Last night I camped under towering sycamores and was serenaded to sleep by the alcohols. Through the trees a large group of ten that sounded like a hundred howled, yowled, and sang songs until I fell asleep. If you’re ever wondering how a bunch of drunks sound trying to sing “Sweet Home Alabama,” take my word for it, they sound like shit.
I got up to pee long after the alcohols ran out. The campground was utterly still except for the crash of waves two or three hundred yards away. The moon shone through the trees.
There are so many reasons to get away from your things, even if only for a weekend. Your things weigh you down, physically and spiritually. In the last few days I’ve run across so many people simply by riding my bicycle here and there.
I met this guy who owns a recording studio in Mussel Shoals, Alabama. His daughter Zendaya is a talented singer and we talked about bikes, life, what it’s like to have aging parents, bikes, and of course bikes.
I met this guy, Jimmy, from Fontana, who had taken the train up to Carpinteria for a couple days’ camping. He’d bought a bike at Wal-Mart for $149 and figured it would be a great way to spend the weekend. Jimmy has twelve grandkids and we talked about parenting. “You want the best for your kids,” he said, “but there’s only so much you can do. My parents always told me, ‘We’ve told you the right thing to do, so if you fuck it up, don’t say you didn’t know.”
Two other guys in the campground, Anthony and Mike, had pedaled down from Goleta en route to Ojai. They were from my hometown, Princeton, NJ. We shared cookies and stories over a campfire. Real fellowship, the kind of chance meeting no one has nowadays because people are locked into their houses or their cars or their RVs or bound up in their #profamateur cycling outfits on THE GROUP RIDE. (There’s only one, you know.)
Across the way were Dan and Penny. He had been maintenance head of Hearst Castle and was now visiting his kids for his grandson’s tenth birthday. He was so impressed with my vagabonding ways that he invited me over for dinner, but I was leaving that day and wouldn’t be around.
Strolling along the beach I met Dave Wilson, superintendent of five regional state parks. We talked about the hike-bike system and he taught me the history of the Carpinteria State Beach. Eventually to make the park happen the state had taken a few homes by eminent domain. It made me wish that there was more public land in such wonderful places instead of cordoning it all off to the rich.
One evening I met a group of fellow transients who were camping illegally in the park. They were drunk or high or both and were cursing loudly about the “motherfucker” who had tossed the barbecue sauce and ketchup out of the hiker-biker food locker. Since no one was at the site but me and I was storing food in the locker, I had thrown away the “junk” not realizing that campers left behind uneaten food for the homeless and transients.
I lay in my tent listening to them talk about how they were going to kick my ass if I ever dared come of my tent. It was late at night and I was scared. Finally I just said, “Fuck it.” I figured if those guys wanted to hash it out I’d rather do it then than wake up in the morning and find my bike vandalized or ruined.
I put on my jacket and emerged. I must have looked kind of rough, tall, shaggy and bearded in the moonlight, and baggy clothes that made me seem much bigger than I am. I got my water cup off the table and walked over to the hydrant. As I passed they were all staring at me, “Evenin’, boys,” I said.
“Evenin’,” the ringleader said back, as meek as meek can be.
Then they retreated into their tent and I heard nothing the rest of the night. At daybreak they were gone.
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