Bendiciones de la Virgen (Blessings of Our Lady)

June 15, 2012 in Ramblings

I arrived in Brownsville yesterday early afternoon. The sun was scorching and I was drained. I looked everywhere for a cheap, clean hotel. Couldn’t find one so I had to choose…cheap OR clean. I chose cheap. ($40…that was the cheapest I could find). I layed down in the A/C and fell asleep immediately. I power napped for an hour and was up and around. The Motel did not have Internet so I was off to find a Starbucks…and luckily there was one 2 miles down the street.

Now that I was in Brownsville I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about Mexico. It was clear to me that the previous Embassy official that I spoke to backed out of his offer and I was stuck with no clear path to the Basilica. It bothered me the whole way from Corpus Christi to Brownsville. I was torn between a quick drive over the border and back into Texas or going the entire way through Mexico and making a run for the Basilica. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. My plan was to wake up the following morning and head over the border and whatever was going to happen was going to happen.

I arrive at Starbucks, order my coffee and take a seat near the bar. The short guy after me makes a joke about coffee stunting his growth…and I make the spontaneous comment “You too, huh”? and we both laughed. He says “Is that your bike out there”? I said “Yes”. He then says “My friend is the founder of an organization in Texas that helps kids heal from sexual abuse”. “REALLY”? I said.
“Yes, he founded it over 10 years ago…he’s done a lot of good”. “So where are you headed”?
Oh, I *think* I am headed to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe”.
“ON THAT?!?” he says, pointing to my bike. “Yes, on that”. He gets a very serious look on his face and says “You are going to get yourself killed”. To be honest, that shook me up a little because he was a local and he was telling me that…I figured that as a local, he had a pretty good bead on the level of violence in the region.
He then says “Excuse me for a minute, there is someone I would like you to meet”. He walks across the restaurant and starts a conversation in Spanish with a man dressed from head to toe in black.
They both approach me and the second man introduced himself. He says “Please do not do this” with a very serious and very stern look on his face. He asked me “What is it that you are trying to accomplish with this journey to the Basilica”? I explained all of my reasons and stressed that one of the main goals of this journey is to raise awareness. He told me “If you are trying to raise awareness, we can help you with that”. He gets his phone out and makes 3 phone calls, all in Spanish. He says to me “Be at the border crossing bridge with my associate Juan (the man I had just met) tomorrow morning at 10 am. You will be interviewed by two news agencies and the major newspaper. The first news agency is the biggest in all of Mexico and your message will reach hundreds of thousands if not millions of people throughout Mexico (and he mentioned two other neighboring countries that I can’t remember). He then asked if he could buy me dinner. We went to a nice restaurant next door to Starbucks and had an awesome dinner. The two men were very open with me and shared with my their efforts to advocate for the good of Mexico. The one gentleman held a diplomatic position. He said that what I was doing was very important because child sexual abuse has no boundaries and it was commendable that I was going beyond my physical, mental, and emotional boundaries to help others. He said that it was also important that I chose to go beyond the boundaries of my own country and engage Mexico and Canada in this UNIFIED fight against child sexual abuse. WOW! you could tell this man was a diplomat…he spoke so elegantly!

So after dinner Juan took me for a tour of Brownsville and told me all about the town…the GOOD and well as the bad. Later we met a friend of his and went out for some fantastic taco’s…then over to his friends house. His friend just closed down his motorcycle shop and had an entire back room in his house FILLED with clothing, helmets, chrome, parts, etc. …I was in heaven…
He gave me some merchandise to have a raffle or auction to raise some funds…he donated a nice helmet, windbreaker, and riding gloves.

Afterwards they lead me back to the motel for some much needed rest. I did not sleep very well because my bike was outside so I was up every hour checking to make sure it was still there. I was up for good at 6am because we were going to meet for breakfast and be at the bridge by 10am. I wanted to get the signs on my trailer translated into Spanish so we went to Kinko’s after breakfast at Whataburger and I had them print the signs on some cheap white paper and I taped them over the English text.

