June After Freshman Year
Michael had a big fat hankering to get out of town and 63 US Dollars of support. Underfunded but undeterred, Michael planned his escape with a 21-speed Fuji touring impulse buy from two years before. He re-discovered this gem sitting on two flats against the back wall of his parent’s overfilled garage. Every time Michael hit a bump testing out the B.O.B. trailer, the thing slipped off the back axle’s quick-release so he decided to ditch it altogether—opting instead for the large waterproof bag he bungeed to the rear rack, which he stuffed with everything he’d planned on putting in the trailer: Two plastic jugs of water (refillable in bathroom sinks all across the great-wide U.S. of A.); One Eureka Solitaire 1-person tent; One 24pk box of Quaker Instant Oatmeal (which inside was 6 Strawberries & Cream packets, 7 Blueberries & Cream packets, 8 Peaches & Cream packets, 3 Banana & Cream packets, and an additional 14 Choco-chip CLIF bars and 12 packets of Welch’s Fruit Snacks that Michael stuffed inside); One waterproof set of Trans-America bike trail maps; One 8-key Allen-wrench set; One metal spoon (for tire changing); One more metal spoon (for oatmeal eating); Two lighters (one to make fire, one to smoke fire); One (food) bowl; One spare chain; Two spare tires; Four spare break-pads; One pk of 36 spare spokes; One extra shirt; One rain jacket; Two pairs of baseball sliders; Three pairs of socks; One pair of flipflops; One pair of basketball shorts; and One small blanket. Everything Michael put into the waterproof bag had either been scavenged by Michael, or purchased years earlier.
Then he fastened a small stuffed puppy to the handle bars with a clear zip-tie—a small memento for the trip from Michael’s grandmother.
Michael also wore a string backpack for the trip. Inside of which he kept his cellphone; his cellphone charger; two pre-charged portable chargers; his wallet; two paperback books (Somerset Maugham’s The Moon & Sixpence and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest); 3.5 grams of marijuana; a glass marijuana pipe; and a notebook that he had been gifted and told to “jot down his thoughts and shit” with.
Michael’s Fuji Touring (size medium) weighs 26.3lbs, the bag on the back rack comes in just under 34lbs, and his backpack 5.2lbs. Michael’s ultimate goal is to relocate all 286.2lbs of mass (himself included) from Yorktown, Virginia to Astoria, Oregon, over the course of thirty to forty days. Throughout the process, Michael’s plan is to use the pre-mentioned notebook to jot down things he hopes might someday be written into a novel. He also hopes to dramatically decrease the weight he’s relocating (a byproduct of the relocation effort, he hopes).
Michael has $63.
To prepare for his trip, aside from the supply-scavenging, Michael rode his Fuji Touring 20 to 60 miles every day between May 17th up until the 30th, following a self-made plan to achieve greater physical ability (bike-pedaling-wise) by the time he left for Yorktown on the 31st and really, for the moment he dipped his bike tire into the Atlantic at 6 A.M. on the 1st (a small flash of ceremony he’d read usually accompanies the whole thing). At 9A.M. on the 31st Michael hopped into the driver’s seat of a fully-packed blue Dodge Caravan alongside his right-hand man, fellow bold-decision maker, and lifetime best Greek-skinned friend, Brandon (not to be confused with Michael’s Greek-skinned college roommate Brandon, who Michael despises, and whose similarities with this Brandon end after the hard-part and pigmentation), and left for the trailhead. One stop at Waffle House, one at Wawa where Brandon filled the tank and Michael bought a jar of Skippy, and one at a McDonald’s where Brandon bought Michael a McFlurry for good luck.
Michael has $57.
