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.

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...

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 11-18 - In South Granbury and Glen Rose, Texas

Tuesday morning, June 11, I said "Good-Bye" to Whiskers the cat...

And The Busy Woodpecker...

And the wonderful home of Susan and Terry.

From there I headed to my second Granbury stop, on the south end of town.

It was to be a somewhat shorter trip this day, by about 10 miles, compared to the leg from Weatherford to my first stop in the more northern part of Granbury. Starting at about 7:30 am (a great start for me), by 9:30 am I found this shady spot to pull off into by the Lakeside Baptist Church. I paused there for a bit of breakfast, and a good water dousing of my head, before I got back out on the sunny, hilly, road.

My hosts Karissa and O.J. were very excited about my arrival as I was to be their very first CouchSurfing guest! Although Faolan settled down a bit more when Karissa returned from work, she was clearly concerned about my being there and vocalized those concerns persistently until O.J. "sent her to the bedroom" for some doggy time-out.

As I was preparing for a bit of a nap, their kitten Sashimi, daughter of Sushi, found my Keen shoes to be of particular interest, probably because they were a little smelly and had springy elastic bands.

When Karissa returned from work, the three of us spent the remainder of the evening talking about all kinds of things. I answered questions about my experiences and shared lots of the ideas from Paul Chappell's books. As an avid reader, O.J. drew my attention frequently to the books of philosophy and military history on his own shelf and promised to get a copy of The Art of Waging Peace as soon as it was available.

Karissa was off to work early the next morning, so after posing for a photo, we hugged and said our good-byes, although, it would turn out not to be the last time we would see each other.

I continued on my journey to my first stop in Glen Rose, Texas to the home of WarmShowers hosts Frank and Pat.

As my Map My Ride chart predicted, there were more hills, and an especially steep one approaching the turn-off to their house. There were two lanes for the ascending side of the road, which meant basically no shoulder for me to walk/push in so I crossed over to the opposite side feeling safer walking/pushing against traffic.

It took me a while to get up the CAT 5 hill, which plateaued ever so slightly about three-quarters of the way up and then continued rising with a bit of a curve at the end.

I was grateful when I finally spotted the "CR 2021" sign marking my turn-off, although, it was at the very peak of the hill. When I finally did make the turn I found myself facing an even steeper descent and another equally steep ascent just opposite. I remember thinking, "Please let their house be on this side of the hill rather than the other!" Thankfully, it was!

I turned into a well-paved driveway that led to a very nice house. I pedaled my bicycle around to the back and found a shady area of low trees filled with bird feeders and bird houses. I got off the bike, propped it with the kick-stand and secured the trailer wheel. I rested for a moment, catching my breath, and drinking some more water, before making my way to the front of the house where I rang the door-bell.

When no one responded, I texted my hosts to let them know I was there, and then laid down on one of my nylon tarps in the shade under the trees to relax for a least until the ants started to find me! (Luckily, they were not particularly aggressive ones!)

As I waited for my hosts to return home, I was thinking to myself, "I really hope they have a truck." I was going to have another very short ride, a back-track actually to my second stop in Glen Rose the next day, and I thought I would have to go back up one of the hills I had already come over to get where I was. The return route was along a curve with no shoulder and I knew I would have to be pushing during the busy evening (after work) hours, making it even less safe. Nevertheless, I soon heard and then saw my hosts come around the drive, and much to my hope and relief, they were in a big grey truck! When I shared my concerns, Frank explained that there was actually a road prior to the hill that would circle back to my destination, although it was also a bit curvy, and narrow, with little shoulder. Either way, he was more than happy to help me with a little "support" transportation.

In the mean time, though, I enjoyed another "Warm Shower" while Pat prepared a carb re-building meal of spaghetti. The next day Frank and I drove back into town, where he drew my attention to the sculpture of the "Barnards of the Brazos", by Robert Summers outside the historic Somerville County Courthouse.

After that we headed to the garden of friends of theirs who were in Turkey at the time, and did not want any of the produce to go to waste in their absence. So we poked around the squash, cucumber, and tomato plants to find whatever was ready to harvest. Once we returned, Pat made homemade squash soup for lunch and, as I had done the night before, I offered some sprouts and seaweed to go with it.

