Friday, January 1, 2010

Selected Field Notes of 2009

Just some of the happenings around this country in 2009:

A Life at 3 mph

August 21, 2009
Cannon Beach, Oregon

For those that think all hikers and bikers obsess and constantly calculate pack weight, let it be known that there still exists a small populace that represent the seemingly confounding but universally balancing opposite. Consider the oppositional extreme case of Matt and Rad - Matt, the pedaling artist / human mule who was dragging the more than 250lbs of total load that included his dog Rad on some grueling zig-zag path of the American West. Rad's kennel-trailer had all sorts of gear and nic-nacs loosely attached and he seemed to be well acclimated to his mobile home. According to Matt (still in good spirit), they had begun in Oklahoma, and estimated that at launch, his total weight (paint, esil dog, etc) was near 300lbs. By the time he had made it to a friend in Seattle, he decided to lose the acrylics and oils so to "lighten the load". I love dogs, but have no clue as to what you'd call this. Topping it off was the fact that his boy Rad was still growing...

Your Friendly Suburban Swinger Society

September 10, 2009
Boise, Idaho

A peaceful, quiet, beautiful neighborhood: people jogging or pushing strollers, kids riding bikes, kicking soccer balls, other toys freely strewn from yard to yard. The homes are stylish and new, and the grass is green in this manicured, but modestly up-scale fenced development of bourgeois butter crust America. The parents are tax-paying professionals and their kids academically accelerated. There's barbeques by the pool and community socials every fourth Sunday. And if you care to join, there's more than a few friendly couples that like to swing freaky some evenings. "Just leave your garage door halfway down so we're sure..." Halfway down or halfway up? Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Hey, I'm no relativist, but still know when to mind my business.

In Search of the Loneliest Highway

September 22, 2009
Delta, Utah

In the remote desserts of western Utah, I crossed paths with a wild, young-gun Minnesotan in search of America's loneliest highway (supposedly, Nevada's US-50). There were other ancillary interests motivating his bike trip, but riding this highway was paramount. After asking why, he explained how "One night, after haven eaten a particular mushroom, I was reading William Burroughs when 'a vision' came to me that this was something I had to do." He went on to say how he finally came to understand himself after reading one of Burrough's self-reflective quotes and realizations that all along, "I was my own under-cover agent, but didn't know it..." I then asked him why he didn't wear a helmet. With his pasty bare bird chest, chrome-colored aviator sun shades, and bandana flapping with hair in the wind, he exclaimed, "Because I'm a ninja! I've flown over the handle bars twice now, each time emerging unscathed due to my instinctive rolling skills." After departing at our crossroads, I looked west towards Nevada and envisioned this jovial free spirit, alone, and happy with his loneliness. I couldn't help but to smile as we each rode our separate ways - me, south, in search of Zion, and he, deeper into the heart of America's Great Basin. I hope he found what he was looking for...

The Freezer Geezer

October 2, 2009
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Just when you think that you've done something of slight significance by riding a bicycle a couple thousand miles from Seattle to the Grand Canyon, you meet Rocky the Freezer Geezer. No silly TV "hard-core extreme" here... he's the guy running marathons up the Brooks Range, cycling snow centuries, and when Monday rolls around, he'll still ride his bike to work in -30F. Soon to be drawing social security, he's cracked a hip, blown a ventricle valve and still manages to win several of the seemingly unbearable Iditasport races. A prolific Alaskan geologist with years of remote field work, he once had to fight back against an attacking grizzly, and then later that night, thwart another attempt from what was believed to be the bear's vengeful brother. Ah, Alaska!


