Access Across America
A 20 year retrospective
Photo Journal of Tim Wheat
Twenty years ago today, March 27, 2002, I began my bike, car, train, bus, RV, van and walk around the United States that I called: Access Across America. The name comes from the idea of Deborah Cunningham who suggested I visit Centers for Independent Living and report back to her. Mostly on my bike, I spent half of the year on this quest.
This is a look back at my travels day-by-day twenty years ago. I will share my journal here and use my maps to relive the year. Mostly, I will use the photos I took to share memories and my thoughts looking back twenty years. I will also journal about my life now and hopefully take a bike trip to connect my current life with who I was in 2002.
Twenty years ago I worked at the Memphis Center for Independent Living. I was in love with Judy Neal, who worked at the Denver CIL. I had published a large examination of accessibility of newly built apartments in Memphis. The lawyers were just starting to create lawsuits and they predicted years of litigation. I thought I may find a way to participate from Denver rather than Memphis.
I was also ready for something new. I quit my job. I wanted to be somewhere else. A cross-country bike trip is something I had done thirty years ago (1992). I put a lot of faith in how traveling may be transformational. This is my retrospective.
Table of Contents for Part Two
Table of Contents for Part Three
Melvin’s apartment, back (photo)
Melvin’s Apartment, front (photo)
A Denver bus turns off Broadway on Colfax, March 28, 2002 (photo)
The Plaque to Rev. Wade Blank and the Gang of Nineteen (photo)
Downtown Denver at Broadway and Colefax (photo)
Willie Robinson in his Denver apartment, March 29, 2002 (photo)
Willie Robinson’s work station at home (photo)
View from Willie’s Balcony (photo 1)
View from Willie’s Balcony (photo 2)
View from Willie’s Balcony (photo 3)
View from Willie’s Balcony (photo 4)
Red Rocks Landscape wide angle (photo)
Judy at Red Rocks Close-up (photo)
Judy sunglasses Close-up (photo)
Further on up the road (photo)
North Fork of the South Platte River (photo 1)
North Fork of the South Platte River (photo 2)
North Fork of the South Platte River (photo 3)
North Fork of the South Platte River (photo 4)
North Fork of the South Platte River (photo 5)
Cyndy’s Restaurant, Bar and Post Office (photo)
Como Colorado Roundhouse (photo)
Fairplay Colorado home with a ramp (photo)
Downtown Fairplay Colorado (photo)
The Arkansas River Valley (photo)
Log home outside Buena Vista (photo)
My bike without the back wheel (photo)
Absolute Bikes, Salina, CO (photo)
Storm in the mountains (photo)
The Moffat Colorado Post Office (photo)
Crossing into New Mexico (photo)
Dramatic Skies in New Mexico (photo 1)
First sunrise in New Mexico (photo)
Me in my tent first night in New Mexico (photo)
Rio Grande River Gorge (photo 1)
Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge (photo)
The Rio Grande River Gorge from my campsite (photo)
Me along the Rio Grande (photo)
My Campsite at the Santa Fe Opera (photo)
Ravens statue in downtown Santa Fe New Mexico (photo)
The desolate road in eastern New Mexico (photo)
Three Days in the Desert (photo)
Flat Tire outside Carlsbad (photo 1)
Flat Tire outside Carlsbad (photo 3)
Headed to California (photo 1)
Headed to California (photo 2)
Headed to California (photo 3)
Ride to Iraan (photo 2 before)
Ride to Iraan (photo 3 before)
Ride to Iraan (photo 4 before)
Ride to Iraan (photo 5 before)
Ride to Iraan (photo 6 before)
Ride to Iraan (photo 7 before)
Presídio de San Sabá (photo 1)
Presidio de San Sabá (photo 2)
Presidio de San Sabá (photo 3)
Presídio de San Sabá (photo 4)
Presidio de San Sabá (photo 5)
Presidio de San Sabá (photo 6)
Presídio de San Sabá (photo 7)
Presídio de San Sabá (photo 8)
Presídio de San Sabá (photo 9)
Presídio de San Sabá (photo 10)
Llano County Explorers Historic Marker (photo)
My campsite northwest of Austin (photo)
The Austin ADAPT Office (photo)
The trip to Huntsville (photo)
Bridge on the way to Ashville (photo)
The Blue Ridge Mountains (photo 1)
View from the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo)
The Blue Ridge Parkway (photo)
The Blue Ridge Mountains (photo)
The Blue Ridge Parkway (photo)
The Blue Ridge Mountains (photo)
Blue Ridge Parkway Tunnel (photo)
The spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains (photo)
Blue Ridge Parkway Vista (photo 1)
Blue Ridge Parkway Vista (photo 2)
Blue Ridge Parkway Vista (photo 3)
Blue Ridge Parkway Vista (photo 4)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 1)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 2)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 3)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 3)
Black Mountains Overlook 3880 (photo)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 4)
A Dogwood in the mountains (photo)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 5)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 6)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 7)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 8)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 9)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 10)
My Bike along the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo)
A Mountain Stream off the side of the road (photo 1)
A Mountain Stream off the side of the road (photo 2)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 11)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 12)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 13)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 14)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 15)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 16)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 17)
Tuesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway (photo 18)
People I met along the way (photo)
Me wearing my bike helmet (photo)
Cross-Country Cyclists (photo)
Crossing into Virginia (photo)
North Carolina State Line (photo)
Overlook of a strip mine (photo)
Early morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains (photo)
Near the Peaks of Otter (photo)
Above the clouds in Virginia (photo 1)
Above the clouds in Virginia (photo 2)
Above the clouds in Virginia (photo 3)
Above the clouds in Virginia (photo 4)
Above the clouds in Virginia (photo 5)
Climbing up from the James River (photo 1)
Climbing up from the James River (photo 2)
Misty Mountain overlook (photo)
Foggy Shenandoah Valley (photo)
Skyline Drive Overlook (photo)
Misty Shenandoah Valley (photo)
Fog in the Shenandoah Valley (photo)
View of the Shenandoah Valley (photo)
Above the clouds on Skyline Drive (photo)
Another flower I cannot identify (photo)
Tim Wheat (photo by Kirk Goolsby)
Kirk and I at his apartment in Warrenton (photo)
Old house in Warrenton (photo)
Wing warping controls on the Wright glider (photo)
Replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer (photo)
The Stone Bridge, Manassas National Battlefield (photo)
ADAPT March to the White House (photo 1)
ADAPT marches to the White House (photo 2)
ADAPT marches past Freedom Plaza (photo)
ADAPT at the White House (photo)
The Old Executive Office Building (photo)
Bob Kafka and Mark McCellan (photo)
ADAPT Marches north on Wednesday (photo)
ADAPT Marches toward the Capitol (photo)
The Mel Martinez masks (photo)
The Mel Martinez Street Theater (photo)
ADAPT headed for Capitol Hill (photo)
ADAPT marches up Capitol Hill (photo)
My last photo of Justin Dart (photo)
Danny Davis speaks in the Caucus Room (photo)
ADAPT in the Caucus Room (photo)
The Pensions Building Frieze (photo)
Today was not the first day of my bike trip. I had planned to leave on April 1. I am starting my retrospective today because I took a photo of Melvin Douglas’s apartment that was intended to be my first story of my trip. The concept was that I would travel around the United States and visit Centers for Independent Living, interview disability rights activists and go to ADAPT Actions reporting back to the Memphis Center for Independent Living.
I had planned to start this adventure in Denver Colorado where two people had moved from Memphis nursing homes to live in their own homes in Denver. Deborah Cunningham, the Executive Director of MCIL helped people who ended up in a nursing home to move to Colorado where they had Home and Community Services that allowed people to live in their own home or apartment.
Deborah called it the “Underground Railroad” for its obvious connection to the abolitionist underground railroad that moved people out of slavery. In Tennessee back in 2002, the federal funds for long-term care were sucked up almost exclusively by the nursing home industry. If you had a disability and needed services to stay alive, you would have to live in a nursing home.
Deborah, who died in 2015, was fearless. I cannot image the pressure from families, liability and just guts it took to move people with significant disabilities from the only place that would take them and move them about a thousand miles to another state. I have had to write procedures for MCIL because of the pandemic, and it just seems like another world that would put someone on a plane with one trashbag filled with personal belongings to start a live in a new apartment.
I was impressed by Deborah and a true believer in the cause. “Nothing about us, without us!” we said was our motto. People with disabilities had the right to make the same choices and mistakes as everyone else. I still say those things, but they are tempered with some real-world experience. I was an activist back then and I was devoted to change the cycle of dependency for people with disabilities.
Looking back 20 years is difficult. The photos really help. I often tell stories about this time, but it is the photos that really tell this story. I had just become interested in digital photography. The enforcement lawsuit that I had worked on had a unique twist. Judy Neal, the MCIL Program Director at the time had parched a digital camera for me to photograph barriers that I found in new construction.
I came up with this scheme to pose like a runner with the camera in a fanny-pack and casually take pictures of barriers that I found. It was a big undertaking. I would have to look at the route and entrance to each ground-floor apartment at around thirty complexes in the Memphis area. I also had to connect each of those units to the site amenities, mail and office.
What is important to tell you is that I took a lot of photos. I also took a lot of bad photos. Even though no one was in the picture, what I found was that I had to really work to get the image to “tell a story.” The photo had to show the barrier and when I started out I came back with many photos that were not useful at all.
I suppose I had the feeling that I just needed to point the camera and it did all the work. I learned that I had to frame the subject, I had to show enough of the surroundings so the image made sense; but it also could’t show too much, or the topic was overwhelmed. Back then I didn’t even think about photo-editing software.
This experience gave me a lot of practical experience with a digital camera. Mostly I learned to use the available light. I also got a lot of experience with perspective and composition. It was like a laboratory. I lived in an apartment complex and I would look at the photos I had taken, write about the subject I wanted to show and then I would go out and take photos that would better illustrate my point. I didn’t have a problem with people wondering why I was taking photos and measurements. So I did have time to really approach each photo to try to tell the story visually.
I look at these first two photos that I took 20 years ago and realize that I still had a lot to learn about photography. I was able to get these two pictures of Melvin’s apartment, but I didn’t get a photo of him. He was in the hospital and his attendant let me in. I can’t believe I only took two, but I also was not an artist at the time. I was going to use the photos on the MCIL website and they were, I feel, so unique at the time.
In my journal I have Melvin’s name, phone number and address. Following that entry I have written:
“Bedsore now completely healed, go to the May action.”
I believe that this is what Melvin told me over the phone. He was in the hospital at the time but was looking forward to going to the ADAPT action in May. I have more cryptic notes and then my journal has the first draft of my article about Melvin Douglass.
In this first photo is Melvin’s bed and wheelchair. They must have taken him to the hospital in an ambulance. His personal attendant was there doing something. While the apartment does not look like much, you should have seen Melvin in the nursing home.
The nursing home sent Melvin to the hospital because they said he was using crack. Now Melvin had no use of his hands or arms, so it is really hard to think his is completely culpable for this. I tell you that because if Melvin had used crack, it was the nursing home employees who most likely gave it to him.
Well the doctor at the ER called me and Judy and we rushed down to see him. The ER said they were not going to test for drugs, he looked fine to them. They gave him a meal and sent him back to the nursing home. Had they admitted him, the nursing home would have “closed” his bed, and he would have been transferred to another facility. It was a bureaucratic way that the institutions had to shuffle around troublesome residents.
So my photo journal starts in Melvin’s apartment.
I know years later that Melvin went into a Denver nursing home and eventually died there. He did an ad on the web for one nursing home and I thought just how complex our stories are, and that ad did not tell even a small part of Melvin’s story. He loved attention and I know he loved being in front of the camera. But I didn’t get a photo of him for my first story.
Sometime before he died I had a chance to talk with him and I did get a photo.
For my twenty year retrospective this is my starting date, but my journal doesn’t start on this day either. I skip two pages in the front, a habit I still keep only I skip only one page now, and I wrote in a title:
JOURNAL OF EXTREME INDEPENDENCE
I don’t think this was my title, I think this was just for my purposes. Following that title, I say it is a title because it starts on the third line and is center-justified, there is the date of the Tennessee Olmstead Coalition for West TN. I don’t know what this is and I am sure that I was not planning to attend the meeting on March 16, 2002.
There are a couple of pages of notes and then March 1, 2002 underlined in the compbook. This may have been a great place to start my twenty-year retrospective because it was also a transformational time in my life. February 2002 I lived on Forrest Avenue on the east side of Overton Park in Memphis. I was one of two people that lived in the building and it was sold around that time. Although I paid my rent to the new address and wrote a thirty-day notice at the end of my lease, they did not seem to notice that I had gone. They threatened to evict me four or five months after I had left while I was on my bike 500 miles away.
While I was living in this apartment, I was working on limiting my personal possessions to what would fit into my 1990 Honda Civic. It sounds very zen, but I was too materialistic for it to be really successful. First, I stowed some larger objects at my parents house, along with some boxes of old letters, papers and files. Second, I stowed a lot of personal stuff in my work archives that was saved at the Memphis Center for Independent Living. Third, I didn’t let go of a lot of clothes that I didn’t want or need, and they were stolen out of my trunk a couple of weeks before I left.
I didn’t think to create an inventory or have a process to keep or get rid of stuff. The result was I worked to basically keep everything I had. The main thing I regret is that I sold most of my books off at a fundraiser for ADAPT. Some of those books I remember well, like Mother Jones, The Miner’s Angel. But the books that I miss the most were some textbooks from College and hardbacks that I never read. I just feel now that I kept the wrong things. My clothes I don’t need, the books would still be around.
After the March 1, 2002 date, the journal starts:
“My journey was going unexpectedly smoothly when I drive into the biggest winter storm of the season. I have my car packed so full that I cannot see 270º from my car.”
I did have my car packed. I also had two bicycles on the bumper. I really loved that 1990 Honda Civic. I put more than a quarter million miles on it and eventually I build a deck over the back window where I could sit. Somewhere in my dad’s camera I hope he has a photo of me standing on it that he took from the drivers seat of his truck.
I had named that car Laura, after Laura Nyro. It was hit while I was at a Memphis Camera Club meeting by an Uber Eats driver. They ran the stopsign in front of my house and hit another Uber Eats driver smashing head-on to my parked Honda. The impact pushed the front wheel into the curb bending the axel. I would have loved to try to bring the Honda back to life, but Judy and I had a second car and I decided to let go of Laura.
The journal goes on to say:
“In the storm, that narrow panorama is reduced to a 9 x 6 inch crescent shaped clear area above my defrost vent. Like an old woman peering through the steering wheel of a large Cadillac - I am slouching down to see out of the small translucent opening.
I actually have become pretty good at it; but I have to be good because I am also afraid to stop the car. I stop several times and scrape the windshield clear, once when I thought everything was finally smoothed out and I was considering driving to Denver, the truck in front of me has a near accident.”
The truck slid into the left lane and attempting to correct the slide, the driver swung into the right lane on the slick, snowy, shoulder turning sideways. I thought he would flip at this point but he recovered only to do the same thing in the left lane - ending up perpendicular across both lanes with me slowly headed for him. I changed lanes as he moved to the shoulder.
I didn’t stop. What could I do? He was not ideas and I thought that I might be if I stopped.
I got off the Interstate at my first opportunity around 4:30 PM in Russell Kansas. At 7:PM the waitress at Pizza Hut, a short walk from my room in Hotel 8, yells out that they have closed Interstate 40.”
So that could be the real beginning of my photo journal. Except I do not have any photos of this part of the trip. I may have taken pictures, but they do not survive. I hope I can find them, I really feel that I did take a photo of my car here in the snow, but in my search it has not turned up.
The next page in the journal is cut out. So this is not the start of a journal that I thought it was. If you want to know how that story ends, I stayed overnight at the Hotel 8 and got back on the road the next day when the Interstate opened up. I believe that this is why I feel the photo journal is more meaningful. I do seem to be able to recreate my journey and feelings with the photos. Here in rural Kansas, I just don’t recall details and some feelings. I know that I spoke with Judy in Denver that night and she reinforced by decision to stop for the night. I recall it was a one-story and I was able to park right in front of my room.
Most likely I had backed into the parking space. I started doing this after my car was broken into a month before and I lost some of my clothes (and backpack). I also probably took my bicycles into the motel room with me. A photo can help with details like that, but I am pretty comfortable telling you things like that as fact because of the circumstances.
I am really interested in the facts of this retrospective. I know as the years pass that the memory fades and may be consolidated around erros. To help me with my memories I also have a program I used in 2002: Microsoft Streets and Trips. I have it running on a MS Windows Vista computer I still have and will use it to verify dates and locations. Most importantly, I have where I spend the night and the route saved on this legacy machine.
I also have gone through my ATM withdrawals that shows where I was on a particular date and it usually is in the daytime. I have my journal and a couple of rental car receipts as my main timeline verification. What I am missing is the computer file of my journal, train receipts and other hotel and motel info. I believe I have saved most of this, but I have been unable to locate it in boxes of archives.
I know that the more exciting the event, the more vivid the memories may seem. I think the photos help to reinforce those feelings but they may seem to make them more vivid at times. One memory leads to others and the photos will often show mysteries. Those last two photos made me think about why I was there. Melvin was not, I feel I needed to get a photo of his apartment to tell the story and I believe that I intended to see Melvin before I left on my trip. I did not and I have two seemingly disconnected photos of Melvin’s apartment. In the big picture of things, the photos of the apartment seem out of place, a mystery. The details are lost to me. I may still find some clues, but I don’t know why Melvin was in the hospital and although documentation likely exists somewhere, I am going to have to tax my memory and resources to come up with only part of the story.
There are long hours on the road where I had time to think about things. Some major news items like Operation Anaconda that started earlier this month as US ground forces invaded Afghanistan. I also had time to think about Melvin and the people who left a Tennessee nursing home to live independently in Colorado. I spend a lot of time thinking about little things like eating and where I would get water, where I would stay at night and “how much further!” I just cannot pinpoint my general thoughts and feelings to the map. Those memories 20 years ago that I had are now mostly lost, and unconfirmed. Now I am going to look back twenty years and hope that I can honestly recover some.
Twenty years ago today I was packing and preparing for my trip. While Judy was at work, I took the bus to downtown Denver to see a milestone in the disability rights movement.
The corner of Broadway and Colfax is known for the “Gang of Nineteen.” This was a demonstration from July 5 and 6, 1978 to try to get lifts on buses. It is often thought of as the beginning of ADAPT, but like this retrospective, it is hard to pin down a real beginning.
The “We Will Ride!” chant and the Gang of Nineteen has its roots here. Wade Blank, the organizer for ADAPT turned to non-violent civil disobedience as a tactic for disability rights. Denver was purchasing lots of new buses, and the ADAPT lawsuit was ineffective at stopping the new inaccessible buses getting to the streets, so Wade asked nineteen people who used wheelchairs to block the buses and demand equal access.
I have learned a lot about this demonstration since that time and I have visited the Denver Library just a block away from this site to look at the news file. I also have met some of the gang of nineteen, but I believe they are all gone now. Wade Blank died in 1993 attempting to save his son Lincoln from drowning, I never met him. There is quite a bit about the demonstration, but its main significance is that it is seen as an extension of the Civil Rights Movement and the sit-ins and other direct action for racial equality.
The plaque says:
The Regional Transportation District dedicates Civic Center Station in honor of Reverend Wade Blank founder and co-director of Atlantis Community Incorporated, for his courageous vision and contributions in making public transportation accessible for persons with disabilities. Sunday, August 20, 1995.
At this direct action, none of those people using wheelchairs were arrested. It started the thinking that without accessible transportation, services and jail cells, violating the law may be one of the best routes to equality. None of the police had any training on how to arrest people and how they would move them. In the end they didn’t, and the movement spread around the country.
So I visited this site. And I took a photo of the busstop and the buses going past. I am sure that I intended to tell some of the story of the Gang of Nineteen in the “Access Across America” website, but I also feel that I just knew enough about the event that I wanted a connection to the history.
The plaque that is there now is also on the walls of Civic Center Station. The original plaque was much larger and had the names of the Gang of Nineteen. I say “there now” but this photo is 20 years old. They have had memorials and other events on this site and the memorial has been updated.
The original plaque had buses and the ADAPT logo. I don’t know who took the thing but I have a feeling that it is someone I know. That first memorial was about the bus blocking and the result. It actually had the names of the gang of nineteen and even called them the “Gang of Nineteen.”
I found this photo from the Denver Library site. I have the names recorded somewhere but I don’t think you can make them out in this picture. You may be able to make out the buses and ADAPT logo at the top. The most promenant writing is “We Will Ride,” the slogan of ADAPT’s campaign.
