Donation deadline and Albuquerque interview

final ed FB NBW_1_Stay Happy near Taiban copyThanks again to all who supported my cycling from Albuquerque to Baltimore to raise awareness of and funds for 4 re-entry nonprofits. The closing date for donating is JULY 16, 2016. Here’s the website: www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work
I plan to distribute the funds raised  at the end of July. For those who had trouble with the website, please message me and I can give you my address for mailing donations. THANKS SO MUCH TO ALL OF YOU!  Meanwhile, Albuquerque station KAZQ interviewed me for 10 minutes after my return to ABQ. Check it out if you want – it begins a bit after the 14 minute mark.  https://youtu.be/e1xBNnkXWcs

PHOTO OP

To my friends in New Mexico and particularly the Albuquerque area – please join me Friday, July 1st, from 5-8 PM at the Albuquerque Photographers’ Gallery to see some photos from the bicycle adventure-awareness campaign-fundraiser for reentry programs. The gallery is in Old Town at 303 Romero Street, directly west of the historic San Felipe de Neri Church (on the second floor).  I would love to thank you in person for your support and interest in this venture so if you’re in the area, please stop by the gallery Friday night.

WHY DID I RIDE? INSPIRATIONAL STORIES….

AND ONE MORE PLEA WITH SUGGESTIONS TO THOSE WHO HAD GLITCHES WHEN TRYING TO DONATE ON GENEROSITY.COM’S WEBSITE. 

I was skeptical myself that I could accomplish my goal of bringing attention to re-entry programs by riding my bicycle over a 2 month period from Albuquerque to Baltimore. But this is a cause that has meant something to me since the 1990s.

Back then I worked for the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, having left private practice in 1983. I had some excellent law books that I no longer needed for work and wanted to donate them somewhere. I had heard that prisons had law libraries so I wrote to the Maryland House of Correction asking if they would want the books donated.

The volunteer coordinator got back to me with a hearty “yes” and then invited me down to meet the group who was to receive them – a self-help group called the Legal Clinic Education Project. With some concerns for my safety, I accepted the invitation, went to the prison, heard the doors clang behind me (several sets of doors) and entered a large room with a group of men awaiting me.

That night I learned of the hopes and dreams that live behind prison walls. I realized most people locked up yearn for normal lives with a home and a job and a means of transportation. My fear left me almost immediately. The head of the Legal Clinic Education Project asked me (I believe via letter a few weeks later) if I would consider teaching a writing class there since I told them I was presently teaching legal writing at the University of Baltimore Law School one night a week. I agreed, and put together a class dealing with the basics of writing, case law, case analysis, and persuasive writing. I brought in an English teacher from Towson State University to focus on grammar issues. I learned:

Most people in prison come from a background of poverty.
The average prisoner reads at a 3rd grade level.
Virtually everyone I met wanted to put prison behind them and lead productive lives.

Despite the reading difficulties that a number of my students had, homework was completed timely, and classroom discussions showed me that everyone took the course seriously and prepared to participate completely in the class. I ended up teaching this class one semester a year for 3 years.

Inspired by this experience, I eventually changed my legal career to become an assistant public defender. One of the kinds of cases I worked on addressed sentencing modification and it was in this context that I tried to get my clients into re-entry programs. Baltimore had several, but waiting lists were lengthy and judges were reluctant to change sentences to allow convicted defendants to be released early into programs.

The struggle to get clients into programs showed me how most people who are locked up want to succeed upon release. It also showed me how few programs there are. And how, even with an attorney, it is difficult to persuade people that these programs have longterm value. This longterm value is not only for the incarcerated person, but for society as a whole.

With re-entry programs recidivism drops from around 75% to around 25%. Re-entry programs make fiscal sense as well. Prison costs $20,000 – $50,000 annually, whereas re-entry programs are one-third that cost. Finally, crime is reduced and hence there are fewer crime victims, and families are restored.

INSPIRATION:

I met a family in Texas whose husband was helped by a re-entry program called Victory Outreach. Not only did he put addiction and incarceration behind him, but he holds a job and reaches out to others released from prisons and helps them break the cycle of incarceration as well.

