Archive for the ‘Somber thoughts’ Category

Aberdeen, MS to Tishomingo, MS

Friendly horn taps:1

Rude honks: 1

Miles: 82

Total so far: 1,151

Sunset breaks though during the rain last night in Aberdeen, MS

Some views of unique southern architecture in Aberdeen. This home was built in 1852.

Today we rode in the cold.  Really.  I had a jacket on most of the day until I tried to take it off and ride for awhile in my jersey and had to put the jacket back on.  Tomorrow will be colder.  In Mississippi.  Really.

Nothing could be more chilling than our ride through Smithville, Mississippi today.  For years I’ve seen correspondents at tornado sites and other natural disasters posed with destruction behind them, and I know the camera angles are set for maximum effect.

Smithville, MS

What I saw today in Smithville, Mississippi  is very difficult to describe.  The town was hit by an EF5 tornado on April 27, and — well — there is nothing left.  We saw about three houses, none of them habitable in the town that used to hold 857 residents.  They are reporting the tornado had winds of 205 miles an hour, was 1/2 mile wide and three miles long.

Our ride through the highway that bisects the town caused me to feel like an intruder.  I took but one picture, because this was a private scene.  I did not want to intrude.  It was not unlike viewing a naked corpse that no one was able to discreetly cover out of respect.  The American flags posted on the piles of debris took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.  From checking the news reports, they have the death count at 16 which seems proof of miracles.  I cannot imagine what those folks lived through, and are living with.

We had lunch in Fulton, MS where all the restaurants closed and the townFulton, MS fundraiser held a fundraiser for the people of Smithville.  The high school drama group in Fulton had been working on a 100 cast member production of the Wizard of Oz, and originally arranged the street celebration and cookout to generate funds for their presenting their play at the Orpheum in Memphis.  The young people chose to forfeit their trip and continue with the fundraiser to assist the victims of the tornado in Smithville.

The quiet beauty of the Natchez Trace Parkway

We rode for about 12 miles on the Natchez Trace Parkway towards the end of our ride today.  The Natchez Trace Parkway runs 440 miles from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN.  I’m told the forests lining the road is old growth virgin timber and carries the natural diversity in trees and flora that cannot be found anywhere in the south.  It was a sensory delight — brilliantly green, quiet, aromatic, and peaceful.

We are camped on the shores of a lake in Tishomingo State Park tonight.  I am warm, dry, and comfortable in my tent.  I will reflect upon the contrasts I’ve seen today for a long time.  There is great beauty here in Mississippi, yet at the same time there is also a ripping sadness and loss.  They will rebuild in Smithville, just as people have done so for all of time.  They will do so because of the beauty — it will be heartfelt like no other time though, because of the loss.


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Larry Ray Harrison

Larry and his Mother

Larry was 16 years old at the time of his death.  He was in special education and won many awards in the Special Olympics at school. He was looking forward to graduating in 2012 and getting his driver’s license. Larry was killed by a drug impaired driver.

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As we ride our way into managed timber country, and we slowly climb the hillsides with our burdened bicycles, looking into the green valleys and slopes, we see quite a few clear cut areas that have been harvested of their abundant trees. These cuts leave scars upon the land. Precious topsoil can be lost, exposing base clay layers that will not grow plants. Properly managed they will heal. The trees will return and reign once again. With good management, careful work to establish growth, the land will one day regain a balance it once had. The land will never be the same, however it will survive.

Laboring to gain elevation, we are rewarded with a vantage point where the vistas reveal many cut areas visible because of the started undergrowth – the small plants and vines that will compete with the trees, but ultimately lose the battle for the sun. The process is agonizingly slow, but it happens because it must – if the land is to survive.

We have scars. Many of us have scars that can be seen, showing the ravages of an unfair moment in time when we were subjected to horror. Many of us have not been physically rendered by the twisted metal, but have lost those who were. This leaves scars too.

We will never be the same.

We can grow.

It is agonizingly slow.

We can survive.

We are moving forward.


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Brandi, Taylor, and Sarah Wiggins

We were on Alabama State Route 84 on our way to Grove Hill today when we encountered the following sign on a bridge…

A little research turns up this from the Alabama State Legislature:

WHEREAS, in October 1997, three children, Brandi, Taylor, and Sarah Frances Wiggins were killed in a tragic automobile accident caused by a drunk driver; and

WHEREAS, we wish to provide for a permanent memorial for those children, and to educate others on the dangers and consequences of driving while drinking.

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Ichetucknee, FL to Suwanee State Park, FL

Friendly horn taps: 1

Miles: 54

Total so far: 271

After the rain subsided last night, some northern winds brought in cooler temperatures and drier air.  This brought out the jackets in the morning, and an extremely comfortable ride.

Sallie in the ethereal light of moring in the timber

We approached a right hand curve in the road on County Road 137 some distance south of Wellborn.  As we got closer I could see skid marks that went straight on the curve into the trees, and I commented to Sallie, “That doesn’t look good.”  A little closer and I could see investigator’s paint on the asphalt, and then a pick-up parked off to the right around the bend.  The trees parted some as we neared and there was a family looking forlornly at the churned up soil and fresh injury to a tree.  I know that look.

I would have stopped if I thought for one second that I could help explain the unexplainable.

Before my mother’s death, she was in an independent living center.  I used to look into the ancient sunken eyes of others who lived there; those who might know those answers, hoping that in their years and wisdom someone could explain to me what we can never know.  Not in this life.  I have some very big questions for the next life.

Just a little way down the road, where we would not intrude, I took some pictures of the wildflowers as a reminder to myself to seek the beauty in this world while we can.


Tomorrow’s ride will be dedicated to Charles Jackson Redic Jr.

On Febraury 16, 2008 I received a phone call that has change my life forever. My 26 year old college graduate, soon to be married, just made supervisor at Delta Airlines, preacher of the gospel, loving, compassionate, sweet memorable son was snatched in the middle of the night. He was wonderful, loving, charming and we will never forget you. A drunk driver who got on the wrong side of the freeway ended your life.

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