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By meriwether, Aug 19 2017 02:09PM

It DOES feel mighty fine to be home at last . . . my U.S. Perimeter Ride has officially come to a conclusion!  It was two years ago today on August 17, 2015, that I pedaled out of Toledo and set off for the East Coast, not knowing how long the ride would go and if I would be able to pedal the entire perimeter . . . just hoping to make it out of Ohio. 


I arrived home on Monday, 8/14/17, around 3:00, having completed the circuit of the country. My last day's ride of 50 or so miles from Defiance to Toledo was exceptional under sunny skies and comfortable temperatures - really quite ideal riding conditions. I have to say that riding Old U.S. 24  which follows the Maumee River from Fort Wayne to Toledo had to be one of the most pleasant jaunts of the journey. It snakes its way along the winding course of the river, often tree lined and shady, and carries very little traffic since the new U.S. 24 has come into being. The condition of the roadway is excellent, and puts many of the country roads in other midwestern states to shame.  Yes . . . talking about you, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota! So good on you, Indiana and Ohio! 


About halfway between Defiance and Toledo, I was met by my friend Marsha - who had hosted me down in Florida - and her cycling friend Alvin. They had pedaled out to meet me and ride with me the final 30 or so miles. Along with Jim, their sag wagon driver, they had prepared a tasty lunch of roast beef, potatoes, green beans, and fresh fruit - to be sure, not the typical mid-day fare I was used to during the course of my ride. We dined in style in Neapolis after WTOL Channel 11 caught up with me there for a final interview  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTSXKZ-lgr4, and then hopped on the Wabash Cannonball Trail for the final push to my home in Sylvania Township (Toledo). 


After greeting my sister Pat and niece Amy at my house, I headed over to Buffalo Wild Wings where some people from different segments of my life had gathered to toast and quaff a few beers - fraternity brothers, boyhood friends and neighbors,  Maumee Valley Habitat For Humanity folks, and some tennis chums. 


And that brought it to an end as I rode the final half mile back to my house, and pushed Floyd into the garage . . . and . . . was that a sigh of relief I heard from Floyd?  


Just a few images from the final day’s ride, as well as a huge thank you to all of you for your words of encouragement and support for my U.S. Perimeter Ride, and your support for the two causes for which I rode:  Save The Children and Habitat For Humanity. 


Alan Thompson

By meriwether, Aug 13 2017 12:19PM

Tippecanoe and Thompson too . . . er . . . uh . . . that should read Tippecanoe and Tyler too. You may remember that campaign slogan from way back in your American History classes. My campsite of a few nights ago was Tippecanoe River State Park where I fought the 2nd Battle of Tippecanoe against my once again formidable opponents - the mosquitoes. And I believe the mosquitoes won, for I retreated to and cowered in my tent after consuming my picnic table meal in the midst of an aerial assault by the dive bombing little beasts.


Of course, the first Battle of Tippecanoe was fought 206 years ago near Lafayette, IN, at the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, to the south of the state park where I camped - a very interesting site I visited a number of years ago. This was the place where the Eastern Confederation of Native American Tribes under the great Shawnee Leader, Tecumseh, faced off against the troops of Indiana Territory Governor, William Henry Harrison. One problem though - Tecumseh was not at the battle. He had traveled to the south to garner more support for his cause of Native American unity to resist the loss of their traditional lands to American settlers, and left things in the hands of his younger brother, Tenskwatawa, who was nicknamed The Prophet, a mystic who was definitely not the battle leader that Tecumseh was.


Tecumseh had counseled his brother not to engage Harrison’s forces until he got back . . . and as younger brothers sometimes do - he did not listen. In fact, The Prophet actually promised his warriors that the American bullets would not harm them, and so attack they did. After a hot two hour conflict, the Native American forces were dispersed, and their village burned. Tecumseh’s dream of unified Native American resistance to American encroachment on Indian lands came crashing down . . . and he wasn’t even there.


