Years have passed.
From within this recursive dream, my life expired long ago and I roam eternity apart from time in a detailed blur that seems to last forever. Its depth, its incomprehensible expanse that leaves nothing unaccounted, flows harmoniously in tune as the answer and complement to any and all curiosity. I've come to understand. In this moment, there is clarity. The world is open and the imagination gains free reign over all reality. It is only purity. Years pass. The self has come and gone more times than I can remember and the life which brought us through this gateway, ironically, was but a dream.
Shock. Don't move. There is a strange, unignorable image casting its presence upon me. "When am I?" For the first time in ages, something appears disoriented; a visual, sort of sideways picture . He breaths. He feels and he hears. "I'm laying down. I have life..." Thoughts race around as his sensory perception bombards and trespasses into the recesses of my mind. His words broke the silence. "You're in a tent. You've been bicycling for a very long time." -- "No... it can't be."
It took a long time to gain my bearings and to reintroduce myself to the life I once lived. The tent acts as a pod cast out into the black abyss of space to travel light years and land on a far away world -- eventually, I would awake... and now I have. I opened the containing hatch on this contraption and stepped outside. It's dark, but the light of the moon is enough to shine upon my old friend and companion sleeping comfortably under a tree. "We're still here, Shadowfax... wherever here is." It was as though I'd stepped through a doorway and into the past... I felt I had been removed from the life for an eon. It wasn't until the sun came up that I could recognize my surroundings. "Oh. Wait. I know this place afterall. I had just left the Lost Coast." My age-old relationship with the land came into focus and I began to peer through the night. "Right. Okay. The road is somewhere over there." It took a lot of thought to figure out how to pack up my gear and as I was shoving it all together, I kept mumbling to myself. "I can't believe we're still doing this..."
Commonly referred to as "The Wall" by the local town folk, this was no easy ascent. Never before have I actually had to lean over the bicycle to keep the front wheel on the ground. The picture does it no justice, it was like an extended McDonald Observatory climb and even in the lowest gear, I had to stand on the pedals the entire time in order to progress upwards. Through the few dark sicles of salty, soaking hair before my eyes, the uphill struggle was both burningly painful and instantly reminiscent. I remembered driving to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Bar Harbor, Maine and watching in disbelief as a group of cyclists pushed their way towards the summit one revolution at time. I believe my words were, "I can't even imagine how hard that is." Increase the incline, increase the distance and add 75lbs. Suddenly, it's not even worth your time in trying to imagine. The tour was but a pipe dream during those days. We've come a long way.
"Ouuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhh." -- "What did you say to me? Was that supposed to be a moo??" The wind is whipping hard at the top of "the wall" and while all the other cows have scattered to a safe distance from the biker, this one, black and quite possibly retarded bull stands just behind the fence and stares at me. "Ouuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhh", he says in a low, drawn-out and strikingly stupid voice. "You said it, man." I take out the voice recorder. "You mind telling me how to spell that, dude?" There is a long, clear strand of drool bouncing from his mouth which flows sideways with the breeze. "Ouuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!" -- "I know, man, I heard you the first time!" I guess it was on this third count that was meant to signal the rest of the herd because suddenly the entire mountainside pasture burst into a symphony of moos! Cows from afar! Cows strolling around the road and cows beyond the horizon! They all chimed in one after another and I just stood there listening and laughing at the idiot-cow spill its saliva into a puddle on the ground. There were happy cows, sick cows, a frantic cow, relaxed cows and goofy cows echoing a ridiculously comical "merrrWoooWoooWwooOO!!" which kind of reminded me of a hybrid coyote-train instead of a cow. "You guys are priceless." You know how there are those whale-song recordings you can buy on CD? Well, if anyone ever makes a cow-song album, I'll be the first in line :-)
We continued to chase a couple mobile hamburgers around the street and when I finally came out of the Lost Coast and into Ferndale, I made my way to the "No Brand Burger Stand" to prove that while cows are pretty awesome, it doesn't mean I'm not going to eat them.
I've given up on trying to rationalize how I find myself in these situations. I wanted to stop and rest for a few days primarily so I could spend time updating the journal, but what I got was beyond any expectations. Welcome to Arcata, the last planned stop of the tour.
