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.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

First Update for 2015 - Part II

The ride to Deming from the rest stop was backed by a very strong wind from the west which I really only felt when I stopped for my usual breaks along the road. The shoulder was in pretty good condition as well, so there were times when I was up to 15 mph (judging by my watch and the mile markers), which is probably about top speed for me on level ground.

As I came into town, I decided to stop for a short break at the picnic tables outside the Sonic. There was a silver vehicle parked on the other side of the railing and two women finishing up their meals inside. Eventually, they got out to walk the dog they had with them and that is when they observed me there and struck up conversation with me. When one of the women, Sue, found out I was heading to El Paso, she explained that I had to meet her nephew there, and gave me his name, address, and phone number. (Little did I know at the time, that this information would prove particularly meaningful later on down the road!) The women left me with encouraging words and a small donation as well for which I was, as always, very grateful.

Prior to my departure from Duncan, AZ I had made contact with the owner of the "Push-N-Pedal" in Deming, hoping he might have an idea of where I might stay for the night. As he explained, there would be a dinner where I would join with other homeless people from the community and then whoever needed a place to stay would be assigned to available apartments in the Agape Village, one person per apartment.

I made my way over to the location to kind of check things out, but since it was only 4:45 or so I still had a while to wait. As I continued kind of "wandering" through the nearby neighborhood I spotted a laundry mat and since I was definitely in need of some big washers and dryers to clean all of my linens from the misadventures with the kitten the night before, I felt lucky to find it so close. The only potential problem was the fact that it would be closing around 5:30.

I unloaded my gear and got everything into the washers as quickly as possible and then sat down to wait while knitting my second pair of "sleeping socks". There were only a couple of other people in the laundry mat besides the woman managing it. However, before the time was up on the washers and dryers, we had all started talking. The manager offered me a long-sleeve "DanceSkin" like shirt, she thought I might need as another layer in the cold weather. The woman who was doing laundry, Kim, was quite friendly and when I told her about my plan for accommodations for the night she was a bit concerned. She had some contacts at the Fire Department, and since finishing up my laundry had taken me past the 6:00 meeting time at Agape Village I was open to letting her lead me to fire station to see if they might have a place for me to stay instead.

As some calls needed to be made to see if that were going to be possible, we left my bicycle locked outside and, per her request, I accompanied Kim to a rather remote location some ways out of town to drop off the laundry she'd actually been doing for a man that she knew. We stopped at his house for a few minutes and I talked to him about my trip and about the WarmShowers community that supported touring cyclists like myself, before we headed back to the Fire Station.

When we got back, Kim dropped me off and I spent the next hour or so with Captain Acosta. Unfortunately, due to liability concerns, I would not be able to stay at the firehouse. However, Captain Acosta made some calls to other local organizations he knew of that might be in a position to host me. Although none of those options panned out, he was very generous with some food donations, offering me multiple cans of tuna and salmon, before I went back into to town, deciding that a motel room was probably going to be my "last resort" for the night.

I checked in to the "Butterfield Stage Motel", one of the cheapest I could find, and began settling into my room. Unfortunately, it was not long before I spotted small red and black insects, about the size of a tick, crawling on the bed and walls. Although I had never seen them before, I suspected that these were the dreaded "Bed Bugs" and I knew this could be a real problem. However, it was getting late and I figured even if I complained about it and they offered to move me to another room, it might be just as likely to have them as this one. Instead, I opted for covering both beds with the two nylon tarps I had with me, sleeping on one in my own sleeping bag and putting my gear on the other since, again, I had a flat tire to repair which meant removing everything from the bicycle!

Needless to say, I slept somewhat wrestlessly on this night as well, on top of the even more wrestless night I spent at the rest stop with the kitten. In the morning, I repaired my tire, and was very, very thorough in inspecting all of my gear as I loaded it back on the bike. Before leaving, I stopped at the front desk with a small plastic bag holding the tissues on which I had multiple squashed bed bugs. I was not angry or anything, but I just wanted to calmly and peacefully make the manager aware of the situation. After ringing the bell, I was expecting to see the older gentleman who had checked me in the night before. Instead a younger, dark-haired man appeared and led me to an older woman in the "house" part of the office/building. This man turned out to be her physical therapist. When I showed her the bugs and explained my experience she expressed some concern, she was sorry it had happened, and she said she would make sure the room was treated; however, she did not then voluntarily offer to refund any of the cost of the room (which, honestly, I felt would have been appropriate under the circumstances). Nevertheless, I accepted the situation for what it was and proceeded to chat amiably with the therapist who followed me out the door, curious to know more about my journey.

