Monday, March 13, 2017

Between tours; an attempt to establish a new residence in Lincoln Nebraska.

Some of you may be wondering what I have been up to since the last tour.  I have literally been across the country and back.  Here is that story.

Immediately following the end of Tour De PACLANTIC, I stayed a week or so at Jekyll Island while trying to find a ride-share to Phoenix.   Having no luck at finding a ride-share, I decided to at least make some progress of my own doing and start riding in the direction of Phoenix.  The next day after leaving the island, I received a message for a call back regarding a ride-share.  From Brunswick, Georgia, I found a ride to New Orleans, Louisiana.

I stayed on the outskirts of New Orleans for a couple of nights as I searched other ride-shares to the west and placed ads of my own.  Again, I packed up and decided to start working on my own progress towards Baton Rouge Louisiana and then further west across the Mississippi River.  I made it to a truck stop, where I was welcomed to set camp behind the Cajun Circus Casino.  There, at the Cajun Circus Casino (link is Facebook site), I would search for ride-shares and await a response to several of my own ads.  After a week, I found a ride-share that brought me to within 40 miles, and just south of Phoenix, Arizona.

In Phoenix, I had some personal business to attend to and stayed there nearly a month with a few friends.  I managed to visit with friends, interview with Shelley Ridenour and David Jolkovski of the East Valley Tribune for a post trip follow up story, see to personal matters, write some of my story, and put up some ads on ride-share listings for our final destination, Lincoln Nebraska.  It was time to head towards Lincoln Nebraska, where I had a job offer waiting as well as an offer to help get us on our feet with living accommodations so we could get established in our new home town.

As it would happen, believe it or not, I could find no ride-shares out of Phoenix, so rather than wait, I asked Veterans and Their Pets™ if they could arrange transportation for us out of town.  A driver came to pick us up and was able to deliver us as far as the Petrified National Forest Park in central Arizona off of Interstate 40.  From here I assembled bike and trailer to once again, ride east until another ride-share became available.

East of Gallup New Mexico, I stopped at Red Rock Park in Church Rock New Mexico, where I had stayed during the first Tour De PACLANTIC (Facebook Link) to wait out a thunderstorm.  Here I made a new friend, Terry Singer, and was allowed to make camp at his camp space while keeping an eye on his travel trailer while he was away at work.  It was here that I helped a lady at a neighboring camp set up a kennel and walk her three wiener-dogs while she was away at work (she would later offer me a ride to Albuquerque, New Mexico).   It was here that I also watched a week of local rodeo (a first), and met with Kyle Chancellor and Cable Hoover of the Gallup Independent to do a post trip interview for an article. 

Along the tour, I had made some friends, one of which I met at the International Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally in Raton New Mexico on July 5th, 2015 following my arrival there on the 4th, Independence Day.  I was near the Arizona New Mexico border, at Red Rocks Park, when the thought occurred to me to contact the owner/operator/pilot Ken Ferguson of “Itsa TOUCHIE SUBJECT” (the air craft) for a ride to the 2016 International Santa Fe Trail Balloon Rally.  After my ride to Albuquerque, it was just a 3 or 4 day wait for us to ride up and meet with “Fergie” and family, where we caught a ride with the “Itsa TOUCHIE SUBJECT” balloon team north to Raton New Mexico.

Upon our arrival in Raton, New Mexico, I met up with a friend that allowed us to stay for a breather while on Tour De PACLANITC.  While there we visited together and attended the Balloon Rally along with the entire “Itsa TOUCHIE SUBJECT” balloon team.  I had volunteered to help set up the balloon as well as join the chase crew to find and pack up the balloon, crew and passengers after its landings.  Talk about fun; and to top it off, I also received my first balloon ride.  I have shared some amazing videos of this trip on my YouTube.  I’ll post some more after I finish this post.  This was my first hot air balloon ride!  Unfortunately, Daisy did not get to ride.

 While in Raton New Mexico, I helped my friend with nearly all of her tree work.  She had tons of dead wood that needed cutting back, away from the house, shed, and power lines.  It was a nice visit and it was good to help out a friend in need too.  Her neighbor gave us a ride to Trinidad on their way to a doctor appointment, where I would meet up with Adam Sperandio and ride together to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Tour De PACLANTIC,  Veterans and Their Pets(SM), Harold and Daisy
Adam Sperandio and myself, June '16
Adam Sperandion and myself, June '16

 We arrived in Lincoln and were warmly welcomed by a family we met along the first Tour De PACLANTIC.  With them, I would get the chance to establish myself in Lincoln but upon my arrival I learned that the job was not yet available.  Immediately I started taking care of business.
Some of the issues I felt that I needed to address, were for depression, vision, and what services were available to the “homeless”.  I spent a week, setting appointments with the VA Hospital, arriving for walk-ins to those offices that would allow them.  I quickly learned that if I sat in waiting rooms long enough, staff would eventually tire of having a homeless military veteran cluttering their otherwise empty waiting room and dispatch a doctor to get rid of me.  There were periods of time that even I wondered if the room I was in was in fact the waiting room until the end of the day when a nurse would arrive, step into the room to make certain that there were no forgotten patients.  How embarrassing would that be, to arrive at work Monday and find that you have to knock the dust off of a patient forgotten on Friday?

