There is a saying, “He can’t see the forest for the trees!” It implies that one is unable to see the importance of the “big picture” because of a focus on the (less important) details. Applying that as a metaphor to the challenges in our COVID economy I offer that there is no “forest” (economy) without the “trees” (small business).

We have been at our vacation home in Colorado since shortly after Christmas attending to a myriad of projects while embracing “real winter” at 10,300 feet above sea level. 2 miles to the north of us is the town of Alma with Breckenridge a 20 minute drive over Hoosier Pass. 5 miles south of us lies Fairplay where the nearest services are found. Gas, Prather’s Grocery, Ace Hardware, Fairplay Auto Supply, just to name a few.

Fairplay (pop. 800) is the Park County seat of government, a geographically large county (2,211 sq mi) with a population of about 19,000.

As such this surprisingly small county seat features a surprising array of dining and beverage purveyors… some 20 in all. Among our favorites are South Park Brewing (of course!), Java Moose Coffee House and Deli, and Millonzi’s Restaurant.

A couple of nights ago I stopped by Millonzi’s to purchase a gift certificate. For reasons of COVID safety and our focus upon home projects Christine and I have been absent from the dine-in scene during our current stay. Groceries, outside coffee (32°f with still air and a bright sun is very pleasant!) and a near daily visit to Ace Hardware has defined us.

As I waited for the gift certificates I was struck by the adjustments made in Millonzi’s since we were here during warmer weather. The outside dining option that we had enjoyed was of course gone.

A bar that could have seated at least a dozen was arranged for 2 sets of distanced couples.

The tables were well spaced, easily reducing seating to less than a third of former capacity.

We elected to return the following night for an early drink and dinner.

Upon our return we were greeted as old friends and quickly learned that the meticulous attention to detail, the topflight service, and excellent food remained unchanged. No wonder that a film crew was on sight in September to film for a feature of “Restaurant Impossible” which will air on Discovery Plus on January 22nd, and the Food Network in February.

Frank at the bar made an exceptional Manhattan garnished with a candied Hibiscus for me and a perfect G&T for Christine. Dakota, who was to wait upon us later at table, shared her joy and expectation of coming motherhood while Krishna looked on and added to the natural feeling of a family reunion.

Inevitably, conversation turned to the impact of COVID upon them and Millonzi’s. The temperature of discourse became more serious by degrees. They were all making it, but the difficulties are very real. Millonzi’s has a good carryout trade, but the bread and butter for any restaurant and its staff are patrons at the bar and at table.

In addition to presenting us with an  excellent dining experience our evening gave us an insight into the economic pain of the pandemic at full magnification. We were staring at one “tree” instead of just hearing about the “forest” as part of a 2 minute national news update.

The trees are everywhere. They are favorite diversions for us in Kansas City such as Aixois, a neighborhood French restaurant, and the upscale modern American “Restaurant At 1900”.

Most folks have such favorites that are locally owned. These establishments do not have the same resources as regional and national “corporate” dining to weather this COVID storm. The storm will pass, however if our favorite “trees” are to survive it is incumbent upon us to care for them as we are able.

We left Millonzi’s with the warm glow of having enjoyed excellent food, drink, and a very satisfying evening attended to by a staff that cares. We also left with carryout dinners for the next day… got to take care of the trees.

Peace Everyone. Pete

 

Our post-retirement travels began in May 2015. For those first 3 years we focused most of our journeys on destinations in the United States and Canada with our 17’ Casita travel trailer in tow. We had set as our “mission” to visit at least 49 States and 8 of Canada’s Provinces. As it turned out, we exceeded the goal with time to spare.

I chronicled those wanderings in an earlier iteration of my website. Unfortunately, in upgrading my site those earlier 2015 -2018 blog posts are no longer available online. However, I did preserve much of the content and photographs in 12”x12” hardback “coffee table” books that I created for our children, grandchildren, and then surviving parents.

