Trip Blog



                                            Copyright 2007 Thomas D. unsicker

Everyone I have met on this trip has been truly gracious, generous, and giving.  It is a priceless reaffirmation for which I am grateful.

This blog is done.  The ride is over.  I will be expanding this into a book and hope you will look for it someday soon.  I will detail the aftermath of the trip and any follow up I get from the project in that forum.  If you are interested in more detail or need clarification please email me at

February 11 - On the big silver bird and home.  It is ironic that the last person I spoke with and tried to motivate said the same thing as the first - "What's the use?  They don't listen.  They don't care. I'm not even going to vote.  Elect a good person he will be corrupted by the money."  We really need a revolution.

February 9, 10 - Played tourist.  It really is strange not having to get on the bicycle and ride all day.  Saturday I had the bike and trailer disassembled and shipped home.

Total trip mileage = 3981

February 8 - Coat, tie and Connie.  Tried to deliver rest of Courage Packages.  Not allowed in Rayburn Building.  Had to do an end run through Farr's office in the Longworth Building.  Delivered many packages but were eventually asked to leave the building.  There is a rule against going door to door and hand delivering material.  The mail system is convoluted and impossible - all mail has to be taken to Maryland, opened, irradiated and delivered opened.  In effect, Congress has done its best to insulate and separate itself from the people.

One of the brightest spots came from my visit to the office of Kara's rep.  They received the balls and pin with good grace.  They had done their homework and had found Kara's last name and number.  They had not been able to get in touch with her but promised that they would make sure she and her husband got the help they needed.

The thing that struck both Connie and I was the level of separation from the real world that the Congress  has created. They are separated from the public by multiple layers of staff.  They walk in bubbles of quiet protected by security.  They have private elevators and unmarked doors.  The only way to get access is to buy your way in and wait for months.  They are treated like celebrities.  They act like they are special.  They have forgotten for whom they work.

February 7 - Bill Press Show.  Bill was a co-host on Crossfire, the chair of the California Democratic Party,  and has had shows on CNN, Fox and MSNBC.  He is a real powerfous and a great person.  his interview was thorough and inciteful.  No preparation was needed, he led from one topic to the next with open-ended questions.  Most imprtantly, he knew how to listen.

I met Sam Farr's staff.  Sam was not in town.  I had to, yet again, reassure the staff that I was respectful, approved of Congressman Farr's voting record and had no intention of offering him any slight.  We were given a directory of the buildings with names and office numbers of members and senators.  That really helped but is was all we got.  There was no way that the staff would assist in the delivery of the messages and packets.  There was evidently no internal mail system we or they could use.  Things are really locked tight after the 'white powder scare' six years ago.  These people really do need some balls.

Delivered some packages.  I was able to deliver a number of packages before I had to ride to the next interview.  I was met by multiple layers of security, bureaucracy and indifference.  Most of the offices accepted the cojones with good grace.  No one was offended and most laughed.

Radio interview taped at the Conservative Political Action Committee convention.  Lots of comments and approval on my stars and stripes outfit.  Why do conservatives think they own the flag and symbols of freedom? There were tears on the floor, Rommney had withdrawn.  As in any convention the fringe are who stand out.  The stereo types abounded.  I was surprised at the number of young adults in attendance.

February 6 - Preparation day. Rode into town without the trailer to check out routes and locations.  Found out that there are 4 separate sets of numbered and lettered streets depending on which quadrant one is in.  Confusing.  Figured it out with help and found Bill Press' studio.

I called the office of Kara's Congressman.  I told her story and gave what information I could.  I let the staffer i spoke with know that I would be stopping by Thursday or Friday to deliver the courage and pin.  She was really moved and promised that their office would follow through and that Kara and her husband would get some help.

Connie arrived this evening.  It is amazing and wonderful to have company, especially a loving wife.  We got ready for tomorrow by stapling the balls to copies of the message I had written.  I have a live spot on the Bill Press Show and a possible press conference after.  Peter B. Collins and his staff have been wonderful and have tried to get the word to the media.   If no one comes it is okay.  This trip has been made worthwhile by being able to help one person and maybe spark a few phone calls.

February 5 - Day 48.  Grasonville to Cheverly, MD.  32.6 miles 10.0 avg.  Capitol 7 miles away.  I got a ride over the Bay Bridge to Annapolis, no bikes allowed on the bridge.  One of the passengers in the van was a young man who said that he was in favor of the war up until two years ago.  When I asked what had changed he said that "The promises and lies didn't make sense any more.  We've been there too long and its time to come home." 

Rode right through the Naval Academy.  The history is long and awesome.  The buildings show the age.  Why is it that this administration cannot find the money to maintain anything other than its own comfort?  The Keynote is to run it down 'til it breaks and then say it doesn't work.  Gee, gotta privatize it....  Is the Academy going to be run by Blackwell soon? 

The ride was really a reprise of the whole trip.  It was raining to start.  There were hills, some steep.  There were areas of intense cold.  The road surface varied and the traffic was bad at times.  A really strong headwind came up.  And, to cap it all, I missed the hotel, got lost and had to ride an extra few miles to make it right.  I even got barked at by a dog - a miniature doberman behind a fence.  I laughed.

February 4 - Day 47.  Pokomoke City, MD to Grasonville, MD.  108.0 miles  13.9 mph.  My last century.  I started the day with a confrontation.  I called the Days Inn customer service and told them about the motel in Elizabeth  City and about the stay in Pokomoke.  I mentioned that the internet had not worked, the room was dirty and the staff was rude. I made the call in the parking lot of the Pokomoke motel on my cell phone.  Before I could get my gloves on and start pedaling the clerk from the motel was standing in front of me, glaring.  He was mad that I had called customer service and challenged me for calling him rude.  He asked why I though he was rude and I told him.  Needless to say, I am not bringing a message from him to Congress.

The terrain became slightly hilly, nothing like before but a welcome diversion.  The sky remained overcast and I had a quartering wind which was slightly favorable for most of the day.  It rained on and off through the day so I was always in my jacket.

The traffic was heavy, especially through Salisbury.  The roads between towns are great.  Good pavement and wide shoulders make the traffic bearable.  In town is another story.  No shoulders or bike lanes.  Because the towns are old the lanes are narrow.  There was nothing I could do but keep pedaling and hope for the best.

After almost being hit twice by cars pulling out from side streets (drivers talking on their cells) I was on high alert.  Good thing, a BIG tow truck began revving its engine behind me as I was grinding up a hill in the downtown area.  Cars had been passing and there was no traffic in the fast lane - I kept riding.  Near the top of the hill the engine noises from the truck got louder, it was starting to pass.  As the truck drew even with me the driver blasted his horn and swerved into me.  I would have been crushed if I had not been next to a driveway.  I bolted up the ramp, missing a pedestrian and telephone pole, and came to a shuddering stop in a parking lot.  The truck driver gave a one finger salute and kept going.

Not all Marylanders are crazy.  I met a wonderful older man, Sam Dunn.  Sam Is a veteran of the Korean War.  His son, Sam Jr. was with him.  Sam is also a Veteran, Gulf War I.  Both are concerned for the vets coming home now.  They want all of the troops home immediately "We don't belong there" and they want the troops to be cared for.  "We are not as bad off as them and we have to fight every day for our rights.  Those boys and girls need help and don't have anyone to fight for them and can't do it themselves.  Why won't the government take care of the soldiers?"  I wish I knew, Mr. Dunn and Mr. Dunn.

Back to crazy.  Going into Cambridge I heard something whiz by my bike.  I was on the shoulder on a busy stretch of four lane.  I looked toward the noise in time to see a boxed hamburger hit the grass.  The car that it had come from went by filled with young adults laughing and giving the high one.  I wish I had been faster, I was hungry and Cambridge was still a ways down the road.  I didn't think more of that until I was in Easton at a stop light.  The light changed and I was pedaling through the intersection, out of the lanes, when I was hit on the thigh by someting.  It was a gnawed on chicken leg/thigh.  Same type of car full of the same type of people doing the same thing.  To be the target for flying food twice in the same day is spooky.  And then the rain started.

Great roads, lousy people = Maryland.

I rolled into Grasonville at dusk in a steady rain.  The road I was on turned into freeway, no cyclists allowe.  i had to ask directions to downtown at a really bad motel.  I rode on into the damp dusk, hoping for a better room.  I passed through the town, closed and empty, looking for someone to speak with.  I rounded a turn and saw a group of men talking in a parking lot.  It was the volunteer fire house.  One of the men had lived in Santa Cruz and was still a surfer.  We talked about many things, will detail later.  The upshot was that they want more support for the infrastructure.  They have two mortgages on their new fire truck and have to hold breakfasts and bake sales to make the payments.  I don't know that I would like the security of my home or business being dependent of the outcome of selling cookies...  

I found the motel of which the firemen had told me.  I checked in and had dinner at the fish restaurant across the street.  I had a hamburger  with a bowl of chowder.  The fish entrees were too expensive.  I stopped at the desk to pick up another packet of decaf and spoke with the night clerk.

Kara is 21 and married.  Her husband is a vet who returned from Iraq deaf and with severe post traumatic distress.  She almost cried when she told me of the friends they had lost and of those who were still over there on their second and third deployments.  She wants everyone home but is proud of those who are serving.  Some of her husbands mates are on their third tour voluntarily.  They feel that it is better if they go again, they know the ropes, than to send a green recruit in to get killed.  She said most feel that we should not be there, that we are the cause for much of the violence and wan it to be over.

She did cry when she told of her efforts to get help for her husband.  A restrictive work schedule, being the sole support of the family, unresponsive VA and Congressional office were too much.  I told her what I was doing and suggested she and her husband go to the local office of their Congressman personally and speak directly with a staffer.  She said that she would start calling and get as many of her friends as possible to call.  She gave me her yellow ribbon pin (an enameled yellow ribbon with the Stars and Stripes on one side and a Maryland state flag on the other) and told me to put it on a bag of balls and give it to her congressman and to tell him that the vets needed help.  I promised I would.  More on this later.

February 3 - Day 46.  Norfolk, VA to Pokomoke City, MD.  88.4 miles 11.9 mph.  I called local bicycle shops and asked how to get to D.C. without having to backtrack 50 miles.  There were no bridges across the Chesapeake which allowed bicycles.  They said that the most direct route was up the East Shore (of the Chesapeake).  I asked how to get there and it turns out that the bridge authority has to provide a shuttle to any cyclist.  I got the number and found that a phone call 1/2 hour ahead of my crossing time and a $12.00 toll was all it took.  Cool.

I rode up to the toll plaza and went into the office.  The officer was very helpful and i got the number for the bridge authority in Maryland controlling the Bay Bridge into Annapolis.  After a short wait a pickup truck arrived.  The driver, a young man, and I loaded my bike and trailer into the truck bed with a bunch of traffic cones and off we went.

The bridge and tunnel cover 21 miles (not included in the days mileage).  I found quickly that the driver was not interested in the shore birds i was seeing so i changed tack.  He was blown away that anyone would ride from coast to coast in the winter.  When I told him why he started talking.  He is working his way through school and wants to be a teacher.  In his spare time (where does he find any?) he volunteers as a mentor to kids in need.  He wants more support for education.  I thanked him for his dedication and promised to pass on his message.  I told him he was a hero and to keep it up.  He looked confused and embarrassed, didn't say anything.

On the other side we unloaded and I hitched up and got on my way.  A partial overcast and 10 to 15 mph headwind kept the temperature from getting into the comfort range.  I rode bundled, zipped and wet for the entire day.  The road up the Eastern Shore is straight and flat.  I never though I would wish for hills again in my life but this got so boring that I actually looked forward to the small rises in the route.  

The terrain was like yesterday.  Old farms and houses.  Everything well cared for and showing age.  I have never seen so many red roofs.The main industry here is catering to tourists and sport fishers.  Lots of touristy crab shacks (mostly closed) and signs advertising charters.  The big problem for me was no bridges to park and pee....

In spite of the easy terrain the cold and wind made it hard to make good progress.  My right knee nagged all day long and I was worrying about the end of the ride.  It was hard to get motivated.  The whole day was an effort and I had to push to keep going.  If there had been any good places to stop I might have holed up for the rest of the day.

As it was I made the Maryland border under overcast skies and spitting rain about 45 minutes before dark.  The motel in Pokomoke City was on the southern edge of town and I checked in just at dark.  The temperature had dropped to freezing and I was really glad to be off the bike.  Another flea bag run by very rude people.  There was a store a mile and a half up the road so I got back on the bike and bought dinner.  I'm getting very tired of micro waved chicken!

February 2 - Day 45.  Elizabeth City, SC to Norfolk, VA.  Saw Atlantic ocean73.4 miles  12.9 mph.  Off to Norfolk.  Today I will see the Atlantic.  It is exciting and spooky to realize that I really have ridden from sea to signing sea.  One of my friends wants me to go to Kitty Hawk.  If I were in a car or if this were not a business trip I would.  It is understandable why the Wright brothers chose this area.  The wind is incredible and always here.

It was chilly but not freezing.  I dressed lightly, anticipating a warm up.  It never came.  I had to wear my jacket the entire day.  My route took me into Virginia on very back roads.  There was no traffic so the lack of shoulder was not an issue.  Virginia drivers are not as anti bicycle as those in North Carolina.  I was told later that West Virginia is really bad for cycles.  The drivers there are evidently very aggressive hit many cyclists every year.  I'm glad I decided to come this way.

The country was beautiful.  Old farmland interspersed with woodlots rolled gently on and on.  I could imagine harvest festivals, British troops being stalked by Continental soldiers and Union lines of blue taking fire from the Rebs in the trees.  This land reeks of history more than any on our continent.  It is not as ghost  ridden as some places in Europe but the history is here.

