Monday January 2, 2017, 56 miles (90 km) - Total so far: 102 miles (164 km)
Gainesville to Royston, Ga”Don’t you mean split pea soup? You eat what you like and I’ll eat what I like”
Today’s forcast promised all day heavy rain and thunderstorms so it was with reluctance that I prepared for the ride. At least I had the company of family to encourage me and a dry house and warm breakfast to fill me.
Jeri and Haines sending me off.
As so often happens, the forcast was if not wrong, just a bit delayed. Only fog greeted me as I packed my bags. I was helped by my gracious hosts , Haines and Carolyn as Jeri made sure I didn’t leave anything. Thank you all for the wonderful evening. Jeri, I’ll see you in about three weeks.
So off I rode into the mist. I was greeted by a number of sounds of wildlife and although I couldn’t see them, they were enjoyed none the less. White throated sparrows, killdeer, hawks, blue jays pretending to be hawks and one lonesome bard owl. A symphony of entertainers to keep me moving along.
I’m using Google Maps for my navigational tool. She, (Google talks to me in a soothing feminine voice) guided me through the back roads of Gainesville like a pro. Then she found all the back roads between there and Royston. She wasn’t shy about using dirt roads either. How does she even know where those roads are? Does the little Google car ride down these things? Maybe google has a little Google bicycle looking for the best cycling routes. It just blows my analog briain away. Hey wait. Maybe I could get that job.
How does Google find these things?
No sooner than I got off the dirt road, I was on a four lane highway. Quite the contrast.
I rode through a lot of agricultural land today with beef cows mooing beside me as they chewed their cud. Another animal raised in abundance here are chickens. Thousands of them. You can hear them clucking as you go by their houses. You can also smell them. Thank goodness they taste better than they smell.
Google did find me a place of interest. A very nice covered bridge off the road, hidden almost completely from view. Of course I stopped. Any excuse to rest.
Not far from there I met Debbie who had lived there all her life. She remembered when the rode was dirt. Google, are you listening?
Soon, I was close to Royston and my Days Inn campsite. As I was struggling up the hill, I noticed a fellow watching intently. As I got nearer, I waved and said hi. He returned the favor and asked where I was camping and would I mind staying with him as he as a warm showers host. I’d heard about warm showers and had wanted to try them out so here was my oppertunity and I guickly accepted. What followed as I met Tim and Lynn was a prime example of the chance encounters I love so much about touring. I was greeted with hot tea, salsa and chips, a nice RV to stay dry in and yes of course, a warm shower. Tim offered beer and cooked delious steak and shrimp tacos while I played and sang songs. We all swapped stories as they are cyclists, and motorcyclists as well. I’d have to say my first experience of a warm showers hosts was excellent. Thanks so much Tim and Lynn for your true southern hospitality.
Not long after I crawled into my nice, warm, dry RV, the predicted deluge occurred with an excellent display of lightening and thunder. Perfect timing.
[Sunday January 1, 2017, 46 miles (74 km) - Total so far: 46 miles (74 km)]
“On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again”. Willie Nelson.
Loaded up and ready to go. Let's see how this rain gear works.
And I’m offf. Moving like a herd of turtles. Faster than a speeding snail, more powerful than a leaf on the wind. Darn I wish I hadn’t weighed my bike. Then I wouldn’t know I was pushing 121 pounds plus a Holliday fattened me up these steep North Georgia hills. If I didn’t know, I might have been able to convince myself that Clara weighed the same as always. Well, that would have been a stretch cause I struggled all day.
Even so, the excitement of finally, actually riding down the road, off into the unknown was overwhelming. Not even the rain, fog and cold temperatures could dampen my mood. I kept pinching myself to see if I were awake.
After a while of course, even the excitement of beginnings fades and the reality sinks in. The romance of dreaming and planning a tour becomes the reality of hard work and struggle. Also, with the weather, there’s not much to see so I do what I normally do in such situations, I turn inward and pay attention to my thoughts.
Typical North Ga. backroad.
