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.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

"I've Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night" - Part III

Remembering July 27 - August 1, 2013

From the home of Daniel and Anne I traveled North again...I had made a commitment some days earlier to help my host Kesten move to a new apartment and I timed my visit just for that purpose. As it turned out I ended up helping him AND his housemate at the time, Vanessa.

It took me a while to fully understand where to meet Kesten, as he was back and forth between apartments on the day of my arrival, but eventually, I found him at the old apartment and helped load the last of his things.

The building he was living in was mainly for students of the local university and it happened to be the end-of-the-year moving weekend for All of Them. It was pretty crazy, especially since the elevators ran so s-l-o-w-l-y! Given the heavy traffic up and down, they actually had attendants, whom I did not envy for having to spend their day stuck in an antiquated elevator, frequently squeezed in tight with lots of "stuff" and hot, sweaty students moving all of that stuff!

So, it was a great test of patience for everyone. But we persevered and got Kesten relocated to his new place. While there, I took on another "special project" sewing the seam of his couch arm back together.

Of course there can be no "before" shot without the "after"...

Seems I'm developing something of a portfolio for this kind of work - including a leather couch at my friend Brenda's house in St. Augustine, FL, and then there was another host Donna's couch in Apalachicola, FL, and now this for Kesten in Austin, TX!

Photo Copyright 2014 Sophie Wu Photography
One of the benefits of spending a day and an evening at Kesten's new place was having a Buddhist temple within walking distance. We went to visit Xiang Yun Temple on Sunday afternoon and found people there to welcome us, although we had missed the larger service for the day.

We were shown downstairs as part of our tour and, as it turned out, this facility provided free Chinese health care from various practitioners in the community. Both Kesten and I received massages, the first I'd had for both "Stage I" and "Stage II". I felt especially lucky to have the senior practitioner, Kevin Lou himself give me my massage as there were also several younger people there who, I had to assume, were interns that were getting opportunities to practice under his guidance. (Photo from the "FGS Xiang Yun Temple" Facebook page.)

The next day I returned to the old apartment with plans to help Vanessa with the rest of her things. During the day, though, I had a chance to go to lunch with another Warm Showers host Steve Godfrey. Steve has done quite a bit of his own cross-country cycling with his Bike Tour de Life. When not cycling cross-country you can find him cycling around Austin hand-delivering fliers to local businesses. From the way he talked about it, I could tell he'd been doing that long enough for it to be something of an art for him. We had a good time hanging out and exchanging stories of the road and even though I wasn't able to stay with him, it was nice to make the connection and I appreciated his generous offer to pay for my meal.

I spent my last night back at the old apartment, "camping" on my sleeping pad. While there I helped Vanessa load the rest of her things into her vehicle. I also took responsibility for returning keys and paperwork the next morning to the apartment authorities since Vanessa was going to be at work. Before I left the apartment, I did my best to make sure as many of the items on the "Inspection Checklist" were done, like wiping down counters and the refrigerator. Unfortunately, there was no broom left behind for the floors. In addition, between two sets of previous lessors and/or sub-lessors, there were several bits and pieces of furniture left behind. Nothing I could do about that, but I helped in all the other ways I felt I could. It was a bit strange though being in that position, the last person out of a place I had only "lived" for one night!

I had a full day ahead to spend "noodling" my way back through Austin, as my last stop was not too far away and my next host was not going to be home until later in the evening. Consequently, I took my time. I rested for a while in one of the parks along the Colorado River. I safety-pinned some larger signage to my trailer, hand-written on the backs of pages from one of those desk-top blotter calendars that had been left at the apartment. I was kind of testing the idea to see how people responded. One guy offered me a Snickers bar that was left-over from his lunch as a show of support.

I took my Keens off and let my feet rest in the water of the man-made pond I was sitting next to, and practiced some "stalking" skills by holding my cupped hands under the water and letting the little minnows swim into them. I was able to catch a few of the smaller ones, but the larger ones were more wary and capable of catapulting themselves out of my hands as I slowly lifted them up, letting the water drain away. Of course, it was all "catch and release" for that day - but good to practice should I ever need minnows for bait in the future!

I had made up my mind to get to the Barton Springs Pool before I left Austin. I had actually been there before, I want to say in the late '90s, before I joined the Navy. I went to visit some people who would later stay in my somewhat isolated cabin in Colorado during the "Y2K" transition/scare. However, on this occasion, I only had $3 left, and maybe a little change, and I knew the cost of admission was going to be $3. I tried to swing a freebie by explaining that I was riding my bicycle across the country, but the attendants were not impressed. So, I paid them my last $3 and figured something else would work out. I had food still, and not too many more miles, or stops to go to reach Luling.

And so, I chilled my hot body in the cool springs for a while. Feeling a little self-conscious of my biker's tan as I walked around in my swimwear. It was only as I was working my way to the far side of the pool that I realized there was another area, on the other side of the lower end of the pool where people were also cooling down in what I later found out were the "free" areas on the other side of the fence. Of course, the attendants failed to bring this to my attention at the time I was paying them my Last $3! So...I paid for deeper water, but I doubt it was that much colder. Chalk that up to another lesson learned for how to save money while visiting Austin, Texas!

After swimming for a while, then showering, and getting back into my riding gear, I sat at the eating areas for my cheese and crackers and celery "lunch" and noticed the bees seeking soda drippings around my table. Given the recent reports I'd come across on still decreasing bee populations, I thought I'd try to help the little buggers out with a few drops here and there of my electrolyte drink mix. Sure enough they started to catch on pretty quick and so I upped the offerings to fit into the cap of one of my plastic smoothie bottles. First there were two or three...

Then there were a few more...

And a few more after that...until all the cap I'd pored had been sucked up into their little bee bellies!

There was a group of mostly young girls that came close to my table, some of them being very dramatic about their fear of the bees, so I tried to help them understand that they should not be afraid and that we needed to protect the bees as they were so important for pollinating the flowers for our food. They mostly just looked at me funny. And then ran away from my table squealing!

Since my bike and trailer had been parked in a pretty high traffic area I was able to keep an eye on it from my picnic table. At least a couple of people stopped by and I went over to answer their questions. All-in-all it was a good stop, and I wasn't regretting spending my Last Three Dollars too much!

As I headed back to the main road I stopped at a bike rental shop to put some air in my tires. Although the mechanic on duty was pretty focused inside, I invited him out to see my "rig". He then went to get his boss, the owner of the business, Mark Mitchell. Mark was very intrigued with what I was doing, appreciating the "spirit" of it all. When he heard my tail of having to pay my Last $3 at the pool, he went back inside and came back with a spare tube and $20 to see me on my way. I assured him I would make it last and he trusted my word on that.

I still had a few more hot and hilly miles left to go and through some of the busier streets of south Austin. However, by just about the right time, I made it to my Couch Surfing host for the evening, Peg Fuller. We had some friendly interaction and conversation as I rested there for a couple of nights. And then it was back on the road again, with two more stops to go before my last leg to Luling.

Outside Peg Fuller's house on my way to San Marcos, Texas.