I am Lanape. I bring a message.
My name is Daniel Fulghum. I have lived my whole life (besides college and travel) in Pinellas County, Florida. I am descendant of the Native American tribe once called Lanape, modern day Delaware Indians, who signed the first Indian treaty with the newly formed United States in 1778. The Lanape were prided as messengers during the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
I am Lanape. I bring a message.
A few months ago, one devastating piece of information permanently changed my community and the lives of all who have lived there. It came to light that the whole area is sitting on a toxic waste dump created by Raytheon’s property. For years, my neighbors and I have pumped these toxins to the surface with irrigation wells. Some of the chemicals are highly volatile which means they vaporize rapidly in the air, finding quick passage to our lungs, blood, and body. However, Raytheon and the DEP unilaterally and clandestinely decided that since nobody in the community is likely to drink from the wells, there was no risk. They also decided that it was important to keep the public and residents ignorant, which they succeeded in for 17 years. The law firms are saying that the chemicals involved were being dumped in their back yard of Raytheon as far back as 50 years ago. All this time and we knew nothing. Going about our daily lives. Children and pets play in the sprinklers in our 9 months of summer.
Gov Charlie Crist, you grew up in Pinellas County. Was there ever a time when you ran through an Azalea neighborhood sprinkler? Then you too may have inhaled the poisonous water vapor. When I hand watered the plants in summer, do you think I ran all the way inside for a cool drink? No, I took from the hose. Perhaps to Raytheon, I am a savage. When the movie ‘Erin Brockovich’ came out I never thought that my neighborhood would fall victim to a similar fate. This is not Raytheon’s first toxic waste spill. The Mountain View California community has been cleaning up their Raytheon toxic waste dump for 20 years while continuing to ignore or hide others. Raytheon has profited heavily, saving millions of dollars in their unjust inaction. What will it take to get Raytheon to get its act together, not to mention the DEP?
The bottom line is, clean it up. Make it right. Not for me. I’m already knee deep in it, but for those who come next. When I want to get really upset I think about my brother fighting a war for our freedom in Afghanistan. I think, “Do I really want to bother him with this? That his Rights have been trampled with lies, deception, and inaction all for a buck?” A war, a wife, four children… no, I think he has enough on his plate. So I bring my community’s plight to perfect strangers. Strangers, who just like any person, have a lot on there plates.
Dioxane, Tricloroethylene, and Vinyl Chloride, those are the toxins that I have unwillingly been exposed to since 86’ when I moved to the Azalea community. I was in the 4th grade then. My community just found out so it is to soon to know what the long-term effects are going to be. My father did die in this house. I am riding his bike. I have a message that I will share with anyone willing to listen. I am cycling across the nation, and carry my message with a heavy heart. Raytheon has fallen out of balance with the earth. It must be cleaned up: beauty to replace the ugliness in our Grandmother Earth. If I thought it hopeless, I would throw in the towel. I don’t. We can and must live in harmony, for goodness is the only investment that will not fail. The children of my neighborhood are growing up suffering from the destructiveness of technology without wisdom. I am not asking for good technology to be abandoned. Just put the earth and all that live off of it first. If my message reaches you, and you would like to help my community, tell a friend. Please email, call or write “Clean it Up” to:
Office of Gov Charlie Crist
State of Florida
PL-05 The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
870 Winter St
Deborah A. Getzoff
District Director Southwest DEP
13051 N Telecom Pkwy
Temple Terrace, FL 33637
This is a story that applies to every person. Every single action or non-action has a motivation behind it. Raytheon’s is clear. What’s yours?
For more information or to read my trail journals as I cycle
across America as I spread the message visit at:
Excerts from trail jornals:
Got up really early this morning. Set my time piece so I could bolt before the sun came out. I did just that. On my way out of town as the sun began to rise I passed numerous people walking or waiting at bus stops. I must have said hello, howdy, good morning to 300 people between today and yesterday. Not a single one would make eye contact or reply back. What a depressing town. Who would ever live here and how would they ever make friends? Not to mention the lady at the library yesterday. She was efficient as in, all in life she seemed to care about was doing exactly her job and no more. She got me a computer. I asked if she was a fan of having clean ground water. She said ‘no, I don’t really care’ and went back to her text messages. I said you know like what is beneath our feet or below your house. I tried to explain it but you could tell that water for her has just always been what comes out of the faucet when you turn it on. I don’t think she has a clue as to where it may originate. I gave her my message anyway, She looked at me a little cross put the message on the bottom of a large stack of papers and shoved the lot into a draw. At least I tried. I rode and rode finally I got out of suburbia. I got on some country roads and had a very pleasant ride.
I stopped at a preserve of some sort. It had many signs about there alligator population that was protected. I found this ironic being from Florida where we have so many alligators. I love to stop at nature parks and preserve. I try to find a bulletin board to post my message. I figure that the people that go there are ones who would get my message the best. This park didn’t have any information boards so the post holding up the roof of the observation tower got posted on. There was a gentleman at the observation tower. I told him ‘don’t worry I am not littering. Although I can’t wait to see how many fines I have waiting for me when I get back home. I am just trying to spread awareness about my community that recently found we were sitting on top of a toxic waste dump’ as I taped my message to a pillar. He came over and started to read it. Normally I would have given him a copy as well, but I was working from my last stack. Time to make more copies soon. I asked him if he knew what the white/yellowish flower that was everywhere on the lake. He didn’t. I mentioned I though the leaves to the plant looked like mother-in-laws mantle although I had never seen the plant in real life just books. That was about the only person remotely close to Houston I could engage in conversation. With the exception of the 4 welders I asked directions when first arriving. They didn’t know the area but told I was definitely in a bad neighborhood. One even mentioned how he was reaching for his knife when I pulled up on them. What a town!
Very nice riding today. Open country good shoulder and plenty of water on the way. I found a camp ground right as it was getting dark. I made rice and beans again for dinner. So nice to have a shower, and a pool to cool down in! The place is busier than usual because of tomorrows holiday I imagine.