I got involved with ADAPT in 1996, when the focus had changed to making services available in the community so people were not forced into nursing homes. I did get to participate in some transportation actions, but it was a very different ADAPT that I joined.
ADAPT stood for American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit. When I joined in 1996, the group had changed to the acronym American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today. Attendant programs were a way of describing hands-on care workers that would come to your home or apartment. Eventually, the group decided to change the name to just “Adapt,” as a way of communicating that it was the society that should change and not people with disabilities. There are other thoughts on this but I never really liked the acronym, everyone had one and I felt that ADAPT was unique.
At the time I did not know that I would come to live and work north of Denver in Boulder Colorado. I was captivated by the city, but did not know how different it was from Memphis Tennessee at the time. It was a great place to visit, but I did not take photos like a tourist.
I wish I had. I don’t know why I didn’t take more photos. In the picture of the Wade Blank plaque, you may be able to see my backpack on the bench to the right. I had also bought a new computer and was testing its mobile capability out. It was a tiny Fujitsu Lifebook and I think it was the most beautiful, man-made thing I had ever seen.
I still have that lap-top, it has a keyboard that is 12% smaller than typical. It has Windows XP and it will run a slide scanner I own. This was an important part of my trip because I was also charged with keeping the MCIL website up-to-date.
Before I left on my bike trip, I did have these two lists in my journal.
I don’t know if I used these lists or if I got a handlebar bag. I suppose the question mark is because I am just not sure if it is something I need. I can feel some of the anxiety that I had before I started this grand jornada.
I began using the word “jornada'' to describe my trip because of the first chapter in THE SOUTHERN OVERLAND ROUTE Cyclists’ Guide to a Major Scenic and Historic Route through the Southwest. I got this guide by mail and used it on my bike trip to San Francisco in 1989. This was my first real Bicycle adventure. I packed everything on my mountain bike with slick tires and rode 5,000 miles to San Francisco and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.
The book defined the word as a “day’s trip.” I have learned that it really means nothing, even in Spanglish, but I still like to use it anyway. I think of it as a synonym for journey. I think it may more closely seem to mean “going nowhere” - jornada.
In my preamble of the journal I have information about MiCASSA. That is the ADAPT legislation that we are still attempting to get passed by Congress. It is such a good idea that most of it was included in a Budget Bill back in 2006, but the civil rights part and the real government authority to make it happen have still never been accepted.
The bill now is called the LaTonya Reeves Freedom Act. LaTonya is from Memphis and was on the “Underground Railroad” of Deborah Cunningham. Back in 2002 we called the bill MiCASSA for the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act. It started out as CASA and went through a phase for the past five years as DIA, Disability Integration Act.
ADA reaches all people with disabilities because it is general. MiCASSA reaches only people with disabilities with functional need. MiCASSA is the necessary step to include all people with disabilities into community life, end the impoverishment and dependency for a large segment of people with disabilities.
This is a paragraph from my journal that I believe is just me putting my thoughts on paper. I don’t believe I ever used this idea or even included it in my blog at the time. It is a tid-bid from the past that never really went anywhere. As I read it I think to myself that it is good. But that paragraph doesn’t really help describe MiCASSA or what it is. I suppose I look back at it with the rose-colored glasses of a true believer. I have a hard time, even twenty years later, understanding the world from another person’s perspective.
I also have a page that I believe is a list of potential articles or the general outline of the MCIL website. I guess that I was thinking about “Community alienation of the Elderly,” as a potential topic. It includes “Staff Page,” that could mean that I was going to write about each staff member or I may need to update the page and take myself out. “Upcoming at MCIL,” obviously shows that I intended to keep in touch with the Center and regularly update the site.
The subject “Paratransit flight and photos,” will be hard to describe. In my last months at MCIL, I began a project to shoot the paratransit guide that the public transit authority had created for people with disabilities into space. The idea was the show the work they had done was mostly irrelevant, but it was also fun. I have some low-quality videos of me and other Memphis activists launching the guide rolled up with a model rocket engine stuck into it. My idea was to be the leading Independent Living Center in the nation in spaceflight.
The highest any paratransit guide ever flew was an estimated 55 feet.
I also had a list of nursing homes and the number of “beds” they had. I am not sure what the list is. I speculate that it is a list of county owned homes because of the names. There are 29 on the list. The largest is Nashville Metro Bordeaux Hospital Skilled Nursing Facility with 447. Oakville Health care Center has 299 and Lincoln and Donalson Care Centers list 291. Those are the largest, Maury Regional Hospital Skilled Nursing has only 18. Shelby County, where Memphis is, shows 169.
I look back at the journal and I recall gathering information but I don’t know what I intended to do with that list of nursing home beds. The next page has the date 3/25/02. I suspect that was the date I made the note about Memphis transit. It really is not clear.
Next on that page is the name Willie Robinson. I am sure that I recorded that in preparation for my interview with him. I also noted that: “April 24, 2001 leaves Tennessee for Colorado.” So at the time I see Willie had lived in Colorado for a year. I also have Melvin’s name with the date May 8, 2000. I suspect that was the day he moved out of a Tennessee nursing home.
My list has four other names from the MCIL Underground Railroad including LaTonya Reeves. There is an address for one of the names, but I didn’t interview him. I am sorry now that in 2002 I didn’t get an interview with LaTonya. I knew her through ADAPT and I just thought I would have some other time to talk with her.
Before I leave for my bike jornada, twenty years ago today, I went to visit Mr. Willie Robinson to interview him about his experience with MCIL. Interviewing Melvin and Willie was the reason that my journey would start in Denver. I feel that the real motivation was that I was there to see Judy.
Judy and I had lived apart for more than a year. She left to work at Atlantis in October of 2000, where our friend Dawn was working. Atlantis was considered a Mecca of the disability rights movement and its walls were a history of ADAPT nationally. Now, the new Atlantis office is considered a disability rights museum.
Judy was unhappy in Littleton Colorado, a suburb of Denver, so she was pleased with my idea to “visit.” I elbowed my way in with a Honda Civic full of stuff and planning a huge bike trip. I was thrilled to see Judy and I was amazed at the setting. Judy had moved from a house in Cooper-Young in midtown Memphis, to a tiny apartment in the south west corner of the Denver metro area. Littleton was mostly known for the Columbine school shooting that had happened in 1999, the year before Judy moved there.
I arrived in Littleton on March 2, 2002 and began using Judy’s tiny apartment as my staging area and headquarters for my assignment to write about Independent Living. In my journal I have a section on “What does MiCASSA Do?” I know that this was for an article I had planned about the bill, but I cannot identify where it ended up. I thought telling the story of Melvin and Willie, I would also have to tell about MiCASSA and the general story of the Underground Railroad and ADAPT.
At the time, “dignity of risk,” was a common idea that the disability rights movement attempted to get across. I think I could explain it better back in 2002 than I can now. You know what it is, but I feel that twenty years ago people had a protective philosophy concerning people with disabilities. It was easier for me to understand it and explain it when people faced indignity.
Sometimes I would explain the dignity of risk as “the right to fail,” but that doesn’t sound good. It is a big idea and it is easier to understand when you experience it rather than think of the abstract. There is a very progressive part of me that feels everyone needs to feel protected and safe, at the same time, if you choose danger, I support your personal choice.
Back in 2002 I didn’t have a personal outlook that almost promoted risk. I mean I was interviewing two men who left the seemingly safe environment of a nursing home, to fly to Denver where they had no family or friends to live independently in an apartment.
Safety means a lot more to me now that it did in 2002. If someone living in a nursing home in Memphis today wanted to go to Denver, I would support their decision because of my history with dignity of risk, but I am sure that the primary path would be to try to move out now, here in Memphis and then try to move to Denver. It is not just the risk and expense of crossing the country, it is also the personal logistics. I think anyone would have to confront how they got into the nursing home in the first place, before they just assume they can solve all the interstate problems moving across the county would entail.
Back in 2002 I was proud of the Underground Railroad and the work MCIL had done to get Willie to Colorado. I have a recording of Willie thanking everyone at MCIL and telling them how happy he is to live in his own apartment. I am proud of that too.
I also want to say something about the pull quote on this page. Wow, I can’t believe I really said that. But it is taken out of context. Of course I do not support your choice if you choose danger. It sounds really great as a phrase, like you choose danger as a distinct item: “I think I will have danger today.”
It makes more sense if you think about how institutions help people to make the safe choice and avoid any danger. The quote does not sound as good if you say: …if you choose safety, I support your personal choice.
The dignity of risk is hard to understand. I suppose why I choose to go on a bicycle jornada rather than keep the job I had just excelled in is an example of choosing danger.
Now, twenty years later I hope I can say it was worth it.
This photo is the one I wanted to get. Willie in his own home. Willie is obviously the subject of the photo but I also got his kitchen and his dining room table in the shot. I love that he has plants around and I believe he was able to send a clear message about independent living with this image.
Well I haven’t even left on my trip and I am telling you that I pretty much have accomplished my task. Especially twenty years later, the shorter the message the better. Brief is powerful. At the time I thought there was much more to say.
I knew what life was like in the Memphis nursing home for Willie. I did not visit Willie in the nursing home. I did meet him in Memphis but I don’t recall what it was about. I speculate that I was delivering something from Deborah Cunningham. It was just for a moment, but I met him when he lived in Memphis and now I am visiting him in his new home - Denver.
I had spent a lot of time in the nursing home with Melvin, at the same one Willie lived at and others. I feel I know what the environment was like for Willie in the nursing home. The distinct difference between his new home and the Memphis nursing home is what I was attempting to show.
The photo to the right is about as good as I can do with a face shot. I don’t like posed photos and I don’t take much time or care with them.
Willie however, is great in this picture. You can see his eyes even though there is some glare from his glasses. You can see his wheelchair controls, but they do not obscure his face. I wish I had thought of those things, but I just took the photo and I got lucky.
I haven’t seen Willie in about ten years. He lived in downtown Denver and I would stop in to see him when I traveled from Boulder. He moved about that time and I never saw his new apartment. I have spoken to Willie this year, he plans to visit Memphis sometime soon.
Willie Robison’s apartment (photo)
This photo is really improved by my edit. You can see the color of Willie’s wheelchair and the dining area and plants. I notice my journal in the lower right and yellow shoulder strap of my backpack that you will see on my bike once I actually get on the road.
This photo shows how Willie made his home accessible to him. The phone is upright so he can see the screen and he calls with the mouthstick on the right. His notes are to the left and I think some reading materials are to the far right.
I thought it was great that he could see Coors Field from there. You can see that part of downtown, and my notes say he is in Apartment 1109, so I assume he is 11 stories up. If you are from Denver, you may notice how much that part of the downtown has changed in the past 20 years.
Using Lightroom, I was able to take the original digital photo and bring out more of the sky than I had in the unedited original photo. Back in 2002 I used the photo where you can read Coors Field, along with an article on Willie.
Before I left, I took this photo of Willie’s apartment building. I guess I didn’t feel I had to get the whole structure in. I didn’t use the photo for the article. I think back to the SONY camera I used back in 2002 and I can easily see the curve of the building on the left, while the right side seems straight, but leaning in. The horizon is off and it looks like the building is on a hill.
There are a few other photos that I took on this day. But I am not including them in this journal.
Twenty years ago today I took a day off in my planning and preparation for my bike jornada. It was a Saturday and Judy and I planned to spend some time together.
Well, it was not a total day off. Judy and I took a drive up to Red Rocks outside Denver and on the way we scouted the route into the mountains I planned to take on April 1. It turned out to be a beautiful day and Judy and I took some photos together in the mountains.
I know that the trip was on my mind and in some ways my photos reflect my preparation. When I made my bike jornada in 1992, I took a 110 pocket camera with me. What I learned looking back is that I was not a good photographer. I love the photos I took, but the limitations of the camera and my own inexperience show me how difficult it is to get the photo that you have in mind.
Ten years before this bicycle jornada, I did know that photos would be important for storytelling. Now as I work on this retrospective, the photos do more to frame my memory and validate my account rather than just be the basis of a good story. Twenty years ago I saw these things I have in this photo journal and I hope that I can recover the passion for life and work that I had back in 2002.
My first big bike trip was in 1989. I rode from Huntsville Alabama to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco California. My parents met me in Big Lake Texas with their RV and casually provided me with food and lodging for the western half of the trip. We visited Carlsbad Caverns that was a little bit off my bike route, and we all drove into tour Los Angeles together. We just happened to watch the Space Shuttle STS-30 land at Edwards (this was actually on my route) and with friends from College, we all ran the Bay to Breakers.
My next bike trip was to run a race with College friends again, this time in Minnesota. In the spring of 1992, I set out from Huntsville on my bike packed with camping gear and rode into the Rocky Mountains. This time I did not have a guide and I just went where I wanted. Once I got to the Rockies, I stayed in the mountains, crossing the Continental Divide three times in Colorado, twice in Wyoming and once in Montana. I visited Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. I spent some time in Canada, before I rode back east.
I still needed to rest and to prepare.
These two cactus photos are part of my photography education. In the past I had attempted to do sweeping landscapes with my bike stuck in the frame. I used the camera to capture the majesty of the mountains and clear blue skies. What I learned was I got tiny little bumps on the horizon and no real detail in the photo. And yes, the sky was blown out and did not really have any color.
This cactus was along the highway, and I took this photo to test out the camera. The first with no sky and the second with just a little. It is completely white to me, but it was much better that other photos I had taken. This was also a lesson from my work on photographing barriers, I recognized where the sun was and how it lit my subject. I also closed the aperture on the second photo, I assume I wanted to get more of the setting for scale or context.
My blowing out the sky continues. While I am able to recover some of the sky and clouds with Adobe Lightroom. I tried and was unable to make a difference with the second cactus photo that has a corner of sky. I hope I improve my Lightroom skills, but I am not going to go so far as to add in a sky. I know the sky had color to me at the time, but I plan to edit the photos in this journal with the idea in mind of making them meaningful and faithful to show my experience. I hope you will not only follow my bike escapade, but also my adventure in editing and explaining my photos.
This is probably the best macro photo I made with this camera. I edited this photo with lightroom and changed the aspect. At the time I thought I would need to develop new photography skills that I hadn’t used in the past. I did have a guide, that is my first attempt to improve my photography. I took it on this trip but it did not survive.
Red Rocks Landscape (photo page 35)
Here I am experimenting with a landscape photo zoomed out.
Red Rocks Landscape wide angle (photo page 36)
This is a wide-angle of the same landscape as the previous shot.
Judy at Red Rocks (photo page 37)
Judy at a rock formation with foreground and background.
Judy at Red Rocks Close-up (photo 38)
The same shot with no foreground, using telephoto.
Judy Sunglasses (photo page 39)
Some editing with Lightroom to bring out the sky.
Judy Sunglasses Close-up (photo left)
I cropped this out of a similar shot, but I did work to see what I could do with the SONY digital camera, taking photos with different aspects and aperture.
Now I was really able to bring out the sky in this photo, maybe too much. I also cropped this photo to a 16 x 9 aspect. Judy hates being my subject, if you know Judy, you also may be able to tell that this is not really candid.
There are no photos from today or tomorrow. Twenty years ago I was using this time to prepare for the trip. I got a new computer and tested using it remotely. I tested my new camera and used it to make a variety of shots that I wanted to make for the trip. I tested my bike, loaded with stuff in the parking lot of Judy’s apartment. I had addresses of people around the US to visit, but no real schedule or route to take.
The basic timeline was to head south to Austin visiting Centers for Independent Living along the way, ride from there to the ADAPT Action in Washington DC, and then about four months across the country to Salt Lake City for the ADAPT Strategy meeting. I had planned after that to travel the Columbia river to Washington, Oregon and the North California coast.
At this point, my general planning breaks down. I had no endpoint of the trip in mind.
Now that I look back, I did not have a workable timetable at all. Leaving in April would not get me to Washington DC for the ADAPT action starting May 12, 2022. The real problem is that I had already crossed Kansas on a bicycle and I just did not want to do it again. So I came up with the Austin destination and I really wanted to make that ride. Obviously, heading west to start and going from Littleton south to Austin was going to make getting to DC pretty difficult.
An additional problem was the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was looking forward to riding up the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, I didn’t want to have to hurry to cross over and ride through the rural south to get to DC. Eventually, I rented a car in Austin and drove to see my parents in Huntsville. They shuttled me in their RV to Asheville, North Carolina and I got back on the bike and the Blue Ridge Parkway there. That will be in the journal ahead, I hate to spoil the story, but I started this bike trip heading west into the Rocky Mountains because I didn’t want to ride east across Colorado and Kansas.
Just before I start on the trip, my journal has one undated entry titled “REI bag.”
My first impression is, why did I take or even list the GPS receipt? I suppose that I had just purchased it at REI and I wanted to be able to return it en route if it didn’t work. Well, I can tell you it did work. It used a lot of battery power and I would just turn it on at some places I stopped to rest or when I wanted to get an idea of my speed. It really was great and it synched with the MS Streets and Trips 2002 program to record a map of my stops.
I will be using that MS Streets and Trips data to redraw the trip in this retrospective. I still have it and the “GPS cable” in the list I made before the trip. I still have the “weight saver,” which is a plastic inset for the CD drive on that tiny Fujitsu Lifebook. You could slide the heavy CD drive out and save some weight with the light plastic weight saver. Also, you may notice that I call this computer Fuji.
I had planned to leave on this day twenty years ago, but Judy convinced me to wait another day and leave on April 2. I don’t have any journal entry and I don’t know if Judy took the day off of work or what we did. I was ready to go, I just spent more time with Judy.
I had planned to interview more people during this month before I left. I didn’t get a photo of Melvin, and I didn’t interview LaTonya as I had mentioned before. But there were at least three other people that I have in my notebook to interview that I did not get to. I did plan to be back to Denver and I had planned to see them at that time, but I also wanted to have more material before I left.
There were two people that had moved to Denver before I started at MCIL that came from a nursing home called Kings Daughters and Sons. Deborah knew several of the people in that institution and she had an adversarial relationship with them. One rumor they spread was that Deborah got a kick-back for moving people out of KDS. I am sure there were worse things that they said, but that was what they thought was the Deborah’s motive.
The reason I was behind was because after getting to Littleton, I got really sick.
I was planning to take a cross-country bike trip and I could not get out of bed. Eventually I made it to the doctor, I was still covered by my work insurance in Memphis. In the symptoms that I had, the most debilitating for me was asthma.
The hooked me up to a nebulizer and gave me a rescue inhaler, but it was a bit scary heading out on a bike with some breathing issues. I had Bronchitis when I was young, but I felt I was past it. I had been running for more than 15 years. I had some bad days, but nothing like this March in Colorado.
The day I visited the doctor, it was snowing. I had my front-wheel drive Honda Civic, but I really had no real experience driving in the snow. It was so hard to see. But I was really desperate, I was going the brave the unknown area and drive in a snowstorm to get an appointment with a doctor I didn’t know. I think they treated me well and I did improve. It was a little scary and I had to put off some of my Denver interviews until the summer.
Judy takes the blame for the delay. We are both glad I left the next day.
Twenty years ago today, I got on my bike for a journey around America with no destination.
Beginning in Littleton Colorado I headed west into the mountains into sub-freezing winds and a light snow. At the time when I would tell people what I was planning they most often thought I was “training” before my ride. But I wasn’t. I put no effort into working out or even riding my bike in the mountains in preparation. I knew from experience that I would get in shape along the way. The motivation I needed was to get going and keep it up.
But this first day was a harsh introduction to my life on the road. The bike was heavy and sluggish, I had too much packed onto that small frame. The front range is beautiful, but I was not headed up a major highway with a shallow grade, I had only climbs ahead on the steep mountain road.
I had written “Day One” in my journal and it was something I had used in the past. Now, twenty years later, I wished I had used the date so it would be easier to follow and look back. But at the time, I suppose I was recording the trip and it had begun.
DAY 1 - 30 miles
I rode into the overcast Front Range at 7amm, up Deer Creek Road. Somewhere climbing Highgrade road the blowing snow limited the distance drivers could see to about 50 yards. I walked my bike at least 2 miles up Highgrade and Pleasant Park Road.
I was expecting a long downhill into Conifer, but the downhill was only about ½ a mile. In Conifer I debated whether to return to Denver or push on. I stopped at the Conoco there, it had tables and I checked campground and hotel possibilities within 10 miles. I found none.
