East of Eden

 This business of cycling all day, then cozying up to a wifi at night and unburdening your soul is a fine thing in theory, less manageable in practice. I'm struggling for comparisons... oh yeah, like pulling heavy chairs and getting people to talk on film.

So I'm going to give you snippets until we catch up to today. I'm sitting under a metal canopy at a campground in Silsbee, Texas. It's 7:13 am. Yesterday, apparently, was St. Patrick's Day. On this type of trip, it's a challenge to remember if it's the first or second half of the week. Specific dates? Fuggetaboutit. The rain is not pouring, it's just kind of dripping like when you get out of the shower and stand there, wondering why you would deliberately stop such a pleasant sensation.

Snippet #1

 “Pet peeve” sounds petty, so I’m going with “pet bane”, even though it sounds weird and evokes images of leashed and muzzled super villains. I speak of the too-common, near-death, road-biking experience of cars and trucks, whether through inadvertence or malignance, passing within a coffin latch of your elbow, prompting an electric shock to your bowels and a Pee Wee Herman, epileptic, speed wobble. Happens a lot. Isn’t fun.

So imagine our dismay the other day when, on a lonely back road with nothing moving but rabid dogs and Lone Star flags, a rusty old tow truck buzzed by close enough for us to be grateful for the double set of Depends we now routinely wear and then, half a mile down the road, turned around and passed us coming the other way, the driver saluting, and then – of course – turned around again to come finish us off.

He passed us, this time giving us plenty of room, pulled over and got out of his truck, putting up a hand for us to stop. (Note to self: pepper spray is useless if you need seventeen separate movements to access it.)(Back-up note to self: exude not-wholly-feigned naivety and politeness with one hand, while other hand performs first sixteen steps.)(Final, reality-check note to self: you’re a single-tasker Barc. Forget about it.)

We stopped our bikes and the driver, a tall, rangy, grease-splattered, human-shaped specimen with badly-damaged teeth, presumably from chewing off lug nuts, stepped forward and said…

Tow Truck Driver: “Ah wanna apologize for passin’ close to y’all back there. Ah was foolin’ with mah GPS and ah wasn’t payin’ attention.”

Tense, shocked Canadians: “Ummm…”

Tow Truck Driver: “Y’all in the South right here and we don’t treat people that way. We used to be called The Friendly State and ah just had to turn around to tell you ah was sorry.”

Recovering, Heartened Canadians: “No problem! We really appreciate it!”

Tow Truck Driver: “Y’all take care now! Ah seen some sorry drahvers out here!"

Canadians, Nearly Moved to Tears, Then Hysterics: “Sorry! You bet! Sorry!!! Hahahahahah....."

(That was a long snippet...)

Snippet #2

Then there was the Story of the Stuck Car..

A couple of days ago, around lunchtime, Seb and I could be seen emerging from the Sam Houston National Forest along a smooth blacktop road, recharged by towering pine trees, redolent greenery, and Snickers bars. Our overpass across an interstate was barred and we had to detour north (no detail is unimportant). We observed that the southbound lanes were clogged with traffic. We further observed the sad sight of a 2013, 2WD Kia Soul, electric snot green in colour, pull onto the shoulder, then start down across the grassy valley toward the service road upon which we pedaled (northward).

In the last week it’s rained over 7 inches. The poor little Kia never had a chance. To the driver’s credit, when he started to bog down he didn’t keep driving forward but stopped as soon as the wheels started spinning.

*Enter two Canadians on bicycles*

“Do you need a hand?” asks the older of the two, possibly the big brother of the younger cyclist.

“No go.” says the Asian driver of the nasal-discharge Kia, quite possibly fluent in several languages but, alas, not English.

“We’ll help push.” (Canadians mime a pushing motion, similar to movements learned in a Tai Chi class that the older brother, or possibly older cousin, took some years earlier.)

A large man of African descent joined us, making it feel like a Coke commercial.

The older cyclist (only a little older) convinced the United Nations that it would be better to try and push back the way mucus car had come rather than forward through the quagmire. The motion carried. He further suggested a rocking motion employed by countless snowstorm-stuck cars through the millennia. The driver of the rolling booger suggested the slightly-older, but better looking, cyclist get behind the wheel. So he did.

The result was that everyone but the they-could-be-twins-but-he-looks-wiser cyclist got absolutely splattered in mud, the car didn’t go anywhere, and the State Trooper, hands on hips and legs spread wide, who had pulled up during the climax of this circus act, was deeply unimpressed by the attempt of the Loogiemobile’s driver to escape the traffic jam by trying to drive over the “grass”.

Seb and I pedaled slowly away from the phlegm-car driver feeling a little guilty and a lot useless (maybe we should have pushed forward). We left him as he remonstrated, his pants pulled up to his armpits, his glasses dripping with muck, his brain trying to find the words in his third or thirtieth language, with Arms-Crossed Authority.  Even Helen Keller could have told you that the driver of the Kia Infection was on the losing end, profoundly unhappy and doomed, and that The Man, who saw the world in black and WHITE, simply didn’t give a shit. 

(So much for snippets...)

True Snippet #3

The second night in Austin, where we stayed with Laura, the hot chick we picked up in Lance Armstrong's coffee shop (oh yeah, and her slightly-less-hot husband Aaron and their not yet but eventually hot 4-month-old daughter Ayla [creepy enough dude?]) was fantastic. It was one of those rare and wonderful social evenings where you assume it's 9:30 or 10:00 pm and it turns out to be 2:00 am. Magic.

True Snippet #4

Two nights ago we stayed camped at Shepherd Sanctuary, a testament to imagination and otherness. I didn't think we'd trump the hostel in Marathon for weird-in-a-good-way places, but this did it for me (since there weren't attractive 25-year old girls around, I'm guessing Seb sticks with Marathon).

The nucleus was a two story building, porches all around, decorated with a million collectibles and neon or plug-in weirdnesses. Individual cabins, all wildly-themed and eclectically decorated, sat to the north, linked together by walkways, We pitched our tent under chandeliers. I need say no more.

The owners, Peach and Connie, are having a third marriage celebration there this Saturday. Texas still doesn't allow legal same-sex marriage so they buggered off to California for the ceremony a couple of years ago when it became legal there, and have since had another in Vegas, just for fun, and now this one here. Kids these days... Connie's brother lives on the property and currently holds the title of Poet Laureate of Texas - a one year appointment; high culture below sea level (we got as low as -26 metres on our Garmin that day).

No more snippets. Rain's stopped. Gotta roll.

Peace out.