Wednesday Night, 6:20pm 3/24/99
Sunday and Monday and Tuesday morning at Jekyll Island Campground with Pam.
Tuesday noon left from small Baptist Church driveway outside Hampton, SC. something was wrong with the bike, still. That high, loud screeching from the crankcase. Something was/is wrong with me, too. Pedaling is terribly difficult. My stamina is gone even before camp is broken. Days... yesterday (Tues.) and today pure drudgery. This in spite of beautiful forest all around me both days.
However, in the tiny towns through which I pass, people seem wary only until I greet them, if at all, then caring and friendly. This heartens me enormously.
I was too exhausted to cook last night or this morning. More later... too tired now. 48 miles yesterday. 35 miles today.
Only 31.87 miles today. Feels like 100 miles!
Am in a restaurant, wearing air supply, in Cayce, SC, a suburb of Columbia. Am stranded in a hard, cold rain and strongish headwind. Hill after hill all gloomy day in that headwind, going uphill. The rain, when it cam, was driving. Cold and soaked and 15 miles from my goal for today, the bike's chain came off in very heavy traffic just after making the city. I gave up and pulled over to come in here, dripping and drawing stares. That was an hour and a half ago. I am still chilled to the bone.
My goal for tonight was State Park on the other side of town. I will not now make it in the heavy traffic, rain and wind. It is already growing dark.
I have noticed that my eyes do not quite focus. Perhaps I ma ill, having passed my body's limitations. I would not be surprised. I would have stayed another night at the Aiken state Park where I camped last night, but it was a hilly six miles round trip from the campsite to a phone, and I wanted to be able to call Kathy in Rock Hill, where I'm headed, and connect with Gail and Andi of the MCS group, as I've been on the road seven days now. Phones have not been available as I had hoped during hours when these people are there to answer.
and I wanted a phone nearby tonight in case the expect "afternoon shower" turned into something more serious, given this cold. and or the temperature dropped or some other weather detail added to the burden on my already stretched-to-the-limit body.
Well, al those things seem to have indeed happened. and I'm stranded here. Cities are bad places to be stranded on a bike. I left the bike route and came to Columbia, instead, because the distance on the bike route from Aiken State Park to the next State park for camping (Drheher Island St. Park) was charted at 75 miles. and the projected mileage has been shy of the actual on previous days, I've found. There was no way I could possibly manage 75 miles, and I knew it. So I faced riding the 48 miles to Columbia on a non-bike-designated route. there is a state park on the NE side of Columbia, and I'd hoped to make that before the storm. Unfortunately, that park is another 10-15 miles from here, by the estimates of several locals.
I called Kathery from 3 miles down the road from camp on my way out this morning, tell her my route and intentions, should I run into trouble. She gave me her father's number in Columbia and told me to call him if needed. I have done so, but gotten the machine twice. Left a message with the number of this place and my name and situation, that was over an hour ago.
So I may have to head out in the rain and cold and wind again soon. But the park to camp is beyond the physically possible. That leaves a motel, and it's inevitable chemical exposures. But would I be able to ride at all after a motel? I admit I'm afraid of what will happen if I check into one. the cost makes me fearful, too. I have already purchased food today at cafes to get indoors. Very expensive. Still, if I had not stopped often today, I couldn't have gotten this far. I stopped every five miles, panting an utterly spent.
People outside the city seem much more willing to offer assistance than those within city limits. At the phone stop this morning, a run down and dirty gas and snacks combo in the middle of nowhere, Ronnie Cook and his brother Jimmie kindly threw Rawley on the back of their flatbed truck and drove us to the large machinery repair place of a friend they hoped to catch before he headed out to Columbia. We missed the friend, but Ronnie spent another half-hour trying other possible ride sources for me before giving up and driving me into Wagner. That saved me seven miles today. But I forgot my bicycling gloves with them, so my hands have been numb all day.
Ronnie is a farmer, soy beans, with his brother. They asked questions and listened to my explanations of MCS and autoimmune disease caused by chemicals, especially pesticides, as I attempted to answer them.
Jimmie has skin cancer. His face was blotched red and raw from the treatments. He did not want to attend church with this face like that . Ronnie drew a correlation with the church plight of those of us with MCS. He impressed me with this thoughtfulness as he imagined the problems we must face. Instead of feeling threatened (he uses farm pesticides and fertilizers, after all), he seemed affected and even warm/sympathetic.
people have seemed that way (until I rode into the city). Yesterday morning after I was too exhausted from breaking camp and loading the bike (2 ½ to 3 hours, no matter how I hurry), I rode six miles before reaching a tiny town. the only obvious diner was closes. But someone, a heavy set man in his fifties or sixties, called and beckoned from a featureless and peeling building on the other side of town. It turned out to be a dingy cafe of sorts, run by an elderly black woman in a shapeless print dress, who said almost nothing. He and I were the only patrons at first. I ordered pancakes and eggs and hoped the gluten-and GREASE-wouldn't kill me.
