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Post  ChasingSanity on Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:27 am

Sunday, December 5th, 2010
On the way out of Houston, I stopped at an Academy Sporting Goods store. They had several compasses for $3, I can afford that. Smile I rode on. In Dickinson, TX. I stopped at the Community Center, hoping for seniors to talk with about my story, no seniors but I asked about drrink9ing water. The boss lady said talk with the guy in the next room. He was an older man, simply dressed and he was working on a puzzle. I figured he was mentally deficient getting unofficial supervision. He is a retired architectural engineer. Smile So much for my ability to read a book by it's cover. Smile We talked a while, I asked him about a place to camp for free for the night. He has several suggestions. I cho0se the VFW center down the street. They let me camp in back, nice setup. I rode out in the morning and got into Galveston the next day.

When I rode across the bridge into Galveston, I stopped on top and made a movie of the view. It was too noisy to talk. People all told me you get arrested for riding your bicycle on the bridge, so how did I get away with it? I did not know any better, I did not see any signs and I got lucky.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
I saw a chiropractors office and stopped in to ask if I could get a free alignment. I knew I needed it but could not afford it. They said yes. My goal of seeing the world from my bicycle opens many doors. It helped that on that day, business was a little slow for them. While I was waiting for the chiropractor, I got a phone call. One of the guys I met in Amarillo said the police called him looking for me. "For what?" They found your wallet and want to return it to you. YES! Wow, just writing that has me in tears. I asked the ladies working at the chiropractors office if I could use this address to get my wallet mailed to me. "Sure."

I got on the internet at a coffee shop in Galveston, I did a web search for churches and started calling them asking for permission to camp out on their grounds. I targeted the ones that were close to the chiropractors office and far away from the bums downtown. The first number I called had a live person but he said he could not let me stay there. The last time he allowed someone to camp out he nearly lost his job. Odd for a Christian church. I felt sorry for him. I called the other churches and left messages. The sixth church had a live person, he said yes, I could camp out. He apologized for the condition of the backyard mentioning water damage from hurricane Ike.

It took me a while to find the church. I ate dinner and just got started setting up my tent when the police came by. Before they even got a word out, I said I got permission to camp here. I did not know the name of the pastor I talked with on the phone but I had his number on my cell phone. Smile I gave the number to the police officer, he called, thankfully, the pastor answered the phone. The police said looks like we are done here and he left. I had everything in order to meet that eventuality. Smile

Hmm, I should sum up Galveston. I stayed at the Salvation Army for the three days they allow. Galveston is a small town with nice enough (they are on the edge of nice/not so nice) homeless people During which time I hunted down all the nearby carved live oak statues (I was stunned by the beauty of the houses and saddened at the damage done by the hurricane), asked a guy working near the Elisa sailing ship about working on a ship to cross the o, the food cean. He said Key West is not where they sail to Europe, you go further north. He also said it is harder to work across than it used to be. I got my wallet, asked for and received a free retread on my orthodic shoe inserts and got my food stamps Friday. But, the foods stamps are still not working yet and it is Tuesday now. I stayed my last night at the Salvation Army and left after "The Hobo Breakfast". Then I left.

more later

December 10th, 2010
Whoof! So many things have happened. Between Hobo Breakfast and crossing the Texas-Louisina state line? I rode the Galveston ferry, lost $50 and favorite belt when I changed pants and found out the pants were not secured enough. Painful lessons relearned; 1) verify, do not assume and 2) put everything back in it's place. I was miles and miles away when I realized what was missing. Well, things come and go with the tides of life.

It took longer than expected to get to Beaumont. I called my two contacts, Rick, the bicyclist I met just south of Topeka, KS and Aaron, Scotty's friend from Bastrop. (except he's not much of a friend to Aaron, maybe that's why Aaron didn't return the call? I planned for all that. Smile Rick answered his cell phone immediately.

Rick showed me around Beaumont on our bicycles, all the thrift stores, told me about his camp and the homeless shelters. I chose Rick's place, tested safe, social interaction with someone tested to be a friend and it just seemed like the right to thing to do. We rode by a couple guys with Styrofoam boxes of hot food; “was that free?” Yep, you better hurry if you want some. Rick and I hurried, it was for a good cause, our bellies.

