Friday, August 19, 2005

iamaladybug

would you still respect me, would you still visit this site...

(a) if, on a blistering descent, i found myself singing kelly clarkson’s “since you’ve been gone”?
(b) if, while engaging in (a), i was standing up on my pedals and....kind of bouncing?
(c) if, while doubling up both (a) and (b), i was also pumping my fist?
(d) if, during the heinous acts of all of the above, i was shamefully though admittedly enjoying it?

i was just wondering.

i rode through a county fair and was asked by the guy who works the booth where you throw darts at balloons where he could “find the green stuff”? i told him i had neither cash nor weed which seemed to only mildly disappoint him because we followed up his initial inquisition with a conversation that seemed to be welcome in both of our transitory lives.

i am convinced that if i ever decide to plant my feet, it must be near a “bent and dent” store. these are damaged and recently expired food stores. i found my first one on this bike trip and was faced with the prospect of power bars at 10 for $1.00, boxes of cereal for $1.00, cheap-cheap cous-cous, and almost free hershey kisses. now, if you are a person that is under the guise that if a granola bar that expires on tuesday undergoes a cinderella-like transformation and becomes inedible at midnight, then these stores are not for you. in addition, if you require the boxes surrounding the plastic surrounding your cereal to have perfect 90 degree corners, or, if the steel that surrounds your canned goods must be perfectly cylindrical, these stores are not for you. so if you can deal with slightly chalky hershey kiss (and as unfortunately not many women will tell you, a hIrSchy kiss is always a hIrSchy kiss) and if you like to save money so you can use that saved money to do cool things, then these stores are a godsend.

speaking of stores, receipts are getting ridiculous. do i really need an eighteen inch swath of paper to verify that, yes, i bought some preparation h and it was $2.49? think of all that wasted paper. (note to self: don’t forget to delete preparation h “example,” you’re getting too personal hIrSch...)

sometimes, while riding, i hallucinate and convince myself that just ahead are some cyclists. usually it’s just a tree or a sign. but the other day, my hallucination proved to be authentic, but they were going the opposite way, so, as is becoming a theme on this ride, i was just a lightning strike in their lives.

lightning strikes. me, in an open field, in my tent, late at night, monster thundertsorm. i watched lightning strike all around me and concluded that since i haven't won the lottery and since i was laying on a foam pad, i'd be fine. but just in case, i did film a movie with my camera and got a sweet lightning bolt striking what appears to be the same thing a minimum of seven times. it flashed for a solid three seconds. now that's power.

again, flat tires have plagued me. one morning, it was both tires. the culprits? tire wire from shredded mac truck tires. so in a small town that thankfully had a small bike shop, i replaced both my inner tubes with ones that contain slime, a special liquid that seals punctures. quite unfortunately though, my inflation of the back tire proved to be tragic. the tire was not entirely secure within the wheel rim (read: i screwed up), and about ten seconds after inflation to 70 pounds per square inch, their was the sound of a gunshot. all eyes on me, i stood standing with an exploded inner tube and tire and was covered with the aforementioned slime, which, just happens to be fluorescent green. since then, kona has kindly hooked me up with kevlar/steel-belted tires, so now it’s no flats until tierra del fuego. or so i like to hope.

i don’t consider myself an eavesdropper, but i seem to be in places where i hear things that i just can’t help but eavesdrop on. the other day i listened to two women who had not seen in each other in some time. they both playfully argued over who looked skinnier and who was more tan (one had just returned from hawaii). they also discussed which scents each were wearing and how much they were and where they could be purchased. next the topic was men and how they were all insensitive jerks. meanwhile, i just continued to eat my cereal out of a peanut butter container while pretending to read a newspaper i had found in a trashcan.


my stay in mountain view, wyoming (where i used to map trails for the forest service) was spectacular. i got off the bike for a while, installed a new back wheel, and took to my feet in the mountains of the high uinta wilderness. i did some backpacking as a wilderness ranger and besides talking to people about “leave no trace” and minimal impact camping, i got to get on top of the highest mountain in utah, where it snowed on me for about an hour.

i have met many people on this bike ride and just yesterday came to the conclusion that i am a ladybug. when a ladybug lands on you, you admire it. you might even gently place your finger next to it and allow it to crawl onto your fingertip. you may think how cool that ladybug is, how interesting. but then, as a typical american attention span dictates, about five seconds later, you will gently blow that little ladybug off of your digit and get on with you life, with memories of that arthropod seemingly instantly forgotten. and that’s what i seem to be to most people i meet. it seems that before the last syllable of hello has rolled off my tongue, it’s already time for goodbye.

but there are exceptions to this and colorado has definitely been kind:

1. raining all night, raining all morning, headwinds, everything soaked, even my beard is a bit droopy, cold, i stop under a shelter at the visitor’s station at dinosaur national monument for some food. two guys approach and ask about the bike ride and subsequently invite me to their home, should i pass through their town, with promises of a warm meal and a guestroom.

2. minutes later, same place, three women from new jersey strike up a conversation with me. they are staying in steamboat springs, colorado. i’ll be there tomorrow evening. they invite me for dinner. i take them up. an awesome time.

3. a station wagon slowly passes me. pulls off. i approach from behind and a hand waves me to stop. the man tells me he lives 20 miles up the road and i’m welcome to come by for the night.

i feel like a karma sink and can’t wait to reciprocate this kindness when the opportunities arise.


i am flying down a hill having crested a 10,000 foot pass, and i see two backpackers walking down the same hill on the side of the road. i figure they’re up to something cool so i slam on my brakes. unbelievably, it’s a fellow named eric weise, a guy whom i met when walking the appalachian trail and again while walking the pacific crest trail! i also met him when i was doing a couple nights on the appalachian trail over new year’s bringing in 2000. none of these meetings were planned. each one was awesome. he’s currently walking the continental divide trail (which i am more or less following by bike) from canada to mexico! he’s with a super cool guy, doug, who is totally into the raw foods diet (http://www.rawhike.com/). none of us can believe what has just happened and of course we all consider the billions of reasons why this rendezvous shouldn’t have happened but mainly concentrate on the fact that it has. and the best part, eric is seriously considering joining me for the ride through central and south america. he knows the lifestyle, knows it’s possible, he lives it, and he’s always looking for the next adventure.

as i ride out in the west, i think to myself if i settle down and if the country i choose to settle down in is america, surely i must live out here, well west of the mississippi, where open spaces (though rapidly receding) still reign. but then i think, wait a minute, if i do this, i’m contributing to exactly what i hate about what is happening to this region, to this world. how many people who have lived here all their lives i have spoken to and it’s always the same: “this used to be open country, now rich people from the cities come out here and build their second houses. they only live in them maybe a month out of the year....why on earth do people need two 4,000 square foot homes? i just don’t get it.” and following, i would be just another house scarring the landscape and ruining some other house’s once unimpeded views. and by finding such a hypothesized homestead (which would not be surrounded by barbed wire and “no trespassing” signs) perhaps others would choose to settle near me. and so, before long, because it happens even where no one thinks it ever will, i’ll be over-hearing the mcdonald’s drive thru. and so, this leads to more questions. maybe i should settle in suburbia. keep the cities growing up and not out. maybe i should shop at wal-mart. by forsaking spending my money at small rural stores (where wal-mart might sniff a potential profit and come in and conquer), i should give all my dollars to the big w in an effort appease the mighty beast. i just don’t know. it’s never easy. nothing is, and i know this is also because, for whatever reason, i deliberately make it hard on myself. if i could just be someone who could, with a clean conscience, or without any thought of morality or duty, just toss a plastic bottle in the trashcan......instead, in towns that recycle, i find myself looking in trashcans and relocating recyclables....

i have a friend in alaska. she speaks of the concrete clubhouses lining the streets: the home depots, best buy’s, etc etc. used to never be like that. of course, nothing ever is what it used to be like i suppose. but regardless, as she observes this northward creep of development, she poses an interesting question: “what happens when there is no more north?” and that is the question, north or any cardinal direction, that dominates the wheels in my head as the wheels on my bike carry me south towards new mexico.

please leave a comment or send me an email. they make me happy.