The snow was falling all the time I was in Conifer. I threw away the blackened frozen banana I left Denver with. I read the weather forecast in the Denver Post. Basically they forecast the same thing for Wednesday. I suppose my disdain for dealing with weather forecasts is why I decided to continue on. I knew that I was facing a very cold night.
There were a few times when the sun gave me an extended view of the road ahead. It felt like uphill all the way with a few brief spasms of speed going downhill.
I will provide my rout on this Google map and add notable stops along the way. Right now I only have my first and second days campsites on the map, but you may also see the backroads I was on and the places I passed on my jornada:
On that first day’s ride, I only took three photos. The very first one, totally unedited, is the front cover. That first photo was to show what the road was like. You can see some light snow on my sleeping bag, the black bag over the front right pannier. As I got higher in the mountains, the misty light snow muted the colors.
I can see by my journal that I only made 30 miles. I stopped for a long time in Conifer and wrote in my journal. I took the time to make sure that I could survive the cold. I decided to stop, but I wanted to be close to civilization so I could find some emergency warmth if I needed it. I wanted to find a place that was remote to camp, but within walking distance of a place with a phone. So I hung-out at a gas station table in Conifer and staked out a place to camp close by. I waited until near sundown so that setting up my tent would be less noticeable.
I decided to quit and poach a campsite where I did because I was just too beat to go on. Had I continued up the hill ahead, I would have raced the 2 miles into Baily and fallen about 2,000 feet. But I stayed 2 miles east of Baily at approximately 8,500 feet altitude. And it got cold. In Denver the paper said 24º, I guess it was about 15º where I was.
Occasionally, I would fire-up my stove and warm and dry the clothes I was wearing. I got into my bag about 6pmm and realized that I was counting on it to keep me warm until sun-up, 12 and a half hours later. I stayed in the bag for 13 and a half hours - I didn't leave until 8:30 amm.
Although it was cold and I was concerned, I actually slept very well. I had a “test sleep” to see that the bag would keep me warm from 7 to 9. I slept and kept war, but when I got up at 3amm, all my water was frozen and I was afraid that it was the moment of truth.
I lit my stove and used the Denver Post to add some insulation against the wind. It worked. I knew I would survive the very cold night.
It was too cold to write. I am writing this at Cyndi’s Restaurant Bar and Post Office in Grant Colorado. Jefferson is 12 miles and Fairplay is 28.
My second photo on the trip is the same stretch of road, without my bike in the frame. This shot I have edited in Lightroom to dehaze the distant trees some. The sky is so overcast, I cannot get any contrast up there. This photo is to show the road conditions and it was slow going. My journal points out that I walked my bike for two miles.
The photo of the frozen countryside is just great. I was concerned. The items that were warm, were wet and the items that were wet, froze. The frost in the trees makes an eerie photo and it is great to look back at that feeling in the mountains. If I had just put my bike in this photo, I believe it would be better at showing the stark color difference.
So that is the story of my first day. My journal points out that it was too cold to write and I actually made this entry the next day. What a trying start for this adventure.
I begin my second day on a very cold morning with frozen water bottles in my tent. I had a good sleeping bag, but it really was at its physical limit to keep me warm. I slept in spurts, but I was able to sleep. I noted at the time that because it was so cold, I spent over 13 hours in my sleeping bag. Once you get in you have got to stay in the sleeping bag and when you get up, you have to keep moving.
In the night, I had turned on my stove to heat the tent some and dry my socks. I didn’t record if I had made a cup of coffee that morning and I feel that I didn’t. I know that my water bottles had frozen solid in the night. I don’t remember if I had found a way to make some coffee or have water on my trip. This morning, twenty years later as I am drinking a cup of hot coffee, I would like to think I had found a way to make a cup of coffee that morning.
I know once I was up and out of the sleeping bag, I worked to pack and get on the road as soon as possible. I did take enough time to make two photos of the camp. The journal says I was on the road by 8:30. That sounds pretty late, but I think that I remained in my cocoon and conserved heat until I was sure to have some warmth outside. I am sure it took me longer than I wanted to get packed up in the morning, it was my first day.
I had developed different methods of building my camp. From only the basics in the tent, to everything but the bike. On this night I am sure I brought everything into the tent. That means in the morning, everything has to get packed back on the bike. The tent and fly I would just roll-up on the back until I had a chance to dry them out and repack them, typically at my lunch stop.
I had long wool biking pants under my nylon windbreaker pants. I wore a bluish-purple jacket with a fleece liner as I headed out on Highway 285 toward Fairplay Colorado. I wore a stocking cap under my bike helmet and I had a neoprene face shield that was pushed down over my neck.
I had stopped yesterday in a fairly populated area because I wanted to be close to some escape if I had been unable to stand the cold in the night. I was able to break camp without being noticed, as far as I could tell and get on the road. I was just 2 miles outside of Bailey Colorado. It was a quick downhill into the small town where I began to parallel the river and climb more into the Front Range.
The day improved, cleared up, but it was still cold. The big change for this day was that I spent some time taking photos. This first photo before this section is an unedited picture of my first campsite. The sky has no color at all, so I tried to bring some definition out, but I felt it was better just to leave it unedited. The real subject is the cold. The pine needles are covered with a light frost. I have a close-up in the next photo.
The photo to the right, is my campsite again, this time a little closer. I notice that I cannot see my bike at all.
From my journal:
I stopped for lunch at Cyndy’s Restaurant, Bar and Post Office in Grant Colorado. I took some photos of the river, but I did not photo the obscure statue of Santa Maria along the side of the road. …
I climbed the Kenosha pass into “South Park,” 10,000 elevation. Following a short downhill I struggled to make it to Como by nightfall. I walked my bike through the rustic old town without seeing a person. I followed signs to “Camp Como” but as I could not see the camp ahead and it was starting to snow, I made for some spruce beside the road and camped there. No one, that I could tell, sued the road all that evening.
It was cold (elevation of Como is about 9,980).
The ride was so beautiful and so different from the previous day, I did take several photos and I spent much time off of my bike. The climbs on the first day were into wooded areas, with strong cold wind and misty snow. Now on the second day, after surviving the sub-freezing night, I am treated to a sunny day with the river along the road.
The next five photos are of the North Fork of the South Platte River.
Wildlife along Colorado Highway 285
From my journal:
The bike had done great.I have too much weight on it and its stability is poor. My ability to climb is poor. I am surprised I have been able to push myself up some very long slopes - but in the lowest gear.
I am critical of myself here because I did try to take a lot. You can see that I don’t have the rear pannier zipped up and a luggage strap around it. That is my tent hanging out. It is either still wet, or I have not dried it yet. My sleeping bag is over the right front bag and I believe the stuff sack over the left front pannier has shoes and rain gear.
The yellow backpack hold my computer, notebook and some books. You can see my sleeping pad rolled up behind the seat. Notice the bag of cookies in my helmet hanging on the aero-bars. They typically ride in the had on top of the handlebars that is turned upside down right were the helmet is with easy access during the ride.
I can see the tupperware with candles in the right-front pocket. Over the course of the ride I changed the arrangement all the time. I wish I could remember everything about my packing decisions, but I obviously made a lot of mistakes. I also switched things around and added and subtracted items along the way. The things that remained pretty constant were those front panniers and my hat. I suppose they create the image of my bike more than the goofy paint job on my helmet.
The following three photos were made on the road up Platte Canyon to South Park.
South Park was beautiful and just after I crested Kenosha pass there was an overlook and long descent into South Park.
I took another photo of my bike at the mountain pass. While I know that the bike is overloaded, I can’t help but see what a sleek and practical machine I had made. The sleeping bag over the front wheel will change but I love the look. I wore a fanny pack with my camera in it. So in the photo above you can see that my hat is in its typical position full of cookies and I am wearing the helmet for this stop.
The marker says:
THIS MEMORIAL IS THE PROPERTY OF THE STATE OF COLORADO
SPREAD BEFORE YOU LIES THE FAMOUS
ENTERED BY KENOSHA PASS ELEVATION 10,000 FEET.
THE BAYOU SALADO OF EARLY TRAPPERS
FAVORITE INDIAN HUNTING GROUND
AND FREQUENT BATTLEGROUND
VISITED BY Z. M. PIKE IN 1806
CROSSED BY J. C. FREMONT IN 1844
PERMANENT SETTLEMENT INAUGURATED
BY GOLD DISCOVERIES IN 1859
The next photo is of the view from the Kenosha pass down into South Park.
I was not long into my trip before I ran into a big problem caused by a small failure. I turn to my journal:
Riding up the Red Hill Pass I heard an odd sound, it was a spoke breaking. I noticed I had two broken spokes and the rear wheel was showing alignment problems. I was unsure how riding on 2 broken spokes would impact kthe wheel. I thought it may warp the back rim and could puncture the tube. I walked muy bike up the 2 or 3 miles of the pass, only to get a short downhill on the other side. …
Looking at my situation there was not much I could do. The broken spokes were on the side with the rear cluster. I could not take the rear cluster off to replace the spokes so borrowing spokes from the front wheel would not help. On my map I saw that the next city with a bike shop was 62 miles away. The MS Mappoint software did not show me Buena Vista because it was more than a mile from my selected route.
I stopped in Fairplay Colorado and stayed at the Western Inn. I don’t write about it in my journal, but I was really thinking I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was thinking of my options to end this trip. I was mostly concerned with the bike. I had purchased it especially for this trip. The reason I felt it was necessary was my trusty mountain bike did not have the right geometry for street travel and I could do more with a cross style bike with the areo-bars.
The weakness of this set-up was the wheels. I had a lot of weight. I don’t think it mattered the balance front and back, it was just too much for the bike. I did have the heaviest items on the back, but even redistributing the load I do not believe would make enough difference.
Ten years ago while I was bicycling through Yellowstone, I met a cyclist who put all the weight on the front wheel, balancing it with his weight on the back. It seemed logical and at the time, I did not use front panniers. However, he let me ride his bike around and I almost wrecked. It was so hard to handle, balance and you could feel the frame flex under you. I know that he must have been accustomed to it, but that short ride with the weight up front really impacted how I load the bike.
I began the process of drying out my tent, I found the local library, post office and got some rest. I was the biggest problem. I was very heavy and the bike was feeling it. I was feeling it also. I realized that I needed to drop a lot of weight off that bike. I began to set aside things that I did not absolutely have to have.
I cut my fleece, it is bulky, but nice to have. I cut the ground sheet. I sent back lots of little things and my tape recorder.
Still the thing was very heavy and hard to configure around the computer. I am amazed at the size of the Fujitsu computer I am hauling. It is tiny, mildly larger than 2 COMPOSITION books. The computer batteries and disk, however, are a dense weight that I try to carry as close to the center of gravity of the bike as possible.
The next four photos are the only ones I took on Day 3 of my jornada.
This is my second night’s campsite. The light snow started at sundown, but the night was not nearly as cold.
Como is known for a narrow-gage railway into the gold fields of the mountains. This was a roundhouse for the trains that ran through the valley and up into the mountains. I didn’t go inside, but there is no evidence of a train, no tracks when I was there.
The Como Mercantile was the only place I stopped and the only place I saw people in Como. Notice the unpaved roads.
The photo below is of Red Hill pass between Como and Fairplay. I was likely walking my bike on this section because I had broken two spokes.
Twenty years ago would have been my parents forty-ninth wedding anniversary. I hope I remembered to call them from my motel room in Fairplay Colorado. According to my journal, I took the day off.
Now I expressed yesterday that I was thinking about throwing in the towel yesterday, but really thinking back twenty years, I am not sure why I decided to go on. I had experience on the bike and working on my bike. The littlest thing in this case seems to derail my trip and ability to fix the bike. Because I had modified my mountain bike for the road, I didn’t have trouble with the wheels and it was beefy enough to carry the weight, mostly on the back wheel. I didn’t get any experience with keepin my wheel true and keeping the spokes healthy.
It was clear I overloaded this bike. I was not prepared for the trip and lacked experience in solving problems. I was only three days in and I did not seem to have the bicycle I needed to make the kind of trip I had planned. I did not know if I could ride on two broken spokes with so much weight and make it to a bike shop.
From my journal, April 5, 2002:
Day 4: I take the day off in Fairplay. I was hurting - I could not motivate myself to get back on the road. I prepared the box back in the morning and prepared photos to email. I learned the previous day that you could access drive A from the Park County Library computer - so I sent off some 320x240 pictures.
That evening I had corn and a microwave pizza in my room and worked to best distribute the weight I had. Failed to get rid of a large bottle of sunblock and I think I may be glad I have not thrown it away.
I got to sleep early and work up with my watch alarm at 6amm.
The three photos that follow are all I took on my day off in Fairplay.
Fairplay Colorado home with a ramp.
The view from Fairplay (photo)
My fifth day on the road is a big one. Overall, I rode over into the Arkansas River Valley; I get the back wheel repaired; broke another spoke; got my rear wheel respoked and crashed at a motel after riding over 60 miles. Something about my day in Fairplay helped me to regain the motivation for the trip. I don’t know what it was, but the beautiful landscape, and pleasant days may have helped.
The day does not start out well. My journal says that after about five miles, I break another spoke. I am not sure when the loss of spokes becomes absolutely disabling, but I believe I was nearly there. Like I said in my journal, “nothing to do but press on.”
And I did press on to Buena Vista, where I used something called a phone book to look up a bike shop. This was twenty years ago.
I turned north into Buena Vista and visited the Trailhead Bike Shop that I noted was three miles out of my way. The shop owner, John Stevens fixed my three spokes and gave me 3 spares for $12.50. He also gave me a loner bike while he worked on mine and I visited the Library and had lunch at the “overpriced Evergreen Café.”
From my journal:
Blazing out of Buena Vista I felt like a newly freed rider. On the road with no problems or concerns. Six miles down the road I heard that “pop.” At first I tried to think of what else it could be but when I got off my bike, I quickly found the broken spoke.
That hurts. But I believe I had found my motivation for the trip and I had renewed confidence in the bike. Based on my conversation with John Stevens at the Trailhead, I should solve this problem with heavier spokes. It obviously did not take me long to get to Salida, I recorded that by 3:30 I was sitting at the espresso shop next to where Keith was rebuilding my wheel.
They didn’t finish until 6pmm. I did not think I could make it to a campsite to poach, so I got a motel room for the second day in a row.
From my journal:
I quickly did as much laundry as I could in the sink and set it to dry in the shower. I went to dinner at the “Country Bounty'' and ate the pot roast that was really prime rib cooked with vegetables.
This log home is along CO 285 east of Buena Vista going up Trout Creek. The previous photo is looking from Trout Creek pass.
Previous photos are of (3 pages back) My bike without its back wheel at the Trailhead Bike Shop in Buena Vista Colorado. (2 pages back) is Absolute Bikes in Salina Colorado. (1 page back) A rare photo of me at Bongo Billy’s Salina Café, note the fanny pack that typically held my camera. The photo above is of the skatepark just a block from Absolute Bikes.
I had a chance to watch the locals at the skatepark while my rear wheel was being rebuilt.
With my newly rebuilt back wheel, I decided not to try to find a campsite and I crossed town to stay in the Best Western. I went to a local spot to eat that night. Thirty years ago, I am not sure of the date, I also spent the night in Salina. It was on my second cross country trip, I met a cyclist named Doug Woods and we rode up US 50 together. At a canoe rental place Doug and I were keeping out of the rain, we met a woman who invited us to stay at her place. We slept in our bags on the floor after visiting the local hot spring. In the morning, Doug headed west on US 50 and I went north, past Buena Vista and up Fremont Pass.
I have been focusing on this bike jornada twenty years ago, but yesterday I realized that my 1992 trip crossed paths with the 2002 trip in Salina Colorado. July 23, 1992 I rode up US Highway 50 along the Arkansas River into Salina with a cyclist I met on the road. He was a solo cross country cyclist also. I think it is a very unique way to travel, but I am happy to know that there are some people who appreciate this style of touring. In 1992 I rode into Salina on US 50 and turned north up 285, in 2002, I rode south down 285 into Salina. I have been here before.
The spring time change was overnight, and it had little impact on me. I climbed up Poncha Pass in the morning and tipped over into the Rio Grande watershed. I was riding between the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the San Louis Valley. My journal records that I made great time because I had a thunderstorm giving me a tailwind.
At Poncha Pass I took three photos. One of my bike at the sign on the right. The next photo is looking back toward Salina and the road I just climbed.
The photo ahead two pages is looks south, the direction I am headed, toward the San Louis Valley. The San Juan mountains were on my right and the Sangre de Cristos to the left.
Poncha Pass North (photo)
San Luis Valley Road (photo)
I had a tailwind riding into Moffat Colorado. The mountains on both sides made a beautiful frame for my ride, but storm clouds were moving in over the mountains. I was not sure what was ahead, but there was obviously no cover in the valley.
This was going to be my longest day’s mileage so far, at the end of the day I would ride about eighty miles. In Moffat I put the exterior items into plastic bags and covered my shoes for the rain I expected ahead. I took a photo of the post office in Moffat, it is quite unique.
In the light rain, a powder blue Ford pickup stopped. Jerry Mosley invited me to stay at his authentic adobe home he named “Camp Chico.” I put my bike in the back of the pickup and we drove about four miles off of Colorado 17. Jerry was a retired newspaperman in his 60’s with a passion for criminal justice reform.
An adobe home does not look like much. It is really made of mud. Jerry showed me around and explained how he built “Camp Chico” and how little he pays in property tax on his flat, featureless and treeless land. The highlight of the mud house was the many windows that Jerry had put in. He was very proud.
My host made me a tortilla omelet for dinner and we talked until after sundown. I was going to stay in the “living room” which was dug deeper into the earth and had no windows. The sofa I slept on was carved out of the wall and Jerry had put a rough woven blanket and cousins on. I was impressed by his heating system, which was a franklin stove made out of a 55 gallon steel barrel.
My journal records that I slept well.
Camp Chico Flats.
This home is really amazing. I know it is hard to see, but the highlight of Camp Chico Flats is that Jerry Mosley built it himself and intends to retire here. He wanted to “live off the grid” back in 2002. There is electricity from a generator and the heat is from a Franklin Stove.
I had coffee with Jerry and I was on my way to New Mexico. I crossed the Rio Grande and found the public library in Alamosa, but it did not open until 10:AMM so I continued south. My journal says I stopped “at the public library in _____ to catch up with email.” I never went back to fill in that blank. I suppose I was successful in checking my messages, but I do not remember where I stopped. The next large town is Antonio, Colorado but I do not think I stopped there because I do mention it in my journal. Most likely I stopped at the Conejos County Library, just south of La Jara Colorado. It is on the route.
I took the photo on the next page somewhere in this part of Colorado. The skies still seem fairly ominous, but I believe they were the trailing part of the storm yesterday and I didn’t have much wind or any rain.
The photo following the silo is me at the state line. I started a tradition to do this because I had a camera with a delay shutter. I would set up the shot and I had ten seconds to run into place. I was able to get photos of myself, but I didn’t do it much. You can see the fanny pack where I typically had my camera is warn like a belt and I see a newspaper behind my saddle on top of the yellow bag.
From my journal:
US 285 was desolate sout of Antonio Colorado. I did not stop until got got to the turn of (US) 64 in New Mexico. I faced headwinds most of the way, but the smooth wide shoulder helped me fight them.
After turning on 64 there was nada. I was short on water and there was no cover for a campsite. Eventually I bivouacked on a road cut, at the high point. The camp was visible as one approached, but hidden as drivers would pass. No one bothered me.
The flat treeless landscape made camping on the side of the road strange. My tent was visible, and I worried that someone would stop to tell me that I couldn’t stay there. I called this type of camping “poaching,” because I just stopped and camped on the right-of-way or someone else's land. In my journal I also said bivouak, because I would not take anything unnecessary off of the bike so theoretically I could pack up my things, stuff my tent and bag and get on the road. But no one bothered me.
I did not do this very often. I could find cover, and out of the way places to camp where I did not think anyone would find me. This day, the sun was going down and I was not getting any closer to any cover, so I just stopped.
Along US Highway 285 in northern New Mexico.
My journal implies that there is little on the road around the New Mexico line, and I believe this photo corroborates that. It shows the mountains in the distance. Now as I look at it I see the beauty in the sky, but at the time I felt that I was most interested in the snow at the peak. I notice that a lot of my photos have little or no subject, I believe I wanted just to document what I had seen.
The following two photos are of the sunset behind my tent. This is the site that is visible from the road, and I don’t see a fence anywhere near. You can see my bike behind the tent, mostly packed up and ready to go. I can see the light blue tent fly at the door of the tent. I would put it up if it got cold or started to rain. But I began this evening without the fly, I could see the sky and stars through the mesh.
