Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 33 Back to Austin

On the road, one notices numerous scavengers. They normally associate in groups. One sees clusters of scavengers well before the stench of decomposition becomes apparent. Seen in the distances, they are gloomy, unfastidious harbingers of death. Unwelcomed, they do serve the necessary biological function of clean up and recycling. Archaic cultures such as Zorostrians and Comanches incorporated scavengers in their burial rituals. They would clean the bones of organic tissue. The presence of scavengers alert us to prepare for the reality of life's conclusion. That is probably why we find them so adverse and distasteful.

Today I attended the deployment of a distracted driver's simulator at the Univ of Texas San Antonio. After some media, I drove back to Austin for a high school talk. Most of the talks have well received, and many students appear impacted. In reality there are many people who are resistant to changing behavior until they are personally affected. The process advances at at a glacial rate.

Barton Springs pool and Austin canals

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

day 31 Rest day San Antonio

It must be important to have an impressive entrance to your ranch. I have pedalled past a boatload of them. Large cut stone, custom wrought iron security gates and lintels, and attractive fencing seem to be the standard. A circular tree lined driveway leading to a distant house, and a private airstrip adds a nice touch. We sure devote a lot of resources to appearances. It is nice to create a peaceful and attractive setting, but I can't help thinking about that camel and the eye of a needle.

My rest day started at 4:30 am. I drove to San Antonio for TV interviews, 3 high school talks, and meeting with the Teens in the Driver Seat program. Enjoyed a late afternoon visit to the Alamo and historic sites, the riverwallk, outside music, and a boat ride. Heading back to Austin tomorrow afternoon.

San Antonio canals, churches, and markets. Who needs Venice?

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 31 Rest Day in Austin

Disappointment is difficult to accept. We experience frustration if we fail to receive recognition, miss a promotion, don't keep a resolution, lose in a contest, don't meet our expectations, and our plans are altered. It is often hard to reset one's goals, adjust priorities, let go, and proceed. Yet that is what life continuously requires. Because of the consequences of the Japanese earthquake, my son Ryan will not be able to join me as planned on my pedal. I'm sure that he is as disappointed as I am. Still, it makes it harder to get back in the saddle. I am thankful he was not among the causalities or injured, but I was so anticipating time with him.

Austin is great city for a rest day. Interesting sites, good art museum, nice old town, culture, and the University. Spent a lot of the day coordinating speaking and press over the next 2 days. My aches and pains are improving already. Won't be back on the bike until Friday.

101K seat Texas Stadium and ghost bike memorial to a fallen cyclist

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 30 Blanco to Austin

Surprisingly, many places in Central Texas have Germanic names. In the mid 1800's, a large group of German intellectuals immigrated here to escape political and religious hegemony. Known as "Freethinkers", they encouraged personal responsibility and evaluation, democratic discussion of issues, and equal rights for all. They thrived in Texas until the Civil War, when they opposed slavery and succession. They were persecuted for their Union sympathies and many departed Texas. The Freethinkers left their legacy in historic buildings, names of places, democratic institutions, and their example of intellectual freedom. They were in the right place at the wrong time. Who can't relate to that?

On the way to Austin I had the rare opportunity to be a hero. I passed a goat that had pushed it's horned head through a wire fence and was hopelessly stuck like Pooh and the honey jar. The goat was scared of me and uncooperative, but eventually I freed it. It ran away unappreciative! Austin is a marvelous city with a river, beauty, history, the capital, and a hot nightlife. At dusk tonight I watched a million bats depart the Congress St Bridge to hunt insects for the night. They still are creepy. Nice to have a few days of rest.

Humps and the Capital in Austin

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 29 Kerrville to Blanco

Football is big in Texas. Every little town displays banners of support for the high school team, and the signs point the way to the stadium. In my youth I was a wrestler. I was pretty good, not from athletic prowness but from a tenacious persistence. Coach Pena preached that only a fool would go through his demanding practices and lose! Later I read John Wooden's philosophy, redirecting the focus from victory to preparation and obtaining one's best performance. I have tried to apply his teachings to my life. I have wrestled a lot of demons in my time, not always prevailing. There are some demons that defy preparation and persistence. We all face them. Losing a loved one is such challenge. I guess we have to work with the tools we have.

