It’s late in the day. The day after the day after that day and those days – we ride through the desert, closing in on Tucson Arizona. Despite the empty ravine next to me, this will be an oasis on several fronts. My quads and calves are doing whatever they can to keep me on my way back to Tucson for the first time in 11 years. A sudden onslaught of MAMILs aside — these little desert chipmunks start to pop up all along this section of the trail. Pesky critters. Like everywhere. I think one somehow jumped through my moving wheel to show off. These little fuckers own this block… and I’m just visiting. One in particular pops out of its hole, right on the trail in front of me. It looks up at me — 300 lbs of gravity barreling down at 11 mph. Weighing in at 5 ounces soaking wet, I don’t know if it’s name is Alvin, Simon or Theodore… but this little fucker doesn’t even flinch. Let’s say he’s a Theodore. He stares me down like a bully in a schoolyard, waiting to clock me and misappropriate my lunch money. I’m flat out shocked. A few inches from him and he’s hasn’t even flinched. I barely swerve the rig around this little desert vermin… look back, and he never even moved! I realize then that I legit just lost of a game of chicken to a fuckin chipmunk in Tucson named Theodore.
Quantum leap that ass back to way before I got punked by a ‘munk (Or Chippunked?). Seven long dusty ass hours ago. Back to the morning of this seventh day on the road. Originally we were more godlike and planned to take day seis for siesta in Phoenix. Like most plans… 💩.
So for a full week, we ride. Sun up to sun down. Clocking in like A Clockwork Orange.
Leaving Elon AZ, I’m reminded that I still have yet to skydive. Apparently some 100 year old lady just did it here. And lots of others have too. Maybe famous people. It’s a thing around these parts. I guess. I don’t know. I really don’t care. Because I’m leaving and I still have never skydived. Damon is already up and eating McDonald’s hash browns for breakfast. There’s not much else for miles around except this jumping cluster of parking lots and gas stations and fast food restaurants along what just became interstate 10. Not exactly what I think of when I hear Concrete Jungle, but that would still describe it. We’re chatted up by an old timer with the usual “where you coming from”, “where you going” stuff. First time — won’t be the last.
Thirty miles down the Camino Adelante. Aside from a few bumpy patches, El Camino was fantastic, even by non Arizona road standards. It runs parallel to I-10, so Damon and I roll together and maybe 20 vehicles pass from behind for the hours we’re on it. We chat about universal basic income and corporate tax rates, because. We take another guardrail rest stop. The desert sun and dust has weathered my face and lips sumfin fierce. Dry and cracked and dehydrated – I feel like Tyrone Biggums got lost in Yemen or something – and we’re still another 15 miles from anything at all. Despite the lack of shelter from the sun, it’s a good time and space for a break.
I pound 20 ounces of water, sip some coffee and stretch the hammies. We’re enjoying the desert stillness… quiet… calm… and what do ya know! Two cyclists roll up at 7 mph. One is clearly loaded up and one is clearly out for the day. The long hauler looks at me with an ear to ear grin and glow, he asks “Where you heading?” “Florida”— He busts open “Hey… I just came from there!” Nice!! His name is Nick. Nick is headed to LA. Apparently he had a ride companion, but Nick was “going too slow for him”. Nick is wearing a Marfa TX tee shirt; the shirt is an illustration of a bike with a six pack of beer on the rack. Nick doesn’t have a tent on his back rack, but a carton of food. I suspect Nick wasn’t pedaling too slow for his companion, but hanging out a bit more than maybe his friend had the patience for. We trade route notes and he moves on. It’s wonderful to meet someone with one week left; to see his energy level and vibration. He stayed south though New Mexico but it sounds like we’re taking the same route through Texas that he did. Nick at this point is the easiest rider there is. It’s a manifestation which I yearn to resonate. With any luck, we will be in a similar position after a long few weeks of pedaling. Cruising east and smelling the Atlantic hundreds of miles away. I spend much of the rest of the day thinking about this; visualizing it, imaging myself meeting someone at the start of their tour as we get close to finishing ours. I dunno. I’ve got the crazy eye. Possibly it’s some sort of Being John Malkovich for bike nerd shit.
We reach some semblance of civilization and within a few miles we’re on a full blown bike path. Checking the googles, we’ve got 30 miles of this right into Tucson. I love Tucson. Super bike friendly. Super laid back and open minded. I haven’t been here in a decade. So much bike infrastructure along the ravines, but poorly signed for long distance riding visitors. That happens I guess. We contact a bike shop and are informed they are willing to help us out and we put our faith in the divine mechanics at Broadway Bicycles. I haven’t stayed in touch with most of the people I met here all those years ago, but my aunt and uncle live here. Haven’t seen them in years. They don’t text.
We pass through an arch that counts the number of cyclists and pedestrians. I was apparently the 245th cyclist to ride through today and 29,852nd this year. Slick!! The numbers for some reason appear to jump around when I take a photo or video. Also kinda slick. I have no idea why but I suspect the ghost of Steve Jobs for good measure. Cool and weird for sure.
Damon and I identify three outcomes; and seeing two out of three come to fruition would provide a win: 1) actual non-gas-station-food dinner, 2) laundry 3) three front gears for Damon and maybe a new chain for me. We arrive into town and B line it to Broadway – only two miles of city traffic with a fat ass bike/bus lane! Almost precisely 30 minutes later and Damon has a full set of functional gears and a new chain. I have a new chain and some bad ass shades for my eyes. We are The New Chain Gang, without the gang.
One outcome down! I call my Aunt Molly. For the kids, I didn’t ask but I’m pretty sure she’s not named after the drugs. She does offer laundry. Two! and they are also going to have a pandemically-proper outdoor dinner with us. Three! Hell yeah! Then the trail magic — which had been bubbling all day since crossing paths with Nick — reaches peak daily fulfillment because my family generously puts us up in a swank hotel. Wow. Luxury lands firmly and precisely in our motherfuckin lap. We enjoy a great dinner with them then head back to the room and soak up the memory foam pillows. The shower. The electricity. The pain train feels so far from the moment. I can’t even see the tracks, just the sunset from my fifth floor queen size bed. Even the sting from losing that game of chicken with Tucson Ted fades out…