We met a lot of good people volunteering for their church at a soup kitchen they have every 1st Sunday in the park. One of the volunteers is a lady that worked on the Hope Ship. I mentioned to them I am looking for a pair of size 14 running shoes. One of the volunteers, Gary, called me later that night; he found a pair of shoes for me but it would have to wait until after he got off work the next day.

Ricks camp is buried very deep in some woods. I set up my hammock in some nearby trees. In the morning, I said my goodbyes to Rick. I registered with Texas Work Force to get my food stamps working. I waited for Gary to get off work, met with him and rode outside of Beaumont looking for a place to camp. Got that pretty quick.

I rode into Orange, asked about the nice homeless shelter I heard about, checked for a scrap yard that I could sell the aluminum cans I started collecting since meeting with Rick. I missed the scrap yard closing for the night by a few minutes. I called House of Serenity, tried to understand the voice message and rode in that direction. It was a long ways. Why is it everything seems further away than I think it should be? Smile

The people at Serenity House were... like a warm fire, coming in out of the cold. They had a shower and laundry facilities for me. In the morning, I rode on. Little did I know, Orange is on the Texas, Louisiana border. I was so close to Louisiana.

I crossed the brifge and stopped at the tourist center for my free map. They had free coffee too! And I got bicycle maps showing heavily traveled roads, roads with shoulders... I was in heaven.

I get outside and see this tall man with a ponytail haircut. He was wearing a shiny black leather duster, a full length, lightweight cowboy style coat. I said “Are you Penn from Penn and Teller? You look younger and thinner.” He grinned a silly grin at the idea and looked at my bike. “Are you seriously riding your bike to Australia?” We got to talking. Johnathan gave me his card and said look him up. He has a Bed and Breakfast, Bechet House, in Carencro. He seemed a bit young for that, maybe it was a family business? I told him my immediate plans, to ride along the Gulf Coast Highway to Key West. He said he was in Carencro, He should expect to see me in a few hours. I said four days was my guess.

I rode on through Vinton to Sulphur. I found a scrap yard and my 3 pounds of cans were worth $.37/pound, barely a dollar for over an hour of collecting and a lot of hauling the bag around looking for a place to sell the aluminum cans. So much for my environmental clean up plans.

In Sulphur, I went to the food bank, CaraHelp. They gave me four grocery bags full of cans of soup. We are talking premium quality soups! I could not say no after eating peanut butter and honey on tortillas for so long. But where to put the food? Meanwhile, they called the newspaper and I got an interview with the local newspaper.

I rode on, into Hackberry, on Highway 27. I stopped at Brown's Food Center to use the bathroom. This employee Jim got excited seeing the sign on my back. We talked. He is Jim Brown, owner of the grocery store. He showed me the deli with their cajun foods, one of which I never heard of. I said I'd love to try but can't afford, maybe a sample? Boudin ("bood – eh") is rice, meats and spices in a sausage skin.

I stuffed my face with their large 'samplings' and thanked them for the good times. It felt like I was thanking them for the food but food was the smallest part of my thankfulness.

Last edited by ChasingSanity on Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:56 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Post  ChasingSanity on Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:51 pm

Friday, December 17th, 2010
I rode on, just down the street from Brown's was a tower. I barely had a signal even though I was standing next to the tower. I asked a technician working inside the cell phone tower fence about the connection. He said T-Mobile is the cell phonephone provider he knows of that he does not work with. Bad sign.

Anyways, I tried to call about my Texas food stamps, still could not use them but I could not get through. A lady driving by asked me if I needed help. We got to talking, I told her I managed to lose my army jacket rain coat by leaving it on the back of my bike and it flew off without my noticing. Her husband is a avid hunter with a lot of coats. She brought me several coats and shirts to choose from. Wow, I chose two coats, one light and one heavy. But, where to put them?

I rode a little ways more, to the edge of town and asked at the gas station if there was a place nearby to camp for free. Not that he knew of. I used their bathroom too. Oh Oh, a pattern... I promise never to eat that again, whatever it was. While I was in the bathroom, I overheard people talking about my backpack – the bathroom was too small to take it in with me.

