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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

April 15th to April 20th "Training Days" - Part IV

The rain had cleared off by the time I headed out of Madison. It was going to be a long, hot day, with lots of hills, and therefore, lots of hiking as well as biking. Not unlike my encounter with Paul the previous day, I met Mark just as I was pulling into a shady spot on the side of the road to take a break. Turns out, Mark had heard about Paul, but never managed to catch up with him.

Where Paul had been on the road for about 50 days total by the time I met up with him, Mark had been taking a more leisurely pace from the West Coast, a break from playing baseball for New Mexico State University, which had lasted over three months (so far). He also had some back-up from his parents whom he would be meeting as he continued his cycling east.

I think in part because the cycling thus far has been so strenuous, it has really made me appreciate little things, like...a warm shower after my ride, or a cool patch of shade...especially when there is a safe place to park my rig for a few minutes, and rest, have something to eat, re-fill my water bottles, etc.

At this particular juncture, while I was resting, eating my cheese and crackers and "Finger Salad", this insect dropped on my arm, seeming to be looking for some attention, so I gladly abliged, snapping several photos with my camera on the "macro" setting as it proceeded to walk down my arm, and onto my elbow, and up the back of my arm.

I eventually encouraged it to disembark onto a weed next to the tree stump where it continued on its own journey to who knows where? : )

As for me, my journey continued over more sun drenched hills and straight-aways. On the hills, I would choose the side I'd walk on based on how many trees actually shaded the road. I would pace myself by pushing my bike from the shade of one tree to the next, counting steps, sometimes guessing how many steps it would take to get to the next patch of shade. (My determination to proceed on my own must have been pretty obvious to the people passing me in vehicles, since I don't remember any of them stopping to check and see if I needed any assistance!)

I remember one particularly large tree on the opposite side of the road that seemed the last one big enough to offer shade at that time of the day for as far as I could see. So I made my way across, parked there for a while, draped myself over my front handle bars with my head resting on my handlebar bag and my hands gently patting my front panniers. I realized, I probably could have slept that way, except for the heat, and my determination to get to my destination in Monticello, FL before sun down.

Nevertheless, as I waited and rested, drank some water, ate a Luna Bar, I realized there were more clouds now than there had been earlier in the day, and they were headed in the same direction that I was. Just as I was about to leave the shade of the Big Tree, one of those clouds began to cover the Sun, and so I "prayed": "More clouds, please. That would be really helpful right now.... : )"

And, then there were a few more clouds, and I started to either walk quickly up the hill to keep in the shadow of the clouds, or ride more slowly down the hills for the same reason. I was able to continue "Cloud Chasing" almost all the way into Monticello, with the town sign appearing near the top of yet another long hill.

But, that was not yet the end of my day. There were still a few more hills, luckily on mostly shade-covered side-walks, and another down-hill or two, before I finally made it to my destination: "Bluebird Meadows Farm" run my Maria and Diane, whom I had been able to contact via

True to their prediction, I stayed longer than I planned, so it was here that I ended my first full week On the Road! And what a week it was! : ))

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 15th to April 20th "Training Days" - Part III

One of the challenges of this trip thus far has been ... packing, unpacking, and packing up again! Pretty much every day I am getting ready to ride I think I'll be done at some point in the morning, say 10:30 am, and I don't actually get on the road until say...1:00 or 2:00 pm. As should be obvious to anyone seeing my pictures, I am not "traveling light" and that means there is a lot of gear to keep track of. Furthermore, since I am staying in so many different places along the way, it becomes really important to check and double-check (sometimes even to triple-check) to make sure I haven't left anything behind.

Nevertheless, I have tried to keep the attitude that, whatever I have to do each day that I ride in terms of packing, etc., has to be done, and it will take as much time as it takes. It was never my intention to have to "rush" this journey, and being able to spend time with people, talking about the journey itself, and the mission of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Paul Chappell, is a big part of what this is all about. I'd like to think that there is a Bigger Clock involved here, as well as a Bigger Purpose, and there have been more than a few times now when, because I was "running late" (or so I thought), I made connections with people who I might otherwise have missed.

For instance, just as I was finally headed back out to HWY 90 after staying at the empty trailer at Sunset Manor, another cyclist, named Paul, was Just At That Moment passing in front of me on 90 going east. Turns out he was on the last few days of his own cross-country bike trip from San Diego, CA. He came across the road to meet me and we stood there with our bicycles and talked for maybe another 45 minutes or so, swapping stories. Some of his advice to me: "Ditch some weight!" (A message he later repeated in an e-mail. : )) So, although I had thought about leaving earlier, because I didn't, it was easy for Paul and I to "connect".

After talking with Paul it was time for me to continue through Live Oak on to points west. Once I actually reached the town of Live Oak, I stopped outside the Mission Thrift Store that happened to be across the street from a health food/vitamin shop. I had a chance to talk with the managers of the store, Randall and Tina, and some of their friends. I walked across the street to the health food store and bought something to drink and some bee pollen (on a whim), ate my cheese and crackers, and finger salad outside the thrift shop, and then took some time to figure out how to cover my gear for better rain protection as the clouds were starting to roll in and I had not had to deal with any bad weather yet.