I am aware that many of you have vicariously enjoyed accompanying us on our journeys. It occurred to me that I might share with you portions of the books that I created. Currently there are five volumes which have over 1000 pages of narrative and photographs. Some of the content consists of my personal musings and “philosophies“. The PDF files for each volume are huge and make for a very difficult download. However, by focusing upon segments of our travels and eliminate most of my ruminations the files become much more manageable.

Part 1 (previously posted) consisted of content from our 6 week trip through New England and Canada’s Maritime Provinces in 2016.

Part 2 consists of content from travels in the American Southwest and Pacific Coast from 2017 and 2018.

Part 3 will consist of content from our 12 week journey through Alaska, Western Canada and the Yukon Territory.

Below is the link to Part 2. You may view online or download the file. The link will expire on March 31st. I hope that this provides you with some relief from the stresses of our current political climate and pandemic. Please note that the first 9 pages will be the same in each Part.
Peace Everyone. Pete

 

Link: American’s Southwest and the Pacific Coast

 

 

Our post-retirement travels began in May 2015. For those first 3 years we focused most of our journeys on destinations in the United States and Canada with our 17’ Casita travel trailer in tow. We had set as our “mission” to visit at least 49 States and 8 of Canada’s Provinces. As it turned out, we exceeded the goal with time to spare.

I chronicled those wanderings in an earlier iteration of my website. Unfortunately, in upgrading my site those earlier 2015 -2018 blog posts are no longer available online. However, I did preserve much of the content and photographs in 12”x12” hardback “coffee table” books that I created for our children, grandchildren, and then surviving parents.

I am aware that many of you have vicariously enjoyed accompanying us on our journeys. It occurred to me that I might share with you portions of the books that I created. Currently there are five volumes which have over 1000 pages of narrative and photographs. Some of the content consists of my personal musings and “philosophies“. The PDF files for each volume are huge and make for a very difficult download. However, by focusing upon segments of our travels and eliminate most of my ruminations the files become much more manageable.

Part 1 consists of content from our 6 week trip through New England and Canada’s Maritime Provinces in 2016.

Part 2 will consist of content from travels in the American Southwest and Pacific Coast from 2017 and 2018.

Part 3 will consist of content from our 12 week journey through Alaska, Western Canada and the Yukon Territory.

Below is the link to Part 1. You may view online or download the file. The link will expire on March 31st. I hope that this provides you with some relief from the stresses of our current political climate and pandemic. Please note that the first 9 pages will be the same in each Part.
 
Peace Everyone. Pete

 

Link: New England and Canada’s Maritime Provinces

 

Gary Kretchmer was both a friend and a mentor. He closed his eyes for the last time on December 29, 2020. I have not yet read his obituary, but I am certain that when it is written it will, like so many others, celebrate the accomplishments of his life. What I hope is included is tribute to the impact that Gary will continue to have in the lives of thousands of men, women, and children for years to come.

Gary was a Mediator’s Mediator. He was adept at working as a Mediator for separated and divorced couples. His experience extended years before I learned that ”Mediation” was not “Meditation” misspelled. Over the 25 years of my Mediation practice I considered it a busy year if I worked with 300 couples. In his position as Director of the Mediation Program for Johnson County Kansas Court Services Gary likely worked with over 1,000 couples a year… often 4 couples in a single day, sometimes more. Day after workday he waded into the toxicity of couples in conflict, couples hurt, scared, couples cast into the role of litigants unable to effectively continue as parents. Gary was gifted at bringing peace to these Mothers and Fathers, moreover he salvaged “childhood” for tens of thousands of children caught in the vice of their parents’ conflict. Gary showed that there was light at the end of their tunnel

I first met Gary in the mid-1990’s, attending one of his trainings. I was immediately drawn to his calm and almost apostolic approach to communication in conflict. In that first encounter with Gary I learned that a Mediator could rarely make a misstep so long as the contributions were kept in the form of questions rather than statements. The Mediator acted as an interpreter between two people who found themselves either speaking over one another or speaking different “parenting languages”. Gary taught that the role of the Mediator was to provide a safe space for couples to craft their own resolutions. The Mediator teaches skills that empower folks to navigate their future. The Mediator is not a judge who makes decisions for them. As Gary would reflect, this is the difference between a Mediator (with a capital “M”) and a mediator. Gary was a deeply spiritual man who pursued his craft not so much as an occupation but as a calling. Much of whatever skill I developed came from lessons that I learned from him.