He too asked thoughtful questions from his table while he ate, and left his card (B and H auto sales) with his name and phone number on the back and "Have a great and safe trip!" Stanley Ross was his name.
After he left another man entered, ordered, and also asked careful question. He left is name, Glen Ownes, and three phone numbers in case I wanted to call for a ride up the road. He could send his daughter, he insisted, if he could not come himself. They would be glad to put me up for the night. He repeated both offers three times, saying he hoped he was not being too forward. Then he left.
When I went to pay, the first man had already covered my bill!
Back to the present problem. 6pm now. I've been stranded here nearly three hours. Still raining, cold, windy and now quite dark. Traffic outside is fierce and hostile seeming. four lanes in every direction and no shoulders. there have been no shoulders this trip so far.
I just called Kathy and Elizabeth's in Rock Hill, my two days hence destination. Kathy was a friend in seminary. Elizabeth answered, and is driving the 1 ½ to 2 hours to pick me up!!
And her I almost didn't dial the number, thinking that there was no reason to bother them from this distance. It never occurred to me one of them might come and get me! The best I'd hoped was to ascertain whether Kathery's father her in Columbia is the type of person who wouldn't mind helping, in case I manage to connect with him.
Wow! here I was not thinking of getting to meet Elizabeth for another 2 days. Now this dreary night will suddenly be bright and warm and wonderful! I'm so happy!
I came back inside and ordered the $4.95, one meat, three veggies special. I'm starved, expense or no expense. Time to celebrate!
In the two hours or so until Elizabeth arrives to take me to Rock Hill, time to reflect a bit. I am afraid of this trip: of the cold to come, of the mountains. I barley make the rolling hills. not to mention the inevitable wind on those mountains. I fear the desolation and the vulnerability. I fear the vast plains to come later. I fear my own frailty and the aloness. I fear running out of money to camp and to pay for bicycle's inevitable needs. I fear mechanical failure of the bike. the chain jumped today just when the climb was steepest, the rain most driving, the cold coldest, and the fatigue most profound. When I was most drenched and shivering and traffic was most dangerous, with trucks bearing down in the storm darkness. The gears on my bike are still slipping ominously.
But I am happy just now. And my heart is full. Why? Because for the first time in my life, I feel I am connect and connecting with people and doing something that matters for us all in terms not usually counted important, but which somehow or other ARE, in God's economy. Perhaps I am simply a silly, deluded woman. I surely must sound that way. But I do not feel that way. Why not? I would, usually-before setting out on this journey, I easily felt that way about my self. Now that I apparently have cause, I don't. Go figure.
When people ask me what I'm doing I tell them I am riding for over 300 faithful people with autoimmune systems wrecked by chemicals. I am doing my ministry at last. I feel very close to God, to the MCS friends who ride with me in spirit, and to those I am meeting along the way. Some of them, like Ronnie Cook this morning, leave me with expressions on their faces that I cannot always interpret exactly, but which touch me deeply: they look as though they have been touched in some profound way. It is a mystery. and I am flabbergasted.
The rest is worth that alone.
In a simple guestroom above the dining hall of an interdenominational Christian camp; atop a very high mountain in the Great Smokies, somewhere near Brevard, N.C. Living Waters Retreat Center. The shape of my ministry on this journey seems to be further emerging at this place. That ministry is not in leading, but in being led. That I am here is so unlikely, unplanned and yet so perfectly in line with my general direction and especially with the turn my needs have taken, physical and spiritual.
This Refuge has an inevitable quality to it, as though it is an unavoidable fixture that was waiting on my path and I was bound to come to it as I moved along the way, whether I saw it from a distance there, or not.
Several weeks ago, a couple of months now, I sent a request for help finding a bike route from St. Petersburg, Fl, to the TransAmerican trail in Berea, KY. I received a reply from Earl Langford, who said he lived in the mountains in North Carolina, and had lived in Florida. He offered to route me. Further, Earl was to visit an old bicycling buddy the following weekend when he cam back to Florida to close a deal on a house in Lake city. He offered to meet me on the Pinellas Recreation Trail, where I rode daily in preparation for this cross-country journey.
He met me the following Saturday with his friend, Skip, and we rode to Clearwater for lunch at a health food grocery's cafe, "Nature's Finest Food Patch." Both Earl and Skip are long retired outdoorsmen. Skip had since retirement walked the entire Appalachian Trail.