Now, let's just revisit some days passed, shall we? Remember when I met Pete in New Mexico, the guy who turned out to be a champion disc golfer? That seemed but a tad miraculous since I also love the game and Kingston is a town of only 500 people. Remember Penscacola? When my love of flight brought me to the naval aviation museum at the same exact time the Blue Angles were having an air show and I got my hat (which I had just purchased) signed by all the pilots, that was one hell of a stroke of a luck. When my bicycle broke down in North Carolina and I entered a dollar store only to happen upon a bicycle mechanic at the checkout counter, I shook my head in disbelief for a moment. He couldn't help, but right as I walked out of the store, Don pulled up in his pickup truck, walked right over to me and offered me a ride to the bicycle shop. While meandering around a very tiny town in Texas, I found a guest book with my cousin's signature in it. Recently, when I typed in "famous centaurs" into Google for the previous journal entry, the first name that came up was "Chiron" who just happened to be "born of sun and raincloud" as I was biking through fog and into a blinding light. He's represented in the constellation, Sagittarius, which just happens to be my sign. Coincidence? The logical part of me wants to say it is, anyway. The whole "Hobbiton" thing was ridiculous. It's kind of weird that I've been referencing the movies and just read the book for the first time during the tour. I know I'm short, furry and adventurous, but I'm not actually a hobbit, am I? When I spent two hours in front of a library trying to fix a flat and then broke my cycling computer, is it coincidence that Jose and Maria showed up at precisely the same time? There's no way I could have biked at their pace if I knew my rate of speed. They were great company, great friends and it was then that I finally got over the whole must-always-be-moving mentality, something I'd been struggling with from day #1. Is it coincidence that ever since it broke, I no longer know the time of day and all along the tour I've been experiencing moments where time seemingly ceased to exist? When I began this journal and spoke of the "Charlie/Chuck distinction", I never thought it would come into such clear focus as it has now. I never expected the journal to touch as many people as it has... I wasn't even sure if I should write one.
Things are getting weird, and they're going to get much weirder.
I met Jason on bicycle at the bottom of his driveway in Arcata. Right away I noticed the disc in his car. Oh yes, the man knows his disc golf. There are five courses in Arcata and his three roommates all play, too. Jason is also a bicycle mechanic. When I entered the apartment, I met Chris, Danielle and Katie. Not long after I stepped inside did Katie offer me a bowl of quinoa. Funny, I've only just learned of quinoa from Abigail inside her shedchen. Remember when I wrote out the list of dreams in a previous entry? Wouldn't you know it, Chris is a certified skydiver with 180 jumps under his belt. Most excellent. When he randomly told me that he was seeking employment on a cruise ship and had an offer from the Delta Queen, a boat I had previously turned down, I said only, "...". Were our paths meant to cross either here or there? Still walking around not sure if I had stepped into a dream, four of us hopped on our bicycles and rode towards Humboldt State University to catch a classical guitar master's thesis. Guitar? How many times am I going to happen upon people playing guitar? I absolutely loved it. Are these signs? When I asked Chris what he wanted to do in retirement, he replied, "I feel like I am retired." He understood. He understood the exact parallel relating money directly to free time and lived quite comfortably on income he had saved from working at Yosemite over the summer -- without a job. It was no surprise when he said he was planning a cross-country bicycle tour next year.
I can't tell you how many conversations we had in this apartment. I was officially labeled as "the guy on the couch" and each time we'd find ourselves in deep conversation, there was no point in finishing the sentences because we all understood without explanation. At times, I felt like I was speaking with myself, like a dream where there are ideas being exchanged with characters from your imagination but still residing within your own mind so there is no two people, but only one.
While I spent a good amount of time in the computer lab on campus, when I wasn't there it probably meant that we were playing a game of Risk or Catan, frisbee golfing in the redwoods, reading a National Geographic, listening to the radio or thinking out loud with one another. A television would have been horribly out of place inside this apartment. The environment simply made sense and the four of them felt more like family than friends. I found the radio to be a much better means of spreading knowledge in comparison to a TV. It makes you listen. It makes you think. It's not as though you can sit there and let your eyeballs passively consume pictures on a screen while being subliminally brainwashed by subtle, visual "norms". Do you know what I'm saying? It just struck me as an odd obviousness that I never really thought about.
