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My Journey - February 2011

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My Journey - February 2011

Post  ChasingSanity on Wed Feb 02, 2011 11:16 am

February 2nd, 2011
Wow, almost caught up. At least, I don't think that much happened between then and now. I am in Arcadia, FL headed for the Veteran's Administration hospital in West Palm Beach. They might replace the prescription glasses I lost in the ocean on Palmetto, FL beaches.

Friday, February 4th, 2011
I rode through downtown Tampa, on my way out of town. But it was getting dark. Tampa is a sprawling metropolis. I found a homeless shelter and spent the night there after meeting again with Vance; I accidentally left some things at his place that he found and drove out to return. In the morning, I rode on and got all the way to Brandon before I camped out at a church. I asked at an RV park near Sun City if I could camp out in their park with trees and a pond. They said no, the alligators in each of those two small ponds are feisty and the residents in their RV's would freak at a stranger in the park at night. BUT, the abandoned house across the street, that everybody uses for a garbage dump... People camp there all the time. Smile

I set up my hammock, cooked on my camp stove and knocked everything over, spilling dinner onto the ground. Sad I made more, cleaned up the mess and dumped in out away from camp. In the morning, I saw something ate half the leftovers. I checked NOAA weather with my cell phone; 100% chance of rain today. It was windy but, I didn't see how... I went out to the road and saw how; there were dark clouds coming in. I moved everything into the abandoned house, including my bicycle.

It looked like the abandoned house was used as a party house, sex palace and sleeping place for a family. That's a lot of changes for one abandoned little mobile home to go through. I cleaned up a little – there was broken glass in several places. Then, I dragged a small mattress into the cleanest room to sleep in. I tried to regulate air flow and comfort by leaving the doors partially ajar. Wow, was it humid! Everything I owned was soaked in the morning, but that was inevitable. It was as dry as I could manage even with the time to plan ahead.

I got permission to camp on the grounds of another church north of Palmetto. I got to ride along the Gulf Coast again. Smile I thought it would be so cool (and I would feel so much better) to bath {with my clothes on} in the ocean on the beach. I lost my glasses in knee high water. Sad I had them perched on top of my head, dunked my head to wash off my shampooed hair and away they went. I searched for hours, twice. I have a backup pair but the prescription is 5 years old so I don't see that well anymore.

I stopped at the Salvation Army and got a free lunch as per the suggestion of a retired man I met on the beach. Salvation Army does not help people get glasses. Their thrift store only had reading glasses, not meant for nearsighted bicyclists like me. Smile

I camped at another church for the night. I get permission almost always. (Tonight, Saturday, February 5th, I am going to an undeveloped edge of Port St. Lucie to camp. The people working and owning the bike shop I went to, justt down the street recommended it to me.) So, I got permission from the church. I rode on. There was a vacant lot in, was it still Sarasota? I knocked on the door of the house on the corner next to the vacant lot if I could camp in the vacant lot without anybody getting upset. We talked about all the upsetting things going on with the vacant lot across the street. “Skeeter” (phonetically related to mosquito) suggested I camp in his yard. Smile

In the morning, we made a few upgrades to my bike and XtraCycle. Smile Smile Specifically, my duffel bags were pushing into my rear brakes, forcing the brakes to brake. We engineered fitting plywood shielding to prevent the duffel bags from squashing the bags into the brakes. We discovered my rear wheel was rubbing against the wooden skateboard looking platform of the XtraCycle. We put a tire shaped hole in the wooden piece. We put a couple springs inline, on the rear wheel brake cable because the cable is too long to keep from sticking inside the brake cable housing. So the springs push the brakes apart unless I squeeze them together with my brake lever on my handlebars. I bought a pair of clipless bike shoes from a thrift store for $2. And they were in my size?! Bike shoes in a thrift store are rare, for $2, is a miracle and size 49, my size?! That is three miracles! But, the inserts on the bottom of the shoe were warn down so much that the bolts holding them in needed tooling to remove. We used a hack saw to make a slot in the screw heads and a slotted screwdriver to remove the bolts. Simple! Well, kinda but I was one step closer to using fancy bike shoes. Wink After all that, in the late afternoon, I rode on.

