Life behind bars, a solo cyclist wanders, but not searching for himself . Not some deeper meaning to life itself, rather it’s to experience the world and all that it has to offer for those willing to get out and look. A life experience, with its warts and all, as seen from the seat of a bicycle at 10 miles an hour. A God experience, I admit the world is too large for me to explain in any other way. Read more
GEAR REVIEW FOR AROUND THE WORLD CYCLING
Jeremiah Watt, an RTW adventure cyclist, says like almost everyone who tackles a long and epic adventure such as around the world by bicycle, will end with an opinion on gear and the needs for a cyclist as he travels. I am then no different than many who have come before me, except that my opinion on gear and camp life nessessities may differ. So, lets get started as Jeremiah lays out his thoughts, the pros and cons of gear, planning, blogging etc.
Informative blogs, as travellers I think its imperative that we read and follow as many as possible. They educate, inform and prepare a would be traveller as too what we may have for expectations with regard to such things as food, money/currency questions, routes, accessories. As far as Jeremiah is concerned, and his opinion, read as many as you can find, that deal with the adventure and route you intend to take.
Smart phones, I dont care who makes them, or what version that you may have……they just ain’t that smart when you are stuck in the middle of Mongolia and no signal……or even no GOOGLE mapping feature. I love mine, and dont want to be without it, but dont place your life in an online mapping service, have some basic paper road maps with you. And do not depend on the translation apps for anything other than single word translations. You could find that trying to translate an entire sentence may have you accidentaly placed in front of a fireing squad LOL. I carried a Samsung S4 phone.
Tablet or small laptop. I chose a 10″ Samsung Galaxy2 tablet and found it perfectly capable for my needs and my many images. Besides all that, I could charge my tablet thru my Shimano front dyno-hub. I found this to be particularily useful.
Cameras, my son carried two Go-pro units and we really liked the video and image quality that we got from the units. These items also returned home with my son when he flew back from Bucharest. Jeremiah, carried his Samsung S4 phone for panoramas, which is does beautiful with. And for digital cameras, he carried a Canon SX50 HS camera. I really like this type camera, its easy to use, plenty of range on the lense, and does not kill batteries quickly. All plusses when traveling. I had downloaded 2 different apps for handling the editing of images as I traveled. Jeremiah uses Pixlr Express for the bulk of the editing, really like this app. I also have Photoshop Touch on my tablet, this is a powerful app, make no mistake, but it is just so much slower than the Pixlr software. All totalled, I filled 3 of the class 10 x 64gig cards, and 2 class 10 cards of 32 gig capacity. Thats alot of images folks, and almost no video was shot on these cards. For storage, we added an external micro SD card of 128gig capacity.
Bike, that Jeremiah rode was a Surly Long Haul Trucker. This has proven to be a bullet-proof all steel frame with nary a failure nor weakness. I love, love, love this bike says Jeremiah.
Racks, I know that the cycling world loves Tubus brand racks and most likely for good reason. With that said, on our 2 bikes, we ran Surly Brand expedition racks both front and back. Put all bolts in with a drop of blue Loc-Tite. Never lost nor broke a bolt, no failures what-so-ever. One thing I really liked about the Surly racks was the racks had a good top base to support added bags and crap that we cyslists tend to carry, Tubus racks to not have this luxury.
Stove, my choice of stove was loved and hated. All due to fuel issues. I had an Esbit brand alchohol fuel stove, from Ukraine and on west it was not much problem finding fuel. It cleaned up well, cooked just fine, was light and efficient for us as we travelled. Once we arrived in USA, it was a piece of cake to travel and use this little stove. The real problem lay within Russia, Mongolia and China…..you will pull your hair out finding fuel in any of these countries and find yourself wishing for a different stove, as we did. Have to be honest here, that had we been using canister fuels, in some pllaces that also would have been a problem. We carried a multi-fuel stove for a while, but got tired of its leaks and everything smelling like fuel in short order along with the ports being plugged up and constant cleaning..maybe, there is no perfect stove?
Seats, at home I ride a Fizik seat and really like it. But on all day tours, I ride a Brooks-B17. This seat is not only comfortable but looks like a million dollars after its broke in. I think it takes close to 1000 miles to actually have the seat breakin and conform JMO.
Wheels/Rims, Jeremiah chose 26″ wheels after much discussion and advice on blogs. But in retrospect I would say that the 27″ are by far more available in those places such as morthern China, Mongolia and eastern Russia. There were actually several places where we could not find any 26″ wheels, but had choices of several 27″ wheels and tires. My rims, front and backwere Ryno-Lite double walled, with a 40 spoke count, 4 cross pattern x 12ga. spokes front. On the rear wheel I used the same rim brand, but 48 spoke count x 4 cross pattern. Back hub was a Phil Wood hub, fantastic hub. Front hub is a Shimano Dyno hub and it worked flawlessly the whole trip. ( NOTE, my son rode with me on the same bike setup, same wheels and same rims for 4 months. We set his bike up with a Son28 hub, and where always dissappointed. Very miserable wiring connections at the hub itself, always broke loose from brush and or vibration. I have too say, that we sent them 2 emails regarding problems we had been having with this hub, and never heard a word back from them) Would never place this hub ahead of my Shimano dyno hub.
Tyres/Tires, depending on where you grow up and how it is spelled. Make no mistake about it, if you choose anything other than a Schwalbe brand tire, you are asking for more trouble while touring. Schwalbe brand tires, in my case Marathon Plus version x 1.75 width they proved to be invincible. We met several other long distance tourers and most ran the same tire as what we placed on our bikes. For our choice in tubes, we just ran condoms with a valve stem. The lightest tubes around. We added tire liners inside the Schwalbe tires.
Patch kits, this may sound rather harsh, but you cant take chances on being in the middle of no-where and need a patch kit. So, chose Rema Tip-Top Touring patch kits. You can be assured that the glue is fresh, and patches stick. I equipped my sons bike with Patch kits from Parks Brothers and NONE of the glue was useable PERIOD, bought at 2 different stores and several months apart.
Frame pump, floor pump????. Jeremiah admits that he must be the only idiot who cannot depend on blowing up a tire to full pressure, or without wrecking the valve stem during the process when using the ultra-lite frame style pumps. With that confession made, Jeremiah has never been left sitting on the side of the road cussing at the broken stem on his last danged inner tube iether…..because I always carry a full floor pump. Yes, they are heavier and bulky for sure. When I left, I had a Lenzyne Traveller floor pump……a gorgeous unit and not at all heavy, a perfect full sized travel floor pump. But the constant bump and jar of Chinese and Mongolian roads completely messed the pump up, beyond use. To Lenzyne’s credit, I sent them an email telling them of the state of the pump and they replaced it with a very apologetic letter. The only problem was that the replacement was sent to my home in california, a matter that I dont hold against them, I like the fact they stood behind the product. We replaced this pump with a $1.29 cent floor pump at the black market in Bayan Olgii, Mongolia……it worked flawlessly and was super light. Had this pump till it was taken away from me in Portugal at the Airport when flying home.
Solar charging system. As stated, we had Dyno hubs on both bikes to charge such things as our phones and tablet as we rode. In addition to this charging method, we had a Goal Zero Sherpa battery pack unit along with the Goal Zero 20 panel array. However, this proved to be lacking for rugged use, no matter how we tried to take the harshness and rigors of travel out of the equation. By mid way thru Mongolia, both the panel and the battery units failed completely and were sent home. To the Company’s credit, they fully replaced both units and were very apologetic about it all, but again, the replacements were sent to my house in California.
Tents. For my expedition I chose the REI Quarter Dome tent, which is an ample 2 man tent with a gear shed on both sides, allowing 2 loaded tourers to keep everything out of the rain except for the bikes themselves. My son and I done this on several occassions in blowing sand as well as heavy rain. I really like this tent says Jeremiah, it has a larger floor plan than most 2 man tents, good sized gear sheds leave room for gear or cooking under during pouring rain. The tent proved to be strong and durable for my use. In my opinion, the only fault found with this tent, is its poor wind resistance ability during wind events, in this scenario, it is very poor, and the camper MUST find refuge for the tent or suffer the consequences. Even a little wind will flatten this tent.
Convertors, whether E-Werks brand which is fully adjustable to any/everybattery……or a very simple Sinewave version for half the price or less. We had both and tested both. I will take the consistant simplicity of the Sinewave version hands down says Jeremiah. The other version, while technically a more intuitive and thought out convertor, it proved over and over again to be farless able to place as much charge in any battery as did my Sinewave convertor. Besides that, the user has do pull batteries, do some calculations, turn three times to the left followed by one turn to the right while at the same time sticking his tongue out and you come up with an Amp and Joule setting, of which you need to make both settings correctly……..yes, correct, it comes with 3 feet of chord on it for good reason, that way you can throw it further out into the ditch and never feel like you should go looking for it. Stick with the Sinewave unit and wear a smile.
Sleeping mats, Jeremiah uses a 30″width Luxury Traveller by Thermo-rest and loved it. Not a single issue except that they begin to stink after a while on a long journey. So, I began a habit of giving it a serious scrubbing every couple months, and this helped alot. No holes, no patches, no leaky valves haunted me as I travelled.
Panniers, it goes without saying that the top of the line bags/panniers are those made by Ortlieb. They are not cheap, because they are well made and function everyday in the harshest conditions, dont try to scrimp and save on bags. Just call Wayne at the Tour Store an online provider of Orlieb brand product and you will be set for years.
Sleeping bags, now I had a Moutain Hardware bag, a mummy style, zipper sided and rated to minus 15. The bag proved capable in the temps that I camped in during this trip, and so for that I am happy. BUT, the bag design has one serious flaw that will cause a Pastor to cuss, and a sailor to blush when he hears it. The problem, is the stinkin zipper flap which stops wind blowing thru the zipper when zipped up. The fabric tape used is too short in length for one thing, and also way to flimsy. So as a result, the damn zipper is ALWAYS STUCK. Middle of the night, pitch black, this will really test your patience. By Romania, some 4 months into the trip, Jeremiah had had enough of this hassle. I took out my tiny scizzors, and just hacked the damned little protective flaps off of both sides of the zipper. While not a complete cure, it did help in the bags performance for the rest of the trip.
RTW advice, dont over plan the trip. By doing so, it leaves no room for God to work and reveal himself. Dont over pack clothes, keep it very basic with layers, you can always buy an extra piece of warmer clothing as you go. I for instance rode in 1 pair of Pearl Izumi bib shorts for the entire trip, I think the Pearl brand is the most rugged brand of cycling clothing on the market today. I also think its designed to fit Americans, we tend to be a little larger and carry more wieght than most Europeans or asians for instance.
Jeremiah Watt, and his very dependable (RTW) round the world steed, Shirly Surly which is a rim brake, 26″wheeled Long Haul Trucker steel framed bicycle, have officially concluded thier adventure. The cycle tour came to its final conclusion on Wednesday the 25th of March….just 3 days after Jeremiahs 59th birthday. Just want to say a very large thankyou to many family and friends who have Prayed for me, thanks. Several Pastor friends, my hometown pastor, Mike Markley from here in Coalinga, who has lead the saints on several pray for the “spandex cowboy” sessions. And to my adopted Pastor from the Holland, he has been praying for blessings on both Pine and I since we met him and his wife at Voronetz in Romania, thankyou. And to my preaching cowboy Pastor Ted and Linda Wiese for thier constant prayers.To several business associates from here in USA, China and Taiwan, Canada and Russia. To all of them I say thankyou for your patience and tolerance with my being out of the office so much…..like danged near a year…..thanks.
Most especially, I want to acknowledge my wife and my thanks to her for all she puts up with from me. Thankyou Colleen, I love you and cherish your council and your unending affection. Deserved or not, you never hold back and give me 100%. If ever I fall short on strength or conviction on my biblical walk, you are right there, like guideposts on my roadway. I have 2 beautiful children because of her genetics…..apparently none of mine show up…..mystery.
