Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Great Romance

Friday, November 22, 2013 (didn’t finish till April 20, 2014—life happens!)

How do I even describe this pivotal week? Do I need to write two versions--one for public consumption and one much more private? Well, let’s just get started.

Oh God. How do I even start? I guess the Romance started in California, after leaving family and friends behind in the central coast area. I was now alone. And realizing that I had no one with whom I could talk at night. During the day, I cycled for hours, taking breaks to get a drink or use the bathroom or just walk out the tension in the thighs and glutes. During these breaks, I chatted for mere moments with people I met. Often, these conversations were started by people who were curious after seeing Henry David. I mean, he is not the typical bicycle. He’s not even a bicycle, for that matter, but a recumbent tricycle. There are hundreds of cyclists along the coast, seen every day, and all with their unique stories. By HD is a conversation starter. Still, I considered it important that, after answering their questions about the trike and the trek, I would ask them questions as well. 

These were not relationships, but chance meetings. Some of them quite wonderful, to be truthful, but generally quick and gone. So, one night, while sitting alone in my tent with a good internet connection, I joined PlentyOfFish, an online dating service through which you could make friends, acquaintances, and even date—if that’s what you wanted. I figured that “dating” was really out of the question, considering I was on the road on a slow trek. But I could sure spend time sharing emails and meeting people. Someone had advised me to try out PlentyOfFish—POF for short. I had to answer a lot of questions and take a relationship personality test. OK, now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. I also could put in zip codes of areas through which I would be traveling and the search engine would include those areas. Fantastic—now I could possibly meet people on the way. This would help me learn about the areas I was traveling.

And I did meet a few people in Oregon and Washington that way. It was fun to talk to locals on the internet and then go to a locally recommended coffee shop or campground or park area. It was basically choosing some of the people I would meet and listening to their stories of the local areas.

The computer program would also recall my home locale and send “matches” from my area. I wrote to a few people living in New Mexico and Texas and got correspondence going, but, while they were very nice, I did not meet any from my home area that really tripped my trigger.

Until I saw Peter’s profile. Here was an attractive man, just the right age, within a 3 hour drive from my home. He was educated and loved his job teaching at the university. He was passionate about composing music; described himself as an honest person; and wrote that he would be willing to answer any question. The way he wrote his simple profile paragraph led me to believe that he was exactly what the doctor ordered.  So, I wrote him a quick note saying I liked his profile.

And thus it started. He responded and we began email correspondence. Every single thing he wrote was perfect to me. His profile was very accurate. He really was the “real deal.” He was enthusiastic and boyish and yet wise and intelligent. We clicked on every level—religion, politics, world views, humor, and communication. It was hard to believe that within a few emails he asked for my phone number to talk to me.  I generally avoid doing this until several weeks of correspondence has taken place. But I gave it to him immediately, surprising myself. Of course, I told him we would have to set up a time as I avoid talking on the cell phone on this trip unless I have a good cell signal and an electrical supply. 

Events took a life of their own. All through Oregon, it rained. Hard. When I arrived in Tillamook, wet and tired, I checked into the Western Motel and unpacked my gear in the room to dry out. It was late by the time I was unpacked and ready to eat. There was a Chinese restaurant next door that responded to my phone call that, yes, they did have vegetarian fare, but they would be closing up within the next 15-20 minutes. So, I ran next door, placed an order, and had my food within 5 minutes. I took dinner back to the motel and ate in the room. It left me feeling a little queasy, but I chalked it up to fatigue. Still, the next morning, I was still a bit shaky, but finished off the leftovers for breakfast and headed out on a very rainy morning. It rained hard—all day.  I had plans to make it to Astoria, but, by the time I got to Seaside, I was exhausted. I stopped at a Safeway that had a Starbucks inside and grabbed a cuppa joe and looked up local lodging on my cell. It was Memorial Day weekend and I expected the rates to be astronomical. In fact, I had looked up rooms earlier in the day, which was the reason I had been pushing so hard to get to Astoria. Seaside would perhaps be a bit pricey.

But I was in luck. Prices had dropped during the day, dramatically. I found a room at the Shilo Inn, a very nice hotel resort right next to the beach. $55 per night. Hot dang! I clicked “reserve” and was on my way to the events that have changed my life forever. 

I cycled in the rain to the Shilo and walked into the beautiful lobby of this skyscraping hotel, dripping water all over the polished marble floors. There were two attractive young ladies at the desk; one was training the newer employee. The lady in charge took a look at my bedraggled appearance and, rather than turning up her nose, gave me a 500 watt smile. I checked in, after she reassured me that the pricetag listed on the website for the next two nights was actually correct. I explained that my trike was outside and asked if there was a place I could park Henry David. She went to the door, saw my loaded trike, and, after asking numerous questions about this journey, she told me to bring him in and park him in the conference room. Now, this conference room was smack dab in front of the door, right in the lobby, with floor to ceiling glass walls! I pulled him in and parked my sweet boy, then the lovely manager gave me an incredible room with a kitchenette, king bed, room to sprawl, and a seaside view on the fourth floor. She topped it all off by explaining they had a sauna, jacuzzi, pool, fitness center, and bar. She gave me a certificate for a free glass of wine and sent me on my way to my blessed room, in which I would stay for two nights. I needed a day to recover from this “thing” that had given me a fever, the shakes, and an upset tummy. I assumed it was the not-so-fresh food I had eaten the night before as well as this morning. I hadn’t really eaten all day after the spoiled leftovers. Tummy was still a bit roiling and my body was hot and cold simultaneously, and I was shaking.

While I checked into my room, I received a text from Peter, asking if he could call me the next day. Wow. What a coincidence. I was staying an extra day in a wonderful hotel and I would certainly be available for a call. So I responded “Yes!”

I took a welcome hot shower, went downstairs and sat in the sauna, then the jacuzzi, and then went to the bar for a glass of red wine. I sat next to the fireplace, warmth permeating my worn body, while the rain fell outside. I was in heaven.

The next morning, I awakened to gray skies and intermittent rain. I was nervous—I would “meet” Peter on the phone that night. I walked next door to the downtown coffee shop—owned by one of the people I had met online while searching for “locals.” I wrote for a few hours, drank their wonderful coffee, and took a long walk through Seaside, and ended up at a bike shop where I purchased wet weather chain oil. Henry David needed a drink too, after all.

