Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mobile, AL

Back when I was in Mobile, AL, I met some homeless folks in one of the parks downtown. They were tremendously engaging, receptive, and interested in my story. And they shared much of their stories as well. At one point, a van pulled up from a church offering bag dinners to anyone, a lined formed, and once we had our dinners, we sat down on the benches and discussed everything from how I would camp out, miles per day, etc, etc, to how to ride on the road, and directions to places in Mobile, etc, and one man began telling me about his adventures traveling around--trainhopping, mainly. He used to live in Miami, where he "lived like a king" with many other homeless, just living on Miami beach. But Hurricane Katrina hit (it was not as powerful when it touched Florida), but this man endured the storm in a bus shelter! He just watched as the wind blew the rain in horizontally, and whipped things around.

He moved from Miami, but today he wishes he hadn't. Miami had more day-labor jobs available compared to Mobile. The way he moves around, typically, is by hopping on freight trains without the crew's awareness. In train yard, he explains, a few places are ideal for hanging out until a time arises when the train has begun moving, up to around 15 miles per hour, and the engine of the train has turned a corner, so teh mirrors the conductors use to monitor the train cannot "see" him jumping into a car. To jump into a car, one must run alongside the train, put one's hands on the platform of a car (a car whose middle door was left open) and throw one's torso up onto the platform, and then climb in. Typically, this man would find a cardboard box, and lay his body into that, and rest. He rides trains at night, and he tries to dismount before daybreak. He once arrived in a city after daybreak, and the trainyard guards began looking into his car. He plastered his body up against the wall, the same wall the door was on, and he guard looked into the car, but did not poke is head all the way in and look against the wall. When the guards moved on, he hopped out and began walking as swiftly as he could out of the train yard. He did not know what city he was in, and he asked the first man he came to, "What city is this?" and the man replied, "Jackson".

He eventually made it to Mobile...and he sleeps in some abandoned train station building.


So, yesterday I talked with a couple of the Canadians, with whom I planned to travel South with. It isn't clear exactly when they will depart Austin. One may break off on her own, head south, and meet her significant other from Argentina on the way, and they may bike together. The others may stick around a couple more weeks. I will probably depart on my own towards Brownsville in a few days. I will stay in touch with the Canadians and see what makes sense. Their route does appear to coincide with mine along the east coast/Gulf coast of Mexico. It is the shortest, the flatest, and the most humid (much of Mexico is desert and/or mountain).

We may hit cities such as Victoria and Vera Cruz, places I believe I both have contacts in, though the more the better, so keep sending them my way, please.

So I hope to hit the border in about ten days.

Internet: I hope to have access in internet cafes and perhaps libraries, and in hotel lobbies, etc. Perhaps won't be as frequent, but will certainly be there, and perhaps my primary form of communication. As far as phone goes, I think I will pick up some calling cards and call folks from pay phones. Perhaps I will keep my phone for emergencies, but the rate will be a dollar fifty per minute.

If you would like to send money, please send to Paul Park, 4405 29th St, Mt Rainier, MD, 20712. There, my father will deposit it into my account, which I can access anywhere.

My health has been excellent--just a sore achilles tendon lately after hightailing it to make it to Austin in time for Thanksgiving. I am thankful for the Salvadoran family that fed me thanksgiving meal, for Ezra for hosting me for three days in Austin (plus feeding me and teaching me how to make tortillas--that pic is me making one), and for the Paulist Fathers here in Austin who are now hosting me and feeding me before I take off again. I am also thankful for all of you, my supporters--family, relatives, friends and those who I haven't met yet. Thank you for keeping up with my trip, taking an interest, and having a look at what effect we might be having on the earth. I truly appreciate all of you who are with me on this journey and who have helped me along the way.