Jeremiahs last blog post had him taking a deserved day off and sitting in a motel room in Barstow. With the blog entry and images finished up, Jeremiah walked next door and had americanized Chinese food. Hit the sack pretty early and got up about 5.15am. He and Shirley were rolling in the pre-dawn hours of what would be breezy day all the way west towards Tehachapi. Not much can be said about the stretch between Barstow and Mojave, except maybe YUP, done that piece before. Had a meal in Mojave and took sort of a backroad out of this wind farm encroached town, a road that winds its way up over the mountains then drops into the valley that holds Tehachapi. The wind was howling and finding a spot to set up my wind challenged tent was very problematic. Done my best, but by 4 am, I knew that I had a problem and it needed to be dealt with. So I crawled out of the abode, and grasping the crossing of poles at the top of the tent, I reached down with my freehand and dislodged the closest corner guy-rope…..at some 90 miles an hour the tent kited out to the ropes end, burning my hand upon its exit…..hit the end of its tether and flipped totally inside out bending poles and spraying tent stakes like a lawn sprinkler. Cowboys……gotta love thier mentality…..its instant blood boil….followed by a “comeer you SOB….an I’ll show you”. I hauled the tent back by the one tiny chord that I stiil held fast……total darkness and groping for orientation…….got a fabric corner and pulled it to my face to figure things out……oooops, there goes the danged ballcap Jim-Bob, cock your head a little and turn just slightly said my mental elevation control panel……and I listened and executed to near perfection. A snapping sound, followed by that crisp noise a sail makes when it engulfs a full load of aire……followed by now complete blindness as the tent sprang from its final tent peg mooring and reversed its current fold to capture me entirely as it changed its course in the prevailing wind.
Rip stop nylon, coated zippers, seamed tent peg pockets and fly screen were stuck to my legs and face as if by glue….no part could be lifted away without some other piece of fabric filling the void……Jeremiah is running short of breath, and visual acuity is now zero as the flapping fabric envelopes my head. My mental emergency responce unit came into play and issued a dire oxygen awarness warning and a dissorientation buzzer sounded which ley me know my internal gyroscope was now malfunctioning due to a lack of oxygen and a blotted out horizon line…….TURN IMMEDIATLY TO THE RIGHT JEREMIAH was the advice…..which I did like an automaton, and the tent sprang from my body like a leopard from a tree branch. A sharp jerk at arms length, and a burning palm was my gift for allowing the tent to once again flip inside out and capture a full sail of wind. The mental preservation unit once again kicked in with advice which is totally computer driven…….bout as usefull as advice about work from a teenager or almost anything from Al Gore for that matter. Shutup I said, what do you know about camping anyways I heard my reply, as it tried in vain to warn me……..I stomped my left foot down in the middle of the billowing tent and grasped a corner and whatever bent poles I could find. Wrapped any loosed fabric left over, around my arm and proceeded to stuff it into an empty pannier. Not really caring, nor looking for that matter, just getting it contained and constrained was my goal. The sun had not even begun it’s match over the eastern horizon, camp was packed, the bike was ready to roll. Nothing to do know but get started.
About 8 miles separated me from Tehachapi, which meant that the previous day I had logged some 83 or so miles into a stiff head wind…not bad for an old fart. Rolled of the top of the ridge and down into Tehachapi, stood for a moment wondering what to do next. I was supposed too call my friend Matt Sheridan, and my intention was to do just that if it had been a normal day……but here I am at 5.45……..and I would be waiting till when……? Done what every cyclist with a yearning to get home would do, I rolled right out to the 4 lane known as 58, and sailed downhill into Bakersfield. Rode on thru most of town then stopped for a cup of coffee and breakfast. made a left hand turn onto 7th Standard road and was now headed for the west side of the San Joaquin valley. By about 3.30pm, I was on the west side but totally unsure of my tent situation and was pondering what to do…….a truck rolled up and offered me a lift. Gladly I said, and caught a ride almost 40 miles north to Hwy41 junction and the closest motel to where I was. Inside the room, I figured out the state of my tent and hit the hay. About 77 miles covered that day while on the bike.
The following day, I would ride from Hwy 41 on up to Jayne Ave which is abot 12 miles from Coalinga. Sitting at a Shell Station, I called my wife and got the bad news……….I was not allowed to come home till the following morning after 10am. For about 4 hours I read Tom Clancy’s novel, Executive Actions while sitting out front of the store. Sometime along about 5pm, my Pastor and my other good friend Larkin snuck up on me as I sat reading and surprised the heck out of me as I sat. They had a plan of taking me out to supper, which sure sounded nice, but, I declined since I had made plans to cook my last meal in my tent. It made me feel bad, sorry guys, but I was defermined to close this expecition out like an adventure expedition.
My morning began at 7 and I pedaled into Coalinga to have coffee. Called the wife and let her know that I was coming home….ready or not so too speak. Headed up the canyon and stopped to visit with nieghbours as I rode. First I met the ranch owner where I live, Ted Denhartog. From tnere I went to pray with my Pastor and Miss Mary at the church before I headed up the canyon. About that sametime, our friend “Uncle Leonard” came along to say hello and wish me well. Next up was my mailman and a friend, Daniel. Rode on aways to Alcalde Ranches and visited with Natasha and Chance, checked out her greyhounds and the new barn they have been putting up since I left. Just a ways further up I got to say hello to the Warthan Canyon beeman, Don. Within maybe 3 miles of home, I met Sharon, my former secretary and her husband Norv, along with our now retired phone man Jim, and his copilot Mr. Ramsey. It was a magnificent morning up Warythan Canyon, as cattle of all colors dotted the sides of those sunwashed hills. Granite spires and wildflowers thrown in as if by a painters hand, adding interest and color. It was aneasy ride, drawn as if by a string or maybe magnetic power towards first my mailbox then just a mile and a half further my house. The road from the mailbox to the house had been painted with thenames of all the countries that Pine and I had ridden thru on this odyssey. At the gate, I was met by 2 of Teds( ranch owner ) grand-daughters and they on bicycles, escorting me into the last 150 yard stretch too the house, the shop, my yard, waiting friends and employees, Colleen, Pine and the dogs and cats that make our home, our home. So thankfull to all of you and especially to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for guiding and ushering me thru on this journey one road and one hill after another.
Special thanks to;
Colleen Watt my wife, what can I say but that she is truly the glue that binds my home and business together.
Pine Watt for sharing the first 4 months of the journey thru the hardest section, and for keeping me going. Its you that made it happen.
Nevada Watt, my daughter for her constant support and encouragement.
Ted & Tracy Denhartog, the owners of the ranch where we get to live, its paradise, thanks
Hyun Ku Kim, of China for his support and friendship, his fantastic sendoff party, many thanks.
Jack Ann of South Korea, for his constant prayers while we were traveling and for praying over us when sending us off.
Sunny Yan, of China for his support and prayers as we traveled
Vladimir, Gaia and Roman Kolchetkov of Russia for thier welcome into thier home and fine meals and encouragement.
Yves, Miriam and Erin Lesire of France for welco ing me into thier home and thier warm hospitality.
Georges and Natalie Braile also of France, thier constant friendship and continued support, thanks.
Pierre Duinat my Basque friend, a warm home and many meals.
Orzuri Urrutia, a great gal from the Basque region, who allowed me the use of her mailbox at desparate times.
Ryan, Tracy and Chloe, who welcomed a biker back to America, fed him and allowed him to play with Chloe’s toys.
Niel Watt, my brother, who took a chance on riding with me in Europe as well as New Mexico, many thanks.
Lee, Kendra, Rayce and Kollins Griggs, who provided a welcome home to me during a stormy section thru New Mexico
Darby & Dalette Adams, for thier friendship over many years and consistant support and encouragement.
Niel and Debra Overton for thier long lasting friendship and support.
Deahl Rooks for his many years of friendship and consistant encouragement.
Pastor Mike Markley and wife Jeana for constant prayers and the rousing of the faithful saints to do the same, thanks.
Pastor Hindrik van Diijken of Holland, for continued prayers and encouragement to prevail in the name of Christ that he may be glorified.
Valentin Daniel Olariu, for his friendship and gift of Portugese wine to enjoy over Christmas Holidays
Weaver Leather, to the entire staff for allowing me to be missing from action for almost a full year, many thanks
Jeremiah Watt, and Shirley Surly his Long Haul Trucker bicycle, are being drawn like a homing pidgeon on there Round The World cycling journey, thru deserts, over mountain passes and along sweltering ribbons of blacktop……all in an effort to bring this epic adventure to its conclusion. For Jeremiah to be drawn as if by a homing beacon means less visiting with folks as he travels, less images of the passing countryside and fewer meals from passing restaurants as he makes his way west backhome to California. “I sure wouldn’t want to be much later in the year riding these stretches because California is making its first real effort to warm up for the summer, and the heat reflected off the roads will wear you down and sap your strength. I have begun to carry a total of 7 liters of water tnru the day as well as an extra liter of GATORADE as a treat to inspire me to ride on just a few more miles so that I can have a sip……the ol’dangling carrot routine still works”. I trust in the promise of Isaiah 40:31, But for those who hope in the Lord will renew thier strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint…….I am on the ragged edge in several places during this leg.
The powerful draw of home, family, friends and yes even my daily work routine. Is somewhat of a dangerous mental distraction at times. I find that my mind dwells upon it and all that it holds instore for me, leaving me riding in a bit of a “haze at the moment”. I dont ride with music nor any thing of the sort, all because I dont want a momentary distraction to leave me in trouble there on the road. Thats all fine and dandy, its easy to remove external objects of distraction……but when your brain begins to wander and day dream thats a far more difficult obstacle to overcome. So, I Prayed for one thing, somethjng I am not great at but certainly do it knowing its my connection to the Big Fella who gave me the World to ride around. And secondly, I began sketching in my mind new items to produce within my little hardware company called Horse Shoe Brand Tools. I would build entire groups of saddle hardware products, then make simple sketches at night when I stopped so that I could jog my memory once I got back home. This proved to be very useful for me and left my mind with the ability to concentrate on the here and now of passing traffic. Much of which was danged close at times.
Left out of Springerville on a cool morning with clouds that threatened rain as a gift for me somewhere along the way. To the south of Springerville lies the taller mountains and the local ski areas, these hills were also the moorings for the dark grey flotsam that would stalk me all day like an MI6 agent. Riding north by NW out of town, leaving civilization in the comfort of its small town streets, with food for 2 solid days, water enough to make camp as I wished, Jeremiah and Shirley Surley plodded thier way over one long mesa climb after another. We climbed so much that we broke into stands and pine tress and bright blue sky, leaving cloud and rain behind us. The infamous Mogollon Rim ( pronounced – Muggy – yon Rim) by the locals, its crimson red rock facade rippled and folded like a Vaudeville theater curtain over my right shoulder. The scent of freshening Pine filled the air, all sort of Day 6 creatures filled the air above and ground around me. Could a ride get any prettier than thru this stretch of north eastern Arizona, I think not really. And just 75 miles north of me, on Interstate 40, I know there are car loads of tourists asking each other……..”OMG, how much longer does this go on” as they blaze thru the sandy scenery along that faster but far less sceneic route.
About halfway between Heber and Payson, Jeremiah would find a quiet spot among lofty Pines, upon a deep bed of crimson pine needles on which to lay down his tent. A fine supper was cooked, baked and stuffed cuttlefish, with a serving of black squid ink rice, brazed fresh vegetables and a loaf of unsalted crusty Italian bread to sop up the juieces, a glass of Chablis which paired perfectly with the evenings squid…….at least thats what I kept telling myself as I shoveled down another meal of cous-cous steamed in red hot Rotel and drank my new favorite, Cucumber Gatorade. I topped a fine meal of with Earl Grey Tea and 2 of my niece Kendra’s cookies. That girl has a future with Dorpers, fresh olive oil, her silverwork and her cookies could replace Mrs. FIELDS. She is in line to be the youngest women in New Mexico to have her own Corporate Hang Glider.
