The Curses and Blessings of the Road

These guys wait for you at every turn…muerto…

The logistics of trying to find your friends while on the road without any form of communication besides bicycles and a road (I like to think that the road was the first form of mobile communication) is very difficult.  They could have woken up before I did and are waiting for me on the side of the road.  I could wake up before them and pass their campsite before they even eat breakfast.  They could be 1 km away or 10.  They could have decided to ride to a lunchspot and wait for me.  I had no idea, so I went with waking up early and getting on the road.  I would ride 10 km, if I didn’t see them by then I would stop at the first shady place and hope to find them passing me.  Lucky for me I found them right at the 10 km mark and lucky for Davin he had found them the night before instead of having to make camp with very little.

After catching up on what had happened we rode on together.  But not for long.  I broke another spoke and told the crew to go on without me because I knew they needed to get water and I would just catch up to them later.  I got my spoke fixed pretty quick, learning from my mistakes way back near Vizcaino.  Although I was pleased with myself, I was upset that I had broken yet another spoke.  This left me with only one left (I actually had 8 total, but only one fit my rear drive side).  At this point in the trip I became a little disheartened about the condition of my bicycle.  My rear shifter would still jiggle loose causing the shifting to be off until I tightened it.  This became a daily occurrence.  My rear wheel was out of true from weight, rough terrain, and replacing spokes on the road.  Doubts of Sir Norte finishing the trip and thoughts of home crept into my mind, challenging my resolve.

It all kept piling up.  After pedaling through a hilly stretch and small markets I did not see the RevSouth crew.  This was peculiar because when it comes to hills I’m the hare and they’re the tortoise.  The faster I go, the easier it is for me.  I can’t stand grinding up a grade and stretching it out.  I figured I must have passed the market they stopped at for water and so took a quick power nap for 20 minutes to recuperate.  I awoke and still, they were not there.  I rode for a bit longer before the heat got to me and I found some shade beneath a tree.  I pulled out my peanut butter and jelly and book and enjoyed a small lunch.  But even after I finished reading the book the crew still had not caught up.  I was beginning to think that perhaps they had passed me while I was napping somehow.  I jumped onto my bike and went into race mode.

I pedaled hard but it still wasn’t enough to outpace the cars.  I was getting closer to La Paz, and the connection for the highway to Cabo San Lucas.  Long caravans of up to 15 RV’s came at me from the front and behind.  I felt like a rat trying to navigate through walking legs.  One behemoth vehicle that was a mix between an elephant-hunting safari vehicle and an RV with huge headlights and Canadian license plates stopped in the middle of the road.  The driver stuck his bespectacled head out the window as traffic approached from behind him and called out, “Hey!  Do you need anything?!”  I shook my head at him like he was crazy and waved at him to keep going before another take-it-all on wheels smashed into his bumper.  I was pissed.  Why is it that because I’m on a bike that I might need something?  Is it because my vehicle is smaller and I don’t travel in a metal and glass cage?  Perhaps, I need to chill out and take things so personally.  Chi, a fellow bicyclist who I met in La Paz and crossed the Sea of Cortez with (you’ll hear more of him later), stopped and made friends with the guy.  My pride only sacrificed a photo opportunity, but perhaps it also prevented a gospel moment.  A chance to inspire someone to get on the bike.  Sometimes I feel like my head can be so big that I’m surprised I can fit a helmet on it.  Just as I was beginning to shake the guy’s kindness from my mind a small white sedan came up from behind me blaring his horn for several seconds before passing me and displaying a big fat middle finger.  I laughed and shouted out, “What do you want me to do?”  I’m so seasoned to upsetting drivers I don’t get upset about it anymore, yet when someone offers help it gets under my skin worse than the Baja sun.