Beyond his work Gary was a consummate peacemaker and family man. He and his wife Sheryl were often guests at spiritual celebrations of other faith traditions. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist… to Gary, God was God, regardless of the form of worship. Gary and Sheryl enjoyed an annual Christmas Eve tradition of lunch at Andre’s Restaurant in Kansas City that began in 1984 when they first began dating.

It was the highest form of praise that over the years Gary would repeatedly encourage me with the words, “Pete, you are doing God’s work”. In my last training I was honored to be a co-presenter with three other gifted Mediators, Hugh O’Donnell, Dawn Kuhlman, and of course Gary Kretchmer.

Although our paths rarely crossed after our respective retirements, I feel a personal loss at his passing. The Mediation community in Metropolitan Kansas City not to mention tens of thousands of men, women, and children have much to be thankful for due to this good man.

I am certain that Gary will Rest In Peace since he lived his entire life, in Peace.

Peace Everyone. Pete

 

This past week a number of events seem to converge into a single message for me. Early in the week I hosted a video chat with a group of old friends. We came to learn that every one of our families have been touched by COVID-19. Fortunately with no fatalities. My daughter (a nurse) continues her recovery from the struggles of a COVID infection that occurred nearly a month ago. A younger (very athletic) friend had gone silent after indicating that he had become infected. I learned that he had landed in the ICU, struggling for his every breath. He very nearly fell over “the edge“. Thankfully, he is now on the road to recovery and has been transferred to a regular ward. One of his observations was the extreme stress carried upon the shoulders of the hospital staff. The hospital is over capacity with no end in sight.

Also this week I received communications from folks who persistently deny that COVID-19 is real. People who maintain a belief in some grand international conspiracy. I had enough, and on my Facebook account I “unfriended“ them. In my pique I shared these things with my Facebook community without identifying those who had been “unfriended“. I also added, “…did I miss anybody?“. My daughters applauded my actions, understanding how very reluctant I have been over the years to exercise the “unfriend” button. A couple of people took umbrage with my post and asked that they be “unfriended“ as well. Still others found sadness in these personal interactions. For reasons I will explain, I am not one of them.

I originally resisted joining Facebook. However, I found that I could learn more of the day-to-day events in my children and grandchildren’s lives through Facebook than I could in a telephone call or a discussion over coffee. I joined. Soon I had a fairly large Facebook community that showed interest in our family and our travels. In turn I have enjoyed glimpses into the lives of my friends as shared on FB.

Many of my dearest friendships predate Facebook. Many friends do not participate in Social Media. I do not measure friendship by one’s presence or absence in my Facebook community. Facebook is merely a convenient forum for sharing.

I received some private expressions of regret from others at what had transpired between “friends”. I have come to believe that while social media provides a convenient forum for social exchange there is a darker side. We have come to take too seriously being a “friend“ or an “unfriend“ on social media.

Friends often have disparate views in matters of politics, religion, and socioeconomics that do not threaten friendship. However, in the realm of social media those distinctions, especially when extreme, may rendered it inappropriate for there to be participation in one another’s social media communities. We choose who we invite to Thanksgiving dinner. We choose who attends graduations, weddings, and birthday celebrations. We choose who is on our Holiday card list. Most of the time no offense is taken by those who are omitted.

Friendships may be a reflection of our work, our neighborhoods, where we worship, together with when and where we went to school. Social media does not and should not determine our relationships. I merely invite you to consider your own view of Social Media friendship and “unfriendship“.

