Tag Archives: camping

72 – Etc.

Observations, thoughts, etc. with line breaks.

Sunset, Nevada
hazy citrus sky swimming in a champagne cloud.
the painted pale blue mountains: a curtain of curling waves.
the setting sun a flaming disc of death.
the hot steel of the railroad tracks burning beneath,
and glinting like a diamond-edged knife.
the earth is harsh, dry, orange and arsoned.
the sun is a killer.
black asphalt cuts through it all: an arrow into the horizon.

Colorado, South to North
the stillness of the train cars beneath the ageless mountains
the white clouds looking down like gods
casting shadows the size of cities
almost dwarfing the mountains, cliffs, and bluffs
which are this West’s forests
these huge, vertical masses pointed skyward
but growing smaller by the ages unlike the trees which press ever higher
and the people whose numbers grow greater
but, yet, like these mountains and cliffs
their wisdom erodes

Dreaming in Taos
i crawl from my tent
and upward peer brightly—there is the moon
and overhead the trees
shaking silver in its light
shooting stars skip like stones across the sky
like fingernail clippings flung from a god
into this landscape illuminated night
and the small tree beside me, a companion
lying down black in the grass
sleep comes gradually

42

I found what I thought was a fine camping spot just inside Perryville, across the Fourche La Fave River. A lovely park complete with pavilion, picnic tables, electric, bathrooms, water, playground; in short, everything one might want or need.

I got there early in the day, and was able to wash up, make some phone calls to family who I hadn’t spoken to in a while, and cooked up some dinner. I began setting up my tent probably around 8 o’clock with a few people still hanging around the park as night was falling over everything. Once the tent is up I go about organizing my gear within, slide into my sleeping bag, and open up Thoreau’s Walden before turning off the light. About 11 o’clock a cop shows up. He does the typical cop thing, which means he shines his flashlight into, or onto, my tent and orders me out of it. A rather rude thing to do, if you don’t mind my saying. Anyway, I crawl out of my sleeping bag and tent in my boxers of course, and he just looks at me for a second, probably not expecting a somewhat clean-shaven, young man to be stepping out in only his boxers, before telling me the park closes after dark and that I am trespassing on city property. I simply stare at him in bafflement, like some sort of deaf and dumb idiot, clearly unable to decipher the words that have come out of his mouth. And, in a sense, I couldn’t—this bizarre idea that I might be trespassing on city property because I happened to either a) not be from the city, or b) be there after hours is baffling to me. He then asks me if I understand that and I sort of stutter an incomprehensible reply to which he responds by looking me over with an appraising eye. He then tells me that I have to pack everything up and move on, but then immediately asks me what it is I’m doing camping at the city park anyway. I launch into my story about how I’m cycling around the U.S. and that I had come from Little Rock earlier in the day, and that the park just looked so inviting that I couldn’t resist choosing it as my spot to stay for the night. I mentioned that I have a tendency to like being in plain view of the public in these smaller towns in order to invite conversation; I’m not some sort of maniac, just a traveler needing a place to sleep for the night. He likes my story and is impressed with what I’m doing  but tells me I still need to pack my things up, but also that he can give me a lift to the next town if I’d like. He also wants to check my ID, presumably to make sure he’s not letting a murderer, arsonist, or some other felon of sorts off the hook potentially.

I begin packing up my gear, at a rather glacial pace I might add, while he’s over in his vehicle doing the whole song and dance, whatever that might be, with my driver’s license. He comes back and tells me my ID checked out OK (very relieving!), and, in fact, that I can stay the night as long as I’m gone not long after daybreak. Apparently he appreciated the fact that I was “straight” with him. He even said he would come back from time to time to check on me and make sure all’s quiet. I don’t actually know if he did this because I eventually fell asleep, though not so quickly as I would have liked thanks to having been roused from my tent and confronted in the manner that I was. Needless to say, I was exultant when he told me I could stay put for the night.

It is now about 7:30 am, the following morning and I’m sitting here at a picnic table writing this after having strolled the park, said hello to the few people out for a morning walk, and taken a number of pictures of morning sun and sky through the trees and flowering bushes. I did wake up early as I promised, packed up most of my gear and, most importantly, my tent, but really couldn’t resist the temptation to wander about the dewey field, and along its wooded edge with my camera. During this entire time the police officer never showed back up, so I figured what the hell, I’m going to make a cup of coffee, cook my breakfast, and relax. If someone else shows up and tries to give me a hard time it doesn’t look as though I camped out there, and I can just say that I rolled off the street to relax for a bit and make a cup of coffee.

35

A very hilly introduction to Oxford, but I’m here. I’m also still waiting to hear back from several CS’ers, so I have not yet a place to stay. But!, I may be saved as a woman at a local cafe has offered me a couch, so long as her girlfriend OK’s it. Swell. And very generous of her.

The battery compartment door to my camera was found mysteriously open when I arrived here. Perhaps I inadvertently slid the catch while repositioning it on my back. I must be more mindful from now on.

However, on to what matters, like this morning. This morning was glorious, or, perhaps not glorious, but very much fine. I awoke early, around 6:30. Startled a woman as I opened my tent—she hadn’t notice it! Though she did see the bicycle. This is what she tells me, anyhow.