Today's 65 miles were pretty, rolling hills into a headwind. My route joined a triathlon for about 15 miles, and I was definitely the odd man out by age, attire, and panniers. But it was fun to be part of the action. Blanco is another historic, cute, Central Texas town by a river and laden with parks. Spent a nice afternoon reading by the banks of the Blanco River. Looking forward to a couple of days off in Austin/San Antonio.

Texas Sunday afternoon on the Blanco

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 28 Vanderpool to Kerrville

It is unnerving to see a house abandoned or a commercial building disintegrating. Our most valuable material possessions are normally our home or livelihood. For one to relinquish interest in these precious assets requires extraordinary duress. Yet, the Southwest is littered everywhere with decaying structures. Homes and businesses that even the bank cared not to maintain and sell. The causes may be many; the price of ore dropped closing the mine, the railroad switched from steam to diesel (abrogating the need for a water stop), the highway was relocated, resources were depleted, better opportunities existed elsewhere. But each of these buildings also has a personal story of individuals and families. How overwhelming their situation to just walk away! Most of us will never experience such a calamity. As I pedal beside these relics, I can't help pondering their stories and empathizing with these forgotten people.

Today I enjoyed a beautiful, idyllic, 52 mile pedal along the banks of the Guadalupe River through the hill country of central Texas. No abandoned homes in this region! The wind was benevolent and the road downsloping. Kerrville is a pleasant, small city with attractive parks and a historical district. I spent almost an hour chatting with a reporter from the local newspaper, who will do a story on distracted driving. All days should be this good!

Abandoned Dreams

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Crossing the Pecos and Nueces Rivers

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 27 Camp Wood to Vanderpool

There are a lot of bats in this part of the country. Bats are creepy creatures. They only come out at night and they flutter around your head. Bats don't fly properly like birds do. In folk tales bats are always evil, associated with vampires and lusting to suck your blood. In reality, bats are benign and control insect populations. They are much more effective than those bug zappers. Eric and I even put up a bat house once, although no bats ever moved in. Not unexpected, since most bats prefer colonies over an individual house. I guess it is good to periodically reassess some of the things we dislike. Maybe it's not just bats (and snakes) we could be wrong about.

Today I experienced a lot of steep climbs through some of the most scenic parts of Texas. The winds were kind, the body recovered, and the temperatures cool. A nice day of pedaling! I arrived early and spent a few hours hiking at Lost Maples Nature Preserve, a residual botanic relic of maple trees in central Texas. I am staying in a cabin by a beautiful stream, where I enjoyed a pleasant evening swim. The stars are bountiful in the light starved central Texas sky. Tomorrow likely back to cell service and pictures.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 26 Bracketteville to Camp Wood

It is hard to cycle when you have an injury. My ankle bothered me a lot today from my long ride, and a headwind accentuated my distress. However, there are schedules to maintain and one doesn't want to acquiesce and take time off. Often the damage will resolve independently. But sometimes when you persevere, you never get a chance to recover and heal. Frequently the injury may fester and amplify. A lot of us live every day with various injuries of different kinds. Frequently we are unaware of the deleterious condition, or may be unwilling or unable to address it. Ostensibly we seem normal, not addressing the progressive and ongoing damage. Although not really healthy or optimal, maybe ignoring and persisting is normal. For my ankle I'm going to hit the ice, anvil, and try a Corona. My other injuries I'll likely ignore.

Today was supposed to be another light, 52 mile, recovery ride. The wind made it a bit more challenging. The topography transitioned from flat desert to the start of the hill country. Here the rivers actually have water! I am ready for the change of scenery. This part of Texas is AT&T country, so I have no phone service and can't post pictures. Most likely, I will only be available by email for a few days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 25 Del Rio to Brackettville

The wind is am fickle mistress. She bestows her favors predicated on her capricious whims. When she is partial to a cyclist, the tailwind makes life beautiful and easy. The world Is a pleasure and all is beautiful. A tangent wind is annoying and irritating, but not seriously impairing. A headwind makes life oppressive and suffocating. Life loses all perspective. The absence of wind is a horror for the sailor, but a mixed blessing for the cyclist. We should be careful not to become too enmeshed with the wind. Nature is not like God testing Job. Nature does not guarantee us a just conclusion. We have to accept the conditions that ensue, and persevere notwithstanding. Much of life is like that. Never the less, the wind is pretty intoxicating when she grants her pleasures.