Happy fourth of July you sick freaks! Making coffee. I have zero patients this morning for anything. I lost my spoon last night, broke my brand new bottle of Tabasco, left my mug-mate behind and ripped my shorts. Cookin in the dark is a bitch. I can be so very rough on stuff. I went back for my mug-mate. Coffee is just one of those things I won’t go without. This journal I write is another I will turn around for if I ever left it. My sleeping bag the hammock probably not, got to have my standards you know. Stopped at a library in Richmond. Updated one days worth of journals then uploaded some pictures. I came to find out that my camera has completely had it. The bolt of lightning I shoot was the last set of pictures it took. It still fires but nothing is writing to the disk. So all the pictures I took in the last few days are gone. Leaving the library was about the lowest point of the trip for me so far. I have had that Cannon 20D camera for 4 years. It is one of the easiest ways for me to spend free time anywhere. I used the wages I made crewing in the caribean in 04’ to but it. I am so very bummed by this.
So I did what any hiker as down as I was would do bought a disposable and a half gallon of ice cream. I totally stuffed myself and felt slightly better but a little sick. I rode on. My head hung low I rode to Columbus where I found the campground. Ah mug-mate what would I have done without you? Cowboy coffee for the rest of the journey? Luckily I found you where I dropped you. No oatmeal until the grocery store opens. I also relize this morning that I left a whole quart of denatured at the same camp I lost my music player. It just keeps getting better. I guess when things are going right you don’t notice so much. When one thing after another keeps going wrong, it seems to bring out the demons in me. I have exactly one month from today to get to the Grand Canyon where my next job starts. Do I have time to go all the way to the Pacific or do I just head toward the Canyon now? Choices-choices, either way it doesn’t affect my route here in Texas. Starting to feel a little patience return. I bought a roll of quarters last night to make phone calls. I was feeling lonely and wanted to gab at friends and family. My mother and Tim both gave me compliments on the journals so far. That made me feel good especially from my mother who doesn’t send many compliments my way. I was telling Tim how my trail journals seem mundane and bitchy. Tim reminded me that quite the contrary the people reading them are stuck doing the same old jobs and routine they always do. They see my journal for the adventure that they are. I know that intuitively, but I just wish I had better things to write about than all the crap that goes wrong. All the things I break or lose for example. Tim suggested I write more about the people I meet and the message I give them. I will try this. I think I will treat myself to a second brew-o-coffee after all my mug-mate did spend the night alone. So it is a holiday and I am sure no library will be open. I wonder if I can find another spoon somewhere?
So I am back to the world of 35mm. With no ability to zoom and only one focal point horizon. It drives me crazy knowing I have a perfectly good 35mm SLR at home too. Some guy with a lot of tattoos and a car full of people and Texas plates just walked up and asked me how far I was headed. He was taken aback when I told him. He said ‘well God bless you, stay safe and good luck.’ He shook my hand. Now that is the kind of Texan I like. See how people are once out of the big cities. The handshake reminds me of working at my job. I would give excellent service and they always want to shake my hand afterwards. I never got that in the 5+ years of bartending and serving. He was headed towards Georgia. ‘I love Georgia’ I told him. Which I do. I have been there many times. Georgia is a wonderfully southern State. Not like west Mississippi at all. I have even been pleasantly surprised by Virginia and how southern it is. I know Virginia is considered the south but growing up in Florida I never really knew it until I went there the first time. So my route takes me near several state and national parks in the next few days.
“The destiny of man is to possess the whole earth; the destiny of the earth is to be subject to man” John Widtsoe
This is not an idea I am particularly fond of but I see it more and more everyday since birth. People like me who would head in the opposite direction from such ideas are certainly the very small minority. We are dying out and that is OK. Those who feel like a statement like that is absolutely the case will inherit this earth and all the filth and toxins that ideas like that bring it. I decided long ago I never want to have children. For so many reasons. I would not wish this planet in its current state on any of my offspring. There are way to many people with spoiled habits to begin with to live in balance. The earth will right itself though. You watch. It is unfortunate that in my lifetime I see the beginning of that. I am a survivor but God can take me whenever he wants. For years I have been asking him to. He still has work for me I guess. We are put here for a reason, right here right now. I don’t want to let him down. Trust me when I say I am ready for the kindom of heaven and what lies beyond even if that turns out to be nothing. Life, at least mine, is very hard work. I make it that way trying to live in some form of harmony. In this age, rather than subscribing to that downward spiral the world is on, The age of modern comforts but at what cost? Just one example; for almost 15 years now, I have been a vegetarian. Not because I didn’t like the taste of steak or a cheeseburger as a kid. I just see the meat on the table as something entirely different than what God intended it to be. I would probably eat meat if I could catch it myself. To extinguish that creatures life force and in its last breath thank it for providing life for my tribe. Instead, I graze. For years, I’ve survived without meat in my diet. I know that for me meat is completely and utterly unessasary. In my veggie years I have had lots of reasons to be this way from health to moral issues. But one of the first reason, and I have never shared this idea with anyone I can remember,
Is because- I feel like a hunter. In a tribe, if you will. As a hunter, I need to be quick, lean and efficient. Gluttonizing oneself with pounds and pounds of meat a week, the American way, takes away from that. How could I hunt for my tribe if I was fat and lazy from to much excess? No, I leave meat for the rest of the tribe those unable or unwilling to be hunters. Save it for those that need it. Like the growing child who needs to grow strong to be the next great hunters, a pregnant or nursing women, the old and infirm who need that level of concentrated nutrition. I don’t know exactly why I chose to be this this way but this has been from the beginning.
Some of the best actual hunters, often stop eating meat weeks to months before the hunt is to begin. Do you know why? Because animals can smell the difference between carnivore and herbivore. In my several years of being vegetarian I have always noticed how much closer I can get to animals in nature. For a nature lover this is big time bonus. Ever consider the carbon footprint associated in bringing that pound of steak to the table versus a pound of veggies or salad? You don’t want me to go there. Remember Hoover and swearing off certain things one day a week? A concept we could all still benefit from. The American way as it stands today forbids it though. We are hearded down that hallway that brings the most profit. To who I ask? I live a very frugal lifestyle by choice and I see know profit. Just more gluttanis man waiting to take candy from a baby with a big smile saying ‘it’s OK it will all be better in the morning.’ Well that perfect storm is coming. I have a rain jacket though I rarely need it. I am ready for it. I don’t think the majority of the world is. History will be the judge of that though. It will show the errors of our current thinking and idiologies.
Now that was Dan on his soap Box.
