SMALL DANISH TOWN TO A CHICKEN FARM.
I started riding at 8:21am. My sleepless nights hadn't been affecting me as I had thought they would. Even my legs and strength were maintaining. But, my mental state was beginning to teeter. I developed an astral projection, separating from myself. My mind ate movie popcorn and watched my movements. What will she do next? She's liable to snap at any moment!
Slow down. Make a plan. Time is an illusion. The days will pass. Don't fight it. There is no where to run, no where to hide. Fulfill the obligations - brushing teeth, drinking water - and let the rest go. By 9am, I found a coffee shop, and began my search for a place for the night.
I SAT ON THE CURB WITH MY COFFEE, NEXT TO A GIANT POTTED PLANT AND TIP-TOED BACK FROM THE EDGE.
I sat there for two hours. The Von's employees filtered out on their brakes to chat with me. We discussed the sunshine, where I was going, and how nice Santa Barbara is. I ate half my breakfast burrito, and walked inside for ibuprofen. The cashier was thrilled to see I was a cyclist, peddling her powdered electrolyte drinks, handing me her business card, desperate to be an entrepreneur and leave the life of grocery store cashier.
A few phone swipes later, I had a room waiting for me in Lompoc, on a chicken farm. I could either take the direct route, 45 miles, or ride through Solvang, adding another 20 miles. I had been told it is a miniature Scandinavia, and I hadn't visited Denmark in nearly a decade. My interest wavered as I sat on the edge of not giving a fuck about riding in general. I was lonely, and would have gladly gotten up, stuffed my hand in my pockets, and kicked the dirt as I walked away from the whole trip.
The sun warmed my face, and no one was around to coddle my pouting mood. If I rode straight there, I would be in early, just to sit and be alone. I would ride to Solvang, but desperately needed a friend. I pulled out my headphones for the first time on the trip, and downloaded a companion. I was so thankful Stephen King was available to join me.
Slowly, the fog lifted. My shirt came off to soak up more sun, the ocean sparkled to my left, the green of the palms giving life to the scenery. I was a road warrior as I pulled into the highway rest stop to fill my water bottles. Getting to Solvang for lunch would be a breeze, and Lompoc was a quick stop after that. Turning inland from the coast, I began the big climb of the day with positivity and strength.
Giddy with warmth, I turned on the camera and jabbered on for hours. I told jokes, singing whatever came to mind. The highway faded into a single lane dirt road, weaving through farm country. I was so glad I hadn't chosen to take the direct highway route. If it had been gray, I am sure I would have cheated myself out of a beautiful day.
Solvang arrived quickly, like a record stop to the rhythm I had been building. I cruised through town, not wanting to stop, as I had been having fun. But, feeling an obligation, I found a pub. I wasn't hungry, but could always have a beer. Also, a bathroom break would be useful. As the beer emptied, so did my motivation to continue. I watched strangers walk past, gauging whether I trusted them enough to ask for a ride to Lompoc, or at least a place to stay for the night. Without invitation, a woman sat down next to me, and asked me my name.
"You're riding aren't you?" she asked, looking at me with an unwavering stare. She had plopped down very close, allowing me to see brown stains between her teeth and the sides of her mouth.
As I thought about the origin of the stains, I responded, "Yep, that's my bike," pointing over to where it was locked.
"Oh my God, that's so great. I am so glad I met you. You read Wild, didn't you? That's why you're doing this. Oh my God, that's so great. Do you need a place to stay? You can stay with me! Yes, you need a place to stay. You can totally come over, that would be great."
CONSIDERING THE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE, I TOOK HER UP ON HER OFFER. NO HARM IN STAYING WITH A WOMAN WITH BROWN MOUTH STAINS.
As I agreed, she quickly got up, saying "are you sure? Okay good. Yes, that will work. Okay, I need to go home and let Calvin know you're coming. He'll be totally fine with it. Yeah, go do whatever you were doing and then come over whenever. We live just like a mile that way. You go a couple blocks up and then over, it's so close." She pointed, frantically giving unclear directions. Realizing she was a lunatic, I continued with the commitment to come over, saying I'd be there at 6pm, knowing there wasn't a fucking chance I'd see her again. And just like that, she was off to prepare for my arrival, as I continued with whatever it was that I was doing.
I was drained - the sun no longer feeding me as it had earlier. I only had a few hours left, and the audiobook had been getting good. I viewed riding as a means to keep listening. Throughout the day, a tender spot had been forming on the right underside of my ass. I generously lathered it in chamois butter, and rattled along down the highway.
Lompoc finally arrived, the son of a bitch. The sun was beginning it's final decent as I rolled into town. From my earlier map overview, the farm was only a mile or so from town. I stopped at the first grocery store I saw to grab dinner and snacks for the next day. I prefer to walk in with my bike, hanging the hand cart over the handlebars to hold my goods. As i passed the cold drinks, I began to cry. Drained, alone, and purposeless, one of the drinks had reminded me of Cody, so I cried. Pitiful. I grabbed it, a can of wine, a large water, and any other liquid in sight. Gathering myself, I checked out and mapped the route to the farm.
Six miles. I had hoped for half of one. The telephone poles became my goal posts, urging myself to just make it to the next one. My sore ass and fatigue forced my presence, as I desperately tried to check out. Each section of the road was being recorded on a hyper-drive section of my brain, as though my body was so upset with my mind, that it wanted me to remember the suffering that I forced on myself forever. And my brain surrendered. I was present, there was no escaping the pain, I had to get there.
So, I enjoyed it. The farmland was beautiful, the air was fresh, and the sunset cast a warm glow on the hills. Left, right, left, right. Over the course of the hour that it took for me to ride to the farm, I heaved, cried, laughed, and counted every minute as I looked up the road for any sign of a chicken. The road narrowed, and was rough with lack of use. The trees blocked the little sun that remained, and a black dog came running up to me.
The farmer was walking amongst the clucking chickens, rifle under his arm as I silently approached. He laid down the gun, walking over to shake my hand and get straight to showing me around. I appreciated his haste in the tour, as he had probably been up since dawn, expecting me to get in before he sat down to dinner. I also kept it brief, as I hadn't eaten much, and was ready to rinse off my gritty sweat.
Opening my can of wine, I started a fire in the small pit next to the camper. My skin pulsed with heat, as I shivered in the cold air. I turned on my camera companion, and drolled on, just wanting to talk. The night sky was settling in. Up the road was the big white farm dog; trotting over to keep me company in the dark. I walked into the camper to get him a treat, as I ate my bag of chips. I told him not to look as I squatted to pee away from the fire.
My skin had been harassed from my underestimation of the sun. I lathered myself in lotion, and took an ibuprofen to reduce the swelling. The tiny camper was a nurturing oasis, with dimmed lights and a color changing remote. Remembering the messages I had sent on Couch Surfers, I picked up my phone, hoping for reception. There was a message in my inbox, with approval to stay in Arroyo Grande. I switched the lights to orange, had another swig of wine and played solitaire, listening to Steven King's soothing voice late into the night.