Quick fact about THIS Brandon: he’s a ride-or-die type of friend—so long as you’re also physically capable of riding and not afraid to do things that might kill you. On a completely different trip in the blue Dodge Caravan, one that Michael took with Brandon last summer, Brandon was behind the wheel and pushed the Minivan up around 115 mph on Rt. 41 through the Everglades. And this would’ve been fine if not for the fact that when you’re blasting down a two-lane at rocket-ship-like speeds, a two-lane w/o street lights, btw, there’s a certain amount of under-the-carriage-wind-suctioning that occurs, which can cause any small critters rummaging about on the asphalt of Rt. 41 to maybe bang their furry little heads on the front bumper of the minivan and have their bodies sucked up into the timing belt. Which, if you’re in a blue Dodge Caravan rolling at 115, it’s likely that the kitten won’t actually do any damage aside from the cracked bumper and the fur in the engine compartment, but it’s the smell that really is the problem; and the sounds you hear after you pull off on the side of the road to try and figure out exactly what the fuck just happened. Which, the best way to describe the sound (because it’s not like there’s anything alive in there anymore, as the animal is long gone and it’s the cooking of the thing inside the engine compartment that’s really causing the trouble), is when the car’s engine is off but (if you could imagine) three pounds of chewed bubblegum put on an electric hot plate set to “HI”—that’s the sound it makes. But it wasn’t really the flash-cooked kitten or even the fact that Lauren (still in a partnership w/ Michael at the time) was crying so god damn loudly, which, she was probably only being as loud as she was on accounta the fact that Lauren, back when she was like 3 years old, used to go poking around in cat litter with bare fingers, so it is almost a certainty that she’s infected with that cat-lover-parasite, Toxoplasma Gondii. But aside from all that, it wasn’t until the police officer, Officer Horatio—who only caught up with the blue Dodge Caravan because Brandon pulled it off to the side of the road since the front bumper was scraping so loudly against all that asphalt—pulled up on the scene, that any real sense of gravity hit the group. And even that was only because Officer Horatio pulled up on the scene with some, admittedly, valid questions; asking them things like: what the fuck were they thinking? And, “you know the speed limit here is 60 during the day and 45 at night, and even if you mistook the 60 part of the sign as being the actual speed-limit, you’re still going almost double the fucking speed limit! And what the fuck is that smell? Are you guys high? Are you drunk? Seriously, what the fuck. You know alligators walk over these roads at night and not only would you unquestionably kill the gator if you hit one, but at the speed you assholes were driving those gators are a just skate-ramp for your minivan here and you idiot guidos would fly through the air so god damn high, let me tell you, so fucking high into the air and you fuckers would land RIGHT in that swamp RIGHT over there, it is RIGHT over there! And you’d definitely be eaten by the friends of the gator you just killed—did you know that? Did you know that Gators love white meat? But seriously, what the fuck is that smell? What the fuck do you mean it was a cat? Who was driving the car? Give me your license—why, you don’t look like any of these other guidos…Brandon, is it? What the fuck were you thinking, Brandon? I tell you what, I am certain that even though you don’t look like one, that you’re definitely a guido because not in my entire life have ever I encountered some body so damn stupid that they would drive double the speed limit through the goddamn swa—Maryland? What the fuck are you doing down here from Maryland? Where are the rest of you from? You must have an excellent reason to be driving so god damn fast. Miami? You’re going to Miami? You lot are the biggest batch of fucking idiot guidos I have ever seen. Ever. There is not a single positive experience to be had for dumbass guidos like yourselves in Miami. I promise you that. Okay. Give me a minute, and get back in the van, all of you. And why is she crying? Why are you crying? The cat? The fucking cat my fucking ass...fucking shit smells like goddamn death...”
And while that trip ended up mostly fine for everyone involved (Officer Horatio left them with the cord of an old cellphone charger to tie the bumper back on, and a PHAT verbal warning about speed-limits and about staying away from certain neighborhoods around MIA—which he assured them was coded MIA for a reason), it wasn’t so clear to Michael what the outcome of THIS trip would be.
