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.

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.

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