TRIP 2011

Update #14 - June 26th
Nevada, Missouri
2,017.30 miles (3,227.68 KM)

These past almost two weeks have been okay except for the heat. Temperatures have ranged from 87 degrees Fahrenheit (30.6 degrees Celcius) to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celcius). Because of this, I have been trying to get in all of my miles by noon. This means that I get up around 5 AM and be on the road between 6:30 AM and 7 AM. Mileage traveled have been between 20 MPH (32 KMPH) and 40 MPH (64 KMPH) .

I celebrated my 55th birthday on Wednesday, June 15th in Purcell, Oklahoma. Thursday, June 16th, I stopped in Norman, Oklahoma to see what I could do to help out. During a late afternoon thunderstorm Tuesday, June 14th, the area was blasted with winds over 120 mph (192 KMPH). There was quite a bit of damamge around the city but there were no major injuries or deaths. In Norman, I stopped to check out the local Habitat For Humanity affiliate. I spent the night in Oklahoma City as a guest of the
Central Oklahoma Habitat For Humanity . Friday, June 17th, I helped do some final work on one of the affiliate's houses in their Hope Crossing Neighborhood. I worked on the affiliate's 620th home. At the time, there were over a dozen homes in various stages of construction. Also, I took part in the dedication of the affiliate's 619th home.

I finally arrived in Joplin, Missouri Friday, June 24th. My plan was to stay in Joplin for a week or more to volunteer with a ministry or program but that didn't happen. My plan A program at the last minute told me that they didn't host volunteers. I wished that they could have told me this several weeks earlier so that I could find alternative housing since I assumed that that they were hosting. My plan B program wrote to me just a few days before my arrival in Joplin that they didn't host individuals. This was a bit frustrating because I couldn't understand why they were turning away somebody who had extensive experience in working natural disasters.

Riding through the destruction zone was jaw dropping and depressing. It's been a while since I've seen such destruction. The path of destruction was 6 miles (9.6 kms) long in a west to east direction and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide in a north - south direction. I am showing about a fifth of the pictures that I took.

Even though there was a lot of destruction, Joplin really lucked out because the path of destruction was less than a half mile south of the main downtown area. Going just five blocks north of the path of destruction, you wouldn't see any destruction.

I had an unique encounter with a local resident that turned out to be an inspirational home visit. I was taking a break at a gas station trying to come up with an idea on where I could at least spend the night. I had stopped at a volunteer center that was at a Baptist Church south of town but they didn't have any room. I was told about another possible volunteer center but it was another Christian college but I didn't think that I would find anybody there since it was well after dark.

As I was talking on my cell phone, this guy pulled into the parking lot and instead of going into the store he sat down beside me. Chris was concerned that I didn't have a place to stay. He suggested that I stay with him with his son and his wife. It took me about an hour getting over to his place by foot since he didn't have a way to transport me and my recumbent. When I got to his trailer, I saw that it had been damaged by the elements. There was blue tarp on the front portion of the trailer's roof and inside there was damage to the ceiling of the living room by water leakage. There wasn't an electric power pole so the trailer was connected to Chris's father's house next door by a long industrial power cord. There was problem with the septic system so there was a port-a-toilet in a bushed in side yard. To take a shower, the family had to use a garden hose. I was given the chance to sleep on a brand new sofa.

Here was a family who pretty well had a lot of things going wrong for them willing to help somebody who had come to help the area out. Before everybody went to bed, Chris surprised me with two plastic grocery bags of food items. In one bag were four meals that you could heat up with water and in the other bag were other food items like granola bars, drink mix, and applesauce in small cups. In the morning, Chris gave me a road atlas and a battery powered head light. If he had any extra money, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't try and give it but I wouldn't have accepted it since he had already done a lot for me.

Saturday, June 26th, I could have gone back into the downtown area to see if I could locate a volunteer center but I decided to keep on going northward instead. Before meeting Chris, I had stopped at the main police station. The lady dispatcher told me that most of the Christian volunteer centers had shut down since FEMA was becoming more active with moving in their emergency trailers for temporary housing. Also, I was a little concerned about the potential threats to my health. The area was having problems with a deadly fungus called zygomycosis (Mucormycosis). Several tornado victims would have survived if not for this fungal infection.

According to the National Institute of Health, zygomycosis is a common fungus found in soil and rotting vegetation. People with compromised immune systems and trauma victims are at risk for infection from zygomycosis. Even though I do not have a compromised immune system, I am quite susceptible to resporitory illnesses. I've had walking pneumonia several times and last year I got sick from the mold in less than a week while I was volunteering with a disaster relief program in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. I just didn't want to take the chance. Since I will be close to the Midwest, I will be possibly be heading to Northwestern Missouri and Western Iowa to help out with any possible disaster relief along the Missouri River that it is flooding now. Sometime later on this year, I might be making my way to Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama who were both hit by some major Spring time tornadoes.

I have decided that this year's mission trip will be a ride more of service than riding. I'm not going for high number of miles. If I ride just 4,000 or 5,000 miles this year that will be okay. Since the door of me going back to Americus, Georgia for the winter seems to be closed, My plans will be returning to Shreveport, Louisiana and volunteering with the Fuller Center For Housing of NW Louisiana in Shreveport again. I will possibly be there from possibly October or November of this year to possibly March or April of next year.

I will keep everybody abreast through upcoming updates. Usually, I try and add a new update every two weeks along the way so the next one will be around July 10th, 2011.



Bicyclist in Sunset



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