Once I had everything secured to my satisfaction, nothing dangling that might get caught in a brake, or a wheel, or a derailleur or something, I started to head on through town, and sure enough within about a mile or so, it started to rain a little bit. Nothing I felt uncomfortable with, really, so I kept going...right up until my wheels fell off the back of my trailer!! :P (Sorry I don't have a picture of that!)

It was not a "major incident". The bend of the trailer forks skidded to the ground, the bike started to go over along with the trailer so I just let it. And then, I started to laugh, because I had just spent the last, oh, hour our so, making sure my back panniers especially were carefully covered with the extra army rain poncho I was carrying, and...guess where my tool bag was? That's right, in one of those pockets that were now so carefully enclosed in multiple layers of nylon.

Once again, my "timing" was fortunate as moments after I capsized, police officer Osborn pulled up beside me to offer assistance. He held my bike while I turned the trailer completely upside down in order to re-attach the wheels with my crescent wrench that I did manage to recover from under the rain covering. He also gave me some directions to the nearest automobile repair shop, just a 100 yards down the road where I could get some help tightening the bolts further with an extra wrench.

Still riding in the occasional shower, I carried on eventually reaching the town of Falmouth. While attempting to park my bicycle using the trailer as something like a kick-stand (as I had done in Live Oak), just outside a convenience store, I was leveraging the bike into position by raising up on the saddle and then, all of a sudden, the saddle pulls loose from its frame! (My second "mechanical" issue for the day!)

But, once again, there was someone there to help me, an older gentleman named, Buddy. A mechanic by trade, he had additional tools, and...eventually, we figured out how to get the seat back together again. Before we both went our separate ways we were joined by his friend, Larry, a former Marine, and we all got a chance to talk more about "war and peace". Larry even offered me his contact information so I could add him to the list of new members I'm signing up for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Finally back on the road again, I proceeded to cross the Suwannee River which looked like a wonderful place to fish with deep waters right off the shoreline. The rainy shadows of the cloud cover enhanced the dark green of the water and the trees reflected there.

It was between Live Oak and Madison that I started to have more hills to climb, and in my case that meant literally; i.e. I had to get off of my bicycle and start pushing, sometimes only going 50 steps at a time. But I've known all along to expect this, especially in these first days and given all of the gear I've been carrying. That's why I chose to get a handlebar stabilizer. It has Really Helped by letting me relax my upper-body efforts a little on the long straight-away sections as well as up hills, leaving me to concentrate on pedaling or pushing, rathing than having to put a lot of energy into steering and/or countersteering the pannier laden front wheels.

About eight miles from Madison, I was riding in the rain again, but as the sun was setting, and peaking out from under the clouds, I kept thinking "There have got to be rainbows behind me". During one heavier down-pour I pulled off the road next to the Macedonia Baptist Church, turned to look behind me and...sure enough...there was this Huge Double Rainbow stretched over the sky and the church. There was a young man in a car off to the side of the road who was also taking in the view (I think between text messages), and he was later joined by a couple of other friends, one of whom agreed to take this picture for me. Thanks, J.P.! I think it is going to be one of my favorites! : ))

With the late start, rain, mechanical difficulties, and hills, it was full dark by the time I Walked my bike into and through most of the (hilly) town of Madison, FL, before finally finding my shelter for the night, courtesy of Bruce, my Couch Surfing host from the previous evening.

Yes, I was exhausted, but managed to find enough energy to eat, and shower (sort of : )), rinse my lentils, and start my mung beans soaking, lay out my bed pad, and spend a few more minutes reading from Paul K. Chappell's second book "The End of War", before calling it a day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 15th to April 20th "Training Days" - Part II

In Osceola, had time and space to unpack and re-pack all of my gear. I also took some time to make a few adjustments to my bicycle handlebar grips as I had been having quite a bit of numbness in my hands that I hoped I could mediate. Rotating the bar-end grips straight up has since allowed me to occasionally ride in a fully upright position resting my back somewhat (which has actually been in pain since my days moving all of my stuff around, three weeks prior to this trip). In addition, I had the chance to meet Fred and Judy from Texas, both of whom were quite receptive to what I had to share with them about my journey, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and Paul K. Chappell.

(One potential incident of note: Construction crews on site rebuilding one of the bath houses and I managed to step on a bit of nail near the dumpster. It went right through the sole of my "Keen" shoe and was within a sixteenth of an inch of putting a hole in my heel. Definitely a close call, but no major damage done!)

I decided to take one last photo of the Osceola National Forest on my way out. Although I didn't have time to go swimming myself, it was one of the options at this little beach. Overall, it was a very enjoyable stay and a well maintained and managed park.

From Osceola, it was on to Live Oak, FL. After retracing the five miles or so to get out of the park and back to Highway 90, I still had another 35 miles to go. Now on my third consecutive day riding, I was starting to feel a little more tiredness in my legs. I have accepted from the beginning of this trip that, especially in the first few days and weeks, it would be slow going for me, with frequent stops.