The next day, Sunday, I went chasing down a bike shop in the area that had my holy grail; a double walled aluminum, rear wheel. I knew it was Sunday, but it was early on Sunday and their voice mail never sleeps. One of them was a live voice! Woody had one?! For $45? I went to his place. He had a bicycle, not the wheel, not my holy grail... But, he knew a guy with many, many bicycles in his backyard. He did not have the phone number or address but he gave me directions. “You can't miss it.” How many times have I heard that? I can miss a lot more than they think I can. Smile Also, it was getting late, this chasing down a wheel had taken all day.

So, I was a block away, my rear tire explodes. That rubbing against the brakes sound was not the rim, like I assumed. I pushed my bike to the corner and around the corner to the next corner. I saw a man getting out of his car across the street. I asked him where this pile of bikes was and explained my dilemma and angst.

Fletch used to own a bike shop in Sarasota! “See the tee shirt?” Smile He just sold it a week ago. Sad I could stay the night at his house. Pat was his friend and temporary roommate. They were about to embark on their own adventure; they were sailing to the... Bahamas? Caribbean? And they were doing it in the next few days, tomorrow? So, Fletch fed me, let me take a shower and wash my clothes and gaveme my very own room to sleep in with an air mattress. “It's leaking but, it is the best I can offer you.” I said I was used to sleeping on the equivalent of carpeting; leaks were fine.

In the morning, we loaded my bike without a working rear wheel in back of his pickup truck and took it to Village Bikes, his old bike shop AND coffee shop, yes, gourmet coffee! The people there were busy, like every Monday. But, the owner and Fletch talked; he would see what he could do. I went to the other bike shop, one door down. Yep, that close. They had a used aluminum wheel that... was not double walled but the hub was messed up enough to make it not worth repairing – free if I wanted it. I did. I took the wheel back to Village Bikes, he quickly repaired it. The owner, of course I don't remember his name and can't find his card, asked me how far I was planning on going on that wheel. Smile I was going to stop at every bike shop along the way, looking for an upgrade. Smile

I rode on. Just a little ways down the road, I saw a Pearle Vision prescription glasses shop. I got an idea, ask them where the old glasses customers no longer wanted went to? Before I asked, I wanted to know what my prescription was. I called the VA hospital to find out, they were where I got the glasses I lost to the ocean. The VA could not give me prescription information over the phone. BUT, they told me to go to Urgent Care, at the VA and tell them I did not have glasses, I could not see. They would expedite my getting replacement glasses. YES!

Where was the nearest VA hospital south of me, in Sarasota? West Palm Beach, OK, how to get there from here? Highway 72, then 70 then 710. Along the way, I asked a couple USGS, Florida Water Science Hydrologic Technicians (whew!) on lunch on the side of the road where I could camp the night. They suggested I talk with Don Patel, managing the Pier 2 Hotel in Okechobee – on my way. Smile

When I got to Okeechobee, I checked for food banks (free food, got some), car tire dealers - chasing after car inner tubes to make water proofing for my duffel bags (no junk inner tubes available) and used cell phone batteries – my cell phone battery was failing to hold a charge. I asked cell phone stores if they sold used cell phone batteries. The car tire dealer let me camp out behind their shop, in some seriously dense woods. In the morning, I went to the guy I was directed to; he did have the battery but it was at his other store in Port St. Lucie. He was guessing at how much the used battery would cost me and when he could get it to Okechobee (that was Friday) when I said “How about I ride my bicycle there tomorrow? Is Port St. Lucie east of Okeechobee? Yes, you want to ride 50 miles in a day for a battery? You do that, I will Give you the battery free of charge. I rode on to Port St. Lucie. Smile

I asked for a shower at a small hotel if they had a room a customer had left but had not cleaned yet. They said I would not normally do that but, I will let you get a shower. But, my clean clothes were at the bottom of my bags, clean clothes to match clean body would have to wait until that night when I got into my bags. So, I went from shower to Pier 2 and Don Patel.