When I came out, I grinned at them and got to talking with the three gamblers on the slot machines tucked into a corner. I forgot the names of the women, but I wrote down Kenny's name later that night. One of the ladies was white, she told me I could have had a free shower at the camp grounds back by the brigde. Where I slept last night?! Well, not exactly, I slept UNDER the bridge. What everybody meant was cross under the bridge, go down the clay path to the boat loading ramp where the building with the toilets is. I did not go down that road... Sigh, I missed a shower. I told them I was heart broken. Smile She said she would drive me there and I could ride back. That was more than I expected! I figured there would be other opportunities on down the road. So, we loaded up my bike and rode to the showers. Kenny said he would pick me up from the showers because it was bad to be outside with a wet head. It is?

I got a shower! My cell phone connection worked great for the first time since leaving Lake Charles, Kenny and told him I was ready for pick-up. Little did I know that would be the last cell phone connection until Lafayette, LA. Kenny came, He mentioned he was maintenance for the local school, used to run their butcher shop, only one in the state. I asked if he had a few utility knife blades for the utility knife I found. Maybe, got to go to the house to check. No blades, no biggie. I forget how but he invited me to dinner. I met his wife, Linda. Then, I got invited to stay the night.

Kenny dropped me off on the main road in the morning. I rode south, still on State Road 27 to State Road 82. I rode east from there, through Cameron. People said Cameron had a grocery store, that was the end of civilization. No, Hackberry was the last grocery store until Pecan Island. But, that did not matter as I had so little money. All the convenience stores along the way had free coffee!

Anyways, I stopped in the area of Grand Chenier for the night. I think it was their Pavilion, somebody's Pavilion. First, I saw an ambulance. I rode up to the house hoping not to disturb an emergency. I asked the ambulance driver who was staying there if he knew a place I could camp for free. We got to talking. He asked one of his neighbors that ran the RV Park next door. That neighbor gave us the phone number of one of the members of his church. She knows everybody. I don't know who she asked but she came back with the Pavilion answer.

Excellent choice, too bad it was so windy I thought everything I owned would be swept away in the morning. Smile I don't know if I lost anything that night. Nothing missing so far. Smile So, it was very cold that morning, I wore almost everything I owned.

I rode on through to Pecan Island. I camped out a few miles beyond Pecan Island on one of the “T” shaped fishing piers sticking out onto the canal running on the side of the road. That was not as cold as
the windy night before. But, I had to get really creative securing my tent. I used a discarded car tire and a carriage bolt sticking out of a piling on the pier to secure either side of my tent's rain fly and my tent barely fit on the fishing pier. How did I manage to choose the dirtiest of several fishing piers along Highway 82? Talent, raw talent. Smile

In the morning, I rode on. I took Highway 35 north to Rayne. Until I turned north, the wind had been a tail wind, pushing me on. Now, going north it was a headwind, pushing against me, but only a little. I turned onto Highway 98 going northeast. I was almost to Carencro, my Bed and Breakfast rest stop for the night. Highway 98 is such a small thing on the map but it is disproportionately long on the road, 15 miles longer than I expected seeing the map. I got to Bechet House despite this inequity.

They still recognized and remembered me and welcomed me in. I left after two nights because I was waiting for a interview with KRDJ, 93.7 FM , a rock and roll radio station. ( Jake Edwards interviewed me on Decemmber 15th, 2010 at about 9AM.

Now, I am in Baton Rouge, CouchSurfing for the night. More later, way past my bedtime.