The next day would see a change in the roads and the traffic both. It was a Saturday, so very many cars out of the Phoenix basin, out for a weekend drive. The road narrows alot as you get closer to Payson and as I would find out later that day, it gets far worse after Payson all the way to the junction of 260 over to Camp Verde. But, allow me mot to get ahead of myself. As the roads narrow, the shoulder drops away completely, diminishing to just loose black sand/gravel. I have found that URBANE DRIVERS, like to watch the wilderness thru tinted windows while sitting in thier 68 degree climate controlled driving chambers and a new PINE SCENTED atomizer mounted on the dash of the new SUV. Each pudgy kid sipping from a personal 64oz drink, wearing the latest Rebok atheletic wear, but as of yet unsweated in……a maybe never will be. They just love to clean the cars mirrors on passing cyclists, as they debate if the bird seen overhead thru the moonroof is an eagle or a duck……then turn infront of you inorder to take in a sceneic overlook, or tiny alpine lake. Some of you may chastise me for calling these towner kids “pudgy”, yup, its a broadbrush statement, the likes of which my son Pine informs me that I make to many of. But, I had occassion to stop in the instance above and watch the family that I dubbed the “Howitzer Family” exit thier SUV. any one of them, with just a little grease applied, would have fit perfectly into a cannon barrel. Stopped at many overlooks over the next few days, and it very often looked the same to me. Guess I am on a rant because somwhere along on this USA trip, I read that less than 8% of our high schoolers get the daily recommended amount of physical activity……and someone has the audacity to call us an “obese nation”.
The driving and roads would over the course of the day prove to be just about too much too handle. Jeremiah and Shirley, were relegated to walking up almost every hill, not because of steepness nor difficulty…….its simply a matter of self-preservation that set in. I know many bikers will tell you, simply get out there and occupy your lane. Force the offending motorists to slow down and contend with you as another vehichle…….all fine and dandy till its you that is prying the Lexus SUV hood ornament out of yer…….butt.
Passing thru Payson, taking on more water,some gatorade and an Ice Cream Sandwich for a little exfra fuel boost. Jeremiah kept heading for the top of the Mogollon Rim and the junction of 260 headed west to Camp Verde. The road after Payson is just not a cyclists road, and shouldn’t be marked as such. Way to tight and narrow, zero shoulder, very soft gravel acts as what little shoulder there is, and its virtually up from Payson thru Pine and then Strawberry and up yet more and steeper to the 260 Junction. All totalled, I walked about 12 miles of this stretch of road……and lived to tell about it.
Made camp at the junction basically, maybe a few miles short. Camp was great, read Tom Clancy for a couple hours had tea and a few cookies, sacked out with a starry night sky captured in heavens vault. Dreamt of my wife, my kids, my big red dog that likes to fart and howl sometimes at the same time, the fat cat that adorns my office chair, the guys in the shop, lifting wieghts at noon with Luis, and all those fruit trees that have been planted over the years. It seems the longer I am traveling the more local and less worldly my thoughts become…….it was the exact opposite of this when I left on this journey.
Up early, riding before 7am and enjoying the prefectly crisp aire and the beautiful smells that come with spring no matter where you are. Heading due west, and about 3000 feet lower to Camp Verde on the Verde River in central Arizona. Alligator Junipers are loaded with pollen, spotting the landscape with thier deep ochre coloration, contrasting with the deep greens of their cousins, the western Junipers. The ground between trees, a rich tapestry of muted earthtones, with bunch grasses mostly of the perrenial type, a mottling of soft yellows intersperced with the reds of the sands from which it grows. A veritable color carpet laying under the globe like trees that fill the landscape as far as can be seen. Shirley Surly, she bucks and farts as she hits a serious 9 mile descent at 6%, while its not a European descent, it is nevertheless a downhill, and there is a new spring in her step…….is that a throb or maybe a pulse that I feel up thru the hind wheel.
Camp Verde comes very easily as it is almost a downhill roll the whole way. But attaining Prescott by days end will prove to be a much harder task, but I was determined to make it happen. I chose to break the law, and ride right over the grade on I-17 south to Hwy169 which is my exit on secondary roads to the hillside town of Prescott. The big I-17 grade took nearly 2 hours of time and chugging to get up and over. No State Troopers seemed to notice me, so, I got thru without a problem. The pulsing sensation within the back wheel was becoming more pronounced, knowing there would be a bike shop in Prescott I was determined to get it looked at since the roads and towns that follow this are far narrower and towns much smaller. Finally rolled into town on one last climb, spotted a motel with easy access and got a room and shower for the night.
The following morning, would see me at the local bike shop getting some much needed repair work done. My Phil Wood rear hub had lost the bearings on one side, hence the pulsation coming up thru the rear wheel. A few other minor adjustments, and we were rolling west on Iron Springs grade out of Prescott, and headed plunging downhill into Skull Valley. A beautiful ride of maybe 30 miles, not much left in this tiny hay farming valley. Just a tiny wood floored cafe, and the well weathered patrons who live locally. I, on the other hand stood out like an escaped zoo animal……I am sure they are still talking about the idiot on the bike. 2 glasses of sweet tea and we hit the road again, headed towards Kirkland where my wife tells me there is a lot in the way of gas stations and stores…….boy howdy was she wrong. There ain’t crap in Kirkland, but for a tiny elementary school. So Jeremiah rolls into the school and begs a bottle of water off one bus driver, fills every vessel he owns and rolls on north on SR10. About 90 miles, maybe a little more till the next civilization. As a bonus, I will roll thru Bagdad on my route west. Folks, this is one beautiful drive, its a bit ruff, rather winding in many places, but a drive to be made in the spring when the flowers are out in bloom. Beautiful for sure.
Jeremiah rolled along with one eye on the ditch, hoping to spot a good stiff plastic bottle to load on additional water thru this section. As luck and the Lord would have it, I came across a nice clean 2ltr soda bottle with good cap and no damage. Along the way, I passed a ranch house rightalong the side of the road…….walked into the yard tenatively, watching for old snaggle toothed Festus, the ranch guard dog to emerge from his shaded concealment. No dog, a real surprise…..knock…….knock……still no dog…….one more knocking round. A garden hose hung limp on a fence post as I walked back toward the road……and right tbere is the faucet……..so, I turned it on letting the warm sitting water pass thru and refilled all bottles that I had with me. Caml that nite was simply alongside the road, just a flat sandy spot large enough for a tent was all, stoppjng celt very good as there hadbeen many climbs thru the day.
Rolled up camp, which was maybe 4 or 5 miles from the Bagdad turn off, and headed out with a belly full of oatmeal and legs refreshed from a good nights rest. My route would take me duewest by the compass, till I intersect State Highway 89 which will then take me due north thru the only small town respet wnich is Wikieup before I pedal on into Kingman. Not much excitement thru this long boring deserty section, many hills to climb making my way north, the road is good for the most part with ample shoulder in all but a few short sections. Just before Wikieup, I ran a 2″ or so sheet metal screw thru both sides of the hind tyre…..never done that before. Left out of Wikieup, determined to get S close to Kingman today as I could. Somewhere along in thjs section of road, my phone rang and it was my dauvhter Nevada. We hadnt talked for quite awhile, so the 4t minutes we did was good therapy for ol’pops.
Camped at a ranch access pull off. The painting of the evening sky done each evening for us by the Lord, was hidden from view by heavy low hanging cloud….evening came wrapped in a grey cloak. Got up early to the sound of an lverly active Meadowlark sitting and singing right outside my tent. First, I thought where is my shotgun……then I thought, maybe God wants me up and riding……heah tbat must be it. Doing just that, I was riding by 7.15 or so and hit the junction of I-40 and pointed Shirley Surley due west for the 20 miles into Kingman. Arrived in good time, bought a few groceries, had a quick burger and found the Old Route 66 turn and was headed for Oatman as my destination that day.
The road out is pretty much a 2% grade out of town for maybe 12 miles or so, dry washes, flowerjng shrubs and greasewood are all tnat keep you company. At about the 12 mile mark, you will round a bend and slip in between 2 rows of low lying hills…….and then beautiful does begin…..along with the climbjng as well. You will be making your way over Sitgreaves Pass of 3500 foot elevation…..on a very old piece of knarled and twisted bitumen dating from the neolithic period. First stop is at the rock walled edifice at the base of the climb, that being, Cold Springs……a travelers oasis of soft drinks, gatorade and ice cream bars and I had one of each. Up, up, up we pedal, one slow revolving pedal stroke at a time. The sandy valley floor gkves way to rising decomposed lava formed rusty red spires. Jagged rock formations, like something taken from a Grimms Fairytale. Jutting into the sky as if set too hook passing clouds on thier way east with the prevailing winds. The ragged lava spires are soon mixed in with round knobby wall like fortifications of soft wind formed sandstone. The contrast in colors is amazing. Still further up, the sides of the surrounding mountains turn into huge brilliant carmine boulders, ot stacked and orderly, but thrown into place by Nephalum or maybe trolls back in the day. From the steep upper roads near the peak, a stop looking backwards gives one the visual mix of not just distance, but the entire color spectrum that the human eye can can concieve and enjoy. Truely, one of the prettiest roads I have ridden thus far.
The Lord is merciful, and fulfils our dreams beyond where our mind can imagine. Someplace along in Bosnia or was it Montenegro, my wife and I ran into a group of fellas logging with Oxen…….wish number 1 came too pass. Then, as I made the very last bend and slipped tnru Sitgreaves Pass…..mlvement off to my right caught my eye……Holy Crap and Poochy Maggie……..look out my mind said to me…….right there at about 15 feet over head, came a dozen Desert Big Horn rams…….running down the side of the mountain to my right, plungkng in full flight off that 15 foot bank……landing in the mkddle of the road not more than 20 feet infront of me…….they were seemingly oblivious to my presence……..they each inturn landed, and with the next stride they blunded on zpringlike legs clear lff the road to my left and into the surrounding rock and cactus…….they were all but invisible witthin seconds ofhitting the local vegetation. Jeremiah simply stood, partly dumbfounded by what had just happened……but waiting in epectation as well…….I just knew my tool making friend Barry King would/should be hot on thier heels and the reason for thier flight…….Wish number 2 came too pass, to see our hardest to find desert bighorns in thier home turf. It was indeed a special treat to see.
Topping out and sliding over to the eastern side of the pass, gave me cause to take refuge out on a rocky promontory……maybe eat a little something and look out over tbe exlansive valley below and cojnt my continual blessings. “Hey, what ya doin there ehh?”, came a voice from some unseen person to my right. Just sitting here eating and tKing in the beauty of it all……so, where are you from in Canada I ask. The EHH suffix gave him away. Ends up, 2 retirees from “dead rear” as it is locally known….or Red Deer on the map. Farmers, grain growers. Wingerjng in the Quartzite area Nd just relaxing along the Colorado river when they felt like getting up and moving. The lifestyle would’nt suit me, but it seemed to fit there rather plush vase type build to tee. Ate my 2 pieces of fruit, rolled on down below the crest a few miles, took many more pics, and set up my little tent where the wind could not get to me. What a drop dead gorgeous spot I had, with surrounding red rock turning crimson with the advent of evening. Bouffant volumnous clouds turned pink and orange overhead as brilliant green foliage was washed in the spectral light of evening, once again the Lord would place his hand upon another blessed day and make it visibly so for all too see. There I sat, with a front row seat, believeing ti too be just for me……do you think it could be?