I made it into Virginia Beach and headed for the ocean.  The beach area is a combination of Waikiki and Santa Cruz.  High rise hotels line the beach for miles.  Interspersed are attractions and rides.  The traffic, even in winter, was heavy.  Pedestrians and cars everywhere looking for a good time.  The wind was strong and penetrating yet there were people shivering in shorts and tank tops.  Just like home.  It is the South and the beach so it must be warm, right?

I found the Virginia Beach Municipal Wharf and talked my way into the parking lot for a picture.  The parking lot attendant had a lap top so I gave her my site address and she looked me up.  By the time I had finished my pictures she had called the local news station and tried to set up an interview.  She couldn't believe I had ridden this far.  I took her comments down - health care for all, end the war, better schools - and started for the motel.  The interview didn't happen.  I spoke with the reporter and there were too many more important stories....  Oh well, no 15 minutes of fame tonight.

I checked in at the motel and started my laundry.  While it was cycling I cycled to the local store for my frozen dinner.  I was still in cycling gear and the checker asked why.  I gave my spiel and she told her story.  

This lady is a single mother who is working nights and weekends as a grocery clerk to make ends meet.  She is a fully credentialed teach with a job as a high school special education teacher!  She asked that the federal government support education to the point that teachers could be paid a living wage.  It is understandable, not fair but understandable, for someone with no college  to work two jobs to make ends meet.  It is inconceivable that a highly trained educator cannot make enough to support a family.  Yet, we give tax breaks to billionaires and make this woman work longer and harder.  Go figure.

February 1 - Day 44.  Greenville, NC to Elizabeth City, NC.  RAIN!  97.1 miles   14.7 mph avg.  The day started with cloudy skies, gusty winds from the south south west and scattered showers.  It was cold but not freezing.  Before leaving the motel I rode a couple of miles and bought some supplies.  I still need to mount a couple of new tires but I'm so tired I'm going to wait for them to blow first (or until I have more energy).  I repacked the bearings on the trailer and will keep an eye on the tires.

The wind stayed on my shoulder or back for the entire day.  The 14.7 mph average included all of the stops and traffic lights.  On the road I was making better than 16 mph.  

I crossed Abermarl Sound in a pouring rain.  The bridge was long and arched, water streaming from the crown into the sound.  The sound is huge.  I felt like I was on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.  The wind howled and whipped the water into white crests.  No birds were out and about, they had more sense than I.   The traffic was moderate and I had the bridge to myself most of the time.  Once, though, a truck went by couples with a good gust of wind and I thought I was going over the rail.The rain kept up for better than 30 miles.  I was soaked to the skin.  If the rain couldn't find its way in the sweat made up for it.  I stopped one under an abandoned service station car port to have a bite and a sip.  I couldn't believe the puddle the puddle I left behind.  At one point the rain was so heavy I saw a semi truck stop under an overpass to wait it out.  I waived as I rode past, into the downpour.  It doesn't sting as badly at 18mph.  

The wet tapered off for the last 15 miles.  I rolled into Elizabeth City just before dark and stopped to shop.  It was dark when I left the store and I missed the turn to the motel.  A phone call and an extra 2 miles got me to a flea bag Days Inn.  It was dirty, there was no cold water in the lavatory sink and the cover to the vanity light was on the floor under the coat rack.  The bulbs were filthy.  I called the desk and was told that they didn't have other rooms.  I got my cold coffee water from the shower.  The clerk gave me the name of the manager (East Indian) and the number for Days Inn customer service.  She told me to call the national because the manager would do nothing.

January 31 - Day 43.  Fayetteville (Wade), NC to Greenville NC.  Night Ride.  92.4 miles  9.9 mph avg.  I started the day at the desk of the motel being told by Jennifer that "We are not a stupid as those jerks in Washington think we are."  She talked about the problems the Airborne at Fort Bragg were having with equipment and maintenance due to lack of trained personnel and outsourcing.  She wanted the troops home now and the Guard to be there when needed.  She said a large number of the troops and families in the area were doing their jobs with pride but did not believe we belonged in Iraq.

The temperature was 32 degrees with a 10 mph headwind.  The wind shill was around 22 degrees.  through the day it warmed to a balmy 48 degrees (35 degrees with the wind).  The head wind freshened to 20 with gusts, higher than forecast.  Riding in wind like this is like wading and jogging in waist deep water.  Then, when a gust or passing truck happens by it is like getting hit by a wave.

That morning I was battered by sound and wind and rode on bad roads with no shoulder and heavy traffic.  I felt like I had been given a severe beating.  I was ready to quit at Goldsboro but the route I followed had no motels.  I kept going.

I had so many dog encounters today I lost count.  I have started growling and baring my teeth at the dogs.  Yelling loudly and really being aggressive takes them from  their game.  They don't know how to handle it and I'm past before they make up their minds. I faced down one pack of four dogs that was followed immediately by a pack of ten, five on either side of the road.  I growled, gnashed my teeth and howled.  They just stood there.  I didn't see any people but can only imagine what they would have thought had any seen me.  I might be writing this from an institution.....

I ground on through the wind, into the night.  Greenville seemed to keep getting farther away.  Every time I came to a mileage sign they added an extra mile.  I finally made the Motel 6 and was checked in by 8:30pm.  There was a Chinese restaurant across the street with a buffet.  The buffet was all you can eat but only open until 9:00.  I filled up two plates just in case it closed early and ate fast enough that I was able to refill them and get a plate of desert to boot.  The poor group at the table near mine couldn't keep their eyes off of me.  I guess they had never seen a skinny guy pack so much food away so quickly.  The restaurant lost money on that meal!  When one burns 5,000+ calories a day it is hard to eat enough.

January 30 - Day 42.  Florence, SC to Fayetteville (Wade), NC.  103.9 miles  13.0 mph avg.  I left the motel to a cloudy sky.  The wind had been forecast as westerly and mild but was gusting from the north.  After a couple of miles Mapquest put me onto a muddy unpaved road.  Finding a way around the wood lot it led me into took an extra six miles and the help of a friendly local (a herd of cats in his yard) and a UPS driver.

Back on track.  The sky cleared and the wind shifted to the rear.  I made great time for a while.  The countryside alternated between swamps, lakes, woodlots and fallow fields.  There was no traffic.

I spoke with a pair of workers clearing debris from a swamp.  They wanted the troops home, NOW.

I stopped to work on the trailer at an abandoned school.  An older lady (62 as it turns out) came across the street from her house.  Her name is May.  She came across to say hello because she hardly ever sees strangers.  Speaking with her was a surprisingly formal affair.  it was an Old South conversation, full of "sirs" and "maams", well enunciated and grammatically correct.  Her accent was not an impediment.  It turned the conversation into a gently flowing creek, murmuring and chuckling through smooth banks.  I wondered if she had taught at the school before it closed.  Never did find out.  She wants the troops home, better medical for everyone but especially seniors.  She promised to start calling and said she would involve all of the folks at the senior center.

North Carolina appears to be more prosperous than its neighbors to the south and east.  The towns have open shops and seem healthier.  There are very few single wides.  Most of the homes are houses with a few double wides.  This part of the U.S. is big on "manufactured" homes.  Most of the homes are in good repair and show pride of ownership.

At the end of the day the wind shifted and the shoulder went bad.  I rode through Fayetteville to Wade, a suburb about ten miles north.  The motel was fine but i had to change rooms to get the single I had reserved.  There was a restaurant on the premises but I didn't have time to sit and be served.  I went across the street and had a huge Quiznos Sub with a salad and beer.  Finished in time to make my call to the Peter B. Collins show.  

I stopped in the restaurant after that to see about desert (none left) and had another beer.  There was a lively conversation with the owner and a retired policeman from Oklahoma.  Both would qualify as very conservative on the left coast.  Both wanted Bush to be impeached.  They had differing views on some issues but wanted a safety net for elderly and children.  Lisa, the owner of the restaurant, told her life story.  It was a tragedy worthy of a soap opera.  The upshot was that she had worked it out and was getting back on her feet.  A little help probably would have been nice but she wasn't asking for anything for herself.  She wanted education and healthcare for all.

January 29 - In Florence.  Day off for maintenance.  11.7 miles.  I changed the tires on the trailer and tried to find bearings for the wheel.  No luck.  I did buy a tube of grease and repacked the bearings.  It spins better but how long will it last?  Only 5 -7 days left, I hope.

I changed rooms.  The first had a broken microwave and burned out bulbs in the lamps.  There was mold in the bathroom, no coffee maker and the carpet was sticky.  Yea Days Inn.  The new room was better (I replaced the one burned out bulb with one from the old room) but I found it had fleas in the sofa.  Bed bugs in Birmingham and fleas in Florence.  How appropriate.  This motel is a prime target for a takeover by America's Best Value Inns.  I think it already is owned by East Indians.

I bought food at a grocery store and ate in the room.  The micorwave worked, at least. Fayetteville tomorrow.

January 28 - Day 41.  Columbia, SC to Florence, SC.  88.8 miles  12.3 avg.  I ate two breakfasts, one in the room of fruit and coffee and a second at the IHOP.  The IHOP breakfast was all-you-can-eat pancakes with a side of bacon and eggs.  I had three helpings of pancakes while I checked my route and made reservations for the nights motel.  When riding almost a hundred miles a day, day after day, it is hard to get enough food.  More on that later.

There were a group of women, maids just coming to work, outside the motel office.  They asked about my bike and trailer. When I explained my trip they were eager to pass on their messages.  More money for education and helth care headed their list with better paying jobs and everyone home from Iraq following loudly.  I asked if they were afraid of terrorists.  There was  a pause.  "Well yeah, when I think about them." one lady said.  I asked when she thought about it and she said "I only think about that when I see it on TV."  Most people did not mention terrorism as an issue.  I had to probe.  This group mentioned that they want their National Guard home in case of emergency.

My first stop was at a bike shop that, thankfully, was on my route out of town.  The people in the shop were friendly and helpful.  I bought a new tire and had a new chain mounted.  Got the deraileurs adjusted.  For the last few days it was getting progressively harder to shift onto the small chain ring for hill climbing.  When I told about my route the manager insisted on giving me a rear view mirror and telling me I needed it in South Carolina.  She said the drivers here were the worst she had encountered on the east coast and that she had been hit twice.

She was right.  Later in the day a car came up behind me and slowed to my speed.  I saw in the mirror that it was a small sedan and motioned for it to pass.  As it passed the elderly lady driving swerved into me.  I yanked the bike to the left, avoiding contact.  The car drove on, hugging the white line on the right, as I stood over my flipped trailer.

It took almost an hour to right the trailer and fix the damage as best I could.  Both wheel were tweaked and the spokes had to be re-tightened. The trailer had to be repacked.  I didn't find everything and lost maps, directions and pens.  Later, when I stopped to readjust the load and investigate a new noise, I found that I had to re tension the left wheel spoke and that the bearing cup on that wheel had opened and the bearings had been spun.

It was while I was dealing with this that an elderly man crossed the highway from his home.  It was a nice brick house with a well kept yard.  He appeared to be in his mid seventies and wanted to look at the trailer.  He offered to help and we talked as I worked.  He was really interested in bicycles and trailers and had one of each.  He had made the trailer himself.  He hadn't ridden for a couple of years due to a triple bypass operation.  He had worked for a factory in the town and retired with a pension and medical benefits.  Both went away when the factory was sold, shutdown and the company declared bankruptcy.

He said that he really loved his house.  It was built between the road and a swamp so that he would always have some privacy.  He had almost lost it to the hospital.  "The operation cost $130,000 and medicare only paid 80%.  I almost lost the house before I could come up with the money to pay the difference.  I've had to do without a lot but I have my house."  He wanted Congress to get rid of Bush and to fix the healthcare system.  "There's a lot of people out there not as lucky as me.  They shouldn't have to lose their homes and savings for decent medical care."

All of the wrenching and talking brought me to Florence after a nasty night ride.  A Burger King dinner and to bed.  Tomorrow will have to be a maintenance day.

January 27 - Day 40.  Augusta, GA to Columbia, SC.  85.4 miles  11.5 avg.  I didn't get to see Augusta National.  There were no azaleas or other blooming flowers.  I left Georgia the way I entered it, weak light, cold air and bad roads.  The Highway through Augusta was like the old Embarcadero in San Francisco.  It cut through old neighborhoods and industrial areas sprinkled with high class hotels and malls.  At one point I looked down on a block of houses from the late 18th / early 19th century.  Very beautiful.  It smelled like an old library, musty and warm with hints of paper, coffee and tobacco.

It is amazing to me how different the reality of a city only seen on television through the lens of a golf "up close and personal" camera is to the projected image.  Augusta is a dirty, sprawling city filled with poor people and dilapidated buildings.  It stinks.  Yet, on television, it is the image of the stately Old South.  I believe that the representatives from Georgia and the rest of the country choose to believe the image rather than confront the reality.  Wake up Congress.

After crossing the bridge into South Carolina the first thing that greeted my eyes was the lack of shoulder on the road.  None, Zip, Nada.  Narrow lanes, heavy traffic and 65+ miles per hour.  And, if anything, the hills were closer together and steeper than in Georgia.

I stopped at a convenience store with a Subway and bought a sandwich.  For the first time in a few days I had the energy to engage people in conversation.  I gave my spiel, got promises to call and asked for directions.  The lady behind the counter called a local over, saying that he knew the roads better than anyone.  

A man in his mid forties ambled over, dressed in worn work clothes.  He looked a little like a retired prize fighter.  His face was slightly scarred around the eyes and his nose had been broken.  I noticed that he was missing the first joints of three fingers on his left hand.  I asked him if he had been a truck driver.  His answer, "No, I was in finance and had to drive all over the state to service loans."

He gave me detailed directions and assured me that the shoulders on the roads I would be taking were great.  It turned out he was right.  The shoulders were wide and flat.  They just weren't paved...  REally nice grass.  Oh, further conversation clarified his job - he was a collector for a local pawn broker / loan agency.

Later in the day I stopped for my afternoon sports drink and chatted with the clerk.  He was a young man who believed we needed to get out of Iraq but, "The right way."  I asked him what the right way was.  He didn't know.  I asked him why we just couldn't leave.  His answer,  "Well, we caused the mess. We gotta fix it.  The people we put in are just as bad as the people we kicked out and we can't leave because things would be worse than when we went in."  I suggested we were the problem and that leaving would give the people there a chance to chart their own path.  He didn't agree and I asked again what we should do.  His reply was chilling, "Maybe we haven't shot enough of them yet."  I left quietly.

The first 65 miles and the last 5 were hellishly hilly.   I was exhausted when I finally found the Motel 6.  There was a Food Lion and an IHOP across the street.  I bought fruit for desert and breakfast and ordered a meal to go from the pancake house.    Ate and fell into bed.  No internet at the motel so I'll have breakfast at the IHOP with a WiFi connection.

January 26 - Day 39.  Madison, GA to Augusta, GA.  106.7 miles  12.4 avg.  The good news was that it was warmer.  It actually got up to the mid 40's.  The down side was that for the first five hours I rode through light rain and drizzle.  

Yet again MapQuest let me down.  I think they (and Google Map) are using data bases that don't differentiate between existing and planned roads.  

There was no fast food in any of the towns and the local cafes and diners were all closed.  I survived on granola bars.  I have tried generic bars when I couldn't find Nature Valley.  They are ok but the Nature Valley bars are the best.  I put two sweet/salty peanut and two trail mix  in my jersey each morning.  They keep me going and I'm not sick of them yet...

I was attacked by a pack of five dogs.  All were related.  They looked like a cross between Huskey and Chow.  Big, hairy and fast.  I pedaled as fast as I could but was on a slight upslope.  They were close before I noticed them.  They hadn't made any noise and I heard their claws on the pavement and the rustling of leaves as the ones not on the road closed in.  They started snarling and barking when they were sure they had me.  

The two biggest were in the lead.  The first in grabbed my left achilles tendon.  As I was wearing my neoprene overshoes, all he got was a mouth full of rubber.  I twisted my foot loose, unclipping from the pedal in the process.  You could actually hear the dog go "spatooey, yuck." through the growls.  Guess I didn't taste as expected.  

That gave the next in the pack an opening.  This one had been loping alongside the leader, waiting for a restaurant review.  It angled in toward my leg, jaws open, ready to snap.  My foot was free of the pedal so I straightened my leg in a snap kick and lucked out.  I caught the dog under the jaw.  its mouth snapped shut so loudly I could hear enamel on enamel.  The dog immediately dropped out of the pack and headed for home.  The rest hesitated and then followed.  I was exhausted, scared and unharmed.  I kept pedaling.

On the outskirts of Thomson I was riding by a group of small homes, mostly single wide trailers.  In a yard across the highway there were four children playing.  Two boys, brothers, were riding their new Christmas bicycles around the yard.  It looked like they were having fun, stunt riding to the admiration of two little girls.  The girls were identically dressed in frilly pink dresses and were applauding the daring boys.  One of the boys saw me and pointed.  I waved and yelled "Nice Bikes!  I could hear the kids, "Look, he's pulling something."   "What is it?"  There was silence for a moment and then, almost in unison "ICE CREAM!  ICE CREAM!"  I got a good laugh, they had mistaken me for one of the bicycle vendors one sees in Mexican communities.

Thomson was a change from the towns I had ridden through earlier today.  The previous towns were full of empty, boarded up shops.  The only open businesses were Dollar General, Family Dollar and Convenience stores.  There was actually a viable downtown in Thomson.  The homes showed better care.  

I soon found out why - Georgia Pacific.  There was a mill in operation so the people had jobs.  I don't know if the wood products are being shipped to China but I'm sure that the board of GP is looking for a way to ship out the jobs.

Another Days Inn in Augusta.  I got to the Walmart to buy dinner just at dark.  Checked in and nuked a meal.  Tomorrow South Carolina.

January 25 - Day 38.  Norcross, GA to Madison, GA.  67.3 miles  11.4 avg.  The day started cold and never warmed up.  It would be a short ride - city spacing - so I stayed in the motel longer than usual waiting for the temperature to climb.  It was at freezing when I left and never got to 40 degrees.  The first 30 miles were suburbia and heavy traffic with no shoulder.

It was a trying day.  Off of 78 there was less traffic but still no to minimal shoulder.  It is really scary to be riding in the lane with traffic moving better than 55mph.  Makes for a lot of tension.  I lost my directions.  I had been carrying them in my glove.  Not a good idea.  When I stopped for a granola bar break they fell out and I didn't notice.  That, coupled with really bad road signs, cost me an extra ten miles.

I stopped at a BBQ shop housed in an old gas station.  The lady running it was a hoot.  She said she sure as hell would call and that all her family would too - just to shut her up. She wanted Bush impeached.  She also was disturbed that Obama was doing so well.  I asked her why and she said that a Muslim shold not run for President.  I ignored the religious bigotry and told her Obama was a Christian.  She promised to check his site when I told her that the reports of his being Islamic were lies put out by the right wing.  She wanted a set of balls.  I gave her one.  She gave me a bowl of beans to go with the sandwich.  Dinner.

It was really hard to keep going.  The cold saps ones strength and will.  The traffic and poverty are emotionally draining.  There are always more hills, worse shoulders and bad drivers ahead in Georgia.  This is when I realized that there will always be another hill ahead, the wind will veer into ones face and the road will get worse.  The only way to keep going is not look too far ahead and keep cranking.

Nuked dinner and fell asleep.

January 24 - Bremmen, GA to Norcross, GA.  Off to Atlanta today.  I need to return the blown tire I've been hauling on the trailer since Las Cruces, NM.  If I can find a AAA and replace maps it will be a help.

It was foggy and cold to start.  The road and terrain were not real friendly either.  The hills were close and steep, the shoulder bumpy or nonexistent.  Heavily wooded and full of dogs the terrain suggested a forboding gothic movie.

There seem to be more Baptist churches in this part of the US than any where else.  There is one at least every three miles.  Toward noon I had an uneasy feeling.  I couldn't identify it, just that something wasn't right.  Then, i glanced at my odometer and realized I hadn't seen a Baptist church for 3.6 miles.  Was I in the devil's country?  I was starting to believe I was riding over unhallowed ground when a Missionary Baptist church appeared around a corner.  Halleluyia!

At a Chick Fil'A restaurant over a chicken sandwich I had an interesting conversation with the manager.  He was a self admitted Christian Conservative.  I thought "Oh boy, here we go."  However, when I asked him to give me a message to Congress his response was interesting.  "Tell them that we can't be a house divided.  A house divided will never flourish."  I thought a moment and said, "In a more secular vein that would be "United we stand, divided we fall?"  He agreed.

We spoke for a while and I realized that up until the Reagan years the Congress would meet and debate on how to do something or to what extent it should be done.  The goals were universal:  Infrastructure, Health Care, Education, Defense.  The welfare of the people came first and the Congress worked together toward that goal.  95% of the issues were goals held by both sides on the aisle.  

With Reagan and the neoconservatives came wedge issues:  Flag burning,  Abortion, Gay marriage, School prayer, to name a few.  There was no longer any debate or dialog.  These were take no prisoners, no quarter given issues.  God help you if you agreed on any issue with someone on the wrong side of your pet wedge. The age of special issue politics was upon us.  This drove many from the polls and the process.

I have found that the voice of the people, made of hundresd of viewpoints, speaks as one on the basics of most of the issues.

I went through a small town, Eden.  The shopping center at the edge of town was empty, all of the windows sporting "For Rent" signs.  The most modern building complex, with the most cars, was a dental clinic.  Their sign proudly proclaimed Discount Dentures.  On the surface this could be viewed as humorous - Hillbillies, crackers, rednecks, whatever.  However, I saw the sign as a beacon of failure for the current administration.  It spoke of a populace without the money or insurance to afford preventative dental care.  It spoke of a system without the money or will to teach nutrition and hygiene.  It spoke of a system which had abandoned a large segment of its population.

I found the REI, not the AAA.  Returned the tire and got new gloves (my old ones split that morning) but didn't buy a new tire.  The people there were great and I was able to use their phone to find a motel.  Another night ride, though.

The motel clerk would not take plastic when I got there and, when I refused to pay cash, sent me in the wrong direction.  After two miles of freezing dark I found a convenience store where I got good directions.  Only another two miles to a motel.

Mileage = 77.7  11.0 mph avg.

January 23 - Day 36.  Irondale, AL to Bremmen, GA.  Mileage = 102.5  11.7 mph avg.  It was foggy and 42 degrees to start, cloudy and42 degrees at the finish of the day.  The temperature never got above 45.  There was a light rain for the first hour after leaving the fleabag.  The terrain was really steep ups and downs, heavily wooded.  It was worse than North Texas.  Highway 78 has no shoulder but was 4 lane for the first 20 miles.  Traffic had somewhere to go around me.

At one point Highway 78 dumped me onto I-20 for a couple of miles.  Right after getting on the freeway (no signs prohibiting bicycles) I came upon a state trooper giving a ticket.  I slowed to pedal past and the trooper, a short round man in his thirties, looked up and saw me.  His first reaction was confusion.  Then shock and anger played across his face.  He stood up straight and motioned to me,  "You git yosef ovah heah!  You git yosef ovah heah raht now!" He pointed to the ground in front of the car he was ticketing.  He read me the riot act.  I tried to tell him that the road had dumped me onto the freeway and that there were no signs prohibiting bicycles at that exchange. "Theahs sahns ayat evrah danged ramp."  I took a new tack and asked if there was a way around.  He thought a second and said 'No.  You gotta git off at the next ramp."  I asked how to get back on 78 and he said the next ramp picked up with 78 again.  Oh well, Officer Pepper in a younger form.

Riding through a hilly area I heard a high pitched barking and looked over to see a daschund dashing at me from across the road.  She didn't cross the road and come after me.  Maybe it was because I was laughing so hard.  How do I know she was a Her?  She was wearing a red plaid square dance dress.  Her front legs were through the arm holes of the bodice with a frilly skirt, pouffed like a tutu, around her middle.  It was cold, after all.  Later in the day I had a St. Bernard lumber after me.  Big and loud but, thankfully, slow.  It must be the spokes on the bike.  They are flat and probably put out a supersonic noise.  Dogs bark from over a 1/4 mile away.

I found a Starbucks in Oxford and warmed up with a cup of real coffee!!!  Did not engage any people, wanted to keep going. 

Am now in a new time zone, as well as a new state.  I had to ride 1 3/4 hours in the dark to get to the motel.  The terrain for the last 20 miles was worse than the first!  Georgia roads are bad too - rumble strips in what shoulder there is.  If this terrain keeps up it may be my last century.  With the roads and dark I could only make 8 mph for the last part of the ride.  I do NOT want to ride at night again.  Fat chance

January 22 - Not a travel day.I spent the day sleeping and working on the blog.  It rained all day.  I really needed the time to recharge my batteries.  It was so hard yesterday with the freezing temps, hard terrain and long day.

The motel (old Super 8 now America's best value Inn) is a flea bag.  There were no plugs in the drains.  The furniture, fixtures, tub, toilet and sink were worn and cracked.  The diffuser and brackets from the vanity light were off and sitting on the floor under the coat rack.  The bulbs were filthy.  This  morning I found a bug like none I had ever seen in the bathroom.  i woke up bitten.  The cleaning crew is an older east Indian couple.  AmBVI is owned by the Patel clan and buys older properties.  They put family members fresh from India into different positions.  Needless to say there are different cultural standards of cleanliness and business practice.  Is it worth an extra $20 for a clean, functional room?  More and more llikely.

I have rally hit the wall.  Something has to get easier for me to keep going.  Either it gets warmer and flatter or I'm in trouble.  I really want to be home!

January 21 - Day 35.  Tuscaloosa, AL to Irondale (Birmingham), AL.  Got a late start because I had to call bicycle shops and found nobody open in Tuscaloosa.  As I was leaving the Motel 6 at 10:30 a painter stopped working and asked me about my trip.  He used to cycle and did a cross country on the northern tier when he was younger.  He said he was in his mid 40's and still rode some.  I asked him his concerns and to call:  "What's the use.  Nobody in DC cares.  They are in the corporate pockets and it doesn't do any good."  He lives in Las Vegas and is staying in the Motel 6 in Tuscaloosa while it is being renovated.  Any work is work...  Great economy when a painter has to travel 1500 miles on a job.

It was still really cold and I just couldn't get going.  The fact that I had to ride the interstate and there were killer hills and a headwind didn't help.  The trucks driving by continuously made me feel like I was trapped in a clothes dryer on the last phase of perma-press - lots of noise, no heat!

I stopped at a rest stop about 20 miles toward Birmingham and warmed up - air dryers in the bathrooms.  Talked to the attendants - They wanted better pay and benefits.  They also wanted the troops home now. They had relatives and friends serving and wanted them home.  I got their promises to call, picked up a map and got back on the road.

10 miles later I saw an exit with a sign advertising food.  I found a burger stand and warmed up with a cup of coffee and a bad burger.  Jacks is not Jack In The Box!  First and last time.  In the parking lot I was hailed by a man in a pickup.  he hear me out and was excited.  He declined to comment but took my website and told me he would think about it and email me.  Robert Tibbs, 42 is a cyclist and wasn't to take a 300 mile trip to the beach (gulf coast) to celebrate his 43rd birthday - Go Robert!!!!

Robert's email came that night.  He is a conservative who wants less government intrusion in his life and more fiscal responsibility.  I mailed back that those were also progressive goals. I gave him the web sites for Thom Hartmann, Peter B. Collins and Ed Schultz.  We have more in common than not.

Until 30 years ago Republicans and Democrats used to meet and negotiate.  They differed on the "how" and the "to what degree."  The goals were common.  Education, infrastructure, defense, jobs, wages, etc., were the tasks of government.  Now (it started with Reagan) the wedge issues (abortion, religion, terrorism, etc.) have created an adversarial environment which keep the Congress from achieving the important goals.  Who wins?  The monied interests who drive the media.

Riding the interstates is really dangerous.  The off and on ramps are literally killers.  there is no safe way to cross them and keep going.  One has to stop and wait for a big gap.  The only advantage is that the shoulders are usually wind and smooth.  Not the case with 459.  The shoulder was basically gravel.  I took a 5 mile detour through some beautiful, hilly country trying to find frontage roads and ended up back on the freeway.  After a grueling 15 miles and a last killer climb I found the bike shop.

The people in the shop (Thanks Kal!) were wonderful and I got a new tire and tube.  Used their phone to find a motel and got direction.  Unfortunately it entailed another 10 miles in the cold and dark.  The road was horrible - no shoulder and narrow.  The edge of the road was mostly a steep drop into a drainage ditch.  Cars would actually come up behind me and, instead of passing, honk for me to get off the road.  One car followed me for 1/2 mile honking before I found a place to pull over enough for it to go by.

It is suppose to rain hard tomorrow.  I am taking the day off to plan for the arrival, rest and recuperate and try and catch up on the blog.

Mileage =  75.8   10.4 mph avg

January 20 - Day 34.  Greenwood, MS to Tuscaloosa, AL.  24 degrees on departure.  Even with extra liners and balaclava I still froze.    With the headwind the wind chill was close to 0.  By Columbia, about 20 miles, I was getting hypothermic so I stopped for lunch and a warm up.  Got several people, including the manager of the McDonald's, to promise to call.

I made it to Alabama and thought I was in heaven.  The road surface improved, the sun came out and there was a wide shoulder.  I was happy....for about 9 miles.  Then, they put a double rumble strip in the middle of the beautiful shoulder.   I tried to stay in the 4 inch space between the strips with my bike and let the trailer rumble.  It didn't work.  After 6 miles the road caused a tire to blow.  I patched the tube but the casing of the tire had a rupture.  I made a boot out of a cardboard box top (slipped a piece of cardboard into the tire over the rupture).  This kept the tube from getting an aneurysm.  Hoped it wouldn't rain or that there were no big puddles.  Back in the slow lane again.

Alabama is hilly, mostly steep.

I stopped for directions and road information at a convenience store.  The young lady gave me accurate information.   She was adamant that I make it through the swamp before dark.  She was right.  The swamp was creepy;  trees standing in water with vines dripping.  The problem was not creatures or critters, however, but narrow bridges with no shoulder and very heavy traffic.  She said that the roads improved after the swamp and she was right.  The only problem was that the brand new shoulders had rumble strips freshly stampped right in the middle.

Two hours of night riding with no shoulder brought me into Tuscaloosa, home of BAMA.  I crossed bridges and climbed hills, making it nearly through town before I got the the motel.  About a mile short of the motel I stopped and warmed up in a convenience store, talking to the clerk.  Her son was coming home in a week from his second tour in Iraq.  He was supposed to be home months before but they extended his tour three months.  She said "My son and all his friends want out.  They are not re-enlisting and they want out.  They say we do not belong there."  Her first thoughts, however, were of the economy - "Honey, you gotta tax the rich, not the poor!"

Mileage = 89.1  11.6 mph avg.  Find bike shop tomorrow.

January 19 - Day 33.  The snow and rain that were forecast did not show but it was really cold all day.  Zipped jacket, glove liners, overshoes, and both balaclavas weren't enough.  I still froze.  It is weird to be freezing on the outside with cold extremeties but to be soaking wet with sweat on the inside.  Crunchy on the outside, steamy on the inside...

The Lady at the desk of the Ramada, Anne, gave me a complimentary breakfast at the hotel restaurant when she found out what I was doing.  She is a large woman in her fifties or sixties.  Her fading blond hair and bright blue eyes give a hint of the belle that was.  I asked her to speak up and call her legislators.  Anne's eyes focused far away and her accent made her voice flow like honey from a spoon.  "my Daddy called me Puddin."  She was listening to her Daddy as she spoke to me.  'He said, 'puddin, don't be shy.  Tell people what you think!.' He was the mayor.  And I do."  She calls her reps weekly!  She wants the economy to improve, the middle class to come back and lower taxes.  She doesn't think we belong in Iraq.

In the restaurant I met a 99 year old gent who wanted to be on Willard Scott next year.  Barring an errant logging truck he will make it.  

There was a local businessman who sold truck washing equipment.  He is a firm believer in privatization.  He said that the local private school only charged $3600 and that it cost $8000 per child in the public schools.  I wonder if he knows that the private school does not hire credentialed teachers and pays less than half.  The private school does not have a transportation department and probably assesses the parents for extras like maintenance.  And, he most assuredly does not take into consideration that the majority of parents in Greenwood do not have $3600 per child for school.  Oh well...

I was charged by a silent corgie.  Didn't see him coming until the last minute.  I lucked out.  The dog misjudged the intercept and banged into the trailer.

I stopped for coffee and a warm up in Winona.  I walked out of the restroom as a group of four middle aged women came in.  The looked at me and burst out laughing.  They tried to control themselves but couldn't.  They fled to the restroom and I could hear them chortling and talking.  After a while they came out, still choking, and sat down.  Can't say I blame them.  I was dressed in tights and my cow jersey (the Pink Floyd album cover).  I finished my conversation with two young adults ("That man (Bush) Gotta Go!") getting them to promise to call their legislators.  Stopping at the laughing ladies table I introduced myself and explained that I didn't always dress this way and what I was doing.  They actually thanked me and promised to make the calls.

The last 15 miles were with no shoulder.  I was half in the slow lane and had to repair a flat with traffic whizzing by.  The hills, headwinds and bad road made this a leg to remember. 

I rolled into Starkville after dark at 27 degrees.  The motel I found was run by a gentleman from India who must have been the inspiration for Robin William's characterization.  "By gollee gee, if that Bush fella were in Delhi they would take him by the ear and remove him from the building.  That man is the worst *#@*& president ever!"  I told him when I checked in that I was on a bicycle and had ridden from California.  He asked where I had come from and I told him.  He kept making comments about how slow I had gone, thinking I was on a motorcycle.  I tried to make it clear that it was a bicycle.  He knocked on my door later and asked how I was, saw the bicycle and said, "S*#&, you're on a F*&^%$ bicycle!  How did you ever get this far.  You are F*&^$% crazy!"  I agreed.

Mileage = 93.2 12.0 mph avg  Tuscaloosa, AL tomorrow

January 18 - Day 32.  Left Greenville with a temperature of 39 degrees and a 10mph headwind.  Within 5 miles the wind was up to 20 mph.  This put the wind chill in the low 20s.  I was freezing!n  The road was horrible.  Four lanes of traffic doing 65 mph.  No shoulders for most of the trip and what shoulder there was was filled with rumble strip.  I had to ride in the slow lane!

Pedaled through Leland, home of Kermit the Frog.  Actually, it is the birthplace of Jim Henson, Kermit's creator.  Next town down the road was Indianola.  They are the proud birthplace of B.B. King.

It was here that I stopped for a LARGE coffee and a sandwich.  I have started using McDonald's as cold weather stops.  They have blow driers in the restrooms instead of towels.  I can warm my hands, gloves and liners before braving the cold again.

I met a man, John Gardner, who is a Viet Nam Veteran.  He wants better benefits for all Vets, especially those coming home now.  I asked him what he felt about Iraq (eerock).  He looked puzzled, still no response.  I finally said "The mess in the Middle East."  I could see the bulb go on.  He said "Oh, you mean Iraq (eyerack).  We gotta bring those troops home.  Now."  I realized then that I was the stranger with the accent.

For the last 10 miles into Greenwood the wind dropped to 10 mph.  I was so cold that I decided to stop here.  I found a motel with difficulty.  I stopped at three "budget" motels.  One room had a tv with knobs.  The non-smoking room in another reeked.  At the third the clerk spoke no English, the floors were filthy and there was a hole in the bathroom wall instead of a toilet paper dispenser.  At the Ramada, $50, the tub and sink had no plugs, the doorjam was loose and hanging and there were no hangers.  It was clean and - It Had a New Heater!!!  The manager was very proud of that.

Time are bad in Greenwood.  According to most people I talked to jobs are hard to find and unemployment is up.  I saw nothing to belie that.

I did meet one prosperous individual.  As I was leaving the convenience store with my nightly brew a very corpulent, florid man asked me where I was from and where I was going.  He looking like the character actor, Clifton James, who played sheriff J W Pepper in the James Bond movies.  He was wearing a bright green sports coat and driving a white Lincoln Continental.  " I know both senators, used to run shine with one of em.  Been sober now for 30 years.  Terrorists are coming.  We gotta do what that Bush fella says."

Of to Starkville tomorrow.

Mileage = 57.8  11.1 mph avg.

January 17 -Day 31.  43 degrees and foggy with no wind.  Felt like a morning ride in Santa Cruz.  It was hilly for the first 70 miles but I never used the low chain ring!  The reduced weight and rest really worked.

For most of the morning I felt like I was riding through a green hallway with a gray roof.  There is water everywhere in Arkansas.  I rode over bayous branches and bogs, creeks and culverts.  Sloughs, rivers lakes ponds and catfish pools were always in sight.  I can only imagine how many bugs there would be in summer, not to mention the humidity.  I am glad it is winter.

On the Crosset city limit my front tire got fanged.  I don't know what was responsible for the double puncture but with a great whoosh sprays of green slime spiraled from the tire, coating the bike, me and my glasses with florescent green before I could stop.  While I was patching the tube two people stopped and asked if I was O.K. and needed help.  I reassured them that I was fine, thanked them and got back on the road.  Kudos to Crosset, a helpful town.

At the McDonalds in Crosset I talked to three men while eating a burger and coffee.  The message was the same as everywhere else.  Health care, jobs, wages.  I asked about Iraq and terrorism.  They had no opinions they were willing to share.  One man said I would be going through his town, Hamburgh.  He pronounced it Hamboig.  About then I noticed that there was a defacto segragation in the dining area.  I was on the wrong side of the color line and was getting hard stares from a couple of tables.  I made a point of stopping and smiling, greeting them from California.

Hamburgh, it turns out, is the home of the "World Famous International Armadillo Festival."  I am not sure what they do or how they celebrate.  Armadillo bowling?

Today was a dog day. I was bayed at by a bloodhound, charged by a corgi and dashed at by a daschund.  At one point I was coming down a hill and saw a dog charge the car that had just passed me from behind a garbage can.  The dog repositioned himself for a try at me.  I pedaled as fast as I could ad aimed for him.  I started to growl and yell.  He stood, dumbfounded, with his mouth hanging open and never moved.  A while later I was tag teamed.  At the first house a small dog started yapping and running at me.  I accelerated and at the next house the little dog handed off to a medium sized hound that tried to catch me.  No luck but he handed of to a big dog with a deep voice that kept up with me at over 20mph.  I was getting ready to unclip and kick when the owner's voice penetrated the blood lust in the beast's brain and I was spared.  I am going to get some pepper spray.

The hills gave way to cotton fields and catfish ponds. Still lots of trees, mostly Pecans.  It was getting late but I had a tailwind.  I decided to try for Mississippi before dark.

I had been warned about the bridge between Shive and Greenfield but was not prepared for the reality.  It is a trestle bridge, two lanes and steeply arched. No Passing signs head the approaches.  It is over two miles of approach and bridge with no shoulder or pedestrian access.  I waited until there was no traffic and set off as fast as I could pedal.  About 1/4 mile from the span I heard a big truck gearing down behind me.  The truck did not pass.  I pedaled faster.  I hit the arch and could only hold 10mph.  The truck did not pass.  I pedaled faster.  At the top of the span I snapped a picture and shifted up, pedaling like mad.  I hit 30 mph on the down side of the span but could only hold 20 mph on the far approach.  I was gasping and sobbing and my legs felt like lead.  

As soon as there was room I pulled over to let the truck by.  There were between 20 and 30 trucks and cars behind the first truck.  I gave the first driver a wave and thumbs up, saying "Thank You!" as plainly as possible.  He was laughing like crazy and waved, giving me a return thumbs up.  I did the same with every truck and car.  I got waves, smiles, fist pumps and high fives and tens.  The reactions were all positive except for two.  Both were older couples driving luxury sedans... 

I rolled in after dark wet, tired and frozen.  I found a room, no beer, and a really bad dinner.  Did I say No Beer?  The water in the motel was brown.  I talked to the clerk and she assured me that was normal.  I remembered reading somewhere about "tea colored" water.  This was it.  Like weak black or strong herbal tea.

Mileage = 115.0 + 8.9 from yesterday's errands.  15.1 mph avg

January 16 - Day off for weather.  It rained all day.  I found a UPS store and shipped home all of the camping gear except the mess kit and stove.  $41.00 but worth it for the weight saving.  There really are no more places to camp along the route.  Every spot is five miles or more off the highway.  I'm not into trespassing and camping rough (there are rally no places to put the tent - too wet, open or wooded).  After all, I'm pushing 60 and need a hot shower after using a private toilet to get jump started in the morning!

I used the computer to explore routing.  With the weather that is forecast and the terrain i am going to stay south.  I'll go through Atlanta to Columbia.  Then, up to Fayetteville and north to DC.  That way I'll miss the Piedmont and mountains and the coastal air should moderate the temperature.  This will cost an extra 80 miles or so.

I'm going to add an extra 100 miles by making a side trip to Norfolk, VA.  It is the most efficient way to get to the Atlantic.  I have to get a picture of the Atlantic, not Chesapeake Bay.  That way I will have really ridden from coast to coast.

This does not count as a travel day.  Will treat it like Christmas break and not average into daily mileage.

January 15 - Day 30.  I started my second month on the road with a real breakfast in the hotel restaurant included in the price of the room).  Judy, the hostess, seemes to be in her mid-60s.  She is working two jobs and is really worried because the new owner of the hotel is closing the restaurant.  There are four generations living with her.  All those capable are working and barely making ends meet.  

I asked her if Congress was doing their job and she said, "No, they need to put more money into children's health care."  She did not know that it was George Bush who vetoed the extra money.  She was blaming Congress.  Maybe rightly so, they should have overridden the veto.  Here is a woman who is poor as dirt but will somehow make do.  Her wish for the country is for better health care for children.

I cried on the way back to my room.

On the way out of Texarkana I realized that I had left the west.  The city was not like those in California, Arizona or Texas.  The yards were not fenced, the landscaping differed.  The stores were no longer those I had come to recognize.  I was in a southern city with more in common to Atlanta than Phoenix.  Also, I crossed my first bayou today.

In spite of a 5 - 10 mph headwind I made good time. The terrain was back to N. Texas, ups and downs, but with many stands of pine.  The air smelled of pine, a welcome change after cattle intensive Texas. Logging trucks and trucks hauling chips and sawdust began to rumble past leaving a trail of fresh pine.

After 17 miles of hills I came to the Red River Valley.  I made really good time for the 10 miles of flat road.

After getting back into the hills I had a dog encounter that really scared me.  A nursing bitch (both in gender and disposition) make it clear she wanted a piece of me.  I was climbing a hill and couldn't accelerate.  She was across the street and paced me, growling, snarling and barking.  She tried to charge me several times but the traffic was heavy enough that she turned back each time.  Her owner finally called her off.  For once I am thankful for heavy traffic.

I stopped for a Gatorade and a restroom break at a convenience store in Buckner.  Two Soldiers came in, dressed in Camis.  One asked where I had come from.  I told him California a month ago, Texarkana this morning and Paris, TX yesterday.  He said, "I saw you on the road yesterday and can't believe you've made it this far."  The were Army recruiters on their way to pick up a new enlistee.  I noticed they wer1"e looking at me in a strange way.  I took off my helmet, laughed and said, "Well, you don't want me.  I'm too old."  They both broke up and one said "Well, you sure as blazes could pass the physical and basic training."

I told them what I was doing and asked if they would like me to pass on a message.  They declined, being in uniform and on duty.  I asked how they felt about the situation in Iraq and understood when they again declined to comment.  I thanked them for their service.  Then I reminded them that they were citizens as well as soldiers and had every right to call their legislators.  As they were leaving they both thanked me for what I am doing and said to keep it up.

The road turned into the worst I had seen to date after Magnolia.  35 miles of loose gravel, no shoulder, potholes and debris.  When there was a surface it was of the gravel in tar variety and cost 30 to 50% in speed.  It was so damaging and dangerous that I ended up riding on the road and making people pass me.

Tomorrow it is going to rain.  Will take the day off adn ship home the camping gear, make repairs and rest.

Mileage = 96.3   11.6 mph avg.

January 14 - Day 29.  Got an early start out of Paris. Easy terrain, good road surface and a tailwind!  Wow!  There were a few hard pulls but I kept most of the climbs in double digits.

There were only about 25 miles of bad shoulder surface.  The difference between good and poor surface can mean a difference in speed between 20% and 50%.  A poor surface can be damaging to the bike and the body and is very exhausting.  When the surface is really rough it is like riding a jack hammer.  Constant jarring and vibration numbs hands and feet and puts strain on neck and shoulders.

The good surfaces are smooth.  Asphalt made of small bits rolled out until it is like riding on a pool table.  The roughest shoulders are gravel dumped on a layer of tar.  If it was rolled it was only once and then, probably by the tractor tires, not a power roller.  Take age (expansion cracks and potholes) into account and there is the possibility for a wide variety of surfaces.

Rather than stay on the highway, I decided to ride through Clarksville and get a sandwich.  At the edge of town there was a Walmart building.  The store had closed recently, there were workers painting out the logos and removing equipment.  As I rode through the town it was spooky.  There were no clothing stores, pharmacies, hardware stores or general business.  All of the store fronts were filled by tax services, check cashing shops, psychic readers or "For Rent" signs.  Walmart had killed the downtown and bailed.  

I hope it was not the last train to  Clarksville.  The town center is a square of beautiful old buildings around a plaza.  In the center is a monument to the civil war.  A confederate soldier stand proudly guarding the town from all comers.  I hope his pride is preserved and the town recovers.


An older man in the sandwich shop thanked me when I told him how to get in touch with congress. "I didn't know you could talk to someone or that they would listen.  Tell them to just do their jobs."  I'm starting to use the line, "How can they hear us if we don't say anything."  It seems to get people's attention. 

The country here is like Redding, CA.  It rolls gently, small hills covered with oak tress scattered through grassy meadows and stands of black pine.  This also means lumber trucks...

The shoulder went away in New Boston.  After 5 miles I bailed to Highway 30, the freeway.  The road was great until about 5 miles from Texarkana.  Road construction did away with the shoulder and I was forced back on 82.  Still no shoulder but stoplights and slower speed made it marginally safer.

I found my way to the motel on Stateline Blvd.  The border between Texas and Arkansas is a busy street.  On one side it is Texas and dry.  On the other it is Arkansas and one can buy a beer.  You know where I stayed and ate!  I had BBQ at Big Jakes.  First of trip. So so, not as good as Kansas.  Tomorrow El Dorado.

Mileage =  100.1  13.9 mph avg speed

January 13 - Day 28.  It was 31 degrees and sunny on leaving Gainesville.  The wind was supposed to be light and variable.  HAH!  Light up to 15 mph and variable from in my face to a quartering crosswind.  Still, I averaged almost 12 mph.  The countryside is still a roller coaster here.  There are lots of oak and cottenwood trees and creeks in every gully.  For the most part the shoulder surface was good.  I had five miles of rough road, what a shaker.

Indelicate side bar.  Trying to find a place to pee when on a trip like this is an adventure.  Not only does one have to look for privacy, the site has to be coupled with a place to park and support the bike.  In this part of the country all of the signs are set back from the road at least 10 feet and surrounded by grass, thorns and debris.  The only places that fill the bill for emptying the bladder are bridges.  The railings make a good bike stand and the underpart of the bridge offers some privacy.  Dry, flat country is a real bitch.

About 30 miles from Paris I passed 4 cyclists going the other way.  Waved at the first two.  The second pair slowed and asked where I was going.  "Washington, DC" was the answer and kept pedaling.  Half an hour later a van with darkened windows pulled onto the shoulder behind me and paced me.  I had thoughts of mugging and mayhem.  It turned out to be two of the cyclists, one from each pair, and their wives.  We visited on the roadside for a few minutes.  I gave them the spiel and my web address.  They thanked me for taking this trip.  Their message: "Man Up, Congress, Man Up!"

This part of Texas is heavily democratic - Sam Rayburn country.  His home and library are in Bonham.  The evidence of his power and influence are everywhere;  Better roads and federal building projects.

I didn't make Paris until after dark.  About 7 miles of night riding brought me to a cheap, seedy motel.  It was the only affordable one recommended by people I spoke with.  When I told her what I was doing the elderly clerk thanked me for making the effort and said I was a "unique" person.  I said most people would say "crazy".  She allowed that she was being polite.  A couple of people in the parking lot were curious and took the message, promising to call in.  The message here was different:  The people of Paris want to see the troops come home and Bush impeached.

On my way back from th WattaBurger stand a feminine vice hailed me from across the street.  "Hey, mister.  Are you a trucker?"  I replied that, no, I was a cyclist.  A short woman crossed the street, mid thirties and worn, looking confused.  She smiled and asked it I wanted some pussy. 

I immediately replied, "No, thank you."  I knew that my trailer was not big enough for cats and, beside, cats do not travel well.  She said, "Darn, I need money for food."

I offered to buy her dinner at whatever restaurant she chose.  She asked if I would alsobuy her daughter dinner.  I said sure and we walked to the Hamburger stand.  She ordered, I paid and wondered about the social services in Paris.  I left before the food came and made my way back to the motel.

Texarkana tomorrow

Mileage = 98.9   11.9 mph avg.

January 12 - Day 27.  I left Henrietta hoping for the forecast tailwind.  Fat chance.  It never got better than a direct crosswind.  20 mph+ of quartering headwind and lots of ups and downs, short and steep.  Whoever said that North Texas is flat was lying through their teeth. The ups are hard pulls and the downs are not long enough to rest or gain back speed.  No wonder Lance Armstrong is so good if he rides country like this every day.  It is pretty, though.  Lots of trees in this area, mostly scrub oak.

What is a "small" town?  Around here it is a settlement with a population below 1,000.  Even these have at least one fast food stand, churches and a sports stadium.  Most of the towns are between 1,000 and 2,000 people.  

A "big" town has a population of over 3,000.  Noconas, population 3,400, boasts 10 - 15 churches, a boot factory (not yet moved to China), three chin fast food stands and their own police department.

In California a "small town" is one with fewer than 10,000 people.  Here that is a city.

I got chased by a pit bull today.  It was really scarey - the dog was absolutely silent.  The only way I knew it was coming was hearing its owner yell "Come back, come back."  I looked over my should, saw the dog charging and found a burst of speed I never knew I had.  I accelerated so fast the trailer tires chirped!

At one of the convenience stores the clerk gave me an epiphany.  I had just explained how the congressional offices log calls and she said, "Well, I be.  I didn't know that.  How can they listen if we don't talk."  SO PEOPLE - START TALKING

I made Gainesville.  Tomorrow, Paris - OooLaLa

Mileage = 72.6  10.0 mph avg

January 11 - Day 26I updated the Homepage of the site and left the motel late.  The part would not be in until noon.  The wind was not as advertised, southeast instead of southwest.  Headwind.  I rode through downtown Wichita Falls - High rise buildings!.  I got directions to the bike shop.  It is on the east side of town, I was on the northwest side, 10 miles away.  No shoulders on the local streets and heavy traffic made for a tense ride and many unhappy car drivers.

Dave at the Bike Stop was very helpful.  Got the part when it arrived after 12:00.  I replaced the jury rigged axle with a new quick release skewer and stowed the frame part for this evening.  I set of for Henrietta or beyond.

Turned out to be Henrietta.  The wind stayed  easterly and I just kept chugging along.  The only motel in Henrietta was a Best Western. I negotiated a rate and checked in.  Both the manager and the clerk wanted the troops to come home!

I nuked a frozen dinner and fixed the trailer.  Updated a couple days on the blog and went to bed.  No beer - a dry county.  Yes there are still dry areas in Texas!.  Off to Gainesville tomorrow, wind willing.

Mileage = 39.6  12.2 mph avg

January 10 -  Day 25.  I slept in.  6:00 instead of 5:00.  Only 50 miles to go and the parts may not be in until tomorrow.  I did my laundry, yea clean underwear!.

I was talking to the lady at the motel desk and asked if she had ever read Molly Ivans.  She said she didn't have time to read, she was working two jobs.  She wanted more money for education.

I made 17+ mph with the easier terrain and tailwind.  There was a car stopped on the shoulder and the driver was out taking pictures I stopped to see what was so interesting and found a herd of Camels.  

I got to Wichita Falls and found a motel and Walmart.  I bought dinner and tires for the trailer.  I was running on cord on the right tire for the last 50 miles.  The motel was an America's Best Value Inn.  It had been a Country Inn (still wifi network name).  The microwave was marked in sharpie "Property of King's Inn - Do not pawn."  Go figure.

I tried to get the computer up and running.  If I had been successful this blog would be up to date.  Six hours of tech support later I got a working antivirus installed.

The trailer frame part will not be in until noon tomorrow, bummer.  I have to wait and don't know where I'll end up tomorrow.  I do not want another night ride.

Mileage = 56.3  17.2 mph avg.

January 9 -  Day 24.  I had a big breakfast while waiting for opening hour.  Biscuits and gravey, bacon and eggs.  I can't believe I am eating like this - quality and quantity.  But, burning 4,000+ calories a day it is hard to eat enough.  I was on a 1500 calorie a day diet three months ago.

I found parts to replace the skewer with a fixed axle at the hardware department of the local lumber yard.  The welder charged me $40 to put a sleeve on the broken parts and drill the holes to reassemble it.  I would have paid more.  I called Burley, the trailer manufacturer, and ordered a replacement frame part.  It will be delivered to Wichita Falls within two days.

While talking to the welder I found that he wants the government to bring the jobs back to the U.S. and restore our ownership of our country.  The Power company in Paducah is owned by an Irish corporation.  The local factory that used to make windmills moved their manufacturing to Mexico.  The welder is losing jobs to Mexico.  Paducah's county is one of the poorest in Texas and getting poorer.  Yet, the welder blamed "the democratic congress" for the decline of business. we had a discussion and I actually got through to him on NAFTA and global corporations, the lack of tariffs and trade equity.  I hope he and his friends will call, like they promised.  There are too many boarded up buildings in Paducah.

The ride to Vernon was uneventful but long.  Adverse winds, a late start and poor county road shoulder really slowed me down.  I rode into the night.  One stretch of road was so long and so straight that I could watch taillights for more than 5 minutes before they dissappeared.  Dogs are still a problem - got chased twice.  I am amazed at how fast I can accelerate ehin the adrenalin starts pumping.

Days Inn and a Walmart nuked dinner.

Mileage = 76.9   12.5 mph Avg

January 8 - Day 23.  I got a latish start but had a tailwind for the first 20 miles.  Another 2,000 lark day.  Also, I saw thousands of geese and hundreds of Sandhill Cranes.  Must be getting close to a flyway.

The messages I'm hearing remain the same.  Better Jobs, medical coverage for everyone, lower taxes for the working people and lower prices are the major voice.

Went through Floydada, rhymes with data.  I guess Floyd married and settled with Ada...

Ten miles from Warlock the terrain became like the Sierra Foothills but with shorter, sharper steeper ups and downs.  Was that wasy all the way to Paducah and is supposed to continue that way for some distance. Rolling, grass covered hills sporting scattered oaks and rocks marched to the horizon.  Cattle grazed on some slopes.  If you took a big ruler and laid it across those hills most would touch.  However, the ups and downs were enough that I felt I had climbed the Sierra.

Things were going great and I was 14 miles from Paducah with two hours of sun when it happened.  I was going down a slope at about 18 mph when the trailer felt like it had flipped.  I stopped as quickly as possible, keeping the bike under control.  I looked back and saw that the right wheel had collapsed and was dragging.  The quick release skewer (axle) had sheared.  What to do?

I looked at the skewer, which was bent at a 90 degree angle.  There were still some threads on it.  The visions of unshackling the trailer, hiding it and riding into Paducah ebbed.  Maybe I could jury rig something.  I figured out how to straighten the skewer - used the wheel hub as a vise and very carefully rebent the axle.  Now for a nut to secure it.  I walked back up the hill about 1/4 mile and found the piece that had sheared. I was able to get the 4 threads on the skewer to  engage on the nut after I removed the spring and spacer.  The wheel was on the trailer and turned.  One more problem, though, the frame member holding the inboard axle bracket was broken and floppy.

I kept my speed down to 10 mph and limped into Paducah.  Found the only motel in town adn booked a room.  Conveniently, the only restaurant in town was next dooe and I had a real midwest meal.  The salad bar was an iceburg salad mix for greens and everything else was out of cans except the jello.  Surprisingly, the steak was not tasty.  Maybe it wa my let down from the breakdown.  

Will fix what I can tomorrow.

Mileage = 87.1  10.8 mph avg

January 7 - Day 22.  I left Portales with a tailwind.  It was a day of 2,000 Larks.  I was continually flushing Larks from the grass along the road.  I made good time to the Texas Border.

Yuck!  There is a smell to Texas, mostly cow flop...  Dairies and feed lots abound, making Harris Ranch on Interstate 5 seem tame.  This part of Texas is ag intensive.  Where New Mexico is mostly high desert Texas is cultivated.  Soy, cotton, sorghum, corn are abundant in addition to the cattle.

There was a lot of south in the wind so I had quartering headwinds or a crosswind depending on the road. It was 40 mile of rough going.  Around Muleshoe it rained for a while.

I was sitting in the lee of a building eating lunch.  A man came and asked if I would like to get in out of the cold.  He offered water.  I thanked him and filled my bottles.  The business was a grain processing organization that had switched to soy.  Still working.  The entire crew spoke Spanish.  I talked with them in broken Spanish and English.  They laughed when I suggested they call their reps.  Their pride in their jobs was evident and they asked me to let the congress know that their mill was doing a good job. 

In general, the road surfaces in Texas are better than in Arizona.  The shoulders are wider.  Deending on the county maintaining the road, however, the surfaces of the shoulder vary.  The poorere counties just slap down some tar and dump gravel on it.  If it os rolled at all it is by the tractor tires.  Very rough, lots of vibration and a speed penalty.

I made it into Plainview at dark and had trouble finding a Motel with doors wide enough for the trailer.  This must be a cost saving thing.  I thought code mandated bigger doors for wheelchairs.  Guess I'm staying in older places.

A lady in the convenience store where I bought my nightly beer wanted fair application of the laws - equal protection.  She was the victem of an abusive husband who is a supervisor at a local plant.  He had money for a lawyer in their divorce, she did not.  His lawyer and the judge were friends.  She lost her daughter (he is an alcoholic and leaves the 15 year old alone for a week at a time) and had to pay him child support out of her clerk salary.....

Mileage =110.4   14.9 mph avg

January 6 -  Day 21.  On the way out of Ruidoso I Talked to an older woman from North Texas.  She really hates Bush.She responded to the call-in idea and her prime concern is education.  She also said that the only thing between the wind from the North Pole and North Texas is a barbwire fence with only two strands of wire...

It was downhill most of the way to Roswell and I had a great tail wind!  Averaged over 20 mph for the first 80 miles.  i got into Roswell at 12:30 and decided to keep going if there was a town with accomodations within about 40 miles.

I got screwed by a Roswell cop.  I stopped and asked for directions.  There were two routes out of roswell one to the east and one northeast.  He told me that there was nothing east but that Portales was 40 miles northeast and had many motels.  I thanked him and hit the road.  Bought a sandwich at the edge of town and kept going.  I was looking for road signs, there were none.  I kept on going.  At 40 miles there was no city.  At 45 jiles there was a sign saying that Portales was another 50miles down the road!  I couldn't turn around, there was no place to pitch a tent and I didn't have enough water to camp, anyway.

I was able to fill my water bottles at a small town 20 miles from Prtales and kept going.  I found a Motel at about 10 pm and sit the sack after a horrowing ride in the dark and cold.  I learned much about myself during that long thirsty ride.  Maslow's Hierarchy came into play for me.  All I wanted was water.  When I got that all I could think about was a place to be warm and out of the wind. I had food but didn't wand anything but shelter.  I learned that I could keep going.

The doors at the Hotel were too narrow for the trailer.  This is a first...  Plainview Texas tomorrow, wind and road surface willing.

Mileage = 166.8   16.1 mph avg.

January 5 - Day 20.  Out of Alamagordo for Ruidoso.  First 13 miles flat with a good wind.  The road was so rough, though, that I lost my maps and binoculars and didn't know it.  After that the road was a little better but it was a steady 27 mile climb to Apache Summit.  I should have gone south!!!  The consolation was an increasing tailwind.  It helped me up the hill and kept me cool.

The vegetation changed with the altitude.  From desert sage and yucca it morphed into chaparrel with mesquite.  Pinon pines joined the mix and then so did cedar and cottonwood.  I felt like I was going up to Lake Tahoe on Highway 50.  After a while there were Jefferson and Lodgepole pines.  It was very like the Sierra - no wonder, Apache summit is 7,600 feet!  There was  ice and snow on the ground at the summit.

I had a wild 10 mile descent into Ruidoso.  With the 30 mph tailwind and bad shoulder it was really welcome to roll into town before dark.

Most of the ride up the mountain was through the Mescalero Apache Reservation.  It is SO different from the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona.  The San Carlos reservation is a tenement while the Mescalero Reservation shows pride and a great sense of community.  Every different mile of highway for many miles is the responsibility of a tribal organization.  The buildings are well kept.  There is a community center, a library with computer access, community housing and many churches.

Mileage = 54.7   10.3mph avg

January 4 - I found  a Best Buy and bought a computer.  Now quite what I wanted but it will do.  The store was on the East side of town.  That coupled with a favorable weather report made me decide to head east, across New Mexico, rather than south through El Paso.  

I finished at Bset Buy at 11:30.  Had a Jack in the Box lunch and talked to a rep for a pharmecutical company.  He wants a thompson/Romney ticket and believes that the private sector can provide better and cheaper health care for everyone.  He believes that the government would increase costs dramatically.  Yes, and cigarettes do not cause cancer.  I am taking his comments, unedited, to Washington. 

So, off to Alamagordo.  8 miles of gentle ups and more ups led to the beginning of San Augustine pass. An intense two or three mile pull in low gear. On the way down I went over 40 mph.  Talk about Mr. Toads wild ride.

White Sands missile proving grounds is between Las Cruces and Alamagordo.  It is a huge complex, over 30 miles.  I passed many different ranges but didn't see any birds except the feathered varieties.

I met a woman from Minnesota at the Albert Fontaine Historical Marker (Seems Albert and his son were murdered close to that spot and their killers (and bodies) were never found).  The woman's son is coming home from Iraq this month.  She wants all the troops home now and wants Bush to be impeached.  She pointed out that it will take years to undo the damage he has done to the environment, the economy and our image as a country.

I went through a customs inspection station.  Run by Homeland Security, it is in the middle of the desert about 15 miles from Alamagordo and 280 miles from Mexico.  The uniformed guard asked if I was a US citizen.  I said yes and that was it.  I said that I was probably his first bicycle - He said no.  I asked Today? and he said Yes, with a smile.  I put the lights on the trailer and bike and got into Alamagordo after dark.

At dinner I found that Gill, my waitress, is the wife of an Air Force fire fighter who is due to ship out in a couple of weeks.  He is doing his job with honor and will go.  She and the other dependents she knows want the occupation to be over and all of the troops home.  She implied that her husband and many of his comrades in arms are not pleased with the occupation either.  He will be getting out of the service after this deployment.  Gill asked why her generation is so quiet.  "Why aren't we in the streets?"  So, she and I talked about ways to be active and get in touch with reps to bring the troops home.  I think the reason for this generations inaction or lack of voice is that they are isolated from each other and the world by their Ipods, computers and YouTube.  There is very little sense of community and concerted action is hard. She is now motivated and I hope her husband remains safe and is brought home soon.

This trip is really demanding both physically and emotionally.  It is overwhelming - to make distance goals and still try and talk to people and get them to reengage.  Really tiring.  The people I meet are so powerful, it takes a toll.

Mileage = 71.8   11.2 mph avg.

January 3 - Day 18.  Left Demming with a 10 - 15 mph headwind.  I was still able to keep close to 12 mph.  Got over all of the terrain with no mechanical problems and a descent into Las Cruces. 

The trip was uneventful except for an idiot who ran onto the rumble strip to scare me - he succeeded!!

Found the Motel 6 and parked the trailer.  Made it to a bike shop before closing and dark.  Bought a new tire, two new slime tubes and a new chain.  Now I should be better protected from flats.The bibyble shop owner, Don, didn't want to talk politics.  He is my age or older and is a pilot.  We talked airplanes and road conditions and possible routes.  Got good info from him.  Will let weather forecast dictate route.

Liz, the clerk at the motel, is 26 and still a student.  She wants to see Bush impeached.  Finally, an issue other than domestic and survival.  It is a college town.

I'll shop for computer tomorrow. 

Mileage = 62.2   12.3 mph Avg 

January 2 - Day 17.  Windy again - about 10mph less than yesterday for the first 35 miles.  it dropped another 5mph after that. I could only grind it out.  Rode the drops for most of the day.  I had to stop and use the black tape I brought to re-secure the bar wrap.  

I stopped at the Continental Divide Trading Post.  Bought a burrito and remembered why it had been so long since I had eaten a microwaved frozed burrito.  It turned into soup.  The chewiest thing in it was the tortilla.  However, it was warm and filling and I ate it all.

I met a biker, leather vest, do-rag, pins and whiskers.  He was buying a new state pin and we started talking about the wind, the cold and bikes.  That is when I figgured that truck traffic in a headwind was great - gained 12 seconds of wind shadow per truck.  

I asked him about his opinion of the Congress and what he thought they should do.  Without hesitation he said they should put more money into education.  "Kids don't go to jail with a good education.  Build schools, not prisons."

On the way out a young couple, Otto and Ashley, stopped me.  They couldn't believe I had made it as far as I had.  They seemed motivated to get active so I asked them to start calling congress.  They are couch surfing to New Orleans.  They want more support for higher education.  They are having trouble finding money for college - higher costs and tuition and low paying jobs.

I Crossed the continental divide and got pulled over by a state trooper.  He had gotten three calls complaining that I was too close to traffic.  I pointed to the rumble strip and said I had never touched it but that I had to occasionally get close to avoid road debris.  We figured out that the flag on the trailer could bother people.  He asked me to ride carefully and I thanked him for his concern.  Saw him and waved three more times that day.

I bought dinner at Walmart.  The host wanted congress to deal with medical caare for everyone.  He said that Walmart was advertising that they provided benifits.  But, only for full time employees and no one was hired full time.   He was in the situation where he had to figure out what to do without to pay the doctor bill.  He  will be calling his reps.

mileage - 70.0    7.8mph avg. 

January 1, 2008 - Day 16.  Happy New Year! Oh, Lord, stuck in Lordsburgh again.  The wind came up during the night and blew straight down the road from the east at 30+mph, gusting over 40.  I packed up and started pedaling.  After over two hours, mostly in low gear, I had only gone 8 miles.  I gave up and turned around.  I was pushed along at better than 15mph without touching the pedals.  Back to Lordsburg, a day of hunkering down and rest. I spoke with an older man who was behind the desk of a cheap motel. His opinions were right off the right wing radio.  He at one point said that the three greatest Americans were Washington, Lincoln and Limbaugh.  I didn't react to his talking points but called him on his inconsistancies. I asked him about the cry baby troop comments, Limbaughs drug use and scoff law history.  I mentioned that Fox news admitted to fabricating stories, saying they were an entertainment network, not a news channel.  The old mans eyes went glassy and he changed the subject.  Turned out he used to run a truck stop in Montana.  He could not compete with the big chains and ended up in a fleabag in Lordsburg.  Yet, he still believes that the republican way is right and that the middleclass is declining because the democrats are making it too hard on business.  Businesses are leaving the US because of overregulation, not greed.  He believes the spin, don't be confused by the facts.  Is he representative of a large number of the population?

Mileage - 16     4mph avg

December 31 - Day 15.  A long, gentle climb for the first 5 miles and then steeper, heading up for another 25!  Through mountains and down to Duncan.  Stopped for water at a store and the young lady behind the counter was very excited about the prospect of voting in her first election.  I got her to promise to call her reps and continued into New Mexico.

Two flats within 100 yard of the border!  They had just mowed the shoulder and there were thorns everywhere - no way to miss them.

Passed a range of mesa/mountains with a break in it full of cones and hills.  Looked like the beach at the end of an intense day of sand play with bucket and shovel.

