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Peddlin instead of Paddlin

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Life’s a Journey; A sister cycles home

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While I’ve been playing my sister’ Janis has been in the desert of Afghanistan the past 6 years supporting our servicemen – Bagram.

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The experience of our soldiers along with those in support of the effort, the hostile territory where they ate, slept, and mingled – created bonds of comradeship that the lucky ones will carry with them forever.  As with the warriors of all generations scars remain; souls have been genuinely touched, lives have been changed; memories linger.

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My sister is but another returning with realigned dreams

Simply put, my sister has been living in a shipping container in Afghanistan for more than 6 years. Janis is scheduled to return to the US in the first weeks of August.  In communication with her, she wants to take a few days off in California to ‘get her feet on the ground,’ to re acclimate – before returning to the east coast via bike, into the life that she departed.

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Within my career at the Asheville Fire Department we learned of such things called ‘debriefings.’ A debriefing is intended to help one cope with ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ events.  As a firefighter I experienced a few of those events, and debriefings.  Janis’s idea of that same process is somewhere within the effort of peddling from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Within this effort, she desires to honor all of our warriors along with those she has encountered through her years in Afghanistan.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked her idea – it made sense.

Janis has mentioned that the experience has been a ‘life changer’ – adding further that her ride will reflect appreciation for those agencies that continue the support as many soldiers rehabilitate back onto society.  Folks along the way will be reminded of the Fisher Foundation as well as the Wounded Warrior Project in reestablishing the lives affected.

Janis’s personal challenge; her ‘debriefing’ and ‘calibration’ of sorts; will be a prompt to us all to remember those sacrifices.

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The Pacific Ocean in California, to the Atlantic in North Carolina; 3100 miles, in real time – peddling her bike.

Early on I readily mentioned that I would support her effort (I love the ride) with my truck and trailer –  my next months are a minor sacrifice in comparison to her efforts/resilience, and experience.  My personal belief is that along the way, we will all be reminded too of how great our country really is.

For the ride I’m thinking that she will have three important benchmarks,

  1. first; the first thirteen days ((making a habit) completed 8/26/2015)
  2. second; crossing the mountains of Colorado (completed 9/6/2015)
  3. third; the Appalachians (completed)

The likelihood of many other challenges along the way are high.

Janis has been able to keep her legs and mind in shape – our initial concern is more with her saddle (maybe a pillow will help). In the beginning we are thinking a minimum of 50 mpd, but I’m really not sure what it takes to find peace with six years of another country fresh in your mind – we’ll keep you posted.

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Shortly I will load her bikes and equipment then blast west across the US.  In reality I really look forward to the adventure, the scenery – and being part of hopefully more than one persons re acquaintance with this great country we call home.

Janis welcomes others to join her ride anywhere along the way.

As this ride materializes in the upcoming weeks I will add some links intended for contributions for those inclined – hopefully with a side-note recognizing Janis’s effort.  She seeks no personal acclaim and is using her personal funds for the trek.  A facebook page for daily updates (link here), and a blog page for more long-term information will come into play shortly.

Please join us, but most importantly think of all those families and warriors who continue to live those sacrifices for us…..

Help our soldiers at;  http://www.teamfisherhouse.org/site/TR/AllEvents/3rdPartyFundraisers?px=1038808&pg=personal&fr_id=1290

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“Miles of smiles” she says – yet I understand the underlying emotions involved……….

Facebook link 

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TRIP COMPLETED, THE PACIFIC TO THE ATLANTIC OCEANS IN 49 DAYS!!

Link to some of the journey pictures

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Colorado, to Pagosa Springs

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Is it just me? or is there always something ‘congested’ about the way folks drive on Friday’s, I’m about to find out if the Colorado version is any different – I’m still on eastern time so maybe the early start will help – then maybe Friday traffic doesn’t even exist here.

Made it up early and with the sun at my back began the Colorado trek, final leg to Pagosa Springs where I will spend a week with family before moving further west into Arizona and then to California.

I like to keep a clean windshield and with the sun behind me this morning the signs ahead stood out clearly.  I’m still running the same ‘trace’ as the historic movement of folks along the Santa Fe Trail.  The thought of that migration was ever present as I continued to scan the yards, homes, farms and general ‘lay of the land’ that runs along side.

A little further into the morning the homes became much further apart until it was rare to see a home at all – the rolling fields turned into Colorado range and towns became few to seldom.  Getting onto Hwy 10 the next town was 63 miles away, in-between was all open-range with an occasional and well aged wooden railroad boxcar laying in the field, for storage I suppose.