As we said our good-bye's I noticed the weather had become quite overcast and chilly, a seeming reflection of my mood after my rough night at the motel. I headed on down the road, recognizing some parts of the town where I had already ridden the day and evening before. Less than a mile from the motel a car pulled past me on the left and then crossed in front of me, stopping on the side of the road. I saw a hand thrust out the window with a bill waving enthusiastically. I recognized this "invitation" and pulled up alongside the car where a woman inside explained that she saw my sign and really appreciated what I was doing, backing up her appreciation with a $20.00 donation. I thanked her graciously and continued on my way thinking, "Now the room only cost me $15.00 so I guess that wasn't such a bad deal after all!" Even if the older woman was reluctant to be so generous, someone in the town of Deming made up for that, and it really helped to balance things out for me overall!

With a fresh psychological/biochemical boost from receiving another donation (I've learned that the amount really doesn't matter, it's the act of kindness and generosity that "strikes home"), I was once again ready to tackle the road ahead which would lead me to the town of Las Cruces, NM. I had two WarmShowers hosts to meet this time, John and Donetta and later Jeff and Liz.

I must have been traveling during Sand Hill Crane migration season. Passing another significant water hole, I could see birds flying in from multiple directions. It was one of those moments when I wish I had a better camera, with a zoom lens, so it would be clearer that the opposite side of the "lake" in this picture was covered with birds! I guess it was one of those occasions where it was all about being there and no better way to do that, in my opinion, than on a bicycle!

Given my route for the day was a little over 60 miles, a longer trip than usual for me, I was relieved as I always am when I came to that point where the road started to dip down into the valley wherein lay the town of Las Cruces, NM. This scene has actually played itself out in various ways multiple times on this journey, and it is always encouraging.

One significant landmark I had to cross as I came into town was the Rio Grande. Admittedly, that turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, since all that was showing for this season was a wide expanse of packed dirt. (In other words, it wasn't so "grande"!)

As you can see by the above photos, it was starting to get dark and I still had a few miles to reach my first host. Nevertheless, I persevered through evening traffic and managed to reach John and Donetta's without incident. There I also met Ben, a cyclist coming from the east along the Southern Tier, and John took us both out to dinner at one of the local sandwich shops.

Ben was one of the first riders I'd encountered who was carrying about as much gear, including food, as I have been. Saturday morning, after changing yet another flat and struggling a little with disassembling and cleaning my derailleur and putting it back together again, Ben and I rode to the Farmer's Market, sharing our experiences of being on the road along the way. Unfortunately, Ben ended up leaving his wallet at John's house so we had to back track to get it before he was really able to get underway for the day.

I had already been planning to stay a little longer with John and Donetta, in part to rest up from my last two days of riding and relatively sleepless nights, and also to time my visit with Jeff as well. In addition, I had at least a couple of cans of tuna that were burning a hole in my bags, thanks to Captain Acosta in Deming. Even though Donetta was initially concerned that John might not like it, I took a ride into town to buy the remaining ingredients I would need to make tuna casserole.

My first stop was at the bicycle shop to get a couple of much needed tire liners. (How many flats have I mentioned over the past couple of posts?!) Then it was off to the "Lowe's" grocery store in the same strip-mall shopping center. Since I could not find mushroom soup, or any other cream soup that did not have monosodium glutamate in it, I decided I could just make my own. Not knowing for sure what Donetta had in her cupboards, I bought a small bag of flour, a small bottle of oil, mushrooms, onions, and celery. I also bought tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce for a salad to go with the casserole.

Still on the look-out for certain toiletries that I needed to re-stock, I went back to the bicycle shop owner to ask where to find the nearest drug store. He directed me some ways down the road to a Walgreens. I went in, did not find what I wanted, but bought some sample bottles of lotion to substitute for my favored "Nature's Gate Fragrance Free" version. It was as I was exiting the drug store that I then spotted something that looked more like a Health Food Store across the street. Much to my excitement, it turned out to be a co-op and I was actually able to restock on multiple items, including my favorite lotion and shampoo, as well as mung beans, and crackers. In addition, I found some cream of mushroom soup that did NOT have MSG in it! The only problem I had all of those other ingredients that I really did not need!

So I began to back-track. First to the Walgreens to return the lotion samples. And then back to the Lowe's grocery store. Of note is the fact that I was doing all of this running around and shopping on the Saturday Before Thanksgiving, so the store was really, really busy! It seemed they were also having a particularly good sale on turkeys as almost everyone had one in their cart!