Had two more flats, the last two miles from Lordsburg - a new record.    I saw a motorcade - lots of police with lights on and white SUVs and pickup trucks.  Wonder who?

Checked into the KOA and met my first Roadrunner.  was living under the porch of a Kamp Kabin. Had a McDonald's dinner.  It is New Year's eve and fireworks all over.  I miss being home, it is lonely.  I can get a feeling for how some of the early crossers must have felt going west - the vast country and family far away.  

Almost in my sleeping bag and my rear tire blew with a bang - sidewall failure on the GatorSkin Kevlar wonder that was supposed to have reinforced sidewalls!  Will have to get a new tire in Demming.  58 miles of worry.  The soulders are so bad, rough and full of debris, that I feel like I'm in a speedboat at full throttle in a minefield without a chart.

Will try for Demming tomorrow.

Mileage = 78.7  12.1 avg speed.  1172.7 miles so far.  Happy New Year!

December 30 - Day 14.  The temperature on departure this morning was 29 degrees.  After 5 miles I was steaming.  The first 35 miles were steep ups and downs.  Then, a long down hill run and the terrain leveled out for the rest of the day.

Going through the San Carlos Apache Reservation was an experience.  I thought I had been transported to rural Mexico. Everything was weathered and ramshackle.  I stopped at a convenience store and was told "Not my government" so no comment.  Three older women had set up a food stand across the street from the store.  They were cooking on an oil drum stove in a scrounged lumber and corregated tin lean-to.  I didn't feel welcome so I never found out what they were serving.

The town of Geronimo is on the map.  Don't blink as you go through.  A 1920 vintage building with "Market" in faded letters is the only building.  It stands boarded up and closed, guarded by an old fire truck and a rusty school bus.

The next town down the road is Fort Thomas.  Not only was it a real fort, it is the original home of Lions Club International.  The country around here is right out of old cowboy movies and TV shows.  There are ravines where hoards of the enemy (you pick them) could hide, waiting to crest the ridge and attack.

I passed a farm where the family was out front working.  I yelled Happy New Year and stopped to talk.  Josh and his five year old daughter Lainie, were clearing tumble weed from the fence while his wife minded the two younger children.  Josh loves living out there, he and his family are free to do what they want.  Except own their own house.  His message is to lower the cost of living.  Two years ago a new mine opened.  The labor is imported, not local, and it put pressure on the housing in the area.  Prices doubled in two years.  Josh is renting and can no longer afford to save for his own house.

The rumble strips continue to meander.  The scenery was gorgeous.  The last 30 miles was like riding through the central valley of California.  Had three flats - same bit of glass got rear tire twice.  That was in the tire that was supposed to be kevlar impervious!

Safford tonight, Lordsburg tomorrow.

Mileage = 84.0 12.4mph avg.  Total trip mileage = 1094.0

December 29 - Day 13.  Slept in - 5:30 a.m.  Had to wait for a toilet and shower.  Maintenance morning - slimed the trailer tires, broke camp and filled my water bottles - paid 15 cents a gallon for filtered water.  On the way out to the freeway had to swerve to avoid a car and flipped the trailer.  Scratched the frame and found out later that I broke a hinge on the lid.  Lid still fits tightly and is held down by straps so will forge on.  I can replace the tub if needed.  Sudden turns are not good...

 The road out of Apache Junction is horrible.  The shoulder (when there is one) is narrow and bumpy.  A rumble strip meanders from the edge through the middle of the shoulder, making it un-ridable.  That means that I had to hug the edge of the traffic lane, hoping not to get hit.  I wonder if the operator of the rumble strip stamper was drunk, high or just having fun?

The road rises for the first 15miles with occasional steep pulls.  The meandering rumble strip contidues all the way.  It is very steep going into Superior and then gets steeper.  I talked to a cyclist later who said that the old road had 8+% grades.   The new road is mostly 6% with a few steeper.  Let me tell you, this is one mother of a road.  Lots of traffic, no or unusable shoulder and a tunnel.  I thought I was going to be killed in the tunnel.  There was no shoulder and the trucks going by sounded like tornadoes, their horns the trump of doom.

In spite of the fear the landscape is spectacular.  There is a water fall at the top of the pass.  Red rock has been carved by wind and water into fantastic shapes.  There are pillars and balancing rocks.  Some formations seem to have been sculpted in faces, guardians of the territory, sentinels of the valley.  The last figure seemed to be the captain, wearing a helmet and looking back at the mesa.  As the angle of the road changed the helmet turned into a pompador and the captain turned into Elvis - The King is Alive!

The downhill run was steep and lasted for 6 miles.  I saw a couple of incredible icicle formations on the way down.  Seeping water had formed clusters and sprays of horizontal ice spears.  I froze my toosh off!  So cold I took the first motel I saw on the outskirts of Globe.  My fingers are painful.  Time for hand and foot maintenance.  Safford tomorrow.

Mileage = 52.6  9.8mph avg.  Broke 1000 miles today!

December 28 - Day 12 - Stop lights, maintenance and flats.  I only made it to Apache Junction - After Dark!  I found REI and bought two new tires and mounted them myself - 1 1/2 hour lost.  I found the AAA office and replaced my maps - 1 hour lost.  More time lost to flats caused by landscaping thorns.  I bought slime at REI and will install in trailer wheels.  Hope it will work.  Camped at KOA - $22 to camp!

No real characters.  Many helpful people who feel out of touch with the government.

Downtown Phoenix in the morning is dark and cold.  Wind whistles through canyons.  The sun can't penetrate to warm the chill of the night air.  Even at 9 a.m. it was deserted, must be a holiday.  Really a seedy place.

What is it about bikes and dogs?  I was up on an overpass and a dog ran along below, with RR tracks between, barking and trying to get at me.  I looked at route and will go east, into the mountains.  Globe tomorrow.

Distance = 66.6 miles  12.6 mph avg.

December 27 - Day 11 - Goodbye and best wishes to Normal T.  Very cold.  Had a tailwind the first 5 miles.  Then, it changed to a 20 mph direct to quartering headwind for the next 30 miles.  This is the worst wind I have experienced so far.  Riding was difficult and I began to get angry, raging at the wind.  Further down the road the anger changed to supplication.  I pleaded and wheedled, trying to get the wind or the road to change.  Finally, I accepted what was and ground on, enduring.  There is a lesson here.

I stopped and got directions from a sheriff in Aguila.  Went to the Coyote Flats Cafe.  Everyone there was dressed in Camo except the cook.  She was wearing a Cardinals jersey and looked like she had the padding on with it.  No one wanted to talk but I overheard wishes for jobs.

The  road turned more to the east and I had a tailwind the rest of the way into Wickenburg.  I stopped and bought food for dinner and got directions.  No camping in Wickenburg but supposedly 15 miles closer tp Phoenis.  Tried two RV parks and got the same message - there is no room at the inn.  At one park I talked to a father and son.  Their sentiments were that the Government should get their act together, put more money into college programs and bring the jobs back to the US.

I had a flat at the second park.  Fixed it and set off on another night ride.  Bad surface, narrow to no shoulder and heavy traffic.  I got directions to a motel and an offer of a ride at a convenience store in Surprise.

My body is changing - Loosing fat, cracked cuticles, sore butt (new saddle is helping).  I need to decide whether to go east on 70 or to swing south to avoid the mountains.  Will make decision at Apache Junction.

Reflection - I cannot reconcile the arid and sere desert with the profligate water waste in Palm Springs.  There were actually waterfalls at the entrances to developements and on street corners!

100.2 miles. 13.8 mph average.

December 26 - Day 10.  Got in late last night from flight.  It didn't matter, I could not return the rental car until 8:00 a.m. so I got to sleep in but got a late start.  I discovered that I had lost my banner and Arizona map.  They were either shaken off by bad road or I left them at the rest stop out of Indio.  I crossed into Arizona and decided to stick with Interstate 10.  The locals said the Indio grade was much worse.  They were right

I stopped at the first rest stop in Arizona to fill water bottles and empty...  Met many people  who were interested in the rig.  One man wanted to examin the hitch adn we started talking.  He was a welder for Tyco and had alot to say about sending jobs and manufacturing off shore.  Evidently his company would bid low using parts from China and then have to up the cost when the parts failed and had to be replaced.  Why not order good stuff to begin with?  Could not get contract on low bid...  He said that the quality of raw steel was horrible.  US steel isi rolled seven times to remore bubbles and impurities.  The stuff he is getting from China is only rolled once, if that.  he called it back yard industry.  They got a pipe that had a bad bubble burst when they were welding it.  They inspected it and found a propane cylinder in the pipe - if the welder had cut two feet further there would have been a fatal explosion.

A couple came up and I explained what I was doing and asked for their comments.  The woman immediately said "More money for education and make all the kids learn to read and write english."  She said she was hispanic and that the spanish speaking kids needed to learn to make a better life.

Next town was Quartzite.  It was gearing up for a months long gem and rock festival.  Many RVs and tents already there.  i saw an old school bus painted bright pink, lots fo signs for services ranging from palm reading to massage, psychic readings to burritos.  A man, proudly  wearing a Gulf War Veterans cap was walking past.  He looked weathered, tattered and homeless...

Food and directions were obtained in Brenda.  I met a retired police officer who was interested in my carbon fiber bike.  He found out what I was doing and approved.  His message was to keep up the :Froggy Boycott."  Oh well, off to Hope.

I got into hope after dark and found the campground.  Pitched camp by flashlight and cooked dinner.  I met another bike traveler/camper.  He is an itinerant Minister to the Rainbow People and was on his way to Quartzite for the festivities.  His name is Normal T.

Two flats.  57 miles, 12.0mph average.

December 25 - Merry Christmas to all and Happy Holidays to those who celebrate other occasions.  The greatest gift I have gotten has been the discovery that the spirit of the season is alive in the people of America.  Most This morning I'm trying frantically to update the site and blog.  Then, off to Sunnyvale to spend part of the day with my 89 year old father.  All of the children, grandchildren and the one great grand child will be there.  First time in a while.

After the festivities it is on to a plane and back to Blythe to resume the journey.  A real treat to be with wife and others for a day.  So far on the trip I have not felt alone - there is always someone out there to talk to or ask for help.  All one has to do is make contact.

December 24 - Got all of the gear stowed and locked up safely in the motel.  Walked to the only rental agency in Blythe.  Trouble - no cars available.  I got on the tentative list and sat in the small office, waiting for cars to arrive.  Most of the people picking up cars and returning them were locals whose cars had broken and couldn't afford the repairs.  There was a family from out of town whoe car needed work and was renting to get to Texas for Christmas.  I was really starting to worry when I overheard the agent taking a call.  The caller was canceling a car and requesting a van.  I was in luck.

I got on the road at about 10:30.   There was a slim chance that I might make the 1:40 flight out of Ontario.  To cover myself I got on the phone and changed my reservation to the 3:20 flight.  I could still use the ticket for the early flight if the traffic gods willed...

Traffic was light and moved fast all the way to Ontario.  I couldn't believe I had ridden the terrain through which I was driving.  Bleak, steep and empty.  Also, it only took me 2.5 hours to drive the 2.5 days of peddling.

I made the early flight!  My wife met me in San Jose.  A great dinner and early to bed.

December 23 - Day 9.  Got an early start this morning.  Very clear and cold.  After 7 miles on the flat out of Indio I got to the first real challenge.  The road started to rise.  After about a half mile a sign came up saying "Elevation Sea Level".   Right after that was a sign warning "prevent over heating - turn off airconditioning next ten miles."  Yep, ten miles of straight up.

My legs were working fine, they just kept turning.  My heart and lungs were doing their jobs as well.  The only problem was with the leg/thorax interface - my butt hurt like blazes.  Am getting a new saddle for Christmas.

After ten miles the road was less steep but still climbed for another 17 miles or so to the summit.  I stopped at a closed rest stop - no water - and fixed a slow leak in my front tire.  Kept going past the turn off to Joshua Tree and on to Desert Center.

Desert Center is just that, 50 miles from Indio, 50 miles from Blythe, in the center of the desert.  A semi-ghost town, it is just off the road surrounded by truncated palm trees populated by ravens.  There was still a gas station of sorts  Two operating pumps selling regular at $4.75 a gallon.  The store had been closed for 4 years.  The cafe was open but I didn't go there - road too rough for the bike.

I walked into the station and found the operator, a bearded man wearing boots, jeans and a workshirt.  He had a bluetooth earbud and was using a laptop computer.  I asked how he was doing and his response was "So far ok, not too many a__holes asking silly questions." 

I said I hoped I wasn't one of them and asked to fill my water bottles.  He grumbled and led me around to the back, to what had been the garage and now was a storage area, where I filled my bottles.

I thanked him and gave him a ""courage" package as a token of gratitude.  He thought I was "that cyclist fella with testicular cancer."  I assured him that I was not Lance Armstrong and told him the reason for my ride.  He got a big kick out of it.  I offered to bring his message to congress.  He declined to write anything down.  He said that the only thing he would sent to congress would be in a brown paper bag and wouldn't smell very good.  For all his grousing and grumbling, he was willing to help a traveler.  I thanked him again and headed on to Blythe.

Finally got a tailwind.  For 30 miles I was able to keep the speed above 17mph.  Really helped the average.  Motorists are honking and waving.  One stopped to talk and wrote a message.  During the entire desert crossing I never felt alone or in danger.  I knew that someone would help if needed.

Riding the Interstate hadvantages and disadvantages.  The road is usually the shortest distance between two cities.  Most of the time (NOT ALWAYS) the shoulder is wide and in good condition.  The downside is the traffic, noise and litter.

Peoples lives are strewn along the interstate, scattered by unfaithful tiedowns.  I have discovered that the black rubber straps with "s" hooks are the most deceitful.  They are scatterd by the tens and hundreds over a given course.  Bungies are the next most likely to fail.  The most dependable tie downs are the fabric straps.  I have seen strollers, furniture, shoes and clothing, washing machines and the living room rug.  The most poignant was the naked leg of a doll.  There are enough car and truck parts between Indio and Blythe to build several vehicles.