Don Patel takes Fridays off. I left a hand written note, telling about how the USGS guy I met was impressed with him, Mr. Patel. Then, I got on their free WIFI. But, my dirty clothes got me kicked out for bad smells. Oh! Sorry, lesson learned; change clothes ASAP. Sooner than that. Wink

I stopped at the last bastion of civilization, a BP gas station. I asked the two ladies working there if I could camp overnight behind the gas station and,if they were going to throw any food away, throw it my way. The Subway lady gave me a foot long sandwich Smile BTW, I think Subway, 'foot long's' are pretty good deal – you can make healthy choices and stretch $5 into two meals.

But, they did not have authorization to grant my camping request, who to call? I gave them space, I went outside. I noticed across the street, just before the gas station, “GoodBread Nursery” Land - Cattle – Trees with a phone number. I told the gas station workers I had an idea, ask the GoodBread people if I could camp there. Smile That all worked out great.

After I set up my tent (with as much mosquito-proof, see-through ventilation as possible) in a back corner, away from the traffic, I changed clothes. While I was changing, naked, between dirty and clean, I thought it would be just wonderful if one of those women at the gas station came to my tent looking for adventure. Smile Sure enough, an SUV pulled up. It was two guys, the GoodBreads, owners of the Nursery. Sad God has a sense of humor, I know this. :/

They backed up their SUV while I scrambled into clothing. We talked for a while, well the younger man and I did most of the talking while the older, driver got less words in edgewise. Finally, he said we'll let you get on with it. Smile

That was yesterday! This morning, I took my time getting back on the road. I really appreciated the sun coming through the fog and the way the fog layered the trees in the distance. I was an hour and a half behind my expected take off time. Smile Life was good. Smile I rode on, towards Port St. Lucie. I got a flat tire, Life was not perfect, the day was hot and humid and there was no shade in sight. Everybody I asked said the next landmark was a long ways away from here; about 4 or 5 miles. Ten miles later, I turned at my next landmark.

Finally, I was in Port St. Lucie, barely. I rode up this steep hill, shifted gears... my bike chain jumped into the space between the spokes and the gears (sprockets)! Life was not good! Wink Quit laughing! I get to do that, laugh, at a time like this... I mean... time like that, not you! Wink

I was on the side of a hill, on a busy street, only a tiny strip of grass to work on and my bike was in the middle of the road but I could not push it off the road – my rear wheel was locked up. If I pushed it, I would damage the spokes even more. I wrestled the chain out of that tight little spot it got wedged into for what seemed like a half hour. I took the chain apart, that helped a lot. I took this opportunity to clean it with my intentionally oiled rag, a tool, itself and then strung it through its course. A lady pulled over, asked if I needed help. Such perfect timing! If you hold these two pieces of chain together, that would be wonderful. She did, I put the master link back together. Away we went, our separate ways.

Now I really needed a rear wheel upgrade. The integrity of my questionable rear wheel was now more in question.

The rest of the way to the cell phone store was uneventful but longer than advertised. I got there. The place was packed with an unending flow of paying customers. Paying customers, I was not on that list. Smile I was patient. The owner gave me the correct batty replacement for my cell phone, as promised when he got a spare moment. I asked him for directions to the two bike shops were he mentioned back in Okeechobee. I entertained many of the customers with my story, that is, after the store owner told them a little about me. Smile They gave $30. Well, there was the money I did not have to upgrade my rear wheel. I hoped it was enough money.

