would you still respect me, would you still visit this site...
(a) if, on a blistering descent, i found myself singing kelly clarkson’s “since you’ve been gone”?
(b) if, while engaging in (a), i was standing up on my pedals and....kind of bouncing?
(c) if, while doubling up both (a) and (b), i was also pumping my fist?
(d) if, during the heinous acts of all of the above, i was shamefully though admittedly enjoying it?
i was just wondering.
i rode through a county fair and was asked by the guy who works the booth where you throw darts at balloons where he could “find the green stuff”? i told him i had neither cash nor weed which seemed to only mildly disappoint him because we followed up his initial inquisition with a conversation that seemed to be welcome in both of our transitory lives.
i am convinced that if i ever decide to plant my feet, it must be near a “bent and dent” store. these are damaged and recently expired food stores. i found my first one on this bike trip and was faced with the prospect of power bars at 10 for $1.00, boxes of cereal for $1.00, cheap-cheap cous-cous, and almost free hershey kisses. now, if you are a person that is under the guise that if a granola bar that expires on tuesday undergoes a cinderella-like transformation and becomes inedible at midnight, then these stores are not for you. in addition, if you require the boxes surrounding the plastic surrounding your cereal to have perfect 90 degree corners, or, if the steel that surrounds your canned goods must be perfectly cylindrical, these stores are not for you. so if you can deal with slightly chalky hershey kiss (and as unfortunately not many women will tell you, a hIrSchy kiss is always a hIrSchy kiss) and if you like to save money so you can use that saved money to do cool things, then these stores are a godsend.
speaking of stores, receipts are getting ridiculous. do i really need an eighteen inch swath of paper to verify that, yes, i bought some preparation h and it was $2.49? think of all that wasted paper. (note to self: don’t forget to delete preparation h “example,” you’re getting too personal hIrSch...)
sometimes, while riding, i hallucinate and convince myself that just ahead are some cyclists. usually it’s just a tree or a sign. but the other day, my hallucination proved to be authentic, but they were going the opposite way, so, as is becoming a theme on this ride, i was just a lightning strike in their lives.
lightning strikes. me, in an open field, in my tent, late at night, monster thundertsorm. i watched lightning strike all around me and concluded that since i haven't won the lottery and since i was laying on a foam pad, i'd be fine. but just in case, i did film a movie with my camera and got a sweet lightning bolt striking what appears to be the same thing a minimum of seven times. it flashed for a solid three seconds. now that's power.
again, flat tires have plagued me. one morning, it was both tires. the culprits? tire wire from shredded mac truck tires. so in a small town that thankfully had a small bike shop, i replaced both my inner tubes with ones that contain slime, a special liquid that seals punctures. quite unfortunately though, my inflation of the back tire proved to be tragic. the tire was not entirely secure within the wheel rim (read: i screwed up), and about ten seconds after inflation to 70 pounds per square inch, their was the sound of a gunshot. all eyes on me, i stood standing with an exploded inner tube and tire and was covered with the aforementioned slime, which, just happens to be fluorescent green. since then, kona has kindly hooked me up with kevlar/steel-belted tires, so now it’s no flats until tierra del fuego. or so i like to hope.
i don’t consider myself an eavesdropper, but i seem to be in places where i hear things that i just can’t help but eavesdrop on. the other day i listened to two women who had not seen in each other in some time. they both playfully argued over who looked skinnier and who was more tan (one had just returned from hawaii). they also discussed which scents each were wearing and how much they were and where they could be purchased. next the topic was men and how they were all insensitive jerks. meanwhile, i just continued to eat my cereal out of a peanut butter container while pretending to read a newspaper i had found in a trashcan.
my stay in mountain view, wyoming (where i used to map trails for the forest service) was spectacular. i got off the bike for a while, installed a new back wheel, and took to my feet in the mountains of the high uinta wilderness. i did some backpacking as a wilderness ranger and besides talking to people about “leave no trace” and minimal impact camping, i got to get on top of the highest mountain in utah, where it snowed on me for about an hour.