I would have used my stove to cook a one-pot dinner or canned meal. I learned to make a pasta dinner and add canned chicken and vegetables as my favorite dinner. I did not record what I ate this evening, but because I noted my lack of water, I likely didn’t have coffee in the morning.
I had spent less than a week riding in the mountains of Colorado. I had nearly quit and had little problems that seemed to be a big setback. Now I ridden nearly 300 miles and I was developing road and camping routines that seemed to keep me going. I do not have it recorded, but because I took time to take a photo of the sunset, I got the feeling that I was expecting to have a good night and I was going to have a real adventure.
Dramatic Skies in New Mexico (photo 2)
I began my first day in New Mexico with a photo of the sunrise, the view of the sunrise from inside my tent and a photo of me in my tent.
I see that I put up the tent fly during the night. I love the central mesh that allows you to see the night sky from my tent, but it stays warmer with the fly. I seem to have learned to use the camera’s timer feature and made myself a subject of the photos. You can also see my dirty socks on the left.
The next two pages are photos of the Rio Grande River Gorge.
Rio Grande River Gorge (photo 1)
I didn’t pause long on the bridge, but I stopped once I crossed to look back and take this photo of the bridge.
The day was a beautiful day, I crossed the Rio Grande and rode up to Taos. According to my journal, the only reason I did not visit the Taos Pueblo is because of the “unwelcoming” sign they posted at the entrance. I believe I would have been an exception, but I didn’t push it, I just went on into the city of Taos.
I didn’t find Taos to be friendly either. I called it a tourist trap. I needed to eat, do laundry and check my email. I suppose I didn’t think I was a tourist.
I wasn’t a very good tourist, I didn’t take any photos of the city. I did find the library and a coin laundry. I headed out of Taos and camped about 55 miles from Santa Fe. The campsite I had twenty years ago today was great. I could see the rim of the Rio Grande River Gorge and this night I had some cover and was out of view of the highway.
Now, more than a week into my trip, I started to think about my purpose. I wrote down some of my general thoughts about Independent Living. I am not sure irony is what would describe my travels. Being essentially homeless, dependent on my physical abilities to get anywhere and relying on my cognitive abilities to survive I was examining independence. My work was in Independent Living, and some people would see a traveling bike vagrant as some kind expression of independence.
My feelings on Independent Living are the same now as they were twenty years ago, I find I use many of the same ideas to get my points across to explain Independent Living and what we do. I had a good teacher, Deborah Cunningham, but I think it is hard now to really see the conflict that we were so passionate about twenty years ago.
“The social services model that the IL movement reacted against,” I wrote twenty years ago today, “can clearly swallow the movement if people with disabilities do not demand independence. Social workers, caregivers and helpers are out there to become dependent on.”
What I am not sharing with you are all of the stupid and silly things that I wrote in my journal, like: “What am I doing?” But the thought above I believe is very true. I am around people with disabilities everyday and many will list the discrimination they find everywhere, and not see the the inconsistency of using paratransit or segregated housing. That thought I wrote down is a rare gem. Not because it is a meaningful thought in the field of disability rights, but because it means, I think, that I was doing some solid work in the mountains of New Mexico.
Suddenly, in New Mexico I began to take photos of individual subjects. A mesquite tree (previous page) and a cactus.
Poach outside Taos (photo)
I can see some sun on my face. I used a flash with the camera timer, I am getting more advanced with the photos of myself. You can see my computer on its tupperware case in the photo and my sunburn-line where my bike shorts come to on my leg.
I don’t think I wore my hat in the tent, I think I was posing for this shot, it doesn't look like the computer is on either. I never did develop the ability to type lying on my side. I did not do much on the computer once I was in the tent. I think I was trying to make it look like I could do a lot, but really, the tent is very small and there is not much you can do.
My journal stated that I estimated this campsite was 55 miles northeast of Santa Fe.
This day started out great. I rode mostly down to the Rio Grande and followed it down to Santa Cruz. There was more beautiful countryside along the river and clear weather. I took another photo of the rim of the Rio Grande River Gorge and I took another photo of myself along the River.
I stood alongside my bike with the river on the other side and behind me. For some reason I looked pretty solemn.
Highway 68 rejoins with US 285 in Santa Cruz and I note in my journal that the riding gets tough. First I start to climb away from the Rio Grande up to Santa Fe. I also note that there is little or no shoulder and US 285 has a lot of traffic. But the thing that made it a “horrible day” was that I faced a headwind.
Unless the wind is directly behind you, there is always a breeze in your ears so that you hear the rushing as you ride. A headwind directly at you makes it more difficult to hear traffic and it can be “merciless”, also a word I used to describe the traffic in my journal. The combination slowed me up and frustrated me some. My total mileage was 51, and I only took seven photos to break-up the ride.
I took another cactus photo, you can make out the Rio Grande in the distance. The next photo is of the Gorge rim.
A solemn look along the Rio Grande.
I don’t know what this is, but I was interested in the ramp that ends in a step. The highlight is the two levels of mountains in the background.
I was interested in access as I rode across country. The wider shot of the long ramp seems to imply that the structure is not complete or open.
But, the photo of the Tribal Court on the right is clearly not accessible. I did note that there was not another accessible entrance and that it is not marked.
Although I documented these issues in photos, I never have used them or showen them until now, twenty years past. I did try to find these on Google Earth, but precisely where they are are lost to me.
Camel Rock, along US 285. From some angle it looks like a camel. That odd rock is the camel’s head. This was the final photo of the day. I camped at the Santa Fe Opera not far out of town. It was another great campsite.
Twenty years ago today I spent the day in Santa Fe. I rode the short distance into town and visited the public library, I got a hotel room and I visited the local Center for Independent Living. I had dinner at a local Mexican Restaurant and resupplied myself at the Walmart.
For me that is a busy day. It sounds very routine, but my life on the bike had been focused on the things I needed to do to keep going. Everyday I had to air out my tent and dry my tent fly. It did not take long to dry in the sun, I just had to find a place where I could spread it out. A picnic table was good, a shelter allowed me to string-up a rope to hang it on. In Santa Fe, I waited to get a motel room.
My journal said I made it to Santa Fe early. I had my tent tucked away, but the grounds of the Santa Fe Opera had some traffic that morning and I did not lounge about, even though I had a great poached campsite. I only took four photos on this day. The first was of the campsite; it appears to be down in a draw, and out of the way. I also notice the sunlight, making it seem like it is not too early.
I believe I can trust the timestamp on the photos. At the time, especially when I was photographing ADAPT actions, I made it a point to check the camera’s clock. It was a great tool for writing the ADAPT Action Report and documenting what happened. Now, twenty years later, the exact time I took that photo does not really seem very important.
The timestamp reads 7:53 AM. It seems to me that that is pretty late. I think I would be up and on the road by 8:AM. In the photo I can see that the tent is up and fly is on, it was probably another cold night, I still have about 20 or 30 minutes of packing to go before I get on the road. So I just looked back at the sunrise photo in Taos. I noticed the timestamp on it was 5:35 AM. Sunrise in Taos on April 9 of this year was 6:35 AM. I believe that I had not made the spring time change on my camera before Taos, and I have made it here outside Santa Fe.
Whatever time it was, I rode into downtown Santa Fe before the public library was open. I had a chance to ride around downtown and photographed the Ravens they have. I learned not to call them crows. The most striking feature I found in Santa Fe is that almost every home and many of the public buildings are an adobe design. I believe they are actually concrete or an adobe style stucco, but I was really amazed at how many homes had that feature.
Today would be my first visit to a fellow Center for Independent Living on this bicycle adventure. I was excited and had prepared some and put notes into my journal. I checked in at the Motel 6, just three blocks from the CIL and showered to get ready for my surprise visit. My journal explains:
…[I] took off on my bike to find the place [New Vistas Center for Independent Living]. The Executive Director was out, so I waited for him. I kinda’ ambushed him at the door and made an appointment for 9:AM the next day.
I am afraid that this would become the norm for these visits. They were not expecting me, did not know me, and they were suspicious of my motives and sincerity. In short, they didn’t care.
My Campsite at the Santa Fe Opera. Notice the groundsheet out the front that I used as a small vestibule. I used this when I was not expecting rain, and it was mostly to put my shoes on. I would also tie a small nylon cord from my tent to my bike, it was a little insurance that I didn’t have anyone walk up to me unannounced in the night. No one ever did.
Ravens statute in downtown Santa Fe New Mexico. I have searched Google and maps and have not found where these are in town, maybe they are somewhere else now.
These are the only photos I took of the New Vistas office in Santa Fe. I was not impressed and I suppose I did not impress them.
I was early to my interview with Ron Garcia and David Arms and noted in my journal that it was not exciting. Ron called ahead to the Roswell Center for Independent Living to introduce me. I can’t help but think that the “drop-in” style was not as loveable as I had anticipated. I took a photo of the exterior of the place and its sign; twenty years later, according to google, the New Vistas CIL is still in the same location.
I do not recall the interview or the two people I met. Although I have it recorded in my journal, I am afraid that because I don’t have a photo, I just cannot recall an image of them.
From my journal:
Santa Fe is a challenge. Ron and David both agree that the high cost of living in the area prevents many people from having a home here. “Two years,” replies David, “bla, bla.”
Although I put that in my journal, it is not really a direct quote. It was a shorthand I used when I knew the answer and wanted to look like I was writing what they were saying. It is not that I did not believe what he was telling me was true, but just to give you some perspective, everyone says this. Currently, I live in Memphis Tennessee, the most poverty stricken city in the US and, you guessed it, housing prices are too high. At the time I was not so experienced and Memphis was not as poor. But now I think “bla, bla,” is an appropriate answer.
I asked about transportation and access and they gave me bureaucratic responses. I did not really lay a good foundation for how I was going to walk into a Center for Independent Living and really get any important content. Maybe I knew then that it was not the content that I was really getting out of the bicycle jornada.
My journal notes that I was packed and out of town by 1pmm. The New Vistas piece was dated on this date. So I suppose after my 9:amm interview, I wrote and uploaded the article. I am pretty impressed by my timeline. I seem to have the ability to write and finish work when I can sit at a desk, but on my bike and in my tent there is generally something else to accomplish and I just cannot concentrate on something when the imminent problems of food, water, location, safety and weather are filling my brain.
I also note that in the 42 miles south of Santa Fe, the road seemed so remote that I didn't even see a house. But I found a great place to poach a campsite. A roadside table and some trees about six miles from a truck stop called Clines Corners. The only photos from the day are four I took of prairie dogs and one of the horizon.
Twenty years ago, I called the eastern New Mexico desert “very desolate country.” But this day was punctuated by wildlife and bottled water.
I had breakfast in Clines Corners and stopped in Encino to top off my water. I realized that I was headed into a remote area. I see on the map that I rode 95 miles this day but I didn't make any note about it in my journal. I did note that I had grilled cheese at the café in Vaughn New Mexico, water to drink and I got some extra water for the road.
From my journal:
Not far out of Encino I was attracted by an abandoned adobe structure off the roadway. I left my bike at the gate and walked down a dirt road for a picture. I was surprised by a rattlesnake sunning itself in the road. I got some photos and a movie of it retreating from me.
It felt great walking down that road. A pronghorn was watching me from one side while I was photographing the snake.
The snake is a unique encounter and the only rattlesnake that I have ever run into. I spent the weekend in a Tennessee hospital after an encounter with a copperhead when I was six. I caught many non-poisonous snakes around my home when I was young and I have many snakes in my yard now, but I have only caught the six-inch variety and replaced them in strategic garden areas.
I tell you that to try to make the case that I am not “too afraid” of snakes. That will emphasize that I was very afraid of the rattlesnake. The photo of the adobe brick structure I took shortly after the encounter with the rattlesnake. I did not want to walk any further down that road. It was in the middle of the road, and I did not see it until it moved. It could have been a very different encounter.
I did take a video, I didn’t make a lot of videos on this trip, but the movement of the snake was so compelling, that I felt I needed to capture it. I took two photos, the first cut off the rattler so I got a second. Back then I just didn’t take hundreds of shots. My photography was more of a documentation style, and I rarely included a subject twice. Often, I would have no subject at all. You may see many photos that just show the wide expanse of the country side and open skies.
Just this weekend, I am talking about 2022; I took photos of the Walk MS event at Overton Park here in Memphis. One thing I notice about photos is that people like to see the photos immediately. It seems strange, the people in the event were just there, they participated and have first-hand knowledge of the MS Walk. Why look at the photos right after the event?
My family loved to view the slides as soon as they were processed. We sat on the floor in the living room to see the vacation slides of the trip we just got home from, rather than looking back to the vacation we took five years ago. One of the things that became standard at the ADAPT actions were to have a slideshow of photos just before we all went home. I see people scroll through the photos that they just made on their phone.
I feel that the photos can reinforce our own memories of the event. In a photo you may see yourself as other people have, or at least you can validate the picture you have in your mind with one that seems tangible. I suppose that other people are wondering if the images will make the event memorable or is the picture of me memorable. It could be vanity, personal insecurity or just wondering if you look ugly or really flattering in the photo.
As I look at my photos from twenty years ago, I can’t help but think how these images have tunneled my memories in the photo settings and grounded my reminiscence to these pictures. I remember tying a rope from my tent to my bike. It was just a small nylon cord that would also tighten the fly or anchor the tent. I don’t see it in the photos. I feel that this little habit of mine would leave some visual evidence. Likewise, I read about people I met and I cannot picture their faces in my memory. I know I visited the Taos Public Library, but I cannot draw it in my imagination.
In general I made this bike jornada and I have my memories of the adventure, but I was just passing through. I ran into a few snakes, had some quiet lunches and communed with the pronghorn. It was beautiful and I am glad I had the experience. It seems that some of these long expanses of the road are mostly forgotten. Those long open areas are very similar and I have a few photos to reinforce my memory but I wonder what all I have forgotten. What else was in that desert between Encino and Roswell New Mexico?
If I have forgotten countryside that I think is unique and beautiful, what happened to all those thoughts I had on my ride. I was concerned about the road and traffic, I kept a lookout for wildlife, but mostly my mind wandered into a conversation with myself. I imagined things and dreamed while I peddled across New Mexico, but my journal is absent of those thoughts. Now unrecorded and lost those ideas are vapor. Like the humidity out in New Mexico, the memories are thin and easily blown away.
This has come up now, because I am afraid I have lost a big portion of my journal. At this point I began to plan to include my journal with the photos and articles that were going onto the web. In that case I did not wish to retype them, and I began to keep my journal on that small Fujitsu computer I had. Later in the trip, I leave the computer at Judy’s apartment and go back to a journal on a compbook, but I cannot find the file with my journal from April 14, 2002 until July.
I will continue to look, but from this point on I only have these photos and my map to augment my memory.
I love this photo, it almost looks like I am on the Serengeti and those are gazelle, but I took this photo from US 285 of the pronghorn watching me struggle to make twenty miles per hour. I cropped the top of a fence off at the bottom of the photo and a sliver of sky was in the top right. A lot of the road had no fence at all, but this section had a barbed wire fence.
I was on my way to photograph this structure when I ran into a rattlesnake. I took the photo from this distance and went back to my bike.
I feel sad. Twenty years ago I quit keeping my day-to-day record in this journal. The sad part is that I cannot find the computer file of the diary. This page in my journal actually has a list of things that I wanted to write: ADAPT News Release, NDY article, Most Recent sighting…
Some things are crossed off like Backup! and “Return to photo…” I don’t recall what many of the things on my list were, but it seems clear that I used the written diary for my draft work, which I intended to edit and retype. I loved that convenient little Fujitsu computer and I started to turn it on each night and record my day on it.
From my journal:
I made it to Roswell and prepared for laundry and bike work, as well as the Roswell interviews before noon. Roswell is a very attractive city while getting the wrong tube at a bikeshop I met a local cyclist who cautioned me against the eastern course. Following my interview I headed south into the desert.
We will see how my memory works with the photos ahead. I will follow the map I kept of my daily rides and where I stayed. I have over 500 miles to Austin Texas, where I stayed with friends yet to go in this first segment of my jornada.
In the morning I saw these pronghorn just outside of my tent. You can see the front wheel of my bike in the lower left corner of this photo of the sunrise.
This one got a little curious about me and what I was doing. My camera is not great for wildlife and it is really low light, the sun is not up yet, but it is a great feeling to be so close to nature. Of course I am also not far from the highway, I poached a campsite behind some road building materials.
There is security being close to the road but out-of-sight. I believe that this was my ideal kind of roadside camp. It is convenient and just enough privacy to allow a good night's sleep. You can also see that this section of New Mexico has barbed wire fence along the highway. I guess that made me and the pronghorn feel a little more comfortable.
The following two shots I made in a mirror at a roadside stop before riding into Roswell. At the time I called it “Three Days in the Desert.” I was concerned about how rough I looked. My face hurt from the sunburn and I never could keep enough sunscreen on, I was always outside and always sweating. To this day I have rosacea on my nose that may be caused by a lot of life outside, but I credit it to this bike trip.
I rode into Roswell and got a motel room. My plan was to rest-up and do laundry, visit the CIL the next day, April 16, and get on the road where I would write the story en route. I did mention this part of the ride in the article I wrote about the Roswell Center for Independent Living.
Bicycling into town from the barren high desert country of the upper Pecos valley, Roswell was a dramatic change of countryside. The sagebrush and yuccas were replaced by farmland and scattered trees.
It was also a tourist town that used the UFO history to draw in people.I photographed the museum, but I did not visit. I read about the 1950s sighting of a UFO, but I am not really interested. I also noted that there was a Television series about Roswell that was canceled in 2002, I didn’t watch it either.
I took two photos of the UFO museum but no other photos of the town. I know I did laundry and checked my email, but I also had time to ride around the town. I did note that it was a nice place.
Of course I talked with the folks in Roswell about public transportation; it is my go-to topic. I also put one of my own observations in the Roswell article about transportation:
Roswell has a public transportation system and paratransit. Pecos Trails Transit has five routes currently. I noticed that the buses were accessible to bicycles, the Route Schedule and Guide announced in a special advertisement that “Bike’s [sic] Welcome – Bike Racks Available on the Bus!”
Unlike the Santa Fe Center, here in Roswell I got photo of the staff at CHOICES. The most interesting fact was this was not an agency that received the federal grant that the Memphis Center did, it was privately funded Independent Living.
Above is Tom Kirby and to the right is Barbara Thompson, the director of CHOICES.
Barbara Thompson recalls that the Roswell television show had mountains visible on the horizon. “I look around here,” she says, “and I don’t see any mountains.”
I rode about 20 miles out of town and poached a site at a roadside picnic area.
I could have taken the more historic route through southern New Mexico past Albuquerque, I have some friends who worked at the Center for Independent Living there. The path down the central-western side of New Mexico would have brought me into El Paso and I would have merged with my bike ride from 1989. I chose a different route. As I look at the map, I think the western route would have also been very remote, it passes Truth or Consequences New Mexico. Now twenty years later, I do not remember why I went to Roswell and not Albuquerque.
I wanted to see some new countryside. I didn’t head farther east, I stayed on US 285 headed south. Now in 2022 I am wondering what info went into my decision-making on the road. What I know is that I did feel a little behind, I was not going to be able to ride my bike all the way to Washington DC. I had this idea to “jump ahead.”
I really wanted to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Skyline in Virginia, so my “jump ahead” idea began to take shape starting in Asheville, North Carolina. I know I started thinking about Huntsville to WDC and I looked at possibly heading straight to WDC from southern New Mexico. I was always pouring over my maps, but now as I look back over the route, I often stay on the road I am on. I have been on US 285 from my first day in Colorado and most of the way across New Mexico. It is a strange feeling that I have all this time, but not enough to be where I want to be.
I took the photo on the left in Roswell as I left. I don’t have any memory why I took this photo and I don’t recall meeting or talking with this guy. I don’t think I listened to “Mick in the morning;” but the photo’s timestamp shows that it was still in progress at about 9:30 AMM. Maybe I was on the show? More likely, Mick does not have a large advertising budget and I just photographed another oddity in the City of Roswell.
I was on the road all day twenty years ago. About 45 miles in, I had a flat tire just outside Carlsbad, New Mexico. I moved off the road, unloaded the back rack and flipped the bike upside down. I carefully inspected the wheel and tire. I was hoping that it was not a problem with the spokes. I know that in the sun it was not comfortable, but I got back on the road and made about 62 miles total for the day.
