There comes a time when the gloss of long-distance bicycle travel wears; what remains is a cold, wet man in his twenties or thirties that appears tired, ravenously hungry, unable to handle small objects such as coins, and worst of all is unashamed of his ways. To my credit, it took a lot of hard work to get here.
I don’t make excuses that I am “cycling across Canada” or “going all the way to Mexico”. I mutter, “s’cold out there”, and continue to fumble with undersized Canadian dimes. Shoes come off in the Safeway seating area as I unplug an electric mobility device to make room for my electronics. I hope it has enough juice when an elderly person with a walker needs it. For those that I see using them the most, an eighth of a mile of exercise to retrieve frozen pizza rolls and off-brand Mountain Dew should be required before purchase.
I ask the barista(?, male) to fill my enameled mug with drip coffee. He looks blankly at this heavily “antiqued” vessel, and finally asks how much it holds, so as to charge me appropriately–a sign of his first day. “About twelve ounces”, I reply, although I know it holds an even sixteen. He wants to know if I want medium or bold. Do I look like a medium kind of guy? Twenty miles in the rain; do I want medium? Bold, please. I know lighter roasts contain more caffeine, but I’m not a junky, I just identify with the idea of “bold”. I think, sarcastically: “My socks are soaked with muddy rainwater, how about a light roast this morning”. It’s sort of a Marlboro man thing, but with coffee. Of course, I don’t need “room” either.
Yesterday’s revitalizing routine was easily unwound this morning. I was sticky and clammy as it rained and stormed all night; I held “it” until daybreak, then relieved myself in a thicket of prairie grasses and mosquitoes; and rolled away from camp on a dirt track turned clay. Clay-stuffed drivetrain with a side of bug bites on the..
…and thirty clicks in the rain on the famed Trans-Canada highway. Famed, because everything I’ve seen of it is a big zero. US 2 was becoming a bit tired to my mind. I miss it.
So what am I, if not a “cyclist” or a “tourist” or both. As long as I claim a destination I can cling to those descriptions, but when I explain to others that “riding bikes places” IS my life (not a brief distraction to benefit lungs with diseases) I realize what I am. I am homeless– happily homeless. To build something atop of nothing, I can claim to know more than most about food and cooking, eating and real-life nutrition; about people– real people– and geography and states and small towns that serve good pie (Julian, CA at 4100 ft); about bikes, perhaps too much about bikes and early Deore and old Stumpjumpers and Ridge Runners; and living and camping cheap. Living! Living well, living with minimal needs and minimal impact; even thinking about living. I am involved in some very important business, I tell people.
Still fumbling with coins, “You saved 90 cents today Mr. Carman”. Thoughts running through my head–you can’t put a dollar sign on it.
“Thanks”, I say, honestly. She has been smiling, a real smile. Her currency is legal tender in my country.
Closing in: I’m a day and a half from Calgary, where I have arranged a Warmshowers host, then another day to Banff. My mom is coming to visit in Banff for my birthday, which will give me almost a week to relax before heading south. She will bring a few cold weather items, Great Divide maps, and a new debit card, along with birthday cheer.
My yellow-striped Marathon continues to shine. Only one flat since Annapolis, with about 9000 miles currently on those tires.