Peace to Everyone. Please stay Safe, Happy, and most of all Healthy in this Holiday Season. Pete

PS. Speaking of Holiday Cards: Disaster has again befalling me in my best efforts to send out cards! After handwriting and addressing over 500 cards… even including a $10 bill in each one to make up for the past years’ omissions, I placed the cards in the oven. I had thought it would be a harmless way to sterilize them and avoid any risk of virus transmission.

Unfortunately, I became distracted by doing the laundry, washing the dishes, scrubbing the floors and washing the windows. In my neglect the cards and their contents perished.
Oh well, perhaps better luck next year. Pete

It has been a while since I shared my “Thoughts”. Most of my musings are the product of inspiration, travel, and occasionally the “news cycle”. Unfortunately, these days the news is largely COVID-19 and election drama, both of which are incessantly pondered and frequently divisive. I don’t wish to publicly contribute to the noise.

This last week my daughter Alexis shared a vignette concerning her 12 year old son Kane and one of his teachers. Before I share it I want to place it in context with two other student-teacher interactions that involved my family in years past:

In 1989 we had moved from our home in central Kansas City to 20 acres located in rural Clay County. The children had been attending an urban parochial school that was very diverse. The early days in their new rural public school setting were an adjustment for both of us our children. Our son Peter and daughter Renee’ which were in the 5th grade, and Alexis was in 2nd. “Dad, where are the black kids?” was a question that our son posed at the end of his first day in the new school. Most of Peter’s friends in the city were children of color… indeed, in first grade the children had been urged to bring baby pictures to class as part of a contest to see who could most accurately associate the baby pictures with the first grade classmates. Peter wanted a picture that would be a real challenge for his peers. I pointed out to my son that since he was the only Caucasian boy in the class that really wasn’t going to work very well. Proof that we are born “colorblind” until trained otherwise by the adults.

Peter came home one day excited to begin work on a class assignment. That got our interest, “Peter, excited by homework?!?” I inquired. Grandparent’s Day was approaching, and the teacher asked the students to write about their grandparents. Peter asked his teacher if the story could be fictional. She said yes, without taking into consideration the workings of a boy’s pre-adolescent mind. Peter set to work, skipping afterschool television.

Later, he shared his effort with us. After reading his story, which was about my father (also named Peter) I again asked Peter if he was sure that fictionalizing his grandfather was OK. He assured me that he had cleared it with the teacher. Peter was off to school, excited to turn in his assignment.

A few days later Peter came home from school crestfallen. He handed me a note from his teacher requesting a private parent/teacher conference.

Arriving for the meeting I squeezed into a too small desk and was mentally transported back in time to my own less than endearing experiences as a 5th grader. The teacher towered over me and placed Peter’s essay on “my” desk. “Have you read this?” It was more an accusation than a question. “Why, yes. It is quite creative.” To which she replied, “WELL, what are you going to do about it Mr. Schloss?” If I recall correctly, my 5th grade teacher had a habit of calling me “Mr. Schloss” when I was in trouble. Some things never change.

I asked her if she had given Peter permission to write a fictional account of his grandfather. “Yes, BUT NOT THIS!” Again she wanted to know what I was going to do about it. “Nothing” was my reply. He completed the assignment as instructed, and in fact was more excited to do so than I had ever seen him be about homework. No doubt the teacher now considered young Peter to be the acorn that had not fallen very far from me, the tree.

She refused to accept his work and required that he do it over. It fell upon our shoulders to praise our son for his creative effort and to explain that perhaps the teacher just could not appreciate his talent.

Peter wanted to know if he could send his essay to his grandfather. I discouraged this and in light of his teacher’s reaction Peter seemed to better understand that his grandfather would probably not fully appreciate the skill with which he had recounted grandfather’s fictional life as a Nazi war criminal.