A soft sunrise behind some trees. Pastels obscured by a vague, cloudy, glaucous sheen, like I was staring through an infinite number of powder-white dandelion heads floating somewhere a ways away up in the ether. Dewey grass, dewey tent interior, every bloody dog in the neighborhood barking, the single Mockingbird unable to sing a single song but alternating from one obnoxious noise to the next… All the people so friendly, so friendly though.

I remove my gear from the damp tent leaving it to dry, and transport my bicycle and everything over to the covered area with picnic tables, by the bathrooms, and begin to make a cup of coffee, then some oatmeal, musing all the while on this bike trail. This miraculous bike trail! that runs from Houston clear up to New Albany—43 miles. How wonderful it is. How it is necessary that there be more of these spread all over the nation in one interconnected spider’s web so that pedalers near and far can make their way safely from anywhere to anywhere. Anyway, on this trail, in the town of Algoma is a small shop of food and sundries. The man there tells me he gets visitors from all over the continent—from as far north as Canada, and even Alaska once, criss-crossing the United States. He even gets group rides of twenty strong coming out of Memphis some weekends. “Must be good for business,” I remark. He agrees. Though I guess that doesn’t mean more quality product. Can’t fault the man’s amiableness though.

34

Stopping at a gas station just outside of Macon, MS the sun begins to reveal itself, or, shall I say, the clouds begin to thin out, to depart, one or two at a time like a multitude of veils gradually being lifted from a face. And as the sun—the stunning, single eye in a face without imperfection—in the multitude of moments beat down upon me, and seemed to increase the level of humidity by several percentage points, I could only think that things might get very uncomfortable today, and that I’d likely be very wet when setting up camp tonight. But, later—not long later, either—pedaling along the highway 45, on the little wedge of shoulder left me between the rumble strip and soft, shifting, gravel bed I thought how wonderful it is that at last, after four days, the sun is finally made visible and all the world shining under its radiant light, and how miraculous it is that I am in Mississippi even though it is entirely meaningless because, what are these lines that draw boundaries around the masses of land that are really only one mass of land, but which we have felt the need to separate and call them states, anyway…


I’m camping tonight at a cemetery about a mile and a half outside of Starkville. According to Google it is a park, well, it is named Memorial Garden Park, so it’s not Google’s fault. A bit misleading I think, however, it provided a quiet place for me to set up my tent undisturbed, and the adjacent property is a smallish farm—mainly brilliant green, hilly pasture with a smattering of trees, and cows grazing contentedly. In the center of the cemetery stands a statue of Christ, his hands broken off. I’m uncertain how that might have happened, whether it was intentional or unintentional, but there he stands sort of gazing off, down the hill, across the road, into nothing. It is perhaps not the most inspiring statue I’ve seen, hands or no hands. Hell, I’ve seen more inspiring statues without heads or arms, just a torso, or a fragment of a face. What’s important is the feeling and talent of the sculptor. This just reminds me of some dumb knick-knack one might pick up at a souvenir shop. No matter. When God, or the Tao, or whatever is within you and all around you, whether any particular statue or sculpture is good or bad makes no significant difference. It just provides material for thought and speculation, for having opinions and writing about them….

33

Camping at my first church since I was in North Carolina.

Many miles today. Miles through bleak suburbs choked with strip malls, empty parking lots, bad traffic, bad shoulders, familiarity and despair. Miles through farmland; wide, open spaces; countless cows grazing the lush, green pastures that are everywhere speckled with flowers—purple, waxy-yellow, and chalky-white—like a million smiling faces, and, when the wind blows, a million waving hands like those from the friendly drivers who pass me opposite; the wire fences; copses of trees; the grey clouds bunched, bulging, heavy with rain that never falls, stretching on forever all day. Miles, though fewer, through the cityscape of Selma, her streets and buildings saturated in civil rights history; boarded up houses; nice, clean, proud houses with neat landscaped yards; empty buildings; broken windows; no doors; amicableness; amiableness; junk cars; the criss-cross of railroad tracks; the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the blood flowed one day like the river runs beneath it; marvelous architecture; and damn good ribs. I also saw a banner, on it the word HOPE. More and more large towns and small cities I see today are full of hope, and desire change. Call it “the people.” They are the hope. The people are the ones, the only ones, who have the capability to turn around a city’s fortunes, and they must turn it around, because if not, then what does this word, “hope” mean, what is it for, and what does it represent? It is like a false idol which one worships, makes offerings to on every first and third Sunday, and second and fourth Wednesday. It is a place where the people might get together to sprinkle water, light incense, and talk. Talk, talk, talk; and talk is just masturbation. There is a sprinkling of seed, sure, but no fertile ground for it to settle, fertilize and grow. It brings forth no fruit, bears no children. It merely feels pleasant for a short while. It is a drug. And an addictive one at that because it requires a minimum of effort and no commitment. It is a mouth that talks, yet has no voice.

Where there are people there is hope. But where there are people there is, too, complacency.
 


 
A bug shimmers under my light, wings and carapace glinting. It flies ever so lightly, so gently, into the mesh door of my tent — bounces away into the dark. God, what magic this world contains. Magic on the minutest scale. It is not necessary that there be large explosions and a shower of sparks, though that is fine too. There is magic right under our noses. The real magic is in the looking.

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.