On the far southeast side of Carlsbad, I stopped at the Otis Volunteer Fire Department and asked if I could pitch a tent behind the facility. They were happy to help, and allowed me to use the bathroom. I was a little disappointed I wasn’t invited to dinner or any volunteer games, but it was a nice spot that I needed because the landscape was starting to become more populated in this stretch along the Pecos River. There are not many spots where I could camp that would have cover or not be on a farmer’s land.
Flat Tire outside Carlsbad (photo 2)
I don’t know why I made three photos of this flat tire. This is actually just off of US 285, on a road going to the Carlsbad Desert Zoo and Garden State Park. You see I had to take everything off my bike to flip it over. The guardrail made an acceptable work station for me. I luckily did not have any more problems with the rim and spokes, it was just a flat. I noticed that I didn’t take a photo of either the countryside of the city of Carlsbad. The flat tire seems to be the event of the day.
Well here was my camping spot twenty years ago today. The camera is pointed right at it. I set up my tent off to the side, not behind the building. At this time before sunset they had all the vehicles lined up outside. It was the most urban spot I had camped so far and was a nice spot to stay for the night.
The big event for today, twenty years ago, is crossing the New Mexico - Texas state line. I had been using the camera delay to take shots of myself and at the Texas state line I had a really good idea.
My first attempt, on the right, I set a little too low and cut the top of my hat off. I had ten seconds to hit the shutter and climb on top of the sign. Some of my natural adrenaline just made me hold my hands up. I wore my sunglasses and my hat.
In this shot you can see the whole bike and down the road. Over the front pannier is my coat rolled up around my shoes. I carried some light canvas sneakers that turned out to be a really good choice. I liked changing into them at stops and my camp. Of all the things that I cut for weight and space, I am glad I kept the sneakers.
I am wearing an ADAPT, Patriots of the ADA t-shirt that was hand painted by Sher Stewart the artist. She created the piece “Patriots of the ADA” for the tenth anniversary in 2000 and created this t-shirt design from the original. She sold t-shirts that she had hand colored. I still have that shirt, but it has been through a lot. The collar is stretched and it is dingy. I have it stored away. Twenty years ago it looks almost new.
Around my waist is my camera fanny pack and my leatherman. That letherman is still with me but the leather belt case is shot. I have a new belt holder for it, but I just don’t take it with me everywhere I go. I don’t use it much at all anymore.
I had to realign the shot to get my head in the frame. I put a larger rock under the camera to point it up a littler higher and climbed the sign for a second shot. This time, the photo on the left, I got myself in the frame and captured a little less of the ground around the roadside stop.
I love this photo. I remember feeling a little unsteady and holding my knee against the sign in both shots.
Pointing the camera up just a bit, cut the bottoms of both my wheels off. I hate that the photo dosn’t show the whole bike. However, using photo editing of 2022, I am able to create a combined shot of these two.
Both pictures were made with a landscape aspect and are cropped to nearer a portrait aspect. When I combined the two, I kept in some of the Texas sky and put me a little off center.
Next page is the 2022 composite of these two photos.
While I think editing those photos twenty years later creates a great composit, I am afraid that the other two photos from this day twenty years ago don’t really say much.
Texas and the west was an odd environment. I had spent a most of my two weeks on the road in these very desolate and remote areas of New Mexico and Colorado. There was a very different feel to the landscape. I tried to show some of that in these two photos, but they seem aimless.
When I think about them I imagine that I wished to contrast these with the snow in the mountains and the old oaks I felt I would see in the Blue Ridge mountains. It may be that there was just nothing at all that I felt would be a good photo. I know that I took these photos because I wanted to show the unique area that I was in.
Being on my bike, I did feel closer to the area and not like I was just passing through. I can say I have been to New Mexico, and not just because I have driven through, I have traveled in that state, north to south (2002) and east to west (1992). I also had an adventure with our car when the alternator went out near Raton, New Mexico.
I hope these photos show just how unique west Texas is. There is a lot of road between the New Mexico state line and Austin, but I really took very few photos.
This day was a long day’s ride in the desert. I stopped in Pecos for lunch and to refill water, but I only took 4 photos on this day and two of them are of the same plant.
I used different techniques to edit these pictures, but I don’t think it made too much difference. The sky is overexposed in the upper left and there is not enough data to salvage it. At least it is not something I can do. It is amazing that there is some blue in the sky up in the corner.
This is not a tree that you would find in Huntsville Alabama. It was unique and on the side of the road. This also represents a time when I took a photo of a subject and not a horizon shot. As a matter of fact, all the photos I took on this day have a subject. I think that is unique. I don’t know why I took two photos. In this remote country I am not taking many pictures, but I took nearly identical photos of this tree. I examined the meta data from the files and find that I did not change either speed or aperture for the second photo. I just noticed that I took them at the same second: 10:32:25 AM. I must have been using a burst mode. I didn’t think that that was a feature on this camera.
Why the picnic area sign? I took this photo because the sign notes that the picnic area is accessible. Like the ramp, In the middle of nowhere, I believe I was compelled to photograph accessibility in these odd and remote places.
I don’t recall taking the shot, but I can imagine just stopping my bike and straddling it while I turned my fanny pack around to my belly to get out the camera and make this bland photo.
I don’t know where this is. I didn’t take any photos of the picnic area or Pecos Texas. I rode 93 miles and camped outside Fort Stockton.
At the campground I met two brothers riding a tandem bike to California. We shared a site, which means we split the cost because they allowed us to put up two tents on one site.
We also shared the table, we didn’t share food, but we prepared and ate dinner together before sunset.
We got up early, before sunrise and I took this photo of the camp. It may have been a mistake. This is the tandem bike, not mine. The reason I feel it is a mistake is because there does not seem to be a subject and the horizon is askew. It could be because it is six in the morning, but I still find this an odd photo for me to take.
In the background, past the campground bathhouse, is beautiful Fort Stockton Texas. I don’t know why I am seemingly so stingy taking photos, I made only one of Fort Stockton, and I still take this random possibly errant photo.
The next three photos show the brothers leaving at sunrise. I ended up staying another night at the camp. I went into Fort Stockton and finished my article on CHOICES back in Roswell and uploaded it to the MCIL website.
Not having my journal, I don't know where I had lunch or dinner, but I took so long at the library, I just rode back to the campground and stayed another night. They had a bathhouse, water and electric power at the campsite. I could keep my camera batteries and computer charged.
Off to California, these brothers shared a campsite with me. I probably save $7. But we had a chance to talk about our gear.
These guys had a very efficient system.
On the next page is a couple hours later, I am waiting for the public library to open. I visited Paisano Pete on my 1992 bike trip and here I am again at the World’s largest Roadrunner.
This is a day of comparison. I apparently had my camera set to a quick shutter. I snapped two identical photos all day. I had done this previously, but for some reason, all seven photos I took on this day twenty years ago were duplicates.
The day was a long, open ride from Fort Stockton along the Interstate to Iraan Texas. It was about 50 miles on a sideroad parrelling Interstate 10. On this stretch of the Interstate there is a two-lane service road right beside the big divided freeway.
You can imagine that the roadway is not very enticing and I, as usual, snapped a bunch of photos without much of a subject. I was attempting to show the wide open area and the large mesas that I passed. It is easy to see the countryside as flat, but there is a lot of conture when you see it up close. Of course, the Interstate does take away some of the conture.
So the following fourteen pages are seven pairs of photos. The first is the unedited original photo, just as I retrieved it off of the optical disk of my SONY CD Mavica. The second is my edit twenty years later with Adobe Lightroom. I did not spend long on these edits, mostly bringing out lost detail in the sky. I used the new masking feature to roll-back the sky highlights and dehaze. Some have more color (photos 1 and 5), some have more definition in the clouds (photos 6 and 7) and in some I did not make a difference at all (photos 2 and 4).
Overall I rode over sixty miles this day and poached a campsite near Iraan Texas.
I only took one photo on this day, twenty years ago. I am still making duplicate photos so I have another before and after shot. On April 22, I only took two photos and they are duplicates but; I noticed the duplicate photos have different file names. So I am not shooting on burst, or a duplicate photo, it is a duplicate file that is somehow on this disk. I can’t believe I didn’t see this earlier. I think I will leave the duplicates in, but I will check for this in the future. I notice that the double files end at this point, so I must have fixed this issue.
This was another long day. Texas Highway 190 for 80 miles into Eldorado where I stayed at Shaw’s Motel. Now looking back twenty years I see that I had a pattern of needing a hotel or motel bed after about three days in the desert. In the Blue Ridge mountains ahead I camped and resupplied myself for weeks, but out here in Texas, I am choosing the Shaw Motel for the bed, shower and shelter.
I also had more ability to use the Internet where I had a phone line. I had an RJ-11 connection on my computer and I could “dial-in” to the web with the internal modem and my subscription. I used public libraries and sometimes the library would allow a usb drive or 3.5” floppy disk for me to transfer data. I could upload with the phone connections, but it was nothing like it is now. I could work online, but mostly I created the webpages and organized everything on my computer to upload it in one session.
Back then I didn’t edit photos at all. I used IrfanView, which was a free program that had a batch file editing feature. I put all my photos into IrfanView and resized and renamed them to go onto the web. The photos in this journal are edited at their original quality. But I did not edit the content of the photos at all back in 2002 and I have really loved looking at the photos again and using Adobe Lightroom to edit the original photos.
The one photo I took twenty years ago today, I can place very easily on the google map of my trip: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/1/edit?mid=12J8T6KN6I15psXLm5GgZoZ2ApqWv2NUc&usp=sharing It is the “Photo of Highway 190.” There is a picnic table and overlook just outside of Iraan that makes a very nice stop. I took this one photo and put my head down to make it all the way to Eldorado Texas and the Shaw’s Motel. The countryside is great, but I guess I continued to see nearly the same view on the horizon and just did not get my camera out for the rest of the trip.
I had a Garmin GPS with me. It can sync with the MS Streets and Trips software I ran on my computer to show where I camped and where some waypoints are like Shaw’s Motel. In the wide expanse that I am traveling through at this point, the photos and the waypoints that I made are the basis of this reminiscence. The photo I took today was made at 10:43 AM; actually probably 9:43. I still had about 75 miles to go on the two-lane state highway before night.
Where was I on this day twenty years ago? I have to piece together my memory from the fragments of evidence I have. First are the two photos I took on this day. They are both of the courthouse in Eldorado made at around noon on April 22, 2002. My map notes Shaw’s Motel in Eldorado, but why was I not getting on the road until noon?
From the file data from some videos I took, I can tell that I was making a short video today about my crossing the desert from Pecos to Fort Stockton and from Fort Stockton to Iraan. I assume that I spent the morning on my computer preparing those for the web and planning my leap forward to the Application Mountains. But that is not what happened.
April 22 was a very short day’s ride into Eldorado, where I worked on my video and then got a room at Shaw’s Motel, across the street from the Eldorado courthouse. I spent the evening of April 22 working on the videos, did laundry, showered and dried my tent. I also was making plans to rent a car in Austin and drive to Huntsville Alabama to begin my trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Washington DC. I had to be in WDC by the first week in May, so I figured a “leap forward” to Asheville would get me to the ADAPT Action on time.
What? There is a video of this adventure.
Yes there is: https://youtu.be/n2pl5a05RjQ
The quality is weak and sound is poor. Add to that the wind, and it is hard to make out what I am saying. I did not think of this replacing my daily journal. But while riding I thought through how I would make and finally produce the video.
Shaw’s Motel is still across the street twenty years after I stayed there and took this photo.
Twenty years ago today I had a great surprise by the side of the road. I did not plan to find an historic Spanish Mission along my route, but when I saw the thing, I had to stop. Up to this point, a lot of the historic Texas information was conveyed by iron signs on the side of the road. It is a strange way to get information and I must note that many of the historic markers are not really marking an historic site, but a river crossing near this point, lived about five miles to the north and in this county, make you feel that the historic marker could go anywhere.
But not the Presidio de San Sabá. The rocks the Europeans dragged to make this mission are still in this place. It is really beautiful and well kept. At least it was twenty years ago when I was there. It was a surprise to see such a large historic artifact. I had no expectation of visiting the site, but where I was there it seemed like a very important connection.
So I took photos of the strange find and moved on. It was a gem along my trip. The historic weakness of the site is that nothing seemed to have happened there. It was abandoned fifteen years after it was built, and was most noted as a good place to graze cattle. The mission’s greatest accomplishment was that it survived a 1937 attempt by the WPA to restore the Presidio.
At the Peg Leg Crossing Historic marker on Texas Highway 29, I buried a Mickey Mouse watch that was a graduation gift from my college roommate. So there is a lot in that previous sentence that may be difficult to understand. First, there is a beautiful grove of trees along the San Sabá River on Texas 29 that has an historic marker that notes a river crossing near the site and a possible battle between the Spanish and Apache in 1732.
After I visited the Presidio I stopped at the Menard Public Library and was back on the road to Austin. Entering the Texas hill country, I left Texas 190 and started down the small highway 29. At this point the smaller roads in Texas are called “Ranch Roads” but somewhere on the other side of Austin they turn into “Farm Roads.” Along this small two-lane I came across the historic marker in some oak trees. I believe the reason it got the name peg leg, is lost to history, but the historic marker says:
PROBABLY NAMED BY LANDOWNER WILHELM HARLAN FOR ONE-LEGGED LAND COMMISSIONER T.W. WARD.
I guarantee there is a lot more to that story, but only this obscure phrase makes it on the metal roadside historic marker.
Back to my story. Why did I bury my watch at the Peg Leg Crossing? In 1992 riding my bike through Colorado, I paused to toss my busted watch into the Colorado River. It was a watch I had in college, It served me well until it stopped at 8:05. I liked it and wore it like jewelry, until JR, my college roommate, gave me a Mickey Mouse watch as a graduation gift. I chose to leave it in the Colorado River, because back then (thirty years ago now), I did all my navigating by printed maps. The river crossings seemed like a much bigger deal; I had graphic evidence of where I was on the planet. Crossing the river was a landmark on the map.
I don’t know why I chose this site to bury the Mickey Mouse watch, maybe the same reason Wilhelm Harlan lived here. I marked the site on my Garmin GPS, the longitude and latitude may be saved somewhere, but I have lost them. I do have a photo of my bike at the site, but I have no idea where that watch is buried. I wanted to leave it behind like the Spanish Presidio.
I made 83 miles on this day twenty years ago. At this point I am really getting into the Texas hill country and there are a lot more ups and downs in the ride. Oddly, because of my photos meta-data, my Garmin GPS and Google Maps, I can place myself at three points on today’s ride. First, I have “Super S Foods” in Mason on my GPS. It seems a little out of the way, but I must have asked directions to a grocery store rather than doing my resupply at a gas station convenience store.
I don’t have a photo of Super S Foods, but I do have a mental picture of it in my memory. When I stopped at a grocery, I had to leave my bike outside with all my stuff. I really worried about making these stops. It is something I get more comfortable with, but I never am completely comfortable away from my bike.
I also have noted on my GPS my campsite for April 24 along highway 71, north west of Austin. I could guess at my camping locations with the daily mileage, but the GPS Coordinates allow me to make an accurate note of where I stopped. For this nights camp I also have a photo. I remember the campsite as really great. It was off the road and concealed, but it also was in a small clearing and a bit open. Not being cramped in the trees or hidden somewhere made it a good site where I could see the stars.
The other two sites I can pin-point are the HooDoo Café and Llano County Historic Marker. I don’t think I walked into the HooDoo Café. My timeline shows it early for lunch and late for breakfast. It is a very unique building and I used Google Street View to locate it exactly on the map. The sad thing is it is no longer open. The map shows it for sale in 2014 and the sign is no longer up. I grabbed a screenshot of the current building. Most notably, the bright shiny steel roof is dull and rusted.
Compare this Google Photo to the two photos that I took.
I don’t know anything about the HooDoo Café. It just caught my attention as I rode past Art Texas. Now that I look at it, there is not a car out front. I am sure that it is a place for the locals, but today was not very busy. Even without cars, it is a very welcoming looking place in the middle of this very rural part of Texas. But I didn’t go in, I took two photos just because I liked it.
Riding into Austin. I left my beautiful camp near the lake and made the hilly ride into Austin. I met my friends Bob and Stephganie at the ADAPT office. I did not take any photos on my ride and I did not take a picture of Austin. I took some photos of the ADAPT office, it looks a lot like Atlantis in Denver and my office in Memphis. I suppose we all have the same feeling of displaying the artifacts of action.
This is the role that I have found myself in. I have become one of the many documentarians of the group. I feel that my mode is more formal and very broad, but looking around at the Austin office, I don’t see a lot of my stuff. My stuff does make it on the wall, but it is mostly saved on the web and on many local computers. I began writing the “ADAPT Action Report,” back in 1996 and added photos in 1998. At that time there were many more sources, but I found a niche on the web and because I got a report done every day, the ADAPT Action Report became a very useful archive of the twice annual ADAPT Actions.
The first-had accounts of the ADAPT actions on the web for each ADAPT chapter and every ADAPT member has made our history more vibrant and accessible. I suppose if is a memory tool and the visual component has really made a difference. People love the photos.
Tom Olin is the ADAPT photographer. My role was just to make photos instantly available with the story of the day’s action. The result was that became an archive for the group. The daily documentation just organically became the index of events and our history.
But people remember the photos and though of me as a photographer. Tom lamented to me once that we should have coordinated our efforts and early on her did give me photos. At the time I was doing everything and I found that it was easier for me to produce the web reports rather than coordinate story, photos and format. I did not organize a team to do the ADAPT Action Report.
But later on. When the Report was at its peak, I did try to organize a group to help me produce the Action Report. I thought I could just fill in if someone did not meet the deadline. I got a lot of offers, but when we actually got into action, no one could meet the deadlines. I did get some photos and narratives, but it ended up that I just replaced my stuff days later or after the action. I could not manage the team approach and I just had to do it all because I could not get anything on time.
There is so much going on at the action, if I don’t get the report done by the end of the day, I am behind on getting started on day two. I knew this was difficult to organize, but all of the activists were beaten after the first day and I could not coordinate a way to catch-up. I even attempted to just get quotes, photos and parts of a written story from a few others, but often it took longer to run down the pieces than it was to just do it myself. I did include more contributions to the ADAPT Action Report, but each day of the action, I spent my evenings putting it together and on the web.
After work, Bob and Stephanie took me around Austin to see Treaty Oak. I stayed with them and talked about the upcoming ADAPT Action in May. Stephanie was a long-time force behind the Incitement, the ADAPT newsletter. It was the institutional memory of the group. The ADAPT Action Report and Internet communications were replacing print media. The Incitement was a great resource, but it was becoming more expensive to produce and well behind the web media.
ADAPT had always worked to get someone to write hard news about the group. It was a shame we as a community ignored our own primary stories. This is my regret, as I was in the middle of all the action, I did not stop to recognize how valuable the first hand accounts were.
In route I had arranged a car rental at the Austin Airport and Bob and Stephanie took me and my bike to get the car. They dropped me off at ground transportation and I remember it was a very long walk to the rental car area. I had to put my gear on my bike to get there and then pack it up and take my bike apart to fit it in the car. I did not want the Rental Car Company see my put the bike in the car, I just acted like I was coming into town on a plane and driving one-way to Huntsville, Alabama.
There are two very unusual photos from today. First I know I happened across while on the road home. It is a truck with a wide load with two men sitting on top of the structure. I don’t know what it is but it is two lanes wide and I show it crossing a bridge. I hope those guys are still alive, but it really looks dangerous. It was just a bazaar event that I wanted to document in a photo.
The other photo is of, the front door of The Booth. On the way from Austin Texas to Huntsville I passed through the town I lived in when I went to The University of Alabama. When I lived in Tuscaloosa, at the Stadium Apartments,The Boothe was close by on the strip. I believe I stopped just to see the old places from college but ended up only taking one photo. It was night, there was nothing I really wanted to see and no one I knew on campus. I just took that one shot and got back on the road.
Another aspect of using photography for documenting life, it that it seems to be most useful for the strange happenings in life. When things that you see are odd and hard to explain, or really bizarre and hard to get people to believe; the photo can be a great tool. Whatever was happening in this photo I do not know, but I do have some strange visual evidence of something strange.
I rode my bike over 1000 miles from April 2 to April 25. In one day I drove a rental car over 850 miles from Austin Texas to Huntsville Alabama. Today, twenty years ago, I returned the rental car with my dad and helped my mother pack their RV to go to Asheville, North Carolina.
I am amazed I kept such a tight schedule while I was not on the bike. I Mean I did not take a day off. I was on the road each day, or working to keep the trip on track. I did get to spend some time with my parents, but I also rushed them to get me back on the road.