Earl had brought a CD atlas to loan me for use in mapping the entirety of my trip, and more specific maps for the portion I needed routing help with. He bought me lunch. And when he and Skip rode me a ways back up the trail towards St. Pete before saying goodbye, he offered to meet me at a campground at the foot of the Great Smokies, an hour's drive from his home, in order to give me a lift over the highest peak.
So two days ago at Kathy's, when I was agonizing over possible routes through the mountains again, having realized by now that none of them was within my ability, I decided to call Earl and ask which way was least precipitous. To clarify my dilemma in considering which route to choose, I admitted the reality of the low state of my stamina. Earl simply offered to pick me up where Kathy and Elizabeth were to drop me off-a three hour's drive for them and an hour each way for Earl-and to take me to the Christian camp in which he lived, there to put me up for two days, until he was free to take me all the way over the mountains and trough Tennessee to the Kentucky boarder.
At the Kentucky boarder, at Jellico, TN, I will pick up a KY bike route north to Germantown and then west to HWY 50 near Cincinnati, OH. God willing, the nighttime lows will not plunge below endurable for camping before I reach Toledo on the Ohio bike route I will be taking from Cincinnati to Toledo.
Meantime, I'm here at Living Waters, a retreat of "There is More Ministry, Inc." The group describes itself as a charismatic ministry whose members hail from many denominations. They are the result of the circuit-riding ministry of one Methodist woman, Sue Wyatt, who died of MS four years ago.
This camp is breathtakingly gorgeous, 55 acres tucked high in the Great Smokies near Brevard. Earl says the last mile up the mountain to Living Waters has ninety-two sharp curves! I didn't count on the way up yesterday late afternoon, but I believe it. "Steep" doesn't begin to describe the ascent.
I am sitting here now in a wooden swing chair overlooking a magnificent waterfall on the North Fork of the French Broad River. The vista is straight out of "A River Runs Through It," only better. I am in the woods again, with my evergreens and mountain rhododendrons and noisy stream, before having to cross to the Pacific NW of my origin.
Last night I was introduced to the residents of this place, who built their own homes here and who eat together in their common dining hall below the dorm rooms where I am staying until Earl taken me back down the mountains tomorrow.
They included me in their circle for a prayer before dinner and then sent me through the chow line first as the honored guest.
Their kindness is inspiring. This morning Charlene ("I was named father, 'Charlie'.") came through the dining hall on her way to town and offered a few helpful hints about using the equipment in the industrial kitchen as I prepared my breakfast. I mixed the alternative grains in my pack into my flatbread and grilled the eggs they provided. The kitchen is as well equipped to handle the regularly hosted retreats for various interdenominational groups as is the amply stocked pantry. Provisions are largely home canned, and grown, by the residents. The growing is Earl's job as resident master gardener.
They built/build the buildings, too, which are solidly crafted. These people are retirees who bring their life sills with them and their resources, to the many facets of the ongoing creation and maintenance of this place. Each considers this life his or her calling. Their guiding premise is that no person or group will ever be charged remuneration for anything while they are the guests of Living Waters. Its founder felt called in a dream to create this place as a "refuge." Although she decided not to pursue it after receiving little support from those with whom she shared her dream vision, she was later approached by someone on her ministry circuit with the offer of this land. From there on funds for the purchase and development of the property were donated to here ministry, and people came forward to work and eventually relocate there .
This morning one couple, Bill and Ellen, came while I was preparing my breakfast, prepared their own and joined me in the dining room. We were the only ones there. I had to move down from Ellen due to her personal care products, and feared causing here offense in the process. Instead they both encouraged me in what became a rather lengthy discussion of MCS and autoimmune damage from toxic chemicals. They both insisted they were fascinated and thankful to learn about environmental illness and its pervasiveness, and the omnipresence of toxins in our lives. Ellen began to correlate some of her own health problems to the environmental factor, and bill talked of his niece who nearly died of her "allergies." Yet neither of them had heard of the role of environmental toxins in disease process. Both seemed truly engrossed in the exchange. And both said they were thankful for what they consider God's ministry through me and the MCS faithful friends I told them all about, who are supporting me in so many ways on this journey that more and more clearly is ministry-emerging-in-the-doing.
Earl's wife Hazel is going with her mother into Brevard after lunch and has asked me to go along. Now that I've been out here by the waterfall writing this I feel more up to it. Being indoors too long had left me feeling pretty ill until just a bit ago.
I'm in good spirits and so very thankful for all God has sent my way through so many new people since Thursday night. But I am physically ill. I only hope I will be able to handle getting back on the loaded bike for long periods beginning again tomorrow. And most of all, I hope I will be able to tolerate the weather and to sleep.