I met two men in Florida who turned their lives around after serving time. One now is in charge of job outreach for a re-entry nonprofit and the other person is an administrator for this program.

Also in Florida, a woman whose daughter in incarcerated is now working actively on getting a 12-step program established for women who are released from prisons and jails.

Another Florida young woman works with others to help with re-entry and also educates the community on the value of welcoming those released from prison and jails with housing, health care and job opportunities.

A reporter in Georgia became very interested in reentry programs in his state after interviewing me and asked me to send him more information so that follow-up stories could be done.

A Maryland family who had never thought about the difficulties of re-entry talked to me at length about it, enlightened and more open-minded about the necessity of supporting them.

Here are two detailed stories of people helped by programs in Albuquerque:

Crossroads for Women (one of the 4 programs to which I’m donating the money I raise) has helped Sarah break her cycle of incarceration:

“After my brother died I returned to my use of alcohol to numb the pain of missing him. By the time I was 28 I was homeless, drinking, and using crack non-stop. Over the course of 8 years I was homeless and incarcerated 10 different times. I would go back to jail once or twice a year. During my last stay in jail, a friend told me about Maya’s Place (one of Crossroads’ programs)….I couldn’t stand to see the disappointment in my daughter’s eyes and my son hated what I was doing. I struggled with how to manage my anger…but part of what I learned at Maya’s Place was how to think through a situation before acting on it.” Sarah is now taking classes at a local community college and planning to get her own place.

Gary’s story, a person who benefited from Wings for L.I.F.E. (another one of the 4 programs which will receive 1/4 of what I raise):

After 33 years in Oklahoma prisons, in 2011 Gary moved to Albuquerque to the custody of his sister. He heard about Wings for L.I.F.E. (Life-skills imparted to Families through Education) and began attending regular meetings. Gary learned how to “dress for success” and worked on life skills, manners, and how to talk positively about his past. A key ingredient to Gary’s success has been developing relationships and friendships at Wings, building trust in him. This has resulted in work opportunities. His solid work ethic led to public recognition of his credibility. He is now a respected businessman, allowing him to help others in the community. He has inspired, encouraged and hired returning citizens (those released from prisons and jails) and is a Wings Board member.

There are thousands upon thousands of success stories. For those of you who have donated, MANY THANKS! For those of you who have had difficulty with generosity.com’s website, please message me about an alternative way to donate. For those of you who will donate, this is my last request. I’m going to make the distribution in July and will post copies of the certified checks before they are delivered to the 4 nonprofits. ALL funds raised will go directly to these four non-profits that help with re-entry.

Here is the link to the donation site, and as I said, if you have difficulty, you can message me through the Facebook website or by responding to me on this blog.  Also, my sister Kathleen’s design is imprinted on T-shirts, duffel bags, note cards, caps and so forth. Check it out (and use the HOME tab at the top to see all the choices – that website also is a bit glitchy).

Links:

Donation site http://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work
T-shirts, mugs, memorabilia http://www.cafepress.com/newbeginningswork

Journey completed! Goals accomplished! Peace out!

FAMILY, FRIENDS, FLEEING A STORM, FINALLY BALTIMORE – AND A FOX INTERVIEW

And I’ll start with my plea for donations (though I have learned I really do not like asking people for money-but it is not for me). If you can, please donate – all money is being divided equally among the 4 nonprofits at the end of July. http://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work

I ended up staying in Ocracoke an extra day due to predicted thunderstorms on the day I had to ride 50 miles plus take a 45-minute ferry. Imagine my surprise when my brother called me. “Where are you?,” he asks. “Ocracoke.” “We’re in Ocracoke.” “Oh, stop kidding me.” Turns out during my walk through this quaint town my last full day there I was just a block from a motel where he was! He and his wife were on a spur-of-the-moment trip! It was great seeing them. We had a nice lunch that afternoon, went to the Ocracoke Museum, and I admit we had an ice cream sundae evening!

