Tag Archives: traveling america

Version 0.25

01-18-19

Finally, an opportunity to properly write. Doug and I are on our plane from Auckland to Perth, currently still sitting at the gate. We’re late departing. Something about unplanned maintenance.

It’s hard to know where to start regarding all that’s happened over the past several days, so I’ll just begin with leaving my bike with a friend in L.A. I have a debt of gratitude to him for helping me out with that last minute. My day would have been MUCH, MUCH more complicated and stressful had he not, and it was already plenty of that enough. Rain on and off all the day long was the biggest culprit, but there was also a certain amount of stress in not being showered for two days, and continuing to schlep around in the same unwashed clothes for two weeks. The stink of yourself; the dirty crumpled look and feel of your clothes; and the oily, unwashed feel of your hair, scalp, and skin all become a heavy weight—though in reality one that is greater mentally than physically. But with all things the mental aspect is always more difficult than any sort of physical struggle, because the physical struggle is really just a manifestation of the mind. Of course when one is out in society, smelly and dirty but attempting to hold to some level of social standards in order to maintain one’s dignity (not that one has to abide by society’s standards in order to maintain his/her dignity) this can become a huge mental struggle, and so my thoughts about my then current state and how I imagined I was regarded by society (particularly by that society in the area I found myself pedaling my bike, shopping around for a hiking pack) now has me thinking and wondering how the truly destitute and homeless must feel themselves to be. Mere animals. Insects. Subhuman. Not worth the regard they ask us to pay them. So how can one expect them to have the confidence to look for employment anywhere? When one has lived in a state of hopelessness for so long, when one is wallowing in the quagmire of misery and apathy, how can it be expected they he might just go about filling out applications for employment like anyone else? When they walk into a shop or restaurant in dirty, stained clothes that hang on them like the haggard, tired expression of a half-starved face, stinking like they just climbed out of a dumpster, or like they’ve been living in the same set of underwear for weeks, who will hire them? Well anyway, I cycled around thirty miles in the wet in order to get a pack to migrate certain things into, and to leave my bike with Danny at the motorcycle shop he works at.

Now I’m in this plane soaring above the clouds, the sun very nearly set just ahead of us, the moon reflected in the wing—a tiny, yellow smudge amidst the blueish darkening of the world—and Doug, eyes shut beside me. Exhausted Doug with a blanket thrown over his lap, his hands folded, peaceful beneath its fleecy warmth.

[Later]
Today was mostly spent walking a bit around the city of Auckland, as we opted for an eleven hour layover as opposed to the two, drinking coffee, eating and simply observing the city and its people. A most enjoyable way to spend the day I thought, though Doug’s overall exhaustion seemed to have got the better of him.

Very little else happened. Anything properly worth writing about at least. And I’m much too tired to bother. I setup an AirBnB for the next week in South Perth, and took a shower.

Truly it would have been wonderful if something of account occurred over our time in town and at the airport, but nothing did. We existed, in a bit of a state of suspended animation, as humans so often do between times. Doug does have the type of personality which compels him to talk to just about anybody about anything, though. And while I won’t go so far to say it’s something I missed about not being around him, I do have an appreciation and fondness for it, for often it leads to amusing moments. Moments of no great consequence, but significant in their own small ways, like an odd bit of grammar or poetry thrown in amongst the general sameness of a paragraph. He’s always drawing a new character into the coterie of our own little band of merry, or not-merry, makers. All these NPCs, so to speak, become important characters, people with meaning, in this game of his. And that’s really the thing! He gives them, through the agency of his actions, his desire to engage with them, importance, significance, value, more so I believe than most, and certainly moreso than anyone else I have met. And that I think is one of his great virtues.

Version 0.21

01-10-19

Distracted by too many gadgets, and things in the gadgets, and things in the things in the gadgets. There is a red light beaming from my forehead, like a third eye to see through the dark. Red because it glows dimly and is difficult to see from a distance, but I can see by it to read and write just fine. This is ideal because I’m camped behind a fence bordering houses in a neighborhood and it’s not so late (nine pm) and I’d rather not be seen.

I stayed with an extremely Louisianan couple last night in Sulphur. That day was mentally taxing and long, as days with headwinds in the range of 15-25 mph are, and I missed my estimated day’s distance by twenty miles or so. Remembered in the nick of time that their was a Warmshowers host in the area, texted her and she sent her boyfriend out to scoop me up in the dark, around 6 pm. Good thing too because I discovered after texting her that I had lost my bottle of stove fuel, God knows where and when, so that had I camped I would have had a cold, miserable, unsatisfying dnner of two bananas and a Clifbar.