Tecumseh - one of those figures like Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sakakawea from our colorful past that you would like to sit down with and have a chat. He was one of the greatest of all Native American leaders and a fierce opponent of American advancement into Indian territory . . . and yet, he spoke out against the torture of those who had been captured in battle. Those of you living in Ohio, if you have never seen the spectacular outdoor drama Tecumseh staged in a beautiful outdoor venue down at Chillicothe, gather your kids and/or grandkids, and go experience this!


And William Henry Harrison? Tippecanoe and Tyler too is that slogan we all seem to remember from our history that helped vault Harrison, “Old Tippecanoe”, to the presidency in 1840. Of course, he died of pneumonia after only a month in office - attributed by some to his longest-in-history inaugural address given in cold and inclement weather - 8,000 and some words without a hat or gloves.


And . . . a rather amazing circumstance of history relating to this is that John Tyler who became our tenth president in 1841 after President Harrison died. . . . John Tyler, who was born in 1790 - a year after George Washington was elected 1st President of the U.S. . . . John Tyler . . . still has two LIVING GRANDSONS! Not great great grandsons . . . or even great grandsons . . . but GRANDSONS! Check it out for yourself.


My ride across the states of Illinois and Indiana brought me fully into the Midwest, leaving the Mississippi River and its bluffs behind and following other waterways which eventually find their way to join the Father Of Waters - like the Fox, Illinois, and Kankakee Rivers. The highways and byways of these two states receive very different grades, however, regarding their bicycle friendliness. I would give Illinois an F for their bicycling infrastructure, and the horrendous condition of their secondary and country roads, as well as their U.S. Routes across the state - at least those that I experienced. U.S. 52 through central Illinois is a death trap for cyclists with absolutely no berm or any place for a cyclist to ride safely. You may remember Hans the bicycling pastor of whom I had a photo in my June 28 Update. Hans and I stayed in touch, and he was only a few days ahead of me in Illinois. He let me know that he was hit from behind on U.S. 52 and very seriously injured - now slowly on the road to recovery in Rockford, IL. I was to travel that very same stretch of road the next day, and I did so with apprehension, but I also let drivers know quite demonstrably that they better not get too close to me.


Indiana, on the other hand, I would give high marks for the friendly riding conditions and smooth paved surfaces of their secondary and country roads. Coupled with the Hoosier gently rolling and verdant farmlands, the sunny skies, cool temps, and favorable winds, Indiana was this cyclist’s joy to traverse.


In Fort Wayne I was able to put in my 19th volunteer day of the journey with their Habitat For Humanity affiliate, and as always, it was a good day with a small crew doing some ceiling painting in a wonderful community of Habitat built homes called Fullers Landing. And that’s part of the philosophy behind Habitat - building not just a home, but also a community. Fort Wayne’s CBS affiliate WANE Channel 15 came out to do a nice spot, and here’s the link to that report if you are interested: http://wane.com/2017/08/11/cyclist-stops-in-fort-wayne-on-12k-mile-charity-ride/


I’m taking a rest day at my Nephew’s home here in Fort Wayne - which I haven’t done for quite a while - before I begin the two day ride to Toledo, and the end of my mission for Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children.


I’ll be leaving tomorrow on Sunday morning and either camp or motel it around Defiance, OH, and then mount up for the final time on Monday, and roll into Toledo sometime Monday afternoon.


As I’ve already had one homecoming, not planning anything grand. But I’ll just say that maybe I’ll bicycle right over to Buffalo Wild Wings at Central and McCord which is near my house, and grab a tall, cool one. And if you are in the area, stop by and join me for some form of liquid sustenance.


So . . . for one final time from the Road, I will say that . . . I am Proceeding On.

By meriwether, Aug 12 2017 02:46PM

Greetings Humans - It’s me . . . Floyd - you know . . . the Bike, 


Al wanted me to do one of these close to the end Posts. I don’t know - maybe he’s running out of words . . . or maybe he thinks you might like to hear from me.


Anyway . . . I guess this journey is really winding down - and it’s been quite a ride. So many miles - over 12,000 now - and so many memories.