In this case, I go back to yesterday and the fun I had being with good friends as they said goodby and wished me well. First of all were my kayaking buddies, people with whom I’ve trusted my life on those dangerous whitewater rivers. They drove all the way up from Atlanta in the rain and yes sleet to have beer and Mexican food and laugh and have a wonderful time. I know they are disappointed that we won’t be able to kayak at all next year but they know it’s something I’ve got to do and their support is so welcome.
Afterwards comes the goodby/New Years Eve party that Roger and Heidi throw for me. Great food, more friends, manhattens and of course, one last time to play music with the Choir Boys. We rocked out till midnight and brought in 2017 with a bang. Oh, am I going to miss playing music with you guys. No, this is not “The Last Friday” Roger.
My biking, kayaking and Pickens County Progress newspaper owner friend, Dan Pool came by this morning to see me off and prepair an article for the local paper. We tried to sum up what the trip entails but I’m wordy, or haven’t you noticed and I just keep rambling on. Dan will condense it all down to the proper length though. Hi to all my neighbors if you are reading this.
Suddenly, I’m pulled out of my pain numbing thoughts as a car drives by and the driver yells, “Way to go. Clara”. As it passes, I see Corgi stickers on the rear window and know it’s Avery, a veterinarian I’ve worked with. She stops, I stop, we smile, hug and think, what a small world. I’m so excited for her as she embarks down a new life as a relief vet, and we laugh at the prospect of perhaps seeing each other in Oregon where she might be working. All the best to one of the best Vets I know.
Chance meetings, this time with a friend. Small world Avery.
Eventually I do creep into my destination, 46 miles away. I’m staying with my in laws in Gainesville, Georgia. First , I have to get through security. This might be the safest campsites/apartments ever. Haines and Carolyn make me feel right at home and Jeri is there serving me the traditional New Years dinner of Hoppin Johns for good luck. I’m thinking I’m a very lucky man right about now.
Trying to talk security into letting biker trash in.
Have your ever heard a song and immediately started dancing and singing along? What about that song you heard that reminded you of a special time, a special place, a special someone? Did a song you hear ever make your skin prickle with goose bumps, or make you laugh or make you cry? Well I have and because of that, I’m dedicating this tour to riding for a cause, Fender Music Foundation: http://www.fendermusicfoundation.org. My goal is to raise awareness to the need of keeping music in our school systems and musical instruments in the hands of young people, the future of music. I hope that by doing this ride, I might inspire people to make donations to this cause that I believe in.
On all of my crazy adventures, I was often asked, “are you riding for a cause?”. Sadly, I always said “no.” While riding one day on our TransAm tour with a couple of friends, one of whom was riding for a cause, they were saying that they were inspired by my thru hike of the AT and were congratulating me for such a fine accomplishment. I thanked them but said that I didn’t think that what I did was all that important and didn’t contribute to world piece or anything earth shattering. My friend ended up with donations over $10,000 for her cause and that got me thinking, maybe I could do something for a charity as well. I’d like to thank these young folks for getting me on the right road and making something I do, mean something to others and not just to myself.
Now I had to come up with something that I thought was important enough to me to make this effort. I thought about things that made a difference in my life. Music. I’ve played music since I was in the 5th grade. Started with the trumpet, then switched to baritone horn. We couldn’t afford another instrument so I played one provided me by my schools. These instruments were of course donated or bought by money provided to the school systems for that purpose. I played through high school and college. I’ll never forget a concert in high school when we played 1812 Overture and there was a standing ovation and thunderous applause at the end. How good that made me feel, giving something of myself that made people happy. Once, my brother asked, “if you could play like any musician, who would you be”. Without hesitation, I said “David Gilmore” lead guitarist for Pink Floyd. What a trip to play for thousands of people who where moved by something that you loved to do.
