Since Calexico we’ve been detouring off the ACA route, staying on or along 8 (or 80) the entire way. As of pass-out-time last night in the Gila Bend AZ incarnation of Patel Hotel, we were leaving 8 and heading northeast into Phoenix to rejoin the ACA route. As of this-morning-before-caffeinating-or-pooping-time, we’re now continuing with the detour and headed through more nothingness – toward Tucson. The overnight lows further north the next few days are too cold to camp in. The winner – and still undefeated champion of the world – is Mother fuckin’ Nature.
This nothingness is true nothingness. Existential nothingness. Like that scene in Waking Life. Any of them. There are no services. We pack extra water because there is none. There’s no electric lines or trains. We are the electric lines and the train is a pain train. My neck. Shoulders. Sit bones. Saddle sore city. I’m eating more ibuprofen than Bangkok eats grown men in one night. I didn’t enjoy Bangkok. Also, I’m not a doctor, but I’m fairly certain that I need a backiotomy.
Damon and I are miles apart for the entire day. Geographically speaking. Our mutually agreed up next stop is the next actual establishment with services – a travel center 62 miles up. With time to reflect, I reminisce of my time riding the Natchez Trace in 2019. Like the Trace, this stretch of Highway 8 has no services and no turns. No restaurants and no stores. The Trace is known to test everyone’s strength and patience. Day 6 in conjunction with Interstate 8 is doing that right now. I drag ass up the long slow incline. I drink too much coffee and pee on too many cacti and quartz rock. My saddle sore feels like it’s on fiyah! I push through it, mile by mile.
I get to what is called a Rest Stop. There’s no services so basically this is just a pull off of the highway with a picnic table. Since I know how to read good, I figure I’ll honor the name by stopping and resting. It doesn’t disappoint. The wind has picked up to a steady 15 mph, but everything around me is still and silent. I feel the spirit of Edward Abbey whipping with the winds across the desert. The vibration only gained from these long rides manifests ever so slightly at this stop for rest — just long enough to make the needed impact.
One more cup of coffee before I go. To the valley below. I finish what’s left of the free motel joe in my thermos. My saddle sore ass hits the saddle. The steady wind turns and hits my tail. All of us at once hit the downhill stretch toward civilization. I am moving. This is not dragging ass. Those little shoulder ripple speed bumps return and I must honor the spoke gods. Only the shoulder is jacked up though – only the two lanes to to left are perfectly smooth. I don’t wanna pop a spoke. And I really don’t wanna slow from my current speed 35 down to 5 mph. So I do what any insane cycling tourist would do: I take the lane of a US Interstate Highway. Duh. I jump over the rumble strips and make those semis move over to the left lane. They’re in a 75 mph lane, I’m in a 35 mph lane. Yelling stay in your lane. Fuck you pay me. Something cool and snarky. Obv. Whatevs. Surviving multiple deaths by vehicular manslaughter is exhilarating. Like I’m alive or something.
Miles down the road, Damon and I have regrouped, re-entered the normal world, and are winding down for the evening. I’m standing in a Carl’s Jr. And really it’s a combination Carl’s Jr. and Green Burrito. I’ve never heard of Green Burrito but I’m there for that. I wonder how much Carl’s Jr. paid for the “Carl’s Jr: Fuck you, I’m eating” in Idiocracy. The video for MC Hammer “U Can’t Touch This” is on loop on the TV. Over and over and over again. Why?! Gratefully, it’s on mute, so I don’t have to listen to its blasphemously crappy sampling of Super Freak. The bathrooms are blocked off and the hand sanitizer machine is empty. Im perceiving all of this as much more surreal than it is or should be. I resign myself to the make fact that after 120 miles through through the desert, “normal” civilization and services are quite uncivilized and more of a disservice. And there’s so much more of that to come.