Earl arrived downstairs at the empty dining hall at 7:15 am, fifteen minutes before designated departure time. I'd risen at 6 after a usual night of fitful sleep with more bathroom runs than usual due to worsening diarrhea from fudging my diet. Had mixed and cooked my millet flatbread and two eggs by the time he arrived, cleaned up, packed , etc. He produced his expensive sleeping bag cover for me to borrow, in hopes I might be warmer, and more route maps, fresh from his computer map program. He loaded Rawley, gear and drove me six full hours to Williamsburg, well beyond the planned drop off in Jellico. His total drive time for me today alone was twelve hours. He was trying to get me clear of the worst mountains and onto the KY bike route. He refused even gas money.
Unfortunately, it has been raining steadily all day. Earl helped me erect the little tent and then had to go in order to get back up the mountain before dark, not happy about having to consign me to such conditions and the forecast for more of same to come.
Also unfortunately, there is no campground here. I'm behind a mom-pop motel with camping in the back, right on the freeway among the usual businesses that cater to truckers. Ugh. In the wet and gloom.
Also, and most unfortunate: the people I paid to fix Rawlie in Rock Hill apparently goofed up putting on the new tubes, and the rear tire was flat when Earl took it off the truck. Earl reinflated it before he left, but neither of us is sure it will stay inflated. So Rawlie is behind the motel in the rain and I walked in the rain to this truck stop cafe in order to escape the wet general dismalness of the cramped tent. That was three plus hours ago. Hopefully it has not been vandalized. What appears to be project housing skirts the fence behind and beside the tent.
Still, I'm not too discouraged. If the rain lets up a little and I can somehow get the tire fixed, I'll be okay. That is, I'm thinking in terms of a better tomorrow after this gloomy night. And hoping the forecast (for more rain tomorrow), is wrong. If not, maybe I can manage to keep semi-dry, fix the flat somehow, and kill time in the local library, if I can reach it and they don't spray.
Food is another challenge in this weather. Hence the diarrhea.
Actually, it's the bike route that most puzzles me. I've been staring at it for over three hours and can't make out the roads with certainty, or the distances between possible campgrounds.
The campground Earl and I had planned to reach, Cumberland Falls State Park, didn't pan out: we found out at the TN boarder with KY that the campground doesn't open until tomorrow. Grrrrr....
One goal If I'm stuck here tomorrow, and even if I'm not, is to find out where the devil the campgrounds in Daniel Boone National Forest, which I'll be skirting the next several days, are located. They don't show up on the map.
Enough. Peace, love and joy to all who will read this-to whom I write and whom I carry with me mile by mile.
*Forgot to mention yesterday afternoon with Earl's wife Hazel and her mother (87 years old, also Hazel) in Brevard. I was given the sidewalk tour of Brevard and treated at the original old time soda fountain, where Hazel filled me in on her life, Christian counseling stories and rather sound philosophy, learned, she says, after a rather self-righteous beginning: 1) don't judge anyone: leave discernment to God 2) Don't try to "help" until the person seeks help on their own. Hazel is a solid person in all apparent ways. I liked her and her mother enormously.
There were several errands/stops before the long return drive up the mountain.
I was exhausted when we returned by 5:30 pm. The long drive in a car did me no good physically: fumes. Cleaned up and arrived late for dinner, during which I listened to the same elderly piano teacher Mary Katherine tell me all about herself again, as the night before. She too is 87. Interesting, but I was so blithering tired I could hardly follow. After dinner they were going to have their hour's bible study and then pray for me with laying on of hands and anointing with oil. Hazel had suggested this on the way back in the car, and after checking too make sure they didn't put oil anywhere but the forehead, I agreed, mostly to please her, and because you never know, it might in some ways be curative, what with all the positive energy involved in the prayers of the good people. In any case, this was their way of expressing caring, and you can't get enough of that.
However, I couldn't stay awake, so they prayed, laid on hands and anointed me directly after dinner so I could retire. The whole procedure was deeply moving. I took their picture at dinner. I hope it turns out.
I didn't have the heart to tell them when I strongly reacted to the oil. And anyway, tearing up was entirely appropriate to the occasion. I will never forget the, these generous, gentle souls. Or the place of beauty and majesty that is their mountain home. God is nowhere if not with them there, praying for the rest of us with grateful, loving hearts.
When I told Earl's retreating back I want to show my appreciation, after he refused even gas money, he said "Visit us again." and "Call collect in Toledo to let us know you made it that far."
