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.

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