Allen, a confirmed “roadie”, was my visitor along the streets of Needles. He, having been on the road now for an excess of 3 years. Had crashed out his bike, sold it off for parts along with everything he owned and bought an Amtrac ticket back to Wisconsin and home. He would take a month off, rebuild another bike and set off by June 1 to ride all the way around the Great Lakes. It amazed me how mush we ended up looking alike…….it seems to me profiling long distance bicycle travelers would be very easy. Bedang careful out there mKing your way west to Barstow he warned, as tbere aint anythjng tbat ocfers salvation for tbe weary traveller along Old 66…..just so you know!
144 miles of bright sunny skies, by middah everythkng took on a silvery sheen made manifest by dry air and microscopic dust particles floating in the California desert air. Distance was lost to haze by 1pm. Thirst began to feel like the norm, and shade was nowhere to be seen nor found…..it was time to just shutup and pedal……after all, Shirley and I had only 143 miles left to go. My ATT quit me less than 5 miles out of Needles, and never returned till I was within about 20 miles of Barstow. 2.25 days too Barstow, arrived this am about 9 and got a motel room so I had a full day of blasting AC and work on the blog and images. Just one day that I am thankful too have an obligation too work on the blog today. It would look like one blog post left from Barstow to home which is about 258 miles by my mapping, and will follow that with gear review after I make it into my front yard sans a radiator attached to my backside. Have a great day, and God bless you all for following, commenting (too which I will try and return replies later today) and generally encouraging me as I ride.
You are joining the Jeremiah Watt travel blog as he cycles round the surface of Gods creation on his Round the World (RTW) bicycle tour. I cannot take credit for this being a solo tour, my son Pine Watt joined me for the first 4 most arduous months. Then our Russian friend Vladimir Kolchetkov and his wife Gaia encouraged us abundantly, as did many fans, family and friends thru prayer. My older brother joined me now on 2 separate occassions, first for a stretch thru Italy and France, then for a second stretch from House NM which lies along the Texas stateline out thru the enchanted state of New Mexico. Jeremiah, on his RTW steed Shirley Surly, and my brother took to the icy air and roads of eastern New Mexico leaving thru a window between winter storms. Pietown was calling me after 37 or more years, and surely we could find that enchanted cloud cover that New Mexico is known for if only we rode west.
Armed with a huge bag of oatmeal cookies made by Niels daughter, Kendra. We pointed our loaded Surly Long Haul Trucker touring cycles to the west off what is locally known as the cap, and headed for Santa Rosa for the day. Atop the cap, the skies were lead grey, and heavy with pending snow and ice. But dropping approx. 700 feet off the rocky rim of the canyon lead us into a warm micro-climate where winter layers of clothing were soon being shed. Down thru rim rock country with its red sand and waving yellow grass we passed over the miles and ridges that harbor the tiny town of Santa Rosa which lies on I-40 to the east of Tucumcari NM. Arriving somewhat pooped because the last 20 miles or so had a stiff headwind challenging our every pedal stroke. The scarlet and crimson skies of sunset had left us before the twinkling lights of town greeted us, leaving little opportunity to find a good place to set up our tents. Yes, we opted for a room and a restaurant meal this night.
The following morning would see Niel up early, followed by Jeremiah in a far less eager fashion savoring the warm bed instead of the Brroks saddle which awaited him. But leave we did, in good time and headed south now towards Vaughn NM. the road climbs slightly out of town across a Rio Negra river and hits a series of high grass strewn plateaus. Each of which have to be climbed to be enjoyed, then plunge down again to conquer the next which waits in turn. The wind was howling out of the west, hitting us more or less on a diagonal at about 2o,clock position. Once again in typical plains fashion, Gaia or mother nature, would be there trying with all her might to defeat us from attaining Vaughn by days end. With all that said, we pretty much rode that piece of road like a time-trial course, arriving at almost noon in Vaughn. The aire was thick with ice crystals, my mustache hung with icy stalagtites, a testimony to pending winter conditions. The visibility was down to a mere 100-150 yards and we worried more about being hit riding than freezing to death. We found an open gas station at Vaughn, and for 2 hours I stood outside with a handmade sign reading “FREE GAS”……..teeth chattering, knees knocking, I waited patiently for someone to offer a ride so we could get ahead of the storm…..and I buy them gas for a ride. After all that time we had no ride, and 2 people offered me money to buy gas. Once again, we opted to get a room as the weather predictions were for worsening weather thru the night.
Left Vaughn a little late, we allowed the ice to melt off the road and the sky to turn blue. It was like a skating rink till about 8.30 that morning. We headed west again on Hwy60, with a slight breeze in our face and very cool air. At times it hurt around the sinuses and cheek bones, but a warming New Mexico sun soon prevailed and by Encino those layers were getting peeled off. The sky was studded with puffy cloud, azure color as a surround. The countryside turned into rolling grass covered hills, golden in the afternoon sun. Windmills and cattle have been added as ornamentation. We had found it! Thee ubiquitous land of enchantment so often mentioned in novels, captured on canvas, in the iambic pentameter of poetry. We rolled out from under cold grey skies and into a postcard scene welcoming our enjoyment and exploration. Spent the night camped alongside a fence line, enjoyed a crystal clear sky inwhich God had hung a brilliant full moon that bathed the sleeping hills in a silvery nightcoat.
The following mornings dialogue was one of comparing aches, pains and constant laments about that danged wind getting to us, blowing my mustache back over my eyes making it hard to see. Brother Niel, spent his time playing “eye spy something red” and would compare that new found brilliant red to his now very sore posterior. In general, we were caught in a “bitching fest”!! God, he sure has a away of drawing light to those moments when we are riding thankless instead of spirit filled and spirit lead………what the heck is that moving junk pile out on the horizon brother? Not sure, guess we will figure it out when we get closer…………..looks wierd though. Sure enough as we drew closer to the roaming junkpile, a car pulled alongside it and SOMETHING was passed thru the car window. WE TWO BITCHERS, were about too get soundly spanked for our total lack of faith in whom we Pray too. The car it turns out, just passed a bag of food over to a MAN who pedaled the roaming junk pile. Yes, a Christian fellow, not pushing his belief, simply extolling the blessings he has expirienced thru riding by faith. How each day, cold, wet, miserable, overly hot or overly difficult, had in its own way a blessing to be observed and thankfull for, something we two had clearly lost sight of. He explained his Christian stand with simple language, not the academic elequence of one trained in the semenary…….rather it was the vernacular used by a simple man who simply believed by faith and a witness too how God pours out his blessings to those who seek him daily. We knew then that we had been shown face to face, the faithfull versus those whose faith required seeing mountains move to be satisfied with its being. Our messenger lifted his arms to heaven, spoke these words in earnest ” I am yours Father, I surrender unto you”, lowered his arms and rode on his way too the east. We rode west, not mindfull of traffic nor wind, nor even the sprawling countryside, each of us was reflecting on our own walk with Christ and our failings in having that strength of FAITH. Forgive us Father, we will try harder tomorrow.
Mountaiair, was our stop for an early lunch. Conversation began immediatly, we found a seat next to the long established Mountainair senate meeting. They being a local historian, a truck driver, a retired gardner and a mechanic who ten years ago dropped his wrenches for a lounge chair and the front porch. Thomas, the most vocal of the gathered congress, moved over to better hear the conversation as Niel and I ate our breakfast. About that time, a well dressed cowboy with starched jeans and a leather jacket steps into the cafe……turning to face me where I sat……it was like an old west movie, as he walked the hardwood floor I was moving slowly towards my sawed off shotgun under the table as Niel moved deftly for the colt strapped to his hip……time ticked like a slow moving train……the stranger squared up facing our table and opened his coat at the waist reveling a silver trophy buckle……”Is your name Jeremiah Watt” he asked. In a throat chocked with fear, I answered in a high squeeky voice…… “yes”……..and waited for the proverbial “crap to hit the rotary oscillator”. Instead, a broad smile spread across his face and he stuck his hand out to say hello, and told us the folks at Cool Horse over in Canyon had told him that we would be coming thru that way. Scott, joined our table and added to the conversation over our last cup of coffee before we would head on west. Abo pass was waiti g for us and we departed, leaving new freinds behind and a really nice little town…..Mountainair.
Climb, pedal, climb, and breath……that occupied our mind for the next 15 or so miles as we made our way past the Abo Ruins, and on towards the pass taking its name from those same ancient ruins. Topping out at nearly 7000 feet, we could see the valley below us spread like a table cloth at a banquet. For miles across the Rio Grande river valley to the sno capped mountains that shore up its western flank. We allowed our bikes to gather and gain whatever speed they wanted since it was a clean and simple downhill run for several miles. Exiting the protection of the hills and trees allowed us to now feel the strength of the wind blowing thru the river valley, it was substancial at times and at others soft and muted. The sun bore down and began the slow frying process that is a a part of New Mexico sunshine. By the time we reached our turn to the south towards Socorro, we were pooped and wondering where we would camp…….no trees to speak of…….limited river access due to fences………we would be forced to ride interstate down to Socorro, yuk. We talked for a while in the shade of the overpass, and discussed just how much further we wanted to ride and what we would tolerate for a camp site. Okay, planning is done, lets get pedaling and see what we find. Up we go, around the curve of the onramp to the Interstate, maybe 500 yards from our planning stop……..and there is a blue campground sign……..GOD provided! Dont be fooled folks, since the very first day of this trip, I have not stayed in a camp ground because there was simply not one around at the end of the day…….GOD, just slapped one down RIGHT at the place we would need one. We pulled in, pitched our tents, washed clothes and had a simple meal and conversatkon till it was time to turn in for the night.
Jim-Bob had been having a flat tire battle for the last 2 weeks. Always on a hind, and always in the same place! Try as I may, searching thru my tire and liner each time, I could not find the cause……frustrating as all get out. We began this morning ride to Socorro in sort of a dual fashion. Since we both actually had a flat. After that, we sprinted to Socorro, Jeremiah arrived with a flat as well as left with a flat. We had 2 goals in mind for our stop in Socorro, fix the flat and find the cause, and Shirley Surly had developed a serious clunk in the crNk arms as they revolved around, meaning that it needed tightening with special tools or replacing. An Electric Horse, and its happy go lucky 68 year old owner, made every effort to solve both. The constant flats we found were caused by 2 small staples poking thru on the inside wall of my much loved Schwalbe tires. The sloppy crank however was not to be fixed so easily. At least. not in Socorro.
We left the central New Mexico town of Socorro about 2 hours after we arrived, headed up hill to the west on State Highway 60. As soon as you cross the Rio Grande River whichsplits the state down the middle, you are headed up hill all the way to the Continental Divide over near the states western edge. We had our work cut out for us, and knew full well it would be a leg burner for the rest of the day. We campedthatnight behind an old stone wall in an abandoned gas station that sat at the foot of an imposing mountain. Protected from the wind, we enjoyed a colorful display of Gods work on the western sunset, conversation revolved around family, dreams and aspirations and how sore Uncle Niels butt was. He knew at this point that he was in trouble.
Early the nextmorning, the guy with the sorest butt rolled out and kicked started the day. With gloved hands and covered heads, we began our approach to Magdalena NM. Once the largest cattle shipping yard along the southern rail line, and now a dusty,quiet little retirement town. We arrived in Magdalena with huge spread between just 2 riders. Jeremiah found the local hangout cafe, and waited for older brother to heard his bike and sore posterior into the town square some 35 minutes later……but make it he did. Breakfast was vreat at the M&M Cafe which sits at the southeast corner of the old Magdalena Inn. We sat with a local writer Steve Modio and his wife, who had also been over to Mongolia twice while working on a book about Khazack eaglers. A chello player Joel Becktell, who lived local but played with orchestras all over the world. While the meal was superb, it was the conversation with the group that will always make it memorable. Reluctantly we had to roll out and make our way to Datil, our next town along a sparcely populated ribbon of ashphalt. Only 29 miles separates us from this task, and it would prove the undoing of my worthy partner. Just one too many hills, and just 5 miles an hour too much wind it seemed. It would take us 6 hours to cover that distance…….every drop of gatorade was poured down to ease the posterior pain…….every cookie was eaten in an effort to forget that which lies ahead……more road, morehills and yes more pain as your reward. Datil, would be the final resting place for my traveling companion, my brother had had enough, he would be going home from here.
