So, normally, a great deal of focus, and effort, goes into strategically planning the seemingly improvisational format of this blog. I spend countless hours creating flow-charts, reading venn diagrams, calculating percentages of different… umm… things; and after all is said and done, my people in marketing analyze the results, tell me what they've come up with, and I either don't listen at all, or I forget so fast, that I may as well have not listened at all. Coming along to the next step, it's about time for me to get writing, because along with putt-ing golf balls into a coffee cup, those initial stages of preparation generally soak up the majority of my week.
Finally, with all the numbers in place, I think long and hard about how I can most effectively perpetuate confusion and inconsistencies in both the format, and content of the blog, and until now, I've accomplished this literary feat brilliantly. It appears now, however, that my immaculate streak of inconsistencies are over.
You heard it right, folks; once again, I will be continuing where I left off in the last post! I'll have to confirm the numbers with my people in marketing, but if I had to estimate, I would say that this is approximately, the third post in a row where I've consistently carried the same story forward. Of course I've done this loosely in the past, going so far as to give you a sense of progression consistently; but never this solidly.
Don't get too excited though, because whether you like it or not, the sporadic format will reign in the end. I've got far too many stories, photos, characters, and "how-to's" to share from various adventures, to be giving you a play-by-play rundown in order like this. It is a blog after all, so I can't get too literary on you without putting the youtube generation to sleep.
If you really want to read these stories in their inevitable narrative form, then for chrisssakes, become a follower of the blog, and do your best to share this gem with friends and colleagues! I cannot strategically compose a full manuscript until my journey is at its conclusion, but as the endless amounts of notes, postings, and short stories continue to pile up- I am increasingly convinced that the adaptation of these accounts into a marketable book, will develop into a monster of it's own limitless caliber.
With the tremendous feat of publishing in mind all the while; the blog keeps me busy working, while also standing as a crucial testament to publishers who wonder if this young, unpublished writer, can keep people coming back for more (and without a much needed editor, at that!). It is only through my generous audience that the potency of my voice, the potential of my creative abilities, and my relentless passion for writing, are made evident.
Only through your faithful support, the expanding number of readers, and the oh-so-important number of 'followers' that slowly increase- do I proceed confidently; feeling validated in believing that my work is worthy of some day, being on the shelves- and for that: I wholeheartedly thank each and every one of you. I implore you to continue giving me a reason to write here in the frigid inter-webs, or blog-o-sphere, or whatever the kids are calling it now'a days- because if your willing to keep reading; I'll gladly, and humbly, continue writing for you.
Getting back to the story though…
Our night's sleep there on the river in Humboldt Co. passed in what seemed like merely the blink of an eye. I awoke with a sore neck, and my head bent into the corner of the junior pup-tent in which two adults were wedged. The beaming sunlight brightly roused the color behind my closed eyelids to a radiant, waking, orange; when I resentfully opened my eyes, I felt as if I had been up for a half-hour already. My hair was matted dowdily in likeness to the angle of the tent corner, and was still a bit damp from the morning dew having perspired through the canvas. Amidst the tents stagnant air, it was hot as blazes, and since I wasn't saturated in sweat yet, I ventured to guess that the sun hadn't been up too long.
I carefully crawled over Chassy- my knees coping with the rigorous bed of gravel, as I urgently unzipped myself from the small tent, and seeped through the canvas flap, stumbling out with relief. I stood in the bright sunlight, and wearily renewed the full length of my *awkward limbs; stretching my entirety from fingertips grasping at clear blue sky, to pale hairy toes straining to push me upwards from their very balls. Achieving my brief moment of climax in the fresh morning air, I let out a mannish gale, and concluded my half-assed morning calisthenics, feeling very suddenly, and very thoroughly fulfilled with life.
Before me, the river continued to solemnly flow past, no different than yesterday. Upstream, the party of RV's I was aptly referring to as 'Camp Douche-bag,' were not yet astir- and hell, why should they be? I thought to myself cheerfully. I'd imagined the pairs of tediously married couples tucked into comfy beds soundly- like fussy toddlers who had yet to learn better; left aggrieved with a straining hangover, and the hellish reminder of a mundane office existence come Monday. Selfishly, I allowed myself to feel better in dissimilar circumstance. I knew that on Monday, this would still be our lives. Not so much an endless party, as an endless exploration- no more void from ups and downs than any existence, yet infinitely intriguing through an ever-changing context by which to be enthralled.
