A failed attempt at a cross-country martin house transect

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Where did you sleep? Did you camp out? Every night? Did you ever stop at a hotel just for the luxury of a soft bed and A/C?
An ideal in the long-distance bicycling community on a trip like this is cost-free "stealth camping". For me my rules from the start were 1) No trespassing 2) No trash and 3) No dung. As it turns out it was not hard in rural areas to stop for the night between the paved roadway and the adjacent property line fence in a spot that, while being in the open and easy to see if the Law showed up, was also out of the headlights of passing traffic. One rode until dark, walked off the roadway, lay the bike down and if needed, put up a little dome tent, usually no fly just with the screens for mosquitoes. Waking before first light you quickly take down and pack the tent and be on your way.

33 days, 32 nights:

13 nights at campgrounds.
8 nights at cheap motels (including Malvern AR outside of Little Rock where I had to stay for two nights while a major front rolled through).
7 nights by the roadside.
5 nights with friends en route.
2 nights with people met, one at the home of a retired teacher outside of Greenville OH and one on the porch of the house occupied by a group of carpenters on the Seneca Indian Reservation at Salamanca NY.

I customarily sleep on the floor and usually sleep well outside, so soft beds and A/C weren't really an issue. Showers were the thing, sometimes I went three days without a shower.
Were you ever scared? Were you harassed at anytime by anyone? Police? Average Joes?
No dealings at all with the police. Only semi-friendly warning to get out of town by dark was from one of the local methamphetamine crowd at a convenience store in Northeast Arkansas, and she was warning me about the police. Only time I was worried by the locals was in rural Southeast Missouri, where they seemed clannish and suspicious of outsiders.

Most appalling place was ironically enough in Delaware OH north of Columbus. There I thought to stop for a while in a downtown, trendy looking coffee shop to download photos from my camera. Skinny (White) heroin addicts, late teens/early twenties, openly dealing drugs at the coffee shop and sidewalk out front.
Did you carry a weapon?
While handguns are as common as toaster ovens here in Texas I did not travel armed. First off it would have been a felony in New York State. The other big reason was that, if I were technically committing some minor violation like stopping in a public park or rural cemetery for the night (neither of which as it turned out ever happened), me having a weapon might turn an otherwise friendly warning by local police into a formal charge of some kind: A travelling stranger on a bike is one thing, a travelling stranger on a bike with a handgun would be another thing entirely.
Were you chased by dogs or other animals?
Only once of any consequence. Turns out there's a sort of natural selection in place with dogs that live along highways, most barked but did not run into the road after me.

The only exception was in Southeast Missouri, there a lab of all things ran out after me, close enough that I stopped and got off the bike while the dog growled and tried to get behind me. The owner, exasperated, tried in vain to call off the dog, explaining that it was his daughter's dog and didn't listen to him.

Finally, in frustration, he picked up a baseball-sized rock and threw it at the dog, narrowly missing its head.... remember this was a lab.....

...whereupon the dog looked at him, looked at the rock, and brought the rock back to him :grin:
Did you have family at home worried sick about you?
Everyone in New York knew I was coming, they did not know HOW I was coming, during that month they thought I was in West Texas off the grid counting birds, else my mom up there would have called me three times a day. In part I did not tell them because I didn't know for sure until nearly the end if I would be able to make it all the way.

As for the reaction of my family and friends here in San Antonio I'll relate my nephews' reaction up in New York when I rolled up their driveway unannounced, on a bicycle, from Texas yet....

"If it had been any one else but you Uncle Mike we would have been surprised." :grin:


The last thing I did each night was to turn on the phone and text my progress to family and friends here in Texas.
Did you carry a cell phone?
Yes, turned off most of the time to conserve batteries. Throughout the trip McDonald's was my lifeline to the world, I would charge my phone there and use their free wifi on the compact netbook computer I brought.

Mike
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Connie
Posts: 443
Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:05 pm
Location: WALKER, LOUISIANA
Martin Colony History: Had my site up to 22 gourds of which most (+/-3) stayed occupied.
Downsized to 17 gourds due to back surgeries. Had 14 families in 2017 but did not do nest checks due to health. Feeling better in 2018 and hoping for a good year.

