Random: A TV in a tree limb no where near a tree on a road
It has been far too long since the last posting. Life on the road is more than slightly distracting and the events worth mentioning tend to accumulate at a staggering pace. My apologies for this tardy update, but I do hope you all enjoy regardless. Before I continue with this post I must give a link and a thank you to John Deans. John is a good friend of mine from College of the Atlantic and he met up with us at the Shepard Sanctuary. We had a wonderful evening catching up and the next morning he took some video and made this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug9udcos-e8&feature=youtu.be). We love it and again thank you John. You’re just explosive (i.e. the bomb).
Awesome tan lines on Charlotte
There is a popular tenet or ethos which is quite ubiquitous pertaining to living a consistently present and enriched life: one day at a time. Many people do in fact effort this daily practice in hopes to prevail over a hardship, maintain certain life goals, or simply enjoy each day without the distractions of future or past events pressing upon the current activities. The vivid clarity of the days segments can certainly be enhanced by the purity of undivided attention. I have likely said it before during these documentations, but initiatives like cross-country cycling tours do allow one to live more steadfast and truthfully to the one day at a time method.
Lately, it seems more than ever, we have been getting questions aimed at what we are going to do after the tour is over… “Where are you going after you are done? How will you get back from California? What are you going to do after you finish? What’s Charlotte going to do?” After receiving these questions what seems like dozens of times over the last few weeks it is difficult to maintain a honestly polite response.
It is an innocent matter of difference in perspective. Events will occur after the tour is over, there will probably be plane tickets, California may be a residence soon, but other than general ideas for the future there are no thoughts of significant consequence which are currently on our minds—tomorrow and possibly the next day are the immensely distant future. We are dedicated to the day at hand and what will become of our travel plans, professions, and subsequently our connectivity will remain part of the future which is, by definition, unknown until it becomes present.
Since the last posting we have seen too many things to remember let alone write here. Since the last entry we have crossed 3 states (Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana) and travelled half way across a 4th (Texas). We stayed a few days at Charlotte’s house in Kirbyville, Texas to rest and visit with her family. We are now several hundred miles into Texas and will be visiting Charlotte’s sister Marcia in a couple days.
The BIG state
Texas is the beginning of the most beautiful scenery we will encounter, and the most demanding cycling. Our sissy 200 and 300 foot hills will soon become 2,000 foot hills, 3,000, 5,000, and over 8,000 foot mountain tops. I for one cannot wait for the brutally humbling experience of the miles to come.
As for the last 1,500ish miles, I will try to remember stand-out moments in chronological order.
Daulphin Island, Alabama
We entered Pensacola along the pleasant scenic highway 90. As we were making our way up a medium size hill for the east coast there was a motorcyclist travelling in the other direction. Charlotte noticed this man was fixated on us while we passed and shortly after this passing there was an unmistakable and unnerving sound of rubber and metal reaching frictional and structural thresholds. I jerked my head around hoping I would not see Charlotte contorted over the front of a turning car. Sadly, I was relieved to see a man being ejected from his motorcycle rolling with flailing limbs the and his motorcycle gouging asphalt until its momentum exhausted. I ran to help, followed the steps of assessing an emergency situation I have learned and within moments there were a crowd of helpful hands around. The situation was certainly under control, the man was ambulatory, and I left to make it to our destination of The Big Lagoon State Park just a few miles from the Alabama boarder.
Once at the camp site, we began our typical routines of setting up the tent, blowing up air mattresses, getting food out for cooking, and talking about the day of riding and what is for dinner. While going over the supremely important topic of what food we will vigorously consume a raccoon ventured towards us. We watched in increasing disbelief as the curious thumbed critter came ever closer, crawled up onto the bench of the picnic table we were also sitting on, and began pawing and sniffing around—seemingly unaware and certainly not concerned with our presence. I promptly chased him away nearly running him over for his escape was less than committed.
Following this, I had a major leak in my stove which I broke shortly after, had to eat crackers and peanut butter for dinner, and after returning from the shower, found the only dessert we had left stolen from the table presumably by the masked creature. All in all it was a typical night of novelty.
We spent the following days on Dauphin Island, Alabama which is certainly not a horrible place to wait for stove parts and decided on a new tent with better over and under ventilation. We ate at a less than great restaurant called Barnacle Bill’s, I believe. I had an interesting experience where the waitress brought me a completely different meal than I ordered and then asked if I could deal with what she had brought me instead of eating what I ordered. I was politely baffled by the moment, but we moved on. However, in contrast, the Light House Bakery was amazing for breakfast and I had sausage waffles for the first time. Outstanding.
