Coming Closer

When last we spoke, an anxious night had been passed. A night where a father's concern for his own welfare was unnecessarily complicated by qualms about using his own child as a human shield. But, like many an uncomfortable moral hypothetic, it never needed testing.

From the heart of darkness in Chattahoochee, we pedalled with a survivor's light heart to Tallahassee, capital of Florida. Choosing destinations on the basis of syllable-count may seem whimsical to some, but we crave structure in our nomadic lives. We landed at The Bike House, a non-profit social experiment combining Marxist themes of each-according-to-his-ability (to pay for or fix a bike) with Haight-Ashbury themes of whatever-turns-your-crank and free love, the latter fuelled by a steady stream of co-ed volunteers from the adjacent Florida State University campus.

The enterprise is run by Scot, a former pro bike racer and business consultant who, in 1997, while standing on a street corner in Boston, underwent a sudden, involuntary life change when he was smushed by a vehicle, and spent the next two years in hospital, the first 8 weeks in an unconscious state. He emerged with a new forehead, a new eye socket, a new outlook, and, purely speculation on my part, the absence of a "t" in his first name, possibly still stuck to the grill of the car that hit him. If you want to meet someone who's learned to live in the moment and make the most of each second, hang out at The Bike House. Carpe Diem.

We slept on a MOUP (mattress of uncertain provenance) on the floor of the parlour, pizza parlour (as in, Bond, James Bond), an extinguished business in the process of annexation by the two-wheeled empire.  Well, not technically on the floor. Actually, on a stack of particle boards and 2x4's providing a comfortable buffer between our MOUP and the tomato-stained tiles. A restless night. I dreamed of Cher and double salami.

I was so anxious to repeat the dream that we spent a layover day in Mama's Kitchen (Seb's needs and desires are like distant thunder - I'm aware of them, in a remote way, but they don't have much immediate impact on me.) Among other things, we: took in an FSU vs. University of Miami tennis match; took out The Bike House trash and swept the floor; ate eight $1.00 tacos; attended a First Friday block party of music and art; and hung out with Susie and Craig. Susie is tenaciously clinging to technical Canadian citizenship while being gradually co-opted by American mores and mannerisms - not a pretty thing to see. Harper, yes. Susie, no.

But the road beckoned. As Seb was jonesing for an alligator sighting, Scot suggested we depart (again) from our old-school, paper, ACA map set and take a different route to Gainseville, a route guaranteed to provide, if not a gator, at least an intolerant redneck spewing diesel spoke at the pussies on bikes. Well, he was right on both counts, but we only snapped the gator, cuz the redneck's confederate flag was too big to fit on our memory card.

Passing lightly over the next couple of days (see forthcoming bestseller) we headed straight for The University of Florida in Gainesville to satisfy Seb's healthy, and my unhealthy, appetite for youthful pulchritude. Picture then our state of mind when the Warmshowers Host-de-Jour turns out to be The Love Shackteaux, a domain where one may leave their bourgeois notions at the door, and a mysterious sense of equal opportunity sexual freedom pervades tout la maison. Smart people, rock climbers and bikers, unshackled by conventional norms, living life on their terms. My personal prude-ometer was in the red zone. Seb wants to go back.

I write from Palatka, Florida, a disappointment from a syllabic point-of-view but gamely compensating by it's proximity to St. Augustine. Today's the day we touch the Atlantic. The networks begin coverage at 4 pm. Set your PVR's.

Au revoir.