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Post  ChasingSanity on Fri Dec 24, 2010 1:14 pm

Friday, December 24th, 2010
The end of the year draws near. Happy Holidays one and all. I rode north out of Lafayette into Opalousas then east. I met three police officers in Port Barre, they were eating at a restaurant (that's how you find good food at cheap prices, those guys KNOW), I asked if I could camp for the night at the rest stop area nearby. Oh, across the street, in town? We got to talking. Sure I can camp there! Smile
Rode on to... was it all the way to Baton Rouge? I met some good guys behind the Oak (something) Inn near Livonia where I stopped at the motel to schmooze my way into a free cup of coffee. One of the guys is friends with a camera man working for channel 2 news. Talked with him on the friends phone and told the camera man when to expect me and gave him my phone number but no interview. It did keep me riding hard to stay on schedule. Shortly after that, a guy pulled off the road in front of me; normal – checking his map, answering the phone, etc., got out of his car, normal; check something or get on the other side to urinate, walked away from his car toward me; AH HA, wants to talk! Smile Clarence said “What's this sign on your back about?” Smile He told me about “One on the run” woman running across the USA with a bottle of Pacific Ocean water to drop in the Atlantic Ocean. An hour later, I said I had to go. Oh, thank you for the donation, what a relief; I had 23 cents left! Smile

I got into Baton Rouge, called my CouchSurfing contact, followed my directions to their house. What? Wrong house? Two people accepted my CS request and I got them mixed up – address for one with phone number for the other. The guy playing outside with his yo-yo helped me figure this out. Fred Frowns is a genius. Wink I had 15 minutes to spare before one of them got in and then left in 40 minutes for the night! I called the timely one and told them I was going to the other, keeping them as backup, just in case. Luckily, the two homes were a few blocks from each other.

I met Tobin, Kate and their doggie, Bella, my CouchSurfing hosts. They are hardworking university students - physics, with a lot of homework to do. We all got on our laptops. :/ That's when I last updated my blog.

I met people in Hammond and camped out there. It was a near thing finding a place to camp at Arthur and Donna's front yard but I squeaked by. I remembered their names! OMG, a miracle! Smile Someplace outside of Baton Rouge, I stopped at a RV park and asked if I could camp there for the night. The manager took mercy on my frigid soul (it was very windy, fighting against the wind and I was still sick from upper respiratory infection) and let me stay next to (dang nab it, what was that miracle man's name?). He is very religious, church without walls, let me set up my tent in that open spot, upgraded to using his tool shed for shelter out of the wind, upgraded to using the temporarily vacated RV camper of a friend – heated, enclosed privacy with local weather channel on the TV?! We talked some that night and got together with a friend of his and prayed for each other before I set off in the morning.

I rode on, got to Covington, LA at about 3PM, time to start looking for camping. The RV park manager there said “No.” to my request to camp the night for free. The churches did not answer their phones, the ones whose phone numbers I could find. I stopped at a grocery store, bought the one beer I promised myself when I had a lot of discretionary income. This lady asked me if I was really going to ride to Australia. Shelly and I got to talking while we shopped for our separate items and then went together for coffee. She is sleeping on her mother's couch while she is waiting for residency as a doctor after graduating. She is about to transition into another way of life. Twenty years ago, she went into the peace corps, taught by candle light in Africa then rode her bicycle across the USA. Sigh, twenty years too late and too old. Smile But, her mother allowed I could camp out in their backyard for the night. Shelly and I got along famously. Wish we were in different places in our lives but, no luck.

I packed up, (Shelly helped me pack my tent!) forgot to pack my beer, and rode on to my next camp site; I can't free camp at Fontainbleau State Park?! But, all the locals said I could! Someone told me I could ride further on using the bike path even though that was not legal either. I took poetic licence with their advice and rode a way down the path before I ducked into the woods. I kept on going back until I was out of sight of anything man-made and set up camp. First, I tried my hammock but got driven to set up my tent by the mosquitoes.

I packed up and rode on. In Slidell, I noticed I had a broken spoke. PJ's lawnmower and BICYCLE repair shop was just down the road. That good ole' boy, southern fried, hippy, old fart is quite a character.

I rode on into Mississippi stopped at the Welcome Center on 607, called the sheriff, got permission from a lady working at Bucaneer State Park to camp for free. But, when I got there at dusk, the guy said I could not free camp. Wish I remembered her name... I rrode around asking locals for ideas about free camping and settled for ducking behind the tall grass on the beach in front of the park. It was cold that morning too.

