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, November 12, 2013

Part II of "I've Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night..."

From the Gethsemane Lutheran Church Hospitality House I once again traveled south through Austin to reach my next destination and Warm Showers hosts, Daniel and Anne Alvarez. As I was getting close to their house, I spotted a metal recycling center on one side of the road and realized...they had a scale that might be big enough for me to weigh my bicycle! I passed by and then turned around as I figured I was not likely to have such an easy opportunity again. (Keep in mind, most truck scales are off of major interstates or highways, not places I would normally be on my bicycle.)

After a little cajoling, they let me take my bike and trailer on the scale. The weight was called out over an intercom... "380 [lbs]"....And my mind was like "What???? You're kidding me!" And, seriously, I thought they were messing with me. But, the guy who made the announcement was either really good at keeping a straight face, or he had, seriously, called it like he saw it.

             Finally on the Scale in Austin, Texas, July 25, 2013

With a deduction of my own weight of roughly 150 lbs (very roughly, by the way), I was looking at 230 lbs with the bike and trailer fully loaded. And here I've been telling everyone, "Oh, I think I'm carrying about 125 or so." Furthermore, at this point, I'm up to about 1600 cross-country miles, with 300 of the most recent miles being through the central Texas hill the summer heat!

To be honest, I'm not sure if it was such a good thing for me to KNOW, more exactly, how much weight I was carrying. What difference did it really make? It wasn't like I was going to suddenly slim down to the 125 lbs I had previously thought I was carrying.  As I have told many people, I accept the fact that, at least for Stages I and II: I've been doing this whole journey The Hard Way, and I see myself setting something of an upper limit for what is possible. There are all kinds of ways to ride a bicycle across the country: with less gear, at a different time of the year, in a different direction, with more money, with another rider or a group - etc., etc. This is the way I have chosen to do it, and I do not see making any major changes when it comes to completing Stage III. We'll see though, as that part of my journey has yet to unfold....?

After weighing in at the metal recycling center, I continued down the road and around the corner to Daniel and Anne's house. It was really great to get to spend time with them. They were quite busy, in the process of painting their house, and taking care of their young son Luke. In addition, their nieces and nephews came to visit along with their father for one of the days I was there.

Joseph and Elena

I shared some of my "Green Smoothie" with Joseph, Elena, Daniel, and Kara and they happily showed off their "smoothie mustaches" for me. I can see the add lines now "Got Smoothie?"
Daniel and Kara

After showing the kids many of the pictures of my trip, including really beautiful pine-needle baskets created by Jan Southern, one of my hosts in Florida, Kara decided WE should make a basket! Although I was hesitant at first and tried too give her some idea of the time it would take, she was quite adamant. So, we looked around outside to see if there were any natural materials we could use, but since their aunt and uncle were away (with me and their father there to look after them), we could not ask about, for instance, removing some fronds from the Saw Palmettos that were growing next to the house.

    One of Jan Southern's Pine Needle Baskets about 9" across.

Eventually we came up with the idea of making a basket out of string, since the kids were certain it would be okay to use some string that their Uncle Dan had let them play with before. We found a ball of jute cord and that's when the fun began.

Although Joseph was not so interested, Elena, Kara, Daniel, and I took turns as we braided three long strands of the string together by weaving ourselves over and under each other. Being quite a bit younger, Daniel was having a little more trouble figuring out what to do. His dad stepped in to help at one point, and then they took a break. That left myself, Kara, and Elena to continue and ... eventually ...we got a really good rhythm going.  (I'm sorry I don't have pictures or video to share here, but the best way I can describe it is to compare it to the "May Pole" dance, where everyone has their own ribbon and the goal is to weave all of the ribbons together from the top of the pole, down to the bottom. That's what we did with our strands of jute cord until we had a single length, three strands thick. Sure...we could have taken turns braiding individually, but it would not have been nearly as much fun!)

The Completed Coil String Basket - Quarters for Scale
With my now 2X thicker cord, I took out my needle and heavy thread from my sewing kit and began to create a "Coiled String Basket". The kids stayed interested for a while, but I realized the rather slow process lost its attraction pretty quickly. Besides, Daniel and Anne returned and that meant it was time for dinner. Nevertheless, after the kids went home, I continued with my work - watching another Robert Sapolsky lecture on aggression while I toiled with my coil until I was able to offer up the completed basket to my hosts with the promise that it would eventually be passed on to their nieces and nephews to "share" between them...somehow...?

Texas Capital Building in Austin

The next day/evening Anne and I went for a walk with baby Luke and took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy "Music Under the Star" , near the Austin Capital building. 

It was pretty crowded once we got there, so we had to locate our picnic blanket towards the back and off to the side of the bands that played. Daniel came to join us and we proceeded to dine on what was left of the "Special Egg-Fried Rice" I had prepared earlier. 

   With Daniel, Luke, and Anne at "Music Under the Star"
Before I left Daniel, Anne and Luke, I decided to take a closer look at the old treadle sewing machine they had in their guest bedroom where I was staying. It ended up having one of the most unusual bobbin assemblies I have ever seen (see pictures below). 

If you have any familiarity with this particular machine, or know someone who does, or know someone who could work on and/or repair this machine as necessary, especially if you/they are in the area of Austin, Texas, then please contact me with a comment below.  I promised Daniel and Anne that I would try to help network for them either to get a market value for the machine as is or to find someone who could actually help them get it working again.

In my last few hours at the house, I happen to overhear an audio book Anne was listening to entitled The Whole-Brain Child... and I asked her about it. It sounded really interesting and I will be adding it to my list of books to read. Even more so though, I appreciated seeing Anne going the extra mile to educate herself so that she could relate better with her son. I think Luke is lucky to have her as a mom and his very considerate and compassionate father as well.

After taking the photos of the sewing machine, and loading up my bicycle, it was time to head back north once again to my next to last stop in Austin, Texas.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

More on "Telling the Good Stories" in Response to Dylan Ratigan

This was what Dylan Ratigan had to post today: "Peeking Behind the Curtain" where he shares the latest on his work with J.R. Lewis in presenting the "Thousands of Stories of Hope..."

In my previous blog, I expanded on some of the ideas Dylan shared in his talk to TZM San Diego especially with regards to his idea that our life stories become the myths for those around us, maybe even for people we do not even know.  With the technology we now have available to communicate our stories, the telling of these stories can affect the broader population "asymmetrically" in a much more powerful way than we might be able to bring about change "linearly"; i.e. by "going door to door".

This is what I have to add to the consideration at this point.