This was exactly what me and B.O. had set out in search for not yet a year ago. An integral facet of that vague notion of the 'American dream' that we had ridden valiantly like a sophomore's writing prompt. It seemed like the closer I came to understanding it, the further I would fall from defining it.
Behind me I heard B.O. poking around at our small fire pit. He was hunched over blowing, and feeding the waking embers with small bits of tinder while smoke blew in and out of his face with the breeze. It seemed he had just gotten going himself, and as we had recently grown accustomed to eating breakfast off the previous evenings' smoldering coals, he had wasted no time taking to the chore. Generally, B.O. thrived with work to be done. It was the standing around that he couldn't seem to manage well.
I walked over and asked him how he had slept, and through squinting eyes and puffs of smoke he replied, "Like a champ."
"C'mere and take a look at this though," he said rolling up his right pant-leg. I walked over to inspect what B.O. had thought to be a bite, or rash of some sort.
I don't know if it was a matter of luck, sensitivity, or just plain coincidence, but in the seven or eight months I had been traveling around with B.O., he seemed to be plagued on a regular basis with every foreign irritation we stumbled across. Rashes, swelling, bites, and anything else of an itchy, red, and irritating nature seemed to be the poor guys forte'.
"It itches like a motherfucker," he said raking at it compulsively.
I took a look at it, having little advice to prescribe. It appeared to be a spider bite or something along those lines, and I figured if he wasn't already dead, paralyzed, or seriously fevered, then he should be okay. I recalled the time in Florida, when he stepped outside our little tent to take a piss without shoes on, and landed squarely on a hill of fire ants. I shuddered, remembering what his foot looked like after that painful chapter of our journey.
B.O. continued to work at our cooking fire. He explained that he wanted to use our early start to get back on the road, and make decent time. Decent time for where, I wondered? I was all for momentum in sport, but when it came down to it, I didn't really have anywhere I had to be, until my doctors appointment in two months- what I really wanted, was to wander the country freely and cheaply until then. I had a hard time understanding B.O.'s sense of urgency. None the less, he had the car, and I really didn't feel too strongly one way or another, so long as I was leafing along in the wind as I had been.
Chassy was starting to wake up, and I explained it was time to begin getting our gear in order so we could be gone after breakfast. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and began moving. I cooked a handful of rotini in the water with the remains of our veggies, and after I drained it very carefully- using the top of a tin can to hold the ingredients in- I then cooked the remains down slowly in a half-box of mushroom soup mix, and added the last few dollops of tapatio (hot sauce) we acquired, and a 3 to 1 ratio of Mc Donalds salt and pepper packets- voila! Let stand as your fire dwindles, and serve in last nights tin can, a value coffee cup, and the pan itself.
With what little gear we brought down to the river, we were packed up relatively quick. We took a moment to sit down and eat, and although it wasn't really too bad a meal, none of us could finish. Nobody was craving such a hearty fill that early, and since it was very similar to the previous nights dinner, we all feared that the thick soupy mix was going to slump right down into our gut, and meet with our last meal to create a 'perfect storm' of digestive proportions.
We ended up being right about that, actually, almost immediately in fact, and I will spare you the details this time around, except to say that we were not without toilet paper.
Twenty minutes later, with much relief, me and B.O. donned our backpacks once again to make for the Le Sabre. Chassy grabbed our small bag of garbage and our cooking pan after documenting her collection of favorite rocks, and we made our way back up the river, passing 'camp douche-bag,' as they were beginning to show some signs of life. Nobody dared to mention what possible disasters could be waiting for us at the Le Sabre- assuming it was still there.
As things always somehow seemed to turn out for us, the Le Sabre remained untouched in all its dusty glory there under the bridge. We all sighed with relief before quickly being reminded of how badly we had dismantled the order of our 'mobile home' before making camp. Much like the occasional dumps in the woods that nobody signed up to read about here on the blog, I will exclude the details of our work restoring the order of our things, and the inherent bickering that might well be the substance of our small groups social conditions.
Suffice it to say there was a whole lot of cursing, and a whole lot of dispute among the various "critical assessments" that we had all made concerning the most appropriate place for such-and-such, or, blah-and-blah. In the end though, as usual, the results were satisfactory.