I rode to the closest one, they had my holy grail! Yes, a double-walled, aluminum rear wheel with a cassette (more popular, so easier to get parts)! I asked how much it would cost because I only had $30. He was thinking $25. I had $5 extra! I was a rich man! Smile I asked where I might camp for free. They directed me to an area nearby. I got their card, with the signatures they do NOT use to sign checks. I will upload that later. Smile

I rode on, asking along the way for free WIFI. Burger King has a VERY nice WIFI room?! Yes, is true! It is way past dark but I am caught up again! :Polishing fingernails on shirt and flicking off dust on shirt in one move: Wink

Monday February 7th, 2011
I had asked the people at “Sprockets” bike shop if they knew any place I could camp for free. They talked it over for a while then told me about an undeveloped part of Martin county a few miles away and in my direction. I was on my way there looking for free WIFI when I found Burger King.

I continued on down the road, Highway 76 became Citrus after I crossed, was it Becker? I counted off a minute of riding after crossing the intersection then looked for potential camp sites. The place I found looked untouched by humanity, except for the fence. Wink But, it was like a tropical desert; sand instead of swamp, palms instead of mangroves and no mosquitoes. I was concerned about police finding me in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.

I woke up a few minutes before my watch alarm went off at 6AM. I like waking up on my own a few minutes before the alarm. It is a luxury to lay in bed, warm and comfy, considering the day ahead, then the alarm goes off, motivating me to get on with 'it'. This time, I had no time for the good life. I got up, packed, rolled out.

I rode to a hotel, looking for free WIFI, coffee and breakfast – in order of my likelihood of getting it. Smile There were two fancy hotels but no free breakfast. Sad I checked my email, their coffee was not noteworthy. I rode on. I got to the VA at 3PM. My goals there were to get replacement glasses, replace a partial crown on a front tooth and answer a bunch of questions.

Let's see, part of my nose hurt, I have two, small hard bumps on my belly, my knee has a very sore, very small spot, my spine was out of alignment and my foot hurt and had what looked like blood under the skin. My nose has folliculitis. The bumps on my belly are probably scars from the last hernia surgery a couple years ago. My knee does not seem serious, whatever it is. Physical Rehabilitation would be months away if I scheduled it today. And the bruise and pain were gone from my foot, good circulation does that. My glasses had to wait for Monday, the next day, after 8AM, same with dental work.

I rode away just after dark, maybe 7PM. I went just south to McDonald's and got on their WIFI. My CouchSurfing people were expecting me Monday, I was a day early. I needed to find another place to sleep tonight. I called up the Westgate Tabernacle Homeless Shelter and arranged to stay there.

I rode south on Military Trail. I was hit by a car. It was a Deputy Sheriff of West Palm Beach. He was pulling out of an apartment complex, on the way to an emergency. He stopped before entering into traffic, saw all the headlights and pulled out. I saw a white car come to a stop, it was a police car. I continued riding in the bicycle lane. He got closer... I thought 'slow down, Slow Down'. He sped up.

He hit my big duffel bag at a pretty slow speed, maybe 5 miles an hour. I leaned into the impact, set my bike down and swung around, off my bike. I spread my hands wide and up; “?!” What?! / Why?!

He got out, and got to work. Was I OK, was my bike OK? Sorry, I did not see you, blinded by the headlights. His manners were perfect. Police always have been with me. I figure he was not looking for a slow-going bicyclist right next to him. I was fine, my bike was... ZI could not tell, it was too dark to see. The rear wheel did not spin as easily any more. He tried to rush through taking pictures of the evidence, including me. His camera did not cooperate with rushing. I got his number, he got mine. I remembered his name and the identifying numbers on his car. He rushed off to his emergency.

A few minutes later, he came up behind me, pulled me over and asked if I wanted to report the incident. I was planning to do that in the morning, I was so tired now. Got to do it now or not at all. OK, now then. He called his supervisor and started filling out paperwork.

His boss came and took more pictures. Boss man was very professional. A sheriff from another county, Riviera County, came by. He suggested I put reflective material on my backpack and duffel bags. Great idea.

Another officer (West Palm Beach Deputy Sheriff?) came by. This one minimized the damages. I did not want an ambulance; I was unharmed. My bicycle was still ridable; it was unharmed. No, it is not a black and white kind of thing, it was gray. “We are not paying for this.” Yes, you are. “That is not how it works.” I stopped talking with him.