First of all, I appreciate the fact that our brains naturally pay closer attention to negative and threatening information or stimulus, especially when it might relate to our physical harm. This is why the news broadcasters almost always focus on the Bad News - who shot whom, etc., etc.  They show it because that is what they are also trained to pay attention to and it is the same kind of information that keeps us paying attention to them and all of the commercials in between these (mostly) negative stories.  This is something that Paul K. Chappell and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman have pointed out in their work as well.

Just recently, I was listening to an NPR broadcast including an interview with neuroscientist Dr. Mark Waldman. In my follow-up research I came across this TEDxConejo talk he presented in March 2010. In this talk, Dr. Waldman also points to how the brain responds much more strongly to threats and even the simple word "No", for instance, as compared to the word "Yes." It's simple: Our brains naturally respond more strongly to any information that pertains to survival.  Furthermore, as Dr. Waldman explains, and what many spiritual masters before him have also communicated: We Become What We Meditate On. The very neurons of various parts of the brain will restructure themselves according to the thoughts and feelings we focus our attention on most often. And since our natural tendency is to focus on Negative input and Negative emotions and Negative thoughts, then we have to work extra hard to give our attention to positive input, positive emotions, and positive thoughts if we are going to be able to counter those natural tendencies.

Consequently, as Dr. Waldman explains, if you have a relatively positive concept of "God", no matter what any of your other religious beliefs might be, and if you "meditate on" that idea of "God" consistently, then it will have the same positive effect on your brain as it will on anyone else's who meditates in much the same way that you do, but on their relatively positive concept of "God".  Apparently, the "big idea" of "God" has a very particular effect on the brain, just as other "big ideas" or concepts like "Love" and "Truth" might have on the brain.

Nevertheless, the main point is you have to work extra hard at focusing on the positive in order to counter the natural tendency to focus on the negative. In fact, according to what I heard from Dr. Waldman in his NPR interview, there needs to be at least a ratio of 3 to 1 of positive to negative, and better yet 5 or 7 to 1 in order to reverse the effects of negative focus.

I know that for some people this is all "old news", and the idea of "thinking positively" has become cliche'. But from what I'm seeing of Dr. Waldman's work, there's a lot more science to back-up the "hearsay" these days, and more specifics on exactly how it works and how to make it work most effectively.  Furthermore, I can certainly speak to my own life experiences, having grown up with the ever present fearful concerns of my paranoid schizophrenic mother, only to do a 180 degree turn away from that by the time I was 20 and she went into the mental hospital, and then taking on an even more deliberate contemplational/meditational practice in my early 30's. Although I do not meditate as intentionally now, I know my overall state of being, maybe as a result of the "restructuring of my brain" from my meditational practice, is, on the whole, pretty positive, and focused on the positive, most of the time. And, most people who are around me for very long pick up on that as well.

You may be wondering at this point: How does all of this tie-in with the work that Dylan Ratigan is now doing?

I've been thinking, for all of the negative stories that each of us might be exposed to through the media each day, we might make progress restructuring our "cultural brain" by making sure we've got at least Five to Seven Positive Stories to counter and eventually reverse the effects of each of the negative ones.  And it seems Dylan's mailbox is full to overflowing with those positive stories.  Furthermore, once other well-intentioned communicators like him start to catch on to this basic strategy for asymmetrically changing the way people think and behave in the world, we could see the media filling with positive stories A LOT MORE positive stories to the point where the negative one's are no longer the one's that are shaping our concepts of ourselves or the possibilities for humanity and this world that we inhabit.

The more I think about it, the more I am also seeing that there are organizations who have already been doing that - TED is definitely one of those. Nevertheless, there is also a very personal and individual responsibility that each of us has to more consciously and intentionally decide on where we choose to focus our attention, even with respect to the thoughts and feelings that are constantly playing in our minds and hearts.

As Dr. Waldman shows in his talk, each of us needs to tap into the "Big Idea" of our own lives and learn to spend more time meditating on that and letting our brains be shaped by that "Big Idea" whatever it may be.

So...what's your "Big Idea"? What's Your Story? What is the Myth that You living out for those around you and for the world? And, finally, what can you do to make it the Very Best Story it can possibly be?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Starting a "Conversation" with Dylan Ratigan

Since I have been back in Santa Barbara, I find myself getting up fairly early in the morning and going straight to my iPad. In this way, my mind is most engaged when it is "fresh".  Of late it seems Dylan Ratigan is getting up even earlier than me and he is now posting something to his page every day, and I'm starting to recognize something of a discipline there, something that I would like to emulate.  But it is a little annoying in that I keep finding myself in a "responsive" mode; i.e. I keep finding myself wanting to "respond" to what he has already posted for the day rather than (at least at this point) initiating the dialogue myself. Admittedly, there is kind of a masculine/feminine dynamic there with which I am completely familiar; i.e. the masculine as more "initiatory" and the feminine as more "responsive", but to the degree that I have been "initiating" much more of the course of my life and thoughts in the last two years, I'm not sure I like being in this more "responsive" mode, but, that seems to be the way it is, so I'm just going to go with it.

Today Dylan shared a video of his talk to "The Zeitgeist Movment" in San Diego.  For a guy who comes across as very rational and grounded, I was kind of surprised when he started talking about quantum mechanics and, lets call it, human harmonics; i.e. how our thoughts and feelings resonate out into the world and manifest the world around us. He begins to explain his consideration of all of this around the 6:20 mark. At around the 7:25 mark he shares his realization that "the rate of vibration dictates what manifests", and further at 9:30 "it is our internal rate of vibration that dictates the external reflection, not the external reflection that dictates the internal."

This brings to mind one of the primary Wisdom-Teachings of Adi Da Samraj (with which I am very familiar): You never "communicate" anything but your actual state of being. And, as Dylan goes on to say, he found himself empowered by the idea that he could control that "vibration" within himself rather than feeling at the mercy of the often seemingly overwhelming forces around him.

I would offer, from more of Adi Da's Wisdom-Teaching the idea that the "ego" is an "Activity of Self-Contraction", which Adi Da illustrates with the clinching of a fist. It is most often experienced emotionally as fear, sorrow, anger, and un-happiness; all re-active rather than pro-active emotions. One of Adi Da's most important demands of His devotees was to Become Responsible for this habit of "self-contraction" of "reactivity", and to learn to transcend it through various meditational and relational disciplines. From my own now 16 years of "practice", I know that it is I who am choosing what I am thinking and feeling in response to what I experience externally, and I have, in most instances, learned to transcend my "reactivity" and, therefore, to "self-modulate" the "frequency" of that experience and therefore what I "project" into the world. I'm glad to see that Dylan has assumed responsibility for this within himself as well and that he is using the opportunities he has to share the concept with others so that they might also become empowered as he has been.