Bummer it is starting to rain and I want to write again. I guess this juniper will have to provide adequate shelter. So I went and got another quart of denatured. I also got some oatmeal. I walked out of the grocery store after paying without my purchases. How absent minded. A young clerk followed me out and handed me my bag. Sometimes I get to wrapped up in thinking ahead. As I was loading my purchases into my saddle bags, a couple pulls up on a Harley. I could sense the road dust on them. The lady hopped of and went inside. I struck up a conversation with the men that lasted until she came back out. They were the kind of people I love meeting in Texas. Not like Houston at all. We talked about traveling cross-country on 2 wheels. They were visiting his father who lives in this town. 92 years old and still thriving. I think of Mr J. and tell them about my 92 year old boss and his wife I just left who works 6 days a week. I gave them my message more as a link to my trail journals. I never mentioned Raytheon or ground water to them. They will see that for themselves I imagine. I hate feeling so confrontational towards Raytheon sometimes I choose to not talk about it. To just be on an adventure not so much a mission.
I am a messenger though. My message is clear to me. Not just about Raytheon. That was just the straw that broke my back. I refuse to be silent any longer. This journey is proving to me I am not alone in this. I cannot be afraid any longer. Afraid of what people will think of me or say about me. I know in many ways I am right about the ‘perfect storm’ that is coming. I refuse to be silent about it anymore. Glenn knows, I borrow the phrase from him because it fits so very well. He understands what is coming. Daniel to the greeks was a profit. I have had so many ideas and dreams come true in my life. HEAR ME, the worst is yet to come. It makes today look like a sunny day on the white sandy beaches of St. Petersburg. If we don’t come together as one voice, one tribe and say ‘enough already’, we are doomed to fail. Maybe not you who reads this, but your little ones who play so innocently in the tainted sprinklers on a hot sunny afternoon. We only have this one Earth and once we reach the point of no return then what? We all die? For ages and ages we existed and lived in harmony self balancing with nature as ALL other creatures here still do. The Earth is in decline because we all want the best of everything regardless of the cost. Depleting the Earths resources. What does that leave for your children? We are not to the point were we can just blast off and go find another planet to deplete. Maybe we will get that far before the last Adam and Eve succumb to the contaminated groundwater. I have serious-serious doubts about that though. Personally I think we are screwed but I can only control one thing-ME. I cannot tell you what to do, only that if we don’t figure it out soon there will be nothing left. For years now, I have foreseen the last barrel of oil being pumped in my lifetime, if I live to be Mr. J.’s age. Do you have any idea what that would mean? No more cars, trains, planes, none of the comforts we all now enjoy. This is what you would leave for your children. In my opinion I say drill-drill-drill for oil. Get it as soon as possible. That way the people who are so blind as to what is coming will be forced to start looking for better alternatives. I have been preparing for this situation for years. It is one reason I ride a bike so much. As a vegetarian and a gardener I know I have the tools to survive a world without oil. Do You? The Perfect Storm hit my community with Raytheon though. For years I have always told myself when that last drop of oil is tapped and the world as we know it changes in ways no one can predict. I could still just walk the 75 feet to Admiral Farragut creek and portage ample water for my garden. Now I can’t even do that. Now I need to migrate and find somewhere else where the water is still sweet and without toxins. At least I have 5 months in the Canyon to think about where that may be. I would love to say Havasu. Go live on a reservation for a time. But all the people being hooked up to Arizona’s aquifer will soon deplete that spring until it runs no more. Have you ever been to havasu falls? Have you at least seen pictures? It is a magic spot in the world. That is why I have longed to go back there since I left two years ago. That tribe is the one of the oldest on this continent. Being so remote and having never lifted a finger in war against the white man they have never had to move either. But man has a way of catching up with everything. If the spring shuts down from to many people pumping from the aquifer they would have to move. That whole canyon survives because of that water source.
I stopped at the last CITGO out of town to write these thoughts. Finding a dry spot to write is becoming an issue. It would seem in the last few days God has blessed me with the inspiration to write. I should be making due haste to get past this rain but instead I slow my pace to get these ideas on paper. Some of these ideas I have been feeling for so very long. The good news is I don’t think we are past the point of no return. Walking through Houston I had many doubts though. It is one of the greatest qualities of mankind to triumph over adversity. The problem as I see it is- man just don’t realize how far up the creek without a paddle we are. I feel like we are 10 feet from going over Niagara Falls in a canoe. It’s time to back-paddle! We are way to close to oblivion. Think about that image a second. A still frame picture of the 9 feet around that canoe is all most people see. A wonderful day on the river, right? Now take that still frame 1 more foot out and what do you have? Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? Once you are at the edge there is NO turning back or back-paddling. This is how I see the course human kind is on. The US certainly doesn’t seem to care either.
Today is Independence Day. I am a centennial baby. I love my independence. I experience it in ways the common man does not however. In 1999 I learned a new meaning of independence. I backpacked the southern most 500 miles of the appaltation trail by myself. I learned what it meant to carry everything one actually needs to survive on my back. To walk horizon to horizon several times a day. To experience nature the way I feel it was meant to be experienced- to drink water months where the earth has sprung leaks. That to me defined independence and still does. Not a 40 hour weekly grind just to get 2 weeks a year at Disney where you experience the same if not more stress in life. (sorry Disney, I really am a fan I just wanted to make a point)
This rain is crazy. Blue skies all around, but just this one little cloud has me hunkered down outside the citgo with 3 loud AC units to compete for my attention. I am not fighting it today. God is telling me something. It just took 1000 miles of exhausting pedaling for me to listen. I rarely find the words or inspiration to write when I work a regular job. Out here on this adventure adds so much color and perspective to life for me. This journal has become the most important thing I carry. I sense the change in me. I feel why I was called to be here. Raytheon was just a stepping stone to tell people what I see is coming. Like chief Lame Deer of the Lakota I see much that is coming that can be avoided and much that cannot.
The oatmeal was good strawberries and cream this time. 22 mile later, lunch break. I am not feeling like today is the day I will make the Pacific. I am beginning to feel it is not about the length of my ride but the quality. Florida to Arizona is a pretty long ride anyway. That would also leave me with something to do after my contract in the canyon is up. The weather would be so much nicer for cycling come December versus now. I take my lunch at this towns community center. There is no one around but they have a huge covered pavilion that could seat 200 people. I couldn’t refuse stopping. Easing my intentions of going all the way to the Pacific, I relax a little. I can make more time for campgrounds like I stayed in last night. After the pages I wrote this morning it is making more sense, this approach to Arizona. I am probably already half way there. I can’t wait to be in the National Park. 700 miles of hiking trails! An absolutely mindless job that hopefully leaves plenty of time to explore, write, photograph, and grow- A complete break in routine.
