Access Across America
A 20 year retrospective
Photo Journal of Tim Wheat
I saw Judy off to the airport. We both remember a tearful goodbye as I chased her taxi down on my bike. That was a goodbye we both remember. It was a tough year for her professionally, and she really did not like the small apartment she had in Littleton Colorado. As good as it was to see Judy, she had to go back.
For me it was the day I turned west.
I finished up what I needed to with the Internet connection at the hotel and I headed off in the afternoon. This was a time before Wifi, I had to have an ethernet connection or a phone line to connect and update the web. On the way out of town, I stopped at the FDR memorial on the far side of the tidal basin. I had been there before, but I did not have any photos of FDR using a wheelchair. There was a large advocacy push to have something to represent him using a wheelchair even though he hid that fact from the American people.
So the first photos are from WDC at the memorial. I took some photos only of FDR in a wheelchair, no cherry trees or Jefferson Memorial also on the basin. It was before the MLK memorial was out there also.
Late in the day I started out on the C&O Towpath. This is the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal that has become a national park. I was unprepared for just how beautiful the C&O Towpath was. It fell out of use when it had to compete with the railroads, but in the past seventy years or so, the Park Service has really made it into a fantastic amenity. It was built over a long period of time and before the railroads, it represented the peak of technical innovation in transportation. Basically the towpath was a obstruction-less road to pull heavy barges on level water canals. The canal would use a lock to help raise the cargo up and downstream, alongside the Potomac River.
I started on this path late in the afternoon and quickly realized that I wanted to stop for everything. I made it to Lock 23 and poached a campsite close to the river. I was in the National Park, beside the Potomac River; but I was not far from the urban sprawl of WDC.
A blurry photo of a Great Blue Heron flying down the C&O Towpath. The combination of movement and low light kept me from taking a good photo. I have used Lightroom to make this more recognizable.
My first day on the C&O Towpath was short but very eventful. There are many locks and displays close to Washington DC. Understanding how the waterway works is an important first lesson, it helps to know what you are looking at. It is also interesting to imagine how the area looked a hundred and fifty years ago when it was at its peak. My understanding of the development was that the towpath was under construction right up until the time locomotives took most of the business. The barges on the towpath remained in operation, but it was in decline until it became totally abandoned around 1930.
Still, I imagine that the area around the towpath looked very different. I can create in my mind something like an industrial highway with lots of slag, residue and garbage piling up along the route. I can see development, smoke and activity. But that is just my imagination because it is really a very pleasant wooded retreat. I believe that all of the past growth along the towpath has not only disappeared into the woods, it has been lost in time. Occasionally along the route you will see a large foundation, or the very old stone hearth of a furnace; but most of the road is a very serene trip.
My trip was serene. I was surprised by the environment. The Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive were both great non-commercial roads, but the C&O was like that, but did not even have cars. I found that once I stopped, I had a hard time getting started again. There were plenty of places to stop and often I had them to myself.
On the other hand, it was a little harder going on the pea-gravel surface of the towpath. The small gravel with dirt would often swallow the tire and it was harder to petel. It was just more difficult anyway because it was not a flat firm surface like I was used to on the road. I had narrow, treadless tires that were great on pavement, but not good for gravel. And I just did not want to be riding hard and fast when I was approaching and passing people walking and running on the path.
I soon fell into the routine of a very casual pace. It was hard to really determine how far you were riding. There were no hills, the idea of the towpath was to be level like the water. There were natural rises at the various locks, but this was nothing like the Rocky Mountains. While I was going slow and pedaling was hard, the riding was easy and leisurely.
I visited two historic sites today. I rode my bike around Harpers Ferry and Antietam National Battlefield about as much as I rode on the C&O Towpath. Overall I made 20 miles, but I spent much of my time off my bike and visiting riding around the historic sites. Much of the history of the C&O happens before the Civil War, but today’s ride focused on the Civil War.
Just like the Manasses battlefield, I took only one photo and it was a photo of a bridge. I believe I just thought the battlefields were documented well enough, I didn’t seem to find any inspiration on the Civil War battlefields, except for those two bridges. I did get more photos of Harpers Ferry, but strangely I didn’t get any photos of the bridges. The strange thing is the bridges and ruins of old bridges around Harpers Ferry are really fantastic. Sorry, I didn’t take a photo of that, I guess you will have to go there yourself.
The most iconic feature is this guard and engine house that has become known as John Brown’s Fort. during his 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry. It is the only surviving building of the Armory; the others were destroyed during the Civil War. But it has been moved four times. The Park Service is sometimes not all that good at history. All they say about it now is that it is “near” its original location.
Harpers Ferry is a beautiful little town. When I crossed the bridge west of the C&O into Harpers Ferry, I couldn’t find any place that was open. It was a Sunday and I walked the streets all by myself before anyone was up. Finally, I did find a place to get coffee. I also looked for a thing called a pay phone. I wanted to call my parents. In 2002 they were becoming hard to find, but they still existed.
I don’t recall any great insights visiting the Antietam battlefield on a bicycle. I wish I had taken more photos, but I am happy with the one that I did take. Now it is called Burnside Bridge. I know there were many post-battle photos but I was not really into legacy photography at the time. It is hard to imagine what the battlefield looked like 140 years ago. And especially when the terrain is all you have to look at.
Much of the C&O canal does not have water in it. This bend in the trail shows what much of the towpath is like. Note the sand-colored pea-gravel of the towpath here. Typically, this was the hardest stuff to ride through and I did walk my bike for several miles. Often I could find a compacted rut made by service vehicles that was smoother to ride.
This is a view of Harpers Ferry from the Potomac bridge. It is a very attractive little town, I had a chance to roam the streets alone when I arrived on a sleepy Sunday morning.
I don’t recall if these are furnaces or some part of the canal. Because there is no smoky charred rock, I tend to think they are water tunnels. There were many ruins of old industry just off the towpath. They grew up because they needed the water to move the heavy ingredients in and the heavy products out.
The towpath gives you the image of a very rural setting, but really there is evidence of urban sprawl all around. Even though it is a very pleasant setting, you can hear traffic and trains most of the time. The towpath is a thin strip that the Park Service has recovered. These two people also used the towpath to get away from the buzz of civilization.
Like at Manassas, I thought about spending the night on the National Battlefield. I had that thought to try to have some experience of what it was like 140 years ago. But really my bicycle camping experience is nothing like what it must have been like on the Antietam battlefield. I camped at a site on the C&O Towpath.
Before lunch I really wanted to get back on the towpath. Again, I didn’t take any photos of the battlefield. It is strange that I can take so many photos without a subject, but I didn’t take any photos of the landscape of Antietam. I guess I needed some historical subject or something iconic that would show that I was there. The Burnside Bridge is the only photo I needed.
I had another beautiful sunny day on the trail. Much of the path was gravel and still not good for my overburdened rims; but better than the pea-gravel had been. I was making a very casual pace and I was not in a hurry. The runners and cyclists I shared the path with did more to slow me down than anything else. Of course the sights along the towpath were also pleasantly distracting.
Today there were several distractions. Williamsport had a very unique draw bridge on the riverfront. I had just spent some time in the small town of Sharpsburg and I did not stop to visit Williamsport. The riverfront however had quite a few C&O ruins around and an aqueduct that still held water. It was really strange to see how the canal would bridge the little streams that it had to cross.
Near the end of the day, I ran across Fort Frederick just off the towpath. I was a fort used to protect settlers during the French and Indian War. It was really a beautiful restoration of the stone walls and the wooden barracks. There was also a campground close by, but I wanted to continue on and did not spend much time at the fort. I took a photo from outside, but it really doesn’t show the very well designed walls and only the very tops of the barracks.
I looked forward to building a fire at the campsite that night. It was a type of camping that I had not done on my trip. I was most often in my tent after dark. The fire gave me a reason to sit outside of the tent and enjoy the evening. It was so unique that I took a photo of myself at the fire ring.
The Dam Number 5 across the Potomac is for flood control and to regulate the water flow on the C&O Towpath. The canal is right alongside the river at this point. There are a few places where the C&O Canal will shortcut some of the horseshoe bends in the river. The “Four Locks” area just south of Dam Number 5 is one of those shortcuts through the woods.
Fort Frederick is a unique four-point stone fort that served as Maryland’s frontier defense during the French and Indian War. Built in 1756, the fort's stone wall and two barracks have been restored to their 1758 appearance.
Twenty years ago I did not ride far on my bike and I spent a lot of my day enjoying the remote section of the C&O Towpath. I also enjoyed my skill at camping at the many campsites along the trail. I did enjoy having this time and place to myself.
I had the campground to myself and I built another campfire for heat and to make dinner. I really did like to be alone. I also liked camping with others and I was very social on the C&O Trail.
On this remote section of the Canal I soaked-up being by myself and enjoying the surroundings. I spread all my stuff out on the picnic table and used it for a desk, I was near the river, but I could often hear traffic, trains and airplanes. It did feel remote, but there were reminders of civilization.
The Round Top Cement Mill was right beside the towpath to make it easy to move materials in and out. There must have been a huge structure around these furnaces to lift and roll the products around and load and unload them from the canal barges.
I don’t know why I took a photo of this fish, I was either amazed that I could see the fish so clearly or I wanted to see if I could get a photo of it. All along the C&O Towpath were small pools of water; some were left over from the canal and others developed as small ponds beside the Potomac.
It really was only a minority of the path that had water similar to when the towpath was active. The Park Service did create some small areas where there was water passing through the locks and some of the aqueducts to show how the C&O Canal worked. Most of the way, the canal itself is overgrown and has filled up with trees and plants.
The photo before this one is of an aqueduct that bridges a stream with the canal. It is a great thing to see and really must have been some very good engineering and great craftsmanship to create. I can also imagine that the canal required a lot of maintenance as well.
I was taking it easy and relaxing while on the C&O Towpath. I would make dinner and breakfast at the campsite and did not get back on the trail until around 9:AM. At the time, in my food bag, I had a small frying pan. I enjoyed making eggs for breakfast, but I had to buy them in either a half-dozen carten and eat them all, or I would purchase 2 or 3 eggs from a restaurant I would pass. I had a tupperware container I would keep the eggs in and if they broke, they would be ready for scrambling in the morning.
I had to see to my wheels and I was trying to keep them true because of the gravel path that I had been on for the past four days. The campsites along the towpath would have a picnic table, which was often a lot of help in organizing my things. I would use the picnic table as a desk and kitchen, as well as a prop to hold my bike so I could work on the wheels.
At this point in the ride, I had passed about sixty of the C&O Canal locks and I just did not take any more photos of them. The Paw-Paw Tunnel was one of the largest engineering achievements of the canal and it was also a landmark that people on the trail used. I was looking forward to the tunnel and also was a little apprehensive because I knew that there was only a one-horse path beside the canal through the tunnel.
I also have an out of focus photo of two people that I do not know.
This was my last day on the C&O Towpath and mostly a day off. I rode into Cumberland Maryland early and I had found a bike shop by noon. I asked them to true my wheels and to help me learn to keep my wheels true.
I only took one 640x480 photo on this day of my bike being worked on. I stayed at the Slumberland Inn as a change to my five days camping. I planned my route to make it out to Western Pennsylvania to visit some friends.
Cumberland had many rustic parts of the original C&O Canal as you enter the town, but it ends in the center. The Greater Allegheny Passage begins right at that point. The GAP.
Many people ride them together, but I did not know anything about it at the time. The maps I had were for automobiles and the GAP was just not shown. I wish I knew more about the GAP.
I did take other “Rails-toTrails” paths on my route to Washington PA. There was a big push to use old railroad beds for recreation and for bike paths. My father is a big fan of the Katy Trail in Missouri. He would often run on various parts of it. I believe it spans the entire state.
After seeing the many ruins along the C&O Towpath, I was amazed by this house outside Cumberland. Notice that although there is no maintenance of the home, the grass outside is mowed.
I took a 640x480 photo of the Elvis Presley Boulevard sign on the left because of my connection to Memphis. It is strange that in rural Maryland I find this sign. I have come to learn in the twenty years since I was surprised to find this sign that Marylanders consider themselves to be southerners and “country boys.” The Baltimore Orioles Fans sing the John Denver song “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
I really saw very little of Maryland. I spent most of my time in Washington DC and on the C&O Towpath. What I saw was beautiful.
I also took a 640x480 photo of crossing over the state line into Pennsylvania, on the right. Another photo of me wearing my helmet. I don’t recall what I put the camera on, but it was not on the ground.
I did not have a map of the Greater Allegheny Passage, but because I was headed toward Pittsburg I caught up with this rail-to-trail. I was back on a gravel path but I could tell I made much better time on the highway surface. The GAP was very different than the C&O Towpath, it was not isolated from farms, towns and roads. I did find a good place to poach and I saw this rabbit on the side of the path.
The Greater Allegheny Passage was really beautiful. But the GAP was not well marked or have the same number of camping and historical items as the C&O Towpath. I made good time on the GAP and met some unique people and vehicles. Below is another bikepacker with a similar set-up to mine. He has drop handlebars and carries his water on his back.
You may be able to make out my rig in the lower right of the photo. That is a stuff sack I put over the front pannier. It probably has my rain gear and shoes in it. I almost exclusively wore t-shirts on my trip. They did not look like bike wear, but they were easy to clean and I had many of them.
Also notice the planking of this bridge is set at an angle rather than straight across. I think that is a very good design and probably long lasting. I believe the piers of this bridge were the original to the railroad, they just updated the surface for the GAP.
You may also see the Pinkerton Tunnel in the background. That makes this a bridge over the Casselman River.
At the end of the day I visited the Fort Necessity National Battlefield where George Washington surrendered to the French and Indians. It was really underwhelming. This time I took absolutely no photos from the battlefield.
I ended up poaching a site just north of Fort Necessity.
I had a chance to see this unique device and talk with the owner. They were just unpacking their truck when I ran into them, I got to see the dogs and how they assembled the device.
A typical poached campsite well off the road and hidden in the trees. This was my home for most of the time on the road. I still feel that some of my best nights sleeping were in my sleeping bag, in remote places like this.
Today I left the GAP and headed up US 40 to Washington Pennsylvania. My general destination was TRIPIL, the Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living. The organization has since changed their name, but at the time, Kathleen Klienman ran the Center for Independent Living in a very unique way.
Her job was supervised by the TRIPIL membership of 250 people with disabilities in the Washington PA area. She had survived a take-over play by the board with a mass-demonstration of the membership who demanded real Independent Living and overthrew a medical-style administration.
While this is not big news in the wider world, Kathleen made a huge splash in the world of Independent Living. I am not sure how Kathleen and I became friends, but I do recall that at one ADAPT Action she trusted me to drive her van. It has hand controls and a ramp, but I did not “tie-down” anyone with the seatbelts or wheelchair securement. I laughed and called it the “danger van.” Still, somehow Kathleen seemed to like me.
I would be working on my next article for the MCIL Journal on the Tri-County Patriots. My plan was to ride close to Washington PA, poach a campsite just outside the city and ride in early to spend the day at TRIPIL. I would be arriving on a weekday so I assumed that everyone would be at work.
But I was not working on this day. I was still a bicycle tourist in western Pennsylvania. On the right is a photo of a statue “Madonna of the Trail.” I believe that I have seen this somewhere else before, likely Kansas. I may be wrong, or I may just think that this statue belongs somewhere else, but I hope that I can verify that it is someplace out west that I have visited.
US 40 is called the “National Pike,” or “National Road” and has historic markers all along the path up from Fort Necessity. Below is a tollhouse on the National Road called Searights Tollhouse, that is right on the road.
There are quite a few vistas from the side of the road on the National Pike. I didn’t realize that the locals consider this mountainous country. It seems as if I was always climbing. The fact is that the hills in Pennsylvania and much steeper than the mountains in Colorado. Typically, the roads just go straight up the incline and do not snake around to keep the slope shallow.
I ended up poaching a campsite at a park on the edge of Washington PA. In small western towns, the “city park,” is often intended for camping. Here in the east I was developing a style of “urban camping” that is now called “homeless.” I would just pitch my tent out of sight and I did not have any trouble. I did make a point to not draw attention, but I was not invisible. I often had my computer on and a light or candle burning.
Twenty years ago I visited the Center for Independent Living in Washington Pennsylvania. I was working on another piece for the MCIL Journal. The last CIL I visited was in Roswell, New Mexico and I had bypassed CILs in Eastern Pennsylvania because I had done reports during the ADAPT Action. I could choose what CILs I visited and I just selected the one in Washington PA and to visit Kathleen Klineman.
I asked many questions and I took a bunch of 640x480 photos, because I anticipated putting them on the web with an article about the Washington CIL. They showed me around the center and I visited the courthouse that was just next door. I don’t know why I toured the courthouse, it was in the middle of town and a spectacular building, but I did not retain any of the history. It reminds me of the gaudy Mississippi state Capitol building. I took a photo outside and a couple inside.
