I was peacefully eating my meal, seated in the dirt drinking water from an underground spring that gurgled ice melt. It had been in the 90s and I’d taken off my shirt, soaked it in the spring, and put it back on. It worked like a perfect ice jacket.
My site was a bivouac off a dirt trail past the end of a forest service campground. A chickadee had kept me company for the last couple of hours, checking in on me or scolding me, likely both.
The day had ended early for me. I’d left Bend after two nights of luxury lawn camping courtesy of Adam, Christy, and their daughter Penny. On the banks of the Deschutes River I’d gotten to watch muskrats, deer, an abandoned beaver dam, and the beauty of the late summer river, topped off each night with wondrous food and conversation.
Bend was also where I’d gotten my front brake fixed by the wizards at Sunnyside Sports. So euphoric was I at the fix that I dashed downtown and got a tiny haircut, just enough to show I had $25 but not so much that I might look respectable.
The exit from Bend was a rude awakening, a 20-mile climb up Mt. Bachelor. I was passed, then re-passed by a runner as I grunted along. Over the top it was a long and lovely descent, first a freefall and then pedaling along gentle rollers that went ever downward.
I initially broke out in hives when I realized this was the course I’d raced several years ago in the national old farts road race. My ptsd subsided as I pedaled on, but not before stopping at a creek, snacking on a bagel, and refilling my bottle with more toxic river water. It was killing me softly with its song.
At the fifty-something mile mark I’d been riding for five hours, so instead of squeezing two more hours out of the towel I pulled into a campsite, kept going, and bivouacked. Since it was forest service land I wasn’t worried about getting evicted, that is until a state trooper came stomping through the brush with his hand on the holstered handle of his pistol.
“Why, hello there!” I said, about to put the first piece of meat into my drooling mouth.
“What brings you to this neck of the woods?”
Before answering he cop-looked me. This is the cop’s all-encompassing analysis of a situation. Any weapons? Anyone hiding? Ambush potential? Is the perp high? Can the perp flee? Is my exit covered?
Obviously it was no no no no no yes, so he relaxed a tiny bit. “Just out camping?”
“Where are you coming from?”
“Where are you headed?”
“Some campers saw you come in and never come out. There is a gang hitting these campsites during the day and burgling the RVs.”
Sure, I thought. The S’Mores Gang strikes again. “You’re free to look around. What has the gang been stealing?”
“Ah, uh, the usual stuff.”
I could see it already: Bike Bandit Steals Generator, Case of Pop-Tarts, and RV Awning, Eludes Police in Low Speed Chase.
“I thought I was hidden pretty good back here.”
“Couple of the RV folks saw you ride in and not ride back out.”
Of course … I’d stolen their self-satisfaction by pedaling off into the woods to camp while they marinated in the alcohols and watched the teevee. “Glad those folks are holed up in their RVs keeping watch. If they’d been out hiking or fishing, coulda been bad.”
He smirked in sympathy. “Call 911 if you see anyone suspicious.”
“That will be every time I look in the mirror, then.”
He finally laughed. “You don’t look so rough.”
I peeled back my t-shirt and flexed my arm. “This change your mind?”
He really laughed. “Nope. Have a good evening.”
“Thanks for checking in, officer. I appreciate it.”
And I did.
And he knew I did.
Haven’t subscribed yet? Maybe it’s time! Your $2.99/month keeps the pedals turning, the shutter snapping, and the pedals cranking. Please Go ahead and hit this “subscribe” link. Thank you!