Camping by the freeway behind a motel is NOT conducive to sleep, especially in a cold, night long rain. Gave up at six am, mixed my medicine in a cup in the tent, parsed out my supplements and trudged to the wash house. A dirty affair: no toilet tissue, clogged shower drain. Washed and walked over here to the truck stop cafe again to turn on my personal air supply and try to get past newspaper fumes for the weather report. No rain today or tomorrow, it read, though it is now after nine am and still raining. I have no way to dry even my wash towel but to leave it hanging in that was house and hope it doesn't disappear.
The prospect of camping here another night would be less dismal if I were not doing it surrounded by traffic. Would like to make it at least the twenty to forty-five miles to the now open state park campgrounds. Mileage is so uncertain, and difficult. But facing it would be better than another night like last. My lungs ache. Too many fumes. Headache and gut/hemorrhoid inflammation from effects of exposures to fumes and from the diet.
This too shall pass, however.
Time for reflection. The conversation with my road angels in their van on the way to Skidway Island Campground last Saturday returns. How likely is one to find people on a trip like this one, conversation with whom turns easily to thoughtful consideration of topics we covered? My situation raised issues of contrast between what their/our faith communities profess about compassion and the extent to which members of those communities actually act compassionately for their faith. In faith.
Lurlyne pondered her own reluctance to act, saying she would not have had the courage to stop for me and offer assistance as Brenda had, though she would have wanted to. She speculated that I too must be braver than she, to have accepted Brenda's offer.
Conversation deepened to how it is fear that prevents acting in love.
We considered personal as well as corporate/cultural examples of this. We were all members of mainline churches. We considered how property and investments generate their own fears in our churches, just as in our personal lives. Fears of losing security and possessions that prevent even registering, seeing, opportunities for compassion.
Investments in chemical relate industries, for example, by our denominations, especially mine, are unexamined/unconscious factors that generate fear of acknowledging MCS and environmentally mediated autoimmune disorders of all kinds. Even when the ministers, the visible ones in the church, can no longer enter the buildings or be otherwise around other Christians who wear diverse chemicals, wash their clothing and clean with them, and so on. Even as our numbers grow and ministries like the Jeremiah project and my own ministry, for that matter, and others, strive to alert our religious communities to not only our predicament, but to the real danger of similar illness befalling them, too-our efforts remain ignored, hidden. Selective ignorance continues among the churches, despite the danger to all, and despite the need for compassion and change. Despite the fact that other Christians cannot e en attend church for all the chemicals off gassing into the air from the building materials and the bodies and clothing of those inside.
I suggested that the impetus behind all this is not so much overt hard-heartedness, as fear. I believe that when all is said and done, fear is one of two motivating forces behind everything. The other is love. They are in most instances mutually exclusive. They impede one another.
During that trip together in Brenda's van, my two new friends and I examined our own lives, and found the truth of fear vs. love in example after example from our own lives.
Quite a ride with two strangers.
And then again, two days ago, I found myself again with two strangers, Hazel, Earl's wife, and her mother, Hazel, listening to her ponder related issues. How Hazel has faced trying to live compassionately in her life and work-how she had to unlearn "self-righteous," "legalistic," "having answers for everything," "Being primarily judgmental" according to the teachings of her church from cradle through graduation from her Christian college. It could have been any of a number of Christian upbringings with the same result.
Yet she had come to learn that compassionate living according to one's faith heritage require unlearning judgementalism and thinking one has all the answers in one's theology, as well as learning one has no control in helping others: one can only offer what help one has and be satisfied, not requiring assurance of expected results. Leaving those in faith to God. Hazel, this stranger, sat pondering this all aloud over ice cream on her nickel the one day I knew her.
this after a morning of similar topics that followed from those who sat to share breakfast at my table in an empty dining hall where I was guest. This from people who asked about my journey, my illness, my ministry, and then started thinking out loud, saying "I'd never thought about chemicals like this before. I just never knew. but now that I think about it...."
And on to implications of "WHY haven't I let myself? What would happen if I did? What does this mean for my Christianity? My church?"
Surely I can't keep meeting these profound sorts gracing my journey?
Either I've been extraordinarily lucky, or.... ??
I don't know. But getting back to the present:
It's now ten am, weather still bleak and wet. And relentless country western music keeps blaring repetitiously throughout this truck stop cafe. The same truck stop western ballads, over and over ad naseum.
Please God, let the sun come out and stay that way, so I can get out of this place!
Oh, oh-but then there's that flat tire, with no bike shop in town.
And the tent's sopping wet.
Well, guys, it would be a comfort to be sharing all this with you on a nice keyboard instead of longhand. Then I could just push the "send" button and off it would all go. You all seem farther away, and I more alone-on-my-own out here, when the words just sit here, continuing to pile up page on page, unshared.