With regards to my trying to maintain a "geographically continuous route under my own power", I figured the help Frank provided with transportation was fair in that I had already covered the distance once before, passing by on my way to Frank and Pat's house. It was good to have another day of rest and with the distance being so short, under three miles, it seemed like a lot of work to get all decked-out in my gear, and all sweaty, etc., for maybe only a one hour ride!

Amanda was not home yet when Frank dropped me off, but I was good with just hanging out for a bit, so we said our good-byes and I settled down to wait for my next host. It wasn't but maybe 15 or 20 minutes altogether until she arrived and we actually remained outside for a little while talking for a bit before going on into the house.

I got settled in with my bags and as Amanda and I continued to talk, she mentioned that her father and step-mother were in the area and that she had been planning to meet them for dinner. Although we were running a little late, I encouraged her to follow-through on her plans, and that if she was okay with it, I was happy to tag along. As I have been explaining to everyone, I'm trying to meet as many people as possible on this trip, so, the more the merrier!

We headed back down the road from whence I'd come and then into some side-roads where I would have been totally lost on my own, until we came to the Silver Dollar Steakhouse located at the Hide-a-Way Ranch and Retreat. Amanda's dad, Rusty was generous enough to cover our tab for the salads we ordered. After meeting and talking with the other members of the dinner party, most of whom were already finished with their meals, Amanda, her parents, and I wandered around the property a bit. Rusty and Connie posed for a portrait in front of the "remains" of the infamous "Peg Leg Pete"...

... while Amanda took a few minutes to pet the goats.

We headed back home after a brief visit at her parents house, and then it was time to call it a day. Amanda would be off to New Braunfels to join her husband Steve for an EMT training/re-certification class over the weekend, so I gladly accepted the opportunity for some alone-time at the house. Since I had not been able to make the connection I had originally hoped for in Clifton on June 17th, my schedule opened up to stay a little longer with Amanda and Steve.

Remembering how disappointed my former host, Karissa, had been when we did not have time to go see her horses, I gave her a call to let her know I'd be open to doing that, especially since Amanda and Steve were going to be away for a few days.

As it turned out, the next day, Friday, was the day to head up to High Hope Ranch as Karissa and O.J. were also going on their own mini-work-vacation over the weekend, and, besides, Karissa was only working a short distance away at the hospital in Glen Rose. She gave O.J. a call and he met us at Amanda's where we all piled into Karissa's car for the ride up to the ranch.

Upon our arrival, the first stop on our agenda was to visit Karissa's friends, Morada, a Blue Roan, Valentine, a pure-bred Arabian, and Shimmie, a BLM rescued Mustang.

As Karissa explained, she had become friends with Shimmie by applying more Natural training techniques. In fact, it was a CouchSurfing contact she had stayed with in the area that introduced her to this new approach to interacting with horses without the use of metal bits, whips, etc. She later showed me the Indian Bosal style bridle that she used with Shimmie.

After visiting with the horses for a while we headed on over to the house of the ranch manager Chandler McLay. Chandler has a hike of the El Camino in Spain to her credit and she frequently hosts, as she put it, "Spiritual, Triple Bottom Line Retreats, and Reunions" at the ranch.

I'd say we had a very pleasant and mutually inspiring visit as I shared more from my own experiences "Pedaling for Peace", and she shared from her own wisdom of being a life-long adventurer herself. As we were leaving, she offered me a generous cash donation in support of my efforts. Thanks, Chandler!

When they returned Sunday evening, Amanda went to right to work doing maintenance on her bee hive, while Steve did some work in the garden area.

I took a closer look at the bamboo fence they were in the process of constructing around one side of the yard. As the neighbor next door to Peggy's house in North Dallas also had a rather large stand of bamboo he was trying to keep under control, I was thinking this particular design (by Amanda) might be something he could put to good use. (Are you seeing this Vincent?)

The next evening, I once again prepared my Special Egg-Fried Rice and finger-salads for my hosts, and, as it turned out, Steve's daughter Sam and her boyfriend Luke as well. I had a rather engaging conversation with them, especially given the fact that Luke was thinking about joining the military. We talked a lot about the possibility of World Peace as I shared many of Paul's ideas on all of that, as well as how the military could still be beneficial if used for peace work; i.e. responding in the case of natural disasters or for actual Peace Keeping in areas of the world still prone to conflict. Steve mentioned later that all of that might have looked good as part of a documentary. For now though, I feel more like I may be "practicing" for something like that in the future, as I have yet to gain the same proficiency with speaking about all of this as Paul has. But, since I'm giving mini-talks every few days now, I have a feeling by the end of my journey, who knows what the possibilities might be?