19 Comments:

Anonymous kendall said...

we all do crazy things when it's our time to be us. Yea, I'll still check out the blog. Great update hIrSch. Was hoping you could make it through Park City...perhaps next trip eh?

Keep the photos coming.

Friday, August 19, 2005  
Blogger HUGHES said...

Hirsch,

Looking good, dude. Keep up the journey. Oh, there are aspects of us humans that still exist as part of Nature. Peace

Friday, August 19, 2005  
Anonymous Ted said...

Another fantastic chapter in your book of life on the road of life! Keep them coming.

Friday, August 19, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob,

Hi! It's me, Jim T's wife, Melissa. I have been keeping up with your journey. You know I would send you home-baked cookies again if you were hitting postal stops along the way. I have even found some new favorite recipes!

Kelly Clarkson... ...Wade seems to have taken to Gwen Stefani tunes. I try to fill his days with a more enriching environment, but it's amazing what you hear in the strangest places.

Ok, you don't know the whole story on ladybugs, and I feel it my duty as a current Indiana dweller to tell you about them. In late summer, early fall, when all the corn and soybeans are being harvested in Indiana, those little suckers come out of the fields in hoards! On a bright sunny day they will absolutely cover whatever side of your house is facing the warm sun. They were introduced to be natural predators to kill mites that attack corn and soybeans. I don't know about all ladybugs, but these little buggers are STINKY when they get smashed. (I don't deliberately smash them of course, I don't enjoy killing God's creatures, but sometimes the door crushes them or you just accidentally step on one!) Anyway, your ladybug analogy spurred my response, because soon, very soon, those little unnaturally transplanted critters will be all over our house on a warm September or October day, and inevitably, like house flies, a few will invade our home. I suck them up with a dust buster and release them outside. Rest assured though, when I see them this fall, I will think about you and wonder where you are.

I guess since Indiana has no beautiful mountains you won't be venturing into our state. If you ever decide to tour the very flat midwest, stop by again. We have a bedroom that isn't filled with any kids yet. The old house that was here before is long gone, and you probably won't recognize the place anymore.

Oh, and can I make one suggestion? You mentioned your inventory of things that you carry with you in your little trailer. I think you need a Bible. Jim says you are a man of faith--or at least used to be. Gideons are proud of the fact that every year, their Bibles are on the top 5 list of things stolen from motels, but I'm not telling you to steal a Bible. There's something wrong about that, don't you think?

Finally, can I say, "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes." (Re: disposable diapers and a life full of daily routine) I love my daily routine life with Jim and Wade. I am not one to thrive on adventure and new things every day. If that makes me boring, oh well. There are worse things to be.

Stay safe out there. I'll keep you in my prayers. I was starting to worry when it had been so long since you last blogged.

--Melissa

Friday, August 19, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I understand your point about maybe not wanting to live out west because you want to keep it natural and beautiful. But one could argue that humans are part of nature and heck, we need a place to live. And we want to live among beauty. And also, I find 4000-square-foot houses (some of them anyway) quite beautiful.

And wilderness and natural beauty is sort of relative. Visiting Germantown after being in New Orleans, I always am tempted to move back there because by comparison, Germantown is so spread out and you have so much space and there are so many trees and big yards and McDonalds is prohibited from putting their golden arches more than a couple of feet off the ground.

Did you ever ready all the Little House books? And I don't mean the crappy 70s TV show. I mean the books, which are technically children's books but historians agree that it is one of the very best accounts we have of pioneer life. It talks a lot about how Laura is like her Pa, she doesn't want to settle for long, she just wants to keep moving westward. I think you could make an interesting comparison to your current adventure and viewpoints.

Carrie

Saturday, August 20, 2005  
Anonymous Deadwood Dellon said...

Howdy,

The North American West is a breath of sanity in a subdivision and parking lot world. Having lived in large cities all my life, I am grateful every morning to wake up in a town of just 1,300, where the view doesn't change as no more houses can be built on the steep slopes forming Deadwood Gulch. The notion of living in a region where the population is sparse and the number of towns is limited always intrigued me, but I didn't think I could plant myself that far away from "culture". Now, I dread the trappings of civilization with its traffic, evermore distracted, rude drivers, and the isolation effected by throngs of people avoiding eye contact. I love to be totally alone with a scenic vista to admire and photograph or in a cozy copse to read and write. While Nature is not quiet, it has a quieting effect. Sitting alone and still in a forest is not most people's idea of how to pass some time, but I find their need to be distracted even more disquieting. Most citizens are so commoditized they have lost their connection to the planet - lost souls relegated to functioning as organic robots. They stay at the Super8 for a few days then Escalade back to the 'burbs.

Saturday, August 20, 2005  
Anonymous gayle said...

Hirsch...you are my hero. What courage you have. What an inspiration you are. I was getting a bit worried about not seeing a blog on here for so long but I talked to your dad the other day and he said you hadn't found a place to upload. Whew....I was so relieved.

Well, I've decided to take my photography and step it up. Creating a studio in my basement so that I can do still shots and such. Thank you....for giving me my inspiration and creativity a boost.

The last paragraph about your friend in Alaska and the question she poses...well I hope we never have to see the day when we run out of north or any direction for that matter.

Take care...ride safe!!

Sunday, August 21, 2005  
Blogger R3dcurlz said...

man...long time no blog! i vote that you don't do it again.

there will be no disappointment from me due to a little fondness for kelly. i avoid most of that music, but if she comes on, watch out. someone's about to start singing. interestingly, the university of texas just sent around a notice that there will be traffic delays around campus aug. 23-25 due to AI. crazy. hmmm...maybe i should try out...

and i'm sorry if i rolled my eyes a little at the dented food bit. it's exactly like my favorite ex. but it grew on me. and now even i kinda miss it.

also, that exact dilemma about the moving away has troubled me. i've visited so many places and thought, i could live here. but i know it wouldn't be quite the same.

until next time...

and the sooner the better! {:-)

Monday, August 22, 2005  
Blogger Reverend Raheen M. Shabbazz said...

Hey Hirsch,

Just wanted to drop you a line to let you know that I've added your blog as a link from mine and posted your mug in today's entry :: http://revssoapbox.blogspot.com/2005/08/august-road-trippin-part-v.html

In Central New York, the ladybugs come out of the woodwork in late April or Early May to let us know that Spring is on the way. They are a welcome sign!

Thursday, August 25, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I finally got back to your blogs after a busy, tiring stretch of pregnancy and toddler-chasing. I love your recounting of various conversations. I found, as a park ranger, that interacting with all the different personalities and outlooks was one of the best parts of my job. People are so interesting! A man once wrote me a letter asking me on a date at some point in the future if I ever moved to Southern California. We had spoken for about five minutes after he had backpacked several days in the wilderness. I answered some questions he had about pink snow and my personal life. I include this anecdote because I just found the letter the other day, and it made me smile. It's fantastic that you have seen some old friends on the way. And SING SING SING all you want, whoever you want. Music is meant to touch us...not just on deep, spiritual levels, but also on "Hey, this is a catchy tune and it makes me happy" levels. Soak in some of those wide-open spaces for me. :-) -Hajnalka

Friday, August 26, 2005  
Anonymous Mrs Shabbazz said...

Hey Hirsch,
It was awesome meeting you on the side of the road in Colorado! Our car barely made it up the road and you were crusin' along powered by your own two legs. Right On! I am really glad that you stopped to say hello. I get very inspired by stories like yours. I really hope your trip down to the end of the continent treats you well. Now that I know your site, I will check in from time to time. Peace, Wyndswept (Mrs Shabbazz)

Saturday, August 27, 2005  
Anonymous Tim and Katy said...

Hey Hirsch,
We met you in Estes Park on your way through Denver and wanted to drop a quick line to let you know that we will be sending you the name of that book about the cross country cycling trip. Hope your stop in Denver was great and we look forward to following your adventure through your blogs,
Tim and Katy - Chicago
Did the shirt fit?

Sunday, August 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kelly Clarkson...whats next, "the very best of Wham"? In light on this new revelation, I don't want to EVER hear you haras me about Whitsnake, Warrant, NIght Ranger or any off the other big hair metal bands that I like...Come on, what would Eddie VEtter say if he knew you were jamming to "since you been gone"?

Toth

Monday, August 29, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, Robert it's alex i wanna give you a kitty update: shes gotten skinnier since we put her on a diet and we found her a boyfriend. thats about all. she LOVES the new house and were still havin' a hard time settilin in. ttfn (ta ta for now

Monday, September 05, 2005  
Anonymous Ginger Carnahan said...

Hey, Hirsch!

Just to comment on the two girls catching up that you heard...I wanted to let you know that I promise never to say that to you b/c after this bike trip (and my carrying around a baby) you are definitely skinnier and tanner than I am! ;)

We have been traveling for the last couple of weeks. To C'ville, then out to the "sticks" in AR and Dad's lake house. (Although, I think that you'll not be too upset with him since the lake house is his only house right now.) ;) It was so nice to get away from TV, our telephone, etc. We had a really great time.

While I was there I witnessed a lightning strike as well. I was looking out the window while feeding Makayla and lighting struck one tree, traveled along the root system, then exploded up out of a neighboring tree. It was pretty intense (and loud).

Keep on cycling and thinking! I'm looking forward to the next post.

ginger

Wednesday, September 07, 2005  
Anonymous Ginger Carnahan said...

P.S. Makayla started smiling during our visit to Memphis...and discovered that she has arms and hands that she can move around. It's amazing how exciting little things are! And how so many little things change for her daily. Truly a miracle!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005  
Anonymous Katherine said...

I enjoy your blog the most when you recall conversations you have had with people you have met along the way. They crack me up- people say the craziest things! I am a stay at home mom in Frisco,Texas who stumbled across your blog... just to give you an idea of who your journey has "touched."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005  
Anonymous angie said...

Rob,

I am glad you are safe! I really worry about you. Not everyone you meet is a kind-hearted soul. I know, I know..I sound like your mom.

Anyway I'm glad you are enjoying the ride. Good Luck with the Spanish! Be careful!

Love,
Angie

Wednesday, September 14, 2005  
Anonymous Colleen said...

Hello there! My name is Colleen Brennan and I'm not sure if you would remember me or not. We (my sister, brother in law, and myself) met you out in Colorado. We were stopped by the side of the road taking pictures. You stopped and we all started talking. I believe you stopped because you saw my North Carolina liscence plate, we were in a hunter green Chrysler Concord. I go to UNCW and we were on our way back from California. I remember being absolutely amazed hearing about your travels. I am seriously in awe and I wish you the best. It's nice to see that you've made it quite the way since we last saw you in Colorado! OK, well I just wanted to say hi and that you're different from a ladybug to me because I have indeed thought of you since our meeting. I'm so impressed and inspired by your story. I hope you have many more (safe) amazing adventures! Happy Halloween!

Colleen
iamcolleen2@yahoo.com

Monday, October 31, 2005  

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