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.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Getting on the Road Again - The Devil Really IS in the Details!

Since the inception of the idea of riding my bicycle across the country I have faced many challenges, some expected and accepted, others unexpected, but still accepted and sometimes used to advantage wherever possible.

After what turned out to be "Stage II" in 2013 - 400 miles through the Central Texas hill country from my aunt and uncle's house in Weatherford, TX to my last "official" stop from "Stage I" in Luling, TX - my plan was to spend a year in Santa Barbara, working and hopefully saving some money for "Stage III". What I found out the hard way was that most full-time employers were not willing to hire and train me for just a year of work, and, of course, that time frame grew shorter and shorter with each month that passed. Eventually, I felt I had to set aside my "dream" for an indefinite period of time to be able to work and live in Santa Barbara at all. In the mean time, I continued to work temporary jobs through Office Team with my last assignment being at the City of Goleta.

In the early part of July, one potential full-time employer called me back. I had interviewed with them several weeks before and because I was honest about wanting to finish my bike ride in the spring/summer, and that was their busiest time of year, they chose another candidate instead. However, at the time they contacted me, they were still facing a growing customer base and filling a big gap that had been left by a long-time employee who had passed away. Since I had changed my mind about continuing my bike trip right away, I accepted their offer and went to work about two weeks later, giving the City of Goleta proper notice in order to wrap up any last-minute projects I was working on for them.

I had been told upon hiring that the work was going to be stressful. That I was going to have to accept a lot of complicated instruction and correction. After 8 years in the Navy, I figured I could handle it. I know how to pay attention to detail, and I'm not shy of working hard.

However, what I was maybe not as prepared for was - you know - office politics. And since they had already sent another woman away in tears, my guard was up just a little. And, sure enough, by the end of the week "training by default" i.e. letting me answer phones, make lots of mistakes, and then correcting me after each call, started to take its toll. However, before it did any real damage to my psyche, I gently but firmly stood up for myself, basically saying "I just need to take a break from being constantly corrected for a while," especially in light of the way I was being trained, i.e. no real scripts to go by, and having multiple people involved in correcting me, without everyone knowing who was telling me what and when or how often. I'm a pretty self-confident person, so when I started to lose that feeling of self-confidence even with regards to parts of the job that I was handling without problem, I knew there was "something else" going on, and I took what I felt were rational and functional steps to deal with it, directly, at the lowest level, first; i.e. with the person who was "primarily" responsible for training me.

Apparently, that did not go over well with her, and eventually I found myself in a somewhat impromptu conference with the owner of the business and the other woman who was also less directly involved in training me. I thought things got at least somewhat resolved at that point, finished the work week, and even went out to celebrate my new job on Friday evening. However, by Saturday morning, I found an e-mail in my inbox from the owner saying,"I don't think you are a good fit for this job. I hoped it would work but there is stress in the work place." Of course, that was a bit of a shock, and kind of a let down, although, admittedly, I was not looking forward to continuing to work there under the circumstances I have described above. To soften the blow (I guess), the owner also offered another week's "severance pay" and asked me to come meet with him that day. When I went in to pick up my check, there was no antipathy expressed from either of us towards one another, but from the conversation, I was left to conclude, that there were issues with one or more of the other people (women) I was having to work with. And really, not something I could have done much about, so I "Let it Go!" (And yes, actually, I was thinking about using the "adult" clip of the chorus, but have to keep in mind there may be younger people reading my blog! And, otherwise, at this time of year it is more that "the heat never bothered me anyway"...although, it can sometimes, but I've learned how to deal with it!)

True to the song, none of that really mattered. I just had to Roll with It! Something I have learned to do both figuratively and literally in the past three years. I went back home, started to put some more energy into re-writing and updating my resume' and in the course of doing that it struck me...with my first pay check from this company, plus the second "severance" check, and my last pay check from my last week at the City of Goleta all coming into my hands simultaneously - I was sitting on about $900 (even after the money I spent "celebrating" Friday night). I'd worked a lot harder to earn and/or "save" a lot less before starting my other bike trips. So, maybe, just maybe, this would be enough to get me back on the road again...

As things have turned out...It was...along with lots of support from my friends and other associates in Santa Barbara!.

So with regards to "the Devil Being in the Details..." - a lot of the challenge of doing what I'm doing started in my case with getting semi-organized chaos like this:

10 x 15 Storage

And this:

Stage I Yard Sale

Stage I "Garage Sale"

And this:

Stuff for Stage I

And this:

Stage I and II Stuff

And this:

Transition between Stage 1 and Stage II
Packing in Santa Barbara to return to Jacksonville, FL

Stuff for Stage III

At various times to look more like this:

5 x 10 Storage

And progressively this:

5 x 5 Storage

And this:

Local Storage in Santa Barbara, CA

And of course this:

Stage I and II Rig

And now this:

Stage III Rig

But that's not all...

