It’s happened a few times on this trip so far and I haven’t quite yet figured out if waking up to the sound of a rooster crowing is quaint or irritating. This morning I was leaning on the irritating side.
About 10 miles down the road I spotted a rundown restaurant with some abandoned cars in the parking lot. Spooky would be an appropriate adjective to describe the scene. I haven’t been spooked out in a while. I decided to investigate it. An ominous atmosphere seemed to envelop the restaurant. I noticed a backdoor was opened so I cautiously entered. The sun’s light was not capable of penetrating the rooms I was entering, and I neglected to bring along my headlamp, so I used the flash on my camera as a method of navigation. Old cans of beans and various sauces flowed over the pantry; the floors were littered with debris. I noticed two giant freezers in the kitchen. I had not dared open them as I knew inevitably, there’d be a corpse in it. It’s hard to believe this was once an establishment where families shared a meal. Children’s laughter hasn’t echoed through this establishment in god knows how long. I traversed the restaurant further. Each step was more cautious than the last. The flash of my camera revealed years of neglect. The air grew thicker. The stench grew thicker. Eventually, I made my way to the dining room. Before I opened the door, I peered through the door to make sure the coast was clear. Then I saw them. A man lying on a disintegrated mattress covered in dirty blankets petting a ragged dog. Neither of them noticed me. How could a human being subject themselves to living like this? How could they withstand such vile conditions? This place that time forgotten, that vegetation had reclaimed, was a man’s home. It was a hellish wasteland to me. It was home sweet home to him. I decided it was probably for the best not to interact with this man, so I decided to leave. Time may have forgotten him, but I certainly won’t. The image of him petting his dog in such a peaceful and loving manner while surrounded by sheer toxicity will be engrained in my mind for years.
I pedaled as fast as I could from that place. My eyes remained fixated on the road. A blank stare overtook my face. I don’t think I blinked for 3 minutes. I just rode on, thinking about that man and his dog. Was it fear that kept me from confronting him? Or was it a reluctance to disturb the affectionate moment between man and canine? Probably both. Squalor. Tenderness in squalor.
A mile down the road I saw smoke billowing up from the ground. As I neared it, I saw that this was what appeared to be a slash and burn site. I didn’t realize this agricultural technique was still used today, but nevertheless, I sat on the fence and watched the fire. Fire has always fascinated me. How could it not? It was the kick starter to man’s evolution. I think I focused my attention on the flames as a method of diverting my attention from the scene I had witnessed a few minutes prior. I just don’t know how to feel about it. Am I supposed to feel sorry for the man? I kind of do, but he is choosing to live there. Maybe he wants to. Or maybe he was forced to. Ugh I don’t know. At least he has a dog to talk to. All I have to talk to is this laptop. It’s pretty one sided/slanted conversation too. By avoiding conflict, I am racked with internal conflict. If I could go back, I would disturb the man, just to know what he was doing. Why he was staying there. Who he was. What he had seen. Where he had been. I’ll never know. I’ll only stipulate.
I am now in the Eastern Time Zone. For the first time since August.
Now I’m sitting in the woods. My bicycle has two broken spokes. They just broke. I knew this rear wheel was bullshit.l I don’t have a spoke repair kit either. I am about 20 miles south of Tallahassee which harbors the nearest bike shop. However, tomorrow is Easter and they will most likely be closed. Crystal River, which is where Bobby lives, is about 150 miles from me. There is a bike shop in that town and is the closest one on my route. I don’t know if riding 150 miles with two broken spokes is manageable. I haven’t been in a position like this ever on this trip. Honestly, for the first time, I don’t know what to do. Well I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to go to sleep. Below me on the forest floor are hundreds of wolf spiders. I know this because wolf spiders’ eyes glisten when you shine light on them. It looks like a sea of stars on the ground. Once you eliminate the idea that there are hundreds of nocturnal spiders at your feet, it’s really a remarkable sight. Plus they’re harmless. Unless provoked. I have enough on my plate to keep from provoking wolf spiders. Fucking spokes. Spiders and spokes. Spiders and spokes. Spiders and spokes.
Total Ascent: 895 ft.