At the "NAPF Evening for Peace" event recently, someone asked me how I stayed "grounded" - and it made me pause, because it was hard to say that it could be attributed to any one thing.  Besides the Wisdom-Teaching of Adi Da Samraj, especially addressing "the ego as the activity of 'self-contraction'" and the need to transcend the habit of reactivity, there was probably one other book that had the most significant impact in this area and that would be The New Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis. I have an extended quote in this blog On Loving Yourself . I was reading The New Guide to Rational Living in the early 90's with Adi Da's work crossing my path starting in the late 90's, and I guess you could say I have been "practicing" ever since! And now, it seems, there are others like Dylan Ratigan who are also starting to pick up on these basic principles, which is very heartening to see.

At 16:50 Dylan begins a commentary on the military that really struck home and it is something that I  have seen/heard Stefan Molyneux butt his head against over and over again, even in one of the most recent live Sunday shows I was able to listen to.  I feel this particular point deserves a very direct quotation. In referring to the military Dylan says:

"We have pre-identified the 1% of our population that has a predisposition to do things that are way more fucked-up than most people are willing to do [including sacrificing their own lives], and that's a good thing to know about a group of people because that means that that group of people may be willing to do a lot of things in our own domestic society, like decide to build a bunch of hydroponic organic greenhouses in every city in America, or decide to convert every city in America to a sustainable energy matrix...[etc.]"

Or, I will add, write a series of books on "Waging Peace" like Paul K. Chappell, or ride their bicycle and 230 pounds of gear cross-country "Pedaling for Peace" like yours truly!

At around 21:47, Dylan starts to address another subject that is close to my heart: archetypes and mythology.  He speaks of the "Mythology of Power" and how that is portrayed in popular media and culture.  When we (or our children) see these mythologies portrayed to us, they offer to us focal points for our own identification and aspiration. I know I have communicated this somewhere, but I'm having trouble finding a reference right now. Nevertheless, given the influence of these "stories" in our lives, I too have come to the conclusion that we need to consider writing different stories. 

For instance, why do we have these stories of human beings as fundamentally "sinful"?  I've tried to address that question in one of my most recent Blue Moon Turtle blogs, "What Is So 'Imperfect' about Being Human?". Another "story" that I would like to re-write is the one about how a lone crazy scientist, Zefram Cochrane, in creating and testing a ship with warp-drive, finally brought us to the attention of an advanced, and Peaceful, alien race (as portrayed in the Star Trek: The Next Generation movie, First Contact.) For anyone who might have paid attention to the landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover...that was by no means a "solo effort"!  And why shouldn't our cultural advancement be even more important to the interest of another extraterrestrial race rather than just some technological advancement? (My current theory is that we will not be able to get human beings beyond the moon anyway if we don't learn to manage our global resources, including intellectual resources, more cooperatively and, therefore, more efficiently. Furthermore, it is inherently hard to make that kind of progress when repeated armed conflicts keep destroying the basic technological infrastructure of a society as well as the potential intellectual capital stored within every human being that is traumatized or killed in the process!)

At 23:20 Dylan begins to draw a diagram, illustrating a trajectory of "possibility", relative to current "reality" and overcoming the "gap" between the two that is mediated by "fear".  He points out that "reality" is changing more slowly in part because people are living longer; i.e. it takes longer for change to take place as new generations arise in the wake of the older generations passing away.  However, he also offers that our current technological capacity, albeit a double-edged knife, has as much power to help resolve the problems we face as it may be contributing to creating and/or perpetuating them, and it is moving faster than the older generations and "reality" can keep up.

It is at the 26:00 mark that Dylan offers what I think is a Very Critical Insight: There is no way to address the "fear gap" between current reality and actual possibility with what he calls a "linear solution". Instead, he offers an "asymmetrical solution" and that involves changing the Myths that are guiding individuals and the culture rather than trying to directly change the people and the culture itself.  And although I have had the same intuition on my own fairly recently, I have to give him credit for tying all of that into a well-defined framework.

Finally, at 28:15 Dylan begins to offer more specifics as to How to Change the Power Myths, and this is where it again becomes much more personal for me and my work as well as the work of  Paul K. Chappell. As Dylan points out:

"When you think about myths and power, it is always better to meet the audience where they are. In other words, it is easier to take an existing myth and meet the audience where they are with that myth, and then take them on a journey with that story, that hero, than it is to invent a new myth, that you wish everybody would believe in, but they're just not there....In this country, for better or worse, we have mythologized our military and our soldiers, and our marines - for better or worse, it doesn't matter.  The opportunity is to meet that mythology where it is.... The fact [is] that [some of] our marines and our soldiers have already decided...[as these people here have done] to meet the audience where they are...with the myth, and take them on a journey to this location [of new possibility]. They alone will never get us to that location, but they can take that mythology and project it back into our society in a way that will naturally manifest that."

He goes on to say that each of us are, in effect, our own story, our own myth, for at least one and probably for many, many other people around us, even if we do not know it.

"You are a story. And that story is the most powerful thing that you actually have to contribute to this world, because it is as those stories are told that the generations around us will decide that they want to be like those stories. And the greatest thing we can actually do is to create stories that are in the arc that we want to go in."

And I agree with that!

Thank you Dylan Ratigan, for sharing your insights and Your Story with the rest of us, and thank you for the renewed inspiration for me to continue manifesting and telling My Story as well!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Part I of "I've Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night!..."

...And...I now have INTERNET ACCESS again!!!! Yeah!!!

To All of My Readers:

My sincere apologies for not being able to keep this blog updated more effectively over the last three months. During my time in Austin, Texas I was moving around a lot between various hosts, many of them students, and in many situations I did not have internet access. I've also had some issues here and there more generally with getting my iPad to recognize wifi transmissions so I could connect where it was available. Finally, preparing a full blog takes quite a bit more time and effort than I can squeeze in with only an hour here and there, especially when I have to use at least some of that time available for checking my e-mail, etc.

Nevertheless, I am back in Santa Barbara, CA now with a comfortable living situation and INTERNET access, and I figured it was time I posted an update here...finally!

Starting from the last weeks of July...

I began my official tour of Austin, Texas with a stop at the home of John and Eve Koonz. As I mentioned in my previous blog, John and Eve are living examples of how ordinary people are making a difference in their homes and in their own back yards.

They keep chickens, and they grow meal worms to help utilize food waste and to have protein rich snacks for the chickens. At first glance, the meal worm habitat might seem "icky", but it did not smell and it was actually quite fascinating to see the bugs going about their business.

John and Eve also dry their clothes outside, commute regularly by bicycle and/or public transportation, and, as I had the opportunity to experience very directly, they were supportive and very generous WarmShowers hosts. John was particularly helpful in planning my route to my second Austin host and even accompanied me through some of the trickier parts of that journey.