Also downtown I took a photo of a construction worker. I don’t know why this caught my eye, but I suppose I wanted to show downtown Washington PA. I may have just spent so much time alone and on the rural path that I was amazed to see so many people.
I have known Jim since 1998, when Diane Coleman introduced us at a Not Dead Yet protest in Washington DC. Jim and his family live south of Washington PA and invited me to stay with them.
She runs the Center for Independent Living in Washington PA. She has a basement room where I stayed that night. She called it “Tom Olin’s room.” That is a reference to the photographer for ADAPT and my friend. It was really grounding to have close contacts and share with friends and activists from around the country.
Jim and Kathleen together at TRIPIL.
I stayed in a bed at Kathleen’s house, in “Tom’s room,” and I went into the office with her. On the way in, she stopped by a “round barn” for me to see and photograph. She pointed out that this was a historic design for the area. I had noticed the “Mail Pouch Tobacco” painted on many barns. I had never seen this before and never heard of it. When I first saw it, I thought it was unique, but by the time I cycled into Washington PA, I had seen probably a hundred.
I could have started a photo theme at that point, but I am not really any kind of officianido of barns. I did take more interest and I did get some barn photos. But I didn’t come up with a theme and, in fact, I realize now that my only theme to these photos is what interests me on the side of the road. Honestly, I didn’t think that it was a real product, I asked my Pennsylvania friends about it because I thought it was some kind of legacy painting.
When you try to understand why someone would ride their bike around the United States, I suppose you may help answer that question with the speculation that he enjoys looking at what is on the side of the rural highways. What is on the side of rural highways in Pennsylvania? Barns.
From my perspective, I do not dislike barns and I have plenty of experience of beautiful barns, working barns and the ruins of barns to talk about. My experience does not always relate to my interests. I have the ability to ride past a barn most of the time. If I hadn’t stopped to see friends in Washington PA, I would have probably not thought any more about the barns that I passed on this trip. However, now I notice barns more and the structure they have and when I can, I tell the story of the round barn near Washington PA that I have seen.
All day while my friends were at work, I rode my bike south to visit “CASA GLOZIER” near the West Virginia border. The Glozier’s live about 40 miles south of Washington PA in a rural area. I took Highway 19 South to Waynesburg, and Highway 18 the last 20 miles southwest. I ate lunch at the Southside Café in Waynesburg, I was sure that Jim had suggested that and I ambled into CASA GLOZIER about the time Jim was getting home from work.
The round barn was an historic sight here in western Pennsylvania. I am not sure why it is round or what the use or the little windows were for, but it clearly is a very sturdy design and attractive.
This is the Greene County Courthouse in Waynesburg Pennsylvania
Just off my path this day was the Greene County Courthouse. I don’t know if Kathleen or Jim had suggested I visit, but I did take a photo. It was a small town square. I made it a couple of blocks south to a café in town for lunch.
Below is a rabbit I photographed at my destination for the day: CASA GLOZIER.
Jason Glozier (Top Left) shows me around his home the fantastic CASA GLOZIER (Top Right).
The rural setting included a pond and flowers.
I got to tell of my adventures so far on the trip and had a chance to use my computer. I stayed downstairs with the boys. I slept in my sleeping bag on the floor at CASA GLOZIER.
Above is Laura Glozier
The Glozier’s dog (Top Left) and my attempt at Macro Photography on the bottom left.
Twenty years ago today, I set out from CASA GLOZIER and headed south out of Pennsylvania into the West Virginia hills. There are two great stories I like to tell about this day. I rode into Hundred, West Virginia and wanted to find out about a rumor I heard that it is the town where Hank Williams died.
Hundred is a beautiful little mountain town. It is not, by the way, where Hank Williams died. It is not even close. Riding my bike into town, the only place I thought I could go to get information on this subject was the Public Library. Even back in 2002, I thought of a library before I thought of Internet search for this information. I had a computer with me, I could turn to it if I could not get the info from the librarian. I did not have any connection to Hank Williams, except we were both from Alabama. I suppose I was imagining finding some very obscure site in the United States where I found and visited an iconic event.
Hank Williams died, on new years day 1953, near Oak Hill West Virginia about 150 miles south of Hundred. He was driving north from Knoxville and headed to Canton Ohio. Not anywhere near hundred. But, for a long time I repeated the rumor I had heard and suggested that he had died in Hundred, but his death in the backseat of his Cadillac was not noticed.
The public library in Hundred did not dissuade me from spreading this disinformation, but the Hundred Public Library itself is a great story that I will repeat here even though I attempted to verify it by online research and have failed. I have emailed the Library and I hope to have some details.
What the librarian told me was that the state of West Virginia has a book mobile that would visit the small mountain towns and that it broke down in Hundred. The book mobile was a state program, but did not have maintenance funds, so the book truck and all the books were stuck in Hundred. Rather than allot money to fix the truck, Hundred just adopted the mobile as its permanent public library and eventually, built a small library where the book mobile had broken down. The little public library is right on the side of the highway and you can imagine an old box truck stopped there.
I think it is a great story and I have told that one also. I hope to find out soon if it is true.
I was still taking many of the photos in a 640x480 format so they would be easy to put right on the web. Above (previous page) are Kyle and Jason Glozier seeing me off in their driveway. The other photos are landscapes I thought I would put right on the web. Above on this page are three 640x480 photos I made to show me crossing into West Virginia. Of course, Harper’s Ferry was in West Virginia and I made another trip across the Potomac near the end of the C&O Canal. Notice my sleeveless Elvis shirt and glasses.
While riding my bike through West Virginia I could not help but sing out loud the John Denver song “Take Me Home Country Roads.” This was one of the many vistas I had in the ups and downs of the backroads of West Virginia.
I camped in the Paden City Park that was right along the Ohio River. I was able to get on the road headed south early and made it to Sistersville, West Virginia before 9:AM. The draw for Sistersville was that it had a ferry over the Ohio rather than a bridge. I stopped in Sistersville because they had a unique courthouse and took a photo of me at the door. Rather that hold my hands up, as I had been doing when I crossed a state line, I held my hands out. It is a strange photo. I was looking forward to the ferry, and I took a couple of pictures of me and my bike. This was also a state line crossing from West Virginia into Ohio.
Highway 7 on the Ohio side is known as the Ohio River Scenic byway. It was very scenic, and I took a photo of my new interest in barns. The barn had the Mail Pouch advertisement. I also took a photo of the scenic nuclear power plant on the West Virginia side of the river.
Somewhere on this scenic byway I actually broke my rim. I had been attempting to keep up with keeping my wheels true, but I was probably to blame for over-tightening one spoke. I had the wheels trued in Cumberland Maryland, and I had ridden some on gravel, but I was not expecting to have problems so soon. The alloy rims I had were very good, but they were not made for that weight. The break looked something like a ceramic crack and it pulled the spoke out of the rim. The rim was shot, I had to get another one, so I continued to ride on it and I’m lucky I didn’t puncture the tube.
I visited the Pedal Shop in Marietta Ohio to get a new rim. Again I took a photo of my bike disassembled and all my stuff lying around the floor. I still have a mismatched rear rim and front rim on that bike.
I didn’t get a loaner bike, I just walked around the big city of Marietta while they replaced my rim. Just a block from the bike shop I stopped to read an historic marker in front of the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. By some chance, the sign mentioned “John Wheat.” The sign reads:
1788 Pioneer use of the book of Common Prayer preceded Judge Arius Nye’s 1826 founding of St. Luke’s parish. The Reverend John Wheat’s nurture led to the first church 1833. This church built 1856.
I took a photo of the sign because my mom was very involved in genealogy back in 2002. I have no reason to believe that Reverend Wheat is any relation to me, but it was such an odd coincidence that I wanted others to see this odd connection in the wilds of Ohio. Before I ever saw this historical marker, I had this feeling that I should look and read them each time I pass them on my bike trip. I guess that finally after reading these markers all over the country, one finally had my name on it.
Crossing into another state I typically hold my arms up at the state line. I cannot explain why I changed to having my arms out and why I thought I needed three photos of me crossing the Ohio.
Previous page top left is me posing at the Sistersville City Hall. The pose is terrible.
Previous page bottom left is my bike with a new rim on the Sistersville Ferry. Photo above left is the pilothouse on the ferry. It looks like I may have been the only one to cross.
I did look for ferries to cross major rivers. I had bad luck on many bridges. I remember a metal deck bridge in southern Illinois and of course the long Maragana Spillway with no shoulder. I don’t recall the fare, but I think it was two dollars.
Two Photos above: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Marietta Ohio where Reverend John Wheat nurtured the congregation in 1833.
That night I camped at the Marietta Fairgrounds on the Muskingum River and it poured down rain all night.
The park in Marietta had an unmonitored campground at the entrance with a bathhouse and shower. But because the campground was empty, I chose to camp at the far end of a football field under the cover of trees. I was the only one in the park and I kept far from the narrow streets that connected the ball fields and other amenities. It was a very large public park but nothing was happening that evening. There was also a public restroom for the ballfields that was close to me.
I got to know it pretty well. As soon as I set up my tent, it began to rain. I had camped in the rain on this trip, but here in a field in Ohio, the rain turned into a downpour. I had a good site and I had seen the rain coming so I was ready. However, I have found this to be true: no matter how much you rainproof, everything gets wet.
Now it is not bad, and it still feels great to put on a dry shirt. But that feeling goes quickly because the shirt will be damp in no time. Everything gets wet.
The rain continued overnight and twenty years ago today I woke up to a solid rain. When the rain let up some I got out of my tent and took a photo. It made me feel that if I waited another hour or so into the morning, the rain would pass.
But a couple of hours later, the steady rain did not seem to be letting up at all. I remember thinking about just staying in my campsite all day. I had plenty to read and I had a charge on the computer. I had the movie “Outsiders” if I wanted to make a day of it. I also wanted to use that bathhouse to take a shower, but it seemed like I would not be able to get dry.
Eventually, I just got cabin fever. In that small tent, I could not spend the day. I made a plan to pack up my wet stuff and just ride through the rain. I would stuff my sleeping bag into a trash bag and everything I attempted to keep dry would be in some plastic bag. My new panniers had bright yellow rain covers and if it rained all day, I would get back into my damp tent and put on a dry shirt and crawl into my damp bag.
When I got packed up, I rode to the bathhouse and took a shower. It was not very satisfying because the rain had picked-up as I rode out of town. I remember being very cautious of the traffic and stopped in Marietta for a long brunch. That was the trick. Before noon, the rain gradually stopped and I got back on the road. The skies cleared and I looked for some place to dry my tent.
I had diverted from following the river to try to cut off a large southern bend. On the small highway I ran into a small ranch that had ostrich and alpacka right on the side of the highway. There was no sign and no one to answer my questions, it was just a strange roadside spectacle. I took several shots of the strange critters, but I made them all in 640x480. There is nothing on Google maps or in my search to tell me what this place is. So the strange photos are a lost archive of an odd moment in my jornada.
The photo below is my campsite in Marietta Ohio. You may be able to see the brown tarp under the tent I used as a groundsheet.
I notice the bags still on my bike. The trash bags that held the contents of the bags were in my tent. You may also make out a bungee cord fastened to the front of the fly. It is staked out in front and really made a great, easy-to-use tie-down.
It is a really small space to spend a lot of time. When it is not raining, it is a bug fortress and when you are around a lot of people, it is a little private space.
I had a flashlight, but for reading, I would use some candles I kept in a small tupperware container. I used the tupperware as a base for the candle.
I traded books with people I met and found at campground libraries along the way. Always paperbacks, I don’t recall what I was reading at this time. Often I would stick the book right behind my bike saddle. I have tried to find the books in photos to remember what I was reading, but I have not been successful.
I did not have a problem riding in the rain, what I worried about was my visibility. I would ride in misty rain depending on the highway. On the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, I felt pretty safe. But out here on rural Ohio highways I needed a wide shoulder to ride in the rain.
I didn’t follow weather forecasts at all during this trip. People always assumed I was keeping up with some weather forecast; but I learned that I had to deal with the weather, whatever it was and I didn’t even try to predict the weather.
On the previous page are four photos of ostriches I saw just off the rural Ohio highway. It was a strange sight and I couldn’t think of anything else but to take these photos. I stopped but there was nothing that explained this to me. Some people have ranches with houses and cows and some people have ranches with ostriches and llamas.
The two photos above show the llamas that I also thought were also strange. The whole little environment seemed to work well there were younger ostriches and the llamas seemed to get along with the horse.
I must have looked pretty strange to them also.
Twenty years ago I woke up on the side of the road and made more than eighty miles toward Cincinnati. I was following the Ohio River, and in this segment I headed west to avoid a large southern bulge in the river's course. I had moved to the James A. Rhodes Application Highway, which was also a way to cut off the northern bulge in the course of US Highway 50 that headed into Cinci from the northeast.
The James A. Rhodes Application Highway is more rural and winds through the valleys and diminishing foothills of eastern Ohio. Although I made good time, I also had my first flat front tire. The rear tire and rim had been such trouble, the flat in the front was so much easier to fix. I didn’t have to unload the whole bike. I didn’t have to turn the thing upside down and I didn’t have to remove and replace the chain. I switched out the tube and repaired the one I had taken off and folded it up to be the next in line to go back into the rim. I was able to fix this with the bike on the side of the road and I used a road sign to prop up my bike. The rear tire is so different.
At the end of the day, I stopped in Sardinia to get supplies and laundry. I had stopped yesterday following the rain and dried my tent and fly, but my clothes were still wet and my towel was dirty from the rain yesterday. I just tossed everything in the washer: tent, fly, sleeping bag, towel and any clothes. I would also use the dryer, but I only dried my tent, fly and sleeping bag for about 5 minutes. The nylon would dry quickly and I didn’t want them to be hurt by the heat.
At the laundry I got a photo of two women who were interested in my adventure. I can imagine the horrible job I must have done explaining what I was doing. I am sure they didn’t care. People often asked me direct questions about camping, biking and safety. I was always working to allay their fears and I thought I had to be a cheerleader for meaningless cross-country travel. I don’t know why I took their photo. They posed for me and I suppose I was being polite.
For twenty years the question that people asked that I really did not personally grapple with was loneliness. I was traveling alone, and I didn’t even think that anyone I knew would even consider something like my jornada. I also totally conceived of it as a solo trip with little or no planned stops. The things I would have to plan to include someone else or a group were completely absent. The planning (or lack of planning) and each decision was my own and I was very happy with that administrative arrangement.
I know that a friend of my sister was planning a cross-country bike trip and called me for advice. We talked about practical things: gear, money and the daily routine. It was great to speak with someone about bike touring and I hope that I had some helpful tips for her. My sister told me later that she didn’t make it cross-country. She started out strong, but just didn’t get along with the other riders she was with.
Thirty years ago, on my second cross-country bike ride, I remember a guy I met in Paducah, Kentucky asking me if I carried a gun. I was having my bike worked on at a bike shop at the time and he could see all the bags strewn around the floor. I stood there like a deer in headlights, I was not expecting that question. Before I could answer that I hadn’t even considered carrying a gun, he answered for me.
“Of course you do,” he said. “Bears and snakes and things.”
What flashed through my brain was that I don’t want to tell anyone I don’t have a gun. They may see me as an easy mark, a potential target for robbery. I don’t believe that is true, but it was clear that the animal I believe was most dangerous, the one I would most likely need a gun for protection was not bears or snakes, but people.
That is a sad comment on life, but I have never carried a gun on my bike and I have never needed one. Just a couple of summers before that bike trip I had volunteered in Alaska and the US Forest Service asked me to qualify with a rifle. We had to carry a .375 Holland and Holland everywhere we went as protection from bears. It is a big gun.
The bottom line was that I had many bear encounters while I was in Alaska. I never took that rifle off of my shoulder around bears. When I was not on Forest Service time, I had more bear encounters than when I was “on the clock,” and I survived without firearms.
I was bitten by a copperhead when I was five years old at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee. I think I have a very healthy fear of snakes, but I also have knowledgeable respect. I have caught more than sixteen in my yard since last summer. I kept track because I have released them all in the stonework I built on our corner to hold a container garden. I am careful, but I also believe that I can coexist with snakes. On the other hand, I can’t tell you just how frightening that rattlesnake was back in New Mexico on this bike trip. See photos of the rattler.
I may have also been making good time because I knew the St. Louis Cardinals would be playing three games against the Cincinnati Reds starting June 4.
There is a lot of countryside and the feel in the change from the mountains of West Virginia to the side of the Ohio River. You can also feel the valleys level out and many things that I think are easy to miss traveling on an Interstate. I noticed the difference between US 50 and the more rural James A. Rhodes Appalachian Highway.
Another barn. My obsession did not end, but it did not last much longer. The roof of this barn seems to be in much better shape than the Mail Pouch advertisement. I don’t ever look for chewing tobacco, but I feel pretty confident that I would not be able to find any in Memphis Tennessee. That sounds like a challenge I can take up today.