I rodeon into Gulfport on my way to the Biloxi Post Office to pick up my bank cards mailed to me by Carole, my ex-wife (she gave me some money for Xmas even though she is very poor right now, I feel a little guilty but I am still accepting her gift), noticed I had another broken spoke! I had to find a bike shop and get it fixed ASAP. I called the police at the same time I found the bike shop (across the street). The police said setting up a tent was not legal but sleeping on the beach without a tent would get ignored unless someone called it in. Wink Working with the system. Wink I had 30 minutes to spare on my ETA before the Post Office was closed for the night. I got my fix; it cost $25, $20 more than I had. A customer gave me $20 to pay, I had the other $5 but the store said keep the $5, we can make this $20 work. I was 30 minutes late for the Post Office.

I found the Post Office, found a place nearby to camp on the beach. It was very cold that night; my sleeping bag is not a wind shelter. That was last night. When I woke up, I thought ' is the Post Office closed for Christmas Eve?', 'do I have to spend... Saturday (Christmas), Sunday and maybe even Monday waiting for my bank cards?!' I stopped at the McDonald's one block away to get on the internet while I waited to find out... NO! Whew!

I got my mail, danced my bike down the street to the bank, set up my bank cards and withdrew the tiny bit of cash Carole gifted me. A big sacrifice I am grateful for. I rode on through to Ocean Springs where I was advised to stop at the Walter Anderson Art Museum. It was closed for the holidays. I went to the best coffee shop in town, the “Corner Cafe & Bakery”. They have fast, free WIFI and free refills on coffee for adorable bicycists exploring the world, maybe even free refills for the likes of you.

I am caught up again! I am out of here!

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Post  WayPastFast on Sat Dec 25, 2010 2:32 pm

Merry Christmas Ari!

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Post  ChasingSanity on Fri Dec 31, 2010 1:29 pm

Hey there Mr. Marathon Biker extraordinaire!

Saturday, December 25th, 2010
It is raining here in... Ocean Springs? I am drying out under the big awning of the Eastside Church of Christ. I got here at 7:30-ish, ate breakfast (more peanut butter, honey and cheese on tortillas with liberal amounts of spices), and sewed.

I sewed an upgrade to my camera bag. The quick release clips that hold the main compartment closed, I use those clips and straps to attach the bag to the handlebars. Well, they loosen up immediately, allowing the bag to flop around a lot. I sewed the straps to permanently make them the right length. Now, I rescued an orange colored oil can funnel from the side of the road and used a coat hanger from a dry cleaners to affix the oil can funnel to the the front of my bike, on the camera bag. My Faithful Steed transformed into a Unicorn! Or Kirin, if you drink Japanese beer. Wink I added further enchantments with a purple and white silk lei. Anyways, having a floppy horn just would not do, especially when an attractive lady with a mischievous grin asked about the phallic-carrot on the front of my bike!

Today, I plan to go through all the business cards and scraps of paper with email addresses on them and fill in the blanks on my story. My path from Las Vegas is paved with the best laid plans.

Last night, I was asking locals I saw on my path if they knew of a place I could camp for free. I heard there was going to be rain that night. I saw a Wal-mart and turned in.

One of the stores in the parking lot was a shoe store, I stopped in there. I asked if they had any size 14 shoes that got returned and would be at a reduced price. Nope, all our returned shoes have to be in good enough

I got to the Wal-Mart and asked if I could talk with the store manager. He asked to see what I had with me, my gear and where I was planning to camp and he asked about me. I showed him the fire hydrant and said if it rained I planned to get under the semi-truck trailer out there standing alone. He said the trailer was a bad idea, I would get squashed. Smile He said he was not going to say yes, I could, if you get my meaning and he got back to managing. Well, I looked around and found a place nearby that was even better. I set up my hammock with the tarp covering everything, even my bike, because it was supposed to rain. I had a brain fart and reorganized my bags so I had more room and ease of use. Everything I use my tent with (sleeping bag and sleeping pad) go in the one military duffel bag the fit in best, everything else got packed in the skinny, nylon duffel bag.