 

Fast forward to 1997. Renee’ was living in France, a year long placement as a high school foreign exchange student. She wrote a letter to her former French teacher in America. As it happened, that teacher was then Alexis’ second year French teacher. In her letter (proudly written in French) Renee’ had shared with the teacher some of the details of her new life and also suggested that perhaps her classmates in France and the teacher’s students could begin exchanging correspondence… becoming class “pen pals”.

We knew about Renee’s letter as she had shared with us her intention to write to the teacher. We did not expect what next occurred. One afternoon Alexis came home from school hopping mad and on the verge of tears. The teacher had read parts of the letter out loud in class, criticizing and correcting Renee’s grammar as she read. She failed to include in her recitation Renee’s class pen-pal suggestion. Now I was mad.

I requested a parent teacher conference. Because of the “heat” of my request, this was arranged to include the school’s principle. I verbally let her have it with “both barrels”. “A great teacher is one who recognizes and seizes upon teaching opportunities that are not found withing the pages of a textbook. You may be a teacher, but your conduct demonstrates that you are one in name only.” The principle sat silent while I continued to dress her down.

 

Now to my grandson Kane and his 2020 COVID-19 virtual class experience:

  Approaching Thanksgiving, Kane’s class was given the assignment for each student to write an email to someone they are thankful for. Kane’s teacher expected the students would be addressing their words of gratitude to a parent, relative, or friend. He did not expect Kane’s take on the assignment or the initiative that would be required to executed it.

Kane, like most 12 year old boys, loves fast food. For him McDonald’s is the best of the best. It seemed quite natural to him that his “thanks” should be directed to someone responsible for that little bit of culinary joy in his life. Kane’s research resulted in an email that he addressed to the CEO of the McDonald’s Corporation.

Kane’s mother (our daughter Alexis) is the school nurse where Kane is a student. His teacher shared with her his surprise at Kane’s interpretation of the assignment. A week later he shared his shock that Kane had receive a personally written reply from one of McDonald’s executives, thanking Kane for his email which had been circulated among staff. In appreciation for the bit of happiness that Kane’s email brought to McDonald’s, a gift certificate was included.

Kane’s teacher told Alexis that the next email assignment would be for each student to write to a company whose products they appreciate. To Alexis the teacher shared his intention to participate, “Do you think the Fender Guitar Company gives out gift certificates?”

The finest teachers are those who remain willing to be students.

Peace Everyone. Pete

I have put my “partisanship” on hold long enough to write this piece. Please pause yours before reading…

Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution provides in part:

“… and [the President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, Judges of the Supreme Court…”

In 2016 Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the hearings required to provide President Barack Obama the “advice and consent“ of the Senate with regard to his nomination of Merrick Garland to replace the deceased Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Garland received bipartisan Senate approval in 1997 and since then has been a sitting Judge on the United States Court of Appeals. The justification given by McConnell was that the appointment occurred in an election year and the voters deserved the right to determine who as President would make the nomination. The nomination occurred on March 16th of the election year.

Now, on September 26, 2020, Mitch McConnell commits to press forward with all due haste to provide the Senate’s advice and consent to President Donald Trump‘s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace deceased Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the Court. Judge Barrett received bipartisan Senate approval in 2017 and since then has been a sitting Judge on the United States Court of Appeals. This nomination comes within weeks of the upcoming presidential election. Senator McConnell‘s justification for this about face is that both the Presidency and Senate are in the hands of the same political party.

Without question, in 2016 and 2020 a sitting president nominated a qualified jurist to become a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Constitutional requirements were in place on each occasion for the Senate to undertake its duty to give “advice and consent“.

Senator McConnell‘s conduct in 2016 was nothing but transparent hypocrisy. There is nothing in the United States Constitution to support the position that he took as Senate majority leader. It is unnecessary for him to advance any justification for granting Senate hearings in 2020. He is merely trying to “put lipstick on a pig” of his own creation.

