Pedaling for Peace

On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Where There's a Will, There's a Way...

It is hard to know where to start This story...I am suddenly aware of the immensity of time and space, of the passage of Hi-story, that has brought all of us to this point, whatever the moment is for each of us in our lives. All I know is...far from my despondence of only a couple of months ago, I do not think I have felt more at ease or more at home, or more happy to be alive as a human being in this world as I feel right now.

A little over two weeks ago I began looking at opportunities to connect with other people in Santa Barbara. One of the internet options I used for that was "MeetUp". One particular group, the Global Community Dinner Night group, had an upcoming event featuring a Japanese photographer named, Kenji who was giving a presentation on his recent travels to Japan, especially his home village.

We all met at Silvergreens, the same place the NAPF Workshop attendees had their Downtown Santa Barbara Dinner Night several weeks before.  Making sure to be there a little early, I also had the opportunity to sit next to Kenji while we were eating and was impressed with his energy and sense of humor. When he heard about my riding my bicycle half-way across the country to get to Santa Barbara he was equally impressed with me.

In effect, we started to become friends that night. He invited me to join his own MeetUp group - the Santa Barbara Japanese Photography Group (SB-JPG), which I did. The next meet-up scheduled for that group was to take pictures of the full moon. Between the meeting at Silvergreens and the Full Moon Shoot, I was loaned a bicycle to get around on and ended up finding Kenji at his house where we were met by, Dennis, another member of the group for a ride to our shooting location. (Upon arrival, I joked with Kenji saying that he really should have warned me about the Massive Hill that I had to climb to get to his house. Simply put, it was way too steep to ride, so I ended up pushing my "new" bicycle instead, and even that was pretty difficult!)

In relating these experiences to Paul the next week, I made the comment "It's good to have friends who are photographers when you're trying to document your life." In my mind, I was thinking it would be really great to have Kenji become more involved with the NAPF on a professional level, but turns out, Paul had other ideas.

Within a few days, he's telling me about doing short videos with some of the basic ideas from his talks, even a video specifically to promote the NAPF Peace Leadership Workshop. He already has a nice camera, he/we just needed to figure out how to use it, and in particular, we needed to figure out how to create what I would later understand as a particular "depth of field" effect that was more commonly used in professional videos on-line.

Next thing you know, I'm On Assignment. Having had few cameras in my life, and never a truly professional piece of equipment, I am now being tasked with figuring out how to use Paul's Nikon D5100, not only for still shots, but for video as well.

More than that, though, Paul's decided this would be a great way for me to be of even more service to the NAPF as they could benefit from having what I will refer to as a "staff photographer". Yes, I'll still be working as a volunteer in this role. And, yes, I'm going to be starting from scratch - but if I could learn to be an electronics technician in service to the Navy, I think I've got it in me to handle the level of difficulty involved with becoming a photographer/videographer in service to the NAPF. And as Paul also pointed out, it could be one more marketable skill for me to add to my resume'. (Funny, that's what my recruiter said about becoming an electronics technician!)

As for my part, I also know that as an "aging person" - it's always good to take on the challenge of learning an entirely new skill as that forces our brains to grow new neurons and that can help our minds and body's stay healthier!

Furthermore, in this age of internet media, photos and videos are another means through which to communicate the wonderful message of Peace that Paul and the NAPF have to offer to the world. Given my own commitment to Wage Peace, I could not be more pleased to help in whatever way I can.

I must say, I find it interesting though, that there really is no "ego" in this for me; i.e. I am not seeking to establish a reputation for myself as a "Professional Photographer" It has never been something I was that drawn to, although that might have been partly because of the expenses involved with equipment, etc. Nevertheless, I am definitely up for this and looking forward to growing through this learning experience as I have through so many others in my life.

It also means I can continue to give my attention to Paul, to the NAPF, and to the cause of Waging Peace in a very deliberate and Focused way! (And, yes, that pun Is intended!)

Peace! Out! Y'all! : ))

Friday, September 28, 2012

I Guess Florida Will Have to Wait....

First of all, Thanks! to Everyone who made donations to help me get back to Florida! Unfortunately, I did not reach my goal, and so it looks like I will have to make things work a little longer here in Santa Barbara.

However, a recent new contact and living situation has also been arranged. I am now staying with a woman and her seven-year-old daughter, and I am going to help with their "Home Make-over", yard-sale, etc., as well as provide help with child care as needed. This weekend I will also be giving a talk at the First Congregational Church in Santa Barbara, and then another presentation for my new Global Community Dinner/MeetUp Group the first week of November...assuming I'll still be here! : )

The current "Couch Surfing" arrangement may very well evolve into a more permanent situation (with an actual room to myself), or at least a kind of "home base" that I can work from as I continue to offer my "in house" services to others who would like to have me stay with them while I help them get rid of some of their "stuff" - through listing on Craig's List, E-bay, yard-sales, etc. In addition, through another contact here in Santa Barbara, I have a "loaner bike" to ride for the duration of my stay, and I'm commuting now about 8-10 miles a day.

The bottom line is...things are continuing to "work out" for me here. I still have food, I still have shelter, and now, I even have my favorite form of transportation! Not to mention all the Great New Friends I am making here through networking and sometimes just meeting people randomly on the street.

I am looking a little further into the future though...for instance, air fares are going to start going up as the holidays approach, so traveling that way is going to become more expensive. In addition, I kind of have to be looking towards the NEXT Peace Leadership Workshop that will be taking place in July of 2013. Paul Chappell and I have been discussing some changes that will be made, developing some new content, etc. and I plan to be there to act as a facilitator while he continues to provide the bulk of the training.

Consequently, if I cannot get back to Florida pretty soon, because I will need to get there and then get back here in time to prepare for the workshop, then I will probably see if I can make-it here to the end of the workshop, and try to get back after that. That way I will have more time to take care of the rest of my stuff, maybe even sew some things in time for Christmas Sales, and then get back here just after the holidays.

In the mean time, I have an ongoing expense of a little over $60/month for the storage unit rent, and now about $25/month for phone service (still pay per use). Depending how things evolve in my current living situation, I might need to be thinking about rent as well, $300-$600/month...but we'll see about that. (A couple of things to note about my new location: It's called "Nomad Village" and I'm in Space# 108! : )) Other than that, I have the usual food and toiletry expenses, but with the new bicycle, I can probably continue to avoid paying for bus fares anymore.

There is an interesting point here I'd like to make to everyone with regards to the financial learning I am going through as a consequence of my choices over the last year or so. For one thing, having to live on CASH ONLY has really changed my spending habits. Not knowing where the next donation will come from, or when I will make a sale, means I am much more careful with whatever money I do have "in hand".

Having been In Debt since I was 21 years old, I've always thought that there was something "wrong" with me. That I just didn't know how to handle my money responsibly. But, the truth is, I wasn't handling "money" per se, I was handling "credit"...often "easy" credit, and I am figuring out that is a whole different ball-game. Turns out, when I have to live on cash, then I've got all kinds of capacity for self-control and ability to sort out my "needs" and my "wants" and stick to Only What is Needed as necessary. In fact, that exercise of self-control has come rather naturally, and it makes me think that when that is really how we have to operate (and I see that becoming the case in the future), then many if not most of us might be surprised just how easy it actually is.

Furthermore, I think there are All Kinds of ways we can reorganize our product and service exchange mechanisms in this society, and what we may come to will ultimately be superior and more Equitable and Just than what has evolved to date.

Granted, we still have to work with the system we have, and that means, for now, I still have to get some of those Federal Reserve Notes to purchase my food and a few other "necessities"...but, if I have the capacity to adapt as I have, I suspect many, many other people do, too, they just haven't Had To Do It yet. Speaking from my own experience...there's nothing to be Afraid Of. We will figure out how to get by in the weeks and months and years ahead, and...we might even Enjoy what we learn about our own ability to adapt!'s getting late here outside the NAPF offices and that means it's time for me to head back to "Nomad Village".

Peace Out! And Have A Great Weekend!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Better Yet...Let's Head Back to Florida! : )

It is so funny sometimes...what happens...and how that leads to other changes in emotion, psychology, motivation...and then a whole new realm of possibilities opens up before you! : )

In considering my trip to Missoula, MT I realized I was ready to start selling off the rest of my personal belongings - the things I left back in Florida before I headed out on my bicycle trip, including some of the more expensive items, like my Bernina Serger and my Vitamix.

In an e-mail to Paul Chappell I wrote "At the very least, I would really like you to meet my friends Jody and Roy who live in Missoula and were like a second set of adoptive parents while I lived there." And, as much as I would also like to see them myself, in writing that message I became "okay" with accepting the "very least" of that range of possibilities; i.e. Paul getting to meet them, even if I cannot make the trip. As I imagined using $500 for that, I realized there really are other things I need to be focusing on for whatever funds I can raise right now.

Finally, although I thought I had another couch-surfing host lined-up with more need for my help in selling their stuff as well, they decided it was not quite the right time in their life to do that. Nevertheless, with a little more planning and marketing on my part, I think I can turn that into a business/service by the time I get back here.