Saying Good-Bye to John Koonz in Austin, Texas

My Beverly Hills host asked me not to share pictures or her personal info on my blog. Nevertheless, I am very grateful to have experienced her hospitality and she helped me connect with Pastor Karl Gronberg of the Gethsemane Lutheran Church as well. That connection eventually led to my staying at their "Hospitality House" for a couple of nights.

From the Beverly Hills address I made a little side excursion with the Austin Sierra Club members via MeetUp. We toured the Mayfield Park well known for its Peacocks.

While staying with Austin Sullivan, I went for a hike through the Barton Springs Greenbelt along with his brother's fiancé, Kira. We mostly followed the relatively dry creek bed, and then it started to rain. Given that it was summer in Texas, it was actually a welcome shower.

On the trailhead we found a turtle. I kind of recognized it, but picked it up to take a closer look. That's when it urinated on me and the smell was all I needed to confirm that it was a "Musk Turtle"!

At my host on Beverly Hills Dr. and at Chad Greene's house, I did not have access to the internet. So to keep myself occupied while I was "resting", I selected books to read from those available to me. Since I spent so much of my young adult and adult life reading more non-fiction (and a lot of "self-help" style books), I decided to read some of the shorter classics that I've heard about but never actually read. These included War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

From Chad's I had a short but Very Hot 4.5 miles or so to Anika Fassia's house. Thinking that it would be a fairly easy ride, I was not as careful as I would normally be and failed to use my damp camp towel under my helmet, and I did not have enough water either. Reaching the peak of the last of a few decent hills, I found myself growing a bit nauseous and light headed, so I pulled off to the side of the road, got onto the sidewalk/curb and rested, holding my bicycle up while I did so. At that point I was probably less than a quarter mile from Annika's house, but every time I stood up to get back on my bicycle, I started getting dizzy again. What was even more frustrating was that there was what looked like a public pool within 50 yards of the concrete retaining wall that rose up over the sidewalk behind me, and that wall was also blasting heat all around me.

Eventually I recovered enough to walk my bike across the multi-lane road to the opposite sidewalk, and down to the street where Annika lived. Even as I walked though, I was still not feeling well, so I had to stop again, within what turned out to be about 20 yards from Annika's house, and sit on the curb once more. Eventually, she and one of her housemates came out to meet me and we all walked back to the house together. All in all, it was a "lesson learned" to never take the heat for granted, no matter how short a ride might be!

One thing I noticed shortly after I got settled in the house was that it seemed Anika's guest bathroom toilette was not shutting off properly. When I helped her understand that the water was simply flowing out and through the sewer pipe, she welcomed my assistance in figuring out how to repair it. At first we tried a new flap, and then once it was clear that was not enough, and that the leaking was coming from the valve itself, we decided to replace that as well, "we" as in Anika paid for the parts and I installed them!

And here I am "modeling" the finished repairs.

Another benefit of staying with Anika was being around for the beginning of an artistic transformation of her living room fire place. Artist Stefanie Distefano was in charge.

Me and Anika at the beginning.

Stefanie at work.

The Completed Fireplace

What was particularly cool about this project was that Anika got together with all of her friends to make many of the tiles that Stefanie eventually assembled into the mosaic. Along with her friends, I appreciate the investment of energy and attention that Anika has chosen to put into her relationships, her home, and into her neighborhood and community in Austin, Texas. And I'm really glad she has chosen to be a part of the WarmShowers community as well!

From Anika's I was generously transported back to the northern part of town by Pastor Karl Gronberg of the Gethsemane Lutheran Church. I felt it was okay for me to accept his assistance since I had already covered the distance by bicycle previously, and I would be leaving on my own to travel back south in a couple of days. While staying at the church "Hospitality House" I was once again without internet, or television, but I did have access to Pastor Karl's library in the house/office next door.

One of the books I pulled from the shelves was a massive volume entitled Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology by Gerd Theissen. On Page 9 I read: "The Bible was able to become one of the most important textbooks of human behavior and experience precisely because in it 'dominating' models recede and models that first fail, but overcome are so numerous."

In other words... It is full of UNDERDOG Stories! (Something that Paul K. Chappell also writes about in his most recent book The Art of Waging Peace....)

Boy! Did that set my mind on a tangent?!

What I have come to appreciate from reading Lila... by Robert Pirsig is truth...the evolution of Life Itself is an ongoing drama of all kinds of Underdog Stories! (More specifically, the interaction of what he describes as "static" and "Dynamic" "Quality".)

The bottom line is...the actual probability of ANY of THIS existing is so remote, that for it to have all arisen the way it has means THE Underdog - i.e. Life Itself - is WINNING, beating the odds, over and over again, and...moving the process of evolution towards more and more highly evolved and adaptive organisms - including human beings, who, for all their presumed "faults" (i.e. "sins"), have the greatest capacity to Interact Dynamically with their environment(s) than any other organisms on this planet! (Although...some research is pointing a finger at viruses and bacteria that may be living out their very own "underdog stories" and using Us to help Them!)

And now we are in a stage where we are evolving our cultures to catch up with our evolving technologies. I'd say we got a little ahead of ourselves with nuclear weapons, among other things, and Now it is time to re-evaluate Why we are doing the things we Can do, with more of a moral compass for what we Should Do. Furthermore, we have a Central Nervous System - the Internet - that we never had to work with before and it is slowly but surely linking all of us as individual cells into a more coherent, Body Human, that includes more and more individual human beings.

That's a lot to be thinking about, so I'm going to pause this update for now. I will add though, that I was able to share some of these ideas at the talk I gave to the Millville Quaker Friends Meeting in Pennsylvania, and the talk was very well received. (I promise I will share more about that in a future post.)

As always, I am grateful for ALL of the different experiences I have been able to have on this, my own "Underdog Journey", and I am grateful to ALL of the people who have helped me along the way!

Please stay-tuned for "Part II" of this blog series...Coming Soon!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Observations on the Ongoing but Currently Invisible Mass "Work-a-Round"

I just finished watching this interview with Chris Hedges: The Liberal Elite Has Betrayed the People They Claim to Defend with Paul Jay. There is another segment pending that is supposed to explain to people what they can do to ... make things better somehow, in spite of all of the challenges that Chris Hedges so clearly explains (both in this interview segment and the one just before it, America is a Tinderbox).

There is a lot of talk about "getting out of the box", stepping outside of the current system, and then somehow, in spite of all of the surveillance, etc., managing to create a massive and "threatening" movement that would finally get the elite to do what we want them to do.