People have no idea how much inner growth can be had by a total break in ones routine. You can always go back to it. But once broken it leaves the world wide open like it is when we at birth. I feel after 3 weeks that total and utter break. Putting 100 miles in-between me and that old routine has helped me by leaps and bounds. I feel ready to live again something that was slowly and methodically being taken away in St. Petersburg. It isn’t the town just the road I was on. Thinking back to 6 months ago I was in a 3 year relationship with a women I no intentions of ever leaving. I loved her though she didn’t understand the type of unconditional love I gave her. Addicted to reality TV and drama,. my laid back ways just were not dramatic enough for her I guess. After 3 days of not coming home and then showing up drunk and bruised all over wanting to fight, we ended our 3 years together. For a few months I pondered confused over her decisions and ways of being. Now I see it as opening the door for this to happen to me. I had no plans on cycling anywhere but around town back then. After that relationship, I needed a new idea something that was completely my own. Man did I ever pick a doosy. I am glad it happened. Better 3 years being polite nice and cordial with someone who isn’t completely right for you than 10.
Taking a more relaxed approach to the Canyon instantly reminds me of my daily commute to work. I would leave 2 hours before my shift was to begin. It only took 45 minutes tops to go the 10 miles one way. 37 minutes if I wanted to hustle alittle. I would spend all that free time at every park or retention pond on the way. I would watch and talk to the birds and other wildlife. It was my favorite addiction. I took almost every lunch break in the same manner, in nature. If I didn’t get enough in my daily routine I would become cranky and useless. That carefree that I have and few others seem to. So many co-workers in every job I ever worked- always managing to show up exactly on time if not 10 minutes late. Allotting only enough seconds to drive from A to B with no room for distraction on the way. When there is a distraction for those people it adds only stress. In my way of doing it the distractions are my stress relief. The duck that lets me pick it up at the lake behind my old job. Feeding a wood stork by hand because we both have no fear. Seeing an otter at a retention pond that you know, besides city workers no one ever goes there. I sought out these places. In Pinellas County I feel I know them all. I can’t wait to feel that way about the Canyon as well.
Another storm is coming. The wind is picking up. I wish I could afford Ice Cream but ramien is my lunch. When you are as hungry as me it still taste great every time. Ask any long distance hiker. Yum good to the last drop and easy clean up too. I feel like making the mac-n-cheese dinner as well. I am in La Grange now. Thinking of borrowing a pool at one of these hotels I see billboards for. I pull off at the 2nd exit instead. There is a hair salon with no one around being a holiday. That sound like a good idea. I filled my 3 liter reservoir twice- once to shampoo, once to condition. The cool down is a side note. Life can be so simple cold water on a very hot day. 6 liters of water is all it takes to return my hair to its might exuberance. I have long hair, longer possibly than most women you know. I must still have it. With my shirt off, going back to rinse the outside of the reservoir of residues, a young lady walking her dog gives me a nice long stare. This is the kind of stare I like to get. I got lucky, the studio had a bench out of sight for me to wash my hair. Feeling like about 20 or 30 more miles that will put me in Austin about the time a library would open. What a leisurely holiday for me. My ride would be so much different if I took everyday at this pace. I may just have to. Another note on the looker it is nice to know after all this trail dust I can still draw some attention from the opposite sex.
Later now, I came across a point gas station. I found a shady spot and got in a cool rinse. I made hot tea and charged my camera battery. I wanted to put a little juice in it since it was low. I would hate myself forever if I sent it home and that was the reason it won’t write to disk. Charged it was still no-go. I guess my bags are gonna get a little lighter when I pass another post office. Just this little bit of effort to cool your self down a few times a day goes a long way. It takes about 45 minute to an hour after a dousing to get hot and sweaty again. I love the fact that writing is coming so easy today. It makes the 15 to 20 miles in between towns go by so fast when I am riding. It would be nice if every day was a holiday. My hot tea is almost shippable. Cheers Paul T who last I heard was riding a camel through the deserts of Africa. Another person I admire greatly. He gets out here and follows his dreams wherever they take. No matter how adverse. I only hope when I make it to the age he is now I have been to half the places he has or had half the stories he tells about them.
The sun has gone down. I let my rice tender. No bugs, what a treat. I sit in just my shorts and keen sandals. I feel great not having to wear long sleeves and long pants like usual. Will the bugs find me? I kick away the leave and ground debris to clear a stop to sit and cook. Don’t want any ticks on me either. What a difference a day can make. This is what I wish everyday was like. I treat myself to a cold beer on this holiday evening. Good food as well- beans and rice on my vargo stove. I found 5 Texas license plates and 1 Pennsylvania today. I saw a deer at the entrance to this preserve. It is what prompted me to stop. I even turned around and rode 10 minutes back to get the cold beer to enjoy here. I don’t imagine I will see any fireworks but the stars are definitely out in force. So many in fact I can’t see the constellations in between treat just too many stars. A very slim crescent moon is about to set. I cracked my new mirror after 2 days. I set my bike down a little too rough again. I am so rough on gear. I knew being so exposed it wouldn’t last long. I apply picardin insect repellant just in case. It works great for me as an alternative to deet. My only complaint it doesn’t seem to stick to me very long. Maybe I am just sweating to much out here. My rice requires way more patience than I have at the moment. I am so hungry. My only regret is I don’t have any Tabasco to sweeten it with. I found some really cool feathers today too. So many road kills it frightens me. I wonder how many animals even survive this close to the highway? Can I survive this close as well? I took a flash picture of the hammock with the point and shoot my only contribution in the way of fireworks on this holiday. It also gave me a reason to use the silly flash that it comes with. Most of my pictures are during the day so I don’t use it. I would as a fill flash but even then it is mostly landscapes. Rice is getting close. The moon has set. I can at least hear fireworks. But I see nothing. The cars that go by at 70 with there lights on and radios blarring hopefully drown the light of my head lamp with duct tape over it. I want just enough light to cook and write by, no more. Got my needle and thread out but discover sewing with ‘invislble’ thread at night is useless. I will have to find another time and place to fix the 2 holes that need attention.