The two made it to Virginia Beach by 2PM, which is where they planned to sleep that night, but then the they proceeded to get so high on marijuana that they couldn’t stand, and because of that, they didn’t stand—instead they fell asleep in the sand and didn’t wake up until 7PM when a drunken mother and her two also-intoxicated twenty-something daughters laughingly poked Brandon on the shoulder and asked if he would be willing to pose for a photo with them. The laughter woke Michael, too, who found himself with a jar of peanut butter half-full of sand balancing over top his sun-burnt stomach. Michael and Brandon ditz’d around the beach that evening, and, on accounta their earlier nap, ended up just driving back north to Yorktown where they slept in the parking lot of an apartment complex. At 730AM, after just three hours sleep in the blue Dodge Caravan, Michael dipped the front bike tire of his Fuji touring into the Yorktown river. He then walked it over to the head of the trail, straddled his 21-click manual-transmission, two-legged steed, and started down the road toward his destiny—or, at least toward a bunch of good sunsets, he hoped. His skies open, his outcomes uncertain, and the promise of adventure resounding…
But don’t be fooled by earlier statements; it wasn’t the bumps in the road, or the combined 18lbs of trailer and 34lbs of material that was supposed to go on that trailer that kept making the B.O.B. slip off the back axle—it was the 225.3lbs of Michael + backpack that really made the difference here—so even minus the 18lb trailer, nearly every time a hill was so steep that Michael was forced into a standing-pedal, his heavy-footed strokes made the rear wheel slip and pinch against the frame. And every time that happened Michael had to stop, balance the 60.3lbs of bike + bag on its seat & handle bars, situate the axle-thing back into place, turn the bolt on the quick-release as tightly as possible, flip the 60.3lb bike + bag back over, mount it, and continue on pedaling. And this is precisely what happened one mile into Michael’s cross-country trip. For reference, Brandon started his drive back north about ten minutes after Michael started his journey west (which is the same road for the first 1.5 miles for both routes).
“Dude,” Brandon said, stopping the blue minivan on the road next to Michael and his capsized bicycle. “just, uhh, dude…yeah…call me when you need to be picked up.” Brandon let off the brake and kept on driving. And Michael tightened the bolt on the quick-release. And Michael was finally alone.
Michael has $57.
Its more romantic than it sounds, you know, this scenario Michael’s getting himself into; the biking towards nothing in particular; the escape from everything he’s ever known. Michael’s never even slept in a tent by himself before. Michael’s most common use of the term ‘camping’ refers to online gaming strategy. Michael doesn’t even know where he’s going to sleep tonight, and, for as long as Michael can remember, that’s something he has always known well ahead of the moment it’s been scheduled to occur. But not tonight. Michael knows nothing about tonight. And that’s the attraction, Michael thinks. That’s the whole point; it’s about vulnerability. It’s the looking directly at a problem and running into it head first knowing damn well you don’t have any solutions for the thing on-hand. But also, it’s about being so confident in yourself that you don’t really care that you don’t have any idea what you’re doing—the fact is, you tell yourself, is that you’re resilient, and that you’re smart, so you can just claw your way out of any problem you put yourself into anyway, so fuck it, go ahead and bike head first into that brick wall. Die for all you care—it doesn’t matter. You’re experiencing things. And you’re alive, dammit, so do what the alive do and chase death just so you can stare it in the sunken eyeballs and meditate on the fact that you ain’t dead yet. The thing that matters here is that you’re not scared. And being unafraid is more than romantic, Michael thinks—it’s fucking sexy.
But of course, there is reality to contend with. So when Michael gets 30 miles (which, for Michael equates to 3.25 hours of non-stop bike-pedaling (aside from the two piss breaks and two bolt-tightenings)) into this trip and is justa covered in the thermoregulation of his eccrine glands underneath that incessantly high-tempered East-Virginian sun, he thinks to himself “what the fuck am I doing?” And then there was that moment an hour ago, just outside of Jamestown, when Michael’s front bike tire flattened the exoskeleton of a beetle and Michael heard the crunch so loud-and-clear in the absolute lack of traffic or wind noises that’s surrounding him here in East-V, that, for the thirty minutes that followed, his only thoughts were about how he might try and write something in his journal later about how that squishing of the bug with the big-round bike tire might just be analogous to the way Michael feels squished by this big-round Earth.
