OFFICIAL:  I am able to continue my journey in May, 2018!!  My VA PAC Team linked me up with Dr. Tammareddi, an Orthopedic Surgeon at the campus in Murfreesboro, TN.  There is moderate tearing throughout my PCL Ligament, as well as some damage to the cartilage around my patella.  There is not a full tear, so they would like to avoid surgery.  For now, it’s IBUprofen, physical therapy, and slowly re-strengthening my knee and body.  Dr. Tammareddi is truly a talented and caring doctor.  I gave him one of my A Vicious Cycle cards at our initial consultation back in October.  Two months later, my Airborne Infantry friend, who also had an appointment with him, told me that my AVC card was still sitting at his keyboard, on display.  I couldn’t believe it…  That meant so much to me.  I see Dr. T again on January 18th to follow up.

I would like to extend a very special thank you to my great friend: Vietnam Combat Veteran and Army 1st Infantry Division Brother,  Captain Jerry Bell.  He surprised me by sending an OIF Veteran hat, which I received the morning of my MRI appointment.  His impeccable timing and thoughtfulness brightened my day immensely…  CPT Bell served from ’66 – ’72 as a Small Unit Commander.  He is a two times recipient of the Bronze Star Medal as well as the Air Medal, for heroic acts in combat.  He took the time to meet me on my journey (a 20 hour drive for him) on his way to the annual Big Red One reunion.  It was incredible to hear him speak and I’m so thankful to have gained the continued support, encouragement, and friendship from a man of his caliber.

After resting my knee for a few weeks, I submerged myself back into my Photography business.  A positive way to keep busy and forget about being suspended in this recovery limbo.  This is my 10th year as small business owner and I truly do love capturing memories for others…

Quite a lot of Veterans have increasingly noticeable memory issues, including myself, and I often rely on photos to specifically recall people and events.  They are important.  One photo can bring back a whole day of memories.  Images can paint the complete picture of an experience, or summarize an existence.  Someday, it will be all we have left of each other.  Many of my clients have been coming to me for over a decade now!  Their trust and business have meant so much…

My sister took the time to make a trip from Ohio and visit me in Nashville.  After stopping at Halcyon Bike Shop and photographing murals around the city, we spotted two homeless Veterans sitting near highway I-65.  An Army Vet and a Navy Vet.  They waved and smiled at every single vehicle that passed them by.  It was incredibly heartwarming on a cold November day.  We found a gas station and got them two hot coffees and some Clif bars, then parked on the shoulder and walked over.  We had a great talk, shared some laughs, exchanged stories, and ended with long hugs.  It was pretty special.  Always try to leave people better than you found them.  Take the time, make the effort.  I only wish I could have done more…

Outside of a visit from family and meeting clients for photo shoots, I have admittedly been isolating myself heavily with little to no social interactions since early September.  It still isn’t clear why isolating feels like such a necessity, regardless of how unhealthy and dangerous it can be.  This sort of pattern is part of what this journey was mending, and continuing my ride in the spring has never felt more crucial.  After several months of self-inflicted cabin fever, fight or flight anxiousness was setting in.  It was time to try and fly.  I decided to head north for a few days and return to a few special spots I’d discovered along my bicycle journey.  Bag packed, gas tank full, on four wheels rather than two.  Time to hit the open road and pay Bicycle Route 76 a visit.

Sonora, KY: A small town along the TransAmerica Trail that will forever hold a  place in my heart.  My parents surprised me back in June for my birthday in this very patriotic place.  Nostalgia swept me back to June, when I rounded the corner of Main Street on my bicycle – my Mom and Dad waving ecstatically from the front columns of Brooks General Store and Cafe.

It was just as I remembered; the table where I opened birthday presents, the wall of signatures, and I even ordered the same meal again.  Grilled chicken sandwich, cottage cheese, coffee, and water.   The owners remembered us vividly and we looked through the log book together for my entry.

On my way into the Cafe, I spotted a truck parked out front with a Special Forces license plate and couldn’t help but asked who it belonged to.  A gentleman raised his eyes from a newspaper and lifted a couple fingers in the air.  “That would be my truck, ma’am.  Name’s Jarvis Burton.”  We began talking and he shared some incredible stories from his tour in Vietnam and his time as a Green Beret with the 6th Special Forces out of Fort Bragg.

SPC Burton led my imagination through a couple of intense combat experiences, to include a descriptive witnessing of the infamous “Puff the Magic Dragon” warship in action.  The Douglas AC-47 ‘Spooky’ (radio call sign “Puff”) stockpiled 45 Flares and 24,000 rounds, including three 7.62 mm miniguns, each of which could selectively fire either 50 or 100 rounds per second.  As he spoke, it felt as if my ears tripled in size, as to not miss a single syllable this hero was telling me.  On the way out to my car, I remembered a special little spot, hidden from view, where I watched a sunset on my journey.  There was no better way to end my visit in Sonora, KY…

Nothing beats getting lost on Memory Lane – a welcome diversion when plagued with choosing a path…  Nostalgia is a beautiful escape – it’s hindsight’s charming stunt double.  Hindsight can be a harsh educator for somebody with a warm heart and cold mind.  The 20/20 vision hindsight affords can stain you with resentment and cynicism – particularly when you’ve allowed yourself to only see the beauty in others.  While people and nature are equally seasonal, one ironclad truth remains: Nature never disappoints.  My stop for the night was a humble, secluded cabin near Falls of Rough, KY, where I had taken several cycling days off to spend time with my parents back in July.  It was nice to be back.

The memories came flooding in as I pulled into the Rough River Dam Lodge, located in Falls of Rough, KY.  Smiling ear to ear, I recalled exploring the grounds, the endless buffet at Grayson Landing Restaurant, playing putt-putt golf, laughing with the lodge staff…  Recalling having to fix three flat tires while there even made me chuckle.  And the staff members remembered me!  It was so cool.  Being back here made it clear – I was really onto something out there.  The anticipation for continuing this journey has reached an all-time high.

As the sky darkened, it was time to refocus on the reason I came here: some internal conflict resolution, free from interjection or external insight.  Closing the door is soothing because it’s safety, but sad because it’s selfish.  Locking yourself in also means locking everyone else out.  But no one has a better chance of solving your puzzle than you do.

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