I might have been a bird in my last life, because I love to migrate south. There’s just something about driving towards the bottom of the map that always makes me giddy, and this latest adventure was no exception. The time in the car this week hit me hard though- I think partly because it’s so strange to travel alone. I had to come to terms with silence, big time. I do love how, whether they’re good or bad, the landscape can bring out our inner thoughts- for example, in the bleakest part of New Mexico I felt totally insane for driving away from everyone I love in favor of a strange state full of strangers. In the desert my life felt as harsh and surreal as the view out the window; the strange little towers of rock as vaguely unsettling as my future. I found myself on hundred-mile stretches of empty, rough road, alone and only getting alone-er.
The night I spent in Flagstaff will probably be what I remember as the rock-bottom of the whole trip. I’ve always been a lover of hotels- the simplicity, the travel sized soaps, the cable tv- I even loved the one my dad once made us stay in en route to a ski race; it had one channel (static) and peepholes over the beds. I did not, however, love the hotel in Flagstaff. Don’t get me wrong; it was clean enough, warm enough, and the manager even helped me get my bikes off the car- I just did not like being there alone. Watching TV felt futile without anyone to make fun of it with, and reading just made the room too quiet. I choked down my horrible subway sandwich and felt young, like I’d mistakenly wandered too far from home.
The next day started right. I found a cool little restaurant called Macy’s, which featured all vegan fare and a heaping helping of hippies occupying most of the seats. One of them would occasionally bang out sporadic riffs on his bongo, and everyone seemed happy despite the five foot snowdrifts everywhere. As I read the local art newspaper and sipped a nice latte, everything started to feel a little less scary. Echoing my mood, the sun came out as I started my drive through Arizona. I was shedding layers as I passed the California border, and by the time I hit Apple Valley my wool socks had become completely unnecessary. I had to take my shoes off while driving, which on the California freeway is probably not safe.
Things started to get prettier and greener the closer I got to my destination, and by the time I pulled in to my new driveway I was in total awe. I still can’t believe I get to live here- the ocean is minutes away, the mountains are minutes away, and the air doesn’t feel like it’s trying to kill me. My cracked fingers and dehydrated skin are both starting to revive, and last night I slept a full eight hours without waking up! My new roommates have turned out to be amazing, which is a relief since in found them on craigslist, and they had every right to be totally creepy.
Then there’s the thing I came here to do when I’m not riding my bike or soaking up sun (because apparently that’s not enough for university credit.) Yesterday I got to see the inner workings of the only publication I read with any regularity; Bike magazine. Though it took a lot of wrangling with the MSU English department, I finally landed my dream internship and it’s exactly how I hoped the inside of a magazine devoted to outside living would look. There are old covers and posters all over, punctuated by the odd bike part or sticker, and a warehouse full of (muddy) bikes in the back. My new coworkers all seem to love it for the same reasons I do, and I think we’ve got some good riding in our futures. And of course, lots of learning. Always the learning.
The trails I’ve seen on my first few recon missions have me itching to hit the dirt again. It’s like some sort of horrible joke that I finally managed to flee the snow but can’t use the trails yet- shoulder healing never felt so hard. Not that there aren’t enough distractions- on my ride the other day I ended up on a precipice overlooking the ocean- I spent a good fifteen minutes just looking out and listening to the waves. Talk about empty spaces- trying to see the horizon of the ocean is like looking into infinity. I’ve never considered myself a ‘water’ person, but at that moment the salty air was the best smell ever. I was getting all melodramatic and philosophical when the most gigantic pelican flew right through my line of vision. He was perfectly motionless on the air, just floating slowly by, and he looked at me with a mixture of pity and curiosity- like “how interesting, you can’t fly.”
If I was a bird in my last life, I was probably a pelican.