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, June 19, 2012

Last Miles Through Louisiana

Leaving Baton Rouge, Louisiana proved to be a bit more challenging than either Randy or I anticipated. I decided to attempt a last-minute fund-raising e-mail, and was limited in how many people I could send it to at a time, which meant I had to send it about 10 times instead of one. Thanks, Yahoo, for all of your spam security programming! :p So that consumed the late morning into the afternoon, during which time I kind of forgot to eat.

Consequently, when I finally did get on the road in the heat and humidity of the late afternoon, I ended up getting nauseous, and had to stop only a few miles into my trip. Randy was tailing me though, as there was a particularly unsafe bridge to cross that day, so I was able to chill in his car for a few minutes and eat, and drink until I felt better.

Now here's a funny inside my head note: As I was later pedaling over that nasty bridge, which was pretty steep, and long, I started praying "Hail, Mary's", something along the lines of "Hail, Mary, full of Grace, hear my prayer..." I'm not Catholic, but that's what came to mind so I just went with it, figuring I could use all the support I could get, and even better coming from such a Feminine Spirit Force! : )

On the other side of the bridge, Randy and I stopped again, this time because I was starting to cramp up in my lower abdomen, something that had never happened before. A few minutes and another bottle of electrolyte water later, as well as a conversation with a curious local passerby, and we were headed back down the road, stopping about every two miles, until it finally started to cool down along with the sun setting. As it was getting late I thought it might be a good idea for Randy to drive ahead to see if he could get a room for me in Livonia. Our plan was to then meet back at the McDonald's in the town before that.

It was full dark by the time I reached the McDonald's and no sign of Randy yet. When he did arrive, it was not with good news. The only place to stay in Livonia was full of railroad workers. Using his smart phone, Randy continued to try to find other options, to no avail. However, after approaching the Sherrif's deputy who was parked in the McDonald's parking lot, we finally made arrangements with the fire station across the road to store my bicycle and trailer, as it was all too much to fit into Randy's car, and then Randy and I returned to Baton Rouge for one more night.

The next morning we headed back to meet the Fire Chief and retrieve my bicycle. It rained a little while we were at the station, but cleared soon enough for Randy and I to say our final good-byes across the street at the McDonalds. It was not easy saying good-bye to my friend, especially since we had had so much fun together and he had been so supportive, but he had research and a doctoral thesis to finish back at LSU and it was time for me to get on with my journey as well.

I managed to get as far as the Chevron station on the east side of Livonia, before the clouds opened up for heavy down-pour. There was just enough space under the covered walkway to protect my bicycle from the rain and a place inside the convenience store for me to sit, eat my afternoon snack of cheese and crackers, and finger salad. While there I was approached by an unassuming man with whom I ended up conversing for quite some time, long enough for the rain to pass. He said that one day he planned to be Mayor of Livonia, and from what I gathered of our conversation, the town would be lucky to have him!

A few days before my departure from Baton Rouge, Randy and I scoped out the area for road hazards and possible places for me to stay. At one potential camping site/mobile home park in Krotz Springs, we met this wonderfully sweet older gentleman who offered me his own yard to camp in if I wanted to. Even though my destination and schedule changed, especially given the short-fall of the day before, I still wanted to stop in Krotz Springs to say "Hi" to my new friend, and let him know why I had not come to stay with him in the days before. I found him at home when I arrived, and he was just as friendly and welcoming as he had been when we first met. We talked a little more about my trip, and he shared more about his own experiences in the Navy, and about the natural wonders and peace he found living in the Louisiana bayou. I could easily relate to that last part having had a very peaceful passage through the woods along Old 190 just a short time before.

I arrived in Opelousas late that evening and was welcomed by the Hope Hook and Ladder, Station No. 1 where I was offered a place to shower, store my cold food, and sleep for the night. The next morning I had a great conversation with one of the volunteer firefighters. Like so many other people I have met on this journey, he was genuinely concerned about the future of our country and humanity as a whole. As it is my personal mission, I was glad to have the opportunity to offer some hope to this firefighter, husband, and father, just as reading Paul Chappell's books have given hope to me.

Having now established good references with the Erwinville and Opelousas fire departments, I headed on to Eunice hoping that I might be able to stay at the fire station there as well. Unfortunately, that fire station was not able to give me shelter on account of the fact that they did not have separated sleeping areas (which Was the case in Opelousas). They did, however, put me in contact with another local couple who had a building on their property equipped to handle visitors (or young college students looking for a place to hang out with their friend's : )). I was accommodated with a couch, kitchen, shower, washer and dryer, and shelter outside to store my bicycle out of the rain.

In addition, the next morning I got to tour the owner's "menagerie" of "rejects": animals that had been given up by their original owners who did not want to keep them any longer. These included a turkey, a pot-bellied pig, rabbits, several ducks, geese, chickens, ring-necked doves, and a relatively tame squirrel. Most of these critters had free range of the fenced back yard and pond. In another enclosed porch area, I was greeted by the squawks of four Blue and Gold Macaws, the eldest pair being around 30 years old, and two of their offspring at five years old. Apparently the "older couple" were getting on quite well as they had been producing chicks for several years. As I finished packing my gear, I continued to hear the female macaw squawking as she was inclined to do while brooding over another clutch of eggs, as well as the occasional, more human vocalizations from one of the younger birds.

Heading on down the road, my next stop was in Oakdale. I encountered some rain towards the end, but just as the sun was setting, and peaking through the clouds, I had the pleasure of seeing two owls on the next to last road to my hosts' house. One flew across the road from left to right, turning its big eyes my way as it flew by and then went on to roost in a high tree limb. As this was my first encounter with owls it was thrilling to be as much the object of its curiosity as it was an object of mine. : )

Once I reached my destination, I was very warmly welcomed by my Couch Surfing host and her family. After settling in and getting my always appreciated warm shower, I was treated to a meal of rice and beans, cooked cauliflower, and some really delicious homemade, pineapple pop-over pastries. The next few hours and following day were spent with long conversations about diet, spiritual life, love and relationships, and of course, how to make the world a more peaceful place for all of us! My stay included a side-trip to Lafayette, to visit with other family members, the newest being my host's 16-month-old grandson. We had dinner at a little Honduran cafe called Mi Tierra, where I ordered Honduran tacos that came in crispy little bundles that were filled with seasoned chicken, which I thoroughly enjoyed along with more great conversation (and, of course, more of those pineapple pastries once we got back to Oakdale : )).

Oakdale to DeRidder was a long, hard ride. I started setting my watch to beep me at 15 minute intervals so I was sure to keep drinking enough electrolyte water as I rode the long, hot stretches in between small towns. In addition, I got off my planned route kind of early, so my pre-ride map notes were not of much use to me, to let me know how many miles I had covered, or how much further I had to go. With about six miles to go, I was passed by a particularly curious young man in a big white pick-up truck, who could not leave me behind without finding out more. So I gave him my card and phone number, and once I got settled in my motel room, we met for a little walk-and-talk. However, given the long day behind and another ahead, I had to end our evening "early", much to the chagrin of my new friend! : )

This was to be my last night in the state of Louisiana, Next stop: Texas! : )

** Will edit and add photos as soon as I have a PC to work from again...

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