Voices raised in righteous indignation are justified. However, calls to obstruct the 2020 nomination process or (worse yet) take action such as “packing the court“ (the appointment of additional Justices solely for the purpose of swinging the courts ideology) are the pursuit of a wrong in furtherance of a prior wrong.

There is nothing in the United States Constitution that qualifies the appointment of a jurist based upon his or her ideology or religion. Article 6 provides in part that all officials:

“…shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Like it or not, Amy Coney Barrett deserves hearings to confirm or deny her appointment to the United States Supreme Court. That is what the United States Constitution provides.

The denial of hearings in 2016 was inconsistent with Senator Mitch McConnell‘s oath to support the United States Constitution. Therein lies one wrong that for those on the left demands justice in the form of another wrong, obstruction of the appointment process. The legitimate remedy in 2020 is McConnell’s defeat at the polls.

You may now restore your partisanship. Peace Everyone. Pete

Most of my life is an open book not only on social media but on my website and among my friends and acquaintances. I suspect that my “politics“ are well-known.

What is less well known is that for 25 years I was the prosecuting attorney for two municipalities in metropolitan Kansas City. I worked closely with scores of officers in those police departments. Those officers were dedicated, hard-working, fair minded, and held the interests of their communities paramount in the performance of their duties. Every day they put their lives on the line and embraced the commitment to “serve and protect”. They also enforced the law… not something popular with those who break the law.

Early in my legal career I also was a Public Defender. For years I also had a private criminal defense practice. There was disparity in the way that people of color were commonly approached by law enforcement. In the 1980s there was a well know euphemism in the County Prosecuting Attorneys office that “NNR“ was probable cause for a law enforcement stop. “NNR“ stood for Nxxxx North of the River. ”North of the River“ was the predominately white area of Metropolitan Kansas City Missouri. My parents never had to caution me about random law-enforcement contacts. Sadly, that is a common conversation in families of color. Happily, attitudes are changing. Attitudes need to change more and perhaps the tragedies of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, among too many others, are getting the notice and action that they deserve outside of minority communities.

Perfect? Hardly. Police, like each of us, are human beings. The code of silence hurts good officers and the rest of us.

Over the years I encountered a (very) few who were not suited to wear the badge. They were usually weeded out by the command staff.

What makes headline news is not the good police officers or the peaceful protesters. What makes headlines is the “bad cop” and the rioters/looters all of whom have an agenda that is separate and apart from any argument for public service or social/racial justice.

I am a believer in social justice, racial justice, and that “Black Lives Matter”. Those beliefs are not exclusive to the support of good police officers and good law enforcement. Indeed, I find the beliefs wholly consistent.

When somebody says “Blue Lives Matter”, I say yes they do. When somebody says “Black Lives Matter“ I am just as enthusiastic. What I do not agree with is the use of one of those statements as a reply or response to the other. Embrace one statement and/or the other but not one in reply to the other.

Peace Everyone. Pete

 

We rode out of Miami on the morning of September 2, 2010.

Key West, Florida lay 160 miles south and west at the end of a string of island pearls known as the Florida Keys. We would overnight in Key Largo and on Marathon Island, before riding into Key West, our final destination, on September 4th.

Traveling the length of the Keys was extraordinary and at times even magical. We shared the road with motor vehicles, but we had long grown accustom to the risks. If anything, Highway 1, the thoroughfare that has connected the Keys since 1935, was quite bicycle friendly.

However, there were exceptions.

The ride was at times leisurely, allowing us to stop roadside for pictures and to just take in the sights.

In Key Largo Christine and I, in the company of riders Tom and Lissa Whittaker, sought out a well regarded local restaurant. “Tasters” was an exceptional find both for its cozy and intimate island atmosphere and the excellent cuisine. We were treated like valued local patrons by the owner/chef, Thomas Smith. We enjoyed his personal attention and also delightful conversation with another diner, Christi Allen Franchini, owner of the local Pilates studio.

We returned the following morning with rider John Mocella to pick up a souvenir t-shirt and this time met Thomas’ young son.

