Friday, December 16, 2016

Get Lost Or Die Trying: chapter dead

"You ever get blown off?"
I lifted my head and turned his way.
"Sorry?" I said. Unsure if I'd missed some chunk of context... or if I was being very bluntly and awkwardly propositioned. 
"You ever have someone... just, like... bail on you?"
I looked at him. Mid 30's. A round ruddy face. Tweed driving cap perched upon curly reddish hair. 
"Yeah," I said. "I have."
I'd been fading in and out of the conversation. In that weird limbo of seeking proximity to people but also seeking respite. I wanted to be near them... but didn't really want to engage. He'd been talking to me fairly steadily for the past 15 minutes. I'd been only present for only about three of them, max. The rest of the time I was lost to my own head doing what it does. Watching shades of people move around the room. Watching them shine or quicken.  Fade or slow. 
Or looking at my phone in the universal gesture of "not really into talking at the moment." 
He was undeterred. 

"She won't even talk to me. You know? Like... won't answer her phone... won't respond to emails... nothing." Shaking his head.

"That's pretty intense," I said. Watching his ghosts... Wondering only absently what the story was... 

Meanwhile catapulted into my own.

Yeah... I'd been blown off before.


Insert topically unrelated picture here to break up word clusters and make reading more palatable for people.
(artwork by Stephen Hayes and ganked from my recent feature in Dirt Rag. Subscribe, fools. )


There was only a very small part of me that momentarily wondered what it is that makes some people open up to total strangers in this way. The rest of me understood. 
Maybe some level of anonymity. Maybe the kind of thing he wouldn't, and likely couldn't, admit to friends....whether because of embarrassment or the politics of friendship. The kind of thing he didn't want to pay to tell a shrink... but needed to get out there. 
Keeping it inside... was tearing him up. 
So why not the stranger on the stool next to him.
Even as the arch-duke of public oversharing, I got that. 

And while I just wanted to drink my beer in peace...  And didn't really want to play drunk-therapy to a stranger in a Memphis bar... I turned on my stool toward him and asked the question:

"So what happened?"

Meanwhile... Somewhere in Texas... 

This...
The rocks in Palo Duro were sun baked and warm. I gingerly placed my bruised face and cheek against the cliff wall; An admittedly bizarre rite that has meaning only for me... but is undoubtedly absurd looking to any casual observers. 
But there were no observers. Just me.
There was bustle below, in the base of the canyon. A running race. Oddly enough, almost twenty years ago... in another life...back when I fancied myself an Ultra-Runner... I'd passed through Palo Duro before and encountered the exact same race. 
Whatever the movement below... up here there was no one. Just a warm breeze. I sat on the ledge and stared out into the gap. Trying to soak in as much of this as I could. Filling stores that might get me through the next few months. 

After my ride yesterday, I'd prepared to leave. To drive roughly an hour or so away to another state park. Part of the same canyon system, but more remote. But sunset was coming. And the chances of my making it to the next park in time to see it were slim. And I didn't want to be somewhere on the road when it happened. So I decided to hang out. Watch it from here. Set off after dark. Pull in late. 

Parking near the bathhouse, looking for a shower to clean off the red patina of dust that covered me from head to toe, a man approached me. "You the guy looking for a spot to camp?"
Indeed I was. The campground was full. The footrace. People from all over. Hence my arrangement to camp elsewhere. But someone had overheard me talking in the park office and word had spread. 
"You can just park with me, man" he said.
Well damn.


His name was Russell. He was a nurse in Waco. That night we sat by his fire and talked about running. About fatherhood. About the challenges we face and the pride we feel when we watch our children become their own person. He told me about the day his daughter came out as a lesbian. About her trepidation to tell him... afraid of his rejection. About his own complicated and complex feelings about it, and about his overwhelming pride in and love for her.
He turned in early. And I sat by the fire a little longer with some bourbon...and with my own complicated and complex feelings about things. And eventually crawled in my van and slept.


The next morning, after drinking my coffee and eating my O's, I set off to find more sun and rock. Even though some of the trails would be off limits tomorrow, I'd ride the ones that weren't. Climb to the rim of the canyon again and follow the narrow path I'd seen up there.

Those Yonder Journal boyz are pretty damned funny. 