As for my bike, I just had my third flat here in Austin (not bad after 2300 miles). My chain broke once, and my rear cassette/hub came loose outside of Athens. I have had some experimentation with my handlebars. Overall, my bike has been rather reliable and robust.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

John Keating, Sponsor from Montgomery

When I was in Montgomery, Alabama, staying with gracious hosts Joe and Tricia Crowley, they introduced me to their long-time friend and cyclist John Keating. Now, John is not just any old cyclist. John has traversed the United States at least six times on a recumbent bike, but not only that, but John has just one arm and one real leg! John lost the limbs on one side of his body in a freak accident involving a 16,000 volt electric overhead cable for a train. See his book "The Hand of God: The Story of John Keating and the Power of Love" for his full story. John signed a copy of his book and gave it to me.

John has biked with amputees across the country raising awareness of amputees and support for medical advances and services. When I was in Montgomery, John was going into schools dressed as the Grim Reeper, and he would "reep" a student every twenty minutes, representing the frequency someone gets killed as the result of a drunk driver on the road; that student cannot talk for the rest of the school day.

John met me at his favorite cycle shop, Cycle Escape in Montgomery. John helped me select some gear and equipment for my tour, including a spare inner tube, a yellow long-sleeve jersey (visible, and prevents sunburn), and a rear-view mirrow. The shop threw in an extra chain link, and some spare helmet foam cushions. Thank you, John, and Cycle Escape for your invaluable support. Cycle Escape, Montgomery, AL

Friday, November 24, 2006


Here in Austin, after 2200 miles of biking, I will rendezvous with three Canadian bikers, and eventually four, as the fourth is on his way from New Orleans.

Allegedly Austin has lots of bats that live under the bridges of the major roads--and the bats put a hitting on the mosquito population.

I have camped out the last two nights, and I visited a Brazilian bike shop (the owner, Nelo, is from Sao Paulo) and a Brazilian music/clothing/food store, Ana Brasil. I spent thanksgiving with a Salvadoran family I met cruising the neighborhoods, and I got a wireless card for my laptop--hello wireless coffee shops!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Giddings, TX

I am in Giddings, TX, 57 miles from Austin. I should be in Austin by tomorrow afternoon to celebrate Thanksgiving with Rebecca--a college classmate, and the Canadian bikers.

Stopped at the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory today and received a complimentary scoop of Mocha Almond Fudge, with a dab of Cinnamon Ice Cream on top--excellent!

Then I went to Mariachi's Mexican Restaurant (these were both in Brenham, TX, the "birthplace" of Texas) and met some highschool soccer players. One of them was the owner of the restaurant!--Giovanni, who inherited one of the three Mariachi restaurants when his father, the owner, passed away. Giovanni's two brothers run the other two joints, one of which is just outside of Austin--I plan to stop there for lunch tomorrow!

Giovanni comped my lunch, and I signed an autograph for him. One of the class places I have stopped at--hit them up if you are in the area and mention my name for some special service and conversation.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Houston to Austin

I am in a suburb south of Houston, and tomorrow I will head to Austin to celebrate Thanksgiving with a college classmate and meet up with some Canadian bikers who will travel through Mexico. The trip will be 173 miles over two days.

I am staying tonight (and last night) at the home of Mary Claire and John Upton; Mary Claire was a college mate of a friend of my family, Lynn Welch.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Johnson's Bayou

Today, I biked 105 miles. When someone bikes one hundred or more miles in a day, it is called a century. Today, I biked my first century of this trip, and of my life for that matter!

I took Louisiana highway 82 along the Gulf Coast. The beginning of the trip was gorgeous. Unending swamp on either side of the road from Forked Island, where I camped last night at Cajun Diner, to Pecan Island, which is more on the coast. Lots of big, beautiful birds take off and squawk as I pass. White crane-like birds. They kinda look like white Great blue Herons, though a hair smaller. Great blue herons were present, as well as at least three other species of grey to black large birds. I say other eagle/hawk-like birds, and I saw many red-wing black birds including a flock of them. I saw a dead alligator (a baby, maybe three to four feet long), several dead nutra, which is like a great water rat, raccoons, and others.