With our tidily re-organized car, B.O. got us back on the road once again, and we drove northbound up the scenic Redwood Highway, silently observing the luscious scenery. Chassy was seated up front in the middle again, and I was next to her. Much of the earlier spirit of camaraderie we had shared on the way here seemed distant. I could tell B.O. had something on his mind, but I wasn't sure what exactly.
Our only real stress- at the moment at least- was money. The reason we had jetted out of Mendocino so vigorously, if you recall, was because we were on our last funds, and needed to make it to the nearest U.S. Bank so I could cash a check that my editors, at the time, were unwilling to wire instead. This was our sole business in the little Northern California town of Arcata; it had the only U.S. Bank we could get to before our gas and money ran short. In retrospect, it was as good a destination as anywhere, I suppose.
From what we loosely knew, the drive to Arcata was no more than a bill, or, 100 miles away. Something we learned to take into account since traveling up the Pacific N.W. coast, was that you could generally expect to double your time, and even your miles, because of the winding roads. Not only did we have to drive a bit slower because of the steep inclines, but since the roads had to wind up and down so many mountains, it took double the time to get anywhere in comparison to the straight highway driving me and B.O. had mastered in the midwest, or great plains. Taking all this into account, we were still due in Arcata by the early afternoon, which wasn't bad. Barring any mis-haps, we would even be at the bank in time to cash my check right off the bat, and be ready to make our next moves- which could have meant any number of things at the time.
In no time flat, we were already passing Garberville, which is where "The Avenue of the Giants," intersects and follows along with HW 101. The famed avenue, was the old HW 101, that was now running less as a HW, and more as a parkway maintained for Humboldt Redwood State Park, of which we had been within for quite some time now. The highway was titled as such, because the redwoods in that area so dominantly overshadowed the road. I suppose since traditional sight-seer's probably wanted to bumble along at their own pace, and carve their family initials on every other sequoia, it was a smart call to re-route the HW. Don't misunderstand me on this matter either- I'm not against a traditional sight-seeing vacation with the family, or otherwise, it's just different then our aim. We stuck to the current HW 101, impressed thoroughly with the size of our redwoods, along with the Eel river that ran along side us.
The tremendous breaks in forestry were windows the great river afforded, allowing us, for brief periods, to see far beyond the giant trees that normally guarded our view, and across the valleys that made those same trees look like miniatures in a very complex, and very sophisticated model landscape. But there was something holding me from the excitement I knew I should be feeling. The silence in the car, and B.O.'s apparent state of rumination was becoming unsettling. It was always easy to tell when B.O. had something on his mind. Similarly to me, he was prone to wearing his heart on his sleeve. A blessing and a curse as I understood it.
I thought back to a few days ago, when we were on that dreadfully hot beach. B.O. had made a few calls back to friends out in the mid-west, and Chassy warned me that she thought he was considering other plans. I shrugged it off at the time, cause I knew there was no point in making a fuss about it. It was true too, but it was also much easier said than done.
Anyone who has kept up with our journey the last year, might recall the dreadful fallout that occurred amidst our very first departure. There was three of us, and at the time, we were living in a pop-up camper in the middle of nowhere Minnesota. I won't re-cap the whole dirty, dramatic, mess at this point, but in short, we entirely under estimated the difficulty of sacrificing our personal space, and perhaps even more importantly: we had yet to understand that we were not in for a vacation- by any means.
We knew each other at our best, and had not even considered the possibility that we would have to deal with each other at our worst, more often than not. As things developed- slowly, painfully, and any other mix of emotions you feel like tossing in- we both became acquainted with each others ass-hole sides. There is really no 'curing' moods either, which was something for us to figure out. It was simply a matter of time, and thats just how it goes- or so we learned.
It sometimes even came to points, when, for hours at a time, or even stretches of days- neither one of us really cared much to talk to the other one; when we finally achieved such a point, we were getting good. We essentially learned that to be around someone so close, so often, meant being able to have alone time, even when you were right next to the person, and "co-existence" meant achieving peace by accepting the fact that you will never always, or fully, be at peace. It was a very stubborn understanding of dharma, really, but it had worked for us. At least up until now.
After all that we had learned, and all the progress we had made- I was just now realizing that I was still, fully capable, of entirely losing my bearings. Life, B.O., or whatever forces I'd have liked to blame- may have found a way around the fortress of indifference I built. Fuck.