You obstinate fucker.
I... am gigantic.
(and, incidentally, very funny)

(and according to sources... a selfie obsessed tween girl)
rightly so...
-----------
Interlude: A brief word on selfies. 
It's not vanity. I know it seems absurd, but it really isn't. Vanity implies self-love. There's nothing like that happening here, I assure you.
I'm sure it's partly my mom's fault. Some early lecture when we were kids about how film was expensive and if we were really going to take a million pictures of the backyard, to at least put someone in the picture. And she's not wrong.
I can't imagine a scenario where I ever add to the world's store of great landscape photos. Because real photographer I am not. I'm just a moron riding my bike and snapping brief, shitty pictures with my phone. So I tend to put other shit in the pictures. People. And because I'm a lone-ferret... I often tend to be the only person around to put in the picture.
And I mean... Look at the picture above. Now... remove me. Sure, it's a pretty rock and all... but it's also a pretty fucking boring photo.

Yeah... we all look stupid taking pictures of ourself. And yeah...we all have that one friend. The one whose Instagram feed is a thousand iterations of the same picture. And looks like this...

Yeah, I fully committed to this...
It took almost ten minutes... which was entirely too many. 
But that's less vanity and more... a cry for help. Trying, in a very lost way, to figure out who they are. As cringeworthy as that is, I get it.
And come on... even the most self-despising of us still has a morbid fascination with seeing photos of ourselves, whether we admit it or not. A "is that really what I look like?" thing.

Do I look like this?"

"Or like this?"

(Speaking of which.... You know what sucks? When someone looks at a particularly terrible photo and says "Oh! This is a good one of you!")
And you realize... how the rest of the world views you... and that you truly are as unattractive as you feared.

Also, for whatever the reason... selfies tend to get the most likes on Instagram. Who the fuck knows why?

Back to Texas...
-------------

After exploring every nook of the canyon I could, I sat in the sun and drank a beer... and reluctantly... started east. Unsure where I would even end up that night.
Driving down a random street in Oklahoma City, looking for coffee, I spotted a tree full of bikes. The first indication that maybe something beyond my scope was happening here.




Who knows what sets us off? What flicks the switch inside our brains? What starts the unraveling? Sometimes it's circumstance. Absence. Proximity. Sometimes emotion. Sometimes confusion. Sometimes an exploded burrito.
Whatever the case, I was beginning my unraveling.

I hear that epileptics have a thing called an "aura." This thing they see or feel before the onset of a seizure. While I can't say I've ever experienced a seizure... not in any traditional sense, at least... I think I know a little about these auras. I call them "clouds." And I know when they're building. You can feel it. The light in your vision changes. Like there's a filter over it. Your air gets heavy. Thunder rumbles inside you.

And then the lightning arcs through your head.

It's difficult to explain. But if you know, you know. And while most nights I can outdrink it... alcoholic torpor crossing the finish-line before suicidal ardor... some nights you get beat. And tonight... if I didn't surround myself with people, then I'd likely lose sight of my life-lines. Whether I wanted to or not. Storms a comin'.

So I drove past my would-be campground. Into Tulsa. Up to the bar at Prairie Brewing. Where I sat and...thought. Surrounded by, but not engaging people.
From there, I wandered up the busy street... to a bar called the Sound Pony. Noise and chaos. A band. An aggressive woman.



Tulsa. My experience was fleeting, to say the least. A moment in time.
But head-space aside... I liked it. There was bustle and energy. Young people.
Greensboro... sometimes it seems to be the most bizarrely devoid of young people place I've ever seen. At least... young people like me.
(Editor's note: Watts... firstly, you are fucking 40. Whether or not you conduct yourself like a goddamned 16 year old, you are not young. Secondly..."like you?" More people like you is a fucking nightmare. Think "world destruction.")
I admit... The Sound Pony might be my favorite bar in the country right now. That... is a big deal.

The only picture I took at Sound Pony that even kind of turned out. 

And this is part of why I get lost. Finding those pins on a map that you'd have never considered. Finding the extraordinary in the mundane. In so many ways, it helps me get a better perspective on my own town. The one I bitch about all the time. Make the comparisons. Why do I like fucking Tulsa, OK more than Greensboro? What did it have that we really don't? Or...is it all really just me? Because here I was, on the road... doing that thing that supposedly makes me happy... and still battling demons. Not to be too terribly trite... but "wherever you go, there you are" has some truth to it.
If you visited me in Greensboro, I could make shit look great. Take you on a great ride. Eat at a great restaurant. Drink at a great bar. Hang out at a great bike shop. (The owner's a psycho, though.)

