Surrounded by water, water everywhere and my Zelig moments

 


My Wilmington visit was bittersweet due to my oldest daughter’s health issues, but she will heal well. Focusing on the positive, the first photo is of Jenny and her daughters on a seaside rocking bench as we enjoyed the boardwalk of Carolina Beach. I received some additional media coverage in Wilmington as well. http://www.foxwilmington.com/story/31980781/67-year-old-bicyclist-rides-cross-country-against-crime-stops-in-wilmington

I left Wilmington after a few days to head to Sneads Ferry, staying in a very remote hotel next to Alligator Swamp and for some reason I was put in the farthest corner room at the end of the hallway. Rain was forecast for the next day to end at 10 am. NOT. I finally left the hotel by 11 (in the rain), nervous about the rain, the cars, and lack of shoulder for the first 7 miles. Fortunately, US 17 had one – but included headwinds and hills. Made it safely to Jacksonville even though I had to cross 3 lanes of that highway toward the end to enter the town. There is nothing like a ride in rain, with headwinds, and cycling up and down hills to make pizza delivered to my motel the best pizza ever! A gourmet meal, for sure!

I’ve had to face more steep bridges (to and from Emerald Isle) and have been on three ferry rides on this trip. On the one from Cedar Island to Ocracoke, father and son Boris and Dennis and I chatted for the whole ride (over 2 hours) about bicycles, sailing, car camping and life in general – and they gave me some fresh fruit and a pepper!

I highly recommend a visit to Ocracoke – artsy (metallic goat sculptures), a fantastic bookstore, and lots of great food, for me (as a vegetarian) and for seafood lovers… and for coffee fiends, ice cream fanatics, and candy enthusiasts. There is also the Ocracoke Lighthouse, first lit in 1823.

The roads in the Outer Banks have been ideal. There are almost always bike lanes and finally, yes finally, I had a tailwind! As I ride, I can sometimes hear the sounds of waves and water from both the ocean and the bay since some of the islands are very narrow.

On this trip I have traveled over rivers, bays, and bayous, next to the Gulf of Mexico and now have cycled through estuaries and on islands that separate the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

When people ask me why, then I tell them about New Beginnings Work on this more leisurely part of the ride. Here is the link if you are interested in donating, now over $3,200 – all funds raised to be divided equally among the 4 nonprofits: http://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work

One 50-ish woman shared the story with me that her former husband has been in and out of prison his entire life. She said there were no programs to help him with his personal problems and job search. Several people with whom I chatted at the ferry stations were also supportive and I began having “Zelig” moments. My photo will be appearing in many different places I guess. (If you haven’t seen this Woody Allen film, the short version is that it is about a man who keeps showing up in the background of 1920-1930s newsreels about famous people).

People are really friendly in North Carolina, at least the ones I come across. I took a lunch break in Avon, NC yesterday and ate while sitting at the picnic table on the front porch of this restaurant. A 20-something young man walked by, saying “Hi, how are ya?” Me: “Good, and you?” His response: “Great! I’m alive and employed and living on an island.”

I am staying in Rodanthe tonight. The last photo is the view from my room (the Atlantic Ocean). I can also see the Pamlico Sound when I look the other direction. Signing off for now. Peace out!

Lost bike mileage, safer roads & 2 more interviews


After the back injury in Georgia, I had to take it easy for a week, using a cab and Uber to get myself through most of Georgia and South Carolina and back to health. I took a trolley ride in Savannah to see the historical district, which included the First African Baptist Church (1859) (part of of the Underground Railroad), numerous parks with magnificent trees (always a pleasure) and of course grand old houses completely restored and worth gazillions. I got to meet my Vegas friend Kathe’s brother Ted, and we shared our views on reaching out to others.

There were a few 11 mile practice rides before I started up the journey again. In Charleston SC I found a pleasant park with a nice bike lane that got me back on the saddle. The second 11 miles were in the Atlantic Beach SC area. Then, I headed to Shallotte NC for my first distance ride again, starting out on a cringe-worthy road and then finally turned on some country roads with minimal traffic. (How am I figuring out routes? Check out these crazy notes that got me from Shallotte to Southport).

Cyclists told me there weren’t good shoulders or bike lanes on the route I was planning for Georgia and South Carolina. They were correct. I was glad to be in a motor vehicle on most of the roads I’d planned to cycle because there was a ton of traffic and minimal or no shoulders much of the time. Once I crossed into NC into a town called Calabash, lo and behold there were shoulders (sometimes small but OK) or at least wider lanes with minimal traffic.

Back to the purpose of this ride: Aside from getting media attention (links below) I have had several fruitful discussions. One person, staff at one of the hotels, supports the cause and talked of his own background with criminal charges for a nonviolent offense (which is true for at least two-thirds of those incarcerated – check out this data, for example: https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_offenses.jsp. ). He had an attorney, a middle class background, and a decent education. These advantages played out in court as well, allowing him to get work and have the record of the conviction sealed.