Eventually, they were done, how could they contact me - my cell phone. Someone would call me. I rode on to the homeless shelter and got there by midnight. I asked for and received some food then went to sleep on some padding on the ground outside with 3 blankets used for moving furniture. That was how the shelter handles overflow.

In the morning, I felt like I had slept wrong; I was a little sore. I was a celebrity to the people at the shelter; they remembered me from TV, radio or newspaper interviews. Smile I rode on to the VA. In addition to seeing about replacement glasses and dental work, I now had better get inspected and a 'clean bill of health' for the police. Glasses done, will take 2 – 4 weeks for them. The VA almost never does dental work. I forgot about getting the emergency room to check for damage. I rode off.

My rear tire exploded in the VA driveway. The brake pad rubbed through the rear tire, the inner tube bulged out and popped. I put a patch on the rear tire and another patch on the inner tube. I went back to the Emergency Room, my back hurt more. II waited for hours but, finally gave up. I was not going to be riding at night again if I could help it AND I had to get my bike to a shop for repairs – the rear wheel was wobbling more than last night.

I checked the patched hole in my rear tire, it was worse. Next time, I will try using a dollar bill covering the hole like someone mentioned a while back. Going to a bike shop for repairs became highest priority. I walked to the McDonald's just down the street for their WIFI. I found the closest bike shop, 2.4 miles away with Google Maps. I started pushing my bike. I hoped the patched tire would hold until I got to the shop.

It seemed more like 4 miles to the bike shop, Bicycle World on Northlake. I explained I was hit by a police car, the pollice had to pay; I did not have the money. The bike shop would not work on my bike until they got paid for their services. I asked if I could leave my bike and gear at their shop. They gave me a receipt. It was about 6PM. I was about to call Ruth, the lady that had accepted my request to stay at her place when Rusty, one of the other CouchSurfing people called me. He was planning to host me tonight too. Rusty could pick me up from the bike shop, Ruth could not; another change of plans.

I stayed with Rusty. He made Curried Sweet Potato Peanut Butter soup. It sounded awesome to me! I thought it tasted better before he put it in the blender. But, I can not argue that pureeing it was more nutritious – smaller pieces are easier to digest.

Here's how we cooked it. We diced a big sweet potato into thumb nail sized cubes, smaller sized dicing of a big onion and mincing of a lot of garlic, that got put in a pot with vegetable broth and cooked for 20 minutes until the sweet potato was soft. The curry was added while cooking. All this was to taste.

In reflection, I would use a variety of root vegetables (carrots, turnips, daikon radishes, onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes and yams), the smallest of each I could get, some greens like mustard and turnip, mushrooms, red wine, ginger and garlic. Also, Rusty used smooth peanut butter, I think fresh, crunchy peanut butter would be better. I would cook the tough roots and ginger a lot and only heat up the onions, garlic, etc. Mushrooms are very delicate, throw them in at the last minute. Lastly, I would tinker - “to taste”. A hearty bread and red wine would be good companions.

The next day, Rusty dropped me off at the Sheriff's Office. They gave me the name and number of the Legal Department, who gave me the number of Risk Management. I got the answering machine and left a message at Risk Management but the recording mentioned the name and number of the insurance company they use. I called them... and left a message on the answering machine.

I walked to the bike shop. One of the workers there loaned me his daughters bicycle – in for repairs. With the seat pulled all the way up, it was not too bad. I had a bike! I grabbed all my laundry, clean ans dirty and stuffed it in my backpack. I rode to Ruth's place.

Sadly, most CouchSurfing people do not have time during the week to socialize, they have to work. My plans to surf couches do not always include weekends. There's a lot of week and not a lot of weekend, and my plans and reality do not align very often. So, Rusty, Ruth and now, Carole do not have the time to get to know me that either they or I want.