Still... Tulsa.

I ate some breakfast at Bramble. Bloody Marys and coffee. More coffee at Dilly Diner. Then headed off. To Bentonville, AR. I'd gotten rained out before, but the weather looked quite fine. I pulled into town and having ridden SlaughterPen, went to find the Back 40; one of the newer trails being cut there.
It proved a bit elusive... the first time the MTB Project App has let me down in the least. Taking me to random points in various neighborhoods and saying "you're here!" Here being someone's house. Or a gravel road.
Finally, I figured it out and started riding... immediately coming up on a Westy parked on the side of the road. There I met Dawn... who was doing the same thing I was... tooling around the mid-west, but in reverse. She'd had problems finding the trailhead too... hence parked on the side of the road.
She gave me intel on other places to check out... became my Instafriend... and I set off to ride the Back 40.



Post ride, I walked down to Pedaler's Pub for a beer and curry fries. But was super bummed to discover they were closed. After an early dinner at Tusk and Trotter, I stopped in for a red-eye at the fascinating Onyx, and I saw a stray social media post from Mike Ferrentino that they were at the Pedaler's Pub. Well shit. I'd intended to ninja camp further down the road, but what the hell... I walked down and crashed Bike's private party.




The owner of Pedaler's Pub. Who has a damned good thing going here.

Bryce and the Butcher.
This is not a photograph.
Then I crashed at the Bike house one more time.
The next morning, ordering a coffee at Onyx, the pretty barista smiled and said, "Watts, right?"
Huh. I was already a regular.

Bentonville...
Bentonville is another one of those bizarre, unique pins on the map. And my feelings about it are conflicted. And not just because of the time I got copped. The riding is excellent. A good mix of fast, flow and tech. Take your rigid SS. Take your XC bike. Take your Trail bike (whatever the fuck that even means anymore). The food and drink is superb. Tusk and Trotter. Pedaler's Pub. Pressroom. Onyx. The Hive.

But all of it... is Walmart affluence. And regardless of however much has been invested in making Bentonville the cultural hub that it is... it's all still built on Walmart's aggressive destruction of culture in every other pocket of the country.
So yay for Bentonville and all the trails and food and art and pretty baristas and shit.
But it comes at the expense of worker's rights and cultural identity everywhere else. And that kind of sucks.

Fuck. You. Walmart.

Again... Random picture to break up the words. 

From Bentonville to Memphis. To a bar. Where a stranger told me his story.

"So what happened?"

And the answer was... he didn't know. She just... disappeared. Stopped texting. Stopped emailing.
It was already complicated, he said.  There were...other people involved. And sometimes...it got messy. "You know?"
Yeah... I knew.  I knew pretty fucking well.

"What if... she's just... done with me?" he asked. Not because I had an answer for him, but because he just needed to say it out loud.
I answered anyway. "What if she isn't? What if... she's just dealing with her own shit? Processing in her own way Maybe... that's how she copes with shit. Shuts down for a while. I... I've... known people like that."
"I... Maybe?" He paused. "I just want to talk to her, you know? Figure out where she's at. If she's ok."
"Yeah, man. I know."
"You think... I should keep trying? Or do you think that will just push her away?"
"Fuck... man, that's not really something I can answer. But... for what it's worth... it's what I'd do. Even if it wasn't the right thing. Sometimes... you can't help it."
"What if she... never speaks to me again?"
"What if she does? Man... I don't know you. And you don't know me. But personally? I'd rather feel stupid for chasing the things I want... than feel stupid for not chasing them. And if you want her. You tell her. Even if she can never want you the same way. And even if... you don't know if she can hear you."
He sighed. Stared into his glass. I did the same. Both of us a thousand miles away from some stool in a bar.

Once upon a time... after picking myself up off a bloody bathroom floor... I made a promise. That from that point on, I would chase the things I want and feel... at all costs.

To live any other way... seems tantamount to being dead.

Me? I'm kind of done being dead for a while.









Friday, December 2, 2016

Get Lost or Die Trying (part two-ish)

I woke up next to water.