October 16, 2009
Silver City, New Mexico

America's got mohawks too. Out west at least, they are less uncommon than one might presume, and after two years living and working in downtown Seattle, I've seen a fair share – finding peculiar interest in the varying styles and attitudes of each. So while piddling about the Gila Hike 'n Bike Shop, I immediately took notice of the tall guy that walked in sporting the most incredible mohawk I had ever seen: blazing blue, intensely big and bold, sharp, clean, and stiff-prickly mean (Leave the camera in your pocket). Now mohawks are naturally intimidating to most people, especially one's like this. But over time, I've observed a somewhat strange, even counter-intuitive correlation between the mohawk's radical extravagance and the individual's attitude brashness. It seems to me that the biggest, badest, in-your-face, offensive mohawks are more often worn by men with cool, calm, confident temperaments, whereas the smaller, subdued, and less obtrusive mokawks belong to the sometimes perturbed, shoulder chipped punk or blatantly carousing prick with a stick up his yang. Why is this? Well, I'm not certain, but pretty sure that it has something to do with conviction and commitment... Broad generalizations no doubt, but the tall hawk I met in the bike shop that day was yet another example of why you shouldn't judge the book (or person) by its cover.

Sing me David Bowie

November 4, 2009
Buescher State Park, Texas

Camped in a swampy cyprus vacant state park of east Texas, I was sleeping lightly under moon-lite , moss-draped ancient oaks when I was awoken by the ruckus of two late night ramblers yapping happily up at the wash-house. From my tent, the sounds pierced clearly through the cool, moist air as even the slightest twig snap was detectable from 200 feet away. At first, I considered them a disturbing nuisance to my futile efforts to resume a broken dream. But the more I listened, the more I began to enjoy this unfolding late show. Boisterous and crass smack talk to begin with, but by the end, the tandem took turns fine-tuning their vocals. Talk of David Bowie led to songs by David Bowie. And they sang them quite well. From the wash-house, it was nearly impossible to see my tent site, and as no one else was in the park, the two had presumed the air was all theirs. With no inhibitions, they sang freely from the bottom of their jolly hearts. The vocal quality seemed to improve step-for-step with each hygienic facet. The tiled showers echoed their melodious bellows following the nasal blowing and classic throat clearing phlegm hackings. After brushing the teeth nice and clean, lips were whistling and hands smack-slapping new beats back out to the street where they cranked up the Subaru and off they flew. As I have told many of my gracious hosts along the way, it's difficult to overstate the rejuvenating nature of a warm shower. To hear the actual transformation take place in others from the comfy confines of your secret tent is a gratifying dose of empathy, especially when you yourself are already clean and content.

Fatty's Cracklin

November 14, 2009
Woodville, Mississippi

Way down in southern Mississippi, I found the 400-lb black woman that makes the all-time best fried food that exists on the planet. Fried Twinkies are also endemic to this region and may challenge cracklin as the world's unhealthiest, but we need not concern ourselves with such nutritional details here. If you don't dig swine, then either stop reading, or go ahead and purge out of repulse, because I'm talking about that down and dirty, deep-fried fatty pig skin called CRACKLIN ladies and gentlemen. The type of cracklin unique to Cajun cuisine and the kind you'd be hard-pressed to find in Carolina. Unlike any dried-up, crusty sponge mess of a pork rind, the gushing greasy goodness of Fatty's Cracklin stops you dead in your tracks. For those with heart conditions, please pardon the pun. But for those chomping at the bits to take a bite out of life and temporarily not caring about cholesterol, a restless grave awaits if you miss this opportunity. This, I felt to be one of those small, yet special discoveries as the taste alone tells you exactly where you are. All you need is one or two pieces (followed by a quart of water), which was good for the moment since daylight was waning and the plaque quickly narrowing....I bought an extra bag before moving on through to the county park avenue.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kids Got Future

Last Monday, I spoke with students at Tanglewood Elementary School about the cross country journey. The teachers (my mother being one of them) and students had been tracking my progress with the use of a large map and push-pins on a hallway bulletin board. The 114-day trek happened to coincide with the fall session, so ending the year with a fun show-and-tell presentation to the second, third and fourth grade classes seemed to be a great idea, and an invitation impossible to decline. The kids were excited, and wanted to see me and the bike that had ridden adventures throughout the semester-long story.

After rolling the bike and bags of gadgets in for display, Mrs. Barkley helped out with the last few arrangements as the kids began to fill her library. It wasn't long before the floor was warmed with perfectly behaved fourth graders. With about an hour set aside for each grade, I talked to the students about how fortunate we are to have the freedoms and way of life that we have in America. How some of us grow up and decide to be soldiers that dedicate themselves to protecting and preserving these freedoms. And how important it is to help and support those soldiers that have made such a commitment to their country – duty as the price of citizenship. They listened quite intently.

