20 (or 3b)

I forget everything. And I can’t get this tent setup properly to save my life. I am in a large field adjacent to a middle school, and the sun is setting. Things might almost be pleasant if I knew what I was doing with this guyline and the wind wasn’t whipping the tent fabric all over the place. I am a dingus and a numbskull.

Last night I noticed that my sleeping pad had developed a leak. I don’t know when or how that happened because it was working fine the last time I used it. I’m still insulated from the ground, though. I’m just not padded at all. I’m so exhausted by the end of a day that it makes no difference, though I do find myself waking up after some hours attempting to get more comfortable. The end result is a simultaneously fitful yet restful night of sleep. My life is full of contradictions it seems.

I left one of my bidons (basically a cyclist’s water bottle) in the church bathroom this morning when I decided to add an addendum to a thank-you note I left for the pastor or whomever. The space where the missing bidon should have been wasn’t discovered until thirty or more minutes into today’s ride when I thought I might like to stop and take a photo of three statues in a cemetery surrounded by little but a flat plane of grass. The statues were white, of course, and looked slightly out of place, lost, like they had just wandered onto this green field and then made the decision to stop for a while. There was, in addition to this confusion of purpose, of being lost, a monumentality to them; for many yards around them nothing stood high than a blade of grass but for a single bouquet of flowers placed in front of the trio as if placed there in homage—a sign of love and respect.

Besides leaving things (I am now paranoid that I’m going to leave my camera, phone, or wallet somewhere) the theme of the last two days has been headwinds—every cyclists bane. Generally constant, wavering only slightly, consistent in its push, or, those times when it quiets and then quickly roars to life again the feeling is one of being lassoed and yanked backwards. Besides being a physical drain, and an impediment of momentum and speed, it is a psychological drain. Perhaps this is because I set daily goals. I don’t think so, though, but there is too much uncertainty to be able to say for sure since I haven’t had a day without wanting to reach a specified place, or achieve a certain vague number of miles. I want to get to Charleston as quickly as possible. That has been my main motivation thus far. Once I arrive there this motivation will dissolve. I don’t see myself setting more similar goals, though one can never say for certain—it may be necessary farther west.

 

I met Omar while cycling around Fayettville looking for his shop, Walker’s Cafe. It’s a hookah bar, but they also serve turkish coffee—something I’d never had. It was a Wednesday, mid-day. The place was barren of customers. Tables at low bench seats against the wall, arranged with one hookah each; low chairs opposite the benches. Dim lighting that might feel comfortable coming in from a sweltering summer afternoon, but seemed too dark—despondent almost—when entered from the superb weather that I was then enjoying. The bar was in the back. There was a selection of bottled beers on display at one end. The other end was open, and where it bent into an L there sat an espresso machine. Along the wall behind the bar was a selection of ibriks and several hot plates. Shisha and more hookahs on shelves. I told Omar, who greeted me as I entered the cafe, that I had read in an article in the Fayettville Observer that he served excellent turkish coffee, and that I had never had it before but had been curious about it for some time, and was excited to find a place that served it.

Talking further I explained that I was currently on a cycling trek around the country, and that I was only passing through Fayettville. At this he asked if he might join me at a table on the sidewalk out front, as it was a fine, sunny day, to find out more about myself and this trip of mine. I couldn’t very well say no (nor did I want to), and so it commenced. We talked about our lives, and how we came to be where we were.

He is originally from Turkey—Istanbul, precisely, but he has a smaller home elsewhere in the country with his wife. He used to captain sailboats, but is now obviously running the hookah bar. He was curious about my journey, and had the usual questions about why I was doing it and what all I carried with me, how I navigated, etc. Explained to me that he has plans to sail around the world one day. He estimates that in the next three to five years he will be able to start, and that the whole odyssey will take about five or six years to accomplish because he plans to stop and stay for a while in many places in order to more deeply experience its culture, environment, etc. I mentioned that I desired to do the same thing, only limiting my stay in particular areas to a couple or three days since I wasn’t trying to spend years traveling around the country.

I thought the coffee to be superb. In fact, it probably ranks somewhere around my top five favorite coffees ever. Whether that is due to the weather, the setting, the company—the context for the coffee—or that it was my first ever Turkish coffee, I can not say. I can only say that I savored every sip, and it will always be fondly remembered as one of my favorite coffee experiences.

He told me if I ever have a turkish coffee again to make sure the preparer allows the small bubbles that are proof of a proper brewing to form on the surface. If they are not there I should not accept it. Turkish coffee is typically served with a turkish delight—a small, chewy candy cube, somewhat similar to nougat, but less sticky and airier, that is dusted with coconut powder. If the coffee is found to be too bitter one can nibble a bit on the turkish delight to offset the bitterness some. My coffee came “medium sweet,” so there was some sugar added in the brewing process.

Having finished the coffee I thought it best to leave as I had a destination to make—that wonderful field in the town of Tar Heel. His was wonderful company to have for that half hour. If I’m ever in Fayettville again, unlikely as that may be, I will definitely return to Walker’s Cafe for the coffee, hopefully for the company, but also to smoke some hookah.

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