Whether or not I acknowledge it often enough, I have to admit to being relatively fortunate. In that while my mornings may be often distinguished by the slow ascent through a haze of having imbibed more than I should have the night before... rarely do they begin with the troubling immediacy of having to take a desperate emergency shit in the wee hours of rising dawn.
But this was one of those mornings.
Did I mention that it was pouring rain? That I'd pulled into the race venue in the dark of the previous night, and with no real lay of the land, blindly driven across a giant field, and parked at the literal furthest point away from the port-a-potties?
Well I had.
And did I mention that among the many things I overpacked for an eight day road trip, a rain jacket was somehow not among them?
Well it wasn't.
Outside of the white noise of heavy rain on the van and ground, the field was quiet. No bustle of arriving cars or racers getting ready for their long day. If other people were awake, they too were hunkered inside their vehicles and tents. And while it wasn't quite light out, it was no longer dark. I could clearly see the portapotties some football field's length away. So. what? Trudge across the field and accept being drenched before the day had even begun? Sacrificing the few dry clothes I had left? No nearby copses of trees to hide behind or in, either. So that if I acquiesced to my immediate instinct and darted some twenty feet away from the van, if any one of my many neighbors were to peek their heads out of their curtains or tent flaps, my crouched, lonely, and clearly distressed form would be not only visible, but unmistakable in its undertaking.
And what then? Leave it in the field? Whatever the current quiet, it was about to be full of 1000 racers in so many vehicles. So even if deposited at the periphery, I'd still be dropping a veritable land mine. And I have enough Leave No Trace etiquette to know better.
So what? Bag it?
Oh, make no mistake, I've most certainly shit in a bag before. Four times that I can readily think of. Once parked in Joe Freeman's driveway while I waited for him to please wake up and let me in. Twice when camped behind SuperCorsa Cycles on two separate Spring get-the-fuck-out-of-dodge van rambles, unable to make it until Drew walked over to open the shop doors at 9am. (Both of these locales mercifully aided by the fortunate proximity of a bucket.) And once at the finish of my fourth DK200 (now Unbound), being entirely too obliterated and generally heat-distressed to trust myself to successfully make the walk a few blocks to the portapotties. Squatting low in the van in broad daylight while Dorothy stood watch outside. This time without the aid of a bucket. Just crossed fingers that my aim was on point, that I could prevent myself from peeing at the same time, and that these were the good plastic Kroger bags without a tear in the bottom.
And then? Put the bag in one of the few trash cans at the race start/finish? Empty its contents in a portapotty? Leave it next to my van until I could dispose of it reasonably, some 24 hours later?
The logistics were vexing, whatever choice I made. But I was starting to break out in chills.
I was in the process of hastily examining all the grocery bags stuffed in the grocery bag-bag and turning in dire circles like an indecisive dog, when I heard a merciful lessening of the rain... and tore open the van door and sprinted across the field, knowing full well that if I tripped or so much as stepped wrong... it was over.
Thus began RULE OF THREE.
Until two days before I got in the van and started driving west, I was 99% sure that this would be yet another event that I would be unable to attend. Outside of workload, staffing at the shop has been a particular crux for the past few years. Oh, I've got a good crew. But their very part time schedules don't allow for any real continuous coverage that allows me to step away. But Lee St. Clair was available and willing and suddenly things started to fall into place... and I began to throw together the tentative beginnings of a travel bag. Until Tuesday night arrived and I found myself crossing the North Carolina/Tennessee border, feeling all of my lingering fucks blissfully melt away, I didn't really believe it was happening.
I'd managed to snag a late afternoon ride at the Fonta Flora Trail near Morganton, and some dinner at Highland Brewing in Asheville, and slept that first night in the dark quiet parking lot of Big Creek Trailhead. Waking up to the beautiful noisy rush of water over rocks. Coffee. A quick cold swim. And back on the road, headed to Mead's Quarry in Knoxville to ride as much of the Urban Wilderness as I could before moving on.
I spent a couple of hours riding familiar and new (but all fun) trails, and followed it, as always with a swim in the quarry. Wishing for what seemed the millionth time that I'd brought a goddamn floaty of some kind so that I could drift lazily in the sunshine and green water and gaze up at the rock walls.
Next time. And I needed to get moving, anyway.
Halcyon Bike Shop had already closed by the time I pulled into Nashville, so with no real bearings or intel, I chose a brewery called Yee-Haw. And it's not that I regret that decision, so much as I know for a fact that there are better places to go in that town, and wish mightily that I'd found one of them instead.
But... the tacos were ok and the Pilsner was fine. I sat in an Adirondack chair and watched men in cargo shorts pantomime bending their friends over every time they scored at cornhole. Watched jacked beared men in flag t-shirts buy their very tan girlfriends cocktails, constant vape clouds billowing over their heads. And I tried to intentionally feel something other than my usual misanthropic bitterness. And while that didn't come naturally, I did find it. A man leaning in and whispering something to a woman, peals of genuine laughter erupting from her as she spilled her drink and wiped her eyes.
And me, smiling like an idiot across the patio at people I didn't know and some joke I hadn't heard. Like a voyeur creep.
That night I slept at the Wrangler Camp in the Natchez Trace and listened to nearby horses neigh and nicker throughout the night. Strangely happy to get to plug in the small fan that lives in the van's bulkhead, because even if it meant the night was warm... it meant summer was here. Or close.
Rule of Three Number Two