These appointments were necessary, for I felt that my vision had gotten worse over the past year and my existing prescription lenses were very out dated.   Knowing that my Commercial Driver License was about to expire as well as needing a new health card, I certainly wanted to make sure that I passed with flying colors.  Then there was the issue with depression which I had successfully made two visits before giving up on any success in finding either a short or long term solution.

Another appointment that I saw as a necessity was filling out an application to the local homeless shelter, People's City Mission of Lincoln Nebraska.   I received all but written guaranteed assurances that Daisy and I fit the profile for the optimum type of resident that they were looking for and that we would have a place the following Monday.  For three months I called with only sporadic responses to the voice messages I’d left.

These appointments were located all over Lincoln, and on a few of the days, I had logged well over 40 total miles each day.  One day I recall like it was yesterday, for I thought I had been taking a short cut.  It turned out to be a long cut and then a race to make it in time for my Urine Analysis, a drug screen for employment.  I arrived at 1630hrs when a lady dressed in nurses garb came out to lock the waiting room doors, citing that I was lucky she forgot to lock the door at 1600hrs.  I explained to her that she would not have to extend her working hours waiting for a second attempt for me to fill her cup in the event I could not fill her first.  I further explained that if I didn’t get a cup soon, she may have to clean the floor.  On the way home, I stopped to pick up food at a community food pantry at a local church.  Even on the days I was not yet employed, I would often come home exhausted.  There was of course the anxiety and stresses of making my appointment times in a town with which I was completely unfamiliar with.

One day, on a Saturday, I decided to take a bike ride to a part of the city I had not yet been to.  The area seemed populated with larger industrial businesses on the north east out skirts of Lincoln Nebraska.  I wanted to get an idea of how long it would take to arrive at any part of the city on a bike, and for this reason, I took it at a leisurely pace for a conservative estimate.  When I arrived at a particular refuse company I was considering for employment, and had in fact discussed the particulars with online, I was pleasantly surprised to find someone at the shop.  I talked to the fellow that I had spoke with earlier on the phone and explained my outing as reconnaissance.  He granted an interview right then and there.  He apologized to me that there may only be a part time opening and that they may even be able to cover it without help.   The later turned out to be the case.

On my way back home, I found signs by the road side soliciting CDL (Commercial Driver License) operators for a nearby company.  I stopped in to pick up an application and instead held an immediate interview with the site manager of the company I would later be working for.  After explaining my experience with a class B CDL and that I would like a day or two to get familiar with driving with a heavy G.V.W.R. and a manual transmission, he seemed sincere in asking if I would start as a material handler, delivering bundles of shingles to the rooftops.  The request seemed reasonable and logical to me that perhaps he wanted to see if I had an aversion to heights and a work ethic as I would be required to deliver bundles of shingles to be delivered on client’s roofs.  I reluctantly agreed while at the same time asking him to define this period of time needed to evaluate me.  I received an odd look from him while asking for this time frame, one that would later become evident to me as to the meaning behind it.  He replied 30 to 60 days.  I was not interested in working indefinitely, for a lesser amount, while I held a perfectly good CDL in my back pocket.

Thirty days came and went.  Sixty days came and went.  On day 90, I turned in my two week notice.  I’m pretty bent out of shape that I misread this situation from the start, and for the fact that I even gave a two-week notice.  Our agreement ended on day 60 as far as I was concerned.  I should have left at that time, however, winter was coming on and I thought better of how I would make ends meet when layoffs for winter were just around the corner.  October 26th , my birthday, was my last day employed.  Following work, I celebrated alone with Daisy and treated myself to a burger at Perkins Restaurant, where they treated me to a courtesy birthday dessert.

During my term of employment, I was required to look for a new residence as the 30-45 days allotted to me was up.  The family I was staying with had a life of their own and I was thankful for the opportunity they allowed me in their already hectic lives.  On a Saturday, we packed our few belongings, gave thanks for their hospitality, said our goodbyes, and checked into a seedy motel that was only 6 miles from my employer. 

Up until now, I had been making a ten mile trek into and back from work (20 miles total), on a daily basis, where I would, either throw or catch 60-85# bundles of shingles while walking steep inclines, and finish out the day around the yard at the shop for a total of eight to twelve hours a day.  The 4 mile difference was nice but at $250 per week for a motel room I would not last long from a budget stand point.  After two weeks of staying at this motel I would end, up once again, just under 10 miles from my employer.  I move to Knights Inn right next to the airport.

At Knights Inn (and yes, I am going to give this company a plug), next to the airport, I checked in to a room that was smaller than my last, without a fridge (initially), without a fully functional toilette or an adequately operating air conditioning unit.  During my entire stay the toilette would never flush more than twice in a row and was backed up for all but seven days of my stay.  The staff, the ones in position of making decisions for the property, seemed entirely made up of the majority clientele they catered to.  My theory here is supported by the toilette issues I suffered during my three month stay.