It feels as though my wheels have been spinning forever. That jaunt down the  East Coast seems like a long time ago now. I learned so much history along the way - Al likes to stop at all those historical sites . . . yawn . . . well, not really. Don’t tell Al, but I was pretty fascinated by some of those places - Lexington and Concord, Washington DC, Fredericksburg Battlefield, the Alamo, the place where that Indian girl Sakakawea lived - Geez, I can’t remember them all!


And it was fun visiting all those Habitat For Humanity job sites. So much activity going on with a lot of enthusiastic people running all over the place, carrying things, pounding on things, lifting things.  Glad I could just sit there and watch Al swing a hammer - don’t think I would have been too good at that. 


That ride through the southern states during the winter wasn’t as warm as I though it would be - there were some darn cold mornings out there - especially that huge place called Texas. Al said it was supposed to be warmer;  it sure did take a while for my wheels to warm up on some of those cold mornings. 


One memory that will always be with me is that whack-a-mole job the lady did on me in the Mohave Desert. Holy Spokes! I never thought I would recover from that. I remember flying through the air, and landing on my front wheel, and all my spokes going this way and that . . . but don’t remember much after that. I did get a week long rest out of it in Lake Havasu City . . . and there was that nice fellow who paid for my entire repair bill, but wouldn’t tell us who he was - he did tell us he was a disabled veteran. 


I seem to be a source of endless fascination for people who happen by - they’re always stopping to give me the once over . . . and then the twice and thrice over.  They like to check out all the cool stuff hanging off me, and they’re always reading the sign on my butt that tells them what I’m doing and where I’ve been. Sometimes they even leave money stuffed in my handle bar bag. But Al prefers that they visit his website, and leave some money there for one of the charities he’s riding for. 


Al and I have met so many kind and interesting folks along the way. Some of them are called Warm Showers hosts, and some are old friends, or people we just meet along the way, and we get to stay in their homes. Well . . . at least Al does . . . seems like he always gets the bed. I usually end up in the garage. But . . . there HAVE been some very nice garages! Don’t tell Al this, but some of those garages have a frig with beer in it. But I won’t say any more about that - don’t want to get in trouble.


That west coast was really something. I remember Al was using just about every gear he could find in my combination of gears to climb those coastal hills.  And the wind - Wow! Seems like it was always slowing me down. But I really liked seeing the ocean and that dramatic coastline.

 

I don’t know which was more difficult for me - that Pacific Coast or the Rocky Mountains. They were both so challenging.  But gosh - I’ve never seen such spectacular scenery. So many ups and downs. It seems like it was either one or the other. And I thought it would be a relief once we made it out onto those Great Plains. But you know what - those Great Plains aren’t really flat at all. And man - you can just see forever out there. That long and beautiful river we just got done following sure was something. They call it The Father Of Waters, and I can see why!


I hope you guys didn’t get tired of seeing me - seems like Al was always taking my photo. Guess he felt like if he couldn’t be in it, then I should be in it. But he was always taking a photo of my bad side - yes, even we bikes have our good and bad sides.


I hope I’ve lived up to my namesake, Charles Floyd . . . and I hope I would have done him proud.  Al is alway praising me, but sometimes he cusses at me too, like when my rear tire goes flat, or my gears start to miss. But I think he’s proud of me and the job I’ve done carrying him all these miles. Al said that a very important man by the name of William Clark was the commander of Charles Floyd a long time ago, and when the young man died, William said of Charles Floyd, “He was a man of much merit.”  I heard Al say the other day that I’m also a Bicycle of Much Merit. And that made me feel pretty good!


So the end is in sight - just a couple hundred more miles to go. Looking forward to being back home in my own garage - and just snoozing most of the day. 


Al wanted me to say to you all that we hope you have enjoyed the ride . . . and to let you all know that . . .


We are Proceeding On,


And . . . he also wanted me to include in this post a few of our favorite photos from along the way.

