"Freedom and responsibility we speak of easily, nearly always without recognition of the iron courage required to make them effective in our lives." j. glenn gray

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 11

Well, it was a pretty uneventful day today. We awoke to find a beautiful, cool & dry morning. Last night a cold front brought the humidity down to 37% and the temperature to 68. It was a very nice change from the previous day's rain. We loaded up on bagels, cereal & waffles and headed for Louisville, MS around 0930hrs via highway 14, which turned out to be a very scenic but also very hill laden road; hills were as much as 13% gradient and nearly half a mile long... and came back-to-back-to-back-etc. for 33 miles. We did not reach Louisville until nearly 1400hrs. It was 2 to 3 mph up the hills and over 30 mph on some of the backsides, which is very exciting on a trike with a trailer and a big ole sign catching crosswinds!

Along the way we stopped at a transmission shop and freeloaded some WD40 for Chuck's chain. It was squeaking like crazy and driving me nuts because he had forgotten to oil it after yesterday's rain. The fella was very nice and was happy to help out. Later on up the road we rescued a turtle from eminent demise from the crazy MS drivers. Chuck wrangled it up and returned it to the bar ditch where there was water and shelter. PETA would be very proud of Chuck! After a run of several really tough hills we stopped at the top of one to take a little break and the local mail lady stopped to say hello and ask what we were up to. We spoke for a while and ascertained that her son is Army and serving his second tour of duty in Iraq and her two daughters are both in College; one at MS State and one at MS State Women's College. She advised against our current route and instead suggested using the bypass straight to HWY25 because of the narrow, winding and hilly roads along with speeding motorists and logging trucks. We thanked her and we all wished each other well and went our separate ways. We made Louisville and had to drop it into granny just to get up the hill into the corner Chevron station. Here I finally found some Mellow Yellow, the Southern version of Mt. Dew! After a break and a snack Sharon & Chuck switched out and Sharon & I heeded the mail lady's advice and headed up the bypass to HWY25... it was a good choice.

Mississippi Highway 25 is a 4 lane divided with no shoulder and rumble strips for a goodly portion of it. It felt weird riding along in the lane of traffic but traffic was light and most drivers gave us plenty of room by changing lanes long before they got to us. Of course there were a couple that zoomed us but they were the minority. Somewhere along the way we saw a couple of folks on horseback but they turned off before we caught them. Then we saw a lady turn up and drive down the wrong way on the hwy for about a mile, cross the median and head the wrong way up the other side back to where we were, cross the median again and head down some side road! FREE... KEEE! It's a really good thing that traffic was pretty much nonexistent! These MS drivers must really take their own advice about the bloody mary's and drink-a-day-to-keep-reality-at-bay!

About this time a lady and a youngster in a john deer atv came down the median and, while smiling and waving, said they had to come see what we were because they couldn't tell from a distance. We introduced ourselves and met Nelda Metts and her niece Brailey Merchant of Louisville, MS. Really nice folks. They offered us a cold bottle of water and zoomed off to their residence to speed it back to us. We visited for a bit, took a picture and after wishing each other well parted company. My camera battery is charging so I will not be posting the pictures today.

Sharon and I continued up Old HWY25 into Starkville while Chuck went on into town and secured us rooms at the Days Inn on HWY12 near Mississippi State University. Again we have some really nice digs and I wish we had a few days to scout the University and the town; they have a collegiate cycling team and several bike shops here! We showered up and went next door to Chilli's for a light dinner. The staff was friendly and the place pretty busy. The food was OK but nothing to write home about.

Now I'm going to finish up this entry for the day and hit the rack. I'm really tired today and my back and knees hurt from the 30 miles of hills between Kosciusko and Louisville. I expect we'll see more of the same tomorrow as we head out of Mississippi through Columbus and on into Fayette, Alabama for a total of 67.5 miles. Upon our arrival in Starkville I noticed that it was after 1800hrs already and decided we should get going an hour earlier tomorrow for good measure. Chuck and Sharon agreed and so we'll be off by 0800hrs in the morning. Additionally, the time will change when we cross the Mississippi-Alabama border. Soooo, I'm off to bed and will catch you all up tomorrow. Good night!

