Day 9. 507 Miles. Bender, No Fender b/w Strange, No Stranger.

I wake up and forget where I am. Weird. Also goddamn my head is pounding. ¡Aye aye aye, no me lo gusta! Part sun blistered dehydration and part hangover, I’d bet. I don’t gamble though, well only with my life. It’s taking me a while to shake the sluggishness. Next to me, in bed, is a piece of tortilla I guess I was eating before passing out last night. Damn shit got real. I should have my phone examined. I’m in no rush, it’s coming down buckets outside. Cats and dogs. Puddles of poodles. I take a shower to further clean out the cobwebs. Pop some ibuprofen, don the rain coat and head out on foot to break the fast and feed the beast. I’m hungry as fuck. “Thinking about the past week, the last week…. Hands go in my pocket, I can’t speak.” Science damnit! I didn’t leave my wallet in El Segundo; I did leave my credit card at the bar last night. Again, I should have my head examined. Luckily, our capitalist democracy blesses me with two (more like 4) thin forms of debt inducing plastic cardery… Chicanery… Chicory….Mmmm. Coffee and a spicy breakfast sammich and I am ready to rock out with my smock out. You know, like third grade art class. Does art class even exist anymore? I’m instantly re-humanized —- the humanity! So yeah I’m ready, Mother Nature not so much. She’s giving us all the precipitation she finds possible. I check my weather app. Well fuck me without a reacharound Moms N, there’s lightning and the word tornado comes up. This is worse than the dolor de mi cabeza, this deep seeded phobia shit rearing it’s head. Rattling around in there is an exchange between Chappelle and Garofalo. “I must seek Buddha. I must seek Christ.” “You must seek therapy”.

Tell me your deepest darkest fears, why don’t you? Nah for real if someone asks you what you’re (most) afraid of, does it take some time to figure out? Or does one obvious thing pop right up? I use to struggle with an answer. Now, for me it’s plain an d simple: I am afraid of tornadoes on long bike rides. Like out in the middle of nowhere – with nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide. No Martha Reeeves. No Vandellas. No no no. No sir I don’t like it. This clear cut phobia has its origin story in grainy sepia filtered flashbacks set more than a decade ago, seeing a tornado on the northern tier route in Minnesota. Then again just feeling like one is coming during a storm in rural Louisiana last year on the southern tier. I don’t wanna play this game. Check out is 11am, I don’t care. I resign myself to the indoor holding pattern while I study the radar.

Al Roker ain’t got shit on me except tho use designer frames. A gap in the weather forms and I head out as soon as the downpour let’s up: destination the worst bicycling city in American aka Orlando aka whatever nickname the local use. At least the outer edge of it. Less than twenty miles up a size lane road. Pool Noodle Petra is in full position and ready to rock, wearing her Sunday best – even though it’s Thursday. Seven minutes and seven seconds in and evidentially I am not the professional meteorologist I think I am. Like crystal fucking clear. Weatherman are dumb but firemen (at least this one) are even dumber, proudly. One more dump of drenching rainfall manifests in blinding sheets of water and I am thoroughly soaked in three minutes. Its cooling yet sort of hurts. I pull off and head under a park shelter to let it (hopefully) pass – maybe it’ll still open up into the actual window I think I have.

It works. Sort of. The heaviest rains subside. Plenty of drizzle. Still some serious storm clouds and lightning on the radar. Trucks fly by and spray me with mist from dirty gutter road water. Typically, I’d never leave out on a long ride with out fenders. I’m so atypical. Fenderless. My drive train is filthy. My legs are caked with various debris off the shoulder. Probably a new variant in there somewhere. Yum. I push the short distance to the rendezvous point, linking up with my cousin, Tony G. He’s the oldest grandchild and I’m the youngest grandchild on my dads/his moms side, separated by some twenty years – yet pretty similar within the family comparatively. I imagine he might have been the strange one before I came along. Now he’s second fiddle. Ok maybe now I’m second fiddle, since we’ve added a lot more weirdos to the clan since the 70s. I consider it his more carefully and I realize neither of us probably even qualify for a chair in the orchestra anymore. No fiddlers. No roofs. None of that. We’re tame by Gen Z standards. Weird has gotten a whole lot weirder ever since Al Gore invented the internet. To remix some content from a sign I’m seeing a lot: “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Nader”. Ouch. Too soon?

So yeah. I strip the Summer Horse of its baggage and toss it into Tony’s SUV. We whisk away the last whatever miles at 55mph to his house on the outskirts of orlando. All of Orlando is sort of one big outskirt isn’t it? Like just one big giant suburb popped up around that human popsicle Walt Disney’s megalomaniacal dream come true. I haven’t seen him since he ventured up to Gainesville last year on my second to last day riding coast to coast. I haven’t seen his kids since they were tiny so they really have no idea who I am. Tony, not Walt. Pronouns problems.

Cuz is a professor with tons of books on books on books with two every teenage kids who really don’t know me. Haven’t seen them in over a decade. I’m instantly stranger danger. And yes I am strange. By the end of it we agree on things like art and “cool” and that when his youngest comes to visit me in Buffalo, he will be the stranger. Rain has once again starting bucketing down and I’m grateful to not be in it. We shoot the shit and whatever and he hooks up some amazing jackfruit tacos for dinner. Despite the low mileage today, i crush like 5 of them. Tacos not miles. My plans to head into the city to see friends and seek ink dissolve into a couch turned bed and right now you’re realizing that a short day equals a short entry and I’m realizing how these last two days are a fantastic holiday.

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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