By meriwether, Aug 2 2017 12:08PM

Hello Everyone -


When the little stream finds its way out of Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, it’s not much more than a trickle, a small babbling brook. You can straddle it, put your feet on either side, and wade ankle deep through it’s shallow waters. But within a couple hundred miles, it’s breadth and force begin to build, fed by numerous tributaries . . . and then the stream becomes a river . . . but not just any river . . . it becomes a waterway that aspires greatly.


By the time it reaches Minneapolis/St. Paul, it has become one of the major rivers of the world. Native Americans called it Misi-ziibi or Great River. Broad and expansive, its valley stretches for miles across a vast wetland that forms the Mississippi Flyway, a route that almost half the nation’s migratory birds and waterfowl follow on their yearly migrations from the Arctic to Central and South America. 


It is a river of substance, a river of culture and history, a river of powerful geologic forces. As the Native Americans who lived and hunted along its banks and traveled its currents would say  . . .  it is The Father Of Waters


The Mississippi River courses for 2,300 miles through the heartland, and along with its mighty tributaries The Missouri and Ohio Rivers, it drains the entire central region of the United States and southern Canada stretching from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains. Rains falling on those widely separated slopes mingle and find their way together as they flow into the Gulf of Mexico at the Great River’s mouth at New Orleans. Much like a human body, this major artery carries the lifeblood of our country - its produce and commerce - to faraway destinations and markets. 


The Mississippi River is central to our country’s story, and although we have altered it and try to control it, we have not tamed it. The Father of Waters does indeed have a mind of its own.


I’ve been wheeling along the course of the Great River this past week for over 200 miles on what is know as The Great River Road - a series of roadways on either side of the Mississippi that follow closely it’s course. The scenery has been magnificent with dramatic river bluffs etching either shore. These bluffs and forested hills are part of what is known as the Driftless region - an area that was not touched by the glaciers of the most recent ice ages - and hence these bluffs were unaffected by glaciation resulting in a dramatic and rugged landscape.  They are home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and various other raptors soaring on wind currents and searching for that next tasty meal of fish.


First on the Minnesota side, and now on the Wisconsin side - cycling  along The Great River Road has been a truly spectacular ride - one of the premiere rides of my journey, as was my ride up the Columbia River Gorge . . . as was my ride in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark along the mighty Missouri.  The Mississippi,  the Missouri, the Columbia, the Colorado, and the Ohio - these major rivers of our country form not only the geographic backbone of this land, but they are significant to  our history, expansion, and growth. They are integral to our well being as a country, and need to be preserved and protected. 


A bit of serendipity . . . in the beautiful river town of Stillwater, MN, I decided to knock on the door of St. Mary’s Catholic Church  since I didn’t have a place to stay for the night - might they have a place where I could pitch a tent or throw my sleeping pad and bag? They did not, but Flo Harris - the office manager who was just closing up for the day - made a couple of calls, and scheduled a complimentary stay for me at the beautiful and historic Lowell Inn in Stillwater - one of the classic old hotels dating back to 1927.


And then on the streets of La Crosse, WI, I stopped to look at my maps as I am often wont to do. A man and his daughter approached me to find out what I was about. Actually they had driven by me, pulled over, and got out just to come back and talk to me. Mark and Matty were very interested in my story, and before I knew it, they had invited me to come and stay at their home for the night. Mark is an avid cyclist himself, so there was much to discuss.  Matty was leaving the next day for a trip to Glacier National Park with her Mom . . . Glacier Park - I remembered it well!


Two great kindnesses shown to a wayfaring cyclist. 


Many interesting sights to see along The Great River Road. One of those was the National Eage Center in Wabasha, Minnesota, where I made the acquaintance of Angel and Columbia, two beautiful bald eagles that have broken wings, and thus could not survive on their own in the wild. Such majestic animals and fitting ambassadors for our National Symbol. Angel was given her name by a visiting 4th grader, and Columbia was named for the Columbia Space Shuttle Crew that perished in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster of 2003.


