Monday, December 23, 2013

Fundraiser Details

As of now, this ride has raised $255 USD in direct donations. The money is being transferred from PayPal to Western Union, which will take a few days to reach the Philippines. The small PayPal fees and the larger Wester Union fees will be paid for, in full, by me, so that 100% of the donated funds will reach those who need it. I will have more details about how the funds are being used once they reach the Philippines, so check back before New Year.

Thank you, everyone who donated. The Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines will continue to need funds for months just to get by, and the recovery from Typhoon Haiyan is going to take years. I will return to Arkansas to finish this ride in a few months, and I will continue to take donations between now and then. Thank you for following my adventure and helping a country that so desperately needs it.

I learned a lot on this ride that I will apply when I return. The weakest link in the whole project was my gear. I've been getting away with cheaper bicycles (Diamondback in California, Trek 820 in Africa) and components for a while, but now it's clear that I need to make an investment in better equipment and lighter supplies to continue long rides in rural places. 100-mile days on a 70-pound bike are possible, but it pushes me and my gear to the limit, especially in December when there is only 11 hours of daylight in a given day. I also need to aim for established campgrounds, as roadside camping in the south-central US is very difficult. Lessons have been learned, and I will return more prepared.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mission: Not Accommplished

Well, I didn't make it to St. Louis, I didn't ride 1,000 miles, and I've ended four days early. There are a lot of reasons. Mechanical problems, knee problems, and all the forests being private property made it impossible to roadside camp. Most of all, pushing so hard put me into a really low mood, as racing the clock took priority over meeting people and enjoying scenery, and I felt like I was making unsafe decisions to go faster.

Talking to people brought in $50 in cash donations for the Philippines typhoon relief, and gave me more interesting Memories than racing down the shoulders of Louisiana highways. Slowing down got more donations, and hopefully made the blog more fun to follow.

Ending early was the right choice. My contingency plan was perhaps the only thing I thoroughly planned at all. I was grossly unprepared for this ride physically, with my route, and with my gear. I was focused on final exams for the last three weeks, so preparing for this ride came second. I earned very good grades, so my priorities were appropriate.

Maybe this all seems like a bunch of excuses for falling far short of my goal, but to be honest, I hated the first three days on the road. Day 3 was miserable, and I'd had enough. Slowing down save my sanity.

I'm still processing this unexpected outcome, so I'll write more as it starts to make sense to me. I'll check the fundraiser totals when I'm on a secure wifi network. Keep looking here for updates.


Motel 6. Caddo Valley, AR. It's as good a place as any to end a '1000-mile' ride.

Maybe a sign will help?

Nothing but logging trucks so far.

Another Blowout

No more spare tires. I think my ride is over. I need to hitchhike out of here.

Cold and humid night. Everything is damp. Airing out tent and sleeping bag before hitting the road.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Day 5 Sit Rep

Today was good. I'm glad I made a contingency plan so that I'm not completely on my own. The full moon is rising over my camp, and I've got chili on the stove. I'm feeling lonely, but I'll be back in good company in 2 days. Tomorrow looks like the weather and terrain will be similar to today. I'm aiming for DeGray Lake State Park, so I'll be close to Hot Springs for Wed. For tonight, its warm food and solitude. Life is good.

Currently at White Oak State Park, AR. Great weather today. Was down to just my base layer. Beautiful trees and hills, but slow riding. That blowout was a time-suck as well. So, I've pulled the trigger on my contingency plan - which is Becki. She's driving north from New Orleans and picking me up on Wed in Hot Springs, AR. So, I have 2 days to get there, and then my ride will be over. I feel bad that I can't do the full 1000 miles, but my window is closing and it's best to take the ride so I can still make t home for Christmas. I'll enjoy the next 2 days, but I think I'll be happy to get off the road. For now, I have the whole park to myself, so I'm using every plug and sink like a boss.

I actually have time to make tea, like a nice modern gentleman, on this stove I've been hauling since Alexandria.

Early Finish

White Oak Lake State Park, Arkansas. I'm the only one here!

Major Blowout

And thats why you always bring a spare tire! This blowout was so big it ruined if tire. Took me a while to change, but back on the road.

Private Property

I've seen plenty of 'No Trespassing' signs, but this severed teddy bear head is a bit too Lord of the Flies!

New State!