Friday, December 31, 2010
The “better place” I found was a newly made and dedicated clubhouse for a group of local teenagers. Their arrangements were clean, well kept and respectful of the woods. Good. I thought they would not be out this late at night, in the cold, when it was about to rain. I heard voices coming from the houses behind me, toward Wal-Mart. They might go by and not come in here? (Something ran through the woods sounding like a medium sized dog but it did not bark or voice any other noises.) Nope, one guy said something about 'if he could find the path' a few feet from me. I was not going to fade into the woods with all my stuff laid out. I started talking so he would not get startled and feel threatened. I was afraid; it sounded like there were at least 10 young men and women. One of the young men talked a lot of bravado, trouble? The first young man came through the bushes with his barely lit lantern and stopped when he saw me. I said hello, I did not mean to invade your space. Please, come in and say hello. He said no, you stay, it's OK. He left, the rest of them did not come in either. Whew.

Would anybody sneak back later, better prepared? What was that animal that raced through the woods? Every once in a while, I heard an animal call that sounded like a large squirrel. I heard that animal wandering close to my food and gear. I growled warning – I claim this space and my things, my smells, mine! It got quieter and, in the morning, my stuff was not ransacked.

I thought about the clubhouse; their sanctuary. Well done, well made, good for growth, feeling safe and free to 'let their hair down'. Two branches they broke looked like staves of office. Smile I leaned the official staves against their sign of dedication. I realized this was the perfect home for the water proof, vulcanized duffel bag I had but no longer had use for and the insulated, rectangular bike bag you could put a shoulder strap on. I put one of my calling cards in a ziplok baggie and all that inside the bike bag with a bag full of hand sanitizer given to me by the Red Cross a long time ago (good riddance). It was close to Christmas, I got to give someone a valuable gift. I cried happy tears at my opportunity. I cry now in memory of that moment.

I forgot to mention, right after I rode across state lines, into Mississippi, I stopped at the Welcome Center, the Tourist Information Center. I asked the guy selling peanuts across the street from the Welcome Center which was also the Stennis Space Center Welcome Center. Busy place, wears many hats. Anyways, this guy said I should go into Kiln, MS, Brett Favre's home town and check out the wall at Dixie's. I did, on the way, I met Ashley Lady, the assistant manager with a wonderful smile at Coast Inn of Waveland, MS who guards some excellent coffee.

A little bit north of the Coast Inn, on the east Hurricane Katrina; on the side of the cabin is written “We are OK meet at the Post Ofece”. It made me cry imaging loved ones not knowing if the others lived though the catastrophe. I feel lucky to not have experienced something like that. I thought that a suitable place to pay tribute and drink the one beer I bought (dark, strong and smooth like my coffee).

I got my picture taken against the Dixie Restaurant and Gas Station wall with a pretty woman, by her daughter. All those scribblings! 8O I stopped back in at the Coast Inn, told Ashley she was simply irresistable, so was her coffee, could I have some more? Smile AND, I went next door and stuffed my face at the Kentucky Fried Chicken all-you-can-eat buffet. It cost $5 and I have a very limited range of food I carry with me, so I was concerned about getting enough nutrients. I figure I ate $15 worth of food in 15 minutes. I walked delicately for a few hours. :stuffed man:

Back to Ocean Springs, the morning after Wal-Mart. I called NOAA Weather the night before and found out it was going to rain in the morning. So, I got moving when I woke up at 4:30 instead of going back to sleep like any sane person. Remember, I am 'biketoaustralia'; sane need not apply. I packed as quickly as I could and just finished about 6AM when the rain just started as a drizzle. I thought, it's Christmas, surely there will be a church service I can schmooze, drink coffee, eat tender vittles and be warm and dry out of the rain? No, no church services on Christmas, not the ones I saw anyways. I stayed under the awning of one until 10:30 then rode on into Pascagoula and stayed in the lobby of a small motel waiting for the rain to stop. It was going to rain all day. I left the motel after noon and rode into Mobile, Alabama. I called the four homeless shelters in Mobile when I crossed into Alabama and got confirmation I could stay the night. I got to the outskirts of Mobile shortly after dark, maybe St. Elmo, where I saw a bar advertising free food. I pulled in, told them I am riding my bicycle cross country, could I eat some of their food? “Sure, over there.” Things got quiet in the bar when I walked over to the table with the food on it. Remember; I am tall, look even taller, was wearing a lot of military/hunting looking clothing and gear. They probably thought “WTF is that?” Then they see the sign on my back. Smile Well, someone came over and asked me what I was about. Smile We talked for a bit, I finished eating and rode the rest of the way to the homeless shelter.