I can not seem to get very far. I am 27 miles out of Austin. I stopped at a super Wal-mart and got 8 bucks worth of groceries. As I was about to open my can of beans sitting on a bench in front, a big black man approaches me with a big grin on his face. He says “there it is.” “What” I asked? Lunch came the reply. “Actually it is breakfast for me.” He gave a big laugh and extended his closed fist in hand shaking like gesture that Howie on ‘deal or no deal’ has popularized. I first experienced that gesture in mass in the Caribbean. The French Rastafarians take it a step further and take the same fist and put it over there heart after touching knuckles. I have always considered it a Caribbean handshake. I don’t know where it actually comes from. I like this gesture it pleases me when people use it. Not quite as formal as a handshake. The gentleman at the gas station was very helpful as well. After I filled my bottles with water he followed me outside to smoke. He started a conversation with me. He has been an avid cycler for years and digs the trek I am doing. He gave some practical advise about the route ahead. He warned about drivers in Texas. He went on the show me a scar and permanent lump in his arm were he was hit locally by a trucker’s side mirror night riding. I haven’t done any night riding yet and don’t think I will. I am trying to digest the beans a little so I don’t feel quite so bloated and full. No one seems to frequent the rest stops that I stop at on the route. They don’t have restrooms or water so I guess this is why. It is Saturday and I am not sure if I will find a library to update journals or not. I have so much to compose I need to find one soon.
Much later now, the sun is past the half way mark in the sky. I am still not in Austin yet. I keep getting side tracked. I stopped at a bonsai shop. This was the first non-grocery store or bike shop I went into. I love bonsai’s. I used to have several. I lost, killed, or left behind all of them in my travels and many moves. I do love them though. After walking around the collection outside, I went inside to see what was in the large non-air-conditioned warehouse like building. I didn’t see anyone as I went around the first smaller room that had orchids and succulents. This was also the area where transactions were done. As I went into the larger room, an Asian man comes out of the bathroom. We exchange hellos and I tell him I like his collection. This room had many fossils and artifacts from all over. I didn’t get that far. I turned around and told the man I had something I would like to show him. I went out to my bike and dug out my lucky coyote rock that I found at the base of Mooney falls and another I found about a week before. Both have the natural painted quality that for some reason I love to collect. I say painted but by nature. Where a second color tone is naturally imbedded in the rock and makes an image. The first is in the shape of a coyote that I found almost 2 years ago. It rarely ever leaves my bedroom but for some reason I wanted to take it with me back to Arizona where I found it. The other is a frowning face. I found the frowning face a week or so ago on a rather hot day when I wasn’t feeling so motivated. It makes me smile when I think of it and when I found it. That all those eons ago that rock was formed for me to find just then as I sat on the side of the trail. Either rock is lucky to me. The shop owner appreciated them too and said in a grandiose voice “Oh lucky rocks” with the emphasis on ‘lucky.’ I gave the shop keeper my message and he immediately begins to read it. I also take a free picture of Buddha with his encouragement. He had several in a case for anyone to take. He said it would bring me luck. I choose one that was the last image of that particular one. As I reach into the case I see it is laminated which will keep it looking good even in my wet endeavors. I leave wondering which incarnation this image is. I should have asked but I didn’t want to loiter to long as I know I can’t afford to by anything. The card has writing on the back which I can’t read but maybe at some point I will find someone who can for me. I just love history. Buddhism has a lot of that. I start riding down the trail thinking of that Brad Pitt movie ‘7 years in Tibet.’ I recall how in the movie he has a similar image of Buddha and at one point it saves his life.
I can’t seem to get rid of the soreness in my ankles. Even taking it easy the last few days is doing little for them. Further down the trail I find a gas station. I thought the hose bib on the side would be discrete enough for a cool down. I fill my reservoir and park my bike against the only tree in the back. It was otherwise wide open. I start to slowly pour the cool water over my head. Before the first liter is even over my shoulders the shop keeper is walking around the corner staring at me. I yell from about 40 feet away “cycling cross country- 3 weeks out of Florida- just wanted a little cool down.” He gave me a concerned nod and went back inside. About then, I noticed that all the corners of the C-store had cameras. He must have been watching them from inside even though his store was full of people with cars at pumps as well. I can’t blame a concerned shop owner. I just find it funny how paranoid people are over little old me on a bike. I took about 10 minutes to cool myself down. I filled my reservoir a second time and took off. As I was getting on my bike I noticed my back tire was low on air. I pumped it up abut decided to leave. I didn’t feel the shop owner would have liked me disassembling my bike as well.
I peddled about a half a mile to a BBQ place that was only open dinners. They had a big front porch in the shade and no one around. No cameras either. They did have around a dozen cat food dishes all floating in larger tubes of water. This is to keep the bugs out. Someone obviously likes cats. I never saw a single cat though. I preceded to un-mount my back tire and break it down. I could tell that the leaks were small by the way the air was leaking so slowly. At first, I couldn’t find the leaks but the water tub/ant preventers came in handy. I used one to find a very small pinhole leak. I patched then checked my tire inside and out as is my routine. I found a small piece of wire and then a staple. I took my tube back to the dish and sure enough I had a second leak as well. About 45 minutes later I was back on the road. Fully pressurized tires feels so easy compared to the large knobby tires I ride back home.
Finally in Austin. I made it to the Capital. I slipped my message under the Governors door as his office is closed on Saturdays. I also gave my message to a highway patrol officer who gave directions inside the large building. I felt inclined to explain my actions since he was giving me a weird vibe. I would later find out from a local that the Governor’s office was recently the target of vandalism. That the surveillance cameras where not operating properly at the time and the perpetrators were still at large. No idea if any of that is true being on the road and getting zero news in my world. I next stopped by the University campus. I asked a retail worker in the big museum for directions to the library marked on my map. He informed me since I wasn’t a student I wouldn’t be able to use the computers. I skipped it and the museum that was very busy with people. I did take a few pictures on campus. I stopped a student walking by and asked if he would take my picture as well. He was happy to. I love college towns. I mentioned that I rode from Florida when he asked if I wanted the bike in the picture. “Of course I do” I replied. He wanted to know why I would do such a thing in the dead of summer I gave him my message. As I rode off he was reading it with the utmost of intent.