The van door flung open to the elements. A warm wind rustled the trees. It felt... almost tropical. Like morning on an island. My head hurt. Possibly from the whiskey that had finally brought me a merciful three hours of sleep. But definitely from the fight I'd gotten into that night. Fisticuffs and shouting. Wrestling on the ground. My tender right hand the evidence. Along with my tender cheekbone. The one that brought on a wave of nausea and made cracking noises when I pushed at it too hard. Who did I fight? Memories of some ugly fucker. Sad, uneven eyes. Exaggerated, cartoonish features. Long in limb and twisted in spine. Belligerent and frothing. Wild and flailing.
Splashing water on my face...I saw him in the mirror.

Fuck.

I need help.

I was at a state park outside of Tulsa. A lake. Muddy brown water tossed into swells by the wind.
I made coffee and sat in the door of my van. Let the warmth blow in. Took in the sky. Bright blue with pink and white clouds.  A good sky.

And I did what I do... Stared into space and let my brain go where it does. Watched Oklahoma unfold. Its history. Its people. Its ghosts. Its gravity.
A melodrama of bodies and conflicts far removed from the RV's at my back. This confused feeling of sympathy and sadness at the evolution our wandering ethos has taken. Frontier spirit gone awry. Every inane comfort of home dragged with us wherever we go. Sprawling houses on wheels with showers and toilets and carpet and pets and patio furniture. Cats staring hungrily from the doors of their prisons on wheels. Golfcarts and mobility chairs dragged along to enable our bodily decline. Decline brought on not from the tax of scrapping and scraping and living with some desperate frenzy. The frenzy that I feel every day...
But a decline...of effort. Succumbing to the inertia of content. Defeated by our own tendency toward sloth.
Native people displaced and eradicated from the region so that corpulent white Christians who don't even believe their own lies can drive a motor boat on the water. Like Jesus.

With a long sigh, I pulled my shit together and set off to find some breakfast in town... and ultimately keep moving.
East.

Fuck.

Van-ity. Get it?
(kill me)

While there is undoubtedly a heart buried somewhere beneath the blanket of trees that covers the eastern side of the country. Hidden and dense. One that beats and beckons with wood and green.
It's not mine.
Mine...is somewhere dry and sparse. Exposed and and vulnerable. Red in rock and coarse in temperament.
I've felt its pulse since I first saw those rocks...saw that sky...however long ago. Something inside me beating in time.
That I live so very far away...is a source of much angst.
But then...what fucking isn't for me?

I'd spent the last two nights in Palo Duro Canyon. Soaking up the sun and sky... and riding everything I could, multiple times. It's a good trail system. A mixture of fun and flat. Fast, and challenging. Rocky climbs to the canyon rim. I saw rattlesnakes. Big horn sheep. Tarantulas. Descending one trail, a roadrunner leapt out of a bush behind me, bounded off my helmet and up onto a rock ledge ahead. It was...amazing.
If I could have... I'd have stayed in the Canyon longer. Stayed with the stars and the moon. With the red rocks. The ones I'd set off in search of in the first place. The ones I'd driven 2400 miles for. At least partly. There were other reasons I was out here. But they're complicated. Hard to qualify.
But then...what fucking isn't for me?


This.

When I travel in my van... rarely is my evening still. Rarely do I get to watch the sunset from my settled camp. Rarely do I get to sit by a fire and watch the stars come out...as much as I always promise myself that I will. More often than not, that's when I'm moving. Having spent the day doing whatever it was I wanted to do... riding bikes, wading in water, basking in sun, sitting and watching the ghosts... Once the sun sets... I set off. Driving past evening, into the night. Pulling into my next destination in the dark. Often late. With time to lock up the knives, and drink however much bourbon is required to finally sleep. And as much as I may lament missing a lazy dusk... sitting and reading (something about seafaring, hopefully).... Waking up somewhere new is enlivening in ways I can't describe. Opening the curtains to find out where I am. Wake up to this...


Though if I'm at Switchgrass and Lake Wilson in Kansas, I will likely always try to find this spot.




From rainy Bentonville, I'd driven north... chasing the sun. In that way that I do.