During my last day of rest on Tuesday, I finally made a host connection in Clifton, Texas, which then made it more feasible to also make it to another WarmShowers host in the Woodway area near Waco.

(For those of you who might wonder how "one person can make a difference", my Clifton host helped to cut what would have been a 43 mile trip down to two trips of 12 miles and 31 miles, which, at this still early "training period" works much better for me. In fact, it is making something "possible" that might not otherwise have been in terms of my being able to continue my trek as I have been thus far.)

And so I prepared to say "Good-bye" to my wonderful hosts Amanda and Steve...

Although the path south and east was made clearer with the connection in Clifton, I still had another daunting 27 mile ride ahead to Meridian...

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 8th, 2013 Weatherford to Granbury, Texas

I pulled away from my aunt and uncle's house around 9:30 am - a relatively good start. Based on my departure times last year, anything before 10:00 am is "early" for me! I suspect the Texas heat will inevitably force me to push that time back even more, and I Will adapt as necessary although it means getting much more efficient with my pack-out routine.

The first challenge on this first day back on my bike was the gravel road connecting Ann Brown Drive to Upper Denton Road. It wasn't too bad though as the county workers had been there over the past week packing it down to prepare for future paving (sorry I just missed that). It had been a bit frustrating to my aunt and uncle as they were driving their bright red trucks through the frequently soaked and muddy gravel, getting them dirtier day by day. I even held off leaving until the weekend, when the workers would be off duty, to avoid the mud myself.

Of course, I ran into some hills pretty quickly and was off the bike pushing, and keeping a close eye on the Saturday morning traffic as it cruised past in both directions on the mostly unmarked roads. What drivers in this situation do not realize is that I can actually hear them coming from some distance away, long before I actually see them. Furthermore, I can hear the cars coming from both directions even before they can see each other.

On one particularly difficult, curving hill, I was pulled over to the side because I was hearing a vehicle (or vehicles?) but could not tell from which direction. Then I realized there were two and they were converging right about where I was. As the one approached from behind me, at the lower part of the hill, I motioned with my left hand moving up and down to signal "Slow Down..." and instead the car sped up as it swerved and raced around me only to realize, just in time, that there was a car coming over the hill from the opposite direction. The passing car honked as they went by, and I'm not sure if it was meant to be annoyance or gratitude once they realized that I was only trying to help. So, as a note, for all you drivers out there, keep in mind, if you ever see a cyclist doing that, you know, standing on the road and moving their hand up and down vertically, like they are pressing air into the ground, it means "Slow Down" - that's all. Doesn't mean you have to change lanes to pass, or anything like that, but that a little more caution and a little less speed are in order.

At the top of one of those hills, I passed a house and car I had spotted before. Only this time, the owner, Jackie, was out mowing his lawn. We stopped and chatted for a bit about my trip and then he agreed to let me take his picture.

Of course, the car caught my attention because it looked so much like my old VW Bug, and, as it turned out, it was a '72 model where mine was a '73. Furthermore, according to Jackie, it was still running, which is always good to hear.

I pushed on, sometimes on the bike, and sometimes off, until I got into the congestion of downtown Weatherford. Unfortunately, that included A Lot of construction right on the main road I needed to transit. I tried to avoid as much as I could, but there was a stretch of about a quarter mile that was between me and "freedom". With two lanes of two-way traffic squished to the left side of the road, and a concrete barrier to the right, all of that on yet another hill rising up from the intersection I had come to, there was no way I was going to get up it from there, certainly not walking/pushing my bicycle without causing some major frustration to the traffic behind me.

So instead, I crossed over into the Wal-Mart parking lot, got held up in more traffic, had to dismount my bicycle, feeling somewhat self-conscious with all of the shoppers around, and managed to nudge that troublesome left knee joint of mine out of the socket again, not severely mind you, but had to hyper-extend my leg as I have learned to do to pop it back into place. Then I continued to walk my bicycle past the entrance to the store and towards the far side of the parking lot where I stood on the sidewalk for some time trying to assess my options.