At a nearby dock we found the original “African Queen”, the famed steam vessel from the 1951 movie of the same name that stared Humphry Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.

Now in “retirement”, this 35 foot steam powered vessel, originally launched the UK in 1912 as the “Livingston”, plied the waters of the Ruki River in the Congo for over 50 years. She was shipped to the United States in the 1970’s, refurbished, and was added to the US Register of Historic Places in 1992.

She has continued on in Key Largo as a tourist boat, undergoing her most recent restoration in 2012.

Our evening in Marathon was equally pleasant with drinks and some dockside contemplation.

As is to be expected, the sunsets in the Keys were stunning.

Our ride into Key West from Marathon was rain-delayed by a strong early morning thunderstorm with accompanying rapid-fire air to ground lightning. The storm gave us a pause for breakfast and fortunately passed quickly. Back on our bikes we covered the last 50 miles, entering Key West shortly after noon.

We were greeted by a contingent of family and friends.

There was an overflowing of emotions and Champaign.

We posed for pictures.

 

We embraced, and we gave thanks that the 16 of us had safely made it across the United States without a serious accident or injury.

The following day Father Matt said Mass for the gathered friends, family, and dignitaries.

Hors d‘oeuvres, drinks and an emotional celebration followed.

The evening capped off with another spectacular sunset that lacked only “The End”  followed by the list of cast and credits scrolling across the sky.

 
Epilogue:

I know what we did, but the answer to what we accomplished is more elusive.

We bicycled over 5000 miles across the United States.

We carried the message of the problem of poverty in America.

We attended rallies, and we visited facilities that attend to the needs of the underprivileged. We lent a hand now and then along the way.

Certainly, we raised substantial funds for poverty related programs in Kansas City and in other communities that hosted us. While we may have touched some lives in a way that brought change, perhaps most important was the change that occurred within each of us.

For 100 days we were dedicated bicyclists. For 100 days we were a tight-knit family. We became disciples in a cause that did not end on the 100th day. It is not hyperbole to say that this was a life-changing experience. When I am engaged in conversation with a new acquaintance it is natural that the topic of “what did/do you do” comes up. After all, that is the fast track question to learning about one another. I am a husband of 43+ years, a father, a grandfather, a retired lawyer of 40+ years… and I bicycled over 5,000 miles across the United States as part of a commitment to the mission of Catholic Charities. It is telling that I mention those 100 days as a member of C4C with the same level of pride and accomplishment as other aspects of my life that are measured in decades. I suspect that the other 15 members of C4C are equally gratified with the part that they played.

I am proud to have been part of Cycling for Change. I am honored to call the other members my lifelong friends. I am especially grateful to Father Matt Ruhl, S.J. for the passion that he carries for the plight of the poor and underprivileged. Matt not only turns words into deeds, but he moves others to act, we of Cycling for Change among them.
Now roll the cast and credits:

… and finally: Peace Everyone. Pete Schloss

 

In times past it was known as the Big Bend Coast. Since 1991 this unofficial region of Florida has been known as “The Nature Coast”. Loosely defined, this area covers approximately 8 Florida Counties that abut the Gulf of Mexico. Culturally, it is the transition from the southernmost extent of the “Deep South” into the more tropical and urban cultures of the Tampa Bay area and Miami.

From August 22nd to August 31st we enjoyed 9 riding days that covered over 480 miles and connected us with the Florida communities of Perry, Chiefland, Inverness, Polk City, Sebring, Clewiston, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Miami.

“Enjoyed” is a term I present in the literal sense. The climate was comfortable.

The scenery was inviting.

The route was bicycle friendly and included the 32 mile long “rails to trails” Nature Coast State Trail.

Henry the “rubber roach” was still making his presence known. (Here seen attracting the amorous attention of a native Palmetto Bug)

It seemed that the most challenging hills we had to navigate were the roadside curbs.