The front wheel does carry a lot of weight, but I did not have nearly as much trouble with the front rim and tire as I did with the back wheel. With that signpost to prop up the bike, I could change the tube right on the side of the road.
Dealing with large cities is tough. It is the traffic.
Thirty years ago, on my second cross-country bicycle trip, I dreaded riding into St. Louis. My plan was to ride in early Sunday, take a quick photo under the arch and make it out of the metro area. The main purpose of the plan was to avoid the city traffic. The plan worked downtown, but later in the day, north of the city the Missouri River bridge was a nightmare. I have always studied over my maps and made a plan to avoid traffic when I get to cities.
My Cinci plan was very different from St. Louis. I rode into town and use bike paths and sidewalks. I planned to hit the lull in traffic between morning rush hour and the end of the day. Once inside Cincinnati, I would start looking for an urban campsite. I had used this technique before, most notably Fairfax Virginia as I rode into the Washington DC metro area. I was looking for someplace I could pitch a tent in the populated area, but just out of sight.
I was able to find a good spot along the river, but I didn’t wish to set up camp until it was getting dark. So I ambled around downtown Cinci looking at the sites and seeing if I could find a better spot. Like St. Louis ten years before, the hard part about big cities is the traffic. There was also a lot of construction when I was downtown. I suppose it always seems like there is construction in large cities. With more density, there must be more renewal and so things are being destroyed and replaced.
Riverfront stadium was my destination the next night and it was in the process of being replaced. Right beside Riverfront, Cincinnati was building a new stadium. It was actually going to be nearly on the same spot, you could see the construction in centerfield, and there were no seats in the outfield. Twenty years ago was the last season for Riverfront Stadium, they blew it up before 2003. I am pretty nostalgic that I was there and saw the Reds play in the final season of Riverfront. The Big Red Machine.
I had selected a campsite close to construction. Not near the site but along the river where I could see the construction site. I was at the far end of a parking area, hidden in the scrub trees. I worried that in the moring construction workers may park at that end and they may see my tent.
While I waited for the sun to go down, I found a statue of Lincoln in an out of the way area of downtown. I got a photo of me standing on the statue pedestal beside Lincoln. Strangely, a young girl was also in the park and I got a photo of her with me and Lincoln. Now, twenty years later, as I look back, I see myself as impulsive and gregarious. At the same time I was traveling alone and most of the time I was contemplative and introspective.
Hanging out with Lincoln in downtown Cinci. I took this photo with my camera on top of a bag I placed on the bench in Lytle Park. For my second shot I was assisted by a young girl who jumped up on the statue’s pedestal with me.
Urban Camping. Right along the river at the end of a parking lot I found this campsite that was both out-of-sight and easily accessible from downtown Cinci. I picked out the spot when I came into town, and came back here two days later as I was getting ready to leave.
I got up early because I didn’t want to be seen by any construction workers that got to the site at sunrise. I was right, people came to the construction site early, but they parked at the other end. It really turned out to be a good site for me to camp. I just packed up my gear on the bike and did not make coffee. Being downtown, I thought that it would be easy to find a place to get coffee. However, I walked my bike around and could not find any place for breakfast or to get coffee.
Action, sound and lights swirled around one building lobby. It was a morning news show that you could see from the street. I walked up with my bike and watched a little while through the large windows. They piped the dialogue out to the street but I was not interested and I did not stay long. I don’t know if I was in the background of any of the shots, I don’t know if they put me on TV that morning or not. I think I stood out there for about five minutes before I continued on to find a place for breakfast.
About a block away a young guy ran up to me and asked me what I was doing. He was feeling me out for the show. He asked me if I was raising money and where I was from. While he seemed interested, I believe my rambling explanation of my pointless bike trip did not convince him to follow me as a possible human interest story. I really should have developed an elevator speech about what I was doing. I think I could make it sound pretty good:
I work at the Memphis Center for Independent Living. After about four years of working with people with disabilities I finally asked my boss: What is Independent Living? She challenged me to take that question to the streets. There are over 400 IL Centers in the United States. “Go find out what Independent Living is,” she said. I am riding my bike across the country. I have visited five Centers so far, demonstrated in Washington DC for Medicaid reform, I have camped for two months and I have biked over two thousand miles in my search for Independent Living.
It has taken me twenty years to write that elevator speech. At the time I rambled and “you knowed” my way through some incomprehensible unrelated crap. I didn’t think about getting sponsors for my jornada, because I couldn’t imagine pulling together any reasonable explanation. I know that my exposition about myself generated many more questions than it answered and if someone had the patience to try to unravel what I was talking about, I am sure I would confuse them about something else.
On the other hand, I was specifically in Cinci to watch a ballgame. I don’t know if Cincinnati has an IL Center. I bet they do.
I did not write anything about the game. St. Louis won 8-5.
Traveling by bike is so different, I needed to have some normal tourist experience to add to my story. In a way, I believe that I looked at Cincinnati as a vacation from my bicycle vacation. I walked and rode the bus in Cinci. I visited some downtown parks and had brunch downtown. I think that my time in Cincinnati was mostly so I could gather some non-bike adventures.
Twenty years ago I stayed in the Days Inn Cincinnati. I didn’t know anyone in the city. My ADAPT friends lived in Toledo and Dayton, I did not have any guidance on what to do. Having spent so much time in the rural corridore I was riding my bike, I thought the big city would offer me a big change.
I planned to go to the game again this evening and I would eat at the ballpark. As it turned out, the game was rained out. When I had brunch, the sky was clear and it really was a beautiful day. Rather than looking around the city, I spent the day in my hotel room. The skies got dark and it was a rain-out before I left for the park. I ended up making dinner on my campstove in the room.
I did not take any photos today. Thirty years ago in June I began a bicycle camping trip across the country. On the 1992 trip I brought a small 110 instant camera with “disk” film. I sent the disks back to my parents to develop. I thought I would include some photos from that trip here to compare my photos.
The first photo I took (above) was of my bike. As a matter of fact, my bike is in 10 of my first 10 photos and 13 of the first 15. You can see the groovy custom paint job of blue white and pink.
This is a mountain bike with aero bars on the wide handlebars. The bag on the back did not stay long. Those are the same rear panniers I began the 2002 trip with and the front panniers are the same. The mountain bike has slick, high-pressure tires and fenders. That is something I miss on my bike in 2002.
In the Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky, I took this opportunity to make my bike the main subject of the photo. While this mountain bike was not as efficient a ride as the cross-bike I have now, it was more robust and the wheels stayed true and required much less maintenance. The wide handlebars let me keep my head up and it was a very comfortable ride. Those are the same aero bars on the front I had on the 2002 bike and are intended to make my ride more efficient and aerodynamic.
North of St. Louis I had a terrible experience on the Mississippi River bridge. I did not want to repeat that as I crossed the Missouri River so I hitchhiked across the river in a pick-up truck.
Now this was 1992. I mean to say it was a different time. I don’t know if that really makes a difference, but I did just walk up to someone at a gas station and ask if they would carry me and the bike over the river.
There wasn’t a discussion of money changing hands and I doubt if I even introduced myself. There was no talk about me riding in the cab, I wanted to ride with my bike and while I enjoyed the short trip in the truck, I got my camera out and took a shot of my bike. You can see the structure of the bridge they are building in the background and you may be able to make out more of the paint job on my bike.
I can’t help but wonder what was written on the highway where I stopped to get this photo. I took this on the peninsula between the Mississippi and Illinois River but did not record what was in the street.
I have many of these odd mysteries and gaps in my memory of this trip and the one that was only twenty years ago. Just this year, driving home to Memphis from our trip to Hannibal Missouri, I crossed that bridge that was haphazardly in the background of the photo I made thirty years ago.
The photo on the right I took on May 27, 2002 near Beallsville Pennsylvania, just outside of Washington PA. It is just a few pages back. I knew it looked familiar. The Madonna of the Trail is a statue in a few places around the US. In 1992 I took a photo of my bike in front of the statue in Council Grove Kansas. I was lying on my back to take the photo, you may be able to see my leg and bike shorts in the shot on the left.
The rain-out of the game last night was a blow to the tight schedule I was trying to keep. No, that is sarcastic. I was on a pointless trip. I did have a good time at the baseball game the night before, but in reality, I was happy that I was inside for that very hard rain. Twenty years ago, it was another nice day. The photo on the right is me at the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado on my bike trip thirty years ago.
I used my day at the hotel to finish and publish to the web my article on TRIPIL that I had visited back on May 28 and 29. When I visited the Centers for Independent Living in New Mexico, I was most amazed at just how different they were from the CIL where I worked and those that I knew about in Denver and Nashville. I also had a bias that was developing. Some CILs were “good CILs” and some were “bad CILs.”
The main distinction was a “good CIL” focused on advocacy and activism in the community. MCIL, I felt was a “good CIL” and before I got there, MCIL had protested at Movie Theaters to comply with the ADA. MCIL also nurtured ADAPT activists and took on progressive ideas of disability rights and ending institutional partiality.
Twenty years ago, in 2002 before I left Memphis to start my jornada, I had released a survey of how the Memphis paratransit system was abandoning and not returning calls, photographed MATA vehicles parking illegally, participated in a demonstration at the state office building, sent HUD a list of demands from Tennessee ADAPT, and published nine articles to the MCIL Journal. During my time on the road so far I had published an additional nine articles, made a system complaint to the HHS Regional office for Civil Rights and participated in four days of demonstrations in Washington DC. I really felt I worked for a “good CIL.”
I asked difficult questions of the CIL employees. I asked about protests and Olmstead. But in New Mexico, the CILs were providers of transportation and home services. They would support the ADA and Olmstead but they wouldn’t sue anyone or complain to the Department of Health and Human Services. While they read about ADAPT protests around the nation, they didn’t seek out direct action.
The New Mexico CILs gave me the right answers, I mean we were on the same team. I am sure that just by my demeanor, and that I was riding a bicycle across the country, they could tell I had a love for the more active wing of Independent Living. I wrote positive articles about New Mexico Independent Living, but what I was learning about Centers was not all sanguine.
Above is my bike in Syracuse Kansas back in 1992.
My view of the Washington Pennsylvania Center for Independent Living was completely opposite. I talked with people I knew, and the Executive Director who was just out in the streets of DC protesting with me. While I thought I came from a progressive CIL, I looked at the Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living (shortened to TRIPIL) as much more progressive.
TRIPIL defended the Independent Living outlook and particularly the role of advocacy against the more authoritarian, less challenging social-service model. Many people see advocacy as risky, because it could offend funding sources.
That quote from my article was the only real comparison I made with the New Mexico Centers.
TRIPIL provided a cyber-café that anyone could drop-in and use. In 2002 the idea of a cyber-café was unique, and these were computers that were loaded with accessibility features. Just before I left Memphis, MCIL began a partnership with Microsoft that would lead to something like the cyber-café. I attempted a cyber-café when I worked in Boulder, but I never could get the numbers that TRIPIL and MCIL had developed. It bothers me that this concept does not work today, but computing has developed in a very personal direction.
“IL Centers are making a mistake,” says Ms. Kleinmann, “by not having a large open space for the public to drop-in.”
I did link my article about MCIL’s Computer Lab to this article; but the main focus was that TRIPIL was a Membership organization and that people who believed in the Independent Living Philosophy elected the board and steered the direction of the organization. To make this distinction, Kathleen used her newsletter as an example. Like most non-profits that develop their newsletters “as their fundamental product,” she explained, the newsletter “is milled regularly focusing on narrow issues and highlighting donors or board members.”
Kathleen Kleinmann saw the TRIPIL newsletter as a response to need. She would avoid the “old habit” of self-promotion and highlight the voice of the disability community. Building community was underscored as the main task of TRIPIL. The open space, the welcoming attitude and the drop-in cyber-café all point to building the idea of community.
Again today I have no photos to share. It didn’t rain on this day twenty years ago in Cincinnati, but I spent my day mostly in the Days Inn working on the article. I also got out to try to get a refund on my baseball game ticket from yesterday. I had read on the ticket about their “rainout policy,” but I thought if I could talk to someone they may be so enchanted by my personality and the fantastical bicycle adventure that I was on, that they would give me a refund.
On this page is a photo of my bike in Kansas on my trip in 1992. I wanted to show the remote and desolate environment that was sometimes a large part of the side of the road. I compare that to my trip twenty years ago and all the many things I passed but had no idea what they were.
But I went to the ballpark without my bike, and as usual, I did a poor job of describing my bike jornada. Of course, the St. Louis Cardinals were again the competition for the June 6, 2002 game and I could go to the game tonight. They would honor my rainout ticket.
The problem I had was a place to leave my bike and all my gear. If I set up an urban campsite, I would have to leave it for a few hours. If I just locked up my bike, I am afraid that people would steal the bags off. I didn’t want to spend another night in a hotel. So I just saved my ticket, maybe I would return later in the year and I could see another game at Riverfront.
I went back to the hotel and packed up my stuff. I had cleaned and dried everything and I was ready again to hit the road. I ambled around downtown as I had on June 3, when I had first arrived in Cincy. I was waiting for it to get dark so I could sneak into the same urban camping spot I had used before. My plan to miss the traffic was to get up and on the road early, break during the rush hour, and get far out of the metro area in the afternoon.
On my trip in 1992 I had a dome tent. Here I am at a campsite near Canyon City Colorado. The dome was a 3-man tent that was just large enough for me and a little bigger than my 2-man tent. Most noticeable was that it allowed me to be on my knees, there was more headroom.
I was up early and out of the downtown Cincy area quickly. I stopped for a long breakfast when I felt the pressure of the traffic rise and I was out of the state of Ohio by 1:PMC. I took a photo, the only photo I took on this day, at the Indiana state line. It was about 20 miles from downtown Cincy to the state line and once into Indiana I was back to rural highways and little traffic. I only rode about 45 miles, and I stopped at a campground that I had found on my computer while in Cincinnati. It was farther off the highway than I was used to but they have a shower and a grille you may use.
My friend and college roommate, Scott Gamel, lived in northern Indiana. I had two ideas for my trip west. I was headed for Denver, but I could head northwest to visit Scott and skirt Springfield to the south. This plan would join-up with my 1992 route to Colorado and cross northern Missouri and cut through Kansas from the northeast to southwest. I had decided on a new route. I was headed west to pass south of St. Louis, cross my 1992 bike route at the Mississippi River and head across south Missouri to visit my Grandmother Wheat in Joplin MO.
At the Brownings Camp, I thought again about heading up to see Scott. The real drawback was that between me and Lafayette Indiana was the city of Indianapolis. I was about 150 miles away and I could make that ride in two days, but navigating Indianapolis would add a day and possibly another motel stay.
Now, twenty years later, I cannot believe I didn’t think to do both. I suppose that I subconsciously did not want to visit Scott and I made some sound rationalization of why I chose the southern route. It would have been a couple more days on the bike, but I didn’t have a schedule to meet. If I had visited Scott I would have to talk about quitting Atlanta Christian College, where I went my freshman year. Scott was my roommate in Alumni Hall our first semester.
I finished my first year at ACC now called Point University and began at the University of Alabama in Huntsville my sophomore year. I didn’t tell anyone at ACC I was not coming back. I still have some of the letters from ACC students about their summer and plans when we returned to campus. Wow, back in 1983, we wrote letters.
On the right is a photo of Scott Gamel (Third from the right), beside me (wearing a tie) at an apartment in Atlanta. The Photo is from my Yearbook HARVESTER 1983.
The simple explanation that I was too scared to talk with Scott about is how I lost my respect for Christian Doctrine. Our professor, Denver Sizemore, had never heard of the ontological argument for the existence of God. He gave us five proofs of God’s existence that were all about the same. The Bible says God exists: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Dr. Sizemore’s most compelling proof was the watchmaker analogy.
I was a debater in High School, as a matter of fact I was the Alabama state champion 1981 and 1982. I was the district semi-finalist with Eric Senn in 1980, we lost to Nancy Childress and John Gibbons from our High School. In 1981 John and I won the district and went to nationals and in 1982, Gary Thompson and I won our district.
My resumè in debate is really about critical thought when I was growing up. I had wonderful discussions with all the members of the Grissom Debate Team and there was a general principle that any position could be defended. We would often propose ludicrous things because the important thing was how well it was argued. When we talked about God, there was banter, but I believe it helped me to have a strong respect for what it takes to prove something.
I read and studied proofs of God. I can tell you now that I did not understand them. What I did believe strongly was that after two thousand years of theological thought, that someone had a good understanding of the proofs of God. I felt I needed a guide, the Christian philosopher that would make sense of the proofs and point me in the right direction.
I was aware that there were also significant questions about God’s existence. I knew from debate that it was always easier to be negative. In debate terms it was called “having presumption.” But in reality, everyone seemed to believe in God. The negative did not have presumption. I just wanted to be able to make the case for God, I was sure I could argue it well from that point. I never really thought of the question as finding the ultimate truth. But that is the rhetoric that theologians and philosophers tossed around, the first cause, ultimate truth.