So these are my thoughts right now:

Not unlike the views of people like Adam Kokesh, which I discussed in this recent blog we look to the history of change in societies across the globe, and we see revolutions, and violent revolutions, and mass uprisings, and then we see the aftermaths of all of that, shifts of power that end up being more or less successful, but only for another generation or so, until, the new holders of power become just like the old holders of power and the whole cycle starts again. And yet, it seems, as with Chris Hedges this kind of mass, organized, radical, (maybe even violent) force is the only way that anything in the world can be changed...based on Past History.

But, the past is not the same as the present. If anything, they did not have the internet back then! They did not have all kinds of other sources of ideas and information to build resilient and sustainable the end...might not be so vulnerable to the whims of the State or the elite and powerful, or any "future revolutionaries".

Where I think the movement is really happening is in people's back yards and in their front yards, and in urban neighborhoods that are building organic markets on the corners instead of another fast food joint or junk-food convenience store. And information about the successes of these stories are available on the internet for many more people to see and learn from and duplicate.

Chris Hedges remarks on how people are so strapped and so afraid to "lose their jobs" that they cannot form a cohesive force to fight for "workers rights". But, you know what, who really wants to be working for Wal-Mart anyway, when they could be working in a community garden instead?

If there is one thing my bike ride has taught me, it is what is Most Important to my life as a human being on this planet right now is food, water, clothing, shelter, simple transportation, a community of friends, and...the Internet which helps keep us all connected together.

What I have also seen, however, is how we as human beings, being the very creative creatures that we are, have elaborated so much on those "necessities" to the point where we actually have become somewhat confused about what is a "necessity" and what is a "luxury". And, the truth is, most of us can get by with a lot less should we ever have to.

And I see more and more people realizing that as well. This is what I am seeing as a very quiet "revolution" that the elite are actually forcing on us by their own greed. They are taking so much from so many that we are learning to live differently, we are learning to live without a lot of the stuff they've worked so hard to convince us we needed in the first place. We are doing "work-a-rounds".

Furthermore, once we realize that our true power lies in our ability to Survive anyway, to survive and even Thrive in spite of what they may slowly but surely take away from us, then what they had to offer, and the power they thought they held will be gone, very naturally, simply "sloughed off" like an old skin... No mass uprisings, no violent revolutions, no real "drama" necessary - would still result in a Massive Shift in Power.

In other words...a revolution without a "Revolution"....

Now That...That would be Truly Revolutionary!

Adding examples of more "revolutionary movements" here (feel free to share your links with me via Facebook):

Tiny Houses

Living Economies

Restorative Justice

This Is Lateral Power video with Jeremy Rifkin

Overlooked Historical Non-Violent Movements including early American Colonial "work-a-rounds"

Dylan Ratigan - from Power Talking the Talk to Power Walking the Walk

Sweden Runs out of Garbage

Stories of Hope... from Dylan Ratigan

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Happens When You "Just Do It"?

Just Do It!

So the Nike slogan says.

As I have been "just doing it" over the last couple of years; i.e. jumping in, working things out, learning as I go, with my current cross-country bicycle journey, I have come to better understand how important that is. Granted, there is a bit of a quantum leap to be made from the idea to the action, and I appreciate how hard that can be sometimes, but, nevertheless, at some point, if you're clear on what it is you want to do, or attempt, at some point you "Just Do It!" and the most valuable part of the experience will come from everything you will learn In the Process of "Just [Doing] It!"

When I entered upon this journey, I did bring some skills to bear:

1) Being able to navigate a bicycle safely on the roads, something I learned to do in my late teens and through bicycle commuting well into my 30's after that. I also had some skills in maintaining and repairing bicycles as I worked in several bike shops over the years.

2) I know how to sew. I started sewing when I was seven years old and I worked for three different industrial sewing manufacturing companies between my late 20's and early 30's. As it turns out, I actually utilized those skills significantly in either creating my own gear, like my tent, or reinforcing the gear I had, or in making various bags and pouches to organize and store all of my gear...

...not to mention sewing many sets of "Bell's Baggy Bottoms" (and matching head-bands...) that are designed especially for riding a bicycle (or for relaxing or sleeping comfortably off of the bicycle).

3) I understand how to eat in a nutritionally efficient and cost effective way - as necessary (meaning, when I am on the road, I am more than happy to also eat pretty much whatever my hosts put in front of me, or the very rare restaurant or "fast food" meal). My "Food Basics" series of blogs goes into much more detail about my general diet preferences and practices.

4) Educational Background - I spent my last five years of college education attending the University of Maryland University College taking most of my classes on-line. I chose this university in part because it put a Heavy Emphasis on research writing; i.e. we had to do one or more research writing projects in every class. As I wanted to strengthen my own writing skills in this area, I was glad to have the added pressure from Having to do so regularly in an academic environment. Furthermore, especially in my last year, I "bulked up" on my Government, International Relations, and Political Science classes ending with an Introduction to Constitutional Law. This was in addition to a full "Social Science" curriculum including everything from Anthropology to Neuroscience. In other words, I had the background to integrate everything else that I was later to learn from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and from Paul K. Chappell.

5) Written and Verbal Communication Skills:

a) Journaling - In addition to the writing work I completed while in college, I have been "journaling" for over two decades now, which, I must say, has been probably one of The Most Important things I have done to develop my own "self-awareness". I consider it a form of "active meditation" in that not only does the process help me to become much more aware of my thoughts, the physical exercise of Writing Them Down almost always results in additional insights and understanding, especially if I am struggling with a particular experience, relationship, concept, or feeling.

b) Public Speaking - I participated as a member of Toastmasters International, a public speaking club, for seven years, which gave me multiple opportunities to practice not only my public speaking skills, but also my leadership skills as I acted as Vice President of Education for my club for most of those seven years.

c) Marketing and Sales Copywriting - Just prior to the end of my enlistment in the U.S. Navy, I attended two multi-day, professional seminars where I was introduced to various principles and techniques for sales copy-writing, website related development, and "search engine optimization". Unfortunately, I did not get to put all of the information I received to immediate use, and so I see this as one of the "weak spots" in my skill set. Nevertheless, I still have all of the instructional materials and when I have the time and opportunity to Focus More on those skills in particular, I am confident that I can improve.

d) General Writing Skills - Besides being a highschool student of the indominatable "Ivy Hawkins" (who, by the way, also taught my Mother when She was in highschool), I had the opportunity to attend a two day seminar at the National Institutes of Health conducted by Duke Rhetoric Professor George Gopen. The focus was on "Writing from the Reader's Perspective". Although I do not edit my writing here with a fine-tooth comb, in future writing, I will be putting much more of what I learned to good use. If you are interested in some of the basics of what George Gopen teaches, you can find more in this article: "The Science of Scientific Writing". (And don't let the title distract you too much, the principles apply well beyond the fields of science.)

e) Computer Literacy and Networking - Again, I would say I'm doing "okay" in this area, but there is definitely room for improvement. As I think I have mentioned already elsewhere in this blog, I've struggled just to get pictures to load on this "Blogger" platform using my iPad. And I certainly have not excelled in developing videos, etc., etc. So, again, given more time and focus, I'm sure I could develop those skills further.

6) Tracking and Primitive Survival Skills - In May of 2011, I attended two weeks of training in Primitive Survival Skills through Tom Brown Jr's Tracker School. It was Really Intense and loaded with useful information. Although I have not been forced into a primitive survival situation during my travels thus far, there is something to be said for having more confidence on the road - should that ever be the case.

7) Self-Discipline - I feel I need to give credit where credit is due and I owe a lot of credit to my eight years in the U.S. Navy for helping to strengthen my self-discipline and "will power". Knowing what I know now about the development of the Frontal Cortex in the first 25 years of life, and how learning more self-discipline during those years is critical to being able to practice it later in life, I really wish I had joined the military in my early 20's rather than in my early 30's as I suspect some areas of discipline might be more "second nature" to me now than they are. Nevertheless, I will continue to do the best I can in spite of what I feel now as a deficit in development of that part of my brain and one that I do not know that I can further develop or recover at this point in my life. (Questions regarding further development or recovery are ones I hope to pose at some point to Human Behavioral Biologist and Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky.)

So these are the skills and abilities I brought to the table when it came time for me to "Just Do It!" And I have learned more along the way as I have been "Just Doing It!" I have refined my equipment load and maintenance. I have made some progress in utilizing internet networking, etc., but again, I can feel my weaknesses there.

And there is something else that is coming into play that may surprise some of my readers: In actuality...I'm a closet introvert! I honestly do not "enjoy" attracting attention to myself, although, in order to spread the message I feel needs to be spread, and in order to continue to fund this journey that I am on, I have to draw at least some attention to myself, and I have to at least let people know what my needs are so that they can support my journey if they so choose. Otherwise, the journey comes to an end - or - another "interruption" while I figure out some other way to make it work practically and financially. (For more info on this please check-out my "Please and Thank You" page.)

The last advantage/benefit from "Just Doing It" is that with each person I talk to, with each challenging argument, with each question, I have more opportunities to Practice Communicating and to let the ideas and answers come in that unique synergistic way that almost invariably results from that kind of Relating Directly With Other People. And although my internet and marketing skills may be weak, they have become stronger with my efforts thus far, and I have certainly had more ideas about how to approach marketing and fundraising even if I haven't had the wherewithall to follow through on all of them.

As I have explained to many people along this journey, I feel all of my skills and abilities, both the developed and undeveloped ones, are being called upon for me to do what I am doing right now, and it is definitely some of The Most Satisfying and Meaningful Work I have ever done in my well as the most challenging! Nevertheless, I am doing what I feel "I" can do, because of the skills and abilities I have. Not everyone can do exactly what I am doing in exactly this way, but I sincerely feel that everyone is called upon to do What they CAN Do as well these days, to help make the world a better place for now and for the future of humankind and all other beings on this planet.

After "Just Doing It!" again for this past spring and summer, I may have to take another break, and "Just do..." something else for a while to re-build my energy and resources. In other words, "The Plan" is still in flux - as it has always been - and I will keep everyone updated as the details solidify.

In the mean time, I once again Thank Everyone who continues to support my efforts and the Cause of Peace! And if you are not "Just Doing It!" yourself in some way in your own life, then, maybe it is time you did?!

Friday, July 12, 2013

June 23-July 7 Including a "Reality Check" Side-Track

So it's been about two weeks now since I posted my last blog - in the "travel log" format. And, I've been thinking, I need to keep doing that for the benefit of those who are following the physical journey I am on right now. I will still take a moment here to acknowledge my hosts over the last few stops:

Brent, Christy and their neighbors and friends in Clifton, Texas

Andy, Lisa and their children in Woodway, Texas

Mother Neff State Park, near Moody, Texas

And Wayne and Ann in Belton, Texas

And Sherry and Miss Kitty and Roger the Bearded Dragon Lizard in Georgetown, Texas:

I am Very Grateful to all of these people who have been so supportive of my efforts thus far. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

In between, there were more hills, more heat, more long stretches of open roads and landscapes, (and cows and horses), picnic areas and much sought after shady spots, a Really Scary transit of the Waco Lake bridge (sorry, too scary for pictures), and a not so scary transit of a much more welcoming bridge over Belton Lake. In fact, "Bell County" was Very Good to Me! That's where the chip-and-seal stopped and the smooth pavement began and I was Oh, So Grateful for that transition (not to mention my hosts' saltwater swimming pool waiting for me to cool off in as soon as I arrived!)

Now I'm going to shift to My Mission: To Promote Peace and Cool Heads!

During my stops I have been able to keep up with what has been "going on in the world" mostly from the posts I see from my friends on Facebook. And, as it turns out, I have friends from across the political spectrum so I get a pretty broad range of perspectives on most of what is "making the news", from the overthrow of Morsi in Egypt with a combined public and military force, to the fact that Obama just signed a new Executive Order that appears to give the President and the Federal Government the authority to control all communications systems in times of emergency.

And then, there's Adam Kokesh, loading a shot-gun near the Capital Building in Washington, D.C. (And people wonder why the President and all of his men think they might NEED control of all of our communications systems at some point in the future!)

I would offer that there has been no greater time in our history as a country when the call for the voices of Non-Violent resolutions to our problems need to be heard.

People like Adam Kokesh and his ilk have a very myopic view of our revolutionary past. In fact, I am guessing that many people have failed to make the connection between small revolutionary movements that were successful in their day because they had the Support of Other Powerful militaries. For instance, the American Revolutionary War was won in part because of the support we received From the French, who were a Powerful Military in their own right and had grudges of their own against the British. This is something I've learned from reading Paul K. Chappell's book, The Art of Waging Peace.

So who's backing the revolutionaries or potential revolutionaries in THIS country? Or "might" back them at some point in the future? Even if there are Al-Qaeda based supporters (who, of course, would also love to see this country decline into civil war), even THEY are Not That Powerful! They can do a lot of damage, but they could never win a "war" with the U.S.

Folks, we are NOT living in the days of our Forefathers! Has anyone noticed that, for the most part, there are no major conflicts in Europe anymore. Yes, there's some angst over who owes whom what, but nobody's in the business of massing armies against one another. Frankly, the Germans are too busy building solar panels!

And as far as the shift of power in Egypt and what brought millions of people into the streets: No Electricity! And yes, deprive the people of this country of their Oh, So Precious electricity for long-enough and we would all be in the streets as well - but do you really think that is going to happen here any time soon?