I then introduced them to the bike and the gear – the means to achieve the dream. With tools and know-how in place, we went on our slide show journey, starting in Seattle and photo flashing our way across country through 13 states. The rest of the day flew by in similar fashion with good questions asked from each grade and plenty of enthusiasm along the way. The pictures of puppies, horses, dinosaur skulls and Texas longhorns seemed to be all-around favorites. I liked those things too when I was in their shoes.

There were a few drifting moments where I traveled back in time to my own days as a student in Tanglewood. And though more than twenty years separate this present from that past, many of those memories still resonate with amazing clarity. More than the cafeteria smells, or sounds that echo the same down those long, tiled hallway walls, I think it was having a few familiar faces there that gave the spark, and re-ignited new life to those childhood memories. Mrs. Stephens, my fourth grade teacher, was one of those faces, and a big reason why that school has been, and will always be a very special place in the hearts and minds of the students that sat in those classrooms. She, along with several other teachers have established a lasting tradition of educational excellence and instilled a quality not found in direct text. It is an influential quality of encouragement to go beyond the common, whether that be personal achievement or pursuing the greater good that guides our hopes and active aim towards the better future....And for that, I tip the proverbial thinking cap to my Tanglewood teachers and to all the others around the world that make a positive difference in the lives of their students, and ultimately, our global community.

After all, kids are the future. They are the ones that help to expand our selfish time horizons beyond questions of whether or not we'll have comfortable retirements. They will either flourish from our successes or struggle to deal with the results of our shortcomings. And despite the fact that you never know what will happen from one generation to the next, they deserve our best – not massive debt, endless conflict, nuclear threat or many of the other numerous problems that beset this nation. Our “best” has been too inconsistent for too long. We have got to act with more smarts, try harder, and learn to compromise instead of balk and despise. Otherwise, the prospects of better days will surely begin to fade.

Surrounded by questioning second graders, I wondered about that future. But when one little girl said that she now wanted to walk across the state of North Carolina for the hungry people, those negative uncertainties seemed to vanish under what I guess to be the lingering light of hope and how you just never know.

Friday, December 11, 2009

To find your quiet corner

Everyone needs time alone. Even if you are the type of person with the filters and focus to write dissertations amongst mosh pits, having at least a small portion of each day to your own thoughts, in some safe haven that's conducive for contemplating and occasional creation can (in my opinion) yield infinite potential benefit. Whether that benefit is simple mental health or devising the next best master plan, it usually takes the right time and place to break from "the noise" and / or life's lovely distractions.

The fractured modern conscious is old subject matter: stocks tick; iPods click; cars, planes and trains whiz all simultaneous with computers computating every inch under orbiting satellites - so what. The world spins, humans rarely flinch. And though we barely dot the geologic time line, we are phenomenal adaptors. Despite our expanding abilities to take on the exponentially increasing external flux, most real, adaptive progress comes from our ability to wade through the madness, and carve enough of an uninterrupted time interval to narrow-down the necessary productive focus. It takes a lot to engineer these new super-colliders or defeat the best chess computers - but we do.

Living on the road, I increased the length of those focused time intervals in the cool, comforting confines of America's public libraries. Seeking safety from the sun, wind, and ranging temperature, it quickly became part of the loose, but consistent routine throughout much of the journey. Especially in the smaller towns of rural regions not known for extravagant attractions, I would define a very good day as waking early, enjoying and mentally recording along a 5 or 6 hour ride, making it to the only town for miles around, securing food, shelter, and then silently settle in a peaceful quiet corner of the local public library. The absolute best example of this occurrence was my most desolate day from Delta to Milford, Utah. After a long, sun-scorched ride with nothing but distant mining pits in between, I found the quaint little Milford library to be a desert treasure.

In general, the library, much like a church, is a sanctuary of sorts - a designated place where simple house rules help define a certain setting. It is the library that provides a refuge within the dirty disturbing urban, and it is the special environment to enjoy the world of books, indulge the imagination and seek out self-educating enrichment. There's no better way to take a passing sample of town than this true community center, where under one roof, at any given time, you might have children learning to read, students collaborating over group projects, or a homeless man knee-deep in a book of philosophy. A town is not a town without one, since not everyone can afford their own bat cave.

