New adventure with a global reach

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It has been some time since my last post concluding the second crossing of the continent by bicycle. During the last portion of the trip and the months to follow, I did some considerable self-assessment and addressed the desire to continue adventure as well as academic appetites. I have developed and submitted an initial project proposal to several academic institutions and am pleased to announce a very possible output: I will be sailing (possibly around the world) to rural coastal communities and conducting interdisciplinary research on the diversity of human-ecological responses to climate change. To iterate in more detail, the following quote is from the introduction of my project proposal.

 

“The foundation of this project is to investigate diverse human-ecological interactions in multiple coastal populations and disseminate the understandings¹, awarenesses², and adaptive capacities³ of particularly vulnerable communities across scales of social and scientific agencies. Specifically, this project focuses on 14 coastal locations and small island states inhabiting low elevation coastal zones (LECZ) who will likely experience severe effects of climate-related changes. It is my belief that many of these communities possess insight and potential knowledge of how climate-related stimuli influences cultural practices (historic and present) that are neglected in prominent large scale research initiatives on climate change. By studying culturally-specific adaptive qualities along with earth science data on climate-related impacts encourages the development of locally relevant policies and strategies in response to climate changes. In order to discover and more effectively communicate these human-ecological interactions, I will participate in and observe cultural practices in coastal communities relating to climate change and interact with marine environments that have strongly influenced these cultures by circumnavigating on a sailing research vessel.

The specific objectives for this project are to (i) discover existing human-ecological understandings, awarenesses and adaptive practices to historic, present, and potential impacts of climate change on coastal communities; (ii) communicate the perspectives and actions of coastal communities relevant to earth science data on climate-related impacts across scales of social and scientific agencies; (iii) and promote social learning to inform potential alterations in behavioral practices, adaptive strategies and policy recommendations.”

The full initial project proposal can be found by clicking on this link Doctoral_Candidate_Proposal

I have already begun significant planning to deploy this project, but there is an immense amount which still remains. I have gotten favorable responses from two professors/researchers (I even had an interview with one) who find merit in my intentions and are slated to be supervisors and assist in grant writing. Ideally, I will begin my doctorate research at the University of Oxford (http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/) in the fall of 2015 and have supplemental supervision from the director of research at the Nordland Research Institute (http://nordlandsforskning.no/english).

A boat I captained in the islands

A boat I captained in the islands

I am still slightly shocked that these individuals took the time to read my lofty proposal for an academic adventure, found some originality in it and said “yeah, sailing around the world in order to better understand how humans interact with a changing coastal environment sounds like a worth while project.” I was expecting more of a “sure this is cool and all, but I just don’t see how you can pull it off.” I never lack conviction or grandeur while concocting these dreams of experiencing and learning from the world, but at times, waver when I put them out there for others to consider. I suppose this is a notable testament to the value of not only having dreams, but discovering that when you dedicate yourself and your abilities to them they become a plausible reality. In the last month, this has become very real indeed.

Playing in the Florida Keys

Playing in the Florida Keys

I will be purchasing a fine vessel in the near future. It needs a fair amount of cosmetic work on the exterior, but she’s got it where it counts. Her name is Nellie for now and she is a Southern Cross 35. Built like a graceful tank, Nellie is a true blue-water heavy displacement sailboat made for open ocean passages. I will refrain, for now, in giving all the details of her construction and qualities for there will likely be more posts featuring the progress while refurbishing, repairing and fitting her out with essential equipment. In short, she is the right tool for the job and I am bursting with excitement to conclude my busy employment and begin working on her.

Nellie

Nellie

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Nellie

Most of you probably know that I have a certain affinity towards the sea. In fact, I have lived, worked and taught on the ocean since I was 15. Aside from cycling tours, when I am not in a classroom or otherwise working on personal academic achievements I am on the water. There is something about the chaotic rhythm and dynamics of the vast expanses of water that drive our climate that has always fascinated and humbled me. I think this expedition has been a long time coming and now I have found a way to not only experience quite possibly my greatest adventure, but also contribute a valuable knowledge that may just help the world—even if this contribution is finite.