The cattle which were compacted through Kansas were also spread far and wide in the mass range on both sides.  From time to time small groups of mule deer were also seen sharing the same land, of course this made me wonder about predators and how the cattle were managed – surely someone would have to ride the range from time to time and evaluate their health.

Out in the middle of nothing an old business stood in a perfect place to stop (little to no shoulders on the road), so I stopped to take a picture of the old structure, just because I could.

As I took a couple of pictures a couple of wranglers came from around the building, their appearance answered the same questions that had passed my mind earlier, and just as I imagined – I had wondered about checking the fields on 4-wheelers, but when it comes to ‘cutting’ and maneuvering the cattle nothing could possibly beat a smart horse, a good cow dog, and a solid wrangler.

The brush conditions are tough, much like this shot but with fewer holding pens around.

He stopped introduced himself and we talked a few minutes, it’s easy to appreciate ones character that works the fields and herds as hard and long as these folks do.  ‘Randy’ was prepared and knew his job, I could tell that he put alot of value in his horse because they worked as a team – and it appeared as though he was sharing this knowledge with his son or a younger wrangler (above picture).  He said that he had a group of cattle to move to another field and when we parted ways I envied him for what he does and respected him for the person that he was – Randy didn’t seem to mind one bit my casual ‘city boy’ appearance, somewhere inside we were the same – but at the moment simply on different sides of the fence.

The long stretches of highway continued as the little truck struggled with the 7900 ft. (and climbing) elevation, the head-wind rolling across the rolling plains was becoming more noticeable with the day wile the mountains were becoming more distinct too along the horizon.

When the little town finally did come though I couldn’t help but to notice the individuality of the folks too, there were many unique outcomes and examples of this along the way.

The lack of water is apparent everywhere, I did notice water in a small State Park (Lathrop) and pulled in just to look it over.  With the kayak apparent on the roof I found myself going through a ‘boat inspection’ – to prevent small organisms (evasive species) from transferring lake to lake.  This didn’t take but a minute, plus after the range ride it was kinda nice to stop and talk to another ‘life-form.’

I had a half of a turkey sub in the cooler and thought why not?, so I pulled ‘traveller’ down and paddled to the far end of one of their lakes, drifting as I ate lunch.  Not sure if it was the elevation playing tricks on me but the water just seem ‘thin, and slow,’ really can’t explain it except that it felt ‘different,’ again, must be the elevation. The man-made lake was pretty mundane, but a good quick break from the drive.

A simple hour was enough, stretched, had my lunch with a couple old crows, JD completed my final boat inspection and I returned to the highway and passing geology.

More miles of open highway with few towns but changing terrain and elevation.

A Colorado ‘junk’ store but I didn’t stop.

As a town did pop-up it wasn’t too hard to figure what some folks did for a living – a wrangler and his work dogs.

As the hours passed the terrain continued to transition into (for lack of a better word from an easterner) ‘Grandeur’ scenery, many of the distant mountains really stand their ground.  The elevation too was really showing up in the little truck’s performance – but when I checked the Garmin it showed 9962 ft in elevation I understood why.

Not that it’s alot different than Western North Carolina, just a a much larger and at times distinct scale.

From Dodge City and ‘Gunsmoke’ yesterday to the Ponderosa and ‘Bonanza’ today.

As for the answer to the Friday traffic thoughts, I did not encounter any ‘congestion,’ if there would have been another lane on the road I may not have seen anyone else for hours.  The folks that I did notice seemed to be travelers much like I, and the residents seemed to approach life as if they were on vacation- kindred spirits to speak – so a rare non-traffic Friday, nice.

on a side note; made it to my daughters place in Pagosa Springs, the kids were eager to unload the Chuck-wagon,’

– will settle here a week before moving on through to Arizona and California, will post more then.


‘About Face

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A restless night in the hotel after some great food at Hooter’s (finally) last evening.  Beginning any day with breakfast is not an absolute necessity for me, this morning the standard ‘continental-breakfast’ will provide my start.  Now a consistent cup of coffee is something else – since 40 – I like to have one of those.   Now finding one when traveling is pretty much a losing battle too, same this morning – the coffee stunk.

Still, I loaded the truck and headed westward down the blvd, up the road, simple plan, continue west until…………

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Highway 98 can become pretty busy along Florida’s ‘panhandle’ so I located the drive along the beach (Gulf Dr.) and headed out and west on it, if I am to be stuck in traffic it will be along the shore.  Years ago I couldn’t drive this area because in the semi I was confined more to ‘by-pass’s and driven by a delivery schedule; today I’m just ‘ambling’ down the blvd at a comfortable rate soaking it all in – maybe one day I’ll follow the shore all the way to Galveston.

