I had left just past ten and was a few miles into the morning ride, having settled into a lively recitation of the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. As I toiled up a moderate grade that felt a lot steeper than it was, I noticed a pullout in which was parked an RV (anal Bounder) and a white passenger car.
Two people were walking from the car to the edge of the road. I paid them no mind and kept reciting. One of the two people, a lady, appeared to be shouting with much vigor, and it sounded like she was yelling “Seth!” That’s how addled you get when you’ve been riding around this long, everything sounds like “Seth!”
Then I realized she was in fact shouting “Seth!” and waving her arms thereto.
Flummoxed, I pulled over; I’d never seen her in my life.
“Yes?” I said as she dashed up.
“Are you hungry? We have food and water in the car.”
“Well, it is about the right hour for a hobbit’s second lunch, but, and I don’t mean to be rude, who are you?”
“I’m Debra!” she said with a big smile, because all the women on this trip are named Debra and all the men are named Dave. “I’ve been following your trip and Dave and I decided to meet up on our way down from Mt. Shasta. We live in Santa Monica. Here, eat!”
She led me over to the trunk and a tin of cinnamon rolls which I immediately lit into.
Dave came over. “She reads your damn blog every day. Out loud. You’re as crazy looking as you write, friend.”
“You can take the inmate out of the lunatic asylum, but you can’t take the lunatic asylum out of the inmate,” I assured him.
“Here,” Debra said. “Have these.”
“Hey, dammit, I told you not to give him those!” Dave said as Debra opened a large plastic cup filled with freshly picked blackberries. He was kidding, a little.
“You can pick more,” she said. They were the sweetest, freshest blackberries I’ve ever had. Before long it was time for me to go and I did, with profuse thanks to them and an extra cinnamon roll tucked into my sleeping bag. I was too scared to ask them how they’d found me, how long they’d waited, and what would have happened to those cinnamon rolls if I hadn’t appeared, so I waved and rode off.
Shortly thereafter things got bad. I turned off onto the scenic Avenue of the Giants but it was an unscenic avenue of nothing with the bonus that it was car-free. I’d almost been smushed a couple of times on the 101 and was glad to be alone.
After a couple of miles I saw a guy sitting under a tree. “Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” he said back.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m homelessing. You?”
“Same but on a bike. What’s your name?”
“Rod. Got any water?” He was miles from anything and it was scorching.
“Sure.” I handed him my lone water bottle and he took a big pull. “How long you been out?”
“Years. Started this ‘un in San Diego in April. Tell ya, this covid is bullshit. Damn, my feet hurt.”
He was wearing big work boots, not made for, shall we say, trekking. “Got food?”
“Yeah, I’m okay.”
“Hell no. Broke as a old tractor.” I fished out ten dollars. His eyes sparkled. “Well damn, thank you.”
I gave him some more water and continued. He was from Georgia originally, had divorced fifteen years ago, and as he’d told me, came from a “broken home with too damn much liquor and fistfights.” I wondered why friendly people with sore feet had to be homeless and stuck out under a tree dependent on the whims of passing bicyclists. He was sixty, three years older than I am.
After that I made a wrong turnoff to Redway, confusing it with my destination of Redcrest. Everybody in timber country is so proud of all the redwoods they’ve cut down that since there are hardly any old growth forests left they name everything “Red—” to absolve themselves of history.
The supermarket in Redway had a bad feel. There was a clot of very tough looking homeless people in the parking lot, not at all like Rod. I locked my bike, bought supplies, and came out. A woman on break asked me where I was going.
“Humboldt State Park,” I said.
“Never heard of it.”
This was bothersome because my map said it was RIGHT THERE. “And then I’m going the Lost Coast route.”
“Better be careful. That’s a bad road.”
“This one? Mattole?”
She looked funny again. “Not sure that’s what you call it. Do you know where you are?”
“Sort of. Is there camping around here?”
“You should be careful. There’s folks around here …” she trailed off and went back in. I decided to return to the 101 and look for the state park some more, and at the bottom of a long descent I saw something that corresponded with the camping symbol on my map, the “Eel Creek Conservation Camp. Not a Through Road.”
I turned and the road went right back to the same elevation I’d left in half the distance. My legs were breaking from the grade but somehow I got up it and was indeed greeted by the “conservation camp” with a sign that said “You Are Now Entering A State Prison.”
Suddenly the rough customers and the lady’s warnings made sense. I re-checked my map, discovered my mistake, and got the hell out
Back on the Avenue of the Giants I finally began running into the occasional giant, and these were redwoods worthy of the name, huge and old. They got thicker and thicker until I was shooting through a winding, gently downhill corridor of wordless beauty. The heat evaporated into the cool of the canopy; no cars, no people, only me and bike and Chaucer, and pretty soon not even him.
Around a turn I saw a campsite for the state park, whipped in, got a space, set up camp, and started making dinner. The park is massive and the redwoods are hanging out everywhere along with the RVs. One thing I didn’t know about RVs is that in addition to being big and stupid and filled with all the crap from home, they also carry these things called “generators.”
The RV next to my secluded spot had a generator large enough to power all 155 campsites and when it was switched on it sounded like a herd of brontosauruses farting in unison, pausing, letting their stomachs growl on low, and then erupting again in a fart chorus that reverberated throughout the park.
I wondered how one person got to ruin a good thing for everyone else and then remembered, “Humans. And capitalism.”
I went over to the RV and knocked on the door. A giant man not named Dave answered. “Yes?” I could tell that he wasn’t enjoying any of the beautiful paths under the trees because his ankles were the size of coconuts and the entire RV listed when he moved.
“That is one heck of an RV you have there.”
“Why thank you!”
“And a doozy of a generator!”
“Yep, it sure is.”
“What’s it for? I’m your neighbor a lowly bike camper and have never seen one before. But I sure can hear it.”
“It’s for the TV, microwave, fridge, and the ac, other stuff, you know, so you have all the comforts of home when you’re on the road.”
“That is pretty amazing. And you have it when you’re not even on the road and just in a camp site.”
“Oh yeah. Want a beer?” He was gushing sweat even though it was in the high 70s; he cranked the ac down a notch.
“I’d love one but I’m a drunk and life has advised me to quit drinking.”
“I hear yuh. Hungry? Just got some mac and cheese out of the microwave? Thas some good eatin’!”
“Thanks. I just finished dinner.”
“Check. What’d ya have?”
“Hamburger with onions, garlic, mushrooms, French bread …”
“You made all that on your bike? I don’t think we could make that in our kitchen here. I mean we could, but man, there’s hardly room to turn around in this thing. It looks like a hotel but it’s pretty cramped. You’re living fancy! Glamping for sure!”
“Yes, I’m a glamper from way back. Name’s Seth.”
“Bill. Bill Joiner. Come over if you change your mind about that beer.” He took a giant rag off the arm of his recliner and sopped up a pint or two of sweat.
I crawled into my tent as Bill’s generator groaned, moaned, roared, and raged for another hour or so. Night fell and I gazed up at the thicket of stars. Nothing that happened here, even Bill’s generator, mattered much to the thicket. In another life I’d have gone over to that RV and raised Cain, but seems like I’ve left most of that behind me, taking a page or two out of the book of the stars.
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