Later down the strip I ran across a health food store. I am down to about 10 copies of my message at this point. I posted one on the bulletin board outside. I went in and found the first worker I saw. I asked “are you a fan of the environment?” “I’m working” she replied with great attitude. I was thinking to myself ‘I know that is why you have to talk to me.’ So many people think I am trying to preach religion or sell something it puzzles me to no end. I could tell she was absolutely shut down to any idea beyond her job at the moment so I skipped her. I see a cashier who seemed in very high spirits as he danced and sang to the song that was playing. I walk up to him and ask the same question. With a very puzzled look on his face he was like “Uh I duuno, not really.” I could tell this wasn’t the kind of staff I was looking for so I left. The health food stores back in my neck of the woods are staffed with like minded healthy environmentalist. This once again showed me how just because I am used to something in one place doesn’t mean I will find it in another.
Later on down the road I approach a student pumping gas and ask if he knows his way around the town. Always trying to find openings to give my message to someone, he keeps it straight forward not seeming to care that I rode a bike from Florida. He tells me how the road is going to split and to stay right. Gaudalupe will have a bike lane and go through some nice neighborhoods. Although I wasn’t able to pass the message his directions were right on. At the split I even found an apartment complex un-gated with a pool in the center of the 3 story complex. Being in the center it was shaded most of the day and provided a nice relaxing cool down. I parked my bike amongst a rack full of student’s bikes and was able to pass as belonging there. The residence wouldn’t acknowledge me or make eye contact so I just relaxed, wrote, and read for a bit. I even found a quarter on the pool deck. That equates to about 2 and a half minutes on a working payphone in my current world. I stop and make some ramen at a rest stop. I can’t seem to get out of Austin’s suburban sprawl today. As I leave, I see a couple in a suburban eating cheese burgers and fries. I can’t help but think how my meal of ramen and black beans cost about 75 cents. Where as the meal they are eating cost around ten bucks. It amazes me how frugal one can live when they have to or want to.
I could have kept working my old job and just drove to Arizona instead. Heck another 2 week working and I would have got the annual bonus probably a grand or more in my case. Mrs. J even reminded me of this a week before I was to leave as she begged me stay that long. Most people just don’t get it. I am a humble man. That and I needed the extra 2 weeks to take my message that much further. If the working 50 versus 52 weeks means that much difference to the company, well that is there decision. I said as muchto her. She said the bonus was incentive for the coming year. I blew it off, the lord will provide for me I have faith.
After the Capitol, I find an office max on 183. Tim the copy Guru hooks me up with 76 copies of my message- 76 copies to make them one penny less per copy. I love technology. That I can carry a small flash drive that ways next to nothing all this way and have my message stored there for me to print from any computer amazes me. I can’t wait to have my computer at my finger tips in the canyon. I plan on using my five months to do some earnest writing. Before my day ended I also ran into a cool Texan named Mike. We hung out at a picnic table outside his apartment complex off my route. I just needed another break. We make good conversation about working and other things. He was the one to tell me about the Governor’s office being vandalized. One thing we had in common was being fired from a job as manager for dating employees kind of ironic. He now is doing the same thing but they work at different stores so he is OK. I pedal and pedal but can’t seem to find my way back to the wood. I settle as the sun goes down for a discrete metal bench behind a rather large church. Tomorrow is Sunday I wonder if they have an early service?
Sleeping on a metal bench wasn’t the most comfortable night I have had since leaving Florida. The church was right on the route. The bugs were out in force. I think I used half my bottle of picaridin just to keep them at bay at least I was off the ground. Before leaving Florida my body fat percentage was at 5%. I don’t have a lot of cushion. Sleeping in this manner did inspire me to get an early start. My stomach and face are breaking out with contact from poison Ivy or something else I must be allergic too. I stopped at a McDonalds and scrubbed my hands and face with the hottest water the faucet would yield. My skin can be very sensitive to certain plants. I have even had reactions to agave and Brazilian pepper. As a kid, I twice had to go to the hospital for such reactions. Once because my mother thought I was endanger of going blind the other for fear of my throat swelling shut. Luckily, I haven’t had a reaction that bad since childhood. I applied cortisone which I never leave home without when I am in the woods. All these trials and tribulations, for what- to spread my message, to prove it can be done, to be green, to not have a carbon footprint? It is so much easier to live a normal life. If I make the canyon or even out of Texas it will be a miracle. My budget is at the point were ramen, beans and mac-n-cheese will be my only diet. No luxuries like block cheese or cookies. Even then I will probably arrive in the canyon broke and hungry with a few weeks of work before that first check comes around. I kind of figured that before I left though. I will survive-I always have so far. Maybe I should have taken a restaurant gig in the canyon at least that way I could have grazed for the first few weeks. I will do what has to be done.
It has been worst before, I can’t remember when, but I know God is on my side in this. He, in our own way of communication, asked me to do this. He insisted I was the only one who could and reminded me several ways. So my faith will keep me going until it gets better. That is why I say it has been worst because in the past I was without faith. Not having faith in what you do is far worst than believing. At least when I am hungry, itchy, wet, tired, and generally beaten down, I can get angry with God and question the reasons why. He usually answers me. When he does, it is the most glorious wonderful feeling I think one can have- the best thing that can happen in ones life. When God answers your prays and you know it without a doubt. The lord humbles me. As bad as it ever gets, it could always get worst. I been to countries were the majority of the population struggles in much the same way as I am out here. I can even go downtown in my city, or down the Raytheon polluted Pinellas trail to find a transient person who deals with this sort of thing everyday rather than just the 2 months I have to deal. I have a warm bed back in Florida. I have one waiting for me in Arizona. I have all the creature comforts you have in both places. My struggle is getting from one place to the next with out those comforts. I willing accepted the challenge and still do. I may cave in and give up. Not today though. I keep pedaling west.
Man it itches. At least today I still have coffee and oatmeal. It will sustain me as I get past the endless suburban sprawl that is Austin. This will be my last major town for a bit. I so much enjoy the smaller towns as far as charm and ease of passing through. These major cities tend to suck me in and don’t want to let me go. Much like when I would long distance hike. You reach a town and you want to enjoy the hostiles and the all you can eat restaurants. Not to mention cold beer with fellow hikers. The small towns I pass through have a convenience store at best. That takes about 2 minutes to see all of it. I fill my bottles and hit the road. Big cities have so many distractions. Like cable TV, I have an endless set of options. I can go down any road and find distraction and amusement. Small towns have two options- the way you came and forward. One can learn from these simplicities- to avoid all the distractions and focus on just moving forward. Like in life we let distractions get in the way of moving forward in our family life, careers or relationships.
