Posted by: twistsoffeet | May 29, 2011

And the Walls Fell Down


I woke yesterday morning at my new friends’, Robert and Jennifer’s home.

I quietly packed and prepared to leave, not wanting to disturb anyone. Then Jennifer came out and said she had been worrying about me all night. The road I take from their home has a steep hill and a drop off on both sides with lots of traffic.  She asked if she could drive me back to where she picked me up.  I agreed and loaded everything in her truck. She was going into Scottsboro and ended up taking me about eight miles further than originally planned.

The ride started with about ten miles of constant hill climbing, but nothing real serious. Then I saw the smaller cousin of the beast and his evil twin. The road was a two lane, narrow and steep for about five miles. I ended up walking and pushing my bike up about four of those miles. Sore and tired, I arrived in Skyline, AL, which sits on the top of the mountain.

Everyone said the road was level and straight from here to Tennessee. Well, the first several miles were straight but not level.  At least it was not the beast again, just up and down and up and down.

I stopped to rest in Hytop a small unincorporated town on top of the mountain.

Nothing for a long way in any direction.  I don’t know where he came from, but it was almost like he just materialized about 100 feet behind me.  “He” is Craig Whitcher, born on top of the mountain  and 87 years of age.

He walks fast and strong with a walking stick.  He left town to fight in the marines in WWII and Korea.  He was shot four times, put to sleep thirteen times (I think he was operated on and was under anesthesia).  His grandfather founded a nearby town and a college, but his father felt he didn’t need education.

He says he can fix anything but a broken heart, because that is in the proclivity of God… and he doesn’t play God. He was soft spoken and gentle, but doesn’t watch TV because he gets upset and shoots them.

He quotes poetry and while we were talking he spoke several poems by Nietzsche and Kipling. amongst others.  He returned from war and worked on railroads, testing turn-arounds in roundhouses across the country.  Finally, he retired, which he said is the worst thing he could have done.  He also said I inspired him and wished there were more people who followed their heart’s path and lived free.

He wanted to build a airplane, so he built a building to build it in.  He never built the plane, but still has the building and tools and thinks someday he may try to build the plane.

As he spoke his poetry, it spoke to my heart in a way I had not expected or thought I needed.  Later I would find I did need it, but in a different way than I thought or will speak about in this blog.

I had never heard of the Walls of Jericho except in a Biblical sense before two days ago. Apparently, it is a multi-use state park in TN and AL.  The walls are rock walls that are along a valley or canyon and apparently are very impressive. I did not see them because I was not willing to leave my bike unattended.  Instead I rode on by.

My ride for the day was exactly 40 miles and the first 20 was absolutely vicious.  After Hytop, everyone I spoke to insisted it was flat or downhill from here on until Winchester, TN. Their definition and mine of “flat” are different. It was up and down and up and down. I bypassed the Walls of Jericho. My goal was just to reach the Walls, but I kept going another eight miles.

I stopped to rest at the entrance to Circle E Guest Ranch, where I met some guests.  They suggested I camp at the Ranch because I did not want to drop down into Winchester, TN in the dark.  The man even called the manager, Kim, at the Circle E Guest Ranch and asked them to let me stay on their property.

I have received nothing but support from strangers and most of my family.  Another part of my family has condemned me for this trip, and how I am accomplishing it.  I apparently did not plan this out.  But I have been condemned for my music, my earring, my travels, and my girlfriend by this part of my family for almost forty years, so it is nothing new.

I admit that I have made mistakes and that I do not fit into the so-called “normal” world.  I also admit that without the help and support of family, friends, and the kindness of strangers, this trip would not be possible.  It would have already failed miserably.

But I am not failing in this quest; instead, I will succeed without any further contact with this family member and when I do, I will want to but will not say, “I told you so.”  Instead, I will just not have anything to do with this person for a long, long time.  If someone wants to condemn me for not fitting in and for following my heart, and more importantly for trying to gain a little control of my health and find a way to live relatively pain free then that is that person’s loss. This family member said if I succeeded, they would be my biggest fan and supporter.  Well I do not need them to be a fan or their support.

Actions speak louder than words and an honest word of support would have been an action that spoke volumes beyond that word of support. Instead I received veiled comments that voiced a lack of belief in me or my possibilities of success. I will succeed and they can KISS MY ASS.

I slept very good last night which I had not expected to do since I had this online battle with this family member. Still, stress plays havoc and is a major player in the Rheumatoid Arthritis inflammation and pain cycle. I woke this morning screaming in pain, unable to move without pain, and falling to the ground, screaming in pain when I stood up. From the top of my head and to the end of my toes and everywhere in between my joints are being tortured today. I finally was able to get packed and climb into the saddle.

I moved very slowly and even on the just slightly uphill portions, I had to get off the bike and push it. That was not less painful but I did not have as far to fall when I went to my knees in pain.  And I was able to lean on the bike as I pushed which helped to support me.

After about two miles I came to the drop. This hill is two miles of 11% grade decline. I rode the brakes hard to keep my speed in check. This caused my rims to heat up and that caused a rear wheel blowout, after only one mile. I fixed the tire and then rode the rest of the way down by riding 100 yards with hard brakes and then stopping for 10 minutes to let my rims cool.

My head was in a very bad place between the blowup with this family member and the pain I was in. I rode into Winchester,  TN and found a restaurant, JD’s Country Restaurant.  This is where I found what I had no idea that I needed.

It was early in the morning on a Memorial Day weekend, and a trio of musicians were playing for the breakfast crowd… in other words just me. Robert L. Clarkson was playing guitar, his friend who is a Nashville studio musician whom I shall not name, and a woman whose name I do not know were performing.  The friend played bass guitar and the woman just sang.

The played some of Robert’s music, as well as “Ring of Fire.”

One song about the L and M,  “Don’t Stop Here Anymore” was something that touched me deeply.  Several songs were written by Robert  and others were covers.  All were country or gospel songs, and it was special to be able to be there for this performance.

I have decided that tonight I will stay in a city park here in Winchester and rest.  Tomorrow, I will head for Fayetteville, TN, and who knows from that point.

What I do know is that for two days, or even this whole trip, I have met others who have been very supportive of my journey.  I have spread the word about Rheumatoid Arthritis, which was a big part of this trip and I have met real people, good people, and people who were excited about me taking this trip, even though they did not know me.

People have just gravitated to me, speaking about the freedom of the road and wishing they were brave enough to do it. They understood when I told them about being homesick for my family, my parents, and daughter and grandchildren.

They were surprised at the sacrifices I have made, but understood that this was a trip that had to be made for my health. They rarely knew about the horror of Rheumatoid Arthritis but now they know. I do not ask people for help.  I did not come out here to have others take care of me, but I could not have succeeded this far and would not finish this trip without the good people I have met and will meet.

I never intended to discuss this but now I will. I left Florida with $41.00 in my pocket a few dollars in my checking account, and a few more available if necessary. I have four months’ supply of food, mostly protein shakes and waxy maize or creatine Ethyl Esther.  I have multi-vitamin and minerals and amino acids.  I also brought a quality electrolyte source. So that is my food.

I have shelter: my tent, and transportation: my bicycle.

I only need a small plot of ground to pitch my tent, and fresh clean water to drink or to mix with my shakes.  As long as my bike stays together and I meet people will let me camp on their land or give me water, I will finish this trip.  That is, if I do not get robbed or in an accident, both of which are possible… but I am doing all I can to protect myself from these possibilities.

My trailer is stronger now than when new.  My Trek Bike is a trooper, although I need to adjust the brakes and front derailleur. I purchased all of my food supply from Bodybuilding.com and the nutrition I have gotten from these food supplements has been instrumental in my success to this point.  Writing this blog has been good for my mind.  And through its catharticness that has come from my writing, it has helped lessen the pain I am constantly in.  But more important than anything beyond the support of my parents and daughter is the people I have met.

Yes, I have had a couple of incidents that could have been very bad.  And yes, I asked for help from a family member when I was in a very scary and dangerous place, in which even the police told me the chances of being mugged or worse were inevitable. I did not want to ask for help and will never ask for help from this person again.

I will take my chances with the people who dwell in the shadows of life because most of them are good people and often are just as lost as I sometimes am.  The everyday people and the real characters I meet are keeping me going.  The people that stop me and ask me to ride my bike for them, or who quote poetry or sing their songs for me are special as are those who rescue me from the storms or give me a place to pitch my tent all have special places in my heart.

+++

I am now in the flat lands. Yes, there will still be hills, but mostly small ones… at least for a while.  I am still in pain from my Rheumatoid Arthritis and my muscles are still going to be pushed daily.  But now I can take a real rest day and get my mind and body refreshed and not immediately have to throw it into the cauldron of muscle devouring, lung searing, hill climbing.

The road I will travel tomorrow is multi-lane divided highway, and that is much safer than what I have been on.  I have now traveled over 600 miles and if I do a 4000 mile version of this trip that means 15% is completed. That is huge to me. It was not a goal but it is still huge.

I am down to my last couple of dollars and sitting in JD’s Country Restaurant and Buffet.  Hope has been a very kind server and is nice enough to let me do my blog while my  battery recharges.  Robert Clarkson and his fellow performers helped me get my head in shape to do this post today.  It is amazing how a little music, whether Country or Blues or Gospel, if performed from the heart, will heal the heart and soul of the listener… and I suspect the performer as well.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a horse.  It was a beautiful chestnut gelding up near Hytop, AL. He was curious about me and my trip. He kept saying he wanted to take me for a ride, but his person probably would not have liked that and his horse buddy kept telling him that.  I told him about how hard it was to ride the hills and he said he wished he could have helped pull me along.  I told him about the interesting people I have met and he said he thought I was interesting.

In the end, I rode away with the sound of him in the background, almost like at the end of the movie, “Shane,” where this horse kept saying, “Twists, come back,” as I disappeared down the road.  I know some who read this will say I have gone over the edge on this, but it happened and he knew what I was saying and I knew what he was saying.  It was a simple bond between a traveler and someone who wishes they were the traveler.

The Walls of Jericho have fallen for me today, and now I can let the body and mind heal.  I do not know for certain, but I will almost certainly meet other people today and everyday who will help me through their words or actions. Even if I do not speak to them directly, I will see something or hear something that will help me to see the good of this world because that is what I am seeing everywhere.

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Responses

  1. Wow I was wondering if you would make it to the walls or not I can’t belive you went past. YEAH YOU. Its been driving me crazy not knowing where you have made it to or where you are I’m hooked to see what happens next but for now I’m catching up on your older post. Be careful take care of yourself keep pushing on just don’t push yourself over the edge. Don’t worry about all the naysayers they are just jealous you are out living life a life they are to afraid of. Its your life we only have one judgement that matters GOD. GOD BLESS my friend.

    • Hey Jennifer, Thanks for the words of support. I am glad too hear that you are following along and hope you enjoy what I write. Although I did not go down to see the actual walls the area on top of the mountain where they are at is beautiful. But next time maybe I will drive a car or motorcycle up that hill to see them.


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