Another person in Southport expressed support, not having any awareness or experience with those incarcerated. She was unaware of the challenges faced by those released and the high rates of recidivism when people are not helped by the programs for which I am raising funds. Please donate if you can:   www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work

I’m trying harder to find back roads and I believe once I leave Wilmington (more about that visit next time) and get to Sneads Ferry, road safety will be better (at least until the DC-Baltimore segment – the last day!). I keep forgetting, though, when I find safer roads, there is a downside. For instance, when I left Shallotte NC early to dodge a storm heading to Southport NC, the back roads were meandering and beautiful with little traffic but I forgot: good roads come with….dogs!

To my right, I hear a distant bark. A dog running with all his might from the farm house he is protecting is several hundred yards away. My adrenaline kicks in, I pedal like mad, and am able to avoid yet another close encounter.

That’s about it for now — here are the media links from the past week’s interviews:

http://www.wwaytv3.com/2016/05/13/67-year-old-cyclist-raises-money-for-nonprofits/

http://m.wtoc.com/wtoc/pm_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=od:vX8xzYHp

New people, another interview, and reflecting on alligators

 

“The best way to reduce recidivism is to help offenders learn of and connect to resources in their community so they don’t have to knock on the door of the criminal justice system.” This quote (that I got off a re-entry website) is of Professor Faye Taxman, Director of Recidivism Research, George Mason University. The program is the Big Bend AFTER Re-entry Coalition in Tallahassee that supports incarcerated people and those reentering society, providing resources and also educating the general public on re-entry issues.

I talked to Sarah from O.C.E.O., a grassroots organization in Tallahassee that works on re-entry issues as well as with the homeless, those with substance abuse issues, and those in extended foster care. The link between poverty and crime is understood and O.C.E.O. works both pre-release and post-release to ensure successful transitions of people back to their communities. She and Diane (my cycling friend for 4 days in Florida) also spoke with each other about future collaborations since Diane is focusing on re-entry of women and the 12-step programs available in and out of prisons and jails.

I had an additional interview in Florida and here is the link to the story (though the video footage of the interview isn’t linked).
http://www.wtxl.com/news/woman-in-tallahassee-bikes-across-u-s-to-support-ex/article_3d9e85dc-0d86-11e6-9556-c7e96d2e61ef.html

For the 45 miles from Palatka to St. Augustine, there was literally one convenience store at Molasses Junction (which was just the store). I sat in a raggedy cushioned old chair looking over my bike at the bleak scenery (including the “Want More Jobs? FAIR TAXES” sign) after just having been in a beautiful area next to the St Johns River (that’s the photo with the trees, Spanish moss and blue water). It seemed luxurious!

I’m meeting many people who work 2 jobs to support themselves or 3 (counting their spouses/significant others) to support their families. Some have talked about their support of Trump. I carefully avoid any kind of political response but just listen. These are hard-working people who think an outsider is the only one to get the government working for people like them. They are frustrated by low wages, difficulty owning a home, and the high costs of living. I look at the condition of roads and bridges and can’t believe how decrepit some of them are.

As I closed in on St. Augustine, humidity and wind increased. It is so green and wet in the Southeast compared to the Southwest. I’m on high alert for alligators since water is on both sides of the road in many locations. In fact, while this trip was planned to raise awareness and funds for nonprofits that assist the formerly incarcerated ( check out this link if you can donate –   www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work  ), it also was to help me gain more inner strength and knowledge.

Here’s what I’ve learned in Florida aside from info about re-entry programs:

I don’t exactly understand what Spanish moss is but it’s lovely. And….I’m afraid of alligators! Of course, I’ve not seen one – and of course I’m also hearing stories of snakes and sharks and all kinds of creepy things – but at least I haven’t encountered the Zika virus mosquito yet!

Granddaughter Kerri and her friend Deborah visited for a day and night and we had a lot of fun exploring the historic part of St. Augustine, enjoying a nice dinner (and ice cream, of course)! Why is bacon in cole slaw? Kerri and Deborah had recently been to St. Augustine on a photo shoot for college so they showed me around town.

Leaving St. Augustine heading up the coast to Atlantic Beach (a town outside of Jacksonville, FL), there were safe roads, ocean views, and an unexpected rest area in a beach side parking lot after about 20 miles. In fact, I thought I had made a wrong turn since there was a “dead end” sign, but a man mowing his lawn told me to go behind the sign and I’d find my road again (which I did, along with the beach parking lot and a clean rest room and a bench).

After my break, where I didn’t even have to lock up my bike, I was riding for about a half hour through a neighborhood of extravagant homes, recalling the Art Deco flamingo pink mansions Crockett and Tubbs visited during their investigations. A short stretch on a busy road took away the serenity, but then I quickly routed myself back inland on 1st Avenue, a road that meanders through Rehoboth Beach-type towns as I got to my motel. Everything was hunky dory, or so I thought.

But the challenge of this ride got the best of me in Hinesville, Georgia. I had some muscular issues so ended up getting medical care and staying a few extra days there. On the bright side, I met a young woman named Amanda at a nearby restaurant who was very supportive of New Beginnings Work. Her husband is in prison in another state and I told her I could give her info on re-entry programs there if she emails me. I want to get back on the bicycle but I have to fully heal, so I think tomorrow I’ll take the trolley tour around Savannah, Georgia.