Log cabin built in 1889 at the Merryville, Louisiana Historical Society
And to return to tent ventilation issues for a moment…If you are male and have slept in a tent in cold weather you may know part of the story I am about to share. I will warn you all the following is less than refined and delicate, but hopefully you can find the humor in all this.
Florida Caverns State Park
During a cold front with temperatures dropping into the low 40’s (which is not that cold, but cold enough) we were of course sleeping in our preferred domicile: our tent. I felt the unrelenting bodily urge to relieve myself. Rather than getting up, stepping out into the cold air, onto the damp nearly frosted grass, one resorts to more creative ways to find resolve. Remember, though, I am sleeping next to someone, albeit someone I am not shy around, but a person sleeping none the less. I quietly and gingerly unzip the tent door and clumsily deploy my lower trunk into the cold night air while still mostly encased in the warmth of my sleeping bag.
As I am trying to sleepily concentrate on relieving myself (it is quite difficult to just let it fly while laying on your side half balancing in a semi-curved position), I hear a small voice from the darkness. A voice which could have been easily mistaken for sleep talking if it was so deliberately directed at me. “Are you peeing?” Somewhat embarrassed, I reply, “Not yet, but I’m trying to.” The next statement was most definitely unexpected, but equally hilarious. The little voice replies to my hesitant remarks with a levelling “my sleeping bag smells like toots.” If there was any lingering embarrassment from my side of the situation it promptly vanished when hearing this humble comment about the flatulent odor emanating from the sleeping pod.
Perhaps a couple days later we were heading down a small country road and I spotted a miniscule figure on the road way. I focused intently as we passed and to my surprise, it was a baby mouse. I declared this loudly and stopped promptly to investigate. It was certainly not of good health or with company. It seemed as though its hind quarters were in very poor shape and was suffering. I reached down and placed my hand in front of the creature and to my amazement it crawled onto my hand. This uncharacteristic behavior of a wild animal was quickly grounded with reality when this tiny mouse bit my finger with its last ounce of strength. Naturally, I reacted and the mouse was the casualty of a significant fall. It hit the pavement with a light thud and certainly did not improve its physical status.
Without question, it was doomed and now came the time for a decision: do we leave it to suffer more until its inevitable death or do we dispatch it and end the misery. Termination seemed obvious, but how does one end a cute little guy. Charlotte’s suggestion was to crush it with a heel. I was opposed for several reasons (mostly I did not want to feel the little bones and life crunch under my foot, but also because I was against having mouse innards on my shoe). I opted for carefully and suddenly dropping my rear bike tire on its head. So, on this little stretch of road in the middle of the woods Charlotte helped me line the tire up and ready, good, okay, death. Although this was a sad moment, it was the right thing to do and perhaps in the next couple days we saved a life.
Just a pretty Texas road
Upon entering Hamburg, Louisiana we saw a small dog laying in a humble post office parking lot. Most dogs chase, bark, and generally project a “I’m super scary and I will tear you apart” attitude which is 99.9% of the time lost on me for I know that is just how dogs are. This pooch was different. His light hearted trot was endearing enough that I stopped to see if I could steal a quick pat on the head. In retrospect, I might have hoped for just a quick interaction. He (I named him Dingus) was more than happy to have affection from us bipeds riding these strange mechanical horses.
Ferry across Mobile Bay
This loveable and obedient pup followed us all the way to the next town which was several miles away. He kept pace and it was obvious he had no home. We reached the next town and made inquiries as to where we may find a veterinarian or animal shelter. The fine folks at the town hall called the dog catcher and hopefully our friend Dingus found a home shortly after our introductions. It is quite silly, but we miss him still and wish we could have kept him along for the journey.
There are pleasant pups like Dingus and there are other related dogs which, with the proper care and love they might be wonderful companions, but unfortunately this is not always the case. We found this out with striking pervasiveness in Merryville, Louisiana.
I contacted the Merryville Historical Society and Museum to ask about camping out behind their facilities as our maps suggest. The woman I spoke with was very kind and invited without hesitation to use their property and facilities at our arrival. She was to be out of town visit her brother-in-law whom was in the hospital. I do hope he has been recovering. At any rate, upon our arrival we spied a rich grass area with a fence surrounding it along with bathrooms and showers with hot water located in a small building on one side. It was a quiet and peaceful and we both shared sentiments of grateful amazement of how lucky we were to have ended up here at this place which was free of charge!
I cooked while Charlotte read the remainder of Watership Down to me. A quick side note: I was ignorant to the Watership Down movie, television series, and book. Charlotte saw the movie as a child and discovered the book while we were preparing for the trip. Awesome book. Simply awesome. There is a great deal more than just the social doings of rabbits going on within its text and I look forward to perhaps reading again someday.
We finished our meal, cleaned up, showered, and climbed into our tent to continue reading for a couple hours. We finished the book and were full of joy from the ending and our overall enjoyment of the journey Richard Adams has taken us on. Slumber was a welcomed transition and soundly was this passage.
Roughly a couple hours into our exceptionally long blink, we hear a barking. Dogs do bark and this is a normal occurrence we encounter while sleeping outside. However, this barking persisted for hours. I would wager between 9:30pm and 9:00am the dog was quiet for at most 2 hours. We yelled, pleaded, and plain hoped for the annoyance to stop. It was relentless. If this poor dog stopped barking for a moment, it whined until it started up again. The owners, which are undoubtedly the culprits to blame in this situation, did come out and tell the animal to “shut its damned mouth” a couple times which suspend the barking for the aforementioned 2 hours of silence.
926 So far
Unfortunately, you see this a lot: people buy dogs, put them in a 8X8 foot pen in the side yard, feed it once a day, keep it relatively clean (at best), and that is how they own a dog. Perhaps they use it as a tool for security or hunting, but there is little to no love of even concern for the animal. It did not seem this dog served a purpose whatsoever other than to be miserable. It was not barking at us for we were there for hours before it started up.
In retrospect, I should have done what I threatened to do while we shared in misery that evening: walk over there, go to the cage, open the latch, and walk away. It would likely have a better quality life running wild in the small town than locked up. The next door neighbor came over the following morning to offer us drinks and food and we spoke about the dog. She informed us (while the dog was still barking) that that is what the dog does. It barks all day and all night everyday. Hard to imagine, but true. Not getting any sleep during our night there pales in comparison to the injustice the dog suffers everyday of its life.
And in the same arena of animal cruelty we witnessed something surreal while patching a tube. We were on a road with an 8 to 10 inch shoulder, relentless heavy truck traffic, and a consistent sense of imminent danger of being struck from behind by several tons of hurtling metal and plastic with a less than courteous driver behind the wheel. Charlotte found herself with a deflating tire (she likes getting flats) and we pulled over into a half finished driveway in front of an empty lot. While there, a motorist pulled over to talk with us about our journey and take pictures of us. This is common and while doing these tours you glimpse what it is like to be famous. People always want to talk to you, ask questions, and take pictures of you as well as with you.
You got to make sure no one steals your windmill
During our conversation with this man, a line of vehicles accumulated without us noticing and the primary truck honked its horn. We all turned to see the cause. In complete disbelief we see a 2 year old child wearing only a diaper and t-shirt standing in the middle of this 70mph speed limit road with continuous large truck traffic. Just standing there with a blank look of mild inquiry. Another car came flying up over the top of the hill and slammed on its breaks—screeching to a halt several dozen feet from the child. The man turned and calmly collected the child as its parents were approaching the road yelling “not again!”
It was not like in the movies when one of the pedestrians heroically launches into the roadway to snatch the child up out of harms way. We all stood there in complete disbelief until we eventually comprehended the ridiculous sight. And “not again…” this has happened before? I am not one to judge parents for I have never been one myself and know nothing about the responsibilities and stresses, but I would think if I lived next to this unquestionably dangerous road and my toddler was outside I doubt it would ever be out of my sight—especially if this has happened before.
On a much lighter note, the trip is going very well. We entered hill country today and our physical preparations are becoming more important than ever. During our first day, just before hitting our record elevation for this tour of 1208 feet, we stopped into the Wimberly Glassworks studio in Wimberly, Texas (http://www.wgw.com/). We met and spoke with the owner Tim for some time about travels, cultures, and the vastness of geographies world wide. He was pleasant and accommodating even though it was fairly obvious we were not going to purchase any of the breathtaking glass sculptures which are priced fairly, but would cost nearly as much as the last month of our trip for a small piece. We also met a nice young woman (Maggie perhaps) who’s partner is currently on a cycling tour and they hope to embark on one together soon. She demonstrated how the seasonal Christmas trees are crafted as Charlotte and I watched—amazed with the fluidity of motions and seemingly simplistic process which is undoubtedly more difficult than it looks.
What a wonderful start to our journey through Texas hill country. Our best to Tim and this young woman. We hope you get out there and tour sooner than later.
It’s a Christmas tree
We will be staying with the wonderful people at the Wimberly EMS building tonight. They are great folks who continue to allow cyclists to stay here and use their facilities. Thank you to all who help us along our various paths. We appreciate you.
The sun is still shining on us brightly, we laugh regularly watching caterpillars attempt crossings, find new road signs of interesting statements, meet fabulous people, look forward to the days to come, and count horses. We are up to 926 so far.