Leaving Louisiana behind on a frosty morning. Goodbye, Napoleon. Hello Bill Clinton!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 4 Sit Rep:

For the first 3 days, I kept feeling like each day was harder than the last. 100 miles a day is too many. I was making poor judgement calls, as I kept putting the clock before the experience and sometimes safety. After talking with people who care most about me, I've decided to slow down. Today I slept in a bit and enjoyed a hot breakfast, biked to Driskill and hiked the 20-minute trail to the summit, then got lost, which was wonderful. I got to talk with people and enjoy the hills. I'm now in Haynesville, LA. Just 4 miles south of the Arkansas border. I'm way behind schedule. But today was enjoyable, I hit a summit, and had Mexican for dinner while watching IronMan. Gonna cross into Arkansas in the morning. The plan for the rest of my tour is in flux right now. But strangers I met donated cash to the Philippines fundraiser. Whatever happens to my ride, the fundraiser is still
continuing. I'll explain more when I'm not on my flip phone.

Un-losted myself

Back on the major roads in Homer, LA. Don't know if I'll make it to AR tonight.

Lost in Cajun Country

Got directions from a man named Francesco. On my way. Arkansas is still far. Not way i'm going to keep my 100-mile per day pace.


Driskill 'Mountain'. 535 ft. Highest point in Louisiana.

27 degrees, but I've had a hot breakfast and the sun is shining. Off to Driskill!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Day 3 Sit Rep

Not good. Didn't make it to Mt Driskill today as planned. Today was long and slow, and I am exhausted. Covered maybe 85 miles battling headwinds. Cold night tonight in a tent, somewhere on La-147 at Lowe's Camp. Driskill tomorrow, then on to Arkansas.

Much more uplifting! Close to Driskill Mountain.

It's a beautiful day in northern Louisiana

Day 3

Forest and rolling hills. Much nicer! Too bad there are headwinds and a soft shoulder. Moving slow.

This morning's flat tire brought to you buy a sharp pebble.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Safe in Alexandria, LA

203 miles down, 797 to go! The first two days were tough, but not too bad. I had a bit of a late start yesterday, and I had two flat tires today, so it's been 12 hours on the road each day.

I'm staying in a house in Alexandria, LA tonight with the family of a friend. It'll be great to sleep in a bed. I'm already stuffed full of gumbo, and had a hot shower. Little comforts feel so good.

Up and running. About 30 miles to go. Found this interesting cemetery.


Big gash in my rear tube. 2nd flat, out of spares. Had to cut up one tube to use as a patch for the other. Hopefully it works.

Boring Rt 71. Moving fast though.

Atchafalaya River. Turning north toward Alexandria.

The culprit

Cold morning.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tent set up. I'm in West Baton Rouge Parish. Cover...

Tent set up. I'm in West Baton Rouge Parish. Covered about 100 miles today. On schedule and feeling good!

Dead Gator. must be Louisiana.

View from the levee

Destrahan Plantation with its live oaks, and grain shipping facility over the Mississippi River Trail.

Goodbye NOLA!

Street car on St Charles Ave. Off to Baton Rouge!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Packing is almost done!

Food, tools, spares, clean socks. Ready!
Hitting the road in 18 hours! Was up late finishing some school work, so today is shopping, packing, hydrating... I'm feeling good about this.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Doubt, then Inspiration

The days just before a solo expedition are always full of doubt, worry, and a bit of regret. That feeling of 'What the hell have I gotten myself into?' seems to come prematurely for me. Maybe it's a healthy dose of fear that keeps me safe, or perhaps I'm just fixating on the unknown future. Either way, the last two days have felt unsettling.

It doesn't help that I'm taking a final tonight, and that I have yet more papers to finish before I hit the road. But at least my bike is getting a proper tune up from a shop I like in town. One less thing I have to do.

When I think about all I have to do to get ready, I look for inspiration from the stories of explorers and long-distance cyclists. Today, it just so happens, I am interviewing Jolandie Rust for an article. She biked alone from Cape Town, South Africa to northern Angola when she was robbed at knife point by four men who took everything, including her bike. Undeterred, she flew home, bought a motorcycle and headed again toward Angola, then onward to Morocco until she broke her leg. She spent months healing, and then returned to Morocco, carrying on across north Africa and down the east coast, completely circumnavigating the African continent by herself. She just returned to her native South Africa a few weeks ago.

Her story was just the boost I need today. Perseverance, personified!

Check out this badass


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Donations are Coming in!

Thank you, to those known and anonymous donors who have given some cash to help out. It always feels great when people give what they can to a really good cause.