And, that leads to my next point: One thing has become perfectly clear to me while being here in Santa Barbara: This is definitely where I WANT TO BE! It's got its challenges, the cost of living being one of those, but it has a lot of opportunities as well. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly want to be able to continue working with Paul and eventually writing my own book(s?). For now though, there are some loose ends to tie up, so I need to be figuring out how I am going to go about doing that.

To start, I need to finish reducing down everything else I have in my storage unit in Florida. My goal is to be able to fit everything left into a vehicle that I can then drive across the country. I can approach that adventure much the same way I approached my bicycle trip, except this time, I can plan to line-up more speaking engagements along the way, hopefully to larger groups. Since I will be driving, that can make it much easier and safer for me to get from one location to another.

Of course, I'll be "Couch Surfing" again, maybe in different parts of the country this time. I have other friends and family through the middle states, so might be a good time to visit all of them.

As with the bicycle trip, it will be hard to tell exactly how the dates are going to work out, the storage unit in Florida has to be dealt with first and foremost, for all kinds of practical reasons. But I do know there is another NAPF Peace Leadership Workshop to come in the summer of 2013 and I Plan to Be There...again, this time also working as a facilitator.

"So, Universe...How's that sound? Am I on the right track here? : ) You know how to let me know! : ))"

I can feel myself getting all excited again! : ))

If this sounds like a good plan to YOU, then I welcome your support. I am still going to need a little money to live on here, but a plane ticket from LAX to JAX on Southwest, including the bus to LA is going to run around $290-$300. Once I get back to Jacksonville, I can start selling off whatever I have left...but a big part of that will be to raise money for a drivable vehicle, and my first few weeks of expenses.

So, any help you can offer now, would be greatly appreciated! We'll see if we can get this show back on the road! : )

Yours for Peace!

September 21, 2012 - Update

Southwest has a sale going on right now and I can get a ticket to fly out within the next month or so for $175. That plus the bus ride to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara is a total of $225, but I have to act within the next week and I have to purchase the ticket via PayPal as I do not have an active credit/debit card or bank account anymore. I have raised $90 towards that goal, so still need to raise $135.

Thanks for your support! : )

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fundraising for Trip to Missoula, MT

Just a short message to everyone reading this blog. I am trying to raise $500 to make a quick trip to Missoula, MT for a talk Paul Chappell will be giving on September, 29th.

As I used to live in Missoula many years ago (1997), it will be my first opportunity to go back there in a very long time. I've already contacted friends there, so I will have a place to stay. The funds I am trying to raise will be for travel only.

While in Missoula, and while attending the talk, I will be able to share from my personal experiences regarding my bicycle trip and what I have learned from Paul through reading his books (including having the privilege of proof reading his upcoming book "The Art of Waging Peace") and attending the Peace Leadership Workshop.

In general I am finding that the more I am able to actively communicate about peace and actually assume the disposition of peace in the company of others, the greater the impact of the message.

I would be very grateful to reconnect with this community where I lived for over seven years, especially having so much to share from the wealth of life experiences I have had since leaving the area.

If you would like to help support me for attending this special event, please consider making a donation via PayPal by using the "Donate" button at the right or selecting "Gift" directly from your PayPall account and using llbell_100 at for the e-mail address.


Thursday, August 23, 2012


So...Still here in Santa Barbara.... : )

Walking to and from the NAPF offices most days, I have come to notice how tall the hedges are around some people's houses. They've become so tall in some cases that anyone on the sidewalk can't even see the houses on the other side. In other words, the hedges have completely walled in the house.

I imagine that the hedges were not always that tall. They were probably more like the height of a picket fence when they started out, but they've kept growing taller and taller over the years, and the home owners have let them. I can imagine, maybe decades ago, neighbors actually interacting with each other from either side of those hedges, complimenting each other's homes and gardens, talking about the latest current event, or new family that's just moved in down the road.

But not now. No, I don't see how there could be any interaction at all. The tenants of these houses move from the "box" of their home, to the "box" of their car, to the "box" of their work cubicle, and back again, never having to interact with their Neighbors, the people living closest to them, at all, if they don't want to. They don't have to know that there is a poor woman living around the corner who is struggling to raise her daughter alone, and is often so frustrated that she is inclined to yell at the child rather than patiently instruct her. They don't know about the couple with the beautiful black and white Great Dane who walk past their house every day. And they don't know that one of their neighbors has taken in a temporary boarder, who also walks past their house every day on her way to the NAPF offices downtown! : )

No, those hedges have come to insulate them, protect them, from their Closest Neighbors, and even from Reality Itself.

To me, these hedges are kind of like all of our current national "defense systems" - they've just kept growing and growing over the years. Much like all of the "things" we tend to accumulate in this world, they build bigger and bigger walls between ourselves and others, and ourselves and reality, and, maybe most importantly, ourselves and the threat of change and especially the changes of death. Supposedly, they are making us more, and more "secure", but the problem is we have simply grown more and more disconnected from other people, disconnected from reality, disconnected from death. In the absence of direct, experiential knowledge, fear arises and persists.

For instance, everyone likes it when love "feels good". There's that feeling that you get when you "fall in love" - that kind of ecstatic, blissful love feeling. There's the feeling of love that people have for their children, especially when they are newborns. There is the love that may be experienced just in a moment, in the pure pleasure of an intimate encounter. There is the love that exists between close friends and close family members; that love feels comforting and consoling, and brings with it feelings of security. There is the unconditional love we feel when being charitable to another being.

But how does love feel when someone doesn't love you back? Or when someone leaves a relationship before you are ready to let go? Or when someone dies? Especially if you loved that person deeply?

That's when love does not feel so good. That's when love and loving hurts. That's when it seems safer to love things, than it is to love people. Things generally do not reject you. Things do not grow legs and walk away on their own (although, they may still be lost in other ways, they certainly do not have the power to "walk away" as much as other people do).

Sometimes, in the midst of rejection or loss, the pain of loving others can make us hesitant to ever love again; we become afraid of change, afraid of loss, afraid to ever be that vulnerable to "The Wound of Love", again.

And yet, we live in a world of Constant Change and one of the greatest changes we will experience is our own death, and prior to that, the deaths of many whom we love, both human and non-human.

To love someone means we are also vulnerable to feeling their pain as our own.

For all these reasons I think people tend to avoid loving one another.

And they build "hedges" around their homes and around their hearts.

And yet, one of the things we human beings most want to be able to do is to give and receive love.

So, that means we must overcome our fears of rejection, of loss, and of death. Most of all, death - because death is inevitable for ALL of us at one point or another.

As I have been struggling to find my own way in this world recently, essentially jobless (except for writing this blog?), and homeless, I have been counseled to look into possible VA benefits (since I am a Navy Veteran), or other social services. As I explained to one friend recently, I have philosophical issues with being supportive of or supported by the "welfare system" of this country I live in. In effect, I have become, a "non-statist", in spite of the fact that "the State" continues to exist all around me. I have acknowledged on the most fundamental level that the actual costs of being part of such an inherently violent system are far, far greater than the benefits.

Furthermore, I really, really believe that as individuals and communities we need to learn to rely on each other more voluntarily and directly rather than relying on "the government" to mediate what should be caring, mutually supportive, relationships. In effect, "the government" is yet another Very Big "Hedge", and like the hedges around some of the houses here in Santa Barbara, it has just kept Growing and Growing. But can it really ever be "Big Enough" to protect us from the reality of suffering and Death? And that applies to both the "rich" and...the rest of us!

You see, when we are not in direct contact with the people who are suffering and even dying, when we can pay our taxes and let "someone else" be there for them instead of ourselves, then we can protect ourselves from the hurt we might otherwise feel. When "the government" takes care of the poor, and the sick, the mentally ill and the aged, that means We don't have to. We don't have to suffer the very human "Wound of Love" through the empathy we might otherwise experience if We were Actually In Relationship with those people.

The problem many people suffer and die, very often alone, because no matter how much we may pay in taxes, there will never be enough "other people", other "government employees" to go around to take care of those people.

But there Are Enough of US to go around For Each Other.

Part of my being on my bicycle, really outside of "the system" for the first time in my life, (and, by the way, really Free, for the first time in my life) was to conduct an experiment. I wanted to see if my friends, family, and even strangers were willing and able to support me voluntarily and directly as I undertook the mission to ride my bicycle across the country and share the message of Peace that has been so eloquently spelled out in Paul Chappell's books and embodied in the mission of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

As of right now, I can say that experiment has been partially successful. I have been officially "un-employed" for well over a year now. I was able to get about half the distance across the country by bicycle and the rest of the way by plane. However, over the last month or so, as I have indicated in previous posts, I have gotten enough support to stay here, and provide for my food, etc., but not enough to leave (i.e. fly back to Texas), or enough to consider re-starting my bike trip. It is easy to see the glass "half-empty", but I can also see it as "half-full". And I really am grateful to every person who has offered their support thus far. They are part of the "success" of my journey.