Nevertheless, I braved the lines and odd stares as I stepped up to the customer service counter to return my flour and oil and mushrooms, feeling somewhat obligated to explain that I was traveling by bicycle and was unfamiliar with the stores in the neighborhood, so I had purchased all of those things not realizing I could get what I wanted at the Co-op.

With my single pannier now filled to the top, I headed back up the hill to John and Donetta's. It was already getting somewhat later in the afternoon by then so I proceeded to prepare the tuna casserole upon my return. It was while I was in the midst of my preparations that a discussion arose between John and Donetta which soon confirmed that there had been a significant miscommunication between them many years back. Much to Donetta's surprise, John would actually be fine eating "cooked tuna", so that meant he would, in fact, be joining us for dinner!

And, as it turned out, there was yet another rider arriving that evening, a "tall dark and handsome" one who happened to have a very pleasant English-Scottish accent, hailing from Northern England. He arrived just in time to take a shower before joining us at the dinner table where we all did some damage to the rather large casserole I'd prepared!

After dinner and lively conversation, John and Donetta went to bed, Simon and I stayed up to wash dishes, and continued coversing until quite late - looking at maps, sharing life experiences, and comparing gear kits! There was quite a contrast, which explains why I feel comfortable designating him as the "hare" to my "tortoise" when it comes to riding styles!

The next morning I shared one of my green smoothies with Simon as well as a few snacks for the road (seeing how little he was carrying!). Knowing my mission of "Pedaling for Peace", in return, he offered me a $20.00 donation, for which I was very grateful.

As I only had a seven mile ride for the day, I was able to take my time getting packed. I said my farewell's to John and Donetta, and then began the mostly uphill trek to my second Las Cruces host, living somewhat closer to the foothills of the Organ Mountains. It was a really beautiful day for a ride!

Jeff had been quite enthusiastic about my visit, and even came down to join me on the road for the last mile or so. There was a bit of a stretch of gravel getting to his house, but once there, settling in was easy.

I had been soaking some lentils on my way, thinking I might have time during my stay to make sprouts and another batch of egg-fried rice to share with Jeff and his wife Liz. It was decided that the warmest place to put them would be in the oven. Later that evening, as Liz was preparing dinner for us, including a berry pie, I heard her exclaiming, loudly, (cursing actually). When I went into the kitchen to find out the problem, it turned out that she had forgotten about the sprouts when she was heating up the oven for the pie. Although the beans were still usable in the stir fry, the plastic mesh/strainer lid did not survive.

I know Liz felt really bad about it, but I found the whole situation to be quite amusing. In the end, we all had a good laugh and, as I said, the stir-fry I later made with the "baked lentils" turned out just fine!

Although Liz had to work most of the time I was there, I did get to spend quite a bit of time talking with Jeff, and that was a very enjoyable experience. We kind of "clicked" on some of my favorite topics, psychology and society, politics, etc. I even shared my "Understanding the Constitution" paper with him from my Introduction to Constitutional Law class (actually the last paper I wrote to complete my BS degree in Social Science).

In addition to the great conversation, I was able to enjoy the hot tub with the view of the Organ Mountains in the background.

Overall, it was another wonderful experience, with another kind and generous "Warm Showers" host. Before saying our final "good-byes", John gave me a donation (in part to cover the replacement of the plastic sprout-jar screen) and once again accompanied me on a gravel "short-cut" to the main road, even helping to push my bike for me, which gave him a greater appreciation for the real challenge involved with that!

It was a beautiful day for a ride as I headed for my first of two hosts planned in El Paso, TX. This would be my third visit to the Lone Star State, having bicycled here from Jacksonville, FL in 2012. I then spent most of the summer of 2013 riding from my aunt and uncle's house in Weatherford, TX (just west of the Dallas/Fort Worth area) back down to Luling, TX where I (officially) ended that first stage the year before.

Now, I was back again, coming all the way from Santa Barbara and still facing that intimidating expanse of West Texas. A new WarmShowers host, Rayce was gracious enough to let me stay with him and his family for the Thanksgiving holiday. He proved to be a most capable cook, preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. (I showed my appreciation by washing all the dishes afterwards!) Apart from the Thanksgiving feast, I had a quiet room to myself, and good internet access, so I put most of my free time into planning the route ahead, not knowing that my next stop, with the nephew of the woman I had met in Deming, would actually be one of the longer ones of my journey thus far!