I appreciate you answering all of my questions Scully! I admire whatever it is you have that allowed you to make such an awesome trip! Enjoyed reading your answers and laughed out loud at the rock returning lab! :lol: If I would have been thinking at all I wouldn't have had to ask the gun question. That was me being scared for you on such a long trip with so many crazies in the world today. I would have loved to been a fly on the back of your shirt....hahaha.
What a ride!
Thanks so much! :lol:
Connie
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Oh heck Connie, I shoot for recreation, so the gun question was not an issue. Competing risks; in this case I judged a firearm would bring with it more liability than it was worth.

Actually, if I may, the website www.crazyguyonabike.com is devoted to touring cyclists, and there are more than 9,000 tour blogs on there from all parts of the world. Compared to many of those, mine was just a standard, run-of-the-mill 2,000 mile North American tour :???:

To give an illustration; 85 miles and one day of my route followed the south shore of Lake Erie from Geneva-on-the-Lake OH to Westfield NY. The south shore of Lake Erie lies on the main cross-America bicycle route from the major population centers on the East Coast to the same on the West Coast.

During that one day I encountered FIFTEEN cross-country cyclists :shock:

This was July 11th, I had left my own driveway in San Antonio on June 17th. These gentlemen from Holland had left San Francisco on June 1st en route to Providence RI (they had a chase vehicle to carry their luggage)...

Image

This father/daughter duo were from Rochester NY, pretty much on a whim (to hear them tell it) they decided to ride their bikes to the Ohio state line and back....

Image

...and this gentleman is a bartender and freelance writer from Boston, he was heading west en route to Seattle. Tho' headed in opposite directions, we shared a $40 campsite in touristy Geneva-on-the-Lake to split the cost.

Image

Mike
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
DebA
Posts: 1941
Joined: Tue May 04, 2010 7:43 am
Location: Pratt County/Kansas
Martin Colony History: Start 2009 with one pair. Upgraded from S&K houses to two Trendsetter 12's with gourds beneath in 2013. I have experienced job, pet, and parental losses since '13. The Purple Martins lift my spirits and remind me how life continues forward by flying their little selves from Brazil back to my yard. As one forum person once told me, chin up DebA, look at the martins. Danger all around but yet they soar in the sky without a care in the world.

Mike,
More, more. Please. Loving this read.
Deb
PMCA MEMBER
Pratt County, Kansas
2016 34 PAIR
2015 27 PAIR
2014 23 PAIR
2013 13 PAIR
2012 6 PAIR
2011 4 PAIR
2010 2 PAIR
2009 1 PAIR
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

While I had the physical ride slow-ride long thing down, I was still mentally in a rush to get there the whole trip. Hence I found it an aggravation to stop and document martin housing :???:

I mean really, in hindsite I coulda even lost a day or two to that purpose and it wouldn't have mattered at all. What I did do, without stopping when I saw housing was slip the GPS unit out of my handlebar bag, turn it on, and as soon as it turned on hit the "mark" button to record the waypoint, turn off the GPS, and put it back. All without stopping, one hand on the handlebar.

So I didn't actually take a PHOTO of a martin house until Day 3.

The first day I didn't get out of the house until about 9am, after saying goodby to my fan club who definitely did NOT understand why they weren't coming (being Blue Heelers or mutts thereof, they do know how to run well at heel next to my bike).

Image

Ninety minutes later I stopped downtown for an iced tea and ended up watching a World Cup match for an hour (soccer is a big deal to many Mexican restaurant proprieters. I spent my formative years Working Class English, so it can be a big deal to me too)....

Image

That's my bike out front.

At length it occurred to me that I still had about another 1,980 miles left to go so I mounted up again and got on my way. Ninety minutes after THAT I was finally here, on the east edge of town on the access road of I 10 towards Seguin where, looking at the far horizon, the scale of the daunting task I had set before me became apparent...

Image

My goal the first night was Lockhart State Park, about 85 miles from my front door. First I had a gruelling grind into a hot and dry headwind to get to Seguin, maybe 25 miles down the access road. But hey, you don't worry about speed, just find a low enough gear that you're not working too hard and have at it.

Image

After Seguin, most of the final 40 miles or so was down backroads.

Image

Pushing to get there before dark, I didn't stop to take many photos but I did stop to take a photo of this guy, this ungelded bull probably a pretty close representation of what wild longhorn cattle actually looked like back in the days....

Image

An hour after sunset before I finally rolled into the park, one of the few times I rode in the dark. Checked in with the pay envelope and, since we were in a drought and there were no mosquitoes, I just slept on that picnic table after showering with my thin nylon clothes on to wash the sweat out.

Image

Actually, what you really need is a pillow of some sort. Times I didn't use the tent I'd just use it, in the tent bag, as a pillow. Other times I used an inflatable pillow I got from REI. Might be the best $20 I ever spent.

