Friday, July 27, 2007


I don't remember when we started counting cop cars. They've gotten thicker since Crawford. Right now the record is thirteen in one day. Few of them actually stop us, less than once a week. When they do, they generally report having gotten calls about us, check to be sure we're okay, and let us continue with a smile. Maybe that's perfectly normal cop behavior. But I've decided that I'm going to ask the next one. "Since the Patriot Act passed, do you guys get surveillance requests from the feds?"

There have been large camera lenses surreptitiously aimed in our direction from unmarked vehicles parked like speed traps. Wish we could get copies of their photos for our web site.

It's more disturbing when stuff disappears. Like our whole collection of political DVDs, somehow spirited out of a pannier. Or notebooks full of names and contact information that keep slipping away. We keep our cell phone and laptop in sight, thus we haven't lost all contact, but we're concerned. Just because we're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get us.

Of course, this isn't new territory to old political activists. We've both been arrested for civil disobedience. Back in the eighties, my phone was tapped, office was broken into, and paranoia pushed to the limit. When previous projects have come under police surveillance, we took it as a compliment that we were effective organizers. If you threaten the power structure, even nonviolently, you've got to expect push back. Still, how threatening is a family on bicycles?

Ironically, if they want to know more about us, all they have to do is ask. All day every day we tell complete strangers detailed information about our quest. We've posted everything we think anybody might want to know and we're accessible (usually) by phone, e-mail, or in person. Unlike the proponents of the security state, we believe in honesty and transparency. That is one example why we will prevail in the long run. Government secrecy is incompatible with democracy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sign of Time for Change

There's a plain, white, rectangular road sign on the east edge of McGreggor, Texas, with three inch tall black letters proclaiming "Observe Warning Signs - Texas State Law." As I rode by it for the third time going away from Crawford, it dawned on me to ask "What bureaucratic idiot authorized this?"

What function could such a sign possibly serve? Do they think that people who ignore icons on bright yellow signs are more likely to respond to this bland message? And how exactly do you enforce a requirement to observe something? Nobody apparently requires us to obey the warnings. Suggested speeds on warning signs remain suggestions.

Soon I was searching for a deeper meaning, a generalization I could glean from this sign. Eventually, it came to me. We all participate in stupid stuff, because the system seems to require it of us. I mean, any of the dozens of people involved in the manufacture and placement of that sign could have stood up and said "I'm not doing this because it doesn't make sense." But none of them did, so the tax dollars were wasted.

I'm sure idiotic examples like this will continue to pop up, but I pray that on big issues - fighting oil wars, polluting the ecosphere, or wasting our youth on junk food & TV - enough people will refuse to participate and we'll force the stupid system to change. Isn't that the heart of responsible citizenship?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Saving Animals

One of the few depressing aspects of cycling across country is road kill (see Mike Novak's blog from Aug '06 The Catalysts, especially Tala, have been preventing road kill one animal at a time. The eleven-year-old heroine has, as of this writing, carried two turtles off the pavement, raising the question "do you save a turtle by taking it back to where it came from or taking it over to where it's headed?"

We witnessed a dog getting wounded by a hit and run driver the other day. This made us more glad we'd managed to shake off the dog who followed us for several miles the day before. He was freaking us out because he had no fear of cars. We finally found an empty chicken-wired yard with a gate we could open and latch him inside. I'm sure whoever came home to find a dog from miles down the road was surprised, but at least the dog was alive.

The greatest rescue was the one Michele pulled off the other day. When she spied the small, spotted faun about to dash in front of cars, she began to yell loudly and ride between them. She continued to chase the baby deer down the barrow pit until the dangerous cars had passed, when she allowed it to continue to search for its mother. And the Catalysts of HOPE ride on, saving the world one animal at a time.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dancing Between the Raindrops

Bicyclists from the Pacific Northwest are familiar with riding in the rain, but Central Texas rain is a whole different thing than Oregon rain. Down here they have thunder and lightening, massive downpours, and flash flooding. The amazing thing is, we've barely gotten wet.

Now I'm not claiming divine protection, but I can't explain the fantastic fortune we've been served on this ride. It goes beyond the extreme generosity of complete strangers, which has certainly surrounded us. For example, there was the time I said a punch would make a recurring repair job easier and then found one in the middle of the bike path.

Yesterday it got even more mysterious. We'd been given three reflective vests by a concerned highway worker. A certain eleven-year-old resisted wearing hers, even after her mother pinned it to fit more closely. The vest kept getting stuffed into a trailer and eventually got lost. Yesterday we found the vest, complete with identifying pins, on the side of a road we'd never before traveled. We're mystified.

So we'll continue to marvel as we ride by newly formed lakes lined with cactus and mesquite. We're grateful for the grace we enjoy and we anticipate spreading that peace wide enough to cover all who suffer in Iraq.