After all, it is the concept of each individual finding his or her own bat cave - whether that's a quiet corner of the public library, or making that special place within your own private dwelling: a crafty wood shop, a cool music room, a tooled-up garage, a back-room study, or chef-ready kitchen - all places where you can churn butter on your own terms. If it turns out good, consider sharing your creation. Homemade butter is hard to beat.

Salt Lake City Public Library

4th Floor SLC Public Library

Eugene, Oregon Public Library - Guggenheim Design

Baker City, Oregon Public Library alongside The Powder River

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Good Family Finish

If you've been to Sunset Beach, NC, then you have driven across the old swing bridge that floats over the inter coastal waterway, connecting the mainland to the barrier island. It is the only one of it's kind in operation on the entire east coast. For those who know it, this bridge is a symbolic gateway to a calm, relaxed style of vacationing. Each side takes their turn crossing the single-lane wooden plank pontoon, and when the clock strikes the top of each hour, both sides wait while boats and the occasional barge pass through. No one resumes until the old man in the control house brings her back around. If you're headed to the beach, it's the point where you realize the rush is over; it's time to take a moment, put it in park, and maybe hop out of your jeep or SUV to greet a stranger and smell the salty summer air. A fish market and a deep-fried-Calabash-style restaurant to your left, a putt-putt course and liquor store on the right! As for the sun burnt souls leaving the island, it'll be their first, post-vacation chance to exercise patience before returning to our hurry-up-I-needed-that-last-week-working-world.

Happy Parents

(the evil, new replacement bridge in back)

So yesterday, waiting before that bridge were my parents, grandparents, Aunt Jonnie, and Uncle Darryl. Mom and her binoculars spotted me first - her unmistakable whistle piercing the swirling December sea breeze. All the soreness and pains immediately vanished with their healthy dose of hugs and laughter. Eager to finish, I saddled up for one more ride as they followed me across the bridge with that last mile, and to the exact spot where our family taps in tent stakes each and every year. For such a cool, gloomy December Tuesday, yet another warm memory was etched in our sands of time as I pedaled my poor man's chariot into the ocean spray and fizzle white foam that stays long after the last wave breaks. It would not have been the same without them.

Me and my Favorite Machine

And as I have mentioned before, it would not have been possible without the help of so many of all you good folks out there, from Seattle to Sunset, and the 5,283 miles in between. To you, my new extended family, I am forever indebted, and can only hope to one day, have the chance to fill your water bottle in your passing strive for adventure, discovery, excitement, and better life in this universe. Expect a note from me soon.

Call It Good

The ride may be over, but the journey continues (as will this blog). After passing enough mileposts along our highways, collected thoughts connect to form related motivations - again, wanting to start where it all began, and that's at the local, hometown level: mapping safe bike routes in and around town, improving signage, markings, and laying a few basic blueprints to incorporate more bike-friendly provisions into the city's long-term development plans; talking with kids and encouraging them to break away from television and grasp a new, real world of possibilities propelled by the power of self, realizing the simple, but transformative capabilities of a healthier, better-connected community; and sooner than later, finish filtering and distilling the most relevant thoughts, observations, and ideas about our country into a constructive letter to our dear President. Just the visible part of the iceberg for now, at least until my road weariness wears off, this will serve as a decent set of starting points.

Hot Chocolate with Pop

Last but not least, I want to thank all of the thousands of drivers that didn't maul or kill me over these last 114 days. We had a few close calls here and there, but it seems we both got to where we needed to. Please continue to drive safe, maintain awareness, and share the road. Bicycles belong.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One more day

Only 70 miles away now. In my tent, 5am, I'm pitched snug tight against a fire station side wall, a small alley patch of grass between this station and the church next door here on Main St, Johnsonville, SC. After talking with the police chief and the pastor, this seemed the best spot for me, as there's no suitable park or campground nearby, the only motel 7 miles in the opposite direction. A tall box wood hedge and illuminated plastic nativity disguise the better part of my encampment, which, would have otherwise been completely exposed to the small town passing traffic. The three wise men have been my glowing friends throughout the night, as I can't see baby Jesus or Mother Mary from this angle. The police department is directly across the street, a Mexican restaurant next door, nice sidewalk lights, and a fairly soft and quiet scene in all - small town America. I thank the pastor and chief for letting me bed down for the night, but everything around me now screams the need to finish this: a beat up water bottle, the journal's last pages, the tires on my bike, the cold air that turns my knees into rusty hinges...