Broke camp under threatening skies and rode the 35 miles to Levi Jackson State Park. A full day's misery of one hill after another. For a "normal" biker it would have been nothing. Sheez. Was told camping fees jump to $14. per night at KY state parks day after tomorrow. No disabled discounts unless you are a KY resident. Sheez.
A very hard day. Hard ride. Headache now from trying to cook on my smoky stove with wet kindling. The food failed. It as too dark to see what I was doing. A big sootie mess. My towel and everything else is wet. It is supposed to rain over the weekend, too.
I am ready to admit failure and leave the cooking supplies behind. they are heavy, and I'm too exhausted to fool with them, and the setting up, taking down and endless clean ups. It just isn't working out. The broken spokes on my back wheel alone are testimony to that, and the failing straps of the panniers.
I just want to read for awhile now. The science fiction novel by Ursula Le Guin that Pam chose for me to buy is quite good.
I wonder how I shall manage the food situation without cooking supplies? Dietary restrictions are so, well, restrictive. Gluten intolerance and having to avoid preservatives are the hardest to get around on the road.
And everything costs so much!
Gross: my gut is sick, again. Still.
Cold morning. Hills/mountains so steep at times (at end of day, trying to get up hill to KOA) that I had to stop every few grunting steps walking the bike, and push hard against the handlebars to keep the bike from rolling back downhill. A dark day, though sunshine had been forecast.
Strained all day to make the 33 miles. Wanted to reach Berea, but am still 13 miles short. This KOA campground was my only option. Expensive.
Asthma's been a problem on the steep hills. Having to walk the bike, pushing uphill, with sweat soaked T-shirt cold on my skin and HEAVY truck fumes. And the spray rigs, trucks spraying the road as they pass, all contribute to my problems. I suspect my lack of muscle power owes to the fumes too, among other factors.
It is impossible to stay dry with this wet weather. The constant grayness is spirit dampening, too.
Tonight I am camped and wanting to relax, but after the office closed a truck and trailer rig loaded with household things pulled up to my tent, at 8:45 p.m., to begin moving in a woman over camp office. They are extremely snotty in attitude. I was almost recovered until they arrived, despite a buzzing utility pole behind my tent. It came on buzzing loudly at nightfall, and buzzes still, incessantly.
Almost didn't try to journal tonight; I am in too self-pitying a space to do it well. I seriously doubted I'd make it today... doubted it with each successive mile.
Broke camp this morning swollen with reactions: mold, pollen and divers fumes from propane tanks and RV engines.
The 13 miles into Berea from camp were hellish. I was weak and feeling ill; it was one steep climb after another, requiring me to push the bike uphill and walk it amid heavy traffic fumes and allergens, like lots of milled and/or treated logs piled high on logging trucks booming past in plumes of water and bike-destabilizing blasts of wind. The toxins all held low by heavily overcast skies. And it rained the whole time. Traffic was very heavy and often hostile.
My stomach was too upset to eat all morning. I finally reached Berea by praying my way up the hills and through the coldness of rain saturated clothing in cold wind.
My salvation began at the tourist information center, to which I was directed by passersby I'd stopped to ask about where I might find food and bus information. by then I was sick and weak and dizzy enough to realize that finding a bus through the remaining hilly region of KY was a better option than trying to bike it. Buses are risky for me because of the fumes and pesticides and people's personal care products, but I really had to do something.
Without Gayle Buchanan at the Information Center, I would have gotten nowhere with the bus, what was by then distinct illness, including dizziness and nausea aside. The first thing I needed to know was whether boxes for my bicycle were available at the bus station, as they are in larger cities. Without the box, Greyhound will not take the bike. The first time I stopped in at the tourist center seeking this information, Gayle got right on the phone, but after several calls still got no answer at the bus station. Since it was only a block away, she urged me to go there and said to return if they didn't carry bicycle boxes, and she would call Wal-Mart to see if they had one.
Because I hadn't yet eaten that day and asked for directions to someplace to eat on my way to the bus station, Gayle directed me to Hogg Heaven, a sandwich shop, deli and gift shop across from the bus station. As I left the information center I was introduced to Joe Osolnik, a local who was on his way in to visit a bit with Gayle, and who was to prove supportive later on.
I hit Hogg Heaven first, where I met Alice Linville, who was looking after the shop while the Hoggs spent the week out of town. Alice, it turned out, has fibromyalgia, which she shared upon learning of my journey's genesis and the MCS group in the wings. Alice was to end up spending the rest of the afternoon looking after me and Rawlie, along with Gayle and her husband Don.
It was a long afternoon. The bus station turned out to be a dirty, smoke filled grocery-cafe combination run by a woman whose name I did not catch and her very surly husband and granddaughter. None of them seemed to know when the buses ran for sure, except the woman, who kept disappearing for a "nap." Her husband was annoyed that I needed help with bus schedules, and didn't know how to handle the transaction. He angrily told me his wife shouldn't be disturbed. I should come back later. However, since the bus counter was to close in five minutes and not reopen until two days later due to Easter, waiting wasn't an option.