I've had a few questions asked of me about the money, so I will address them here:

A direct donation will go to my host family, specifically the 2nd oldest son. He works in the disaster response field in the Philippines, but these funds are not going through any NGO's or government offices as those entities tend to have higher overhead costs and red tape about who gets what. The NGOs and government have their own fundraisers, and that is fine. If you wish to donate to them, I have put donation links under the 'Donate' button.

All the money donated directly will go to help typhoon survivors. I can't say who it will go to or what it will buy (food, generator, etc.), but I know that it will be used appropriately.

I can ask the boys to keep a record of where the money goes, and take photos if appropriate, but that won't come until after it's been spent. I know this is a bit unorthodox, but I think it's the best way to spend what little money this fundraiser may bring.

That said, thank you, again. Whoever you are!


Friday, December 6, 2013

A Little Light Reading

Delaying One Day

I am almost certain I will be departing one day later than previously planned. I have been so busy this week and have fallen behind on some assignments that I think I'll need one more day to prep for the ride. I am juggling finals week in grad school and training my body for the ride. I still have a few things to purchase before I go, and I fear it won't get done by Wednesday.

The concern with a later departure is that I'm trying to wrap this up before Christmas. I haven't been home for the holidays since 2007, and this year we'll have all the siblings together, so I can't miss it. I can still make it, but I'll have to push a bit harder.

To a Thursday departure!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Donation Links for Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Relief now available

Me and the Saplads in Calbayog City, Philippines, 2012
Living in the Philippines was often difficult. In fact, it was the most challenging time of my life. But my host family, the Saplads, always provided me with the love and humor that got me through the hard days. They live in Calbayog City, where there is no power, high crime, and a surge of displaced people since Typhoon Haiyan struck the south end of the island of Samar.

We lost our Mama in October, a woman that was tough, loving, and humble. Despite these challenges, the boys are spending their time helping their neighbors and providing food relief to devastated eastern Samar communities. They are some of the most selfless people I have ever met.

A direct, person-to-person donation will help them, but will also help others struggling even more in parts of the Philippines that are not mentioned in international news. If you trust your money with a little leap of faith, this family will put it to the best use possible around the island.

Giving directly to strangers in a foreign country may, understandably, be discomforting for some. If you want any more information, email me personally at and I will answer all questions that I can.

If you wish to donate to the Saplads in Calbayog City, use the 'Donate' button in the right column. To donate to a relief organization in the Philippines, I have included links to several.




My friends in the Philippines and I have been discussing the best way to get funds to them. Banks are only open 2-3 hours a day since they must run on generators. ATMs are not being resupplied with cash. Western Union is also working for a few hours a day, but takes a large fee.

One contact has a PayPal account that could be used. They would still have issues turning that into useful cash.

What do people think? Give directly? Support an NGO on the ground? It feels so overwhelming to figure out what people are comfortable sending donations toward, and what would be the best means to deliver the money. I am open to all suggestions.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

90's Tech

And yes, most of the pictures from the road will be flip phone selfies. Deal with it.

Another Ride, Another Blog

Thank God for Google! These blogs are the only way I can build websites for my rides, and I think they do just fine.

This latest bad idea has a couple themes or motivations behind it. I am currently living in New Orleans, and I have 10 days to kill before Christmas, so why not do a ride? I've been wanting to try a cold weather tour, and I think this will be a good introduction. I may hit snow and ice further north, but at least Louisiana should be free of the really nasty weather.

A few months ago, I set a personal goal to stand on the highest point in each of the 50 US states before I die. I have a few high points already (New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado), so this is a continuation of that plan. The mountains along the way are open year round, and are easy treks to their summits. It should be a good way to spend a few days before the holidays.

I used to live in Saint Louis, so that is my destination. I still have friends there, which makes the logistics much easier. Saint Louis is where I really honed my skills in emergency management, which is the industry I am trying to break into down in New Orleans. Saint Louis will be a homecoming, of sorts. It's the place where I changed careers, eventually leading me to the Gulf Coast.

And finally, I am still working out the details, but I hope to make this trip a fundraiser for some friends of mine in the Philippines who survived Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda locally). I served as a Peace Corps Response volunteer in Calbayog City on the island of Samar. The island suffered massive damage to its critical infrastructure, and my friends have been relaying some rather disturbing stories about post-typhoon life in Calbayog over the past few weeks. I want to help them out, but am a broke-ass graduate student (as you can see by my sleek Diamondback bicycle). The Africa ride was a successful fundraiser, so why not seize this opportunity to help out some really good people that are finding themselves in a really bad situation?

I'll post fundraiser details once I've worked it all out.