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, July 2, 2012

"Rain Tag" from Houston to Columbus, Texas

Before I reached Texas, everyone was telling me how hot it was going to be...and DRY...It has been hot, for sure, but dry? Not so much!

Dodging rainstorms has become something of a preoccupation for me. I'd like to think that my experiences are teaching me more about how to read the weather, at least what is in my immediate area. Traveling from Houston to Katy and then Katy to Columbus, I had several occasions to try to dodge the rain, which I was able to do more or less successfully.
For instance, one of my first shelter stops was under an overpass just as I was leaving Houston. While I was standing under the overpass with my bicycle, a little frog came jumping by. As I could not see any safe place for it to get to without possibly getting run over, I maneuvered my rig to delicately balance the bicycle upright, with the trailer positioned perpendicular to it acting as a "kick-stand". I then went frog chasing for a few minutes, until I could catch the little guy and ease him into a drain that was close by, figuring it had to lead to open water at some point (a la "Finding Nemo" : )). Unfortunately, my bicycle prop did not work as well as I had hoped, and my bicycle slid down to the ground, but with no major damage. (To have an idea of how hard it was raining, notice the water "jetting" out of the drain in the third column from the front!)

I had one more storm front to out-run that day, pulling into a walkway at an antique mall, just in time. I decided to hang out for a little while, eat some of my snacks, and even talked with one the shop owners about my trip. I didn't take a picture while there, but you can see the walkway in this picture I snapped off of Google Street view! Just imagine a few more cars in the parking lot and the rain pouring down.

I did manage to get to Katy, and although I was wet from sweat, rather than rain, at least the rest of my gear was still in good shape. I met my Warm Showers host, Tecky, and his family, and friend Kris when I got to the house. There was plenty of food and really great conversation and even a potential job offer, should I ever want to work for the oil industry! (Let me bring Peace to the World first, Tecky, then I might take you up on that! : )) Kris was really enthusiastic about wanting to join me on my trip, but as you can see by the picture, his bicycle was a little too small! (Hee, hee!) However, I did give into his plea to let him try to ride my bicycle, and he did for about 30 seconds, so now he knows he could haul a lot of stuff, too, when he's ready to do his own cross-country trek.

From Katy to Columbus, I was once again dodging rainstorms. The first came after me just as I was entering Brookshire. With dark clouds looming up behind me, I spotted street lights flashing maybe a couple of miles ahead and so I started pedaling hard. The rain was just starting to come down as I passed, and then realized the lights were outside the Fire Station and the Fire Station trucks were pulled out of the bays leaving me plenty of room to bring my bicycle inside, which is exactly what I did.

I was greeted by one of the volunteers on duty who had no problem with me parking my bike until the rains passed. Which they did eventually, but not without leaving me enough time for some cheese and crackers, some of my finger salad, and conversation with Stephanie, the first female firefighter I've met on my journey thus far!

Once it seemed this particular storm had passed, I headed on down the road. However, there were still A Lot of dark clouds around and the last thing I wanted to do was get caught, out in the open, with no place to hide, especially while crossing the Brazos River, where I had to get off of the I-10 Frontage Road and onto I-10 itself in order to cross the bridge. Seeing at least one line of rolling clouds coming up behind me, I decided to take shelter under the bridge rather than trying to cross it right away. And even when I did finally venture out, the clouds still looked pretty scary.

Sure enough, only a few short miles down the road, and once again, pedaling as hard as I possibly could, praying that the rain would not catch me, I just managed to duck into the bays of a truck stop, safe from another downpour. I availed myself of the facilities, bought some postcards, and a sandwich at the Subway store, and then I was back out again, this time with the skies still cloudy, but at least a little more sunny...for a while...

Back on the frontage road, I made a few stops here and there as illustrated by this video:Quiet Moment on the Road to Columbus. During one of those stops, three very nice ladies who just happened to see me from the highway, stopped to see if I was okay. I was able to tell them about my trip thus far and my "mission" and they were very generous in their offerings of prayers and even on-the-spot donations, for which I am very grateful, as always.

And yes, the sky was somewhat clear for a while, but, sure enough, still about eight miles from my destination, and just as the sun was about to go down, I spotted another storm over my shoulder, coming on strong. For the third time in 50 miles or so, I was pedaling as hard as I could, especially because this storm looked more powerful than the others that had almost overtaken me earlier in the day.

Climbing an exit ramp I spotted a clump of large trees with overhanging limbs, that were not surrounded by thick grass and thought to try to seek shelter there, but as I could see houses down the road, I took that path instead. Looking for any broad overhangs of garages or of the houses themselves, about 200 yards away I spotted an Empty Carport! I rode up to the dirt drive, noted no evidence of recent tire tracks, and assumed the house was not occupied. I pulled my bike onto the carport just as the rains were beginning to fall onto the metal roof. Seconds later, there was another torrential downpour. Mentally, I took out my "Rain Tag Score Card" and chalked up another one in my column, having just managed to avoid being "tagged" by this last storm. So I was "winning" 3 to 0!

Another hour or so riding in the dark, including crossing the Colorado River by moonlight, and I finally pulled into the apartment complex of my young couch surfing host for the evening, Chris. Along with his friend, Alec (not pictured), we managed to get my bicycle and trailer up the two flights of stairs and safely stored in the apartment. I enjoyed my hot shower, and then spent the rest of the evening engaged in conversation with both Chris and Alec, conversation which continued into the wee hours of the morning. As it turned out, this would be a pattern that would be repeated the next couple of evenings as well, with Alec, and then another friend, Casey, and then with Chris's brother Stephen! : )

Nevertheless, before continuing my trek, I had a couple of days to "recover", and to help Chris with a bit of a "Kitchen Makeover" as well - something that was greatly appreciated by him AND his brother, AND his friends. I'm expecting updates from all of them to see if Chris can keep up with his "home work"! I suspect he will now that he has a better idea of why it is so important! : )

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