I left Ruth's and rode to... Hey! That's a Chiropractor's office. I stopped in and asked if it would be best for all if I went to the police doctor first or the chiropractor. I was in pain, it was not hard to convince me. Especially since the payment goes to the insurance company. I am going back to the chiropractor today for another treatment. They used electrical stimulation to exhaust the spasming muscles and they took X-rays.

The insurance company called and told me, there would not be a problem paying for repairs, espcially considering it cost less than $50. They will mail the check to the bike shop. It should arrive Friday, tomorrow. The bike shop does not take checks so the check will be made out for me. I cash it at the bank and return with cash to the bike shop. Repairs – truing the rear wheel and putting on a new tire – should only take 15 minutes. Too bad bureaucracy is involved, if the deputy sheriff was legally able to pay me out of pocket, I could have been back on the road the day after I crashed... And complaining about my back. :/

I am CouchSurfing as much as I can but I might end up at the homeless shelter waiting until my bike is fixed.

I'm caught up again and off to Workforce Alliance to see if they will print out some of my calling cards then the chiropractor.

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Workforce Alliance does not print up business cards. But, public libraries are the cheapest way to print something. Then, I need to find a way to get the letter sized pages cut into business cards. I use regular paper, not card stock and I prefer paper that has already been used on one side. Maybe some small town print company...

Anyways, I rode out of WPB (West Palm Beach). I rode west on Okeechobee to Flying Cow Road and south from there. I camped on one side of an official government fence, something about WEP, a good ways off the road. In the morning, I heard something in the bushes near me. It was a wild pig, who was skittish but curious; was any of my stuff eatable? No, I wish I had charged my camera batteries. Flying Cow ended, I got on highway 441 and continued south. I looked for a way to get off the busy road and back on the small road, as planned. Finally, I got onto Lee Way. But it was a dirt and sand road that a lot of off road vehicles use. The sand was soft, like a beach much of the way. I could not ride my bike through this for miles and miles. It was a lot of work finding that out and more work getting back to 441.

Highway 441 became more and more urban. I asked how to get to the everglades so I had a chance of putting 50 miles a day behind me, instead of 15. I was told to take 84 west, it parallels Interstate 595. Both roads were under heavy construction. When I got on 84 it became the interstate and that became construction with no shoulder. I was scared, not happy. There was no place for me to ride. I only had to go .75 miles but that was plenty. Even that short distance was an ordeal, pushing my bike, dodging barricades and cars. I got off at University and rode south a bit. I tried asking the Kmart if I could sleep behind their shore. Nope, corporate forbids it, try the big vacant lot two miles down. Cool.

On the way to the vacant lot, I met a polite homeless guy. I asked if he knew where I could camp for free. His camp, yes I could follow Will and camp there for the night. The camp was a Catholic church on 441. I made some kick ass soup (New England Claw Chowder with fresh garlic, curry, Italian seasoning and sweet chili sauce) but Will was full. I ate it all and a lot of fig bars and cookies with peanut butter and a prune on top each one. Oh, I hunted for a food bank and found a church passing out $20 of gift cards for Publix, a local grocery store.

This morning, I rode on to Griffin road and went west. There was a McDonald's, I pulled in chasing after free WIFI, a toilet and cheap but reasonable coffee. I got a little closer to paradise. Wink An A T & T construction worker came in who said he saw me last night, where 84 and 595 intersect. We traded contact info, I emailed him and asked how to get west to highway 27 going south to Key West. Said take Griffin all the way there, nice shoulder. Yes! Smile He always wanted to ride his bicycle to Key West. Smile He was bashful, like everybody else; they are not taking on as much as I am. I don't care, we are all human. I enjoy the attention but I am not better than the rest of the world because I am in position to live this dream we all have. I am caught up again!?

Time to get back on the road and live the dream. :happy tears:
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Re: My Journey - February 2011

Post  ChasingSanity on Wed Mar 30, 2011 1:50 pm

oops, can't add to January 2011 without kicking it out of sequence.
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