The magic happens at night

I know what the first people thought when they got to the moon. It’s the same thing I thought when I got to the border. “How the fuck am I getting back?”

I holed up in Birch Bay State Park but it was a battle. All of the wind had been taken out of my sails, and my sails had been furled, stowed, and tossed overboard. “Ride my bike? Another 100 yards? What the fuck for?”

The plan was, as all plans are, a template for what isn’t ever going to happen, and it went like this: 1 night at Birch Bay SP, 2 nights at Larrabee SP, then seek out the first leg of the Cascades-Sierras route back to Los Angeles. More daunting than the coastal trail by about 1,000 miles and 12 billion feet of elevation and winter and weather and wolves and grizzlies and no fuzzy Christmas-themed pajamas, my plan fell apart in the form of a nail.

For want of a nail a shoe was lost, etc. etc. until the kingdom was lost. But for the having of a nail I got a slow-ass leak riding into the park that coincided with I Can’t Take These Rubbing Brakes Anymore Syndrome. Despite the best efforts of the best mechanics, my rear brake had been rubbing since the Rock in Malibu.

Lawyer math calculates about 10 watts lost per minute over 248 hours or roughly 148,800 watts pissed into the wind, literally. [Chris Tregillis will, if I’m lucky, send me the actual wattage loss, hopefully with an equivalent as to how much farther I would have actually gone and how much better I would have looked doing it.]

Anyway, I was sick and tired of the rubbing, squeaking, unfixable brake and had it in my head that if I pulled the wheel out of the rear triangle, and yes, it’s always the rear that flats, the brake rubby pistony thingy would make it impossible to get the wheel back in and I’d have to walk all 24 miles back to the bike shop in Bellingham to get it fixed.

Not that there were any bike shops in Bellingham that would fix it.

Bike shop 1:

“Hi, I’m a pathetic tourist from LA who has a catastrophic brake failure in the making and who has been living on nothing but cookies made by Tom’s sister and blueberries picked by Brent and Carson, and is there any way you could squeeze me into your slammed schedule to bleed the brakes or replace the master cylinder or sell me a new set of brakes or a complete bike or a car?”


Bike shop 2:

“Hi, [repeat plaintive plaint].”


Bike shop 3:


Bike shop 4:

“We don’t open until Wednesday.”

I gave up until I remembered to call the shop that Jeff and Susan had SPECIFICALLY recommended, Jack’s Bicycles.

“Bring it by when we open at 9:30 and we will try to squeeze it in before the end of the day.”

Through tearful sobs I assured the nice lady I’d be there for sure. But before I got there I had to get through the night camped out next to Jacob. Jacob was camping with his wife and mother-in-law, both of whom were back in Seattle and camping by phone. Thankfully, at 10:00 pm, two hours past the time I’d been lying on the dirt listening to Jacob discover more alcohols, he put the phone on SPEAKERPHONE LOUD so I could hear the conversation.

“Fuck I don’t care if you wanna come, come if you fucking wanna come fuck it.”

“I want to come but what about the toilets? Are they clean?”

“I don’t fucking know I’m a guy I just piss anywhere who the fuck cares it’s camping I’m fucking drunk as fuck come if you fucking want or stay I don’t fucking care.”

“My mom wants to know about the toilets.”

“Your mom would be able to get a guy if she wasn’t hanging out around you all the time and would learn to speak fucking English. We’re in Englishland for fuck’s sake not Spanishland. It’s fucking paradise here. Get your fucking ass out here. If your mom would fucking learn English she could find a guy like me.”

“You sound really drunk.”

“I’m so fucking drunk listen, I’m sitting by the fucking fire, it’s magical, fucking magical, jamming to Zeppelin, the fucking magic happens at night but if you’re coming don’t fucking show up at seven in the morning or some shit.”

“I’m not going anywhere without toilets.”

“Listen they got fucking toilets it’s a fucking state park. Your mom needs a guy like me but she ain’t never gonna find one hanging around you all the time.”

This pleasant, loving repartee continued for an hour (timed) with successive tracks of bad music played so loud that it shook my tent flaps. Jacob finally hung up and a drunk couple of alcoholers wandered over, looking for more alcohols.

“People in this fucking campground are so fucking boring,” said the alcoholwoman. “You look like you know how to party.”

“Fuck yeah, grab an alcohol.”

The alcoholman opened an alcohol. “Man those tunes are killer. Crank ‘em up, bro!”

Bro did just that and one of my tentpoles snapped from the bass line, along with my right temple, which caved in. By 4:00 am the alcohols had worked their night magic and even Bro Jacob couldn’t resist the charms of sleep apnea and the allure of the world’s most vicious hangover, so he did what any normal alcoholman would do: He turned on his car.

The throaty roar of a 1998 Chevy Dungmobile mercifully killed whatever night sounds might have survived Jimmy Page’s three chords and Robert Plant’s testicles bound up in piano wire, and just as I said, “It can’t get any worse,” I remembered that it can always get worse and the surest way to get there is to tell yourself it can’t.

Alocoholman and Alcoholwoman stumbled over from their tent. “Dude! You are still going killer strong! Way to rock it!” I heard more alcohols being opened.

“Why did you turn on your car?” asked the alcoholwoman.

“I like the sound,” said Jacob. “Reminds me of Jersey.”

“Bitchin’,” said the alcoholman. “You from fucking Jersey?”


“Oh holy fucking shit that it so badass! Newark!”

I waited for the sound of trousers to unzip and the appropriate display of appreciation for finding a real man from Newark. Not hearing it, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I staggered out of the tent. Jacob looked up from his $125 collapsible Barcalounger in surprise. “Hey,” I said. “Can you turn off the music?”


“Yeah, off.”

“Completely off?”

I stood there, unshaven, rugged looking, rangy, and a bit Sasquatch-esque at the edge of the fire. Jacob from Newark was a bald, pudgy, stupid looking gnome whose sum total of badass was spelled out in his orange Crocs. “Oh, well, okay. Sure. I guess it is kind of late. Sorry.”

I thought he was going to cry and would have felt bad if I had any feelings left.

But I didn’t and the silence brought deep and merciful sleep. But not for Jacob, because I was up by six whistling, cooking breakfast, and pumping air into my rear tire, anything that could make a racket, a clack, a clank, a wheeze, or a grunt.

I heard Jacob roll over in his tent, groaning as the little men with hammers beat the living shit out of the inside of his skull with heated jackhammers.

Karma may not be a bitch, I thought, but she’s close.


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6 thoughts on “The magic happens at night”

  1. Wow, a rude dude from New Jersey. Who’d have guessed?

    Orange Crocs bad-ass indeed, sir.

  2. If you choose to return home, consider taking a train and getting a sleeper car. It will be far, far more enjoyable and interesting than being in a car, plane, bus, etc. And it will feel like another leg of your adventure instead of just another flight somewhere. Plus, you’ll be less likely to experience the culture shock of returning back to SoCal.

  3. The most important item we pack on bike trips: Earplugs. The thick waxy ones. You will miss out on those memorable campground interactions though. It is amazing how long we remember these too. Thanks for sharing.

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