TRIP 2005

Update #31 - September 16th
Dekalb, Mississippi - 10,726 miles (17,162 KM)

I got on the road to the disaster area Friday, Sept. 02nd. The first day was down to Albany, GA. I got a room at a low-cost motel on the north edge of town. I had made it a short day since I had hoped to take part in the crash course program Saturday morning with the Albany American Red Cross Chapter in disaster relief. When I finally was able to call the chapter, I learned that all the spaces were filled. The local chapter had set up a small shelter for some of the evacuees at one of the Albany churches but it was also staffed.

From Albany, I headed southwest to Dothan, Alabama. I was surprised at finding a room at a motel in the downtown area. I had thought that all the motel rooms in the area would have been taken up by hurricane evacuees. I had traveled almost 86 miles that day. The Church of the Nazarene had set itself up as a shelter for evacuees.

Sunday morning, I went to the First Presbyterian Church on the western outskirts of Dothan. I had a good time in one of the Sunday School classes. After the church service, I got almost $50 in "Green-handshakes". This more than covered my expenses Saturday night. There was also an offer to go to home of one of the Sunday School class members for lunch. On the way back to the church, there was an offer to get a new front tire and groceries at the local Wal-Mart.

Instead of making a late start out of town, I got offered the Youth Building for the rest of the day. There were showers, a washer and dryer, and a good sofa to sleep on. Also, I was also invited to speak to the Sunday night Youth Group. There were almost 2 dozen teens present. We had a good question and answer session after I gave my talk. This was the 51st church that I spoke at this year.

Monday morning (Sept. 05), the youth minister came to the church early with breakfast and he also slipped me a Wal-Mart gift card for $40. I had a good ride to Andalusia. I was able to find a motel room with a decent price on the east edge of town. Ten minutes after I had checked in, there was a knock at my motel room door. The local churches were providing hot evening meals at the local churches on a rotating basis for evacuees staying at the local motels. There was a church van service and I got to take part in the meal. There must have been over a 100 people at the Methodist church. Over half of them were evacuees. I got a bag of treats to take along. Also, I was told that I could go to the County Health Office in the morning and get a free tetanus shot.

Tuesday (Sept. 06), I rode to Brewton. I was invited to take part in the meal at one of the small churches that is hosting about two dozen people. I got more food to take along. There wasn't any extra room there at the church so I was able to find a low-cost motel room.

Wednesday night (Sept 07), I found myself at the Methodist Church in Spanish Fort. I had stayed there about five years ago in one of the outside buildings. I had hoped to be able to do so again. I took part in the family meal. The associate minister who I had known there had moved on. After the Wednesday night classes, I was told that there was a policy change. I wouldn't be allowed to stay on the church grounds. I was told about the disaster shelter at a church about a mile away. The Community Church was small but it had a big heart since it was housing 18 evacuees. They made room for me.

I got on the road early (Sept 08) and was able to ride along the causeway into Mobile. There was a lot of damage along the causeway from the hurricane. Several motels and gas stations were destroyed by the storm surge. At the motels, the bottom floors were completely washed away. The ride through Mobile was long. I was going to try and get to Pascagoula, Mississippi but after reading the local newspaper I changed my plans and headed over to Bayou La Batre. The Methodist Church was a relief center.

I got to the Methodist Church around 5 p.m. They were happy to see me since they didn't have a night watchman to look after all of the donations in the backyard under a big tent. The FEMA people had moved to a bigger facility across the road. I settled in to a classroom.

I spent 3 days and 4 nights at the church. Two nights were spent in the church while the last two nights were in a small RV trailer that somebody donated to the church. It was good to help the people in need but I got really mixed signals from the pastor and the church members. I cranked out 33 hours of volunteer work in three days. It was controlled chaos with all of the people there from the church and other churches who came to help out including the fact that almost 1000 people were helped each day.

Sunday morning near the beginning of the service, I got to speak for a few minutes so this was the 52nd church that I was able to speak at for the year. The sermon was really mixed. The pastor told about some of the greed that he had seen from the people coming to the church for food and cleaning supplies and how ungrateful some of them were. After the service, the pastor told the congregation that they could take what they want from the donations. Some of them commented that this was like having a free grocery and department store for their own use. This got me really bad. To me, this was fraud and misuse of the donations. I was really burnt out. I did not think that I could stay any longer at the church to help out.

Early Monday morning (Sept 12), I packed up the recumbent and left. I rode on to Pascagoula. All of the motels were destroyed. The big First Baptist Church was the Red Cross Disaster Shelter. They didn't need any help. In Gautier at the Methodist Church, I did stop for a couple of hours putting together some food boxes. The pastor gave me some Army MRE's to take along. I was able to ride along U.S. 90 to Ocean Springs before I had to turn north. I got about a mile and a half away from the bridge between Ocean Springs and Biloxi. Around dusk, I found a place to camp out near Levois.

There was no way that I could get into Biloxi and Gulfport to help out. There were quite a few military checkpoints and there was a curfew in effect at night. What helpers in the day there were had to be out of the area before dusk. My thoughts about doing any more disaster relief along the coast was dashed so I'm heading northward to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Along the way north from Levois, I got to speak at the small Baptist Church in Sandersville, Mississippi during the Wed. night service. This was my 53rd church engagement. I might make a side trip to Granite City, IL to see some friends again.

I'll try and post and update as often as I can if my plans change.



Bicyclist in Sunset



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