Yesterday morning, August 1, I started out in Wisconsin, then I was in Illinois for about five minutes, and finally  Iowa welcomed me. Actually I was on my way to work with Dubuque Habitat For Humanity. Dubuque lies along the banks of The Father Of Waters, and my goodness, it is one hilly city. The Habitat worksite was far above the  banks of the Mississippi, and I had to get off and push Floyd and Bob (the trailer) up an unbelievably steep grade. Rarely do I have to get off and push, but this was one of those rare times - the grade was virtually unrideable.  Once at the Habitat job site, it took me a while to recover, but it turned out to be a great day, and my 18th volunteer opportunity with a Habitat For Humanity affiliate for this journey. 


A bit of a milestone in my fundraising efforts: I've reached my goal of $20,0000 for Save The Children. So many thanks go out to all of my donors who have made this possible!


I am now about 450 miles from home, and I am Proceeding On.
















By meriwether, Jul 26 2017 12:27AM

Greetings From Lake Wobegon -


Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average. Those of you who were fans of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion will recognize my salutation immediately. 


Thus, here is all the news from Lake Wobegon. Actually, over the weekend I was riding the Lake Wobegon Trail  which is a 63 mile long rail trail through central Minnesota, and it was a bit of a joy to ride. Connected to the Central Lakes Trail which is 55 miles long, it carves a 118 mile rail trail corridor through western and central Minnesota that extends from Fergus Falls almost to St. Cloud.


Unfortunately, the Central Lakes Trail is in very poor condition with cracks in the “paved” surface that are 2 and 3 inches wide - cracks that would like to swallow your wheel . . . real spoke breakers. It drives me crazy when states create a wonderful resource such as this and then don’t maintain it properly. 


Garrison Keillor, however, would be pleased to know that his Lake Wobegon Trail is, like the children of Lake Wobegon, above average and a wonderful riding experience.


Backtracking a bit, after leaving Bismarck, ND, and the Trail of Lewis and Clark, I headed into eastern North Dakota and watched the landscape transform itself from arid Great Plains to rolling farmlands, following one of the longest and straightest highways that my wheels have yet traversed in my journey around the country. My goodness - talk about a straight and narrow highway . . . North Dakota Rt 46 is such a road. Unfortunately - quite dangerous for cyclists since along many stretches there is little or nor berm. 


Arriving in Fargo after riding the straight and narrow, there was a sense of deja vu - my brother Richard lived here for a number of years, so I have visited a few times.  But it didn’t take long to realize that the Fargo-Moorhead metro area has grown by leaps and bounds since I was last here in the early 1980’s. Moorhead, Minnesota, is just across the Red River from Fargo, and it forms the North Dakota/ Minnesota border. The Red River actually flows northward, not south to join the Mississippi River as one might think . . . instead, its waters eventually find their way to the frigid Hudson Bay.


In Moorhead, I had the opportunity to put in the 17th volunteer day of my journey - in as many cities -  with the Lake Agassiz Habitat For Humanity which covers the Fargo/Moorhead metro area.  (Lake Agassiz is the name of the glacial lake that covered this area thousands of years ago.) I was on familiar ground, this time helping out with the ReStore pick-ups as I have done often with our own Maumee Valley HFH. Suzanne and I covered some territory as we tootled around both Fargo and Moorhead in the ReStore truck picking up washers, dryers, refrigerators, doors, and other sundry materials that will help fund the Lake Agassiz  HFH home building and renovation projects. It was quite a good load . . . and quite a good day.


Traversing northern and central Minnesota has been the usual roller coaster of highs and lows. Minnesota is called The Land of Ten Thousands Lakes for good reason - there seems to be a lake around every bend bordered by lush and rolling hills. And the green . . . after the parched, brown plains and prairies of Montana and western North Dakota, it reminds me of Dorothy stepping out of her tornado deposited Kansas house into the Land of Oz. The cycling is good - the hills are there, but not like the long, endless grades of the western Great Plains. And It IS much like a roller coaster with a not so long climb followed by an invigorating downward plunge, to be followed shortly by another climb.


