WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 2000.14 - Kingsville, Texas
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 10:27:42 -0700

    It can enter through the tiniest crack in your defenses. It gets under your skin. Unfelt and unseen it spreads throughout your body and aims for the vital organs. It gets into your blood and settles permanently in your extremities. You are not infected, but you are consumed. Slowly, over time, you become 'it' more than it is a part of you. It ... is the urge to ride.
    The longer you have 'it', the longer is the ride necessary to quell the demanding thirst - a desire that can never be quenched. When 'it' is raging, a reasonable day's ride suddenly seems insufficient. Another few hundred miles becomes "only" x hours, or an even smaller measure of tanks of gas. 'It' has the power to make time become a servant instead of a master. Hours become miles; miles become states; and your state of mind becomes the passage of time. It is a perfect circle.

    When I settle into the feeling of a long ride, I become more relaxed. The next gas stop is not mentally seen as a rest stop. Lunch or snacks are not a stop at all, but taken in flight. Fluid intake is changed to be more gradual than gulping Gatorade in the shade, having now to provide balance against sweating it out in the sun and against filling the bladder before the next gas stop. It all becomes a dependable routine, a fit like the caress and cover of a well worn glove.
    Thus I arrived in Kingsville a day earlier than intended. 'It' grabbed hold of me ferociously somewhere in the pine barrens of Louisiana, welling up from deep inside like a wave of fever. Ride. Texas suddenly felt smaller than it appears on the map. Ride. On a normal morning at home I am rarely up before 8 am, but this particular morning at 6:30 I was thinking: what a waste of good riding time. Is it possible our iron horses can show eagerness too? Right outside my motel window, the covered bike seem to be pawing under its canvas blanket in the wind. By the usual rising time, we had devoured 60 miles, and the day was on to be a mile eater. Ride.
    Each day I plan to travel somewhere between 300 and 400 miles to allow enough time to go slow on small roads and to allow evening time to write. Today after 350 miles it seemed pointless to stop with so many hours before sunset. And so it went. By the time Kingsville came into view, I was actually wishing it was farther away - 'it' hadn't had enough.

    Riding alone gives me a lot of time to be philosophical but it is never something planned or expected. In central Louisiana I passed a man sitting on a large utility ATV pulling a trailer loaded with farm equipment. He had been putting along resting chin on palm until he saw me, then waved with a simple fluid sweep of his arm. Somehow that triggered thoughts of contentment versus complacency in one's occupation. Farm work is definitely labor intensive, but compared to the type of detail and precision and time-critical planning of my years in computers, it seems to be overall more forgiving. Office work demands things being done 'better' or 'faster' or more 'economical' all the time. There is a minimum standard that must be met in farm work, but making more precise furrows in the field doesn't make the crops grow more, and you can only milk cows so fast. I've known a number of people who were complacent but discontent in their jobs. I wonder if the graceful motion of that man's wave and his casual relaxed position belied a satisfaction of his situation.
    In the vicinity of the Black River, the Louisiana swamps crowd the road and are fetid, stagnant pools of inky dark water. I expected to smell rank odors, but instead there arose lush scent of honeysuckle and white flowers on a vine I don't recognize. The banks of the roadway were alive with splashes of color. Patches of yellow daisies and purple snap dragons liked to cluster together. A pastel pink open blossom like a fake rose often crept right to the road's edge, and long swatches of dark crimson were thick as a shag carpet in the tips of what looked like red heather (tough to tell for sure at 70 mph). I saw no alligators, but more than a few armadillos made crow lunches all you can eat.

    <growling angst>
    How hard is it to make a cup of coffee? Geez, I mean, you scoop some grounds, turn on the pot, and water drips. Right? So why do most roadside dinners/delis go through the bother of adding sawdust - or motor oil - or melted plastic? At least that's what it tastes like ... I am willing to give up a lot of normal conveniences to travel, but how hard is it to make a *good* cup of coffee?
    </growling angst>

    Mulder! Scully! I have seen the black helicopters. The conspiritorialists who believe the government is secretly amassing to 'take over' may be right. But they are not practicing out there in the Nevada desert - they are right here in Louisiana. While slurping an oily, plastic flavored concoction in a coffee cup, I wandered over to the fence that said Fort Polk Military Reserve - Do Not Enter - Live Unexploded Munitions. Eight unmarked black helicopters were practicing hover and swoop in unison. Three times they dove down together in wedge formation, then back up to about 500 feet. After that it suddenly occurred to me that I was standing on the edge of a restricted space wearing a helmet (with no visible purpose - the bike was hidden by the building). Before I became persona non grata, I decided to become absent.
    There may indeed be more churches than there are people in the south. Every town no matter how small has several, and some of the names are amusing. A large sign announced the approach to the Church of the Open Door. Another said "Our door is always open." Couldn't help but notice as I passed, it was closed. Then there was an unfortunate abbreviation on a banner over a main street "Come enjoy the Spring Festival at the 1st Meth Church". Yes, I know it is supposed to mean Methodist, but if Peyote can have a church ... Anyway, there was one little church in Reeves, Louisiana, that I think I could really get into the swing of: the Center Hammock Baptist Church.

"only" 542 miles
Natchez US84 LA28 LA121 LA463 LA113 US190 LA12/TX12
I10 US59 US77 Kingsville
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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