Closer and closer now.... a dog's ability to find his way home doesn't amaze me anymore. There are familiar sights, sounds, and smells to be found: the food, the forests, the coastal flats, and people's accents. About 17 more miles up ahead, there is a bridge that spans the Little Pee Dee, which is fed by none other than the black waters of the good ol' Lumber River. More so than the mighty Columbia, the carving Colorado, or big Mississippi, I look forward to crossing that bridge, seeing those waters and knowing the source and path it has traveled from my homeland.

I'm ready to see my family. They'll be waiting at the old floating bridge that leads across to Sunset Beach, where 25 years ago, we began an annual summer vacation tradition. So many fond memories: my Uncle Gary lunging to save the little blow-up boat that held me, my brother, and my cousins Lee Ann from a monster rogue wave that would have wiped us out, and easily washed us away; my Uncle Darryl, his great big fireworks, and the fat cop that stopped us; fierce volleyball matches; big family meals; time under the tent, relaxing, just watching the waves crash and return....Just 70 miles separates me from those same sands, as it was there, that this idea came to be - there, where I want to complete the journey.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And the War Continues....

30,000 more.... I hope all breathing, conscious viewers of Obama's speech the other night made the connection that some of those cadets in the audience may possibly lose their life or become severely wounded in the escalating war over Afghanistan. And not just our fellow Americans, but more of our allies and many more innocents in this effort to exterminate the extremists. We all wish that the current circumstances over there were different. We'd pull our soldiers out of there tomorrow, and immediately stop the killing. In that utopian world, humans would learn to value life, value each other, our similarities, and differences - putting an end to our civilization's history of hate, humiliation, cruelty, violence, and horror. For all our "progress", how far have we actually risen above our beastly ancestry?

What's the best scenario? We snuff them out, eliminate their leadership, permanently debilitate their infrastructure and networks, the Afghan government stabilizes and develops the capacity to handle their own domestic problem people, we (US & allies) team with them to establish a tradition of growing grassroots ambassadors that incubate institutions of education, health, and economic opportunity equally across gender, religion, race, ethnicity.... And then, once we have accomplished all those costly improbabilities, will we find ourselves repeating the seemingly endless battle in Yemen, Somalia, Iran, or the numerous other countries where their cousins live?

Hypothetically thinking, what if the tables were turned, and we were the ones that had foreign armies waging war on our soil, destroying our towns, fields, some of our women and children in the process of rooting out our radicals.....Would we not fight back? Would we ever stop fighting?

For every philosophy of non-violence, there is a philosophy of war.

After all the reading and thinking and talking to dozens of veterans, soldiers currently serving, lawyers, professors, doctors, farmers, mothers, fathers, and all sorts of strange or common Americans across this country; I've tried to make sense of this war; to draw an informed, better understanding; maybe a few loose conclusions to improve personal actions.....

At least pertaining to our President's speech the other night, and the difficult decision to send (and shift) thousands more, I support him. I think that Obama is the type of person, and more importantly, the type of leader, that tried to find every possible way to save lives by getting out, but the facts of this disaster didn't add up to doing such.

As for Dick Cheney..... His comments prior to the speech do nothing but further solidify his reputation as a primary detriment and source of destructive hypocrisy to our country. You can't call yourself a true Republican after shooting your friend in the face. Just another accident to add to all the other mistakes. He ought to be fitted with more than a muzzle. I reserve further comments.

