Days begin and days end, again and again. I straddle my conveyance furiously scribbling additional fiction for a book that I wrote a long, long time ago my ears blister and peel, burned by wind and sun cars stop so their drivers may fulfill an irrepressible curiosity and ask my business I meet a finely wrinkled cyclist with an unexpected kindness of discourse and the word “Aryan” tattooed into his neck my wheels turn wildly off course and suddenly I am on the 101 with objection and disquiet I read from One Hundred Years of Solitude inthe pink dusk between cities at a midnight rest stop, a sorority voice delicately tells her dog, Ellie, to “get busy” over and over and over and over again until I want to unfold from my cocoon like a terrible butterfly and squeeze the shit out of Ellie myself our desperate measure of time advances from 2011 to 2012 and with perfect introspection, I have a quiet birthday.
I reached Los Angeles on Wednesday, January 4th, nine days after leaving San Francisco. Nine days is slow by cycling standards, but all inhibiting factors considered, it’s still a 500 mile bike ride (381 by automobile), so I was pleased with myself nonetheless.
Now, I could tell you of the mustard pollution that heralded the City of Angels miles before my arrival. I could tell you how I crossed the 100-mile sprawl of that coastal metropolis; how disconcerting it is to hear tires hiss with escaping air once a plague of desert thorns are plucked from their swell; how sandstorms would have choked and blinded me had I not had the foresight to wear goggles over my eyes and a bandana over my mouth; how different people treat those they perceive as socially marginalized; how the interstate was a loveless companion; how Phoenix gassed the same yellow pollution that L.A. did; how absolutely wonderful the embrace of an old friend feels after a decade apart; how hard and claustrophobic the back of a police car is; how real fear becomes you when you know there is life-threatening debris in the road, though it can’t be seen for the immovable night; how lovely a moonlight ride through the desert; I could tell you what it’s like to be padded after by an animal with the face of a wolf and fur as red as blood; how the cruel wind can on one day push you uphill then antagonize on another by forcing a downhill coast to an absolute standstill . . . all day; how a rushing semi-truck could momentarily disrupt the opposing wind and suction you a few blessed feet on it’s tailcoats or simply make you wobble from the sudden lack of resistance; how sand colludes with sweat to layer your sleeping face then grits in your teeth then finds its way into your eyes even when they are tightly shut and roaming in restless dreams; how much sand tenderizes fingertips and lips; how much sand actually hurts; how suffocating and hot and cold a bivy sack can be when you’re so congested that you have to unzip the night shroud to face a blistering torrent of sand, sand, sand to spit sand, then breathe in sand, and spit sand again before enclosing the new sand that has invaded the tiny shelter; how 75-cent hot chocolate from rest stop vending machines were tiny comforts that made the chill in my bones forgettable from the ephemeral brim to base of those little casino cups.
I could tell you all of this, in great detail, rich in description, provocative in rhetoric, sexy in prose, but a funny thing started happening when I reached Los Angeles, and it’s happening all over again as I reflect on the second half of this journey: I stopped caring for my bike ride. It would take the entire ride through Arizona and a wasted tire in New Mexico to fully accept this.
I couldn't get that asshole out of the picture.
What started out as a spider bite turned into wicked sun blisters