One person’s trash, another person’s souvenir

“Let’s name him Hank.  Oh wait, he looks like Randall from Monsters, Inc.  Let’s name him Randall Hank.”  – Ryanne (BRATS5)

Even as we were doing it, we knew that it was odd.  We’d snorkle the rivers and springs around Gainesville, Florida and get super excited when we would find something interesting lost by other people.  We once found a diving belt (which we ended up returning to the person who lost it), several pairs of sunglasses, and other assorted things dropped in water by people floating downstream in inner-tubes or lost by swimmers.  Among all of the amazing and beautiful natural things found underwater, it was the man-made things that seemed like the biggest scores.  Instead of thinking of that being strange, how about we think of it as us cleaning up man-made waste so that the nature could shine through.  Yeah, that’s great way to look at it!

We’ve also made a habit of coming home from our BRAT adventures with souvenirs found along the side of the road.

The best and most meaningful souvenir was the first.  If you’ve read the “Big Guy’s Got Our Back” blog, you will know about the rusty pliers that we found on the second day of the first ride.  I take those pliers with me when making presentations on our cycling adventures and telling our stories.   The pliers are my all-time favorite souvenir.

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The pliers are not the only tool in the souvenir collection.  On the ride from Abilene to Comanche on BRAT6, we had another encounter with metal tool.  Two of us were on bikes about 10 miles east of Cross Plains, Texas when we heard a truck coming up from behind us.  We were riding on a wide shoulder and the support vehicle was behind us.  We could tell that the truck was giving us room as it went past us by the sounds of the tires rolling along the rumble strip in the middle of the two-lane highway.  About the same time, a new noise began which we did not recognize.  It could only be described as a metal grating and clanging sound that grew louder as the truck approached and passed.

As the truck passed, we could see something metal sliding along the highway at nearly the same speed as the truck and angling across the right lane to the edge of the road in front of us.  We saw it cross the highway shoulder a short distance in front of us and come to rest in a dirt parking area.  Being curious, I stopped, got off my bike, and went to investigate.  If turned out to be a rather large and heavy adjustable plumber’s wrench.  It probably jarred loose and fell off of the flat-bed semi trailer as the truck rolled over the rumble strips in the road.  After a slight case of the heebie-jeebies thinking about what could have happened if the wrench had hit us as it sped bouncing and rolling down the highway, we picked it up as another sign of care and protection from the Big Guy.

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On Highway 11 across the top of Oklahoma between Blackwell and the turn north to Kansas, I found a green plastic kitchen bowl that obviously blew out of the back of someone’s truck.  It still had its $1 price sticker on if from the Family Dollar store.  It came home with us and we use it for popcorn, holding Halloween and Easter candy, and assorted mixing and serving needs.  That was our road-side souvenir from BRATS4.

On BRATS5, we ended up coming home with an inflatable green lizard/alligator pool float–found on the side of the road near Perryton, Texas.  It quickly became a car mascot for the team.  Once adopted, the lizard/alligator was named Hank.  Upon further analysis, we all thought that it resembled Randall from Monsters, Inc.  Hank was then turned into a middle name–it became Randall Hank, the inflatable green lizard-alligator.  Once back on campus at the conclusion of the three-week ride, all of the team members signed Randall Hank and he now lives in the corner of the conference room in our Leadership Studies suite on campus.

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The BRAT3 team signed a BMX/Motocross helmet that we found along the side of the highway somewhere west of Plainview as we headed to Texline.  The BRAT1 team also came home with a white, plastic hardhat that we picked up in East Texas.  We also found a large horn from the top of a semi, but had it taken from under our noses when it was used to secure the transfer flag on the edge of Abilene.  It was pretty cool.  We could see the thieves turn across the highway about a half-mile in front of us to grab it and drive off before we arrived on our bicycles.  They also took off with our transfer bandanna.

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On BRAT6, we also came home with a handful of the cotton that we saw on the sides of the road for the first two days of cycling across the Texas Panhandle and shells from the beach at Surfside.  The alpha and omega souvenirs from BRAT6 were nice reminders of where we started and where we finished.

Our strange collection of ride souvenirs provides a lot of laughs (and heebie-jeebies) to the cyclists who made the rides.  At some point, they will find new forever homes, but for now they reside in our display cabinet in the Leadership Studies office.  They are fun reminders of good times in days gone by.

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