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 was 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.
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...
|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...|
|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...
(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.|
|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.|
Got mocked for my first Instagram "story."
|I'm NOT a tween girl, Stevil. I'm a tween person!|
(love you, homie)
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.
(photo ganked from Bikemag)
(photo ganked from bikemag)
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.