We drove over to the bridge where the border crossing was located and moments later news crews started to arrive. They spent about an hour interviewing me, filming, and taking photos. Somewhat surprising…they asked me about my faith in relation to the sexual abuse. I told them that it was my faith that got me through it for all these years and then they started asking MORE questions about my faith. I mentioned “Our Lady” and they really loved that…I was privileged to be able to talk openly about my profound respect and deep love for her. One of the reporters gave me a beautiful playing-card-size picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe and they filmed me taping it to the battery box on my bike. I was THRILLED that they were so open about letting me talk about my faith and how it really was the most important thing in seeing me through this (otherwise) tragedy. I don’t think a US news agency would have done that. The Mexican journalists actually encouraged it…and that made me so happy. I felt God’s presence so strongly during all of this…inside I felt lighter than air. I also felt the presence of “Our Lady”…it was so powerful…such a motherly love and a motherly presence…it’s hard for me not to write about it and not get emotional. I felt heaven shining down on me and I suddenly realized that it didn’t matter weather or not I physically reached the Basilica. I had been given THIS gift…the gift of reaching hundreds of thousands or maybe even millions of people with a message of HOPE. A message that there can be a quality of life after child sexual abuse if you have the courage to fight for it. I was privileged to tell all those people that if they had been abused that they too had the courage to fight for a better life. And isn’t that what my Journey is all about? **Thank you God. My plan to go to the Basilica was not your plan…Your plan was a lot better. …I was able to remain safe and reach multitudes of people with a powerful, pointed message of hope.

And as far as “laying all of this down”…I realized that this is not a one time event. I believe that this is a process that will unfold as I continue through my journey”. I still hope to one day go to the Basilica…but for now, I am truly ok with continuing on…

After the interviews were over, I still had to actually drive across the bridge and let my Ruck tires touch Mexican soil. So I drove up to the gate and paid my SIX DOLLARS to cross …”Sorry sir, you are driving a tri-axle vehicle”…”Your moped is two axles and the trailer is a third” “Dual-axles are $3, tri-axles are $6…Now was not the time to get into the whole “It’s not a moped” speech…so I paid the $6 and continued across the bridge. Here’s where it get’s awkward…I pull up to the Mexican border patrol agent and he starts speaking in Spanish. I say “English please”. He said “What is your business here”? I said “I am on a charity ride and I just need to cross over the bridge to symbolically touch Mexico” I will then ride back over into Texas” He replies “WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS HERE”? I suddenly felt nervous and tried to explain that I wasn’t actually staying in Mexico…I just wanted to cross the bridge and drive back over into Texas immediately. Apparently, my crazy American mentality did not translate very well…because he made me pull over to an inspection area and he called another guard over…so I had two guards asking me what my purpose was for coming to Mexico. I tried to use a lot of hand gestures…and made “air drawings” of my 10,000 mile long heart…and tried to answer their questions as honestly as possible. I showed them my translated sign on my trailer “Viajando 17.000KM para combatir el abuso sexual de ninos”. Eventually they got it and let me cross to the other side of the bridge…I sat there for about 40 minutes in bridge traffic. I felt bad for Juan because he told me to drive half way across the bridge…(“half way over you WILL be in Mexico…then spin it and come back across…the whole thing will take less than 10 minutes”) Problem was that there were cement barriers across the bridge and there was no way to spin around and back track. Well…almost an hour later and no Tom…by the time I reached him he was LITERALLY TREMBLING. He said he thought something bad happened to me. Eventually, when he calmed down he made the joke that “Oh, no, I thought I killed a poor little white man”…I laughed SO hard at that…

After my official border crossing, he took me to his friends house that founded the agency Texas Foundation For Safer Children (http://www.texasfsc.org/) and I spent the entire afternoon with “Frank” and his family. We talked about so many things and he too spoke about his great faith that drives him to fight for sexually abused children. He told me “Faith is the foundation of my journey”.
Right now, I am in another cheap AND clean motel set up by “Juan”…and I am much happier.
Oh, and tomorrow I have a meeting with a State Senator from Texas! Also being covered by the media. Set up for me by Frank.
So huge multitudes with hear my message on the US side of the border!
My head is still reeling from all of this…it’s been a fast and furious ride for the past day and a half. I feel like I’ve been on a roller-coaster adventure ride and inside I am holding on for dear-life. Absolutely AWESOME

Mexico Update

June 12, 2012 in Ramblings

I have been staying with Monty, one of the guys from totalruckus.com for the past week or so planning my Journey to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. I have contacted churches, scooter clubs, motorcycle clubs, motorcycle touring agencies and a host of other businesses and organizations. In order to enter Mexico safely, I need resources…in the form of Mexican Citizens who are willing to guide me, provide me low-cost or no-charge places to sleep, help with maintenance on my bike and preferably even ride with me to help me reach the Basilica. After literally dozens and dozens of phone calls, nothing.
I have that support group in the United States through the men and women of totalruckus.com, fellow survivors, and supporters …and that is what makes my journey possible. I will loose that support once I enter Mexico. After repeated attempts, I cannot secure any assistance in Mexico.

I have been told time and time again since my journey started that Mexico is extremely dangerous…especially along the border. I thought it was over-exaggerated by the media until I spoke with the US Embassy in Mexico. The Official that I spoke with implored me not to enter Mexico on a 50cc scooter and ride 1,500+ miles through the country. He said that recently, he had to travel from Mexico City to the Texas border and had an armed escort of 50 men in armored vehicles. I said “Is it really THAT dangerous”? He said “YES, it is”.

He did however offer his assistance…I may be able to take a flight into Mexico and stay with him. He said he would get me to the Basilica safely. I spoke with him on Friday…this is now Tuesday…and I have not heard back from him. I emailed him yesterday and called him today with no response. I don’t know if he got busy or maybe changed his mind. So, I am headed out in the morning towards Brownsville Texas. I don’t know what I am going to do now…it’s time for some serious prayer.

On a 50cc Mission from God

April 26, 2012 in Ramblings, Speaking

My new friend Julia that I met at the Horry County Candle Light Vigil is a great photographer. We met yesterday and she took a bunch of great pictures of me and my bike.

The first pic was inspired by the Blues Brothers movie back in the late 70′s / early 80′s. In the film, Jake and Elwood were on a mission from God to save an orphanage. It is an epic comedy…if you haven’t seen it rent it..you won’t be sorry. Some of the best car chase / car crash scenes I have ever seen. I was in Myrtle Beach and saw a statue of them. A month or so prior, a biker jokingly referred to me as “a nut on a 50cc mission from God”. So in a light hearted way, I am posting the following for your enjoyment.

I am going to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe as part of my journey. I found a beautiful statue of Our Lady at a local church…so Julia and I went there and she took this picture. I think this is my favorite pic out of all the ones she took.
Tom looking incredibly cool sitting in traffic…lol.
There’s more pics of our day together…as soon as Julia is able to get them to me I will post them.
Here is one pic of Julia that I took with my camera. I love this picture. We were on the beach writing some child sexual abuse statistics on poster board and photographing each other holding the statistic signs. She was kneeling in the sand writing out a statistic when I snapped this pic. I think it perfectly captures her tenacity and strength. I will say it again Julia – you inspire me! You’ve dealt with this in such a positive and constructive way…you are an absolute inspiration!

Keychain of Hope

April 18, 2012 in Charity

Here is a pic of my friend Jimmy and I wiring up the trailer at 1a.m. in the freezing cold, the night before I left:
ImageDinner last night in my tent. Damn…still no matches. Cold Spaghetti-O’s. (still better than those awful Vienna Sausages!)
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Today I woke up in Teddy’s back yard at 6:15AM. Teddy and I headed over to Sheetz for some coffee. We hung out for a while and he got me back out on Rt 250E.
Before I left Sheetz, he took a photo of the other shirt I had made:
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Needless to say, by lunchtime I was STARVING. (canned pasta for dinner and coffee for breakfast doesn’t go very far) With no place to stop and cook, I had to go to Wendy’s. That hamburger tasted like a t-bone steak…lol.
I finished eating and asked the lady sitting across from me if I was near Richmond VA. She said it was about 10 min down the road. We started talking and I told her about my journey. Her name was Anna and her adorable 4 year old son’s name was John. She paused and said, “Here, I have something for you”. She reached into her purse and took out her keys…attached to the keys was a beautiful keychain of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She said, “Here, I would like you to have this” and she took it off the keychain and handed it to me. To be honest, I was fighting back emotion…the keychain was beautiful. I told her that the bottom point of my heart shaped journey was the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. She said, “See, it was meant to be”.
Here is a photo of Anna and John:
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A photo of the keychain:
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THEN – a few minutes later, a lady walked over to my table, look at me and said “God Bless You” and laid down a 20 dollar bill and walked away. I was barely able to thank her and she was gone. What an emotional afternoon. This is only day three and I am at a loss for words. All jokes aside, someone needs to create an emoticon of a smily guy crying cuz I’m gonna be using it A LOT.
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Afterwards, I was riding through Richmond with my yellow shirt on and people were waving, giving thumbs-up and honking like crazy (honking in support…not because I was impeding traffic…lol) I had my thumb on my horn the entire way through Richmond…honking back!
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I could not find a campground nearby because I was in the middle of a large town…so no wilderness camping either…so I had to break down and get a cheap hotel room:
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Is this legal? lol

Dinner:
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I bought SIX CANS of those DAMN awful Vienna Sausages…so five more days of little soggy hotdogs…lol…

AS FOR MY ROUTE:
I am in Petersburg VA right now on RT 301. I need the easiest, quickest, safest way to get to Myrtle Beach. I need to stay on two lane highways if possible. I have to be in MB by Thur afternoon at the latest or I could miss the Candle Light Vigil at the Crisis Center. BTW – all are welcome if you live near MB!
If any of you are along my route, I’d love to connect and get some lunch or dinner!!
It is 9:30 PM and I am beat! I am headed to bed but I promise I will answer all of your posts and PM’s in the next day or so…I can barely keep my eyes open…lol.
Looking forward to another great day tomorrow!
Tom