do both figuratively and literally in the past three years. I went back home, started to put some more energy into re-writing and updating my resume' and in the course of doing that it struck me...with my first pay check from this company, plus the second "severance" check, and my last pay check from my last week at the City of Goleta all coming into my hands simultaneously - I was sitting on about $900 (even after the money I spent "celebrating" Friday night). I'd worked a lot harder to earn and/or "save" a lot less before starting my other bike trips. So, maybe, just maybe, this would be enough to get me back on the road again...

As things have turned out...It was...along with lots of support from my friends and other associates in Santa Barbara!.

So with regards to "the Devil Being in the Details..." - a lot of the challenge of doing what I'm doing started in my case with getting semi-organized chaos like this:

10 x 15 Storage

And this:

Stage I Yard Sale

Stage I "Garage Sale"

And this:

Stuff for Stage I

And this:

Stage I and II Stuff

And this:

Transition between Stage 1 and Stage II
Packing in Santa Barbara to return to Jacksonville, FL

Stuff for Stage III

At various times to look more like this:

5 x 10 Storage

And progressively this:

5 x 5 Storage

And this:

Local Storage in Santa Barbara, CA

And of course this:

Stage I and II Rig

And now this:

Stage III Rig

But that's not all...

There's food as well that started out like this:

Rations for the Road

And this:


Initially using a bag like this:

Large Insulated Food Bag

And filling it like this:

Egg Fried Rice

And this:

for Finger Salads and Smoothies

But that didn't work out so well because food that needed to be refrigerated or refrozen was buried too deeply in the trailer to get to once I reached the residence of one of my hosts. So eventually I moved the food to the back two panniers where I could get to it more easily using smaller insulated bags to hold everything. Now I have all of that down to one back pannier, including space in one of the side pockets for making my mung bean and lentil sprouts and soaked sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. And, of course, all of those go into the egg fried rice recipe that I try to cook for my hosts as often as possible (depending on the timing and how long I stay with them).

In addition, I pack food for while I'm actually on the road like this:

Finger Salad

Cheese and Crackers and Peanut-Apricot-Chocolate Candy Trail Mix

It goes into my handle bar bag along with my a Luna Bar, homemade green smoothie, cashews and Brazil nuts, and Dulse flakes...

Luna Bar
Green Smoothie, Dulse, and Nut Containers

And my "cutlery"...

Cutlery - with Custom Duct Tape Knife Cover
stored in a nylon compact umbrella cover

Loaded Handle Bar Bag
Bag on the Bike

All that fits on the front of the bike where it is easy to get to. I also carry two 27 oz Klean Kanteens one with a sport top and the other with a regular one. I found it was better to have a regular one on the bottle when I was shaking up the water and Clif Shot electrolyte powder. So I will stop and switch the lids over as necessary throughout the day.

And I keep all of these things, including a few others in my diet both off and on the road as I incorporate "My Top 20 Foods":

My Top 20 Foods

I have chosen these particular foods for the following reasons: 1) They are nutritionally dense. 2) They are relatively easy to access pretty much everywhere in the country, 3) They are relatively inexpensive. Even though the nuts may be the most expensive of the other items, as a source of non-meat protein, I've found I don't have to eat a lot of them to be satisfied. 4) I actually Enjoy Eating these foods and have been pretty consistently for about six years now. And 5) I CAN actually maintain my diet this way while I am on the road. (See my post: Food Basics Part VI... for more details on nutritional data and sources.)

Given what I have learned from Stages I and II, I now pack all this food:

My Road Food, etc.

Into this bag:

Food Pannier (Bontrager nylon pannier with custom side pockets.)

Wherein I use my frozen smoothies and another ice pack to keep the rest of my refrigerator items cold - like cheese, soy sauce, roasted sesame oil, and the occasional Trader Joe's chicken sausage (to mix with my egg fried rice).

Smoothie Freezer/Refrigerator

The Rubbermaid "Take Along" containers stack on top of each other in the bottom of the pannier, followed by the lunch bag, and other cold packs. Then I pile my rain gear on top (where it's handy if I need it) but also where it provides additional insulation for the refrigerator/freezer bag. My grater/box fits in the bottom of one pocket and I can fit all three sprout jars on top of that, two upright and one on it's side. The other pocket holds the box of crackers, my bicycle tool bag, pump, lock and 20oz bags of Clif Shot Electrolyte Powder which I've been able to find at REI stores.

The opposite pannier holds what I refer to as my "administrative gear":

"Admin" Gear

What you see here is my original "Intellectual Busking" box and accessories (just in case I need to busk while I'm on the road), another donation container that holds markers and pens, a very beat up copy of my "Pocket Constitution", and my scissors for cutting apart my business cards. The blue clipboard holds some important papers along with some plain copy paper and card stock (for printing the business cards). I have my green journal that I use for keeping track of my host/logistical info as well as my "We'Moon" calendar in which I put daily entries for past and future reference. Then there's my sewing kit which has already been used multiple times on this trip (often for my host's mending projects). One item not showing is my iPad keyboard that gets stored in the box as well for protection. All these items and a few others go inside the main body of the pannier, while my extra water bottle (for head towel wetting) and my LifeSaver Filter Bottle go in the added side pockets. (See "Miscellaneous" photo below.)

The front two panniers I reserve for clothing, towels, and toiletries. I store my "sets" of clothes in a mesh bag, inside a plastic bag that gets labeled with the contents.

A typical riding set of clothes includes Sport Bra, Gore Women's Baselayer (Super Wicking) Singlet, shorts and cycle top.