But it wasn’t all bad, the round-about scenic route that the Trans-America Trail maps took Michael through some awfully beautiful Eastern Virginian country side. And about 60 miles into his first day’s biking Michael saw, and road up next to, another cyclist.
“Well, Hello!” Said the other cyclist. “The name’s Rudy!”
“Hey, Rudy. I’m Michael. Where you heading?”
“Oregon, if you’d believe it.” Rudy answered.
“Oh? No way! Me too!”
And so, Rudy, the 63-year-old retired nurse from Arizona who was on day two of his cross-country trek, and Michael, chatted about their respective trips so far, and Rudy gave Michael a few contacts for places to sleep along the trail. And through those contacts is how Michael met Trip, an annual Trans-America Trail cyclists host, and Trip’s Great Dane, Rusty, and another cyclist named Paul, and Sam, a man who lives a life of solitude in the Sticks at night but owns and operates four different companies that all play a part in building and maintaining D. C.’s HOV lanes. A fascinating group, Michael thought from the fold-up chair he was sitting in in Trip’s back yard. Another thought Michael was having was about the scratch he felt in the back of his throat, and the continuous hacking of phlegm that kept Michael reaching for, and constantly refilling, his gallon-sized plastic water jugs. It was 10P.M. and Paul left to buy a twelve-pack of Coors for everyone to share. Trip, Sam, Rusty, and Michael listened to Rudy talk about how you can never be too old to start ignoring the haters. Paul came back and they all sipped cold foamers together, talking until about midnight when Michael decided it was time to crawl into his tent. Inside the tent Michael lit a bowl of marijuana, studied tomorrow’s maps, and fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.
The thing that Rudy talked about the night before—the thing about ignoring the naysayers—is something Michael thinks he understands, but it is really something Michael cannot be farther from understanding. Three days before driving down to VA with Brandon, Michael sat around a table with some of his friends and watched them take turns drawing little pieces of paper with the names of different counties written on them from a hat (counties which the TAT traverses), and, in a game similar to a Super-Bowl block-pool, each of the persons drawing papers wagered $50 in hopes that Michael would call it quits in one of the counties they plucked from the hat. The spectacle didn’t overtly bother Michael, but the dream he was having, for the third night in a row now, woke Michael up and had him feeling a little frantic. It was 630AM and all he could think about was moving. Going. As if Michael was on some kind of tight schedule; as if he needed to prove to everyone that not only could he validate his audacity by accomplishing this goal of his, but that he could do it FAST; and though Michael didn’t think those thoughts very explicitly, per se, they manifested as more of a sense of anxiety that Michael pushed deep down and was determined to pedal through. And he was going to pedal through it so help him god.
Michael quietly packed his things—careful not to wake anyone else camping in the yard around him—and biked down the hill leaving Trip’s house, and then to the northeast, leaving Mechanicsville.
When you’re biking the backroads of Virginia between Mechanicsville and Charlotte, a few thoughts are apt to cross your mind:
(1) “Fuck, it’s hot.”
(2) “Fuck, I’m tired.”
(3) “Why are the trailer park communities along W. Patrick Henry so blatantly separated by race and flag-type.”
(4) “This is a beautiful country I live in.”
(5) “This is a racist country I live in.”
(6) “I wonder exactly how many people also know this feeling of bruising your taint on a bike seat to the point where it actually stops hurting.”
(7) “Chew tobacco is awfully cheap here.”
(8) “Maybe I should have been more prepared, financially.”
(9) “Is that a snake?”
(10) “Is that a giant ass hole full of snakes?”
(11) “Ashland’s quaint; never seen train tracks run straight along a main-street like that before.”
(12) “Huh, so there actually is such a thing as a southern pride. Whattya know.”
(13) “How can people be so proud of such terrible shit?”
(14) “I guess that’s sorta how terrorism works.”
(15) “I just…fuck it’s hot…”
(16) “CLIF bars don’t taste so great after being in the sun for hours.”
(17) “Is it the warm water that’s giving me a headache, or the pedaling, or like…what the fucks wrong with me?”
(18) “Whoa…a black dude and a white dude riding around in a pickup together…maybe all hope isn’t lost for this place.”
