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...

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