21 (or 4b)

Camped behind a church again. Knocked on all the doors when I arrived, about 6:30—no answer. Actually, the first thing I did was gratefully refill my water bottles at the drinking fountain on the property, and sent up a little prayer on a wee birdie for that. Somehow or another, and for reasons I will perhaps never fathom, I am always provided for, whatever the  circumstances.

I setup my tent and began to organize my things after poking around looking for a reasonably concealed spot from the road. I hear a car pull up. A man gets out, maybe my age, maybe slightly older. Turns out he’s the pastor. Doesn’t really seem to know what to make of me and my gear—the tent being setup as it was, and my bicycle and trailer leaning against the church—but we chat for a bit. I explain what I’m doing, why I’m there and the like. He seemed okay with it and said things should be fine unless I hear from him later. He then invited me to take part in the prayer meeting that he was there to preside over.

After he went inside I continued the organization of my living space, and rather dawdled over it, to be honest, while considering his invitation. On the one hand I was curious to meet the people of the community, but on the other I hadn’t participated in anything church related in some years, and was rather nervous about that being as it was a group of people gathering at a rural, baptist church. How might they react to my interpretations, or the fact that I haven’t been to a church function in years, or that I find Taoist and Zen “philosophy” more relatable currently, or that most religions seem to me to be at heart essentially the same, that we are all one people, one planet, one universe together? Perhaps a more secular gathering would have been more to my liking—something not involving scripture reading and interpretation, but, instead, simply, “Hello. How are you? Isn’t life marvelous? I think it is. It is just so marvelous that one can even pedal a heavily loaded bicycle around, and around, and around for no particular reason at all but just to do it. It is completely meaningless, and yet, so meaningful that a person has no words to put that meaning in! It is just like a thunderclap.” Anyway, by the time I was nearing a decision, and had finally organized all my things the meeting had already been going on for twenty or thirty minutes, and so I really thought it best not to intrude. Here now I sit in my humble tent, writing down what has just transpired over these last sixty minutes or so.

 

Today was another day of headwinds. Despite the relatively flat ground I was only able to accomplish forty-five miles.

I’ve been thinking much these three days (there’s little else to do besides that and curse the wind) and I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps my temperament is not suited to this activity, this way of cycling, this way of traveling. Yes, I want speed, but I also am considering that I am much to ADD, to not be at all PC. Two hours and I’m done. I want to do something else. I want to go to sleep. I want to throw a frisbee. I want to take a leisurely walk down to the park. I want to sit at the end of a pier, my legs dangling over, toes just barely brushing the surface of the water, and watch the gulls glide overhead, and the ducks paddle about, quacking at each other in their endearing way, and be happy when the wind comes and throws my hair, and watch the sun set beyond the trees in such satisfaction that I could die at that moment with the knowledge that I have seen all that this world has to offer and if there is something more compelling, something else that existence has hidden up its proverbial sleeve that I can’t for the life of me imagine would that could posbily be. But there remains three, four, five more hours to go….

I love the talking to people, the shortest of conversations, sometimes, yet the most joyful moments to break up the routine of revolution after revolution: the two black girls at the Subway in Bladenboro with there effusive excitement that was like little children with their sparklers spinning round and round in the dark, asking me questions and the amazement at my replies, and ogling my bike with its bags and trailer; the waitress at Ivy’s Cafe, in Whiteville (really!?); the two boys I just talked to from the previously mentioned prayer meeting, packing their lips with tobacco, who told me an interesting story, two vignettes of the history of this area of The South, how blacks sixty or seventy years ago here, just outside Tabor City, and in Clarendon where I had passed through just two or three hours ago, if they were to cross the tracks that ran north and south just twenty yards from here after dark would be shot dead by white men with shotguns just sitting in chairs watching and waiting; how Tabor City once had the nickname “Razor City,” due to all the knife fights and brawls that would occur outside many a bar; and how could I forget Larry from Tar Heel who, when I stopped to chat with him while he was picking up litter on his property, told me how there once was a race that would come along this very road—thousands of cyclists, and sometimes you’d see a hundred at a time swarm past, but that that hasn’t occurred in a good long while—and he warned me about the drivers in the area, about how reckless they are, and sometimes when he would be out mowing his lawn on his tractor these crazy, mad drivers would go speeding past so closely that “it felt like the wind just brushing up against ya.” Amazing! How can a man put such a simple sentiment in such a poetic way, I wonder? How?

All these people, sometimes I think they are as sustaining to me as the dinner I cook in the evening and the breakfast I make in the morning, that’s not to mention all the snacks in between. Perhaps they are.

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