The quality of our accommodations through most of this stretch were among the finest of the summer. The most memorable were our stays in Sebring (August 26th), West Palm Beach (August 28th and 29th), Boca Raton (August 30th), and the “pièce de résistance” was the Royal Palm Hotel in Miami Beach. These night stays read like a luxury tourist itinerary.

In Sebring we enjoyed rooms in the historic Kenilworth Lodge. This expansive resort hotel was built in 1916 by George Sebring, developer of the community. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, its glory days were in the early and mid-20th Century as seen in this 1922 postcard.

During our brief stay hints of its past grandeur were apparent.

Sadly, it has lain closed and abandoned since 2016 due to a small electrical fire that lead to a detailed fire inspection and condemnation of the property.

Our stay at the Hilton Hotel in West Palm Beach was not so memorable for the otherwise typical accommodations, but for the unusual group that was also registered at the facility. Wherever we looked there were young people dressed as cartoon and fantasy characters.

One of our group asked an attendee what they were there for, “We are part of an Anime Convention.” was the reply. “What’s that?” continued the C4C rider. “A convention is a group of people meeting for the same purpose” was her response… and with that said she walked off leaving a bemused C4C rider in her wake.

In Boca Raton the oceanside Holiday Inn was anything but ordinary. Our arrival was heralded by a videographer.

The rooms looked out upon a delightful swimming pool and the sound of the Gulf waves on the beach mere feet away provided an aural backdrop for this piece of paradise.

At our 6 am departure the next morning the manager asked if we would join him for a group photo to add to his collection of hotel guest dignitaries.

And then there was the Royal Palm Hotel in Miami Beach. It was one of a group of extraordinary art-deco high rise hotels that adorn the South Beach strip. By day the hotel and surrounding environs were beautiful…

…but after sunset they transformed into a technicolor feast for the eyes.

Dating to 1939, the Royal Palm was named after the famous 1897 Henry Flagler Miami hotel that had been destroyed by fire a few years earlier. The staff at this decidedly upscale resort did not bat an eye when we asked to take our bicycles up the elevators for overnight storage in our rooms.

In spite of the changes that our venture into south Florida brought, we remained true to our established routine: An early start with Christine’s instructions for the day was followed by Father Matt’s morning prayer; “Let’s ride with peaceful minds and strong hearts…” and his concluding directive, “Buns Up Everyone!!”.

Daily Mass remained an afternoon or evening tradition. Often a “potluck” supper was served to us courtesy of a local church group. By now we had long lost count of the number of different ways that pasta could be served.

And of course we remained dedicated to the continuing mission of Cycling for Change, carrying the message of the problem of poverty in America. During this segment of our ride there were meetings and presentations with various parish groups, however the most endearing experience was our visit with the children at Miami’s Centro Hispano Catolico Child Care Center.

This child development center is one of 6 such centers operated by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of  Miami. The Centro Hispano serves up to 200 underprivileged children in the largely Hispanic community. Services include classes taught by degreed staff, 3 balanced meals a day, a curriculum to address literacy, social, and emotional development, individualized education plans, and training programs for parents that include development of language, job, and financial skills.

Ahead of us from Miami lay the final 160 miles to Key West. Ten years later a lump forms in my throat and a tear comes to my eye at the mere typing of those words.

Next: The final chapter: The Florida Keys and Key West.
Peace Everyone. Pete

PS.  Christine’s parents, William “Bill” Alden Nichols and Doris Irene (Robinson) Nichols were born in 1918. At the age of 18 they eloped to marry, fearing their parents’ disapproval. On August 27, 2010, a little over 74 years after they had married, we of C4C were riding from Sebring to Clewiston, Florida. Christine took leave of the group that day to drive 60 miles west for an afternoon visit with her parents.

Doris resided in an assisted living community while Bill continued to live independently in their Florida home.

Doris passed away the following year at the age of 93. Bill lived past his 101st birthday, drawing his final breath in Kansas City on February 24th, 2020… “Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord…”