The Middle Child Tour has begun. Emerson and I are one day out of San Diego, recovering from a night where we pitched the tent at a 45-degree angle at the base of a 30 foot retaining wall. Above us, way above us, the Alpine Fire Department sat like Camelot, a mere catapult's throw away, but unable to provide that halo of protection we wall dwellers crave ("You know nothing, Jon Snow.") Below us, down the black-diamond slope, the Old Forest awaited our pleasure, Old Man Willow swaying invitingly through the night. For a guy who has to invent fears if there aren't any to face, it didn't take us long to get back into the sketchy saddle again.
But it's morning, the sun is shining, and in beautiful Southern California we are counting our blessings:
1) The camp of homeless Mexicans 400 yards away, below the Rite Aid Pharmacy (we're in the mountains, everything's above or below) lacked the climbing equipment necessary to investigate the new guys.
2) The swarm of meth-addled skateboarders determined our swampy, soggy site (despite the drought, there was a major rainstorm last weekend ) to be unworthy of gnarly exploration, dude.
3) Our tent fly effectively deflected the boiling oil raining down from the ramparts above.
All is well. Emer and I are noshing away, basking in the cesspool of caloric abundance and nutritional nullity that is Carl's Jr., a fast-food chain founded by Carl Sr. in memory of his son and heir, who choked on a cheeseburger.
Speaking of fast-food chains, we went to internet-favourite In-N-Out (SoCal burger mini-empire) in San Diego, remarkable for the simplicity of its menu: Hamburger; Cheeseburger; Double Cheeseburger (670 calories); Fries; Shakes; and soft drinks. That's it. It's like the original McDonald's formula, back when McDonald's was a treat rather than a blow to your self-esteem.
After the photo of Emer and I (above) at our Pacific starting point was taken, by one of two kind ladies who happened to be passing by, the other lady asked if she could bless our trip. Grateful for any blessings that come our way, the four of us assumed the group hug position, lowered our heads, and she began.
TWO HOURS LATER
Who would have thought you could have too much blessing? The first half hour we were hanging in pretty nicely, counting and cataloging our blessings - including her asking God to provide two "buff" bicycling angels to ride along with us (not kidding) - but by the one-hour mark our attention began to wander. The Blessing Lady's friend had made repeated attempts to escape the ceremony, but the blesser's hands seemed possessed of a clutching power not entirely of this world. The Blessing Freak somehow succeeded in talking throughout her entire respiration cycle, leaving no pauses to escape. I had to suddenly stagger, blaming my gamy leg, to break the relentless litany of kindnesses being ordered on our behalf. Last year we had the chair to weigh us down, this year it's blessings.
Our first Warmshowers night, in northeast San Diego, was serene and wonderful - thank you Jim and Julie. Last year our first night Warmshower's host was the Unibomber's angrier brother - a night of not daring to sleep; not serene, not fun. But that was last year. A long time ago. I'll let it go soon...
Emerson is pleasingly pleased by the new sights and sounds - I feel like a good dad. Of course, it's early days, but one takes one's pleasures where one can.
Tonight we'll be pitching a tent behind the fire station in Pine Valley, Ca - no walls involved. Just heard a story from a fireman about how, yesterday, they tried to rescue a horse from a cliff using a helicopter, sedation, and a sling. Unhappily, the horse wriggled out of the sling while in the air, with predictably horrifying results. On another predictable, but less horrifying, note, the above picture of Emer was taken at a rest stop along Interstate 8 as we took a break from a five-mile climb with a 50 mph (well, it felt like it) headwind. He claimed that his pose maximized body position to minimize wind impact. Yup, that's what he claimed.
Moving on. Talk to y'all soonly.