Once... long ago, traveling in Washington State... we picked up some hikers trying to get back to their car. Throwing their bags in the back, we drove them toward wherever they were parked. Winding through lush green hills, we talked about the beauty of the region, and I casually mentioned my love for sunshine and were I to live here, the potentially hard time I might have with the seeming preponderance of cloudy days in the region. One of the hikers, a woman likely about my current age...fit and pretty... said something along the lines of "Well...that's what happens when your sunlight comes from outside rather than inside."
"Fuck you" I said.
I didn't, really. But I wanted to.
Whatever she thought she meant, she was still right. There's no sun inside of me. There's no dawning and dappling light shining from within. No pleasant warmth.
Just split atoms. A blast furnace. A supernova. Maybe even a black hole. Deadly heat and radiation. Crushing gravity.
That's not something you let shine.
So yeah... I shield the outside from my inside... and chase my external sun instead. All the time.
Fuck you.

Hey Tulsa...You Ok.
get it? because...OK?
(...kill me)

As I headed into Kansas... toward Wilson Lake and Switchgrass... and the cloud cover dissipated into the blue I needed, I detoured from the pavement and drove into Emporia on gravel roads. I stopped in and had a beer with fellow heathen, Kristi Mohn of Dirty Kanza at Mulready's Pub. Tim was headed to Lawrence to play a show with his band. And while I considered driving that way... an extra hour in the wrong direction after all of the driving I was already doing was hard to swallow, as badly as I wanted to see them play. After getting a tour of Kristi and Tim's soon-to-open cycling and lifestyle store, I walked over to Radius brewing for a beer and the best fucking Mac and Cheese I have ever fucking had.












I'd considered boon-docking in the van behind Mulready's. Riding Dirty gravel the next day. But I went ahead and drove to Switchgrass. Pulling into a deserted campground at midnight. Somehow into the same spot I'd pulled into late one night last year. The best spot, incidentally.
That night, I froze. Every blanket and sheet and towel I had piled on top of me. Sure, I could have put on clothes, but that was more effort.
In the morning, I sipped my coffee... watched the sky change... and thought about the land. I like Kansas. Particularly this region. I thought about the way places have their own...power. Pull. Magic. I thought about native Americans and what this place must have meant to them when they first found it. The cliffs and bluffs. Rolling hills in a predominantly flat area. I thought about the pull of water. I thought about how I totally fucked up in my Dirt Rag article when I talked about the region...and said "limestone" when I meant "sandstone."

Finally.... I got riding.
Taking a thorn less than a half-mile in, I turned around and ran back to the van. Yeah, I had tubes, but if I'd already hit one thorn, I was going to hit others. Wilson lake isn't like the rest of Kansas. It's practically high desert. There's cactus and wild artichoke. And like in Oklahoma... these fuckers.


Hey Oklahoma... Fuck you!
So I filled my tire with Stan's and put too much pressure in there. Yeah, I got a bunch of android blood in my face for the first couple hundred yards. And yeah, occasionally I'd hear the seal break, and I'd spin the tire until it resealed. And once or twice in the first few miles, I had to pump it back up a few PSI. But after that? It was done. And that seal has held for the past 30 days of riding.

Grade A android blud.



Me and all my friends.

After a few hours of riding loops at Switchgrass, I headed south. Toward Palo Duro. Through the panhandle of Oklahoma. Stopping in some dunes to watch the sun go down. Attacked by spiky death balls and tracking sand into the van.


Is my face swollen and bruised? Or distorted by the camera?
Could be either?




I stopped at a bizarre brewery/steakhouse on the edge of Amarillo. Drank passable beer. Ate salty things. And pulled into the canyon...again at midnight. The next morning, for one of the first times in my life... even the clouds couldn't quell the pleasant warmth I had inside me. I was where I wanted to be. Where I'd set off for. And even with the knowledge that the melancholy would press in soon enough... and I'd face some demons in time... I was happy.

Oh man! Another sweet van pic!
(yawn)






I rode all day. From the moment the sun melted the clouds and peaked over the canyon wall...to the moment it fell below it. And afterward, sitting in door of the van...drinking a beer and ignoring the flies... along with the lovely ache in my legs, I could still feel that warmth inside. I missed people. And wished they were there. But even with the ache of absence, I was happy. The blast furnace at an easy burn. 
At least for the moment. 
In a day or two it would quicken its pulse and try to consume me. 
But then...what the fuck doesn't?





