We slept behind a medical marijuana dispensary last night. The lingering contact high has led to the consumption of four Sausage and Egg McMuffins only moments ago. Far out.
After a record five nights in a row of Warmshowers hospitality, Emer and I found ourselves in the not unfamiliar position of racing a setting sun to find a "safe" spot to pitch the tent. "Safe" does not mean "clean", or "level", or "without possible chemical contamination". Cruising along Main Street, Safford, Az., tentatively headed toward the sheriff's office to ask advice on non-paying campsites, preparing to reprise my role as the wholesome Canadian father sacrificing two and a half months from an extremely busy schedule to provide his troubled son with memories to cherish, we were passing through a "mixed commercial" district. Mixed in this case meant various degrees of non-thriving, repurposed business entities: a real estate office in a former A&W, a hairstyling school in a dentist's office, and a derelict car dealership, all signage removed, showroom windows painted black, but with a tiny "Open" light flashing by the door. Perfect. Everything we'd passed had been closed. Like a little bottle with "Drink me" written on it, the teeny-tiny "Open" sign pulled me in.
Approaching the door, there were dimly-perceived sheets of paper taped to the other side of the tinted glass, stating the nature of the business. Difficult to read, with or without the aid of medical cannabis, I will attest that they were not written in crayon. Nonetheless, they created an impression of a management-style high on concept, low on production values. The showroom had been turned into a large waiting room redolent with the new-crop smell that, as every salesman knows, pushes product right out the door. No one was waiting. The room was so big, and so empty, that I got a whiff of "I threw a huge party but NOBODY CAME!!" I tried not to cry.
The attractive lady sitting behind a sliding-glass window smiled at me. Perhaps I'm being unfair to the profile of the average legal marijuana dispensary user, but as I looked like a grubby, scattered, aging hippie in need of a little smoothing out - she could be forgiven for thinking I was a client.
Pretty Lady: "Can I help you?"
Dishevelled Man, scratching himself: "Um, yeah. This may sound weird but, um, I wanted to ask a favour."
Pretty Lady: "Did you just spell "favour" with a "u"?
Unclean Man, nervously fondling his water bottle: "Um, yeah."
Pretty Lady: "Are you Canadian?"
Soiled Man, unsure of the right answer, and easily distracted: "Um, well, I guess I literally am... Um, I just said that - the "literally" part - cuz my daughter, who's also Canadian, says it a lot."
Pretty Lady: [non-responsive]
Filthy Man, not meeting the pretty lady's eyes: "She used to say "like" a lot. My daughter. Y'know, before "literally" came along.
Pretty Lady: "What do you want?"
Unkempt Man, sliding into obsequiousness: "Some of my best friends run medical marijuana businesses..."
Pretty Lady: "What do you want?"
Soiled Man, taking a deep breath, and speaking quickly: "My-son-and-I-are-crossing-the-country-on-our-bikes-and-can-we-pitch-our-tent-behind-your-business-cuz-it's-getting-dark-and-scary-but-we're-not-scary-or-criminal-we're-just-grubby-and-Canadian?!"
Pretty Lady: "Sure."
So that's what we did. We pitched the tent beside the open-sided, double bay where they used to do oil changes. The subterranean pit where the changers toiled, ala Pennzoil Lube joints, was strewn with broken beer bottles and other evidence of merrymaking - a perfect tornado-party site. Wasps swarmed nearby, entering their nest above a rusty back door, but, recognizing us as one of the tribe, we were left alone, and slept the sleep of the just-too-cheap-to-believe.
We're in eastern Arizona, making our way toward New Mexico in a landscape of high plains and long lines of mountains - some over 12,000 feet - that get close, but never too close, like a really clear, ever-receding mirage. Even when we're climbing a pass, evidently on a "mountain", these phantom ridges appear to be the "real" mountains that we'll never actually get to touch, stuck in the poppies before a teasing Emerald City.
The McMufffins are digesting nicely, thank you for asking. Two weeks into the trip, all systems go so far: I'm getting slightly stronger, and Emer is a rock - like a rolling stone.