After college came work and life. Not much need for a baritone horn player except around Christmas time. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I started playing harmonicas. I was suffering from herniated lower back disks and was in pain. I couldn’t do any of the activities that I loved. I had to do something so music became my new hobby. The back got better and the music continued. I sometimes think that the back problems were some of the best things that ever happened to me because of this. Later, my brother encouraged me to play the guitar. I thank my friend Roger Bennett for giving me lessons and letting me sit in with his band the Choir Boys every Friday evening. Eventually, I learned to play the harmonica and guitar at the same time, and finally after much convincing, I started singing. About 2 years ago, we needed a drummer so guess who became a drummer? Me!
If you know me, then you know that I love an audience so I had to find a willing one. Of course there were my friends and family but they were kind of obligated to say nice things. They did of course which really encouraged me. It wasn’t long before I started playing for nursing homes. It was such a joy to me to be able to help people forget their pain and troubles if only for a moment. I’m sure I got much more that I gave and I loved playing for those nice folks so much.
So, riding for a music charity was a no brainer for me. Fender Music Foundation (FMF) seemed like a good fit. I was looking for a charity where the CEO wasn’t making millions of dollars off the donations. FMF covers it’s administration fees, by auctioning off instruments and paraphernalia of famous musicians. For instance, if Taylor Swift uses a guitar in a concert, she might sign it and donate it to FMF. They auction it off. Since all administration fees are covered all of the donations you might make, go toward providing grants and putting instruments into the hands of students who need them. They are also involved in music therapy programs. If you are interested, you can read more about them on the link provided.
So, as I tour the country, I’ll be handing out cards and talking to everyone I meet who will listen. I’ll be playing music in campsites, beside the road and the occasional bar if I can to see if I can raise donations to help these kids. I am not being sponsored by FMF and they are not providing any money toward my ride. That is my donation to them. Also, I’ve done what I asked everyone else to do and donated one of my drum sets to my local high school this month.
I hope that this tour will inspire many people to do something that they’ve always wanted to do but for some reason have put if off. It doesn’t have to be something this big, just a long term desire. I hope that you will consider donating something to FMF. You might consider an amount per mile. I will warn you that this ride when completed will probably be over 12,000 miles long and a penny a mile could be $120. Perfect. Thats an instrument for two students in need. Maybe you have a penny jar or can. You know, that place where you have been putting spare change in for so many years. Well, you aren’t using it now, and its money you really don’t think about having or using. What a great donation it would make to FMF. Whatever you decide will be just fine and greatly appreciated. You can donate on their web page by clicking the donation tab, indicating the amount, and if you would, as the card says, make it in honor of me, Mike McGhee so I can keep up with how I’m doing and hopefully thank all of you individually for your generosity.
One last reason for doing this. There’s going to be that time on this tour when I say, man, this is hard. I’m not really interested in riding hard rollers all day long into a 25 mph headwind in 100 degree temperatures. Then I’m going to think of a kids face lighting up with a new instrument in hand ready to become the next musician that thrills you with their music. That will get me through those days and many more.
Here’s a video of me and my friend Bob playing music in a bar in the Sierra Mountains during our Reunion Ride in California. We actually scored a pitcher of beer and I think about 7 dollars, but more important, we had fun and those whose listened seemed to have fun too.
These artists and and organizations bring the transformative power of music to a world in need of education and healing.
It may be clichéd to say music soothes the soul. But in fact, music can resurrect a dying dream, empower the weak, and bring tears to the eyes of the hardened.
Being a musician isn’t just about being a rock star—there are music artists from all walks of life (including some rock stars) who use their talents to help others. We talked to a panel of musicians whose nonprofits are changing the world through the power of instrument and song. Click here for link…
"I'm just absolutely grateful for such a beautiful guitar to learn with and the blessing of music...I hope to pursue my passion further and remind myself I would have never had this opportunity without MRC, Ms. Dana, and these stunning guitars!"
- Student, Memphis Recovery Centers, Memphis, TN
"Thank you for your generous support and for making a difference in our programs and the lives of at-risk children in Alabama."
- Debbie Bond, Director, The Alabama Blues Project
"The band program sometimes seems like the only thing that keeps me going."
- Student, North High School, Phoenix, AZ
The Fender Music Foundation
P.O. Box 67
Agoura Hills, CA 91376