By that time I'd already been to this state once before, at which time I'd ascertained from the woman that they did not have bicycle boxes, and that I would have to come up with one somehow if I was to purchase a ticket by 2 pm, when they closed the bus portion of their business.
Back to Gayle at the information center. Alice a t Hogg Heaven, meanwhile, had taken Rawlie and all my provisions inside the restaurant against theft, and was looking after the things I'd left at my table when I went to the bus station. By the time I reached the information center again, Alice had called Gayle to say she had taken my things inside and was keeping an eye on them.
Now feeling even more ill from the smoke at the bus station on top of everything else, I waited while Gayle made several unsuccessful calls to find a box. Finally she talked Greyhound in Lexington into sending a bike box down on the next bus. Then she paid the $15. fee and adamantly refused reimbursement from me, on the grounds that she taught Sunday school and practiced what she preached about helping others. So there.
Moreover, I was to bring the box from the bus station for her to store until she closed at five, at which time her husband would come and take me, Rawlie, my gear and the box to the campground at which I planned to spend the night. I could disassemble and box the bike there, and her husband would pick me up in the morning and get me back to the bus station in time for my bus.
Back to Alice at Hogg Heaven, where she prepared more peppermint tea and hard mega-pretzels to follow up the chicken soup and toasted sourdough bread she had prescribed and prepared for me earlier. I was back across the street to meet the bus with my box, which I proceeded with toward Gayle's. Alice intercepted me, taking the box inside on the grounds it was too heavy and awkward for me, as I was sick (admittedly, this was true).
Soon Gayle's husband showed up. Don Buchanan sat down and began a good natured discussion that included asking about by journey and listen with real interest about autoimmune damage from environmental toxins and the MCS folk supporting my journey. He pronounced the philosophy behind my decision to undertake my journey "profound"-not nuts, but profound. Of course, I liked him immediately. Don talked at length about his family and the town, and about the impact of the thousands of cross country bikers who first came through town on their way coast to coast when the TransAmerican Bicycle Trail first opened in 1976 to accommodate "Bike Centennial," which was part of the nation's bicentennial celebration. He talked of the pride Berea felt, and the "awe," when the bikers came riding through town, stopping on their way --many groups of them over the coarse of that year.
When I left Alice at Hogg Heaven and headed over to the information center at five, Don had already loaded Rawlie, gear and box into his pick-up truck, "Old Blue."
Gayle was waiting with $40. from Joe Osolink, the local I'd briefly met on my first visit. Joe had asked about my trip and wanted to make a donation to the cause! I got his address for a thank you card later.
So Don took me to the campground, where I now am. It's 2 a.m., and I'm in the tent in my sleeping bag and two jackets, unable to sleep with the freeway just outside and the wind flapping the tent.
I couldn't get the bike to fit in the box until I'd drastically disassembled it. I greatly fear parts will be damaged if there is any mishandling of the box by those who stow it under the bus. That could be expensive.
Dayton was my only choice from here in the next few days. So I called Diana Jackson, a member of the internet MCS group who has written me several e-mails expressing her support and asking me to call if I came near Dayton on my journey. she and her husband agreed to meet my bus tomorrow afternoon and to take me to a nearby campground.
Also, the bus experience will last the better part of the day due to layovers and so on. With no sleep and bus and bus terminal environment that are bound to include toxins, I'm uneasy about the shape I may be in when I arrive at a campground tomorrow evening with a box of bicycle pieces. Maybe the forecast will change and it won't rain, after all.
I wish I hadn't had to pack my towel while it was wet. Sigh.
Self-pity rears its head again.
I was blessed today in many ways, through many people. I suspect that despite a night by the freeway in less than wonderful circumstances and despite exhaustion and not feeling good and Rawlie's present state that solutions will somehow appear as needed, and I will find myself continuing and making due somehow, with a little help from those God keeps sending. (I can't help noticing, though, that God has a way of often waiting until I'm literally about to drop.)
Tonight while I was ineptly fitting bicycle pieces into the box and wondering if I'd ever remember how they went back together, a man who introduced himself as a Baptist preacher walked up with fliers for his ministry and to invite me to his worship service in the morning.
When I told him in answer to his questions about my journey and sense of mission, he rather patronizingly said he could see how I might have imagined that the Lord had told me to do this, and how the Lord telling me to do this might seem to me perfectly sane, but....
So I corrected him by saying that no, in fact I had at first suspected that God was having a nervous breakdown and ought not to be humored.