This is a high heat, high sweat activity where you are constantly getting dehydrated. In Texas and Arkansas I was drinking four and five gallons of water a day. Drinking that much you HAD to have salt. Rehydration salts are expensive and Gatorade and the like are sugary and not salty enough. Turns out rehydration salts contain a 2:1 ratio of sodium chloride to potassium chloride.

At the grocery store they sell "Lite Salt" for those who must restrict their sodium intake. It is 50% sodium chloride and 50% potassium chloride. I ballparked the ratios by mixing Lite Salt with regular sea salt and kept it in a screw-top vitamin bottle. Anytime I would start to cramp or crave salt I would add some to my water. Can't travel without it.

As a brief aside, it is my priviledge to get to volunteer at the Alamo :cool: Here we are with a visitor from Cameroon. Note the copper cup.

Image

And here's the bike on Day 3 at Gauss, TX, note said cup again.

Image

How I survived my first 55 years without it I'm not sure, but it is easily the most useful artifact I have found while living 1836 :lol:

On a trip like this you HAVE to eat high fiber foods, or you might never go to the bathroom again until after you get to your destination.

What I would do is buy old-fashioned oatmeal and granola and mix it in a dry bag like canoeists use. Towards the end of the day I would stop at a store and pick up a half gallon of milk.

Before going to sleep, by the light of a $3 miniature battery powered lantern found at a dollar store (best $3 I ever spent) I would eat a whole cup-full of the granola/oatmeal like it was cereal, and then drink the rest of the milk and then sleep on it. This is exactly the sort of calories you want, it would be noon the next day at least before I got hungry again tho often I would eat breakfast at a local diner if one appeared, just to get the feel of the community I was passing through.

I found coffee to be too harsh on the stomach on this trip. For a lasting caffeine lift a single green tea bag left steeping in a water bottle worked wonders.

What I really came to look forward to each morning though was a large diet coke w/crushed ice, and would stop at a fast food place or convenience store to get it whichever came first.

Somewhere in Upstate New York I stopped at a McDonald's. OK, at that particular moment in time I hadn't showered since the day before last. I waited patiently on line behind a grandmother fussing over her three small grandkids, them taking forever to make up their minds. And then I waited patiently while they took a long time getting their sodas from the dispenser. And then finally I poured my large diet coke w/crushed ice, sipping it while watching the morning news on the TV.

As they were leaving the kindly grandmother came over to my table, put a ten-dollar bill on it, and said "Here, go get yourself something to eat." :lol:

Mike
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Day Two.

The first two days were the only two I actually set destination goals. By the end of Day Two I wanted to be at least as far as Caldwell, TX, 88 miles from the park. What you want on a trip like this is the feeling of actually getting somewhere.

I don't recall that I started especially early, I think that I basically slept in on that picnic table under a cotton sheet that I had brought. Blankets were minimal on this trip; just that cotton sheet and a rubberized army poncho. The poncho was to put under the tent if it was raining and the purpose of the cotton sheet, dark brown in color, was to lay over the bike to cover the reflectors on the occasions I would be sleeping by the roadside.

I had brought three nylon shirts and three pairs of nylon pants, and raingear . I figured I could just put on the raingear over multiple layers at night if it got cold, and indeed the temperature did dip below 50F one night in Upstate NY. I had also brought some good cotton street clothes and a backpacker Whisperlite stove, but I gave all that stuff away on Day 4.

The theme for the day was "no shoulders".... :???:

Image

One sad little casualty somewhere in the morning was this guy...

Image

...actually it was on a downhill, and I just had a flash image of a little green bird sitting below me on the sweltering asphalt. I stopped and turned around, not sure what I had seen.

Indeed it was a little green bird, a painted bunting. Females, young and SY males are all plain green, only older males being so impossibly colorful. I figured this was a young bird not long out of the nest, it had apparently just been hit and, though no injuries were visible, was unable to flap its wings.

All I could do for it was set it some bushes in the shade, its feet gripping the branch. I hope it recovered, but if not, it would at least die off of the ground, on a branch, in the shade.

Progress was slow, it was about lunchtime when I made the the thirty miles to Bastrop, where I spent two hours on the 'net at McDonald's, not looking forward to the hot and sunny and trafficky climb out of town on Hwy 21, fifty-three miles of mostly no convenience stores to Caldwell.

And I was right....

Climbing out of Bastrop, eyes fixed on those mirrors....