We spent that night with noted New Mexico race horse breeder and trainer, former world ranked bull rider, a short guy with a giant size appetite for life at 76, Mr. Dick Wellborn. The following morning, jeremiah and his bicycle Shirley Surly would depart further west with tear rimmed eyes, while brother Niel would take one of Dicks pickups and head for Socorro and rendevous with his daugbter Kendra. Jim-Bob pedalled west into taller pine trees and rolling mesa type cou try. Next stop is Pie Town. This post mentions Pie Town in its title and for thjs reason. Some 36 years ago, 6 young fellas were attending saddle mKing school in Amarillo Texas, Jeremiah Watt, Bill Watt, Darby Adams, Troy West, Danny West and lastly Don Bartrum of Apache Creek NM. It was Don who first planted those seeds of curiosity with regard to Pie Town and thier famous PIES. Now, all these years later, the onlything that kept me pedaling towards that spot on the map was those famous PIES. All the way around the world, I have been craving a simple piece of pie and with no luck, I would solve that here. First however, I had to conquer the Continental Divide, then on into my destination for lunch. An outdoor museum of antique windmills had me pulled over to take some pictures…….all of this lies at the east side of a very tiny town…….as I am shooting a lady drives up and introduces herselfas the official Pie Town greeter…….my name is Nita, and I run the Toaster House (famous to hikers around the world, quite literally, donations are accepted to support it) the house is open to all who hike road or trails in the area. “Are you here for pie today” she asks? Yes, indeed I am…….well, follow me then and she zips off over the horizon to a small cafe. Nita, and I, as well as a Mexican National name Oscar, sat and had dinner. Excellent hanburgeres cooked up by Harley riding chef Tim. We then had 3 pieces of shared pie, blackberry, blueberry, and NewMexico Apple which has green chilies in it. All were excellent, I assure you.
Jeremiah left Pie Town, satisfied that after all these many years, Pie Town was indeed just as Don Bartrum had described……..”jist a tiny place that makes darn good pies in a place you would not expect”. Quimado, my next stop, some 30 miles distant. The spanish name means “burnt”, and the names origins are derived from a tiny settlement that the Indians burned to the ground back in the late 1880,s. Rebuilt, some 3 miles further west, and as lone local told me, its closer to a fire hydrant now as well. Jeremiah and his Surly would arrive in Quimado at about 4.15 to the ringing of his phone, somewhat of a shocker. I had no signal since back in Mountainair. Answered the phone, caught snippets of conversation, and just hung up since none of it made sense. Had supper at Largo Cafe, looked around town and bedded down. I knew I was in a little trouble with my bike, the cranks were much sloppier and chain jump was becoming an issue.
The following morning, a beautiful blue sky would greet me, coffee at the Largo along with eggs and bacon. Then hit the cranks for Springerville Arizona, about 47 miles away. Big rolling hills, covered in grass and sandy soil, sparce pinion pine tree cover is sprinkled here and there. The hills are bigger thru this section, mesas are taller, the sun is warmer. I ride into Springerville about 1.15 or so, find my local bike repair man Jay at The Sweat Shop, and have him do the much needed repairs to my steed Shirley Surly.
Texas greeted Jeremiah and his RTW-round the world effort with a freshened breeze out of the south, a blazing winter sun shimmering on the black paint of Shirley Surly, the steed used for this cycling journey. Waco, now lay in my rearview mirror. A days rest in Waco adds just enough freshness too the legs to give rise to optimisim about riding out this battle to the end, concluding in California. More specifically to end at home in Coalinga, California.
For several days, Jeremiah would be riding west by northwest under a blazing southern winter sun. Somedays pushing the temps up well into the 80’s, burning and baking all exposed skin surfaces to a wilted wrinkled “Boston Baked Bean” look. Especially the top of my now almost hairless head, poochy maggies that hurt and I had watery effluent trickling down behind my ears for several days as the blisters broke and leaked. Not to worry, as God made us a heck of a lot more durable than the average person thinks is possible these days. Simple, stopped and bought a hat at the first gas station selling hats….cured but for the itchy scabs.
Jeremiah and Shirley Surly, put in some longer than planned for days while on this west Texas leg of the journey. My timeline was built on approx. 50 mile days on the loaded tour around the world. But here, in Texas, I have ridden mostly over 65 mile days, several 80 plus days and my second from last day arriving into Lubbock was 105 miles. There are several reasons why this may happen. For one, in some places there is no reason to stop……there just aint a town nor gas station to make a stop for. Also the days are getting longer so Jeremiah can ride later into the evening hours before darkness forces him off the road. If I were to quit at the 50 mile mark, somedays I would be done at noon…….and then what do I do for the rest of the day? Right, I agree fully, just keep pedaling is the best idea. As my friend Cleve Redding said…..”just shutup and ride”. Thats clear and concise……I just our President can learn a lesson in this.
Along about the tiny scrub brush covered town of Evant, I got the heads up that there was a bit&spur maker there that I should have stopped and visited. Big Problem, I always ask around any and all small towns…..”hey, are there any folks in town or around who do interesting work, like make bits and spurs, maybe make saddles or do leather work, heck anything western”. To which the gas station employee purses his lips, cocks an eyebrow, maybe grips thier chin with a left hand to add to the theatrics of “giving heavy thought” ……..and says ” well Blanche Wormwood over on Filmore does needle point……but that would be the only artist that I can think of”!!!! And so, armed with this knowledge I rode on another 10-12 miles past Evant and camped on the side of the road……..getting up the next morning to ride on only to find out that when I took the picture of my bike beside the EVANT sign that I was only 200 yards from bit&spurmaker Brian Mauneys front doorstep. Sorry Brian, I would have loved to had a visit……my advice to you……you need to tell the guy at the gas station that you also do needle point.
Some 38 or so years ago, Jeremiah attended saddlemaking school in Amarillo Texas. One of the fellow students in my class year, a fellow who hails from Abilene, Niel Overton…….still building saddles much the same as am I. We had a chance to get together for breakfast in Sweetwater Texas, tell old stories, find out whats happening in each others lives since then. All fun, and great to see Niel again. Another event that happened during my time going to school in Texas, was attending an invitational roping in the tiny west Texas town of Post. The last time that Jeremiah was in this town, was to watch the match roping between World Champion All Around Cowboy, Phil Lyne and the new up-and-comer that being Roy Cooper. Along with many runs of steer trippers and other calfropers, its was a spectacular weekend of roping that has always stuck with me. I rolled into Post about 6.30 after all these years, and the sun had set withdarkness invading the streets and alleys, I needed to camp soon…..but needed food worse. Ate at Hollies Drive-Inn, had a great burger and fries……..solved my camping problem by walking right across the streetand sleeping in the little band-stand pavilillion in the town park…….just as simple as that. For breakfast, I rode thru the town of 3500 until I spotted a cafe and all the trucks in front proving it was popular, by accident I had found a good one, Geroges BBQ and Cafe. So, as it ends up. Let a man with brown hairy legs and rubber pants walk thru a cafe full of cowboys with hats tipped back and spurs on thier boots…..a fight broke out…….LOL, jist kidding. Conversation broke out. I think I could have plugged a canon barrel with thier eyes as they swelled to size when I told them I was a saddle maker and also a bit and spurmaker. This was a hard one for them to believe, but in the end with the telling of tales, mentioning my name and what we make it came to pass that they believed, and that we all had more in common rather than nothing in common.
For Jeremiah, the little town of Santa Anna held him for several hours longer than expected. At the south end of town is a fellow who does resaw work. Turning old mesquite and oak stumps into beautiful lumber. What had once been bridge support beams or tongue and groove bridge decking, is resawn and turned into gorgeous flooring for trendy New York or Atlanta night clubs, restaurants and chic apartments. Upscale recycle with an incredible new face, birthed out out of discarded remains of Americas industrialization.
Breakfast in Santa Anna, would happen at an old-time coffeeshop. The sort that seems all to rare these days, yet at one time the icon of that slower small town lifestyle that had us leaving the city to enjoy it. Ranchers with spurs yet on thier boots surround one table, the talk of cattle or feed prices occupies thier time. At yet another table its the morning ” coffee klatch” among the few struggling businesses who still hold onto the small town lifestyle, thier conversation seems to revolve around issues more political which affect thier business life. Off to the far corner you have the octogenarions, long since retired, and since 1951 have been thru the years starting everyday with at least coffee at the local coffee shop………this day, no different than any since this morning pilgrimage began. Only that at this table, any and allthings are talked about, its the NO holds barred table and houses the sage amongst sage patrons…..so be careful should you pull up a chair to join thier ranks.
Newspaper journalist, photographer and insurance salesman hears about my own journey as I speak with another cafe patron……and before I know it I am rolling down the street for an interview with Tex Wright. Now pushing past mid 70’s, Tex is still very active at all those things that interest him. An avid landscape photographer, Tex spends idle time shooting the west Texas region and giving his images to local hospitals. Some serious medical issues dont seem to be a hindrance to Tex, maybe his Doctor…..but not Tex. I am well instructed on the ways of survival in the west Texas desert before I am allowed to depart.
BLESSED, while riding thru Goldthwaite. Tragedy is averted. Upon leaving a store in this small Texas town, Jeremiah drops his wallet unknowingly and rides on in search of Peabodys Diner. Found the diner, but also found it was shutdown and for sale…….a passerby recommends that I head up the street to the Wagon Wheel Cafe. In I go, happy as can be on a beautifully warm sunny day, going to eat a nice meal in a cafe. Jeremiah spots a fellow sporting a well waxed mustache, not a common sight here in Texas…..something more common to say Elko County, Nevada.
Mr. G.L.Daniels is my conversation partner for the next 1/2 hour or so. We talk about all things pertaining to the west,cowboys, ranching and waxed mustaches………….(“anybody mention losing a wallet” sounds a small voice within the din that is eating diners.) The time has come, I need to move on and put somemore miles in on Shirley Surly. Jeremiah gets his bill and heads for the cash register only to have the shock wave of dread rip thru your mind when you realize somehow you have misplaced your wallet. As I am trying to explain to the cashier that somehow I have misplaced my wallet, and at the same time do a vain mental search of my most recent wallet memory…..off to my right a yound lady mentions that someone from the Newspaper next door asked about a wallet maybe 45 minutes ago. News too me, and yet she did walk in and ask the patrons about’a lost wallet. Jeremiah runs…..yes, runs nextdoor and inquires about the wallet……….finding out it has been handed over to the Sheriff…….right over in that building as she points it out to me. Jeremiah does his best impression of Usian Bolts as he sprints for the Sherriffs Office. As I walk into the fortified alcove awaiting you once thru the front door…..I can already see my black nylon wallet containing my whole life, laying on the desk. After describing what should have been in the wallet, it is handed back over to me. Absolutely everything in the wallet is intact, cash, euros, credit cards…..everything. my continued faith in the protection offered us thru faith and Prayer is fortified. And my faith in human good and kindness is restored. If the entire world is not good…….then at least I know that Goldthwaite is for sure.
Cycling north by west thru Texas and its arid western desert, with its scrub brush, cactus and rolling hills is taking me ever closer to Lubbock and a chance to visit my niece Kipty Watt, a student at Texas Tech getting her degree in Animal Nutrition. It will be good for the soul to be able to stop and visit actual family for a change. From Lubbock I will be headed further north towards House NM to visit yet another niece, but before that I leave for 4 days of business taking me out of Texas and into another state for that time. If all works out, I should be mounted up and riding towards Clovis NM by late Saturday or for sure Sunday departure. In the meantime, I pray for safe roads, good weather and blessings on all those who follow not only my blog but Christs word on living our lives……and yes, that includes you Bill at the Jerky Store.