i have met many people on this bike ride and just yesterday came to the conclusion that i am a ladybug. when a ladybug lands on you, you admire it. you might even gently place your finger next to it and allow it to crawl onto your fingertip. you may think how cool that ladybug is, how interesting. but then, as a typical american attention span dictates, about five seconds later, you will gently blow that little ladybug off of your digit and get on with you life, with memories of that arthropod seemingly instantly forgotten. and that’s what i seem to be to most people i meet. it seems that before the last syllable of hello has rolled off my tongue, it’s already time for goodbye.
but there are exceptions to this and colorado has definitely been kind:
1. raining all night, raining all morning, headwinds, everything soaked, even my beard is a bit droopy, cold, i stop under a shelter at the visitor’s station at dinosaur national monument for some food. two guys approach and ask about the bike ride and subsequently invite me to their home, should i pass through their town, with promises of a warm meal and a guestroom.
2. minutes later, same place, three women from new jersey strike up a conversation with me. they are staying in steamboat springs, colorado. i’ll be there tomorrow evening. they invite me for dinner. i take them up. an awesome time.
3. a station wagon slowly passes me. pulls off. i approach from behind and a hand waves me to stop. the man tells me he lives 20 miles up the road and i’m welcome to come by for the night.
i feel like a karma sink and can’t wait to reciprocate this kindness when the opportunities arise.
i am flying down a hill having crested a 10,000 foot pass, and i see two backpackers walking down the same hill on the side of the road. i figure they’re up to something cool so i slam on my brakes. unbelievably, it’s a fellow named eric weise, a guy whom i met when walking the appalachian trail and again while walking the pacific crest trail! i also met him when i was doing a couple nights on the appalachian trail over new year’s bringing in 2000. none of these meetings were planned. each one was awesome. he’s currently walking the continental divide trail (which i am more or less following by bike) from canada to mexico! he’s with a super cool guy, doug, who is totally into the raw foods diet (http://www.rawhike.com/). none of us can believe what has just happened and of course we all consider the billions of reasons why this rendezvous shouldn’t have happened but mainly concentrate on the fact that it has. and the best part, eric is seriously considering joining me for the ride through central and south america. he knows the lifestyle, knows it’s possible, he lives it, and he’s always looking for the next adventure.
as i ride out in the west, i think to myself if i settle down and if the country i choose to settle down in is america, surely i must live out here, well west of the mississippi, where open spaces (though rapidly receding) still reign. but then i think, wait a minute, if i do this, i’m contributing to exactly what i hate about what is happening to this region, to this world. how many people who have lived here all their lives i have spoken to and it’s always the same: “this used to be open country, now rich people from the cities come out here and build their second houses. they only live in them maybe a month out of the year....why on earth do people need two 4,000 square foot homes? i just don’t get it.” and following, i would be just another house scarring the landscape and ruining some other house’s once unimpeded views. and by finding such a hypothesized homestead (which would not be surrounded by barbed wire and “no trespassing” signs) perhaps others would choose to settle near me. and so, before long, because it happens even where no one thinks it ever will, i’ll be over-hearing the mcdonald’s drive thru. and so, this leads to more questions. maybe i should settle in suburbia. keep the cities growing up and not out. maybe i should shop at wal-mart. by forsaking spending my money at small rural stores (where wal-mart might sniff a potential profit and come in and conquer), i should give all my dollars to the big w in an effort appease the mighty beast. i just don’t know. it’s never easy. nothing is, and i know this is also because, for whatever reason, i deliberately make it hard on myself. if i could just be someone who could, with a clean conscience, or without any thought of morality or duty, just toss a plastic bottle in the trashcan......instead, in towns that recycle, i find myself looking in trashcans and relocating recyclables....
i have a friend in alaska. she speaks of the concrete clubhouses lining the streets: the home depots, best buy’s, etc etc. used to never be like that. of course, nothing ever is what it used to be like i suppose. but regardless, as she observes this northward creep of development, she poses an interesting question: “what happens when there is no more north?” and that is the question, north or any cardinal direction, that dominates the wheels in my head as the wheels on my bike carry me south towards new mexico.
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