10

Rain. Glorious rain is what I woke up to. Looking at the weather report I saw that it was to clear up sometime around noon. With check out time at 11, and my penchant for late starts, I figured the worst of it would pass while I was still at the motel. This conclusion come to, I quickly headed over to the front office to see about breakfast, because most of these joints serve a continental, which, while of middling quality, is at least calories, and also means that I don’t have to cook. Unfortunately for me they only offered the usual foul, pre-dosed bags of coffee, and a miserly selection of the most uninspiring, sorry, pre-packaged pastries I’ve ever seen. It seemed I would be cooking.

Outside it was still drizzling a bit when I left the motel. This lasted a good hour into the ride before a rent in the clouds allowed sunlight to pour through over the earth, deluging everything in air and lightness, and softly shimmering pixie dust; the road like a long, silver tongue that you could slide along forever, it was so pure and without imperfection. The whole world was dazzling—a beautiful woman with whom you might make love, in a negligee so sheer you could hardly tell at all that it was there without its constant glimmering; none but the finest details hidden, every contour visible. And as you keep looking, staring, this woman becomes a kaleidoscope that you are in, and everything is showered with glitter, and then the top is removed and brilliant light shone in, and all you can do is stop and stare and maybe take a picture but hate it afterwards because it’s just a mere postage stamp on the envelope of the world that you were caught in for just a moment…

I waited too long before stopping for a break. Again. There are times (most of the time) when I just get rolling, and I want to keep on rolling, and so I continue to roll, and boy, was I rolling, rolling, rolling. Good energy and super flat roads were helpful assistants in that. About three hours in I began to hit some hills. These slowed me up a bit, and I noticed my energy was flagging so decided to stop and eat what had recently become my standard lunch/snack/whatever—tortillas with banana, peanut butter, and honey. Unfortunately, this provided little aid, or, more likely, came to late. The hills continued to continue and my energy continued to wane. I had wanted to do another ten miles and find a motel somewhere outside of Columbia, but once I arrived in the city, and after eating an actual meal of sorts, I decided to stay in the area. There was still at least an hour or so before it was to get dark and I could use that time to explore a bit.

Lunch (I guess I’ll call it that) wasn’t anything marvelous; just a wrap and a small bowl of fruit from a cafe that served poor shots of Counter Culture coffee. It was located in a bit of an odd area, though something that’s become a bit more of the norm within the specialty coffee scene, anyway, the lobby of an office high rise. The interior space was a bit minuscule, with a small bar at a window and a couple of tables, but they had a very nice patio space outside where a man who looked distinctly like Santa Claus in overalls and plaid was sitting at one of the umbrella’d tables, occasionally glancing up at me from a notebook in front of him. I could only assume he wanted to speak with me after watching me arrive on my bicycle, so, upon leaving I did just that. This man (I forget his name) was a bit hard to understand with the heavy, unidentifiable accent he had, and was perhaps a bit daft, at that. I told him about my trip, and that while in the cafe I had been looking for a cheap motel that had something better than consistent one-star reviews, and comments about roaches, pealing wallpaper, poor or no wi-fi, and unhelpful staff. This immediately stimulated the good samaritan in him because he had to tell me right off the bat that all the hotels in the city would be expensive and out of my budget, as if this wasn’t something blindingly obvious. He then stopped to think and recommend a few places that he knew of off the top of his head that would perhaps fit my criteria, despite my assurances that I had in all actuality already found a suitable place. I got the distinct sense that he had stayed before in these motels he named; he exuded the air of a vagrant or fringe, someone without a proper home, as we would call it; his home being, perhaps, just the city itself (but that accent?!).

He spoke to me of the clouds above, and how, if one looked at them through binoculars they moved in a certain way. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what he meant by that, and simply nodded along with a, “mhmmm, I see, yes, is that so?” to keep things flowing along like those marvelous, fluffy clouds of his. Our conversation of sorts, spiced with pinches of awkward silence, finally ended after I asked him about what he was writing in his notebook. His answer was that he was writing a mystery novel. He then asked to use my name for a character, to which I consented with a nod. I couldn’t understand why he would want to, what possible import it could contain. He said that maybe I would be an attorney’s assistant, and whether this character had been written into the novel already I had no idea. He could have said he wanted to use me, my name, as a janitor or a monkey. What difference would it make? Still, I really couldn’t understand why an attorney’s assistant, but if that’s what he sees in me, that’s fine by me. I can’t imagine how he might fit a touring cyclist into a mystery novel anyway. Who knows. Anyone as crazy as that old bugger could shoehorn one in somehow.

At last I wished him luck on his book, and took off on my bike happy to have escaped. The state house was a mere couple of blocks away, so I decided to pedal that way. I wasn’t the only one with the idea of visiting the state house. Children and a few families were playing on its steps and taking pictures. Couples were walking, hand in hand throughout the grounds. I marveled at my first siting of palm trees on my trip. The sky was the color of explosion along the western horizon, silhouetting those very same palm trees, as well as oaks and maples in tangerine and cantaloupe, crimson and honey, scarlet-red, periwinkle blue. I began cycling towards the motel, which was west, where that ball was burning, melting below the horizon, and above me the blue sky darkening, curling over, and closing in—a great wave to quash the fire that burned.

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