March 3, 2012 I was able to attend the Fourth Annual Heart of Florida Peace Conference held in Winter Haven, FL (Heart of Florida Peace Conference). My friend Alisa and I camped out at the nearby Orlando S.W./Ft. Summit KOA before heading on down to the event.
This is a picture of our campsite after we'd taken down our tents. It did not rain, but the dew was so heavy it might as well have rained. You can see the contrasting dry patches where our tents were.
Quick review of the site: Eh...cheaper than a hotel, but mostly populated by RV's, and there were really bright street lights everywhere which made it much harder for me (as I have a lot of trouble sleeping with lights on). No trees to speak of so I was glad I brought my free-standing Eureka tent as a back-up to my home-made one (although I do intend to test my home-made tent with free standing support at some point before I leave. : )). Alisa was kind enough to park her car to block one of the worst of the lights, which helped, but it was not nearly the pleasant experience I had at Astor Landing a few weeks ago (Astor Landing Campground Review).
The bath house was fine - clean with multiple showers, etc. Funny thing...I managed to lose one of my (very special) wolf earrings down the sink, so I had to do a little plumbing to open up the trap to get to it. Luckily, I was successful in that, hardly skipping a beat with my "morning routine", but it made for an interesting conversation with another woman who was there at the same time. She suggested I start hiring myself out as a plumber, just for that purpose alone! : )
Even with the earring incident, Alisa and I managed to get ourselves to the event site in plenty of time. As the heavy dew had indicated, it was still quite humid, but the temps were nice. On our way to the conference center, we passed this Sandhill Crane quietly enjoying its "morning routine" as well.
Of course, the highlight of this trip was getting a chance to meet and listen to the featured speaker, Paul K. Chappell (Paul K. Chappell), Peace Leadership Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF). Although there was a relatively small group gathered of about 20 or so people, they came from very diverse backgrounds, and posed many challenging questions.
Where Paul's talk focused on confronting long-held beliefs about the nature of "national security" and the fundamental nature of human beings (being non-violent as opposed to violent), he also had to field questions and comments regarding the current economic system and the best way for activists to present themselves in public so as not to detract from their mission and message. True to the videos I had already seen of him, Paul was the model of patience and respect for his audience and I think everyone walked away with a renewed sense of hope for the future of humanity as well as the motivation to get more involved in whatever way they could.
As for me... I came to the conference with my own particular peace mission already determined. And the next day, March 4th, in spite of the 20+ mph head-winds, I set off on my bicycle from Jacksonville Beach, FL.
Here are a couple of videos highlighting the beginning and the end of my first leg. I start out christening my wheels at Jacksonville Beach and end up in Orange Park, FL approximately 35 miles and six hours later!
Christening in the Atlantic Ocean, Safe and Sound in Orange Park
In addition to the 20+ mph headwinds, I was carrying approximately 85-90 lbs of gear. Because I have not been able to get my two-wheeled trailer yet, and for safety reasons, I did not use the top rack this time which might end up adding another 10-15 lbs for the rest of my journey. Furthermore, although there were no major natural hills, there were several man-made ones to surmount in the form of bridges and overpasses.
For instance, the first bridge was around the 2 mile mark from the beach and it took a lot of determination to get over that one. I felt like it was my first "test" to see just how committed I am to my mission. As I was pushing hard at the very top of the hill I started breathing the words "I - Want - Peace", and that is what kept me going.
Overall though, it was a relatively easy trip. By choosing a mountain bike instead of a road bike for this journey, I have more capacity to "gear down" then I would with a road bike. In addition, I've added a "super low" gear with a new cassette on the back wheel, which made riding my bicycle, into the wind, up a hill, and under a heavy load possible.*
So, I am glad to report that after those 6 hours in the saddle, and with very little pre-training, I am none the worse for it, and I expect the next part of my journey will continue on that foundation - as I will be "training myself into this" as I go.
Thanks again to my friend Alisa for helping, not only with the videos, but with transportation and payment for the campsite (and a celebratory "Stella" beer at the end of my ride). I feel really lucky to have her and other friends who have been and continue to be so generous with their support.
If you would like to join their ranks, please take advantage of the "Donate" button in the top right menu, and thanks again to everyone who has already contributed thus far. : )
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*Note: For those of you who may not be cyclists, and especially for anyone thinking about becoming one or even attempting a trip like this, I think it is important to mention that gearing that allows for easy, steady, revolutions per minute (rpm), or "spin rate" is crucial, especially for a very long ride like the one I am planning. Easy spinning minimizes the stress on the body and gives it more of an opportunity to adapt over time. It is similar to the difference between lifting a light weight many times and lifting a heavy weight only a few times, or running a marathon instead of a sprint. Yes, the ride took me 6 hours (Yeah! Turtle Power! : )), but as far as I'm concerned, that's a day's work. Furthermore, with a couple of (generic) "Aleve" prior to and a couple after my trip, along with my regular yoga exercising the day of and the day after, I actually experienced relatively little pain - even though I have not really been on my bicycle that much in the last several months.
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.