One night I camped at Lake Ida and from a pier jutting out into the lake watched the sun settle into the  western hills while I dangled my feet in the cooling waters. But two nights later at Smith Lake near Alexandria, MN, the mosquitoes seemed to be overjoyed at my presence, and the party group that set up camp next to me kept things going into the wee hours.   And the rains - the rains came just as I climbed into my tent, and I awoke to the same dark and brooding skies in the morning which again burst forth just as I was packing up - all was wet and soggy . . .  including me, and breakfast in the camp bathroom was not my idea of fine dining. 


And then - a magical place - the Adventure Cyclists Bunkhouse in Dalbo, MN, about 50 miles north of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Donn Olson was a career Army man . . . a helicopter pilot in Vietnam - worked in the Pentagon for a number of years. Born and raised here, his farm is a haven for weary cyclists. He has turned one of the out buildings of his farm into a bunkhouse that is open to all touring cyclists: four bunk rooms with two beds each, a common area, TV, AC, and a fully stocked kitchen with bins of snacks, drinks, and full, ready to heat up meals. And the cost for cyclists . . . NONE. He does it all out of his own funds and his desire to help us crazy folks traveling coast to coast on two wheels . . . sans motor. There is a donation jar - he asks 25 cents for a cold drink or a snack, but nobody checks. It’s all on the honor system, but I think most of us try to leave much more than what he suggests. He’s always working on and  improving The Bunkhouse . . . a work in progress. Donn has become legendary in the world of touring cyclists.


In Fergus Falls, MN, a broken spoke on my rear wheel sent me to Central Lakes  Cycle. Clark Grotberg, the manager of the store, took my bike in straight away and changed not only the broken spoke but also a couple of others that were ready to go. As my cycling gloves were becoming quite ratty, I selected a brand new pair, and then pulled out my credit card to settle up. Clark said to me, “No charge for anything - we like to help people like you.”  I was floored once again, thinking of my accident in the Mohave Desert  and that repair bill paid for by a disabled Veteran. Clark lost his son. David, last October in a cycling hit and run incident down in Texas. He was a student at Baylor University, and he and his girl friend were out cycling when a speeding hit and run driver took them out. His girlfriend survived, but David did not. The hit and run driver has not been caught to date. I asked Clark about a memorial fund for David, and he informed me about a scholarship fund set up by Baylor, and I have since made my donation to honor his son. 


I’m now over 2,000 miles on this stage of the journey. Officially for my U.S. Perimeter Ride, 11,000 miles have passed beneath my wheels; unofficially and probably more accurately, it is closer to 11,500 since, as you may recall, my odometer is about five one hundredths off for each mile I ride.  Most likely now, there are about 700 miles  between me and  my front door. My front door . . . I do like the sound of that. 


As my U.S Perimeter Ride winds down, I’m thinking more and more about the purpose behind the journey and the effort I have put forth. Have I talked to enough people along the way? What else could I have done to increase the exposure of the ride? I was a bit disappointed that the TV interviews that I did around the country didn’t result in more donations to Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children. Most of those on my donor list are folks  who have known me over the years or people who know people  who know me.  I do have a  small, but significant list of people who I have met along the way who thankfully have joined my donor list as well.  And to all of my donors who  have contributed to Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children in support of this journey, you are the reason for the success of my ride. So I hope this won’t be too forward if I make a request - no . . . not another donation if you have already made one to either charity. Truly, I would prefer to see new names on my donor list. So my request is to think of one or two people - a friend, relative, co-worker, golf or tennis buddy - and mention to them about my ride and the purposes behind it. Possibly Invite them to visit my website usperimeterride.org,  and if they are so motivated and like the efforts I have put forth, to consider a small donation to Habitat For Humanity or Save The Children. Those small donations do mount up. As I have tried to say at the end of the interviews I have done, what could be more important than providing affordable homes for those in need of one, and helping kids around the world with education and nutrition as well as their survival during natural disasters, wars, famine, and drought. 


I am Proceeding On.



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