Weather cleared and the next day I headed to Rodanthe, a nice 50 mile ride with a tail wind! I visited a Coast Guard station that first was a “surfman” station that rescued people from the sea. In this part of North Carolina two strong ocean currents come together, causing countless shipwrecks in the past. That night I headed to the beach to watch and listen to the waves rolling in. As I returned to the motel, a father was launching a flying saucer to his young son who jumped up to catch it. A loud engine sound boomed behind me. It’s “everyone for him/herself” as I dash into my room and shut off the air conditioner – it was a mosquito truck (or boon-kah as I called them as a kid when we lived in Florida). I detest bug spray though I should have realized that was why there were no mosquitos where I was staying, right next to a marsh. I talked to this father the next morning. He is also a cyclist and is now inspired by me to do some distance biking.

Heading to Nags Head, I take a break after riding over a frightening 2.5 mile long bridge that is under construction. As I near the end it becomes one lane. The flag man signals me to go ahead. I think I hear him say, “left” and wonder why. The next thing I know, cars are heading toward me and I realize he means I should ride to the left of the orange barrels (where the construction work was – not an appealing idea). I am thankful the lead car stopped and let me squeeze through.

After that scare-fest, I stopped at a campground to chill. I hear a faint “hello,” and it turns out to be Arleta, a young 20-something woman riding from Florida to Maine approaching me from the camp grounds with her fully loaded bicycle. It turns out we have been on some of the same roads and have cycled in some of the same weather and winds. In fact, as I think back, I might have seen her on I-17 north of Savannah in a busy part of that U.S. highway with no shoulder when I passed by with my Uber driver (and expressed sympathy to the cyclist). This driver, named Henry, is an Iraq war veteran with severe PTSD but wants to hike the Appalachian Trail with his son. He says I inspired him to get back to cycling to loose some weight and prepare for the hike.

Arlete and I shared road stories and snacks and then had a nice lunch in Nags Head at Sam & Omi’s (which surprisingly had a great salad even though a bar atmosphere). Arleta is so much less high maintenance than me – she is camping, wearing tennis shoes and shorts (not bike shoes and chamois pants-which are padded bike shorts), only checks in with her family about once a week, and uses warmshowers.org to find places to camp and maybe dine and shower (much braver than I am). She also majored in psychology with an interest in helping people who are incarcerated. Amazing!

Nags Head is right near Kitty Hawk where the bicyclist shop owners Wright Brothers launched their first flight. Of course I went there, listened to informative presentation, and explored the museum. I also had a nice Italian meal that night with transplanted Baltimoreans Steve and Karen. I left Nags Head via car the next day, scooting out of the way of Tropical Storm Bonnie and ending up in a security line at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

For some reason when I rented a car and wanted to stay near the end of the Mt. Vernon Trail (an 18-mile trail that gets you to Washington, DC), I didn’t understand I was actually returning my rental to a military base. I watched with some trepidation as each car ahead of me was inspected and some of the drivers and passengers had to go to an office. Fellow baby boomers in front of me, in fact, had to pull their car over for further inspection of their packed car. Of course, I travel lightly but was concerned that it might seem just plain weird that I was returning a rental to a military base and then cycling to a hotel. But the stern soldier took it in stride, waving me through after my ID and Social Security number were check in the office.

But…. I couldn’t find the Enterprise Rent-A-Car office! My GPS navigator said I had arrived. All I saw were low brick buildings, military in nature. I drove around the block, pulled in to a lot and talked to a retired soldier coming out of a laundromat. “I don’t know of no car rental place here.” Hmmmm. It was a holiday weekend and closing time had long since passed for the office since it was Saturday on Memorial Day weekend.

OK. Ride around the block again. Look carefully. I see a bowling alley. I see an “investigation office.” Then I see a tiny, tiny Enterprise sign adjacent to the investigation office and no parking lot for cars. Well, I just parked in front, left the key in the return box, crossed my fingers, and managed to get to the hotel after a mile on a safe base road and a cringe-worthy mile on another “under- construction” road with no shoulder.

The Mt. Vernon Trail was a safe and generally beautiful way to get to DC. In fact, I met a backpacker at a rest area where people watch birds and launch boats. He – name is Hunter – just spent February to May hiking the Appalachian trail and now is walking, getting rides and hoping for boat rides back to Florida. He also has a nonprofit he supports – ihikeforlife – for veterans. I told him about Henry and his hopes for the same hike with his son.

When I lived near DC, driving in that city was difficult (due to all the circles and NE, NW, SE, SW roads with the same names.). NEWSFLASH: It’s harder on a bicycle! The Mt. Vernon Trail took me safely (though somewhat convolutedly once in the Alexandria, Airport, Crystal City area) to the 14th Street Bridge, after which I got completely lost. I was told one could ride on sidewalks in DC but pedestrians in large groups apparently don’t hear very well while seemingly nodding that I could pass, almost causing my first crash (and a knee/shin interaction with my bike). I finally got to my room that night and just huddled until the next morning when I met up with Kristen and Dan. This is where I had my last rice cooker meal! I’m staying away from rice and quinoa for a few weeks now.

Thanks, Kristen, for figuring out the route! How nice not to have to keep checking my maps or notes to stay on track. Though I haven’t ever been lost, sometimes I have had to turn around and backtrack. The route Kristen devised using a DC bike site was generally safe though much hillier than I anticipated and about 50 miles (rather than 40, the distance between the cities) since it connected some great bike trails. There were times when Dan, while cycling, was able to help me up a hill, pushing the back of my bike while cycling. I never knew that was possible. Thus, I only walked the bike a few times when sidewalks were both jittery and steep.

We made it into Baltimore just in time to shower, meet up with my sister Kathy and niece Sarah, nephew Jason and his friend and her daughter, and catch a fantastic Orioles-Red Sox game (fantastic because there were a lot of hits AND the Orioles won). The next morning, I had a live interview on the local Fox affiliate. http://foxbaltimore.com/morning/cross-country-bike-trip. Then, my sister helped me get my bike to Baltimore Bicycle Works, the city’s only worker-owned and operated bike shop, for boxing and shipping back to Albuquerque, and my panniers, rice cooker, helmet, bike clothing and other supplies to UPS for the same purpose.

Yay! Back in blue jeans and New Balance shoes. So, now I’m playing tourist in my former hometown for a few days, meeting family for dinner tonight, heading to Ocean City for a few more days (friends and family), then back to Wilmington via another car rental to catch up with my older daughter and her family before heading by plane back to Albuquerque.

Thanks all for following my journey. I can’t believe I made it here on schedule, albeit there were a few unexpected hurdles, family health issues, plus stress about unsafe drivers and weather was higher than I expected. Most people have been genuinely friendly, a number have been interested in and supportive of New Beginnings Work, and I accomplished a personal goal that I just began to imagine about a year ago. I’ve learned a lot more about re-entry programs and will compile a data base and share it with all of them to increase networking of all of us who believe this is important. Adios and peace out!

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.

MOBILE to TALLAHASSEE: Mullets – animal noises – thunder – and a little red dot

Thanks to all donors so far, and for those who haven’t please consider. All funds go to the 4 nonprofits.  www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work

MOBILE: The friendly folks at the Trek Store tuned up my bike and gave me a safe route to downtown Mobile. Once there, I met a woman named Mareike who bike tours with her husband. She told me that in Germany bicycles are designed with many safety features like built-in lights powered by the wheel movement. She graciously let me use the rest room in her office building. The next thing I know I’m in an industrial area for several hours – broken up concrete, trains on both sides of me, streets with no names. Hard-hatted men helped me navigate through the meandering gravel and bumpy roads til I finally made it north about 9 miles to go over the only bridge in Mobile bicycles are allowed on (on the map above of my route you’ll see that lollipop shape on the top – took me 20 miles out of my way).

East of Mobile, traveling across the Mobile Bay Area was beautiful, miles and miles of roadway with a good bike lane and water on both sides. Check out the USS Battleship Alabama. I would have stopped at that park but I was already 2 hours behind schedule and the day was hot and sticky. I made it safely to FAIRHOPE, AL with a travel tip from the clerk at the hotel (whom I called since I was running late).

The next day, south of FAIRHOPE, I stopped at a gas station for a break and had a discussion with a delivery guy who asked why I was cycling. I told him about New Beginnings Work. His skepticism turned to support when he realized all the benefits of programs that help those released from prisons and jails and benefit society as a whole.

Route 59 in GULF SHORES, AL is not good for cyclists. I took a convoluted safer way as I left the motel to get to the shore road, dozens of miles of a road with bike lanes, the ocean to my right.

At the ALABAMA-FLORIDA state line, I bumped into the Mullet Fest – people (yes, some with mullets) throw the mullet (fish) across the state line – attended by thousands and lasting for days. Yes, indeedy. No more to say about that.

PENSACOLA. Thanks, Diane and Earl for opening up your home to me for a few days and showing me a bit of the town as well. Diane joined me for 4 days of cycling and it’s been nice to have the company and the laughs. In addition, WEAR TV in Pensacola interviewed us and representatives of REAP (Re-Entry Alliance of Pensacola). Here is the clip they aired.

http://weartv.com/news/local/advocate-bikes-across-us-raising-eentry-awareness

Kevin and Vinnie of REAP have many positive stories of those helped with re-entry from prisons and jails – people leading productive lives, helping others, running their own businesses. Inspiration!

The ride to DESTIN was mostly beautiful, with bike lanes, some jittery sidewalks, and an enjoyable ice cream break plus a walk over the Okaloosa Bridge (the water really is that blue). Packing up and leaving the room in the morning, I was so obsessed about a lost bike strap, that in the process of looking for it I covered up and then left behind my snack bags and wet-wipes. Diane and I have that in common – we lose things in plain sight and spend way too much time looking for them (won’t give details about sun screen and single sock)! Of course, the bike strap showed up in Diane’s bag when we unpacked the next night.

The next day, though, to PANAMA CITY was way too “traffic-y” and stressful, especially knowing a long bridge lay in wait. Sure enough, crossing the Hathaway Bridge was not fun- the photo shows its age. (Come on, America, let’s fix these old bridges please!). Diane and I zigged and zagged through Panama City to get to the hotel since there are no bike lanes in town and the rush of cars continued, forcing us (when we could find them) on to rickety sidewalks again. The Comfort Inn was like an oasis – we devoured the entire container of iced lemon water in the lobby and laughed somewhat hysterically throughout the evening about the harrowing events of that day.

Riding to MARIANNA was much more peaceful, and included views of magnolia trees, scenic pastures, and free ice at a guns and ammo gas station. Yes, there are gas stations that are arsenals of weapons, something I’d not seen before, with people who wished us safe travels. I rode in a rain storm for the first time, though we took shelter for a few minutes when it was heavy. And I survived.

But, creatures decided to attack. Not really. In one quiet stretch of wooded roadways, Diane was way ahead of me. I heard the sound of some kind of animal running in the woods keeping up with me. Of course I thought “mountain lion” even though we were miles away from their habitat. (The hotel clerk that evening said it was probably a fox.). Next, at a bend in the road, dogs on both sides of the road were barking. On our side, a pit bull barked and jumped up but I thought no big deal since the yard was fenced. No it wasn’t. He pops out at the end as Diane’s bike passes. A burst of adrenalin hits me and I zoom ahead of her muttering “I don’t mean to be rude, Diane, but I’m going ahead of you,” leaving her to fend for herself. Rude? How about cowardly? She’s faster than me so I knew she’d be fine and the dog didn’t follow. I couldn’t stop laughing at myself for miles.

Yesterday’s ride to QUINCY/TALLAHASSEE area was beautiful on old route 90. It was peaceful with moderate hills and generally good bike lanes (with surprisingly little broken glass, usually the norm on many bike lanes). Then we got to “the bridge” – the Chattahoochee Bridge – where you are basically going down into a gorge and then back up, and I can tell you the up was impossible for me. I had to walk my bike up around 10-15 minutes. We learned at the bait and tackle gas station (yes, they all have themes it seems) that others have been conquered by that incline as well. After a nice break, we headed out of Chattahoochee with the sound of thunder behind us. Needless to say, we wanted to beat the storm (particularly the lightning) and except for a few sprinkles, we did.

We arrived at Quincy, outside of Tallahassee, where Diane left her car so she can return home. However, the road to the house where her bike was required going up a gargantuan hill – one that I wasn’t going to attempt and even Diane decided to walk it rather than bike it. This final image  of the road that Diane trudged up while I waited by the bikes shows her as a little red dot (her cycling clothing). I watched that dot slowly make its way to the top of that roller coaster hill with fingers crossed that she wouldn’t tip backwards and roll down. Seriously, it looked like it was an 80 degree incline. Whatever it was, she got the car, we made it to Tallahassee with the bikes in the back, and had pizza. Phew. 200 miles in 4 days with her — 520 for me since Lubbock (think I’m approaching 900 soon).
Special thanks to Diane’s co-worker Katie who showed up at the first 3 hotels and left us home-made manicotti, salads, desserts, water and snack foods. You’re the best, Katie!

Peace out!

Winds, water and words

 

This last week has been a humbling experience – with regard to the weather and the goal I have. I’ve learned I have to be acutely aware of the weather and that wind is a foe. I’ve learned that everyone I talk to about New Beginnings Work understands and thinks giving a helping hand to those released from prisons and jails is good. Getting donations, though, is harder, so if you can, please go to this link and consider a donation-all the funds will be divided equally among the 4 non profits.   www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work

Because of weather and terrain, I hired a driver from Uber to take me from Lubbock to Austin, then rented a car to drive myself to New Orleans 2 days later. I was able to cycle around northeast New Orleans. Damage from the hurricane is still apparent – large empty lots, dilapidated streets, damaged empty buildings. Along a canal I saw a number of people fishing. I tried to find a way to get to the trail on the levee for Lake Pontchartrain (rebuilt and reinforced) and asked a woman – Mabel – how. She lamented that there are now no steps up to it like there used to be so people can’t easily stroll, fish and so forth without going several miles to find an entrance. I went to the French Quarter the next day by bus and got a nice walk in, enjoying the music in the streets from the bars and restaurants. (I’ve heard “Elvira” twice – once at a karaoke bar in NOLA, the second time while cycling past a biker’s bar in Alabama).

As I headed east from New Orleans to Bay St. Lewis, the dreaded headwind was there. After about 20 miles I came upon Rigolets Bay and Seafood. Shanna was so friendly and wouldn’t let me pay for my peanuts and soda and offered to refill my water bottles. She and Bryant both talked about how the wind kept all the fishermen out that day (except for 1). I have something in common with people who fish. We don’t like wind! Shanna told me of many bridges ahead over many bayous and I rode for easily another 20 miles or so in isolation with trees at times blocking some of the wind.

When I left Bay St. Louis the next morning, an intimidating bridge awaited. At least it had a walking/bike lane. The wind was fierce and it was drizzling. As I hit Pass Christian and Gulfport, I knew I couldn’t make it to Moss Point since it took me 4 hours to go 23 miles (should have taken about 2 hours with no wind). I saw Maryland tags on a car and stopped to talk to the couple sitting on a bench looking at the Gulf of Mexico – a couple from Chestertown on a road trip. We chatted for a while and they were interested in New Beginnings Work, knowing nothing about prisons and rehabilitation programs. As we talked more, they became very supportive of the mission. Energized a bit by the conversation, I lasted another 90 minutes or so before calling a cab.

Yesterday was a short day – under 40 miles – and headwinds of 10-12 mph were manageable. Katy at a Chevron in Big Point Mississippi told me how to avoid a bridge closure. I passed a herd of cows/steers and got the look. 2 tiny dogs tried to chase me (really?). About 25 miles later at a tiny rest area in Alabama, Justin approached me. He was curious about my loaded up bicycle. (He and his wife are cyclists). After talking a bit, I found another believer in the benefits of these rehabilitation programs. One person at a time, one day at a time, the journey will continue even though I am feeling a bit beaten back by the weather.

I’m changing my route to Pensacola, though, staying more inland. Gulf breezes are only pleasant when one is on the beach or strolling.

Beauty, wild winds and kind people

Over 6 days the journey has had ups and downs (couldn’t resist). Leaving Albuquerque was joyous since there was a great send-off with representatives from Wings for Life and Crossroads for Women and a few more friends.

East of Albuquerque Emily joined me for 2 days, each of which involved a lot of elevation – over 2100 feet one day, just under 2000 the second – hard for me with all the bike weight. On day 2 we met a couple from San Antonio TX – both cyclists – and they were interested in the story of New Beginnings Work (that’s them in the photo with me). On day 3, which I call “tiny black bug” day, I rode from Vaughn to Ft. Sumner. I was pretty much alone with my thoughts and music in my head as there were only occasional vehicles. Animals, especially cows and steers, stopped and stared. At the halfway point, in Yeso, I had lunch sitting on a wobbly stool that I’m carrying and wondering what this ghost town was like when there were people.

In Ft. Sumner, a small town but with many closed businesses, it was late and there was no place to replenish water. The kind manager of the Super 8 loaded up all my water containers from his 5 gallon water bottle. Tap water in the southwest often tastes metallic and I didn’t want to ride back 2 miles to get water at an Allsup’s gas station.

I was panicked that night about the wind forecast (that included 40 mph gusts) for Day 4 so left Ft. Sumner at 7 am, arriving at my next destination – Clovis NM – around 2, with my lunch break in Melrose at another Allsup’s (this time, with people, not ghosts). An Albuquerque family asked me where I was going. The mother, Sheila, told me that her family offered shelter to a woman who had been released from jail and had no where to go so she went to the closest church (Sheila’s church). With this family’s help, AA/NA meetings and the support of the church, she turned her life around and is now in the medical profession with her own family.

This story is being told over and over by people benefited by those who reach out and programs like the ones for which I am raising funds.

Day 5 was a ride from Clovis to Littlefield TX. Trains, grain silos and a lot of open space still dominated. This was a day of flat roads, minimal winds and temps in the 70s and I let my guard down about checking out weather for Day 6 (to Lubbock). I sent out press releases to Lubbock reporters and on Day 6 I heard back from 2 of them. Meanwhile, as I packed up my bike to head to Lubbock, I then looked at the forecast and saw there were terrible winds. What? Why had I not paid attention to the weather? I guess the previous day’s pleasantness made me complacent.

What a hard day this was. Winds were around 15 to 20 mph from my left side and front, so at least I didn’t have to worry about being blown toward the traffic. But there were gusts of 35 mph and I also learned that when 18-wheelers pass in wind like this, bicycles lurch a bit forward then sideways (to the right) for a few seconds. Not fun.

When I heard a pop sound on my front tire, I slowed down to lean forward to see if there was any debris in the tire.

A car slows down next to me so I figured it was a Good Samaritan realizing I might have a tire problem. I look to my left and there is a camera in my face and a smiling person. Little did I know the reporter from one station would drive out to catch “live action” footage. I caught up with them 3 hours later at the first place I could take a break (should have only taken me 2 hours to get there, but the wind….). There was a second reporter waiting for me at the motel when I arrived around 5 (3 hours later than I expected).

Here are the links to the interviews:

http://www.everythinglubbock.com/news/klbk-news/67-year-old-woman-biking-cross-country-fundraising-for-programs-that-help-the-formerly-incarcerated

http://www.kcbd.com/story/31666791/67-year-old-nm-cyclist-stops-in-lubbock-as-part-of-cross-country-ride-to-break-cycle-of-incarceration

The day after these interviews aired, I ran errands on the bike and got a few honks and waves (saw no other cyclists and I guess I’m pretty identifiable), some handshakes, and a donation from a couple of $3 for whom I knew this amount was all they could spare. Today I learned this hotel where I’m staying is comping me one night and put the second interview on their website! Kind people all around.

If you are interested in donating, here is the link: http://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/new-beginnings-work