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!

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 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!

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...