These two were a fascinating yet at the same time utterly boring couple. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of them. When Jay picked me up I told him I was planning on pitching my tent somewhere around the Rec Center in Mossville (where he picked me up the next town over from Sulphur) if they were unavailable, but he told me that could have potentially been bad had I had to go through with it because there were “blacks” living all around, and there had been murders at that Rec Center several times over the years. I was naturally somewhat taken aback by the brazeness of the statement, as I think many might be. Later there was another incident at a gas station where we tried to break a sixer of beer and the Indian attendant at the counter (there’s a stereotype for you) refused to break it and Jay stormed out annoyed then went on this rather uneducated, conspiratorial rant about Arabs (which Indians are not, of course), how this one fellow could have sold him the two beers and put the rest in ice but didn’t because he was too lazy, which then led to the statements that they’re (Indians, Arabs, I don’t know, but it’s interesting how to the ignorant that whole part of the world just gets grouped together like all the peoples and the whole of the population is all the same culture) going to buy up all the gas stations in the country and stop selling gas to Americans which would somehow shut the country down, or some sort of cockeyed, outlandish, nonsensical horseshit. It was clear that he had no clue what he was talking about, but was simply flailing about mentally, attempting to make sense of something frustrating him, changes in the country, or perhaps in his own state, city, or community, that he doesn’t understand and is unable to grapple and reconcile with (like, probably, hundreds of thousands of other Americans).

I thought these peculiar ideas coming from a guy who travelled the world with his father in the merchant marines for many years (favorite countries being Sweden and Brazil (Recife, specifically, in Brazil). These comments, though, contrast sharply with his desire to take his most kind lady friend out to Colorado, then to New Mexico to explore the lands of the Apache and Navajo Indians. He practically glowed talking about this, and it was clear to me that he has an admiration and esteem for the natives of this land. Being there and listening to him speak I could hear it in his voice. Racism, it seems, is not nearly as cut and dry a topic as many people like to think it is, but this was the first time in my life that I had witnessed this sort of polarity of it within one person.

After arriving to home for the night Jay was kind enough to cook up, in his words “a real cajun meal” which in this case meant rice and two kinds of deer and pork sausage. One was storebought. The other was made from a deer his son had slain. Not sure where the pork was from in that one. I’m not quite sure where the “cajun” comes from in this respect either, unless he just meant “cheap.” Maybe it’s cajun because the sausage was a bit spicy. Really the meal just struck me as extremely simple and rustic. And honestly not all that good even setting aside the fact that I prefer to stay away from meat if at all possible. Still, it was better than the sausage, egg and cheese biscuits he brought back from Burger King the following morning for breakfast. His girlfriend, Rebecca, however, whose WarmShowers account it is that I contacted was the most welcoming lady, giving me a hug upon our introduction and treating me as a respected and honored guest. For a time she did bookkeeping for a bike shop in the area, but after a change of ownership she was let go. She doesn’t need to work though, and said she wasn’t at all upset about being let go, actually expected it, and very nearly welcomed it if it was for the benefit of the new owner. Currently she’s been scavenging lumber, nails and various other useful raw stuffs as materials for creative projects—benches for a friend’s outdoor wedding at the moment, but has other ideas which she is formulating projects around. For the last fourteen years she’s been volunteering her time with an organization that handles taxes for destitute and poverty stricken people. She says she does taxes for three to four hundred people a year. An astounding number. That was the task she had set herself at when I arrived—re-certification, actually, so that she could continue her philanthropy. Her home is full of knick-knacks and memorabilia. Family photos primarily. Remembrances. Pictures of her dead husband. A photograph of a family dog who had died a few years back. Christmas lights strung over and across everything. The small Christmas tree still up, decorated, standing on a table beside the television that is always always on so that I feel I’d go brain dead if I was to be there for too long. Eventually chit-chat got tiresome, and I was tired as well, and being as nothing much else was happening I went off to my bedroom where I could hear through the walls and the door the television blaring in it’s brainless stupid way.

Version 0.11

I arrived in Pensacola earlier today.

WINDY AS FUCK.