Image

..and still climbing past Bastrop State Park, "Lost Pines", recently devastated by a forest fire....

Image

Forty miles later, somewhere around Dime Box I was pretty well whupped. You just flat run out of energy. Looking to refuel, I ate a can of Dinty Moore beef stew, cold. Two greasy old burritos left over from the morning rush, and drank a chocolate milk.

I should explain about chocolate milk. I had been advised by serious distance cyclists that chocolate milk is a near perfect refuelling fuel, and I would drink about four a day on this trip.

After eating all that I sat for out front about forty minutes waiting for the ol' blood sugar to kick back in, which it did, a little.

Then as dusk was closing in I pedaled the last fifteen miles to Caldwell, all the time looking for a place to bail by the side of the road where I could stop for the night. There were none. Full dark by Caldwell. Due to exploring for oil in the area all the motels were full, except a nice proprietor called around and I got about the last one, not bad at $56. On the ground floor where I could roll the bike right in.

I clearly remember my sentiments when I walked into the room....

"Sweet God in Heaven, they have a bathtub!" :lol:
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
KathyF
Posts: 3518
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 1:57 pm
Location: Missouri/Licking
Martin Colony History: Colony started - 2007 with one pair
As of 2018 - 84 cavities offered, max # of pairs hosted - 82.

Oh my Gawd, Mike - wonderful story!!! Woohoo! I watched "Wild" with Reese Witherspoon, and thought, "I want to do THAT", but reality set in and I knew I couldn't backpack by myself with 50-60 pounds on my back. But THIS, THIS I could do - and mark martin housing along the way. :grin:

What a thrill! I admire your courage in doing this. Hadn't thought about a bike trip. Route 66 through Missouri though - I could do THAT! Thanks for sharing...I really enjoyed your pictures, your story and your journey.
"Sometimes", said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
2016 - 82 pair
2015 - 76 pair
2014 - 75 pair
2013 - 75 pair
2012-72 pair
http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Kathy,

It has occurred to me that here I am relating that I pedalled a thirty pound bicycle with forty pounds of gear and water on board close to 170 miles in two days in June, and then saying how it was nothing remarkable :lol:

Truth be told, in August of '13 when I first started preparing, that would have seemed remarkable to me too.

It was the "CrazyGuyonaBike" blogs that inspired me...

www.crazyguyonabike.com

More than 9,000 tour blogs, both genders, all ages accomplishing remarkable things.

...and I got very good advice from the bike loonies (meant in a good way) at www.bikeforums.net

Bicycles are wonderful devices, gear 'em low enough and almost anyone can accomplish prodigies. Certainly they opened up a level of athletic activity to me that I had thought my aging knees had kept me from forever.

What I will do is finish out this account next month after my school-mandated travel is over.

Mike
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
DebA
Posts: 1941
Joined: Tue May 04, 2010 7:43 am
Location: Pratt County/Kansas
Martin Colony History: Start 2009 with one pair. Upgraded from S&K houses to two Trendsetter 12's with gourds beneath in 2013. I have experienced job, pet, and parental losses since '13. The Purple Martins lift my spirits and remind me how life continues forward by flying their little selves from Brazil back to my yard. As one forum person once told me, chin up DebA, look at the martins. Danger all around but yet they soar in the sky without a care in the world.

Mike,
Cannot wait. Meanwhile, I am still giggling about the $10 gift. That can buy a lot of oatmeal and a couple of chocolate milks. LOL!
Deb
PMCA MEMBER
Pratt County, Kansas
2016 34 PAIR
2015 27 PAIR
2014 23 PAIR
2013 13 PAIR
2012 6 PAIR
2011 4 PAIR
2010 2 PAIR
2009 1 PAIR
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

Deb,

I am fortunate in that I was able to incorporate a bicycle into my daily commute ie. a normal part of my day so I didn't have to set aside a part of my daily routine . What I did was ride a longer ten-mile route coming and going rather than the two miles direct.

This is what cycling has done for me:

At age 58 if I want I can ride a bicycle hard enough that my heart pounds and I am breathing hard, I can do this for as long as I care to, to the limits of my ability, and do it enough that my heart/lung capacity and endurance actually improves.

Exactly like it was (well, maybe not exactly :lol: ), or at least exactly how it FELT when I was a kid forty and fifty years ago.

The ability to still exercise like that is simply wonderful. With my knees there is no way I could do that on my feet, bicycles make it possible.

Mike
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Post Reply