Ride On!

Day 11 Pre-Ride

Re-routed next 3 days knocking back mileage to 63.32, 67.51 & 46.43 respectively. From Kusciusko, MS we will head over to Starkville, MS (home of MS State University) and stay at Holiday Inn Express. From Starkville, MS we will ride to Fayette, AL and stay at the Columbus Street Inn. When we leave Fayette, AL we will pedal over to Jasper, AL and camp at Sleepy Holler Campground (no kidding... Sleepy Holler). I'm hoping the mileage will be somewhat more managable. It is tough to find campgrounds at perfect 62.5-mile intervals. Additionally, we have not had much luck with the Fire Station approach to finding a place to stay; problem being that not every town has an operating VFD that we can contact. We'll see how it works out. I do know that I do not have the funds to be spending $60 a night on hotel fees. Guess we'll take it by the day. HOOAH!

Also, I am re-routing all the daily routes with "Map My Ride" for my Garmin Cycling Computer. You can check out the daily routes here:

Enjoy the Ride!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 10

Howdy, All!

We started the day off just fine. Our day off had been most enjoyable and relaxing even with the rain. The weather in Jackson, MS was cool & breezy with a few low rain clouds still lingering around. We were packed up and under way at 0915hrs heading North to Kosciusko, MS and a bicycle camp near the Ranger Station there. Chuck and I have been riding mornings and Sharon & I the afternoons as Chuck doesn't fare too well in the heat of the day. So, Chuck & I head out over the Spillway at the reservoir and on to Harbour Drive. We are about 100 yards from the light at Old Canton Rd when this little old lady (literally) goes jetting passed us in the ditch! No kidding! It was a 2 lane with a double yellow and she pulls off the side of the road and punches it! I thought for sure she would lose it on the embankment with the wet grass but she shot passed us and, low-n-behold, beat us to the red light by at least 15 seconds! Good show lady! A couple of fellas in the pickup that was behind her pulled next to us and said that we must have scared her... :o) Funny, fellas. Chuck and I were absolutely beside ourselves to see such an exemplary display of discourteous and dangerous driving.

We shook that one off, made a right onto Old Canton Rd. and headed for the Natchez Trace and Kosciusko. Just before the turn a guy in a small grey car pulls beside me and, with his window down takes my pic with his cell phone. I gave him a smile and through him the deuce then we made our turn and continued along the Trace. After about 2 miles here comes the little grey car again. He tells Chuck that he wants to talk and will wait at the next rest stop about 1/2 mile up the road. We arrive to find Darrel (sorry if I misspelled your name) waiting outside his car. Here I see a man in his late 30's to early 40's in black running shorts and built like a Spartan Soldier... pecs, abs, arms, tan, cut... the works. As we introduce ourselves I begin to see the stickers on his car are triathlete and iron man and then I notice the iron man tattoo on his ankle. We spoke for a bit and it turns out that Darrel is a competitor and big into bicycle advocacy and has a bunch of info on what we will find on up the road. He also confirms what Patti at Indian Cycles told me about the number of auto-cyclist accidents increasing dramatically in the Jackson area. I told him about the little old lady not 30 minutes earlier and we discuss some of the craziness that drivers do when encountering cyclists just to save an apparent few seconds in their day. Darrel seemed like a really cool dude and I wish him the best of luck in competition and in life.

From there Chuck & I headed up the Trace without incident enjoying the beautiful vistas along the reservoir. We passed several other cyclists and exchanged greetings as we passed. We stopped at the cypress-tupelo swamp for a break and a few pics. Poor Chuck took a spill on the slick wooden stairs but managed to land without hurting himself, thank goodness. You had me worried for a second there, Chuck. Sharon caught up to us at the swamp and, to my great delight emerged from the truck with an ice cold bottle of Mountain Dew! It did not last long... I guarantee! We decided to meet at the Choctaw Boundary for lunch and for Chuck & Sharon to switch out then Chuck & I were on our way again.