I can also feel that they are with me during this more challenging time, one that I have yet to see my way through completely.

So what needs to happen for things to change?

The way I see it, the only thing We have to do is to confront our own fears of change and death, and get to a place where we can Simply Love One Another and Take Care of One Another, Directly, and in each of those moments be vulnerable and willing to suffer The Wound of Love. As Terry Gorski said, "We have to see reality for what it is with little or no denial," and as Jesus said, we have to " our neighbors as ourselves."

And I will add, that means we have to start Trimming Back Our Hedges.....! : )

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Which Way Do I ... Which Way do WE Go Now?

Throughout my bicycling adventure, I have always had this basic policy of "listening" to The Universe: When I have money and a clear destination established (appropriate contacts made to Couch Surf, etc.) then I know it is time to head out. If the resources are lacking, or I don't have a clear destination then I stay put until that changes.

In the last three weeks since the end of the NAPF Peace Leadership Workshop, I have been trying to raise money to return to Texas and to re-start my bicycle trip. I stayed for approximately two weeks with one couple, Gilbert and Joy, and now I am staying with another couple, Laurie and Bill. In spite of my efforts, I have not been able to raise enough money to leave the area, although I have received enough donations to get by with my basic needs for food, toilettries, and public transportation (as needed, and from my current location I can walk to and from the NAPF offices).

Just recently, I was having a conversation with my current host, Laurie, and she asked me the following question: Is riding my bicycle the most effective way for me to work for Peace?

As much as "I" would like to finish what "I've" started (and, who knows, I may Still do that at some point in the future), I have to take her question to heart. For now, at least, that seems to mean figuring out a way to continue that work here in Santa Barbara.

Through all of this period of uncertainty, I have been able to build on my working relationship with Paul Chappell and the other NAPF staff members, including the President, David Krieger, and Program Director Rick Wayman. After putting more thought into what I might be able to do by staying, I discussed those options with Paul first, and then extended that dialogue to include David and Rick. Although Paul could appreciate the direction I was going, David and Rick were more hesitant, and wanted time to think about it. More than anything else, they were concerned about my lack of stability here with my financial and especially my living circumstances.

Unfortunately, the problem for the NAPF is the same as it is for so many non-profit groups these days: Funding. But, given we are invested in a Really Uphill Struggle, against many Very Powerful Forces and many decades of "War Propaganda", that lack of funding is not surprising. The irony is that there are not a lot of resources left in this country in part because, according to a recent estimate in the New York Times, our response to the attacks of 9/11 are going to add up to over $3.3 Trillion dollars in expenses.'s kind of a vicious cycle. : (

But the way I'm looking at it right now...we either find a way to Wage Peace, and that means we find a way to move that struggle forward financially and practically on many fronts, or...we will keep having our resources taken from us in endless, unfounded wars ... and Really Have Nothing to Show for it when it is all said and done.

At least, if we intentionally Invest in Peace, in whatever way we can, we will have something to show for it at the end of the day, and something meaningful to pass down to the generations ahead (and even, possibly, to ourselves in future lifetimes...).

As for me, I am putting my resume's together and filling out applications for bike shops in the area, and I am going to see if I can find enough work to survive, without it taking ALL of my energy and attention. Because, if I cannot continue with the work I have already begun in terms of helping to bring Peace to the World, then I really don't see any point in being here. I know this is what I am Most Qualified to do in this Life, period. It is the most Meaningful Work I have ever done, and now that I know what that feels like, I am loathe to give it up easily.

So I will do whatever I possibly can to keep going with this, and if you want to help me, even in a small way, then I welcome your support.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Money, Money, Money, Money...No Money = No Jobs = ???

For those of you who are following this blog for info on my bike trek...

...I'm currently "Couch Surfing" in Santa Barbara, hoping to raise money to return to Texas and re-start my trip. Otherwise, I've been spending my time here enjoying much of the culture and natural beauty that this region has to offer. To that end, I wandered the streets with many other residents and tourists during the "Old Spanish Days Fiesta", and took in the opera, "The Rakes Progress", with my hosts Gilbert and Joy, which was performed by the Santa Barbara Music Academy of the West. I also participated with them in the "Arlington West" demonstration conducted by the Santa Barbara Veteran's for Peace organization, followed by a brief talk at their regular meeting on August 6th. That same evening, I had the honor and privilege of attending the 18th Annual Sadako Peace Day event at the Sadako Peace Garden at La Casa de Maria, commemorating the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This past Friday I walked the beach from my host's home in the Mesa area all the way to the pier in downtown Santa Barbara and then made my way to the offices of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation where I have been spending most of the rest of my time since I have been here. Tomorrow, I will be relocating to a new couch-surfing destination, as Gilbert and Joy have relatives coming on the 15th. They have been very gracious hosts, and my stay here with them has been a pleasant one.

As for the rest of this particular post...

There are two main reasons I am choosing to focus on "Money". First of all, I need to raise between $200-300 to get back to Texas, and I would prefer to raise another $500 to $1500 before I restart my trip. Having the first half of my journey already under my belt, so to speak, I have realized how challenging it is to do the bike trek and raise money at the same time. However, I had less than $300 in my pocket when I started from Jacksonville Beach, and if I cannot raise the $500 to $1500 in advance, I will again make do with whatever I am able to raise. I still have a lot of riding and a lot of work ahead to continue to raise awareness for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and its mission as well as to bring attention to Paul K. Chappell's writing and Peace Leadership Work. I feel even more so now, having spent a full week learning from Paul, that he really does have a handle on how we need to shift our ideas about human nature in general, and what are the best methods to "Wage Peace". As he communicated, "Peaceful Leadership Skills are Life Skills", and being able to Lead Peacefully and Effectively are great skills to have as we all move forward in many different areas of our culture to bring about positive changes locally and throughout the World. So, if you would like to make a contribution to my ongoing efforts...please feel free to donate via the PayPal "Donate" button over there ===> in the right-hand column of this blog. Even small donations make a difference for me, so, Thanks! : ))

The second reason I am focusing on money is because of a few posts I've seen on Facebook recently. Apparently, there are rumors circulating concerning the government telling the banks to start putting plans together to respond to a possibly eminent "collapse of the dollar". ("Eminent" could mean after the election, or sometime in 2013, or 2014, you know, these things are really hard to predict.)

Now these "predictions of collapse" have actually been circulating for many years. It is interesting to me that one of the truly peculiar aspects of our technologically advanced society is that we are witnessing and communicating and "blogging" about what we are witnessing As We Are Witnessing it ... or thinking we're witnessing it ... or predicting that we will be witnessing it at some point in the future. Something tells me the still "un-contacted tribes" of the Amazon are not really all that worried about our pending economic collapse, in part because they have better things to do with their hunt and gather their food, and make their clothes from leaves and grasses, put some new thatching on the roofs of their earthen huts, and chat with their tribemates around their campfires.

So, here's my point of view on all of this: Wouldn't that be nice if that were really all we had to worry about as well? You know? Do a little gardening, gather some chicken eggs and goat's milk, make or mend clothes from the stockpiles most everyone already has in their closets, and chat with the neighbors. Because if there's No Money, then that means there's No Money to Work For. If there's no money, then that means there are no jobs, including the jobs that are currently being held to collect all that money from us. If the banks go bust...guess're probably not going to be paying rent or mortgages or car payments because there will not be anyone working to collect them. A huge portion of our national GDP is in the "money markets" and on the most basic level, that has Very Little to Do with Food, Clothing, and Shelter for most ordinary human beings.

Furthermore, just because the "money" is not there, certainly does not mean the Goods and Services are not there - the "money" everyone is so concerned about is merely the "Means of Exchange" for those goods and services. Don't you think, if we put our heads together, we all might be able to come up with other ways to exchange the goods and resources that are ALREADY STREWN ALL OVER THIS COUNTRY? Have you looked at the "Good Will" and "Thrift Stores" lately? They Are Packed with perfectly usable clothing and household goods. There are garages and storage facilities Packed with "stuff" that may or may not have any Real value, but, trust me, a truly "free" market will sort all of that "stuff" out pretty darn quickly.

Food: Some of the best food we can eat can be grown in a back-yard garden and eaten fresh. No cooking required. Kale for instance. Really, really, high in all kinds of nutrients and all you have to do is let a few plants go to seed and you'll have plenty of seeds to keep going. So you won't have McDonald's and Cheetos...Please, give me a break! Everybody needs to be learning to grow their own food Right Now and there is PLENTY of information on line for figuring out how to do that, in pretty much every situation imaginable. So the corn is dying? So no corn to feed the cattle (Again, No McDonald's), and no corn to make "High Fructose Corn Syrup" so no Sodas (Darn!), and once again, no corn for Cheetos! Whoop-dee-do! Ever heard of the "paleo diet"? Seems to be helping a lot of people lose weight and be healthier and, from what I understand, there's not a lot of "grains" of any kind involved.

