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, April 5, 2015

Winter in El Paso, TX - 2014 to 2015

As I have been traveling across the country, it has generally been my habit to post a blog AFTER I leave one place and get to another. Part of the reason it's taken so long for this update is because, once I got to my second host's house in El Paso, TX - shortly after Thanksgiving, I stayed...for what has turned out to be - four months! Now that I have actually moved on (and I'll get to those details later in this post) I have a better overall perspective from which to account for my time in El Paso.

So here I am crossing the border into Texas just before Thanksgiving. As you may recall from a previous post, I had met a woman in Deming, NM who gave me contact information for her nephew, John, encouraging me to look him up when I got in the area. She told me he was "into cycling" and would probably be open to helping me as much as he could.

Of course, she turned out to be absolutely right about that! Although John was working when I got to his house, I was able to let myself in with the spare key he had hidden for me. I had a small room to myself, and plenty of space in his garage to park my bike and unload my gear. I thought it somewhat serendipitous that there was a "blue turtle" sitting on the desk in my room ("waiting" for me?) on this my 108th day on the road.

(For those of you more into "metaphysics," you know 108 is a significant number! :) )

In the next couple of days, John, graciously chauffered me around town, helping me (financially) with some sturdier tubes for my tires, and a blue enamel campware plate that I had been looking for to cover my bowl when I needed to boil water in it. He also took me to one of his favorite country western dance clubs, "Little Bit of Texas", where I got to do a little bit of "Two-Steppin'" with him and another friend of his. Although I'm not an experienced two-stepper like John, I still had a good time, and it was a nice change of pace and scenery after being on the road for so long!

So everything seemed to be going just fine for this visit...and then...rather suddenly...I got really sick. Whether it was from being overexposed the previous week or so camping outside (not getting much sleep with the kitten that found me at the rest stop), or because John and his (then) 11-year-old son Michael had also been quite sick just before I got there, or maybe it was from all of the pollution coming across the border from Jaurez, Mexico, or maybe a combination of all of those things - I came down with a really nasty upper respiratory infection - one of the worst I've had in a long, long time. Consequently, I was not in a good position to head back out again in just a couple of days. Instead, I was laid up, often in bed even, for the first week, and still struggling to recover through the second week as well.

Given this timing meant any more plans for crossing West Texas had to be scheduled (potentially) around the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Furthermore, I was looking at many long stretches through some of the most barren and uninhabited regions on this route, while the nighttime temps, especially, were getting colder and colder. Admittedly, John was at least as concerned as I was about my prospects, and so he did not put any pressure on me to be on my way.

In addition, there was the issue of money...which I had basically run out of by that point. Given that John was owner of an electrical contracting company, and he had some paperwork I felt I could help with, he took me up on my offer to organize his expense receipts from 2012 in anticipation of an IRS audit. Granted, this was not something I'd ever done before, on this scale, but I'd managed to work through other novel administrative situations and I figured I could do the same here. Furthermore, since I knew I was not going to be around to be asked questions about my work, I decided to create a spreadsheet where I would document everything - i.e. details of all of the expenses AND reference information for where the expense item came from - sales receipts, bank and credit statements, or a combination of these. The spreadsheet format also allowed for automatic totalling of all the different categories of expenses and it made it pretty easy to add to and make corrections for any items that needed to be moved between categories.

Of course, having no experience doing this, I had no idea how long the whole process would take. I certainly fantasized about it going smoothly, and fairly quickly, but that's how ignorance and bliss can walk hand in hand!...While John traveled to Dallas to visit with his mother and other family members during the Christmas Holidays, I was thinking I'd have most, if not all, of this work done, to his pleasant surprise, by the time he returned home.

With that in mind, Christmas morning, I turned on Pandora, selected a "Christmas Holiday" music channel and started listening, thinking that would be good background music while I was processing all of those receipts. Unfortunately, the Christmas music also kind of "put me in the spirit" and a new and much more compelling idea entered my head: I could take the Christmas wrapping paper John had pulled from the attic and left behind and decorate the house with it!!! Yeah! Afterall, there would be plenty of time to get to all those receipts later!!!! :)

And so, I was my not so unusual (maybe even a little ADD) sort of way! First on my list were "boughs of holly" and "evergreens" to form frameworks around the windows and fireplace mantle in the living room. Those were followed by 15 bright red paper bows, and about 35 paper cranes. I even included a bit of "mistletoe" hung in a welcoming position in the front hall, and topped it all off with a fancy, fan folded, wreath on the front door!

Granted, I think John was (somewhat pleasantly) surprised by the Christmas decorations, but later he let on that he was also a bit disappointed that I wasn't further along on the receipts when he got back. I'm afraid he had his own expectations around all of that, not unlike mine.

Nevertheless, over the next several weeks, I persevered - working a few hours a day on the days that John was not using the office and computer himself. It all turned out to be a lot more tedious and often more confusing than I initially expected it to be. In addition, John confessed to me that he'd been struggling with his company for some time, following his divorce and the economic downturn in 2008. I could see evidence of that struggle from my "research material". At the end of the day, my heart kind of went out to him, and so I wanted to give him my best effort to help in whatever way I could.