At the Choctaw Boundary (boundary set under Doaks Treaty taking 1/3 of the Choctaw lands... within 3 years the U.S. Government would take the rest under Manifest Destiny) we had a light lunch and Sharon & I proceeded down the Trace under the not-too-distant rumble of thunder. We didn't get but a couple of miles down the road when it began to rain so we pulled under some trees and hailed Chuck to come get Sharon. Sharon and Chuck swapped again and poor Chuck got to ride in the rain with the TXPeddler. We ended up riding the rest of the 32 miles to Kosciusko in the rain and, much to our dissatisfaction, found the last 25 miles to be our favorite type of road... you guessed it, chip seal! So we had pouring rain, chip seal and no fenders. We ended up totally drenched and somewhere around 8 to 10 miles out I noticed the bolts securing my right brake caliper had vibrated nearly all the way out. We stopped to rectify that situation when a Park Ranger stopped to see if we were OK or if we needed assistance. Turns out he was prior service Army from Ft. Hood and had served 2 tours in Iraq. Thank you for your service, Brother! I told him I had been an Army Engineer and later a Park Ranger at Belton-Stillhouse Hollow Lakes and was familiar with BLORA at Ft. Hood. Satisfied that we were Brothers, he offered information on the bicycle campsite and advised that if we needed anything to not hesitate to call. Thanks, Brother!

Chuck & I continued on up the Trace at a miserable pace with the bikes chattering away on the chip seal and the rain spotting our glasses and, for me, running down my back and butt. We were soaked to the bone though not cold thankfully. We arrived at the bike camp safe and sound to find it quite different than the bike camp at Rocky Springs. Here it was strictly a primitive group site with a few tent pads, common fire ring, trash can, water spigot and a vault restroom (outhouse). Within a few steps into the campsite I was neck deep in mosquitoes. It was not looking to be a very promising evening. About that time Sharon showed up and advised that she found a Days Inn Hotel within 1/2 mile of where we stood... Yup! You guessed it! It didn't take a bunch of arm twisting to get me to ride another 2700 feet for a hot shower, clean sheets and AC. Sharon did an awesome job reconnoitering the area for this hotel! Thanks, Sharon! You're the best!

The rooms are very clean and well appointed. I tremendously enjoyed the massage shower head and spent the most of 30 minutes washing off road grit. I unpacked all of my wet gear and hung my soaked clothing. I then dried my shoes with the hair dryer! Hey, it worked pretty well actually... Then we all went to dinner together.

Chuck has been asking for Mexican food ever since we left Houston. We tried to tell him the ole "when in Rome" thing but he just wouldn't buy it. Well, as it turns out there's a Mexican restaurant just 3 doors down (not the band) from the hotel so we headed over there. The place was loud and bright and we were seated next to a birthday party with a gaggle of teenage girls. This did not bode well for our tummies or Chuck's need for Mexican food. As it turns out, it was really, really good food. I had my favorite enchiladas verdes and they were actually pork instead of chicken and the house verde (green) sauce was very tasty. Surprisingly, the beans and rice were each extra. So, Chuck finally got his Mexican food and we won't be able to bust his chops about how to never order Mexican food in Mississippi!

Now I'm chillin' and thinking about tomorrow. I have been looking at my route plan and schedule with a very critical and, now, very experienced eye. I can tell you earnestly that we will not be riding any 70+ mile days and just today was supposed to be 88 miles to Louisville, MS. I rerouted at 0600hrs this morning to a more reasonable 62 miles and will have to look very critically at the rest of the ride. I know there are some longer days in there, especially a 98 mile one, and that just will not work. So, I'm going to have to get onto "Map My Ride" for Garmin and do some rerouting to make this mission work. Problem is, will cutting mileage cause a late arrival in New York. I figured the days based upon 62.5 miles (100km or a "metric century") per day. The only reason I had plotted longer days was to be able to reach accommodations, especially cheap accommodations like National and State Parks. So, if I cut back the mileage I believe we'll still be on schedule but, we'll have more days in the field requiring me to seek other accommodations and, there just aren't that many campgrounds out there, especially in Alabama where we will be day after tomorrow. Hmmm, that, my friends, is a mouthful! So, if anybody has an extra room or an empty couch in the den we would genuinely appreciate your hospitality. Tomorrow we are headed for Columbus, MS and then on into Alabama. From there we will ride up through the NW corner of Georgia and into Chattanooga, Tennessee. From Tennessee we will head across Virginia to DC and then up the Eastern Seaboard. Chuck and Sharon will head back to Texas from DC and I will be going on to Ground Zero from there by myself. If you are on the Eastern Seaboard and would like to join me just drop me a note and let me know. Wounded Warrior Project will be providing me with accommodations in urban areas from DC on to NY. In rural areas I will still be seeking campgrounds.

OK, so even with the rain and the chip seal we are safe and in a really nice hotel; nobody is shooting at us or trying to blow us up using various Improvised Explosive Devices. I am grateful for that. I am thinking that right now some of our Troops are trying to get some rest on a concrete floor in a place that may as well be a million miles from home and their loved ones. Right now there are Troops in Germany and the U.S. recovering from wounds sustained in combat. They won't ask for it, but they sure could use somebody to show them that everything is gonna be alright and to provide them with the support they will need to make that transition. Wounded Warrior Project is the organization that can do that and if we all pitch in we can all make it happen together. Let us never forget the men and women who put themselves in harm's way for us. ESSAYONS!

Now, I'm tired so, good night and let us see what tomorrow brings.

Enjoy the Ride!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ending Week 1

Hey All!

Just laying in my tent listening to the rain fall on Jackson, Mississippi. It's been a really great ride thus far. We have had great weather, good roads and have met some really great folks. We have gotten some very positive feedback on our mission and have met a great many Veterans including a couple from the Great War; all, like me, very proud of their service. In nearly every town, city and hole-in-the-wall there has been some evidence of American military presence there and some sort of memorial honoring the Veterans from that area and State. Still, our mission is to affect the lives of our Troops who are here and coming home with specific needs; to help them transition from the battlefield back to a productive civilian life. We cannot forget what these men and women have done serving our great Country as well as helping those Countries who are not yet in a position to help themselves. They put themselves in harm's way for each other and ourselves in an effort to secure Peace. Their efforts are yielding great results. Just this week Afghanistan held its second ever election. Wounded Warrior Project is an excellent provider for the means necessary to help our Troopers make that transition. Please help support our Troops by clicking on the DONATE button on the left of this screen.

I have seen a great many beautiful things on this mission so far. I have seen the sun set over a Louisiana swamp with the bald cypress looming eerily in the background. I have seen people's faces light up when they recognize some place or event that we may have shared. I have shaken hands with the working men and women of this great Country who support our Troops because they value our Freedoms and our Way of Life. I've learned a little more about myself and my friends Sharon and Chuck. I've also baked in the Texas sun and cooled myself beneath a grove of Mississippi trees with the fragrance of some kind of bloom in the air. It truly has been a great ride thus far.

I truly appreciate every one's kindness and generosity in helping me see this mission through to a successful completion. I am a bit tired today and crunched for time...again, so, for everyone that we have met, thank you so very much. You are helping to improve the quality of life for a great many of our Troops who have been grievously injured during their Service to our Country.

Let's see... unfortunately, the Verizon dude with the Buddy Holly glasses can't ride a bike very well. I seem to keep losing him along the route in the strangest places! That's pretty sad considering we're only averaging a 5:10/mile pace at roughly 10mph. Anyway, I've tried to call TC and fill her in so she can update the blog. Thanks, wife, you're doing a great job. There were a couple of days that I couldn't even call so the blog went without an update and for that I apologize. At other times I find myself pedaling into our daily destination totally wrung out and ready for some chow, a shower and some rest. The sun and the 5 to 7 hours of pedaling every day can really zap the go out of you. I can't imagine humping a 120lb pack and weapon around the Iraqi desert when it's 114 degrees or more, or, up and down an Afghani mountainside in the freezing cold yet our Troops are doing that and more on a daily basis all while being targeted by the enemy. When I consider that, it makes my day seem like a piece of cake so I say many thanks and press on.

We've stayed in some interesting places including the Baptist Church in Evadale, TX and the Historical Museum in Merryville, LA, which we also found out is a stop over for a tour for the Adventure Cycling Club. We've also eaten some really great chow, including Tarkington's, Chuck's, Stu's, Mr. D's Old Country Store and the Cock of the Walk. I will spend more time on each of these fine establishments when I have more time myself, but, thanks to all for the really great local cuisine.

We've ridden some great roads and some not-so-great roads. Highway 28 in Louisiana was great except for about 10-12 miles of some really brutal chip-seal. The Natchez Trace is absolutely gorgeous... except for the first 8 miles, which seem to be entirely up hill! The road into and out of Natchez State Park should be illegal and the engineer who designed it made to ride a bicycle back and forth for several days to get the point. The hills are so steep that I was passed by a roley poley who happened to be climbing the same hill! On the downhill on the way out I managed to hit 32mph without turning into a trainwreck! On the Trace we also met Ranger Eric "Rick" Chamberlain at Mt. Locust. This property has been in the Chamberlain family since 1784... that is some serious family history my friend! HOOAH! We saw some beautiful and interesting things along the Trace. We also met a fella who was prior-service Army as an electronics repairman and he suggested Indian Cycle & Fitness for a bike shop in the Jackson area. He was riding to train for the Vicksburg ms150 coming up soon.

As we were riding into Jackson, MS the traffic increased 100 fold as local folks use it as part of their daily commute instead of its intended "Recreational Use Only." Still, we managed to arrive at Timberlake Campground with just enough time to set camp before it started to rain. And it has been raining since. Ranger Jim Gaines of the Pearl River Valley Water Supply at "The Rez" was kind enough after hearing of our journey to let us camp free... Thanks Jim! Jim was an MP in Panama during Operation Just Cause. Thanks for your Service Jim! We celebrated our first week's success with a steak dinner at Logan's Roadhouse and I even enjoyed a bottle of Sam Adams with Chuck. Today we went by Indian Cycle and Fitness and met Tom Martin, the owner, Patti Harvey, the GM and Daniel Norris, one of the wrench spinners. Daniel set me up with some good patches and a couple of new tubes and installed a new 22 tooth chainring in place of the 30 tooth that was on the FSA SL-K Light crankset. That should drop me down about 13% for around a 15-16 inch gear for a much easier time of climbing steep hills. Patti showed off her new Trek Madone with Campy Super Record 11 and Campy Hyperon carbon wheelset. What a sweet ride! It weighs in just under 14lbs and I imagine it takes very little effort to get it zipping right along. I have always been a Cannondale fanatic but I like what I see in Trek's Madone, especially since C'Dale sold out to a foreign company. Patti also provide me with some clean laundry by giving me an Indian Cycle t-shirt! Thanks Patti! Enjoy the Ride! For lunch today we ate at "Cock of the Walk" and had a really, really great meal of catfish and chicken with all the southern-style trimmings, including mustard greens and black eyed peas (not the band). Turned out that Kevin, our waiter, was from very near where I was born in Illinois. We spoke of the area though I am quite certain it is nothing like I remember having not been there in nearly 20 years.

And so, I am still lying here in my tent trying not to forget anybody and trying to tell you of the wonderful things we have seen and done with some semblance of continuity. The rain has subsided and it is cool and quiet. Tomorrow we will load up and begin another week of pedalling for a great cause, Wounded Warrior Project. Keep us in your thoughts and at the end of your mouse. I am also updating my Twitter, TXPeddler, during the day and that may give you a more complete picture of our mission. Below is a thumbnail that will take you to Web Shots for some pictures of our journey thus far. They are not all the pics but, the Internet was incredibly slow here and I did not have time to upload all 188 from my camera. I've selected a few that will give you, hopefully, some understanding. Also, I promised Ghetto Fabulous that I would make him famous! Peace all! Let us see what tomorrow brings...

Enjoy the Ride!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day Six

Again no internet service but Jack wanted me to give you an update. Jack wore himself out on the hills of eastern MS so I’m letting everyone know that Jack, Sharon & Chuck made it safely to Natchez State Park. MS is very beautiful with all the various foliage. The visitors’ center was promoting drinking bloody mary’s to avoid a crabby morning and a there was a sign downtown Natchez condoning “A drink a day to keep reality away.” Makes me think they should be careful on MS roads! Jack said the people seemed friendly and eager to talk with them. One gentleman followed them for several miles and pulled in when they stopped for a break just to read the sign and talk with about what they were doing. Today poor Jack he was plagued with flat tires; 5 in all. He said don’t waste your time or money on Slime brand “Scabs” glueless patches or Crank Bros. mini pump. Jack lucked out by finding a nice little bike shop and home of the Natchez cycling club in the back of a western automotive just off the trace. The folks were very helpful and luck for Jack they had 2 tires and 2 tubes with presta stems, albeit 60mm stems! He also picked up some Park Tools glueless “super patches” and tire boots as well as an Innovative CO2 cartridge-type air pump. Now watch, he won’t have another flat! Well, we can hope so.

The 15 miles from the bike shop to the park was a very trying ride. What usually goes by in 1.5 hours took them 3.5 hours. The hills are rolling and quite long on the trace near Natchez. And the roads off of the trace are incredibly steep! In fact he said a 16” gear may still be too big! Thanks to all the great folks in Louisiana! You have a beautiful state and they never felt estranged while passing through.

Tomorrow is a short ride to a primitive bicycle camp at the old townsite of Rocky Springs on the trace. It’s about 45 miles though if the hills keep coming it will be an all-day ride. Jack spent an hour at camp this evening removing all extemporaneous gear and managed to jettison about 4 more pounds of gear. After that he ate about a pound! :0) Let’s hope it flattens out a little bit for them.

Thanks to all of you for the encouragement, kind words and support for Jack and the Wounded Warrior Project. Thanks also to Chuck & Sharon for helping Jack on his mission. Thanks to Soldiers’ Angels for the TerraTrike, the gear and the support! Thank you very much to Toby Nunn for helping to make this happen. Thanks and a shout out to his “brother” Anthony Mulheron for the B.O.B. You’re a good friend Anthony. Thanks and a shout out to his “brother” Latseen Benson and Matt Lammers. Keep riding Benson! Congrats to Matt and his new bride Mary on the coming of their first child! Shout to Webster Bicycle in Webster, TX. Thanks for the support guys!

Jack will share pictures when they get to Jackson, MS on their day off this Thursday. Wow! 8 days straight pedaling! HOOAH! Now that’s “ARMY STRONG”.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day Five

We had hot & long straight roads today. Some bad chip seal for over ten miles. Louisiana is beautiful. People are very friendly. Have new friends at Leevines Exxon in Gardner; thanks for the support and the kindness. We also met Dereck Taylor Sr. Aka “Ghetto Fabulous” and his crew in Alexandria, LA. Dereck is from NYC & insists that we will love it there. Thanks Dereck; be cool. Right as we were riding into Jonesville, LA I ran over something with my back wheel. It started to thump and then about 3/10 mile from hotel…BAM! It blew out through a 2 inch gash ruining a 7 dollar tube and 60 dollar tire. Now I’ve used my spare and lost a tube. I hope there is a bike shop in Natchez, MS. Tomorrow we head for Natchez, MS and the Natchez State Park. Very short day at around 50 miles but I could really use a short day about now. Had dinner at Chittlin’s tonight; grilled shrimp, potato, salad, onion rings & about 5 cups of sprite! Service was great, sorry I missed her name (maybe see her for breakfast so I can thank her for the hurricane update). So, we got hotel rooms tonight in Jonesville. Met some really nice folks; of whom I can only seem to remember Rick and his little boy JoJo. Some really nice folks and I thank them for the kind words and support. The shower was GREAT tonight and very much needed (I even managed a shave on my sun-burnt face)! Sharon volunteered for laundry detail so I paid for dinner. Now I’m pretty much wiped out and going to turn in. Thanks go out to everybody following on twitter. Thanks for the kind words in the comments section (when you make a comment below it automatically get sent directly to my phone). So, by all means… Keep’em coming. Enjoy the ride! Oh, btw, I may have grossly under estimated the number of rain days I’ll need based upon the recent tropical storm activity. Let’s just see what tomorrow brings and do it one day at a time.