At that point he changed track and admitted he was having increasing problems tolerating environmental chemicals, but that his wife in particular didn't believe his cries of distress when, for example, she sprayed air freshener when he came home. Rather than speculate on the implications of her pulling out the aerosol can when he walked in the door, I simply encouraged him to somehow convince her of the harmful effects of the stuff. He agreed than an internet search for information on MCS would probably be helpful to him.
He left encouraging me to note the website on the bottom of his literature in case I wanted him and his church to pray for me. That was nice, but what I really needed was help with boxing the bike or setting up the tent, as I had lost the daylight during his visit, and it was now dark. Oh well.
I've noticed that it's awfully hard to get help at churches so far on this trip. I've so far not been able to get anyone to answer the door when I've tried them, even at the Presbyterian church where there was a car left running outside with vestments in the back seat.
Just a notation. It will be interesting to study this further. But it does seem individuals have been the accessible vehicles of grace so far.
Easter Sunday. Dozed an hour or during the night before striking tent and hustling gear undercover of the bathhouse eaves when it started raining before dawn.
Don Buchanan arrived to gather me and gear at 8:30 a.m., and stopped to buy me coffee, a Sunday paper and a McDonalds sausage and egg McBreakfast thingie. None of it is allowed on my diet, but I accepted ant ate it anyway because he seemed so delighted to be playing host. (This was a mistake: Now, to my chagrin, I can't help wanting more McFood. Why does the forbidden food seem to taste sot GOOD?)
Waiting for the bus, Don introduced me to a local man who showed up briefly outside the closed Greyhound station. Otherwise I listened with interest to forty minutes or so of his history in Berea and in the Korean war; to more about his children, grandchildren and family in general; to his thoughts on issues of the day, especially the war in Kosovo and the morality of our involvement it previous wars, as well. He voiced concern about the decline of values in America, and the role of television and movies in that perceived decline. He spoke with genuine concern and without vindictiveness or bitterness. Not as a reactionary but as an honest individual trying to make the world more human from the window on life from which he tried with all integrity to see, interpret and respond to life as responsibly as he could. A good and generous man with a good and generous spouse, both delighted to believe the best and to respond to opportunities to live out the good, caring faith they profess. They both reached out and befriended beyond what was asked, both with obvious gladness for the opportunity to believe in and briefly accompany a stranger on her way through their familiar ground. Salt of the earth.
Don not only stowed bike and gear under the bus, but carried my carry on and saw me to my seat, inviting me back as their guest "Anytime, now! You know that!" Enormous grin and hearty wave from the front of the bus.
I snapped his photo. I wish I had remembered the camera yesterday for Gayle and Alice. I am still not used to having it.
In the layover in Cincinnati I found that once the transfer to the bus to Dayton was done, I could continue on to Toledo without changing buses again for $22. Since I was doing better on the bus than I'd foreseen, and since the foreseeable forecast is for rain, storms and nighttime cold, I decided to call and cancel the pickup in Dayton with Diana Jackson. She agreed that proceeding to Toledo and breaking for warmer weather before continuing the journey made sense. Bev and Dave, two of my friends in Toledo, weren't home, but Allen of Allen and Holly was, so they all know I'll be coming in at 7:10 pm. I hope they're glad to see me so far ahead of schedule. I know they are worried about finding ways to accommodate the MCS, when ways are simply not findable to the degree they'd like. I have not seen them all in years. In many ways this is a close to trying to return "home" as it gets for me. I have missed them all just horribly.
I hope to somehow resurrect Rawlie in short order. To maintain a transportation option while I am in town is important to me.
I hope this decision strengthens my chances for making the rest of the journey in better form. As the Ohio landscape rolls past, it appears so reassuringly, deliciously flat!
My spirit is reviving already at the sight of it, along with hope I really can accomplish this journey.
A few days later. I have finally managed to get the journal typed so I can send it off in e-mail. I've not reread it for lack of time and stamina. But it's at least shareable in the rough now.
Rawlie cost $69.01 to have reassembled because mishandling of the box in spite of my instructions to Greyhound resulted in damage. But at least now he's rideable again, though still in need of tweaking here and there.
Ventured out yesterday briefly to test Rawlie out for the first time after his reassembly, but encountered the duly forecast 30-45 mile and hour winds. At one point the bike was literally blown off the road into the curb with me on it!
All is well.
My greatest hope is that sometime during this trip, whether next week, next month, tomorrow, even today, heretofore opportunity will materialize to build a new life, and the means to actualize it. I am searching for what that may mean, keeping an eye out, believing I will recognize "it" when I see it. And looking for words to convey better what I mean.
Shalom, peace, gladness my friends,