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.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tennessee Excursion - Part II - Blue Spring Cave

Saturday dawned somewhat brighter than the day before. I was glad for the sun, and the heat, as I had slept fitfully through the night, not being as well equipped for the chilly weather as I had hoped. I probably stayed out a little too late at the camp-fire, as well, so by the time I got to the tent, I was a too tired to get myself properly situated. I was never really able to get my feet warm, in spite of my silk long johns, under my pajamas, as well as a silk liner, and my wool blanket/sleeping bag zipped over my head. Randy offered me another light-weight sleeping bag, that I laid over my feet, but that I did not go ahead and get fully into, which I later regretted.

Nevertheless, there was a big day of caving ahead, with our particular expedition taking us to Blue Spring Cave in White County, Tennessee. It is now the longest cave system in Tennessee at 38.4 miles and the 9th longest cave system in the U.S. As it turned out, our day long trip would take us in and out of less than a mile of that system (although at times it felt A Lot longer!)

Like the span of the cave, our group spanned quite an age and experience range, from the youngest of five-years-old to the oldest of 69. Having no idea that I would be caving during my cross-country bike ride, I will admit that I was ill prepared with no hiking/caving boots, or even a pair of blue jeans to protect me from the rough terrain.

However, where there's a will, there's a way, so I made do with socks inside my Keens, what "long" shirts and pants I did have with me, my GoreTex rain pants, and nylon riding vest - with its reflective strips making me particularly visible in the head-lamps and camera flashes of my fellow cavers! Randy graciously provided the other essential "personal protective gear": hard hat, gloves, and knee pads, all of which were definitely necessary, as I remember banging my hard-hat several times against the rocks, and needed the knee pads and gloves for the multiple crawlways we had to traverse.

Blue Spring Cave is located on private property, Frank got permission to enter from the land-owner, as well as a local guide, Clinton, to take us through. It was Clinton who happened to "look up" during a re-mapping of one section of the cave to discover very rare crinoid fossils in the ceiling above. The passages where he made the discovery were also our destination for this particular trip. (That's Clinton in the blue bandana and Canadian maple leaf t-shirt.)

Once inside, the cave turned out to be about as diverse as the people gathered to explore it. With typical cave formations at the entrance, to canyons that required a narrow suspended bridge to cross, lots of "break down", to navigate - quite gingerly in my case given my barely adequate footwear, and left knee weakened by an injury I sustained while running my first (and only) full marathon back in 2007. (As you can imagine, the last thing I wanted to do was to get hurt while participating in these "extra-curricular" activities, and not be able to complete my bike trip!) There were crawling passages, as well as a few walls to climb and all of this we encountered, and surmounted, both going forward and in reverse!

And, of course, there were the crinoids...

Where these ancient fossils were probably of the greatest interest to the geologists among us, as a social scientist, I was more amused, humbled, and inspired by seeing eight-year-old Harry, fearlessly scrambling over breakdown, with the enthusiasm so natural for a child that age. His younger brother, Haden, persevered as well, never wanting to stop, or turn back, even when given the option.

I give the highest "kudos" to the parents, Anthony and Mary, for sharing the adventure of caving with their young children...and, literally, bearing the burden of carrying their youngest son as necessary, so that he could enjoy the full experience with all of us, beginning to end and all points in between. I also give credit to Clinton, our guide, for his patience, as well as the cooperative spirit of the other adults in our group, who were there to guide and lend a hand as needed to both the children and each other. It was a pretty long trip in and back out of the cave for all of us. Often I found myself saying, "Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling," or "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!" ... You get the idea... : ))

Overall though, it was a wonderful trip. There were no major incidents, injuries, or losses of equipment. Frank finally got to take some pictures of me to add to those of his other caving buddies! : ) Randy got to take some more really amazing shots as well, satisfying his growing passion for photography. And I got to enjoy another adventure, within the adventure, of riding my bicycle across the country.

But the weekend wasn't quite over there's still more to come in Part III...

** Thanks again to Frank and Randy for helping with photos.

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