Friday, November 02, 2007

On The Road

A friend of the Snot Rocket, Charlie Brigham, is riding his bike around the world. You can follow his progress here. He left from Madison a couple of months ago. I recieved a dispatch from him this morning describing each state he has visited since leaving. This is what he writes about the state of:


The sun is setting over my shoulder - not much time left now. It's the end of a day of pedalling, I'm hungry and fatigued. An hour's time, a little less, is all my window allows; any more and any site I pass will be invisible to my eyes. "Where will I rest my head?" I ask, without any vestige of a plan; just peel those peeps a little wider in this final dusky drive. There's a likely candidate, that hill there, topped with trees... but wait, a driveway looms ahead, a house is back there, close. Too close. Around another bend then, another possible spot, off the highway's bank; a dense-woods thicket, well concealed and never tread. But brambles yawn from everywhere, and how will I get down on in? I can't, or if I can, I'm sure to fill my gear with holes, and those gray clouds don't look too nice tonight. Keep searching then, let's see what's up this hill. Finally, I find a path that leads way back; no tires have marked its ruts in ages, though the rusty gate and sign proclaim my guilt. Whatever, fine, it's too late to continue now; it's this or ride in the dark, one lonely biker out alone; and at night I'd rather have concealment: its dangers are more predictable than a DUI or joyriding teen.
Yet still, I'm extra careful, in those high-risk slots of time - Is anyone watching me slip in here now, and are they making sinister plans for after dark? No, I'm just water-breaking, till the traffic's out of sight, and until I hear no dogs that bark, nor their master's eyebrow raised.
Okay, I go, and make it - now at least the road is blind; I search around at first, way deeper than I need, to catch a view from other sides: I'll need a foot-tall fire. I'm kind of clean here, I say, not harming anything at all; but if the morning tractor route goes past my little hedge, or a consummate woodsman decides to take a midnight stroll, I'll have to use my wits, and quick, and if it's going to come to that, then....
Anxiety; it bubbles in my mind as I quietly clear a bed; I try to keep it calm, but visions of what might just happen keep popping in my head. The loudest noise I make is sticks, no more than I should need; I break them under my tarp or tent, imagining the directions soundwaves fly. A zipper here, or velcro there, I've learned it doesn't travel, but still I stop and freeze to listen at frequent intervals, and learn what's out there hearing. I'm on my toes like this until I'm all set up for food, and then a different sneak of sense begins - the fire. It's pure stark light and smoke, and shines upon the trees quite high. It's not as bright as LEDs but licks and flashes, catching eyes. I've got to eat tonight though, and man I love that blaze. I have to trust my positioning, and see from others' sight - this far from where they'd be looking, it's at most a random flash, and at this distance from that road or hilltop house, they'd really have to try. Tomorrow daylight may illuminate the smoke, but tonight I'm sick of worrying, and illogically over-wrought with fears.
These things combine to justify some calm, and as I sit and heat my food I relax a bit, and let my thoughts unwind. I get used to the sounds around me, and the distances of each, and soon I only flinch at falling flukes, a walnut or dead branch. In the dark of these woods, it's hard to tell a critter from a sneaky man, but as I worry which it is out there, I know it goes both ways. Perceptions and the sense of such, each play half in this tricky game. A game I'm good at, I remind myself, and all that effort I made tonight will keep me safe from harm. A sleepy yawn and thoughts of rest come on, and the coals have all burned low. Eventually it's late enough that no locals will be up, it's time to fall to dreams; of course rest lightly just in case - oh wait, what's that, I bolt upright; oh shit, it's Saturday, that's a drag-racing pickup truck I hear, just over that next hill!

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