Like many projects I was behind schedule and over budget. I noticed that during my desert ride I did not have nay days over 100 miles. I also needed to stay in motels en route more often. With the added work schedule I also needed more time for administration and communication.
It seems that while you are out on the road cycling a rest stop to write some about Independent Living would be a break. What I found out was that any time I spent keeping up with IL news and my general email was also time I was not cooking, cleaning, riding and sleeping. It is hard to understand and I did not grasp it at the time but riding the bike was a full-time occupation. My additional road duties to keep up the MCIL website were a strain on me daily.
Additionally, I was struggling in the desert. I was facing greater headwinds and the spring fluctuations in temperature. I was riding with deadlines head in where I had to get to and deadlines in what I needed to produce. I believe I had a very casual attitude; but I also put expectations on myself that I was not meeting. Therefore, I was behind schedule and over budget. I was concerned that I had not pushed through a 100 mile day, each day seemed to start slow and I never got into a strong rhythm. I was not as productive on the bike and I was battling to get my work done for MCIL. I feel that is the pressure that caused me to push my parents to make a quick trip to Asheville. I didn’t feel I spent enough time with them before I headed off on my bike and I didn’t take time to rest.
Twenty years ago when I was 38, I could obviously do things that I cannot do now that I am 58. But the amazing thing I have a hard time recollecting is the personal administration ability that I had. K know I was just writing how difficult it was to get all the daily tasks done as well as work tasks and ride cross-country. The amazing part is that I organized a ride from my Austin friends, got a rental car, drove 850 niles and motivated my parents to take me across the Smokey Mountains to Asheville in only 3 days.
I was in a hurry, but I did have time to spend with friends and family. I may have been hurrying so that I could meet my parents time-liner. Dad volunteered with a church building group back then called: Church Builders.
I took photos of my parents and one of my bike. I show how it traveled on a bike rack on the back of a car pulled by my parents RV. I took both wheels off the bike and stashed them in the car for the trip. My parents were very comfortable in that RV. As a matter of fact they had a full-sized bed for the first 35 years they were married. After they got an RV with a Queen-sized bed they had to have one at home too.
The Church Builders would often allow them to park the RV on site. Mom and Dad would be together through the day and the RV was there for support. Mon had the car they dragged along to visit local libraries and work on genealogy during the day.
I took close-up photos of them in the RV. One of Dad drinking one on the phone. He does not look at me and I don’t ask him to pose. My mom looks at me. I can see the reflection of my hat in her glasses.
I noticed something last night as I was passing a photo I took on my camera to my friends Lowell and Julie. I cropped the photos and they are smiling in the photo. I couldn't help but smile back at them in the photo. They were in the room with me, but I realized I was happy and smiling mostly because I was smiling at the two people in the photo. Not the two actual people in the room with me.
I have noticed this with other groups I volunteer and provide photos at events. While I go through and select and edit photos, I will also smile and am happy to the people that are smiling at me in the photos. The cheerful energy of the event is transmitted in some small effect through the photos. And likewise, when the subject is not smiling, the impact on me seems to transmit some of the subject's feelings and mood to me as I study the photo.
I took this photo through the front windshield of my parents RV. It is a nice scene, but not a very interesting photo. I can see the road dirt from the window and some reflection. I also don’t know where this is. It is very likely near Chattanooga, Tennessee.
My father driving the RV.
Back on the road today and in the mountains. My parents dropped me off on the B lue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville. It is a mostly non-commercial road up the spine of the mountains. In Virginia the name changes to “Skyline Drive” but it is roughly a consistently beautiful road in the mountains.
I had re-calculated my daily mileage quota to be more reasonable from this point but I still had a deadline to get to Washington DC and I did not plan any “days off” over the next two weeks. I also will have more daylight hours as I move into May, and more off-the-road campsites and cover along this stretch of the highway. What I mean is that I can ride nearly until the end of daylight and be able to find an easy spot to pitch my tent.
What did really seem to change was the number of photos that I was taking.
Twenty years later, I look at this time and can see that I am making between 6 and 7 photos a day in the west. I believe I will double that in the next two weeks. I couldn’t help but figure out the average mile between photos. It is a little over 5; so with the duplicates I would say that I am taking a photo every 5 miles.
During my trip this was not a calculation that I made. I did have a regret where I passed something spectacular that I didn’t photograph. I believe that it led to me taking a photo of the next relatively spectacular thing that was not quite as spectacular, but it soothed my regret. And led me to have many “not so spectacular” photos of the trip.
Today, April 29, 2022, I am at a bed and breakfast in hannibal Missouri with friends. I notice that obne oif nt friends takes a lot of photos on his phone. I wonder just what role thatr plays in my life. I think the photos are an extra or extended memory. I may not remember some of the things I have done but I am more likely to remember things that I have a photo ofs.
I worry that my life passes me by. I only have the memory of the things that I have photos of and like my trip, I don’t have memories of the spectacular things I only get photos of the next not so quite spectacular thing because I regret not having the memory of the spectacular thing.
I can understand if that does not make sense toyou. I am not sure I understand it. This recollection is myu attempt to remember a really great adventure in my life. My regret is that I cannot fully re-live it. Here are the photos I took kand they make me feel great. But they also fill me with some regret.
You, obviously, will not have the same feelings and memories as I do looking at these photos. I am so flad I had this opportunity and I took this bizarre trip.
There were many vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I don’t know if I am just showing a small bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway (in the lower center), or if I am showing lack of foliage in the early spring. It may be fire damage at the tops of these two peaks, I am not sure what I was attempting to show in the photo.
Here is another photo of a peak without much color.
My photo can not do justice to the beauty all around on this mountain road. I see that the mountain peaks all seem to lack color and it may be more of the time of year than significant fire damage. I am amazed by the overlooks along the road, and where there is no view, it is often a very nice road.
A closer view of that mountain lake from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This photo of the mountain lake I attempted to get some foreground into the shot.
The exposed rock shows how steep the mountains can be. I believe that water is darkening the gray rock. The difference in this mountain ride and my trip through Colorado is very distinct. But both are beautiful.
I really like this photo. I was not able to recover any color from the sky, so it will never be one of my best photos. I suppose I could replace the blown-up sky with a nice deep azure sky with clouds from another photo. I have used Lightroom to enhance the photos in this journal, but I have not replaced or altered the photos.
Twenty years ago I was biking in North Carolina on my way to Washington DC. At this point I am keeping my daily journal - more like a log of miles and where I stay on my computer. My regret is that that resource is lost. That is a great regret, but I also have hope that I may find it. I have three general ideas of where it is. First, an MS Word file that I kept on the local computer. This idea is simple and straightforward because I did like having the spell-check and other features with the word processor. I could cut and paste text in blocks to email and it seems that if I was writing, I would have used Word.
My second idea is email. I may have kept the journal in MS Outlook as an email to myself and others. I would have sent these emails off as updates when I had a chance to get my computer online. I was new to Outlook at the time and I don’t have the distrust of many Microsoft products that I do today. I may have felt it was a back-up as well as my original diary.
The final theory is that I kept a good old text log. A text file made with Windows Notepad that would also automatically record date and time each time the log was opened. K know I used these with my web work for MCIL and stashed them in online directories to note changes. This ment they were accessible by the Internet, but they were not linked to anything. You could find them if you knew exactly where to took.
Before I began this retrospective I feel that I looked everywhere for this lost journal. I have continued to look when I get a new idea of where the files may be. I have not found them and I have no further clues of where they may be. I do have the hope that I will just run across them at some time. I guess I will always have the hope. I am afraid however that they are gone and the things I intended to remember are lost. The ideas that I had during this trip and was motivated enough to write them down are gone.
I don’t know that I had recorded anything worthwhile, but it adds to my feeling of lost memories. I will try to make the best of it and enjoy what I have and what I remember.
This did not turn out to be a very good photo. I seemed to have plenty of sun, but I just made it too busy and too much detail. I suppose it is around mid-day and the shadows do not help. I would like to leave this photo out, but I have been so comprehensive so far in this retrospective that I suppose you will have to see every photo I took.
Here is another of my subjectless landscapes. The sky is not as dramatic as some of my photos from the same day. I can see on the map that the highway is curving around in all directions although my main course is north east.
Another photo with no foreground and no drama in the sky. I attempted to bring out some of the detail of the sky, but it tends to show the chromatic aberration along the horizon.
In the lower left you may see that I attempted to include some foreground in this shot. I cropped it for this retrospective so you can get a better look at the farm down below from the Parkway.
I worked hard on bringing out some detail of the sky, but the horizon is the subject of this photo. Whey you are at these fantastic overlooks, the wide vista is what I wanted to show in the photo.
Finally! A subject in one of my photos. I stopped to smell the roses along the Blue Ridge Parkway and I attempted to take some wildlife photos as well. This one and the photos on the next page are all a small slice from the side of the road.
I know that I had a good time taking these photos and that I could do this all day.
This may be where I was photographing those bees. The bike looks great here. On the very back you can see my water bottle above the rear wheel.
This photo came out well. It has some drama in the sky and some foreground. Mostly it is a unique part of the ride and a different perspective to look up into the mountains.
I really think the richness in the photo here says a lot about the view. It is also getting later in the day and the shadows are working for me.
The same subject as an earlier photo, I just have climbed farther up the mountain.
Wow, finally some color and drama in the sky. I do love the rocky outcroppings, I suppose that is why I admire the canyons in the Rocky Mountains.
I do not wish this retrospective to be a consistent lament on losing a computer file, but I believe I would know who this guy is if I had my journal. As it is, I have one random photo of a man I do not know in the long string of outdoor landscapes. I hope I can identify him and why I took a photo. I have attempted to use what I can to assist my memory, but I just don’t know. I assume he is a worker or volunteer at one of the stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway. At this time I would have been passing through Blowing Rock, North Carolina, one of the few communities that is on the Parkway.
I took 32 photos yesterday, I only presented 30 in this retrospective. I left out 2 out-of-focus photos of the bumblebee. Today, twenty years ago I took 12 photos.
This is Price Lake along the Blue Ridge Parkway. My campsite was just about two miles southwest of the lake, and I made this my first stop and first photo for the day.
The Bringer Cabin is along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had to stop near here because I broke my bicycle chain. I was able to repair it, but I was looking for a bike shop where I could replace the chain. I actually poached a campsite a little way back on the Parkway where I had seen a good site.
The hardest part about this repair was taking everything off and putting it back. But it was a beautiful site to have a repair. I removed the broken link and just had a shorter chain, but I needed to get a new chain to use all of my gears.
The big event for today, crossing into Virginia. Even with the shortened chain, I made 58 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was also my fourth night in a tent, four days since l slept in a bed in my parent’s RV. I still have not pushed to a 100 mile day, but I was not expecting long days in the mountains. I was ahead of schedule, but I still needed to replace the chain.
The day was overcast and foggy. The really spectacular part was the feeling of being above the clouds. I feel that the broken chain made me a little cautious and I also took longer breaks, but I didn’t take as many photos. A dozen today.
There are some really nice sights with the clouds in the valleys. Of course sometimes the fog was over the road and it is not very bike friendly. The most frightened I have ever been was riding into a thunderstorm in Colorado with no cover around. I felt like I was a lightning rod. On my bike I can typically see far enough that riding in the fog is not dangerous. But it is a really frightening feeling riding into fog, and not knowing how well the cars behind you are able to see.
The photo on this page is of a Lady’s Slipper. A flower that I had never seen before and I have not seen since my ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
These two cyclists were packed up for distance and wet weather. I envied the panniers that were water-proof. What a great idea in this climate. I have some rain covers for my front panniers, but everything in the back two are stuffed into plastic bags. I didn’t get the names of these riders, they were headed south, but it was good to see some like-minded folks on the road. It is also pretty rare.
The day seemed to clear some as I rode over the North Carolina and Virginia state line. I notice I am wearing the same shirt that I had on when I crossed into Texas.
Just so you know, the Virginia sign is on the other side of this sign. I realized that I did not get a photo at the North Carolina state line because I started in Asheville. This photo is purely for the post-trip presentation, which, I suppose is this retrospective twenty years later. I don’t know what kind of presentation that I was making, but I am wearing the same thing I had on when I crossed the Virginia state line. It was another chance to stop and one of the only times I took photos of myself.
I had a chance to see some really great wildlife on this bike jornada. This is one of the oddest things I ran into. I am glad I was able to take a photo. Growing up in Alabama, I found many salamanders around my house, but this bright orange one is very unique to me. I am also proud of the camera for getting a subject into frame, it seems my passion for landscapes is not the only thing the camera will capture.
I seem to be getting better, the last six and half of the photos I took today have some kind of subject in them. This is the Puckett Cabin along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I took this photo before riding another 20 miles and going to bed.
Well today the overall assessment of my photography from twenty years ago is pretty weak. While I have a pretty good shot of the flowers, the rest of the photos have a subject, but they do not tell a story. There is a log structure, I think it is too small for a cabin, in a tall field of grass. I think the grass may be more interesting.
So the first photo is the blooms on a dogwood. It is really comparatively a good photo, because it does seem to have a subject and many of my photos don’t.
Next there are also two photos of dogwoods along the Blue Ridge Parkway. For comparison, the first one does not isolate the subject enough and it blends in the background and is too busy. The second dogwood photo is much better, more separation, but also a dramatic sky to make it stand out a little more. The first photo, the one on the left, was taken at 7:30 AM; while the second, on the right was made at about 1:PM in the afternoon.
Mostly in the retrospective I have put the photos in a chronograph order. The first shot of the day is the first photo following the date. But here I am doing a little comparison. It may just be the dogwood
that has bloomed out later in the day, or the altitude makes a difference in how well the blossom.
For all I know, they may not even be dogwoods.
Now compare these four photos of some water feature along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I don’t like any of them. They are both too busy and I cannot really tell what the subject is.
It is my guess that this is a well house. But as I look at it, the grass is strangely more interesting than the subject.
I have no journal and I took no photographs twenty years ago today. What I did was to ride to Roanoke Virginia on the Blue Ridge Parkway and camp just outside of town. I was in the mountains to the south and in the morning on May 4, I rode into town to get my bike chain replaced.
I had been on the road and sleeping in a tent for six days. I got a room at the Sleep Inn on the edge of town and did laundry, replaced my chain and got a general resupply of food and water. I could wash all of my clothes , the tent and fly in one load. I would dry them together too, but I only left the tent and my bike shorts in for a few minutes. They are nylon or spandex and dry fast.
I am sure that this stop was also a time to catch up on my communication. I would have called Judy and my parents. I had a week's worth of email and news to catch up on and I had the ADAPT Action in Washington DC to prep for.
I had a lot to do, but I believe on my schedule this was a day off. I had recalculated my daily production and I had built-in some time off to make it to DC on Time. I was riding over 50 miles per day, but I was not really pushing myself. The routine of the road was taking time to wash, dry, cook and rest. I was not getting any break from pitching the tent every night and breaking it down in the morning. I was cooking my own breakfast and dinner sometimes on the remote stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway, I was preparing lunch on the road also.
With my new schedule I had time to take-in all of the overlooks and walk around the historical cabins and interpretives along the road. The Blue Ridge Parkway was non-commercial, but at times it looked just like any other two-lane rural highway. Other times it was really spectacular and a unique roadway.
I have nothing against Roanoke, but I didn’t take a single photo on this day. I took photos of Santa Fe, Taos and Roswell New Mexico. I got some photos of Fort Stockton and Austin Texas but none of Roanoke. I guess it was a day off.
Although I can say I have been to Roanoke. I have camped overnight in the mountains to the south, spent the night in town, visited a bike shop and laundry but I cannot picture it in my mind. Because I have no photos of Roanoke, I have almost no memory of the town.
I lived in Boulder Colorado for fifteen years and recently a friend told me that “I would not recognize Boulder.”
I have strong and clear memories of the city. The street layout, events and buildings, little out-of-the-way parts of the bike path. I moved from there in 2014 and have visited a few times, last in 2018. While I don’t doubt my friend, I also have a sharp memory of Boulder and I can easily draw an image in my mind. I can’t do any of that with Roanoke. I wonder if going back to the town would “unlock” some visual memory for me?
While at the bike store, I bought new rear panniers and a replacement chain. My new panniers were not waterproof, like the ones I saw on the cross-country cyclists a couple of days ago, but they did have a rain fly that pulled up from the back to keep everything dry. They also were arranged so that they were mostly a big empty space and could carry the weight lower on the frame.
Also, I began to take photos in a 640 by 480 aspect. I was preparing for the upcoming ADAPT Action and I generally put photos up in that aspect because it was better for loading speeds and multiple screen sizes. It was a different world back then.
Up to this point, I don’t think I had shot photos in that aspect. I was using the full quality “size” of the photos in camera. I wanted the photos as a resource, to document my trip and possibly to print. The reason I used the smaller size was to skip a step putting photos on the web. I would take a shot at full quality and then change the aspect to 640 x 480 and make another photo to put on the web. I would have one photo for my archive and one ready to go on the Internet.
This conflict of aspect and resolution has alway made me blend quality and size in making photos. I remember at the time my poor attempts at trying to explain my thoughts. The 640x480 format worked for the screens I used at the time, but that small of a picture would not generally print well, at least it was pretty small on the page at its greatest resolution.
See! I did it right there. I was talking about the quality and shifted it right to the photo being small.
I want to explain why I duplicated some shots and took some low-quality photos. At the ADAPT Action I would set the aspect to 640x480 and if I thought I had a good shot, I would bump that up to top-quality. I planned on all of the shots on the web to be 640x480, the high-quality shot was just if I thought something was really good, artistic or may need to be printed.
Back then, not much of what I photographed met that criteria. My main role was to get photos to match my narrative and to augment the daily ADAPT action from start to finish. Much Like the ADAPT action, I was making photos for myself and for the web. I just took this time before the action to get in the practice of shifting the photo size. Twenty years ago today I took 22 photos on my ride; 9 were 640x480 duplicates of other photos.
This hazy Virginia Overlook shows the valley below and small farms around. The distant mountains frame the valley and show the spine of the Blue Ridge Parkway that I am riding on.
I attempted to bring out the color in the mountains but may have also shown more of the haze on the horizon in the fading sky. From this point, it is hard to say I would like to visit a church or bridge that I can make out in the distance. It is a long hard ride just to get back to the parkway.
Well, finally I have some foreground in my photo. It is not much, but it does help frame the landscape. I am afraid it also made it harder to recover any data from the sky, and it is blown-out to near total white. I cropped the bottom off of this shot because there is a lot of green and it looks better with the landscape aspect closer.
Much the same shot, but very little overhanging limbs to frame this. But the less shading also allowed me to get more color from the sky.
I am not sure this is a Lady’s Slipper, I do remember that I read about them on an interpretive sign along the Blue Ridge Parkway and I have not seen them since. I worked to blur the foreground and background in this photo, but I could not get rid of the bright reflection on the bulb. Coincidentally, the waxy look of the flower is one of the differences that I have heard about digital and film cameras. When I first got my SONY R1 I took a photography class at Mike’s Camera in Boulder and that was one of the differences that the professor noted. I have made so few film shots in my life I have no idea how accurate that assessment may be. I hope that my retrospective is not turning into a “volume of things that I do not know and have failed to learn.”
This was one of my peak days of riding. I can see on the map that there are many “overlooks” along the route. I did get the overlook name in a past photo because it was the only place to lean my bike. There was also a rough wooden rail on steep turns and at the overlook that gives the road a different feel. Yesterday I had made only 40 miles due to a late start and difficulty getting out of Roanoke and back up into the mountains. I rode 68 miles twenty years ago today along the Blue Ridge Parkway. But now as I look back, one of my feelings of success on this day was that I took 35 photos.
I have used a digital camera for more than 25 years. Now it is nothing to shoot 200 shots an hour. Some days like my time in Roanoke almost feel lost because I do not have any photos. I don’t journal daily and most days, like yesterday, I did not take any photos. Most days, like the day in Roanoke, are headed into the file of forgetfulness. The photos I took twenty years ago clearly show why I would want to remember this day. I am not sure why I want to remember yesterday. I mean of course yesterday in 2022.
This journal is a time I want to remember and one that I wish I had made easier to remember with photos and a diary. I am looking at what I am doing in 2022 and thinking I need more documentation. Although I have lost my daily written thoughts from twenty years ago, I still have these photos. I believe that is why I want to relive the year 2002 in this retrospective.