Consequently, in addition to this "administrative" work for his company, I also started helping more with Michael, following up on school-work, etc., as well as assisting more around the house with cooking and cleaning, especially when it came to cleaning before and after other cyclists who came to visit. There were 17 altogether before my own departure!

For instance, the first couple John and I "co-hosted" were from Switzerland - Mischa and Tina (seen with me here while we were site seeing around Transmountain).

They stayed with us for a couple of nights and then headed east, only to turn around and come back, because the weather got really nasty.

 To continue on their journey, they opted for a rental car instead, but not before celebrating New Year's with us and treating us to some really awesome homemade bread and chocolate brownie cake!

After Mischa and Tina we hosted the following other cyclists:

Ezra and Chris


Arika and Bill

Emily, Maddy, Lisa, and Sam





and Glenn and Maya

It was during Lisa, Emily, Sam and Maddy's visit, that Lisa ended up buying one of my newly made, custom designed, tapered headbands. She had just gotten her hair cut shorter than she was used to and was really needing a headband to hold her bangs out of her face. I was actually happy to be able to sell one of mine to her and that single purchase gave me the confidence to believe that other people might be interested in my creations as well. And so I started thinking much more seriously about how I could turn this into a business of some kind. By the time Maya arrived with Glenn, I had mulitple options for her to choose from, and she also decided to make a purchase.

With my background in production line sewing, research and development, I knew I would do well to figure out some way of using the "scrap" fabric left over from making the headband. Consequently, I did a little research on making cloth flowers and developed my own "flower bauble accents" for both the headband itself and to attach (and interchange) on flip-flop sandals - something I'd already been doing since before I left Santa Barbara.

Sewing the long 42-44" seams of the headband, by hand, took some time. And there is actually a lot of prep work that goes into the flowers as well, sewing Velcro "hook" tabs to pieces of felt, cutting out all of the circles that make up the flowers, and then soaking them in a gelatin solution to seal and stiffen the fabric before hot-gluing them to the Velcro backs. Just prior to leaving El Paso, I also used John's computer to produce all of my advertising materials that I'd hoped to use in a farmer's market or flea market once I got to my destination in Columbus, GA. I even found a really nice carrying case to hold some of my supplies and merchandise (and carry with me during my plane flight(!)).

However, I'm getting a little ahead of myself...

In late January, we got a little snow storm in El Paso and since John had this big open area of grass in his back yard, the remnants of a grass tennis court, I couldn't help but take advantage of the opportunity to build a couple of snow-people whom I tried to characterize as tennis players (of course)!

When Michael came home from school, he joined in the fun along with me.

By later the next day, the sun had already done some serious damage, but my "players" certainly hung in there for as long as they could.

(I imagined the player in the back of the court thinking: "Dude, just serve the ball already. I'm dying out here in this heat!")

The weather continued to be a mix of warm sun and cold wind and rain over the next several weeks. I continued to work on John's receipts and help around the house. I took advantage of the fairly well stocked kitchen and started making bread from scratch, along with oatmeal cookies of various kinds, and I even tried making some fudge for the first time (that I could remember).

...And I made a "Kool-Aid" birthday cake for Michael which we shared as we also shared our March 4th Birthday. (Without any food coloring in the house, I ended up using various flavors of Kool-Aid for coloring the icing which gave it a very sweet-tart taste.)

It was also during the month of March that John went through a process of restoring the grass in the back yard as he was getting ready to sell the house.

It went from this:

(Seeds sprouting under plastic sheeting to preserve moisture and heat) this

It also became a gathering place for all of the ring-necked doves in the area - probably because of all of the grass seed left over. I counted as many as 35 out there at one time. And then there was my first butterfly of the season:

A sure harbinger of transformations yet to come...! :)

Although it came a little late for me to actually use it for sewing headbands, I used some of my birthday money from my mom to have my sewing machine shipped from Santa Barbara. That gave me an opportunity to sit down with Michael and give him a chance to get a feel for sewing.

He seemed to enjoy the experience and we even sewed a new bag together to hold the marbles for his "Good Job Marble Jar" that I bought for him (and his parents) before I left. (The bag that came with the container actually turned out too be a little too small to hold all of the marbles.)

I had found out about these "Good Job Marble Jars" from Brené Brown as I was taking her "The Power of Vulnerability" course via She gave me a new appreciation for the process involved in developing trust in your relationships with others. This quote sums up the basic idea:

As I later explained to Michael, those "marbles" accumulate with other people in your life as you show genuine caring for them and, very importantly, Do What You Say You're Going to Do.

I guess one thing that I have learned during my cross-country trekking is that things don't always go the way you plan! Nevertheless, it is important to be very conscious of what you commit to and, especially where it involves other people, keeping them informed as your plans (or feelings) change.

At the same time, I've learned, it is difficult if not impossible to win the trust of people who are simply not open to trusting in the first place, or are so caught up in their own "stuff" and how they come across to others, that they're paying very little attention to all the "marbles" they might be receiving from others on a day to day basis. (Note the emphasis above on "work, attention, and full engagement". A person can't bring that attention and full engagement to others if they're too caught up in their own "stuff".)