Water: If resources have to be conserved, then sure, we probably want to keep water treatment plants going. You may not get electricity to run all of your high-tech equipment, but there will probably be enough to keep the pumps running. It's time you got out and talked with your neighbors instead of watching TV all the time anyway. And whatever water you've been using on your Worthless Turf Grass, should be going on your New Vegetable Garden.

Alcohol, Coffee (Caffeine), and Cigarettes (Nicotine): This could be rough for some.. Can you imagine a whole population of people going through withdrawals more or less simultaneously? However, with no work...everyone will have plenty of time to get through that! Just Stay Home! Don't try to interact with anyone else until your headaches and agitation subside naturally. Or, start a vigorous exercise routine...again, you'll Have Time because you won't be working anymore.

Shelter: Like I said above...if you're in it...then I'm betting you'll be staying "rent free indefinitely" should this "collapse" really happen. Got any major plumbing problems or electrical problems? Roof leaks? You may want to be getting those taken care of sooner rather than later. But either way, you should know who the plumbers, and electricians, and carpenters, and seamstresses, and mechanics are in your neighborhood.

Fuel: No job? Then that's going to cut down your need to Drive to Work to...oh...let's say...ZERO! Don't have gardens in walking distance? (First of all, see "Food" above), then, start thinking about Car Pooling for food shopping. Something tells me, though, people will be coming out of the woodwork on every street corner to share and exchange food if we all Start Gardening Now..

Medicines? Well, do we Really need to be taking as many as we are?

Is there a reason why we fight so hard to avoid a "natural death"?

Still a good idea to know who the doctors and nurses are in your neighborhoods, and the undertakers. And maybe that is another kind of big issue for which we need to plan ahead. If there is a major "die off" as people have to adapt to these new social and environmental pressures, then how are we going to take care of the bodies? I know that may sound pretty morbid, but, seriously, we can be thinking ahead here.

Heating/Air Conditioning? Well...I think we're going to have more problems with heat here soon rather than cold. But, from my experience riding my bicycle across the country, even into the summer heat of Texas...over time, our bodies will adapt. If you're carrying excess weight though, you're going to feel it more than others, but when all of those "fast foods" start disappearing from the stores, something tells me you'll be losing that weight pretty quickly.

Oh, and that's another thing...a lot of people will probably start losing weight because they don't have access to all of the foods that were once available. They'll have to be eating more locally grown produce instead. Oh, and that means, in general, they will be healthier, so not so much need for medications. Oh, and because they won't be working, they'll have much, much more time to exercise, maybe by Digging, Pulling Weeds, Planting, etc., In Their Own Vegetable Gardens.

You know, I don't want to sound overly humorous, or "naive" about what lies ahead. Yes, of course, there's going to be some suffering through this transition. But, does any of what I've described above sound like "The End of the World" to you?

Is there a chance, just maybe, there's actually A Lot We Have To Look Forward To with this "Impending Collapse of the Almighty (well, really, Not so "Almighty") Dollar"? (Because, really, if it were all it was cracked up to be, we wouldn't have to be worrying about it "collapsing" in the first place, and over and over again!)

We are going to need food.

Most of us already have Way Too Many Clothes.

I'm guessing there are enough houses and other buildings around that we can all learn to use effectively for shelter.

We're going to need water.

Probably going to need some police (but then, I suspect there are a few people in all the communities around this country who can also pitch in to help "Keep the Peace"), let's just make sure they are the Sane, Rational ones (who actually make up the majority of the population) and not the Paranoid Psychopathic types who make-up about 6% of the population.

Probably going to need some other emergency services, like Fire Trucks, etc.

Going to need some medical services, but, as far as I'm concerned, we need to get more comfortable with the natural flow of the Life/Death/Life cycles of this world. The deaths of individuals should not mean the automatic poverty of those who are depending on them. We need to structure our culture so that everyone is, in effect, supported by everyone else, and so that when one member "falls away" in death, there are naturally, and automatically, others their to fill that gap, especially where the care of dependents is involved.

Is that not the way things work, even in our own bodies, where cells live and die and are replaced by other cells on an ongoing basis, and all are connected together as part of an interdependent whole?

I encourage everyone who is reading this to do some "soul searching": Really, What Do You Need to Survive From Day to Day???? I've been on the road with my bicycle in part to find that out for myself, and really, it's not that much! I don't Have to Have Ice Cream! If I time my purchase of local produce right, I don't really need all that much refrigeration. I started out with a "bicycle blender", at the beginning of this trek, and although it was a good idea, the design and functioning (and Weight) could definitely stand some improvement. Because my budget has continued to be really tight over the past couple of weeks, I'm learning, that I can get by with quite a bit less food than I would have thought. I'm certainly getting by with a lot less money, but the only reason I have even needed that, is because it's the only "medium of exchange" available in this culture, with respect to the exchange of particular goods and services. Again, that doesn't mean the goods and services are not's just the Medium of Exchange that has its issues.

For a follow-up to this blog, I would encourage you to check out a couple of other links in the right-hand column: "The Money Fix" video, and "Understanding the Current and Historical Influence of Psychopaths on Human Culture". The first should give you some perspective on the actual function of "money" within a society and how it can be Changed as necessary. The second article, will help you understand why we have been taught to be afraid of one another, when, for the most part, There Is No Good Reason for that Fear. As I say in my TEDx Talk (also linked at right), such Fear is a Waste of Our Energy, and far from our need for fossil fuels, what we all need to realize is the Untapped Creative Potential of Our Human Energy when it is finally Liberated from the Bonds of Fear!

So as far as this impending "collapse" is concerned? I say: Bring It On! We will be Just Fine and I predict, Even Better for It in the long run! : ))

(Oh, but in the short run, I still need a little of that money to keep myself going, so please consider making a contribution via the PayPal "Donate" button at the right. Thanks! : ))


Wait...I just thought of one more thing: Birth Control - We're going to need condoms, etc. - Because people are going to have a lot more time and energy on their hands (better diet, more exercise [from gardening], no longer working long hours at the office, less electricity means going to bed earlier or using candles, etc., much more romantic.. : )). We don't want to get too carried away with a lot of "Baby Making", especially while we're still figuring out how to live in balance with all of our locally available resources...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NAPF Workshop, Part II - Nuclear Sleeping Pills

On the first full day of the workshop, president of the The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, David Krieger came to speak to us. He is a very gentle and soft-spoken man, but with a strength of will and character that has served him well ever since he first refused to participate in the war in Vietnam. Although the odds were stacked against him, much as they are now, he won that struggle and I would like to think he's going to win this struggle to rid the world of nuclear weapons as well.

Although I cannot remember everything he said, what I do know is that he helped me to understand that at its core, Nuclear Deterrence theory holds No Regard for Life, whatsoever. I have concluded that the very fact that nuclear weapons exist in our world is really a testament to our general desperation and frustration with our inability to "all get along" on this planet we call "Home".

As I have now had the chance to consider this further, I feel there is something I can share from my personal experience, that might help make sense of why we still have nuclear weapons scattered all over the world.

To preface this rather personal sharing, I will acknowledge that I am making myself vulnerable here. Even though the events described below took place over 20 years ago for me, they are going to be "new and present" for my readers, and may influence opinions of me in the present as well. Though I can control what I write, I cannot control people's responses, and, since I'm pretty certain I will be writing more about my life story in the future, I have decided to just go ahead and get this part of it "out there".

I will also add though, as difficult as the experience was for me, there were many, many pivotal insights that I gained as a consequence, some I will elaborate on in near future blogs. Furthermore, I was able to process the whole experience very thoroughly shortly afterwards by having the opportunity, along with about 15-20 other women, to read Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The fact that the experience was so "fresh" for me made Este's teachings on "recognizing predators" and making the transition from "naive innocent" to "wise innocent" (among many other things) that much more relevant and profoundly life changing for me.

Finally, as I learned from going through the workshop, and watching another attendee come forward and share authentically from his own depths parts of himself that he had otherwise kept hidden from others, I have come to appreciate that when one person does that it can often give others the courage and even the very "method" for doing the same. Hopefully, in my sharing this somewhat darker experience of my life, others will find the courage to be more open as well, if they need to. As I am fond of saying: It's good to "keep all the balls on the water" (and I'll explain more about that, in a future blog : )).

* * * * * * * *

When I was in my mid twenties, I started my first job in sewing manufacturing with a company in Montana.  I was initially assigned to work a "box-tacker" machine, and with Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance under my belt, I developed a relationship with that machine and managed to keep it running better than anyone else in the plant ever had.

Not sure if that was the only reason, but I soon drew the attention of the owner of the company and he would come to talk with me off and on as I worked. Within a relatively short time, maybe as little as two or three weeks, he asked me if I would be interested in taking over the management position as the manager at the time was getting ready to resign due to "health problems".