Then, I prepared for my first telephone conversation with Peter. One would think I was getting ready for a date. I dressed up as well as I could with my best cycling gear, brushed out my hair, and even applied makeup! My imagination wasn’t dead, after all. Even though we wouldn’t actually see each other, I wanted to feel confident and pretty. As pretty as one can on the road, anyway. Maybe I wouldn’t stutter all over the place and make a fool out of myself. I practiced “hello” to the mirror but all practice technique went out the window when the phone rang in the late afternoon.

And thus it began.

A pleasant tenor voice greeted me enthusiastically on the line. He was so sincere and genuine that he put me at ease while my energy level zoomed out of bounds. We talked and talked and found we looked at life so similarly it was as if we had written the scripts ourselves. It was a fantastic beginning. 

Political views: check
World views: check
Spiritual views: check
Attitude: check
Sense of humor: check
Interactions: check
Where he grew up (really? yes really!): mine in reverse. His early life in coastal California, teens and young adulthood were spent in Illinois.  I was born in Illinois and moved to California at age 6. We share both a midwestern and a southern California hybrid mix attitude. 

So, after that first conversation, he emailed or texted almost every day. As we became more and more interested in each other as well as comfortable to be ourselves, he began to suggest he would come to meet me when I reached the midwest. He has family there and would combine a trip to visit his sister and her family and then would drive out to meet me on the road. 

I continued on my trip north along the coast and then turned west in Washington to cross the Cascades. Halfway up the range, I stayed in North Bend and spent the night with Robin Sims—the experience with Robin is in the blog Eastward Bound from June. 

Peter asked if I would send him a photo of myself. 

That was proving problematic. Friends and family would ask for a photo of myself but all my photos were taken with me behind the camera lens, not in front of it. And “Selfies” from my iPhone showed all my wrinkles!!! Yeck! So I needed someone to take a photo of me from at least 6 feet away—which is longer than my arm span! While sitting outside on Robin’s deck with a delectable vegetarian meal in front of me (thank you, Robin!), I asked her to shoot a photo. Which she did. 

I sent it immediately in a text message to Peter.

He has jokingly declared that, as soon as he saw the photo, he decided to come in July and meet me at Rapid City in one month, rather than waiting another month or so and combining a sister visit. 

I guess he liked the photo...

So, we continued to text and email and chat when possible. This became more difficult while traveling the rural country in Montana, as the cell phone service was patchy at best. As I crossed Montana and South Dakota became closer, my excitement and anxiety ratcheted upward.

When I finally cycled into South Dakota and made it to Rapid City, I found a KOA where I could land for a few days ahead of Peter. Then I could do laundry and maybe girlie things to my face which was sun damaged and aging—to say the least. The Rapid City KOA was wonderful, perched on a short, very steep hill, with the Black Hills in view. Beautiful country. I was entertained in the evening by the singing cowboy poet at the KOA, and did laundry and face masks during the day. 

Peter secured a room at The Grandstay Residential Suite. He was scheduled to arrive in the evening of July 2nd, but I could check in early. And I did. After sleeping on the ground and generally being dirty most of each day, it was heavenly to walk around the large suite, complete with a kitchen and living room, as well as the usual bedroom and gloriously large bathroom.

I started to hyperventilate. Thank god the living room couch was a sleeper couch.

So I cleaned up and even put on makeup. I had cycled in the dark the previous night to find a shopping center so I could buy a modest dress. I had been wearing skorts, leggings, tank tops, and lightweight sports shirts for a few months now. If we went out to dinner, I reasoned, what would I wear? I simply MUST make an impression when we meet, don’t I? So I purchased a diagonally striped A-line, sleeveless dress with a semi-flared skirt. And 2 dollar flip-flops. All I had were the cheap, purple running shoes that I used for cycling—bought for their plentiful, ugly rubber on the bottom, which I used as a brake pad going down those crazy, steep mountains. Well, I also had a pair of running Five Finger Vibrams, which separate your toes into nice little sleeves. I usually wore those at night, after showering at the campsite or in a motel. So, neither type of shoe was proper accompaniment for a dress.

It is very complicated being a female. The male touring cyclists don’t give a darn about their fashion. They wear the same shirt and shorts for 3 days and then, if they don’t have a laundromat handy on day 4, they simply turn their clothes inside out and wear them another 2-3 days. Gross!!

I am definitely not a guy and prize cleanliness and at least a semblance of fashion. So, inexpensive striped dress and flip-flops. Check!

I waited with nerves on high pitch for the rest of the day. He arrived around 6 pm, pulling into the far side of the lot. I could see him from the 2nd floor room and I peeked through window between the gap between the curtain and the wall so I could watch him surreptitiously. 

Hmmmm. Tall. Light colored short hair. Purposeful walk with a very slight bend like Steve Jobs. But a better arm swing than the Apple genius. He grabbed a suitcase out of the trunk of the car and headed for the lobby.

Yikes! Oh God, help me!! 

What if I don’t like him? 

Hmmmm—I liked his personality, oh yes, quite a bit. But the pheromones. Those little smelly rascals that signal attraction or its opposite or, at least, indifference. I wouldn’t know till I was up close.

I would feel pretty bad for him if the pheromones were not right—he would have traveled all this way to meet someone who decided, “Uh, no, not quite right. Sorry!”

And I would feel trapped. I hate that feeling.

So. Imagine the stress we were both feeling during those last hours leading up to our meeting.

He knocked on the door. I swung it open. We stood there staring at each other with huge grins on our faces for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only 10 nanoseconds. 

He had a huge smile, perfect white teeth in a triangular face with a strong jaw, and deep blue eyes. 

He let go of his suitcase handle and we hugged.

The next part may seem a bit weird for most of my readers, but anyone who knows a bit about biology will think this should become part of any dating ritual.

I smelled him. I smelled his neck, his face, his shoulder, his chest (it was at my nose level—come on!!), even his hand.

Oh wow. No scent. 

How was this possible?  A man without a scent? He was like air! Or water! 

Fresh air. Now that was something I loved.

The pheromones were there. And they were good.

He came in and set down his bag while we exchanged the typical, banal pleasantries regarding the drive, the day, etc. Then we walked down to his car to bring up his stuff. This took several trips as he had brought half of his kitchen. He planned to make me his signature black bean soup with mango relish the next day, so he brought groceries, kitchen pots and pans and utensils. He brought cheeses and crackers and delicacies. After spending most days devouring Subway salads and trail mix, I knew I was in for a gastronomical feast.  

Not to mention other kinds of feasts...

We put away the supplies and went to dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. Still in my dress, feeling shy one moment and courageous the next. 

Yak, yak, yak. We talked in person, face to face, enjoying the facial expressions we had missed with phone conversations. The spell was woven.

Sitting on the couch at the motel room, we talked some more. He had brought recordings of some of his musical compositions. Exquisite music: moving, sensual, mysterious. 

Then he asked (and quite politely, I might add), “May I kiss you?”

I said, “Yes.”

Let’s just say, “Wow.”

Yup, the pheromones were just fine. 

The next 4 days were a flurry of excitement and fun and fond thoughts of our country as it was the week of the 4th of July. The next day was July 3rd. We started the day with a 1-2 mile jog around the nearby mall parking lot. OK, even better. He can actually run.

Then, we went to Mount Rushmore—the wonder I read about as a grade school kid and always dreamt of seeing one day.  That’s why I was in South Dakota rather than North Dakota. I had detoured southeast to capture the opportunity to see this incredibly massive mountain sculpture.

To see this wonder at that time of year was incomparable. There were thousands of visitors, but still, we managed practically front row seats to see a Lakota woman do an incredible demonstration of hoop dancing. She was the first Lakota woman to break down the gender barriers and compete in the national hoop dancing competition. This had always been a male dominated field but she won first place. She joked about one of her male competitors who gave her the backhanded compliment, “You’re pretty good for a woman.” She laughed, with Award in hand and said, “Yeah, just try doing this in a dress!” 

The dance was phenomenal. Imaging keeping a specific dance step while weaving your body in and out of hoops about the size of a hula hoop. She started with a single hoop and by the end of the dance had about 2 dozen in hand. Well, hand, feet, neck, legs, waistline, etc. Never missing a beat or tripping over the hoops. The camera could not catch the complexity of the dance.

While at Mt Rushmore park, we listened to a Lakota man make melody on his flute while adding background guitar through his mixer. We saw wild mountain goats. And, of course, we saw Mt Rushmore, from every angle possible. I still am amazed at the scale of this sculpture of our presidents: Presidents George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. The design appeared to catch the hopes and the pains of each president as he faced the building and and rebuilding of our resilient nation. Yes, we Americans share different views. Yes, we can be our own worst enemy. But, at the end of the day, we rally for each other. It’s like saying: “We can criticize our family, but you better not.” We support each other. Generally. 

I have met so many travelers from around the world on this wonderful trek. I ask them what they think about Americans. Even when they don’t like our politics of the day, they all agree that we are a warm, hospitable, friendly lot of people. On the news, we hear about those of us who would take another’s life. But, out on the road, you see the beautiful array of people who make up our country and make it the beautiful tapestry it is. 

People have goodness in them. 

Later that day, Peter made his homemade soup and I added gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to the meal. With candle light and a huge aster flower gracing the table center, we relished a delightful dinner after an exceptional day at Mt Rushmore. 

It had been better than I had ever dreamed. Both Mt Rushmore and Peter himself.

On July 4th, we wandered the downtown of Rapid City, where the town showed itself to be about as patriotic as Boston. On every corner was a 3/4 scale bronze sculpture of another president. There were also beautiful sculptures of famous Lakota leaders, Lakota sayings, and Native American animal sculptures. It was a heady day mixing the patriotism of the 4th of July with the meaningful and touching phrases of the “first Americans.”  While we as a nation, even still, are not honoring our treaties with the first residents, these same deeply spiritual peoples are trying to find common ground with us. 

While wandering the downtown section of Rapid City, we popped into quaint stores, took photos of the bronze sculptures, and watched a young fiddler play celtic tunes with her family band. We drank coffee near the square, watched children play in fountains, wondered at all the local art, and ate a lunch of vegetarian nachos while enjoying the outside air at a nearby cafe. 

The next day, July 5th, was decision day. Peter had arranged it so that, if we didn’t take to each other, he could make an escape on the 5th. No harm, no foul. 

Well, we DID take to each other, so we found a Super 8, less hard on the finances, and moved our stuff so we could spend a few more days with each other. We wandered in the downtown area some more, talked all day, lost track of time, and then went out to a popular pizza spot on the night before our dual departure. 

I awakened on July 7th, a Sunday morning, with my adrenaline pumping again, as I prepared to take off on Henry David for the remainder of my trip. I had met Tammy, the lovely lady who worked the desk at the Super 8, and she came out with Peter and I to wish me safe travels. 

We said our goodbyes and shared hugs and kisses and I cycled out of the parking lot into the rest of my life. Changed forever.

The next several months were spent on the road again. But this time with daily contact with Peter, whether by text or phone calls. 

I met his sister and her family in Indiana. Maggie and Vince treated me to a pizza dinner in Monticello, Indiana. Maggie, Vince, and their two daughters, Kathleen and Carolyn, took turns giving HD a spin around the parking lot. The girls charmed me with their stories. What a nice family.

As I headed south along the Atlantic Coast, Peter helped keep up my spirits when I hit terrible roads or harsh conditions. He encouraged me every day of this long trek. It was so meaningful to have someone love you and support you and listen to you and tell you stories of his own life. His stories delighted me. 

I met his parents and another sister and brother-in-law in Hilton Head, South Carolina. (That trip is also outlined on the blog Magical Land, posted in October). Peter came out to see me on October 2nd, right on Hilton Head Island. We spent the rest of the week together, sharing time with his parents, sister, and brother-in-law. 

When he left on Sunday, October 6th, his sister Mary and brother-in-law Jack drove me around Savannah. HD and I hit the road again the next morning, heeding warnings of a possible hurricane. 