I swear B.O. must have felt me prying into his mind, trying to figure things out up there, but maybe not. Either way, he finally broke the silence that had grown heavy upon our front seat. I remember very clearly, looking over at him as he began to choose his words. Like he was about to lay them down on a table for us, actually.
"Well… You guys probably aren't gonna like this idea, or whatever, but…" He continued to shuffle his thoughts into order. He was a card player at heart.
I watched without blinking, the background scenery expanding as I maintained my subject in the foreground. We must have been just coming into Rio Dell, because for the first time in a while, the shady two lane highway grew into four lanes, and much like our situation in the car there, everything was suddenly in the open.
"…well… I'm thinkin' I'm gonna make a run back to Minnessota." he waited to read our reaction.
"Okayyy…" I said, implying he continue.
"I've gotta get some cash in my pocket, and come back out here to make some shit happen. I already know there's work waiting for me back at the shop, and if I just go and put in two- three weeks, tops, I could be back out here with a grand to get things going like nothing." he paused again, and neither myself, or Chassy said a word. I was pissed.
Out of what felt like a thousand words that were knotting my throat, or the pile of them swelling in the pit of my stomach, or even the handfuls of them that were now deformed fragments, broken within my clenched fists- I found, and said in such a ratio of anger and desperation that it somehow became pitiable, "And what had you planned on doing with us"
"Well… I know your not gonna want to- but," the next part came out quick, intended to be said in full before I could object, "…if you guys would be willing to come with me, and keep the group going strong- like we have been- I could have that money in two weeks, maybe less, and we could be right back out here with some cash to work with. I'd be able to set you up at my buddy's place- I already asked, he wouldn't mind at all- you guys could go check out the city, or do whatever, and in no time, we could be right back out here."
I let that hang there for a moment, to make sure he was finished.
"Absolutely not." I said, suddenly flowing with bewilderment. "Theres just no way… I just… we haven't even… " I gave up on my free-verse, and finally said, "I'm not going back to the mid-west until I have to. September."
I turned away from him stiffly, staring forward at nothing in particular- my lips shut tight, and my jaws clenched. I was suddenly determined to be absolutely unaffected by whatever B.O. decided. He wasn't about to get the best of me, by damn! I thought stubbornly.
"Well, once we get up to Arcata… you guys should be able to find a ride-share to Colorado, or Eugene, or, figure something out, right?"
Now, I was absolutely irate.
The devil himself must have possessed me for those few seconds, because the terrible hatred I felt seemed only to be the language of some sort of savage beast. My back, shoulders, and neck were wound painfully tight, and my nostrils flared involuntarily, like a stuck bull. Till that point, Chassy had let the fire and balls of us pitiable men-folk, attempt to sort it out. She had never hitch-hiked, or backpacked, or any of that nonsense before, so the implications of B.O.'s latest remark left her mortified.
She immediately began to protest, and as I tried to maintain my poise, I interrupted, calmly saying "Chassy, Chassy, relax. We've got our bags all ready just incase this happened- we should be able to line up a ride to Amanda's place in Eugene, or John out in Denver. It's no big deal, baby. I'm sure B.O. will at least make sure we've got things lined up first- right B.O.?"
In trying to calm Chassy down, I had uncovered some spite-fueled confidence within myself. It's funny how that happens sometimes.
"I'll make sure you guys'll be okay," he said, seeming unsure as to how active a role in our okay-ness he might have time for, "I mean, I'm not gonna leave ya' stranded in a ditch, or something."
I don't know if he meant for us to find this humorous, or comforting. In either case he was far off, though.
"See honey," I said nonchalantly, "We'll figure it out." I knew that this time, I was saying it for both our benefits.
We continued onward through Rio Dell. Silent, stewing, livid even. And what was earlier a burdensome silence, had now become a facade of small talk, and casual jokes. After Rio Dell, HW 101 bends westward again, and by the time you make Fortuna some twenty miles later, you know your bound west for the pacific again. It would only be another fifty minutes before we hit Arcada. What in the hell we would do when we got there...?
I guess I had 50 minutes to figure out…
...become a follower, and perhaps I'll reveal the unforgettable conclusion. I'll give you a hint: two of us get shot... by Chassy!
Until We Meet Again...
Joseph R. Reeves