(19) “Never mind…that was an anomaly.”
(20) “HA! That logging truck got pretty fucking close actually ending my life.”
(21) “Why’s the shoulder on the side of the road so damn small?”
(22) “The bottom of my shoe is melting…”
(23) “Were basketball shoes the right choice?”
(24) “Maybe if I ever do this again, I’ll see about getting a bike without a quick-release.”
(25) “I’m lonely.”
(26) “I want to write but I have to keep biking…”
(27) “This is taking more time than I excepted.”
(28) “It’s gonna suck when it starts raining.”
(29) “I’m not even into the Appalachians and man, I’m really not so sure about these hills…”
(30) “Maybe Charlotte was a lofty goal for today.”
(31) “Mineral seems like a nice enough place to stop for the day.”
(32) “Oh, that’s nice…they invite you to camp outside the police station.”
(33) “There must not be much crime here in Mineral.”
(34) “Okay, so my tent’s all set up and I want to sleep because I am fucking kicked but it’s only 4PM and 100 degrees Fahrenheit and I’d say it’s about 110-120 in the tent right now and I can’t take the fly off because the thunderstorms should be starting in less than two hours so I guess I’m not sleeping.”
(35) “Well, that was nice of the policeman to invite me to stay in the air-conditioned upstairs of this police station.”
(36) “…no…seriously…I cannot do that…”
(37) “…I mean…It would be one hell of a story, though…”
(38) “I need to find an outlet for my phone charger.”
(39) “…No, Mike, stop your silly thinking…you cannot do that…”
(40) “Whoa…lotta text messages…”
(41) “What the fuck do you want, Lauren. Why are you texting me?”
(42) “No, I don’t want your fucking well wishes, Lauren. If you really fucking cared we wouldn’t have broken up…dumb bitch…”
(43) “That does it…I’m gonna do it…”
(44) “I can’t believe I’m going to do this…”
(45) “I’m gonna smoke weed in this police station.”
(46) “I can’t believe I’m doing this…”
(47) “Maybe I just won’t exhale...”
(48) “Okay, shit…I need to breathe. Which of these windows is unlocked?”
(49) “Holy fuck, I am scared.”
(50) “I need to walk outside.”
(51) “But what if they smell me when I walk by?”
(52) “But what if they come up here and smell me?”
(53) “Would a Mineral VA cop even know what weed smells like, or would he just think it’s a skunk?”
(54) “I am stuck.”
(55) “I really hope this sore throat goes away.”
(56) “Let me text Brandon…he’ll know what to do…”
(57) “No, Brandon, I haven’t given up yet…asshole.”
(58) “Okay, I can do it. I just have to walk through the doorway, down the stairs, past the hallway and right through the back door.”
(59) “My tent is already set up out there so it’s not like they’re going to question me or anything...”
(60) “…I mean what do they even have to question me about?”
(61) “I am so thirsty.”
(62) “Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. I should not have done that.”
(63) “I wonder if those CLIF bars would taste better if I ate them with fruit snacks…”
…Michael’s thoughts, etc. Which, eventually he corralled the courage to walk outside and out to his tent. Unnoticed. It was 6PM and a light drizzle had just started—Rudy and Paul had just arrived after their own day of biking-at-their-own-relaxed-pace, which, after seeing how all three of them ended up in the same place, after all three of them traveled at a different speed and with a different departure time, Michael couldn’t help but feel really stuck. Like even if Michael did get up early as shit and traverse all those miles of territory, why was he busting his ass that way if he was going to end up with the same results as everyone else? And, you know, with a clear mind Michael might’ve been able to comprehend the situation a little differently. Michael might’ve been able to realize that his energy expenditure wasn’t matching his progress on accounta his bad strategizing about the whole thing. With a clear mind he might’ve understood that rather than just head-first diving into a 100-mile ride every day—thinking only of the finish line—that maybe he should pace himself throughout the day, extend his riding hours but conserve his energy. He might’ve thought about how his non-diverse diet of CLIF bars, oatmeal, and melted fruit gummies wasn’t providing him the complexities of nutrition he needed in a diet to complete such an undertaking as this. But Michael’s mind wasn’t clear. Michael had ridden 100 miles through 100F temperature two days in a row now, and has consumed only 1,700 total calories in the process, and has a throat infection brewing, and is baked, and paranoid, and is being really emotional. Which is why, looking over at Paul and Rudy in-between the raindrops in-between their respective tents, Michael said this:
“Starting tomorrow I think I’m going to go south, instead.”