The first photo is from before 7:30 AM. So I got on the road pretty early. It was hard to get out of the tent before sunrise, but the daylight would sneak up on me. It would be soft at first and then by the time I got the tent packed up and ready to go, the bright sunlight made me feel like I was late. Often, on cool mornings before the full light of the sun, I would make coffee in my tent. To this day I feel that I drink coffee in the morning because of the heat rather than the taste. I am sure it is a little of both and that is not the whole story.
The Virginia overlooks gave me a reason to stop and take a photo. I was still making some lower resolution photos to go on the web. I took 15 duplicate shots ready to upload, but I also took about 7 unique lower quality photos probably because I did not switch the camera resolution back. I am sorry I got into this habit. I solved this problem with a batch edit program called Irfanview. I loved that little free Windows program and it was great back when I was putting stuff on the web twenty years ago. But technology has left that program behind.
This was my first photo on this day. It must have been made near the Peaks of Otter campground. I poached a camp near there and used the bathhouse that morning.
There are quite a few of these overlooks along this segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I just could not come up with a good way to do this landscape photo in more interesting ways. I was shooting hand-held, often still straddling my bike for many of these overlook photos.
I didn’t get a lot of wildlife photos on this section, but this vulture was sitting just off the road looking into the small valley. I am glad that he did not seem interested in me.
The photo on the next page is not edited at all. It says a lot to me.
The James River snakes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and as I crossed I took this photo from my bike seat. A river crossing was rare on the Blue Ridge Parkway that usually is on the mountain slope. I know on the other side of the James I had to climb back into the mountains to continue north.
Here are a few of my 640x480 photos I took. Above is the Otter Lake Falls that are near the James River Visitors Center. The photo on the upper right is an accessible fishing pier. Note my bike in the photo. Finally to the right is a small fish that I am amazed I was able to photograph.
Two more 640x480 photos: The top I had made with a higher resolution, but it was out of focus.
The one on the right, I have no idea why I made it. You may be able to see the centipede on the upper edge of the board; but it is a mystery why Derek Loves the Department of Transportation.
I made this photo at around 3 in the afternoon. It may be the House Mountain. Along this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway are some tunnels and more mountain climbs, flowers and scenery. The trees were not cut back as much as they were in North Carolina. I notice on Google Streets that the trees around the overlooks are not cut back at all.
I cannot pinpoint what part of the Blue Ridge Parkway this is on. I may have just stopped at some point where I could see the skyline from the road.
Here is a great look back into the past. I am sure that is a narrow gauge track and it likely was used to get lumber out of the mountains.
These photos are not low resolution, but the on on the right I took in a portrait aspect, something I do very rarely. I got in the habit of everything in landscape because I had written templates for the web which would only fit landscape photos. As a matter of fact, I used thumbnails and photos that were all 3:2, like most photos here.
I know at some point I changed in the next year, because I created the website for the ADAPT Free Our People March in 2003 and had a photo from a Baltimore parking garage of the group that stretched from the top to bottom of the page.
I know I like the photos from the overlooks, but sometimes the best view is just up the road. Oddly, I think this is unlike many of my subjectless landscapes.
The Blue Ridge Parkway ends into Interstate 64 in Virginia and the Skyline Drive begins. It is very similar but the name change also started off with new interpretatives along the road. I made many stops this day, but it was also hazy out and there was cloud cover at all of the stops. I remember an interpretative along Skyline Drive that said George Washington could see twice as far when he surveyed these mountains than I could back in 2002 because of air pollution. I do not know if that interpretative sign was one I read twenty years ago on this date, but it would have been today or tomorrow (20 years ago).
I only rode 36 miles today. I was a little ahead of schedule and I was taking it easy. I also remember that after crossing I-64, I had a big climb to begin the Skyline Drive portion of my trek.
Since I left Asheville I kept crossing over the Appalachian Trail. I had run into cyclists on the Blue Ridge Parkway but I did not run into any hikers until today. I suppose they have their own camaraderie like me and other cross-country cyclists, and they stick to the trail and away from the road. I ended up walking my bike about a half mile up the AT and camped just off the trail.
I was taking it easy today twenty years ago, but I also wanted to spend some time at Manassas Virginia, the Battle of Bull Run National Battlefield. I was making a plan to spend the day there but I knew that I was unlikely to be able to poach a site there. The National Park Service would be patrolling the area. Although I could likely find a hide-a-way and not be disturbed, I didn’t want to chance it.
The photos I took today all have pretty heavy cloud cover and I really wanted to get a photo of the beautiful landscapes along the way.
This photo was made just before 4:PM in the afternoon. I took photos of the sunrise and the furnace before 8:30 in the morning. The overcast smoggy day kept me from taking landscapes through most of the day. All of the following photos were made before 6:PM, and I did not hold back from taking landscapes.
I did try to get the sunlight through the overcast day in these landscapes from the Skyline Drive. There is also a photo of my bike with the new panniers with the rain covers on. I kept my camera in my fanny pack, on rainy days, I would put it in a plastic bag to keep the camera and my wallet dry. But me, my hat, clothes and my shoes got wet. I did not have any rain gear.
The Skyline Drive Overlooks gave me an easy opportunity to get out my camera and take another landscape photo. This was one of the many that have a beautiful fieldstone rail and trees. I think this is the Turk Mountain overlook.
This deer surprised me along the road but I had to stop to take these photos. I love seeing wildlife and
The north end of Skyline Drive is the Front Royal and the Shenandoah River. I had decided to go down from the mountains before the end of Skyline and head for Washington DC through Washington Virginia and on to Manassess. The day started out like yesterday, a lazy, slow ramble through the winding highway. The clear weather rather than give the the opportunity to stop in the afternoon, seemed to keep me going. I took some photos before noon, but I put up the camera in the afternoon and rode. I did take out my camera to get some more photos of a deer I saw on the side of the road.
I had camped on the Appalachian Trail, but today I ran into a hiker on the trail. Skyline Drive, like the Blue Ridge Parkway, weaves in and out of the AT and they cross at several points. I met Million Mile Mike and was curious about his gear and he was nice enough to entertain me for a while. He said his name was because he walked a million miles on the AT, but I was skeptical. I didn’t have any reason to be. I did get his photo, early on in this day’s trek.
I made some mileage today twenty years ago. I rode over 66 miles on the Skyline Drive and at the end of the day I zoomed downhill on a curvy road toward Sperryville and poached a campsite on the side of the road near the Thornton River. I was back on commercial highways and out of the mountains. I was about 70 miles from Washington DC and I knew that there would be more traffic ahead.
My first photo of the day is not a landscape. I have added in subject studies to what I was taking photos of 20 years ago. I was lucky to be taking this ride in the spring and found a few wild flowers to be photo subjects. But I notice that with my zoom camera, I tend to take photos of things a long way off or very close.
Getting a photo of the fog below from the overlooks along Skyline Drive seems to be my continued focus. I believe I loved the mountain views and I just was not used to them. I think it is strange that I did not take so many landscape photos in Colorado, but I know that I did try the same kind of shot and am never totally satisfied with my results.
Here is some more wildlife along the Skyline Drive. My SONY CD Mavica did not have the kind of telephoto reach I needed for a good picture. I certainly wanted to document this wild encounter. I think now just how detailed members of the Memphis Camera Club are with bird photography and feeble this is in comparison.
I miss identify flowers all the time. I have never been good at identifying trees either even though I have a lot of experience. I am also good at misidentifying salmon, airplanes and all kinds of food. I think this is an Indian Paintbrush. I learned that from an interpretive sign along this highway. So I often see flowers similar to this and guess “Indian Paintbrush.”
Just after noon I met this deer on Skyline Drive. I feel the photos here are much better than the deer that remained in the woods. This photo especially because he seems to look at me before he eats that dandylion. It makes me feel good that I did not scare the deer too much and could get close enough to get a photo that I will remember.
I took this photo before he walked into the woods although it looks like he has only three legs. Most of the deer I saw on this trip I did not take a photo of.
With Washington DC one hard day’s ride away, I took it easy on the Lee Highway peddling east. I did not take any photos until nearly 5:PM, when I took a photo of a guy I met in Warrenton Virginia.
Typically, I described what I was doing as riding my bike cross-country and visiting Centers for Independent Living. When I said “people with disabilities,” my audience would always think it was some kind of charity ride. The model of doing absurd things for donations is a hard preconception to break.
“Why are you doing this weird and ridiculous thing? Oh, raising money for the less fortunate.” That was the instant connection that I was contending with. To be honest, I do not believe that I was successful. My training in Independent Living kept me from saying “they” in my response. And people really were asking about me. It was difficult to briefly tell people that I did not have a disability and none of my family had a disability. I was not asking for donations or a spot on the local news.
Now, as I look back twenty years, I believe that it was also too absurd for me to explain that I was working. I think the concept of “remote work” was not developed enough for someone to get any idea of what I was doing. I did not even think that I was working remotely. I just thought of it as a very small responsibility that also provided me with tremendous motivation.
I didn’t know how to express that to people that I met on this adventure. And I feel butchered my explanation of Independent Living, Centers for IL and why I was riding my bicycle and not at a real job. I hope that in this retrospective I have made those explanations more clear, but I can imagine that you don’t really know what I was doing either.
I don’t know if I could successfully explain that to Kirk of Warrenton Virginia. But for whatever reason he seemed interested in my odd and illogical quest and invited me to stay at his home. I had only made 30 miles but I stopped and talked with Kirk and took advantage of his hospitality. We had dinner and I met his wife Robin. They both had to study, so after dinner, I walked to an Irish Pub where there was live music in Warrenton.
So I only made 5 photos today. One out of focus of Kirk, and four others. Note my bright red, sunburned nose.
At Kirk’s I had a chance to shower and get really cleaned up. Robin made breakfast and I remember that it was her suggestion that Kirk take me around Warrenton and show me some of what he does. He was one of the crew on the film Fly Away Home. He flew an ultralight and trained a goose. The movie is a true story and I believe it is available on Netflix; I plan to watch it again soon. He is a biologist and he works with migratory birds.
However, the most interesting part of my tour was seeing the building of a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer. Because they were building it for the 100th anniversary of powered flight next year (December 17, 2003) they were using all similar materials and techniques. At the hangar, they had other replacias of other Wright Flyers and gliders. There was also a wind-tunnel that the Wright Brothers used to determine how much lift they needed to be successful.
Kirk had worked with the builder and was a pilot so he had free reign to show me around. The had borrowed some items from the Smithsonian from the original Wright Flyer and I got to touch them. The Wright Brothers cast the engine block themselves and many of the unique pieces were hand-made by the Wright brothers. For some strange reason, the propeller was cut off the shaft. I was able to see the remaining shaft, which they needed to replicate the propeller, but I was sad that it was not better preserved.
Kirk started the tour of the Warrenton area by showing me the home of John Singleton Mosby. I was an historian, but I did not know anything about the Gray Ghost until Kirk filled me in on some of his antics during the Civil War. His home is in Warrenton Virginia and I got a photo of it and a small brick home out back. When I saw the house it was in pretty rough shape. Weeds were high and the white paint was peeling off all over. It seems to have become a museum since I visited and was returned to be a single family home. I believe that Kirk and Robin now live with their family in the Mosby home. I called and left a message where I believe he now works, and I sent an email.
I don’t know if Kirk remembers me, but at noon on May 10, 2002, I said goodbye and rode on to the Manassas National battlefield. I was closing in on Washington like P. G. T. Beauregard and I only took two photos on the road today. Only one photo is of the battlefield and the other is a random home somewhere near Warrenton Virginia.
This is a scale model of the Wright glider. It is really beautiful work. In the background on the left is a mock-up of the 1903 Wright Flyer controls that was used to train and as a simulator for the unique aircraft.
Above are photos of the wing structures of two of the Wright Flyers. I believe the one on the left is the glider, on the right is one of the later powered models. You can also see lots of storage around the hangar and you may make out some interpretives for a museum that displayed some of the items.
The Wright wind tunnel is a very significant article. They tested the wing lift and determined what they needed to get a pilot and steel cast engine off the ground. I have heard about other people claiming they flew before the Wright brothers, but the Wrights understood powered flight and could repeat and improve their Flyer.
There is also a photo of Kirk demonstrating to me the Wright’s controls on their glider. The Wright’s had experience flying because of this glider that flew a lot like a kite. It really is a fascinating American story that is eclipsed by jets and space flight that all develop from the Wright brother’s ideas and their methods. My father learned aeronautical engineering from professors that were born before that first flight.
There is also the frame of the 1911 Model B in the hangar. Notice the essential innovation of a second seat. That was necessary to get the funds and move the Wright Brothers innovation to the public and military sphere.
I had to get a photo of the Wright Brothers bicycles. I am riding my bike across the US and I had an instant admiration for these machines. The rims are made of wood. The spokes are steel, but the care and craftsmanship the Wright Brothers had is amazing. They had the skills to use wood, metal and fabric to create the Wright Flyer. You can see much of that craftsmanship in the bicycles they produced.
The cycle on the right is demonstrating the relationship of lift to drag. The model wing and drag plate are not on the horizontal wheel on this bike. The Wright brothers used this bike to “balance” the lift effect with the drag to determine the basic flight characteristics they would need. They would ride the thing into the wind and make enough lift with a small wing attached to one side of the balanced wheel to hold the horizontal wheel stable.
You can see the clamps that held a wing and drag plate if you look closely. Also notice the “slick” tires. That is an innovation that I had used on my previous cross-country travels. The bike I had on this trip was a 27 inch wheel with some tread. I took the photo on the left just because I liked the bike. It was a Wright Cycle and it looks like you could just ride it around. I would have loved to get my photo riding that bicycle.
They did not let me ride the Wright Cycle around.
The above photo on the right is a Wright Flyer propeller, but not the 1903 model. They were using it to replicate the original. The original for some reason was cut off and you can see this historic propeller on the table on the left. It is mid-way up and attached to the drive shaft with a sprocket hanging off the table on the far end.
Ken Hyde and the Wright Experience were unable to recreate the first flight on December 17, 2003 because of the weather on that day. But the aircraft they are assembling here did have successful test flights at other times. It really is an amazing machine and it was a very accurate and detailed replica.
Above, the photo on the left, are some wing spars that are drying on a rack. On the right, Kirk is pointing as some original part of the original 1903 Wright Flyer.
On the left is a photo of Kirk standing beside a replica engine. I did a poor job of getting him in the picture and I don’t know what that engine was used for. On the right is a replica of a Wright engine being cast. I was surprised to find that they built the internal combustion engine themselves.
Kirk took this photo on the left of me in a Wright Flyer simulator. This was from one of the later aircraft. I know because I am sitting up. The 1903 Flyer required the pilot to lie prone and warp the wings by shifting controls with their waist. They had a simulator for the 1903 Wright Flyer also.
The simulator was essential to actually flying the thing, the Wright brothers got their experience flying the glider; but there was no template for learning to fly one of these machines. The simulator I am in has controls for the engine as well as all of the flight controls.
The photos on the page above are also by Kirk. You can see the unique hand control as well as the levers and foot controls. It was a very involved job to pilot one of these aircraft.
This is the Stone Bridge on the Manassas National Battlefield. This is the only photo I took on the historic battlefield. I believed that I could not poach a campsite because the park service would “police” the area. I ended up camping along the side of US Highway 50 in Fairfax Virginia. It was a very out of the way spot, but in a urban area, just off the side of the highway.
Twenty years ago I was highly motivated to get to Washington DC. I left my urban campsite in Fairfax Virginia early and rode across the Key Bridge into WDC. I was at the national mall before 7:30 AM. I took time to take a photo of myself at the Lincoln Memorial. Now “selfies” are ubiquitous, but I put some effort into this one. I took a high resolution and two versions that I intended for the web.
I also stopped to see the Korean War Memorial because I had never seen it before. This was the mall before the World War II memorial at the east end of the reflection pool. I obviously stopped to see some geese also, I suppose that is because of my new education in waterfowl while I was in Warrenton Virginia.
But I was motivated to see Judy. She was flying in for the ADAPT action and I would have a chance to see her after I had spent a month and a half on the road. I had traveled over two thousand miles, 1,615 on my bicycle to get to the ADAPT action. I had camped on the road about 25 times and stayed in six motel rooms. I visited friends who let me stay with them and made new friends who let me crash on their floor. I stayed with my parents for a night and camped with them in their RV another night.
I had met my work goals and was on-time for the ADAPT event. I really feel that this first part of my trip was very successful. I would take some time to celebrate with Judy before I would get to work on creating the ADAPT Action Report. Judy and I fondly remember Chinatown in WDC and that is where we went to celebrate our reunion. Oddly at an Irish pub in that part of town.
By the time stamp on this photo, I must have taken it in Washington DC, probably on the Mall. I am completely amazed by the waterfowl photos that members of the Memphis Camera Club make. I love the photos and their skill. I realize that the significance of some of the photos I make are to document my life. This photo is only a small snapshot of that day. It is even just a fragment of what I saw at that time. I am glad I captured it but have difficulty explaining why and feel loss rather than treasure the memories I have.
This was the first time I had visited this Memorial on the Mall. I am surprised that I only took one photo.
If you wish to have the Lincoln Memorial to yourself, go at 7:AM. I know I have been there at two in the morning and there are people at the memorial. But today it is just me and Abe.
I always get a great feeling about the US government in and among the massive marble buildings. I did feel that way in 2002, but I don’t know how those iconic buildings would impact me today.
I had a unique experience in high school. My debate partner and I played basketball on the highest court in the land. A clerk who was a friend of our debate coach took us up to a basketball court in the upper floors of the US Supreme Court (photo right above). That is one of those strange and endearing parts of my life. I wish I could tell that story better because it is so unusual.
I have been an ADAPT activist for over twenty-five years. The national ADAPT action in Washington DC that started twenty years ago today was one of the most impactful and National Public Radio used one of my photos for their online coverage. (Disabled Activists Win Battle for Independent Care : NPR)
The pattern of an ADAPT action is very routine. Activists, organizers, friends and personal attendants all arrive on Saturday. The group has non-violent, civil disobedience training and strategy planning on Sunday and the entire group goes on a symbolic march or street theater activity. On Monday and Tuesday are the hard-hitting actions with demands and potential arrests. Wednesday is using the mass of motivated people to send a message or when we are in DC, we make strategic hill visits with Congress.
May 12, 2002 was Mother’s Day and ADAPT used that to highlight mothers in our group and the impact on women being forced from their family and into a nursing home. I was part of the ADAPT media team, even though I had run a spell-check on a press release about four years ago and accidentally changed President Clinton’s name to “Clifton.” My mistake had to be changed on a “wire service” with a DOS like program that had no mouse access. That put me in the doghouse, but I still tried to play some role on the media team.
The ADAPT Action Report was important to me. Judy asked me last night what was the first action report and I said it was my first ADAPT action in 1996. Deborah had asked me to keep a diary and I believe it was to be part of our newsletter “The Declaration.” What a different time it was, we had printed stuff. The MCIL website and MCIL Journal did not exist yet. But that request led to me journaling about each action and when I created the MCIL Journal, it was a method for me to keep ADAPT members informed daily about the national action.
At some point, I got special permission to put the Action Report on the ADAPT website and I was one of the few people who had direct access to the site and could post instantly. I believe this started in the spring of 1998, but those files are lost. I believe I have most of what I wrote, but it is in the newsletter and other sources. I had other responsibilities because the action was in my town. I just did not prioritize my posts.
That changed in 1999, when I began to add photos to the ADAPT Action Report. Tom Olin was the photographer, but my pictures were going out daily and that had an impact. It was a kind of social media of the time, and I believe it endeared the action to ADAPT members. They could see themselves in the action and that what they were doing was recorded. That is my view looking back because now I see that there is very little evidence of our past accomplishments. I mean very little comparative evidence. It is like the National Football League has more history than the Soviet Union because the NFL has a lot more slow-motion high-quality video than the reds. In that analogy, I am the NFL with digital photos and a website. But the group has a long history, and much more depth than I could show in the ADAPT Action Report.
On the next page are four photos that were made for the ADAPT Action Report. I took these in a 640 x 480 format so they would go right on the web. On the top left is Judy, top right is Dawn. Below Dawn is Anita and bottom left is Julie.
The ADAPT Action Report for May 12, 2002 was written by Judy Neal and titled: ADAPT asks for the First Ladies to support MiCASSA. It is really good and explains much of what ADAPT was attempting to accomplish back in 2002.
Judy would be the first one to tell you that the “500 disability rights activists” is a stretch. But I insisted on that to match the ADAPT press release. Now, looking back I wish I had been more accurate with that number. There was documentation of the hotel registry that someone knew the real figure, and some people joined locally. But I had drunk the kool-aide and I would not part from the group-speak.