I was stopped by two separate couples interested in my trip. One of them had seen the article in this morning's paper in Lafayette, LA, The Advertiser. They signed the petition and made a donation. Another man they told about also signed and donated. The other couple was a couple of ladies, Peggy and Zulu, and I snapped a photo of them and I.

On the way, at mile sixty, I stopped at a baptist church to eat some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I packed. A mexican man named Emiliano was working and I chatted him up, he sign the petition and gave me some contacts in Vera Cruz, Mexico! These are actually my second contacts in Mexico--the first I got in Lafayette from a man who bikes, who was from Texas and was working in Lafayette, and wanted to help. He signed also.

Along the route today, I witnessed lots of hurricane destruction--not from Katrina, but from Rita, which took place just a month before Katrina. Towns hit especially hard were Cameron, and all the towns just West of it. Just annihilated. Blank cement slabs everywhere. All remaining structures were severely damaged. A few houses were being rebuilt, but really, there is just about nothing left. Quite striking.

I am now in a town called Johnson's Bayou, which is the last little town before crossing into Texas! Wonderful town--it has a community little grocery store where everyone passes through and everyone knows each other and has a ball just talking each other up. Old to the very youngest, all have a place and all are very verbal. It is really quite stimulating just sitting there observing it all. They made a hot cheese pizza for me and offered snacks. One of the fire department personell arranged for me to get a hot shower at the station and he will let me sleep in a camper he used to use after the storm hit. I am very grateful and blessed to be welcomed and accomodated as I have been here.

They mentioned that just a couple days ago, another biker who apparently was also biking to Brazil! passed through! How did I not know about him? Does he know about me? I have to find this out, hopefully catch up with him. I will be like a detective and a hound figuring this one out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Moving towards Houston

I set out momentarily towards Houston along the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Should be very swampy, with nature reserves and campgrounds along the way. Oil rig workers, I anticipate, will be the main other users of the road I take. The trip to Houston is 280 miles, and it should take about five days.

Lafayette has been a wonderful stop, with gracious hosts Mike Clayton, Justin, Josh, Dr. Griff Blakewood, Susan, and other SPEAK (Society Promoting Environmental Action and Knowledge) members at USL. All the students at the SPEAK meeting signed the petition, as did many students I ran into in the student union. I even met a Brazilian from Northeast Brazil (Fortaleza).

After I ate a vegetarian meal at Lara's II, which they comped, I was interviewed by the local paper, The Advertiser. I'll post the article on the site when it comes out.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

University of Southern Louisiana at Lafayette, where I am now. I cycled 84 miles yesterday from Baton Rouge to here--my second longest distance in a day.

Cycles of Uprising ready to bicycle back to New Orleans from Baton Rouge!

Cycles of Uprising circus/singing cycling group that biked from St. Louis to New Orleans to Baton Rouge performing all along the way. I rode from New Orleans to Baton Rouge with them, and we camped out twice along the way.

A loaded bike with extracycle. See

Cycles of Uprising riding along River Road towards Baton Rouge.

Cycles of Uprising riding out of New Orleans with me.

Description of Plan B Bicycle Project, one of the Bicycle Coops in New Orleans.

A new house on stilts, now extra-high.

Where some homes used to be, Southeastern Louisiana.

Appliance still in the tree over a year after the storm.

Where some homes used to be, Southeastern Louisiana.

Entering Louisiana.

Wetland in Southwestern MS.

Sunset on the Gulf Coast, MS.

I finally hit the coast here on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Near the coast, which has been cleaned up dramatically since the storm, lay slab after concrete slab of where homes used to be. Some of the larger homes, and the historical estates are being rebuilt. Further along the coast, the bridge was out at Pass Christian, but the next morning, a vehicle ferry began operating. I camped out on the beach and took the inaugural ferry ride at 6:30am, and I was intervied by the local radio station!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Photo of some of the firemen at the D'Iberville, Mississippi. As I write this post, I am in New Orleans, and despite the destruction in parts of the city, the place is unlike any other, and I can see why they want to save this place.