One of those stops included a little bar/pizza restaurant where I met Joe and Mike. They graciously shared some of their pizza with me, encouraged me to talk about my journey, and they let me know they would be stopping again themselves at another bar in Lake City, so I should look for them there.

Coming into Lake City, some time later, I was confronted with what I have come to refer to as "lumpy bumpies" - ripples in the pavement just outside the main wheel tracks. As there was no significant shoulder, I either had to ride the "lumpy bumpies", bouncing and jostling my bike and rig uncomfortably, or steer into the main wheel track instead, putting me and my rig more into the line of car traffic. Luckily, most of the stretch through town was four lanes, so I could take the latter option and people could still get around me, but it was still stressful and slow going.

As anticipated though, Joe and Mike spotted me from their second pit-stop, The Rock Star Bar, calling out as I was about to pass. I pulled off, found a place to lean my bike safely against a fence, and took another fairly long break, talking more with them and a few other "locals", while enjoying lots of ice water to cool down and re-hydrate. In addition, since there were several motor-bikers in the crowd, they were all very generous in offering advice about various places I should see, or avoid, or be prepared for along the road ahead.

I managed to reach my destination for the day, "Sunset Manor" (luckily, before sunset...!). Bruce became my first "official" Couch Surfing host by letting me stay in an unrented trailer he had available just east of Live Oak. (This picture was also my first using my tripod and timer on my camera for this trip. : ))

Although I didn't have electricity, there was running water for a Cold shower, and to refill all of my water bottles. I used my headlamps after dark, and otherwise managed fine with the remaining food I was carrying for Special Fried Rice and Finger Salad. Before I left the next morning, I even remembered to get my mung beans and lentils soaking, as I had plans to be cooking again, once I reached Monticello two days later.

( be continued...)

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 15th to April 20th - "Training Days" - Part I

This is my first post "from the road"! For all of you who have been following my story from the beginning, that would be my blog on March 27, 2011, we have "Lift Off"...Finally! : )

There has been A Lot of EFFORT involved in getting to this point. My initial departure from Maryland included the effort of selling off and/or moving my "stuff" into storage, while simultaneously trying to plan for my trip, setting aside, purchasing, or actually designing and creating the equipment I thought I would need, while simultaneously trying to make sure I was leaving the proper information behind at my job at the National Institutes of Health so that my departure would not result in a "knowledge loss" for the lab in which I was working as a supply manager. At the same time, I was also being approached to do the TEDx talk at George Washington University. Preparing my talk added another level of effort to all the rest.

Once I relocated to Florida, I restarted the whole process, moving my belongings from storage in Maryland to a facility closer to where I was staying, so that I could continue to sell off my "stuff", at this point, not only to raise money for my trip, but simply to have money to live on in the mean time. During that time I found a new focus for my journey, in the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), promoting the work of author Paul K. Chappell, and setting my sights on attending the NAPF Peace Leadership Workshop in Santa Barbara, CA July 22-29. (Links to relevant websites can now be found in the right side menu under "Important Links".)

During the month of March and the first two weeks of April 2012, I was juggling last minute projects and belongings between my friend's house in Orange Park, FL another friend's house in Jacksonville, FL, and eventually, two storage units as I was shifting from one to another, not to mention multiple sorting and transport of "stuff" to garage sale, bazaar, and flea market sites.

So when I finally got on my bicycle around 7:30 pm on Sunday evening, April effort became that of pedaling. The ensuing darkness enclosed me like a blanket, and suddenly my life focus was reduced to the circle of light trailing the white line of the road ahead of me...

Needless to say, I let out a loud "WooooHoooo!" when I spotted the dimly lit sign of my first "pit stop"- the quite humble, Hawkins Motel in Baldwin, FL. Megan, the motel manager, was kind enough to hold a room for me, and my arrival around 11:00 pm was not a problem. I was glad to find that the room was large enough to hold me and all of my equipment. I even had space to do my yoga by the side of the bed the next morning. (Unfortunately, what I did not realize soon enough was that the refrigerator was sufficiently cold enough for me to re-freeze my smoothies and chill all of my other food, as my next three days would be without such facilities!)

During my next leg, from Baldwin to the Osceola National Forest, I kept thinking it would be another relatively short ride, like I experienced getting to Baldwin. However, I was completely "fresh" coming into Baldwin, whereas in leaving, not only were my legs and back tired, I was also traveling in more sun and heat, which make their own unique demands on one's body under any conditions.

Nevertheless, as I knew I would have to from the beginning, I persevered, making stops as necessary, including one at the Olustee Battlefield, before reaching my destination.

The ride into Osceola National Forest took me about five extra miles off of Highway 90. That may not seem like much by car, but for me and my heavily laden bike, at the end of a long day, it seemed Much Longer.

I did, however, manage to reach the park with just enough daylight left to make contact with the campground host, Dianne, receive a graciously offered Free site in support of my efforts and my cause, and set-up my tent before it got dark.

The warm shower at the campground bath house Felt Wonderful ...unfortunately, it also washed away all of my bug repellant, so as soon as I was back to camp, I holed up in my tent, eating, making notes from my trip, and reading a bit, before finally calling it a day.

( be continued...)