Even though I had absolutely no experience in management, I accepted his offer. I had just been through a "revolution" in my approach to diet, which had raised my energy levels considerably above my previous "normal", so, as I told him: "I might not know anything about management, but I [did] know how to eat right!" The rest...I would just have to figure out as I went along.

Once I became manager, of necessity, the owner and I ended up spending more and more time together, reviewing product designs and production schedules. He had a childish awe of my creative sewing skills and I really felt I could do whatever he asked me to, in part because he had so much faith in me. As time went on, I found myself more and more attracted to him and, in spite of the fact that he was married, I let myself "fall in love with him".

As he later let me know, at least the attraction part was mutual, and on more than one occasion over the next several weeks and months, we were intimate with one another.

Looking back now, I can see how "dysfunctional" the whole relationship really was. But, at the time, I was still quite naive in spite of my age. It had really not been all that long since my mother had gone into the mental hospital. I was still "recovering" from the many years of social isolation her paranoia had imposed on both of us. More importantly though, I was still vulnerable to "predators" because of my still very deep needs for love and appreciation, especially from men.

A few weeks into our "affair", we hired a new employee, a woman even younger than myself.  She was also quite bright and a capable sewer.  What's more, though, she was very Observant, and began to pick-up on the "signs" that neither the owner nor I were discreet enough to hide.  Again, in my naiveté, I did not see what she was up to until it was too late. Before long, I started to become "old news" to my employer. He started giving less and less of his attention to me, even with respect to work issues, and more and more to her.

I was still "in love" with him though, and bent on "loving no matter what", so I began channeling all of that energy into my work, putting in more and more hours as the weeks went by. It did not cost him any more because I was on a salary, but it definitely ended up costing me.

Consequently, it wasn't very long before I started to burn out, both emotionally and physically. After a trip to Atlanta, Georgia for the "Bobbin Show"- the annual sewing manufacturer's convention, where I worked hard every day to network and establish new contacts with various suppliers - I came back hoping to take a few days off to "recover".  However, as far as my employer was concerned, my trip to the "Bobbin Show" had been a vacation for me, and so he couldn't understand why I would want or need to take any additional time off. In other words, whether it was a conscious choice on his part or not, he was not listening to me, let alone hearing me.

With mounting exhaustion and feelings of helplessness, I realized the only way I was going to get any time off was to quit, but I really did not want to do that, because I really liked the job, and I needed the job to support myself. As had been the case, and would continue to be the case for many years ahead, I did not have any "back-up" - no one else I could rely on for practical support - except myself.

So, I pushed on until, one day, in the break room, one of the other employees let me know that the new girl was out to get my position and "talking to the owner behind my back", as well as causing or suggesting  problems that she was blaming on me. It seemed they were both just waiting for me to quit.

I had a dream then. One in which I became lucid. I was being chased by a rabid beaver-like creature, on an island, out in the middle of a lake. When I realized I was dreaming, I intentionally leaped with great flying strides to the mainland, thus escaping harm.

Waking with a renewed sense of will and determination, I went to work the next day with a specially designed name-tag that read "Rocki Bellboa" - and, sure enough, when the new girl saw it, she asked me what it meant, and I told her, "It means I'm just going to keep coming back, and keep coming back, and keep coming back."  She immediately rushed to the owner's office.

Shortly thereafter, I was called there myself. The employer said that before I left he wanted me to train the new girl in my position. I was puzzled, as I had only asked, at one point, how much notice he wanted me to give him IF I decided to quit. But I had not decided to do that. He then told me if I were not going to quit, then I was "Fired"...but he still wanted me to train the new girl before I left.

I couldn't get my mind around what had happened. In something of a stupor, I carried out his request, finished my time there, and then proceeded to file for unemployment. But, I found myself spiraling rapidly into one of the deepest depressive episodes of my life. I was not only hurt emotionally, but I had lost my job, a job that was not only a source of income, but a source of great satisfaction for me because of all the creative ways I was able to express my sewing and even my innate management skills.

I felt really, really, hopeless, and helpless, and that's when I began contemplating suicide.

To that end, I eventually went to the store and bought some sleeping pills.

Once back home, I lay alone on my futon pallet bed, just wishing I could stop breathing.

It was in that state of mind and emotion that I heard a "voice in my head", and this is what it said:

"Okay, so you were able to buy the sleeping pills and nobody stopped you." I mentally agreed. "You could probably go back and buy  more if you really wanted to and no one would stop you then either." Again I agreed. "So now you know that you can take your life if you want to and, should things ever get this bad again, or worse, you can end your life any time in the future as well." Another mental nod from me. "But..." the voice continued, "...aren't you just a little bit curious to see how the rest of your life turns out?"

And, with a few moments consideration, to that question, I replied "Yes."

I carried that bottle of sleeping pills with me all the way to Santa Barbara, CA. I kept it as a reminder that my life truly was in my own hands, and I could end it any time I wanted to.  As I have explained in my recent "Why Bother?" blog, I think I have a better understanding of what the Real Consequences of ending my life might be, especially if I end it in the midst of really negative "patterning", so, for the record, I'm not inclined to be doing that. However, that does not change the fact that, in effect, I really could still "check out" any time.

And now I am beginning to think that our stockpiles of nuclear weapons are very much the same kind of "sleeping pills" for all of humanity.     

In much the same way I was struggling with my relationship with my employer, on the whole, we continue to struggle with our relationships with just about everyone, interpersonally, and globally.  Even for the people who are making headway on a small scale, the much greater issues, the truly Global Issues, seem pretty overwhelming, and many feel "helpless" and "hopeless", with no "back-up", just like I did.

Furthermore, we know now, that if it gets really bad, if diplomacy fails, if a couple of psychopathic leaders just go berserk with rage and frustration, or if only a few truly suicidal people (i.e. terrorists) ever get their hands on a nuclear weapon, then they can, in effect, pass out Big Giant Sleeping Pills to humankind, and put us all out of our misery, along with themselves, and the rest of life on this planet!

It begs the question: Why are we All Going Along With This?!?!

Why are we all (or, at least, most of us) so complacent about the fact that Our Lives and the Lives of Everything on this Planet are being effectively controlled, held in the balance, by only a handful of people? That those human beings who are in power are really not that different from the rest of us, except they are even MORE likely to be psychopaths and, therefore, even LESS Capable of caring at all about how much harm they may cause to others, both human and non-human.

Given the stockpiles of  "Nuclear Sleeping Pills" already hidden in "medicine cabinets" all over the world (and, to be honest, this includes nuclear power facilities as well), is there any good reason why we, why Anyone, should be acquiring More?!  Is there a chance, just maybe, that we can find other, less inherently Suicidal ways to satisfy our needs for security (and energy)? Can we find better ideas, more Life Respecting ideas around which we can orient our international foreign policies besides "Nuclear Deterrence" and "The Balance of Power"?

Is anyone just a little bit curious to see what the future might hold for humanity, if we can just get past this "rough patch"?

As for me...I've decided to stick around and see. Thanks to Paul K. Chappell's inspiration among other things, I have finally gotten rid of that bottle of sleeping pills. I have decided to continue to face my own personal challenges, and to grow through those, to become more and more capable of "Waging Peace" in All of my relationships by Being Peace-Full and by Communicating Peace - Fully.

Furthermore, wherever possible, I am going to continue to bring attention to What is Really at Stake in this world, as long as we do not recognize the irrational, paranoid, and basically un-empathetic nature of so many of those in power. These leaders do Not represent "Us". They do not represent the character of Most human beings to be empathetic and cooperative. As psychopaths, they are the "6%ers" at best, and the sooner we realize that, the more effective we can be at shifting the current "security paradigm". Moreover, we can Stop Giving Them the "keys" to all of the "medicine cabinets" all over the world holding all of our "Nuclear Sleeping Pills".

For now, I have Paul K. Chappell and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to thank for giving me more tools to help me in that struggle, and for giving me the motivation to share what I have learned with others, here, and as I continue my bike trek across the country.

To that end, I am going to stay Hope Full AND Curious...and I Hope You Will, Too! : ))

Texas Time-Out and the NAPF Workshop In Santa Barbara, Part I

Once I returned to New Braunfels from visiting with my friends in San Antonio, I began planning my bicycle ride from there to San Marcos and then Austin, thinking I would be continuing from there to started to rain again. :p

Seems the rains that had pestered me through Louisianna and the early days of my travels through Texas, were still hanging around, and given the challenges I had faced already, I was feeling pretty spent. It became clearer and clearer to me that I was not going to be able to get to Weatherford in time by bicycle, so I called my aunt and uncle and they graciously drove down to New Braunfels to pick me up and drive me back to Weatheford instead. I spent a few more days relaxing with them. My friend, Alisa, in Jacksonville, FL sent me the extra clothes I needed to attend the workshop (Thanks, again, Alisa!). Then my aunt and uncle drove me to the Dallas area where I stayed with another couple of friends until it was time for me to fly to Santa Barbara, early, early on Sunday, July 22nd.