No Rain

A common question I've gotten from people along the way is, "What do you do when it rains?" It's hard to believe, but I didn't have an answer until Jackson, Mississippi, where it finally rained during my ride (still managed to get in 55 miles before the first drop that day). Until then, my reply was that I had rain gear, but haven't had to use it yet. "You mean that you've made it all the way here from Seattle without getting rained on?" Then, looking for some wood to knock, I would affirm the question.

The Long Drought Route

Divine providence, a new meteorological phenomena, one huge slap-happy stroke of luck - I'm not sure, probably a little bit of each from those three. I can't speak for God, or any kind of cosmic luck karma, but the summers of the northwest and fall for most other areas across the country are typically more dry than the other seasons. Also, getting full value from our vast and varied American deserts helps support a partial explanation. From the time I crested the Cascades in central Oregon until leaving the west Texas scrub and sage, that's roughly 3,000 miles through arid American land, where the people, and especially farmers know a thing or two about water management. Still, overall, a great roll of the dice.

Sunny Skies Across the Continental Divide
Sailing into Silver City

Rain, in moderation, is a refreshing rejuvenating treasure. Sometimes there's nothing better than a good shower to clean and clear the air, washing away that dust funk or clogging, polluted residue that seems to accumulate and stagnate the porous breathe of both plant and animal skin. The southeast is usually blessed with this moderate mean, but others are less fortunate. Most of the soaking qualities are obvious, but it's that slight change in the actual air that is there to test and taste with a curious sniff...

...The dryness of the desert over time gradually delivers a dull death. In Seattle, the dark, damp, vitamin D deluting drizzle proved too long and drawn out for me and my genes (personal weakness). A quick flee to Puerto Rico was pineapple sweet, but the lack of temperature-changing seasons and powerful tropical storms presented a uniquely different extreme. A few fearful moments for Katrina and I, sweltering within a shaky, plywood, Caribbean jungle shack that sat atop our small island's ridge line - swallowed by several successive September tempests.....days where the tropical air was truly tropical. This is the same air that brings inches upon inches of heavy, sporadic, ground-pounding rains. The low cumulus clouds blanket beyond all horizons and the winds swirl inside this covering so that no consistency can be found in vegetation sway. This combined flux of phenomena possesses a wild energy above and beyond the sum of each element's basic kinetic strength - it's a crazed atmospheric excitation that distinguishes this tropical character among all others...

Needless to say, I haven't missed the rain during this journey, but as the current storm has me restrained for a few extra days here in Atlanta, I'm reminded how there are times, where nature or life may seem to restrict, but in turn, often offers hidden gifts. A cliche of some sorts, one that most of us have heard or experienced before. I can say that it has been one of the most important things I've learned out here. Being exposed to the whims of the road has revealed countless incidents of how the transformation of energy and effort is unpredictable, and may not immediately bear the fruit your desires anticipate, but will almost always manifest itself in the form of delightful surprises that beat even the best Christmas presents.

Splashing Around the Southeast

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is that news on the tube?

I've taken a few cheap shots at the media in past posts because the media is crucially important in that they are the primary conveyers of information and ideas that greatly shape public opinion, popular beliefs, and perspectives of how we see the world and our engagement with it all. And as active citizens, it's up to us to hold their feet to the fire, or at least maintaining awareness of what forces are at work in their content creation and delivery - in particular, the forces of television's major news networks - television, because of its wide appeal, ease of accessibility, and its simulataneous demand of both visual and auditory senses of the audience. That combo of external stimulus can be a persuasively powerful duo, filling your eyes, ears, and current conciousness with a Halloween bucket load bombardment of crack candy that's enough to chew challenge the cognition of our new generation's best multi-taskers. Try momentarily muting the talking heads or walking away from the loud screen LCD to go and sip a cool glass of filtered water.

Among other things, capitalism makes for good tasting candy - and who doesn't like a good piece of candy: lights, music, wise cracks, funny jokes, a good fight, roused emotions, political soap drama..... But in terms of a square media meal, the problem begins when they start mixing that candy with the meat and potatoes. When it comes to a serious steak, lay off the corn syrup! It gets to the point where it's easy to mistake the factual flavors of a 'tater debate because some ideological, profiteering taste-bending intender snuck jolly ranchers in my grandma's turkey. Stop feeding families a fake fear feast of how Uncle Sam's new plan is going to pull Pa's plug!

