"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 29, 2009

Ride Day 17

We had a really great couple of days rest and staying with Art & Anne Hagood of Easy Chair Recumbents in Signal Mountain (Chattanooga), TN was super nice. They are awesome folks and have a wonderful old home on historic Signal Mt, where Anne grew up... and, of course, their recumbent business. We genuinely felt at home and enjoyed our stay tremendously. Anne is an awesome cook and we pedaled away today well rested and well fed knowing that we had two more friends in our lives.

Art is really good at his job of selling and servicing recumbents and you can tell very quickly that he has a genuine passion for the bicycle/tricycle. We spent most of our time wrenching in the shop. First we went thru Sharon's trike and fixed brakes, cables, shifters and tires. Then we re-geared my terratrike by replacing the shifters, crankset, rear cassette, rear derailleur and chain; this was necessary in order to lower my gear range because we went from a 10-speed road setup to a 9-speed mountain bike setup and these parts had to be compatible with each other to work smoothly. It turned out to be a $900 investment but, it was either that or load up and head for home from the stress on my knees, hips and back coupled with the upcoming Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia; climbs that will be considerably higher and steeper than those we have climbed thus far. So, if anybody wants to purchase a '95 Jeep Wrangler, an '08 Cannondale t1 Touring Bike, an '09 Cannondale t2 Touring bike or an '08 Cannondale superSix Team Liquigas Edition Race Bike to help finance these changes and the rest of my mission... please let me know. Lastly, we setup Chuck's new catrike... yup! Chuck finally decided to commit to purchasing a new bike and we just happened to be in the perfect place for him to do so. Art spent the better part of a day working with Chuck on having him ride various trikes and then took him out for a 7-mile ride around Signal Mt. to really get a good feel for the trike he had settled on, a catrike road in lime green. Art & I then went thru the trike and swapped out the 32T chainring for a 24T, added a rear fender, rack and 2 bottle cages. It really is a sweet trike and I think Chuck is much safer and much, much more comfortable on it than his old trek 5200.

After discussing our exit route with Art this morning over the topo maps, I decided it would be best to depart from a high school located on TN58 just NE of Chattanooga. The morning was cool and damp from the previous day's rain but the clouds had departed and it was clear and bright. That all changed when we got about 20 miles down the road and the clouds began to creep over the horizon. It sprinkled on Chuck & I several times but never opened up on us. The road was decent and though we didn't have a shoulder the traffic was relatively light. For the most part there were low rolling hills with some longer flats. We kept a pretty good pace and Chuck stayed up front the entire time. I could see that Chuck was truly enjoying his new ride and I was/am very happy for him. He will be able to ride comfortably and safely for many more years to come. We then caught a little clearing in the sky and met Sharon around the 25-mile mark. She & Chuck swapped out in a parking lot while we were joined by Ms. Duck, a local lady who knew the area extensively and had kin or contacts in just about every state and/or city we had either been through or were on our route to New York. She was a friendly lady and offered us good tidings for continued good journey.

Now, Chuck did his level best to convince Sharon that rain was inevitable and that she should continue to drive (thus allowing him to continue to enjoy his new trike). Well, Sharon wouldn't buy it and poor Chuck had to load his new mean green machine into the truck and head for the KOA in Sweetwater. I promised him he really would get to ride it some more before we make DC! So Sharon & I left Chuck to load his gear and change his shoes and headed out for the campground while the clouds began to pile up darker and gloomier on the horizon. It wasn't 5 miles down the road and the sky just opened up... I stopped just short of the wall of water and managed to don my jacket but it did little to abate the upcoming drenching. We pulled off the road as visibility went to zero and the cold rain stung our faces. There was zero shelter in sight so we simply stood off the road in a driveway looking pitiful for the 10 or 15 minutes that the rain fell. It passed and we pedaled a couple of more miles to the southern edge of Decatur, TN where it started to rain again though not as hard. We pulled up and dashed into the AMVets Club where we were welcomed with cold drinks, towels and an offer for some BBQ lunch. By this time it was nearing 1600hrs and we still had 30 miles to cover so we passed on lunch and, with a part in passing showers made a run for the campground. We didn't make it further than the north side of Decatur when it began to rain again. We sprinted up under the awning of the Jones Street Cafe for a respite. The rain came down so hard we couldn't clearly see across the street so we decided to go ahead and eat while we waited for the rain to stop. Inside the cafe we met Michael Bean, the cafe owner, and visited for a while. Mike seems to be a really nice fella and I wish him the very best in his life. When the rain kept coming and news from new patrons didn't brighten our day we called Chuck and told him to unload his trike & the gear at camp & bring the truck back. We ate while waiting for Chuck & then he ate when he arrived. When we went to pay before leaving the young lady informed us that Mike had told her that our dinner was on him. By this time it was 1830hrs and, grateful for such a fine meal at such a great price, we loaded up mine & Sharon's trikes, the B.O.B. & all our gear and drove the last 25 miles to the KOA in Sweetwater.

It didn't take long and the road would have been a nice route had we had the time to ride it before it got dark. We set camp, met the neighbors and all go showers by 2130hrs and here I lie in my tent listening to Patty Griffin on the Ipod and telling you of my day. It is a cool and clear evening with lots of stars shining thru the gaps in the trees.

As I lie here I can't help to think that even with the rain and little bit of misfortune we had today, we are still able to go out and do this. We can get out and go camping and bicycle touring because we have freedoms that are secured with the sacrifices of our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen throughout the United States and the World. I also can't help but think of the news I read today on NPR that August has been the deadliest month in Afghanistan since we began this conflict and some 46 of our Service Members have lost their lives there this month. I'm not certain of the number of injuries. There are at least 46 families whose lives are now forever changed; that much more empty. Let us Never, Ever forget the sacrifices of these courageous men and women. Let us show our support by doing more than waving a flag, pinning a medal on their chests and slapping a magnet on our vehicles. Let us show our support by helping those who return to bridge the gap between the battlefield and civilian life as well as taking care of the families of those Troops who will not make it home. Contribute today to Wounded Warrior Project and start making that difference.

Thanks to Art & Anne, the folks at the Decatur AMVets Club, Mike and his crew at the Jones Street Cafe and the folks at the KOA Sweetwater for allowing me to camp free of charge for being an American Veteran! HOOAH!

Tomorrow the roads will take us up thru Knoxville, TN and beyond. I'm not certain yet where we will end for sure but I will post the map in the morning. The weather is supposed to clear and be much more favorable tomorrow. Let's hope so.

Enjoy the Ride!

Day 17 Chattanooga to Sweetwater

Friday, August 28, 2009

Enjoy the Ride!
Rain has stopped and should be clear for ride tomorrow. Starting from Chickamauga Memorial, Chattanooga, TN tomorrow morning. Stay tuned!
We are well fed and well rested thanks to Art & Anne at Easy Chair Recumbents. Great folks! Had a great time but time to move on...
Now it's midnight & I can't sleep because I'm worried about getting prepped & underway ontime tomorrow. Guess it'll all work out.
Got terratrike re-geared today, now have 10" gear! Woo Hoo! Chuck got new catrike, pics to follow. Spent day off working on trikes & didn't finish map or blog.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 15


We awoke to the not-to-distant sound of thunder this morning and a quick check of the radar on verified what I feared; a large cluster of thunderstorms moving up the river valley right for us. I decided it was best to batten down the hatches and wait it out as we can pedal about 3mph up these hills and the storm was moving about 7mph. I figured it would be better to be dry and off the road for now and head out after it passes.

I put the rain fly on my tent, secured the terratrike under the pavilion and moved me and all my gear into the tent. Shortly afterward the storm reached us and the rain began to pitter patter on the tent, which was just enough to lull me back to sleep for another hour and a half. I awoke feeling much more rested but the rain was still falling though the central part of the storm had moved on up the valley. Chuck & Sharon went for a walk up to the lodge and I stayed in to upload a few more pics and get the blog updated.

I've made a command decision to load the truck with all of our bikes and equipment and drive to Chattanooga some 90miles away. The hills here are causing me much trouble and those 90 miles would take us another 2 days to pedal. I really need to get the drivetrain swapped out before tackling anymore hills or I'm afraid I will just cause injury to my knees and back. Additionally, in having to break up a couple of earlier days into shorter mileages, we are now about a day behind where I would like to be; we should've been in Chattanooga yesterday and today. I would rather the focus be on arriving at Ground Zero on 9-11 rather than having pedaled every single mile. I'll just have to live with that. So, Art, we're on our way to Easy Chair Recumbents in a little while.

Below is a thumbnail that will take you to Webshots where I've uploaded a few more pictures. I've just loaded them to the same "various" file so you'll be looking at some you've seen along with some new ones. I will be uploading some more tomorrow.

Enjoy the Ride!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Days 13 & 14

I think the late Townes VanZandt said it best with "To Live Is To Fly." I feel so alive out here on this mission. It is a simple living of just eat, sleep & pedal. I get to see things on a much slower pace now... when you get passed by a caterpillar while pedalling up a hill I'd say that suffices the "much slower pace" criteria! The fence posts go by one at a time instead of a blurring stream blending in with the background. It amazes me the things that pop out that would normally pass unseen. I don't just see a barn in a field, I see the individual boards that make it what it is... the brush strokes of the person who spent the day painting it.

I have to thank my Brothers and Great Friends Latseen Benson and Matt Lammers for being such inspirations for me. The last couple of days it has been tough to get rolling in the morning; my legs just don't seem to want to keep the same schedule that the rest of me does. I just have to think of these guys and how great they are doing and I get fired up for another day of pedalling. Guys, keep on keeping on!

Cheers to all of the great folks we have met along the way! I have yet to ride into any town along the way, well, except maybe Jackson, MS, where I didn't feel welcome. And in Jackson they were all about support for the WWP and our Veterans, they just didn't want to have any dang bike riders interfering with their freedom to zoom down the road in several thousand pounds of metal and plastic with a total disregard for common courtesy. But, all the best to Darryl and Tom, Patti and Daniel, and Jim & the folks at "The Rez" and Kevin and the folks at "Cock of the Walk."

Let's see... Kosciusko, MS to Starkville, MS, Starkville, MS to Fayette, AL, Fayette, AL to Jasper, AL, Jasper, AL to Hanceville, AL & Hanceville, AL to Guntersville, AL. Geeze! The days are starting to run together now! I had to look at my maps to figure out what days I was where! Ah, Fayette to Jasper! Phew! Some serious hills along that route! We left out OK but ended up backpedalling 2.5 miles to the Marathon c-store for ice & water. We then headed out of town via Stamps Rd but after about 5 miles found that Stamps Bridge no longer exists. Thus we added 14 miles to the days ride and hadn't even left Fayette yet! Of course, had we not gone out Stamps Rd we would not have found the perfect kodak moment... an Engineer Castle sign hanging out on a corner in the middle of what appeared to be nowhere! ESSAYONS! We then enjoyed some country back roads and the waves of the local farmers & ranchers. Chuck & Sharon swapped out at Townley and I actually think Chuck was glad to get in the truck! The hills were tough and one after the next. Sharon & I then pedalled on into and through Jasper. We ended up passing through around 1500hrs but you would have thought it was 1700hrs in Houston; the traffic was stacked up everywhere and the narrow two-lane roads with lots of little rolling hills made it rather exciting. Still, nobody got mad or honked a horn or tore dangerously around us. We made it to Buttermilk Rd and Sleepy Holler Campground without incident though I was very happy to arrive in one piece.

At Sleepy Holler we met Chuck Lawson, owner of the campground. Mr. Lawson was U.S. Army 82nd Airborne during the Korean War and was a Jump Master during that time. He had some really great stories and knew volumes of history about the area. For instance, Buttermilk Rd was so named by a Colonel serving under General Jackson. Apparently, General Jackson was passing through with his Troops when they laid over to allow the supply train to catch up. They laid over for some three weeks. At the end of the road from the camp was a dairy farm that would ship daily supplies to the Troops. Well, the road was in such bad shape that by the time the milk got from the farm to the Troops it was well churned up and hence the Colonel called it Buttermilk Rd and the name stuck! I love those stories! Anyway, Mr. Lawson let us make camp free of charge in support of our mission and he has a very nice little facility. I had full intention of showering, eating & blogging but ended up falling asleep with the computer sitting on my chest in the tent. I was also privileged to meet Rebbecca and little Jenna at Sleepy Holler. Thanks for your support Rebbecca! Take care of little Jenna, she's a cutie!

Now here's where things get a bit wonky. Good ole TXPeddler was feeling good and decided that an 80-mile day was totally within his capabilities... yeah, in Houston! I was not prepared for the hills we climbed on AL69 from Jasper to Hanceville. It was such a short distance on the map but... the map LIES! It does not depict elevation, which happens to be a very important detail when plotting a bicycle route. AL69 is a train wreck of mountain passes, no shoulder, rumble strips and lots of truck traffic, including logging trucks. It was absolutely beautiful countryside though; mountain passes with drop-offs, streams, forests, little ranch homesteads, even a dam and lake. Chuck and I were about beside ourselves with all the climbing. It seemed to take forever as we could only make headway at about 2 to 3 miles per hour. At one point my back tire went flat... AGAIN. Number 9 or 10 I can't remember. With no shoulder and a drop off on the side of the road I had to pedal a ways to find a driveway where we proceeded to dismantle the load and repair the flat. I had just gotten the wheel off when a Jeep Liberty came down the drive and stopped just short of us. A young lady got out and asked if we were OK and what we were up to. Her home was way on up the side of the mountain but apparently her alarm system started barking at us and alerted her to our presence. I love those kind of alarms! Anyway, it turns out that Lisa's Husband is prior service Air Force and she donates to WWP already. Lisa was super nice and offered us water and lunch as well as critical information about c-stores along the rest of the route. Thanks a bunch, Lisa! We made it... sort of. About the time we hit the city limits for Dodge City I was running on a very low tank and thinking of having to pedal another 50 miles made me cringe. Not wanting to get part way down the road and completely petering out, I opted for a little lunch and 10 more miles to Hanceville where we could get a hotel and a good nights rest.

So, Dodge City is very proud of their tax base and put the city limits sign 3 miles from the actual town... yeah, what a mood killer. While we're pedalling along this little red car appears on our six and won't pass even when it is totally clear. Then all of the sudden it zooms around, scurries up the road a 1/2 mile and pulls into a little parking area. As we're pedalling past Nan Auston jumps out of the little red car and asks if we can stop for a minute... little did she know that she would not have had to twist much to get me to stop at that time, I was looking for any old excuse to be able to stop pedalling at that time. Anyway, Nan organizes the Tea Parties for Cullman County and she also follows WWP on Facebook. Her husband is prior service Navy and she just wanted to buy us lunch for all of our effort. Thanks Nan! Well, we told Nan that Sharon was waiting for us up the road at the micky d's and we would probably just eat there. We parted ways and Chuck & I wobbled into the micky d's for some nourishment. While I'm sitting there stuffing fries into my mouth as fast as I can possibly manage without choking on them the manager comes to our table and informs me that the Cullman Times is sending a reporter over and that we are being requested to stay put until they arrive. Uh, my news travels fast in a small town! We hadn't even finished our "fast food!" Turns out that Nan had called the paper and told them where we were and that she thought the story warranted some coverage. Thanks again Nan! Here's where we meet Tiffany of the Cullman Times. What a great gal! She's sharp and I believe she'll go far in her media pursuits. I gave an interview and she took a few pictures and told us that she would try to get the story to print in the next day or two. I awoke this morning to find my picture on the front page of the Cullman Times and it wasn't a mug shot! Thank you for the support, Tiffany and all the folks at the Cullman Times (

Sharon & I pedalled over one more mountain range to Hanceville where Chuck had secured us rooms at the Comfort Inn. I was never so happy for a cold shower and a soft bed. Brenda and her staff at the Comfort Inn made us feel very welcome and the hotel was clean, well appointed and very, very comfortable. We walked down the street for some Chinese food and were not disappointed with the suggestion. When we got back to the room I plastered my knees with biofreeze and got some ice in a ziploc, wrapped it in a towel and put it on my back. The bed was SO comfortable. I awoke to my alarm this morning and seriously considered tossing it in the toilette and going back to bed! My legs did not want to cooperate this morning and it took several hours before I could manage to pedal anything. We visited with Brenda and her son, who is prior service Army, the former Hanceville Police Chief and now Cullman County Sheriff's Deputy as well as her staff until 1000hrs when I finally felt good enough to get moving again.

Chuck & I stopped at the Chevron on 91 & 31 for ice & water on our way out and we ended up visiting for awhile there as well. I even signed the newspaper by request; my first ever autograph! It was a lot of fun. On our way up the road there were horns honking and waves coming from everywhere, apparently a lot of folks read the Cullman Times in Hanceville! They all gave smiles and waves and thumbs up, it was a great feeling. Thanks to Hanceville and Cullman County, AL for all the wonderful support!

Though the hills were not as steep between Hanceville and Guntersville, they were long and frequent. The exception would be the hill just across the bridge on 227 that begins the road into the State Park... it is long AND steep! The ride was absolutely beautiful though and passing at such a slow pace really gave me a chance to fully appreciate the beauty. The park is very nice and the facilities a great. Kudos to the Great State of Alabama! It is so beautiful and peaceful here I wish I could bring all of our Warriors here for a little R&R.

While all of this is going on my darling wife managed to get in touch with Art at Easy Chair Recumbents in Chattanooga, TN. Art is not only going to help me out in getting a lower gear range but he also offered to put us up in his home for our time in Chattanooga! Thanks Art! We'll see you in a couple of days...

So now it's 2210hrs and I'm gonna wrap this up and get some shuteye. It has been a really great ride so far and I wouldn't want to miss it for the world. I'm sore and tired but I'll get over it. Thank you again to all of our friends and sponsors and to all of the new folks we've met along the way. Without your support this mission would not be possible. With your support we can help our Veterans transition from the battlefield to the home front. The worst thing we can do is turn a cheek and forget what these brave young men and women have done for our Country. Please help us reach our goal by donating to Wounded Warrior Project.

Let us see what tomorrow brings!
Check out front page of Cullman Times forr article about mmission... Thanks for the support!
Legs are being uncooperative this a.m. Going to ride to Guntersville State Park today, which is about 45 miles. Taking it easy for recoup. Will update tonite.
How do I export my route map from "map my ride" to my garmin edge 705?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sorry, no update for 2nd day. I'm OK just tired & sore. In Hanceville, AL. Great ride so far. Let me get some rest & I'll fill you in tomorrow before we depart.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 12

Hope all is as well for you as it was for us today. What a beautiful day for a bike ride! We left out of Starkville, MS near 0800hrs this morning for Fayette, AL via Columbus, MS. The weather was perfect starting out around 65 with 37% humidity. It was calm & clear most of the day with a WNW wind picking up as the day got warmer. It never did get really warm as I managed to catch a chill on some of the bigger descents after having worked up a sweat climbing up the other side. We had good roads and light traffic with near every driver being courteous and careful while going around us. Except for a couple of miles on MS82 East of Columbus we were on two lane with no shoulder. Between Columbus and the Alabama border the traffic was pretty heavy and then like magic it just dried up to only a couple vehicles every 10 or 15 minutes, except around the little towns along the way. We got waves and thumbs up and smiles by the mile.

At Columbus we met Ben Wiford, a young Air Force officer who is near the tail end of his flight training at Columbus Air Force Base. Later on we met some fellas at the local convenient stop in, Rhetts Food Mart in Millport, AL and enjoyed visiting about our trip and the jobs and economy in Milport; the steel and lumber mills are the 2 main employers in Millport. Somewhere between Millport and Fayette the hills managed to sneak back in and though they were further apart, they made up for it in gradient. We slowed down quite a bit along this stretch of AL96 and after 6hrs 53mins and 2041' of climbing we pedaled into the park in Fayette, AL. The City of Fayette Police Department, Fire Department and Parks & Recreation gave us special permission to camp at the park for the evening. Thanks a bunch Fayette! We certainly appreciate your wonderful hospitality. The park is awesome! It has multiple ball fields, a walking path, restrooms, lights & electricity at multiple pavilions and a pretty little pond surrounded by globe lights on 10' pedestals. The light from the globes reflects on the water and is very pretty and peaceful. I like Houston but it sure is nice to get out here and actually see some stars without all the light pollution from the big city.

As is usual Chuck came into Fayette to reconnoiter the area, find the park and get us set up. While doing so a gentleman approached him and they talked about the mission and Wounded Warrior Project. The gentleman left only to return shortly thereafter to inform Chuck that he had secured us a free meal at the local Mexican restaurant! I'll be, Chuck! No Mexican food for 10 days and now it's every night! Chuck did not get the gentleman's information but, we want him to know that we genuinely appreciate his support and hospitality.

On another note, while pedalling along today I couldn't help but notice the little ribbon magnets on all the cars professing one's support for the Troops. There were yellow ones, cammo ones, red, white & blue ones. Don't get me wrong, I really like to see that but I couldn't help but think "aside from the little magnet, how does one actually support the Troops?" The magnet itself is made in China and sold to vendors by the millions for pennies on the dollar. The vendors then turn around and sell them to the public for around three bucks a copy and the money goes right into their till. Where is the support in that? If everybody who wanted to profess their support for the Troops took those three bucks and sent them to Wounded Warrior Project or Soldiers' Angels or whatever organization they prefer, now, then we'd have something! All that money would go directly to benefitting the Troops whether in the field on deployment, in the hospital, in transition or back at home trying their level best to get back into civilian life. Think about it.

Tomorrow we are going to head out at 0800hrs again and pedal towards Jasper, Al. It will be a short day at 46 miles ending at Sleepy Holler Campground. The hills East of Fayette seem a little more vertically relaxed so we should be able to make good time getting there early so we can enjoy some time to square away equipment and catch up with all of you. The weatherman seems to think that we should have more of the same tomorrow and I'm looking forward to seeing the countryside and meeting some new and interesting folks. Let us see what tomorrow brings...

Enjoy the Ride!