Day 20 (Cycling Arsonist)

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I got off to kind of a late start today. I didn’t end up leaving Mary Beth’s until about noon, and then had to stock up on some groceries. I reached another crossroads on the trip. I really want to see Roswell for the obvious reason that I want to believe. I also want to head south to El Paso because everyone keeps telling me it’s unsafe and not to go. I am allured to places like that, but I’m also allured to aliens. It’d be unrealistic to see both so I had to choose. Naturally, a choice like this could only be decided by a coin toss. Lincoln’s face. Roswell won. I kind of wanted it to. The downside to Roswell is that it’s north of my location and I would have to climb quite a few mountains to reach it. I was up for the task; I just hope it ends up being worth it.

Right when I left Las Cruces I was riding uphill for about 25 miles. This took us the majority of the day, but I reached the summit a little after 4pm. This is the first time on this trip back that I reached a designated summit sign. I thought back to my ride with Yaris and how it was imperative for him to take a photograph of him posing next to each one we passed. Why? Well first of all, to show how much we climbed, but more importantly so he could print them all out and line his bathroom wall with them. His logic? He wanted to stare at them every time he pooed. Absolutely brilliant.

Because this was my first lengthy climb, I forgot just how demanding they really are. It takes more of a mental toll than physical in my opinion. Spending hours staring at the summit and feeling like there’s an insurmountable distance lying ahead can be demoralizing. One really begins to question if the decision to take on such a venture is really worth it. I know at this stage in my tour that yes, it very much is worth it. Getting to ride down that mountain is a spectacular treat. I think that’s why the Rockies were far less challenging than the Appalachians. I was incapable of harnessing my inner chi in the Appalachians because I had not yet understood just how delightful the second half would be. Sure, everyone knows that what goes up must come down, but when the thing that’s going up is you and you’re only going 3 miles an hour with quads burning so much you’re convinced they could ignite, you really start to doubt Newton. But then there’s the descent. Ah that horribly sexy, descent. You feel like at any moment you’ll start to rise off the road and begin flying. It’s just pure magic. But you have to put in a lot of work to get to that satisfying downhill paradise. This would be the part where I relate this idea to our everyday lives. I’ll say something about how this is a metaphor for life and we need to work hard in order to enjoy the benefits of that labor. Maybe I’ll insert a William Blake quote like “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” But I’m not going to do that because it’s lame.

Ok so nightfall loomed and I had to pull over to set up camp. The only problem is the stretch of road I’m on has fenced off U.S. government property on either side. I’m riding through a missile testing facility. Well trespassing and sleeping on private land hasn’t stopped me before soooooooooo I found a spot that appeared slightly more tantalizing than the rest and set up camp. The cool desert air began to turn into cold desert air eventually became distressingly frigid. So I made a fire. I worried that people could see it from the road, but my need for warmth exceeded my need for stealth.

BIG MISTAKE. I tried to keep the fire as discreet and undetectable as possible, but apparently failed because after about an hour a fire truck came zooming up and down the road. I knew someone tipped them off and they were looking for my fire, but it took them a few tries because it was that inconspicuous. Eventually I was spotted. I stared down at the fire and let out a sigh only a disapproving Jewish grandmother could match. Well shit, not only am I illegally trespassing on government land, but I had a fire lit as well. It’s pretty safe to use the term ‘fucked’ to describe my current situation.

I approached all six of the firemen and explained my story. I didn’t get much of a response out of them. One asked me how I got all my stuff over the 4 foot barbed wire fence. After I showed him, he tried to do the same with his body and a shovel. He wasn’t as graceful as I was in the attempt, but I felt I wasn’t in a position to criticize. He walked over to my camp and shoveled some dirt over the remaining embers I unsuccessfully tried to stomp out once I saw the red flashing lights minutes earlier. He then maneuvered back over the fence without saying a word. All the while I profusely apologized for the inconvenience I caused while simultaneously awaiting my inevitable punishment. At this point a police cruiser showed up. Rut-roh. A fireman finally broke the silence when he asked for my name and address. The officer hadn’t left his cruiser yet. I obliged and told him. I followed it up with another sincerest of apologies. Finally it was acknowledged and the reply, “It’s alright, man” was given. Then all six firemen turned around and walked towards the truck. One looked back and said “Try and stay warm”. They drove off along with the officer. I stood there dumbstruck. Were they just messing with me and about to come back to deal me my sentence? Surely there was no way this scenario was going to end without me being reprimanded. I mean, I so blatantly disregarded the abundant amount of signs explaining how this land was government owned and trespassing was strictly forbidden. “It’s alright man” is the antithesis of strictness. I couldn’t believe it. I returned to my much chillier campsite and shook my head in disbelief. Well I guess no one really cares if I sleep out here tonight, just as long as I don’t light any more fires. I felt really awful that everyone’s time was wasted on such a trivial manner. I just hope a serious cause for concern wasn’t taking place at the same time.

Well it’s going to be a much frostier night’s sleep without that fire, but I’m willing to forego that extra warmth in exchange for not going to jail. So rest of the night will be spent shivering and hoping they don’t return. I could pack up and ride to town, but that’s 35 miles from here and I’ve seen way too many flowered crosses by the side of the road to take that risk.

So what did we learn today? A total lack of respect for government property results in ambiguous consequences. You guys don’t think aliens overtook the minds of those firemen/policemen and rendered them apathetic towards the circumstances in an effort to protect me? Or maybe the U.S. government is conducting tests on me without my awareness. I’ve been in the desert far too long.

Stats:

Miles: 39.41

Calories: 1707

Time: 4:16:39

Total Ascent:  1892 ft.

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4 responses to “Day 20 (Cycling Arsonist)

  1. you foolish boy, you probably slept on a radioactive landfill and there’s no need to reprimand you because you’ll probably start sprouting a third nipple………

  2. Yeah after I drove off I way them heading your way. Atleast you made it out free! I was so nice meeting you Tom.

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