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The scenery is pretty much the same as the beach in SW Fl that I grew up with and became accustomed to, nothing extraordinary different except the quantitative volume of cement that has continually gone into our shoreline.  Some speak of how creating new beach barriers or ‘jetties’ affects the natural movement of beaches; It appears that with all this cement on our beaches now – our coastline is in itself a giant man-made ‘jettie.’

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I recall going to the beach before, and as it all began (the condo’s) in the 50’s.

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Moving along Gulf Blvd the ride was comfortable and only once or twice do I recall being slowed by someone – maybe the cool weather had folks inside or we were simply all going the same speed, same direction, not sure – but it was a good time for a ride.  I just continued to be amused with the folks, buildings, and sand in someone else s neighborhood.

Soon the beach of Florida turned into a section of beach in Alabama, and this hwy 182 ended, oops.  It was necessary to ‘back-track’ (I hate to back-track) a few miles over to Fort Morgan (civil war era fortress) and catch the Ferry to avoid city traffic – 20 miles later and just past the remnants of a Fort I stood waiting in-line at the Ferry Landing.

It was my intention to continue westward, maybe even to New Orleans and catch up with a couple Mississippi River friends before finally deciding where the turning point would be.  The Ferry had departed just before my arrival, so I grabbed a sandwich and a Pepsi from the cooler while staring through these portholes at the whitecaps across the bay.

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Somewhere within this idle time, the individual peering out of those portholes found a little peace with it all.  Finishing my sandwich I strolled over to the little truck and pulled from the awaiting vehicles – leaving from the same direction that I had arrived.

I made an ‘about-face.’

Thirty five years ago and my first summer out of high school (1970) Dad got me a job across the panhandle.  Based out of Marianna, Fl – I drove a semi shuttling gladiolus (flowers) from Foley, Alabama (near here) back to Marianna.  After loading it was a hundred or so mile drive each day across Hwy 90 (Interstate 10 was incomplete).  This area was one of the first that I began to appreciate the character of this region.

 

My thoughts on this date was that if I could make a ‘lap’ through Foley, (Ala.) and then retrace my old route on hwy 90 eastward through the panhandle – then somehow this ride (and my ‘about-face’) could be validated – one more of those ‘little-circles‘ closed.

The pines of the panhandle and rolling nature of the panhandle create a comfortable and hospitable setting.  The lay of the land, the weather; a little different than other places in its own way – anyway, I wanted to drive this road once again – so I did, 35 years later.

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It all felt fitting to be coming back into the state of Florida on the same old highway as I did so many times that summer long ago, I wondered if I could find anything familiar along the way – and this too could be considered ‘closure’ in some very small way.

I noticed Pensacola’s gridlock as the biker ahead continued to put his foot down.  With the sudden congestion I jumped on hwy 29 and interstate-10 to ‘skirt’ the city; all those people ……

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The foundations beneath the interstate bridges of Pensacola bare regards of respect to the pilots, airmen – those that directly support our country’s warriors, the US Air-Force.    Enlarge and check out the jet fighters on the supports of the overpasses.

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At Milton a few miles away where I rejoined the roll of old hwy 90, eastward – and familiar.

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and there are places to paddle too (Blackwater State Park)

Businesses adapt or die on these old highways,

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The sun dropped behind me as homes passed along the wayside – its a nice time of day with the sun at your back, everything has clarity and the windshield doesn’t seem quite so dirty.

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soon the back-roads lead me into the Georgia landscape.  I debated finding a room for the night or taking the express route to the lake – after the slower coastal rides, I found some ‘zip’ in a cup of coffee and blasted through the night to my familiar bed..

So a ride about nothing?

Not sure yet, losing a Dad is never on the top of anyone’s list – in my own way I found comfort in one of the few places that he and I shared and spent extended time together – riding old highways as he ‘ciphered-out’ our surroundings – he was real good at ‘figurin’ things out.

He would wipe the inside of the windshield (defroster didn’t work) with his handkerchief, mix ketchup with his eggs and grits, ’sop up the gravy’ from the skillet with a piece of bread, he liked cornbread and butter-milk, he could tell you the history of a truck from just walking around it, he would unbuckle his britches in front of anyone (during conversation) to tuck his shirt-tail in (no big deal), he rolled his Prince-Albert cigarettes while driving (his elbows on the steering wheel) and he coughed as hard as he worked.  He was just ‘Dad’ and that’s how we knew him – he “was what he was.”