In the distance I saw a cyclist with wild hair and a wide load in the rear approach me from the south.  At first I thought it was Davin, but no, it was a crazy man.  He never told me his name, but he did tell me a lot of stories.  He was the first cyclist I’d seen in Baja that wasn’t the RevSouth crew so I pulled over to his side of the road to talk to him, stopping him in the edge of the lane as he was doing the same.  He stood in the side of the road as RVs whirled past to tell me how the police in Cabo had kicked him out.  “You know how animals get in your camp?  There’s nothing you can do.  They just come right in looking for food or looking to take something from you.  And I don’t have anything.  I have nothing for them, but they keep coming anyway.  Well, you know, they tear up your stuff and your camp doesn’t look so nice anymore and the police don’t like that.  They told me I need to go back so that’s where I’m going.  America is up that way, right?  How far away is it?”  His hair had the firm beginnings of some serious dreadlocks.  Blue eyes burned from within their sun-wrinkled sockets on his now-brown skin.  “I’ve been sober for 30 days now.  You know what that’s like?  I came from Philadelphia.  Just got on my bike and rode.  I put hundreds of Hershey’s chocolate bars on the road, enough for a whole mile and I just watched them melt.  That’s what being sober for 30 days is like.  Like watching chocolate melt.  You ever seen something like that?  A melting chocolate street?”  He said that last part with a laugh, like he knew that he was creating an unreal image.  “Your tires flat you know,” he said about the bulging sides of my tires from too much weight.  I looked at his bike.  Old 90’s mountain bike just like mine.  I wondered how this man was keeping his bike in order.  His chain was clean, nothing seemed to be broken.  He clearly had enough sanity to take care of himself yet there he was talking to me inches away from speeding cars with massive blankets rolled up so high on his rear rack that he could lean back and rest while he pedaled.  “Hey, let’s talk over here,” I said, trying to get him to safer territory.  “Sure, sure.  Hey, check this out,” he said revealing a striped soccer jersey and a pair of red pants.  He had on a white collared shirt over the jersey with a fist-sized stain on the side.  “I found these on the side of the road.  And they’re nice, you know?  This is some nice fabric.  Keeps you cool in the day, warm at night.  Everything you need is in the road.  And there aren’t any holes.  It’s great.  This one here has a spot, but that’s okay.  It’s liquid and it moves.  I know that because I read about it in a book.  The book said there is a shirt with a moving spot on it.  And you know what that book was about?  God.  That book was about God and all of the great miracles that he does.”  Why is it that the crazies always talk about God and claim to have found him?  Is there some connection between a declining mind and worship?  You’d think that at their wit’s widest they would have the capacity to see so much more.  Perhaps it’s because the people most willing to help them are the Church.

I asked him if he needed anything, food, water.  “Well, have you got anything to eat?”  I told him I had bread and peanut butter.  “No jelly?”  Nope.  “That’s okay then.”  I told him I had some tuna too.  “Tuna.  Not sardines?”  Nope.  “Shoot.  I’d really like some sardines, but that’s okay.”  I asked him if he was okay on water.  “No, I’m fine.  Some nice folks gave me this soda today.  Good stuff.”  I offered him all of the pesos I had as change which he happily accepted.  “Hey, thanks a bunch.  This is really nice.  Maybe I can get on a bus or something.”  At this point, much to my relief, Davin showed up saying he wasn’t too far ahead of Julie and Ace.  After shaking Davin’s hand the man continued, “People are so helpful.  They are always giving me things I need.  I don’t have any problems any more.  Just women.  When I see a woman and think about her it makes me want a cigarette.  But this guy told me that when I want a cigarette I should just bring my fingers to my lips like I have a cigarette and I won’t want one anymore.”  He looked at Davin cautiously and unraveled more of his story in bits, as if he knew the more he told it, the faster his mind would unwind with it.  He shook our hands and said he had to be off and entered the road without checking behind him, nearly placing himself directly in front of a minivan.

Once the rest of the gang caught they explained to me that they had met a Spaniard in the market and over a free cup of coffee from the owners, they chatted with him about bike touring.  He flew to Chile from Spain and was biking his way up to Alaska.  Unfortunately for the guy he arrived and was in Chile when the earthquake of 2010 hit.  A tsunami swallowed his bike and washed everything to sea except for his handlebar bag (which I think only contained unimportant items).  Just as he was beginning his epic trip, everything was taken away from him, thousands of miles away from home, family and support.  Which reminds me.  I just learned that Acey got his bike stolen.  After La Paz (which will be written, I promise) we parted ways.  He and Davin took a boat to Los Mochis to ride the Copper Canyon.  They are now living in Guanajuato.  During a hiking adventure Acey’s bike got jacked.  I think he was finished touring, but you never want some thief to decide that for you.  And you especially don’t want to return home without your trusted friend, Pegasus, which is a rad Long Haul Trucker.  I wish Acey all the best of luck and hope that somehow he can get reunited with his bicycle.

But wait, what about the Spaniard?  Oh yeah.  A community in Chile learned about his trip and what had happened to him, and despite having their city and homes turned completely upside down they rallied, gave him a bicycle and helped him buy bike parts and camping gear.  From what I understand he has already gone through a few bikes (there are varying extremes of quality bikes down here).  But what’s incredible is how it seemed the trip was over, only to be rejuvenated by a crushed community.

I looked at Davin and said, “Man, that guy isn’t going to make it,” about the crazy guy.

“What?  To the States?  No, I think he’ll stop before then.”

“No, I mean.  That guy is not well.  He’s going to die on this road.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.  He’s gotten this far right?”

The road can give and take so much.  It can take your clothes, your bicycles, your friends, your mind, your life.  And it can give all of those things back, except for your life.  I hope that guy is still out there, and I hope he’s found some help.  And best of luck to Acey.  I don’t know if he’s trying to buy another bike to continue with or not, but I do know that the RevSouth crew has a donation page.  If you can, please help out a fellow tourer and friend.  Oh, and sorry for the lack of pictures.  It might be like this for a while.

Advertisements

2 responses to “The Curses and Blessings of the Road

  1. Great writing Jordan. It looks like you have come a long way since you left Ashland. You’re stories make me nostalgic of my own tour.
    Keep spinning,
    -Austin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s