I got there at 10PM. It turned out to be a Salvation Army west of downtown. Two workers told me to go around to the other side. They said all that was left was bad weather shelter on the floor. I said “It is warm and dry and I get fed in the morning.” They grinned at my humble expectations. I asked if they had any food I could eat now. They had a sack lunch but I had to eat it in the lobby before going further in. I stuffed my face with their sandwich. They wrote down my ID info and gave me a blanket. I made that into a pillow, ready to sleep fully dressed. They gave me another blanket. “Got one.” But, I took it to go with the flow and folded it into bedding. Then, they gave me another. I covered myself and they let me sleep. Smile

In the morning, there was oatmeal, a sausage patty, biscuit and unlimited (very, very hot) coffee. No seconds. Wish I could have several oatmeals; they could have the rest. For lunch I had to come back at 11 for church service, then again at 12:30 for lunch. For guaranteeing another night, this time in a bed, I had to come back at 2PM to fill out paperwork. Then, I had to come back at 3:30 to sign up for dinner and come back again at 5PM for the night and dinner. Now, I remember another reason I avoid institutions; they want all your life. Lunch and dinner would be the same for weeks to follow – turkey and stuffing from Christmas. At lunch, there was a box of apples; I packed away as many as would fit into my pockets, three at a time; as many as I could grab with one hand, each time I went for coffee. Smile A few other people grabbed one apple. (Many homeless people are drug or alcohol addicts which rots their teeth away; they don't eat apples.) Breakfast was the same as yesterday; oatmeal that I could not get enough of. But, this time they had pastries and they had too many; they were giving them away, I ate two and packed away two more.

Residents or clients did not believe I was riding out in the morning. I rode to the Waterfront Rescue Mission chasing down a lead on a free military style duffel bag I could get. “come back at 9:30.” I rode back west to Planned Parenthood to get some free condoms; it's good to have dreams. I stopped along the way at a library for directions and again at a gas station and bought a cup of coffee and made lunch; peanut butter, cheese and honey on tortillas and those pastries. I lost my money pouch about that time. I didn't realize until I went to Goodwill thrift store after Planned Parenthood. I had no money to buy the awesome silk shirt and wool sweater I found for $3.69 each! Well, I had $6 on my bank's debit card, but what about the $25+ I had in the pouch!? I rode back to the gas station and asked. They had me on camera walking out with my money pouch in hand. Did the bum I talked with while I ate outside the gas station find it on the ground and celebrate? I felt bad, mismanagement of resources is a pet peeve. Why do I keep losing things? The bum was still at the gas station; not celebrating. Him and another bum suggested I go to Junior League thrift shop around the corner and ask for help. “Junior League helps organizations, not individuals.” But, a customer in the thrift store gave me a couple dollars, enough for me to buy the clothing. I rode on east wondering what happened to my money pouch, feeling sorry for myself and hoping someone with more needs than I found the money pouch.