I watched as cars came up and down the nearby road, some of them seeming to come from the construction blocked area I was trying to get to. I concluded there had to be some other route around the businesses' parking lots in that area. So, continuing to walk/push my bicycle mostly against the traffic, and up hill, and then crossing into a very steep parking-lot entrance, I made my way around the front to the access road paralleling the main road, only to be faced with yet another Really Steep (but thankfully short) grade, taking me into another parking area. After catching my breath for a minute, and drinking some more fluids, I dug in and pushed, tippy-toed up the drive, praying to be seen by any oncoming traffic (which was there but, thankfully, managed to avoid me).

Once at this upper parking-lot I was level with the main road again, and could see the narrow gravel path that led back out to it through the construction. Beyond that, and heading south, I had about 20 yards of the two-way traffic, in two lanes, with the concrete barrier to the right, before reaching the lighted intersection. Watching the traffic, the light, and the construction worker watching me, I made my way out, still walking until I was finally able to position myself to cross the rather broad intersection once the light changed.

I pulled way over into the shoulder on the right side as soon as I got through, and maybe went another half-a-mile down the road before I found a gravel road that led to some shade trees where I could park my bicycle, recover for a few minutes, and call my aunt and uncle to let them know I had managed to navigate through the construction. The six miles from their house through town to where I was had taken Three Hours! And there were still more hills to come!

Nevertheless, I was finally On My Way, and relieved to be out of downtown Weatherford! I wish I'd been able to take more pictures, but my main focus was just getting past all of that!

The rest of my journey was relatively uneventful. A lot of it looked like this...

I made a few pit-stops along the way, one at the Springcreek V.F.D. where Barry graciously let me use the bathroom and re-fill my water bottles. I also made a similar pit-stop at Panchitos Mexican Restaurant, just north of Granbury, where three of my bottles were filled with ice water by one of the waitresses there. In addition to these stops, however, given that I now had the capability to prop my bicycle on the side of the road (at least in the more level areas), I was actually able to "go" where I might not have been able to "go" before, especially with a "privacy shield" provided by my green, multi-purpose, nylon cover wrapped around my waist!

(As a side note: I learned about this kind of "privacy shielding" hanging out with the Artemis Racing Team in Maryland. Almost all the women carried either a long skirt or suitably sized towel with them as they were frequently changing into or out of their riding shorts in parking-lots next to the race courses.)

Once again, having that option of safely propping my rig upright on the side of the road was proving to be Very Helpful!

Granted, I would still take advantage of a barrier here and there, like the one provided at my first major water crossing for this part of my trek, at Lake Granbury.

But it is always good to have multiple options!

The sun was getting low as I finally made my way into the town of Granbury proper...

And there were still more hills...

On the road just before my final turn-off these "Three Amigos" came galloping to the fence, curious as ever and ready to pose for their picture...

As I turned onto the street for my host's address, sure enough, there was One More Hill to climb...

And then I was "done" for the day!

My host Susan graciously welcomed me to her home and heavily shaded back patio where we settled in for some great conversations over the next couple of days.

With her husband, Terry, out of town, I had the Guest House (which also served as his "home office") to myself...

...but also filled-in as "Cook" (normally Terry's role), by preparing my "Special Egg Fried Rice" recipe for dinner the second night I was there, using the bean sprouts that I had started soaking the night before in Weatherford, and which, given the nearly perfect conditions of warmth and darkness in the pockets of my panniers, were already ready to eat.

I want to offer a special Thanks to Susan and Terry, for opening up their home and guest house/office to me, and to other cycling travelers via Really sorry I did not get to meet Terry, as I heard great things about him from Susan. I had a wonderful time talking with Susan, telling her about the mission of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and all about Paul K. Chappell and his work as their Peace Leadership Director and of course his writing work to help educate people in how to more effectively "Wage Peace." We also talked a lot about the challenges of family relations and raising children. I must say, I have a lot of respect for how Susan and Terry have been living their lives together and for their Conscious Parenting! I wish them all continued Success and Happiness and I look forward to keeping in touch.