Friday, November 4, 2016

Get Lost or Die Trying: part one(ish)

I felt a hand on my arm... gentle but firm. Insistent. Confident. I turned to find a woman smiling down at me from her perch on the bar. Her fingers traced their way along my bicep. Then she grabbed my shirt and pulled me toward her... again, gentle but firm... leaned her head in and whispered something in my ear. It was impossible to hear anything. I cocked my head to the side and gave her a quizzical look. She tried again, her lips brushing my ear...still holding my arm. Something that sounded like "you're all ripply." I smiled politely... shook my head in negation of comprehension... shrugged... and turned away...back toward the band.
They were good. And they were having fun. Enjoying themselves. I...was trying to. But my head wasn't in a good place. (surprise!) Which was partly why I was here... in this crowded bar... among strangers. Trying to avoid being alone; a thing that typically...I gravitate towards. Even when my head turns against me. But this was one of those nights... where my reset buttons weren't working. And there was that chance... that if left to my own devices... I would be that body found in a van in the woods. So I was here.. among all the bodies, distracting myself with their chaos and fractal turbulence.

The hand on my arm again... pulling me back toward the body it was attached to. This time as she leaned in and whispered inaudible nonsense in my ear, she planted a soft kiss on my bruised cheek.

Perfume and smoke.

I pulled back... and sized her up, still smiling down at me from her perch. She was about my age. Maybe older. But barely. A white button down shirt open to reveal... a lot. A jaunty fedora perched on her head. Pretty, to be sure. The kind of woman that men pay attention to. But... even if I was interested or available...not my type. Certainly not who I wanted. Not who I thinking about. Not what I was looking for.

Which begs the fair question: what the fuck was I looking for? Why was I standing in a cycling themed bar in Tulsa, Oklahoma... too many drinks in... desperately avoiding myself... and fending off the very aggressive advances of a drunk woman?

It has something to do with this.

No wait...

This...




By this time, I'd been on the road for over a week...my meandering quest to get as far west as I could before needing to turn back. My white whale being red rocks. My magnetic north fixed by the sun. My fluid course set by what moved me. Even being nearby would make the trip worth it. A moment of orbit... caught in gravity...before being hurled back. Where would it take me?

No. Fucking. Clue.

It's not that I'm anti-plan. It's just...that plans and I have a bad history. Like...broken glass and stitches kind of history...
So I circle them warily. I'll make eye contact... maybe give them a nod... but I won't shake hands, Much less get naked with them.
Ahem... regardless of what you think.



Hence the "plan" to make it to Knoxville that first evening to sup with Greggers somehow transforming into parking my Van in Chris and Shanna's driveway for three days and fucking around in Asheville for the 5 Points Film Festival.
I guess it's kind of what happens when you and your van stumble across a "Van Life" rally less than three hours into your trip.

I wish that I'd gotten some decent photos of the vanlife thing. Something I could share with you that was worth a fuck. That would show you the width and breadth of the vehicles there. But alas... this is what I have...

Amaze!


Hi Edward.

A compelling argument for acid, to be sure. 

And there you have it. What?! It was dark and I just wanted to look... invite myself into other people's vans for a drink... not try to add to the world's store of shitty pictures.

And to be honest? Mine was kind of more better anyway.



Afterward, I drove to Chris and Shanna's... parked in the wrong driveway for a bit... reparked... drank whiskey in my van, and passed out...as I tend to do. The next morning, I met up with the venerable Benedict Ultraturboromantic for some breakfast at Sunny Point Cafe, where after being recognized by our waiter ("I know you guys, right?" uhhhh)... we sprawled our talk across quill stems... trolls... straight-edge... past iterations of us... what it means to be genuine... relationships... real love... South Park... technology... bicycle touring... roots... haters... foraging... seafaring... Krishna-core... and friendship, loyalty, and commitment (see real love)...
And then we walked around West Asheville for a while, sat and drank coffee,(too much) macha, (aka: grass)... instafaced, interneted...and then set off to tour the Industry Nine.


Inside this nub of metal is a purple hub, just waiting to be born... 


video


When giant fans...

the way she teases them
it's such a shame
she got all the huboons crying her name
soo pawls... soo pawls...

Bye buddy.
(The briefest of words on Poppi;
the dude is bonafide...farce and all.) 

Bene was there because his Specialized Adventurethingy film was on the roster for the film festival and he was supposed to give a little talk afterward. While it would have been cool to stay for that, I needed to get moving. So we parted ways... him to go VIP it up... me to drive more wester.