Peter remained a vital force for the remainder of the trip: calling daily, texting intermittently, and sharing his daily life with me. His regular encouragement gave me strength. Every day he asked about the day’s ride: How was it? Did you meet anyone? Where are you now? Are you feeling ok? 

And he ended every day with, “I love you.”

He joined me for a few days in Texas, when I was within a few hours drive of his home in Lubbock. He also joined the welcoming party in Carlsbad. And, wonder of wonders, he received the approval of my daughter Shannon and my son Deois. Only one child remained to give their blessing. Heather—my angel in Albuquerque. But she told me that, if I loved him, she would too.

So, I met the man of my dreams in Oregon on the Internet. He lives a scant 3 hour drive away from my home. He came to see me 3 times on the road, bearing gifts of flowers, food, warmth, and love. He shares my political and spiritual outlook—which is important to most Irish-Americans, such as we are! He kept me updated on world news as well as included me in his daily work, composing a violin concerto—a true masterpiece. He called every day to give me emotional sustenance. He has remained steady and supportive and loving, yet surprises me regularly with a new side of him as we get to know each other more deeply. He listens while I ramble—and even pays attention! I hope I give him half of what he has given me.

We are planning a future. Together. 

Life is good.

Very strange things can happen on the road. Indeed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I left the San Angelo Lodge shortly after 7 am, with the sky streaked with pink. I called the 1910 Sterling Hotel in Sterling City, my day’s destination. It was the only viable place in town. I spoke to Wanda on the phone and arranged for the night’s stay. Peter would be playing roadie, so it would be a great day. I zipped to Walgreens and then a final convenience store/bathroom break before I left the city limits on hwy 87.

It was a very rural day, here in west Texas. I passed a spot on the road called Carlsbad, TX. The name and the surrounding countryside reminded me of home in Carlsbad, NM. But that was about it. This is an unincorporated village with a post office and it is located in Tom Green County---cool name for a county I think. Anyhow, the population of the zip code is less than 1500. That village population is about 100. Not even a bathroom. I kept going, after the required photograph of the sign. This was a day of finding bushes. But once, when Peter came by to provide coffee and snacks (boy, did I feel spoiled), I stopped at a lone milling business and begged to use the bathroom. The sympathetic lady at the desk welcomed me in. People can be so wonderful. And save lives!

I rolled into Sterling City in the late afternoon, with Peter and Wanda standing out in front of the 1910 State Hotel to welcome me “home” for the night. First, Wanda gave us the grand tour of this fantastic old building. This historic building was built in, you guessed it, 1910, and was one of the first building of this ranching and mining town. It started as a bank, then became an office for two doctors, then a drugstore,
confectionary, and a cafe. TrinaBeth Johnson purchased it and has been renovating the stately old building over the last year or two, making it into a welcoming home for travelers of all kinds. Now with the oil boom in west Texas, they are getting more travelers through this tiny town. 

Sterling City had a population of less than 1000 about 5 years ago. It is still called the “Windmill City” due to the prevalence of windmills in the surrounding area. The city records boast a population of about 1000, although the residents swear this is wrong and the population must be 10 times larger. Perhaps it feels that way, with the incoming workers. However, these workers are temporary, renting rooms at the Hotel. In the fall, they also have a large banquet and celebration for hunters, creating another draw of visitors. 

Wanda at the 1910 State Hotel gave Peter and I a great tour of the venerated old building. The renovations are going wonderfully and they have a dining room with the greatest coffee and cookies and pastries around. Peter and I kept running downstairs from our room to get their coffee. And, yes, the cookies too! Yummmm!

Wanda has a long history with the building. She worked here as a young woman and just started working here recently as the hotel clerk. Her passion is her 28 year-old son. He was in a terrible motor vehicle accident a few years ago and it was touch and go for awhile, with his survival hanging in the balance. Eventually he recovered, only to get such a severe case of pneumonia that he almost lost his life again. In fact, he was in ICU for several weeks and Wanda checked him out of the hospital in San Angelo and paid for an ambulance to get him to a hospital in Austin. There, he slowly recovered, but he did recover. Wanda actually saved his life. There are not many people that would have the guts to go against a hospital and doctor’s orders to take a loved one to a different hospital hundreds of miles away. 

While we were finishing our discussion with Wanda, the night clerk or manager arrived--Leslie. This little firecracker is a transplant from Houston. Sterling City has a population of about 1000 and Houston’s population is 2.16 million! She is still dealing with some culture shock, but appears to be dealing well with it. 

Here is her story.  

Leslie met her husband through one of her best friends many years ago. This friend fell in love with a man through an online dating service (I can relate). This man had a twin brother and Leslie’s friend set her up with a date with the twin. They fell in love, got married, and had six kids. Yes, six. Leslie is a pretty, slender young lady who looks just old enough to have borne maybe two by now. But six???  She is looking mighty fine, lemme tell ya!

Since adulthood, Leslie has always worked at a job and she lived a pretty fast-paced life in Houston.  Her husband was in the military and did recon in Iraq. He returned to the states and is technologically savy. Over the last year, he was hired in the oil fields to install, manage, and program the software that works the big rigs and pumps. It was a great job and it required a move to the tiny town of Sterling City. There might be a few more moves in the future for them, but for now, they are learning how to live the country life. Hubby has been building a chicken coop out of pallets and materials that they have found around the property that they are renting. 

Leslie’s passions are multiple. She is passionate about her faith in God and her love for her husband and children. She loves the planet and her animals. They have a 30 pound miniature “house pig” who sleeps with one of the kids. She had Peter and I laughing as she described the rascal pig who can open doors and latches and cabinets. He will steal a loaf of bread and run through the house with it, Leslie’s husband chasing him for all he’s worth. The pig usually wins. They have bantam and silkie chickens that were purchased to raise for meat and eggs. But Leslie has made pets out of them and carries her favorite silkie hen around in her arms. This bright foul pecks on the front door every morning and, when the door is opened, she walks in and greets everyone and checks out the house for any changes, just like a curious cat. The farm is turning into a petting zoo and the Houston transplant family are the quirky new residents. And everyone loves them.

After I went upstairs and did my exercises, Peter and I came back downstairs to get their Keurig coffee and fresh cookies. There, we snagged Leslie again for more conversation and we discussed local and world issues, from water and oil to war and survival. We definitely enjoyed her passionate animation.

Eventually, we returned to the lovely room and Peter showed me some of his computer programing for composing music. Then he played some of the music recorded on his laptop, including sonatas and even opera. They were so beautiful my heart constricted and my eyes stung. Every time I woke up in the night, the strains were replaying in my head. They were so very beautiful.

I am very grateful for this life.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

When Peter and I hit the parking lot at the 1910 State Hotel at 7:15 am, the hotel housekeeper, Rosemarie, was walking across the alley toward the hotel. I believe she may live in one of the houses on the adjacent street. She called out and said that her daughter liked my bike. At about that time, Daisy, her pretty “tween” daughter came around the corner of the building, having just inspected Henry David. I asked her if she would like to take a ride on HD; I would show her. With a sudden look of apprehension, Daisy shook her head “no”. Still, Peter and I walked with Rosemarie and Daisy over to where HD had been locked down for the night. 

While we headed in that direction, Rosemarie pressed $10 into my hand, “from my husband”, she said. “We think that this trip of yours is really wonderful”.  I hugged her and thanked her gratefully. She told me that she was the one who put all the little snacks in our room. What an absolutely sweet lady. 

I showed Daisy and Rosemarie the trike and then demonstrated how to ride it. Daisy climbed on with some trepidation and took off slowly down the sidewalk. She rode it to the end of the sidewalk to the next parking lot, turned it around, and came back. Peter walked along beside her in case she had a problem. She didn’t. She did wonderfully. Daisy was very quiet and shy, holding up the sleeve of her jacket/sweatshirt up near her pretty face whenever we spoke to her.

By the time Daisy returned HD to the 1910 State Hotel parking lot, her dad and her uncle had joined us. They inspected HD, asking questions about hills, gearing, steering, etc. We talked a bit about their jobs--both retired but Daisy’s dad worked for the utility department for about 25 years. 

This is a family that appears to do a lot of things together. What a tight knit family. Rosemarie’s passion is fishing. She simply loves to be outside on the lakes and reservoirs in the area. Often, the water is fairly low, which has often been the case over the last few years. When the level is down, the water is murky and Rosemarie practices “catch and release”. But, when the water levels are higher, she enjoys keeping the fish and she cooks it for the family.

This led to a brief discussion of water issues; their opinion was that drought was the primary reason for water shortages in west Texas. Others have expressed the opinion that the booming oil industry has depleted the water supply as large amounts of water are needed for drilling. I imagine it is a combination of both. 

Daisy said her favorite passion is hunting. She goes deer hunting for 2-day weekends with her dad and uncle. They dress out the deer themselves and eat venison most of the year. Rosemarie jokingly added that, when she sees they have brought home another deer, she thinks “oh no, more deer meat”. Sometimes she longs for a good ole beef hamburger (or fresh fish!).

Daisy’s uncle said that this area is a popular spot for hunters. In fact, the annual hunter appreciation dinner would be held right here in Sterling City within the next week. Peter and I had noticed the banner strung across the main street welcoming the hunters. 

Before HD and I made our departure from the 1910 State Hotel parking lot, Daisy’s unlce pressed $10 into my hand, “for the trip” he said. I tried to give it back, explaining that his brother had already given me some money. But he refused, insisting I keep it.

I thanked them all and pulled out of the parking lot. I would eat well this week. Here is an interesting thing. Sometimes, the people who have the least to spare are the ones who share what they have the most. I pray that this wonderful family is blessed beyond measure. 

The route today was riding the 87 all the way to Big Spring, TX. There was a great shoulder the entire way and the sun was shining. The day would have been spelled 
P-E-R-F-E-C-T, except for the fact that there was a 20 mph headwind all day till about 2 or 2:30 pm.

Well, ok, the day was still PERFECT. Peter played “roadie” all day again. He stopped by with drinks and snacks every few hours throughout the day, and even a Subway salad around noon. Due to the absence of any town or gas station, I was grateful for the use of his car to get out of the wind for 10 minutes at a time, and once to use it as a visual barricade...

More than those wonderful benefits, I was grateful to have his encouraging presence and beautiful smile reappear throughout the day.

I arrived shortly around 4:30 pm at the Motel 6 on the west edge of town. After I took a much needed shower, Peter and I drove around town in his Jetta, looking for a place to eat. The “pickins” were slim and we settled on Pizza Inn, where a harried but sweet lady took care of our needs, while juggling almost the entire restaurant full of service needs and spill cleanups. Peter got a cheese pizza and I had the salad bar (I did sneak a few pieces of his pizza, though) and we finished it off with a dessert cinnamon and sugar pastry. 

Tomorrow, I will definitely have to get back to eating less bread and more fruit. Although, come to think of it, I still have some of that dessert pastry left over. I couldn’t let it go to waste, you know...

Peter headed back to Lubbock around 9 pm. It was so wonderful to have him as my personal “roadie”. Life can’t get much better.


Monday, November 18, 2013

I slept fitfully and got it together by 7 a.m. It wasn’t even light yet. I waited 10 more minutes and, when the sky started to streak pink and purple, I turned on HD’s lights and rode him next door to the travel station in Big Spring, TX. After coffee reinforcement and shooting the breeze with the truckers, I headed northwest on hwy 87, in the early morning light. 

It was a great day: good roads, mild tailwind, temperature a bit cool, and mild grade to Lamesa, Texas. There were no bathrooms for 30 miles, but I was able to keep my fluid intake to a comfortable level. I arrived at the Lamesa McDonalds around 2:30. The assistant manager chatted with me outside and then bought me a cup of coffee from his store. While sipping my coffee and examining my iphone for potential lodgings tonight, a gentleman at another table asked me about Henry David. 

This was Conrad. This gentleman wore a right eye patch and what appeared to be an electronic device in his ear, perhaps a hearing aid. It looked like a blue tooth ear piece. There was a cane by his side.  Conrad is a Desert Storm veteran and former police officer and trainer. He came down with Guillain Barre syndrome a few years ago. This is a neurological disease with an acute onset that basically results in paralysis. Usually it is temporary, but many have died without proper care.  He spent many months in the hospital followed by additional months of outpatient physical rehabilitation. By the time he had recovered enough from the Guillain Barre and was up and walking with a cane, he then suffered a stroke, affecting his right side. A double whammy, for sure. However, he has not given up, by no means. He continues to work on his exercises but longs to have his therapy advanced. Insurance coverage has discontinued for any more physical rehabilitation. So, he was very curious about the sleek, low Henry David, with his stable three wheels but high requirement for lower extremity strength. Conrad says he is a very determined person and refuses to accept failure. His passions are all related to his career: service as a peace officer, training other officers, and participating in search teams in the rugged Texas wild lands---on horseback.

After the delightful conversation with this brave and determined man, I headed out to search for lodging. The cheapest motel looked half abandoned, and the parts that didn’t appear abandoned were cluttered as if hoarders have been living there for a few years. Out of desperation, I stayed at the Best Western---too pricey for my budget, but I figured I was almost home and so I splurged on a room. It was really lovely. Clean, large, airy, and big enough for HD. The breakfast in the morning was fantastic. They had a jacuzzi and a pool but the jacuzzi water was too cold, so I took a hot shower instead and wandered down the street to Subway and brought a nice, big salad back to the room. 

Keep going, girl.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It was a windy day to Seminole. The nights are becoming cooler, but the day time temp was still in the 70’s. A-ok! HD and I traveled pretty much due west to Seminole. It seemed almost flat, but there was a gradual increase of elevation. 

It was getting harder to find places to, well, you know, pee. The plains were giving way to sparse desert brush. I found that, if I turned into a rare ranch road with the gate opened, I could park HD and no one would bother me. Then I could walk a bit further and find a ditch and a bush. A nice outdoor bathroom combination. Every now and then I would also come across an oil or agricultural related business---not many out in the country---and I could beg use of the facilities. Most businesses are tucked into town or along the edge of town. So, if it is 45 miles between towns, about 38 of them are empty of roadside businesses. On HD, it takes several hours to go 35-40 miles---it could take 5-9 hours, depending on wind and road conditions.  Ah, such are the challenges to a female on a trike. We really need privacy. 

About 15-20 miles from Lamesa, I was hailed to a stop by a ranch hand. This was Joe Rodriguez and his friend Manuel. Joe had many practical questions about traveling on the recumbent trike. We talked a bit about the agricultural practices in this area as well. The farmers grow cotton or milo or some other grains but usually rely on rain to water their fields. This is often not practical, as this area is entering the very outer edge of the Chihuahuan desert, although still technically considered Texas “plains”. Thus, the farmers take out insurance and then they are covered for their losses. Sometimes they don’t even plant, if the weather is just too dry. 

Texas is a huge oil producer and this is becoming a more profitable use of land than agriculture in this dry terrain. But farming gets into people’s blood, especially if passed down from generation to generation. There is something so bonding to the earth when you farm. So, even when they are paid to not even plant anything, these farmers hold onto their land, rather than sell it off. I have to admire that. 

Although it does seem odd to try to farm in a desert. Prickly pear does well and is quite edible, doesn’t require water, and grows just by winking at it. But I haven’t seen any cactus farms for serious agricultural use.

Anyway, Joe finished our conversation by asking what I eat on the road. I thought about what was in my cargo area at that very moment. “Ummm. Let’s see”, I responded, “I have some apples, peanuts, and some crackers I think!” I explained that I try to pick up food from grocery or convenient stores and often eat salads at night if I can get them, with occasional restaurant trips. 

He pressed 10 dollars into my hand and said, “Go get something to eat!”  

This was not only sweet and generous, but humorous, as there was not a store for another 30 miles. But, I knew that I would be hungry tonight, so there was definitely a use for it, especially now that I am living off my credit card. I thanked him and cycled off, thinking how touching it is that some of the folks I have met who have the least to spare are the ones who press $10 into my hands after just a 5 minute conversation. I pray they are blessed beyond measure.

I pulled into Seminole in the mid afternoon. Now the excitement was really building. This was a town through which I have driven numerous times, on my way to Lubbock. I took an iPhone photo of the town clock, which has been the landmark for where to turn to switch highways, and sent the photo to my oldest and youngest children, who also have driven through this town more times than they want to count. They were excited and responded with all the wows and oohs and ahhs that I needed to spur me on to the motel. 

I checked into the Seminole Inn on the west end of town, giving me just a little headstart for the morning. It was the most reasonable priced motel in town, so I was glad for that. The owner told me he had met his dream to own his own business and he and his wife were doing what they could to spruce it up. It was a decent place with clean rooms. I did my exercises, showered, and then took my laundry bag full of dirty clothes to the RV camping park next door, where they had a small laundromat. I did my laundry, ordered eggplant parmigiana take out from the Italian family restaurant next door (Thank you, thank you, Joe!!), and headed back to the room. I ate every bit of the heavy meal, as the ride next day was going to stretch the limits of daylight, as well as my endurance...

Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013

I slept fitfully due to the anxious anticipation of the long day ahead combined with the excitement of entering home territory. I was on the road by 6:20 a.m. with the sky still dark and Henry David’s meager lights turned on full blast. Grabbing a gas station coffee on the way out of town, I joined the work trucks and cars beginning their day in the dark.  The road was flat and swift, which I needed for this day. 

I pulled up to the New Mexico border around 10:30-11:00 a.m. and stopped to take a photo. Wow! My home state. At last! Wahoooooo!!! I sent it off to Facebook and also to a few family members on my iPHone, and then shed a choked up tear or two as I realized how close to home I had come. How far I had come. The past and the future, rolled up into one pristine sign: 

Welcome To New Mexico. The Land Of Enchantment.

Yes, indeed it is!

A short while later, HD and I hit the edge of Hobbs, NM, the last town before Carlsbad, my home. This hopping town is thriving from the oil and gas industry as well as nuclear facilities, ranching, and farming. The highway that forms an “L” as it turns through the edge of town is like any other west Texas highway: industrial and nothing to write home about. To see and experience the fun of these west Texas/east New Mexico towns, similar to small towns and cities throughout the country, is to veer into the old downtown areas or into the newer shopping districts. Hobbs also sports a casino and a horse race track, so there are plenty of places for the oil workers to spend their money!

I stopped at the west edge of Hobbs around noon for a final convenience store stop and drinks. Then it was an all out struggle to get to the Halfway Bar and Grill, which is the halfway point between Hobbs and Carlsbad. There is actually a little cafe, Monties, about 10-15 miles from Hobbs, and I stopped there for a quick break. The wind was in my face most of the afternoon and it was hard work indeed to get to the Halfway Bar and Grill by 5:15 pm, after sunset and just as the sky was getting dark. My daughter Shannon met me there and we shared excited (and very tired!) hugs, took photos, and went inside to meet our contacts.

Shannon had contacted the owner, Mike Burton, the day before and obtained permission to park HD in their locked yard when we arrived today. While Mike was not there when we arrived, the two ladies working inside the restaurant were expecting us and showed us where to park my boy. Shannon and I unloaded what I needed for the night and then went inside to share a plate of french fries and a margarita.

This was about my worst nutrition day on this trip so far, due to lack of any grocery stores and paltry offerings in the convenience stores on my route. After the fries, I could feel the fatigue from excessive exercise (68 miles in a headwind on a fully loaded trike) and poor nutrition (you don’t even want to know!). 

We headed back to Hobbs in Shannon’s Hyundai Tucson and stayed the night at the EconoLodge. This was the only place we could find that would allow us to have a pet, as Shannon was accompanied on this last night by her loyal companion, Lou Dawg, a small Dalmation mix canine. Lou is always happiest when Shannon is in his line of sight. 

That evening, I was getting texts and messages from family and friends who wanted to know when I would arrive in Carlsbad, as they hoped to meet me there. I insisted I didn’t want a big deal but I gave my best guess on estimates, thinking I would arrive between 2 and 4 pm.

I went to bed, knowing that this journey would soon be over and home was just over the hill. Or down the hill, as the case would be.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shannon and I packed up and arrived at the Halfway Bar and Grill around 9 am. We had the opportunity to meet Mike, the owner, who had so graciously housed HD for the night. Mike allowed us to take photos of him with us and he told us to come back and enjoy the music venues at the bar as well as the great food. What a great guy. 

I departed from the Halfway Bar and Grill about 9:30 a.m. It was 32 miles to Carlsbad and the wind that had been forecast for the day was decidedly absent. The temp reached the mid 70’s and the weather and road conditions could not have been better for this last day on the road. 

About 10 miles from the Halfway B&G, a policeman in a sheriff’s vehicle pulled up beside me, lights flashing. Well, I certainly wasn’t speeding, ha ha, and I was well over onto the ample shoulder. I stopped and he rolled down his window, asking if my name was Patricia Jo Kearney.

“Yes sir” I replied with some curiosity.

“Well, I have been looking forward to meeting you. My name is Officer Wyatt and I will be escorting you back to Carlsbad”. 

OMG. So much for a quiet entrance. Some one had put out the APB and I was getting a police escort.

Let me tell you. There is nothing like a police escort with lights flashing on a sunny day on a road with a mild downhill grade to get a cyclist pumping. So, I told myself it was time to actually push hard, so, I did. For the next 20 miles, I cycled hard and flew along at 10-12 mph, which is fast for ole HD. 

About 5 miles from town, another policeman pulled next to me and told me he also would be ensuring my safe arrival. He moved in front and I had an escort in front and behind. 


I was smiling and giggling and decided that someone would be getting a noodle lashing from me later today.

Then, about 1 mile from home, there were 2 more police cars and a firetruck. 

What the....??

One block before my street, I saw my son and my dear “little brother” Preacher Dave, among other friends on the street, taking photos and waving ecstatically. My son broke into a run, which is impressive due to sciatic nerve damage which has resulted in left foot paralysis. 

Thus, I was escorted down my street with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Neighbors came outside to see what the hubbub was about and HD and I rolled to the end of the block in front of my house to a small welcoming committee. Preacher Dave Rogers was behind the welcoming committee, bemoaning the fact that I was an hour early and the party was 1/4 of the planned size. Over the next few hours, friends arrived and I received many hugs and flowers and congratulations and welcome home sentiments. 

The police and newspaper reporter and photographer gathered around while Dave presented me with a framed statement from Mayor Dale Janway while the cameras flashed. The Mayor proclaimed it Patricia Jo Kearney day and called me a Hometown Hero. It was special and sweet and moving and unbelievable.

Within about 45 minutes, the mayor himself arrived and shook my hand. The police drove off in their 4 cars, congratulating me. I was humbled.

I was interviewed for the Carlsbad Current Argus, the local paper. Friends came and went for the rest of the day and evening. My house was warm and welcoming.

I am truly blessed.

And very, very happy to be home. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

This morning, safe in my warm home, I awakened to freezing temperatures and snow. Yes, snow. I had finished my journey in 75 degree weather, just in time.

Funny how things work out...

While the journey is over, the story is not. I still have one more chapter to write. Check in with me, on this blog, around Christmas. 

My love to you all. 

Texas Hill Country

November 10, 2013

I got up in the morning and packed up Henry David in the early morning light. I popped back in and gave Shannon a hug, kiss, and warm goodbye before hitting the road. I cycled through Austin to get to the west end of town. Luckily, the traffic was light as it was Sunday morning on a holiday weekend. 

This was now officially Texas Hill Country. It is really quite stunning. The higher the elevation, the drier it gets. So cedars and oaks give way to more grassy plains. There are a few rivers and lakes, but most of the lakes are actually manmade, catching the river water and supplying water to the small towns. Apparently, there is quite a water issue here, as the usage of water by homeowners and golf courses are affecting the rice farms and other agricultural needs in the valleys downstream. The ground is pure granite, so getting water out means drilling through tough rock. 

I read an article about the oil drillers who do fracking around here. Because water is limited, they are now adopting recyling practices instead of simply using all the effluent water and polluting the water table. About time.

It’s usually about money. Not altruism. Man, as a species, is just not that good. If you want policies to change for the betterment of the planet, and you think that people will make changes in their lifestyle and their business practices because it’s the “right” thing to do, well, think again. But when a price tag is in place, making planetary respect the economical thing to do, then policy can be changed. Yay for recycling water! 