A steady-ish fifteen miles per hour headwind accompanied on occasion by gusts that were much higher than that. This got me to thinking about, and I mean really properly thinking about, why wind from any direction (excepting that from behind) on a bicycle is the bane, the adversary, the nemesis that it is. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not so much just the obvious one, that it slows you down, but that it’s impact, that is the actual physical force of the wind, is of a feeling akin to getting punched by a gloved fist in the gut, like getting smashed in the face with a dense, heavy pillow, like having a bed sheet thrown over you while cycling in a wind tunnel. It hits you, it pulls at you, it pushes you with fiendish delight, and as a cyclist you have no defense. So, it is the physical force of the wind that is so demoralizing, not merely the fact that one moves at slower speed. And when it comes to crossing bridges that realization can become terrifying, particularly those with limited shoulders, because the wind can and does move you. Assuredly one of the last ways I would like to die is by being pushed by a gust of wind into a speeding semi. Naturally then my last real obstacle was a bridge, with little shoulder, from Gulf Breeze (funny name that) to Pensacola. This was a nightmarish death tunnel what with the wind and the cars and the semis barreling along the highway beside me. At the end of all this though, I was greeted by Jeb, the Creative Director at First United Methodist Church, where I would be staying, and who himself had done some bicycle touring in the past, and has plans for touring in the future, and organized and setup the WarmShowers account. It was a greeting I was only too happy to receive.

I’ve managed to find at least one great place for food in town: End of the Line Cafe, a vegan joint serving coffee, beer, assorted other drinks, and great food. I’m heading to a whiskey bar later for a drink. Need to find a proper pen instead of this silver marker I’m writing with. I’m not at all certain what possessed me to bring it, but it’s coming in handy right now.

Cities, though! They’re always undermining my resolve to be frugal. You only live once, most people say. And in this case it’s highly unlikely I’ll be back to the places I’m passing through, excellent food or not. Excellent food can be found nearly anywhere, especially if one knows how to cook. And that’s one thing I miss a lot—having a stove, a little good cooking oil, a frying pan, and some vegetables to go with the rice I cook on nights that I camp. But anyway, I guess my excuse is that I’m traveling through these cities so I should be enjoying them.

Version 0.08

I just met Yoda. The incident occurred after I had finished my lunch on the covered patio at Greenwise, a supermarket. I’m currently reading again Orwell’s great book, Down and Out in Paris and London, and just finished up a chapter of the book that takes place in London where Orwell is on the bum, forced to march endlessly with the many thousands of other tramps who did this daily as, thanks to certain English laws in the ’30s (and likely the decades before, and perhaps after), they were compelled.

He had through the agency of another tramp he was marching with at the time been introduced to a type of character called a ‘screever,’ a pavement artist, or more specifically, a person who literally draws or sketches portraits or scenes on a sidewalk in order to gain charity from passersby, who went by the name of Bozo. This fellow, Bozo, was one of the more peculiar characters Orwell met on his forced rambles around London because unlike the rest of the homeless and destitute, he had a level of intellect beyond that of the tramps whose main focus, perhaps unsurprisingly, was on the standard ‘tea and two slices,’ the next lodging house he might be sleeping in (if he could rustle up the needed payment), and scrounging cigarette butts for tobacco. Bozo had a small knowledge of astronomy, and developed a philosophy that essentially stated that just because he was poor and destitute with a mangled leg (BECAUSE OF the mangled leg) that didn’t mean that he couldn’t admire and take pleasure in the stars and their constellations. (“The stars and their constellations” may be taken as a metaphor for anything one might take interest in.) The key, in my opinion, to his intellectual acuity is that prior to destroying his leg he was well-traveled and educated. Yet, even taking this into account it’s remarkable that he was able to develop a manner of thinking which preserved his intelligence, interest in the world, and pride too, thus preventing him from going down the road that most in the tramping world found themselves on. He didn’t think much of this ability, and in fact looked down on the rest of the tramping world because no others had managed to develop this particular faculty.

So I had just finished reading this chapter, had just finished my lunch, and put my book away, readying myself to leave when up pulls this African-American fellow on a bicycle trying to sell me a bottle of water. I told him I had no cash to give him but I’d buy him something to eat if he liked, so we went into the supermarket, all the while chatting, and I paid for a roast chicken for him. He seemed to have a philosophy similar to that of Bozo, and I was surprised (life is so ever full of these!) and delighted by such a timely and coincidental meeting. I remember one phrase of his that he repeated to me a couple of times, and which he would tell others, that being: “it’s never as bad as you make it out to be in your mind.”

And, yes, he introduced himself as Yoda. It’s the name he goes by, and in our brief talk I could see that it’s for good reason.