Anyhoo, all nine days I spent in Arcata were in the company of the Yosemite folk. Jason, Katie, Chris and Danielle all worked together during the Summer and the collection of pals they had around town were all part of the herd from the national park as well. We'd go out to eat, go over to a friend's house and it was always a room full of people from Yosemite... plus Charlie. I came away with a grasp on life in the high Sierras; natural living in the wilderness, simple recreation such a swimming, frisbee, slack-lining and bonfires, and nights up in mountains under the light of lucid stars. It's a reprieve from the influences of us all and just as the tour has done unto me, life at Yosemite blessed them all with an objective perspective for which to view themselves and our society. I have a feeling I'll find myself back in their company one day.
At some point during my stay in Arcata, I wrote the "Fit Into the Mold" entry. I wrote it so quickly that I barely remember doing it and it wasn't until the following morning when I received a few concerned phone calls from my family that it began to take on significance.
It's the intent of a journal to record daily experiences and if you happen to be riding a bicycle thousands of miles, you'll be more than happy to post events and photographs as they're usually interesting. A diary, on the other hand, is really intended as an outlet for your thoughts and I've never met a person who was willing to post their innermost feelings, struggles and weaknesses in a public domain as accessible as the Internet. I'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would even let you touch the lock on their diary. From the beginning, this has been a journal but it's come to slowly evolve into more of a diary while on tour. Immediately, this is opening myself up to attack and making me vulnerable to everyone's personal opinion and the collective opinion of society's self-righteous, time-tested outlook. I've made points on topics that are not readily accepted by those reading this and I've done it with my own personal assurance and certitude. You know who I am. You know who I am better than I may even know me. You can talk about me with your peers, co-workers, family and friends, and you can judge me. You can take one of my thoughts about society and deconstruct it to prove me wrong. You can look at me and call me crazy, different, scared, opinionated or lost. You can rationalize my trip as a kind of "trying to find himself" so it'll make more sense to your psyche while simultaneously putting you above me on the order-ladder. You can do all these things and I can't do anything to defend myself.
Now, take a look at yourself. Who are you? I've come in part to learn who I am and who I was by reading my own entries. Let's pretend you kept a written diary of your deepest feelings and emotions over the past five months. "Ut oh, that might not be a good idea." Without even sharing it with another human being, it has the potential to do some very scary things to you. I'm talking about all those little thoughts that you choose to ignore. I'm talking about that feeling when you wish your spouse or partner was more like him or her. I'm talking about that feeling when you momentarily feel regret for something in your past but refuse to acknowledge it. I'm talking about that moment at work when you step back and take a deep breath -- what are the thoughts going on in your head at this instant? Have you ever wished harm upon another human being? Have you wished to go to bed and stay lost in your dreams forever so you wouldn't have to deal with another day?
All of these things happen to every single one of us but it's not often you hear about it. Put your thoughts on paper and suddenly they've crossed from the abstract and into the concrete. Now they're tangible. Now they're "real". Now, they have the power to do some serious damage. Read through it if you dare, but be warned, it may hurt. Your feelings are no longer fleeting thoughts in your mind but now they're in plain English before your eyes. It can bring you pain. The worst part about it is that you may not be able to do a thing about it because you're not in a position for change. "Oh shit. Oh no, this is bad." Now you're depressed and have nowhere to turn. Life becomes hopeless. "The diary has cursed me!" Quick! Throw the book away! Get rid of these feelings! They're of no practical help! So, you throw it away.
Oh but wouldn't you know it, I happen to be the local trash collector and come upon your little book. "Hey, this diary is pretty interesting. Not only is it interesting, it's enlightening!" I park the green monster, sit down on your driveway and continue to feverishly read through every chapter. "Wow! What a relief! I'm not the only one experiencing these feelings!". Turns out, I've come to realize that we're all human and have human feelings despite our constant attempts to eradicate them. "People need to hear this!". Where I come from, the trash collectors happen to double as webmasters and with a few clicks of the mouse, your diary is open to the entire world. Oh shit!
Welcome to the world of shame. Everybody now knows that you sometimes break down and lose confidence in yourself. You're being judged. You're becoming an outcast. Your children look at you in a different light. Something is lost. Your spouse, your religion and your friends have sympathetic eyes at best. Your ranking on the order-ladder just went from "A-Okay" to "That person has issues." People lose respect for you. Your life has fallen apart. The future is misery. You begin to consider pulling the plug on everything you've ever known.