There's food as well that started out like this:

Rations for the Road

And this:


Initially using a bag like this:

Large Insulated Food Bag

And filling it like this:

Egg Fried Rice

And this:

for Finger Salads and Smoothies

But that didn't work out so well because food that needed to be refrigerated or refrozen was buried too deeply in the trailer to get to once I reached the residence of one of my hosts. So eventually I moved the food to the back two panniers where I could get to it more easily using smaller insulated bags to hold everything. Now I have all of that down to one back pannier, including space in one of the side pockets for making my mung bean and lentil sprouts and soaked sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. And, of course, all of those go into the egg fried rice recipe that I try to cook for my hosts as often as possible (depending on the timing and how long I stay with them).

In addition, I pack food for while I'm actually on the road like this:

Finger Salad

Cheese and Crackers and Peanut-Apricot-Chocolate Candy Trail Mix

It goes into my handle bar bag along with my a Luna Bar, homemade green smoothie, cashews and Brazil nuts, and Dulse flakes...

Luna Bar
Green Smoothie, Dulse, and Nut Containers

And my "cutlery"...

Cutlery - with Custom Duct Tape Knife Cover
stored in a nylon compact umbrella cover

Loaded Handle Bar Bag
Bag on the Bike

All that fits on the front of the bike where it is easy to get to. I also carry two 27 oz Klean Kanteens one with a sport top and the other with a regular one. I found it was better to have a regular one on the bottle when I was shaking up the water and Clif Shot electrolyte powder. So I will stop and switch the lids over as necessary throughout the day.

And I keep all of these things, including a few others in my diet both off and on the road as I incorporate "My Top 20 Foods":

My Top 20 Foods

I have chosen these particular foods for the following reasons: 1) They are nutritionally dense. 2) They are relatively easy to access pretty much everywhere in the country, 3) They are relatively inexpensive. Even though the nuts may be the most expensive of the other items, as a source of non-meat protein, I've found I don't have to eat a lot of them to be satisfied. 4) I actually Enjoy Eating these foods and have been pretty consistently for about six years now. And 5) I CAN actually maintain my diet this way while I am on the road. (See my post: Food Basics Part VI... for more details on nutritional data and sources.)

Given what I have learned from Stages I and II, I now pack all this food:

My Road Food, etc.

Into this bag:

Food Pannier (Bontrager nylon pannier with custom side pockets.)

Wherein I use my frozen smoothies and another ice pack to keep the rest of my refrigerator items cold - like cheese, soy sauce, roasted sesame oil, and the occasional Trader Joe's chicken sausage (to mix with my egg fried rice).

Smoothie Freezer/Refrigerator

The Rubbermaid "Take Along" containers stack on top of each other in the bottom of the pannier, followed by the lunch bag, and other cold packs. Then I pile my rain gear on top (where it's handy if I need it) but also where it provides additional insulation for the refrigerator/freezer bag. My grater/box fits in the bottom of one pocket and I can fit all three sprout jars on top of that, two upright and one on it's side. The other pocket holds the box of crackers, my bicycle tool bag, pump, lock and 20oz bags of Clif Shot Electrolyte Powder which I've been able to find at REI stores.

The opposite pannier holds what I refer to as my "administrative gear":

"Admin" Gear

What you see here is my original "Intellectual Busking" box and accessories (just in case I need to busk while I'm on the road), another donation container that holds markers and pens, a very beat up copy of my "Pocket Constitution", and my scissors for cutting apart my business cards. The blue clipboard holds some important papers along with some plain copy paper and card stock (for printing the business cards). I have my green journal that I use for keeping track of my host/logistical info as well as my "We'Moon" calendar in which I put daily entries for past and future reference. Then there's my sewing kit which has already been used multiple times on this trip (often for my host's mending projects). One item not showing is my iPad keyboard that gets stored in the box as well for protection. All these items and a few others go inside the main body of the pannier, while my extra water bottle (for head towel wetting) and my LifeSaver Filter Bottle go in the added side pockets. (See "Miscellaneous" photo below.)

The front two panniers I reserve for clothing, towels, and toiletries. I store my "sets" of clothes in a mesh bag, inside a plastic bag that gets labeled with the contents.

A typical riding set of clothes includes Sport Bra, Gore Women's Baselayer (Super Wicking) Singlet, shorts and cycle top.

Typical Riding Set

There are multiple advantages to this mesh bag/plastic bag system for storing clothes: 1) I keep my clean clothes separate from my dirty clothes; i.e. I know the clothes are clean if they are in the mesh bags. Outside the mesh bags means they are dirty. 2) Having things in "sets" means I have everything I need when I head to someone's bathroom or a camp shower. 3) The plastic bags make for added water protection. 4) The labeling makes it easy to figure out what is what. 5) When it comes time to wash delicate items, I have plenty of mesh bags to use.

In addition to clothes I pack the toiletries shown here:

Toiletries, etc.

These include DZ Nuts Bliss Women's Chamois Cream, Nature's Gate Fragrance Free Moisturizing Lotion (in an 8 oz bottle), Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap (8 oz size), Nature's Gate Herbal Shampoo (8 oz bottle), hair detangler (I reuse this slim bottle and fill it with CVS Brand spray-in detangler found in the baby shampoo section), comb, toothbrush, toothpaste with carrying bag, razor and extra blades in travel case, Atwater Carey Light and Dry 1 Person First Aid Kit. (I used to work for this company when I lived in Buena Vista, Colorado.) Custom nylon bag with hair "scrunchies", etc., Trader Joe's Sun Screen for sensitive skin (for my face), crystal deodorant (for when sweating doesn't matter), regular sun screen for the rest of my body, Bee Propolis tincture (for gum treatment as needed), and another custom bag that holds make-up and a travel size regular deodorant/antiperspirant (for when sweating does matter).

All these items fit into a "Travel Bag" that is one of the few items I have left from my much earlier years sewing for "Networks" in Missoula, MT.

The Old Red and Black Travel Bag

Then that bag fits (barely!) into the top of the pannier on top of the other clothes I also store in that bag.

Red Bag fits in the top of the pannier.

The typical organization plan when these bags get packed is to keep clothes, towels, etc., that I might need shortly after I arrive at someone's house in the left side pannier where it is the most accessible.

Packed Front Panniers

With regards to shelter...apart from my Couch Surfing and Warm Showers hosts...

I initially designed and sewed my own tent. The floor of the tent was also a clothes bag which folded out to create more of a padded surface to sleep on. I carried it on a rack I also constructed to fit on top of my Wheele Bike Trailer.

Tent Floor/Clothes Bag on Custom Rack for Wheele Trailer

Unfolded Tent Floor/Clothes Bag

The tent itself needed to be strung between two trees and then the bottom walls were zipped into the floor, leaving an intentional overhang of about one foot on the sides and about a foot-and-a-half on each end so that I could put shoes, etc., outside to keep dry but also keep from tracking dirt into the tent.

The tent had a zippered door, and mesh net front and back screens with zippered nylon panels, very similar to store-bought tents.

Overall, it was fairly functional, and I eventually made an additional rain fly to cover the main part of the tent.

Tent with Rain Fly

There were limitations though with this prototype tent - I needed two supports (which I have sensed all along that I would not find going through various desert areas and the greater expanse of Texas), and it was on the small side inside. Room for some gear and to sit-up (barely), but otherwise, a pretty close fit.

Consequently, I was not averse to leaving the tent behind when I left New Braunfels, Texas at the end of Stage II, and later picking up another tent in Santa Barbara - for only $10 off of Craig's List! Hexagonal, free standing, and not terribly heavy, it's turned out to be a good tent so far, although it has not had to endure any rain just yet.

New Tent

I've already had two opportunities to try it out...

Host's Yard in Coast Village

Pt. Mugu State Park

In addition to the new tent I have a green "standard issue" mummy-style sleeping bag (given to me by my friend Alisa), a roll-up pillow, and a blue, light-weight hooded jacket that all fit in a custom-made blue nylon bag, as well as a $10 foam camp pad from K-mart. I have a pair of Trader Joe's shopping bags fit together end-to-end (so everything is covered and water protected) that contain some of my cold weather clothes, bulkier first aid and toiletry items, my rain fly from the old tent and another nylon tarp that fits over my bicycle. I'm also carrying one pair of regular shoes (black, closed-toed, Birks) and my turtle hat and fluorescent riding vest, and a sleepingbag style sheet that works well on couches because it doesn't slip off! I also have one of those Girl Scout style tuna-can, cardboard and wax "stoves" with a blue enameled metal bowl and a pineapple can chimney should I ever need to heat anything at a campsite without a fire pit or grill.

Other Miscellaneous Stuff

Finally, I ended up buying one of those collapsible coolers when I stayed with my host in Ventura, since she does not use a refrigerator in her house. (Instead she uses a large clay pot within a clay pot with a layer of sand between the two and a plywood lid on top that she keeps outside to take advantage of nighttime temps and shade. I think she said her electric bill was $4 for the month!) I had brought frozen smoothies with me and wanted to keep them as cood as possible before heading to Pt. Mugu. (More about that later!)

The advantage of having all of these items kind of piled on the back of my bicycle has been that I have this relatively flat wall of space where I can display signage...

New Signage

This has proven to be an effective way to let passers-by, either on foot, by vehicle, or by bicycle, know that I do have a mission and needs and how they can help. And it has been very encouraging over the last 30 days just how many people have stepped-up, or driven-up, or ridden-up to do just that! I get a little boost of dopamine each time that happens and it keeps me going!

Because in case this blog post has not already made it clear, there is actually A Lot of Work involved in keeping all of this "stuff" organized. And that's before I even get on the bike to work my leg muscles and heart muscles and lungs and will power! Given the difficulty of uploading photos via my iPad and into the Blogger platform, this post has taken at least 10 hours to produce. In other words, I may not be working a typical day job, but I am definitely working. At the same time, I really can't imagine any more meaningful work then this work that I am doing, and I am grateful for the opportunity, and especially grateful to all of the people who have supported me thus far.

And journey continues...

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