From the Piney woods to the plains, leaving the middle of Louisianna at Monroe and riding out into Texas. Thats where Jeremiah is with his RTW around Gods Creation on Shirley Surly, his metal steed that transports him across the southern USA. Shirley my Surly is running along very smoothly now, with that new back wheel, each day Jeremiah runs on into the 70 and 80 miles, far further than what he has set as an average.
From Monroe too the west, Jeremiah rode alot of little backroads, which puts in place too see alot of tiny US towns that have been all but forgotten, thier citizens and the stores they used to operate. For me it has been a little disheartening on the one hand, but also a certain sense of pride is shown by those who cling to thier meager but satisfying lives in rural America. Logging of the ocean of Pines that cover western Louisianna is a primary employer, followed by the semi’s that haul them in both tree and chip form. Meanwhile, Jeremiah spends his day dodging truck bumpers, mirrors and those blasted rumble strips that border most roads
“Excuse me sir…….I’am going to need to see some ID”. Briefly I thought I had rode i to a third world country…..but here I was in Saline LA…..minding my own business and talking to Curtis bout life. “It wont take but a minute…..I,ll just run it to be sure”. While that was going on, and to a certain extent before the Sherrif arrived, the conversation around me to the left was from 5 or so gals from the Saline Retirement Center…..and Curtis who is the town drunk. When the Sherriff showed up, one gal suggested that they get backinside before the Sherriff decides to check them out. Curtis, well he was relaxed….drunks are like that. A second Sherriff showed up, gun on his hip and his ready for action quick draw tactile gloves…..his hand ever looming over the pistol at his hip. It didnt really un-nerve me, having a steely will and ram-rod spine and all……plus I had the confidence that comes with wearing “Depends”.
“Were going to need to see your California Card says the Sherriff”……..what kind,a card I say somewhat astonished and now a tad (Canadian metric measurement for a little bit)…..I have never even heard of that sort of Card. Well says the Sherriff….”we need to see more ID”. Sir, with all due respect, you have all the ID that I carry….my Passport…..it has gotten me thru a whole host of countries, what,s wrong here. About this time, one of the retired gals, Jeanne was her name…..walks up and hands me a note and 20 dollar bill…..she wanted to wish me well and bless my trip…..i tried to insist that I didnt need her money but she would not have that. Upon taking the money, right there in front of the Sherriff, that sure made them all the more suspicious of my being on the streets of Saline. An hour and a half of the most bizarre background check that I have been thru. I have all kind of respect for law enforcement, but I really felt like this was a bit obsured and completely without merit or need.
My days were rodden mostly under cloud cover, minor rain on a few evenings and the rest of the time was simply spent pedaling. Thru small town after small town. Stopped at many of the little “ruff around the edges” gas station stores and had coffee with owners and employees alike. In doing so, I found we shared a love and belief in Christ…..a love of country…….and about half the time I found they loved Barry. Proof, that coffee will not cure all things. Walked thru many little antique, vintage stores. Not that I wanted to buy anything, just needed to give the butt a rest.
On clear blue sky day, Jeremiah and “Shirley Surly” rode across the river at Logansport and entered Texas. For me, it was another milestone moment, because with Texas rolling by under German rubber…..Jeremiah is officially OUT WEST folks. Never mind what some academician from some Ivy League think tank says about where the west begins. We Cowboys know where the west begins…….Texas.
Texas rolled by fairly easily, not without it,s due sweat and sore legs, but just knowing that more and More Texas was rolling up behind me each day was all the incentive needed to pedal for home, for my incredible wife, my kids and my work obligations. Along about Mexia, I was to meetup with a talented engraver and friend….Jerry Gant. Should be easy right……Jeremiah on a loaded bicycle…….and Jerry, driving a 1976 deep purple Malibu rolling on 24″wheels and low profiles, bumpin tunes on 20,000 watt Blapunkt stereo…..with a rollin whip like that…..how could we miss each other. But we certainly did miss each other on a 2 lane road. Sorry Jerry.
Waco. Rolled into town, me, singing a Bob Wills tune and happy to be meeting up with an old friend Deahl Rooks. Some 25 or more years ago, Deahl was a student in one of my engraving classes. I had not seen him since, talked thru FB, but not in person. When we first met, we were both comllete heathens with no need for Faith. Today we both enjoy having Christ in our lives and homes and relationships. My friend has found his calling in life, in adopting children and offering a loving home to 17 that had none. May God Bless you richly Deahl & Patty, you bolster my own belief with you astounding walk with Christ.
Good night and may God bless America and YOU.
Cycling thru the heritage or rural America, swamps and dense pine forests on our endevour to Ride Around the World (RTW) and see Gods Creation, what a great ride it has beenfor the most part. Some minor discomforts, to be expected. And some minor annoyances as well, also to be expected. An RTW would not happen without a portion at least of both, God sees fit to wrap both discomfort and annoyance in sunshine, bluesky etc. Making it all easier to tolerate.
Jeremiah in preparing to leave the small Alabama town of Marion, took his host and teacher friend out for supper at Lotties Soul Food Restaurant in Marion. What a great meal, if ever thru that way be sure to try it out, you wont be dissappointed. The plan was to be up and out of town early, but broken glasses sort of had us make a few departure changes. The eye-glass repairs took until 11.00pm to finally get it all wrapped up. Under a bright blue sky and crisp winter air, Jeremiah finally turned a crank taking him further west. Pretty much took State Road 14 west, but for a few kinks and turns. Rode thru the day with a small steady bump sensation from the backtire ( bells should have been going off ) stopped a little early and pulled the rear wheel for a reset and inspection…..all looks fine.
Got up early again the following morning, just rolled up camp without bothering to eat. I find that Iam really loosing my appetite and it happens at both ends of the day pretty much. Its not because I load up during lunch in town, thats not my routine. Just a lose of appetite……could it possibly be my cooking? Yeah, didn’t think so……must be my colon needs cleansing. The day greeted me with slate grey sky and a soft damp breeze. Jeremiahs inner weather forecaster was predicting rain by noon. God however had different intentions, and by nokn I was as stripped of as can be and still legal. The sun blazed, my face burnt, and the sweat poured. Some time around 10, pulled over at a tiny poorly stocked roadside store and bought a cup of coffee. Sat there in a cane seated rocker, wood floor with all the ancestral creaks, chipped and peeling paint, looking out windows that needed a serious cleaning………and two very elderly black fellas playing checkers not 6 feet from me. They bantered back and forth, they would laugh and slap thier leg when they pulled of a surprise move that the other was not expecting. They discussed Morty’s sick hog, whoever he is. The grand daughters “bad missbeehavin chillens”, Lordy the yungins dont got no respec fo nuttin dees daze. Sorry folks, but it was just too much for Jeremiah to handle, the muted interior colors, the shadows, the characters…….it required an image or maybe 2…….but I soon found, that very suggestion also snapped the magical spell that had kept the tiny store wrapped in a time envelope. Both players refused the request with much animation, one would soon get up and leave as a result.
Further on down the road, I passed by a Rodeo Complex which was part og East Mississippi College complex. Dang I thought, I better not pass that up, first sort of sight in almost 9 months. So, I roll up by the big front doors, park my bike and look around for someone to snap a pic for me. I done that and more. As it turned out the rodeo coach’s name is Goodyear. He actually rodeoed in my hometown of Coalinga california, and was on the West Hills College rodeo team for Bruce Hunt. He had met another freind of ours, Jason Clark when he competed against Salinas Hartnell College. He knew the secret town name for the backroad that I live on……the State calls it #198…….while the locals call in “whindyeight”. He had been up the canyon and branded calves at the Johnsons. Once again, I was shown just how small the world really is……..pssh, and someone expects us to believe they never heard of the Bible nor the promise of Salvation………right. the latter part lf this day had us riding into a stiff headwind and much bigger steeper hills. Quiting by days end, felt very good.
Rolled out early, grey sky greeted us for a second day and like the previous day the cloud parted for afternoon sun. Just not near as warm. We rode all day, had 2 cups of coffee was all for breaks. Never took a single picture, just rode. Racked up 93 miles with mostly headwind and hills. Jeremiahs camp for the night was nestled into some trees with 4″ or more of leaves to lay on, gfeat sleep. Camp was within 3 miles of Canton Mississippi, so we had decided to have a full brakfast in town that morning. Gotta say, I could spend sometime around Canton, very pretty little town. Lots of antique and junk shops, many little restaurants, and a beautiful town square repleat with a stately white Courthouse.
Someplace along the road after leaving Canton. I noticex a fella out fencing, by himself, digging and setting posts. Decided I would walk kver, say hello maybe take a few pics if it worked out. Thin, taunt muscles, the dirt that comes with an honest days work was this mans business suit, and it fit him like a piece tailored for him. “Eyebe Dan Brown, eyebe jiss a workin an’a prayin upin cheer” . Took me a moment to decode and figure out just what was said, but before long we could converse. Jeremiah learns languages quick. “Yessir, eyebe 75 yeahs old heer ness week, doon never drink no smok……ahh tinks dat’s da reesin eyebe guud shape like ah is”. Couldnt argue with Dans medical observation, he was in great shape, and spent his time Prayin while he worked……dont think that hurt his healthcare orogram none either.
It was the word “BISQUIT” that caught my eye. A small locally owned establishment that is part of the central town square. Jeremiah was not looking for yet another danged morning franchise place…….Jeremiah was longing for a “just like Mom cooks breakfast”. The Frisky Bisquit was the place, hoppin busy, and smikes all around as folks got thier meals. Mine was great, most dishes had a bit of a cajun twist to them, a little spice, some chickory in the coffee etc, making for a fine meal and a fun stop. Sat at the counter, had a great visit with a fellow who would love to do just what I am doing. Fear would be his main opponent in making it all hzppen, fear of the unknown out on the road in far away lands…..a very real concern, and then fear of what his wife and family would say…….this one amazed me as I pondered that and promptly excused myself. I knew from past expierience that I could help this young fella (maybe 35-40). Jeremiah returned with what was left of his roll of silvery ductape……….take this I said, if properly applied it will solve things a marrizge councellor can’t…..its yours for free son, good luck! I noticed as I stood, the felka had alot of small red marks on the back of his neck above his shirt collar…….strange……those look like hen pecks.
Closed out the day with many more hills, the sunshine gave way its lofty moorings to heavy grey cloud that boiled in the sky. My rode took me further and further west, closer to my own loved ones and home. Gone for 9 months, maybe 11 by the time I got home……..I just knew that Collens tape would be due for replacement. Camp that night was not the best, but we ditched around the tent, staked out the corners incase she came a toad strangler ( for my European readers, that is an American term for a big rain event). Just a lot of wind to start and then a long slow drizzle till early morning.
Not but 5 miles to Vicksburg, as we headed that direction it all began again…..that rythmic bump in my backwheel. Pulled over in Vicksburg, let the air out of the back wheel and pumped it up again, thinking that the tire bead was not fully seated. Sprinted across the I-20 bridge, some 3 miles total. Took a turn off on the old highway 80 headed for Monroe. By the time I got to Tallulah, the thumping had become pronounced, but still I could see nothing as a cause. Just another 5 miles or so down the road and it would all become very clear. The sidewall of the sturdy aluminum rim would collapse, sending a chard into the brake pad which inturn would hold it fast while the knife edge of that section slashed a groove into the sidewall of my tire. The rim, missing a huge section, the tire slashed but not fully thru…..and quite a few miles yet till Monroe. Just kept chugging towards Monroe sincd it was the only place close with a bike store. Rolled into town that evening about 5.15.
Many thanks to David, owner of Bike Solutions as he will rebuild my back wheel for me. Thanks to Danny from my hometown bike store back in California, Rubber Soul Bike Store, he helped source the rim for us. With any luck I will be rolling out of Monroe tomorrow Wednesday the 4th, “Shirley Surly” and Jeremiah will be closing the gap on thier round the world escapade with sunshine in thier faces and a Prayer on thier lips.