"NO! WAIT!!!" Just as you're dozing off to the smell of your car's exhaust inside the closed garage, the garbage man crashes that green monster through your house and pulls you to safety. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!!!!" You've never met this person and as he's shaking you out of the daze, all you can really do is stare and wonder why your living room is now visible from your garage. "You were going to kill yourself!", yells the man. "I'm not fit for this world..." -- "Not fit?! NOT FIT?!?!?! Are you kidding me?? You're the most fit person I've ever met! You're alive!" -- "Yea, and I was going to change that until you showed up!" SMACK! The guy who just destroyed your house is now slapping you around inside your own car. "WAKE UP, MAN! Don't you get it?! Your diary made me realize that these lives are largely a struggle and we're all going about it thinking that everyone else is doing fine and feeling grand! You're real!!" -- "I... what??" -- "Don't you get it!? You only hide your feelings because they have told you that they're wrong! They'll have you believe that who you naturally are is disgraceful!" The stranger is 2 inches from your face and his odor is almost as deadly as the carbon monoxide. "Uh, okay guy. I'm glad it helped you. How in the hell did you know where I live?" -- "I was the one who found your diary!!!"
Blood flows from underneath his body and begins to ooze outward onto the concrete floor. You've killed him. "Where oh where shall I stash the body?" You look at your brand new trash compactor with a psychotic expression of madness. "Well well well... isn't this convenient..."
So it would seem you acted in haste and put an end to my life. Eh well, shit happens. Had you heard me through, I would have told you that your pain stems directly from society's influences -- it's just a matter of stepping outside the box before you can realize the simple fact. If everyone else knew that everyone else was struggling in some manner, we'd all start to question why and in time, we'd come to realize the answers. The reason that I've been able to post my thoughts to this site is because I've done exactly that. I've stepped out of the box somewhere on this trek a long time ago and have exposed the truth to myself. I'm not part of that system of order anymore and the only people I can truly relate to are those who have done the same. I've gotten into a collection of conversations with random people where they'll go to great lengths to try and shoot down my realizations so it means they won't have to question their own actions. It's fear and it's order. Setup the order ladder and have them fear that they'll lose their ranking if they change or even question the course. Most people have the answers in their head before even evaluating the situation, thus our dialogs are a waste of time.
As I've heard it on the streets, "It's the age of communication but no one is communicating!"
Time begins to pass in very strange ways. It seems that everything I've ever known is coming together. It's connecting, putting itself in front of me and I'm becoming inundated with the truth. This is all one dream. It's all one dream and it was all meant to bring me here. As if coincidental encounters are not already overwhelming on the tour, Chris introduces me to the movie, "Waking Life". I've never even heard of it before, but after watching it, it feels as though my whole life is a product of its messages... like I've seen it a thousand times. It just made innate sense, as though the creators of the movie gathered all the answers and put it into one piece of film. It all adds up. The dreams, the realizations, the message, time, the people I've met, the influences... everything. Through no efforts of my own, Abigail's voice replays inside my head, "I've found that you can't quite distinguish between people who have done drugs and people who have traveled." Something is happening here. Something is going on. Something big is at work and it's nothing like I've ever experienced... or noticed. Our discussion about the movie came to an end when Chris turned to me and said, "...and this is the dream we all share".
I felt very much at home with the four of them and although I stayed for nine days, I felt I had left too soon. For a moment I considered ending the tour in that town and writing a book, but I knew I'd eventually need to get on the bike to finish what I started. Our paths will cross again.
We're back on the road and trucking along like the old love I've missed so much. Hope gleams from my eyes and I smile as I casually roll to the edges of town and into the countryside. It's a great feeling to put such a positive close to the chapter in Arcata and I began to replay all the good fortune of the days passed inside my head. Until...
Congratulations! You've successfully inserted a piece of glass into your tire! And it only took you three miles! "Oh c'mon! I just left!" There weren't any good places on the side of the road to rip my bike apart, so I hopped off and pushed it 100 yards until I made it to the intersection of Miller and Haidon. Rain clouds began to gather in the sky and as I dropped the bicycle onto the shoulder, I looked across the road to take notice of a television sitting in the grass. "Odd... there aren't even any houses around here." I didn't think too much about it and began to walk through the routine of fixing a flat. You know the process, too.