On the plane, I was fortunate enough to sit with a pleasant young man named, Joel. We conversed the whole way to the plane's one stop in Albequerqe, NM where Joel departed, but not before I had him signed-up as another NAPF member! : ) For the remainder of the flight, I tried to rest a bit, as well as continue my re-reading of Paul Chappell's book "Peaceful Revolution" (part of our "home work" for the upcoming workshop).

Once I arrived at LAX, I caught the Santa Barbara bus shuttle to Goleta. During the bus ride I had a chance to speak with a couple of other riders including one who was at his five month mark being sober. He appreciated the encouragement I had to share with respect to Changing the Pattern-Patterning and the Really Long-Term Effects that might have for him, and even other people he knew. (And if you have not read it already, you can find out more about that in my "Why Bother?" blog below).

I also spoke with another passenger, who, interestingly enough, had the unusual experience of sharing the company of Israelis, Iraquis, Iranians, and Arabs in their mutual love and appreciation of Arabian Horses! I know there is a more broadly accepted recognition for the way music and dance can bring people from all walks of life together, but this was my first exposure to the idea that Love for Arabian Horses could do that as well, especially in a region as contentious as the Middle East. I was grateful that he was able to share from his very positive experiences, and also appreciative that he felt generous enough to offer me a cash donation before we "went our separate ways". (Thanks again, Jay!)

Arriving in Goleta, I was chauffeured by one of the NAPF interns to the beautiful and inherently peaceful La Casa De Maria. There I saw Paul again briefly, before he was off to pick-up more workshop attendees from the Santa Barbara airport. Well ahead of my check-in time, I wandered the grounds for a while with other early arrivals, Mary and Cori, and later found myself drawn to a refreshing nap in the Sadako Peace Garden.

Most of the rest of the workshop attendees gathered by evening for the first of many wonderful meals served by the La Casa de Maria staff. As the facilities have served as a spiritual retreat center for decades, there were gardens and orchards that continue to provide fresh produce for all who come to visit. Following our meal, we all gathered in the room that would be our workshop space for the remainder of the week. There Paul "Set the Stage" for what we would be learning and sharing during our time together.

Even during this first evening, I was struck with a profound feeling that this workshop was going to be a "seminal" event. That this "small committed group" of people were going to, eventually, help "change the world", and I have continued to have this feeling ever since.

Granted, it may be many years or even decades, before any of us will know if I am "right" in that intuition, but I'm not afraid to confess it here and now, "for the record". : ))

No matter what, we are living in a particularly unique time. Not only are we Participants in "history", our own "history" as well as the "history" of the world. Via the internet, we are also Observing, Documenting, and Sharing that "history" every step of the way. Did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have the same sense of what his impact on the world might be? Did Gandhi? Did Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Did Frederick Douglass? Can you imagine all or any of them as "bloggers"? : ))

As I would find, there was much more to experience ahead, and much more to learn, and therefore much more to share with you here...some of which I will be covering in "Part II" of this series.

So...stay tuned!... : )

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why Bother?

Not too long after I first came into contact with Paul K. Chappell via Facebook, I posed a question to him, it is one that I have found must be answered for anyone to acknowledge the need for change and to actually act on it.

That question is the subject of this post: Why bother? Why bother suffering the pains of growth and change, either as an individual or as a society?

For instance, say I have a habit of diet that tends to cause me to be overweight. I look around and see that there are many people who are just as overweight as I am, some even more so. At this point, I can still do most of the things I want to do, so I don't see my weight having a significant impact on the quality of my life. Let's say I'm in my mid 40's so I only have another 40 years or so to live anyway and I believe that "When you're dead you're dead",  so if I can just hold out for the rest of my life, any suffering that might be caused by my being overweight will be "over" at death. Furthermore, while I am still alive, should I suffer more consciously from recognizing my being overweight as a "problem", I can always and almost immediately distract myself with any number of the activities available to me: drugs, alcohol, television, the Internet, playing video games, partying with my friends, or giving more attention to my spouse or children, listening to music, taking lots of sight-seeing trips, shopping, reading, getting involved in political discussions, etc., etc., etc., and, of course, eating. 

And why not? Isn't that exactly what everyone else is doing?

Then again, maybe I don't believe that "When you're dead you're dead", but instead I believe that when I'm dead I will be given a New Body, one that doesn't have "problems" like becoming overweight due to diet, or suffering other chronic diseases, or even terminal diseases due to life-style choices, or due to an environment that has become full of poisons in order to satisfy the needs of "consumers", myself included.

Maybe I also believe that the whole world is coming to an end soon, or at least the human species, either through "apocalypse", or nuclear holocaust, or chaos brought on by economic collapse, and, again, like so many other people in the world, I should simply live like there is "no tomorrow", indulging my body's capacity for experience in whatever way I choose until that fateful day comes.

Now I know there are many people who are not going to like what I am about to say. And they are free to agree or disagree with me and I am okay with that. I have friends from all walks of life, representing many different "points of view" both religious and secular, so I am familiar with all of these - including the points of view or beliefs I have offered above.

My question to everyone is: What if...all of that kind of thinking, the beliefs expressed above are simply wrong?

For instance, there are many people around the world who believe in some form of reincarnation. They also believe that the choices we make in this life-time have an effect on our experiences now as well as in future life-times...maybe many future life-times. Different teachings from different religious traditions give different descriptions of the cause-and-effect relationships between our current actions and future consequences.

I came to the conclusion many years ago that people tend to believe what they Want to believe and that those beliefs serve each person in their efforts to cope with the complexities of human existence. A recent conversation made me consider the belief in "apocalypse" more closely and I came to the following conclusion: There are many people in the world today who simply want this to all be over.  One way or another, through nuclear holocaust or the coming of Jesus, or some magical or metaphysical "shift", they just want all the "problems" of human existence to be "solved"... with no more effort of their own. 

They are not that different from someone suffering from severe depression, someone who has been fighting the good fight but finally gives into suicide...except...these same people do not want to see just the ending of their own lives, they want to see the ending of all of life (or at least human life) on this planet, (or "most" of it for those who feel they will be the "chosen ones" who survive to rule on Earth or in "heaven").

But again, what if None of the beliefs in "apocalypse" are True, whether they are religious or secular in nature?

What if there is no "escape" from this world as we know it, even through death, or "suicide", whether that is an individual or collective event?

What if we are reincarnating here, life-time after life-time, and the Only Changes we will ever experience, either individually or collectively, will come from Our Choices and Our Actions, and not the actions of some "other" force or forces over which we may feel we have no control?

At the beginning of this interview, American Unity Project, Episode #2, Santa Barbara, Paul Chappell speaks of a point in his own life when he realized he had three options in dealing with his own suffering: 1) Suicide, 2) Madness, or 3) To commit to the harder path of "climbing out of hell, inch by inch".

I feel now that we must all start to think more seriously about "climbing out of hell, inch by inch", both as a personal goal and as a global one. How different might we all act if we new: Death is Not the End of Anything. There is not going to be an "apocalypse" in Any Form, Any Time, in the near or even far distant future? And that even individual death does not bring "escape" from the challenges of this world?

What if every choice in thought, feeling, and action is part of a "pattern patterning", and while we are in these human bodies, we have the option to change that pattern by choosing to think differently, by choosing to feel differently, and by choosing to act differently? What if there is No Real individual or collective end ahead? What if we are all in this world together and we will ALL keep coming back to this world Together? If we do not solve the problems we are facing now, if we do not resolve the conflicts we have with the people in our personal lives or in the world, then they will still be here waiting for us the next time around?

Although many might believe that their beliefs are superior to Reality Itself, if this is actually what is happening here, no amount of "belief" is going to change that. Whether you believe in life in "heaven" or "hell" after death, or whether you believe "when you're dead you're dead", you could very well be wrong, and you could very well be coming back here, to what you Actually Know and what you have Actually Experienced.

So, based on what you Actually know about, and based on what you have Actually experienced, would You want to come back to this world, and the patterning of your own life, physically, relationally, practically, socially..and do this whole "trip" again pretty much the same way you've experienced it in This Lifetime? If that is the "pattern patterning" of your existence, do you really want to do it all over again, exactly the same way? 

What if the changes you experience or help to create in your current lifetime are the Only Changes You Will Ever Experience? In other words, it is not in dying that such changes take place, but only through LIVING...And only while you are alive, in a physical human body, do you have the opportunity to Change the Pattern Patterning, both your individual pattern and the collective patterning of the world.

That to me seems like the greatest motivation anyone can have to do whatever they possibly can to change the patterning of their own lives, to change the patterning of their relationships with others, and, to the degree that they are capable, to change the patterning of the World Itself, No Matter What Their Current Circumstance! (In other words, it is Never too Late to Change.)

That's how I answer the question: Why bother? Maybe it's not the only answer, or even the best answer, but... it's working for me. It is keeping me motivated to not lose hope, to persevere against the odds, and to Live My Life not only to enjoy all the pleasures that can be experienced here, but to help preserve this world itself, where we are all connected, and possibly even "locked in", for many, many, more lifetimes to come.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Always Something - And Sometimes It's Multiple Somethings... : ))

One of the things I have come to accept as I have been riding my bicycle across the country is that there really is no such thing as the "perfect" ride. As the title of this blog suggests, there is always "something" that makes it a challenge, and sometimes it can be a combination of several things, thus making it really, really, challenging.

Take weather for instance: It might be clear, but then it means it might be warmer, or windier. I might have a tail wind, which is usually welcome when riding a bicycle, but in my case, since I am traveling so slowly, a tail wind means there is no "relative" wind and I am traveling in the equivalent of an air bubble where perspiration does not dry and overall cooling is limited. Or if I have a headwind, or even a cross-wind, which I have come to prefer, a little wind is good, but too much, and I'm cycling through pea soup.

If it's cloudy, then it might be somewhat cooler, but there is the additional threat of rain. It might be hot, with the rain helping to cool things down, or...just make it that much more humid. It might be hot, and dry, which helps with drying perspiration, but then I have to be extra sure I'm hydrating more, and the heat, especially with No Shade Anywhere, can take its toll pretty quickly.

Time of day is also a factor. I've come to prefer a later start so at least it is cooling down at the same time I am wearing out, but that has meant riding into the night on several occasions...something I have actually come to enjoy...except for the bugs, that tend to come out more at night. Just as I was crossing a long bridge into Columbus I got zapped by a big ol' beetle right in my left cheek, not to mention the all too frequent "gnat in the eye". I tried wearing a lighter pair of safety goggles for night riding, but I've stopped using them because they refract oncoming light so badly it makes it nearly impossible to see anything. Instead, I've learned to just keep my eyes squinted a little more to protect them from the bugs, and I tend to tilt my helmet way forward to block the blinding lights of oncoming traffic.

And then there are the road conditions. I might have access to wide shoulders...only to find they are covered with chip-and-seal (i.e. they are made from a layer of tar with small bits of gravel scattered over the top, and that's all, no "finishing" of the surface to make it smoother). I've noticed this to be the most common in Texas thus far. The pavement may have very distinct seams every 20 feet or so...not much to notice in a car going 60 mph with a reasonable suspension system, but for me, it's a bump to my bike, my butt, and my trailer over each one, and this can go on for miles at a time.

On the other hand, the shoulders might be most places...but then be littered with gravel and pieces of truck tire treads, or old shoes, or pieces of wood, or who knows what. And...if there are "rumple strips" or "sleeper bumps" as I like to call them, then I have to endure hammering over those to avoid everything else that might be piled up in the shoulder. The shoulders may be full of fissures, ridges, and pot-holes, like they were in Louisiana making them completely unrideable. Or...there might not be any shoulder at all, forcing me to ride in the main lanes. This latter case, however, and just for the record, has not proven to be a problem. As I have been telling people lately, most people do not want to be involved in an "accident" of any kind no matter how "crazy" they might be as a driver. If nothing else, they don't want to see their insurance rates go up! : ))

Sometimes the roads might be fairly flat. Truly flat doesn't happen often, there is usually just a little bit of grade and, for me, a long up-hill grade means No Momentum as much as a shorter, or steeper up-hill grade. Of course, going down-hill for a while afterwards is always a plus, unless the down-hill part is Too Steep as I found out on my way to New Braunfels (more about that later). Furthermore, flat roads can become very monotonous as well, especially if there are not many markers along the way - small towns, changes in vegetation, an overhanging tree for a bit of shade, etc.

Even riding through Florida and Mississippi along the coast, where the roads were mostly at sea level, I still had to deal with much higher overpasses and bridges that were built to accommodate the larger ships sailing through the region.

Finally, there are the physical factors that I deal with. Did I get adequate food or enough sleep the night before a ride? How many days and miles in a row have I been riding? Did I hydrate sufficiently prior to getting on my bicycle? Did I take enough but not too much anti-inflammatory medication (generic "Aleve" for me)? Is it "that time of the month"? Are there enough places to stop for more water along the route? Are there any places to actually stop and rest as necessary? Depending on how long the ride is, do I need one pair of riding shorts or two for the extra padding?

Dare I say...the Devil is in the details?! : ))

On July 3rd, I had many of these factors coming into play. I'd stayed up fairly late talking with my host Chris and his brother and his friend Casey...again. However, I managed to get a relatively early start in spite of that, leaving Chris's apartment in Columbus around 8:20 AM. (Sure, I wanted to leave earlier, but that's just the way it worked out.)

Although the roads were in pretty good condition, there was a lot of chip-and-seal, it was really hot, I had a slight tail-wind giving me that air-bubble effect, and...then...there were...the hills. As you can see by the attached image, those hills, though not extreme, were up and down and up and down for pretty much the entire ride. I don't think I was able to go much more than 1/4 to 1/2 mile without facing another hill. That dropped my average speed from 6 to 8 mph down to more like 4 or 5 mph.

Nevertheless, I persevered. Even when I started this particular day, I knew it would be one of my most difficult, if only because I would be traveling 70 miles, my longest distance yet, in the Texas heat. I did not, however, realize until I was fully into it that the hills would be virtually non-stop. I had been in a bit of a rush as always to get my course plotted, and notes taken, so I failed to look more closely at my route map and the info on "elevation changes" at the bottom. Truth is, I don't think I really wanted to know because I knew it would not make any difference one way or another. I would just have to do what I had to do, no matter what.

As I had done on so many other days, I simply paced myself. Opting for slow and steady "turtle power" rather than racing anywhere, with the exception of racing to get to the McDonald's in Weimar before they stopped serving breakfast! : )

On approach, I wasn't sure if Weimar had a McDonald's or if I would make it in time, but when I saw those "Golden Arches" a mile or so directly ahead, at the intersection of the access road I was on and the main exit off of I-10, I looked at my watch reading 10:20 or so and thought, "Maybe, just maybe, I can make it".

I pedaled as hard as I could, up another hill (!). I think I got in the door at 10:27, sweating and breathing hard, with a line of people in front of me and only one person at the counter to take our orders. My heart sank when the manager turned a lever over the packing station and the breakfast menus disappeared as they were replaced by the lunch/dinner menus. I guess the woman in front of me got the last of the sausage biscuits. However, when it was finally my turn I made it clear to the clerk that I had made quite an effort to get there before 10:30 and I really hoped they'd still be able to accommodate my order for oatmeal and two Egg-McMuffins (one for then and one for the road). They were able to "take care of me" as she put it, so my extra effort did not go to waste. Furthermore, while I was there at the McDonald's I was able to make contact with the Fire Chief in Luling which eventually led to my being given the opportunity to stay at one of the two Fire Stations there.

I made one more major stop in Schulenburg at a place called the "Iron Horse Filling Station". I took advantage of the "Pizza Buffet Special", although I knew better than to overeat, so I paced myself on that as well. I talked for a while with one of the staff who took interest in my mission after seeing my bicycle parked outside the building. She graciously added her name to the membership roster for the NAPF and was even kind enough to let me have my lunch for free. I made sure to get a re-fill on all of my water bottles, before once again heading down the road.

It was about 2:00 PM when I left Schulenberg. It would be another 10 hours before I reached Luling. I took HWY 90 which was relatively quiet, and once the sun set, I had the advantage of clear skies and a full moon making it much easier to see...easy enough to see my first Live armadillo for just a few seconds before it disappeared into the tall grasses along the side of the road.

When I arrived in Luling, I was once again graciously welcomed by the on duty fire fighters there. Special thanks to Keith, who gave up his sleeping quarters for the recliner so that I would have a bed and a room to myself. I took a shower, stored my cold-food, rigged some lines between my trailer and my bicycle to dry my sweaty gear, and went to bed, letting everyone know that questions would just have to wait until morning!

And, sure enough, there were a few questions the next day, including some from the "relief" as they came to work around 9:00. Since I still had another long ride ahead though, I didn't want to stick around too long, so I tried to get away as soon as I could, loading up on water, and with a couple of doughnuts for the road thanks to Nadi.:)

It would prove to be insufficient, however, to get me to my destination in New Braunfels. I had been making very slow progress all morning, more hills, this time a stronger cross-wind, high heat, chip-n-seal roads, and then one particularly steep hill that I tried to take at full speed, seeing how the opposite side was just as steep and I wanted as much momentum going up it as I could get.

About midway down...there's a change in the sound of my trailer, from its usual hum to a grinding rattle. It was still rolling though, so I figured it was something to do with the wheel bearings, or maybe a change in the roughness of the road...until I stopped at the bottom of the hill to take a closer look: Turns out, the solid rubber tire had come completely off the plastic rim of the left wheel, so the rattle I was hearing was that plastic rim against the road.

I propped my bicycle up as best I could along the side of the road and started walking back to see if I could find the tire, thinking if I did find it, I might have a chance to force it back on the rim. One lady passed me in a white car and I tried to get her attention so that she would not run into my bicycle parked ahead, then, as I turned around to see her go up the hill, I realized my bicycle was no longer propped by the side of the road, but had fallen into the street. As I was walking back, she returned to make sure I was okay, then another vehicle came by, this time a big, black pick-up truck. It too made a u-turn at the top of the hill and pulled off the road once it reached my bicycle, about the same time I did.

And, so, I was ultimately "rescued" by Cody, who assured me he was not crazy or anything! No, he was just a good ol' Texan, an "angel" in his crisp white shirt, who happened to show up just when I needed him. Although we looked for a little while longer to find the lost wheel, he was sure it would be a much better idea for me to just let him load up my bicycle and then take me to New Braunfels himself, to which I reluctantly agreed. I wasn't reluctant because of Cody, just that this would be my first "break" from my "geographically continuous route under my own power."

I saw from the passenger side of the truck, that yes, there were still quite a few hills left in my journey, and it was clear and hot, and given the painfully slow pace I had been on since morning, in part because of the 70 mile ride I had completed too few hours before, I accepted the fact that I was "done" for the day anyway. Even though I had been willing, even "surrendered" to endure whatever lay ahead, it seems "the Universe" had other plans for me, and losing my trailer tire was enough of a "major mechanical failure" to finally get me off the road.

However, the lift from Cody also meant I got to New Braunfels closer to my originally planned time. My friends Cassey and Michael came from San Antonio to pick me up there and we had dinner at a local, though "traditional German" restaurant. (As Michael commented, we were in "New Braunfels" after all, so it seemed only right to go to a German Restaurant! : ))

I spent a few more relaxing days with Cassey and Michael, watched most of the episodes in one season of "Top Shot" hosted by Colby Donaldson of earlier "Survivor" fame, and returned to New Braunfels to await the arrival of a set of new wheels for my trailer.

At this point, I have gone ahead and purchased at least a one-way plane ticket to Santa Barbara (all I could afford right now, and that thanks specifically to the generous donations from Chris and his brother Stephen back in Columbus). I am not sure if I will make it all the way in the time I have left, but I am going to try to make it to Weatherford, Texas, and then my Aunt and Uncle will be driving me the rest of the way to Dallas where my friends there will make sure I get to the plane on time.

I'm really looking forward to the NAPF workshop, excited by the possibilities of what we will learn together, and the opportunity for me to get clearer on what my mission can be or will be after I get back to Texas. I'm kind of at a "half-way" point right now, so it is a good time to re-group, re-organize, re-energize, make some assessments and changes based on lessons learned, and see how to get myself the rest of the way across the country as I continue to Pedal for Peace!

Thanks again to all of my readers and to everyone who has offered their support thus far whether in the form of food and shelter, cash donations, signing up for membership in the NAPF, and/or emotional/moral support. It has all been meaningful to me and I am extremely grateful to be able to keep doing what I am doing because of that support.

Not sure how many more blogs I will be able to post between now and the time I leave for Santa Barbara, but know that I am still "on course" and I will be back with updates as soon as I can. : ) Also, I am still looking for more people to become NAPF members to contribute to my tuition credit. If you would like to sign-up, please send your name, zip code, and e-mail address to me at: llbell_100 (at)

Thanks again, Everyone! : ))

Monday, July 2, 2012

"Rain Tag" from Houston to Columbus, Texas

Before I reached Texas, everyone was telling me how hot it was going to be...and DRY...It has been hot, for sure, but dry? Not so much!

Dodging rainstorms has become something of a preoccupation for me. I'd like to think that my experiences are teaching me more about how to read the weather, at least what is in my immediate area. Traveling from Houston to Katy and then Katy to Columbus, I had several occasions to try to dodge the rain, which I was able to do more or less successfully.
For instance, one of my first shelter stops was under an overpass just as I was leaving Houston. While I was standing under the overpass with my bicycle, a little frog came jumping by. As I could not see any safe place for it to get to without possibly getting run over, I maneuvered my rig to delicately balance the bicycle upright, with the trailer positioned perpendicular to it acting as a "kick-stand". I then went frog chasing for a few minutes, until I could catch the little guy and ease him into a drain that was close by, figuring it had to lead to open water at some point (a la "Finding Nemo" : )). Unfortunately, my bicycle prop did not work as well as I had hoped, and my bicycle slid down to the ground, but with no major damage. (To have an idea of how hard it was raining, notice the water "jetting" out of the drain in the third column from the front!)

I had one more storm front to out-run that day, pulling into a walkway at an antique mall, just in time. I decided to hang out for a little while, eat some of my snacks, and even talked with one the shop owners about my trip. I didn't take a picture while there, but you can see the walkway in this picture I snapped off of Google Street view! Just imagine a few more cars in the parking lot and the rain pouring down.

I did manage to get to Katy, and although I was wet from sweat, rather than rain, at least the rest of my gear was still in good shape. I met my Warm Showers host, Tecky, and his family, and friend Kris when I got to the house. There was plenty of food and really great conversation and even a potential job offer, should I ever want to work for the oil industry! (Let me bring Peace to the World first, Tecky, then I might take you up on that! : )) Kris was really enthusiastic about wanting to join me on my trip, but as you can see by the picture, his bicycle was a little too small! (Hee, hee!) However, I did give into his plea to let him try to ride my bicycle, and he did for about 30 seconds, so now he knows he could haul a lot of stuff, too, when he's ready to do his own cross-country trek.

From Katy to Columbus, I was once again dodging rainstorms. The first came after me just as I was entering Brookshire. With dark clouds looming up behind me, I spotted street lights flashing maybe a couple of miles ahead and so I started pedaling hard. The rain was just starting to come down as I passed, and then realized the lights were outside the Fire Station and the Fire Station trucks were pulled out of the bays leaving me plenty of room to bring my bicycle inside, which is exactly what I did.

I was greeted by one of the volunteers on duty who had no problem with me parking my bike until the rains passed. Which they did eventually, but not without leaving me enough time for some cheese and crackers, some of my finger salad, and conversation with Stephanie, the first female firefighter I've met on my journey thus far!

Once it seemed this particular storm had passed, I headed on down the road. However, there were still A Lot of dark clouds around and the last thing I wanted to do was get caught, out in the open, with no place to hide, especially while crossing the Brazos River, where I had to get off of the I-10 Frontage Road and onto I-10 itself in order to cross the bridge. Seeing at least one line of rolling clouds coming up behind me, I decided to take shelter under the bridge rather than trying to cross it right away. And even when I did finally venture out, the clouds still looked pretty scary.

Sure enough, only a few short miles down the road, and once again, pedaling as hard as I possibly could, praying that the rain would not catch me, I just managed to duck into the bays of a truck stop, safe from another downpour. I availed myself of the facilities, bought some postcards, and a sandwich at the Subway store, and then I was back out again, this time with the skies still cloudy, but at least a little more sunny...for a while...

Back on the frontage road, I made a few stops here and there as illustrated by this video:Quiet Moment on the Road to Columbus. During one of those stops, three very nice ladies who just happened to see me from the highway, stopped to see if I was okay. I was able to tell them about my trip thus far and my "mission" and they were very generous in their offerings of prayers and even on-the-spot donations, for which I am very grateful, as always.

And yes, the sky was somewhat clear for a while, but, sure enough, still about eight miles from my destination, and just as the sun was about to go down, I spotted another storm over my shoulder, coming on strong. For the third time in 50 miles or so, I was pedaling as hard as I could, especially because this storm looked more powerful than the others that had almost overtaken me earlier in the day.

Climbing an exit ramp I spotted a clump of large trees with overhanging limbs, that were not surrounded by thick grass and thought to try to seek shelter there, but as I could see houses down the road, I took that path instead. Looking for any broad overhangs of garages or of the houses themselves, about 200 yards away I spotted an Empty Carport! I rode up to the dirt drive, noted no evidence of recent tire tracks, and assumed the house was not occupied. I pulled my bike onto the carport just as the rains were beginning to fall onto the metal roof. Seconds later, there was another torrential downpour. Mentally, I took out my "Rain Tag Score Card" and chalked up another one in my column, having just managed to avoid being "tagged" by this last storm. So I was "winning" 3 to 0!

Another hour or so riding in the dark, including crossing the Colorado River by moonlight, and I finally pulled into the apartment complex of my young couch surfing host for the evening, Chris. Along with his friend, Alec (not pictured), we managed to get my bicycle and trailer up the two flights of stairs and safely stored in the apartment. I enjoyed my hot shower, and then spent the rest of the evening engaged in conversation with both Chris and Alec, conversation which continued into the wee hours of the morning. As it turned out, this would be a pattern that would be repeated the next couple of evenings as well, with Alec, and then another friend, Casey, and then with Chris's brother Stephen! : )

Nevertheless, before continuing my trek, I had a couple of days to "recover", and to help Chris with a bit of a "Kitchen Makeover" as well - something that was greatly appreciated by him AND his brother, AND his friends. I'm expecting updates from all of them to see if Chris can keep up with his "home work"! I suspect he will now that he has a better idea of why it is so important! : )