....Or at least I'm trying to. After my stay in Niceville, Kim took me to her friends Brenda and Steve's house in Red Bank where my ride was waiting to get a tune up. Their neighbor, Jurgen the German, is a pretty handy guy and volunteered to help me replace the rear differential. For us to do this, the brake hub, both tires, and the axle had to come off. Much easier than the original! Once we switched some things out and replaced it, we had to make a couple of alterations due to the fact that the frame had moved a bit from the load.
After it was all done and back together, we sat down to a hot meal and I told them more of my adventure. It was still pretty cold, so Coop and I stayed an extra day, but I was able to get things done as far as re-packing and putting on the new sign. I also called the companies that make my rear lights and front lights. I don't know if the cold temps got to them, but they weren't working, so both companies sent me out new ones to a post office a week away for no charge.
I got to it on Tuesday, and also encountered more hills and headwind. I was planning on getting to Kim's brother's house by Wednesday night, but as I was moving down highway 90, this truck pulled over and a tall dude stepped out. He asked where I was headed, and I told him, "Ten thousand miles around the U.S." His only response was, "You're kidding." Once I assured him that I don't joke about such things, he asked if I was hungry, and I was. He led me back to his house, and we threw some chicken on the grill. Then we sat down and he told me that he and his girlfriend have been sailing around the Caribbean for a couple months now. Kinda doing the same as me, but on water. That was the reason he stopped. He said if he wasn't doing this trip himself he would have just kept on driving.
Now what I'm about to tell you here, people, is important. So listen up. Stop and talk to people. If you're driving and you see someone walking or riding a bike, and they have bags with them, most likely they are on the move and don't have anyone or anywhere to call home. Now that I have been in the South, I have seen people on the move due to no work and homelessness. I choose to live like this—they didn't. I stop and talk to every one of them, and give them food and water. It's the least I can do. People have been generous with me, so I need to pass that on. I'm not saying you have to invite them into your home, but stop and talk with them for five minutes and try to help them, whether it's with food, money, a prayer, or even trying to line them up with shelter at a church or community center. We are all humans, and all require basic things like love and compassion. People get so involved with their everyday lives. You really can't spare five minutes to talk to someone? Slow down in everyday, people—on the road, in your car, or just life in general. Think about what they're going through. Granted there are some crazy people out there, but if you have any common sense, you'll know that it still doesn't hurt to pull over to say hello and hand them five dollars or some food.
So that's why Matt stopped. We got to talking that night and he said something about sushi. I informed him that I used to work at Morimoto on the sushi bar, and he was excited to gather his friends and get down. Phone calls were made and arrangements arranged. I took a shower and grabbed my knife kit, and we headed to the piers. As we were making our way down there we stopped at his friend Tom's house. Tom saw life on the same level as Matt and myself, and we had a good conversation. During this conversation, pretty much everyone backed out of the sushi night. Matt was pretty upset about it. I, on the other hand, am somewhat used to it living in NYC, where everyone says yes only to say they can't later. People tend to overbook themselves. But what I have come to realize is that most of the time they cancel plans to sit at home and watch TV or be on the computer. People, don't pass up real human interaction for an artificial one. It makes you stupid, boring, and just plain lazy. . . So after our talk with Tom, we headed over to a couple's house for tacos, and I was just fine with that. They had a bulldog pup who was a maniac. That dog cracked me up.
It was good to spend time with them, and to share stories. That night I slept in one of the two giant RVs that are parked at Matt's parents' house. His mom trains dogs for agility courses, and so she goes to a lot of shows with up to five dogs with her. She is from the same town in England that Matt and I both happen to have been born in! The next morning we got back on the road and made it to Joe's house that evening. Joe lives out in the country and has a couple dogs, a couple horses, some chickens, and some guinea hens. He also has a huge gun safe with close to fifteen rifles and four handguns. It was supposed to rain all day Saturday, so Coop and I got comfy for a couple days of eating, drinking, and card playing. I spent a lot of time talking with Debbie—she's a good ol' country gal. She looks sweet but she'll knock ya into place without a second thought. She was kinda amazed about what I was doing, and told me that if she could, she would leave all this behind and head to the Caribbean. It was nice talking with her. She has a real kind heart and a sweet smile.
After the rain passed and it dried up some on Monday, Coop and I got back to it. We made it west of Milton, FL and camped on a disc golf course. By the time I got everything set up and both of us fed, I didn't have time to play, so I worked on my short game for a bit before going to bed. That night I started to get a pain below my ribs, and my hips and knees started to ache. I just chalked it up to road soreness and got to moving the next day. We were going down 90, headed toward where I-10 crosses over 90 close to the Alabama border when the pain in my gut was making it really hard to keep pedaling. We pulled into this large field that didn't seem to belong to anyone, and I lay down in the grass to take a nap. It was around one. A couple hours later I woke to the urge to relieve myself, and dashed to the bushes. Not again! It seems I was sick again. So I set up the tent and crawled inside. This time it was more like the flu than the last. I was weak, sore, had a fever, sweats, and all that other unpleasant stuff. During the night my fever got so bad I was having hallucinations and bad dreams. A few times I woke up from one to find Cooper with his head laying on me, just watching me. He would lick the sweat from my forehead. He really looked after me. I love my dog and he loves me.
The next morn I still didn't feel so hot, but the weather was just too nice not to ride. It was supposed to rain that afternoon, and I wanted to get some miles down before that came. We made our way into Alabama. When we got into the town of Seminole, the drops started to fall from the sky. I stopped in front of a fire station that had an awning, and we waited for the rain to stop for about four hours. In the meantime, Rusty stopped by to say hi and told me that later on, he and his wife would return to give me shelter. His wife was a pastor at a church across the street. They put me up, and I got a good night's sleep in a dry church. It's a good thing, too, because it dumped over five inches that night.
The next day I waited a bit for the clouds to move on out, and then we got to it. The road was filled with more hills and headwind. In trying to skip out on some of this, I took a road that I thought would be better, and ended up on a dirt road. With the new ride it was no problem, but if I would have been on the original, I would have had to turn around, and I hate backtracking. But it worked out that we came across Cooper's Lake. It's a public pay-to-fish lake that has been around for over thirty years. We stopped in and took a walk around. When we returned to the ride, there was a gentleman and his dog there waiting for us. We got to talking, and he invited us to stay at his place. It was on our way, and just the right amount of distance to close out the day. After we pulled up to Charles' house, he showed us the spare room and we got settled in. I took a bath, which was great. He has a huge tub that I was able to stretch out in and soak my sore body. After the bath I started laundry and had some fried fish that Charles had caught that day. We talked, and he told me he had seen Into the Wild, and that's what inspired him to stop and talk to me. He said he watched that movie three times in a row. He also told me that if he hadn't seen that movie, he wouldn't have stopped to talk. He would have just kept on moving. So it all goes back to what I was saying before: You gotta stop and talk to these people and find out what they are up to. Also, step outside and take a look around. It's an amazing place, and full of life in every way. Well, I'm gonna rake some leaves for Charles and head into Mobile today. Y'all be good.
Till next time,
Love and licks
Sean and Coop