My point is some people, like Adam Kokesh, might be looking for "history to repeat itself" and for there to be a "Final American Revolution" here, but there are so many other factors involved in this day and age that, practically speaking, history CANNOT "repeat itself". And if anything, we'd just be doing the same WRONG, VIOLENT thing over again and expecting Different Results then what we have already ended up with now, over 200 years from the "Original American Revolution". If That revolution was So Great, then how have we still managed to end up, presumably, right back where we started from? Think about that.

Something else I learned from reading Paul K. Chappell's books: When two countries "face off" against one another, unlike animals in the wild, there is Nowhere to Run once the "warning aggression" or "posturing" starts. Most animals of the same species, in the wild, will figure out "Who's the Boss" simply through warning aggression and then the one who realizes it is "Not the Boss" runs away. But you get people confined within bordered countries or territories and once the "posturing", once the "warning aggression" starts, there is nowhere to run-away from it. In this case, it is like two lions in a cage and warning aggression almost always leads to direct and violent confrontation.

Consequently, anyone who is currently threatening our government with violence is POSTURING! And the fact that we are seeing more and more reports of police shootings and use of extreme force in situations that do not seem to call for it, and when we see the President(s), signing executive orders that give them more power "in cases of emergency", that is "posturing" as well. And there is a very good chance all of this "posturing" will escalate if those who are wiser do not step up and make clear what the potentially devastating consequences could be.

Again, We Are Not Living In the Time of Our Forefathers! The present may look similar to what it looked like in the past, but it is Not exactly the same. We have Other Means at our disposal, other ways that we can approach our conflicts and resolve our problems and communicate more effectively with one another and We Need to Take Full Advantage of Those. And, as I have been doing through this whole journey thus far, I would HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend to Everyone, if you have not gotten a copy of Paul K. Chappell's book, The Art of Waging Peace", then Please, for the sake of this country and your loved ones, Buy a Copy and Read It. And then stand up to anyone you may know that thinks the only way we can resolve our current problems in this country is through violence, because, they Are Wrong, and if they continue to pursue that course, they and many, many other people will end up being Wrong and DEAD!

And that is why I am suffering the heat, and struggling up the hills, and communicating wherever I can because I Get That! And I would hate to see any of my family, any of my old friends, or new friends, or their children, or their relatives or their friends Dead for No Good Reason! We made some progress with our Revolutionary War, but more progress was made towards the protection of human rights Non-Violently AFTER the war then were made because of it. And that is something else I have been reminded of by reading Paul K. Chappell's books. So, I ask again, that all of my readers and friends do the same.

Thank You!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 19-22 Meridian, Texas

I would have to say that my trek from Glen Rose to Meridian was probably the most difficult of all of my days so far with respect to the roads, it was also very rewarding with respect to the contacts I was able to make along the way.

After saying fairwell to my wonderful hosts Amanda and Steve, as they both headed to their respective jobs before the sun came up...

...I continued with my "pack out" storing the last of my clothes in my front panniers and the rest of my food in the back. There was some fog in the neighborhood, so I decided to go ahead and put the extra cover on the trailer and wear my vest for extra visibility.

While making these necessary adjustments, Ray, the neighbor from next door came out to talk with me. He said he had seen me working on the trailer the day before, and now that he realized I was leaving, was sorry he had not approached me sooner. I took time to talk with him though to tell him what I was doing and to share the information I could about the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Paul K. Chappell and his work. As a former marine who had served in Vietnam, Ray had had his own struggles after returning home, and given the opportunity, he left me seeming to be quite inspired to now focus his energy and attention on "Waging Peace". Before I finally pulled away he offered me a box of "Fruit and Grain" bars for the road and helped me get this "departure photo" as I headed out of Glen Rose.

I got a little confused and missed my turn when I got into the downtown area, so I pulled off to the side of the road and propped my bike up for a minute. I figured this would be a good time to take pictures of the sculpture that I used in my last blog. As I was getting myself turned around I saw a big flat-bed truck hauling a big "Wide Load" tractor on it and I thought to myself "Probably a good thing I missed that turn in the first place, otherwise that truck would have had to pass me on the narrow bridge and that might have been somewhat hazardous!"

Once on South 144 myself, I was back into the "hill country" and I kept recalling the elevation chart from my Map My Ride plot, so I knew I had some significant climbing early on but that it would peak, and there would be more descending after that. So with each major "peak" I reached, I kept wondering, hoping: "Was that 'The' Peak, from which I will now start the longer descent, finally???"

Turned out my "ascending" of over 800 ft total for the day continued for about 9 miles and 9 very long hours. Talk about a Very Slow day! It was beautiful though, and as I passed what I later found out to be "Seven Knobs", the clouds that the weather predicted finally started rolling in to offer much needed "shade support". (Unfortunately, the clouds were not always so cooperative as I found myself in giant holes of sunlight at the peaks of at least two of the hills I was pushing up.)

On one of those particularly steep peaks I had to keep telling myself, over and over again, "I will get to the top of this hill. I will get to the top of this hill. No matter what, I'm going to get to the top of this hill. I will rest as long as necessary, but I will get to the top of this hill. No matter how long it takes, I will get to the top of this hill. I will get to the top of this hill like I have gotten to the tops of other hills before. I will get to the top of this hill." After saying things like this out loud to myself, I would then push another 15 feet, and then another, and then another, until, finally... I made it to the top of the hill!

I wish I had more pictures to show for my efforts, but by the time I did make it to the top, I was so exhausted, taking pictures was not something I was thinking about, instead, I was thinking about where I could rest to keep from totally passing out!

I did find one such spot, with a fairly level gravel drive where I could prop-up the bike. And then I took one of my tarps over to the tinniest bit of shade by the fencerow and there I lay down for a little while, barely out of the sun, and definitely still feeling the heat. While I lay there though, I started to hear rumblings of thunder in the distance. The clouds were becoming the "20% chance of rain" the weather forecast had also predicted. But I did not worry about it too much because it was behind me, and the wind had been mostly, if only gently, in my face for most of the day.

Nevertheless, before I left this spot, I decided to cover my bags with the my new rain covers "just in case", and I took the tarp I'd been laying on and added it as extra protection over my back-pack. I had one of Ray's fruit bars, and then I pushed on.

I guess I finally did make it to "The" peak just outside of Walnut Springs. The last three miles or so were pretty much all down hill, so I was able to give my legs some rest on the way into town. Since I had tried diligently to find a host here, and I had been on line with "Kay" at the city offices for about a week, I thought it might be worthwhile to stop by and see her.