A strategic decision, Michael convinced himself. And really, if you ditch the TAT maps and roll south, you essentially cut your ETA down to a max 15 days (ignoring the fact that you’ll never technically ‘arrive’). And it wasn’t totally unclear, Michael’s route, with his cellphone’s GPS n all. And he wouldn’t need to worry about those 120-mi stretches w/o potable stations that the TAT warned him would be coming through Colorado and into Utah. And really, how long can the $49 he has left after today’s breakfast actually last? The southern route is closer to home. The southern route is more familiar, sorta. And it’s more populated, he’s telling himself, along with enlightening himself with all that other good insight he just found out he has. And he’s convinced himself he’s right.
Day three now, of Michael’s ride, and he’s heading south down RT.250 towards Richmond. Once he’s there he’ll cut south on RT.101, merge to RT.301 and take that until it becomes RT.15 in Summerton, then RT.17 just south of Walterboro, then RT.1 in Jacksonville, and he’ll take that all the way to Key West. And if everything goes according to plan, Michael will be in the Keys by June 25th, where he’ll proceed to find work, sell his bike, and eventually buy plane ticket home.
This-morning was the same as last. Up quiet, out quick. Get a few miles in before the UV rays really start to hit. Ride easy, take breaks, but do everything with purpose. Because there is a purpose here, remember? There’s a purpose to all of this. All this going. You do remember that, right? Why you started going? You do remember why you had to leave, right? Why you needed to escape—what you’re leaving behind? Or did you turn south just so you could head back towards everything you’ve been trying to get away from? Exactly what you run from you end up chasing, Michael. Like, you can’t avoid just chasing it and giving it everything. There’s always an obstacle. Sometimes you have to close a door to open a window, Michael. You have to remember that, Michael.
This evening was different, though, and after 104 miles of riding and 1.5hrs of riding through a rainstorm, Michael eagerly awaited the arrival of a friend he’d made a year before. Once Michael made the decision to head south, he contacted Zach. Zach is a welder that’s living in Capitol Heights, and just happens to be Lauren’s previous ex bf, which is how Zach and Michael met in the first place. If a couple of guys meet for the first time at a party and spend three hours running the pong table, drinking Red Stagg from the bottle and sharing stories, then no one woman will ever be able to disrupt the friendship those two men just established. Michael and Zach arrive at the Capitol Heights Texas Road House at 8PM. Zach, enthralled by the stories Michael had from his trips so far demands Michael let him pay for the meal and Zach even threw an extra $20 bill across the table saying “Sixty-something sounds way safer than forty-something, Michael. Take it.” And Zach offers Michael a place to crash for the night, too, but Michael declines. The soreness in the back of his throat hasn’t subsided whatsoever, and Michael says he would feel real bad if Zach or anyone else in the house gets sick on accounta Michael’s presence.
Michael balls up and nuzzles his head into the tiny blanket he brought on the trip. He’s sleeping in plot of grass behind the Capitol Heights Walmart, too exhausted to open his tent.
While it’s not unheard of for a man to speed down the road on a full belly, it’s not always clear what’ll happen to him when one of his tires pop. It’s 6:13PM and Michael is in one sticky situation. Not literally sticky, no. Like sticky in a sense that this will be one difficult to situation to get out of. Like, if this moment right here was a wet bag of Domino Premium, then Michael is at the very bottom. What we have here is a simple matter of inertia, you see, when a leading bike tire plunks head-first into a road-way pothole—that pothole becomes the external force acting upon the motion of the bike, and, unsurprising, that external force does some serious fucking up to the uniformity of the bike’s previous motions. What happens instead of uniformity, is what IS happening right now: the ruptured inner + outer tubes on the front tire of Michael’s Fuji touring have halted all forward motion and that is replaced with a very quick (though, for Michael its happening in slow-motion) head-first dive into the far-right lane of RT.58 towards Franklin. And all this would have been avoided if not for the change of route, or the being terribly heat exhausted and bloated (bloated on accounta the five cheeseburgers Michael just ate, because, I mean, if you see a sign that says cheeseburgers are selling at DQ for .89 cents, its hard to only buy one), or if the government decided to stop funding wars and start filling potholes, or if that sickness in the back of Michael’s throat wasn’t causing him so much physical distress, or if Michael could ever just, you know, be satisfied with normalcy. Whatever that means…
RT. 58 going into Franklin is one of those roadways that, once you get close to the city the speed limits drop quickly, but just before that—where Michael is—the limit is 55mph, which really means 65 for these east coast drivers. And this shoulder where the pothole is, it isn’t all that large, which is why Michael’s new trajectory had his head headed di-rectly into the path of a 99’ Corolla buzzing along at 63MPH. It does not take an understanding of biology or physics or really much of anything other than a pair of human eyes to understand that Michael’s head is about to pop like a fucking grape underneath a shoe—or, like a beetle underneath a bike tire—or, like a human head underneath a formerly all-white 99’ Corolla.
Michael should have $64.
Good thing for Michael, though, the driver of this particular all-white 99’ Corolla has full-use of their above-average reaction-skills and swerves into the left lane, missing Michael’s head by about eight inches. And also good for Michael, there are no cars behind the white Toyota for another 500ft, which gives him plenty of time to bounce up and carry his partially damaged bike over the grass on the side of the road. By now there was no taking-in of the surroundings for Michael. No euphoria. No nothing. Michael is on auto-pilot—plain-n-simple. Michael gets his tire-spoon from the bag tethered to the bike’s back, changes the inner + outer tubings, inflates them with the small handpump attached to the Fuji Touring’s frame, spit-cleans the blood off his left leg and forehead, winces at the sharp pain in his wrist as he hops back on the bike, and rides on.
Not a great day, Michael thinks. And he decides that he needs to find a cheap motel room in Franklin where he can take a shower, wash his clothes in the sink, and get comparatively excellent sleep so he can start tomorrow off fresh. At 7PM Michael finds an available room at a decent price. And then he bikes ten miles from the scene of his almost-death to find a large, run-down looking building next to a small airport that is clearly not getting much usage. This is the motel w/ vacancies. There are no other buildings for a few miles in every direction. Michael walks in and up to the receptionist’s desk.
“Hi. I called earlier about a room, you said you have one available for $32. Is it still available?”
“Yes. We have 203 open rooms. I.D. please?”
“Yes, of course, sure…just…”
“…hold on. It’s probably with my bike. Outside…”
Michael walks over to his to bike and searches through the large bag. Then his backpack, and then every-imaginable crevasse on his person. He cannot find his wallet anywhere. Which is problematic because that’s where the $32 he needs for this motel room is. And where his debt card is. And where his driver’s license is. Which, if he doesn’t have his driver’s license, it won’t matter if he somehow, miraculously, manages to bike all the way down to the Florida Keys w/o money, because he won’t have any way of getting on a plane and flying back home if he doesn’t have his license.
It’s midnight in Franklin VA. Michael has $0 and his phone battery is at 1%. Brandon is on his way, though upset he won’t be winning the county-pool.
The concrete is cold and rough against Michael’s skin and all he has is one unfortunately thin blanket that he can’t decide if he should use underneath himself to keep his body off the hard concrete, or if he should lay it over top of himself to create a thin barrier between himself the evening’s cold air. Michael is laying on the concrete in front of the small airport and is staring at the train tracks over on the opposite side of RT.58. Before he falls asleep, a freight train goes by, overwhelming the air with turning, banging, clanking metals. Michael watches the railcars pass and wonders if he would’ve been better off just taking the train.