I guess life is like a highway, another place with a good seat to appreciate whats right there in front of us, an opportunity to acknowledge others as we pass, a place to remember – and a time to move on.

W.T.Haynie – Feb. 19, 1926 – Feb. 16, 2010

– bye Dad, thanks for the ride.   – “uddddnnnnnn.”

Maybe I Just Really Like ‘The Ride’

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Searching direction – a funeral, then a paddle in The Ocala National Forest, now what?, do I paddle the Silver again? – weather report says rain.  So I head out from Ocala on hwy 40 to hwy 27 and then to Williston Fla before driving up alt-27 towards Chiefland.  With Manatee Springs nearby and it about six in the evening I find a hotel and settle in – after a couple nights of ‘camping‘ I’m thinking a warm bed should help.

Woke to windy and cool weather, the windy part decreased my desire for paddling but I really didn’t mind because I was a little sore from the two previous days – the choice was easy; ride, ponder and reflect another’s lifetime…

Continental breakfast, oj, and coffee then a ride up alternate-27 where memories remain of once towing a brand-new 71 Z-28 camaro through here years ago behind a truck – the car came loose (not completely) but that’s another story.  This morning was nice and listening to 97.9 fm fit well with the day.

I drove North to Perry and then across hwy 98 Westward, light to no traffic – I think everyone (if anyone) were traveling at 60 also, I came up on – and had to pass no-one.  I suppose Dad would call what I was doing as ‘lolly-gagging,’ whatever it was it did fit the day perfectly. When I noticed the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse sign, I simply made the turn.  What the heck?

It was a pleasant place full of “bird-watchers” – bird watchers with those BIG zoom lenses on their cameras standing, walking, and riding around looking at birds.  The birds were plentiful too.  I continued at an ez pace to the coast (about 6 miles) and walked around the light house, still pondering – it was peaceful there.

 

The history of the area is rich and the scenery unique within the surroundings. As remote as it was I figured it wouldn’t do any harm – so I wandered out into the thicket to ‘relieve’ myself on some lonesome ‘birders’ trail – but then, there were those BIG zoom lenses – not that I had much to worry about…….. still, I moved on.

Cousin Lee (Coleman) called about this time; always a welcome yet surprise to chat with him – little-circles, links to our pasts.  In returning to hwy 98 it felt nice to have the familiar Florida landscape surrounding me once again, even the folks on the radio had/used the same slang as I; as a native to Fl I felt at home, ‘my people’ – I like this area.

I thought about all the storms and hurricanes that came through too, maybe how a welding or scrap-iron business could benefit (their inventory wouldn’t float away), and somewhere in here and after Dad’s funeral I felt the desire to hug my grandchildren, even though they were in Colorado.

Hwy 98 (a heritage trail) is a coastal highway with local seafood businesses around, the ride is a pleasant with a good view of the coastline. It wasn’t long before Apalachicola where I located one of those restaurants and ‘whuffed down a dozen steamed oysters, followed by a cold beverage (or two).

There were some interesting stores nearby too, so wanting some nautical junk for the ‘Crab-shack‘ I wandered through them, neat stuff….

Not long afterward I was back on the road, Port St Joe, and then Mexico Beach where I saw our latest fighters making practice runs over the highway – it was great.  The plane above simply represents the military’s proximity and importance to the area.

For me, the music on 95.7  remained great for the ride; it all blended in allowing my mind to freely move about – in there somewhere I wondered too about how far I would make it on this ‘non-schedule.’

Further along the coast I began to hunger for some ‘wings,’ I really wanted some ‘wings’ – I also wanted to catch up with these posts too – another simple exercise of allowing a mind to freely ‘move-about’ – riding helped too and I continued on.

After some ‘junkin stops I continued to ponder about riding to Colorado, so I checked the weather and found that it was 12 degrees! – that thought allowed me other options of simply circling back and riding the roads of central Georgia or traveling further along the Gulf’s coastline.  I could always return to my original plans of driving to Colorado in June.

In Destin, Fla the campground was full and as I pulled back out onto the intersection there it was, HOOTER’s!  The wings there are not always the best but the scenery and cold beverage helps blur the wing quality.  There was a hotel almost next door – so my ‘wing’ problem was solved (and I DID let out a ‘rebel-yell’).

So here I am two hours after stopping and relaxing further, laundry is done, and there’s a warm bed close-by.  Tomorrow I will head one way or the other, it may be west – feeling some loose ends out there…..

Today I saw this towboat, reminding me of the many along the Mississippi River.

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– its been a long week; one that leaves me to only feel certain about one thing – I really do love, ‘the ride.’……………..

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