She was gracious enough to offer me the conference room to stop and "chill-out" for a while as I ate more of what was left of my "supper" for the day: Cheese and crackers, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and celery, and another fruit bar. There was another gentleman who came in with whom I spoke for a while about my mission, and Kay and I talked more as well before I left. She said it was too bad I was not getting to a meet a woman named, "Roberta", as she was an adventurer like myself. I might have been able to stay with her if it had not been that she was getting ready to leave for Alaska on a camper trip.

I left Walnut Springs with Kay's assurance that the rumbling clouds would probably not amount to anything, as they had not days before. Nevertheless, as I headed out of town, it did start to rain and I decided to duck into a mechanic's shop to avoid it as best I could. As I was standing there with my bicycle, a lady came over to ask me about my trip, and guess what? She turned out to be Roberta! Again, I would have taken a picture but my camera was buried beneath my rain covers. We talked for a while though, and I gave her one of my cards, before she went with the mechanic to inspect the work he'd done on her camper.

I headed back out onto the now wet road, recalling Kay's comments about how the hills would not be "as bad" as they had been coming into Walnut Springs. And, she was right. I was able to stay on my bike for most of the next 9 miles. Unfortunately, in that time I realized the winds were shifting and although I was pedaling as fast as I could, the storms were clearly gathering all around me. There were patches of clear sky directly ahead, over Meridian, I presumed, but they were getting smaller and smaller.

I blue sign appeared ahead of me announcing a "picnic area" at an historical mile marker "1 mile ahead". I began pedaling even harder, knowing a mile was not that far, and the road ahead was not that steep. I was really hoping, there might be some kind of pavilion at the "picnic area". With each pedal stroke now, my right inner thigh would do this kind of clenching action just behind my knee, but I pressed on, in part because I had no other choice. The rain was just starting to fall as I spotted the turn off for the picnic area. Unfortunately, there was no pavilion, just a cluster of very large Live Oak trees.

I pulled the bicycle in and propped it against the concrete bench and table, and moments later, I heard my phone ringing. It was my Meridian host Jan, the phone rung out before I could answer, so I called her back. At that point, the rain was still not that heavy, but once she figured out where I was, she convinced me to let her pick me up in her truck, and so I agreed.

The rains were falling moderately by the time she got there, but became much heavier as we wrangled the bicycle, trailer, and panniers into the bed of her small pick-up. We were both pretty soaked as we got in the truck. As we turned around and headed into Meridian, there was a deluge of rain, filling the streets. We later talked over dinner about my determination to go as far as I possibly could on my own, but the weather was certainly a factor in forcing me to accept a little assistance this day. Hopefully, before my adventure is over, I'll be able to get another CouchSurfing or WarmShowers host signed-up in Walnut Springs, as that would have been the more ideal spot to stop.

Back and Jan's Bed and Breakfast home in Meridian, I unloaded the panniers, and my back-pack off of the trailer. I was pleased that the covers had served there function pretty well, except for accumulating water in the bottoms to which I will be adding drain holes as soon as possible! My own rain-coat however, could definitely use another coating of waterproofing spray!

I stayed with Jan over the next couple of days. Her brother, Bill, came by to visit as well and to take us to dinner at the Bunkhouse BBQ in Clifton, giving me a chance to see at least some of where I would be riding on Saturday. With a background in anthropology himself, and a few years in the Navy as a Corpsman, Bill was very interested in what I had to tell him about Paul Chappell's work concerning "human nature" and the myths of war. Acknowledging his sincere interest, I offered him my copy of Will War Ever End? to read as I figured it was short enough that he could finish it overnight. Before leaving, he helped me unload my bike and trailer from Jan's truck, and that's when we realized the back tire of my bicycle had gone flat. That was something that would have to be repaired before I headed for Clifton, but it was also interesting to me that, obviously, it was not just the storm that was a good reason for me to accept the transportation assistance that Jan had provided!

On my second day in Meridian, Jan and I went to Bill's house to use his internet service, and while I was working on my last blog post, as promised, he was finishing reading the book I'd given him. Upon returning it to me, he also expressed interest in reading Paul's other books as well. After I finished posting my last blog, Bill and I made Oatmeal Raisin cookies together. He supplied the ingredients as needed and I dutifully demonstrated my "secret" mixing techniques.

The cookies turned out quite delicious (as I anticipated), and we had our share while continuing to talk and wait for each batch to come out of the oven. Once the last batch was cooled, we had enough to package up a dozen for me and a dozen for Jan, leaving a dozen plus a few for Bill to continue to enjoy.

As Jan had left earlier to start packing for her very early morning flight the next day, Bill drove me back to her house once we were done with the cookies. Jan had dinner ready for us when we arrived and we sat out on her back porch overlooking the hills and valleys and seeing the nearly full moon arch across the sky.

Eventually, it was time to call it a day, so Bill headed home, taking Jan's dog, Rosie, to take care of her while Jan was working. He said he would be back in the morning to see me off, I knew it would probably not be before 9:30 or so as I knew my things were well scattered, meaning more time packing-up, and I still had the flat tire to fix.

Even though Jan was going to be leaving very early the next morning, before 4:30, I promised to get up to see her off. Besides, it gave me a chance to take a nice picture of her in her stewardess uniform.

Nevertheless, I was still feeling pretty tired so I went back to bed for a little while longer before getting up, for real, to get myself ready to leave.

True to his word, Bill returned, this time with his homemade quiche to offer me for breakfast. He waited patiently as I finished packing, helped me carry my bags from the upstairs room to the living room and then kept me company as I proceeded to demonstrate my bicycle repair skills.

One of the things I'd learned from my time working in bike shops was to always check the inside of the tire tread for whatever might have caused the puncture. It took a while, but sure enough, I found the culprit.

As you can see in this photo, it was a very tiny piece of wire (inside the "0") that had worked its way through my worn, but otherwise "puncture resistant" tire. I am guessing it came from the tread of a steal-belted radial, something I have seen scattered all over the shoulders here in Texas.

Rather than patching the tube at this point, I decided to go ahead and replace it with one of the two spare ones I was carrying with me. I was grateful that I had the benefit of a comfortable porch to do the repairs, rather than having to do this out on the road. (And given the weather the day before, that would have also meant repairing it in the rain!) It was good practice though, confirming that I had everything I needed to do the job should I get another flat any time soon.

Since the bike had gotten wet, I figured it was also a good time to lube the chain and spray some WD40 down the cable housings. With all of that repair and maintenance work completed, it was time to re-attach the trailer and load on all of the panniers.

Before finally heading for the road, Bill assisted once again by taking pictures and offering me a cash donation to help me on my way. I am very appreciative of his and Jan's support of my journey thus far.

Next Stop...Clifton, Texas...