Wed 28, left Marionat 11.45am Had to get my glasses fixed before I could leave. Took rd 14 all the way thru Greensboro etc, turned onto 39 headed toward Dekalb. Set camp at 67 mile mark, good day considering I left late. Also had to take back wheel off again to try and reseat the tire, no flat, just a steady bounce because of poor tire seating
Thurs 29, up and riding by 7.45. Day started cloudy lookin like rain. Had coffee in a 4 house town at fork in the road, sat in pretty sparce general store in an old cane seat rocker watching two old black fellas play checkers as i sipped my coffee. Tried for a picture but they would have none of it. Stopped at East Mississippi College rodeo grounds for a quick pic and met coach Goodyear and his wife. Turns out he rodeoed at West Hills for Bruce Hunt in 87 and 88 and knew Jason Clark art Hatnell. Camped about 15 miles from philidelphia ms, talked for 2.5 hrs on phone with john temple today. Total miles 55 today, many big hills and mucho wind today.
Fri 30, pretty much just rode all day. Not one picture and met no one. Done 93 miles, camped in the trees on the side of the road.
Sat 31, up and going in good time. Rode into Canton, very nice town. I could spend a few dayz here hunting junk and antiques. Nice old town square. Had a great breakfast at “The Frisky Bisquit” xuperb if ever thru Canton and right on the square. Had a visit with Mike while sat at the counter having breakfast. He wants so much to do my trip, but on a motorcycle….hes just afraid what all his friends would say. Rode on, met and visited with some cyclists on a day trip. Further down theroad mdt 75 year olx Dan Brown, no smoke, no drink and work 6 day week give the Lord the7th day. Rode on thru Edwards out on Old Hsy80, very rough, talked to Wilson a color fella about my age out gettin exercise…..no pic. Covered 64 miles today. Lookin like rain maybe tonight.
Content, and at home in the shade of the Stars and Stripes that canopies this fabulous country, clean air, trees, and on some days a brilliant blue sky. Makes me wonder why am I fighting an internal battle in both my heart and mind. It strikes me as entirely odd and unreasonable that I could be caught in this quandry, but I am. Our RTW(round-the-world) adventure draws yet closer to completion as we pass another mile marker along the road that circumnavigates Gods Creation. The roads are wider, in better shape generally, heck most folks even speak my language….and yet with all that, for which I’am grateful I find myself longing for that which I have come to know so well.
That being Europe. I am for instance a little taken aback, when I step into a store and someone says “good morning sweetie, how can we help you”! Leaves me a little unnerved when I go into a store ask for stove alchohol and the man says “right this way Sir, follow me”! Where is the struggle and worry, where is the requirement for simple sign language, nobody refuses to answer a question nor direct you to an available source. Between you and me, this internalized battle would play out for several weeks, conclusions will come later.
Leaving Lisbon turned into a mental and physical challenge for me, I was on the fight and ready for any provocation. My entire family was now jettisoning out of my life once again……and poor ol’me had to cross solo yet again. While I was needing to hug my wife one more time she was being hurried thru a different terminal gate. While I was struggling to make my luggage fit the airline standards, and then struggling yet harder for a thirdtime to meet these exacting conformities my family on the otherhand slip out of sight and on towards thier waiting plane with ease. Rattled, cranky and not inclined towards a kind thought nor gesture, I finally make my way to my own departure gate with a full hour to consider just what sort of example I may have been to those around me…..I wasn’t feeling like Christian Giant right at that moment. Sometimes God delivers his message with softest swipe of a dainty silk glove…..other times he whacks you smartly with a catchers mitt……I realized I had just gotten the latter.
“Hi, God bless us, pray we have a safe flight……I think Iam in the window seat please”. Within a few brief seconds of finding my seat on the aluminum skinned flying culvert known as American Airlines, I had been gently prayed for, had my faith shorn up and put in my respectful place with regard too who is really in charge. God. A middle aged women of Hungarian heritage, who had lived in Torrance California for 8 years, whom now had her flag planted along the shores of Wales, but would very soon be leaving to live in Israel…..after she had taken her seat extended her hand and said “God Bless you, I am Rebecca”. Ever meet that person, who upon eyesight almost, you just know deep down inside that everything about thier character is 100% genuine. I felt cared for, I felt like I really mattered……and we didnt even know one another. Gods working.
By the culmination of that 9.5 hour flight, as we passed over Greenland for my 8th time, however this time God was really at work showing his magnificense. The slanting rays of a setting sun swept across the snow capped jagged peaks in a way I had never seen before. The deep rifts that formed between worn cornices were bathed in a meloncholy soft blue making the pink light on the gleaming snow all the more brilliant. As warm pink ambiance faded, morphing seemlessly into stronger orange and crimson tones, we arced over the polar route at 565 miles an hour. God was at work on landscape out our cabin window, and upon hearts in row G, seats 32 and 33.
Touch down, as wheels screamed and the reverse jet engine thrusters send us all headlong to the front of the plane were it not for seat belts, we arrive in Columbia, South Carolina. After almost 8 months, Jeremiah is walking on American soil, thru customs and out into brisk evening aire. My first two days would be spent with friends and relatives, Ryan, Trace and 2.5 year old Chloe. I would gain yet another moniker. While in Morroco, everywhere I went, I got “Ali-Baba”, on three other occasions while traveling thru customs I was called “Jesse James”, at Columbia while lining up for imigration a security fellow said “right this way operator”, and now I wore the gleaming hat/crown known as “Unk”. Good to arrive at a welcoming home rather than a stark room at Hotel 6. Better to be woke by a sharp rap on the head with a gleaming yellow plastic building block…..than to hear Carly Simon belting out a tune on the radio alarm…..I lay there for a moment rubbing the swelling goosebump…….and thinking whooly crap and poochy maggie……..I am in USA. I have been on my way to this place for 8 months, and the realization of arrival was slow to land in my mind. While I have been pedaling, life has been churnning along at home, there were now boyfriends and girlfriends to compete with for time, business was trundling along in my own office, decisions made shaping future outcomes that I had no part in, friends whom I loved dearly had passed away…… ALL, while I frolicked. It really was a torrent of emmossions, guilt, elation, anger, satisfaction,all coming to a crescendo in that moment……as a smiling, cute 2.5 year old asked me to get up and play “Unk”. My head was swimming as I made tractor sounds, shared twice eaten grapefruit and read the story of Goldilocks…….can this be real……someone must have slipped me LSD along the way. I felt as twisted and contorted as a Lewis Carrol character. Yet here I sat at an actual kitchen table, family around, every word spoken was recognizable, I could read the signs and labels on the food. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it, I was needing some quiet time to sit and ponder all that it meant to arrive at this point in my journey.
2 days later, well fed, rested as a cyclist can be and with Chloe escorting me on her gleaming red tri-cycle down her street, I cycled south out of Columbia, out of the security and comfort of family once again making my way south towards the coast at the famous civil war city of Charleston. Had to be sure that I could lay claim to a coastline departure, not wanting to cheat my own nor my friends expectation as it regards this journey. Somewhere along about here, as I cycle threw the the pine scented aire, billowing cumulus clouds partially obscuring the afternnon sun, smooth blacktop ribbon layed out before me…..that I will no doubt iether offend or dissappoint many. My journey takes me completely across the southern USA, where JWP (Jeremiah Watt Products) and HSBT(Horse Shoe Brand Tools) have many friends and customers. Aquaintances from engraving classes over some 25 years of teaching, saddle customers and avid fans of our DVD’S. If I were to stop at each for just a brief visit, I would never get home. RULES OF THE ROAD, no offence, but the rules have to apply to bring the journey to a conclusion. There are going to be many I ride by because I simply didn’t know that I was that close to your home town. Others whom I know well will also be passed simply because miles and timing really matter on a trip like this. As much as all things matter, miles is what closes the gap between myself and success. Only by taking the safest, straitest backroad route, and covering my average or maybe better each day will Jeremiah get home to the waiting sunshine and cerulean skies of California and the loving arms of wife and family. If by chance you see my ride right past your house, or you read on this blog that Jeremiah passed within but a few miles and didnt stop to see you…….it’s not because he doesn’t care nor for lack of want too……its very simply a longing to arrive home much like a migratory bird in flight. SORRY, but its going to happen…..my aplogies. I am traveling like a DUCK headed south with a snowball stuck to his butt, and sunshine on his eye lids….. cant wait for the snowball to melt away.
The lapping waters of a grey Atlantic ocean wash the feet of the city of Charleston, as I arrive under dull lead grey cloud and slow drizzling rain. The last 2 days have been a slow wet soaker, off and on thru both night and day. With the coastline of South Carolina now at my back and the west firmly taking its proper position in front of me I begin my actual trek west. Heading no place imparticular, but all the while due west. one backwoods road after another, one slow growing hill at a time, we are passing thru a very rural America that that I have not seen in several years. Tiny towns, repleat with old men sitting out front of poorly stocked general stores. Cars on blocks take up space next to a flower planter on front lawns. Hand painted signs as well as glowing neon, lead you vintage antiques…..some as old as a quarter century…..and the price reflects its rareness amply. Outside bait boxes, humming beer coolers, and bins full of night crawlers , the resonant sound of howling coon hounds wind thier way into your phyche, slowly “america”seeps” back into your vocabulary. Y’ALL, lays on your tongue like a morsel after a good meal. A wave from passing motorists whether in a new Lexus or thouroughly beatin farm truck, are all sent with the same purpose and intent…..hello……goodmorning…..welcome……good too see you! Its happening, so slowly as to be invisible but for the receptors in the heart. Home is happening, awakening within. Replacing memories of foriegn soil and landmark, warm well known words land on my timpanic membrane replacing those of different tongue which are harsh to me by the fact I dont recognize them, yet they had taken up residence.
Traversing thru National Forests, barely discernable from non national forests I am hurtling thru a sea of tall Pine and Poplars. In a 3 day stint of riding taking me into Macon Georgia. A city that is somewhat of a musical legend, along the lines of Memphis. Home to musical greats from the Blues and R&B genres of the music industry. My old Shirley Surly was having her own difficulties with the current southern red sand voyage we shared. Her back gear group, front main ring and well worn original chain were all beggining to slip and jump as we tackled each new hill that rose in our way. Best take care of all this here and now while we have the place to get parts, versus later on down the road. 3 days in Macon were spent getting some new power cords with US ends. A new miniSD for the tablet, work on images, seeing American Sniper, and knowing that Micheal Moore would forever suck. I was back home, where idiots can have a microphone and an opinion……thank God the founding fathers didn’t promise an audience.
Robert Lovett, water management and maintenance expert for Georgia Rural Water, steps from his grey pickup, a friendly southern smile and slow twangy speech, asks me how far am I traveling? Today, I am aiming for 60 miles, but when done I will have ridden around the world……proving one of these Georgian log haulers doenst turn me into a hood ornament first I joke. Robert, is somewhat of the town welcomer as it turned out, over several the years Robert has welcomed about a dozen cyclists of the long tour type, along with several across America walkers and the most unusual a man who traveled in a 10 goat wagon caravan. Pretty sure its classic southern hospitality and charm that make Robert a tourist magnet and the southern States a destination, yes even in the smallest towns.
“Say, where ya headed with’al that there stuff on yer bike”…..chcking out thru a drug store line, somewhere Georgia. The conversation ensues, incorporating the gal acting as checker on this cloudy day……mostly west right now I say…..but the beggining was some 8 months ago. A fit man, about my own age, square jawed, hosting a dimpled chin and a firm handshake congratulates me and welcomes me back to “good ol’USA, good to have you home brother”. Say he says, why dont you stay out at my cabin tonight, it looks like its going to rain again tonight. We have hot water and a good bed out there, besides its on your way and only maybe 3 mile from hear. Tim, the fella offering the cabin, resonates that American hospitality that is so much of what makes the south an endearing place to live,see,visit. My only problem is that is only 1pm and i have more miles to conquer, sorry Tim, and thanks again, maybe another day.
