As we all know, this past winter was indeed a unique and challenging one. Even Southern California was fairly cold for a while, and parts of Florida were in the low 30s and mid 20s! This indeed made the first two months of my journey interesting, to say the least!
With my first walk in Edinburg, Texas, on January 6 in the low 40s, I knew that I had done the right thing by installing a heat element in my H-D Tallboy seat that I borrowed from my Street Glide. The hand guards that were installed helped tremendously, and the heated vest was a good idea as well. But heated gloves would have been an even better choice… Luckily at the end of March my awesome mother bought me some for my birthday in April. Hindsight is 20/20 and please learn from my mistake on this one!
In my defense, I stayed south at the start to not only have Out of the Darkness walks to attend, but to avoid the cold. Needless to say, Mother Nature had other plans for us all.
My first night on the road was spent camping at Catalina State Park, just north of Tucson, Arizona. I pulled in just as it got dark, registered to camp at the after-hours booth, and picked out a site. It was a brisk night, but perfect for camping considering that it was technically still winter in Arizona. If you are in the area, you should check it out!
I traveled east and then to the south over the next few days, riding through the White Sands National Monument, Roswell to look for aliens (some strange tourists, no aliens to my knowledge!), Austin, Texas, for an amazing pulled pork sandwich, and then finally to Edinburg where I found out that there are no actual campgrounds that allow tents, and quite a few of them required me to be over 55 years old, so a hotel it was.
After attending the walk in Edinburg I jumped back on Trinity and headed north on some state roads for about 240 miles to Lamar, Texas, where I was able to enjoy yet another phenomenal sunset after getting camp set up for the night. It was noticeably warmer, but still on the chilly side. Needless to say, this would be a common trend for the first few months of the trip, along with a fair amount of rain as well.
By the end of February, I ended up bouncing between Texas and Florida, attending a total of seven American Foundation for Suicide Prevention “Out of the Darkness” community walks: Edinburg, Texas, followed by San Antonio, Siesta Key, Florida, Orlando, Miami, Woodlands, Texas, and Fort Bend, Texas.
While planning this trip I reminded myself that I would have to keep an eye on the maintenance schedule for Trinity as well. Having been a helicopter mechanic in the Marine Corps for 18 years I know a tiny bit about planned maintenance intervals and the importance of services being performed on time. On a very wet day and in need of a 5,000-mile service, I pulled into the service runway at Harley-Davidson of Pensacola. They quickly became my southeast “go-to” dealership for all of my service needs.
For the month of January, I ended up riding 11,843 miles with two services on the road while February ended up totaling 10,150 miles, two services, and a new rear tire thanks to a screw. I am a huge advocate of extended service plans with tire and wheel coverage! On a long trip like this they can end up paying for themselves and I am glad that I purchased one when I bought Trinity, as I can only imagine what all could happen on the remainder of the trip.
All in all, January and February were productive to the cause, and that is what matters the most—raising awareness for our great nation’s suicide problem and working to end suicide. There have been a fair amount of people reaching out to me to not only find resources for help, but to also inform me that one post or another helped them work through a mental health challenge that they were experiencing at the time. This alone provided to be a great source of fuel for me to continue pressing forward in the challenges of the cold and rain. It was well worth a hundred screws in my tires if needed.
Don’t forget to check on Facebook and Instagram for more stories on how suicide has impacted others, stories from suicide survivors, and how others have overcome their struggles with mental health.
Remember that it is OK to not be OK, that you are loved, that you are valued, and that you have purpose!