Though...heh... as it happened... with very little prodding from Chris and Shanna, I acquiesced to hanging out for the first night. Which turned into another night. Which turned into Dorrit asking if she could tag along. Which turned into attending the whole film-festival. You know... as super VIPs. We ubered it to the pre-party, met up with BoltarRomancehead, (oh hai again) Brice Minnigh and Joey Shusler, who were presenting their amazing Trail To Kazbegi... and others... Then piled into our VIP limo to go see some films.

VIP pick-up-truck bed.


The hosts with the mosts.

Cross is coming. Just don't get it in our eyes? 

Screen Shotz 4 lyfe.
photocred: Dirty

are you stalking me?

Sunday morning... only the slightest bit hungover, and I was finally moving west, stopping in Knoxville to visit an extremely hungover Greggers. Where we rode bikes and ate dinner, talking about secrets, triumphs and nadirs... and making pinky promises over margaritas. And where unlike the last time we supped together, I didn't tell him I was going to fucking punch him in his fucking face.
(Sorry buddy. I'm...volatile.)


Onward. Waking up somewhere outside of Nashville, where I found trails (and every spider in the world). And on to Little Rock for dinner and sleep. And on to find more trails. Somewhere.
As I tried to make my way toward the WOMBLE trail in Arkansas, a rider I bumped into at a gas station told me to go ride Iron Mountain instead. So I did. It was a fun trail...easy and bermy... fast and flowy... and with more miles than I'd expected. I liked that.

No. You're right. This picture was not worth the time or the effort.

It went nowhere, in case you're wondering. 
Made my first Instagram "story."

video

Got mocked for my first Instagram "story."

I'm NOT a tween girl, Stevil. I'm a tween person!
(love you, homie)
From the beginning, I'd had one fixed position in mind; Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. How I got there was fluid. And where I went from there the same. There was talk (among me and the... you know... ghosts) of making it in to New Mexico. But it depended on... things.
My roughish intent tonight was to make it to Bentonville. I was craving curry fries and a beer at the Pedalers Pub. And a stray social media post told me that the Bike Mag crew was there doing their Bible of Bike Tests. So I asked Mike Ferrentino if I could crash the party for a night.

I remember when Bike Mag first came out. Surfer Magazine had just done a make over... this sort of...paring down. At a time when everything was getting garish. Bike was along the same lines. Pared down. Simple. And I would read stories by guys like Mike and Rob Story and Vernon Felton and think... "that was a fucking legitimately good story."
It was an early realization that bike journalism could be... more than just stupid fucking bikes.

Pretty much.
(photo ganked from Bikemag)

What 'dis?
(photo ganked from bikemag)

Years later...I would write for Bike. Pieces that I'm embarrassed to look at now. (Sorry, Vernon.) That was what? 15 years ago? Aren't we all a little embarrassed by who we were at age 25? Less so than our 25 year old selves are embarrassed by our 40+ year old selves? Or than our 40 year old selves are embarrassed by our 40 year old selves? (Much shame...)

I pulled in late that night. Had a few beers with Bike people. And passed out in the van.
The next morning brought rain. Likely two days of it. And it was cloudy and rainy in Palo Duro. So heading due west didn't make sense. And after sitting around too long debating my course of action... I chased the sun. Which was north. I could head toward Wilson, Kansas. Ride Switchgrass. Then dip down into Amarillo with the sun. And if the sun changed directions. So would I.



For some people...routine is comforting. Riding the same trail every day....or running familiar neighborhood loops... fills and sustains them. It's...enough. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If anything, it's a critical. It's what allows us to root down and create. Grow. That idea of...community. I love that idea. I do. I've just always felt...separate from it. On the periphery. Feral.
Like that cat. The one that wants you to feed it. And will gladly take your pet. And will even nuzzle my head against your leg. But I don't want to live in the house.
A long time ago...I played like I did. But it was farce. Like when we were in college and we pretended at being old. Did grown-up shit...like all have Thanksgiving dinner together. Sweet potato casserole and all. And something inside of me was dying. Or getting sick. Losing it's fucking mind.
The idea...of running the same loop in the same town... or of riding my bike around Hamilton Lakes and down Lake Brandt Rd for another ten years... fills me with the kind of existential dread that makes it hard to function.
But that's less about... things... and more about me. Something wrong with me.
I feel lost when I know what's happening. Like I'm dying.

But when I'm moving...
When I'm... searching...
When I wake up somewhere I don't know. By myself... or next to someone I love...
I don't feel lost at those moments. I feel... right. I feel...alive.

Fuck. I don't know, you...

Live feral or die.