I rode back to the Waterfront Rescue Mission; they did not have a duffel bag, the lady doing that kind of thing was already gone for the day, it was 2PM by then. But, they could get me through the mile long tunnel that only cars can use, cutting my trip around the bay by 30 miles, if just waited 20 minutes. Smile I waited, put my fully loaded bike in the back of a pick up truck and got dropped off a mile later. It was 3PM. I rode into Spanish Fork a few miles away, asked at the Homewood Suites hotel for advice on where I could camp for free. While was there I met a hotel guest, Mr. Smith of SKF. We got to talking, he loves what I am doing, exploring the world by bike. He paraded me to his kids and wife. Smile He said, when I need bearings for my bike to contact him and he will mail them to me, his company makes bearings. And, we talked sponsorship, maybe a friend of his. OH BABY! I better email him now, while I am thinking about it. One free camping option I thought of was asking at Bass Pro Shops across the interstate, right over there. But, was there an easy way to get there? No, go back around, up ad down steep inclines. I went, I asked the store manager if I could camp out behind their store, on the grass behind their storage units (like Wal-Mart). “No, but you can camp in the parking lot.” Really?! OK, I wandered around the mall, wasting time until dark to be more discrete and avoid trouble. That mall is not one of those huge affairs, just a few big department stores, not a lot of opportunity to waste time. I asked at Quizno's if they throw away food at the end of the night to throw it my way. The restaurant manager/owner said what he could do was buy me a meal. I thanked him and asked him where he was from. He looked like he was from India or Pakistan. I think I offended him slightly. “I am from my mother.” I meant no harm and let it drop. Sometimes, I feel like a puppy, full of clumsy enthusiasm. I ate, thanked him and went to set up my tent for the night. On my way out, he told me it would be very cold that night, a hard freeze, maybe 20 degrees. He was not the only one to warn me about the cold.

I set up my tent in the darkest, most remote corner of the Bass Pro Shops part of the parking lot. I wore my usual winter night clothes; my day clothing (polypropylene or silk long sleeve shirt, wool sweater, undershorts, padded bike shorts, sweat pants, military cargo pants, nylon dress socks and warm, thick socks), on top of that, I wore a fleece jacket and I had my winter gloves and winter hat close at hand. I had more I could unpack and put on besides that. I got into my big, thick sleeping, on top of my sleeping pad. Throughout the night I alternated between breathing into the sleeping bag until it got too humid and breathing outside the sleeping bag until it got too cold. I slept pretty good. But, in the morning, I was really reluctant to get out of my sleeping bag. :/

I put my gloves on to pull apart my tent poles then laid them on the ground to finish packing. When I put my gloves back on, they were froze! I rode back to Homewood Suites and inquired about their continental breakfast. The receptionist said I had to ask the servers, that is their territory. I asked the only server I saw, a young woman, she said I guess so. I started serving myself. Nick and his family came down for breakfast, we talked some more. Smile Another server, a slightly older woman, asked me if I was a guest. I told her what I was about and that the guests I met last night loved my adventure. She said OK, eat but... I said Be discrete. Yes, thank you's exchanged. I got to talking with another set of guests and we had a fine time. Then, the boss man/manager (of the food servers?) came by and said I could finish eating but then I had to go. I said, Of course, I've been riding for 15 months, what else am I going to do? I have encountered many people afraid I will be another hurricane victim claiming squatters rights. I hope I am out of range of that mentality by now, in Pensacola Beach, Florida.

I rode on. I dug through my backpack thinking my money pouch might be somewhere in there, somehow. I found it! I was not a complete idiot! I believe in Ari's! I do! I do! (poetically plagiarizing Peter Pan movie with Robin Williams) I took highway 98 chasing after a Wal-mart to the south. I stopped at a thrift store and bought a non-stick, two quart cook pot with a lid (on my wish list but damaged – not non-stick enough) and... I forget what the other thing was, but it was good too. I stopped at the local health food store and bought spices from their bulk foods bins; fresher and cheaper than grocery store stuff. But, they had no grind-your-own peanut butter. I stopped at an Ace Hardware store and bought a Stanley utility knife I love; this kind has a button to easily remove and replace the blades and an easily accessible storage space for blades in the body of the knife that I do not have to unscrew the body to get to. Anyways, now I had no reason to go to Wal-Mart – not enough money. Smile

I was riding through Foley, FL when I passed by some guys working outside, on a church. I asked them about free camping. They got me in contact with Mitch Nelson, the pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Robertsdale, a few miles further east, in my direction. They talked with the pastor, (not me) he said where I could camp and not sure if anybody would be there by the time I arrived. I rode with motivation and got there I time to meet Jason, his Youth Director and got a brief tour of the back yard.

Whoof, it is cold! Enough catching up for today. I am on the back porch of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Inn in Pensacola Beach, FL. Last night, I free camped on the beach just outside Fort Pickens and plan to again tonight. I'll add more later. Y'all be well!

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