In the winter of 2003-2004 I was a Navy Electronics Technician stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi attending calibration school for what would turn out to be my last duty station at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, in Bethesda, MD. Lance Armstrong had already won the Tour de France five times. Inspired in part by his efforts and his courageous life story, I bought my first Really Nice road bike, a Specialized Allez Comp, from "Conte's", one of my favorite bike shops in Norfolk, VA. Although, I took my "mule" to start with, I later had my "thoroughbred" shipped to Biloxi, as well. The host I am staying with now, helped me assemble it once I got here, and I think it's kind of cool that I am back here again, after over eight years.
Things have changed though. I was here Before Katrina and the BP oil spill. It is interesting to see how the area has recovered...
Leaving my host's house in St. Martin, I had to make a "memorial" ride to The TatoNut shop in historic downtown Ocean Springs. There is a monthly "TatoNut" bike ride that ends here and for good reason: It is one of the best places to get doughnuts that are actually made from potato flour. I decided to get two for "lunch" and two for the road.
They re-built the Biloxi Bridge. Now it is four wide lanes plus wide shoulders and a pedestrian path on the southern side.
There is a long, concrete boardwalk now. The prior one had been made of wood, large chunks of it in places, all of which was torn asunder by Katrina. Thus released, the wooden beams caused significant damage themselves, being blown by the winds and storm surge. I took my time on that path, even sharing the sidewalk with another pedestrian who became curious after seeing me and my rig. He was gracious enough to take a picture of me when we got to the Biloxi Lighthouse.
Apparently, the laws about where casinos can be built have been changed, so they no longer have to, in effect, float on barges.
There is a HUGE unfinished "Margaritaville" structure, concrete and steel, that is a bit of a blight on the coastline of Biloxi. Not sure what might happen there, but something tells me some creative urban gardeners might be able to do roof top gardens and talapia underneath? Who knows? But, I hope, along with others in the area that it can be re-purposed, and soon.
Most of all though, I especially appreciate the sculptures that have been carved into the trunks of trees, still standing, but otherwise sacrificed in the storm.
So far, it has been a pleasant stay. I've had to deal with some "bank/money issues" that have been a bit of a
drag, and it has taken my time, energy, and attention away from everything else that I need to be giving my attention to right now, but I am persevering.* (The rest of That part of my story will have to wait for the book! : )) There are some long stretches ahead to get me through the rest of Mississippi and Louisiana, and then...there's Texas!
Call it fate or luck, but I do appreciate all the help I have been getting recently from George Throop, whom I met on the way across the Big Bridge just west of the Florida/Alabama state line. He has been walking from Washington State and has left a trail
of friends and hosts in his path, whom I am now getting to network with in reverse (more or less). (Find out more about George here: EnjoytheWalk.org)
Not sure exactly what my path will be through Texas, but I can pretty much guarantee another visit to Austin - this time on my trusty "mule", rather than the "thoroughbred" I rode there in 2004, as a participant in the Lance Armstrong Foundation Ride for the Roses! : ) Looks like Lance just won his first Ironman 70.3, in a while, back in Florida (Lance Armstrong Back On Top).
Too bad there are no competitions for who can carry the most cargo over long distances by bicycle. I think I might be in the running for that one! : ))
*I did determine that I have access to my PayPal funds more quickly now, so if anyone reading this wants to pitch in, I am, as always, open to receive. Thanks! : )
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.