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.