An excerpt from the book I am reading:
‘The habit of mobility has only been reinforced by time. Ever since Daniel Boone took his first excursion over Cumberland Gap, Americans have been wanderers. When Charles Dickens, in the Mississippi Valley, met a full-sized dwelling house coming down the road at a trot, he was looking at the American people head on. With a continent to take over and Manifest Destiny to goad us, we could not have avoided being footloose. The initial act of emigrating from Europe, an act of extreme, deliberate disaffiliation, was the beginning of a national habit. It should not be denied, either, that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led west. Our folk heroes and our archetypal literary figures accurately reflect that side of us. Leatherstocking, Huckleberry Finn, the narrator of Moby Dick, all are orphans and wanderers: any one of them could say, “Call me Ishmael.” The lone ranger has no dwelling place except the saddle. And when teenagers run away in the belief that they are running toward freedom, they more often than not run west”
I believe this quote encapsulates a lot of my wanting to do this journey. I believe those who would read and enjoy my journals would identify with it as well. Trying to escape the oppression of my 40 hour routine, the oppression of what Raytheon has done to my community. That I and my whole community remain helpless until Raytheon decides to act. That without clean ground water I feel I have no dwelling place. So the saddle takes me west were water right are even more fought over and have been since it was settled.
I can’t help but think that someday even Havasu falls, a place I hold sacred will dry up. More and more people tap into Arizona’s aquifer as is the case anywhere you go, enough so that one day the spring that brings life to that canyon and has for eons will run dry. I will go there knowing that I am not helping the problem by drinking the water while I am there. I have the uncontrolled desire to see it again before it is gone. I have had that desire ever since 06’ when I visited the first time. I will fill myself with its grace and beauty as I ponder another place to inhabit. Maybe the magic of that canyon will cure me of these thoughts that are so outside the main stream way of thinking. To swim in the mineral enriched unique blue hues of that water source. When the spring comes out of the ground, it is so crystal clear but within a half a mile picks up that color that has from all the minerals in its path.
What a way to take a low mileage day. About 15-20 miles into my day I find a library. It doesn’t open till 1 o’clock on Sunday’s. If I want to update, I will have to wait 3.5 hours. I kill the time at a park, just blocks away. I decided to patch 2 holes in my gear. The first was in the front bag that rides on the handle bars. This is a hole that I got on this trip. It is also the hole I lost my music player through. The second is a hole in one of my saddle bags that has been there for years. When I modified them with expansions, I totally forgot to fix it back home. Both holes are on corners both require two cloth swatches to do it right. It takes me about 3 hours to get them both back to perfect working condition. This left a half an hour to eat some ramen and black beans with a generous splash of Tabasco. I arrive at the library a few minute before they open. People are already lining up. I get a computer in the work lab that has two hour sessions. I type the whole five hours the library was open. I get only July fourth written. Texas is such a beautiful state it has totally changed the dynamics of my trip and I like it. After it closes, I find a grocery store and then a local hotels pool. I got run off by the all to observant clerks a father son I believe, but I was thanking God as I pedaled away. There just happened to be a police officer right there dealing with another matter. This father son could have made this day hell for me. Instead they let me go without causing a huge fuss. I leave that whole story for another time though. It was quite funny to me actually, looking back I mean.
I ride to the next town. Still can’t find my way out of suburbia. The sun is going down fast. I find a cemetery that looks rather deserted. I do my best to look like a mourner as I enter the gates. I find a spot were the long shadows can reach me next many plots marked Pickle. I had a childhood friend named Wesley Pickle. I wonder how many generations back one would need to go to find a connection if there is one even. I fall asleep after making ramen and corn this time. I slept on a cement slab but not near any graves. I once again leave this full story for later though. It was not a comfortable night sleep. I was so itchy but I had protection from the mosquitoes so I was able to sleep in nothing but my shorts for a change.
Something about sleeping on a cement slab with no sleeping pad, makes for a lousy nights sleep. My eyes are barely able to open. I am so very groggy. I head out early though not wanting to be noticed as I leave the cemetery. I ride north to a Texaco. I make coffee and oatmeal behind the building that shares space with a BBQ place. I am so tired I can’t wait until the day I can sleep in a bed again. To have a bathroom and shower within stumbling distance, hot running water at the turn of a knob, without carrying it in many different containers, what crazy luxuries I so long for. I so need a day off around such modern conveniences. Not until I make Arizona I guess. I wish I knew someone in these parts- someone who would let me shower and update my journals someone who wouldn’t mind if a nature lover like me strung my hammock in there back yard for the dark hours of the night. The thing is I do know someone. My ex-girl friend moved recently not to far from here. No matter how much misery I endure I refuse to talk to her. I am so very itchy but I think the poison ivy is waning. I have a greasy face and stomach from the cortisone. At this moment the canyon feels so very far away. Will I ever make it? I just want to feel normal again, human. I wonder how people live this way, not by choice, ever get used to it? What prevents them from just jumping off a bridge? It must be shift change at Texaco. Two different employees just arrived within minutes of eachother. I hope I don’t get ran off. People just aren’t allowed to exist anymore outside the normal scope of society. It is all about ‘my control’ over the space ‘I’ occupy, and if you don’t meet ‘my’ standards your out of here. The control over the limited power they have in there life. (Talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed) The idea of owning land was so foreign to the native Indians of this continent. The land belonged to anyone. Look at all we have become with the way European man raised this country. It would be so much different if they had never existed- if the red man was given the opportunity to exist in its fashion until this day and age. Sure America wouldn’t be the leading world power, but I doubt I would be cycling across the country to try and bring back clean ground water to my neighborhood.
I am such a small percentage Indian it cracks me up to even think I am one. I am mostly German in fact though I don’t feel that way. I just happen to be able to trace my Indian lineage back to the last full-blood Delaware, Anne Grinter, of the Grinter House in Kansas city, so many generations ago. I can’t trace any other part of my family lineage for some strange reason. The Government in fact recognizes me and all my family as Delaware Indian. Twice in my life time me and all my family received checks from the government when the tribe won law suits. I bought my first car with the first one. It was never much about $1500 all together I imagine for me. The trust fund ended for the descendants that were born just one or two years after me.
