It has come to my attention that the more I continue to pursue my goal of riding my bicycle across the country, the more that goal takes on the character of trying to write a good story!
Not that I've had that much practice writing stories. Most of my work has been in college, writing research papers. And, sorry to say, I seldom ever used outlines or wrote rough drafts. I would do research on a topic up to the day it was due, start in the morning and write until it was done. For my mostly online classes, that meant writing up to about 11:56 PM hoping that I didn't run into any computer glitches between then and the time I posted my paper before the 12:00 midnight deadline. I figured any outlining or rough drafts prior to the final write-up were just a waste of my "writing energy" which I preferred to "save up" until that final due day. I continued this habit pretty much my entire five years of taking on-line classes to finish my BS in Social Science. (Why, you might ask? Because...I kept getting A's or B's, mostly A's on all of my papers!)
At the same time, none of those grades were a matter of life and death. Leaving my job, up-rooting myself from where I once lived (again), ultimately, riding my bicycle across the country...quite a bit more risk involved with all of that, even, real life and death risk given the possibility of having a bad encounter with a vehicle or something while I am on the road.
Nevertheless, in all of this, I am trying to change the course of my "life story". Or, maybe this uprooting myself on a regular basis is part of the overall pattern of my life and this is just another chapter. For whatever reasons, I have moved fairly freely from one chapter to the next so far: 1) Life with Mom, 2) Life in the Carnival, 3) Life in Montana, 4) England, 5) Kauai-Finding My Guru, 6) Colorado, 7) The Navy-Government, 8) Transition 9) Riding my Bicycle Cross Country.
I guess that a means we're in Chapter 9 now. : ) And when I first started thinking this chapter needed to start, I wasn't all that clear on the theme, the thesis, or the mission statement. I just new it was Time to Move On. Yes, I was looking to live my life based on the principle of Non-Aggression and the Law of Love, but the details of exactly how the rest would unfold have been far less clear.
Just as in writing a story, I have considered various plot-line variations: 1) I ride from Virginia Beach, VA, Summer 2011, ostensibly to promote self-sufficiency, non-aggression, simple and sustainable diet, community building, primitive skills, bicycle blenders, high filtration water bottles, etc., etc. (i.e. no Clear Focus). But then I got held up by the TEDxGWU talk in October in DC., so I stayed longer with my female friend in Williamsburg, VA then I originally thought I would. And then, Weird Al did a show in Orlando, FL which left the door open for plot-line 2) Spend time with another (male) friend in Florida and "see what happens". (Lots of things have happened, but nothing to take my mind off my "main theme", i.e. riding my bicycle across the country.) My current sitution evolved possible plot-line number 3) Stick around for a year or so and write an actual book BEFORE riding my bicycle across the country. In this case, delaying my ride also included the possible sub-plot of riding with another female friend from St. Augustine instead of alone.
But then, another plot-line started to emerge: 4) Ride my bicycle across country, this year, in order to attend the Peace Leadership Workshop in Santa Barbara, CA. being conducted by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and author and Peace Leadership Director, Paul K. Chappell.
At first, I was thinking, "Hmmm, I just don't think I can get my writing/riding act together, let alone the money, in time to make the trip this year. Maybe I could make it by next year." Then, due to some other things (related to plot line 2) becoming much more clear, and the fact that Paul Chappell sent me a signed copy of his book to read, and that reading it was Truly Inspiring, plot-line 4) has moved to center stage.
Given the ambiguity of my original intentions for making this trip (and/or writing this particular "chapter" of my "life story"), I am glad to finally have a much clearer "theme", or "thesis" or "mission statement" for my writing/riding. Furthermore, the timing is forcing me to accelerate and actually complete the work of clearing out my remaining possessions in storage, something I have been planning to do for decades now.
More than that though, it has already challenged me to complete my first "rough draft"; i.e. a test ride of my fully loaded bicycle AHEAD of the actual "due date"! As a consequence, I am now having to reconsider, "edit" and "rewrite", several of the "ideas" I had about all the clothes, food, and accessories I would be taking with me. Where I usually have plenty of space and time to write (here for instance), for this trip I will have to pack my bicycle much more sparingly, and I am going to be on a much tighter schedule with very specific deadlines to move me along.
In other words, there is more "pressure" now, but it is the good kind. It is the kind that I know will help me to grow, and will, ultimately, help me to accomplish the goal of riding my bicycle across the country, a goal that has always been in my heart from the beginning - even going back further to when I was a full-time bicycle commuter in my late teens and into my mid 20's.
The fact that I have been sharing my "process" here, pretty much from the very beginning, has felt a little intimidating at times. I'm pretty certain many people have been wondering, "Is she really going to do this, or is it just a bunch of talk?" For anyone who has never edeavored to take on a challenge as truly complicated and even as risky as this one, then it would be hard to understand that, you know, things seldom ever turn out exactly the way you imagined From the Beginning!
In the end, you have to leave room for Life to "have Its Way with you", which is what I have been trying to do, with as much self-awareness and sensitivity to All of the Forces at Work here as I possibly can.
And I know for certain, even though I am the one writing this right now, it is not "all about me". It is, however, about a process and maybe by sharing this story from the beginning and following through with all of the twists and turns, it will help anyone reading this appreciate that often times, This is Exactly the Way Life Is. You need to be Open, you need to be Listening, and you need to be Ready and Willing to take action as necessary, at the same time, you can't anticipate everything and you can't control everything.
In other words, you have to be willing to Play Your Part to the best of your ability, while knowing all along you are the actor, writer, and director of your own script. In addition, Life Will Help you with the "creative process", if you will Let It!
P.S. A little quote to summarize this post: "Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life's about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity..." - Gilda Radner
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.