Remove the gear, detach the panniers and flip the bike on its head. Unscrew the axle-dealie, detach the brakes and the pull the wheel away from the chain. Get the sharpie, mark where the valve is in relation to your tire and disassemble the wheel. Pump up the tube, find the leak, sand the tube with your sandpaper and patch it up. While the patch dries, locate the piece of glass still inside your tire and dislodge it. Run your fingers along the inside of the tire to ensure there is nothing else that will cause another puncture. Pump the tube up again to ensure there are no more leaks. "Oh, there's two holes. Neat." The shard of glass found its way through the inside side of the tube as well. Ignore the frustration, write up a new plan. Okay, so let's place a second patch on the tube. When it dries, pump it up to ensure there are no more leaks. Good, no more air is escaping. Reassemble the wheel, insert the tube, feed it inside the tire and close the tire against the rim. Now, because you forgot to engage your brain, take the wheel apart again and reverse the tire so the tread is now facing the correct direction. Good work. Pump it up, place it into the bike, put the axle-dealie through and reattach the brakes. Go to turn it back on its feet and just as soon as you do, listen to air rush out of the tire.
"No. No... you're not supposed to do that..."
It was as though a train of fatigue just hit me head on. I couldn't even express anger if I wanted to... the painfully low morale was flowing throughout my veins and draining any signs of a lingering spirit. My hands became heavy as my body grew weak. I tried to wakeup from the dream or simply bypass it by turning off my thoughts but it only made the moment that much longer. "Anytime but now... all I wanted to do was ride my bike..." I closed my eyes and sat down in the grass just waiting for it to rain. Across the road sits that television staring directly at me.
"Imposter! You never show shit like this!" Sure enough, I'm live on television and even though its plug leads to a pile of dirt, I could see myself on the screen just living another regular frustration. "No wonder someone dumped you on the side of the road... too much truth." I guess in a way this particular TV deserved its fate as it obviously had no desire to keep people mindlessly entertained. I could go on and on about this, but I haven't got the time. Right now, I have to repair a flat on my bicycle.
Well, it never rains. "Maybe it's not so bad after all." I finally muster up the energy to take the bike apart for a second time so I can throw another patch on. I guess something was still in the tire, I really don't know, but the third puncture was right next to the first two. Well whatever, just patch up the hole, put the bike together and get rolling -- piece of cake. So, I now have this tube which is gaining in mass at one end as all the patches are partially overlapping but working effectively nonetheless. I begin to pump up the tire and as I'm doing this, I keep glancing down the road kind of amazed that after nine days, I still can't get out of Arcata even if I tried. Immediately it reminded me of my difficulties in leaving Tallahassee and I began to think about the people I knew many moons ago in Florida. Still pumping up the tire, I shared a laugh with myself over how I considered postponing the tour to work in a pizzeria. Man, what a joke that was. "Keep an eye on the pressure gauge, Chuck." Just as I realize its in excess of 90psi, the tube squeezes outside the rim and forces itself passed the tire.
Immediately I put my hands over my ears and walk in the opposite direction. You DO NOT want that thing to blow up with your head right next to it. I've done it before and it nearly caused my ears to bleed. It didn't explode, not yet anyway. I stood on the other side of the road looking at it knowing full well that it was a about to rupture. So, I waited. "Come on, let's go. I'm not stupid, just do what you got to do and get it over with." I patiently waited for it to burst and held my hands over my ears for the course of a minute. This scene is straight out of a show I'd like to title, "Idiots with Explosives". The bomb is apparently a dud and idiot #1 goes to try and relight it with his zippo. You all know what happens next and I expected it just as much as you do. The explosive bicycle tube is also a dud and is not going to go off. With my hands still covering my ears, I walked back across the street. "All I have to do is release the air as quickly as possible." I gave the tube another thirty seconds to blow up before removing my hands from my ears and reaching for the valve. "You know this is going to end in agony, don't you?" I knelt down next to the tire and the very instant I touched the valve, it blew itself to shit.
My eyes forcefully close and I clench my teeth so hard that I might break my jaw. Every muscle in my body goes tense. I pull my head from my chest, stand up in the center of the road and erupt.
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