Part III: Louisiana BBQ on the Go
The descent into Three Rivers down the steep serpentine road is breathtakingly beautiful, fun and rewarding after all the climbing I did for the last two days. I am just amazed how big and beautiful The Sierras are in this part of California. Nothing I’ve expected. Where to stay for the night is always such a big dilemma. I ride into an RV campground by the river, but they want fifty-five bucks for the night. That’s outrageous. I check a couple of hotels, but they are too fancy and too expensive, and all booked up anyway as it is Friday evening. I am looking for a wild camp spot, but my body yearns for a hot shower after long and strenuous riding. I was also getting cold. It’s getting late and dark, and I am already on the other side of town and running out of options. I am also starving. I haven’t had much of anything to eat the whole day. Some nuts and a couple of bars. I pass the Mexican restaurant that looks delicious and just down the road from it, a small resort with cabins. I knock on doors with office sign. No response. Everything is quiet, and it looks like no one is around. Disappointment runs through me. Several people next door are setting up for a group garage sale. I ask a guy if he knows about the place to stay. He says that Juliette next door with the cabins is definitely at home. She’s old and hard of hearing.
“Go back there and knock and yell really loud.”
I go back and after I knock for a while, I finally hear some feet shuffling toward the door:
” I am coming, I am coming!” A sweet voice calls out. Juliette invites me into her home, and when I tell her I am alone on a long bike ride, she decides to drop the price in half for the cabin which is all dolled up. The best thing was, it had a bathtub.
“Now you know, the water has a lot of minerals, so sometimes it is a bit murky, and it smells a bit of sulfur. But don’t worry, it’s good for you.”
It is music to my ears.
I take a shower; a much longer one then I usually do. I go next door to have some Mexican food, came back and take a long bath. I am in bed by 8:30 and asleep probably by 9. I haven’t been this tired in a very, very long time; perhaps never this tired ever before but how quickly we forget that. We have an amazing capacity to forget physical pain or exhaustion, but we have such great difficulty forgetting psychological suffering. It lasts much longer, and it is sometimes impossible to get rid off. We bury it into the deepest corners of our being thinking it’s gone, then it comes up rearing it’s ugly head again. Usually in the middle of the night. Then it churns around in your head till morning hours. It is one of those nights. As tired as I am, I should be dead to the world, but sleep comes and goes. Dreamworld and half waking state are jumbled up together infused with sad and negative thoughts I just can’t shake off.
In the morning I take another long hot shower, practice much-needed yoga for a bit, write, catch up on emails, go next door for breakfast and then take yet another hot bath to soak my sore muscles. I have to check out at 10 a.m. I milk my time in the place until the last possible minute.
The ride starts with the road leading me around Lake Kaweah. In Lemon Cove, I pull over as I see an out-of-place scene.
Two black guys are cooking food on the side of the road. Spice Man and his sidekick Brian are from Louisiana. The food smells so good and sampling it makes me want to eat, but it is just after breakfast. Spice Man, as he insists I call him, is persistent and with a thick Louisiana accent works his charms, ” Oh honey, you have to to take some with you!”
“Where in the world will I put the box with food?” I repack a few things on the bike and ride off with what I am going to have for dinner when I arrive at my final destination tonight, wherever that will be. I have a rule - I have to have enough food with me for at least a day and some emergency in case I get delayed.
I take left turn off the main road soon. It is like a child drew a black line through golden colored hills they are learning to paint. It goes up and down, left and right just enough to not be too perfect and straight. There is nothing else in sight but hill after hill. The sign for Springville says 39 miles. That shouldn’t be too bad. It is 80 degrees, and I have two and a half bottles of water. I already rode 12 miles. Even if there is no climbing ahead, I am afraid I don’t have enough water. I pass a farmhouse just as a car pulls in. What the heck? I have nothing to lose. I pull over.
”Hi there! You live here?”
“Yes we do,” said a woman who is taking a baby out of the car seat.
“Could I bother you for some water, please?
“But, of course, “ she says and turns to what looks to be her daughter. “Bring her two.”
“How big is Springfield?” I ask.
“Springfield?! Oh, it’s small, around 500 people live there,” she replies.
“Do you think they have a motel?” I ask, hoping. I’m going to stay in motels whenever I can…
“Well, they might, they might.” After a pause she says, ”So, you are riding all the way to Springfield? It’s a long way” she says incredulously. “Good luck!”
I ride off with two ice cold bottles of water. Later, as I am climbing up and up for more than 3000 feet in 84-degree heat, I am thanking the mother and her daughter profusely in my mind.
I think all in all about five cars pass me. The road is quiet and beautiful. Big granite boulders stacked like some giant used them for play rocks and cows as black as night are grazing lazily. When I ride by them, they lift their heads with grass still hanging out of their mouths and stare at me like,” What the hell is that!” Wild turkeys hang around the cows; quails dart across the road. I love quails with plume made of feathers on their heads that droops forward, which gives them the impression they are always in a hurry. And the way they sound - it reminds me of laying in my bed outdoors in Baja where I hear them every morning.
I am more in tune with my body now. I am getting tired, so I stop under a big oak tree and have a bar and some water. “Rest, pace yourself,” I remind myself.
I have one earpiece in, and I listen to Tom Hank’s book, “Uncommon Type.” I love his voice and his storytelling. So, when I meander on a lonely country road, my mind starts to wander. What if Tom Hanks and his wife (I assume he has one- I don’t really follow that stuff) drives by and stops to chat. He’s of course impressed and interested in what I am doing and why. Then I ask him if he wants to see what I am listening to. “Sure,” he says. And when he hears his voice through my earbuds, his eyes widen. “Holy shit!” Well, I don’t know if he’d actually say that. He’s a classy guy. But anyhow, I ride with that fantasy for a while. It keeps me occupied, and it keeps me going up the hill. The mind wanders into funny places when you are riding your bike by yourself. Like to a place where you meet Tom Hanks.
After a while, as I climb and climb, I think I see the opening between the two hills before me. Ah good, I am almost there. Then I turn my head to the right and “Oh shit, you’ve got to be kidding me!” I see the line cut into the hill that keeps going up and up. But what choice do I have? I put the smile back on: “Bring it on! I can do this!” After an hour and a half, I am finally over the crest and from there, it’s all downhill to Springfield. It’s so rewarding when you’ve really earned it. It Is like that with everything in life. When you work hard to get something, you appreciate it so much more, and it’s a hundred times more beautiful. And that Louisiana BBQ chopped kale salad and fried fish I carried with me all day; I wash it down with a cold Corona in my room, sitting on a soft, clean bed! Ahh, can you taste that? Divine!
Note to self: look for a comb. For a week now, I’ve been combing my hair with a fork.