My alarm clock woke me to reality. Was I really doing this again? I just got comfortable. Tonight is supposed to be the coldest night in L.A. this winter, and it’s the day I’m leaving. What semblance of a comfort zone I had is now eliminated. For the first night in a couple of months I will have no idea where I’ll be sleeping. Kitchen floors, inflatable mattresses, forests, backyards. That is where I’ll rest my head. The fear overtook me again. I squashed that like a bug once I reestablished the pre-cycling ritual I had grown so fond of the past 3 months. The feeling. The drive. Those will be my roadside companions for the next 4000+ miles. I look at myself in the mirror and channel my inner Morrison
. “I am the lizard king. I can do anything”
I have a dollar and a picture of my cats in my wallet. I have a stomach full of cookies and distress. I take a deep breath. I remind myself what I am capable of. I pedal.
The first few yards are awkward. I haven’t had to lug this much weight for quite some time, but the freedom rushes into my bloodstream. Once again, I am liberated. Once my body and mind accustom themselves back to the road, I fly. A few thoughts remain constant in my mind while I leave Los Angeles:
I am carrying too much weight.
My biking gloves still smell.
My knees hurt.
I don’t really know where I’m going.
These snowcapped mountains make me want snowcaps.
I don’t know where I am going to sleep
I love this. I don’t really know what else I would rather do.
It hits me around 10 am that I have no real plan when it comes to biking out of the city. I’m just riding in the di
rection of east. I told the ‘rents I had a plan to assure them I knew what I was doing. There’s no plan. Sorry mom.
Around 4pm I reach Riverside. This is where I planned to be and now the fun begins. The sun is beginning to set and the anxiety takes over. The temperature is dropping. I need to find a place to sleep before nightfall. My skill for spotting stealth positions needs more honing. I notice a wooded area by a bike path. This seems like it will do. I shiver. It’s a preamble if there ever was one. As I scope out a good spot and attempt to deny the overpowering uneasiness that coincides with this type of activity, I notice a man waving at me. He is sitting on a concrete block off the side of the bike path. I am skeptical to acknowledge him because he is visibly intoxicated. I remind myself that a smile and a wave are imperative no matter who it is. I approach the man and asses that he is far from threatening. In fact he seems rather jolly and docile. We exchange pleasantries. He goes by Ray. The man is bursting with positivity. We jump into conversation as if we’ve known each other for years. Ray tells me a story. He grew up on a farm in Virginia. He and his brother antagonized a bull one day and were chased into the family barn. They sought refuge in the loft of the barn, but the bull knocked out the ladder from underneath them. The brothers had to wait for one of their parents to come find them. It was one of the fondest memorie
s he has with his sibling. There was so much excitement in his voice as he talked to me. His voice grew crestfallen Ray’s brother had epilepsy. His parents had to sell the farm in order to pay for his medical bills. A few years later Ray’s brother died in an automobile accident.
Ray plays the lottery every single day. He told me that if he ever wins, the first thing he’ll do is buy the Virginia farm back. His parents are no longer with him and unfortunately Ray told me he has no immediate family. He still seems optimistic even given his circumstances. What Ray lacks in articulation he makes up for tenfold in
A nightfall approached I told him I had to set up camp before it became too late. He scoffed at the idea of me sleeping outside. Ignorantly, I assumed that Ray was homeless. In my defense he was hanging out drinking on a bike path. Every other person I’ve encountered that fit this mold was adrift, but he insisted I spend the night at his apartment. I obliged and we cycled to his home. Ray’s apartment is engulfed with various clocks of all shapes and sizes. Did I stumble upon the set of Hook? I counted 8 grandfather clocks altogether. I am glad I met this man. An hour before stepping into his home, I had no idea where I would end up. Yaris called it trail magic. I think that’s an appropriate term. If I just disregarded this man, I would not be sittin
g in his living room typing this blog post right now. I still shake my head in disbelief. The Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime” played over and over in my mind as Ray and I played backgammon, 10,000, and Mastermind. I’m baffled how constantly things continue to keep working out for me like this. It’s almost too hard to believe, but comes as no surprise given the nature of this trip. I learned how to play backgammon and I made a new friend. It’s been a good first day.
Total ascent: 1981ft