On the left top is a photo of Justin Dart, the guy in the hat. Kyle Glozier, who spoke at the National Democratic Convention in 2000 is to Mr. Dart’s left and Marva Ways is on the other side.
On the lower right is a photo of my friend Chris Colsey, an activist from Memphis. Chris was a motivated ADAPT member and he was a great leader as I worked to organize the Memphis chapter.
On this first day the entire group marched to the White House down Pennsylvania Avenue to deliver a mother’s day letter to Laura Bush. It was a beautiful day to be out in the sun and with the group. It is events like this that help cement the group and reinforce our commitment to the action. It also informally shares information and motivation about what is important and why we organize the way we do.
There is a rally organized at the end of the march, set up before the marchers get to the White House. The group listens to speakers and the letter is read outloud. People new to the group are often very impressed with the march. You rarely see around three hundred people using wheelchairs together and the march can give people a tremendous feeling of power.
ADAPT in WDC will march in the streets and block traffic. Over the years, many law-enforcement departments found that attempting to try to get ADAPT to use the sidewalks and street lights did not work. The group as a whole worked to stay together and used a practice of “water around the stone” to bypass attempts to stop ADAPT.
I saw this in practice and wrote about it back in October of 2000 http://www.knowonk.com/aar/wdc/oct2a.htm. ADAPT would march in a single file. When a police officer would block the line, the people behind the one person that was stopped would just flow around the officer. Often people would spill over curbs and around other barriers to keep the whole group moving forward. After a while, the officer was just standing in front of few people. The group as a whole moved on.
The Capitol Police were very familiar with our group and they stopped traffic and allowed us to use the streets. It was a great thing to see, if you were not a Washington commuter.
The photo on the top of this page is Deborah Cunningham, my patron on this absurd quest. She was an ADAPT member and the Executive Director of the Memphis Center for Independent Living. She was great to work with because she brought out the best. I am proud to this day of the projects that we worked on and wish I could tackle my work with the passion I did when I worked for her.
The photo on the bottom of this page is Steve Gold, the lawyer for ADAPT. He has a great resumé. I know I could never describe his legal accomplishments, but I offer the photo on the right as a character reference for one of the best human beings that I know.
If you read or listened to Joe Shipiro’s NPR broadcast I linked to yesterday, you know what I am going to write about today. It does turn out to be a very significant win for ADAPT and direct action. I did not see this outcome at the time, but below I have printed my entire piece from today and I thought I would reflect on what I was doing.
First, Joseph Shapiro (Photo on the right that I took of him reporting in the rain on this day) is a professional journalist and the author of NO PITY: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement. This was the first book Deborah Cunningham asked me to read when I started at MCIL. I published my story about this rainy day in the streets of DC that day. It took Shapiro another four years to finish his article.
Joe Shapiro used a photo I took for the NPR piece. They used the same photo I used on the web. The thing is, while I took photos and re-sized my photos to 640 by 480; the photos I used to drop-in to the text I re-sized again to 320 by 280. That is a really low-resolution or “small” picture. That small image is what NPR published with the Joe Shapiro article. I not only made the photos smaller, but because I set them in the text, I also added a shadow to the image to make it seem just above the page.
Back in 2002, I used a free program for all my image editing. It had a feature to add a shadow that made the photo look as if it were hovering just above the page. I used that feature for most of my photos when they offset text. I see that photo on the image that NPR used. The sad thing is that I had higher quality shots. I just did not print my photos, so I conserved disc space and kept them “small” when I was using them for the web.
The day would start out with ADAPT lining up to march off to the first target. Very few people knew what that was. All of the chapter leaders would know what the targets were for the action. That was discussed at the strategy meetings. ADAPT would select “Day Leaders” to choose the target or targets for each day and communicate just enough information to the “Color Leaders,” who were the tactical commanders. The various color groups would line up together and follow their color leaders and get information from them.
As I explain it, I make the ADAPT structure sound simple. But it wasn’t. It was not written down and was not based on something like a military hierarchy. It may be easy to see soldiers and platoons in our formations. But the real glue that held us together was love. I was part of the group because I loved ADAPT. It made me trust the group and work hard to become successful. Of course this explanation is oversimplified also. I say the structure is not simple because somewhere between a regiment and a family, the fabric of ADAPT exists.
The OMB will meet with ADAPT
By Tim Wheat
PHOTO: Bob Kafka negotiates with Mark McClellan at the OMB
(WASHINGTON DC) ADAPT held strong in the streets of Washington DC and weathered a thunderstorm to persuade Mitchell Daniels, Jr., the Director of the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to work with ADAPT to end the bias of federal funding of institutions over community services.
ADAPT showed the energy, organization and skill of the direct-action group by blocking the front door to the OMB as well as simultaneously cutting off traffic at the two intersections in front of the New Executive Office Building at 725 17th Street. ADAPT activists circled the intersections of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue as well as 17th and H Street right in front of the Capitol Police.
The quick maneuver stopped traffic in a large portion of the downtown area as the traffic piled up in the adjacent avenues. With the substantial snarl of traffic outside, however, the OMB Director rejected the ADAPT demands and attempted to continue as usual.
ADAPT asked the OMB to meet with the group in an effort to put community services on an equal basis with institutional service by making the entitlement more flexible and allow the money to follow the individual.
"We also want the President's next budget to include funding for S. 1298 and H.R. 3612, known as MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community-based Attendant Services and Supports Act," said Alfredo Juarez, ADAPT El Paso. "And, lastly, we want the OMB to provide the funding necessary to strengthen the President's New Freedom Initiative, so it can be a promise kept, and not just a bunch of pretty words"
Mark McClellan, the Health Policy Director for the President came to the scene to negotiate for Director Daniels when it was clear that ADAPT would not move under the threat to be arrested. And the looming thunderstorm.
“The cops threatened that we had to move or be arrested,” said Jennifer McPhail from Austin Texas who was blocking the front door to the OMB, “but that was three hours ago.”
Although the police said they would “clear the intersection,” it was clear that arresting one ADAPT advocate in the street would only make room for others to move in and continue to block the street.
“You feel like you are in a powerful position,” said Eric VonSmetteringling of Pennsylvania ADAPT. “It is very empowering like the fourth of July, it is a great adrenaline rush. The cops, who like to be in control, look like: ‘what do I do now?’”
After about two hours of knotting traffic, thunder boomed over the OMB headquarters. A police officer came up to Bob Kafka and said that there was going to be a big storm and asked what ADAPT members were going to do. The police officer's question implied that advocates exposed in the middle of the street might leave and find cover. Bob did not answer, he just looked around the crowd and saw advocates slipping into colorful raincoats and ponchos.
"I think the police really began to realize how important our freedom is to us," said Steve Verriden, ADAPT Wisconsin State Organizer. "When it started to rain, they were surprised that no one made any move to leave…we all just pulled on rain ponchos, shared umbrellas, taped plastic over the electric controls on our wheelchairs, and settled in for however long it was going take to get the meeting. We would have slept there if need be"
As the end of the workday approached and traffic around the OMB was still stagnated, Director Daniels suddenly, according to his letter, “gladly agreed” to meet with ADAPT.
“I think they took one look at ADAPT standing strong,” said Stephanie Thomas of Austin, “and suddenly the impossible was possible.”
Shona Eakin of Erie Pennsylvania read the letter of acceptance that ADAPT advocates had won with their street action. The OMB establishes the levels of funding in the President’s Budget and ADAPT is intent on securing the necessary funding for MiCASSA.
Many bystanders were impressed by the tactic of capturing two major intersections in traffic and under the noses of the police. In a matter of seconds, hundreds of ADAPT members took up positions and instantaneously became a blockade that could not be removed by the police.
“It was awesome,” said Shona. “I kept thinking going through the construction and traffic that nothing can stop us.”
PHOTO: the letter from the OMB
The photo above was of an ADAPT activist in the streets with the Old Executive Office Building in the background. You can see people already wearing their rain gear in the streets.
Below on the left is Judy smiling at me and Dawn looking like a badass activist. Over time working with ADAPT, many people would pose and smile at me when I pointed the camera at them. I rarely used these photos because they looked more like tourists than activists. I started telling people “look like you are fighting for disability rights,” to keep them from mugging. Sometimes it just didn’t matter, people had fun being with each other on an action and you couldn’t hide it. I do regret not capturing many of those times.
Below on the right is Nadina LaSpina in the ADAPT march crossing the National Mall. She wrote the book Such a Pretty Girl, A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride.
On the next page is the photo I wish NPR had published. It is of Bob Kafka and Mark McClellan as they begin the process of creating Money Follows the Person that will give tens of thousands of Americans the choice to remain at home and not be forced into an expensive institution.
Top left is Mark McCellan, two years before he would become the head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The national ADAPT action in Washington DC twenty years ago was one of the most impactful and National Public Radio used one of my photos for their online coverage. (Disabled Activists Win Battle for Independent Care : NPR) This article by Joseph Shapiro from September 15, 2006 tells the story of ADAPT in the street that day.
Top right is ADAPT blocking the intersection. This tactic I was first part of in the ADAPT Action in San Francisco. In California, stopping traffic was an easy way to get attention. In WDC the police could just re-route the cars and people were upset, but we did not get as much traction. It was really great for activists, everyone is around looking into the middle of the intersection, keeping chanting and motivation going. ADAPT used a custom “Caution Tape” with an ADAPT message, but looked like “Police Tape,” to cover the intersection and wrap the poles on all four corners with the yellow tape.
Above is Pat Paugh of Memphis.
Right is the Old Executive Office Building with ADAPT intersection blocking in the foreground. That is such an incredible building.
The page following shows ADAPT on our march back to the hotel. The single-file line is always difficult to keep, but on the way back it is impossible. I am more guilty than most activists. I run ahead and my favorite thing to do is to climb up into a parking garage and photograph the ADAPT line from above. Steve Gold (on the far right) is still really motivated and chanting on the way back.
The following page with four photos.
Top right is Jeff Fox.
Top left is Suzanne Stringfellow, she later married my friend Chris Colsey.
Bottom left is Tammy Minor.
Bottom right is Babs Johnson and Judy Neal. Babs once called me the “ADAPT web guy.” That is what I truly wanted to be; but the name never really caught on.
Tuesday morning twenty years ago was a beautiful day for action. On Monday, the group had stayed together and actually negotiated with Mark McCellan in the street. It is powerful to have all the activists working together, but the plan this day was to divide up into three groups to make demands in three different places. I don’t recall the actual division, but, I believe, one color group went to the office of SEIU, the Service Employee International Union, two color groups went to the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, and the final three color groups hit AFSCME, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.
Early in my ADAPT career, I was recruited to help hold open the doors. The tactic was to rush in and keep the security guards from closing the doors. We are a non-violent group, but it could get rough when the building management and security personnel would try to keep the flood of people in wheelchairs out by closing the door. I have been arrested more than once taking part in the struggle at the doors. While I did not fight back or push against people, I definitely did not obey orders to “let go of the door” and to “move!”
There is always adrenaline flowing when there is a possible confrontation. But since I started carrying a camera around, I was less of a “rush the door” activist. But I knew it was coming and I would try to get right in there for the excitement. Once in the building, the tactic was to meet with the person who could say “yes.” If they didn’t say “yes,” the crowd in the building would step up the people-power by chanting, blocking elevators and doors. A sure way to bump up the pressure on a long negotiation was to block the parking garage. When bureaucrats see that they may not get home on time, things will happen.
The three groups all met back at Lafayette Park and ADAPT ate a late lunch together. There is nothing more satisfying than a smashed flat McDonald’s hamburger and cold fries. That is the ADAPT lunch, except for a few folks that eat salads. Until this year, I was one of those people; I was a vegetarian. ADAPT would set aside a salad for me. It was great, I felt special. However, twenty-years agoI didn’t even try to keep a vegetarian diet while on my bike trip and so I am sure I had a cold flat burger like nearly everyone else.
ADAPT did not only reconnect for lunch, we united to get a fourth target on the day. We had marched north across the Mall and west to the Lafayette Square area. Now the group was headed back south across the Mall again to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Everyone calls it HUD.
ADAPT demanded that HUD consider institutionalized people to be homeless. The concept was great. HUD would consider people living in nursing homes as not being in their home so they would have some assistance to get out of a nursing home. Many of the ADAPT activists put on masks of Secretary of HUD Mel Martinez. I didn’t try to explain either the homeless idea or the connection to Secretary Martinez in the action report. I am afraid that both the street theater and the street policy did not go over very well that day. There were no arrests, ADAPT returned to the Holiday Inn Capitol, not far from HUD, and prepared for Wednesday.
I love photography. Twenty years ago my photography was simply to augment the website. I really did not think that much about my abilities, but I did notice the power of a picture. The photos of the ADAPT action were more of a draw than the narrative I produced. I attempted to balance the images and text. I included about 15 photos in a column on the left and about 250 words about the day with two photos wrapped by the text. The photos in the column were thumbnails you could expand to the 640 by 480 resolution.
The first SONY Mavica camera I used had 640 by 480 as the highest resolution. It wrote photos to 3.4” floppy discs. The photos I made with that camera had a practical value, no aesthetic to them at all. I used that camera to show accessibility barriers. It was tedious to look at them. A photo of a stairwell, a door, a concrete step and thousands of curbs. As a bonus, the photos were bad.
Often I was taking photos in the middle of the day and the shadows were horrible. It took me a while to realize that the lighting was going to be critical for each photo. Just thinking about where the sun was, really improved my images. It took me many horrible photos to find that out and I really did not use all of the tools on that little digital camera to improve.
Even with bad photos, the power of the images was a great way to communicate. To show that the mailboxes were too high, I photographed a measuring tape next to them. To show a step along a path of travel, I just took a picture of the sidewalk, step and door in the distance. The photos may not have been good, but they sometimes could tell a story.
In my photography and on the website I attempted to get a photo of the activists. I did not attempt to tell the whole story with photos and I did not pose any or ask people to look at me. Likewise, I did not ask for permission. I really thought the story was in what I was writing and the quotes from people who were at the demonstration. I feel I focused on people because I thought the ADAPT Action Report was telling the ADAPT story.
There is almost always a time at the action when I think my innovation was the prominence of people’s faces. I even created a part of the ADAPT Action Report that I called “Faces.”
People have often asked me for photos of people with disabilities. When I showed them what I had, I noticed that the best photos showed people’s faces, not necessarily their disability.
Twenty years later, my SONY camera will focus on the human eye. I could have really used the technology back in 2002, but I was not even aware that a digital camera could take such a high-quality photo.
The single-file line can get out-of-hand.
Unknown ADAPTers wearing Mel Martinez masks. I am pretty sure that Stephanie Thomas is on the left, and Linda Anthony is on the right. I stayed with Bob and Stephanie back when I rode into Austin Texas and Linda was a contributor to the ADAPT Action Report.
There is a great Mel Martinez. But I didn’t get the message. I just left it out of the ADAPT Action Report.
Twenty years ago today, ADAPT action consisted of organizing the entire group to get up Capitol Hill and into a single hearing room in the Russell Office Building. This was an indoor “rally” for our legislation. We had some Congress people speak; most notably Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Arlen Specter, Representative John Shimkus and Justin Dart. Other people spoke from allied agencies and some ADAPT activists who had lived in nursing homes. I think we put on a great rally.
My ADAPT Action Report was brief. I didn’t really write anything, I just put quotes by photos of people who spoke. I made the page where I had a photo on the left and the text would be justified beside it to the right. The next photo would be to the right, with text off to the left. It was a simple page and today it does not render too well on my computer, but it basically still holds up.
Twenty years ago I thought it was beautiful. I did not see the design as elegant, I thought it was difficult and I was just using simple tools to make it look good. But back in 2002, there just was not a lot that was any better; in my humble opinion. Now I see the elegance of that simple design. The thing that does not hold up is my photography. It was pretty weak and the photos are small.
Notice that all the photos have the shadow effect from my editing software: http://www.timwheat.com/tim/aar/wdc511/511face03.htm
I had two programs I used for editing, Irfanview and Imagemaker, but I really did not edit the photos. I used Irfanview to batch rename and resize photos so they would fit my html templates and I could make similarly named thumbnails. I used imagemaker to add shadows to photos I offset with text and to make a bevel on the thumbnails. But once the camera had processed the photos, I did not do any real edit of exposure, contrast, highlights or anything else.
Although the camera had a very handy pop-up flash, I did not use it much. I did not use it here in the Russell Office Building either. The room was very well lit, but I obviously needed more light and more contrast with the background. The auto ISO was something I did not understand and the photos have lots of “noise” in them. Additionally, I did not crop photos either. I shot them for the aspect they would be on the web, so I always shot landscape and I could expect all my photos for the web to fit into that box of 640x480, 320x240 and 160x120. To be clear 640 for the largest photos I had on the web, 320 for those that I offset with text and 160 for my thumbnails.
I made my photography conform to these dimensions. At some point during the action, I selected a medium quality of photo and used that for all the pictures I made today twenty years ago. As I look at all the photos I made, these are all 1200 by 900. It is not a direct multiple of my 640x480 format, but it is the same 4:3 aspect for the camera. The batch edit feature of Irfanview was great, I am so sorry that I didn’t take all my photos at the highest resolution.
I also typically looked forward to the ADAPT party after the final day’s action. But because I was on the bike trip, I know that I spent this time with Judy. I don’t have any photos following the rally.
The Caucus Room was the scene of the 1954 Army-McCarthy dispute, the 1973 Watergate break-in hearings and Sen. Specter pointed out that Senator John F. Kennedy announced his bid for President in the Caucus Room.
Tom Harkin was really a great speaker. He made people feel comfortable, more like a Johnny Carson style presentation than Winston Churchill. I took a photo of him in 2011, where is makes a similar gesture and Boulder ADAPT had it signed by the Senator. Keith Persey lost the photo which was a poster sized 30 by 20 inches. If you see it anywhere, give him a call.
I have only two photos to augment my memory for today. This is the day everyone in ADAPT world heads for home. Judy and I decided to depart a tiny bit from the ADAPT world and take a day for ourselves in the Capitol. We kept our room for an additional day and Judy would head back to Colorado on Friday.
I asked Judy and she does not remember any more than I do. We visited the Pensions Building in Washington DC now called the National Building Museum. We both remember the event they set up on the first floor and some of the sites from the building. We don’t recall much of the extra day. I am sure we were just happy to be together.
I have always enjoyed the Pensions building. It was pretty run down about 25 years ago when I first visited it. It has turned into a museum since then. It was designed before they expected to have electric lighting. It has big windows and the open interior is nice. It was also open to be cooler in the summer. It was used for turn-of-the-Century Inaugural balls and Washington events.
They built it to give out pensions to the hundreds of thousands who fought in the Civil War and it was refitted to be more modern as time passed; they had electric lights and modernized the offices. After World War II I guess it really fell into decline and was refurbished sometime in the 1990s. Of note is the frieze that depicts an endless line of Union soldiers and sailors. I don't know if that was intentional but because they all seem to march right to left, the line around the building has no end.
I love Washington DC. You don’t really have to do anything to feel like you are where you should be. I have been to most of the new buildings on the Mall and to the castle. I know of some hidden gardens and I am very familiar with the Hirshhorn. Mostly with ADAPT, but I have walked the streets of WC from the Naval Observatory to Capitol Hill. The next year, 2003, I will walk with about one hundred activists from downtown Philadelphia to the US Capitol, 144 miles in two weeks.
Later in my ADAPT career, I would come into town for the action and set up my workstation at the hotel. I would walk to a grocery store in the Waterfront District. There just are no grocery stores in the Mall area. I would carry back all my food and drink for a week and when I was not at the action, I was writing, editing and producing the ADAPT Action Report. I didn’t sleep much and often I was working right up to the time the ADAPT line left the hotel.
I loved it and tried my best. But I was also demanding and I just could not let it go. I was replaced by every other person using social media at the events, especially the non-disabled activists. They held their phones up and videoed anything that happened and photographed people at the high anxiety times. If you knew what was happening, you could see it happen live.
The problem was, no one told you what was happening. The ADAPT Action in Washington DC ended a couple of days ago and I looked on the website. There was one press release from May 10, 2022. On social media there were many videos. I watched some and tried to figure out what was happening. I am familiar with the rhetoric, but rather than getting fired-up, I feel depressed. I am not the activist I was twenty years ago. I know there are some really good people volunteering with ADAPT now, but the message does not speak to me anymore.
The link to Part 2:
Access Across America Part Two
The link to Part 3:
Access Across America Part Three
The link to a companion Google Map:
2002 Jornada Map
The link to the original blog: