Off in the distance, the endless road stretched out and then sharply climbed toward the sky. Great, I thought, a steep climb up. I approached the climb with thirst and fatigue, but I just kept pedaling. Up and up I went over this hill and when I reached the top I looked out and what should I see but salvation, a lone house on the side of the road. I thanked many different spiritual entities, because Jesus and Krishna will quench my thirst as easily as will Buddha and Zeus, so I just blanket thanked them all.
I made my way to the farm house’s driveway wondering if anyone was home. Three dogs began barking and trying to climb over the fence as I walked past. These were big dogs too, I didn’t take that as a good sign these dogs and I hesitantly knocked on the screen door of the farmhouse with trepidation.
I heard a thundering inside as footsteps bounded down what sounded like wooden stairs and when the inside door suddenly swung open, I was startled. “Yes, what can I do for you?” said a tall, festively plump, middle-aged man.
“Excuse me sir, might I refill my water bottles here?” I asked not showing how nervous I was.
The farmer let out a hearty laugh, “Sure you can, come on in. Where you from? Where you goin’? Heavy load you’re carryin’ there.” And with that all my nervousness dissipated. Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door will be opened, quite literally it seems.
I entered and shouldering my pack up the wooden stairs I made my way into his kitchen. “I’m from Yakima actually, bicycling down to San Diego.”
“San Diego! That’s quite a trip. You know I did somethin’ a lot like this when I was your age.” The man roared, his whole body moving with the energy of his voice.
“You don’t say, what kind of trip did you take?” I asked as I began filling my body before filling my water bottles.
“Oh hell, I’ve hitchhiked all over the USA, seen all them States. Name’s Jody by the way.” He said as he extended a handshake.
“I’m Bryan,” we shook hands as I relaxed even more. “Got a favorite place?”
“Naw I like’em all.” Jody paused. “‘Cept that there L.A. Got robbed in broad daylight by 8 colored fellas. I stepped off the Greyhound bus and before I knew it 3 black boys told me to give’em my money. I laughed at’em cause surely I’m not gonna get robbed during the day in a public place. I told’em to fuck off and started walkin’. They stepped in my way, motioned to sum buddies behind me and next thang I know, I’as surrounded by these black kids tryin’ ta rob me. Seein’ as how I’as outnumberd, an’ no one in the area gave a damn, I opened my wallet and give’em the 20 bucks I had in there.”
Jody paused for a bit, seeing me distracted by grabbing a bottle to fill. When he had my attention again, he continued. “But I ain’t that dumb, ya see? I had the bulk’a my money duct taped to my inner thigh under my clothes where no one can get it, ‘less they wanna get real personal.”
I laughed at his entertaining stories and we exchanged travel experiences for about 45 minutes before he asked where I was going tonight. It was only 12:30 pm at this point, so I wanted to continue biking and gain what ground I could, so I told him I was going to continue south and just improvise lodging as I went.
“Well buddy, I hate to tell ya, but yer headin’ East right now.” Jody laughed that deep laugh of his. “You ain’t been goin’ south for 25 miles, ya missed yer turn in Toppenish. Didja see the big ole’ casino? That’s where the road curves south.”
“Dammit! I knew something was weird when I passed that casino. I figured if I just kept going straight I’d be heading on the right road.” I felt worried and confused. I didn’t know where I was and I didn’t want to back track 25 miles unless I really had too.
“Don’t worry friend. Keep headin’ down this road. This here’s the 15; heads straight on in to a tiny town called Mabton. When ya get to the edge’a town, look on yer right. You’ll see a winery and grape vineyard. Its ran by a guy named Tim, tell’em Jody sent ya ands he’ll help you out.
Knowing where I was and where I was going did little to calm my nerves. Living in Yakima for a year and a half had wound me up tighter than a box spring and I still felt a need to solve my problems as soon as they happened. Not being on my ‘planned course’ was a problem to me and I hadn’t yet learned to just take things as they came.
Fear pushed me out his door as I packed my water bottles and thanked him hastily. He wished me luck and then I tore out of his drive way with full speed. I biked down the road my mind a jumble of fear and self-destructive thoughts. I cursed myself for not trusting my gut when I passed Toppenish and for being so angry in the first place that my mind was distracted and not able to focus on where I was and what I was doing.
It was only about 1pm now and I still had plenty of daylight to ride, surely I could make it to Mabton soon and find this Tim. Fear made me wonder what would happen if I failed to reach the small town in time and soon I was racing way faster than was healthy. I was unable to simply enjoy my journey due to the fear of an unknown and unlikely failure. It would be a long time before I would sit down and reflect on my emotions and how unhealthy my mind was. The greatest benefit of the road ahead, was the opportunity to put my mind in order and clean my emotional house.
The sun bore down on me, and as fear drove my mind and body, I raced towards Mabton.
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