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By | May 9, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011
Chiefland to Inglis, FL
38 miles

One of Larry’s friends stopped by to chat as I was packing up this morning. He’s a recumbent cyclist, so we talked shop a bit. Larry laughed and laughed about my raccon-eyes tan from my sunglasses. I guess you can see it better in the daylight. I hiked up my bike short leg and he nearly choked laughing about that dramatic tan line. “Oh, we’d see you coming in a bikini!” he chortled. “Other people notice, they just don’t say anything to you about it.” I’m pretty sure that’s true.

We sat down for a minute, and Larry said a beautiful prayer for me to send me safely on my journey. We said, “See you later,” and I went on my way.

I wasn’t too far out of Chiefland when I caught up with a cyclist. He was wearing a backpack and had little other gear, so I figured he was local. Ronald, it turned out, had gotten here from Cinncinati in ten days. Today he was taking it easy.

He was riding sixteen hour days, all the daylight hours. He was mostly fueled by coffee and Pepsi, and he was guerilla camping. At 43, his kids were grown and successful, in Sweden studying water treatment systems on a grant from New York City. He was divorced, retired from the Navy, and a master electrician. He heard there might be work in Tampa, and if that didn’t work out, he would head to Miami, where his mother lived.

He’d had his bike basket and pump stolen on Atlanta, and been stopped by the police “for questioning” pretty regularly on this trip. He worked at a Waldorf school when he was younger, and spoke German and Spanish. He said he was from Germany, though his accent sounded Spanish-speaking to me. He had a metal rod in his arm, from when it had been blown off by a grenade. He’d served in both the first and the second Gulf Wars.

We rode together for most of the day. We talked about being free on the bike. You’re not in any kind of a box. You’re not in a cubicle, not in a car, not in a house. You’re not addicted to TV. We stopped at a gas station, where we told our stories to a woman with a Boston accent and her chain-smoking mother, and a man with a growth on his nose. They were amazed. Everyone agreed that I must be carrying too much stuff and that I had the biggest calves anyone had ever seen. Ronald had on long pants, so we did not scrutinize his legs.

I had a peanut butter sandwich by the side of the road, while Ronald drank more coffee. As we went to get back on the road, he saw my front tire was totally flat. We went back to the little spot of shade and I started pulling all my gear off the bike so I could change it. He offered to help, but understood when I said I needed to practice doing it myself. It was way easier to change this tube than the last one. I have no idea what made it so.

We both checked the old inner tube, and couldn’t find where air was escaping, so I ran my finger along the inside of the tire and found a short piece of wire sticking out. Good thing Ronald was with me, because he had a pair of pliers, which the police in Georgia almost took away from him (!), and I did not. Done and done.

Of course the last five miles to my campground were hotter and windier and harder than the rest of the day. The sun was at its peak. We stopped more in those last five miles than we had in the previous thirty, but we finally came upon River Road. I went to check in and Ronald went on to find a cool place to rest before getting back on the road til dark. He’d heard the police in Citrus County, which we’d just entered, were bothersome, and he wanted to be through it before night.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m white, or a woman, or it’s my energy, or because I just look like a recreational traveler with my brightly colored gear, but I do not get stopped by public safety personnel. The few times I have interacted with them on this trip, they have been asking if I’m OK. Even though Ronald’s encounters with them tended to end with, “Sorry for the inconvenience; thank you for your service to our country,” the idea that he does get handcuffed and his gear searched on a regular basis made me uncomfortable on a number of levels.

For one thing, they say they don’t profile, but they do. But at the same time, I don’t want to be around if it is happening. I know I have a lot of unearned privilege that allows me to move through life with relative ease. I try to appreciate that, because I like being under the radar. A lot of variables have to line up for me, nearing 40, to be able to traipse around the country generally unimpeded. I feel very lucky that I am in this space.

Connie, who manages the RV park, has been “on sabbatical” for about a year, since she gave up her job in the mortgage business. “Everyone hates you by the time a deal is done,” she said of that work, “what kind of a way to live is that?”

She has time to read now. She’s held some amazing women’s retreats out here, with meditation and beaches and massages. Like Ronald, she found that money doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy. We talked about what we did with our stuff. It just didn’t have the same importance anymore.

“Take this desk, I could burn it tonight. I wouldn’t care. And I could probably replace it tomorrow with something from a yard sale twice as cute.”

I thought about Ahni telling me in Seattle that I would find my tribe wherever I go. I don’t even have to look for them!

Connie offered me a ride to Spring Hill tomorrow, which is a day’s ride for me. When I was setting up my tent, one of my poles snapped.

20110509-084649.jpg

See the pointy part of the orange pole? It’s not supposed to look like that.

I think it’s a sign that I should take the ride.

For a few days now, I’ve been heading south to my dad’s house in St. Petersburg. I had been planning to meet him at the I-75, around Gainesville, because I didn’t think I could get all the way to St. Pete’s in time for his deadline. When I meet him, we’re going to head up to Illinois in his RV, and he has a timeline. As I got closer, I realized I could easily make it all the way to his house, and with this ride, I’ll probably be two days early!

Really, I’m ready for a break.


1 Comment

Jim Russell on May 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm.

Been catching up on your blog. Sorry to hear your riding friend was getting stopped all the time by the cops. We try to make sure officers understand that actions and behaviors may warrant a stop, not how someone looks. Always frustrating to hear that. All comes down to training and standards of conduct. I’d rather miss catching a criminal than get a reputation for making bad cases, that’s for sure.
Anyway, sounds like you are meeting a lot of interesting characters! Keep up the great riding!
-Jim

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