After a couple of days "recovering", enjoying good food, conversation, and accommodation, it was once again time to head on down the road, to my second stop for this trip at the more southern end of hot and hilly, Granbury, Texas...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Taking Care of Some Details in Weatherford, Texas

While I was in Weatherford with my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Jim I had several things that needed to be taken care of before I could get on the road again.

First of all, having gotten a new set of wheels for the trailer after losing the tire off of one of them just west of Luling, TX (the mechanical incident which brought my journey to a temporary end), I was recalling what the manufacturer, Mike Holland at the Wheele Rack Company had said about a "bushing" from the old wheels that needed to be transferred to the new ones. Steve in New Braunfels helped install the new wheels while I was there, and it seemed they went on fine without the bushing. Nevertheless, I wanted to open up those old wheels to see exactly what Mike had been talking about. With my uncle's patient help, we did that, and sure enough, there was a narrow metal cylinder that seemed to be serving a purpose when it wedged between the two sealed bearing cups on each side of the wheel. So we transferred these to the new wheels and, now almost 50 miles later, everything seems to be working just fine.

In addition to addressing this matter with the new trailer wheels, I got to thinking about the trouble I had if I ever needed to stop and get off of my bicycle "in the middle of nowhere". (You know, like to go to the bathroom or something...). I had met Paul Edmenson from England early in my trip and he carried a fairly long, sturdy, wooden stick with him with a fork in it and he would wedge that under the top tube. Since my uncle is a skilled wood-worker, I thought we might be able to come up with something until I looked a little more closely at the bit of PVC pipe with the extra trailer hitch on it that I'd been using as the upright for my trailer stand. I realized, there was something of a notch created by the hitch and the PVC pipe at the top, and otherwise, it was a long leg that could reach to the ground. So I adjusted the hitch up just a little higher and added an easy to attach/disengage strap to the trailer wheel (to keep it from rolling) and, Voila!: A multipurpose bike kick-stand, plus a still usable trailer stand part as well.

This stand adds to the list of "Little Things" that I hope will make this trip a little easier because it solves a persistent problem; i.e. being able to keep my rig upright when I don't have anything to lean it against. One of the other "little problems" that I solved while at my friend Alisa's house was how to keep my charged batteries separate from my uncharged ones (as I use them in either multiples of two or three and the charger has to have four batteries in it to function properly). My solution was to make little nylon bags that were red on one side and green on the other and could be turned inside out or outside in as necessary. When the green side is out, that means the batteries are "Good to Go". When the red side is out it means "Stop-Batteries are Dead".

Finally, and I don't have any pictures of the new bag covers yet as I have not had to use them, but last year I spent a lot of time using an old army poncho to cover my rear panniers when they needed rain protection. It was kind of a hassle because I had to be really careful to make sure none of the excess material, or tie-down cords were going to get caught up in the wheel.

Here's one picture from last year that shows what this looked like...

Upon closer inspection I got it in my head that I just might have enough fabric in that poncho to make more easily attached covers for ALL of my panniers. So that was another project I set out to complete while at my aunt and uncle's house. As my Aunt Joyce was not terribly keen on the idea of my using her Brand New Electronic Sewing machine on the somewhat rugged and coated nylon fabric, I took advantage of "Option 2" instead - and sewed them on her Much Older Singer sewing machine - which worked just fine once we found a bobbin the right size. Not only did I get four covers for the panniers, I even managed to piece together a cover for my saddle - all of which I will be sure and photograph as soon as I Have To Use Them! (As it turned out, I had an extra nylon bag that I made prior to starting my first trip that was just the right size to hold all of the covers and fit neatly, and handily, on the back of the rack over the rear wheel.) In addition, taking all of the reinforced edges off of the poncho Reduced the Weight a bit, and even though, relatively speaking, it doesn't matter That Much right now, I still felt better about the final result - for many reasons.

After taking care of these "critical" issues, I finished putting everything back on the bike...with a little assistance from Thomas the cat...

And then, on Saturday, June 8th, with a bit of trepidation because I have been basically sedentary for the last three months, I was ready to get on the road once again, with my Aunt Joyce taking the pictures and my Uncle Jim posing with me outside their garage where so much work took place over the few days I was there.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to these two relatives of mine who have done so much to help me with my journey!