Wow, it was hard to get back on the bike after a day like yesterday. I awoke with an anterior tendonitis in my left ankle (before it was posterior). It is not severe, and I have no other residual from yesterday's ordeal. I had a pleasant 32 mile, flat pedal tantalized by a cross wind/partial tailwind. I think mother nature is trying to make amends for yesterday. Bracketteville is a pretty town with an old, decommissioned fort. It has been maintained as a historical site, but has a motel and concessions. For 50 bucks, one can stay the night, enjoy history, pretty surroundings, and a 100 year old spring fed pool that stays 70 degrees naturally all year long. I had the 100X300 foot pool all to myself! The only public wifi is here at the library, where the staff gave me coffee and snacks. Getting several calls to speak in Texas, but the logistics have not worked out.

Fort Clark Springs ring fed pool and 100 year old housing

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Now this Texas

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Day 24 Sanderson to Del Rio

I have seen many animals that were killed by vehicles as I pedal the roadways. They include deer, coyotes, squirrels, fox, skunks, boar, the occassional cat, and even an eagle. Generally the carcasses are in various states of decomposition or dismemberment. We callously refer to the unfortunate creatures as "roadkill", not warranting our time to take them off the road or to bury them. Perhaps these animals deserve more consideration. I remember a time years ago when a fawn darted in front of my car at night, and I unintentionally killed it. The mother wouldn't leave it's dead baby for hours, hopelessly employing it to get up. We should have more compassion for all sentient beings. Each time I pedal past some "roadkill", I think of Eric. He wasn't that different from those creatures we dismiss. I still cry for him to get up.

The ride from Sanderson to Del Rio was 122 miles, much more than I have previously pedaled. I departed an hour and a half before sunrise to avoid the wind. Unhappily, I still pounded into a headwind for 90 miles, struggling to go 10 mph on the flats. I was on the drops all day. The only landscape I witnessed was the pavement right in front of my wheel. Man, did Del Rio look good! A glass of wine never tasted so good. Tomorrow is an easy recovery ride 38 miles. I will need it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 23 Marathon to Sanderson

There are a lot of roadside memorials to people who have died along our highways. Most commemorate young men, but there are a few to females, seniors, and even the occasional child. They typically are found on curves or at intersections. Some are well tended and maintained, but most have illegible, faded lettering with tattered, plastic flowers. Like the pharaohs, we want to immortalized our loved ones after they die. A lasting monument provides comfort, validation, and a sense of continuity. In reality, that is just a fantasy. We can't keep alive the person, or even the memory for very long. After our short lives, these memorials will all become faded, tattered, and ultimately forgotten. The memorials degenerate into a passing curiosity to succeeding generations. Eric's remains are in a jar, we don't have a grave or a roadside memorial for him. In spite of the intellectual futility, I think I'll make one when I get back. It does give sense of comfort.

The ride today stared an hour before sunrise to avoid the headwind. I finished the easy 56 miles before noon, and checked into a family owned motel in tiny Sanderson. Many of these non-brand name motels are wonderfully unique places filled with love and charm. So often we overlook them, choosing a predictable and recognizable, but sterile chain brand. We are really missing out on vintage Americana.

Roadside memorials

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 22 Fort Davis to Marathon

When cycling the roads one notices a lot of roadside trash. You can generally gauge the population density by the volume of litter. Areas of greater population generate higher trash levels. Certainly exceptions exist. The Apache Reservation in Arizona has very few people, but copious rubbish. Of course there is the occasional sofa, scattered cardboard, and tire fragments. But beverage containers seem to dominate the landscape. In the city the discarded is mostly fast food plastic cups, in the country it is cans and bottles. In areas that are economically depressed, alcohol containers predominate. I guess thirsty people and drunks litter the most. Americans seem to accept littering. Many states have volunteer clean up crews that are comemorated with a road sign. Eilene and I have thought about adopting a road for the Eric Okerblom Foundation, although Eric wasn't particularly fastidious. He might not have wanted to be associated with trash. Sure would be easier if people just disposed of their rubbish responsibly.

Today I travelled through 56 miles of rolling hills and lonely landscapes. I ended in Marathon, named after it's similarity to Greece. That's a tall tale if I ever heard one! The geology transitioned from volcanic formations to sedimentary deposits. One doesn't normally think of Texas and volcanic activity. It is a beautiful area. People were rare, and services frequent. This is the pattern that will continue and intensify.

Texan volcanos and elk

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 21 Van Horn to Fort Davis

There are not many foreign made cars in West Texas. Asian built cars are a rare bird out here. People buy and drive American made vehicles, preferably pick up trucks. They are proud to be American Texans, flying both flags frequently. Sometimes they still include the Confederate flag. They seem to get along just fine with domestic, although styles are a bit limited. There is still a lot of regional variation in the United States. McDonald's and Starbucks have not completely homogenized us yet!

I was again off with the sunrise today; not to escape a dive motel, but to attack a long, hard day. The big climbs came after 70 miles, when my legs were exhausted. I had to stop and rest several times. My map showed a store and gas station where I planned to reprovision. Unfortunately, it had closed long ago leaving me seriously short on water. These are wide and empty Texas expanses devoid of supplies. But the story had a thirsty, but happy ending. I am bedded down in the Wayside B&B where the owner has offered to put me up gratis to contribute to the cause. It is a beautiful place.

West Texas sunrise & the watering hole

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 20 Fort Hancock to Van Horn

Mile is a latin word. It comes from the Roman word mil, or 1000. A mile was the distance a legion of Roman soldiers could march with 1000 paces. A pace being the return to the same foot, or about two yards. Yesterday I completed a thousand miles, or a mil miles. The journey has been good for me, opening my eyes to the love and support of family and friends. It has also been a time to reflect on the fragile and transient nature of our life on Earth. I have pedalled past forgotten ruins, abandoned towns, and disintegrating homes. Just as we use the word mile without thought of Roman military maneuvers, the endeavors of our lives will soon be forgotten. The meaning that we derive from our lives must come from our inner satisfaction and relationships.

Today I was off with the sun, happy to leave an absolute dive motel. There was a climb over the 82 miles, but I had a partial tailwind to push me along. Van Horn isn't much of a town, but being the gateway to Big Bend Park, it is well supplied with accommodations. I always thought Texas was flat, but tomorrow has a real climb with a 6200 foot pass and 90 miles.

Who says Texas is flat and slow?

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 19 El Paso to Fort Hancock

El Paso, Texas is not a particularly wealthy or attractive town. However the El Paso region boasts the oldest, continually habitated, European settlement in North America. Coupled with Cuidad Jaurez, it constitutes the largest bilingual city on the world. Conversations fluidly and continually bounce from English to Spanish and back again. The University of Texas at El Paso is the place where NCAA basketball became integrated. El Paso is a Hispanic city, where Anglos constitute a minority. The city feels safe and racially removed. While enjoying an evening ride and meal with the local bike group, I was oblivious to the fact that Anglos were an oddity. What a friendly and lovely place! America could learn a lot from El Paso.

Today I enjoyed the beautiful missions of the Rio Grande with their rich traditions stretching back almost 400 years. Here adobe is still sometimes used as a building material. The sense of history is deep. The California missions are late comers by comparison. Thereafter, I left the comforts of community with a 72 mile segement into open and empty expanses. Services are few and far between with long pedal following long pedal. Time to see if my equipment is reliable, and if my fitness is adequate.

The mission trail south of El Paso

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 18 Las Cruces to El Paso

The vast majority of motorists are very considerate of bicyclists. They are attentive and either slow down or give a wide berth. The rare person however, is aggressive and hostile. They try to intimidate and frighten the cyclist. They interact with a deep anger displaced to the vulnerable cyclist. The genesis of their hostility is unknown; perhaps they are frustrated in their jobs, unloved by their mothers, or are unsuccessful in bed. We encounter these people in other aspects of our lives. It would be best to remind ourselves that these difficult people are injured in some way, and to treat them with a degree of consideration and tolerance. While turn the other cheek is a good axiom, on a bike it takes some effort to resist giving them the finger.

I said goodbye to Jon and Cindy and began the ride to El Paso with a group of Las Cruces riders from a bike hang out called "The Bean". Blessed by a tailwind, I was in El Paso for lunch. I did a TV and newspaper interview in the afternoon before joining the El Paso bike Club for a light evening ride. Pizza and beer to follow. Randy, a local biker, put me up for the night. I am feeling strong and injuries are abating.

Leaving Las Cruces

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rest day

Nice day in Mesilla and Deming with Jon and Cindy. Liked the old town. The hand and legs feel better, hoping I can grasp the handlebars. Back on the road and on to El Paso!

Rest day in Mesilla

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 16 Kingston to Las Cruces

Kingston, New Mexico was once a thriving town. In it's heyday it boasted 7000 souls with 27 saloons, an opera house, and 3 bordellos. Fortunes were made and lost, and fame and glory were achieved . It's foundation was silver which offered immediate prosperity.  When the silver ran out, Kingston quickly disapperared.   All the potential and possibilities of Kingston dissolved.  Now there are only a few homes, and the B&B where I stayed.  One would never know of the glory and grandeur that was so short lived. Eric's life was also grand with infinite possibilities. Like Kingston, it has been relegated to a memory of former grandeur and unrealized potential. I guess that can be the way life is.

Today I experienced my first crash.  Dropping out of the mountains and pulling into a market, I fell victim to the gravel.  My wrist was wacked to the point where I could not hold the handlebars. I pushed on for 20 miles, then relented and duck taped my wrist, popped a couple of advil with a half of a percocet before completeing 92 miles. Glad to be off the bike! Ready to enjoy a rest day in the company of Jon and Cindy McKellar.

The valley of the Rio Grande

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Copper country to the Rockies

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 15 Silver City to Kingston

Crossing the Rockies, I learned a lot about climbing on a bicycle. A gentle, steady climb can be easy and enjoyable. A steep, abrupt climb can be consuming and exhausting. Of course, other factors contribute. A tailwind and fellow cyclists can make climbing unnoticeable. A headwind and shoulderless roadways can make climbing harrowing and torture. Our own personal growth is a lot like climbing. Gradual change under the proper conditions in fellowship is likely to produce enjoyable and meaningful results. Unsupported, extreme change can create distress and dysfunction. We don't always get to choose the nature of our climbs, sometimes you just have to adapt to the situation. But when a choice to possible, I'll take the gentle path.

Wanting to take advantage of the favorable weather, I left Silver City without a rest day. After breakfast and preparing me a lunch, my host,Tim, rode with me for the first hour. Outside Silver City, I went past the oldest open pit copper mine in North America. Thereafter, the 4200 foot climb was fierce today. I had to pull over several times to rest. Eventually, I made the 48 miles to Kingston, an old, abandoned, silver mining town. Tomorrow is an 88 mile, downhill trek to Las Cruces and the promised rest day.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 13 Lordsburg to Silver City

One sees things when riding a bike that would be missed from a car. For instance, there are a lot of people living under bridges in America. Some bridges shelter large groups, others harbor only the lonely individual. Most of these people are alone, but some have a companion or even a dog. Some appear inebriated or high. Others have a crazed or disturbed look, talking incoherently to visions unseen by normal people. All of these people appear dirty, weathered, and neglected. These bridge people are invisible to those of us whom don't frequent the undersides of bridges. I suspect that in our sheltered lives, we are oblivious to much of human suffering. Perhaps we should all look under bridges periodically.

Today I crossed the continental divide and stopped at lovely Silver City. It is a cute, little town in the southern Rockies at about 6000 feet. I was met about 20 miles out by Glen, a local cyclist. I spent the day and evening with my host, Tim. He is a retired West Point grad, reporter, and cyclist. Tim took me on a local tour and dinner, put me up for the night, and will start out with me tomorrow. Big 4200 foot climb tomorrow and Emory Pass.

Leaving the desert for the Rockies

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 12 Safford to Lordsburg

We often live our lives consumed with the future. Will I move forward in my career, can I keep my relationships together, will my child be successful in school, can I obtain some material item, can I meet the challenges of the future? Today there was an enormous earthquake in Japan. My oldest son, Ryan, lives there. I was emailing with him right before the devastation, completely unaware of the threat to his life. Happily, he was spared. On a bike, the future is always precarious. As with Eric, at any moment an inattentive driver can violently end one's life. One is constantly aware of the fragility of his existence. We would all be better served if we treasured and valued each and every moment, and leave the future to tomorrow.
Today we were fortunate to experience a lovely tailwind. The 2200 foot climb was barely perceptible over the 76 miles. I was bothered by tendonitis in my left achilles, but am hitting the ice and pounding down the ibuprofen. Tomorrow starts the Rockies with a 3300 foot climb. My friends return to Phoenix and I resume the solo pedal until Austin. Ouch!

Celebrating Mt. Graham, entering New Mexico.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone