Pedaling for Peace
On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.
Monday, 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 WarmShowers.org. 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...