The real hazard comes from all of the damaged tires.  Pieces of rubber from less than an inch in diameter to whole tires litter the shoulder.  Every shred is a potential punture because of the steel radial wires.

After 20 miles of shoulder so rough that it shook loose a water bottle bracket, I made it into Blythe at sunset.  It was one of the most spectacular displays I have ever seen.  In the east the full moon was rising as the sun was setting.  The moon was a silver dollar suspended between peridot and coral.  From the horizon to the moon was a deepening blue.  From the moon up there was a cloud layer dyed pink and orange by the setting sun.  In the west the effect was reversed.  The horizon was painted gold and bronze, fading into an incredible light turquoise.  Wow.

Motel 6, fast food dinner.  Find a car and take a two day break to see my 89 year old father.

Distance = 106.7 miles.  Average = 12.7mph

December 22 - Wind was forecast to be a tailwind going through Banning Pass - NOT.  This was one of ten days during the year when the wind blows from Palm Springs, not toward it.  My Luck!  The wind was in my face - 35mph at times.  At times I could only make 5mph on the flat.  Three hours + to make 24 miles.  The wind farms in the pass were spinnning like crazy.  I rode past an exit with a service station graced with a life sized T Rex and Brontosaur.  Will try and find pictures on net. 

Met helpful people (directions to bike shop).  Got good directions to Indio and made the motel by dusk.  Had one of the worst Mexican meals of my life and one of the most interupted night's sleep.  Between trains, ladies of the evening entertaining, drunken workers, and a car being reposessed at 4:30am I didn't get much sleep.

Distance = 60.0  Average = 9.2mph

December 21 - I got today's route from Map Quest, never again.  It may have been the shortest distance but did not take terrain into account.  From now on when a computer is available I will use Google Maps with the terrain feature.  If you ever are riding a route and see Colima Road or Grand Avenue LOOK FOR AN ALTERNATE.  Steep hills, narrow roads with poor or no shoulders, poor signage and heavy traffic.  I guess that is the LA basin.

Met a crew that was painting over and cleaning graffiti.  One of the workers was a cyclist and we talked about programs for getting cycles into peoples' hands and reducing smog, carbon, etc.  Am carrying his message to congress.  I also got the crew to promise to call their legislators.

First fall - bad shoulder caught my wheel and put me down.  Scratched left knee and elbow, injured rib.  Hurts to go over bumps now.  Two miles later I was attacked by a farm dog.  It came running out of a driveway of a dairy farm.  I accelerated but, before it got to me, the dog was hit by a car coming from behind.  The dog rolled in front of me, got up, shook itself and ran back home barking.  I stopped and offered to be a witness for the driver's insurance.  He declined my information and went to talk to the farmer.  Tom OK  Driver OK  Dog dinged but OK  Car Dented.

Had headwinds, hills and a flat out of Riverside.  Rode on into the dark.  Out of Moraga Springs I missed a turn because of poor signage and oncoming traffic.  I had to ride an extra 10 miles or so in the dark over a steep road in the San Jacinto mountains.  I ended up in Beaumont (5 miles from Banning) at 9:00pm.

Distance = 95.2  Average speed = 9.3mph

December 20 - First Century of the trip - first with a trailer.  What a joy - No rain this morning!!!. Beautiful ride, lots of birds.  Getting through Santa Barbara is not easy but once past Oxnard it is not bad.  Point Magoo Naval Air Station has some great static diplays for aviation buffs.  F86, F4, F14 and many missles on diplay at the gates.

The Pacific Coast Highway is pretty.  For the last 35 miles of the ride I was in the rain, though.  I thought I was doing great when I saw the Malibu City Limit sign.  then there was an informational sign saying that Malibu was 27 miles long - bummer.

At Zuma beach I knew I was getting into Southern California.  Jogging down a hill in the rain, her arms raised with palm up, was a pony-tailed blond in a skimpy halter and hot pink short shorts.  She appeared to have helped nature in the bosom area and everything was moving in a fascinating rhythm.  She saw me looking and we exchanged big smiles as we passed.

Just out of Zuma I came across a Cal Trans crew.  I stopped and asked for an orange litter bag to put my packets in.  They asked what I was doing and they told me to "take the message to congress that things have to change.  Congress needs to think of the working people. "

I saddled back up and they followed me for about half a mile chanting on their PA system, "Courage to congress, Go Tom GO!"  What a rush!

I got into Santa Monica and started up Ventura Blvd on the way to my niece's house in LA.  Traffic was horrible and had encounter with first jerk of the trip.  I really hate big, jacked up 4x4 pickups.  One was in the bike lane and I tried to squeek by.  The driver turned into me and I brushed his tire (actually, he hit me) with my trailer.  He yelled, I said "it's a bike lane" and kept going.  He drove onto the sidewalk, chasing me.  When I stopped at a light he got out of his truck, banged my trailer and tore stuff off the top.  The good news - a passing motorist stopped and asked if I needed help.  I asked that they call the police.  The jerk left, the police never came.  The couple in the car were cyclists.  The man had done a cross country from Maine to SoCal!!.  They offered me their couch for the night.  For every jerk there are ten Good Samaritans.

I arrived at Steve and Gillian's house around 7:00.  We had a wonderful meal and I met my grand nephew Nathaniel.  A warm bed and an early start tomorrow...

Distance = 109.7  Avg Speed = 12.1mph

December 19 -Left Santa Maria in the fog.  It was so thick at times that I couldn't see more than 100 feet.  No wind and foggy through Orcut to Vandenburg Air Force Base.  I never realized how pretty that part of the country is, and NOT FLAT like it appears from the air.

Had a Jack in the Box brunch in Lompoc.  Got directions and talked to people.  The message is still the same - "Why call?  They never listen."  Got some commitment to call, hope they do.

Gaviota pass is steep but beautiful.  It is a gentle to moderate climb most of the way with a couple of real steep grades.  I was on the last steep grade when I saw a man sitting by the road hitchhiking.  He had his life with him, guitar, pack and bedroll.  As I neared I called out, wishing him luck getting a ride.  As I passed he asked, in a broken voice if I had any extra mumble.  I was pumping so hard I didn't feel I could stop (the grade was so steep I don't think I could have gotten going again).  I reflexively said "Sorry, no" and kept going.  As I neared the top it dawned on me he was not asking for change but for water. 

I got to the top and unhitched the trailer.  I rode down to meet him and gave him one of my water bottles to keep.  His name is Larry Sparks.  We talked for a while and he told me he makes records.  I asked if he wanted to send a message to Congress and he said, "No, the government doesn't care about me."  I left him with the water and took a resolve to let the govenment know of Mr. Sparks and that they should care about him.

Got into Goleta after a scenic ride along the coast.  Whales, pelicans, and trains broke the monotony of 101.  I stopped at a cyclery and bought a new water bottle and got directions into Santa Barbara.  A mile or so later I heard someone yell "Hello" from across the street.  There, in a grove of trees suitable for camping, was Mr. Larry Sparks, waving.  I waved back and yelled "Mr. Sparks!" and got a big grin in return.

I got to Santa Barbara and stopped at another bike shop for directions.  As I got off the bike my trailer hitch broke.  This shop did not have the parts.  They called around and found a shop that did.  I stored my trailer in their shop and rode like mad to get the new hitch.  There were two available, I bought both.

Back to the original shop, reclaimed the trailer with thanks.  Found the motel and ended the day.

It amazes me that people are so willing to help.  America still has a generous soul.  I just wish the wedge issues being spun by the media would go away, allowing us to come together again as a nation.

Distance = 90.8  Avg speed = 12.2 

December 18 - Rain Again.  I got an early starrt in steady moderate rain.  The wind was 15mph and freshening.  The rain and wind increased through the morning, heavy rain and 30+mph gusty wind right in my face. I could barely make 6mph on the flat.

Just after Guadelupe  the wind was so strong that horizontal rain would sting any exposed skin.  I was standing in the lee of a home made billboard at the intersection for Orcut or Santa Maria, checking my map.  A farm support truck stopped and the driver asked if I needed to get in out of the rain for a while.  I asked him about motels in Orcut.  He said there were none.  The closest were in Santa Maria, 7 miles out of my way, or 24 miles away in Lompoc.  No Brainer - Santa Maria.  Maybe I'm crazy but I'm not stupid.

I got a room and cleaned up, dried out.  There is a double disconnect between the people and the government.  When I ask people to talk to their legislators or send a message with me I get:  "Whats the use?"  "I'm so mad I don't know what to say."  People do not know what the government is doing or how to contact their reps.  We need to fix that

Distance = 40.5miles  Avg Spd = 9.1mph and wet, wet, wet. 4 inches of rain in Santa Maria that day.

December 17 - I'm sitting with a cup of coffee planning the start of the day.  Must fix trailer hitch - bent with rough roads. 

Found a cycling buff working in an electrical supply house.  I was looking for a vise to use.  No vise, but I got the best route to Morro Bay.  Found a vise at the local motorcycle shop.  Hitch fixed.

Off to San Luis Obispo, via Morro Bay, in the rain.  First rain of the trip, first mountain range crossed.  Rain really hurts in a descent!!!

I was making good time to San Luis - thought I'd be able to check in with Peter B. Collins.  Then had a flat on the trailer.  Fixed it and was tearing down a hill 3/4 mile later when my rear bicycle tire blew.  Two flats in less than two miles. 

The theme of the comments I'm getting, both written and oral, remains one of frustration.  There is a new common theme emerging - Why don't you think of us?  Why are you sending good jobs overseas and encouraging immigration to fill the rest?  Why won't you listen to us and act for us?  After all, we elected you.

Mileage = 57.8  11 mph avg 

December 16 - Hills, Headwinds & Wind Chills. 39 F. leaving Soledad with a 10+mph headwind.  The County of Monterey doesn't believe in wasting good agricultural land on roads.  Really hilly.  Wind up to +15mph rest of day.

Soledad to King City to San Lucas.  20+ miles on 101 to San Miguel (worst road shoulders in the world!) Back roads (hilly of course) to Paso Robles.

Talked to lots of people yesterday and today.  The level of frustration is really high.  "What's the use?" is the normal response when I tell them to call their legislators.  There really is a disconnect between the government and the people.

One man pointed to the sidewalk and said that trying to make his voice heard was like pounding his head on cement.  I asked if he had ever busted slab:  The first few blows barely make a dent, then deeper dents appear.  Then cracks.  Finally the whole slab crumbles. 

All it takes is repeated contact.  Cement needs a sledge hammer, Congress a loud collective voice.

Distance 82.1 miles @ 10.0 mph avg.

December 15 - Made it off - When I got to the County Building the parking lot in front of the steps was cordoned off with yellow tape.  Gee, just to keep me from them???  Turned out is was for construction - removing an air conditioner.

Lots of good friends and people to wave goodbye.

Had to stop a couple of times to balance the gear.  Was hard to get in the groove.  Took a couple of wrong turns - 15 miles and 1 1/2 hour lost.  Could have made King City.  Stayed in Soledad instead.

Lots of beautiful scenery.  The vineyards are in full red and yellow glory.  Lots of birds, too.  I'll be setting up a bird page for those interested.

More about the people tomorrow.

Distance = 90.8 miles @ 12.1 mph avg.

December 14 - Some cool things - I was on Air America Radio for about 1/2 an hour Wednesday, nation wide!  Then Thursday Peter B. Collins gave me another ten minutes on his syndicated show.  Also, I will be checking in with Gil Gross on his show on KGO radio  once a week with a progress report.

Got to visit Google and meet the man who set  up my trip map.  Pretty cool to be able to see the route and click for mileage.  Too bad I'm not carrying a computer - will have to check in at internet cafes.

Packed the trailer.  Unpacked and thinned out the gear.  Weighed everything and thinned out some more.  Finally got to where everything fit and was within weight specs.

Got all of the bags labeled with "courage" and stuffed with balls.  The package does not weigh much but it sure is bulky.  Got it strapped to the top of the box.  

I'm feeling some pre-trip jitters.  The trailer weighs more than I had planned for and the weather has changed the route yet again.  I keep getting pushed further and further south.  Oh well, I will build a bigger motor as I go and if it takes a few extra days, so be it.  

December 13-  Spent the day working on the route and stuffing bags with balls.  Looks like there will be a map on the site to track route and adventures.  Google is great!

December 12 - Worked on the trailer and logistics.  Got the message forms generated and printed.  Contacted by Peter B Collins, progressive radio host.  He is excited about the trip and the message - Listen to his show if you can - he has great insights and very interesting guests (including me...)  A link to his site is on the links page.

December 11 - Looked into charging systems and GPS units.  Solar panels and 12v systems too heavy.  I'll just carry a small plug in charging unit and re-chargeable batteries and juice everything up at periodic motel stays or long lunch breaks. 

GPS would be good but map capable battery units are very expensive.  I'll carry paper maps and use the money for comfort on the trip.....

December 10 - Got the trailer!!! Have set it up and rigged it.  It is a Burley Flatbed.  I mounted a 44 gallon plastic tub to the trailer, enough space for all the gear.  If the sacks of "courage" don't fit they will be strapped to the top.

I loaded the trailer with about 40 pounds and went for a short ride - about 15 miles.  The Trailer and load cost me about 3.5 mph overall.  Not too bad.  Depending on terrain I am hoping for between 80 and 120 miles a day.

 December 7 - Just got my bike back from Sprockets, great bikes and great people.  I had Phil tweak the geometry a little and tune up everything for the trip.  The bike is a real treat - a TREK Pilot.  I can't believe how smooth a  ride the full carbon frame gives

December 6 - Trying to set up Website, get trailer and support for the trip