“Blessed are those weak in Spirit today but filled with a desire to find the comforting bosom of Christ. For he shall not overlook those who seek him……can I get an AMEN for that brothers and sisters”. The words boomed out of the speakers, dislodging loose white paint chips from the ceiling overhead……thankyou Jesus, you did it again I mentally said to myself….thankyou Jesus. I had not taken in a Church service for now 8 months and was longing for it. This particular morning, I rode past 4 maybe 5 tiny roadside Churches……all I was waiting for was an approximate time, nothing more. “Turn here” was the clarion call inside my skull. Plenty of cars out front, and about the right time for a renewed life to begin. Once again, upon closing the door behind me I realize that JW is the only vanilla to show up at the OREO party. The Saints are on there feet now, arms waving rythmicly, voices harmonizing in a way and hitting notes that are heavenly. I refrained from singing knowing God was loving this and he would not want to hear me scratch the record right in the middle of such a glorious rendition of a hymn I had never heard. 2 splendid hours, hugs, handshakes, well wishes and dinner invitations abound……but as I said “THE ROAD RULES”. Pastor James send me off amply Prayed up, and we covered almost 45 miles that afternoon settling finally with sunshine threw Pine boughs and a soft evening campsite on a rust red matt of Pine needles. Another day down and another day closer.
Feeling a little like Peter Sellers brother, I asked the fellow if his ambling lanky dog would bite. Heck said Johnny….”he doan even got no teeth….what’ya ass fer anyways”. All wanted at the moment was to get a closer look at, and an image of an old red car in a dilapidated open front barn. “Heck, com’on in tcheer, get your self a picture, he t’aint gunna hurt’cha nun”. And so it was that I met Johnny and Buster. A collector of old cars since he was 13 and now past 66 years, showing me his very first car purchase. A French made car I had never heard of, a Simplon……..Sorry Johnny, I said…..”but that motorscooter is as ugly as a gumboot”, what would make you buy something like that. Always felt like honesty is the best policy, even though sometimes it lands like a rock on glass. Pretty much agree says Johnny with a rye smile. So tell me about the old red car over in the barn. “Yeah, grew up here watching that beauty as a kid. It belonged to the fire Captain, it was the town ambulance, the town hurse, and represented the fire district at all functions…..bought that one when I turned 16” he says with the pride of a new father. Its a pretty rare beast as cars go. A 1945 Cadillac, with full delivery van construction built over a 1 ton truch chasis…..but most unusual component is the 8cylinder inline tank engine. A tank engine did you say? Yes sir assures Johnny. This car did not come out of production till 46, because we were waiting on a huge group of war surplus french made La Salle made tank engines. Part of the agreements after the war, buying up war munitions and machinery from a cash strapped Europe. “Hold on a minute and I’ll start it up for yah” says an eager Johnny………a few wires, a couple battery leads and several reluctant purrings from a long idle engine…….vr…vr…..vroom…….vvvvrooooommmmmmm and its pure PURRING from under the hood, and Johnny wearing a Cheshire cat grin.
Wjile I do find myself in front of an audience of people who want to know more about saddles, saddle trees and horse gear in general. Its very seldom the JW will place himself in a public speaking venue in which its a group of High Schoolers…..and on this occassion a series of 4 classes of all black students. To be honest, I dont know who was the more nervous…..the whole room was full of wide eyes. A longtime family friend, Darren Ramalho, same age as my kids, having graduated honors from UCLA and now teaching thru the “Teach For America”program is the one who arranged the day. We are in the tiny rural town of Union Town, but a stones throw from the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement……and new movie release “Selma”. My job, to use pictures and verbal descriptions of my RTW journey thus far as a launching pad for the merits of education and work ethic. Have to say, that I was very welcomed by the local staff, made welcome by the kids at the school. In the end I think I actually got more out of the whole expierience than did they, great group of kids, both smart and eager. Walked away unharmed by the days events and would actually do it again…..never thought that would be the day. Thankyou Darren “Mr.Ramalho” for organizing a character building day for me. Thankyou Dean and Kim for raising a really great kid, who has always been a trusted friend and now a fine teacher.
Tonight will be my last night in Marion Alabama and we will commence weaving our way west again tomorrow. What roads await, what towns we pass thru…..non of this is decided yet. I bear Jack Sparrows compass in my vest pocket, and the wishes of my heart lie to a westerly direction……a fair breeze does blow crisp snapping canvas in that direction.
Lisbon, let me say. Is not a city that you easily roll into. Its hilly, its extremely narrow in street width, once you get into the older portions of Lisbon you contend with cobbles and tram tracks as well as cars which really aren’t that polite. In reflection, China as it turns out has been one of the easiest countries to ride a bike in, and as far as individual cities, then I think Florence was maybe the easiest to simply ride thru. But lets not get to far ahead of ourselves, we left off with all of Portugal layed out in front of Jeremiah and his Surly bike. While Jeremiah may be a little sore in joint and tendon, we have however concluded the pan-eurasian portion of the round the world bicycle journey. Following this we will be riding on US soil and happy for it. Some will ask, what is this RTW thing I am seeing. Simply a well known acronym for – round the world, and apply it to whatever means of travel you have chosen.
As stated many times now, I pick my own route, no mapped out routes provided by other previous adventure cyclists. Very simply, I look over my Google maps, try to find the smallest roads I can ride which lead me in a general direction that I want to go. It should’nt be so simple you may say, but indeed it is. My route is my route, I remain flexible to any and all advice from the road as I ride. I have on occassions, found sites along the way that appeal to me, these will get marked on the map and if it works out, we take them in.
Crossing into Portugal due south of Ciudad Rodrigo, I then turned due west and made a long arching route to Subragal. Rolling countryside swept past the wheels of my Surly, it was easy on the eyes of the rider as well. Very pretty the eastern edge of Portugal. Now I had thought that the Brits and the Croates stacked alot of rock, but here, along the eastern frontera, there is a massive amount of rock stacked. Its not simply the miles of wall that you see, nor number of complete barns made of stacked rock. Its more than that. I was caught by the sheer immencity of some of the rocks that have been stacked, adding all the more to that sense of amazement. Portugal is a wet piece of Gods Creation, with abundant rain and fog. So trees, if older, are festooned with long tendrils of Spanish Moss, rock walls will be covered with a vibrant green carpet of moss in time, all of which adds to the photographic allure of the tiny villages the Surly rolls thru. My friend Buddy Goodman ( Warthan Canyon rock stacking champion in 1987 and again in 2007) would fit right in with these folks.
There are plenty of fields where it is now obvious to me that hogs are being raised for the Iberico style hams, many fields of cattle are passed, not all are fighting type cattle, but certainly many are. Subragal, a city built around a hilltop fort which looks down at the banks of a passing river, dating back to its 1465 birth. Subragal, lay draped around the hillside, like the folds of a blanket, wrippling around the edges with the undulations of the Portugese countryside. Supragal is also the first place where I witnessed a truck load of cork bark being hauled in for its production. The whole cork thing is very interesting to me, yet I never did get to see it being harvested, nor did I fjnd anyone to talk about its harvest and production. Not for lack of trying, all I managed to find out is tbat you need a license to be a harvestor, and trees are protected. The bark is peeled away in large sheets from the trunk of the tree, leaving a vibrant red coloration to those trees that are freshly peeled. The trees are then given a number, the number tells inspectors how many years have passed since it was last harvested. There is an lbvious point atwhich the harvestors must quit or they stand to have damaged the tree, but on some trees they harvest up onto the lowest branches and on some not. Questions I would like to ask, but found no one to pose the question to.
I mentioned clear cut logging as well taking place on the red sandy soil of Portugal, indeed there is much of it taking place. Having been a logger in my own past, I find it interesting and as such parked my Surly and took a walk out thru several logged areas. Trees cut at very small diameters, down to as small as 4″, moist red sand soil, they used feller bunchers and grapple type skidders……..I could tell, there tracks were still warm………ha,ha, just kidding. What I did witness as it pertains to the Cork Oak, and place there was ANY size of this Oak growing, the loggers worked all around it without disturbing it. Within less than a year the whole area has been terraced on steep hillsides, and trees are once again planted covering and protecting the soil from erosion. And the cycle begins yet again.
While Jermiah, and his Surly bike rolled thru eastern Portugal, south of Subragal, it became very evident that the hills were getting far larger, far steeper, and poochy maggie there are a bunch of them to contend with. After Subragal, the open fields, stacked rock and farming give way to quite heavy forest cover. The forest looks to be mostly planted Pine and Eucalyptus. Huge stands of it ranging over hill after hill. It appears to be harvested at a very young age, the trees are maybe 8-12 inch diameter when you see them being hauled. It would be my guess that they go into paper production, since they are so small and cut in what looks to be 6 foot lengths.
Quite a bit of the ride was over this rather hilly tree covered countryside, so it was not all that scenenic since immature forests are hardly magnificent. topped off with heavy fog till 10 or later in the morning and you are left with nothing to do but peddle. The hills of Portugal, while nothing in height nor magnitude when compared to the mountains that Pine and I have conquered earlier in our RTW journey, were non-the-less almost my undoing. I would guess its the combination of steepness along with the sheer number of climbs all stacked onto rather tired legs. I would place the day before Lisbon’s entry as one of the toughest 5 days of the trip thus far, yet I know that there are many more that lay ahead in crossing USA.
Second from last day, and near the end of the day. I took a turn into Salvatorre da Magos, not even sure why except maybe to take abreak. Idling down the main street of this small village, at town center stands a huge bronze which lionizes the art of Portugese Bull Fighting heritage. A magnificent piece by a talented artist, fully capturing that tension between the tip of the piquet which is centered on the bulls shoulders, and the fierce look in the eye of the bull in his determination to win his way thru in this fight for life. It’s a great bronze too walk around, you can almost hear the crowd cheering, sense the intermingling odors of sweat, sand and blood as the epic battle takes it’s course. Somewhere to the far end of the main street I pass a small store front with a SADDLE………. I said a saddle. Yes indeed, sitting out front the store. Naturally, Jeremiah had to go in and check things out. Its contains some really classy leather as well as clothing items, all of which invoke the Portugese style of horsemanship and horse culture. The smells of leather and fine woolen wear greet me as I enter thru the doorway, a firm handshake and an amiable smile, again of the Portugese manner. Hooks on the walls hold handmade bridle headstalls, handmade half leggings etc, and mannequins sport all manner of traditional rider accutrements made of wool and leather. The saddler, Marco Pimental, the store is “EquiUSA”, Marco is an acfable fellow who does really fine work, I invite you to check him out on Facebook.
Its my guess the word was out, theres a biker in town. Only a few minutes into my visit with Marco, and an excited, fit, elderly fellow shows up, speaking rather rapidly to Marco about something but I know not what. Marco then explains to me after Senior Oliviera takes his leave, that Senior Oliviera is plus 80, and rides 30km everyday. I am impressed without knowing anymore, but I would later meet him again on the street before I got out of town. He wanted to show me the carbon fiber steed ( a beautiful Orbea cycle) that he rides each day, and to have a picture with me and my all steel ashphalt tractor. Just a few miles from Salvatorre, I pulled over for the night to make camp. The next day would see Jeremiah and the heavily loaded Surly roll into downtown Lisbon. It seemed that it took forever to get into town, heavy fog till well after 12, busy roads, and essentially flat till you roll into oldtown. I have an apartment in very traditional San Bento district in Lisbon. Very narrow streets, all cobble and super steep streets. My family arrives late the evening of the 23rd, we will celebrate Christmas in Lisbon and Morroco. I look forward to riding thru southern USA and on to home. My thanks too all of you for your constant Prayers during this portion of the RTW thru Gods Creation cycle trip, and I would ask for your continued support thru our America’s till we can wrap this entire trip up.