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, January 25, 2015

First Update for 2015 - Part I

Hi, Everybody!!! And Happy New Year!!!

I know it's been a while since my last post. More details about why to follow, but for now let's just say that I've kind of been on an unplanned "Holiday Break" here in El Paso, TX. All is well though and I look forward to getting back on the road soon!

To pick up where I left off, several weeks ago now, heading out of Duncan, AZ....

As it was a fairly long stay for me at the Simpson Hotel including a significant weather shift requiring the new clothing I pictured in my last post, it took a little longer to get everything arranged and packed than usual when my final departure day arrived. In addition, I had a lot of last minute details to take care of like buying a new ($9) phone with a little more internet capability from the Duncan Family Dollar and mailing some things forward to my planned stopping place in Columbus, GA. I finally pulled away around 2:00 pm with Lordsburg, NM as my destination about 36 miles southeast. With only moderate hills to climb on the way I thought I might just be able to make it before sundown.

I saw Sand Hill Cranes gathered in this water-logged field less than a mile outside of Duncan followed by more of the wide open desert chapparall I had grown accustomed to from my previous weeks on the road as well as the two or three side trips I took with Deborah and Clayton from the Simpson Hotel.

I still had plenty of sunlight as I crossed the Arizona-New Mexico border, although as I was setting-up this shot I started to feel slightly apprehensive as one of the big semi-trucks hauling a load of copper sheets came into the pull-out area right behind me. I eventually went on ahead and remember seeing the truck pass me again later in the day. But, no real need to worry as apparently the driver was just making a stop to talk to someone on the phone.

About 7-10 miles out of Lordsburg, the sun went down on me, and as I anticipated, it started to get cold really quick. Rather than wait at all, I pulled out my extra layers - my new foot gaiters, hand gaiters and gloves, my long-sleeve sport jacket as well as my wind/rain gear, and head/neck cover. Much to my chagrin, I wasn't on the bike five minutes before I started to OVERHEAT! I took my gloves and hand gaiters off and that helped, but for the rest of the trip the rest of me stayed bundled anyway.

Along with a few stretches through Arizona, I think I will remember this as one of the harder ones. Once it got dark, it was Really Dark, no moon to speak of and no street lights. I was back on the bike after a fairly long break so I was feeling more tired than I might have otherwise. Although I had considered staying at the Lordsburg KOA and had made contact with the manager for the night, I had some problems navigating once I got into town and missed a turn somewhere. Besides, I wasn't looking forward to being sweaty and then cold while trying to set-up my tent in the dark, so I opted for the first cheap motel I came to instead. Feeling quite chilled, I even took a very rare hot bath for a change, although I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't make it a Really Hot bath since the water temperature just didn't make it up that high.

The next morning I spent a little time activating and familiarizing myself with my new phone before re-packing my bags and loading up the bike. The only place to stay between Lordsburg and Deming was going to be a rest stop about half-way in between, my second rest-stop so far along this journey. It was a nice day though, not too much wind, and in general I was making good time.

As I pedaled down the road I started to see billboards in the fields at regular intervals advertising "Southwest Gifts", etc. Driving in a car, people might not notice them quite as much, but being on a bicycle, I had plenty of time to read Every Single One of Them. Having a minimal background in advertisting, I kept thinking about the "Rule of Seven"; i.e. if you see an advertisement at least seven times you're more likely to respond to it. Well, there were far more than seven of those billboards on the road and, not surprisingly, when I finally got to the exit, I thought, "What the heck, I'll make a pit stop!"

Once inside I began talking with the two women working there as well as a woman who was making purchases. Her name was Susan and she turned out to be a cycling enthusiast herself. I talked with her about signing up to be a host on Warmshowers and she was generous enough to offer me a $5 donation as well. With that donation I purchased a mug so I would have something to boil water in a microwave the next time I was in a motel, something I realized I needed with my stop in Lordsburg. Although the mug had a southwest theme, unfortunately, like so many other items at the store, it was "Made in China".

Having overheard my conversation with the other women, another man there named Dean came out to talk to me about my trip, and to soak up a little inspiration since he has a dream of doing a cross country ride himself. He appreciated my efforts and informed me that there were other Bowlins stores along the route and that he might look into getting them on the Warmshowers map as well in some way in order to better support touring cyclists. (Of course, I didn't know at the time that this stop, and the fact that I chose to make a purchase there, would become a much more significant event later on down the road!)

Eventually I reached the marker for The Continental Divide, actually, for the second time as I had crossed it at another point when I was site seeing with Mons Larson while I was visiting with him in Safford, AZ. Not only is The Continental Divide a major geographical feature of the North American continent, it's a route marker for cyclists like myself as well.

With only about 30 miles to the rest stop, it was a pretty easy ride. Of note is the fact that using only the "map" mode on my Map My Ride map showed the stop as a mere diviation of the road away from the main road.

However, by using the satellite version and zoomed in a lot, the paths and shelter buildings became much more obvious.

I was able to find a shelter facing away from the worst of the wind and took a moment to watch the sun go down outside "my window".