Typical Riding Set

There are multiple advantages to this mesh bag/plastic bag system for storing clothes: 1) I keep my clean clothes separate from my dirty clothes; i.e. I know the clothes are clean if they are in the mesh bags. Outside the mesh bags means they are dirty. 2) Having things in "sets" means I have everything I need when I head to someone's bathroom or a camp shower. 3) The plastic bags make for added water protection. 4) The labeling makes it easy to figure out what is what. 5) When it comes time to wash delicate items, I have plenty of mesh bags to use.

In addition to clothes I pack the toiletries shown here:

Toiletries, etc.

These include DZ Nuts Bliss Women's Chamois Cream, Nature's Gate Fragrance Free Moisturizing Lotion (in an 8 oz bottle), Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap (8 oz size), Nature's Gate Herbal Shampoo (8 oz bottle), hair detangler (I reuse this slim bottle and fill it with CVS Brand spray-in detangler found in the baby shampoo section), comb, toothbrush, toothpaste with carrying bag, razor and extra blades in travel case, Atwater Carey Light and Dry 1 Person First Aid Kit. (I used to work for this company when I lived in Buena Vista, Colorado.) Custom nylon bag with hair "scrunchies", etc., Trader Joe's Sun Screen for sensitive skin (for my face), crystal deodorant (for when sweating doesn't matter), regular sun screen for the rest of my body, Bee Propolis tincture (for gum treatment as needed), and another custom bag that holds make-up and a travel size regular deodorant/antiperspirant (for when sweating does matter).

All these items fit into a "Travel Bag" that is one of the few items I have left from my much earlier years sewing for "Networks" in Missoula, MT.

The Old Red and Black Travel Bag

Then that bag fits (barely!) into the top of the pannier on top of the other clothes I also store in that bag.

Red Bag fits in the top of the pannier.

The typical organization plan when these bags get packed is to keep clothes, towels, etc., that I might need shortly after I arrive at someone's house in the left side pannier where it is the most accessible.

Packed Front Panniers

With regards to shelter...apart from my Couch Surfing and Warm Showers hosts...

I initially designed and sewed my own tent. The floor of the tent was also a clothes bag which folded out to create more of a padded surface to sleep on. I carried it on a rack I also constructed to fit on top of my Wheele Bike Trailer.

Tent Floor/Clothes Bag on Custom Rack for Wheele Trailer

Unfolded Tent Floor/Clothes Bag

The tent itself needed to be strung between two trees and then the bottom walls were zipped into the floor, leaving an intentional overhang of about one foot on the sides and about a foot-and-a-half on each end so that I could put shoes, etc., outside to keep dry but also keep from tracking dirt into the tent.

The tent had a zippered door, and mesh net front and back screens with zippered nylon panels, very similar to store-bought tents.

Overall, it was fairly functional, and I eventually made an additional rain fly to cover the main part of the tent.

Tent with Rain Fly

There were limitations though with this prototype tent - I needed two supports (which I have sensed all along that I would not find going through various desert areas and the greater expanse of Texas), and it was on the small side inside. Room for some gear and to sit-up (barely), but otherwise, a pretty close fit.

Consequently, I was not averse to leaving the tent behind when I left New Braunfels, Texas at the end of Stage II, and later picking up another tent in Santa Barbara - for only $10 off of Craig's List! Hexagonal, free standing, and not terribly heavy, it's turned out to be a good tent so far, although it has not had to endure any rain just yet.

New Tent

I've already had two opportunities to try it out...

Host's Yard in Coast Village

Pt. Mugu State Park

In addition to the new tent I have a green "standard issue" mummy-style sleeping bag (given to me by my friend Alisa), a roll-up pillow, and a blue, light-weight hooded jacket that all fit in a custom-made blue nylon bag, as well as a $10 foam camp pad from K-mart. I have a pair of Trader Joe's shopping bags fit together end-to-end (so everything is covered and water protected) that contain some of my cold weather clothes, bulkier first aid and toiletry items, my rain fly from the old tent and another nylon tarp that fits over my bicycle. I'm also carrying one pair of regular shoes (black, closed-toed, Birks) and my turtle hat and fluorescent riding vest, and a sleepingbag style sheet that works well on couches because it doesn't slip off! I also have one of those Girl Scout style tuna-can, cardboard and wax "stoves" with a blue enameled metal bowl and a pineapple can chimney should I ever need to heat anything at a campsite without a fire pit or grill.

Other Miscellaneous Stuff

Finally, I ended up buying one of those collapsible coolers when I stayed with my host in Ventura, since she does not use a refrigerator in her house. (Instead she uses a large clay pot within a clay pot with a layer of sand between the two and a plywood lid on top that she keeps outside to take advantage of nighttime temps and shade. I think she said her electric bill was $4 for the month!) I had brought frozen smoothies with me and wanted to keep them as cood as possible before heading to Pt. Mugu. (More about that later!)

The advantage of having all of these items kind of piled on the back of my bicycle has been that I have this relatively flat wall of space where I can display signage...

New Signage

This has proven to be an effective way to let passers-by, either on foot, by vehicle, or by bicycle, know that I do have a mission and needs and how they can help. And it has been very encouraging over the last 30 days just how many people have stepped-up, or driven-up, or ridden-up to do just that! I get a little boost of dopamine each time that happens and it keeps me going!

Because in case this blog post has not already made it clear, there is actually A Lot of Work involved in keeping all of this "stuff" organized. And that's before I even get on the bike to work my leg muscles and heart muscles and lungs and will power! Given the difficulty of uploading photos via my iPad and into the Blogger platform, this post has taken at least 10 hours to produce. In other words, I may not be working a typical day job, but I am definitely working. At the same time, I really can't imagine any more meaningful work then this work that I am doing, and I am grateful for the opportunity, and especially grateful to all of the people who have supported me thus far.

And journey continues...