I'm talking about profit-driven entertainment disguised by a heavy dressing of supposedly legitimate news. This doesn't mean that PBS (public) is what you should always watch for a better objective news - I'm simply stating that the main motive for FOX, CNN, and other news corporations is to maximize profit - afterall, that is the goal of a corporation. Any actions on behalf of management inconsistent with that goal should, in theory, lead to the shareholders voting to replace them. Therefore, delivering socially constructive news will usually take a back seat if it and profit are ever in conflict. So goes the tenuous relationship between efforts towards honest news and the corporate media that operates under free market principles.

Rupert Murdoch is a smart man that knows how to make money - however he can. If you don't care about investing ethics, then purchasing partial ownership of his News Corp is probably a safe money maker. But you should know that this guy cares about America only in the sense that we continue to be reliable consumers of his products - other than that, he doesn't give a damn about us. Ask any of his fellow Australian's what they think about their buddy Rupert.

Non-Sequitur Comic - October 13, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Saving a Puppy

It's not always easy to pedal past some of the starved, pathetic looking dogs that wander along the back alley side streets or rural county highways. Even the most mangy mongrel can give you a glance that begs for a second chance. But it's something completely different when you discover a newly abandoned puppy that makes it impossible not to stop and save such an innocent infant from starvation.

Last week, my good friend Robbie joined me for the 200-mile stretch between Birmingham and Atlanta, and it wasn't long after we had crossed the Georgia line when we came upon one such puppy. The little guy immediately started a desperate scramble for us as we passed by an empty parking lot alongside the Silver Comet bike path (the longest paved recreational trail in the US). Crossing out onto the highway with us, it became obvious that he had no home and was scared. He curled at my ankles, begging to be rescued. Without hesitation, Robbie and I began looking around to the sparsely scattered homes of that rural countryside, hoping to find a resident that could help. Meanwhile, the pup quivered in terror at the roar of the fast-passing traffic. "It's all right buddy, I've felt that way before too."

There was no decision to be made, no judgement call - only the moral obligation to do the right thing...whether it's a puppy or a baby, it deserves at least one shot at life, at least one chance to be good, and maybe great, or even bad, and to learn from the mistake, but at the bare minimum, to live life as another unique being of the universe, wondering why, chasing a dream, and maybe achieving some sense of peace or meaningful inkling of authenticty.....God bless the good souls that adopt, foster, or support the disadvantaged children of the world...

Back to the street, it wasn't long before we went knocking on a stranger's door, which turned out to be an older couple that had moved there in 1942. Since then, they had raised their family there on the farm, and most of their sons and daughters' families had all returned and populated the other few houses we saw. It was Mr. & Mrs. Duke of Polk County, Georgia that opened their hearts and extended their arms for the little abandoned puppy on that damp, cool, cloudy afternoon.

Amazing the basic instincts of nature; how an animal, so young and inexperienced, so completely vulnerable knew to seek safety in the hands of two giant creatures riding strange spinning contraptions, all totally different than the likes of himself....but then again, dogs love bikes.

Mr & Mrs Duke, Robbie, & the Puppy

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We have a lot to be thankful for

If you are reading this, then you are alive (or at least functioning), which also means you're not dead. Never a bad idea to start from there, just in case... In addition, you, as do I, have access to a computer and freedom to a world of information - all of us most likely typing from somewhere in this country we consider a great nation. And it is in this country that we can all be thankful for our freedoms: to choose, to travel, to snooze, or volunteer for battle - or not.

Over this Thanksgiving Holiday, save a place in your prayers for the soldiers and their families - especially those who will not be together either now, or ever again. It is rightfully said that, "the greatest casualty is being forgotten". Try not to forget the costs of freedom.

I'd like to take this moment to again thank all those that have donated to this cross country awareness ride for the Wounded Warrior Project thus far, and to the hundreds of new friends, strangers, and (of course) family that have lent their support along the way to help make this possible. Whether it was water, food, shelter, advice, or a smile - I sincerely appreciate your kindness.

Amen. And cheers to the holiday with the best premise - one that has long extended beyond the Pilgrim's song.