I did not take “Christian Doctrine” until my second semester at ACC. It did not bother me at first that Denver Sizemore asked us to memorize Bible verses for each class. Memorization is one of my talents. Just ask me to recite “Terrance, This is Stupid Stuff,” or “Casey at the Bat.” Back then I also knew some Shakespeare Sonnets and I was happy to add some Bible to my repertoire. The Bible verses were short and you generally could add some non sequitur about class or news. “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” Proverbs 19:15
The betrayal I felt was that Dr. Sizemore had never heard of the ontological proof of God. Nearly forty years ago I came to the epiphany that I had not found a guide for my belief in God. Who would have thought that finding the ultimate truth would be so difficult. I loved the people I met at ACC and I loved Scott Gamel. I just could not square my long life of 20 years with the experience at Atlanta Christian College.
Another photo from my 1983 ACC Yearbook, I am on the left, dressed as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. I am sorry you cannot see it in this photo, but I have a safety pin in my nose.
There were a lot of things that I was having trouble with back at ACC, but I just never thought of them as fundamental as the existence of God. I went to different churches in the Atlanta Metro area while I was at ACC. Mostly I went to the big boring ones where I could be fairly anonymous. But I also went to churches where people raised their hands when they prayed and some spoke in tongues. There were plenty of issues in modern doctrine to discuss; however, I just could not get past my Christian education stopping at the great watchmaker analogy.
Having only one photo to relive today, I thought I would take a little side-trip on the path I did not travel. I have this Christian past that ends in 1983. Twenty years ago, in 2002, I was not willing to go back to that past. When Scott died in 2014, I had this gadget that would create a likeness of Jesus in your toast. I think he would have loved it. But I never reconnected with Scott. When we were roommates he would have loved the face of Jesus in his tost. I just was not sure if after devoting thirty years to building a Christian Church if he would still find that humorous.
I think I have covered this but I just read through Part 2 of this retrospective and I hated to see the many 640x480 format photos. I believe I noticed another downside to the double formatI used. I believe I discriminated against the photo subjects. What I mean is that things I knew I wanted to save got high-resolution. Things I knew were going on the web got low-resolution. Some subjects got both because I knew I wanted to save it and it was going on the web.
The problem is the photos I took in only the 640x480 format did not age well. At the time, I thought it was standard, and that the view on the web would be as good as one would expect for the Internet. I believe I made those as a kind of “lesser photo;” a snapshot. I would save and display them on the web, but they didn’t have the same significance as the photos I took in a high-resolution.
Of course, twenty years later it seems petty not to take all the photos in the highest resolution. For example, the three photos I took today, two are in 640x480 format and have a file size average of the two of 147 kilobytes. The one of the East Fork of the White River is in both formats, the high resolution photo is 1.2 megabytes. The lower resolution is about 12 percent of the size of the high-resolution. I suppose I felt that I had plenty of room to keep the lower-resolution, but I didn’t have the space to save lots of high-resolution photos.
That is too bad. I also regret not making more of those videos. The resolution of those are really poor, and I did terrible with the sound, but I love the idea and I like having the video. Again, when I saw that video at the time, the effort and poor resolution did not seem to create the kind of archive I was attempting to make.
While I would like to think I am a better photographer now. I really feel that the twenty-year old photos are better than I thought. They do hold-up and I am amazed at some of the color and lighting I see. I also see many errors and I work to correct some with the program Adobe Lightroom. I do think I took some photos that are worth seeing. I like this retrospective. I believe that the regret I feel is that I could have had many more good photos and memories of my trip if I had made them all in the highest resolution. I am afraid that I still would not know some of the people I photographed, but they would be better photos.
Someday I am going to find my lost file from this time. I am going to have to read through this again and add names to those photos that are of people I have no idea who they are. I will have to make corrections about dates, times and places. I will have to include a lot of the feelings and impressions that I had at the time. I would like this retrospective to be complete, but the more I say, the more I realize all that I have left out. Now, more than two months into my retrospective I realize that I am not writing an ending to this trip. There is a beginning that I stretched out, and this is Part Two, so I have to be at least entering the middle. I just don’t know how this will end.
Twenty years ago today my travels ended in Indiana. I poached a campsite on the side of US Highway 50, near Beaver Creek, after riding my bike about 95 miles. I took only three photos today, and two were of the same thing: The East Fork of the White River. The other photo was something I just thought was funny. As I was traveling west, I noticed a sign that read “RUMPKE OF INDIANA.”
I am not from this area and I have never heard of RUMPKE. Fortunately, the sign also told me what RUMPKE was. The sign stated: “Sanitary Landfill.” Being out in the rural parts of Indiana it did not seem too strange to find a Landfill, but the thing that caught my attention and caused me to stop my ride, one of the two subjects I took pictures of on this day was what the sign said after it announced what it was. I believe that a sanitary landfill in Indiana is just like a landfill in any other state, but this sign also lets you know that “VISITORS WELCOME.”
I had put a lot of Indiana behind me on my long ride yesterday, twenty years ago. I was about 60 miles from the Wabash River where I would cross into Illinois. US 50 heads straight across Illinois into St. Louis and I had decided to make my way south to miss the big city. Before I got to the Wabash, I turned southwest to cross the cannonball bridge.
Unlike my previous state line crossings, I did not take a photo. I don’t recall a sign at the Illinois state line as I crossed over the river and into the small town of St. Francisville. I was headed for the Cape Girardeau bridge, I had crossed the Chester Mississippi River bridge on my 1992 bike ride. Ultimately I was headed for Denver, but I wanted to pass through my parents' childhood hometown of Carthage, MO, which is in the southwest corner of the state.
I had experience with US 50 back in Pennsylvania and on my earlier bike adventure in Colorado. But the US Highway was not as leisurely a route in Indiana, and I was looking forward to getting to the backroads.
I took only one full resolution photo along my ride. One low-resolution photo I took today really placed me on the map. It was an overhead sign reading “Wheatland.” Because my last name is Wheat. I suppose I was not feeling creative. But it shows that I was headed toward the US 50 bridge and turned south just past that point.
For the past two days, I have made photos of signs on the road. A few weeks ago, I had an interesting thought about taking photos of signs. I followed the ADAPT activists in May of this year and I see many posts that include a sign. The idea is that the sign says something you want to read and conveys the message in a short statement. Why am I more likely to read a photo of a sign than something written in a post?
It also is strange for ADAPT, because the photo of the sign is almost by definition not accessible. Blind people don’t get the message. To make it accessible you must put a description in the “ALT” tag. The strange thing here is that the image is the message. I mean that it is a photo of a sign.
I know that Tom Olin especially had some really great photos of people holding signs. It was not only the sign that he photographed, but also the person. I think it is that combination that says something. It says more than the sign’s message alone. The ALT tag on one of these photos would have to describe the look of the individual, personal expression as well as the readable part of the sign.
I am afraid that memes and phrases have replaced a complete thought. Not for everyone, but I see so much content on the web that can be consumed in a second or two. Not that it is bad, the best stuff is spread around and more people see it.
I don’t watch many commercials anymore, mostly I watch streaming shows. But there was a time when I thought commercials were the best things on TV. They were clear and concise, great productions that used the thirty seconds with impact. Of course, there were also bad commercials and I was not watching TV to see any commercials. I could recognize, however, that a good commercial was a good production and often better than the show I was intending to watch.
In the same way, I see the distinct difference between the signs Tom Olin photographed and the signs that ADAPT activists posted at the last action. There was value in the Olin production. The signs held by activists were just pictures of signs.
The photos I took of signs both have this same problem. If you didn’t know my last name was Wheat, you would not know why the Wheatland sign made it into my retrospective. Now, twenty years later, I have a hard time understanding why that made it. It is just a photo of a sign. Its ALT tag will read: Overhead road sign that reads Wheatland.
Now the other photo of a sign I took I think works. The sign says more than just the text of the sign. “RUMPKE OF INDIANA Sanitary Landfill VISITORS WELCOME.” Now I think that the text is funny. The reason I took the photo of that sign is that I thought its placement in rural Indiana made it a little more amusing and I still think of a dump that welcomes visitors as pleasantly humorous. From that I can’t help but think of more inferences, like: “Rumpke, please come see our stinking pile of trash.”
This may also be a function of the countryside of Indiana being pretty static. I did attempt to get some landscape photos, but like my photos from the overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, they are all free from subjects.
In the evening I spotted these deer close to where I was setting up my tent. I took these photos, but they all are blurry, I just did not have enough light and skill to get a good photo.
I felt close to nature sharing the woods in Illinois with these deer. Strangely, I am more afraid of possums than I am of deer. I gage my fear by how hard it is to get to sleep after an encounter with a wild animal.
So far on this trip I have run into bears, rattlesnakes, racoons, lots of deer and many birds. I don’t think any have kept me from getting a good night's sleep.
Oddly, it was the humans while I was urban camping that I took the most care to avoid.
I woke up this morning, June 10, 2022 with some tooth pain. It is not bad, but it is coincidental. Twenty years ago I also had tooth pain.
Now that I think back, I cannot believe how I could have been so ignorant of what was going on. When I got up and packed up, I was feeling sluggish. I only rode about 12 miles and I stopped at Mt. Carmel, Illinois for lunch at a Mexican Restaurant. I rarely had a “sit-down meal” at lunch while on the road. My diagnostic skills are horrible. I did have a dull ache in my mouth, but I did not identify it as my tooth. I know this because that is what I told the ER doctor.
I ordered lunch, probably a chimichanga, but I could not finish it. Eating became painful. My solution at first was to eat more and power through. It was unlike me not to finish a meal, but I could not eat. The pain was terrible.
I could not ride, so I walked my bike to the Mt. Carmel Public Library. I don’t recall if I was able to get any work done at the library, but after a while, I used my map program to locate the local Emergency Room. I was frightened and I may have called Judy. I don’t recall what I did for a couple of hours at the library, but sometime that afternoon I realized that the pain was not going away and I walked my bike to the ER. I had to leave it outside with all of my stuff on it. I took my fanny pack and wallet in with me.
I didn’t have to wait long in the ER, but I did have to wait. Once I was taken back I had to wait more. I took out my camera and took the only photo from June 10. It is of me in the exam room waiting for the doctor. I believe the sour look on my face was genuine.
Sometime after High School, my dentist told me that I did not have wisdom teeth. He may have told me that I did not need to worry about them, but the message I got was that I didn’t even have them. Well I was wrong. I actually had four and one was coming in at an angle and had damaged my molar. The damage was an abscess. The ER doctor was very certain of this and amazed that I did not see any warning signs.
He gave me prescriptions for pain medication and the infection that was causing my lethargy. He said I needed to see a dentist right away and that I could not ride my bike. The antibiotic should make it possible for me to eat, but I had to have a dentist deal with my teeth. He prescribed pain meds for a couple of days, they also would keep me from riding my bike.
I know from my credit card bill that I paid $30.55 at the CVS in Mt. Carmel. I believe that I also got some Tylenol the doctor suggested but the rest of the day and the next few days are a blur of inactivity. I stayed at the Shamrock Motel in Mt. Carmel. I believe I chose this motel because it was the closest to the Wabash General Hospital. It was very close; about three blocks in the small town.
I know I called Judy and my parents, but I don’t recall the conversations or how lucid I was after taking the pain medication. I had to decide what to do about my jornada. I could put my bike on a plane and fly to Denver or Huntsville. I had looked into boxing up a bicycle for air travel when I was planning my big leap from Austin to Asheville and I did not feel a plane would be practical or affordable. My mountain bike was heavy and had wide handlebars, which would have to be removed. The aero bars, break cables and gear cables would also have to be removed for the box because they run through the head stem. I also had all my gear that would have to be boxed and will be charged additionally. The same process for the bus, and the same additional charges for luggage.
I had a dentist and I naturally thought of returning to Memphis to see her. I think my parents offered to pay for the dental work but I did not want to go back to Huntsville and see a new dentist. I thought again about renting a car. But at the time, I was taking meds that would prevent me from driving. When I spoke to my parents, they offered to come get me and take me to see my dentist in Memphis. I took that option and I made an appointment with my dentist Ruth Parker in Memphis.
My parents would need a couple of days to pack-up their RV and travel to Illinois. At Mt. Carmel I was nearly equidistant from Huntsville and Memphis. My parents were about 250 miles away and my mom used the trip to arrange to meet her sister who lives in Carthage, Missouri that is about 260 miles from Memphis. They would pick me up in Illinois and meet my Aunt and Uncle in Memphis. I had an appointment for Monday morning, June 17, 2002.
Twenty years ago my main goal was to follow the ER doctors orders and recover. I slept in and was taking my meds but I decided to get out in the afternoon and have a healthy meal. I was still concerned about my teeth, but the doctor had given me tips on eating and made some suggestions.
I left my panniers and bags in the motel and I only took my fanny pack with my wallet and camera. My bike felt so different without the packs and weight. It was a complete change from yesterday, when I couldn’t ride my bike at all. I enjoyed riding around the small town and I rode down to the Wabash River. I was also looking for a good place where I could do some more “urban camping,” if you considered Mt. Carmel Illinois an urban area. I was thinking forward and thought at the end of the week I could cut my costs by checking out of the motel and camping in this area for one night before getting on the road.
But once I got to the river’s edge, I found a strange settlement. There were abandoned chairs and fire rings, old cars and other junk. There were some people obviously living down at the river, but no homes. They lived in cars and buses. While I was there, just before dinner around 5:30, there was on one out, but there was a lot of evidence of inhabitation. One area where people had a nice bus, it still looked like it was able to get on the highway right away, had mowed the grass around their area. They also had a boat. I took some photos of this odd spot. At one place there were dead fish hanging from a post about a dozen feet up. I didn’t take the effort to find out about the river edge community and I did not feel comfortable camping in this area, I was afraid of the humans. Just about 20 miles to the south was an Indiana State Park. I thought I could camp and recover at that site, so I also arranged to meet my parents there.
I just checked and I have not yet heard from the Hundred West Virginia Librarian. They said they would check with the oldest board member about the story I heard about that small community. I will let you know when I hear about the Hundred West Virginia Library origin story.
While I felt good enough to get out on my bike and get some photos, my focus was on healing. I did have to delay my jornada, I had to see a dentist. While this is a real down-side of living on a bicycle, because I was a day's drive from my parents and my dentist, it was more of a logistical problem. If I had this problem twice as far from my home, I imagine it would have been more of a financial problem. I would have to live in a hotel for a couple of weeks while I saw a local dentist, had whatever procedures and recovered. I would also have to pay for all the visits out-of-pocket.
When I arrived in Denver back in March I was still covered by my work insurance, and I saw a doctor in Colorado because I was pretty ill. I had started the jornada as a work experience, at least back in April I had thought of it as work and in May at the Washington DC protests. I referred to my position at MCIL as a “Special Assignment” and considered myself an MCIL honorary employee. Really, I was working under a contract. Insurance, however, does not work that way. Now looking back twenty years, it would have been less expensive if I would have arranged the care from a dentist there in Mt. Carmel and biked on.
Ultimately I would have four wisdom teeth removed and one tooth that was damaged by a wisdom tooth angling its way in my gums. At the time only one or two of the wisdom teeth were visible and although I trusted the ER doctor's assessment, he was not making any dental judgements about what care I needed. I was still pretty ignorant about what I needed. I was just learning that the infection of my tooth was responsible for my body aches and fever. I was bright enough to get that it was the source of my pain. It still had to be explained to me.
My parents offered to drive their RV up to Mt. Carmel and take me and my bike to my dentist in Memphis. I liked my parents' solution because it would also help alleviate the anxiety I was feeling. One day I am riding my bike 95 miles through the countryside and the next I could not ride at all. I was really physically okay, but I was shocked by something as insignificant as a tooth debilitating me so completely. I was unsure of myself and insecure of what to do next.
Now, twenty-years after the fact, it seems easy to just get a dentist in Mt. Carmel; problem solved. However, the sudden insecurity made it difficult for me to see simple solutions. I did not have any experience with this, I had only been to my dentist for cleanings. I think maybe the reason I trusted Dr. Parker so much is that she never found cavities or any problems with my teeth. I am sure she took x-rays, but I don’t know if My dentist should have been able to see this coming. Critically, I could not envision how long or how expensive this set-back would be.
I was feeling better when I got out on my bike. After I rode by the odd riverfront of Mt. Carmel, I stopped by a Little League game. I remember being really impressed by getting the baseball in the photo when I was at the Reds - Cardinals game back in Cincinnati. So I attempted to get the pitch on the way to the batter a couple of times in the Little League game. I took a few low-resolution shots from behind the plate and I attempted to get the lens through the chain-link fence.
I believe it was important for me to see that the visit to the ER had been effective. I slept in, but I had to get out to get some food. I was a different person after my short recovery. But I planned to say another three days in bed and finish the doctor’s orders. After I made some photos at the ballgame, I went to the grocery store to pick up food I could make in the motel.
A favorite dinner that I liked to make in the tent was a side dish envelope of buttery noodles. I would make it in a single pot and add a tuna sized can of cooked chicken. From my time in ADAPT, I have developed a skill of hotel room cooking. When I was doing the ADAPT Action Report I would make hot dogs and Ramon Noodles with the in-room coffee maker. That was back before k-cups and single-serve pouches got rid of the small glass coffee pot. The next day after I made my dinner in the coffee pot, I would brag about the wonderful pork-flavored java I was drinking.
Having my stove in the room made it simple to cook vegetables and other things. I know I got other food so I could stay in and concentrate on my recovery.
Some of what I felt was an odd settlement along the Wabash River at Mt. Carmel Illinois. On the Riverfront, the lots all had trailers, modular homes or buses. The community seemed to be stuck back in the trees like it was attempting to hide.
I was looking to hide a campsite along the river, but the area seemed strange to me and there was no one around when I rode past. On the right is an area with seats and make-shift cover. There is obvious well-used parking but no one is around.
Eighty years ago today, Anne Frank got her diary as a birthday present in Amsterdam. I am only looking back twenty years, but this seems like a great day to consider the value of a diary.
Although I intended to look back each day at my life on this bike trip, I have included so much more. As I am making this bike-memory trip, I can’t help but think that I would really like to relive the bike jornada I made thirty-years ago. In 1992, I was making a bike adventure. My first cross-country bike jornada in 1989 (I picked up the term “jornada” on this trip), I used a daily guidebook and I had my parents to support me each mile from Big Lake Texas to San Francisco. I loved that bike trip, but it failed to help me become independent and have a unique and exciting life’s story.
I believe I accomplished that goal by my volunteer work in Alaska and the 1992 bike adventure. I have a real obsession to get in touch with the other volunteers on my Alaska crew. I have attempted to find them, but they are not the types that hang out on social media. I think I am pretty easy to find and I am depressed that no one on that crew has found me.
The photo on the right I made on my way to revisit the Wabash ER. I don’t have any idea what it was for. I searched Mt. Carmel for Bison and Buffalo (as well as “fiberglass Buffalo”) and got nothing in return. This is one mystery of life that I may never know.
That 1992 trip was certainly more of a pure bike adventure than this. While I did have a camera and I generally took one photo a day, my entire day was made up of cycling and camping. Climbing mountains and crossing US states and just pure travel for travel’s sake. Twenty years ago my bike adventure was mixed up a bit with the “Access Across America,” idea. I was not sure what I was doing, but there were days that I wrote articles and posted web pages about Independent Living and disability rights activism.
I have not included more of the 1992 ride here because I don’t know where my journal about that trip is. I know that when I find it. I will reproduce it with additional commentary along with the photos and I will add detail to a Google Map about the route and where the photos were made. This is a photo journal and retrospective on my 2002 bike trip and I have more to write about my life and feelings. It was a great year in my life and I like the idea of reliving many aspects of 2002. From a bike travel perspective, 1992 is a really terrific year and I find it hard to talk about cycling in 2002 without some reference to 1992. As you may be able to tell, I have a hard time telling you about my 2002 bike adventure without filling in many details about my whole life's experience.
Today I watched a program on the famous US Highway Route 66 with my father. The host showed photos of the Madonna of the Trail statues. There are two along Route 66 in California and Arizona. Aside from the two that I have photographed on my bike trips in Council Grove, Kansas in 1992 and Beallsville, Pennsylvania in 2002; the states are also in Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado and New Mexico.
Twenty years ago today, the ER had asked me to return. I visited before noon and they looked at me again and saw the impact of the antibiotics. I was doing good and I kept up the routine. I did not tell them I planned to ride my bike about 20 miles south to the New Harmony State Park to meet my parents. I went out on my bike yesterday and felt pretty good, I was riding my bike to for the ER visit today. They encouraged me to rest for the next two days while I completed the antibiotics regimen, they said the dentist could not do anything until my infection was cleared up. I did clearly believe them, but I also knew that twenty miles on the bike was not going to be too strenuous. My plan was to take the rest of today and all day tomorrow to rest, relax and recuperate.
Twenty years ago today, I stayed in bed and took no photos. It was a day totally devoted to recovery. My plan was to check-out tomorrow morning and ride my bike an easy twenty miles south down the Wabash River, cross back into Indiana and meet my parents in the evening at the New Harmony State Park. My parents, who were leaving in the morning, should meet me at the state park in the afternoon. They were driving a thirty-seven foot RV that had become a summer home.
With no photos from my bike trip twenty years ago, I thought I would add some photos of my bike jornada thirty years ago.
First, the photo on the left is a photo of me, thirty years ago, at the Loveland Pass. I don’t know who I got to take the photo of me. I think you may be able to tell that there is some stormy weather around.
A couple of interesting things in this photo. One is that my bike is not in the frame. On this trip I managed to get my bike in most of the photos I took. Another thing to note is my turtleneck. Back in 1992, that was the only one I owned. I kept the jacket rolled up on the back of my bike and put it on when I got off the bike. Of course sometimes I rode with the jacket on, but much of the time I was wearing that parka shell and bike shorts.
On the left is a good photo of my bike packed for climbing into the Rocky Mountains. Thirty years ago on my bike jornada, I rode a mountain bike with a custom paint job. I am using the same aero-bars on the front handlebars for my jornada in 2002.
I began the 2002 with the same rear panniers as you see in the photo on the left, but I got some lighter ones in Virginia. Note my tent poles under the seat. I also use my helmet to prop the bike up. I made many photos of this bike on the trip.
On the right is a rare photo from inside my tent on my bike trip thirty years ago. I still use that stove that is right by the zipped door of my dome tent. That tent, which I named Zebulon, was a 3-man tent. It was just large enough for me. I was at the public park in Maybell Colorado and looking forward to a big meal, notice the cube steaks on the right.
Twenty years ago today, I headed south on my bike to meet my parents at the New Harmonie State Park in Harmony Indiana. My parents left that morning from Huntsville, Alabama. My dad had retired from the US Department of Defense and was volunteering with a group called “Church Builders,” who built churches. My mother was very involved in genealogy. They used the RV as a mobile base for dad to help build churches and mom to visit libraries to research family history.
Photo below: Me posing by the Illinois state line, I am actually leaving the state at this point.
New Harmony was about 20 miles south on the Wabash. I would cross the river there and ride another 5 or 10 miles south on the Indiana side to the state park. My parents had planned to meet my aunt and uncle, so they shifted that meeting to Memphis so they could deliver me to my dentist and still have time with family.
My first photo on my leisurely trip was of a daylily. I think it is a daylily, but I am not really that good with flower identification. I am pretty sure that back on the Blue Ridge Parkway I correctly identified the Lady Slippers, but that is because there was an interpretive sign on the parkway that helped me to identify those flowers. It was also the only time I have ever seen a Lady Slipper.
Before I crossed the river, I took a photo of me at the Illinois state line. I remembered that I did not get a photo back when I crossed the Cannonball Bridge near St. Francisville. Then on the other side of the river, I took another photo of me by the Indiana state line. The Indiana sign is exactly the same as the one back on US 50, twenty miles west of Cincinnati. I look different.
The bridge at New Harmony is now closed. In 2012, Illinois determined that it cost more to repair than it was worth. It was a narrow bridge and that is always poor for cycling, but it was an attractive structure. I believe it is still standing, but it does not show up on Google Maps. You can see it from the Google Street view or Satellite layer, that makes me think that it is still there.
Twenty years ago I took a photo of myself on each side of the bridge, before heading south to the State Park.
Photo Left. I took this photo on the east side of the Wabash River. I don’t know why. I also shot this in the 640 x 480 format.
Photo right. I got the sign, but I cut off the very top and my feet. I think I look a lot different than a week ago when I posed by a similar sign as I rode into Indiana from Cincinnati, Ohio.
It was a leisurely ride on this day. I did not stop anywhere, I was finishing up the food I had from my stay in Mt. Carmel, and I expected to eat with my parents that evening.
This may not be a great photo, but it does look a lot better using the editing tools in Adobe Lightroom. In the original, the sky is very bright and you cannot make out the details of the clouds. The barn, because it is backlit, is nearly impossible to see the ivy growing up to the roof. If I didn’t make a good photo here, I certainly believe that I have created a much better photo than the original.
I made it to the New Harmonie State Park before my parents. I believe in total, I had about thirty miles to go. After I crossed into Indiana, I rode through the town of New Harmony and then I rode about five or ten miles to the park.
New Harmony was the home of Thomas Say from 1826 until his death in 1834. Say is considered the Father of North American Entomology, the science and study of insects. Say’s Firefly became Indiana’s state insect in 2018.
New Harmony is the site of not just one, but two early American utopian communities. The Harmony Society, led by George Rapp, arrived in the United States in 1804 and settled in Pennsylvania before purchasing 20,000 acres on the Wabash River and moving to Indiana in 1814. The Harmonists were religious Separatists from Germany who pursued Christian perfection through every aspect of their daily conduct. They sold New Harmony to Robert Owen in 1825, and he, along with his business partner William Maclure, hoped to establish a model community where education and social equality would flourish.
With some time before my parents arrived at New Harmonie State Park, I took some photos of Cicadas that were all around the park. They were loud and pretty spooky to watch.
Cicadas have an exceptionally loud song, produced in most species by the rapid buckling and unbuckling of drumlike tymbals. They typically live in trees, feeding on watery sap from xylem tissue, and laying their eggs in a slit in the bark. One exclusively North American genus, Magicicada (the periodical cicadas), which spend most of their lives as underground nymphs, emerge in predictable intervals of 13 or 17 years, depending on the species and the location.
The annual cicadas are species that emerge every year. Though these cicadas' life cycles can vary from 1–9 or more years as underground nymphs, their emergence above ground as adults is not synchronized, so some members of each species appear every year.
Cicadas have been featured in literature since the time of Homer's Iliad and as motifs in art from the Chinese Shang dynasty. They have also been used in myth and folklore as symbols of carefree living and immortality. Cicadas are eaten by humans in various parts of the world, including China, Myanmar, Malaysia, central Africa, and Pakistani Balochistan.
Of course I had to take photos of the massive ramp they had in the office of the New Harmonie State Park. I also had a chance to get my mom and dad in the photo. Mom is in the upper right hand photo and dad is below her.
I had a ramp program for a year in Memphis called RAMP IT UP! I was supposed to build ten ramps with the $30,000.00 they gave MCIL. I managed to build 35. I didn’t know how government money worked at the time.
Actually, the RAMP IT UP! program story is really good.
So I mislabeled the bicycle trip I took twenty years ago as “Access Across America.” I had changed it on the website to “Independent Living Across America,” which was more accurate. Early on, when I was in New Mexico, a publication had written an article on me and used the Access Across America title. Deborah had challenged me to write about Independent Living, but I had that mixed up with the concept of access. I also had the RAMP IT UP! program in Memphis and commonly used access as a synonym for what the Center did.
My confusion of the name did not seem to make a difference. I was not good at explaining what I was doing, so I don’t think it made too much difference if I was badly mangeling the philosophy of Independent Living, or misrepresenting access and inclusion. I could tell people that I built ramps for people who used wheelchairs. This was a simple concept that even I could get across.
But the story of my RAMP IT UP! program is also, like everything else, a little more complicated. I was able to build more ramps than they expected but at the same time, MCIL had sued the City of Memphis for not having curb ramps. Really, the lawsuit was about an ADA plan that would include curb ramps. Ramps were vital to our community, but the kind of ramps that I was building with the RAMP IT UP! program were wooden wheelchair ramps for homes built by volunteers. The two things get tangled up by the city and our little non-profit was threatened by the Memphis City Attorney who could hold up payment for the ramps that we did.
For months this was happening behind the scenes. There is a lot to the story, but as a final deliverable of the funds, the City of Memphis required a report. What follows are the final three paragraphs of my RAMP IT UP! report:
The final and most significant problem encountered by the RAMP It Up! project was the childish behavior of the City of Memphis Attorney's Office. In retaliation to an unrelated legal complaint Assistant City Attorney Sarah Hall threatened to deny payment to The Memphis Center for Independent Living if plaintiffs did not drop a justified legal complaint against the City of Memphis. Ms. Hall negligently and mistakenly identified the program coordinator as a plaintiff in the case.
Obviously the threat of Ms. Hall had no impact on the plaintiffs, however The Memphis Center for Independent Living did not get the contract for the RAMP It Up! project until October of this year. Without clear support from the City of Memphis, the RAMP It Up! program operated through these last months tentative and unsure.
Some things are made very clear by the RAMP It Up! program. First is the continuing need for pragmatic ways to overcome the discrimination faced by people with disabilities in our community. Second is the unyielding determination of The Memphis Center for Independent Living to secure the promises of the ADA despite the odds against them. Finally, the strength of the human spirit and kind outpouring of good nature in the volunteers that give of their time to build a better community for all of us.
I took 10 photos of these hummingbirds at high resolution. Of course they are all out of focus. It would be many years before I would have the skill to capture a flying hummingbird. While I still would like to improve my skill, I have made little progress over the last five years because some of the photographers in the Memphis Camera Club are so good at these shots. I have a hard time motivating myself to try to get close to their level.
I feel that things may change this summer. I will be creating a bird sanctuary at my house (next to the butterfly garden), and a special area for bird photography just out my back window so I can shoot remotely, but also have an eye on the backyard and my camera.
Twenty years ago today, I was traveling with my parents to Memphis, Tennessee. I had an appointment with my dentist scheduled for Monday, June 17, 2002. I believe I had completed the antibiotics and the appointment tomorrow would be the first assessment that I would have about how long I may be delayed from my bike trip, what this would cost and what I needed to do for recovery.
The photo above is of the maxivan my family got for our summer vacations. My mom is on the left with John Gibbons, Gary Thompson and me on the far right carrying stuff up to our room for the Georgetown University summer Debate Workshop. Notice the green shag carpet on the van door.
The dentist was going to fill in a lot of what was going on. At the time, twenty years ago, I had to clear up the infection so that I could see the dentist. I had only had fillings at the dentist and did not know anything about bridges, root canals or crowns. Now that I am 58, I have two crowns, but I still have the fillings I got more than 40 years ago. I hope that I can go through my life without any further dental procedures. However, like in 2002, I do not know what lies ahead.
No bike mileage and no photos today. I have traveled a lot with my parents. When I was young, we had a trailer. As a family we would drive to a campground or state park in about a half day’s drive from our home for long weekends away. Often we would travel with friends and our favorite site was Davy Crockett State Park in Tennessee. When I told the story about being bitten by a snake, that was also a Tennessee State Park named Fall Creek Falls.
My family also took two week vacations in the summer. When I was young we often went to Florida, but we also vacationed at the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas and Kentucky. But our largest vacation with the most planning was along the east coast before and during the bicentennial. We got a new maxi-van to pull the trailer and give us all more space for the drive.
That van would become a part of the fleet that transported my High School Debate Team all over the country. My older sister also spent many hours in that van, she did mostly individual events at debate tournaments. We had several state and regional events, but when I was in High School I also traveled to Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Salt Lake City to compete. I did make great friends in debate and I got to travel all over the country.
I was driving my Debate Coach’s van returning from the northeast when we were pulled over by a local Tennessee police officer. My coach, Stan Erwin, had an expired tag. I was driving so I ended up getting the ticket. But that is not the whole story. It was late, after midnight and while the cop was talking to me the sleepy debaters slid open the passenger side door to get some fresh air in the van. A second officer walked around to that side and casually noticed a loaded gun on the floor.
I never knew that Mr. Erwin carried a gun, but I am not surprised. I also never noticed the gun was ever just lying on the floor. Now it was a different time; I can’t imagine a public school debate team traveling today like we did back then. You probably can’t imagine how having a loaded gun with a bunch of high school students was not seen as an issue. It wasn’t an issue for anyone, except me. I got two tickets. One for driving a vehicle with expired tag and the other for an unsecured weapon.
My dad called Stan Erwin “Eight ball.” I don’t know why, but he did not use it as a positive epithet. Mr. Erwin was not the type of coach that a parent wanted for their child, but I really believed that he was a great debate coach. I graduated high school forty years ago this year, in 1982. I used to tell people now that my debate coach also helped me to grow-up during high school, but now I don’t think that is true. As I have pointed out in this retrospective, I took the other cross-country bike adventures because I did not believe I had matured. I didn’t want to teach high school students when I felt more like them and didn’t have any solid life experience.
Below is a photo of Stan Erwin on the far right, John Gibbons, Gary Thompson, covered by my arm and me. As a right of passage, we would jump off this cliff into the cold water near Gatlinburg Tennessee.
One solid take-away from my high school debate experience is how well our team was coached. Mr. Erwin made his top teams a senior and underclassman. The result is that each year, the top team was made up of one student who had top team experience. That experience was passed down from year to year. I really benefited from this arrangement. Eric Senn, a senior, was my partner when I was a sophomore and John Gibbons, a senior, was my partner when I was a junior. When I was a senior, Gary Thompson was my partner and he was a lot better debater than I was.
