As it is turning out, the 11,000-mile motorcycle odyssey to the four corners of the country to speak of Women and Children in the Jails and the Prisons of the Nation is turning out to be a rather massive undertaking. At the moment, we have over 20 talks lined up in all sorts of venues that range from intensely metropolitan to right on the side of I-10 in the rural countryside. On some days we may only travel 50 miles, and others we will be on the road 400-plus miles and pull into a city that is totally unknown to us and give one or two talks that day.
Make no mistake, both Joe and I are passionate about the topic, and we will go wherever there is an audience and talk to anyone that will hear us. I will stay there till all questions are answered and listen to any suggestions. All of this we will do in 60 continuous days. We are going by motorcycle because it is the cheapest way to travel (about 40 miles per gallon). We are going equipped for roadside camping to avoid the costs of motels. We are hauling computers and portable projectors. We have backup phones, hard drives, and everything that runs on a battery has a backup battery or batteries. There are phones that will connect to the Internet and also serve as modems so that we can connect through them from the computers to the Internet. We have a blog to make daily entries as to the journey.
For the last 3 months I have given talks in Orlando, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Clearwater, Gainesville and other places. I have modified my talk after every presentation based on audience reactions. I think we have run into every kind of obstacle that is possible and made provisions to not only avoid it but to be prepared if it happens again. Having said all of that, we are going to be traveling in some extremes of weather and the vibrations of a motorcycle over several thousands of miles do not always mesh well with computers and LCD lamps on projectors. Also, we are going to hit some rain showers and cold weather en route that will surely test the provision we have made for waterproofing computers and electronics. Our intention is to drive through whatever weather to make any time schedules that are set up. Joe is an experienced rider of many years. I have ridden over 20,000 miles since November 30. Some of our rides have been over 1,000 miles in everything from rainstorms, freezing weather and night riding on interstates. Don’t know that we could be any more prepared for this trip.
Our bikes are 1,100 and 1,600 cc’s respectively and very capable of extended hauls at highway speeds on the interstates of the nation. Yes, 80 or so percent of our riding is on the interstate and this we have to do to stay within the 60-day window that we have set to operate within. However, we have to change oil regularly and tires will have to be replaced. Maintenance of bikes and equipment is a daily chore. This is not a ride through the countryside on a Sunday afternoon, but it will be a hard ride with a clear objective which is to put a sense of urgency into our mission which is to create an awareness Women and Children in the Jails and Prisons of our Nation. To borrow a motto from our postal brothers: “We intend to carry the message come rain or shine.”
A lot of men and women of whom many are are not affiliated with the Gateless Gate Zen Center have put in a humongous number of hours and donated money towards this end. Their work will not end with us roaring out of Gainesville on the 8th of July to give our first talk on the 9th in Tallahassee, Florida.
I have talked and emailed a lot of people as individuals and have reached the point where I will have to be clear and more uniform so that everyone is operating off the same sheet of music and that this odyssey can be as much as it could be. Much of this will be very familiar to you but I am no longer sure who knows what and so I am going to try and put together a set of coordinating instructions that will be uniform and complete. Once we get on the road, coordination from the seat of a motorcycle will be hard.
Having set the stage, it is now time to go over the coordination:
(1) We need to be clear about the message: The talk is about the size and scope of the problem as well as what can be. Then we go into the train wreck that may not face us as individuals but will be a disaster not only for our children but the hundreds of thousands of children that will never get to the starting blocks of life. Instead, they will be ambushed by addictions, abuse and prison just by the circumstances of their birth. I end with a plan of action that individuals can participate in on many levels depending on their skills and comfort zones. The presentation is built around a PowerPoint and includes lots of photos, some of which no one in the audience will be prepared for. Nothing obscene but just a reality that generally speaking will shake at least 50 percent of the audience to their core.
(2) It is also important to understand that this is not an academic presentation. My intention is to make it emotional and simple to grasp. No way in a 60-minute presentation am I going to make anyone an expert on the situation. No way in a 60-minute presentation am I going to cover the entire scope of the problem. As in my 15 years as a prison volunteer could I cover the entire spectrum of concepts and issues associated with Women and Children in the Jails and Prison of the Nation. In the prison, I start with where they are and work from there, and so it is in my talk. I start with the prison and work outwards toward their re-entry.