I feel a much deeper connection to the earth than my white Anglo ancestry would allow it seems. I am like the white boy who was adopted by the Indian tribe. Only I learned what I know from books, songs, history, and common sense. This world is a gift and God the best gift giver of them all. So many people forget or overlook this. They live in the delusion of entitlement and ownership over other people and things. They forget that in an instant it can all be taken away. When you don’t feel so entitled to everything, it can make life such a wondrous gift that it was intended to be. When everything is a gift- a colorful sunrise, a cool breeze, the song of the birds in the park. Not just the material things we unwrap on holidays and birthdays. The feeling of contentment and well being are the gifts I receive everyday by thinking in this way. A happiness I see missing and devoid from so many of my common man. The coffee is an added bonus it makes me feel warm and empowered on this cool morning. My sense of purpose returns slowly this morning. Back home I would have never been able to eat the same few things day in, day out. Out here and when I backpack I enjoy the same staple with such enthusiasm. I eat every bite every time with the same enthusiasm as the first day. I guess it is the adventure itself that seems to add the missing flavor to everything. To know that today I will gaze upon a completely new set of horizons- to see one landscape after another at my own pace. I passed a dry riverbed this morning. I almost stopped to take a picture because it was so different than everything else I have seen thus far. It had rock outcroppings created from erosion like you see in the canyons of the west. That, and the colors are starting to change to the khakis, grays, and tans of the west. All the while losing the green that marks the water logged east. Not completely yet but starting. The topsoil has gotten dry and dusty as well.
I just met Veronica who works at the BBQ place next door. Apparently the back here is where they take smoke breaks. I didn’t even realize a BBQ place would be open for breakfast but she informed me that it is very popular especially the breakfast tacos. She and anther lady were having girl time as they traded secrets. I was sitting just a few feet away but couldn’t here a single word of there conversation. A few more employees join them. I guess they hit a lull in business. I ask if it is OK that I finish my oatmeal. No one objects. Veronica waits until the rest go back in. I could tell at first glance she was one of those people that leads a happy content life. The kind of server we want waiting on us every time. I imagine she gets good tips for her job. We strike up a conversation. I tell here about my road trip. I give here my message and she retreats inside. A short time later, finished with my oatmeal and packed up, she returns with a breakfast burrito in hand. I got another egg in me, go vitamin B-12. Score, I love the people of Texas Veronica being at the top of my list in Texas now. I ate the burrito with renewed vigor.
I am Lanape. To me this doesn’t mean I wear feathers in my hair or animal bones as clothes, although I would if I thought I could get away with it. Very loosely Lanape means ‘the people’ as in the people that inhabit this land. The name Delaware came about because the European man couldn’t pronounce Lanape. Since they were ‘the people’ of the Delaware basin they became the Delaware Indians. So in a sense the Lanape have been missing since the white man came to inhabit America and renamed us. I am Lanape because I am of this land. I feel the Earth in so many ways that others do not. ‘The people’ to me is more than being born with a pulse. It is about being a care taker of this land. It is about being the type of person who tries to live in harmony in any place they inhabit. When I say “I am Lanape,” that is how I mean it- a person who would seek harmony in the here and now. Like the Lanape’s of pre-colonial America did.
I am in Briggs now. Only one place to stop for water. At least they had the one. The scenery is changing quite a bit now. I left suburbia shortly after ‘Smokey Mo’s BBQ and Veronica. The mileage is going fast today and I am not so hot as previous days. Sweating only a little which makes the itch a little more bearable kind of like your excreting the noxious oils from the skin. I do hope it clears up soon. I must be losing the humidity because being in the shade with a breeze is very delightful. I have about 20 miles to go until I hit a bigger town. I am hoping to make it my mid day stop with a siesta to boot since I tossed and turned all night last night. There are about 100 decent places to string a hammock I can see right now. To bad the sun isn’t at days end or I would. I hope my choices tonight are equally as good.
So I stop at a high bluff next to a cemetery. There is a historical marker telling of the pioneer days. It stands testament to as much even though there is nothing else around really. I take some pictures. Later down the road I find another cemetery It ahs a church that was moved from the sight I was at a ways back. This is the Watson cemetery. I go inside because they have a small covered pavilion to get a few minutes of shade. I read about hoe Tom(?) Watson told his son J.C. that he wanted to be buried somewhere near the road where the cars go by. He also would like to be near the church and somewhere where the water drains easy. J.C. being a noble son granted these wishes and Watson cemetery lies right next to the old Church, a building so small the congregation couldn’t have been more than 10 people. The cemetery started as one acre but had a second acre was donated years later. J.C. made the entryway himself from stone from way across the state he brought here. This is the kind of history I enjoy. Not so much the IMAX and big museums I couldn’t afford back in Austin. The history given in the places it happened. The history most people drive by at 70mph on there way across they ever grueling state of Texas. How many of my friends said “and I hate to drive across Texas.” Well, since being in this state I have had a great eye-opening experience.
About 20 minute up the road from Watson cemetery I get hit by a three quarter ton pick up going 70 miles an hour. I am almost positive it was on purpose too. I was climbing a steep hill when I saw a license plate I stopped and picked it up. This one read Token Trailer. I haven’t found one of those yet. It was a keeper. Being so close to the top I decided to walk my bike to the top and cruise down the back side to give my body a little breather. I was completely in the shoulder when I here a car coming getting louder and louder. I feel a sudden sharp sting on the back of my arm and here a SMACK. I see his tires over the white line marking the shoulder. He hit me with his side view mirror. I went down grabbing my shoulder. I was mostly shocked and caught off-guard. I say I think he did it on purpose because: there was no one else around at the time, I was walking at the top of a very tall hill (I know he had to of seen me), within seconds he was over the hill and out of view and on to new prey, He didn’t stop to see if I was OK. You can’t tell me when you hit something at 70 you don’t here the noise inside the cab. That and I know he saw me go down in his rearview as he crested the hill. I feel sorry for that guys wife and kids if he has any. What an ass to use a three quarter ton pickup in this way. Well I believe in Karma and his check is in the mail!
No blood, nothing broken either. After about ten minutes of sting it just went numb. (Matt in Fishing, at my old job when you here about this I think it was something you would have enjoyed) Anyone who has worked with Matt would get that statement I don’t expect the rest of you too.