I will also note that this process did not require our debate coach to do much. You learned from your partner and the team helped each other with preparation. For one semester in high school I was Mr. Erwin’s student assistant. The big advantage of this assignment was that the student assistant could often use the time to study and do homework. But Mr. Erwin had me grade papers, prepare class work and assignments. One of the skills that all debaters had was to make mimeographs and I made these for his classes.
Memory lane! If you don’t know what a mimeograph is, it is a poor person’s xerox. If you don’t know what a xerox is, well, I don’t hear people call a photocopy that anymore, but Xerox used to make a photocopy machine and people called it a xerox. They were around when I was in high school, but they were expensive. The debate team had a mimeograph machine that was hand-cranked and other, more modern machines were sitting around the school office. You had to make a mimeograph stencil that was like carbon-paper and put it backwards on the drum that would turn and pick up a blank sheet of paper to print out many copies of the stencil. The end result was always a blue ink and had a distinctive smell.
I believe what I am trying to say here, is how Mr. Erwin’s success was by delegating responsibility to others. Each year he had a debate team competing on a national level. I think that is because of the peer training system that he created at Grissom High School. What I don’t know is how he kept his job. I know there are other stories I could tell about my high school experience that would also make you feel that Stan Erwin should not be around children. But I was there and he was certainly different than any other teacher but I can’t help but feel that knowing Mr. Erwin was a positive experience for me.
That is some retrospective from forty years ago when I was in high school; thirty years ago while I was on my 1992 bike jornada and twenty years ago. I looked at my Facebook timeline and ten years ago, in 2012, I was at a training at the Obama for President office in Boulder.
Photo of me having dinner in my tent in Maybell Colorado in 1992. One of the reasons I took this bike trip was to develop some “hair on my chest.” I was worried about becoming a high school teacher when I believed l looked more like a student and had very little life experience. Do I look like I am 28 years old? Please note: I had not shaved in 28 years when this photo was taken.
Twenty years ago today I was back in Memphis. I went to see my dentist and my aunt and uncle from Carthage Missouri camped with us in downtown Memphis. When I lived in Memphis, my parents began stopping by in their RV when they could. There was a campground just over the Arkansas, Tennessee Interstate 55 Bridge, also called “the old bridge.” The woman that ran the campground was from France, and she charmed my parents and they got along well. The campground is gone, but there still is a sign at the end of a gravel road that has a camper hoisted about 20 feet above the overgrowth below. I know where it is, but the trees around the area obscure it now. They tore down the building just to the west of the campground, so I believe there may be some renovation planned for that area.
But in 2002 it was my homebase for the dental work I needed. I visited my dentist and she made x-rays and gave me the low-down about what was going on. When I finished high school, I got the message that I did not have wisdom teeth. Now they may have told me that I didn’t have to worry about my wisdom teeth, I don’t really have any idea, but I understood that I had no wisdom teeth.
On the left is a photo of me on June 17, 2002. I am sitting in my parents RV parked in Memphis. My Aunt Barbara took this photo.
Below is a photo I took of my Aunt Barbara.
I was wrong. What Dr. Parker told me was that I had four wisdom teeth. One was coming in at an angle and it had pushed into my rear molar and caused an abscess. The others were not as prominent. At 38 years old, it was unusual to have these third molars coming in. My wisdom teeth would have to come out.
The problem with the plan was timing. I was not in a hurry, but I would have to completely clear up the infection, meet with a dental surgeon that Dr. Parker would recommend and have the procedure and follow-up. I know I opted for the quickest timeline, but I also had a chance to talk about my plans with my parents and my aunt and uncle.
I don’t know the date of the procedure, but my follow-up appointment was on July 1. Over the next two weeks, I was Stuck Inside of Memphis with the Denver Blues Again. I stayed with my parents at the campground until I could see the dental surgeon and they went with me for the procedure. After that, I stayed at the Memphis Center for Independent Living office on Angelus Street. I had my bike and all my gear at the office and I made a bed on the floor. I showered at the RV place and the MCIL Executive Director’s apartment while she was at work. In all, it was just over two weeks that I spent in Memphis recovering.
I also worked at MCIL over this time. I did think of myself on “special assignment.” Over the next two weeks however, there are nine days with no photos at all. The other days I have some photos of work and Memphis. So I may get away from my twenty years ago, as a matter of fact, I will include more photos of my 1992 Bicycle Adventure and a memory each day from that trip.
Photo to the left was the office of the RV park where my parents stayed. This photo was made in 2016. The door on the right with the green cover was where the laundry was, and under the drive-through cover was the campground office and small store. When it was open there were always people, trailers and motorhomes around.
Just around the corner from the drive through cover was a slab of concrete where dad and I, in 1998, replaced the clutch of my 1990 Honda Civic. We used the MCIL event tent and drove my car up on ramps for the weekend. The owner really loved my parents. I miss this campground and the convenient spot for my parents to visit.
Twenty years ago today I went into the office of MCIL to update the Executive Director about my special assignment. I also had my plan with the dentist and I updated her on my health also. I called the lawyers for the MCIL Fair Housing lawsuit, but they still had no update. I was going to be in Memphis for a couple of weeks, I thought I would get something done.
Deborah and I talked in her new office. She had started a new phase of learning voice controls on her computer and had added office space to our kitchen area. When I started at the MCIL, her office was a supply closet with bookshelves. It was long and thin and nothing like office space. Up front there was a reception area and administrative office, everyone else had a desk area along the walls, some space had a cubicle barrier, but no one was in a cubicle.
Deborah’s overall office design came from what she had read and heard of CIL offices in Berkeley and Denver. The staff were just haphazardly stuck in along the windowless cinderblock walls of a basement space. The idea was to be community friendly, but as I think back it seems as if the staff tried to hide in the open area. With computers, bookshelves and cubicle walls to conceal as much as each staff member could, I don’t think I would feel that the space was welcoming at all. There was also in the Center’s general office, a meeting room, a kitchen and an area to eat.
Deborah’s office was to give her some privacy for phone calls. She added her new office taking up most of the space for the eating area, but turned her old office into more storage. She had more space and she had privacy for phone calls and voice operations for her computer.
Deborah got a letter the week before with what the Memphis City Attorney said was the City of Memphis Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan. The City said we had fifteen days to comment. She was disappointed in the plan, but mostly, she thought the fifteen days were too short. She was glad that I was there at just the right time for this and wanted me to organize comments for the ADA plan. We talked more about the City, and she asked me to work more on the web.
I only took three photos on this day twenty years ago. One of Deborah, and two of a new employee who I would add to the staff page of the MCIL website. I did not make posed photos, I attempted to get candid shots of the staff at work. I still have a strong preference for candid shots. The real lesson I have learned is that when you take a photo of a person, you have to get their eyes. Unfortunately, I could not find the name for that employee. I don’t believe I ever saw him again, but I did put a little bio of him on the staff page years ago. I will keep my eyes open and maybe I will be able to add it in later.
Twenty years ago, my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Warren headed back to their home in Carthage Missouri. I said goodbye to them and took some photos before they left. My mom and dad were High School sweethearts in Carthage where they are from. My mother had arranged with her younger sister Barbara to meet over this weekend. Because of my dental problems, my mom had engineered a change in everyone’s schedule and we all converged on Memphis.
The photo on the left is my Aunt Barbara at the RV campground in Memphis.
I still felt comfortable in Memphis. I had moved to the Bluff City in 1993 and worked at TGI Friday’s in Overton Square. Overton Square had more of a reputation as a social center for Memphis before I became a bartender, but it was still a great place to be in Memphis. I heard about the parties, the cocaine and wild nights at that restaurant, but the upstairs apartment was only used for storage when I worked there. The Square was on a decline, mostly because Mississippi had just opened Casinos an hour south in the small river town of Tunica. A lot of the disposable wealth and social entertainment went downriver. Many of the experienced service personnel and bartenders followed the money.
I started at the Memphis Center for Independent Living in April of 1996. I was a bartender at Friday’s and I made out the service schedule. I was hired to be a part-time librarian at MCIL, but I soon plunged into disability rights work. Looking back, I am really proud of the work I did for MCIL. I was replacing the person that produced the newsletter and kept a small lending library.
I had experience working in libraries. I worked in the University of Alabama, Huntsville UAH Library in circulation. That is the bottom rung of the library ladder. At the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, I curated the third basement government documents as my work-study job. I think Deborah was most impressed by my desire to do something and bartender credentials. I believe she envisioned I would really make that library a vibrant social commodity.
The photo on the right is my uncle Warren.
I re-catalogued and re-organized all of the material. It became pretty clear to me that the Lending Library was made up of the things that no one wanted to read, but they did not want to throw-out. I think she was hurt after I suggested that we keep some items and reference materials, but simply give away other items to people that may use them. We had no budget and there was nothing invested in the library. Mostly, MCIL had lent about a dozen items to about a half-dozen people. I pitched her the idea of creating a “hot file” that staff would pass around with items of interest and when staff had a chance to read them, they would go into the MCIL library to be given away.
There were some items that we would not give away. When I started at MCIL, Deborah had given me a copy of No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement to read. I was impressed to see that it was signed by the author, Joseph Shipiro. MCIL also had a unique video library that the Center used for training. The copies of the periodicals The Disability Rag and Mouth, were also to be saved.
Photo on the right is my mother. This is a photo from yesterday as my aunt and uncle left, but I am including it today because I have no photos.
Again today I have no photos to go with my retrospective. I know that I worked on my response to the City of Memphis that Deborah and I had talked about a few days ago. Yesterday I told you about starting at MCIL and my first assignments. Working at MCIL was particularly gratifying, but I was only part-time. My main job, my main financial support was working at TGI Friday’s. As a matter of fact, it was because I was working at Friday’s that motivated me to work at MCIL.
I looked young and I doctored my Tennessee Drivers License to make it look like I was born in 1968 rather than 1963. They kept a photocopy of the license and I just used a pencil to take five years off my age. With all of the customers I busted for providing fake ID, it was odd that I used a fake ID also. Of course, my ID made me younger.
I think that age deception was because I felt insecure as a college graduate working at a restaurant. I also was not really looking for another job. Although I made out the service schedule for Friday’s, they liked that I would take management responsibility for a free meal. Occasionally they would ask about “moving up to management,” but I didn’t really see it as advancement. I didn’t want to work in a food service. The opportunity at MCIL gave me the best of both worlds. I could make money at the restaurant and I could feel like I was being a professional at MCIL.
Just by coincidence, MCIL was just a mile from Overton Square and even closer to where I lived in Midtown Memphis. I walked to my interview because my girlfriend at the time had exclusive use of my car. I stood in the front office and read the mission statement of MCIL as I waited for my interview. Reading that was my introduction to Independent Living. I met with the Program manager and briefly with the Executive Director. She gave me a writing assignment because part of my job would be to write and edit the MCIL Newsletter, The Declaration!
I had a close friend through highschool and college who had a disability. He had polio when he was young, just like the Executive Director of MCIL. She had asked me to write about my experience with disability. I wrote about 250 words about my experience with my friend. In the back of my mind was the mission of MCIL and the copy of The Declaration! that she had given me. I really knew nothing about Independent Living, but I was able to fake it enough to get the job.
I think MCIL hired the right person. I took to learning Independent Living quickly. I also had two of the best teachers, one was Deborah Cunningham, the Executive Director and the other was the new hire, just a month before I got the job. Her name is Dawn Russell. Dawn was not in the office the week I started because she was at the ADAPT Action in Houston Texas that week. My first ADAPT action was in Atlanta that Fall of 1996 and it changed my life. I was a devoted disability rights activist.
I had difficulty explaining to people what I was doing on this bike trip, I also had a terrible time telling my parents what I was doing with my life. The first hurdle was that I didn’t have a disability. I didn’t have a family member with a disability. I feel they had a hard time understanding why I would at all be motivated by disability rights without some direct connection to disability.
I was working at the time to clearly write about the discrimination faced by people with disabilities. I felt compelled to fight for disability rights and I was using the tools that MCIL and I had. While I feel that I was getting better and carving out a place for the ADAPT Action Report and MCIL Journal, I had no skill at communicating with my parents. I tried to tell them what I was working on and I would end up explaining the jargon and acronyms while never really explaining the general philosophy.
My parents saw Jerry Lewis as one of those non-disabled heroes. He didn’t have a disability, but he had this telethon to help kids with MS. But Jerry Lewis did not have MS, he drew a bright line between himself and those poor kids in need of help. Now I was caught up with a progressive part of the disability community that HATED Jerry Lewis. They saw his pity appeal as degrading and inhuman. He worked for a cure rather than accepting people with MS. People I knew wrote about being “Jerry’s Orphans.” Loved while they are young and cute, part of the telethon; yet , abandoned when they are older and need acceptance and equality.
I don’t know if I ever got across my position to my parents. I know they did not understand me and my motivation.
Now, twenty years later, it is much simpler to explain equality. Most people understand Independent Living and it is hard to imagine that things were very different just twenty years ago. Now, Tennessee spends about the same for nursing home care as we do for home and community based services and supports that keep people out of facilities. If you remember, I started this retrospective telling the story of two guys who left nursing homes in Memphis to live in their own homes in Denver. Back then there were no home programs and almost all the long term funds went to inexpensive institutions.
My parents listened and cared about me. I would love to hear from their perspective what they thought I did and why. It was easier to say that I was riding to help people with disabilities. That simple phrase was understandable. I was happy to be out on the road, on my bike. Honestly, I thought I would find something and it would make sense.
Twenty years ago I only took 640x480 photos around the MCIL office. So go back in time with me twenty years to see what life was like at a Center for Independent Living.
Above left is Deborah Cunningham. Today I had her looking at the camera. My bike jornada is really her idea. Judy also supported me on my trip, but she found a way to pay me while I rode my bike around the US. She hired me as a part-time librarian and I made myself a full-time community organizer in five years. I am most proud of this time at MCIL.
On the right is Renee Ford. She was the heartbeat of MCIL and was an administrative assistant. Just a couple of months after I took this photo, she and Deborah Cunningham would block a bus to get the police, news and public transportation provider’s attention about an inaccessible bus that passed them up.
Suzanne Colsey on the left. She married my friend Chris while I lived in Memphis. I mostly remember going into a Women’s Clothing store with her where the staff just refused to talk to her. They had no idea how to help if she might want to try something on. Actually, they just hid behind the counter and hoped she would go away. We ended up suing that store because it had a turnstyle at the door that prevented Suzanne getting in on her own.
On the right is XXXXXX XXXXXXX. He took up the newsletter when I left and was working on training people to ride the bus.
Above is Sandi Klink, the current Executive Director of the Memphis Center for Independent Living. Sandi and I worked together for about a year before I left on the bike jornada. Back in 2000, we made an epic voyage with Sher Stewart and Judy Neal to the Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the ADA in Washington DC.
On the right is Michael Heinrich, looking at something in Suzanne Colsey’s lap. Michael is one of my favorite people on the planet. He built the db that allowed me to organize thousands of photos for our Fair Housing lawsuit. Behind Suzanne in the multi-colored shirt is her husband, Chris. On the left frame is Josh who also helped me with a lawsuit against Family Dollar.
Above are photos of the training room for speech to text software. The program can also control a computer with only audio input. You can use a mouse or keyboard also if you can but it is mainly designed for people who do not have the physical dexterity to use a mouse or keyboard. The soundproof room helps the software to learn an individual’s speech patterns.
Many people think software is the solution to problems, but this is an example where the program is good, but it is not magic. The program means that the individual has to learn a completely new input system. MCIL is one of the few places that helps people, at no cost to learn and try out such systems. Now the voice regognization is so good, you don’t need a sound-proof room.
Above are two photos of the computer lab at MCIL. Much like the “drop-in” computer lab at the Tri-County Patriots Center for Independent Living in Washington Pennsylvania, MCIL had a computer lab. The Memphis lab had more support and I believe more accessibility. Above on the left you can see a couple of machines with a microphone and trackball for access. Above you can see the adjustable desk with a CCTV off to the left if you have low vision.
I cannot tell you why it is there, but behind the machine on the right you may be able to make out a photo of the Seattle skyline. I had that photo behind my desk and I left it at the office. Entropy just made it cling to the wall, I don’t know if anyone questioned why there was a Seattle skyline on the wall. It was also great to see the impact I had on the center in those first five years. You cannot see it here, but I left a locked file cabinet back in 2002. I got to open that cabinet and look through all my projects in 2015 when I returned.
Twenty years ago I have no photos for this retrospective. But I do have some content for my journal. While I was in Memphis, staying with my parents in their RV, Deborah had asked me to work on an issue for a couple of weeks. First I made a response to the City’s letter with a list of things that Deborah and I had talked about. I summed up the main problems in the MCIL journal article below:
By: Tim Wheat
The City of Memphis Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan does not meet the minimal requirements outlined in the federal civil rights law to protect citizens with disabilities from discrimination by local and city governments. The City of Memphis released an unsigned and undated draft of the ADA Transition Plan last week more than 3,800 days late and has given citizens 15 days to respond.
The printed copy supplied to Memphians for review does not include the list of obstacles or methods of achieving compliance but claims citizens may review these documents at City Hall. The Cities Attorney’s office; however, could not even produce half of promised documents when MCIL representatives made a request June 20th.
The fundamental failure of the City of Memphis ADA Transition Plan is that it does not include a schedule of changes to be made. Rather than providing a schedule the City of Memphis has made “estimates” of compliance based on a survey of less than 15% of the facilities that may require renovation.
“There is a significant difference between a schedule and an estimate,” said Deborah Cunningham, the Executive Director of The Memphis Center for Independent Living. “The federal law requires a schedule and people with disabilities demand a schedule.”
Ironically, a schedule of curb-ramp compliance is listed in Appendix D, but no similar commitment is made by the City of Memphis concerning public buildings.
“By not meeting the minimal requirements established in the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Deborah Cunningham; “the City of Memphis exposes itself to costly litigation.”
People with disabilities and advocates are finding further weaknesses in the City of Memphis ADA plan. For example, the grievance procedure that Memphis lays out has no appeals process, no review and no means for resolution.
“The grievance procedure is only a gossip-line,” said Robert Morris of MCIL. “Without an appeals process, citizens will be forced to sue the city to get even the most basic response to realistic accessibility complaints.”
Of particular concern is that the City of Memphis Transition Plan is not signed or dated. The fact that the document lacks these basic features has material impact on the content of the plan. The City of Memphis ADA Transition Plan states:
Public entities are obligated to remove physical obstacles which limit accessibility only when program changes cannot ensure access to services, programs, and activities in existing facilities.
This statement would be true if the plan had been produced on time; however, because the document is ten-years late, all of the effective dates of compliance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act have passed. The statement does not recognize the affirmative responsibility the City has to ensure that new construction is accessible. It is important that the City of Memphis realize that in 2002 they have more than the program accessibility requirement that the statement implies.
The plan furthermore fails to address obvious Memphis responsibilities such as the new Arena, AutoZone Park and the Center City Commission “facelift.” If the city has done a lot of work in compliance with the ADA, it is not evident by reading the plan. In fact, on June 20th, a week after the plans release, Mel Scheuerman an architect in the cities Engineering Division, claimed to know nothing about the publication of the ADA Transition Plan or the invitation for the public to view the site surveys at his office.
MCIL is asking the City of Memphis to:
The City of Memphis ADA Transition plan can be obtained at www.cityofmemphis.org. Public comment should include your name and address and be submitted by Friday, June 28, 2002 to:
Robert L. J. Spence, Jr. City Attorney, ADA Coordinator 125 N. Main St. Room 314 Memphis, TN 38103
Citizens may also contact the Mayor’s Citizens Service Center Phone: (901) 576-6500 TDD: (901) 576-6501
Again today I have no photos from the bike trip twenty years ago. This was a Sunday back in 2002, and I do not recall what I was doing all day with my parents. My parents stayed with me in Memphis while I went to the dentist and then visited the oral surgeon to have my wisdom teeth out. I don’t know the timing of the visits, but I know that my final follow-up was on July 1. I think it is likely that tomorrow, twenty years ago, on a Monday would have been when my infection was clear and I had the dental procedure.
The thing I recall was an early meeting with the dental surgeon. It may have been days before the surgery, I remember him telling me that removing all four teeth will not make me a “dental cripple.” He was reassuring me that the large change in my mouth was not going to physically alter my actions. It was a strange use of terminology, but he made his point. I realized what was happening, but I guess I did not expect the impact could be so severe. Now, looking back, I worry about him cracking four teeth out of my upper and lower jaw. I knew a lot of people who had their wisdom teeth out, but at 38 years old it was a scary procedure.
I also notice the difference now. I used to talk more with my front teeth and move my mouth less. I still mumble a lot and I don’t move my lips much when I talk but it is a change of degrees. I also look a little different. My bite is a little further back and my jaw is recessed a tiny bit. I noticed it and it is one of the reasons why I have grown this poor goatee since this trip. If my silly facial hair has not hidden my underbite, it distracts people from my weak jawline. If only I could grow a beard like John Brown, I could take over Harper’s Ferry by myself. But instead I have the facial hair of Rasputin.
Next Page Photo: This is one of my favorite photos of me at Berthoud Pass in Colorado. I look relaxed at the top of the world on my great bike jornada thirty years ago. I do not have a hat yet for this part of the ride. I notice I have my jacket zipped up. I am sure it is still cool in the summer there at eleven thousand feet. It was a very tough climb, the real highlight was the descent on the western slope.
The magnitude and distance that I crossed alone on my bike is amazing. I love to look back at this trip and feel how personally satisfying it was to be out and able to cross the Continent.
Twenty years ago I do not know if I had my wisdom teeth pulled today or if it was a two appointment affair. Whatever the schedule, I did not take any photos from Friday June 22, through Wednesday, June 26. I believe this was my recovery time, but I don’t have any memory of this stretch of my time in Memphis. I may have also had pain medication and additional antibiotics to keep me groggy during this time.
I have been augmenting this photo retrospective with some photos from thirty years ago and I believe I will continue that for today. On that 1992 trip, I crossed long expanses of desert, crossed the Continental Divide five times and rode from Alabama to Western Canada and back to Minnesota in about three months. I spent a week with my childhood friend Troy German in Bountiful Utah, but the rest of the trip I slept in my tent.
I hate to tell you that. I feel I am telling you I had a really great bicycle adventure, but this retrospective is about another one that is just not so great. I bet you feel like you are having your teeth pulled.
Now that I am looking back at my 2002 adventure, I can’t help but compare it to 1992. I didn’t want to just ride my bike overnight, I wanted to ride across the country. I still like the idea. My first cross country bike ride in 1989, the first night I spent on the road was the first time I had attempted bicycle camping. I didn’t even make a test ride or camp overnight to “shake down” the bike and equipment.
Photo on the left: Thirty years ago, me and my bike at the peak of the Salt River Pass at the Idaho - Wyoming border. That is a tin cup on the back of my bike that I used to heat hot chocolate in my tent.
On all three cross country bike rides I overloaded my bike. The first I mailed stuff home to my parents when I was just south of Tupelo Mississippi. On my second jornada I mailed home a box that I remember was thirty-five pounds. The same for the 2002 trip, but it was not that heavy. The overloading was so chronic however in 2002, that I broke spokes on my rear rim and eventually broke the rim in Ohio. On all three trips, I mailed a package of the overload in less than a week of starting out.
Photo right: This is the view from my campsite east of Afton Wyoming.
I also did no training. I know this confounded many people. I believe they have the idea of a marathon where you start and use all your energy and skill to finish as quickly as possible. I planned to get in shape along the way. To keep the analogy, I would start the marathon and get in better shape by the finish. I was fit enough to ride the bike and it is amazing just how fit you get after riding your bike across Kansas.
The analogy does not really apply. I was a runner during this time, and although I was not “in-shape,” I did exercise regularly. Actually, my first trip the real limiting factor was money. I wildly underestimated what I would spend along the way. There is no way I would have made it to California. I was thinking of ways I could stop and work along the way to try to stretch my finances when my parents showed up in Big Lake Texas to help me. They also had lots of food in the RV.
I did not think of getting fit. I did know that my motivation was important and that if I was not motivated to ride, I would stop and read. I would spend the afternoon at an old presidio, courthouse or small library. Some days I would ride until noon and stop and explore a small town. I was not in a hurry, and I rarely pushed myself. I also often got started early in the morning, there was a lot of daylight before noon and I could plan my stops and dinner casually in the afternoon. There were some days with really long rides, over 100 miles. They were rare, and often followed by short days, but I did not push myself.
I know this sounds haphazard, but the advantage of riding by myself was that I did not have expectations outside what I could do. On my first bike ride I had a guidebook from Texas to California. I was able to keep up the pace outlined in that book and I knew I could ride about 50 miles a day. That is an average, because now that I look at my mileage, it has always fluctuated. One day I would be able to get good mileage and the next, not so much. I think it was a function of my motivation wavering. It was just not very exciting to ride hard day after day. I know this is a complaint of riding with groups, because everyone wants to stop at different times for various lengths. I ran into several solo riders on my trip, a couple of duos and a tandem, but never a group.
These days that I am in bed and have no photos are my low point for this jornada. It is hard to imagine that except for the time I spent with my friend Troy, I did not take off a single day on my 1992 trip. I rode each day. I did not camp in the same spot for two nights. Even traveling through Yellowstone, I camped in a different spot (my cost was $2). I didn’t stay in a hotel, hostel or anyplace with a bed. That is very different than this trip. Twenty years ago I was recovering in bed for nearly a week. Thirty years ago that was just not part of the adventure.
Photo left: A look over my handlebars into the Salt River Valley. That is the road that snakes up the pass just beyond the tip of my aerobars.
In the center of my handlebars you can see my bike odometer that I used in 1992 and over the front right pannier you can see I have no food in my tupperware food box.
Just behind my seat, you can see the plastic bag that held my maps.
Imagine you are climbing the Salt River Pass.
Twenty years ago today I was recovering from my dental surgery in my parents RV in Memphis, Tennessee. I had to care for these “sockets” where my wisdom teeth had been removed. I remember one of the worst parts was the gauze that was in my mouth had a texture that I disliked. The dryness and nap of the gauze was similar to fingernails on a chalkboard. The gauze bandages did not cause any pain, they were just unsettling. I also seemed compelled to touch them with my tongue which again would trigger the revulsion to the gauze texture.
I also was in pain, it was a change physically. I had pain medication and I slept while mom and dad visited Memphis. My mother went to the new main library, which had been built on Poplar. In my last year in Memphis I saw the City demolish the Central Library on Peabody and build the new one on Poplar, but I had never visited the new public library. Mom’s reports of it were glowing and she always loved the genealogy departments and meeting people at the library.
Looking back thirty years from today, I cannot tell you where I was on that grand bike jornada, but I thought I would look at five of the photos from around Yellowstone. Judy and I visited Yellowstone about fifteen years ago. I have such a great love of that area. I rode from north to south and traveled nearly the entire distance around both loops of the park on my bike. I also met other cyclists at each of the campgrounds. It was a terrific experience.
Photo next page: The Crowd at Old Faithful 1992. My photo of the geyser is not very remarkable, but the crowd was large in such a remote place. The guy in sunglasses that seems to be acting candid, is Mark. He is acting candid. We rode together on my first and second days in Yellowstone, exploring the south end of the park. We also camped in a communal bike area where we met a dozen other cyclists. As I rode around Yellowstone the biker’s gave me the nickname “Alabama.”
Photo two pages: Almost every photo I took has my bike in frame. This is the Virginia Cascade, a kind of waterfall that is truly spectacular. I cannot help but notice that my perspective and bike are really the only thing in the photo. I am sure there is a lesson here.
Photo three pages: The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone. This is such an iconic view. I am so glad that I took a photo, but my photo with the 110 disk camera is not not memorable or frame worthy. Why I like it is how it says I was there. And with this photo, I was able to say that I was there without getting my bike in the picture.
Photo four pages: The Iconic North Gate. Some cyclist’s from New Jersey had told me how to sneak into a private hot springs north of the park. I hid my bike and brushed by the front desk to an upstairs bathroom. I changed into my bathing suit and into the resort’s courtyard where the hot springs were funneled into a steamy pool. Ask me how I almost got caught.
This was my last recovery day. My parents were moving on to the next Church Builders site in Georgia. I believe that I was doing well. Without any documentation, the fact that my parents would leave me in Memphis, just after surgery, with no home or car is pretty amazing. Looking back I can see that is not typically what my parents would do, but it was their retirement summer and I was on my bike trip.
Twenty years ago it was a Wednesday and I had my follow-up appointment next Monday, July 1, 2002. During this time I would continue to work at MCIL and I would work on a plan to get back to my bike jornada. This break is so different than my bike adventure thirty years ago. I don’t know what I would have done if I had some health issue come up.
The only thing I can remember during that trip in 1992 was that I stopped at a gas station for water on a desolate road in Montana. I felt dizzy and weak. I had self-diagnosed it as heat exhaustion and was surprised that being from Alabama I would notice the heat in a state so far north as Montana. Now I guess it was also dehydration, but it was very debilitating. I got out of the sun and drank water. In the sliver of shade created by the east side of the store, I sat for over an hour before I felt like I could move on. If I had not stopped, I don’t know what would have happened down the road.
Below are some photos from Montana from my Bike escapade in 1992.
Next Page: You actually cross into Montana in Yellowstone. This is the sign after leaving the park to let you know what state you are in. Montana lets you know that their Centennial was twelve years ago.
Two Pages ahead: I carried this solar bike odometer with me. The best part was the constant miles per hour read out, that I could change to view my pedal cadence to help me keep pace by myself. On my 2002 trip I had a GPS with me that would tell me my speed, but it used a lot of battery power when it was on. I ended up using it very rarely.
Three Pages ahead: Entering Glacier National Park you pass McDonald Falls.
Four Pages ahead: Lightroom really helps this photo show the sky and clouds. This is one of my best landscapes with this 110 disk camera. Of course there is no subject, but the shore, lake, mountains and sky may just be enough to give the photo some interest. Notice that this is one of the few photos without my bike in it. There actually are some people in frame on the far right. I do not know who they are.
Notice that I tie shoes and other items to the top of my front panniers in 1992 and in 2002.
I was facing southeast back from where I had come 3,000 miles.
This seems to be one of my best landscape photos from the 1992 trip.
My new crash pad was the MCIL office. I managed to stay away from that office all day riding my bike around Memphis with a single pannier packed with books, notes and computer, but I did not take my camera with me. However, as I returned to the office at 6:30, thinking I would have the place to myself, I ran into the youth group at MCIL just finishing their meeting. I retrieved my camera from my stashed stuff and took two photos as I left the office. The group was meeting in the back and I did not bother them.
I also took a photo (right) of the RESERVED PARKING sign outside MCIL. One of the many projects that the staff at MCIL and I thought about but never started, was a campaign to end the popular HANDICAP PARKING signs that covered the city. The biggest response was “What is it supposed to say?” The answer is nothing. The ADA does not require text.
But out the front door, I spotted Sandi and her daughter. I was really just wasting time, but I struck-up a conversation and took some photos of Sandi’s flowers at her home across from MCIL. Eventually the meeting ended and I talked with all of the students as they left the Center. I took a photo of the bus that came to get some of the students and I took a photo of Pat Jessup, the instructor of the group that had worked at MCIL years before I started.
Pat had a great program but it was totally dependent on her. She was the organizer and central focus of the group. The parents trusted her with their children and the youngsters seemed to like the group. It was a weekly event that just took 90 minutes, but it had great staying power. My experience was that peer groups grew and collapsed in waves. When it was good, people would attend the group, but with more people came more problems and the success would collapse on itself. I know that happened to Pat Jessup’s group also, but she had a great talent for guiding the group to avoid complete collapse.
The groups that I coordinated when I left MCIL were Barrier Free Memphis and Memphis ADAPT. Both followed that rise and fall pattern and I believe I left both on the upswing. By the time I returned to MCIL in the summer of 2015, Barrier Free Memphis was gone and I could not save Memphis ADAPT. Although I love the group, with the turmoil in National ADAPT, I just let the organization pass away.
When I look back twenty years, I am proud of the organizations I built and what I did with MCIL. It seems that rebuilding that community is as difficult as taking on another cross-country bike jornada. I am highly motivated to relive and remember twenty years ago, I am not so enthusiastic about attempting to re-do my success of the past. To be honest, I don’t think I could do it, regardless of motivation. It is a really different world, a very different social environment and my tools are exceedingly outdated.
On the left is the desk of Kevin Lofton. He was working at MCIL when I started. I took the photo of the desk because I thought that we may have a virtual tour of the Center on the web. This is another idea that was never developed. When I tell people what a Center for Independent Living looks like, it is the vision of MCIL, Atlantis and Tri-County Patriots that comes to mind. They all have a disheveled look. They also are mostly an open format where people with disabilities can roam around in a central open space.
On the right is the desk across from Kevin Lofton’s desk. Notice the Sher Stewart drawings on the wall. You may not be able to make them out, but I know them. The center is a line drawing of Justin Dart. MCIL has the framed original, but that is a photocopy. Sher used the copier more than anyone to replicate her pencil sketches. She made some of me. She also would make a pencil drawing at MCIL and use the copier to give everyone at the office their own bit of artwork.
Top Left Photo: The MATAplus bus is the Memphis paratransit vehicle. This was the main target of the Barrier Free Memphis group, while Memphis ADAPT aimed at the fixed route buses.
Top Right Photo: Alexander Mooney, a really terrific individual. His brother lives in my neighborhood Cooper-Young.
Photo on the Left: I don’t remember who this is. I will try to add the name later.
Twenty years ago it was a Friday and I received some good news. The City of Memphis was honoring our request for an extended comment period for the ADA Transition Plan. Sometime while I was recovering, the City Attorney, Robert Spence had replied to my original letter from June 21 asking for an extended public comment period. My letter to the City Attorney was the basis of the first article I wrote about the issue and included the list of MCIL demands. In his reply to the request to extend the comment period, Robert Spence said that the City would not extend the public comment and made it seem that MCIL was what was delaying the ADA Transition Plan.
Robert Morris and I visited the City Attorney’s office to view the “Memphis ADA Transition Plan.” Robert had gone last week and the City had not been able to produce the document for him to inspect as the City Attorney’s letter directly said. I had read the whole document, the City put in online, but I was working with Robert and he had a different method. Remember, this was 2002 and it was not unusual for people to prefer documents that they could hold.
Robert was one of those guys. He was okay with a computer, but the PC did not replace paper for him. I worked with a woman in Boulder who printed out her email. She stapled multiple pages and she filed them in folders in her office. I know it was not every email, but it was significant. I expect that once it was filed it was basically forgotten, but I have a hard time understanding this behavior. It is also not so unusual, I work with a person now who does the same thing. Working from home during the pandemic, I provided this employee a printer so they may devastate the forests. Again, I don’t know what the purpose of this behavior is, I assume they are more familiar with a paper file system and just conform their computer to fit the skills they have.
Robert Morris not being able to view the document had an additional impact on the City Attorney. Robert uses a power wheelchair. On this occasion, Robert used the paratransit system, MATAplus, to get downtown. Paratransit is an addition to the public transit system that is only for people who have barriers to the main bus system. Back in 2002, only about half of the fixed-route buses in Memphis had a lift or ramp for people who use wheelchairs.
Robert’s scheduled ride was in the afternoon and we implied that we would just hang out there at the City Attorney’s office the rest of the day. I cannot explain why, but that was a very powerful threat. They did not want us there even though the public was invited. Robert used the typical bus system and even trained MCIL customers on using the bus. Robert Morris had a way home, however the City Attorney’s office employees did not know that.
Robert Spence broke down and said he would extend the review period another two months. Robert Morris and I got a written statement from the City Attorney’s Office and we returned to MCIL to celebrate. This was exactly what Deborah had asked me to accomplish while I was in Memphis.
I wrote an article for the MCIL Journal about the news. I did not say that Robert and I had won the extension. Instead I wrote about having more than 200 signatures of support for the extended period. We really had the signatures, but the plan was for us to use that in a demonstration to the Mayor’s office next week the day before the original comment period deadline. We had all those names but we did not even think to confront the City Attorney with them yet. My story implies the people who signed our demands were the power behind the change; however, twenty years later I am telling you that Robert Spence was just embarrassed and annoyed by MCIL.
Below is the article I wrote for the MCIL Journal twenty years ago:
People with disabilities concerned about the thin time period to make comments on the plan that will guide Memphis for the next twenty years won an expanded public comment period today.
By: Tim Wheat
(MEMPHIS) “We will have a second public comment period,” said Memphis City Attorney Robert Spence, “beginning sometime next week.”
People with disabilities collected more than 200 signatures of support for the extended public review of the Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan for Memphis. Robert Spence had written earlier that the city would not extend the time.
The plan surveyed 55 public buildings to project the cost of compliance to more than 400 facilities owned by the City of Memphis. Although the plan states on page that the public may view these surveys at City Hall, less than half of those documents were made available to the public during the comment period.
“My first thought was that there has been incompetence and poor record keeping there in City Hall,” said Robert Morris who was not allowed to view all the surveys on June 20th and 28th. “It makes me think the whole public comment process was flawed.”
“It has taken the City more than 3,800 days to create the plan and they provided the public only 14 days to respond,” said Robert Morris of the Memphis Center for Independent Living. “More time to review the plan is only reasonable.”
You may review the City of Memphis 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan as long as the city keeps it on their website.
Like many businesses during the pandemic, MCIL had promotional masks made. I put the MCIL mask on the life-sized statue of Johnny Cash in my neighborhood. Cash first played at the church you can see behind him (not the yogurt shop to his left); Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two.
If you haven’t noticed, I have no photos from twenty years ago. I did not take my camera downtown because I did not want to pass it through the security system and I was working on the article the rest of the day. I know now that I should have made some “victory photos” to help us to promote our success. The above photo is looking to the southeast from near the end of Mud Island. Mud Island is really a peninsula along the River in front of the north end of downtown. It is best known for the monorail that connects it and was in the movie The Firm.
Twenty years ago I enjoyed a Saturday in Memphis. I did not take any photos on this day. The Redbirds were playing out-of-town and I had the Memphis Center for Independent Living office all to myself as my apartment. While the office had a bathroom and microwave, there was no shower. I was still using the shower at the RV Park where my parents had camped last week. The ower really loved my parents and it was no trouble for me to shower there.
Back in 2002, I saw the camera as something to document my adventure. A Saturday at the office did not qualify for a photo. On my bike trip thirty years ago, I used the camera just about every day to document the trip similar to how I was using the camera on this bike jornada. I used a Kodak 4000 Disc Film camera in 1992. I have mistakenly called it a 110 camera, referring to the size of the film, but the disc film is actually smaller. Kodak was supposed to roll out a new and sharper development process, but most labs used the old equipment they were familiar with and the photo quality was weak. The disc film camera was gone from the market in less than 20 years.
There were some real advantages to the camera that helped me. First, the camera was very small. I am sure that was a big sales point for me planning a cross-country self-contained trip. Second, the discs were easy to load and unload, they were cheap, simple to store and I had no problem getting them and carrying one extra.
The main advantage, I did not see at the time, was that I could drop off the exposed disc just about anywhere and the prints were mailed to my parents. Back then you paid when you picked them up so my parents were on the hook for the photo costs. I really don’t know if I would have made fewer photos if I had to pay for them, but each disc was 15 shots and I believe the prints cost less than five dollars. This arrangement also motivated my parents to keep up with my trip, they were following it visually. However, I could not see the pictures and I had no feedback of the subjects and quality.
My father was an accomplished amature photographer at this time. He had two Olympus OM bodies and a variety of lenses. He made thousands of photos as I was growing up and printed them to slides for family and friends viewing. He certainly could see the poor quality of the prints, and he did help me with suggestions on my photography in general. But there was a significant lag time. I would send the photos to be processed and my parents would pick them up a week or two later. When we would talk on the phone, the photos they were looking at were 400 to a thousand miles behind me.
This final advantage also had a great effect. When I returned from the adventure, I was amazed by the photos. It was not because of the quality, I didn’t have any real experience with that. My amazement was how the photos fit in my memory and made my feelings more vivid and tangible. I instantly had a love of the pictures and I made a photo album with an accompanying map. The photos didn’t tell the whole story, but I believe they were my visual guide.
While I had a great love for the prints, the people I showed the photos noted the quality. The Yellowstone landscapes, geysers, Colorado mountains and Glacier National park were nothing like the National Geographic shots of the same scene. I know that is an unrealistic comparison, but my photos were saying to me: “I was there,” a message lost on anyone I would show them to. Anyone who would look at my album couldn’t help but laugh at my lack of subjects and my many photos of my bike. I even wrote in my album, “..every turn is another postcard view.” I am sure that I was seeing postcards while my audience was viewing daguerreotypes.
Between 1992 and 2002 my idea of photography was mostly impacted by Judy Neal. I was going to work with the Memphis Area Legal Services on a Fair Housing grant they received. The details of the grant were broad and Judy included a digital camera in the equipment request we made as a sub-recipient. The rationale was that MCIL would photograph barriers.
MCIL purchased a first-generation SONY Mavica that wrote info to a 3.5 inch floppy drive. Back then, the capacity of that floppy drive was 1.4 megabytes and the highest quality photo was the 640 x 480 format. The lens was in the top left of the camera body, it was a strange looking device.
The way this contraption impacted my photography was that I had to take photos that would show some physical barrier at an apartment complex. I had to learn to alter my perspective so that the end result would show what I saw. In bright sunlight a step can appear as a dark area on a walk and a slope needs to have something level or square to contrast it with. Without getting the Mavica out of AUTO mode, I learned to get the sun behind me to light the subject. I would change my perspective to allow the photo to best show the barrier. With the digital camera you get some immediate feedback and I learned to use the camera modes to get better results.
For this project I took over 17,000 photos. It doesn't sound like much today; I have more than that on my Flickr.com account, but over a year and a half I shot, collected and organized these photos. At some apartment complexes I took over 850 photos. That is 50 or 60 floppy drives to organize. The final report included about 400 photos. That is a use rate of about .02%. Because I reused floppy disks, I did not save the originals and photos that did not get in the database for the project were lost. I guarantee you that there were a lot of bad photos. What I considered to be a good photo was one that would show the intended barrier. Many of the photos just showed where the barrier was, like the width of an access aisle. I would photograph the painted aisle with some identifying landmarks.
The best photo I made was used in the prologue, the explanation of the survey. It is the entrance of a housing unit that shows the access symbol painted on the asphalt with a ramp up from the parking to the left of the frame. That ramp leads to steps in the center of the frame with a small childs pink and blue bike leaning on the steps. You may see the Rental Housing Accessibility Survey at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XRsoUgxIzRB6ocxAPl2mPi9EtMs7KUlM/view?usp=sharing
I used up that Mavica. The camera I purchased for myself, specifically to make the 2002 jornada was the SONY CDMavica. It wrote data to a mini CD, which is a Compact Disk that is 3 inches in diameter. It would hold a huge amount of data compared to the floppy drive Mavica. One hundred and fifty six megabytes. This was a big issue for me, I did not want to have to carry 500 floppy disks with me on my bike. I did not have any equipment that used Compact Flash cards or Secure Digital (SD) cards, that most cameras use today. I saw the CDMavica as technologically futuristic and perfect for me.
The CDMavica also had 3.3 mega pixels resolution, about nine times the resolution of the floppy Mavica. I still had this bias for 640x480 photos because I felt that was the standard “web resolution.” I mostly saw my photos as something to display on the web, so no reason to go beyond the caliber that I needed for the Internet. I have talked about this before and that bias I had is something I deeply regret.
That CDMavica also has a Carl Zeiss, Vario-Sonnar lens. Of course now that is something I like, but back in 2002 I did not know who Carl Zeiss was. The lens is an f2 with 34mm to 102mm, or three times zoom. I didn’t even think about making prints. The photos from this camera would be stored on a computer. They made “Read - Write Discs” for this camera. I used the less expensive “Read Only” or CD-Rs that gave me a natural back-up of the pictures I made.
Back in 2002 my favorite place to eat in Memphis was Heuy’s. It still is. Now there are nine locations around Memphis. I had lived in Memphis since Fall of 1993 and in 2002 I packed everything I owned into my 1990 Honda Civic and drove to Denver. I left my car and all my belongings with Judy but I was not settling down. As I look back now, I clearly left Memphis. As I retell my life’s story, it seems like a very round-about way to move to Denver and live with Judy. Is this entire Bike Jornada really just personal insecurity about making a life decision?
I still had many connections in Memphis, but I was not planning on returning. I wrote earlier when I left Cincinnati that I had chosen a southern route to pass south of Saint Louis and head to Carthage Missouri in the southwest corner of the state. My southern route, however, did not include Memphis where I clearly had attachments and places to stay. I think that generally, I was attempting to break connections on my bike caper, not retain them.
Returning to Memphis became a way for me to keep control of my trip without depending on someone else. I gave up some authority to my parents and I am really thankful for their help. But I did not return to Huntsville and go to their dentist, which I am sure they would have been happy to engineer and cover the cost. I would have stayed with them and resumed when I recovered. I still had enough of a foundation in Memphis to pretend it was my home and that returning to the Bluff City was what I needed to solve my health problem.
Between Judy and my parents was Memphis. So for about a half a month I was a Memphian again. I have never been a good Memphian, but I have done many of the touristy things around town.
In 2002 my favorite barbeque place was The Barbeque Shop, home of the dancing pigs. The Barbeque Shop is still on Madison. Now however, my favorite barbeque is Central BBQ.
I started working at the TGI Friday’s in Memphis in November of 1993. It was in Overton Square and I knew the places to go very well. My favorite hang-outs on the Square were the Bayou, Memphis Pizza Café and Bogie’s. They are all still there; however, Bayou has moved across the street. Friday’s is gone, it is now a Mediterranean place.
When I moved to Memphis I lived at the Alpine on Madison and in 1997 I moved to the Gilmore, a half-block away. Both of these apartments were within walking distance of Friday’s. I could also walk to MCIL, but in April of 1997 I bought a car, my beloved Red, 1990 Honda Civic. I usually drove to work at MCIL.
That stretch of Madison Avenue from Angelus Street, where the MCIL office was, east to Overton Square is a central part of my life. I have walked it many times and know the shops, stores and apartments along the route. I notice the changes and I feel nostalgic about each palace, even if I did not spend much time.
The semi-famous Ardent Records is on that fragment of road, near to Overton Square. My bank, that gave me the loan to buy my Honda is on that road. The dairy is still there, but the neighbors don’t like the refrigerated trucks running at night. There was a head-shop and it has expanded, now it is named Wizards. Huey’s is there. When I first walked to work at Friday’s, there was a restaurant named the Chicago Pizza Café. It went out of business before I could ever eat there. When I left Memphis for my bike jornada, there were still jars of parmesan cheese on the tables inside. Now it is a shellfish restaurant.
I haven’t been to Graceland since the 1990s. I have been to the Graceland vigil on August 16 several times. The last time I went was 2019 with the Camera Club. Here in Memphis, the time around August 16 is called “Dead Week,” because of Elvis in 1977. The vigil at Graceland is when they allow everyone to file through the grounds and pass by Memory Garden where a few of the Presleys are buried. In the past it was the highlight of dead week.
Jay, my friend at Friday’s, took me to the vigil the first time I went and he showed me the best parts. Probably 1994 or 1995 Jay and I went after midnight and spent much of the time out on Presley Boulevard. Once people had walked past the grave, they sat out in the street and made wax artwork with discarded candles. The crowd was listening to music and just lingering in the humid night air unable to break the connection with The King.
When I returned to live in MemphisI visited Graceland at 2:AM in 2015. I made a quick visit to Memory Gardens and spent a little time out in the street in front of the mansion. In 2016 and 2017 I went with Sher Stewart. We skipped Memory Gardens and hung-out front. 2018 and 2019 I went with a crew from Memphis Camera Club to take photos of the circus that had developed. We went early, when most people were out there. But 2018 is the year that they began to charge to walk out to Memory Garden and it is a very different experience.
I do like the National Civil Rights Museum, the old Lorane Motel downtown. It has a mix of art and interpertives and always a video documentary. I go to meetings often in the community room that deal with disability rights. I was on one committee with the Reverend Samuel Kyles who was on the balcony when Dr. King was shot. The down side of the NCRM is that there are often a lot of school kids.
There is only one photo from today. It was made inside the MCIL office. The staff made a banner that says: “Where in the world is … Tim Wheat?” There is an image of a guy holding a globe, a cyclist and an Interstate sign. I took a photo of it. I suppose that they were going to track me on the US map below the banner, but it is just a map. I can imagine how it came about. Deborah said the Center should do something and a lot of people threw in their ideas. Radio shows, llamas and free food are all things they may have suggested. I don’t know, I wasn’t there.
In the end, Renee printed the banner and put the US map on the wall. You could count on Renee.
I have no photos from twenty years ago today. I did have my final follow-up with the dentist. It was a Monday and I did get the dental go-ahead to continue my bike trip. I had to take my bike to the dentist’s office and after my appointment, I was completely unprepared to get back on the road. I decided to rent a car, and because of the holiday, I couldn’t get a “one-way” rental until Wednesday.
I had flirted with the idea of heading out on my bike. Justin Dart had died on June 22, his memorial would be on the anniversary of the signing of the ADA, July 26, in Washington DC. I could just turn around and head back east, back up the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Capitol. Obviously, I was not inspired to do that again.
Heading west, I could still visit Carthage and my extended family. I had never ridden through the Ozarks and heading out of Memphis would put them in my path. There were looming disadvantages, however, that made me look into alternatives. The first was the plains. The thought of crossing Kansas like I had in 1990 was not motivating me to get back on the road. I was definitely headed west, but I planned another “jump ahead,” like I had done from Austin to Asheville.
I also felt behind. As if I should have put in a thousand miles instead of getting my teeth fixed. July was by my general timeline, when I would be avoiding the heat by cycling through the rocky mountains and not facing the summer heat in the dry plains of Kansas. To be honest, my confidence was low. I was getting some good mileage days in and suddenly I was totally out of action. I worried what other unforeseen problems may take me out of action. I worried I had the wrong bike, I was going to destroy the rims and I was not in shape. While I had the go-ahead from the dentist, I still had pain in my jaw and I had to be careful about the scars called sockets. I made an unstated decision that I did need more recovery. So I rented a car.
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