I am very capable of ranting about the this-and-that of the politics, and that I have done for years. However, 60 minutes is not enough time to include that, and it needs to be clear — we need to stay focused on the train wreck that is headed our way if we don’t do something about it. I did put together an eBook of sorts, and it can be found here.
This is not a talk about Buddhism or Zen in the prisons. Yes, I do practice Zen, and I guess you could call me a Buddhist. However, the talk is secular in nature and speaks to a big problem that everyone needs to be aware of. I do not appear in robes but in the same clothes I wear while teaching in prison. Think in terms of the talk being universal, and we all need to be aware of what is going on.
(3) This talk comes with three begging bowls. However, some venues will ask and have asked us not to ask for money, and that we will do. Other venues have asked that we pay for or contribute to the cost of the facility, and that we will do. The primary mission remains to create an awareness of the magnitude and scope of the problem as well as looking for the way out. To this end we do not make any requirement that anyone donate money or be required to pay to attend.
Having said that, we have no government agency or philanthropic organization behind us. We are two men on motorcycles with a message. Yes, we have a lot of people that have donated time and some money, but know a trip of this undertaking takes money. Ours is a small organization with a big mission and our resources are limited. Have no doubts, we need money to put gas in our tanks, change the oil, and put tires on the motorcycles. The board of directors has voted that once we get down to $1,000 in the account, we turn our bikes back to Florida and head home. Every $100 moves the bikes 500 miles, not counting incidentals like tolls and etc. We need at a minimum enough to get from point to point. No way do we expect to make a profit. Any money above the cost of the trip goes into the general fund.
We have two more begging bowls of which one is for education and the other is to build a model center that was designed in a computer architecture drafting class by the women at Lowell CI.
We would prefer not to be in the collection business but just be given an envelope with whatever is collected minus the expected donation for the facility.
(4) We will need some support and coordination when we arrive at a venue for a talk. Bear in mind that we are traveling in the heat of the summer and on motorcycles. In some cases we will be coming into cities we have no knowledge of. We will navigate by TomTom and maps. We start the journey with the time of our expected arrival minus two hours. That two hours is to get clean and set up the presentation. Then we back off whatever time the travel is and add one hour for fuel and food stops per four hours on the road. To us, it makes little difference if we leave at 5 a.m. or 10 a.m. However, prior to departure we have to pack the motorcycles as well as do preventive maintenance. Then we have to go over the maps for the day’s travels.
Our machines are made of iron and steel, while we are made of flesh and bones. We expect to sleep by our bikes on the road and have no problem sleeping by our bikes on a garage floor, as we come with our own bedding. However, showers and hot food are nice. We do have to do laundry every five days. We eat whatever is offered, and we will do our very best to leave without a trace. Any help we can get along the way is more than appreciated.
Whereas we will arrive at a physical address, we will need help or guidance as to where to park our bikes. Our equipment is mounted on the bikes and we can not leave it unattended in a public parking garage or on a city street. There are two of us and if worse comes to worst, then one of us will watch the motorcycles where we park them, but even he will need a break to use the restrooms and etc.
Without a doubt, talks will be added and some will be canceled in route. We will confirm two days out by phone, text or email. Please use the Calendar linked on the right side of the page. This is what we will be using on the road. If there are some special considerations, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone and text at (352) 222-0006. (The trip schedule in an Excel format on the main menu will vanish the day we take off.)
(5) We have generic photos, flyers and etc. for the trip that can be modified to suit whatever needs are local to your venue. Please let me know what you may need, and I will be glad to provide it.
(6) As I said earlier, I am glad to go wherever anyone wants us to be. We are glad to modify our route as long as we are physically able to reach that point. If anyone knows of a place that would like to hear what we have to say that has not been filled, then let us know. In the meantime, know that we wish each and everyone well. Do good and take care.