As I have also learned from Brené Brown, it is not easy to live "Wholeheartedly". Sometimes it is hard to move beyond feeling desperate for "love and belonging," as if our very lives depended on it (as was actually the case when we were infants and young children), and feeling the very normal "irreducible human need for love and belonging" that each of us, as otherwise self-sustaining adults, can choose to meet with others who actually have the capacity and desire to meet those needs with us. Again, as she points out above, "trust" is not a "grand gesture" - it is not "all or nothing" - it is "a growing marble collection" and we fill those "marble jars" (or not), with ", attention, and full engagement".

(There was a lot more I learned from "The Power of Vulnerability" course as well as another course I started through Udemy, "Master Your Brain: Neuroscience for Personal Development" with George Caremans as the instructor. I will follow-up on all of that at another time...and probably via The Blue Moon Turtle Blog instead of this one.)

In addition to cycling visitors, my friend Eleanor, from Santa Barbara, also stayed a couple of times. She had temporarily relocated to Florida just before I left Santa Barbara, and then she found another place to stay in Boerne, TX. While making a road trip to pick up some of her own things in Santa Barbara, she also picked up more of my clothes and some of my books and brought them to me in El Paso. Of course, that meant I had that much more of my own stuff to pack up before flying to my next destination of Columbus, GA.

As I commented to John, packing is always a complicated process for me because I'm never packing for just one thing anymore! This time I was packing some boxes to ship as well as some boxes to take on the plane (one large box and my bicycle box), and I needed to know in advance how much they weighed to anticipate shipping costs and avoid overweight fees on the plane. I was also figuring out what I could carry in my backpack, and merchandise and supplies I might need in my new pink and grey carry-all. I had an extra large duffle bag that Eleanor brought with my clothes - not quite full - so I knew I'd have a little more space in it for some of my nicer clothes that she also brought, hanging in a long plastic bag. 

I flew on Southwest via Houston to Atlanta, and when my friend Michael recovered my duffle bag from the carousel, I noticed that it had gotten badly damaged en route (something that has never happened to me before while flying on Southwest). After carting everything up and down the baggage claim area for about half-an-hour, we finally found the customer service counter where they were quick to replace my original duffle with a much fancier (and heavier) one with wheels.

Although I could not find an exact image of my original bag (and I had to turn it over to the Southwest agents in order to get the replacement bag), it was an extra large, single compartment duffle that looked something like this: 

What was nice about it was that I could fold it down to a very portable size, which was handy for shipping, or even carrying it on my bicycle. And the bag itself did not weigh that much so I could pack more stuff in it and not so easily exceed the 50lb baggage limit.

This is what I ended up with in the exchange with Southwest(!):

Now I have multiple compartments...

....And wheels, etc., etc. I could imagine designing a whole new trailer around this bag so I could pull it with my bicycle!

I know, I know...under normal circumstances, I should be Thrilled by this new bag, and how much "better" it is than my old one. I'm sure it cost a heck of a lot more! Neverthelss, I suspect I'll still be looking to replace that old one, for the same reason's I bought it in the first place! And besides the outside pocket getting ripped, I had a Swiss Army pocket knife in it that was small enough to carry on a key ring and had some sentimental value as well. I knew I would need it to open the bike box so I had put it in there to be handy. Unfortunately, it wasn't anywhere to be found when I got my bag back. Again...lesson learned!

Nevertheless, I'm now in Columbus, GA to "house sit" for my friend Michael. We met while we were both stationed with the military in Bethesda, Maryland and we've accumulated quite a few "marbles" over the last 10 years or so. (Kind of hard to believe it's been that long!)

My (tentative) plans are to relocate the remainder of my belongings from Florida and, hopefully, by the end of June, complete that Truly Final sort through - especially of my "historical documents" and "reference material" from the early years of my life. I'm also planning to visit my mother in Dalton, GA with whom I have not had face-to-face contact in many, many years. (See My TEDx Talk for more on that story.) I've already checked-in with the local bicycle advocacy group, Bike Columbus, and will be looking forward to meeting with them and sharing from all of my previous experiences with the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. (To be honest, I feel like a "bee" that is "flying from flower to flower" and serving to "cross-pollinate" between these two communities and who knows how many more as my journey continues?!)

I'm glad to be able to take another "break" from the road - this time with a good friend. It has certainly been an adventure thus far and I look forward to whatever Life has in store for me as time goes on!

I am once again grateful and humbled by all the people who continue to read this blog and show their support as contributors and hosts. It's been quite the ride...and, I's still not over just yet!


  1. Hi Lori,
    Nice to see you're still challenging life at the highest levels. I met you at Sonoma Beach, CA in 2014 while on tour of the West Coast. You probably don't remember me, but I am inspired that you continue inspiring other women and all toward their highest and best. May your journey continue to enlighten and fulfill you. Frosty Wooldridge, fellow bicycle traveler

  2. Hi, Frosty!

    Don't worry...I haven't forgotten you! :)