Saturday, September 18th, 2010
Like the turtle who has spent the winter buried in the cold, dark mud dreaming of the sun, I splay myself out on a boulder in a field and soak up the delicious warmth of that big orange orb that has finally made an appearance after 3 days of frigid rain.
I'm up well before dawn. The motorcycle guy from last night calls out to me as I lead the loaded bike back to the road. He says he has sausages, do I want breakfast. Sure, why not. He cooks them up on a little Sterno stove. He tells me how he was in a motorcycle accident 2 years ago, hit by an elderly driver in Florida who pulled out in front of him, the 2 years of hospital visits and physical therapy that ate up the insurance settlement. Now with his last two hundred dollars he is on his way to visit the only U.S. state that he hasn't seen: Maine. He checked off most of the other states on a motorcycle trip he did 30 years ago. He says he carried a gun on that trip, shooting and cooking small animals to feed himself while he traveled. I let him talk while I eat my sausage. His story fills me with sadness, perhaps a reflection of my own vague sense of futility on hearing another person who is wandering with what society (and definitely your mother-in-law) might call a dubious goal. When you've got the 50 states notched on your belt, then what? I relate to that desire though; just to see places because they are there, that urge has always spoken to me as well. I wish him luck and start pedaling to catch what I suspect will be a nice sunrise.
Sunrise does not disappoint. I've got a clear view of it from the ridge looking east over the flat plains still covered with clouds.
When the sun is high enough to provide some warmth I stop. I set up the tent and spread the contents of my panniers out for them to dry. Like the turtle who has spent the winter buried in the cold, dark mud dreaming of the sun, I splay myself out on a boulder in this field to soak up the delicious warmth of that big orange orb that has finally made an appearance after 3 days of frigid rain. A guy walking his dog comes by. He must have parked in the lot at the viewpoint up the road.
"You look like you're enjoying that sun", he says.
"You have no idea", I reply. "I rode through that rain the last couple of days."
"Where you headed?"
"California", I reply.
"I'll pray for you." (ah, the South).
"Thanks", I say, somewhat less than enthusiastically.
"What's that smell?", he asks.
I lie: "I dunno". Actually that smell is me and my musty, sweaty gear. I resolve to find a place to do laundry tonight. The dog is enjoying it, at least. I'm keeping an eye on him. He has that look like he wants to pee on my tent.
A typically hard day of riding on this roller coaster they call the Blue Ridge Parkway brings me to within shooting distance of Boone. I was on the road so early I've managed to rack up some miles in spite of the climbing and the long dry-off break. It's late but I decide to quit the parkway and ride to the center of town to get a sleazy but satisfyingly cheap motel room. They have laundry machines. I throw my rancid clothes in the washer and head down the street to treat myself to a chicken parmigiana dinner. Boone is a college town, home to Appalachian State University, young people everywhere. If I wasn't so tired I'd maybe go out to a bar. Instead I fold my clothes and crawl into bed at 9:30. Ah the glory of bicycle travel...