TRIP 2013

Update #24 - September 24
Moore, Oklahoma
Mission Trip 34: 7,884.58 miles (12,615.33 KM)
9,234.31 miles (14,774.90 KM) - Year Total

I made it to Moore this afternoon. It was a long ride from Knoxville, Tennesee (a little over 1,100 miles (1,782 km) where I turned West. It took a while finding the section of the city where the tornado had gone through. I saw some stores destroyed and the location where one of the hospitals stood. I also saw some homes being rebuilt but the activity was being done by professional contractors.

I stopped at a Baptist Church on the Northern edge of the destruction zone because it looked like it might have been used as either a relief center or a volunteer staging area but there was nobody around. Through a conversation with one of the pastors of a local Lutheran church, I found out that there isn't much currently going on. After the tornado, there was a massive push by volunteers to get the area cleaned up. FEMA had initially said that the cleanup up would take six months but it was done in three months. Most of the rebuilding of the damaged homes is being done by professional contractors.

There is supposed to be one church in the area that is hosting volunteers. The information on their website isn't current and it looks like they are just hosting groups. The church has set aside their campus in Norman as a disaster relief center. I'm going to go there tomorrow morning to see if I can connect with some program. If there are not doing anything, I'm just going to have to give myself an "A" for effort (like I did in New Jersey in the area that had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy) and start the trip back to the Gulf Coast. It's still hurricane season and I might find myself in a better position to help out after a natural disaster.

September 22 : Checotah, OK to Henryetta, OK - 34.89 miles (55.82 KM)

I had an okay night. I left the motel around 7:45 AM. On the way back to the Methodist Church, I stopped to do some shopping. I got to the church about 10 minutes before the 8:30 AM service in the fellowship hall started. The assistant pastor introduced me and I got to say a few words. After the service, one of the ladies slipped me $20 in a GH. Because I was getting close to Moore, I decided to keep on going instead of trying to stop for the rest of the day.

The ride West to Henryetta went okay. I was able to get 21 miles (33 km) in by noon time. I got into Henryetta around 2 PM. I did some more shopping and went to a laundromat to get my clothes done. I rode back to the First Baptist Church. I had about a 45 minute wait before people started to come for the 6 PM service. Near the end of the service, the pastor let me say a few words. After the service, the pastor gave me permission to camp out in the fellowship hall for the night. He also gave me free reign to what food was in the kitchen.

September 23 : Henryetta, OK to Pink, OK - 85.61 miles (136.98 KM)

I had an okay night at the church. I went to sleep early. I left the church around 8 AM. The ride West went okay. I got on old US 62. The ride West went so well that I had forgotten that I was going to head South on US 75 to Weleekta. Instead I rode to Okemah. In Okemah, I got on OH 56 and rode it to Cromwell. I got 28 miles (44 km) in by noon time.

In Cromwell, I headed West on OK 99A and I rode it to Little. Once I got into Little, I headed South on US 377 to Seminole. I got into Seminole around 4:30 P. I checked out the churches but I didn't find anybody. Somebody told me about the Seminole Interfaith Ministries. I got there before it closed. This was basically a food pantry. They didn't know any of the local ministers. I was given directions to the local police station. It was a mile and a half East of the downtown area. The office was closed so I talked to the dispatcher over the phone. He told me that he didn't know of any program or pastor. There wasn't any officers at the office. I went to the fire station next door to see if one of the local pastors was their chaplain. The fireman that I talked to knew that their departent had a chaplain but he didn't know how to contact him.

I decided just to head out. It was 6:30 PM and I didn't think that I would be able to connect with a minister. I got on OK 9. The next town was Tecumseh 14 miles (22 km) away. About a mile (2 km) out of town, I came across the First United Methodist. I saw some cars there. The local Weight Watchers group were having a meeting. Near the office door, I saw a sheet of emergency numbers. I called the cell phone number for the pastor. I was a bit surprised that he was a pass-off minister. The town of Seminole was in the middle of the Seminole Indian Reservation. The way the church was set up made me feel that it was there away from the downtown area so none of the Native Americans would attend it.

The ride West on OK 9 went okay. I got within three miles (5 km) from Tecumseh before I had to turn on my lights. I got into Tecumseh around 8:30 PM. I rode passed a motel that I could have maybe afforded but I didn't like the looks of it. I thought that if I would keep traveling West I would run into the downtown area but all I did was ride through town. I kept on going for maybe an hour or more. I was finally able to find some open land where I could camp out. I was maybe three miles (5 km) out of the town of Pink and maybe 20 miles out of Norman. It took a little while longer to get the tent set up because I had to tape a couple of stakes onto the poles because there were a couple more breaks in the couplings.

September 24 : Pink, OK to Moore, OK - 48.67 miles (77.87 KM)

I had an okay night camping out. When the sun came out, I was quite surprised at how close I was to the road. I quickly packed up and got on the road around 7:45 AM. The ride West went okay. I got 23 miles (36 km) in by noon time. I stopped in Norman for some lunch. The ride North to Moore was a little tricky because there was a strong headwind.

I was able to find the area where the tornado went through Moore. There was some evidence but I didn't see much in the way of rebuilding. I stopped at a Baptist Church that was on the Northern edge of the destruction zone that looked like it might have been a staging area at some time but there was nobody around it. There were a couple of cars there but it looked they had been there for a while.

I headed a little North to see if I could find somebody at a church to maybe find some place to stay the night. I stopped at the St Johns Lutheran Church. There was activity at the school. I found the pastor in the office. He was pretty friendly. He told me that he didn't think there was anything that I could do because the cleanup took a lot less time because of all of the groups and volunteers that came after the tornado. Fema had estimated that it would have taken six months to do the cleanup but it only took three months. Most of the rebuilding was being done by professional contractors. He did find one church (Church of the Harvest) that was supposed to welcome volunteers but nobody answered the phone at their disaster center which was one of their campuses down in Norman. I had contacted this church a couple of weeks ago but I hadn't heard from them.

I was quite surprised when the pastor slipped me $120 in a green handshake instead of letting me stay in the church for the night. He told me that I could find some motels near I-35 which was East of where the church was. I was able to get a room at the Super 8 at a reasonable cost.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try and connect with the Church Of The Harvest. If I can't, I'll probably just chuck this up to bad timing like my arrival in New Jersey this Spring and start the ride South to the Gulf Coast.

The next trip update should be posted sometime between October 01st and October 08th.



Bicyclist in Sunset



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