As it was still windy and quite cold, I decided to adhere to my Survival Skills training and see to my shelter/bed first. I used the two tarps I am carrying with me to tightly enclose the base of the concrete table and chairs, figuring I could just fit underneath it to sleep for the night. Not only would this block the wind, it would also block most of the light from the fixture overhead which stayed on all night.

(I know the light was there for my "protection", but otherwise is was really annoying!)

I used my tuna can/pineapple juice can heating system along with the blue enamel camp bowl I picked up specifically for this purpose to boil some water. As the temps were really low, I figured out that the water would boil more quickly if I kept the bowl covered somehow, and I ended up using some newspaper I found in the trash with the lid from my plastic lunch box to weight it down a little. Once the water got to boiling I added a can of chicken and a mix of mung bean and lentil sprouts, topped off with some Dulse seaweed for "Chicken Soup" which turned out to be quite tastey! (A first time experiment for me.)

As I was eating my chicken soup I heard the distinct sound of a cat meowing VERY LOUDLY near my shelter. By now it was full dark, although the light was on over the table. I took one of my head lamps outside the shelter to scout around in search of eye reflections. Seeing nothing I went back into the shelter just in time to see a small dark streak of an animal darting in from the other side, and, to my surprise, heading straight into my "bed room"!

I thought to myself, "Smart cat!" because, not only had it figured out where the warm spot was going to be for the night, I suspect the smell of my chicken soup made it aware there was food to be had as well. Out in the middle of nowhere, I knew this cat could not have gotten here easily on its own, so it was probably abandoned. Furthermore, seeing how it was not the least bit shy about being around a human being, I knew it had had contact with humans previously, adding fuel to the abandonment hypothesis.

As it turned out, I did just happen to have more canned meats with me, including a can of salmon. Figuring the kitten had not eaten or had much to drink, given its scrawny condition and the arid climate, I was sure to mix small portions of the meat with water. It proceeded to consume all of it voraciously, meowing the entire time as well...something it continued to do almost non-stop, except for when it was sleeping. (I suspected it was something it had been doing ever since it was abandoned and it was finding it very hard to stop meowing even though it was now, finally, getting its needs met, at least somewhat.)

I made sure not to feed the kitten too much at a time, so it would not end up being sick, while I also realized it was probably going to want more as the night went on, given its size (i.e. still a "baby" needing regular feedings). Furthermore, as it was hesitant to let me out of its sight and I did not want it following me around in the freezing cold, I tucked the kitten into my jacket with each trip I made to the bathroom - 2 or three of them - over the next 10 hours or so.

After returning on one these occasions, I put the kitten down so I had my hands free to put more food and water in its bowl. It headed for the cushy bed and I did not realize until it was too late that it decided to use it for a bathroom! I imagined that it didn't want to be walking around outside on the cold ground and in the cold night air looking for a place to relieve itself. Since I had pushed the top of my mummy sleeping bag back closer to the table opening, that's where the kitten's pee soaked in the most, smelling, not surprisingly, like salmon! It also soaked into the fluffy blanket, and my outer sheet!

There wasn't much night left but I was determined to try to get a little more sleep, in spite of all of the disruptions. So I could continue to at least use it for padding, I flipped the sleeping bag around so the foot was at the head of the bed. Where the blanket had been wrapped around top and bottom, I now pulled both layers on top with the damp part towards my feet. I was already bundled up with my hat, gloves, warmer jacket with hood and windbreaker, foot gaiters over my wool sock covered feet, as well as wearing my windpants over my pants and long underwear. Miss Kitty figured out early on that the warmest place for her was on or near my neck, where she slept peacefully until she was ready to get up and eat again.

Thus we passed the night, more wrestlessly than restfully! In addition, I knew I would not be able to leave the kitten behind and that's when my purchase at the Bowlin's Continental Divide store became more significant. The next morning I pulled out my receipt, and, sure enough, there was a phone number on it!

I took my time packing up, especially since all the damp bedding needed some time to hang and dry out. I used my stove to boil more water for tea and oatmeal and even used some of my malted vanilla powdered milk to make "warm milk" for the kitten. After openning up a can of sardines to go with the milk, I think she finally got enough to eat, and was content to sit on the drying blanket, bathing, and soaking up the warm morning sun.

I called the Bowlin's store around 8:00 am, and spoke to the manager, Larry. I explained that I had been there on my bicycle the day before and that now I was at the rest stop 10 miles down the road with an abandoned kitten that I was not able to take with me. He understood, and said he would get there as soon as he could after the other employees came to work around 9:00.

Larry followed through as promised and brought a box with some shredded paper in it to put the kitten in for the drive back to the store. He taped it, but left a little flap open for the kitten to see out of. He decided to put this in the passenger seat next to him, then went back to close the tailgait of the minivan he was driving. Funny thing was, the kitten was not going to have anything to do with that box! No, she was out by the time he got back to the driver's seat and rolling around happily on the sun-warmed dashboard of the car, right in front of the steering wheel! Larry laughed, admitting defeat, and reached up to scatch her head before he drove away.

Still feeling a bit tired myself, I was nevertheless grateful that I was able to help out my little sleeping buddy for the night. I have since called back to the store to confirm that the kitten was given a new home with a mother and her young son! So, mission accomplished!