During my time in Lincoln, Nebraska, I managed to renew my CDL license, CDL health card, obtain a vision prescription, and a pair of each, clear and tinted corrective lens glasses.  My God, the tinted frames were ridiculously expensive, even at Wal-Mart!  With the help of Deanna Chris, while I was off working, she took Daisy for a physical and her rabies vaccination and managed to pass on to me a discounted office visit; thank you DeAnna and the veterinarian who checked out Daisy. 

Michael West, the man (and the president) from Veterans and Their Pets™ that saw to the intake and care of Daisy when I first became homeless in 2014, decided, when I had arrived on my bike in Phoenix during the first Tour De PACLANTIC, that it would be in my best interest to have my phone connected to wireless services instead of depending exclusively on WiFi in case of an emergency, as I had done up until that point.  It seemed ridiculous to me that I should be a burden, an expense to Veterans and Their Pets™, the  organization I'm trying to help.   For that I am extremely grateful and the reason I also managed to donate $1,000 dollars to Veterans and Their Pets™ following the tour in an attempt to pay it forward to the next military veteran.   I might also add that it was Veterans and Their Pets™ that assisted me with the online purchase of my birth certificate which was needed for transferring my out of state license to my new home town of Lincoln.  I had no credit card with which to purchase the certificate online and to expedite its arrival.  Veterans andTheir Pets™ bailed me out.  Thanks again Veterans and Their Pets™!

On November 4th, 2016, after having agreed on an amount for rent and that I would pay for the fuel for the round trip, another acquaintance I had met along Tour De PACLANTIC came out and picked me up in Lincoln.  I checked out of the creepy motel that I was staying at on a month to month basis. Daisy and I, along with my acquaintance, hopped in a truck and drove to Glidden Iowa, our new home for the winter.

It was in Glidden Iowa that I would see my first white Christmas in a very long time.  I would become familiar with the life of a very small town.  I enjoyed Glidden very much, even though Daisy and I spent the majority of time reading books while coming to the conclusion that another Tour De PACLANTIC would both be appropriate and fitting. On an extremely limited budget and very fixed income, I managed to squeak by riding out a 2016-17 Iowa winter. 

I spent more than I should have on the ride to Kinston Alabama, but I’m sure that you will remember my experiences with ride-shares following the conclusion of Tour De PACLANTIC.  Being out in a small town in mid-west Iowa, I was certain that the rides offered heading south would be few and far between.  Additionally, I thought it best to accept an arrangement that I felt both comfortable in its accommodations as well as in the person with which the agreement was arranged.  To date, it has been the most enjoyable ride-share.

So here we are, in Kinston Alabama, just 5.25 hours from Massengale Park, St. Simons Island Georgia where we will start Tour De PACLANTIC II on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 11:00am. 

We were not able to establish a residence in Lincoln Nebraska but I feel that it all worked out the way it was meant to be.  Daisy and I are set and ready for another tour.

I thank you for reading my blog.  I hope that you look forward to seeing and reading about our experiences while we cross America on the next Tour De PACLANTIC, the coast to coast tour for Veterans and Their Pets(TM).

UPDATED LINKS to photos and videos covering this period of time:

Roof top videoOther YouTube videos.

UPDATE:  Latest information re our arrival:  St. Simons Island, Georgia

(((March 3, 2017 Edit:  Daisy and I will be at Massengale Park (click on this link for a Google Map) in St. Simons Island, Georgia on Saturday, April 8th, 2017, no later than 11:00 AM .    There, we will meet with folks, share our story, answer questions, participate in photos, and to raise awareness and funding for "Veterans and Their Pets(SM)" .  (Please take a moment and visit their web site at the following link:  Veterans and Their Pets(SM))

Important:  In the event of inclement weather, I am presently asking around for an alternate location for a meet and greet and will endeavor to notify all, here on this blog, and on all social media.  However, rain or shine, Daisy and I will get our feet wet in the Atlantic ocean at the stated time and location.

Important:  Please, for the safety of Daisy and myself, do NOT donate cash on this date.  It would not be wise for me to be walking around with donations and I will have no means to transfer those funds to "Veterans and Their Pets(SM).  If you wish to donate, please click on the following link at the FundRazr account for "Veterans and Their Pets(SM)", a 501(c)(3) non-profit (EIN 26-0896950).

Important:  I am trying to conceive of all the variables associated with such a public meeting.  It is not my intention to come across as ungrateful, expecting, or to portray a sense of entitlement.  In fact, I don't know what to expect.  I will start this trip with a full load of dry beans, rice, dog food, and a pound of each:  tire patches, glue, and spokes.  A full load.  If all you bring is hugs, handshakes, curiosity, and well-wishes, these things alone, matched with ours in return, will make for a remarkable, joyful, and most memorable occasion!)))

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