Racing the Tybee 500

Racing the Tybee 500

The specific details of how I arrived at this decision and the events which have led me to my current progress are a bit dizzying, but as always, I am willing to discuss them further if any of you have interest in learning more (email:surfacetovolume@gmail.com). For now, I will say that I am living this progress and every moment that I am afforded to dedicate my full attention to developing this project further I do so with the utmost conviction. I will be refining and collection application materials for Oxford to submit in September and my potential supervisor believes I have a strong chance of acceptance. The next, and possibly more crucial component, is funding. I have located and begun several applications for grants and will exhaust all possible resources that I qualify for. My solicitous reach will also extend to famous philanthropists who may be willing to support this goal of providing a voice for marginalized people whom have the least to do with climate change, but will be most effected. Just a few days ago, and I still am not fully comprehending why, Matt Damon is now following me on Twitter. He is now one of 17 people who follow me on my barely used Twitter account (https://twitter.com/JasonChilders4). Perhaps he saw my most recent Tweet with a link to my GoFundMe account (http://www.gofundme.com/an3di4). I doubt it, but one can dream.

I will certainly be updating this blog as things progress. Thank you all for reading and I am open to suggestions to help enrich this initiative for promoting social learning and applicable adaptation to the world’s most engaging and demanding force of change to humans and the natural environment.

 

 

The End Is Only A Moment

Our footprints on San Elijo State beach the evening of our last day

Our footprints on San Elijo State beach the evening of our last day

January 10th is the day. After 3,144 miles the vision we hoped to view when we embarked on this journey nearly 3 months ago is approaching. We are intently aware of the final fringe of the land in our near future. Our eyes strain ahead to the moment of first light and recognition of the great Pacific ocean. The aroma of tidal estuaries and sea breezes fill our senses as we steadily finished our cross-continental tour. The sense of joy, accomplishment, self-worth, and even disbelief is most certainly difficult to explain. I have seen a fair amount of spectacular events in my life and travels. I have even been a contributer to some, but there are none which significantly compare to this moment. Life changing is the most accurate and truthful description I can muster.

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Algodones Dunes Glamis, California

I would like to project the most heartfelt congratulations to Miss Charlotte Monk. You are an inspiration and a companion with a staggering quality. Charlotte had no significant cycling experience when we began our relationship last Spring and during the summer was only able to seriously train at most a dozen times before this journey. She may not realize it, but everyday she was a champion with a will power, strength, and stability I have never witnessed in a woman before. You are my hero, Charlotte and I will hold and cherish this experience as close as I can throughout my life. I could not have had a better life or travel companion. Thank you for giving me you company, effort, and heart. You are my best friend and although are paths are diverging from one another, I find comfort that there will always be a continent of love between us.

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After we reached and reveled on the coast of the Pacific we promptly ate like royals as we both continued to shake our heads at the ocean we were looking at—all the while saying to each other, “hey, we just rode our bicycles across a continent…ridiculous.” What is also ridiculous is that I was only 10 days short of doing this tour twice in one calender year. I think I can get away with fudging the 10 days if I want though. I do love touring. I have already been looking at trans-European routes for next year.

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When we reached our accommodations that afternoon, I over heard some individuals discussing the San Diego Zoo. Charlotte and I retired to a salubrious room and I mentioned perhaps splurging and staying an extra day in San Diego before cycling up the coast. I have not been to the San Diego Zoo since I was just older than a toddler and Charlotte had never been. It was a wonderful day at the zoo. Although, I do always have significant reservations about seeing captive animals, but the majesty these animals exhibit often supplants my concerns for them. Also, the San Diego Zoo does participate in a number of breeding programs to repopulate endangered species throughout the world.

Charlotte

Charlotte

Following the day at the zoo, we cycled up the coast to San Elijo state beach. This was our first day without a map. We simply followed the coast line best we could using the GPS and hoping there was cycle friendly roadways. In Southern California (especially near San Diego), there is an abundance of cycle paths, lanes, and other accommodating roadways. We had a wonderful day of cycling in 80 degree sunshine and spectacular views of the coast as we frequently reached higher elevations in each town.

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Upon reaching San Elijo, we found it was quite empty and all the “hiker biker” sites were open. For those of you who are not familiar with “hiker biker” sites they are wonderful. Along the West coast there are sites at most all state parks which do not have room for a vehicle, but if you have entered by your own power there is room for a tent and a bicycle or pack. They are typically in the prime locations too. Well, some would think the prime location is right next to the bathroom, sinks, and dumpsters, but I’ll take an unobstructed and very close view of the ocean over slamming doors, running faucets, and the wafting smell of human discards.

Sleeping Polar Bear

Sleeping Polar Bear

We walked along the beach barefoot warmly observing the rotation of the planet until the last bit of light extinguished and shrouded the surfers on breaks I would kill for on the East coast. We slept listening to the waves approaching on the incoming tide and were truly content with life in every way. And when it did not seem as though this trip could get more relaxing and pleasurable, in the morning, we sat in our tent eating a wonderful breakfast of fruits, cheese, and honey while looking out onto the Pacific ocean and the early morning surf crowd. Truly a wonderful beginning to our last day of cycling.

Mother and Baby Pandas. These are two of 14 in the entire country.

Mother and Baby Pandas. These are two of 14 in the entire country.

The ride back to San Diego was even more enjoyable than the Northern ride the previous day. We took nearly the same route, but the combination of knowing which streets to go down and not having a pressure of finding a place to stay that evening freed us to just simply enjoy the surroundings even more.

Museum at Balboa Park, San Diego

Museum at Balboa Park, San Diego

We ate lunch on a beach bluff overlooking a pier and crashing waves. Following this, we found a cycling path for several miles—inches away from the sandy ribbon of land falling into the ocean we cycled abreast basking in our last hour of this experience. We got some strange looks and likely gave some too. People watching in Southern California is second to none.

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise

The next couple days were spent exploring around Balboa park, Old Town, and other sections of this place for enjoyment of our last days and in order to prepare Charlotte for her flight back to Texas. Waking up at 4:00am was a bit painful, but the sorrowful indefinite farewell was exceedingly difficult. But just yesterday (Jan 20th), Charlotte excepted a position in Arizona working with horses and is beginning to fulfill her dreams of a new life path (she counted 2,299 horses counted on our trip).

This enthusiasm for a new segment in life certainly eases the pain of being out of each others company, but it is still a difficult transition for both of us. We have spent virtually 24 hours a day with each other for 3 months while sharing a spectacular experience. So regardless of the enormity of joy in this dream realized, the departure of our partnership is a challenge. Life presents you with these decisions and neither one of us care to inhibit the other in their path of living their dreams.

Down town L.A.

Down town L.A.

After Charlotte left, I existed here for another day and then drove to Los Angeles. I had some permanent art placed on my body for several hours and improved greatly on an existing piece. I was glad to work with a true professional (Horisuzu) here in L.A. and am supremely impressed with the results.

Tattoo

While in L.A., I also spent time with an old roommate from Maine who I befriended while doing ecology research years ago. He (Joseph Amen) also cycled across country about 7 years ago and never left. I am staying at the house he shares with a couple other gentleman, and let me tell you, they are living well in the Bel Air hills. The house is complete with tasteful art, leather furniture, and a grand piano in the living room in front of the floor to ceiling windows stretching the length of the house exposing a breathtaking view. I feel a bit out of place being the vagabond I am—conversing with the L.A. crowd and all the high-class amenities they are sharing with me, but it is certainly a trip seeing the diversity this city offers.

Grand Park, L.A.

Grand Park, L.A.

Now, sitting at the airport in San Diego, I hesitate with a statement of “in conclusion” or “to end this literary document,” but it is difficult to relinquish the moments and time I have recently existed in. There are many moments throughout this trip and my fairly entertaining life which pose a confounding of decision: you wish to exist in a place and relative time longer, but know that continuance of the journey will likely produce more moments and phenomena with equal or surpassing quality.

No matter how difficult and unlovely it may be to release your grasp on the current experience the diversity and wonderment in the life ahead is too enticing to have overpowering convictions to remain stationary. Some may disagree with this statement adamantly, but as I have said for years to students and myself, “you will be dead for a long time so you may as well make it exciting while you are alive.”

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This tenet is surely not original or contemporary, but I find it to be useful in producing ever increasing opportunities to live freely. Adhering to this principle does come with hardships and challenging moments of sacrifice. But while you are able and mobile the enjoyment for adventuring supercedes the discontent of having to leave places and people you deeply admire.

So with a reluctance I embrace and understand I will cease this transmission for now. The tour is still coursing through us both and the residual embers of the life events we only just finished illuminate the paths we are now discovering. Once you have immersed yourself in moments and accomplishments of this quality, your view of possibilities and capabilities transcends towards perceiving life in order to duplicate this quality. You become addicted to moments of greatness and the persistent effort required to attain greatness. I would wager there are worse patterns to become bound to.

Our deepest gratitudes to you all for supporting, sharing, observing and discussing this journey with us.

Happy New Year!

Christmas Morning in Zion National Park

Christmas Morning in Zion National Park

I wish the best moments to all of you this holiday season. More presently, happy new year to you all as well. We are in Phoenix, Arizona for the eve of the new year. Our evening activities will include writing this blog, watching a bit of television, and more likely than not, going to bed around 10:00 at the latest.

Since the last posting, we have gotten out of the enormous 1,000+ mile wide state of Texas, traversed New Mexico, entered Arizona, visited Utah, and returned to Arizona. Many moments have past and many will stay with us for as long as our minds are able to hold them. The holidays are certainly some which will be part of a lasting memory.

Just outside Marfa, Texas

Just outside Marfa, Texas

We are finally getting back on the road tomorrow. We have been riding a bit most everyday, but we took a week off of the strictly cycling trip and drove to Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon National Park (in that order). We slept exclusively hotels and motels to treat ourselves, but mostly because it was truly cold and snow covered.

There are some fairly interesting stories we’ve accumulated over this past week, but I would rather the images speak for themselves. I could attempt some amateur poetic descriptions of the massively impressive and majestic natural features, but it would be, at most, bland in comparison to the reality.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe evening with moderation in chemical intake and excess in enjoyment. Or perhaps, this relationship could be the other way round. Either way, have fun and bring in the new year with reflection and perhaps improvement on the past.

Charlotte and New Mexico cotton

Charlotte and New Mexico cotton

Caballo Mountains

Caballo Mountains

Caballo Mountains

Caballo Mountains

View From Emory's Pass 8,300 feet

View From Emory’s Pass 8,300 feet

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Heading into Safford, Arizona

Heading into Safford, Arizona

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And me on mine

Me on my rock

And Charlotte on hers

Charlotte on her rock

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Checkerboard Mesa

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Mountain Sheep

Mountain Sheep

Zion Canyon

Zion Canyon

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Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

The high desert on fire (not photo shopped at all...In fact, none of my pictures are altered in any way)

The high desert on fire (not photo shopped at all…In fact, none of my pictures are altered in any way)

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Charlotte on the edge

Charlotte on the edge

Gabriella being the gorgeous cycle she is

Gabriella being the gorgeous cycle she is

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Last bit of fading light on our final evening in The Canyon

Last bit of fading light on our final evening in The Canyon

Under Pressures

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Heading into Langtry, Texas

At times, it is easy to allow ourselves the foolish notion we are not intimately connected to the natural processes around us. Of course we can utilize our vastly creative ways to avoid the sometimes harshness of the natural world. But although we can choose to not be immersed in it, it still exists and is playing out regardless of our desires or attempts at altering our climate. When you choose to become more involved with the natural processes, you can be humbled quickly. Cycling across country is a humbling activity nearly everyday.

Charlotte at the top of her very first big hill (1,800 feet)

Charlotte at the top of her very first big hill (1,800 feet)

For the last 5 days we have been stuck in Alpine, Texas due to the uncontrollable pressures and movement of the air outside. We decided to stop here because for two days we cycled into soul crushing head wind

For Dad

For Dad

Time and pressure

Time and pressure

The first of these 2 days was certainly one of the top 3 most challenging days I have had in nearly 9,000 miles of cycling in the past year. It was only a 55 mile day, which is nothing too challenging under ideal conditions, but it was undoubtedly not ideal. The wind began to build from a manageable 5 mph to 10, 12, 15, and at times, exceeding 20mph. To add to the discouragement, the first 40 miles of the 55 were a steady uphill climb of over 2,000 feet—with only a few hundred feet of descending terrain.

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Generally, a 55 mile day would take us under 5 hours. This day begrudgingly dragged along for nearly 7 and a half hours. You have three main options when encountering the unwavering oppression of a ruthless head wind: turn around, stop, or continue going as best you can. The first two of these options are not really any kind of option at all.

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I used to get upset with head winds. Getting upset with changing atmospheric pressures is truly unsatisfying and most definitely exacerbates the already saturating frustration you are experiencing. After you have experienced a fair amount of these invisible moving walls, you find a Taoist state of being—a pure calm core which understands the absurdity of your past anger with an uncontrollable force. Well, at least I have gleefully discovered this mental place…most days

Beginning to see mountains

Beginning to see mountains

I once heard a story from a friend (Dylan) who was cycling with another gentleman into a continuous head wind which accurately exhibits the mental anguish one can encounter with head winds: for several days they struggled on their less than aerodynamic bicycles (panniers are significant windage). Every time the stopped to take a break from the life sucking activity Dylan’s companion would lay on his back on the side of the road and scream obscenities into the apathetic wind. Or a man cycling with his girlfriend and every they stopped she would weep. Ultimately, head winds are something not to be underestimated.

Marathon Hostel: Truly eclectic place. We met a wonderful man there who has been living as a touring cyclist for 20 years and has logged over 200,000 miles

Marathon Hostel: Truly eclectic place. We met a wonderful man there who has been living as a touring cyclist for 20 years and has logged over 200,000 miles

Marathon Hostel

Marathon Hostel

Marathon Hostel

Marathon Hostel

Marathon Hostel

Marathon Hostel

More Hostel

More Hostel

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Sorry for my tangent, but head winds are one of those phenomena which warrant some recognition. At any rate, we stopped here (Alpine) after two days of discouraging winds—deciding fun is the objective and our last couple days were not meeting the objective. The wind reports stated that in another day it would decrease and have a much more helpful velocity. Upon awaking on our day of hopeful departure it was quite windy, 35 degrees, and raining. We promptly decided a nice warm hotel room was beaconing our names. We packed our campsite with increasing numbness in our distal appendages and headed for town. This was 3 days ago.

Ice covered palm

Ice covered palm

This is the second winter storm to cross our path this voyage and is costing us money and time. “They” named both of them so they must be significant. I am trying not to be anthropomorphous towards the weather for it increases any seed of discontent I have.

Ice on a cactus

Ice on a cactus

We are enjoying ourselves though between thoughts of being out on the open road. Charlotte has been seeking for and applying to employment opportunities in the equestrian field across the country while I have been studying literature on certain human ecological initiatives which I would like to pursue in my next immersion into academia. If we have to stop living the dream, we may as well dream about living in the future.

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South Western Texas...

South Western Texas…

As always, our best to all of you and thank you for keeping up with our travels.

A Whale of A Tale

Random: A TV in a tree limb no where near a tree on a road

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

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.

Morganza Spillway

Morganza Spillway

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

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

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.

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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.

Sound Advice

Sound Advice

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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.

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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

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

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.

Dingus

Dingus

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.

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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

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.

Delayed postings

Hello all!

The stories and photos have been accumulating over the last three states. My apologises for not posting last week. On our rest day, I was distracted and busy. We will be in Texas soon and I will have a few days to catch up on documenting the events of the road. There has been many for sure: motorcycle accidents, baby mice crossing the road, odorous sleeping bags, and many, many others.

Safe and peddling, Jason.

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The Man Diaper (For those of you who have known me well and seen me around water, this is nothing new…best way to dry off shorts) Suwanee Music Park

Remembering, Trying to Forget, Novelty, and Green Eggs

Rest Day

Rest Day

I enjoy, and am able to support claims of, having an accurate and responsive memory. This years’ tour has been an interesting adventure in many ways so far, but most frequently, it has been similar to what living a continuous déjà vu might be. I recall the details of a country side corner, a sign over the next hill, a camp ground with clean showers, or an abrupt convenience store in the middle of nowhere—just before I encounter them.

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Day 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These remembrances, or rather the potentiality of them discovers me before they happen—slightly spoiling the future moment. It is definitely an odd series of temporal occurrences. Mostly, I am just trying to forget enough to experience novelty, but remember enough to assist the progress of the trip.

Sunset South of Hawthrone

Sunset South of Hawthrone

In regards to more direct and grounded aspects of the tour we have been getting along fine physically, mentally, and especially with finances. We camp nearly every night, eat packs of lunch meats with our bread, cheese, and stolen subway condiments on the curbs of gas stations, and do our best to live simply on less than $20 a day. Monetarily, this tour is shaping up to cost roughly 1/3 as much as last years’ tour. We are both excited about this for the season was not as lucrative as we had hoped.

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Charlotte, despite not being an avid cyclist is shaping up nicely. Just two days ago we covered nearly 25 miles in less than two hours with an average of 13.2 mph. For those of you who have toured with 80-110lb bicycles know this is moving at a great pace. She was close behind the whole time only dropping back on a significant hill. I was very impressed. We covered 62 miles that day and were pleased considering we were thinking about only doing 15.

There have been several instances which are certainly worth recounting for you here: We met a wonderful black man named James in Putnam Hall, Florida. He was kind and spoke of sitting in front of his modest home watching us cyclists roll by. His white undershirt was ridden with holes seemingly from some corrosive substance—the physical antithesis of his personality.

He asked of where we were heading and as we shook hands he said we would be in his prayers. Aside from his endearing personality, the most memorable component of this interaction was the irony of his baseball cap: worn and torn with the bold word “REBEL” written under an even bolder confederate flag. As we parted ways, I could not help to think of the civil war and how time has changed and perhaps even forgotten the impetuses for the division between North and South.

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Parking the SUV in the compact space

 

 

During our stay just South of Hawthrone, Florida (short video leaving Hawthorne http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABVPUMo-nfE&feature=youtu.be) at a fishing camp we were invited to dine with a very large family. We had already eaten dinner, but after the second invitation we felt it would be rude not to at least have some salad. Upon our arrival, the mother of the second generation in attendance warmly welcomed us. After our introductions, we turned only to see two enormous plates full of food. The wings, ribs, salad, shrimp salad, and virtually endless other items were all delicious. We couldn’t possibly give enough thanks to them for their hospitality and kindness. We shared food, laughs, and went to sleep with excessively full bellies.

Another brief moment embodied the definition of not believing my own eyes. During a long day of riding in the rain along a country road I saw what looked like crayfish. I thought, “was that a giant grasshopper,” but my eyes refuted my mind’s desires. How could a crayfish be walking along the side of this road which is dozens of miles away from water and hundreds of miles away from the ocean. I was about to turn around as Charlotte bellowed from behind, “did you see that little crayfish back there!” It was the confirmation I needed to relax my confusion. Apparently, according to Charlotte, this is a normal sight on a country road, but I am not accustomed to such things.

That night, we stopped in Monticello, Florida. It is a town which exemplifies quaint. It is the type of town, according to a local woman with chickens who lay green eggs, is a place where you lock your door only so you don’t come home to a bushel of zucchini. The houses and main street are off of a post card—something you might find in Martha’s Vineyard or Kennebunkport, Maine. But alas you are in the armpit of the Florida pan handle. I assure you it is anything but an armpit or otherwise offensively odorous portion of a body or, in this case, the state of Florida.

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However, there is one place in Monticello which is similar to unattended armpits. Unfortunately, there is no camping and other than a couple swanky B&B’s the only place to stay in Monticello is the Brahman Inn. This place is quite odorous and in ways which certainly do not comport with any of the towns qualities. When entering the room one is saturated with aerated waves of unclean large mammal, mold laden beddings, stagnant toilet water, and perhaps some small oily creature with ring worm dying. I have certainly stayed in worse places, but it is always a shock when walking into such an environment. Ultimately, it was a cold rainy day, we were starving, and for $40 the price was reasonable for the accommodations.

Today is a “rest day” and our clothes, bodies, and bicycles are in need of attention. In the nearly 350 miles of the tour there have been many other instances which entertain, challenge, and occasionally disappoint. Time is elongated when there are so many filled moments in each day. It seems like the tour has already been weeks—in the very best ways. The road awaits us again tomorrow, as it does everyday, and we are excited for the relentlessly filled moments to come.

Thank you all for reading and there will certainly be more to come.