Day 32. 2,035 Miles. Under the Water Table.

My first morning outside Texas in weeks and these fuckin carnitas are still with me. I should have aborted it. Or maybe more like Alien or the Exorcist kinda route. Whatever. By any means necessary. Been had been ready to dig into some seafood — that gas station 80 miles back was out of the mahi mahi tacos.

It’s 10am by the time our host Mandie pops her head in the room. “Good morning.” “Good morning y’all”. I like Mandie. She likes to talk and she will go on and that works for me. Life is conducting field research for living. Within five minutes we’re talking pandemic and politics.

Mandie says she double-masks when she goes out anywhere. I bring up my fortunate vaccination. I like being forthright about it and propels feedbacks on it all. She doesn’t trust the speed of the new technology; I mention the original worldwide SARS outbreak. Damon is bugging over the wild vaccine logic we’ve been getting in various forms and doses in the road. He reads something about the AstraZeneca one and blood clots. I wonder out loud if that’s the one that has the little bit of the rona actually in it? Probz. Somehow we can’t innovate our way out of the thinking that we still need the poison in the antidote. What are we living in the goddamn Canterbury fuckin’ Tales or something?

Next thing I know we’re standing in the front yard holding hands in a circle and Mandie’s mom is praying to Jesus for us.

Amen.

That happens and so I don’t even ask and just go in to give Mandie a hug. Mandie says her people like to hug. I hug her mom. Damon gets in on it too. Hugs may be making a comeback — for hug people only. Sounds like bike gospel to me.

We all ends in me cardio’ing right now. It’s hot as hell early as hell down here. I maybe should have carbed up. Coffee and water is about the extent of the fuel. The cool people call it intermittent fasting. The Muslims call it Ramadan. So theres that. And that. I feel good aside from the stomach cramp soreness. Like Bruce Lee in kicked me in the abdomen last night. I’m trying to heed Bruce’s wisdom and be like water. Water is all around me. The ride and the terrain have shifted. I’m overcome with a lovely warmth of familiarity – I rode in Louisiana just a year and a half ago. It could be how funky the signage works with the shape of the state. Or the landscape. Or the people. Or the roads. The road is great. As we each, out-loud, compliment the road surface —- and we each do it a lot — Damon and I sound like old people walking in a neighborhood, going on and on about some pathetic details like: “oh that’s a nice fence here”. It’s even more pathetic now that’s I’ve typed it; it’s so really real in the moment on this road.

Nonetheless… I love Louisiana for lots of reasons. In Texas, you typically get a USA flag and a Texas state flag. A bunch of old election flags too. Some other things sometimes. Butt. In Louisiana. I am seeing solely USA flags flying. Mostly that. I like that. On only three specific instances is the Stars and Stripes flying above any other flag at all: one is a purple gold and green Mardi Gras flag — maybe in honored defiance of its “cancellation”?; one is a black and gold Saints flag — maybe in honor of Drew Brees retiring?; the third is this little lovable nugget of fun — I don’t know anything about the state politics around it, nor do I care… it’s a great second flag though. Thanks for that.

About thirty miles in and we hit 2000 miles. In thirty riding days.. I really anticipated a big fanfare containing festival-like occurrence. Maybe a live roadside big brass band and the like. Some confetti. Or even just a ribbon or a medal. Or how about a cute waitress bringing me a crisp beer. No sir. No ma’am. None of that happens, so I take a rare selfie and eat a bug shortly thereafter.

Heating up for real for real. Humid too. Water is all around us. Actual water or land that is molded for containing water in some way. In some spots the road is lower than the water next to us. Damon’s in awe of how fine the line is between normal and all out flood. He’s definitely been out here. My eyeballs are open for a gator. Nothing yet. So far lots of smashed turtles. It’s gets to be pretty traumatic out here, yo. Whether you’re a teenager, a mutant, or a ninja. I wish I had checked the rating before tuning into to this episode. I don’t take a photo because I don’t wanna traumatize the kiddies here, then I realize that kids don’t read, they play video games. Plenty of trauma all around, either way… I’m being served up a Bubba Gump like rollout of turtle carnage: all-out flattened turtle smash; ripped up pieces of turtle limbs, a taco salad bowl of turtle guts and shell pieces. Every sort of Michelin starred kitchen posthumous presentation of this unnatural lifeless motor vehicle shamelessly disproving everything my childhood taught me about turtle power. It’s happening before my eyes.

Maybe I’m hungry for turtle soup. Maybe not. I decide to stick to mostly fresh produce for the day. I’m going vegan for now. Seafood will come. I knock back an orange. Two bananas. Trail mix. Not much, enough. I got plenty of my covid 19 pounds left that can use some burning off anyways.

It’s over 80°. For the first time on the tour, I switch teams and start playing for the skins.

A couple miles up and we’re saving turtle lives. A school bus brushes by about two feet from me at 50 or 60, goes wide and passes Damon a little wider. A moment later , I’m pulling the funky dope maneuver, swerving around a shell just as little Terry the turtle pops it’s head out and looks toward the rumble strip. Hopefully Terry makes it that last foot or so. I’m happy to have helped make a difference in the world. Look at me.

Despite a later start than normal today, we’re taking a short break and have about 60-65 miles in our pocket today. Damon sees a best western ahead on the route and war bucks up the points game, meaning we’ve now got 15-20 miles left on the day — which now will end with showers and beds and electricity. Dope. I refer to it as “the crib”, we laugh our asses off and then shove our asses off.

I decide to remix my life/work ratio and attempt to join a Slow Roll Steering Committee zoom meeting via my Bluetooth speaker while knocking out these last miles. It’s works. Im working. I’m shirtless in a zoom meeting while riding my bike across the bayou. Video muted. Audio muted. I’m simply listening in on what’s happening in the bike non profit nerd world in my city. It’s nice and inspiring and I’m feeling good, pushing a 14 mph pace.

That warm and fuzzy feeling comes to a horrifying end mid meeting. Dogs love to chase us. All of us. Bike touring, packing, riding folks. I don’t know why. Yet another another dog gets curious about barking at and/or chasing us down the street. This one runs out into the street just as someone in a white SUV wagon goes to pass us. It’s happening in slow motion. I’m yelling “No, doggy, no, no” as loud as I can. But he doesn’t listen. I’m helpless. Nothing but a loud bang and a crunch and this poor canine is pulverized right in front of us. Someone lost their best friend. It’s truly traumatic. I can’t un-hear the sound the rest of the day. I think about how I was the last entity that poor pup was engaging before lights out. I have to go back to paying attention to this meeting going on but I can’t get the site and sound of that out of my mind. One haj to Walmart and hotel check in later and Damon and I are eating our plant based ice cream as appetizers, talking about that dog the way I might sit around the table at the firehouse drinking coffee and decompressing from something cray cray on a 911 call. I wanna commemorate the old pup with a name. How about… Spot? Damon is like nah and suggests “Chaser”. It’s too appropriate. And sad. Let’s call him Chaser.

The hotel hits my personal four pillow preferred standard. It’s a new standard. But this is not my first rodeo. Whatever the fuck all that is supposed to mean. Don’t get started with “it is what it is” either. A big waste of oxygen. I’ll get to the point: The bed is comfy. I consume 2500 calories in 20 minutes. I sleep.

About tonycaferro

Entrepreneur, Citizen, Marketeer, Fire Fighter / EMT, Bicycle-Tourist, Booking Agent, Youth Mentor, Activist, Agitator, Coffee Addict, Foodie, Social Media Nerd, Amateur Film Critic, Son, Brother, Uncle & Rust Belt Representative. Follow me on Twitter @dtr45
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