David Freeze Day 21: Another ride comes to an end!

Published 1:18 am Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Editor’s note: David Freeze has cycled along the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa, to New Orleans. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net. 

As I mentioned the other day, it is always bittersweet to see the latest cycling adventure come to its end. As I write this, I am on the Amtrak Crescent leaving Birmingham, Alabama. I checked out early this morning from the motel and walked the bike to the Amtrak terminal, just a quick 1.1 miles. I walked in and told them it was time to go home, both me and the bike. Seems easy, doesn’t it?
I met Cheryl, head ticket agent, and she looked at the bike and said that I couldn’t ship it even if my ticket said it could ride. No one would be at Salisbury to take it off the train. She called someone and got the OK to put it on the train. Then we began to talk about my adventures, how she had an unused bike that would now get used, and other things. With the pressure off, I was ready to get on the train. Trains have always been a favorite of mine and I was about to go on my longest ride ever, about 20 hours.
With help from Travels by Allison, I had a roomette, a small sleeper compartment for two. There is a bed overhead and the two chairs make beds too. I was amazed at all the well-planned small space the unit has. There is a toilet, a sink, my own thermostat, plenty of lighting and big window. Meals are included, WiFi works most of the time, and I can’t remember being so relaxed in forever. Good for the mental and physical stress of what I expect will be somewhere over 1,300 total miles. My legs are getting a needed day of rest and a couple of naps won’t hurt either.
I love the sound of the train horn and the gentle rolling of the train from side to side. Most of the train ride so far has been in the rain and I have enjoyed being in the dry this time. The train staff are all exceptionally nice while being professional. Other passengers in the car are quiet and respectful. I have a schedule of stops back to Salisbury, regular stops through the night, and expect to get back to Salisbury Station about 6:15 a.m.
It’s time for my final thoughts on this ride. Thanks to all the sponsors that I know about until I get home. Father and Son Produce, Dick and Jane Richards, Skinny Wheels, Men on Mission at First Baptist Church in China Grove, Wayne Cobb, Gear for Races. All of them have been along for the ride before. I appreciate each and every one of them.
Thanks to the Salisbury Post and especially good friends Paris Goodnight and Andy Mooney. They fielded the photos and daily updates and made them look good. Rayna Gardner, The Forum general manager, again managed the whole production as only she can. Amanda Lewis helped with technical issues.
Two events stick out for me. Early on, I was getting a little bored with my own company and decided to stop at Walmart and get a cheap AM-FM radio. But somehow, I never used it once. I decided that I needed to spend a lot of time daily doing much better with my prayers. Long stretches passed by while God and I talked about my concerns. And His too. The radio just never seemed important again.
The second was on the evening that my final 30 miles fell apart. I had been thinking that I was well past time for an impending flat or an issue otherwise with the bike. I was concerned for the last week about all the roadside metal, wires and junk that the bike rode through. Then, after that last big storm, I knew the first flat put me in big jeopardy of making New Orleans by dark. The third did me in. I already had a train ticket to leave today and a day of sightseeing in the city planned. No extra days to do that remaining 30 miles.
After all was said and done, I am sure that the biggest lesson was sent my way when Johnny Walker and David Bourg both stopped to help and we covered the “Pay it forward” philosophy extensively. In the shape the world is in today, what better way to see if we can fix some of the turmoil by only expecting to do something good for the next person. Without any reward except for them to do the same. Those guys set the example, especially David with giving me a ride into the city when he had something else planned.
So, those will be my takeaways from this adventure.  Plenty more lesser good things happened too, actually too many to revisit them all. But running the bases at the Field of Dreams, the day of fun at Hannibal, all the other days of safe pedaling and people like Cheryl, Layne Logue and plenty of motel owners or others who gave me a good deal or a kind gesture. Or maybe just a friendly “Hello.”
I got to see a lot of history, always a big part of these adventures. But I wonder why cities like Vicksburg and Natchez don’t take the attitude that Hannibal does. U.S. 61 was a good road and I would have liked to have finished it into New Orleans. But there will be another day, and hopefully by then Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana will continue to pave over more of the rumble strips.
And finally one of my favorite parts, each year I make new friends who invest their time in writing to me about something to see or do, or maybe they just offered encouragement. Either way, I am glad that you and the Post readers rode along again. I always feel great when someone says that I make them feel just like they were along for the ride.
We will do it again soon, and I am already thinking about possibilities. Thank you all for being part of another adventure, learning something more about our great nation and maybe getting to know each other a little better. I appreciate you all!