In a gas station about 15 miles from Marble Falls, I met a man named Robert today. He has held many jobs in his life, most of them quite successful. He has been all over the world in the pro golf circuit. Now, he doesn’t play golf much anymore due to some serious spinal surgeries, but he still has a hand in the field. Literally. He designs and builds golf courses. He has built them all over Texas and is very familiar with the water issues. Most golf courses now water their grass with gray water, which is cheaper than potable water and adds fertilizer to the soil. Robert has always been such a busy man that he doesn’t like to sit around. So, even though he runs a successful company, he took on a part time job cooking on weekend nights at Poodies--a popular night spot in the area with live music. We had a great talk about the world, politics, and Texas water.

I crossed the Colorado river twice: in Austin and again in Marble Falls, my destination for today. I understand the Colorado river is shrinking, like so many others. Still, it was cool to cycle over it. Twice.

About 5 miles from Marble Falls, I left hwy 71 and turned north on 281. This was not such a pleasant road, but I had a great road most of the day, so I had no complaints. HD and I rolled into town in the late afternoon. I got an inexpensive room at the Hill Country Inn, a modest but clean motel. I did my usual nightly activities, grabbing a bean burrito for dinner from the convenience store at the end of the block. 

Time is so fascinating on the road. Each day is a new place and things seem so long ago. Austin seemed like last week, not last night. New Orleans seems like a month ago, not just over a week ago. 

Strange. Time.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day on the road. No parades, no flags. I spent a good part of the day thinking about veterans, war, battle, diplomacy, international understanding. It was a bit different not to see a veteran friend in person and thank them. Just lonely stretches of road with very few towns. The area is becoming more and more rural. I see some farms and ranches, but mostly just wild land. Feels like home. I’m still in hill country, and will be for several more days, so the ride was challenging but good. I am averaging a very slow pace, even though the load is much lighter. I gave up my camping gear as I figured I could stay in motels for the rest of the 2 weeks I expect to be on the road. Nights are long and cool and the idea of sitting in a cold tent for 11-12 hours is just not appealing. 

After an uneventful but pleasant day on the road, I reached Llano, Texas in the early afternoon. It was a short ride today as the next ride to Brady would be hilly and long, with no opps for lodging in between. The signs welcoming you to Llano read:
“We Welcome Hunters”. It is a town of 3000 but has limited services. It does have a few restaurants luring in the hunting crowd. In the evening, I walked by a store that sells hunting gear with a neon, lighted deer hung upside down in fresh kill fashion, with a red pool of blood dripping from its heart. 

Welcome to Llano!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Arctic blast arrived today, with a North wind of 20-25 mph predicted, thus keeping me in Llano, as I would have to struggle not only with hills but an unreasonable headwind. Tomorrow, the forecast suggests a mild wind, maybe even a slight tailwind. So, I took the opportunity to stay here today and write. I’ve been working on the blogs since New Orleans and have been at it almost 4 hours. My neck hurts, my bottom hurts, and I think I’m ready to do something else! 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Another day through the hills, this time to Brady, Texas. Brady is in McCulloch County, which is the geographical center of Texas. It is also the last of my time in Texas Hill Country. It was over 50 miles today of road--no gas stations or towns or convenience stores. This meant finding bushes, trees, and culverts to take care of bladder business. At one point, I took a “break” to hide in a culvert to relieve myself. While I was busy tucking my tank top back into the waist band of my pants, I heard a voice overhead, “Excuse me, ma’am. Are you ok down there?”

I look up to see an attractive police officer, peering over the railing of the culvert. While my face burned hot, I laughed with embarrassment and answered, “I am fine, officer. No problems!”

“I saw the bike parked at the side of the road and I was concerned” he responded.

Now, truly embarassed, I answered, “Everything is ok, officer, I just needed to take a leak!”

“Are you sure you’re ok, then?”

“Yes, sir, I’m fine”.

I climbed back up the culvert and climbed back on the trike and took off. I should have taken the time to go back to the squad car to talk to him as I bet he had some fantastic stories to share. But, I guess I was a bit embarassed still, and so, off I went. 

The hills were diminishing in grade and the flora was changing. The trees were getting smaller and more scrublike. I rolled into Brady in the late afternoon and found the Sunset Inn. It was situated next to a McDonalds, so I went next door and got a coffee. Then I settled into the motel for the evening, with exercises and laundry to do. It was a long day but I was energized. Tomorrow would be a shorter ride and there was a wonderful gift at the end of it.

Peter would be coming from Lubbock and would be my “roadie” for the next 3 days. 


Thursday, November 14, 2013

It was only about 35 miles today. I practically raced to Eden, TX today, checking into the Slumber Inn at the west edge of town. This was another small town, dotted with a few residential motels for workers and one viable motel for travelers. I waited for Peter to arrive in the evening, finishing my exercises beforehand. We ate the goodies he brought in his car. So nice to see him again.

Friday, November 15, 2013

It was close to 50 miles today, from Eden to San Angelo, TX. There were enough towns that coffee and bathroom stops were available. But Peter met me on the road with snacks and hugs and encouragement. He checked into the San Angelo Inn in the early afternoon and I arrived mid afternoon. We had plenty of time to take a walk in the park, hand in hand, marveling at the sights along the Concho River. 

San Angelo has an annual Christmas celebration, lighting up the river for the “Tour of Lights”, which is now a 2.5 mile driving tour. While it was not yet Thanksgiving, the light structures were either already going up or being set up. The river, by Fort Concho, is a delightfully well kept river through San Angelo. In Carlsbad, we have the Pecos River and we celebrate “Christmas on the Pecos”. You can take boat rides along the part of the river where the riverfront homes are located. The owners, or community volunteers, set up fantastic light displays in the back yards, which extend down to the river itself. The boatswains play Christmas music and give you thick blankets in which to enwrap yourself to stay warm in the cold December night air. This reminded me of the approaching NM destination. 

We went to dinner at a precious home that had been converted to a chic restaurant. It was definitely a higher class than the Subway or convenient store dinners I utilize when I’m alone! Thank you, Peter!

I think I’m liking this “roadie” deal!!