Time travel back to when Damon and I first met working together promoting concerts in the early to mid aughts. Eventually we also become friends and he moves into the house above my office and studio. As a full blooded entrepreneur, he uses the office for his business as well, which furthers both our friendship and our business relationship. Damon eventually moves down to NYC. When he gets married, he asks me to be Best Man. This guy has a five year old passport with no stamps so I accept under the condition we have a four day bachelor party in Amsterdam. I show up to Damon and Rianna’s wedding reception in a costume lion onesie and sneak the kids drinks. Since then, we keep up via traveling once a year: hanging three days in Juneau Alaska one year and three days in Medellin the next. Last year we pandemic-ally flip the script. I find him a brick solid 80s Peugeot, it’s the right size for his 6’2” frame, and he tries this here bike touring thing for two weeks with me and tow other friends. He likes it. And here we are. All caught up.
Damon is not feeling as good as I am this morning. I think his body is breaking down after all almost three thousand miles. The heat is definitely getting to him. He’s ready to be done. He’s opting out of the tour prematurely, riding directly to Jacksonville to hop on a plane back to Denver. Due east. I’m headed south east toward Gainesville and then to what I hear are some nice bike trails into St Augustine. I’m not surprised though. He has been telegraphing it the last couple of days in different ways. We are the same yet we are very different. I’m happy that he got this far and proud that he’s ready to go out and do a day on his own too. We enjoy one last campground coffee and he heads off. I take a second shit and eat a banana before chatting with a few other campers.
One camper camper can only talk about all the bugs. Can’t run from em all she says. I’m joking with her how I brought my bicycle just so I can escape the mosquitos. She should try it. Every camper wants to know how far or how long. I’m no longer amused by this. I show them my beard. “I was clean shaven. So that many days”. “That many miles”. I do answer the ride-day-average question though — by guesstimating.
We now return to our regular programming of dogs barking at and chasing after. It’s on like season 10 of it I think. Doesn’t bother me much, but gets me thinking about my recently departed and the universally dearly beloved pork bellied pig bull Banh Mi. Almost 4 months ago to the day. By “thinking about” I mean reliving our short 18 months together and crying about how she truly deserved more time. She was the sweetest dog and got the best send off a group of humans could imagine her. The pain is still in my heart. Her absence is prominent in my life, even out here while I’m absent from my life. A part of me will never recover honestly. I take solace that both her and my 16 year pup partner in crime, Isis, have both been with me every mile and moment, a small part of them riding shotgun on my front handlebars.
With Damon Jacksonville-bound, I pound the ground round Gainesville. It’s about 90 miles up. Rolling solo reminds me of 2019, the last time I was out by myself. I am super glad to ride with Damon for 44 days, and the tour last year with him, Chad and Daniel was fun. However. Or should I say. Butt. Rolling solo on tour is definitely a vibe I enjoy. It’s my original steez. The comparisons are really futile. I do like the time to think. Less time talking. Time to be still. Time to write. Space within space within space.
I stop at a small state park for rest. I find a portable toilet. Not as bad as my last but the mirror really let’s me know I need to clean up my appearance as soon as I get home.
After almost 90 miles in the heat I am in downtown Gainesville. I check into the local Patel motel and head out on foot. Within a quarter of a mile I find a store and grab a refreshing beverage. I turn another corner and it is outdoor food trucks galore. Parking garage murals galore too.
My cousin is driving up to visit from Orlando. He is the oldest grandchild and I am the youngest grandchild; his name is Anthony as well, because no one on my dad (also named Anthony)’s side of the family could get creative. I think at one point there were six or seven of us. Yeah. There were different variants. He was Tony G. I was simply Anth. It didn’t really matter much to me because I didn’t wanna talk to anyone.
Anyway, he makes it into town and we proceed to hit the food truck rodeo. I put on quite the show of devouring four or five different things. I am hungry. Hungry. Hippo. We haven’t seen each other in years and so we hang and catch up for quite a bit. He’s had a lot going on lately so this little two hour away getaway is good. I get to hear a bit about my grandparents, whom passed away years ago when I was young. My cousin is older so it’s nice to hear stories about them from when I was too young to remember. I often think of my grandparents, and how as an adult I’d love to sit and listen to their perspective and their wisdom. Unfortunately none are still alive, and I didn’t value elder wisdom much as a kid. My older cousin’s stories of his time with our grandparents are a nice insight, though.
We retire to the motel and I’m pretty sure I dose off mid-conversation. Tomorrow I hit the bike trails and hopefully the oldest city in the USA!